|Galactic Chronicles IX: Eric Olafson, Space Pirate|
|Previous||Chapter 7: Slaves|
|Next||Chapter 9: Netlor|
As old as the Poodle was, it was surprisingly well maintained and the small crew kept it reasonably clean. I was not very comfortable which was partially due to the disguise I wore. The fine and soft pelt of my costume proved to be quite warm and for some reason they kept the cabin temperature well in the thirties on the C scale. It felt just like sitting in a Nilfeheim sauna wearing a Fangsnapper fur coat. Well maybe not that extreme, but certainly close.
The Poodle space ship we had boarded, was an antique at least 1500 years old, but its basic shape looked the same as the latest Poodle model coming of the assembly lines. Two thirty meters diameter ball shaped spheres connected to each other with a short ten meters in diameter cylinder, giving the main body of the ship a somewhat dumbbell shape. On top of the first sphere an elongated pointed wedge was placed. It contained the bridge and other command and control functions. Two ISAH pods on each side of the aft sphere completed pretty much the outside looks of a Poodle. Terrans said that the ship was ugly as sin and if it stood on its long landing gear it looked just like a groomed Poodle.
The passenger area and living quarters were inside the first sphere and freight, fuel and engineering was in the second sphere. In case of an emergency the poodle could separate and the first sphere would become a rescue pod.
Due to the shape of the passenger compartment we did not sit in rows as one would on a Union space bus, but the seat rows followed the curve and completed an almost complete circle. The center was occupied by the ships access shaft and two hygiene cells. There was a little bar and currently unstaffed small galley.
The set up had room for about hundred passengers, but only perhaps twenty five took the journey with us.
I pretended to be sleepy and curled up on that unyielding passenger seat to prevent any conversation with the two Togar males, sitting almost exactly across from me.
They did keep their distance but my companion said whispering but with an amused tone in her voice, that at least one of the Togar was considering getting mauled and injured for a chance with me.
Why she found it amusing I did not know. However I found the situation anything but amusing. It wasn't me who decided I had to pose as a Togar female in the first place.
However compared to the recent events and situations, this was not all that hard to endure and we had left that cursed dust ball a few moments ago. Through one of the view ports, I saw the welcome blackness of space and the light of a few stars brilliant and unfiltered by any atmosphere.
Not for the first time did I wonder about my own love of space and then whenever I had to step out into it I was afraid.
My body-guard snapped at the two Togars and said to them. "She has chosen and if you want to cause trouble and disrespect her go right ahead, but know that she is of the Lalhestes."
Whatever a Lalhestes was it worked, the two males looked for seats as far away as possible and settled down.
I asked. "So where exactly are we going and what is a Lalhestes?"
She leaned closer as my real ears where covered with Bioflex material and my hearing was somewhat impaired and said. "We are on our way to planet Kaliment. It is probably more to your liking as temperatures never exceed ten degrees and usually hover around minus twenty on the C scale. There is no native life on Kaliment other than a selection of primitive amoeba and plankton that floats around in vast quantities in the planets oceans."
I listened and found that a planet with decent temperatures and oceans could not be all that bad. She kept on telling me. "Kaliment has also an abundance of a rare crystalline form of Magnetite, a mineral absolutely vital to space faring civilizations."
There I had to correct her, maybe she had spent too long in Freespace. "That stuff isn't used since Dr. Isah completely redesigned the FTL drive Sarans gave to Earthers 3000 years ago. We don't even use it in blasters anymore, because it is not very efficient, and unreliable compared to the reliable and 99% more efficient ISAH lattice that can be manufactured to the exact same specifications instead of using a natural rare crystal, that like all natural things never is completely the same."
She padded my hand. "Yes my Union child indeed. No one in the Union with ready access to ISAH components considers Kalimun, as the Kartanian call it, anything but a nice export mineral. Consider this my Soya. Not every civilization is as obsessed with efficiency as the Terrans. The Sarans used Kalimun for thousands of years and were quite surprised when ships of United Terra out ran their ships only ten years after they given Terra the secret of FTL propulsion. We are in Freespace, and we are now approaching an area that is claimed by both the Kartanian and the Togar. No one outside the Union can simply place an order for ISAH Pods over GalNet and get precise engineered FTL engines a few month later delivered by freighter. The process how the lattice is synthesized, that holds the anti matter containing magnetic fields in precise balance is known only to ISAH Inc, Earth and they managed to guard its secrets even against other Union competitors."
I swallowed the hidden critique at my ignorance and said. "So this planet we are going to, is not in Freespace anymore?"
