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Chapter 34 On the edge

Stopping at the galley Ben made a cup of cafe and a couple sweet rolls. Settling on the couch, Celeste eyed the rolls, lifted an eyebrow, then smiled. “Good morning Ben. This is a live feed from the little drone.” 

Ben squinted at the view down the hallway. A cluster of old men in black robes and Marshal Jorn were standing in front of the Sacred Chamber talking in voices too low to hear clearly. A trooper came into view carrying an iron bar. The old men shifted back, and the iron bar was swung hard striking the door twice. Two softer clangs were heard from the other side. “Well I guess the Grand Poobah survived his brush with death from your killer drone,” said Ben. 

“The scariest things in life are always the things you can't see, and what you don't know Ben. What's your best guess how long it will take to extract Davin?”

Ben studied the scene for a couple of minutes. “The door is about four inches thick, but we have no idea what it's made of other than there appears to be no corrosion making it a higher end alloy. Maybe with cutting torches about a half day, if they have them at all. The other option would be to use hammers to chisel through the three-foot thick wall making a hole large enough for Davin to crawl through. There would only be room for three or four men to work, so I think it would take a full day working in shifts. Tomorrow morning at the earliest.”

“I'm worried about Ungar. The power failure timing in the Sacred Chamber won't be lost on Davin, and he will have had more than a day to think about it. Ungar is the only one he knows that has had interactions with us. I think he will lash out at him as soon as he is able,” said Celeste. 

“Do you have an option for him in mind?” 

“Yes, I was thinking about sending him into Gaia with his partner Cisi. I think Lyn would find accommodations for them for a few weeks, or more if needed.”

“And Lora?”

“I don't know. We have to talk with both of them about this.” 

Ben looked back at the vid, “I think tomorrow morning is the time,” as four large men with chisels and hammers start to talk with the Elders.

Ungar sat pensively in his carriage as it rumbled and bounced into the meadow. “It's one thing to contemplate big changes, but it's scary to do it,” he thought. “No doubt the starship Captain had something to do with Davin being locked into the Sacred Chamber, but how?”

The small robotic platform came rolling out as Ungar climbed out of his carriage noting Ben is waiting for him at the hatch. After stacking the gold bars on the platform, he looked down at his belly, passed on climbing aboard, and instead trudged to the ramp and climbed upwards to meet Ben.

“Hello Ungar and welcome. Celeste and I have some things to talk about with you. Please join us in the salon.” Ben handed Ungar a Manhattan and sat next to Celeste. 

“Perchance you have heard about the Senior Elder's predicament? He seems to have locked himself into the Sacred Chamber,” said Ungar. Ben glanced at Celeste, grinned, and then turned back to Ungar, “That's not quite correct Ungar. He didn't lock himself in. He was locked in. Would you like to see how this happened?” 

Ungar sighed, “I suspect this will like a tractor collision. You can't avoid staring at it, but you want too anyway. Sure.” 

“Watch the big vid,” said Celeste

As Ungar watched his face changed from worry, morphing into horror, then fascination, and finally relief. Celeste played a few minutes of the video showing the four men slowly chiseling a hole in the wall. 

“We don't think they will get him out until tomorrow morning,” said Ben. “Was this all your doing?” asked Ungar. 

Celeste nodded her head slightly. “Our ship's computers have control of the power plant, we can access all the Eaulander computer networks and the vid broadcast system.” 

“This brings us to an important question. What will Davin do when he gets free?” said Ben. 

“He will be angry beyond belief. Many people will be hurt or worse, and I will likely be near the top of that list.”

“How much danger do you think Lora will be in Ungar?” asked Celeste. 

Ungar became still for a moment. “Davin won't immediately do anything, she is just a cleaning woman and below his notice... but if he is angry enough both she and Casi are at risk.” 

“Can you drive your tractor Ungar?” asked Celeste. 

“Yes, but it has been many years since I have.” 

“This is what I think you should do,” said Celeste laying out her plan.

Ben carried the boxes of stunners and walked with Ungar back to his carriage and helped load them. Quietly he said, “There are 101 stunners in the boxes. Take one and put it in your pocket.” Speaking louder Ben said, “Good to see you, Ungar, we will talk again, I'm sure.” 

Ungar leaned forward, “Ludo, let's fuel the tractor when we get back. Then we will go to the security compound to deliver these boxes to Marshal Jorn.” The driver engaged the tractor and belching smoke it turned around and headed towards the city.

As Ungar climbed out of the carriage, he told the guard, “Trooper, I'm here to see the Marshal. Carry these boxes.” “Yes, Sir.” Ungar followed the trooper to the Marshal's office. He set the boxes just inside the door and departed. 

