Raor works on the translation of Forne's words.




Hero's Death

"When Raor asked whether it was dangerous, I said 'No.' It was probably the greatest misjudgment in my life."
— Rarrarar, Adviser of Honorable House Haul-Hau

Raor was shocked to hear of General Rowarl's death. Rarrarar gave her some time to adjust to the new situation. A lot of time for someone in his position but Raor had barely time to get a grip on her emotions when the adviser already handed her a sealed pad. «We need to know what the Rabit in these recordings is saying.»

«Yes, Sir.»

«Contact me directly when you are finished,» he asked her and left her to work.

With her ears laid back, she stared at the cable sticking out of the pad. To plug the cable in the socket at the back of her head always sent irritating vibrations through her head, no matter how careful she did it. Wearing them was even worse. It felt like someone was constantly pulling at her head.

After composing with her emotions, she called up a view of the backside of her head from the safety systems of the room and plugged the cable in. When she identified herself to the pad, she saw that there were two files on it. She opened the first. The image of a Rabit came up. She recognized the crude space suit. Rabit pilots wore them while taking part in the challenges which their races held at odd intervals. He stood on the outside of an airlock and wielded some device. There was jungle in the background. Raor rolled her ears and started the playback.

«Not so dead after all, huh?» The Rabit climbed through the airlock, the device in his hands always pointing towards the Haul who had recorded the event with its implant.

«Help me,» the Haul asked. 'He's using the artificial voice we created,' Raor realized. 'What is he doing there when he can't speak Rabit?'

«What, you want me to skin the rest of you?» the Rabit asked. Raor curled her ears at the words. For a reason that was beyond her, Rabit loved to use strong language, even at the most inopportune moments.

«Why?» the Rabit called. «Why do you do this? Is the universe too small for you?»

'A madman,' Raor thought. 'What is he talking about? And these grimaces ...'

There was some more discussion about engines and radio which where pretty easy to translate. She could basically approve of the automatic translation.

Then came something which left her completely puzzled. She ran the sequence five times to be sure. After taking the sentences down, she stared at them: «Why are you doing this? Isn't space big enough for you murderers? Why can't you simply leave us alone! We never did anything to you! But you ... you ... Oh, you don't understand? You're just lucky that you're already wounded like that or I'd beat some understanding into your stupid skull! Do you have ...»

'It must be the death wish ... he's insane,' Raor decided. 'Poor creature. I hope they could get him to the treatment ship in time.'

She started the second video. The Rabit appeared again. The image was much clearer this time. She confirmed her suspicion that it had been created by a safety camera by looking at the metadata of the video before continue watching it. «Damn! After all I've been through!» the Rabit screamed. «How can you stupid bastard die, now?»

With that, the video ended.

Raor opened the index but there was no third video. She flicked her ears and opened a file of her own. After going through the videos several times, she was sure that she had got everything right. Since she felt that this was just a fraction of what she was capable of, she also added an estimation of the emotional state of the Rabit. Like any Haul, it was hard for her to tell the emotions of this strange race apart but nobody in the empire had spent as much time with Rabit as she had. This one was an unexpected challenge since he never took off his helmet, so she could never see his face or ears clearly. All she had was the voice.

After that, she wanted to contact Mike of the Rabit embassy on Haul Prime. She was quite surprised when her implant couldn't make the connection. An error message told her that Rarrarar himself had sealed her off.

He answered her call immediately. «My life for the house. I finished the translation,» she told him. «May I suggest that we verify my findings by showing it to a member of the Rabit embassy?»

«My life for the house. We do not want to raise their attention to this issue at this point in time,» the Adviser replied in a friendly tone. The door of the room opened and the old Haul stepped in. «May I see it?»

'He has been waiting for the result outside,' Raor realized. Again the sense of something big going on in the background was overwhelming. She bit back a question why he didn't want to discuss this with the Rabit at the embassy since he had probably thought this through before. «Yes, Sir.» Still, it irritated her that he didn't explain his reasons. 'I should ask but with the death of Rowarl, he is probably drowning in work to the tips of his ears.'

Rarrarar put the pad down after reading her reports. «Are you available for two weeks, full time? If you agree, you will start immediately.»

