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  #11  
Old November 26th, 2017, 04:30 AM
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For those wondering, I still have that action sequence stored on my HD, so the forum update did not destroy it. But, like all the stuff I've posted here, it's raw, unedited, and I even didn't go over it with the spell checker. Meaning that if I do repost it, then it'll be a bit more polished. But here's another scene in the life of Richard Aston, Scout extraordinaire.

Flight Captain Richard Aston hung over the railing of the dark chocolate brown wooden sailing vessel, his feet resting on equally brown planking that had been scrubbed and rescrubbed over the years (perhaps centuries) of a galleon like sailing vessel that had plied Focaline’s aqua marine green seas. The size of the swells and light sporadic green coat of moss on aged planks didn’t instill great confidence as he fought with his physiology to keep the last of his lunch safely sealed in his stomach. The dull shimmer of the sea was not the bight glisten of a sunny day, but told of a weak storm that had dispersed and was on its way of dissolving until the next storm front came along.

Focaline was listed as having a dense atmosphere, but to Aston it felt like any other planet’s air, but was just a little heavier on the lungs, though otherwise very breathable to the point of being unnoticeable. If anything, it helped ease his motion sickness, or so he convinced himself as he continued to both argue and appease his body with his rail prone posture.

Aston was a spacer. A pilot with engineering knowledge and enough combat savvy to handle a weapon. He had sailed when he was young, but not for years, and certainly not on the high seas with mountainous swells as he was now in. How he let himself get talked into riding the waves in a wind powered ship that he’ll never fully understand. Were it not for the fact that Focaline was a relatively recently settled world (in the last thousand years or so), he would have sworn this galleon had been built during mankind’s infancy when Spain was raiding meso-American treasuries. He felt his innards descend and glide down with the ship as it descended into a valley like trough between swells, and then his nerves lining his organs would cry out in panic as the ship changed vectors to ascend another wave compressing his organs until the ship crested the next wave, and put his body in an ever so brief sensation of freefall.

It made him sick. Sick to his stomach. Sick all over.

He made a mental note to file a complaint when he got pack to port. The woman in charge of the operation asserted notions about powered vehicles scaring away the local undersea fauna, which would have defeated the purposes of taking a census to see what kind of effect off world poachers were having on the ocean’s biosphere. At this point Aston didn’t care if the whole planet were raided by illegal fisheries from here all the way to Core, next time he was going to take a scout ship at full thrust through the waves, and to heck with the consequences.

For Aston it was another op, only a bit more routine. Illegal fishing from poachers hiring vessels with scoops, either just running roughshod of ATF instructions and diving into the oceans to scoop up large illegal quantities of rare species, or making the pretense of needing fuel and hoping the local starport would let them fill their tanks far off shore or out of sight and out of mind of any law enforcement, all the while still partaking in the same illegal practice, was a serious issue.

Well, at least there were no pirates to contend with, no intel gathering (or not as such anyway), this was a genuine scout mission to survey the world, her undersea habitats and what effects they had suffered from illegal fishing.

Aston briefly looked up at the multilayered stratospheric clouds. The swells seemed to settle some, and the heavenly sight of one layer of white-gray cloud hovering over another spanning miles and leaving brief patches of blue sky, seemed to ease both his mind and body. It was beautiful. It wasn’t the stark clear teal with light mist haze on the horizon and blinding shimmer that was so characteristic of sunny ocean skies, but something more picturesque. That, and there were no thunderheads, just gentle lazy layers of mist floating a mile or more above his head. Somehow it soothed him. Even so was still sick, and he bent his head back down waiting for another biological surrender of his stomach’s contents. But it never came, just the desire to be on flat stable land.

“You okay, Richard?”

Aston looked up to see Peter Ray’s bright grin. He could have sword his medical officer was taking sadistic delight in his predicament.

“Do I look okay?” Aston half smiled trying to make light of his reply.

“Was it the milkshake?” Peter tried to stifle his laugh, but unsuccessfully, referring to the fast food meal Aston binged on just before departure, largely because it was first to succumb to the ocean’s swells. Peter ’s grin broadened impishly.

“You’re a funny man.” Aston shook his head. “Doctor, I do believe you’re enjoying this.”

“It’ll teach you not to ignore your friend and doctor’s advice next time. I asked if you wanted some dimenhydrinate before shoving off, mister veteran yacht racer.” Peter rammed that last phrase home, and all Aston could do was make a half-hearted effort of rolling his eyes.

“Hmmmm….” Came the low rumble of a familiar voice.

“Oh great.” Aston managed to utter knowing the voice the behemoth monstrosity it belonged to. He didn’t need to glance over his shoulder to see the half ton medical science attaché replete with giant horn on it snout, rhino-like body, and at least one set of hands on its hips coupled with a long broad grin. For a half-ton crew member Grog was incredibly stealthy.

“A drip comprised of diphenhydramine and number-eight-chlorotheophylline is prescribed.” Grog was one of the top-rated medics and xeno-biologists in the service, but like all Virushi he was annoyingly uncooperative and helpful all at once. Why he had been assigned as a both an observer and medic, Aston didn’t understand, but he was here, and, like all his kind, he was a pain in the backside.
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  #12  
Old November 26th, 2017, 04:38 AM
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Grog, again like all Virushi, wouldn’t take orders, couldn’t be threatened without him laughing it off, and constantly had to be convinced, argued with, coaxed, cajoled, and otherwise enticed to do normal everyday duties, but was the first to offer help and suggestion of help when it came to headaches and queasy stomachs. In short, Aston didn’t like him, understood the nature of his species, and honestly didn’t understand why the Imperium let these people serve in any of the services when they didn’t acknowledge hierarchies.

Having been with Grog for several weeks during transit to this world prior to embarking on this wooden crate, Aston had had about enough, “You listen to me, mister Gr—”

“Peter! Peter!” Vash came running down from the forecastle calling out the medic’s name, “Where’s Richard?!”

“Down here!” Peter waved the Vargr over, then gave Aston a pointed look “Taking in the fresh air.”

Aston gave Peter his best hybrid angry-miserable look as Vash, tongue hanging out, ears perked with a hint of a smile, came sliding to a halt on the damp wooden deck.

“We spotted one!” Vash’s tail and smile betrayed his hunter’s instinct as he reveled in an exciting discovery.

Aston, still hanging on to the railing, looked in Vash’s direction, “One what?”

“A borak. You know those taco things they were selling at the pier? Those things with the salty sweet meat?”

Asto0n shook his head.

Vash shook his head, “The things that are the reason you’re sick and hanging over the railing?”

Aston scrunched his lips, “Touche.” then levelled a cool gaze out at the horizon, “Does everyone have a comment on my sea sickness?”

Peter turned to Vash, “What about it?”

“We spotted one! It’s off the port quarter and paralleling us. Well, kind of. More like zig zagging.”

Aston shook his head. “Great. Look, didn’t your ancestors run across grass plains hunting down elk and stuff? How did you become the expert fisherman all of a sudden?”

It was Vash’s turn to scrunch his canine mouth, “Is that another racist jab, because you’re the one tossing his cookies over the side, not me. I thought you guys mastered the sea when you were still apes, or did that gene skip your family?”

