Dalok looked a bit suspicious at Jan’s question, but answered it anyway. ’Well, if you must know, we store our most precious goods at the guild hall in Retak, a city on the northernmost continent of Draxos. It is impenetrable. Believe me, totally impenetrable. We have had some of the Galaxies finest security detailers design the place, and it will never be broken into. Of course, that is important, because wealth is the most important thing for the guild. Lavish, decadent wealth. We are popular and attract new recruits because of what we can offer them. So don’t worry, our goods are safe. You can count on that.’Jan nodded, pleased with that information. He now assumed, given that the guild likely had the Sigmorius crown, that it was located at the guild hall in Retak. Getting it back would not be easy, but he already had a head-start. As a guild member he may be able to infiltrate further into the guild hall in Retak than he otherwise might be able to. That just, and just, might give him the edge. If he was to get the crown back, which had been his goal all along, and joining the league being the way to achieve it, he would need any edge he could get. They sat drinking in the bar at the ground level of the guild hall, were Dalok drank frequently. Chance was over by the side of the bar, playing a video game which she seemed to be becoming quite adroit at. They had a small games console back at the flat which she was now addicted to which did make Jan realize that she was still something of a youth and had led a sheltered upbringing on the ark to some degree. But good luck to her. If she enjoyed these games, that was a positive. He felt it would teach her good eye-hand coordination if nothing else, which could come in handy one day. ’Well, Jan. I have got to get going. Business for Tarkan and the guild tonight. But I am enjoying our drinking sessions, and you always ask the most interesting questions. I shouldn’t answer half of them but, heck, you are in the guild now. I know I can trust you.’‘You sure can,’ replied Jan, his insincerity lost on the mildly intoxicated Dalok. Dalok got up and left and Jan continued drinking his ale. The league had given him a reasonable income, and he would own the flat on the northside of the city after a year if all things turned out well with his work. He had even considered simply staying with league anyway, as its perks were actually quite good, and Draxon was starting to become something of a home, Jan rarely staying anywhere long, now getting used to the place. But, no. The crown was his prize. And the rim beckoned. The rim – the galactic rim – home of the illustrious Rimwalker. He could never leave the life it offered, no matter the prize. Walking over to Chance, he looked down at the screen and yelled at her to shoot one of the aliens, but she ignored him, having learnt the game for herself. The next two weeks passed and as Jan got to know Chance even better, he learned more and more of the internal operations of the league. When the time came for him to claim the crown, he would be ready. Whatever else he would be ready.
Dalok introduced Jan to a Draxian pirate, well into his middle age, dressed all in black. ’Jan, this is Kal Shandray, captain of the ‘Black Terror’. You have been assigned to his command for standards raids in sector G7 of the third quadrant. He’s an ornery sort, so watch what he says.’ Jan offered his hand, but Kal just looked at it.’So, tell me lad, how are you in a fight. If things get sticky, can we rely on you.’’I can handle myself.’‘And your partner,’ inquired Kal, looking over Chance.’She’ll be fine. She is a survivor, like myself.’‘If you say so. Well, we are leaving port tomorrow night, so best get a good night’s sleep. Meet us at the dock around mid-day and I will introduce you to the crew. Now, Dalok. You still owe me a round you dog. Well, get to it.’ Dalok, obediently, signalled the waitress and ordered a round of drinks. Casually chatting to Kal Shandray, Jan was immediately struck by the Captains bawdiness, even more so than his own. He swore frequently, and was very authoritarian, but he seemed sure of himself which would have to be important. Later that night, Kal and Dalok leaving in a vehicle, Jan came over to were Chance was resting on the side of the bar, and gently woke her. ’Time to go love. We leave on our first mission tomorrow night, so we will need a good night’s rest. We could be away for a few months, apparently, so get anything you need in the city tomorrow. You might want to visit that Arcturian shop again, see if there is anything you want. I will pay if you don’t have enough money.’Chance nodded sleepily, and got to her feet following Jan to the vehicle outside. As they sped along back to their apartment, Jan thought on his new life as a space pirate. He would have to practice with his phaser tomorrow morning to brush up somewhat. He could be in need of it shortly. But, hopefully, from what Shandray was saying, they usually robbed easy targets with little defence, so he may not see any action. But he would have to be ready just in case. They arrived back at their apartment and Chance had fallen asleep in the vehicle. He didn’t want to wake her, so picking her up he came to the security doors, punched in his code, and came to the elevators and made his way up to their apartment. Placing her on her bed when back inside he looked her over. Really, for an Arcturian female, she was blossoming, and he felt a stir in his loins looking at her. But he controlled himself, put a blanket on her, and left the room. When his mission was over and he claimed his prize he could have all the Arcturian female flesh he could possibly desire.
