I will put up ten chapters, which is about half of the novel. I will also probably take at least the last four down sometime after I have published the novel, although not maybe immediately.
Still thinking about the planet name. Well, Tekmar doesn’t look too bad, now does it? 🙂 Names are funny, they can give the weirdest associations sometimes. Well, ‘tek-‘ might remind one of ‘technology’, which is perhaps not the best possible name for a planet which is deemed to be rather primitive in the universe of this story, but on the other hand it does rather fit a science fiction story.
I will probably use Tekmar.
They were all dressed as peons now, including Rahan, a small bunch of young people, looking perhaps healthier and, due to that, also taller than the peons were in general, but while the discrepancy was noticeable to Rahan nobody else seemed to be paying much attention, certainly not the peons.
He hoped that would also hold true to the police or the Ytjar. The peons were perhaps ignoring them out of a sense of self-preservation since the ruling class here seemed to be holding their power with open bullying tactics, but the low level bullies working for the big guys might be a bit more bold, especially when it came to doing their duties even when most of these rebels were related to, and as it seemed to some extent protected, by their bosses.
On the other hand, for all he knew the latest craze for the high born kids here might be roleplaying games, including ones where they would go and mingle with the peons, and their own group might then be just one of many here…
One could hope.
The place they were going to turned out to be a big yard filled with bags of used clothes.
“Okay, these are going to a village outside the city where they will become the raw material for new clothes, but before they will be packed into those trucks,” Lida pointed towards three very old fashioned looking ones standing in line on one end of the wide yard – tires and, from the smell, engines which ran on wood alcohol – “they will be sorted, and the more badly worn thrown into that pile, the others will go back into the bags. We will mingle with these people and start doing that – you stay with me – and when the trucks are nearly full there will be bit of a disturbance away from the trucks and you and I, and a couple of the guys, will hide between the bags in there. These have never been checked, so far, well sometimes they have opened the back doors and looked inside but they have never started to look through the cargo, much less used something like a heat viewer, so this should be relatively safe. This method haven’t been used much, only once or twice during the last three years, usually we smuggle things out of the city in our own flyers. That is the method the Ytjar and police are more familiar with.”
She had spoken very fast, hardly taking the time to breath between sentences.
He still wasn’t sure how far he would be able to trust Lida. Much less these friends of hers. They hadn’t acted particularly friendly towards him, and Lida was now nervous every damn time she talked with him.
But maybe it was just the inconvenience of having to make arrangements, and risk their necks, for an outsider. He might have been a bit pissed too, in their place.
After the police let him go Ryn had gone to check the place where Rahan’s com was, and had retrieved it from the storm drain.
The police had tried to tail him, but even when he knew he would not be able to lose them completely – the city had both flying and fixed cams around, and he stood out, badly – he had been in the mood to make things as difficult as possible for them so he had kept losing his tails. They still didn’t get quite how fast he could move, or how well he was aware of the people, and everything else, around him.
The police who had tried interrogating him had not known any more than what the AI had been able to find from the nets. Rahan’s girl was involved in some sort of illegal activities – they seemed to be mostly fairly benign efforts, such as educating members of the peon class, and to get them better medical care, but there were also some hints that there might even be a threat of an armed rebellion. There had been some terrorist tactics used. Gun smuggling, spying, building of an activist net both from some members of the noble classes and from peons, only the hints indicated they were divided into cells which were not in direct contact with each other.
This was a young movement. No telling which way it might go.
He stepped into a side alley, then sprinted to the middle of it and jumped up to the low roof of one of the buildings and flattened himself down, hearing the tail starting to run on the street in order to catch him but then running right past him, to the other end of the alley.
Ryn grinned. In spite of his worry over Rahan he was enjoying the cat and mouse game. He had been confined inside the ship far too long.
He got back on the street a couple of roofs later, the same one he had been on before – right now the tail was probably a street or two towards the east from it – coming to it from one of the enclosed small yards between the buildings.
