Tales of the Union

By Vanessa_Ravencroft All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Action

The Non Cits of Blue Moon

As Union Citizen the door to the Universe is wide open. We don’t think twice if we place a GalNet call clear to Andromeda to chat a few hours with our old College buddy. Take a Trans Matter trip from one planet to another just to go for dinner. If we are angry about something, the next library gives us access to the OOP and we know our problem is carried all the way to the Assembly if there is no answer or solution available.

A colleague of mine once lost his PDD along with his credit strip. The Citizen Office took care of everything. He received a room at the local Portel, the Union Bank sent him a new credit strip, informed the local police who took the unimportant case of a lost PDD serious enough to check the local second hand shops, pawn shops and ran a GalNet search on PDDs offered for sale in the region and actually located it.

All it took was a call to the Citizens Office.

This and many similar examples illustrate how serious our Union takes its citizens. No matter how little or how big the issue might be.

Recently I returned from a long trip all the way from Tomb World (see :“The Chamber of the Seven Giants” Issue 5 / 5030) My line ship arrived after a long trip along the Spinward-Coreward HHW. Even busier than usual, our berth was still occupied so the ship was diverted to Port II Blue Moon System, Blue Moon. From there I planed to jump to the BM Terminal, using a local TMT. Crossing the Space Port terminal on foot rather than using a ride bot or a slide way was a decision I made frequently after I arrived from a long assignment beyond Union Space. I loved and greatly enjoyed my work, visiting exotic,strange and often primitive worlds and societies, but whenever I returned I felt the need to “absorb a bit of Union” as I called it. No better place to do that was a busy Class A port.

It always filled me with a little collective pride in our civilization. Oh I had visited the busy and colorful markets at N’Ger, seen the throngs of pilgrims milling through the tent rows and stalls on Netlor, but nothing in my opinion had the same feeling of orderly chaos than a Union Port. Well to be truthful the word orderly did not apply to all Union Ports, and everyone will agree who had ever been to Port 1 at Frank Elmore planet in the Ross 248 system on an Eightday after payday, ( Issue 2/ 5025 “Elmore’s Chaos”)

It was not just the fact that I could see Boloths interact with the recently added Mini Terrans, or see a line of exciting Archas lining up at Baskin Robbins. It was perhaps the feeling of belonging and the realization that all these beings were like me Union Citizens. The Holdian over there was as confident and had the same rights as the Xiptin flowing between the crowds.

A fragile looking almost translucent beauty of the Delicates arguing with a Pertharian, there could hardly be a greater contrast and yet both beings followed the same laws. A gorgeous Garbini with fire red fur squiggled a Terran (had to be, he wore Sunglasses) unashamed an in the open.

Treating myself to an Archa Special, a triple gob soft serve, dipped in white,dark and caramel chocolate from Arthur’s. I slowly made my way to the Trans Matter Tunnels, I was thinking about those big spiders who suddenly became synonymous with ice cream and decided that there might be a story worth telling. Halfway done with my Archa Special and not far from the local TMT, I noticed a group of individuals loitering in one of the rec and rest park islands. The ones featuring trees and grass. You know the kind you see on almost every larger port.

I had seen groups like them countless times, noticed them as I passed by and forgotten about them the next second. Sometimes they would ask for money or even shout insults usually profanity laden rants against anything Union. Mostly however keeping quiet and out of sight.

Gal Drifts, non citizen parasites, infesting in usually small groups the passenger terminals of Space Ports.

It was a colorful group, but except for a Jooltar sitting by a tree all were humanoid. About thirty scattered in smaller groups talking,drinking, pestering citizens passing by or simply sitting there.

As random sourced their clothing was,it had a common theme: Dirty, customized with patches, paint, crude made jewelry,shirts with anti Union slogans, and pieces and bits of Union military uniforms.

A tall Andorian was sitting on a concrete block, a little to the side and by himself.

Here was a society right at the center of the Union with their own rules and customs. Instead of traveling to yet another exotic location, maybe here was a story to be told.

My wife still on Para Para, my new story already filed with my editor. I decided to take a closer look. There was a train to Sol Hub every hour, so I was not pressed for time.

I crossed the short distance and approached the Andorian.

He noticed me. “Citizen an you spare a few creds?”

“Yes I can.” And I swiped ten into his worn looking Cred strip.“I am Alex Cunningham of the Galactographic Magazine. I am contemplating a feature on Gal Drifts. Would you be willing to help me with that?”

His name was Aljoss, he did not give me a second name and explained that, only some of the beings here were Gal Drifts. He was a Non Cit.

Right there and then I learned that not all Gal Drifts were Non Cits, and not all Non Cits were Gal Drifts.

He also told me that the Good Brothers would serve dinner in about an hour.

I was confused and asked him if he was hungry. The idea that there were beings within the Union who could not afford the food they needed never crossed my mind., I had seen hunger on Netlor an Kaliment, seen the deplorable conditions in the slums of N’Ger, but that was outside the Union., Not here on Blue Moon, which was one of the most developed Core systems.

“I am lucky if I make 20 credits a day, panhandling. My Pod room at Chill towers sets me back 600 credits every standard month. Add the 150 credits Air Fee and I have 200-250 credits a month to live on. There a days I don’t eat, especially when I had a bad day panhandling.”

I was always under the impression Gal Drifts and Non Cits are in this situation by their own free choice. Could you not take the test and become a Citizen?

“Some are, some are not. I was a citizen. Don’t want to talk about it, but I don’t want to be forced to be something. No matter how good it is.”

“The Good Brothers are they a charitable organization?”

“If you mean they do it for free,your wrong. Space Port authority pays them for every head the feed.”

“Maybe the best way to understand more about this, is If I experience it myself. Do you think it will work?”

“College kids do it all the time, drifting I mean. Most of them had enough of it after a day, but some do it for a while. A few even become real drifts. Non Cits are always real.”

“Be my guide for a day or two and I make sure you got enough to pay the rent for a few month.”

“Deal.”

He looked me up and down.“You smell Cit for a light year. Go store your fancy gear and meet me here. After I ate we go to Panjo and get you some stuff to wear. If you want to experience the whole thing you might wanna rough it for a night or two. Can get mighty cold in the on this frigid moon.”

I agreed to all.

At one of the Portels, I rented a room, called my wife and my editor telling them what I was doing. My editor liked it, my wife was not so enthused, but I had been to Slave markets, Freespace planets and real dangerous places. This was Blue Moon.”

I had left everything behind, wore the still dusty coverall I had worn in climbing and crawling through the caves and caverns of Tomb World and had my PDD in a pocket instead on my wrist. Finally I made sure my eye recorder was working. Making a copy of all images my eyes send to my brain. The occu cam hook up to my Motorola data brain was as usually working flawless. Of course the robo cam had much better quality and more options but a 200,000 credit Sony Robo Cam was perhaps not suitable for this little project.

I returned to the rec park just in time to see a boxy inside floater descending. It had a logo of two human hands offering bread .A S-10 robot , a Quadi Ped and what appeared to be a Saran male handing out prepacked dirt cheap Enroe Insta dinners. Sold all across the Union for about 2 credits. Green for lefties and red for righties. The Saran held a PDD in clipboard mode and seemed to tally what was handed out. The Robot and both beings wore brown robes.

The Quadi Ped said to the Saran. “There is a new Leech. Looks like a Green Carbon and NiOx for sure.”

“Perfect, an even forty tonight.”

The Quadi Ped took a green box from the robot and held it out to me.“There you go, Leech.”

“Leech?”

“A parasite just like you. Now take the dinner or move on. We got two more stops to do .”

I took it and he paid no more attention to me. To the Saran he said. “Going to watch the game tonight?”

The two taked as if the beings weren’t there. As the last box was handed out they left.

The other Cits and Gal Drifts paid little attention to me. Two of the Gal Drifts clearly displayed the outer symptoms of Califerm addiction.

A little concerned I found Aljoss who was sitting on a bench wolfing down the Syntho beef stew.”

“They let Califerm users wander around like that?”

“Those two? They’re clean. They are Shells. Force decon, 23 days quarantine and kicked out. One gram each, got caught. Getting decontaminated like that, is the closest thing to torture but they won’t touch the stuff again.”

“Is it the pain or something that prevent them?”

Aljoss rolled his eyes and licked the plastic container clean.“No they were caught with God smack. Death or Psycho. They got Psycho and since they are Non Cits, the P Surgeon didn’t bother to give them a new one. All that’s left is a Persona Shell or something. They supposed to leave a Hypno Block to prevent them touching Califerm. But P-Surgeons are real assholes sometimes. Watch!”

Aljoss waved at the two, until they looked at him. Alex had seen dead bodies with more expression in their face, the Andorian said “Care for some Califerm?”

Like if someone cut their invisible strings, the two former drug users collapsed to the ground. I wanted to call for help, but Aljoss held me back, no worries they be up and about in an hour or so.”

I sat down and gave him my dinner. “Care for one more?”

“Normally I would not say no, but since this is your lesson being a Non Cit this dinner box will come handy for you tonight.”

“Alright, I hang onto it, ”

“So what level of Non Cit you want to know about it? ”

“There are levels?”

“Oh yes there are, but since you are not a real Non Cit and you pay me for this. I think I treat myself to a real coffee and an Andorian Spice Ball. I only do that three or four times a year. We can sit outside at Andor Treats and I tell you more about Non Cits and all that.”

“Sounds like a plan. Lead the way then.”

Aljoss went up and walked over to the Jooltar. “Wac, I am showing the new guy around a little. He just drifted in. Are you going to be around for a while?”

The Jooltar, member of a Non Union species that lived on the far end of Freespace. Galactic East of the Karthanians between the Shattered Kingdoms. Union scientist believe they are related to the Attikan and have been part of the Ongloran Federation before it fell apart. They were classified as Union Neutral -2 as my Data Brain reminded me. Meaning the Foreign Affairs Council considered them not hostile to the Union, but not overly friendly.

The Jooltar had rust colored fur all over and the overall features were often described to resemble what a Werewolf of Old Terran faery tales and myths might have looked like.

The Jooltar was leaning against one of the park trees reading to my secret delight an old worn phys-copy of Galactographic Magazine. “Yes, Aljoss I stay here until maintenance shows up.”

“Can you keep an eye on my stuff till we’re back?”

“Sure thing.”

Aljoss placed his sizable back pack next to the one of the Jooltar, who displayed only very mild curiosity about me.“Drifted in today?”

“Yes.”

“Might be a while till you can drift on, Blue Moon is getting tighter every year.” With that he appeared to lose interest and returned reading.

The Andorian motioned me to follow him.“Wac has drifted in about two or three years ago, overstayed his Visitor visa and hopes the Jooltar join the Union while he is still around.”

“Why did he not try to Immigrate? Individuals regardless of species are accepted.”

Aljoss who was nearly four meter tall when he stood upright looked down to me.“Union bureaucracy is the reason. He applied for a Visitors Visa first and stated he intended to return before it expired. He missed the dead line to return and thus committed a Visitor’s Offense. According to Union logic he potentially lied for the reason of his visit and first has to apply for a new Visitors Visa before he can ask for the Immigration process.”

“And why is he not doing that?”

“He can only file for a new one, if he leaves Union Space and applies for re-entry permission at one of the Union Checkpoints.”

“And?”

“Alex, we are in the Blue Moon system. One of the Unions busiest traffic hubs but do you know what a Space Bus ticket to the nearest Checkpoint costs?”