Aston waved him off, “Alright alright alright, but what the heck is the big deal? We’re here to tally fish and survey the local habitats.”

“I’ve been talking to the skipper.” Vash replied, “And he says these things swallow more fish than any of the poachers who come skim the oceans. Isn’t that great?!”

“What,” Peter began, “You mean we wasted our time coming here?”

Vash shrugged as he stabilized himself against Grog with the vessel’s pitching and rolling, “I’m just telling you what he told me, and that we’ve found one.”

That’s when Grog went into action, pulling a small hand held syringe with thousands of micro-needles on a curved head. He measured a portion of what Aston called one of “Peter’s potions”.

A two massive strong grey callous coated hands with fingers the size of tree branches grabbed Aston’s arm, then Grog jabbed the high tech syringe into Aston’s sleeved arm.

“Ow! Hey!” Aston protested.

Grog grinned, “That should do it. I recommend sleep afterwards. No food for a while.” He continued to hold onto Aston’s arm, and with his free set of hands attached a vitamin supplement into the syringe and stabbed Aston once more.

“Ow! What the heck?!”

Grog merely grinned as he put his instruments away and gently released Aston’s arm.

Aston waved off the rhino-like being, then noticed that Vash was still looking at him, anticipating an answer. Aston then looked back at his engineer-gunner “Okay, I’ll be there.”

“You won’t regret it.” Vash brightly replied. “It’s like a giant fur snake, as wide as a swimming pool nearly a mile long, but incredibly agile. And man, they taste good!”

Aston half laughed, “Well, keep in mind this a survey mission, we’re not on a whaler.”

Vash perked his ears and tilted his head, “A what?”

Peter laughed, “He’ll be there. Go make sure we don’t lose track of it.”

Vash made a “Hah!” kind of noise with his mouth open and tongue hanging out before he took off with a smile on his face. That’s when Grog launched into a dietary lecture of what was good to eat at sea and settle uneasy stomachs.

“Shut up.” Aston said, “and that’s order.”

But Grog merely chortled deep and long before describing Aston’s psychological state. Aston turned his gaze back at sea as he shook his head and rolled his eyes.

Some minutes later, pretending he was still listening to his mission specialist, Aston managed to induce himself pry his body away from the railing, and half staggered towards the fore and up the stairs to the ship’s fo'c's'le. He expected Grog to protest, but the large alien merely amusingly hummed again and watched Aston make his way deck side where a good portion of the crew was crowded just aft of the bowsprit.

The collection of mostly male crewmen, some barefoot, dressed in sea and sweat stained clothes, pointed and gawked at the large shadowy silhouette eerily embedded in the waves, and stretching beyond sight. Aston couldn’t make out their dialect their accents were so thick and strong, but Vash seemed to be accepted among them as he bantered and asked questions.

Aston caught site of Peter before grabbing some of the rigging to steady himself to make his way forward. “Did you see it?”

Peter looked back at him, “It’s huge.” The awe in his voice was palpable.

“Have ya’seen it?” A loud booming voice, human and familiar, Aston turned to see Captain John Morgan’s hulking figure standing behind them.

The galleon dipped and splashed into a wave, the spray hit everyone, and from the next wave ahead leaping out of the swell like missile from an ancient submarine, was the creature Vash described. It had a vast armored head with a tubular body the size of a freight train covered with a kind of series of thick sized hairs, wide at the base and sharpening to a fine point at the end, each the length of fully grown man.

Aston’s eyes widened, mouth agape he began “Holy…” just as the beast snapped it’s jaws.

Its mouth was a giant armored maw and when it snapped it sounded like a steel trap for an elephant before plunging headlong back into the ocean, it’s massive body arcing like a massive sequoia back into brine.

“Aye! There’s yer poacher!” Morgan laughed loud and large, his voice booming with gusto and native pride as he shared his wisdom. “There ain’t been a starship dippin’ its metal nose in these waters for ages! And now ya see why.” He finished off with a hearty laugh.

Aston’s eyes were wide with fright as he looked back at the man reveling in the sight. Aston liked the beach and loved inland and offshore sailing, but deep alien oceans on far off worlds with monster sized fauna that could swallow entire ships was another matter entirely. To heck with regulations and whatever number of mission specialists he had on his next op, if it involved the ocean he was taking a scout ship at minimum, and would fly over, under or through the swells regardless of what native species were scared off by the engines’ roar.

Aston looked sheepishly at Morgan, “I’ll have to consult with …” he paused as he shook his head and rolled his eyes once more more, “… with, Grog.” He finished, keeping his voice above the crash of the waves striking the bow.

Morgan looked at him perplexed, “Grog? At a time like this? This is what ya came fer. It’s no time to be drinklin’”

Aston grinned and shook his head, “No, Grog, the Virushi on the main deck.”

Morgan looked at Aston with a furled brow.

“The big rhino-thing with the four arms and hands, and the big horn on his nose. You know. The Virushi.” Aston pointed to Grog who was making himself useful on the main lower deck tossing sample gather flasks over the side attached by test line. Grog would wait a moment, then haul one up and scan the sample water with some kind of analyzer that Aston hadn’t seen before.

“Oh! Him!” Morgan suddenly understood. “Well, I don’t know what he knows that my crew doesn’t, but you scout types know your business I guess.”

Aston didn’t comment, and didn’t dare share the fact that he couldn’t stand Grog’s placating attitude. “Thanks.” Was all he could master as a reply.

One of the crew shouted something that Aston couldn’t understand.
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  #13  
Old November 27th, 2017, 06:18 AM
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But as Aston continued to hang onto the ship’s rigging he could see to where he was pointing, and sure enough the borak leapt out of the ocean again, its huge body arcing like a sea serpent of legend.

“What’s everyone gathered up here for?”

Peter pointed to the borak spearing another wave.

“My god.” She flatly stated.

Another familiar voice, but female this time, and older. Aston glanced over to see Marissa Slater, another so-called mission specialist who had at least ten years (more like fifteen if not more) on Aston. Aston oversaw the ship, and in some odd quirk of rank mish-mash, was the overall supervisor for the mission, but Marissa was the senior specialist and in charge of the actual data collecting and analysis, which meant she also called the shots.

It didn’t matter. She had her job and Aston had his, but she knew that Aston wasn’t partial to Grog, and even had to step on Aston’s toes every now and then to assert her authority over both Grog and the mission, whatever that meant. Aston didn’t care in his semi-sick state, though he had to admit, whatever Grog had pumped into his system seemed to be working.

“Are we safe?” Marissa asked blithely to anybody with an answer.

“As long as it keeps playing in front of us.” Morgan answered. “If it turns back towards us, then we’re in for a wee spot o’ trouble.”

Aston hung onto the throwback to horsehair and hemp rope line holding sail, mast or spar in place. It looked old, fragile and as if it hadn’t been changed in over ten years. Well, at least his stomach was feeling better thanks to Grog’s unwelcome shot in the arm. And since the creature was keeping its distance and Morgan was convincing Marissa that it was the true cause of the planet’s woes, Aston decided things were looking up.

That’s when the borak turned.

Aston quietly whispered to himself, “Why me.” He then went on to quietly tell himself that ‘it had to happen’. Then, another sheepish look at Morgan, “What does that mean?” Aston braced himself for the answer.

