Yenne of clan Valavan hurried through the streets of Lecel. Lecel was a green city, with many of the strange Ingori trees on the sidewalks. Cars zoomed by quietly, running on clean fuel, and the air was thick with equally silent longer range transports such as airbuses and ships leaving and arriving. To Yenne it was all lost. Ingor, when compared with other planets, was slightly dry, yet Aravil was the driest planet every discovered, so the heat felt humid and unnatural. The Ghenda had to close by! She had to ask directions twice. Finally, about to collapse, she wobbled into the blessed coolness of the Aravillian rest place.
The Mistress of the Ghenda yelled out an order, and a swooning Yenne was carried to a table and made to drink the four glass minimum of water. Yenne soon felt better. She was thankful of the existence of Ghendas. They were places for Aravillians who could not afford costly Climajust medications. They were a free service of the Aravillian Clans, and were provided on planets whose climate was inhospitable to Aravillians. Soon, the 6 Celsius temperature had Yenne feeling a bit chilly. She was wearing one of the three outfits she had bought on Nu, and all of them had been skimpily designed for comfort. Yenne ordered hot chiapemme and went to the bookshelf to get a book.
She ended up choosing the Mhythios, one of Aravil's three Holy Books. It chronicled the great Aravillian society that had flourished one million years ago. They had been space faring, and were very different from modern Aravillians. For instance, they were supposedly pale and frail, a male-led society that was war-like yet honorable. Their technology was greater then present day Aravil's, as well. Present day Aravillians were strong, bronze- skinned, led by females, and sensible. That was all a result of the events recorded in Lagada, Shaylor's favorite. The Aravillians had started a war with a race who called themselves the Straitha, and in a test of an ultimate weapon the entire army, or about 90% of the male population, had been killed. Aravil herself underwent environmental disaster. The seven Goddesses arrived, and showed the remaining females how to rebuild, for they had reverted to a primitive society. Now she was getting into the Fademme! But Yenne's favorite was the dashing adventure stories, the exciting suspense, the romance, of the Holy Books. She had read about half of the Terran bible, and had found it preachy and boring, as well as full of itself. But the characters in the Holy Books were real, and they had flaws. She was just about to start reading about how Graendos had won the battle of Bylyn when a stern faced Aravillian woman caught her eye. She spit out the chiapemme in shock. It could not be...... "Mirvenne!!!!!" Yenne yelled out. The severe woman looked just as startled, then jumped up and ran to hug Yenne.
Mirvenne and Yenne were cousins, and they had grown up together living in the same house, that is until Mirvenne's turned fifteen. Chavve, the Leader of Valavan, had come testing for the talent in their tiny village, and she had taken Mirvenne away, saying she had great potential. Chavve had told Yenne her small talents were not out of the ordinary; in fact she was rather weak in the Prophecy. But aside from feastdays Yenne had not seen Mirvenne for.... seven years! The two women both started talking in Aravillian, babbling really, all at once. Being two years older then Yenne, Mirvenne won out and told her story first.
Mirvenne first suggested that they sit in a private booth. Yenne readily agreed, and soon they were drinking chiapemme together and laughing like old times. At the first lull in conversation, Mirvenne opened her mouth and paused. Mirvenne's face really did not fit her demeanor; she was as jolly and pleasant as any one could be, yet her face was that of a stern, cruel, severe disciplinarian. "Yenne...." She began, then hesitated again. "I have a message from you. It's from Chavve."
Yenne stopped giggling at the last joke Mirvenne had made, and was serious. "What?! How can I be of interest to one such as her?" Chavve was the Leader of Clan Valavan.
"I don't know. You have no idea how secretive that woman is. But she told me you would be passing through Ingor during this time period, even though we got a message from the Exploriens telling us you were dead." Her tone softened, and became fervent. "I knew you were not, Yenne. You were always in my dreams, and I knew you could not be dead." Yenne hugged her warmly, and for an instant, she thought her cousin would begin crying. But it was shameful to be weak, and Mirvenne was just as strong as Yenne. "Anyways, the message is actually a summons. Chavve, Leader of Clan Valavan, summons you, Yenne of Clan Valavan, to the city of Valvavve, to the Valavan palace. You must respond in one year or you will be prosecuted." Mirvenne grimaced, one thing her face fit very well. "I was told to say it exactly like that, so I'm sorry if it sounded harsh there for a bit. I do hope you didn't do anything to get in trouble, Yenne." Mirvenne was all sympathy.
Yenne worked her mouth, but nothing came out of it at all. Chavve, summoning her? To the capital? What was this? "I am having no ideas about what she is wanting with me." Yenne finally got out in a faint voice.
