RICK JOHNSON

CERES


by: Rick Johnson
PO Box 40451
Tucson, Az.
85717
RikJohnson@juno.com

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PART I
POST-CONVENTION

I
PERSONAL JOURNAL

Obviously Jane and I never made it into space.

And just as obviously I was nervous. “How do I look? Is my make-up ok? Maybe I should cut my hair shorter? Damn these pumps, how do you walk in them?” I felt like a … I felt really scared.

“Calm down,” Jane held me, looking down from her height which was inches taller than my own even with my heels. “You look fine.”

“Fine! It’s been years since I saw her. What if she’s forgotten me?”

“If so, then she wouldn’t have called you, right?” Jane had cut my hair from below my waist which was the style on Barsoom and even in my native Ireland to just below my shoulders, then cut my bangs to hide my antennae, combed my hair to hide my pointed ears and given me sunglasses to hide my cat-eyes. My pumps were wide enough to conceal my tarsial thumb and a push-up bra with low neckline would ensure that no one would care to notice any of my anatomical differences. I might look like a teen-girl and be as nervous as one but I’m really in my mid-40s. I just don’t have enough time on Earth to know how to react to all this.

“Calm down,” she insisted. You remind me of my sister’s daughter on her first school dance. Are all lesbians like this?”

“I don’t know any lesbians. I was straight in Ireland, but that was in the 1600’s, the Vanthi tolerated me only because I was useful and alien but punished their own gays and the six months I lived on Earth since then my lover refused to associate with the gay-crowd.” I practiced walking again. It had been over ten years since I had worn heels like this and my ankles weren’t as strong as they needed. But they did make my legs and ass look good I noticed as I turned in a mirror. It was the very early twenty-first century. Technically I was some 370 years old but that was only because when you fly a starship across ten thousand light years, the Relativity Curve gets shifted a bit.

“She left me, then I spent years on Barsoom, Mars, until I returned to that Science Fiction Convention. Now she wants to come back. Why? Is she being forced to trap me and my ship? Or did she ruin her own life and is desperate? What’s she been doing for the last six years?”

“Calm down!” Jane said for the dozenth time. “Even if that were true, I’ve seen you in action, between you and your starship, I really don’t think the entire US Army could arrest you. And from what you told me, if they did manage to capture your starship, we wouldn’t be alive long enough to even pick the lock on the hatch. Blot!”

That was true. The Demons worked very hard to keep advanced technology away from Earth. True, they had no problems with abducting us, changing us to suit their needs and releasing us afterwards with a starship centuries ahead of anything Earth could understand, but after the Kris Wars, they were understandably worried and if the Demons thought Earth had a working starship, they’d turn Sol into a Super Nova from a dozen light years away.

She shoved a tissue at me and I pressed my lips to leave an imprint on the tissue. I didn’t want to smear Kara when I kissed her.

I walked it off, then followed Jane to her car, barely remembering to curl my tail under my dress. Although I was planning to take Jane to the stars with me and most of her belongings were already packed and aboard the Mairayd, she did have friends who would suffer if the government, any government, learned that she had been harboring aliens. Actually I wasn’t really an alien. Or maybe I was. I had been born in Belfast, Ireland in 1635, shot by the British when I was seventeen and abducted, repaired and changed into what I was now. So, technically, without a passport, I was here illegally from Ireland. The thought made me laugh. The FBI and the Air Force would want me for my ship but Immigration would simply deport me back to Ireland. I looked overhead and saw my ship, named after my mother, floating overhead and cloaked. Invisible to radar and sight, I only saw her because she blocked the ultra-violet that my enhanced eyes could see, so to me the sky where she hovered was duller than the rest of the sky. A less.. purple(?) than the rest of Earth’s blue sky. The Mairayd was watching, following me, guns armed and ready to defend and rescue me if anyone tried anything. She couldn’t destroy a city but then, I doubted a city would attack me.

“Mairayd,” I spoke into my com-link, disguised as an earring.

“Yes, Captain.”

“Please scan our destination.”

“Of course, Captain.” I watched the UV shadow move ahead.

The conversation was in Gaelic so Jane understood nothing of what we said. “Problems?” she asked.

“Just taking no chances in case we are walking into a trap. I’d hate to spend the next five-hundred years in a cell in Area-51.”

“There’s such a place?” she asked. “I thought that was a myth.”

“I don’t know. I only found out about it from the X-Files booth at that Science-Fiction Convention last week.

“So,” she continued, nervous. “This Kara of yours is a real alien?”

“She is. Born on a Vanthi mining colony around a Gas-Giant almost ten-thousand light years away from Earth. I found her on a planet more than nine-thousand light years away. She wanted to be a starship pilot and I needed a lover to keep me alive.”

“Here we call that prostitution, selling your body for money or goods. I guess aliens really are different.” Then, “She left you?”

The memory still hurt. “She did. Five or six years ago. She took her bag and left. I went to Barsoom and became a mercenary to forget her until I returned to Earth and met you.”

“Somehow I thought of aliens.. well I knew that Vulcans and Klingons didn’t really exist but I thought aliens would look like the Grays on _Close Encounters_ or _The X-Files_.”

“I never met any like that. Aliens are so different you’d recognize them instantly as aliens. Most cannot survive on Earth. If it looks mainly human, it probably is. If you can breed with it, then it definitely is human as you have more DNA in common with a giant squid than you do with a Green Man on Barsoom. Still,” I added, “some aliens have the uncomfortable habit of abducting humans and changing us to their own needs.” I held my hand for her to see my two thumbs. I almost told her about Brount, my teacher who was one of the few real aliens I knew of that traveled the stars.

Neither of us noticed the car following. That was my mistake, focusing on a trap at the place I agreed to meet Kara and not thinking that the trap was behind us.


II
PERSONAL JOURNAL

We parked then I tried to slow my breathing before I passed out. “You’ll be fine,” I heard as her hand patted my knee. Then I forced myself to open the door and enter the restaurant with Jane by my side. I paused to check myself in the mirror for I rarely wore make-up on Barsoom and never in space so was uncomfortable with the stuff even though I loved how beautiful it made me look.

“There she is,” I stopped and almost left then.

“Where?”

“There, by the window. Right where a sniper can see us.” I began to calm down and fingered my beamer. I had a small shield that would activate instantly but the power-pack I was able to make and carry would be effective for only a dozen impacts or so. By then I’d better be away or kill my attacker. Finally, I forced my tail around my leg under my dress and walked to my former lover who was sipping a glass of wine and reading the newspaper. I hadn’t realized that she could speak English, much less read it.

“Hello,’ I forced calmness into my voice.

She looked up and smiled, “Eibhlin, I’m so happy to see you again, please, sit. “ She spoke in Vanthi and tapped her glass with a butter knife to attract attention and then raised her glass to the waiter, pointed to us and the man nodded and left. How could she be so casual after all these years?

We sat, me nervous and looking around, Jane terrified of a trap.

“What’s the matter,” she asked, “you look worried.” Then Kara began to look around too. Vanthi are a warrior-race who live off piracy and fear entrapment by their victims. But once cornered, they become very dangerous and even Vanthi women are trained to fight.

“Why did you leave me?” I asked. I didn’t care if a dozen snipers filled my body with lead at that moment, I just needed to know. “What did I do?”

“What in Hel’s Kingdom are you talking about?” Hel was a Vanthi goddess who took the souls that Woden left behind. It was a popular oath among Venthi women.

“When you left six years ago. No word, nothing, you just left me.”

“I don’t understand? We landed on Earth three months ago and I said I wanted to see the Homeworld. True, I didn’t expect to be gone more than a month or two but still, it hasn’t been years, only a few months. Are you ok?” She reached out to feel my forehead, allowing my antennae a chance to retract from her touch.

“Months?” then it struck me, “Mairayd?”

“Yes Captain,” the ship’s voice replied through my com-link.

“What local date did Kara leave the Mairayd?”

“July 24, 2006.”

What local date did I transfer through the Canadian Stargate?”

“August 6, 2006”

“What local date did I appear through the Stargate to that SF Convention?”

“October 7, 2006”

“What is the current local date?”

“October 18, 2006”

I broke down laughing in near hysteria until Jane began to pound my back. “What’s happening?” Kara and I had been speaking Vanthi but the Mairayd and I in Gaelic so Jane understood not a word. Then to Kara, “Do you understand English?”

She lifted her hair to show the translator behind her hear. She had probably programmed it for English before she left the ship and it had been feeding her translations and helping her to learn the language. It had been linked to the ship’s computer so was probably capable of translating English, Gaelic, Spanglic, Demon and any other language the ship had on hand.

Then, in English, “Kara, when you left, I thought you had left me. So I went to Barsoom where I served as a Mercenary for three local years which is about six Earth Years.”

“And you not only forgot about the Relativity curve, you let your abandonment issues invent some delusion that I had abandoned you. Eibhlin, Earth isn’t my home, it’s just a place to visit. I need you to get to my home so even if I stopped being your lover, I’d still be your crew.” She looked at Jane and then me.

“I’m sorry, Jane, this is Kara Etheswitha of Vanthi who is my lover and crew. Kara, this is Jane Sommers of Earth who is my friend and who will be traveling with us.” The two looked then Jane reached her hand which was taken by Kara who explained, “Eibhlin thinks that everyone is going to leave her. These delusions sometimes get in the way of her life.”

“They do not… I don’t have… anyway, people do leave me.”

“Eibhlin,” Kara took my hand and ensured contact to allow empathic communication. “People aren’t leaving you, they are simply going about their own lives. You’ve always been a selfish woman and very insecure. You let people into your lives but then get upset when those lives don’t center around you. Like I didn’t leave you, I just took some time to travel alone and be alone and date men for a change. It doesn’t mean I don’t care for you, it simply means that people sometimes need time for themselves.”

I wanted to be angry. How dare she reduce my life to a couple sentences but was too happy with her touch and presence so let it go. The important thing was that she was back. Then Kara let go and leaning back, sipped her wine and said, “So you left me here, on this backward barbaric planet and played soldier light-years away because you had a snit?”

“It wasn’t like that.”

“Yes it was. Otherwise you wouldn’t have left.”

“Leaving was an accident. I stumbled into a Stargate and it took me away. It cost me years to find one to return here.” I didn’t mention that I had been planning to do exactly what the Stargate did, nor did I mention that I could have returned to Earth with Janice, my Niece, and her company years earlier than I did. Janice!

“Kara, I forgot, I met a relative on Barsoom. Janice Ui Bhrian. She’s my Niece from Ireland but born in the mid-twentieth Century some three-hundred years after I left. She was taken by the Demons too and changed but in the future. There is or will be dozens of planets of Weir like me!”

She was overjoyed, “I am so happy for you! You’ve searched so long for others of your kind and now relatives too. When do I meet your niece?”

Oops, Janice wasn’t my niece any more, she was my Nephew. I never told Kara that Weir can change genders. But then, I didn’t know that either and the prospect of waking up with a penis some morning bothered me. I don’t know why, the Demons turned me into a Weir and the Kris had turned me into a werewolf so being a man couldn’t be any worse. “It’s complicated. I’ll try to find her before we leave. Now, about your life these last months?”

So Kara told us about her travels across England and France and Canada and Jane would jump in for she had been to London and Paris herself so by the end of lunch they were best friends which meant that both shared the most intimate and embarrassing details of my life.. “I love Eibhlin terribly but she has a couple problems you need to understand if you will be traveling with us.

“First she has abandonment issues. People die or go on with their lives and she takes it personally.

“Second, she falls in love with straight women and expects us to turn gay for her. Most of the time we accommodate her needs because she’ll die without sex but still, I’m as heterosexual as every other women she’s loved.

“Third, she has no direction to her life. I suppose that early on her goals were to free her native Ireland, then conquer and rule the country because she IS an Irish Princess but since .. well that goal was shown to be unfeasible so she mostly drifts around, getting into trouble and feeling really sorry for herself. Yes dear, I still love you despite your flaws.

“I guess those flaws make her… well approachable. The woman is three times as strong as any human woman and twice as strong as a human man, telepathic, can control electronics with a touch, see and hear beyond our senses. She’s so much better and stronger and powerful than are we that were she as healthy mentally as she should be, she’d probably not associate with we puny humans.”

