Himeno Wind 1
Part 32 is up!

You know the drill. If you wish, leave a one or two word prompt or a single line of dialogue and I will try and use it. This prompt post will be open until midnight GMT Sunday/Monday.

The Whisper of Damkina Part Thirty Two

Himeno Wind 1
Start with the First Part or check out Part Thirty One if you missed it. Or you can find every part to date archived at my website with easier navigation.

--

The bioforming supplies were delivered early the next morning and Amanpreet and Niobe checked the inventory while Linda cooked them breakfast.

"It looks like everything is here," Amanpreet said finally. "Let's get it stowed, eat breakfast, and then set off." She glanced at Niobe. "Or do you want to stay a few more hours? I know you don't see your mother as much as you'd like."

"It's fine," Niobe said. "I won't say I wouldn't like to stay longer bur I know we need to get moving and Mum does as well. We've already lost time so we shouldn't make any unnecessary delays so we have some flexibility for necessary ones."

Amanpreet looked at Niobe for a long moment then nodded. "Well, if you're sure."

"I am," Niobe said. "Come on, let's get this loaded. I'm starving."

***

Their escort was waiting when the Whisper re-entered orbit and rendezvoused with Promise. Amanpreet couldn't help blinking when she saw the four state of the art military sticks on the viewscreen.

"They must really be worried about the Vaian Military who escaped," she said.

"It certainly looks like it," Niobe agreed. "Ah! They're hailing us." She listened to the message and nodded. "They're sending us data for a slightly roundabout route to Talis because the Vaians have been hitting hyperspace traffic on the normal routes." She pursed her lips. "And bad news - they think there is a leak somewhere and they are specifically looking for Kayla because they are boarding the ships they intercept--"

"Boarding? In hyperspace?" Kayla exclaimed. "Don't they know how dangerous that is? Are they stupid?"

"Apparently, yes," Niobe said. "But as I was saying they are boarding the ships, searching them - looking for someone or something - and then letting them go. Though they are also stealing any cargo that's aboard."

"That certainly sounds like they are looking for Kayla," Amanpreet agreed. "But they are going to get themselves and their victims killed or worse doing that."

“Yes,” Niobe agreed. “But so far they have a ridiculous pattern of good luck. No ships are missing.”

"That's good at least," Amanpreet said. "Kane, I want you to take the first navigation run so check the route from the message."

"Okay, Am." He headed for the ladder to the dome.

***

Eight hours later they dropped out of hyperspace to change navigators and check for any message packets.

As Mark was climbing into the dome Niobe gave a groan and buried her face in her hands. Kane, who had already climbed down rushed over to her and rubbed her shoulder.

"What wrong, Niobe?" he asked softly.

"I- I hate to break the pattern," Niobe said weakly. "But a Celish freighter enroute to Talis didn't arrive this morning. They sent out a search and found it - or the remains of it anyway - together with a much less damaged but still unusable Vaian ship in hyperspace not far out. It was clearly a botched boarding attempt from the nature of the damage. They've accounted for the bodies of the freighter crew but not the Vaians and there's evidence they might have been rescued."

"Mother of the living!" Amanpreet shuddered. Hyperspace exposure was no way to die. "H-how many?"

"A crew of twelve," Niobe said. "And no survivors." She raised her head finally and punched the console in front of her. "Damn them! They would have had time to rescue them if they'd tried. She took a breath and listened to the rest of the packet before groaning again. "And there's... well not worse news, but news that makes this worse for us. The freighter was travelling the same alternative route as we are." She shook her head. "That means there is definitely a leak somewhere. What do we do now?"
 

--

Prompt Post 32 is here. Come and leave a prompt.

Comments welcome

If you enjoy my writing and haven't already please consider becoming a patron via my Patreon page.


 



Himeno Wind 1
Part 31 is up!

You know the drill. If you wish, leave a one or two word prompt or a single line of dialogue and I will try and use it. This prompt post will be open until midnight GMT Sunday/Monday.

