PDA

View Full Version : Preview of a New Project



Alveric
03-20-2012, 12:41 PM
Here's a new project I started several months ago and recently picked up again while waiting for The Accidental Mermaid to go into print. It's classic science-fiction with a Mer twist. Think space opera with a Mermaid! Let me know what you think. If people like it, I'll keep working on it.

(No relation to Mermaid Spindrift)



Spindrift


By

Alveric


Spin*drift n 1 : spray blown from waves 2 : the drift of a bullet off target due to its spin
Chapter One: The Ambassador


I paused before the cabin door. I was expected, but was still hesitant to enter. The ambassador made me uncomfortable. I knew she didn’t intend to, but there was no denying it. There was also no avoiding it, so I straightened my uniform and knocked. There was no answer, but the lock clicked andthe door slid open. A palpable wave of humidity wrapped itself around me. I knew that in a few short minutes, my hair would droop and my uniform become unstarched. I sighed and entered.
The ambassador was at the bottom of her pool, reading. She surfaced and laid the tablet at the edge. I expected her to be naked, but it still gave me a bit of a start. The Syrenka have always had difficulty understanding Terran mores about clothing.
“Good morning Lieutenant!” she said warmly. She pronounced my rank with an ‘f’ in the Terran Old World fashion.
“Good morning Madame Ambassador,” I replied, trying not to betray my distraction. “The Captain bids me to tell you that we will be coming out of warp at 0900,”
“Drat! I suppose that means I must get out of my pool and into that thing again.” She waved dismissively at the hoverchair.
“I’m afraid so. But it is only for a few minutes.”
“Yes, but there are things I must do afterwards that will keep me in the dry air. “ She pulled herself out of the water and sat on the edge of the pool. “Would you mind?” She stretched her arms toward me. I picked her up (She was quite light) and placed her gently in the chair. Though mammalian and warm-blooded, her skin was very cool to the touch. “Thank you, Lieutenant. I can handle myself from here; but do stick around, please.”
“As you wish madame.”
“And stop being so formal, call me Ari. I’ll call you…” she looked up at me.
“Rhodri Morgan.”
“Morgan!” She giggled and flicked droplets of water from her tail fin. “Sounds positively piratical!”
“It’s Welsh.” I couldn’t help but smile.
“Wales, I was there once; a very green and hilly place. I like hills. One would think that I’d hate them, but I don’t. Would you like for me to call you Rhod orDri?“
I hadn’t really given it any thought. “Whatever you wish Madame Ari.”
“Just Ari is fine. I think I prefer Dri. Are you sure that’s alright with you?”
“Just fine, Ma…Ari.”
I locked her chair into a bulkhead bracket and then tookhold of a strap for myself. The exit from warp-space was uneventful and probably served to confirm her opinion about the necessity of leaving her pool. She quietly read through the whole process, which took about five minutes.
“Would you like to go back into the water?” The chair bounced slightly as I released it from the bulkhead.
“No time,” she sighed wistfully. “I need to see the captain and read my final instructions.”
By both Terran and Syrenkan standards, the ambassador was beautiful. Her light-blonde, silky hair was long and straight; her eyes a bright lavender blue. From her hips upwards, she was delightfully feminine. From there downwards, thoroughly aquatic, as it was with all from her world. In place of legs, she had a tail that was covered with bright, golden scales and tapered down to a delicate-seeming caudal fin. She also had translucent pelvic fins that helped her steer under water. Hidden between her ribs were gill-slits which allowed her to stay immersed indefinitely.
The Syrenca were not the product of evolution, but gene manipulation of human ‘colonists’ millennia ago, before such things were forbidden. Their world, also named Syrenca, has a single ocean covering ninety-eight percent of the planetary surface. Its sparse and fragmented islands are sterile. The climate of both water and air is, however, mild; which is probably why the ancients chose not to bypass it. Instead, they made it into a prison, a sort of Botany Bay or Siberia, where political prisoners were altered and left in exile. When the old civilization collapsed, the former prison thrived and built its own. When the new Terran Empire rediscovered the Syrenca, they rejoined the human race.
I was about to knock on the door to the Captain’s quarters when Ari raised her hand. “Just a moment,” she whispered, shifted in her chair and adjusted her modest top. “How do I look?” She asked as casually as one would a brother or husband. I was thrilled, complemented and appalled at the same time. Things were moving too fast. We had only met the day before.
“You look devastating.”
“Ooo, I think I like that!”
As junior lieutenant on the bridge of the Agamemnon, it was customary that I be in charge of seeing to the comfort of V.I.P.s aboard ship. I was warned that the Ambassador was beyond charming and that I should stay as aloof as courtesy would allow. Yet here I was with a pet name and giving opinions on her appearance. The Old Man won’t be pleased, if he notices. I thought. An officer in His Majesty’s Navy should have more dignity.
Captain Matthew Winslow, commander of His Imperial Majesty’sheavy cruiser Agamemnon had no trouble looking the part; tall, distinguished and with just enough gray hair and scarring to prove he wasn’t a desk officer or Court favorite. He acknowledged my salute then kissed the proffered hand of the Ambassador.
“Thank you lieutenant, you are dismissed.”
“Aye, sir.” I bowed and started to make my exit.
“Wait Captain, I would like for Dri to remain.”
I felt the blood rise to my face. Oh God,here it comes!
The Captain looked confused, “Dri?”
“The lieutenant here, I’m taking him with me.”
The Old Man chuckled and shook his head, “Ari, you magnificent, scaly-assed bitch! What are you up to?”
That startled me.
Her laugh was like tinkling glass, “Why nothing, Matthew, I just want to borrow him for a few days.”
“I remember what happened last time you ‘borrowed’ one of my watch officers.”
“Now, now, it wasn’t bad for his career…or yours.”
“It damn near killed him,” he looked directly at me. “Keep that in mind Mister Morgan, before you volunteer.”
“What do you say, Dri?” she smiled slyly.
“I’m here to serve His Majesty.”
“Of course.” said Captain Winslow.
“But I would like to know what’s going on.”
“So would we all. Ari?”
“I know a little, the rest depends on my orders.”
“In deed.” The Captain sat at his desk and placed his palm on the door of the small safe embedded in the bulkhead behind it. With a click, it opened. He then took out abrown envelope and handed it to the Ambassador. She opened it, scanned the contents, then set them down and looked up grimly.
“This is nastier than I thought. How long will it take us to get to Rii?”
“Rii? Hm…not long,”said the Captain. “A short hop, and then four hours from the jump point to orbit. About six hours altogether.”
Ari nodded, “That will do nicely. I’ll finish reading this,” she tapped the dispatch, “and get back with you in about an hour, if that’s alright?”
Winslow smiled, “No problem.”
“Dri,” she turned to me, “Pack your dress formals and a discrete side-arm. We’re going to a party.”