Jane asked her, “You call yourself human? I thought you were an alien.”

“I am. Well, five-hundred years ago my ancestors were Saxons from Britain before the Demons abducted them. Since then we’ve lived ten thousand light years from Earth so technically, even though I am ‘human’ with the same DNA as yours, I’m Alien because I was born on another planet, and my government and religion and society are different from yours.

“Eibhlin is more human than me and less also because she was born on Earth but changed by the Demons into a Weir. As much as I miss my own people, it’ll be nice to travel with someone from the Homeworld.”

“I’d think Earth would be swarming with you aliens?” Jane suggested.

Kara laughed, “We’ve tried for centuries to reach Earth but our ships aren’t as good as the Demons and no one has ever returned. Eibhlin is the only one I know who can make the trip and return alive. No, aside from the Demons who you really don’t want to meet, I think all your ‘UFO contacts’ are the result of too much beer and too little sleep.”

“I always wondered about that. You’d think a race that can travel across the galaxy and learn our language would be able to find the White House or the United Nations. Well, that explains all the weird stories told by people I’d cross the street to avoid.”


III
PERSONAL JOURNAL

The fluorescents were giving me my usual headache. At least on Barsoom I only suffered in their magnetic elevators. Here, the Americans used 60cps electricity and florescent lighting that gave me a migraine and induced cancer in everyone. Thus I didn’t notice when my paramour from the Convention approached and asked to sit, then did so without waiting for permission. I could estann the metal-mass under his jacket that implied a concealed handgun though the em-fields from his transmitter were missing. He had either left it behind or it was turned off. Still, he reeked of tobacco and my years on Barsoom with its clean thin air had made my nose especially sensitive.

“My, Aileen, you look much older than the teen-age girl you posed as at the Con,” he leered, his eyes never going above my chest.

“And you are still the pedophile you were when you thought I was sixteen,” I responded. So long as he stared at my chest, he’d not notice my other anatomical differences.

He never stopped smiling. I guess I was right. Well, I could easily pretend to submit, take him for a ride and dump him out an airlock five hundred miles up. “I’m beginning to think you aren’t wearing prosthetics after all, he reached and took my hand before I could pull away. Bad move. I didn’t need to break his wrist as I saw Kara slide her steak knife under the table.

“Release my girl-friend or I’ll make you a girl!” I may be barely five foot tall in shoes but Kara was as big as he, a tribute to her Saxon ancestry. And at almost six feet of nearly one-hundred seventy pounds of inbred Saxon Piracy, Kara was touchy at the best of times.

He started to say something then another jab quieted him. I had heard that Earth lesbians were psychotically jealous when their women were accosted by a man and Kara was playing the part. I didn’t tell him she was actually straight, but she would hurt him badly without effort. He released me and tried to stand then sat again with another jab. “I’m glad you are smart enough to keep your mouth shut so listen up.” Kara continued. “Stay away from Eibhlin or I’ll cut your dick off and shove it so far up your ass you’ll piss through your nose. And if I don’t, my other ‘girl-friends’ who you don’t know but hate men, will. Understand!”

It wasn’t a question but a statement. Then she removed her knife, wiped the tip and he left quickly, sweating.

“Eibhlin, I think we should leave Earth as soon as possible.”

“I agree,” insanely happy that my lover, even one who was only trading sex for education, cared enough to protect me, who was far stronger and faster than my protector. “Mairayd, please scan that man who was just here and keep me appraised of his actions.”

“Yes Captain.”

We left immediately, using Jane’s auto as Kara never learned to drive or if she did, probably did not bother to forge a driver’s license as would I have. “Captain, you are being followed but at a distance.”

“Scan our vehicle please.”

“Transmitter detected on your vehicle.”

“Location?”

“Unable to determine at this distance.”

“We’re being followed. He put a tracking device on your car and probably has your plates too.” I told my companions. “I suggest we leave the city and find an isolated place for a quiet talk.”

“Who do you think he is?” Jane asked with some nervousness. Neither Kara nor I were worried. All I needed was an open space large enough to land the Mairayd and behind her shields we’d be safe. And with the Americans limited to a few hundred miles altitude and even that requiring months of preparation, I’d be a thousand light years away before they could even begin to launch. And if they did somehow manage to capture me, the guns of my ship would level any building they tried to hide me in.

“I don’t know and really don’t care. He can’t catch us so we’re safe. Let’s find someplace open and isolated.”

“If he’s government, he can call for a roadblock.” She countered.

“And I can have the Mairayd beam a dozen miles of road out of existence with a word.” I glanced up to see the UV-shadow comfortably overhead. “You cannot see her but my ship is overhead a few hundred feet and following with weapons primed.”

“Why not just beam us aboard?”

“Beam?” Kara asked from the back seat. I guess she was to busy being a tourist to watch TV. In Vanthi I said “Matter Transmitter.” Then to Jane, “We have them but they are too expensive for a freighter like mine. Also if the calibration is off by a tiny bit, you integrate inside out.”

I changed the subject. Telling Kara about my years on Barsoom and she telling us about her months on Earth until we passed a large field beyond the trees and I said, “That will do, find an access road.”

Moments later we were parked on the dirt road and I was leaning against the car removing my pumps to reveal my tarsial thumb as I allowed my tail to fall free. At the least, walking across the field would be easier in bare feet than in four-inch heels.

Jane was scared, terrified and didn’t understand our ease but then, she had spent a lifetime of watching TV where the Good Guys always won. Only here, she didn’t yet understand that we were the good guys.

The following car came to a stop, its engine running as my observer watched. “Mairayd?”

“No transmissions save the one in your vehicle.”

“Thank you,” I replied as I motioned for him to exit and approach. His car suddenly shifted into reverse then died as the directed EM-Pulse from the Mairayd fried everything electrical on his person and in his car. It would never operate again until they replaced everything but the tires and frame. Then I pointed up as the Mairayd shimmered into view, stories high, larger than a sports-field and more dangerous than anything on Earth. The Vanthi built their Merchant-Raiders to look dangerous and intimidate the victims of their piracy. Finally, giving up, he opened the door and approached, smart enough to keep his hand away from his concealed weapon.

I removed my sun-glasses and waited then as he came closer and began, “You won’t win, we’re not as helpless as you think.” Men! They think with their dicks instead of their brains.

“No, you are more helpless than you think. You are hoping that we’ll succumb to some innocent bacteria or our computers will fall to a computer virus or that just plain Yankee-ingenuity will win out. But it won’t. You think this is the Federation against the Klingon Empire where the technology is comparable to an F-15 against a MiG-25. But it isn’t. This is more like a small canoe of stone-age savages armed with bone spears attacking a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier on full battle-alert. And by the time the savages build even a sailing galleon with black-powder cannon, you’ll be thousands of years beyond even the Nimitz. This,” I pointed overhead, “Is the most powerful starship in this part of the Galaxy capable of destroying an entire battle fleet of Greys. And yet, she is just a freighter and helpless against even the smallest warship of Kara’s people. And the entire Vanthi fleet is helpless against a Mon battleship. And the entire Mon fleet is helpless against one Demon ship and my ship above incorporates Demon technology. You are safe only because we are better than are you. We won’t invade because we don‘t believe in conquest. But we will defend ourselves!” It was a lie for my first trip back to Earth I intended to do exactly that, conquer England to free Ireland and my only knowledge of the Grays was from that X-Files booth at the science fiction convention I attended. But sometimes you lie to prevent violence.

He reached for his weapon then, a stupid move for I was across the distance before it cleared his coat, taking and near crushing his hand in mine as my tail pulled his other arm away. I took his head in my free hand and turned it towards his car which vanished. Not glowed and disintegrated. Not burned to ashes but simply no longer existed. Then I took his face, stared into his eyes and drove a thought deep into his brain. WE ARE NOT YOUR ENEMY! LEAVE US ALONE! FORGET WE EXIST! I AM EXACTLY WHAT I TOLD YOU I WAS! I AM A TEEN-AGED GIRL TESTING HER FATHER’S PROSTHETICS FOR A SCIENCE FICTION FILM! TELL THIS TO YOUR FELLOWS AND TO YOUR SUPERIORS! Then I released him and twisted his weapon into scrap. Not a pretzel for even I wasn’t that strong but enough to make it useless for anything other than a paper-weight. “The road is that way, if you hurry you can hitch a ride back to town.” Then I tossed his weapon, now useless, into the woods.

We watched him stagger away and Kara released Jane who relaxed and said, “I thought you were going to kill him.”

“If I did, would you still travel with me?”

“I don’t think so. Those drug dealers were .. well they deserved to die but he didn’t.”

Smiling at her I commented, “I may be a criminal and a thief and a mercenary and a smuggler but I try to be an ethical criminal. There’s a big difference between justifiable killing and cold-blooded murder.” Then I searched her car feeling for the em-fields until I found his transmitter which I removed and crushed. “So, are you ready to go see the stars?”

“Let me put my car in the neighbor’s garage and get my passport and I’ll be ready. I don’t suppose I can ever show the alien visas around when we return?” she joked.


IV
PERSONAL JOURNAL

We stared at the Earth below each lost in our own thoughts. So beautiful, a blue-green jewel in the darkness. Up here, it was hard to imagine the poverty, the crime, the cruelty of those who lived upon the surface.

Then minutes later for we were going slow, we descended to Ireland. Not Belfast where I was born for the sight of my home city depressed me. In 1652 when I left, it was ruled by England who took and enslaved and killed my family and people at a whim, my manor burned, my father hanged and my mother sold into slavery to America. In this time, it was still occupied by the hated British. Were I to land there, I’d want to fight, to drive the conquerors out with my ship and the weapons I possessed and that would ensure that the Demons would destroy me in turn for the Demons wished Earth to remain in ignorance of life on other worlds. So Innis was safer. Freed ¾ of a century ago, local time, and still mostly rural, we could land and enjoy the sights of my father’s birthplace almost unchanged save the occasional city.

Then as we landed in a field behind a windbreak of trees, I explained. “My father is from here. He was a younger son who was married to my mother in Ulster in the hopes of giving my family a direct line to Brian Boru and the throne of Ireland. That castle we saw yonder is owned by my nephew, descended from my father’s older brother and so my nephew 350 years separated. He also was taken by the Demons and changed but unlike me, he spends part of his life here, trying to prevent the Rapture that will destroy your world. I don’t think he succeeded.”

As we exited, we saw him standing by the trees. Human-looking but I knew that was an illusion generated by a Demon cloak that allowed him to look human and retain his Weir abilities. The alternative, he told me, was to wear a ‘skin’ that made him human but itched and confined him. He was wearing a woolen sweater and pants and shoes but my Weir vision saw two people, the human overlaying the Weir. To my companions, he was totally human, to me he appeared as if someone had taken a photo of him as a human in human clothes, printed it on a transparency then taken another photo of him as Weir wearing human clothes modified for his feet and tail then overlay that so I saw both at once. It was somewhat disconcerting.

“Auntie,” He called in Gaelic as he hugged and kissed me on my cheek. We had been lovers on Barsoom and he taught me so much about my Weir body, including how to enjoy sex with men though I still preferred women.

“Nephew,” I said in English for my companions. Jane spoke only English, Kara learned that language during her stay on Earth these last few months and I learned the hated speech as a child as did all Irish. “This is Kara Etheswitha from Vanthi who I told you about and this is Jane Sommers from America. We decided to accept your invitation before we left Earth.”

“Of course.” He touched his wrist and his human form faded. “Most of the people here know about us and are helping or trying to help me. At first they did so because I was their Tierna and employer, now they are so grateful for the economic boom I created here when I shifted the economy from Ocean fishing to multiple fish-farms and export of wool yarn that they are far more loyal than before. So don’t worry overly much. But in town, remain in disguise please.”

Instead of the castle, he led us to a thatch-roofed house, “This is where I was born and my mother before and her mother before back to your father who was born in that room right there, Eibhlin. I thought you’d prefer this memory to the drafty castle which I keep only as history. And, “he added, “the thing costs a fortune to keep in repair and heat.”

