Acheron

Author: Karl
Rating: PG 
Summary:

This encounter for Starric Gorran Rhet "Gorran" occurs during the year long repair mission on board the Defender Castra. This event takes place during the story Invasion (by Karl) while his crew repairs the damage sustained in the 5 year escape from the Peacekeepers. He has never stopped looking for other survivors. Stuck on Acheron in her return to the UTs on a quest to rescue DK, Rachel Northway meets up with an unlikely ally during Future Shock (by AmyJ). 

Rachel could not decide if her daily jaunt to the space port and the surrounding repair shops were due to the Marauder's needs or to get away. With Ellie recovering she found herself trapped with Korbyn. She could barely handle him in small doses. 

She watched her steps in the gray slushy snow that covered the pitiful excuse for a street. Rachel knew the passages by heart… and the smells. Although the creatures that inhabited this half-frozen hellhole were from a number of worlds their personal hygiene never seemed to be considered a priority.  

Rachel turned the street corner, stepping over a man lying in the small doorway. He was either sleeping or dead. It did not matter. She paused, looking at the shoeless man. Dead! She sighed deeply. This place had changed her. She new better than to dwell on that thought. It could, if allowed, loosen her grip on reality. She quickened the pace, as if that would permit her to escape such musings. 

As she turned the final corner to the space port she slammed into him. The collision knocked her down into the cold wet slush. She quickly recovered, pulling her pulse gun from her overcoat.  

Her eyes did not leave his. The man leaned forward as if to help her up. She pointed the pulse gun at him. He coolly stepped back, raising his hands. Rachel got to one knee. She felt her heart pound in her chest. She had run-ins before with the locals but she always had Ellie and her Neanderthal to bail her out.

“Back off pal!” She spat, standing. 

The man, dressed in an unusually clean black uniform and cloak, continued to step back his hands in the air. “You should be more careful, miss.”

He studied her closely. “What are…?”  

She could see him struggle to ask a question that Rachel had heard more then once here on Acheron. His voice was strange, rather soft with an accent she had never heard before with or without translator microbes.  

“Human!” Rachel answered quickly, trying not to sound nervous. “Now why don’t you go on your way… and leave me alone!”  

For the first time she noticed that he was not Sebacean. His eyes were as green as grass, a stark contrast to the shades of gray that populated this dismal world. She found herself drawn to the stranger's eyes. He had no pupils. If she didn’t know better, her racing heart seemed to slow. It was almost as if time itself was slowing. Rachel could not take her eyes off the stranger.  

He stepped forward, moving with incredible speed. He pulled her gun from her hand and tossing it into the slush behind them. Rachel moved sluggishly. Her reaction by comparison seemed to be minutes too late.  

“What… the… fuck!” Her words slightly slurred. She stumbled back, her head clearing as she did.  

He moved up next to her as she fell to the ground. Her legs felt numb. “Relax. It will pass. I wont hurt you. I thought you were a Peacekeeper.”  

His soft calm voice did nothing to sooth the instinctual need to escape. She continued to move. Her strength returned with every step. She pushed off the perimeter wall of the space port. And continued back in the direction she came.  

The stranger moved in front of her blocking her way. “I am sorry. Give it a moment and it will pass.” This time he did not look at her, his eyes trained at the ground between them. 

Rachel pivoted in the direction of the space port. With any luck she could make it to the entrance. Elle always warned her to stay in the crowd. Don’t be alone. Well, as always, it sounded stupid. Until now.  

“What do you…” Her voice died at the sound of marching boots. She turned slowly and saw them. Four Peacekeepers appeared in the entrance of the space port.

In unison they started moving away from the port. They did not run. They moved with purpose but not in a way to raise attention. They turned the corner. The stranger surveyed the narrow street for an escape rout. Rachel slipped past him.

She moved quickly and quietly. Past the dead man, she ducked into a doorway. The stranger continued past her down the long street. She knew there was no cover there and something in her called out him. “Hey! Back here!”  

The stranger stumbled past the corpse sprawled out on the street. Rachel pounded twice on the door then spoke three words in Tavlecein poorly. The rusted old door opened. The sounds of quiet conversation and the smell of Reslac and cooking meat met them. Rachel walked in cautiously, the stranger at her heels.  

They waited behind the closed door listening for the Peacekeepers' footfalls as they continued past. Rachel had seen such things before. “A retrieval squad. They have one target and that’s all they are interested in."  

She turned back to face the stranger. He had pulled the hood up on his cloak and now looked like a movie extra from the last episode of Star Wars.

“Unless they are looking for you? Well, it was nice.” Rachel said sarcastically as she passed him and entered the bar proper. 

The crowd inside stopped briefly to see if they were friend or foe. Rachel nodded to the eyeless Tavlek bouncer whose only job was to allow only those the Boss found worthy to pass. The stranger trailed behind, following her deeper into the pub. “They are not looking for me… specifically. I, however, am looking for survivors.” 

