Obsidian Command

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Ibn Sharjar: A bag full of genes

Posted on 01 Jul 2022 @ 9:14pm by Atif ibn Sharjar - Merchant of the Al Ashar & Commander Calliope Zahn

Mission: M3 - Into the Deep
Location: Indri Ranch, Obsidian
Timeline: MD 04 16:30 hours
2367 words - 4.7 OF Standard Post Measure

After lifting off ibn Sharjar had set in a course for his next destination, flying northwest to skirt around the southern flanks of the Taragi-shar mountain range.

He left the energy diffusion systems on for the first five hours or so and dozed in his chair while the ship ate up the miles of empty desert.

Around Noon the autopilot alerted him they were arriving at a waypoint and, wiping the sleep from his eyes, he looked out of the forward screen.
the jagged points of the range were coming up in the distance, off to starboard.

Turning off all of his anti-detection systems he steadily climbed in altitude and set a course around the foothills. If anyone noticed his ship it would look like he was returning from a trip to one of the mines that were dotted around the mountain valleys here.

Laying in the second leg of his course he reset the autopilot and went back to get something to eat.

The bag was still as he passed it and he chose not to disturb the contents.

By early afternoon he could descend out of the mountains and begin his approach into Kalara City.

Keeping to the outskirts of the sprawling town he found the Dab’nart Brothers warehouse compound. Landing near one of the large storage sheds.

Jerzint, the middle of the three Dab’nart brothers, came out to meet him.
It was the hottest part of the day now and while ibn Sharjar opened up the cargo hatch, Jerzint yelled and cajoled a bunch of his workers to get out and unload.

Once the unloading was underway he and ibn Sharjar sat in the shade of an awning, drank coffee and conducted a little side business for two third-shed carapaces and seven opals.

Business concluded, it was time to clean up. Entering his cabin he tapped the control panel, the interior changed as the wall holo projectors flickered on. Instead of a drab grubby cabin it became in the interior of a plush tent, hung with carpets and colorful blankets.

He removed his dusty clothing, showered, shaved and cleaned up. Reaching into the closet he found some of his few dressier clothes, comfortable baggy pants, a shirt with an embroidered collar and a soft gray bisht robe. In a drawer he found a matching gray shemagh. After a moments consideration he also donned a jambiya, the traditional curved dagger of his father's people, tucking it into his belt.

This next client was considerably more sophisticated than most of his customers and it was important to at least appear respectable.

Lifting off, he ran around the northern suburbs of the wide caldera and set a course west He had never visited this next stop although he had met the formidable owner twice. He had discovered its location from some fellow merchants in the central market district.

Some thirty kilometers beyond the western limits of Kalara he found the property. A central domestic building, modest but of adequate size nestled in the shady side of a wadi.

Nearby were more purposeful buildings, sheds, barns, silos, housing for workers, a well, wind and solar pumps, black mats of solar cells and a range of small, irrigated fields. A moisture and radiation shield shimmered over the estate. There were workers dotted about, in the fields and around the buildings

Beyond that, on the flat open ground, were a series of paddocks. The occupants of the paddocks looked up as the Al Ashar circled into the land, a strange mixture of feathers and scales the large flightless birds peered up at the ship, long necks craning to see if it would drop fodder.

Having completed one slow circle to announce his presence and intention to land ibn Shajar drifted the ship over to the neat compact landing pad and set it down.

Shutting down the engines he walked back, collected the bag, which wiggled and trembled as he picked it and exited his ship.

Stepping down onto the hard baked clay pad he noticed it was neatly demarked with a row of white painted bricks around the edge. He smiled, it was the kind of order and detail he expected from someone of the owner's reputation and former career.

Current members of that former career were people ibn Sharjar generally avoided whenever possible. But in her new occupation she could be a useful friend to have, particularly with her contacts among the local power-players.

Even in the late afternoon it was still hot. He stayed in the cooler shadow of his ship as he waited patiently for her arrival. Moments later a vehicle set off from the dwelling and came towards the pad, moving quickly despite the shortness of the distance.

He had heard she was a fast driver and that few passengers forget the experience.

The vehicle slewed to a stop at the edge of the pad and the occupant alighted. Ibn Sharjar set off to meet her, bag in hand.

"Good afternoon, Admiral" he said, his best smile in place.

The old trill woman was as bleached as the dessert sand around her. Clearly if she could have tanned she would have by now. Instead she glistened with the protective block she wore every day which had the distinct pear-like hint of the cactus the primary binder was derived from before the oxides were added. She'd grown accustomed to her new desert smell, but it made her distinct anywhere down wind of her, and the chalky oxides had the effect of draining any color old age had left to her. She was dressed in beaten work fatigues streaked in machine oil and had a chuchaki hair felted brimmed rancher's hat on, the brim trimmed with arching tail feathers. She squinted under the shade of the brim while regarding the uninvited guest and his beaten old ship, letting him make up the rest of the distance as she took in his stature and the characteristics of his walk. Something about him was familiar. She was fairly certain some of her ranch hands had traded with him and set her mental gears to rememberng what they had called him by in the market.

"Atef? What are you doing looking me up?" Probably he was trying a direct sales approach, thinking she was flush with credits for the taking. She almost started into him for trespassing. Only the fact that he'd known her old rank made her curious. No one around here looked her up anymore, and even most of Starfleet these days had forgotten her to history. "What is it you want?" She deadpanned into the dry air.

Directly to the point, with no preamble he noted. He wondered if it was her demeanor or training, probably her natural demeanor he concluded, based on some of the stories he'd heard.

