Orion 04 Deep Indigo

By: Cathryn Cade
Dedication

To my sisters, Vicki and Karen, for being there to laugh and cry with through the years.





Chapter One

Although he carried no visible weapons, the Mauritanian radiated malevolence. He swaggered in the open doors of the huge space port terminal, past hurrying travelers and loaded baggage hovies. His hide was nearly obscured beneath swirling ink; his visage shimmered with stripes and dots. Through the paint, his yellow eyes glowed with a feverish intensity.

Passengers and space crew alike gave him a wide berth beneath the elevated hover-walkways. He bared his jagged brown teeth at an Argonautian and even this huge being shuffled to one side.

Lt. Commander Steve Craig turned to watch warily as the Mau passed. As a veteran of the Solar Wars, he recognized war paint when he saw it. Mauritania had sided with the Quark Ogre’n in the wars and was now a conquered planet, governed by Space Forces troops. Evidently there were still pockets of resistance.

Stopping in the shadow of a pillar, he lifted one hand to activate the com-link on his collar.

“How may we assist you, traveler?” asked a smooth voice.

“You’ve got a problem at the south entrance,” Craig murmured. “Might want to send a few port guards.”

Nervousness rippled like wind through the throngs of embarking and disembarking space travelers passing around Craig. Those on the hoverwalkways gawked as they passed overhead.

“Your report has been noted,” the voice said serenely. “Guards activated. Will there be anything else, sir?”

“I’ll let you know,” Craig said drily.

Other beings were sidling away, pulling children and baggage with them, leaving the Mauritanian alone in a rapidly widening space. Through their hushed murmurs, Craig heard the unmistakable whine of hovie-cycles. Good, the port guards. He hoped to hell they were veterans who would recognize an imminent threat.

The armor-suited guards zipped into view over the crowd and circled above the Mau, their search lamps trapping him in brilliant light.

“You are disturbing the peace of this space port,” one of the guards stated, voice magnified. “Assume a prone position on the floor, limbs spread.”

The Mauritanian threw back his head. With a ululating war cry, he tore open his short cape. A cry of shock and fear ricocheted through the crowd. The guards froze. So did Craig. It was far worse than he’d feared. This being wasn’t just looking for a single foe, he was out to do as much destruction as possible.

Under his cape, the Mau carried a barrage of multiple-barreled laser weapons. Not the refined, pinpoint pistols carried by guards or officers. These were blunt-force weapons. Formidable enough to kill or maim many of the surrounding beings in this end of the space port.

“I kill you!” he cried in heavily accented Galactic, the universal dialect. “I kill you all!”

The crowd wavered and in another instant would have stampeded for the exits. Craig braced himself to hold his position, reaching for his weapon. It wasn’t on his belt, of course, as he was off duty. Even if he’d been armed, it would do little good. The Mau had claw-like hands on his weapons. If shot, he would likely fire back as he went down.

Craig’s gut filled with ice as he looked around at the terrified faces of families and civilians. He’d stared death in the face many times in the last several years. Not these folks—they were the ones he’d been fighting to protect from moments like this.

He eyed the Mau again, options racing through his mind. If the guards could get close enough, maybe, just maybe, they could drop a containment over him and protect the biggest part of the crowd—reduce casualties. His eyes narrowed with satisfaction as he saw two of them inching closer.

The Mau snarled at them, his claws clutching the weapons. The guards froze in midair.

The edge of the crowd across from Craig wavered, and then opened. Craig was astonished and dismayed to see a lone figure stride through to face the Mauritanian. Tall and lean, he wore a silver-grey flight suit with the insignia of rank. Although young, he had the cold, composed face of an ascetic under his short, black hair. In the bright lights his eyes were a deep, compelling blue. Who the seven hells was this guy? Some kind of preacher or positive thinker trying to reason with a terrorist?

The crowd wavered, still on the verge of flight. But amazingly they calmed as the young man raised one hand. Craig blinked. Damn, he felt it, too. As if he’d just downed a shot of really good Earth II scotch.

“Wait for a moment,” the newcomer said. His deep, cool voice flowed through Craig like ripples on a pond. “Wait…”

The humanoid shook his head, raising his weapons. “I kill! Kill all—destroy.”

“No. That was before. Now you realize that there is no need for violence.” The man’s gaze, fathomless as a night sea, enwrapped them all.

The onlookers sighed, relaxing their grips on each other, on children. Craig grinned, unable to recall why he’d been so worried. Things were fine.

The Mau groaned again in wordless protest, but his muscles relaxed. Very slowly, like a felled tree, he swayed to one side, then the other, and thudded to the floor, enthralled.

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