Tennyo's Easter (Chapter 2)
A Whateley novel
The Shadowed Suns Cluster:
The odd voice brought me to quick attention from a deep sleep. Not wanting to warn anyone I was awake, I carefully used senses other than my eyes to decide what my immediate situation was.
I seemed to be laying in a comfortable hammock or something like it. The smells and sounds around me were odd and familiar at the same time. The temperature was comfortable even though I didn’t seem to have any covers. I was dressed in what felt like my normal clothes.
That voice. It was... Memory came back in a flash and my eyes snapped open. I was where I now remembered I should be, or at least didn’t have much of a choice about right now anyway.
“I thought I should wake you and let you know we have arrived at the Shadowed Suns. I have scanned our immediate vicinity but have only found one very weak signal in this area.”
“It would appear to be a call for emergency help.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Our fuel situation is critical. Answering this call could easily make it impossible to get fuel on our own. Besides, we don’t have nearly enough fuel to engage in combat. I recommend proceeding to where I believe we will find some mining locations where we can get fuel. However. You are the captain and must make this decision.”
Oh. Right. Let me, the totally inexperienced one, make the call. Thanks Yuki. Still, I didn’t have enough info yet. “Uh. Can you make out what this SOS says? How critical is it?”
“Yes. Let me play the recording I made.”
“Playing recording now.”
“Mayday! Mayday! This is Shipsmate Waal of the SS Frith. We are docked at Jilaper Station Three for emergency repairs. We and the station have been taken by pirates. I have managed to escape capture for now but the maintenance crew and my shipmates have been trapped. I repeat. Mayday, Mayday! Ship and station in distress. Pirates! Please help!”
The voice faded away. I looked around. “Anything else?”
“No. It appears to be automatic on a repeating projector of some sort.”
“Will any help get to them before we could? You do know where it came from? And when?”
Thoughts of trying to respond to a call we couldn’t locate or one that might have been broadcast years ago and was finally reaching us where we were crossed through my brain. Yukinojo carried on like it wasn’t unusual.
“This transmission is very low powered. Probably a portable device usually used for in system communications. It’s unlikely anyone else will get this message anytime soon if at all. Our best approach would probably be to alert the local authorities and allow them to handle it.”
“Can we contact them?”
“Not at this time. I don’t have enough information to inform them directly and a general broadcast would most likely alert the pirates and possibly have them chasing us as well. I could send the message on with a stronger impulse but we can’t be sure if anyone will still get it. If we continue on as planned I’m sure we can communicate the situation through whoever we try and get fuel through. That should only take a few hours to accomplish.”
“How desperate is this signal? How recently was it sent out?”
“My estimates indicate it was sent about twenty minutes ago.”
Rats! Rats, rats, and double rats! I KNEW what I should be doing and it wasn’t any problem of my own, but to just try and let it slide wasn’t sitting at all well with me.
“How close is this Station?”
Yukinojo hesitated for a moment and then reluctantly said. “Very close. The short distance and the fact I was looking for all signals is the only reason I picked it up in the first place.”
“What does that mean?”
“I take it you’ve already checked the area for anyone who could pick up the SOS besides us and it doesn’t look like anyone else can?”
“Unfortunately. You are correct. Eventually the signal might be picked up but it’s unlikely to be in time to help anyone. There might be someone else close by but if that’s the case they’re well concealed or shielded. It seems unlikely.”
I sighed and slumped down in deep thought for several seconds. I knew what I’d have done just a few short months ago but Ito had shown me repeatedly that I wasn’t invulnerable. Thoughts of what Stygian had done to me still gave me nightmares. Even Sara’s counseling hadn’t been able to totally remove my fears about what I could become if I dropped my guard for a moment. My experiences in Colorado were more than enough warning about what might happen if I wasn’t careful. And this situation had all the earmarks of a bad hostage scenario. I knew I should let the professionals handle this, but who do you call in the middle of space?
“Uh, there isn’t anything like the Space Patrol we could call to do this, is there?”
“If I understand your question correctly I don’t believe the current political situation as I understand it would allow for that. There might be some military forces who might do it, and if we had some way of contacting the owners of the station they might have security forces or be able to call in some military backup. But I haven’t been in this area of space for a very long time and I haven’t yet managed to get into any data resources that would help me catch up with current events. Considering the response of the Royan Marches ship it might not be advisable to try and contact anyone anyway. At least until we find out why they attacked us.”
“Great! Just freaking great! If we do go looking for this station can we approach without being seen? Look it over first and see if there’s anything we can do?”
“That much I believe we can do. I do not believe anyone in this area can match my cloaking ability. As long as we don’t get too close to the gravitational fields of the stars or planetiods we should be undetectable. Even with my fuel low I can do this.”
I nodded to myself. Now at least I had a plan and it didn’t have to end up in a confrontation.
“Let’s do it then! Take us to the closest safe position to observe what’s going on. I want to look it over before doing anything else.”
“Aye! We should be in a good position in about one hour.”
“Good. Uh, Yukinojo?”
“Do you have anything I could eat on board by any chance?” This question was seconded by a loud growl from my stomach.
“I’m sorry. Anything I had before has long since been recycled. If I have a chance to restock I’ll be able to make you a meal but right now I have nothing. Will you be able to wait? We could move on and try to find some place to get you food.”
“No. I’ll be okay. I can get by without eating for a while. It’s just not very comfortable. Let’s get this over with. Maybe, if we can help them, the people on the station can help out.”
“Indeed. That may be the best option then. We certainly aren’t close to anywhere I know of to get food and water anyway. To do so would take us a long distance out of our way.”
“Yeah. So our best bet for a meal is at this station anyway. Let’s get moving then. Fill me in on what to expect as we maneuver, will you?”
“Yes. Take hold of the globes. You’ll be able to watch our approach and I’ll be able to describe what you see in better detail.”
I reached out and put my palms on the globes. A picture of two huge masses spinning in a circle like two balls connected by a string and then thrown so the line was kept taught sprang to mind. Her attention was drawn to what looked like a knot in the middle of that string.
“That’s the station. It is equidistant from each mass’s gravitational center. They are cleverly using the gravity of each mass to counter the other.”
A closer look showed what I perceived to be an asteroid sized construct from which two long arms stretched to each of the planetoids.
Sudden unbidden knowledge flooded into my mind and I experienced another of those Too Much Information moments I’d been having to deal with ever since Stygian had messed with me a while back. Apparently the Starstalker was familiar with what was being done here.
Originally this area had somehow experienced a huge death of tightly packed stars. The resultant chaos and collisions had produced a large number of various-sized remnants which contained a high concentration of heavier elements normally only to be found in suns and neutron stars. The smaller stuff had eventually fallen back into gravity wells or been mined out of space by explorers and miners.
As time went on and better technology had become available the various smaller asteroids and planetoids had been mined. Now they were working on the larger pieces. This usually required a station base unless they could find a way to break the bigger parts up enough to approach closely enough through the gravity and radiation to mine.
Normally a station - it took one with power and gravity generators the size of large asteroids - was put together piece by piece. Each with its own power sources and ability to maintain its distance from the gravity source. Then sections with their own anti-gravity generators and power sources were slowly added on in a column until they reached the surface. Even with the massive anti-gravity generators and radiation shields they were unable to make it possible for life to exist that close to the mass. A mining control section was usually constructed as close to the point where life could be maintained as possible and then everything else was handled by remotes. The station could be moved a bit every time they needed to move to another section of the surface to mine.
Only the incredible need for fuel for superior power sources allowed for this kind of expenditure. In this case the builders had taken advantage of a natural feature. Of course this wouldn’t last but for now it worked well and the builders obviously weren’t too concerned about Galactic or Universal time periods. This construct couldn’t last more than a few decades or centuries before falling apart anyway, depending on how much effort and resources they were willing to put into it.
Here they’d been able to put their main base in the center where they could use the gravity fields of both masses to their advantage. This required a much smaller base than normal so they saved a lot there. Rails to move mined materials and adjustable weights helped maintain the balance. They were also so much closer than normal that the extension of two pillars wasn’t that much of a problem. All in all they’d probably saved a bundle making the place so it wasn’t a problem if it fell apart more quickly. They couldn’t move the station though, so it was very likely that the cost of remotes which could work farther from the base of the columns was probably a lot more than normal. It probably balanced out in the end. At least whoever built it probably thought so.
Docked at the station was a small ship. Something in the way it looked prompted me to think of it as a small freighter. Stationed a small distance from the station was a larger ship. Again the impression I had was that it was a larger version of a freighter. Both ships had what I realized were temporary weapon systems attached to their hulls and neither ship looked like it was particularly new. In fact, my immediate impression was that both of them were either pirates or privateers.
A quick review of the SOS in my mind lead me to another conclusion. Maybe a pirate was jacking a pirate? The station itself looked to be falling apart. Maybe it was close to being abandoned? Maybe the weak signal was weak for a reason. If they didn’t want to attract unwanted attention but thought someone else would be coming along to help them it would make better sense. All of this shot through my mind in mere moments and I had a chance to again wonder about this part of me called the Starstalker and how none of this seemed strange at all.
“Captain? Captain? Are you alright?”
With a start I realized that Yuki was talking to me and I must have zoned out again in one of my Tennyo trances. These moments of total inattention to what was going on around me were getting to be very irritating. I never knew when I’d suddenly end up just sitting or standing there looking into space or whatever while earth-shattering events went on around me. I really needed to get a handle on these soon.
“It’s okay Yuki. Just got a large download there and it took a while to process it.”
“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you sometime when we have the time. Right now I think I need to take a closer look at what’s going on over there.”
“I can’t move any closer without risk of being detected.”
“Yeah. I know. I think this is something I’ll have to do myself. Keep an eye on things here until I get back. If it takes too long or things get out of hand call the cavalry.”
