|Galactic Chronicles Book X|
|Previous||Chapter 2: Back on Sin 4|
|Next||Chapter 4: Dimon Honshu|
Cirruit had done a terrific job, gluing and welding armor plates over the sleek form of a Landing Tank. Rusty steel chain curtains covered the wide Ultronit Tracks and the whole thing looked like an old, many times repaired, all terrain crawler with an ArtiGrav. The main cannon was still there but looked like an old artillery piece and not like the High energy QGP it was.
The Mission Pod module on this tank had been changed from Combat to surface survey and science. Instead of more weapons, advanced shields and a troop compartment, this module was equipped with external manipulators, mini lab equipment and a science sensor suit.
Shea had left to go to the temple, being torn between going there and coming with us. Hans and the Golden had left as well.
Cirruit stood next to the modified tank and said: "Do you mind if I pull a Level Two on our Energy Tap system?"
"Is there something wrong with it?"
His face was unchanged as ever and I could not say or pinpoint how I was able to sense his moods and emotions, but to me he sounded somewhat concerned."As you know it is experimental technology and we are the first ship really using it, other than test platforms. The maintenance manuals and documentation is very rudimentary. It was Three Four who first saw a minute energy leak. It is inside the system and very small."
"What are you trying to tell me? Is the ship in danger? Are we able to leave if we have to?"
"The ship is not in danger and we always have the conventional back up. I am also certain I can fix it, but I need about six hours. Neither the shields nor the Janus System will be effected."
"You're my Chief Engineer and I trust your judgment, just keep me informed."
Cirruit promised and left.
I contemplated to stay but then decided to trust my crew and a few moments later we left the Tigershark and flew due south. It was true; no one cared about us and after a few minutes we were simply another armed skimmer in the skies. Krabbel sat at the Controls and Dien Tallow sat next to him in the Mission command seat. Narth went along out of scientific curiosity, TheOther manned the Turret and there were four other crew members in the crawler as well, all from the science department, and I was simply a passenger, more or less.
Tallow directed us due South away from the city and Air traffic became less, consisting almost entirely of dirty open freight skimmers loaded to the brim with waste. Most of them were just wooden contraptions with fitted Artigrav lifters and simple propellers for locomotion.
One of the scientists sat next to me. She was maybe a dress size two and if it wasn't for her older looking face, she could easily be taken for a teenager. She brushed a lock of her chestnut brown hair out of her face. She had long thin fingers and a doll like appearance. She was excited and said to me: "Thank you Captain for making this opportunity available to us. You see, every type of vermin you could think of has been brought here to SIN 4, either by accident or on purpose. There are no hygiene or import rules. And for over five hundred years they have been dumping trash and waste on this island along with life forms from all across the Galaxy. I can't wait to see how Terran rats have adapted to this environment." I shivered, involuntarily remembering the white tentacle thing in the sewers, and said:"To each its own. I guess everyone needs a hobby."
She smiled. "Captain, I am a Xenobiologist and to me such things are quite fascinating. About sixty years ago there was a Galactic Geographic Expedition to Sin 4 and they focused on Trash Island and found some of the strangest life forms there. It was never done again, because two Expedition members got killed, most of the gear stolen and two abducted for ransom. So I look forward to see what has changed and what is still there."
"I am always amazed what scientists find fascinating."
"You have seen the landing field? It is cracked and large patches are corroded and disintegrated into to dust."
I nodded." I have. Knowing this planet, I am surprised they have one in the first place."
"It was leveled and installed by Kartanian Civil Engineers about 500 years ago in the hopes to get this planet chosen as the meeting place for the Big Four. The material used is very similar to our Duro-Crete and should have lasted thousands of years. But someone imported a mineral eating microbe and it mated with another perhaps local micro organism and the new life form emerged that finds the polymer compounds used in that Kartanian Concrete especially delicious. The result is crumbling and cracking concrete."
I raised an eyebrow." Now that is actually interesting, if that microbe could be altered and delivered by bombs. It could turn an entire Spaceport to dust."
Krabbel laughed. "Our Captain really is a real Terran! The first thing they always think of is how something could be used as a weapon!"
I shrugged:" It was a logical conclusion was it not?"
Narth raised his head: "Indeed especially logical to Terrans." Tthe chestnut haired Xenobiologist said. "Also, we can devise materials immune to these effects. These microbes are just one example. There is a common weed on Terra called Dandelion. .It too found its way to Sin 4 and it has developed a symbiosis with a flesh eating plant. Now the little seed pods that look so lovely on Earth carry tiny flesh eating pods that instantly burrow into unprotected skin and cause serious infections."
