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Sabine: The rise of an Assassin:
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Sabrina Bergin





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PostPosted: Mon, 4. Jan 16, 01:52    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Conspiracy:


It was a week before I was allowed to venture into the upper levels, and the garden again. This would alert others, to my apparent recovery. Yuki knew I was angry Saya had returned with Ceri’s head in a box. She also knew I had wanted to kill that bitch myself. She had overruled me, concerned that Ceri might be able to make me obey her again, despite my assurances to the contrary. The question we all waited to be answered now, was who would come to claim the prize? That being me, the only known example of a successful human resurrection.

If it was Jenner, that was not a problem, if it was Hiro… That would confirm Yuki’s fears as to his ambitions. To be fair, Kamishi’s message had pretty much dammed him already. Yuki had taken steps to block him, she didn’t bother explaining how. There would be a final confrontation between them. I was certain of that much, better it occurred here, at a time of our choosing, rather than on his home ground. Once we had word he was on his way, his agents were dealt with. By the time the ground cars reached the house, we had all gathered in the formal reception hall. At first glance, it would appear we were simply watching a practice match. So he must have been feeling quite sure of himself, when he walked in with only ten personal guards, eleven counting his assassin Sakura. The match halted as soon as Yuki rose from her seat, and clapped her hands once. The two fighters moving to the sides of the room, to clear a path for Hiro, and his entourage.


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Sabrina Bergin





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PostPosted: Mon, 4. Jan 16, 01:54    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Continued:

“Ms Poler, please gather your possessions, you will be returning to Kyoto with me.” The fact that he expected me, to meekly follow his orders, told me he really didn’t know me at all.

“You know Hiro I’d rather not, Yuki here has promised to take me into town, tonight and I’d rather not disappoint. What say, I give you a rain check on that?” His face was a picture as my refusal registered, he’d probably never been openly defied before in his life. He failed to see what Sakura did, that this… was more than me simply refusing him. Sakura’s hand moved to his sword hilt. He would know, or have guessed, an EMP field had already rendered his other weapons useless.

“Sakura… you will teach this gaijin manners” Hiro ordered, as if my refusal counted for nothing.

************

“Arlen I free you of all restraint defend yourself, with all honour.” I was hoping Yuki could have avoided using those precise words. It meant, I had to fight in the time honoured fashion, they considered acceptable. Me… I would have used the chemical grenade; I had readied for this, as things stood… Yuki, Saya, and Ritsuko, were still bound by their stupid code of ethics, that would only change when Sakura actually attacked me. Then they would be able to defend me, as an honoured guest must be. Yeah… only the Split could understand that, or agree with it. Then, everyone knew the Split were pretty much insane.

Ritsuko had, over the last few days, taken the time to show me, what she knew of Sakura’s techniques, she had sparred with him often enough. That gave me some idea, of what I was up against. Time to see if my skills had deserted me as well. It soon became clear he was not going to make the same mistakes as Taddeo, and others facing me in the past had. This man had been killing people, longer than I had been alive, after all. So it could be more of a challenge than I wanted. As soon as he launched his attack I heard Yuki give orders to Saya and Ritsu, vaguely aware that Hiro’s other guards, had moved to prevent them interfering. I ignored that as I began the first of many passes, with Sakura… our blades flashing at speed through the air between us. As we fought I felt my anger rising, I could feel the surge of the lust for battle, as rage joined with me. I swear the bitch was enjoying this.

***********

So, now we see the rumours about you are true Sabine, you do have the eyes of a demon, when in combat.”

“I’ve been told they are rather pretty…., by men about to die Sakura”, knowing that distraction was his only purpose in talking. I followed his example. “I’m disappointed Sakura, they call you the silent killer, so shut the frack up, and get on with it. I have a hot date tonight… remember.”

That got to him, his bigotry emerged, he lost all pretence at courtesy, launching a series of attacks I recalled Saya had once used on me. He had probably taught her that sequence. If he hoped for the same result; he was in for a disappointment. I evaded the final strike, that had once allowed Saya to knock me of my feet, cutting him in his side as I countered it.

“Oops sorry” I apologised, mocking him. That gave him reason to pause for a moment. He realised I had turned his own taunts against him. His eyes narrowed, as he readied himself for yet another attack. This time as he came at me, I felt his sword cut me across the stomach. That should have had my guts spilling onto the floor. The look of amazement in his eyes, when he saw I had, what appeared to be only a shallow wound, was more than satisfying. Rage was enjoying this now, more than I was in fact. Then, she didn’t feel the pain wounds caused me…, never had. Sakura shifted the tempo of the duel, probably figuring he would outlast me. He might have been right, if I hadn’t been dosing myself on energy drinks all day. I could keep burning adrenaline for some time yet, before fatigue started affecting me. “Preparation is everything”. I remembered saying that to a girl somewhere, or had I? I pushed the memory, not quite memory aside, as Sakura came at me again. This was not the time to reminisce.

**********

After a while it became obvious, we were the only remaining combatants. It was time to finish this. It was a pity he had to die, he would have made a good instructor. Ritsuko had spoken at length to point out, I must not offer him mercy. If he yielded… that was another matter altogether. He wasn’t going to yield; the look in his eyes told me that. I took the attack to him. Forcing him back down the length of the hall. Our blades clashing repeatedly as I advanced. He knew he was going to lose, that it was just a matter of time now, crazy bastard. All he did was smile at me. Not a sneer, just a knowing smile. I took his head as I passed him a few moments later. Then stepped clear as he fell. I cleaned my blade, then remembered to bow before joining Yuki, and the others. Hiro stood alone, surrounded by his dead, the outer doors to the room sealed shut behind him.

**********

“Lord Kanagawa, you have sought the life, of a guest in my house.” He looked up at Yuki’s condemnation of his actions. “I trust sunrise will be met with your formal apology.” I had to give the man his due, he accepted his fate without protest. He faltered only once as the inner doors opened, so he could be escorted from the hall. Kamisha stood there waiting. Staring at him her disgust, anger at what he had attempted, done, clear in her eyes. She walked past him to join us, never once looking back.


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Sabrina Bergin





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PostPosted: Mon, 4. Jan 16, 02:24    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

That is as they say "All she wrote".

No Sabine's story is not finished.

Just paused whilst I flesh out the details of where she goes next.

I'll Give you a hint. "Phantoms".

Time line now is "From Nothing" a month ahead. Hey this has always been a back story.

Still no reason not to let a certain "Pirate Prince" be worried.

I will not attempt to change what has been written. I'm just going to tweak it a bit.

**********


Edited due to a change in direction.


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PostPosted: Mon, 4. Jan 16, 17:42    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Seppuku:


Hiro was not afraid of this, nor was he angered by Yukiro’s besting of him. It showed only that he had trained her well. She would be a worthy successor.
He glanced to where they waited to bear witness, feeling a momentary surge of anger that the Gaijin was amongst them. Then a sense of desolation as Kami’s eyes met his.

He would not falter, for good or ill, he was a lord of the Kanegawa, already his works reached out to shape the future of his people. In time they might recognise that. As the sun touched the trees he sank the blade into his soft flesh. His second did not hesitate.

***********

Okay that was weird, I mean I got the significance. What it meant to the people around me when Hiro killed himself. I just didn’t get it. That’s when Kamishi pulled me aside and gave me a list. She didn’t have to elaborate. Bitch even had a flitter waiting for me. That’s when I started to wonder who really ruled here. I glanced at Ritsuko and felt her eyes lock onto mine.

She knew.

**********

Just a taste. Hope you like it.


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Triaxx2





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PostPosted: Mon, 4. Jan 16, 23:20    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Interesting.


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Sabrina Bergin





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PostPosted: Tue, 5. Jan 16, 05:01    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

“I am concerned; she seems lost to us, almost as she was before…”

“Send her to kill another of your enemies my Lady.” Saya suggested…, “that always seems to cheer her up.” That only earnt her an angry glance from Ritsu.

