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sample chapter 3, Strongest Ties

27 Oct

And here is the third sample chapter. I’m adding Kerrin’s scenes. And trying to write the later fight scene right now. And I’d need to finally paint the new cover for Demons. And real life work and some other stuff should get done too. And it’s getting pretty dark here now too, especially since this week has been mostly overcast.

Oh well. What would life be without something to stress about.

Chapter 3

The bazaar covered several blocks. The streets inside the area were narrow, no vehicle traffic was allowed here, just pedestrians and smaller pushcarts. Most of the stuff on sale seemed to be local produce, there were foods, spices, cloth and clothing – mostly rather cheap looking, and definitely not handmade – and some jewelry, some of which was rather neat and did look handmade. After some thought Rahan bought a pair of silver earrings, with green stones almost the color of her eyes for his kid sister. His older sister was bit more of problem since she rarely wore jewelry. A good folding knife might have fitted her, but while he found several vendors who had all kinds of knives for sale, the quality was not as good as he would have wanted. There were also lots of bows, mostly crossbows, and bolts and arrows for them in evidence… bowhunting was popular here? Or because of strict rules regarding more advanced weapons?

He had been forced to leave his sidearm in the ship, but had assumed the ‘no-guns’ rule might be only for offworlders.

Rahan spend several hours wandering around before he decided a break was starting to sound like a good idea, and searched out one of the small cafes.

He chose one which had several tables on the outside, and picked one of the outdoors ones. Cute small wrought iron tables, with heavy iron chairs around them. His kid sister would have loved them. The tables and chairs looked clean, and the area around was not quite so heavily crowded as most of the bazaar had been, perhaps because this cafe was surrounded by others, all around a tiny plaza with a little fountain in the middle of it, and a bit to the side of the corridors where the stores were. There was no traffic to and from the stores going through the plaza, just the people who had come here to eat and drink, to rest their feet and to gossip a bit. The menu of the cafe he picked looked interesting, although there was no coffee to be had on this world. There was tea and something resembling coffee he didn’t recognize, but decided to sample. It was palatable.

Rahan sat and watched the people sitting in the cafes, and going by in the corridor next to the little plaza. There didn’t seem to be many offworlders in the the throng of people. The locals seemed to be, mostly, a very generic looking version of white people. Very dark hair, mostly black, was the norm, he hadn’t seen a single blond, nor even a lighter colored brown, during the day. Eye colors seemed to be rather dark too. Faces were the most pure examples of European he had seen for a while, making him feel pleasantly anonymous, although he assumed it was mostly an illusion. For one thing he’s skin was noticeably pale compared to theirs, and he probably had mannerism and bearing different enough to make him stand out at least some, possibly a lot, to them. And he certainly wasn’t dressed like the locals who seemed to go mostly for tunics and loose trousers, both men and women, and while his pants were relatively loose he was wearing a shirt and a many pocketed vest over it, something he hadn’t seen anyone else wearing after he had left the landing field. And the locals seemed to favor neon pastels (possibly because they didn’t have that many choices, those colors were common with some of the cheaper, easily made synthetics), he liked subdued earth tones. This time his trousers and vest were brown, the loose shirt a washed out looking green.

Who’d have thought those colors would be something to make him stand out in a crowd?

Most of the people looked poor to him. Their tunics were often ill fitting, the cloth looked cheap, and many were very worn looking. Not that many wore good shoes or boots either, thin soled cloth slippers, also often worn to the point of seeming to be getting close to falling apart, seemed to be the norm.

Then there were the occasional obvious street people, beggars and crazies, although not quite as many as he had expected. Something which had gotten some explanation when he had seen a couple of merchants call the police, who had not only actually arrived, but also had come in a reasonably short time, when a confusedly acting person (Rahan had not even been completely sure whether that had been a man or a woman, he assumed a smallish man) had been bothering some slightly better dressed customers right outside their shops. Perhaps this was simply one area which got better protection than most, either because the patrons had a bit more money than most, or because the city leaders had decided that the spaceport was important enough that also areas close to it should get special treatment. Or maybe it was like that everywhere here. Assumptions made based on the average for similar worlds were often accurate, but not always.

