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Busy

27 Nov

I need to work a few more days nearly full days in my day + night jobs (meaning I sleep, go to the night job, sleep, go to the day job, eat, go to sleep again, no time to do anything else right now, but I will have done the necessary hours for the day job by tomorrow or by Friday).

But I am going to be posting at least one new cover painting next Saturday, latest, plus some ranting. Or just talking, depending. 🙂

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And a potential cover painting

17 Nov

EPSON scanner image

 

 

 

 

 

Space. Okay, I think I can paint decent space images. Men or spaceships not that well, so I think I’ll go with this at least at first. I’d like to have some sort of guy action picture, Rahan with a gun or something, but haven’t managed a decent one yet. A friend of mine drew a great picture of Rahan and Ryn, and would have been willing to paint it as a cover, but it doesn’t quite fit the genre, it looked more like something for a romance novel. From what I have read branding can be pretty important with these. This is pretty generic, but should say ‘science fiction’, at least.

 

Now that this novel is done, and it will be at least two to three months before I can really get into the next one – had problems with this one, towards the end, but I hope the editing is at least decent – I will try to update the blog more often. And since my hands seems to be cooperating at least right now, and I need practice anyway, one thing I will try to do is to start posting both drawings and paintings again. Maybe one or two days a week with a drawing or two, at least one painting a week. I will be practicing those spaceships and men doing actiony stuff, for one thing. Plus maybe some very traditional still lives, landscapes and flowers too. As said I need the practice, damn it, I might become fairly good if I practice enough. 🙂

Escape on Tekmar, sample chapter 9

17 Nov

One more to go, and that I will post tomorrow.

 

Chapter Nine

The village was a small one, and from what little Rahan could see before he was whisked inside one of the smaller cottages right at the egde, completely dedicated to making clothes out of rags. If you didn’t count the small plots of vegetables around each cottage he could see no fields, no animals except a couple of goats, a few cats and a handful of small dogs – of the type usually used for catching small vermin – and no larger machines. What he did see was people starting to sort out the rags they had come with, a couple of women and one man sewing on simple sewing machines inside some of the buildings with open doors – it had been a very warm day – and some kids stitching by hand while sitting around a table set next to one cottage.

“We will stay here until your ship is ready. There are several meadows within short walking distance from here, when the ship is ready we will go to the one which co-ordinates have been given to your captain,” Lida said.

“How can you be sure he does get that letter?”

“Somebody will visit the ship in person. He will either be a temp or if not, he may have to leave that job and disappear afterwards, but with any luck that won’t raise any suspicions, at least the cleaning crews tend to rotate there fairly fast. So, he will report afterwards. You said the ship did have something like a mail slot next to the main hatch?”

“I think so, it’s never been used in any of the ships I’ve been in but I remember being told about it, and the AI keeps an eye on the surroundings of the ship the whole time,” Rahan said. “Sorry about all the trouble I’m causing you guys…”

Lida didn’t look at him. “No problem. Since I got you into this mess in the first place…”

She seemed a bit uneasy, and Rahan’s suspicions surfaced again. There seemed to be something more going on than what she had told him. Only he could think of no reason why there would be.

***

The next few days were very quiet. Rahan was allowed out alone but only to get to the outhouse or to wash, for exercise he was taken for a short walk by one of the men late in the evenings. He didn’t see much of Lida, she seemed to be busy with something in one of the other cottages. And the men who kept him company were more jail guards than company – all of his attempts to make at least some small talk, like hey, it looks like today will again be hot, were met either with silence or with monosyllables.

The only conversation they had initiated had been when they had told him where the outhouse was, and where he could wash himself a bit, a basin outside the cottage. In monosyllables, evenly shared by the two of them.

As he got increasingly bored he also got more worried. About himself, about Ryn, about Lida – she had roots here, so even if she would be able to leave the planet she might not be able to leave the troubles he had with the local authorities, like he and Ryn could.

***

Ryn slipped out of the ship when the first cam watching the area had flown over it, something that would have been a lot harder, and required extensive help from the ship’s AI and the other resources they had onboard in most ports he knew since they usually had hell of a lot better surveillance. But this was a poor world, the port had only some fixed and a handful of flying cams, and a few pairs of boots on the ground (and they seemed to spend considerable part of their time in those parts of the port where they could sit down). And the times between the flying cams were easily long enough for him to get out and get to the jumble of abandoned and deteriorating warehouses – once perhaps meant to house the goods of some export /import business which had not succeeded – which was supposed to hide the entrance to the drainage tunnel.

