|Galactic Chronicles IX: Eric Olafson, Space Pirate|
|Previous||CHAPTER 3 : SIN 4|
|Next||Chapter 6: Alvor's Cove|
The woman in the red dress led me through a labyrinth of hallways, corridors and after an elevator ride, into the secret basement facilities of the Temple far below the surface accessible only through a complicated process of ID verification that made the Blue-Blue-Red Code process look like child's play.
We ended up in a small conference room of sorts with several chairs and a kidney shaped table in the middle. A Sojonit entered and handed the Mother Superior a PDD and said. "Arrangements have been made and we will get a ship in three weeks."
The masked leader of the Sojonites glanced at the PDD, nodded and handed it back. To me she said. "By then everyone who is looking for you will think you are dead. Death comes quickly here on Sin 4 and in three weeks you are old news. By then we should have no problems to move you off planet."
She pointed at my leg and added. "That gives you time to heal completely and we can teach you a few useful skills."
A modern looking SII GalNet terminal rose from a hidden compartment in the table. A field screen flickered into existence and the logo of fleet command rotated in the middle for a short moment only to be replaced by the face of Admiral Stahl.
Suddenly I wished I was not dressed like a Sojonit. While I deeply enjoyed the role and the quite provocative outfit I somehow didn't want Stahl to know my secret.
The woman motioned me to remove my mask and the wig and I did. Stahl looked at me; his face did not reveal what emotions he felt as he said. "Midshipman Olafson I am very glad you are unharmed and safe."
I wasn't sure if I should stand at attention. Military protocol required such behavior only when in uniform so I decided against it. "Thank you Sir."
He nodded and said. "As you know Military Ships cannot enter Freespace and so we cannot come and get you officially. While we do have extensive other resources I think the current plan is the best, to let things cool down and make sure no one connects your rescue in any way to the Sojonites. I am sure you understand that we must be subtle and move carefully through very secure channels so we do not jeopardize the Sojonites or the Saresii Intel Operation on Sin 4.
Your friends know you are alive and I told them that you are reasonably safe for the moment. However no one but I and Mother Superior know where you are at the moment. Most of your current adventure and the details of your rescue are classified beyond Blue-Blue-Red, meaning you will not divulge any details of this to anyone."
"Yes Sir I understand."
He smiled briefly and continued." I expected nothing less of you. For the time being you are transferred to the Saresii Intel service and you will take orders from Mother Superior as if they came from me, understood?"
He leaned back and the optical sensor now revealed that he was sitting in his office aboard the Devastator. "It might interest you that your friend Har-Hi killed Admiral Dent, sparing him an execution and we are currently cleaning up on Newport."
I could not stop the grin that crept over my lips. "I can't say I am terribly sorry to hear that, Sir."
"I am looking forward to seeing you soon and in person for a complete report, Midshipman Olafson, until then good luck and gods speed. Stahl out."
The transmission terminated and the field screen went dark.
I felt much better now after talking to Stahl. Everything didn't seem so confusing and there was a clear direction once more.
Mother Superior said with a warm tone in her voice. "I’ve known him for a very long time and I can see he is very fond of you!"
I was still staring at the dark field screen and said. "I am very proud to know the Admiral. It is very reassuring to know he is one of the men in charge and to know I can trust him."
She nodded. "That you can indeed, there is no one with a reputation like his. In all the centuries I’ve know him, he has not changed. No matter the situation or crisis he is like a sturdy rock. Even his worst enemies respect and trust him." I looked at her masked face "It seems you are fond of him as well."
"You have keen senses and I think your feminine side goes much deeper than you know."
During the next few days I was taught how to override and hack into advanced locks, break into Computronics, operate Bioflex mask makers and use make up and other means to change my appearance. I learned that the Sojonites did not only teach the art of love making but had a special squad of enforcers that made sure the Sojonit brand was not exploited by others. The tall Sojonit, so I learned, was from Earth and she taught me a new and different secretive martial arts technique that had only one goal, to kill the opponent as quickly as possible by recognizing the weak spot. Most of the training was given by neural upload and ancient Saresii Hypnotic techniques. I was told that they had to revert to these old techniques as I was immune to Psionic Learning. After each extensive upload she would go through a series of physical exercises to make sure the upload had taken hold. The martial arts technique was unlike any of the ones I knew as it was based on the incredible deep knowledge of the Sojonites into the weaknesses and nervous systems of hundreds of different species.
