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Har-Hi intercepted me right at the Air lock after returning to the ship and said. “ We got the crew of Swift squared away, sixty one are now peacefully frozen in Null time . “

I took my mask of and said. “Anything else I should know about?”

We walked to theIST and he said. “No not really but I listened to your audio feed from the Captain's table and I heard what Crimson said about Cam Elf Na , and that kept me thinking and I don't even know what to think. It's just that I don't like it. Cam Elf Na is an agitator and if he really has 2000 Clans united under one command , that is bad.” I put my hand on his shoulder. “We are still within GalNet Range. Call your father, tell him about it, and I will tell the Admiral the same.”

He smiled and said. “I' do that as soon as possible.”

“You do that now, the earlier the better.”

--””--

I just stepped of the IST and onto the bridge as the Battle Station Signal was given. Mao who held the Conn said. “The Dai , they are here !”

We switched seats. “Shaka get us away from that base right away.” I raised my seat into Battle View and Mao gave me a situation report. “At least 5 Clans, the KELPIES have reported 1500 Dai Signatures dropping out of Quasi . There are Six hundred Be-Tha-Ra Dai Battle Ships but no Dai Mothers , strangely enough. Scans Show weapons charged and there are more dropping by the moment. Wait those aren't Dai Signatures , those are Togar Units, big Ones!

About 30 light minutes behind the Dai a massive Togar Fleet had appeared and from the Quasi Space tremors picked up by our sensors more were on the way.

On the standard channels was pure chaos.

Mao said calmly. “The Dai will reach the system in less than 30 minutes. They are launching fighters.”

Shaka had manouvered us free of the Base and both the Crimson Curse and the Swift Profit also moved away from the mooring structure.

“Shaka get us out of here, Narth coordinate with Krabbel . I don't want to loose the Swift Profit in all of this.”

Both the Swift Profit and the Crimson Curse were aiming for open space and strained their engines to the max.

As I turned to look back and focused on the Asteroid base, I saw hundreds of gun turrets appear from hidden shafts and Karthanian Gnorr Fighters launched by the dozen from tunnel like openings.

SHIP , Tactical Assessment.”

SHIP respsonded. “The Dai and the Togar are technically almost en par, with a slight lead by the Dai especially in fighter technology. However it appears the Togar committed an enormous fleet, outnumbering the Dai 60 to one. Conclusion by tactical numbers is a win for the Togar but with heavy losses on both sides.”

Narth responded. “We have a Togar Battle Cruiser I pursuit. We will be in his weapon range before we can traverse into Quasi Space . He accelerates faster than our simulated Karthanian evne with old Isah pods could possibly go.”

Mao load the Sniper Cannon with a micro load an prepare to target their engine room. Shaka increase acceleration by three percent.

The first Togar Units were engaged by the Dai Rear Guard and our energy sensors detected heavy weapon fire.

Har-Hi said. “Captain if we were a real Karthanian even with Old Isah Pods we could maintain such a burst of speed maybe 10 seconds with all engines way past red line. The Togar is still gaining.

Two minutes to Threshold speed and 1 minute before they are in weapon range.”

Elfi said. “The Togar are hailing everyone on all of their frequencies.”

“Put it on.”

“This is Princess Legrha , First Daughter of the Queen of Togr . High Commandrix of all Togar forces. The Shattered System is under Togar protection and we will fight to the last ship and Warrior. Be advised that the entire Togar Force is alerted and on its way. Dai Than have been tolerated by us and we did not seek conflict with you. However engage in any hostility against any target inside that system and Togar will not rest until all Dai are eliminated. Disengage and leave and we will ignore the first exchanges and let you pass. Disregard and there will be no quarter given. We furthermore demand to search all Vessels leaving that system.”

The Tigershark was hit by the first volley of FTL beams , obliterating our simulated Karthaninan Aft shields. Turning on our real shields would give away our real origin.

“Mao, fire!”

100 Grams of zero stasis stabilized Anti Matter contained in a one kilo bomb sphere was trans-dimensionally transported into the engine room of the pursuing Togar Vessel at the point of annihilation.

The Karthanian aft exploded and simultaneously lost its ISAH field , the entire vessel was utterly and instantly destroyed.

Before us the Swif Profit slipped into Quasi Space and we were right behind.

---””---

I wondered what outcome the space battle behind us would take and why the Togar were willing to commit such assets to defend a seemingly unimportant star system used only by a handful of miners and pirates. The same held true for the massive commitment of the Dai. One single Clan would have been more than enough to raid such a small star system without any planets. I was looking over the detail scans of our Kelpies but could not find anything out of the ordinary that would explain such efforts. I sighed and was about to ask Elfi to get me in contact with Admiral McElligott when she said. “Captain, the Swift Profit has dropped out of Quasi and is hailing us.”

Shea tossed me my mask and Har-Hi helped me close it behind my head. He said. “I imagine he taxed his engines past red line to get out of there and now has some sort of malfunction.”

I tugged on my mask to straighten it and said. “I actually expected that call of his, just not so soon.”

Har-Hi first gave me a questioning look and then smiled and nodded., “Of course...”

“Let's find out what he wants from us.”

Elfi signaled me that the Bridge image was adjusted and put the Pirate on screen. He said. “That is what I call a close call indeed and thankfully that Togar lost containment before he could reach us,”

“Why are we stopping here? Ten light years away from a space battle is still a tad to close for my taste.”

“I agree with you, Velvet , I would love to be halfway to Sin 4 by now, but my Intermixer was taxed beyond its specifications due to our hasty departure and I don't want to loose containment while going Trans light. You would not be able to spare shield material and a few Magno Coils so I can repair mine? Spare parts are really hard to find in deep space.”

“Yes as a matter of fact, I do. Come along side and I extend a flexi tunnel so we can get the thing fixed. Spareparts aren't cheap however and I take 20,000 polos now or half of your next haul.” He grinned all over his face. “We have a deal, Velvet.”

After he disconnected I said. “Hans prepare your marines for Boarding action , Mao as soon as he drops shields and comes along side, full Tech stop and Paralysator.if you detect any energy sources after that, you are authorized to engage with Picto Loads .”

Narth said. “Does it come to a surprise to you when I tell you that he has very similar plans and that he is planing to raid us?”

“No, not at all. I expect to find his engine in good working order too.”

Har-Hi explained further. “He is a pirate and he has seen the chest of Polos . I am certain he was planning something the second he suggested to fly together.”

Shea said. “It looks you two already think like real pirates and I suppose you two will lead the raid again, right?”

Har-Hi and I were almost at the IST and he said. “You know she does have a point. Technically and by Fleet rules you should stay aboard. I am so sorry Captain but you got to stay this time.”

Shea said. “Technically and by fleet rules that holds true for the XO as well, but it looks like Tech Stop and Paralyse worked this time. Our sensors confirm that eighty five percent of all detected life forms show severely reduced electro neuro activity and 88 percent of all active energy producing sources are inactive.”

“Mao...”

“I am on it Captain.”

I gestured to the XO seat . “After you, my faithful companion. I think we elected the wrong positions for ourselves.”

Har-Hi made his best suffering facial expression and said with a deep sigh. “Yes indeed my Captain, yes indeed.”

