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Choices

This part originally appeared in the January/February 2014 issue.

Part 2

118th of 2029 (309-97): Leaving Daramm

The plan was straightforward, act like a routine tramp, four jumps, Mur Mura, Puluke, Ithukar and finally Winchel. We’d rendezvous with Gaaskii, a light cruiser, while refuelling at Mur Mura and pick up fifty million keedits worth of gems, so cargo only for the first jump. Meet with our ‘friends’ on Winchel and hand over the gems. Not like the Imperium might think a high jump ex-naval courier with a former Navy ami might be up to something. The Imperium is many things; stupid isn’t one of them. Yep, straightforward, but definitely not easy.


The cargo was loaded and I’d taken Raledenet out towards the jump point. It was good to be at the controls again; I was rusty, but it came back quickly. Siish was watching, “Like falling off a log, dinkir.”

“Yeah, well, she handles like a gabalail.”

“Jump three into a two hundred ton hull, something’s gotta give. Just get us into jump, let’s see how tight you can get the match.”

A good jump was tricky. Matching the ship to jump space, easy, anybody could get you in and roughly out again in the right system. But you’d never know how long the jump would take or exactly where you’d come out. Getting tight so you control the jump, not so easy. Mark of a good pilot was how close you got it. “We’re a trader, remember, Siish; a certain sloppiness is expected.”

“I can see the dials, dinkir, you never did sloppy.” He was right; I’d got her pretty close.

I hit the comms, “Jane?”

She sounded irritated, “Any time you’re ready, deary; I’ve had them spun up for ten minutes.”

I entered the code, killed the viewers and hit the button. The sickening lurch as we tore space apart and plunged into chaos. “Well, nothing to do now but sit back and enjoy the ride.”

“Good; I could do with dinner.”


Whatever Ariaryn had made for dinner was good; I was on my second plate. Jane and Siish were both smiling. “What is this, Ariaryn?”

Shugane.”

Shugane?”

He look sheepish “Shugane.” I looked at him, I looked at the plate, I looked back at him and then the plate again; the boy could cook. Siish laughed, “Just like mother used to make.”

“Siish, not one of my mothers or fathers could ever make shugane taste like anything other than three day old leftovers18.”

Jane produced a bottle of leenkwin.19 “Who’s up for a drink?”

Ariaryn was first to answer, “Please.” She poured a drink, gave the glass a half turn and passed it to him.20

He turned bright red. I whispered, “Jane, don't play with the boy.”

“Who says I’m playing?” She grinned broadly, “A tune, please, Isabella, a lively one. Ariaryn, would you care to?” She took him to the floor while Isabella got her getre21 and began to play.

I stood next to Siish; he looked at his feet. “Do I have to ask?”

“I’m not much in the mood for dancing.” He kept his eyes on the floor.

I grabbed his hands and pulled him to his feet. “Dance with me, please.” He sighed and joined me. We danced, his arms around me comforting, I wished I could feel him. It was good to just dance again, you can lose yourself there.


I went to the bridge before bed, to check the jump. Didn’t need to; if the drives are well tuned and the course is good, a ship will pretty much fly itself through jump. Jane always had her drives tuned like a concert piano and my course was true. In truth, I wanted to think for a while. I sat and thought, my hand hovered over the viewer. They say if you look at jump space you’ll lose your mind. I switched them on. The patterns twisted and writhed, interlocked in ways a mind couldn’t comprehend, but for a brief moment I thought I saw order, a stately dance in the insanity. Then it was gone, nothing but brain warping chaos. I switched them off. Sometimes it’s good to think.


Jane was waiting when I got to the room. “It’s good to see you smiling again.”

I couldn’t help it; I smiled, “It was a good night.”

“You danced with Siish a lot. Wondered if I’d have the room to myself tonight.”

I threw a pillow at her, “Jane, it’s Siish!” And anyway, who’d want broken me?

She rolled her eyes, “Sometimes, deary, I wonder at you.”

“So, Jane; Ariaryn, you serious?” I’d rather talk about her than me.

“He’s a good man, funny, attractive, caring.”

“He’s a kid Jane, barely damp.”

