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Chapter 16 Ungar's visit

“Celeste, is it all clear around the ship? If so could we go outside and take a short walk around for just a bit,” asked Ben. “I'd like that Ben,” said Celeste, and then more tentatively, “You know I can't go very far, I don't like being seen when I'm not whole” “You lead Celeste, and I will gladly follow. Let's go.” When they reached the hatch, the ramp was already deployed, and together they stepped out into the sunshine. “It's a pretty planet,” Ben said as he turned from the forest to the low hills off in the distance. “They are all wonderful to me in their own way,” said Celeste. “It's too often the people on them that makes them ugly. I'm pretty sure Ungar is coming now, but we still have a few more minutes. We can stay here bit longer if you want to.” “I'd like that Celeste,” he said standing quietly next to her.

Belching black smoke wafting above the trees announced Ungar's arrival at the edge of the forest where the carriage jerked to a stop. Celeste's voice whispered in his ear “I see on infrared there are about a dozen men dispersing along the edge of the woods. I need to go back into the ship, and if any of them look like they are even considering shooting at you, my lasers will take them out. If shooting starts get into the ship as fast as you can and I will take care of the rest. I've learned some things can't be fixed.”

Ben waited outside and watched as the heavyset man labored to get out of the carriage. Continually mopping his sweating brow, he slowly lumbered across the field towards Ben. He stopped about ten feet away dripping with sweat. “I have come alone as you can see. I am Ungar, the trade adviser. Senior Elder Davin has asked me to apologize for the incident that occurred.” “Are you referring to your man who shot at my partner? Why would he have done that?” said Ben. Ungar sweating even more profusely stuttered. “He was a recruit and, I assure you he has been, umm, severely disciplined.” Ben said “I hope so, and he was lucky the shot just missed Celeste. Had he hit her none of that group would have survived including the Senior Elder” “Come aboard our ship, and we will offer you some comfort and refreshments as we talk,” said Ben

Celeste urgently whispered in Ben's ear. “Keep the large guy close behind you as a shield.” Ungar tentatively followed Ben up the ramp. The two walked into the salon and Ben offered Ungar the seat next to the couch. “Please sit, and would you like something to drink?” asked Ben. Ungar was stunned as he looked around at the salon. The wall vids were showing scenes of beautiful cities, and landscapes of other planets including Alexandria nestled in its valley with a ship landing on the pad. Ungar fell back into the chair, and rasped “Maybe perhaps a brandy would be good right now if you have any.” Ben walking to the galley said, “Yes we have some excellent brandy” as he pulled a full glass from the replicator and handed it to him. Ungar took a huge swallow from the glass, and asked, “Where are you from?” Ben pointed at the wall vid showing images of Alexandria. Changing scenes included the hanger with dozens of ships lined up disappearing off into the distance. Ungar blanched and quickly took another big gulp of the brandy and froze in place as Celeste walked into the salon wearing her ship's suit with the same long blonde hair she wore during the encounter.

Ben stood, “I'd like to introduce you to my partner Celeste. She is the captain of the ship.” Ungar tried to stand, but couldn't, and wasn't able to speak at all. “Please be at ease Ungar,”  said Celeste. Ungar blurted, “But your hair,” and stopped. Celeste smiled back at him. “Do you like it?” Ungar seemed startled by the question and said, “The Oneness forbids women to have long hair.” Ben interjected, “How do you know the Oneness doesn't like long hair on women?” “The Elders interpret the sacred book for us, that is how they serve the Oneness,” said Ungar. “Have you ever seen this book?” Ungar by rote answered “No it is forbidden to touch or even see the book. It never leaves the sacred chamber near the top of the cathedral. Only the Senior Elder may touch it.”

“Do you believe in the Oneness?” asked Ben. Unger said in a near whisper, “The punishment for those who do not believe is always death. I must have faith in the Oneness.” Ben digested Ungar's comments and asked, “What will happen to you if we send you back to your carriage right now with nothing in your hands to show for your trip.” Ungar started to shake and couldn't answer. “You will likely be executed. Am I right?” Ungar nodded his head up and down. Celeste leaned forward and said, "We can help you if you wish.” Ungar almost in tears quavered, “You can't. The Elders are powerful. Their security forces are trained from childhood to be loyal only to them.”

Celeste said, “We are far more powerful than the Elders, let me show you.” The universe appeared around Ungar. Ungar gawked twisting his head in all directions, then promptly fainted. The ship returned to normal and Ben winked and murmured, “I think we got his attention. I'll refill his brandy, and we will talk with him again.”

Ungar came to with a start, looked around and with shaking hands accepted the brandy “We have an idea for you to consider.” said Ben showing Ungar the stunner. “You point this at someone, pull the trigger, and they will be completely immobilized for about ten minutes. We're sure the Elder's security people will like this gadget. Take it back with you and tell the Elder there are many of these and other things far more powerful you can trade goods for. Tell the Senior Elder that we will only accept you as their emissary and you must come alone. We know the Elder's men are hiding in the woods. They are of no consequence to us. You have a better chance of living helping us. I will walk you to the ramp, and we look forward to your next visit. Don't tell anyone about what you saw.” Ben let Ungar have another big swallow of brandy and then led him to the ramp. Surrounded by an oily black fog the carriage disappeared.