Bark: Rants about the world in general.
Byte: Rants about videogames, technical matters and the IT Industry.
Hence, Bark and Byte.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Bark: Elite: Dangerous - Requiem - Chapter Four
Sorbago – Hencke
"Where are we going now, master?" Karina asked, following me
closely through the crowd as we made our way down the concourse of the space
station's leisure sector.
"The Outside Factor. It's a nightclub popular with Alliance
sympathisers." I linked arms with Karina to prevent her from being
buffeted away from me as we fought the stream of pedestrians heading in the
opposite direction. "We should have tried there earlier. Independent
commanders might be less reticent about talking."
"For a price, of course."
"You're learning fast, Karina." I patted her hand, like a
We had been on the station for a week, trawling bars and nightclubs for
people who had been in the system during the slave revolt who might have
information of misconduct by Senator Torval's forces during the blockade and
the put down of the abortive insurrection. I had posted a suitably coded
request on the station's bulletin board, cryptic enough not to flag the
attention of the local System Security force, but obvious enough to be
understood by anyone who felt hard done by in the incident to come forward with
evidence. Despite the high volumes of ships that passed through the station,
not a single person had responded to the advert. Not even the generous 100,000
credit reward I had offered for new information had provoked a response - not
even from the cranks and chancers looking for an easy payday.
Instead of waiting around on the ship for a call that clearly wasn't
going to come, I had decided to be rather more pro-active about my effort to
sweep up some dirt Laure and I could use in our ongoing feud with Zemina.
Karina and I had visited almost all of the social hubs on the station over the
last few days, posing as freelance investigative journalists looking for a
scandal. Our nightly sojourns thus far had proved as fruitless as my bulletin
board advert. Not even the thousands of credits in financial incentives I had
given to the bartenders and nightclub staff to send anyone with information my
way had provoked any interest. The only consolation from the whole exercise was
that we'd spent our evenings drinking a lot of good wine and Karina had listened
to some types of music for the very first time. It appeared that she was an
appreciator of chillout jazz. It was still early, 7pm by the station's Galactic
Time clock, so there was no queue outside the nightclub. The bouncers waved us
in politely, no doubt glad to have paying customers through the door. The club
was practically deserted. The bar staff outnumbered the punters. A handful of
booths were occupied by tired-looking commanders and their crews, nursing their
drinks without enthusiasm, obviously settling in for a long night. A lone
dancer occupied the floor, a stunning redhead in a flowing, iridescent dress
that looked like it was made of mylar foil. She had her eyes closed, moving in
perfect union with the beat and cadence of the music, which could best be
described as acid ambient. Her limbs and body undulated and flowed languidly
with the music until she matched the sharp, dissonant notes with spiky, rigid
spasms of her arms and legs. Karina stood hypnotised as she watched her.
"Master, what's she doing?"
"Dancing. She's very good." I tugged Karina gently towards
the bar, holding her hand. "Come on, let's get something to drink."
"Why? What's the point?"
"Because it's fun? Or so I'm told. I'm not a natural dancer,
myself." I said as we approached the bar. With no-one else to attend to
the bar manager appeared within seconds.
"Good evening, sir, mademoiselle." The bar manager bowed
slightly. "What can I get for you tonight?"
I scanned the wine list and found an easy choice. "We'll start
with a bottle of the Brazin Zinfandel, please."
"Ah, a connoisseur." The bar manager's eyes glittered with
pleasure. Little wonder, at 2,000 credits a bottle. "Would you like
"A consideration, if you please. If you happen to know anyone who
was here during the slave revolt, I would like to speak with them." I
programmed my credit chip to transfer 20,000 credits and tapped it on the bar
twice. The OLED screen flashed to confirm the transaction.
"I'll see what I can do, sir. Please, follow me. I have just the
table for you." The bar manager led us to a booth overlooking the dance
floor and bar, with a good view of all the other tables in the club. The area
was reserved for high prestige clientele who wanted to be seen. "Please
make yourselves comfortable. I'll have one of my staff bring your drinks. If
you need anything, use the terminal and one of my people will be right with
Service was prompt and courteous, and while we waited for the nightclub
to fill up, Karina and I ordered food and a second bottle of wine to pass the
"She hasn't stopped since we came in. She moves beautifully."
Karina drew my attention back to the lone dancer, gliding carefree across the
dance floor, in absolute synchrony with the tempo of the music.
"She definitely has a good feel for it." I agreed.
"Could you teach me how to dance, master? I'm bored of
"Maybe later. I'm not nearly drunk enough to get on a dance floor
that empty. When it gets busier."
Karina scowled and emptied the bottle of red wine into my glass.
"I better order another bottle, then."
"Take it easy. We still need to be able to walk back to the
ship." I stroked Karina's hand reassuringly. "Besides, I don't think
I could teach you anything. I'm sure you're a great mover."
"How do you know that?"
"Social anthropologists have said for centuries that dancing is a
form of courting behaviour. About finding a good mate. The better the dancer,
the better the mate."
"You mean it's about sex."
"To put it bluntly, yes. Just vertical, rather than
horizontal." I laughed.
"So how do you know I'd be a good dancer?" Karina asked. I
smiled, raising my eyebrows in return, letting her work it out for herself.
Karina blushed. "Oh. Thank you, master."
"We can test the hypothesis later. Let's give it another couple of
hours and see if the bar staff send anyone our way."
By midnight the nightclub was full but still not a single person had
approached our table. Karina stirred restlessly beside me, having lost interest
in watching the crowd seething rhythmically on the dance floor hours ago. I had
noticed the bar manager speak with dozens of commanders and point out our
table, but obviously he had not been able to persuade anyone to talk to us. I
stroked Karina's arm, shrugging my shoulders in defeat. "Well that was a
complete waste of an evening. Do you still want to dance?"