Raor hesitated, Roar would probably want to know if she was interested in a bonding before that. On the other paw, this mission could be the key she needed for him to approve the donation. «I am available, Sir. But ...» She hesitated to bother this man with her personal plans.

«Yes?» he asked friendly.

There was no way out anymore. «I plan to ask Roar of the House Hawer to create an offspring with me. There are already other applicants and if I do not move fast, I will lose that window of opportunity..»

Rarrarar just said: «I will have someone take care of it. Anything else?»

Having Rarrarar ask in her favor would win her the challenge, she knew. But it only deepened her concerns. «What kind of mission are we talking about?»

The adviser held the pad up. «We will meet with this man. We need to know why he said this.»

Raor wondered why they didn't simply call him. «Is it dangerous?»


She still hesitated. «Why are the words of a madman so important that a legend like you takes interest?»

«He was the last person who saw General Rowarl alive,» the old Haul explained calmly. «There are some facts which just do not add up. We need a Rabit expert to translate and to give us a second opinion.»

Suddenly she realized she was again wasting the time of this important person. «Thank you for your patience to explain. I accept. My life for the house.»

«Excellent,» Rarrarar smiled. «A shuttle is waiting. Please follow me. Roar of House Hawer, you said?»

«Yes, Sir.» She sent him the exact details.

The adviser led her along a corridor. One side was transparent and allowed an unhindered view of the planet outside. Since the great natural restoration, it looked very much like the world which had welcomed the earliest ancestors of their race. Only a few thin spires shot out of the pleasing hues of red, telling the knowledgeable that this world was in fact inhabited. «Did you already meet?»

The polite interest of the adviser made Raor feel uneasy. «No, Sir. The DNA database showed him as the best partner for me. 384 major differences, 4'213'211 minor.»

They took the elevator for the roof. «Ah, excellent, good for your children.» He smiled warmly. «This is Warr, Chief of the Information Center,» he introduced a Haul who had been waiting next to the landing platform.

«My life for the house,» she greeted him, offering her throat as it was proper for a person of lesser social standing.

«My life for the house,» he replied, touching her throat gently with a finger. He offered her a device with an attached cable. «This is a high-security addition to your implant. Until you can go through the surgery, you can store any sensitive data in here.»

'Not again,' she groaned inwardly. She would have to wear it for an extended period of time and she knew how it strain her nerves. «Thank you.»

Twenty minutes later, an express shuttle with them on board left the atmosphere and approached a light cruiser of the House Haul-Hau. The ships network told her they were pushing them out of orbit as soon as they had set paws onto the fast ship. It made its jump not an hour later, reappearing next to the RORR only two hours after the remains of General Rowarl.

'783 Rabit desperate to die,' Raor thought as the transporter became visible in the windows. 'And I have to find out if one of them is insane.'

She checked the list of open questions she had to find answers for: 'Why had the Rabit said that? Had he treated the generals wounds? Had he tied him down? If so, why? Why had he brought a deadly weapon to a challenge of skills? What did he try to achieve with firing combat ammunition at members of the rescue team?'

Raor wondered why Rarrarar couldn't accept the simple idea that this Rabit was insane. 'Half of the answers are on the videos of the safety cameras of the rescue capsule. He is still withholding some important information.' She told herself it only was for her best but she still didn't like it. 'Stop the whining,' she thought. 'This is the boost to my career I have been waiting for! Being this close to the legendary Rarrarar will open any door for me!'

Her implant notified herself to calm down, her stress levels were again beyond the self-set margins. The medics had warned her that this might happen. She had never been in space before, so she had had a couple of shots to allow her immune system to cope efficiently with any alien germ she might get in contact with. An important precaution, especially since she would get in close contact with Rabit of an unknown condition. Only it tampered with the perfect balance of her energy levels. Since the first dose, she felt on the brink of a strong headache. It never came but it ate at her patience. She thanked her implant, closed the eyes and went through a meditation cycle to regain her balance.

* * *

Rarrarar also had mixed feelings about this mission. Unlike the young Haul opposite of him, keeping his emotions out of his ears had become such an integral part of his personality after so many years in politics, that nobody could tell how nervous he really felt. 'I really hope Raor is right and this Rabit is insane,' he thought with impassive ears. 'If not, the Haul empire might face its biggest challenge since the Implant War 7'000 years ago. Rowarl, old friend, what were you planning?'


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