The way she was dressed was one of the first things which drew his gaze to the girl. She had on the same tunic and loose trousers, but while hers were not decorated and the colors were the same eye-searing bright pastels, her tunic being pink and the trousers light blue, the cloth on those fell differently, seeming not to be either clingy or stiff, and she was wearing a pair of very nice looking ankle boots made of soft red leather.

Curly dark brown hair, down to her shoulders, and a pretty heart shaped face with large dark eyes and a small mouth. With that type of clothes it was hard to tell much of her figure, except that she was rather slim.

Rahan smiled at her. Not all that impressed, he had seen women far more beautiful than this one often enough, just pleased at the sight of a pretty girl.

She smiled back, and then started to walk towards him.

***

“I think I have located him. The Blue Dawn Tea Shop.”

“Good. Make contact. See if you can charm him. Should not be too unpleasant, he seems to be a pretty good looking young man, if one likes the boyish type and doesn’t mind pale. You liked them tall too, didn’t you?” Kerrin’s voice was mocking. He was probably still pissed that she had rejected him. Or maybe that was only one part of it. She was popular, and Kerrin had probably only tried to woo her in order to get some of that popularity for himself. He had always been ambitious.

She had never figured out whether that ambition was because he believed in their cause, and wanted the power because he thought he could run things better than anybody else. Or maybe because he didn’t trust anybody else well enough to let them decide things which could affect his destiny.

Or whether it was just because he liked power.

The girl kept the smile, with some difficulty, and kept on walking towards the table where the offworlder was sitting.

***

“Hello,” she said.

A nice voice, if a bit high, Rahan thought, and gave her another smile, feeling rather blase and slightly smug about that feeling. While it was not a common occurrence in his life this still was not the first time a pretty girl had decided to talk to him. And hey, here he was the exotic guy from the big worlds. This place was, after all, very much the hick town.

“Hi to yourself,” he said, and his smugness deflated a bit. He was a talker, but in spite of that making witty small talk right off the cuff was not one of his strong suits. “Can I do something for you?”

“Offer a seat, maybe.” She spoke rather fluent Kinagt, one of the most widely spread trade languages, and one Rahan himself was fluent in. Very nice. His com had a good translator program, and during the last couple of days of listening to the locals speaking, some downloads both from the local planetary net and one of the ship’s Corps databases it already had enough to be able to feed him most of the necessary information to make him able to understand fairly well and to speak, if haltingly and no doubt with an atrocious accent, what seemed to be the main local language, but it was still something of a relief to be able to converse without any help from the com.

But Rahan knew his manners, and being polite rarely failed so he stood up and pulled back one of the other chairs. “Here.” She sat and raised a hand to get the attention of the waiter. “So, what gives me the honor of your company, fair lady?” Thinking of something to say was getting easier now, when he had had a moment to gather his wits. It always did.

“Curiosity, mostly. You don’t look like a local. Strangers don’t come here often, and I was wondering…”

Rahan raised an eyebrow, something he had needed to learn and the result of several hours of practice in front of a mirror back when he had been younger.

She laughed, a nice light tinkly laugh. “Well, I am considering studying off-world. Right now I’m interested in behavioral forensics, especially concerning the intersections between local, planetary laws and the interstellar treaties, and how to adjust the differences when we are talking about conflicts between members of different jurisdictions, and nothing like that is taught here, not past the 101 stage anyway.” She grinned. “Besides, I’ll like to travel a bit too, and studying makes a good excuse to my parents.” Rahan nodded at that, pleased to find out she wasn’t older than she looked to him. It could be damn hard to tell, sometimes. And most people didn’t really care that much. But he wasn’t most people, and the thought of dating – wait a minute, when did that come into the picture… she was pretty, but he didn’t know anything about her yet, for one thing, even that age hint might as well be a false clue, an attempt to make him think she was young, besides even if it wasn’t it was not that uncommon, in some worlds, for the children to stay as a member of their parents’ household until they married themselves, or even after, so you did get those century plus something individuals who were still under the thumb of their parents and maybe even grandparents and great grandparents… or this might be one of those century plus something ladies who got a kick out of seducing kids and – Rahan stopped that train of though when she continued.

If she was a cougar she was a damn cute one, though.

“Anyway, if I am going to go offworld for a few years… well, I’d like to be as well prepared as I can.”

“So you are data collecting?”