We watched as Hans performed a Boarding raid by the book. After they had breeched the Pirate ship they found a bunch of heavy armed pirates unconcious right behind their main airlock. They all wore tough looking but inadequate Karthanian Battle Armor Space Suits, good enough to raid a civilian craft or a similar Tech Level but not the most advanced Union Ship . There was severe damage in where Mao's nano loads had destroyed someone in a better shielded suit.

I got up, it, I could not sit still , I could not sit down at the moment and I said, “Hans, what are those strange green looking Containers next to the Air lock?”

It was Sobody who said. “Better leave them alone Captain, those aBethler Plague Eggs . A sinister Bio agent. I am sure this is how he planned to subdue us.”

“A biological weapon against sealed bulkheads?” I asked

It eats most metals, it eats it fast and is very hard to kill and to get rid off unless you got the Anti Agent. It also kills most life forms by attacking every trace of metal including the iron in your blood.”

I shuddered involuntary and said. “Shea are our guys in danger?”

“They are wearing our latest battle suits and are shielded and I doubt any microbic life form could eat molecular compacted Ultronit or pass through ParaDim Shields , but I have no data to strengthen my hypothesis into a theory or even a statement. I think I should go over there and do more detailed scans and then secure at least one of these Eggs for further analysis. I am a good science officer and will take all necessary precautions.”

Sobody got up. “I volunteer to go along. I remember the Bethler well.”

I knew she was right. She was the best choice to make sure the Bio Agent hasn't leaked and find a way to secure a sample.”Alright, Shea go and do your thing and take our Golden along.”

To Sobody I said. “Tell her everything you know about that stuff and then let us find out why a third grade Pirate has something like that and knows how to use it.”

--””--

Hans and his marines had secured the Pirate Ship, but so far they had not found Swift himself. Shea and Sodoby working with a bunch of scanners and Laboratory equipment on the greenish bulb shaped, man sized containers.

Circuit was also aboard and trying to overwrite the lock out codes of Swifts computronics.

Sobody explained that the Bethler were an advanced civilization somewhere in the Downward sector , famous for their bio weapons and in a civil war or perhaps an industrial accident one of their weapons escaped and wiped the Bethler out. That happened, according to Sobody about 6,000 years ago. He also said that others scavenged the ruins of the Bethler society and took whatever they could and that Bethler Bio agents were rare but not unknown traded items on his Bazaars and that he did not find it strange that a Pirate would have a load of these.

Shea was in her element and quite excited.

I said to Hans. “Are you sure Swift is not aboard?”

“We scanned the vessel, and I am doing a second sweep right now, Mao killed four men with his Micro loads, there isn't much left of them. Maybe he was one of those.”

Narth said. “No Captain he is still alive, I can sense him.” His voice changed and he said with concern. “Captain, a Togar Womptar Battle Cruiser has just dropped out of Quasi and they are under shields and weapons charged.

Elfi said. “They are hailing us.”

“Alright, SHIP sound Battle stations. Mao stand by on shields but don't raise them yet. Elfi put them on.”

A magnificent strong looking Cat Warrior became visible and he growled. “Pirate you are identified as one of the ships that left Brhama Port. We demand that you stand down and hand over the Togar criminal fugitive we know is in your possession. Do that and we will consider to let you live. Do it not and we will have no mercy.”

“I have no Togar Criminals aboard, I sold that Cat to Crimson Curse.”

“We will search your vessel now.”

“I don't let just anyone come aboard.”

“You have no choice, your little Freighter has sharp claws but not enough to prevent your doom. Your Froth Casters do not have the range.”

I cut him off.

“Narth turn on our real sensors and check if he is alone, Mao full Giga Load as soon as I give the signal”

Our real sensors reached light years beyond the ones a Karthanian Freighter would have and also showed Quasi Space traffic. There were quite a few signals both Karthanian and Dai but only one Dai Signal was coming this way as well.

Narth said. “He is about to call for back up and tell his Superiors about us.” “Mao, fire!”

The Giga Load Translocator bomb detonated right in the Command Center of the Karthanian Ship engulfing it in a sun like sphere of bright expanding energies. I was well aware that this explosion would show on every sensor in the region and that we had not much time.

“Narth did he send his message?”

“No, he just started sending his ID sequence and their communication systems are much slower than ours and it will take a few hours before it is received., but two long range Dai Scanner contacts and three Togar have changed course and they will be here in less than 20 minutes.” “Shea, quick give me summary.” “We can safely contain the Eggs and we can decontaminate against them. No organism has been set free.”

“Alright bring one aboard and lock it away as fast as possible. Hans bring the Prisoners aboard and hurry.”

To Narth I said. “Swift, are you still sensing him?”

Narth did not respond for a moment and I thought he was probing for Swift. Narth then said. “I am sorry captain I got distracted, It should never happen to a Narth but I the Togar and the...”

Narth, no worries it happens to the best of us. You are running Ops. You did find him, right?” “Yes but not much longer. He escaped in a small pod like device and is almost out of my psionic range. He is heading for that Star System.”

“I didn't want to blame Narth, but I wondered how Swift could escape even in a space suit without using energy and being detected.” Narth said. “He used a chemical propulsion device.”

I got up and walked over and put my hand on his shoulder. “Narth, that you are my friend you know , as your Captain I tell you I could not have a better OPS officer and besides you shared your Hugavh with me remember and you told me that you also start to adopt traits of mine, you do know that I am human and have a whole load of imperfect traits.”

He raised his head and I felt his mood improve. “Indeed, that is a quite logical explanation why I possibly could have missed something.”

“Now go and help Shea. We need every hand to get out of here. If we keep using Translocators they get wise to the fact that we are not Pirates.”

--””--

I was not willing to let Swift escape, while Narth had missed the initial launch of the little one man capsule, our sensors did not. The Capsule went translight but Narth and Shea went over the scanner reports and compared them with a similar escape device still found aboard the pirate ship. It had a maximum range of about 12 light years. There was only one system within range.

We managed to stow away seventy two surviving Pirates of the Swift Profit in stasis containers and were about to transfer the last pirates and the loot Sobody insisted on when a Dai ship dropped out of Quasi Space, followed moments later by two Togar units.

The Togar immidieatly fired upon the Dai Joth-Yi destroyer, only to receive a salvo of the Dai destroyer raking their shields with nuclear plasma

I felt as if there were needles in the upholsering of my comman seat and I sat on its utmost edge, “Guys it is about time we take our leave. Shea , Narth how we are doing?”

Shea responded. “We are about to transfer the last four Diesease Eggs.”

Har-Hi got up and I nodded. “Yes go down there and make them move.”

While he left I said to Shaka. “The second SHIP tells you were are buttoned up, you hit that accelerator.”

“Aye Captain.”

Sobody came to the bridge. “Captain there is lots more loot, could we not...” “I am sorry, but I can't risk our ship and mission for a hold of pirate plunder.”

The Sare

Of course I was sweating blood and water as we had to keep the shields partially down. The simple Karthanian shields we had could be extended over the pirate ship where crew still struggled to get the last things out.

The battle between the two Togar and the Dai was about to reach its climax. The Dai ship manouvered better than the two Togar, and the Dai weapons did more damage, but the Togar had stronger shields and had more energy reserves. If the Togar would have worked together and coordinated their efforts the fight would have been over already.

SHIP said. “Everyone is back.” Mao's fist hammered on the Shield control and said, “Simulated Shields up.”