Spindrift
03-20-2012, 01:01 PM
Haha, I was confused for a second when I saw "Spindrift" in really huge font but then I read through it. It looks like a good start. Funnily enough if you mess around with the characters' names a bit you actually get close to my real name. I'm not sure about the title being my internet handle though. And I think "imbedded" is spelt "embedded"? What happens next?

Alveric
03-20-2012, 01:27 PM
I wasn't too surprised to find that there was a Mermaid named Spindrift here. One expects Mers to have sea-related names. It was when I discovered how many Hannah's there were while working on Accidental Mermaid that took me off guard. I almost changed that character's name.

I'll fix the spelling. When I first pasted the story in, every third or fourth word was attached to the next. It took a while to seperate them and I can see that I missed some.

Alveric

Mermaid Lorelei
03-20-2012, 03:56 PM
It's looking very good Alveric. I like how it's progressing.

Alveric
03-21-2012, 12:22 PM
Thanks Lorelei.

This is a rough draft. I'm looking for criticism. I'm especially looking for any mistakes that would 'jar' the reader out of the story. Also, so far, is the story itself worth the read?

I'll post a bit more in a day or two.

Alveric

Mermaid Lorelei
03-21-2012, 12:25 PM
So far the only thing that has stood out to me is the lack of the word 'would' in
my hair would droop and my uniform become unstarched. I'm not sure it's necessary, but a 'would' before 'become' seems like it would fit nicely. I keep pausing when I read the sentence to try and figure out what I read.