She nodded. “First hand data is always better. And it’s easier to find out what one wants when talking face to face. So, I have been haunting these parts, near the port, looking for… I gather you really are an offworlder?”

He nodded. “Yes. So what kind of information are you looking for? I can’t guarantee,” he grinned and then continued “that I have visited, much less spend any longer period of time in any of the places you are planning to visit, so telling you the best places to eat or party or anything like that is probably not going to be possible.”

She laughed again. Rahan was not quite sure whether to be pleased or irritated. His answer had not really been witty enough to merit that response.

So maybe she was polite. That was not a fault. Or she could be feeling as awkward as he was. Some people laughed a lot when they were nervous.

“No, I guess not. It’s more… behaviors, actually. How to avoid looking like that proverbial hick on her first visit to the advanced civilizations?”

Rahan hoped he hadn’t blushed when he, after a moment of thought, started to talk again.

***

“I’ve met him. We are going to meet again tomorrow morning. Perhaps spend the whole day together. I will be showing him the town.”

“Good. Perhaps we could do the extraction then.” Not Kerrin, this time. He had been busy. Something Lida was grateful about. This whole mission was distasteful enough as it was.

“No, I’d advice we wait. We may not need to do this by force. He seems sympathetic to the plight of our people. I may be able to get him to come voluntarily… if given some time. The rest of this week?” she said.

A silence. Then:”That might be less risky. If you think you can do it.”

“I can try. Some of our people might do some… playacting, to simulate some of the worse excesses, in case we don’t get to witness any actual ones. He’s young, and he seems… as I said, he seems very capable of sympathy, and he seems to have a conscience. If it doesn’t seem to work, we can go back to the original plan by the end of the week.”

“Are you regretting this?”

She was quiet, on her turn, for a while. “He seems like somebody I could like, but… It’s necessary. We need the money. And… he will not be harmed. That is the deal, isn’t it?”

The answer was quick, but it didn’t wholly reassure her. “No. He will not be harmed. Just used.”

“In that case… I do feel sorry, for him, for us too because we need to do things like this but… no regrets, I think. Just try to remember that he is not the enemy, okay?”

Again, a quick answer. Again, not a completely reassuring one. “Don’t worry, we will.”

But there was nothing she could do about that. The cause was too important.

Or so she kept telling herself.

Real life interfering with the important stuff

21 Oct

This week is going to be consumed mostly by working. And I need to take the old tom to vet, he needs to get his teeth checked. Which is going to cost… oh dear. Hopefully I can squeeze in a few hours of writing between the hours of working.

That villain is having a fun time so far. I have started to write in his scenes, and the good point, as far as making things easier for me, is the fact that he does not meet Rahan at all until towards the end, so I don’t need to adjust much in what I have already written in order to get him in, I can write him his own scenes where he observes, plans and plots the heroes’ demise (no, I have never seen any of the original ‘Perils of Pauline’ or other such silent serials, but I am quite fond of those older movies you can find online, and some of the new talkies did make fun of the older ones with their mustache twirling baddies – if you are young enough to have no idea what I’m talking about go look soonest, your education is lacking). Unfortunately he does not have a mustache he could twirl, being a clean cut fellow who looks like somebody’s ideal son-in-law candidate, honest and trustworthy. Ambitious, maybe, but wouldn’t that be an asset in a son-in-law? He also seems to have the name ‘Kerrin’. No idea where that came from. Current United States Secretary of State? Njah, surely not… well, any resemblance is accidental, I don’t actually know much of anything of that politician, but the name has been in news somewhat during the last few months so that is one possible source. 🙂 Half of the time I use those fantasy name generators you find online, sometimes a name just pops into my mind, occasionally the character seems to have one when he appears. I usually try to adjust the names I find a bit, to the extent it’s possible so that people who are supposed to be of the same ethnicity and language would have names which at least sound vaguely similar so ‘Kerrin’ may need a bit of work, so far the names used by the people of that world seem to be getting a somewhat Baltic slant, but we’ll see.

Okay. My next blog post should appear either around the next weekend, or the next Wednesday after that, and then it will be the third sample chapter. I aim for the weekend.

Characters being a pain in the ***

18 Oct

And now I get it. Finally. The whole damn novel is almost finished, and…

This is going to be rather incoherent, just some random observations about how I write. I don’t think I’d necessarily recommend writing this way, all I can say is that this seems to work for me.

