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Pakkrat

The Thule Project - Ch. VIII

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The Thule Project - Ch. VIII
by Pakkrat

VIII. *Under the cover of its advanced stealth capabilities, the **Andromeda** again trailed the Tradesman and the Warrior as they left Lagarto sector. The two took the longer path from Gallina system, through Aragoth.*

*Lady DeWynter had to check herself and her patience as the two stopped overnight at Friendship 7, the Glenn sector casino space station. No doubt, the Pakkrat and the Praefect were enjoying the Glenn Commission facility's tourist-trap distractions as they stayed. DeWynter did not dock her black and stealthy capital ship. The **Andromeda** was not supposed to exist and nobody outside its crew ever would know.*

*"Joga," DeWynter called to the nearby Progen female.*

*"Mistress?" the telempathic woman came to attention.*

*"When we get to Aganju behind the rat," began DeWynter, "I will want your help in dealing with him to get this task done. As for the Warrior...you deal with her. Use the ship's guns if you have to."*

*Joga grew grim and was soon a stoic statue as she nodded, "Acknowledged, Mistress." She then went to a weapons console crew member to prepare per the Lady's orders. *

"From what I understand of these Sha'ha'dem Jenquai," told the Pakkrat to Siobhan as the two walked from the hangar to the main commons lobby of Paren Station the next day, "is that they don't like either Terrans and Progen much less."

Siobhan folded her lightly-armored arms in front of her as the Pakkrat advised her. But she nodded to give the trader his say.

"So let me do the talking and try not to be so martial, Siobhan," continued the Terran.

The two had flown most of the next day through Beta Hydri and Sirius solar systems, after basking in the hospitality of Friendship 7 and the greater Glenn Commission. Now fully into the Capella system and deep inside Jenquai space, the two began to feel the eyes of the xenophobic race watching them as they plied the spacelanes.

Pakkrat had spent a full half-hour trying to wrest the two Anicent artifacts from the prototype Dark Matter launcher as if it refused to be parted with its betrothed device. When he got nowhere with the connections, Siobhan had the strange, orange-gold frames and their respective crystals off in under five minutes. Thus, the two were well and ready to head inside and speak to the Jenquai researcher, Ayako Ravenlock. Pakkrat held both of the 'aa' devices as if they were twin offspring. Asking about for a short bit netted them directions from a Jenquai man who was willing to speak to the pair.

Ayako Ravenlock, the woman in the very back of the lobby of Paren Station seemed almost hidden as the two approached. She was shorter and seemed older than Siobhan and she wore wire-framed glasses. The elderly woman was scrolling through a personal data-tablet when she was interrupted by the Pakkrat.

Before the trader could speak, the Jenquai woman's initiative addressed him first, "Do you have my notes, young man?" Then she looked up and saw the tall Terran in an off-white trench. "Oh," she said. "I should have known."

Before the trader could fully throw a pitch to ask Ravenlock to identify the two, framed devices, she was stepping up to him and adjusting her lenses at the crystals inside their frames. The Pakkrat was caught off-guard and could only look back at Siobhan who shrugged at him in return.

"Most interesting," noted Ayako to herself, "Ancient artifacts to be sure, certifiable too. Hmmmm." The elder continued to look at each device from different angles as the Pakkrat continued to hold them.

"Yes, well this one is an Ancient Artifact Gamik An Ne and the other an Ancient Artifact Uhtag An Ne. Most rare."

The Pakkrat wondered at the Jenquai. Even after two years out of the freezer, he could only be continually amazed each time he had to deal with even one of the strange and mystical race.

Ayako looked up at the tall Terran and asked hurriedly, "And just what where did you find these two, hmmm? What are you going to do with them? Why a Terran? No, wait. Don't answer that. I'll get it." She lowered her glasses to the tip of her sharp nose and stared hard and directly up at the Pakkrat.

Pakkrat felt scrutinized by his mother or an evil aunt for having his hands in a dessert dispenser as Ravenlock bore into him. Inexplicably, he felt guilty for bringing her the two crystals.

Then the Jenquai woman broke into a tirade, "This is an outrage! You would merge the power of the Ancients with a Terran weapon! Barbarian! Out. Out! Give up war and your InfinitiCorp, mercantile warmongering! Out before I call security."

