Springingtiger's Blog


Chapter 22: Puritans, Perversion and Pharmaceuticals
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Not New Plymouth, but looks like it…a bit!

I think the correct term to describe New Plymouth would be ‘austere’. Its sombre undecorated architecture seemed to embody my preconceptions of puritanism. The pinch faced puritan women kept themselves covered from the tops of their heads to their feet in undecorated grey or black dresses. I cannot in all honesty claim that none of them looked happy, but the majority had a gloomy look upon their make up free faces.If the women were unappealing the men were every bit as unpleasant. I think the most positive thing I can say about the good men and women of New Plymouth is that they were unfailingly polite in a stiff and formal way.

Whereas the buildings in New Palestine tended to follow the general style of Colonial Utilitarianism the buildings of New Plymouth were obviously designed to recall the architecture of the Georgian period of Britain and her American colonies. The civic buildings were imposing with pillared porticoes, the churches not dissimilar, but generally having a spire. there was not a trace of stained glass to be seen. It was only when I realised that the court building lacked the statue of justice that it occurred to me that the town was devoid of statues, even the most worthy were celebrated only by occasional plaques upon the walls of the buildings. The nearest thing to a building devoted to leisure were the coffee houses, but there were no public houses or bars, no cinemas or theatres. It went without saying that there were no brothels in the town. The towns were for the Elect and Outsiders might only visit them during the hours of daylight.

At some distance from the settler’s austere towns could be found the settlements of the Outsiders. These settlements were looked upon by the Elect as veritable sinks of iniquity and every sort of vice. Periodically the Elders would order the settlements to be cleansed, but they inevitably grew back like the social cancer the Elect believed them to be. Because the Outsiders performed all the unpleasant work of the planet, that is to say all the manual work – other than horticulture which was considered holy – their settlements were tolerated. It was here that the respectable burghers cane stealthily after dark to indulge their baser desires, entertainment, sex, alcohol and drugs were all available provided by the smugglers who found it surprisingly easy to sneak past the planet’s defences.

We had been instructed to seek out one William Honesty Goodlove to arrange the disposal of our cargo of Astarte. Obviously we had believed the most likely place to find him would be in the Outsider settlements. However when we enquired we were directed to speak to a Madam known as ‘Sair Flaps’ Peggy. She seemed pleased to see us and produced from her desk a sealed letter.

I read the letter and passed it to Anya, “It would seem we must attend Mister Goodlove at his law offices in the morning, this evening belongs to us.”

We bought some fresh meat for the cats and left them in command of the Bug. If anyone tried to enter the cats merely had to hit the call switch on the communications console to recall us. We could also monitor the hull cameras from our communicators. We had an enjoyable dinner in a traditional pub called the ‘Mucky Duck’. I have to say with all my experience of Earth’s cultures I am at a loss to determine what tradition the ‘Duck’ belonged to. The meal was excellent, I suppose after Compo Rations you could argue anything might have tasted good, but this really was good and set us up nicely for an evening in the Music hall.

It was during the show at the Panopticon Music Hall that my communicator alerted me that the Bug’s proximity alarms had been triggered. We left immediately and Anya scanned the buggy for bombs and trackers before we set off at speed back to the ship. Triggering the alarm had turned on the Bug’s exterior lights and the cameras showed several men outside the ship. I spoke into my communicator and my voice was relayed through the ship’s speakers.

“Stand away from my ship or I will open fire. Stand back and state your business!”

One of the men replied, “We are here to search your ship for contraband.”

“And who are you?”

“New Plymouth Customs and Revenue.”

“Very well, come back in daylight and you’ll be welcome.”

“We require access now.”

“Then you’ll have to wait. We’ve called for city officials to come and secure the area.”

As I spoke I ordered BG 784 the Bug’s computer to open the anti personnel cannon and fire some warning shots. The gun dropped muzzle first from the Bug’s belly, levelled off and fired several shots into the ground between the men and the ship. They returned fire. One of the men aimed a rocket grenade at the Bug, but I had the gun lay down fire at him and the other attackers and they all dived for cover. Unfortunately as he turned to try and avoid the gun fire the man managed to fire the rocket grenade into the ground killing himself and several of his comrades. When we barrelled into the clearing in the buggy the remaining men ran which was just as well as Anya had readied the Gatling gun, as it was she fired off a few shots to encourage them to keep running. As we settled down for the night the cats went to investigate.