“My father wasn’t born in the castle?” I asked. In Belfast we lived in a manor for Irish castles were outlawed and destroyed by the British.

“He was not. Even in his time the Keep was used only in war. The furniture and roof has been replaced but the structure is mostly the same.”

I wandered around the cottage. I had always thought my father was born in a grand bed in a huge castle. But here, this house looked like something a peasant would own. Still, it was something. Centuries of the O’Brien Clan had been born, married and died within these stone walls. This house was older than Jane’s entire country.

As I looked around, touching the walls, feeling the age and souls of the people who had lived here, Jason added, “Aunt Eibhlin, I believe I have a solution to a problem that will benefit both you and my time. Sperm!”

I looked at the man. On Barsoom he had given me enough of his seed, sometimes nearly begging me to take it. “Nephew, although I need that sometimes to remain alive, and I admit I enjoyed your donations and the way you did it, I don’t see how that will solve my problem. Maybe try Jane?”

“Not that you fool,” he laughed. “You were a farmer as am I. What happens when you take a too small herd and breed them with each other over generations?”

“The herd sickens from too small a blood-line of course.”

“And when the Demons took the initial humans from Earth, there may have been a few thousand initially but with the Diaspora, how small were the groups that moved to isolation? Remember the S’tyr?”

The S’tyr were a race that descended from two families of Fairies. They were so inbred that any random mutation swept through them like a brush-fire. Today, well, in my time, the S’tyr had a mane, horse-tail, two thumbs and antennae, many of the features the Demons gave me. “I understand this Nephew, that’s why the Vanthi offered to buy my eggs or pay me to bear their children as alien as I am. They are desperate for new blood and so raid for slaves to stave off extinction.”

“As did the Grays here. Too few genetic variations in too small a population leads to extinction. So, I was thinking that the Earthers have pretty much perfected the concept of long-term storage of sperm. And there are sperm banks all over the world to serve women who are somewhat discriminating as to the father’s of their children. So, why not collect a lot of that sperm from as many people as possible and you take it to the human nations in Demon Space, sell it and you get rich while they get new DNA? I’ve been buying sperm for years and storing it in the castle dungeon. Take as much as you want.”

Kara joined in, “Seed? Male-seed? Eibhlin, we can be rich AND with enough of that new DNA, they’d gladly ignore my gender and give me a ship of my own when I get my Papers.

Jason showed us the castle and when we entered the dungeon and the lights turned on, we saw the walls of one large room covered with glass-fronted refrigerators. In each were a number of shelves and on each shelf were dozens of trays filled with glass-tubes, each containing an ounce or two of frozen sperm. Kara walked down the line and commented, “I cannot imagine how long it took to milk that many men. The women must have arms and jaws of iron. I never could stand the taste of it myself.”

Jason laughed at this but Jane looked shocked, “The men do it themselves. They’re given a magazine filled with dirty pictures of women and a bowl and told to drop their pants and…. Then glycerin and other chemicals are added to prevent ice-crystals from forming and then it’s stored for years or decades. These come from all over the world. Every race and nationality is here. If humanity were to become extinct, I could clone a replacement population with what I have here.”

“Don’t you need eggs from women to do that?” Jane asked.

“You do not.” He responded. “All DNA is composed of four chemicals, adenine (abbreviated A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T) so you can create anything by synthesizing these four common chemicals and building them into genes and then chromosomes. Having the DNA here is simply a shortcut. And once in the incubator, it doesn’t matter if the DNA comes from a test-tube or from a sperm or from an egg, the incubator doesn’t care.

“This is all human Semen, each sample scanned for diseases and genetic deformities like hemophelia and diseases like HIV and so on. Then they are labelled as to race, place of birth and physical attributes. Next door I have cattle, sheep, pigs and a hundred other animals.

“Then down the hall is my incubator. I can take the sperm from here and build pretty much anything I want. I can even make you a dinosaur if you want.”

Jane interrupted, “Jurassic Park showed the problems with acting like God.”

“Jurassic Park was a movie deliberatly written to scare people by emphasising the ‘Frankenstein Complex’. What I have is Demon Technology. A simplier version of what they used to change Eibhlin and myself into Weir but the same as I used to build Andromeda and Cassaeopea when I was younger and travelled alone. Did Eibhlin tell you that we Weir need regular sex or we die? Well we have two choices, take a companion like Eibhlin does with Kara here and even then she needs the occasional male or build a woman like I did.”

“You built a woman?” Jane was shocked. “Like Frankenstein?”

“Well, instead of body parts I took my own DNA as a sample, replicated and redesigned it then used only those genes I needed. Andromeda and the other Lanai only have a dozen chromosomes because they don’t need all that junk-DNA that we carry around like gills and fur and scales. Also I made them sexual and intelligent but without reproductive organs. They were lovers and crew for a number of years then when we were shot down on Kentaurus during the Kris Wars, we fought with the Underground for a few years until the Commomnwealth invaded and freed the planet.

“Today, both Andromeda and Casseopea are Field Marshalls in the Drakonan Military, second in command only to the Baron. So even though they were made in a mechanical incubator from cast-off DNA and are sterile, they have rights equal to any human immigrant or native-born Drakonan.”

I began to get excited at the thought. “Like you told me on Barsoom. You can build a person to specifications? Like if I wanted you to, you could build me a woman and she can change into a man when I needed a … penis.. then back? A companion and a lover and crew for when Kara gets her Captain’s Papers and leaves?”

“Easily. BUT, dear Auntie, I’m not making some brainless sex slave for you. The Lanai will have human intelligence, a soul and will develop a personality. YOU, my dear, must treat it as you would anyone else, with rights and freedom. I can give it loyalty but you must deserve that loyalty.

“How do we begin?”

“Well, first you decide on what you want. The Demons decided on what they wanted in a soldier then they changed the human abductees into the Mon. They decided what they wanted in a Tech-slave and then they changed us into Weir. I decided what I wanted in a companion so designed Andromeda from the inside out, then I worked out the DNA sequences that were necessary and used only those sequences. After a thousand years of study, the Demons have mapped human DNA and all their info is here in the computers.

“Now with Andromeda and Cassiopeia, they came from the tank adults with base memories and not much else. It took them a year to become human-enough to hold a decent conversation. But then, they were mostly alone on my ship with me. You have these two to help and the Lanai’s personality will be a mixture of yours, theirs and its own. Now, today, they are born from the vats as children, grow to adult-hood in five years and go to their stations immediately after. That gives them time to mature. Yours will be physically mature at birth but will need some time to develop a decent personality. Should be interesting.”

Later, as I was thinking and designing the perfect lover, a woman beautiful and a couple inches taller than myself, nicely built but curvy for I hated the stick-thin beauty that my home world preferred in their starving models, Kara walked in. “Eibhlin, she looks so different from me, can’t you decide on breasts later?” She sat then asked finally, “Are you replacing me?”

I went to her, hugged the woman whom I loved and said, “We both knew you’d leave. You came with me only to learn to be a Ship’s Captain and you always dreamed of your own ship. My love, just staying alive has always been difficult for me. On the Vanthi stations I hired whores, male and female to keep me alive. I hired slaves on Barsoom and even here on Earth, I was forced to take lovers I disliked only because the alternative was a horrible death. But you, my dearest love, were always who I imagined when I did so. I had sex-dreams about you. I left Earth for Barsoom to forget about you so how could you think so badly of me.”

“I’m sorry Eibhlin. I do care for you so much. And I even enjoy the sex despite my wishes that you were a man. Hey, if this lanai can change gender, can I borrow him occasionally?”

“You beast!” I yelled, half in laughter as I hit her with a pillow. Then as we rolled around and stopped, me under her for I always allowed her to win, I reached up to kiss her and said, “I can never replace you my love, but this Lanai will keep me alive when you are gone. Besides, look at it this way. One of the requirements for Captain’s papers is command of crew. You can learn how to do that when we have a Lanai for a crew.”

“Ok, but here’s a thought. The Mairayd requires a skeleton crew of five. Even with Jane and your lanai we will be short. So why not just make two? One man and one woman.” She wiggled her hips against mine which she knew got me hot and wet and added, “Could be fun.”

I won’t tell you what happened next but she was right, it COULD be fun.




PART TWO
STARSKIMMER

I
OUTSIDE OBSERVER


STARSKIMMER

The ship limped away, damaged but still mobile and with some luck and a lot of work, maybe even they could go hyper-light. The rest weren’t so lucky.

Two of them, looking more like long boxes with massive engines at the stern, moved, damaged but alive. Another, lozenge-shaped or rather like a flat egg painted red and blue, also drifted but far away. The wreckage of another couple box-like ships also drifted, some more damaged than others, desiccated bodies drifting where the hulls had ruptured. The battle had been fierce with three sides shooting at each other equally over the hours of conflict so the damage was not pretty.

The egg-ship had damage, but was intact, though her engines were down. On the bridge, two people, both male, but neither totally human, were working on the console, their prehensile tails pulling tools and acting as a third hand. The much-taller third was human in appearance though his Celtic features showed through his olive skin.

“Captain,” the olive man spoke, “I’m getting an energy spike from one of the pirates.”

Both Weir looked up, the one man checking the instruments then as the mentioned ship ahead flared into a thermonuclear explosion measured in megatons, he commented almost casually as his eyes slitted narrow, “That is why we don’t use anti-matter reactors. I guess their containment field collapsed.” then he called over the inter-com, “Prepare for shock-wave”.

The initial flare wouldn’t penetrate their hull though anything outside was now dead but the shock-wave would shake them a bit even at this distance.

When the shock-wave hit, all that was noticed was the lights dimmed a moment then the stars began to drift in a slightly different direction as the shock-wave pushed the craft along a different path. “Back to work people,” he called and returned to his panel.

The olive-skinned Kentauran asked then, “Should we send out a distress? Maybe someone is close enough to hear.”

“Oh yes, we’ll be heard all right. By those two surviving pirate ships and the Runners who are leaving and by any other Green Pirate within a hundred light-years of this system.” Then almost as an afterthought, “Ronnie needs you in Engineering.”

The Kentauran, Shoon Lauricht, never could get used to how the Weir always knew where the others were and often what they needed. Kentaurus had no telepaths but Shoon understood that had they any, the Occupation would have been much easier for his grandparents. On the way down the ship, he briefly remembered that his parents referred to Weir as Monkey-tail-sluts though he was careful to not even think that around one of them. He passed Daniel and Mark trying to re-route power cables down the corridor for a strike had cut those in the hull. Both Daniel and Mark were human but only Mark had been born on Earth and Shoon found his stories about the Homeworld to be endlessly fascinating. But for now, repairing the StarSkimmer was more important. If the Green Pirates repaired first and boarded, all would be dead after weeks of agony. They needed to be able to fight or flee and the decision would be made by what was fixed and running first.

In the Engine Room, Veronica was half naked, her breasts were larger than any Human or Kentauran for these Weir needed them larger to feed their young. But these were always trying to pop out of her sports bra that could never flatten them enough. Shoon removed his jacket in the heat and called, “Ronnie, I heard you needed help?”

“Grab that micro-spanner and come here. See where my tail is touching, as I hold this diverter, slide a #3 lock-washer and nut. Tighten to 150 psi.”

He looked, then set the nut and washer on the spanner then slid his hand in carefully, knowing that if she slipped, the diverter would move and remove his arm and her tail without slowing. The knowledge that this five foot two inch woman was easily twice as strong as he and could hold the diverter as long as he needed gave him no comfort at all.

Still, the job was done and she then moved her tail to another position, “This one too. We’ll need to mount five nuts before the thing is secure.”

The last gave him trouble for the location was difficult to reach with his large arms. Kentaurans were tall people, he being well over six feet in height and the tallest Weir was barely five foot ten. Kentaurans were bred to be soldiers, Weir to be technicians so size was important to each of their races. “I can’t get in there. It’s too close.” He took control and held the Diverter, now easier as it was partially supported by four bolts as Ronnie, a foot shorter than he, slid her tiny arm in to bolt the final attachment.

Once he was done, she kept him there helping out. Ronnie wasn’t a soldier. No Weir was for the Drakonans created Lanai from vats to do their fighting for them so the Weir wanted to run. From the stories he had heard about the Green Pirates, he didn’t blame them but he was born, bred and trained to fight so a part of him, a big part of him, wanted to close in and see who was better.