Morgan’s expression lost its mirth as he watched his crew scramble to stations. “Well, it’s seen us, and wants to challenge us. It rarely happens…” another swell broke over the bow drenching all, “…but when it does, yer in fer a ride of yer life.”

Aston’s shoulders tensed and sagged all at once as a culmination of emotions shot through his mind, putting him in a near state of paralysis of not only being out of his element, but at a loss of what to do—he was ‘all at sea’, or so he morbidly mused to himself.

Marissa was more pointed, “What, does it think we’re a mating rival?”

“Possibly.”

“Possibly?” Aston’s tone betrayed worry.

Vash ears perked as he heard Aston’s voice. Tail wagging, he quickly turned around and looked directly at Aston, “Did you see it?”

Aston nodded at Vash, but kept most of his attention on Morgan, “Well, it either sees us as a rival bull, or …”

Aston braced himself, “Or?”

Morgan’s lips were tight and thinly stretched across his face, “Or it wants to mate with us.”

Aston had had about enough, and was about to storm off to his cabin when he remembered that he wasn’t on the type-S (nor was it anywhere nearby) but some ancient design that relied on nature’s elements.

Vash cocked his head again, “Mate?” He straightened his head, stopped wagging his tail as he looked directly at Morgan. “You mean … as in … “

“Aye.” Morgan’s laconic tone was palpable.

“Killed by sex starved sea-snake.” Peter flatly stated.

“Are you serious?” Marissa didn’t sound very surprised as she put the question to Morgan, fishing for a further explanation.

“Aye,” Morgan replied, “It if were challenging us, then it might go into a swirl. It dinna look to be coilin’ itself.”

Aston braced himself as he watched the borak leap like a dinosaur sized dolphin, leaving a trail of its arcing body looping over the swells like a giant’s needle and thread, all the while the galleon continued to ride and plow through swells.

“We need ta lose some speed.” Morgan announced out loud, then called, “Into the shrouds, men! Reef the top gallants!”

Mariners old and young with years more sailing these waters than Aston had jumping from system to system, adroitly clamored the rope ladders leading up the masts to the spars. They quickly climbed out on the ropes and pulled in the massive sheets near the top of the masts, and lashed them with the same rustic line that Aston was hanging onto.

“’Ere!” Aston felt Morgan lash a life line and harness over his body. “So’s ya don’t go over the side when we deal with this beastie.”

Aston’s eyes widened further. “Why didn’t you give this to me before.” But Morgan mere shrugged as he moved off to bark more orders at his men.

Aston noticed the rest of his crew, save for Grog, putting on their own life lines, all attached to the forward mast on the three masted vessel. Aston didn’t like wit in grim dangerous times, but couldn’t help but look at Peter and half laugh to lighten the tone; “I think I’m gonna need another shot.”

Peter returned the laughed, “I’ll tell Grog you said that.”

The galleon’s nose dipped as it seemed to jump a shallow trough only to plow through another thick colored glass like wave with spectacular crashing results sopping the length of the ship.

Peter smiled. Aston couldn’t believe his ship’s medic was actually enjoying this when he was the casual sailor. The galleon rode another swell, and that’s when the behemoth leapt up in front of the vessel, staring right at Aston and the remainders of the crew on the foredeck, snapping its jaws several times, so much that Aston and the rest got a good look at its massive mouth and throat, pink and white on the inside with a throat so big that it could swallow several men whole.

“Oh geeze…” Aton uttered. The borak then plunged back into the brine, its body undulating in the waves as it sounded.

Vash looked back at Aston with an open mouth betraying his excitement, “Have you ever seen the like?! That creature is massive! Taking down one of those could’ve fed my old village back in the …” that’s when Vash noted Aston’s pale expression. “Are you okay, captain?”

Aston steeled himself. “Get back with Grog, and start coordinating whatever it is he and Marissa need to carry out our mission.”

Vash wagged his tail, “Aye-aye, captain.” He temporarily undid his life line and jumped down to the lower deck to confer with Grog who was still glued to the deck taking more samples. Marissa followed, and soon the trio were talking science, data gathering and experimentation in the midst of rough seas while a giant borak toyed with the galleon.

Peter looked at his friend again, “Still need that shot?”

“I’m good.” Aston replied as another swell crashed over them.

But Vash could only cock his head perplexed, before going back to the rail.

“You want me to get Grog to give you another shot?” Peter offered.

Aston shook his head, “I’ll be okay for the moment. Go with Vash and coordinate with Marissa.”

Peter was uncertain, but an order was an order, and he moved to Marissa to exchange words of what to do with the newly spotted specimen. Soon Vash was heading aft to disappear below decks while Grog was pulling more instruments from a case he had next to him. Peter and Marissa both followed Vash’s trail into the ships bowels, while Aston stood there feeling like a third wheel on a ten-speed bicycle.

His skills weren’t needed. Ideally, had they been in the type-S they were assigned for this op, then he would be at the controls keeping a steady deck, but he was on another ship with another captain using technology that heralded from the days of before when most men could read or write.

He was extra baggage, an unneeded weight, and he felt every bit as a useless as he was. The galleon splashed into another swell, white droplets from mist to thick chunks of water sprayed everywhere. After several minutes the collision between ship and ocean settled as the vessel slowed with her top sails pulled in and lashed to the spars.

Aston moved to the f’o’c’sle’s railing, this time with more confidence and with not hint of an uneasy stomach. Over the side he could see the serpent’s behemoth body snake its way just past the ship’s bow, it’s tail ending in a massive tail fin like appendage that wagged back and forth driving the creature at unheard of speeds under the waves.

Aston looked back at Morgan who was still shouting instructions. He waited for the man to pause before speaking, “Captain.”

Morgan looked back at Aston, “Aye?”

“I thought most ocean life liked calm waters. What’s this thing doing up here on the surface?”

“I canna sae, lad. They’re temperamental beasties, and I only knows whot I’ve experienced. I’m not a bloody expert on them.” Morgan went back to shouting orders.

Aston curiosity would have to wait. He glanced over his shoulder again down at the main deck, and saw Marissa, Peter, Vash and Grog all commiserating and unpacking cases to set up field equipment. How they managed on a deck that was all over the place was beyond him, but they had their sea legs, and were coping with the ship’s motion.

Morgan looked out over the prow, saw the borak punch through the service to sound once more. He yelled up at his crew, “She’s cooming a’round again! Get down in case she tries to bump us!”

Aston didn’t want to know. He looked out and saw the last of the creature vanish under the waves once more, again feeling useless as he continued to steady himself with the ship’s rigging and rail. Against his better judgement he pulled out his personal computer and tried to tap the local net. He wasn’t sure how antiquated the network here was, and whether the storm would interfere in his reception, but he gave it a shot anyway, feeling he had to get the lowdown on this thing—whatever it was.
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Old November 27th, 2017, 06:19 AM
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The op briefing didn’t mention giant sea serpents, just a brief mention of large predators. Well, that could be anything. Most worlds had their version of sharks, or even prehistoric like creatures with just as much aggression, size and ill-temperament, but they never mentioned this thing.