The Whisper of Damkina Part Thirty One

Himeno Wind 1
Start with the First Part or check out Part Thirty if you missed it. Or you can find every part to date archived at my website with easier navigation.

--

By the time Kayla arrived, dinner was nearly ready and wonderful smells were floating into the house from the outdoor kitchen that Niobe's family used at the hottest times of the year. Amanpreet was sitting at the terminal checking on the order for the bioforming supplies for Talis, so she twisted around in her seat to look at her.

"How did it go?" she asked.

"Without a hitch," Kayla said. "I have new ID and the Dreamsong is now officially mine." She flopped down on one of the sofas. "And no one attacked me, which is nice. But what happens now? I hope the wait soon will be over."

"Well, now we wait for the bioforming supplies then head off to Talis to deliver them and pick up the scientists," Amanpreet said. "And the bioforming supplies should be ready tomorrow."

"Excellent," Oni said. "We'll be at Corona in plenty of time then."

"You know the date?" Linda asked as she re-entered the house and waved them towards the dining table. She was carrying a large pot and Niobe was behind her with others. “This one's fish stew and Niobe's is similar but made with tofu.”

"Yes," he said. "Several of the highland cultures have had radio for some time and we've been listening to them. Our linguists have decoded enough of their languages to understand their calendar and some of their technological terms. That's how we know they are planning to send their first astronauts up."

Niobe's eyes lit up. “I want to talk to your linguists! I've always wanted to work on an unknown language. It must be challenging,”

“Sure!” One of the other members of Oni's group – a young woman with dark olive skin and short black hair – said. “It's always nice to have input from a colleague.” She extended her hand to Niobe across the table. “I'm Sierra by the way, the team's chief linguist, and yes it's very challenging – especially since we don't have enough comparatives - but yes, it's extremely rewarding. Speaking of unknown languages, I want to grab the lexicon the linguists are building for the Talis species while we're there.” She rolled her eyes skywards. “I wish we had a helpful telepathic computer to help us at Corona.”

“It would be useful,” Nerrin said. “But we don't even know if it's fully safe yet, even if Am does seem unharmed. Though given the warning they had to give us and what we've now learned about Corona it seems reasonable.”

“That's true,” Sierra said.

“What did you learn today?” Kayla asked.

“Oh!” Niobe said. “We haven't told you that bit yet. The alien species that attacked Talis was also responsible for the destruction of Corona's former Class Four species, as we feared. Am is thinking they target species that have or are close to having to hyperspace travel capability.”

“Really?” Kayla said. “Why would they... do you think that maybe their home is in hyperspace like the Fish's home?”

Amanpreet blinked at that then shook her head. “No, rather the opposite. From what we know they can't actually tolerate hyperspace at all.”

Kayla gave a whistle. “They must be immortal then. How would you hold an interstellar society together at sublight speeds otherwise?”

“Extremely long lived at the very least,” Amanpreet agreed. “But to hold a society together unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years they'd need to be, even without the hyperspace thing.” She chewed on her lip. “Two hundred thousand years... even if they have a generation period of one thousand years that's two hundred generations. Look how much humans have changed in two hundred generations.”

Kayla nodded thoughtfully. “A lot of social inertia as well. I hope we never have to fight them.”

“Me too,” Amanpreet said. “But the Council needs to plan as if we will.”

“I'm sure they will,” Linda said. “That's their job after all.” She turned to Oni. “So tell me more about Corona and your work.”

“Ah yes,” he said. “Corona is interesting because it has two closely related sophont species and the highland species is one of the technologically developed we study.”

“They are geographically discrete?” she asked.

“Yes, the highland species cannot tolerate the atmosphere at low levels. They developed powered flight very early on from what we can tell because of this. I'm writing a paper on them currently. I can send you a copy if you wish.”

“I'd like that,” she said. “So will you stay tonight before you go to Talis and Corona?”

