another vampire

6 Dec

This is one of the paintings I didn’t like. I painted a bit more and it’s better now, although I’m not going to be using it for anything. Maybe I’ll see if I can sell it in one of the local net auctions. If not it will probably end in trash sooner or later. I don’t have the space to keep my practice works, most of them anyway, I keep a few of the better ones around and try to get rid of the others in some way, but if nobody wants them, yep, trash.

I did the mausoleum freehand and it’s a bit wonky, the head of the vampire woman is a bit too large and so on. Lots of small stuff rather than one big problem.

The colors aren’t quite that bright in the actual painting.

EPSON scanner image


4 Dec

Yep, the painting turned out to be more difficult to make than I had thought it would be. I have painted objects or shapes in the mist, both daytime and night time mist or fog, a couple of times before, but I used oils then. Now I tried to do it with acrylics, for the first time, and acrylics do require a somewhat different approach. So two failed attempts, and then one tolerable. I will use this as a cover, for now anyway, at least it’s better than the rather horrible photograph I have on the second vampire story right now. Can always change later.

I would prefer to use oils, I like them better and since I have used them a lot more I paint better with them, but one problem is that that oil paintings don’t scan well, not on the cheap multipurpose piece of… well, it works, anyway. Photographing an oil painting might work, only my current camera is even worse than the scanner, so until I manage to buy a better one it is going to be scanning. And with acrylics on paper I can get a decent, if not actually good copy online. If I knew how to use the graphics editing programs I have better I could presumably do something to make them look better, but while I have improved slightly I’m still far from proficient.

So, here we have a vampire on a misty (or foggy, but misty sounds more romantic) graveyard.

EPSON scanner image


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. 🙂


25 Nov

I guess I’m having post-publication depression here, or something.

If all the things Kristine Kathryn Rusch and the others who blog about self-publishing, and the problems of legacy publishing for midlisters and beginners are true, going with legacy publishing is not necessarily a good choice, especially if you are a beginner. First, getting accepted can take years, then if you do get there the contracts can be bad, possibly very bad, there is no guarantee the end result, the published book or story in a magazine, will be all that much better than it will be if you self-publish – well, nicer cover or illustration if it’s a magazine story which has those, probably, but editing will not necessarily be any better. Most likely no money spend on advertising. And a beginner, or a midlister, does not have that much to bargain with in order to get a better contract since there are always lots of writers for the big publishers to choose from.

But the idea of being accepted by a publisher does have one big draw: if a publisher accepts you, you already have one sort of validation. They chose you from the throng of hopefuls, and they are willing to spend money on your story so they must think it is pretty good, or at least good enough, and since they are the professionals they should know, right? So even if you are then told the story sucks you could always counter with the fact that it was bought by a publisher. And if a professional thought it good enough it can’t be that bad, right?

But doing this the way I’m doing it is scary. I have no idea if I’m good enough a writer. It’s quite possible I’m not. Or I might be one of those sorta kinda almost but not quite there. Or maybe I can hit it sometimes and nevertheless completely miss other times. Or even if I am good, that still is no guarantee I can become somebody who sells. I do have some faith in the idea that cream will get to the top, with time, but while I think that is probably true in general, I don’t think that means that it is guaranteed when we are talking about some single writer, there is still always an element of luck involved. And it is probably also becoming harder with time, a few years ago there was much less competition that there is now, and when we go a few years into the future, well, it will be even harder to get noticed from the mass. Even for those who really are good. And if you are just one of those sorta kinda not that bad ones…

And then there is the question of what exactly is good enough. You know the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest? The man of the ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ fame? He was a bestselling author in his time. Now he is a joke, partly because his particular style of writing got old-fashioned. That has happened to a lot of writers. And perhaps it can happen the other way around too, you just write wrong for that particular time and place, except when it comes to fiction the ones who did that rarely get validated by later generations as visual artists sometimes can be. Not that many people bother to try reading old books, much less some dusty manuscripts, while a painting can capture your interest with just a glance.

