Something from the scrap bag . . .
It was a good thing that young mammals and reptiles never got near Rada’s computer display, she mused as she read the message from Avri Wolkskind. “Anatomically impossible but interesting to imagine,” she muttered under her breath at one of his imprecations. Rada felt a taloned forefoot on her shoulder and braced as Zabet rose onto her hind legs and leaned over her Pet’s back to eavesdrop.
<<Ouch! I’m surprised the display hasn’t melted!>> The true-dragon commented. <<He seems a tad upset.>>
“I would be too. He got rolled, hard, and wants to meet with a bunch of us for an informal information swap and contract-control session,” the dark-haired mammal explained. “Don’t read the last paragraph – I don’t want your delicate sensibilities distressed.”
Zabet promptly reached forward and waved her forefoot over the motion sensor, scrolling the text to the bottom so she could read the offending section. <<Oh! Um, wow. That’s . . . you know, even you don’t use that sort of language.>>
<<So are you going to the meeting?>> The silvery-blue reptile backed up and lowered herself onto all four feet, then gracefully maneuvered out of the way as Rada typed a quick reply and signed out of her personal comm account. Zabet’s rounded ears perked and her tail tip patted the floor as she watched her business partner stand, stretch and then walk around the wall separating Commander Rada Lord Ni Drako’s public chamber from her personal quarters. The reptile was not surprised when the mammal reappeared wearing a grey and black military uniform. <<Stupid question. When will you be back?>>
“Hmmm, two hours? Yes, that will work, and it gives me a little maneuvering room if someone gets curious and tries to trail me.” The one-eyed woman slung her weapons belt around her waist and buckled it in a smooth, automatic motion. “If someone insists, or a war breaks out, you know the drill.”
<<Trade war, shooting war, or Court battle?>> The lithe True-dragon inquired sarcastically, her whiskers twitching along the edges of her narrow muzzle.
“If it’s a Court battle, just make snacks and charge a fifteen percent markup for bench service if someone wants delivery,” Rada said, finishing the old and worn out joke. “Back in a few.”
* * * *
The spaceport porters on shift at Kilmakistaadt blinked their third lids in surprise when a Trader scout vessel landed on the parking pad. The under-porter turned to the shift supervisor and opined, “He’s got nerve if not much intelligence.” They watched as the entrance opened and a humanoid emerged, looked around and set off towards them. One of the female’s hind legs did not seem to function properly they noticed, also making note of her armament. “Traders don’t carry blasters and gut rippers both,” the under-porter observed.
“Don’t have black cranial fur either,” the porter’s boss pointed out, waving its claw toward the approaching mammal. It decided to be polite, at least until it learned what was going on. Just because Traders were pains in the ancillary proboscis was no call to crouch to their level, after all. “Greetings, gentlebeing,” it spoke into a general translator.
“Greetings, rampmaster,” the Rada answered, making the appropriate hand gestures before presenting her identification, along with a small gratuity. The card went into a reader while the credit token vanished into a gap in the supervisor’s carapace.
“You are cleared and passed, Commander Ni Drako,” the shift supervisor advised, handing back her i.d.
“Thank you,” and the mercenary made a gesture of polite gratitude before walking off towards the exit and ground-transport area.
Rada was not the last to arrive, nor was she the first. Col. Avri Wolkskind was already in the private room in the back, along with his executive officer. Both looked as if they’d been chewed up and shat out and were mad as hell about it. Laim Arkady was placing a drink order as Rada walked in and he nodded but didn’t stop talking to the bar-thing. T’kalk ba Harko dipped its eye-stalks in a salute and Rada waved in turn. “What will you care for, gentlebeing?” the order taker, a vaguely mammalian hexapod, inquired.
“Blackstar and diamond, if you have it on tap. If not, kerry juice, please,” she said, easing out of the doorway to make room for an unfamiliar reptile. Arkady pointed to the stool beside him and Rada took the offered seat. “How’s life?”
The heavy-set, blue-skinned mercenary waved stubby fingers. “I’m here and not broke, and no one’s broken contract recently. Life works.” He shrugged. “You?”
Rada’s answer was interrupted by Col. Wolkenkind’s high voice. “Commander Ni Drako, what in the name of the nine stars happened to you?” The black-skinned human’s eyes looked white, they were open so wide.
The woman pointed to her face. “This?” Wolkenkind and Harko both nodded and it was Rada’s turn to shrug. “The slash is from a little difference of opinion on domestic policy matters that I had with my employer.”
“Your current employer?” Harko grated, its accent so thick even Rada had a little trouble following the short phrase.
“Not really. He died a while ago. His successor’s a lot better, so I’ve stuck around.” The waitcreature appeared and held out Rada’s drink and an empty reader for her credit ring. “I’ll be running a list,” Rada advised the mammal, and it made an appropriate note. “And if you could bring something with animal protein, when you get a chance?”
“It shall be, Commander,” the waitcreature replied, returning her ring.
The mercenaries made the equivalent of small talk until a total of eleven individuals filled the private room. Once everyone had drinks and something to nibble, Avri stood up. The others went quiet. “I’ll be blunt. The Haruspical Council on Eklar Three rolled the Aggressors and rolled us hard. We got out with our gear, which is about the only good thing to come out of this load of crap. You all received copies of our contract and of the challenge?” The soldiers made gestures of affirmation and several pulled the documents up on portable readers of some kind. “We did not violate any of the conditions. There were some civilian deaths because the non-combatants refused to leave the rebels’ camp after we warned them and read them the Council’s letter of harmony.” Wolkenkind’s colleagues shrugged and a few sighed quietly. That sort of thing happened in warfare and should have been covered by the appropriate clause in the contracts.
(C) Alma T. C. Boykin 2015 All Rights Reserved