The morning was fair. I performed some of the exercise routine - it would be some time before I could complete a full workout it seemed. My energy levels felt quite good, but I was still weak in body. I found some sweet-tasting cereal in a cupboard and ate half the contents of the box. It was very yummy. After breakfast we set out again.
There was no sign of the fliers we had seen yesterday. Indeed, we saw little movement at all, except for the occasional quadruped. As we came closer to Capitalia, our speed decreased until we were only proceeding at a fast running pace. I constantly checked for signs of the fliers or any signs of life, but none were to be seen, just rows and rows of houses and ground vehicles clogging the streets.
The nav comp plotted a course for the airfield. As we neared the airport, the Pak'ma'ra noticed another groundcar moving on a road parallel to our own. It was the first sign of life that we had seen apart from the fliers. I did not know whether it was good or bad.
There was good and bad at the airfield, however. There were no fliers parked around the perimeter, which was bad. Instead, there was a largeish freighter landed on the runway. It had obviously landed recently as various jets and thrusters were still venting. It appeared to be of Human design. Now all we had to do was find out who owned it and if they could get us up to my ship.
As we discussed ways to get to the freighter and whether to try to take it by force, a ground vehicle turned the corner behind us, and a group of humanoids boiled out of it. They approached our vehicle and trained heavy PPG rifles at us. I slipped one of my PPGs into my hand. Nar'Bon saw my movement and followed suit.
Another ground vehicle pulled up by the first, and more armed Humans trained their weapons on us.
"Get out of the car," a voice ordered. Humans.
I examined the options and decided that I was at a significant disadvantage. I could not trust my body to function at full capacity. I sighed and got out. Again, the others followed my lead.
"Put your weapons on the ground."
I dropped my PPG on the ground. They would not detect the other two unless they searched me, and they didn't seem to be the type. Three other PPGs clattered to the ground as my companions raised their hands.
"Move away from the vehicle."
We were surrounded by Human scavengers. They smelt bad and looked more scruffy than we did. I still wasn't willing to take them on.
One of them stepped forward and demanded, "Who are you? Are you with Crocker's group?"
I stared at him. "No - we don't even know who Crocker is. We're refugees. We got trapped on this hell hole of a planet by the Markab plague. We've spent the last, last umm, three weeks?" I looked around at my companions for confirmation, but none was coming "Walking through the desert."
"You're not with Crocker? What are you doing here then?"
I took a step towards him. "Looking for a way off this G'Quan-bedamned planet!"
A rifle waved at me, but the leader waved it away.
"Look, all we want to do is get off this blasted planet! We don't want to get involved with your business here, we just want to get back to my ship and get out of here!"
He showed some interest - "You have a ship? Where?"
I had given away too much information. "In space dock, somewhere. I hope. The Markab were fixing it. They were supposed to provide for us - we did them a favour and they fixed my ship. But then they all died of Drafa before we could get away. All we want is to get off this planet. Can you help us get to the docks?"
"Depends on what you have to offer me."
"We only have the clothing on our backs. We were left with nothing when all the Markab died. I have access to credit on my ship." Nar'Bon tugged at my arm.
The Human allowed us a small discussion. What did we have to offer? Nar'Bon whispered to me in Narnish that he still had some of the star rubies on him - he had left three on board the Na'Ka'Ri'Tal and kept three. The Markab who had rescued us had not taken them. To my surprise, the Pak'ma'ra joined in on our private discussion. He only spoke broken Narnish, but he obviously understood what we were talking about. In the meantime, half the Humans were dismissed.
I was loath to give up a sixth of whatever money I had, thereby losing most of my profit, but it seemed to be the only way. I turned to the Human leader and offered a star ruby, over 100,000 credits of star ruby, to him just to get us off the planet.
"A star ruby, eh? Where did you get that?"
Nar'Bon replied, "On the Pak'ma'ra homeworld."
I hastily added, "In exchange for trade goods."
"Have you any more of them?" The Human was greedy. One star ruby was worth much much more than passage off this planet.
"No! It is all we have and much more than I thought that we had."
"Hmmm...well, be here in 12 hours and I'll arrange to get you off this planet. For that star ruby. If your ship is not there, I'll bring you back here."
That was not satisfactory. I wanted to push the bargain further. He would make a handsome profit from us. "If my ship is no longer there, we can work as deckhands on your freighter and you can put us off at the first port you visit. You can't leave us here."
He didn't like that idea at all, but I was desperate to get of this rotting planet. He reiterated that we should be waiting at the freighter in twelve hours. "Any questions?"
The Pak'ma'ra spoke up. "We have been out of touch with the universe. Has Drafa wiped out all Markab? And has it spread to any other species?"
The Human looked at the Pak'ma'ra with an expression I found unreadable. "There aren't any Markab left. None at all. The only other species that gets it is the Pak'ma'ra."
The Pak'ma'ra blanched at this news, but I breathed a sigh of relief. I was not going to die of Drafa. One less thing to kill me on this bedamned planet. The Human continued, "They found a cure to it on Babylon 5, so it can't spread any further.
"Be here in twelve hours or you'll miss your flight." He and his men piled back into their vehicle and drove off. We drove into the airport and found shelter in a hanger that had very few Markab in it. The Pak'ma'ra wandered out into the blazing sun and sat in the middle of a runway. He seemed to be rather shaken by the news that rather than noone being susceptible to Drafa, his was the only species likely to die of it outside the Markab.
I performed a more complete version of my exercise routine, trying to strengthen my muscles by working them hard. Then I sat and ate several tins of food. After some rest, I exercised more. As I did so, I saw some of the small figures loading looted materials onto the freighter stop and watch.
There was constant influx of cargo to the freighter. Large ground vehicles discharged crates and boxes and all forms of packages onto the loaders, then drove off to find more loot. It was not my position to judge these beings, though I did wish I had the opportunity to do as they were - some of the technology exhibited by the Markab would surely help my people in the fight against the Centauri.
The Pak'ma'ra eventually retreated in the face of the harsh noonday sun. He absently opened a can and ate its contents. He held his hands out in front of him, and I noted that they had a slight tremor. His colour was not good, and hadn't been since the scavenger leader's news. I doubted very much that he had Drafa because he had been in close contact with quite a number of Markab suffering from it, and would surely have been struck down by it now considering the strain we had been under in the desert. Still, I couldn't help but tease him a little. I then took pity on him - he seemed to be very worried and I owed him some sort of debt for his loyalty at Kimmini's mountain.
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