We enter a smithy.
“Hey, Nescha, I’ve brought company!”
A young muscular woman with dark hair with amber and red highlights comes to the front and greets us.
“Good afternoon. What can I do for you?”
“Nescha, this is Aster, he’ll be staying at my place for now.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Aster.”
“As you heard, I’m Nescha. I’m the local smith.”
“Aster has a flying home, and he needs some heavy metal for it.”
“Heavy metal? Wouldn’t that make it harder to fly?”
“For building it, yes, it makes it harder to fly. But I need it as fuel for the shuttle. It’s far from the ideal fuel, but I believe it’s the easiest to procure.”
“Yeah, just imagine it like the shuttle eats it.”
“I have quite a lot of Minum. You can have it, if you like.”
“Just like that?”
“It’s not very useful. It’s the leftovers of the process of creating Banum. Usually I have to pay people to dispose of it. So you taking this off me is helping me a lot.”
“I see, that’s good to hear. I already feared it would be much harder to get. You were speaking of Banum?”
Nescha hands me a dagger. It’s made of a slightly silver blueish metal. I get my knife from my pocket. They’re both about the same size, but the Banum knife is much lighter.
“May I see that knife?” Nescha asks.
I hand her my knife.
“At first glance, it looks like a simple iron knife. But this is steel, and it’s unlike any kind of steel I’ve ever seen before. Just by looking at it, I can tell they should last about as long as my Banum knives, although my Banum knives are much lighter.”
“My knife is made from something I know as stainless steel: as long you don’t expose it to rust, the steel protects itself against rusting.”
So Banum is a metal about as strong as steel but much lighter… is it Titanium? Or maybe Chromium?
“I can’t tell by looking, but it’s possible it’s made by adding Banum to the Steel alloy.”
Nescha looks at my knife for a while and then states: “No, I don’t sense any Banum in the knife at all.”
So Banum is most likely Titanium. Stainless steel has more chromium added to it. I try giving Nescha back the knife, but he refuses.
“Are you sure?” I ask.
“If it were just about the normal use, I’m sure your knife will be useful. But Banum tools work a lot better in conjunction with blessings. With that strong blessing of yours, I’m sure you’ll find a use for it.”
“But isn’t making those tools expensive?”
“Yes, view that knife simply as a sample, or a gift celebrating us getting to know each other. I’m sure you’ll be back for more.”
She wholeheartedly laughs.
“Thanks a lot, then. I’ll use it with care.”
“Before we forget,” Rowan adds, “Aster hunted a Snow Boar. We’re preparing a feast for this evening.”
“Is that so? Thanks for telling me. I’ll make sure to drop by.”
“I’ll be borrowing one of your carts,” Rowan says, “see you later.”
“Sure, see you later.”
Rowan helps me load the Minum onto a cart. We go back to the shuttle and I put it into the replicator to have it converted to energy.
Mittens states, “I hope people are not using this…”
“No, it’s leftovers from refining Banum,” Rowan answers, “it’s usually disposed of. You can just use it.”
“That is not what I mean,” Mittens answers, “this is mostly lead, chrome and tungsten.”
“Ah, let me explain: prolonged exposure to lead particles and ions is toxic!” I explain.
“Lee? I don’t understand what you mean, but is Mittens fine?”
“Since I am not a breathing being,” Mittens answers, “lead does not pose a health risk to me. Speaking of metals, you mentioned Banum?”
Oh right, I haven’t told Rowan Mittens can hear everything I hear…
“Ah yes, Nescha, the smith, gave me this knife made of Banum,” I put the knife into the replicator.
“It is made from Titanium, pure Titanium. Pure Titanium is quite hard to refine, especially to such high purity. This is really remarkable!”
The screen above the replicator shows a drooling face. It’s rare for Mittens to get this excited — he rarely uses that subroutine. There’s something more to this knife; something Mittens is not saying because Rowan is with me. I’ll have to ask him later.
“I’ll let you have a closer at it later, Mittens,” I take back the knife, “please stop drooling.”
“I am looking forward to it.”
Rowan and I carry the meat outside. Some villagers are preparing a fire. I follow Rowan to another house further to the north.
Inside, Rowan calls for the owner: “Uncle, we’re bringing in the meat.”
“Ah, there you are, Rowan, I heard you and your friend hunted something big,” a middle-aged man answers. His hair has red and blue highlights.
“Aster hunted a Snow Boar,” Rowan shows him the meat.
“Hello, my name is Aster.”
