Demons Of The Past 03 – Retribution – Chapter 07
Lightless tunnels, there are a lot of ships here.
There were literally thousands, no, tens of thousands of moving targets on her scanners. A few showed the red glare of identified Imperial craft, but most beacons were not identified by her system. The haze of ships focused most strongly on the fourth planet from the primary. “I presume that is the Mydrwyll homeworld?”
Even so, agreed Vick. They have a difficult-to-pronounce name for it, but their trading partners tend to simply call it Mydr.
“There’s four Imperial vessels here. Looks like one carrier-type, three other warships — pretty big, too. No undersized Marjaav-class scouts here. Should I be worried?”
“I would say no,” Guvthor said from his quarters far aft. “They are undoubtedly watching but as you noted you are now but one small mote in a sea of moving vessels, with new ones arriving and leaving every moment. Moreover, the customary behavior of the Mydrwyll and their allies affords them few opportunities to positively identify anyone. As long as your beacon is not transmitting your old code — and I am sure it is not — they will not likely notice us.”
“Not now,” she conceded, trying to get a feel for the best routes through this system. “But if they get any wind of what we’re up to –“
“Yes, that could prove inconvenient. Still, if they attempt something overt, I would think the Mydrwyll might –“
Do nothing, Vick said bluntly. Unless some level of bargain had been arranged for protection of The Eönwyl from Imperial vessels, they will care little for our personal squabbles. Unless, of course, it seems to threaten them or others. But in that case we may be blamed as much as they.
She shrugged. No need to borrow that trouble. We’ve got others to worry about. “Traffic regulations?”
Stay out of other people’s way, Vick said with a toothy smile. They will ignore you if you do not bother them. Landing, that will require more etiquette, but until you approach Mydr orbit it is of no concern.
She was somewhat dubious about this — surely someone must be directing the movements of all those vessels? But as The Eönwyl continued on a course for the homeworld, it became clear that Vick was right. No transmissions were directed at her, and none of the other vessels showed the slightest interest in her progress. “Are their traffic control transmissions encrypted and secure?” the Eönwyl asked. “The ones for landing, I mean.”
Vick tilted his head. Ah, of course. We do not want a chance interception of conversation which might be too revealing. The most secure method would be telepathic; they of course have a number of their most capable telepaths permanently under contract for this purpose. But I am not the ship’s captain, and you have yet to truly master your abilities.
“And I don’t know if telepathy will ever be one of them,” she agreed. “Though I am starting to get a little handle on that . . . danger sense, premonition capability, what-have-you.”
Which will undoubtedly prove invaluable. To the matter at hand, you can request secure communication. That is not uncommon.
“And they’ll understand Imperial?”
“I would expect so,” Guvthor said. “Your people are skulking about the system, surely they will wish to be able to speak to them at need.”
“Not my people any more, but I get your point.” A light suddenly blinked to life. “And now we find out.”
She activated her D-Comm and allowed it to connect with the transmitting source. “Mydr traffic control, I request a secure connection.”
The humming undertone to the replying voice was unique, unlike any other species’ voices she had yet heard. “Secure connection now active,” it said; her board concurred. “State identity of vessel, purpose, and landing justification.”
She and the others had thought for a while on the answers to these questions. “This is Atlantaea’s Shadow, independent trader. Purpose is both trading and research. In order to deliver or take on cargo, landing is required for this style of craft.”
“Responses understood. You are a new visitor to Mydr and appear associated with the polity called the Reborn Empire. Currently no trading reciprocity with the Empire exists. Do you have evidence of reciprocity?”
She glanced at Vick. “What does that mean?”
A hiss-chuckle from the R’Thann. They do not trust your Empire, although they are willing to ignore their presence on the outskirts. They will not allow landings by those without some standing relative to Mydr. Fortunately, as we discussed, I believe I can supply that.
She sensed Vick’s next thoughts as a sideband, and even so she could feel the vastly greater power that was used to hurl his thoughts across tens of thousands of kilometers of space to the Mydrwyll below. I am Sooovickalassa, Master of the Dawning Light. This vessel may claim reciprocity through my patronage, for our mission also serves our world and the Master of the Final Light.
There was a pause. “Reciprocity through R’Thann alliance is accepted. Follow the beacon on this frequency and land your vessel at the indicated berth.” The voice transmission cut off, replaced by a clear homing beacon.
“Well, if we can get through all of our problems that quickly, we’ll have this done in no time.”
“Truth,” Guvthor said. “But I very much doubt that shall be the case. Do you in fact have anything to trade?”
She grinned at the disembodied voice. “I didn’t get rid of all the cargo I picked up on Thovia . . . and I even have some little cargo from Earth itself. And I have a feeling that at least some of it will be worth something here.”
Well and good, Vick thought approvingly. For Guvthor is correct. My status as a Master of the Light carries a certain . . . credit, one could say, but that is limited. We will need resources of our own here, especially to gain the information required and locate our target.
“You can sense surface thoughts most of the time, right?” At Vick’s confirmatory nod, she went on, “So you can probably at least indicate the people I don’t need to try to talk to.”
You mean to avoid speaking to those who will demand some recompense but are not of sufficient position to be of use? Yes. You already think along the correct lines, continue to do so.
The hardest part of this, she reflected as she guided The Eönwyl along the beacon’s bearing, was going to be changing her usual bargaining approach. In many ways, the Mydrwyll did things in the opposite way to that of most civilized species. The concepts of “politeness” were present, but very different. Unlike an Imperial world, where being courteous and friendly to even the dockworkers and janitors could end up paying unexpected dividends, according to Vick it was rude to address people unless you had a clear and articulable purpose in doing so. Politeness in Mydrwyll society involved simply not interfering with anyone unless it was necessary.
A thin layer of cloud passed, and she could suddenly make out something below. “Is that . . .”
The capital and major port of Mydr, confirmed Vick. Called, unsurprisingly, Alevalaa, and centered around that very territory it is said she defended in the days of origin.
The first thing that struck her was the shape of the city and its buildings. It was two crescent moons, the one in the water slightly larger than the one on land, surrounding a mostly empty circle of water. The buildings themselves were all rounded, smooth arches and domes and organic spirals that had a vaguely living feel to them, and as she saw the way the light glinted from some she wondered if that might be exactly correct. Corals or something similar, guided in their growth?
Other buildings were clearly made of more artificial materials, but they all followed the same wave-and-circle aesthetic; very rarely did she see straight lines and sharp angles unless the function of a building or structure called for it. The city shimmered in greens and blues and diamond-crystal sparkles like a basket of gemstones worn smooth by the sea.
No, she corrected herself, more like the basket cast widely upon the shore. Both crescents sprawled across land and sea, vastly more spread out than any other city she had seen. Of course. They are isolate by nature; even their cities will reflect that.
The beacon was guiding her to one of the few areas that did, in fact, show straight lines; this made sense, for landing and takeoff of spaceships and aircraft often demanded much straight-line space.
She felt a sudden twinge from her inner senses, even as she brought her ship in for a gentle landing. Tension rising.
This will not be simple . . . and it will not be safe.
Somewhere, danger is waiting.