The following morning Chance came out onto the balcony, were Jan was shooting his phaser at tin cans. ‘What the hell are you doing Jan,’ she asked. ’Practicing. I may have need of these skills on the ‘Black Terror’ if we are to board ships. You never know when close combat could be involved.’‘Right,’ she said, yawning and sipping on a can of soft drink. Jan continued for half an hour, shooting at cans on low beam, mainly to practice his aim.’Doesn’t that Phaser have an aiming mechanism.’‘Yes, it does. But it is unreliable. You can program it carefully and often it still fucks up. Too many unpredictable variables for it really to deal with. Manual is the safest way to go, especially out on the rim were the action can be intense.’ She nodded, taking in that information. Jan continued shooting at cans all that morning and when Chance had arrived back from the city with a bag full of items, they were ready to leave. ’Remember Chance, we will be onboard the ship for months. So you won’t have clean air to breath most of the time.’’Hey, I was born on the Ark remember. We only ever had recycled air.’’Yeh, I know. But I figured you may have been getting used to life on Draxos which won’t be like the ship. Your body might need some time to adjust.’’I’ll be fine.’’Just letting you know, ok. Now, apparently there will be some harlots for the men onboard the ship. Shandray assures me you will be fine, but also told me to keep my eye on you. So be careful with the men. You’re attractive lass and they are pirates. So keep your wits about you.’‘Thanks for the compliment,’ replied Chance, smiling at him.’Think nothing of it. Well, if you are ready, we best be going. I have put our luggage in the transporter, and we have to be at the dock at mid-day according to Shandray’s instructions. So if there is nothing else.’Chance followed him as they made their way down to the basement parking were there transporter was located. As they sped there way through the city heading for the spacedock Jan thought on Chance and the male pirates onboard the ‘Black Terror’. With a name like that they were probably not that friendly, especially considering the nature of their captain. He would have to keep his eye on Chance, perhaps at every moment.
Chance looked at her sleeping quarters on the Black Terror. She had been assigned a bunk in the ‘ladies’ quarters, were the harlots slept. Apparently no male could go so long out at space without some loving attention, and a Draxian as well as three other females from various species met the males on the ships particular needs in that area. Chance, being religious, had scruples to a degree about promiscuity, as reflected in Landoria’s strict upbringing in terms of morality by the Ark’s inhabitants. She knew Jan really had no such ideals but, despite and perhaps because of that she felt attracted to him. He was rogue. She knew that. But she had grown to love him over the last couple of months and would stick with him even in spite of his flaws. Because of this she felt she would be alright bunking with daughters of the night. Perhaps she may rub off some good values onto them. She returned to the main deck, were Jan was sitting at a table, talking with Dalok who was about to leave. Jan and Chances initiation period had come to an end, and they were now expected to live the life of the guild. If they came back from this mission successful, they would receive a portion of the goods taken, and be rested for their next mission. This was pretty much the life of a space pirate, so Dalok maintained, apart from the odd special mission which the guild visited upon more experienced members. ‘You never know,’ said Dalok. ’Prove a boon to the guild and you might get some tasty missions. But you will have to show your worth.’As they pulled away from Draxos Chance looked at the screen showing the disappearing planet. In a strange way it had become home, and she would miss it. But that couldn’t be helped. She was with Jan for many reasons, but if they could reclaim the Sigmorius crown, the money it would bring of which Jan had promised her a substantial cut could, in the end, afford her a life on Arcturia which she could only have dreamed about previously. And so, despite the current circumstances, she would grin and bear it and get on with her responsibilities.