The next morning after the cats had reported the results of their investigation we searched the pockets of the bodies then covered them with brush and leaves before heading to the town to meet Mr. Goodlove. His offices were in a well appointed and imposing three story office building round the corner from the Courthouse. As Outsiders we drew some attention as we walked through the streets. Even though Anya had exchanged her usual slacks for a long skirt neither oh us could be taken for a local.

As we entered the building a guard in frock coat, britches and hose stopped us. Only the Alliance Webley Blaster in his holster showed he wasn’t a character from an historical drama.

“Can I help you?” He demanded with a contemptuous sneer which betrayed his opinion of Outsiders.

I responded, “I am Cain.” He dropped the sneer and inhaled. Anya added,

“Mr. William Goodlove is expecting us.”

“Please follow me. Sir, Ma’am?” He escorted us to a lift at one side of the marble hallway, rather than take us up the magnificent staircase. I noticed the badge beneath the control panels – Otis Elevators – if it was genuine the lift was an antique, but it worked well enough.

Goodlove’s office was on the top floor with views towards the Courthouse rear and across the roof of the adjacent building, to the main square. Like the rest of the town the office was devoid of figurative decoration, but its carpet was sumptuous and reached from wall to elegantly panelled wall. Goodlove was obviously a man who both appreciated and could afford luxury.

As we entered Goodlove came from behind his huge mahogany desk. He bent to kiss Anya’s hand – an action that surprised me – then shook me by the hand. He showed us to two armchairs, as luxurious as the rest of the room. When we were seated he called for coffee and until it was brought chattered about the weather and the dangers of space travel in the Outer Planets. At last he said,

“I gather you had some trouble last night?”

I took a sip of my coffee before responding. “I would like to know how you knew about that.”

“It’s my job to know things.” Goodlove replied.

“So it’s nothing to do with the two men who came back to the Town last night while the others went to the Outsider settlement?” I asked.

“You also seem to be well informed.”

“I am Cain, I also know things.”

“I could hardly have grown up here without knowing about Cain, but your reputation makes the scriptural account pale into insignificance. So you are immortal?”

“No.” I replied, “I am not immortal, I just haven’t died yet.”

“You have the cargo, obviously. Perhaps we should discuss delivery and payment?”

“We can bring it here.” I said.

“Now.” Added Anya. “This planet is dangerous after dark.”

“It is only after dark that this planet becomes truly alive!” Smiled Goodlove. “After dark when the sanctimonious hypocrites who call themselves ‘Elders’ creep off to taste the pleasures they pretend to deny themselves.”

“You should turn a good profit from your cargo then.” I ventured.

“Oh I don’t need money,” Goodlove replied, “I want them to reap the reward for their debauchery.”

“Karma!” Exclaimed Anya.

Goodlove frowned, “We don’t use language like that on New Plymouth…but you are correct, they will reap what they have sown! I need you to deliver the shipment to Peggys and she will pay you and supply you with a cargo to be taken to Brunswick Station.

“How did Peggy get the name ‘Sair Flaps’?” Anya asked.

“She made her fortune by putting the comfort of others before her own and she worked very hard.”

There was a slight pause then Anya covered her mouth with her hand, “Oh!” She exclaimed.

Goodlove picked up his telephone, “I shall call Peggy and tell her to expect you.”

“Remind her we will be armed.”

“Don’t worry. No one’s going to try anything stupid a second time.”

“I didn’t live this long by not worrying.” I muttered as I got up to leave.

It was obvious to me that Goodlove was up to something, but for the life of me I couldn’t work out what. Anya suggested that Peggy might give more away. So we loaded the buggy and drove to ‘Peggy’s Gentleman’s Club and Spa’. From outside it exuded a level of class unmatched by the rest of the Outsider’s Settlement. As Anya suspected she was more willing to talk than Goodlove had been.

