Chapter 13. Time Harvest

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The magical portal wasn’t like the one Abstract had, though it seemed to function the same way. One moment, Krula, her master, and the fire man were in a small box and after a tiny earthquake the doors opened to some place else.

As always, Krula remained as her master’s shadow. Ten paces back, just as she had been taught. Neither seen nor heard, but always ready to take care of his needs.

They walked into a maze-like area filled with other monsters who talked to invisible being. Krula suspected that they were casting rituals, praying to gods, or were most likely mad.

“And here he is,” Radian Wui Telnoucus gestured to a small booth where another one of his kind was speaking to himself.

Krula wasn’t familiar with mythology or religion in general, and was even less knowledgeable about alien zoology, but from what she could discern, this new elemental was much older than Radian. His fire was less bonfire red and more of a deep blood scarlet, there was also something in his appearance that indicated tiredness.

The older elemental saw Frank and Krula hovering over him while he talked. “An Pen 35 Kinger is worth shit to me. If you tell me if it’s core hasn’t been gutted I’m already going to call hurom crap…”

As soon Frank heard that the conversation included the word Kinger he quickly wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to the old fire. The creature read the note and gave Frank a raised eyebrow.

“Do me a favour there, T. There is a latch right under the driver seat, just pull that open and look and see if there is a green light there…” he waited for a moment. Suddenly, his eyes went wide and a burst of yellow fire shot through his face. “There is? Are you sure? Alright T, this is what you are going to do. Very, very carefully… T? T, you there?”

“Is there a problem?” Radian asked nervously.

“I’m guessing that his client just got blown himself up.” Frank said. He turned to Krula, “Pen 35 Kingers were made two and a half million years ago. Top of the line hydrogen harvesters. They were used to create the great gulf of dark space. Making emptiness just that bit more empty.”

“They were so good at their job that the people who made them hot-wired a few of the rust buckets into bombs. A few hundred metric tons of solid hydrogen converted into a fusion bomb is something you want to see going off at a distance.”

“Damn fool must have tried to siphon the gas.” The old fire elemental let out a sigh, “So, Dell Telnoucus. You got another gearhead for me. At least this one seems to know a thing or two about ancient scrap and dirty war tactics.”

“This is Frank, Dell Yoiu.” Raided said, “And he’s your new client. Mr Frank, This is Chester Maran Yoiu. One of our best junior sales and buyers.”

“Well isn’t that a coincidence, I just found myself one client short.” Chester said as if his last client hadn’t just killed himself and who ever else who was unlucky enough to be on the same planet as him. “What can I interest you in? I’ve just got my hands on a Weeber 78YQ, just got it serviced.”

Frank smiled at the offer, “I have six thousand memory crystals containing the memories of an primitive and violent level 1 civilization. What can you get me?”

Chester turned to his computer. “The problem with memory crystals is that it’s hit and miss. Anything interesting about them? Codes, secret intelligence?”

“Mostly rape, loss, grief, and two hundred or so happy days. No surprises. What about the Sergani?”

Chester made a face that Krula had seen on many slaves dealing with animal manure. “Without looking at the memories. I would go for a flat rate of 12,000 credits.”

“Surely we could do better than that.” Raiden said. “What about mood enhancers?”

“Without looking at them? No way. All you’ll get is mood junkies and they don’t have money. If they’re good I can get maybe 20,000. Problem with that is that the adjusters are all busy, the next available is in two orbits.”

Frank smiled, unconcerned about the low price. He pulled out a green ball from his pocket and held it up. “What about this one?”

There was a suspicious look on Chester’s face, “Whose memory does that belong to?”

“Oh, this isn’t a memory crystal. Tell me, have you ever heard of a time harvester?”

A sudden and distinct silence filled the cubical. Krula didn’t know what a time harvester was, but from the yellow that was pooling around the two living infernos she was sure that they hadn’t been expecting it.

Frank held the ball up, “Twenty obits of collected life span, siphoned from a level one species that consented. The energy is trapped in a memory ball able to be accessed with a thought.”

Chester’s face transformed from a simple red and yellow to an assortment of colours. Greens, blues, purples and there seemed to be a ting of black. Krula stood there, mesmerised by its wide array of emotional responses.

“Time harvesting is illegal,” he said speaking softly.

“Funny coming from people who sell planet busters for anyone with the cash and work in unregulated space. If the legal is the problem, I have all the contracts signed. The people I bought it from sold their lifespans to me legally knowing exactly what they were buying and selling. Here.” Frank waved his hand.

The elemental looked back at his desk, what he saw Krula couldn’t tell. It looked as if he was peering into nothing but the wall.

Raiden looked to Frank, “You told me that this was a small sale.”

“I assure you, a thousand years is nothing to me.” Frank said.

Just like the other monsters in this strange and odd place, Chester looked at his desk and spoke to some invisible being that Krula couldn’t see. “Hey, Larni, might have something interesting just come in. Yeah, I know you’re booked solid. Yeah, I’m sending you something. Might want to keep it low key, understand?”