“Anyone you think might be able to help. I’ll leave the details up to you.”
His protest was cut off as I envisioned where I wanted to be and suddenly found myself floating in space not too far from what I assumed was a landing bay for small maintenance vessels. A quick looked showed me I’d guessed correctly and that the station was in worse shape than I thought. When I touched the hull I could pick up random vibrations that I somehow knew weren’t good. If I had to guess I’d have to say this station wasn’t long to stay in its orbit. The needs were too great for the remaining overworked generators to keep up much longer.
I took a moment to mull the information bouncing around in my mind. Up to now the information attacks hadn’t done much more than make me feel worse about what I knew about my past. But this one was different. This one wasn’t loaded down with a lot of gory and horrible details. Instead it helped me understand what I was looking at and what I could expect.
I shook my head and suddenly realized I’d zoned out again. I was going to have to concentrate harder. This was probably going to be tricky enough as it was. Looking around I figured the security probably wasn’t in any better condition than the rest of the station and with it about to implode it probably wasn’t a high priority to whoever was on the station. Entering the docking area I was able to find an airlock easily enough.
I thought about the likelihood that opening it would set off some alarms but I really didn’t have time to figure out a way around it. There was a pad near the door with three buttons in a vertical line. I pressed the top one and with a vibration I could feel from where I was touching the hull the door slowly cycled open. Beyond that was what looked like a chamber that could hold about ten large men. Slipping inside I could see another pad with the same buttons.
I pressed the top one again and nothing happened. So I pressed the middle one and a light started flashing in an alarming way. I pushed it again and the light stopped blinking. I then pushed the bottom one and the door slowly cycled shut.
Out of curiosity I pushed the middle one again and a different light started to flash, but this one didn’t have the same kind of feeling attached to it. It was more sedate and less frantic and soon I sensed pressure building up around me. I also began to be able to smell again which confirmed my earlier thoughts. It didn’t smell like a well kept environment. Something about it reminded me of a decrepit old building with lots of mold, dust, and mildew buildup.
Soon I felt the pressure level out and a pad near another door opposite the entry began flashing. This one only had two buttons. I pushed the top one and with a deep and grinding groan the door opened. I ducked out as soon as it was wide enough and looked around. Seeing a similar pad on this side I pushed the bottom button and the door stopped and reversed. Grinding and jerking in a way that didn’t inspire confidence in its ability to seal properly, it slowly closed again.
Looking around I could see I was in a larger chamber which had a lot of lockers in it. Not bothering to look at the various labels too closely I immediately began rummaging in the lockers. I soon had a collection of three suits and a variety of tools. One suit was obviously not designed for the human shape. Of the two others, one was too big but the smaller one looked like it could fit me. They were all a brilliant yellow so they wouldn’t be good for sneaking around and a closer look showed each was damaged so as to be unusable outside an atmosphere. But the helmet had a mirror feature in the faceplate that made it impossible to see my face and considering the reaction of the last group of aliens to see me I decided it would make a good disguise. At least until I could figure out what was going on.
The tools were in similar shape and considering how this room could’ve held a lot more I decided what was left behind was just not worth taking with whoever had owned and operated the place. Still, one pipe about three feet long would make a good club so I took that with me and approached what I figured was the way out into the rest of the station.
It also had the two button arrangement and I pushed the top one. The door slid open with a groan and I found myself facing three anthropoidal, combat suited figures with weapons pointed at me. Further down the corridor I could see at least two more watching what was happening. They were armored and armed too.
I would’ve liked some time to look around but it would’ve been too much to hope for. Remote sensors had probably alerted whoever was in charge about the airlock opening. Nothing to do but move along with the flow then. I dropped the bar.
“Uh. Hi guys! Take me to your leader?”
The three stepped back and braced themselves. The one to my left growled something at me and I almost slapped my forehead when I remembered these guys were aliens and they probably wouldn’t understand me or I them.
Then I realized that the one had growled at me to lay down face first on the corridor floor. Yuki’s translation whatever must still be working. I decided to see if it worked both ways. Shaking my head and putting my hands up to shoulder height, palms out in what I hoped would be a non threatening gesture I shook my head.
“Sorry. I don’t think the floors have been cleaned in ages. Do you have any idea what that would do to my suit?”
The middle one, who was a bit bigger than the other two, snarled and stepped forward. “Shut your face worm dung. Down! Now!”
Okay. Several questions answered. One, we could understand each other. I was going to have to ask Yuki about that translation device or whatever it was and how it worked.
Two, these guys weren’t professionals. Or at least not very good ones if they were. The three in front of me were already blocking any firing lines of the guys behind them and big and ugly had just crossed his two friends’ lines to move up to me.
Three, they were making the classical mistake of those who use guns. Namely, forgetting that firearms are supposed to be distance weapons. They’re not nearly as effective if you get too close.
And four, never underestimate your enemy. Especially if you outnumber them. All those classes with Ito and the others made what followed more of a reflex than a thought-through action.
I’d ripped the rifle out of big and ugly’s hands before he even realized the situation had changed. Him being the biggest and most heavily armored made the next actions almost rote. Slamming him backward so he stayed in the line of fire of the ones down the hall I followed his bulk so as to continue to be shielded from his friends who hadn’t separated enough and were stepping apart to avoid his flailing body more than trying to get a bead on me. Being in a corridor like this meant they were still too close together and I was able to easily grab and trash the barrels of their weapons before they had a chance to even try to pull the triggers.
That done I grabbed big and ugly before he could hit the deck and flew us both down the corridor where there were two others trying to get a shot at me. Both actually managed to get off a shot but one went wide and the other impacted on the armor of big and ugly, eliciting a yell of pain and anger but not doing much else I could detect.
Once I’d reached them it just took a few moments to slap them around and convince them it wouldn’t be a good idea to mess with me any more. I had to assume they were using some kind of comm devises in their suits and that someone was listening in on what was going on. Hopefully the guy in charge.
The two I’d brushed past earlier were up and coming back down the corridor. One had grabbed the rifle of big and ugly which I’d dropped in the scuffle and the other had pulled a pistol from somewhere. Time to take control here.
Glaring at the two nervously approaching figures I growled. “You there! Stop the posturing and get over here. Your friend’s been shot.”
This comment was helped by the fact that big and ugly was screaming, “I’ve been shot! I’ve been shot!” over and over while writhing around on the floor and the other two I’d slapped around were just lying there groaning.
The one who’d first told me to lay down on the floor spoke next while pointing his friend’s rifle at me.
“F… Freeze right there! We mean it!”
I sneered, which didn’t help his confidence any. “In a pig’s eye. Help your friends. If I’d wanted you dead you’d all be dead already. I need to talk to your boss. Now hurry up and help these morons so we can arrange a talk. Or do you just want me to tell my ship to dump the lot of you into one of these planetoids?”
Big and ugly whimpered. “Please Mill. Help me. I’ve been shot.”
Glancing quickly between the guy on the floor and me, he then snapped an order at the one with the pistol. “Cover her Tella. If she moves blast her!”
That one nodded and took a braced stance with the pistol. “Sure thing Mill. If she moves she’s toast.”
I put my hands out again and backed off to give them room to work.
Mill was down next to big and ugly in a moment. “Hold on Bro. Let me check you out.”
“It hurts Mill. It hurts!”
“Yeah, yeah. I know. Now hold still!” Mill proceeded to carefully examine the area where big and ugly got shot. Even I could hear the sound of relief in his voice when he straightened up.
“It’s okay Kry. It didn’t penetrate. You’ll be okay.”
“But it hurts!”
“Yeah. I imagine it does. But don’t worry Little Bro. We’ll get Doc to check you out and maybe get something for the pain. Just don’t move too much until he gets here.”
If anything, the one Mill had called Kry whined even louder. “Can he hurry? It hurts a lot.”
The one called Mill looked at me and I shrugged. “Fine with me. Take him to the Doc or bring the Doc to him. I just need to talk to your. I’m not looking for trouble here.”
The others had finally gotten themselves together and spread out a bit while this was going on. They all looked at Mill for guidance. Mill just nodded and pushed a button on the forearm of his suit. “Are you getting this?”
A voice answered from a speaker on Mill’s suit. “I am. Will our visitor allow you to get Kry to Doc?”
Mill looked at me and I nodded.
“Yes sir. She will.”
After giving me another look he nodded and spoke. “Yes Sir. I’m pretty sure of it. The suit makes it hard to be totally sure but all things considered I’d put my money on it. I’m turning on my cam.”
There was a short pause. “Yes. I’d have to agree. I don’t see any weapons though.”
“She moves very fast sir. And she’s really strong.”
“So I hear. It looks like a normal suit. You there!”
The change in voice made it clear that I was now being addressed.
“How do you want to do this?”
I nodded. “I think your men need to get Kry to the Doc. If you want one or more to stay with me that’s fine. I’ll go to where you want me to go and we can talk. Either face to face or any other way you feel safe.”
“Meaning there’s nowhere safe for me. Is that it?”
I shrugged. “Interpret it as you wish. I need to talk to the man in charge here and that appears to you.”
“Why should I bother talking?”
“Because I can help you with a problem you have. Namely, you don’t have a lot of time. Either help for the station or the other crew will show up soon, or the station will simply drop out from under you. And you still don’t have what you came for.”
I’d been guessing at a few things as we talked. Somehow the old Starstalker was very familiar with this kind of situation. I suppressed a shudder and a flood of memories, and I concentrated on the task at hand.
“Yeah. Even if you manage to take and sell all you can carry off this station and the other ship as well, you still won’t make near as much as you would if you could grab some of the mined ores. And from what I see you’ve hit some kind of snag. My guess is you didn’t make a clean sweep or they had warning and the other ship’s crew has control of the mining pylons. They’ve stopped everything and you can’t get any ore without them blowing the whole shebang. Time’s running out. You need some kind of leverage or a way to come to a compromise. I can supply that. But you’ll have to do things a bit differently.”