She chuckled and since her disguise was quite real she managed to curl the enormous chops of that Oghar maw into a quite frightening grin. "That my Soya is a question that many like to be answered and a situation that simmers slowly to a boiling point that will mean war."
She shifted her position so she could easier talk to me and said."We are far from the influence of the Big Four now. Even the Galactic Council borders are over 700 light years from here and are only marked because a quite primitive and completely unimportant Thrall species of the Kermac occupies a few planets in that region. The Shiss, the Nul and of course the Union are even further away. Technically and by the original Freespace treaty this are the outer fringes of that area. Freespace is, as you know an area declared to be free of the influence and interference of the Big Four."
That I knew, the entire text and the reasons for the Freespace treaty were discussed at length in Galacto-political class and were subject to detailed graded tests. I said. "I had to learn about Freespace and the treaty negotiated by the Blue, but I don't think I ever heard about this world or the Togar being involved."
She agreed with a nod. "The Kartanian were among the larger civilizations that signed the Freespace treaty but the Togar did not. They weren't even asked, back then they were barely known and none of the Big Four considered them even remotely important or relevant at that time."
She scratched her scaled chin with her long yellow claw like fingernails and continued. "To get back to the actual subject, no one paid particular interest in this system and the planets in it, until the Togar more or less by accident found that Kaliment had more Kalimun than all their other sources together. Bad part is that, there was a Kartanian survey ship in the system at that time as well and overheard their planet to mother ship conversations. Now both claim that world and both have built a permanent basis that grew into a city, a clearly divided city of course.
Now the Togar are much more numerous and have the far bigger fleet than the Kartanian, but the Kartanians are technologically almost on Union level and have built their entire culture around building space ships. So the Kartanian fear the Togar catches up on the technology end and the Togar fear that the Kartanian begin to build war fleets on their own instead of relying on Oghar services to do the fighting for them."
"Isn't it dangerous for me to pose as a Togar female then?"
She shook her head. "No it is not, the Kartanian are not ready to light the fuse on this explosive situation by harassing a Togar female. If my intelligence in that situation is correct, the Togar are itching for a fight."
I shrugged and said. "I don't think a war between them out here would have any influence on the Union. I say let them fight, but after we returned to Union space."
"Wars have a tendency to spread, my impatient Soja."
I assumed that Soja was the name associated with my Togar outfit, so I didn't ask her what it meant but I did ask. "Why are we going there anyway?"
"Because there are no flights from Alvor's Cove to Netlor and hiring a privateer to get us there is tricky, dangerous and with the short time we had to leave impossible. We will however do just that and hire us a charter to get us to Netlor as soon as we landed."
"So we won't stay long?"
"No, because eventually one of the many Togar will ignore the sash, work up his courage and see if he could not convince you to abandon the way of Lalhestes."
I protested. "You said the costume is safe and I would not be bothered. What is that Lalhestes thing anyway? I think I asked that before."
She rolled her yellowish eyes. "It is reasonably safe. You got a body guard and you got claws, use them freely, no one is going to ask you why. If one of the Togars over there makes any gestures you don't like go over there, take off half of his snout and he get the message. So don't worry I promise you, everything will be fine. "She then added a Lalhestes is a Togar female that prefers other females and they are considered exalted in a matriarchal society of course. It might keep them away for good or it might heighten their interest as their minds in that regard work very similar to human male brains."
I spend the rest of the flight clutching my blaster and one of the long knives and did not dare to really sleep. Every time one of the Togars moved I was ready to fight.
My companions assurance that she was watching and that there was no cause for alarm did little to convince me that it was indeed that way.
We reached Kaliment, seven days after we left Alvor's Cove. One of the Togar males had to be carried out on a stretcher. He had been bandaged but had received no other medical attention. My fears had proven to be right. Just as my companion started to snore, one of them came sneaking over, making no noise on his cat like paws, clearly excited and not thinking straight anymore.
I found out what terrible weapon finger long claws could be as I raked them across his face and plunged the long knife in his abdomen.
After that I actually found a little piece of mind to doze a little.
We left the Poodle right after the stretcher.
Now I was glad for my pelted costume. The wind was howling and drove fine ice crystals over the landing field. It wasn't nearly as cold as it could be on Nilfeheim, but still a stark change to Alvor's Cove and the overheated passenger compartment of the Poodle.