She stopped and turned, realizing he right behind her. “Look, pal, leave me out of this or I will go out there and call them back this way.”  

She instantly regretted it when she saw the expression of dread that came to his face. She suddenly felt sorry for him. “Survivor? Well, sorry, hon, you are asking the wrong person. Hell if you are here, you have survived something!”  

Rachel stepped towards the stranger. He looked at her puzzled. She crossed her arms and started over. “Survivors of what?” 

He was surprised by her question. He raised his hands palms up towards her and spoke softly “Casival.” 

She looked at his hands and then back to his haunting eyes. “I am sorry. I don’t know anything about a Casival. Look you really are asking the wrong person. I have only been here a month… errr four weekens so I don’t know anyone by that name.” 

He smiled sadly and turned to survey the small crowd. “You must be cold. Let me buy you a drink.” He signaled her to a small booth near the central open hearth. 

Rachel eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Why?”  

The stranger's smiled widened. “Because you saved me from those Peacekeepers. Nothing more.” 

Rachel stared at the hooded stranger for a long time. She trusted no one. It was what she knew would keep her alive. But this man who fit in less then she did on this hell hole of a world seemed to need her. There was no other way to explain it. She tilted her head and pulled back her overcoat to show him she still had a second pulse gun.  

“OK. One!” She sat at the far end of the table from him. Resting her hand on her gun.

The server approached them, but the stranger did not look up from under his cloak. He gestured to Rachel who looked at the weathered old man. “Reslac. Hot!”

She smiled at the stranger. “Make that two and make them full tankards. Don’t skimp or I will have to talk to the Boss.” She relished the small power given to her by Sellus March, a local thug she had saved with the help of her trusty AutoDoc the first week they had arrived here. 

The old man quickly returned with the steaming metal cylinders. As he placed them on the rotting table the old man caught a glimpse of the stranger's eyes. He recoiled clutching both his hands to his chest. He scampered off quickly. 

The server's reaction alarmed Rachel. She studied him as she waited for the Reslac to cool. He merely looked down at the steam coming from the dark fluid. “I would say that he didn't like you… Why?” 

The stranger smiled sadly, still not looking up from his drink. “Children's tales about my people.” He sighed. “Ignorance is the greatest gift the Peacekeepers have given the universe.” 

Rachel sat back slightly as she inhaled the strong burnt aroma of Reslack. It was one of the few things here that reminded her of earth. Although most of the other races here got incredibly high from the stuff, Rachel would only be kept up at night. Asher could not believe the amount she could drink and not pass out.  

Rachel tried to figure out what it was about Reslac that was different from coffee back home. Hell, Starbuck’s could have taken over the galaxy if it was here. She smiled at her companion who kept his view down toward his cylinder. Rachel watched him sitting there. He seemed content to just stare into his cylinder. “What's your name?” 

The stranger's thoughts seemed to have been elsewhere. “What?” He finally looked up at her. His green eyes seemed iridescent in the darkness of his hood. “I am sorry I as…”

His mind caught up to her question. “Starric Gorran Reht” He smiled sadly at her. “And you?” 

Rachel could not stop looking at his impossibly green eyes. It wasn’t until he trained them back on the drink in front of him that she could speak. She did not know why, but she chose to use her dreaded middle name. She had hated that name even though it was her mother's and she would have had it removed if she had had the time. “Rachel Bertha Northway” 

Gorran bowed his head slightly. “Well, Bertha, it is nice to meet you.

She found it strange he would call her by her middle name. “Rachel, no one calls me by my middle name.” 

Gorran smiled. “Yes, sorry, old habits. I was never much of an off-worlder. Call me Gorran” He touched his glass but yet didn’t drink from it. “Rachel, have you seen any others who look like me?” He raised one hand to the side of his face gesturing to his eyes. “In any of your travels?” There was an edgy excitement to his voice as he asked the question. 

"No, I mean I really haven’t been around very…" 

“I didn’t think so.” He smiled politely but Rachel could see that he was disappointed. Beep of a communicator interrupted. Gorran pulled what looked like a golden stick from his cloak. The muffled voice of a woman was all Rachel could tell. “It’s a little late Petra… Yes I avoided them… With the help of a new friend." He glanced back up at Rachel.

"None… This isn’t the kind of place they would hide.” His voice became softer. “Too many Sebaceans. I will head back shortly Tell Helrec to plot a course to the next system.”

“While we are out here we will not stop looking. There must be others!” His voice became louder then he had expected. “Gorran out!” He pressed the center of the little stick and placed it in his cloak again. 

“You are looking for these survivors?” She moved slightly closer to Gorran. “Survivors of what?” 

“You really don’t know what I am do you. “ Gorran chuckled sarcastically.

