’Look, Mr Kolby. I am sorry, ok. My scanners were clearly malfunctioning when they detected no life-signs on board your ship. I had thought it another routine patrol droid we occasionally get out here. And some of the metals and other material you find on those droids can come in very useful. Arcturia sends them out this way a lot to monitor things. We pinch em, ok. But they know we are here and haven’t complained yet. I think they feel guilty, really. They abandoned our colony years back and left us to fend for ourselves, forbidding re-entry to Arcturia.’‘And why is that,’ Rimwalker asked the blueskinned female Arcturian.’We were in the rebellion against the crown of Arcturia. We wanted democracy, not monarchy and they exiled us.’’Yeh, I have heard about that. Arcturian’s talk about it from time to time. But, you know, times have changed on Arcturia. It is practically a democracy these days. The crown is mostly a figurehead. Have you thought of going back?’The Arcturian looked at Rimwalker, considering those words.‘Go back. Now. No, I mean we couldn’t. They shamed us, and we have our pride.’ But despite the female’s words, Rimwalker could sense she was considering the issue.’How many of you are there. And where do you live.’’We are on a space-ark just outside of Arcturia minor. It is a dead planet, and we prefer living on the Ark. We were exiled here centuries ago. The droids come in useful for various things. And like I said, Arcturia feels guilty. They often place supplies, for no real apparent reason, upon the droid ships.’’I think you have been forgiven, you know. Perhaps it really is time to go home.’She looked at him, seemingly now convinced of his words.’Perhaps you are right. Perhaps you are right. I may speak to Landoria and ask her. There are about 50 of us on the ark, but she is the most respected. Perhaps she may find what you have to say interesting.’’Then let us go speak to this Landoria. I can transport you all if you like. The Wolfklaw will fit 50 Arcturian’s easily. It would be my pleasure.’The Arcturian just nodded.‘Well, do you have a name,’ asked Rimwalker.’Oh, yes. Chance. Chance Kibb’star. An old Arcturian family.’’I’ll bet. Well I’ll get back to my ship and set it to follow you. And it was good to meet you Chance Kibb’star.’‘Yes. Good to meet you too, Captain Kolby.’ Landoria seemed, to Rimwalker, very sophisticated and wise, although he hardly knew her. Her manner bespoke an upbringing of the higher class of society, which surprised him considering she was likely born on the ark. But not necessarily. Arcturian’s had, apparently, unpredictable life-spans and could go on for centuries so the story went. He decided to query her on the subject as they walked around the upper levels of the ark were the food was made and stored.’So, Landoria. Just how old are you?’’You are inquiring, perhaps, because you sense something within me not like the others, dare I say it?’’Exactly. Let me guess, you were in the original rebellion, right?’’It is as you say. I was part of the original rebellion on Arcturia against the new monarchy, the only surviving member here on the ark, but I fear any at home would have perished.’‘And your upbringing on Arcturia?’ quizzed Rimwalker.’Why ask you of such a thing.’’Because you don’t speak in the mannerisms of a commoner from Arcturia, and I know them a little by now.’‘Mmm,’ nodded Landoria, but seemingly unwilling to answer the question.’This, Captain Kolby, is the main kitchen. We prepare most of our meals here. Most of us take part in the communal meal, but we have a few families who eat together by themselves.’The kitchen was not really anything unusual. Standard fare for a spacecraft, and very Arcturian looking with its strong sense of symmetry.‘Yeh, it’s a great kitchen,’ replied Jan, not really interested in how they prepared their meals. ’So, thanks for the tour and everything, but really, if you are not going to take me up on my offer, I would like to head off.’Chance spoke up. ’Perhaps you could stay a few hours. Sleep over. It may give us time to consider your offer. It is quite sudden, you know.’‘Chance speaks wisely,’ stated Landoria bluntly. ‘Yes, Captain Kolby, I am from the upper class of Arcturian society. I was brought up in the nobility, which is how I grew to disdain its lavish hypocrisy,’ stated Landoria, finally responding to Jan’s question.’Figures. But you know what they say about biting the hand that feeds you.’‘An interesting analogy,’ responded Landoria. ’Human I take it?’’100% sweetheart. Look, alright. If you want me to stay a day or so, I guess I can manage it. But don’t keep me here too long. There are a billion credits waiting for me on Arcturia, and the arms of their finest harlots beckon.’