Dien Tallow turned in his seat to add his expertise and he said. "The standard hygiene procedures developed for all union ships are based on such research. Did you know that the Tigershark, for example, has special anti contamination systems fitted to our Landing gear wells. That the decontamination fields and harmful aerosol scan procedures that are strictly observed by your Environmental Engineers were all developed using research like that."
I raised my hand. "You made a point. Maybe I was not entirely fair in my assessment and I know we are supposed to hunt Pirates, that is our primary goal, but the pursuit of knowledge is also important, and this is why even a ship like the Tigershark has extensive lab facilities. I am not against scientific exploration and I would love to simply go on an exploring mission without masking as pirates. That is why I agreed to this and I am sure it is time well spent. We just need to be careful, pirates don't explore much and we can't risk our cover."
TheOther did not take his eyes of his targeting and scanning oculars but he said: "I feel very blessed to be here and on a mission that adds to the body of knowledge. Y'All do not explore at least not as far as I know. This thirst for knowledge is what makes the Union and you humans truly superior to us."
Krabbel said:"I hate to interrupt this conversation, but we are here! Trash Island is below us.
I said. "TheOther, are we followed?"
The giant said: "No Ma'am. All I have noticed are garbage scow floaters and none of the ones within range has any active scanning hardware."
I looked out the view port on my side and if there was a hell in the Universe, I was sure we had found it. The water around the Trash Island was a dark brown soup with floating spots of shimmering oil and solid waste. How the island once might have looked I could not say all I saw were mountains and more mountains of trash, waste and rotting garbage. Smoldering heaps belching black smoke into the air that even made the sky over this island look dirty and somewhat greenish. Krabbel landed in a valley between two mountains and engaged the tracks. In the distance we saw one floater dumping trash and I could clearly see the form of two human bodies falling down as well, the two man crew of the floater had bare bodies and used simple shovels to clear the cargo bed. They paid no attention to us at all. It was Narth who pointed out the viewport." Please stop. I believe I see an Itomarian Vision Staff."
Krabbel stopped and Dien became excited: "I believe you are correct. It indeed looks that way. What an eye!"
Before I could ask, Narth's voice answered as usual in my mind: "A long gone species of Space travelers, believed to be associated with the UNI. They had a large empire long before the Celtest. I believe they belonged to the First League, the one the Conck mentioned. We had little contact with them as we Narth isolated ourselves as much as possible from other species. However their technology was highly developed and very unique."
We cycled through the small air lock, wearing our new Atlas Battle Suits, altered in such a way that they did not look like Union technology. Even Narth choose to put a battle suit on. Krabbel remained and kept an eye on the scanners.
I sank to my knees into the mass of moist waste before the suit adjusted and lowered the gravimetric ground pressure so I could walk on top of it. Something like a centipede with many segments and as long as my arm had coiled itself around my left leg and tried to burry sharp looking mandibles into the material of my suit.
The Xenobiolgist, Rebecca Dunns, made her Atlas suit look petite, had grabbed the thing and placed it in an unfolding stasis box. She said: "Could be an Amel originally from Troga, but six times the original size."
TheOther stomped past me and he truly looked terrifying in that battle suit as his had four arms. "What amazing technology these new suits are! I was always at awe at the Quasimodos and I remember well how Union Marines fought us wearing them. Now I am wearing one that is so much advanced I believe I could hold an entire Y'All landing force off all by myself with it."
I laughed: "You terrified the crew of an entire ship, that's for sure, ripping Airlocks out of their sockets like paper."
"Ah, yes, true, but it was a battle and I had little time thinking just how marvelous these Atlas suits are."
Narth and Dien uncovered an elaborately decorated five meter long object from the dirt. It had a dull metallic color and roughly looked like a giant ear cleaner with round ends on each side. A red crystal like object was embedded on one side. The coloring and the shape reminded me of the round spheres, I had found in the Cave of Things. This reddish crystal sphere however had the appearance of being damaged.
I watched my small landing party did through the trash and kept looking over the depressing landscape, with one eye on the battle sensors and said to the big creature next to me: "Do you think the Y'All will return?"
He raised his upper arm pair and said: "I was what we called a Battle Drone, Captain. I was not given much information. I was grown in a vat along with ten thousand exactly like me and came to this Galaxy aboard a Hatching Ship. I know less about the true motives of my kind than you. My purpose, and only purpose, was to destroy and kill. I had no other reason to exist. When I questioned that existence and wanted to know more I was declared damaged and malfunctioning and my section command put me in Stasis for further evaluation. I was scheduled for disassembly along with the other Y'All you found." He made a very human sigh and continued: "I found killing and destroying without reason very disturbing. Be assured I will defend you and the ship and my friends, but I would have a hard time following an order to kill without a very good reason."
