tagSci-Fi & FantasyOffspring Ch. 040

Offspring Ch. 040

byTalemaster©

Talla was flying the Pygmalion under Juan's watchful eye. She was doing alright. Juan did not have to interfere. When we were about two hours out of Okton4 Juan took over. He was going to land her himself.

While we were in space I had briefed Trevor on the whole operation. I had shown him the footage we had prepared for Niels and explained how I was going to take over the shuttles.

"The space torpedos are insurance against something they might still have up their sleeves." I concluded. "This is still very tentative, Let's see what Niels has to offer by way of intelligence before we draw up final plans."

"My men and I will follow wherever it might lead. You can rely on us."

An hour before landing I addressed everyone on the bridge.

"This time we'll arrive low key. No uniforms. Civilian clothes everyone. I have arranged with General Nakov a berth in the Federation area. They'll look after the Pygmalion like the last time, so we can all go straight to the hotel. Al, you'll arrange a meeting with your brother. Feng and Juan, you'll arrange the loading of our supplies. Trevor, you have your orders, report to me when you have some firm arrangements in place. Doctor Finn you come with me. We'll go and see General Nakov as soon as you have your gear stowed in your room. Talla, keep Niphi company until I return. Notify the Tai-pan that we are in town and that I will talk to him later tonight. That is all."

Quarantine was a breeze. The Pygmalion had been very thoroughly examined on Earth and nothing suspicious had been found. In addition we had submitted the results of our own tests on Olympus. As a consequence Olympus had been declared a low risk world. They took some air samples and some swabs of the hull and some internal fixtures, an hour later we were cleared to disembark. I paid the meteorologist and the chemist, they couldn't get away quickly enough. I suspected both would have very sore rear ends within hours. Each to his own.

I had expected Nakov to baulk at my request to allow Dr. Finn access to the Oktonian cadavers so I was surprised when Nakov gave Dr. Finn an ID card and asked Arden to introduce him to Dr. Patel.

When we were alone in his office he said: "I was initially annoyed at your request. You know the Oktonians only allow authorised people to go near their dead. I had no idea how to approach them about this. Then I noticed you had sent a copy of your request to their headquarters. An hour after receiving your letter I had a phone call from their top man, a certain Fred Lang. He told me that they are pleased you go to so much trouble to make sure their people are well looked after. He confirmed the authorisation in writing. I had never seen them so accommodating. You seem to have a good hand with them. Relations between us and the Oktonians have never been better. We're almost on friendly terms now. I don't know how you do it."

"Look Ivan, I want to tell you something. It might come in very handy down the track, but only if you don't tell anyone about it. If it gets around it's not worth a pinch of shit."

"You've made me curious, you have my word. I'll keep it to myself."

"Alfred Dalrymple's real name is Olaf Harkon, the man you know as Fred Lang is Niels Harkon. The two are brothers and very close."

"Now that is handy to know. It makes Al Dalrymple a direct, informal communication line to the top of the tree. Thanks very much. I owe you one."

Nakov went to his fridge and came back with two cans of beer.

"How is it, Frank, half the time when we have a talk I wind up breaching regulations?"

"Because you are as big a pisspot as I am?"

"There is that," said Nakov and laughed.

***

When I got back to the hotel I ran into Feng. I asked him into my office.

"Tell me, Feng, where can I buy a million credits worth of gold under the counter?"

"It'll cost you some in bribes and fees. Ask Mr. Wong, your friendly and very accommodating bank manager. He'll fix it up for you."

"Is he safe to deal with? If this thing blows up the shit will hit the fan in a very big way."

"Look, Frank. Either tell me or don't tell me what this is all about. It'll be cool with me either way. Just don't fucking cock tease me."

"Sorry, Feng. I was going to tell you anyway. I'm just a bit jumpy about it right now."

"What are you trying to buy with a mil in black market gold?"

"Ten medium range space torpedoes."

"Here on Okton4?"

"Yes."

"Trevor is getting them for you?"

"Yes."

"It'll have to be Federation gear, they are the only ones who have shit like this in this neck of the woods."

"That's what I reckon."

