Guild Of Vagabonds - Book One Of The Space Vagabonds [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Sam Andebonn
eBook Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy
eBook Description: The Galaxy is in peril, but the only people who can save it are a human bureaucrat and a scruffy alien tramp.
Ambassador Hugo Halespear escapes the capture of the ruthless genetically engineered whelves of the Andromeda Galaxy only to find himself thousands of light years from home and caught up in the dubious activities of a band of intergalactic vagabonds. Jasky's renegade forces are the only thing standing between the Andromedan invaders and the Galaxy, but with their old leader dead and Jasky left as the unwilling leader by default, will Jasky and Hugo be able to unite and rally a guild of vagabonds before it's too late?
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, Published: Double Dragon Publishing, 2012
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2012
The Spican Incident
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1 Reader Ratings:
Hugo Halespear raised his head from the clutter of his office desk at the sound of the door opening. The Regulan ambassador's six-foot, pillar-shaped silhouette stood in the doorway beyond the pool of light cast by Hugo's work lamp.
"Ah, Moray. How's it going?"
"I've brought you your meal." The Regulan leaned his broad head with its three-foot elliptical horns slightly to one side.
"Great! Main light on." Hugo pushed back his chair and stepped over to the blue-skinned creature the light revealed. Moray proffered a tray with his upper pair of arms.
"Oh, no, Moray, you've got it all wrong! Look, fish and chips are meant to be served in newspaper! It's traditional Solan cuisine."
Moray's oblique-set, triangular eyes narrowed slightly: an expression of puzzlement. "In a paper made from pulped cellulose wood, marked with ink?"
"Yes, that's it. Why else do you think hard copy tabloids still outsell their electronic counterparts back in the Solar system?" Hugo frowned. "Although I suppose that could be more to do with what's on page three."
"But wouldn't the lipids present in the food dissolve the organic component of the ink?"
"Ya. Gives it a really unique flavor."
"Sorry, Hugo. I'll go and look for a newspaper."
"Its okay, Moray, I'm just kidding." Hugo took the tray. "Ey, what happened to the fish?"
Moray twisted the colored fingers on all six hands. It was like watching sea-anemones arm wrestling. "I'll go back for it." Hugo watched as the Regulan dropped down onto all eights and rippled off down the corridor like a centipede. Despite their disparate appearance, Solan humans and the meek Regulans had a fair bit in common. Both were carbon based and had iron-containing blood, and technically both were mammals. More importantly, Regulans also became inebriated upon consuming solutions of ethanol, which made them the ultimate as far as getting along was concerned.
Leaving the door open, Hugo put a chip in his mouth and gazed thoughtfully at the wall-mounted holograph of his home world. The main continent was just visible on the horizon as a cluttered sprawl of grey and green, an indistinct smudge on the face of forty-third-century Earth.
Swirls of cloud shrouded the deep blue of the ocean, yet still the world glowed like a gem in the starry darkness. A few shuttlecraft trawled up through the stratosphere, propelled by jets of flame. A dark hulk lurked over to the Eastern horizon -- a powership, dropping into orbit at the end of its return voyage from Mercury or, as it was more commonly referred to these days, Electrical World. The ship was dark with space dust, an old subphotonic freighter with great nuclear reactors bulking under the cargo hold and the minute living quarters perched at the prow. That sort dated right back to 3400, when Mercury had been orbitally adjusted into tidal lock around Sol, the core mined out and filled with capacitor banks, and the sunward hemisphere covered with solar panels.
Somewhere over to his left lay the half-Moon, its terraformed appearance similar to Earth's, with its deep blue surface water and wispy clouds, while a screen on the opposite wall showed the glittering river of stars that was the Galactic center.
The intercom by Hugo's desk beeped and flashed, drawing his attention away from the simulations. Hugo switched it on and the beige-furred, whiskery, otter-like face of the Fomalhautian Communications' Supervisor flickered onscreen.
"Solan Ambassador Hugo Halespear? There's a tachyon call from Sol. I'm just re-routing it."
"Okay," confirmed Hugo. He had little doubt over who was calling him.
"Hello Myrtle," Hugo greeted the face of a slightly overweight woman, unusually pale for a Solan human.
"Dr Buzzard, chairwoman of the Solan Interplanetary Relations Committee, Halespear," Buzzard reminded him.