“Not really, but you could travel by bus all the way to Distant Shores for no more than 300 credits.”

“A Union Citizen can, Proto Citizens can. We pay full price and in his case it’s about 8,000 credits.”

“Eight Thousand? For that you can get an A Deck cruise to Para Para.”

“Exactly and even if he had the money. He still needs to get a Travel ID which he can only get with a valid Visitor Visa. Now he could ask to be deported, but he would have to stay in a Deportation hold and wait till a transport leaves for N’Ger or Itheamh There are no direct trade routes to any Jooltar world. ”

While he talked he was walking and tried to slow his gait, so I did not have to run keeping up.

“I see the difficulties.”

“No you don’t even begin to see his difficulties. There aren’t that many detention centers. So chances are he is sent to a real prison. If he is lucky they arrange for a transport to N’Ger or Itheamh in a year or so. Has to be a civilian ship too. So there is a good chance the Civilian sells him as a slave, Togar pay good coin for Jooltar or he is captured on N’Ger. If he goes to Itheamh it’s the Smelter Moons for sure.”

“That is really terrible.”

Aljoss stopped to give me time to catch my breath. “Now if in all this he really manages to reach a Jooltar world he is screwed, because he is wanted there for deserting.“If by chance this he manages to reach a Jooltar world he is screwed, because he is wanted there for deserting.”

“What happens if the Police arrests him?”

“Well as long as he stays within the space port, he is in a gray area. Technically he is leaving, just waiting for a connection to his destination. There are no limitations as how long a traveler waits for a connection or travel documents to be completed. He and others like him use this loop hole to stay. The Non Cit drifts use it all across the Union. That’s why you always run into them on Ports and very rarely outside.”

He stopped before a fast food place with a dozen tables outside. A blue project-a-sign identified it as Andor Treats.

Aljoss added.“Of course if he even so much as sneezes in a way the Authority doesn’t like, He’s arrested anyway. He lives in constant fear.”

“Are there many like him?”

“I have no way of guessing, but I assume there are about hundred or two hundred like them on the ports of Blue Moon and I could imagine there are similar numbers on every big port. But even the smallest things tend to be huge if you look at them on Union scale.”

According to my data brain, there were about 60 Billion Non Cits known to reside within the Union. He was right, seen as percentage compared to the Citizen population, a miniscule number. Seen by its own a huge problem.

I went with him inside.

The restaurant was staffed with robots and live beings. The decor typical for a fast food place with stylized elements of the Andorian culture. Despite it serving Andorian food, Aljoss was the only one in sight.

Most of the interior was on purpose non Vari form . Chairs counters and tables were built with Andorian height in mind. To me it always felt s if I had suddenly shrunk to dwarf size. Of course this effect was one of the restaurants attractions. Tiny lift platforms mechanical or field established allowed access to the tall chairs and tables.

At the counter, normal for him and me standing on a lifter he ordered a cup of coffee and two Spice Balls.

Since I traveled the Union for a living. I knew of the Andorian cuisine, but then Andorian food was very popular all across the Union. While I loved Andorian BBQ, I wasn’t a big fan of Spice Balls.

These Tennis Ball sized dough rolls had a gooey filling made of raisin like fruits and a very strong spice that was somewhere between cinnamon, cayenne pepper and anise, and fiery hot.

He ordered them extra spicy and asked me if I want some as well.

Not being brave enough, I settled for a dozen crisp meats , mild dip and a large green apple Guzzle.”

The lid sign advertised our menu choices and total of Nine credits.

I said to the Thauran order taker.“There must be a mistake. Our order can’t be more than five at most.”

The Thauran pointed to Aljoss Credit strip. “There is no mistake if he pays with that.”

Out of curiosity I pulled mine and the Thauran smiled.” That be 4.98 Sir.”

We took our food to one of the Andorian tower tables and after we sat down, he showed me his green colored credit strip.“Consolidated Credit Services is a private bank. They charge 2.50 per transaction. Many businesses add a service charge because they say it causes them extra work to deal with it. Union Bank Accounts are only for Cits. CCS sells Credit Boxes , starting at a 1000 credits.”

He closed his eyes with an expression of bliss on his face as he took his first bite.

I started on my crisps and remembered why I liked them. Coarse fried, tender beef strips with a spicy note.

He had finished both Spice Balls and sipped on his coffee. Listened for a moment to the haunting Andorian flute music playing in the background and said.“Now let me tell you a little about the different kinds of Non Cits. First off are the Gal Drifts. The majority of them aren’t Non Cits. They are usually kids with very liberal, anti war and military views who find it romantic to live a time unbound by rules of society. Ninety percent of them find out and usually within the first week or so that they are just as free as Union Citizens and that this lifestyle isn’t for them. About five percent are Union Citizens, living on the 500 credits they can get if they ask for it, don’t do much else but travel around, space bus tickets are cheap to them, they have virtually no restrictions .If they run out of money and they are hungry, they go to the Citizen Office, and get a pass to any of the canteens provided for Union service personnel.”

He pointed through the window .“That Saran over there, drifts for almost sixty years. He looks like a Non Cit bum, but he eats at the Space Port Authority staff canteen, or sometimes even at the Fleet post. He served his 22 month with the fleet and never misses the Union Week Celebration dinners at the post. He has a Union Bank Account and he votes at least once a year on the Union Wide. Of course he always votes against anything, but he votes. If he wants to go home to Petra from where he is from. He gets a free ticket and Portel accommodations till his bus leaves.

If he decides to stay, the citizen office finds him a place. He only drifts because this is what he wants to do. Eccentric but not a Non Cit.

That Thauran who served us, is a Union Resident. He went to school and all that but did not want to serve . He claims his father was a Thauran noble and was hanged a few years back, during that big scandal when their Emperor was found guilty of dealing with the Worm.

He has no love for the Union and don’t want to serve it. He is registered , has a Resident ID and as long as he doesn’t travel too much he’s almost as good as a Citizen. Of course he has to pay for whatever Union services that are free to Citizens.”

He looked at his ancient Apple PDD.“We better go to Panjo before they close. We got lots of time before the Park closes for maintenance, but Panjo closes at twelve hour. It’s a good way from here so I tell you on the way”

I jumped the two meters to the ground, landed softly due to the safety cushion field the chair enabled as I jumped and said.“You’re my guide.”

Outside the restaurant he motioned me to join him on a slide belt.“This is the Main Connector. The North slide we are on takes us to Space Port I. The South slide can take you all the way to Port V. If you take the trip om the slide. It takes two days to get there.”

“Two days. Why even built a Slide that long?

“No one really takes the whole trip to V, but the belt connects all the ports and cities between. It is a convenient way to send low priority freight and of course it gives Ultras that are too big for TPMs a way to travel between ports. Boloths are usually to big for the Trans planet movers and large skimmers are not free. Besides its about as expensive to built interrupted segments than it is to make it one piece.”

The further we moved away from the main passenger terminal of Port II the fewer individuals were around us. This part of the port appeared to be for logistics and freight purposes, Robots and Cargo drones dropped small containers or boxes on the slide way. Beings in various work uniform left or hopped on. Clearly not passengers but employees and workers.

A robot vendor floated against the flow and offered snacks, beers and drinks.

Aljoss raised a seat column and sat down. “Might as well do the same, It’s a good 30 minutes to Port I.”

“Surely the TPMs are big enough for you,right?”

“Big enough yes, and free for you. I am charged a Credit each way,” Now if I would be in a real hurry, I take the TMT. Instant travel and instantly 10 credits poorer.”

“Local TMTs are only free at Sares Prime,Sol System. Pluribus and Ross Torus. I think they charge Citizens here as well. TMTs are not Union wide subsidized. But I know what you trying to tell me.”

“Alex, the Union does not want Non Cits or Residents and does everything to encourage them to become Citizens, but in order to claim to be a free society they can not force anyone. So they do it this way.”

I simply nodded as what he said made sense.

“Now I told you about Drifts at the restaurant. What I forgot to mention are the Real Drifts. Individuals who out of conviction, political reasons or by simply growing up as Drifts do not go to schools, refuse service or resident registration. They are Non Cits for life and mostly out of choice. The Drift movement is small but exists for thousands of years. They have their traditions and habits and all. A few decades ago, when militant drifts resorted to Terror attacks, like the fanatics of the Free Gore movement. There were Corporate sponsored Cleansing teams secretly killing any thousands. While it is of course against the law. I don’t thin the Union Police even investigated one murder for real.

Just then a Pertharian hopped on the belt and grunted. “Non Cit scum.” His tone was threatening and being threatened by a Pertharian was unsettling to say the least.

The four armed giant however moved on to a different slide segment, but his comment earned us disapproving, openly hostile stares from a Spindlar and a Human female nearby.

Aljoss said.“It is as if they could smell it. Citizens for the most part dislike Drifts and Non Cits.”

“I never really gave it much thought. I never paid much attention to Drifts.“But I realized I too had a negative attitude towards Non Cits, if I was honest. The word alone had a definite negative meaning for me.

I was not sure but I had the feeling he knew what I was thinking. He sighed and then said.“Now let me tell you about the other Non Cits. Drifters that got stuck for a while at one place. Criminals with convictions that are not quite felonies, but with sentences that are not death or life, like me. Then there are druggies who became addicted before they became citizens, Criminals who are wanted locally somewhere and try to hide and finally the kids and offspring of these. Of course technically every visitor is a Non Cit as well, especially if they stay longer than intended.

Up until the Big One we called them Illegal Immigrants, but since the Union Citizen Act is not based on your place of birth or society association. We only have immigrants. The handful that fail the test three times are deported, or turn into Non Cits as well.”

He got up stowed his seat column and said. “We are almost there.“.

The slide belt had carried us through a featureless tunnel with occasional exits,. But now the Tunnel got wider and the walls were lined with small businesses.

He gestured to get off and he did a second after me. After I had crossed the deceleration belts, I looked around. The belt tunnel stretched in a long line to seemingly infinity from where we came fro and moved on into the widening regions of a sub surface city and Port 1 as a big sign confirmed.

Blue Moon was the first world settled in the system. The Star, originally had a different name, but because Blue Moon was at an almost equidistant position to the four founding civilizations , It was always referred to Blue Moon, the name stuck and became official.

The system consisted of Nine Planets, fourteen major Moons, 22 Planetoids, 1 Asteroid Belt and one matter cloud and every floating rock big enough to put a foot on was utilized or occupied.

Blue Moon was actually not a planet but a large moon around Blue Shepherd, a gas giant. Blue Moon was a frigid world but it had . It has a few species of local lichen and an oxygen atmosphere.

There were vast ice covered oceans with very salty water.

The moon first and over time the entire system became one of the most important traffic hubs of the Union.

The world had five Class A ports, but Port 1 was primarily a logistics port.

It was cold here, quite cold.

The businesses had names like :Gugor Salvage, Blue Moon Bio Solids, All Meats Inc and one painted sign identified the business below Panjo-Everything used- Buy and Sell.

A jumble of Boxes, Crates and racks was spilled in a somewhat chaotic fashion before its open roll gate and part of a metal wall closing of the arched alcove cut into the rock of the moon.

One box was filled with bowls and pots. Several bundles of broken wood crate slats stacked next to the door., a crate held robot parts, including the head of a S-10 with active moving eyes.

A row of worn out Terran All Terrains none of them a matching pair.

Aljoss went straight to the gate.“Panjo buys and sells everything that might still be of value.”

the cave like shop behind the gate was a Universe by itself. Shelves to the ceiling stuffed with things, there was not a spot anywhere on the walls without something hanging from it.