"Ma'am, I assure you-," the Pakkrat backpedaled. The elder woman had done some Jenquai psionic thing to him, he assumed. He had heard that the Jenquai race had openly developed psionics, but in the two years since the comet rescue, the trader had never been subjected to the gifts of psionics. He was about to tell his side of the story when Siobhan grabbed him from behind, spun him and marched him towards the front door.

"Let's go, Mr. Rat," said the Warrior who, though significantly shorter, herded the trader who tried to pick up the pieces of the failed encounter with Ayako Ravenlock. But Siobhan was having none of it as she pushed him back toward the docking bay doors. "Don't even try your Terran Befriending tactics, trader," she warned. "The Jenquai out-class you mentally by far."

They passed the Jenquai man who had pointed the pair to Ravenlock. He watched with a wry, knowing smile as the pair left the lobby. Then the man turned to head into the lounge section of the space station with a purpose.

Siobhan pushed the Pakkrat into the hangar before he regained his balance enough to turn on her.

"Why did you stop me?" he asked.

"You were getting nowhere," answered Siobhan, "but I was listening while you were displaying the artifacts." Pointing to their docked vessels, the Warrior added, "We got their names and that's enough to run our own search through a friendly database; but for now, we leave. Ancient artifacts are too rare to just carry about, especially here in Jenquai space. Let's go, before some Sharim Ahzmundi tries to purchase them off you. It's your turn to get us some real information, Terran."

The two exited in their vessels from Paren Station.

* * *

"She actually said 'warmongering'?" asked the black-clad, ex-assassin. The Jenquai man stood at the galactic net terminal onboard Friendship 7's casino, receiving a masercom communication from Dahin sector, Capella. His name lost to a painful career, he was known only as the ShadowWalker, now an upper-echelon weapons crafter. His black armor reflected the holographic image of the informant who had placed a call to him.

"And what's better," said the Sha'ha'dem man, Grandmaster Nervestrike by translation from Jenquai dialect, the same person to point out Ravenlock to the trader and the warrior, "He was carrying Tech 8 Ancient artifacts, two in number."

The ex-assassin added the description of Ayako Ravenlock's encounter with the couple with the unearthed relics. Two devices that she felt were contributing to weapons could be quite useful. He was considering the possibilities the aa Gamik and the aa Uhtag devices might serve when he felt a gentle tug on his belt from behind.

"Don't move, assassin," said a rich, Martian-accented male behind him. Shadow froze but his mental psionics reached out and instantly identified the Progen man's mind behind him. "There is a very caustic chemical grenade on your belt and I have a finger in the pin," warned the Pakkratius, the Anchor-rat from Net-7 News. "You're going to listen to what I have to say....."

* * *

"I thought you got some sleep at Friendship 7," said the Pakkrat as the pair again traveled across Beta Hydri solar system. "After dinner, you read that whole thing?" he asked, indicating the leather bound journal of Dr. Cuinnit Dougal.

"Pakk, the Progen race have been genetically engineered to require less sleep," explained Siobhan as the pair traversed Carpenter sector. "We also require less food, though the ample dinner you purchased for us was new to me. I am beginning to like Terran tastes in diet. If I choose, I can work 48 hours with only a few breaks in the task at hand. Besides, I was bored and wanted to learn more about our situation."

The trader had listened to Siobhan paraphrase what further details she had read that night at the casino space station in Glenn sector. Siobhan had learned that after his defection from InfinitiCorp, the researcher had tried a second time with the aa Uhtag device provided by GETCo. The Good Earth Trading Company had tried to provide Dougal the means to replicate his notes. After two failures and very little of the original sample of dark matter left, he became deranged at this visions' portents. Throughout his notes, Siobhan noted, the man became obsessed with providing the single weapon, now lost to a trader's hauler, that could stop a genocidal conflict between two Terran groups by the destruction of Amah, a seemingly unconnected person to the Terran events.

"He detailed a great disease released by one side of the conflict to wipe out Terran Psionics in one great epidemic on a planet," recalled Siobhan. "But Dougal did not know where or when this would happen."

"Who would try to wipe out that many Terran Psionics?" asked the Pakkrat.

"From his description and impressions, Dougal thought it was a Terran military trying to quell some sort of uprising by the Psis of a grand scale."

"Uncool," said the Pakkrat. "Terrans wiping out their own. No wonder Dougal was becoming unhinged in trying again to make another launcher."

"At Dougal's last failure," recalled Siobhan, "he stole the second Ancient artifact and left for deep space with the Freespacers, which is why we found him entombed. He lived out his days, haunted by the dreams."