“I have spoken with her at some length Yuki, she is troubled by those memories she has lost. My thoughts are, she had plans that stretched far beyond this moment but is no longer aware of why she might have made them. I have taken the liberty of sending people to make discreet enquiries, based on the information she has been able to provide. That and what we know of her ourselves. So far such enquiries have revealed only that she is a woman who has successfully hidden herself from military and public notice. There is no trace of Arlen Poler in the Argon database’s at least none matching her genetic profile and description. This confirms Jenner’s assertion that she is believed to have died at the time of the Ahriman project. I have found one clue that leads to an Argon sector in the south. She was in contact with a woman there before events overtook her. With your permission I will speak with her.”


***********

End of Book One.


***********


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PostPosted: Sat, 9. Jan 16, 11:40    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Book 2: Chapter 1.

Reunion:

Yukiro, and Kamishi had both agreed to my making this journey. My problem was Saya who insisted she also travel south. Or at least take Arlen with me, that was not possible of course. Arlen still had much to do to ensure Yukiro’s safety. The transition of control over her grandfather’s holdings, was being met with some resistance. That was one of the reasons, we had remained here, at the estate in Hokkaido. Despite its defences, the security of the estate in Kyoto had been breached twice since Hiro’s death. Only here, where all were sworn to Yukiro, was she truly safe. Saya knew this as well of course, knew also that she must stay at Yukiro’s side till I returned. That this was a condition Kamishi had demanded, Saya was unaware of. It was perhaps for the best, she remained so.

**********

“I will be safe my dearest friend; into your hands I place the safety of my lady. There is no one else I would entrust with this task.”

“My Lady, I know full well the honour you grant me in this, it is just… I have ever been at your side Ritsuko. That you travel alone, this is what troubles me the most.”

“Hardly alone Saya, though I understand your meaning. I have an escort suitable to my station, and I will return here as soon as I may.”

“Then I shall delay you no longer my Lady.” Saya bowed, finally accepting my words.

I boarded the shuttle that would take me first to the Torus, then board a transport that would take me to this sector they called Aladna hill. To be honest, I had some curiosity about this commonwealth, and the strange races that dwelt there. Particularly these Split, some of whom Arlen described as being similar to my own people. That seemed unlikely to me, despite her assurances. Then there were the lady Kamishi’s motives to be considered. She did nothing without purpose, that she lent me her own Spring blossom for this task, told me she set great store in its outcome.

**********

Was it her intent to bind Arlen to Yukiro’s service… or her own?


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Sabrina Bergin





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PostPosted: Sat, 9. Jan 16, 15:25    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Continued:

It came as no surprise to me, that Kami’s captain Masaki had jump co-ordinates for this sector. I suspect he held several more which made me wonder how often he had come south at her bidding. Aladna hill, which Arlen had spoken of fondly at times was not as I expected. There was a strong military presence here, given the number of pirates who appeared to be allowed to travel freely, that came as no surprise. It seemed odd that they should be tolerated. I questioned Masaki on this and he assured me, it was much the same everywhere in the south. That gave me no comfort. Whilst I was certain as to the capabilities of his ship and his crew, had my lady been aboard, I would have destroyed them as they came in range to scan us.

“This is normal here my lady,” he assured me as he set course for our destination ordering that we reach there in a timely fashion.
That was another oddity, in the north any who exceeded sector transition speed would be questioned. Here they seemed unconcerned, the only attention we garnered, was from the sectors militia ships, which struggled to match our speed. “I assume you have informed the station that we intend to dock?”

“I have my lady. I sent the message you gave me, the Station manager herself will be waiting at the docking port. She seems anxious to meet you.”

That served only to confirm my suspicions, that this woman Helga knew Arlen personally. Given the time that had passed since Arlen last communicated with her, she must be worried as to her fate. Was this woman Arlens lover? I wondered, if so she might be careless in what she revealed.

**********

There had been sufficient time to change into a form of dress, they might recognise here. I found the business suit restricting, as I am sure Masaki did. That he chose to escort me himself was no great surprise, no doubt Kami had insisted on this. Of course I was certain that should need arise his crew, and my escort were ready to take the station. The woman was waiting to meet us in the arrivals lounge, alone. There were no guards, not even an escort for herself. This must be deliberate, even so I did not relax my guard as I studied her. She seemed a little old for Arlen, attractive enough, though not what I would have expected.

“We need to talk I suspect” was all she said Masaki bristled at her familiarity, still he caught my signal to control himself. “My names Helga if you’ll follow me, I can offer you some refreshments. Perhaps something to eat?”

“That would be kind Helga.” I smiled whilst accepting her hand then followed her into the interior of the station. Masaki gave me a slight nod indicating he would follow my lead in how we dealt with this woman. There was no need to antagonise her after all.

***********

The offices she led us to were warmly appointed, not what I expected of a complex manager. Two things struck me at once, on her desk was a still of her and a child. There was no doubt the girl was her own. So… not Arlens lover then? That raised another question, did she know of Sabine? Somehow I doubted it, this woman did not seem the typed to consort with assassins. We took the seats we were offered, then she asked what we would care to drink. “Arlen has often boasted of Sonra” I admitted, making her focus once more on the purpose of our visit. She did not fail to notice that, and soon we were all sat together regarding this coffee that Arlen had always claimed rivalled anything earth had to offer. She showed remarkable restraint before she asked the questions she wanted answered.

“Where’s Rabeka, is she alright? I’ve been worried sick about her” she admitted. “So has Selma.” This changed things, clearly Rabeka was the name this woman knew Arlen by. She also knew, or assumed Arlen was an alias. What was the truth here? I produced a vid cube of Arlen walking the gardens of Yuki’s estate. She watched it closely her eyes brimming. “Alright how much do you want?” That startled me, yet it seemed, this was to her, the most likely motive for my visit here.

“We are at cross purposes Helga; I seek no ransom. Arlen, as I know her, is safe and well. She is an honoured guest at my lady’s estate. She was badly injured in my lady’s service.” I saw no need to explain more than this. “Suffice to say, my lady is grateful to her, and has instructed me to seek out her family. “Much of her memory, is lost to her. In all the years I have known her, she has never spoken of her life as Rabeka.”

“No she wouldn’t… excuse me, I need something a little stronger than coffee.” She left us at the table, fetching a bottle and some glasses from a cabinet before joining us at the table once more. Only after she had swallowed a large glass of whiskey did she turn her eyes back to me. Her confusion evident, she nodded as if coming to a decision before speaking. “Arlen Poler is Rabeka Polar. She owns this whole station, and a lot more besides.” That was a name I knew, Rabeka Polar. She owned the Onyx corporation. One with strong links to Argon intelligence.

**********

Arlen it seemed, was adept at compartmentalising her different persona’s, I had to wonder how many she maintained. Was this why Kami was so interested in her, or was it just her link to Argon Intelligence? I sipped my coffee, which was excellent as Helga told me something of Arlens life here. She was stalling of course, a suspicion Masaki whispered to me in our own language whilst she refilled the coffee pot. That much was obvious, the woman was waiting for someone else to arrive. This he confirmed, when I excused myself to use the washroom. A corvette was approaching the station at unprecedented speed. One he refused to accept as possible.

“Calm yourself Masaki, order your crew to remain aboard our ship unless we signal otherwise.” That order did not please him I knew, yet he obeyed, and gave no sign of his concerns as we joined Helga back in her office. I poured myself a glass of whiskey having become tired of so much coffee, and waited. Helga’s expected visitor arrived opening the door to the office accompanied by a woman who towered over her protectively. Her eyes scanning the room for threats, that told me much. As did the desperate need in the eyes of the woman’s she warded.

Helga rose to her feet, ran and embraced the woman before turning to introduce us properly. “Selma, this is Ritsuko, she came to me with word of Arlen.”