II
MAIRAYD


Mairayd

Eibhlin was standing behind Kara who was doing the actual flying. Kara, being Vanthi, disliked sentient computers. They believed that a good slave mentality prevented a lot of problems. But Eibhlin liked it and it was her ship so she dealt with it, though she never got used to it. The Earth woman, Jane, stood there too, watching. They were four months from Earth and another month or two to Kara’s home and Kara wanted to get in as much flight-time as possible. She was still a year away from her Spacers-Papers for Vanthi believed that a woman’s place was barefoot, in the kitchen and on her back which was why she was willing to endure the unwanted sexual attentions of an alien captain. Vanthi tended to toss lesbians and homosexuals out the nearest air-lock but they tolerated Eibhlin because she was an alien and so outside their laws and customs. They also accepted her being Captain of her own ship for the same reason (plus Eibhlin was a better technician than any Vanthi and they also feared her Demon friends) and Kara hoped to ride Eibhlin’s skirts into her own officer’s position. And if that meant that she had to play the role of being lesbian-lover to a woman who wasn’t even human, well a few years of perversion would be worth her Captain’s Papers. At least the Weir wouldn’t mention it in public and the woman did love her in her own way.

Fortunately, as the Lanai Eibhlin’s uncle had made on Earth matured, they’d take over the majority of Kara’s sexual duties and some of the engineering ones as well, but not all for the Irish woman did love the Vanthi. Right now, they were standing against the rear bulkhead, watching, looking like teen-aged kids, the male human, the female Weir, attentive and absorbing everything. Vanthi never made Synthetics or Clones though they did clone separate organs and built robots so the two bothered her on a visceral level. And on Earth, they were terrified of making people or animals. Jason called it the ‘Frankenstein Complex’ after some famous story of an insane doctor who built a man from dead parts. Ever since, the Earth-people were terrified that some experiment in robotics or cloning or transplants would go insane and kill them all. Eibhlin guessed they are also afraid that their toaster will organize a revolt in their kitchen and take over too. Since she was born in 1635, Eibhlin had learned technology only under Demon service and Demons never made mistakes with their technology.

But without the sentient computer, Kara had to fly a slower and wider course to avoid hitting a gravity well which gave her lots of flight and navigation experience. And that was when she saw it. “Eibhlin, something almost hit us! A near miss by a small mass approaching light-speed, about… five hundred thousand miles away.”

“A half million miles is a near miss to you people?” Jane asked. “That’s more than twice as far away as the Moon is from Earth!” Earth was barely into space exploration and aside from a few trips to their own moon, they were now unable to travel more than a few hundred miles from the surface. She was aboard only because Eibhlin had met her at some SF-convention-party where everyone pretended to be aliens from their favorite TV-shows. Whereas the relationship between Kara and Eibhlin was lover and student-pupil and Captain-crew, that of Jane and Eibhlin was simply friendship with Jane learning to work aboard the ship only out of boredom which put her and the Lanai at the same level, the level of children. Both Vanthi and Weir admitted, though, that they needed more crew for the Merchant-Raider. Two and now five weren’t enough for a ship designed for a skeleton of five but a crew of a dozen. Eibhlin had promised to fix that as soon as they met a Demon ship, a comment that terrified the Vanthi woman for Kara knew that Eibhlin had once been human before the Demons had found her and she feared waking up alien herself.. Kara had suggested a Vanthi crew or even a ‘lost colony’ but was willing to settle for an Earther and the Lanai out of desperation.

“Gravity waves from their hyper-light velocity interferes with our own and could plunge us into a star or wrap the reactor around the hull.” Eibhlin explained. “Course?”

“From that system, and back the way we came. If there aren’t any other Class-M out there, I’d think they were heading for Earth.”

“Then drop from Warp about a hundred million miles above the plane and let’s see what we shall see.”

Changing course in Hyper was tricky and dangerous but Kara loved how the Captain trusted her. Or maybe she thought Eibhlin was gritting her teeth with the maneuver but they appeared safe and Kara scanned the system which the Tactical readout showed from above. “Star is standard G-Type, (Eibhlin whispered to Jane “like Earth’s sun”’) looks new and lots of free hydrogen and dust. (“hasn’t formed a planetary system yet”)

“No planets that I can find but a really large accretion disc of planetissimals and lots of rock. (“proto-planets that haven’t formed yet”) Too large, maybe a couple million miles thick and extending out as far as my sensors can reach, maybe a dozen billion miles out. Too much and too large, I’ve never seen that much rock in such a small area. (“Asteroids belts are spaced as thin as a handful of marbles on a football field”)

“There’s a residual energy spike in the disc… another. Twelve minutes old and faint but looks like a fight… I’m getting their Ship-ID now. StarSkimmer, scout and bounty-hunter, Ship-Captain Rafael Cole owner. Drakonis registry. Sounds like our kind of people so we’d better be careful and go armed. No registry on the others, including that ship we passed coming in. I think we interrupted a bounty hunter chasing prey and that one we passed is the prey though who’s still fighting is a question.”

“Perhaps,” Eibhlin commented. “How long to reach that position?” Both women had hunted bounty themselves and wondered if they could catch the runner before the battle ended.

“Six hours maybe four if I push the Curve.”

“Make it five. I’d hate to arrive in four hours and discover Relativity tossed us a year into the future.”

“Of course. But Eibhlin, this Drakonis. It isn’t in the database. No record of any planet or star or nation by that name.”

“I’m not surprised, it won’t exist for another few centuries. Jason Obrien, my nephew in Ireland, lives there. Maybe we should have asked to upload his Star Charts while in Innis.”

“Then are we in the future or are they in the past? If they have some Vanthi history books, we can make a fortune in investments,” Kara mused.

“I don’t think the Demons will allow that. Mairayd, please do a stellar comparison and find our current time.”

“Of course, Captain.” The ship replied. Either woman could do it herself but scanning a hundred or more stars to find the ones that matched the charts, then making the angular comparisons and calculating stellar drift would take her hours. The ship could do the same in minutes and far more accurately though having the Lanai do the job too would be good for them.

“In the meantime, we should relax, nap, eat and in three hours as we approach the battle, it will be over and we can decide if we should jump in or run away or salvage the dead. Still, let’s be armed until we can be certain we are safe with them. All I know about Drakonis is what Jason told me and he liked the place so may have ignored the bad parts. Though when we met, he did say that Weir don’t war with Weir.”

“Still,” Eibhlin,” Kara added, “He didn’t say that Weir don’t rob or kill other Weir. I’ll make certain the guns are primed just in case.”

“Why don’t we just warp in close like you did when you took me to Jupiter?” Jane suggested.

“It’s too dangerous. I had uploaded the Demon Charts for Sol System but they were 17th century and when we arrived in the 22nd century, enough had changed to almost kill us when we arrived. So I had the Mairayd scan your system every time we arrived and while I was on Earth, the Mairayd continued to scan the system and update the charts so I knew where everything was. Here, I don’t know this system at all. We know nothing and could spend an hour scanning and charting the system, then warp an hour closer and repeat. No, we’ll go in at .005c, scan the system as we go and if we have to leave, we’ll know enough to warp out safely.” Eibhlin left, taking both Lanai in hand and heard Jane whisper, “She treats those almost like her children. Once they are sexually mature, they are going to be more screwed up than she already is.” Kara giggled at that but training the four month old Lanai did kill a lot of time and it was better for them to have normal people as a pattern for their personality matrix than be a copy of the Irishwoman. At least Eibhlin recognized that she was screwed up.

As they dropped, the crew mostly played chess, a game that was a required skill for all Irish nobility and was also beloved by the Saxon Vanthi. Since Jane wasn’t in the league of either Eibhlin or Kara, she played against the Lanai who were still learning the game. Jane liked it that way for she saw in the Lanai her dead son who never had a chance to grow up. Still, every week was a year to the Lanai and they wore kilts and robes instead of clothes because they grew too fast. And so between the game and reading and the occasional checking the flight path, the crew spent their time, though always keeping someone at the flight deck.

Jane loved the time with the Lanai as they grew older. Jason had removed them from their vats in Ireland when they looked like ten year old children, the same age that Jane’s son was when he died in that gun-fight between the police and a drug-lord. Jane was never told whose bullet had ended her son’s life and she wanted to believe that the police would have stopped shooting when they saw the child hiding in terror behind that trash can but a cynical neighbor asked, “if it was a drug-dealer’s bullet, don’t you think the police would have told you and spread it all over the news?” Jane repressed that memory and focused on raising the children. While Kara and Eibhlin treated them like ‘crew’ and taught them all the knowledge they would need to run the ship, Jane read fairy tales to them, played games with them and treated them like the children they were. Now, only a few months later, they could pass for teens and in another few months, they’d age to adulthood and stop ageing, possibly forever. No one knew how long a Lanai would live, Jason had told them.

And so Jane read to them their favorite stories as they tried to snuggle under her arms, seeking the comfort that they were almost too large to find.

Three hours later they were close enough to see the big rocks as they entered the main accretion disc but too far away to tell the smaller rocks from the distant ships so continued to fall in on momentum and cloaked. Another half hour and Eibhlin yelled at the controls; “Spike, brace for impact!” A second later the expanding fireball washed over the Mairayd but did no damage.

“That was thermonuclear! Kara…”

“I’m on it. Passive scanning. There! Ion trail leaving the system, probably that ship that we passed. Three ships drifting, lots of battle damage. Lots of scrap being pushed away by the shock wave. The Drakonis ship is to port, the other two hidden by rocks and moving away slow and silent. I think I might see another ship hiding but can’t be certain.”

Jane was nervous, “Was that blast for us?”

“Doubtful! We drifted in without power and under cloak. They don’t know we are here. It was either a nuke fired at another ship or maybe a containment field collapsing from battle damage. Some nations use nuclear power in their ships. I’m reading radiation damage from one of the running ships. Another good hit or two and their reactor will blow too. That Drakonis ship must be very good to survive against such odds.”

“I’m reading weapons primed and ready but I don’t think they are getting ready to finish the fight. Eibhlin, we can leave or help but I’d rather not try for salvage while those ships are here. They may shoot first from nervousness.”

“Fine. Attitude burst only, move towards the Drakonis ship. Let’s see what she’s like. Jane, remember what I told that pervert on Earth about the canoe against a carrier? The same applies here but we may now be that canoe of savages.” The Drakonis ship was like a flattened egg with the edges formed into small wings. The hull was painted red and blue in stripes and waves to make it attractive but damage had taken a lot of the paint off. In size, she was as long as the Mairayd but having fewer decks so flatter and without the Mairayd’s arms, there was more room for deck at the bow. Unlike the Vanthi ship which was designed to look dangerous, this one looked... friendly, almost cute.


III
STARSKIMMER

Jules looked up, double checked the readings and said, “Captain, I think there is a cloaked ship out there. It’s a good cloak and I only think so because of the lack of radiation in that area.”

Rafe looked himself and asked back, “Possibly, but friendly or not is the question. We’ll keep an eye but pretend we don’t know until we can be certain.” Then they returned to work. All Weir made excellent engineers, the Demons created them for that task though few aside from Rafael and Veronica had any actual experience in the field and that only because both had been abducted by Demons from Gaea in their youth.

“Ronnie?” he touched the whole ship intercom so everyone would know, “How’s the engines?”

“Almost ready. I can give you sub-light to .005 maybe, but no faster and the warp-drive is still out. Shields are at 20%. I’ve got robots patching the external hull but would like to exit and check that myself. Problems?”

“Jules thinks we’re being watched by a cloaked ship. And those Green Pirates are still out there.” He didn’t need to tell her what would happen if the Pirates found her floating in an EVA-suit.

“Green Pirates are scavengers, they’re probably trying to salvage enough wreckage to fix their own ships well enough to jump us. At least they won’t send out a Distress either for fear their fellows will prey on them.” That was the only nice thing about Green Pirates, they tortured each other as often as they tortured other races and banded together only when they were equally strong. A Green Pirate in Bristol-shape that found a damaged Green Pirate Ship would always attack the weaker… unless they found weaker prey.