Aston angrily sighed at whoever was assigned to do the survey of this world to keep his majesties Imperial database up to date. Just another angry note in his report when this operation was over with.

The deck shuddered under his feet. He could hear the timbers creaking and groaning, as if fighting to keep from snapping from some unseen stress. The whole ship reverberated, and then settled.

“What the hell was that?” but Aston already knew the answer.

“Aye, it’s the borak.” Morgan replied, his low worried tone telling much of what was in store. “Sje’s rubbin’ our side to see if we’re interested.”

“Now it’s a she?” Aston was sure he’d heard the gender change correctly or not.

“Aye,” Morgan replied. “Count yourself lucky. A male would have just gone ahead and…”

“Captain! It’s rearing again!” The lookout in the forward nest pointed to a spot just forward of the ship. Aston watched the thing punch through the water again, only this time twisting as it snapped its jaws several time, each snap sounding like a miniature clap of thunder.

Then both sea and monster seemed to calm a bit more. The swells were less pronounced, the breeze eased, and the clouds were slowly parting to reveal massive shafts of sunlight striking the ocean surface.

“Something’s not right.” Morgan finally said, breaking the relative calm.

Aston watched his personal computer try one network after another, then turned back to Morgan. “What do you mean?”

“I dinna knoow, but she shoulda’ been coming back to try and tempt us again.”

Aston wasn’t sure how to reply. Then he reminded himself that Morgan wasn’t a xeno-biologist no matter how many times he had encountered these things. He had some sailor’s wisdom regarding the local fauna, but he didn’t know anything about their physiology.

Aston, careful with his life line, made his way down from the fore castle to the lower main deck. Vash was working some kind of camera on a tripod while Marissa and Grog were busy working field data stations with sea water samples that Grog had collected earlier. Peter was making himself useful by taking Grog’s place and collecting more samples of ocean water.
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Old November 27th, 2017, 08:23 AM
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Aston carefully walked over to Marissa, “Captain Morgan says this thing is in heat. Could that have something to do with the low counts of the fish population?”

Marissa shook her head, “I could, but it doesn’t seem likely.”

“I’ve got a tissue sample from it rubbing against the hull.” Peter announced as he handed a enclosed stainless steel capsule to Grog. Got gently handled it by inserting it into a portable like vacuum chamber, then furiously typed a number of instructions with all his free hands.

Grog made a long low hum, then a long gambling hum before saying anything. “I have some interesting data, Marissa. I think you should look at this.”

Marissa looked up from her station then moved over to Grog’s screen, “What’s up.” Grog pointed her to a long chain of molecular diagrams.

“And this, and here.” Grog’s voice boomed out as he pointed to several other indicators. Aston looked but didn’t understand a single piece of information.

“What? What is it?” Aston pestered.

“It’s coming around again!” someone shouted from the lookout. Moments later the ship shuddered, the muted sound of timbers snapping underneath the hull was palpable.

“Work the pumps! Get a team down below to seal off that section!” Morgan shouted. “Helm, standby to bring us about!”

“No!” Marissa shouted back. “Stay on course!”

“What?! Who do you think ya are?!” Morgan shouted back, “It’s my ship! Ya understand that?! Blast yer hide!”

“Captain Aston, you’ve to make him understand, if these readings are correct that creature, borak or whatever they call it, it’s not looking for a mate, it’s starving! We can get it some supplements, but he’s got to keep course so the thing doesn’t feel rejected and try to ram us again!”

Aston didn’t question, but ran up the stairs, and explained to Morgan exactly what Marissa explained. He wasn’t sure if Morgan hearing the same thing coming from another male or not effected his mood, but either way Morgan shouted out to belay his last order and to maintain course.

“Thanks, Captain.” Aston said to Morgan trying to put as much assertiveness mixed with apologetic tone as possible.

“Fine.” Captain Morgan replied with a hint of anger, “But if that thing sinks us, and we survive, I’ll have your hide up on charges, and you’ll be buying me a new ship!”

“Fair enough.” Aston replied, “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Aston descended the stairs one more time and moved next to Marissa, “You got your way, but he isn’t happy about it.”

Marissa didn’t immediately answer, “Vash, you and Peter get back down below and grab those vials of trans-glycogen, and some of those biodegradable bags—the big ones!”

Both Peter and Vash quickly ran below decks just as the decks vibrated once more time.

“What does that mean?” Aston hated being in the dark.

“It sees us as a fellow school member, probably an adult that can provide nutrients.” Grog replied. “We can satiate its appetite, but only temporarily.”

“Either way,” Marissa chimed in, “It’ll buy us enough time to set sail back to port.”

The deck shuddered again as the borak rubbed its lengthy body against the ship’s hull. Aston nodded and scrambled back up to the ship’s forward deck to none too pleased Morgan. He scowled at Aston, “If yer wrong…”

“I know, I know.” Aston replied.

“I’ll be at the helm. At the first sign o’ trubble, I’m bringin’ us about!” Morgan stomped off.

Aston couldn’t blame him. Morgan had probably been sailing these waters since he was a child, and to be told to keep course went against every sailor’s instinct and experience he had ever had. Not to mention the fact that he was taking orders from what he probably saw as off-world Imperial bureaucrats, no matter what experience Aston and his team had.

The crew was down from the masts and holding the ship steady, each man and woman at the ready next to one of the ship’s lines, ready for the captain to give the word to change course or unfurl the sails should he desire.

The galleon continued to roll, and the swells and wind picked up some, but just marginally. The borak barely breached the surface again, water rippling around it’s massive eyes and armored head like a rock formation suddenly appeared out in the ocean. It lingered there like a lazy thing, barely moving, and Aston was looking right in its face as he hung onto the rail.

The borak let out a deep guttural groan, and then sank before the surface again. Aston had looked it directly in the eye. Whether or not he had made some kind of connection with the creature, he didn’t know. He often wondered exactly how intelligent such large creatures were, and he often wondered why if they were so filled with intelligence that they didn’t evolve like other species in known space.

Regardless, the thing seemed to regard Aston in those brief moments they stared at one another. If it meant anything at all Aston was sure he would never know. He glanced over his shoulder again seeing Vash and Peter follow Marissa’s and Grog’s instructions.

But the ship still rolled with the waves, and being far from stable Aston still found himself hanging onto both rigging and rail to stabilize himself. Vash ran up to Aston, more poised than before (for a Vargr at least), “Captain, Grog and Marissa are finishing off something that they had Peter and I make for them. Some kind of dietary supplement, but Marissa wants to make sure it’s okay with you to use it.”

“By all means.” Aston immediately replied.

“You got it!” Vash excitedly replied before running back down with Aston’s reply. Aston watched Vash work with the others to formulate a plan. Just then the deck heaved sending everyone sliding into the ship’s side rail.
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Old November 27th, 2017, 08:24 AM
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Aston found himself stepping up on the rail to stabilize himself still holding onto the rigging, but then somehow lost his grip and found himself swinging by his life line over the swells.

The ship heaved back in the other direction, and Aston did all he could to keep himself from impacing against the forward mast. Briefly he caught a glimpse of his team trying to get themselves organized, Vash ang Grog helping Marissa and Peter secure the field gear.