“My apologies Marshal, may I have a few minutes of your time. Marshal Jorn nodded. Ungar eased his bulk into a chair smaller than he would have liked and looked around at the orderly office. “I would have normally delivered these to the Senior Elder, but he seems to be indisposed for the time being, so I thought it would be prudent to give them to you. It's 100 additional stunners for your troops.”

Marshal Jorn gave Ungar a wry grin, “You have a penchant for understatement. It looks like the Senior Elder won't be available until tomorrow morning at the earliest, and likely won't be in a good mood.” 

Ungar nodded, I thought so too. It is fortuitous I am inspecting all the warehouses tomorrow starting early in the morning. The loaders need to be regularly reminded about keeping things neat and in good condition.” 

Marshal Jorn sighed in resignation, “I wish I had some tasks like that to do, but I must be available when the Senior Elder emerges from the Sacred Chamber.” 

Ungar stood up and said, “Good luck tomorrow Marshal.” At the door on a whim, he turned back to the Marshal, “I've known you for a long time. If things get too perilous for you, I would look to the stars.” Ungar left, and the Marshal stayed seated with a puzzled look until a trooper stuck his head in and reminded him about the staff meeting.

Ungar got out of his carriage and walked over to his driver reaching into his pocket. “Ludo, that's all for today. I won't need you until tomorrow at noon.” Dropping a handful of coins in his palm, Ungar said, “Have some fun, get yourself some good brandy, and an attractive pleasure girl.”

 Ludo flashed him a huge grin. “Thank you, sir,” and he left at a brisk pace.

A few minutes later Ungar peered out his window. He headed out to the tractor wearing work clothes, reached into the cab, took out a crank handle, and pulled a lever. Sticking the crank in he started to wind the spring. After several pauses to catch his breath, it finally came to a stop. He took the crank out and climbed into the driver's seat. A knob was pulled, and a lever jerked. The engine started with a cloud of black smoke swirling around him. Casi opened the front door carrying a bag, and carefully locked it. She hurriedly walked to the carriage. Ungar looked back at her, nervously smiled then engaged the engine. With a lurch, the tractor started off down the street. Ungar stared forward concentrating on staying in his lane.

The tractor turned off the main road onto a trail leading into the forest and shortly reached the meadow. The ramp was down, Ben was waiting at the bottom, and Celeste was standing at the hatch. Ben handed him a small box. “Ungar, there is a letter in here for Lyn the Chronicler and two tablets. One is for you, and the other is for Lyn. Find her when you get there. To talk with us just hold the tablet in your hand and say hello. If you see it blinking, it means we wish to talk to you. Follow the trail east, and you will find the city. They will take good care of you. Both of you will find it interesting. Go now! You need to completely disappear, and it will be dark soon. We will watch over Lora.” Ungar nodded and the tractor headed for the trail. In a few minutes, he was out of sight.

Celeste walked down the ramp. “Would you like to dine outside tonight? “That sounds great.” The lift descended, and the small bot moved a table and chairs onto the grass, A few minutes later the lift came back down. And the bot finished setting the table. 

Have a seat, Ben. We are having something different tonight. Ben sat and took the cover off of his dinner. 

“What in the world is this?” said Ben as he stared at his meal. “It's an old earth dish called Musubi.” “It looks like a grain cake you would feed an animal, with extruded pseudo meat on it all wrapped in green vegetation,” said Ben. 

Celeste grinned. “You're close. The cake is made of rice, and the meat is called Spam. It's covered with a spice called teriyaki made from an ancient version of the seed the Gaian's grow that has been fermented. The green wrap is dried seaweed. “Try it.” 

Ben tentatively took a small bite. ” It's good and much better than the pseudo-meat I'm used to. What are you having?”

Celeste lifted her cover and Ben stared at it aghast. “You can't really eat that can you?” “Yes, you can. It's a very piquant Rigelan Two dish. We might go there someday. These are toothed snails.” 

Ben studied the writhing slug looking things with a large round mouth at one end filled with sharp teeth. “How do you eat them without being eaten first?” 

“Easy,” said Celeste. “Just watch.” Celeste took a wooden stick and put one end in the bowl. Immediately one of the snails latched onto the end of it. She put the other end of the snail in her mouth and bit down leaving just the mouth still attached to the stick. A second later the toothed mouth released the stick and dropped back into the bowl. “See, it's not hard. You want the mouth to fall back into the bowl. If it doesn't, people will think you're impolite and provincial. When we are through with dinner, we can watch a vid or play a game. It will be a long day tomorrow, and for many days to come.”