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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

Tractors for Sale 8

“Easy does it.” The Wanti raised her hands and intertwined fingers on top of her head. “No need for that.”

Bill interrupted. “Can we kind of focus on L-T right now? If you people start shooting in here, I’m not sure I can pick up the pieces.”

Lannetay waved Olthan down. “If she wanted to try taking us down, she’s had plenty of opportunity.”

Carnifor walked over to the woman. “What’s your name?”

“Corporal Iresha Donter. I could give you my serial number, but it wouldn’t mean anything to you.”

“Relax, Corporal.” Lannetay’s gesture to Olthan was sharper than her words to Donter.“We’re not going to hurt you.”

Olthan looked askance.

“Of course not.” Iresha shook her head. “I surrendered. Why would you hurt me?” Then she smiled,lighting up the room.

Carnifor said, “Get rid of the rest of your space suit. Olthan, cover her.”

Lannetay turned back to where Bill worked on L-T. “How is he doing, Bill.”

“He’s lost blood, but that’s the worst of it.” A tube snaked out of the bulkhead and inserted itself in L-T’s right arm. “Fluids for a start. Calcium supplements for his medi-nano to rebuild bone. Growing replacements for bone and tissue will take quite a while.”

Iresha stood in tight-fitting blue shorts and t-shirt with space suit parts on the deck around her. Carnifor walked a circle around her, inspecting her with enhanced senses. “No sign of weapons. L-T why don’t you . . .” His voice trailed off. “Marc, pick up her suit and take it to engineering for study.”

Marc blinked in surprise. “Okay.”

The suit had broken down into about twenty pieces – gloves, boots, shins, thighs, torso, arms, and helmet. Putting it on must take a lot of practice. Marc would need at least three trips. Picking up the chest pieces made him blush, and Iresha flashed him a teasing smile. His already red face turned a brighter crimson.

Bill told Carnifor, “She’s safe enough, Commander. You can relax a bit now.”

Carnifor nodded absently, still keeping his eyes on Iresha. “Olthan, you can lock up your rifle. Make sure you take hers, too.” He pointed at the blaster still on the deck a few meters away.

Bill broke in again. “Commander, we have a hover car approaching.”

Carnifor finally turned away from the prisoner to see what Lannetay would do. After a moment of silence he prompted, “Lannetay?”

Lannetay looked up. “Find out who’s in the car. If they’re hostile, have Goofball blow them to pieces.” She had Bill grow a stool and she sat next to L-T to keep an eye on him.

I got this, Lannetay. Bill’s “voice” was uncharacteristically tender. Your crew needs you.

Let Carny take care of things for a while. He’s always wanted command.

“Whattawe do with her?” Olthan pointed at the girl.

Marc wandered in and scooped up more pieces of Iresha’s suit. “Use a grav cell.” He exited a moment later.

“What is a grav cell, Bill?” Carnifor had never heard of it before.

“Something kind of new. Surround the prisoner with high gravity and they can’t get away. In the middle is normal gravity, but it ramps up. Two gravities for a centimeter, then three, four, up to ten gravities.”

Iresha didn’t seem bothered by that. She only shrugged when Carnifor looked her way. “Okay. Bill, give her a couple of square meters, a chair, entertainment, anything she might need that won’t hurt you or the ship.”

“Consider it done,” Bill said.

Carnifor swapped out his support belt for a fully-charged unit. He and the armored Olthan hefted rifles and exited the ship.

***

I like the suit, Carnifor sent as they descended the ship’s ramp. I didn’t know we had that.

There’s three others. One of ‘em’d woulda let me hold off that whole platoon, but I couldn’t get to it soon enough.

The two men took positions covering where they expected the car to approach. As if choreographed, the car followed the expected course and stopped fifty meters from the ship. A lone figure emerged and walked toward the boarding ramp.

Goofball, look sharp, Carnifor sent. We might need you.

Roger that.

After a few seconds Bill told Carnifor, It’s Grenwel Pop. She’s asking to come aboard.

