[ Freelance Traveller Home Page | Search Freelance Traveller | Site Index ]

*Freelance Traveller

The Electronic Fan-Supported Traveller® Resource

Cultural Exchange - Part 20

My head is killing me and I feel like I'm gonna blow chum any moment. Tranq darts always made me feel this way. Even back during the riots when I was a kid. Something about the stomach and intestines shutting down completely and food and shit sitting there like mud in a stagnant pond. I'll have diarrhea before long by the way my belly is churning.

My thigh hurts too. A large bandage covers the side of my leg. When did that happen?

Looking around, I feel even sicker to my stomach; I'm in a cell... naked except for my underwear, curled up in a corner on a mattress. There's nothing in here but a sink and a toilet and a dirty mattress and me. And all I can do is shake in the corner like a whipped puppy. As the dope wears off, it always gives the shakes just like a stoner's withdrawals. Gotta figure there's a guard, too. Yeah, like I am in any condition to do anything but drool on myself.

What did I do? It must've been bad to be put here.

I remember playing lacrosse? A hard game... rough... but how rough? I smelled blood and heard yells... but it was just a game... and not here... right?

Of course not... how could it be here...

Crawling to the little sink, I raised myself trembling to spit into it and gaze at the hazy reflection in the polished metal stuck on the wall as a mirror. Can't stand long...it hurts.

Drugs?... Hallucinations?... Mind control?... What else could it be?... I just stared at my reflection and thought of the Looking Glass stories and wondered if the real life were on the other side and if I were in the wrong place.

Noises in the corridor... someone's coming. Letting my body flop like a rag-doll, I came to rest in my corner again and hoped I looked unconscious. The heaving of my gut just made me look like a sick dead man. Probably have cams on me, but maybe it'll fool the mook who peeks in with eyeballs.

"Cut the crap, Ish. I know you're faking; enough time's past for the drugs to have worn off."

Must be darker in here than I thought. All I can make out is the silhouette of someone in the doorway and the light behind him seemed to glare and burn my eyes some; they began to water.

Fred strolled into the room as if he were the owner and I thought I caught a glimpse of a guard in the passageway outside. So Fred is in good with the doggies, while I am in a cell. And all I did was stand there and daydream about playing a game.

He scowled and tossed a package of clothing on the old mattress. Then stood there with his hand on his pistol staring at me funny.

"Get cleaned up and dressed. I brought your clothes. You really made a mess out there."

He just stood there, hard as iron while I struggled to the fresher, vomited, and tried to wash up again in the sink. I'm tired. And I hurt. He just watched passively.

"What's the big deal? Why am I here and you're not, anyways?"

"You don't remember what happened, do you?..."

Fred's features softened abit, but not much. He still figured that I was still a threat to him and our mission, so he wouldn't relax too much, but at least he understood it really wasn't my fault.

All I did was grunt and shake my head a little before splashing water on my face and rinsing out the acid aftertaste. If only my head would clear.

"You really made a mess, Ish. You crippled two of the guards and tried to kill Lord Azzagovouhg. There's a lot happening and none of its good."

I didn't even turn around, just mumbled over my shoulder.

"...just stood there... didn't do nothing..."

"Oh? Then how come your leg is bandaged and you're having withdrawal shakes from the medic's slow drugs, huh? You got shot... you're alive only because this was expected and Lord Azzgaohvgh didn't want you killed."

Turning slowly to face him, water dripping down my chin, I just glared at him in disbelief.

"What do you mean 'expected'...I still don't even know for sure what happened!"

"Well... let's see... You go crazy and attack a guard with your blade, nearly cutting his leg off at the knee. Then Tuvi starts yelling to "don't kill him" and then you slice another guard through his thigh before you get shot."

I just stared at him as he spoke. My mind was running a million kims per hour. Memories are starting to come back, and I'm starting to sweat and getting more pissed by the second. My eyes never leave his, even as I pull on my trousers and shirt. He continued after a short pause while the corners of his mouth curled in either a grimace or an evil hidden grin.

"Funny thing, though... you didn't even seem to notice the gunshot in your leg... didn't slow you down one bit... you didn't even flinch or anything. You just kept going with your blade raised high... not like a weapon, but like a lacrosse stick... I had to shoot you, Ish. You would've killed Azzgroghv if I didn't."

Pulling on boots now...

"How is Rory?"

"Fine...she only fainted, Ish. Nothing serious..."

I just shook my head sadly. "No...she didn't faint... Kugi punched her in the head! I watched him do it. That's why I hesitated before I got stung by the hornets..."

... more disgusted head shakes...

"...before you shot me with the tranq darts, I mean."

...looked up and glared at him. His eyes narrowed and he looked away.

"...Kugi?... what does he have to do with this. Maybe you just imagined it!"

I pulled on my remaining boot, finished dressing and checked for my things and gadgets; they kept almost everything, but that's okay, it was my turn to smile all knowingly. Things aren't together yet, but some parts are starting to fit better.

" I'll bet you a tenner that it wasn't my imagination, braw..."

The small aide was nervous as usual. He had brought a report to his master's stateroom and the lights were dimmed. Lord Azzagoruvg sat as still as stone at his desk, the odd human's big knife in front of him on a large soft cloth; it was still bloodied.

"My lord, are you sure this is wise? Two of the crew are crippled and Miss Rortuvu is still sedated. There is something odd about him and I do not like it. How could he have obtained that?" He gestured to the weapon. "It is very rare. A human shouldn't have it!"

"It is very beautiful, eh? It is an Angueth blade, forged by the masters of the craft."

He picked it up carefully and slowly twirled it in his grip admiring the delicate striations, like Damascus steel. Layers of alloys and ceramics forming a pattern, like a picture or scene, and yet as he watched, the lines seemed to crawl and form new patterns.

The aide just scowled in distaste.

"Too beautiful for a human to hold! He doesn't even know what its secret is. Please, lord, he should not have it! Keep it and end this 'experiment'!"

"No. Everything is going smoothly. Mister James suspects the true nature of the Angueth already. Better him than someone else. He was well chosen for this purpose. You saw what happened in the passageway..."

The subordinate merely nodded and kept his head low.

"...and you saw what happened on the command deck, lord..."

Azzagorugh just smiled and laid the blade down carefully. He looked aside for a moment, deep in thought. The smile slowly turned into a snarl.

"I saw more than most. The loss is small. The enemy revealed himself! He must be desperate to have done that."

"The imp scout is the enemy?"

Azzagoruovgh's gaze fixed upon the small aide for a second, head tilted slightly as if he could not believe what he had heard. Then he burst out laughing.

"Ishmael James???? He is only a puppet! But he saw too... he knows who the enemy is, just as I do..."

Again he picked up the blade and admired it closely, chuckling to himself.

"...and this allowed him to see it."

All ready to go. Fred kept looking funny at me and kept as far away as possible. This kark is startin' to get mighty thin. Just like my patience for it. It ain't bad when enemies treat you like nitro, but friends shouldn't. I sure wish I had my knife back again.

Yeah... fat chance. Not now... I just carved a couple of pups with it.

It feels like I've lost a friend... no, a lover.

I wonder why I don't feel the same way about my gun. I made it, after all; machined each part myself. That must be it. I can always make another one, but my knife is a one-off piece, unique.

I want it back!

I want Rory back!

"Let's get this over with, Fred."

[ Back ]