It’s supposed to have left the local fed-ex facility for my house today…here’s to hoping it gets here sooner or later.
My new hard drive and Windows 7 disk are on the way. It should be here in another day or so then I can get back into posting normally again.
Talia paced the bridge as the view screen cleared from their transition. The bad thing about h-space travel is that while you transition into it was fairly invisible, your return to n-space wasn’t. A large flash of multicolored light, followed by a surge in radiation alerted anyone within a star system that a ship had arrived. As it that wasn’t bad enough, re-entry also left a starship blind for five to ten seconds because the energy released temporarily overloaded sensor systems.
Which meant they were blind.
The ten seconds ran down inside her head and right on cue the view screen cleared. Nothing showed on it but empty space, and that lead her to let out a sigh of relief. One consequence of deciding to let Kleno and crew live was that the organization had been forewarned about her. However, they point blank didn’t have the room to carry the sheer numbers of humans that were on the slaver ship.
While the stop to earth only cost them a total of twelve hours, it gave the bad guys a chance to either pull ships out, use sensor screens to hide their facilities from orbit, or even space the humans. Nothing was beneath any being that would involve itself in the sleazy world of slavery. The only thing those people thought of was money, and everything else, literally, was disposable.
She passed by every station, looking at her bridge personnel in passing. It accomplished nothing but raise the level of stress in the room but Talia was too anxious to sit. Before her people had been exterminated, a large battle fleet would’ve accompanied them, but now, reduced to a single ship, she felt naked and defenseless.
It wasn’t true, of course, because despite the dated technology, the Valiant was neither toothless or a newborn babe in the woods either. While she wouldn’t have the overwhelming advantage in firepower enjoyed in the past, smart decisions would allow them to hang in, and win, most battles they might encounter.
Now, time to find out what they have in system.
She crossed her arms. “Terri, what have they got?”
The tactical officer worked in concert with CIC to analyze the information the active sensors were receiving. It would take a couple of seconds for the information to be sifted through and the relevant parts forwarded to the bridge. Talia, impatient despite knowing what the delay way, set her chin on her chest and sighed.
Come on. Come on.
“No ships in the inner system,” Terri said.
She shook her head. “I don’t like it. Jones, bring us in on half power, nice and slow.”
Robertson joined her. “Quiet environment.”
Talia rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Too quiet. Either they’ve got ships powered down waiting to ambush us, or they closed shop and left.”
“They might’ve had time to close shop. Do we know if there are any engine trails?”
“Damn, Steven, I never thought of that. Terri, run a scan for engine trails.”
“Steven, you might be onto something. They might’ve closed shop, but I’m wondering if they perhaps forgot to clean the house.”
Terri turned to look at them. “We’ve got six engine trails, and they go in one heading. Three-five-two mark twelve.”
Talia sighed. “Those numbers sound familiar, but I can’t remember where they go.”
“Crushdon is a dead system with no resources. Why would you be here?”
“It makes a good place to hide when you want to distribute slaves. Jones, bring us up to full speed, but keep weapons hot. Sheryl,” She looked at the weapons officer. “I want you to keep the finger near the button, Guns.”
“Terri, are there any orbital facilities?”
Talia pursed her lips and then shook her head. “Damn! There’s something about this system and I can’t figure out what.”
Robertson shrugged. “A battle fought here?”
“No…something different. How long until we make orbit?”
“Twenty minutes at this speed.”
She walked over to the command chair and sat down. Frustration continued to grow as the answer tickled her mind but stayed agonizingly out of reach. The problem with being twenty thousand years old, Talia thought, was someone picked up so much information that it became easy to forget important items.
And there’s something important about this planet.
“What’d they do with all the slaves? I doubt they got them all out in six hours.”
She leaned back in the chair and crossed her arms. “That’s a good question. I doubt they were doing ship-to-ship transfers either because Zelcor’s don’t work that way. They don’t like aliens on their ships.”
“What are they like?”
“Very Xenophobic. They don’t like other races, and specialize in the slave trade. To them, everyone else is a piece of property without a right to life.”
“Yeah, the like to kill their slaves,”
She thumbed in the intercom, and set it to both the security and medical sections. “Hey you three bums, care to come up to bridge? Got something to ask you-if it doesn’t strain your brain cells.” She thumbed it off and grinned at Robertson. “That’ll get them started.”
He smiled slightly. “Well, you did say the galaxy was a different place.”
“It’s changed a lot while I was asleep. Not for the better I’m afraid.”
The door to the bridge slid open and Methos lead the charge. Her curly hair bounced as she flew across the room and came to a stop beside the command chair.
“Strain my brain cells, eh? Who came up with the crazy idea to pretend she was a slave??”