And yet, even the lousiest storyteller will still probably find at least a few fans, if she can get enough people to try her stories. She may even become something truly valued if only to one or two people because a particular story just happened to be what those readers needed right then. So, was writing those stories worth it then or not?

Yes. Legacy publishing sounds like a bad deal, the way it is now, at least if you are not somebody who has bargaining power – maybe somebody who has already become a bestseller as a self-published author, or who is famous through some other means. But I can understand the beginners who keep on trying to get published through that route, or only through that route, because if they accept you you have at least some reassurance that you are good enough, and maybe less likely to end up as one of the jokes. I guess that is what I’m most scared of. I think I can handle being made fun of if I also have readers who enjoy my stories, people have different tastes and those tastes also change with time, you can start to call something as truly good only if people keep enjoying it for several generations. But it would be painful to find out that all I can ever be is just that joke, one of the hopefuls who can never find all that many readers because she actually does suck pretty damn bad.

Yet, if I never try I will never find out. And what if I would have been good enough? Wasting your talents… okay, I’m not quite sure if it is a sin but it probably is at least a good contender for that.

Putting stuff out there, for anybody too see is scary. But I guess it’s one of those things that just has to be done, at least when you somebody like me, somebody for whom dreaming up stories is a compulsion I can’t get rid of so whether I write them down and/or publish them I am going to use time with them anyway. Maybe if I had something more useful to use that time for, so I could argue that I should keep the dreaming only as a way to relax but not waste time writing them… only I don’t have anything more important to do.

If you never try you are a sure failure. So I guess I will keep doing this even if I am a coward. But it can be difficult because I am a coward.

And that was fast…

23 Nov

Okay, it went live already. Cover and link:

Well, it’s done

23 Nov

Chosen name: Escape from Tekmar. Cover, well, I’ll post a link tomorrow when it should show on Amazon.

Blurb (more or less, I wrote this but computer refused to play copy and paste, so I wrote it again, with a few different word choices):

When their ship develops a malfunction and has to land on the colony planet Tekmar for repairs all Rahan expects are a holiday, and being able to get away, for a few days, from the other member of their two man crew and his commanding officer who is confined to the ship due to the fact that his kind – a branch of humanity genetically engineered to the point they are now a separate species – are not well liked here.

Then he meets a pretty girl, and at first it seems like his holiday is going to be even more fun than he expected. Only the girl is not telling him everything, and next thing he knows he is a fugitive on a world where everyone might be an enemy.

And then Rahan finds himself solely responsible for something important, and important to him personally, for the first time in his life. It’s all up to him now.

And now I just worry about what will show on Amazon, and how many typos and wrong tenses and whatever I left on the manuscript. I did several line edits, including one on paper, but from previous experience there will still be plenty left.

And then I will start playing with the sequels. Fourth Sword first, tentatively named White Keeper. I got a pretty good idea of the plot, but as usual it will probably get new twists and tangles when I actually start writing it. Already a new character has poked his head in, and all I did was write a couple of short scenes.

Since writing is not going to go well during the next couple of months I will probably keep to jotting down a few scenes here and there, and a lot of daydreaming which I can do. I can’t build a whole working plot that way, but I can get a general impression of what is going to happen.

I also have a sequel to Escape thought up. It will introduce the two sisters of the family, and drop the foursome on a very hostile planet. No colony, this time. There may also be a love story for Ryn’s twin, there is this guy… we’ll see. Ryn and Rahan are going to get back on Tekmar too, Lida will be needing their help, but the scary planet adventure, and meeting the sisters, Dani and Cedra, and Dani’s new love who is perhaps going to have some problems fitting into their pack, that will come first because that guy is going to have some important stuff to do on Tekmar.