Another woman introduced me to the world of poisons and neuro-toxins. How to identify some of them and how to effectively use them; again the Sojonites drew from a deep knowledge base of many species, some of them unknown to the Union.
The range of weapons the Sojonites used was wicked and deadly. None of them obvious and all of them hidden: Micro-needlers, monofilament blades hidden in jewelry, masks, wigs and clothing. A seemingly innocent and playful looking wispy veil used as part of the costume or in seductive dances that could be transformed into mono mesh nets slicing through flesh and bone was especially nasty in my opinion.
None of the weapons would do much good in real battle or during boarding action, but reap terrible havoc in a night club, an urban setting or a similar urban setting.
I learned much about the Sojonit and their secrets, that this order was only one aspect of the Goddess and that another much more secretive Order worshipped and studied the destructive aspect. To them the Universe was a female spirit giving live and light but part of the Universe was also death and destruction. The innermost circle of the Sojonites enforced the laws of the Order quite effective as Assassins, killing without mercy those who did not pay for services or those who tried to cash in on the reputation and dress like Sojonit Sisters. While I was not really buying all the metaphysical stuff I learned that the Order existed long before Terra ascended and had collected and preserved knowledge and had developed skills for a very long time.
After two weeks of the most intensive training that barely left time for eating or sleeping I wondered why I was receiving these instructions. I was certain it would come in handy to know these things and I eagerly wanted to learn more. The Viking Warrior in me recoiled and abhorred the wicked and hidden ways to kill and assassinate, which was not really my style or character, but knowing such things existed would help me to identify such threats easier.
I had just completed another practice session with the tall Sojonit when the Mother Superior came and inquired about my progress. After she received a satisfactory answer and a little demonstration of the skills I had learned she asked me to follow her to a small sacral looking vaulted room with a statue of the goddess Sojo dominating the back. The statue was about the size of a human and the material had a waxen bone colored appearance. The figure was dressed in the same deep red as the Mother superior. Hundreds of Candles were burning and the scent they produced was almost too much.
A faint sound of silvery bells could be heard; it wasn't really a melody but appeared to be generated randomly. I also could hear the gurgling of water somewhere.
She sat down on a large silk cushion, folded her legs underneath her and asked me to do the same on a cushion across from her. She made a gesture towards the statue. "To us Sojonites the Goddess is quite real and I am going to tell you our story so you may understand us better. After that I will arrange to improve your education in certain areas a little."
I blushed and said. "I don't really want to know all the things Sojonites do. I respect it and all that and I do enjoy being female at the moment, but I am quite sure I am not interested in the...uhm... you know what you Sojonites do."
She laughed heartily. "Oh now young student, fear not, there are no intentions of that nature. Even though you would be surprised how powerful and useful such knowledge could be. The skills we hope you will acquire here are of a more practical nature and your Admiral has approved it."
I nodded and was glad that there was some knowledge I needed to acquire. Still I wondered what it could be she wanted to teach me.
She pressed the palms of her hands together and placed them above her lap. "To learn something it is often best to start at the beginning."
I had to agree with this basic wisdom and simply nodded, while she begun. "In a time where humans on Earth barely learned to walk upright and had yet to bring forth true sentience, the Saresii had developed to a strong and mighty civilization with many achievements. We were blessed with Psionic gifts and talents few others species could dream to match and with these powers and the achievements of our culture came pride."
While she talked a dark sphere established itself between us and displayed deep space and then moved to a Star system with seven planets. I knew as soon as I saw it, that such a system could not have been natural, as all Planets were on the same orbit around their sun. The orbit was not elliptical but a perfect circle, placing all the seven worlds into a perfect distance from that star.
Her voice continued and she explained what I was seeing. "Our pride grew and, while pride is a good emotion, it can easily grow into haughtiness and arrogance and it did so with us. The Saresii became obsessed with our own beauty, our own power and this self-importance affected and infected our entire society. The Saresii were as condescending as the Kermac are now. Yes there were voices of warning and those who tried to make us see the true reflection but to little avail.”
