Reunions and Commitments
Millicent, John Smith and Brian Tuireann sat in front of the assembled Uycarrans. There were a total of 15 including the three. Each dressed to match their current trading interest. Millicent wore a pastel blue dress with a hat that would have fit nicely at a Savoy tea. She avoided the corset figuring humans were already viewed as barbaric and the painful and contorting style would only reinforce such notions. Smith chose a dark suit with a high collar and thin tie. Instead of a bowler, he wore a broad flat brimmed hat. He some how managed to find boots.The outfit reflected his new interests in the Americas. Brian Tuireann wore a multi colored unisuit reflecting his trade with Tymbrimi and other stations. He had even dyed his hair a bright purple.
Each person in the room had a notebook that was communicating with a ship AI. The AIs would be recording the meeting, advising and probably conferring among themselves.
Turieann raised his hand and coughed lightly. The circle came to order. Brian smiled and said, “I would like to welcome the newest member of our tea party. Millicent Morgaine.”
Millicent was shocked at the loud and raucous cheers. She looked at Smith who rolled his eyes and said, “Just wait. It isn’t all hugs and kisses…I assure you.”
There were shouts of “Modron…Modron”…her family’s house. But Smith was right, there were three in the circle who stayed seated and stared at her with hostility. When there was the slightest break in the noise, one of the three stood. He wore a long black leather duster coat and gloves. His trousers were black. Everything about him was dark. He spoke softly, “She has no right.” There were boos and catcalls but he crossed his arms and said more loudly, “She has no right.” There were more boos and someone tried to pull him down.
Millicent shouted, “Let him speak…Let him speak. What he says is true.”
There was a silence and the man shouted, “She forfeited her right to loyalty when she allowed…she allowed herself to be the Guild’s toy.” There were shouts again.
Millicent stood up. She glanced at her notebook. Charles provided the man’s name, Gavin of the house Nimue. The family had been loyal to House Modron for many years. Consequently, they received harsh treatment from the Guild. His parents were sent to prison planets. Unlike Millicent, or even Smith, he and his sister had been reduced to servants. He broke free, found a ship and traded actively on the black market. The black market she had tried for years to suppress. She glanced at Smith, “Friend of yours?”
Smith pursed his lips but shook his head no saying, “Kindred spirit. He’s far to squeamish about some transactions for my tastes.”
She looked at Gavin and tried to quiet the noise. Finally she shouted, “Quiet!. Quiet all of you.” The shouting subsided. She looked around the room said, “He’s right.” There was shouting again. She turned to Gavin and said, “Gavin Nimue, You are right!” In the quiet she lowered her voice, “I was a cats paw, a mouthpiece, a pawn for the Guild.” She shrugged and lifted her hands, “When the end was near, I was only 5 or 6. My mother bundled me up and told me to stay with my uncle, be strong and listen to my heart. That…That was the last I saw of her. His ship was captured fleeing. My uncle tried to hide my identity but I was found out quickly. He was sent to join my parents and I was raised by a Guild mentor.”
Gavin crossed his arms scowling, “I saw the shows. While you were playing with ambassadors, my sister and I were cleaning floors…and worse.”
Millicent crossed her own arms and scowled, “The Guild needed proof of their benevolent nature. ‘Do as we say and we won’t hurt you. You can be an aristocrat.’ I think the totality of the war shocked even the council.”
Gavin sneered, “You ain’t helping your case.”
Millicent lashed out, “I was a child, dammit. How is a six year old with no parents, no family supposed rise in rebellion?
Smith leaned back and said, “She has a point. I was to be a show piece as well. I was old enough to see the facade. After a few…incidents, I was exiled into the far reaches.” He shrugged and said, “She had no more choice than you.”
Gavin pointed his finger and then his voice almost pleaded, “You were raised with a silver spoon. But you had to know…had to…and you did nothing.”
Millicent smiled weakly, “You would be surprised at what we can pretend not to see. But yes… I started seeing more of the truth and more of our history.” She shrugged, “I couldn’t live the lie anymore. I…found a ship and found work on remote planets. One in particular.”
Turieann said, “She really did drop off the map. Back every 10 or 20 years with some human contractors and then back.”
Gavin waved his hand and said, “Means nothing. She supports the Guild.”
Millicent pleaded, “Yes..Yes… I worked for the Guild catching pirates, smugglers and slave traders. And making life hard for everyone in this room…It is all I knew. It was all they told me. I left. I gave it up. What would you have me do?”
Gavin sneered, “You said the Guild can change. Prove it…go try to change the Guild.”
Millicent looked at Smith and smiled. Brian Tuireann looked alarmed. Smith quirked a smile, “In for a penny…”
Millicent sat back down and crossed her hands on lap. “You want me to try change the Guild. I will. I will challenge the Guild in its Hall. But you need to be ready and willing to act. No more waiting for more resources. No more hiding in the shadows. Are you willing to act? Because we need to know how many will stand.”
Gavin looked at her with narrow eyes and said, “What are you going to do?”