Unfortunately the AI had so far been unable to break through to the control programs of the cams. It could access their feed, and so knew what they saw, but it could not feed any of them false data or turn it off.

He found the storm drain exactly where it was supposed to be.

Getting inside required some amount of gymnastics, but he was easily limber enough to be able to slip underneath the partly collapsed wooden roof and then through the narrow opening of the forgotten drain. The grating was missing, and seemed to have been gone for a long time.

The tunnel was mostly dry, if smelling moldy and housing the remains of several small animals and other trash. Ryn checked the time, then moved on towards the point of exit, where he hunkered down to wait for several minutes.

It was getting lighter now. The sun would rise before he was supposed to be at the rendezvous point.

The rest of his trip was uneventful. He didn’t meet anybody, and the few people he saw in the distance didn’t seem to notice him.

He reached the designated yard a few minutes early, entered it through the narrow space between two of the buildings which was the only way to it from the back alley, and again hunkered down, behind a couple of trash bins, to wait.

***

The time he had been told came, and went. Now the street next to where he was waiting was filled with people, a slowly moving mass of them. He could see a good slice of the street from where he was, while remaining out of sight himself. He didn’t leave. The back alley was still as empty as ever, so he should be able to go through there unnoticed even now. And perhaps they had been detained. He didn’t want to risk leaving Rahan behind.

So he waited.

Until a young boy turned and walked into the yard, then stopped right next to one of the bins.

And started talking.

“If there is somebody here – I was told I should not look for you, just come here and say the message I was given, loud and clear – so, if you can hear me, the person you are waiting for can’t walk very well, and he’s been left waiting in the fourth alley towards the park from here, and you should pick him up from there. His helpers were forced to leave without being able to take him all the way to this spot. That’s all.”

And he turned and left.

The boy had been slightly nervous, but nothing out of the ordinary. Ryn’s guess was the kid had been randomly chosen from the crowd on the street, and paid to bring the messenge.

He didn’t like this.

But he was not yet alarmed enough to leave. Rahan really might be in that alley. He would not leave without knowing.

Ryn eyed the walls of the building standing between him and the direction he should go. It was multistory but he could climb that.

What he could not use was the back alley he had come this far. In the direction he had come from had been some inactive fixed cams, easy enough to avoid, but it had seemed to have several active cams in the direction he needed to go now.

“Ship. Search the data for the area I’m in. Any flying surveillance?”

“Yes. There are several.”

“And the alley I used. The direction towards the park?”

“Active cams. Several. You can’t use it without being seen.”

That made both climbing and using the roofs and using the back alley unadvisable.

He would attract attention on the street. He had on contacts on his eyes, they seemed dark brown right now, and he was dressed in way which mimicked the local outfits, but that would not help much. The street probably still was the best alternative. He would stand out, but he would stand out hell of a lot more alone in the back alley, not to mention if he were caught on the wall or on the roof by one those cams. And he could not go through the building. That would require breaking a window or two, and the building was occupied.

And while it was unlikely any of the peons would call the police just because they saw him on the street, they would almost certainly call them if any of the residents saw him inside that apartment building.

So the police would find out he had been here, and possibly that he had met somebody. But if Rahan was there they would probably be able to get back to the ship before they were found. Rahan would have had the sense to ask for a good disguise.

Ryn hoped so anyway.

He stood up and got out of the yard.

Later he was not quite sure how he had known. Perhaps a look by some passerby, a look not directed at him but to somebody behind him. Or maybe a whiff of a very nervous person somewhere close.

He didn’t know how he knew, but he knew.

Only it was just a little bit too late by then, even for somebody with his reflexes. And while a single, or even two or three stunner charges would have left him at least somewhat functional… these people had done their homework. Several separate ones hit him simultaneously.

He was feeling thoroughly embarrassed as he hit the ground. The feeling did not last long. Several shapes converged around him and he felt the prick of a needle on his neck. And there they had also done their homework. His remaining vestiges of consciousness started to fade fast.

And he still could not figure out why.

***

Rahan was sure the conversation was something he was not supposed to hear, only Lida, who sounded worked up, was rather loud.