“We used our combined Psionic powers to re-arrange our own solar system. As you can see there are seven perfectly groomed and perfectly identical worlds.”
“We were not content with one home world but showed the Galaxy we were powerful enough to rearrange star systems and shape worlds to our ideals.”
“The Saresii spread over many worlds and colonies and each colony competed to be the most beautiful and aesthetic pleasing.”
“We Saresii cared little about what others found pleasing and sterilized many worlds to brand them and remake them in our image. During this phase of expansion and arrogance we met another civilization, the Seenians, just as arrogant and even more advanced. They commanded an empire that stretched across most of our Galaxy, with untold resources and mighty fleets."
I actually enjoyed her history lesson and it did give me some insights into one of the leading societies of our Union. I was sure her story would drag on for a while longer, but after running through the city wounded and poisoned, I found this a nice change of pace. I also had the suspicion that the scent of the candles had some sort of tranquilizing, calming effect; but my mild interest changed as the image showed a fleet of ships, hundreds of them, and each looked like the Devastator. To the entire known Galaxy, the single Devastator was a sign of Union might. I had seen her might unleashed and now I stared at a fleet with hundreds of these immense ships. I knew how difficult it was to fight a tiny courier vessel of the Seenians, this image brought home to me just how powerful the Seenians had been. I barely heard her say, "The Devastator is a Seenian ship and it is just one. The Seenians showed up with fleets of thousands."
I remembered the words of Admiral Stahl about how dangerous the universe could be, regardless of how big your ship was; there was always someone with a bigger or better one. I wondered if even the combined might of the Union fleet would have stood a chance against such an adversary. While I still tried to wrap my mind around the image I saw, she continued. "We welcomed them and felt we finally met a species worthy of our attention.”
“The Seenians told us that they were at war against a brutish force and recruited others to join their fight. They also warned us that if we would not join them that we would certainly perish trying to stand alone against the Dark Ones."
Seeing the might of the Seenians displayed, I wondered what opponent could hope to stand against them. Yet the Seenians were no longer around and everyone knew they had lost the war against their mysterious opponent.
The Mother Superior kept on talking and commenting on the visual before me. "The Saresii, as you most likely know from school, fought with the Seenians against the Dark Ones much like the young civilizations of the Galaxy now fight against the Y'All every time they return... The Dark Ones were just as relentlessly unstoppable and their only motivation seemed to do evil and inflict pain and suffering. They could have easily destroyed entire worlds and solar systems and had so done many times, but they also invaded and tortured and killed, not for gaining ground, but to devour and destroy. "
The projection field between us displayed grainy and blurry images of a spherical ship that moved into a star system and she said. "These images are the only visuals we have of the Dark Ones and no outsider has ever seen them. We enhanced the quality as much as possible but these records have been copied many times and are over a million of your years old."
I had seen spherical ships before, the Ult used drop shaped ships and the new battle ship class that is supposed to replace the wedge design was also spherical. I had seen the enormous Klack Battle Moon from the cockpit of my Wolfcraft, so the first time I laid eyes upon a ship of the Dark Ones I was not really shocked or amazed, but something was odd. Something I saw, and suddenly I realized what I was seeing. That spherical ship was moving behind, not in front of an Earth sized planet and it was bigger! The Dark Ones used a ship of the size of a large Planet!
The view switched and whoever took the image was standing on a planetary surface. I could see troops on sleek, artistic looking battle tanks and other beings wearing similar suits as Cateria the Seenian commander had worn and they all looked into the sky as an immense shadow darkened their sun. In that eerie twilight I could see little darks spots in the sky. The troops on the ground poured withering fire of powerful weapons into those spots, yet the spots became bigger and descended unharmed. The eyewitness who made these recordings had the camera mounted on his helmet so it appeared and he looked around and I saw Celtest and Saresii troops ripped out of their battle suits by unseen forces. I saw blood and gore and the painful screaming of men everywhere. Then for a brief moment I saw a dark shape that almost looked like a Narth, holding what looked like a battle axe. It was flanked by hellish looking creatures that even made a Fangsnapper look tame and cuddly. The recording ended and the projection field went dark.
