Owerton Challenge I117, Morgus E007, ‘Green Tomato Cow’

Owerton Challenge

Morgus

Episode 007, Green Tomato Cow 

(April 5, 2017)

 August 24, 2017

Challenge: Issue 117

  • Words:

  • Green

  • Cow

  • Tomato

  • Contributor:

  • Anonymous

Morgus 

Our serial series is set in Kenneth Shumaker’s medieval fantasy realm of Quantos. We find the Apprentice Mage Morgus is out from the Mage’s University and on his one-year walk-about before he returns for his journeyman certification test on Autumn 50 of Pine, during the reign of King Regeanus III in the royal city of Mount Oryn’s South State district. Our intrepid hero, with a checkered past, is an attractive thirty-three-year-old human Jalnoric male with a bold personality and is determined to survive his walk-about year at any cost, even if it means snuggling in and working with nobility.

Previously in episode E006 on Autumn 79 Unicorn with:

After setting up a chapel in Hessan Manor, Morgus goes for a walk to meet an old friend, only to discover that the friend is dead. However, on his journey, Morgus gains a new friend, inviting the new friend to Hessan Manor. With Morgus’ guidance, the staff sets up a blacksmith shop in the tradeshop of the estate. As a result, Baron Hessan gives Morgus three large heavy tomes to study for a future intent.

We continue now with Episode E007 on:

Autumn 84 Unicorn

Now things can be easy, or they can be hard. Most of the time things are hard, and when they happen to be easy, people become suspicious. Oddly, Morgus is happy with today as he’s expecting a guest who is a friend, one that he easily happened upon a few days ago. It was a nice break after the difficulties of life. He may have been at odds with the laws of society as a pirate in his past, and Toaren recently reminded him of that past. Returning to South State district has reminded him of his past roguish lifestyle and his old attitudes. But life in the Mage University has altered his outlook somewhat, and seeing Leza opened up something in him he assumed didn’t exist. He had been told he was cold and calculating, at best, mischievous. But he matured in the university into something more, and Leza has warmed his soul. He actually cares about her plight and has concern for her and Sesan’s future, damn it. He has so much concern that last night he spent four hours thinking about Leza and Sesan before falling asleep, totally neglecting any spell work yesterday.

After washing, and dressing in his best clothing, Morgus walks downstairs to the staff dining room a full two hours before the staff morning meal, and an hour before Hez’s service to Imvor with Baron Hessan in attendance.

Walking into the dining room, Morgus trips on a pail by the door. Catching himself quickly, by clutching onto a chair back, Morgus looks behind himself, and he sees a steel pail of green tomatoes with flies buzzing about the pail.

Turning to the kitchen, he calls out. “Ada, what’s with the pail of green tomatoes?”

Coming out of the kitchen, the manor’s matron smiles, saying, “I’ve set them out for the dairy cow, Sarah. You can take them to her. If you do, I’ll have the cook give you a couple of extra cookies from the baking for Baron Hessan.”

Looking at the pail, then up at Ada, Morgus says, “At least two cookies for Leza, and I’d like two.”

Nodding, Ada smiles.

Laughing, Morgus picks up the pail, walking out to the corral to feed the green tomatoes to the cow, who greedily eats the fruit.

Returning to the manor in the dark, Morgus considers the whereabouts of the wights from the recent attack; they must still be in the area. One wight has a continuous light in his eyes, so he’s permanently blinded, and the other three will avoid him. But still? Where are the four?

Entering the dining room again, Morgus finds Bushnel at the table eating morning meal alone. The husbandman says, “I talked to Ada, and we agreed, I’d eat early and skip holy services this morning so that I can harness the carriage and head out before gods-rise to pick up your friend. You’ve been too happy since you returned from visiting them. So, we hope to get you to return to us by getting this over with soon.”

Sitting next to Bushnel, Morgus slaps the back of Bushnel’s shoulder, wholeheartedly laughing. “Thank you. I’ll try to focus again. When you see her, you’ll understand my preoccupation, Master Bushnel.”

Chuckling, Bushnel shrugs.

…..

With the Imvor service over, Morgus sits with Hez. “So, what else do you need for your smithy?”

Looking smug, Hez replies, “I looked the shop over, and everything I need is there. But we’ll need more coal and iron sooner than later.”

“We’ll take care of that. So, what I need is a set of knives for my parchment crafting, but not standard knives. Top-of-the-line knives, as I’m making mage parchment of the highest quality. I can’t have any nicking, or tearing, or scratches in the sheets. The knives need to be razor keen.”

Whistling, Hez responds, “Damn, you don’t start easy or simple. To do it well, it’ll take some time.”

“You have the time you need.” Offers Morgus.

…..

Sitting with Hessan in the large opulent office on the manor’s second floor, Morgus asks, “May I arrange apprenticeships over at Renol fief between tradesmen and citizens?”

The old man shakes his head. “No, you still need to get the guild or me to approve the contracts. At least, until you become my chamberlain.”

Nodding, Morgus answers, “I’ve started studying the first tome. I’ve studied the first ten pages containing the five principals of royal law. I’ll work quicker on the tomes.”

…..

Leza and her brother arrive with Bushnel in the carriage during the rain, two hours after gods-rise, to the cheer of Morgus who eagerly greets the two. “Let me show you around Hessan estate. Then we can enjoy a wonderful meal in the staff social dining room, where we will be undisturbed.”

The two follow Morgus through a tour of the estate’s many acres of buildings and gardens for over an hour. Arriving back at the house, he gives them a tour of the ground level, showing them the Hessan Imvor chapel as well. Then he leads them to the cellar, and the staff social area, and lastly into the dining room. There they find a meal of roast hare, spiced roast tubers, and boiled peas in butter sauce, with a desert of a hardy bread pudding in a rich, smooth spiced cream sauce. After indulging in the scrumptious meal, they retire to sit in front of the blazing fireplace. Content, Morgus sighs, and he addresses Sesan, “So, what trade do you seek to apprentice in?”

Surprised at this turn of conversation, Sesan looks to Leza for a moment before turning back to Morgus. Sesan says with a somewhat blank expression. “I don’t know. I work stables as a labourer for a duster a day now, and I work every day.”

Stumbling a bit, Morgus nods, and looking to Leza, he grins. Morgus then views Sesan again. “Then meet with me tomorrow at the Reeve’s house around midday. We’ll see what we can do.”

Leza places her hand on Morgus’ hand, asking, “You’d do that?”

Nodding slowly, watching Leza, Morgus then asks, “How much would your shop cost?”

Shaking her head, Leza replies, “No, you couldn’t. It wouldn’t be right. I couldn’t pay you back.”

Winking and grinning, Morgus sighs and then utters, “What if I didn’t ask to be paid back?”

Blushing, shivering, Leza shakes her head. “No!”

Sesan watches the exchange and nods, and then he replies, “I’ll meet you.”

Watching the young average appearing Jalmal, Morgus smiles. “Good, I like that.”

Autumn 85 Unicorn

This morning, for hours before gods-rise, it rained so hard that there were rivers of running water. Morgus set out on foot for Renol fief, but the running and pools of water slowed Morgus down considerably, resulting in him arriving after three after noon. Morgus now realises how far it really is to the fief.

Walking to Bailiff Gaeric’s house, Morgus finds the Jalmal, who is over a century old, at home. Morgus asks him if Sesan had been there.

Gaeric drawls out, “Yes, the boy was. He seemed very disappointed that you didn’t arrive when I sent him back to the community stable.”

Grunting, Morgus considers events, then sighs. “Tell me, is there a tradesman in need of an apprentice?”

Pausing, as he thinks deeply about this, Gaeric nods and replies, “Yes. Yes, there is … Freeman Carpenter Journeyman Tensen is in need of an apprentice.”

Smiling, Morgus considers this and then nods. “Tell me where I can find Carpenter Tensen?”

Shrugging, the bailiff replies, “Currently, he works for Bargewright Toaren.”

Groaning, Morgus nods. “Where did he set up his camp?”

Abstractly pointing south, the bailiff says, “He set up at the end of the south field trail.”

Nodding slightly, Morgus exits. Walking through the sloppy, slimy red clay mud of the trail, he slips and slides working his way out to the logging and timber camp.  Finding the location after nearly thirty minutes, he sees several tents and two structures standing in a tight grouping. There are many people around the two central structures. Morgus observes that the construction is being pursued on one structure, advances there. Finding Bargewright Toaren, he addresses the man boldly, “Gods-grace and good fate Master Toaren.”

Grunting, the pirate master nods.

Looking around, Morgus observes the workers. “I’m looking for Carpenter Tensen; may I speak with him?”

Nodding, Toaren points to an old octogenarian Jalmal who is toiling with building the framework for the cutting towers. “Be brief; I pay him well, and he’s slow.”

Saluting half-assed, Morgus walks over to the pampaloo, addressing him. “Gods-grace and good fate Master Tensen … I’d like to speak with you for a moment if I might?”

Stopping his work, the pampaloo heaves a sigh and catches his breath, “Yes?”

“I have a man who I would like to set up as an apprentice in a trade. The man has no trade skills, but he’s physically strong, healthy, and in his early twenties … he’s local to the area, can relocate here. He already works on this fief daily now.” says Morgus.

Looking at the mage, Tensen smiles, asking, “What’s his name?”

Having the attention of the carpenter, Morgus aims to keep it. “He is Master Sesan – works as a labourer in the stables.”

Chuckling, Tensen then replies, “I know the lad. I’ll take him for a fee of one hundred Flairs.”

Toaren, who is standing behind Morgus, clears his throat saying, “I want a hundred Flairs to let another worker on the site.”

Turning around, Morgus asks, “How so?”

Toaren boldly replies, “If any more workers are brought on my site by the journeymen, then I want a hundred Flairs fee paid to me as accountability for the worker to be here. Our agreement is for Renol workers to be hired for the site, so I’m imposing a penalty for my tradesman hiring a non-Renol.”

Frustrated, Morgus frowns and grunts. Watching Toaren, Morgus says, “Fine, done to both of you … he starts tomorrow morning. I’ll send him to see you this afternoon.”

Working hard walking back to the village, Morgus enters the stable to find Sesan mucking stalls. “Hey Sesan, gods-grace and good fate. Sorry that I’m late. But you’re now a carpenter’s apprentice with Freeman Journeyman Carpenter Tensen, out at the new logging site camp … you’re to head there now if you agree.”

Stopping and staring at Morgus, Sesan mumbles a moment and then asks, “You’re serious?”

Nodding, Morgus offers his arm.

Slowly, Sesan reaches out his arm and clasps, saying, “How do I thank you?”

Winking mischievously, Morgus boldly says, “Do your best work, learn quickly, become a master, and I’ll be repaid with that as a wondrous thank you.”

Shaking his head, Sesan asks, “Who are you?”

Firmly Morgus answers, “I’m a pirate – Mage Morgus of Lenden Estates … your friend.”

Nodding, Sesan releases his clasp grip.

Morgus says, “Now go see your new master at the logging camp before much time passes.”

…..

Sitting in Hessan’s extravagantly opulent office, the pampaloo nods. “Your solution is fine, but you will have to fund it yourself, at least until you earn your place as my chamberlain. I will not fund apprenticeships until then.”

Sighing, taking a drink of Larap’s rare wine, Morgus asks, “Then may I send Bushnel with my coins to Renol, tomorrow?”

Pondering this, while tapping his desk, Larap watches Morgus, and then he nods. “Okay, I won’t be using him tomorrow.”

Autumn 86 Unicorn

Sitting with Bushnel on the driver’s seat of the extravagant Hessan carriage as they leave Renol fief, Morgus says, “Thank you for bringing me along and agreeing to stop at 1018 again.”

Laughing, Bushnel encourages the four horses onward to their next destination which is not far away. The husbandman and carriage driver for Hessan’s estate replies, “For you, I’ll do this. But you’ll owe me, Master Morgus. Remember that when you’re Baron Hessan’s new chamberlain … I’ve heard the rumours.”

Slapping Bushnel’s shoulder in friendship, Morgus says, “If I have your support, I won’t forget, my friend.

…..

They pull up to the two-story wooden house and Morgus jumps down, knocking on the door at an hour after evening meal time.

Leza opens the door, with an expression fluttering from excitement, joy, and then to looking puzzled. She asks, “Why are you here, Master Morgus?”

Kissing her hand, he asks her, “Did your brother give you the news?”

Smirking and blushing, she says, “Yes, thank you for getting him the apprenticeship. But we can’t pay you.”

Winking, Morgus turns and walks away. As Morgus climbs onto the carriage, he calls back, “You just did. The carriage will pick just you up in five days for midday meal at Hessan manor. Be ready for the carriage at gods-rise on Winter one.”

Riding away, Morgus asks Bushnel, “You’ll be sure to retrieve her on Winter 1?”

“Of course, Master Morgus,” Grins Bushnel, as they return home.

Morgus’ nerves are getting the better of him. On their return to Hessan manor, his feet tap away at an old tune on the floor boards of the driver’s box. They arrive well after dark, but Morgus skips evening meal. He goes to his room to write in his journal and study the chamberlain’s tomes before retiring to bed.

 

By, Kenneth Shumaker.

To be continued in the next episode 108, ‘Green Rabbit Bottle’ …

Generally, work continues for Morgus, except for the return of past horrors striking out at him with a vengeance. Morgus calls to the aid of those of Hessan estate to resolve the issue, but who survives?

©2017 by Kenneth Shumaker with Inevitable Unicorn Press

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About the author: Kenneth Shumaker (Rusty Knight)

Following a long break from writing, Kenneth recovered his passion for writing. He is a science fiction and fantasy genre author, as well as a non-fiction writer, with Inevitable Unicorn Press (InUPress). Kenneth has been blogging with the Owerton Challenge and other blogs for many years. He now writes several serial short stories. Kenneth’s two businesses, his wife, his two children, and his six grandchildren keep him busy.

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Owerton Challenge I116, Star Grean E006, ‘Red Moose Automobile’

Issue 116

Episode 006

 

Star Grean

By Kenneth Shumaker

Episode 006, ‘Red Moose Automobile

April 11, 2017

August 12, 2017

 

Challenge: Issue 116

  • Words:
    • Red
    • Moose
    • Automobile
  • Contributor
    • Colin Riley
    • High Prairie, Alberta

Star Grean

 Our story takes place in Kenneth Shumaker’s 5th Galaxy science fiction realm of the Toran sector with the crew of the starship, Star Grean. Her captain is the enigmatic and sly thirty-six-year-old Veran human male, Levan, who is the default owner of Flind Exploration Corporation. Levan lives in a society that is dominated by females, ran by corporate political organisations, which obeys the female ran Venkaer religious institution. This is a society where no male is given the opportunity to command, or own property. Yet, we find Levan to be Captain of the Star Grean and her crew, even with a Venkaer’s 3rd Purist on board.

In the previous Episode 005 on 216:04:28:06:00

The crew simply wants to survive now. Entering into the new system, the Star Grean is struck down twice more. Yet the crew of the Star Grean do their best to pick her up again. They are running exhausted as they fly in-system, and then they sling around the star, Tunda and back out to the system’s big gas giant, losing velocity as they go.

We now continue in Episode 006 on 216:04:31:03:06 with:

216:04:31:03:06

Exhausted, the crew needs more rest, even though they had a full rest period yesterday. Levan is playing his green Royal Pheasant guitar to a lesser known Cora tune from ten years ago, as 3rd Purist Frena is singing the words to the campy tune for the seven others in the mess hall.

Horrace is still in the med bay recovering from his surgery.

Coming near the end of the song, the two performers pause and grin. It’s the raunchiest part of the song, and their minds are on each other.

Gunner Kendra glares at Frena as the two performers dreamily look into each other’s eyes. Storming out of the mess hall, Kendra lets the others know that she’s upset, but not about why, though Levan and Frena have their suspicions.

…..

Back in their cabin, Levan timidly asks, “How do the Purists view a triad, Frena?

Amused at Levan’s timidity, but also used to it from males, Frena shrugs, answering, “The Church doesn’t forbid them. But you never asked how I feel?”

Bowing and kneeling in front of the 3rd Purist, pale with fear, Levan asks, “Begging your forgiveness 3rd Purist, I had meant to ask, what is your opinion on the subject?”

Ruffling his hair, Frena shakes her head, saying, “No. What you want to know is, what do I think of Kendra and us together? … There’s not enough room in our bed for her, Levan. But … perhaps Talla can remedy that? It would resolve our issue with Kendra, in all likelihood … I hope … shall I propose this to her? Do you think you can satisfy us both?”

Swallowing hard, turning bright red and feeling warmer, Levan answers, “There really is only one way to know, 3rd Purist.”

Teasing him further, she strokes his chin. “Then we’re going to find out as soon as Talla modifies our bed … If Kendra agrees? I’ll talk with her.”

216:04:31:16:25

Concerned for his safety, Levan watches the 3rd Purist grinning broadly as she enters the command deck. With an evil grin, she walks over to Talla and softly talks with him.

Then Talla gives Levan a confused glance.

Levan simply shrugs and decides to nod.

Talla turns back to Frena, talks to her and then he nods.

Finally, gleefully happy, the 3rd Purist prances to her seat and plops into her couch. “Well, my sweet, be prepared to be further exhausted in a couple days. Talla says he’ll remanufacture our sleeping quarters to accommodate three. Tomorrow, during our work shift, he’ll do it with the help of the junior engineers.”

Gasping involuntarily, Levan didn’t believe the two women would agree to this, not this easily. Now, what does he do? Stiffening his body, he mans-up and replies, “Understood, 3rd Purist.” Blinking, he tries to figure out how much sleep he’ll be getting – not likely any for awhile – unless it’s on a work shift.

The mischievous female humar from the ever energetic Fren race smiles and leans over across the space between their couches, kissing his lips. Frena consoles Levan, saying, “You’ll get used to two females commanding you. Trust me; you’ll like it and enjoy it.”

Somehow Levan’s not so sure, and he turns back to his monitors. In his entire life, until a few short weeks ago, he couldn’t get a female interested in him except for the tender ministrations of grandma Velma. Now he has this: sleeping with and sharing two women who will dominate his life, even though he is technically their superior officer. How the gods is this supposed to work?

He watches the purple puppy burst forth on the night side of the northern hemisphere of the moon for perhaps the hundredth time, thinking that perhaps he is the blue bottle donkey in truth.

Turning to Kni, he keeps his thoughts to himself. “Kni, give me your report on the planet.”

Kni had been watching Levan and Frena, feeling somewhat envious, but concerned for Levan, too. He reports, “Captain, the planet is of no use to us; it has no solids at its core that we can access. The atmosphere is so full of sulphurous gases that it is totally toxic to us, and according to Engineer Talla, it is too difficult to filter to be of use.”

About to swear, he feels Frena touch his arm, and as he looks over at her. He notes her disapproving expression as she shakes her head. Settling back into his couch and muttering nonsense, Levan then asks, “Then what about the moons?”

Kni answers quickly, “With my scanning, I’ve found eight moons with usable atmospheres, and five of those have appreciable water sources. One moon’s atmosphere is totally methane filled. Moon twenty-three, the one you keep watching on your monitor, contains life. The moon is roughly planet-size at fifteen thousand kilometres in diameter, with a surface of roughly twenty-seven percent water. Life is abundant, as it has temperate and tropical zones, due to its proximity to the gas planet and their orbit of Tunda.”

Thinking this over, Levan comes to a decision. “We’re going into the orbit of moon twenty-three. Then I’ll shuttle down with an engineer and marines to gather resources to get some repairs completed, and get us better situated.”

Keying the com to all speakers for all decks, Levan says, “Five minutes to get strapped into your jump couches. We’re going to leave orbit, going through manoeuvres.”

216:04:33:03:34

Levan laughs as he extracts himself from the embraces with Kendra and Frena. This would be their first rest shift together in their newly shared quarters. The two women understand his need to pilot the shuttle down to the moon’s surface now. But it doesn’t mean either one of them is happy. Truth be told, Levan almost feels some relief.

Sweating in their space suits, Junior Ensign Engineer Lester and Biogeoscientist Kni are waiting with both marine privates on the shuttle. Levan, also sweating in his space suit, waits to leave the Star Grean’s two females to pilot the newest class of planetary shuttle available. He’s flown it to pilot the crew from Mort up to the Star Grean; this is his third flight of the shuttle. The beast carries up to six passengers, and they’re landing with five. The cargo space is empty going down. They want to fill it with two tonnes of resources to bring back.

Cautiously, Levan pulls away from the two females after kissing them. Kendra is so much more relaxed now. Levan hopes she doesn’t become too relaxed.

The Star Grean was put in orbit around the moon’s equator an hour ago by Levan, just as the crew went into the rest period for the new day. But Levans’ accelerated the resource search, mostly for selfish personal reasons which he hasn’t shared, explaining to the others that he’s nervous about the low air and the damages of the Star Grean and that he needs to fix these.

…..

As the shuttle is settling down in the plains, twenty kilometres north of the native’s settlement, Levan sets the shuttle down with barely a bump.

He shuts down the two planetary engines and runs the environmental test scanners for atmospheric factors. Muttering to the gods under his breath, Levan says to the others, “We need rebreathing gear. The air is full of sulphurous gases that’ll kill us in less than a minute if we breathe it.”

Breaking out the survival packs, the crew gears up. Levan mounts the universal translator on his back. He will carry the ten-kilogram computer with him to use with the local natives.

They cycle through the airlock before entering the coolness of the grey-blue moon. Kni says, “There is a roadway we can use a hundred meters from here, on the other side of that shrubbery.”

Following Levan, the team marches westward over the plain. They break through the thin five-meter-tall hedge of orange shrubbery, coming out onto a twelve-meter-wide roadway. Looking right then left, Levan turns to Kni and gestures south. Kni nods, saying, “Yes, twenty-one kilometres.”

Nodding, Levan begins walking to their left with the others following.

…..

Having walked for nearly three hours without seeing anyone, the team is shocked when a three-meter high mechanical red moose approaches them on the road. The odd-looking mechanical moose is chugging greyish black smoke, with steam billowing out in great grey and white clouds. It’s moving along, approaching them at over eighty-kilometers-an-hour. The vehicle manages to come to a rumbling halt five meters from the team. The marines quickly move to the fore, between the moose and the rest of the team, with laser rifles pointed at the ground but set to full charge beam.

A noisy rattling rumble comes from the left side as a door swings open and out steps a nearly four-meter tall creature rising up on its three massive tree-trunk-like legs. Levan thinks it must have occupied the whole of the front seat of the two-and-a-half-meter wide red moose-automobile. Chuckling that this intelligent behemoth stands almost more than twice his height, Levan moves between the marines to stand in front of them. He keys the universal translator and hopes the machine is quick to pick up this creature’s speech.

“Greetings, I’m Captain Levan of the Humar Territory. I wish to speak with you.” He realises that he can’t even tell if this is a male or female, or if it even has clothes on?

The creature grumbles a deep tenor string of speech, waving about its three arm appendages with the hands that each have six fingers with two thumbs. It goes on and on as if telling a story. Eventually, the translator begins picking out single words here and there. Levan lets the beast continue its monologue; he’s happy it’s so verbose.

He looks at the red moose-automobile thinking that the engine is steam power, fired by what appears to be coal. Odd.

As the universal translator’s microphones and video camera’s listen and watch the creature, the translator begins forming phrases and sentences from the monologue. Levan realises that it’s telling them its family genealogy. He tries not to laugh at the creature, allowing it to continue for a few more minutes.

Once he’s sure the translator is catching most of the words, Levan motions and repeats. “Greetings, great one. I am Captain Levan of the Interstellar ship, the Star Grean. We are from the Humar Empire; we seek your aid.”

Stopping its monologue, the creature hurmps and says, “Captain Levan, I’m Huss Lor of Yuses Village. What do you need?”

Sighing as he sees they’re now getting somewhere, Levan says, “We need several canisters of oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen. As well as a few hundred kilograms in several bars of hard metals.”

Huss Lor jumps into his red moose-automobile, closes the door, and drives right at the team, resulting in the team rushing for the road side. Huss Lor speeds off gaining speed to over a-hundred-kilometers-an-hour.

Confused, the Star Grean’s crew look from one to the other. They shrug and start walking again in the same direction they were originally headed.

…..

Seeing the smoke of the buildings ahead, the team stops. Levan is amazed at the enormous size of the structures. Seeing the rooftops of the buildings in the village ahead, he is having second thoughts about this. Especially after the reception by Huss Lor.

Grunting, and committing them to encounter the villagers, Levan starts the last two-kilometer walk, only to feel the ground shaking and hearing the rumbling of some contraption approaching from behind them. The group turn in time to react making a dive for the sides of the road as Huss Lor brings his red moose automobile to a rumbling stop just behind them. He is followed by an even odder contraption that is impossible to describe, but Levan decides to call it a barnacle truck.

Huss Lor leaps out of his car and asks, “Your list? That was everything you wanted?”

Confused, Levan can only laugh lightly at Huss Lor’s excitement and his odd antics as he leaps about.

Nodding, Levan answers, “That will get me started.”

As he stops directly in front of Levan, Levan peers into all three of Huss Lor’s sea-green eyes. Huss Lor says, “Then I want on your airship.”

Stunned at such a request, Levan looks up at the scaley top of Huss Lor’s domed head. Levan estimates that the creature is 3.53 metres tall when standing at full height, and he has to be at least six hundred kilos. It would be impossible to fit him on the crew decks of the shuttle or ship with their one-point-eight meter ceilings and floors that are only meant to withstand loads up to two hundred kilos. Not to mention, there are no sulphurous gases in the ship’s air.

How to tell Huss Lor this? “Master Huss Lor, let me show you my airship, and you will know why I can only show you my ship. You won’t be able to get into it. What is your second vehicle?”

Huss Lor waves two arms violently at the other vehicle, a door springs open and out leaps another of these behemoths, running towards them excited, or at least Levan assumes they’re excited. Huss Lor exclaims, “This is my pod brother, Huss Lur. He is driving my truck with your supplies; cylinders of gas and trusl bars.”

Huss Lur greets the team, whispering, “Captain Levi, it is so honourable to meet an airship captain. We are so blessed. I’ve only heard of such things. Please, may we see your airship?”

By, Kenneth Shumaker

To be continued in Episode 007 on 216:04:33:11:12

On the surface of Lesraga, the five crew members of the Star Grean must deal with intelligent natives who are more than twice their size to get the necessary supplies off the moon and to the Star Grean. Once they have the supplies, they need to proceed with outfitting and repairing the ship, resulting in a vital vote that determines the future of all the crew members.

© 2017 by Kenneth Shumaker with Inevitable Unicorn Press

www.inupress.ca inupress@inupress.ca and www.kennethshumaker.ca

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system (except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review or other endorsement or in a recommendation to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the Internet) without permission in writing from the publisher. However, when contacted the author may be generous with reprint rights and articles.

Trademarks and myriad names used in this work are not authorized by, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners. No association with the corporations or names is implied or intended.

About the author: Kenneth Shumaker (Rusty Knight)

Following a long break from writing, Kenneth recovered his passion for writing. He is a science fiction and fantasy genre author, as well as a non-fiction writer, with Inevitable Unicorn Press (InUPress). Kenneth has been blogging with the Owerton Challenge and other blogs for many years. He now writes several serial short stories. Kenneth’s two businesses, his wife, his two children, and his six grandchildren keep him busy.

With an annual subscription from InUPress, you will receive our monthly delivery of ‘Notes from InUPress’ for C$12.99 annually. The notes, by Kenneth Shumaker, contain interesting information on writing and publishing and is published through Inevitable Unicorn Press.

Available to you, Kenneth also has coaching sessions on the art of writing and getting published for C$125.99 per hour. This service is available to a limited number of applicants. To arrange an intake appointment email inupress@inupress.ca or call 1-780-523-5835 between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm MST, Monday through Saturday.

 

Join Kenneth Shumaker (Rusty Knight) in his Dragoman Bloodgrue anthologies of serial short stories. ‘Dragoman Bloodgrue, Volume I: Fare Where?’ is the first of the episodes in the Dragoman Bloodgrue serial series. Read how Bloodgrue tests the patience of the gods’ resolve. Do the gods let the brave be fools? Is Bloodgrue brave or a fool? Follow Bloodgrue to see where his life’s path takes him. In ‘Dragoman Bloodgrue, Volume I: Fare Where?’ we are introduced to Apprentice Dragoman Bloodgrue as he begins his journey climbing the social ranks of Mount Oryn in North Docks, District 5.

