Saturday, 2 June 2018

Alien Secrets: Blog the Book 8

If you missed the start of Alien Secrets, Flight of the Kestrel book 2, here is the link. To help your imagination, my idea of Captain Darrow is a curly-haired Michael Sheen (without the beard).

Chapter 8

When the Kestrel reached Caspar, Darrow said nothing about their needs. He simply asked to land. A landing beam guided them to a berth.

The Casparans were small, green-skinned people living on a small orange planet with lighter gravity than Earth and slightly less oxygen in the atmosphere. Fully grown, they stood a metre and a half tall, and looked like children. They had also been in subjection to the Ochrans, human-sized copies of the Casparans, until only a few decades ago. Consequently, they were very careful about dignity and respect.

'Everyone sit tight until I return,' said Darrow. 'I might be several hours.'

'Aye aye, Captain,' Parks saluted.

Darrow left the Kestrel and hopped on a shuttle-bus from the spaceport into the centre of Caspar - their capital city was named the same as their planet, which often caused some confusion. He didn't take much notice of what was passing outside the window, he was preoccupied with the task in hand. He was going to try to see the Prime Minister, who might just as easily lock him up as help.

Getting off the bus in the city centre, Darrow went to the large government building on the main square. He hadn't had a reply to his message, so he wasn't sure what reception he would get, but he had brought a copy of the original message with him.

Inside, up the grand entrance steps and between the pillars, he was struck by the high ceilings and ornate decoration. Every surface was carved and painted, and not a hint of green, the Casparan's favourite colour.

No doubt left over from the Ochran occupation, he thought.

He took a deep breath and approached the reception desk, which only came just past his knees. The man behind the desk was wearing a plain light green uniform. Darrow bowed low in the Casparan manner, with his arms outstretched.

'Excuse me, I've come to see Prime Minister Barok.'

'Do you have an appointment?' the man said, turning to his computer screen, ready to look it up.

'I haven't received an appointment, but I contacted the Prime Minister and he has asked to see me.'

Darrow handed over his tablet with the message displayed. The man glanced at it and handed the tablet back.

'I will have to check if the Prime Minister is willing to see you today without an appointment. Please take a seat.'

Darrow turned away from the desk and noticed there were two sizes of chairs - Casparan size and Ochran/human size. He was glad he didn't have to try to sit in a small one. The chairs were padded and covered in blue fabric and stood in groups of six around the reception area. He took a larger seat and started some work on his tablet while he waited.

And waited.

And waited.

He began to feel hungry and checked the time. He had been waiting two hours! He approached the reception desk again.

'Excuse me, but I'm waiting to see Prime Minister Barok.'

'I have passed on your request, I will contact his secretary again.'

Darrow decided not to sit down. He didn't want to cause a fuss, but he wanted them to know he was waiting and not keeping out of the way. He continued to stand at the desk, towering over it, until the receptionist put through a call. A discussion followed, in Casparan, which unfortunately for them, Darrow understood enough to follow.

The Prime Minister wanted to see him, but they were having trouble clearing space in his calendar. That was good news for Darrow, but he didn't show he understood. The receptionist was asking them to take Darrow off his hands and eventually it worked. The call ended and the receptionist turned to him.

'Someone is coming to fetch you sir.'

Darrow bowed again. 'Thank you for your assistance.'

A man in a bright green uniform with much braid appeared and bowed. 'Please come with me.'

Was this a policeman come to arrest him or an official come to take him to the Prime Minister? Darrow followed him up a flight of stairs to the next floor, down a corridor and into an office. A man came from behind the desk to shake his hand.

'Greetings Captain Darrow. I am Tiras Accad, Liaison Officer to the Prime Minister. Do sit down.'

Darrow's heart fell, but he was also relieved. Not prison then, but this was still not Prime Minister Barok. Hopefully this was one step closer.

Accad had some lines on his face and grey in his long hair, which was tied at the nape of his neck. He was dressed in the traditional Casparan clothing of narrow trousers and a long tunic split up the sides, but unlike the usual bright colours, his clothes were of a dark material, and he wore a heavily embroidered sash across his chest.

The office was expensively furnished, with a patterned wood floor and a soft seating area to one side. It didn't have human-sized chairs and Darrow had to choose between remaining standing, which felt aggressive, or sitting on a little chair, which felt ridiculous. He looked at the chair, looked at Accad, and moved the chair to stand in its place by the desk.

'I apologise for the seating, Captain,' Accad said, 'but we will not be long. Now, why do you want to see Prime Minister Barok?'

'He asked to see me,' Darrow said, and handed over the message. 'And I have a situation of some urgency I'm hoping he can help me with.'

Accad read the message and stroked the screen, but Darrow had locked it. Darrow put his hand out for it to be returned, which Accad did with a nervous smile.

'What is the matter?' Accad asked.