And yes, painting. First the new covers for the last three short stories which still have the photos on their covers, then just painting and drawing.

chapter 10

18 Nov

This is the last chapter I’m posting on the blog. I may be able to publish the novel on Amazon this week, I’m tentatively aiming for the 20th, and the two others will also start a free promo which will last until the 24th on that day. I’ll need to see how my final edits will go (or if I decide I will need to edit more).

So, next week perhaps more art, for a change, since at least right now the problems I have been having with my hand seem to be in control – it shakes, sometimes, but not so often and not so badly I can’t finish pieces. Or finish them well enough to keep them, I did draw during the last nine to ten months, and paint occasionally too but most of the resulting pieces went straight to trash. As I have said before the main problem seems to be with my shoulder, which got badly inflamed last spring, but while that was work related so it’s not completely sure it wont happen again, I can’t exactly stop working, maybe I can keep it at least from getting as bad as it did then. Last winter and spring I’m afraid I just kept hoping it would heal on its own, or go away if I ignored it, until it finally got bad enough that I needed cortisone injections, and even after that weeks of work before I started to get where I could again do fine motor tasks well with that hand. 🙂

Chapter Ten

It took them a while to get there, but when they did the fortress turned out to be quite impressive.

The flyers were hid in a natural cave outside the walls. Wide and just high enough that they could be flown in, very slow and very carefully. Rahan noted that. He was a good enough pilot, but with that parking place he would not be able to make any kind of fast exit. If he ran he’d have to make sure nobody was right at his heels when he got here.

The rebels didn’t seem to leave any guards in place. Not human ones anyway. But it was always possible there was something automated, or that somebody or several somebodies would come back here later.

The route from the cave to the fortress showed no marks of having been used previously. There were only a couple of large trees here, but plenty of young saplings, and it was bit of a fight to push through the thicket to the fallen gates of the huge building.

The fortress seemed to be made completely of stone, huge, smooth blocks fitted seamlessly together with no signs of mortar between them. Rahan gawked until he nearly tripped on a small bush, after which he concentrated more on his feet than on sightseeing.

“Lida, this was built soon after the colonists landed, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” she said. “The stories tell of magic.”

“Yep, that’s what the construction robots are, pretty much. Or were. The ones in use now aren’t any more advanced than the ones these people had. Probably quite a bit less so.”

So much had been lost during the dark centuries. They still were in many ways much less advanced, technologically anyway, than their ancestors had been. The only magic uniquely belonging to their time was the FTL drive, their grav and stasis machines, all offsprings of the same scientific discovery.

There was a big courtyard, surrounded by massive walls with turrets on the corners and on both sides of the main gates. The living and working quarters, as well as storage, had probably been in the two keeps standing on both sides of that courtyard. There were also some smaller buildings there, less well constructed, made of much smaller stones and with the help of mortar, and in a more ruined state, looking kind of embarrassed standing in the shadows of the older and much superior versions. A new, smaller group of people met them when they got to a door leading in, and the people from the flyers started to disperse. A man, taller than most of the locals Rahan had seen so far, seemed to be in charge here.

So another group had gotten here first.

Lida didn’t seem to be particularly fond of of this new Maasvat leader, she just nodded curtly to him before turning to Rahan.

“I’ll take you to your room. It’s probably better if you stay there, I’ll see that everything you might need will be brought to you.”

Rahan glanced at her, but she seemed to be wholly concentrated on her feet and the ground just ahead. Here it was mostly covered in stone, with occasional tuffs of grass, some stray saplings and small bushes growing here and there, but the ancient paving was rather uneven and there were fallen stone blocks, from the newer buildings, here and there.

“So what am I, a prisoner or a guest?”

“It’s better, for both you and us, if you don’t know all that much about us.”

He was forced to admit that made sense.


The room she led him to was a bare cubicle of stone, with no windows. But there was a door. Old, made of thick, sturdy planks reinforced with steel bars.

And with a lock.

Old, mechanical one.

