sci-fi

The Sasquan Signature

Back in July, I decided to get out of the house and see a movie – Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, if I remember correctly. Unfortunately, I’d arrived at the theater an hour and a half early. This meant I had far too much time on my hands. Luckily, there was a pseudo-mall nearby with a giant bookstore attached – Powell’s, to be precise.

I went into Powell’s not expecting to buy anything . . . and that was my first mistake. Or at least, so many people have told me. One should always be prepared to buy something; it’s Powell’s. It has that effect. The place is like the cocaine brick of bookstores. But I digress . . .

When I went in, I moseyed to where I was always comfortable – the sci-fi section. From there, I bee-lined to my favorite author’s name – Mike Resnick. I’ve written about him before on this blog; heck, I even interviewed him. Ever since I was a child, I always checked his corridor in the bookstore to see if there was something new. There usually was . . . but nothing prepared me for this.

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Friday, September 25th, 2015 Musings 5 Comments

Steampunk or Steaming Pile?

First off, let me preface that this is not going to be an in-depth or well-informed piece about the behemoth that is steampunk. There already exists a tome that does a far better job of that. All this is going to be is one thirtysomething man’s experience and exposure to the sub-genre, and his opinion regarding its proliferation through other media. Are we all clear? Good.

*Curtains!*

Let us flashback to a simpler, more sepia-toned time known as the mid-90s. I was a wide-eyed lad with a few geeky interests, the predominant of which was anime. At a gathering of like-smelling otaku, I was exposed to a filmmaker’s oeuvre that I hadn’t come across before – director, Hayao Miyazaki. Okay, not entirely true. I did watch (and obsess over) Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, but the rest of his works were a mystery to me.

Laputa: The Castle in the Sky all but changed my life. It was whimsical, thoughtful, epic, funny, and possessed a retro-aesthetic I hadn’t considered creatively. Granted, I’d seen the use of steam-powered devices in other Jules Verne-inspired works, but none of those had the effect that Laputa instilled. I later showed it to my then-snot-nosed little brother, and he was equally floored.

Further proto-Internet digging turned up a whole slew of other steam-inspired wares. There was a veritable sub-genre cooked up around the concept of steamtech and Victorian backgrounds. While Laputa wasn’t strictly within the same vein as these other literary works, it was still the perfect gateway.

In the years hence, the sub-genre has churned, growled, grinded and chugged its way into public prominence. The sci-fi genre is literally glutted with steampunkish stories. But there was something I found lacking in these later additions. The “oh-golly-gee-whiz” whimsy was gone, replaced by a grimy, apocalyptic tone.  At first, I wasn’t quite sure why, but then I observed how the sub-genre splintered into other mediums and came to a Layman understanding.

Allow me to explain.

Movies

Alternate histories, retro-future, or pseudo-Victorian fantasy were not new avenues for cinema. What had eluded moviemakers, though, was mainstream success. Steampunk simply wasn’t selling. It was an unwritten rule that if a movie had a dirigible (read: airship) in it, said film was due to fail.

Go ahead, name a successful film with an awesome airship in it. Go on, I dare you. And, no, I’m not just talking about box office success. Critical reception is also key. I’m sure you could name at least one or two, but they’re statistical outliers – damn it. With the exception of animated movies, steampunk hasn’t quite gotten a grip of live-action movie staying power. Part of that might be due to budgetary constraints. Steam is apparently expensive, I…guess.

At the moment, Hollywood (or any other ‘wood, for that matter) is content with including only smatterings of steam in their works. Case in point: Guy Ritchie’s take on Sherlock Holmes. There were clockwork gadgets galore, and both films were moderately successful. However, they weren’t steampunk in the strictest sense. Well, aside from the period setting.

I’m strangely okay with their cautious, if light, touch. Baby steps, Hollywood. Baby steps.

Music

The birth of the steampunk music sub-genre surprised me. Heck, it still surprises me. How a literary genre translated to lyrical works requires further study, and a blog all to itself. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m a total fan of its development.

© Abney Park

I first learned of steampunk bands through accidental exposure to Abney Park – a Seattle-based EBM group with a most interesting sound and stage presence. They fashion themselves as airship pirates, and their music borrows from several different traditions – Mediterranean, Celtic folk, synth-pop and more. However, Abney Park are the exception, not the rule.

While I won’t be rude and name specific examples – for fear of steam-powered reprisal – I will give an analogy. Imagine visiting a home populated by five-year-olds dressed as turn-of-the-century hobos and hookers. They’ve discovered where the pots and pans are kept. In addition to banging kitchenware, they’ve also found some Fisher Price instruments…and began trashing those as well.

That’s my unfair summation of the steampunk music genre…but not as a whole.

Literature

It is here where steampunk got its start, and where it seems to be fairing the best. While I’m annoyed at the sheer enormity of steampunk works out there, there are several diamonds in the rough. The most notable example – for me – is the first I ever came across – Gail Carriger‘s The Parasol Protectorate.