Talia shot her a sideways glance and then smiled. “It did help us out did it not?”
“Only because I bailed you out of the fire again. You’re so smart sometimes you’re dumb.”
“She’s got a point there,” Crios said. “Your plans do have a tendency to blow up on your face.”
Methos glared at Crios. “And if I recall, you decide to follow right on her heels and get yourself in trouble. I expect this one,” she jerked a thumb at Talia, “to be stupid, but you?? You were supposed to be the smarter one!”
“You did nearly get yourself raped, Talia,” Dannae said. “I don’t consider that a good plan.”
“It wasn’t one. She just thought of an idea and proceeded to wing it.” Methos said. “And just where would you’ve been if not for me??”
Talia threw her hands up. “I know…but you all agreed on it.”
“Doesn’t mean we liked it.”
Talia shook her head and looked at Robertson before winking. “Told you that’d get them started.”
Methos looked at her and then proceeded to smack her. “You jerk! I’m going to get your for that!” She reached up and started to tousle Talia’s hair.
“Oh, you’re so going to pay for that one,” Crios said. “I don’t know where or when, but you’ve got one coming.”
Dannae sniffed and tried to look prim and proper. “Well, I’ve never done something so uncouth.”
Talia swatted her hands to try to get Methos to stop and failed. “Dannae, don’t get me started on your with the Doctors during the war…”
“Just remember, sis, I know about your big story…I wonder how much it’d tickle the bridge crew…”
Robertson shook his head. “You four are like little kids. I swear!”
Methos stopped messing with Talia’s hair and then looked at Robertson. “That’s because we are little kids!”
“Who are very deadly,” Robertson said dryly.
“There is that,” Talia said. “But I need to ask do any of you know anything about Crushdon?”
“Can’t help you,” Crios said.
“It sounds familiar,” Methos said, “But can’t place it.”
“According to myth, Crushdon held a buried piece of the Eye of Zanzas.” Dannae said. “Which is nothing but an old wife’s tale.”
“Interesting that a Zelcor would be picking up slaves here.” Talia shrugged. “Probably just a coincidence.”
Dannae raised an eyebrow.
“Coming up on orbit, Talia,” Jones said.
She turned her attention back to commanding the ship again. “Terri, anything hiding in orbit?”
“Nothing,” Terri said. “Other then ion trails, the systems dead. Wait…CIC reports a facility on the surface.”
Talia looked at her sisters and raised an eyebrow. “What kind of facility?”
“They’re saying it possibly could be a mining center,” Terri said.
“Any life signs?”
She stood up and looked at her sisters again. “Anyone up to a shuttle ride?”
“Are you actually planning on going where is Zelcor could be?” Dannae shook her head. “I’m starting to agree with Methos…”
“The slavers could be down there,” Methos added.
“They’ve been there and left. I want to know what they were up to before going after them.”
“The trail could go cold,” Robertson said.
“A single hour to investigate won’t make any difference when we can jump to the next system if need be.”
“Sure,” Crios shrugged. “Might as well, it’ll keep your out of trouble.”
“Ye of little faith,” Talia muttered.
“No, I’ve lived twenty thousand years with you,” Crios countered. “I know better.”
You do, don’t you?
She smiled. “Well, let’s get this over with.”
Talia stood in place as the door shut behind her before sucking in a deep breath and letting it back out in a sad sigh. The entire upcoming experience shook the experienced warrior to the core, and she found herself shaking in fear for one of the few times in her life. What would it be like to be sexually assaulted, to have someone forcibly take what was rightfully hers?
The quarters was half light, shadows covering most of the area, which lead the processor to kick her visual acuity up a couple notches. Everything came into focus and she raised an eyebrow while trying to get the shaking under control. Classical far eastern paintings, copies no doubt, hung on the walls, giving the bamboo furniture an extra pop that it would’ve lacked otherwise.
Two items caught her attention as she scanned the room, and both caused her to smile slightly. A control panel, skillfully hidden within a table, was one and a small pistol sitting within another drawer in a second table was the other. Interesting that the Captain would keep both the controls to kill the slaves and a personal weapon in his quarters. Most slavers, she thought, kept the controls on the bridge where they could eliminate cargo if boarded.
I guess this guy’s different.
While knowing both the control and gun were within reach soothed her mind a bit, it still didn’t prevent what was going to happen. Was finding the conduit for the slaves worth being raped? The question raged in her mind as she started to move deeper into the captain’s quarters.
It wouldn’t take much for her to capture, or even kill, the man, but then their chance at following the slave trail would die. Yet, in twenty thousand years of living, no one had attempted to do what he wanted and the prospect terrified her. Yeah, there’d been times when a drunk tried to go too far in the effort to get into her pants, but none of that had been carried out with malice. This, this however, would be carried out with forethought and a desire by a man to get his kicks off a defenseless woman.
