A/N: I haven’t had this installment back from my Beta reader yet and she hasn’t contacted me which is unusual, so I’m hoping she’s okay. Presuming she is I expect she’ll get it to me as soon as she’s free and in the interim I’m posting this raw, so expect typos and similar.
A week later Promise regurgitated The Whisper just in time for them to leave hyperspace near Aletheia. The sole planet in its solar system, with not even microbes for indigenous life at all and unsuitable for bioforming by any of known species it had tolerable gravity, frozen water and methane beneath the surface and received plenty of sunlight for power. All of which had made it the perfect hub world for the Council of Planets especially since it occupied a system that was conveniently central to the 300 parsec sphere of space the four species had explored between them.
Amanpreet directed the Whisper towards the human habitation domes where there would be a repair bay where the Whisper could regrow her shields and otherwise heal from the Vaian attack. Promise in the meantime had docked at one of the orbital stations since it was far too large to land safely.
“Oh, sweet heaven!” The technician on duty who was waiting for them exclaimed when Amanpreet disembarked. “What have you done to her?”
“We had a bit of a run in with the Vaian military,” Amanpreet replied as Kyla came up behind her. “We had to do a bit of Vortex Cl–” She broke off because the technician’s eyes had narrowed.
“Oh it’s you, is it!” He produced a knife from somewhere and hurled himself at Kyla.
Amanpreet knocked Kyla out of the way though the knife did slice her upper arm. She pivoted around and punched the technician in the gut before he could attack again, winding him long enough for Kane and Niobe to grab him. A moment later the door to the pay burst open and several security guards ran in.
Kyla picked herself up and dusted off her trousers. “Well that was stupid.” She tilted her head. “He must have known there’d be someone watching the feed. And he doesn’t sound Vaian so what was this about?”
“He isn’t.” The head of the security team looked puzzled. “He’s from Cels.” He frowned at Kyla. “So you’re the young woman who’s giving evidence about Vaian misconduct?” When she nodded his frown deepened. “Yes, that is a bit of a coincidence – it must be connected. But don’t worry we’ll get to the bottom of this. Maybe they paid him.” He tilted his head at her. “But I’m assigning you extra security until we do.” He looked at the Whisper and winced. “We’d best call in another Technician as well. Your ship looks like it needs attention.”
“Yes, that was the Vaian military’s fault.” Amanpreet described what had happened and he rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly.
“I suppose that unlike attempted assassination they could actually justify that since the scout stick is Vaian property but they’ve blown that defense now.” He looked at Amanpreet. “You can in with the Class Four intelligence Fish, didn’t you? Does that mean this is the Stick that got attacked en rout to Talis a few weeks back?”
“I am,” Amanpreet said.
“Hmm, maybe you can see the pattern.” He grinned to show he was joking. “Are you sure it’s not jinxed?”
“I’ve had the Whisper for five years and until these last few weeks I’d never been attacked in hyperspace,” Amanpreet said. “I think it’s just one of those months.”
Eventually a replacement technician arrived and started the regeneration process for The Whisper. They waited long enough for a doctor to check Amanpreet’s injury wasn’t serious and that the would be assassin hadn’t poisoned the knife before the Security team escorted them to the quarters that they’d been assigned in the human domes.
“I’m leaving a guard until we’re sure there’s no more assassins about,” the security chief said. “Did you need to go any where before you give evidence to the Council?”
“There’s a market here, right?” Mark said. “Because our supplies are a bit low and we could do with refreshing them if we don’t want to be eating Stick sap and nutribars all the way home to Damkina.”
“There is indeed,” the Security man said. “If you want to browse in person I’ll need to arrange a detail for you.”
“I don’t think so,” Mark said. “I’ll probably use the terminal.”
“Tell the guard if that changes,” the chief said. “I think the Council is planning to discuss your Fish friend tomorrow so I’ll probably see you then.”
“Thanks.” Amanpreet saw him out then returned to where Mark was already at the terminal. “So, what supplies do we need to pick up?”
“Vegetables, of course.” Mark consulted a list. “Tea, coffee, beer, juice, fish and meat for those of us who eat–” He broke off as the terminal chimed. “Uh.”
Amanpreet reached across him and answered the call. “Hello?”
“Amanpreet!” Umi appeared on the screen waving her tentacles in dismay. “I was arranging to pay for your ship’s repairs in thanks for helping my sister and the chief administrator of the human dome you’re staying in told me you were attacked? Are you well?” Behind her Amanpreet could see Storm looking equally agitated.
“We’re fine,” Amanpreet reassured her. “I got a slight cut on my arm but otherwise we’re unharmed. He was after Kyla.”
Umi said something in her own language that Amanpreet took as an expletive before turning and translating what Amanpreet had said for Storm which lead to the smaller Mez chirruping angrily for several minutes. Amanpreet looked at Niobe questioningly.
“She compared the Vaians to a particularly nasty government on the Mez homeworld a while back,” Niobe said. “I think it might be the one that made the original Fish. And after all this I’m not sure I disagree.”
“Have they given you guards?” Umi asked. “I can arrange guards for you.”
“We have guards,” Amanpreet said. “Thank you for your concern.”
“You helped us in need, Amanpreet,” Umi said. “You are family of the soul to us now.”
Amanpreet blinked at that. “Thank you.”
“If you need anything just call,” Umi said and closed the connection.