It was not a second to early as a sudden bolt of energy peppered our now raised shields. The Togar had not forgotten us, and all three were now within weapon range.

Even though we had to show the world that we had only Karthanian shields, they were fed and simulated by the Narth designed Janus projectors of our disguise and it would take a lot more than that to make our simulated shields buckle. I decided to let them worry why their blasts did not drain our shields as they should have.

Har-Hi came back and he frowned at the main viewer while Shaka was taking us to the maximum accelleration our disguise permitted.

The second Togar fired at us again and that gave the battered Dai an opening it did not waste and it hit the other Togar with a concentrated volley of all its main weapons, breaking the already strained shields of that Togar Destroyer . A secondary onslaught of Dai weapon fire sliced through the tough Togar mineral foamed composite armor and sun bright beams of destruction perforated the Togars Engineering section. That ship was one for!

Greenish plasma fire leaked a heart beat later out of the still bright glowing holes the Dai weapons had left behind.

Har- Hi had his fist clenched and slammed it on his knee. “She'll go any second now.”

We watched as s handful of escape pods detached from the doomed Togar ship, the rest of its crew didn't make it, the ship exploded violently.

The remaining Togar changed course and fired three Vagroorr Missile. Now these weren't Loki Torpedoes but the Togar were almost at par with the Kermac and out Tactical systems instructor aboard the Devi once said that 100 of these hitting simultaneously could ruin the day of a Union Battle ship.

One was intercepted by the Dai Gunners, one exploded with force in the Joth-Yi's shields and tore them down. The third was on our tail .We were commited to Threshold speed , Mao fired the Nul Froth caster and destroyed it before it could reach our aft but to escape the graviton shock wave, Shaka had to manouver and change course and that meant he had to interrupt treshhold accelereation and commit the ship to a new run. In all this I realized what a gigantic difference just two Tech levels made. The Tigershark could easily manouver at ten times the speed and it would have take us seconds and not minuted to treshhold speed.

“Shaka stop acceleration and go to zero thrust, take us around as soon as they are past us. Mao target the Swift Profits and fire when in range.”

Mao fired our simulated Nul Froth Casters and chaotic oscillating graviton waves pulled and pushed the matter of the Swift Profit in every concieveable direction, developing gravitational whirlpools and pulverizing the Swift Profits engineering and thus antimatter containment. The Swift Profit exploded.

The Dai was damaged and without shields but it still fired at the Togar. With its shields nearly gone the Togar finished of the Dai Than Destroyer, with another missile,

“Shea back on her console said. “The Togar won't go go far either. Their old fashioned reactors are overheating and whoever isn't killed by the radiation will suffocate as their life support is no longer active.”

I rubbed my hands. “Good news then, Krabbel plot a course to that star system Swift escaped.”

Elfi reported .”Captain, the Togar hailing us!”

I signaled her to put them on.

A singed Togar Commander appeared , his bridge was damaged and I could see the distinctive flicker of open fire in the smoke filled background. The Togar coughed. “Pirate, I am Roghor, commanding the Vighrr, I should command you know to stop your engines and tell you I will board you, but we are about to lose life support.and my engineers are dead so I don't know if we are to loose containment.

I appeal to you from Ship commander to ship commander to give me the honor of death and to take my surviving crew to Kalimat, don't sell them as slaves, my Lead Cats will make sure you receive a reward on Kaliment.”

Shea said. “Circuit thinks they have about 12 minuted before Containment goes.”

They were Togar, I didn't like Togar. The less of this human eating cats the better, but he was a Captain knowing his doom was imminent and he asked me to help his crew.

“Commander Roghor, you have about ten minutes before your containment fails. Tell your crew to suit up and evacuate. I give you my word I will not sell you as slaves, treat your wounded. You have my word on that. You too must leave, Commander!”

“I will give the order Pirate.”

“Any tricks or subterfuge and you will wish we were slavers!”

“No tricks Pirate.” Narth said. “There are survivors aboard the Dai wreck as well, four have survived but are injured.” I threw my hands in the air. “ Har Hi, take a few marines and see if you can get them. Hans take a team and collect the cats and make sure they are unarmed and kept in one of the empty hangars.”

Har-Hi gave me a thankful look before he left.

--””--

We spend much longer drifting in space than I hoped. We ended up collecting the few Escape pods of the first Togar as well. The hangar across our Pirate Den was the last room we had left and it was now filled with 200 tech stripped Togar cats. Not all of them, so Narth told me were happy about the Commander's decision to accept help, but Hans and his marines had stripped them one by one and even the formidable warriror cats were quite terrified as they saw Hans and TheOther.

Har-Hi had no problems evacuating the Dai, they were more dead than alive and in no shape to fight or resist.

I went down to see if the Togar Commander made it and stepped through the force field curtain that was transparent for crew of my ship only and also projected the image of an old Karthanian ship corridor as I stepped onto the Togar filled Starboard Hangar B. Most of them sat on the floor and one of my Pertharian marines in pirate costume of course was serving soup or something in plastic cups while a Takkian pushed the hover cart.

The Pertharian despite his Pirate Costume could not switch of being a Marine and as he saw me went into attention. “Captain Black Velvet on deck.” I cringed and wondered just how thin our disguise was at that point and I was certain it would take little to convince even the densest Togar that we weren't really pirates.

TheOther immideatley moved from his spot next to the door like tremendous shadow behind me.

It was a reasuring feeling to have a real Y'All warrior watching my back. Not that I felt threatened but I hated Togar and now I was in a closed room with a lot of them. While they weren't armed , they still had claws and Fangsnapper like jaws filled with dagger like teeth.

One of them got up and even though he had nothing on but his own fur, he wore his rank like an invisible aura and I knew he was Roghor the Commander, that he had singed fur was not a distinguishing feature as it appeared many of them had burn injuries. He was at least two heads taller than me and covered with short deep golden fur, except around his muscular neck and all the way to his round ears where it was dark brown and longer, surrounding his wild looking face almost like a halo. He had a broad triangular nose and the sided of his muzzle were grey. His eyes were bright yellow and his tail was thick and whisked the air in a somewhat nervous and almost independent fashion. It reminded me of my costume I wore as was with Deepa.

He crossed his broad paw like hands before his muzzle and bowed slightly then he took his long tail with one hand and held it like that. “It is not common for my kind to ask for help and now that I live I will face death by the hands of my superiors once we reach Kalimet, but it is a price we pay when we take command, is that something a pirate can understand ?”

I had to admit he kept surprising me and why would such a Commander only command a Destroyer and not a battle ship. Instead of answering his question I said, “ I seen a ship full of human body parts not so long ago, Togar. I haven't forgotten this and I most likely won't ever forget it. I know some f your warriors right now don't feel very thankful or cooperative, so there won't be a zero tolerance on my side, If one of your cats even so much as twitched a wrong muscle and makes some sort of trouble, I space the lot of you.”

I was unable to read his face or sense his emotions out of his voice as it sounded like an angry growl no matter what he said. “You will be rewarded for your decision on Kaliment, you will receive Polonium which will make this a profitable venue.”

“I came to find out why half the Togar fleet came to defend an Asteroid base, what is so valuable in that system?”