Find this volume to purchase on:

: Amazon

: Etsy

: InUPress

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Enjoy Kenneth’s new intriguing fantasy novel ‘Laret’, released June 19, 2017. Enter the Darkness of Souls and journey with the Black Swans through the Web Shireward as they battle the invading armies of the god Tearmain. This captivating novel is available at the following:

Find this at:

: Amazon

: InUPress

: Kobo

 

 

Discover this new novel ‘Exhaust from the Tin Woods’, published from InUPress, written by Eric J Kregel, available in e-book and paperback.

You can purchase the novel at:

: Amazon

: Etsy

: InUPress

: Kobo

Wonderful! You’ve completed reading episode 006, ‘Red Moose Automobile’, of ‘Star Grean’. We have an easy link to follow so you can get more. Follow these links to Owerton Challenge, or here to InUPress.ca. While there, you can follow and join our free e-mail subscription lists, where you will receive a gift when you sign up. Once you have signed up to the email list, you will receive more news and updates from Kenneth Shumaker and the Owerton Challenge, or InUPress and its authors. The free sign up bonus changes with time. Recently, it was a pdf with an episode of the fantasy serial series Lanis.

From me, Kenneth Shumaker and InUPress,

thank you for reading ‘Star Grean’.

Also, wander over to www.inupress.ca and www.owerton.ca and tell us how you enjoyed our stories by commenting on the websites. We’d love to hear from you.

Explore our websites to purchase our stories and pick up a free sample of the Dragoman Bloodgrue serial series short stories and/or the sample from the epic fantasy novel, ‘Laret’.

Thank you for reading issue 116 of the Owerton Challenge where you the reader can participate in the writing of each issue.

We at InUPress.ca and the Owerton Challenge have gratitude for your reading and participating. If you desire to participate by contributing words to an issue, please follow the links to www.inupress.ca and www.owerton.ca. Go to the comment tabs and leaving three words (as described below) for an issue of the Owerton Challenge. Please, if you haven’t already, subscribe to the InUPress and/or Owerton Challenge email subscription lists.

The Owerton Challenge item words list:

  • ____________________One colour
  • ____________________One object related to the real world or sci-fi, alien settings
  • ____________________One creature from the real, alien, sci-fi worlds, or the fantastic

Include your name, location, and e-mail address, so proper credit can be given to you as the contributor. Your email address will not be shared unless you give us your permission.

We acknowledge the following for their contributions in this episode:

Kenneth Shumaker is the episode author.

Kenneth Shumaker creates the graphics.

Donna Shumaker as our episode editor.

Inevitable Unicorn Press also known as InUPress is responsible for distribution, marketing, production, promotions, and publishing.

If you’d like to reach us, you can contact us at:

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or message our email at:

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or give InUPress a phone call at:

1-780-523-5835

last you can postal mail InUPress at:

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T0G 1E0

Have a wonderful day.

Thank you,

Kenneth Shumaker & InUPress

 

 

 

Owerton Challenge Issue 115, Star Grean Episode 005, ‘Northern Lights Purple Puppy’

Issue 115

Episode 005

 

Star Grean

By Kenneth Shumaker

Episode 005, Northern Lights Purple Puppy

June 9, 2017

Challenge: issue 115

  • Words:
    • Purple
    • Puppy
    • Northern Lights
  • Contributor:
    • Bev Riley
    • High Prairie, Alberta

Star Grean 

Our story takes place in Kenneth Shumaker’s 5th Galaxy science fiction realm of the Toran sector with the crew of the starship, Star Grean. Her captain is the enigmatic and sly thirty-six-year-old Veran humar male, Levan, who is default owner of Flind Exploration Corporation. Levan lives in a society that is dominated by females, ran by corporate political organisations, which obeys the female ran Venkaer religious institution. This is a society where no male is given the opportunity to command or own property. Yet, we find Levan to be Captain of the Star Grean and her crew, even with a Venkaer’s 3rd Purist on board.

In the previous episode 004 on 216:04:27:13:05

 

Still flying at high velocity, the crew of the Star Grean must deal with klaxons and alarm warnings of catastrophic failures and damages that are life threatening. One incident requires 3rd Purist Frena to perform five hours of life-saving surgery. With a large loss of their supply of air and a loss of fuel, the crew of the Star Grean deals with the emergencies while Captain Levan continues to pilot the ship through deceleration into an unknown star system.

 

We now continue in episode 005 on 216:04:28:06:08 with:

216:04:28:06:08

Life or no life? That is the question of existence in this new system of Tunda. It is Kni’s job to confirm an answer to this question for Captain Levan and the crew of the Star Grean.

They talk together – Kni and Levan – which seems to have spurred Kni into performing better than his previous efforts. The geobioscientist is busy at his station’s monitors scanning each of the star system’s planets and moons in search of life. He starts with searching for radio signals as signs of advanced civilizations, and then any anomalies showing signs of organics or atmospheres with organic compounds.

He joked with Levan about the planet that was found in the Ges star system that was discovered to have no atmosphere to speak of, but the planet had a liquid surface and a semi-intelligent species among its thousands of copper-based swimming life-forms. They had no advanced civilizations yet, and the humar left them to their own. The system is still uninhabited permanently by the humar, but is well explored and is being exploited, except for the three planets holding life.

When the Star Grean is closing in on the first planet, Kni informs Levan that he notes eighteen percent of the surface is covered with water, with a light one-hundred-kilometer atmosphere. Levan has also notes three rocky moons, one having a thick atmosphere.

216:04:28:06:12

Frustrated, Levan swears violently, “Damn the gods, we have trouble. There’s a damn asteroid belt coming up in our path. By my readings, the thing is too thick to go over or under now. We’re too close to avoid it totally. Where it’s at, directly in our path, it’s damn near two AU thick.”

Hitting the com panel control to the speaker monitors to all decks, he commands as calmly as he can. “Everyone, get into your manoeuvring couches, now! We’re going into evasive course changes in five minutes.”

He waits the five minutes as he gets into his survival spacesuit and straps himself into his jump couch.

Nervously, 3rd Purist Frena also suits up and straps in, saying, “What are you going to do?”

Shrugging half-hearted, Levan replies casually. “Change course, hoping to go over the damned belt and avoid more collisions with rocks. But we don’t want to go too high, so we don’t burn too much fuel when we’re recovering.”

At the end of the five minute warning, the captain clips the com again, saying, “Here we go.”

Levan rapidly adjusts the ship’s course with the drive thrusts, firing to adjust their course, aiming the Star Grean to go over the top of the belt of stones. Then, when he finishes, after nearly crushing the crew with his quick manoeuvres, Levan coms yet again. “That’s it folks, back to work.”

Almost two hours later with everyone strapped again into their couches and wearing their space survival suits, the Star Grean flies over the top of the leading edge of the belt. Suddenly, Levan sees ice and rocky asteroids directly in their path. He shouts into the com to Gunner Lieutenant Kendra. “Fire that laser, burst those ice rocks in our flight path, Kendra.”

Without a verbal response, the Star Grean reverberates as Kendra begins firing bursts, blowing apart asteroids that are directly in their path. Levan must make a few small course adjustments to avoid a few of the bigger chunks as they zip through the debris at over 5.5 AU-an-hour. Rushing through the rocks, the Star Grean still take hits as they’re flying through. Solar cell sail three is totally ripped off, and then ion engine two takes a direct strike, knocking it offline.

The Star Grean is still flying through the debris as Levan estimates that they have five more minutes of traveling through while he struggles to keep control and maintain an even horizon. Then, with less than three minutes to go, another small two-meter rock which he can’t avoid, smashes into deck five – the cargo deck – this is immediately followed by another strike to the deck four accumulator covering, taking the accumulators off the network, shutting down the laser. With a final burst shot, the laser dies, shutting down. They have a minute to fly through of debris, yet.

Levan goes into a mode of full commando, taking more drastic and aggressive manoeuvres to avoid obstacles so he can get the ship through the debris field. They survive the flight, coming out the far side without any more large hits. Levan has kept a clear level horizon for the Star Grean. He aims the star ship for its sling shot swing around the starboard side of the Tunda star.

Then, with no more manoeuvres to make, he relaxes before keying the com to all decks, saying, “We’re through. Report damages and get busy with recovery repairs.” He looks at his monitors and can see that they’ll pass the first of the system’s planets in ten minutes.

Turning to the 3rd Purist, he sees that she has her eyes closed and is still desperately praying.

Levan asks Talla, “Damages, Engineer Talla?”

After scanning the ship with sensors and reading his monitors amid the klaxons and alarms, the Senior Engineer replies, “We entirely lost solar cell sail three. Ion engine two is shut down, as are the accumulator banks, and deck five is airless with two large holes in the cargo bay. We lost nine percent of the volume of our air with the voiding of 96 k cubic decimeters of air from the cargo deck.”

Swearing vehemently, yet again, Levan says, “Damn the gods. Why? Why us? Are we really a blue bottle donkey?”

Laughing, Talla then replies, “Maybe, but that means we’ll return home as heroes.”

Clicking his com, Talla contacts the two junior engineers. “You two, get outside to patch the hull of deck five’s cargo bay; we’ve got serious breaches there. I’ll hit the accumulators as soon as I get my work spacesuit on.” He looks at Levan who nods in agreement.

The engineers work diligently for several hours until all three are finished. As they return inside, Levan gives them a rest break, along with the rest of the crew. Frustrated with events, Levan wants to yell at someone. Instead, he verbally curses the dirt god, Zorendal, loudly.

Hearing him, 3rd Purist Frena wags a finger at Levan, saying, “Males should not curse the gods, or we’ll in turn, be cursed with bad luck. Captain you should pray for forgiveness, revoking your curse.”

Chuckling, Levan replies, “Then this may be the root of our issues, as I often curse the gods when frustrated.”

Sighing in sadness, Frena says, “Then we need to make a chapel on board, and you need to do penance and start prayers. Start by revoking your cursing, doing it no more.”

Bowing to Frena, the Veran captain responds, “Yes, 3rd Purist, as you say. We’ll use the central deck mess hall for the chapel. I’ll pray during our rest period, before taking a two-hour sleep and then return to the command deck.”

216:04:28:19:32

Sitting idly in the command chair, alone on the deck, Levan ponders as to what effects his hour of prayers to Rendfendal can possibly have here. Here, far away from civilization and the bulk of the clergy. He had lain with 3rd Purist Frena after praying and eating, for nearly an-hour-and-a-half, trying to sleep, or at least rest. But his mind was on the Star Grean and her crew. They’re still in a high-velocity flight, in which a direct impact could obliterate any section of the ship. He missed seeing the belt in his early observations, making it too late to fully avoid the belt. Then he miscalculated the avoidance of the asteroids, causing the ship to take more damages … It could have been worse. He did spot the belt when it was far enough away to adjust their course; they didn’t fly directly into the central masses. But still, d … whoops … almost. Don’t make those prayers a waste now.

Looking up from his monitors, as he was scanning ahead for more objects between them and the Tunda star, he sees Kni arriving on the command deck. The young Lior scientist looks as beat as Levan feels. Likely, he never slept either.

Saluting Levan, Kni asks, “Permission to take my station?”

Gesturing to the science station jump couch, Levan nods. Without speaking, Levan turns back to his monitors.

Kni quickly takes his seat and then turns to Levan. “Talla says that the engineers aren’t able to fix the deep space radio, as the transmitter took a direct hit. So, we’re on our own out here, Captain … I’m nervous, to tell you the truth. Why don’t we just gather velocity and jump back out?”

Laughing at the suggestion, Levan answers, “We’re here to explore, assess, and report, to fulfil a government contract that will score us a cool one mil credits. If we turn tail and run now, we get nothing for our journey when we return. The total costs of the repairs and wages will come out of my pockets, and the Star Grean may simply have to be turned over for salvage, and you’ll be looking for work again, along with the rest of us. We’ll be disgraced with a blemish on our work records. But if we succeed, we’re heroes. I don’t give a shit if you want to run out of the system with your tail between your legs; I set out to do a job, and I’m going to finish it. I don’t fail. If you’re a quitter, get you ass off my ship – now!”

Going pale, especially for his dark Lior complexion, Kni is shaking as he whispers, “Understood Sir.”

Looking up from his monitors, now satisfied that there are no more obstructions ahead that need to be avoided, Levan gazes at Kni, saying, “Get me readings on those two planets, the best you can. Find out as much as you can – also about their moons, etc. With all the data you can glean from here, we’re going to be slinging shot around Tunda in a few hours, and I want to have a start on the data collection before we are in orbit of planet two … get readings on Tunda as well.”

Saluting Levan, Kni answers, “Yes Captain.” He eagerly begins working on the science monitor station.

…..

3rd Purist Frena arrives with navigator Yar as Levan yawns and is rubbing his tired eyes. The 3rd Purist sits in her first-mate’s seat and pats Levan’s hand, saying, “You should have slept. How good are you going to be at flying this beasty now?”

Grinning, Levan replies, “I think we have a crewman who believes I can fly her blind. We may find out.”

Kni shudders, as does Frena; she grips and squeezes Levan’s hand.

The Veran captain turns to Yar. “So, you’re certain that this is Tunda, and that there are only two planets, their moons, one star, with the two debris belts?”

Nodding firmly, Yar says, “As certain as I’m here with you, Captain.”

Breathing out deeply, Levan replies cold as Veran berg ice, “Okay!”

…..

Arriving later then the rest, looking somewhat more rested than the other command crew, Talla takes his seat as Levan asks, “Report on repairs?”

The senior engineer groans. “Our blue bottle donkey has taken a beating. We’ve fixed darn near everything we have parts for that we can fix. The rest will have to wait until we’re in drydock at a major port. We can’t do this too many more times, Captain.”

Levan chuckles and says, “And ruin a perfectly good blu …” the alarm klaxons sound as the bridge goes dark and emergency lighting comes on, lighting the command deck in a red glow.

Talla checks the series of alarms and klaxons as the Star Grean is careening about wildly and drifting into a sideway swinging motion.

Frantic, Levan fights with the piloting control as he’s swearing in the name of Zorendal while trying to regain his ship’s horizon. But he’s failing. Levan shouts to Talla. “I only have one ion drive burning. Shut it down now! So that I can use thrusters to gain control.”

Manoeuvring the few emergency controls he has use of, Talla shuts down the only functioning drive, the recently repaired and restarted, drive two.

For half-an-hour, Levan finesses the thrusters to regain his horizon. Returning back to even an straight forward pointing horizon, while Talla tries to assess their damages. Everyone has swiftly buckled into their couches for the wild ride Levan has them on as he is firing the thrusters.

Finally reporting to Levan, Talla says, “The accumulators are offline, and more than seventy-five percent of our electronics have shut down. Ion engines one and three have shut down for any ion burn. I’m not sure what happened, Captain, but we’re pretty much debris in space. Most of the monitoring systems, engine two, the laser, and most of the reactors are still functioning, along with the planetary thrusters and life-support … You were mentioning, blue?”

Hysterically laughing, Levan calms and then says, “Someone believes in my piloting? I’m taking the Star Grean through the sling shot around Tunda with ion engine two and planetary thrusters. Can you get me anything else operating?”

Humbly, Kni interrupts, “Captain it was a solar flare from Tunda that we flew through, burning us, kicking out our systems.”

Leaning back into his couch, Talla utters dejected. “We can’t go outside to work on the drives. We can work on the internal electronics, bringing as much back online as possible. This close to Tunda it’s just too dangerous to spacewalk.”

Leaning forward, Levan looks at his several dead monitors. Turning back to Talla, Levan says, “Do what you can.”

216:04:29:10:27

Sitting in the mess hall with his crew, Levan asks Talla “So repeat for the crew what you told me.”

Clearing his throat, yet again, and sitting straight and firm, the senior engineer repeats, “We have no internal ship’s defences left, nor are the geology computers going to be working. The accumulators can only charge to eighty-four percent because of their damages. We’re operating with seventy-one percent efficiency of life support, and it’s not going to get any better. Our air supply is at seventy-nine percent capacity and our fuel to air converters will only function at ninety percent ability, producing just over two-hundred cubic decimeters of air every hour. We’re in bad shape; we have one ion drive and the three planetary drives running now, along with all fifteen fusion reactors, but we only have two solar cell sails remaining. We’re going to start work on ion drive one, then move to drive three, hoping that we can fire them up and they’ll run.”

The sad look among the crew is disheartening. Levan adds, “You will all take a rest period at 29:15:00 for six hours. No exceptions. We’ll hope to be in a stable polar orbit at the closest plant in two days. I got us through a sling shot around Tunda safely. We’re now on a trajectory to an orbit of the inner plant which is a gas giant. Kni is going to assess the possibility of going moon-side for us. Maybe we’ll be gathering resources from the moons.”

216:04:30:04:11

Intimately, 3rd Purist holds Levan, cuddling on their bed as she tries to get the captain to relax. The crew is finally on a Galactic work schedule with their rest/work shift of ten hours each. They started the new rest shift at 30:00:00.

But even after eating a meagre ration in the mess hall with the crew, Levan isn’t finding it easy to relax, as he’s too wound up and invested in the ship and crew. He asks, “So you’re sure Private Horrace will live?”

Becoming frustrated with her mate for not letting go of work, Frena answers, “For the fourth time, yes. Now give me your hand and don’t pull away, no matter what you hear or see.”

Relenting and taking hold of the 3rd Purist’s hand, feeling her firm grip, Levan suddenly feels the sand of Torent Beach beneath his bare feet, and he sees the early morning rising bluish light of Mort on the western horizon. He feels 3rd Purist Frena’s hand gripping his hand as they stand there watching the small star rise. He can smell salty boric scent of the ocean air and her flowery petunia perfume. Shocked by the transition of arriving from their bed to here, simply by taking hold of her hands, he stammers and tries to speak, but then gives up. Squeezing his hand, she smiles at him as he looks up into her eyes.

Frena laughs and says gleefully. “So, this shuts you up about work. I’ll remember this. Shall we walk? I believe you said we have to be on the command deck in six hours and I want at least four hours’ sleep. So, this leaves us about an hour to walk, enjoy the star rise, my sweet male.”

Levan finally finds his voice as they begin walking the secluded lonely beach. This is likely the secluded remote north shore of the coast. He asks, “How did you get us here?”

She places her index finger to his lips and shushes him. “No questions like that are allowed, and no more cursing the gods, or Purists, is allowed, boy. Now enjoy.”

They walk for some time, with Frena walking them closer to the dark aqua waters of the ocean. Then, suddenly, she laughs rushing forward she drags him into the frigid water asking, “Do you know how to swim?” Already knowing the answer.

Not knowing how to swim, Levan begins to feel fear as he panics with the water going into his eyes, nostrils and ears, rising over his head.

Frena is kissing him passionately while trying not to laugh. They’re laying in their bed, nice, dry and warm. Backing away, she calms herself and says, “You dragged me into space danger, scaring the life from me. It was my turn to do likewise, boy. Now get some sleep, or I’ll do worse next time. I don’t have to hold your hand to take you over.” She snuggles up to Levan and closes her eyes after gently kissing his lips.

They lay there a few minutes as Levan digests what just happened. He can feel the imprint of the grains of sand from the beach on his feet, yet he’s certain if he checks there is no sand on his feet, just as there is no ocean water on his face. He wraps his arms around Frena and drifts into a light slumber.

216:04:31:02:03

Watching the monitors, as the Star Grean drifts into the equatorial orbit instead of the intended polar orbit, a thousand kilometres away from the gas giant, the crew assesses their situation. The beast-of-a-planet has an atmosphere of oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen, but also has a majority of the gases that are sulphurous in nature – a mixture deadly to any who venture into it, or who attempt to breath it.

The crew is relegated to searching the moons. Of the twenty-seven moons around this planet, only half a dozen have atmospheres and water; three of which have methane in their atmosphere or on their surface.

Life here is going to be tough for any humar type forms, but there is life beyond the twelve members of the crew.

Intensely 3rd Purist Frena is watching the lightning in the northern lights of one of the moons. She laughs lighthearted as she is motioning the video monitor. “To me, the northern lights of this one looks like a purple puppy.”

Levan watches the playback of the same feed, and he laughs. “Yes, a northern light’s purple puppy. Perhaps that’s the moon we should investigate. It has some life forms so we may be able to recover useable resources from the moon.”

By, Kenneth Shumaker

To be continued in Episode 006 on 216:04:31:03:00

Having arrived in an equatorial orbit of the gas giant, Levan wants Kni to assess the moons, to try to decide if they can acquire air to replace their lost air. The crew has issues happening on board the Star Grean as well. They discover something else unexpected.

© 2017 by Kenneth Shumaker with Inevitable Unicorn Press

www.inupress.ca inupress@inupress.ca and www.kennethshumaker.ca

All rights are reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system (except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review or other endorsement or in a recommendation to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the Internet) without permission in writing from the publisher. However, when contacted, the author may be generous with reprint rights and articles.

The trademarks and myriad names of products, journals, and businesses used in this work are not authorised by, associated with, or sponsored by any trademark owners. No association with the corporations or names is implied or intended.

Join Kenneth Shumaker (Rusty Knight) in his Dragoman Bloodgrue Volume collection anthologies. ‘Dragoman Bloodgrue, Volume I: Fare Where?’ is the first of the episodes of the Bloodgrue serial series. Read how Bloodgrue tests the gods’ resolve. Do the gods let the brave be fools? Is Bloodgrue brave or a fool? Follow Bloodgrue to see where his life’s path wanders. In ‘Dragoman Bloodgrue, Volume I: Fare Where?’ we are introduced to Bloodgrue as he begins his journey climbing the social ranks of Mount Oryn in North Docks.

Find this volume to purchase on:

: Amazon

: Etsy

: InUPress

: Kobo

 

Available to you, Kenneth also has coaching sessions on the art of writing and getting published for C$125.99 per hour, this is available to a limited number of applicants. To arrange an intake appointment email inupress@inupress.ca or call 1-780-523-5835 between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm MST, Monday through Saturday.

Discover the new novel, ‘Exhaust from the Tin Woods’ published through InUPress written by Eric J Kregel, available in paperback and ebook.

You can find the novel to purchase it at:

: Amazon

: Etsy

: Kobo

: InUPress

 

Wonderful! You’ve completed reading episode 005 of ‘Star Grean. We have an easy link to follow so you can get more. Follow these links to Owerton Challenge, or here to InUPress.ca. While there, you can follow and join our free e-mail subscription lists, where you will receive a gift when you sign up. Once you have signed up to the email list, you will receive more news and updates from Kenneth Shumaker and the Owerton Challenge, or InUPress and its authors. The free sign up bonus changes with time. Recently, it was a pdf with an episode of the fantasy serial series Lanis.

From me, Kenneth Shumaker and InUPress,

thank you for reading ‘Star Grean’.

Also, wander over to www.inupress.ca and www.owerton.ca and tell us how you enjoyed our stories by commenting on the websites. We’d love to hear from you.

Explore our websites to purchase our stories and pick up a free sample of the ‘Dragoman Bloodgrue’ serial series short stories and/or the sample from the epic fantasy novel, ‘Laret’.

Thank you for reading issue 115 of the Owerton Challenge where you the reader can participate in the writing of each issue.

We at InUPress.ca and the Owerton Challenge have gratitude for your reading and participating. If you desire to participate by contributing words to an issue, please follow the links to www.inupress.ca and www.owerton.ca. Go to the comment tabs and leaving three words (as described below) for an issue of the Owerton Challenge. Please, if you haven’t already, subscribe to the InUPress and/or Owerton Challenge email subscription lists.

The Owerton Challenge item words list:

  • ____________________One colour
  • ____________________One object related to the real world or sci-fi, alien settings
  • ____________________One creature from the real, alien, sci-fi worlds, or the fantastic

Include your name, location, and e-mail address, so proper credit can be given to you as the contributor. Your email address will not be shared unless you give us your permission.

We acknowledge the following for their contributions in this episode:

Kenneth Shumaker is the episode author.

Kenneth Shumaker creates the graphics.

Donna Shumaker as our episode editor.

Inevitable Unicorn Press, also known as InUPress, works on the marketing and promotions and is responsible for the production, publishing, and distribution.

Contact us at:

www.inupress.ca or www.owerton.ca

or message our email at:

inupress@inupress.ca or ken@inupress.ca

or give InUPress a phone call at:

1-780-523-5835

last you can postal mail InUPress at:

InUPress

Rusty’s Den

Box 3323

High Prairie, Alberta, Canada

T0G 1E0

 

Have a wonderful day.

Thank you,

Kenneth Shumaker & InUPress.

 

 

Owerton Challenge Issue 114, Star Grean Episode 004, ‘Blue Bottle Donkey’

Issue 114

Episode 004

March 18, 2017

Star Grean

By Kenneth Shumaker

Episode 004, ‘Blue Donkey Bottle’

Challenge: issue 114

  • Words:
    • Blue
    • Donkey
    • Bottle 
  • Contributor (For acknowledgement):
    • Brian Hill
    • High Prairie

Star Grean 

Our story takes place in Kenneth Shumaker’s 5th Galaxy science fiction realm of the Toran sector with the crew of the starship, Star Grean. Her captain is the enigmatic and sly thirty-six-year-old Veran human male, Levan, who is default owner of Flind Exploration Corporation. Levan lives in a society that is dominated by females, ran by corporate political organisations, and obeys the female ran Venkaer religious institution. This is a society where no male is given the opportunity to command or own property. Yet, we find Levan to be Captain of the Star Grean and her crew, even with a Venkaer’s 3rd Purist on board.

In the previous episode 003 on 216:03:21:10:15

Pilot Levan becomes Captain Levan, now owning the Star Grean which is a Class III Exploration Stardrive ship. Levan puts together his crew; during this process, he is assaulted and blackmailed. Levan and his crew resolve the situation, while Levan submits to a Purist to get a lucrative coveted government contract. He is nearly killed by the Black Cat Circle before the crew can get away on their first flight with the Star Grean on their journey to the Tunda system. But where are they now?

We now continue in Episode 004 on 216:04:27:13:05 with:

The command deck alarms are blaring loudly, a mixture of confusing klaxons and alarms, as Captain Levan has the Star Grean flipped in a shift in full deceleration with the Class B Ion engines in over production. All fifteen of the fusion reactor are also on full production output to keep all systems running and powering the three drives. He even has the three solar cell sails deployed to garner as much power as they can supply; he’s trying to get power into the depleted accumulators to charge up their reserves, in case they have need to use the laser again. He has given Kendra orders to keep the weapon charged up at full power, and for the gunner to keep her wits about her with her sharp eyes out for any obstacles or any approaching aggressive craft.

Then a dreaded klaxon sounds as Levan finds his mind is starting to blur and he’s having trouble focusing. Looking over to Talla he asks, slurring his speech, “Is that what I think it is?”

Without answering, Talla awkwardly tries to hurry as he unlatches his seat straps and fumbles and then grabs his standard repair kit. Looking around the command deck, the engineer curses, slurring, “Where are you?”

Then, spotting a warping of the foreceiling panel, he hits an emergency switch on the engineering panel controls, neutralizing the command deck gravitation. Pushing off hard from the deck, he launches himself toward the warped panel in the ceiling with an awkward control as he tumbles. Bracing himself, he quickly pulls free the ceiling panel as he mutters, “There you are.”

Quickly and only somewhat efficiently, he opens his repair kit and haphazardly releases a set of assorted patches from a container. Setting out a three-centimeter plastisteel patch over the hull leak, which is a hole less than half-a-millimetre in size, he seals the puncture which is draining their air and is on the way to killing the command crew.

Only partially relieved, hoping that it’s the only hole, he gathers all his gear and places it carefully back in the repair kit. He returns to his seat and buckles in again, resetting the command deck’s gravity control.

Watching his monitors like a Gaerian hawk hunting its prey, he reports, “That appears to be the only puncture on the command deck. There are two crew quarter cabins voided, with gaping punctures: yours and engineer Lester’s. As well, the engineering deck has two huge holes in the hull. Lester and Tomar have reported, saying they were in space survival suits when the deck voided. They’re busy repairing the hull so that they can get the deck back onto the control network. Fuel tank three took two direct hits, rupturing it. We’ll have to repair the tank as well. But, so far, it has blue bottled with ice stopping the leaking. 3rd Purist Frena, you’re required on the central deck, as we have injured marines.”

Levan sighs, as he’s relieved with the air volume returning to the command deck. It could have been worse; they could be wearing rocks or ice inside the hull. Out of the ten decks of the Star Grean, they only suffered from a few hull ruptures that breached a few sections of three decks. This ship is a true blue bottle donkey.

Turning to Yar, “Where the gods are we, Yar?”

Shaking his head, Yar replies, “Most of the Astronav was knocked offline during that first strike. I’m doing what I can to figure out where we are with the equipment that we still have. It may take ten or more hours to get our bearings so that I can find our location.”