They spent three weeks travelling from dock to dock, occasionally staying overnight, but usually to gather food and information from various guild outposts. When they had gotten some useful information from Gartonias 6 in sector G5, Kal ordered a change to their original destination, as a new lead looked promising. A nearby system was having a great celebration to mark Unification Day when three of the major powers of the system united to form the greatest alliance the planet had known. And apparently there would be busy space-faring around this time to import various items for the celebration. ‘We may not get much gold,’ commented Captain Shandray, ‘but I have a hunch they may have something the guild will find very useful. If they are importing the stuff for the festivals.’ But he would not say more than that. A few days later they hijacked their first ship, which was enroute to Telkonias, the home of the festival. Jan and Chance were both in the boarding party and Jan managed to shoot, set on stun, one of the guardsmen of the ship when they had docked abruptly and boarded it. Fortunately, checking for life signs, the guard was only stunned, Jan reluctant to kill on this mission. But the other pirates had no such convictions, and the ships three other guardsmen were killed. The captain did not know the guardsman was only stunned, so congratulated Jan on his kill. Jan did not pretend otherwise, but locked the guard’s body in a holding cell when he had the chance, in case he woke. The captain was pleased with the haul. As he had suspected, the ship contained, amongst many other celebratory items, the powdered element Curantia, which was commonly known to humans as ‘Paradise’, for the extremely powerful ecstatic effects it had when mixed with other basic drugs. Curantia was one of the rarest elements in the galaxy, and it was prized. Every culture liked ‘Paradise’ and the captain was overjoyed to find a supply being shipped to the festival on Telkonias. ‘Well done men,’ he praised, when everyone was back on board the Black Terror. You have done well. And Jan, Chance. You both showed aptitude. The guild will be well pleased with you.’ Jan nodded. He had been lucky this time, to get away with his blunder, but it had worked out for the best. But he would have to be ready next time, as they were not heading home yet, but were continuing to there original mission. Later that night he sat with Chance, and they both enjoyed the small amount of Paradise mixed with some Draxian liquid they had been given. Jan lay on his bed, totally zonked, staring at the ceiling. He was high alright, and as the night passed, dreams of naked Arcturian women filled his head.
Out in sector G7, were the Black Terror was headed, the spacecraft Ravensclaw was sending out a distress signal. But to no avail. The final member of the Ravensclaw tasted bitter death, and the entity which was an emissary of its homeplanet on the other side of the Galaxy, took control of the ship, and plotted in the co-ordinates for a nearby system to gather some supplies before heading home. The entity was a Dronganite – an electricity based life-form, which had the ability to become solid when necessary. It was almost like living light in some ways. They were, usually, not given over to the darker side of life Dronganians, but there were renegade elements in that society, some of which were seeking galactic conquest. They lived on a system near Drongan, an early colony which had been abandoned due to the planets harsh climate. But the renegade Dronganians, whose cultic leader assured them of their destiny to rule the galaxy, had been populating madly and were settling some of the uninhabited planets of the first quadrant. Nobody really payed much attention to the apparent threat of the Dronganians, but they were passionately pursuing their agenda, and believed one day they would rule the universe. Presently a number of operatives were working in the third quadrant in work similar to the guild of piracy – slowly acquiring wealth. With money their leader assured them they would rule. It bought loyalties, and land and other assets when necessary. However they achieved their goal, money was necessary. So in this phase of the renegade Dronganian society, raid and plunder abounded. Unfortunately, for Jan Kolby and Chance Kibb’star, they were headed for a rendezvous with this particular Dronganian which would cause something of a setback in their own plans. Quite a setback. Chance sat with Trim Wannabe