Mother Superior in her Oghar form didn't seem to mind the cold wind as I followed her and the other passengers to a floater. I didn't know the local time or if it was morning or evening, the dense gray cloud cover did not allow me to see the local sun. After the floater had taken us into the air I could see the city beyond the landing field. The city was split in half just as if a giant had used a knife. Each side was lit by many thousand lights. The one of the right slide had an orange glow to it and the lights on the left shone a greenish hue. In between them was a dark strip that extended over the landing field and became a narrow black line that extended all the way to the horizon. She noticed me seeing it and said." That is an artificial trench, 10 meters deep, 40 meters wide and follows exactly the imaginary line of longitude from pole to pole. There are no bridges or tunnels connecting the two sides. All traffic and interaction is between the two sides is limited to the City and done by flyer only.
I followed her explanations but my eyes caught a sleek ship that was most certainly not Kartanian, Kermac or whatever. It looked Union, had big oversized ISAH Pods. It was armed with Loki torpedo launchers and had several retracted gun turrets as I could see by the closed gun ports. The entire ship was colored in a bright aluminum metallic red. I estimated her to be about 750 meters long. A yellow rendering of a snake with claws and wings was painted all along its sides. I always prided myself as a space ship expert and even before I joined the Fleet, did I try to learn all the ship types. As much as I was certain this came from Union designers, as much I was certain I had never seen any ship quite like it.
I looked to her to ask, but she appeared to be as surprised as I was. Her eyes glued at the red ship as well. She finally said. "That is the Red Dragon. It belongs to a new and mysterious pirate. He appeared only recently and with a ship that no one is able to identify, and many think it is a complete custom job. The Pirate captain running and owning it also calls himself the Red Dragon. He managed to become one of the most wanted Pirates in a short time. There are rumors that he has excellent connections to the Kartanian Consortium and that Jibehs the Hull maker is somehow associated with that man."
I pointed with my snout towards the ship and said. "I see two Loki Torpedo starters on this side and despite the red coloring I am almost certain that's Ultronit. That ship isn't Kartanian I am certain."
She grabbed me by the arm and said. "Just this time let's keep the details of that Pirate ship a little longer a mystery. We have a schedule to keep and you have an appointment with Admiral Stahl."
I sat back down and said. "I am the last to argue that. I want to get back home real bad."
"Then don't get up and think about ways to get over that trench and closer to that ship."
At first I wanted to argue and protest, why would I want to get myself into more trouble or another side-tour so close to getting back? But then I realized she was right. I had stood up and I did check out that trench and the layout of things and somewhere inside I had already begun to hatch a plan to somehow sabotage that ship, blow up those Lokis and find out where he got them from.
Meekly I crossed my arms and lowered my head. "Am I that predictable?"
She nodded. "After knowing you a little while I am afraid so. There are those who live their entire live doing their jobs and nothing will ever happen to them and then there are those like you who could walk into a flower shop to buy a bunch of roses and end up fighting a galaxy wide conspiracy. You my friends belong most definitely to the latter type."
There wasn't much I could say to that, reflecting on my life so far, she certainly had a point.
The flyer descended and landed a few seconds later at a terminal that looked sturdy but incomplete. Some window panes were missing, not all lights were working and as we walked inside, I noticed cracks in the walls, sloppy paint jobs. She whispered leaning close. "So you noticed famous Togar workmanship. It gets worse the further away you get from the Queens Palace."
"I really don't want to see a Togar engine room then."
There weren't any controls to speak off; every Togar around us was armed. I wasn't the only female Togar with a red sash and it was no problem moving through a check point as the controlling Togar did not really want to ask me for credentials and let us pass.
We took a flyer to the other side, were Oghar guards performed all the security related tasks for the Kartanian who as I learned did not like to handle weapons and such matters where you needed weapons on their own and rather hired others to do it for them.
Unchallenged we reached the Kartanian side of the space port and boarded much to my dismay a Velorian freighter, brownish red and black ceramics and pretty much the same organic sea snail looking hull as the slave ship, that most likely was still sitting on the landing field of Alvor's Cove. This one had been maintained much better and didn't stink as much.
This time we had a tiny passenger cabin for ourselves, barely enough room to stretch out, but we could close the door and have some privacy. I looked out the small view port and saw Oghar and other aliens service the ships, disconnect service and fuel transfer hoses and said to more to myself than to her. "I wonder why there are so many Oghar here in Freespace. I thought they were a Union species?" I remembered Az-Az.
She answered never the less. "The Union Oghar are called Oromals and they are as loyal and dependable as any other member. The Oromals once belonged to the Oghar Empire before it fell apart into dozen smaller kingdoms almost 8000 years ago. The largest of these kingdoms, Oromals joined the Union, I think about 1200 years ago, but there are nine such kingdoms left in Freespace and most Oghar hire out as Mercenaries and laborers to other civilizations."
"I am glad Wetmouth found her place and friendship. She would never been happy as a Sojonit."
Shortly after she said that, the Velorian lifted into space.