Canto 89 – Back to Darker Skies (the Blood Red Thread)
Ham finally had the Leaping Shadowcat reloaded and ready to return to space. It was a pleasant thing to take part in celebrations for a new government, but the reality was that soon the rot warriors and death commandos of the Galtorr Imperium would be descending. Admiral Tang would hear about Ferrari’s victory and wish to turn it into an ultimate defeat.
The Imperium could bring far more warships and troops to bear than a single planet like Farwind could possibly hope to possess. The only real hope was to activate alliances with other planets.
There was always Coventry. The high-population world was Ferrari’s home planet, and likely to be even more easily swayed to Ferrari’s cause than Farwind had been.
Ham’s crew was reassembled. Duke Ferrari would return as astrogator and navigator because he knew the routes to Coventry better than the rest.
The two Lupins, Sinbadh and Sahleck Kim, would continue to serve as stewards. Sinbadh would be the cook and sometimes the copilot. Sahleck was the cabin boy and did the cleaning.
I was back aboard as the ship’s engineer and chief mechanic. I could also lay claim to the job of Science Officer, though nobody really took a Star-Trekky job like that seriously in the modern universe. Space travel had never truly been imagined right by the movies and TV.
Besides, I was one of the few that really took Astrophysics and Xenobiology seriously. Most spacers would much rather kill it than study it, regardless of what it was. The Kritiian Bugbright was left in charge of the revolutionary government, and we took off on a new mission.
The Leaping Shadowcat rose smoothly through the bright blue skies of Farwind. It was basically a water world, only a few small islands showing on the surface of the ocean-covered blue planet. I watched the planet become smaller below us as I looked out through the viewport on the bridge.
I knew that Coventry would be far different. It was a planet with practically no oceans. Ninety per cent of the water there was underground, or contained in sealed water systems. When you looked at a smoggy brown high-population world like that, all you really could see was a vast, seamless cityscape. I didn’t relish the idea of going there.
“Are we gonna have to make another commando raid against impossible odds when we get to your homeworld Duke?” Ham asked pleasantly.
“I hope not,” Ferrari answered. “You probably noticed that I am no good at such things at all.”
“How do you plan to reconquer it?”
“I don’t really know. Maybe we can luck into something as we get there. Like we did on Farwind.”
“I think…” I said, offering vast wisdom on the matter, “I think we should seriously list those who are on our side in the area.”
“Well,” said Ferrari, “I know we can’t count on Galtorrian or Fusion troopers to aid us this time. Coventry has three different Imperial Training Academies on the planet, all of them fiercely loyal to Slythinus. The local pirate or corsair forces are the Monopoly Brigade, and we’ve learned from Tron Blastarr that their leader is dead set against us.”
“Well, that’s two definite no’s,” I commented wryly.
“How about the White Duke?” offered Ham.
“He’s powerful throughout the sector with gamblers, smugglers, and thieves, but do we really want them on our side?”
“Are there many Unhumans in the system?” asked Sinbadh innocently.
“Mostly as part of the downtrodden under classes. The Imperium treats sentient aliens almost as badly as the Classical Worlds do.”
I had to shake my head on that one too. Genetic freaks were also abused in the area as far as I knew.
“Are there any allies for us there?” asked Ham, concerned.
“Not really,” said Duke Ferrari. “The people loved me when I ruled there, but I championed them and alienated all those who had power. It was the beginning of my downfall.”
“I thought the Imperium was not a republic or a democracy,” offered Sahleck. He was a bright-faced boy for a Lupin. I had always thought Lupins were thoughtless brutes before.
“That’s true,” said Duke Ferrari, “but even a cruel tyranny like the Galtorr Imperium has to have the consent of the governed to rule.”
“Maybe,” said Ham, “that is precisely what we need. The people are behind you, Han, not the current rulers. We just have to let them know what the Imperials tried to do with you.”
“Well, I be hornswoggled!” said Sinbadh. “Ye have found a solution Ham-boy!”
The simpering Lupin lackwit had suddenly reversed my opinion of Lupins once again. The Shadowcat, now fully prepared, but not fully confident, embarked through jump space for the next fateful destination, the planet Coventry. If only we had failed to tell Captain Dalgoda and the First Half Century where we were going!