Coughing, Levan is recovering his senses and body control, and his brain is regaining oxygen. Levan looks around and shaking his head, he says in wonder, “We’re alive, and we still have our engines, air, and manoeuvring. We have hope, for now.”

…..

Quickly, 3rd Purist Frena puts on her space survival suit to traverse the ship’s decks. She then rushes through the ship’s decks to reach the central deck – the huge deck four. Arriving at the marine’s muster station, she finds Horrace has a ceiling’s crossbeam resting on his chest. Motioning to the other two marines, she says, “Give me a hand, and when I ask, move the beam off of him.” She picks up the deck’s first aid trauma pack. Kneeling by the marine’s Starfall jump couch, she begins assessing his injuries. Finding it is safe to move the crossbeam, she motions to the other two to remove the plastisteel support structure from his chest, while she looks up at the ceiling and the huge dent where the support should be. She’s surprised that the rock that hit didn’t breach through the duro-ceramic armour and then rupture the hull, voiding this section and killing these men. They were lucky that the support snapped free, but the duro-ceramic deflected the asteroid, and that the duro-ceramic armour held enough to stop the breach of the inner hull.

Heaving hard on the free end of the beam, the two male marines, who are taller than typical males, nearly as large as the humar females, slowly lift and gradually jimmy the end of the beam around and away, past Horrace’s feet. They grunt as they drop the structure with a resounding thud onto the deck’s floor.

Horrace gasps suddenly as the beam is being lifted from his chest, but he remains unconscious. Frena assesses him using her biomed scanner, finding that he has many internal damages and is in desperate need of immediate surgery. She injects the marine with a general tranquillizer to relax him and gives him a shot of biomed stim to begin the healing. She’s trying to stop as much of the internal bleeding as possible.

Standing sharply, Frena orders the two marines to fetch the deck’s med stretcher and to get Horrace over to the surgery while she prepares to perform the surgery.

Triggering the nearby com panel switch to reach the command deck, Frena contacts Levan. “Captain Leven, this is 3rd Purist Frena, our 3rd Grade Spaceman 1st Class Marine private Horrace has had his chest crushed, resulting in some broken ribs, internal lung injuries, artery and vein damages, as well as other damages. I’ll be in surgery for some time; don’t be calling for me.”

Levan signals back. “Understood, do your best. I know we’re not a hospital with biomed tables and the right medbed equipment to heal major injuries with. I know you’re not a highly experienced surgeon, but you are a trained surgeon. I have faith in you 3rd Purist. If he can be saved, you’ll do it.”

…..

With most of the command deck alarms under control, and full air volume returned, Levan can now focus on the Star Grean’s deceleration flight path. He brings up the telescope views on his monitors, aiming ahead of the ship. He scans as far as he can, spotting two planet-size objects; they’re roughly in the path he has set the ship on, aiming for the star, Tunda. The two planets are over forty AU or more away and are in a rough line with the ship’s flight path and the system’s star which is nearly eighty AU away by his estimates through the imaging. The first planet will pass above and to the right of them if they avoid it. Calculating their trajectory and their velocity, as well as their deceleration, Levan determines they’ll pass by the first planet early tomorrow.

Looking around the command deck, Levan wonders what might have happened if they had hit a rock or ice ball head on, instead of glancing off of them? He had managed to keep them going on an even and straight horizon, holding onto a good path, even while having objects bouncing off the ship while moving at velocities at just around twenty AU per hour. Finding it all maddening, he shudders as he tries not to consider their odds. Yeah, they’re alive, but what are the full damages? It is the decimeter thick duro-ceramic hull that saved them. How much repairing will the ship and armour need?

How is his crew going to hold out on this trip? He wonders if they can get back to territory space, as they need the Astronav to find their way back. With the Astronav damaged, they’re stuck out here. Without knowing where they are, they can’t target their communication gear to call for help. What a fine pickle this is turning out to be.

“Yar, you have ten hours to find our location. Talla get the hull patched, and then repair the Astronav,” orders Levan. As Levan stares firmly at his monitor, he’s not feeling as confident as he’s presenting.

As they progress forward, the alarms are being silenced, one by one, with Talla confirming each of their purposes and assessing the rank of the immediacy of each situation, until he’s silences all klaxons and alarms. Then, dressing in his spacesuit, he gathers his gear and proceeds outside with the hull repairs.

…..

Alone on the command deck with the Liorian geobioscientist, Levan brings himself to ask Kni, “How well are you able to read and understand the engineering monitors?”

In the low deck lighting, the dark hair and dark complexion of the Liorian ancestry of Kni makes him hard see, which Levan finds difficult to focus on. Still, Levan notes Kni glance over at the engineering station. With Talla outside patching the hull over Levan’s quarters, the geobioscientist questions his own abilities. He’s only the communications officer when on the command deck, and the team’s geobioscientist when not on the command deck. Levan observes Kni shake his head slowly.

There is little hatred lost between the Liorian-race male and the Veran-race captain. Levan,  the green-eyed, blonde-haired, Veran male captain sighs and says, “You wanted to challenge yourself Kni. Against 3rd Purist Frena’s judgement, I took a chance bringing you on with the crew. Don’t make me look bad. Now, move over there and figure out how much air we lost. And, gather whatever information you can that you think could be valuable to me.”

Hesitating several seconds, Kni watches Levan. Then he looks over at the bank of engineering station monitors. Resigned to a new duty, he slowly unbuckles and stumbles over to the engineering post, while saying, “Okay, but don’t ask me to operate anything.”

“Hey, you’ll have to learn. I can show you a few things, like some of the basics, but your best teachers are the engineers, especially Senior Engineer Talla.” Levan rapidly unbuckles and ambles over to stand with Kni at the engineering monitors.

Levan points to each monitor or control, showing Kni the proper operation of the appropriate controls. Levan says as he demonstrates, “These are the deck air monitors, fuel monitors, water monitors, etc. Here is the volume of air remaining, and this is our full capacity indicators. With a quick calculation, it shows us that we’ve lost about thirteen percent of our air volume. We’ll have to replace at least half of that, for the safety of the twelve of us on board. I’d be comfortable with us topping up to at least ninety percent capacity. I’d feel even better with ninety-five percent maximum air volume. By the looks of the sensors on fuel tank three, we lost over one-hundred-and-four litres of fuel. That’s about ten percent of the fuel in that tank. Fortunately, we have eight other tanks with nearly a thousand litres each and one with 566 litres. You see how this all works?”

Impressed by all this knowledge and technology, Kni is still confused. With narrowed lip and brows, Kni turns to Levan, asking, “How do you know all of this? Where do you learn it all?”

Smiling, while tapping Kni’s shoulder, Levan replies. “I spent five Terms in Corporate University studying for my Stardrive command Captain pilot’s license. I was at the top of my class every Term, and in the last two terms, I received the sole System Star Award at the University – an award given for excellence to only the highest calibre of pilots. But because I am a male, the University training and the awards means shit when trying to get a job. I received a big break when grandma Velma was killed in the corporate duel, and then with my receiving the Star Grean, that was a disguised blessing of fates. Though, I think we scratched the paint in this last jump.”

Laughing at Levan’s humour, Kni, with his dark eyes glistening, stares at Levan and tries to draw a clear even breath as he stops laughing. With his watering eyes returning to a narrower focus, Kni stutters, “You earned … the … friggin System Star Award … twice? That’s the highest award a pilot can get, even for practical experienced pilots. You’re shitting me.”

Nodding shallowly, Levan winks, answering. “Yes, Kni, I did … Twice.”

Offering his hand to shake, Kni beams a wide grin, “That is so right. I’ll follow you anywhere. Your flying through those rocks isn’t a mystery now. You could’ve done it blind.”

Laughing tightly, Levan answers with a slight sarcasm, “I basically was doing it blindly. I just had the video system and telescope monitors. The damn radar and scanners were offline.”

Gripping Levan’s hand even tighter, the vigorous handshake with Levan is going overboard. Kni’s grin is stretching the farthest his face can possibly grin.

Finally releasing the handshake, Levan says, “You strive to be as good a geobioscientist and shipmate as I’m a pilot, and I’ll be proud to know you.”

Nodding enigmatically, Kni responds, “Right, I’ll get on it.”

216:04:27:18:16

With Talla still trying to fix the hull breach of Levan’s cabin, Levan assigns the two junior engineers, Tomar and Lester, to repair fuel tank three after they finish repairs of the engineering deck and have all the systems back on the network. Levan is glad that he found these two, as they have more Stardrive experience than any ten system ship engineers have on any combination of ships. They’re showing their skills and professionalism, with no obvious anxiety or fear as a result of the bad Starfall jump. They went right to work and had taken the proper precautions for the jump. They had been smart to don space survival suits, which saved both their lives when engineering took a hit so hard that it opened up like a ration can, immediately voiding all its air. The two were strapped in their jump couches, which also saved their lives, and they remained strapped in until Talla gave the all clear that they were safe to move. Then, clearing it with Talla, they started repairs on engineering deck’s hull before doing the internal repairs, getting atmosphere to the deck, to make working on the deck easier. If they were scared, they kept it to themselves. Their repairs are impeccable and their times are unimpeachable. Working together as a team, they could beat any other engineering team’s time.

The two engineers suit up in spacesuits, and taking their repair kits, they walk the hull to access the ice bulge on the outer hull of tank three. They begin the process of welding plastisteel plates in place to patch the two ruptures of the tank, sealing the ice in place on the tank and creating an outer bottle on the tank’s ruptured area. Working diligently, they finish the repairs on fuel tank three at about the same time as Talla begins to fill Levan’s cabin with air.

Levan assesses the results of all these activities and checks the readings on the various engineering sensors. He’s happy, knowing that only Lester’s room remains exposed to the void. Walking briskly to the surgery, Levan finds Frena is making Horrace comfortable on a medcouch. He asks her with curiosity, “How’d it go?”

Yawning, now exhausted after five hours of intense solo surgery, Frena answers, slurring her speech. “I had to open him up to seal ruptured vessels and repair broken bones. I’ve never seen so much damage before. He’ll be out for some time, probably on the medcouch for at least a week, and off duty for about a month. But I need sleep.”

Hugging a bloodied 3rd Purist, Levan answers her in a respectful tone. “Talla says we can sleep in our cabin safely now.”

Walking to the nearest com panel, Levan triggers the mic, broadcasting to all speaker monitors on all decks: “Hey all. Shut down for a four-hour rest shift. Sleep is my suggestion.”

A few cheers erupt, especially from the engineers, which echo through the Star Grean.

216:04:28:05:06

Looking at the monitor in front of him, Levan yawns again, harshly rubbing his blurry vision eyes. The velocity reading is just under 6.9 AU per hour, and it’s tough going as he’s desperately trying to figure out what lays ahead of them.

His senior engineer, Talla, sent the junior engineers, Tomar and Lester, to seal Lester’s room so that the engineer can sleep in his own cabin again, and not in the mess hall on the central deck.

…..

After another two hours, the repairs are complete, and the engineers were able to fix the Astronav systems, along with the return of life support to his cabin after sealing Lester’s quarters. The two junior engineers are now making the many smaller necessary repairs.

Sitting firm in his couch on the command deck, looking at the monitors while Frena is sitting in the first mate’s seat, Levan has been muttering for about ten minutes. Finally, he asks in confusion. “Tell me again about the ranks of the church system and about the gods. I must have angered someone somewhere along the line.”

Looking over at Levan, 3rd Purist Frena laughs mirthfully. “If you’ve forgotten, we are the humar people, guided by three gods: the god of air, Irendal; the god of earth, Zorendal; and our space god, Rendfendal. The church is made up of the female priests, the Purists, who are organised in six ranks under our leaders, the Matriarchs, who are organised under the leadership of the three 13th Matriarchs. The six levels of Purists are set with the 6th Purists being the most senior and the lowest, the 1st, being the acolytes. Then, there are the male choirs and the female workers who are known as the Secon of the church. The entire church organisation is known as the Venkaer. Which reminds me that as soon as we can, you have a date with the three 13th Matriarchs, now that you are my companion.”

Closing his eyes and squeezing them tightly shut, Levan pales. Slowly opening his eyes again, he asks, “What do you mean? I have a date with the 13th Matriarchs? For what purpose?”

Winking gleefully, Frena replies all too happy. “Who do you think performs the marriage ceremonies for Purists of rank three or higher?”

Groaning, disheartened, Levan says, “I’ll be owing favours, right!”

Shaking her head in defiance, Frena quickly replies with a firm command, “No, my sweet male, I will be owing favours. They could care less about you. You have no value to the matriarchs.”

Checking their velocity again, Levan notes they’re at 6.2 AU per hour. With the full Astronav system running, he has pinpointed that the planet which is to their lower right is at 14.9 AU away. And, there is a second body 12.1 AU past that above that horizon.

He notes that the fuel leak lost a total 419 L of fuel from tank three, a loss that hopefully is minor for this journey.

Talking with Talla, they agree that their final air readings are 81% remaining of maximum volume. Levan asks Talla, “Can you rig something to convert fuel into air, to help bring us up to ninety percent?”

Calculating, thinking of possible jury rigs, Talla ponders this for a moment and then answers, “Lester and Tomar can rig two fuel converters to make air. It’ll be a slow process using a litre each per hour, producing about 135 cubic decimeters of air per litre of fuel. We need to replace about 140-thousand cubic decimeters of air that was lost.”

Shrugging half-hearted, Levan pats his console as he looks at the command monitors. He chuckles and then energetically amused, he asks, “You’ve heard of the blue bottle donkey, right Talla?”

Talla laughs, amused. “What spacer with experience hasn’t? That ship should have died and scuttled a thousand times before docking. The entire crew should have perished long before returning to her home system. She was attacked by aliens, pirates, and even her own navy, before docking at her home port. She lost half of her engines but none of her crew. They docked planet side, against orders, with barely any fuel or life support left when they arrived at Dempsten docks. The ship was fired on all the way down by planetary defences during its landing. As the story goes, they say that her survival was by dues ex machina. But the city dwellers gave them a heroes greeting anyway when the crew exited the ship. Journalists hounded the lot for years.”

Levan looks at Talla, winking, he says, “Engineer Talla, I think we have a blue bottle donkey here with the Star Grean. I hope not, but we might.”

 

To be continued in Episode 005 on 216:04:28:06:08 

Theoretically safe now, and with the crew somewhat rested, they have to figure out – quietly of course – what to do next, and if they’re alone in this system. 

 

By Kenneth Shumaker 

 

© 2017 by Kenneth Shumaker with Inevitable Unicorn Press

www.inupress.ca inupress@inupress.ca and www.kennethshumaker.ca

 

All rights are reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system (except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review or other endorsement or in a recommendation to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the Internet) without permission in writing from the publisher. However, when contacted, the author may be generous with reprint rights and articles.

The trademarks and myriad names of products, journals, and businesses used in this work are not authorised by, associated with, or sponsored by any trademark owners. No association with the corporations or names is implied or intended.

 

Kenneth (Rusty Knight) also has available a coaching session for mentoring on the art of writing and also on getting published for C$125.99 for one hour session to a limited number of applicants. For an appointment email inupress@inupress.ca or call 1-780-523-5835 between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm MST Monday through Saturday.

 

 

Discover the new novel published from InUPress by Eric J Kregel, ‘Exhaust from the Tin Woods’ out now in InUPress.ca, Amazon (Kindle and paperback) and Kobo.

: Amazon.ca

: Kobo.com

: InUPress.ca

 

Join Kenneth Shumaker (Rusty Knight) in his Dragoman Bloodgrue Volume anthologies.  ‘Volume I: Fare Where?’ is the first of the Bloodgrue serial series. Read how Bloodgrue tests the gods’ resolve. Do the gods let the brave be fools? Is Bloodgrue brave or a fool? Follow Bloodgrue to see where his life’s path wanders. In ‘Dragoman Bloodgrue Volume I: Fare Where?’ we are introduced to Bloodgrue as he begins his journey climbing the social ranks of Mount Oryn in North Docks.

Find this volume on:

: Amazon

: InUPress

: Kobo

 

About the author: Kenneth Shumaker (Rusty Knight)

Following a long break from writing, Kenneth recovered his passion for writing. He is a science fiction and fantasy author with Inevitable Unicorn Press (InUPress). Kenneth has been blogging with the Owerton Challenge and other blogs. He now writes several serial short stories each month. Kenneth’s two businesses, his wife, his two children, and his six grandchildren keep him busy.

 

Wonderful! You’ve completed reading episode 004 of ‘Star Grean, but do you want to read more? Follow these links to Owerton Challenge, or here to InUPress.ca. While at either of these, please join our free e-mail subscription lists, where you will also receive a gift when you sign up. Once you subscribe, you will receive more news and updates from Kenneth Shumaker and the Owerton Challenge, or InUPress and its authors. The free sign up bonus changes with time. Recently, it was a pdf containing an episode of the fantasy serial series Lanis.

From me, Kenneth Shumaker and InUPress to you,

thank you for reading ‘Star Grean’.

Go to www.inupress.ca and www.owerton.ca and tell us how you enjoyed reading our stories, by commenting on those websites. We’d love to hear from you.

Explore our websites to purchase our stories and pick up a free sample of the Dragoman Bloodgrue serial series short stories and/or the sample from the epic fantasy novel, ‘Laret’.

Thank you for reading issue 114 of the Owerton Challenge where you the reader can participate in the writing of each issue.

We here at InUPress.ca and the Owerton Challenge have gratitude for your reading and participating. If you desire to participate by contributing words to an issue, please follow the links to www.inupress.ca and www.owerton.ca going to the comment tabs and leaving these three words (as described below) for an issue of Owerton Challenge. Please, if you haven’t already, subscribe to the InUPress and/or Owerton Challenge email subscription lists.

The Owerton Challenge contribution word list items:

  • ________________________One colour
  • ________________________One object related to the real world or sci-fi, alien settings
  • ________________________One creature from the real, alien, sci-fi worlds, or the fantastic

Include your name, location, and e-mail address as well, so proper credit can be given to you as the contributor. Your email address will not be shared unless you give us your permission.

 

We acknowledge the following for their contributions in this episode:

Kenneth Shumaker is the episode author.

Kenneth Shumaker creates the graphics.

Donna Shumaker as our episode editor.

Inevitable Unicorn Press, also known as InUPress, works on the marketing and promotions and is responsible for the production, publishing, and distribution.

 

Thank you for your time and effort.

If you’d like to reach us, you can contact us at:

www.inupress.ca or www.owerton.ca

or message our email at:

inupress@inupress.ca or ken@inupress.ca

or give us a phone call at InUPress at:

1-780-523-5835

last you can postal mail InUPress at:

InUPress

Rusty’s Den

Box 3323

High Prairie, Alberta, Canada

T0G 1E0

Have a wonderful day.

Thank you,

Kenneth Shumaker & InUPress

 

 

 

Owerton Challenge I113, Star Grean E003, ‘Green Pheasant Guitar’

Issue 113, Episode 003

May 25, 2017

Star Grean

By Kenneth Shumaker

Episode 003, Green Pheasant Guitar

 

Challenge:

  • Words: Green Pheasant Guitar
    • Green
    • Pheasant
    • Guitar
  • Contributor:
    • Donna Shumaker
    • High Prairie, Alberta

 

Star Grean 

Our story takes place in Kenneth Shumaker’s 5th Galaxy science fiction realm of the Toran sector with the crew of the starship, Star Grean. Her captain is the enigmatic and sly thirty-six-year-old veran human male, Levan, who is default owner of Flind Exploration Corporation. Levan lives in a society that is dominated by females, ran by corporate political organisations, and obeys the female ran Venkaer religious institution. This is a society where no male is given the opportunity to command or own property. Yet, we find Levan to be Captain of the Star Grean and her crew, even with a Venkaer’s 3rd Purist on board.

In the previous episode 002 on 216:03:21:10:15

Pilot Levan officially becomes Captain Levan of the Star Grean. For the first time in his life, he is about to command a crew. However, the Black Cat Circle decide that Levan owes them money. The Black Cat Circle beat the air out of Levan, make threats of death, and demand one million credits.

3rd Purist Frena discovers things about Levan that no Humar Empire female should know.

We now continue in Episode 003 on 216:03:23:10:22 with:

216:03:23:10:22

Levan anxiously looks at his chroncrom again as the office door opens and the director’s assistant summons them in less than politely.

Levan watches on the sly to make sure 3rd Purist Frena keeps her cool. They desperately need this government contract to establish their reputation and earn valuable status as a corporation. She can’t blow this meeting or crash the presentation. The two of them practised over the presentation by rehearsing for five hours, in between interviewing recruits. She seems to be calm and collected.

Together, with Frena in the lead, they enter the government bureau director’s spacious office. From Velma’s descriptions, Levan had vividly imagined how the space would appear. But this space is even more palatial than his imagination allowed, even more spacious than his apartment. The two of them march across the twenty feet from the door to the chairs on this side of the desk, noiselessly walking on the sound-deadening furs. Arriving at the chairs, Levan kneels, while Frena simply bows, and they wait without moving to be acknowledged.

The young director hums an idle tune, and then she says, “Yes! Yes! Sit, both of you. I received your file 3rd Purist. Everything is in order. Your ship, the Star Grean, qualifies, as does your corporation. 3rd Purist, you may make your presentation.”

Levan sits on the soulless hard metal chair set behind Frena’s soft cushioned seat, as Frena takes her comfortable chair.

Frena works through the half-hour presentation with great diligence, stating the dry facts about the Star Grean, the intended route to the Tunda system, and the crew that has been hired so far, using the altered new identity as Tala the engineer for engineer Scall, which Levan garnered from his contact.

Then, after the professionally presented presentation, Frena falls silent, and both Flind representatives bow and wait silently for the director to speak.

They only have to wait a minute while Derec enters notes into her console. She addresses Frena, saying, “Well, that was well done. I get so many presentations with so much fluff and nonsense and promises, with so little in the way of facts. I like your presentation, with just facts and no promises or fluff. My question, though, involves the facts that your ship has never left drydock, and your crew has never flown together before. Why would Hazdal sponsor you?”

Levan clears his throat, and raises his hand, with his eyes looking down to the floor, waiting.

Derec sighs in annoyance, “Yes, boy?”

Levan asks in a soft manner, “May I address your question?”

Frena answers in a brisk tone. “He may speak on this, on my behalf.”

Derec groans, answering annoyed, “If you think you must.”

Not looking up, Levan replies, “Flind is not asking to be sponsored up front. Flind is asking to be acknowledged and paid, upon completion of the contract. Thus there is no risk for Hazdal Space Corporation. Does that work for you both?”

Frena answers in a dry manner, “This works for me.”

Without looking up, Levan is relieved, as a smile can be heard in Derec’s reply, “Under those conditions, I can award the amended contract, offering it to Flind Corporation.”

Butterflies erupt in Levan’s abdomen, but he doesn’t flinch or smile. They have an hour of contract ceremonies to get through yet, he can’t be seen to react, no matter how happy he is. Sneaking a quick glance at Frena, he sees that she too is stone cold emotionless. Good! But Levan can feel her elation in his soul. She’s emitting her elation at their success, to him, whether she knows it or not, and this is new to Levan. No female has ever Shared with him before; it’s so … so … elating, what other word is there? He feels her touch right to his soul. He imagines her water-blue eyes and blonde hair, her attractive fine sculpted face, her four-foot-eight-inch, hundred or so pound body. She’s so majestic in appearance. He suddenly realises that he knows her age, from the contact Sharing; she’s thirty-four Terms, two Terms his junior. He tries drawing away, as he realises she feels an attraction to him. ‘No, we can’t! Crews can’t Share! It’s not viable, or proper.’ Levan tries blocking out Frena, and with some effort he succeeds. Breathing is difficult to maintain in even control, but he masters it.

216:03:23:16:55

The duo casually walk out of the Bureau’s office tower. Levan stops on the sidewalk before they climb into the Quickie Cab. He addresses Frena, “Purist, I know you were happy and elated with the presentation results. But may I ask you not to Share. It was unsettling, as I’ve never Shared before. Unless you mean to ask me to be your husband, please control your Sharing … Please.”

Turning to observe Levan, Frena’s expression is not neutral, her eyes gleam with moisture, while the corners of her mouth are downturned in sadness, and she asks, “My Sharing with you disturbs you, sweet Levan?”

Reading her disturbed sadness at being rejected, Levan hesitates. “It doesn’t disturb me, Purist, I wasn’t expecting it, I was unsettled by the newness. I’m sorry if I sadden you, I’m asking you not to do it again.”

Frena, also reading Levan’s composure and expression, responds, “It did disturb you, and you’re trying to be polite now, and not hurt my feelings. We’ll work it out, my friend.”

Shocked, Levan can’t answer. Frena called him a friend, and she meant it.

They climb into the Quickie Cab together and Frena keys in her address into the controls first, by habit. They drive into the middle-class housing district, mostly populated by female held households. Levan grumbles in envy at the manicured front lawns and courtyards of the luxury one and two-story fabricated houses, reserved for the elite of society. But he gains a bit of humbleness as the cab stops in front of a three-story shared dormitory. Out of spite, he asks, “How many do you share with?”

Frena answers haughtily, “Five of us sisters hold the lease on the building. Do you need a place?” She winks, knowing Levan holds an upper-middle-class apartment.

Levan watches her exit the cab as he wonders hazardously what she would be like as a partner. Shaking his head, he keys in his apartment building’s address into the cab’s control pad.

…..

Walking down the hallway, Levan can see a sliver of light coming from under his apartment door as he approaches. He notices the burnt security pad beside his door. Readying himself for a possible conflict, Levan slides open his door and ducks as a club swings over his head, initiated from inside the apartment and off to the side of the door. Going into full trained Grenar unarmed combat mode, he strikes out in reflex at the assailant, connecting with the assailant’s abdomen. Levan sees two other assailants rushing toward him. He mutters under a controlled breath, “Gods be damned.”

With the edge of his hand, Levan strikes the same man’s neck in a second attack, feeling the man’s throat break and seeing him grasp for his throat with both of his hands, unable to breathe.

Levan recognises the Black Cat Circle thugs from the safe house.

Running for the stairwell, but ducking into the short side hallway to the side before reaching the stairwell, he stops and waits for the first thug. Using a fierce toe-first martial kick to the groin of the man, the victim is doubled forward. Levan brings a knee to the man’s throat. Thus Levan disables the second of the three thugs.

The third thug hesitates and draws a long knife. He advances on Levan cautiously, sneering, he says, “We were just going to talk, to see why you double-crossed us. But now you’re a marked dead man, boy.”

Lightening quick, Levan does a scissor leap with both feet coming up, while one hand balances him on the floor. His right foot connects with the wrist of the hand holding the knife, his left foot connecting violently with the man’s jaw. Levan’s spacer boot crushes the assailant’s jaw with a loud smashing snap. The man goes down unconscious.

Quickly recovering, Levan retrieves the long knife, driving it into the hearts of both men to ensure they’re dead. Then, rapidly returning to his darkened apartment, he cautiously steps over the still gasping wounded man in the hallway. As Levan is stepping over the injured man, he drives the knife through the man’s eye into his brain, and Levan stirs the blade, ending the man’s suffering. Then, from his days long past, he uses as much skill as he can muster in silent walking, before the days of dealing with Velma. Levan enters his apartment without turning the lights on, knowing that at least one thug, possibly more, are in there.

Standing off to the side of the door, deep in the darkened shadows, adjusting his eyes to the darkness, Levan tries to spot any out of place shadows in the room. Scanning carefully, he notes one in the kitchen area, emanating from behind the central kitchen island, indicating that someone is crouched down on the other side. Also, Levan hears a disturbance from the storeroom and another out of place sound from the bedroom. So at least three more thugs are in the apartment. Bending down silently, Levan, as quietly as possible, takes off his boots and socks, and then his jacket, leaving them on the floor near the door. With only his short-sleeve tight racing shirt and skin tight pants on, Levan silently walks to the closest end of the island. Holding the long knife ready, he sneaks around the to the end opposite the crouching figure, and then leaps at him or her, in attack. Levan drives his knife into the person’s neck as the person fires their laser pistol. Their shot strikes Levan’s arm. The woman dies before she can fire a second shot.

In extreme pain, Levan tries not to curse out loud. Closing his eyes briefly from the pain, he grits his teeth with his lips sealed tight. Sweat starts to bead on his face. Blood starts trickling from the burn on his arm. Counting to ten, Levan listens carefully, and he hears the rustling of jockeying for position of three people: two in the storage room, one in the bedroom. ‘Damn the gods, where’s security when I need them?

Picking up the laser pistol, Levan checks the setting; it’s set on the maximum power fire setting, that means there are three shots left. He dials the power setting down, so he has four shots so he can miss once.

