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Chapter 9

‘Home. We are really home, aren’t we,’ commented Xadina to her brother. ’I guess so. But I suppose Earth is just as much our home as well. We have two, really.’’I often wonder about what dad told me once. About his theory that Arcturian’s and Humans are in some way related. Perhaps it is a big galactic or universal mystery.’‘Or the wonders of genetics,’ replied her brother sarcastically.’Very funny. Well, were to first?’’I have a contact from dad. Someone he told me to look up. Works in the temple of Daranok. Dak Bluddhook, who is apparently the League of Piracy’s main man on Arcturia. Apparently if I am looking for some action, Dak can point me in the right direction.’’I thought we were after legitimate work as bounty hunters? How exactly will a space pirate help with that?’’Oh, Dak has connections to various underworld figures. Dad reckoned it would be in my best interests to make contacts in underworld to familiarise myself with how they do business. It’s a dangerous universe, and a Galactic emperor needs to be not only politically wise but streetwise as well, even if that means learning from the lowest of dogs.’‘I see,’ replied his sister. So where is this temple?’Kalan typed in some search locations onto the onboard computer of the vehicle they were travelling and finding the temple, programmed in the co-ordinates. Half an hour later they were outside the temple of Daranok.‘Well, here we go,’ said Kalan.’

’So you are looking for bounty hunting work, on the darker side of the law as you put it? And what makes you think I can help you?’’My dad is Jan Kolby. He said you would know him.’’Jan Kolby. That old dog. But for fuck’s sake, the last I heard he was not the Galactic Emporer of the inner galaxy. And you’re his son, are you?’’Kalan Rance Kolby at your service. And this is my sister, Xadina.’Jan glanced at her and instantly noted the similarity to Chance.’Yeh, she looks just like her mother. And the green skin is a dead giveaway. So ok, you are legit. Tell you what, Kalan Kolby. I have some friends who are always looking to get even with this and that old friend of theirs. If you cut me 10 – no, make it 20% of your pay, I will give you some contact details which will bring you a tidy reward.’Kalan nodded. ‘Sounds good. Were do I find them?’ Dak gave Kalan some details and Kalan farewelled him, heading off. As he watched him go Dak gave some thought to the name and just realized that he was an ex league member who had gone AWOL. That information the league would most definitely be interested in and perhaps, just perhaps, could prove very valuable information personally to Dak Bluddhook.

’So do we find these guys straight away, or look around Arcturia for some time. And I want to go visit Aunt Helene soon and see Landoria as well. So what to next?’Kalan considered that. Really, they were in no great rush with these contacts. He had just been eager to begin his new lifestyle. But sure, they could go see Chance’s older sister and visit with Landoria as well. They were home, now, and may as well do the normal things as well.’Ok, we will go visit Aunt Helene and her family. And then, I guess we will get somewere to stay. Perhaps an apartment. We can get to these contacts in a few weeks. It will give you an opportunity to enjoy home.’‘Thank’s bro.’ As they took off, Kalan was pleased with himself. The encounter with Dak had gone well, and he had work available to him. Now would be the ideal opportunity to catch up with family and settle themselves on Arcturia. Hell, with the gold they had brought with them they could buy themselves an apartment on Arcturia if they wanted to, which might be wise. Arcturia was as good a place as any to set up as a homebase. Walking the Rim in search of action had its own reward, but it would always be nice to get back to a place they could call home. Setting off, Kalan was happy. Life had a buzz to it at the moment. A happy action-filled buzz.

