Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Star Travelers - Special Delivery: Do you really need more?

“It’s part of the deal,” I said as I stood hands on hips trying to reflect my determination. “I contact my people so they don’t go off halfcocked and call in back-up to evac me.”
            “What assurances do I have you will not signal them somehow to come in anyway?” Aldobi-rand asked.
            “You have my blaster. You have a dead body. Do you really need more?” I asked frustrated.
I needed to get to the pod. It would do me no good to run, Aldobi-rand would just turn me in. I was sure of that. He was just controlling enough to keep his promise whether he benefitted from it or not. I intended to palm the detonation device for my blaster that Sam made me. If all else failed I wouldn’t be framed for murder. No blaster, no tracing Mulott to me. At least not for certain.
            “I also have a change of clothes in the pod that will make me more appealing to TiSenge. If he wants a warrior princess, I can give him Warrior Princess.”
I was still hopeful prior to leaving the ship that I would get to wear my new outfit. I had delusions of there being a party to celebrate the delivery. Yeah…Right… So, I packed them in the pod. The slick suit would help resist hand holds in a fight and I far preferred my spacer boots to these lightweight leather boots of Arr’s.
            “Then we are agreed?” Aldobi-rand asked.
            “If I get to contact my people, you get your bride,” I confirmed.
            Aldobi-rand extended his hand. “I believe it is your custom to shake on an agreement. You can be trusted to uphold your end, can you not?” He asked with a questioning lift of his eyebrow.
            I put my hand in his. “I always keep my word.”
            “We will leave for your ‘pod’ at nightfall.”
            With a wave of his hand I was dismissed back into the care of my guards to be returned to my room until nightfall.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Star Traveler - Special Delivery: Goods and Moon Clusters

“Drega, Enee,” the servant greeted me as he placed a tray of bread, fruit and cheeses on the table in my room along with a full pitcher and a goblet. “Food to break your fast.” He bowed, his robe of many colors touching the ground. “I will return to light the candles.”
            I was left alone for the morning. I ate, thought, ate and thought some more. I always eat when I’m stressed. The same elderly servant arrived mid-day with another tray. He greeted me once again and began to light the candles in my room with the slim torch he was carrying.
            “Isn’t it a bit early to be lighting candles?” I asked. The day was sunny outside my window. Not a cloud in sight. The heatwaves were rising off the sands in the distance like smoke off a smoldering fire.
            “You are Enee,” the servant said not unkindly, but referring once again of my foreign birth. “You are not familiar with our moon cluster.” He lighted another candle. He smiled at me with gleaming bright white teeth for such an old man. “Would you like to hear the story of our moons?” he asked.
I had nothing better to do. I nodded as I popped what looked like a dried apricot in my mouth.
He continued to circuit the room lighting the candles as he spoke. “Obihoot is father moon. He fought hard for Calahoi, mother moon, centuries ago.” The old man gestured toward the moons hanging with subdued pallor in the sky above. “She was pulled from him many times toward the bright one, Parnac.” The old man pointed toward the sun that appeared off further in the distance.  “The Altans of old were thankful for Obihoot and Calahoi because they brought us the cool temperature of night yet left us enough light to see. They did not want to see Parnac pull Calahoi into his grip, so our ancestors were pleased when the child, Gresee came to Obihoot and Calahoi. Now with three they could withstand the pull of Parnac.” The old man stroked his neatly trimmed grey beard in thought. “But Parnac is an angry loser. He places himself behind the night three during mid-day and makes all things dark. It is during these dark times that the followers of Parnac roam the land to do their mischief. So, we must light the candles to keep them at bay,” the old man concluded.
            I must have looked puzzled because he just smiled and bowed. “You will see,” he said as he backed out the door.
            And I did see. There are two full eclipses at mid-day on Alta III. The smallest of the moons cast the darkness first, then there is a break of perhaps two minutes before the sun falls behind the two larger moons creating a total black out for perhaps as long as ten minutes. I would have to time it to be sure. It is a total black out – pitch black. If the old man had not lit the candles I wouldn’t have been able to see my hand in front of my face.
            And it was not so much the dark as what came out of it that frightened me. Down below in the city streets I could feel the terror that drifted up from the populace. Everyone was quiet. Even the dogs were silent. Who are the followers of Parnac or are they just a story to frighten children - and in this case a whole populace in order to keep them under control of their Warlords? These are a superstitious people. Superstitious people can be fooled. I may have a chance yet.
            I have decided. I can’t sit here until Aldobi-rand calls the G.O. and rats on me. I have to get myself out of this place. I have an idea formulating in my head. It’s a slim plan, but it just might work. It will hinge on my crew and the time before backup can arrive. I may have to agree to my captor’s proposal, but I am feeling more confident every minute that I can get myself out of this place, body and soul intact.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Star Travelers - Special Delivery: Isn't that just something to light your thrusters?

