rading was over. The cargo bay was full of gold and Dan wanted to get off of this planet with his seventeen tons of it and back into the trade routes.

"Am'atha I'm ready to leave, did you finish the preflight?" he asked, but there was no reply. Looking around, he discovered Am'atha was gone, though the near naked native he knew as Kara, stood nearby. She smiled and said something cute in her tongue but he didn't have his translator turned on.

Activating the program, "What was that, Kara?"

"You and Am'atha will eat now? I will make you good food. Fresh fish from the river, red fruits, and roasted nuts?"

"No, Kara. I was calling for Am'atha. It is time for us to leave. We are going back into the sky."

"Kara will go with you."

"No. I cannot take you. I'm sorry. You cannot go into the sky. You would not like it there."

"I like being near you. I would like what you like. Am'atha is not your wife. You need a wife, yes? "

"Your father and mother would not approve. Your brothers would not approve, either. I have seen how they look at you and me. And your leaders have told me not to defile their children. Taking you away without consent would make them angry. I will come back though."

"I am free person. They do not control my life." She seemed angry. "No one rules me." She was angry. Her golden skin turned pink with flushed emotion.

"If you live in this society, you must obey their laws. You would be punished if you disobey."

The last communique seemed to make her think.

he was humanoid and quite pretty, too, especially parading around in only her leather covered feet and that skimpy loin-cloth. But it was her sweet, gentle, and kind spirit in her nature that made her so loveable. Kara had grown rather attached to him since they'd arrived and she was always nearby. Some kind of crush, probably. But why had Am'atha gone back to the ship? Or was she in the village? He called her on the multi-usage device on his forearm. There was no answer. He changed programs and accessed her signal. She was moving away from the ship and the big village, practically running into the depths of the forest. What the hell was she doing? This time, he brought up her camera. She was slung over the shoulder of some huge native and he was carrying her off, bouncing along on his shoulder like a sack of grain. Brother, were they ever strong, these locals. But sonofabitch! What did he think he was doing with her, but as the thought formed, he understood. He wanted a blond mate. Everyone here was brunette.

"I'm coming to get you, Am'atha. Just do what he says. I'll get to you as soon as I can, okay? Hang on. I'm coming."

He heard a weak reply of, "Hur-ry" and then Dan was running.

He jumped back into the ship, slapping the bay doors closed as he went past the switch and ran to the cockpit. He dove into the hydraulically controlled pilot's seat and immediately began dialing up the ship's engine. As it whined to life, the multiple screens around the control station saw people being attracted by the start up noise, the natives, but they were at a safe distance.

The pilot brought the space craft off the deck and rose over the trees, leaving the landing pads extended. The thick iron hull of its shape disappeared into the primitive blue sky in the direction of Am'atha and her captor. This wouldn't take long, he felt. A quick stun of the brute would take him to his knees and he'd be as docile as a drunk puppy.

He was looking below him on one of the screens of the console, that gave him thermal imaging of what was beneath the ship, when he heard a shuffling of moccasin covered feet behind him. When he looked, Kara was behind him, holding one of their lethal wooden knives, staring at him with wild eyes.

an Gardner stepped forward, out of the shadows of his freighter's bay doors, just opening. Steam hissed and dispersed into the air like burned off fog. He and Am'atha were surrounded by a thin yet protective, individual, force field as these beings were primitives, in some respects, and could not be trusted to not brain their skulls in with their golden clubs, half meter long knives, or brass axes. The field could stop an arrow, spear, and even an old fashioned bullet but it was awkward to have the thing turned on until they felt safe. It extended only three centimeters over a living beings tissues, but it was enough to create difficulties. He knew nothing about these natives and knew they must be cautious. After seeing his trade goods, he didn't know how they'd react. But having scanned the area from overhead, those ground readings showed there were was a lot of good minerals beneath this black soil. Huge amounts, really. He hoped the concept of trade and barter were known to them. Gold was a commodity even more sought after than fifty years ago, before interstellar flight became common to Earth. With the invention of the Gravity Drive by some teenager who dropped it onto the World Wide Web for everyone to have, back then, gold was more precious than ever, for it was one of the essences of the drive's function. Though not used as fuel, it was still a critical mineral in the make-up and currently, was more than sought after by almost every developed country on Earth that was producing engines and space craft, needing it for their exploration and trade ships that had fanned out into the galaxies nearby stars. And now that privateers, like him, were becoming all too common, it was needed more than the pharaohs of old required of ancient Nubia. It was super high priced stuff, now-a-days, much-much more than before.

Finding it and mining it was usually not the problem. Getting it from the locals was, if there were any about. It was much easier to trade for the "yellow rock" than harvest it by bringing in a bunch of heavy equipment.

