The Lion man bonds with his cat until they become as one. It is a relationship that is closer than brotherhood. There are many anecdotal stories of cats dying not long after their men have passed and vice versa. I cannot prove that these stories are true but neither can I prove that they are untrue. But of one thing I am certain; the ancient bond between the Lionmen of Thuvia and their cats is a strong one. A bond that makes them formidable enemies even in this modern age of lasguns and body shields. I would not want to be on the opposing side to them.
Colonel Colin O’Brien, Interview for TransPriman News
Chapter 7: The Cargo Module, the Cat and the Hawk
Toreus had the pass code to let him through the gate of the cargo terminal. Kothar’s spies paid off again.
There was no one inside. Just robots rushing back and forth about their duty. Arcadian cargo terminals were all robotized. The northern continent of Arcadia—Tennyson—was the bot capital of the Sphere. In Toreus’ opinion, the Arcadians were spoiled by their robots.
It looks as if the coast is clear warrior, said the voice of the Guider.
Toreus nodded curtly and moved down the rows of stored cargo modules in the yard. They were mostly the big ones that you strapped to the outside of cargo space vessels and loaded up with bulk cargo. Water between outposts that needed water, fuels and sometimes garbage bound for recycling in asteroid colonies and space stations. The modules could also be placed on truck beds and trains for on planet transport. They were ubiquitous. One could find them anywhere on any planet with a space faring civilization. That was why the Pangean Special Forces used them for its purposes.
The Prince scanned the numeral painted on the sides of the big, gray modules. Ah, there is was—Alpha 23139087. That was the one
He stepped up to the side of the cargo module looking for the panel that would give him access. It was a masterpiece of Atlantean engineering. Seamless. But Toreus’ keen eyesight spotted a discoloration in the paint job and he placed the palm of his right hand against it.
There was a hum and a portal opened in the side of the hull revealing a key panel. Toreus entered the memorized pass word and a laser scanned him from head to toe. He knew that it was scanning recoded images of the Thuvian Prince as well as scanning his genetic code and retina pattern.
There was a pause and a two meter tall, one meter wide door opened in the smooth metal.
Toreus entered the space and lights flickered on at his entrance and the internal house sensors picked up his presence and activated the systems.
He looked down the length of the life system closing the hatch behind him.
It was outfitted like the life cabin of a spaceship in here. To one side there were equipment lickers and parked vehicles—notably a smart bike with no AI unit installed. To the other side was a sleeping area with upper and lower bunks and a galley. And beyond that a bathroom with a shower, sink and toilet—partitioned off for privacy, of course.
Toreus went straight there and stripped out of the business suit. He took a shower, saved and brushed his teeth. Toweled dry he went to the sleeping area and dressed in an undersuit. Then he went to the galley and ordered the nano-beverage maker to prepare him a glass and a bowl of tea. Toreus preferred tea to coffee—Jurassican/Hyropangean blend especially. He usually drank it in a tall glass, with butter, honey and light cream.
The bowl of tea would be heavy with cream because it was for his partner. While it was being prepared Toreus went to the aft of the module.
In back there was a hibernation capsule. Just the standard spaceflight hibernation cell like the one’s used on commercial flights to transport livestock.
Toreus went to the cell and checked the life signs monitor built into the lid. The monitor showed a slowed heart rate, pulse and EEG. Slow but steady.
The Prince touched his hand to the biometrics panel and the machine recognized his DNA signature. A small port opened to reveal a revive button. Toreus pushed the button and held it down until the panel acknowledged REVIVIFICATION PROCEEDING.
Inside the box heating elements began to slowly raise the body temperature of the subject to normal as dialysis machines began to warm the blood and circulate revivification drugs ands nanites into it.
The heart rate, pulse, EEG and body temperature began to increase.
It would take about ten minutes to revive the occupant of the cell. Toreus went back the galley and took the cup and bowl of tea out of the beverage maker and put them in the microwave oven to keep them hot.
Toreus dressed in a nano-armor suit and selected several weapons, including those that he had brought with him. He then took the Ebony, AI brain he had been carrying in the pocket of his jacket and installed it in the Smart Bike.
While he was running the diagnostic a big white saber cat with black spots over its amber eyes came out of the rear compartment and sat on its haunches, licking its left paw and raking it behinds it left ear.
“How you feeling, pal?” Toreus asked the cat.
How do you think I feel, thought radioed the cat.. Like I have been on ice in a box for several days.
“Only three,” said Toreus.
Only three. Next time you go into cold sleep and I will ride in a nice comfortable space liner.
Toreus laughed. “They’d make you ride in a cage in the hold.”
Humans have no sense of fair play.
“Have a cup of tea with me, old chum and we’ll discuss this later.”
Toreus took his glass and the bowl out of the microwave and placed them on the table. Shakorja perched on a stool near the bowl and lapped up some of the hot fluid.
Very good, he transmitted looking at his friend with his big, amber eyes.
Thank you, pal, Toreus transmitted back.
So, how was your trip? Asked the cat.
Uneventful, save for one close call at the Fountain terminal.
Toreus shook his head downing some of the tea. Kai’Vhan mercenaries. The place is lousy with them.
Then this will not be an uneventful trip. The last time we encountered Vhan the body count was impressive.