"Which only adds to my feeling that we're being played, Siobhan," agreed the Pakkrat. "I don't believe that Cuinnit Dougal was some dream-prophet."

"Neither do I. His journal seems too detailed to be just some random Terran dreams. I think a greater psionic event was being used upon the researcher."

The Pakkrat digested this new information and nodded to himself, "We really need to stop somewhere and analyze the names of these Ancient artifacts now that we have their names."

"I concur," said Siobhan, "but where? Orsini Mining Platform is co-owned by InfinitiCorp and I hear rumors that there are less-scrupulous elements there. We cannot risk stopping at Somerled Station lest COO Lady DeWynter discover what we are about."

"I have a back-alley idea then," answered the trader from Earth. "We'll go downtown."

"Down-what?"

The Pakkrat explained by saying, "Inverness Down may be a forgotten wreck of an upper-atmosphere station, but since it's run down and neglected by InfinitiCorp, it will be ideal to stop before heading to see this P3889 in 61 Cygni. It has an analysis terminal there and we can hide right under DeWynter's nose. The administrator there hates her anyways."

"I have never been there," admitted the Warrior.

"It's right up my alley," said the Pakkrat. "It's got lots of junk nobody will miss."

"You can be occasionally very strange for a 200-year old Terran, Pakkrat," teased Siobhan.

"Oh! I just remembered," perked the trader. "Tomorrow's my actual birthday. I hope there's enough cake to put that many candles upon it."

"I do not understand," noted the Progen woman.

The Pakkrat explained Terran birthday traditions as the pair freewarped through New Edinburgh and Inverness sectors to avoid being seen as little as possible. Soon enough, the pale gas planet was seen.

The Trader and the Warrior descended into re-entry of Inverness Planet. In the solar system of Tau Ceti, Inverness Down was once an atmospheric research station that had been re-purposed for the storage of Terran capital ships and minor gas mining. But with InfinitiCorp's acquisition of Arduinne Planet, far more rich in gasses, Inverness Down became a neglected ghost town of sorts.

"Ghost town?" asked Siobhan again puzzled by another of the Pakkrat's explanations.

"An unused shell, neglected after its former usefulness," said the Pakkrat. "The station is always in a state of slow death by disrepair and badly-needed supplies that the corporation often overlooks."

The formation of the two ships entered the upper atmosphere of the thick clouds of the planet. Instantly, rain of some unknown liquid pelted the two vessels. A storm had moved into the area and drenched the pair. Using instrumentation from the *Labyryinth Runner's* mapped records, the two made way though erratic winds. Sheet lightning played across the highest portions of the lower atmospheric clouds below the ships. The electricity lit the skies from below eerily. With virtually no visibility ahead, the Pakkrat had to navigate by his map alone and his ship's scan telemetry.

Before the Pakkrat was ready, the gargantuan, atmospheric station was revealed as the formation penetrated a final, dark cloud bank. The station loomed far overhead and stretched down, deep into the lower atmosphere. Though it was a massive and impressive superstructure, the Terran could see its age showing in the technologies of its era. It was aging and nothing evidenced to convince the trader otherwise. As the pair were on final approach of the docking facility, he was surprised to see the hangar shield still working in this storm. Lightning lit the skies below again as the two slowed their ships into the docking bay to land at a hangar berth.

The pair exited their craft and made way from the hangar which reverberated from the thunder outside the station. Inside the main lobby, the Terran man and Progen woman went straight to an analysis terminal. Focusing the massive computer on the two Ancient artifacts, Siobhan helped by inputting the names of the respective devices. Some scrolling through systems was necessary due to the old software the antiquated station still utilized.

"This station is almost as old as I am," said the Pakkrat as he continued to match the names with the devices. "But a station, even as old as this one should have updated its database even so."

"There," said Siobhan who first spotted a match in the menu. "That one and several below in the list is the second one."

"The aa Gamik An Ne and aa Uhtag An Ne Ancient artifact devices," quoted the Pakkrat as he punched up the entries for each. The database had noted less than ten of the strange and arcane devices of that tech level ever discovered. "Pretty rare," he said. "Ravenlock was right about their being partial weapons. Look."

