A Compact Model
This part originally appeared in the April/May 2015 issue.
208th of 2029 (034-98): Maison de Pierre, Cisvus10
Maison de Pierre is one of the best eating houses on Daramm, five stars in the Kelirus,11 apparently. I still felt out of place in this kind of establishment. I guess I’d have to get used to them. Siish seemed at ease however, that helped. I was feeling a little light headed, a little too much wine to calm my nerves, probably. I still wasn’t used to being a lover not a friend, but I was getting there. We’d reached the desert course. “So Siish, kamminlu, I assume you’re looking forward to it.”
He gave me that look, the one that means ‘yeah, right’ “Dinkir, in all honesty, I’d rather gouge my eyes out with this dessert spoon than sit through a kamminlu recital, but it is sort of required.”
I took another sip. “… required?”
“Mother sponsored the performance and I’m attending for her. And you should slow down, that’s your third glass.”
I went a little red, embarrassed. “Just nervous, honey.” I was trying out endearments for him, seemed like the thing to do. None had seemed to fit so far.
He smiled, “That’s the fourth one.”
“Fourth one what, honey?” Nope, definitely not right.
Chuckling now, “We’ve had ‘sweetie’, ‘pumpkin’, ‘dear’, and now, ‘honey’. I’m just dreading ‘Siishie’.”
A little more red. “Sorry, just, this feels awkward.” I quickly added, “Not that I want to stop; I’m sure I’ll get there.”
He lent over the table and kissed me lightly, “I’m sorry, too, so just relax, Afira, we can go as fast or slow as you want. Let’s just get through dinner and take it from there.”
I took a breath and swallowed. “Yes.” I changed the subject, something a little more ‘comfortable’ “So, Siish, when are we leaving? Raledenet has been sitting waiting for ten days. The docking fees must be piling up.”
He sniggered, “Only five thousand Keedits so far, not like we can’t afford it. But five more days.”
“You sound certain, there, Siish…ie.” Very definitely not right.
“Oh, very funny. But, yes, I am. I checked out the datachip Kirsov gave us; sounds interesting. So, if everyone is okay with it, we’ll be off to Kalu Marasiin.”
I grinned; seven parsecs, at least three jumps there and three back. “What’s at Kalu Marasiin?”
“A dead ship, the Vias, a cruiser, Augusta class. Kirsov wants us to get its datacore.”
My turn to chuckle, “And I’m assuming we don't know why he wants its datacore, balul.” Balul, better.
He laughed, “Balul! You’ve got to find something better than balul. But yes, no idea why he wants it.”
I was feeling a lot less nervous now “I like balul, could have gone with gilul or kellul12.” I looked over, he’d finished his dessert, I’d finished mine. Some time ago. It was time to go; he’d noticed too. The nerves returned.
“We should be getting back, dinkir.” He suddenly sounded a bit nervous, too.
My stomach felt like it was full of a herd of stampeding wild bulis, I took another drink, a rather large one. “Yes.”
I woke early the next morning. Four years in an Imperial prison and so many months since then, far too long. I looked over at Siish’s sleeping form and smiled; I could do this. I kissed him as he began to stir. “Good morning.”
He yawned as he stretched. “You know, dinkir, I think I can face six hours of kamminlu now.” I blushed.
He stroked my face. I shuddered, embarrassed, ashamed, broken. I whispered, “I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t be.”
I cuddled to him. “Thank you, sheevia13.” Lover, that worked.
210th of 2029 (036-98): Daramm Up
We were finally going back to the ship, only not all of us, and not to actually fly it. Siish had to stay behind, ‘things’ to do with Sharik and her mother. She’d been really nice when she came back, made sure we had plenty of time together before dragging poor Siish off to his doom, or to ancient high culture, at least. Oddly enough he’d seemed reluctant to leave me. I’d like to think it was the pleasure of my company, but I suspect it more the prospect of six hours of kamminlu. Sharik had also—oh so discreetly—enquired if I’d had a pleasant night; I assured her I had. There had been a nod, a wink, and a broad grin at that. But now here the rest of us were, Jane, Ariaryn, Isabella, Sakuya, and me, all on our way to check and prep the ship. The shuttle was almost empty, just us and a few workers on the commute. I was bored, a twenty-five minute trip, even at six G. I turned to Sakuya. “So, Sa… Anthony,” I caught myself. “How was the kamminlu?” I smiled, waiting for his response.