"Ah. Not Myrtle Buzzard, to whom I prostrated myself across the pool table and proclaimed my undying love on last year's Christmas bash, or the very same Myrtle Buzzard who the year before threw me into that canal round the back of the Bombay Duck on Mars for calling her a fat cow with a sad obsession for the color turquoise, on account of her knocking my pint into the crotch of a nearby Adharan?" Hugo stuffed food into his mouth.
"Let's keep this professional, shall we?" Buzzard pushed her IR-UV bifocals up her nose with a hint of irritation.
"Nor the Myrtle Buzzard I sat atop the State Tower with, eating Garibaldi biscuits on one fine summer's afternoon when we were supposed to be in congress?"
"Halespear, stop wasting my time. I shall be candid, if I may. Where is your report?"
Myrtle Buzzard's face struggled to suppress a scowl. "Yes, your wretched report on the viability of Capellans as members of the Union of Allied Galaxies. The one which should have been ready way in advance of tomorrow's conference on the Spican settlement."
"Uh, the Capellan Ambassador's here?"
"Should have been for some days."
"I wasn't informed," Hugo lied. "I'll get onto it immediately."
"You'd better. I'll expect it tomorrow morning, 9AM Solar time sharp. That is all, Halespear."
"Bye," said Hugo, switching off the console. He glanced at his wrist-computer. He supposed he would have to go down and see the Capellan Ambassador now if he wanted any peace today. He wrote Moray a note on a magnetic writing slate and stuck it on the door to his office before heading off.
"Halespear," a passing Regulan called out. "Where's the Solan quota's list for the Spican terraforming project?"
"I'll do it in a minute," Hugo waved a dismissive hand at the Regulan. The Three Races of the Orion arm -- the Regulans, Fomalhautians, and his people, the Solans -- had begun the Spica Seven terraforming shortly after their successful terraforming of Achernar Five. The latter new colony was becoming very lucrative in its position as a neutral meeting place for the races of Aurphrochokia*, and the Three Races were eager to duplicate it.
[*AURPHROCHOKIA: the name the rest of the Universe calls the galaxy in which can be found the star Sol and its planet Earth, alias the 'Milky Way'. A general Union of Allied Galaxies law states that the inhabitants of a galaxy can call the galaxy and everything in it what they want, providing the major systems in that galaxy agree. Anyway, the major civilisations of Aurphrochokia met up: the Regulans, the Solans, the Fomalhautians from the Orion arm, and the Maldorians from the star Maldor of the Cygnus arm, the Cannans from the Canna four-star system in the Perseus arm, the Bazans whose star was in a remote place between the Centaurus and Sagittarius arms, and the Hyolarthians whose star system was quite close to the center. The suggestions put forward were as follows: Sol: Milky Way. Regulus: Stellar Vortex. Fomalhaut: Aurphrochokia. Maldor: Galaxy number Two (as extrapolated from a numbering system based on galactic mass). Canna: Spiral Galaxy in Which Canna is Located. Baz: BRSCHFM, which was made up from an acronym of all the major civilisations and came to be pronounced Barschafam, and lastly Hyolarth wanted to call it Hyolarthia after its star.
Maldor was rejected for the simple reason it was mundane and not artistic enough (as somebody said, even the fiths could have come up with something better) as were Canna and Regulus. Baz was rejected because it was thought that new civilizations joining the Union would feel left out, and although Barschafam was quite catchy. Hyolarth and Canna failed for being conceited.
Thus the contest was narrowed down to Fomalhaut's suggestion against Sol's. The Fomalhautians argued that 'way' sounded too much like some sort of road or path, and that it might encourage people to fly irresponsibly in the spatial area. When the translation of the first word become common knowledge and the peoples of the Allied Galaxies learned that 'milk' was the name for something lactated by mammals, there was a galactic uproar over how revolting it was. The Union of Allied Galaxies ruled against it and passed a new law that objects of astrogeological significance were not to be named after bodily fluids. So the official name, upheld by all but bitter old Solans who like to maintain that the universe was a better place when their species was assumed to be alone in it, is the Aurphrochokia Galaxy, Aurphrochokia being a Fomalhautian term meaning 'Drunken Gas Spider'.]