‘And you seemed like such an intelligent human,’ said Landoria, disdaining his promiscuity.’Hey, lady. Not all of us are born with divine scruples. I know you Arcturian’s are still hung up on religion, but humanity got over most of our fables years ago.’’From what I knew of humanity, many of you still confess faith in the higher one.’’Hell, luv. I think I even believe in God when I am shagging a lady. Only God could make them so fine, you know. But religion is dead, sweetheart. ’Only the Pope in Rome really keeps the faith.’‘Rome?’ questioned Landoria. ’Where is Rome?’’A city on Earth. Home planet for us humans. I even visited it once.’’And who is this Pope you speak of?’’Ahh, fucking hell. I hate religious discussions. You know, the Pope. Head of the Church. Or the Catholic thing, I think. The details are fuzzy. Dad mentioned it a bit.’’And what does this church believe?’’Jesus fucking Christ sweetheart. The son of the Almighty.’’Fascinating. You must speak more of this.’’You know what I know. Anyway, you were saying you had some place for me to sleep.’’Yes, I was forgetting. Chance, can you show Captain Kolby to one of the vacant domiciles. And see to any needs he has.’’Of course, Landoria.’‘Captain Kolby, if you will follow me?’ said Chance, who started out of the kitchen, Jan slowly following her, giving Landoria a final look over. 5 The domicile was about all the Rimwalker expected. Not overly large, but not tiny either. Adequate enough. The bunk looked strong enough and the mattress didn’t appear to have been slept on. Chance spoke up.’You must forgive Landoria if her ways are a bit off-putting to you. She is quite religious, as you may have guessed, as many of us Arcturian’s are. It is a strong part of our culture.’’Was for humans too, once. But we grew up.’Chance just nodded, but it was not a nod of agreement.’Do you want something to eat? I can bring you various drinking liquids and fruit and vegetables.’’You don’t have any fried chicken do you?’’We haven’t had animal food for a long time, Captain Kolby. The droid ship occasionally brings some, but most of us won’t eat meat.’’Veges, huh.’’Veges? What do you mean?’’Vegetarians! Don’t eat meat! Oh forget it.’’Yes, most of us would be vegetarians, as you put it. But Landoria often eats the meat the droid-ships contain.’’Well, some fruit-juice and whatever vegetables you have will be fine. As long as the veges are cooked, ok.’‘That shouldn’t be a problem.’ She left him then, and he lay down on the bunk, closing his eyes. Damn his generosity, as it was taking up time he could be spending in a fine harlots arms. But deep down he knew he was doing the right thing. Chance soon returned with a flask of juice and a plate of steaming vegetables. She gave him some utensils and he sat up on his bunk, trying them. They were tasty enough, similar to what he had eaten on Arcturia before.’Thanks Chance. You know, if only you want to come, I will take you. If nobody else is interested, I don’t mind of you tag along. It will give me someone to chat with before we arrive at Arcturia.Chance looked at him, considering his words. Eventually she spoke.’This Ark has been my home all my life Captain Kolby. And these people are my family. But, yes, if they will not leave, I will come with you. I was not brought up in the monarchy. I was not part of the rebellion. I think I have a right to make up my own mind.’’You sure have. Well, I will give them till a few hours after I wake. If no decision, we leave. Alright? So gather your belongings.’’Yes. I will do that. And thank you Captain Kolby.’‘Don’t mention it.’ 6 In the morning Landoria spoke with Rimwalker. The community had decided that they would not risk return at this stage. But if Jan would speak with the council on Arcturia on their behalf it would be appreciated. Rimwalker made his way to the dock, were Chance was waiting. He looked at her, all dressed up and ready to taste her new life.‘A new beginning for you sweetheart. I am sure you will fit right in on Arcturia. You look just like them,’ saying the last comment with sarcasm.’Most funny, Captain Kolby.’’Hey, call me Jan. Or Rimwalker. It is my alias.’’Rimwalker? Why Rimwalker.’’Because I travel the galactic rim. Have circled it twice now. It’s more interesting out here. Less formal – less developed. I have been to so many of the central galactic systems, and they all worship a type of lifestyle that just don’t suit me. So fucking politically correct. Always kissing each others ass. Always diplomacy. Uggh. Give me the rim, were there is action, and even the odd war. It is the place for a real man.’’But is not Arcturia much like one of these central systems?’’In some ways. But despite your religion you guys are generally easygoing. Not so legalistic with your legal system. In the central system it is fucking hell with all the protocols you need just to get by.’‘Interesting,’ said Chance, illuminated by this wisdom.’So you ready? Said your farewells?’‘I am ready,’ she said nodding.’Let’s go then sweetheart.’They both boarded the Wolfklaw, and shortly it was leaving the vicinity of the ark, headed for Arcturia. 