“I loved it.” You could tell from the smile on his face and enthusiasm in his voice he meant it; the boy was definitely mad.
“Enjoyed it?” I looked over at Isabella, she nodded and shrugged her shoulders.
“Yes, it was great. All the costumes and patterns and flow. Great.”
I stared at him; I still couldn’t quite believe it “You enjoyed kamminlu?”
“Yes, don’t you?”
I tried to be polite. “No, I… er… find it hard to follow.”
He nodded “Yes, but it’s simple once you find the patterns.”
I wasn't following him. “Patterns?” There were no patterns in kamminlu, just a whole load of random words, sound and movements.
He just ploughed on, “Yes, patterns, maths, it’s all one big series of interlocking patterns, the movement, the music, the poetry. Sort of like a giant De Brett equation14.”
I still wasn’t following. “De Brett equation?”
He nodded enthusiastically, as if it were the most obvious thing in the universe. “Yes, it’s just like doing a De Brett equation.”
I looked at him, utterly baffled. “You do De Brett equations?”
That grin on his face, like some kid in a cake stall. “Yes, in my head, just to pass the time.”
He was totally deranged, obviously brilliant, but absolutely mad. “You do De Brett equations? In your head? For fun?”
If he’d nodded any harder, his head would have fallen off, sort of like ‘doesn't everyone?’ “Yes, I was working on a theory, you know. There was a project…” His face changed, his voice just trailed off, like some huge club had hit him.
Isabella saw and just hugged him. She told him softly it was all right. He didn’t say anything more after that.
Raledenet was sitting in her bay, gleaming with new paint. She looked fresh and clean; I found myself longing to be back in space. Jane and I did an external check, landing struts and hull. We didn’t expect to find anything, but Jane did. “Hey, Afira, pretty sure this isn’t supposed to be there.”
I looked; I couldn’t see anything. “Where?”
She pointed, “There, in amongst the landing hydraulics.”
I looked closer; you’d miss it if you didn’t know where to look. A small box, seemed to have a trailing wire wrapped around the landing struts. “What is it?”
“No idea, but it’s not meant to be there.” She climbed up into the strut bay and examined it without touching it. “I think we should get Ariaryn to look at it.”
“Best to assume so, I reckon.”
I considered for a moment. “Why would anyone put something there?”
“Again, no idea, deary. But there it is.”
We called Ariaryn out, with Isabella and Sakuya, just in case. He studied it carefully. “Any ideas what it is?”
Jane looked at him. “Like I said, sugar, no idea.” It was cute the way she called him ‘sugar’.
Sakuya looked and spoke hesitantly, “That wire, it looks like an aerial.”
“Aerial?” Jane sounded puzzled.
“Yep, bare metal touching the landing strut, could turn the entire hull into an aerial.”
Ariaryn studied it again. “But aerial for what? Well, better try to get it out, I suppose.”
Jane turned to him “Be careful, sugar.”
Ariaryn climbed up into the strut housing and began to slowly unwind the wire from the strut. “Isabella, you got a stethoscope handy?” She handed one to him from her bag. He listened to the box. “Well it’s not ticking or anything, but it’s clamped on pretty tight. Jane, love, get me a metal plate please.”
She left and returned with several slim hull patches. “These do, sugar?”
“At a pinch.” He very carefully snipped the wire tape and wedged the box up and slid one plate between it and strut. It didn’t move. He repeated the process and gently pulled it free. Very delicately he handed the box to Jane and climbed down.
Jane looked at the box. “Wonder what it is?”
Ariaryn smiled, “Only one way to find out; open it up. I’ll need a took kit with a drill and a camera probe.” We waited while Jane fetched a kit. Ariaryn slowly drilled, listening all the time. He slipped in the probe and whistled, “This is tamper-proofed.”
I wondered out loud, “Can you disarm it?”
He grinned, “Naturally.” Ariaryn was always proud of his skills. It took him five minutes of careful work before he had it open and safe. He stood back and took a bow. “Ta-Da.”