She looked straight at me, sadness in her eyes, “Nobody who came out of that war is a kid any more, deary.”

124th of 2029 (315-97): Mur Mura

We arrived at Mur Mura on schedule; I’d got it right, nice and close to the gas giant. We had the whole ami on the bridge; we’d need everyone’s eyes. The giant’s blue-green skies were a boiling mass of storms. We’d have to go in up near the north pole; calmer there, but it would still be a bumpy ride. Already the massive gravity was tugging at us.

“I really hope they’re there, Siish. And whoever’s flying her can keep her steady.”

“Just get us in and out, just another scoop run.”

“Yeah right, docking with a nineteen thousand ton cruiser inside an atmosphere, just another run.” Isabella was perhaps a little pessimistic.

“If anyone can do it, my dinkir can.” Siish at least sounded sure. “Now, dokhtor, I assume they taught you to use a comms panel in the Imperial Navy, so watch and tell us when we pick up her ping. Ariaryn, use the targeting sensors to give us vector and velocity when we do.” Calm and certain, it’s what made Siish such a good kaptan. “And, dinkir, I would appreciate it if we stay in one piece.”


I recalled the last time he’d said that as I took her into the upper layers, the gravity now pulling more, the turbulence starting to buffet us. Deeper, rougher, clouds of ammonia and methane. The idea of docking in an atmosphere was simple, just drop down and let the cruiser catch us. Of course if the cruiser wasn’t there, we’d never get out again and the turbulence between the ships would be ‘considerable’, but in theory, it was simple. Tanks full, I levelled off and started to lose speed; we’d start sinking soon. “If we go much deeper I won’t be able to get us out, so they can start calling any time now, please.”

Isabella sounded a little concerned, “Nothing.”

The warning alarm started squawking like a wounded animal. “Siish, what should I do?”

“Can you get any deeper?”

“A little; not much.”

“That far, and no more, then.”

Deeper, outside was a maelstrom of ice and hydrogen, Isabella again, “Still nothing, wait… got them; very faint.”

Siish barked like when we were on Martinez, “Ariaryn, where?”

“Below us,” he paused, “way below us.”

“Well, the idea is they push us out, so down we go.”

I killed thrust and we started sinking. I switched to ventral viewer, there was lightning illuminating the clouds of gas. We dropped; I tried to keep her steady in the boiling atmosphere, heading towards the waiting cruiser. I brought up the thrust again to counter the giant’s growing pull, further, up into the red. You could hear the hull of Raledenet groan as we fell. Ominous creaking. The winds were worse down here, I saw the hulking black shape of Gaaskii outlined by the lightning. I gently let Raledenet drift over Gaaskii’s silhouette. Now just to let her drop and line up with the docking clamps. Oh, and avoid being thrown off by the turmoil between us.


Down and down, the closer we grew, the more the atmosphere churned between us as vortices and eddies formed. Raledenet dipped and bobbed with the currents. I watched the red lines as I drew her nearer and nearer. Green now, on target, just hold her steady and straight down. Down, the ship dancing like a maniac in the swirling current. Starboard wing dipped and just kissed Gaaskii’s hull, the whole ship shuddered.

“Mind the paintwork, deary,” Jane, smiling.

A clunk as clamps engaged. “Down and safe.”

145th of 2029 (336-97): En-route to Winchel

Finding cargo and passengers had been fairly easy. Trade was picking up after the war. A lot of merchants had been lost and there was still a shortage of shipping. Siish made a half-decent free trader. We got a honeymoon couple and what I think were a mobster and his guards on Mur Mura. A boring ‘leader of commerce’ and the third son of an Imperial Marquis and his chaperones on Puluke. He was on his grand tour and thought travelling on a Luriani ship would be a bit of romantic adventure, they paid for two jumps in advance. He’d asked me to teach him some Luriani, said he’d teach me to play a game called go in return.

“So, Lord Trace, what’s this ship’s name mean?”

“Call me Sakuya; Lord Trace is my father, yasvati.” Yasvati, teacher, he’d insisted on calling me that since I’d taught it to him first lesson.

“Well, I’ll call you by your name if you call me by mine.”

