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Charlie and the AI shards. (Short Story)

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"He thinks he has inforrrmation about Eurrrapil and managed to trrrack down a name of someone who might know some things and get on board." The image of Nahar flickered slightly.

"Can they be trusted?" Charlie asked.

"You'll have to decide that for yourrrself," Naharrr replied, "apparrrently they'rrre an old frrriend."

Charlie's phone beeped. "Ahkun Chiran? You're not serious?"

"He said he could meet you this evening if you wanted?"

"Are you saying we had access to information about the lost AI shards this whole time and we didn't even know about it?"

"Looks like it. What he doesn't get is why Ahkun didn't come forrrward with the information when he knew you werrre searrrching --"

"Skrell and AI don't mix, dear." Charlie sipped her tea. "It will be a miracle if he helps us at all."

"Good luck, Charrrlie. He surrre you can do it."

The hologram disappeared and Charlie was left alone with her tea and her thoughts, anticipating the conversation ahead.

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"How did it go with Ahkun?"

Charlie frowned, pressing her lips together. She slumped down on the couch next to Nahar, putting her bare feet on the coffee table.

"That well huh?" Nahar asked, kicking them off again.

"No no, it went well, it's just..."

He lent forward, waiting for her to finish, his ears flicking ahead.

"It's just that...I braced for having to try and convince him, but he seemed to be interested extremely quickly in the project. I wonder if he hasn't spent too long away from home and forgotten the weight of what I'm really asking him."

He shrugged. "He said he'd help though, rrright?"

"Yeah he will. I mean, I trust him and everything...also he has the last known location of the first shard."

"Excellent! Wherre will you send people?"

"Oh, I'm not sending people..." She run her tongue over the front of her teeth. "I'm going to be leading the retrieval team."


"Yes dear. There's no way I'm going to let something like this fall into the wrong hands..."

"Wherrre is the location?" He asked nervously. At this, Charlie looked somewhat guilty, muttering something under her breath. Nahar looked incredulous.

"He thought he hearrrd you say Moghes."

"I did say Moghes."


"Yes Moghes? Ahkun said that Khaw Elsani had bought it from --"

"Elsani the Unathi gangsterrr?!"

"He and I have had dealings in the past."

"Charlie! Unathi don't carrre forrr women. They will hurrrt you."

"I won't go alone, Nahar."

"You shouldn't go at all!!" He had begun to raise his voice, the panic showing as his ears twitched.

Charlie sighed. Reaching out hesitantly, she took his hand, touching the top of it softly, tracing the fur around his knuckles.

"I really want this." Her voice had lowered to a whisper. She starred up into his eyes. "I haven't felt this excited about a project for a long time and it would mean a lot of you could understand."

He took both her hands in his, rubbing the top of them with his thumbs. He lowered his voice to match hers.

"I don't want you getting hurrt."

"I'm a big girl, I can take care of myself." She smiled at his using first person.

He locked eyes with her.

"He -- I'm not going to hold you back frrrom the things you love but please Charrrlie, do me a favourrr and stay safe."

She lent forward to whisper in his ear, her breath making the fur on his neck stand up.

"No promises."

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Ahkun's head turned sharply to the sound of Charlie's heel crushing some glass. He pulled his hood further over his head and fought to keep up with the pace of the four other humans that he followed. There seemed to be a smog that smelled of smoke and rotting garbage that followed them as soon as they stepped off of the star ship. As they traversed the Moghes streets and dirty allyways, Ahkun heard a baby crying in the distance. Everywhere they walked, eyes seemed to follow. From behind half closed doors and behind curtains, the people were nervous and yet very curious. As they approached a group of children playing in the street, they simply stopped and starred, their tongues flicking and their whispers sharp. Ahkun kept his eyes on the road ahead, trying not to dread his insistence in coming down to the planet.

Charlie's heels went pik-pok as she stepped over and around puddles. Bags of piled rubbish lay over walkways and a filthy cat with half a tail ran across the path with a piece of rotting meat in its mouth.

Stopping in front of an old cracked door, Charlie knocked a knuckled against the frame, whispered a few rushed words when it opened and the group was ushered inside. During this exchange, Ahkun noticed Charlie's gloved hand ball into a fist and slip into into the small of her back.

She's afraid? he thought, suddenly feeling much more uneasy then he had before.

Four Unathi men approached, holding rifles in their arms. They looked Charlie up and down before turning to one of the body guards.

"What it do here?" He said in a think accent. The body guard said nothing, motioned to Charlie with his chin. The Unathi chuffed loudly.

"You take ordersss from female?" He looked disgusted.

"We greet you, Mikah Elsani, first born." Charlie said, lowering her head. "And our purpose is to speak to your father, Khaw Elsani." Her head barely came up to his chest.

"I not talkingsss to thisss -" he motioned a claw in Charlie's direction, shaking his head. "Where is her husssband? He ssspeak for thisss one."

From the other room came a loud shout in the Unathi language. Mikah seemed to stand straight and replied quickly.

"Charlie?" The voice from the room called in basic, "Charlie issss that you?"

"Hello dear, yes its me. May I come in?"

There was a rustle of pages and an order barked. "Mikah will show you in." The voice called. Charlie walked right by the silent Mikah and straight into the room.

"Charlie Dove. I am not usssed to having a human woman visssit the clan, pleassse exssscusssse my ssson."

Behind a mahogany desk sat a dark purpleish scaled Unathi. He stood, bowing to Charlie.

"You're early."

"I'm always early."

"You brought payment I assssume?"

Charlie reached into her coat inside pocket. "Fifty thousand credits. I expect it is ready for transport?"

"Of coursssse."

She handed him the shiny credit chip. Turning behind him, he reached to a tall cabnet, unlocking a safe and removing a metal box from within.

"Every data chip, every hardrive. Everything is here."

Ahkun stepped up. Taking the box, he carefully opened the lid. After inspecting its contents, he gave a nod to Charlie and handed the box to one of the other men who placed it inside a briefcase.

"Thank you Mr Elsani. You have been very helpful indeed." Charlie turned toward the door.

"Though," Khaw said, "one doesss bid to assssk the question why sssomeone of your reputation and wealth would ssssuffer to travel herssself rather then just sssend sssomeone to retrieve it."

Charlie stopped. Looking back she cocked her head to one side, her fist returning to behind her back.

"I am merely pointing out that for an item worth only fifty thoussssand, you could ssssurely have sssent ssssomeone in your sstead? Unlesss the item isss worth a lot more then you are paying for it?" Khaw smiled, sitting back down at the table. Waving a hand, he chuckled. "Anyway, have a good flight back home and do drop by again sssometime, if I don't sssee you on ssstation."

Everyone looked to Charlie. Smiling back, she dropped her hand to her side taking a step back toward the door.

"Thank you, sir. See you soon."

The group left, following Charlie's walk which had seemed to accelerated. Ahkun jogged to keep up. Reaching the outside, they walked quickly back to the starport. Ahkun noticed that the bodyguards had placed their hands on their belts where he knew they concealed weapons. It was interesting to him, to say the least, that they didn't seem to let them go until they were safely out of the atmosphere and on their way back home.

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