And yes, I believe it's well worth reading. :>

Alveric
03-21-2012, 12:39 PM
Hmn...I'll have to think about that. I'm kind of reluctant to use 'would' twice in one sentence.

Thanks! That's the sort of thing I'm looking for. I need to improve my prose, make it smoother and more reader-friendly.

Alveric

Mermaid Lorelei
03-21-2012, 12:47 PM
I can definitely understand the double use reluctance. I'm the same way.
I'll keep my eyes open for more little spots. :>

Alveric
03-25-2012, 02:25 PM
Here's the next installment of Spindrift.

I was back in Captain Winslow’s office in almost exactly an hour. Ari was already there.

Ariadne of Clan Spindrift of Syrenka had a reputation; in fact several reputations: sly courtier, hard-bargaining diplomat and notorious heart-breaker. Her wake was dotted with disappointed suitors (men and women). It is even rumored that the Emperor himself sought to bed her, much to the chagrin of Her Majesty.

Captain Winslow looked up at me, “Please pull up a seat, Lieutenant.”

Ari smiled at me, then returned to what she was doing. “We will require an escort; a squad of Marines should suffice. They must be in full kit,” she said.

“Full kit? You mean power armor and heavy weapons? ” said Winslow.

“Yes, I want them clanking, Matthew. An ounce of prevention…”

I nodded to myself. Intimidation, the oldest form of diplomacy.

“What do you think Mister Morgan?”

“The Rii have little in the way of modern technology. The sight of Imperial troopers in power armor and heavy auto-weapons might cow them,” I said.

“The Rii don’t cow easily,” said Ari, “but it might give them pause.”

“If you don’t mind me asking,” I decided to just go ahead and come out with it, rather than have the information slowly dripped to me. “What is our mission here?”

Ari giggled, “I thought you’d never ask.” Then she turned serious, “We received an urgent message from a free trader who lives among the Rii. He’s of the opinion that something unpleasant is being cooked up there between certain Rii and one of the Pirate Kings.”

“Van Zant!”

“Good.” Said Winslow, “It’s nice to know one of my officers actually pays attention at briefings.”

Edgar Van Zant, A.K.A. Edgar the First, is the only law on twelve systems. Blood-thirsty, ambitious and restless are only three of a large number of adjectives that would fit this unusual character.

“So Van Zant wants Rii.” I stated. “Why? It’s a dust ball. There’s barely enough water for humans to live there. The Rii themselves are scarcely out of the Iron Age.

Ari smiled, “There’s an old saying that applies to strategic studies as well as real estate: ‘Value depends on three things, location, location, location.’” She turned to the Captain, “Show him the chart, Matthew. The one with the warp-jump routes.”

A hologram appeared over the desk where they sat. Red lines connected the star-systems, Rii flashed blue.

“Rii represents a bottle-neck.” Said Winslow. “Leading to these five systems here. All the routes to and from them run within a parsec of Rii.” He made a circling motion with his finger. “A handful of heavies based out of here would cut all those systems off from us. Van Zant would increase his empire by fifty per cent with hardly a shot fired. Taking these worlds back could mean years, cost dozens of ships and millions of lives.”

I leaned back and shook my head. “That’s assuming we’d even bother. The Senate could decide that the Empire doesn’t need these five systems. We’re trying to govern more than ten thousand after all.”

“And thus five more worlds slip into the darkness,” said Ari. “The Pirates, especially Van Zant himself will be emboldened to reach for more, until war becomes the only choice and even more millions or even billions pay the
price.”

“You understand what’s at stake here?” said Winslow, grimly.

I sighed. “Absolutely.”

* * *

I was on the observation deck of the shuttle bay, supervising the loading of supplies and luggage into our shuttle. Captain Winslow stepped onto the deck, acknowledged my salute, and leaned over the railing to look at the shuttle on the flight deck below. He motioned me over to him.

“You may have noticed, she’s taken quite a fancy to you,” he said in a low voice. “That’s not so common an occurrence as you might think.”

I nodded, “What should I do, Sir?”

“Do?” He straightened and smiled while looking across the bay at nothing in particular. “Run with it, my boy. Run with it.

