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The Other War (Cover)

Chapter 26 - The Other War

10/12/3060 Location – FCV Manai, Grand Archipelago, Fortuna Fortuna (formerly Fasa)

The weather had taken a turn for the worse of late and it made Erika’s stomach, already stressed by so much change even worse. She had been confined to quarters or kept in the infirmary under medical observation by the Ship’s Surgeon who like her didn’t have a surname. Now that she thought of it most of the ‘natives’ here didn’t have any.

She didn’t mention it keeping her head down as she was accustomed. Maybe they all left bad history behind almost a year of jumping through the Deep Periphery to this alien colony and bringing it up would sour the relationships she was trying to build. Already her workmates were growing weary of her seasickness and lack of productivity, 600 crew needed new clothes to replace ones worn out over the voyage or unsuitable to the new tropical environment they found themselves in and only six people were assigned to make them within a very ambitious schedule and a woman down.

A young man with tanned skin showing around the rolled-up sleeves of his coveralls and sun-bleached blonde hair walked in. The workroom was crammed with bolts of colorful fabrics and filled with the hum of sewing machines at work. He immediately caught the attention of everyone in the room including the one guy. They all paused for a moment as he tip-toed around the machines to drop off nested aluminum containers off at her station. “You should eat something Erika. You look paler than normal and that’s saying something.”

Erika looked at the food but felt nauseous already, “Ron, I’m not hungry right now. I have to get back to work.”

She returned to her work stitching the relatively basic template that had been given to her for mass production. Ronell squatted down next to her watching her work, “Have you been taking the medicine that Mary gave you? It will take time for you to adjust especially if you never go above deck. The medicine can help.”

“You never take anything anyone gives you to help you. All it does is hurt in the end.” “This isn’t Kooken and Mary is not some Malthusian Mob doc trying to take advantage of you.” She pulled another piece of cloth from the pile beside her and squared it and herself, “She’s as touchy as one and I don’t trust her.”

“All the natives are a little touchy here. They live really close to each other in comparison to us. Her ‘bedside’ manner might be unprofessional but, everyone under her care is in good health and spirits.”

“I will think about eating but, right now I’m busy.” “They are vacuum containers so lunch will still be warm when you get around to it. I have to get back to work as well.” He kissed her forehead, “See you tonight,” then exited the room which quickly filled with the buzz of sewing machines and whispered gossip consisting of phrases like “lucky” and “he’s too good for her” among others less than flattering.

Ron found his tools where he left them and hefted the bag over his shoulder in the endless quest to fill work orders. The Manai had launched from the Grand Archipelago Anchorage less than three months ago and the Fortunate (as they called themselves) had left most of the interior unassembled. According to Dexter the architects had designed it to be easy enough to build in while afloat especially when you had new people constantly arriving to add to the labor pool.

The Hansa moved were moving tens of thousands to this colony each year. An impressive feat for an almost thousand light year voyage if he counted right and assuming each jump was the full thirty light years possible with the current understanding of KF drive tech. Those jump collars were loaded both ways with passenger liners or cargo freighters supporting a chain of space stations and smaller habitats between Hansa space and this colony, wherever it was in the Deep Periphery. He was curious and afraid of what the Hansa were receiving in payment for this massive Starlift.

Ronell walked on a catwalk above one of the 10 massive aquaponic bays aboard which all had retractable roofs that opening to the tropical sun above when the weather was nice. Some of the new workers tended various seagrasses, vegetables, and fish under the careful supervision of more experienced Aquaculturists. Every one of the prospective colonists had to receive additional training over the past 18 months in space to keep order aboard the ships. Failure to do so resulting in forfeiting their slot and making them liable to pay their indenture a certainly less pleasant way.

Being on the high seas again brought back memories of his youth on Radstadt’s abundant oceans working alongside his father, a widower who took his son out of school to work and learn aboard his fishing trawler. They had fled to Solaris VII during the Year of Peace brought about by Tyra Miraborg’s sacrifice and hid behind the mighty AFFC that only just held the Clans in check at great sacrifice.

The sacrifice grew more costly during the catastrophic earthquake of 3056 that leveled many of the tenements outside Solaris City. His father died when a building collapsed on him while he was volunteering to work search and rescue before people from other worlds arrived to help including then Princess Katherine Steiner-Davion and her fiancée who unfortunately died in a freak accident. Their community had banded together during to save themselves and after to rebuild.

They found a supportive partner when Katherine ascended to the Archonship and her brother left for New Avalon. She quickly and very publicly threw down corrupt and exploitative nobles seizing many of their family assets in criminal courts before elevating dispossessed Rasalhague nobles to their places and executed the worst offenders as the common criminals they were. However, more went 'missing' or died under mysterious circumstances including her younger brother Peter. All the nobles involved ultimately fell in line to pledge resources and honored their pledge to her.

Mary bumped into him as he was rounding a corner, she grabbed him to prevent herself from falling but in the process opened her lab coat. Beneath was the minimal clothing she and most of the natives wore consisting of a sarong type skirt and short top that exposed most of her cacao midriff. She still held onto his arm, “I am terribly sorry, Mister Anderson. How clumsy of me.”

“I felt the wave too, Doctor. Terrible weather, glad I could catch you. The deck does not look very comfortable.”

“We should go someplace that is.”

“I don’t think that would be appropriate.”

She placed her hand to his forehead, “You seem a bit feverish why don’t you come down to the infirmary with me.”

Dexter Calloway intervened putting his hand on her shoulder and gently pulling her off Ronell. “Really, Mary?”

She buttoned up her coat and scoffed, “They are the cute ones, neither of them will couple with me and you are going to take them away. I wanted to get my chance before he leaves.”

Ronell looked over to the other man seeing himself in the reflection off the sunglasses tilted over his forehead, “What is she talking about? Take us away. To where?”

Dexter gently pushed her away, “Mary, don’t you have patients to see?” The woman turned and stormed down the nearest ladder-stairs toward her infirmary. “There now she’s gone. I’m sorry Mister Anderson, my sister’s normally not like this.” “Your sister? I thought she was something different to you, Dexter.”

“Well Stepsister, same father, different mothers. She has a hard time understanding that there is such a thing as a closed relationship. That’s not our way but, we don’t try to change people quite as aggressively as she chooses too. She has issues.”

Ron gently placed his bag of tools onto the deck, “So what is this about you taking us somewhere?”

The man pulled out a tablet computer pulling up the file on Erika and Ronell Anderson, “I have a new assignment from the Colony Chairman. For it I need a few people with a particular set of talents. A bodyguard, several technicians to support my operation, and a thief.”

“You want Erika to steal something for you?” Dexter was immediately animated, “Precisely, I need her to help me steal something from Clan Jade Falcon.”

“The Jade Falcons?” “Yes, and she is the perfect candidate. She was sent to prison after stealing a very valuable shipment from the Malthus Crime Family. The Hansa severely derated her price; they are a little biased against thieves, being Merchants and all.

We got her for a steal and now I need her to steal for me.”

“Erika left that life behind on Kooken(‘s Pleasure Pit) and how are we going to get to Clanspace. It must be months away. Do you have a map?”

Dexter laughed uncomfortably loud and long, “Do I have a map? Oh, that’s good Mister Anderson. I needed that today.”

He pulled up a local star chart of the space surrounding Fortuna one jump away from the Pentagon Worlds and seven from their destination.

“It is three weeks of travel. You are already in Clanspace Mister Anderson and we are going to Ironhold, right in the heart of it.”

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