Obsidian Command

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Ibn Sharjar: The sands at night

Posted on 20 Jun 2022 @ 1:55am by Atif ibn Sharjar - Merchant of the Al Ashar
Edited on on 20 Jul 2022 @ 7:32pm

Mission: M3 - Into the Deep
Location: Southern desert, Obsidian
Timeline: MD 3 2130hours
1470 words - 2.9 OF Standard Post Measure

“That is the last of them” M’Tahbi said, as the final two baskets of dried dates were passed through the Al Ashar’s cargo hatch into her aft cargo bay. Ibn Sharjar pointed to where they should be stowed and two of M’Thbi’s grandsons placed the baskets in position then helped him arrange the cargo net over the baskets and secure it in place before clambering out of the hatch to join their grandfather.

Ibn Sharjar looked around the cargo bay, everything seemed in order. He tugged on a couple of the straps holding the forty-seven beetle carapaces in place, satisfied they were tight, he ducked out of the hatch as well. Turning, he tapped the hatch controls, shutting the door and flipped the cover back over the panel.

The two men embraced, “Take care my friend”

“I will see you in a couple of weeks”

M’Tahbi and his grandsons retreated to the edge of the landing pad while ibn Sharjar completed his customary pre-flight walkaround then clambered into his ship.

“Be gone from my oasis vagabond!” M’Tahbi shouted cheerfully from the side, shaking a fist.

“May the Prophets will that you are trampled by your biggest dung beetle!” ibn Sharjar returned as he closed the hatch.

Moving forward, he entered the cockpit, started the engines, settled himself into his chair and completed his pre-flight checks. A last look around the forward windows, side and aft viewscreens he brought up the power and lifted off.

Sand and dust swirled as the thrusters lifted the ship into the air, lifting the nose he turned starboard. Then increasing the power, he climbed and pushed out east, clearing the edge of the oasis at a hundred and twenty meters. Rising further to three hundred meters, he set cruising power and kept the ship level at that until the tips of the palms disappeared behind the dunes.

He held the course and altitude for another five minutes, then checking his viewscreens and sensors to be sure there were no other craft in the vicinity, he pushed the nose down, increased the speed and dove quickly down to sixty-five meters, swinging to starboard again he throttled up and headed south.

He checked the time, it was one-thirty in the afternoon, he had plenty of time to make the seven hours trip to his next rendezvous. It would be dark in five hours, but these meetings, if they happened, which was not always certain, took place at night.

He set the controls to auto-navigation and swung his chair to the right, accessing a control panel he tapped in a set of digits to activate his stealth mode. It was a set of engine management system programs, energy baffles and sensor diffuser technology he had accumulated over the last twenty odd years. The concept had originated with the Bajoran Resistance movement during the Occupation of his Mother’s homeworld as a way to minimize the detection of their ships by the Cardassians. He had refined it with some tricks learned from his Father and the Marquis, plus some odd bits and pieces of technology he had come across.

The result was nothing as sophisticated as a cloak, but on a small ship, at low altitude, it could mask a lot of his energy signals and scatter sensor returns, to cut his detectability significantly. Coupled with nape of the earth flying it made the Al Ashra hard to spot unless somebody was specifically looking for him.
Externally the Al Ashra appeared to be a battered and well-worn transport. The hull patched and repaired with mis-matched plating; the thruster ports marked with soot and carbon, even the propulsion energy signature gave off signs of a depleted warp-core and sub-par warp speeds.

Internally much of the ship seemed similarly well used, the engineering bay appeared grubby and jury-rigged, several panels were missing covers, roof duct doors hung down, cables ran between various conduits and the lights flickered erratically. In the short central corridor, the paint was scuffed, and the walls dented, one of the doors appeared jammed open and only three of the five overhead lights worked. His own cabin and the one guest cabin were shoddy and unkempt, as was the head and tiny mess-room come lounge come store come work bench, with a couple of oily machine components partly dissembled on the table.

Looks, however, could be deceptive. The vessel was a lot more complex than she appeared at first glance. Though it would take a detailed inspection to find all the little quirks and upgrades.

Ibn Sharjar leaned back in his chair, put his feet up on a panel and took a nap, if things went well, he would be up late. A few minutes later gentle snores filled the cockpit. The ship tracked it’s way south, skirting the edge of the Lethini Deadlands, it set out over the deep southern desert.

Several hours later ibn Sharjar awoke, yawning, he leaned over and checked his position. It was fully dark now. About another hour and half to his destination. He got to his feet, stretched and went back to find something to eat, replicating himself a portion of goat curry, rice and unleavened bread, he returned to the cockpit to eat with his fingers. He finished the meal with a belch, wiped his mustache clean, licked his fingers and tossed the containers in the recycling slot. A quick visit to the head and he was back at the controls for the last twenty minutes of flight.

Taking over manual control he slowed the craft and dropped down to just thirty meters of altitude over the vast sea of sand dunes. Checking his navigation sensors, he could see the foothills of the Rapathan Mountains off to the east, he was close now to his destination, a small barren rocky outcrop in the endless sand.

Slowing further, he circled the outcrop at five kilometers out, sensors showed a camp fire and gaggle of lifesigns some distance to the west. They would have heard his arrival. If they were in the mood to trade they would come to the outcrop.

Turning to port he drifted in over the rocks, came to a hover to let the thrusters blow away the loose sand for a moment, then set the ship down and cut the power, shutting down everything except the internal lights, which he switched to red to let eyes gain their night-vison.

Moving back from the cockpit he swung open a hatch low in the wall of the corridor and clambered down a ladder into the forward cargo bay. Opening the external hatch, he dragged a couple of large trunks over to it.

Even after ten o’clock at night the heat of the southern desert was still fierce and it battered its way into the bay on a dusty breeze. He lifted the tail of his shemagh up and tucked it in to keep the sand out of his face.

Reaching over he grabbed a wrapped bundle and clambered out of the hatch on to the rocky surface. There was a thin sliver of moon to the north, besides that and the starlight It was inky dark, He put the bundle on top one of the chests and pulled it out onto the surface, then the other one. He then dragged them over to the edge of the outcrop.
Taking the bundle, he unwrapped it, lifting out a hookah, a water canteen, two tins, one of tobacco, the other holding charcoal and a small lamp. He set those down and shook out the blanket wrapper.

He laid it out on the sand, set the lamp on one side and turned it on. It gave off a gentle orange glow. He retrieved the other items and settled himself down on the blanket.

Getting comfortable, he filled the hookah from the canteen, added the dark stringy tobacco to the bowl and the charcoal to the plate. Fumbling in his robe withdrew a small tube, flicked it and ignited the charcoal, blowing on it until it glowed red. He returned the igniter to his robe, fitted the hose and mouthpiece, then placed the bowl in place.

Letting it heat through for a few minutes he took a gentle draw on the mouthpiece, there was the familiar rumble of bubbles from the water jar and he tasted the first whiff of the filtered smoke. There were modern electronic powered versions of hookahs but he preferred the traditional style of his father's ancestors.

He settled back to wait, they knew he was here and they would come or they would not, either way it could be several hours and he had learned at a young age that patience paid off in trading.

 

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