In orbit around the planet Makibza IIIc, the Palace met a 'medusa' spaceship again.
Like the one that had allowed the Palace elves the first contact with interstellar civilizations and trade.
This one simply travelled through that stellar system, as slow as ever, but it detected the Palace (since Sunstream decided to make it visible to it) and it emitted a message to their attention.
The picture and symbols were clear : some traders had some important information to trade,
and they proposed a rendez-vous at a discrete management station for a mining company, in the system Haax, a peaceful sector of the galaxy.
What was worrying was.. the traders were Shingouz.
In the message, these small ugly creatures explained they had learned of the trading opportunity only by the Yuudzem, a being who was legendary for its ability at divination, and that being had told them the 'medusa' species would be the intermediate for finding the best client for what the Shingouz wanted to trade : they just had to mention to them : " Teleportation ", and they would understand.
And they did.
Meaning that the existence and activities of the Palace elves were still mostly secret.
What the elves knew was that the Shingouz traders always came by three of them, were excellent bargainers, but..
..they were desperately honest, they never lied, and they almost never cared what information or elements they were trading, nor with whom.
Hence, dealing with them asked for wisdom.
The elves discussed, and Sunstream convinced them the best way would be for him to go there with the special spaceship.
It was charged with magic, energy, nuclear 'fuel', air, water, food, everything needed.
Nêvem had ended bringing and testing some improvements : three small powerful, pulsative and precise ion-beams cannons, integrated inside the huge fins, designed to shoot, in focus, straight in front of the ship to 'clear the path', thus emptying space of rocks, dust, and even gas. It helped greatly in sparing the shell shocks.
Nêvem insisted on telling him those cannons might also serve as terrible weapons, if need be...
..but Sunstream sternly told him he would NOT use them to destroy enemy ships, ONLY to neutralize them. And only in LAST recourse.
" Your problem... ", was all Nêvem had to answer to that.
Two Titacta would accompany Sunstream, in this...
One resembling a glowing sphere, hosting and interfacing an evolved artificial conscience, able to pilot the ship while the elf would negociate at the station.
The other one, a well armed Titacta, who would serve as an escort, and for checking the rendez-vous place, first :
Sunstream could see and hear and even smell and touch through it, from afar, and it was very agile, well equipped, and highly trained. It even had an invisibility cape.
Both were perfectly in resonance with Sunstream's mind, and he could 'pop' them just as easily as he would 'pop' himself from and to the spaceship's spheric capsule.
Fur-fur would stay in the Palace, in the Garden.
Sunstream had hesistated, but the spaceship could hold only enough magic to insure Sunstream's magic shield, in the station.
Not Suntream's AND fur-fur's magic shields, if there was trouble, there.
When the small spaceship popped out from the Palace, there remained five days for accepting the rendez-vous, at 67 light years from there.
Amply enough, considering the ship's travelling ability.
Even if it didn't 'pop' as far as the Palace, of course, 'popping' was enough :
the nuclear bursts the three reactors could emit, with the typical light blue series of flashes signing the Cf disintegration..
..were reserved for extreme speed and maneuvers.
To observers, there, it would look like 'teleportation', for sure... Moreso that the spaceship was veryveryvery difficult to detect.
The reconnaissance Titacta would have almost three days to make sure the place was safe.
One day proved to be enough.
There was no trap, no ambush.
Only three teams of miners, their usual individual weaponry against pirates, five mining ships around, with only light armament.
And the three Shingouz, with no weaponry, only a detection device. It seemed to be a rather good one, for it detected a presence, when the Titacta explored the set of three rooms the Shingouz had been waiting in, for ore than two months, already.
They simply reacted as if their 'client' had come, sitting at the table, waiting.
Sunstream knew those creature HATED waiting, which meant the deal HAD to be an important one !...
Mentally, he smiled : " Well.. They will wait a little more. "
However, following the procedure previously discussed with Nêvem, Sunstream offered himself some security.
The reconnaissance Titacta ended its checks in the station. Still no sign of danger.
The small spaceship would take some speed way our of detection range, and then pop back into orbit of the moon the station was located on.
And Sunstream would pop right into one of the rooms.
At ANY sign of danger, the other Titacta would warn him with a short signal, and Sunstream would have eight heartbeats to come back to the ship.
Past that delay, the ship would enter escape maneuvers, but it would come back later for allowing Sunstream to pop inside it.
Sunstream was now in the room, invisible, the Titacta in guard, outside, allowing Sunstreal to check on the miners' activities.
The three Shingouz muttered, irritated, but then they sat, and waited.
Sunstream showed himself at the minimum rate, a mere halo of clear light, barely visible.
