The ship flew steadily through the black skies. Orlacc navigated between stars and moons, past Trin, past the tiny Harrn, where odd little creatures prowled and hunted. They flew on, past the man-made landing system, where ship fuel was sold, and repairs were made. On they travelled. This solar system, called the Remdis System, was huge, and it contained fourteen well-spaced planets.
“Why don’t we go into light speed?” Shanda asked.
“Haven’t got the linkwire,” replied Orlacc.
“You ain’t got a linkwire?” said Jeremiah. “Why didn’t we stop at the landing station? We could’ve got one there.”
“The station is being taken over by the Police, Mr. Handell. I don’t dare risk anything with this ship. We’ll take a pit stop on Calidious. The underside hasn’t been inhabited by the Police yet. Perhaps we can find a linkwire there.” Orlacc turned the ship toward the nearest planet, the heavily forested and watered Calidious.
Calidious was lush and green, and well respected by all its inhabitants. The Calidians were tall, humanoid creatures, with large eyes, and tall ears, like wolves’ ears, off the top of their long faces. Two long teeth jutted from their slightly parted lips, and they had leather-like dog noses, dark brown, almost black. A thick coat of hair covered their lean bodies. They were called Leckas.
The other inhabitants were humans and androids. The androids were almost identical to humans, down to the last detail. Only an educated eye could tell the difference.
Orlacc manoeuvred the ship to a large dock surrounded by trees and bushes. As they opened the hatch, a Calidian jibbered to Orlacc. Shanda looked at Jeremiah, then in amazement at Orlacc who answered in English to the Calidian’s question.
“We will be here long enough to find a linkwire,” he replied.
It asked another question. This time Jeremiah answered. “No, the ship is mine. I bought it at a warehouse in the Draten System.”
“I don’t know who owned it before,” Jeremiah said.
Shanda’s mouth was open in surprise. “What is going on?” she whispered to Jeremiah.
“They’re worried about the ship. I figured if I said it was mine, then my records could be checked. I was never a Myglord.”
“But the registration--"
“Let’s hope they don’t ask,” Jeremiah said.
“This Lecka,” explained Orlacc, “says he knows one man who may have what we need, but we may have to spend the night.”
“Oh!” Shanda said, turning around in frustration. Jeremiah grabbed her arm to hold her back, while Orlacc finished the Lecka’s words.
“He says he’ll give us directions to a place where we can stay, and tell us where we can get a linkwire.” Orlacc stood with Shanda and took directions to the place where they could stay if they wanted.
“We’ll stay on the ship, thanks.” Jeremiah nodded to the Lecka. Just tell us where I can get a linkwire. That’s all we want.”
The Lecka gave some directions to Orlacc while Jeremiah went into the ship to get their weapons and a few supplies. When he returned, he handed out their weapons. “Ready to go?” he asked. Orlacc glanced at the Lecka, and took the small remote that Jeremiah handed him, pushing a series of buttons. The ship hatched closed and beeped, the lock was done.
As they walked away, Shanda turned to Jeremiah. “Can you trust a Lecka?” she questioned.
Orlacc overheard her. “You can usually trust a Lecka,” he replied.
They beat their way through trodden trails, harsh with awkward shrubbery, thick with age-old vines. Leaves crawled up, intertwined in themselves, wrapped around the tree trunks, which were bent and heavy. Yellow grass tangled around their ankles. An alien bird called to an unseen mate.
“How far is it?” asked Shanda.
“The other side of the jungle,” replied Orlacc. “He said the man is an odd hermit. Young. He lives with an android. He’s kind of an outcast. Humans don’t do things like falling in love with androids. Why humans fall in love with even humans is beyond me.” Orlacc still retained his gruff composure. Shanda only smiled to herself. He liked to pretend to be harsh. But only his eyes divulged the truth. She could feel the warmth of them. He already cared deeply for his two new passengers.
They plodded along. Jeremiah pulled a vine away and they could see a dusty road, leading up over a hill. He stepped out, holding a branch out of the way.
“Is this the road?” he asked Orlacc.
“Yes, take the left. Up over the hill. There should be a small hut, with a farm.”
They marched up the hill, kicking a cloud of dust up behind them. Jeremiah kept his hand on his blaster. Shanda glanced around, forever watchful. Orlacc appeared calm.