Towards the back behind a almost completely buried counter stood stood an Oromal doing business with a Chrome skinned Homo Stellaris, only his skin had lost its luster,.It was dull anywhere it showed trough the shoddy space suit, He had to be a Stellaris if he used this in space like environments.

Between them a Wilson Vaccu Baller.

I heard the Oromal say.“I give you 50 credits for it. The best I can do.

The Stellaris accepted received the creds and went past us.

The Oromal took the expensive launcher and placed it on top of a pile of other things.“Aljoss what can I do for you?”

“My friend here just drifted in, no warm pad so he’s roughing it.”

“Don’t look like he has much to trade. Got any credits?”

“A few”

The Oromal with the unusual name sighed.“Alright, go to the pile, take what you need and I do what I can on the price.”

“Can I ask what Panjo stands for?”

“That was my grandfather’s name. Since Oromal names are a tad long for signs. He shortened Panajrriotitchi Petrubxtaso into Panjo and that’s what we call ourselves ever since.”

I thanked him and joined Aljoss who were digging through items as if he knew what he was looking for. Panjo paid no longer much interest to us. I saw he visited the Xchange Galnet site and checked Vaccu Ballers.

“What is it we are getting?”

“Warm things, a good bag, A sleeping bag with a working element and if you can afford it a good knife.”

The Oromal said.“I got a good moon bag, element is working and good for at least 100 nights”

Aljoss said.“Would be perfect. How much?”

“Science Corps quality it is. I could get 100 credits for it, but I have always been a softie when it comes to Non Cits, I let you have it for 50, that’s what I paid for.”

Aljoss looked at me.“Panjo is a cut throat for the most part, but he means what he said. Fifty is a good price. Can you afford it?”

“Just get me what you think I need. No worries about the price, but I since I came that far. I don’t want to be the best equipped Non Cit, if you know what I mean?”

“The moon bag means you survive the night. I will be with you to make sure. Smart Non Cits without a warm pad here on Blue Moon do anything to get a bag similar to it. So its all good.”

Panjo who listened but did not understand the meaning said.“I don’t want to hear you froze to death because you did not have the creds. You can have it, and pay me whenever you can hassle it up.”

Touched by it, I said.“Thank you Mr. Panjo.”

After another hour of digging,Aljoss had filled a sizable back pack with an assortment of clothing.. I wore an old Union Army coat, the patch of the Corps of engineers was torn of, but the distinctive shape had left a darker spot on the green Durafab. Panjo had traded my Nike executive travel shoes for a pair of color mismatched Terran All Terrain boots.

Panjo said.“Well if you ever come back, you can pay me in installments. For business reasons I say you owe me two hundred credits. But don’t spread the word or I am out of business giving my merchandise away.”

“Panjo, the Nike Executives you just got, are worth about 1000 credits new, I only say that so you know what to look for on GalNet. Most likely I won’t be back so I am of course pay you.”

I took my credit strip and swiped three hundred in his pay point.”

“You are not a Non Cit. Drifting for fun eh?”

“Something like that.”


Back on the Slide connector rolling back. Aljoss said. “Well you look the part now for sure, but be careful who you tell that you not a drift or a Non. Those Drifts that do it fun never go where we go next. Cits or Pretend Drifts are not welcome there.”

“I understand.”

“Now comes your next lesson. Drifts and Nons sleep at places we all pads. Those who can afford it rent a Pod room at the Chill towers. Then there are those who belong to Drift clubs and port gangs.

The pretender Drifts actually have an association with membership fees and a news letter. They have a list of Drift patches for every port, but only members are allowed there.

Real Drifts who doing this thing for ages often belong to Drift Clubs and they know good warm pads, know where to get what, know freights where you can stow. Some smuggle drugs and are organized like syndicates. I know of ten or twelve of these Clubs and they don’t get along with each other too well. If you choose one of them, you sleep warm, relative safe, but you choose that for life. And no matter where you drift, you might run into one of your old buddies. You better not be member of another club. Those are all Non Cits and no one is going to miss one.”

I was listening speechless, there was an entire world right below us, a world I didn’t know existed.

But I waved the floating vent bot over and he thankfully accepted a cup of coffee.

He held the cup between his hands. It was still very cold.

“Why is it so cold?”

“The tunnels between the ports aren’t heated. It’s still only about ten minus in the middle and gets warmer the closer you get to the ports. It’s below two hundred on the surface and warms to a balmy minus one thirty at the equator when we swing around to face Blue Moon star.” He ripped the disolver strip of the now empty cup, and watched it as the activated chemicals reduced the cup to dust.“Warm pads are places within the Space port or the city that stay warm and the Authority don’t mind, doesn’t care or isn’t looking. The Port gangs are usually smaller groups of Non Cits and the best pads are claimed by them. Getting into those gangs takes a while. They also want you to share what you have. Most of these gangs want you to steal, pick pockets and they never last. Security investigates and if their caught it’s bad news.”

We had reached the port again . He got up asked me to do the same and we left the belt. Not far from the Andorian restaurant.

He checked his PDD. “Still lots of time to kill, till they start maintenance.”

After he got his bag and thanked the Jooltar, who was half asleep he and I settled on the Concrete block.

“I guess you don’t want to hustle It’s not against the law if you do it passive. The aggressive way some of the gangs want you to do, is a good chance for the Authority to show and check Ids.”

“At least not for now. I would rather hear more.”

“Alright. I told you about those Port Gangs and why it is not a good idea to associate with them. About three month ago, a member of the Blue Vermin swiped the jacket of a Fleet Officer. Took the Federal Police two hours to find the thief. Rumors had it a Leedei of the PSI Corps did the checking. All thirty four Vermins were arrested,. The thief was sent to Brisbane so I heard, no one knows what happened to the others.”

“Never a good idea to mess with the Fleet.” I agreed.

“Even those Anti Union Drifts, know better. They heckle police and insult citizens. Nothing really happens, the moment one of these morons starts insulting the fleet. Citizens get real irate.”

“Where do others sleep then?”

“I am getting to that. Warm pads are rare and usually taken or claimed. What is left are the cold pads. Places in unheated areas.”

“The Slide belt tunnel?”

“The Authority does not permit it. There is no place to hide and they send sweep bots down the sides.

But long ago when they built this port, there are two old material elevators. Big mechanical platforms that still work. You’ll see.”

“Are you not going to your warm pad in that Chill Tower?”

“We swing by it for my old sleeping bag. I can’t let you do this on your own.”

Aljoss got up and talked to the Jooltar. Wac got up, seemed excited and left.

My new friend said.“Wac is afraid to panhandle and has no pad. He roughs it every night. Mostly by walking around till he can go back to the park, Since I don’t use my pod tonight. I told him he can use it.”

“He really got the short end of the stick.” I said.

“Yes even among the Non Cits.”

“Can I ask what you guys are doing all day long. Even drifting seems boring, I mean after you seen two or three space ports, you seen all the variety there is.”

“And that is the main reason those kid drifts quit. I get up at four hour every day and check if they have a day job listed at the Xchange. Two or three times a month the XChange receives and extra round tripper and then the regular staff and the robo resources are maxed out. I get a job for a day or two.

If not I go scavenging the first 4 days of the week and the rest of the week I am here ”

“What is a round tripper?”

“You know almost every Union planet has an Xchange. Local products are offered to the Union market via the Xchange net. Individual items of value may also be offered .Each Xchange is visited on regular intervals by a freighter that picks up all the smaller items that have been collected in the warehouse of the Xchange. That freighter is called the round tripper. Now in some cases there is more volume than the regular round tripper can take on. A second extra ship is sent. Since Blue Moon System is this sectors Xchange hub and the Union Post Office main hub, it happens that more of these freighters arrive than the system can handle. Physical mail comes first and the Xchange sends robots and personnel to help. Non Cits are by law prohibited to touch Union Mail but allowed to help out on the XChange sorting lines. A days work earns me 40 creds.”

“For all day work?”

“Yes because if they had to pay more they could rent extra robots.”

“And what is there to scavenge?”

“Busted wood crates at the produce ware houses. Some planets ship their produce in real wood crates. Someone told me that customers think produce in wooden crates is more natural and traditional, thus gets better prices. Panjo gives me a credit for each five kilo bundle.

We also scavenge for Space Vermin.

“Not as common as it used to be, but for a bucket of rats. We can get 3-4 credits. Panjo pays us ten for a Bonglee.”

“I didn’t know we have a vermin problem on Union Space ports”

“It’s not really a problem. Union regulations and hygiene laws are strict and followed, but Blue Moon is a very busy traffic hub for a very long time. Things do get transferred .

There are robots and service companies doing nothing else but pest control,still there are cracks and corners not checked. Wac is very good at that .”

“There was an article on the Bonglee in our magazine a few years back. They aren’t harmless.”

“Bonglee are hard to see and poisonous, but they are not dangerous if you know what to look for. Besides they are becoming extinct, at least on Blue Moon. Haven’t found one in three month.”

He rolled up his sleeve and showed me a scar that spiraled up his underarm all the way to his elbow.“This is what a Talag Ice Eel leaves behind if you loose your grip. Without Wac, I’d be dead or at least a one armed Non.”

“For Mickey’s sake. That looks bad. Why did it leave behind a scar?”

“About a thousand years ago, a shipment of Talag Eels got loose. There are a few stories how it happened. Talag Eels thrive in the oceans of Blue Moon as they hunt for Van Dover shrimp.

The colonies of Blue Moon used to take water and minerals out of the oceans. A few Eels made it inside. You know these slimy pests are fast, quite smart and can cross large distances out of the water and infested the algae and shrimp farms at Shepherd’s View.

There isn’t a real infestation of these of course but every year they find an illegal eel farm somewhere and there are always eels escaping.

Authority pays 20 credits bounty per Eel and 100 credits reward for finding an Illegal farm. So naturally we are always on the lookout for these. They are very strong and their under bellies has a natural ice saw. What this saw does to an arm you can see.”

“I can understand all this of course. Many years ago when I did a report on Green Hell. A Ninja Weasel took my arm clear off, but my new arm is as good as the old. Even the pigmentation has adjusted. Nothing but my memory and that report reminds me off it “(”The deadliest pets” Issue 2/5018)

“You know that Non Cits only get medical help for free if it is a life threatening case? A wounded arm isn’t life threatening. Wac bandaged it and it healed like that. I didn’t have the creds to pay the 200 for a Derma Patch. I spend my share of the reward on the first aid kit.”

“I think I raise that issue with the OOP. First aid must be free to everyone.”

“You think they care enough about Non Cits?”

I didn’t say it out loud to him but I am a citizen and if I feel the issue isn’t addressed I can go all the way. Besides our magazine is read by hundred billion subscribers every month and many more watch it on GalNet.

As an answer I gave him a shrug. I did not want him to realize that much of what he told me would be read and heard by so many. At least not before I had completed this project.

“You’ve been to Green Hell and survived it?”

“I didn’t go outside into the jungles,but I disregarded the warning of a Greenie petting his animal without him permitting it. Long story short. Ninja Weasels only look cute.”

“Well that’s one thing you don’t have to consider with Talag Eels, they do not even look cute on a dinner plate.”

“Anything that crawls, wiggles or moves seems to be eaten by someone.”

“Why do you think there are illegal farms. These wigglers are considered delicacies by at least a dozen species and are allowed to be raised and sold only by special licensed companies.”

“That dangerous?”

