Canto 4- Don’t Go Here, the Outposts
As the Leaping Shadowcat slowed and dropped out of jump space, Ged and Ham got their very first look at a world beyond the borders of charted and well-known stars. Don’t Go Here was a planet orbiting a spectral class K orange star. It was a bright green-and-brown world with relatively small patches of blue sea. The surface was cloaked in a thick atmosphere, and many cloud swirls played across its bright face. There were two small moons and a pair of apparently lifeless space stations. One looked like an abandoned space port with nothing docked there. The second was obviously a Grange station, filled with greenery under glass and a few artificial lights showing on the night side.
Trav came up from the quarterdeck where he’d been tending to the Nebulon Princess and her son. He looked out through the portal and examined the electronic overlay.
“Life signs on that old greenhouse?”
“Yes, Trav,” said Ged, “One life sign. It appears to be canine.”
“Somebody left their doggie aboard that old wreck?”
“It appears that the Grange Station for this planet is still working,” said Ham. He smiled, which tended to make him strikingly handsome. “It’s probably automated, so if there’s food growing there, it could be priceless to us.”
“We will have to board it,” said Ged, “and take possession. But we still need to talk about your treasures, Goofy.”
“Hmm, uh… well, yes. What do you want to know?”
“First of all, the Princess and her son. You intend to set them free.” Ged was not asking a question.
“Yes, um… well, You know she could be a very valuable asset to us.”
“In what way?”
“There’s a very good chance we will run into Nebulons out here. She could negotiate for us.”
“Trav,” said Ham, “she doesn’t speak our language.”
“Oh, right… But I can teach her.”
“All right, Goof,” said Ged, nodding solemnly, “but your first task is to make her understand she is not our slave.”
“Now,” said Ham, “what about the blue box?”
“Blue… um, uh… box?” stuttered Trav, obviously faking it. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“What’s in the box that Tron and the pirates wanted so badly?”
“You wouldn’t believe it if I told you.”
Trav looked into Ham’s laughing eyes. Ged could see how much of a strain telling the truth was on the little one-eyed liar.
“It’s an Ancient Artifact from the Devil’s Rift. It’s called the Crown of Stars.”
“Oh, you’re kidding me!” shouted Ham with a laugh. “The fabled device that gives a man the power of God?”
“That would be it, yes.” Trav cast his eye downward.
“You’ve heard of this thing, Ham?” Ged asked.
“It’s a liar’s tale from the Imperial Rim. An archeologist apparently uncovered a high-tech site from the time of the so-called Ancients. He supposedly found this device with three bright crystals on it. When he put it on his head, it melted his brain and gave him Godlike powers. He had to be killed by the Imperial Navy to prevent him taking over and ruling the galaxy.”
“So it isn’t real?” asked Ged.
“Of course it’s real!” said Trav hotly. “It’s in the blue box in the bag I brought aboard, and I’ve seen it work without being on anyone’s head.”
“What does it do?” said Ham skeptically.
“Well, I don’t know exactly. But it can light up a generator and create power even on a wrecked ship. It started up and repaired the scuttled spaceship we stole it from at the Mingo Downport.”
“Well, I think if it can provide power, it will help us reclaim this old spaceport,” said Ham, still sneering at the idea of the ancient artifact.
Outside the main viewport, they were coming into docking range with the orbiting outstation. It was a spoked wheel with four main docking ports. The nearly obscured markings on the outside indicated the Galtorrian Colonial Service. Everything was written in the squiggly letters of the Galtorrian script.