I watched Narth and Dien poke through the trash obviously searching for more artifacts and then saw the petite Xenobiologist transferring something struggling and slimy with lot of legs into a Specimen container. While I observed them having fun I said to the Y'All: "I think this is a good philosophy and I promise you I won't order you to kill without a reason, but our mission might require that we terminate individuals."
He turned his entire body to look at me directly and said: "It will have a reason though. We are defending the way of life of the Union, a place where even one like me receives mercy and a chance. With you I am an individual and the very concept of having friends is a very good reason to fight."
I wanted to say something but my sensors picked up a human shaped heat source hiding underneath a crate not too far from Narth. I did not read any energy sources indicating weapons or shields so went towards that crate to see who was hiding there, something hit my suit, at the chest area. The suit Computronic switched to battle mode and said. "Chemical projectile weapon impact, threat level zero." The sensors homed in on an extremely dirty man crouching behind a wall of trash aiming a weapon at us, next to him a Stik Alien armed with a spear.
TheOther turned into a lighting fast running battering ram and plowed through the dirt and trash like a cannon ball, trash and pieces flying everywhere, and grabbed both the human with one hand and with another hand a gangly, tall and somewhat thin human alien.
The crate before me flew to the side and a meager, dirty girl was exposed and it floated into the air, held by Narth's telekinetic powers, but I sensed Narth having trouble at first. I lowered my gun to shoot her.
Narth's voice said: "No Eric please do not shoot. I have her now!"
TheOther carried the struggling man; he wore only rags and was barefoot. The tall Alien was in no better shape, almost completely naked, dirty and wounded. The weapon, some kind of rifle, was bent into a pretzel in one of TheOther's other hands.
The man screamed in perfect Union Lingu: "Let her go you bastards! Let her go! She means no harm! Let her go!"
Narth just looked in my direction and I nodded. Narth said: "We mean you no harm as well. It was you who shot at us and I know you only did it to protect that female."
The man stopped struggling and TheOther let him go. I said to the dirty man: "No matter how fast you try to run, I am faster. So stay until we are done talking to you!" The Alien being did not move, it simply hung in the huge fist, like dead.
The dirty man did not relax and eyed us with open mistrust: "You must be Union: No other species in the Universe would poke through trash with million credit equipment and collect vermin."
I said: "You appear human and you don't speak Freezone Squawk, are you a Union Citizen?"
His head sank: "Not anymore, I did some bad things a few decades ago and fled to Sin 4." Now he lowered his hands in a resigning gesture. "I'd say take me. I would give up. I'd rather face charges at home as to spend another day in this hell, but I can't, I must protect her and stay with my friends here."
Narth said: "Captain, this girl has tremendous Psionic powers, almost on par with mine and she is in great danger to harm herself as she has no training at all."
Our tiny Xeno scientist held out a Ration Bar to the girl:" Are you hungry?"
Narth examined the tall thin Alien: "He is badly injured."
The girl was incredibly filthy and her hair resembled the dirtiest mop in Midrill's broom closet. Somehow she reminded me of Exa, but compared to this one, Exa was sparkling clean the first time I saw her. This girl was also very thin and meager, and looked malnourished. She had big blue and incredibly sad eyes.
She nodded at Specialist Dunns question but didn't take the bar; instead she looked over to the man.
He said: "Go ahead Alice take it. These are real Union Soldiers like I told you so often about."
She took the bar and ripped it open and wolfed it down like an animal. I noticed the longing eyes of the man, so I opened my emergency ration compartment and handed him a bar as well. At first he tried to maintain some dignity but his hunger won and he too tore it open and literally inhaled the bar in two or three bites. They both got two more and finally he chewed slower and his eyes glowed with bliss. He said still chewing: "Oh God in heaven, I never thought a RICE bar would taste so good."
I was certain he was Union, perhaps even with military background as he knew the acronym for these Ration Individual Combat Emergency bars.
I said "I think it is better we take you all to the ship, have our med officer check you out and get you a real meal. That Stik friend of yours really needs medical attention. I give you my word that if you want to leave you can. You are not under arrest."
He nodded. "The word of a Starfleet Captain is enough for me. I know you are Fleet even though you try to hide it, especially with the others calling you Captain and you having RICE bars with your equipment."
I frowned and said: "Let's make sure no one else comes to this conclusion. Let's go back to the ship before someone else does pay attention to us."