“Kaylen, Helga would you give us the room please,” she said quietly. “The Lady Naymuri and I have much to discuss. In private.” The fact she chose to offer me the same bow Arlen often used, prompted me to signal Masaki he should also leave us.

She knew who I was.

**********

This then was Arlens woman, I had to admire her taste. I studied her as the others left the room. She was tall for a woman, and had the air of one who had training. Military, that much was obvious, yet it was in her eyes she, came here concerned only for Arlen. So I doubted she had set a trap for me. “Please let us be seated Selma, there is as you said, much we should discuss.”

***********


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PostPosted: Sun, 10. Jan 16, 11:21    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Continued:

Selma took her place at the table and waited for me to speak first, though she gave the appearance of being calm, her eyes told me otherwise. “So Selma, the fact that you know both my name, and rank tells me Arlen has spoken of me.”

“She has, not in any great detail. Only that you serve a corporate executive on earth. Lord Kanegawa.” So Arlen had not told her all that much, but then this conversation must have taken place some time ago for her to have made such a mistake.


“That is not entirely correct.” I admitted. “I am sworn to the service of his granddaughter the lady Yukiro. She is the one who sent me here. Arlen has never been one to speak much of herself, or those close to her, for reasons I am sure you are aware of.” In this way I tested, her if she knew nothing of “Sabine.” This reply would surely puzzle her. As it was, she took some time before replying. Perhaps considering how much I knew, or if I was here only to find out more about Arlen. “I believe the expression you might use, is that we should both put our cards on the table Selma.”

“As I have no cards to speak of, I have little choice. What do you want to know?”

“Why did she travel to Earth Selma? This question is the one my lady, and I would have answered.”

“Until I received the call from Helga, I didn’t even know she had gone there. Listen when Arlen left, she was not herself…” I waited for her to continue, surely now I would have an answer to Arlens strange behaviour. “We had just rescued her from a group of pirates, they had kidnapped, and tortured her. If she had stayed, we might have been able to help her, instead she grabbed a ship and simply vanished. Then a wozura later, you show up. You told Helga she’s been badly injured” So Selma had listened to our conversation, no doubt Helga had left a com link open to her. "When we docked we scanned your ship. I’m sorry… I simply can’t trust you yet. Your men are unharmed..., but you will be coming with me.” My men are unharmed, that made no sense, my escort were not inexperienced.

The door opened then, Kaylen re-entered the room. In the corridor I could see both Masaki and Helga lying on the floor. Why would Helga be lying on the floor? Then I looked to the glass of whiskey I had taken. Helga had drunk from the same bottle, I had no reason to suspect… I leapt to my feet though already I could feel the poison slowing my reactions. Treachery! I reached for my weapons even as the room spun about me. I was dimly aware that it was Kaylen who broke my fall.


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PostPosted: Tue, 12. Jan 16, 10:53    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Kami Nagoya:


Waiting was no hardship, I had endured many years of such, it was then I had learnt the value of patience. That, had finally given me the means to escape from Aldrin. I turned my thoughts away from those years. My duty demanded I watch this one carefully. It would be interesting to know, if she was aware that I had once been sent to kill her. I allowed her to feign sleep for a few minutes more, before speaking quietly.

“Lady Naymuri I have tea prepared for you, and a bath also awaits.” The woman uncoiled swiftly like a wound spring. Yet I was ready for this as well, I stepped back a pace avoiding a blow that might have been lethal. “There is no need for this lady Naymuri will, you not take tea?” If you prefer some other refreshment, I am at your service.” I brightened the lighting a little, that she might see me more clearly.

“The tea will suffice.” she replied in the same dialect of our ancient language as my own. Her eyes followed mine to the robe I had laid on the chair next to her bed. Beyond that lay the table where the tea I had prepared waited for her.

“Will you join me then?” she asked, slipping on the robe. This I knew would place me within reach for her but that was of little consequence, Selma had been most insistent, the lady be offered the opportunity to trust her intentions. This I suspected would not happen. Not until lady Naymuri stood next to the Lady Kanegawa once more. This I had explained to Selma, yet still she insisted, I do what I could to put the lady at her ease. “You are Asian, are you also from Aldrin?” She asked pleasantly enough as she tasted the tea.

**********

“Indeed, I am Kami Nagoya, my father manages a small tea farm, on a habitat by the west gate. This tea was blended there.”

“Then I suspect this comes from your personal stores, will you join me and perhaps tell me what Selma Hayak expects to accomplish by my abduction?”

“This is why I am here Lady Naymuri, Ms Hayak will be asleep for some time yet, I am to answer any questions you might have.” I accepted the tea she offered and drank deeply. She had only been sipping her own, suspecting it too might be drugged. It was of course, but only with a mild stimulant I thought might counter the effects of the drugs, that had rendered her unconscious yesterday.

“It was not her intent abduct you Lady Naymuri….”

“Please address me as Ritsu in private at least” she interrupted before I could continue.

“Very well then… Ritsu, Selma did not intend to abduct you... You however approached Helga with news of Arlen Poler, then told her she had been badly injured, without giving her the signal Sabine warned she must receive from one she trusted. Helga simply followed the orders Sabine had prepared for this eventuality, she contacted Selma, informed her of your imminent arrival, and of your ship, which she had scanned before you docked. Then when the opportunity presented itself, she drugged you. When we docked Selma, kept you busy, whilst we boarded your ship, and for the drug to take effect. None of the crew were seriously hurt, those with injuries we treated before we left.”

“So you abduct me… board my ship, injure some of my crew. Why should Selma ever suspect, I would consider this hostile?” She snapped back, unable to fully conceal her outrage. Her sarcasm did not escape my notice; I simply chose to ignore it.

“Perhaps because your crew, and the troops aboard, had orders to take the station. I think your anger at events, equal that of Selma’s.” That silenced her for a moment, as she considered my words. By making clear I had also taken part in that operation, should give her pause, before attempting anything rash.

“May I ask where we are going?”

“Earth of course, we have informed Captain Masaki of our destination. He will arrive there some time after we do. Selma wants to see Arlen much sooner than passage aboard your ship would allow. Till then you have the freedom of the ship, if you need anything you merely need to call for me on the com.” I cleared the table and left the room. Perhaps once she had enjoyed a bath she might be prepared to be more amenable.


***********

Ritsu:

The attack on the woman might have been a mistake, if I had given it more thought I might have succeeded at a later time. Now they would be wary of me. I waited a few moments after Kami had left the room before I found the bathroom. As promised, a hot bath had been prepared for me, along with a selection of soaps and oils that would not have been out of place in my own home. This Kami Nagoya was, I suspect, responsible for this as well. No matter I slipped into the warm water feeling it wash away, the many minor aches that I had failed to acknowledge till now. Only after I had relaxed somewhat did I consider the absurdity of having a hot tub aboard a corvette. The luxury was not unappreciated; it did however indicate a certain hedonism on the part of the ship’s owner. This Kami had said, I might roam the ship freely… I would test that statement, after I had spent a little longer here.

On returning to the bedroom, I found a choice of clothing had been laid out for me. I quickly changed into a simple ships suit, much the same as the one Kami had been wearing, then went into the other room where I heard movement. I opened the door to find Kami had returned and was busy laying a table for me. “My apologies, I had hoped not to disturb you. I have taken the liberty of preparing a breakfast for you. I was uncertain as to when you last ate, so I thought a large breakfast would suffice for the moment.”

**********

I looked at the dishes she had placed upon the table, it seemed they did not intend me to starve then. There were bowls of steamed rice, broiled fish of some description, a large plate of tamagoyaki, tsukemono, natto, miso soup, and soy sauce alongside a large pot of what could only be green tea. I also noted that she had placed both chopsticks, and common utensils for me to choose from.

