“…I appreciate your honesty, Chief Rom. I will inform the rest of the council and get back to you.” Councilman Joffs, the representative of the colonists to the Rival Bay, was a portly humanoid with bushy chin hair. He and the colonists were Bulaxian, a greenish-pinkish race.
Shaak-Rom’s red jaw clenched and released. He did not wish to ruin Crimson’s choice of business plan, but with a price on the head of every crewman of the Rival Bay it was only right that they should inform their coming passengers that some risk was involved—at least while they were in Khibarran space.
“I assure you,” Shaak-Rom nodded, “That we are taking every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of your people. Security checks and screening is in place. We only thought you should know.”
The councilman sighed. “Of course. We will confer and let you know immediately.”
The Linkburst faded and Shaak-Rom propped his elbows on the Archive console to rub the heels of his hands over his eyes and up the base of his ribbed, cranial horns. It occurred to him that if the Bulaxians withdrew their agreement of travel because of his actions Crimson would likely terminate his contract. The fact that it would strand him on the noxious world of Qualvana would not be of any concern to her. It had been several missions ago that he had confronted her on her misconduct towards prisoners, but he had a feeling she didn’t forget such impertinence. Destroying their best chance at netting enough cash for a bristolite battery or two would most assuredly be grounds for dismissal in Crimson’s mind.
But it could not be avoided now. The deed was done. Drawing nearly 300 passengers—men, women and children—into an underworld grudge match without their knowledge or consent was unacceptable. Even if it cost him Shaak-Rom his own home.
How long had it been? Ten years? Ten years since the collapse of the Legacy Order—since the destruction of his entire universe; his life; his allies; his sister…. He had survived, and carried a few with him—Kaylex, Devron, and Milgin, among others. But the prices on their heads from the newly establish Imperium had made it impossible to stay on Zeramis, or any other planet in the galaxy. Maybe he should have stayed with Devron and the others. But their freedom fighting insurrection seemed too impotent in relation to the effort expended just to remain ahead of the Imperium’s Hunting Squads. And his grief over Shaa-mi’s death and the demise of the Order had driven Shaak-Rom to flee the entire galaxy. He spent 6 years working on the Freighter Borsogus Malis to earn his passage to another galaxy—it happened to be the Whirlpool. With his skills he thought private security would be the best place to begin–maybe as a trainer, again. No longer dwarfed by the mystical powers of the Legacy Knights, he was quickly singled out as an exceptional fighter, and sent out as a mission leader. It only took a few unsavory jobs protecting shady characters for Shaak-Rom’s stomach to turn him away from that lifestyle. In time he found the Rival, passing through, but needing recruits. Already drifting through space himself, it was a perfect match.
Losing his place on the Rival Bay made him feel as though he was tilting on the edge of the Hedlion Cliffs of his birth world. He would truly be a homeless babe again. A vagrant, a refugee. Milgin’s words would always haunt him: Stay. You are a crucial piece to rebuild the Legacy. But there was no Legacy. And he did not even know if Milgin and the others yet lived.
It wasn’t fear that drove him from the Legacy Galaxy. He did not fear death. It was despair; grief; impotence. They were relicts of a bygone age, and holding onto the dead past. But the Rival had given him a purpose and a home again. If he lost that…?
Shaak-Rom expelled a heavy breath from his lungs, and pushed the thoughts aside. He had done what he thought was right. If it set him further adrift in the universe, what great difference would it make? Perhaps another six year voyage back to Legacy was no worse than any other recourse.
Spinning in his chair Shaak-Rom rose and left the Archive. He made his way along the grated catwalk towards the Circle, listening to the hollow clump of his boots as though they were his last on this ship.
Behind him the communications alert chimed: incoming Linkburst! Could it be Councilman Joffs already? A speedy reply seemed alarming at best. Gritting his teeth Shaak-Rom spun and trotted back to the Archive. Crashing into the chair again he struck the respond key. “This is the Rival Bay.”
Joffs’ plump figure sprang up from the console. “Yes. Hello again, Chief Rom.”
“The Council and I have reached a consensus.”
Shaak-Rom tried to mask his surprise. “That is most expedient of you…!”
“Yes. We are all present, and we have discussed the matter. While the circumstances you have outlined are less than ideal, we would like to continue with the resettlement via the Rival Bay, if you and your crew are still willing to take us.”
Shaak-Rom’s mouth opened before he knew what to say. “That is… most achievable. Yes, we are still able and willing to take you and your people.”
“That is well,” replied the councilman, “You might wonder why we are so willing to make this journey. Well, as you might imagine, it isn’t easy to find anyone going our way. And as for the danger… that is precisely why most of us wish to leave this sector. It isn’t what we bargained for when we came here, and we don’t want to raise our children in such a lawless and hostile environment.”
Shaak-Rom felt his business decorum returning, “Of course, Councilman. We will continue with preparations then. We are delighted to have signed with you, and we will do everything to provide you and your people with a safe and comfortable voyage.”
“Wonderful. How soon can we inspect the vessel and prepare for boarding?”
“Within the week! Our transport shuttle is scheduled for supplies in three days. We can have you and any other representatives come aboard at that time. If everything is to your liking we should be able to begin boarding after that.”
“Very well. Please send me the coordinates for the shuttle, and time of rendezvous , and we will be ready.”
“I will. Rival out.”
Shaak-Rom batted the Linkburst away and leaned back. A giddy lightheadedness filled him, and his head-tendrils flexed and stretched.
For now, things would continue.