Siobhan read the entry then said, "I can see now why Ravenlock was unhappy with you. The 'Uhtag' has the Ancient power to cripple weapons while the 'Gamik' has the ability to speed up your own rate of fire. The two are very dangerous in the right hands." She pointed at the second entry to the aa Uhtag An Ne device. "This must have been the source of that bright, white beam that struck the Bio-hunter when we were attacked in Jotunheim. It crippled the vessel's beam weapon that should otherwise have truly tested your shields, Terran."

"Good thing too," the man said. "You were still running for your ship."

"Now that we know the general capabilities of these two artifacts," began the Warrior, "what about this P3889 that Amah mentioned being the 'key'?"

"There isn't a galactic network terminal aboard Inverness Down but I know, as an employee of InfinitiCorp, where he is," said the Pakkrat standing up from the analysis terminal and turning to Siobhan. "The Psis are in Aganju, 61 Cygni, being used as mining personnel for weapons grade ores deep underground of the planet. Perhaps this P3889 can be found in that sector of space."

The pair waited out the storm over dinner in the lounge of the old station. Because the mining facility and junk yard was rarely visited, the two ate together with no one else present. The entire station barely rated more than the smaller stations that had no docking amenities, despite its size, classification, and duties to the Terran capital ships the pair had heard were derelict beyond, somewhere in the storms of Inverness Planet.

"This key, the man called P3889," asked Siobhan, "Do you think that using the weapon as Amah suggests to stop the prophesized genocide will work?"

The Pakkrat answered darkly, "That's the trouble with prophecies of madmen and time-space-struck women." He swigged his drink then continued, "There is a net terminal at Aganju's space station, Kinshasa-Mbali. We'll see what we can dig up using my credentials as an InfinitiCorp Merchant Prince tomorrow."

* * *

*In orbit above Inverness and hidden from all, the **Andromeda** waited patiently for the pair to re-emerge from the storms. DeWynter knew she could not descend with such a huge, space-born capital ship into such gravity. Only de-commissioned vessels were sent to be slowly picked apart in the junk yards of the planet below. She knew the Pakkrat would have to come back this direction so her ship could follow him once more.*

*"Learn, Pakkrat, what I want you to do for me," said the InfinitiCorp COO to the image of Inverness through the forward bridge view ports of the black capital ship.*

She stood over his sleeping form. Though the old station was quite antiquated, it was not spartan in the sleeping quarters they had acquired. The Warrior had entered unannounced and stood, silently watching the Terran man. The merchant seemed to be a deep sleeper. Again this night, Siobhan had paced about her own room, thinking. When she had had enough counsel with herself, the Progen woman had found herself at Pakkrat's door. When the trader did not answer, she let herself into the room to be assured he was secure.

Before her was the man she had been assigned to keep quiet, to keep from getting into deeper trouble with Vinda and the Sabine Order. But in doing so, Siobhan had infiltrated to brazenly contact the Virtuals, escaped Progen space with the trader, committed Republic espionage into Sabine Order records, Freespacer grave-robbing, fought pirates and Bio-hunters, and was taken on a new experience of the 'date' with this man. She mentally ran down the list of adventures this 200-year old man had given her. The trader rolled over in his sleep, taking most of the thermal blanket into an amusing cocoon about him.

Should the prophecy of the greatest warrior of the Centuriata, Amah be true, this Terran would spend his birthday murdering another Terran in the name of preventing genocide. Cuinnit Dougal had thought the key to mankind's survival was to destroy the now time-space locked hero. Who knew if the Ancient device, mated to the prototype Dark Matter missile launcher could penetrate the strange and alien field about Amah? And now she had pointed the trader at this Terran Psi, P3889 as the key to stopping the loss of millions of deaths on a planetary scale.

She had not told the Pakkrat everything, given that she had to paraphrase from the journal. If the Pakkrat could stop this strange prophetic chain of events, whether or not they were being manipulated, lives without the boon of the Call Forward were at risk. More than twenty million Terran Psis lives were on one end of a scale against the life of one Terran Psi. The logical processes of Siobhan's genome would have naturally chosen the many over the few. Though they were Terrans, a race unlike her own, the Progen woman saw that it was the sleeping man before her who would have to make that decision.

Tomorrow, this man would kill one or kill many in inaction, regardless if this was prophecy or some society or entity's manipulation. Given what he had explained about Terran birthday celebrations and how it was a time of happiness and life's continuance, Siobhan felt a twinge of emotion she could not identify within herself for the slumbering Pakkrat.