“No but their antifreeze blood contains a chemical that makes it very lethal to any warmblooded carbon based life form.”

“Why not scavenge every day and why isn’t anyone doing it?”

“Because to get where they are, you need to take the Surface Mono. The big supply floaters only go there one or twice a week.” To answer my second question by gesturing across the other Drifts. Do you think they be doing that if they wanted to work? Stealing, begging and shop lifting is much easier. Alec Drifts regardless if they pretends or real are not forced to drift. Granted their kids often don’t know any better, but most of them could get up walk to the next GalNet terminal and get the process started becoming a citizen.”

Of all the things he told me, this was the hardest to believe.“Why don’t they”

“I don’t know the real reason and don’t understand the philosophy behind it. Drifters have existed in all of human history and the phenomenon is known to many civilizations. If it would be something that could be understood. I am sure the Union would take measures to change the conditions that lead to drifting. Remember what I said. Not all Drifters are Non Cits and not all Non Cits are drifters.”

He nodded toward a shaggy looking man with particular filthy hair. Go ask the Professor, he is one of those Gal Drifts that do it out of conviction.

As we talked a group of four human Gal Drifts came walking across the polished stone floor of the space port terminal and stepped on the fifty meter grass circle with trees concrete blocks and benches of this park oasis.

They looked around apparently checking who else was there.

Aljoss explained, that is the Professor and some of his friends. He is one of those who is Anti Union. I wager he comes out of a line that drifts for generations.

See these young kids over at the other side. The ones gathered around the green skinned one?”

“Yes looks like a Sunflorian.”

“Respect you do know your Union, Alex . Do you know the Sunflower colony, used to be a breeding ground for Gal Drifts. Some say it even started there. Anyway that kid is the leader of the Killer Eels and the group gathered around him are his troops. Usually a very loud and boisterous crowd but the Authority arrested two of them just them just the other day. His name Grogy Brown, annoying as hell. ”

“And those over there, they all wear the same red head scarfs. Another gang?”

“No those are the Bad News, one of the clubs I told you. They have chapters all over the Union and I would not be surprised if they have a million members. Non Cits and drifters on the surface, but criminals below.”

“The Police doesn’t know that?”

“They do, but these gangs carefully avoiding to break Union laws, especially the big ones. So they do local crimes and thanks to their connections manage to drift away before they get caught.”

I blinked. “That means I could steal a skimmer murder someone and just move to another planet and be off the hook?”

“Alex I think you either slept in Union school or missed that class. First of all if you commit murder on another Union citizen, it is automatically a Union Felony. Technically and by your duties as Union citizen you are expected to march to the next Court Clerk and turn yourself in. Now if you do not do that, and they find out it was you. You go on the Union Wide wanted list. You can try to flee and hide and you are what we call a Union Runner. If you run and hide anywhere in the fringes, you might indeed make it, but you better not use your CITI to travel, use your Bank account, or any other services you take for granted as citizen. If you have several million in Cred Boxes and you know a good connector. You may obtain a new CITI, but despite the claims of the forgers. They almost impossible to fake. The Kermac try it for a long time and put almost as much effort in it as the Union tried to make it safe. As far as I know they are still trying. Sure they raise spies from real citizens, use brain transplants and what not. But in the long run they always found. The simple reason is not the tech in the CITI, any sufficiently advanced civilization can fake that. It’s the data on the other side that needs to match. Your fake ID must match your data and the data stored at Citizen Central..Eight or ten different locations all holding the same data. One may go down, even two but not all. Your data must not match one but all and if there is so much as one bit difference, you be checked with the magnifying glass. Your fake id must match an existing record. The faked ID must have a matching set and that can only be an existing, person that is alive.

Anyhow fake Ids are rare, almost impossible to fake.

But lets say you made it to a new Colony, drifting on freighters. Landing on a Class F port with a passenger control officer who is at lunch., an automated CITI control that is broken or the barrier hasn’t been built. You are on a place no one knows you and no one cares. There is plenty of work and the employers don’t mind swiping your earnings into a private strip or a box. Voting time comes around, you carefully avoid voting.

In the meantime the murder investigation is completed, evidence identifies you. All calls to your GalNet account remain unanswered. There are no activities on your CITI. The court will wait if you vote. After the second Union wide comes around and you still didn’t vote. A final effort is made to contact you. If this is unsuccessful you, a Union Judge suspends your Citizenship on grounds you did not do your part. If you do not show up and appeal the suspension. Your are then an Ex Cit, lost all your citizen rights and you are now free to go anywhere as long as isn’t on anything you need a CITI, because you are now a Non Cit for life.

Only one chance left. You turn yourself in, of course no longer as citizen and if you were found guilty in absence, they welcome you with open arms and make an appointment for you with the person providing you with a one way ticket to a place you don’t need a CITI or anything else for that matter.” He ended his long explanation simulating a hanging with his hand.

“I guess I did sleep in class or forgot about it. Murdering a Non Cit is not a crime?”

“If the deed is done on Union ground it does not make a difference as it is a Union Felony. However if the murder happens on local ground local authorities can prosecute. If the verdict is guilty and involves any imprisonment or corporal punishments including death. The case must be presented to a Union Court who will either request it to be reopened and a federal investigation to be carried out, or verify the verdict. Now if a non cit murders another non cit it is a local affair. Unless it happened on Union ground. In case the Union citizen gets away before he is caught, the local authorities can ask a Union Court to issue a bench warrant. If granted and the citizen does not respond it ends the same way. Citizenship is lost.”

“All crimes?”

“Well the crime must either match what the Union law considers a felony, or the local authority can make a case in Union Court for a Bench warrant to be issued. A burglary for example without serious injuries is generally not considered grounds for a Union court bench warrant. But that does not mean local authorities are screwed. They still can contact Federal Law enforcement to be on the lookout. That means if your name or CITI pops up in an unrelated investigation and it is on the Union wide list of persons of interest, The local warrant is then automatically a Union issue as you have been caught in another jurisdiction. A local burglary charge is in most cases preferable than the case going to Union court. Because if you found guilty in a local affair you serve your sentence and that is it. A Union court finding you guilty means Union pen or Prison Colony. If they find out you have a history or have been convicted by Union court for anything your commitment as Citizen might also be questioned.”

“Wow you know a lot about this!”

He frowned. ” Because this is how I ended up being a Non Cit. I killed a man in a fight, did not think straight and escaped to Bumblebee colony and worked five years for a Tyson farm.

I was declared guilty and stripped of my Citizenship.

While I am no longer wanted, I am as good as dead. Of course I can turn myself in and change the “good as” into a fact.”

“So don’t print that in your magazine. Local authorities at home might decide to send a Black Man.”

“A what?”

“I was not only declared Non Cit, but found guilty in absence. I don’t know the sentence but Union law is pretty simple at this point. My guess is the death penalty. Do you know what people are called that are Non Cits with an outstanding death sentence?”

“At this point I have some ideas, but tell me.”

“The Living Dead.”

“That would have been on top of my guesses.”

“There are agencies victims,local authorities can hire to find such persons and execute the sentence. The individuals are called the Black Men. I think they called that way because the first private agency officially registering this as business was called the Black Man Agency.”

“Isn’t that murder?”

“No, according to Union law, this person is already legally dead and all the Black Man does is adding the physical fact to the legal status. As a matter of fact you could kill me right here and now. So you see why I don’t tell everyone about it and having it published would make sure of my demise.”

“Aljoss, mentioning that would make me guilty. I promises you this won’t be mentioned in any way shape or form that could harm you.”

The group of drifts he had pointed out first, looked into our direction and then came our way.

Aljoss said. “Just be vague about yourself. The Professor really despises Cits, but you have a chance to learn a lot about Drifts.”

The Professor was an unkempt man, two similar dressed and smudgy men and a young woman who never seen a comb in her life, from the looks of it had reached us. “Missed the Good Brothers, Aljoss. Because they stopped the Connector between Three and Two for a good hour. Some bot dropped a big box.”

“Sorry to hear that, Prof.”

“Well the Eels had nothing, but the Bad News shared enough for Lupo,Hargos and Bei but not enough for me. Wac normally is good for something but he isn’t here. Do you know where he is?”

“Gone for the day.”

The Professor seemed to notice me for the first time.“New face?”

Aljoss answered for me.“Drifted in recently. Alex is a friend of mine.”

I guessed him to be between hundred and hundred and ten, as this was the age where standard humans started to show signs of aging. Especially men who no longer used cell restorers as frequently as women did. I had my first cell restore treatment done, just before I left for Tomb World, but then I was still in my early eighties and if nothing unexpected happened, I expected to see my 180th birthday before my brain was starting to shut down.

Hi hair and the shaggy beard had lost all color, it didn’t look he bleached it on purpose. The skin of his hands and face was wrinkled and when he talked I noticed his teeth were stained in a strange uneven arrangement and two appeared missing altogether. He wore an egg yellow coverall, patched and stained and over it a maroon cargo jacket, often used by field researchers and members of the Explorer fleet. It featured a large number of pockets. That it once belonged to a person in the Explorer fleet was evident. An explorer ship patch was still on it’s sleeve. The Union flag above however hand been replaced by a purple piece of fabric.

Around his neck he wore a metal chain, dangling on it the Union fleet logo with the old Peace Hawk symbol superimposed over it.

The three others that followed him managed to look the same without a single piece of their outfits matching each other.

He looked me over and said.“Well looks like Alex is a runner, ex cit eh?”

I just shrugged as I was not sure what he meant by it. He cackled with a throaty tone and sat down on the concrete block. “Matters not, There are always runners and I am sure more than one Alex.”

The young woman didn’t look so young at closer inspection. Her eyes especially appeared to belong to a much older person. She said.“Corp or local runner?”

Aljoss answered for me.“Same as me, would not risk being with a Corp runner.”

The woman relaxed.“Sorry Alex, but Corp runners are usually found and it is never healthy to be around when this happens.”

They all nodded in agreement including Aljoss.

The Professor said.” Blue Moon is a good place to stay for a Local runner from the fringes. Say you would not have anything to eat?”

Aljoss gave me nod and so I said.“I have an extra dinner box if you want it.”

He took it and started to wolf it down. “Appreciate that Alex.”

To Aljoss he said.“Does he have a Pad?”

“No and me neither, not for tonight that is. We were aiming to roughing it at the North shaft.”

“You and Alex can come with us to the South Shaft. It’s still a Cold pad, but we managed to close the shaft side with plastic and Lupo managed to get one of the ancient heaters going. Not very good but takes the worst bite out of the cold.”

Aljoss thanked him for the invitation and so did I.

The Professor said to his companions. “Still three hours to go, you ate and the Sol Express is about to arrive. Go fleece those Sunglasses wearing scum a little.”

Without as much as a word the three left.

The old man returned his attention to me. “Wore that coat for them killers, or just wear it?”

“I did not serve in the Army if that is what you ask. The Army Corps of Engineers aren’t killers though.”

“Everything with the fuckin’ Union word in it, based on violence and death. They are all killers.” He sad with unveiled hatred. “Since you are an Ex, you served your twenty-two at least. What service?”

He retrieved a metal object, the size of a pen, started sucking on it, till it produced a mossy smelling greenish vapor. “Let me guess. It isn’t the Army, I doubt you are marine. Not that there are many drifting, but even the few that washed out dishonorable look different than you.”

“You are right, I am not a marine.”

“You still have that Union attitude in your voice that makes me think armed forces. Once a killer boy always a killer boy. It isn’t Navy though. None of them just serve 22 month. Even if they plan it, they all stay for life and there is no Navy offense that makes you Ex Cit.”