* * *

Later, on the flight deck of the shuttle bay, I was making a final inspection of our marine escort. Sergeant Windridge was running a diagnostic on each trooper’s armor. Specifically, he was testing the camouflage. Chameleon-like, each suit blended into the walls and deck of the bay.

“Alright! Switch ‘em off!” barked the sergeant. Almost instantly the armor changed to polished purple with the golden Imperial monogram on each man’s chest.

“Very pretty!” I turned to see Ari, approaching in her chair. She wore a long white dress, cut very modestly, but with a red sash cinched in just the right place to accentuate her curves.

“But very deadly, Ma’am,” said Windridge.

“That’s exactly what I want, Sergeant,” she replied.

Each of the ten-man squad, including Windridge, was equipped with one of these powered suits, capable of resisting anything but a direct, point-blank hit from a high-velocity bullet. Eight men carried automatic rifles; one had a heavier version of that rifle, the last a rocket-grenade launcher.

The shuttle pilot appeared briefly at the loading hatch, nodded and then saluted.

“Get the men aboard Sergeant!” I shouted above the mounting noise. “It’s time to go!”

I accompanied Ari up the ramp after the marines, then closed the hatch.

“All my things are on board?” she asked as she buckled herself in.

“Saw to it myself Ma’am,” I replied.

“Great! Then let’s be off!”

Mermaid Sirena
03-27-2012, 03:25 AM
I hope this gets published because it's really hard for me to concentrate on reading stories that are on the computer screen, still this looks promising :D

Alveric
03-27-2012, 02:00 PM
Here is chapter two of Spindrift. It's all I've written so far. I've been so busy with the last minute preparations for The Accidental Mermaid and work on its sequel The Girl with the Sea-Green Eyes, that it may be a while til I have another instalment. I definitely will continue it.

Chapter Two: The Keeper


We weren’t expecting much of a reception committee. We weren’t disappointed. The shuttle set down on a dusty plain a few hundred meters outside the city. One, lone figure stood there, his face covered to ward off the dust kicked up by the small vessel. The ramp went down, the troopers formed an honor guard at its foot, then the Ambassador and I descended.

The robed and dusty figure slowly clapped. “No one can put on a show like the good ol’Imperium Terrae. “ He offered his hand.

“Justin Chang, at your service. Uh, which one of you’s the Ambassador?”

Ari raised her hand and coughed. She had gotten a bit choked at the still swirling dust.

“You’re Syrenkan aren’t you? I served under a Syrenkan once. He was chief engineer on a bulk-freighter. He could scoot across an engine room deck like nobody’s business. Drank like a fish too, beggin’ your pardon.”

I cleared my throat to get the man’s attention.

“Oh, right. We should be getting’ her ladyship out of the sun and dust. Follow me.”

Our small party marched off toward the city. After we had gone a short ways, the shuttle took off and began its climb into orbit.

Ari swallowed and then addressed the trader, “Mr. Chang, are Imperial visitations so common, that the Rii don’t bother to greet one of His Majesty’s representatives?”

Chang looked uncomfortable. “Ma’am, I’m afraid His Majesty’s been getting scant regard lately. And, unfortunately, I expect things to get worse.”

“What makes you think so? The getting worse part, I mean.”

“Look at the guard when we pass the gate. You’ll understand.”

Chang moved over to me and spoke in a whisper, “Has the Diplomatic Service gone stupid on us?”

“What do you mean?” I replied.

He looked about, nervously. “If they’d done an ounce of research, they’d know the Rii are misogynist to the bone and not to send a woman!” He hissed. “The Rii also have strong body image and fitness taboos too. They’ll see our ambassador as a cripple!”

“The Emperor’s representative is to be given as much respect as the Emperor in person! If the Rii don’t know that, they’ll have to learn! Bugger their petty prejudices!” I hissed back.

Ari turned toward us, “Alright. What’s all the hissing about? You sound like two tomcats.”