Quietly and aided by the controlled movements of her Combat Trance, Siobhan removed her armor and uniform. Laying her gear down beside the empty side of the man's bed, she crept gently into the bed beside him. Some urge inside the First Sabura, the mother-of-sorts to a new breed of Progen warriors with a conscience, decided to give some form of companionship to the man sleeping next to her.

Was it some Terran deep dream he was having that allowed him to remain blissfully asleep as she huddled to his tall form and wrapped her wiry arm over him from behind? She could not bring herself to fall asleep, so she did the best she could all night to give him solace that her urge suggested. In this way, Siobhan also comforted herself in this action, though she could not yet understand why this contact was reassuring. She watched him sleep the entire night.

* * *

This was his room, right? The Pakkrat opened his eyes in time to see the Progen woman, Siobhan getting up from the bed, his bed. He lifted his head to watch her dress. When she looked at him and saw him watching her, she merely smiled knowingly and silent, then continued gathering armor pieces. The trader did not feel like he'd gotten lucky, so he soaked up what little he could as the Warrior dressed in her uniform and began to clasp on her armor.

Like any of the Progen race, Siobhan was genetically perfect in body. She was shorter than most Progen Warriors, but still lithe and muscular. Her dark tan was evident as it slightly contrasted with her sandy, light-brown hair. The woman took time to re-tie her pony tail and let it twine itself in her signature double-helix spiral down her perfect back. The dragon green eyes seemed to have a bio-luminosity all their own as she looked at the trader again. Perhaps it was vision enhancements or some trick of the dim light in the room. She certainly had no trouble moving about in the shadows.

She moved around the bed to him. He opened his mouth to speak, but she hushed him with a finger over his lips.

"A birthday gift and no more," she said quietly in a whisper. "Happy birthday, Pakkrat." Then she retreated slowly with a gentle smile upon her tanned face. Her hair threatened to cover those eyes which seemed to know something the trader did not. She left him alone in the room in a daze of wonder.

The storm had passed in the early morning. The Pakkrat found the Progen Warrior in the lounge. A breakfast was waiting for the trader. The two ate as the man watched the woman then bring over a cupcake from the meal dispenser. It had only a pair of candles. Using a mini-tool flame torch, Siobhan lit the two lights and put the birthday treat before the Merchant Prince.

"I don't sing well," Siobhan said, "so I hope this will say it better."

"Why only two?" asked the Pakkrat, indicating with a pointed finger the candles.

"You were born to the Crystal Age two years ago, despite your previous life," said the woman. "And I'm not going to hunt down two-hundred candles and light them all."

"And you, Siobhan?" asked the Pakkrat. "How many candles are on your most recent birthday cake?"

Siobhan was about to answer, but then protested with, "Is it not impolite to ask a female her age?"

"Not fair," said the trader. "You get to know how old I am."

"I have lived many Progen lives, Terran," admitted Siobhan. "And unfortunately, I have recently regained precise memory of all of them. But if you must know..."

The Pakkrat waited for it, but the warrior held up her gloved hand to display three fingers.

"Three?" asked the man with a puzzled expression. "How can you be only three and look so- um, developed?"

Siobhan looked around the lounge to catch sight of a few station workers going about their routines. Then she returned her gaze to the Terran. "I was Called Forward a little over three years ago, but that time is too private to share," she explained. "Progen can be Called into fully-grown bodies if they choose to Answer the Call at all. My gene-map is the same, I just returned somewhat as I was when I was-....when I last fell."

The Pakkrat saw how the woman had become serious in her recalling of her past. He let it go and just smiled down at the birthday cupcake.

"Thank you, Siobhan," he said. "It's very nice." Then he closed his eyes and took in a deep breath to blow the candles out.

"Did you make a wish as per Terran birthday traditions?" asked Siobhan.

"Yes," purred the Pakkrat, "but I'm not allowed to say what that wish was."

Having fully-identified the Ancient artifacts, rested and eaten, the couple left Inverness Down in a much brighter, yet thin overcast of an Inverness day. Their two vessels made the orbital gate with ease and were quit of the planet.

As they crossed Inverness sector, the Pakkrat had to admit that this was the best birthday he'd had in well over two-hundred years. He smiled as he freewarped the Praefect and his ship to the system gate to 61 Cygni.