There was silence. While this was going on Mill had motioned the others to get Kry and move him off down the corridor. I had to assume they had some way of talking to the and others that I couldn’t hear so I had to guess what was being said and done. But some part of me was sure this was the best way to get what I wanted without having to kill a lot of people on the way. And after what I’d learned about my past I wanted as few deaths and the like as possible. But could I pull this off?
“Okay lady. What do you suggest?”
Good. They were talking. We had a chance. “First. Release the other ship and any of its crew you haven’t managed to kill. Same with the station crew. And don’t tell me there aren’t some of those. I saw the courier parked in the dock off the control bridge.”
“You don’t have to arm them. But we’ll be needing their cooperation and we won’t get enough of it trying to hold hostages. And put me in contact with whoever is in charge of the other group.”
“You don’t need to talk to the station’s leader?”
“Get real. No forced entry? Going to mine all they could and take off with no one the wiser until you showed up? If they aren’t in cahoots with the other crew they’re stupider than I thought. Whoever is in charge of the other ship is the one in charge of the station crew. And just who am I dealing with here anyway? I’d rather not get you all mixed up. It’s not like we have all time in the world.”
My statement was backed up as the station experienced a heavier lurch than usual and we all froze for a moment.
“And you might want to do something about those generators soon. Or you won’t have anything to work with. Or do the others have control of those too?”
There was a sigh even I could hear over the speaker. “You’ve got it. Rok saw us coming and fortified himself in the generator level and had the crews in Pylon One and Two hole up in them. We can’t force them out without trashing the station and they can’t get past us. By the way I am Captain Vann of the good ship Galbar.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance. I am known as Tennyo in some places so that will do. My ship Yukinojo can drop you all into the dead planetoids below us at any time so don’t think you can pull off any silly sneak attacks. Even if you somehow succeeded in getting me, which is doubtful, you’d still all die. That means I can act as a go between for all of you since I hold the upper hand. My needs are best served by allowing all of you to get out of this with full pockets and as little trouble as possible.”
Another voice broke in. “And we’re supposed to believe you? What proof do you have you can destroy us all? I doubt Varn would be willing to talk to you at all if he was watching your ship. He’d activate the approach defenses and fry your ass. Who’s to say you aren’t a clever stowaway trying to twist our noses?”
“You’ll just have to take my word on this. I assume you are Captain Rok. Though I will point out that none of you could see me coming until I let you when I came in the lock.”
“And that proves?”
I shrugged. “That you didn’t see me exit any locks if I was a stowaway. Fact of the matter is that I’m offering the best outcome for all of you. Anything I did to prove I had the power to toss you lot into hell would probably accomplish just that anyway. Do what I say or rot in hell. Your choice.”
It was silent for a while. Then Vann came back on.
“What do you propose?”
“Release your hostages or whatever. Get the mining drones and recovery gear working again. Get someone on the generators too. Rok. Get a message to your backup to not come charging in at us. It’ll just complicate things too much. Do what I say and we’re all impossibly rich. Screw with me and you’re all dead.”
Rok came back on. I could detect a bit of hesitation in his voice. “There might be some problems with the mining and recovery equipment. It’s in worse shape than we were led to believe when we came here.”
From the background I heard a desperate, “It’s not my fault! I didn’t know. Please believe...” It was cut off by an obvious and loud smack.
An angry Vann cut in. “If this is some kind of joke I’ll space you the first chance I get! I’ll...”
Something in the way I said it silenced everyone.
“I’ll see to your equipment problems Captain Rok. You just be ready to take advantage of it. Captain Vann?”
“Have your crews get ready to move and load what comes up. I expect both crews to help each other in this. Secure your own ships if you must but be ready to work when things get moving. I’m going to check on the equipment now. Don’t any of you do something stupid while I’m about it.”
There was a chorus of ayes as I turned back to the lock area and worked my way out again. As I waited for the locks to cycle I figured out what I was going to do. I also sent a mental probe towards Yuki.
“What’s your status?”
“I’m fine. I’ve been monitoring the situation and it looks like there was a shift of crews in the smaller ship. I believe it’s called the Frith. And there was a coded and tight beamed message sent from the Frith not long after that.”
“That’s to be expected. I didn’t want their cavalry storming in to muck things up. I’ve convinced them to be peaceful and cooperate with each other or I’d have you drop their station and ships into what’s below. So far they seem to be buying that. If things change let me know. I’ve got work to do now.”
“Aye. I’ll inform you of changes.”
The next moment I was far down the length of the pylon I believed to be Pylon One. In quick hops I was soon at the base where a recovery station waited to accept any loads the mining equipment brought to it. As I suspected even the extreme gravity and conditions didn’t bother me. Somehow I’d known this would be the case. Time for me to use it to my advantage.
The recovery station was huge and built massively. It had to be, to resist the environment around it. Even with the screens and heavy construction I could see that it was slowly falling apart. Hopefully it would continue to function while we worked.
Massive mining machines were gathered around. They were as large as the biggest mining trucks back on Earth. Probably bigger. And most of them were stopped for one reason or another. There were huge piles of discarded modules and occasional whole machines that had broken down while mining. A quick look showed that many of the broken-down ones were loaded at least partway with already mined ores. They’d just never been able to get back to the unloading station. All machines appeared to be made of modules, which made sense since repair and recovery was impossible under these circumstances. For all their size, the holding modules couldn’t hold more than maybe two or three cubic feet of material. It seemed like a lot of waste just to get a little material but I knew somehow that a little of this stuff went a long way.
I watched as two of the machines lurched into action and was soon able to figure out that they were moving to certain locations on some almost completely smooth surfaces and then cutting out certain veins of ore that were probably the best for their purposes. Looking around I could see where other areas had been mined and were slowly filling back up and smoothing out.
I didn’t have to hold back at all so I was soon moving the holding modules from the badly broken down machines to the recovery module. Some of the machines I could kick into action or exchange modules from other broken down machines to get them functioning again. In the recovery station the loaded container modules would be lifted with counter weights and force fields up to the station. This would be a slow process but at least the collection and sending module still appeared to be functional. By the time I was done there were at least eight functional machines mining while the station lifted what I’d brought in from the other broken down miners.
From there I moved back up the pylon, past the station, and down the other pylon.
Things there seemed similar, and soon I had that loaded up from the broken down machines too. With six machines functional it would be able to continue mining until they broke down again. What I had put in so far would help act as a counter weight for the other pylon. With the few machines still working bringing more in I was certain we’d have all the ships loaded with what they could carry and then some. If they had enough help close by they might even be able to make a second loading and come out even richer. By my estimation there would be more than the two pirates could carry by at least a factor of two or three depending on what the pirates were willing to risk. If the station owners were paying attention they might actually get another good haul from the station before it collapsed. Now to see to my own needs.
Watching where the machines were mining I soon collected several samples which I took back up to Yuki for evaluation. Soon Yuki was able to point out several kinds he thought would be the best and purest materials to use and I spent several hours popping down and hand mining, which involved using my energy sword to cut out chunks of as much of the good stuff as I could, and bringing it back up to Yuki for processing.
I’d also kept an eye on the mining operation and made sure there was more than enough material moving up to the station to keep them all busy there.
Now you might not think a load of neutronium and the like which only amounted to about ten or twelve cubic yards would be worth it to the pirates but you’d be wrong. The value of these materials was way beyond normal prices. But the stuff was so massive and radioactive that they could only move about that much with the two ships they had. The shielding and generators for them alone would have to take up most of the cargo bays. Special transport trailers that could be pulled behind mining ships could move more because they didn’t have to be heavily shielded except for their ‘tractors’.
When I was sure they’d collected about twenty to twenty five cubic yards I popped back to the lock and let myself in. Alarms started flashing and banging away as soon as I entered. I waited until pressure had stabilized and yelled.
“Can you hear me!? Turn the alarms down or off would you?”
The alarms quieted and a worried Vann started asking questions.
“Why are our radiation monitors going haywire down there?”
“Nothing to worry yourself about. Just don’t use this lock and warn everyone else to avoid it without proper shielding.”
“And what did you do? Not long after you disappeared and I released Rok back to his ship the recovery modules started to signal that they were receiving more ore than they could transport up quickly. In fact they’re reporting even more now and we can’t carry what’s up here now, much less what’s down there and coming up.”
“I told you I could make all of us rich. I mean what I say. Just leave two cubic yards at the entrance of this loading dock when you leave and I’ll take that as my pay.”
“That’s a lot of pay.”
“I’m no fool. What with what you already have and what is coming up two yards is a fair price. Unless I’m really off on my calculations you couldn’t carry it all off with the two ships, the courier, and anything else you have out there as back up. And unless you come from a lot closer than I think either of you do I expect the owners of this junk heap will be getting a bit more rent than they were expecting to collect. It’s win-win all around and you know it. I’ll stick around to act as referee until you’re out and then I’ll collect my pay and leave. What happens after that is your business. Agreed?”
“I’ll have to check with Captain Rok.”
“If he isn’t listening in right now he’s a total fool. What do you have to say?”
There was a short hesitation and then Rok spoke up.
“As much as I hate to agree with you on this I don’t see another way to do this. Let us clear out and you take your pay. You wouldn’t like to work with us on some other projects now would you?”
“I appreciate your offer captain and I’ll keep it in mind. Do you have someone or somewhere I can contact you? I haven’t been this way for a while so please give me good directions. And I’d appreciate knowing if there is a good place to sell this stuff. Without too many official hassles if you know what I mean. I have some good buyers in mind but they’re a way off and if I can get a quick profit now it’ll make my life easier.”