--””--

I sat in my ready room and had a secure connection to Admiral McElligott and I finished my report saying."I have the crews of the Mighty Nine and most of Swift's crew all in security stasis and as I told you I am here in this system that hasn't been surveyed and try to get Swift and if I can figure out what the story is of that planet.”

McElligott leaned back in his chair and in doing so allowed the visual sensors of his GalNet terminal pick up more of his office. It was just another office, nothing elaborate as I had somehow expected the office of the Admiral of the Fleet to look like. There were a few shelves with books, the old kind. There was a strange triangular brass object on his desk and a few PDD's strewn around. He noticed me looking and said. "This is a Sextant; it is a nautical instrument I had to learn to use when I was a Midshipman in his majesties Navy. King William that is, may he rest in Peace."

He then tabbed one of his PDD's. "The information on Cam Elf-Na confirms a few other reports I have and we are moving assets in the area to respond quickly if he decides to cross into Union Space.

Our Analysts still work on the long range scanner data and the sensor results of your KELPIES , but it looked as if he big space battle between Dai Than and Togar has not occurred and both fleets retreated, with just a few skirmishes. We too have no working theories as why the Togar and the Dai committed such massive forces over a seemingly unimportant Pirate nest. We are moving assets in the region to be able to react fast if the need arrises.

That Cam Elf Na has so many clans united is cause for concern

I am talking to Har-Hi's father right after we are done and see what he thinks we can do to prepare."

"I am sure Har-Hi will be glad to hear his father is consulted by you."

McElligott smiled. "Kar-Hi is more than an advisor to me. He became a good friend and his advice is sound and tempered with wisdom and experience. The advice of our other friend I am sure you can guess."

"I would not be able to guess the tactical and strategic decisions, Admiral Stahl might make, Sir."

"Tell me what you would do if you were me and faced with a possible Dai Incursion?"

I shrugged. "I am barely getting used to be in command of a ship, Sir."

"Just humor me."

"Well I would issue a sector alert, move ten or fifteen Battle groups in the area and hide them in nearby star systems. Then I triple Gazelle and Specter patrols all along the border. Maybe have the Corps of Engineers beef up our outposts and every floating rock with Exo Load Cannons and as much Loki Batteries as possible.

I make sure the Devi and the first fleet is in the region as well. Certainly a Battle group of Attikan Fast Battle ships to run patrol patterns between the Outposts response would be a good choice.

Then I let them come, close the back door and make sure there won't be any left to have similar ideas in the future."

The old man actually giggled and wiped a tear out of his eyes and said."Well other than the fact that he is a few thousand years older than you and that you now look quite delectable there isn't all that much difference in your and his suggestion. What you just said was, in essence what he just told me.”

I was certain I had grown a few centimeters in my seat, as deep pride filled my chest."Sir this is perhaps the greatest compliment ever. I would not dream or dare to compare myself with Admiral Stahl, but if you see similarities then I am on the right track."

The eternal Solider walked into the visual pick up. "You certainly are, Son. Get Swift of that planet, and while you are there spend a day or two on whatever you found there and then I want you to porceed to these coordinates I am trans





Now transmit your position and stop all engines and wait. The USS Shadowrunner will rendezvous with you and take those prisoners from you and bring you some supplies and an addition to your crew."

I said." Done, we are stopping right now and coordinates are transmitted."

McElligott blinked and said."Say, Captain Olafson would you not have to notify your helmsman and your Navigator?"

I said."Sir, Narth has the Conn and I relayed my orders directly to him."

Stahl pointed at a readout in front of him."Coordinates received."

McElligott poured himself a glass of whiskey and snorted. "I should have known."

Stahl helped himself to a glass as well and said. "The Intel you gathered on the Nul situation is more serious and we are still analyzing it. Cooperation between Nul and Kermac would not be a good thing, but knowing about it is half the battle. We keep you posted if we get any additional information on that and of course do the same if you run across anything as usual."

"Yes, Sir of course."

Stahl put the whiskey down. "If you can find out what it is that the Red Dragon and the Sinister Alliance are planning and if you can find out the location of their secret meeting place. After that I think we can give you guys a break and you come home to Richter Base and take that vacation we promised."


The USS Shadowrunner was just like the Chimera a disguised ship. On the outside an old Mega-Poodle, operated by a privateer and on the inside a state of the art Union ship. Just like a regular poodle, just three times as big and better armed, this Poodle had also bigger cargo holds and we transferred the pirate crews and much of the loot of the Swift Profit, as we hoped it could be returned to the families of the victims. In return we received our first Wolfcraft fighter. It was equipped with a smaller version of the Janus Device. Along with the Wolfcraft came a few crates of fresh food supplies. Not that we were anywhere near on running out and we did have Molecular reconstitution systems, that recycled 99.99% of our waste, it was nice to have fresh things and a larger variety. I stood in the Cargo hold and talked to the Captain of the Shadowrunner who was from Holstein Planet. Holstein was close to Nilfeheim and it was nice to exchange some non important local gossip. He had send over a crate of Holstein Pilsner, my favorite beer and to the delight of our chef a supply of Holstein butter. While I was standing there, a large Battle robot, bigger than a Fenris and more massive than a Cerberus came over freight tunnel that connected our ships and stomped towards me. The entire machine saluted and then remained in that position. Then a hatch on the alt least three and a half meter tall machine opened and three hand sized men appeared and they saluted again. I noticed they wore Union Black but I recognized them as Mini Terrans.

A magnifying field screen established between us and the man said. "Lieutenant Charles Bergdorf and two specialist of the New World Commonwealth reporting for Duty, Ma'am." Admiral Rutherford personally sends this Terror Mech. He thinks you might be able to use it and us."

"Welcome aboard then. I am delighted to have you aboard. Your machine looks impressive."

"Yes Ma'am it is the pinnacle of NWC technology and rivals one of our Battle ships fire power. It was conceived to answer possible invasions by large enemies and the Terror-Machine-Suit series is the latest. We have been briefed about the Tigershark's true mission and volunteered."

Har-Hi walked around the towering machine and said."If this thing equals the fire power of one of these spheres, then it exceeds a Fenris for sure."

Lt. Bergdorf said."It is also a full functioning space ship, capable of reaching destinations of over 500 light years. It maneuvers almost as good as a Wolfcraft and can operate in full robotic mode, but when I am connected to it, it can move like a human, picking up feathers, or crush steel."

I said. "I think this is a nice addition to our Marine detachment and Lt. Pure will get you situated."

Pure came and I filled him in and the three Mini Terrans returned inside their machine and followed the Attikan Marine.

I watched Sobody talking to Har-Hi and he repeated that strange move with his hand and from Har-Hi's face I could tell my Dai friend was deeply impressed.

I asked."How did you actually cut that Thauran?"

Sobody pushed the sleeve of his robe back and revealed a metal wrist band with a little hump and said. "This is a Monofilament whip. It shoots a strand of molecular thick Nonochronium metal wire. The thing is highly flexible and there is a little weight ball at the end. It is so thin it cuts through nearly everything and it can be electrified or heated to 4000 degrees if the cutting alone doesn't do the trick. It isn't useful against a fully armored person in a Union Battle suit, or against shields, but in close quarter or hand to hand situations it is deadly. It takes quite a bit of practice as it can be very dangerous to the user. It's a very old Golden weapon but I have this one now for a very long time and it turned out I still good with it, haven't used it in anger in almost 500 years, you know."