"Well, remember, four hundred days. Don't think about being late. I tell you this, Chavve is one who could take your skin off with the sideways glance." They had dropped into Terran again, and both of their accents were terrible. Yenne started up in Aravillian again.
"I have something of an amazing story to tell you as well." Yenne paused, and asked for an oath of secrecy. She got it, and Yenne knew Mirvenne would rather die by torture then break it. So she told her, told her of their fantastic voyage, of the trouble on Nu, of her vision, told her everything. She was hoarse when she finished.
Mirvenne nodded gravely, and said. "Let us talk on lighter things." And so they did. They talked about Shaylor, about the latest fashions Yenne had missed by being away for three years, about what was happening with their family, and when it was time to go to the hotel Yenne was sad to leave her cousin. They promised to meet here for every day that they were on Ingor together, and Yenne was comforted that now her family would know she was alright, and that her time on Ingor would not be boring as she had feared.
David stepped out of the Lorol Mav with a light heart. He was even humming little bits of nothing as he breathed the morning air, or what passed for morning air on Ingor. He could not remember the last time he felt so fine. Maybe it was because the goal that had seemed so far away only days ago- returning home -was now so close. They would be home in time for Christmas, David's favorite holiday. Maybe this year he could get leave and visit New Terra, the colony he and Anto had grown up on. For a second David's humming faltered as he realized that he had no idea what his relationship with the Exploriens would be upon his return. An Explorien had tried to kill him, yet he still aspired to be one of them. But since, according to Yenne's cousin, they were all legally dead, maybe he was no longer considered a cadet. But then his good humor returned once again. That's another problem for another day, he thought of that uncomfortable line of reasoning.
Realizing that he was standing on the curb humming like an idiot, he set out walking down the sidewalks. He had a job to do today. Late last night, while he, Anto, and Shaylor were watching the televiewer, they had talked in the commercials about needing more supplies. They had left Nu with little, planning to stop and collect food on Class 4 planets, and that little would not last until they reached Velex. They could not stop at Class 4 planets now, because all the ones between Ingor and Velex were colonized. So David had volunteered to go out the next morning and buy some food with the little money they had left. The money was actually a bit more, now, because Bantu had withdrawn money from all five of the cadet's bank accounts. Their savings from their work as Explorien cadets, plus interest.
The morning heat of Ingor was comparable to a midday in late spring on Terra, and the air was drier then David was used to, though not as dry as on other planets he had heard of. In any case, David was looking forward to this little shopping trip, despite Bantu insisting that he do it in the early morning.
The streets David walked were practically deserted, with only an occasionally being out and about, rubbing bleary eyes and stumbling slightly. By the time David had reached the streetmarkets, the numbers were greater, though nothing near the great throngs of people he had experienced yesterday afternoon, upon their arrival.
The vendors at the streetmarket were not out in force this early, and their colorful stalls were spaced, sometimes with more then a hundred feet between rickety, collapsible structures. Despite seeming to follow the old ‘early bird gets the worm', the few merchants out already yelled loudly, hacking their wares, as if the latecomers were already out competing for the attention of picky shoppers. David approached the first one he came across, an Ingori male whose eyebrow ridges were large and slightly repulsive. They shadowed his eyes, which was what David thought might be the ridges practical function. He wondered idly if large eyebrow ridges were a sign of beauty, or handsomeness, for Ingori. Anyways, the slight merchant did not have any Terran food, which was what David wanted first and foremost. He had a list of wants from everyone, from Bantu's "mehs'quiteay hohn", which was supposedly some sort of fish meat, to Yenne wanting chiapemme, as if she could not get free chiapemme at the Ghenda she frequented. When David had asked about that, she had told him the hot drink at the Ghenda was a wrong blend, made from ‘stinkleaf nectar' and ‘itchingbush blossoms', which David took for ‘bad'. But since he was the one shopping, it only made sense his needs would take precedence.
The second merchant David approached had a nice stand of peaches for an astoundingly cheap price. David bought a dozen and put them in the basket Bantu had pushed on him. Idiotic thing.