“Sure!” Niobe said before Amanpreet could answer. “We have to wait for the stuff for the Ishtari anyway.”

--

Prompt Post 31 is here. Come and leave a prompt.

Comments welcome

If you enjoy my writing and haven't already please consider becoming a patron via my Patreon page.

Himeno Wind 1
Part 30 is up!

You know the drill. If you wish, leave a one or two word prompt or a single line of dialogue and I will try and use it. This prompt post will be open until midnight GMT Sunday/Monday.

The Whisper of Damkina Part Thirty

Himeno Wind 1
Start with the First Part or check out Part Twenty Nine if you missed it. Or you can find every part to date archived at my website with easier navigation.

--

Niobe's mother Linda was one of the chief marine biologists on Cels. She and her team were responsible for monitoring the stability of the bioformed oceans around Western Cels. Indeed when Amanpreet and her crew arrived at Niobe's family home - a large single story whitewashed house of lovely naturalistic curves and no hard edges which stood on the tropical coast several miles from the nearest city - her mother and two assistants were just making their way up the beach dressed in wetsuits and carrying boxes of samples.

"Mum!" Niobe ran down the beach to greet her and Linda immediately put down the samples she was carrying and swept her into a hug. Niobe seemed completely unfazed by the fact her clothes were getting soaked as she hugged her back. "Let me help you with this." She reached for the samples.

"Nonsense." Linda picked them up before she could. "You and your colleagues are guests." She lead them back the beach and into the porch where she stripped off the wetsuit and shrugged on a robe without a hint of self-consciousness before letting them into the rest of house. "Welcome, dear friends. You're a bit earlier than I expected but make yourselves at home, most of you know where everything is. I need a shower so I'll join you soon." She disappeared into the bathroom.

Amanpreet flopped onto one of the comfortable sofas in the main living area. "I wonder how long Kayla will be."

"Not too long I imagine," Niobe said. "It shouldn't take more than a couple of hours to fill the forms and get her papers."

“I hope your mother doesn't mind you bringing us as well,” Oni said.

“Nah,” Niobe said. “When I told her you and your colleagues were aboard she insisted I bring you as well. She enjoys entertaining especially since Dad is away at Tinia station so much.” She saw Oni's puzzled look and grinned. “He's a linguist like me and was part of the first contact team who contacted the Mez when they appeared in system and started bioforming Tinia. Now he's our chief ambassador to them. I spent a lot of my childhood on Tinia station with him. It's why I know so much about the Mez.”

“I heard that the Mez did that when we first met them,” one of the other scientists said. “A bit rude starting to bioform a planet without asking the people who already live in a system first.”

Niobe shrugged. “They didn't realise we were here. Admittedly they hadn't looked. They knew warmer planets could support life but they'd decided it would never be complex life much the same way we thought of life on colder worlds until we met them.” She chuckled. “Dad says they were mortified when they realised but they've been pretty good neighbours since.”

“The Mez are alright.” Linda returned to the room and sat down beside her daughter. There could be no doubt the two women were related, with the same dark brown skin and high cheekbones though Linda kept her hair cropped close to her head unlike her daughter. “And I hear you have a lot to do with them recently.”

“Yes,” Niobe said. “Umi and Storm are from Tinia, and Am helped them out so much they've declared her family.”

“Oh, that's an honour!” Linda said. “Mez don't declare you family without cause. What happened?”

“It's quite a story,” Niobe said. “You heard about Promise, I guess?”

“The sophont Fish? Yes, the news has been full of it. This has something to do with that?”

Niobe nodded and began to tell her mother the whole story. When she finished Linda smiled at Amanpreet.

“Wow, what you did was really amazing,” she said. “ I can see why they claimed you as kin.”

“It wasn't that amazing,” Amanpreet said. “Anyone would have helped.”