Okay, so, Strongest Ties as it is right now does not have a central antagonist. I think I have said before that I am pretty much a pantser (that’s as writing by the seat of your pants. Love that word) as a writer, I get the characters and then I do usually get some key scenes before I start to write, and there may be some preliminary idea of a plot – the hero gets into trouble, there is a girl and a planet with a bad repressive government, big class divisions, and an underground movement fighting against the status quo – but I don’t have anything even vaguely resembling a real plot, I just sit down and try to dream up the first scene, and go from there. And then I start to dream up reasons why things should go where I feel they need to go. I have the key scenes I want to write, but I don’t write them first, I do write in sequence, and the writing involves trying to figure why that key scene – and it may not even be key scene as in ‘important to the plot’, just something that came to me, I feel needs to be part of the story, so I end up building the story around it – happens, how things lead to that, why things lead to that, why it happens the way it happens.

I have tried to plan the plot first, and then go at it in a well organized manner, but that seems to give me rather lifeless stories. I have a couple of shortish novels in the drawer, but they read badly. The bones are there, but no meat, and if I plan a character they become total cardboard.

So, Strongest Ties started out as an escape story. The heroes end up in a bad place and have to get out of it. And due to some complications the main burden of getting them out of it falls on Rahan, the younger and more inexperienced guy, and more so somebody who has gotten into the habit of relying on his Shemasharra super soldier companion. The other is so much better that Rahan kind of automatically just thinks he is going to solve all their problems, only now the Shemasharra guy gets incapacitated and Rahan, for the first time of his life, finds himself facing a responsibility he can’t duck.

And at first the antagonist was just the situation as a whole. Two, no, actually three sets of bad guys, but they are these monolithic blocs, no single person stands out in any of them. Kind of like having something like a storm, or an earthquake, or maybe a volcano as the antagonist – something bad happens, but there is nobody you could defeat, you just have to live through it.

And that never felt quite right, only I could think of no way I could lift any single person out of those blocs in way which would fit the story.

Although there always was this one guy who kept trying to push his way into the front. Rude fellow too. No manners.

As I said, I don’t plan the characters, they walk into the picture pretty much full grown. Damn if I know how that works. Busy subconscious, I guess.

Well, the main reason why I kept pushing that persistent villain back into the background was that the way the story seemed to unfold at first I just could not figure out a way to get him into a final confrontation with Rahan. And without that having a single person as the main antagonist can make for a story which is rather frustrating to read. If it’s just ‘and then the hero escaped from the minions while the villain was in his home drinking tea, the end’ – okay, most times that just doesn’t do. It is going to feel as if somebody offered you a meal, and then dragged you off in the middle of the main course.

So I felt I could not use that character, except in a couple of throw away lines.

Only now I seem to have walked into a part of the plot I didn’t see earlier which gives me a setting for that final confrontation. It’s still not completely perfect since it happens a bit early in the final part, for this to feel perfect it should happen closer to the end, and there is still risk everything after that is going to feel somewhat like the ending of the final movie in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy where the director kept having an ending, and then another ending, and then you got the third ending… But while I think this is not going to be, well, perfect, I do think it’s still going to be something that should work well enough.

And now I can give in to that villain character, and finally allow him to get his moments in the limelight.

Well, this means that it will be a little bit longer before I can show the third sample chapter, I will need to play with it a little first.

(Ghoddamnit, now I will need to write several new scenes for the earlier parts of the story and then fit them in… you just watch, villain, you wanted this, and now I am going to make you suffer for it. Bwahahahahahaha!)

I did say I’m not particularly organized as a writer, didn’t I?

sample chapter 2

12 Oct

And some more infodumping. I think this is going to take a while to edit, when I get down to it. Right now I have maybe two thirds, or a bit over, written, so it will take at least a few weeks before I’m even done with that, and then it’s probably a good idea to keep a short break before I go for the edits.

Chapter 2

The ships used by the Survey branch of the Corps were among the most durable ever built.

That didn’t mean they were maintenance free. Their ship started to complain about a worn jump field grav capacitor when they were two days off planet, and one day away from the designated jump point.

“How many jumps can we do?” Rahan asked the AI.