"Then you're fairly safe."

"How do you make this out?"

"Only top brass can do a deal like that and get away with it. It's called the executive pension plan. Ordnance is there to be blown up. In battle, on fleet exercises, on expiration of use-by date. One little bang and millions of credits are gone. After the event it's only the paperwork that tells the tale.

"Get the idea? Doctor the paperwork and you have millions in assets which don't officially exist any more. Sell the shit and you're rich and not dependent on a Federation pension, which isn't all that generous, even for senior officers they tell me. The trouble with that system is they have to find a buyer, not an easy thing to do in this shitheap of a spaceport.

"You turn up with a shitload of gold. The ordnance goes to an area outside Federation jurisdiction. That's as sweet a deal as they are ever likely to get. They'll pull out all the stops to make sure nothing goes wrong."

"What if they just take the money and tell us to fuck off?"

"Sometimes you're really thick. Bear in mind the torpedoes cost them nothing. Now, along comes a guy who is paying big money for them. Whoever it is is not going to decorate his garden with it. He's going to use it. After ten bangs he'll need some more. Would you fuck up what could easily turn into a long term arrangement over one lousy mil when you got the shit for nothing? They'll want happy customers who'll come back for more, not people who'll bear a grudge and are likely to do something that gets the whole scam undone."

"So what do we do?"

"We'll wait until Trevor gets back. He'll know when and where we have to deliver the gold. In the morning you and I go to the bank and get the gold on standby ... and now we better get Talla and go to the bar. Uncle will join us in an hour or so."

"You want to take Talla?"

"Yes, Uncle asked for her to be present. He could scarcely believe it when I told him Talla had flown the Pygmalion. He is very excited about the possibilities this opens up."

Uncle was at his jovial best when we met up. After we had exchanged pleasantries he told Feng and me he wanted to talk to Talla on her own for a while. Feng and I went to the other end of the bar and left them to it. Uncle joined us an hour later, he was on his own.

"I said before that I believed you had a better insight into these people than anyone I've ever met, Frank," he said. "I no longer need to believe that. I know now you've been right all along. Tell me, how do you see the role of the Angels in our venture?"

"Sooner or later we will have to set up some form of government on Olympus. I want the Angels to be full and equal partners in the running of the planet."

"I am not adverse to that idea. Nevertheless, I would like to hear your reasons for such an arrangement. You evidently have thought about this a great deal."

"Apart from being much smarter than people give them credit for, the Angels have two qualities that make them unique as a race. Qualities that are highly prized, but thin on the ground normally. I am talking about their legendary honesty and loyalty. This is the stuff empires are built on. A state who can rely on the honesty and loyalty of its citizens can do anything."

"Do you have a specific form of government in mind?"

"Yes. I want to set up a constitutional monarchy."

"With you as king, I suppose."

"No, my role lies elsewhere. I can think of only one man who has the qualities and experience demanded by such a position. 'King Chang the First of Olympus' has a rather nice ring to it, don't you think?"

"Are you nuts, Frank? I can't be a king."

"My dear uncle, you already are. What is a Tai-pan other than a king? You are the undisputed leader of a large, successful organisation, you have ruled for many years with foresight and compassion, you have the loyalty of your staff. What more do you need to be a king?"

"We have to talk about this some more, but not tonight. For now lets enjoy a few drinks and sleep on it."

***

By morning I still hadn't seen Trevor. In spite of this Feng and I went to the bank to make sure the gold was on standby. It was a real eye opener for me. Mr Wong asked us into his office and after a cordial greeting Feng came straight to the point.

"Mr. Wong," he said, "we need a million credits worth of untraceable gold to be used as payment to corrupt Federation officers."

"It will cost you an additional twelve percent in fees and bribes. This covers everything, including the handing over of the gold. Let me explain to you the procedure we use in such cases:

"You will withdraw the entire amount including fees in cash. That is where the official involvement of the bank ends. How you explain the withdrawal in your own accounting is your business.

"Next you will put the cash into one of our deposit boxes. This box is officially empty. I will give you a key and a security card that allows access to the box. My people will exchange the cash for the required amount in ten ounce gold bars.