Once more I became aware of my ring; Every time this happened I wondered why I never thought about this piece of jewelry and why I kept forgetting that I had it. While I watched these ancient million year old recordings, something struck a chord somewhere deep inside, as if I had seen this images before; familiar images that meant something to me, but I had seen them from a different location. I somehow knew the sphere was a called a War World, capable of instant and absolute movement. Able to appear anywhere in space, commanded by a Lord of the Deep and the black dots were Fury Hounds, savage intelligent beasts made to strike terror and fear into their opponents and to bring death and destruction to anyone and anything they descended upon. I clenched my fist and agreed silently with their purpose: to bring revenge, to punish all those who worshipped Chaos, Life and light with the final peace of darkness and the orderly state of death. As it was the preordained faith of all who conspired against…The Images displayed on the projection field now showed an elegant glittering object that appeared like a precious jewel floating over a deep blue ocean. These powerful emotions and thoughts that had gripped me just moments ago faded away and I wondered who conspired against whom and how I would know all this, as the thoughts faded away like a puff of smoke in a fresh breeze of air.
That crystal thing I had seen it before and this time I knew where, it looked exactly as the crystal construct on Pluribus where the Diamond ball was held. These new images made the other dark thoughts fade away and as much as I tried to hold on to these strange insights about the Dark Ones, they slipped away and after a moment I wondered what I was trying to remember.
As if waking from a dream that had taken me away from reality, I remembered where I was and I heard the voice of the Mother Superior once again reach my ears as she said. "I know you recognize this sphere, it was the original hall of assembly for those who spoke for the Saresii, our leaders back then. The Sphere was donated to Pluribus as a symbol of Sares commitment to the Union."
I still felt as if in had cobwebs around my mind and, while I did not feel tired, I could barely keep my focus on her presentation. I knew I had seen something that was profound and important. More important to me than anything and yet it was gone. I could not remember!
It had to be the scent, the candles.
Her voice went on and inside the projection field we now saw seven white haired men in floor length robes standing in a semi-circle inside the crystal hall. They looked regal and wise and full of authority. While I looked at these images she said. "These seven men represented the seven Core worlds and they had made the decision for all Sares to join the Seenians and to fight the Dark Ones. Now after we were soundly defeated at an engagement they demanded that we fight even harder, that we invent and develop new weapons and that our greatness as a civilization would only be measured by our success in fighting the Dark Ones. Yet there were other voices and these voices culminated in that woman you see that is now standing before the Seven.
The image showed a woman looking very much like a Saresii with a skin tight suit and long silver hair. She argued with the seven men and then as her demands were not immediately accepted she made a sign and a group of twenty more women entered the room and they pointed little silvery devices at the men and as the men collapsed to the floor in withering agony I knew what these little things were. I recognized the small mushroom shaped projector head of Neuro Rippers.
The voice of the Mother superior on the other side of the projection screen said. "This was Deepa and her followers. They believed that it was men's aggression that caused the war and it was she who contacted the Dark Ones and negotiated conditions of surrender." Her voice became harder as she said. "The true reason why the Dark Ones did not destroy the Seven Worlds, but every other Saresii location, was her act of treason. She revealed all the locations and the positions of every Saresii ship and promised to destroy all means of Saresii space technology and knowledge in exchange for the safety of the Seven Worlds.”
“This part of our history is not taught in any school and not even the Saresii know anymore, but her actions succeeded. For the prize of thousands of Colonies and billions of lives, the seven Sares Worlds were safe. The Seenians are nothing but memory, the Saresii is still here."
I could see her outline through the projection screen and she spread her arms. “Some think that she was a spy of the Dark Ones and that was the reason she could contact them in the first place. Some think she was a hero. It all occurred a long time ago and this was also the beginning of our story."
Most of the facts she told me about the Saresii from that point on I had heard in some form or another.
Her presentation and narration was not over and she continued. "Saresii women blamed the catastrophe and the war on the power hunger and the aggression of our male leaders and swept everything away that was an expression of male gender." She sighed. "The truth of course, is that women are just as power hungry and capable of violence as men. During that time, as Deepa and her group overtook government and plunged Sares culture into a long, dark epoch of our history, there were those who believed the Dark ones might come back despite Deepa's deal. Neither Psionics nor any known weapon could really harm or stop the Dark Ones. There had to be another way so two hundred women left Sares Prime One on the last space ship known to exist to find out if the threat of the Dark Ones was still there and to find a way to defeat them should they decide to come back."