“The ship can perform one with close to a hundred percent probability of finishing it. On the second the probability will drop to about 95 %. On the third it will be about 78 %. On the fourth 60 %. On the fifth…” The grav capacitors were needed to get in and out of the FTL flight bubble.

“Yes, we are getting it,” Rahan said, sounding somewhat grumpy even to himself in spite of  trying to keep his irritation out of his voice.

“What’s the nearest place with repair facilities?” Ryn asked, his voice carefully modulated into calmness. Rahan suspected he was still fuming, and that this setback was pissing him off as much as it was him. Rahan might not be a mindreader himself, but by now he thought he knew Ryn pretty well.

If the capacitor failed they might drop out of the FTL in the middle of a jump. That was potentially dangerous in itself, although these newer ships had fail safe systems which usually meant they’d emerge in one piece. The problem was that the ship did not have a startalk station. Those needed nearly as much power as the FTL drive itself did, and were usually installed only in the largest ships.

So if they dropped into normal space, and without the ability to go back to FTL, they might be lost for years, decades or even centuries. Even that was not a death sentence because the same technology which had given humans FTL had given them reliable stasis – which did not require that much power to maintain, just to start and finish, so the occupants would be able to wait in their boxes until they were found. And the jump paths between the stars were fairly constant, so their people would have some idea where to go looking.

But it meant the risk of losing everybody and everything they were familiar with, their families, their friends, the places they knew…

Rahan’s answer to Ryn was equally professional. This was business. You didn’t play games with subjects like this. “There are three. Closest will need only one jump, of two day duration.” They were called ‘jumps’ but they took subjective time anyway. “Seems to be a class six civilization, but they have been in contact for nearly a century now so presumably they will have the necessary facilities…” Rahan asked for a new database search from the AI “…yep, they should. The system is called Wala, it has two potentially habitable planets but only one terraformed one, Madalait. One of the last sublight wave colonies, so they haven’t been there that long, probably only about a thousand standards, and the people come from two second wave colonies, Mercaro and Suzanish. Okay, looks like that means that I could for once blend in.”

Rahan had slightly curly black hair and brown eyes, but his skin was almost porcelain white and he took forever to tan when he tried to do it naturally. A bit harsher star and he’d burn rather than tan if he forgot to take the pill. If somebody described his looks, with the narrow nose and the ‘round’ eyes he’d be said to look European and since that was a fairly rare look now Rahan was used to being somebody who stood out in most crowds. There were no humans of pure anything ancestry anymore, but certain broad traits in looks still existed, and the names of some of Terran continents had lived on as a shorthand for certain types of looks: African, Asian – sometimes divided into North and South – and European, and some people also used more specialized names, like ‘Chinese’ or ‘Indian’ or ‘Scandinavian’, although those were more rare. But they were used just for looks, now, since the mixing which had happened during the different waves of colonizations meant that some people who now got called ‘Asians’ because their ancestors had happened to have enough people with that heritage for the the looks to become dominant might have a culture which derived mostly from what had once existed in some parts of South America mixed with heavy doses of ancient Scandinavian, while some called ‘Africans’ might have recognized early space age Chinese culture with American influences as the most likely ancestor to theirs, while an other group of ‘Africans’, looking exactly the same, would have felt most kinship with the white Canadians of the mid-period slowship colonization era of old Earth.

And then there were the colonies which had developed completely unprecedented new cultures from the older blends, ones which gave an endless source of work for cultural historians who would happily spend careers trying to untangle the different threads and figure which came from where.

Mercaro was a well established and developed planet with mostly European-African people, Suzanish a considerably more backward one of almost purely European ones, and the people of Madalait seemed to look mostly like Europeans with some hints of African. Rahan might look a touch pale compared to most of them, but yes, he thought he’d probably should be able to blend in well enough.

“Looks like they had a feudal society when contacted,” Rahan then continued, “serfs and lords and all that. Well, seems they are called peons and lords…”

“Presumably still have, then. You can’t change something like that in less than a man’s lifetime.”

“I’ll look… well, not officially, but yeah, the practical system doesn’t seem to have changed much. Just names.”

Ryn played with his own com a bit, downloading most of what the ship had concerning Madalait, and after a moment of looking at the highlights sighed. “The Corps main database lists a warning.”

“What…” Rahan had done the same and now searched. “They are… okay, they will not like you.”