As the morning wore on, David found himself enjoying himself even more then he had anticipated. He failed to see what had driven Shaylor from this very place yesterday in such foul moods. He looked around. By now it was about eleven o'clock, Ingor time. David's basket was filled with a variety of foods, most of what had been on the list. He had been on a tight budget, but he was proud that he still had a ways to go before using up all the money allotted to him. David looked around the square streetmarket, now packed with people. Actually, it was the people he looked at. Space Station Gemini was filled with Exploriens, mainly Terran, Velexian, Aravillian, or Krigoni, although there were a few Rektullians as well. There was a modest Merchant's Promenade there as well, where he had seen Merchants, mainly Myren or from the Explorien Planets. That meant that there were many races he had only seen in pictures, if that. Ingori seemed to make up less then half of the crowd, despite it being their planet. There were other Terrans about, but unlike some other races most Terrans did not feel a ‘kindred spirit' with one another. David relished his first sights of Jagonners, short, squat creatures with yellow skin that reminded David of jaundice, though for the Jagonners it probably meant they were perfectly healthy. Lengrumi were prominent in the crowd, pale and white and frail in robes that glowed oddly. He frowned all of a sudden; he thought he recognized one of the Lengrumi he saw. But that was impossible, of course. He had never seen a Lengrumi before yesterday. Wait a second.... that Lengrumi had been present whenever he looked at the otherwise always changing crowds. He had been leaning against the wall of a building, watching when he bought bread. He had been pacing around the stall that sold some of that strange Krigoni food he had bought. Why was this person following him? But as soon as the question was asked, David provided the answer himself, all in one word- sho'gan vin. He almost growled; he hated to be stalked, especially by such a frail thing. Did the sho'gan vin think him an old man, to send such an assassin after him? He was probably packing a gun. David thought of a way to escape without causing a scene, but he came up empty. The only way back to the hotel was towards his stalker. The only thing to do would be to loop wide and come around the Lorol Mav the opposite way he had exited it, or to climb up one of the buildings and take a SkyCab back to his hotel. Well, it all meant more walking, and David's feet already felt fit to fall off.
David should have outpaced the Lengrumi almost at once, but each uneasy glance over his shoulder showed that the assasin was only closer. David felt panic slowly set in, but running as if pursued in a streetmarket was a good way to get an angry mob after you, thinking you were a thief. He kept his pace to a brisk walk, but the frail creature inexoribly caught up with him. Soon it was midday, and David ate some of the food he had bought while speedwalking in a vain attempt to escape. He hoped he would not throw up. Suddenly, a tall, palely blue alien with snow-white hair rounded a corner, and David heaved a sigh of relief. Bantu Basha was shopping as well, only sixty feet in front of David. David ran over to crouch behind a public fountain, and called Bantu's name softly. He hoped the Krigoni heard- his race was supposed to have excellent hearing. The third call, more frantic and angry, was what made him look up and stride calmly over to stand next to the kneeling David.
"Get down, you fool!" David hissed, and Bantu knelt next to the Terran with a look of one who had been asked by a child to play in the mud with him, and he was playing out of kindness. He was humoring David, was what he was doing! David bit down angry words. His assasin knew as well as he that people did not just disapear, and childish comments would have to wait. "There is someone following me. That Lengrumi over there by the tailor's stall?" He asked. There was no sign of it, but Daviud got the impression of rolling eyes from Bantu. "Come on, look at him at least!"
Bantu did look, and when he looked back into David's dark brown eyes, it was with a non-existant sigh that David was sure he would have let out if David was not present. Stupid fish! "He is looking at us suspisciously. I suppose we should loop around to the Lorol Mav." As if David lacked a functioning brain!
"I have been trying, but he keeps pace with me no matter how fast I walk. I have been looking for a SkyCab dock." David said in a tight voice. Why could it not have been anyone else he had encountered? Bantu was insufferable.
"Yes, that is an excellent plan of action. Follow me." Bantu's icy voice was completeoly emotionless. David wanted to yell at him just so he could see what Bantu's voice would be like in anger. Surely the heat of anger would thaw the frost of his personality, or lack thereof.
David had no choice but to follow Bantu like a little child, and no help that his head came well short of Bantu's shoulders. Terrans were of an average height when compared with other species, but a six foot six Krigoni was short for their race. Wishing like it did not feel that he had put himself in Bantu's charge, David walked down the streets the of the Krigoni's choosing.
When David looked back, the Lengrumi was only fifteen feet away, and he had his hand under his coat, plainly about to draw a weapon. "Bantu!" David hissed franticly. The arrogant Krigoni did not stop his sure step. David reached up to grab his shoulder and spin him around. "He's just about upon us!" David expected Bantu to yell for help, the Ingori Civil Guard, or to start to run, yet what he did startled David in its stupidily. Bantu walked calmly towards the Lengrumi. The Krigoni was a pure, arrogant fool! Still, if he did manage to reach the assasin before he drew a weapon, it might turn out alright. Aside form explaining themselves to the authorities. Bantu was tall, yet spindily, but not as tiny and frail as the Lengrumi. David wished Anto was here; he knew his way around a fight.
