As the Halpen fled Dragon pass another made their way to Tinurth, in another part of the wastelands. This area and indeed the planet, which had been a trading highway, had been abandoned, for most life forms had vanished from this system. The term ‘most life forms’ would not describe Hardon Williams, in any of the numerous languages/dialects in this piece of space. Adventurer, vagabond, womaniser or drifter, the description of Hardon might even stretch the vocabulary of a word-smith.
His Dove-wing flyer, the Necromancer, had many improvements from its original design specifications; one in which he had invested a wad of negotiable coin of the realm, was the engine configuration. Designed and installed by an Illurian it was superior to those built by the Xinian artificers. The redesigned motors ran on the principle of hydrogen-mass conversion and the light speed achieved ensured that Hardon came away from any negotiation with all his parts intact.
Another innovation had been the weapons. He had insisted on energy form generators instead of the single stream laser, in vogue for a short time and rapidly disproved as the owners disappeared. And of course the mass projectiles for anything bigger than a cruiser had been prudent and economical. The addition of a light refractor to give the ship the benefit of a wavering form, or more succinctly becoming a shadow when the light favoured such a tactic had improved his trade negotiations by the power of one prime figure.
So, why was this fine figure of an intelligent, economical and organised human being stuck on an inhospitable escarpment in a wasteland, with his flyer stationary and parked on the flatlands below? The thick red hair pinned to his scalp by the wrap around head cover itched. The gloved hand pushed at the slightly skewed nose, more to see if it had any life as the eyes scanned the incline of the opposing slope leading from the edge of the escarpment to the bare land below.
‘Not too much of a drop, the slide will be fun. I’d say that Garrick wont’ be making this rendezvous. I was stupid to come, not much profit in it, more the curiosity value.
Nevertheless, a long lost jewel from a royal collection sounds like something you would find on Earth, certainly not out here, but diamonds have their uses, more than a fridbit of jewellery for a woman’s arm. The pulse generator needs a new one. Oh well, maybe another day.’ With the last word, he jumped forward feet first hurtling down the slope of loose sand and scree.
Minutes later he stood at the door of his flyer as the sentry droid reported activity in the space above the planet.
‘Sir, an unidentified ship has entered orbit. It does not match the configuration of the vehicle on the log.’
‘Fine Andros, let’s get on board, activate the energy shields, warm up the guns, and would you mind, a cup of tea as well please.’
As the door closed, gliding on plas-wheels, Hardon sat at the console amidships, where he could see forward and around through the mag windows. Above and slightly forward, the screen showed pictures of the planets ionosphere.
The triangular lines flowed intersecting with a pulsing dot. ‘We have contact Andros – lift off and into orbit and we’ll have a look at our visitor.’
As the Necromancer lifted off, drawing on the planets natural gravitational forces and aligning the magnetic waves, the dove-wing accelerated slowly. Flying through varying layers of atmosphere the sleek craft engaged shadow-drive and entered the ionosphere. The pulsing dot soon appeared as a cruiser – an unmarked cruiser.
‘Andros, move us out of here –quickly. I don’t want to play with a cruiser – what the hell do they want – because there is nothing down there they could possibly need - or are they scouting – a bit big for a scout. Take us along the horizon and head for the other side of this planets moon. We will come around the other side as he goes to ground, then we are out of this quadrant, there may be more.’
Still scratching his thick head of hair, the itch remained; his other hand took the proffered cup of tea. ‘Ah Andros, the tea is the correct temperature, thank you.’ One hand held the cup, whilst the other caressed the armaments pod. The cruiser was no match for the Necromancer but he knew there would be a base or Mother –ship out there somewhere in space.
The air around him inside the ship was a warm 33 degrees whilst the air outside, that is the vacuum of space he did not want to know about. The more of it between him and the stranger was what concerned him and the whereabouts of his contact and why they had not made the meeting.
Steaks of anti-matter trailed behind the Necromancer as it put the satellite moon between it and the unknown menace of a battle cruiser. The droid set course for the next habitable planet, Illuria.
‘Try to contact our source Andros, the tri-beam should do it, as long as it doesn’t bounce off anything and get picked up by our friend out there.’ His hand waved at the planet they just left and the now orbiting battle cruiser. The well-used thumb and first finger twirled the spoon, pushing at long dissolved and expensive organic sweetener, sugar.
Triluminal distance narrowed between where the Necromancer was and where it had to go. Distance in space was perceived, certainly not actual, you could be some distance from here, or from a planet, but from two places in space the distance was Triluminal, a time distance not a spaced distance.
The night had swept across the southern hemisphere slowly. The second moon would make its ascendancy towards the darkest hour, so twilight reigned, bringing just enough light for the inhabitants to continue trading and bartering in the open air market at the centre of the town.
Harden had landed at the port and taken a flyer into the central business sector where he made his way through the throng to one particular building. Ascending to the floor he wanted, this company could not afford a flyer arrival point, so it was the old lift. He walked into the vestibule to be met by a droid. His security card scrutinised he sat and waited.
The Illurian he waited for - Tar’kel, the name was shortened for Terrans, as our teeth are blunter and our tongue does not have the elasticity needed-was his contact, among other interests, for speedy acquisitions: those that circumvented the exorbitant taxes and ‘t,aitha’ – the time honoured bribes.
A triumvirate of powerful people currently dominated Illuria; capitalism the terran way had not made inroads –yet. That would come,’ he smiled, ‘and would it, before all my birthdays have come and gone?’ Harden had been here before; the waiting area was spacious with tubed chairs and tables with an assortment of plants and books placed in alcoves. The carpet was made of the modern fibre – self-cleaning and each day changed colour depending on the particular weather outside the glassed recesses - called windows on Earth.
The Illurian had two varying persona. His work entailed freight between Illuria and the outlying settlements, sometimes off world, but his main task was as head of an interplanetary group interested in restoring free trade commerce between planets. To this end, he had formed relationships with several influential people and Harden was one of his off world contacts.
Harden had also heard of an intergalactic war raging without end and considered the possibility that this meeting had more reasons than he had been told. ‘I need the diamond for the pulse generator, and probably Garrick has found another buyer. Tar’kel could have simply off-loaded it at the warehouse, instead he had insisted on this meeting. Diamonds, this far from the source, were a rarity, and I could use Ilithian crystal instead, but the difference was as between steel and plas-chrome.’ The door across from him opened and the flipit of white hair preceded a tall Illurian who stepped out and glided, instead of walked, as if he was still in low gravity to Harden and grasping him by the arm said, ‘come’.
As Harden went to his meeting with the enigmatic Tar’kel the war was coming to Harden, sooner than he expected.