"When you meet your business partners you will hand over the security card. This allows them to verify with me the contents of the box. Upon completion of the deal you will hand over the key and that ends your involvement."

"How can I be sure that the money goes to the right people?" I asked. "I take it anyone who possesses both card and key has access to the gold. What is to stop some underling from ripping his bosses off?"

"A transaction this size can only be done by one of two people in the Federation. Both are known to me. Anyone else would not be able to collect and would be in deep shit for even trying, as the colloquial saying goes."

We did what we were asked to do.

"I couldn't believe my ears when you told Wong what we were doing," I said to Feng when we were having a beer in one of the bars down town.

"Within the framework of what they do, Wong and the people he deals with are honourable gentlemen. They require two things, scrupulous honesty and secrecy. They must know exactly what they are involving themselves in. Once they agree to a deal they'll stick to it to the letter. The system wouldn't work otherwise."

"What happens if someone talks or tries to get the better of them."

"Believe me, my dear cousin, you really don't want to know."

***

Al and Talla were having lunch when we got back to the hotel. We joined them.

"I went to see my brother earlier today" said Al. "I didn't tell him much. I would rather leave that up to you, Frank. I did tell him about Talla and how she piloted the Pygmalion. I don't think he can get his head around that at the moment. He seems to think you deceived me into believing she really piloted the craft. At any rate, he wants to meet you as soon as possible."

"I know it's short notice. Can you ask your brother if he can see me in my office at four in the afternoon for a briefing and have dinner with us afterwards? If he can't make it get him to suggest a suitable time."

"Give me a moment. Let me make a telephone call."

Al left the table and returned after five minutes.

"All set," he said. "He'll be there."

We left for my office a short time later, Al stayed behind. While we were waiting for Niels to turn up Trevor popped in to inform us that the deal was set. I explained the procedure to him regards the gold and handed him the security card. I kept the key for the time being. He said he would keep me informed and went to make arrangements.

Niels was punctual. I introduced him to Talla, Feng and Juan.

"Before we get into any discussion, Niels, I want you to see a presentation I have prepared for this occasion. After that we all know what we are talking about."

Without waiting for an answer I rolled the footage. I could tell Niels was stunned by what he saw. When it was over his face was ashen and his hands shook. I poured him a large Cognac and urged him to drink it.

"Before we go anywhere," he said after he regained control of himself, "I need to know who on the mainland is helping you. How many of my people know of this?"

"No one over there does. Your people know nothing of this, not one of them helped me."

"I find that difficult to accept."

"Tell me, Niels, which one of your people could have told me where the shuttles are kept and taken me there?"

"There is no one. But how? Where did you get all this stuff? It seems you can come and go whenever you please."

"That is true, Niels. I can move around on Okton4 at will. The best part of it is that apart from my little group of insiders and now you and your brother no one else knows about it. I could get rid of the Torgons right now. If I showed the Federation what I've just shown you the Torgons would be a little footnote in the history books and this entire sector would become part of the Federation in less than a week. For Talla's people and for you and your mob that would probably be a worse fate than living under the Torgons. I will not let this happen."

"What are your plans then?"

"Within the next few months I will bring the Torgons to heel, man the big ships with Talla's people and keep the bluff that is keeping the Federation out of this sector going. This way we can build a worthwhile society free of Torgon and Federation tyranny. For this I need your help."

"What can I do?"

"I need to know more about the Torgons. What kind of creatures they are, their true state of affairs, how many of them we have to contend with, that sort of thing. Your library is remarkably quiet on the subject, we don't even know what they look like."

"Before they died out they obliterated all references to themselves from our records. You won't find anything there. I have a lot of intelligence that would be useful to you. The question is ... do I want to put the fate of my people in your hands?"

"What choice do you have? You have no allies. The Torgons are rapidly approaching a situation where they have to act, regardless of consequences. We all know what will happen when they find out that there is no virus any more. I am the only chance you have."

"But you have only a handful of people."

"I have a whole nation backing me. Talla's people will be solidly behind me. I have the word of their Goddess."