Rachel crossed her arms and looked coolly at Gorran. Ellie and Korbyn always treated her like that. It was one of the few pleasure of having Ellie back on Earth, letting her be the fish out of water. “Like I said, I am new to these parts.” 

He shifted slightly closer keeping his voice down. “I am a Vladic.” 

“And I am a Republican. I am sure that means as much to you as Vladic means to me. What is it? A religion, race, political belief , a sexual preference…?” 

Gorran’s face lit up with a smile that almost shocked Rachel. “You are most unusual, Rachel” He laughed quietly. “I have never met anyone like you.” Gorran's brief smile faded. He receded beneath hood of his cloak. “Two years ago my race was nearly exterminated by the Peacekeepers. A few of us survived and I am here looking for others.”  

Rachel looked down at her almost empty tankard. “Gorran I am sorry?” She was surprised by her sadness. “How? Why?” 

He smiled again but this time it was masked in bitterness. “That’s a long story and I have to go.” Gorran stood from the table he raised his palms up and bowed slightly.” Thank you Rachel Bertha Northway may the gods point you to good fortune.” 

Rachel tilted her head as she asked the question “For what?” She stood trying to look into his haunting eyes. 

He edged past her. “For caring…” 

“Just a minute. You can't just leave like this…” Rachel realized she was scolding him like she did with Ellie. “What if I meet others like you? Do have a meeting place? A message?” 

He stopped and turned slowly back to her. He stepped closer and bent down to whisper into her ear.  

“You can give them this.” He pulled what looked like a coin from his pocket. He brought it close to her face. His fingers traced across the image stamped on the disk. “Tell them to follow the tears of the Blood stone. We are there.” 

Rachel stared at the image. It occurred to her the image must be some form of map or a star chart. 

Rachel was about to ask another question when he looked into his face. His eyes seemed different. Pupils. She saw small black pupils. The room grew dark. She felt the slow pounding of her heart.  

Rachel woke to the sound of the server banging on the table in front of her. “That will be eight Solaris.” The old man scowled. “And if you have one of them in-ere again I am gonna tell the Boss. We need not those things here!” 

Her head was swimming as she tried to focus on the server. “What… What things?” 

“Him! It! Whatever! The Live Feeders!” He pointed towards the two cylinders in front of her. “Now pay me for the drinks!” 

“Ya, ya, ok.” Rachel looked around the Pub. Gorran was gone. She smiled. “Sure.. He was going to buy me a drink.” She placed her hand in her pocket and retrieved some bars of cash. Among them was the disk that Gorran left. Clutching it tightly in her hand, she paid the server and left the pub, checking the streets before she headed back to her shit hole of a residence.  

She quietly checked on Ellie. Although she still slept most of the day and night she was much stronger. Rachel moved next to the common room where lunkhead was cleaning a pulse riffle. She sat on the rickety stool across from him. He paid no attention to her being there. He continued his meticulous work. 

Rachel sat back crossing her arms. “You ever hear of Casival?” 

He stopped mid stroke in the polishing of the dismantled weapon. He looked at her for a long time then went back to work. “Yes. Why?” 

She squinted not knowing if she really wanted to know what Korbyn knew. “Tell me.” 

He looked back at her. Korbyn was no fool and knew something was going on. “It’s a world on the edge of Hynerian space. The Hynerian Empire acquisitioned it and hired the Peacekeepers to extract the population.” 

“Extract?” Rachel had to clear her throat. “ You mean exterminate?” 

Korbyn smiled at Rachel “Doc, you know that the Peacekeepers do some things really well.” He looked back at his gun. “I think you would be hard pressed to find one now.” He put his gun down fetching some instrument from the floor. “Just as well…” 

Rachel was not surprised by Korbyn's response. "Why?" 

“They are live feeders. You know… blood suckers!” 

“What!” Rachel was surprised by the statement. “What do you mean blood suckers?” 

Korbyn laughed at her. "Vladics they only drink blood! Or maybe the correct statement is that they used to drink blood.“ His smiled disappeared. “Doc, did you see one? Where? Tell me?” He demanded. There was an excitement in his voice. “Do know the bounty on one?” 

“Relax, Rambo!” Rachel got up and started to walk away. “ I just heard some guys talking at Sellus March’s place… that’s all.” She knew it was time to derail the conversation. “So did you get the gravimetric drive coils for the marauder yet or did you loose them again in a game of Deggi?”  

His silence was all she needed for an answer.  

Rachel walked to the grimy window at the rear of the small dwelling. She looked up at the gray sky where a glimpse of a few stars could be seen. She held the little disk in her pocket and wondered about Gorran. A smile came to her face.

“Just my luck, running into the only vampire in the galaxy!” She turned the disk over and over again in her pocket. I hope we meet again, Gorran.

Fin

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