“And not even disguising my eyes will help. They know about the Shemasharra, they know we are usually very dark and tall…”

“And as they do not see that many offworlders they are suspicious of anyone who looks like they might be one of you, and most of them act at least somewhat hostile towards all dark skinned and taller than average visitors… Yea, that does explain some things.” More humans had darker skin tones than didn’t. The planet was in a place where it should have, just by being where it was, gotten somewhat more traffic than it seemed to be getting. But if negotiating and trading with the locals would become difficult simply for looking a bit like one might be a Shemasharra…

Yes, that would explain some of its even lower than expected traffic.

“It’s still the best alternative. So we’d have a pretty good probability of reaching the other two, they’d both need two jumps, but since the main problem with Madalait is that you will have to do most of the work outside the ship,” he turned to look at Rahan and grinned – maybe he was starting to calm down a bit for real. “We’ll go there. I can play catch up with my reports.”

Rahan grinned back. “As if you had anything left unfinished.”

***

They touched down on the main starport. Or rather, the only official one. That was on the surface, while there were a few stations in near space, and one in orbit, they seemed to be purely for entertainment and research purposes – they had hotels, nightclubs and restaurants, and/or labs, but no real facilities for ships, nor much in the way of shops, not even stores catering to ships with something like foodstuffs. There were two where the interstellar liners embarked and disembarked their passengers, but even those got their supplies and got their repairs done on the surface. The big ones, those which could not land on a planet, did not come here at all.

So surface it was.

The planet’s tilt was similar to Old Terra, and there were two moons, both small, and a third natural satellite which would not be visible from the surface except as a fast moving pinprick of light. It was in the middle of a severe glaciation, and the poles and those parts of the hemispheres close to them were covered in ice, leaving the habitable area as a wide corridor around the equator. There seemed to be no real tropics, just shift from tundra to taiga to deciduous forest to a bit warmer climate version of deciduous forest, and then back, with a few small deserts here and there, and one big one, a mostly dry sea basin sitting right on the equator and between two continental plates which were in the beginning stages of the very slow motion collision of active plate tectonics. Rahan thought there was probably an interesting story for how that basin had managed to completely dry up, for it was not only a large one, it was also a rather deep one. There was also one spot where it was walled from the nearest ocean by only a very narrow looking isthmus. Drop a big enough bomb there and you’d get a really magnificent waterfall for several decades, possibly a century or more.

He grinned when he thought of that. Maybe somebody ought to suggest that to the people in charge here. From what he had looked at so far the colony very obviously was in need of money, and also seemed to lack any obvious means to get it. Offworld tourism was something that could bring in big bucks, especially since this world was not that far off the more travelled lanes, but there’d have to be something more than just rustic charm to draw it. ‘The biggest waterfall in known universe’ might be just what the doctor ordered.

On the longer perspective, the fact that the planet did have active plate tectonics promised good for its long term viability as a living planet. The fact that it had been completely dead before terraforming also meant that it would be one of those planets where the Terran biosphere might continue to develop as a purely Terran biosphere instead of the more normal hybrid between the imported life and the original alien micro-organic one.

One celled, and smaller, life had turned out to be rather normal on the planets sitting on the Goldilocks zones of different stars. But so far no explorers had found anything which would have resembled the original Terran biosphere. Usually you’d need some microvisor system to even see any of the found aliens, at least if you wanted to see more than some sort of slimy biofilm. Most had been different enough to prevent actual merging of the two forms of life, native and imported, but even so they always affected each other at least to some extent. Purely Terran biospheres were somewhat rare, and valued.

Most of the planet was covered in oceans, roughly a 70 %, and those seemed to be well stocked with Terran life. So was most of the ice-free land. A large part of that land was too far north or south for full human comfort, but that still left a more than large enough area for the rather small colony. There was also only one as it hadn’t yet grown large enough to split into different countries, a development which seemed rather inevitable after a certain size had been reached, somewhat depending on the habitability of the planet and how easy it was for dissenting groups to go forth and establish their own jurisdictions – or what stage of technological development the colony had kept or regained, for it was always a bit easier to establish a worldwide tyranny, any sort of tyranny, at a point when surveillance was easy but the populace did not yet have easy access to efficient countermeasures.

This one seemed to be something of a tyranny, in fact.