Margda entered the flight-deck with a tray of sandwiches. Although she was the Medical Chief, she also doubled as a cook because as one of the youngest crew at 22 (Veronica was 20 but had more life-experience) on a ship where Weir were either healthy or dead, she did most of the scut work from cooking to laundry to even morale. “Rafe, eat! We need you healthy and thinking of something other than your stomach when the Pirates attack.”

He took a couple, kissed her and returned to work, munching as she caressed his cheek with her tail. Weir were promiscuous and like Ronnie, Margda had slept with every male on the ship and even each other, but she had a special liking for her captain with whom she would joke at times about their imagined wedding. Rafael was forty and had been a Demon Tech-slave for four years and she never asked how he staved off Celibacy Death on that ship. Ronnie had been the same but for only three years which gave the two something in common. Veronica, Ronnie, however, had no plans to settle down with anyone and loved her engines more than she loved her ship-mates. When you had a lifespan measured in centuries, and would be young most of that time, there was no rush about marriage. Besides, Weir couldn’t be fertile until they were twenty-five so Margda was still years from full maturity though she had reached legal age four years ago. Ronnie had been abducted by the Demons when she was very young and returned just months before she joined the StarSkimmer. Ronnie once said “Once you hear the song of the stars, they call you back forever.” Margda just didn’t want to spend her life shoveling Rundi shit until she married or Homesteaded a farm on the Frontier so convinced Rafe to take her on as the Med-tech. A couple decades of fixing injured farm animals on the equator where the flies and diseases were worse than the ghoul packs made her want to never see another bug or rabbuck, but it did give her the skills needed to transfer over to medical services with little discomfort.

She left the bridge and approached the only real humans on the ship, Mark who had been born on Terra and Colonized and Daniel who had been born on Gaea of Earth-human parents but would sire Weir children. She fed them, made some lewd remark about the two because although Daniel had no problems with occasionally bedding other men, Mark had that Terran homophobia that made such jokes so much fun. After spreading what news she had to the men, she wandered off swinging her hips to get them both excited as she sought the engine room and Ronnie.

Later, Rafael decided, “We’re as repaired as we can be with what we’ve got. We can probably rebuild the hyper-drive in time but those parts floating out there would make the job go faster. Still, if there is a cloaked ship out there, and if it’s unfriendly, it could pick us off once we left the ship. Passive scans don’t reveal any Ship-ID and the active scans we’ve done pretending to seek the Pirates amidst the wreckage don’t reveal the ship so I think that in the absence of aggression, we should see them as not-dangerous. They may be just looking us over, afraid to reveal themselves to a dangerous unknown. So Ronnie, take Dan outside and grab what we need from the wreckage. We’ll keep close in case the Pirates approach so Mark and Shoon on the deck guns. Let’s go.”


IV
MAIRAYD

“What do you think?” Kara asked as she showed the Lanai how to interpret the data. Though only months old, they were already in their physical teen years. In another few months, they’d look older than their captain, who would appear to be 17 for centuries. Theoretically they were sexually mature but Eibhlin wanted them older before she introduced them to that duty. Sex with kids reminded her too much of her own gang-rape in Ireland. Still they were intelligent and never forgot anything though their personality wasn’t even that of a child. Occasionally they would do something that implied that they were developing a personality matrix that was a combination of the three women plus the Terran and Vanthi movies Jane and Kara had brought aboard. Jane was afraid that with only women as a role model, Adam, the male human-Lanai, would be effeminate or even gay. So she would emphasize the masculine aspects of the movies they watched. A man with some female aspects would be strong and sensitive and not afraid of a relationship or his own feelings. Kara came from a world where the men ruled everything and women were little more than possessions and wives. Eibhlin was.. well she admitted that she was warped. Between her Noble upbringing, her loss of family and abduction by aliens, Jane felt that neither of them could be trusted to raise children.

“I think we can safely assume that we have the edge here. The Green Pirates are salvaging whatever they can to repair their ship well enough to take that Drakonan ship. And I’m certain we can take them all since we are armed and shielded.”

“Eibhlin,” Jane offered. “Remember how you told that agent on Earth that Earth was a canoe full of savages against a nuclear aircraft carrier? And that by the time Earth developed a working space-ship, you’d be thousands of years beyond today and Earth would never catch up? Well, if this ship is from the 17th century and that ship is from the 21st century, how far advanced is it? Even damaged, it may be beyond us.”

“She does have a good point.” Kara added. “I suggest caution. At least until we can salvage some of the junk out there.”

“Captain,” Adam mentioned, “The StarSkimmer is exiting crew.”

“Damn, they’re salvaging too. Probably for repairs. Ok, full active scan then move off to a new position. Let’s see what they really are.”

***

STARSKIMMER

“Rafe, we’re being scanned, hard. Still cloaked though.”

“They’re looking us over. Let them look but keep the guns ready. Ronnie, the cloaked ship is scanning us. Be careful out there. Can you return the scan?”

“No! They’ve moved off position. Maybe with the ship repaired I could.”

***

MAIRAYD

“What do we know so far?” Eibhlin asked.

“Not much.” Kara replied. “There are bodies out there that could be Green Pirates. We’re off their marauding areas though and the bodies are burned and desiccated so I’m guessing here only because I don’t know of any other 4-armed race that is fifteen feet tall. Of course as far in the future as we are, who knows where they roam or what’s out there. Those ships hiding in the asteroids don’t look like the ones I know they fly but they are probably more advanced than are we.”

Kara sighed and continued, “The StarSkimmer hull is hard to penetrate but I picked up five people inside and two outside, one was Weir like you, the other human like us so I am assuming that the crew is human and Weir. I don’t think I saw any Mon. I’m pretty certain I could tell the difference between a six foot and a nine foot person even through their hull. And no Demons or S’kree at all.

“Lots of battle damage. Their reactor is on-line and more powerful than ours. I think it’s a Demon reactor and if they can power those guns with that reactor, they may rip right through our shields. I don’t think they can go hyper-light though. It looks like the ship is, or was an armored troop transport. I found hatches for dropping a lot of cargo or gear or people, long barracks rooms. It’s been converted. I think we should talk before they take all the good salvage or finish repairs.”

“What about the Green Pirates?”

“Hiding, probably repairing their ships. Hard to tell through all this rock. Usually Green Pirates prey on each other so they must both be equally damaged to not be fighting each other. But when they are ready, they’ll join together, come out and board!”

“We can still leave,” Jane suggested. She saw the greed in the eyes of her companions and quieted down, “Ok, you want that salvage. If we are attacked, can we run?”

“Easily.” Eibhlin laughed. “None of those ships out there have hyper-light right now so we may not be able to out-fight them but we can run faster than they and we mapped the system as we came in so know where to hide and how to use the planetissimals to our advantage. Ok, Kara, move us to keep the StarSkimmer between us and the Green Pirates then we’ll drop cloak and send our ship ID. We’ll see if they are friendly but keep the jump-drive ready.”

“Jump this close to the field? We’ll create a black-hole if we do. Ok, Eibhlin, I’ll do what I can.” Ships never Jumped close to another mass for fear of the gravitational distortion creating a black-hole. True, it would exist for only a fraction of a second but in that time, it would slow time, trap the ship that created it and suck anything within a million miles into it before it collapsed back into normal space spewing the former matter out as a hard radiation white-hole. Kara would have to plot a course away from the plane at top speed then Jump at minimum distance, and avoid the guns of those ships while doing it. Eibhlin hoped she was up to the job because neither had ever done that before.

****

STARSKIMMER

“Rafe! That ship decloaked behind us. I’m getting their ID now! Mairayd, Vanthi registration, Eibhlin Ingean Ui Bhrian of Ireland, Earth is Captain-Owner. That is one old ship. Here it is, Liberatory shows the design to be an old Vanthi Merchant-Raider from some 430 years past. Their ID code confirms that. They must have cut the Relativity curve real close to come this far into the future. Strange though. That far ago, Terra was barely into wooden ships and gunpowder-cannon. How did an Irishman from Terra get a Vanthi Raider? Back then the Vanthi couldn’t even reach Terra.”

“We’ll find out when we meet. Can we scan her?” The captain asked.

“Easily. She’s shielded but as old as she is, she can’t stop our scans. Here we go; crew of five, two female Weir and the rest human. One male human. Lots of Demon adaptations there. Can’t tell much as the Demons use the same ships and technology for a million years so long as they can keep it running. Decent weapons but their Blaster is old. I think I read a Demon pulse-laser and Beamer. Still, she’s no warship and no match for us save she has star-drive and we don’t.”

“Still, another ally when the Green Pirates attack will be helpful, Open a channel, tight beam so the Pirates don’t hear us.” He sat back thinking that serving the Demons wasn’t like this. There was some excitement but mostly months of dull repairs. A Demon could sit at a port and watch the stars for days, neither star nor Demon moving. Rafe got bored with the unchanging view after minutes which is why he bought an old Pirate ship and went into bounty hunting.

“Attention, Mairayd, this is ShipCaptain Rafael Cole commanding StarSkimmer. May I ask your intentions?”

***

MAIRAYD

Aboard the Mairayd, they listened then Kara shrugged, “I don’t understand the language. I think it’s Spanglic but no form I ever heard from our Londinium or Edward slaves. It will take some conversation for the Translator to come up with syntax and vocabulary.”

In Vanthi, Eibhlin replied to the StarSkimmer, “This is Captain Eibhlin Ui Bhrian of the Mairayd. I don’t speak your language and the Ship Translator needs to hear more before it can translate for us.”

***

..........
Commonwealth in the 17th Century ............... Commonwealth in the 21st Century

STARSKIMMER

“Vanthi, old Vanthi. That sounds right. Then their ship wouldn’t be able to translate modern Spanglic. Fortunately, ours can work out their old speech.” Rafe mused, “Mairayd, You are in the future. Your Ship ID shows registration in the year 503 Standard after Abduction. This is the year 856 Standard. The Vanthi are independent but,” Rafe glanced at the Timeline and charts and continued, “The Kris Wars are over and the human-pagan nations have formed The Commonwealth. We are Drakonis Barony, a nation of Humans and Weir far beyond…Edward and on the edge of the Arm.” In the Mairayd’s time Kos was still a part of the Holy Empire and happily sending any non-pure-human and alien into the death camps.

“Beware, there are Green Pirates in the area. At least two damaged but alive and an undamaged ship of criminals seeking escape.” Then to the crew, “I didn’t know Weir existed that long ago. I always thought His Grace was the first and that less than a Century past.”

Mark entered, listening and offered, “Rafe, if she’s Irish from Earth, try English. Four hundred years ago was the reign of Henry VIII and Gaelic had been outlawed for a century so she probably speaks English better than our Translator speaks Middle Vanthi.”

Nodding, Rafael continued in English, “I am informed that you may speak English. If so, it may be easier to communicate this way as you don’t appear to speak Spanglic and we do not speak Vanthi.”

“We do,” Captain Ui Bhrian replied. “I’m surprised you do.”

“My grandparents were from Terra. Two from America, the others from Germany and Italy. One of my crew is from Canada. Not all of us speak English but enough do.” He was buying time. The Demons weren’t known to make humans into Weir until less than a century ago and then, very few were created. This Ui Bhrian woman was an anomaly. A Weir from centuries before the first was created. Owning a starship long before contact was made and long before the ship she possessed could even reach Terra. There were predatory races that imitated friends to get close and this might be one of them.

“I notice that you are salvaging parts from the flotsam, Can I help?”

“No thanks. We are fine now and will be repaired soon. Our only concerns are the Green Pirates and the Runners. If they repair and return before we are, we could be in trouble.”

“We saw a ship leave the system some hours ago. Those are probably your Runners. Feeding their course to you now. The Green Pirates… I ran into them before and barely survived. If they have advanced over the centuries, I’d prefer to have your guns help.”

“Even scavengers evolve. The Green Pirates advance by raiding technology. I’ll send you what info we have on them.”

“Thank you. Do you mind if we salvage the wreckage?”