“But yasvati sounds so much more mysterious.” I sighed, only four years separated us, but he seemed so much younger. I wasn’t going to win this one.

“So, Sakuya, Raledenet, what does it mean?”

He thought for a moment, “Ral means something’s not there; edenet means fear, so ‘no fear’. It’s the name of a ship, so it’s got to be an attribute; it would mean ‘fearless’.”

“Close, but ‘heroic’ would be better; kammoedenet would mean ‘fearless’.”

He was puzzled, again, “Uh, I don’t understand? Kammo and ral both mean something’s not there, though.”

Kammo means it never was there; ral means it’s not there but it should be. So raledenet, ‘no fear where there should be fear’, ‘unafraid’; as an attribute, ‘heroic’.”

It was his turn to sigh, “I don’t think I’ll ever get it, it’s sometimes damn frustrating.” He was getting it; he just lacked a little patience. “You fought in the war, didn’t you?”

“Yes, we all did.”

“Were you raledenet?”

“They say I was.” My voice was growing quiet, I was staring at the table, the others could see I wasn’t comfortable.

“Did that happen to you when you were raledenet?” His hand moved toward my face. It was chaos Siish was pulling him out of the chair. Sakuya’s chaperones, Anna and Yoshi, were shouting and threatening. There was screaming and yelling, Jane, Ariaryn, even Isabella. So much noise.


I left. I didn’t want to cry, at least not in public. I went to my room, lay on my bed and the tears just kept coming. Sishgukhidtar, once pretty face.

Jane came in later; she didn’t say anything, just lay down next to me and held me, like when we were children. I know she meant well, but it didn’t help. I couldn’t feel her next to me any more, not like I did then. It just reminded me of what was taken, but I let her stay, it was better than being alone. We lay there silent for what seemed like an eon. Eventually she spoke. “You should’ve seen Siish rip into him. Never seen a purple Mmarislusant before.”

“And young Ariaryn, think he was ready to clobber him.” She paused, “He didn’t understand, you know.”

“Who? Ariaryn?”

“No, the young Lord Trace, you idiot,” she hit me with a pillow. Another hesitation, a long one. “Siish described it. What they did, in detail. I think the boy was going to be sick. He may not understand, but he does know, now.”

147th of 2029 (338-97): Enroute to Winchel

Anna Neilsson made her way to the cargo bay. This job had turned sour. It had seemed a good deal at first, escort young Lord Trace on his grand tour. Easy enough and the chance to get close to an eligible member of the nobility. It had gone well at the start, a bit of flirting, a bit of subtle encouragement. It wasn’t a bad thing; Sakuya was attractive, smart, charming and kind, everything you’d look for. He also came from a strict Makerite22 family. All she had to do was get him into her bed once and his morals would take care of the rest. And, though she would never admit it, especially to herself, she’d actually fallen for him. Young Sakuya had started to take the bait. Then along came that walrus23 tramp and ruined everything. All Sakuya could do was moon after her like some love sick puppy. Now he was sulking in his room because he’d ‘insulted’ her. She snorted; insulted, she’d looked up this tramp. Anna had had a brother on the Skanna, that tramp got everything she deserved. It made Anna mad, she kicked the wall, hard. Stupid, it hurt, but that sound. The wall was hollow, she’d studied this class as an analyst in Naval Intelligence. That wall should not be hollow.

148th of 2029 (339-97): Enroute to Winchel

Sakuya stayed in his room for the next two days. Anna and Yoshi didn’t say much; you could see the anger and disgust in them. Didn’t matter, we’d be arriving tomorrow and they’d be gone. I’d done the final checks on the bridge and gone to dress for dinner; Ariaryn always made something special for the last day in jump. Sakuya was sitting at the table along with his minders, he’d gone all out to dress. He actually scrubbed up quite well, but he hardly said a word through dinner. We finished eating and Ariaryn sat at the piano and began to play. Jane pulled Siish to his feet, Isabella seemed to be struggling to get Yoshi up; sometimes Imperials have no manners.


Sakuya marched straight up to me and said “Shi yasvati awel shish fa ap ae?24

I was still hurt, but an invitation to dance, I couldn’t very well say no. So I got to my feet, took his hand and simply answered, “Ae.

