Authors: Craig Martelle
Free Trader Series
By Craig Martelle
Copyright © 2016 Craig Martelle
All rights reserved.
ISBN 10: 1530812011
ISBN 13: 978-1530812011
Cover Illustration © Tom Edwards
Editing services provided by Mia Darien – miadarien.com
Other Books by Craig Martelle
It’s Not Enough to Just Exist (Jan 2016)
Free Trader Series Book 1 – The Free Trader of Warren Deep (Feb 2016)
Free Trader Series Book 2 – The Free Trader of Planet Vii (Mar 2016)
Free Trader Series Book 3 – Adventures on RV Traveler (Apr 2016)
Free Trader Series Book 4 – Battle of the Amazon (estimate Oct 2016)
Rick Banik Thriller Series
People Raged and the Sky Was on Fire (May 2016)
For James M. Ward and the gamers out there who never got
enough Metamorphosis Alpha
Thank you all for a lifetime of inspiration
This journey started a long time ago when my brother Guy introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons™. This was early in TSR’s existence, so we had to build our own dungeons, run our own campaigns. In the back of a magazine was an ad for Metamorphosis Alpha
. I bought it for five dollars. But then I attended a GenCon in 1979 where I met James Ward. I bought Gamma World
Those worlds are my mecca. I could never get my head wrapped around The Force from the Star Wars ‘verse. I guess the Force is not with me.
I like the civilizations that were. Post-Apocalyptic became my favorite genre. I like the connection that people have with animals. Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series was a great set of stories, based on a fantastic world populated by human colonists, modified by their best engineers to fight a threat they never knew existed.
Thank you Guy for introducing me and James for giving this genre life.
Micah cradled Ax as the rains continued relentlessly. Little ‘Tesh rode with Braden, inside an oiled deerskin he held tightly around her.
Max continued plodding along the rainforest road. The Amazonians had repaired it where the horses didn’t have to think. One hoof in front of the other. Keep going in a straight line. Daylight. Night. Daylight.
The constant rain kept them company, dulled their senses.
The twins were six moons old before the Medical Laboratory deemed them fit enough to travel. Nearly a full cycle of the seasons passed since Braden and Micah had last been away from New Sanctuary.
Bronwyn would be much bigger now. Skirill and Brandt? They missed them greatly. They expected the Hawkoid and the King of the Aurochs wouldn’t let Braden’s caravan travel without them ever again. As they continued through the rain, Braden’s mind drifted in and out.
G-War dreamed of being dry. It was the same dream he had every time they traveled the rainforest. But it was never a dream. G-War huddled miserably in the cart, the cover providing almost no defense against the perpetual downpour.
Master Aadi was indifferent to the rain. His thoughts were clear and being hydrated, he had the most energy of all the companions. He was surprised the Amazonians hadn’t made contact. He started to worry. The Lizard Men revered the Tortoid and should have stopped the companions to greet him. When they reached Bronwyn, she would know how the Amazonian War was going. It was a great burden for a girl only eleven cycles old, but it was the nature of her gift, being able to speak with all creatures, touch their minds.
They had to get through the rain first. As things changed, others remained the same. When they traveled the Amazon and it wasn’t raining, then they’d worry that the apocalypse was upon them. Until then, one hoof in front of the other.
Finally, they reached the trading area where Village McCullough had first met the Amazonians. A wagon had recently visited. Braden looked over his shoulder at Micah, on Speckles, little Ax bundled in front of her. He nodded, grinning. The wagon wheels told him all was well.
And they weren’t far from Village McCullough.
Braden urged Max into a brisk walk. Micah slapped the reins lightly, trying to catch up.
They broke into the sunlight, the brightness washed over them, bringing warmth and joy. A familiar figure appeared in the distant sky, winging quickly toward them.
‘My friends! You have returned,’
Skirill, a Hawkoid, said over their mindlink. He swooped in close and flared to land on a low branch by the open road. He looked healthy. The humans breathed sighs of relief.
He wanted to see the additions to his family.