Narth asked the man holding up the artifact:"Have you ever seen any artifacts that look like this Stik?"
The man looked at it and then nodded. "Yes Gothar the Dealer has four cases with the same markings standing in his store. There are little round crystal balls in them just like the busted one in that Stik."
Narth said to me: "We must return here, Captain. We must recover those cases. If I am right, then we have discovered a find perhaps more important than hunting pirates."
This was a strong statement coming from my friend and I knew he never exaggerated before. I nodded: "Then return we will."
We returned without further incident to the ship. While we thoroughly decontaminated the landing tank, the suits and ourselves, I thought about the words of the Xenobiologist concerning the decontamination process that previously was so routine I barely noticed, and it now bec\ome much more significant to me.
Narth went with them.
Shea came into the landing bay and watched as the scientists unloaded tie specimen containers and other finds. She still wore her Sojonit Outfit but took off her mask and said: "I have the blessings of the Mother Superior for our union and she has retired my name."
I smiled, looked around to make sure no one was watching, and kissed her.
She then handed me a sealed package and said with slight surprise in her voice:"This comes from the Mother Superior. The package contains a real Sojonit costume and she hopes you find time to visit her at the temple tomorrow."
I took the package and said: "Then I will make the time if at all possible and we go and visit her."
I checked in on the bridge and was briefed by Mao about the ship status and Elfi reported more communication intercepts between the Merchants Sorrow and the Red Dragon and the arrival of that ship was confirmed. Then I went to Engineering and found Cirruit in the Main Engine room at a towering machine that had all the looks of Union tech but at the same time looked quite alien. A robotic arm had removed a large section of its cover and held it in place hanging from the ceiling and allowing me to see inside this contraption. Eight tubes of about one meter in diameter stuck out from a hexagonal shaped cube. The cube looked as if it was made of glass or some other transparent material and it looked as if bright red glowing liquid syrup was mixed and swirled with a milky, yellowish, thick liquid that also glowed. I saw a bushy tail sticking out from one of the tubes.
Cirruit handed me a pair of dark goggles and said."Better put them on Captain, Three Four is out of his containment suit and he is brighter than a blue star when he comes out."
I pointed at the cube thing and said after putting on the goggles: "How are things going?"
Cirruit said: "We got the leak fixed and we are running at 99.9998 percent efficiency and conversion rate." He pointed at the Cube: "This actually is the chamber where we tap into the higher dimension and the swirling colors are what our senses make of what is actually there. Only Narth and Three Four can actually sense what it really looks like. We are pulling the purest form of energy from that Dimension and to use it we must convert it into all the different energy forms we need. We have never used it in its raw form in the Nose cone spine cannon and its use there has not been entirely tested either."
Even with the dark glasses I was almost blinded as a bright ball of intense white light emerged from one of the tubes and slipped into the Uniform containment suit lying on the floor. It looked as if someone pumped air into the flat suit and Three Four the Non-Corp got up and saluted me. "Hi Captain, everything is working fine now. The leak is patched and we now know why it happened in the first place."
Cirruit pointed at the bushy tail. "Captain, I recommend Specialist Warner for a service medal. That little Holdian is working like a machine, and I mean that as a compliment."
"I'll have Har-Hi draw up the necessary documents and I will decorate him accordingly."
Cirruit made a gesture to the open hatch: "We should be done in about 20 minutes, but I would love to run the system one hour above red line."
I padded his shoulder. "You deserve a medal too my friend, and maybe after we have slain that Red Dragon we can cast off our disguise for a while and take our ship to the edge of what she can do."
Like always I knew his mood and he was deeply satisfied saying: "These engines are all the medals I need, that and your pat on my shoulders that is."
I went to the Den wearing my Captain's Uniform. Har Hi followed holding the little box.
In the Den I asked Specialist Warner to stand on the table, so I could look him in the face. He too wore his Uniform and stood at attention, except his tail had other ideas and twitched back and forth.
I said to him: "Mr. Warner, I was told by your supervising officer that you perform your tasks above and beyond expectations. In recognition of your work and performance I am herby awarding you the Golden Service Medal of Engineering Excellence and in lieu of the shore leave rights I am unable to grant at the moment, you have a full day use of the Virtu Chamber, and you will be the guest of honor at our next formal dinner."
Har Hi handed me the medal chip and I swiped it over his ribbon display and handed him the actual medal. "Well done Mr. Warner."
If he would have been a balloon I was certain he was near bursting and so I nodded to Har-Hi who called every one present to be at ease and dismissed."
The little Holdian shrieked in excitement and shook my hand with both his paws. "Thank you Captain, thank you! I am so proud!"
