Chapter 33 On the edge

Ben shuffles into the salon in his bathrobe. Stopping at the galley he makes a cup of cafe, gets a sweet roll, and settles onto the couch. Celeste eyes the sweet roll lifts an eyebrow, then smiles and says “Good morning Ben. This is live from the little drone.” 

Ben squints at the view down the hallway. A cluster of old men in black robes and Marshal Jorn are standing in front of the Sacred Chamber talking in voices too low to hear clearly. A trooper comes into view carrying an iron bar. The old men shift back, and the trooper swings hard with the bar striking the door twice and stops. Two softer clangs are 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 studies 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 really 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 sits pensively in his carriage as it rumbles and bounces into the meadow. “It's one thing to contemplate big changes, but it's scary to do it,” he thinks. “No doubt the starship Captain had something to do with Davin being locked into the Sacred Chamber, but how?”

The small robotic platform comes rolling out as Ungar climbs out of his carriage noting Ben is waiting for him at the hatch. After stacking the gold bars on the platform he looks down at his belly, passes on climbing aboard, and instead trudges to the ramp and climbs upwards to meet Ben.

“Hello Ungar and welcome. Celeste and I have a number of things to talk about with you. Please have a seat in the salon.” Ben hands Ungar a Manhattan and sits 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 glances at Celeste, grins, and then turns 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 watches his face changes 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. “Is this all your doing?” asks Ungar. Celeste nods 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?” says Ben. Ungar shook his head and looked at both Celeste and 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 very 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 Cisi are at risk.” “Can you drive your tractor Ungar?” asked Celeste. “Yes, but it has been many years.” “This is what I think you should do,” as Celeste lays out her plan.

Ben carries the boxes of stunners and walks with Ungar back to his carriage and helps load them. In a low voice, he says, “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 leans forward, “Ludo, let's fuel the tractor. Then we will go to the security compound to deliver these boxes to Marshal Jorn.” The driver nods and belching smoke the tractor turns around and heads back into the forest towards the city.

As Ungar climbs out of the carriage he barks at the guard, “Trooper, I'm here to see the Marshal. Carry these boxes.” “Yes, Sir.” Ungar follows the trooper to the Marshal's office. He sets the boxes just inside the door and departs. “Apologies Marshal, may I have a few minutes of your time. Marshal Jorn nods. Ungar eases his frame into a chair smaller than he would have liked and looks 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 gives Ungar a wry grin, “You have a penchant for understatement. It looks like the Senior Elder won't be available until tomorrow morning, and he likely won't be in a good mood.” Ungar nodded, I think so too. It is fortuitous I am inspecting all the warehouses tomorrow starting early in the morning. The loaders all need to be regularly reminded about keeping things neat and in good condition.” Marshal Jorn sighs, “I wish I had some task like that to do but I must be available when the Senior Elder emerges from the Sacred Chamber.” Ungar rises and says, “Good luck tomorrow Marshal,” and at the door on a whim, turns 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 leaves and the Marshal stays seated in his chair with a puzzled look until a trooper sticks his head in the door and reminds him about the staff meeting.

Ungar gets out of his carriage parked in front of his house and walks over to his driver reaching into his pocket. “Ludo, that's all for today and I won't need you until tomorrow at noon.” Dropping a fat handful of coins in Ludo's palm, Ungar says, “Have some fun, get yourself some good brandy, and an attractive pleasure girl.” Ludo flashes a huge grin, “Thank you, sir,” and leaves at a brisk pace.

A few minutes later Ungar peers out his window. He heads out to the tractor wearing work clothes, reaches into the cab and takes out a crank handle, and pulls a lever in the cab. Sticking the crank in a slot in the front of the tractor he starts to wind the spring. After several pauses to catch his breath, it finally comes to a stop. He pulls the crank out and climbs into the driver's seat. Looking at the controls, he pulls out a knob and jerks the lever back. The engine starts with a cloud of black smoke swirling around him. Casi opens the front door carrying a bag, closes it, and carefully locks it with a key. She hurriedly walks to the carriage and climbs in. Ungar looks back at her and nervously smiles then engages the engine. With a lurch, the tractor starts off down the street. Ungar stares forward concentrating on staying in his lane.

The tractor turns off the main road onto a trail leading into the forest and shortly reaches the meadow and the ship. The ramp is down, Ben is waiting at the bottom and Celeste is standing at the hatch. Ben trots over to Ungar and hands him a small box. “Ungar, there is a letter in here for Chronicler Lyn and two tablets. One is for you, and the other is for Lyn. Find her when you get there. Everyone knows her. To talk with us just hold the tablet in your hand and say hello. If you see it blinking, it means we want to talk with 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. We will watch over Lora.” Ungar nods his head and the tractor heads for the trail. In a few minutes, he is out of sight.

Celeste walks down the ramp and over to Ben and asks “Would you like to dine outside tonight? “That sounds great.” The lift descended and the small bot moves a table and chairs onto the grass, got back on the lift and rose up into the ship. A few minutes later the lift came back down. And the bot finishes setting the table. 

Have a seat, Ben. We are having something different for dinner 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 a 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 tasty Rigelan Two dish. We might go there someday. They 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 me.” Celeste takes a wooden stick and puts one end in the bowl. Immediately one of the snails latches onto the end of it. She puts the other end of the snail in her mouth and bites down leaving just the mouth still attached to the stick. A second later the toothed mouth releases the stick and drops back into the bowl. “See, it's easy. You just want the mouth to fall back into the bowl. If it doesn't, people will think you're being 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.