Jane playfully slapped him, then kissed him. “Show off. So what the hell is it?”
Ariaryn blushed, “Not my field.”
Sakuya spoke quietly again, “But it is mine.”
We watched in Raledenet’s lounge as Sakuya examined the device, gradually uncovering its purpose. He’d quickly determined that it received, transmitted and stored data, some kind of relay. But its controls were encrypted. He was trying to break the encryption. I glanced at Isabella, her concern for him was obvious. “He seems better.”
She kept watching him. “It’s not even been two full weeks yet. He goes in phases, most of the time he seems fine. But then something will remind him and he’ll go to pieces. Got a long way to go yet.”
I felt a little guilty. “Like in the shuttle.”
She nodded, “Like in the shuttle.”
Jane turned to us. “The other day, when I asked what was wrong with him, you said ‘the intelligence services.’ What did you mean?” You could hear both confusion and perhaps a very slight note of anger in her voice.
I could see Isabella was carefully considering what to say. “He was… interrogated, quite thoroughly; he’s sensitive and didn’t fare well.” She looked at Jane and then Ariaryn. “That’s all, but that’s enough too.” I looked at her, her hand balled into a fist again. Jane was going to say something, but noticed her hand too. She remained silent.
We sat, watching Sakuya. He worked and finally announced, “The ship’s bugged.” He seemed quite satisfied with himself. “I’ve got the frequency, if you want to find them.”
We searched the ship from top to bottom, not only relying on the frequency, but physically looking everywhere we could. There were quite a lot of bugs. I made a point of finding Isabella. “Why didn’t you tell them the truth?”
There was a slight sadness in her eyes. “I did tell them the truth.”
“But not the whole truth.”
She sighed, “I’ve lost too much, Afira. Jane and Ariaryn are good people, honourable and patriotic. And they’re my friends.” She chuckled, “I don’t have a lot of those and this is the only home I’ve got.” She smiled that sad smile of hers. “They wouldn’t believe me anyway. Nobody would.”
I took her left15 hand “Efepkammosaryn Edtyassos, Isabella16, I believe you.”
She laughed, she laughed very hard and smiled “Thank you. Efepkammosaryn Edtyassos17, you can do just about anything with that.”
210th of 2029 (036-98): A hotel, Cisvus
Special Agent Vu reviewed his situation. Well, at the very least, his accommodations were better. He’d figured there was no point in trying to hide and had moved from the seedy dive he’d been staying in. He actually found himself a little lost in the luxury room. In truth, a bit lonely, actually. He found his thoughts straying to Manish Wa, again. His job left little room for a family or even much of a social life. He had enjoyed her company. He pushed such thoughts from his mind, he knew who and what she was, after all, and that was dangerous. But regardless, things were not as bad as they’d seemed. They’d be watching him of course, he knew that and he assumed listening too. But he’d still managed to recruit ‘help’. Some L’polian18 mercenaries. He’d have preferred Sesheryn19, his people, but most Sesheryns’ sympathies lay very solidly with the Protectorate. He hated that he couldn’t trust his own people for this. Still, L’polians weren’t too bad; once you paid for them, they normally stayed bought. He’d managed to plant surveillance in the Raledenet, twice. He expected they’d find the first set quickly; they were meant to. He hoped the second would remain hidden. Only very short range and dormant until the first set was removed, but he needed that edge. He’d also got a very clever little virus into their computer system, undetectable until activated apparently. But then again, so were his identity documents.
The other thing working in his favour was the Protectorate clearly felt indebted to him. He didn’t see it himself, he’d just been doing his job. But they did, and their sense of honour20 would prevent them from acting until he did something serious. So if he acted quickly and without too much fuss, he could still pull this off. Now what was needed was to rattle their cage, something to make them leave prematurely. That would give him his window. That and lose his tail, but that bit he knew he could do.
210th of 2029 (036-98): The Gubashiidi Estate
“Bugged? Who bugged us, Jane?” Siish was angry; he didn’t like ‘his’ ship being tampered with.
“No idea; if I had to guess, I’d go with Imperials.”
Siish looked deep in thought. “Would make sense; Mother said there was an Imperial agent looking for Sakuya.”