He then jumped off the table and showed his medal to the Golden and Cirruit.
From the curtains that hung before the main door to the converted Hangar Bay emerged Cateria and with her came the man and the small girl we had picked up.
Both looked much more human now. The man wore a standard duty uniform without any insignia. He appeared to be in his late sixties and had silver gray hair that matched his now well groomed beard that framed his mouth and chin. He had hollow cheeks and looked very thin. The girl had long black hair that was parted in the middle. Her skin was not white as that of a Kermac but still appeared very pale. She reminded me of Galmy who was from Maltyr and one of my first year academy mates, but unlike Galmy the girl did not have black eyes, but large blue ones. She appeared almost like a precious little porcelain doll, like the one my mother had sitting on her vanity dresser. The girl now wore a black dress with white lace collar and I wondered why a little girl would want to look as somber like that. Her face had an expression of sadness.
Cateria held up a PDD and said while looking at it. "I am surprised that these two are still alive. I have never removed so many parasites from only three individuals. The Man suffered from gastritis and from advanced lung cancer. Not to mention several festering, infected sores. I was able to treat all three and these two are as good as new."
"The Girl is an enigma, she had only a few cuts and bruises and a nasty fungus infection on her scalp, but her immune system is exceptionally well developed. She carries human DNA, but also DNA patterns of a species unknown to the Computronic databanks. Her Heidelberg Psi Index is at approximately 14,000, considerably lower than Narth who exceeds the 35,000 mark but far more than any Saresii, Kermac or Human ever measured. To put that in relation, the average Kermac or Saresii talent hovers about 250-300. Alycia Lichfangh who is considered one of the most powerful is at around 7000. She is not telepathic and according to Narth her entire Psionic power manifests in telekinetic powers."
"The strain of fighting Narth had caused severe cerebral bleeding and she was on the brink of death. She, too, is out of danger, but using her power now before she has completely recovered will kill her as certainly as a blaster shot to the head. I have her momentarily on a Psionic blocking drug."
"Both of them are severely undernourished. The Stik is also on his way to making a complete recovery. I doubt it happened on purpose, but the powerful hands of our Y'All friend augmented by the suit crushed his backbone to an unsolvable puzzle, so I am growing him a new one as we speak. He will be in the ReGen-tank for at least another two hours." She lowered her PDD.
The man bowed before me and said: "I thank you for your hospitality and for saving our lives. I knew I had cancer, I was quite sure of it and hoped I would survive long enough to see Alice grow and be safe."
Elfi stepped in and handed me a printout. "Hans ran his data through main CID at Pluribus and he is identified as Nestor Faller, born on Tillsquare Planet 78 years ago. He had a good education at Pluri-Tech University and started to be a very successful Cat-burglar and Computronic Hacker and for a long time was only known as Fusionbeam."
"His alter ego, Fusionbeam, gained quite some notoriety when he stole the Tear of Blood, the largest natural ruby in the known Galaxy, right from under the noses of Schwartz Security. It was said he could hack into any system and steal whatever he wanted."
The man listened to what Elfi said and nodded. "Yes that is me. I was Fusionbeam. I never killed anyone or stole from anyone who could not afford it, but then my own wife, that snake Lisa, double crossed me and made my identity known. Those bastards at Schwartz Security hunted everyone down associated with me They didn't turn them over to the law, they killed everyone; my family, my friends and that long after I had given back the Ruby. That wasn't enough for them, so I faked my own death and fled to Sin 4. But even here I found out I was not safe. So I became a Skaakh and completely vanished."
He put his hand on the head of the girl and fatherly love glowed in his eyes and he continued. "Seventeen years ago I found her, dumped from a garbage flyer, a tiny baby girl wounded and barely alive. I did what I could to nurse her back to health and help her grow. If it wasn't for my friend, the Stik, we would both never made it that long."
Shea said: "I am certain I can arrange for Schwartz Security to drop all charges, expunge the files even and leave you alone."
My redheaded Yeoman said, clutching her PDD before her chest as usual, when she didn't carry coffee, said: "I checked into his case and since he was never convicted or stood before a court of law. I don't see why he should not be able to return home. His Citizen rights are still intact."
Tears rolled down the man's face as he said: "There isn't a night I don't dream of going back and being free and clean once again. Eat real food and sleep in a real bed, but my home is now here. The Stik are the true owners of this world and they are oppressed, slaughtered and enslaved while the Off-Worlders rape their planet, destroy everything and pollute it to death. They have never abandoned me and I will fight for them and live with them until I die."
