Raptor – Chapter 7
Written by shadar :: [Thursday, 22 October 2015 04:09] Last updated by :: [Wednesday, 18 November 2015 10:59]
Danya guided us through a dozen short, unnamed streets on our way to the ship. They make the streets in these tiny outposts deliberately complex, supposedly to make the place feel bigger than it is. All I know is that between the buzz and the booze, I got lost almost immediately, but Danya seemed to know exactly where she was going, her eyes sparkling as she looked this way and that. The entire complex probably looked like a 3D projection to eyes that can see through slid matter.
Far too quickly, we arrived at the shuttle portal. I could have walked all night with her lithe body pressed against mine.
The shuttle operator came out of his shack to wave Janeway and me into a waiting pod. He held Danya on the loading platform while calling for Security to come and remove her choker.
So much for slipping away unnoticed.
The attendant’s wrinkled skin said he was ancient, but he chatted Danya up like a man in his twenties. She seemed to enjoy it.
It was now clear that most residents on Monk’s were male and on the high side of the century mark, all of them looking ancient on the outside, yet internally preserved by their incurable parasites. That and possessing high libidos combined with a corresponding high tolerance for booze, which begged questions about their sex life that I didn’t really want answers to. There’s nothing beautiful about being ancient. It felt creepy being around them, knowing they were all infected. I wondered how confident they were that the bugs aren’t contagious, person to person. There’s an exception to every rule.
It seemed to take forever before the Chief of Security came clomping along in his cheap prosthetic leg. While modern prosthetics are indistinguishable to the eye from real limbs, his leg looked like it had been made out of old space junk. Clearly he preferred it this way. Probably had some sentimental value.
He whistled appreciatively as he walked around Danya, feasting his eyes on her fancy evening gown and all the tight, bare skin it revealed. He was totally leching out on her. I started to climb back out of the pod and get into his face, but when he saw me rising he pushed the button on his Comm opened the clasp of Danya’s gold collar. He snatched it as it fell, moving with surprising dexterity.
Danya stared blankly at him for a moment, and then started to shake like she was having a seizure. She dropped to her knees on the worn concrete platform as shockingly bright waves of glowing energy radiated outward from her chest to travel down her arms and legs, her hair billowing as each strand changed color from ash blonde back to its former gorgeous shade of gold. Her eyes sparkled with the same astounding shade of blue I’d originally seen, her entire body glowing as if a ray of sunshine had suddenly found only her. She gave of a soft cry and shuddered violently as her skin changed tone from white to a deep burnished gold.
Her eyes snapped open to flash blindingly for but a brief moment, but her heated glare left a spot on the concrete glowing red hot. She held her eyes tightly closed while taking several deep breaths, and then floated weightlessly upward, her long legs unfolding as she continued to rise until her bare feet were floating a meter above the concrete. She opened her eyes to stare into mine, her crooked smile and thankfully cool blue eyes saying she was feeling good again.
The guard scowled as she turned to take the collar and remote control from hands, using just enough force to decisively overpower him but not hurt him.
“Ya can’t have those,” he growled angrily.
“Just borrowing. You’ll get them back next time I pass through here.”
He muttered foul curses on her name as she turned to float over to settle feather-light beside me in the pod.
Janeway and I just stared at her, impressed beyond words at the way her entire body had taken on a golden glow. Her entire body seemed to radiate an ethereal glow now, her hair and eyes the brightest. I wasn’t sure if I was actually sensing the Orgone energy she was radiating, or if the herb was still firing up my imagination. I pushed the door button and it slid close with a hiss of air.
I followed her eyes down to see her making a fist. Steel tendons rose from her wrist and forearm as her slender arm morphed into a maze of sharply-defined muscle, her biceps growing large and round with a slight split down the center — the envy of any female body-shaper. Seemingly satisfied, she relaxed as she leaned gently against me, her body so warm and soft and impossibly firm, somehow all at the same time.
I started to wrap my arm possessively around her, only to be slammed back in my seat as the pod accelerated down the evacuated tube. The hard acceleration lasted barely three seconds before leaving us coasting down the tube, riding frictionlessly on maglev rails.
I reached down to open my bag and pull out the leather jacket that I’d liberated from the bar. Frank’s jacket. I wasn’t opposed to returning the favor of a little larceny. Not after paying a million for those ancient bits of Vendorian clothing.
I wrapped the soft leather around her bared shoulders. “Probably best if we don’t draw too much attention when we get back to the pad, Danya. We’re not exactly planning an authorized departure.”
She nodded while tucking her long, blonde hair under the jacket. Janeway produced a worn hat, which she put on as well. That was better, but there was no way to hide those long legs. We weren’t going to fool anyone who had eyes.
