House of Halik
part 2 and 3
The consensus among the workers of High Port was that this small and beat up ship could never have made the journey from Brevick, that this would be some kind of miracle. Two space suited figures were sent out to retrieve the ship as it drifted by the station. They carried two small devices that would let the station's traffic controller move the ship.
“There is nothing sold at the chandlery that would make this wreck space-worthy.” A dock hand named Smyth said to his teammate Douglas. The ship wasn't much larger than a shuttle but was clearly not built to land on a planet.
“You know, I reckon this thing here was used as a tender, to ferry people from ship to ship or from a ship to a station.” Douglas said as he finally got his hands on the banged up outer hull. If he was right, then that truly made its presence here a mystery.
Smyth had found a porthole and was using the lights on his helmet to try and look inside. “Looks a right mess, I say.”
“Just attach the tuggers.” Douglas told him.
The station had received one short message from the craft and nothing more. As if the pilot had reached his destination and then fell unconscious. Once the tuggers were attached the two space suited figures looked into the cockpit to see a man strapped into the pilots seat.
“It's all yours traffic control, you might want to alert the medical team.” Douglas reported in.
A female voice returned to their ears, “Already done that, I'm taking control of the ship, get clear guys.”
“Okay, Belina. We're clear.” Douglas told her.
Belina was the Acting Harbor Master. This would have been a great achievement at her age had she not been assigned to the duty because she belonged to the House of Avnar. The House boasted many members in powerful positions as well as prestigious ones. The Harbor Master of High Port was just a very useful one.
When the small ragged ship was docked and boarded the Medical Team found that the pilot was still alive but wounded. The damage on the ship, besides the wear and tear of age, looked like it had been hit with energy weapons at long distance. It was a miracle the thing managed to limp into trans-space at all, which it was clearly not built to do.
“It is registered to the Orbital Port of Brevick, as one of their harbor tenders.” Their resident researcher said after examining the plaque in the cockpit wall. “I have no idea why anyone would try and get this thing into trans space.”
“Desperate to escape, I suppose.” said the guard posted at the dock. “We all know there has been a power struggle on Brevick recently. Perhaps it has finally come to violence. Although, you would think we might have heard of something like that.”
After her shift was over Belina found the man in charge of the investigation, Benjamin Croce and invited him to her quarters for a drink. When he arrived she answered the door wearing a thin slip that showed her figure almost as if it were entirely transparent. It was close.
“Hello Benjamin.” She said in a soft voice.
The investigator was a bit thrown off. He had known her for months and this was out of character enough that he wanted to laugh. She was not exactly the type. Then again, there weren't that many women on board the station and one did not jeopardize their chances.
“Hello Belina. You look nice.” He told her. For a short and stout maiden. The way she walked when she fetched him a glass of wine was more buffalo than graceful swan. Obviously, she was not accustomed to trying to sweet talk someone like this.
He sat on the couch, he was surprised when she say next to him and leaned against him. “I've been here for months, Benjamin. Everyone seems to want me, but I've been waiting for you.”
He was thinking of just asking “What do you want?”. Then again, maybe she really did want him in her bed. You roll the dice and take your chances in life.
“Benjamin, have you identified the pilot yet?” she asked as she snuggled close and forced his free arm to wrap around her shoulders. “This is nice.”
Benjamin Croce cleared his throat. “His name is Rodgers Blake. I believe he was acting as a courier for someone. We found nothing on the ship, not even a spare shirt. No doubt he has a message in his head to deliver. He'll recover from his wounds I think.”
He felt her hands snaking past the small of his back and his lap. “Rodgers Blake, if he stole that ship just to deliver a message, he's brave or insane.” She said in a voice that was barely audible. She also thought “That message must be very important too.”
Benjamin Croce was suddenly feeling a bit leery of the woman. His suspicions finally outweighed his hormones and he was looking for a reason to get away. Unfortunately she had gotten her arms around him and had pushed him onto his side, with her on top and giggling. Benjamin couldn't push her off, there must have been something in that wine.
Croce remembered that he had been standoffish with this woman since she arrived because she was with the House of Avnar. The House had used its influence to get her appointed as Acting Harbor Master despite her lack of experience. Now he lay there paralyzed while the giggling witch undressed him.
