Getting close to being finished! I’m going to try to have it out next month!
The usual caveats… Comments appreciated!
Evie piloted the Hyderabad as smoothly as ever into what Fargo now thought of as her parking spot at the Enclave. All of the members of the Enclave were standing at the edge of the village as the forward ramp came down, and the Ghorkas, led by Jiri and Horse, marched off in column. Fargo stood on the ramp, saluting them as they passed, Nicole at his side, along with Captain Jace, Wallace, and Liz. Once they were at the village, Barun, Horse, Daman, Jiri and three others, along with the priest, returned to the ship. Fargo looked at Jiri, who nodded at the caskets and asked formally, “Please assist us, sir.”
Fargo nodded silently and stepped to the rear of the left casket. He knew it was Shanni’s and he also knew he didn’t want to face Rami, his wife. Lev hadn’t been married, but he would be mourned by the entire village. The priest said a short prayer, and Jiri took charge. They picked up the caskets and marched off the ship with them side by side. They carried them all the way to the village, with Rami stepping out of the crowd and laying her hand on Shanni’s casket, as if she had known which one he was in. He saw a single tear roll down her face, then she faced forward and marched the rest of the way to the chapel with them.
They were placed on two biers side by side at the front of the chapel, and the priest said another prayer as they stood with bowed heads. Once that was completed, they left the chapel, leaving Rami to her private grief. Lal stepped up to his side, “There will be three days of mourning, then we will send them into the next life. We would appreciate it if you would participate in the funeral.”
Fargo raised his eyes to the sky and blew out a breath, “Are you sure you want me to? All I seem to be able to do is get your people killed, Lal.”
Lal laid a hand gently on his arm, “You are not to blame. This we know. You are their commander, and it would be in their honor to have you participate in their send off.”
“I hate this Lal. I purely hate losing people.”
“We know. That is why we follow you. You do not throw men away in fruitless causes.”
Fargo sighed, “Then I will be here. Thank you. I also have memorial credits from the director of Endine for the families.”
“We will talk of that later. Please invite Warrant Boykin, Senior Grayson, Senior McDougal, and Chief Levesque also.”
Lal patted him on the shoulder again as he made the long walk back to the Hyderabad, lost in thought.
As he walked back aboard, he heard Captain Jace say, “Ramp is coming up, prepare to depart. Captain Fargo if you will meet Chief Levesque and the others at the shuttle, Evie will drop you at your respective homes.”
Hyderabad was cleared for low orbit as Evie eased the shuttle out of the bay, “Captain, we will drop you and Nicole first, since Rushing River is closer, if that is acceptable.”
Fargo looked at the others and saw Wallace and Liz nodding, “Okay.”
“Also, Warrant Boykin has completed the placement of the modules on planet, and she, Seniors Grayson, and McDougal are now back in their billets.”
“Thank you, Evie.”
A div later, Evie parked the shuttle in front of the administration building and Fargo and Nicole walked down the aft ramp, trunks bobbing in their wakes. Fargo told Nicole about the funeral plans, and she nodded sadly as Holly came running across the ramp, closely followed by Ian and Inga, while Luann marched determinedly after them.
Fargo reached out to Nicole, “I love you. Looks like Holly is glad to see you back.”
“I love you too, now get out of my mind. Call me in a couple of days.”
Fargo chuckled as he withdrew and crouched, catching Ian and Inga, “Oof! You trying to knock me over Ian?”
“No Unka. I wanted to be first to say… Wel… welcome home?”
“Yes, welcome home. Hi Inga.”
Inga hugged him shyly, “Uncle Ethan, I am happy to see you.”
He hugged her back, “You have been practicing your words, I’m proud of you!”
She beamed up at him, showing a missing tooth and said, “I try. Momma says I need more words.”
“Women always do Inga, always remember that.” He stood as Luann got to him, “Sis?” He felt her conflicting emotions, fear, relief, and anger as he hugged her.