“Since it, is clear you prepared this Kami, perhaps you might join me. I do not like eating in solitude.” That was not entirely true, but this woman appeared to be going out of her way to accommodate me. Kami smiled happily, and removed another place setting from the food trolley, Had she anticipated hoped for my request? before joining me at the table. Kumi poured us both tea whilst I filled my bowl, though I knew this had been done to please me, did not mean I could not enjoy it. It had been a while since I had eaten a proper Japanese meal. The first thing I noted, was that Kami was an accomplished cook. I doubt even my lady, had often had a finer breakfast, a point I made to Kumi who had the grace to blush at my praise.

“It is a passion of mine I must admit Ritsu. Here in the south..., the food whilst interesting, lacks refinement. I am fortunate that My lady allows me to indulge myself on occasion. Though it is difficult to obtain fresh ingredients.”

“I can imagine So tell me Kami, how is it you came to be in Sabine’s Service?” The look of concern was fleeting though she hid it well. Had I perhaps touched upon a raw wound there?

“My apologies Ritsu… I am employed by Sabine, how we came to meet is a matter she should speak of. I am not her bo-di-ga, that duty falls to Kaylen. She was sworn first to her service.”

**********

There was much unspoken in her words, I did not believe she resented Kaylen…. Remembering the huge woman, I had seen briefly on the station. Rather I thought she felt herself better suited, for the role the woman claimed for herself. That was interesting. Then I recalled how easily the woman had avoided my earlier attack. She was skilled. Where had she been taught? I wondered, as I concentrated on my tea for the moment.

“Might I ask one favour Ritsu? when we discuss my lady in Selma’s presence or elsewhere, it might be best if you used her given name of Arlen. As you will know, my Lady does not like the name Sabine to be heard, other than by those she chooses.”

“A reasonable enough request, you imply Selma knows nothing of the Arlens, other life then?”

“She knows well enough Ritsu, it is a distinction they make between themselves, to keep those two aspects of Arlen’s life separate.”

I could see the sense in that, as an assassin for hire, Arlen would not want her true name known, beyond those she trusted without question. This was something of a puzzle to me, I was not an assassin in that sense, those I killed I did so in defending Yuki, or at her orders. It must be much more difficult working for others. No doubt Sabine, was the name she used in her occupation, that of Arlen… When she was at home, or going about her normal life. This must be necessary, were an enemy of Sabine discover that she was also Arlen Polar, it would place those she cared for at great risk. That would explain the extraordinary lengths she had gone to, in order to preserve her anonymity. It also suggested to me, that those who knew of her secret were also at risk. Should Arlen become concerned she was being sought..., she would go to even greater lengths, to protect those she loved more than her friends. This was a warning I must give to Yukiro, should I ever see her, or Saya again. I gave no sign of the concern Kami’s words had given me, after a few moments when it was clear we were both done with our meal Kami once again cleared the table, and offered to give me a tour of the ship should I wish it. That would be of interest to me; I asked her to call back in an hour or so if she was free. I had no doubt she would be; she would accompany me whether I wished it or not. No doubt, she had been set to watch over me, as well as see to my needs.

**********

Once she had gone, taking the serving trolley with her, I explored the rooms that had been given me. There was no doubt in my mind, even Yukiro would find them more than acceptable. I found it hard to believe a corvette would have such well-appointed rooms aboard… That was a troubling thought, was I even on the corvette Masaki had reported approaching the station? A tour of the ship would answer that question.

I accessed the com terminal, and for a moment, was tempted to try and contact Yukiro directly. That would be foolish, it would only reveal my concerns to my Hosts.? Instead I contacted Kami whose name was conveniently placed at the top of the contacts page.

She arrived within moments, suggesting she had been waiting for me to summon her. The tour took little over an hour with us ending in what she described as the observation lounge. This was a corvette after all, I had already confirmed this, having been certain we had explored the ship from tip to stern. Yet it was unlike any corvette, I had ever heard of. I looked out through the windows which Kami assured me were just that, not view screens as I had thought.

“This is an unusual ship Kami.”

“The Kaiken, is a Hyperion Vanguard Ritsu, built by the Paranid as a private yacht for their Emperor..., there are less than a handful of them in the entire universe, it is hardly surprising you do not know of it.” Kami agreed enjoying the view as much as I.

“Indeed, then perhaps you could tell me where one might purchase such a ship, I am sure my lady would want one?” I was not prepared for the peals of laughter that question elicited from Kami.

“Forgive me Ritsu… being unaware of this ship, you could not possibly know that it cannot be purchased. Not at any price. If your Lady wishes to own one, she would have to obtain it the same way Arlen did. I was shocked at her words, was Arlen then a pirate, as well as an assassin? “It is not what you think Ritsu, Arlen took this ship and many others when she worked for the fleet, some she chose to keep rather than destroy. This is but one of them, there are others as you will soon see. I believe we are due to make the jump in a moment." She added enigmatically, smiling at my concern.

As the space ahead of us dissolved into a swirl of colours, I asked the question I believed I already knew the answer to. "So tell me Kami are you Ninja?" Kami looked mortally offended at the term I used.


"No my lady, I am no common sell sword... I am Shinobi." She answered proudly... For the first time since I had been abducted, I felt fear grip my heart.


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PostPosted: Fri, 15. Jan 16, 14:43    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

The Hidden Fleet:

There was time to compose myself as the swirling colours of the jump, were replaced by the solid darkness of normal space. Only for a moment did I feel sadness, as I realised this was not the asteroid belt. If it were, I would have found myself looking upon the Huge Defence station, that guarded our southernmost border. There was a brief ache in my heart at the thought of not seeing her Yuki or… Saya again. Looking out of the corner of my eye. I expected to see Kami enjoying my discomfort, instead she seemed happy to be here wherever here was, and was looking out of the window expectantly…. Eagerly even. This was not what I expected. My thoughts were interrupted as the lounge door opened behind Us. Selma walked in accompanied by Kaylen, and another woman I had seen, but not been introduced to during the tour of the ship. This woman was somewhat older than Selma, though she carried herself with in the manner of one used to both combat, and command. To my surprise Kami strode angrily towards Kaylen, stopping just a pace away from her, then began shouting at her in a language I did not recognise. From her tone, it was clear she was furious at Kaylen’s being here. Kaylen pointed to me then replied to Kami in the same language. The older woman stood to one side, not interfering, a small smile on her face as she watched the two argue. Much as a mother might have watching a squabble between her children.

“Enough you two.” Selma roared. We have a guest present; I have said, we will all speak common, when she is in our presence.”

“Very Well Selma” Kami hissed. “I told this big ox, that the lady was perfectly safe in my care. Her presence here…, makes it clear that she doubts my word. This is insulting I demand… Satisfaction!”

“That is quite enough Kami” the older woman said, in a calm, crisp voice that betrayed no suggestion her words would be questioned. “I told you to inform us whenever you escorted our guest from her stateroom, did I not Kami?”

“You did Erine," Kami agreed reluctantly, her face colouring. Clearly she had disobeyed this order.

“We shall discuss this later, My apologies Lady Naymuri.” The woman said turning to me, her eyes bright with mischief. “Children sometimes forget their place, follow me you two.,” she snapped, after offering me that strange bow they practiced here.

**********

Selma waited for them to be gone before speaking. “I am sorry about that Ritsuko, you should not have had to hear that sort of language.” I had already assumed, that a lot of swearing had been involved despite not understanding the language. “I wanted to speak to you before we entered this sector, when we found you were not in your rooms, Kaylen became concerned.” Why would Kaylen be concerned? Unless she suspected I might not be safe in Kami’s company, or she in mine. It was clear that Selma would not be explaining this, so I pointed to the sector before us.

“Their lack of discipline is your problem; I have concerns of my own Selma… This is not the asteroid belt. My understanding was, we were traveling to Earth. This is what you told Captain Masaki, is it not?”

“It is, and we are… The Torus is our next port of call. This is something I wanted you to see first.”