Sakuya nodded, “We met him, was supposed to put him off. Don’t think it worked.” He looked scared again. “They’ll execute me if they take me back.”
Ariaryn mumbled, “Barbaric21.”
Isabella tried to reassure him. “We won’t let them, will we?” She looked at us all; we nodded.
I looked at Sakuya. “You met him?”
He nodded. “Yes; Lady Manish arranged it, a dinner. They said it would make him back off.”
“So we know who he is, then?”
Siish took over. “His name is Fakri Vu; I have an image. He’s been under surveillance for a while now, apparently.”
I was annoyed; I could see Jane and Ariaryn were too. “And you didn’t think it important to mention this?”
Siish looked rather uncomfortable. “He was being watched.”
I was rapidly moving passed annoyed. “Didn’t stop him bugging the ship, though, did it!”
A quiet voice. “No, no, it didn’t”
“And if he’d come for Sakuya? What, you thought he’d send a note first? Siish, you are unbelievable! This was damn bloody serious; somebody could have got hurt!”
“Calm down, please.”
“Don’t you tell me to calm down! You messed up, right bloody royally, Siish! Anything else you’d like to mention? Like maybe the Imperial Navy is out there, or there’s an asteroid about to hit us? You know, minor unimportant things like that?”
I could tell he was embarrassed and feeling guilty. “I'm sorry, dinkir.”
“Don't you ‘dinkir’ me, Siishubuu Manish! And ‘sorry’?” I could see Ariaryn and Jane chuckling. At least they were getting a giggle out of me losing it. “‘Sorry’! Yeah, I’m sorry too, sorry you’re a pompous, self-important bulis’ arse.”
“I didn’t think it was serious, you know, not important, I’m really sorry.”
“Not Important? Not Important? An Imperial agent out to get us not important? When might it have become important, when he started shooting at us?” I was just about to lose it totally. I screamed and stormed out.
They watched as Afira swept out of the room, Jane was chuckling away. “You know, for a yashti22, she does that so well.”
Siish was looking glum. “How long do you think?”
“Oh I’d give her an hour or two at least. And you may want to be spending the night with Sharik. You do know she’s right?”
“Yes, I do know she’s right, I did try to apologise, to all of you. I am really sorry, all of you.” His eyes scanned them all.
Jane sighed, “Yes, okay, sorry too.”
Ariaryn nodded, “Yes, though I should be throwing a fit, like Afira,” the only reason he hadn’t was Afira had done it for him. “Sorry too.”
Jane and Ariaryn looked at Isabella; she’d been very quiet. She looked at them. “Yes, I’m sorry too. Very sorry.”
It suddenly clicked. “You knew, too!”
Isabella sighed, “Yes, Jane, I was told, too. And I am, like Siish, extremely sorry.”
Ariaryn looked at her hard. “Which is why you wanted to learn to shoot.”
“Yes, sorry, sorry, sorry.”
He took a deep breath. “You know, Isabella, I ought to join Afira. Any thing else we’re not privy too?”
“No. As far as is known, one Imperial agent, Fakri Vu. He’s good, apparently better than everyone thought. He’s probably got local help, but that’s not for sure. We have pictures.”
Ariaryn considered. “Yes, Isabella, you screwed up, too. But, yes, sorry too.”
Jane looked at her eeshren23, then Isabella and Siish. “The pair of you are intolerable, you know. But, like dear Ariaryn, sorry also.” She turned back to Siish. “So after all the screw ups, what are we going to do?”
“Well, good as this agent may be, I doubt very much he can track a ship through jump.”
I was still fuming when I heard the knock at the door. I assumed it was Siish, so I snapped. “What do you want?”
I heard Sharik reply, “To have a little chat about Siishubuu, dear, but I can come back later if you’d rather.”
A little embarrassing. “No, it’s alright, come in.” She entered. “I’m sorry; I thought you were Siish.”
She chuckled, “I’m sorry, too, but, yes, I heard. I believe the term ‘pompous self-important arse’ was used.”
I returned her chuckle, “‘Bulis’ arse’, actually.”
“And I assume he deserved it?”
“Yes.” A slight tinge of anger came over me. “Why, you come to try and make peace?”