The two of them ended up buying a newish apartment on the edge of Zardray, Arcturia’s capital city. Arcturia had long been a united monarchy, the divided kingdoms coming together under the authority of King Sigmorius around a thousand years ago. But these days, in a very similar way in which the monarchy of the United Galaxy had come to be and the powers it possessed, the monarchy of Arcturia was now primarily a figurehead monarchy, with the real power being the Parliament. What Landoria had once sought out so passionately had become a reality around a century after their exile. And it had been around then the drone ships with supplies had started coming near the ark. They visited Landoria and talked with her on many subjects of Arcturian life. She’d had qualifications prior to her exile on the Ark, and now worked in one of Zardray’s chief universities as a lecturer. And, strangely enough, she had met someone upon returning to Arcturia and had given birth to a daughter who was now in her mid-twenties. She’ella, as she was known, was a stunning Arcturian female who Kalan instantly took a liking to. And She’ella made it known to him that she was interested likewise. The romance was really quite sudden and, within 2 months, they had agreed to marry. Xadina had insisted their parents be present for the ceremony, but Kalan had said he was anxious to marry and there was not enough time. And so she had stopped bothering him on the idea and Kalan and She’ella were married in the ‘Temple of the One’ on the first day of the Arcturian New Year. In all of this excitement, and in becoming a married man, Kalan began a life of settling down. All of a sudden the urge which had brought him out to the rim to pursue a life of adventure had been replaced by the reality of a married life and new responsibilities. But he didn’t really complain. He had no obligations to follow up with Dak Bluddhook as he had never contacted any of the shady underground figures Dak had provided him details for. Really, in truth, he was on one of his real homes in a sense and settling down to a regular life. After a while Xadina queried wether he intended heading home one day, to which Kalan gave no firm response at first. And then he remembered Jan had given him a decade’s grace, so he decided he would make Arcturia his home for that time. Xadina herself missed New Terra and the lifestyle which went along with it, but part of her, like Kalan, felt at home on Arcturia and they even met with a number of other green-skinned Arcturian’s with human and Arcturian parents from time to time. So she decided that she may as well stay the decade with Kalan and get back to the life of luxury later. For now Arcturia was home. The months passed and soon Kalan announced that She’ella was pregnant. This gave Xadina thoughts of her own. She was still relatively young for an Arcturian, but she also had a human parent. However while there had been a great deal of fuss at home for her to eventually marry one of her many suitors, she had never found herself given over to any of them. But, perhaps here on Arcturia, were she was not greatly known, perhaps here she might find a regular type of man who would love her for her own sake, rather than any icon of prestige that she represented on New Terra. And so she started dating various men which Landoria and her Aunt Helen introduced to her, hoping in the end to find the love of her life. There was no time like the present to find someone, she thought to herself, and an Arcturian, like Kalan had chosen, would be just as suitable a choice as a human. But despite her many dates, nobody really suited her, so she prayed a silent prayer to the One in temple one day, and left the choice of her mate in his hands. When the time came for her to marry, she would marry. But until then she would enjoy being an Auntie and see what life brought her in general.

James Sadik Kolby was born to two parents who, from that point onwards, doted on him. He was their special little man, and each of them loved him greatly. For Kalan, becoming a father at 37 felt like a coming of age. As if he had reached a level of manhood and this child was a token of that level. As if he had found approval from the One for being a responsible man. His sister, with the birth of James, visited now everyday and She’ella often voiced her frustrations at never having James to herself. Kalan spoke quietly with Xadina on the subject, but understood her dilemma. She was without a great deal of family here on Arcturia, despite her brother and his new family and her Aunt’s family being here. But Kalan suspected the real reason was that Xadina had been longing after a family of her own. She wanted to be a mother Kalan sensed, and James seemed to be an avenue to voice that desire. And so he asked She’ella that, for the time being, if she could put up with the fussiness of her sister-in-law. Fortunately, though, Xadina took the hint and backed off somewhat, restricting herself to one or two visits per week, which She’ella didn’t seem to mind. When James was one, Xadina had finally persuaded Kalan for them to visit home and announce the good news. Kalan, though, decided to put it off to the New Year, mainly because he was now working in Arcturian Space Defense, responsible for routine patrols of Arcturian Space. Landoria had had a friend in the defense sector and sensing Kalan itchy to do something with his life had suggested he apply for work with the space department of Arcturian Defense. Kalan had gone with the idea and, supplying his details of his work with Allegiance, which seemed to be well received, he had gotten work in the routine space patrols. It was pretty mundane work, but it kept him busy, and She’ella claimed she liked a man who worked for a living. Xadina herself had gotten the most basic of jobs. A waitress at a Zardrayan café near her apartment. It was only part-time, but like Kalan she needed to keep herself occupied and although she had been studying at a university back on New Terra and had thought about applying to study here on Arcturia, she wanted a work outlet to meet new people and do something for the money which she already really had. In a sense it was her parent’s sense of contributing to galactic life, especially the voice of her mother, which motivated her to work. And while the work was gritty and grimy at times, she felt satisfied that she was doing her part for the galaxy and Arcturia and, in a sense, paying her dues. So much so did they get caught up with their lives and their work that when the New Year came around Kalan forgot all about heading home with news of James but managed to persuade Xadina that, when their decade holiday was over, and they returned to New Terra, it would make a great surprise for his father. Besides, he wouldn’t then have to worry about changing nappies or coping with a precious child. By ten, so Kalan assured his sister, James would be well brought up and a responsible young man. This she really doubted, knowing how much of a handful Kalan had been in his younger years. But, as an answer to her objections for not returning home, it was good enough. In fact, now that she had started university she was in fact also a little reluctant herself to leave at this time, wishing to concentrate on her studies and give her best to them. And so the second year of their sojourn on Arcturia came and went, and the Kolby children seemed to be quite happy and content living on their adopted planet, which was a planet of their blood anyway. As they began their third year Kalan had forgotten all about the real reason he had left New Terra in the first place. The life of adventure which had beckoned to him had been replaced by the steady and calm life of child-rearing and family responsibility. But not all had forgotten the reason Kalan Rance Kolby had come to Arcturia. And when, one fine afternoon, a man dressed in red, a priest from the temple of Daranok, which was a front, a certain Dak Bluddhook, came visiting the Kolby’s, his mind on a particular avenue of blackmail which he felt would most definitely bring handsome dividends, the life of the Kolby children was set to change once more. And this time their fate would be not so simple. For while Dak was, all things considered, a congenial enough kind of member of the League of Piracy, he had a dark streak. A dark streak which the Kolby children would find out about soon enough.