on the edge of her bunk, chatting about life. Trim was the Draxian harlot, used by half a dozen of the crew to satisfy sexual urges. And did she have some tales to tell.’Ohh, Chance. You really must taste man-flesh. You will realize the hypocrisy of your religion when engaged in what life is all about. Believe me my dear.’Chance had heard the persuasions of Trim to give up her virginity before, but had ignored them.’But don’t you feel dirty? Used? Landoria tells me that is how all harlots feel deep inside.’’Oh, Chance. The religious always say things like that. But they don’t know what it is like to take a man’s organ into their mouth and delight when he comes.’Chance blushed. Trim often talked quite brazenly.’You know your partner, Jan. You should offer yourself to him. I have seen the way he looks at you. He won’t say no, sweetie. Believe me.’’Jan! I don’t think so.’’What is wrong with him?’’He is a human for beginners.’’Oh, from what I know your species are compatible. I have even met offspring of Humans and Arcturian’s.’Chance looked at him, surprised. ’Really? We can mate?’’You produce pale greenish children when you do.’Chance nodded, finding that most interesting. ’But no, I couldn’t. Not Jan. He looks after me. It wouldn’t be right.’‘Never say never, sweetie.’ In the main command deck, Captain Kal Shandray was steadily consuming some Draxian ale, boasting of all his grand achievements. He had claimed Jan as his prize to tell all his tales to and Jan, still somewhat sober, sat listening to all his fabulous tales of his 30 years in the league of piracy. Kal had been an orphan; problematic since his youth, in and out of jail, and when the league had beckoned he had taken his opportunity with open arms. And in the 30 years he had been in the league he had lived a life of pure rebellion, a renegade in a job perfectly suited to him. He was currently recalling his last adventure in space were, supposedly, despite Jan thinking it a fiction, he blasted his way through 2 gigantic dragon-like creatures, breathing fire, to claim the egg they were hiding, a prized delicacy. Jan really felt the story more fiction than fact, but it was fascinating anyway. Later on, as Kal was becoming increasingly drunk, he recalled details from that encounter in reference again, but with strangely differing details which led Jan to conclude on his assumption that Kal Shandray was a fabulous storyteller, which in fact he was. They eventually claimed sleep and, as the night passed, the ship steadily entered sector G7 and its destiny. ‘It should do.’ Commented Kal Shandray, in response to the space-cruiser on their screen. ‘It seems to be going solo, so we should have no problems from any other backup ships. Get ready to dock.’ The Black Terror, with its extremely hi-tech tractor beam, a long part of guild piracy tradition, put a hold on the ship the ‘Ravensclaw’ and, lining up docks, began their terror activities. Coming inside, though, they found nobody present, which was extremely alarming. After a quick search for the ship Captain Shandray made the statement that the ship was likely on automatic, and that any plunder it had would be theirs. Surveying the holding docks they were in luck. About 50 bars of Gold, various currencies and some minor jewels. Quite a catch. Kal looked at Jan and Chance. ’Ok, you two. You want to prove yourselves. You stay on board this ship, and we will maintain tractor beam hold and tug you back to Draxon. The ship itself could come in useful for the league. It looks pretty advanced and is the kind of ship we use.’Jan nodded. An opportunity to prove himself he thought. The crew returned to the ‘Black Terror’ and Jan and Chance remained onboard the ‘Ravensclaw’. The ‘Black Terror’ fixed its tractor beam hold and they started to make their way back to Draxon. ‘Well, this was easy,’ said Chance. ’We have hardly seen any action, and we already have goods to bring back to the guild. They will think favourably of us, don’t you think Jan?’Jan nodded and opened a can of beer. ‘Let’s hope so.’ As the ships sped along approaching light speed, suddenly, without warning, there was a huge jolt, and the hold of the tractor beam was shattered. Then surges of electricity pulsated through the Ravensclaw, it slowed down, turned around, and shot of back in its original direction. And, without warning, shot to Warp 8 Light Speed to lose the Black Terror for good. Chance looked at Jan, but all he would say was ‘Fuck!’ What had they gotten themselves into?