Peggy had had a few drinks before we arrived and although as in control as ever was in a chatty mood and ready to brag about her son’s plans. We were surprised that such a pillar of the establishment as William Honesty Goodlove had a mother who ran a brothel, no matter how classy it may be. Peggy had as so often in these tragedies been a governess in an Elder family. The father of the family had forced his attentions on her and William was the result. William’s father denied his paternity and had Peggy whipped and thrown out of town. Unable to get respectable employment she turned at last to whoring and discovered a natural talent which coupled with her intelligence which William inherited and business acumen enabled her to build up a sizeable empire in the Outsider settlements and a substantial fortune. She had engaged the finest tutors for William, there were many men of ability who were happy to tutor the boy for considerably more than the Elders – notoriously parsimonious – were prepared to pay. She was content to use a little discreet blackmail to ensure her son received a scholarship to the University of New Plymouth. His mothers wealth had brought William the identity of a son of a respectable rural family and the surname of ‘Goodlove’ which his mother thought a witty touch. He graduated with a First in Law in half the time of a normal student and by the time those with whom William had gone up to University were graduating he had received his Doctorate.

Tonight William was holding a dinner in the Club for Peggy’s elite clientelle whose decanters were to be laced with Astarte. After spending the rest of the evening with her girls, many of the leading men of the town would be under the control of the only man who could supply their new addiction. It was only a matter of time after that, until he brought the planet under his sway and there would be changes. Once William could control Parliament he would introduce a bill to give citizenship to Outsiders and another to extend the right to vote to all citizens both male and female.

I observed that he would need to secure a regular supply of the drug to maintain his position. However Peggy said that once William’s reforms had become law there would be no further need to feed the addiction of his colleagues in Parliament. She took great pleasure in the prospect of those who had ill-used her succumbing to the insanity of Astarte withdrawal. I had thought earlier that I might have to take measures to prevent Goodlove’s plans, but when I heard them I felt it better not to interfere in the internal affairs of the colony and Anya agreed.

Peggy transferred a large payment of credits to my account. Anya’s account had been frozen after the robbery, but for some reason the cameras failed to catch a single image of my face. However I have several accounts and the payment would be dispersed among them as soon as I could reach the terminal in the Bug. Peggy then handed over the ‘cargo’. I prefer to call them passengers. They were two men and a woman all wanted for revolutionary activities within the Empire, including the assassination of the Emperor’s father. They were fleeing Imperial space and at the moment were hiding by keeping on the move.

##

The Bug was going to be cramped. The three fugitives would have to share a cabin and the cats would have to bed down anywhere they could, which was no hardship as that is what they did anyway. The first thing to do was to find out where our fugitives wanted to go. I left that to Anya while I removed ourselves from New Plymouth Space. She came into the cockpit and told me they wanted to go to Los Alamos, New Texas.

“Oh for heaven’s sake,” I exclaimed, “that’s the first place the Empire will look for them!”

“Apparently they were already on New Texas. A couple of marshals found them and told them to get to New Plymouth until the Empire had swept the planet. The Imperial fleet is headed for New Plymouth now to try and capture them.”

I called up the navigation charts of the space between New Texas and New Plymouth. To see which route the fleet was most likely to take. I reckoned we didn’t have a day before the fleet hit local space so I decided to dogleg my route. I headed away from New Plymouth keeping the planet between me and the route the fleet would take if it was in a hurry. We skirted the system’s sun close enough to feel its heat, but so close it would be impossible for even the trackers of the Empire’s Cruisers to detect us.

We had burned up more fuel than was useful breaking from the sun’s gravitational field and so I plotted a course for the Silas Deep Space Way Station for refuelling.

Tomkin Arupa the leader of the fugitives objected to going to Silas, “It’s an Imperial Station, you might as well shoot us here!”

“You’re not going to Silas,” I replied. “The bug carries four life pods so you three will use them. We shall leave you hidden in the debris field. Take the Bug to Silas, refuel and come back for you. It should take less than thirty six hours, the pods contain oxygen for forty eight hours, if you suit up that’ll give you another eight. On the fuel we’ve got the only places we can reach are under Imperial control. This is the only one where we’ll be able to hide you off ship. If you stay on board their scans will pick up your life signs.”