‘What do you want, Bluddhook?’ asked Kalan, bothered by the presence of the League of Piracy member.’Hey, if you were you father’s son you would at least welcome me in first and get me a beer before asking questions.’Kalan looked at him, but was determined not to let him in just like that. ’I repeat, Bluddhook. What do you want? And how did you find this address?’’It is the Leagues business to know were members and EX-members reside. Besides, you are not that difficult to trace. Well, you going to let me in? And how about that beer?’Kalan looked at him, frustrated, but despite thinking better of it, allowed him into the front living room of his home. They sat down on a couch and Dak looked at him anxiously. ’The beer?’Kalan went off and fetched a can from his kitchen fridge and returned, handing it to Dak, who opened it and took a large mouthful.‘That’s the stuff,’ he said, burping and wiping his mouth. He looked around Kalan’s apartment.’Hey, nice place. I love what you have done with it. Very modern.’Kalan relaxed a little. Whatever else his father’s old adversary seemed talkative and friendly enough. Perhaps he needn’t have been so cautious.’My wife, She’ella, decorated it as she saw fit.’’And where is the sweetheart?’’At my sisters.’Dak nodded, and took another swig of beer.’So tell me, Bluddhook. Why the visit? What business has the league of piracy got to do with me?’Dak continued looking around the apartment, but he had heard Kalan’s question, and eventually turned looking him in the eyes.’You know, Kalan. Nobody leaves the League of Piracy on their own terms. Nobody. We know your father disappeared, and we suspect it really was him who reclaimed the Sigmorius crown. And because of that the league really is not that fond of Kolby’s. Believe me, not that fond.’’And what has my father’s actions got to do with me?’’You are a Kolby, dear Kalan. You are a Kolby. And, besides, you yourself were not given permission to leave Draxon like you did. So the deal is this. If you do a particular task for me. A most particular task, I will see to it that the League no longer bother’s you and that the Kolby’s, including your father, have their peace with the League of Piracy. Do this one last mission for us and we will never bother you again. You have my word.’’And what use is the word of a pirate?’’Hey, ask your father. Besides, the League is generally an honourable enough organisation, despite working on the darker side of the law. Hell, you know, honour amongst thieves and all that.’Kalan nodded. Somehow he knew he could relate to that statement.’What is the mission, then. I am not saying I will help you. But if I do, I want your guarantee the league will leave us alone – permanently.’’That I can guarantee you, Kalan Kolby.’’So what is the game, then. What do you want?’‘Something a Kolby should be good at. Really, you should practically excel at this?’ said Jan, a mad grin on his face.‘Yeh, what,’ said Kalan, his curiousity aroused.’Steal back the fucking Sigmorius crown.’Kalan looked at him for a moment, and noted the serious look on his face. And then he himself grinned a little at the irony. ‘Figures,’ he said after a few moments.