Another trip to the outhouse, and now Rahan sometimes went when he didn’t need to, just so he could get out even if just for a few minutes. It was very late at night, most people in the village were already sleeping and the man watching him had been immersed in a game on his com, and when Rahan had told him that he needed to go had just checked something on it and then waved him out. Before at least one of them had usually come and waited just outside the back door.

Rahan assumed the check which they had done every time before letting him out, or taking him for those walks, had concerned something like satellite schedules, he knew that there were several which most likely did surveillance for the government from orbit.

This time he had actually needed to use the outhouse, and he was done and about to go out when he heard Lida’s voice. She seemed to be standing somewhere near in the garden of the next cottage, and when he slowly slipped out and sneaked a bit closer while staying behind some mulberry bushes her words came clearer.

She seemed to be talking to thin air so Rahan assumed a com conversation.

“No, I’m not alright with that.”

Alright with what? Could this conversation by any chance concern him?

“It’s done, then? You have him?”

Again, a silence as she listened to the answer. Rahan strained his ears.

“Yes, we will be ready. When will you get here?”

“Two days from now? Okay. Okay.”

This was frustrating. She was most probably talking about something he wouldn’t even want to know about, but his curiosity kept him rooted to the spot.

“Yes, we have been in contact with the buyer. His ship will get in the system a couple of days from now.”

“That was not what we agreed to. Just that other, not both.”

“What do mean he insists?”

Both? What buyer? There didn’t seem to be much anybody might want to buy from here. Unless it was something like old Earth artifacts some of her friends had stolen as a way to finance their operations… the local nobles seemed like the kind of people who very well might have some family heirlooms of that type.

No. She had sounded as if she was talking about a man. Or two men. Somebody had ‘him’? Whom?

“Yes, that is my last word on this. Do not even think about doing anything behind my back. You need me and my contacts.”

Right after that Lida cursed and stormed towards her cottage.

Rahan walked back to his.

His guard was at the door when he got there.

“Sorry it took that long. I am a bit constipated, I’m afraid.”

The man grunted and stepped aside to let him in, then slammed the door closed and went back to his game.

Rahan sat on his cot, leaned against the wall and worried.

***

Sometime well after the midnight he was woken by… something. He sat up on his cot and listened.

For the first time here he seemed to be alone in the cottage. The door was closed.

And there were sounds from the outside. A distant scream cut short. Guns?

Rahan got up, put his boots on – he had been sleeping in his clothes, which were still the cheap peon ones, but had been given his boots back – and went to the door.

Unlocked.

He looked out.

Something was definitely going on. One of the first things he did hear was the short, sharp crack, like a very diminished version of thunder, of an energy weapon – which would probably be an expensive import on this planet, expensive to buy, expensive to maintain, but something bad shooters often liked since you didn’t have to hit a specific spot with it, you could cut with the beam, something a lot easier to accomplish albeit dangerous to people and things around the intended target. But some people didn’t care about that.

Then something which seemed to fit this place much better, a staccato burst from what sounded like a traditional submachine gun.

The whining sound of a flyer made him glance upwards, just in time to see the dark shape of a large one fly over some of the nearest cottages and land somewhere behind them.

And then he saw something else, a small group of moving shadows, just barely visible against the slightly lighter dark of the open field between him and the edge of the forest. Sneaking towards the forest.

He stepped out and went after them.

***

“Don’t shoot now or anything, I’m Rahan,” the shadow running after them said when two of them stopped and pointed their guns towards him.

Lida wasn’t quite what to feel. Rahan had just become a difficult dilemma for her. Even more than he had been before. She had rather hoped they could just… forget him here.

“Yes, it’s him,” she said. One of the men close to her asked “who?” in a quiet voice and she spoke again, marginally louder this time. “That’s the guy we brought from the city, the one who helped me when the Ytjar tried to arrest me. Let him come.”

Rahan said “Gee, thanks,” in a rather dry voice and took a couple of running steps to catch up with her as they continued towards the hidden flyers.

“So what’s going on?” was his next question.

“I’ll tell you in the flyer. We need to be quiet now.”

“Flyer?” he asked, but then kept his mouth shut the rest of the way.