“There isn’t?”

He laughed. “Nope you’re not navy for sure. Any crime of that magnitude leads to the end of a rope. If you can be hanged that is. Met a few navy drifters but they are all still Cit.”

He kept sucking on that stick while he stroked his stringy beard. “Space Force hasn’t any 22 month service options. That doesn’t leave much, so what is it?”

“Union Fire Department.”

“Well that is almost acceptable. Still Union scum, but not much in terms of killing.”

“What is it you dislike so much about it? I mean it looks like you are human?”

His eyes had an unmistakable glare of a fanatic. “Everything. Deciding who lives and who dies. Forcing the people to work for them. We could live with everyone in peace no need for wars.”

“Even the Xunx?”

“Especially the Xunx! Instead of killing them all, we could have done what the Sarans wanted us to do, move on. Plenty of worlds out there. Why kill billions for a ball of dirt?”

“You think Earth is a ball of dirt?”

“What else is it than the cradle of the worst killers in the Universe? Tell me what did the Ferons to too justify what was done?”

“It was a long time ago, when we talked about them in school, but didn’t they declare war on us?”

“Only after they saw what Earthers did to the Xunx. The Freons didn’t do anything. They were just related to the Ferons.”

“I am not sure if that was the reason, but what does all this have to do with the Union?

“Everything, it set the tone. It is the core. There is nothing more violent and murderous in the Universe than the Union.”

“Not the Y’All?”

“Propaganda and faery tales of some race crossing galaxies just to kill. Think about it. Why would they go to all this trouble, travel for 5000 years, just to kill a little and disappear again. If they came to conquer they stay. The truth is, there was a species somewhere with four arms, looking scary. Used as cover up for the Union to scare independents to join or bomb them.”

He held up his Peace Hawk pendant. “They had the right idea.”

“A Kermac scheme, right?”

“The Kermac offered us to be part of a peaceful and loose association. They told us many times to mend our ways and become a peaceful part of the Universe without need for wars. We didn’t listen so they tried to save us secretly from the war mongering bastards. They got rid of the worst. That clone they keep regrowing.

That’s why they invented the Y’All to justify the dictatorship of a new clone.

Do you know what happened after that Incarnation of evil returned?”

“I think you better tell me. I doubt my version does not match yours.”

“That puppet of the secret powers, brought a weapon back and with every peace loving civilization was stomped to ashes. The delegates at the assembly forced at gun point so to speak changed everything. Before it everyone was a citizen, now only the brainwashed were allowed.”

“You think we were brainwashed?”

“Kids are forced to school, and the first thing they do is test you, to make sure the brainwashing works until they are adult, kids hear nothing but how great the Union is. In the afternoon they are attached to machines and their brain is stuffed with more propaganda and their version of things. No room for independent thought. No new ideas...For three thousand years it’s this way and nothing else. Anyone objecting is declassified as Resident or Non-Cit. Do the test or else! Serve or else!

Voting? Give me a break. They know exactly how the votes turn out. Generations of brainwashed zombies are programmed to vote exactly along the lines.

Why do you think citizen satisfaction has never dropped below eighty since the Citizen Act? Capital punishment in a society that crosses the Galaxy, as primitive and barbaric as can be. Always voted in with at least 80 %. . Did you know they decided on a new execution method, called Death by 1000 cuts? I don’t think Pre Astro Earth had anything like that.”

As much as I objected to all he said, there was a disturbing voice in my mind that agreed with him, because it was not as easy dismissible as I wanted it to be.

He laughed cold. “I can see you are suddenly beginning to think on your own that is.”

“Surely the Narth could not be brainwashed.”

“What do you know about them? They are masked, mysterious and no one can tell you what they are. Everyone is secretly afraid of them. Do you know when they joined?”

“I know they have been members for a while and only recently became active.”

“They joined after Stahl supposedly discovered them. Could it not be he got that ship from them and also those miracle weapons?

Aren’t the Kermac always warning about them? The Narth needed us to conquer the Galaxy for them. The Citizen Act came to be after they joined.

Everyone says the Kermac try to control everyone with Psi Powers, yet according to everyone the Narth are much better with Psi manipulation. They say President Holister used a Device to manipulate the Assembly. Why not the Narth? They do not even have to hide it. Their device protects us after all. Have you seen the new Representative robes?”

“Yes.” They very much looked like Narth robes.

“They have us so much under their control they came now in the open. Replace everyone at the assembly with their own. The rest are remote Avatars. Controlled by their dictator device called Mothermachine. What is counted are these actual votes or simply numbers. I mean you don’t know what or if John Smith on Mars actually voted. Do you really now the Voting results are actually votes. All you know is what GalNet Channel One is reporting. Since there are no independent parties or candidates. No one questions the vote results.

Mr. Alex Cunningham, we live in in the greatest dictatorship ever created, because everyone thinks there is no dictator.”

He calling me by my name shocked me less, than what he said. “You know who I am?”

“Alex, Wac reads every copy of your magazine. He gets them from me. Your picture is in every other issue. Small it is, and you are decades younger. I am not Wac who thinks all humans look alike and I am not Aljoss who doesn’t read much. You calling yourself Alex and telling me you served with the Fire Department was just a verification. I am old drift, but I am not called professor for nothing.”

“I thought you hate Cits.”

“I do not hate blind sheep, Alex. I hate the powers that pull the wool over your eyes for millennia and I hate that there is nothing I can do about it. But I have opened your eyes. You can print and broadcast all this and no one will believe you. Your editor will let you go and perhaps you end up here again, only a Non-Cit for real.”

I was scared, not of him, but if even one of his statements were true, then all could be true.

I never questioned the Voting results. I could not even say who tallied them. Everyone I knew simply took whatever the Narth said for the truth.

He seemed to know what was going on in my mind and he stoked the fire. “Do you have Psionic gifts?”

“No.”

“But your HPI is part of your CITI right?”

“Yes.”

“Could it not be to weed out those who could get dangerous? Isn’t that a form of Kermac Thought Police? Do you know we have a PSI Corps?

I only nodded.

“What is it they do?”

“Investigate Psi Crimes and protecting the Union from Psionic attacks.”

“More and more Narth and Leedei are in their ranks. Could it not be they make sure no one reads the minds of those who know the truth? And they do not protect you but the powers behind it all?”

He was not done. “You think the Union is an open society?”

“I always believed it so.”

“Do you know, we have a Secret Committee, led by a group called the Gray Ghosts? In our Union the Powers to be don’t even hide. They have a name and yet no one knows who they are or what they do.”

I could not think of an argument to disarm his theories. I wanted to talk to someone, but to whom? Everyone I knew was a Cit and believed everything I did just an hour ago.”

He grinned cold. “You are welcome at our pad. Maybe you never want to go back after all.”

I got up, not really sure what I needed to do. I could simply try to forget and live as I always had, but could I?

Aljoss looked concerned. “Don’t take it all for real. The Prof drifts for ages and makes up these things.”

“Maybe some of it, but he is right for sure with one thing. I was never questioning any of it. I write about cultures and planets and exotic places, but deep down I am a journalist and by profession I should question things.”

While my head was still spinning. The Narth could be worse indeed. No one knew much about them, but everyone knew they were powerful. When they decided to become more active. Many were afraid of them.

They still were just a tiny civilization, yet they were talked about. That Narth Supreme even gave an interview, once. In it he assured us he is not a god. Did anyone equate him with a god? So this came up?

Did anyone ever see the Narth really do anything? For all he knew the Narth could be a special breed of Kermac underneath those masks and robes.”

The companions of the Professor had returned. Lupo complained about the tight ass Terrans, when a commotion at the other side of the park caught their and my attention.

Several of the red head band wearing Bad News guys were scattered on the ground, the Killer Eels were making a racket screaming and yelling while their leader’s neck was stuck in the ham like fist of an athletic strong looking, very oddly dressed man. He and eight similar peculiarly dressed individuals watched as a ninth being of their group felled a Triple Strong. A genetically created species of former Gene Clone slaves designed to be stronger and more durable than standard human. The Triple Strong wore a red head scarf and had been of Herculean proportions compared to everyone around, yet the humanoid that just sent the Triple several meters sliding across the grass, with a single fist blow was dressed like the others of his group but must have been a disguised Saturnian teenager or something.

The group, seven men and three women, standard humans from the looks of them, somehow felt out of place. The men wore beards and had long hair. Some had beards and hair braided, three of them wore metal helmets. All but one of the women wore leather pants, belts, tunics and voluminous fur capes and they were all armed with swords, axe, knifes and one even wore a shield. One of the women who had a matronly shape to her wore a powder blue dress, long apron and a dark blue cape.

The other women were without doubt among the most beautiful I had ever seen. Despite my heavy thoughts, I focused my Occu Cam and zoomed in. One of them, taller than any of them, not an Andorian but way over two meters. Wore black leather, accentuated by armor pieces, leather straps and metal buckles, a wide belt rode on her hips and on it a big sword. Her blonde hair was done in two long braids. She wore not a lick of make-up, no jewelry and yet every human male I could see stared in open adoration.

The other had the most perfect female shape in my opinion. It was packed in skin tight dark red leather, shimmering with a glare only leather could create, at just the right places to accent these round shapes. A wide floor length cape with black fur trimmed seams, billowed around her in a dramatic statement of utmost confident as she drew an enormous sword in a much practiced fluid move and placed its tip under the nose of an imposing red scarf wearing gang member. The big man froze in his move. Her regal face surrounded by long black hair dominated by the bluest eyes I had ever seen, showed no distress. The gorgeous shaped full red lips, curled to the slightest smile of utter arrogance that came with the confidence of control.

Despite my troubled thoughts, I could not fight the sudden urge to kneel before this goddess in red leather.

Space Port security arrived, three robots, a Klack and a blue skinned human. Both armed with SII-Sectools and wearing light armor suits. (UGM 1/5030 “Chaos Control at Threshold”)

While there was more than one sub-species of Homo Galactus with blue pigmentation, only one had this distinctive behavior. No matter how hard some of them tried not to act typical Thauran. (UGM 10/4999 “Where Haughtiness is Art”)

This security officer was Thauran, but he was as professional as a Pertharian and polite like an Archa.” Everyone take a step back. Let go of anyone you are currently choking and lower any object that could be defined as a weapon.”

His tone was friendly but firm.

Grogy Brown coughed and wheezed as he had been released, the raven haired goddess put her sword back in its scabbard.

“Before we sort things out. Anyone hurt?”

The leader of the Killer Eels still wheezing.” My windpipe is crushed, I am dying! That brute almost killed me.”

“Do you request or require medical attention? It does not appear life threatening.”

Brown shook his head.

One of the robots was attending to the Triple Strong still out cold. “Fractures detected, medical assistance recommended.”

One of the Bad News snarled. “Is he alive?”

“Yes, Traveler. Vital functions are all stable.”

“Let him be. No Med aid.”

The Thauran Officer gave his Klack partner a nod and said to the gruff Club member. “I am sorry, Sir. Are you the legal guardian of this man?”

“No.”

The Thauran’s voice had a note of amusement.” Sir, I have bad news for you, but this gentleman will receive Med Assist. Scanning and comparing his data against the POIL would not cause a problem, right?”

A med bot arrived and tended to the man while the Klack watched closely.

The Thauran said. “If you all cooperate we will sort this out here and as stress free to everyone. Or we can do this by the book, where I write a lot of reports and you have an appointment with the Judge on Duty.”