The projection sphere showed a Saresii tile ship leaving its star system. If these images were as old as she said, I wondered why their ships had not changed much in all that time. While the Saresii technology was considered highly advanced to at least Tech Level Nine, it seemed to me they had not made all that many new advances. The Tile ship design was one of the worst hull designs, and the interior layout was not exactly practical, but I kept my observations to myself and listened to her almost boring presentation. I was sure all this was fascinating and educational. I wished it was over soon.
She however went on to tell me the story of the origin of the Sojonites, saying: "After a long and fruitless odyssey they found no traces of the Dark Ones but plenty evidence of their recent presence. After almost five years searching they had gone further than any Saresii Expedition ever had, coming close to the Galactic Core, and found a planet that should not have existed, at least not naturally. The world was as beautiful as any Saresii world, a green and blue world with crystal clear oceans but no higher life forms.
It was clear that the hand of a sentient culture had groomed this planet and yet there were no cities. After landing and a closer survey they found a single temple, looking much like this one, just magnitudes bigger. "
I was mildly interested and said. "I don't think it is unusual to find the remnants of an old culture on a NiOx Garden world. To find such a world near the Galactic Core however is unusual with all the radiation there sterilizing the area."
She agreed. "As I said the planet should not have existed by any common scientific wisdom, there was no detectable force field and the magnetic field of the planet was way too weak to deflect all the particles and radiation. The temple had the shape of a naked human adding to the mystery as we determined that this statue and the technology inside was neither Pree nor Uni."
I shifted my position, the Auto Dresser that made me look like a girl did not change my skeleton or added that incredible flexibility girls seem to have and sitting this way had made my legs fall asleep. I said. "I know very little about the Uni or the Pree, but I ran into Pree technology and I know that there is this general consent between Scholars, that the Human mystery can be explained by either the Pree or the Uni seeding human life. I never heard of a third ancient civilization, at least none associated to the Human mystery that is."
Again she agreed. "Neither have we, but the Statue and the rainbow temple does exist. It is there we found libraries and archives, books, scrolls, and every data recording device and medium you could imagine filled with only one topic but in seemingly endless variations; documents describing in detail how beings of all kinds made love, and procreated. Details to the finest nuance about sex and everything related to it and we realized that there indeed was another power, another weapon or force in this universe. Between life and death there was also love. Love and strong emotions has the power to overcome death, create life, but also to willingly go and seek death and end life. Desires and emotions are much stronger in almost all sentient beings than the basic instincts of survival and self-preservation. So we decided to continue this pursuit and founded this sect, this religion. We discovered the keys to unlock a Psionic power no one had ever heard of, the power to shift and change shape."
She then added after a short moment of silence. "You are the first outsider who has been told all this."
I said. "But why, why am I told all this? Why are you training me?"
"The Narth have chosen you to be a representative. We know of the Coven and we know you have been the first outsider to ever visit their planet. While we know little about the Narth, and even less about the Coven, we know they were old and traveled the Universe when we Saresii discovered fire."
"It sort of happened, and I think it was coincidence, that I met Narth and became his friend; and it seems that my friendship to him sparks interest in others to a point they want to abduct me to get to him. I don't really understand what you just said and it did not sound like an explanation."
"In many ways you are of course just a Neo Viking from a little known planet, but your friendship to the Narth elevates you into a very unique position. I wanted to train you and give you as much information as I can about us. As you know we left Sares so long ago on a quest to find an alternative way to defeat the Dark Ones should they ever return, and we have not yet accomplished that quest."
"What has all this to do with me?"
"We think that the Dark Ones might return and we believe that if anyone has a chance to defeat them, it will be the Narth. You might be the only human, the only person in the universe, who will eventually understand and know who or what the Narth are and perhaps it is you who will fight with them against them. We want to make sure that if that ever happens you have all the knowledge possible and that you remember Sares and the Sojonites."