The locals gave him looks and a wide berth, but while they did not seem at all happy about his presence none had tried to get confrontational, so far. He suspected he would not be served in any of the cafes or shops that now, as he was getting closer to the starport again, were starting to dot the ground floors of the buildings, but looked like he wouldn’t have to worry about anything like hanging mobs.
The two things he would not be able to do were moving around without being noticed, not without a camo suit which was something they did not have in the ship – he could ditch the tails, but they would easily find him again, if not by using the cams then simply by asking if anybody had seen an exceptionally tall dark skinned man around. The peons didn’t like the police, but their distaste for him was even greater so they’d talk. But they would not talk to him, and that was the other thing he would not be able to do here, talk with people.
He would of course be able to get some information simply by asking questions and then estimating the reactions to those questions, but while he sometimes was able to get close to a telepath’s level with mind reading he would not be able to go and dig for what somebody knew from a distance like a telepath could. In order for him to read somebody that person would need to think about the information he wanted to find while facing him and close to him, and even then he might get things wrong when the person was not somebody he knew, nor from a culture he was familiar with, and that limited things quite a bit. The interrogators had been more easy since they had, of course, revealed quite a lot simply by the questions they had asked, but that had been one situation, getting info out of somebody who’d probably refuse both to answer or to stay and wait for further questions was another. He could wander around for days and never find anything important, while getting the natives all riled up by bothering them. Not a good idea.
The guards at the landing field gate did not ask any questions. That fitted what Rahan had told him, they searched you when you left the field, but didn’t seem to be particularly interested when you returned, more worried about contraband going out than of contraband coming in. As for the person himself, no problems as long as they knew you were somebody who belonged there and was not wanted by the police, and that was something their coms told them.
Once back inside the ship he downloaded the information Rahan’s com had gathered during the last days he had had it, but apart from some interesting conversations with the girl – Lida – he found nothing he could use to figure out where Rahan was now.
But some of those conversations were interesting, not because of what she said but because of the way she said it. What seemed clear was that the girl had been hiding something from Rahan, and had been feeling… guilty, perhaps… about it. But he could not tell more by just her voice, and that was all the com had recorded.
What had the boy gotten himself into?
The ride in the back of the truck had been comfortable enough at first that Rahan had fallen asleep, right after they had passed the last checkpoint dotting the roads leading to and from the city, but gradually the relatively well paved streets had given way to country roads, and those were bumpy enough that he had woken up. He had given up trying to go back to sleep after the second time he had rolled off from the pile of cloth bags he had arranged into something like a bed all the way to one of the walls, and had hit it with enough force to rattle his teeth.
Lida had given him a somewhat sheepish grin when he had located her wedged into one of the corners, several bags between her and the walls. Whether she had done this before or not, she at least knew what to expect.
It was noisy enough that there was no point trying to talk to her. Or the two men, but since they had, so far, exhibited no desire to talk with Rahan he probably wouldn’t have tried in any case.
So he had settled to wait. Since both of the corners closest to the truck cab had already been taken he had dug into a pile of the bags next to one of the walls, hoping that their weight might keep him a bit better in place.
The message came as a letter. One written on some sort of typewriter, something Ryn was able to see because he had seen those devices, even gotten the chance to try using one once before, when visiting another backwards colony as child with his father. The letter had been enclosed in an envelope, and had been deposited on the ship’s AI monitored mail slot, which, according to the AI, had never been used before. The man who had left it had been wearing the overalls used by one of the cleaning crews who worked for the field. The AI had not been able to find any additional information about him. He didn’t seem to be a regular member of the crew he had been with.
Something he could not trace.