Pulling the long knife out of the dead woman’s neck, Levan wonders how the law and government are going to judge him on killing a woman? He may just have to abandon his apartment. He should, right now! But damn it, they’ll all just come looking for him. He has to finish the Black Cat Circle thugs here, before scramming … Damn the arm hurts! His eyes water from the pain, blurring his vision. As he tries to wipe the tears away, all he manages to do is smear some of the woman’s blood across his eyes and cheeks. Using the short sleeves of his shirt, he tries to wipe away the tears again, causing himself more pain when he moves his wounded arm. He curses softly, “Damn!”

Rising enough to peer over the counter, he looks eye-to-eye with one of the thugs, who responds by springing over the counter at him. Levan has enough time to raise and fire the laser point blank into the face of the man. The laser beam sears right through the man’s eye and into his brain, ending with the man sprawling out on top of Levan, dead.

Quickly pushing the corpse off himself, as another attacker lunges for Levan, Levan has enough time to bring the long knife to bear in front of himself, gutting the man, wounding him, allowing the man to use his own dagger to cut into Levan’s leg, then neck. Levan quickly positions and fires the laser pistol into the man’s head, through his ear, at point-blank range, frying his brain, killing him.

Bleeding more from his arm wound and from the stab to his leg and neck, Levan triggers the emergency call on his chroncrom, ‘Let the chips fall where they may, to the damn with it!

Levan limps toward the bedroom not trying to be silent. Levan calls out, “I know you’re in the bedroom. I’m coming for you. The rest are all dead. Surrender, and you’ll live, hide or attack, and you’ll die.”

Silence is the result as Levan, in a rush, noisily opens the door and quickly flicks the light switch. Levan ducks rapidly to the side of the door just inside the room, as a firearm shot goes off. The bullet strikes the door jamb, in line where his head had been. Levan fires the last two laser shots blindly into the area where the firearm shot came from. A woman’s screech is heard as she is wounded. She fires a second shot at Levan as he runs toward her. Levan drops the laser pistol and brings the long knife to full bearing. He feels the fourth bullet bite into his shoulder, and the fifth bullet bites into his ribs as he drives the knife into her chest. He blacks out.

216:03:26:16:35

Hearing Frena pray, Levan ponders if she is praying the death prayer and if the prayer is for him. The world is all in images of reds and greys as he slowly and weakly opens his eyes. His mouth feels like it’s filled with cotton, as he simply asks, “Water?” He smells strong sulphurs as well.

Gasping and grabbing Levan’s hand, Frena utters, “Thank Rendfendal. Levan the machines did their job, you lived. Thank you, thank you … thank the gods!”

She rapidly offers Levan a sippy cup with a long straw, containing a briny-sweet water mixture.

He sips a few mouthfuls, having a hard time swallowing the liquid. He realises that his throat was injured, resulting in his difficulty with swallowing.

He looks at the reddish-grey image of the holy woman, as she starts to visually clear. Now that his mouth is somewhat hydrated, Levan speaks carefully as he asks, “How many did I get?”

Laughing and crying at the same time, Frena kisses Levan’s hand, and then says, “Hero of the building … you beat two armed women and five men. The law still wants to know how you did it and survived. The medics got to your apartment just in time to keep you from dying. They got the freezefield on to you to stop your biosystems, and then they had just enough time to get you to the hospital so the surgeons could use the biometric surgery table to patch you before reviving you from the field. They had to fully fill your blood supply, almost. You had almost completely bled out. They pulled three bullets out of you and fixed a couple dagger wounds and a laser burn. You really shouldn’t be living; you’ll live a life of memory pains. But you’ll live. They say it takes awhile to recover from the freezefield; you just came out of it two hours ago, after ten hours of surgery. Do you want me to leave?”

Levan chuckles, and then dares to say, “Hold my hand, sit down and shut-up.” Then he fades out again, going into freezefield after-coma for roughly another twenty hours.

Frena sits holding his hand, sometimes sleeping in the chair, only letting go of his hand to eat and use the restroom. Eventually, she goes for an hour-long walk at the ten-hour mark, and then to perform her service prayers after that. But, she soon returns to Levan, attempting to provide him with comfort while the machines heal him, feed him, and remove toxins and wastes from his body, while he remains in the freezefield after-coma.

The other crew members came, visited with Frena, and left.

Yar let Frena know that Levan’s apartment has been repaired and cleaned, and that the security panel has been repaired as well.

216:03:27:17:27

Levan, weak bodied, sits up in bed and watches the sleeping form of the 3rd Purist. Tempted to shout ‘fire’, he restrains himself. Besides, it would take more effort than he has the energy for right now. Levan eats the strange pudding the orderly left for him when Levan told the man that he is hungry. The pudding has the texture of ten-day rain mud on the Old Morn Riverbank, and the pudding smells as appealing, but it tastes quite good, like ripe Oragan Fruit when it’s in season: fruity, sweet and salty.

Licking his two fingers as he wipes out all the residue from the pudding container, Levan grins as he spots Frena eyeing him. He shrugs and says, “What? I’m damn hungry, Purist.”

She laughs and replies, “Then, it’s time to take you out of here and home.”

He grins, feeling mischievous, “Your home or mine?”

She winks. “Your choice, but don’t tease.”

Levan is stunned, yet again, by how the 3rd Purist ‘plays’ with him, and the freedoms that she allows him. Levan is finding himself attaching to her more than he consciously wants to. He doesn’t understand this Purist. She is not like any woman or holy Purist he’s encountered before, and this confuses him.

He decides, “I think it’s best that I go home to my place.”

He watches in wonder, as she actually looks disappointed. Her eyes droop as do the corners of her mouth, though only slightly, as if she’s trying to hide her disappointment. Levan’s feeling scared now, as he surmises that this Purist has feelings for him. He asks, “Did you sit here with me, through this whole thing?”

She starts to shake her head and begins to say, “N …” then she slumps forward and answers, “Yes, Captain Levan, I did. Does that disturb you?”

Levan swings his legs over the side of the bed as he sits up. Sitting naked, all the machinery now gone, he says, “I have to think about this. It’s new for me, 3rd Purist. No female has ever shown interest in me before – interest in my welfare of any kind – other than my Grandma Velma. It’s unusual, unsettling … scary. I have to think about this.”

Frena frowns as she replies, “It’s new for you! I’ve never felt this interested in anyone before, and it scares the gods out of me. I almost didn’t do normal ceremony services so I could stay by your side, in case you needed something, or an issue cropped up.”

Looking at the strangest woman he has ever met, Levan simply asks, “What do we do then?”

Looking just as confused, Frena answers with a shrug and says, “I pray.”

Getting dressed, Levan pays his hospital bill of four-thousand credits, and then he and Frena take a Quickie Cab to his apartment, where they confirm the repairs and reset the security.

Awkwardly, Frena leaves to go home and clean up.

Levan can’t sleep as all he can do is consider 3rd Purist Frena and their situation.

Eventually, he leaves every crew member a message on their chroncrom to meet at the Flind Exploration office at 03:29:10:00, and to be prepared to leave on their maiden voyage.

216:03:29:09:05

Arriving at Ferris Towers, Levan slowly walks along the hallway to Flind Exploration offices. He’s been running scenarios through his head on how to deal with Frena. The easiest thing would be to just let her go and replace her, ending all entanglements and potential conflicts of interests. But can he do that?

Looking down the hall from the lift, toward the Flind Exploration office door, it’s just as he expected, Frena is waiting for him … alone. Walking up to her, he says in a timid tone, “3rd Purist Frena, we need to talk … inside.”

Sighing, smiling, Frena says, “Wow, I’m so glad you said that. I have something I want to say. I’ve been thinking about it for some time now, since a few days after we started here. You make us some of your great java. Then let’s talk in your office.”

Not sure that they have the same ideas in mind, Levan opens the office and switches on the lights, proceeding to make them their java. He meets Frena in his office.

Handing the 3rd Purist her java, Frena sits her mug of java on the desk, before even taking a sip. Encouraging Levan to do likewise, Frena takes Levan’s hands, and she stares into his eyes while she smiles. Levan can feel her excitement and joy as Frena asks, “Captain Levan, will you be my husband?”

Floored, Levan falls. Sitting on the floor, staring up into the shocked wide eyes of Frena, Levan is so very confused: he is a middle-classed, no status or reputation male, who has just been asked by a 3rd Purist to be her husband. He saw that she was interested in him, but this? Really? He asks as he draws himself back up onto his feet, “Are you sure you want me?”

Grinning again, Frena nods, saying, “Yes, Levan.”

Trying to regain neutral composure, but failing miserably, and fluttering between a huge grin and a deep frown, Levan is torn at the meanings of this proposal. He’d be a kept man if he accepts, and he’d be able to give Frena more than figurehead status of Flind Exploration if he wants to share more. He can have a family with her if she wants one? But what do they both bring each other in this? He hardly knows her, and really, she knows nothing about him. What if she changes her mind when she discovers his true past? What if he discovers she has skeletons in her past he can’t live with? The law doesn’t allow men to call for a separation or divorce. What could he do? What if they end up fighting all the time? He’s heard of partners doing that. Levan looks into Frena’s eyes – a bold move men aren’t allowed – but Frena doesn’t resist, or rebuke him. She looks back into his eyes, and then he discovers it: the legendary Purist Transcending, he becomes one with Frena, sharing her memories and sharing his with her. Together they become one, knowing everything each other has ever done or thought. They both smile as they discover that they are kindred souls, rebellious at heart. They are one of mind and spirit.

A voice calls out, “Are you two okay?”

Discovering an hour has passed, they pull free of each other, smiling. Levan answers Frena, “I accept, seeing as you know my secrets and I know yours.”

She leans forward and kisses his lips, sending a tingling sensation throughout his body and garnering from the other gathered crewmembers, a unified, “What?”

Frena looks at each of them, and then says, “We’re getting married, after the expedition.”

An excited group cheer is heard, which is not what Levan was expecting. He spots one dessenter. Levan spots a glint of jealousy sneak in briefly on the face of Gunner Krenda, before being masked again. Levan hopes it doesn’t become an issue.

Levan addresses the crew once they’re in the outer office. “We go to the shuttle in an hour and fly to the docking station to meet the docking station’s office quartermaster. He’s been setting up the Star Grean for her first expedition. Quartermaster Meelar, you will go over all our supplies with him to ensure everything is set on the Grean to your desires. Everyone else, you will inspect your stations and set her up to be ready to disembark at 03:31:00:00. Understood?”

A full round of excited, “Aye, Captain!” is heard, even from Frena. And the crew of the Star Grean begins with the Ferris Tower office scrub cleaning, closing it down in preparations for the crew’s departure on the shuttle.

216:03:29:15:12

With Yar navigating, Levan smoothly pilots their shuttle to Gresslar Station and then docks the shuttle in the Star Grean’s shuttle bay.

On board the Star Grean, after he directs each crewmember to their quarters Levan calls the Flind Gresslar Docking Station Quartermaster over to the Star Grean. Levan takes Frena with him to their command living quarter as they had discussed in the Ferris Tower office, sharing the officer’s quarters now as life partners.

Levan chuckles as they settle in, thinking that their first night together as life partners will also be their first night on Star Grean, and will be the first night the Star Grean will have it’s first crew, getting ready for the first expedition of discovery. A lot of firsts and discoveries.

The excited crew settles in, preparing the Star Grean for its maiden voyage and expedition.

216:03:31:10:00

Sitting in the pilot’s seat, Levan expertly guides the Star Grean out from the docking berth. The crew is amazed how smooth the disembarking is by Levan and the Star Grean. Slowly at first, they enter their designated traffic lane, following the flow away from the planet, out past the three moons with the traffic thinning, heading outward away from their star, toward Yar’s planned Starfall jump point and the Star Grean’s first Stardrive jump. Usually, the first jump is the most hazardous for any ship that stays in the territory.

The Star Grean has a crew of seven. Captain Levan Ulmora is the pilot and owner. There is Navigator Yar, 3rd Purist and 1st Medic Frena, Engineer Tala (Scall), Gunner Krenda, Geobioscientist Kni, and Quartermaster Meelar.

On the acceleration, going out to the jump point, Levan gathers the crew together in the mess room. He looks at each member while frowning, wondering what they’ll encounter together and how each will react. He needs his second to be solid, a strong first-mate. Speaking directly to everyone, Levan says, “We are going in to life and death out there. No responsible Captain would undertake to lead his ship out into such a situation without a first mate as a second in command to take over if the captain becomes unavailable. I thought about this, and the decision really was quite easy. I’m asking 3rd Purist Frena to be my first mate and Navigator Yar to be my co-pilot. Any objections?”

This is met with silence and smiles by most, except Gunner Krenda. But no one objects. Having a female first mate carries a lot of weight for the crew, though it is obvious to Levan that Krenda has feelings of competition with Frena for the top spot as woman. Realising that he’s going to need to head this off somehow, but not knowing female psyche well enough, Levan has his job cut out for him.

Looking at Frena, Levan asks, though knowing the answer, “Any comment?”

3rd Purist Frena says, “We have 23 hours until we reach the jump point, according to Yar and Levan. So, I’d like to perform Rendfendal space services, blessing the ship and crew. If all attended, I would appreciate it. Gunner Krenda I could use your aid.”

Inwardly, Levan smiles, thinking that Frena spotted Krenda’s jealousy and competition. Frena is attempting to head off conflict, by asking for Krenda’s help in things. Might work?

After their 31:15:00 meal, Frena, with Krenda’s aid, starts the services, blessing the ship and crew. Frena finishes her services with the completion of the last ceremony at 31:17:25. It’s a solemn event that has Krenda, Levan, and Frena cheerfully in the Laser pod bay controls. Krenda lovingly sits in the fire control seat, caressing the sparkling new modern controls, ready for her use, and now blessed by Frena with the space god Rendfendal’s blessing. Krenda smiles gleefully as she looks away from the targeting screen and looks over at Levan and then to Frena, saying, “Thank you both. I will do you honour with your trust in me.”

Levan nods, saying, “I know you will 1st Gunner Krenda. I trust in you.”

Frena pats Krenda’s shoulder, replying, “As do I.”

Together, Levan and Frena retire to their room. The couple is alone for the first time without the stress of work performance. They look at each other and sigh.

Frena takes Levan’s hand, leading him to the bed. She sits with him, saying, “I now know how hard it is for you to accept women commanding over you. I will try to refrain from doing so as much as I possibly can. But we need to keep reigns on Krenda.” … “We have four hours before anyone expects us anywhere. So, I would like to present you with a gift I had Quartermaster Meelar obtain for me. I know how much music means to you, and I know you play the guitar, so I got you a rare, Royal Pheasant Guitar. The only one the quartermaster could find was an amber-green. I hope it’s okay with you?” Opening her storage cabinet, Frena pulls out a guitar case. Opening the case, she presents Levan with a green, twelve string, Royal Pheasant Guitar. Levan knows that only a hundred are made every Term, and each one is a different colour shade. He gingerly accepts the rarity and acknowledges the even rarer event – a gift from a female to him. Tears trickle down his cheeks to meet the curves of his smile. In his life, the only other woman to gift him is dead now, his grandma Velma, and she insisted on maintaining decorum with proper etiquette at all times. Already, Frena has violated so many rules of etiquette regarding him. His green eyes water with tears as he positions the guitar and moves to tune it, finding that he doesn’t have to adjust the tuning.

He starts playing, “Star Crossed Sailor,” singing the tune for Frena.

They spend the next four hours enjoying their time together, starting with Levan entertaining Frena and finding out that she sings, too. Though they don’t share the exact same taste in music, as Frena is more into the modern music of the Mort system, while Levan favours music from two and three generations back of the Cora inner system. After two hours of Levan entertaining with music, Frena takes away the guitar and starts kissing Levan, which leads to arousing Levan, and the natural follow of events.

…..

As 32:00:00 is arriving, the two get neatly dressed in their spacer uniforms again, both grinning, happy with recent events.

Arriving on the command bridge, the bridge crew is gathered already running through procedures for the Starfall jump that is to happen in a little over three hours.

From his console, Levan asks Yar, “So, these are the standard coordinates into Cora system at nine-lightyears Starfall?”

Nodding emphatically, saying, “Aye, Captain. This takes you three Au past the Ort Barrier to inside their system, as is standard entry procedure for Stardrive’s Starfall.”

Levan enters his piloting command controls that are necessary for Stardrive jump Starfall, asking, “And you’ll start calculations for the eight-lightyear Starfall jump to Lar from there? We’re not going in inner system, into Cora, as we have enough fuel and Talla doesn’t think we’ll need to dock for engineering in Cora. But in Lar, we’ll need to go in inner system to dock at Grumpy Station for fueling. Got that handled?”

Smiling, eager to get on with this, Yar nods, again answering, “Aye, Captain, handling.”

Damn, this is too good to be true, it’s happening, and this is ours. Damn it. Bless be Rendfendal.’ Turning to Frena, who has her eyes on Levan, Levan winks while grinning and feeling warm, tingling all over, as she smiles and winks back. He feels like a teenager again, despite the physical pains.

216:03:32:03:23

Piloting the Star Grean up the last acceleration to Starfall jump velocity, Levan views the screens and gauges again, silently saying one last quick prayer to Rendfendal. He says out loud over the speakers, “Three … Two … One … Jumping!” and he triggers the Stardrive.

Everything goes void black, then there is a pop, followed by a bright white flash, then the natural blackness of space and the Star Grean is cruising at just below jump velocity.

Yar quickly checks his state-of-the-art Class Three Astronav equipment which is just below military grade. He also checks the astroscopes, radars, white noise detectors, gamma detectors, etc. He soon turns to Levan, “Astronav indicates we’re in Cora.”

Kni then speaks up, “Communication beacon’s signal indicate this is Cora system as well, Captain.”

Levan sighs and turns to Tala, asking, “Systems?”

The engineer, who just finished reading through his various screens, answers, “All green, Captain.”

An even deeper chest sigh escapes Levan, and he detects the same from his crew. He begins a deceleration aiming for just to almost two Au below Starfall jump velocity, but to save fuel, he’ll keep the higher velocity. He says, “Yar, you’re up; you have ten hours to calculate the next jump, we start for the next Starfall at 03:34:00:00.

216:03:34:12:24

With the course corrections, they had to adjust velocity slightly. Now, nearly up to Starfall jump velocity again, Levan is still accelerating again and is counting down with everyone sitting strapped in their seats again. Calling out over the speakers, “Three … Two … One … Jumping!” Once again there is the void blackness followed by popping and a white flash, then cruising along at just under Starfall jump velocity.

Again, the crew confirms location. This time they’re on target in the Lar system.

Tala says to Levan, “Captain, with the last system’s maneuvers and the design of the ship, we can easily make a third jump before docking for fueling and inspection. But these beauties of B Drive Ion engines will need an overhaul in drydock after the next jump.”

Levan considers this and then commands as he starts decelerating to almost two Au under jump velocity, “Yar, start calculations to Tor. Kni, contact Depar Station, book a drydock for our engine’s overhaul. Meelar call ahead and order your restock supplies to full inventory. That’s all folks. Everyone, be back on the bridge at 03:36:00:00 for the next Starfall jump.”

216:03:36:00:35

Anxious, Levan accelerates the Star Grean, edging up to Starfall jump velocity for her third jump in a row. It is rare for a captain to voluntarily jump their Stardrives for three jumps in a row when the Stardrive is paired with Ion Drive engines. But Tala insisted that it would be safe with these drives. Levan looks over at Tala who is relaxed, monitoring his own screens.

Gods I’m nervous. We should have docked and at least performed an inspection and refueled. Now we have enough fuel for a decel and a ten-days hold. Depar put us on four days’ hold, before docking, if our berth opens on schedule, which they rarely do.’ Fussing nervously over details, Levan stops his scattered thinking and refocuses on piloting, reading his screen’s velocity. He continues the count, “Two … One … Jumping!”

Cruising in the void of space at just under jump velocity the crew confirms that they are in the Tor system, on the edge of Humar Empire territory, the last inhabited and explored system in this direction.

Levan begins piloting into the inner system, beginning the full deceleration once they are close enough. He guides the Star Grean on Yar’s route to Depar Station with flight control’s guidance. The deceleration takes time, twenty-three hours with the Class B Ion engines firing and the Solar Sails deployed, working together at two-thirds thrust when they are 1,500 k Au from a good size star.

216:03:39:02:27

Tala addresses Levan while the Captain is monitoring his pilot’s screen, “Captain, I’d like to inspect the fusion reactors as well. This tub sucks a lot of juice from them. Over seventy-eight units of power from the reactors when all systems are running. I want to make sure all fifteen are in top shape.”

Levan groans, looking up he asks, “How long will that take?”

Tala chuckles, “Alone? About thirty working hours per reactor. Each engine requires at least thirty hours for overhauls. We’re here for a while if I work alone.”

Looking back to his screen, Levan asks, “Can you do any of the work before we drydock?”

Shaking his head, Tala replies, “No Captain.”

Frowning, Levan, replies, “Okay, I’ll take it into consideration.”

Moving over to the com console, Levan looks the controls over, then he calls Kni to the command bridge.

216:03:39:04:26

With Kni on the bridge, Levan asks him to patch them through to Depar Station’s employment reserves section.

Using Kni’s aid, Levan contacts Yeta Noar, an old male, who is a low-end desk bureaucrat. Levan asks him, “Yeta, I need to outfit my crew with two more junior engineers trained for Stardrives, and two more security personnel, ready for out of territory jumps. I’d like to have at least four engineers and four security to interview. Can you arrange it?”

Yeta grunts, and then replies, “I have three engineers qualified for Stardrive ships on standby, and any of over half of a dozen military can be lined up. When will you be ready to interview them?”

Levan replies, “I’ll be in the lineup in four hours to get into drydock. I can shuttle over to you anytime after that.”

The minor bureaucrat pauses, then he replies, “We can start with the first interview here in eight hours. You can rent an office from us for twenty credits a day.”

Agreeing, Levan answers, “Done, I’ll be over in eight hours.”

216:03:39:12:42

The Star Grean’s shuttle docks with Depar station’s office central core under Levan’s smooth guidance. Disembarking, Levan and 3rd Purist Frena search for the Bureau’s core offices, finding them in the upper offices that occupy the front third of the office core. The auto-assistant directs the pair to the Employment section. Finding Yeta is relatively easy in the low G environment. The duo engages Yeta in light banter before he shows them to their rented office, and displays their two-day itinerary on the desk monitor. Yeta quickly excuses himself, as it is obvious by the way he sidesteps when near Frena, and from his fidgeting, that Yeta is nervous around her. Though he observes complete proper protocol and proper etiquette the whole time, he is quick to exit the office. While the Star Grean is in the queue for drydock, Levan and Frena conduct nine interviews, hiring two junior engineers and three Spaceman 3rd Grade Marines for the security of the Star Grean. This fills all twelve of the crew cabins on the Star Grean.

As the crew waits to start working in drydock, they acquaint themselves with each other, assisting each other where needed.

216:04:04:12:16

Finally, the drydock bay’s end doors seal shut, with the Star Grean moored in place. The fuel lines snap into place, and Tala begins the process of topping up the twenty, one-thousand-litre fluid tanks. Meanwhile, Meelar heads to the gangway where he starts taking on the rations and drinking water, as well as getting rid of the waste at the same time, before he arranges to do the transfer of other supplies.

Levan happily watches as the junior engineers crack open the hatches on Ion B Drive number one to begin work on it, assisting Tala.

Tala assured Levan that with three engineers working together he could do the necessary work in a third of the time. He virtually guaranteed Levan that they could inspect and overhaul all three drives in three days, give or take a few hours if no issues were found. And he also promised to finish inspecting the fifteen fusion reactors in fifteen days, thus getting the Star Grean out of drydock by the twenty-fourth of 04. Levan laughed when Frena told Tala that she’d hold him to it, at the cost of pay reduction if he failed. The engineer paled, whiter than Levan has ever seen him. But Tala held firm in his conviction, and he scurried out of the command deck, going right to work, getting the juniors suited up and moving within minutes.

216:04:08:06:25

By working a little overtime, Tala and his juniors finish the drives on schedule, along with the fueling top-up, with just over 3,500 litres of liquid fuel going into the tanks which hold 10,000 litres. They used just under a quarter of the tank’s capacity, which is less fuel then Levan estimated.

The whole crew is relaxing for the rest of the day. Near exhausted, everyone has gone with little sleep for days, prepping for the next stage of the flight. Yar has been busy with the prelim navigation into Tunda. Kni has been inspecting the science lab and familiarizing himself with the science bay’s equipment. Meelar has been organizing and stowing supplies and gear to his satisfaction. The Marines, with Gunner Krenda, have been running drills, gaining proficiency on board the Star Grean in various scenarios. Levan and Frena have been busy with the command center, both trying to learn how to use the communication center and Frena familiarizing herself with command controls as instructed by Levan, who, though highly knowledgeable with the command structure, spends time getting more comfortable with the Star Grean’s systems.

Each evening after supper, to the enjoyment of all, Levan regales the crew with an hour of performance, accompanying his playing of the green Royal Pheasant guitar with his singing. Sometimes, Frena or one of the other joins him, singing or playing their instruments along with him enthusiastically.

216:04:24:00:05

The drydock master opens the end of the bay’s hatches, and Levan boldly pilots the Star Grean out of the dock, taking the Star Grean into the busy traffic lanes under the directions of the flight controllers. Levan gave the flight control his destination before leaving drydocks. Flight Control guides the Star Grean outward, away from the inner system. Levan is given permission to incremental accelerations until the Star Grean is at five Au per hour and long past the inner planetoids, approaching the jump zone and going to the space out of the territory. It is a no mans land out here, not visited by sane captains, with sane crews. The sanity of the Star Grean’s crew has already been questioned.

In one last test, Levan designates a lone space boulder, an ice asteroid spinning solo in space ahead of them, to Gunner Krenda. Having picked out the 30-metre diameter ball of ice from over thirty Au away, this gives Krenda plenty of time to power up and tune the laser. From less than 50 k kilometers, Krenda fires her laser, striking the asteroid’s side square, spinning it off in another direction.

Levan ponders this, ‘That was with preparation and plenty of time to aim; what happens in combat’ he keys the com to the weapons command pod, “Good shot. Can you do that without prep time? We’re moving too fast to pick a random target for you now. When we’re at a combat velocity, then we’ll test the system.”

Krenda keys back, responding, “I can do it again.”

Levan mutters, “I hope so if we need you.”

216:04:26:12:36

Everyone is at their stations, apprehensive, as Levan counts down over the intercom. For five crewmembers, this is their first jump on the Star Grean. For three of those, this is their first jump ever.

Levan counts over the speakers, “Two … One … Jumping!” The black void, followed by the pop and the bright white light, and then a horrendous crashing thud as something solid strikes the Duro-armour double layered ceramic hull. Then, followed by another pop, light and resounding thud.

Levan is tempted to immediately take them back into a jump, but with no coordinates, they could end up anywhere. Even worse, they could possibly end up inside the body of a planet or star. Now, at least they’re alive. There is another thud as they coast at just under jump velocity.

Levan puts the Star Grean into full deceleration. He has spotted the issue, they’re hitting rocks. He’s busy piloting around the big rocks, but the ship is still colliding with a few of the smaller ones. The radar is showing a broad belt wall of big ones ahead of them in less than five minutes, which he can’t go over, under, or around. They are going to be going through them.

Signalling the weapons command pod com, Levan, as calm as possible, says, “Krenda, we’re going to be flying into a wall of asteroid boulders through a broad space. If you don’t want to be a permanent part of them, I suggest you get the laser up to full power. You’re given free command to blast us a path through the wall. Quick now, you have about two minutes, Ensign.”

Krenda doesn’t respond, but Levan feels, through the floor of the command room’s deck, the hum of the laser powering up to full burn. A minute later, laser blasts burn rocks into dust particles just a minute before the Star Grean starts to fly into the barrier.

Levan flies into the path opening up by Krenda. The crew braces for any impacts just in case the path is too narrow for the Star Grean. A couple times Levan is forced to squeeze the ship between asteroid size boulders that Krenda can’t break down enough.

Soon, Tala calls to Levan, “Captain, with your flying and the decelerating and with Krenda’s burning, we’ve drained the accumulators, and the reactors are starting to overheat. They’ll start going into reactor shutdowns in a couple of minutes.”

Levan grins, saying, as the laser stops firing, having cleared the path through the rock belt, “Keep the systems going as best you can, Tala. Another three Au and we can slow down on sucking the power out of her so bad.”

Levan weaves the Star Grean around a moon-size asteroid in time to avoid colliding with it, only to see two more ahead. Levan diverts the Star Grean away from these two moon size asteroids, but now the ship is colliding with a cloud of several small game-ball-size ice boulders instead.