Aston dangled some more as the ship swayed left and right, and below his feet as he swung to and fro he could see the borak pushing on the ship’s port side, and the starboard side. Aston caught the rigging and rope ladders, but he couldn’t hold onto them for long—a combination of the mild ocean old and force of the ship being pushed about, all the while the veteran crewmember were able to cope with the borak’s harassment as if they had done this a hundred times.

From the after deck Morgan shouted orders, pointing at this and that, sailors responding to his every word by tying one line and then untying another.

Aston managed to clutch onto a line somehow, just in time to see Grog marge up the stairs to the fore castle holding a large clear bag filled with an equally clear liquid.

The borak pushed on the galleon again, snapping its jaws and making a pleading groan before plunging again into the sea. Aston looked down at Grog, “Grog, what’s that? Is that the supplement Marissa was talking about?”

“It’s a highly concentrated sugar that will allow the creatures metabolism to synthesize …” Grog then went into a series of bio-chemical expressions and explanations. But all Aston understood were the verbs. Biochemistry wasn’t his forte. He knew the basic; you ate, you got energy and felt better—and drinking fresh water seemed to be a good thing too. Beyond that he might as well have been a pre-schooler.

“Great!” Aston replied.

“But we need to inject it or get the Borak to swallow it. Possibly get it to open its jowls for a good throw.”

Aston’s shoulders sagged repeating “Great” once more, but with utter dejection. The solution needed a solution and there was no time to come up with one. Both captain and ship had lost all patience, and anymore countermanding the owner commander of the vessel would cause a massive rift that could cause Morgan to alter course and possibly kill them all.

The borak shot up the other side again, rocking the vessel and angling the deck a sharp twenty degrees. Aston couldn’t hold on, and found himself swinging out over the ocean once more. The life line’s bracket slipped, and Aston found himself mere meters above the ocean.

That’s when he saw the two eyes and the armored maw of the borak rise up underneath him, the water swelling and bulging as it pushed its way up through the surface once more with Aston hanging out like some man sized piece of bait on a fishing line..

“Throw Grog! Throw it now! Throw-throw-throw-throw-throw!” Aston hollered at the top of his lungs as he dangled there helplessly.

Grog threw the plastic filled bag, and Aston saw it impact and splash its contents all over the borak’s mouth, filling and wetting the many white and pink ridges of the thick membrane before it started to sink back down.

And, for whatever reason, the thing didn’t snap. By all logic it should have seen Aston as a meal, but it hadn’t tried to snap at him, and instead sank below the waves with a muted splash.

The ship righted itself to its normal angle, and Aston clung onto the rope later for dear life only to find himself quietly laughing as he stared at Grog, who himself had a broad grin.

“It’s sounding!” Marissa called out. Then more quietly, “It’s sounding. It’s not coming back up.”

“Hmmmm….” Grog hummed, as if amused by the whole episode, one set of hands on its side, the other twiddling its thumbs as he stared up Aston.

Later on, back on dry land, standing underneath the nose of the type-S, Aston signed off on Marissa’s and Grog’s reassignment as IISS attaches. Apparently, after all data had been collected and correlated, the boraks themselves had over-fished their own waters. Captain Morgan was right after all, and Aston gave him credit in the report for having fore knowledge of the planet’s plight. It seemed to ease the sting of Morgan being told what to do on his own ship in front of his crew. But to make sure Aston also credited the crew as also having more knowledge than the scout service acknowledged, and listed each crew member by name. Hopefully that would re-establish good will with the planet and the Imperium’s finest.

Aston even gave Grog a smile and shook one of his hands. Aston didn’t have the man (er, Virushi, he reminded himself), but he would raise all kinds of havoc at the next scout base that asked him to take one on as crew. Even so, he didn’t hate Grog personally, he just hated having him as a member of his team. Even so, Grog did come through when needed.

Even so, he didn’t want to come back to this planet any time soon.
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Old November 28th, 2017, 09:10 AM
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“We invented that.” Fillik, long hair tied back in a long pony tail with a full beard and moustache, feet kicked up on a glass table as he reclined in his personal cushy seat, commented in a flat matter of fact tone as he gestured with his chin to the sprawling levitated race track, over a thousand feet off the ground, enclosed by thick ballistic rated transparent tubing. Fillik, like most Geonee, stood just below five feet, about average for his race, and like a lot of the other Geonee, wore casual fitting garb that hung loosely about his body with some leather reinforcing as he reclined and smoked a smokeless pipe. Unfortunately, like a lot of Geonee, he tended to assert the many accomplishments of the Geonee without offering credible history.

Flight Captain Richard Aston looked out the huge bay windows of the spacious grav-levitated luxury box at the sprawling maze like tubular race course suspended some thousand feet or more above the volcanic plain. Next to him Vash scarfed down the appetizers while Glip, their third wheel and a Bwap no less, meticulously went over the Racing-Confederation’s finances in the president’s office.

The luxury box was one of many, lined up in a bank to create a large skyborne luxury accommodation for the world’s and subsector’s elite. It commanded an impressive view of the entire course as well as the sharp ridged deep brown mountain range beyond the track and volcanic plain, and three volcanos beyond them, each trickling ash and smoke from their crater like maws. All the while some thousand feet or more below, throngs of racing enthusiasts crowded the elevators to bring them to the relatively inexpensive open air, and somewhat cold, stands several hundred feet below the luxury boxes. Below them were the working class who purchased cheap disposable telescopes or binoculars, or even perchance spent the extra cash to sit in a designated area with a huge flat screen display.

Dalken was officially listed as having a thin atmosphere, but mostly because it was a very geo-active with lots of volcanic activity that tended to spew volcanic ash, sulfur and whatever else trained volcanologist stated a volcano like Dalken would spew out. Still, the air was breathable, and as long as there were no actual eruptions, Aston was okay with being here. Otherwise the occasional wafting of sulphurous gases riding the warm winds was a staple and reminder that the planet was active. If you couldn’t stand it, then Dalken wasn’t the world for you. Why the Geonee preferred living in places like this Aston couldn’t understand, nor could he understand the continued ego-centric social outlook they had on their place in the Imperium.

“Ours was the first to construct levitated race-ways. We’ve held these competitions for a few thousand years … maybe longer.” Fillik hastily added the last phrase, as if somehow that would lend credibility to his assertion.

And there it was again, Geonee racial pride. Aston merely grinned politely, then looked up at one of the monitors hanging from the semi-translucent ceiling, noting that the odd mixture of grey clouds, volcanic gasses and the occasional blue patch of sky reminded him something from an old fantasy novel he read as a kid. It was that kind of a scene. And being up here guarding one of the Imperial GAO investigators in the next room over, seemed to add a degree of surrealism.

“Mmm, that’s good.” Aston saw Vash, diligently licking the sauce from his finger tips before grabbing another arm sized drumstick and clamping his jaws on the savory meat. “Mmm…” he continued, then with half masticated cooked avian meat in his mouth, “…you ought to try this. Almost as good as a chilidog.”

Vash’s words were a mouthful-jumble, but Aston understood him well enough. “Maybe later.” Aston stifled a laugh.

Vash ripped off another hunk and ground the meat as he look up at the monitors to see top fuel wheeled racers traveling at velocities and doing maneuvers that a few thousand years ago would have been unheard of, or relegated to the world of simulation racing.