The hut came into view. Only it was more than a hut. The man had clearly made a life for himself here. Sheep mulled about the fenced in yard, and a hungry dog wined.
Orlacc regarded the animals. “Almost all of them are androids. All except the chickens and the cows,” he said.
Shanda stared closer. Androids? How could he tell so easily?
“See their eyes?” Orlacc questioned. Shanda nodded, squinting. “Androids’ eyes aren’t blue or green or brown. Their eyes are a dark grey, almost black. That’s just so you can distinguish them. They probably have some with normal eye colours. And there is something else about them....” His voice faded off in puzzlement. Shanda looked closely, but still could not see what made them so different.
Jeremiah approached the door and knocked. A very pretty woman with shoulder-length brown hair opened it. “Yes?” she asked, unsmiling.
“We’re looking for...,” Jeremiah paused. What was his name?
“We’re looking,” said Orlacc, “for Dan.” He moved closer. You must be Saralee.”
Her face changed. A slight smile. “Yes! Do you know Dan?”
“Only a bit,” said Orlacc.
“I’ll call him,” she said. She raised a small device up to her mouth. “Dan, we’ve got some guests.” She smiled at them again. “He’ll only be a minute.”
“I can’t believe she’s an--” Shanda started, in a whisper, to Jeremiah.
“Yeah,” said Jeremiah. They watched Saralee retreat into the house.
A minute later, Dan appeared, in old coveralls. His long brown hair and beard made him look older than he was.
“Do I know you?” he asked.
“My name’s Orlacc. We know you have many parts for ships and things. I really need a linkwire.”
“A linkwire? Why couldn’t you just get one from one of those damned stations run by the Police?”
“More trouble than they’re worth,” replied Orlacc.
Dan glanced at them all. “Yeah. What kind of linkwire do you need?” He began to walk. They followed as he led them behind the house.
“A BH-4O,” Orlacc said.
Dan stopped. “A Myglord ship? Where’d you find one of those?”
“A warehouse in the Draten System.” Jeremiah cited, repeating his story. “She’s in good condition, all intact, except for the link.”
“I don’t think I have a link to fit ’er,” Dan said, “but the Tyden ship is close. It uses a DH-12O. We could extend a wire from that to a makeshift railburner. That’d work, I’d say.” He entered the shed which was crammed full of machines and parts.
“Whatever,” said Orlacc. “We just need something to make her go.”
“I’d like to see her anyway.” Dan began to rustle through spare parts in a box and they returned to the house.
“How long do you expect it should take?” Jeremiah asked.
“Well, just trying to figure out how to organise the DH-12O link should take long enough,” Dan mused. He looked at them. “I’d say at least until late tonight, but that’s just a guess.” He said, straightforwardly.
Shanda looked down. If only she’d gotten another ride. She could’ve taken the off-world transport. She could have been to Earth yesterday already. But then what? She looked at Jeremiah, who was bending over the linkwire, examining it. He looked up at her and smiled slightly. She was actually glad she was with him. She didn’t want to be glad, but she was. He’d been so nice to her. Shanda had been quite rude to him, but he never really became hostile toward her. She actually was worried about him. If he turned away from the Police, they could, and most likely would, destroy him. He knew too much. Funny, he hadn’t told her anything yet. Then again, neither had she. She decided that it wasn’t meant to be, her knowing him any more than she did. Why would she care anyway? He was just her ride, and he wasn’t even that anymore.
She turned her gaze to the old man, who held on to so many memories of the great climb to power. He hadn’t told her anything either. Nothing about the way the Police worked, how they used their power, what they planned on doing, who was the leader. And yet they both knew, Jeremiah and Orlacc.
She knew that to be with these two was a heavy point for her. Jeremiah looked up, and his eyes twinkled as he smiled at her once more, then returned his gaze to the linkwire. Yes, she could trust them.
“Saralee, I’m going to Captain Handell’s ship for the night,” Dan told his wife, getting his long coat. Saralee was used to her husband going to the landing station to fix the incoming ships. She nodded and went into the pantry, returning with a small package. She held it out to Shanda. “Here, Miss Blore, take these biscuits. I’m sure you must be hungry.”
