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Episode Six

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In the meantime, I find myself up to my earholes in debt. I am paying it off slowly, but freighters cost a lot of credits, and so does smuggling contraband if it goes wrong. It pays well, but carries so much risk. I haven't heard from So'Kath in nearly three months, though I have sent a couple of messages. I would so like to see him in the flesh - the last time was half a standard year ago, on Babylon 5, and he could not bring Na'Kath with him. I haven't seen her in over a year. She is nearly three years old now, and it grieves me to say that I doubt if she remembers me.

As I record this, a message comes in. It is from So'Kath. He will be taking up residence on Babylon station within three days. He will be bringing Na'Kath with him. It makes me glad - Babylon 5 is safe compared to any of our colonies now that the Centauri are on the rampage again. Also, I frequently collect or displace cargo at Babylon 5 - my contact is there - so it will mean that I see my loved ones much more often.

I send a message squirt in reply, telling So'Kath that I should be back at Babylon 5 in less than a standard month. First I have to finish this delivery to the Pak'ma'ra homeworld. Good credits from this trip - a good payout will reduce my debt substantially.

It is strange how some things fall together. In less than a month, I have acquired two new shiphands, of a sort. An impoverished Human engineer - greatly needed because my beloved Na'Ka'Ri'Tal has some reliability problems, as the Earthers would say. He seems generally competent enough, though I don't want him near the escape pods again. And this Pak'ma'ra, who we needed as a translator for this cargo run.

Meeting the Pak'ma'ra was the most enjoyable part of my association with him so far. We were on Babylon station, somewhere in Down Below, when we heard the sounds of a scuffle. We needed a Pak'ma'ra to translate for us, and it seemed a benevolent universe had granted us one, as long as we hurried. Indeed, a Pak'ma'ra was being attacked by Human vagabonds. Nar'Bon and I dispatched four of the Earthers in an all too short fight. The others ran off.

The Pak'ma'ra introduced himself - Djikiden - and professed a life-debt-of-honour. He would do whatever was required to discharge that debt. He sounded perfect for my requirements. For about the first five minutes, anyway.

This Pak'ma'ra has some very strange ideas. He has a very small view of what is right and wrong in this universe. He calls everything honourable and dishonourable. Naturally, being a big bad Narn, I am dishonourable. He operates in certainties and there are no ambiguities. He does not see that I am only doing business, acting as a courier. I am a vector, but I am not at the root of the problem. He does not see the shades of grey that I operate within.

He annoys me so much that it takes half a standard hour reading my favoured passages of the Book of G'Quan before I can calm myself. He dares judge me by his own standards. All beings must measure up to his moral code and be damned if they fail. I'll give him this much - he does dare take me on - I have to grant some grudging respect for anyone who will stand up to me. But that doesn't stop him annoying me to the point of violence.

I do not believe that violence is or should be the only answer to all problems (except the Centauri), but some problems are most easily solved by violent means (such as the Centauri). It would be good to smack that preaching Pak'ma'ra in the gob, but it would make matters more difficult with him. I need him on side enough to help me in this delivery.

Further problems. The Pak'ma'ra with whom I am dealing is "dishonourable" and my cargo-to-be is "dishonourable", and my tame Pak'ma'ra is already showing signs of jibbing. He does not understand business and sheer financial necessity. I need to courier illicit shipments to keep up with the payments on my ship. Ja'Hut financed the ship and he finds me interesting and reasonably well-paid shipments. If these are somewhat less than legal, it is none of my concern - I only carry the materials. We finally sort out the shipment and take it back through customs. The "medical supplies" are sealed and shielded with an emitter showing packaging and silhouettes consistent with the medical supplies. I ask the customs agent to be quick - these medical supplies are urgently required. The crates pass the alpha test, but for some reason the customs agent decided to do a more thorough scan. I plead with him to let the medical supplies through - they are needed urgently. But he insists on scanning them. I tell him that they will be destroyed if they are beta scanned. He still wants to scan them. I am given a last moment reprieve by an incident in another customs bay. We are sent through. It could have been very messy if I had been caught with weapons on Babylon 5. I stowed the weapons in the shielded environment pod in cargo bay 4, away from prying Pak'ma'ra eyes.


The Human made a nuisance of himself on the trip to Pak'ma'ra. He had been tinkering with the engines and performing marvels with them, tuning them and babying them to produce more power. This was good. This was what I hired him for. I didn't hire him to eject one of my escape pods. I would have left him there to rot somewhere in hyperspace, except I wanted that pod back. It cost good money, and would cost more to replace.

It took some recapturing. I had to find the pod (not that hard considering the distress beacon flaring on it), then match the Na'Ka'Ri'Tal's spin to it whilst trying to stay on the hyperspace beacon (somewhat harder). The actual retrieval of the pod required me and, surprisingly, the Pak'ma'ra going EVA. The Pak'ma'ra seemed terrified but determined to help. I took a line out to the pod and matched my momentum to it, landing on its hull with only a slight thud. From there it was a simple matter of hooking up lines and reeling the pod back to the ship.

Of course then we had to stop the pod ramming the ship. That required main strength and manipulation of the bulky pod. Every time I passed the viewport, the Human was screaming and banging his fists against the port. I was not in the mood to humour him - I was bringing him back, what more could he ask for?

At first we lashed the pod against the side of the ship, but then decided that we should actually bring it into one of the cargo pods as it would be more secure. This necessitated shifting the cargo already in the A pod to make room. I was becoming less impressed by the minute - the amount of effort required to retrieve the situation was looking less and less worth it. Eventually, we got the lifepod into the cargo bay and repressurised the bay. The Human burst out of it and rather enthusiastically attempted to thank me. He presumed to attempt to touch me. I backhanded him - he was so obviously hysterical and that is what one does to hysterical Humans, at least according to their vids. Then I made him start moving the cargo back into the A pod and packing it around the lifepod. I had more important things to do, like monitoring the interrupted progress of the Na'Ka'Ri'Tal.


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Na'Tiel's Story / Lynne / last modified 29 February, 2000