Over the seven hours that they fly through the systems Ort Barrier, the hull is severely impacted many times. Because the Astronav sensors, damaged during the initial impact, have become disabled, Levan has to rely completely on the surviving video cameras and the radar systems to aide him in piloting the Star Grean.

As the ship exits the Ort Barrier, the Star Grean has already slowed velocity to almost half Starfall jump velocity. Some of the reduction is due to the collisions, but most are due to Levan’s forceful full extreme deceleration. With Levan’s piloting skills, they haven’t gone off spinning or tumbling lost from the collisions. They have managed to hold a steady flight. Pointed ahead and outside of the Ort Barrier, Levan orders Tala to quickly deploy the Solar Sail Drives, adding to the deceleration.

216:04:27:12:42

The Star Grean has come down to 11.9 AU per hour in velocity, and now it is time to assess damages while the remaining functional fusion reactors and solar drives recharge the accumulators and try to keep power to the remaining ship’s system.

Kenneth Shumaker

To be continued in Episode 004 on 216:04:27:13:00

With the Star Grean in an unknown system and their Astronav system damaged, the engineers start assessing the damages to the Star Grean. Yar tries to pinpoint their location, using whatever undamaged telescopes, sensors, and camera systems are available.

Levan has 3rd Purist Frena administering to a wounded marine.

 

© 2017 by Kenneth Shumaker with Inevitable Unicorn Press

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Owerton Challenge Issue 112, Star Grean Episode 002, “Black Cat Circle’

Episode 002

Star Grean

By Kenneth Shumaker

Episode 002, ‘Black Cat Circle’

Challenge: issue 112

  • Words: Black Cat Circle

    • Black
    • Cat
    • Circle
  • Contributor:

    • Lee ann
    • High Prairie, Alberta

 

Star Grean

 

Our story takes place in Kenneth Shumaker’s 5th Galaxy science fiction realm of the Toran sector with the crew of the starship, Star Grean. Her captain is the enigmatic and sly thirty-six-year-old veran human male, Levan, who is default owner of Flind Exploration Corporation. Levan lives in a society that is dominated by females, ran by corporate political organisations, and obeys the female ran Venkaer religious institution. This is a society where no male is given the opportunity to command or own property. Yet, we find Levan to be Captain of the Star Grean and her crew, even with a Venkaer’s 3rd Purist on board.

In the previous episode 001 on 216:03:19:19:55

Pilot Levan of the Humar Empire received terrible news, and he had to make a choice. His maternal grandmother died in an inter-corporation takeover duel, where both combatants died – bad news for both corporations and families. The news was given to Levan by the corporation’s lawyer at five minutes to midnight, telling Levan that he has no options for taking the Ulmora Corporation seat on as head, he has to give it up. On the bright side, Levan has inherited a ship, the Star Grean. Now, he’s looking for crewmembers for his new ship.

 

We now continue in episode 002 at 216:03:21:09:31

Looking at Frena, Levan holds his tongue trying not berate her for talking down to him. Levan arrived at 21:09:22, plenty of time before he planned on opening the office to meet with his new crew. He found Frena impatiently waiting for him at the door, and she cut him a new arse with words that are not polite to repeat.

Instead, Levan says, “3rd Purist Frena, I did say that I would meet here at the office with the crew at 03:21:10:00. It is now, by my chroncrom, 03:21:09:31, well before the designated time. May I suggest I make some java for you while you relax and resort your thoughts for this afternoon?”

It is evident to Levan that Frena hasn’t had a male stand up to her before, as she stands and stares at him with her mouth slightly open and water-blue eyes slightly wider than normal. She flutters her hands a bit and answers Levan, “I like my java black … and steaming hot, dark roasted … fine grind blend.”

Levan bows and replies, “I’ll see if we have any … Please, I think the seats look comfortable by the desk.” He feels a slight pang of guilt for putting her in a lower place, but this is his office and corporation, and they will be flying on his ship. She needs to be aware that he rules in these areas. When they are out in society, he doesn’t rule. But here and on his ship, she is a subordinate, not him.

Levan finds the java machine in the second small room with the plastacine publication room and radio-vid communications center. There is also an interstellar radio-video communication console along with a class three master computer coordination server console with class four security protocol center for the server, office, and business. ‘Damn the gods, if I want to keep all this, I need a female figurehead for the business. I don’t have anyone I trust. But I have Frena, and so far we have a rough understanding. What’ll happen if I offer her to sit as the figurehead of the corporation?’ Levan proceeds to make the best steaming mug of hot black strong dark java he can from the auto-processor, instructing it to use the finest grind it can produce. He makes a second mug for himself. Taking these to the front office after less than five minutes, Levan hands Frena her cup of java.

Frena takes the cup of java, sniffs it, and gleefully smiles. Sipping the steaming hot liquid, she grins with an expression that would make a child proud. Frena says, “This is perfect; you do well.”

Not letting out his sigh, still breathing normally, Levan says, “I have a proposal for you 3rd Purist. I want you to be Flind Exploration’s figurehead. But only a figurehead, if that will work for you. I’ll pay a bonus of ten thousand credits a month?”

Sipping her java, Frena observes Levan as a Tala hunting cat would stalking a Goran hare. “Make it fifteen thousand a month, boy, and I’ll be your figurehead, keeping quiet when you want.”

Now, sighing deeply from his throat, Levan answers as he gives a crisp spacer salute. “Deal 3rd Purist. But for that much, you must speak what I want to be said when I want it said.”

Shaking her head, Frena replies, “That kind of effort will cost you twenty thousand a month.”

Stuck between rocks under the currents in a river, having now opened this dialogue, Levan bows, acknowledging Frena. Levan says, “Okay … agreed, 3rd Purist.”

Frena smiles, saying, “Shall we enjoy this perfect java you brewed, Levan?”

Watching Frena, Levan wonders as to her motives, as no woman has asked him to observe beverages with them before and she is his employee who has legal rights to command him – a tough spot for him. Yet, she’s unusually polite for a female.

The two sit and enjoy their java while waiting for Yar, who arrives punctually at the time of 21:09:55.

Frena frowns at Yar but keeps silent. Having finished her java, she hands Levan the mug saying, “I’d like another.”

Laughing at the paradox, Levan takes the mug and asks Yar, “How do you take your java?”

Caught off guard at his employer asking him how he wants his java, Yar bows, and replies, “I’ll take it with a whitener and two sweeteners.”

With four minutes before office hours begin, Levan brews three more mugs of java as each likes them. Distributing the brewed mugs of java, he says, “I’ll be in my office for the next hour. Relax and enjoy your first hour free with paid employment.”

Entering his office, Levan activates his desk and views the reports from the auto-assistant, which were prepared over the last few hours. He instructs the assistant that also he wants the pages for those seeking employment.

First, he checks the sub-request contracts, finding three government contracts from differing bureaus.

The first one he reads is for a payout of 200 k credits to the crew who assesses the hazards for further developing the Cax system which was roughly explored by a team ten Terms ago. The previous team had found no inhabited planets. Thinking about this, Levan decides the reward is too low for the expenses involved.

The second sub-request is on a mission from the Norail Employment Security Bureau, paying 400 k credits to the crew who enters the established uninhabited Yer system and rids it of the pirates who jump out to raid the Lar system. Levan finds too many unknowns for the payout offered, and the risks are too high to be worth the reward. He rejects this one too.

Looking to the third and last report found by the assistant, Levan reads it. The request is from the Hazdal Space Exploration and Expansion Bureau of the Hazdal Space Corporation of the government. It offers 1 mil credits to Corporations who jump to new systems, exploring them and returning with complete reports of the systems. This is just what the Star Grean was designed for, thinks Levan. They just need the right crew for her.

Levan, satisfied that he can get the Star Grean employment if Frena plays her role correctly, looks to the second set of reports – the system charts and reports to get outside of the territory. He finds a system named Tunda which looks promising. It’s three Starfall jumps from here in the Mort System over to the Tor system, then another jump to the Tunda system. It looks to be 43 light years of traveling through a series of four jumps. The last jump is the longest at fourteen light years, which is close to the maximum for Star Grean’s Starfall. Star Grean Stardrive’s maximum technical Starfall reach is nineteen light years – as documented on plastacine.

Yes, this is doable with the right crew … if motivated enough. We can make this happen. Now, to prime Frena with some coaching, so she can do a proper presentation to the right department in the right bureau, and then we’re set. No government agency will even entertain a male presence, never mind listen to a presentation for a contract application. I just have to make an appointment. We’ll have time while we wait for that to evolve, as they usually drag their feet for a month or more.

Making the appointment application, and then moving on to the employment seekers pages, Levan is aghast at the number of screens of seekers, just for this city. After narrowing the fields of search to just local spacers searching for immediate employment, the screen narrows down to fourteen applicants. Taking the list of candidates out to Frena, Levan asks, “3rd Purist, how do you feel about helping me set up interviews with recruits for the crew?”

Smiling gleefully, Frena leans forward, saying, “Interviews are something I’m great at conducting. Let me help arrange meetings, and we’ll sit through them together. I’ll help weed out the scraggs from the seeds in the chaff of recruits.”

Fearing that she’d take over, Levan already regrets asking Frena to help him. But he hands her seven of the names, along with their contact information. Two hours later, the two of them have narrowed their list down to eight interviews to take place over the next two days, starting with the first one in three hours.

Frena sits with Yar and Levan, and she says, “This is so exciting – involved in the building of a corporation and the crewing of a virgin ship. We really need to bless the ship as soon as possible, or Rendfendal will be angry with us.”

Humble, not wanting to anger any god or a Purist, Levan answers, “As soon as we have enough crew members to do a proper ship inspection, we’ll fly up to her.”

Smiling like an eager child, Frena nods, rubbing her hands together, asking, “What should we do first?”

Seeing that now is as good a time as any to address the rock in the matter, Levan clears his throat. He watches Yar for a few moments before Levan turns to Frena and says, “We are going to Tunda system to explore on a government contract. You are going to get us this contract with a presentation that I’m going to coach you on.”

Frena jolts back in her seat, aghast at the suggestion, “You? You’re going to coach me on conducting a presentation?”

Holding his hand up, Levan silences her and says, “Yes, because we want this contract, and my grandma Velma taught me the proper etiquette and style of presentation to use to receive a positive contact for government presentations to get contracts. Thus, I suggest you should follow my guidance if we are to receive a chance at getting the contract. I am getting us an appointment for a presentation.”

Looking even more shocked at Levan, Frena asks, “How are you, a male, getting an appointment with a government department?”

Grinning, Levan says, “We – you and I – are getting an appointment, not with just a department but with a bureau department of Hazdal Space Exploration and Expansion.”

Shaking her head, Frena snarls, “You didn’t ask for my authorization.”

Levan answers, “I did – you are being paid twenty-thousand a month for your authorization.”

Staring at Levan like an animal blinded by vehicle headlights, it suddenly hits Frena what she agreed to earlier. She just utters, “Oh.”

The desk auto-assistant chimes, uttering, “Message for Head of Flind Exploration from Hazdal Bureau of Space Exploration and Expansion chief of staff’s office.”

Levan looks at Frena and nods.

Frena gulps as she suddenly realises that this is now her position in Flind, whether she is ready or not. It’s not play time or imitation; this is real. Frena says, “Go ahead, speak.”

The assistant utters, “To the Head of Flind Exploration, your request for contract proposal presentation has been received. An appointment has been set for 03:23:10:00. Be punctual as a second appointment will not be arranged. End of message.”

Levan and Frena stare at each other. They’re pale like a spotless plastacine page.

Frena asks, shaking, “Can we be ready in less than two days?”

Seeing her commanding presence drop for the first time, Levan picks up the pieces as it is his job, saying, “Of course, if we work on the presentation between interviews.”

At seeing Levan’s control, Frena regains her normal complexion colour and composure. Frena nods, saying, “Yes, of course.” But her voice wobbles, betraying her words and showing her lack of certainty.

03:21:16:00 

The first applicant arrives for her interview with Levan and Frena. Levan has caved in and agreed that Frena can sit in on the interviews with him. The applicant is a female engineer with three terms of experience. But she has only worked on systems ships in the Mort system. She’s never worked Stardrive ships and has no education regarding them. When asked what she was expecting for pay grade, she boldly said Rank 10, which in spacer terms is equal to a lieutenant paygrade. Levan isn’t about to pay a no-skill engineer, a lieutenant’s rank pay. Levan thanks the applicant after almost immediately dismissing her.

After she has left, Levan turns to Frena, and asks, “Do you believe the gall of her? She has no skills, yet she wants more pay than a ship’s captain typically gets.”

Frena corrects him, saying, “You mean a male ship’s captain. Females receive paygrade Rank 14, remember, and a full Stardrive Engineer Master Ensign 1st Class can rightly expect Rank 10 if a female.”

Fuming at the indignities, Levan doesn’t voice his thought. ‘Not on my ship.’ He holds back his opinions, offering instead: “The next applicant is at 21:18:00; we have half-an-hour. Do you want another java, before we start rehearsing?”

Instantly, Frena replies, “Just like you made in the morning, boy … I mean Levan … Sorry, Captain Levan. It’s going to take some getting used to you being the captain. I will, though, or we’ll come to locked heads – one or the other.”

Levan whispers, “Likely locked heads.” as he walks to the communications/supply room.

Smiling, Frena replies loudly. “No, not necessarily, sweetie.”

Trying not to fume at such familiarities, Levan makes three mugs of java. As he is returning to his office, Levan leaves Yar’s java with him, telling Yar, “Just send the next applicant right in. Don’t mind any shouting you hear in the office, as I may have locked heads with Commander Frena.” He continues walking to his office as Yar grins and half-heartedly salutes Levan.

03:21:17:56 

The next applicant arrives, fully dressed in the full spacer formals of a Purist. She addresses Frena only, which immediately sets Levan into an internal fuming, as Frena joyously carries out the interview. 1st Purist Yesta is from the fringe of the territory, out at the edge of the Eur system. She was abandoned here in Mort system by her last crew during their stopover, and she’s been trying to earn enough credits to fly back to her home in Eur to reunite with her family. Her only real experience as a ship’s spacer is as a communications officer in Mort system ships for four Terms now. When Frena asks her what paygrade she wants, Yesta replies she’d request Rank 7 Communications officer paygrade. Frena thanks her as Levan continues to fume silently. Dismissing Yesta, Frena waits for the door to close, and then, after a count of thirty, she burst out laughing. When she settles down and is calm again, she says, “You can’t seriously consider hiring her? We’re going Stardrive. She’s an inner system com officer who’s a Novice Purist of the god of dirt – the earth god, Zorendal. She’s more useless than a male toilet sanitizer. Don’t even consider her … And did you hear what she asked for pay? That is way out of line for her skill level.”

Now its Levans turn to laugh. After a full belly laugh, Levan calms and then says, “I thought you were grilling her cause you were seriously considering her. You skank, you were tearing her a new arse, female style.”

This earns Levan a menacing glare from Frena, as she asks, “What did you say, boy?”

Suddenly, remembering who he is with – a female 3rd Purist – which means she’s a class three priestess, a woman of rank in society who is accustom to absolute full respect and subservience from all males and lesser ranking females, he quickly corrects himself. “My apologies 3rd Purist, I misspoke. Please forgive my rudeness.”

They are in silence for a few minutes as Levan is standing and bowing to Frena while she glares menacingly at him. Then, suddenly, she lightens up and stops glaring and answers, “No worries, I guess you’re right. I was rough on her, for that matter, I’ve been rough on you, too. You are my employer, my source of income and theoretical superior if you weren’t a male. I will overlook the rudeness, this time, Captain Levan.”

Levan takes a deep breath, after breathing slow, shallow fearful breaths for so many minutes. He feared that Frena would have him relegated to the detention cells, as Frena could easily have had done for his misspeaking. Wiping the sweat from his face, Levan says, “I think we can all go home for today. That was our last interview for the day, as the third one set for today canceled during our first interview. I will see you tomorrow at 22:10:00?”

Frena, reading the relief in Levan, she smiles, and nods, as she hands him her empty mug. “Yes, I’ll see you tomorrow, Captain Levan. Don’t be late again.”

Resisting a groan, Levan wonders what time his being late is. He answers, “I will see you at 22:10:00 … 3rd Purist.”

She stands and leaves casually as she summons a Quickie Cab on her chroncrom. Walking through the reception office, she looks over at Yar and says, “You can check with Captain Levan, but I think you’re dismissed until 22:10:00 as well.”

Yar looks through the open office door at his captain, and Levan nods. Yar gives a crisp spacer salute. Standing, Yar also summons a Quickie Cab over his chroncrom, as he follows Frena out of Flind Exploration.

03:22:00:23 

As Levan opens his apartment door, he smells the dead animal before he sees the Goran Hare with its guts splayed out on his dining table. He waves his hand over the light switch, brightening the apartment. On every wall is spray-painted the face of a cat in black paint, with a three-centimeter band circle around it. The whole disc is half-a-metre in diameter. The vandals got at least one painting on every damn wall. After searching the rest of his apartment, he finds another dead Goran Hare corpse splayed out on his bed. By the state of their entrails, the corpses were left eight hours ago. Searching his possessions, Levan can’t find anything missing, and he discovers that his security system wasn’t broken into. The culprits used a legitimate means of access. ‘Damn thugs, wonder what they want?’ He thinks as he starts cleaning up the mess, starting with the two hares. Placing the corpses and entrails in disposal sacks, along with blood soaked cleaning cloths, Levan takes the disposal sacks down the hall to the chute, and Levan gets rids of the gut-wrenching nauseating refuse.

As Levan is entering his apartment and just about to close the door, he reels back with the impact to his face from two fists.

Levan lays on the hall floor as he tries to shake the stars from his mind and his vision. He feels hands grip his arms and drag him. He hears a door slam shut, and then he feels ice water wash over him. Gasping, as he draws in breaths of air from the shock, the mental and vision stars begin to clear.

A voice commands him: “Stand up, boy.”

Still too shocked to distinguish whether it is a male or female talking to him, Levan reaches up to grab on to anything for support as he tries to stand. He struggles to regain more than silhouettes for vision. He feels hands take his hands and elbows, roughly aiding him to rise and stand.

The voice speaks again. With the ringing in Levan’s ears now a slight pinging, he makes out the voice as a mature male. Squinting his green eyes, he determines that the one speaking is a tall man with a husky build. So, Levan determines the man to be larger than most. Squeaking out through clenched bloody teeth, Levan asks, “What is this about?”

The mysterious man says, “Money, what else? We want a million credits by this time tomorrow. No security is to be called in, or you die.”

Levan spits out blood from between his teeth, and he feels blood trickling down the back of his skull and down his blonde hair. Levan says, “And just how the gods am I supposed to pay that? I can’t pay my two-hundred credits a month rent. I’ve been busy applying for work.”

Laying on the floor again, gasping for breath, after receiving double blows to his abdomen, Levan can only hear ringing in his ears, above the muffled speaking of the man. Tears run from his eyes, as Levan gets enough of breath to say, “My ears are ringing; I can’t hear you.”

He is left on the floor for what seems to be hours. Then, as his breathing normalises, the tears stop flowing and he can hear again. Hands drag him to his feet. The heavy man says, “I said, we know you have millions, as Velma Ulmora died fighting in a duel with Herret Trodan. You are Velma’s only likely heir. If you’re not her heir, then you will find out who is. And if you value life of any kind, you will get your hands on one million credits to give to us. Put the credits in the drive in the case on your kitchen counter. Do it by this time tomorrow, or someone will die … likely you.”

Levan throws up his last meal on the man’s legs. After receiving a kick to the face, Levan becomes unconscious.

216:03:22:09:03

Walking up to the doors of 1402 Ferris Towers, his eyes black and his face bruised, Captain Levan loudly groans as he sees 3rd Purist Frena standing and waiting for him, tapping her toes.

He punches in his security code and then places his right palm on the biometric scanner beside the door. With the door swinging open, he silently enters and swipes his hand in front of the switch, lighting up the offices.

Going to the communications/supply room, Levan automatically makes the three of them their morning java, placing Yar’s on ‘keep warm’ in the processor. He takes the other two mugs and leads Frena into his office. He hands Frena her steaming strong black fine-grind brewed java. Levan asks her, “What is your view on extortion?”

Not sure where this is leading, Frena answers, “I abhor the use of it, and will strike out at it to stamp it out at its source. Why?’

Nodding with approval, Levan says, “We need a tracking device, some weapons, and a shortcut on a chroncrom to city security. We’re going to hunt down the Black Cat Circle extortionist group, who beat the air out of me last night. They came demanding one million credits, or they’d kill until they received the credits.”

Frowning, Frena asks, “When do they want the credits by?”

Pointing at his chroncrom, Levan says, “03:23:00:00.”

Nodding yet again, Frena says, “No one threatens my congregation. I’ll get Yar working on the gear. I think he’ll need two-thousand credits to get the items we’ll need. Do you authorise the transfer?”

Having both his employee’s personal credit accounts, Levan uses his chroncrom to quickly transfers three-thousand credits to Yar’s account. Levan then tells Frena, “Talk with him. Here’s the transfer case; do what you need to do. I transferred three-thousand to Yar.”

Saluting with a Purist salute of respect, Frena takes the case and exits the office to wait for Yar and the first interview recruit of the day.

…..

Back in Levan’s office at 03:22:10:00, Frena has a humar male of 57 Terms-age for the day’s first interview.

Levan takes a liking to the man as soon as he boldly walks into the room exhibiting a light regard for etiquette.

After introductions, Levan asks, “So, tell us why you’re here Scall?”

Looking at Frena, then back to Levan, Scall directly addresses Levan, “Captain, I made a mistake and misspoke to a female captain thirty-two months back. I then got stripped of my job and was blackmarked twenty-one months ago. I was banned from ever working as a spacer by the Hazdal Space Corporation Council of Governing Agencies. I want to be honest, so you know what you’d be getting if you hire me. My Black Mark is for ten Terms.”

Laughing, to Frena’s frustration, Levan finally says, “So you’re telling me the government says I can’t hire you on my ship’s crew?”

Scall frowns and nods, and then answers, “Precisely, Captain.”

Levan looks at Frena, and asks, “3rd Purist, do Purists follow Government edicts all the time?”

Frena starts to smile, and she answers, “Not this one.”

Levan starts to reach for Frena’s knee to pat it, then before getting even a quarter of the way to Frena’s knee, Levan withdraws his hand from such familiarity. Instead, he says, “Good, that’s what I like to hear. Please Scall, tell us what you might bring to a ship like ours?”

The baffled man answers while somewhat sputtering, “Well, I’m a 2nd Class Stardrive Engineer with twelve Terms of Stardrive experience, and seven Terms on inner system tubs before that. My first six years in Stardrives was as a junior engineer, then followed by two years as a junior officer. The last years before my incident, and begging my pardon, I was with a ridiculous female captain who knew nothing about ship engineering. I was her senior engineering officer.”

Levan’s eyes are moist and sparkling in the light of the room, as he is so excited, not believing his luck. He looks at Frena and can see she likes Scall, too. Levan asks, “What pay are you asking for, Engineer Scall?”

The downtrodden ship engineer answers, “I would be happy, right now, as a junior with Rank 5.”

Shaking his head, Levan replies, “No my friend … if we take a chance on you, we’re paying you right with you in your proper station. You are going to be offered Senior Ensign 1st Class Engineer with paygrade Rank 7. That’s my thinking. None of this hare-footing around, we’re going all the way, sticking our whole foot in the noose.”

Grinning broadly, Scall spacer salutes Frena, and then Levan, asking, “Where do I sign up?”

Grinning, Levan just got to snub the government and hire a first-class senior engineer, cheap. It is a win-win for him until the government slaps his hands with their penalty and sentences him with detention cell time. But they have to catch us first. “Scall, we’re giving you different ID, until your real ID clears the Black List. I know the person who’ll supply it. But I’ll have to see them alone, tonight. Consider this as bonus pay from me. You’ll be registered under the new name for the ship’s crew for now.”

Frena slaps his arm and says through her teeth, “You didn’t tell me you had underworld connections?”

Levan chuckles, saying, “A few, from my pre-university days. While we wait for our next recruit, will you two leave my office so I can contact my connection.”

…..

Over an hour later, at 03:22:13:00, the fourth recruit of the series arrives. Eager to please the panel, she addresses both in her greeting. But she settles into talking with Frena, without entirely ignoring Levan, answering his questions when he addresses her, such as when Levan asks, “Tell us about your tub experience, Gunner Krenda.”

The female security officer replies crisply, “I became a ship’s gunner for security, seven Terms ago. First, it was on system ships, only getting onto Stardrive ships on the last three runs. But I’m bored with regular inhabited safe systems. I want to one day run on jumps that move out of the territory. I want to fly on exploration ships, discovering new systems.”

Frena looks at Krenda incredulously, and she asks sarcastically, “Really? Are you serious?”

Shrugging slightly, Krenda boldly answers, “By all means, yes, I’m serious.”

Levan winks at Frena, and he turns to Krenda, saying, “Do we have the job for you! What are your melee and weapons security skills like?”

Confused, Krenda replies, “I teach both at security schools when I’m between spacer jobs. Why?”

Excited, Levan leans forward, trying not to overstep socially allowed statements. He says, “What position and pay would you expect on an exploration ship?”

Thinking hard about this, Krenda replies, “Gunner, junior or senior, Rank 6 pay?”

Frena nods to Levan. Already having made up his mind, but happy to have Frena’s agreement, Levan says, “Tell you what, the Star Grean Exploration ship is looking for a Senior Ensign 1st Class Gunner. We are willing to pay at paygrade Rank 6. You’re hired Krenda; be here at 03:24:10:00 to start.”

…..

After filling out Krenda’s documentation and moving on with the day, the next applicant arrives at 03:22:15:02. He is a 56 Term’s-old male. The merchant belies the myths of a spacer quartermaster being a squirrely small figured woman. But this one is a large mature male, healthy and virile. A full-time corporate employee he is from Dozoran Corporation, he was employed as a store merchant for the last fifteen Terms. He informs Frena and Levan that he’s willing to leave the security of a corporation position to become a spacer, as he wants to expand his horizons and grow before he dies of old age. He brings his Terms of merchant experience and his garnered corporate merchant connections with him. Meelar is asking for pay grade Rank 4. But Frena offers Rank 3. Meelar, being so ingrained by society to accept female authority as absolute, agrees to the offer without negotiating. He is employed as Senior Ensign 1st Class Quartermaster Paygrade Rank 3.

Taking the time to complete all documents and making sure all the new employees have their plastacine copies, Frena and Levan work side-by-side diligently for an hour until the last applicant arrives who is twenty minutes late.

Frena wants to turn him away, but Levan agrees to hear him out.

Biogeoscientist Kni states his case. Kni completed Corporate University several months ago, admitting that he finished third from last in his class. Kni claims that he was bored with classes, so his assignments were done half-assed.

Levan says, “We don’t take on slackers. Crewmembers must pull their full weight that they’re responsible for, and are required to fill in others’ positions as are able. Why would we hire someone who does things half-assed?”

Almost as if shocked that he is being addressed like he is even being considered, Kni sits up proper and starts taking the interview seriously. He answers, “Captain, I haven’t been given the opportunity to express my potential. I received more education than my family required, to find something challenging or that I excelled at. The trouble was, I excelled at it all, and wasn’t challenged. But getting work experience might show me a new way of thinking – working beside others who challenge me to do better.”

Levan ponders this and then looks at Frena, who shakes her head. Watching the floor, and then up at Kni after awhile, Levan can see the tension in Kni’s jaw and arms. The boy seems to want this now. Levan asks Kni, “What do you expect to be paid?”

Kni immediately says, “I have all this education, which means I have loans to pay off still. I’d like to ask Rank 5 pay?”

Frena laughs and standing up she leaves the office.

Moisture highlights Kni’s eyes as his lips tremble and his cheeks redden. He asks, “Was I out of line?”

Levan nods, saying, “Yes, by a lot. You don’t have the experience to ask for that kind of pay. I might change her mind if you’re willing to accept Rank 3.”

Excited at a job offer with pay, Kni leaps up from his chair, saying, “Yes, talk to Purist Frena. I’ll take Rank 3.”

Levan smiles, motioning to the chair and saying, “Sit, I’m offering you Senior Ensign 1st Class Biogeoscientist at paygrade Rank 3 if you can be ready to ship out on 03:24:10:00.”

Almost shouting, Kni says, “Yes!”

216:03:23:08:00

The man from the Black Cat Circle arrives at Levan’s apartment as he indicated he would. He opens the transfer case and sees the disposable credit transfer drive chip. Taking the case, he nods and silently walks out of Levan’s apartment. Levan watches on his chroncrom as Frena walks out of his storage room with Yar.