My head was spinning and I didn't feel too good. I was certain there was more to all this but somehow my head didn't work as it should have. I tried to concentrate and said. "Somehow I have the feeling I am getting prepared for an event I know nothing about. I still don't understand what all this has to do with me. All I want to be is a Starship captain."
The field screen sphere disappeared, but everything seemed as if I was inside a cocoon of foam padding. The candles had big soft auras around them and even the Mother superior appeared out of focus. I knew I should have been concerned, ask more questions but I didn't really care, nothing really mattered, even the smell of the incense no longer bothered me.
Her voice was distant and she said something and I was sure I understood what she said, but I could not recall a single word. Deep down I knew something was wrong with me and in a state like this I would be very receptive to hypnotic suggestions, but this concern was far away and did not feel very urgent.
She came closer and I could hear her say. "Embrace your female side, make her part of you, and don't shut her out even when you return to being Eric. There is so much more to being a woman than looks and outer differences. Use your hands, your touch, your senses and let them guide you. Forget logic and reason and let go of the penetrating aggressive nature of maleness."
Her voice was soft and so was the skin I touched underneath the wispy chiffon and satin I wore. It was a different corporal awareness than anything I had experienced before. She was close, and her voice was almost like a song, a soft melody. "There are secrets of corporal existence the Narth have long forgotten, the Coven try to regain but only humans can experience. Let the Goddess, the spirit, give you the answer you seek more than any other."
Something happened to me, I felt it. I was changing, not at all like the mechanical manipulations of an auto-dresser; it was different and came from within. The skin I touched was soft as foam and what should have been there was no longer. Pure electricity pulsated through every nerve ending in an exciting, animalistic fashion where reason had no place, thought had no meaning. A feverish hunger that could not be quenched with food, a desire I could not explain or put in words. Never before did I really feel the clothing I wore, but now I could feel the satin that cupped the false breasts, there was nothing artificial about the tingling sensation.
Reality and dream were no longer separate. The waxen statue of the goddess no longer looked artificial but alive.
Somehow I realized I had taken the very same pose as the statue, arching back and then I touched something and it was like an explosion of stars, pain and pleasure indistinguishable, whatever happened. Then I could not recall.
I found myself in the cool little chamber they had given me as a room, lying on the bed, and my mind was as clear as ever, but the memory of what happened was foggy and unclear. I remembered the presentation and some of the things she had told me. I knew she spoke about the history of the Saresii and the Sojonites, but the scent of the incense candles must have knocked me out. I felt like I had woken from a night of drinking, but without the headache. I never tried drugs and after that experience I was certain I did not want to experience it again. Something had happened to me, something profound and yet I could not really remember any details. I didn't like anything that messed with my head, but something felt different.
I received more training and the last traces of this surreal experience faded fast, but the nagging question why all this happened became stronger.
With all this, time flew, and on the first day of my fourth week at the Sojonit temple, the tall Sojonit from Earth told me that this would be my last day. Again I was taken to the vaulted worship chamber with the Goddess statue and the first thing I noticed, however, was the absence of the strong incense smell.
The Mother Superior was already there and she said to me. "We would like to welcome you as an honorary member of the Order."
I bowed and said. "I am deeply honored by this and I respect the Goddess and your believers. However and despite all my secret desires, I am a son of Nilfeheim. I swear upon Odin and ask Thor for strength. I am also a Starfleet officer and cannot put any other organization before that."
She looked at me from behind the eye slits of her mask. "I respect that very much and I actually expected a reaction like this from you. I don't ask you to believe in the Goddess or to abandon your religion. The Sojonit Order is not a fraternity inside the fleet. It is an honorary membership and not a commitment like a Sojonit Sister makes. It is simply a formality and a ritual to welcome you as a friend and not as an outsider and to give you access to our network."
"I don't mind that and I know I asked this before, but why me?"
"It is you who came to us for help and you have been allowed to hide behind the identity of a Sojonit. To us this is a religion and to us the commands of the goddess are quite real and binding. Yes we are part of the Saresii Intelligence network, but the Order is real. Making you an honorary member will please the Goddess and make the help we gave you legitimate to our laws and custom."
There was nothing I could say against that, they did save my life and I knew that the members of this order took their religion and their commitment very seriously. From what I knew about Wetmouth, she too took all this very seriously as well, so I agreed.