Dan stepped to the ground slowly, carrying a voluminous trunk filled with goods he hoped they would want and need. He smiled and used the translator feature on his left forearm to speak to them. Like most less sophisticated cultures man had come upon out here, they were impressed with this man from the sky and his golden haired woman who when Am'atha appeared, at first, behind him, they all but bowed down to the ground in her presence, she was so highly thought of as a deity figure, initially, there.

e invited the gathering people, who had vacated their village, to see the wonders he had, to come forward and look at what was in the trunk as he laid them out on blankets, to handle them, Dan telling them he was just a man, like them, and Am'atha was just a woman. But they were still in awe of this man and woman that had come from the belly of this strange flying beast. Any aircraft is impressive and his freighter was no exception, especially to a culture like this.

The people were a handsome lot; he had to give them that. He could see them commanding ships of their own, someday. In about a hundred years. It would take them that long to adjust to the wonders of space travel, education, and learn politics on an interplanetary scale, first, but they would probably get there. If they could withstand the onslaught of Earthmen. Earth people didn't have the best of records when it came to dealing with less sophisticated cultures, did they? At least he had all his shots. They wouldn't catch any diseases from either of them.

He was probably the first rogue to come here, too. Possibly. It was smaller than Earth, but still a big enough planet. Any amount of space jockeys could have hit other locals on its surface. He doubted it, though. He liked going deeper and farther away, than most, looking for good trades like all this gold floating around, as in right there, beneath his big feet. There were nuggets embedded into the dirt the size of his thumb easily seen all over the ground. Crimony.

Yeah. Trading her was going to be lucrative to say the least.

ara, what are you doing?"

"I am afraid, my Dan. Help me. . ." she cried, trembling.

Dan got up from his seat and approached her slowly.

"Put away your knife, Kara. There is nothing to fear here. It is just a machine like the ones I traded with your mother," he said, helping her forward. "It's just bigger. Yes. That's it. Now come here, and sit beside me in this chair, like I was doing. Yes. Like that," he guided her into the all business-like co-pilot's seat. "Now, stay still and watch me. Don't touch or move anything, okay? I'm looking for Am'atha and whoever took here."

"Somebody took Am'atha?"

"Yes. I think one of your people wants her for a mate. She does not desire this."

"He cannot do that, whoever he is. It is not permitted. No man can take a woman against her will. He will die for breaking such a law."

"That may be. Right now, we must find her," he told Kara.

It wasn't more than a minute and the ship was directly over the two below. The man was looking up. Dan noticed he had stripped his stolen parcel of every piece of clothing and cruelly bound Am'atha with cords made of jungle grass, head and feet, arms kinked painfully behind her back, and she seemed passed out or knocked out.

"That is Collock," Kara identified. "He is the chief's son. This is a sad day. He has disgraced his father and the tribe."

Dan could see that he was confused as to what he should do and where to go, as Dan moved the craft in hover wherever Collock tried to dart. Finally, he tossed Am'atha to the forest floor and began running away on his own. Dan activated a small weapon beneath the ship from the console, adjusted the power, and aimed it with a ball dial and touched the button on its top. Collock dropped like a cow struck by lightning.

hile Dan and Kara attended to Am'atha, men from the village ran to where the iron ship had went down with lots of noise, crushing trees as it settled to the ground. It was not so far away from the village. When Collock's father arrived, and Kara explained the situation, he came to Dan and apologized.

"He will die in the morning for what he has done," said the chief. "He is my son no longer."

Dan was shocked by the sudden announcement and couldn't let it happen. Am'atha was unhurt, really. She was coming out of it. As the chief spoke Dan kneeled before this ruler on one knee, as he had seen his people do.

"I do not wish to interfere with your laws, good chief, but may I ask leniency for your son. As you see, my companion is safe enough and unhurt. What Collock has done was wrong, but he took my friend when we were not invited here. Perhaps I am the one who has wronged your son? For these reasons, I ask again, leniency for his life and forgive this traveler for coming to your village unwanted."

The chief looked down at this man from the sky that he had come to know as a good man, a fair and honest man, who had so much power and yet pleaded for his son. It touched him. He bent down and raised Dan to his feet.

"You will always be welcome, my friend. I will speak with our council. Collock must be punished, but perhaps it will not be death. Go in peace Dan of the sky. Thank you for your words."

an bowed as was the custom here and picked Am'atha up off the forest floor in his arms. She was still a bit groggy. She did have a nasty bump on her head.

Still holding his shipmate in his arms, Dan touched the closing button to the bay doors. As the iron clonked into motion, he saw Kara at the base of the retreating ramp. She yelled up at him, "You will come back?"

"Yes," he promised. "I will come back."

Dan put Am'atha in her state room, gently laying her out on the big broad bed and sat down beside her. He began looking her over.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"Checking for injuries."

"I'll live."

He continued checking her one side, the side she had been tossed to the ground on.

"Are you still here?"

"I'm looking you over."

"I know," she said, sitting up. "Get out. I'm naked."

"Well, there's a lot to look over." A smirk grew on his face.

"I'm gonna whack you."

Dan got up and walked to her door, turning one last time to get an eye-full. She had plenty of fullness in the right places to look at.

"That's the thanks I get for being so chivalrous."

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