When Lida left she said somebody would be coming soon to bring him bedding, water for both a little washing and drinking, and some food. She also asked him to stay inside and wait.

As soon as she was out he went to the door to listen, then when the echoes of her steps had died down he slipped out.

The corridor was empty.

He spend a little examining the lock, then made a quick survey of the nearby rooms and the corridor. In one room there was a newer looking pile of trash in one corner. Rahan sorted through it and found some short lengths of rusted, thick wire, of which he pocketed a couple of pieces, plus a badly rusted but still serviceable knife. Well, it wasn’t sharp anymore, but he figured it would probably not snap under pressure, at least not immediately.

He secured it under the waist of his trousers, then returned to his room to wait.


The Ytjar program found the heat signatures of the two flyers and reported it to the human controllers. They eyeballed the bits available at first, then gave the data to another program in hopes that it might be able to find out what the actual destination of the flyers might have been.

No such luck. All they could get was the general area, and that was several tens of square klicks wide.

Their supervisor did get a permission to airborne surveillance of the area and four armed drones were launched. He would have needed about twice that number to have some sort of surety of getting results.

The man decided to send yet another request for a higher budget even though he was fairly sure that would lead to nothing – of it it did the end result would most likely be new personal flyers, or maybe vacations, to some higher ups. Or maybe some nice jewelry to their wives or mistresses.

But one needed to keep up appearances. If there was trouble due to unfulfilled duties he needed to be able to show that he had done his best.


A woman Rahan had not seen before brought him the bedding and food Lida had promised. He waited, obediently, until she had set them down and thanked her as she left and closed the door behind her.

He was not exactly surprised to hear the click of the key being turned in that lock.

The food was a loaf of drying bread and hard cheese, but at least the water was clear and there was plenty of it. Rahan contemplated them for a moment, a bit worried that the rebels might try to drug him to make sure he’d stay where he was supposed, then carefully tasted just a little bit of everything. When he still felt quite normal about half an hour later he ate and drank some more.

The sun was up by then.

Which time would be safer to do some sneaking around, day or night? Would he dare to wait until the next night?

Maybe not. The rebels had spend most of last night on the run. They had to be at least as tired as he himself was. They would probably sleep at least part of the day, and perhaps be more active again during the night. Dark would not offer much of a cover from the Ytjar, or from the police, but at least it mostly eliminated the risk of being seen by some ordinary citizen who might then alert the authorities.

The peons of this planet might not like their overlords, but in this type of systems the ones who squealed about suspicious people or activities – much less gave them people who really were up to no good, from the lords’ point of view – tended to be well rewarded by their masters, so as long as peons could do that without being caught by their fellow peons the temptation would be great. And while this area was not permanently inhabited, he had gotten the impression that it was still used quite a bit – sometimes by people on the run, but also by hunters, loggers, people gathering berries or mushrooms or tending the half wild pigs the peons kept, and to great extent depended on for their meat…

Yes, day might really be more likely time for the rebels to rest, and for him to take a look around.

Rahan ate a little bit more but drank a lot on his third mini meal, then decided to risk a short nap, confident that he would be able to wake up after an hour or two. He was scared enough by now that his internal alarm clock should be well primed to go off when he wanted it to.

He profoundly regretted the fact that before landing he had spend a lot more time looking up potentially fun things to do close to the port rather than trying to get any kind of real overview of the local system and its parts, and how they worked. What kind of resources the officials had, what kind of surveillance systems, or weaponry, how many men, what the individual nobles might have access to… and it was highly likely that if he had really dug into those Corps databases the AI had onboard – which was most of the not secret ones – he might have even found some snippets of Lida’s Maasvat.

As it was he was forced to plan almost completely without any real information. Just lots of presumptions and guesses. Not good.

As he lay down on the makeshift bed he wondered what Ryn was right then doing

He really missed the big guy.