Master Avnar and Dostin waited in the field for their contact. This was supposed to be a secret meeting but Dostin was sure they'd be better off meeting in a crowded public house. Men meeting in a field were bound to be seen as much more suspicious than men having ale together.
There was a pile of leaves in the corner near the treeline. The bored young Avnar shot a fireball at it from his hands. Dostin frowned. Pointlessly showing off that you had such a power was rude. Suddenly the flames turned blue and froze.
“He's here!” Young Master Avnar said loudly. Dostin looked toward the path to make sure no traveller had heard that.
From out of the woods walked a cloaked figure, a sword at their side.
“Finally, do you know how long I waited?” The young man asked. Dostin shook his head, they had been there less than five minutes.
The figure reached up and pushed the cloak back. It was a girl. A rather young girl. Seri Halik.
“Of course I know exactly how long you have been here.” she answered. “Don't bother pretending to have waited all day.”
That would be exactly like young Master Avnar, too. His reputation for being a rude and arrogant man was getting out.
“You have asked me here because of what is happening on Brevick. Your house is close to losing its power base there.” The girl said, “My house would benefit, why should I help you?”
Dostin smiled, she really got to the bottom of things quickly.
“That is very straightforward. Right, then I'll tell you why.” Master Avnar said, “Because your house will soon die out and you can marry into a powerful house.”
Seri smirked, “You are asking me to betray my father and grandfather and marry you?”
Dostin knew that a child produced between them would likely inherit the power of one of the parents, possibly but rarely both. Such a child could grow up powerful indeed.
“I guess you could marry Dostin, then.” The young man shrugged.
The girl smiled. “If that is supposed to be an insult you should apologize to your man Dostin.”
The young master smirked. “I guess that wasn't an insult then.”
“Besides, my grandfather says things are about to change. You know his power. He's always been correct.” Seri told them, she smiled and started to turn, “I'm going to have to say no to marrying you, Terk, it seems I'll be too busy real soon.”
She walked into the woods and was gone. The frozen blue fire had melted away, leaving the pile of leaves intact but wet.
“That girl used my first name, you heard that, right?” Master Avnar asked, getting angry. “She was rude to someone older than she is. Has she no manners? Next time I find her father passed out on the road, I'm taking a dump. Let's get out of here!”
Dostin followed his master after a quick look back at where Seri Halik had disappeared back into the woods.
“I need to know the contents of the message that has been brought. If the girl is telling the truth, it seems House of Halik is the recipient of that message.” Young Master Avnar said, the gears in his mind were turning. The last thing he wanted to see was a resurgence of the competing house. Besides, even if it was able to regain some wealth, without heirs they were doomed anyway.
Seri discreetly watched them leave. She had been a bit thrilled to show off her power for the first time but leave it to the jaded Terk Avnar to not bat an eye. Of course, he would be accustomed to that sort of thing. He had a large family where many of its members had powers. The House of Avnar was extremely powerful and it wasn't only due to their fortune.
If things turned out bad, maybe she would reconsider his offer of marriage. Terk might surprise her and actually become a mature adult eventually. Stranger things have happened. Including Seri realizing that she had a power, the first female in Halik family history as far as anyone knew. There were two other great houses she could try and marry into if things got too bleak, it's not like there was no choice.
They didn't know. She had kept it a secret from her father and grandfather. Grandfather might not approve for one reason or another and father because he had no power. It had skipped a generation and her father felt like a failure and had become a drunk. Too bad grandfather had not brought more sons into the world to keep the family name from dying out.
Seri put the cloak back over her head as she re-entered the village through the eastern gate, the wallmen hardly even looked at her. At one point she saw a large young man carrying a wine barrel and putting it onto a wagon. He turned to look around and she turned her back to him, pretending to look at the apples the old hag Vamira was selling from a cart.
“It was Mars Croce, his father must have sent him.” She thought to herself. His father was Nehemiah Croce who wielded the power of psionics, who also boasted two powerful sons. The man never boasted about Mars, who had no power, even though he was big, strong and intelligent. Mars, though, would rather read a book than practice fighting.
As Mars trundled away with the hand cart and the barrels and other goods from the merchant, Seri turned to the old hag and asked, “These apples aren't poisoned, right?”
The old hag Vamira fumed. “Of course not, horrible child.”