After a few days Kalan knew he had to speak with his wife of his dilemma. While he had given Dak his assurance that he would steal the crown, he was still somewhat reluctant to commit a genuine crime, even for his family’s safety. And so he spoke with She’ella regarding the situation and she told him almost instantly to contact Arcturian authorities. Kalan considered that. For three days he mulled it over, considering the pros and the cons, but eventually he concluded that such was the nature of the League of Piracy and so pervasive and widespread the organisation, that no matter who he told and who was assigned to him for protection, the league could find him out if they wanted to. And they could harm his family if they really wanted to. So, for Kalan Kolby, that risk being to great to take, he agreed, reluctantly, to go through with the job. Dak had not contacted him since, but had left contact details. Kalan was unsure wether Dak himself wanted in on stealing the crown. Perhaps he wanted to keep his role with the league on Arcturia safely shielded by his temple front, and not get involved with such things on a personal basis. So Kalan began by seeing if he could simply steal the thing himself. A name came to mind, one which his father had spoken of. A Shadrachian thief by the name of Yelt Trandolin. He was a master of the art and if anyone could steal the crown, he could. Kalan mulled it over for a few weeks when Dak finally contacted him again, to see what Kalan had planned. Kalan told him the job was under way, and not to worry. He decided to ask if Dak himself wanted in on the job, but Dak told him to handle it alone for now. But, if he needed him, he would see what help he could provide.‘You’re a Kolby. Surprise me,’ was all that Dak really said, placing confidence in the child of the famous Rimwalker. Putting in a deep space transmission to Shadrach from Arcturian Communications, Kalan awaited Yelt’s response. Perhaps he would send a message signalling no great interest. Or perhaps, hopefully, he would show up himself. Kalan would have to arrange a fee for Yelt, but with the value of the crown he was sure that Dak would have no objections. He spent the next few weeks awaiting a response and thinking his way through the situation he was in. Really, he felt he had no real answer apart from going ahead with the theft. But, in the end, it was his family’s safety, and they came first. They always came first. Yelt sent a transmission a few weeks later informing him that, unfortunately, he could not get away at this time. He had some suggested contacts, but Kalan was reluctant to use someone he or his father did not know personally. It had come down to this, he would have to do the job alone. Still, that was not the end of the world. Like all thefts, there were problems. But problems were made to be solved, and the son of the Rimwalker had a reputation going with that name. If he couldn’t steal the Sigmorius crown, who the hell could. And so he began making his plans, studying the location of the crown and as much security detail as he could. It would be difficult, but with the right plan, perhaps achievable. Really, he had no other choice. 23 After two solid months of planning, having gone over the presumed location of the crown, according to media reports, Kalan felt he was making progress. He had been able to take a guided tour of some of the Royal facilities near were it was presumed the crown was kept and with a supposed camera which really had special sensors, he took heat-signal pictures and with a metal-sensor began drawing up diagrams of how the crown was protected. At the end of the third month, he had come to a conclusion. The job could be done, but he would need a third person to temporarily cut of Zardrayan power supplies from the main station. Either that or trace, amongst a million cords, the lines from the compound to the station, and cut it somewere along the way. In the end Kalan concluded it would be easier to simply stop the supply of power at the central station itself, allowing him the necessary time at the final step of the task, getting through the electronic sensor equipment which was to well protected at the source to make it viable to crack. He could only hope they didn’t have a back-up generator, or he was fucked. He contacted Dak with the information and, with some persuading, Bluddhook stated bluntly he would have his man when he needed him. And so Kalan set the date, late on a weekend night, and went through the final details of the plan. A week before the job Dak announced he would help out Kalan personally, to ensure no fuck-up’s in his own words. Kalan had no objections, and had already worked out the details for shorting the power station for the 10 to 15 minutes necessary. All things, now, seemed well. If they followed the plan to the letter, Kalan was certain they would have the crown. He was quite certain. Strangely enough, he felt after having looked at how it could be done, that the Arcturian’s were almost unconcerned wether the crown was stolen again. It was not as heavily protected as it perhaps should have been. But Kalan felt an air of the political mood which perhaps caused such a situation. Democracy had taken hold of Arcturia in recent years, and the crown was just a figurehead. But more and more Arcturian’s seemed to demand their own individual rights and it was becoming viewed by some, especially the returned Landoria and the influence that she wielded, which was great as a university lecturer, that the monarchy had served its purpose and could now be done away with. It was a relic of an era, now over with, and best dismantled and left to the studies of history students. All of this led Kalan to assume that the Royals perhaps almost wanted the crown stolen, given the lack of a first class security system. But all of that was speculation. For now it was protected, and still valued, and he would have to be at his best to ensure he got away with the job without being caught. And so they waited the day, and Kalan reported to work nervously the final day of the working week, but went home sick, so he claimed. They were ready now. The job was to be done.