The two stolen flyers had remained hidden, fortunately the Ytjar ships had come from a different direction and had done no sweep around the area before going in for their raid. Their tactics often tended towards sloppy… She hoped the people in the village would be okay, at least that no harm beyond the normal would happen to them. The peons did not really have all that much to say when the nobles asked them to do something, and when they had turned some of the cottages in the village into a temporary operations center the person who had, somewhat forcibly, rented them had done it by the power of a very well forged identification card. None of the peons there knew anything. Or at least should not have known anything – but maybe some of them had suspected something, that was one plausible reason for the Ytjar raid.

Of course it was also possible they had come here for some completely unrelated reason. The peons were not so cowed they would not break every law they could when they thought they might be able to get away with it. At times even when there was no gain to be had by doing it. Most of them enjoyed defying and causing trouble for the high classes, and most of all for the hated police and even more hated Ytjar.

They filed inside the two flyers, Rahan following her closely enough to get inside the same one with her, and they lifted without turning on the lights or any electronics which might alert the enemy. Nevertheless she was slightly surprised that they seemed to be getting away without being found out. That reinforced her guess that the raid had not been because the Ytjar suspected insurrectionist activities in the village, but for some other reason. The Ytjar could be ruthlessly efficient when they wanted but had a tendency not to take the ordinary peons all that seriously and as a result often behaved rather carelessly when dealing with them. Their rather cavalier looking approach here indicated they had been after some of the peons, not members of her movement, many of whom were very well trained, and included several members of the noble class.

For over an hour both pilots kept their flyer just above the treetops, going even lower whenever there was room for that, but at that point they figured it would be safe to lift a bit higher and start hauling ass.

Rahan had remained quiet, not pestering her. Waiting for her to explain.

She didn’t want to. She didn’t like lying to friends, and she had began to think of him as a friend. Not a close one, perhaps, but still a friend. And now – even if she told him no untruths she’d still be lying unless she told him everything.

But she didn’t know if would be able to tell him the truth. What she suspected was the truth. The thing she was fighting for meant too much to her.

She hoped they could have left without him noticing. Sure, he would have been arrested, he was known to have some sort of contact with a member of the insurrectionist movement and had beaten up three Ytjar agents. All which would have merited a lengthy prison stay, at the very least, for a local, for a local that length depending heavily on the offender’s family’s influence and financial resources. Possibly hell of a lot worse. For a local. But Rahan was an offworlder, and not just any offworlder at that but a member of the Watcher Corps, a pretty powerful organization by any measures. The Ytjar would probably not have dared to really hurt him, nor tried to make him disappear since the Corps would presumably come asking questions sooner or later.

And he didn’t really know anything that mattered. He knew her, but so did the Ytjar, and in spite of that she was still fairly safe since when it came to those important parts – family influence and money – hers had plenty enough that all they could do to her was to jail her for a little while. So it wouldn’t have meant any additional risks to her or hers if he had been caught…

Her problem was she was beginning to suspect that even thought getting captured by the Ytjar would have been risky for the offworlder he might still have had better chances with them.

Or scrap that.

By now she was pretty sure he would have had better chances with them.

***

Rahan quietly observed Lida for a long time.

She was nervous. She hid it well, but while the signs were subtle and it was dark he still saw the larger ones, in just the way she moved now. His family had spend enough time trying to teach him how to notice that kind of body language cues.

She had plenty enough obvious reasons to be nervous under the circumstances, but what made him worried was the way she was avoiding him. She didn’t make eye contact, didn’t try to talk to him, not even giving him similar short reassurances she gave to two of her friends who seemed a bit more worked up than the others.

He needed to start getting some hints as to what was going on here.

He got up and went to sit next to the girl.

For a moment Lida refused to look at him, but when she finally did she seemed composed.

“I guess you want to know what is happening?”

Rahan nodded.

“That was an Ytjar raid. I don’t think they knew we were there, though, not before landing anyway. Most likely that was a drug raid. The peons grow some, a rather common practice among them.”

“And where are we going now?”

“Another stronghold we have in these woods. An old, abandoned fortress. These parts used to be rather well populated once, but we had some wars… well anyway, it was a long time ago, and there are no permanent residents around now, but there are several fairly well preserved stone castles and such here. Many enough that even though people like us, ones hiding from the government for whatever reason, are known to use them hiding here is generally relatively safe, as long as you stay out of sight when any of the satellites pass.”

“What kind of equipment do those satellites have?”

“Mostly just visual. A few should be able to detect heat signatures, but not through those structures.”

“And will any of them see us now, on the way there?”