He then pushed the girl gently forward. "However if you could take care of her I would be eternally grateful to you all. She has no future here and I know her talent can kill her. You could teach her and make her grow in a clean, healthy environment. She could go to Union school and then have a Galaxy of opportunities; here I doubt she will see another year."
The girl cried."I don't want to leave you Dad!"
He knelt down to her and said with a choking voice said "Alice, I love you like my own daughter, but I am an old man on the dirtiest world in the Universe. Don't you remember all the stories about the Union I told you? They are all true. You will never be cold, sick, hungry or thirsty again. Here you don't have to fear anyone and the man in the black robe is a real Narth that can make your headaches go away and you will never have nose bleeds again. Alice if you love me you must go with them."
She sobbed but nodded: "I love you Daddy." And as she said it blood trickled from her nose.
Cateria jumped up and Narth caught her collapsing body, saying with urgency in his usually so calm voice: "We must get her back in sickbay or she will cease to live."
I nodded and he disappeared along with Cateria in a loud pop as the air rushed into the void he had just occupied.
Nestor looked helpless at the spot she had just been: "Will she be okay?"
I put my hand on the man's shoulder: "She is in very good care and my friend Narth will teach her and make sure she will no longer hurt herself."
"He really is a Narth?"
"Yes he is."
"If only half of the legends are true of them then I have hope."
I had everyone sit down and had Coffee served. After about an hour Narth came in and said to the man: "She will fully recuperate, but she is in a deep sleep right now. Our CMO has done a marvelous job in cauterizing the hemorrhages and I will teach her in small steps how to control her enormous potential."
The mood improved after that and I had dinner served. Just as Nanjo Eeeryt served the main course, Elfi, who had the Conn at the moment called and said."Captain, I am sorry to interrupt dinner but three Togar warships just entered the system and intercepted comm traffic confirms they are searching for us."
Thanks to our fast IST it took me little time to reach the command deck. I stopped by my quarters and changed into my leather outfit and then stepped on the bridge. Har-Hi was right behind me and Elfi vacated the Command seat. "Three Monglar Class Togar Attack Cruisers dropped out of Quasi-space about eight minutes ago and are broadcasting a description of our ship and offering a reward of 500,000 Polos for anyone knowing where we are."
"Sound General Quarters and open a channel to them."
The rest of my senior officers arrived and took their seats, just as the klaxons blared through the ship and called everyone to their positions.
Elfi said: "I have a connection to the lead ship."
After a hand sign of mine she put me on and a brown furred Togar female Togar cat flanked by two male warriors of her species appeared on the screen. I said. "I am Captain Black Velvet of the Silver Streak. Why would the Togar Empire have a bounty on us?"
The female growled. "We are aware you are harboring a fugitive of our kind and we demand that you hand her over."
"I am not in the business of harboring anyone."
"Liar, we know you purchased a female Togar at a place known as Brhama Port."
"Oh that one, sorry I don't have her anymore. Captain Swift purchased her from me and I am not sure where he went, but if there is a reward. I will keep an eye open for him and the Swift Profit, his ship."
One of the male Togar said to her."She could speak the truth, she has been seen leaving Brahma Port with said individual and we know of his appetites."
"Human you will give us the exact coordinates where you saw this Swift last and tell us if you know where he went."
"Is there a reward out for that fugitive of yours?"
"You can collect it at the Throne world if your information leads to the capture of that individual."
"I think he went to Kaliment, if my memory serves right."
She turned to her associate and said: "Lay course to Kaliment." To me she said. "If you come across this Swift before we do, make sure you tell him there is a substantial reward for that Togar female." With those words she cut the transmission.
Narth sitting on the controls said. "The Togar ships are changing course and accelerating out of the system."
Har-Hi got up and looked over Narth's shoulder and said: "That was quick thinking, sending them to chase a pirate ship that doesn't exist anymore, but I really wonder what our white furred guest did to justify such efforts."
I shrugged. "She will tell us when she is ready. I gave her my word she will be safe aboard my ship, and I tend to keep my word."
Narth said. "The Togar commander we just talked to did not know any details either, but she was under direct royal command of the Queen herself."
I got up, and said. "Well that went better than expected, stand down from Battle Stations and keep me posted. I think I will finish my dinner. If I am right, Nanjo made fish soup."
I was just sitting back down at the table as our little Holdian Engineer jumped out of his seat with a panicked shriek. I turned to see what had spooked him so. It was Cateria and the white furred Togar standing in the door. The Togar had her hands demurely folded before her and she looked to the floor. She was now wearing one of the white dresses female Med-techs liked to wear and she looked strangely alluring and quite attractive. Warner pointed at her. "If there is one thing Togar like more than eating humans, it's chasing and eating Holdians."