Jan whispered into the microphone. ’Now!’Dak Bluddhook, stationed in the basement of Zardray’s central power station, having made the final few blows to the outer wall, which ran alongside the sewer system, set the timer on the explosives, and then hit a button on his wristpad. Up above in the parking lot of the power station a van exploded into fury, and the workers in the station, as Kalan had surmised they would, all drifted outside to see the commotion. And as Dak scurried along the sewers, the explosives went off, and suddenly the city went dark. Kalan noticed the blackout instantly, and went to work. He had hidden inside toilets after the guided tour of the facilities near were the crown was kept. And now, armed with some small explosives and a bolt cutter, he proceeded to blow the entrance to the main doors of the tower were it was presumed the crown was kept. He climbed the stairs in the darkness, his infra-red goggles showing him the way. The electricity was still out and all the sensors, fortunately, failed to register his presence. He made it to the top of the tower, blew the final door, and came into were he believed the crown was kept. He was in luck. Not only was the Sigmorius crown featured on display in the large glass cabinet in the centre of the room, but various other royal jewels. But he was only here for the Sigmorius crown, and would not add to Dak’s booty if he could at all help it. He shattered the glass with his crow-bar and, grabbing the crown, waiting for an alarm which did not come, put it into his satchel and scrambled off. He made it out onto the street, dressed in black, having carefully avoided the guard’s who had torches on and were frantically running around everywhere. Fortunately they were not that greatly trained or they may have spotted him. He ran down the street, turned the corner, and got into his vehicle. Powering up he belted away just as the city power lights came back on. They’d obviously used an alternative supply, but he had gotten away just in time. Luck had been on his side. They had agreed he would head back to his place and in the morning Dak would show up to claim the crown. After that Dak had suggested both of them take a temporary holiday from Arcturia, out on Arcturia minor, and monitor the situation from a distance, ready to escape if needs be. As the vehicle sped along Kalan grinned a little. He had done it. Whatever else, despite it being a crime which he regretted, he had been successful and proved himself a master-thief in the tradition of his father. Really, it wasn’t something to be proud of, but he grinned anyway. He arrived home and, leaving his gear in the vehicle at the basement of his apartment, took the satchel and came up by the basement elevators to his floor. She’ella looked at him when he came in, and spied the satchel.’Did you get it. Well, are we out of trouble with the league?’Kalan displayed the crown, and sat down, breathing a sigh of relief.’Now, remember, if anyone asks I am visiting my father on New Terra and will be away a while. I have already cleared this with work. But I don’t think we will be traced. I was too cautious for that.’‘You better hope so,’ replied She’ella, but silently she was relieved. Hopefully, soon, the lives of the Kolby’s could get back to normal, never having to worry about and Sigmorian crowns’ or any league of piracy ever again. ’We will be on Arcturia minor for about three months at this stage, sis. But remember, if anyone comes asking, I am visiting dad on New Terra.’’And if they don’t believe me?’’Don’t sweat it. They will hardly beat the truth out of you.’’You hope.’’You’ll be alright. Trust me.’’I trust YOU Kalan. But I don’t think I trust that Dak Bluddhook. He will ditch you if you become a problem. He seems the type to break loyalties.’’I know what you are saying, sis. But don’t worry. I can handle myself and Dak Bluddhook. Just remember, if any authorities come asking, I will be back in a few months. They have nothing to worry about from Kalan Kolby.’’I’ll remember. And good luck. You may need it.’‘Thanks.’

’So you ready to go?’Kalan looked at Dak as he came out of his sister’s apartment and responded gruffly.’Let’s get the fuck, going ok. The sooner we are gone the sooner we can come back.’’Three months, Kolby. We do not return for at least three months. By then if they really wanted to speak with us, they will be searching. And your sister can tell us all about that if it is an issue. They will likely speak with her if they are onto us.’’Yeh, I guess.’’Hey, don’t sweat it kid. Arcturia minor is not the greatest of places, but the small colony there will do us. It’s only a decade old now, mainly set up for mining, but they have a small hotel with accommodation. Nobody will look for us there. I am sure of it.’‘If you say so.’ They had agreed to take the Wolfklaw, and as they pulled out of spacedock, Kalan nervously programmed in the co-ordinates for New Terra. However, a fair distance from Arcturia, changed co-ordinates for Arcturia minor. It took them over a week, but they found the hotel and stayed out of sight, ordering room service. It was a nervous time for Kalan Kolby, and he often worried the way Dak looked at him, but he would be home soon. Home and back with his family and all of this league business over and done with. So he hoped anyway.

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