“I’m Nell. As you can see, I’m the butcher of the village. During pilgrimage season, I also sell grilled meat to travellers.
I see the boar is already disassembled.”
“Rowan warned me about Snow Boars having poisonous innards,” I answer, “so I let him do it.”
“Yes, that meat looks fine. If only your skills in cooking would improve…”
“Are you really that bad with cooking?” I ask Rowan.
“I fear that’s a lost cause,” Rowan answers, “besides, I don’t need to be able to cook to become a merchant.”
“So you’re still set on becoming a merchant. I guess I’ll have to find a different person to succeed me,” Nell turns to me, “how about you?”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to succeed you, but I’m willing to at least try learning to cook.”
“Alright, help me with preparing this meat!”
“Sure, though I have to say I’ve never done anything like this before.”
“It’s just something simple this time,” Nell shows me some red powder, “this is made from Xiu Berries that grow in these parts.”
He rubs some powder onto the meat. I take a little powder and try smelling it. It has a slightly cheesy smell to it. The powder tastes salty and slightly sweat. I rub the powder in my hand onto a different piece of meat. Is this enough? Yeah, it’s looks about the same as the chunk Nell prepared. He grins.
“Is something amiss?” I ask.
“It’s nothing…” he answers.
After we’re done with the meat, Rowan tells me to rest a bit.
“I’ll be in my shuttle then.”
I go back to my shuttle to speak with Mittens. I close the door.
“Mittens,” I put the Titanium knife into the replicator again, “what’s so special about this knife?”
“An initial analysis shows it is made from pure Titanium. Only two isotopes, Titanium-46 and Titanium-50, are present. The structure is very solid. It is void of microscopic imperfections. Titanium-50 atoms are only found in planes that intersect outside the knife. In those planes, those atoms are evenly spread in a hexagonal pattern. The pattern in the planes are so precise, it can be assumed to be a deliberate choice. Our replicator cannot recreate these fine structures.”
“I see. I know it uses a lot of energy, but I want to replicate small ingots of Titanium-46, Titanium-48, Titanium-50, Chromium, Lead and Tungsten. I’d like to know what Nesha thinks of those.”
“Understood. I will replicate one gram ingots of the mentioned materials by tomorrow morning.”
“Thanks, I’ll take a nap until the feast begins.”
“I’m sorry to disturb your conference, Admiral Cayden,” Captain Teemo begins the call, “but there was an emergency rescue request after a Hyperdrive malfunction.”
“That’s usually not a reason to ask permission, so what is special about this one?” Admiral Cayden asks.
“The shuttle in question hasn’t been found yet. But analysis of traces suggest an accidental intergalactic jump in the direction of the Nuka Galaxy. Also, it seems the long-range Subspace Communications of the shuttle are faulty. Judging from the data we have, we assume survival chances are very high, but they will be stuck in the until they are rescued.”
“The Nuka Galaxy hasn’t been explored yet. The search effort would be searching for a needle in a haystack. So you’re asking permission to embark on an exploration mission of the Nuka Galaxy while keeping the rescue efforts in mind?”
“Yes, usually, that would be the case. I deliberately called you now, as you are in a conference with the other admirals.”
“That would only be appropriate if protocol asks for the involvement of us,” another person states.
“That means a person related to Admiral Cayden is involved.”
Again, more silence.
“So it’s about Aster… If this wasn’t a call into this conference, I’d think you’d be making a macabre joke…”
“I regret to inform you the missing shuttle is the Speeding Kitten which was piloted by your son Aster. I’m not completely impartial about your son, either, but it seems there’s no other vessel suitable for this mission available.”
“Proceed with the rescue efforts, Captain Teemo,” an elderly person speaks up, “Admiral Cayden?”
“No, I will remain here. Thank you for your consideration, Admiral Karles.
Me joining the crew of the Orion would not help the effort. I fear it would even hinder it. I will have to impatiently wait for the results,” she answers.
“Thank you, we will begin preparations to embark immediately. There is one last thing, the engineer that was last working on the Speeding Kitten feels responsible for the disappearance of your son. He wants to apologize to you and request permission to join the Orion to help with the search.”
“I don’t need an apology. If he really feels responsible, he should take it up with my son after you’ve found him.”
“You are very confident they will find him,” Admiral Karles says.
“I’m sure his good luck will keep him alive until he is found. About him joining the crew of the Orion as a civilian worker, I believe that should be up to Captain Teemo to decide.”