Levan asks, “You have the rented hover vehicle ready?”

Yar nods.

Levan starts for the door saying, “Then, let’s go.”

Yar leads down to the garage, where Levan takes the controls of the hover car. Yar guides him as navigator, using the tracking device and following the case. They travel for nearly an hour until the vehicle being tracked stops outside an old style concrete house and the occupants scurry inside with the case.

Levan, Yar, and Frena wait in the hover car, watching the house.

Then, suddenly, the third-floor windows blow out with a flash as an explosion occurs inside the home. Several men run out of the exit on the ground floor, to leave over the next two minutes as the insides of the house burns. It appears no one calls emergency services, as no emergency vehicles arrive in the next half hour. The trio of spacers watches from up the street. Several of the escaping men were obviously severely injured.

Levan says, “The trigger worked nicely. As soon as they inserted the transfer chip, it blew the case. Now we know where their safe house is, if they use it again. I counted eleven escaping. You two? I recorded them all.”

Both agree.

Levan starts the vehicle, and they drive toward the downtown official Hazdal Space Corporation Bureau government towers for their presentation appointment, which is in forty-five minutes.

Kenneth Shumaker

To be continued in Episode 003 on 216:23:10:20

After waiting in the waiting room for twenty minutes past their appointment time, Levan has Frena take the lead, as they had rehearsed the interviews the last two days. Now the presentation is in Frena’s hands, as government bureaucrats never listen to males. Without Frena this contract presentation will go nowhere.

© 2017 by Kenneth Shumaker with Inevitable Unicorn Press

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All rights are reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system (except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review or other endorsement or in a recommendation to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the Internet) without permission in writing from the publisher. However, when contacted the author may be generous with reprint rights and articles.

The trademarks and myriad names of products, journals, and businesses used in this work are not authorized by, associated with, or sponsored by any trademark owners. No association with the corporations or names is implied or intended.

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Owerton Challenge Issue 111, Star Grean E001, Red Horse Spoon

Issue 111

Episode 001

Star Grean

By Kenneth Shumaker

Episode 001

Red Horse Spoon

Challenge: issue 111, Star Grean, E001, Red Horse Spoon

  • Words:
    • Red
    • Horse
    • Spoon
  • Contributor:
    • Brian Hill
    • High Prairie, Alberta
  • Star Grean

    Our story takes place in Kenneth Shumaker’s 5th Galaxy science fiction realm of the Toran sector with the crew of the starship, Star Grean. Her captain is the enigmatic and sly thirty-six-year-old veran human male, Levan, who is default owner of Flind Exploration Corporation. Levan lives in a society that is dominated by females, ran by corporate political organisations, and obeys the female ran Venkaer religious institution. This is a society where no male is given the opportunity to command or own property. Yet, we find Levan to be Captain of the Star Grean and her crew, even with a Venkaer’s 3rd Purist on board.

In the previous episode 000 on:

The previous Owerton Challenges were written as epic fantasies, first as Dragoman Bloodgrue and then followed with Morgus.

Now the Owerton Challenge is presented in the Star Grean serial series which is a sci-fi series based on Kenneth Shumaker’s 5th Galaxy world setting. The setting of the 5th Galaxy world is in another galaxy – a galaxy set in a cluster of eight galaxies – of which these stories take place in the fifth galaxy of the cluster. There are seven sectors of civilization in the 5th Galaxy, and Kenneth has stories taking place in three of these sectors. The Star Grean serial series of the Owerton Challenge takes us into the Humar Empire in the Toran Sector. The Star Grade novel takes place in the Grevel Sector. The Eren’s Challenge sci-fi serial series takes place in the Palcard Sector.

In this issue, 111, of the Owerton Challenge, we open the Star Grean serial series with Kenneth Shumaker’s inaugural episode with pilot Levan of Star Grean. Follow the escapades of pilot Levan, who is a male Humar. Experiencing Levan’s struggles in humar society as he rebels against the governing bodies.

We now continue in Star Grean episode 001, on Galatican Date 216-03-19-19-55 with:

The weather is horrid outside as winds gust in bursts, slamming into the windows of his apartment and rattling them. Levan let the corporate legal representative in before midnight, as is required by law. But he so wants to tell her to leave.

After demanding that Levan prepares hot cocoa, the woman sits on his sofa. The water percolates on the heater as he is readying the mugs for the hot cocoa.

Levan asks the lawyer, “You say you’re here on behalf of my maternal grandma, Velma Ulmora?”

Sighing at having to repeat herself to a simple male, the female humar lawyer answers, “Yes, boy. I’m here representing Velma Ulmora, of Ulmora Corporation. Now make the cocoa and sit down.”

Stirring the milk in with the powder and boiled water, Levan then hands Lawyer Ester her hot cocoa and sits across from her in his soft blue cushioned pocket chair. Getting a whiff of the flowery scent of her perfume, Levan recalls how the women of society have the privileges of luxuries like perfumes and such, while men have no grooming luxuries. He wants to say something, but he holds his tongue. He doesn’t need to do time in the detention cells again; he has a job interview in the morning with Yunor Space Corporation to pilot one of their inner system passenger liners. He’s short on rent for next month, which is due in twenty days, and he has no income right now.

He feels like a zoo animal as the lawyer carnivorously watches him. She says, as she sets down her mug, “Your grandma has died. She was killed in an inter-corporation challenge duel for ownership of Ulmora Corporation. Both combatants died, so there was no winner. You are Velma’s closest next of kin, so her estate falls to you. But as a male, you can not run or own the Ulmora Corporation, as laws dictate that males can not head a corporation. I took the liberty to find a buyer, and they’ve made two offers; one: a twenty-two million credit straight out buyout, or two: a ship and ten million credits settlement. The Ulmora Corporation is publicly valued at forty-five million credits, but you’ll never see that much as a male, Levan.”

Debating the events in his mind, weighing twenty-two million in hand, versus a ship and ten-million. For all he knows, the ship could be a shuttle, so he asks, “What type of ship is it, and how big?’

Flipping through screens on her tablet, the lawyer finds her notes and an image. She shows Levan the data and replies, “It’s a class three interstellar class III Stardrive ship, with three Class B Ion drives and it has a superior Class II Stardrive, as well as planetary drop engines.”

Wondering how odd this seems, Levan asks, “Tell me, is there a crew?”

Shaking her head, she replies, “No. There is no crew for this ship.”

Realising that even an old Class III exploration is worth five mil, and he’s a pilot looking for work on a ship to pay his rent, Levan smiles and says, “Where do I sign for the ship and cash?”

The lawyer opens her briefcase and slides five documents over to Levan with a stylus pen, saying, “Sign these.”

Quickly reading over the documents, he finds the documents to be in order, giving him clear title to the Class III Stardrive exploration ship and the transfer of ten million credits directly into his personal account, with the taxes already paid on the whole works. He signs them briskly.

Handing him his three physical plastacine copies, the lawyer makes the online credit transfer to Levan’s personal bank account. Then, while leaving without saying goodbye, she snorts as she exits his apartment.

Levan looks at the three documents on his table. As of midnight 216:03:20:00:00, the Stardrive ship, Star Grean, is his, along with the Flind Exploration business. But for the business to function and be legal he needs a woman to head the Corporate Business departments. Star Grean is in orbit at the Gresslar docking station, waiting for him and a crew. The documents also state that he has an office at the Ferris Towers docking port, here in Degressen City, where there is a shuttle in the berth at the port.

Looking at the clock on his wall, Levan sees it is now twenty minutes after midnight, the lawyer woke him from his sleep at five minutes to midnight, keeping the matter just legal, typical for a female.

Levan returns to bed, but he tosses and turns, not able to sleep. Imagine, he owns his own ship with a business and enough cash to run it all. But sadly, his grandma passed. He was planning on going to visit her next week. Mom refused to visit grandma, as mom felt that the two of them were competing with each other. Levan first met Velma when the woman summoned him to her corporate office after his mom’s funeral, nine Terms ago, after mom died from cancer.  Velma refused him work in her corporation, but she offered him this apartment, his to keep, as long as he maintained paying the low rent. She also agreed to fund him through corporate university on a trade of his choice. The three-bedroom apartment is worth five-hundred credits a month. Though, he’s only paying two-hundred a month for life, set out in his contract with Ulmora Corporation. But even with the lower cost, it’s been a struggle to keep up payments recently and still eat. Graduating at the top of his class as a Stardrive pilot, Levan made Velma proud. But Stardrive captains don’t want to hire new pilots or untested system pilots, and system ships only hire experienced pilots these days.

Graduating from university three Terms ago, with grandma’s support, Levan was at the top of his class and graduated with honors. He was awarded a prestigious System Star medal for his skills during practical training. But without tried and true ship work experience, it’s been tough getting work. But, now this. What are the odds? A huge hit of fate that is both good, but tragic.

Nausea has set in as Levan tosses about in bed. So, he finally gets up out of bed and uses the washroom. Then, he showers and dresses in a sports casual clothing set, with a tight-fitting racing short sleeve shirt and ankle length skin tight pants, adding to this his formal spacer boots.

Looking at the bright LCD computer screen, Levan sees the timer showing: 216:03:21:02:34Damn the gods, I’m going to the port taverns and then maybe see my new office.

Dialing for a local cab on his smartphone, Levan summons a Quickie Cab. He walks down the three flights of stairs to the street. Drinking his morning Blue energy drink that he purchased from the lobby vendor, he waits for the four-seater electric cab. Smiling, Levan looks up into the night sky and views the three moons. Soon he’ll be where he belongs – out there with them.

…..

Arriving at the Dentin Bar & Grill, Levan laughs, as he knows it is one of the three, twenty-hour bar and grills on the strip near the port. It is his favorite dive, as only spacers partake in the wares here, being as the patrons are too rough for civies. Once inside the dimly lit bar, Levan finds that the long narrow bar which seats nine is occupied by four spacers. Stepping between two of the stalwart patrons, Levan orders all four occupants a round of drinks, along with his own from the humar male bartender.

Turning to the man next to Levan, as the bartender pours the drinks, Levan asks, “Good morning partner. I’m Levan. How are you doing this morning?”

Peering at Levan, the man’s answer is to growl and to walk away.

The man on the other side of Levan, says, “Don’t mind him, his wife just kicked him out of his home.”

Turning around to look at the speaker, Levan asks, “And you, friend, what brings you here at three-thirty in the morning?”

Laughing, the man accepts his new drink. Saluting Levan with the drink, obviously having had a couple of drinks already, he answers, “I got let go from my duties on my last freighter when the corporation scuttled it for salvage. They replaced the tub with a newer freighter and a whole new crew, letting all hands go that were on the old tub the ‘Teradeal’.” Belching a minor note of rebellion, the stranger then continues, “Good morning friend. I’m unemployed navigator Yar. I’ve been between systems for going on six Terms now. I’m looking for work before I spend all of my termination payout.”

Chuckling, Levan chugs half of his drink. Setting down his tumbler, he faces Yar, and says, “How far have you gone out?”

Blinking a few times as he considers the question, Yar answers. “Well, on one trip we went to the edge of the territory. But usually, only two, maybe three jumps. Why?”

Levan considers his new ship, and then he asks, “What’s the biggest tub you’ve moved?”

Smiling, Yar says, “This is sounding a whole lot like a job interview … friend. I’ve flown class four, but typically it’s been class three freighters.”

Laughing, Levan chugs the last of his drink and motions to the barkeep, and then to both men’s drinks. He turns back to Yar, “My friend, it is a job interview. Do you think you can jump out of territory? Can you jump a Class Three Exploration Corvette?”

Stepping back, Yar looks at Levan. Suddenly a sober humar, Yar salutes with his left arm across his abdomen, in a spacer salute. He asks, “Are you serious, man? Class three Corvette? What is her nav system?”

Levan chuckles, saying, “I was about to go find out, once I had a couple crew members. I need someone to go with me to fly up in a shuttle, navigating in-system. I’d like to take a look at her, to find out what I need for a crew before I prepare the tub for flight … before I decide on the tub’s maiden flight. The beast hasn’t been off drydock yet.”

Yar’s face lights up with sparkling moisture in his eyes and a broad grin as he asks, “Will you take me? I can get you anywhere you want to go. Let me prove it?”

Looking at the eager crewman, Levan asks, “So, you want to sign on for danger, as my navigator, as Master Ensign 1st Class Navigator Yar, at pay grade Rank 9?”

Whooping and leaping straight up, reaching for the ceiling, Yar then settles down saying, “Are you kidding me? That’s higher rank than I’ve been given on any tub. My previous post was Petty Officer 3rd Class with paygrade 5. Gods, yes man! I’ll take your job! You kidding me?”

A woman just down the bar walks over and asks, “Do you need a Purist or a medic?”

Thinking about this, Levan asks, “I could use both. What are you asking for pay grade for the work?”

Saluting Levan, Purist style with three fingers of her left hand across her right breast, which to Levan is the first salute he has received from a woman, the woman replies. “I am 3rd Purist Frena, a spacer medic 1st Class. I ask for pay grade Rank 4.”

Thinking about the offer, Levan offers, “3rd Purist Frena, I offer you Master Ensign 1st Class Medic, 3rd Purist 1st Class paygrade Rank 8 – just to keep things right. I would by lynched by the government if I offered you less then paygrade Rank 8 on my crew.”

Frena smiles, saying, “I agree, I would think so too. I accept, spacer. Did you say your name is Levan?”

When it comes to females of the Humar Empire, Levan is accustom to not being addressed by title and to having his name forgotten. Levan answers her, “Yes, I’m Pilot Levan of Flind Corporation and Captain pilot of the Stardrive Class III Exploration ship, Star Grean.”

Settling together as a trio, they finish a third round of drinks. With his ID card, Levan taps the ID reader to pay, marking the reader for a fifteen percent tip.

Leaving the Dentin with Yar and Frena, Levan summons a Quickie Cab. The three ride to Ferris Towers office building to see their new business offices on the fourteenth floor of Ferris Towers in Degressen City.

Using the passcode – red spoon horse – which he set when signing the contract, Levan enters the four-room office suite, and he breathes a sigh of wonder. Flicking his hand past the sensor for the light switch, Levan walks into the bright room, leading the other two in. Together they examine their new workspace.

The offices are small rooms no bigger than twenty-five feet square for the biggest room and twelve feet square for the two smaller rooms. Levan surmises that he has an auto-receptionist and auto-assistant at his front desk, and also in his personal office. Activating the front desk, he checks the computer, confirming this.  He sets the desk to do research on border systems with those past the territory, gaining logistics on accessing navigation to them from this, the Mort system. Then he commands the personal assistant to enquire within the government records for any archives with contracts sub-requesting exploration in outer systems. He requires the information to be ready for him in his personal office at 216:03:21:10:00.

Satisfied that his desk assistant is set to work, Levan asks, “3rd Purist Frena, can you bless our office suite for its official opening?”

Frena hesitates, slightly bowing to Levan, saying, “Of course, yes.”

Kneeling in the center of the front office, Frena begins chanting her prayers, using her red silver spoon with the horse holy symbol of the space god, Rendfendal. She musically utters the correct phrases in songs to appease the space god with hopes of gaining a blessing for Flind Exploration and their ship. These prayers take 3rd Purist Frena twenty minutes to perform before she stands again, smiling, she utters, “There, the business is blessed with Rendfendal’s holy blessing. I will take personal responsibility for the congregation of Flind Exploration and her ships, Levan.”

Levan bows to her, saying, “Thank you 3rd Purist Frena. You may both go home now. Return promptly at 21:10:00 and we’ll start working to gather the rest of the crew. When we have a good size crew, I will fly us up to the Star Grean to inspect her.”

3rd Purist Frena scoffs at this, saying, “Remember, as part of the Flind Exploration Corporation, you are part of my congregation, and as such you are my responsibility. You, as a male in the corporation where I am employed, are legally my responsibility. Do you lightly give me orders, boy?”

Thinking quickly, Levan bows his head and answers, “As a member of your congregation, 3rd Purist Frena, I bow to your guidance through wisdom, as a male in society and our corporation, I bow to your authority. But as leader of Flind Exploration and Captain of the Star Grean, I am your commanding officer, I ask that you follow my guidance.”

While observing the two, Yar, standing silently, has gone sand pale.

Laughing at Levan, Frena answers. “Remember this conversation, Captain Levan. I will. I also look forward to our meeting again at 21:10:00. Don’t be late, I don’t tolerate tardiness.”

To be continued in Episode 002 on 216:03:21:10:00

Levan and his duo of new crewmembers work to acquire more crewmembers for the Stardrive ship, Star Grean. Unfortunately, the Black Cat Circle has other ideas for Levan and crew. Levan and friends must defend themselves from the Black Cat Circle. 

© 2017 by Kenneth Shumaker with Inevitable Unicorn Press

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Owerton Challenge, Issue 110, Morgus Episode 006, Green Dragon Shield

Owerton Challenge:

Morgus

Green Dragon Shield

Episode 006

Challenge: issue 110

  • Words:
    • Green
    • Dragon
    • Shield
  • Contributor:
    • Aaron Klassen
    • High Prairie, Alberta

 

Previously in episode 005 on Autumn 69 Unicorn with:

Settling into Hessan Manor with the staff and Baron Larap, Morgus is setting up his parchment making station. He studies spells, learning new incantations in time to deal with conflict.

We continue now in Morgus episode 006 of Owerton Challenge Issue 110 on Autumn 79 Unicorn:

Autumn 79 Unicorn

Walking into the waiting room with its artificial light of Imvor illuminating the room, it’s freezing in the chamber. Morgus enters with Tussel behind him.

Morgus asks the elven sergeant Elmar, who is in the room, “You knew the Imvor light would keep the wights at bay?”

Elven Sergeant Elmar, diminutive in stature, sighs with relief as he leaves the far side of the room where he was in the company of private Barran. Elmar answers, “I heard tales from my parents that wights dread bright light. I was hoping they wouldn’t transgress into the room. Thank you for putting that light up there.”

Morgus answers Elmar. “Creating and casting the incantation may have been fate or luck, only Ikerus knows. But it worked. I’ll pick a room on each floor and cast one ‘continuous Imvor light’ in each of those safe rooms. You know the wights’ll be back, right? We need a bishop or three clerics, or priests to deal with them. Do you know of any holy people who’ll live here to aid us? Do we have rooms for more staff?”

Elmar replies, “We have a staff bunkroom with five open bunks and three single rooms, one of which has a double bed. But it is the chamberlain or Ada who assigns rooms to staff. As to priests – I know of none.”

Tussel speaks up. “I know that a cleric of Imvor was wandering Loren Square and Market. He was looking for alms last six-day I was there. That was at the beginning of autumn.”

Morgus nods, “Thank you, Tussel, I’ll take a look soon. Did you catch his name?”

Tussel smiles, answering, “Yes, he was a jal by the name of Hez, from Arrington district.”

Morgus bows to the three warriors. “Fetch me if you need my aid. I’ll be in my study until morning meal.”

…..

Morgus arrives at morning meal to eat with Ada and the nine others at the table, as the three night guards decide to stay awake and join the rest of the staff for morning meal. Morgus asks, “Ada, if I need to bunk three holy people, can I use the rooms we have for staff?”

Peering over at Morgus, the house servant matron asks, “And who is going to take care of the extra work they will cause?”

Knowing Ada well enough now, Morgus was prepared for this. “They will be working under you as well, putting in four hours a day each, and doing what you require, within reason, with every six-day off free.”

A twinkle brightens Ada’s eyes as she asks, “Do I have to pay them, or does Baron Hessan?”

Morgus frowns, knowing this would come next. He replies, “You won’t have to pay them from the house budget. Baron Hessan will be paying them until an issue that has arisen is dealt with.”

Looking deep into Morgus’ eyes, Ada responds, “Okay, then two of them can use the bunk room, and one can have a single room. But I want a full four hours of work from each of them every day, except on their free six-day. There will be no exceptions for as long as they’re staying here.”

Morgus leans across the table, extending his arm, and Ada clasps with him.

…..

Today, Morgus crammed a total of four hours of mind-twisting spell research into the spell ‘locate object’. Now, he’s finished researching the spell, and he sits frustrated because it doesn’t matter how many times he memorizes and tries casting the new spell, the twenty-hours of complicated research seems to have resulted in a failure. Morgus appears to need to re-research the spell. This hurts his coin chest immensely, as he used two-hundred coin worth of reagents and supplies researching this and he has to do it over again. Morgus decides he that he should go for a walk to Loren Square and Market.

……

Leaving Hessan Manor half-an-hour before noon, Morgus walks to Loren Square and Market’s central square, searching for alms seeking clerics or priests. Finding several in the central square, he asks about an Imvor cleric named Hez. Locating such a priest more than three-and-a-half hours’ past noon, Morgus is soon approaching the alms seeking priest. Finding the priest dressed in soiled ragged robes, Morgus looks at the over half-century-years-old jalmal, saying, “Gods-grace good father. How fares you?”

From his seat on the fountain side, the disheveled cleric stares up at Morgus. He responds, “Poorly, good Master, could you spare a few dusters for Imvor?”

Morgus places three dusters in the empty alms bowl and says, “I have something more if you’ll come with me?”

Looking enviously at the three copper coins, the jalmal asks, “I don’t travel with strangers. Where would we be going?”

Morgus sits beside the cleric, saying, “Then let’s get to know each other. I’ll even buy you midday meal if you like? I’m Mage Morgus, Baron Hessan’s aide. You are Cleric Hez of Imvor, and I would like your support.”

Hez stutters as he says, “W … where … did you … come on m…. my name?”

Placing his hand on Hez’s shoulder, Morgus says, “I heard of your plight, and your good will, Cleric Hez. I am in need of a few good priests, so I seek your aid. Will you work for a Dyns per day until my plight is solved? It requires putting to rest several walking-dead.”

Staring at Morgus, Hez drools slightly for several seconds before responding, “By all means, yes. How many priests do you want?”

Clapping Hez’s shoulder, Morgus smiles, and then he says, “I think that I should look for two additional priests.”

Hez stands as he picks up his alms bowl, “Will we administer to the household?”

Morgus nods as he smiles, saying, “Of course, yes.”

Hez starts walking northward. “I know that the cleric’s hostel for Imvor has acolytes that might help.”

…..

Morgus follows Hez to the wooden structure that is the Imvor hostel, arriving nearly half-an-hour later.

Introducing Morgus to a jalmal acolyte, Hez steps aside.

Morgus says, “Gods-grace good priest Frise, I’m Mage Morgus of Baron Hessan’s estate. We’re in need of priests for the estate. Would you be interested in residing with us?”

Frise grumbles, and then after shaking his head he says, “I’ll not work for a noble.”

Morgus tries again, “If I pay you a Dyns a day?”

Frise walks away.

Next, Hez introduces Morgus to a thirty-year-old jalfem named Loura.

Morgus greets her, “Greeting priestess Loura, How fare you?”

Smiling, Loura responds. “Good fate Master Morgus, Imvor’s blessings unto you. I fare greatly, though poor of funds. Would you spare some coins?”

Seeing that Loura is practical and in need, Morgus responds, “If I pay your debt, plus offer you a wage of a Dyns per day, will you work for my Baron Hessan?”

Immediately extending her arm, Loura grins, saying, “Indeed … yes.”

Before clasping arms, Morgus asks, “How large is your debt here?”

Thinking a moment, Loura then says, “I believe I owe the priory 0.11 coin.”

Smiling, Morgus clasps arms with her, saying, “Gather your things and meet with me in the front foyer.”

As she walks away, Morgus says to Hez, “I would like one more priest. How large is your debt here, Hez?”

Bashfully, Hez responds, “0.17 coin. Let’s see if Hon will join us.”

Greeting the over forty-years-old jalmal, Morgus says, “Gods-grace, good fate priest Hon. How fare you?”

Hon bows to Morgus, and then responds, “Imvor’s-grace Master Morgus, please, a correction – I’m not a priest. I’m merely an acolyte of Imvor. I’ve been a captive recruit of the temple and hostel for over eight years. I’d leave, but I can’t afford to pay out my debt.”

Morgus nods, saying, “If I pay out your debt and Baron Hessan pays you a wage of one Dyns per day, will you come with me today?”

Hon’s eyes leak with tears as he bows. Kneeling, he says, “Yes! Please, Master Morgus. Anything to leave here!”

Morgus utters, “Fetch your things and meet me in the front foyer right away.”

After clasping arms with Morgus, Hon rushes away.

Morgus modestly turns to Hez and says, “Take me to the office and the headmaster.”

Several minutes later, in the headmaster’s office, Morgus faces the tall, heavy, century-old jalfem in the dank room lit by only one candle. He says to her, “Headmaster Chou, I’d like to pay out the debts of the acolytes Hon and Loura, as well as for Cleric Hez, purchasing their services for Baron Hessan’s estate.”

Gruffly, Chou looks through her books for records of the three. Then, she makes some rough calculations on her old chipped grey slate. Finished, she looks up at Morgus and grumpily says, “3.57 coin for that to happen, Master Morgus.”

Expecting to be paying less than a Flair, Morgus suspects she is charging a discharge fee for each. Considering the future, and that Morgus wants the good graces of the hostel and the Temple of Imvor, Morgus hands her four Flairs, as he smiles and cheerily says, “Keep the extra; don’t fret about change. Consider it a personal donation from me.”

With over four Dyns in donation, which is more generous than most of her patrons, Chou carefully and with precise facts, crafts three discharge documents, correcting the account books carefully. With the first smile she has granted in several six-days, Chou hands Morgus the three documents, and she firmly says, “Thank you, Mage Morgus. Please, if there is anything we can do for you, let me know. Come back anytime.”

Seeing how much his goodwill meant to Chou, Morgus silently lays another Flair on her desk. He takes the documents and standing he moves to leave. Before exiting the room, he turns back, noticing the glistening of extra moisture in Chou’s eyes. Morgus says, “May you be blessed, Matron Chou. Thank you for your service and good will.” Turning, Morgus casually walks out and fetches his three priests. They begin the walk home to Hessan manor.

…..

Arriving home about half-an-hour after gods-set, Morgus smiles and greets Ada. At the meal table, he introduces the three priests, and then he says, “I would like clean clothing and baths for the three tonight. Hez is assigned to a single room, as Hon and Loura sleep in the bunks, as per our agreement. They will start working tomorrow after everyone attends Imvor services performed by Hez at an hour before gods-rise. Ada, may I suggest Hez work with Henden? Perhaps, Hon should work with you, and Loura should work with Fen. Let’s see how that works out, as I think those jobs appear to be where their skills lie.”

Ada gruffly shrugs, saying, “I’ll consider your opinion. But I’ll assess their strengths myself as we settle them in tonight. For now, everyone sit and dish up a plate of food. Eat, you will be working hard tomorrow.”

Autumn 80 Unicorn

In frustration, slamming the table hard with his fist, Morgus hastily looks around his office. He has invested five hours into researching the spell, ‘locate object’ and he seems to be going the same direction he went last time, with only a couple minor tweaks. These changes might mean the difference in success, but he needs a break from researching.

I need to find an old friend. I had a couple of local friends. Harol lived an hour north. I’ll go and see if he still lives there.’ Morgus dresses for traveling, and he gathers his quarterstaff. Then, Morgus departs Hessan Manor, walking north on Drescol Street to go to 889.

…..

Arriving at the small lot with the old wooden two-story house, Morgus knocks on the weather-beaten door. A beautiful jalfem, nearing thirty years of age, answers the door. It is now nearly gods-rise as Morgus bows, soul-struck. His eyes sparkle as he says, “Gods-grace master, I’m Mage Morgus. I came to see Master Harol. He’s an old friend, but I think I’ll forget him and I’ll see you, as I’ve just forgotten everyone else. Who do I have the pleasure of meeting?”

With her eyes now sparkling, her cheeks flushed, pupils expanded, and her breathing changed to slightly more rapid, the woman answers after a giggle. “I’m Leza, Harol’s younger sister. Master Morgus, would you do me the honor of coming in for tea?”

Trying to catch an even breath, Morgus attempts to remain calm. “Indeed, I would enjoy a mug of tea, along with your company, Master Leza. Is Harol around?”

Leading the way to the kitchen, Leza makes the two of them a pot of strong tea and sets milk and honey on the table for the tea.

Using the milk and honey sparingly, Morgus pours himself a mug of steaming tea. Morgus discovers that he is having a difficult time focusing, as he is trying to look away from Leza.

They sit across the table from each other with their mugs of tea. It is Leza who finally speaks, her voice quavering. “Unfortunately, the pox struck our family five years ago. Everyone in my family died except myself and my youngest brother. It hit hard in this area, nearly two-hundred passed away in a season.”