Spend a couple of weeks in jump on a small ship and you end up dancing with everyone, a lot. So it was odd he kept so far away.

After a while he looked straight at me and all seriousness announced, “A oi Yoirnishako.” I knew what he meant to say, but I couldn’t help it; I laughed.

“What? What’s so funny?” He looked hurt.

“You just told me your name is Big-the-greatest-sorry-possible.”

“Uhh?”

“The -ko25, it changes a verb into a proper noun and if it’s the biggest it can’t get any bigger26. You mean ‘A oi irnisha.’”

He blushed, “Oh, A oi irnisha.”

I smiled and replied, “A oi vie yonisha.

“You’re sorry too?” he sounded confused ,“Right?” I nodded. “Why are you sorry?”

I smiled; his na´vetÚ was disarming. “Oh, for allowing you to embarrass yourself, being there when you put your foot in your mouth, watching you make a fool of yourself, take your pick. It just means it’s okay, you’re forgiven. It lets you keep face, silly.”

I could see Jane and Siish dancing, quietly laughing at all this. “So, did anyone give you any hints on how to say it?”

The keedit dropped, “I shouldn’t have listened to them?”

“No.” I kissed him lightly on the check and smiled, very disarming.

Notes

Notes numbered 1-17 appeared with Part 1 of Choices.

  1. Shugane is a traditional scraps dish. It essentially is three day old leftovers.
  2. A distilled grain alcohol.
  3. Turning the glass. A form of flirting in Luriani culture. The degree of turn indicates the level of attraction. From a quarter turn indicating a mild fancy to a full turn inviting intimacy.
  4. A seven stringed musical instrument.
  5. The Church of the Maker, a religious group common at the time. Noted for its strict moral code.
  6. A derogatory Imperial slang term for Luriani.
  7. The best translation is ‘Will you dance with me, teacher?’ but the literal translation is ‘You, teacher, wish-to dance with me, yes?’ Standard Luriani uses a six form yes/no (ae, ia, ma, mee, aema, and iamee) and a yes/no question is formed by adding either the affirmative yes (ae) or negative no (mee) to the end of a statement. Thus, ‘Shi yasvati awel shish fa ap ae?’ can be answered ae (Yes - I will dance with you), ma (No - I will not dance with you) or aema (Maybe - Perhaps I will dance with you). The question could also be phrased ‘Shi awel shish fa ap yasvati mee?’ (You wish-to dance with me, teacher, no?), in which case it would be answered ia (Yes - I will not dance with you), mee (No - I will dance with you) or iamee (Maybe - Perhaps I will dance with you). In practice, it would be very impolite to phrase an invitation to dance in the negative and equally impolite to refuse one. It should also be noted that, in the case of an invitation to dance, the length of the response indicates the degree of enthusiasm. Thus simply answering ae is in itself, slightly impolite, indicating that another invitation is unwelcome. The more usual response would be at least ‘Ae a awel.’ (yes I wish-to). A response such as ‘Ae a awel shish fa shi.’ (yes I wish-to dance with you) would indicate that another invitation is desired.
  8. The suffix -ko is usually encountered in family names, the equivalent of the Anglic -er. To turn a verb to a normal noun, you use the suffix -ti. For example uryn is to grind grain (mill), urynti is a miller while Urynko is a person named Miller. Also due to the weakly inflected nature of Standard Luriani verbs, it can be encountered in a poetic or metaphorical sense, ‘a oi shishko,’ ‘I am dance’ as opposed to the normal ‘a oi shish,’ ‘I am dance(ing)’.
  9. The prefix sequence is gi-, yo-, and ir-, big, bigger and biggest. The converse is ba-, dai-, and va-, small, smaller and smallest. The confusion lays in the way these can be compounded. Generally they can be compounded freely, both within and across the two sequences and multiple times. The only rule is that gi- and va- are terminators. Once they are used the compound can not be moved any further in that direction without moving it the other first. Also, while the compound can in theory be any length (such as gidaigiyoir-, biggest smaller biggest bigger big), in practice it is rare to go past two, with three being the effective limit unless the speaker is deliberately trying to appear humorous or facetious.