Hugo reached the visitors' lounge. Inside, a wide viewport looked out onto O-type Spica's blue-hot glare, mitigated to safe levels by the photosensitive glass. The bright orb of its seventh world lay to the right of the sun, and Hugo fancied it shone bluer since the first-stage terraforming microbes had been put to work there, breaking down soil compounds to release carbon dioxide gas into its sparse atmosphere. The next phase was now underway: stage-two phytomicrobes converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. After that came the plants, then the plate tectonics would be set up to prevent volcanic activity, and the atmosphere staffed by weather control robots, ensuring that it rained by night and was warm and windless during the day. After that the animals and first people would be introduced.
The seating covered the curved outskirts of the room, a console table standing at the center. On the far seat sat a Tau Cetan, accompanying the unknown alien the Solan Committee wanted to know about.
"Excuse me? You're the Capellan Ambassador?" Hugo asked the unknown.
The creature looked up with great bulbous eyes forward-set on either side of a colorful, striped, beak-like excrescence. Erect purple and green plumes sprouted from its head and formed a fan-like tail flattened up against the back of the seat. The body was bipedal and clothed in a dark blue robe, but the forearms and face showed themselves to be covered in a dull green-brown fur.
Hugo had read up on the Capellan natives the previous night. He had committed this creature, the Capellan ziniopha, to memory due more to its outlandish biology than its society or technical development. It seemed these creatures multiplied by virtue of spores in the ground, which sprouted natal shoots to provide energy via photosynthesis to nurture the developing ziniopha in a subterranean amniotic sac. When it emerged, the young would call out in a far-carrying voice, and a nearby nomadic tribe would adopt it. A most peculiar way of enriching the genetic pool, and one which defied classification under the standard Solan plant and animal kingdoms.
The ziniopha spoke in a fluting, chattering voice composed largely of complex squeaks and whistles through its beaklike nasal structure. Hugo could discern no likeness to vowels or consonants. It struck him as unlikely that this creature was physically capable of pronouncing standard languages in common use by the Union of Allied Galaxies such as SoloRegulan pidgin or Magellanicean.
The Tau Cetan, a creature of pure white fur with a round, moonlike face spoke up. "This is the Capellan Ambassador. I shall translate her speech for you." Portable, computerized translators were available cheaply, but evidently they hadn't been programmed for Capellan yet.
"I am the Solan Ambassador, Hugo Halespear. My people send good tidings to yours." Hugo held out his hand and waited while the Tau Cetan converted his comments into squeakings. The ziniopha looked at him. It was hard to read expressions from those bulging eyes and unyielding mouth. Hugo picked up her right hand and shook it in the traditional Solan greeting. Her four-fingered hands were of childlike proportion in his. Both creatures were about four feet high.
"Her kind do not have names, as such," the Tau Cetan informed him.
Hugo pulled up a chair and sat opposite the ziniopha. "So, your species has been recommended for incorporation into the Union?" He immediately cursed himself for it -- that was a poor start. The Capellan Ambassador was probably terrified by the thought of being judged by what must seem an imposing and rather intimidating conglomeration of powerful and advanced aliens. Hugo discreetly pressed the record key on his wrist-computer.
More alien rattling. "I understand you come from the system of a yellow star much like ours, and that your species, also, evolved on a third world," translated the Tau Cetan.
"G-type main sequence is a common sort of star, and favorable to intelligent life," remarked Hugo.
"The Magellanicean fiths are from a B-type. We always learned that wasn't possible within a star's lifetime. Will fiths be at the conference?"
"I couldn't say," Hugo replied. "It's thought the fiths evolved somewhere else and ended up in the Wenterth system by some other means. To speak the truth, there haven't been many fiths in the Aurphrochokia Galaxy since the Magraph incident and the subsequent Triangulan Wars. I trust you know about the Andromedans and their whelf species?"
The Tau Cetan did its best to translate this. It appeared there was no word for 'whelf' in Capellan.
"It seems they're a war waiting to happen." Hugo pulled a loose string from the edge of his tunic. "On the 25th myrr of the second haaude of the hidziyl 60700, the Magraph fleet, about 256 battleships under construction by the fiths' Magellanicean Shipbuilding Guild, was stolen by the end-products of the Andromedan genetic engineering project WHELF. The Andromedans then invaded the Triangulum Galaxy, using the Magraph fleet which they had renamed the Krideros fleet."