Morgus places his hand on hers. “My sympathies, Leza. It must be hard maintaining your home with just the two of you, and being without your loved ones.”

Glistening moisture rises in her eyes again as her lips quiver, but then she regains her composure, and Leza says, “I’ve become a journeyman tailor, working over at Armal Tailors. And, Sesan has steady work on Renol fief. We earn more than enough to support ourselves. We’re saving coins to lease a tailor shop for me, for when I become master, and also enough to buy Sesan an apprenticeship.”

Morgus smiles, and then he asks, “Would you both like to come to Baron Hessan’s on Autumn 84 Unicorn? We can discuss an apprenticeship fund for Sesan.”

Blushing again, embarrassed to be going to a noble’s, Leza hesitates.

Morgus says, “I’ll send the carriage in the morning, about an hour after gods-rise. I’m glad you’ll make it … How did the pox start?”

Glad to change the subject, Leza responds, “Oh … it was when a green dragon came and breathed on our food supplies in the area. He was driven away by a knight who had a dragon shield and sword. The knight wasn’t able to kill the green dragon … the dragon shield saved the knight’s life three times before the green dragon left angry and defeated.”

Morgus files this information away in his mind – with an idea to research green dragons. If the dragon is still alive, he’s likely to return. Morgus also wants to know what happened to the knight and his dragon shield and sword.

Morgus spends several hours with Leza, talking about local history and Leza’s life. Morgus skillfully avoids discussing his past, specifically his pre-arrival at Perch Inn.

Morgus excuses himself two hours before evening meal. With a light step, he slowly walks home. It takes him an extra twenty minutes to walk home – a walk that would usually take an hour.

To say he is happy is an understatement. The last time he saw Leza, she was five-years-old, and the family was strong and healthy with a thriving merchant business, Sesan had not been born yet.

…..

Entering Hessan Manor, Morgus scrubs his boots off on the mat and walks to the staff dining room. Cheekily, he says to Hez, “How fares the holy?”

The three priests wear new sparkling clean robes of Imvor-red linen. All three are grinning as Hez replies, “You are our saviour, Master Morgus. We actually get real food, real work, with pay and believers who’ll pay attention to us if we preach at appropriate times! And we don’t have to beg for alms. You did us each a great service. Working with Ada is great. Even though Ada likes to complain, you couldn’t find a harder worker.”

Ada huffs and grins while the others laugh.

Morgus asks, “You’re welcome. Now Ada, can I use this dining room to entertain guests for meals?”

Ada shakes her head, answering, “No! Use downstairs in the staff social room. Do you need meals cooked and served? Loura can cook, and Hon can serve. If so when?”

Looking at Bushnel, Morgus asks, “Can Bushnel pick up a couple of people at 889 Drescol Street on Autumn 84, at about an hour after gods-rise? Then, we’ll entertain the guests with morning meal and midday meal, with Bushnel returning them to 889 right after his own meal after midday?”

Bushnel nods, saying, “Barring Baron Hessan’s needs, yes, of course.”

Gesturing haphazardly, Ada replies. “I know of no issues. So far, Larap hasn’t informed me of any appointments.”

Cheering loudly, Morgus does a small jig in his chair.

Autumn 82 Unicorn

Having talked with Baron Hessan about setting permanent ‘continuous Imvor light’ lights on each floor in safe rooms, in case the wights come back, Morgus selects a safe room on each level. He exhausts himself casting three of the ‘continuous Imvor light’.

Resting, Morgus looks at his research notes and estimates that he’ll be at least ten more hours researching the spell, ‘locate object’.

Autumn 83 Unicorn

Sighing deeply, Morgus rubs his tired eyes. His mind is cloudy and exhausted. He has been working on his research for five hours, and it’s a little more than an-hour-and-a-half to gods-rise. Morgus walks down to the staff social room where Hez is holding his Imvor service. All of Hessan Manor’s staff and Baron Larap Hessan are attending the service.

At the end of the service, Morgus approaches the baron, asking. “Baron Hessan, would it serve you better if we held services upstairs?”

Larap chuckles, “It would greatly serve me better, mage.”

Thinking about different locations, Morgus says, “I noticed there is a large unused room on the ground floor, which is next to the dining room. Perhaps the priests could use that room as a chapel?”

Clasping arms with Morgus, Larap answers, “Make it so, my aide.”

…..

Morgus and the others are eating their morning meal when the baron enters the staff dining room. Immediately, all stand and Larap gestures for them to sit. He says, “I see you now have Imvor priests on my staff and Mage Morgus petitioned me for a chapel. The Hessan Imvor Chapel is now on the ground floor next to the dining room. Please make good use of it. I will attend morning service with you, which I hope you will now hold at half-an-hour before gods-rise … for an old man’s sake?”

Cleric Hez nods, saying, “Yes Master. Baron Hessan, it will be so.”

Hessan smiles and leaves, causing much talk during the meal.

Later, while leaving the dining room, Morgus recalls that he was to pick up his parchment knives from Smith Beraran today.

…..

Entering Bladesmith Beraran’s shop, Morgus clears his throat to get the smith’s attention.

Rushing over to Morgus, Beraran says, “The knives are ready for you to take, Mage Morgus. I finished the final touches this morning.”

Morgus holds up his hand, saying, “Hold on, I want to see the knives before I purchase them.”

After Beraran shows Morgus the knives, Morgus is deeply disappointed, finding several obvious flaws. He sets down the last of the eight knives, saying, “I can’t take these. They’ll damage my hides and parchment too much for the quality I need my parchment to be. No.”

Gesturing wildly and rubbing his hands together, the smith pleads. “Let me try again, but you have to give me more time. I need ten days.”

Morgus frowns, feeling put out, and not wanting to deal with further poor craftsmanship. Thinking, he considers different possibilities. Morgus says, “If I give you another chance and ten more days, then I will offer only fifteen Flairs.”

Beraran extends his arm eagerly. “Yes! Yes!”

Morgus clasps arms with the smith, thinking to himself. ‘Hez said that he is a smith. So, if Bushnel and I can set up a smithy for Hez, then I’ll ask Hez to craft a set as well.’ Walking out of Bladesmith Beraran’s, Morgus walks home with a driven purpose.

…..

Seeking out Ada and Bushnel, he asks the pair, “Would it be feasible and okay to set up a small smithy in the crafts shop for Hez to work?”

Bushnel smiles as he nods, and then replies, “We had a smith before, so we have a smithy set up. We even have supplies in stock from before. Hez can start when you want him to, with Ada and Baron Hessan’s permission and his agreement.”

Looking at her co-partners, Ada says, “I’ll get the baron’s permission tonight, but I agree, as there are a few items I’ve been wanting to be smithed, if Hez can form them. You give us equal time between the items, and I’ll agree, giving him up from his husbandry duty.”

Morgus extends his arm and he clasps with Ada.

…..

Seeking out Hez after evening service in the new chapel, Morgus sits with him in the chapel seats, asking, “How do you feel about giving up being estate husbandry servant and become official estate blacksmith as well as official Cleric of Hessan estates?”

Sitting back, mouth dropping open, brow furrowing, Hez says, “You draw me deeper into Hessan, but a smith or an official Cleric both earn more than a Dyns per day. How much would I earn?”

Morgus smiles as he had asked Bushnel how much the old smith had earned. Morgus has an idea how much priests and clerics in temples and monasteries earn from researching texts in his office. Morgus says, “Tell me how much you’re asking for.”

Hez ponders this, and then he says, “Well, a typical estate smith earns three or four Dyns per day plus ten percent of the value of the goods he produces. A typical Temple cleric earns two to three Dyns per day, plus alms earned. So, I would say at least three or maybe four Dyns per day? Plus, bonuses such as alms and percentage of products?”

Prepared for this conversation, Morgus had numbers in mind already. “I think we will offer four Dyns per day, plus the alms, but with no percentages. This is to keep things simple. But I have to get Larap to approve this.”

The gleam of moisture in Hez’s eyes betrays his excitement as he says, “I accept.”

…..

Sitting in Baron Hessan’s office with Ada and Larap, Morgus continues their conversation. “Thank you, Baron Hessan, for allowing Hez to use the forge and smithy in the crafts shop. But I would like to propose that you hire Hez as official estate smith and cleric.”

Ada silently nods in agreement.

Larap notices her nod, and he starts tapping his desk. “And how much do you propose we pay him?”

Morgus replies, “Let’s keep things simple and pay him a combined wage of four Dyns, plus he keeps his alms.”

Again, straight-faced and emotionless, Ada nods.

Larap is not watching Ada; he is studying Morgus like a Spertan focused on its food. Larap says, “Mage, I like that. You are working out well. You’re doing chamberlain work, even though you’re only my aide.”

Morgus’ face turns a light shade of red, and he replies, “The priests are a simple response to the wights of a few nights ago, as are the safe rooms with the ‘continuous Imvor light’ in them. Remember, the room next to your bedroom is the safe room on the second floor if you need it.”

Larap stands and walking to his bookshelves he removes a large tome, placing it on his desk. He retrieves two larger tomes, adding them to the first. Sitting again, he returns to tapping the desk as he eyes Morgus, before saying, “Read these, as they are treatises on being a chamberlain for an earl or baron. Study them well. Then, when you’re finished, seek me out again. I agree with you on Hez’s pay and titles. I approve the positions and wage for him.”

To be continued …

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Owerton Challenge, Issue 109, Morgus Episode 005, Black Sword Pangolin

Owerton Challenge:

Morgus

Black Sword Pangolin

Episode 005

December 26, 2016

Issue 109

Challenge: Issue 109

  • Words:
    • Black
    • Pangolin
    • Sword
  • Contributor:
    • Eathel T Carmichael III
    • McLennan, Alberta

 

Previously on episode 008 on Autumn 65 Unicorn:

Morgus resolves his summoning puzzle, finding a dilemma where he must face his nemesis, Bargewright Toaren. Morgus does so while in service to Baron Hessan. Morgus used to raid Hessan estate as a youth, but Larap appears not to recall this. Morgus faces down Toaren, apparently winning this round and Baron Hessan’s favour.

We continue now with Episode 009 on:

Autumn 69 Unicorn

 

After a restless night in Hessan Estate’s Manor, Morgus rises two hours before Stonewire breaks the eastern horizon’s southern hemisphere.

He has a long day ahead – traveling to Perch Inn to gather his gear and clear his accounts, and then return to Hessan’s.

Morgus eats with the rest of the staff in their dining room near the kitchen, talking with Busia, the twenty-year-old jalmal tailor. Morgus asks, “Do you have the time to craft tunics and leggings for me?”

Briskly, Busia responds, “Of course, Morgus, anything else?”

Smiling ruefully, Morgus adds, “Yes, if you have opportunity – a new hat and shoes?”

Extending his arm quickly, Busia grins, saying, “Yes, two of each.”

Flabbergasted, Morgus clasps arms with Busia, asking, “How much will this cost?”

The clothier quickly does calculations, and then he replies, “Seventeen Flairs for the works.”

Choking, Morgus expected to be quoted a lower amount. “I’m used to a total more like 6.50 cn. Why so much?”

Busia grins as he thumps the table. “I don’t make common item or use commoners’ materials, my friend. If you want common, go to the markets. I am offering you a deal as it is, cutting about twenty percent off the costs.”

Stunned again, Morgus takes a moment before he can reply. “So, these would cost over twenty Flairs?”

Busia nods once.

Morgus sighs, exasperated with the deal he just made. Obviously, living here isn’t going to be cheap. Morgus adds, “Add a belt and necessary adornments as well. Tell me how much that’ll cost.”

Without delay, Busia replies, “I’ll do the rest for another twenty coin.”

Coughing as he chokes, Morgus closes his eyes, realising he shouldn’t have spoken. He just spent thirty-seven of his two-thousand flairs on his first morning before even starting.

…..

Walking out of the manor, looking back, he feels overwhelmed by the extravagance of all this already. He walks down the paved road to the street, in a hurry to Perch Inn. Pondering events, technically he has elevated his status in society by two classes, yet he could very well loose that today or tomorrow.

He best not get too comfortable or cocky with this.

…..

At Perch Inn, Morgus addresses the Innkeeper, Master Toya, “I’m checking out of my room today. You can keep my rent and rent out the room again.”

Toya looks flustered as he shakes and flutters his hands, blinking his eyes as he utters, “You and that bargewright as well. He moved out at gods-rise. What did you two do?

Morgus, not wanting to start fires, shrugs, answering, “I found a job, fairly far away. I’m moving to my work.”

Toya turns the register log, so Morgus can sign out, saying, “Good luck to you Master Morgus; you treated my staff decently. I heard no complaints about you, except from Master Toaren. But he complained about a good many things, so I take no mind of his complaints.”

Signing the register, Morgus replies, “Fair enough, you’ve taken good care of my old home, Toya. Good tides to you.”

With his signing out completed, Morgus enters his room and packs his belongings. He then returns to his new room in Hessan manor.

…..

Arriving late in the day, about two hours before evening meal for staff, Morgus settles his belongings and arranges his two rooms to his liking. He sets up the study as his laboratory, library, and work office. He washes before going to eat. Arriving in the dining room for staff, Morgus inquires with Ada, “Where do I take my baths and do my laundry?”

Ada says with a straight expression, “Your laundry is my duty. Your bath I prepare in the cellar in the staff facilities. I’ll show you the staff suite after we eat. You can leave your laundry in the laundry room. I do laundry every third day. I did laundry today, so next day is Summer 72.”

Morgus, unused to others doing any work for him, is dumbfounded, and he doesn’t know how to respond. He stares at Ada for a minute, disregarding his meal. Suddenly shaking himself as the others are good-naturedly laughing at his expression of confusion, Morgus asks, “Can I take a bath tonight?”

Ada replies, “Can you? I’m not sure if you know how. But if you want to try, I’ll heat the water, and you may try.”

Laughter breaks out around the table.

Morgus turns a bashful red, realising grammar may actually be as important here as it was in the university. Recently, he has fallen lax in the world of civilians. “Of course, yes. May we set up the bath for my bath tonight? When is a scheduled time?”

Ada nods and answers, “The Baron is usually in bed at gods-set, so I’ll have your bath ready an hour after that, Master Morgus.”

An idea strikes Morgus, “I also need facilities where I can manufacture my own specialized parchment. Where may I set up?”

Ada answers while pointing to a thirty-nine-year-old toymal. “Bushnel is groundskeeper; he’ll set you up tomorrow.”

Bushnell smiles and adds, “We will set you up in the craft shop. How much room do you need?”

Quickly, Morgus responds. “I need a well-ventilated area about twenty-by-twenty feet.”

Bushnel nods. “I have an area you may use. Is the second floor okay?”

Morgus grins. “It’ll be fine.”

Finishing their meal, Ada takes Morgus to the cellar showing Morgus the five room staff suite for work and recreation – laundry, bathing, storage and clothier’s work area as well as a social room.

Thanking Ada, Morgus returns to his quarters where he makes a list of items he requires for spell research and scribing, as well as a plan for parchment crafting. Setting these aside, he chooses a text from the shelves which Baron Hessan stocked. Sitting down, he starts to read until an hour after gods-set.

Taking a set of clean clothing, Morgus wanders down to the cellar and finds a hot steaming, violet-scented bath waiting for him. He has also been supplied with plush towels and washing cloth, as well as oiled soap powders. Morgus luxuriates in his first noble servants’ bath. Morgus takes an hour to enjoy the treat, before happily returning to his room. This evening is alleviating his fears from earlier.

 

Autumn 70 Bear

 

At gods-rise, after the Baron Hessan has eaten his morning meal, he has Ada summon Morgus to the baron’s study.

Arriving in the study, Morgus finds Larap sitting near the soothing fire of the fireplace. Pointing to a second chair near his, Larap commands, “Sit.”

Obeying, Morgus takes the seat, finding it warm and comfortable.

Larap states, “Our agreement is eighteen Dyns per day for as long as I live, plus a signing bonus of two-thousand Flairs. Seven Hells if I’m going to carry two-thousand Flairs for you. Those two chests have one thousand in each. You carry them to your rooms. They’re your responsibility after that.”

Looking at the two medium size chests, Morgus grunts. He’ll ask for help to carry them up as they’re both over one-hundred pounds. Turning to Larap, “Thank you Baron Hessan, I appreciate this.”

Larap waves Morgus off, saying, “Have them out by noon or I reclaim them.”

Standing and bowing to Larap, Morgus swiftly exits the office in search of Ada. Finding her in the kitchen with the cook, Morgus asks, “My dear Ada, I have a task to complete, and I was wondering if you’d help me with it?”

Ada hrumps loudly and then says, “It’ll cost you. Is it those damn chests Bushnel and I lugged to the baron’s study?”

Bowing, Morgus acknowledges her, saying, “Indeed it is, all the way to my rooms, you and me.”

Ada slumps forward, sighing, “Damn Seven Hells, my aching knees, and those damn stairs … It’ll cost you one Flair a chest.”

Pulling two Flairs directly from his coin pouch, Morgus holds them out to her.

Ada smiles and accepts the coins as Morgus responds. “We have to do it now. Larap gave me only two hours to move them.”

They move the chests quickly, as both are strong, able workers, despite Ada telling Morgus otherwise. Setting the chests in his bedroom, Morgus tips Ada a third Flair and another thank you.

Needing a physical rest after the carrying the two 155 pound chests up two flights of stairs to his rooms, Morgus decides to work on the studying of his spell.

Getting lost in his spell for over five hours, Morgus comes out of his reverie to find midday had passed long ago and evening meal will be in three hours.

…..

Walking around the grounds of the estate with Bushnel, Morgus begins collecting items for parchment making, and placing the supplies in the space of the craft-shop provided to him by Bushnel. The location is more than adequate. There is more room than Morgus is used to working in. He is able to set up his troughs, including drainage, work tables, and surfaces. Almost everything is available, except a few crafting work items. There are no hides available, so Morgus needs to find a farm, market, or butcher to get the hides he needs. Plus, the knives he needs will have to be purchased. Satisfied with their progress, Morgus and Bushnel enter the manor to clean up for evening meal.

After the meal, Morgus pays Busia for the clothing.

 

Autumn 71 Unicorn

 

Yesterday was sweltering hot. Today, the gods switched, freezing the world to cause ice on the edges of any open water. This is the environment of autumn in Mount Oryn of North Amara on Quantos. It is a world of extremes.

Morgus spends the morning in his study twisting his mind over the new ‘continual light’ spell that he is crafting – a spell of greater difficulty than any he has tried before. Morgus is attempting a spell that is more complex than even a journeyman with five-years service would be expected to try.

Midday meal finds Morgus’ mind warped and tired of trying to work out the spell. He eats with Ada, where he asks her, “Is there a decent blade-smith nearby who makes good knives – someone who I can buy from or who will make specialty knives for me?”

Ada thinks a moment, and then replies, “Master Smith Beraran at 928 Drescol Street.”

“Thank you, Ada, I’ll go see him after our meal.”

Walking the nearly six kilometres in two-and-a-half hours, Morgus finds Beraran Smith quickly enough, with its large hammer sign at the gate to its courtyard.

Encountering the thirty-year-old jalmal is another treat, as he is excited upon greeting Morgus. “Gods-grace and good fate Master, how may I be of service to you?”

Trying to be gracious, Morgus returns, “Gods-grace and good fate Master Beraran, I’m in need of parchment crafting knives. A whole set if I can get them?”

Chuckling, the smith leads Morgus to his displays, pointing to his well-crafted set of skinning and draw knives. The knives are used for cleaning and dressing hides and then for processing the hides for parchment. He says, “This is a set I made for a master’s student who passed away from illness before I finished. I’ll sell them to you for a decent price – fifty Flairs. The knives are masterly crafted by me.”

Morgus, knowing knife quality, examines a few of the knives. Spotting a few imperfections, he points these out stating, “I’ll pay ten Flairs for the lot; they’re only worth five.”

Beraran huffs gruffly, puffing out his chest, saying, “The cost of material that has gone into these is more; pay me at least twenty.”

Morgus walks away from the knives. “Craft a new set without imperfections, and I might consider paying twenty. But I’ll never pay twenty for that set.”

“Okay, ten, just so I can get rid of them.” Pleads Beraran.

Morgus shakes his head, “No! They’re not worth the effort – make a better set. I need quality knives for my work.”

Eager to please, Beraran says, “Okay, come back in twelve days and I’ll have a set of eight knives for you for twenty Flairs.” He extends his arm to clasp.

Morgus looks at Beraran but doesn’t clasp arms, stating, “I’ll be back around Autumn 83 to examine the knives. If the knives meet the qualities I need, then I’ll purchase them.”

Leaving Beraran, Morgus turns south to Platter holding. He arrives tired, several hours later where he finds Lasiter home.

Lasiter greets Morgus enthusiastically. “Good day Master Morgus. How fare thou?”

Chuckling, Morgus extends his arm, stating, “Because of you, I’m Baron Hessan’s aide and estate Mage. I owe you a debt of gratitude, my friend.”

Motioning Morgus inside, Lasiter smiles broadly, saying, “then we should celebrate. Come in and have a drink with me.”

Entering the Platter house, Morgus sits with Lasiter, accepting a dark rum. “Lasiter, do you know where I can get some good hides for making parchment?”

Lasiter stops and thinks for a bit, and then replies, “I have a couple hides, and I can search around, fetching you more. Where do you want them sent? Say, three Flairs each?”

Morgus flinches, saying, “I appreciate that, but I would have to see the hides and inspect them before I pay that much. I would only pay two Flairs without seeing them first. Or, you can deliver them for my inspection, and I will buy the ones I want for three Flairs?”

Leaning forward, Lasiter offers, “I’ll take three Flairs each for the ones you inspect and accept if you return the ones you don’t accept.”

Hesitating, Morgus adds, “Only if you cover the expense of returns.”

Extending his arm, Lasiter says, “Done.”

The two men clasp arms, and an agreement is arranged. Morgus says, “I need at least twenty good hides in the near future.”

Nodding, Lasiter acknowledges Morgus’ order.

 

Autumn 72 Unicorn

 

Morgus stretches as he has spent another five hours in studying ‘continual light’ True to his word, he checks in with Larap this morning and finds no new work with the Baron. With fifteen hours of study into the spell, Morgus is slightly disturbed when Ada knocks on his door.

Morgus asks, “Yes, Ada?”

The servant boldly says, “A Master Lasiter is downstairs in the waiting room; are you expecting him?”

Morgus jumps to his feet, nearly tripping as he says, “I’ll be down to meet him. Where is the waiting room?”

Stepping out of Morgus’ way as he rushes by, Ada replies, “First room to the left from the entrance.”

Bounding down the stairs rapidly, Morgus arrives in the waiting room as indicated by Ada. He greets Lasiter enthusiastically, “Great day to you Lasiter. Did you bring hides?”

Pointing to an enormous bundle by the door, Lasiter smiles, saying, “Indeed, I brought four to start with.”

Unwrapping the package, Morgus carefully examines the four hides in minute detail, looking for scaring and damages that disqualify any of the hides for his use. Finished with examining the hides, he tosses one aside, saying, “I reject this one. But, as agreed, I’ll pay three coin a piece for these three now. Seventeen more hides and I’ll be on my way to being happy.” He hands Lasiter nine gold coins.

The farmer gingerly handles the coins, quickly placing them in his coin pouch. Then Lasiter hastily wraps the rejected hide, as Morgus carefully rolls the other three.

They walk out together: Lasiter to go home, and Morgus to take his new acquisitions to his shop to begin preparations for making parchment. Morgus determines that Lasiter had prepared the one hide so well, that Morgus can put the hide in the soaking bath with minimal preparation. It takes Morgus several hours of preparations and general work to prepare the other two. Cleaning up afterwards, he enters the manor in time for evening meal. Morgus goes to the staff dining room after confirming with Baron Hessan that there is no immediate work for him.

 

Autumn 73 Unicorn

 

Late in the morning, with his mind exhausted after completing another five hours of mind-wrenching computations for his spell, Morgus sits back overjoyed as he cheers, “Praise Stonewire!” He has put over twenty hours of work into developing the ‘continual light’ spell. Now it is time to test the incantation to see if it works. Dedicating twenty-minutes of mind-numbing memorization to the spell, Morgus finally stands and looks at the wick-hood of his lantern trying to decide if he should cast on the cloth wick or the metal hood. Then, with his decision made to cast on the small metal hood, Morgus gestures and utters, “York.” He is nearly blinded by the Imvor orange-red bright light, illuminating the entire room. Quickly, Morgus moves to draw the shutters closed, drawing it down to a mere quarter sliver, dimming the illumination enough to light the room, but not overwhelmingly so. “Well, that worked. Let’s see how long the light lasts.”

Sitting and using the light from the hooded lantern, with his spell illuminating in it, Morgus begins the tedious process of meticulously scribing the new spell into his spell-tome, which is filling past the halfway mark. Celebrating as well, Morgus pours himself a tumbler of wine to drink while scribing, indulging for the first time during his study since arriving and setting up.

 

Autumn 75 Unicorn

 

Before morning meal with the staff, Morgus convened a meeting with Baron Hessan to confirm work, finding nothing. After eating a hasty morning meal, Morgus excitedly returned to his brightly lit study with the spell still lighting the lantern from the original casting, going on the third day.

Past gods-set, Morgus sets down his quill, stretching and then rubbing his eyes. Looking down at his tome, he counts the pages he filled in his completing the scribing of ‘continual light’. Five – five neatly packed note filled pages with diagrams, calculations, and notes. Satisfied that he has the complete spell scribed in the tome, Morgus paces between his two rooms for twenty minutes. Then, he sits and begins memorizing a castable version of the spell.

After he finishes memorizing the incantation, Morgus chuckles to himself. Walking down the four flights of stairs and entering the waiting room, he chooses the stone carved fixture of artwork representing a pangolin’s armour and focuses on the creature, casting the spell so that the illumination will be on the pangolin’s casing. Suddenly, he is greeted with an orange-red light that is almost as bright as Imvor’s light just before gods-set. Morgus cheers loudly. “Blessed be Stonewire!”

He hears running footsteps almost immediately and coming into the room are two armed men, bearing black longswords.  They shield their eyes as Morgus tries to recall if he has seen these people before. Realising that he hasn’t met Baron Hessan’s guards, Morgus steps back, saying, “Good men of Baron Hessan, I am Mage Morgus, the estate mage. You can sheath your deadly black swords as the pangolin will now and forever illuminate this room with Imvor’s setting light.”

A thirty-six-year-old toymal in studded-leather armour responds, “I haven’t seen you around before. When did you start?”

Morgus, feeling a little trapped without his quarterstaff, nervously answers, “Autumn 68.”

The accompanying elfmal sheathes his longsword, uttering, “Yes, Baron Hessan mentioned he hired an aide who is his estate’s magus. Morgus, I’m Sergeant Elmar. How long is that infernal light going to shine?”

The first guard sheathes his longsword as well, saying, “Mage Morgus, I’m Private Barran, the third guard on duty is Private Tussal; he’s up on the second floor right now.”

Morgus views the orange-red pangolin and ponders it, nearly blinding himself. Facing the two guards, he shrugs and responds to Elmar. “I don’t know. I cast the first spell in my room nearly four days ago, and it’s still shining as bright as when I cast it.”

A fifty-five-year-old jalmal in studded-leather armour rushes into the room with his longsword drawn. Stopping as he sees Elmar and Tussel relatively relaxed, he views Morgus. The guard sheaths his sword, asking, “Who are you?”

Getting tired with introductions, Morgus only says, “The estate mage, Morgus.”

Extending his arm, the man genially says, “I’m Tussel.”

The two clasp arms, and then Morgus clasps with Elmar and Barran, affirming his place on the estate with the guards.

Morgus, relieved that the new spell works when memorized from his tome, returns to his room and goes to sleep for the night, satisfied with life.

 

Autumn 79 Unicorn

 

It is 4:45 am as Tussel wakes Morgus. Feeling the coldness of the freezing night air, Morgus crawls out of bed quickly as Tussel loudly whispers, “Mage, there are four walking-dead wandering the grounds. We have no priest or cleric to put them to rest. Can you deal with them?”

Realising that this is his job now. Morgus pulls on his new Imvor-orange suede leggings and royal-blue velvet tunic made for him by clothier Busia. Then, pulling on his old knee-high brown leather boots, Morgus retrieves his quarterstaff and turns to Tussel, saying, “Show me, and we’ll deal with them.”

In a rush, the two men nearly run down the broad staircase to the ground floor to find the other two guards holed up in the waiting room with four walking-dead pacing outside the room.