“Not at all. I have no claim to the debris. We only wish the parts to repair our own ship.” Space Law was clear on the point of salvage. Had Rafe asked for aid, the Vanthi ship could legally claim salvage rights and take claim to his ship if he couldn’t pay. Plus if this ship were chameleon, the farther away he kept it, the better. Then to his crew, “Try to accelerate repairs. And keep an eye on them.”

***

MAIRAYD

Eibhlin severed connection and said, “Kara, look over the debris and take what looks useful. But if there is an argument between us and them, let them have it. I’d rather loose the profit then risk the StarSkimmer falling into Green Pirate hands. I wouldn’t wish that on even the Brits… almost. Jane, would you please help her bring it aboard with Adam and Eve? I want to see what the Green Pirates are like now.”

It wasn’t good. Over the centuries they had raided and scavenged their way to something more powerful than ever before. The only good thing was that scavenged technology is never as good as the front-line military but if they were to go back in time, they could decimate anything they came across, including entire worlds. She could also read mistrust in the other captain. He was afraid of them for some reason which didn’t make sense as his ship was far more advanced than the Mairayd and could easily blow them out of space. Unfortunately, the only Weir she had ever met was her Nephew, Jason so she had nothing to compare him to. Deciding that a man wouldn’t open himself up for fear of being thought of as weak, she called out, “Mairayd, please open a channel to the StarSkimmer.”

“Of course, Captain.”

“Captain Ui Bhrian, what can I do for you?” Rafael asked.

“I’d like to meet with you, in person. I think we are at odds and don’t understand why but with the Green Pirates out there, it would be better for both of us if we trusted each other.”

“I agree, where and when?”

“Now? We can match airlocks and I can come there or you here.”

“I think I’d rather go there for now.”

“As you wish, Kara, prepare to dock with the StarSkimmer.”

Kara contacted Jules, the StarSkimmer pilot and soon the two were joined. As the airlock opened, Rafael appeared, shorter than Eibhlin imagined. Maybe five-ten if that or as tall or maybe an inch or two shorter than Kara. Behind him were three others of the crew, a tall human man, well over six feet and having olive-skin but strange heat patterns. A short Weir woman only a couple inches taller than her own five-foot height and a human man taller than the Captain but shorter than the dark-skinned man. All were armed but then, so were Eibhlin and Kara.

“ShipCaptain Eileen OO-Brian, I am ShipCaptain Rafael Cole of Gaea. This is Margda Fonard of Gaea (he motioned to the Weir woman) our medical officer, Shoon Lauricht of Kentaurus (the olive-skinned man nodded), our ship’s soldier and Mark Lambert of Terra. My other crew are busy with repairs.”

She nodded back and said, “I am the Lady, Eibhlin Ingean Ui Bhrian, a Princess of Ulster in Ireland on Earth. This is my pilot, Kara Etheswitha of Vanthi and my crew Jane Sommers of America on Earth and my Lanai Adam and Eve. Welcome aboard.”

“Lanai?” Rafe looked the two over. “I’m sorry but they don’t look like any Lanai I’ve seen.”

“They are still young. My nephew, Jason Obrien, made them for me to help crew this ship and to stave off Celibacy Death.”

“Oh, His Grace is your nephew? And you have Lanai who are not Warriors? If you don’t mind, this meeting is getting stranger and stranger and none of this makes any sense. Plus I estann you are nervous.”

“Well, Captain Cole, to be honest, I was abducted by the Demons in 1653 from Ireland when I was seventeen, changed into what I now am and released with this ship some years later. For the past twenty-five years I’ve searched for others like myself with no success until I met Jason Obrien on Barsoom. He had also been taken by the Demons but centuries later. He told me about a nation of Weir but we Irish are great braggarts so I didn’t believe a lot of what he said.”

“Still curious. I was abducted when I was thirty but I was born this way though my parents were human. Ronnie was taken at sixteen and released last year and both she and Margda have Weir parents. The others here were all born Weir or human or Kentauran. I thought His Grace was the first Weir but you predate him by centuries. And yes, we have a Barony of us though it was formed only 75 years ago. We have four dozen systems, almost 500 planets with more terra-formed each decade. About a third of us are Weir, a third born-human like Daniel and the rest humans from Terra who colonized the Barony. We are a new race on a new nation but rising in power.”

“I am so happy,” Kara interrupted. “Eibhlin has searched so far and so long for others and now she found her niece and nephew and now the nation. I suppose she will never be alone again.”

“You must be Clan Obrien then. We are a race strong in Clan and Family and Caste. We are still seeking our identity which will be easier as the humans and we First Generation Weir die off. Jules and I have human parents. Daniel will have Weir children but Mark will probably have human or human and Weir children. Only Veronica and Margda had Weir parents and so are truly Weir in every sense of the word.”

“How do you solve the Celibacy problem?” Eibhlin asked.

“By never traveling alone.”

“You don’t make Lanai to service you?”

Rafe and the others looked horrified. “Lanai? As sex-toys! Never! Lanai are Warriors, deserving of our admiration and respect for the defense the Barony. The only Lanai I can think of who were anything else are Andromeda and Cassiopeia who were the First Lanai and even they are Warriors first.”

“Captain Cole, if your crew can work without you for awhile, I’d like to talk. I have so many questions and my only information is limited and of questionable veracity.”

“I too. If you will accept my lack of manners, you don’t appear to be what you claim.
*First, we always believed that His Grace was the first Weir and that the Demons made him less than a century ago. Yet you claim to have been Weir centuries before that.
*Second, you claim to be Clan to His Grace but aside from his Harem, he has no other Clansmen that I know of, at least none off-Terra.
*Third, you fly a Vanthi Merchant Raider registered from a time when the Vanthi were still isolated and pirates and unable to reach Terra. Yet you have Terrans as crew and Lanai as sex-toys.
*Fourth, Lanai are made to fight, not be lovers though they can do that when needed.
*Fifth, you claim to come from a time when Terra was centuries before contact and centuries before they had developed atmospheric flight, much less space flight..
There are a few other questions but these are the main ones I’d like answered.”

“Why so much concern, the answers are simple, the Demons took me as I lay dying on the Irish Peat and made me into what you see before you. This was in 1653 and was only some twenty years ago. I suppose we keep cutting the Relativity Curve too close which tosses me through time. Does this not happen to you?”

“Rarely. We tend to be careful and our ships are far more advanced than yours. No the reason I am curious is that there are some races that mimic others to predate upon them. So I brought Mark as the only Terran on my ship in the hopes we together could tell if you were what you pretend or something other.”

Looking at the man, Jane asked, “You’re from Earth too?”

“Yes, Alberta Canada. About the beginning of the Great War. I was offered a chance to colonize Gaea in 1916 and faced with a life cutting trees with an axe or being sent to a war where the Germans and French were using mustard gas and soldiers were loosing their feet to trench-foot, I took the call. What about you?”

“American. I met Eibhlin a few weeks ago at a Science Fiction Convention in Chicago. We became friends and when she was leaving, I asked to go with her. Mr.…”

“Lambert, Mark Lambert.”

“Jane Sommers. Mr. Lambert, you look remarkably well for a man who should be over century old.” And he did. Jane thought that being a lumberjack did give the man nice shoulders, very nice shoulders indeed.

He laughed at that. “You aren’t the only people who cross time. The Ramships that collect Colonists travel through time as well as space. That’s why hearing about you from the past isn’t too strange. Rafe only wants to be certain you are telling the truth about who you are and my being here helps since I’m the only crewman from Earth.”

“And what’s your decision, Mr. Lambert?” she looked at him closely. He could be anywhere from thirty to forty but still very well preserved, and after the past months on a ship with only women, very good looking indeed.

He laughed, “Let’s get free of these Green Pirates and we can discuss it over dinner.”

“Jane,” Eibhlin snapped. “Didn’t they say we were wasting time with those pirates out there? Can we discuss your love life later? Captain Cole, Aside from my nephew, Jason, you are the only other Weir I’ve ever met and Jason only a couple years ago so I may not know much about our race but one thing I do know is this….” She stuck her hand out and the Weir captain took it, placed it against his face and lay his hand across hers, then closed his eyes and a second later the other Weir touched him on his bare face to join contact.

The contact lasted only a moment but when broken, Rafael said, “I’m convinced. Captain Obrien, Ooo Brian… Ui Bhrian, we scanned your ship and it won’t last against a Green Pirate in our time. Maybe a few centuries ago it could but times change and the Kris Wars spurred military technology which the Green Pirates stole so unless you want to spend more time than you’d like in their hold, I suggest that you salvage anything out there that can help advance your ship to survive. The Green Pirates WILL return! They don’t give up and are only resting to repair and the instant they discover you here or we try to leave, they’ll attack even if damaged.”

“I can see your point. I’ve met them only once and that twenty years ago in my time but I’ve had enough close encounters with their ancestors on Barsoom to develop a healthy fear of the creatures. Kara, please search for any weapons, shields, whatever that will give us an advantage. Captain Cole, I’d love for you to help upgrade my ship but I see you are still repairing your own but whatever I can do, we’ll gladly assist.”

“Thank you. Ronnie has scanned the debris and we’ll send you the results and our thoughts on whatever you may find useful.

***

STARSKIMMER

Back aboard the StarSkimmer, Margda took the captain aside, “Rafe, I did a scan on their ship to confirm something. Something about her name sounded familiar so I did some research and confirmed it aboard her ship. We NEED to get her out of here alive and back to her own time.”

He waited then finally, impatient, asked, “Why?”

“Rafe, darling, you’re not a farmer, you were Merchant Class before your Abduction but we farmers know things you city-dwellers don’t. Like the problems of inbreeding which forces us to seek Colonists from Terra. Remember history? A thousand years ago when the Demons first took that English village which spread to become the Commonwealth? Think about it. Hundreds of planets all descended from one small English village. The original gene-stock was only a couple thousand people and although the Demons repressed the nasty genes, there still wasn’t enough variation to stave off extinction. That’s why the Grays return to Terra, they are desperate to abduct humans for their breeding experiments. They simply are dying from a lack of new genetic material. That’s why the S’tyr are the way they are, all S’tyr are descended from three families which is a total of six genetic parents, possibly four if the adults were related.

“So why, my love, did that NOT happen to the Commonwealth? We are told that it was because the Demons saved them when they became Mon. But the truth is, and this isn’t in your computer but it’s a footnote in my livestock breeding books, that genetic extinction was prevented because centuries ago one Vanthi ship managed to reach Terra and return with a hold full of human sperm!

“This ShipCaptain Eibhlin Ui Bhrian is the one! She went to Terra, collected a hold full of human sperm, brought it to the Commonwealth and sold it to become rich and more importantly, she saved humanity out here from becoming like the S’tyr. I scanned her ship from inside and there are thousands of vials in her hold, each one from a different human and each one containing billions of sperm. She saved humanity with those but she can’t do that if she dies here or remains in our time.”

“To Damn!” he swore. “And we can’t tell her why either. I hate time travel. StarFleet could handle this but we aren’t trained for this. Ok, tell Ronnie but no one else for now. I don’t want her estanning from the humans or even us the truth. Ask Ronnie to come up with some way to get her back without her knowing. I think Ronnie’s Demon ship did a lot of time-travel, more than mine did.”

“I’ll do my best,” she kissed him then asked, “Are you thinking of bedding her?” the contact with his lips revealing his desires which were not for her.

“She likes women and her Need isn’t high enough yet. But yes, I find her attractive in a strange sort of way. She thinks like a human but looks like a Weir so it’s that exotic attraction.”

“Then, my future husband,” she joked. “Shield your mind from her lest she read our plans. Or better yet, call me and I’ll join in and we together should be able to divert her from suspicion.”

***

MAIRAYD

Mark was on the Vanthi ship, supposedly to help them adjust the Green Pirate technology to their own use but he was honest enough to admit that he missed Earth Humans. He was far from xenophobic, having grown up in Canada with French and British Canadians and even the Indian Tribes he worked with. He just missed people who could relate to him. All the Weir and even Dan had been born and raised on an alien planet so were alien inside. And Shoon, he had green blood, adapted to a low-iron planet and was the product of centuries of people hiding and fighting the Kris who occupied their planet so he was obsessed with war and fighting, concepts also alien to the Weir. But Jane was Human and from Earth and American. They shared similar cultures, languages and the fact that she came from nearly a century in the future was better than a dozen centuries.