Chang looked embarrassed, “Ma’am, I’ve lived among the Rii for almost ten years now. I feel I know them as well if not better than any man alive. They are a fierce and noble people, and if they accept you, you couldn’t find more loyal friends in any part of the Lord’s great galaxy. But they have certain ways. Their ways not mine. They…”

“They don’t like women and they don’t like people who are different.” Ari sighed, “Did you think I didn’t know that? Did you think that that hadn’t already been weighed and considered before I was sent here? “

“I meant no disrespect, that’s their way not mine.”

“I understand that, and I appreciate your concern.” She gently placed her hand on the older man’s arm. “Rest assured, I know what I’m doing.” She turned her chair and we proceeded once more to the gate.

The city, also(unimaginatively) named Rii, looked like a pile of mud bricks, which was precisely what it was. It looked like someone had had an unfortunate accident with a brick wagon. As we approached, it was obvious that the gate was either symbolic or decorative, since there was no wall around the settlement. The guards, an unlikely lot, lounged about talking or smoking. They seemed peculiarly uninterested in us. I discreetly looked them over as we passed and understood what Chang meant.

“Are those Mk III auto rifles?” Ari asked.

“Either that, or a very good likeness.” I replied.

“A month ago, they would have been carrying muzzle loaders.” said Chang.

“Any idea where they came from?” continued Ari.

Chang shrugged. “None whatsoever. About three weeks ago; poof! They all had them. The Keeper’s body guard too.”

“I hear Van Zant’stroops use a knock off of the Mk III.” Isaid.

“That’s what I hear as well,” Chang stopped in front of one of the larger piles of brick. “Well, this is it; my shop, my humble abode and the closest thing the Empire has to a consulate on this world.” He opened the door and we followed him into the cool darkness. Without needing to be told, two of our escort stationed themselves outside.

It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust. The room was a cluttered emporium of goodies from throug hout the Imperium. There were articles of clothing from the practical to dresses in styles the Court abandoned a decade ago. There was a single-shot rifle of a design atl east a millennium old to shoot supper, a solar cooker to prepare it and fine ceramic plates and stainless steel utensils to eat it with. There were many kinds of tools, also sewing machines and books made of real paper.

“Hmm,” Ari sniffed. “I smell tea, spices and…Coffee!” Her eyes lit up.

Chang took the hint. “I’ll heat some water.”

I turned to the sergeant. “How are you doing?”

His visor slid back so he could speak to me directly. “Since we have air filters and chillers, I suspect better than you.”

“I suspect you’re right.” I grinned and slapped some dust off my sleeve. “What about the Mk III’s?”

“The Mk IV’s we carry now are marginally superior, but that’s a moot point since they don’t have armor.”

“What about your armor?”

“Less than fifty meters and things get dicey. Less than twenty and the Mk III's will start cracking us like lobsters.”

“And here we sit in an urban environment.” I shook my head. “Hopefully, the shit won’t hit the fan.”

Windridge smiled grimly, “Remember the first rule of The Emperor’s Luck. ‘The shit always hits the fan.’” His visor snapped closed.

Chang threw a handful of coffee into a tall glass cylinder then filled it up with boiling water. Soon the shop was infused with the aroma.

“Ah!” Ari clapped her hands together. “That ought to cut the dust in our throats nicely!”

I pulled up a stool and sat next to her. “I should have asked how you were doing first.”

“Nonsense, always see first to the needs of those who are protecting us.” She shifted uncomfortably in her chair. “I do need to stretch my tail and freshen up a bit though. There wouldn’t possibly be anything like a bath tub here would there?”

“’Fraid not,” said the merchant as he handed us each a steaming mug. “Water is one gram of silver per liter if you go over the five liter-per-person ration limit. There is a bowl and sponge on the table behind the curtain there.”

“That’ll do. Could you set them on the floor for me?” She handed me her mug while she, slid off thechair and crawled over to a wall and leaned against it. “I’ll finish my coffee first.” She flexed her fin and curled and uncurled her tail while sipping from the mug. “That feels delicious, and so is this coffee; my complements Mr. Chang.”

“Thank you. It’s Terran. I sell only the best.”

“So,” she set the mug on the floor. “Will the Keeper see us today?”

“Yes, I was meaning to tell you. You have an audience in three hours.”

“Good, I think I’ll take that sponge bath now. Dri, would you mind carrying me over to the curtain? I can take care of it myself from there.”