“Yes. That’s why the route is going to be rather roundabout. Right now we are headed straight away from where we intend to go.” She smiled, a slight curving of the lips he just barely saw. “There aren’t many. And we have their timetables.”
“Should you be telling it to me, then?”

She shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. That is one advantage which we are not going to have much longer in any case. They will start changing the schedules for them next week. And it will take a while after that before we can calculate the new ones. It’s one of those things both of us know, the one thing they don’t know is how we keep getting the information of when they make those changes. And I’m not going to tell you that.”

Rahan noticed that she was, once again, avoiding looking at his face.

“And the plan for me?”

Did she flinch, just a little?

“Should still be on. We just need to find a new landing place for the ship. The place we are going to now has a courtyard, but it’s probably not quite wide enough.”

He leaned back and spend a few moments looking at the pilot.

And the dashboard. There was a gaping hole where the flyer’s com unit should have been.

The pilot was actually flying the thing?

Possibly a stolen vehicle. Or not, even if they had gotten it completely legally the com would still have been a problem. They normally did the actual flying, but they also had the safety programs, and weren’t  easy to reprogram into something which could not be traced while it would still be able to function as the autopilot. But some models of flyers could be flown even without one, ones where the the engine had a separate unit for its functions. If the pilot was good. Seat of the pants flying was not a common skill.

Rahan was decent. For a human pretty good, actually, if just decent compared to most of the Shemasharra.

If he decided to…

Escape?

Was he now thinking in those terms?

He didn’t quite trust Lida. And he had not exactly warmed to the other members of this group. But he was a problem to them, and a risk, so even if they acted rude that didn’t necessarily mean they were his enemies.

“Do you think you could tell me a little bit more about your… movement?”

Lida looked out of the window. The flyer was still mostly without lights, but the night was not completely dark. The moons were in the sky and near full, both of them, and while they were small they still cast enough illumination that one could see the broad features of the landscape.

Not much to see out there though. Just an endless vista of treetops.

“I guess. No details, but what the Ytjar probably know anyway.”

“So, how long has your movement existed? And does it have a name?”

That elicited a genuine smile. “No, it’s just ‘The Movement’.” Rahan could hear the capitals in the word and grinned back. “Although, well I guess you might want to use our language name. That’s ‘Maasvat’. It’s not very old… as far as I know it came into existence, originally, maybe a bit under ten years ago.

From what he had looked at before landing Rahan knew that the local year was rather close to the standard one, so he didn’t ask her to clarify that.

“I got involved about two years ago. At first I just helped with the schools, and paid for one of the autodocs…”

That meant she had to be quite rich. Or her parents were. Or both.

“… But then… first there was that thing with Becca, and then the Ytjar found ‘my’ autodoc and it was confiscated, and… well…”

“You got angry?”

She nodded.

“Can you tell me anything about how it’s run? You know the leaders? If you can tell that without compromising them if somebody finds out what I know, that is.”

“I know the local branch leader. I’m not sure about the actual heads, or even whether we have such per se.”

Rahan got the impression she was lying.

“Anyway, that’s about all I’m willing to say.”

“Do you trust that branch leader?”

“Of course,” she said, but didn’t look at him. “Why do you ask? You think…”

“You know the risks with this kind of thing. Or at least you should.”

“What risks?”

And now he was sure she was playing. The girl was too smart to be that naive.

“Well, the usual. There has been more than few ‘movements’ which started as an attempt to address, or at least as a reaction to very real grievances, or as a try to change an oppressive regime to something better, but which got hijacked by criminals of some sort, or by people whose main objective was not to do good but to fulfill their own power fantasies. Or who just liked violence. Or the founders were like that even in the beginning, and the whole thing was always just a sham. Lofty rhetoric, bad results.” He shrugged.

She turned to stare out of the window. “I have seen no hints of anything like that.”

Rahan didn’t believe her.

He had been worried before. Now he was getting scared.

Escape on Tekmar (?), sample chapter 8

13 Nov

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.

 

Chapter Eight

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.

Rahan nodded.

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.

Escape on somewhere, sample chapter 7

10 Nov

I’m still vacillating when it comes to the name of the planet. Rudanos I like, but now I started thinking about the fact that the main character is named Rahan, and the Shemasharra guy is called Ryn, and that may be too many names starting with R in one story. Rahan and Ryn are, hopefully, just different enough that they won’t confuse anybody, but maybe I should use something different for the planet after all.

