1 The Chronicles of the Samuel Hain 5th Series Parasite
There it was, the Thief’s Tongue, a gleaming obelisk floating in a vast debris field. Such an architectural marvel, floating amid such waste! How backward – how utterly barbaric. We were never a force in this part of the galaxy; only a few saw the opportunities here. But, if we did decide to organize and rebuild this lonely sector of space, all would benefit tremendously from the Khemthemthem way of life. “It reminds me of ‘The Building’ back on my home world.” Kervan remarked. “You must have a very beautiful home.” Daphne put her hand against the large window of the Star Drifter. “Well, ‘The Building’ is beautiful, the surrounding area isn’t.” Givan added. “I’m not sure I follow you.” Allan turned to the Borgan duo. “On Kaymar, ‘The Building’ is the only beautiful thing. Everything around it is wasteland.” “That’s awful!” Allan was thoroughly disgusted. “Why did you let your planet fall into such ruin?” “It’s not ruined. It’s the natural order of things. Our economy ensures that only the strongest survive.” Kervan defended his culture with a blithe attitude. The Borgan were the stupidest race we ever tried to fix. Despite numerous raids and trade wars, they persisted in their primitive ways. Almost all of the races we improved saw the benefits of Khemthemthem philosophy – that conflict makes you stronger. But the Borgan resisted us on the ground, in the stock exchange, and in the heart. That’s why they were proud of their 80% unemployment rate. “And what does survival entail?” Allan continued his challenge.
“Working, hustling, getting to the top; doing whatever it takes to beat the competition.” Givan sadly conceded. “And once you make it to the top?” Daphne wondered. “You work until you die – or you’re fired.” Kervan asserted. “That’s no way to live.” Allan spat out. “You’re right. That’s why so many commit suicide on Kaymar. They even have a spot on the top of ‘The Building’ called ‘Loser’s Leap’. It’s an awful place.” Givan quietly explained. “C’mon,” Kervan chided his compatriot, “The suicide rate is only 67%. That’s a lot lower than it used to be.” “Only 67%?! That’s horrible!” Allan was getting more worked up than a bot should be. “It used to be 78%. Some days, so many people jumped off the ‘The Building’ we would say it was ‘raining losers’.” Kervan chuckled. “Urkhum, what do you think?” Daphne turned to me. Slowly, gently, I reached out to the little blue machine, my light drawing her to me. After a few moments, I released her, letting the shadows once again claim her frail body. Daphne summarized my position perfectly: “Urkhum thinks the Borgan have much potential, but lack the will to become a great society. And he also thinks we won’t get a deal from the obelisk.” “No deal.” Dip-Dip announced as he entered the room. How predictable! The Goothalk were always scheming; they always wanted to win. They perverted our philosophy and called it ‘the new economy’. We tried the ‘new economy’, the ‘revolutionary economy’, the ‘renaissance economy’ and a dozen others before they took their first step into space. It was all a waste of time and profit. “You don’t know how to make a deal.” Thamphor grumbled. I hate Nethasians. They take, take, and take. “Now what?” Daphne was worried. “We’ll have to improvise with some of the debris floating out there.” Manfred brought up a map. I liked him; he knew how to make things work. He would make an excellent addition to our trade networks. “Is that really possible?” Allan studied the map. Ha, ha! Good little bot! All of his spunk and brains would make him an excellent customer.
“It’s worth a shot. A lot of the stuff out there is pretty alien, but then again, we’re surrounded by aliens. I think we can all put our heads together and figure out a way.” Manfred’s confidence was refreshing.
After several weeks of drifting along with no engines, Manfred’s confidence proved to be premature. Not even Renata could find a solution; the half-bot just didn’t have the knowledge. I watched her as she re-arranged parts on the fighter bay floor. I noticed a patch of green slime. I was about to touch it when Renata stopped me. “No! Don’t touch that please. Just leave them alone.” I had never seen her so – emotional – before. Was there something in that steel frame that was genuinely organic? “Still no luck Renata?” Manfred entered the scene from the left. The Kithu Cyborg was following close behind. “No. I am unable to integrate these parts into the structure of the Samuel Hain.” Renata was back to her flat, emotionless state. The cyborg walked up to the jumbled pile of space junk and stopped. “These
not compatible with our ship. I’m sorry.”
