Part eight

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					             What Happened Before Monday: Part 2

Wackeen was a second class Minder. It was technically only two steps
away from being a Keen. Yet, it felt it might as well be a tiny minded
breeder. Stuck here, attached to a private mining interest, in one of the
restricted zones of primitive intelligence that the Unified Trade Compact
had established as a no contact/no interference area. Officially, none of
them were here. Wackeen, Minder second class was not here. Its
military group was not here. And yet, here it was.

If somehow the UTC was made aware of the presence of this mining
group, Wackeen’s own government would deny knowledge of it. The
Dawlg home world could not afford any more sanctions at this time.

So Wackeen the Minder, one of the brightest of Minders among the
Dawlgs, played nurse maid to a bunch of brainless workers. The soldiers
were worse, being different from the workers only in their more
armored shell and modified aggressive behavior.

Technically, Wackeen headed up the battalion here that didn’t exist.
What danger did the local intelligence present? They were barely
capable of traveling within this system, It was doubtful any of them had
come this far out to investigate the asteroid belt. And if they did?
Wackeen itself could dispatch a whole fleet of them with one miner’s
drill.

Only real danger came from the UTC. If a patrol of Olan or Gif ever
showed up, there would be some excitement. Not much chance of a
large contingent showing up without advanced warning. Perhaps a
single scout could approach without notice, not likely.

Wackeen almost wished for a few visitors to liven things up. This
assignment was only supposed to be temporary. Thirty homecycles at
most. Yet after only seventeen homecycles it already seemed like a
lifetime. It was young and it knew there was much career ahead; it just
seemed a waste of time out in deep space looking at rocks.

A trilling sound of its personal communicator interrupted Wackeen’s
thoughts. Wackeen toggled the device and listened as the Command
Minder itself directed Wackeen to investigate an overdue survey team
that was not reporting in nor answering any signals sent to it. Wackeen
acknowledge and toggled off. Good, a distraction.

                              **********

The corpses stood on the barren surface of the rock below like statues.
Stood, because they were held upright by their gravboots and the fact
that no gravity pulled them down. Wackeen increase the magnification
and brought one in focus. Frozen blood splattered the upper torso
around the hole in the chest. Digger tool. The vessel that had brought
them to this rock was nowhere in scanning range.

Wackeen had already run a scan on the rock and determined there was
nothing else on the surface. It was a larger rock, big enough to use as a
base. Not so big as to hide any competitor mining outfit without them
being detected. Something had happened and the minder’s instincts
had its blood pumping in anticipation. Its senses were heightened and it
probed the area for some intelligence. A Dawlg minder was highly
telepathic and could pick up thought patterns of many species from
quite a distance.

Wackeen was very talented in this regard. It had spent many
homecycles as a scout in the war with the Gifs. It had honed these skills
in the asteroid fields of a certain system. It would scan the area and
sense the enemy long before any other scanning means could detect
their presence. It didn’t take long to determine there was no Olan or
Gifs lurking about in the surrounding area.

There was something though. Wackeen could not tell what it was
exactly but it evaded him. It was as if there were shadows of thoughts.
Something beyond its previous experience. Perhaps there were echoes
of previous mental activity. Because Wackeen could not get a solid
grasp of what it was, the only choice it had was to final ignore it.

There was one more thing left to the minder. Remnants could linger in a
dead brain for many hours. Wackeen magnified the three figures in his
view screen. He determined which of the corpses had been their
minder by the slight difference in suit design. Worker Dawlgs could
barely form an intelligent thought and had to depend on their minders
for direction. If there was information to get, it would lay in the dead
brain of the minder.

It reached its mind to touch the other minder. There was a spark! Good!
Some times when an intelligent creature had strong emotions or a very
powerful experience just before death, those images lingered. Such was
the case for this minder. It had been excited, very much so. Wackeen
had to grasps at very wispy fragments. It moved its consciousness to the
dead minders brain and gently nudged the remnants of thought, the
sparks of images and feelings together to try to make a coherent picture
emerge. There was some kind of spacecraft. There was a beam from a
weapon, and a crash. But no. No crash, the spacecraft disappeared into
solid rock. A new technology then? Yes, that was what drove the survey
crew to the surface. That was the extent of the remnant.

