The Raven ate up the light years in a rush as the darkmatter starcraft jumped all the way to the Hnnet homeworld. Dranke looked at the Hexe spaceport swim into focus in the hologram in the center of the bridge as it rotated slowly. Giant booms extended way into space like fingers clutching at passing spaceships - it was a familiar sight now, but the alien look of the spaceport shocked him every time.
He was greeted by the boom operator, who quickly took control of the darkmatter starcraft. In a few seconds, tractor beams took over the docking and landing ops. The operator was brusque and all business, which already told him the difference from earlier times they had visited Hexe. They waited as the extruding passage opened up, expecting to see Vaxe. Instead Ed walked into the ship and smiled at them all. Good to see you again my friends!
Sette and Kell watched in amazement as Ed proceeded to seal the entry point casually. He sat down with them on the bridge and looked at all of them directly "You are right to have visited Jexx before coming here. The Hnnesset is not a democratic grouping, and a lot of us felt that they were hasty in vilifying the Jexx. I am here as a private entity, not as part of the Hnnesset." He stopped, waiting for a response.
Kell looked at him, a tad suspiciously "How do we know you are the Hnnet called Ed?" He shrugged in response "Your subroutine will verify my identity. In any case it does not matter, we do not understand loyalty the way you humans do." Kell nodded slowly "So how come Vaxe did not come with you?" Ed smiled "She is actually here with the subroutine. And she can answer you through me if required." Dranke hastily cut in "We are here just as traders. It is not in our power or ambit to take sides." Ed grinned "I figured you would say that. I wanted to defect as you humans call it. Join your team. But more importantly, I want to make my own way in this Universe" Dranke was taken aback. This was the last thing he had expected. And he did not know what to say. Luckily, Kell cut in "We have tried in the past to take aliens on, it has never quite worked." Ed smiled sadly "Yes, I know of the Jexx commander and his retinue. I will make sure not to kill myself in your presence." It seemed he was mocking them. He stood up abruptly "To make sure this seems like a normal visit, I will take you to the Hnnesset. You have some time to decide before we come back to your ship. I hope you will consider my request seriously." He stepped aside and the mouth of the extruded passage opened up again. He led them out to the spaceport.
Vaxe was seated with the Hnnesset in full attendance. It struck Dranke again how diverse this group was. Aliens of all sizes and shapes mulled about. The usual pleasantries were exchanged. As the proceedings took on more of a ceremonial tone, Dranke switched on his Jen subroutine. Vaxe was waiting for him - Tread carefully captain, Ed is one of the good ones. But you should be aware that he has not taken permission join you. Does he require permission? Not actually, but it would be good protocol. The Hnnesset is not a homogeneous group. They could well take a contrarian view. What is your advice? Hard to say captain. It's your call.
After the meeting at the Hnnesset, Dranke walked out following Settle and Kell as they looked to teleport back to Hexe. He had a dull sense of foreboding, but he brushed it aside. Ed was chattering with the rest like a tour guide. "And the Hnnesset has been working on making starcraft redundant....." Dranke tuned out and followed as they entered the Hennesset. Vaxe came up to them and hugged them all exuberantly, though she looked much more a part of the motley crew that made up one of the most powerful decision making structures known. She grinned at them "The Leader has been pushing to be included into the Hnnesset, and it looks like they have agreed to let Earth in as a full-time member. There is so much we do not even know about the workings of the other species that make up this group." They decided to get lunch at the spaceport. It was educational. They said their goodbyes to Vaxe and Sette and Kell lingered over their farewells. Dranke asked Vaxe quietly if there was something he needed to know about the Hnnet. She told him what he wanted to know.
Dranke now had to make a decision and as if on cue, Ed came up to him - looking very much like how Dranke remembered him from the first time they had met - just a silvery orb hanging in the air. He asked "I would like to know your decision Captain. I am coming to you without defense or artifice. You may have to bear the brunt of the Hnnet backlash if you let me stow away with you." Dranke nodded "There is no way for me to refuse you, but you will have to help me handle the Hnnet if there is a problem." The orb bobbed "Of course." Ed resolved back into human form "Humans are better than we think and worse than we expected." Dranke smiled at the thought. It was interesting to be judged by an alien. It made for a perspective humans were not used to.
The jumps away from Hexe took them towards spacecommand. Trader Dranke had to get a debrief. He felt like a spy. Like a traitor. And he did not know why.