Har-Hi said."I need one of these. I think I could fit one above my dart launcher and below the bomb pellet dispenser."

Sobody smiled proudly. "This is a great compliment coming from a Dai. I have a spare one for sure and show you how to use it too." I said." Above the dart launcher and below the bomb pellet dispenser, are we talking about the arsenal you carry on one arm?"

Har-Hi shook his head. "No, only what I carry between wrist and elbow, I got a bigger list if we talk about the whole arm."

I rolled my eyes and said. "Thor's hammer, I had to ask!"

The Captain of the Shadowrunner handed me a PDD in clip board mode. "I think that is all. I got the sleeping beauties and the loot and you got the walking doll house complete with real life action figures."

I checked the list just flying over it with my eyes and because it was nice to do something that was fleet routine. Something normal captains would do every day. I loved our current mission but once in a while I wished we could be a Union ship openly. I stopped and read over the list more carefully and then said to Har-Hi who was still next to me and said," Say the Togar female isn't on this list. Aren't we transferring her too?"

Har-Hi said. "She is still at sick bay. Cateria hasn't released her."

I thanked the captain and wished him a good trip home. After our ships had separated and we were back on course to Sin 4, I went to our sickbay. I found it strange that the Togar female was still here; she didn't look that badly wounded and as far as I knew Togar were biologically similar to many mammalian species. I also remembered Narth ominous thoughts and wondered why he hadn't come back to me about it.

I never seen our sickbay other than during my first ship tour and looked forward to see Cateria in her element.

Out of thin air, Narth appeared next to me as I turned into the corridor of sickbay and he said."Apologies, Captain. I have not updated you as I am still missing certain information I am not sure how to obtain."

I stopped and said."What do you mean by that?"

"I mean I am morally hampered, it has partially to do with your sense of fairness and as I said the Hugavh share goes both ways."

"Narth, I am not complaining or expecting you to have all the answers for me all the time I just think we are not the right environment for these human flesh eaters and sending her along with the Shadowrunner would have been a good idea. However I am curious what my sense of fairness has to do with all of this." "You bought her, acting out of that very sense and I must tell you that, the Togar female was tortured and raped in the most horrible ways aboard that Pirate ship, her psychological condition is fragile and very difficult and Cateria is trying her best with old fashioned counseling and medication to help her. She didn't think having her treated like an enemy by uncaring Union authorities would good."

What he said touched me somewhere deep. I remembered as Egill had transferred me somehow into the body of a female to teach me what hell could mean and I had almost been raped by Harkun. I had not thought about this for a long time but now it returned as a vivid memory.

Narth nodded. "You see all your past experiences have formed your personality and we shared this with the Hugavh. Now the Togar female has a mental shield, preventing me from probing deeper and finding out more details. I could easily break it of course, but would basically commit the same crime on her again as these men did?"

He lowered his head. "With my increased understanding of human emotions, my own approach to things changes, I would have broken her shield without hesitation only a year ago."

"Narth, this is not a bad thing, it is what we call a conscience, and it tells us what is right and what is wrong before any laws or any rules. We humans can differentiate between good and evil and this opens a whole can of worms on such subjects as ethics and religion."

"I am still at the beginning to understand all this, but I fail to see why opening a can of worms is of any significance to this discussion. I am certain we have no can of worms in our freight manifest."

"Go ask Shea about that one later Let us check on the Togar and see if we can get her home somehow." "That is the problem I mentioned earlier." I went through the double doors of our sickbay. They had the symbol of Aesculapius over a six pointed star etched into semi transparent material. The lobby behind was white and blue and everything looked brand new and sparkling clean. Cateria wore a light blue and white coat and white pants. Her usually short cropped hair was now a little longer and gave her a somewhat gentler appearance. Her slight smile also helped."Hello Captain, what can I do for you? Is it an inspection or are my services required? Back issues perhaps, walking day in and say out in these murder heels and that rack you decided to have must do a number on your back."

"No Cateria, my back is fine and I am not here for an inspection either. I am here to inquire about the Togar female."

Cateria lost her smile and said. "Her name is Jolaj Grotha and physically she is as good as new. She comes from a matriarchal society and has been raped not once but many times and not by members of her own kind but by aliens to her, what makes it even worse. She is young, barley adult in her society and she is also perhaps the most wanted person in the Togar Empire."

Narth said."That is what I meant, if the Togar Empire becomes aware that she is alive and aboard our ship, they will try to capture us and kill her."

I said gloomy. "I didn't make a big secret out of buying her either, in a Tavern of all places. Chances are the Togar already know we got her. What has she done?"

Narth said."That is the information I was unable to obtain."

Cateria said."All I know about the Togar society is what I can find on GalNet. I am trying to win her trust so she opens up on her own. Captain I simply could not release her. What would they have done to her on Union side? She doesn't belong there, they know as much about the Togar as I do and she belongs to a society that eats humans. I asked Narth and the others not to mention her and I hoped you would forget her for a while."She looked at me intensely."I know why you bought her. To impregnate her with a virus or something and make her the instrument of her own kind's demise, and half the ship agrees with your idea."

"I said what I said as I stood in a cargo hold with thousands of dead humans, slaughtered and butchered like Fangsnappers. I saw humans herded and separated in slave pens destined for the spits of Togar grills. So my general opinion of Togar society isn't very favorable, but I don't buy sentient beings for any purpose whatsoever. I bought her to get her out of the situation she was in. I wonder what you think what kind of monster I am."

Cateria said. "I don't know you as well as the others do. I know you are fair and straight forward. I know I can trust you with my life and I am here because you showed me mercy, but I also remember how it is to be your enemy."

I didn't have any real response to that and said. "Well I am not going to kill her or kick her out, but I still like to know what we going to do with her. She isn't a prisoner. Can I talk to her?"

Cateria shrugged. "I am not the best psychiatric expert and know next to nothing about Togar, so I guess you can."

I followed her in a well lit room with a bed, curtains before a window that simulated the view onto a green sun drenched meadow. There was a desk and a chair as well. The white Togar female was on the bed and she was restrained. Cateria answered my unspoken question. "Partially to prevent her from harming herself and partially because she is a Togar with very sharp claws and teeth. Neither I nor my staff have the desire to become patients."

The Togar was really pretty, looking almost like a human woman with a skintight white fur suit, if it wasn't for the four toed claw like feet, the catlike face and the long tail. I wondered if the Pree or the UNI who supposedly seeded human life also seeded the Togar. She looked straight at the ceiling and did not move or react as we came in,

I said to Cateria."Deactivate her restraints."

"You think that is wise Captain?"

"Deactivate her restraints and leave me alone then. I don't think I am in danger."

She did and the restrains holding the Togar disappeared into the bed frame.

"Hi Jolaj, I am Freya and I am the Captain of this ship."

She did not move as she said."You bought me!"

"Only to get you away, we are on our way to Sin 4, I can even make a little side trip to Kaliment and you are free to go. You are not my property and you are not a prisoner."

"You can kill me if you want and you can use me."

"I killed the man named Swift and his men are all going to be hanged for acts of Piracy." She moved her head for the first time and looked at me." You do not show your face, you are not pirates. The ship is old on the outside but inside like we think Union might be. Why should I believe you?"