For Jane, she found that her life had changed too abruptly. And so when she found that Mark was coming over to help, she brushed her hair, put some make-up on and insisted that she show him around the ship. “I’ve only been aboard a few months and before that, well I never was into Sci-Fi. Science Fiction? I suppose that your time doesn’t have the word, well the works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells are Sci-Fi. This is the cargo hold. We carry whatever we can sell and transport though Eibhlin and Kara do talk about raiding and robbing people as if that were acceptable. I’m trying to keep them honest. Where was I.. Oh yes, I was married, never had a career, mostly simple jobs like data entry and secretarial and such to get extra money for the savings account. Then, there was a crack house down the street, drugs. They weren’t a problem in your time but in mine, well they say that illegal Drugs are the largest industry in the nation and the police are fighting a loosing battle with the drug lords. The police raided the crack house and my son was killed in the shoot-out. I took it badly and blamed my husband for not making enough money to move out and we divorced over that. But really, it wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t mine, it just happened and I don’t know who to blame.

“Then Betsy, a neighbor, younger really, dragged me to this Science Fiction convention where everyone was dressed as their favorite character and the stage opened up, some kind of a wormhole between Earth and some planet called Barsoom, and Eibhlin appeared. Betsy and I helped her out and when her ship arrived, I asked to go with her. I had no real reason I guess other than I was bored and wanted something different. I wasn’t running away from my divorce or son’s death, I was just bored and… Look at me, Mark, talking all the time. What’s your story?”

“Not as exciting as yours. I grew up in Alberta. I spent my life working on wheat farms and chopping trees for a living. Very dull I’m afraid but the Great War was starting and we were hearing stories about the Trenches and Mustard Gas attacks. And the generals never seemed to learn. Rows of young men advancing in a line with fixed bayonets may have worked against the Zulu or in the Crimea but in an open field against fixed emplacements of Vickers belt-fed machine guns, it was slaughter. And they did it over and over again, sending millions of kids to their deaths uselessly. So I cut trees waiting for the Press Gangs to send me over and one day this ship arrived. It offered em a chance to leave Earth for Drakonis.

“Funny thing is, that life in the Barony isn’t much different from life in Canada. Instead of cattle, we had Rundi larger than an elephant, sheep and we rode rabbucks instead of horses and all my neighbors were either Weir like Rafe or Gaean-Human like Dan and they all loved it. 99 out of every 100 people in Drakonis is a Peasant Farmer and we have four dozen star-systems in the Barony. Felling trees on Gaea isn’t any different from felling trees in Alberta. So when I heard that Rafe was hiring, I talked him into hiring me as a Black-Holer.”

“Black Holer?” Jane moved closer. Damn the man even smelled good. Probably a lack of drugs, good food and clean living. In his time, men were expected to marry a pure virginal maiden, Jane wondered if he still thought that way.

“It means that I’ll do any job they ask me. Only desperate people become Black-Holers. Aboard the larger ships it means janitor or worse, here it means I help out everyone and I learn a lot! Another year and I’ll have my Spacer-Papers and be able to get a job on any ship though to tell the truth, I like it here even though I’m the only human aboard. Dan doesn’t count because even though he is physically human, he thinks and acts like a Weir even though his parents were from France.”

He was looking into her eyes, wondering about modern Earth customs. In his time divorce was a disgrace and few were the divorced women who were able to remarry. Drakonans were promiscuous and usually bi-sexual though Mark was totally straight and took years to accept that Rafael and Jules had once been lovers and still were occasionally and that meant nothing as both also slept with the women aboard. Drakonans were just very casual about sex even though adultery was a capital offence because it broke up the family which was seen as sacred.

“Mark, are you going to stand there staring at me or are you going to kiss me.”

Both were struggling into their clothes when they heard Eve call, “Jane, where are you? What are you doing?”

“Nothing! Wait! Don’t come any closer. I’ll be … what’s the matter?” Damn that man had a stomach that matched his shoulders. Years aboard that starship hadn’t weakened him at all like a desk-job had turned her husband’s stomach into a paunch.

“Eibhlin is wondering when Mark will be ready to help with the adaptations. Was that sex? The movies show it being fun. Is it as much fun as when I rub myself? I can’t wait until I can do that, your heat patterns are so strange now and your pulse and… It’s like you ran a lot but I estann you had a lot of fun.”

“Yes Eve, it was sex and it was wonderful and no, you cannot do it yet. You are still too young.” Eve and Adam still looked like teens though they were barely six months old.

“I’ve, been…” Mark laughed and continued, “I’ve been looking over your engines and think we can do a few modifications to help out.”

“How could you do that when your thoughts and emotions are focused on Jane?” She was simply curious and without proper socialization, spoke her thoughts.

Mark reached out, squeezed Jane’s hand and mouthed, ‘later’ then the three walked off, Jane fending off the embarrassing questions the Lanai child was asking. “Eve, keep this quiet please. No, we didn’t do anything wrong, it was just personal and private.”

“Are you going to do it again? Can I watch?”

“Eve!” Jane almost snapped but held back, the child didn’t mean to offend, she was trying to cram a lifetime of culture and human customs and interactions into a few months and it wasn’t working as well as she wanted.

***

Jane was on the bridge with Mark, showing him around and, in her own way, trying to romance the man despite what had happened before. Although she liked Eibhlin and Kara, still someone who wasn’t so.. alien was a pleasant distraction. Not that she had anything against the aliens, she quickly added to herself, but Eibhlin was from another country and time and even if she were human, talking to her was still like talking to Guinivere from King Arthur’s court, they had nothing in common. And Kara, the woman looked human but she thought so differently. Her ancestors may have been English but she was a pirate and a Viking and came from a people who thought women were little more than possessions and that raiding innocent people and forcing women into slavery was the best life to live. Mark, however, was Canadian which is as close to being American as you can get and still be foreign. He spoke English with no accent and although he was born and lived before Jan’s grandfather was an adult, still they were close enough in time for her to relate. Plus the man was damn good-looking.

“It’s different on Gaea. Most of the people are farmers and frankly, I had enough of that in Canada. I tried lumberjacking, hunting, even being a guide for the occasional hunting parties so when the Collectors appeared, I left Alberta and never looked back. Then I ended up on a planet that was just like Canada, only with aliens instead of people. So when I heard about the StarSkimmer, I took the job. THIS is what I wanted when they offered me a chance to travel to another planet.”

“I never thought about it myself,” Jane replied, moving closer. Damn the man still smelled good. “I watched the TV shows but they were just .. well entertainment. Then I got dragged to that Science Fiction convention and a wormhole opened and Eibhlin stepped through and my life changed, just like that. Everything I knew was wrong and I’ve spent the last months with a couple aliens and the Lanai who I really need to work more with so they’ll grow up normal. You’re the only human on the ship, I guess the others don’t count as they were born on an alien world like Kara. So how do you…” Jane had never done anything like that before and didn’t quite know how to deal with the situation. She wanted to believe it was simply relieving stress in the face of danger but she knew that she just wanted a man and Mark was a very good man to have. “Look, Mark, I’m not a schoolgirl but I’m far from a … well, my husband was my first and there have only been a couple since and… I don’t expect anything special. Dammit! I don’t know what to say.”

He held her and whispered, “To me it WAS special.”

“Captain,” the ship announced, “Four ships exiting the debris and approaching. I cannot identify them yet but one is leaking radiation badly.”

Mark hit the comm. And nearly screamed, “Rafe, the Pirates are here. I think they are the Pirates, the Mairayd can’t identify them yet.”

“Jules here, they’re the pirates all right. Armed and ready for battle. I guess they got tired of waiting or detected the Mairayd. I don’t think we have time to dock and pick you up so good luck. I hope the Mairayd survives.” Both could see the StarSkimmer moving away to intercept.

The rest of the Mairayd’s crew entered and Mark called, “They’re moving to fight! They can’t defeat four Green Pirates. What the hell are they thinking?”

Eibhlin and Kara were in the chairs as Eibhlin called, “StarSkimmer, what are you doing, we need to run!”

“Run yourself, Mairayd,” Rafael’s voice came through. We’ll buy you time.”

“Adam and Eve, on the deck guns! We’re going to help them.” Eibhlin called as they shifted positions.

“I can gun,” Mark called.

“Then replace Eve. Eve take navigation, try to find us a way to hide and run. “StarSkimmer, we can hide, I’ve mapped the debris.” She fed them the charts, hoping they could use them in time.

“Then we’d better start now,” the voice of Jules came back. “Our shields are better so we’ll cover your retreat. Good luck, Mairayd.”

They ran, both ships, the StarSkimmer taking a strike that caused their stern shields to flare. Then Kara and Eibhlin began to maneuver through the debris. “They’re getting closer, Eibhlin,” Eve commented. “You need to go faster.”

“This isn’t open space. If we warp out, we’ll create a black hole and be sucked in and you can only go so fast sub-light through an asteroid field. I’m doing the best I can.”

A moment later, Eve called, “I can to this. Let me fly!”

“This is no time for…”

“Eibhlin,” Jane called, “I think we should trust her.” Jane saw the determination in the Lanai, a determination Eibhlin estanned then, “Ok,” she stood as Eve plopped into the seat, her tail and hands snapping the belts. “I’m putting our lives in the hands of six-month old children.”

“Adam,” Eve called, “Strap in, it’s going to be rough.” The Mairayd sped off, increasing speed as Kara lifted her hands, but hovered ready to take over.

The rock ahead moved past, faster and faster as the Mairayd moved and shifted, sometimes it looked like they’d almost struck one but then it shifted as Eve moved. Kara announced, “The StarSkimmer is moving off. We have two pirates on our ass, two after them. Thor be with you StarSkimmer.” She whispered.

Eve never left the screen, hands and tail and feet working as she smiled. “Just like a video game!”

“You’re not Han Solo in _Star Wars_ and you don’t get a replay in real life,’ Jane stated.

The rear screens showed Adam firing, not continuously but in short bursts that would hit the Pirates more often than they missed though Mark’s bursts were longer as he tried to hose the pirates. Damn the boy was good. “I need more power to the forward shields,” Eve stated casually.

“On my way,” Eibhlin snapped as she ran. As much as she wanted to be on the bridge, there wasn’t much she could do save watch and besides, she WAS an engineer so would be better with the engines where maybe she could coax more power.

“You’re loosing them, Eve,” Adam’s voice came through. “Too far for my weapons.”

“Want me, to slow down?”

“No, their forward shields are too good. Can you get behind them and give me a stern shot?”

“Hold on!”

The craft shot ahead then shuddered as it hit a rock that almost penetrated the shields. “Sorry,” she laughed.

The impacts became more frequent but the damage lessened as Eibhlin diverted more power to shields then Eve called, “Get ready to stop!” and even through the inertial dampeners, they were moved aside as she banked, slowed and then ran back at an angle, trying to keep as much rock as she could between her and the pirates.

“We passed them,” Kara said as a flash appeared on the screen.

Eve nodded then said, “Get ready!” and the ship banked again, accelerating until they were nearly blinded by the Green Pirate exhaust. “Whenever you are ready!”

“I need more power to gun,” he said, Mark adding from the other, “I have target. May I fire?”

“Don’t ask, just shoot!” Kara screamed and the following ship shuddered as tactical revealed multiple hits on their engines. The pirate ship shuddered again then moved off at an angle and struck a rock to explode as Eve pulled behind a large rock and braked hard, seeking mass between the two. The nuclear fireball moved outward, dampening their sensors as the ship darkened with the effort to divert power to their shields. They drifted in the darkness, Eve commenting, “Maybe I got too close?”

Eibhlin worked frantically, trying to divert power from the shields to sensors and within seconds they were alive again, “If we are alive, you weren’t too close,” she called. “Would anyone care to tell me what happened?”

“She’s good, Eibhlin,” Kara commented. “Better than me, better than you. She got us away then behind them and then Adam and Mark took one out. We hid behind an asteroid that shielded us from the blast… mostly. I think I need my ovaries checked before I have any children.”

“How many are down?” Eibhlin called.