* * *

Three hours later,we were waiting at the palace gate. The palace, I noticed, was made of marble, but was so encrusted with dust that, except in size, it was hardly distinguishable from the rest of the city. They kept us there for only a few minutes, before the gates opened. As we expected,our escort was not allowed inside. We dismissed them back to the consulate. They also took my side arm and communicator. I had a smaller version of the latter hidden inside my ear. They didn’t find that.

The throne room was large, perhaps the size of a school gymnasium, but not exactly imposing. The walls were lined with about a dozen of the Keeper’s Guard. A red sash was the only thing that differentiated them from the regular guards or the general populace. They were, of course also armed with those Mk III weapons. At the end of the hall was a large dais with a marble seat in the middle, surrounded by about a dozen individuals wearing more colorful and richly apportioned versions of the native dress. There was only one female, great with child, who stood with one handplaced on the left arm of the man who sat on the throne.

He, evidently the Keeper of the Rii, was an elderly gentleman with a beard and long gray hair topped with a modest silver circlet. He stifled a yawn, but there was something in his manner and carriage that told me he was anything but bored or indolent. In his right hand, he held a long white staff with which he tapped the shoulder of one of the nobles who stood to his right. This individual leaned over the Keeper who whispered something in his ear.

The guards who escorted us bade Ari and me to halt a few yards in front of the dais. Then, from somewhere to our rear, a baritone voice announced us.

“Lady Ariadne of Clan Spindrift, Representative of his Imperial Majesty Michael IV, Lord ofTerra and Emperor of the Known Universe; and her Consort, Lieutenant Rhodri Morganof the Imperial Navy; beg audience of his Highness, the Keeper of the Rii.”

Consort? Whose idea was that? I thought.

“You bear fancy titles!” said the Keeper. A ripple of laughter followed.

The man who had justgiven his ear to his master stepped forward, turned and addressed those on the dais,“Is it meet for a woman to sit in the presence of a man? Especially when that man is the Keeper?” There was a growl of disapproval from the courtiers and the guard. Someone shouted, “She must stand!”

Such disrespect is outrageous! I thought. Can’t they see she’s Syrenkan! I stepped forward to speak.

Hush! Came a voice in my head. This is a calculated provocation. Don’t fall for it!

You’re…telepathic?

How do you think my people communicate under water, silly! Now give me your arm! I need it for balance.

I held it out for her. Ari took hold and slowly raised herself upon her tail. From the top of her head to the fringe of her fin she was near two meters and a half inlength. With two feet of tail and fin splayed behind her, she was still nearly as tall as I.

How long can you do this?

As long as I have to. She grimaced. Just pray God they don’t ask me to dance!

There was dead silence in the audience chamber. It was clear that they did not expect Lady Ariadne to stand. It may have been my imagination, but I thought I saw a slight smile and nod from the woman at the Keeper’s side.

Finally, the Keeper spoke. “What is the Emperor’s business with us?”

Ari smiled graciously and began. “It is ever His Majesty’s desire to inquire after the welfare of the people on his many worlds; to give aid or justice where it is needed, also to reward the faithful and,” she lowered the pitch of her voice for emphasis, “to punish the wicked.”

The old man shifted restlessly on his throne, “We are…grateful,” he bowed his head slightly. “It has been many years, sincethe time of my long-departed youth, in fact, that we have seen aught from the Empire other than the annual tribute ships. Pray tell us why his eyes are now cast toward my humble world and its faultless inhabitants?”

“With ten thousand worlds under his care, it might be many years between visitations for a well-governed planet.”

The Keeper bowed slightly again at the implied complement, but the silence that followed gradually stretched into awkwardness.

Is that it? I thought.

Ari sent me a mental shrug.

Finally the Rii’sruler tapped his servant on the shoulder again. The servant, who I presumed to be some sort of chamberlain, clapped his hands and said, “This audience is at an end.”

I guess that’s it, thought Ari. Now the feasting begins.

Are we invited?

Of course. That’s why I had you announced as my consort. I wanted you close by, not stuck with the servants.