The Galactic officials are fooling themselves if they think they know what is going on down here. I don’t know about the rest of the planet’s inhabitants, but Aldobi-rand is wickedly intelligent and crafty. My blaster has been confiscated. I’m locked in a tower room with walls perhaps as much as three fit thick until I submit to Aldobi-rand’s plot, of which I am an integral part.
            I have twenty-four hours to make up my mind or he turns me into the Galactic Officials as a smuggler and murderer. He has left nothing to chance. Before locking me up he took me down to Mulott’s body where he used my blaster on the highest setting to blow a hole in Mulott’s corpse. If he shows the body to the G.O. they won’t even get past the blaster burns to determine he died from a fall. Oh but, even if they did Aldobi-rand was quick to point out they would have him as witness to me pushing Mulott over the railing. I am doomed either way.
            I was lured here to help with a kidnapping. Aldobi-rand is plotting to kidnap the daughter of the Chieftain TiSenge the ruler of Mazala. Aldobi-rand and Keela met four years ago when the young ruler-to-be was taken by his father to TiSenge’s palace for the negotiation of the current treaty between their two tribes. For Aldobi-rand it was love at first sight. Over the last four years the two young royals have communicated via messenger, but neither one of their parents will hear of them marrying. Aldobi-rand’s father sees it as marrying beneath them. Keela’s parents do not want any additional ties to the Rand tribe for fear their strength will be sapped and eventually swallowed up by the larger, more powerful tribe.
            However, Aldobi-rand is set on Keela as his bride. He sees not only a willing partner, but a way to unite the tribes and do just as Keela’s father fears – mold the two tribes into one under his eventual rule. I was forced to listen to Aldobi-rand’s plans for the future. He has many grand plans. He assures me he will unite all the tribes of Alta III during his reign. He will move his people into the future as a powerful force in the Verse. He is a hot headed young man with feelings of immortality on his side.
            But, it all starts with his marriage to Keela. If he can get her out of the palace and to him – if he can marry her without interference – the marriage cannot be annulled. It is permanent. It is their law. The parents of both bride and groom will have to live with the consequences of their children’s act.
            What Aldobi-rand wants me to do is let him sell me to TiSenge as a kind of warrior bride addition to his harem. Women with combat skills are prized in this culture. He assures me I would be accepted readily. Once in the harem, and hopefully prior to my marriage to TiSenge, it is my job to find a way out for me and Keela. Once I hand over Keela to Aldobi-rand Mulott’s body disappears, I get my blaster back, and I am free to go.
            Oh, and on a side note, the portrait is to be his wedding present to his bride. Isn’t that just to light your thrusters?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Star Traveler - Special Delivery: A Mercenary with a Heart

I made sure my face was hidden in the shadows of my hood.
“I have been told to report to Aldobi-rand,” I said in as deep a voice as I could manage. “Muhat-Matal.” This was the password that would get me admittance into the palace.
“He has been awaiting your arrival,” the guard said unexpectedly.
I didn’t know Furgus sent word ahead that I was on my way, or my estimated time of arrival.
“This way,” the guard indicated with his spear.
The two men towered over me, but I told myself I was safe now – finally in the confines of the ruler’s palace walls. I followed one guard with the other guard coming up behind me. Safe is a relative term. I felt penned in.
They led me down several halls – right, left and right again – then up two flights of marble stairs and through a massive double door. The lead guard fell to the rear to join the other and the door was closed abruptly leaving me alone in a room sparsely furnished with chaise lounge, two chairs and a small low table. A waiting room I surmised. There was a tray on the table with a pitcher and two brass goblets. I was horribly thirsty from my travels. Once I smelled the liquid in the pitcher and then took a sip I was sure it was wine and took the liberty of filling a goblet. I downed it and replaced the goblet on the tray hoping it would not be noticed that I helped myself.
There wasn’t much to see in the room. It was heavily draped all around except for the far wall that opened onto a terrace through light colored sheers. I decided to take a look.
I was staring out at the city below when I heard a foot fall behind me. He was on me before I could turn. He seized me around the neck – choking me.
I went limp and he followed me half way to the floor before he had to release me in order to keep his balance.
He grabbed at me. He was bigger, but I was faster. I rolled away from him kicking. I wished I had my spacer boots – I would have succeeded in breaking his leg at the shin. With the soft leather ones I had on, it didn’t break anything, but it threw him off balance enough to send him up against the railing of the balcony.
He whipped a long lethally sharp knife from his belt and started toward me.
I dove back toward the floor. I lunged toward his feet, grabbed one and lifted.
He teetered for a moment as he cartwheeled his arms trying to regain his balance, dropping his knife in the process.
I instinctively reached out for him, but it was too late. He went backward over the edge falling to the ground two stories below with a ripe sounding thud.