Her reply was rather quick, “Oh no, not at all. Between the two of you, dear.”
My anger subsided, well, towards her, at least. “So, why are you here, then?”
Her face took on a rather scheming look. “Siishubuu, his er… health.”
I felt a sudden moment of concern. “Why, is something wrong?”
“Not ‘wrong’, exactly. But at the Rurur Garintylil ceremonies, did you notice his uniform, perhaps a little… close fitting?”
I laughed, “Maybe, but nothing serious. I like a man with a little bulk.”
“Well, don’t we all24, but he must have put on a good ten kilos in the last month; that’s more than a little bulk, Afira.” She sat in one of the chairs across from me. “If he keeps on this way, he’ll end up like a gabalial.”
I considered; she might have a point. “So, what would you like to do about it?”
“I’ve already talked with Eneri and he’s said he’ll uhmm… keep an eye on his eating when he’s at his mother’s.” I chuckled again. Siish hated it when Eneri went on about his eating. “And, of course, Gahashi will be cooking here.”
I could see where this was going. “And you’d like me to keep an eye on him on the ship?”
She fiddled a little nervously. “Well, yes, that’s part of it.”
“And the other part?” I was getting a little suspicious.
Definitely nervous. “I was hoping you might, as his nuntarri,” she still smiled a little when she said it, “help me get him to agree to a diet.”
“It’s not fair; you’re ganging upon me, both of you!” Siish was… irked, picked on.
“No, dear, we’re just concerned. For your health.”
Sharik was being delicate. I was still annoyed with him, so I felt no such need. “You’re getting fat, Siish, so you’re going on a diet.”
“I am not; I’m a perfectly healthy weight.”
“If you get any fatter, we’ll have to roll you down the aisle at your match.”
He looked over at Jane, pleading. She was chuckling away, close to hysterics “Don’t bring me into it. You’re the one who decided to have a match and a nuntarri. Can’t have your cake and eat it, Siish.”
Sharik clarified, “Until he loses some of those extra kilos, he can’t have cake at all.”
“They don’t show this in the holodramas.” He sounded so gloomy.
Ariaryn spoke. “They do, actually, sometimes. Comic relief in the narrative flow. It contrasts with the build up of dramatic tension.” We all looked at him “What? I took some short courses in dramatic composition in the Guards.” We kept looking, he sounded a little defensive. “The Guards encourage an appreciation of the arts. I did creative writing and kulfi.”
Now that was just plain wrong. Jane was sitting mouth agape. In the Navy short courses tended to be things such as ‘eating for health and well being’, ‘the dangers of unprotected sexual contact’, ‘The care and use of the model 17a personal manoeuvring pack’. Maybe if you were lucky ‘waltz for beginners’25, but only because it encouraged fitness and coordination. The idea of some grizzled Guards’ drill serganet teaching battle hardened veterans the finer points of artistic flower arranging was disturbing. I shook my head to clear that image. “Regardless, you need to lose weight, Siishubuu. It’s all arranged, Eneri and your mother will be looking out for you when you’re there. Sharik and Gashishi here. And I’ll be watching you on the ship.” I looked at Sharik, we nodded firmly to each other.
Notes 1 through 9 were included with Part 1 of this story.
10. An arcology near the Gubashiisdi estate. One of the larger on Daramm, home to about six million people.
11. Eating guide for restaurants in the Protectorate.
12. Kellul, literally old man. Usually used to refer to a male relative one generation older.
13. One of a series of four terms of address used between physically intimate partners, all of which are usually translated as lover. sheevia is used by a woman to refer to a male partner, sheelia is used by a male to refer to a woman, sheepia between two woman and sheenia between two men. None of these terms would virtually ever be heard in public. Technically the more generic eshal should be used in public, but due to the fact that at the time the term eshal was seen as having negative connotations by many, the euphemistic term osdteelisren (special friend) or its shorter form osdtren was often used instead.
14. The equations required to calculate a three parsec jump. Extremely complex and usually preformed by the ships computers, they were a vital part in the Terran invention of jump three drives. The search for the successor to De Brett equations which would allow access to higher jump numbers was one of the greatest challenges in mathematics at the time.