So, back to the mythology books. Well, this time I looked at older Greek deities, and found a goddess called Tekmar. Seems to have been the lady of limits and end of lives. Scary. Well, the planet is supposed to be dangerous (or rather the people there) so… maybe. I will think about this for a few days.

Chapter Seven

Ryn had known the police would be coming sooner or later. The AI had informed him that the Ytjar had identified their male suspect as one of the offworlders from one of the five ships currently sitting on their single starport. The men outside the hatch were, however, members of the regular police. Not that surprising though, the Ytjar had jurisdiction over the regular police, and could use them to do their dirty work when necessary.

“Should I open the hatch?” the AI inquired.

“Yes. If they require me to go with them I will. Keep tabs of all the information you can get at.” Ryn wasn’t particularly worried about his own safety. These people presumably knew what he was. But they had no experience dealing with people like him.

And if he saw people who knew something face to face he’d find out what that person knew. That might give him the lead which would help him to start unravelling this whole tangled ball of yarn. Information was what he needed most of all right now. He would not be able to act until he knew at least something.

It would be still be over a week before the ship would be able to make a jump safely – provided the police would not prevent the repair shop from fulfilling their contract – but it would be able to get into space. If he got Rahan back they could either risk a jump, or hide somewhere in the system and wait for help to arrive.

But he needed to find the boy first.

***

The headache was the first thing Rahan noticed.

The next one was that he was lying down, but not on the floor, on something at least a touch softer.

He spend a few moments listening before he finally opened his eyes. It was fairly quiet, there were some sounds of the kind of traffic you’ll hear in any larger town or city but they were muted, and he heard nothing indicating anyone was there – wherever there was – with him. Something which got confirmed when he did look around.

A bare room, with walls, floor and a slanted ceiling consisting of raw, rather new looking planks. One window, small and closed. The bed he was on, one shaky looking small table, three chairs, one of which was missing a leg. One closed door.

“Looks like I have come up in the world,” he muttered to himself. “From the cellar to the attic. Yee. Lets celebrate.”

He felt slightly dizzy when he sat up, and needed to rest a bit before he dared to stand up. Had he conked his head when he fell? The knock-out gasses or liquids which could be used as an aerosol, the few he knew about, shouldn’t have affected him like this.

But none of them should have made him pass out for more than a few minutes either. Presumably he had been given something after the initial attack.

It was full daylight behind the small window. Rahan walked to it, shuffling his feet a bit, and saw a scene consisting mostly of rooftops, and some higher buildings in the horizon, plus a blue sky with a few fluffy white clouds sailing across it.

Yep, attic.

How high an attic was one question. How well guarded was a different one. Was he a prisoner or a guest?

And ‘where’ was the third. The scene didn’t look like the more sparsely built area – and those buildings had been lower than these seemed to be, and there had been trees – where the building with the cellar had been.

He could not see to the ground from the window, and he could not open it for a better look either.

Should he break it? The glass seemed thick, but he doubted it was nothing more than ordinary window glass.

Next he tried the door, but it was every bit as locked as he had assumed it would be. Rahan spend some time examining the hinges and the lock of the door, but then retired back to the cot.

He needed information.

Food and drink might be nice too. Not to mention toilet…

He settled down to wait.

***

It took maybe an hour, but then he heard a key being used in the lock, and the door opened. The first person who came in was a woman, but not Lida. Her face was almost completely covered with a bright lime colored scarf, and she was carrying a tray with some bowls and a tall glass on it.

After her a man came in. He was sporting a scarf too, only his was black, and instead of a tray with food and drink he had some sort of rifle with him. Rahan peered at it but could not make out much, the make was unfamiliar. All he could tell that it was of the type which used ammo, not an energy weapon.

“Eat and drink. Your friend will come soon. She will tell you what you need to know,” the man said while the woman put the tray on the table  and then left.

“Okay. Any chance of a toilet visit?”

The man shook his head, then yelled something in an unknown language, without taking his eyes off Rahan.

After a moment the woman came back in carrying a plastic bucket and a roll of toilet paper. She put it against the wall and left again, and this time the man followed her.

“Okay, I guess that will do.”

The armed man had seemed fairly professional. No openings. Except for the fact that Rahan could have attacked the unarmed woman who came in first.

He wasn’t sure what to make of that. If anything.