Vash swallowed, then took a sip of from the Styrofoam cup next to his knee, “Who’s winning?”

“Still qualification trials. These are late entries.” Fillik helpfully replied. “The first air races took place over ten millennia ago back on our homeworld.” Fillik puffed on his pipe some more, staring out at the volcanic landscape as if he had uttered some deep profound truth.

Aston again grinned politely, but couldn’t help but stare a little with his mouth ever so slightly agape, wondering if Fillik believed his own ill-informed history. Aston didn’t know who actually brought about actual grav-race tracks, but he was sure that the concept predated whatever Geonee history said, and on some other world far away that had no Geonee to speak of.

The distant roar of a gaggle of jet races whooshing by sill made it through both the race tube and the thick ballistic grade bay windows, the engines were that loud.

“Really?” Aston sheepishly replied trying to send the message that he didn’t believe a word of it, nor did the rest of the Imperium. But the effect was lost on Fillick who continued to calmly and stoically gaze out on both track and vista.

That’s when Glip flung the office door wide open, his unintentional amphibian grin betrayed a more demanding tone as he spoke, “Where are the box office records for the year before last?” His high pitched tone could almost shatter glass. “….and the concession take for the year before that?”

The half dozen other Geonee seated at the wet bar and lounging on the sofas looked at Fillik, none to happy about what they were enduring.

Aston wasn’t sure what to make of it, but glanced first at the other Geonee off to his right in the sunken area with the monitors, then to his left at Fellik still staring out the bay windows, but by now setting down his drink and grabbing his temples with his left hand.

“They’re in the safe.” Fellik replied.

“Why are they in the safe? Why didn’t you set them out for me? How come you are not following procedure?” Glip’s barrage of questions rolled out like a fast-moving freight train, again his natural amphibian grin only irritated Fellik as he got up from his personal plush chair and moved up the small three stair rise to brush past Glip as he went into his office.

Aston noted Fellik wiping the moisture from his sleeve after brushing against Glip’s wetsuit.

Aston quietly turned to Vash who tore into another leg, and commented in a low tone “I thought we were about to see an international incident in the making.”

Vash perked his ears as he continued to eat and drink, “What do you mean?” his tone was none too quiet.

Aston continued his quiet tone, “I mean these people…” referring to the Geonee, “…are pretty touchy.” Then trying to hold back laughter, “I never thought I’d see one obstinate people bump heads with another that was from an entirely different species. I thought for sure someone was going to make a racial slur.”

Vash shrugged, “Like ‘em or not, they make some mean appetizers. Dang this stuff is good. You ought to try one of these with some of the local spiced barbecue sauce.”
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  #18  
Old November 28th, 2017, 08:37 PM
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The half dozen other Geonee at the wet bar, sofas, went back to watching the huge monitors hanging from the ceiling. None of them were interested in either Aston or Vash, but Aston thought he caught a remark regarding Glip.

“It’s just the attitude.” Aston casually remarked, his tone a little more bold but still keeping his voice low.

“Heh, no objection to me.” Vash again mused in a not so quiet tone back at Aston.

“Not everybody has prejudices against your kind, Vash.”

“Heh, you just said ‘your kind’.” Vash stifled a laugh with a mouthful, “What am I supposed to make of that?”

“Stop trying to be funny.” Aston replied.

“Sorry. Nerves. I’ve never been in one of these places.” Vash spoke with another mouthful.

Aston noted that Vash had stopped trying to steel his trepidation for this world, as often he found himself being challenged by those who didn’t take to Vargr. But the Geonee didn’t seem to care one bit that he was here. Either way he loved their cooking.

Aston looked up at the monitors, and then out at the track to see the racers continue to take practice laps. The racers themselves were a variety of ancient designs from various worlds, and jet powered—as long as it was a combustible jet of some kind that didn’t spew harmful radiation out the exhaust (again, as per regulations).

The office door slammed open, and then slammed shut again. Fillik was none too happy as he quickly marched back to his recliner, and angrily plopped himself back down on it. The other Geonee cautiously glanced in Fillik’s direction at the other end of the skybox, then gradually went back to conversing among themselves. All the while Aston and Vash were situated in the middle unsure of what this portended.

Aston could see himself back in court testifying as a witness to a non-incident between the Imperium and the Geonee freehold, relaying how nothing actually happened but that one side’s ego felt bruised and demanded satisfaction in the form of a legal hearing. He quietly sighed to himself and reclined trying to forget the whole thing, but he knew a bureaucratic storm was on its way.

The short stocky race was proud, and tended to let people know it. They also tended to agitate quite a few of their fellow Imperial citizens on all levels.

But one thing puzzled Aston, though he didn’t bring it up with Vash, and that was the sky races were, after all, in the sky. Aston wasn’t an expert on Geonee society, but he could have sworn they preferred their subterranean habitats to anything above the surface of world, much less a luxury sky box vaulted in the air and riding on grav technology.

Geonee preferred the earthen and jewel encrusted subterranean environment to the natural environs of forest and coastal regions other humans so desired. Aston wondered if it was somehow connected to the Geonee propensity to take credit for everything this side of sliced bread, but dismissed the thought.

There were rumors about unrest, and part of the reason he and Vash were here, this time dressed in the ever so rare Scout duty uniform complete with service beret (though Vash kept his tucked in his duty vest pocket) and sidearm was to watch over Glip as he probed for whatever data or evidence the Imperial subsector GAO wanted.

“Look at that one.” Noric, one of the younger Geonee pointed to both the track outside and one of the monitors. “His time is better than number seven’s.”

Doric, his brother, sipped one of the local spirits and likewise stroked his young bare chin, “I wonder what kind of power plant he’s using.” That launched the six younger Geonee into a small debate about local technology and what family run company fabricated the best parts and engines.

Again, Aston noted that there was no mention of any Imperial vehicle makers, and thought of jumping into the conversation, but decided otherwise.

A trumpet fanfare sounded over the main big monitor followed by a flurry of text next to pictures of the drivers, mostly human. Aston didn’t understand the local dialect, and the Galanglic second audio channel was so faint that he could only hear the noise of words, but he got the gist of what was being said. Past races, recorded times, sponsors, it was all the same no matter where you went within or outside the Imperium.

In the distance the jet powered vehicles lined up on a an extra wide section of track where the officials inspected vehicles and carefully measured their places on the track, giving instructions for vehicles to inch forward or backwards as needed.

The office door swung open again smacking into the wall. “Where’s the marketing budget from five years ago?! Where’re the records for the track purse from the previous five years? Where are all the other records my office asked for, but are not out? Why are you not cooperating?”

Aston instinctively slump in his shoulders and sunk further into the sofa. Guard duty was a rarity for the scouts, and an even rare event that anything would actually happen. And where so far it was just verbal fireworks Aston couldn’t help but feel that Fillik had had about enough.

“I’ve had about enough!” Filllik bellowed.

Ayup, Aston thought, there it was.

Fillik jumped from his sofa and marched back up the rise to look Glip in the face let out his best Geonee tirade that was a mixture of Galanglic and ancient Geonee slang to describe what Aston could only guess at.