Toreus placed the glass on the table. That had been a raid into the Elysian plate with their Privateer friend Carter Tauran. A bloody affair. Local pirates had hired Vhan to protect their operation. It had not gone well for them.
We are going to try and keep the body count down. This is a rescue mission not a punitive raid. No killing unless we have to.
Shakorja lapped some more tea. We usually have to when dealing with the pinheads.
Toreus frowned. That was what everyone in the merk community called the Kai’Vhan—the pinheads. They were brave and foolish cyborg soldiers with little regard for their own personal safety. This meant that they died badly and in great numbers.
“Well, mate,” Toreus said aloud. “If we have to kill them then we have to. But I never want to kill people just for the hell of it. That’s not our style. That’s their style.”
Agreed, thought Shakorja and nodded his head, one of many human gestures the big cat had picked up.
They ate a meal of cultured beef, peas and yogurt. Toreus’ portion was well cooked and Shakorja’s were eaten raw. The meal had been prepackaged in the cupboard of the cargo module Mission Support Site. There was enough food there for seven days even thought Toreus and Shakorja would be leaving this MSS after the meal. But the module was well stocked just in case the Prince and his cat had to use it as an escape route from Arcadia. The module would be sent up to a cargo ship tomorrow and sent on to its next assignment.
Another reason, Toreus thought as he dressed in his nano-armor suit, to admire the layers and complexities of Kothar Khonn’s service.
He remembered something the big man had said to Toreus and Kothar junior long ago when they were both boys.
Wearing a belt and suspenders might seem a bit over cautious, pilgrim. But you’re sure that your pants will not fall down and you have two improvised weapons in an alley fight.
The lesson was clear. Belts weren’t just to keep your pants up. Anything could be a weapon or a survival tool under the right circumstances. It was a lesson that Toreus had never forgotten.
The nano-armor suit fit snuggly and bulged only where there was padding. At rest it was dark gray in color but it was capable of adapting to a wide range of camouflage and environments. The skin had variable refractive indexes. One cold blend in just about anywhere, making you invisible as long as you didn’t move too much.
Over the suit he fitted the combat webbing that had pouches for weapons and gear as well as the bio-med unit that was able to repair and patch combat damage.
He also fitted shield gauntlets onto his forearms and gloves.
The gloves were armored and soft made of a material that hardened on impact if you used them to hit someone. Built into them were nano claws that could adapt on command to a wide variety of weapon blades as well as tools. The gloves were also wired with a pulse generator that could put out high electrical energy pulses to stun or kill an opponent.
The Prince felt very skilled and comfortable with this weapon system. Like most Thuvian Lionmen he was an expert in hand to hand and melee weapons combat. The advent of shields had made people who fought with fists, feet and cutting edges the elite of Priman warriors.
You had to get real close to use a gun effectively when someone wore a shield. And if you got that close to a shield fighter you were dead.
Finally Toreus slipped his Guider Gem into its place in the head band and fitted it over his head. In combat the headband would morph into a full helmet as the suit itself would morph into a full protective armor
Toreus went thought a series of exercises to acclimatize him to the suit and then activated the full armor and repeated the exercises at that level.
Then he ordered the suit back to its rest level and helped Skakorja into his combat harness. The saber cat flexed his muscles and stretched acclimatizing himself to the harness in which he carried the tools and items developed for his use, including a cat sized personal plasma shield.
When he was finished Toreus took a large metal equipment case off a shelf at the rear of the compartment.
Toreus lay the case on a workbench and opened it. Inside, in foam packing was an avianoid robot—a lifelike model of a hunting hawk like the ones the Rhann family kept at home at Castle Thuvia.
This one was called Ulysses and it had abilities that no biological hawk ever had. And that was why the warrior prince had had it shipped here alone with Shakorja and his spike.
Guider, he thought transmitted to the gem. Please send the activation signal to Ulysses.
Working, said the Guider Gem. Signal is sent.
Ulysses bright eyes opened and the robot bird scrambled out of the foam outline and to its feet, flexing its neck and spreading its wings.
“Good to see you, pal,” Toreus said, stroking the bot’s head. The bird hopped up on his shoulder and a pad formed for it in his nano-armor as the prince ran through a diagnostic of the robot bird’s system.
He was able to use his optic implant to see through the hawk’s keen eyes. Ulysses was the best flying spy system that one could own. If seen the enemy would see what they thought to be a harmless bird of prey but in reality he would be Toreus’ eyes in the sky. A spy that blended in with the background. Many cities on the Sphere had falcons and hawks as part of their pest control systems.
Toreus went back to his spike and keyed the ignition sequence. The motors hummed to life.
How are we for time? He asked the Guider.
We are two hours from the meeting time, said the voice of the Gem.
“Time to go, old chum,” Toreus called to Shakorja.
The big cat got up and loped to the sidecar of the spike.
Toreus eased up on the degravity throttle and the spike lifted off the deck plates and hovered. He ordered the module comp to open the clamshell doors at the far end. Then he put the spike in drive and skimmed out the hatch and down the lane between the rows of cargo modules as the doors slid closed behind him.
We’re on our way, thought radioed Skakorja.
Yes we are, Toreus replied.