The Dronganian surveyed its new hosts. Human and Arcturian by the looks of it. It could kill them – that would be easy. But, perhaps, no. Perhaps it would simply enjoy the pleasure of their company on the trip home, and kill them then. He could entertain himself watching their primitive behaviours. Jan looked at Chance, signalling defeat, and she responded with a frustrated look of her own. Initially they had tried Contacting the ‘Black Terror’ but none of the communication instruments seemed to work. And then they found out that nothing really worked on the control deck and that they were now hostages to a ship which somehow ran itself. But why the oxygen? Queried Jan constantly. And why the seats? Why would an automated ship need these things? After 3 days of endless travel and finally conceding defeat, they had both concluded that they were likely headed somewere and would do something when they arrived. For now they would simply sit it out and wait. They found food and drink supplies as well as bathroom facilities and mostly kept themselves busy playing the various card games Jan had acquired in a lifetimes pursuit of gambling. When they hit Warp 17, which Jan assured Chance was about as fast as any solar-star ship had ever travelled, noting the shuddering of the ship, Chance asked Jan wether the ship would hold together. Jan informed her that at the current speed they could make the other side of the galaxy within a few weeks and that unless they were headed for Andromeda or some other galaxy, the ship should last the distance. Assured of her safety, Chance spent a lot of time watching the screens as the various star systems whizzed by from time to time. Wherever they were headed, she had time to learn something of space travel, and inquired into Jan’s knowledge of the Galaxy and how ships got around. She found out that in the more central systems of the galaxy travel could become very complicated with the higher level of traffic and the great sense of diplomacy and protocol. Apparently inner systems felt themselves the true representatives of the galaxy and the systems right near the centre often called themselves galactic royalty. But nobody rim-wards really cared. Paths between them did not cross that much and life went on regardless. However, as the star systems came and went and, according to Jan, they neared the centre of the galaxy were the stars were a lot thicker, Chance wondered what it would be like to meet some of the inner citizens of the galaxy. Humans had a colony on a central planet of the galaxy, which a confederation corporation had paid for at an exorbitant price to establish a physical presence in the humdrum of galactic life. Technically it was still owned by the corporation, yet thousands of shareholders and other interested parties had purchased land there to live the high life of the galaxy, and ‘New Terra’ as it was called was gradually becoming humanities most envied location for living. Jan had been once, sussed it out, and left impressed with the sheer quality it offered. It was the upper of upper class planets, and he now well understood why it was sought after so much. As the weeks passed Chance grew in more and more knowledge of galactic life, Jan telling her all he knew, and as they passed the centre, heading into Quadrant One, they both sensed that perhaps now they were nearing their location. The wait should be over soon.
Chance was the first to notice as the ship gradually slowed down from Warp 17, gradually coming right down to Warp 1 and soon into impulse power. Jan looked at the screen. ’We are well into Quadrant 1 by the looks of it – about two thirds from the centre rim-wards. But don’t ask me were exactly – its an enormous galaxy.’‘How many planets are there in the galaxy, anyway?’ asked Chance.‘Various estimates. There are a heck of a lot of uncharted ones. But we know of about 1,000 intelligent species who are now space-faring and around 100,000 oxygen based planets, most of which are now settled or colonized. But there are millions, probably billions of dead planets. Some of them are mined, but there are a number of terra-forming operations going on many of them to gradually make them habitable. Back in Earths solar system Mars is now completely liveable on, but it was a dead planet to start with.’ As the days passed, they saw coming onto the screen a planet in the system they had entered. Gradually they drew closer and closer to the planet and, finally, Jan announced, which Chance had already assumed, that they had reached their destination. And, suddenly, they were in orbit of the planet, sitting there for 3 days. On the fourth day they noticed a ship approaching and when it had docked, and the doors were opened. 3 creatures, humanoid in shape, looking as if there bodies were made of light, came on board. Jan and Chance stared at them, but the creatures ignored them. One of the creatures spoke and shortly afterwards electricity surged from the control panel of the Ravensclaw and another of the creatures now stood before them. Chance quickly made the connection. ‘He was piloting our ship. Wasn’t he?’ she asked Jan, who simply nodded and said probably. He picked up his translator and turned it on and suddenly the conversation between the creatures came alive. ‘…..has good supplies, and some good gold. I felt it worthy booty for the sector and should prove a good boon for our goals.’ The creature who had been aboard their ship seemed to be the one speaking as far as Jan could tell. ‘And these two,’ said one of the creatures, pointing at Chance and Jan. ’Why did you bring them?’’Entertainment. Nothing more.’The creature looked at Jan and Chance, surveying them. ‘Mmm. They might come in useful. We can always use new slaves. These two look strong. Some of the families might want them. Bring them.’ Without warning Jan and Chance were shoved into the holding bays of the Ravensclaw. Shortly afterwards the ship was guided downwards to the planet and about 2 hours later they had been brought into a large complex near were they docked on the planet. Jan still had the translator turned on and nobody seemed to be trying to take it from him, so he listened intently. After a conversation between two of the creatures in the building they had been taken to, one of the creatures looked at the translator and then spoke to Jan. ’Human, aren’t you?’Jan nodded.‘You two are slaves now. It will be a life of servitude, but we will feed you for your work. Occasionally, if slaves work hard, they are freed. We are not barbaric you see. Just fit to rule.’ Jan looked at Chance. They had been reduced to slaves. Things it seemed could not get much worse. 31 They began their life of slavery for the house of Jak’takr, one of the official families of Trago, the home planet of the new house of Drongan, so they were dutifully informed. The Royal house of Sha’kar, which was the settling house of their first Emporer, who claimed the vision for the new house of Drongan to conquer the galaxy, ruled the other houses, and all paid tribute to them. Apart from the Royal house and the officially recognized families were a number of other drone families who usually served the official and royal family as servants. But the lowest class of all were the foreign slaves of which class Jan and Chance were now members. Somehow the two of them had been mistaken for man and wife, which was an important part of Drongan culture, and they had been sent everywhere together, even given the same living quarters. The house of Jak’takr were one of the more senior of the official houses, having a great deal of contact with the Royal house of Sha’kar. Jan and Chance soon found out that, as they were a leading house, like the Royal house especially, all news centred around their growing empire was treasured. They had settled 107 dead planets within their sector and were gradually terra-forming them. But the real deal, so the Royal family maintained was the day of liberation when, having amassed as much galactic wealth as they could, they would engage in war with other sentient galactic communities in the overall goal of New Drongan culture – galactic conquest. As the weeks passed, though, and despite the official front the house of Sha’kar maintained, from Jan’s observations it seemed very few, apart from the Royal house, really believed in the conquest of the galaxy which had once been a dream amongst the community in its formative years. Firstly, most realized that conquering every other species, some of which were just as potentially warlike as their own, would be extremely difficult. And secondly, as their empire had grown, and through the wealth they had amassed, many were now seemingly content. It had been a vision once, but had diminished. New Drongans were generally satisfied, now, with their lot. Occasionally, also, they received news from Drongan itself, which was a far older community. Drongan had an empire of around a dozen settled planets, and were far more passive than the renegades who had left them. But apparently, so he was told, Drongan’s looked fondly on their offspring these days, and as time had passed, so some of the members of the house of Sha’kar told him, unification with old Drongan seemed to gradually be becoming a reality. And unofficially Jan and Chances house of Sha’kar pursued that aim, with the occasional diplomat guest from old Drongan. Their lives as slaves were, fortunately, quite basic. Chance had been assigned to the kitchen and cooked food and occasionally served. Jan worked in the stables were horse like creatures were kept and also had to cut wood with a primitive axe from time to time, in keeping with Drongan tradition. When Drongans materialized in hard light form, their bodies took on properties similar to other cultures and they were sensitive to things like food and pain, heat and cold. They did not really go to the toilet like other species, but often exuded waste material from their outer shell, or burned it totally when going into electric form. Although they did not do this unless they had too as it could be tiring unless near a source of electricity to recharge them. As an official house, the Sha’kar dressed lavishly and after one years service in the kitchen, Chance was promoted to handmaiden to one of the senior ladies of the Sha’kar. As that work progressed, Jan and Chance started assuming that they would likely be in the service of the Drongans for the rest of their lives and settled down to life together, seemingly as husband and wife. But despite them sharing the same room, they were yet to mate. Jan respected Chance, and Chance was waiting. Soon, though, she might approach him. She had grown to love him now, quite strongly. And he was a cornerstone in her life she really needed in this exile. The Drongan’s themselves treated them well but it was still made certain they were slaves and nothing more. But Jan was like her, in the same situation, and as the second year passed and the third began Chance began to think she had found her life-mate.