Bantu raised his fist to knock at the assasin, but the Lengrumi caught his arm and somehow flung him. David expected him not to go more then a foot or two, yet he flew through the air. He flew towards the railing of the building they had been climbing! Acting without thought, David grapped Bantu's leg as he went over, and tried to haul the Krigoni up. A look over the side showed the ground, hundreds of feet away, and gawking bystanders. One of the yelled "JumP!" In a cracking voice. Idiot. David realized what a vulnerable position he was in. All the assasin need to do was to give a little push, and both David and Bantu would be bloody stains on the ground below. He had to get Bantu up before the assasin reached him, yet the Krigoni seemed to have to opposite effect, slowly dragging David over the edge with him. David would of called out for help, but his teeth were gritted for two reasons. One, to help him to haul Bantu up, and the other.... to brace for his impact on the far distant ground.
Audua pushed her way through the crowds as she walked towards the small apartment she rented. When a wide Velexian almost knocked her down, she muttered a few dark curses, and was surprised when several non-Ingori looked at her. Oh, yes. Audua kept forgetting those instant-translators she had purchashed instead of taking lessons in Terran, Velexian, and Lengrumi. Actually, she was walking to a SkyCab terminal, to catch a ride to her building. Her aprtment was small, and modest, espescially for such a sucessful businesswoman, but she was happy there. Aside from the monthly letters from her parents ordering her to give up her business and return to the medical proffesion. She rearanged her intricate white robes irritabily as she waited for the crowds to part. When they did not, she pushed through the throngs of people. Her small size belied her strength, and people had always reacted with surprise when they found out that she was not as frail as her slight frame suggested. The scene that Audua uncovered was one of a nigthmare that sent ll petty thoughts fleeing.
Audua recognized two of the people who were circled by on-lookers. One was a Terran with black hair, the other a Krigoni with that trademark pale blue skin and a blank expression. Both of them had docked at her establishment yesterday afternoon; and, aparently, their visit was not going well. The Krignoi- his passport had named him Ganta Gahra, but she suspected that they were fake -was dangling over the glass railing, the groun far below him. The Terran, whose name she could not recall, was holding onto the Krigoni's calf and trying desperately to haul him back over the edge. A frail Lengrumi she did not know was approaching them, and death was obvious on its alien face. "Stop!" Audua called out, but the Lengrumi did not do as he was told. She took out a Ion pistol- a smaller version of the Ion Pulse rifle -that she carried for saftey, and fired a warning shot. The blue orb shot past his head with a delicate ‘hummmm', and went off into the atmosphere before detonating harmlessly. "I said, stop!" She yelled in a firmer voice. Audua hoped he obeyed, anmd saw the threat of a weapon trained on his head, because she did not know if she had the stomach to actually shoot a person, even if it would not kill him. But the Lengrumi did something Audua would never have dreamed of- he vanished. Just like that, he reached under his coat and flat disapeared! People could not do that! Audua gave herself a shake and ran over to help the human pull up Ganta, or whatever his real name was.
"Are you ok?" Audua asked as soon as they collapsed on the safe side of the barricade. Clearly diaspointed, the crowd dispearsed, and Audua shivered. Ingor had grwon remarkably bloodthirsty recently.
The Terran hovered over the Krigoni protectively, almost like a mother. "I'm alright, but I don't know about him." Audua looked at the Krigoni.
"You are his friend?" she asked calmly.
"No! Well, yes.... or maybe. Do you know the way to a doctor?" The Terranm clearly had very muddled feelings about the Krigoni. Probably found him annoying as hell, but probably owed him a lot as well.
"I have some medical training." Audua said in just as calm a voice. She had much more then some, but she was not about to tell him that. "By the way, I am Audua."
"We docked at your place! I'm sorry for not recognizing you. Is he ... alright?"
"Should be." Audua said as she flipped open the Krigoni's eyelids to study his black eyes. "Probably just got a knock on the head. Who was that Lengrumi?" Audua asked.
"I can tell you, later. Maybe. If you come with me to the hotel, maybe I can tell you. Some. Did you see where our attacker went?" He asked anxiously.
"He just disapered. Stop with the puzzled looks, I'm not lying. And yes, alright, I'll go with you to your hotel. I have the afternoon off, anyways." Audua wondered what she had stepped into by helping these people. "Help me lift him up." she said, indicating the Krigoni. Audua took his arms and walked behind, while the Terran carried his legs and led the way.
"First of all, my name is David. David Morrison, not..." David began his tale, and when they reached the hotel he and Shaylor, the half-Terran, half Krigoni mix, told her even more. It was enough to make Audua's hair stand on end, but she promised to keep it to herself. Shaylor asked her to stay for dinner, which she accepted. He had the nicest grey eyes Audua had ever seen, and... with a start Audua stopped eating. She could not become involved. These people had enemies, and if she joined them, it could be her that ended up dead.