“Don't be so sure,” Linda said. “People can be pretty selfish and even though it turned out not to be dangerous you had no way to know that.” She stood up and stretched but I had better get to work preparing dinner.”

“Excuse me, Doct-” Oni began.

“Call me Linda, please,” she said,

“Linda,” he said. “Would you mind if I use your terminal? I could do with checking my messages.”

“Of course you may,” she said. “And over dinner you must tell me more about your work. Studying the development of sophont species must be fascinating.”

“It is,” he agreed as he headed over to the terminal. “And I will.” He logged into the terminal and began paging through his messages. “Ah! We have news from Talis. They've managed to simulate stellar positions from the time of the disasters and ask the computer about Corona.”

“Oh?” Amanpreet said. “What did it say?”

“It's not a coincidence,” he said. “Corona was attacked as well. The Talis people had some contact with them and they were developing hyperspace travel but hadn't even managed a working prototype. They were doing pretty well in the war but the enemy managed to poison their biosphere triggering a mass extinction event and to stop them escaping.”

“I wonder if that's it.” Amanpreet narrowed her eyes thoughtfully.

“Hmm?” He tilted his head at her curiously. “What?”

“Talis had a prototype hyperspace ship and Corona was developing one,” she said. “The enemy apparently can't tolerate hyperspace. I wonder if that's why they attacked them.”

“It's a viable theory,” he said. “They might find hyperspace travel threatening.”

“Yes,” she said. “And means we may all be in danger if the Talis computer is right about them still being out there.”

 

--

 

Prompt Post 30 is here. Come and leave a prompt.

Comments welcome

If you enjoy my writing and haven't already please consider becoming a patron via my Patreon page.
Himeno Wind 1
Part 29 is up!

You know the drill. If you wish, leave a one or two word prompt or a single line of dialogue and I will try and use it. This prompt post will be open until midnight GMT Sunday/Monday.

The Whisper of Damkina Part Twenty Nine

Himeno Wind 1
Start with the First Part or check out Part Twenty Eight if you missed it. Or you can find every part to date archived at my website with easier navigation.

--

Amanpreet had Kayla handle most of the hyperspace navigation for their trip to Cels in order for her to get used to the different feel of the Whisper compared to her smaller ship. She'd even sat in the dome with her on their first jump – ready to take over if she had a problem – but the Vaian girl had done her job with only minor wobbles and by the time they reached Cels she'd even got over that.

As they re-entered normal space and entered orbit around Cels, Kayla climbed down from the dome to join them.

“Well, how'd I do?” she asked eagerly. “I think it went better this time.”

“You're doing a great job,” Kane said before Amanpreet could reply. “This class of Stick is very different from your Dreamsong.”

“Not that different,” Kayla said. “Just bigger. I wouldn't like to try and navigate a Fish without extra training but this was fine.”

“Huh,” Amanpreet said. “Well you do have a talent or you wouldn't have been an exploration scout.” She pointed to the view screen. “Anyway this is your new home planet.”

From space, Cels was a beautiful planet. So many worlds that Amanpreet and her crew visited were still in the process of being bioformed for humans and still had vast tracts of barren land not yet fit for habitation. On some people were still confined to domes in order to breathe. Cels, on the other hand, was the second oldest human extrasolar settlement and fully bioformed. From orbit you would never know it had been a barren rock with only single-celled life in it's now bountiful seas and none on land when it had been discovered.

"Ah! So lovely!" Kayla exclaimed. "Looks nicer than Vaia, even without the political issues at home."

"It is," Niobe said. "Well, I'm Western Celish but the Northern Continent is lovely as well. Especially the North Celish Alps. The bioforming team modelled the environment on the European Alps. We used to go skiing there when I was little." She smiled a little. "It's summer in the North now but you'll see when you go there. The Northern government's administrative centre is in Maris City on Lake Demeter." She tilted her head. "Fortunately the spaceport is there as well."

"I don't know a government that doesn't have its administrative hub near its spaceport," Kane said blandly and Niobe chuckled.