"You do not have to believe me anything. I am sorry for what happened to you, but I have a mission and a ship that comes first. I will instruct my Ships surgeon to do Psycho Surgery on you. Afterwards you will remember nothing. My ships secret is safe, you will not remember any of the bad things and we let you go on Kaliment where you can reach the Togar side easily."

"Then you are a coward and let others do your killing for you. Why not kill me right away? Any Togar that helps me is automatically sentenced to death; any Togar that kills me will gain great fortune with the Queen."

"What could you have done that is so terrible?" She turned her head away and said. "I was born."

"I can understand that you don't trust me or anyone for that matter and frankly I don't trust you. I don't particularly like Togars, I am not too fond of any species that buys and hunts my kind for food, but I hate unfair situations and yours is very unfair. So I am asking you, what is it you want?"

"Kill me, please simply kill me and all the problems are gone. The pain I feel, the trouble I cause everything will be gone and you are rid of me as well."

Why I sat down and touched her hand, I was not sure but her pain and sorrow I could almost feel physically."Death comes to us all sooner or later; there is no need to seek it out."

She turned her head and I could see the pain and the shame she felt in her big green cat eyes.

Her fine whiskers quivered and I saw the fine fur underneath her big eyes was wet. "Just kill me, please!"

I touched her cheeks and said."No worries Jolaj, I give you my word I find a solution and while this is a war ship and we will be in dangerous situations , I promise you no one will ever hurt you again while you aboard this ship and under my care."I took her paw like hand in mine and squeezed it saying."Do you believe that?"

Tears rolled down her cheeks and she nodded. "Yes I believe you."

Again I was surprised by my own actions as I pulled the dangerous alien cat being close and hugged her and she started sobbing in a strange mix of animalistic and human noises. "I am sorry for everything. I didn't ask to be born you know. I didn't ask for white fur, I am sorry for being Togar and that I have eaten human. I am sorry for being female and making them…"

Her fur was at least as soft as the one of the little Holdian commander, I did not understand everything she said as she switched between native Togar and Freeszone Squawk and many of her words were swallowed between deep sobs, but I could feel her pain and hopelessness and while I was holding her, I was suddenly reminded of Egill and could almost see him nodding with approval and I was certain I heard another voice say."As long as he can feel compassion so strongly through the female persona I have given him, all hope is not lost."

For a brief moment I wondered about my own imagination but then was distracted by the white furred Togar, I was still holding. She was crying softer now and I padded her back. I don't know how long I sat there holding the alien female, but then I noticed she had fallen asleep and I let her down, covered her and quietly left.

Cateria and Narth were still there and the Seenian CMO said to me."She hasn't slept without sedation until now, what you did was amazing. Until now I thought your female form is nothing but an act and a costume, but it is not, I see that now."

I didn't get into that and said. "Don't restrain her no more and if she wants to get up and wander around let her. Ship will keep an eye on her so she isn't wandering in restricted areas."

Cateria looked back through the door window and said."I see to it, Captain."

Narth said. "I will attempt to learn more about the Togar and maybe I can find out why white fur would be of significance."


The star system we were approaching was only nine light years from where we destroyed the Swift Profit and where Narth was certain Curtis went.

I had us drop out of Quasi just a light hour outside the system and turned to Sobody. “Do you know anything about this System? According to Union Catalogs it has only a number and was of course never surveyed as it is in Free Space.”

Sobody rubbed his bald head , that no longer sported the ugly fake scar and said. “We Golden are not explorers as you Terrans, most of what we know is from others telling us. I can't recall if it is occupied by anyone. Soon we can use GalNet to access Golden Archives and I am sure we know something about it.

Shea looked over her scanner results and said. “It's a binary star system, with dying red star two Rock Core planets, one Jovian and a few moons and planetoids. The second rock core planet appears to be a Type 3 E Garden world.”

“Energies?”

She shook her head. “Nothing with Karthanian Sensors, do you want me to light up our real ones?”

“No not yet, I was told the Kermac don't have the same quality sensors we do, but they can detect Union Sensors used.

Keep your eyes open and glued to our instruments . Shaka get us to that 3E world. I have a feeling that is where he went.”

As we closed on the second planet, Shea said. There are 49 artificial satelites in orbit around that world. Metal and very weak energy readings. Looks like nuclear decay batteries.”

“Shaka get us closer so Shea can take a better look, SHIP sound battle stations.”

Shea ws glued to her scanners and then she said. “48 of these Satelittes are Space mirrors, meant to collect sunlight and heat to make that freeze looker planet more liveable, but none of the mirrors reflect anything and appear to have only minimal power sources. The material scans and the design point to Tech Level 3.” She paused. “One of the satellite appears to be some sort of command center. Materials and Energy source match the mirrors, and it too has all appearance of Tech Level 3 but just from looking at it.”

“You do not sound very convinced.” I said looking at the now enhanced images of large square constructs with thousands of hexagonal patterned plates. Accroding to the data displayed each of those square things measured 2000 square meters, but where only a few meters thick with a parabol shaped construct on the underside, aiming at the planet below.

She said. “That command structure looks like a gigant cannon of sorts. It is over 3000 meters long and it is aimed more or less at the Union Core region. I can't deduct what it is supposed to be.”

I smiled. “It's alien and maybe we can find out what it is.”

Narth said. “I detected Swift's mind for a moment. He is down on that planet, and he is afraid, but now he slipped past my range again. “He sounded appologetic as he added.”It is still quite a distance.”

“Any other life or thoughts?”

He concentrated for a few moments and then said. “I am not certain. I had the impression of some very faint, very distant thoughts. Like a murmur without real substance or meaning.”

“Shaka, put us in a geostationary orbit roughly over the spot where Narth felt Swift's mind and Shea light up our science and life sensors. They don't have trans light emissions right?”

“No Life science sensors are have a very limited range.”

Har-Hi said. “You know all this pirate business should be my favorite mission, but I must admit this is why I really wanted to be a Union Officer. Exploring a new star system, finding something unusual and unexpected.” He pointed his gloved finger at me. “Please don't ever tell that to my father or any other Dai for that matter.”

I laughed. “If you don't tell any Nilfeheim Viking that I dressed up like a Pirate Chick.”

He grinned. “It's a deal, Captain.”

Krabbel said. “Please let me be part of an away mission this time. I know there won't be many chances for me to pretend to be a Pirate as there aren't any Archas outside the Union, but here it's not about our mission, right?”

“Well it is part of our mission Krabbel. We are here to catch Curtis Swift, but we did stumble upon a mystery and if there is an away mission you be on it, besides you don't have to be an Archa, you could be a spider being from some distant regions. I never planned to keep you on the sidelines.”

Har-Hi gestured to the floating mirrors. “Looks like they are crusted over with dust or something and that is why they don't work.”

Shea also looked at it and said. “For structures like this to attract that much dust in deep space means they must be very old. How are we going to do this Captain?” “We stay up here and you and your department prepare a detailed report from what you can determine with sensors and you are authorized to launch a probe to get a closer look.” To Narth I said. “And you my friend are ordered to relax and sleep for a few hours. You have teleported, mind scanned and probed with your Psionics for quite a while now and I know you too need rest.”

“But Curtis Swift?”