He thought he could smell male pheromones when he sniffed the letter, and ones possibly left by a male who was nervous, although that might have been just his imagination as his sense of smell was not really that acute. When he told the AI to take a look he learned that the paper seemed to be something made locally, but that didn’t do him much good under the circumstances. The AI would also, now, be able to recognize everything else written by that same typewriter, would be able to say if the typist had been the same, and would know the typewriter if it was ever shown it. None of which was of any use to him right now either. It confirmed his guess of a male, and possibly a nervous one, also that there had been at least two other males dealing with the letter and the envelope. The other traces were more faint. The delivery boy had not touched more than the envelope.
The contents of the message were sparse. It told him that Rahan was alright except for a twisted ankle, and would be kept safe until the ship was repaired. Where and when Ryn would then find him, an alley behind a certain building in the city, where Rahan would be dropped by the rebels – or whatever they were, the letter just talked about ‘friends’ – during the early morning rush hour two days from now. And instructions how he would be able to get there and bring Rahan back without being seen, which included how he would be able to leave the port without being seen.
“Can you verify any of this?” he asked.
The AI’s voice, adjusted to a range which could as well has been that of a low voiced woman or that of a bit higher range man, was as even as it always was. Ships this small usually had ones with no self-awareness, and no personality except the ones programmed into them by the crew. Rahan preferred ones with none. If it was not a person, something self-aware and with a naturally grown personality then better let it sound like what it was, a machine. “According to the blueprints I found when I hacked into those parts of the city net which are not public, yes, there really seems to be an old remnant of the original water drainage system underneath that corner of the field, one large enough that a person, even one as tall as you, can walk inside without having to bend more than their head. Whether it is possible to access it in the way described in the letter can not be verified. The house, as described, also does stand in the address given, the alley is behind it, and all the alleys and backyards they instructed you to use after you get out of the drainage tunnel also exist, as described. The data about working, and not working, surveillance equipment in the area and the given route there also seems to fit what I can find. As to the rest of the letter, I can’t give any other verifications.”
Ryn sighed and leaned back in the chair.
This made him somewhat uneasy. But he could not think of any reason why anybody would have gone to these lengths to get at them. He didn’t have access to anything of much value, apart from his pay, and all he had with him – something that held true for Rahan as well – was what he had accumulated during the last few months, and even in the economy of this planet it was not that much. There was the ship and the Corps spending account, but the ship had a mind of its own and Ryn could not order it to do anything like submit to new owners – and it monitored the use of that spending account as well, and their use of that credit depended on its approval.
And while the people here didn’t like his kind – hell, they very much disapproved of his whole existence, thinking of it as an affront against nature – and these young rebels presumably would not have shed any tears over any trouble he got into here, nor over his death, he couldn’t think of anything they might gain by trying to trap him. Much less doing it by going to such lengths as kidnapping Rahan for bait…
And if they disappeared here both the Corps and his people would come looking. And they would not stop looking until they found out what had happened.
And the Shemasharra would find that out. They had been designed as fighters, and as hunters. Hunters of men. And the Maylo clan was one of the best when it came to hunting.
Maybe this really was as it seemed. Rahan had met a girl, they had hit it off and the girl had kept seeing him because she liked his company, but she had been involved in illegal activities and because of them trouble had found her, at a time when Rahan had been with her and so had got entangled in it. And now she, and her friends, felt bad enough that they were trying to help the kid to escape the planet.
He hoped he was right.
“Record everything. Hide it in the next bundle of messages the Startalk station will send out, and keep track of, and record, everything which might seem even remotely connected to this in any of the nets. I will go to the designated meeting point, at the designated time. If I can return with cadet Kendal we will need to lift off immediately, and then either find some place to hide in the system until help arrives or take the risk and jump.”
“Yes sir. If we stay would recommend the smaller of the gas giants. The locals don’t seem to have anything going on around there, and it should be relatively easy to hide in the upper cloud layer for long enough. The power plant is functioning at top capacity, and the sublight drive works well enough. The lowest risk jump would be to the supply point in the Wala system.”
“Accepted. Prepare the flight plans for both. I will decide depending on the response our lift-off gets.”
“Yes sir,” the AI answered again.
Ryn sighed again, then got up to make himself a meal.