I was asked by her to take everything off, and stood naked in the middle of the room.
Somewhere a bell rang and twenty Sojonites entered. All of them wore black versions of the outfit and their masks had an angry almost evil expression and the false lips were closed.
Mother Superior stood before the statue and said. "The Goddess has welcomed a new member and she is no longer an outsider. The gate to the Rainbow Palace is open to her. We welcome her as honorary member of the sinister aspect of our Order."
She took a mask from a pillow and motioned me to put it on. A wig and a similar black outfit followed and she said. "The Goddess will know your true name: to the world you are henceforth known as Nightshade."
The others bowed and said in unison. "Welcome Sister Nightshade."
Mother Superior and I flew aboard a Mercedes flyer back to the mainland and to the very same space port I had arrived almost four weeks ago. It did not look any different from the air and to me it looked more like a garbage dump than a space port landing field, but now I could see how big it was and that there were space ships in the process of being loaded or unloaded. A Kartanian Mega cruiser with heavy battle damage was being repaired by a gang of men while another group stood guard.
Mother superior leaned over and said. "That is the Galactic Terror, the ship of a ruthless and infamous pirate named Agus Denann, but better known as Captain Terror. It looks like he had a rough time."
Our flyer landed next to a small fast looking ship. I was not certain, but judging by the sharp edges and the oversized landing gear, it could have been of Togar origin.
Without delay we boarded the ship over a side ramp and were greeted by a thin looking mostly humanoid being wearing a blue and yellow uniform. He bowed deeply and said with a muffled sounding voice. "In the name of my lord and master Duke Donheer, I’d like to welcome you aboard. It is as always a pleasure to do business with the Sojonites."
She nodded. "And business it is, when can we leave?"
He walked us through a short corridor into a luxurious and expensively furnished lounge with a large balcony like view port and said. "We lift off shortly and should reach Alvor's Cove in 84 hours. Please make yourself at home, while I get us underway."
She thanked him and he left closing the door behind us. Mother superior unzipped her coat and sat down in a single fluid move, crossing her legs and motioned me to do the same and she said. "Duke Donheer is one of the big crime lords of this planet and we have a long standing agreement with his syndicate."
Before she could continue with what she wanted to say the thin man opened the door and said. "I am sorry for the delay, but we are ordered to be searched."
She stood up and said with a sharp tone. "Who dares to order such a search? This ship belongs to Donheer himself and I am the Mother Superior of the Sojonit Order."
He bowed again. "Yes Ma'am it is an outrage and the Patriarch is furious and said he is sending Enforcers, but the Port Rats aimed their turrets at us and demand we let them search the ship! No ship is to leave without them searching it!"
The man walked over to a wall console and made the connection. Three beings appeared on the screen, two of them looking like black furred cave bats with big ears and deformed looking naked snouts and the third one in the middle was a strong looking bald human. It was the human who spoke with a barking unfriendly tone in his voice. "We accept no further delays, you are to be searched or destroyed."
Her tone was just as sharp as she responded, "Your demand alone is an insult, is Duke Malvit really prepared to deal with the consequences of his actions?"
He barked back. "No discussion! Grant access to be searched or we will open fire. Our Duke wants to know who leaves this planet and that is all you need to know."
She terminated the connection and said to the thin man. "Prepare to take off. I have a feeling they are going to be way too busy. A friend of mine is sending a little distraction."
Just as she said that a huge spherical shaped ship descended darkening the sky. The graphite colored giant was engulfed in the characteristic purplish shimmer of active TransDim Shields, on its side the logo of SII Corp. It was about to land between us and the space port defense batteries.
The Port rats probably never seen a real battle ship, they fired. Perhaps aiming at us, but the shots sizzled to nothingness, absorbed by shields that could deflect solar eruptions.
Out tiny yacht climbed into the sky.
The SII ship returned fire and most of the spider infested space port building and the cannon turrets were gone, replaced by a smoking crater of molten matter.
She laughed. "That was one of the reasons we had to wait, so this ship could be here and give us a little protection. You see private Corporations do not have the same political limitations as the Union Fleet. Not the Cartel, not the Worm and not even the Kermac really want to make Schwartz Intergalactic angry."