“Ethan Fargo, you need to stop doing this. It’s not like you need the credits. I swear… Men!” She stepped back, wiping a tear away, “I went up and cleaned your cabin. Did you know there are animals prowling around it? I saw all kinds of tracks, some even coming right up on your porch! You need to take one of those sonic alarms up there and use it!”
He heard a beep, and the ramp starting to retract, “Time for us to move. Come on kids, let’s get off the ramp so Evie can take off.” Taking them by the hands, he nodded to Luann, “Let’s go.” He saw that Nicole and Holly were already at the edge of the ramp, and Nicole had her arm around Holly, with Holly resting her head on Nicole’s shoulder. He also noticed that it was cooler than Endine had been, and it was a beautiful day. He could even smell the nearpines, and inhaled in relief. I’m home. Now I just have to deal with Luann. And I know she’s going to feed me. I need to see OneSvel. I need to get copies of everything that went on to him, so he can… Wait, if Jace has already sent it… Oh hell, I’ll give it to him anyway.
Luann interrupted his thoughts, “I’ve got dinner in the oven. We need to get back before it burns. And Mikhail can take you up to your cabin tomorrow.”
“Okay, that sounds good.” They walked up to the runabout, and he shook hands with Mikhail, “All your stuff was working when we left.”
“So I heard. And I heard it got interesting again.”
Fargo shrugged, “A little bit.”
Luann hissed, “Not in front of the kids.”
Fargo and Mikhail looked at each other, and both nodded as Ian asked, “What did you bring me Unka?”
Luann rolled her eyes, “Ian!”
Fargo laughed, “Sorry Ian, this was a working trip. I didn’t have any time to sightsee or do any shopping.”
Ian frowned then kicked discontentedly at a rock, “Oh, okay.”
Luann chided him, “Ian, you can’t expect Uncle Fargo to bring you something every time he goes somewhere. Get in the runabout, please.”
Ian and Inga climbed in the back seats, but he asked, “Why not? Papa does!”
Luann patiently said, “It’s because your Uncle’s job isn’t like your daddy’s job.”
Luann had pulled out all the stops, making Fargo’s favorite meal, and dessert, and the whole time he sensed her fears. Once the kids had been sent upstairs, he finally said, “Luann, what’s bothering you?”
She shook her head as she put the dishes in the recycler, “Nothing.”
He reached out and turned her to face him, “Lu, don’t give me that.” He was tempted to reach for her mind, but pulled back.
“I… I was afraid you were dead. I… It’s not fair. You’re all I have left of family, and you go gallivanting off trying to get yourself killed, either by animals or people, and I have to find out what you’re doing from somebody else!” Tears rolled down her face, “I can’t lose you Ethan! I just… can’t.”
He did reach out now, pushing calm, and reassurance as he replied, “Luann, I don’t take stupid chances, I go after the animals because they are worth a lot of money, and I know how to kill them. That saves other’s lives. The militia, that’s a responsibility to this world I call home. I don’t go fight the battles, that’s what others do. Now I just sit behind the lines and provide communications and some limited direction.”
She hugged him, “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to…”
He picked her up, eliciting a squeal, “I know. And I’ll do better, I promise.”
She pushed him away, “Go, I know you and Mikhail need to talk without me around, and I have dishes to do. Go!”
The next morning, as soon as they finished breakfast, he borrowed the runabout and drove down to the clinic. As he had hoped, OneSvel was there early, and let him in. Handing him the pouch of data cubes, he said, “Here’s the complete report, including what’s been sent to GalPat. There is ice mining on Eros, their moon. We think it’s Traders. There’s also some scans in there on an empty galaxy with two gates and a busted planet. There might be hydrocarbon mining going on there, but we were too busy fighting off a destroyer to stop and look around, so the visuals are really good.”
OneSvel exuded a pseudopod and took the pouch, his GalTrans twittering, “I will pass this information today. It has been quiet here, other than having to fix a couple of GalPat troops who got a little bit too enthusiastic in a bout with the locals. It seems that five to one odds does not bode well for the troops.”