Seri purchased two apples and headed home, the message from Brevick could be received without any notice and she wanted to be there when it came. Whatever it was had grandfather quite excited, he had a twinkle in his good eye again.
When she reached grandfathers bedchamber he was sitting up and her father, looking sober, was seated in a chair next to the bed. They barely acknowledged her when she entered because they seemed to be deep in thought. Perhaps grandfather was seeing something with his mind again.
“The messenger is still aboard High Port.” Her father said, “But he has recovered enough to wake up and we will soon be able to receive the message.”
When Seri approached her grandfathers bed she passed through something she could not see from the other side, and turned to see the holographic video screen floating in the center of the room. A man with wounds and burns on his face, glossy with medi-gel, appeared there.
“My name is Rodgers Blake. I was a Lieutenant for your cousin, Will Halik, before he died back in the war. I continued to work for the Halik family until the end, even after. We allied with the forces loyal to the Croce family and finally, after all this time, we managed to depose the tyrant Governor of Brevick.” The man told them.
“You have done well.” Grandfather said.
“Thank you. With Marlton out of power, a Republic restored, the old properties revert back to the Halik family. Of course, we have to be able to hold on to this victory. Our grip on Brevick is loose and tenuous, which might still be an overstatement.” Rodgers Blake said, “We've lost the only two people with powers we had through assassinations, now... I don't know what is going to happen.”
“Are the Croce forces led by someone with powers?” Seri's father asked.
“Yes, but if we have nothing to show for this, I think the Croce family will be able to push anything to do with Halik right out of the picture.” The man said, “If we can't even be good junior partners in this effort, we'll likely soon be no partner at all.”
“Sounds hopeful but grim.” Grandfather said, “A strange combination.”
“Or grim but hopeful.” Seri muttered mostly to herself.
“Unless you have army you aren't using that you can send...” Rodgers Blake said, “I'm not sure what the future holds, but at least we had something to call a victory. If that tyrant regains office, probably with the Avnar faction, then I am sure his vengeance will be swift.”
“I am heartened that there were some who stayed loyal even after the House of Halik fell onto hard times. I will do what I can to make some alliance with the Croce family, if that will help. Or find some other route if I am able.” Grandfather said, before coughing several times.
“I am ever your servant, sir. Blake out.” The man said and the connection was cut. The holoscreen faded out like a cloud breaking up in the sky.
“Father.” Seri's father said, “We have nothing. There is nothing we can do to send help to these people on Brevick.”
“We'll do something, Jon.” the patriarch said, clearing his throat, “We cannot abandon Brevick.”
“I don't even know how long we can even feed ourselves.” Her father said as he stood up and left the room.
Seri moved her seat closer to the bed. It was time to tell him the truth. It was time for her grandfather to know.
“Grandfather. What we need is someone who has power, who can rally those who side with us, or sympathize with our side, correct?” She asked.
“Yes, Seri child. We don't really need to send an army to another star system, such an undertaking would be far beyond our ability.” He answered her, “If only your father had been given a power at birth, things would be so much different.”
She leaned over to get close to her grandfather and whispered “I have a power.”
His eyes widened. “Is this true?”
Seri nodded. “I didn't want to tell anyone because it might make father more sad than he already is.”
Her grandfather chuckled. “No. I'm the old fashion one. Your father would be overjoyed, he would feel less like a failure if he knew his own daughter had a power.”
Seri was surprised. Is this true? Had she been thinking wrong on this the whole time?
“Send me, Grandfather. Send me to Brevick.” She told him.
He shook his head and weakly waved a hand. “I cannot do that. You are too young and...” he saw the look on her face, “Yes, and because you are a girl. Girls are precious to the human race, such as it is, it is truly biologically necessary for girls to be protected.”
“There are far more females around than necessary to propagate the human race, Grandfather. The House of Halik needs me to go to Brevick.” She told him, “Oh, and where would I have inherited the freezing power anyway?”
“Freezing?” Her grandfather, his thick eyebrows arching. asked. “Your maternal grandmother, I suppose. She was a cold one.”
“Send me to Brevick.” She said.
“You aren't a soldier, Seri.” Her grandfather said, “Besides, your father would have to approve.”
Seri stood up and crossed her arms. “He'll let me, it is the only way.”