“What he said had the desired effect. Everyone was backing up and visibly relaxing.

“My name is Captain Norlor Norban, of the Space Port Control Authority and Port II is my turf. I like it peaceful and orderly and since you all agreed to do this the easy way, I will do my part.”

He then turned to the huge man, who made the bots look small.” Starting with you sir. May I check your CITI?”

Holding out a forearm the size of my upper thighs, the man complied.

“Hogun Olafson, Nilfeheim. All checks out, no warrants. Authorized to carry Class VI, I am impressed. Where did you serve your 22 month? This is a question of interest and need not be answered.”

“Not twenty two month, 16 years RAvE.”

The Thauran’s face changed to an impression of utter respect and open awe.

No one else, not his companions the drifts or I had any idea what union service this was.

The Thauran however addressed the big guy as if he spoke to Stahl. “Sir, I owe my life to RAvE but no matter my personal feelings, I must continue this.

I had a Data Brain for professional reasons, but never got into the habit like so many did to be constantly connected and ask everything. I only connected to upload my images, keep time and store those things I tend to forget using my biological one. Like appointments or flight and information of course without directional information I would have missed many ships going the wrong way. Information for my features I liked to find out at location. Using a standard PDD to find all the missing pieces while I wrote the story, felt more natural to me.

Until I talked to the Professor I was the Unions biggest fan and prided myself to know almost all Union services, at least all our military branches. That the big man didn’t serve as a filing clerk or janitorial service provider, seemed obvious judging by the officer’s reaction.

Data Brain services retrieved the found information, processed it into neural impulse input and made it an instant memory.

RAvE was a special branch of the Citizens Office. Not exactly secret, but still kept out of the public eye as much as possible.

While I learned something new about the Union, the Thauran said. “Inflicting bodily harm on another sentient being must be justified. Please tell me why you did, break the jaw of…”

The Klack turned and said. “Timothy Evers, native to Triple. Union Citizen, no outstanding Union record.”

“Mr. Olafson why did you hit Mr. Evers?”

“He asked for credits and threatened Lars Torkelson with physical harm if he did not comply. Now Lars has a very short temper, so I asked this guy to back off. He hit me, so I returned the favor. If he’d hit Lars, you’d be investigating his demise instead of a broken jaw.”

The Thauran asked the Triple Strong who was getting up. “Able to make a statement, Mr. Evers?”

“Yes! This traveling circus and that Saturnian kid masking as a standard threatened us. That smaller guy there was about to cut me with a big knife.”

“You did not panhandle and initiate the contact?”

“No we are peaceful…well maybe I did ask for a voluntary donation to our benevolent Club helping us with a few credits.”

The big man said.” Swipe over all you got or I break your neck does not sound like asking for a donation Sir.”

The Thauran turned to the closest robot. “MSP-5 got enough?”

The robot with the lettering MSP-5 across its Ultronit chest made its eyes flash green,” Affirmative, Sir. Case 07055030/664 assault and battery complete. Physical evidence, testimonials and Poly Analysis complete. Error Margin of investigation result 0.02%, Law Central: Action taken by Olafson, Hogun resulting in bodily harm to Evers, Timothy justified. Verdict: No Union laws broken. Case closed.

Case 07055030/665 Attempted Robbery. Physical evidence, testimonials and Poly Analysis complete. Error Margin of investigation result 0.02%, Law Central: Action taken by Evers, Timothy against Torkelson, Lars- Unlawful. Union laws violated. Class 4. Verdict: guilty.

Sentencing complete and Judge verified: 10,000 credits fine.

Law Central recommends to take into custody: Evers, Timothy, native to Triple. Union Citizen, one Union record on file. Guilty verdict permitted check. 678 local arrest warrants active, 445 convictions in absence. 98 percent of all charges and convictions are based on assault and battery known member of the Bad News Travel Club, Club and street alias is Pulverizer.

Categorized Violent – Restrain level MAX. Case filed. Ongoing.”

The bandana wearing bruiser cursed like I never heard anyone curse before. He pushed, at least tried to push the smaller Klack out of the way. The robot close to him was much faster and encased him in a force field bubble.

The Thauran waved both of his arm motioning everyone to gather around. He clearly included us even though we weren’t close or involved.

“Listen up, all of you. To me Non-Cits, Ex-Cits, Residents and Cits are all the same, because I represent the law and the law makes no difference between these labels so you are all welcome here. Test my patience by ignoring the laws. Or thinking they don’t apply to you because you don’t like them and you’ll find me much more difficult to deal with.

One more thing before I let you go as I see new faces. Whoever or whatever you are you are on Union ground and that means the law is also there for you all. Someone does you wrong, harms you, threatens you, even if it is the Speaker of the Assembly the law and I are on your side.”

He wished everyone a pleasant night and waved his robots to leave.

Just then an old man, dressed like the travelers who were still here came running. “How big is the trouble they are in?”

“Who are you?”

“Egill Skalagrimmson, Nilfeheim. They belong with me and are not the most experienced travelers. What happened?”

“I am done here Sir. I am sure they can tell you what happened.” The Thauran tipped his helmet. The robots, the restrained Triple and the Klack took off with glowing Arti Gravs and flew away.

The newcomer was an old man with white hair, but this is where the similarities ended. The man was clean, wore black leather and a expensive looking cape with silvery fur trim. His hair was long thick and neatly arranged. Even his eyebrows were white. He appeared to be in the same age group as the Professor but he looked like a picture of health, He wore boots reaching to his knees.

While he had no sword. He had a big knife handle sticking out of the shaft of his left boot and another one in his belt.

He talked to his people and much to my disappointment. The group and the two beauties turned and were about to leave.

The Professor was suddenly on his feet and yelled.“I know who you are Skalagrimmson of Nilfeheim. You are one of the Wise man. Your Narth puppet Masters can not hide the truth.

Everyone of you must die so we can be free!”

Just as unexpected was the chemical slug thrower he produced. Having been on many primitive worlds, I knew how dangerous and deadly they were.

Out of reflex and instinct I threw myself forward hoping to interrupt his aim. I could not simply permit a murder.

The weapon made a loud bang but the fast projectile aimed at the other man slowed to a crawl and stopped in midair and so did I before I even hit the Professors arm.

The weapon disassembled itself in its components.

“Narth slave, your masters can not protect you forever, One day humans will see the truth! You haven’t brainwashed us all!”

The old man sounded pissed and yelled to his people. “Go to the Portel don’t stop and wait for me. Hogun make sure they get there. Having you guys angry with swords at a space port wont be a good idea. Let me deal with this.”

While the big man simply herded the old man’s companions away. A completely black shrouded figure appeared out of thin air. “Egill may one request that you refrain from alerting security. This human referred to many concepts one does not comprehend. May one engage in conversation?”

I of course had heard of the three wise men, I had heard them and their opinion on issues and like so many always found to be the logical, common sense and straight forward. Whenever I listened or read about one of the larger issues and someone requested their take on thing I found the response always a good solution. As I was thinking that, I also remembered that they often had a completely different opinion than everyone else.

But here a few moments after an attempted murder. I saw a real Narth close up. His telekinetics were incredible. He had stopped a bullet in mid air. Disassembled a weapon, caught me and held the professor while he teleported and talked to the old man.

The Narth spoke directly to me. “You are mistaken. It is not ones psionic manipulation of energy in matter state, you observed. One merely arrived in the manner you correctly identified. One also did engage in conversation. However as much as he improved his manipulation skills, one would not equate it with Narth abilities or validate it with a predicate such as incredible. Humans have the expression mediocre that one finds much more adequate.”

The Professor dropped to the floor and so did the bullet and the metal pieces of his weapon. I found myself back on the concrete block in a more gentle fashion.

Egill turned raised his voice. “What is the idea, shooting someone in the back? You rotting piece of Tyranno dung. If you don’t agree what I have to say here or at the assembly go and say it in the open. ”

To Narth he said.” Go ahead talk if he wants to. I still going to call security. He might try that again and the next guy may not even have mediocre telekinesis.”

The Professor shook his fist. “Go call your jack boots and drag me to the gallows. I still tried to rid the Universe of one of the Brainwashed Narth puppets. How can I speak in the open if you oppressors crush any free thought any open word. You call yourself a wise man Yet you could never allow me to openly discuss anything. You are hollow. I have intellect and free will. You are afraid of me and the few like me. A jack boot mouth piece would never agree to an open forum discussion with me, your and your shadow master power would end if it dragged into the open by me.”

The Narth pointed with both hands at the Professor.“In one sentence he used more fascinating and concepts than any other human encountered. His act will terminate his existence and yet he knows how brains are washed!”

Egill said. “I accept your challenge. I am not calling myself wise or claim I know it all. I have no idea what this is all about. Instead of spewing insults and shouting half sentences that make no sense. I challenge you to argue whatever ails you and I will reply. As for the forum, you pick the place.”

“I can’t step in front of the masses and rip your mask off so they can see the truth. But I can do it right here!”

I got up and said. “This is important to everyone in the Union. The Professor has opened my eyes to many things, I have an eye cam and a data brain with GalNet hook up.” I looked at the man called Egill. “Still want to do it? My Channel is not the biggest, but a few hundred Billion will know the truth tonight.”

Egill gestured and one of the heavy park benches floated over to him and he sat down. “Truth cannot be quantified or validated by the number of people believing something. Truth stands by itself. I am still in the blue as of what I am accused of, but by Odin I will answer any challenge with what I know. If it is the truth what I will say is for you to find out. Declaring something to be true and actual facts are not the same thing. So broadcast it to whom you like.”

I made the connection.

It became quiet.

Egill said.“Well you are awful quiet for a loudmouth. You attacked and accused me, lets get started.”

The Narth also sat down. “Since this appears to be an inactive phase of this exchange one finds very intriguing would you please explain several of these truly fascinating concept. All Narth wants to know how a brain is washed. Washing is a mechanical activity involving solvents or surfactants to remove unwanted substances from an object, if one is not mistaken. What substances are to be removed? Does this require a surgical procedure? Are there benefits of such an action?”

Egill started giggling.“Drift, you opened a can of worms. I certainly love to hear your explanation.”

The Professor crossed his arms.“Are you trying to make us believe this joker is a Narth? Are they not supposed to be smarter than anyone and know all there is to know?”

Even though the being was completely shrouded, I was certain he was confused. My data brain also received the information that the UGM Channel has already reached its previous viewer record of 120 billion active log-ons and the number was rising.

“Sir I assure you one is not a Joker. One does tells or plays jokes. One would be incapable of such activities. Despite ones friends to explain how it is done. Further one does not seek to make a show of cleverness. Should your statement indicate that you find this Narth inept or annoying then one shall be grateful if you share on what observations you base this conclusion. If smartness equals cognitive abilities one can not be smarter than anyone. As anyone would include any sentient condition where cognitive function could be measured and then compared. Narth is aware of sentient entities that exceed all Narth. Your last statement one finds extremely illogical and difficult to comprehend. If one knows all, why would one see the need to ask you?”

“You are not a Narth. I challenged this self appointed adviser to the assembly. This show of making it a farce shows you have no arguments and use this to hide the fact that the Citizens are brainwashed in school, that no one really votes and it is all a big lie. A few beings tun the show and enslaves the rest!”

Egill stopped the Narth who was about to speak.

I wasn’t so sure this was a pretender. To me the questions of the Narth made perfect sense. What is a Joker to an alien? Would not anyone who doesn’t know humans behavior ask about brain washing?”