15. As approximately 96% of all Luriani are left handed, the left side has special significance in their culture.
16. Roughly translated ‘never again Edtyassos’. This is a common Luriani phrase used in times of tragedy, disaster, loss and war. The specific meaning depends on the context. In this case it is used to comfort somebody who has suffered tragic loss. This also is a use of one of the more unusual features of Standard Luriani, the past future tense, putting the future into the past. The closest Anglic can come is ‘I had will do it’. The use of this tense is rare and almost exclusively poetic or metaphoric, but Edtyassos is frequently described in it.
17. Edtyassos (unique in that it never takes an article or possessive form) is the Luriani term for the so called ‘Year of woe’ following the Vilani conquest of the Luriani worlds. What happened is unknown. Vilani records only mention it briefly as a purge and Luriani oral tradition is considered unreliable. It however exerts a huge influence on Luriani culture thousands of years later. Luriani tradition speaks of near genocide and genetic analysis have confirmed a massive drop in the Luriani population at this time (though it is uncertain if this occurred after the conquest or during the prior 35 year long campaign that verged on one of extermination in its level of ferocity). It is known that the Vilani uncharacteristically destroyed all records of the event and much of the Luriani’s previous history was lost at this time. As such it represents the only example of the Vilani actively destroying knowledge. Edtyassos is perhaps the most pivotal event in Luriani history. Generally agreed to be the origin of the almost fanatical desire of the Luriani to avoid control by others.
18. The L’polan Empire was a small pocket empire absorbed by the Imperium some ten years before the Luriani War. Traditional enemies of the Protectorate, the Empire was actually the re-establishment of an earlier, larger L’polan Empire that had existed during the early years of the Long Night. The first empire fought five bitter wars with the First Protectorate before collapsing into civil war and anarchy following the pyrrhic Luriani victory in the Fifth L’polan War. However, the exhaustion caused by these wars is regarded as the cause of the Protectorate’s demise some one hundred years later. The reformed empire fought two more inconclusive wars with the Second Protectorate before succumbing to a short Imperial campaign.
19. The Sesheryn were a people dominant in the rimward portions of the Empty Quarter sector. They evolved from an independent trading culture during the Long Night. Their language was a Luriani/Anglic creole and they had a long history of close trading ties with the Luriani. There was no real Sesheryn state, the Sesheryn Feodarate being more a lose alliance of independent worlds who had agreed on a common set of rules of behaviour. The Sesheryn were regarded as allies of the Protectorate. There were many similarities between the Sesheryn and Luriani, though some were simply the result of independent evolution.
20. The three basic tenants of the Luriani code of honour are best summed up as “Protect your family, hospitality to those who ask and mercy and fairness to the fallen foe.” By extension, somebody who protects a Luriani’s family (or in this case their perception of the entire Protectorate as a single family) must be treated respectfully and honourably.
21. The death penalty was abandoned in the Protectorate during the early years of the First Protectorate. Most Luriani regard it as excessively cruel and are revolted by it. The later Treaty of Daramm that would eventually incorporate the Luriani into the Imperium includes a clause prohibiting the Imperial application of the death penalty on former Protectorate worlds without their consent.
22. Very roughly, righty, slang for a right handed Luriani. Compared with hajkti, lefty. Right handed racial Luriani are (inaccurately) regarded as less volatile than left handers.
23. Short form of eeshiaelullistren, literally ‘romantic male friend’. The word is also the short form for eeshiaewalistren (romantic female friend). One of the problems comprehending Standard Luriani is its tendency to form new words by compounding and then shorten them by dropping some or all of the middle syllables, leading to a word with multiple meanings. An extreme example is wurlana. It is the short form of wuryokwinseshasitiyyolana (literally, ‘deep sea traveller of great distance’), one of the sub-cultures of the Luriani; as well as wurjkirefgaranfilana (literally, ‘deep cup thrown for distance’), a popular children’s game at parties; and finally of wurkabommfishimmlana (literally, ‘deep explosive device for measuring distance’), a type of seismic charge.
24. The commonly accepted ideal of ‘desirable body shape’ tended to be a little towards the larger side in Luriani society.
25. One of the three most popular Terran dance and musical forms adopted by the Luriani. The other two are tango and mariachi.