“If it helps, I can move really fast,” she said. “Nobody will be able to see me. Just a big blast of wind.”
I looked at Janeway, and he nodded. She handed back his hat. “You know which ship is ours?” he asked.
“Spent two days riding your hull,” she nodded. “Right up to the event horizon. Got a bit bumpy after that.”
Janeway shook his head slowly as considered the titanic forces that twisted and tore at his ship while jumping a hole. Hundreds of G’s. Many thousands of degrees centigrade. Lethal hard radiation. He shook his head. Despite the ship’s grav dampening, extreme environmental controls and heavy radiation shielding, the crew had to be tucked into their lead-encased and gel-filled life bubbles during a hole transit. Yet she’s been outside, exposed to it all.
“Fucking amazing…” he muttered, shaking his head.
Danya handed me back the jacket back as the pod slowed rapidly, and the moment the door opened, she simply vanished. Unfortunately the suction of her slipstream sucked both of us out of the pod door. Janeway wound up face down on the platform as I kneeled over him, our bags and gear scattered across the platform.
The shuttle attendant, another geriatric, just rolled his eyes as he saw us fall on our faces. He was obviously used to drunk spacers staggering back to their ships.
I helped Janeway walk up the plastic tube that led toward our pad. The closer we to the ship got the taller he stood. By the time we reached the airlock door, he was walking on his own. I watched him gently run his hands over the worn, pitted metal of the hull, almost like he was being reacquainted with a lover. This was his home, his world, and he was its master.
Danya was waiting for us just inside the airlock, talking to Anna, our pilot. Anna looked at Janeway with one eyebrow lifted, mouthing: “A Supremis?”
Anna was more than just the pilot. She was married to Janeway, and by extension to the ship. Between her unnaturally long arms and legs and her freckled face and red, spiky hair, she looked young and punkish. She was, of course, a Malkawan, her people tweaked to be able to run down and kill the dangerous prey that lived on her world. Mala had once told me Anna could outrun a cheetah and kill it with her bare hands, what with her ultra-fast reflexes and fast-twitch muscles. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing her do that. I like cats.
Janeway glared at both women before leading the way soundlessly toward the ship’s conference room, which was actually the galley. It was only room on the ship with a large table and chairs for everyone. He paused to punch a hallway intercom and tell the Chief Engineer to shut down the refueling effort and join us in the galley.
Janeway and I sat on cold metal chairs while Danya crossed her legs lotus style to float distractingly in mid-air over the distressed-looking wooden table. She was thankfully wearing my stolen leather jacket over her exotic gown. It covered things that her tiny skirt seemed determined to reveal.
This table was the only wood on the ship, and that gave this room an antique, primitive, almost Earthy look. Homey and snug. There was even a very convincing holographic fireplace down at the far end, with lounge chairs arrayed around it. There’s probably an interesting story about how the table and chairs got here, not to mention the fireplace, likely something involving larceny, but I really liked this warm, inviting room. This was the social center of the ship, and it was rarely empty.
I was about to ask Janeway about the table’s origin when the Chief arrived with his assistant, Kurt. They took one look at Danya and their eyes lit up. It didn’t take any special senses to see the wheels turning in their heads as their blood pressure surged, skin darkening. They obviously thought Danya was a high-end sexbot. The very best bots have tiny anti-gravs and can levitate, which opened up interesting new ways to have sex.
Janeway had a reputation for doing whatever it took to keep his crew working, and I’d heard that he sometimes hired a sexbot to service his crew while they worked on a major problem. It was a good way to reduce turnaround time in port and build some goodwill with the crew. As a group, most Spacers have a appetite for cheap, dirty sex.
Sometimes I don’t think we’re all that much different than our ancient seafaring ancestors, many of whom sailed the seas of old Earth in wind-powered ships. Sailors and whores were made for each other.
To his great disappointment, Janeway waved Kurt back to work. Seated where I was, I could hear Kurt grumbling as he walked back down the corridor, complaining to himself how the officers always keep the good stuff for themselves. Danya could surely hear him for longer than I could, but she seemed amused by it all. She was starting to understand how sexbots and Spacers worked. Which wasn’t the healthiest model to be exposing her to.
My bigger problem was that Danya and I hadn’t had time to talk through the details of her bizarre plan. I launched into my pitch anyway, making it up as I went.
The Chief stared at me after I was finished, the look on his face saying that he thought I was insane.
Danya quickly jumped in to go over the technical details — distances, weights, timelines, required equipment, retrofits. Impressively, she seemed to know a lot about starship tech.