"I said the same thing to Captain Harris"
"Was it when the Old Battleaxe gave you command over the Devi?"
"Ever since the Corporate War of 3422, Corporations are prohibited to have ships armed with Military grade weaponry, with the Exception of those who built ships and weaponry for the Union. They can use and build ships as test platforms for new systems and such. Of course no one stipulated how many such test platforms a Corporation can have. It's an open secret the entire Galaxy knows, SII builds over 60% of all fleet tech and has a state of the art fleet. The real secret is that SII's security fleet is not much smaller than the Union Fleet and in some aspects even more advanced."
"Is that not very dangerous to have such power in private hands?"
"Very much so! It is a two edged sword. It means added security to Union assets. SII also controls GalNet, owns three of the seven Space Bus lines, three of the main banks and produces most of the food consumed. SII is so interwoven in the Unions daily life that it would be almost impossible to fight them and win if that ever became necessary. But SII keeps out of politics and most wars. They do not do business with the enemies and saved the Sol System during the second Kermac War."
Our small ship had left the last traces of atmosphere behind and was steadily accelerating to reach the Trans light threshold. As usual I could feel the fine vibrations and found that whoever owned this ship had not done a very good job in calibrating the engines. The harmonics of the vibrations were off.
Finally the point was reached and the stars outside the viewports became long streaks of light for the duration of a heartbeat and then it was completely dark. The view port was obviously not quasi space enabled and normal human eyes could not see in this spatial condition.
The mother superior sat back down and said. "It will take us about 70 hours to Alvor's cove; they have nice baths and comfortable cabins. The small crew will not come in so you can relax and take off the mask and the costume if you like."
I sat down and did take off the mask and asked. "What is Alvor's Cove?"
She took of hers as well and revealed a typical exotic looking Saresii face with large purple eyes, ivory complexion long silvery hair and despite the marks of advanced age she was quite beautiful. "Alvor's Cove is worse than Sin 4 in some regards, a den of pirates and slave traders. It is much deeper in Free Space than Sin 4 and very far away from Union space."
I felt disappointed after the elation of finally leaving that cursed planet. "I thought we are going home. I mean back to Union Space?"
She smiled and dialed herself an orange looking fruit drink from the Serv-matic integrated in the coffee table before us. "We will my dear, but we are in the spy and spook business. This ship belongs to a Crime lord on Sin 4. Its small crew always reports him where they take me. Since there is a Sojonit Temple on Alvor's Cove it is perfectly normal for me to go there. After a few days on Alvor's Cove we change identities and take a ship to Kaliment, a planet claimed by both the Togar and the Kertanians and occupied by both. A perfect place to catch a ship to Netlor. On Netlor we become Pilgrims and mingle with the thousands of other Pilgrims. Several companies provide travel services from Netlor to Checkpoint 96 and they are a Union controlled planet with a Space port, space bus, GalNet, clipper service and a sizeable Fleet base."
She leaned forward and offered me the glass with the orange liquid. "Do try this, its Planuu nectar and delicious."
I took the glass while she dialed for a second one and I said to her, "It sounds we are going to be traveling for quite a while then."
She sipped from her drink and looked at me from over the rim of the glass and nodded saying, "It will make sure no one can retrace our route. Most likely not necessary, but old habits die hard, and in this business one can never be too careful. Sojonites can operate and go anywhere as they are considered expensive and neutral prostitutes and nothing else, losing this reputation would be damaging and jeopardize the lives of Sisters everywhere."
What she called Planuu Nectar was fruity, ice cold and sweet, perhaps a tad too sweet for my taste but pleasantly flavored. "I understand the necessity for intelligence and clandestine operations of course, but I prefer wearing a Fleet Uniform."
Her lips curled to an impish smile. "Do you really? It seems to me you are very comfortable in what one might consider revealing and provocative."
I had completely forgotten my true male persona but as she mentioned it came back to me and as always I felt embarrassed. "I wonder why I am not able to make up my mind. I enjoy this and it feels right and yet I can't make the final decision to be either way."
"I suggest you enjoy both then. Be proud that you can so easily cross gender borders that are so rigid to others. It might be your greatest gift."