Warning: Science Fiction! I made a promise to Roger I’d post this, so here it is, in 5 installments. Chapter one… (Note: if you like the story and would like to read it as one unit, you can either copy and paste each section in one file on your own computer so you can read it without interruption, or I can email the entire file to you, in Word, PDF or Open Office.)
The Blue Dragon
(Science Fiction) A Romantic Short Story by Sha’Tara
“They will go to the stars, hopping from bright pinpoint to bright pinpoint, dwelling down where gravity curls space tightly and suns cook heavy, rocky worlds.”
(from: Heart of the Comet by Gregory Benford and David Brin)
Chapter 1: Collector of Facts
Zelleus is a collector of facts. His hobby if it can be called such is putting these facts together as if assembling a complex, endless puzzle. In his comrec -1 he keeps a list of facts, of data he has not yet been able to match or correlate. His criteria for matching his facts is based on hunches. “I use intuition to see how the pieces can be fitted together,” he sometimes uses as an explanation.
Zelleus is a well-known, much less well-liked, figure among the low life of most major spaceports within sectors one to thirteen of the human-habited and controlled sections of the Galaxy. A cruiser captain has to be tough. Zelleus is the penultimate image, so much so that the vids -2 have tried unsuccessfully to buy his services to do spacer stories starring him as the hero.
He is tall for a direct descendant of Earthian forebears, even by Post-Maya calendar reckoning which began when the ancient Mayan calendar was considered completed at the end of the Gregorian year 2012. Therefore, beginning at year one which would have been 2013, it is now year 5,366 and billions of Earthians have been full-fledged space farers and colonizers of far-flung earth-like worlds for almost three thousand years.
Officially, according to the New Politics of the Central Union of Human Expansion, usually referred to as the Sector Government, these are the greatest achievements yet of a once shaky human experiment that began on planet earth hundreds of thousands of years before the very first human star ship torched out of earth’s solar system to rendezvous with the nearest planet that it could find. The planet was found and populated. They called it Genesis.
Unofficially, the humans are treating the galaxy as their own new frontier. The records of the number of worlds they have populated, exploited and destroyed can be found only in the major computer networks, all strictly inaccessible to any but the highest placed aficionados of the Central Union Government or CUG.
Genesis was destroyed in the very first inter-planetary war to be fought in space. Millions died when the planet’s atmosphere was swallowed by a singularity weapon that went out of control when accidentally launched from a disintegrating star ship. That was the first one. Now entire solar systems lie waste after the carnage unleashed by a mad quest for instant riches, the deadly competitive nature of that quest resulting in endless wars. Under Earthian hegemony it can be said that every habitable world is now either threatened by war, fighting a war or recovering from one. The only worlds who know any kind of peace are those “protected” by mutually assured destruction weaponry. . . in the jargon, MADWhim.
But back to our captain Zelleus. By old earth reckoning then, he stands 2. 56 meters. His smooth brown skin ripples with well-exercised muscles and his reputation clears the way for him as he is known to be the kind who hits first, hard enough to terminate or discourage with one blow, and asks questions later if there is anything left to ask questions of.
His ship is a long-decommissioned, once derelict cruiser, survivor from the terrible and devastating Van Wars but he is as proud of her as if she was a Vanguard luxury line starship. Her name is Blue Dragon and she is known and feared. He uses her greatly enhanced speed and fire-power to run down rogues, pirates, poachers, privateers and other space scum who poach ore freighters and prey on the ponderous slower transports endlessly plying the main shipping lanes. The great Mercantile Houses reimburse him stingily when he successfully recaptures one of their lost ships, yet he persists.
As for captive criminals who survive his no-holds-barred and brutal attacks, he turns these over to the authorities and from them he gets nothing at all. Perhaps a “Thank you” and perhaps a private dinner with some bureaucrat, followed by a special and very expensive date. But the information he gathers from interrogation under truth-tell or “forceful questioning” when the drug isn’t fast or reliable enough, that he keeps to himself. . . and uses at his own discretion.
Zelleus is known to have a sense of humor. He’s often been heard say, “Hell, what I should do is release these bastards someplace where they can get back to their trade quickly so they may provide me with new targets. Why waste good talent?” But he always brings them in, even knowing that some of them will buy their way out of rehab and he’ll meet them again. Only he has his facts. His records. That pirate who falls in his hands a second time does not get a second chance. “You insist on calling this our new frontier? Fine, then let frontier justice hold sway,” he says laconically, and shrugs. He serves a necessary purpose and on the surface of things the authorities accept him as such.