He didn't sit, standing at some meters of the table.
And he calmly said, in the galactic 'standard' language : " Your rendez-vous is accepted. State the deal. "
As usual, the shingouz trio spoke..
..in three consecutive voices.
Soft, insidious voices, testing his emotions, Sunstream noticed.
" We first have to show you.. "
" ..the recent developments.. "
" ..of the war waged by the Ksarr. "
As he expected, the danger came from what was to be traded...
The Shingouz activated a set of recorded holo-news, showing the terrible defeat the Ksarr fleet had suffered.
There were enough details to confirm Timmain's plan had succeeded.
Maybe beyond her expectations, for the damages were huge, and the global war plan of the Ksarr had even dramatically changed.
Two Ksarr generals had been executed.
Nineteen systems had been lost, among the eightry-three systems ruled by the Ksarr.
And... Most delightful of all... The Ksarr had not understood AT ALL what had happened :
They had KEPT the Adjura, not believing, not figuring for one second that this machine could have been the cause of that disaster, and it was obvious to Sunstream that this hacked war machine Timmain had traded back to them..
..had CONTAMINATED two other Adjura !
Sunstream remembered it had been an option, for eight 'conscience pearls' had been hidden inside it.
And the damages were limited to the Ksarr war ships and military structures.
Sunstream mentally concluded from that set of news : " Excellent ! And it is only the beginning of the end, for the Ksarr... "
The interest of the Shingouz about those events was easy to guess : this turn of events was considerably shocking and surprising MANY spacefaring sentient species, in the four sectors of the galaxy concerned with the Ksarr expansion and domination plans.
" The Yuudzem told us.. "
" .. we could meet someone who would sell to us .. "
" .. information about what was causing this defeat. "
He told them : " This deal may interest me ONLY if the Ksarr do not learn, until their ultimate demise, what I can tell you. "
" The Yuudzem warned us.. "
" .. we would have to accept that condition .. "
" .. hence we shall sell the information only to some foes of the Ksarr. "
The elf asked : " What do you have to sell ? "
One of the Shingouz cautiously extracted a small device from his small bag and put it on the table.
Sunstream detected no threat, and he noticed it was a holo-projector from a highly tech species, reserved to the elite of some far away sectors of the galaxy.
He even knew it was a low quality copy of a hi-res recording.
The Shingouz openly showed they had selected only some pictures, as a demonstration of the whole recording's content.
And what Sunstream briefly saw.. was SO interesting, SO unexpected, and SO intriguing.. he knew he had to accept the deal.
However, he took some heartbeats to think.
He finally asked : " Why not the high resolution recording ? "
The Shingouz were a bit surprised and upset, but they answered :
" The Zeeer Network is VERY concerned.. "
" ..about illegitimate copies of their diffused shows.. "
" ..and we could not afford risking a trial. "
Sunstream hardly refrained from laughing out loud.
The Shingouz never lied, but they would not admit they could simply NOT afford buying a hi-res recording.
When the representatives of the Zeeer species said " Elite ", it meant.. the richest among the richest.
He guessed he might now taunt them, by saying : " I could simply buy one. ", as Nêvem would undoubtedly have done, in such a circumstance..
..but the Shingouz deserved some help from the elves, for their species was barely above the "lumpenoid" status, most trading species disliking trading with them... And NO Shingouz EVER enriched itself, personally : EVERYTHING they earned through their constant bargaining ways ended in helping their homeworld. 'Desperately' honest and sharing ways, yes...
Sunstream said : " I accept the deal. "
The Shingouz had glimpsed the blurred shape of the long saber, through the halo, and they had probably guessed it was a weapon...
Sunstream assumed they chose to apparently 'ignore' its presence, just like Sunstream had chosen to 'ignore' their detection device ; they would not learn much from it, anyway...
He simply said : " One Adjura was hacked. "
The Shingouz quickly understood it was information enough.. and they admitted the value of that by snatching their equipment ( bags, where the detction device was ), leaving the room, the recording still on the table.
Amused, Sunstream perceived they were a little vexed.
When the Titacta confirmed they had left for good, hurrying towards their small ship without trying anything foolish, the elf thoroughly checked the holo device, but there was no tracking system, no trap, no joke : the show had been entirely recorded. Low-res, yes, but in full.
Still no problem.
Sunstream and the Titacta popped back into their spaceship, and, after some checks, it popped back to the Palace.
There, Sunstream showed, before all the elves, what the recording revealed.
It was a spectacular show, presenting an event that occured very rarely, but that was very well organised.
A duel between two of the 'real elves' the Palace elves were looking for.
Both had a special saber, resembling a lot Sunstream's one.