Instantly leaving behind the Tau Ceti system, trading it for the binary star system of 61 Cygni and it's rusty-red nebula named the Menorg Swarm, the pair gated to Aganju sector. With the twirling closure of the star gate's rings, the Pakkrat beheld the planet of the same name. Aganju was still in the initial stages of terraforming with a single, large settlement that was slowly infecting the surface with green of plants and irrigations. But the trader from InfinitiCorp had learned that it was the mines deep below the surface that were the real cash cow of the planet.

Aganju revolved around 61 Cygni A, the larger of the two binaries. In orbit above the planet was the second largest space station the Terran race had ever built, the largest being of course Earth Station. It was at Kinshasa-Mbali Station that ores from Aganju were transported for refining, packaging and shipping back to InfinitiCorp, the major shareholder in the entire project. Additionally, a sport for hunting nommos, a space fauna of migrating herds about the two stars, had cropped up at their territorial interference of shipping out of Kinshasa-Mbali.

It was also here that the fresh and steady stream of Terran Psionics, indoctrinated by the Terran Ramirez Codes from a very early age, were processed and assigned to duties throughout the solar system. With their particular gifts, the Psis were sent here to mine Aganju and the other planets for weapons grade ores, search for psionic resonances and assist in the further exploration of the binary solar system. The Pakkrat had also learned that while the face of operations was headquartered at Kinshasa-Mbali, the unfortunate Psis were routed through a dismally frigid and neglected platform named Xai Xai.

From InfinitiCorp, to Psionics, to EarthCorps security, many Terrans had a stake in the sector. Whether it was business, industry, social sports, or staging for the dwindling Cygni Wars in Moto against the Progen Combine there, there was always traffic in and out of Aganju.

Though a hub for commerce, 61 Cygni A was still a newer acquisition for InfinitiCorp and the Terran Alliance. Given the sector's infancy, Aganju's borders enclosed the smallest area in known human space. Only two of the four InfinitiGates here were fully operational. The third, the sector gate to Thelugi Rift was shut down after the infamous Battle of Thelugi Rift. The last, star gate was yet to be completed to a new solar system in the same constellation, named Sanctus Kyrie. Psis were behind schedule in opening the new egress.

61 Cygni B, connected by the Moto corridor sector was still largely unexplored though the Sabine Order Sentinels, (at the illegal invitation by GETCo) had given the lesser half of the binary star an initial and superficial survey. Then the Cygni Wars had started and the Sabine were forced out of the system by the conflicts of the Progen Combine and the Terran Alliance. The two stars were connected by the red nebula, the Menorg Swarm also largely unexplored.

Since the space station was situated in low orbit with the nearby system gate to Tau Ceti in high, geostationary orbit, the Pakkrat used impulse thrust towards the massive superstructures. This gave him time to see the richness of the sector. Though he had been here a handful of times, the trader decided to have a better look at the developing beauty of 61 Cygni. Asteroid fields of all types dotted the skies out to the limits of his scanners.

Wanting to take a deeper look, the Terran man engaged his onboard devices. One of the Anicent devices, the aa Uhtag An Ne in particular, played a humming or droning sound as it interfaced with the Terran vessel. Instantly, more fields, objects and even the distant Progen Warship Genesis, seemingly dormant on-station, was revealed to the *Labyrinth Runner*. As the trader reached a holding position to wait for a turn to dock from the control tower at Kinshasa-Mbali, he slowly spun about to have another, improved look at the sector.

Backlit by the closing, spinning, hexagonal rings of the system InfinitiGate, was the shadowy form of the most sinister, black capital ship the Pakkrat had ever beheld. It was long, aerodynamic in shape, without a single hard edge anywhere on its smooth surface. Small, oval bulges covering the hull of the dark craft looked to conceal huge capital-class weapons. The targeter on his cockpit locked onto the midnight vessel, but no identity came from any transponder. It was if it did not exist to normal sensors.

"Pakkrat," said Siobhan, "we can dock now. It's our turn."

"No we can't, Siobhan," answered the trader whose ship was still pointed at the huge, enigmatic vessel. He looked at Siobhan next to him in the formation. Just beyond her vessel was the space station's observation deck and lounge. A single Terran man was standing at the transparent, panoramic view ports to the sector outside. The man, a Terran Psi, was looking directly at the Pakkrat's ship, at the pilot in particular. Finally, as if these two were not enough, red warning blips on his radar were silently pulsing. Too many to count, they were approaching on separate vectors that collectively pointed at the *Laybrinth Runner*.

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