Well, it was either an Olan or a Gif. The image wasn’t clear but Wackeen
was going to bet on Olan. It was not plausible that the Gif had such a
device. The Olan, perhaps. More probable the Gandan had developed it
and sold it to the Olan. Yes. Most probable explanation.
Yet, none of that explained the dead Dawlgs and the missing survey
ship. Wackeen’s impression from the last thoughts of its companion
minder was that it had been a killing shot. The beam had pierced the
pilot’s canopy. Most probably the technology that buried the craft in
solid rock had been automated to keep the craft from falling into the
wrong hands.

Wackeen did a deep scan to search the area central to the three dead
bodies and found no reading any different than the surrounding rock. It
was possible the craft had worked its way deeper into the asteroid.
Perhaps there was a survivor from the enemy ship. It’s possible that
there was a passenger. Not likely but it could answer the problem of a
survivor after a direct hit to the pilot canopy. This must be a new type of
craft then. An experimental craft. It could have been completely
coincidental that it was here. This is a known restricted area. It would
be a perfect testing ground for a vessel that could phase through solid
rock.

Wackeen suddenly was excited. If it could find the survivor, it could
possibly learn how to retrieve the damaged craft and with that sort of
technology, well it would be a certain advantage. It could think of
several applications just of the top of its head.

After sending a communication to the Command Minder, Wackeen was
given permission to attempt a pursuit and capture of this survivor. Deep
space would be the obvious route for someone seeking to return to
their home base. But Olans were full of tricks. One could not rely on
them doing as expected.

Wackeen took the craft towards the system’s star. Navigation charts
placed the one habitable planet in that direction. Perhaps the survivor
would go there. Wackeen stretched out its telepathic perception in that
direction. It was possible that the quarry had enough time to get
beyond the reach of Wackeen’s ability to sense. But there was always
hope. At the same time, the ship was scanning for some movement
between its position and the nearest planet. If Wackeen were headed
inward towards the third planet, it would use the mass of the fourth
planet to help gain speed.

There was a small object that the scanners picked up. As soon as the
position was given, Wackeen focused on that and got an impression.
There was intelligence there. That was all that was needed. The course
was set for pursuit. Wackeen’s sharp fangs showed his approval as the
navcom told it that its ship would overtake the other quickly. The chase
was on.

                              **********
Within the Dawlg survey ship the Olan was cramped for space. He had
dissembled the seats in the bridge and stowed them below in the cargo
with the core samples. He had finally found the most comfortable
position was on his knees and forearms. Not comfortable at all really
but it beat sitting hunched over the controls, his shoulders touching the
ceiling of the chamber. These little Dawlg bugs liked close spaces. It was
in this cramped position he had discovered his injuries.

He had felt no pain till he had crawled inside the ship. Now there was a
dull pain just below his ribs. The enemy has you, he thought to himself.
“There are many opponents, ” his trainers would say, “but only one real
enemy, and that is death. Those you face in combat are not your enemy.
You do not let anger or hate in your heart when you battle. When you
battle, doesn’t your opponent have the same enemy? Each of you fights
to keep your life. So in combat you bring your enemy to your
opponent’s bones. . .” It appeared that the enemy had come to his
bones. But, in the end, he would still have a victory, because death
brings rest, and the enemy becomes a friend. Yet, he was still a warrior
and he would fight to the last. Perhaps there was still a chance for
escape.

The idea suddenly struck him that all he need do is find another body.
He could then release his consciousness into that body and live on.
Strange thought. He was losing his mind now. It made him wondered if
it was a product of some drug he had been given. In fact, he wondered
if he was in a bug ship at all. Perhaps he was the subject of some
strange alien experiment. The whole episode of being shot down and
finding himself in a sea of red liquid could be some sort of induced
mental delusion. Some kind of technique the bugs had developed to get
around his anti-telepath conditioning. Perhaps they wanted to trick him
into revealing some strategically important information. Or. Perhaps his
paranoid thoughts were just a byproduct of his wounded condition. At
this point, he wasn’t certain of anything, except that he wasn’t
functioning in a normal state.

He wondered if he would make it to the inhabited planet in this system.
He knew from his briefings before the mission that there was one
inhabited planet in this system. The problem was, it was too far in. The
air within this vessel was not healthy for him to breathe for a long time.
As hazardous as it was, it would run out before he got there, leaving the
much more hazardous lack of air. He set the course anyway, without any
real reason to do so. What else could he do?

Gouln had enough knowledge of Dawlg technology to do what needed
to be done. As he finished his task he closed his eyes to rest them and
slipped into darkness.

				
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