Egill responded to the question: “I am the representative of a small, unimportant world. I have been picked because no one else wanted the job. I am certainly not an expert on Union history, education or the Assembly for that matter. The last day I was at school was over over 400 years ago, so I am not really op to date. That you accuse me in such a broad manner, being part of a Galaxy wide conspiracy of the Narth, makes me think that academic title is not the result of actual peer recognition of your scholastic achievements.”

He arranged the folds of his coat and paused for a moment.“Union school existed since it all begun and was not meant to educate about math and science and all that. Such knowledge an skills can be taught locally. Union School was always a tool to change, influence and give thought a direction. In a way this is brain washing or at least conditioning. It was intended to unify different societies, cultures and philosophies by giving everything a common ground.

The Union has always celebrated diversity and nothing else is the source of our success, but diversity only works as a source of inspiration if a Spindlar can communicate his ideas to an Ult and knows he’s understood. Schools were meant to give us the ability to communicate and to understand the others. The schools purpose was and is, to erase differences by giving everyone the same foundation. Union school never hid its agenda or the ideology it taught.

Education even yours is a form of brainwashing when it comes to teaching about ideologies and here too, the Union makes no secret about them and everyone who ever spend a minute in Union school will agree that the first thing they teach is to draw your own conclusions..

The ideology is an odd one as it tries to combine opposing concepts. Total Freedom means Anarchy and then the only law that prevails then is the law of the stronger and freedom is no longer universal and for everyone. The strong oppress the weak, exploit them and curb their rights to expand theirs. Our brand of Freedom is called liberty. It gives everyone the right to choose and to be free to do what you want as long as it does not infringe on the rights and freedom of others.

You have the right to kill or harm yourself. But not the freedom to kill or shoot someone in the back, because he does not share your views. You have the right to work but not demand that others work for you. You have the right to say and think what you want but not force others to listen or to think as you do.

The government in our union has only one purpose and reason to exist. It aims to create an environment where this is possible. To defend these liberties against any threat aiming to take these away and our laws define these liberties.

If we want to brainwash and program living robots, why classrooms and teachers? Some Psycho Surgery with agenda upload and everyone thinks and feels the same. Why not using genetic tailoring along with it and create perfect beings that serve as slaves and robots?

The HPI is measured and Psionic abilities determined for three reasons. To protect those without them, to protect those with them from false accusations and to teach gifted individuals how to use them without harming themselves or others.

If I wanted I could make you say whatever I want, turn you inside out, create a tumor, age your cells or rupture a vessel in your brain. My Narth friend here considers me a mediocre psi talent, but without our Psi laws there would be nothing you could do or even know who did it.”

The gathering had attracted more and more beings. A few moments ago a local News channel, most likely due to my broadcast.

The Professor laughed out loud.“I have a Saresii grandmother. I know Psionics. Empty boost to make you look important, Union oppressor?”

His hair started to stand up, in a mere moment it looked as if he was wearing a balloon on her head, while the stickers, patches all over her clothing came loose.

Egill said.“I am hanging out with a Narth and a Saresii for Odin’s sake. Do you think, I get away pretending.” Wile he talked the individual hair strands started to create little braids.“I can do that to your beard as easy as I can do to his guts or brain lobes. Since my friend isn’t a Narth according to you. Can’t be him doing it,right?

As bizarre this all was, an impromptu event in a space port lobby now broadcast across the Union.

The image of the professor unsuccessfully trying to get his own hair under control caused several to start giggling.

“Alright it shows you are more powerful than the Saresii, it also makes my point. You use it to ridicule me and silence me.”

“You have ridiculed yourself since this started. My point was to show everyone how dangerous Psionics are. Do you know how many Psionic talents have hurting themselves before we had the HPI? Do you know that millions of Phantas colonists have killed themselves and seriously hurt others because they dd not know how to safely handle this? There have been millions of Leedei and Saresii throughout their history who did the same before it was realized they had a much stronger gift.

During Earth’s Ascent , Terrans believed Psionics to be magic, they did not understand it. Thousands were killed, prosecuted because they were different. Or even just accused of being different. Random events were blamed on individuals who had or were accused of having Psionic talents.

Events like this were repeated on colonies and cases like this were heard by courts, injustice was done until we made these Psionic Laws and tested every one. Finally the governments only duty to protect everyone’s liberties must protect those who do not have the same abilities. Power corrupts and not everyone having Psionic powers has the necessary restrains. A power no one can see and makes you masters over others is very tempting. So now you know the reasons for HPI and Psi laws.”

The Narth pulled on Egill’s sleeve.“One finds this well chosen words, but Narth does count as one. One can see the Psionics quite well. As for your demonstration may I point out, that you overlooked 289 follicles?”

Some onlookers were in awe, others had nodded in agreement and the Narth statement again caused a few giggles.

What caused me distress is my own reaction. I knew all this, much of the Professor’s statements that caused me to react in childish panic and made me doubt reality started to dissolve as I thought about it. What caused me to buy all this, swallow it as if it was the Gospel truth?

Egill in the meantime,padded the Narth’s shoulder. “So noted, my friend.” To the Professor he said.“Now it’s your turn again. How am I exactly oppressing you?”

“Not just you, the Assembly the voting results no one tallies, the results are nothing more than those secret powers want them to turn out. Numbers snatched out off thin air. Everyone thinks they are apart of it, yet they are not.”

Egill rolled his eyes.“Says the guy who never finished Union school. I am not going to answer this. You might accuse me to ridicule you again. Instead pick anyone here. I see a good number of citizens. Anyone of them can answer your question.”

The scary truth was, I could too. Why was I not able to d it before all this?

A big Pertharian in the crowd said.“Don’t pick me, because you will say Pertharians are not objective towards anything Union.”

A little Holdian stepped out of the crowd.“I know!”

The Professor new he had to say something and he did not sound as righteous or self assure anymore.“You all have been programmed and conditioned by centuries of forced propaganda. You are not able to think critical and question it all.”

More than just a few became very nervous as a huge Nul split the crowd as he passed to the front. “I am Ang. I am Nul and we Nul have just begun to become Union members. Only a year ago all the Union was our enemy. I have not yet received any schooling. That should qualify me to answer, right?”

“You are as much a Nul as that shrouded actor is a Narth. What did the Union do to the Nul to enslave them? You are a robot, or projection. Why would a real Nul be here on Blue Moon?”

“Someone in the crowd said.“Who can answer your questions then? You reject everyone.?”

“Those are no questions! It is the truth. None of these parlor tricks aimed to appease the mindless sheep will work on me.”

The Nul said .“Your illusions clouded your mind. The only reason I am not turning you into blood stain is my conviction that you are mentally sick.”

To everyone else he said.“It is illogical to claim everyone is conditioned and brain washed and then saying tricks are needed to keep it up. I am a Nul, but for what I have to say it does not matter if I am a projection, a robot or just a voice. Truth is self evident by the most basic logic of cause and effect.

If the Union wanted us Nul conquered, destroyed they would have done it already.

It was us who initiated contact not the Union.

Nul are completely immune to Psionics The Kermac have tied long before there was a Union.

I am here because our leader allowed us to make up our own mind. I decided to learn and travel before I become part of what I thought is the enemy .Because of these travels, I am here and on my way to apply. Because of my decision to find out for myself I can rebuke you.

I wanted to know how voting works. Not just the act but the mechanics and the validity of the results. The answer is Mem-Rep and P Rep votes are openly tallied with name and and decision.

On the 5th paragraph of the Union Voters handbook you will find that every voting result to the last vote is not only tallied by the Assembly but that everyone can. During that Peace Hawk period the Assembly did try to manipulate it unsuccessful. They could influence only the Representatives not the voters I found in my research. Now to validation. How you stand on an issue and vote is confidential, that you vote is not. Because it is your CITI that gives you access and verifies you can indeed vote. Every voter can ask for a voting record. He can ask for his own and see every vote he ever taken. Your vote is linked to the CITI. He can do that for his neighborhood, his town, his community, his planet.

But now comes the reason why votes are indeed valid. Because you can vote confidential but you do not have to. I learned that eighty percent of Union voters are proud of their opinion and stand behind it. They vote openly with their full name. You can simply call and ask the citizen why he voted that way. Every open vote is archived. You can check every open vote and see if that name exists. I checked a few thousand to make sure this is true, because I am the leader of the Nul Objection. We love our King and adore our prince, but I feared it is a trick. Because we have been tricked before.

My king did order me to comply but asked me to do whatever I can to find a reason why we should not join. Two Hours ago I told his majesty, that I was on my way to immigration. That a person like you is allowed to openly speak like that is proof that nothing you say is true or logical.”

The crowd applauded the Nul and the Holdian took all his courage and stood before the giant.“Welcome to the family Ang.”

Egill got on his feet.“That you are allowed to voice your opinion, before all these people and via Galnet during an event not even you can call planned, should be evidence that no one is trying to hide anything. I think I am done here.”

The Professor was defeated, even in all his hate he could not think of anything to rebuff that. But he tried.“Who are the Narth? What is their agenda? Why are they in charge and who are the Gray Ghosts. You say votes are counted, but do they matter to a hidden elite?”

The Narth answered.“One is Narth and one would think one is an authority to answer. However one is intrigued on what criteria you determine one is a real or unreal Narth?”

“All we are hear is that Narth are incredibly powerful, god like and wise. Whoever you are, this is not how Narth supposed to be. Making strange jokes, you appear just to be a human behind a hood, not the mysterious inhuman entities Narth claim to be.”

“To be godlike one would need a definition what god is. It has been observed that this term is very vague and applied by most corporal beings to anything and anyone they do not comprehend. Unless you can clearly define what a god is,drawing such parallels is quite impossible. Power is relative to ones own abilities. While the natural abilities of Narth might exceed yours in certain aspects, it does not in others. Wisdom is a concept Narth has yet to fully comprehend. That other beings consider ones conclusions as wise, is beyond ones control. One is certainly unaware how Narth supposed to be. Is there a set of benchmarks the state of Narth is gauged? If yes, what is the ideal Narth ? As mentioned before one us unaware and incapable of making jokes, because the concept eludes Narth. That I appear human underneath my garments is explained in that we did chose humanoid form. Narth has never claimed to be mysterious, it appears to be an emotion created by lesser entities when confronted with conditions outside of the level of comprehension. Inhuman however is a fact and not a claim as we are indeed not human.”

Someone said.“Very good question you crazy loon. Tell us what a Narth supposed to be.”

Someone else asked.“Mr. Narth I don’t like that drift much, but to be honest. What is a Narth?”

The Narth addressed the female. I could not see her, as the Nul blocked my view. He said.“One can only answer this question if you can define what you are. So one is able to describe ones nature.”

“I am Olga Horns, Landing field systems technician, native to Brown Moon. Species is Terran Human. I am female, Union Citizen.”

“Is that an adequate description as who and what you are? ”

She and several others agreed.

“One is Narth, Narth Representative. Native to Narth Prime,Species is Narth. One defines the gender as male and one is a Union Citizen.” He cocked his head.“One never suspected it to be that easy and simple to define one self.”

His answer caused some laughs and the first voice said.“Can’t argue with that.”

“What is your agenda, Olga Horns?”

“Doing my part as a Citizen. Be good at what I am doing Raise my two children and retire with my partner at Thousand Lakes.”

“Ones agenda is to represent Narth , see my godchild rise to adulthood and once my services are no longer required, one intends to live on Nilfeheim.”

The woman said.“You have a godchild?”