Eventually Tomkin and his associates, Mika Bulgaram, and Sula Canut agreed. What else could they do it was agree or be captured?

Space is full of junk, it wasn’t, but wherever humans go they leave rubbish. The Silas station originally was built to provide salvage facilities for salvage teams after the Battle of Silas. The planet Silas sat at the junction of several intergalactic trade routes and its people were fiercely Independent. The Alliance had thrown everything at the planet and the federation of Independent Planets had thrown everything into its defence.

The debris field was the wreckage of the two largest war fleets ever seen and the battle left both sides near to collapse. When the Koch Imperial fleet arrived on the side of the Alliance the Independents evacuated as many people from the planet as they could. The evacuation was cut short by the surface fighting which was brutal, frequently hand to hand and continued for weeks. Although the Alliance now controlled the air, they had no wish to destroy the facilities they had been fighting to capture. Gradually the last of the Independents fell back to the Castro Deep Mine and processing plant. When the fighting reached the outer buildings of the facility Sergeant Ramirez who by surviving was in sole command gave the order to engage the final option. A bomb using Dilithium as its propellant was released down the deep shaft to the planet’s Dilithium core. The resulting explosion shattered the planet and destroyed the besieging fleet within a minute.

It was many generations before the salvage and clear up began. What had been the main trading hub for all human space had become its greatest impediment. Eventually as the Empire swallowed the Alliance the resources floating in space at Silas became worth salvaging and hopefully as the debris was dealt with the Silas trade routes might reopen. Trade did pick up somewhat, but it never reached pre-war levels as the area was still hazardous to large vessels. However it was popular with smaller ships carrying urgent cargoes.

As we approached the station the scanner alarm sounded. The only life signs they found were two humans and two cats. We got permission to refuel and I paid from one of my legitimate accounts. While the Bug was refuelling Anya and I went shopping for supplies. Had a meal and returned to the ship to take delivery of our purchases. As we were beginning to load them three men in Imperial uniforms stopped us and asked to see our papers. They handed mine back, but the Lieutenant looked at Anya and asked

“Rahima Suleiman?”

“Yes,” replied Anya, “can I help you?”

“Please remove your headscarf and glasses?” Requested the Lieutenant. As Anya hesitated the Lieutenant’s hand moved to the holstered blaster on her hip.

“Rahima?” I said.

Anya did as she was asked. The Lieutenant looked at her communicator and then said,

“Anya Jog, I am arresting you for the murder of Private John Timson on D18X and the theft of thirteen crares of fragmentation grenades.” The Lieutenant said before continuing with an explanation of her rights that has remained almost the same for many centuries.

“Rahima,” I said sounding shocked, “is this true?” I turned to the officer, “Are you sure I have seen her papers, she is Rahima Suleiman. I checked them when I gave her passage at New Plymouth.”

“I am sorry, Sir,” the Lieutenant said, “but I need you to come with us too.”

“Of course. Am I under arrest?”

“No, but we will need to ask you some questions.”

“Anything to help, However I am on a schedule, would it be okay to make a call from your office. I’ll let you place the call if you like.”

The Lieutenant agreed and as we reached the office I noticed the clock on the comms screen, we were running out of time already we had reached over the thirty hours. I gave the Lieutenant a comms code and she keyed it into the terminal. After about a minute a voice barked from the speakers and the Lieutenant snapped to attention

“Sikorsky here, is that you Cain?”

“Afraid so, General. I had to put into Silas for fuel and the security staff have arrested my co-pilot Rahima Suleiman. It appears she is the fugitive Anya Jog. I can’t afford to hang around just now lives depend on it.”

After a couple of minutes the speaker barked again. “Officer give me your number!”

“DSS 47977” She replied.

Another long pause and then the General’s voice spoke again, “Lieutenant Jaswinder Dhillon, yes? I’ll tell you what to do. Release Cain immediately. Keep Miss Jog behind bars until I can arrange for her removal.”

The Lieutenant saluted towards the speaker and responded, “Sir, yes Sir!”

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