“No way to tell without sensors,” Eve added. “There’s a lot of radiation out there. Moving off to another position. Gosh! That asteroid is almost gone. I’m glad I chose a big one to hide behind.”

Kara called, “THERE! I see it. Seems damaged but…”

“I have it. Shields look down so maybe I can take it out without blowing their containment field.”

“Mark, here, “Have you thought of taking prisoners?”

Tactical showed the beamer slicing into the pirate ship as Adam said, “Not really. But you are welcome to try.”

Kara began to feed Adam more sensor readings and as she found sealed areas, he opened them to space until she reported, “all dead. No life signs. I think we’re safe.”

Neither Adam and Eve, nor Kara and Eibhlin seemed to be bothered by this cold-blooded killing but Jane could almost feel Mark shuddering as did she. ‘I have got to work on their compassion,’ she thought to herself.

Eibhlin entered, looked at the displays and commanded, “Mark the location for later. We’ll go find and help the StarSkimmer then return to loot this one later. Good work Eve, I am so proud of you and Adam. Kara! Can you find the StarSkimmer? Plot a course to help them out?”

“Easily, Eibhlin, though we are probably a few dozen million leagues away. It may take some time but I can get us back and maybe find their trail.”

“How about above the plane where there aren’t so many rocks?” Jane asked.

Looking over the charts, Kara replied to her, “Maybe, but by the time we get up there and across then down, the distance will eat up the saved time. Can we leave a present for the Pirates in case they find this hulk?”

“I like that thought. Adam, help me in engineering please, we are going outside for a moment.”

Later, when done, they returned and Eibhlin called, “Kara, we’re done, let’s go.”

“Understood,” she replied, then “Eve, here is your course for now. SLOW DOWN!”

Taking Jane aside, Eibhlin asked, “How did you know?”

Jane smiled at the smaller woman and said, “I was a mother, remember? While you are Kara treated them like crew and taught them science and astronomy and math and everything else you thought they’d need to know, I read to them and encouraged them to play. They’re smart and fast and learn very fast. It didn’t take them long to rack up high scores on every video game I brought aboard. Now for you, why is Eve Weir and Adam Human?”

Eibhlin sighed, “I was gang-raped by British soldiers when I was seventeen and the only reason I haven’t been since is that I am stronger than everyone else who would think of such an act. I wanted to be certain that I would always be stronger than any man on the ship.”

“I understand. So you are a little bit afraid too?’

“Just a little. Jason said he’d program them for loyalty but I need to earn that loyalty. Earning it will take time.”

“Well, Eibhlin, trusting them like this and praising them in public will do a lot to earn that loyalty.”

Eibhlin called out, “Mark, Adam, can you please remain on the guns. I don’t know when we’ll meet the other pirates. Jane, I could use your help in engineering.”

They left and Jane added, “Thanks for trusting me too.”

***

STARSKIMMER

Jules found the Green Pirates as soon as did the Mairayd, only their sensors being better, they knew exactly what was happening. “Rafe, here they come. Weapons armed and shields up.”

Rafael was thinking of what Margda had told him about this Eibhlin Ui Bhrian saving civilization with her cargo of human sperm and decided, “We have to protect the Mairayd at all costs, even if it means our own lives.”

In their entire lives together, this was the first time Jules got scared. Rafe was, like all Weir, very careful about lives, especially his own. They weren’t a violent race, preferring flight to fight and suicide was almost unknown among them so for Rafe to be willing to throw away his own life and that of his friends and lovers for a stranger was totally unheard of in Weir history. If the Mairayd had carried his own Clansmen or even Weir from another world, maybe he could understand it but Jules estanned Rafael’s determination and submitted. In battle, there was no time to argue, you obeyed and hoped that the Captain was good enough to keep you alive so you could sort it out later.

“Moving to intercept. Shoon reports ready on forward guns. Ronnie reports engineering ready, we lost Mark, he’s on the Mairayd with the Terran woman.”

“We can’t take time to dock and retrieve, let him know what we’re doing and wish him luck,” Rafe said as he settled in and buckled his webbing.

The screens showed Eibhlin and Kara in their chairs as Eibhlin called, “StarSkimmer, what are you doing, we need to run!”

“Run yourself, Mairayd,” Rafael’s called came through. We’ll buy you time.”

“StarSkimmer, we can hide, I’ve mapped the debris.”

“Then we’d better start now,” Jules snapped back. “Our shields are better so we’ll cover your retreat. Good luck, Mairayd.”

A shot flared their shields but wasn’t felt inside as Shoon and Dan returned fire. Another hit and then Jules called, ‘They’re away. I think we should run too.”

“At an angle and slow. Let the pirates think we are better prey and chase us.”

Silently Jules prayed to all the gods he could remember from his grandparents tales of life in Vietnam on Terra. He trusted Rafe but Rafael had never been like this.

“Rafe, two are after us, two after the Mairayd.”

“Shoon, shoot the ones after the Mairayd. They are top priority!”

“They’re almost out of range, I can do more damage to ours.”

“Orders!” Rafe snapped and the Kentauran and Daniel ignored the pirates on their own tail and strove to hit the rapidly vanishing targets.

“No good, Rafe, they are lost in the debris,” Shoon reported. These Weir had no idea of tactics. They manufactured synthetics to fight for them and so he couldn’t trust the Captain but he had been bred and trained to follow orders no matter how stupid they were. He could only hope that there was something he didn’t see going on.

The StarSkimmer wove among the debris, putting rock between them and the pirates but Jules unwilling to go too fast. A piece of rock the size of a grain of sand at high speeds would punch through shield and hull, killing everyone if he made a mistake. But slowly they made headway. It helped that the ones chasing them were the more damaged pirates.

“We lost the other two, Rafe,” Jules commented warily. He still wasn’t certain what was happening but brightened when Rafe said, “Then let’s get the damn out of here! Shoon, take them out any way you can!”

“Done Captain,” Shoon replied, now brightening. Killing was why he joined the ship and he intended to do his job very well. He coordinated with Daniel on the other gun and wished they had some missiles to fire or mines to lay but they weren’t a warship, just a bounty hunter and so were lucky to get the guns they had.

Fortunately, the Pirates were far bigger and so had to move slower to avoid the debris and with the better shields now angling forward, the StarSkimmer soon pulled away to safety. “Rafe, I have plenty of power, Ronnie is doing great, but there’s too much debris to use it. Think we should move out of the field and run?”

“No, find a place to hide then let’s find the Mairayd. They need our help.”

“You had better have a good reason for this.”

“I do.”

***

MAIRAYD

With limited sensors and at slow speed to avoid detection, the Mairayd returned slowly to their original location. It took nearly an hour to find it and when they did, “Nothing Eibhlin.” Eve was still in the pilot’s chair and Eibhlin left her that way. She had proven her worth in the run.

“Found a trail,” Kara reported. “Faint but clear. Charting course now.”

“Then let’s move after them. But carefully. I don’t want to rush head-on into a trap or a returning Green Pirate.

“Fine with me, I’d rather rob the dead than face the living. Scanning. I’ll do active now but switch to passive when their trail becomes stronger.”

“Good, Adam, Mark, keep on watch. Take breaks but one of you on the guns at all times.”

“Confirmed,” Marks voice returned from the com.

“Jane, can you relieve Mark occasionally? I’d like his opinion on the modifications.”

“Glad to,” she said and left for the gun-deck. Once there, she leaned over, wrapped her arms around the man and kissed him on the neck, “How are you doing?”

He patted her hands then replied, “Fine. A bit stressed out. We rarely fight like this and never for this length of time.”

“Want a break?”

He leered, and she slapped his hand away. “As much as I would love to, Eibhlin needs you below. I’ll take over here.”

He took a moment to kiss her, a kiss that took her breath away and then left, she blowing him a kiss as he dropped down the ladder. “Damn! It would be so easy,” she said to herself.

“What would?” Adam replied.

“Sorry, I didn’t know the com was open. That was good shooting but I think we need to work a bit on your compassion.”

“Why?”

“Because, my dear, sometimes talking is better than shooting. Peace may not always be an option but shooting someone always guarantees a violent response. If you are kind to someone, they will be kind back.”

“Is that why you are kind to us?”

“I’m kind to you because everyone deserves kindness. At least until they prove otherwise. I am kind to you because I love you two kids.”

“So, should we talk when the Pirates return?”

“Not in this case. They have proven themselves to be dangerous. But when they are helpless, and unable to harm us, talking becomes a very good thing to do. Or when they ask to talk.”

“Sounds dangerous. The movies you brought aboard show people talking to gather time to attack.”

“That’s always possible. So be careful, kind and especially careful. Suspicious but not cynical. Kind but not weak.”

***

MAIRAYD

Later they found the StarSkimmer. “Eibhlin, I found them! They are looking for us too. Hail StarSkimmer, I’m glad you survived.”

“As are we,” Rafael’s voice replied. How did you do?”

“Destroyed one, shot the other to pieces. We’ll go back later to salvage. SPIKE!” she screamed suddenly.

Running to the bridge, Eibhlin demanded, “What happened?”

Eve was looking at the readings, “I think they found the one we left intact.”

“What happened?” Rafael was asking again.

“We killed all the pirates on the damaged ship then damaged their containment field enough to cause it to collapse when the ship was boarded. Either the field fall apart or the other Pirates found the ship and tried to board. Either way, we lost the booty.”

“Jules reports long range scanners show nothing, and they were leaking pretty badly. With no more salvage worth taking, I think we should dock and recover Mark, then we can chase those Runners and you can continue home.”

As they docked, Veronica appeared, young and beautiful and carrying a tool bag. “Captain, I can make another couple adjustments to your drive. Mark is ok but hardly an expert. I’d like your help if you can spare the time.”

“Certainly, I’m sure Jane would like to say good bye to Mark and this will give them some alone time. Adam, keep looking around please for danger.”

“Eibhlin, I’d like to look over their charts so if we have time and you’ll be busy?” Kara asked.

“Go ahead. I’ll call when we are about to leave.”

Alone in the engine room, they were working when Eibhlin asked, “My nephew, Jason, told me that Weir are accommodating. Is this true?” Eibhlin was red with embarrassment.

Laying her wrench down, Ronnie leaned over, knowing that her jumpsuit was open to her black lace bra and revealing exactly what she had planned, “Curious about Weir lovemaking?”

“I’ve had that in my nephew, but… well, as big as Kara is, and I do love her, but you are so beautiful and closer to my size so I won’t have my nose in your navel.”

Ronnie closed her eyes, focused and smiled, “We have time. Kara is with Daniel. They’ll be a while as will your Jane and Mark. I’m glad they found each other. I was always afraid of breaking him in my passion, humans are so fragile. Margda said she’d like to join in if you are interested?”

“I know I’m a bit jealous about Kara. I know she likes men but I do love her and try to give her what she wants. I’ll try to pretend nothing is happening.”

“If you are accommodating, it applies to everyone. No guilt on any side. Now, my question,” she asked as she kissed the Irish woman.

Panting, “I never liked groups. Just you please. In my cabin?”

“I love engines. They get me going. Here is best for me.”

***

STARSKIMMER

Later, the engines upgraded and ships repaired, no sign of the Pirates, the ships separated, “Good wind,” Eibhlin called.

“Safe journey,” Rafael replied as they moved in opposite directions.

As the Mairayd became lost in the distance Rafe called, “Ronnie, did you fix their engines?”

“Of course. She even helped though she didn’t see the time flux I added. They’ll be back in their own time soon enough.”

“Good, I’d like to meet with them again. But first they need to save the past so we can have our present. Jules, let’s catch those Runners and along the way, Margda and I’ll tell you why they were so important.”

***

MAIRAYD

“Eibhlin,” Eve asked as they broke through the debris plane and sought a jump point, “Adam and I watched you and Veronica in the hold and we were wondering when we could do sex too?”

“You watched me?” she screamed.

“Well, Jane said we couldn’t watch her and Mark and you never told us not to watch you so…”

Jane left the bridge and decided to lock herself in her cabin with a good book for a month or two. Longer if Eibhlin’s Irish Temper continued on.

END



To contact me or to request topics to be covered, send to RikJohnson@juno.com
by: Rick Johnson
PO Box 40451
Tucson, Az.
85717


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