Hugo waited for the translation to be formatted via their Tau Cetan intermediate.
"I think I understand," the Tau Cetan eventually translated back. "The Andromedans...what are they?"
"The Andromedan aucanauths genetically engineered a thing..."
"Things, called whelves. It's a species. What they called their Ultimate Life Form. They're weird-looking things, aucanauths, not very strong, so they tried to improve upon nature."
"And they captured a fleet and invaded Triangulum with it, and now they're going to invade the Aurphrochokia Galaxy?"
"Invade here?" Hugo laughed. "This is Aurphrochokia. The Triangulum Galaxy was just a backwater. None of the species there had developed even basic technology like light-speed travel."
Hugo pulled another thread out of his tunic. He hadn't heard any more about the whole incident for some time now. The fiths had ordered the Andromedans to destroy their new species and return the stolen fleet. They hadn't done it, of course. Considering the Magellanicean fiths were generally thought to be the most technologically advanced race in the Local Cluster, they had a terrible propensity for making threats and sitting about vacillating, rather than getting on and doing things.
The ziniopha nodded vigorously at the Tau Cetan's translation. Evidently she had read up on Hugo's body-language customs too.
"The fiths seem to stick to the Magellanic Clouds. They've become increasingly aloof from Galactic politics."
Something about the ziniopha suggested relief on hearing this remark. It was probable that this rather obsequious creature had no wish to be judged by the princes of the Local Cluster as an archetype of her kind.
Hugo smiled, trying not to show his teeth lest the action offend. "Would you care to join me in a drink?"
A widening of the ziniopha's eyes suggested something along the lines of worry. Garble. Translation: "You Solans bathe in your drink?"
"No, no!" Hugo hurried to correct his phrasing. "I mean, will you partake of drink with me?"
The ziniopha seemed to understand this and stood up. Hugo led her and her translator to the pneumatic lift and down to the station's bar. Some interaction with other species, yes. He'd see how she coped with that. The scientists could deal with technical ability and intellect. Whether this creature would fit in to Galactic society was up to him to prove.
Hugo was halfway through his second beer and disrupting the other clientele with his conversation when Moray arrived.
"Ah, there you are! I've been looking all over for you. There's a fith here for you."
"What?" Hugo frowned. "A fith? I said a fish, not a fith!" Hugo rather guiltily recalled the chips in his office, surely cold by now.
"No, a fith to see you about some matter or other!" The Regulan shifted his weight from one hindfoot to the other. "It's waiting outside your office. It's really agitated about something."
"Ya, well hang on one minute while I finish my pint."
"No, I really think you should come now, Hugo." The petulant Regulan pulled at Hugo's sleeve with his third left arm. "It is a fith, after all."
"Oh, all right." Hugo stood up. "I have to attend to something," he addressed the Capellan Ambassador. He gesticulated to the room surrounding them. "Why don't you network...or whatever it is you do. We'll resume this conversation later."
The Regulan made a quick pace with his belly close to the ground, and Hugo had to force his way through the now crowded barroom with the accompaniment of several rude remarks about Regulans. The conference was scheduled for tomorrow morning Local Time, and more exotic peoples had begun to patronize the drinking hole. These were representatives from all over the Galaxy, not just the Orion arm. Hugo had spotted Maldorians, Hyolarthians, Bazans, and Cannans. One Pennan, but no fiths. "Looks like the Magellaniceans did decide to put in a show!" he said to Moray as they pushed out into the corridor.
Moray wrung his hands impatiently as the lift ascended. They traversed the corridor to Hugo's office with speed and found the fith waiting outside the door, just as the Regulan had said.
This fith was of the racial type known as Dryland, a dark-skinned, black-haired form with amber eyes sporting a sort of haunted, mad look. When Hugo saw the fith close up, he noticed the pupils of its eyes were not circular, as a human's, but of a star shape with symmetrical spiral arms reaching to the rims of marbled amber irises. It stood about a head shorter than Hugo, and had the square jaw and cheek hair Hugo recalled was characteristic of a male.
"You are in charge on this station?" the fith snapped, moving forward to meet them.
Hugo frowned. "No."
The hair on the fith's cheeks bristled and his eyebrows and electric/magnetic-field-detecting antennae lowered. "Who is in charge? This matter is of the utmost exigency..."