Braden rode close and lifted the deerskin from his daughter.
‘Uncle Ess. Pretty!’
came the baby’s thought voice.
cried Ax as Micah stopped the cart next to Braden. Their little thought voices matched their size. Six moons old and they could talk over the mindlink, but they’d been talking for well over a cycle now. Their speech became more refined as they aged, which they seemed to be doing at an unnaturally fast pace. The Medical Laboratory assured them the children were growing normally.
‘Axial. De’atesh. I am happy to finally meet you both. I will watch over you, and no, your mother has informed me that you can’t ride me. Maybe Master Aadi is more your speed?’
Skirill spoke formally with the children.
‘You’ve already ridden Aadi, but he wouldn’t go high enough?’
“What?” Micah looked sharply at Braden.
“I’m sure we have no idea what you’re talking about, Skirill. Haha, very funny. Where is Brandt and Bronwyn?” Braden wouldn’t look at his partner. Aadi swam away from the group, taking a great interest in a tree out of Micah’s sight.
‘They wait for you in Greentree. We think you’ll like what you find there.’
“That’s it? Are you going to let us in on the secret? C’mon, Ess, tell us,” Braden urged the Hawkoid.
He jumped from the branch, gliding over their heads before winging skyward.
“I guess we’re going to Greentree.” Braden turned Max around and waited while Micah guided Pack, as he dragged the cart around in a circle. The wagon tracks were clear, showing what a trader’s road could look like. They followed the trail toward Greentree that they had blazed long ago.
For half the daylight they pushed while Skirill stayed ahead of them. He kept flying back to look at the children. They’d giggle as he zipped past, dangerously close, the adults thought. Uncle Ess.
They heard the rumble first, then felt it as the King of the Aurochs burst into view. He ran full speed toward them until they feared he wouldn’t be able to stop. A little girl lay spread-eagled across his head, hanging on for dear life. Max stopped and stamped nervously.
In a great cloud of dust, Brandt slid to a stop in front of the caravan. Bronwyn lost her grip and slid down the Aurochs’ great head until he lifted his nose, keeping her from falling to the ground. She turned and sat as he lowered her. She stepped off gracefully, then ran to Micah.
“I love them!” she cried aloud. Everything else she said in her thought voice privately with the babies. ‘Tesh squirmed in Braden’s arms until he almost dropped her. He carefully handed her down to Bronwyn, who took the baby in her delicate hands.
the babies cheered in their small thought voices. Braden shrugged at Micah. When they looked up, G-War sat atop the King’s head, casually licking a paw and cleaning his face. Aadi bobbed in front, greeting his fellow strategist.
They had much to discuss. Holly had finally figured a way to talk with Aadi. It involved a small helmet that a Bot put on Aadi’s Tortoid head. They spent a great deal of time talking, but Braden and Micah couldn’t hear them. Aadi assured the humans that with further refinements, not only could they stop the current conflict, they could prevent future wars. Aadi based his ideas on the purity of heart.
Braden told him he didn’t like the word purity. Everyone was a mutant in some way. Aadi laughed at that. He explained that Holly had technology that could assess the pure heart. Braden, Micah, and the companions fit a new mold, servants to all creatures. The pure heart test would be used to determine who served on the Council of Leaders. This council would be responsible for identifying and resolving differences.
Braden and Micah rolled their eyes at each other. Aadi talked endlessly about the council and what it could accomplish. The young parents found it mind numbing. Brandt appeared to take great interest in claiming Planet Vii for all intelligent creatures. Brandt started walking back toward Greentree, Aadi close by his side. They were deep in conversation.
Bronwyn watched her ride leave without her. She shrugged and, with ‘Tesh held tightly, climbed into the cart. It jerked as Speckles started walking to catch up to Brandt. In the past cycle, they’d forgotten that when Bronwyn was around, the horses didn’t need their reins. She told them what to do and they did it.
The babies giggled as Bronwyn ‘talked’ with them. The family was complete once again. That meant Braden and Micah hanging on to the raft as it washed down the river’s whitewater, watching as the world went by.