To Trade the Stars

To Trade the Stars by Julie E. Czerneda

Book: To Trade the Stars by Julie E. Czerneda Read Free Book Online
Authors: Julie E. Czerneda
“What do you think you’re doing?” the Carasian roared.
    â€œBut—but—Horn Huido! How did you get here?” The server, a usually docile Vilix, seemed oblivious to the mess at her feet, almost babbling through the flailing cilia that bearded her lower face. “I left you in the kitchen!” she exclaimed, then collapsed on the floor, wagging her fingers in disbelief.
    Huido flicked his upper handling claw once, deliberately, sending bits of grain flying like the first warning flakes of snow from an avalanche. Then he rose slowly, plate sliding over plate with a warning hiss.
    The doorway to the kitchen suddenly filled with Huido’s mirror image: a huge, gleaming black shape, massive claws held up and out, eyestalks erect, rapier-thin fangs protruding in clear threat.
    Ansel grabbed the Vilix’s arm and yanked her to safety as the two Carasians exploded into motion, splintering the table between them as they collided. A deep bell-like sound rang from their armor on impact, its echoes lost in the deafening clatter as claws fought for a killing hold.
    â€œIt’s better if family calls first,” Ansel half-shouted to the now-cowering Vilix, her eyes hidden behind a wall of cilia. “These surprise visits never turn out well.”

Chapter 6
    M ORGAN’S final visit to the Conciliator was every bit as profitable as we’d hoped, at least in terms of his private conversation with Terk. I reserved my opinion concerning my Human’s blithe reassurance that Bowman was done with us. “The Arakuad, Dashing Boy, Maren’s Melody, Silcil 48, Steve’s First Pick, Trouder 3, and Uriel’s Enchantment,” Morgan recited from memory. “Don’t let the names fool you, Sira. These ships belong to the scum of the quadrant—known pirates or pirate wannabes. If it wasn’t the Clan dealing with them, I’d say they’d just asked for mass kidnappings.”
    I snorted. “All they needed were captains who’d dealt with Yihtor in the past.” The founder and former ruler of Acranam had had his own ways of ensuring compliance, a seemingly quite effective combination of profit and punishment. “Do the Enforcers know where each ship went?”
    Morgan shook his head. “Not all. The Arakuad and ‘ Boy slipped Bowman’s net. The Scat won’t be hard to pick up again, but Bennefeld captains the ‘Boy —she’s smart and tough. If she wants to keep out of sight, she will.”
    â€œThen the Council will have to find those fosterlings. The others?”
    â€œThe ‘Melody went to Veres Prime—presumably to deliver the child Tie claimed was found there. The rest? You aren’t going to like this.” My Human obviously didn’t, given the sound of his voice. “The Silicil 48 and Troudor 3 stuck together—as you’d expect; Ordnexian ships travel in pairs—and went straight to Ettler’s Planet.” He hesitated. “Do you think it was because of the Rugherans?”
    I shook my head at his worried expression. “You’re interested in the Rugherans, because you are so Humanly curious,” I reminded him. Other words came to mind, but I kept them private. “The Acranam Clan wouldn’t be interested in aliens, especially any they can’t manipulate.” Not to mention how they’d react to a Rugheran in the flesh, I sent, feeling Morgan’s relieved amusement. “Ettler’s is no more or less than the closest Human system,” I continued aloud. “A practical choice—those fosterlings are likely suds. Where did the others go?”
    â€œâ€˜ Enchantment stopped at Omacron, then headed for Auord. The ‘Pick —” Morgan paused and frowned. Busy estimating the nearest M’hir pathway to either system, I almost missed his low-voiced: “Why would Brukman—? Odd.”
    The fosterling carried by Uriel’s Enchantment

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