Looking out of the viewports, I could see the ship had changed its position, and orientation. Ahead of us I could see a large base station and, dozens of transports traveling throughout the sector ahead of us. To my right I could now see a massive production facility that seemed to be the focal point for all the traffic in the system. Sitting above it I could see a shipyard and equipment dock, with a large number of capital ships either docked, or nearby. Around them, I could just make out, groups of fighters moving in patrol patterns I recognised. The Capital ships were a mixture of all the types, used by the various races in the commonwealth. Those did not trouble me as much as the AGI carrier, I saw standing of from the others. My concern must have been obvious to Selma.

“Welcome to Sanctuary Ritsuko, and yes that is a Xenon J.” She had obviously noted my shock on seeing it. “We captured it last year, and have been outfitting her ever since. She’ll be ready before the day is out.” Captured it… I had not thought such a feat either desirable, or possible.

“Ready for what Selma?”

“That depends on whether we return with Arlen or not Ritsuko, if we do… This fleet will remain here. If not, we will destroy every asset and ship belonging to Japaco industries we come across, in both Terran, and Aldrin sectors. We already have the positions of most of them mapped.” This was a threat then, no not that, rather a promise of the retribution they would seek, should Selma not retrieve Arlen. “I will tell you plainly Ritsuko, we have already suffered betrayal by our own kind... We will not tolerate similar treatment, from either yourself or Lady Kanegawa.” There was no way I could prevent her from sensing my anger at her words, nor did I want to.

“Should you attack any of our stations, our fleets would hunt you down and destroy this base, they will eradicate all here.” I shouted, sensing that she already knew, this would be our response…. “You would start a war…, surely neither you or Arlen want that?”

“It is not a question of what I want Ritsuko... It is what they want,” Selma pointed to the capital ships.” If I do not return with Arlen…, they will assume the worst. They will set out to wage war on the Kanegawa, every single production plant, and ship they own will be targeted, nor will this fleet be easily stopped. The Argons knew where our previous base was located, the location of this one…, is known only to ourselves, and cannot be discovered by conventional means. If war should result… what of it? This sector provides us with everything we need. We will stand aside, watching whilst your people, and the commonwealth destroy each other. That’s why Arlen called this place Sanctuary. We will remain here long enough to re-provision; we will also be taking along a medical team.” She caught my surprise at that perhaps sensing the guilt, I felt at what had been done to Arlen. “They will want to discuss her injuries, and treatment with you… Particularly if she was questioned by the ATF.” Selma gave me a long hard stare, as if expecting me to confirm this had happened, before leaving me.

**********

My silence had angered her I knew, but what could I have said, that would not have made the situation worse? Two ships, approached and took station less than five hundred metres from where I stood. One was a passenger transport, the other a cargo vessel. I decided to go below and see if they were bringing troops aboard… If they were, I would activate the beacon Kamishi had given me to warn of a possible attack, on Hokkaido.

Kami must have been waiting for me, as soon as I left the observation lounge, she followed me. She did not however, attempt to stop me from entering the cargo bay, I heard the sound of heavy machinery. I was surprised to see Erine stood in a control booth to my left overlooking the bay. Then I glanced down from the gallery I was stood on, and saw missile racks being moved into loaders that were set at the side of the cargo bay. My concern was, I recognised those missiles, they were Wraiths. “The missiles are being loaded directly into the ships missile storage.” Kami explained helpfully. “Once the cargo has been dealt with, crew transfers will commence. The Doc will come aboard last; he prefers it that way. Oh one thing Ritsu… Put away any xenophobic tendencies you might have; the doc is really nice.”

“I assume then he is an alien.” I was unable to keep my disquiet at that out of my voice.

“He’s a Boron Ritsu, he’s also a friend of Arlens… So be polite to him if nothing else. Once you get to know him, you might even come to like him.” I very much doubted that still, it would be interesting to see one of these Boron. The fact Kami called him a doctor, made this likely to be the creature Selma wanted to examine Arlen. I shuddered at the thought of allowing such a creature to examine me.

When he was finally transported aboard, my curiosity overcame my revulsion. The Boron was suspended within a sphere, filled with what I assumed was a liquid suitable to sustain him. About its middle, I could see various devices that no doubt allowed him to communicate with those around him. None of the workers in the cargo bay seemed troubled by his appearance, many of them even waved greetings at him as he passed below us, presumably to go to his quarters. “Does he stay in that sphere all the time Kami?”

“No, Arlen had some rooms next to the medical bay adapted for his use. He only has to use his pod when he wants to travel beyond them. He does have an environment suit but he hates wearing it. Says it’s to restricting. At the complex, we have a reservoir level, adapted for him and his staff. It’s quite handy actually, especially since we introduced the fish farms. That’s a bit of a hobby with him.” Kami continued, not noting the horrified expression on my face.

“You allow that creature to live in your water reservoir? Surely even…”

“Ritsu, we have several reservoirs; we don’t tap into his because he claims it stirs up too much of the sea floor he’s added, we could if we had to though. That reservoirs water is purer, once it’s been processed than any you might find in the verse.” Despite Kami’s calm assurance I still felt nauseous at the thought. I left the cargo bay and returned to my rooms, using the elevator to reach them rather than using the stairs. If I was going to vomit, I would prefer to do so in private.

**********

Fortunately, I was able to avoid that indignity, I did however drink a large glass of a rice wine I found a bottle of in a cooler in the small kitchen I had discovered earlier. It was whilst drinking this, I decided to risk accessing the com terminal, to my surprise the screen lit up, and I was able to input Yukiro's estates contact code, without being interrupted. The call did not connect though, instead the display kept repeating that it was searching for a gate network signal. I let it cycle through several times before cancelling the call. Was this a deceit I wandered? Intended for me to believe I had com access when the truth was the opposite? I hacked into the terminals base programming, searching through its functions, till I found the one I wanted. I switched back to the opening interface screen, and had it display a map of this sector. I was not prepared for the mass of information, that scrolled down the screen alongside the map itself. There were several other complexes in this sector, one seemed to be solely for the provision of power cells, the other for food stuffs of various types. There were also a number of mines in the sector, along with several dozen cargo ships, that were traveling between all of them. After skimming through that list, I turned my attention to the sector map and began searching it for a gate, once I located that, I was certain I would be able to access its communication network, no matter what steps had been taken to restrict access to it. There at the bottom of the map I found the icon that identified the location of the gate. I increased the map display size and zoomed in on the gate itself. The display feed must, I realised be coming from a satellite, my hopes were crushed when I got a closer look at the gate, it was a ruin. By the look of the meteor impacts on its surface it had been destroyed at some time in the distant past. I restored the map to its original display setting and searched for where the other gate might be, it had to be here somewhere.

**********

After nearly an hour of searching I gave up, I was confident I had accessed all the satellites in the system, even switching through their various camera views to no avail. Impossible as it seemed, this sector did not possess a gate… Wait what had Selma said earlier? “This sector cannot be discovered by conventional means.” That was it, that meant this had to be an unknown sector they had found, using the unfocused jump drive. That made no sense, it was impossible, as far as I knew to relocate one once you left. I sat back totally frustrated, enjoying the wine whilst I allowed my thoughts to roam freely. The answer had to be here I knew that much, I had simply failed to recognise it. Again I turned back to the display of the sector looking for something out of place. There in a position far from the ecliptic was a jump beacon. It was heavily shielded; it was also not listed on the sectors display. That must be the means they used to travel to this place. I resisted the urge to try accessing, it assuming that could only be done using an encrypted frequency. It would probably alert them to any unauthorised attempts to do so, for the moment I would prefer they did not know I had found it. This left me with another question to ponder… How had they managed to achieve what I, and all others regarded as impossible?