Fillik read Glip the riot act and then some, and his fellow Geonee, all male, all younger family members, moved to stand next to him. That’s when Aston gently backhanded Vash’s shoulders as he got up to move between Glip and the small mass of wealthy Geonee who didn’t appreciate Glip’s no-nonsense GAO officious, which was akin to a severe case of Asperger syndrome by human standards.

Glip continued his tone, “I don’t understand! Why aren’t you cooperting?! You need to cooperate, not protest! Cooperate!”

Aston knew that all Glip was doing was pouring gas on the fire.

“You filthy wet-skinned piece of ….” Fillik began his right index finger mere centimeters from the tip of Glip’s nose.

“Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa…” Aston pushed Glip back not wanting to appear to push or forcefully move the president of the Racing Federation in his own personal luxury box. He was sure a formal protest was coming, if not an armed escort to remove them from the premises, but Aston had a job to do.

Vash moved behind Aston and gently grabbed Glip and pulled him back through the doorway.

“Your-your-your ….” Fillik stammered at Aston, “…your thing!” he finally got out, “is making demands that have already been met! Is this how the Emperor’s finest treats his subjects!?” Fillik then went on about the pride and history of the Geonee and all the advances that Geonee society has given to the Imperium, including a long history of jump drive and medical technologies, as well as battle that had never been fought, “…and he has the audacity to come in here, into my office, and give me orders?!”

Aston raised both his hands in a calming gesture, and put on his best diplomatic smile, “I completely understand.” He lied as best as he could. He didn’t like Fillik personally, but he had no real objection to the Geonee (however self-aggrandizing) , and had to be brutally honest with himself in that he didn’t care much for Glip’s lack of grace and etiquette, but even so he was here to protect Glip in general but also from not igniting a political incident.

Aston literally had to look down on Fillik and his male family members, but did so with his best smile, “Glip is an experienced auditor who is just trying to make sure that you guys are in the clear … trying to eliminate you from his list of suspects.”

A half lie. In the briefing the Geonee protectorate suspected the Racing Federation from withholding earnings and illegally taking kickbacks from a variety sources as well as just outright rigging the races from the get go. Complaints from all corners of the sector and beyond were rife with accusations of corruption and larceny. Aston didn’t like playing the combination nurse maid cum diplomat cum bully-boy with a smile, and wondered why the marshal’s service hadn’t been called in for this job instead of the IISS. But here he was, trying to salve the bruised and insulted pride of one of the higher profile societal enclaves.

But Fillik wasn’t having any of it, “He calls us thieves without pointing the finger! He declares us scum without saying so! He makes precious metals where there is no ore!” sharply pointing a finger at the Bwap.

The man, er Geonee, was flowery in his alliterations, Aston had that much to say, but no matter what kind of verbiage the man delivered he was also extremely hostile.

Vash stifled a laugh as best as he could, and Aston glanced back and shot his engineer a pointed look, but as he looked back to Fillik and his brood he had to admit that there was just something funny about addressing a gaggle of men almost half your height and angry on top of that.

“I’ll bring this to the moot! I have friends at court! My own brother was engaged to the emperor’s daughter at one time!”

Aston cold only smile as he listened to Fillik’s tirade. Did the emperor even have a daughter? “You know, you’re right. And I deeply apologize.” Aston put on his best ‘I’m sorry’ routine. “Hey, you know, if it were me, I’d be insulted too. Hey, I think you’re honest. In fact I’d be proud to drive for your team, but Glip, however ungraceful his actions, needs to go over your records. Once that’s done, we’ll be out of here permanently.”

“You would, eh human?” Fillick replied with a glint in his eye.

“Would what? Leave? Yeah, we would.”

“No. Race.”
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  #19  
Old November 29th, 2017, 12:31 AM
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Aston fought the urge to level his gaze at Killik and chagrin in response. Instead he kept up his façade and smiled, trying not to both laugh off and retort to the Racing Federation’s president that, like the volcanic activity on this world, he was talking hot air.

Whether it was the idea of Aston racing for him or against him in some competitive bid, he didn’t know, nor did Aston want to figure it out just right now. Even so he noted that Fillik’s attitude had adjusted sharply, as if he hoped the idea would derail Aston and his team from combing over his records.

“Sir,” Aston began, trying to sound a bit more serious, “we have a job to do. You need to understand that it’s not something that I initiated, but a thing that comes from high up in the Imperial General Accounting Office. And my orders are …”

“Race—human!” Fellik’s eyes were bright with the idea.

Aston concluded that Fellick was out of his mind, right then and there. That’s when his family put their arms on his shoulders and arms, and gently drew him back as he continued to smile at Aston.

Aston smiled back, “I knew you’d understand.” He turned back to Vash and Glip, swung the door closed and locked it.

Vash drew his weapon and crouched down next to the door way. Aston looked directly at Glip, “What did you find?”

Glip held up his hand-held unit with multiple windows showing spreadsheets and numbers, “Huge amounts of graft. Also, he has records of buying parts, selling them to third party vendors, all the while replacing name manufacturing with his own cheaper product.”

“And probably a lower grade.” Aston filled in, “Which is how he rigs the races, and makes that much more when teams he backs wins. He makes sure they get the real deal when it comes to replacements all the while the competition gets his own brand.”

“My analysis, precisely.” Glip stated, his natural grin now a flit line of broad lips across his salamander like mouth.

Vash worked with a micro-camera attached to the wall next to the door. An earpiece ran from it to his right fur covered ear as he stared at the tiny screen.

“Captain?” Vash’s tone was low and serious. Vash pointed to the tiny screen on his personal computer wired to the camera.

“Human!” Fellick’s called from the other side of the door in the main skybox lounge. “Human, I would speak with you! I would speak with you about racing!”

Aston pointed Glip to take cover behind the desk as he drew his own weapon and crouched next to Vash.

“See those?” Vash pointed to drawn hand guns, nearly all of them Gauss weapons; silent as well as lethal without leaving a mess compared to their gunpowder counterparts. More notably Aston noted an extremely angry faced Fellik. A far cry from the happily egotistical, yet still perturbed, Geonee from moments before.

“Come out, human! Let’s talkl!”

“Aston, you and your team standby.” Came the voice over the near invisible earpieces in each of Aston’s teams’ ears. If Glip was nervous he didn’t show it, or Aston could read Bwap body language that well. Vash’s ears were cowed back, but he noted the Vargr was baring his fangs with his mouth closed as he levelled his hunter’s gaze at the door. Aston himself was tight lipped.

“Human! You and your dog try my patience.”

Vash held back a growl, and cocked his weapon instead.

No matter how many times Flight Captain Richard Aston heard himself referred to as human, he just couldn’t get used to it. What did Fellik thing he was? A god or something? Then he corrected himself remembering the little tidbit about how Geonee claimed to be “the ancients”.

“Now.” The voice in the earpiece said.

The main luxury suite door exploded open sending splinters fluing everywhere, shattering the drinking classes on the tables as the shock and blast sends Fellick and his team to the carpeted floor. Two dozen Imperial marshals stormed in, higih-powered ACRs at the ready, followed up by several suits wearing police issue battle vests as a precaution.

