2952-01-24 – Tales from the Service: Kel’s Treasure 

Since I shared last week’s entry, I have recieved several accounts corroborating the existence of Kel and his ship, which is reportedly named Visitor. One correspondent even had a holo still of Kel and his crew to share, and though the fidelity of the image is quite poor, it is clear that this being is not of any of the commonly known species. One middle-aged human male, (probably our contact Sadek), one somewhat younger female, and a lanky teenaged male comprise his known crew, though the holo does not contain identifying information for any of them. 

I checked with the Alien Sapient Welfare Office on The Sprawl and they are aware of the existence of this being and his people, but have had little direct interaction with him. Most likely, the story about the military buying a damaged data core full of navigational data is false (and later parts of Sadek’s account suggest this as well), but a whole package of xenotech propulsion equipment, damaged or no, would be very enticing to either military or civilian interests. 

Sadek Sherburn was surprised how little he felt watching Thaddeus Wall dwindle into the void. The old mining platform had been his home of two decades, but everything worthwhile in that life – the contents of his quarters and his trusty mining launch – were stowed two decks below in Visitor’s cavernous cargo bay. 

Kel made an almost avian clucking noise as his clawed hands danced across the incomprehensible controls. “This drive unit is faster, yes, but it handles very poorly. I will need much practice with it.” 

“And you’ll need to teach me how to fly the ship.” Sadek turned in a slow circle in the middle of the cockpit blister that perched atop the ship’s lenticular hull. If one could get over the disorienting feeling of being outside the ship, the cockpit was an impressive piece of design. Through the arts of Kel’s people, the space was surrounded and roofed with a single, unbroken piece of transparent material, faceted like a great gemstone. In fact, that was precisely what it was – an artificially shaped piece of corundum shot through with nanoscopic strands of various reinforcing materials. An auto-dimming lining on its inner surface shielded the crew from extreme radiation, visible and otherwise. 

“That will not prove difficult.” Kel waved one spindly arm behind his body in a way that no human could have matched, indicating one of the two blank, deactivated consoles that flanked him. “Those units carry human control interfaces, but are not currently operational.” 

“We’ll need a tech, then.” Sadek nodded. He was a fair hand at fixing the simpler breakdowns common to a spacer’s life, but he’d never had much luck rigging things up to work in the first place. 

“Indeed. Before coming to find you, I placed notices with several establishments on The Sprawl that I would be hiring.” Kel’s voice sounded almost self-satisfied. “By the time we return there, I expect an extensive list of candidates for you to screen.” 

If the pay rates on such notices were half as good as what Kel had promised Sadek, that was almost certain to be true, but that brought Sadek back to the topic of credits. “Kel, I have to ask. Where did you get that money?” 

“It is not important.” Kel turned away from the controls for a moment. But I will tell you how I intend to make more.” 

To Sadek, the source of the credits Kel was throwing around so freely was very important, but he knew his new employer well enough to know that anything Kel did not want to say would remain infuriatingly unsaid, without regard to reason, flattery, trickery, threats, or any other form of persuasion known to human science. He’d encountered a similar “not important” answer when he’d asked Kel how he’d come to be drifting in an asteroid belt, alone in a damaged ship clearly intended for a crew of several beings. No doubt these answers were uncomfortable for Kel, and that in itself made learning them all the more important. 

With a heavy sigh, Sadek crossed his arms. “How do you intend to make more money?” 

“By bringing the treasure of my people to your Sprawl.” Kel clucked again, this time in a far more cheerful manner. “And presenting it to the Seventh Warlord.” 

Sadek winced; he’d heard tell of xenos of Sagittarius referring to the leader of the Confederated military mission at Sagittarius Gate as the “Seventh Admiral” or the “Seventh Warlord,” but this was the first time he’d encountered this turn of phrase himself. Kel’s grasp of Anglo-Terran was far too advanced for this to be a mere misplacement of words. “You mean Admiral Abarca, the commander of Seventh Fleet. What are you going to try to sell him?” 

“We refer to the same being, yes.” Kel’s head bobbed from side to side as he worked the controls. “As to what to sell him... the term human spacers use is hulls.” 

“Hulls?” Sadek frowned. “You want to sell ships – xeno-built ships - to the Navy?” That would never work, of course. The Confederated Navy’s logistics situation in Sagittarius was strange enough without needing to source xenotech spare parts. 

“Just the... hull component for what you would call strike craft.” Kel’s voice took on an oddly chiding tone. “Your people could never be expected to decipher our machinery while also fighting a war.” 

“The hull isn’t a component, Kel.” Sadek didn’t know much about starship design, but he had seen several mining rigs stripped to their frames and re-built. The hull was as modular as any other part of a spacecraft, especially since to remove a reactor, one had to take large parts of it off. 

“That is the treasure of my people, my friend.” Kel reached up to brush his clawed fingertips against the faceted canopy. “This vessel is only partly of traditional construction. The true traditional makers use this material to form the entire hull, and merely electroplate the portions meant to be opaque.” 

Sadek shrugged. “They still won’t buy that. Well, maybe a few to try out. I’m pretty sure the Navy can manufacture its own strike craft in the field.” 

“Indeed, I also heard this.” Kel’s head bobbed enthusiastically. “With a hull formed properly, why should they not manufacture human innards and simply assemble them within a better hull? Such a vessel would be very durable. Most of its optics could even be within the hull.” 

Sadek shook his head. “That sounds like a lot of credits and labor for a very small improvement.” 

“Perhaps.” Kel manipulated the controls, and the stars wheeled outside Visitor’s canopy. “Let us see how the first cargo fares before you pass judgement.”