His ship is in dock today, getting some much needed repairs after a particularly difficult tour of duty. Three times he had to battle his way into rebel-held territory to re-capture “his” ships. His cruiser took some serious damage in the exchanges. But he got out and got the ships, transferring the better part of his crew to sail them here, to Puerto de la Rosa. La Rosa for short. Outpost city on an outpost planet called Pallarti, in Sector Twelve.
Don’t let the colourful, romantic name fool you. This spaceport at the edge of human explored territory is Dodge City at its worst (imagined) moments. Law enforcement is sporadic and weak, or non-existent except in the enclaves of the Mercantile barons’ holdings. Homelessness, violence, theft, prostitution and murder are the order of the day everywhere else. Being fully aware of this, Zelleus checks his equipment carefully before he heads out for a much-anticipated stroll on terra firma.
It may be a dangerous enterprise for a lone individual to risk walks in such a place as La Rosa, but you see, a man stuck for so many years on space-faring craft jumping in and out of light-speed variants gets to hunger for real soil, real ground, beneath his feet. He hungers for the open air, breezes and winds, for real smells, real tastes, real touch. He wants to hear the sea roll upon a shore or break against stone. He wants to see the stars from a solid place, a place that belongs to the family of stars, not from some transparent bubble projecting from a turret on a man-made sliver of metal and plasteel passing through a space that will never remember it, much less him. He wants to wear something other than a flight suit and magnetic boots. And he longs for a bit of female company and that’s something La Rosa provides in quantity, if not in quality. Last but not least, he has friends in these low places, people to bring him abreast of happenings “at home” while he is away. New information to tickle his imagination and perhaps help him decide on his next mission. Indeed. Who could refuse?
Zelleus doesn’t mind making an impression upon the locals. Today he decides to stroll the lanes of La Rosa dressed as an ancient enigmatic hero of Earth they called Zorro. He wears a sword, only it’s a laser with a short-range heat-seeker and his goggles give him night vision should he need it. The hat is equipped with a brain-wave activity detector so he can discern between a human, a Borg or an ordinary droid. It also contains a projectile weapons detection and provides him with greatly enhanced hearing through a feed-back implant. His cape is a light absorber and movement vibration deflector, giving him quasi invisibility. Under his jacket is a fully charged flechette launcher on stand-by. But on his back he wears his favorite weapon: a large bush knife with no other enhancement than a long wide blade made of cheelth, sharp enough and hard enough to cut ordinary steel as if it were wood.
Thus equipped, he walks away from the relative security of the repair compound, clears his departure with security, enters a probable return time in the log and files an itinerary. Of course, they know and he knows that the itinerary is to satisfy the requirements. He will not follow it. And no one will question him or follow him. The privilege of his class: the respected and feared private enforcer who possesses the sufferance of the great houses, and the dubious protection of whatever official function of the Sector Government that happens to exist on this particular world.
The sun has set several hours ago and it is now as dark as the night will get. In the sky of Pallarti, two moons, one so bright it looks like a small sun surrounded by a greenish halo, the other, larger but farther out, a pale, dull yellow. When together in the sky they give the night a half light. Zelleus, enjoying the feel of his supple black imitation leather boots sets out on his ‘walkabout’ as he thinks of it. He follows the temporary path given him by security through the complex web of sensors – six minutes to clear the port. He runs the last of the half-k path, then stops by an ugly but functional reddish-gray plasteel warehouse. He senses movement further down the lane. Undoubtedly someone, or something, has been watching him come out of the protected area. He tightens his cape, flexes his fingers then boldly strides towards the place where he senses movement. As he approaches, he loosens the deadly bush knife, but does not pull it out.
Someone, human, is hiding there, so his sensors tell him. He moves slowly, keeping close to a stone fence blackened years before in a vicious strafing attack as attested to by the evidence of deep ruts cut sharply into the rock-hard soil of the planet. He comes to an opening in the fence, stops, activates the hat. Heartbeat, yes, and an unusual brain activity, though definitely human. Then a sound: sniffling. He senses body moisture, but not sweat. He can’t place it. Then he remembers. Tears. Human tears. It’s crying. A young human person.
He clears his throat, “I’m Zelleus, identify!” he calls as softly as he can manage into the shadows beyond the fence. Now he can clearly make out the sobbing. Wary, he leans over and looks down. A very thin human with pinched face and dirty thick long, shaggy blond hair is sitting cross-legged on the debris at the foot of the wall. He can make out the thin, bare arms, and long legs wrapped in rags. Bare feet. Face bent down to the ground. And words; pathetic human words: “They killed my Suti. Why would they kill him? Why?” A young boy’s voice. A lonely, lost boy.
- Comrec: Portable recording device, normally mounted on wrist, or arm of space suit.
2. Vids: Short for entertainment media
End installment 1