Episode 9: Drug Runners

Optipad work: the curse of modern society. Shaak-Rom had been a combat trainer for the Legacy Knights—an ancient order dedicated to a code of chivalry and honor—and even they could not escape the ball and chain of legislature and admin. They had resisted every modern means of filing data, and clung to pressing of plant fibers together into parchments, and marking records upon them with ink dispensed from a fine leaking point called a quill. But even this antiquated means of recording information and fulfilling protocols was enough to make Legacy Master Zashivong Zamsei lament, “Paperwork is without honor.” Shaak-Rom agreed.

After the crew of the Rival Bay had been attacked by a gang of thieves bent of stealing their cargo it had been a fight-or-die moment—the combat that followed nearly legendary! But the legal implications could suck the life out of them even if they had not died at the hands of the spoor-thieves. Fortunately the Galactic Precinct and that permitted them to carry masers, which allowed Shaak-Rom to tick past most of the boxes on the endless pages of legal jargon that flashed by on his Optipad.

Crimson had tasked him with the security of the mission, and left him to sort out more loose ends than the edge of an unfinished tapestry. He had often served the Legacy Knights and their apprentices by oiling their boots, and folding their sparring robes. Crimson lacked the steady calm and chivalry of a Legacy Knight, but she was his commander. Even now Shaak-Rom saw the signs that she was descending into one of her dark moods; it was evident since he and the insectoid Clidjitt had rescued her from a pile of adversaries. She might not be roused from her dark quarters now except by a shipwide emergency or a bounty. He would do the Optipad work.

Once Qualvanan security forces, law enforcement, Species Protection & Fairness Organization, Bekka & Xvhkkttr Pre-Hazard Insurance were appeased—gorged with a plethora of “paperwork”—Shaak-Rom permitted himself to leave the communications alcove behind the bridge. He trekked to the Green House, stopping by his quarters only to retrieve his Grip-Stone baton. He wanted to try something.

He descended the catwalks to the lower levels and made his way to where the eternal light of the cosmic rays fed the spinning gardens of the Rival. Steeling his stomach Shaak-Rom walked through the artificial gravity fields into the spinning cylinder, and let the force of the Arboretum transfer the weight of his body mass outwards, holding him to the rotating floor with the approximation of gravity. He walked out onto the green fields of the garden pane, looking at the sky planes and other gardens above his head. He could hear the sound of water bubbling from its recycling ports, into Keffler’s ponds, and even some birds clucking and singing among the plants. The sterile hollow-drum smell-lessness of the ship was replaced by the fragrance of warm grass and naturally photosyntesized air.

Finding a level square of ground that the human gardener Keffler had left between bushes and some raised flower boxes, Shaak-Rom unlooped his shirt and left it slip from his shoulders. He enjoyed the warmth of the Qualvanan sun as it peaked around the green planet through the sky pane above him for a long moment. He let it warm his red and striped skin, and rolled his head, neck, and shoulders. His dreads were free of the polymer spray that enabled him to breathe on-planet. Now he would enjoy the flavor of the trees and flowers and his dreads curled and flicked in enjoyment. He hefted the weight of his baton.

As a Duka, a sparring-trainer for the Legacy Order, he strove for the perfection and serenity of the Legacy. He had abandoned every trace of his native forms of Balankada to the superior discipline of the Knights, despite his lack of mind powers, and telekinesis. Nevertheless, his accomplished command of the martial art, and hard work, earned him his place in the combat academy training the young apprentices. He even became an appreciated sparring partner for several ascended Knights. He could, at least then, see his sister occasionally in the sparring halls of Ten-sha Temple…

But it was not the disciplined movement of the Legacy that slipped silently through his arms and legs as the Zeeplan spoor gangs of Qualvana swarmed the crew of the Rival. Balankada of his childhood; the forgotten, rhythmic , fierce, pulsing tribal dance—beat off the attacks.

A battle chant had even slipped out of his mouth.

Standing in the spinning terrarium of the Green House Shaak-Rom lifted his face and closed his eyes, imagining the orange light of his home world’s sun. The song climbed back from the depths of his memory.

Too ba ni,

may-may-ay!

Feeling the cadence, he began to move, dragging his baton through the air in a lazy arc and beginning the dance his ancestors.

*

Andross sat in the cockpit with both his booted feet kicked high on the control panel. He chewed on a toothpick, his head lolling back, looking out the dorsal window. Nothing but stars rotated in and out of view. He blew out a deep breath between his lips, nearly losing his toothpick in the process.

Crimson was pouting about something, and she’d forgotten to give them orders before disappearing. He considered hitting up the local newsbursts and police bands to see if there were any tasty bounties that might help them get a decent job, and a little excitement. But that would be borderline helpful. He decided against it. In just another hour, Clidjitt would be on duty and Andross could go hit the gym. Or sleep.

Suddenly the communications chimed. Andross catapulted back to properly seated, and stared for a moment at the red ‘encrypted’ light. No one was around. He answered.

“Hello, Rival Bay here. You’re paying for encryption; who are you and what do you want?”

A mostly handsome face lifted itself above the control console on the semi-holographic display. It was a bald head, with clean, humanoid features, but made distinct by spiked ridges where the eyebrows should have been. The figure smiled, “I am Vaken Rae, of Kannazzal.”

“Yeah?”

“I was impressed with the way your crew handled the situation here on Qualvana between the Zeeplams and the Gortassa. I have a valuable cargo I need to transport, that requires security measures equal to yours. Are you the captain?”

“You’d think. What’s your cargo?” Andross quipped.

“Flyer crystals,” said the drug dealer, dropping his chin knowingly. “100 grade.”

“Interesting,” said Andross arching an eyebrow and smiling. “Please hold.” He smote the display, killing the live feed. His other hand was already on the intercom. “Crimson, your gonna’ wanna’ do the talkin’!”

Advertisements