Rahan woke around midday. The room was getting a bit warm then, but when the picked the lock and opened the door he was met with a blast of heat which almost reminded him of the equatorial deserts of the larger continent on the Shemasharra home planet.

The clothes he had were not particularly well suited to this kind of weather, the cheap synthetic cloth did neither breathe nor let moisture through well, so after only a few minutes he was drenched, the fabric clinging to his skin in a most unpleasant manner.

After some thought he went back to his room, took off his garish orange tunic and used the knife he had picked up earlier to cut a hole in the very thin and nicely dark grey blanket he had been given.

Well, ‘cut’ was perhaps an exaggeration since the knife had no edge to cut with. But the point was still pointy enough that he managed to push it through the blanket on several spots, after which he could tear the fabric between those holes until he had a big enough a hole to fit his head through.

As a poncho the blanket was ugly, and still something too warm for today, but he hoped it might make him at least a little bit less visible as it was also long enough to cover the lime colored trousers nearly down to his knees. Not to mention covering his pale torso and arms – he had spend a lot of time outdoors during the previous months, but since he had been quite well covered in both UV proof clothing and sunblock during those times he didn’t have a tan worth mentioning. The best one could have said that he was pale rather than pasty white.

He wondered briefly what would happen if he ran into any of the rebels, then shrugged. Most likely they would just drag him back here. If not… by now he doubted he would gain anything by being nice and obedient to them.

The first thing he did was to check rest of the floor he was in, but the rooms and corridors of the place were empty, empty of people and empty of anything potentially useful. So next he headed towards the ground floors. His room was on the third floor of the smaller keep. He figured the rebels would be inside the same building, most of them anyway, when Lida had been bringing him here he had seen a couple of men carrying things in.

Possibly ground floor.

The place was eerily quiet. Only thing he heard was the slight sound of the gentle wind from the outside. No birds sang, no rodents flitted across the floor anywhere.

And no humans.

Rahan reached the ground floor and found himself in a larger, long and narrow hallway about two stories high, with lots of mostly doorless doorways dotting the walls – some up the wall on the level of what would have been the second floor which meant there had originally been a floor there, made of something which had since either decayed to the point that there was nothing left, or maybe been reused for something else.

He turned towards the direction he thought the main gate was in. He’d need to find the door which led out. The stairs he had taken down were not the same ones Lida had used when she had led him to the room. He had thought he’d have a better chance not to be discovered if he used the other staircase he had found. Only now he was somewhat confused over exactly where he was in relation to what he had seen on the way in.

When he was about halfway through he heard a slight sound coming from a narrow side corridor.


Some more sneaking and he found a room where five men were sleeping.

The guns tempted him for a moment, but right now he was still unsure as to what would be his best course – was he going to run now, or still wait a little while to see how things might develop – so he didn’t try to steal any of them.

The other rebels were probably somewhere close.

Once he got out he noticed a small twisting corridor running next to what he thought might be the outer wall – it was not straight, but neither had the outer walls of the keep been when he had seen them from the outside – and took it. The outer wall guess turned out to be right when he first found a few very narrow window holes opening to the courtyard, and then a door – not just a doorway, the door was there too, and in relatively good condition – and, when he tried it, it opened into the courtyard.

And at the same moment he heard the sounds of fast approaching conversation. Two people talking in that corridor, just around the corner.

There was no place to hide. Except outside.


This part of the courtyard was a mess. It seemed there had been a lot newer, small building – or possibly buildings – made most of brick here once, and it or they had fallen almost completely apart with time so there were a few low walls and a whole lot of fallen masonry, some as piles including some more intact bricks and as a harsh gravel formed from the disintegrated bricks and occasional larger pieces, and as the the brick gravel which covered most of the ground between them.

Rahan ran to a slightly higher nearby wall and crouched behind it as the speakers got to the window holes and approached the door. He hoped they hadn’t heard his steps on the gravel. He had not been exactly noiseless.