“Be careful,” Ryn had warned when Rahan had first ventured out after their landing. “Remember the database warnings.”

“Aye aye, I will. Highly corruptible officials should be good too, though, I can always bribe my way out if there are problems.”

“If you have enough credit and they didn’t get a better offer from somebody else. Or an order they dare not refuse since they live here and the elite in power seem to have a pretty thorough grip of the system right now.

“Just be careful, okay? They don’t like the Corps much here, even the human members. Remember that. Keep a low profile.”

Rahan grinned as he thought of that discussion. Ryn could be such a handwringer sometimes. Especially when he had to delegate.

Getting out of the ship on his own was good. The business of negotiating for the repairs had been swiftly done, and not overly expensive. Although he supposed he had ended up overpaying compared to what the locals did the price had not exceeded their budget, so good enough. And it was not on his credit anyway, this was a Corps ship and a Corps mission and Corps money paid for maintenance so the fact was he didn’t particularly care.

And after spending several months on the unpopulated planets he now had plenty of saved pay to use here.

***

The man was young, and had not been working long at the spaceport. It was his first job, actually. And he rather liked it, so at first he hesitated when he finally managed to crack the code protecting the information concerning the Corps ship which had landed a day earlier.

He was comfortable enough when it came to searching for forbidden knowledge in the databases for he had every confidence in his abilities as a hacker.

Forwarding that knowledge to people who might do something with it, something which might make it obvious that there had been a security breach, was something else.

But in the end his loyalty to the movement won out.

“Kerrin?”

“Yes.”

“I may have what you asked about in the last meeting. A Corps ship. The Survey branch, at least the ship is registered to them.”

“Yes?” The voice was cold.

He had never liked Kerrin, the man was a bitch. Not a son of a bitch, but a bitch.

But he was the contact.

“There seems to be one of them onboard. And what’s more, it’s a male one.”

A silence. Then: “Tell me more.”

***

The area close to the port had, of course, been the first Rahan explored. And entertaining enough on its own to merit several days. There were bars, brothels (which he intended to stay away from – even if he did not, on principle, have nothing against the concept of buying sex, providing the prostitutes were doing the job of their own choice, he had not done it himself and felt no particular urge to remedy his worldly education, or lack of, in that subject), restaurants, all kinds of shops selling both local goods and cheap imports. And a rather interesting looking open air bazaar. He had not, so far, never seen a real bazaar in person, so he figured that was going to keep him amused for several days.

So far he had only taken some preliminary looks. This, his third free day, was going to involve some more thorough combing of a few branches of that bazaar.

He knew he had several days. The repairs were going to take a while. The job itself was not complicated, but manufacturing the necessary parts was – according to the shop foreman he had talked with – going to take days since they had to purchase the schematics for printing those parts from offplanet. And for starters the next time they would be able to contact the seller had been four days away. Interstellar communication was expensive, it took almost as much power as flying a ship between stars did, and on planets like this it was not maintained continuously. You took your message, gave it to the operators and they would send those messages as a bundle maybe once a week or twice a week, or on some places once a month or even only once or twice a year.

They had been lucky enough to be in reach of a planet where the communication happened as often as once a week. There had been some talk about trying to buy the rights to keep the schematics in the ship databases, but so far the negotiations had not gone through except for the warships, for which the Corps had been willing to pay more. Those patents would still be valid for nearly four centuries too, so it did not look likely they’d get them in the near future, probably not in Rahan’s lifetime.

And by the time those patents got old the Corps would most likely be using newer ships.

That system meant things could get difficult, even dangerous, at times, but if the ship was in no particular hurry it also meant long shore leaves when stopping for repairs for the inmates – sorry, crew – so Rahan had decided, early on, that he rather liked the system the way it was now.

So, four days until the shop send the request for the schematics, a week after that before they’d get them (if lucky), and a few days after that until the work would be done. At least they seemed to have the materials needed for printing those parts in stock.

So – he had at least two weeks. Two weeks during which Ryn would be confined to the ship, and he’d be mostly free to explore this place. Not much undone jobs in the ship, and not much he even could do there. He had done his reports, the ship needed no maintenance they could do, and he was ahead with his coursework.

So, off to the bazaar!

Rahan took a last look behind, at the ship, gave it – and the man inside it – a one finger salute, and strode off, grinning from ear to ear.