Part 17

01/11/2013

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Lanie started walking towards it, "Captain Lanie Romein, I'm here to pick up cargo for Ku. Can you have someone empty my hold quickly? I'd like to get back as soon as possible."  What she was really saying is, she didn't want to spend any more time on this planet than was needed, she was afraid.  More so because as she converged on the tall figure at the end of the tunnel, she could see he had a lizard-like appearance.  It had facial features that were defiantly reptilian, and scales covered what parts of the body that wasn't covered by clothing, which was a loose tunic and trousers. Nothing surprised her, but she was definitely creeped out by this, she assumed he was a male by the deepness of his voice.

"Already being done."

"Thank you."

"Please accept our hospitality and join our leader, DuBont, for a drink."

That would involve taking off her helmet, she was warned against it.  The darkness of the visor kept her anonymous. "No, I'm sorry, maybe another time.  I have never been to your planet and I would like to take a few moments to look around."

"No one is allowed on the surface, Captain Romein.  We live below, and there is really nothing to see besides the mines."

Lanie would never get tired of hearing someone call her that, she smiled, "If you don't mind I will take a quick look and be on my way."

He nodded, "This way please."

She followed the lizard man out of the tunnel down an incline into a darkened room.  Once her eyes adjusted, she could see she was underground.  Blinking, she looked around.  Lanie stood paralyzed as she watched what appeared to be humans being lead further underground, she turned away sickened, having no way to help them.

"Captain Romein?"

Her attention was drawn to someone calling her name.

"This way please."

"Where are those people going?"  Lanie pointed to the stream of people.

"They work in the mine."

Lanie nodded, and then followed her guide, who took her to a room with better lighting.  He showed her a map. 

"The surface has been poisoned.  We all live underground.  The prisoners –"

"Prisoners?"  Lanie interrupted.

"Yes, prisoners...they work in the mines."  He drew aside a curtain and a section of the mine was revealed.  The conditions were crude, the people were dirty, and the lizard guards whipped them if they didn't move fast enough.  It was almost too much for Lanie, she felt faint.  She couldn't afford to be at their mercy.

"I must get back to my ship, I'm not feeling well."  She turned and retraced her steps back to her ship with her guide right behind her.

"I will check on the progress of the load, Captain Romein."

Lanie continued on into her ship.  She felt sweaty, and she could hear her own breathing inside the helmet.  She was startled when a loud irritated voice spoke over the communicator.

"Captain Romein! I understand you are ready to leave but on your next visit, you will honor me with a moment of your time or we will not be able to do business, is that understood?"

"I apologize, DuBont, for my horrible manners.  As your man can attest, I am not feeling well, and thought it best to be on my way.  I assure you; next time I find myself on your planet we will tip glasses."

DuBont's voice was lower, calmer, "I see. I will hold you to your promise then. I know you work for Ku, but I like to know who I deal with."

"Understandably, I look forward to meeting you upon my return."  Lanie lied.

"You are free to go. The cargo has been switched.  We will see you through the atmosphere and then you are on your own."

"Thank you."  Lanie closed the hatch to her ship, and within minutes she could tell she was airborne.

A short time later, they told her to prepare to be released.  Following directions from Ku's people she set the auto pilot to take her back home.  Home, now a relative term.

She settled in and prepared for the long trip but her thoughts were disturbed by the visions of the humans in the mines.  Lanie scoffed at the thought, she called them humans, as if she wasn't one of them anymore, maybe she wasn't.  A million thoughts ran through her head, how could she help them?   Shaking her head to clear it, she tried to think about something else.  It would sneak back, and she would have to push it away.

 Something else kept Lanie annoyed, a ticking or tapping, and she couldn't figure out where it was coming from.  As soon as she heard it and tried to zone into the sound, it would stop.  She finally rose from her seat and walked near where the sound was coming from.  Moving a few things around she heard a little moan.  She jumped backwards, looking for a weapon.