But they, whoever they were, seemed to be too absorbed in their discussion to have noticed anything.

When they got closer Rahan started to make out some snatches of the discussion. Something about a ship coming.

Had they been honest to him after all, and were now talking about his ship?

He could hear their voices clearly when they passed one of the windows, but between them their conversation was just noise. Both speakers seemed to be men, and he thought he maybe recognized one of the voices as one of the men who had met them on the courtyard, the one who had seemed to be as much in charge as Lida was. What had been that name he had heard… Kerrin? The other was unknown, but they were speaking in Kinagt, which might mean he was also an offworlder.

Something about a…

The rebels meant to sell something? Something illegal and highly valuable.
To an offworld buyer. The probable offworlder mentioned something about… his boss? Who was going to land somewhere near here in their ship. The next word he heard well enough to be sure of it was ‘the jumper’, a word often used of ships which had the FTL drive.
Some sort of… container? Cold. Rahan was sure one of the used words was something about cold.
A cellar. In a cellar?
It kind of sounded like that. Something in a container of some sort stored in a cellar. Either a container which needed to stay cold, or a contained which needed to be kept in cold. Here, somewhere in this old fortress.

Then they were gone.


The sun beat on Rahan, making him uncomfortably hot underneath the makeshift poncho and most probably burning the exposed parts of his skin while he sat behind the wall and thought.

He had a bad feeling about that snatch of a conversation.

Now where would a cellar, or cellars, be in this place… Close to the kitchens, maybe? Or did ‘a cellar’ mean something like a dungeon rather than food storage…?

He looked at the buildings around him.

The original keeps or the newer ones?

Originals. They were much better build. If the rebels were using this cellar for storage it was probably in good enough shape that they didn’t worry it might collapse on top of them, or this valuable merchandise.

Would the entrance be inside, or outside?

He would not be able to figure this out while sitting here.

Rahan got up and peered at the keep he had been in. He’d just have to start looking. It perhaps raised the risk he’d be caught by them… well, he’d just play clueless and spin. Some pressing need had made him force the lock open, maybe he had gotten thirsty, or had needed to relieve himself – that might be a good one, nobody had provided him with a bucket this time, and anything left in a corner in a small room like that would have started to stink in no time in this weather – something, anything which would keep them thinking he was maybe still not suspecting anything. Spin, appear sincere and friendly and wounded, deeply wounded by the fact that they had locked him in, ask nicely not to be imprisoned again and who knew, maybe they wouldn’t – well, one could hope – or at least the might still stay less than completely vigilant and he’d still get a chance to run.

Try to make them believe he was stupid. Shouldn’t be that hard. He had walked right into this – whatever this was – like a lamb to a slaughter, hadn’t he? Just because the girl was pretty…

By now he was quite sure he’d better run. Maybe he still was not completely sure that the rebels were up to no good towards him, but he had enough doubts that taking the risk of trusting them any further seemed rather foolhardy. Trust your instincts. That’s what the Shemasharra he knew were always telling him. That if he thought the people he was dealing with were concealing something from him, he was probably right.

And now he had finally figured out one potential reason these people might have had for kidnapping him. A reason he very, very much hoped he was completely wrong about, because if he was right he was in the middle of a nightmare.

Now, realistically speaking it was a very unlikely potential reason. It was the stuff of sensations, a subject most only ever saw in over the top action, or sometimes weepy drama type of stories told in games or vids or novels, meant to entertain rather than to tell anything more than marginally related to reality. Something most people assumed was just a good, scary fairy tale.

The problem was that those stories were based on something that actually did exist. Perhaps not in the more civilized parts of space, and it was something rare even in the frontier, but still, something that did exist and was a big, lucrative business to a very small portion of human criminals.

And Tekmar was not exactly in the center of civilization.

So no matter how far fetched his guess might be, the problem this presented to him was that now he had to find that… container before he ran.

Find it and see what was in it.

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.


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…


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.