She watched the Captain emerge from the kitchen and a large shiver racked her body. The very sight of the man, and what he wanted, made Talia want to throw up, and she swallowed bile. Decision time. Would they go on, or stop right there?
I can get control of his ability to kill the slaves. That could give Steven enough time to cripple the ship to keep it from moving. But…it would also would end my chance to reach anyone higher then whoever’s awaiting this delivery.
Finding the truth, she thought, just wasn’t worth being raped-even if she could completely block everything out. The psychological scarring of what would happen wouldn’t go away anytime soon, and Talia didn’t want to carry its weight around with the rest of the guilt and pain twenty thousand years of living created. No, there had to be a different way available to use to accomplish the goal.
The man approached and motioned to a chair and offered her a glass. “Sit down, champagne?”
She shook her head. “Drinking never was my thing.”
He sipped at it. “Surprising. Most artists are party hounds.”
“I never saw the point in it.”
“What a shame.”
She folded her arms and then crossed her legs. “Nice uniform. Alliance Fleet, right?”
He raised both eyebrows. “You’re a very knowledgeable young woman.”
“How does a young artist know anything about Fleet?”
“I’ve had a few one nighters with sailors and marines.”
“You can say that.”
“Do you know why you’re here?”
“You’re rather aggressive for someone in your position.”
Talia snorted. “Rape comes easy for you doesn’t it? What’s wrong? Too many people turn you down? Tell me, Captain, what does it take to make a Fleet officer resort to raping young women for his kicks?”
The Captain sighed and then rubbed his forehead. “You’re going to make this difficult, aren’t you? Keep it up and I’ll just drug you and you’ll be able see and feel everything but not be able to move a muscle.”
She chuckled, a cold humorless sound that made the Captain look her in the eyes. Was that supposed to scare her? A weak threat? “Captain, I’m twenty thousand years old, and never been raped-even in Creoth or Sladen hands-and I’ll be damned if you’re going to be the one who does.”
He shook his head. “You’re one crazy girl, no wonder you went into art.”
“You still haven’t put two plus two together, or…” She leaned forwards in the chair. “You don’t know who I am, do you?” She chuckled. “My name is Talia,” Talia looked at the table where the gun was hidden. “De’Zahna, and if I were you, I wouldn’t try to reach that weapon. It won’t be pleasant if you do.”
His eyes grew wide and on instinct the Captain leapt up, his hand going for the drawer. Talia leapt to her feet, the move lightning fast, and caught his right arm in her grasp.
She clicked her tongue. Moron. “What is it about you humans? Hard of hearing??”
The Captain’s eyes grew wide as she started to squeeze his wrist in her hand. He cried out and tried to pull his arm free with his open hand, but she continued to increase the pressure. His cries became borderline screams as the bones snapped under Talia’s inhuman strength.
She grabbed his tunic, lifted him off the deck and then threw him onto the couch. “This sort of…unpleasantness…can easily be avoided if people learned to listen when I’m speaking.”
He held his wrist, eyes burning like coals, and stared at her. “What do you want?”
Talia walked over and flipped the switch to open the hidden control panel. “I want to know who you’re selling these slaves to. Ah, here we go.” She pulled the wires out of the controls that allowed the Captain to kill the slaves. “And why.”
“I only know who takes them off my hand and pays me.”
She crossed the room, opened the drawer and pulled the Sig out. “And…”
“He’s some crablike species. Calls himself Kleno Trube.”
Talia shook her head as she sat down, crossed her legs, and kept the pistol pointed at him. “Captain…you’ve gotten yourself in bed with a Mector, eh? Filthy species. They specialize in smuggling slaves, drugs, anything that a civilized society wants to keep out.”
“They pay well.”
“Oh they do that, at least while you’re useful to them. Once a person’s no longer of use, they either have them killed or let the authorities catch up with them.”
Since my computer went down and I haven’t gotten a new hard drive for it yet due to other issues in life. Right now I’m glad Mark’s in one piece and doing well from his surgery. Hard Drives can be replaced, human beings can’t. Yes, having the computer down effects my ability to post and be active on my blog, but losing a friend affects life more.
Sunday I was going out with a friend to hang out but ended up at the hospital. When he got out of the car, I knew something was wrong. By the time we got to the Emergency Room he was in agony. The diagnosis was a ruptured appendix and immediate surgery, so I’ve spent most of the week going down to the hospital to see him and now will be caregiver until his mother arrives on Tuesday.
So, it’ll be a bit longer before I can get around to fixing my laptop so bear with me guys.