The Chief looked increasingly confused as she talked, seemingly unable to understand why a high-end sexbot was blasting a firehose of engineering data his way.
“She’s not a bot, Chief,” Janeway had to finally say to get his brain unstuck.
“I’m not that stupid,” the Chief retorted angrily. “Just try’in to figure what a fucking Supremis is doing way out here? Slumming on this ship of all places, begging a ride? I hate to break it to you, honey, but fucking us won’t make my broke ship fly.”
I jumped up to put my fist in his face, but Janeway grabbed my arm and pulled me back down. “Girl can take care of herself,” he whispered to me.
“I’m not offering sex,” she glared at the Chief. “Not to you leastways. Got hard metal for you.”
“Yeah. Already heard. Vendorian ore.” He pretended to look around. “Don’t see no purple here.”
“We gotta get your sweet ride off the ground first,” Danya replied, mimicking his EngTech accent. “Ore capsule is up there, falling in park orbit. Three-hundred klik apogee.”
He stuck his arms out to the side. “Well, we ain’t flying, baby. Transfer coil on the MAM reactor is shot. We energize, we nuke. Might not singe your pretty hair, but sure as hell ruin my day.”
“Don’t need your broken fly thingy anymore,” she smiled. “You got me.”
“Bullshit. Ship grosses over 12K metric.”
She shrugged. “So maybe I’ll have to use both hands.”
“Double bull,” he spit back at her. “You ain’t no Protector, and none of them gonna lift this shit pile.”
Janeway glared at him. The Chief was obviously too stupid to realize how Janeway felt about his ship. Or he didn’t care.
“Then let me prove it,” Danya suggested. “Any way you want.”
Anna raised her hand to get their attention. “You both realize that I can make orbit with our grav engine and thrusters?” she said. “Just can’t get anywhere else.”
The Chief looked at her like she was an idiot before his eyes focused back on Danya’s. “OK, test a little, honey.” He stared at her dress. “Might wanna take that pretty off. Don’t wanna tear it.”
“No worries,” Danya said, spinning around in mid-air. “Vitamax.”
“Total bull,” the Chief growled. “Been unobtainium since my gramps did hard G’s.”
“Then today is a day full of surprises,” I offered, trying to get the conversation back on track.
“You shut up,” the Chief glared at me. “You ain’t part ‘o my crew no matter what paper says. I talking to the lady.”
“We do this, and we’re both part of the crew,” I said, looking to Janeway for support. “Problems?”
“Big if. Met plenty ‘o Supremis long my way. They ain’t no way that strong.”
“Half Supremis,” Danya replied. “My father is Geheimite. That mean anything to you?”
We all turned to stare at her. Half Geheimite? Jesus! No wonder the Supremis government wanted to do away with her. My estimation of her powers jumped up a notch. Geheimites are second cousins to the Galen.
The true believers claim the Galen provided the spark that transformed apes into humans of their likeness back on old Earth. Personally I doubt that. I was raised mono-theist. But if you ever want to get into a fight, just sit at a bar and make fun of that claim.
More believable is the tale that says the Galen enhanced some abductees from Old Earth with portions of their own DNA to create the Homo Sapiens Supremis subspecies. Their goal was to create a race of Procreators to replace their own infertile women. Everything about the Supremis had to be dramatically tweaked so as to endure the ardent passion of a god, not to mention bearing and protecting their children.
And here I was, hoping to share the same favors with her, yet I’d been born well beneath average for even a Terran, genetically speaking.
I shook that depressing thought away as I watched the Chief tossing his usual ball of purplish metal from hand to hand. It was a very low grade of Vendorian steel, but it was still vastly stronger than the very best titanium alloy yet amazingly light. A pinch of xininite ore aligned all the nanotubes in bulk titanium material, expanding and vastly strengthening it.
The Chief had a serious case of OCD. I’d never seen him without his toy, always fiddling with it, often spinning it on the table in front of him when other people were talking. Then he would grip it tightly when it was his turn to speak. I found it irritating.
Danya seemed to as well. She rose while taking off my leather jacket. She handed it back to me, all eyes on her as she did this amazing midair somersault that carried her the length of the long table. She settled cross-legged directly in front of him as her her long white-gold scarf brushed across the Chief’s face before setting on the table between them.
He stared at her bare legs as she held out her hand.
He gripped his ball tightly against his body. “May you what?”
“See your little toy.”
The Chief looked worriedly from her hand to his ball of alloy and back. I could see the pulse pounding in his temple. Maybe it was more than just OCD. He had a thing with that toy.
“Just give it to her, damn it,” Janeway said tiredly.
The Chief still hesitated, his hand moving forward and back a couple of times before he finally tossed it reluctantly to her.