7 ’So human mating rituals are quite similar to our own?’’Hey, sweetie. I have done dozens of Arcturian harlots and they are just like humans, only blue. I think we are related someway, but that is only a theory.’Chance looked at him naively, looking at his body. Chance was a virgin, uncoupled on the ark, but was intending to mate if she could on Arcturia. But this human looked interesting.’You know, sweetheart. Human woman come in differing shades like you Arcturian’s. We have deep browns, even blacks, and reddish and yellow tinting, alongside my own shade.’‘Arcturian’s come in differing shades?’ asked Chance, most interested.’You bet. Mostly similar to your colour, but there are lighter and darker blues, and even the odd greenish looking Arcturian’s.’’Fascinating. Tell me, how long before we reach Arcturia?’’Computer, estimated time of arrival for Arcturia?’’37 minutes, Captain.’She looked at him. ’How long is a human minute?’‘This long,’ he said, pointing to the screen. ’Computer, show us Arcturia.’The computer proceeded to highlight the planetary body they were approaching, magnifying and zooming in.’Computer, show us Zardray, the capital.’‘As you wish, captain.’ The screen proceeded to magnify the image, focusing on a sector of the planet, and zooming in. Soon before their eyes was a sprawling metropolis, distinctly Arcturian in nature.Chance gazed at the picture, her heart fluttering at seeing home for the first time. ’This is Zardray? The capital?’’That it is.’She sat there, looking at it for many moments, her mind a wonder at the sight. Eventually she spoke. ’Thank you, Jan Kolby. Thank you Rimwalker for taking me home. I am forever in your debt.’’Better be careful, I might call in that debt one day.’She looked at him, saw he wasn’t being serious, and smiled. A few minutes later, as she continued to gaze at the screen, the computer spoke. ’Captain, we are being hailed by Arcturia. Would you like to respond?’’Open the channel.’‘As you wish captain.’’….yourselves. I repeat, please identify yourselves. You have entered Arcturian space, and we require identification.’‘Kolby. Jan Kolby,’ responded Jan. ’And I think I have something you guys will really thank me for.’The channel went silent for a few moments as that information was being processed. Shortly the voice spoke again.‘You are cleared for entry, Jan Kolby. Please proceed on your current course and you will be met by a craft which will escort you to our capital and quarantine. Thank you for visiting Arcturia.’ The voice went silent. ‘Now what?’ asked Chance.’We sit pretty, sweetheart. Don’t sweat it. I have done this thing a million times before.She nodded, continuing to stare at the screen. 8 In the underground Draxian piracy network on Arcturia, Dak Bluddhook had just been notified by one of his paid cronies in Arcturian defence of the soon arrival of one certain ‘Jan Kolby’, the illustrious ‘Rimwalker’.‘So the bastard is back,’ muttered Dak, as he made his way along the corridor of the Zardrayan temple of Daranok, one of the lesser deities of Arcturia, this particular temple a front for the Draxian pirates. The Draxian pirates were not all Draxian – that is simply were the piracy guild originated. But it was widespread through the third quadrant of the galaxy, mostly rim-wards were lawlessness was easier to get away with People joined the guild of piracy for many reasons. Adventure, intrigue, power. But mostly to make a quick buck the old fashioned way – robbery and plunder. The guild had many fronts, even legitimate businesses throughout their territories, but these were mostly ways of laundering out goods obtained and selling other wares. Dak Bluddhook was officially a deacon of the priesthood of Daranok, but he simply ran affairs for the guild in Zardray. Strangely enough, Dak had run into Jan a few times, as Jan occasionally had questionable goods of his own which he needed disposing of as silently as possible. They gambled together from time to time, Dak hating his bastard opponent for the small fortune won off him last time in port. He would not be so lucky next time, Dak had sworn. But he wanted to catch up with Jan, today if possible, for other reasons. Jan had mumbled something about going to look for the lost Sigmorius crown, and Dak suspected the bastard had somehow claimed the prize. That particular crown, so Dak understood, was still hidden in a cooling off period. The league had obtained it originally, knew were it was hidden, but left it alone for now. One day a profitable sale to Arcturian renegade royalists or other entrepreneurs could possibly be made, and as such it was a hidden, but known of asset for the guild. If Jan had found it Dak wanted to know, and before anyone else. Muttering to himself he came to the outer port and entered his vehicle. Programming in his destination, Regis Hotel were Jan usually stayed, Dak planned just how to obtain the information he needed.