“Yes, thank you, Saralee,” Shanda said, taking the warm food.
“Be careful,” said Saralee. She kissed her husband, shook hands with Orlacc, then Jeremiah. The three men went out the door, and Saralee gave a quick hug to Shanda. “Good luck,” she said. “Be careful.”
“Thank you,” Shanda said, and parted with a wave. She caught up with the men and they trudged back down the dusty hill, and then turned into the path.
“Can’t you find the Q-pin?” Jeremiah’s voice called. Shanda sat alone on the ship. The other three were outside trying to repair the speed drive on it. Shanda bit into another one of Saralee’s biscuits.
Jeremiah strode up the hatch door platform. “Seems there’s a few more repairs to be done than just the speed drive, but I think we can get `er done by tomorrow. Me and Orlacc are doin’ that while Dan fixes the link. I’m glad he decided to help us.”
“I wasn’t expecting them to be like they are,” Shanda said. “She was so kind, just like a human. If I didn’t know ahead of time, I could have swore....” She gestured toward where Dan was working. “He’s too nice to be living away from everyone. Too young and nice to be an outcast.”
“Maybe he likes it better that way.” Jeremiah sat down on his heels toward Shanda. “Some people like it better to live alone, not wanting to get close to anyone.” Then, he stood up, and after grabbing one of Dan’s blowtorches, disappeared down the hatch.
His words lingered in Shanda’s mind. He was referring, not just to Dan, but to her, she thought to herself. He was wrong, she didn’t live alone. She had her guards, and maids, and ladies-in-waiting, and.... She dropped her head. She was alone. That’s why she was so hostile to them all. She didn’t know how to get close. She didn’t even know if she wanted to.
The ship rocked as a bolt of electric current was sent through its heavy innards. It was grounded, so Shanda and the others were not electrocuted.
“I got 'er!” shouted Dan to them all. “Your light speed drive is repaired.” They all came inside, and Shanda paused, biscuit in mouth.
“Your ship took it nicely, too,” Dan said.
“Well,” said Orlacc, clearing his throat, “I guess we might as well get some rest. We’ll get up tomorrow and fix the rest of her.” He started toward a door off the main compartment. Swinging it open, he revealed two more doors off the room inside.
“Sleep chambers?” Shanda said. There was no end to the surprises on this ship. It was a very large ship, cylindrical in shape for the body, with wide wings out on the sides for a graceful appearance. Orlacc took very good care of it, obviously, as the white metal was clean and shining on the interior and exterior. The chambers on the back were a surprise to Shanda.
“I’ll sleep out here,” said Orlacc. “Then there’s a room for each of you.”
Shanda opened the door on the right and entered, looking around. Not bad, she thought, and returned for her bag. She gave the other three some biscuits to eat in their rooms, and everyone fell asleep in exhaustion.
Hammering awoke the princess the next morning and she reluctantly crawled from the bed. She had had a peaceful sleep, and realised that she had dreamed about Jeremiah. She put on her woven pants again, as well as the heavy jacket. She tiptoed out to the centre of the ship to find the table adorned with a plate consisting of two biscuits, bacon, and Dregbird eggs. A note lay beside the plate. ‘How sweet’ thought Shanda.
“About time you woke up,” it said, “after letting us do the work.”
Shanda threw down the note. Any time he had the chance to be a gentleman, he had to go and screw it up. She sat down to eat, which she did, heartily. It was good, much to her surprise and pleasure. She was cleaning off the last bit of food from her plate when Jeremiah climbed up the hatch door.
“Good?” he asked.
“As good as can be expected,” she said coolly.
“Well, I’m glad,” he said, a sarcastic twinge in his voice.
“What’s happening with the ship?” she asked, not looking at him.
“Well, Dan’s working steadily on her. She’s comin’ along. He’s even added a few modifications. She’ll get us out of jams better now. ” Jeremiah walked to the back end of the ship and hammered on the floor. “Is it here?” he yelled to the others on the exterior. A returning knock came from the floor about a foot to the left of where Jeremiah was. He moved over and pulled at the mat covering a panel, which he pulled off without any trouble, and settled down to working there.
Shanda moved her eyes from him and began to clean up, then she returned to her chamber to put on her boots.