“One is the godfather of Eric Narth Olafson. Eric Narth is attending Union School now.”

Egill took over.“A society like ours has external enemies and the Gray Ghosts are an Elite indeed. Their existence and their agenda is spelled in great detail in a detailed act that had been discussed and ratified. Their identity is kept secret and the reasons for that are also spelled out. They only recommend, it is the Assembly and the Voters who make the decision. If anyone wants to know their identities go ask for a vote. I am out of here, I need a drink and then I have to explain to Narth what a Puppet Master is.

We are done here right?” He addressed the crowd and me.

Everyone agreed and I was terribly embarrassed for my role in all this.

The Thauran Security officer and a robot landed before the Professor.” We are not done entirely. Attempted murder is not a misdemeanor. Professor.”

“You Union jackboots. Oppress...”

“Yes, yes. I was here for the most part and it get’s tiresome. Since you decided to break the law,I am now able to check on you.”

The Professor looked for an escape, but even without the robot, there was a Pertharian in the crowd. His chances to survive any sort of attempt were next to nil.

The robot says.“No birth record on file, HPI scan complete 345 . Psionic talent likely. DNA scan complete, Union Bench Warrant issued to individual with matching DNA, Illegal drug trafficking. Illegal substances detected. Legal Central requests investigation. Arrest and restrain.”

The Professor did not resist, but his companions started to complain.

The robot said. “Illegal psionic devices and restricted psycho pharmaceuticals detected.”

The Thauran Officer looked at the scan results displayed on a small field screen.“Hudian Panic Herb, Saresii Confusor and something Shaill. For someone accusing others of brainwashing and manipulation you carry an entire psycho laundry around”

“How else can I open the eyes of those who have been blinded for generations?”

“I think the Nul is right, you are insane. We let the judge sort this out.” He gave the robot a sign and the machine placed the professor in a force field. No sound escaped as the Professor was screaming as the robot took flight and was gone.

The Security officer said to the professors companions. “Did he expose you to Panic Herb smoke, Confusor rays or anything. As potential crime victims you can get free treatment.”

“Fuck off Jackboot.” The woman hissed and spat on the ground.“I am not submitting to your torture chambers.” She and the two men turned and left.

I remembered the Professor smoking something, and consulted GalNet about Hudian Panic Herb. I learned that it was a plant based phobia and fear inducing drug isolated and concentrated into an oily substance that could be inhaled if vaporized. Long time use was addictive. The effects included lucid dreams, enhanced senses, increased learning capability but paired with paranoia and strong fear emotions.

I hoped my editor would accept this as an apology for perhaps ruining the reputation of UGM.

I decided to call her right away and tell what happened. She responded. “I should fire you, but you are our star feature provider and who knows what I had done under drugs and all that. Your job is not without risks as this clearly shows. I think you have enough for a story. Sleeping in a cold cave won’t add much and your stunt has quadrupled our subscriptions, as about every tenth viewer followed our subscription link.

So instead, I give you a bonus and order you to visit your wife on Para Para. Two month vacation at least.” With that she terminated the connection.

Most of the crowd had disbursed by now. I watched the Holdian sitting on the Nul’s right hand while the two talked.

Egill was still there in an animated conversation with the Narth and the female landing field technician.

My Andorian friend had been very quiet until now.“I guess we made the trip to Panjo for nothing and with all this being sent over GalNet, I better try to drift on. Face recognition tools is one of the tools, private investigators, bounty hunters and the Black Man use to find what they are looking for.”

“I am not sure I have a job after this stupid stunt, but I won’t leave without making sure your situation has improved and I am also going to see what can be done about Wac.”

Egill turned and caught sight of me and came over. “Thank you Mr. Cunningham for saving my life”

“I was too late to stop him Sir.”

“But your mental impulse was so strong, that I was able to react. This Professor wears a Kermac shield. I assure you I did not dig or scan. But you are thinking quite loud.”

The Narth somehow appeared next to the old man from Nilfeheim. I didn’t really see him move. So close up to the Narth there was no doubt this was a Narth, not that I had ever met one or been this close. His completely shrouded appearance and those glowing eyes that made feel quite uneasy, caused an uneasy feeling, not quite fear but pretty close.

The Narth bowed. “One would also express my gratitude. For one became quite attached to this grumpy human hermit.”

Egill growled.“You don’t even know what grumpy means and how can I be a Hermit with you and pretty boy always hanging around?”

“One is certain the behavior pattern you display is described as grumpy. By observing you for an extended period of time gave me a fair sampling to visualize the dictionary definition and thus understand it.”

“You don’t say? So I am always grumpy?”

“No Algear thinks you can be cranky too.”

The Narth spoke now directly to me.“Please do not be alarmed, your emotional response to ones presence is still somewhat artificially enhanced by the inhaled substance.”

“Yes I just learned I might have been under the influence of something that made me act like a fool.”

“The effects of the substance did not make you act or react differently , but increased the production of hormones that changed your emotional response. However one notices that these effects are subsiding.”

I frowned. “That is what I feared, that stuff just lowered barriers. All this foolishness was there already.”

“No, what one tried to say is that most sentient beings with the ability to experience and react to situations not just by logical rational thought but by irrational instincts and emotions can be influenced by external stimuli and change ones natural balance between rational and irrational reaction and response

to situations. Narth are no different in that. Alcohol consumption has similar effects to Narth.”

While I needed to concentrate so I could follow the Narth and understand what he was saying. I was truly surprised by his last statement.

Egill said.“There few creatures more foolish than a drunk Narth, let me tell you. They can lift a battle ship with telekinesis, separate molecules into their atoms and even cause nuclear reactions. My friend here could tell you how much molecules are in your body, while simultaneously read 100 different articles on GalNet, and hold a conversation with 200 individuals, but give him a mug of ale and he’s quite capable of the most irrational actions. A drunk Narth can be quite dangerous but thankfully all it takes is another mug and he’s out like a light.”

Narth protested.“Lifting a battleship is at the very far end of ones abilities and one could not do anything else for several month. And one was never able to consume more than 78 different information channels. Also one is limited to only 174 simultaneous individual conversations. Any more tend to confuse me. However since we Narth have decided to reverse some of our incorporeal development to once again comprehend and understand emotions we are also influenced by chemicals such as Alcohol.”

Egill spread his arms.“Returning to the reason I am still here and why I wanted to talk to you. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Well maybe you allow me to do a feature on Nilfeheim?”

“You don’t need my permission for that, there have been one or two such features in magazines likes yours before. But since I know your style and read a few of your articles. I suggest you may want to do one on the Halls of Hasvik, or the Meeting of the Clans. A story about the Uhim Grounds perhaps, or the Burgs of Nilfeheim. I get you in touch with Hogun and Elena. Hogun will make sure you survive it and Elena can open you pretty much any door.”

I was delighted, every suggestion had ring of great potential. “Thank you Sir.”

“That isn’t much of a request though. Is there anything I could do for you? We Neo Vikings are really old fashioned when it comes to honor debts.”

“You repaid it already by setting things straight and by this impromptu but perhaps historical event tonight. But since you are a Representative at the Assembly and the entire Union does consider you one of the wise men, there is something I need advice for.”

“Mr. Cunningham, I gladly give you advice or my opinion, but I wish everyone would stop calling us the Wise men. It elevates us to a pedestal and a position I am not all to comfortable with.”

“Sir, the events tonight affirmed to me and I wager to many who witnessed it, that you are indeed wise. In my opinion you displayed great power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right. Possessing discernment and judgment are the definitions of wisdom. Tonight it gave ample proof that you indeed are. In my opinion the Assembly and the Union is fortunate to have a voice of common sense and wisdom.”

Narth turned his shrouded head.“One begins to understand the concept of wisdom. What was just described is the the core reason Algear and Narth seek your opinion. Yes you are grumpy but one agrees your ability of discerning and judging properly surpasses that of Narth and perhaps Algear. One comes to the conclusion by analyzing your responses to a great number of subjects, that you are indeed wise.”

“For Odin’s sake, keep it up and I start to believe it myself!” He sighed and said.“What was it you wanted to ask ?”

“My Andorian friend here and a Jooltar I met are in a situation where I do not really know what could be done.”

I told Egill and the Narth all I knew. Both listened without interrupting and when I was done, Egill said;

“It does sound complicated, but it is not. Technically you would not need my help. I am saying that to show you no wisdom is needed. For both problems you could have contacted the Citizens Office. You could have sponsored them both and they assign a Case manager and find a solution. Even without you they can ask Social Services. Work Colonies may sound terrible but Wac would find work, housing and a safe place. I understand Immigration has offices there. Him overstaying is a misdemeanor at most and in the worst case carries a fine of a few hundred credits. Something he could pay back after Union School, becoming a citizen and find work.

Granted Aljoss case is a tad more complicated but they do offer legal advise at the Work Colonies for Ex Cits. Murder is murder but the circumstances determine the crime not the deed and the judgment can be challenged in a higher court.”

I had to agree and once again his advise was sound.

He was not finished and added.

“However since I owe you, I do more than just give you information you could have found on GalNet. Go fetch Wag, I issue him an Invitation to Nilfeheim, with it he becomes a legal visitor in an instant and can walk straight to the next GalNet terminal and apply. In five or six weeks, he’s a citizen.”

The Narth said.

“One wants to partake in this, therefore Narth invites you Aljoss to Narth Gate. There you will have adequate accommodations. No free agents such as these Black Men can harm you there. Narth will ask a Bellebee friend to analyze your legal case. Should your guilt be confirmed, one will act as a citizen sponsor and ask the Assembly to vote on a pardon. With confidence one assures you the Bellebee way of analyzing such things is on a level exceeding Narth. Also if you do not wish this, your stay and invitation to Narth Gate has no time limitation. Would this present a solution acceptable to you?”

Neither Aljoss nor I could believe the magnitude of the help just offered.

Aljoss in an impulse took the hand of Narth,“Thank you, Sir. Thank you!”

He repeated that at least ten times.

I too thanked Egill and the Narth from the bottom of my heart.


We did not stay in the park. I paid for first class accommodations at the Port II Sheraton. Aljoss fetched Wac and had returned with the Jooltar two hours later.

The Jooltar did not stay at the hotel, we went straight to the a Federal Police post where he was judged and fined 400 credits, I paid for him.

Immigration accepted his application and they issued him Immigration Aid, a Space train ticket to Balor Planet, the closest Immigration center to start school next Firstday.

He told me that he waited so long, that he did not want to wait one more minute.

It was already morning as Aljoss and I finally settled down for a night cap in my suite. He too holding a space bus ticket and travel documents to Narth Gate.

At the suggestion of the Narth he was now wearing a Narth like robe and would cover his face with a hood while he was traveling there. Facial features were not part of the travel ID issued but it would prevent anyone to recognize him on his way there. That a four meter tall being dressed as a Narth would cause stares, but since he held the first ever issued Narth Invitation, no one would question it.

He did not wear his hood yet as he sat across me, holding a drink.“I still can’t wrap my mind around what happened today. It went all so fast. Yesterday I was not sure I make the rent or eat and today I am traveling to Narth Gate. Free of fear for the first time in years. Thank you Alex,for everything.”

“I am not so sure I fully comprehend myself, but I decided to postpone the completion of this feature about Non Cits and drifts for a long time. However I am very glad I did decide to do it. I have learned much about our Union and myself. Most of all this experience showed me that I do not have to be ashamed to feel proud of our Union.”

Aljoss raised his glass.“I drink to that!”

End


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