Fargo laughed, “Ego overloaded their asses?”
“Apparently, and the application of blunt instruments reminded them of that. Only a few bones were broken. How are you?”
Fargo shrugged, “I’m here, nothing’s changed.”
“Sit please.” OneSvel extended a pseudopod, “May I?”
“Sure,” Fargo said resignedly.
“What is the matter? You do not seem happy.”
“Many things. I lost two men on this trip. We have to bury them in two days. If it were not for Captain Jace, we would have died in space. And we saved a Dragoon, and took him to Star Center without notifying anyone.”
OneSvel almost physically recoiled at that, “What?” Fargo opened his mind and felt OneSvel probing his memories for what seemed like a div. Then he withdrew, “You did what is right by law and convention. That is not on you or anyone on that ship, that is Galactic law. That he is the heir makes it… complicated.”
Fargo chuckled, “You think so? All I want now is to go to my cabin and get away from people.”
Fargo looked at OneSvel, “All but one, okay?”
OneSvel withdrew the pseudopod, “That was not, how you say, appropriate? But, I make humor.”
“Joke, OneSvel, it’s called a joke. And Taurasians don’t have a sense of humor.”
“Oh, but Doc Grant has been working with me on… Jokes. And how to tell them.”
Fargo shook his head sadly, “Oh, Deity. This is not going to end well.”
“If you are going to Enclave to bury troops, may I accompany? I would like to check on the young girl and see how she is doing.”
“Let me check with Lal.”
Fargo sighed as he taxied the liteflyer up to his cabin, seeing Canis, Cattus, and Urso sitting on the porch. They knew not to approach it when it was moving, but he sensed their joy and as soon as he shut down and opened the canopy, they charged down the steps toward him. He barely managed to get out of the liteflyer before Canis and Cattus knocked him down, growling, woofing, and licking him. Urso was a little slower, and she moaned as she looked for a place to lick him, finally settled for licking his hair.
He finally got out from under them, and came up spitting drool and wiping his face, “Really girls? Really? This is how you welcome me back?” But he was laughing as he said it, and projected his gladness to see them as he petted each one. He unloaded his trunk, put it on the porch and collapsed the liteflyer before pushing it into the storage shed.
Stepping into the cabin, he sighed, Luann… Dammit, you cleaned and moved things. Now I’ll have hell finding… Laughing as Canis and Cattus ran around smelling things and looking for their food bowls, he walked into the kitchen and checked the autochef. She’d restocked it, and he opened the refrigerator to find that she’d also stocked it with meat for the animals. He was sure she didn’t know what he was doing with all that meat, and laughed again, She’s probably thinking I cook steaks every night, and don’t ever eat vegetables.
He took out portions for all three animals, dropping Canis and Cattus portions in their bowls, then carrying Urso’s bowl outside where she could eat. I wonder how they would react to flying in the liteflyer? I wonder if… Maybe I’ll try that later. Eventually Luann will find out, and when she does… Gah!
He dialed up a 1200 calorie meal, and brewed one of this cups of coffee as he checked the e-tainment system for messages. Thankfully, there weren’t many, and he decided to eat in peace before he looked through them.
After dinner, he plopped down on the couch, called up the e-tainment and decided to watch an antique movie, rather than looking at the messages. Three divs later, he woke up with a crick in his neck, and Canis pawing at him and whining. “Okay, okay. Lemme get up and I’ll let you out!”
He got up slowly, groaned and stumped to the door rolling his head, grumbling, “Getting old. Still don’t see how Grayson sleeps like he does,” as he opened the door and Canis and Cattus shot by him, heading for the grass. Urso was sprawled peacefully on the porch, and didn’t move, other than to twitch an ear as they pelted off the porch.