"Don't make me laugh. What can the Faeries do?"

"Ask Juan, he taught Talla to fly a spaceship. Ask Trevor, he trained Talla to be a soldier. You know nothing of what these people are capable of. Talk to your brother. He knows. He trained with Talla.

"I know you have a lot of responsibility. You need time to think. Let's go and have something to eat. Maybe a few drinks afterwards. We'll meet tomorrow or the day after and talk again. It'll give you a chance to digest what you've learned."

***

The next week was busy. Trevor's arrangements were coming to a close. The weapons were on board of the Pygmalion and I handed the key that would give access to the gold to Trevor who would pass it on after he was sure everything had been supplied as agreed. Dr. Finn was happy with the training he had received from Dr. Patel and Dr. Schaeffer. Talla had recruited twenty Angels who would come with us to Olympus. She had done well. Amongst her people were two Oktonian healers who were what we might call herbalists and who could also set broken bones. Dr Finn was delighted. They would find a place in his clinic. She had also recruited the Oktonian liaison officer from the hotel. I was happy with that, she had shown herself to be a cut above the rest in my dealings with her.

The Tai-pan was getting used to the idea to be our future king. I had a sneaking suspicion he was actually looking forward to it. Niels had brought four of his senior staff and asked for a briefing. I showed them the footage I had shown to Niels. They were nowhere near as surprised as Niels had been, evidently they had been briefed on what to expect and simply wanted to see for themselves what we had. In essence they agreed with my plan to take over, but they were more than a little concerned with my gung ho approach to the problem. I explained to them my plan of making my attack look like a raid by space pirates.

"They'll leave you and your people alone. You have nothing to do with it, they think you are helping them. Besides, pirates only steal, they don't invade. They might not even bother to attack us, if they have anything to attack us with left. Once we have the shuttles under control we have more than enough fire power to bring them to heel if we can't get them to see reason."

"They might fall for your bluff," said Niels. "It's one hell of a gamble though. If they do mount an attack, however small, you'll be a dead duck with your four unarmed cruisers."

"Who says they are unarmed?"

"Look Frank, I know the history of those cruisers. The Federation would have never sold them to you if there was even a smidgeon of ordnance left on them. They are much too paranoid to let something like this happen."

"True. On the other hand I have an awful lot of money. You'd be surprised how much military hardware you can buy on the black market if you have a hundred million credits in your kitty. Also, the shields on those ships are purely defensive, that's why they were never dismantled. I had my engineers check them and do needed repairs where necessary. They are fully functional. Believe me, they can take one hell of a pounding."

"Now that changes the equation quite a bit in our favour. I'll talk it over with my top people. I'll let you know what we've decided before you leave for Olympus."

We left it at that. I took Niels and his people to have a meal and a few drinks. When they departed I had the distinct impression they would support us in our venture.

I was ready to go to my room when Trevor turned up. He reported that everything had gone well. Our trading partners were happy with the way things had worked out and told him we would be welcome if we decided we needed more. We had a couple more drinks.

"I need to ask a favour," said Trevor after the first drink.

"Alright, out with it."

"As you know when I joined the expedition I had four of my soldiers with me. I wasn't very keen on this deal, but you had asked for only five men and you don't say no to the Tai-pan, so we went. My full platoon is fifteen men, including me. I had to leave ten of my soldiers behind, very reluctantly I might add. They are currently working as security guards and are very unhappy about it. To make a long story short I have talked to them and told them a bit about Olympus. They understand that at the moment my men work on the farm and do a bit of soldiering on the side. To a man they decided they would like to join if it was at all possible. They are good men, Frank. I'd love to have them back."

"Go for it, Trevor. Your recommendation is good enough for me. Pay and conditions the same as your other men. Arrange for some uniforms. We'll leave day after tomorrow. Book rooms in the hotel until then, if necessary."

"The uniforms are already on the Pygmalion," said Trevor with a grin. "I knew you'd say yes."

***

Niels and Al had called early and asked for a conference. I invited them to join me for breakfast.

As expected they told me that they had decided to join the alliance. Niels handed me a memory module.

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