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Jim Able: Offworld

Episode Six


Ed Charlton



Jim Able: Offworld Raeff

© 2021 Ed Charlton

All rights reserved.

ISBN 978-1-935751-55-7





Jim and Tella have been commissioned by the galaxy’s gourmet spaceship manufacturer, the Praestans Rapax, to investigate a potential interplanetary war. Their first task is to interview a Gul—an alien with doglike features—secreted away in a base hidden in an asteroid field. The investigators have no clue who they are to meet.


Footsteps returned to the corridor outside. A lone canid threw open the door, glanced around the room, and with quick and certain movements went straight to the bench opposite Jim.

It walked upright, though slightly stooped, and was about as tall as Tella, with arms longer than a human’s. Tufted triangular ears framed its head. A foot-long snout thrust out under large black eyes.

Jim took in the alien’s features as he controlled his initial alarm, keeping as calm and authoritative a demeanor as he could.

It was dressed in simple gray coveralls and showed no discernable tail. The fur on its hands and head was jet black with streaks of gray and white. The mouth was open in what seemed, to Jim, like a sneer. The nostrils were flared and wet. Jim tried not to stare as it squatted on the bench, its knees on either side of its elbows. The tightness of its coveralls left no doubt that it was male.

He thrust his snout over the table toward Jim and spoke in strong, clear Standard, pointing directly at Tella. “I don’t know what sort of game this is, monkey, but you start by wiping your snot off that wall!”

Chapter One

“Remove it!”

The canid nodded his head toward Tella without looking away from Jim’s face.

“You can see it?” asked Jim, his eyes wide in alarm.

The canid rolled his tongue along the left side of his mouth and spat on the table.

“Remove it! What do you think I am that you play these games? You and your feeble eyes may be fooled by it, but not I.”

Jim recovered his composure and said, “Please, be calm. This is a simple misunderstanding. Let me explain.” He held up his hands in a gesture of placation while he thought quickly how he might recover. “Tella, please get dressed and sit with us. And you, please, tell me your name.”

“You speak with Ernot Dirl Marhan.”

“And may I call you Marhan?”

The canid nodded once.

“Marhan,” Jim continued as he wrote the name on his record pad, “this is the way...we normally work. I ask the questions, and Tella listens. Now, many people are not easy with Neraffans...”

The canid spat again, this time toward Tella.

“Perhaps, such as yourself. We feel it...better...if we avoid addressing the issue at all. Had we known you could see it—feeling as you do—I would have simply had it sit with us at the start. I apologize if we have given offense.”

The canid laughed, a deep and powerful growl. “Have it sit where I cannot see it.”

Tella, now pale white in its robe, picked up a chair and sat where it could see Jim, but just behind their visitor, at what it guessed would be the edge of his vision.

“Now, who are you and where are you from?” demanded Marhan.

“I am James Able, from Sol Earth.”

“Sol Earth? Yes, I’ve heard of it. Just what the galaxy needed—another troupe of balding monkeys!”

Marhan gestured with a snap of his jaws and a slight bark. Jim was not sure what the gesture meant, but assumed it to be an underlining of the challenge in his words.

“And you are...,” Jim peered theatrically at his record pad, “...Ernot Dirl Marhan from...?”

Marhan frowned. “Tanna Gul, of course.”

“And you are currently the guest of the Praestans Rapax?”

Marhan made no reply except to stare at Jim, his ears flattening slightly.

Jim waited, counting silently to ten. “This conversation will pass more quickly when I ask and you reply.”

They stared at each other for what seemed a dangerously long time.

“Yes, yes! think you speak to the wrong person?”

“I care about the facts, Marhan.”

“You play puppy games!”

Jim glanced at Tella. “I would like us to proceed as if the Praestans Rapax have told us nothing. I want to hear it all from you—from your point of view. Is that okay?”

“You waste my time.”

“Are you going somewhere?”

Marhan bared his teeth.

“What did you do for a living on Tanna Gul?”

“A living? It is my honor to build the spacecraft of our government’s forces.”

With another glance at Tella, Jim asked, “Warships?”

“Of course. The greatest fleet we have ever seen.”

“What was your role in the construction?”


“What was your role? What did you do? In what way does Ernot Dirl Marhan ‘build’ a fleet?”

Marhan’s eyes narrowed and he licked under his nose.

“This is not the question you came to ask. It is the plans you need to know about. This is why you are here.”

“Indeed? I’ll be the judge of that, if you don’t mind.”

Jim knew he was onto something and that patience was all he needed. Unfortunately, the canid had irritated him so thoroughly that he was struggling to hold his voice steady. He was still hot with embarrassment that Tella’s presence had been so easily discovered.

“The plans we will come back to. I’d like to know about you and your role.”

“No, the plans are everything—the beginning and the end. The Praestans Rapax have no honor! They lie! They lie to me; they probably lie to you; they lie in their plans. But I...I have found it! I have found them out! It is I who saw through their deceit. Cunning they may be—but it is I who have found out their strategy.”

Marhan took a breath. Jim took the opportunity to interrupt.

“You are, I’m sure, a highly skilled and intelligent person. I want to hear about the plans. I want first to understand how you use your skills in the activities of building your fleet.”

“I...,” Marhan began, turning his head to look at Jim with only his right eye, “controlled the quality of the craft.”

Jim nodded.

“In what way did you control quality?”

Marhan shifted on his bench.

“I found

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