After a solid nine divs of sleep, he stumbled into the fresher, set it to rejuve, and let the fresher bring him to life. Two bulbs of coffee and a breakfast later, he felt human enough to actually check messages. As soon as he brought the e-tainment system up, it pinged, “INCOMING MESSAGE. IMPORTANCE HIGH. Fargo sighed, “Now what? Display message.”
F- PALETTE, R MAJ
T- FARGO, E MIL CPT/LEVESQUE, N MIL SC
S- REPORT TO WHITE BEACH
R- GALPAT OPORD 28240536
GALPAT COL KEADS REQUIRES REPORT ON MILITIA MISSION TO ENDINE. CPT FARGO/SC LEVESQUE TO REPORT IN PERSON TO COL KEADS AS SOON AS PRACTICABLE. ADVISE ETA ASAP.
He growled in disgust, “You’ve got to be shitting me. I know the damn report was sent from Star Center, what the hell else…” Hitting the remote, he said, “Vid call.” The screen came up and he continued, “Levesque, Nicole.”
He heard a click and a beep, and Nicole answered with no video, “What? Do you know what time it is?”
“Um, morning? Have you checked your messages yet?”
“No, I was blissfully sleeping before you rudely interrupted me, why?”
“Palette sent us a flamer to report immediately to White Beach to Colonel Keads.”
“Do you think he’s that desperate to see us?”
“Not really, I think this is Palette, the colonel probably said something like, ask them to come see me next time they’re in town. This is Palette being the officious little shit that he is.”
He heard a jaw cracking yawn, and Nicole finally answered, “We’re going to the funeral, right? And that’s in three days?”
“Yes. We could go on to White Beach from there, and spend the night.”
“That has… possibilities.”
Nicole chuckled, and Fargo had a momentary picture of her nude coming out of the fresher, “Oh, yes, good possibilities. Eight divs with you, without anyone to bother us.”
“Okay, I’ll message back, and you can concur. Love you.”
“Oh, Holly mentioned last night that she’s been seeing tracks in the vineyard.”
“She thinks wolf and cat tracks, big tracks.”
“She said they apparently started right after we left.”
Fargo leaned back and looked at Canis and Cattus, “I wonder…”
Impatiently she snapped, “Wonder what?”
He leaned forward, “I’ll come down tomorrow. Can we eat dinner at the winery?”
“I might know, but I want to… confirm something. Don’t say anything to Holly other than we’ll have dinner with her.”
“Alright. I’m going back to sleep. Goodbye.”
He went on to the next message in the cue and sighed.
F- RAGSDALE, T. PURCHASING AGENT
T- FARGO, E HUNTER, RUSHING RIVER
MR FARGO, RAGSDALE HERE. WONDERING IF YOU HAVE ANY FURS. LAST BATCH VERY WELL RECEIVED. AS DISCUSSED WILL ACCEPT AT YOUR LOCATION. SAME PRICE POINT IF SAME QUALITY.
He quickly drafted a response, and vowed to get back in the Green, knowing there was money to be made, Luann’s worries or not. He also drafted a reply to Palette, saying they would be available after the funeral, and asking for Boykin and Grayson to be allowed to attend. He proposed Boykin pick them up and bring them back from White Beach the following day.
The next message brought a smile.
F- HYDERABAD, CAPTAIN JACE
T- FARGO, E
S- MCDOUGAL INVENTION
CANNOT DO PATENT, BUT DE PEREZ GALACTIC OFFERS ONE (1) MILLION CREDITS TO PURCHASE RIGHTS, PLUS ROYALTIES OF ONE (1) PERCENT. WILL YOU ACT AS LOCAL AGENT? ARRANGE MEETING WITH SENIOR SERGEANT MCDOUGAL WITHIN SEVEN (7) DAYS?
He quickly drafted a reply and sent it, smiling as he did so. This might work out better for Mac. I don’t know how much longer he has on this hitch, but I don’t see him staying in after this. He was really torn up by what happened. I hope he’s talking to the captains or the major.