***********

It was unfortunate that we had given up the use of jump gates, only my home sectors had used them, even that had come only after the gateway to Neptune had been re-established. The terrans had refused to use them after the first AGI attacks, that was why they had developed the trans orbital accelerators after all. Only the races of the commonwealth had continued research into their technology. There was an answer I was certain of it. I returned to the display once more, looking for anything else out of place, that was not listed on the sector display. It was by pure chance I saw it, recognising it at once from the reports Jenner had given us. I zoomed in the satellites camera. That was the Aran… The Goner ship that was believed to have been destroyed, during the Argon attack on Sabine’s base. So not destroyed then… The Goner, as I recall were the only people in the commonwealth, who understood jump gate technology to any degree. The presence of that ship here, hinted, at how revisiting an unfocussed jump sector might be done. That ship had as I understood, it been designed to return to Earth, without the use of a jump gate. That implied, it must have the ability to return to its starting point, had they succeeded. It also meant, they had a means to repeat the journey. That knowledge did me little good, even if the technology could be replicated, the odds of locating this specific sector… were incalculable. No wonder Selma had been so confident of this bases security. I shut down the terminal, and waited for the ship to leave this place.


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Sabrina Bergin





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PostPosted: Sat, 16. Jan 16, 05:33    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Continued:

Selma stepped back from the terminal as Liom got to work, once they arrived in Terran space, he would have limited time to access the Torus mainframe. Having Ritsuko input her security clearance codes, when she tried to contact Yukiro had been an unexpected bonus. Fortunately, the ship near the east gate had managed to disrupt her transmission, and it had failed to get a lock on the gate network.

“That’s it Selma, I have enough to get you clearance for an Earth landing. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather dock at the Torus, and take a shuttle down?”

“Quite sure Liom, input the codes to both Rapiers IFF transponders. We’ll take both. Given the fact that we’ve left most of the crew at Sanctuary base, I’ll have Kami fly one… I’ll fly the other. If you lose contact with us for more than, a day…"

"Erine will take command.” Liom looked at Selma wanting to suggest otherwise, he already knew she wouldn’t listen though. Ever since she'd learnt Sabine was alive, she’d wanted nothing more than to join her. Erine had warned her it was most likely a trap, and nearly got her head bitten of for her trouble. She was, he had to admit right, not docking the Kaiken, was a good idea. The ship was unusual enough to attract attention, that was why Sabine had never brought it here herself. Still, the way he figured it, it was her call to make. Gods help the Kanegawa’s, if they tried to screw them over. Jako’s eyes had lit up, when he had been told he might have to target the Torus, in order to allow the fleet to attack the Kanegawa’s bases dirt side.

**********

The call from Selma came just a few minutes after I had felt the slight disorientation, that accompanied a jump. By then I had already checked the external cameras, and had been gratified to see the moon ahead of us. We were some distance away yet, so I assumed we had just transited the Venus accelerator. If Selma did not reduce her speed, she would attract the attention of the military. That in itself would not be a problem, it was however a complication I am sure we both wished to avoid. The biggest problem I could foresee, was the Boron. I expected they would want to hold him in quarantine, even my clearances could not prevent that from happening. I would have to warn her about that.

“Yes Selma what is it?” I asked, wandering if now would be the best time to discuss the alien.

“I was wondering if you might care to join us for lunch in the main galley? We have a few hours before we reach Earth, and there are some details we have to go over.” Perfect..., that would give me the opportunity to explain about the quarantine procedures.

“I will be down in a moment Selma.” She closed the link before I could say anymore. I left my rooms, and went down to the main crew area where the galley was located. To my surprise there were only a dozen people present and Kami was plating up meals behind the counter. Kaylen was helping her, by distributing the filled plates to the crew members, who were sat at the far end of the room. Selma waved me over to her table, where there were three vacant seats. No sooner had I sat down than Kaylen started placing bowls of food on the table. The smell of teriyaki and gyoza was unmistakable. This them explained Kami’s presence behind the serving counter. I raised an eyebrow in question to Selma.

“Since we are likely to be eating Japanese food for a while, I thought it best we try some.”

“We can provide western style food Selma…, this is not really necessary.”

“Kami suggests otherwise…” She countered looking at the bowls with some curiosity. Kami and Kaylen joined us at the table and urged us all to dig in.

I noted that Kami had placed a choice of utensils for all of us at the table, most of them favoured the standard sporks, most commonly used by ship’s crew. Selma struggled with chopsticks but was, after discreetly observing Kami, beginning to grasp how they should be used. Only Erine and Kaylen, showed little difficulty in eating properly with them.

“I forgot the tea.” Kami left the table, and returned with two large pots. One held Sonra coffee, the other a green tea. “The tea is an acquired taste” Kami warned the others,as she poured me, then herself a cup. To give her, her due Selma did try some, but her dislike was evident. So she, and most of the others switched to the coffee. I should not have been surprised to find, they had no difficulties eating the meal. I supposed that in the commonwealth they were used to a variety of foods, favoured by the other races. A point I put to Selma.

“Not all Ritsu, the Paranid’s main diet is soya husks, that’s like eating sawdust. I’d rather starve than eat that stuff again.” She assured me, as the others all chimed in with their agreement. They then discussed the various dishes they had tried, naming the ones they found most disagreeable. It seems the Split dishes, were the ones they favoured most, other than their own.

“Arlen has spoken of these Split…, amongst all the races she said that they were most similar to our own, is this so Kami?”

Kami gave the idea some thought before answering. “Only in the broadest terms Ritsu, they are combative by nature… They also hold to an honour code of sorts, and favour bladed weapons when duelling. Most of them are overly aggressive, almost to the point of insanity. They tend to go berserk in battle, worse still…, they typically fail to follow the orders of their commanders when this happens. They are…” she paused as if searching for the correct term. “Unreliable.”

“Not all of them Kami.” Erine pointed out some of them are excellent marines.”

“Only if they survive past their teenage years Erine, even then only if they are properly trained.” Kami countered. I was surprised Erine chose not to dispute this further, obviously there was much in Kami’s assessment of the Split, she agreed with. It was likely she had fought alongside these aliens in the past. We had all pretty much finished eating by then, save for Kaylen who was doing her best to finish the last of the teriyaki. The crew from the other table cleared our dishes for us, placing a cooler box of beer bottles on the table, presumably before returning to their duties.

**********

“Your crew seem to be somewhat diminished in number Selma, why is that?”

“To be honest, I saw no need to risk the full crew on this journey Ritsuko. Which brings me to the matter, I wanted to discuss with you. I’m not prepared to risk the Kaiken, by docking at the Torus.”

“Then how do you propose to travel to Hokkaido?” I ignored the fact, she had made clear, she still did not entirely trust me.

“That’s simple enough, we’ll use the fighters, you’ll fly with Kami, and Kaylen with me.”

“You have fighters docked aboard this ship.” I asked looking at Kami accusingly. Kami just shrugged, as if her failure to reveal this before now, was a trifling oversight on her part.

“Yes, two Rapiers at the moment, once we undock we’ll fly straight to Lady Kanegawa’s estate. I assume she has a landing field there. Don’t look so alarmed Ritsu, we won’t be carrying any ordinance.”

“It has, but I cannot see the Torus watch commander, allowing your ships to make landfall.”

“That’s already been arranged Ritsu… It would be helpful if you asked Lady Kanegawa, not to order us shot down when we approach her estate though.”

“Do I have any choice in this,” I asked coldly.”

“Not really.” She answered. “Kami, has had suitable clothing prepared for a Lady of your status. As well as those weapons, you would be expected to bear as a matter of course… We will not be armed.” That last remark, was obviously intended for Kami.

Kami took that moment to drink some of her beer, that was probably so that I did not question her, regarding that last statement. She would be armed of that I was certain. In her place Saya would be. That raises one other problem Selma… Kami is… Shinobi. She will not be welcome in my lady’s house. I suggest you leave her behind.”

“That is not possible Ritsuko, she is the only pilot aboard, other than myself, with flight experience in a Rapier. Her com link chimed then, after listening for a moment, she turned her attention to me again." Captain Masaki has arrived in sector, perhaps you should tell him of our intentions, if you’ll follow me to the bridge? Then we can get ready to leave.”