Morgus stops as he recognises the creatures. They are highly intelligent, mean, vile death-dealing wights – a hunting pack seeking to gain recruits – killing hosts by draining their lives, thus converting the unlucky.  The manor really needs a cleric or priest with holy items to deal with these, but something comes to Morgus’ mind. These creatures fear or hate bright light, that is why they haven’t gone into the waiting room. Elmar must have realized this, too.

Before the creatures realize Tussel and Morgus have arrived, Morgus casts his one memorized ‘continual light’ spells directly into the eyes of the closest wight, hoping that this will drive the lot of them out the open front door.

Three, including the lit one, flee as quickly as possible out the front door into the darkness of night. But one wight remains and searches for the source of casting, angry with the intrusion and the attack from a mage.

Quickly, Morgus calls out, “York” for a second time, trying to cast into its eyes, as the creature rushes him. The spell hangs in mid-air behind it as the creature reaches for Morgus. Then, the light vanishes.

Tussel intercedes between the walking-dead and Morgus, as Morgus shouts out, “York” for a third time, making the required gestures and casting the spell upon the creature’s nose.

This ends the fight for the wight, sending it fleeing after its comrades, and thus, saving Hessan estate from a hunting pack of walking-dead wights. Morgus sighs with deep relief as the three guards congratulate him.

Morgus counts his castings, wondering about the exhaustion he is feeling, and if he could have cast another ‘continual light’ or any spell? Would the people of Hessan have been at the mercy of the wight if his last incantation had failed to send the creature packing?

Allowing the good wishes to follow, Morgus ponders the usefulness of their three black swords and the ability of the four of them to protect against future wight invasions?

 

To be continued …

 

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Owerton Challenge, Issue 108, Morgus E004, Red Panda Chartreuse Road Sign

Owerton Challenge:

Morgus

Red Panda Chartreuse Road Sign

Episode 004

December 12, 2016

Issue 108

 

Challenge: Issue 108

  • Words:
    • Chartreuse
    • Red Panda
    • Road Sign
  • Contributor:
    • C S Burgar
    • High Prairie, Alberta

 

Previously on episode 003 on Autumn 59 Unicorn with:

Morgus, is a mage who burns his opponents when he challenges them, he finds the thief who stole from his friends. Morgus retrieves the stolen silver heart from a dead rogue.

Later, sitting in Perch Inn tavern with a quandary over a sealed parchment, Morgus ponders the meaning of the parchment.

We continue now with Episode 004:

Autumn 65 Unicorn

Sitting at the tavern table, Morgus stares at the parchment he holds as Pedren sets Morgus’ morning meal on the table along with an ale.

Sighing with exasperation, the mage cautiously breaks the seal and unfolds the parchment to open and read the carefully written masculine jal script.

 

Master Morgus: 

I am Baron Larap Hessan, I seek an audience at your earliest convenience to discuss business regarding my holdings.

Come to my residence at 1029 Drescol Street, South State district before Autumn 70 Unicorn. 

Yours, Baron Hessan

Autumn 64 Unicorn

 

Stunned, Morgus simply stares at the writing, puzzled as to why a baron would want to do business with an unknown mage like Morgus. The baron apparently desires Morgus to such an extent that he presents a personal invitation to him.

Carefully folding the parchment, the thirty-three-year-old mage places the summons into his belt pouch. He eats his morning meal pondering the call, trying to illuminate for himself the writ from the baron. But try as he might, the jalmal produces no answers.

Exhaling, stymied with the situation, Morgus finishes his meal and cleans himself up to put forth a suitable introduction. He dresses in a new tunic, shines his boots, and brushes off his leggings.

Leaving Perch Inn, Morgus precedes northwest on Drescol Street, on the almost seven-kilometre journey to Baron Hessan’s estate.

…..

Standing outside the gates into the demesne, Morgus mulls over if he really wants to access the trust of this nobleman’s life. What will it end up meaning to Morgus? What consequences? ‘I’m not exactly crystal clean. I have a spotty past, and even though my official records were wiped clean, that doesn’t clear people’s memories. What am I entering into?

Deeply sighing and taking the next step, he ventures forward into a new life adventure. Morgus is a man who has always taken risks, never shirking opportunities, even though he may question himself.

The manor house is nestled among four other immense buildings in a six-acre courtyard of the holding. Near the massive stone four-story manor is the vast double-story wooden barn, a stone and wood carriage house, a two-story stone and wood stable, and last is the enormous three-story building which must be the storage and craftsman’s shop.

Morgus walks up the stone paved drive to the brick paved path, all the way up to the double wooden front doors in the stone face of the building. Using the silk rope of the manor’s knocker, Morgus pulls on it, and then releasing the expensive rope, he waits.

Less than three minutes later a thirty-year-old toyfem opens the elaborately carved front doors. She speaks in fluent jal. “Gods-grace and good fate master. How may I help you?”

Morgus submits to her the writ from Baron Hessan, and he says, “I was summoned for a meeting by Baron Hessan for as soon as possible?”

Without receiving the writ, she asks, “And what is your name?”

Confounded, Morgus places the summons back in his pouch before replying, “I am Mage Morgus.”

Abruptly smiling, the woman answers, “Auh, Mage Morgus, welcome. I am Ada. Please! Please enter, wipe your boots on the mat and then follow me to the Baron’s den.” She waits for Morgus to enter and wipe off his boots on the bristle mat a few feet inside the doorway.

Morgus looks at the interior of the manor, bewildered at the opulence of the intricate heart of this structure. The intimate carvings of the wooden fixtures, the fancy metal work, and the stonework that is inlaid and carved to fine details. Hundreds of thousands of coins in craftsmanship alone were expended in this building.

Walking on the inlaid basalt stone floor, the footsteps of the duo echo softly through the rooms and hallways as they walk up to the second-floor den. Invading the den, Morgus finds a twenty-foot square room with a twelve-foot ceiling. A fireplace is on the wall that nestles against the exterior of the manor, along with two three-foot square windows. The room is even more opulent than the rest of the manor that Morgus has seen. A huge maple double columned four-drawer desk with an armed padded desk chair sits along the wall near the fireplace. In front of the desk, a bear-hide rug lays on the floor, with its head still attached. Morgus sits on the long lounge sofa across the room from the desk as Ada pours him a crystal tumbler of dark red wine. She hands him the tumbler and says, “Baron Hessan will be with you when he is ready. I will let the Master know you’re here, Master Morgus.”

Morgus accepts the wine and bows from the waist as he continues to sit on the sofa, saying, “Thank you, Ada.”

Smiling, the servant departs, closing the door behind her.

Scrutinizing the chamber, Morgus is in awe at the expense placed in the construction and outfitting of the room. Just the library shelves alone contain at least five thousand coins worth of texts. Morgus is impressed at the output of wealth in the estate. As Morgus waits – for nearly two hours – he finishes the tumbler of sweet wine.

Morgus is beginning to become impatient when the door bursts open, and slowly, Baron Hessan ambles in. It is immediately apparent from the wrinkled skin and stooped posture that Hessan is at least a century old, but the jalmal still bears himself well with deliberate slow determination. He still holds his handsome appearance to some degree, with above average intelligence gleaming through the expression on his clean complexioned face.

Walking to his desk, the baron sits with the assurance of a noble with a great demeanor.

Ada follows him in, and she pours the man a tumbler of the dark red wine, which Morgus found tasted so sweet. Baron Hessan gestures for Ada to refill Morgus’ tumbler as well. Settling back in the desk chair, Hessan is humming a tune in a low tone as Ada works. Hessan waits until Ada finishes and leaves the room closing the door.

The baron now undertakes a discourse with Morgus, “You wonder why I summoned you? Mage?”

Morgus, familiar with tormenting Hessan’s holding as a youth, does question his being here, but says, “I understand you have work for me. And being as I’m a mage, I think it has nothing to do with working in the stables.”

Laughing genially, Hessan continues by saying, “Oh my boy, you do state the obvious. You know I am Baron Larap Hessan, and I’ve held this estate holding for nearly eighty years after my forefathers have held it for over three-hundred-seventy years. I do admire men who get right down to the business at hand, as I have little time left to waste. My life-companion passed away thirty-eight years ago, leaving me five surviving children and nine of sixteen surviving grandchildren. So, I’ve lived a full life with little time left. Don’t waste my time, and I won’t waste yours. Deal?”

Liking Larap’s straight slicing, Morgus nods and says, “Go ahead.”

Larap pursues the dialogue, “Well as it happens, I have multiple holdings, and an individual has taken an interest in one of them. He is strong-arming me with his interest in my property, and I don’t have the stomach to deal with him. I had a chamberlain to deal with these things, but she passed on four six-days ago … One of my properties is Platter holding farm which a young Master Platter holds. He recently had an incident which a particular mage quickly and satisfactorily resolved – maybe not so cleanly, by the telling. I want to hear your version of events.”

Deciding not to laugh, Morgus ‘puts on’ his game face and answers Larap, “Baron Hessan, I see between the cracks of what you are saying, and that this is an interview on the suitability of my working for you. First, by interview, and then by test, dealing with the strong-arming individual.”

Morgus takes a drink while he observes the twinkling eyes of Larap who is gleefully acknowledging the game.

Morgus advances his theory, “So, to pass the interview I have to tell you how I resolved Farmer Platter’s issue. To tell you the truth might not be wise for my safety … but I’m a risk taker, and I think you’re bold and have crossed lines with decorum and law a few times yourself if I recall my past, here, correctly. Thus, I am going to disclose my solution to Platter’s dilemma, despite the possibility you might take action against me. I have been staying at the Perch Inn, do you know it?”

Larap gestures a positive with a flick of his hand.

“Perch Inn used to belong to my family, so when I left the university on my one-year journeyman walkabout, I returned here. I met a fellow from my checkered past there, from before I entered the University, and he has not seen eye-to-eye with me since we’ve met here. You still with me?”

Yawning, Larap flips his hand, “Go on, quickly.”

Morgus continues, “I had a run in with Bargewright Toaren –”

“BARGEWRIGHT TOAREN!” fumes Larap, “That bastard?”

Resisting smiling, Morgus precedes, “Yes, anyway, I went for a walk. Recalling the Platters were family friends in the past, I dropped in for a visit as I was traveling by.”

“You are long winded, boy.” Larap mutters.

“Lasiter informed me that my family’s friend, Master Ferfeo had passed on. While we were visiting, Lasiter advised me that he had been robbed the night before. I suggested that I might be able to locate the missing jewelry, not informing him how, but informing him that he might have to pay to get the item back.”

“But you got it back without him paying,” says Larap.

Morgus smiles. “Yes, by luck. I know the rogue guild’s fence for the district. Also, knowing that there have been a few thefts locally and the items have shown up with this fence, I surmised I would find this item there. Hoping I could get there and have him hold it until something could be arranged for the jewelry’s return to Lasiter, I traveled immediately to the fence’s building. By a stroke of luck, I arrived while the thief was trying to broker the sale of the necklace to the fence. Being as the fence and I have a history together when I correctly identified hidden markings on the jewelry he refused to buy it from the thief. I confronted the thief, who happened to perish in the confrontation. I had to arrange for a priest before returning the item to Lasiter with his lost stolen coins which I could gather from the rogue. Upon returning to Lasiter, he gave me a minor job, and being with nothing else to do, I sought to complete it quickly. He rewarded me with a few coins, and apparently was satisfied.”

Larap chuckles, “Boy, you have no idea how ecstatic Lasiter was. He reported your resolution and raved about how excellent you treated him.”

Morgus squares himself up and addresses the new issues, “So, am I going to be charged with murder or consorting with known rogues?”

Sitting up painfully straight, Larap clears his throat. After smiling, he commands, “Seven Hells, no. You’re a man I want on staff. Do my next job for me, and I’ll offer you a position on my staff as either chamberlain or estate mage, we’ll decide after you complete the job for me.”

Now Morgus gleefully laughs, as he acknowledges to himself that he recalled Larap’s personality correctly.

Larap says, “Before you laugh, you should know the job.”

Morgus settles down, agreeing with Larap, “What is the job?”

Smirking, Larap then answers, “Deal with the man strong-arming me, your Master Bargewright Toaren.”

Bolting back on the sofa, Morgus stomps a foot. For the first time in years, he reacts violently to news he receives, saying, “Seven Hells! No! Are you serious? Really?”

Now Larap mirthfully laughs for several seconds before answering, “Create your way out of this, boy.”

Morgus ponders the situation for at least four full minutes. Then he says, “I need an office here!”

Larap nods, saying, “Done, third floor, the old chamberlain’s office. Ada will show you to it.”

“I need access to funds?” quips Morgus.

“One-hundred Flairs will be placed in a chest in the office for you,” answers Larap.

Morgus walks over to the desk and extends his arm.

Larap shakes his head and then says, “Only if your solution is satisfactory.”

Morgus utters, “I don’t know the issue, but it will be resolved in your favour Baron Hessan.”

Larap furrows his pale brow, as he answers, “It had better be, rogue mage.”

Smiling, Morgus steps back and bows to Hessan.

Ringing a bell that is on his desk, Larap asks, “More wine? When are you going to start?”

Mulling the offer over, Morgus’ smile stuck between being polite and being over-indulgent, he replies, “I best start as soon as possible. Ada can show me the office and inform the staff that I will be on and off the property over the next coming days. I will familiarize myself with my surroundings without lifting anything. Then I’ll start with Master Toaren’s issue.”

Ada walks into the office as Larap replies, “Exactly what I wanted to hear Morgus … Ada show Master Morgus to the chamberlain’s office and inform all staff that he will be working on the estate from that office for several days at least. Help him as much as possible … Maybe even let him eat with you once a day.”

Ada grins and she curtsies, replying, “Yes, Baron Hessan.”

Morgus and Ada walk to the third floor, going to the far northwest corner, to a darker fifteen by twenty room with a ten-foot ceiling. It is less opulent than Larap’s but still finer than any other room Morgus has been in before.

Ada asks, “Do you need anything, Master Morgus?”

Morgus snickers softly before replying, “Pinch me … no, to be serious, I’ll need ten sheets of parchment, ink, and quills, also good light. The chest Baron Larap is ordering, goes on the floor at the far end of the desk. I’d like two pitchers of wine for tomorrow afternoon, as, if all goes well today, tomorrow Master Toaren will be visiting me in this office.”

Scowling, Ada asks, “Do we have to let him in? He’s been tormenting Baron Hessan for two six-days now.”

Morgus winks, “That is why I’m here. To relieve Baron Hessan of the issue of Master Toaren.”

Deeply sighing, Ada says, “Whatever you need … to get rid of him. I’ll help.”

Morgus nods, “Just the items I mentioned.”

Morgus familiarizes himself with the office, the texts on the shelves and the desk. He then walks down to the ground floor, seeking the staff. He finds them in the staff dining room next to the kitchen. Greeting the cook and clothier, Morgus then leaves to walk back to Perch Inn.

…..

Arriving at the Perch Inn half-an-hour after gods-set, Morgus finds Toaren in the tavern drinking ale. Sitting down with Toaren, Morgus orders rum from Pedren, and then faces Toaren, “I said we would talk, as I have a message for you, Master Toaren. You’re asked to a meeting at Hessan Estate Manor, tomorrow afternoon. Can you be there?”

Grinning, Toaren leans forward saying, “So the old goat is giving in; he’s going to talk?”

Morgus answers, “I said you have been granted a meeting tomorrow afternoon. Can you make it?”

The bargewright replies, “By all means, yes.”

Morgus orders a hot meal with meat and he tenders two Dyns for the rum and meal. Morgus joyfully savors his meal at another table, separate from Toaren.

Autumn 66 Unicorn

It’s an hour past noon as Morgus wipes his boots off on the bristle pad of the front entry at Hessan estate manor. Excited to start working to prove his suitability to Baron Hessan, Morgus walks up the stairs after greeting Ada.

Ada says, “Master Toaren is in the office already, Master Morgus.”

Thanking Ada, Morgus walks upstairs quickly. Finding the office door open, he walks into his office.

“Gods-grace and good fate Master Toaren. Glad you’re here. Let’s get down to business.” Morgus says as he sits on the desk chair.

Toaren rises from his seat, growling, “What the Seven Hells are you doing? I’m here to talk with Baron Hessan!”

The mage responds, “No such luck. If you want to deal with the baron’s estate, you deal with me. Now sit back down, or give up on the idea of dealing with the baron.”

Morgus pours two tumblers of wine as Toaren paces aggressively back and forth across the room. The mage watches Toaren.

Finally sitting back down, taking the tumbler of wine, Toaren mumbles, “Seven Hells.”

Morgus lets out a deep breath, and then breathing calmly, he says, “Tell me what it is you want from Baron Hessan.”

Outraged, Toaren glares at the mage. “I want trees from Renol Holding which is held by Baron Hessan.”

Curious, Morgus asks, “Tell me why?”

“They’re tall, straight, wide, and with few branches, so have few knots in them.” He answers.

Morgus nods, saying, “Fair enough, I don’t see an issue. Let’s go and take a look after eating midday meal here. How many trees do you want?”

Distrusting the jalmal mage, Toaren quizzically replies, “Twenty-five?”

Morgus nods, “Okay, we’ll see. How much are you offering for stumpage?”

Seeing Morgus seems to know a bit about the business, Toaren replies, “Seven Flairs.”

Morgus shakes his head as he stands and leads the way down to the staff kitchen where they eat midday meal.

…..

The two men access Renol Holding fief an hour after evening meal. Addressing the bailiff, Morgus shows Reeve Gaeric the writ prepared by Baron Hessan. “We’re here to examine the timber lands and mark several for logging. The ones we label for logging are to be left alone, except by Master Toaren, here.”

“Understood, Master Morgus, as dictated by Baron Hessan through you,” answers Gaeric.

Toaren leads Morgus to the timber lands he wants the trees from. He finally states, upon seeing the giant more than three-foot diameter trees, “I disagree, twenty-five flairs stumpage is way too high, even for these trees.”

Morgus answers, “I’ll go twenty then.”

Toaren rebuffs, “Fifteen each and I’ll take the whole twenty-five.”

Morgus shakes his head, no. “For fifteen, I need you to do all lumbering work on Renol Holding, hiring all your workers from residents here, and you only get twenty trees.”

Bargewright pirate hesitates and then says, “You drive a hard bargain, but these trees are larger in circumference than I initially recall. If I can choose the twenty I want, and I can mark them right now, then I’ll agree.”

Extending his arm, Morgus says, “I can work with that.”

They grudgingly clasp arms.

The two walk the timber patch and Toaren marks twenty of the largest trees, and then they return to the bailiff’s home.

Morgus confronts an eager Gaeric, “We need rooms for the night.”

Setting up the two men with meals and beds for the night, Gaeric listens as Morgus and Toaren arrange for facilities and workers for Toaren’s tree lumbering, as well as freight shipping northeast to East Dock’s dry-dock barge yard.

Autumn 67 Unicorn

Sphere cover shelters the two men as they walk southeast on Drescol Street toward Perch Inn through the freezing medium gods-breath.

Morgus finds Toaren slow. It takes the two almost eight hours to walk to their destination, arriving half-an-hour before evening meal.

Toaren walks to his room, and then comes back down with three sacks of Flairs for Morgus who takes these to his room.

Morgus half-heartedly rests for the night, trying to construct a new game plan, which is harder than he expected.

Autumn 68 Unicorn

Morgus impatiently sits in Baron Hessan’s den, viewing the extravagant setting. He observes the scenic painting near the fireplace, as he deliberates the affluence displayed by Larap in this chamber. Morgus has been sitting and waiting for ten minutes since he arrived three hours after noon.

The den office opens and in walks the slightly infirm man, who eagerly assesses the stash of three sacks of coins on his desk as he asks, “What is this?” as he sits on his desk chair.

Morgus stands and bows to Larap before taking a seat on a chair near the desk. “My answer to the quandary you set to me. This is three-hundred Flairs for twenty trees stumpage from your Renol Holding fief. Plus, your holding gets employment for workers in lumbering the trees and freighting the lumber to East Dock’s dry-dock shipyard. I think you will find this to be an equitable economic solution to Master Toaren’s strong-arm request.”

Touching the sacks, Larap reflects on the deal, before he asks, “Tell me the particulars, how many trees and the stumpage?”

Breathing deeply before answering, Morgus answers, “Twenty trees for fifteen Flairs per tree, as long as all workers are hired from Renol Holding, and all lumbering is completed on location in Renol.”

Tapping his desk, Larap’s lips are tight and straight across, “How many trees did he originally ask for and how much did he offer to pay?”

With knots in his stomach, Morgus is getting nauseous with nerves, “Toaren asked for twenty-five trees at seven Flairs stumpage. I countered that he could take twenty-five trees for twenty-five Flairs, but lowered that to twenty Flairs when he said he would go elsewhere. We talked and looked at the trees, and he countered with fifteen Flairs stumpage, taking the trees off-site. But I refused, and we struck our deal. He selected the twenty trees while we were on site.”

Still tapping the desk, Larap eyes Morgus through squinting eyes and furrowed brow. Stopping his tapping, Larap drinks wine, and then he says, “You and I are going for a drive.” Ringing his bell, the baron refuses to talk anymore as they wait.

Ada arrives and Larap demands, “Have Gendal hitch the carriage, as he’s driving master Morgus and me to the Red Panda today and bringing us back tonight.”

Ada quickly leaves after bowing and acknowledging the command.

Half-an-hour later, Larap leads Morgus to the courtyard to mount the waiting, gilded and carved carriage with its four horses.

The driver sets out on their journey, turning left on Drescol Street and heading to a chartreuse road sign. They turn left onto Handle Avenue, driving to the Red Panda Stable.

Confused, the puzzled mage follows Baron Hessan into the large upper-class stable.

The old man slowly leads Morgus to a stall and points to the beige seventeen-hand stallion, saying, “This is my prize seven-year-old heavy warhorse, Red Panda. I’ve had him since he was a colt. Master Ostler Henreitte trains my warhorses for me and keeps them here. I have ten heavy warhorses all trained by Master Henreitte of the Red Panda Stable. She’s been my horse trainer for over three decades. Should I continue keeping warhorses?”

Morgus gulps, as he doesn’t know nobility responsibility or requirements. Uttering cautiously, “Baron Hessan, I have no skills with the responsibility of nobles. So, I cannot advise you at this moment whether you should or should not keep your warhorses. Nor can I advise you as to whether you should have men-at-arms, or what staff you need or should keep. That is what I can say. My apology if you thought otherwise.”

Laughing flamboyantly, Larap steps away from the stall as a ninety-year-old jalfem approaches the two. Larap addresses her, calling out, “Good-day Master Henreitte, Master Morgus, here, is proving his salt to me. He seems to feel that his life has little value. I am deciding his value to me. Please inform Master Morgus the place of my horses in my baron-ship.”

The pampamoo smiles her toothless smirk, answering, “By all means, Master Larap. Morgus, my boyo, Master Larap is a baron who is required as a noble baron to supply 240 days of military service to the king each year. In this capacity, Baron Hessan provides 240 days’ worth of heavy horsemen for his service. With a service of ten heavy horsemen, he only need send his team for twenty-four days. So, you see this team is important to Baron Hessan’s noble rank.”

Morgus, suddenly curious, asks, “But at what costs do you send the horsemen?”

Henreitte answers, “It costs Master Larap twenty-seven Dyns per horse per days for upkeep and training to keep the horses here. Sending them to service costs thirty-three Flair per day per horse. The penalty for not sending troops is one-hundred Flairs per day for each of the 240 days missed.”

Morgus quickly does the sums of the numbers in his mind, replying, “So, if you don’t send any troops at all, then the fine is twenty-four-thousand coins. If you fulfill your obligation with these heavy horsemen, then it costs you 792.00 coins.”

Larap drawls, correcting Morgus. “Not quite – the twenty-four-thousand penalty is right – but my costs for my contribution is higher because to get my troops to the post they serve from takes a minimum of five days of traveling. So, my minimum costs each year are thirty-four days at 1,122.00 coin, plus their yearly upkeep, plus the wages of the warriors and their expenses, coming to a total for my heavy horsemen of 19,124.00 cn every year. But you may learn more. Let’s go back to the manor. You are invited to dine with me when we return to Hessan manor.”

Morgus estimates it is now an hour before gods-set, and the drive back is about three hours. It will be two hours after gods-set when they arrive at Hessan manor. Even a quick meal with the baron will mean the time will be midnight before they complete their social gathering. Morgus asks, “May I have a room for the night?”

As the two walk back to the carriage, Larap answers, “We’ll discuss that over our meal.”

Arriving back at Hessan manor, an hour and a bit after gods-set, Morgus is impressed how fast Gendal drove the carriage back and kept the ride comfortable.

Now sitting and eating an impressive hot meal of turkey, tubers, and vegetables with mulled cider, Morgus asks again, “Baron Hessan, it is now around two hours until midnight. I have a three-hour walk back to the Perch Inn, so I’ll even pay for a room for the night.”

Larap sets his fork beside his plate, washing down his mouthful of food after he chews it. He looks at Morgus, saying, “You have a lot to learn if you are to be my chamberlain, yet you have much to offer. I can’t just ask for these from someone off the Avenue. So, I feel I am in a quagmire. What do I do with you? Of course, you can have a room tonight. Don’t offend me again with offering to pay for the room or for my hospitality, mage. You currently are my guest. Do you want to change this?”

Contemplating Larap’s statement and query, Morgus responds, “As I understand you, you’re offering me a position. Correct?”

The baron nods curtly once.

Morgus, seeing Larap is concise and to the point, does likewise, saying, “Yes.”

Smiling for the first time with a handsome genuine friendly smile, Larap says, “Good, I’m not offering you the position of chamberlain, not just yet. You have to show me you’re earning that. No one gets the position knowing all its details; they earn the position, learning the details while on the job. But you have too little knowledge right now to be of service to my estate or me. What I will offer you is a position as my aide and as estate mage. That is what I think you qualify for. Remember, the position only lasts as long as I live. After I die, my children decide if you stay on. Which could be tonight at my age.”

Not able to resist, Morgus burst out in good-humoured laughter, as does Larap. Morgus responds, “For as long as the position lasts, it does fit my abilities. Will I have a laboratory and library?”

Larap starts tapping the table, saying, “Not yet, you supply your own supplies and equipment.”

With a sad, sullen face, Morgus asks, “What about a room, or rooms?”

Larap, still tapping, mulls this over and then replies, “If we agree on this, you can have two adjoining rooms on the fourth floor.”

Sighing with satisfaction, Morgus sees a future here, however temporary. He asks, “Then the matter of pay comes to bearing. How much?”

With an expression that would freeze water, Larap stares at Morgus while still tapping the table. “I think one Flair a day is fair.”

Choking on the frugal amount, Morgus counters, “My dear Baron, no self-respecting mage will enter into a contract for that price. A chamberlain or aide might. A mage may if you supplied a laboratory AND library. No, a minimum of three Flairs a day, or two and a laboratory.”

Guffawing, Larap answers, “Not likely, two and no laboratory.”

Evaluating this counter offer, Morgus counters, “Eighteen Dyns per day and a laboratory.”

Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, drawing frustration from negotiations, Larap replies, “No, two per day plus an initial two-hundred coin.”

Seeing an out in the impasse, Morgus offers, “How about two Flairs per day plus an initial bonus of two-thousand Flairs?”

Leaping forward, Larap’s friendly smile returns and he stops tapping the table. Extending his arm, he says, “Done, this is for you to be my estate mage and my personal business aide.”

Morgus leans forward clasping arms with Larap while adding, “With the caveat that on Autumn 49 next year I take leave to return to the Mage’s University to administer to my testing for master journeyman mage certification.”

Grinning happily, Larap says, “At your own expense, of course, agreed.”

They seal the agreement with the gentleman’s clasping of arms.

Finishing their meal together, Morgus asks, “Who do I eat my meals with?”

Larap commands, “The staff … I will get Ada to show you to your room now, Morgus. Have a good night. You officially start your position at midnight tonight. But you can fetch you gear tomorrow from Perch Inn.”

Smiling mirthfully, Morgus stands and bows to Larap. Morgus is happy his financial situation is resolved, and his residence is situated firmly, at least for a while.

Larap rings his bell for Ada.

…..

In his rooms, Morgus finds the bedroom to be large – a richly appointed wooden room with two windows and a double size goose-down-filled mattress. The attached room is slightly smaller but big enough for a study or laboratory and library with its shelves and large intricately carved oak desk. Both rooms have area floor carpets and many wall-mounted hooded lanterns.

Saying good-night to Ada, Morgus washes and then crawls into bed just after midnight, unable to sleep.

To be continued …

Thank you for reading Issue 108 of the Owerton Challenge where you the reader participate in the writing of each issue.

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