She whispered. "I wish not to cause any harm or trouble to anyone. It would be best if you let me leave the ship, or kill me."
"You are not a prisoner, and if you want to leave no one will stop you, but we are on Sin 4 and three Togar battle ships broadcasted a big reward for you over all channels. It would be suicide to go out there. I think you should sit with us and have dinner."
The Holdian was moving close to TheOther and said."Don't invite her Captain, she might take you up on it and eat me!"
TheOther placed his huge arms like a barrier around the Holdian and this gesture of protection was calming our little engineer down considerably.
I said. "No worries Mr. Warner, I am sure there is no danger at all."
I got up and made an inviting gesture. "Please sit and eat. We do not have human or Holdians on the menu, but I remember a Togar friend of mine and she said she prefers bacon and I am sure we have some of that."
She raised her head a little and her green eyes sparkled. "You know a Togar and call her friend?"
"I must admit, I have almost forgotten about her, but through your presence I was reminded of the lessons of an old teacher of mine. There is a very small community of Togars living as free citizens in the Union and one of them is the Captain of a civilian ship."
She moved with grace and elegance and sat down at the edge of one of the big chairs and she said to Warner: "Dear Mr. Holdian please be assured I mean no one any harm and I have never harmed, slain or eaten a Holdian and will never do so."
The little engineer jumped over the arm barrier and walked with twitching tail back to his booster seat and said: "I am not afraid anyhow, I am a Starfleet Engineer, and I was merely acting, of course."
Our Elly cook came in with a plate and placed it before her. "The Captain mentioned bacon, Mr. Narth teleports me into my kitchen before I even know it and Ship already has the bacon out of the stasis freezer, so here we go, the fastest ever fried bacon."
She whispered "Thank you, but I am not hungry,"
Her pink triangular nose over the cleft lips begun to shiver and she timidly took a little piece and nibbled. Right after that she ate a whole slice and said. "Intha, intha, this is like god food."
I motioned everyone to eat and the ice seemed to be broken as the good food pacified everyone.
The Togar female almost reacted like the Holdian as Krabbel came in and announced."My shift is over and it looks like I am just in time for desert."
While our Archa pleaded with the Cook to change the planned pudding desert to ice cream, I said to the Togar: "This is Lt. Krabbel, my Navigator and he is from Archa There is hardly a kinder soul aboard this ship and you need not to fear him."
She nodded and her eyes shimmered wet and Shea whispered: "Say something to her, she's crying."
The Togar female said whispering: "This wonderful harmony on this table, all these different beings and they all have a home and a purpose. I think I am ready to leave now." I said to her: "You are welcome here as long as you like." She said: "I am Jolaj of Grotha. I was born to a priestess of the temple. It is forbidden for those who serve the 431 Spirits of the Grotha to have children, except when the spirits themselves manifest themselves through birth which had last happened many thousands of years ago. I was born on the feast day of Malmoru the Lightray Spirit and, because I have white fur, they elevated me and called me Jolaj, calling me the one who saves the Togar from the wraith of the darkest spirit, the one that shall not be named and comes from a cold dark place."
She raised her head. "My people are very proud and fierce and we are told not to like other species. We are ruled as much by our Queen as by our faith and religion."
I noticed Har-Hi who sat at her other side, looking at her with great attention and his hand touching her finger tips and he said with a gentle tone in his voice: "It sounds like you are a living god among your people and should be exalted and celebrated."
She turned to face him and said: "It was so at the beginning and I was schooled and educated and learned much about the outside worlds. I know of the Dai-Than, the Kermac, the Nogoll, the Kartanian and I was told about he Union. But then 2 cycles ago at my feast day, the Queen came to the temple to be justified by the Spirits for another cycle and to question the holy smokes of the glowing pit about the future. The Spirits prophesized her reign would see the coming of the Darkest Spirit and that this dark spirit would even disguise himself and shape itself as a Togar female. The Darkest Spirit would also kill her and all of her dynasty and great darkness would descent upon the Togar and the very light of the Galaxy's center would be dimmed."
Har-Hi took her hand into his and I was certain he was not even aware doing it and he said: "Sorry but that sounds like every other prophecy uttered by a thousand prophets on a thousand different planets. It is always the Darkness and evil this and doom and gloom. I am sorry but I think this is how these religions stay in business. What I don't understand why you are being hunted."