There was another short silence and then Rok spoke up.
“Leave a message for Captain Rok of the Frith at the Leaky Container on Medhas. It’s located in the Third District of Lambeta City. Anyone there will know how to find it. Medhas is in the Gorthon Cluster. It shouldn’t be hard to find. Lambeta should be a good place to unload that haul of yours too. They’re not too picky about where you get such things.”
His voice also implied that there was a price for such convenience. “Thank you. I’ll remember that. And you Captain Vann?”
“Same place. Just ask for me. Someone there can find me.”
“It’s good doing business with you gentlemen. How soon are you heading out?”
Captain Vann answered. “We should be ready within four hours.”
Captain Rok then spoke. “We’ll be ready by then also.”
“Good. I have a few things to take care of and I’ll contact you if you need me. If you have more questions or something comes up just put a strobe light in the lock and I’ll contact you.”
Silence followed that and I worked the lock open again and stepped out. As soon as I was out, I was next to Yuki in space. I peeled out of the suit which was getting much worse for wear. Objects I’m wearing seem to have some protection from me but, as has been the case many times in the past they still come out the worse for wear under extreme conditions. Even my clothes I’d been wearing underneath were showing a lot of damage. Yuki’s thought popped into my brain.
“Captain. Your clothing and suit are giving off extremely high levels of radiation. Might I suggest you allow me to decontaminate them?”
“Just leave the suit. I don’t think I’ll need it again. But I’d appreciate it if you could clean up and fix the clothes I’m wearing.”
“I might be able to use some of the material from the suit if you don’t mind. Could you place them all in here?”
A bubble with an open end towards me formed in the side of the ship. I hesitated for a moment and then shoved the suit in. Then I peeled out of my other clothing and shoved that in too after removing anything I thought I safely could. The bubble sealed and disappeared into the ship with all the clothes. With a thought I was back in the command center of Yuki. For a moment I thought about being embarrassed because I was naked but decided there was no reason to be upset and just settled into the comfortable chair. I had a few moments where I told Yuki to wake me up if anything needed my attention and then I was asleep.
“Captain? Captain? It’s time to wake up.”
An annoying voice intruded on a wonderful dream about a wonderfully filling meal that I couldn’t even identify half of. I answered it with my usual bright and witty morning response. “Huh?”
“I believe we will soon be done here. Both the Frith and the mine company courier left a few minutes ago. Captain Vann and the Galbar look like they’re leaving now. They did leave some mined materials in the number one lock. I took the liberty to scan them. It would appear they are leaving us some of the less quality merchandise though.”
I nodded. “That’s to be expected. They’re pirates after all and I didn’t make any demands along those lines. Is it useable?”
“It’s not as good as the materials you brought to me but I think I can refine it to the point that it would sell at a good price.”
“Sounds like an idea. How is the fuel situation? Do you need more?”
“I am happy to say that my fuel needs are taken care of. I have managed to process enough to fill even my reserves and have some left over. The material you were able to bring to me was of much higher consistent quality than normal. It made my task much easier and faster. If I may ask though, I was unaware that any lifeform could survive the conditions normally encountered on the surfaces of such planetoids, much less perform difficult tasks usually delegated to the strongest machinery possible.”
I shrugged. It hadn’t occurred to me to question I could do so. Something from my past that I was always trying to ignore or forget no doubt.
“I’m told by those whose job it is to know such things that I don’t fall into any normal classification. Apparently this is just another indication of that. If you have enough fuel then I think it’s time to...”
My conversation was cut rudely short by a very loud growl from my stomach and I suddenly remembered that it had been a long time since I’d eaten and just how hungry I was.
“Hmmm. Maybe I should’ve insisted on some food instead of some of the mined heavy metals. Have they left the station yet?”
“As nearly as I can tell all crew have returned to their ship and it’s breaking away from the station now. I suspect it’s too late to call them back.”
“Rats! Oh well. Do you think they might have left something edible behind?”
“I calculate that it is highly unlikely. Anything left behind probably isn’t edible. If I may suggest a solution?”
“Go ahead. I’m listening.”
“I have tapped into the less secure portions of the station’s computer system. I believe the planet the two captains mentioned is not too far from our current location. I believe I will be able to get us there quickly and if they are willing to purchase the material left to us in the station we should be able to obtain food and drink quickly. I could restock and you might avail yourself of a restaurant to assuage your hunger.”
“You don’t think it will take too long?”
“I suspect it will be the quickest method to obtain food for you. We could return to your world instead, but I believe it will take a lot longer to do that than purchasing food at the location we were given.”
Pictures of all sorts of legal and other delays flashed though my mind.
“Are you sure?”
“Please allow me to do this for you captain. I can handle it all very quickly. It is the fastest and surest way to get you the food you need.”
My stomach growled again, convincing me it was the best course to follow.
“Then make it so Mr. Yuki”
“Aye captain. I believe the other ships are far enough away now for us to make our move. I will now take us close to the station so we can recover the heavy metals.”
“Do that then. And…”
Several ideas flashed through my mind so I had to stop talking for a minute to gather my thoughts and put them in order.
“It’s okay Yuki. Just zoning out for a moment. Be sure to scan the offerings carefully for traps and tracers.”
“Yes. For some reason I’m not entirely certain we can rely on the good will of our friends the pirates.”
“Aye. I’ll do a deep scan now before we get too close.”
“Do that. Let me know what you find.”
“Aye. Scanning now.”
I waited a few long moments and nearly jumped when he spoke again.
“Scan Complete. You were right not to trust them. There is a nuclear igniter concealed in one of the containers. Normal means would not be able to detect it until too late. Fortunately for us I have superior technological abilities than what they know of. There is also a data module with the containers. My scan reveals that there is a tracer embedded in that also.”
“Can we recover the mined material without setting anything off? Or whatever’s in that data module?”
“Yes. With the fuel I now have I can easily transport the mined material away from the detonator from a safe distance. I’ve already accessed the information in the data module. It would appear to be a thank you note from Captain Vann and some information on the best way to approach Medhas without eliciting a violent reaction. It doesn’t seem like the kind of message you’d leave someone you were going to blow up with a trap though.”
“I suspect our good Captain Vann was trying to make sure we wouldn’t doubt their good intentions before it was too late. As you say, if it wasn’t for our higher technology we wouldn’t know about the bomb and after reading that we would be less likely to search closely enough to actually find it another way. He’s smart. And putting a tracker with the message is just another possible trap if the bomb doesn’t work.”
“They don’t seem like good people to deal with. And you seem to know a lot about how they operate if you don’t mind my saying so captain.”
“I have... Let’s just say I have a unique perspective on how they operate and they are easy enough to deal with if you know what you are doing and can operate from a real or perceived position of strength or knowledge. They are nothing if not completely practical. They have to be to survive. You may have noticed how they cooperated with me as long as they weren’t sure I didn’t have the upper hand even though they had little proof I could do what I said I could do.”
“That is true captain. I did wonder about that. Though I also have to wonder why you helped them out when it’s now obvious that you could have gone down and obtained all we needed without dealing with them at all.”
“Let’s just say I didn’t want to burn any bridges I don’t have to. And you never know when knowing somebody like Captain Vann or Captain Rok might be to our advantage in the future. Especially if it is a favorable memory for them.
“Waste not want not, as the old saying goes. You never can have too many acquaintances of various types if you plan on doing business. As Ayla would say. Or at least I think she would.”
“You would appear to have many interesting acquaintances captain.”
“That’s one way to put it. Now, how soon can we grab the loot and scoot. I’m starving!”
“We are now close enough to transport the material safely captain. I will have to drop my cloak to do so.”
“Will we be safe if they have someone with a remote detonator watching to set the bomb off as soon as we are close enough?”
“Then let’s do it!”
“Aye captain. Initiating transfer now.”
Nothing seemed to happen for a moment and then there was a bright flare of light followed by the quick breakup and collapse of the station. By the time the collapse and fall into the planetoids had occurred we were far enough away to enjoy the view.
A part of me was upset that someone had tried to kill me. Another part was even more upset that someone had wasted a perfectly good resource in a futile attempt to salve their pride. I was going to have some very choice words for those two captains if I ever saw them again.
Yuki’s thought brought me out of my mental funk.
“Set course for Medhas?”
I thought about it for a moment. Then my stomach growled and I thought of something I could do to get my point across to the two captains I’d just been thinking about.
Can we beat Rok and Vann to Medhas?”
“If that is where they’re going I’m certain we will get there much sooner than they. At the speeds they were traveling they won’t get there for several days. We can be there in hours.”
I was surprised. It hadn’t occurred to me that Yuki was that much faster than the other ships. But it would work well for what I wanted so I wasn’t going to complain.
“Then set course for Medhas. I want to visit their little retreat and leave them a message. Besides, I’m really hungry. I wonder if either of them has a tab I could run up?”
“Aye captain. Medhas it is. I’ve taken the liberty of altering my appearance to match that of a small courier such as the one that was docked at the station. It won’t be much of a disguise since I haven’t been able to build up a background for us but I believe we can impersonate another more common ship long enough to sell what we have and get you something to eat. It should take a day or two for them to determine that our ID information is imaginary by which time we should be gone.”
“So we can’t just show up, do our business, and then leave?”
“No captain. Most ports that I am aware of wouldn’t allow us to approach without knowing who we are and what our business there is. My understanding of the information we got from the station and the other captains indicates that Medhas is a rare free port where if we dock at a distant station we can do business and you can travel by shuttle down to the port city itself to do whatever you were planning on doing. And they won’t ask too many questions as long as we get our business done and are out before anyone checks our background story too closely.”
“Makes sense. You can handle the sales or exchange or whatever they do out here?”