“We find someone to man OPS and he should not be able to leave that world without us noticing. We will have a meeting in 6 hours and in the meantime SHIP stand down from Battle Stations but maintain Condition Orange.”

I am going to update the Admiral and catch a few winks myself.”




We had reached the Sin system and as always I had us drop out of Quasi-space in the outmost regions of the star system. I said. "Maintain course to Sin 4 and steady as she goes. Mr. Shaka."

"Aye Captain, keeping it all well within the limits for a Kartanian."

"Elfi keep your ears open and record all comm. traffic. Ship help her please."

"Already on it, Captain, search patterns for Pirate name activity, Mil tech offers in effect." "Narth and Shea make sure you don't use any active scanner beams we are not supposed to have."

"We adjusted our active Sensors to match our Disguise." Har-Hi handed me a PDD in clipboard mode and said"Arrival at Sin 4 or not, it is 0900 Union time and that means you got to sign the daily order sheet, Moi Captain. Only with your signature can I process them."

"Where is Ms. O'Connell's is that not her duty?"

"Her duty yes, but since you decided to pull two shifts and throw my carefully arranged shift planning in chaos, she is off duty." I blinked guilty and said. "I just wanted to be on the bridge myself when we arrived. I somehow hoped never to set foot o Sin 4 again and yet here we are."

Shea sighed at that and said. "I can't help but think the same way and this dirt ball is supposed to be my home."

I said. "Your home is where you make it and not where fate puts you when you are born. At least we arrive in a nice ship this time and at least I am not bound and can go to the bathroom anytime I want."

Everyone looked at me and I said. "Well the first time I arrived here I was bound and I needed to go to the bathroom real bad. It's not a story I should tell you all, but not being able to go can be real painful."

Har-Hi said. "No one is laughing Captain. This makes your accomplishment to escape bare feet and without any resources even more amazing. You didn't go into great details when you told us how you escaped your tormentor, but I can imagine it was much more difficult as you let on."

"Maybe I tell you one day, right now we got a job to do and we are the first federation ship in this system and while we are here we might as well collect some data and upgrade our catalogs and information on this system."

The Golden One came onto the bridge and Ship said to me. "I asked Sobody to the bridge to help Elfi with the Comm traffic analysis."

"It's all good Ship. I think we can throw regulation 563.43 B out the window with many of the other regulations regarding proper bridge conduct. Besides you are not just the AI but you do carry rank and you are an Officer."

Sobody looked over to the busy science console and said. "Captain, we are supposed to be pirates! Pirates don't survey, measure and explore."

I smiled answering "Not to worry Ancient Merchant. We won't launch any probes or send survey teams to the other planets."

Har Hi, who stood with crossed arms next to my seat, watching the science crew do their job, turned to the Golden and said. "Even you might be surprised at the data we can collect just with our sensors. I doubt there is another species that elevated scientific sensor analysis to such a science as the Union."

Sobody agreed saying. "This is one of the reasons I am such a fan of the Terrans and the Union, Mr. Hi."

Shea looked at her readouts and reported: "None of the other planets are used or occupied as far as I can tell; there are no energy signatures or materials concentrations that would suggest artificial manipulation or presence. Yet it appears that there are several candidates with promising mineral and metal riches."

Har-Hi said. "Crooks don't mine and those who do don't want to mine and have the fruits of their labor stolen or taken away. So I guess that is the reason no one is mining out here,"

She nodded and returned looking at her read outs and I knew her well enough that I could tell in her body language she found something, so I asked. Lt. Schwartz is there anything I should know about?"

"No Capitan it is not anything that would affect us or the mission in any way. The Sun is a Spectral Type O2 and..." She stopped in mid sentence and kept looking at her read outs. She turned." It is my home system Captain but I never had the chance to scan our sun before. This star is unstable and I am running a simulation through Ship right now, and a Nova eruption is likely to occur within the next two or three hundred years."

I responded saying. "It won't affect our mission then, because I hope we all will be somewhere else by then. Maybe the situation has changed by then, and Wurgus Solar Engineers could stabilize that sun."

Narth was also busy on his console and said. "Captain there is a lot of traffic in this system and I am detecting weapon fire on nine different locations within the system. Mao analyzed the conflicts and concluded that none of the fights are connected."

Mao did not take his eyes of his read outs and confirmed what Narth had said. "Narth send me the scanner data but I can't see any correlation between any of these shoot outs. It appears no big ships are involved. Weapon energies exchanged are consistent with armed system shuttles and the like." Shea said. "That is normal. There is only one law here, the law of the stronger. There are always quarrels and fights anywhere on or around Sin 4"

I leaned back." Har Hi sound Battle stations anyway. I like to be ready."

"Aye Captain! General Quarters!"

We reached the Planet without any incident and Shaka took us into a standard orbit around the Garden world that was known as SIN4.

It had only two continent and several large islands. The rest was Ocean. Even from space the upper continent didn't look very inviting. It was gray and looked dirty. There was visible pollution oozing from one of the large islands in a gray smear into the greenish oceans.

"So how do we land?" I asked."Did anyone hail us?" this question I directed to Elfi. The beautiful Saran woman answered. "There is lots of activity on all channels, but no one is taking any interest in us, Sir."

Narth checked his scanners and said. "No one has even noticed us."

Wetmouth said. "We simply land. There are a few space ports but there is no active landing control. I suggest we land at the Gorotolah expand if it is still there. It is the largest space port on the southern most edge of the Continent."

She waved her hands over the main viewer and magnified a section of the planet below and pointed at an area. I was certain it was the same spaceport I had been before, as it had the Ocean close by.

Shaka was under his Virtu Helmet but unlike most other Virtu Helmsmen he always paid attention what happened on the bridge and participated in our conversations and he said. "I am on Ship vision and can see it and there are other ships as well."

I smiled at Shea and then said. "Shaka take us down there; put us as far away from the other ships as possible. Mao keep our shields active and Narth double check the Janus system."

We landed on the same cracked and crumbling, Duro-Crete field I had been before. I recognized the tall Duro-crete wall in the distance, but most of the Skeleton hand spider infested terminal was gone, and there was still a crater where the SII ship had blasted one of the Spaceports turrets away. To my utter surprise I recognized the now completely salvaged and butchered hulk of the Kartanian courier ship I had arrived here on Sin 4 not so long ago. It was nothing more than a twisted wreck, but I recognized its hull shape,

Nothing much had changed; there were the same garbage fires, piles of waste and filth.

Shaka took off his helmet and shook his head looking at the main viewer saying. "Good lord, what a dump. If this is such a lawless place, who actually build this spaceport? It looks it has been a well planned facility once."

I looked into the direction of our geek squad and said."Good question."

It was Sobody who had the answer as neither Shea nor Narth seemed to know. He said." It is a little known side note of Galactic History. After the first signing, the Nioban did not want to have any more meetings on their world and the Big Four looked for another place where they could meet, sort of a neutral ground place. This planet was chosen, and the Kartanian smelling the opportunity to do business with the Big Four build this space port, the terminal and the original city. It never happened. The Nioban changed their mind and so everyone meets at Crossroads, a Nioban world and not here. The Kartanian abandoned the world and since it was in Freespace and had a city and space port for the taking it didn't take long for pirates and similar vermin to find this place. Syndicate Families developed and it all turned into the Sin 4 we all know today."

Shea said. "Not that anyone had the right to take this world as it has a sentient native population."