Millicent leaned forward saying, “The Guild has sanctioned another planet. It is one in my and Smith’s interest. Sanctioned because the people advance too quickly.” She leaned back and said, “I am going to plead its case before the Guild Hall.” There was shouting across the room, but Gavin Nimue stared at her silently. She stared back until there was quiet. She asked, “If I go before the Guild and plead this case, will I have the right to be a part of this group? Will I have the right of my house name back? Will you support what is coming?”
Gavin sat then put his arms behind his head smiled thinly at her, “Sure, I’ll say you have the right back. You can claim your house. But fat lot of good it will do. You will be rotting with my parents and yours.” There was an uproar again.
Millicent said quietly, “Maybe I will be rotting with yours. Not mine. They were executed. They made me watch when I was 7.”
Sergeants At Work
Iti Greeneyes raised her glass and drank a full measure of the spicy ale. Liam drank his, but failing to match the gusto of the smaller Tymbrimi woman. He gasped, “Criminey…this stuff is spicy. How do you drink it?”
She grinned, “Some of us were weaned on this ale.” She shrugged, “One must train the palate.”
They were sitting at an outdoor bar. The lighting gave her blue hair an odd color. Being outdoors was refreshing. Such might happen in Europe, but not in London with its foul weather and grimy streets. The station had openings into the hallways and cafes in the corridors, but Liam always felt like he was in a large tunnel. From this bar, he could see the street and watch the sunset over the park. The Tymbrimi had adopted this planet for its lush landscape and they had built the base to show it off.
Liam sipped the drink a bit more carefully and asked, “So where are these others we are supposed to meet?”
Iti said, “Patience Liam O’Hannigan. They are waiting for me to say it’s safe.”
Liam snapped and hissed, “I am not a bloody Guild agent.”
Iti eyed him for a moment and then smirked, “Everyone at this bistro knows that. Guild are better trained.” She rolled her eyes and then said quietly, “but others here are Guild agents. Silverbeam claims it is clean here. My cousins and I see things different. Now shut up and drink your pequin ale. I paid for it so no whining. I am sussing out who the real agents are.” After a few moments she called over the Hoon bartender. She leaned on the bar and said quietly, “Chadohz, does the Anomid down there ask a lot of questions?” She nodded towards the short thin character who had grey hair and silver eyes.
The Hoon picked up a glass in front of her and began to clean it. Without looking up, he said, “He asks enough…” He nodded towards Liam, “New guy?”
Greeneyes nodded and said, “Chadohz, meet Liam O’Hannigan of earth. Recent addition to our social club.” Chadohz eyed Liam with one stalked eye like a lizard. Liam shivered a little but nodded. Greeneyes said, “He’s ok. I will explain later.” She sipped her drink and said, “If I sent the Anomid a ‘Tymbrymi Goodnight’, would he get the message?”
Chadohz smiled showing a great number of pointy teeth and said, “He is new. I will explain the courtesy.” He looked at the glass and said, “The drink should tell the other two agents to leave as well.” He nodded to Liam and said, “Everyone has seen your new friend.” Greeneyes shrugged and said, “We control their communications and they know it. We will make clear this isn’t to leave planet.” She tapped the bar saying, “But I haven’t been properly introduced to the new gentleman. Send him the drink and let him know to expect a visit tomorrow.”
Chadohz mixed the drink of clear alcohol and some odd chasers that Liam didn’t recognize. He added a bit of fruit and an umbrella and then walked it down to the gentleman in question and began talking. Liam looked at the drink and said, “Tymbrimi Goodbye?”
Greeneyes smiled and said, “Local specialty. The alcohol is close to what you would call gin but comes from different berries. The additives change color with time and temperature. The the first taste it turns a brilliant blue. It works its way through the spectrum until it ends up a very deep blood red. Chadohz will let him know to leave before it turns red.” She took a sip of her own drink and said, “Scan the bar discreetly. You’ll notice several people calling in their tabs now. Two of them are Guild spies that we allow to work. Others will be following those spies to make sure they don’t talk too much. The word about the drink gets out. Some say it’s the color that sends the message. Others say it is the umbrella. All know a reckoning is to be made and make themselves scarce.”
Liam glanced at the man getting the drink with the umbrella. He scowled at first, then shook his head. He looked down at Greeneyes who smiled a bit and raised her glass. The man eyed her, took a measured drink, dropped at tip and left the bar.
Chadohz returned and spoke a bit more loudly, “He was annoyed but not surprised. He looks forward to meeting you formally.”
Greeneyes smiled, “It is so much easier when they cooperate.” Slowly, the remaining patrons gathered around the shaded bar.
Greeneyes turned to the small crowd and raised her glass saying, “I’m back early cohorts and here one of the people who made that possible.” She pointed to Liam. There were whoops and pounding on tables.
Liam muttered under his breath, “don’t know as how I made it possible.”
Greeneys muttered back, “Don’t step on my lines and learn to take a compliment.” She continued to the group, “Humans made the breakthrough. You and your firms will have new markets and new hunting grounds. Families can stay at home. You can see your children grow up.” she shrugged expressively, “If you want.” There was more whooping, cheering, and pounding of tables.” She shushed them down, “Liam and his people work with us now. Some of them have been working on your ships no doubt. Treat them well or I will have the Esquire, here, practicing the art of persuasion on you.”