“Yes captain. I’m hoping to be able to sell our ore, which I am refining somewhat to get a better price, and obtain some raw materials to use for food and other supplies.”
“Yes captain. Deconstruction and reconstruction of basic elements is easily done with enough power. Which I can now say I have more than sufficient for some time to come. Your ability to bring back the highest grades of ore and the quantity you obtained it in has allowed me to restore my fuel levels to that when I first became active. Even my reserves are filled now. All I’ll need is some basic material to work with and I can produce much of what we may need.”
“Sounds like a plan. If you don’t mind I think I’ll sleep some more. It’ll keep my mind off my stomach, I hope. And I seem to have worked out hard today. I‘m definitely feeling a bit tired just now.”
“I can handle all functions for now. Feel free to get some rest.”
“Thanks Yuki. Wake me when we get there.”
I settled back into the very comfortable chair and let my mind wander some. Oddly enough my mind seemed obsessed with the planet of Medhas. Something about it seemed terribly familiar. Something from the old memories that constantly plagued me ever since Stygian had played his little ghost game with me. But there were so many of them and so jumbled together it was nearly impossible at most times to get anything useful from them. An exception had been when the information on the mining station had come clear. Something about that had been specific enough to bring out some coherent knowledge.
It seemed like mere moments before I jolted awake.
“We are on approach to Medhas. I’ve established contact with System Authority. They have reserved us a berth at Gorthon Station. We’ll be able to sell our cargo there and have supplies brought to us for loading. I expect this to take approximately four to five hours. Maybe longer if some of the supplies need to be transferred from the planet.”
More new knowledge flooded into my brain and it must have been several minutes before Yuki could get my attention again. Apparently he was becoming used to the blank outs.
“Captain?” The flood of knowledge had become a manageable flow and I became aware of Yuki trying to get my attention.
“We are entering dock now. Did you want to watch?”
“Put your hands on the control globes then.”
I immediately reached out and put my palms on the two globes. A picture of the immediate space around us flooded into my brain drowning out the remnants of the other visions.
Gorthon Station was a huge rotating cylinder surrounded by an even larger non-turning framework. Ships could dock in the framework and special lifts would attach and detach building size transporters to a linking system which allowed the rooms to enter and exit the huge rolling cylinder. Shuttles and other transports were constantly leaving and arriving from the ends of the huge cylinder. All in all a very practical arrangement. I also got an idea of the size and arrangement of the Gorthon System and suddenly another flood of information swamped my brain again.
When I came to I realized that Yuki must be handling what was going on. I somehow knew we weren’t moving anymore. There was something to the feel of the ship that meant we were at rest. At rest in a star system I somehow knew something about.
The Gorthon System had changed a bit since I remembered it. When I remembered being there last it had only one inhabited planet, Menhas, and no planetary stations. The information I’d just received let me know they now had five inhabited planets and no fewer than three system stations. Gorthon station was actually the smaller and farthest out of the three.
There was a newer commercial station and a large military fortress in addition to the older station I was now docked at. Both were deeper into the fifteen planet system. Gorthon Station was an antique but worked well for the type of business that needed to be done at it. It was supposedly privately owned and operated so it didn’t come under quite the same scrutiny of the other two.
My last memories had been of a system similar to the old North African city states. Each system in the area ruled by a hereditary ruler of some sort tied together by a series of agreements, marriages, and the like. Medhas had been one of the more powerful in this area, controlling trade and movement through those areas it claimed for it’s own. Now it was supposedly a satellite territory of the Royan Marches. Still, some of the old ways were still practiced and the best way to keep a lid on it was to not officially recognize that some individuals and the like still ‘controlled’ some of the trade passing through this galactic quadrant, occasional anti-pirating sweeps not withstanding.
Still, I remembered Medhas. Even if what I could see now only vaguely resembled what I remembered about the planet. I had to carefully control my reactions to this knowledge. Up until now my memories had been very fragmented and incomplete. But now some of those memories were becoming much clearer and I wasn’t at all sure I liked what I was remembering. In fact, some of them made me want to go back to sleep and forget them. But I wasn’t able to do that anymore.
I was so depressed I didn’t even twitch. “Yes?”
“Are you alright? It is difficult to scan you and I don’t know enough to determine what is normal health for you or not. You seem to be in some distress though.”
I couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of my voice. Yuki didn’t deserve my ire but he was the only target I had at the moment.
“Really? You noticed that? Well let me tell you. You really don’t want to know what’s going on in my head right now. I don’t want to know what’s going on in there right now. But I don’t have a choice in the matter.”
And that was one of the problems. Trying to put whatever I was in the past into proper perspective seemed impossible. The more I tried, the more memories would rise up. And there didn’t seem to be an end to them. They just seemed to go on and on. Medhas was one of the newer ones and in the time I’d been away the system had changed so much I almost didn’t recognize it.
With a shudder and a huge mental effort, fueled by my guilt at lashing out at Yuki I pulled my mind away from that and apologized.
“Sorry Yuki. It’s nothing you did or have control over. Don’t pay too much attention to me or my rantings.” It was time to change the subject. “What’s going on now?”
“Yes captain.” Yuki seemed a bit reserved but I really didn’t care enough right now to pursue the matter. He continued to fill me in, in a general way.
“I’ve established contact with Merelak and Glish. They handle all commerce of our nature on this station. I’ve sent samples to them for analysis and to assay the value of what we have to sell them. I’m expecting them to get back to me soon.”
“Good. How well are we going to make out on this?”
“Nowhere near what we’d get through official channels but since those appear to be closed to us, I don’t think we’ll do better than ten percent of the market value. We could do better but I don’t think we have the time to haggle too much and what we will be getting will cover all our expenses and then a good deal more. I’m positive of that.”
“Good. I’ll leave that up to you. I...”
Just then our conversation was interrupted by my stomach. The growl was loud enough to echo and even though I was alone with Yuki I still found myself blushing with embarrassment.
Yuki’s tone lightened up. “It would appear the captain is a bit distracted right now. Maybe we should continue this talk later?”
“Uh, yeah. Maybe we should. Is there a place to eat around here?”
“My current sources say there is a large caravansary on the station. Well equipped to handle your needs. We have been advanced credit while the assay is completed. If you wish you can go there and eat.”
“Sounds like an idea. Uh, how do I get there?”
“I will make a hatch you can exit through. I can guide you through the station. The caravansary isn’t too far from here. If you take one of the public sleds you should be there in minutes.”
“Good! I could just about eat a horse right now. Where’s the hatch? And why a hatch?”
“I’ll make the hatch momentarily. You can exit directly from this room. I’d rather not let whoever is watching us know anything more about us than I have to. The less they know or guess, the better off we are. I have the feeling we aren’t dealing with the most trustworthy of merchants here. To which I will add my advice that you forgo your meal long enough for me to get some supplies here and I will prepare you what you need without risk.”
My stomach growled louder at the thought of waiting any more. Besides, despite the great view I could get from where I was, I couldn’t help feeling very curious about what was out there. I wanted a closer look. I shook my head.
“No. I want to look around a bit. I can take care of myself. Don’t worry about me.”
The silence from Yuki was definitely disapproving but in a moment he gave in.
“Very well captain. May I suggest you at least wear a suit I have prepared for you?”
In response to my question a cubby opened near me and a grey bundle popped out to hover in front of me. The bundle then shook itself out to present me with a set of grey undergarments, body suit, and a light robe to go over that. The robe came equipped with a hood, veil, and visor to conceal my head and face.
“Even here they have rules about nudity. And considering how the last people to see you reacted I thought it wise to conceal your identity as best as possible.”
“Good thinking Yuki.”
I grabbed them out of the air one by one and quickly dressed myself. Soon I presented a very neutral picture to anyone looking at me. I was certainly female but that was about all someone looking at me would be able to tell. There were even thin grey gloves to cover my hands. I was about as anonymous as possible and was glad Yuki had thought about it. The robe was even split up the sides to give me more freedom of motion if I needed it.
I was startled a bit when the voice that came out didn’t quite sound like me.
“I have taken the liberty to include a voice disguise feature. It will keep anyone from matching your voice to any recordings they might have.”
I nodded. “Good idea. Uh. How about eating?”
“You will find that the veil is a holographic projection. You should be able to eat with no worries about revealing yourself.”
“Cool! How about money?”
“In the belt you are wearing is a concealed pouch which has some credit slips in it. There’s not much. Only about 500 credits, but there are some transactions where the parties don’t want to use standard credit inquiries and it may be enough for those. For all the standard transactions you can use the wrist band on your left wrist. Just wave it over a scanner and state the agreed amounts. All that is handled through the stations computers. There should be enough credit in that account to feed you for a year or more.”
“You’ve never seen me eat.”
“Never mind. As long as it works I don’t care. So, when can I go?”
“You can leave immediately captain. It will be several hours before all the supplies I’ve ordered get here. And I want more time to peruse the data banks available to me. A lot has happened since I was last out this way.”
“Fine. Now show me the way to food!”
Off to my side, a hatch similar to the outside lock of the mining station formed. It was smaller but similar in construction. As I stepped near it another wall formed behind me. In it was a door similar to the inner airlock doors I’d seen. Yuki answered my unasked question.
“I’m sure they are watching us closely. If they see you come out an airlock without an airlock on the other side I’m sure they will have questions I don’t feel like answering.”
“Good idea. Uh say.”
“How do I find this place to eat?”
A little diagram appeared on the veil off to the side of my line of sight.
“I can direct you there with this diagram. I will also try to translate the signs and such so you can tell what you are looking at and can tell when you are there.”
“Will you be translating also?”
“If I can. There may be some I can’t translate until I get more information but I should be able to handle what needs doing.”
“Okay. Let’s get this show on the road!”