"Forgive the intrusion, please Admiral" He lifted the heavy leather bag. "A small gift..."

He lowered the bag and completed the last few steps up to her position and into her inquisitory gaze.

"I believe these may be of some use..." he came to a stop and held out the bag for her. It rippled and shook a little

The sack was obviously weighty and full of something live, but the Admiral-turned-rancher knew better than to blindly grab at any critter on Obsidian and so kept her distance. She raised her chin to get a look down her nose into the bag. The light of Loki hit their underdeveloped head crests and their bulging alien eyes where their translucent purpled skin wrinkled up.

"They've still got their egg teeth!" she declared. "Spiny razorlegs. Both hens and cockerels by the looks of 'em. You can tell by the pinfethers around the crest. The females don't get those in so early, see?" She tried to remain neutral, although it was impossible not to be impressed. Poaching from a Razorleg Ortananni nest was risky business and there was a high likelyhood someone trying it would end up being protein for the hatchlings he was trying to pocket if mama caught the thief in the act. Atef clearly didn't look like he was up to climbing into a wild Ortannani nesting pit. He had to have traded handsomely for them from someone with a mouthful of the native grit. But an offworlder with that kind of connection was rare. Usually only Kalaran middlemen could source that kind of thing from the southern tribes where there were Razorleg nests. They tended to chase offworlders away.

Indri stepped back and shuffled a foot in the dust. It was exciting to see the exotic species. They were renowned for their strong meat breeding lines with bigger eggs, full thighs, and a younger finishing date. Not to mention they had more bizarre feathering patterns and were impressive to show, even if you wouldn't know it to look at the writhing, naked hatchlings. "I'm afraid I don't have latinum on hand until the next lot goes to the butcher. It's been a few thin seasons." Which made the offer of Razorleg stock all the more difficult to pass up. "I'm sure you'll catch a fine price for them at tomorrow's market, Atef."

"Indeed I'm sure you are correct" ibn Sharjar agreed "But then they would not be here to enhance your stock's gene pool and neither are they actually for sale. They are, as I said, a small gift"

"A gift, huh?" Indri snorted a laugh. She couldn't remember the last time anyone had brought her a present. There had to be some catch. But he looked earnest and it seemed rude to leave him standing with the heavy bag outstretched. She reached out and wrapped the leather straps around her bony, weathered hands, cinching it closed and taking up the heft of it over a shoulder. If they all survived, the gift would probably get her out of the red within three or four breeding cycles. "I don't know what to say."

"I believe they are probably in need of food and water,?" He had little idea of the dietary needs of the species, beyond the Tribesmen's warning not to put fingers anywhere close. "Perhaps you have a suitable... nursery pen?... for them?"

"I'll hand them off to Rooq." She said as she lifted the loading hatchback on her outrider and latched a cargo net around the hatchlings. "He can put them up in the nesting den and throw them some live grub." Raising hatchlings required round the clock feedings and for best results, they had to source or farm bug larva. Dried mix was fine for the grown birds, but the babies seemed to not be able to thrive on the ready-made meal.

When she pulled the cargo hatch back down she looked at Atef and adjusted the brim of her hat. "You wanna ride up to the house with me and get out of the sun? The hands are all coming in for the next few hours." No one worked under Loki in the high afternoon if they could help it. "There's a spread out if you're hungry."

He eyed the buggy for a moment, but it was too far to walk to the house in the heat. “Thank you, some refreshment would be welcome.” He replied and walked around to the passenger side, climbing in he made sure to buckle the safety strap but resisted the temptation to grip the handholds.

Indri watched him out of the corner of one eye. Not everyone thought they needed their safety belt. She often gave hotshots like that a quick pump on the breaks before she really let out on the path to jolt some sense into their skull. It didn't look like Atef needed the lesson, so she whipped the buggy around and peeled down the ramp back to the beaten track through the ranch.

As she passed one of the enclosures, the Ortananni began to run on the other side of the enclosure. There was still something wild deep in their pinfeathers, and like any flock of birds settled on any open plain they suddenly ceased their lazy sunning, lept up and scattered when a vehicle whizzed in their direction.

Indri let off the gas a little just to give them a chase and enjoy the glitter of the sun off their scales and the flash of their feathers as they dashed along the side of the enclosure's force field. hundreds of powerful lengthy legs beat up a rising cloud of dust And when Indri had had her fun, she over took them again, flying over the familiar divets in the road like little take off ramps to test the suspension.

She didn't slow down again until they reached a stony outcropping with feed silos to one side, but then she came to a very sudden stop, shouting something in a native language at a gawky Obsidian teen who relayed the message by foot to a small house tucked against the rocky rise. A portly Obsidian man came out with a small antigrav cart and he and his grandson, sporting heavy leather sleeves, muzzled and expertly unloaded the razorleg dino chicks into a crate, briefly examining each as they accounted for them. The hatchery manager was very animated in his excitement about the writhing naked creatures with their oversized heads and comicly inarticulate bodies. They were definitely in need of some nutrient fluid and grubs and he promised to have them comfortable and thriving. When they closed the door on the outrider, Indri exchanged a few more words with the hatchery manager and then revved the engine once more, making for the main ranch house she called home. She pulled up and parked with her usual sudden handling.

Clambering out he decided her fast driving reputation was well founded. He dusted himself off and waited for her to lead the way.

"I hope you like grilled ortananni and pickleberry relish. It's on the menu most days around here," Indri said as she hopped out and headed towards the back porch, waving him over. "This way, we never go in by the front. That's for formalities and solicitors. Friends come around through the kitchen..."


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