We would have to scrounge, explore, negotiate, – or maybe steal. We were now totally dependent on whatever trade routes lay before us. Perhaps this was an opportunity to do things the Khemthemthem way. I returned to my quarters. My fellow Khemthemthem, Tyricorg and Denshyk, were teaching the Av-Gelshek to trade. It seemed like an impossible task, but they were the most determined traders I had ever seen. They were so intent upon their task that they didn’t even notice me. I touched them with my trunk and we formed a circle. We met in the light. “The parts are useless to us.” I began. “But perhaps they are of value to someone else out there.” Tyricorg speculated. “Is there any way to identify the parts? We cannot set a proper value upon mystery goods.” Denshyk brought up a diagram of the largest part. “I’m sure there is a way, in time, to know the full value of what we have.” I assured him. “But first, we must secure the objects. We must be mentors and leaders – now more than ever. If we set a good example, the others will see how valuable our methods are.” “Then we can call the shots, instead of the green slimy ones.” Denshyk smiled. “And that would be good for everyone on board.” Tyricorg pointed out.
I woke up the next morning with a sound agenda for the day. My trunk swayed easily from side to side and there was a spring in my step. I checked on our newly acquired treasures and recorded their color, weight, composition, and condition. I took extensive scans of the debris and noted any serial numbers I found – just in case someone was looking for them. I then started my rounds, making sure the rest of the Samuel Hain was in the best condition it could be in; after all, you never know what can be traded. It was when the Nethasian General and his subordinate ran past me that I began to worry. I made my way to the bridge, passing by several excited crew mates. The atmosphere on the bridge was one of genuine hope and anticipation. Before us, a worm was slowly wriggling in the starry expanse - it had to be three times the size of our ship. Its body was dark brown; a multitude of colorful, feathery fins ran along its sides. The top and bottom of the creature were bare and smooth. “Such a beautiful thing, so sleek, so fragile.” Shevu gasped. “Will it hurt?” Daphne asked. “Skin thick. No hurt.” Dip-Dip curtly replied. “Even I have to admit love, this is the only way. We will release the creature once we’ve fully repaired the engines?” Allan walked up to Dip-Dip. “Yes. Out of the way!” The slimy one waved him off. Thamphor’s harsh voice crackled through the speaker overhead. “The cables and harpoons are ready. Just a few more miles and we’ll be riding a worm.” I watched the four fighters race toward the unsuspecting worm. The Nethasian and Borgan brutes were excited and hungry. How stupid! Always charging into life; never asking who owns what or what the value of your catch is. Never once considering your bargaining position relative to the Universe. No one knew if anyone owned that worm, or if it even had special meaning to someone out there in the vast reaches of space. The others were thinking like parasites instead of businessmen. The harpoons hit their mark; I could hear the cables reeling out from the ship. There was a sharp “clang!” which reminded me of the giant gongs on Turshur Minor. We were yanked forward suddenly, and then everything became quiet. “Now – hurt.” Dip-Dip pushed a virtual button on the holo-display in front of us. We watched as the electrical charge raced down the cables. A low groan rang in my head and the ship surged forward. “Did you hear that?” Shevu looked about in wonder. “Was that the worm?”
“Yes, yes! It was only in my mind though – it had to be – there’s no sound in space.” Graxiella whispered. Humph! She was a three-legged voodoo Japhirdan pretending to be a doctor. I was getting sick of their lies about how great their culture was. “Dip-Dip, you promised!” Daphne turned to him. “Pain minimal. Will release soon.” Dip-Dip would not look at her. “How soon?” Allan looked at the worm outside. “Fix ship. Then we deal.” The slimy one walked off the bridge.
© 2013 Benjamin F. Kaye