No sooner had I said this than the hatch popped and opened quietly. For a moment I was stunned by the view in front of me. I just stood there taking in the reality of finding myself dwarfed by this huge construction all around me. It was made even more impressive because large parts could been seen through the lattice of the Outer Shell. In a word it was breathtaking and oddly familiar all at once.
Yuki’s voice brought me back from my contemplation and things nearer to me came into focus. Several beings I assumed were either workers here or possibly other spacers were intently watching me as I stood there. Some were probably there to keep an eye on the ship and others probably had the task of following me. It would be hard to tell until I got moving who was who. And I had to wonder again about the odd thoughts that kept popping up in my brain at times like these. It was like I’d done all this before and it was old hat by now.
Most of the people I could see might pass with a little help on Earth. Others were reptilian or centauroid, or several combinations of the same. I didn’t see any really weird ones as yet. Maybe those would be segregated by custom or necessity. We had kids at Whateley who looked stranger than most of the ones I could see now though.
There was a path in front of me leading to a gate which had a pair of guards in front of it. The holo on my visor indicated I should move that way so I did. The two guards barely seemed to glance at me as I walked past. A pretty neat trick as most of the others in the area were staring openly.
The holo indicated I should go left from there and soon I was weaving between many fascinating vistas. Either the ships and their crews, the ones I took to be natives or at least employees of the station, or the vast expanses of space or station moving around me.
There were also a lot of armed guards and the like around. Some were obviously there to guard the ships and cargos. These had their own kinds of uniforms. But the great majority had a standard dark blue uniform and appeared to represent the station. They obviously didn’t want anyone to get out of hand around here and were making it clear by their presence.
All this quickly passed to the background as I moved to a motorized walk which took me in the direction of one of the Inner Shell Shuttles or ISS. The Outer Shell where the ships docked was strictly business. The food and trade concourses were located in the inner shell. According to Yuki not even small concession stands were allowed in the work areas. If I wanted to eat soon I had to move to the Inner Shell. Which suited me fine. This place was enormous and it was supposedly the smallest of the three stations in the system. My curiosity was almost as strong as my hunger right now. All of this was so strange but familiar at the same time.
Soon I approached the ISS loading station. There was a separate terminal for passengers. Anyone who wanted to get on the shuttle had to pass through a security corridor. A quiet inquiry to Yuki told me that the corridor would scan for weapons, contraband, and ascertain if the person had enough credit or right to use the shuttle.
I was a little nervous but no alarms sounded and no one seemed to be paying more attention to me than any of the other passengers as the large ferry moved smoothly and with little fanfare into the machinery that would lower it to the Inner Shell.
For something that should be so momentous it passed with surprising speed and lack of fanfare. Soon we docked inside the huge tube of the second shell. While I couldn’t look out into space I was treated to a spectacular panorama of city stretching out to the sides and up and over me. Suspended down the center like a huge cross-shaped I-beam was the docking area for the interplanetary shuttles taking supplies to and from the station out the ends of the tube which I now could see were capped with huge airlocks which the supply shuttles used to exit and enter the tube of the station.
I might have looked at it longer but my stomach growled again. Loud enough to make several of the people around me jump and stare at me.
Blushing beneath my hood I made a hasty exit from the docking station and trying to ignore the people and shops around me made the fastest line to the food caravansary I could.
When I got there I was nearly stunned. The food caravansary was huge! It had to cover several city blocks at least. Just looking at it gave me pause. There were so many possible choices I didn’t have a clue where to start. Then I was approached by a very tall, thin humanoid. Overall he seemed pretty human except he was about seven feet tall and thin as a rail. His skin was a very dark brown and his hair nearly black which contrasted well with his leaf green eyes.
He was also wearing an overall of bright yellow which as I looked around and saw others with similar suits doing various tasks such as waiting, bussing tables, and such I assumed must be a uniform of some sort.
He faced me and bowed a short bow to get my attention.
“May I be of some assistance Lady?”
For a moment I almost didn’t catch what he’d said. As soon as he said it another voice seemed to be echoing the words. I had to stop a moment and shake my head.
I held up a hand in a stop gesture. “Sorry. Please hold on a moment.”
He bowed his head. “As you wish.”
I nodded back and then started talking. It must have looked like I was talking to myself but the guy in front of me never blinked an eye. Just patiently waited until I was ready to talk to him.
“I’m getting this weird echo when I talk to people. Are you doing it?”
“Please wait a moment while I check the memory and systems in the suit.”
“You’re recording all of this?”
“It seemed a prudent thing to do. It allows me to better serve your needs.”
I was going to have to remember this in the future. Especially if I was going to be doing anything I might not want Yuki to be aware of. Why that particular thought crossed my mind I didn’t know and Yuki interrupted my thoughts before I could concentrate on that idea.
“I believe I have found the problem. Please contact me if you need further help translating.”
“Thank you Yuki. Anything of interest to report?”
“No. There was an attempt to break into the ship but I was able to counter it easily.”
“Should I come back?” If people were trying to take Yuki I should just live with my hunger and get back immediately.
“That will not be necessary. These are simple probes to see if we’re actually prepared to defend ourselves. I can easily block them and if they try anything more aggressive I’m sure I can handle that too. I will notify you if that is the case if it makes you feel better.”
“Oh. Okay. Do that. I want to be notified immediately if anything happens. Got that?”
“Yes. Now you should go and eat. I have been notified that some of the supplies we ordered will be getting here in about six hours. You don’t have to be here when they come but I thought I’d notify you in case you wanted to be here.”
“Thanks Yuki. I don’t think what I’m doing here will take that long.”
“You don’t have to just eat. It is likely that this station’s markets will have a very diverse and interesting selection of goods. You might want to spend some time shopping. The credit you have should be more than sufficient to cover some shopping as well.”
Why did everyone, including a spaceship of all things, assume I wanted to shop? Oh well. I might as well humor him.
“Okay. I might just do that.” Besides, if I didn’t take this opportunity I was sure Nikki would skin me alive and I might be able to find a few interesting things for my friends.
For a few brief moments I struggled with a conscience that seemed to feel I was doing something wrong by running off like I did without telling anyone and all I was actually doing was trying to salve my conscience by bribing my friends. But that struggle faded quickly and I turned my attention back to food.
Aware I was paying attention to him again the man in front of me bowed.
“Uh. I need a lot of food. And I mean LOTS! Fast. And I don’t want to have to pay too much for it.” My small experience with upscale type restaurants had left me with the impression that the higher the price the less food actually got served. And I was more concerned with volume right now.
While I was fortunate enough not to be like Ryoko who didn’t have a sense of taste at times like this the hollow in my gut meant a lot more than taste to me.
The man in front of me raised what I somehow knew was a skeptical eyebrow.
“The Lady has money?”
Okay. Two can play that game. I held up my left wrist.
“Yeah. I do. I just don’t have the time or money to waste on crumbs. I need food! Lots of it. Fast. Can you do that?”
He produced a small wand seemingly from nowhere and passed that near the band on my wrist. A quick glance at it after that and his demeanor changed to a much more cordial and welcoming stance.
“Of course My Lady.” Bowing deeply he motioned for me to follow him and set out through the crowd. Somehow he seemed to be able to clear a path by his attitude. Everyone just moved out of the way and I was able to move along behind him with no trouble at all. Soon we entered an area that was obviously a buffet kind of arrangement. He stood aside and motioned towards the bounty in front of me.
“This should suit M’Lady’s needs.”
Before I dived in I had to make an effort to warn him.
He got a questioning look for a moment as he tried to figure out what I was asking. When he obviously couldn’t come up with a quick answer he asked a question himself.
“For what M’Lady?”
“All of it.”
He blinked a few times and then looked back at me with a polite but certain look that indicated he thought I was a few bricks loose of a wall but he’d humor me anyway. I decided to help some more with another question.
“Will what I have cover all of this?”
He thought for a moment and then nodded. “Of course M’Lady. If you need more for your crew we can easily arrange to have it taken to your ship.”
He obviously wasn’t getting it yet but at least I knew I could afford it now.
“That won’t be necessary. Just stand aside and let me get to work!”
I didn’t bother waiting to see how he’d respond to that. I just dived into the feast before me. It wasn’t until a bit later that I looked up and realized I’d drawn a crowd. Now that the worst of my hunger had been taken care of I slowed down a bit. But like always anymore I couldn’t quite fill up. There was that lingering need for something that all the food around me couldn’t seem to fix. Still, it was a lot better than when I was empty so couldn’t complain.
By the time I finally gave up trying to find the one thing that would fill me completely, the crowd watching had changed several times along with the food I’d mowed through. I’d drawn such a crowd the people in charge of the buffet were having problems keeping enough food out for me and the crowd that had gathered to watch me.
Finally I approached my guide who seemed speechless at what he’d just witnessed.
“Ahhh! Thank you! That really hit the spot.” I passed my wristband over a scanner like I’d seen many of the other patrons do and a large figure, but one still much less than what I knew to be on the band appeared.
I studied that for a moment and then tried something new. “Add twenty percent for tip.”
My guide sucked in a sudden breath at that and the number grew by what I could see was twenty percent of the previous total. I smiled.
“It was worth it. Good food and service all around. I okay this total.”
With a beep the total disappeared and I turned back to my guide.
He snapped out of his daze with a start.
“Y-yes M’Lady. We’re glad we could be of service.” Then a calculating look crossed his face for a moment. “P-perhaps the Lady would like something special to end her meal with?”
This smacked of something not usual for what I’d just done but I was feeling a bit adventurous now that my stomach wasn’t growling at me constantly so I just smiled and nodded.
Snapping a quick look around my guide motioned me to follow him as he headed towards what I soon realized were some private eating booths. These were equipped with screens that would allow whoever was in them to eat privately.