From behind the dais, servants entered and began bustling about; setting up tables and benches and setting the tables with plates, utensils and drinking bowls.With the court’s attention shifted away from us, Ari sighed with relief and sat down. We were politely directed to a table where space had been provided for Ari’s chair. I sat next to her.

“This table is about as far away as one can get from the Royals,” Ari whispered while not altering the smile she was giving to those around us.

“Perhaps to keep them out of the line of fire when they open up on us?” I replied. By the way, how long have you been reading my mind?

She gave me a mischievous grin. Why? Have you been having wicked thoughts? A guilty conscience perhaps?

Alveric
04-06-2012, 05:15 PM
Here's another sample from Spindrift.

I swam the surface of a misty lake, looking for someone. Ari’s head popped out of the water a few meters ahead of me. Her face was full of worry.

“There you are! You had me scared there for a bit.”

“Now why would I want to do that?” I responded. Just then the mist started to spin again, making my head hurt. I closed my eyes.

When I opened them again, I was looking at a khaki-colored stuccoed ceiling. Ari’s face reappeared, still worried but upside down this time. My head pounded.

“How do you feel?”

“Like someone dropped a house on me.”

“Close, they whapped you with the butt of one of those Mk III’s we’ve been talking about.”

“And I thought they were just good for shooting people.”

“Now that you’re conscious, take these. It’ll help.” She showed me a couple of tablets. I was lying on a bed, my head on a damp cloth folded on her lap. “Let them dissolve under your tongue.” She dropped them in my mouth.

“Where…”

“Hush! Don’t talk ‘til they dissolve. We’re still somewhere in the palace. An interior room, not a dungeon, I’m guessing.”

I waited for the tablets to dissolve, then sat up, slowly to keep my head from exploding. It was a modest room, but clearly not a cell. The door was too flimsy for that. In addition to the bed we both sat on, there was a chair and a small wooden table, upon which stood a clear carafe of water with two cups. A candle-holder with a single taper hung from the ceiling. Ari’s hoverchair was just within her reach.

“How long was I gone?”

“About two hours.”

“Damn!” I felt my ear. “They took the communicator. Any idea what’s happening out there?”

She shook her head, “I thought I heard some gunfire when they were bringing us here. We’re probably too far in the bowels of this place to hear anything now.”

“Damn!” I repeated. Are we being overheard?

Doubt it. I checked the place out pretty thoroughly once I figured out you would probably live.

The door?

It’s being watched. I don’t know by how many or how they’re armed.

There was a knock at that door. We looked at each otherfor a moment. I nodded.

“Come in,” said Ari.

It opened. The man I had presumed to be the chamberlain entered. I got a glimpse of one of theKeeper’s guards carrying a battle-rifle. The official pulled out the chair and sat.

“I am Teo Parthans, the Keeper’s server and speaker. I am most gratified to see that you are well,” he said.

“Better.” I rubbed the back of my neck.

“I must apologize. When one of our guard saw you using a hidden communicator, he over reacted.”

No shit! I thought. “I was wondering if knocking Imperial representatives senseless was a standard practice.”

“Well, seeing that no permanent harm was done to my consort,” said Ari. “We should get back to our normal business.”

The chamberlain/server/speaker looked at me. “Is it your custom to allow your woman to speak unbidden?”

I smiled. I didn’t see Ari’s reaction. “She is the Ambassador, not I.”

He sat silent.

The ancient Emperor Napoleon once said,“Never interrupt your opponent when he is making a mistake.” Let them ignore me. Thought Ari.

Alright, but please interrupt me when I’m making one. “It is most unfortunate that your guard chose to over react. I was just being informed of an attack upon this planet. You must see to your defenses.”

“I’m afraid you’re mistaken. There is no attack upon Rii.”

“Oh?”

“It was prevented when a squadron from King Edgar’s Free Worlds Alliance destroyed an Imperial ship in the midst of preparing an act of aggression.”

So that’s the tack their taking! Thought Ari.

“I believe it is you who are mistaken, sir,” I smiled. “When we commit an act of aggression, we just commit it. We don’t send negotiators first. The Empire’s just not that subtle.”

“Nevertheless, there will be no attack,” said the chamberlain, blandly.