Outside down on the surface, barely anyone heard anything save maybe a small dull boom that was distant and might have been something mechanical—out of sight, out of mind. But the luxury boxes nest to the president’s, most of which were empty as a precautionary measure, suddenly lit the communication’s channels with emergency calls, claiming everything from terrorism to an actual eruption from one of the distant volcanos.

Outside the skybox foyer several G-carriers and a type-T hung in the air, turrets and pintel mounted weapons trained on anything that moved that wasn’t wearing an Imperial marshal set of armor with the logo stenciled on the back. They had glided into position and cut off the president’s box while Glip was busy interrogating the data from Fellik’s personal data storage.

Fellik put on the guise of being a simple Geonee entrepreneur, but in truth was just another criminal who used strong arm tactics to make himself wealthy, including gaming the very races he sponsored and hosted.

Aston and his team emerged from Fellik’s office just as the marshals were binding Fellik and his family, holstering his weapon. He was thankful he didn’t have to fire a shot. Normally his theatrics would not have been required, but the Geonee trusted the scout service, had no reason to suspect Aston and his team, and tended to digitally shred records whenever there was any sign of a heavy Imperial presence. Letting Aston have a look would have allowed Fellik to concoct another story to cover his creative book keeping. But both IISS and marshal’s service were ahead of him.

The Geonee were upstarts, and didn’t like the Imperium much, but they hated even more one of their own kind praying off of them. As such they had no qualms about letting the Imperium take care of business when it came to apprehending a malefactor, of which Fellick was a prime example.

Glip didn’t bother thanking Aston for anything, and immediately went to talk with one of the suits with what he had found. Aston and Vash shrugged their shoulders, took their turn at debriefing, and then left without so much as saying goodbye to Glip, but not before Vash grabbed the last large plate of appetizers.
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  #20  
Old November 30th, 2017, 09:08 AM
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Well, I'd like to apologize for the Geonee story. It was supposed to segue into a racing tale, but I couldn't think of how to "realistically" do it. I'm actually not that familiar with the Geonee, and when I read about their background as being a combination of high interstellar tech and living in volcanic vents ... eh, the only thing I can think of is "space dwarves". Ergo the Tolkien like namesl Fili, Kili, Nori, Dori, Biffur, Boffur, ... eh, I didn't do Thorin, and was tempted to borrow from Disney, but I wasn't sure how to Traveller-ize Dopey and Grumpy. Oh well. More scene setting as I conjure my next offering.

The caverns were a patchwork of bright colors and jigsaw like patterns of light and black that illuminated multicolored aggregate rocks jutting from impacted earth all around. To add the visual mystique were huge crystal formations jutting like spears from floor to ceiling, their perfect hexagonal shapes and bright near white color a stark juxtaposition to the chaotic crags of the cavern walls.

Flight Captain Richard Aston had left the tour group long ago to take in the sight of the cathedral like subterranean chamber that served as both a mine and smelting facility. The spectacle of numerous flame gems encrusted in the walls and mine carts riding rails above made the place seem more alive, almost surreal. Above wooden planked walkways bolted into solid rock face, vaulted trellises to hold aloft rails for minecarts, and the distant clang of a water mill powered hammer striking an anvil. It was like a factory-mine from a story book.

The tour guide had described the mine’s era as “ancient times”. Aston doubted it despite attempted the rustic look of the place. Even under the patchwork of natural light from energy-filled gemstones, phosphorescent fungus, the occasional lamp, it looked like something out of theme park—too new, or so Aston judged.

Still, they genuinely were in a volcanic vent, and there was an odd mixture of fresh cool air and a sulphurous odor seeping from open volcanic vents that led to lava flows deep below. How and why Geonee preferred these as living spaces, Aston never understood. Still, they had a legacy of extracting ores and working things hot that had a lot of value; i.e. lava and magma. Again, Aston didn’t understand the engineering, but they did it somehow, and like all things in Geonee society, they bragged about it too.

“There’s nothing like the aroma of sulphrous ash and rock.” Aston could hear the Geonee tour guide comment in the far distance, the echo off the cavern walls was that good. “In millennia past these mines were hard at work bringing up rare earths and crystalline forms that enriched known space, and allowed the current Imperium to rise to great wealth and power, as per our prophesized writings and experimentation. Such wealth helped in developing species like Vargr, known uplifted canines from Terra, a world whose biosphere we helped shape. Some of you may be off spring of our creation.”

Aston rolled his eyes and fought the urge to march across the cavern and correct the guide about wolves and dogs, but figured the Guide would probably just take credit for the two species—another Geonee bio-tech innovation, as it were. The tour guide droned on about how the riches of the Geonee freehold and hidden technologies only recently released had brought about everything from grav technology, jump drives, all the way to sliced bread in the Imperium. If Earth’s moon was really made of cheese the Geonee would have taken credit for it.

“In fact the Emperor’s third war was financed with jewels mined from this very world!” The tour guide was unapologetic. “Wealth, technology, grandeur, these are some of the gifts we, the true ancients, have bestowed upon the Imperium and the Emperor’s forces, further to keep his enemies at bay, and to defend and enlighten all sophont kind.” He paused for dramatic effect, “Such is our burden.”

Aston moved to one of the other waterfalls to look at it splashing on what was supposed to be a giant phosphorous laden mushroom that supposedly was self-illuminating. Upon closer inspection it was a concrete casting of a mushroom that had been painted and sprayed with glitter. The water splaying off its dome was there just for effect. And the lighting came from track lighting bolted into the stone ceiling.

But the whole thing puzzled Aston, if these people were so accomplished, then why put on the show and act of creating things and inventing history that obviously wasn’t theirs? He didn’t try to figure it out, and instead leaned on the chain barrier in spite of himself. He blew air from his cheeks, wondering how he found himself down in the bowels of a Geonee tourist trap, and wondered if he shouldn’t just leave.

It had been a couple of weeks since the take down at the Racing Federation’s head office, and he hadn’t gotten his next assignment. Normally all parties involved in the sting would clear out for security reasons, but for whatever reason Aston and Vash were allowed to stay on station, though Glip immediately boarded the Imperial Type-T within minutes of the marshals storming the office. Officious, a stickler for bureaucratic detail, even to the point of inventorying the contents of the galley refrigerator to make sure there was no contraband or any consumables that were not within regs, Aston couldn’t say that he missed him too much.

It was during boring down times like this that he reflected on the minutiae of life. Still, water falling on a fake mushroom in a genuine volcanic chamber wasn’t exactly his idea of taking in the sights. Leaning over the chain to look down into the steam covered black, and saw a thin line of distant molten red. Was it a special effect or real? Aston guessed this part was real, knowing the Geonee propensity for vulcanism.

He pulled his pen sized high-powered light, and filled the crag with white luminescence just to see what was down there. And that’s when he saw the boy playing or walking around the slow gelatinous stream of lava oozing mere inches from his feet.

“Hey!” Aston called out. “Hey! Get out of there!” Aston looked around and called out for an employee, but no one came. He tucked his light away briefly and ran around the cavern shouting for someone to come help, but no one came. He swore under his breath, and immediately climbed down a chain ladder that was very warm.

He knew it was a bad idea from the get go.
__________________
Sir Ghost, Knight of Imperial occupied Terra, Sol.
Travels with Blue Ghost; musings of a knight of the Imperium.
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