As soon as he was sure the privacy screens were in place he bowed to me again.
“M’Lady may not know this but we are pleased to be one of the few establishments that can offer one of the greatest and most sought after foods in the Galaxy. I must ask that you not reveal this to anyone outside of here though. There are those who are so close minded that they would deny such pleasures to all.”
Okay. This was obviously something illegal but my curiosity was going full blast so I didn’t hesitate at all to nod my agreement, and for the next several minutes I was lead through what would for most people be a confusing series of rooms and hallways. Eventually we came to a small private room with a small table and chair.
On the table was a small covered plate placed in front of the chair. My guide moved to the chair but didn’t pull it out. Instead he motioned towards a credit reader hooked up to a mobile communications pack.
I swiped my wrist over that and a large amount appeared on it. Still well within my means so I bumped it up twenty percent and okayed it. As soon as I did that my guide pulled out the chair and motioned me to sit.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. If it turned out to be some kind of drug, things might not work out so well. I was pretty sure nothing would happen anyway if it was but it might cause a few misunderstandings if I refused after all this trouble.
While this was going through my mind the guide prepared to remove the cover over the plate.
“My Lady. It is with great pride I present you with the very rare, sought after, and rarely found food of the Gods.... Chok O Ba!”
With a grand flourish he swept the cover away and on a small white plate was revealed a small, brown, flat rectangle.
I blinked several times before I was sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. It had been taken out of its wrapper but there was no mistaking the size or the twelve smaller rectangles with the letters inside each of the smaller rectangles. It was a Hershey Bar.
My guide smiled at my surprise.
“Ah! I can see even you didn’t guess that we could produce such a sought after luxury. Yes. It is real. A Choc O Ba. Even though no one knows where these can be found except the smugglers who jealously guard their secret we have connections even there. Please feel free to savor your treasure. We will not disturb you.”
He quickly exited and I was left wondering if this was some joke or weird setup. Did they know where I was from? He seemed so sincere though. Apparently a chocolate bar was somehow considered a contraband substance. Maybe it was poisoned? If so I was pretty sure someone was going to be really disappointed.
My surprise had been so great I hadn’t laughed or done anything else, so I decided to go along and see what would happen. Carefully taking my time I broke the bar into twelve pieces and savored them for a few minutes.
It was okay. Nothing unusual about it at all. No odd tastes or anything. Just a chocolate bar like I could get in any store. Soon after I was done the guide came back in. I noticed he was moving carefully and it was now I realized that this room was reinforced. Maybe they were expecting some kind of trouble?
The guide bowed a short bow, never taking his eyes off me.
“Is everything to your satisfaction My Lady?”
I nodded and smiled. “Yes. I must admit I wasn’t expecting to find such a treasure here and I have to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to experience it.”
He visibly relaxed and smiled.
“Yes M’Lady. We aim to please always. Is there anything else we can do for you?”
“Ummm. I don’t think so unless you can supply someone to guide me around shopping. I’d like to look around and see what’s available.”
“I would be happy to show you around Honored Lady. If you’d care to allow me to do so?”
I stood up and smiled. “That would be great! Do you have a name I can call you by?”
I hoped I wasn’t breaking some rule or custom but I didn’t feel like calling him guide for however long I’d be working with him and apparently I hadn’t because he bowed another short bow.
“I am Hod, M’Lady. I will be honored to be your escort while you are here. Is there anything you wish to seek first?”
I’d already given it some thought and knew what I wanted to look for.
“Yes. First I would like to examine some fabrics. They need to be totally natural in origin. I may be able to find an outlet for them at a place I am familiar with.”
“Ahhh. The Lady is a merchant then?”
I shrugged. “Maybe. Still, one should take advantage of such when one can.”
“As you wish M’Lady. I believe I know just where to inquire. If you would follow me?”
“Lead on Hod. I’m sure you know the best places to look.”
“Yes M’Lady. I do.”
Another maze of rooms and hallways, followed by a short ride in something I figured must be a cab in this place, and another short maze and we were in front of a building with nothing but a door and a blank facade.
Hod motioned towards the door.
“Labba, the proprietor, should be able to help you with anything you should need. From the basic materials to completed wear. I will wait out here for you.”
“It is customary M’Lady. I may lead you here but as this is not my establishment it would be rude of me to enter with a customer.”
I nodded to him. “As you wish. This shouldn’t take too long.”
“Take whatever time you need M’Lady. I’ll be here when you come out.”
“Thank you Hod. I’ll be out soon.”
He retreated towards what might be a small nearby bar and I entered the building.
Inside I found a small entryway like most offices I’d ever been in. Chairs or other things my new memories told me served the same purpose were scattered around the walls to my left and right with a large desk guarding the far wall which had a large set of double doors in its center.
Behind the desk sat a pretty good looking redheaded woman. She looked up from what she was doing as I came in and waited while I looked around. Then when my attention came back to her she smiled.
“May I be of assistance M’Lady?”
“Um. I was told I might be able to find some good non-synthetic materials here?”
“Are you the Lady Tennyo then?”
“Uh. Yes. Yes I am.”
She smiled and pushed at a small colored square on her desk. “The Lady Tennyo is here Ma’am. Shall I let her in?”
The secretary paused for a moment and then nodded. “At once Ma’am. I’ll send her right to you.”
She smiled even more and nodded towards the double doors behind her which began to swing open. “It is unusual but Mistress Labba wishes to meet with you immediately. If you will please follow the guide. It will take you directly to her.”
A small pinpoint of light formed in front of me and began moving towards the doorway and I assumed this must be my guide so I followed it. I nodded and smiled as I passed the secretary. “Thank you.”
She nodded back. “The pleasure is mine M’Lady.”
After that I was through the door and in a large long corridor. There were doors all along the hallway. Some single and some double. Spaced between them were displays showing what I assumed were some of the items Ms. Labba sold. They varied from what looked like some very skimpy bathing suits or maybe lingerie to full suits of armor. Medieval, modern and maybe even space suits.
There was an odd feel and smell to the place a part of me found somewhat familiar but I couldn’t place it and I wasn’t sure it was from my own memories or those of the Starstalker. But while the light leading me moved slow enough for me to look around it didn’t stop moving and I had to follow instead of probe my memories.
The light guided me to the end of the corridor which ended in a tee section. The light continued to the left and a quick glance showed me that the way right only went a small way and ended in a double door that just screamed ‘Work Area. No Unauthorized Entry’.
The branch I was headed down was much like the first corridor but showed clothing obviously made for non-humanoid races. I thought I should be freaked out a bit by them but oddly enough I just got the same sense of familiarity again and it was easy to just look and not wonder too much about what these suits and clothing would actually fit on.
By the number and variety I had to assume my host must be very good indeed to be able to fit so many different types of races.
About three quarters of the way down this corridor I came to a double door on the right where the light had stopped. When I was in front of the doors the light vanished and the doors swung open quietly. On the other side was a square room probably about 30 feet by 30 feet by 10 feet high. In the middle of the otherwise bare and white colored room was a cabinet about two feet by two feet by four feet high. The oddly familiar smell was stronger here. The light in the room was diffuse and didn’t seem to be coming from any particular area. Then a voice spoke to me and a flood of memories stunned me for a moment.
“Weaver of Webs. What is your business here?”
For several moments I couldn’t even think of replying. The strange voice and the words it spoke had released a part of my memories I knew to be much older than most I’d been dealing with recently. Pictures of a planet of huge mile-high trees I somehow knew had been in a part of the universe far from where I was now. A much older part. And a people who were not even remotely human who’d populated that world and many others from that time. I stood there struggling with the memories, and then the voice spoke again.
“Do you have nothing to say? Are you then an imposter?”
The correct answers came to me and I found myself responding to them. I pulled my head covering back so my head was bare and as I spoke I began to move my hands and fingers in patterns I didn’t even realize I was doing until they were done.
“Greetings to the Nest. Greetings to the Greeter. May the days be long and the memories be longer. Am I permitted to see my greeter so I may offer proper offerings?”
The voice spoke again.
“Ahhhh. So it is true and my memories do not lie. Look on me then and say my name, Weaver Between the Stars.”
The back wall split in the middle and the two panels slid to each side revealing a similar sized room beyond them. The next room seemed to be lined with a smooth and soft-looking many-colored haze. In the middle of that was a large arachnid shape. While there were some similarities with spiders, the twelve foot long body was not segmented and had ten long legs. It did have several eyes located around the raised hump towards the front that served as its head. It was covered in an iridescent blue fur and three golden stripes ringed the body. These were repeated on the legs. I had indeed found myself in the presence of an important person. I bowed as I replied, continuing with the hand signs as well as voice.
“Greetings, Mother of Three. It is indeed a blessed household I have entered into then. May I ask as to the welfare of thy sons?”
“Polite as ever. You may indeed ask. They are well and have thriving colonies of their own. It has been long since you wove between the trees of Home. And far from here in time and space. Are you going to drive us from our homes into space once more?”
The words flowed from me without my thinking of them.
“No, Great Mother. There is no need to awaken your people once again. It is clear you learned your lessons well and have striven for even more than I could have hoped in the past. I trust your people are doing well?”
“Well enough, Disturber of Nests. We no longer are bound to our trees at Home if that is what you are asking.”
“The universe opens to you then?”
“We would not be here if that were not so.”
“Shall we recover the memories of our pasts then?”
The large body showed definite signs of hesitation and then in what I knew to be a sheepish way the Siriden, for I now knew that was what race she was, made a request.
“While I don’t wish to seem rude, especially to one who is willing to follow the conventions of good manners, I suspect we each have a great deal more to recount than we have time to use. Shall we agree to skip this convention and get down to the business that brings you here? While you have said you have no intentions for stirring our nest I suspect the sooner thou has gone about your business the less we’ll have to worry about unexpected events occurring.”