***

He had just finished eating when Lida finally came in. This time the guard didn’t step in, but Rahan thought he heard him, just outside the door.

Lida was dressed differently than before. The generic look was still similar, bright pastels, a tunic and trousers, but it had, before, seemed like an upscale imitation of what the lower classes here wore, now the cloth was the cheap synthetic and her leather boots had been changed for the cloth slippers used by the all the poorer people here. And her hair had been straightened and dyed black when it had been dark brown and curly before.

“So… how about some explanations?” he asked.

“Yes, I guess I owe you that,” Lida said and blushed lightly.

Rahan got up from the chair and walked to the cot, then slopped on it and crossed his arms. She took the chair he had been using and brought it next to the cot, then turned it around and sat down, resting her arms on the its back, and sighed.

“Sorry I got you involved in this mess.”

“And what mess would that be, precisely?”

Lida looked at her hands for a moment, then said slowly:” You know the system we have here?”

He nodded.

“Okay. It’s kind of… well, it’s just not right, is it? The peons are practically slaves, and it’s almost impossible for anyone born into that class to rise out of it. They have no power, and they are permanently poor, and…”

“I get it. Let me guess, you want to change things?”

She glanced at him and went back to studying her hands. They looked a bit different now too. There was ingrained grime on her palms and underneath her now short fingernails. Whoever had designed her disguise was either experienced, or smart.

“Yes,” she said quietly. “Anything wrong with that?”

“Nothing. A lot. Depends on how you are going about it.”

“We have secret schools for the peons, and we distribute medicines and have hidden autodocs, and we are trying to organize them so that when there finally is an election maybe we can keep it honest…”

“Does sound recommendable,” Rahan said while studying her face.

Was she being honest? The man with the gun had seemed pretty experienced too. Considering what little he had learned about this planet Lida’s organization would need to know how to deal with violence, but how much violence were they willing to use? Underground teachers, rebels or terrorists?

And would she know?

“You are a noble yourself?” he then asked.

Lida nodded. “I wanted to do something. My parents are… not bad, but they are unwilling to disturb the status quo because they are scared of the consequences. But I wanted to do something. That friend I talked about…”

“The one who died?”

She nodded again. “Yes, she was in before me.

“And it’s possible her flyer accident wasn’t an accident. The Ytjar… they can play ugly.”

“Why did they jump you? Have they found out about you?”

“One of those men had maybe seen me when they almost caught up with one of our med shipments two months ago, or possibly there was a cam I didn’t notice, and they have images of me now. I really am going offplanet, and that’s the main reason. So, he recognized me, anyway, and since it was away from the nobles’ compounds – I am still safe there, a lot of the nobles are not all that involved in politics, and the Ytjar do not want to cause any alarms among them. And I’m not the only child of the Families who is involved either and many of the parents kind of turn a blind eye to us, and while they might let it slide if any of us get caught here, as long as the sentence wasn’t too harsh anyway, they would definitely get angry if their own area was disturbed. I guess the elders kind of see it as a phase most of us will outgrow, or something. We do suspect that if one of us becomes too much trouble in the opinion of the Ytjar – and if the High Lords approve – there may be an ‘accident’, there have been some suspicious ones, although they probably are very careful about doing those.

“So, to repeat, I’m personally not in that much danger, probably, even if I get caught outside our compounds I will just have to sit in a slammer for a while but it’s unlikely they will otherwise do any more than make my parents pay for me, and that they can easily afford. And my family is… pretty well connected… an accident, like the one that happened to Becca, is unlikely. Becca’s family is pretty low tier. They had no resources the Ytjar would have needed to worry about. If it was arranged it was well done too, it really could have been just an accident. It’s just that there have been more of those lately than there should have been if they were all just real accidents. And unless the family pays for a private investigation there is no way to tell which are real ones and which have, maybe, been arranged. Mine definitely would if anything happened to me. So I don’t worry too much about this.

“But you… if they catch you it could be worse. You are Corps, but they don’t respect the Corps all that much here.”

“They should,” Rahan said drily. “So what now, then?”

“You can’t go back to the ship. The landing field is too well guarded, you would not be able to get inside. But once your ship has been fixed – it’s not likely they will try to interfere with that, the nobles do want more ships to visit and any rumors of that kind of trouble would be bad to the port’s reputation. It’s one thing if a crew member gets arrested for a crime, another if the police then go after his ship when there is no real proof that the rest of its crew was involved, so no, they will not do anything like that, your ship will get fixed. And once it has been – it can land anywhere, right?”

