Canto 23 – The Fellowship of the Crown
The Leaping Shadowcat docked smoothly at the starport. Frieda had completely rerouted and refitted all the systems on board. Robot arms were redeployed, circuits revamped, and energy flows were maximized. Frieda had made the starport more efficient, and much more her own.
Ham was impressed by the starport operations on his return. It was the most pilot-friendly base he had ever visited.
As they disembarked, Tara moved to catch up to Ged.
“I want you to know that I now know you better than any other human being ever knew you. I… I can’t stop thinking about you.”
Ged looked sternly at the sweet-faced teenage girl. He softened as he saw her blush and look away from his searching eyes.
“I know you don’t approve. I know you feel violated,” she said. “But I will never share any of your secrets. Not only would it be against my own moral code, but… Ged, I think I’m falling in love with you.”
“You are too young,” said Ged matter-of-factly. “I am the same age as your father. Besides, you will get over this crush you have developed.”
“I’ve shared minds and personalities with many others before you,” she said. “I’ve never melded with anyone as good and decent and loving as you.”
“You’ve lain with other men before?”
“Be fair. That only happens when the Psion is dying because of his own powers. The deeper connection was necessary. I only used that procedure once before.”
Ged was tempted to ask who. He thought, however, he already knew and didn’t want it confirmed. He quietly slipped his right hand around Tara’s bare middle. She was so warm and soft to the touch. Her Sheena Queen of the Jungle skin bikini looked so alluring on her. This was a severe temptation that Ged knew was a critical test from God. He did love her, but he would not give in to temptation.
The adventurers went to the control room to access key information from Frieda. It was then that Ged noticed that the blue box and the Crown of Stars were gone.
“Frieda? What has happened to Trav and the Crown?”
“Captain Tron Blastarr has both the Crown and my beloved Trav. Don’t worry. I wouldn’t have let it happen if it wasn’t the right thing to do.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Crown and its remaining three minds have a destiny that belongs with Trav and Tron.”
“Yes. The dark mind, the side-winding mind, and a copy of Trav’s mind are all still loaded on the Crown of All Stars.”
“Oh, this is bad,” said Ham.
“Your friends Tron and Trav are not to be trusted?” asked Tkriashav.
“Tron is a pirate and Trav is a clown,” said Ged. “A thing like that in their hands is a danger to the entire galaxy!”
“Do we need to follow them and take the artifact back?” asked Tkriashav.
“Some of us do,” said Ged, looking at his brother Ham.
“We don’t know where they might go,” said Ham, studying the floor.
“Yes, we do,” said Tkriashav. “I am clairvoyant. I can see already that they are going into battle on a planet called White Palm. They go to battle a smuggler king.”
“Oh, gawd!” swore Ged. “They’re taking on the White Duke?”
“Doesn’t White Palm belong to Count Nefaria?” reminded Ham.
“Yes, but even Nefaria can field a force big enough to crush Tron’s corsairs. And you remember how Goofy betrayed Tron before he came to help us? Trav may already be dead.”
“No, Ged,” said Tkriashav. “They are allies in the struggle. For good or ill, they go together into the fray.”
“We need a plan,” said Ham.
“It’s my responsibility,” said Ged. “Ham and I will take the Shadowcat back into known space. We’ll track Goofy down and take the artifact away from him before he destroys us all.”
“If you go back into the Imperium,” said Tkriashav, his eyes glowing eerily, “Someone in your party is doomed. I see a better path. Come with me further beyond the Imperial border and we will find a new place where you are supposed to be.”
“Can Ged go with you and I go after Goofy myself?” asked Ham.
“I don’t see the result of that course,” said Tkriashav shaking his head. “I do see the Crown of Stars in Ged Aero’s hands as it does its last service for this galaxy.”
“That settles it!” said Ham. “I have to go back alone.”
“Ham,” said Ged, “I have a bad feeling about this. We’ve done every mission together before now. Who will copilot for you? Who will lead the away teams?”
“Upon me dead bones,” said Sinbadh, “I will go with Hamfast and purrteckt ‘im. I be owing you both that much. I am a capable hand and copilot.”
“I go too,” said the Madonna resolutely. She moved behind the chair in which Ham was sitting and twined her arms protectively around his neck. “He and I together. Is good!” she insisted.
“You’ll hire a crackerjack engineer when you get back?” asked Ged. “To replace Goofy?”
“I promise,” said Ham.
“Where will I go?” asked Ged of Tkriashav.
“There is an unknown planet near here where you must go, Ged. I don’t know its name, but I see you ruling there.”
“I need to go with you, Ged,” said Junior softly.
“You won’t go with your mother?” asked Ged, surprised.
“He is destined to be your disciple, Ged,” said Tkriashav. “He has to go with us.”
Ged looked at Tara.
“Can I come with you too?” the young girl said plaintively.
“The Hammer operates by telepathy,” said Ged. “Someone has to stay here and manage the starport, grange, and planet for us. We consider you an equal share-holder in this project, both you and your father.” The word goodbye was already sticking in Ged’s throat. After all, Ham had his girl. Still, she was only a child. “I will… I will come back for you when the time is right.”
Tara looked at Ged with tears glittering in the corners of her eyes.
“We can never truly repay you,” said Bam-Bam gratefully. “You have given us so much!” He shook Ged’s hand.
“You are a trusted partner,” said Ged. “And both of you have my word, I am not yet finished with the Salongi family, or the world of Don’t Go Here. I will be back.”