**********

It was obvious her mind was set on this, so reluctantly, I followed her to the bridge. A glance at the sector display, once we got there, showed that we were some considerable distance away from his ship. Clearly the Kaiken had not entered this sector via the accelerator. No doubt they had used a jump beacon. This pointed to gross negligence on behalf of the sector commander for not detecting it. The communications officer vacated her seat, indicating I should use it.

“The channel is open Ma’am.” The woman advised as she left me to use the console. Masaki’s face came on screen at once. I informed him we would be traveling ahead of him, and ordered him to dock at the Torus. He waited a few seconds, for me to give the signal that I was acting under duress, when I failed to do so, he acknowledged my order, then closed the channel. Kami then invited me to her quarters, where I might get changed into appropriate clothing, as she put it. I was a little surprised when she led me to a stateroom similar to my own. She swiftly informed me this was in fact Selma’s, and that she had the spare bedroom, for her own use.

“Normally when Arlen or Selma are aboard, I am their steward.” She admitted. “These are the garments I had prepared for you.” She selected several items still in their wrappings, laying them on the bed for me. If you will call me when you have made your selection. We can discuss what arms you will wish to carry.”

“What arms will you be carrying Kami?” I asked her bluntly.

“None, I know you doubt that Ritsu, Erine however has warned…, that if need be, she will have me strip searched, before I board my Rapier. In fact, it might be better, if I allow you watch me dress. Otherwise I expect she will carry out her threat to do so.”

Kami left the room after saying that, I looked at the outfits she had set aside for me. I chose one that was similar to one, I might normally wear about the estate. It was made of a material similar to silk, yet it felt oddly different. As I dressed, I made note of the weapons that were fixed into racks on the walls. Kami had quite a selection of them. Some were totally alien to me, these I suspected were the weapons favoured by the Split. One Katana was separate from the others, contained within a glass display case. It was a beautifully crafted, I studied it carefully, suspecting this must be an heirloom of some sort. It was then I saw the Shamisen, it was placed on a chair near her bed, that and the obvious signs of wear, led me to believe she made frequent use of it. This was unexpected. Once I had finished dressing, I opened the door to allow her to join me. As promised, she dressed herself in front of me, keeping her distance from her weapons.

**********

Once she had finished she opened a closet, that was filled with a selection of swords and knives. “I was uncertain what weight you would prefer Ritsu, please feel free to select the ones that suit you. The Wakizashi you might find easier to carry, at least until we land the cockpit of a rapier is quite cramped.”

“You have a formidable selection to choose from Kami, were these all made in Aldrin?”

“They were; I keep several, as I use them to teach some of Arlens Split warriors. I would prefer they use Iaido myself, but they will have none of it. I am constantly having to replace them.”

“That must lead to some serious injuries.”

“Normally I manage to separate them before that happens, when I am teaching… I carry a stun pistol.”

“Are they that ill-disciplined then?”

“Only once blood has been drawn, then they lose control. It makes for interesting lesson periods.” I could imagine, I was beginning to trust her appraisal of these Split, more than I was Erine’s.

Once I had chosen weapons, closest in weight to my own, she closed the closet. Her unhappiness at doing so was plain enough to see. “I cannot object, should you wish to carry a Tanto Kami.” Her eyes widened at my permission, she reached into the closet and selected one, hiding it quickly within her clothing. “If Erine asks..., you may say I insisted.” She bowed, then led me back down to the lower decks, presumably to where the fighters were docked. It was disconcerting to say the least, to find that I could see open space beyond the fighter itself. Kami explained, that a force field kept the vacuum at bay. In a combat situation, the pilots would be sealed within their ships, and the bay depressurised. Erine was present, giving Kami a searching look, no doubt suspecting she had weapons concealed about her person. “I watched her dress Erine.” I assured the woman. Only then did she help us into the cockpit. It was cramped, as Kami had warned. I had to wander how both Kaylen, and Selma hoped to fit into such a space.

That question was answered after we launched, and drew up alongside them, Selma’s Rapier must be a trainer variant, the cockpit was elongated, with Kaylen sitting behind, rather than alongside her. Once we were clear of the Kaiken, it disappeared from sight. Kami applied more power to the drives, as we followed Selma to the accelerator. As she had said earlier, we were swiftly given permission to land on Earth itself. I had to wonder how that had been arranged. After that, it was less than an hour before we were coming into view of Yukiro’s landing field. I contacted the landing tower, and simply ordered them to clear the field for us to land. Yido recognised my voice. Knowing full well my temper, should my orders be questioned, he did as I ordered. He did however keep, the fields defences trained on us till I climbed down from the cockpit.


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PostPosted: Mon, 18. Jan 16, 23:12    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Hokkaido:

I watched as Selma landed her Rapier, then bought it to a halt only twenty metres from our own. Till now, I had never considered learning to fly a spacecraft. After having enjoyed the flight here, I made a mental note to do so. “Selma flies well.” I observed to Kami as she began to shut down the drives on her craft.

“She is an excellent pilot, though I would guess Arlen is slightly better.” Then I did a double take as I realised that Kami wore a Wakizashi in a scabbard slung to her back, with another at her waist. Somehow, the woman had managed to bring her weapons with her after all. She handed me a cloak similar to the one she was wearing, given the cold of the early dawn I was grateful for it. I could not for the life of me, understand how she had managed to conceal her weapons from me. No doubt sensing my confusion she answered that question for me.

“I stowed my weapons aboard my ship last night Ritsuko, it has concealed compartments for them. I will not shame myself by not wearing them here.”

“You do realise, that both Kaylen and Selma will be angry with you I pointed out.”

“They will get over it, I merely promised them I would not board my ship bearing weapons… I made no other promises in that regard.”

“No matter, what is done is done Kami, do not expect to receive a warm welcome here, from either my lady or her staff. Their anger will be all the greater for the fact that you…, a Shinobi chooses to bear weapons here.”

“Forgive me, but neither their anger, or Selma’s is of any concern to me. If Arlen is truly here I will not go about without the means to defend her.” I could not fault that argument, recalling that it was one I had used many times myself in the past.

“That duty…, you said was assigned to Kaylen.”

“If you recall lady Naymuri, I actually said… that was a duty she appointed to herself. She has sworn an oath to Arlen that precedes mine, I will not dispute her right to act as honour demands.” There then was the source, if not of dispute at least disagreement between the two. It was a shame Kami had not been born to a proper house, her bearing and skill would have gained her much honour.

There was no point arguing with her regarding the weapons, in truth they would be considered ceremonial at best, unless she came too close to my lady of course. I turned back to see Selma walking towards, us the scowl on her face, made it clear she had already seen the weapons Kami carried, at least the ones that were visible.

“I would rather you not engage in a shouting match here.” I told her coldly, pointing to the cars that would be here within seconds. “For the moment I will allow Kami to bear arms here, should my lady later rule otherwise…, then that is a different matter. Now come let us get out of this cold.” Kami was the last to join us in the car having returned to the ship briefly to fetch a package from a storage compartment in its tiny hold.

“I almost forgot this, my apologies for the delay.”

“You brought Arlen a gift, that was thoughtful of you” I allowed, hoping to defuse the tension in the car.

“This is not for Arlen…, though I should have brought one for her as well. Kami replied inscrutably.

“Do you have any luggage my Lady?” Yadao asked looking over the back of his seat.

“There are some cases in the cargo holds of both ships.” Selma answered in my stead. “Both ships are open.” Yadao spoke briefly into his com unit, no doubt to arrange for them to be brought to the house. Only then did the car move of.