Okay. I have to admit to feeling some relief. I was remembering that convention required a recounting of past events from the last time we’d met to the present. And I was pretty sure I didn’t even come close to remembering all that had happened to me as the Starstalker between that time and this. It probably wouldn’t bother the Siriden who had an incredibly long and accurate race memory transferred down through time in all the members of the race. On a regular basis the Mothers would commune mentally together and share the memories of all those they birthed and this was given out to all the rest. They could probably be the best historians the universe would ever see. Observing a lot and recording it all was their passion. And while they looked particularly dangerous they were actually herbivores and peaceful to the extent they could be. Not that they couldn’t put up a good fight when they had to and they weren’t shy about using the knowledge they’d gained to their own advantage.
Besides, my mind tended to boggle when I tried to decide just how long it had been since we’d last encountered each other. I was unable to link mentally with them so I’d have to recount it all verbally. I think we were both aware of just how impossible that would be. I could go through a great many Mothers lifetimes before we got through all that and we both had better things to do.
“If this is thy desire Revered One I will gladly forgo this convention for now.”
“Thank you for being so considerate of this ones time. Let us get down to business then. You desire materials or completed clothing?”
“Aye. While I would greatly prefer you to construct the clothing for my friends I’m afraid I can’t bring them or a reasonable facsimile here so I was hoping I could obtain some of your materials. I can still get them superior clothing beyond what they imagine if I do that.”
“What you ask is a hard thing Weaver. I am willing to allow you to have some of our best in token for what you did for us that long time ago but I dread to think of what the inferior workers of your kind would do with such precious gifts.”
Well, that made sense. They put a lot of themselves into their work and I could understand why they wouldn’t want just anyone to make something ugly with it. But I had someone in mind I thought even these consummate weavers would respect. I’d be willing to take some of their castoffs if they would ever be willing to let anyone have an example of any of their less than perfect work. Something I was certain they’d never do. Still, I was sure Miss Rogers could do them justice.
“There is no need for gifts Great Mother. All I brought your people was conflict. Thou needest not feel any gratitude for that. And I know of one who thou might respect in the arts and gifts of the Weaving so thou needest not fear thy work would be unappreciated or miss used.”
“That conflict thou brought us saved our race and planet in the end. You may have forgotten that we do not forget. We remember when thou first came and warned us and we wouldn’t listen. When you came again you came with violence and disaster. Our world nearly died and we were forced to look to other planets for new homes. By the time the Ursandit came upon us as thou had told us they would, we couldn’t be destroyed quickly and were able to defeat them in the end. The price was steep but we do not forget what made it possible to pay that price. We do not forget. But tell me more of this Worker in Webs. Is she some kin of ours?”
“That I do not know Great Mother. But she is talented and appreciative of good work. I think she might even gain your respect in such things and I know she would greatly respect any of your work. I would like to be able to show you some of her work but I was not expecting to meet with you and failed to have some with me.”
“I would like to meet this one then. Can that be arranged?”
“It would present some difficulties I’m afraid. But if I can I will see to it she knows you would like to meet her and arrange a meeting. She is very far from here so I expect it will be unlikely at best.”
“One does what one can. Very well. I will trust you in this then but would like to make it clear that I want to see what is done with our gifts and if it doesn’t meet our standards I would appreciate it if thou wouldst then collect our gifts and bring them back to us. Will thou do this?”
“I agree to thy terms Great Mother. If it is not your wish to allow others to have thy gifts I will bring them back to you.”
“Good. That is settled then. Allow me to show you some of our samples then.”
“I would be honored to see these. Please let us do so.”
What followed was what I suspect a long time spent looking at, feeling, smelling, and discussing various materials and their uses. But it was so enthralling I didn’t notice the passage of time until my stomach reminded me. If anyone a year previously had told me I could lose myself over clothing, weaving, and sewing I’d have probably hit them. Mother of Three had even put together a quick long skirt and blouse in Whateley colors and design for me to show off her skills. I had to agree to show this to Miss Rogers and get her reaction to them and bring that knowledge back with me when I could.
In the end I left a lot poorer in credit but a lot richer in materials. I hadn’t limited myself to just organic materials. Some of the woven armor materials would beat out Kevlar for durability, weight, and flexibility easily. They would also be more heat and chemical resistant. I wasn’t sure exactly what I would do with them yet but I hoped to be able to use it for gifts or other projects later. Not too long after my stomach alerted me to the passing time I found myself outside, my head cover back on, and with Hod eager to lead me to another eating establishment. Nearly the last of my credit went to that and I tipped Hod the rest when he got me back to our berth.
“Would the Lady be needing anything else?”
“No. Not right now Hod. Thank you for a great day. I was wondering how I might be able to visit the planet though. I suspect they won’t allow me to fly down in my ship.”
“No Lady. That would be forbidden. But a regular shuttle leaves and returns twice every day for Lambeta City. If you wish I can make arrangements for you to take it down. Did you have any place in mind?”
“Third District. A place called the Leaky Container. I need to leave some messages there.”
Hod’s disapproval was obvious and I had to wonder how he was familiar with the place I’d mentioned.
“The Leaky Container? You know it is a very bad neighborhood don’t you? Hardly the place for someone of your stature. Very dangerous and unpleasant.”
I smiled and he actually stepped back. “You haven’t seen me on one of my bad days I’m afraid. They’re small fry I agree but I still need to leave some messages for them. I can’t have them trying to blow me up and ruining a station I put a lot of work into to keep functional. There was still a good deal of good ore to be had. And I want to do it personally so there’s no mistake. Don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself.”
Hod hesitated for a moment and then nodded.
“As you wish Lady. I can still arrange an escort for you. I’m sure you can handle any trouble but some good bodyguards will save you having to deal with smaller problems and make your journey easier and faster.”
What he was saying made sense and they would also be able to act as guides if I needed some help finding the place. I wasn’t sure what it would cost but I was sure we’d be able to cover it easily with what Yuki had told me was the likely payoff for our ore.
“Very well. I’ll leave the selection up to you. I’d like to set out soonest tomorrow. Will that be a problem?”
“Not at all My Lady. I know just who would be best for this. They’ll be here to escort you to the shuttle for the morning run down to the planet.”
“Thank you Hod. How much will this cost?”
“I‘ll have a bill ready for you tomorrow but a certain amount up front is customary. Say, this amount.”
He held out a credit pad. It was a steep price if what I was reading was correct. I almost turned it down when Yuki contacted me mentally.
“It would be well to accept. We can afford this. I’ll update your credit right now and see if we can’t pay in advance.”
I decided not to let Hod know I was in communication with Yuki and nodded.
“Sounds good. What would be the full amount. With appropriate tips?”
Hod pulled the credit pad back and worked it for a few moments and then extended it again.
“This would be the full amount barring extra expenses such as food and lodging if it was necessary.”
This amount was much larger but Yuki seemed to be happy with it so I signed off on it. A few moments later the pad indicated that the transaction was successful. Hod smiled and bowed.
“It has been a great honor to have served you Great Lady. Please remember me next time you visit our glorious station.”
“Be sure I will Hod. Your services have been invaluable today. Please accept this amount as a token of my appreciation for your hard work.” I handed him what hard funds I’d been holding back. They disappeared like magic.
With another quick bow he was on his way to some other client or maybe just to celebrate. I waved at his departing back and headed through the guarded gate that led to Yuki’s berth. In moments I was inside the lock and moments after that I was in the control area.
“How did trade negotiations go Yuki?”
“They went well. As anticipated, the buyers assumed we had obtained the fuel and byproducts illegally and drove a hard bargain to buy them from us at a much reduced price. I was able to get what I believe was 15 percent of sale value. Better than the 10 percent we anticipated. I believe this was because the quality of what we were selling was so good compared to what is normally offered. I’m certain they believe we managed to obtain our materials from a secure depot or military source. It would be best to leave soon. Before too many questions need to be answered.”
“I’m afraid I need to go down to the planet.”
“I cannot recommend this course of action. We should leave immediately. Questions about where we got the fuel we sold are already being asked. It won’t take long before those questions won’t satisfy the persons asking them. I am also curious about the materials you had delivered. They appear to be organic and other fabrics of very high quality. Are you planning on purchasing trade materials then? If so I would recommend either purchasing more of the fabrics or other more easily traded or sold items. We can do this quickly and still leave soon.”
“That’s okay Yuki. But I really need to go down to the planet. It shouldn’t take too long and I’ll have a bodyguard so you needn’t worry. And I’m only collecting some materials for some gifts. I’m not trying to get into trade right now. But that’s a good idea and I’ll keep my eyes open for some possible things that might be good for trade later. Got any ideas for what I should look for?”
“I don’t think it is a necessary action and I certainly can’t recommend doing it. You could simply send a message if you want to. I can make arrangements if you want me to.”
“No. How I leave the message will be as important as the message itself. I’ll have to do this in person. I trust you can take care of yourself while I’m doing this?”
“Good. Did you want to tell me what to look for as trade goods then?”
“Yes. Gems. Both rough and cut. These are likely to be your best option for trade goods. Most others run the risk of having properties that make them dangerous to various possible clients. Unless you know the clients and materials well there is just too much risk in selling them.”
“What about the fabrics I purchased?”
“Fabrics are rarely a problem. But their bulk tends to make them less profitable. If you have a good market they can be profitable but you generally have to have a good knowledge of the fabrics, sellers, and buyers to make a reasonable profit on them. In this case you need not worry about profits because you intend them as gifts.”
“Thank you Yuki. I’m gonna rest now. Wake me in time to get the shuttle down to the planet.”
With that I threw myself into the chair and relaxed as it became a hammock-like bed. In moments I was asleep.
to be continued