“That ship is Survey. Yeah, it can land anywhere.”

“Well, your shipmate -”

“The captain. He is my commanding officer, and captain of that ship.”

“Your captain can then take off and pick you up from the country, right?”

“What kind of planetary defenses do you have here?”

“Hardly anything, just some robots and a pretty lousy missile system. They will know what happened though, the surveillance is good enough, and they may send something after the ship, but it won’t be anything particularly dangerous, and your ships, the Corps ships, they do have good combat preparedness too, right?”

“Yes. Very.”

“Okay. What we have planned is this: we will sneak you out of the city, and get word where to find you to your captain. He will take off once the ship is ready and make a slight detour, pick you up, and you will be good and gone.”

Rahan frowned. “Are you sure you can’t get me in contact with my ship now? You do have encrypted communications between yourselves? It should not be that hard to call the ship.”

Lida shook her head. “Our leaders don’t want to. You lost your com, and we can’t go back there to look for it. We have eavesdropped on the police net, and you have been identified. Which means any communications through the local channels to and from your ship will be very closely monitored now, and we are not that much better than they are, we operate mostly on the strength of trying to be where they are not right then looking. The plan was to send the information on an actual letter, you know, paper?” she said and grinned a bit, “We do have some friends in a couple of the cleaning crews which work on the field, one of them could hand deliver it. When the time is right. But that might take days.

“So, I’d really recommend that you go with our plan. Your captain will have to worry for a couple of days, but the Ytjar vigilance will surely slacken after a short while, and then we can tell him. And getting you from the country with the ship would be a lot easier than trying to get you into the ship while it’s still in that field. And it’s a lot safer there too, the Ytjar and the police are most active here in the city. So how about it?”

Well, it did sound like a reasonably good plan. If everything she had told him was true.

Did he trust her?

He wasn’t… quite sure. But he wanted to. And the alternatives he had weren’t good. No, he would probably not be able to sneak back to the ship, not easily, the port was well guarded. And even if he could and the ship had not been fixed… well, they could jump, but it would be risky, and he wasn’t sure if that was an acceptable risk, or whether Ryn would think it was. One alternative of course was for him to hide somewhere on his own and try sneaking back when the repairs had been done, but he didn’t know much of anything about the planet so hiding here for days might be difficult for him without help. And he knew nobody here but Lida.

He decided to trust the girl. For now.

But he would keep his eyes open.

***

Ryn had been sitting in the police station for several hours now.

They were trying to make him nervous. Mostly he was slightly amused. They knew what he was, but since they only had theoretical knowledge of his abilities they didn’t quite believe in them.

If he wanted out of here he would get out of here. The only complication was that it would probably require killing quite a few of these people, but killing  people like most of these seemed to be was not something he had any personal problems with. And his own superiors –  if there seemed to be any justifiable reason to suspect that his life or well-being might be in danger, or even if he was only detained but feared for the life or well-being of his crew, that being one idiot cadet, so he had to get out in order to go after and try to rescue said cadet – they would probably approve.

Even the human ones.

But as long as there seemed to be no pressing need to get out he would not risk harming them. He might not give a damn about them but he preferred things clean and ordered. Doing something which would, no doubt, be seen as inappropriate behavior by at least some human groups would not be be that.

He yawned and settled more comfortably. He was sitting on the floor of the interrogation cell, leaning against the wall. There were chairs in here, two of them, on both sides of the table, but they were not very comfortable, especially not to somebody his size.

He could wait. It would be interesting to see how long the local police would.

New cover painting for Demons

3 Nov

EPSON scanner image

 

 

 

 

 

Finally. And this is not exactly great, but I think it’s at least an improvement to that boring dark doorway.

Some photos

1 Nov

Oh well, since it’s this time of the year and all, and I still want to edit the fourth chapter a tad before I put it up, some pictures of the local graveyard.

And one of me. Yes, I said I wouldn’t show any recent ones, but this fits the theme.

hautuumaa 6 hautuumaa 9 hautuumaa 12hautuumaa 2hautuumaa 10kl black:white

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. I’ll put the fourth chapter up sometime during the next 24 hours – free day, so I have plenty of time to finish the editing now.