Vibrating, with micro-dart projection.
One a red saber, synthetic ruby, the other one a blue saber, synthetic sapphire. Almost identical. Only extremely subtle differences.
They dueled for the owning of a spaceship resembling terribly the one Sunstream had created.
However, Sunstream had noticed MANY differences.
The sabers were simpler, far less adapted than his.
The spaceship was larger, its shell mainly made of special high pressure gold, probably far thicker, with much armament, and with nuclear propulsion, meaning they, too, knew and used a spheric anti-G capsule ; however.. Sunstream guessed that ship had FAR inferior characteristics, when compared to the one he and Nêvem had created and improved.
Even before the duel had begun, Sunstream had understood. It was NO coincidence.
The date of the event, and the galactic sector where this show was recorded.. had told him what had happened.
The saber they had.. came from the Thri-Kreen.
The spaceship he had 'invented'.. Its design was a mere mental ECHO of theirs, the audience's mental reactions being emitted almost simultaneously.. and received and amplified by the Palace, and then by his brains, when he was mentally designing it !
Simple as that.
The two dueling elves were dressed almost in the same way, only the colours changing, red and blue, not much more elements differenciating them...
Both of them were five-fingered, taller than Sunstream, almost the size of Timmain.
But their faces presented VERY different personalities !
The 'blue' one had a cool, respectful attitude, very calm. Clear blond hair, almost long, braided carefully. A male, young adult.
The 'red' one a female, young adult. A little younger. She was excited, her hatred barely kept at bay, scowling, at times. Very short white hair.
There was a form of short salute, on both sides, and it began.
In the show, that elf species was NEVER named. The duelists were NEVER named, only referred to as " Candidates ", #1
But it was explained that it was a duel to death, and the loser, if still possible, would have their brains extracted, healed and preserved, and coupled to an artificial conscience system, and would exist only to SERVE the winner aboard the won spaceship !
Every needed surgery equipment was ready. A sinister form of advertisement...
The Palace elves were deeply shocked, at hearing those explanations, in an enthusiastic tone, as if it was normal...
First the dueling elves moved slowly, studying each other, circling, attempting some moves and approaches...
The arena was wide, the ground was firm, a special surface adapted for fighting at best conditions.
All elves soon witnessed how extremely trained those elves were !
Their moves and attacks and defenses were extremely fluid and FAST, the recording indicating how much slowed down many scenes were, in order for the audience to fully appreciate the fight.
NO elf, aboard the Palace had ANY training allowing that kind of performance. By very far. Even Sunstream...
...and they all gasped, all along that 'show'.
There were MANY wounds, on both sides.
The micro-darts were poisoned, and with a very potent killing poison, but both opponents dodged and even obviously anticipated most dart attacks in advance.
And the Palace elves understood the darts were mostly a THREAT, limiting and orienting the opponent's set of possible moves.
In two VERY different fighting styles.
And the 'red' "candidate" finally lost.
The fight's duration had 'only' been.. nine minutes and twenty-six seconds, standard galactic time.
But the Palace elves, and Sunstream, especially, had the strange feeling it had lasted far longer.
Sunstream felt deeply humbled by both elfin opponents' level at the fight with the saber.
And both had coupled that with a deep mastery of martial arts, even if no 'style' could be truly identified. More like a very well studied and carefully chosen combination of techniques.. a complex set of moves, incredibly adapted and improved.
Sunstream had learned MUCH, and he would scrutinize even more, and repeatedly, that recording, to be able, some day, he hoped so.. to BEGIN re-adapting his own training to try and reach... THAT level ! He could barely imagine how LONG it would take him...
He had also understood that each of them used some 'Feeling', 'Control' and 'Effect' techniques from the 'Force'.
It was subtle, but the zooming, for the show, even illustrated it, the vibrating edge glowing at impact, the precision of some hits far too high, and so on.
It had been NO 'sport', in fact, for it appeared that those "space elves" simply had NO choice in that system, separated into two different and very opposite sides, but to duel for obtaining ONE spaceship. It also implied a form of constant conflict between those 'red' and 'blue' elves, in some galactic sectors.
But Sunstream easily deduced they were DISCRETE... and FEW.
Some mentions, in the recording, indicated that those elves somehow originated from one of the forbidden sectors, but that their species had considerably adapted, in time, along MILLENIAS.
The 'blue' side was oriented towards building, helping, and protecting civilization.
The 'red' side was violent, never hesitating to destroy, wanting power above all.
Now, Sunstream knew who Palpatine's " Red Guards " were.
And the 'blue' side could, perhaps, become allies, for the Palace elves.
The situation was far more complex..
..than what the Palace elves had expected.