“Well, done,” a deep voice said behind me.
I turned startled and ready to do battle again.
It was Aldobi-rand. I recognized him from his portrait.
“He was almost twice your size and you took care of him effortlessly.” He moved toward the edge of the balcony as I skirted out of his reach. “Of course, I would have preferred he not die,” Aldobi-rand said as he gazed over the edge at the body lying in the courtyard below. “Then again, if he cannot best a woman half his size I suppose he was not worth his pay.”
The young ruler-to-be turned casually back toward the sitting room. “Come, sit. Have a drink with me.”
I was beside myself with anger. “What was that all about?” I shouted gesturing wildly caught in my adrenaline high.
“I would think it evident,” Aldobi-rand said as he filled the two goblets on the table. “It was a test.”
“I just killed a man.” I was seething.
“Yes, and very efficiently I might add.” He started to hand me the goblet.
I struck it from his hand. “I just killed a man,” I repeated myself. “For a TEST?”
Aldobi-rand nonchalantly seated himself in a chair. He sipped his wine. He was not upset in the least.
“As I said, if he had been worth his pay he would have gotten the better of you. Your reputation is justified.”
“My reputation?” What the hell?
“It is not by accident that Furgus chose you for the delivery here. I needed a woman. A woman skilled in hand-to-hand combat,” Aldobi-rand explained. “One that could think on her feet. Furgus' research found you were just such a woman. Your flight log reveals many interesting things about your temperament and talents.”
“My flight log?” How had he accessed that? He’d have to be able to tap into the NET and deeper, into the Galactic Official’s logs. Furgus was an artist, not a hacker. At least that was what I was led to believe. What had I gotten myself into this time? I plopped onto the end of the lounge opposite him.
“You handled yourself admirably on Ukhta against the OmniCron group. You showed endurance and a strong will.” He picked up the goblet from the floor where it had rolled to the foot of his chair. He filled it with wine and placed it on the table in front of me. “Your escort of Ambassador Attila showed restraint. I would have killed everyone of the iiadtsu, as Attila Number 5 did, if I had been there.”
He leaned back in his chair and crossed his long legs. “You’ve spent three months grieving because you couldn’t save the beings that would have had you dead. You sit there grieving for my man, Mulott, right now even though he would have killed you.”
Aldobi-rand uncrossed his legs and leaned forward toward me. “No, I need someone exactly like you. I need someone clever and thoughtful and brave. I don’t need a killer, though you may have to do a bit of that before you are through. I need a survivor, a fighter, a female mercenary with a heart.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Star Traveler - Special Delivery: The Walls of Kadear

           It’s never quite dark on Alta III at night. The moon cluster just appears to be three closely orbiting bodies from space, but on land they are two huge moons and a smaller moon in a ‘cluster’ that reside stationary in the sky throughout night giving the land a ghostly glow.
            It was an uneventful trip down. I landed the pod unobserved. Its cloak took on the look of the landscape so effectively that I GPSed the location so I wouldn’t miss it upon my return.
            I would hike into Kadear from here, make my way to the palace of the ruling family and use the ‘secret’ password Furgus gave me to get Aldobi-rand’s guard to admit me. I felt like I was in an adventure vid or one of Daniel’s action games. It was fun until I hit the outskirts of the city.
            It seems these nomads have a plethora of dogs – watch dogs, stray dogs, mongrels, and mutts. They all bark and announce your presence. You can’t go anywhere unnoticed. I am so glad Cassie dressed me properly. It took twice as long to get from the pod to the palace as I thought it would. I ducked up allies to avoid dogs and the masters they had aroused. I hid in shadows waiting for dogs to quiet and burly men to pass on. I skirted a fountain only to run into a pack of sleeping, staked dogs that would have taken my leg off if I hadn’t moved as fast as I did in order to avoid their snapping jaws. A black bearded man stuck his head out of a tent pitched nearby and threw a shoe at the dogs to demand quiet.
            I heard one of them yelp with the impact and the laughter of several men as the man rejoined the others in the tent for what sounded like heavy drinking and gaming.
            I was greatly relieved when I reached the walls of the palace even if the two guards at the gate looked formidable.

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