Decker and Katie had their rifles out and had taken up positions where they could get a bead on the transport. Roland had his bow and his last arrow ready, and Boston had her Beretta, sat beside him, and spent the whole time smiling at Roland and not paying any attention to what was happening. Lincoln and Alexis stayed back with the horses, while Lockhart crawled forward to look. He had his shotgun cradled in his arms, just in case.
“Hello?” Elder Stow inched forward. “Are you there? Can I help?” Elder Stow took two more steps and stopped again. “Is anyone alive?” Lincoln had assure him that the Gott-Druk and the Elenar were both Neutral in this portion of the war. It was the Pendratti fighting the Sevarese and Bluebloods, and some others, though only those three tended to visit Earth. And the occasional Marzalotipan, of course, who took everyone’s side as long as there was a profit to be made. “Hello?” he called again as he got close to the open door. He could not tell if the door opened in the crash or got opened by someone still alive inside. Then he heard a voice.
“Gott-Druk. Why should you help?”
“I have friends. One human is a great healer. We saw the battle above and wondered if there were survivors and if we could help.”
“It is their way,” Elder Stow said, frankly. “I understand it is not the way of the Pendratti.” Indeed, Alexis explained that the Pendratti sought to control space and force all other, what they imagined, were lesser creatures to serve them. They would no more reach out to help a lesser creature in distress than a lioness might reach out to help an injured gazelle. “It is not the way of the Gott-Druk, but humans are strange. They claim to hate to see anyone suffer.”
“This is known,” the Pendratti voice admitted. “We will be out, over my ruler’s objections, if you may help her.”
Elder Stow stepped back as a lizard man helped a lizard woman walk stiffly from the wreck. The male looked unhurt, but the female was bleeding from several places, a thick, brownish green puss.
“It’s a bird,” Ibin el-Wadi expressed his surprise.
“Bird-like,” Hadj agreed. The Marzilotipan had arms that were wing-like, but not wings enough to fly. It wore a kind of pants, but mostly it was covered by feathers in a variety of colors. The female wore nothing but feathers, mostly brown and green, so it took some deductive reasoning to figure out she was a she. They both had beaks for a nose, but with puffy, though relatively normal lower lips. And they both looked out from behind sharp green eyes, ready to deal with whatever came their way.
“Those are fine looking beasts, but maybe not the most comfortable to ride,” the male said. “I have an old, but serviceable Gott-Druk ground transport which would serve you well, and I might let it go for, say, three of the beasts.”
“The camels are not for sale,” Hadj said as he looked back at the camp being pitched under the shelter of the big ship.
“Then perhaps the horse? I believe that is the name of the beast, and it appears to be a fine looking animal,”
“No horses,” Mingus said, and sounded a bit possessive.
“You have names?” Hadj asked. He settled on calling the male Reglala and the female Ouklee. That was about all he could get his tongue around. Then he explained. “Your system files should state clearly that this planet is off limits.”
“Yes, yes.” Reglala agreed. “But we saw Sevarese chasing the Pendratti to this place and thought they would surely fight and we could pick up the salvage. We mean to help keep the planet clean of outsiders, not interfere with anything.”
Hadj looked at Mingus who offered his opinion. “A finely crafted excuse.”
Hadj looked at Ibin el-Wadi, but the old Bedou did not speak Marzalotipan five, the trade language, so he had no idea what was being said.
“I’ll think about it,” Hadj said. “Meanwhile, I am waiting for my friends. Maybe you can make a deal with them when they arrive.” He turned his three to the camp, and got down from his camel in time to kiss his wife Ishitak and scold his son, Jaral.
The Travelers approached the Marzalotipan ship without concern. The Marzalotipan were only aggressive in sales, not in war. They had Commander Slurpee, as Boston dubbed her, up on a stretcher, pulled by Lincoln’s horse and held aloft by Eder Stow’s anti-gravity device. Alexis rode beside her patient, but Elder Stow had to walk with the other Pendratti, a young one Lockhart called Commander Cody. Naturally, Katie had no idea who he was referring to, but at least she knew what a hot rod was.
“As bad as Marzalotipan screeches, honks and oogles may be, I think Pendratti-reptilian guttural tongue slurping is worse,” Lockhart concluded.
“Yes,” Katie agreed, but her eyes were straight ahead. “Looks like someone got here first.”
Three men stepped out from the human camp, and Boston had already abandoned Honey and was running like a flash. Roland had to give Lincoln his and Boston’s leads before he could chase after her.
“Father Mingus,” Boston Shrieked and threw her arms around him. “Oh, I am so happy,”
Mingus hardly knew what to do or say. He almost smiled, but refrained.
“Lockhart,” one of the men waved. “I see you brought a friend and a passenger.
When Lincoln arrived, dragging the three horses, he spoke before Lockhart could answer. “Hadj?”
“Father,” Roland said, formally, while Boston let go and turned toward Hadj. She looked down and turned the toe of her right shoe in the dirt until Hadj smiled and opened his arms.
“I hug,” he said, and she flew into those open arms. “I better know how to hug. I have three wives.”
Boston just said, “I am so happy.”
“The friend is Cody?” Elder Stow and the Pendratti both looked at Lockhart for confirmation, so he explained.
“I was thinking one of the lost planet airmen, but no one gets it.”
“The passenger, as you say,” Alexis interrupted. “Her name is Slurpee. Thank Boston for the name.”
“Welcome. Welcome one and all,” Reglala the Marzalotipan opened his arms as well. “I have a dermal regenerator brought all the way from the galactic rim and the planet of the Hongouree,” Ouklee said and pointed to a big machine on the open platform set up in front of the ship. “Of course, the Hongouree are amphibious, but theoretically it should work.”
“As is,” Lockhart said at the same time.
“Use at your own risk,” Katie added.
“Alexis,” Roland looked at her. “Aren’t you going to say something to your father?”
“I’m thinking about it,” Alexis said. “But I am happy for you and Boston.” She got down from her horse. Cody and Elder Stow had her patient down on the ground.