Darrow considered. He didn't want too many people knowing his business, but decided to tell this man in the hope it would get him some progress. 'My ship needs repairs and I have a medical emergency, which is becoming more urgent the longer you keep me.'

'These are not matters you need the Prime Minister for, surely,' Accad said. 'I could … pull some strings, I think you say.'

'That would be very good of you, but there is also the matter of the Prime Minister's request to see me,' Darrow said with more patience than he felt. There was something going on here, he was sure of it.

'I am sorry but that will not be possible.'

As Accad was speaking the intercom on his desk buzzed. Accad answered and there was a short conversation in Casparan, which Darrow found hard to follow. The man on the intercom wanted something and Accad didn't want to give it to him. Eventually Accad said, 'Yes sir,' and closed the intercom with an angry look on his face.

'If you will follow me, the Prime Minister will see you now.'

Darrow followed Accad to an elevator and up to the top floor. Prime Minister Barok was waiting outside the elevator and greeted Darrow warmly with a human handshake. He was dressed in a similar way to Accad except he wore a large ornate gold and green badge on his chest. Accad stayed in the elevator and went back down.

'Captain, welcome! My apologies for the delay, I was unavoidably detained.' He scowled briefly then smiled. 'Thank you for coming to see me.'

Darrow was surprised to see he was a younger man than Accad, with light brown hair that hung loose to his shoulders and warm brown eyes. He led Darrow to a comfortable seating area, once again with seats of two different sizes, in shades of russet and mustard. Like Accad's office, this one was wood panelled, but seemed less ostentatious.

Darrow felt awkward towering over the most powerful man on Caspar. Would he be able to answer the man's questions about his son’s death in a way that would satisfy him? He guessed what Barok wanted to know, but didn't want to upset him. He wanted his help in return, but began to wonder whether the man would actually want to help him after he heard the answer.

Barok clasped his hands on his knees and leaned forwards. 'I expect you know why I want to see you, I want to know about my son.'

Darrow swallowed hard.

'What can I tell you about your son, sir?'

Barok thought for a moment. 'I want the truth, Captain. I read the mission reports, and I am grateful for the way they were written, but I knew my son. He did not make friends easily, shall we say. I want to know what really happened.'

Darrow had expected this, but still felt the knot in his stomach. Barok could not only refuse to help the Kestrel but could have him arrested. He spoke gently.

'Your son tried very hard to be respected and listened to. He was upset when we brought the Prin intruders on board the Kestrel. He felt he was being ignored and we were too trusting. He was right, though we didn't find that out until later.'

Darrow paused and took a breath. 'He took matters into his own hands and attempted to kill the Prin. He killed one and the others killed him. They can fire a bolt of energy, you know. Before he died Ser Barok fired a second time. Dr Dathan tried to save the other Prin by diving into the path of the shot. The blow pushed him backwards into the Prin, and their energy, plus the shot, killed him.'

Barok was silent for a time. Then he sighed. 'Thank you Captain. I guessed it was something like that, but I didn't know he killed Dr Dathan as well. That is most regrettable.'

'His action also made the breakthrough we needed, sir,' Darrow said quickly. 'When the Prin saw Dathan's sacrifice, they changed their opinion of us and agreed to talk. We were all betrayed by a rogue faction in the Prin government. The breakthrough your son won for us will one day bring contact with a new species.'

'But my son … was a murderer.' His voice broke and he looked away.

The knot twisted in Darrow's stomach and he didn't know what to say. His heart sank. How could he ask this man to help him after that?

Barok smiled. 'But you made the best of him, which saved me too, from shame. Thank you, Captain.' He rose and offered Darrow his hand. They shook hands and Barok sat back down. 'Now, what can I do for you?'

Darrow was so surprised he couldn't reply for a minute. He collected his thoughts. 'My ship has been damaged, we need repairs. We also have a seriously injured man who needs medical treatment.'

'Consider it done,' Barok said, and made a call giving authorisation for repairs and medical treatment.

He stood and shook Darrow's hand again. 'If you have any problems, refer them to me. I do still have some authority here.'

'Thank you, sir.'

Darrow left, in a daze. He headed straight back to the Kestrel, and within half an hour they were contacted by a maintenance team and a medical team. Doctor Nefar was asked for medical records, but not allowed to go with Tanu when he was taken away.

Darrow granted half the crew shore leave while the other half stayed to help the Casparan maintenance team with the repairs. He warned them all not to be provoked and to cause no trouble.

'And no one is to stay out tonight,' he announced. 'I want you all back on board by sunset. Tomorrow the two teams can swap over. Parks, you’re to report to Dr Nefar in six hours for another regeneration treatment, so take it easy.'

[If you missed book 1 Intruders, you can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Scribd and Smashwords. Next week Roy Stubbs upsets a Casparan woman and James Tomos helps him out]

imageAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at

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