She answered: "My old teacher warned me and I didn't believe her. She said the High Priestess and the conference of priestesses hated me, because if I came of age I would make them obsolete. So when the Queen asked for an interpretation of the prophecy and how she could recognize the false Togar, they said that it was not Malmoru, who sired me, but a mangy Togar male possessed by the Dark Spirit that lay with my mother and that Evil was masked in the fur of innocence. A widely broadcasted trial declared me guilty of impersonating a Goddess, planning to kill the Queen and conspiracy against the realm. I was sentenced to death, but in the dungeons my old teacher came to visit me and helped me dye my fur. I was herded out with the other prisoners to work the Happy Mines on the Neverwarm Planet.
Our ship got attacked and that is how I ended up here, but I am the most wanted criminal in my society and you are all in danger."
The big Y'All spread his arms and said: "Let them come, you are safe with us!"
Har-Hi said: "Our Captain would never yield even if the entire Universe wanted to get you. I pledge to defend you and so will everyone on this ship. So, you pretty Togar Cat, cheer up and we find some things for you to do around here."
Shea whispered: "I think your XO is quite smitten by the kitten and she is very pretty in her exotic way."
"I noticed, too, he never talks quite that much."
My gorgeous science officer turned to Nestor, who was eating like there was no tomorrow, pointed at the Itomarian Vision staff on the table: "Please let us talk about this for a moment. I heard you would know where other artifacts like this one can be found."
He nodded chewing, holding a chicken drum Stik in his right hand and a biscuit in the other hand and said:"Yes I do. Gothar the Dealer has four cases with writing like that and red spheres like that inside."
To me Shea said: "Narth and I are quite certain, that this is Itomarian. The Stik is a sort of a library access device and those spheres hold knowledge and records of that long gone, barely known and yet once highly developed civilization. If even one of these spheres is still undamaged it could provide us with important information. A Saresii legend tells that the Itomarian knew the secrets of the Y'All invasions and how to end them once and for all. Some scholars believe they are the ones who made the Y'all in the first place. The Narth knew of them even before the rise of the Pree and the UNI."
So I turned to our eating guest: "Who is this Gothar?"
Nestor used a napkin to wipe the grease of his cheeks and looked quite satisfied. "He is a Lipsiar, non Union species from somewhere in the Core ward sector. He lives at the Village and buys the scavenged materials from the Skaakh and Stik; things such as Valuable Metals, plastics and everything of value. We can buy knives, chemiguns, food and such from him. Once a month or so he takes his freight skimmer to the Commodity Market and sells what we collected."
The Door to the Hangar opened once more and Cateria returned, accompanied by the tall Alien. He too was clean now. His skin a pale yellow and he somehow looked as if skin had been stretched over an elongated human skeleton with a pointed skull. He was at least 350 cm tall but his arms almost reached to the ground, he reminded me of a Spindlar, only that a Spindlar looked fat compared to him. He bowed before me and said: "You are the Chief of this flying Village?"
"Yes I am."
"I am glad you are better, Chief." I knew I could not let him go back before Narth had wiped his memory or placed a hypnotic block.
"Nestor has told us so many things about the Union. Is it all true?
"I do not know what he told you but I am sure it is more or less so."
"Nestor told us that we are the true owners of our World and that the Union law would say so."
"Yes the sentient native life form of a planet is by union law the rightful owner of their home world. However this is not Union Space and our laws mean little. We must be here in secret."
"No it is not true. Nestor says that everyone can become Union and then Planet becomes Union and Union comes and kicks off all Mighty Ones and we are free People again."
Har-Hi whistled: "You know, he is right. If the Stik would officially ask for membership, then the Freespace status of Sin 4 would no longer apply. Any Civilization, including the ones in Free Space, have the right to associate themselves with any of the Big four. That is so stipulated in the Freespace Treaty. No one can argue that the Stik are the rightful owners of this world."
Nestor nodded: "That's why the Cartel tries to murder all Stik. Stik are not allowed to speak in public, cannot use Flyers and are not allowed to leave on space ships. The old Cartel boss has seen that danger and wanted to eradicate them all, but the new generations don't even see the Stik anymore and pay no attention to them. I studied the Treaty, and I knew this would be the solution one day! I never dreamed it would happen in my life time."
I played with my braids as I always did when I was thinking and said: "This presents a problem. I need to call Fleet HQ about it. But first I need to ask you, Nestor, for a favor. I need to find and talk to this Gothar and I best do it incognito. Could you lead me to him?" "Yes Captain I would."
Har- Hi agreed: "It would not be out of character for a Pirate to look for spare parts there either, or to buy a load of stuff to pay for a trip instead of flying with empty cargo holds."