Elfi said. "Someone did notice us and we are being hailed."

I settled back down in my seat and put on my mask then said. "I am ready, put it on."

The being looked like an Oghar mixed with a Shiss and looked quite frightening. "We are calling the Silver Streak."

I said. "Looks like you got our attention. Speak up, what is it you want?"

"We know who you are Captain Velvet, your reputation travels faster than your ship.

"Put it on."

"This is indeed Captain Black Velvet of the Silver Streak. Whom do I have the dubious honor to talk with?"

The answer came right away. The voice sounded rough and somewhat high pitched and I could hear other voices in the background. "Captain Velvet, you are talking to the Gorotolah Spaceport Protection Agency. We heard of you and your ship and we know you are a successful pirate. We are very happy you choose to land on our port. However this is a dangerous place and we can only guarantee your safety for 20,000 Polo coins, or goods of similar value. If you decide not to pay or to leave we are forced to use our DE guns on you. We have two large DE turrets aimed directly at you. You have exactly 20 minutes to comply. A group of our associates will approach in a floater and expect payment to be transferred."

Mao manipulated the main viewer and magnified a set of buildings across the landing field. Indeed there was a bunker like building with a force field surrounding it and a set of DE turrets on top aiming at us. Mao said. "Captain, those pea shooters won't even dent our armor without shields. They don't have anything big enough to put us in any real danger."

Har Hi agreed. "They are bluffing and hope we don't know, but there aren't any weapons big enough on a planet that could seriously harm a ship of our size, even if we really would be a Kartanian Freighter with original shields. Any weapon big enough they could bring to bear that could crack our shields would seriously damage a huge area around us. This isn't a Poodle."

I nodded and said."Elfi can you pinpoint the location of the transmission?"

She moved her hands over her console and responded. "Yes Captain I have localized it to that transmitter array over there."

I pointed at the turrets and said." Mao fire our simulated Froth Caster and place a 5 gram TL bomb right where that transmission originates. That should do as payment."

From the outside it looked as if our Nul turret fired, the Translocator load was invisible and undetectable.

The result was more than I expected. The 5 gram antimatter exploded and obliterated not only the bunker and the building with the transmitter but the entire building complex with a tremendous fire cloud."

Har-Hi coughed into his fist and rubbed his fingernails on his jacket."I don't think this is what they had in mind when they asked for goods of similar value, Captain."

Shea shrugged. "I doubt anyone really will notice and others will take their place and try a similar scam."

I got up from the seat, and said. "Let's have a conference in the Den to figure out what we need to do and how we are going to do it."


Har-Hi was standing and said. "There are three reasons we came here for. Number One to find the Terran Weapons Dealer and shut him down. Number Two is to find out where the Sinister Alliance is meeting and what they are planning and number three on our list of things to do is, identify pirates and freelancers that are on the wanted list of Union Police, with focus on the Red Dragon."

Hans spread out a series of high resolution pictures of three space ships. These are the ships that share the landing area with us right now. All three are operated by notorious outlaws and pirates. I prepared dossiers on each of them from what data we have available. As for the Mil-Tech dealer I would like to go into the city and gather some Intel on that."

Hans managed to look embarrassed and said. "I am not the first time on Sin 4 either and have some contacts and a reputation here, even though I am supposed to be dead."

I said. "Not that I want to sound nosy or anything like that, but could you be a tad more specific?"

He looked down on the table surface and said. "Before I joined the Fleet I was fighting for money in one of the big Arenas here. Nothing to be proud of but back then I was a young punk with no brain and an expensive taste."

"You?" Was all I could say. Hans was always so correct and straight.

He grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, me, I was known as the Terror Hammer and fought in the top league. I still have some connections here. Golden said he would come along as well." "I can't simply allow you go outside Mr. Merchant. It is very dangerous out there and how would they react to the Merchant of Merchants to be here?" He smiled and said. "You worry too much Captain, Cateria will do some plastic surgery again and add the ugly branding of the Expelled on my head and besides even us Golden have a hard time to keep us apart. To any stranger we look very much alike." He then looked up to Hans and said. "I think I could help out there more than I can do here, Sin 4 is a rotten place but it runs on money and business and that's what I know best."

I sighed. "You know how to make a point but be careful and stay with Hans."

Shea said. "I would like to go to the temple and get a few things."

"How will you get there safely?"

"I call the temple and have me picked up."

Elfi was next and said. "Ship and I decoded a message send from one of the pirate ships out there. The ship identified as the Merchants Sorrow and commanded by Sodex the Wild was contacted by the Red Dragon and the message tells Sodex, that the Red Dragon will be here I seven days and participate in the semi-annual Pirates market."

I acknowledged her report and said to Hans and Sobody. "Well we are here for at least that long so you may go and do your Intel-gathering but keep in touch and report in as often as you can."

Sobody and Hans agreed to do that.

Now it was Narth who got up and I said to him. "Don't tell me you too have been on Sin 4 before as well."

He shook his shrouded head. "Not in a corporal sense no, but I did share some of your experiences while you have been here. I got up as it seems that what everyone does when reporting. I am addressing you in my capacity as OPS officer and it is part of my duty and my department to allocate resources and delegate projects. The OPS department is often called the XO's …"

I interrupted him. "Not that I mind a refresher course about what OPS is but I am sure you had another reason for getting up , right?" He said." Oh yes, of course. I have a request from Ensign Dien Tallow."

I actually remembered the name from some list I signed or someone I greeted, so I said. "I think I heard the name and I believe it is someone of our science department. Is he from Sin 4?"

"No Captain, as you correctly remembered he is a member of our science department. He is quite a brilliant and talented Scientist with Sociology, Xeno Archeology, Biology, Microbiology and Xenoentomology as his main fields of expertise. He had an interesting proposal and suggestion."

Narth waved the man over. He was human and one of those who would not stand out in a crowd of one. He looked older than most Ensigns but then he went the Science Corps route and they often tended to be older. He saluted me and he managed to make a military greeting look shy and weak. I told him that no one had to salute here in the Pirate's Den and encouraged him to simply tell e his suggestion."

He said. "Captain, we are the first Union ship on Sin 4 and I heard we might have a few days time, so I would like to propose we survey the planet. I am aware of our mission but I think we can do it hidden and not obvious. The southern continent and some of the islands, and especially Trash Island are of particular interest to me."

Yeoman O'Connell had appeared behind me in her usual quiet way and held a mug of coffee I was so getting used to her punctuality that, I grabbed the mug before I even acknowledged and thanked her. To the scientist I said. "I am not opposed to your idea, but we have a cover to maintain."

He pointed to Cirruit and said. "Ma'am, the Chief Engineer and his team has modified one of our Armadillos to make it look old and non Union. I studied as much about Sin 4 as possible since it was a possibility we would come here. Visiting Trash Island would be a highlight in my scientific career, Ma'am."

I sipped at m coffee and asked. "Why is this island of such interest to you?"

"Unrestricted transfer of goods and life forms for almost 500 years; from all regions of our galaxy must have created a very unique environment, especially in terms of vermin."

Shea agreed. "It sure would be an interesting expedition and no one but Skaakh and Stiks live on Trash Island."

I finished my coffee and said."Alright I approve it, but I better go along to make sure our science crew isn't overdoing things."


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