"Yes, master." Karina's face perked up in delight, her
boredom instantly forgotten. I led her to the edge of the dance floor and eased
us into the mass of undulating bodies. "So what do I do?"
"Whatever the music tells you to do. And imagine that no-one's
watching." I tried to let go of my self-consciousness as I felt for the
beat of the music, not even trying to control what my feet and arms were
doing. Karina watched what the other couples around us where doing and mimicked
their motions stiffly and unnaturally, coming in close to almost touch with me,
chest to chest. I slipped an arm around her waist and brought her against me.
The music was slow and sensual, with no lyrics to get in the way of the soothing
melody. "Close your eyes. Just listen and feel."
"Yes, master." Karina followed my advice and put her arms
around my neck, following my lead and letting her response to the music become
more instinctive. "It's nice."
"I said you'd be a good dancer." I rested my cheek on the top
of her head, likewise closing my eyes. We danced together for over an hour,
responding to our own rhythm as well as that of the music. Karina was almost in
a trance, half-asleep as we swayed with the music. I was wondering how long it
would be until the nightclub closed when I dimly became aware of another body
pressed intimately into me from behind, firm hands gripping the top of my hips
and a strong whiff of vintage Lavian Brandy wafted over my shoulders.
"Got room for another one in there?" a familiar voice asked mockingly.
"I knew I'd get my hands on your ass one day. Though I never imagined it
would be like this."
A quick glance over my shoulder confirmed who it was. "Suzie? What
are you doing here?"
"Mmm. Getting a good feeling." Suzie slid one hand up my
chest and the other down between my legs, the full length of her torso pressed
into my back. "Who's the blonde?"
"My co-pilot." I said through gritted teeth, trying to evade
the insistent motions of her fingers.
"Roche, you're the worst liar in the galaxy. No-one dances like
that with their co-pilot." Suzie admonished me. "You're fucking her,
right? Can't say I blame you, she's hot."
"Oh, you can be so tedious at times. That righteous earnestness
might be the Imperial standard, but it doesn't really cut it out in the
"Did you just come here to lecture me about my sex life, or is
there something else you wanted to talk to me about?" I stopped dancing,
rousing Karina from her trance. She saw Suzie's face over my shoulder and I saw
her suppress a panic reflex.
"Oh, hi. I'm Suzie. I'm the second most wanted commander in Federation
space. After your friend Roche, here." Thunda Sue, the Pirate Queen,
introduced herself cheerfully with a broad, innocent smile.
"It's alright, Karina, she's a friend. Of sorts."
"Of sorts? Roche, you wound me." Suzie gave me a gentle slap
on the side of the head. "Over here, we need to talk."
"Why don't we go to my booth?" I pointed to the table where
we had been sitting all night at the head of the club.
"You mean the idiot table?" Suzie snickered. "You do
realise the bar manager screwed you, right?"
"What?" I asked, confused, as Suzie led us to a table at the
side of the dance floor. With a flick of her finger, she dismissed the two
underlings guarding the booth for her.
"Roche, you're really not half as subtle as you think you are.
That bulletin board advert ruined any chance you had of getting anything out of
the locals." Suzie explained as she poured us triple measures of Lavian
Brandy from one of the three full bottles on the table. "The bar manager
put you up there so only the most moronic of the moronic would risk talking to
you. Senator Torval has this whole system in her very deep pockets. And that
'investigative journalist' cover of yours wouldn't stand up to a four year old.
You've got one of the most famous faces in this sector, 'Butcher'. The bar
manager put you up there to be recognised, alright. So that everyone would
steer well clear of you. Everyone knows you're one of the Senator's special
operatives. With that advert you might as well have gone around wearing a
t-shirt saying 'agent provocateur'. No-one here is going to tell you
shit. Even if they had anything in the first place."
"Son of a bitch. So I really have wasted a week." I took a
slug of the brandy to take the edge off the realisation of how stupid I had
been."But that still doesn't
explain why you're here."
"I was in the area. And when I got wind of what you were up to, I
thought I'd better give you a warning." Suzie drained her glass and set it
down on the table. "If I was able to figure out what you're up to, then
the Imps and the Feds certainly will have, too. You need to get out of the
system, pronto. The Feds are out for your blood after Groombridge and they
won't mind spilling it in Imperial space."
"And why would you do that for me?" I asked, suspicious. There
was no such thing as an altruistic pirate.
"You're a person of interest to me." Suzie replied, with a
suggestively arched eyebrow. "And my offer still stands. You'd be welcome
in my crew at any time. I might even give you co-pilot benefits." Suzie
glanced over at Karina with a playful glint in her eyes.
"I'll think about it." I replied, rather less than honestly.
"Here. In case you ever need to find me." Suzie slid a data
chip across the table towards me. I placed my thumb on the fingerprint reader
and the OLED screen flashed red.
"It's encrypted." I looked at Suzie questioningly.
"What's the unlock code?"
"Oh, if you can't work that out, sweetie, I doubt you'd be any use
to me." Suzie stood, taking one the full bottles of brandy in each hand.
"Be seeing you, Roche."
I watched Suzie and her bodyguards leave the club, contemplating what
she had told me. I swore, with feeling.
"Master?" Karina looked and sounded tired. Her eyes were
half-closed and she looked like she was drifting on the afterglow of the
evening's wine consumption and dancing.
"Come on." I helped Karina to her feet and wrapped and arm
around her waist to support her. "I think we're done here."