Springingtiger's Blog


Chapter 21: A Life of Crime (part one)

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Naturally we monitored the Imperial comms. Within hours the order for our capture had gone out. Later the news broadcasts played the security film of Anya shooting the guard followed by an emotional appeal by his mother begging for someone to bring her son’s killers to justice. Anya watched and chuckled, I was horrified.

“It’s not funny!” I snapped.

“It is when Sergeant Maggie Muill is pretending to be a boys mother, she’s the most hardened lesbian in the fleet!”

“Lesbians have children.” I grumbled.

“She hates kids.”

“It makes you look bad, very bad”

“Only because I’m so infatuated with you and you seduced me into your life of crime. That’s obvious from the report. It’s all your fault!” She laughed then added, “perhaps we should carry on building our cover.”

“There’s no one to hear you out here.” I said.

“No, but in case anyone asks awkward questions I think we should know every inch of each other’s bodies…besides what else are we going to do for three days?

I liked Felix Colony. There were as many cats, perhaps more, as humans. Since human to animal communication had been perfected in the Twenty Second Century it was not unusual to find joint human and animal projects. Most worked between a limited number of species because there weren’t that many species capable of equal cooperation or anything like it. Also as each species had its own language it was impractical to work with more than a couple at a time. The Militia planets still treated animals as something to kill and eat, but as they still rejected full human status to non whites that was hardly surprising. Felix was the most ambitious and complete of all these projects so much so that when we were there the President was a large cat. By his coat I would have assumed he was descended from the Highland Wildcats, he explained to us that the presidency was held jointly between humans and cats, However hi human co-president had died last week and so the process of electing a replacement was ongoing. I was surprised to learn that both species voted on both presidents, on reflection it made sense. I wondered whether because of numbers cats had an electoral advantage.

“Technically, yes.” Agreed Doctor Shadey Grey – the President, “but I suppose you could say that we’ve ruled humans since Ancient Egypt, now they get a say too!” The human secretary providing the translation seemed as amused as the President. Grey continued,

“At least the humans don’t take as long to select their candidates as we do. It takes far to long for a cat to commit themselves. Whereas humans are eager to throw their hats in the ring with cats its always, ‘I am going to stand…no I’ve changed my mind…on second thoughts I will stand…but wait, no, I don’t think so..” and so on. The moment a candidate actually confirms we start the election campaign just to push the switherers into committing!”

Doctor Grey had been Professor of Politics, Philosophy and Conflict Resolution at the University of Felix prior to standing for the presidency. He explained that the cats – unlike their human companions – didn’t have political parties.

“We’re cats,” He explained. “We tend to each do our own thing, but when one of us decides to stand for office we vote for whichever candidate we like. It works because we can each be trusted to look out for our own best interests and generally what is good for one cat is good for all. I don’t suppose, Miss Jog, you’d mind scratching my head while we talk? Oh yeeah!…” he purred.

I have to say it was the most unusual negotiation I have been a part of and I’ve been involved in many over the millennia. However I don’t think I can remember any I have enjoyed as much. The Felicians wanted the grenades for onward shipment to selected Feline revolutionary groups on the Militia planets. I asked about Alabama but Grey responded,

“Our people there don’t have an organisation, I don’t suppose you’d mind having a couple of cats along on your trip would you? They’d be no trouble, okay you’d need to clear their trays because you’ve got opposable thumbs, but otherwise you’ll find them good company. When you get to Alabama they’ll jump ship and see if they can’t move things along for our people and animalkind in general.

##

So it was we left Felix with two furry spies and a cargo of Felician gold and minerals for delivery to Ezekiel Boult on Astarte Two the capital of the three planet Astarte Federation. The Capital had moved to Two when it was discovered to be much more congenial than the other two planets. The Astarte system was unusual in having three habitable planets out of its seven. We landed, as we had been instructed by Solomon, some distance out of town. We off loaded our cargo and concealed it in the woods one the cats mounted guard, the other watched over the Bug while we went in search of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel resembled his brother facially, but was taller and sparer. Unlike his brother Ezekiel had political ambitions and had a hand in most of the affairs of Astarte both legal and illegal. It was obvious our cargo was to finance his political ambitions. We were talking to Ezekiel in his fine town house when one of his men came in and whispered to him. Ezekiel smiled and turned back to us.

“Where is my cargo, it’s not on your ship?”

“Your brother Solomon, advised us not to give you your cargo until after you gave us his. We will give you the location of your gold when we are loaded.” I replied.

“It’s a terrible thing when you can’t trust your own brother!” Said Ezekiel, but there was no sorrow in his voice. “We’d better get on with business then.”

Astarte’s most profitable export was the drug that bears its name. It was also illegal throughout the Empire and on every civilised planet. It shared the one quality of illegal substances, it commanded a high price. It was a load of this narcotic that we were to ship to New Plymouth possibly the most conservative of the Independents, it had been settled by extreme Puritans seeking as in so many previous ages a place where they might practice their religion without interference. As in every previous age the supposed purity of the colony had been adulterated by its inevitable contact with outsiders. Trade is always connected with greed for profit and even the puritans were not exempt from that particular cancer. Although the colony was still administered by the New Plymouth Presbyterian Church, its population contained many of more liberal persuasion. In any colony that sought to legislate away vice there was money to be made by providing the occasion to sin. Every town on New Plymouth had its brothels and drinking dens supplied by smugglers who were as content to smuggle girls and boys as drugs and alcohol. Nothing was as valuable in the New Plymouth underworld as Astarte. Astarte provided a few hours of bliss that left a craving like an unscratcheable itch. It heightened the senses, provided a sense of euphoria and was reputed to provide a sexual potency and orgasm that lasted for hours, each second more intense than the last. Control of the supply of Astarte gave control of the minds of those who had tasted her. It caused no lasting physical damage, but completely enslaved a person’s will. For days the craving would build until there was nothing they could do but satisfy it by any means. Astarte had brought the crime to New Plymouth that her founding fathers had tried so hard to escape and in order to fulfil our mission we were going to fuel that vice. Neither Anya and I were too happy, but for now there was nothing we could do.

We took possession of Ezekiel’s cargo of poison. Once Anya was safely on the Bug I took Ezekiel and his men to the treasure. They dug up the boxes and I turned to leave. I had walked a few paces back towards the large tree behind which I had tethered my horse when Ezekiel spoke,

“Stop right there!”

I turned and saw that he had his blaster trained on me. Feigning surprise I took a step backwards. I was almost next to the tree.

“You’re a fool,” smiled Ezekiel, “so’s my brother if you thought I was going to just hand over a cargo. I can’t imagine that sweet girl of yours leaving without you so she will surrender to save you and I’ll have the gold, your ship and a pretty girl who’ll fetch a good price in the brothels.”

I merely replied, “Now!”

From the tree beneath which the treasure was buried a gunmetal grey ball fell attached to a long string. Long before it hit the ground the string tautened and pulled the pin from the fragmentation grenade. As Ezekiel’s attention was caught by the falling object I threw myself behind the tree. After the explosion I cautiously crawled out, my blaster in my hand. From behind the tree where the treasure was, one of Ezekiel’s men stepped. He was bleeding profusely from multiple wounds down his right side, but in his left hand he held a blaster. He fired, he missed, on my belly I didn’t present much of a target. I didn’t miss.

The Feline spy, Little Fluffy, climbed down the tree and joined me. One of the few Feline phrases I had managed to learn so far was, ‘Thank you!’ I used it, ruffled his ears then called Anya to come and get us. We left for New Plymouth considerably richer than we had planned.

##

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