Someone shouted “How are we going to know these people? Why should we help them?”
Greeneyes smiled, “It seems Earth has had a falling out with the Guild. They are joining our little rag tag band.”
Another shouted, “Oh aye, won’t that cause Morgaine a fit.”
Liam scratched his ear, but said nothing. Greeneyes pointed to its source and said, “Hold that thought. The next few days are going to have some big surprises. Now drink on.” She slapped Liam on the shoulder and said, “The Esquire is buying the round.”
Liam looked at the Hoon behind the bar who was grinning at him as he pour drinks. Liam raised one finger and said, “One round only.” He muttered, “I am going to need a raise.”
Jason grunted as he and Neville Carter-Frasier worked the heavy Omicron storage cube into place. Jason would never be as strong as John O’Malley, let alone Millicent or John Smith. But, Charles’ training regimen was working some wonders and apparently his nanotechnology was now taking “suggestions” from Charles. He heard Neville yelp as the storage cube slipped, “Watch it chap. I had a hand there.”Jason made a fraction of a smile, but eased the cube back up. Carter-Frasier rose flexing his hand and scowling, “I get that you don’t like me. But try not to take it out on the equipment. At least think of our customer’s good will.”
Jason stared at the Molocot a few meters away who was watching them work as well as their four assistants. The Molocot stared back, sneered and pressed a button on his hand console. Two of the assistants groaned and bent over. Jason turned back to Carter-Frasier and hissed, “I don’t care much for our customers.” Jason called over a Hoon assistant who had not be shocked and pointed to the cube and said, “Bolt this in place. When you’re done, you and Brawen will work with me to wire this to the ring assembly. Pairre and Feidlimid will work with Neville to wire the console to ring assembly.”
The Hoon; his name was Connla; bowed almost to the floor saying, “Thank you, Mr. McNeill. Thank you Mr. Carter-Frasier. I hope we will serve you well.”
Jason eyed the Molocot and then said, “You and Brawen do good work. I like working with you. Now please get up before…I do something to cause you pain.” Connla scrambled away and started talking to the others.
Jason motioned to Carter-Frasier to follow and they headed outside the huge hanger. Jason stretched his back and shoulders and then rested on a rail and stared at the park across the street. Children of all species were in a circle playing a game with their attendant. His anger eased as he watched the game in action. Carter-Frasier rested beside him. Jason said, “I need fresh air.”
Carter-Frasier turned around, leaning his back on the rail and looked up at the huge ornate hanger. He said, “Blame the Molocots, not Pairre, Feidlimid, Connla or Brawen. They don’t have a choice.”
Jason said through clenched teeth, “Oh I understand. Carter-Frasier. Believe me, I blame the Molocots. That bastard charged Pairre and Feidlimid just to show he could.”
Jason heard a hard breath and then, “Winifred and Findley did that to Simone when Edward or I weren’t submissive enough.”
Jason said, “You seemed to adapt.”
Carter-Frasier snapped, “You’ve made your contempt of me clear. But I’ve made my peace to Miss Woodson. I’ve sent my note to Miss Campbell. Mrs Richards, Felicity, even has tea with me now. They have every right to loathe me. I hope they will change their minds. You are far less entitled. I owe you an apology for acting like a git at University. Nothing more.” He paused for a moment and then pointed to the hanger, “Those beings in that hanger will do anything not to be hurt and anything for a bit of relief. That was me, McNeill.” He said more hoarsely, “That was me. Until you can prove you can do better with those collars, I suggest you keep your disdain to yourself.”
Jason could see Carter-Frasier’s hands shaking on the rail. Neville pushed himself up and said, “I am leaving. I need to find a coffee or tea.”
Jason said, “Carter-Frasier…Neville, wait. Stay… please…stay.”
Neville looked at him with narrow eyes. Jason pinched his brow and then turned to face the circle of children. They were twirling to some music. He said, “University was a hard four years for me.”
Neville said evenly, “I had my part in that. I had certain ideas that…well Rachael and John have spent months showing me how stupid those ideas are.” He smirked a little and said, “Frankly I owe John O’Malley a bigger apology than I do to you.”
Jason looked back at him and said, “John has said as much. But he and Rachael led the search for Winifred, Findley and Alfred because of you. I think John might have ripped off Winifred’s other hand if he had caught her.”
The children stopped the twirling and started singing a song. The collection of voices and tones had pleasing harmony.
Neville rested back on the rail, “I …owe them a great deal. I was not a pleasant person before Smith. And Winifred and Findley spent weeks convincing me I was worthless.” He paused listening to the singing group. Then said, “It was the two from Stepney that convinced this Mayfair toff that he had worth.”
After another moment of silence, Jason nodded at the group, “Amazing isn’t it.” The song finished and the children squealed as a new game started. “They don’t care. They don’t see differences. What happened to us? When did we start caring about the differences? Maybe we really are as bad as the Guild says.”
Neville said, “Oh I’m not so sure anymore. Given a chance and a bit of help, some of us can learn the differences aren’t all that big or important anymore.”