**********

The journey was mercifully brief; I was glad to be home once more, there was much I needed to discuss with both Yuriko and Kamishi. Not least of which was the fleet Selma had shown me, whilst I was no expert in the use of such, the confidence that Selma had, that they could strike even here worried me more than I cared to admit even to myself. I had seen reports of cities struck from vessels in high orbit, even without using nuclear weapons, the results had been devastating. The Torus was supposed to be our final line of defence, yet it had been conceived and built, long before the commonwealth had been discovered. Given the use of hidden jump beacons I had already seen…, the confidence in Selma’s words, I could not hope she was wrong to believe they could strike at us at will. If all the soldiers aboard those ships, were even close to the quality of those I had seen myself, they presented a very real threat to us. Those thoughts I put aside, as the car came to a halt before the main entrance to the house. Servants came down the steps, moving to the back of the car to collect the luggage, such as it was. As we walked through the main doors, it was not the appearance of Selma and Kaylen who gave me pause for concern, it was Kami, her eyes gleamed as if in triumph. She came here for more than Arlen… Of that I was certain.

**********

Mariko the lady of the house came to greet us, dispatching the servants to the quarters that had been prepared for our guests. Selma and Kaylen began following them yet Kami remained, ignoring the request of the maid who had asked her, to follow her to her room.

“I have not yet been greeted properly Ritsuko. I will not suffer the attentions of a servant, nor your offers of hospitality whilst I have not been properly welcomed here.” Kami said speaking in our mother tongue.

“Then one would ask, by what right do you refuse courtesy Kami Nagoya?” Kamishi demanded, stepping out from behind a pillar at the far end of the hallway. The sudden words caused all to pause and look back towards us, Selma looked concerned, yet Kaylen placed a hand on her shoulder to hold her still.

“My father made me swear to deliver this, his gift to you my lady, if it is not to be accepted I will leave.” Kami held the box she had retrieved from her Rapier in her hands; only now did I look at it properly. This was not some packaging from a merchant, the box was Ivory, its surface yellowed with such age that it had led me to think it some common wood. Kamishi recognised it of that I was certain, putting a hand to her face she walked forward slowly, her eyes never leaving the box Kami held.

“Is your father well? she finally asked, accepting the box from Kami’s hands.

“He is gone…, there is much we should discuss, in private Lady Kamishi. Though I think the Lady Naymuri should join us. She intends to anyway; I can see she will not allow me to speak to you alone.” She was right in that, her smile met my eyes as she spoke briefly to Kaylen in that foreign tongue they shared. Kaylen nodded and turned Selma, leading her after the servants who had been assigned to them. Only when they were gone did Kamishi speak again.

“Ritsuko will require you leave your weapons here Kami.” To my surprise Kami did not protest, and started placing her weapons into the arms of the servant who still waited at her side. Even I was amazed at the number she truly carried. The last, the Tanto I had granted her the right to carry she handed to me. I was touched by the honour she gave me in doing so. I was certain then that she had disarmed herself totally.

“Take those to the Lady Nagoya’s rooms.” Kamishi ordered, leading us from the hall to her own quarters, the box she had been given held tightly in her hands.


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PostPosted: Wed, 20. Jan 16, 00:01    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Continued:

There was much that disturbed me here as we waited for the servants to leave the room, having placed a large pot of tea and rice cakes on the table for us. Kamishi seemed fascinated by the box she still held close to her chest, Kami equally fascinated by it, or its contents, she had disarmed herself too easily. Though I knew that she was still capable of killing with her bare hands, this I sensed was not her intent. She too had an uncommon interest in that box. Why had she never opened it I wondered? I would have. Kamishi poured tea for us before placing the box on the table and breaking the seal on the ribbon that held it closed. From within it she removed two bound rolls of parchment each sealed with waxed ribbons.

“You have never opened this Kami?”

“I have been sorely tempted to do so many times my lady, yet it was my fathers wish that the box be delivered to you, just as he gave it to me.”

Kamishi did not question that, despite the fact it would have been easy enough to break the seals and have them remade. She opened the first roll of papers and read through them, her eyes focused on whatever message they contained. The second roll she put aside, no doubt what she had read so far told her of their contents. “Your father was ever presumptuous Kami. He demands I recognise both you and your house. That he knows will not be possible given that you have openly declared yourself to be Shinobi.”

Kami said nothing in reply to that accusation she merely reached for my sword grasping enough of the blade as I drew it, in response to her sudden movement. She held her hand there till I could clearly see that she had grasped the edge of the blade and cut herself, her blood running down her arm. The wound did not heal itself.

“Despite what you may suspect of us my Lady, my blood is not tainted by nannites. This my father made me swear never to allow, though why that should be is still a mystery to me. Forgive me Ritsuko, I do not mean to question your honour with my words..., the truth of your tale is known to me.” Only then did she remove her hand from the blade and wrap it in a cloth she found within her clothing. I was impressed at her speed and control; a careless act here could have left her maimed for life. “The box contains many answers lady Kamishi, some I already suspect, I would know the truth of them.”

**************

Kamishi watched Kami intently as I did, her eyes flickered to the Shamisen that were placed on the walls behind Kamishi, she also saw that, “perhaps you could play for us whilst I consider this,” Kamishi suggested.

Kami seemed to be relieved at the suggestion and took one from the racks, sitting back down before she began to play. She chose not to sing, yet I knew the song, who could not, it was a legend that was often spoken here. I had to wonder if this choice was deliberate, it was one of Kamishi’s favourites. A simple tale of a woodsman and his young wife, they had lived happily till a lord had seen her beauty and decided to claim her for his own.

Forewarned, they had fled into the mountains hoping to find safety beyond them. The woodsman knew he could not hope to outrun those sent to track them down and chose to make a stand to give her and their son, time to reach the safety of a path, that would soon be closed by the storm. His courage and desperation gave him strength, he defeated those who followed him. Yet when he sought after his family along the trail, he had found no sign of them, their steps simply ending on the path. Some said the goddess had taken them into her house, others suggested they had simply fallen from the path. Yet all through the years, people spoke of seeing a lonely figure on the mountains when the storms raged. The woodsman, who still searched for his family.

To my dismay Kamishi did not attempt to hide the tears that ran down her cheeks, in truth such was Kami’s artistry that I had also been moved by the way she had played. That seemed to give Kamishi the courage to say what she wanted Kami to do now. “Tell Ritsuko when you first met her Kami, your father mentions it here, though as ever his words are scant in detail. Assume your suppositions are true.” This was news to me, before I had woken aboard Selma’s ship I had never met her before… If I had I would have remembered her.

“As you will my Lady” Kami agreed turning to face me directly, unable to hide the happiness in her eyes as she spoke to me of this mystery. “Years ago my father had my wet nurse claim me as her own, this was to protect me from my father’s enemies. It was difficult, but in time I saw the wisdom in this. When Taddeo imposed an unjust tax, one he knew my father could not pay, he took twenty of us to be trained, some as servants, others as assassins. Conditions were harsh, yet my father had already seen that I was able to defend myself, so I grew in favour with those who ruled over us.

Then one day I was given a task I had long feared, I was sent to a house where I was to seek out and kill the daughter of a lady whose life my father valued more than his own. I saw you then on the docks Ritsuko, with your friend Saya hiding in the shadows. Had you boarded our ship, you would have been captured as Taddeo hoped. Instead I killed the guards he had set at the ship in the berth next to ours. Once you were safely gone I arranged an explosion allowing them to think we had all three died, whilst I made my own escape. I had no choice but to go to the south, you were more fortunate.”

More fortunate? I would question that remembering Hadaka, yet I remembered that night, how we had planned to board the ship she spoke of despite the guards, then we had chosen the other which had none near their cargo bay. In my mind’s eye I think I recalled a memory of her walking away from the ship we had finally managed to sneak onto. She had been dressed then in merchant spacer garb. I looked at her then both stunned and confused, Shinobi boasted they never failed a contract, if she had seen us why…”

“Ritsuko, it is my honour to present my daughter to you,” Kamishi said simply, her eyes glowing with pride. “Kamiko, know that I have missed you, that I did not part from you willingly.” Kamishi could say no more, I sat back stunned by her words as they embraced each other.


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PostPosted: Tue, 16. Feb 16, 13:17    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

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