What does Lannetay say?

Bill sent back, She’s busy at the moment. By the way, Pop doesn’t appear armed.

Carnifor stood. Olthan, let’s go inside with her. Bill, set up a meeting room just inside the airlock. No sense in giving her more of a look at us than necessary.

Carnifor switched to a universal channel usable by most space suits. “Grenwel Pop, I’m coming up behind you with a shipmate. Don’t be alarmed.”

The spacesuited person jerked in momentary alarm, then turned. “That sounded like Carny. Apparently you found the right spot for our colony. Sorry about the soldiers, by the way.”

Carnifor waved toward the airlock. “Shall we step inside?”

Bill had partitions arranged to form a small conference room just inside the lock. Carnifor sent, Bill we need a table and three chairs. Could you have someone bring in refreshments? To Pop he asked, “Can we get you something to drink? Coffee, perhaps.”

“Coffee will be okay.” Pop removed her civilian-issue suit in two pieces and leaned it into a corner. When the table and chairs finished growing from the deck, she sat and crossed her legs.

Carnifor sat as well, but Olthan stayed standing just inside the airlock. The Marine removed his helmet and pointed his disrupter rifle to the deck.

Carnifor leaned forward. “You were saying something about the soldiers?”

“Yes. The Wantis had a series of small outposts constructed around our colonies here. One of them picked up your ship and reported it. Since the cutter was in the outer system, DoMinn ordered nearly every armed soldier to drive out here. They wanted to bring you in for arrest – or destruction, whichever was easier.”

“What’s going to happen now?”

A door formed in one of Bill’s walls. Iresha came in with a tray and Carnifor blanched. Nobody had told him the prisoner had been released. What’s going on, Bill?

Tell ya later, Carny.

Iresha, apparently, had been allowed to wear one of Lannetay’s outfits – a flowing, bright orange blouse with pinstriped black and white pantaloons. She placed the tray with a decanter and two mugs on the table.

Pop seemed oblivious to the situation. She filled one mug and took a sip. “Three men escaped a ghost fighter when it attacked. They report a single strafing pass devastated their numbers and they fled on foot back to Olmin.” Pop smiled. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about a ghost fighter, would you? It appeared out of nowhere, then vanished again.”

Iresha exited, and Carnifor couldn’t help scowling. He hated flamboyant clothing, and now the ship had two people wearing dangerously fluid outfits that could interfere during emergency situations.

Carnifor shook his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but this does provide an opportunity for you. Have you thought about recapturing your colonies?”

Pop’s smile broadened. “We’ve already taken everything back but the main dome of Olmin. Rumor has it only a dozen Wantis remain. Thing is, they have all the weapons.” Pop raised an eyebrow. “Unless you have weapons hidden away on this massive ship.”

Carnifor pursed his lips before replying. “Nothing you could use to oust a dozen Wantis.”

Pop relaxed once more. “Just as well. Rumors say the cutter is coming back to evacuate the remaining soldiers. As soon as they’re gone you can plant our new colony. Nobody will notice.”

“And we’ll have a place to put all those tractors in our hold.” Carnifor rubbed his chin. “Then I’m wondering what we can buy here that someone else might need on another colony.”

Pop stood. “Swonorikus is looking for oxygen-making equipment. Chemyl colony here makes some of the best.”

“How much for a load of that?”

Pop paused, as if calculating in her head. “I understand you’ll have fifty thousand credits in cash.” She flashed him a glowing smile before taking another sip of coffee.

Carnifor groaned, but inwardly admired the leader of Rubineker’s farming colony. Savvy negotiating could be the difference in a colony’s survival. This one would thrive.


If you're wondering more about these characters, their origins are detailed in Ebony Sea: Origins. If you appreciate this story, please share on social media, and consider supporting the author's ability to continue writing by purchasing the Origins story and leaving a review at the link above.


Next week: Running Before the Storm, as Ebony Sea: 1 continues.



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