"That's true," she conceded. "Anyway, when you've got your papers, my mother insists you catch a shuttle over to Western Cels for dinner before we shoot off again." She grinned at Amanpreet. "And she says she remembers you don't eat meat so don't worry."

"She never forgets," Amanpreet said. "And I was expecting that. We can't get within half a parsec of Cels without her feeding us. I mean last time we were only doing a supply run to Tinia and she knew we were in the system." She looked over at Kayla. "Are you sure it's okay going down there alone? What if the Vaians have set another trap for you?"

"The Northern Celish Defence Force are sending me an escort," Kayla said. "I doubt they'll go up against that." She jerked her head towards the communications console as it lit up indicating an incoming request to dock. "See, here's my escort."

"I'll double check it," Niobe said. "But it's certainly showing a NCDF transponder." She checked her console and then nodded. "It's genuine."

Amanpreet nodded. She expected as much but it paid to be sure. "Permission to dock granted."

***

Much to Amanpreet's surprise, there was a civil servant from the Northern Celish government aboard the escort vessel that had come to collect Kayla. She didn't even bother introducing herself before turning to Kayla.

“I'm afraid we need to talk before we go to the surface.”

“Did something else happen?” Kayla was obviously equally surprised. “It's only been three days.”

“It has,” the woman said. “Don't worry, we're still giving you your papers but we thought it best to explain what has happened before we escort you down, to explain the added security.”

“What's happened,” Kayla asked. “More threats?”

“A bit more serious than that,” the woman replied. “The Vaians attacked the blockading ships. Fortunately they were hit first and no one was killed in that initial skirmish and their Defence Force scattered when they realised that they couldn't win.”

“Damn!” Kayla bit her lip. “They don't know when to give up and I sense a ‘but’ coming.”

“Two buts,” she replied. “Vaia is now under occupation but the Children of Masari sect there has its members fighting every step of the way and they seem to have been training for it.” She shuddered briefly. “It's messy, very messy. To make matters worse we haven't captured all the Vaian ships yet and they've taken to making hit and run attacks on shipping in hyperspace. They... They are being quite successful at that and they seem to be turning up everywhere.” She bowed her head. “So as well as the ship I came on, there will be two more ships escorting us and the Council have assigned an extra escort to your trip to Corona as well.”

“That makes sense,” Amanpreet said. “But it's going to make hiding our presence harder.”

“Of course,” The woman said. “the escorts they’ll be sending are concealment experts, don't worry. But you'll need to wait an extra day here for them to arrive.”

“Ah! That's fine!” Niobe said. “I'll call my mother. She'll put us up since she's already feeding us.”

“You're from Western Cels?” the woman asked. “Your accent certainly fits.”

“Yes,” Niobe agreed. “It should be safe.”

“Oh, no doubt,” the woman said. “But I'll notify the Western Government so they can keep an eye out just in case and arrange a private shuttle to bring Kayla to where you are staying.”

“That would be good of you,” Niobe said. “Thank you.”

“No problem,” the woman said before turning back to Kayla. “We should get going. The forms will take quite some time.”

 

--

Prompt Post 29 is here. Come and leave a prompt.

Comments welcome

--

A/N: Please check out and comment on this news post. 

If you enjoy my writing and haven't already please consider becoming a patron via my Patreon page.

Himeno Wind 1
Part 28 is up!

You know the drill. If you wish, leave a one or two word prompt or a single line of dialogue and I will try and use it. This prompt post will be open until midnight GMT Sunday/Monday.

The Whisper of Damkina Part Twenty Eight

Himeno Wind 1
Start with the First Part or check out Part Twenty Seven if you missed it. Or you can find every part to date archived at my website with easier navigation.

---

Amanpreet was enquiring after the bioforming supplies the Ishtari on Talis had asked her to obtain when Umi called.

"I thought Kayla would like to know the results of the Council of Planet's deliberations on Vaia," she said without preamble.