Chester held out his hand and accepted the sphere. Krula didn’t get a good look at what the fire monster did but after ten minutes he glanced back at Frank, “Alright. You are sure? Yeah, I know. No, no. Listen, can you send me the details. I want to get an exact time if you can.”

After several minutes and one single huge green flare, Chester turned to Frank, “I can get you thirty million credits for this.”

“Fifty-five,” Frank counted,

They settled on forty-five million credits for Frank’s entire stock of memory crystals and the harvested time.

Feeling as if he had just had sex with two supermodels, Chester slump back in his chair riding the euphoric rush of making a huge amount of money in a short amount of time.

“Well, Mr Frank. I know I shouldn’t dare to dream, but are you looking to buy anything? I got real estate, more ships than Porgovian flotilla. A warehouse full of rations…”

“I’m looking for a Bacurate Slam, 2nd class, good condition.” Frank said. “Something with a huge hold, a lot of rooms, and a lot of security. Also need twenty droids that can pilot it.”

“A prison ship?” Chester laughed. “You want a maximum security prison from the Stone Age?” he turned to his desk. “I don’t have anything like a slammer, but I do have a decade old Golden Whale. I also have…Two Pilgrims. And I have five survey posts that are in the size you’re looking for.”

Frank leaned over Chester’s shoulder, how he didn’t get burned Krula attributed to the wizard’s magic. “Show me the survey posts. No. No. Maybe. That one, show me it’s schematics. No, need something bigger. Okay, that one, how much?”

“The Ferg. Used as a military landing platform for HALO vehicle drops. Records have been wiped clean, most of the equipment salvaged. Haul is good, shields. Buyer wanted eight million.”

Frank examined the empty space, and Krula leaned in still unable to see what the pair were looking at.

“Toss in an overhaul, every leak sealed. I want the rooms spotless, and I want it’s computers burned and replaced with universe standard. Scrub it for tracking and recording devices. Give me fifteen million in upgrades. Go for habitation, movement, and I need the garage converted for containment. Also, I’ll grab a half a million in food rations.”

Chester let out a deep whistle, “Big spender. When do you want it?”

“500 hours the moment I leave here.”

The rest of the meeting was composed of Frank buying casual items and replenishing the Abstract’s stock. He also decided to buy Krula and the other members of his staff gifts.

About at this time Chester had gotten bored of the bartering small objects. This was clearly below even the lowest trainee and he complained that Frank could simply go to a retail outlet and buy the objects at fraction of the cost. But as his supervisor was orbiting around him, evaluating his every action like an overbearing parent, he decided to just do his job.

It was explained to Frank and his servant that while the satellite will take days to get ready, they would be able to pick up their packages at a nearby warehouse. After establishing where to pick up their goods both Frank and Krula left the building.

As they waited by a wormhole junction, Krula digested what she had just experienced. She didn’t attempt to decipher the part about the existence of men made of fire, ships that flew through the heavens, or a myriad of other lesser things that were beyond her understanding.

She instead focused on what she did know, in this case it was that her master had just traded a thousand years to these monsters. “Master, what is a credit?” Krula asked.

“It’s a style of currency that is pretty universal around these parts. Instead of coinage and animal skins, however, credits don’t have a physical form. Instead money is moved around by an organization called a bank which holds an account. You access the account and transfer money normally but without worrying over counting out coins.”

The sorcerer’s words only caused his servant to consider more questions but she buried those for later. The idea that different countries would have different currencies was not a foreign idea to Krula. Thebes had negotiations with many countries and each minted their own coins, it was just a hassle to remember the exchange rates.

As far as she was concerned this banking was just people being stupid and naive. Why would you let somebody else hold your money for you?

“How much is a credit worth?”

Frank considered the question for a moment. The problem with this particular equation was that the gulf between the levels of technology was too great. Krula’s culture had no concept of leisure classes or advanced infrastructures. Even a low income family on Ursa Minor was potentially far wealthier than the richest king on her planet.

A groan came from the sorcerer, “I suppose, 1 credit is worth… five, maybe four and a half ser. But you have to remember that everything costs differently here.” He pointed at a shop, “An apartment costs anything from 50,000 to 120,000 credits. But food is much cheaper here than it is in your world. For the same amount that you buy a bag of grapes in Thebes, you could by ten times that much here.”

Krula was taken back. Once again her lack of education was letting her down. She glanced around looking for somebody who she knew wouldn’t be too far away. She found them without trying.

The monster woman had the appearance of a creature of legend. She had a very snake-like appearance but the body structure akin to a human’s. What gave the woman’s profession away, however, was her assortment of clothes. Clothes, that while revealing accented her bust and hips.

“Excuse me, Master, for just a moment.” Krula jogged towards the alley where the snake woman was taking shelter. After a quick conversation she returned to the sorcerer’s side. “Forgive me, Master.”

“What did you ask her?”

“How much a blowjob was worth?”

Frank glanced over at the prostitute over by the corner, she say him looking her way and gave him a wink. How would her services look on his bank balance, he wondered. Would he get a recipient? “And what did you learn?”

About 20 credits. Sex with her requires 100.” She frowned, “But anal costs much more here than back in Thebes.”