“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure. His Majesty hates it when one of his ships gets destroyed, or a Representative kidnapped.” I replied. “It spoils his breakfast.”

If the Keeper and his pirate friends have things so well in hand, why are they bothering to talk to us? Ask him that, Dri.

I decided to bedirect. “Why are you here?”

“I’m concerned about Rii’s relationship with the Imperium.”

“A bit late, don’t you think?”

“We wish you no harm. We have agreed with Edgar to allow you and your guards to leave Rii under a flag of truce. You will be taken to the nearest Imperial planet and released. Your men will have to leave their armor and weapons behind, of course.”

Of course. I thought. All ready for Van Zant’s scientists and engineers! Ari, is he lying?

I’m a telepath, not a truth detector. I will say, if he believes Van Zant will let me go, he’s a fool. I know too much. You can be sure that that old pirate is just itching to turn me over to his mindflayers.

“Interesting. Tell me, Lord Parthans, is that planet inhabited? Does it have a breathable atmosphere?” I was starting to like this diplomacy stuff.

Alveric
04-06-2012, 05:31 PM
For some reason, this forum wants to squish Word files. I have to go now, but I'll clean up the mess when I get back.

Alveric

All cleaned up.

Mermaid Lorelei
04-06-2012, 08:21 PM
I still like it. :>

Alveric
05-22-2012, 04:50 PM
Here's the rest of chapter three. I'll try to fix the squashed words later.


“You know I always thought those stories about Syrenkan singing were a bunch of bull.”

“The designers of my people knew their business and their mythology.”

“Still, it seemslike an odd skill to give to political prisoners.”

Ari laughed andshrugged. “Who knows what was on their minds.”

“Well, I hope you kept track of the way out of here. Seems I was ‘napping’ when we were brought in.”

“Of course.” She kept watch at the door as I stripped the guard of his robes. Rii clothing tends to be one size fits most, so I had no trouble getting them on. “You look like a proper Rii Guardsman.”

“Until I open mymouth. I’m terrible at imitating accents.”

She waggled her fin. “I’m afraid nothing can be done tomake me look more Rii.”

“You’ll just have to be my prisoner.” I picked up the rifle. “Move along now, Imperial scum!”

“Stop that! We’ll be caught for sure if you make me laugh.”

Ari led the way. As I’d hoped, they had deposited us in a little used part of the palace. It was quite a while before we saw or heard anyone. We were approaching the top of some stairs, not far from the throne room, when we heard voices.

Are they coming this way? I thought.

‘Fraid so.

Let’s hide. Our disguise isn’t likely to work for very long. We backed down the stairs and entered a room that Ari was able to ascertain was empty. It was dark, but there was enough light coming from under the door for me to see that it was a somewhat bigger and nicer version of our former cell. The voices, now clearly two females, approached, then stopped just outside. We quickly looked around for a place to conceal ourselves. There was just a dressing screen that wasn’t big enough for Ari, let alone both of us. I quietly moved behind the door. Ari shrugged and folded her hands on her lap. We waited. I could hear the conversation through the door.

“I want to be alone.”

“As you wish, milady.”

“If my lord asks,tell him the child fatigues me, but I shall attend to him in an hour, if it pleases him.”

“Very well.”

At that, one of the women continued down the hall; much to my relief. Then the latch clicked and the door opened. I heard a gasp. That was my cue to act. I reached around the door and grabbed our unwelcome visitor; one hand over her mouth the other arm around her middle.

The Rii do not respect women, but apparently they teach them to fight. Or, perhaps, the Rii women teach each other to fight. In either case, I quickly found myself very busy. A foot struck a glancing blow to my thigh, bruising it. If I hadn’t moved just then, my knee would have been broken. She produced a knife from somewhere. I let go her middle to grab her wrist. Her teeth drew blood from my hand.

STOP OR WE WILL KILL YOU! The fright from Ari’s mental shout was enough. The woman went limp. We do not wish to hurt you. If you will not scream, he will let go. After amoment, she nodded. I carefully let go of her. She half sat, half collapsed onto the bed.

“I cannot fight witchcraft.” The woman said softly. I recognized her now as the Keeper’s consort.

This certainly complicates things. Thought Ari.