Danya wrapped her long fingers around it and raised her hand to hold it a foot from his face. “Is this a strong metal?”
The Chief smirked. “Little girl, that’s armor off an ancient fucking Arion battlecruiser. The best V-steel the Arions ever madeV”
“So what do you think about a girl who can do this?” She gripped the ball tightly as she reached out to put it right in front of the Chief’s face. Her arm exploded into a maze of tight muscles and steel tendons. A horrible screech filled the air as I was astonished to see her fingers actually crushing that impossibly hard metal. We all stared in astonishment as the purplish metal started to squish out from either side of her hand like it was nothing more than modeling clay. We’re talking about a metal so strong that you could construct huge starships with tiny, spidery structural beams. Strong enough to make prison cells that can contain Supremis criminals.
The Chief knew this better than I did. His mouth opened and closed silently as he swallowed hard, a sudden blaze of heat from her hand forcing him to stagger backward, nearly falling out of his chair. Satisfied, Danya set his now mangled toy on the table, the wood smoking as the glowing hot metal scorched it. Heat that came from internal friction alone.
The Chief stared it the misshapen ball with a stricken look, almost like he was going to cry. “That was the most perfect sphere our technology can produce with V-steel,” he moaned. “Expensive as hell. But look at it now. Mangled. Crushed.”
I stared as Danya’s arm amazing relaxed back to her usual supple smoothness. Her muscular expansion was incredible.
“I’ll buy you another, Chief,” I said, trying not to laugh at the stricken look on his face. I swore she’d just killed his dog or something.
Time to set the hook.
“More importantly, Chief,” I continued, “she’s offering the crew purified xitinite for payment, not mere alloy,” I said. “A fucking tonne of it. Worth a billion drocnas. Your share of that billion will buy you a very nice personal jumpyacht and as many of those perfect spheres as you want. You can sail away a wealthy man when we’re done.”
“Bullshit!” he exclaimed. “Ore, not metal?”
I watched as he did the math, and his eyes began to gleam with avarice as he struggled to comprehend the enormity of her offer. He lifted his eyes to meet Danya’s. She was still sitting on the table, right in front of him. “A billion?”
She nodded. “Yup. I leave it for the Captain to decide how it will be shared.”
The Chief looked over at Janeway. “And all we gotta do is let this bitch fly our ship, Captain? Go get some lizards and dump them on some unpopulated world. How we know this teenage blondie won’t crack her open?”
“That’s why you’re here, Chief. To make sure she doesn’t. Assuming you agree.”
There’s a sacred rule that has kept spacefarers safe for generations: Captain and Chief Engineer both have an equal vote on anything affecting the ship’s tech. Any captain who tried to strong-arm his Engineer would be blackballed by the Guild.
“It ain’t strength what flies ships,” the Chief said, glaring at Danya. “Gotta be sure we can depend on you. Especially around holes. Don’t want to take a tour of no blackhole.” He stared at her breasts. “No way you got enough Orgone for all this.”
The Chief knew as I did that the Supremis store Orgone in their tissues, primary the breasts, which are stretchy enough organs to soak up a lot of it.
She shrugged. “I plan to recharge a few times along the way. In the photosphere of nearby stars. No worries. I’m a fast absorber.”
That sounded more like photosynthesis than anything mammalian. The Supremis are far stranger than they appear on the surface. It is said the Galen are made of energy.
“Stars we only be close to when we’re near a hole,” the Chief complained. “Our ship, she doesn’t have power during the most critical time? How long?”
Danya shrugged. “Maybe a day or two each time. Travel time mostly. You had some pretty long coast windows coming here.”
Now I was worried too. Entering a wormhole at the wrong angle or speed could spin you into the accretion ring of the black hole that powered it. Being squished to the size of an electron for all of eternity would not be a good way to die. Even worse, Danya had no experience doing any of this. She’d barely gotten her Singleton to Monk’s, and then she’d crashed.
She alone seemed unconcerned as she floated back up near the ceiling to somersault back my way, settling onto the chair beside me. She looked very pleased with herself.
I leaned over to whisper: “Did you know you could do that? To V-steel? Not supposed to be possible.”
She shook her head. “Not until I did it. It was very hard, but Mother said I would have trouble finding my limits. So far she’s right.”
“Did she also say that reality is cruel bitch when you do find her?” I asked.
She turned to look at me, a touch of concern in her eyes. “No.” She reached out to take my hand and press it to her chest. “Me. Protect you. Always. OK?”
“Kiraling,” I nodded. “And if you get us to Riegel, Danya, I promise I’ll find a way to get this ship refitted and supplied. Trust me.”
She gave me a dazzling smile. “Always.”