"Yes, I imag--" Amanpreet broke off as Kayla rushed over. "Yes, she definitely does."

"Have they come to a decision?" Kayla asked. "What are they going to do?"

"A blockade," Umi said. "As my people suggested. But the Humans and Ishtari insisted that vital food supplies be permitted past the blockade, since Vaia is not yet self-sufficient."

"I can see why," Kayla said. "But it's going to be a pain to enforce, isn't it.."

"Yes, and that's assuming the Vaians don't declare war. They are threatening to." Her slug-like body rippled with contempt. "That wouldn't be much of a war. Even given how tough you people are, it would be more like digesting a--" She spoke the next word aloud in her own language. Amanpreet looked over at Niobe who glanced up from the book she was reading before she could ask.

"It's a small amphibious creature from the Mez homeworld," she said. "About the size of your thumb. The Mez eat them sometimes because they are easy to engulf but they are neither tasty nor satisfying as I understand it." She shrugged and looked back at her book.

"So she means they don't stand a chance?" Amanpreet asked.

"Pretty much," Niobe said.

"I'm sorry," Umi said. "The idiom doesn't translate well. But, yes, we may be out of practice but our numbers are so superior they can't win.”

“That probably won't stop them,” Kayla said. “The Vaian military drill a lot and have a great deal of faith in themselves.” She pulled a face. “Actually there's a pattern of hubris in Vaian institutions.”

“And the pattern still holds true,” Umi said. “Having seen their ambassador charged with conspiracy to murder and been informed of the blockade, they still tried to have you charged with piracy and demand your ship back.”

Kayla hit her forehead with the heel of hand. “They what? After they tried to kill me? That's dumb even for them.”

“Indeed,” Umi said. “They were told no, in no uncertain terms. The human head of security apparently told the Vaian deputy ambassador to do something with her warrant that sounds like it would be painful. But they have withdrawn your passport and the Dreamsong's registration. Nothing we could do about that. So I took the liberty of contacting a human friend who's high up in the Northern Cels' government and asking if he'd arrange asylum for you and an emergency Celish registration for your ship. He agreed. I'm sending you the documents now but you'll need to go to Cels in the next Earth month to confirm your status and get permanent registry for your ship.”

“Month...” Kayla hummed to herself. “We need to talk to Oni again then, because we need to make a slight detour on our way to Talis. No other way I'll make it Cels in time and we need the Dreamsong for this job. I hope he doesn't mind.” She turned back to the screen and inclined her head to Umi. “Thank you for your help, Administrator Umi.”

“You're welcome,” Umi said. “It is the least we can do having heard your story earlier.”

***

“Yes, we can handle a diversion to Cels,” Oni said when Amanpreet asked. “It'll only add a few days to the journey anyway, as it's very much on route, and everyone on Aletheia knows about Kayla's situation and it will be a good place to obtain the bioforming supplies for the Ishtari.”

“Everyone?” Kayla exclaimed. “Why...”

“There were journalists viewing the Council session when you gave your evidence,” he replied. “And your testimony was pretty lurid. They lap that up.”

“I'm glad I haven't checked the press then,” Kayla said.

“I've seen it,” Amanpreet said. “You really don't want to. I'm amazed they haven't been trying to get interviews.”

“Security are keeping them away,” Oni said. “And your contact details are private. They can't reach you. They did get an interview with Promise apparently but that's a different matter.”

“Oooh, now that I do want to see,” Amanpreet said.

Oni laughed. “Don't we all. But more seriously, how are The Whisper's repairs coming along?”

“They're nearly done,” Amanpreet said. “The technicians say she'll be hyperspace worthy tomorrow.”

“Excellent,” he said. “Because we need to leave as soon as we can.”

--

Prompt Post 28 is here. Come and leave a prompt.

Comments welcome

--

If you enjoy my writing and haven't already please consider becoming a patron via my Patreon page.

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