She isn’t strictly a steampunk authoress per se, yet she does borrow very heavily from the usual tropes of the sub-genre. At least she has the common decency to weave those elements with some semblance of originality – thusly making them her own. That and her books have something that is sadly lacking in others of her ilk. Whimsy!

I’ll admit that my exposure to steamlit is still in its infancy. There are plenty of other authors/authoresses that should be mentioned in this, here, missive. Some good, some mind-numblingly terrible. For the sake of brevity, though, I’ll say just go read for yourself. Annoying, though the genre prevalence is, there are good works out there.

One thing, though: If you – fair reader – run into a book that features a Brass Jesus and a man falling in love with an ape, run…don’t walk…away. Yes, I’ve read it. No, I won’t speak its name. Just trust me on this.

The Culture

And now to the crux of the issue.

Steampunk – as I mentioned earlier – has emerged as the new “thing” in counterculture. For better or worse, it’s here to stay. I’m still torn on where I stand on the issue. I’ve reflected upon how I feel about it in terms of media, but I have resisted coming to a conclusion about it as a movement.

And, yes, it is a movement. Possibly a bowel movement.

Who’s responsible? Two words: The goths.

This is an oversimplification, but the goth subculture has largely identified itself as quasi-social. Goths like to congregate, but only with other goths. They have stuff they’re into, just like any other group. One of those things “was” vampires. I say “was” because their favorite biters have since been visited by the taint of ‘tween literature. You know what book series I’m talking about – the sparkly kind.

Goths – I suppose – needed something else to latch onto. An aesthetic not too far removed from their former creatures of the night. Luckily, they found solace in a whole new (or old) time period, and they didn’t even have to toss out their pseudo-Victorian wardrobe. Just add goggles!

(A sidenote: Steampunk fashion, keep doing what you’re doing. Seriously. Dayamn.)

© Steampunk Couture

© Steampunk Couture

I suppose that is where the dystopian element I so loathed came from. Once goths embraced The Way of Steam, it was only natural the dark sensibilities came with it – post-apocalyptic drudgery and all. There is hope, though.

Goth culture sometimes intermingles with geek culture. And if there’s one thing the geeks are known for its whimsy. (And, no, I won’t stop italicizing that word.) They, too, have embraced the Victorian vehicle, but have taken it in a different direction – one devoid of dreariness.

I shall give an example – a personal one. I have a half-sister – whom I adore – that is as geek-fueled as I am, if not more. She’s into everything from Harry Potter to Doctor Who, and can even trump me on some of the finer facets of geek culture at large. She fell in love with a musical group called Steam Powered Giraffe. And they are awesome! Whimsy personified. To sum them up: Imagine Dixieland, jazz, and a mime school were put in a steam-powered blender. The result would be Steam Powered Giraffe.

Examples like them give me hope for steampunk’s future – retro or not.

Artwork by Laney Norman

Artwork by Laney Norman

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Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 Musings 8 Comments

Time-Dept

Several months ago, a former co-worker of mine showed me a song of his while we were having beers. It was extremely rough, but it hit me far harder than I expected. Weeks later, it inspired a story from the cosmic imagery it invoked. This was the result.

Time-Dept

We made love in the desert.

She liked it that way. There was this spot right outside of Stead Spaceport where she liked to camp out. For some reason, she always dragged me along with her to watch the colonial rockets take flight. Eventually, stargazing turned into gazing into each others’ eyes. Sex was a side-effect.

“This is still a weird place to be doing this,” I said amidst grunts and giggles.

I wasn’t looking at her, but rather past her. Regardless of the light and noise pollution emitted from the nearby port, the stars at this particular spot appeared like firefly swarms.

“Shut up, Vin, and concentrate,” she replied angrily while on top of me – thrusting upright.

Her red hair spilled about her shoulders, masking her face. But I could tell she was trying to hold back laughter. The absurdity of our location wasn’t lost on her.

She also knew that I was at my limit. There was only so much a guy could do with a woman on top of him. Frankly, a half-hour was a record! I could no longer distract myself away from the moment for the sake of…uh…longevity. She was too good, and I was too enamored. Our bodies were one writhing being – symbiotic, dirty, yet destined.

At that moment, the ground rumbled. A low growl perforated the air. The wind picked up from the east. I looked at my phonepad.

Crap, a launch! I thought.

The roar of engines and fuel invaded the quiet sagebrush-laden landscape. A massive, chrome-colored body of metal took flight several miles away from us. It took to the sky with ferocity, rending its connection to Earth’s gravity with the assistance of several rings coiled around its cylindrical body. I could hold out no longer.

I emitted a high-pitched whine of climax and let out one last thrust. I was done. And I blamed the rocket. Laughter escaped me. How could it not? The rocket was a fitting metaphor. With a sigh of disappointment, Rae removed herself from me. I wanted to apologize, but I couldn’t. The moment – at least for me – had been perfect. A launch followed by a die-off – parallel and pristine. Completely poem-worthy.

Rae pulled out something from her camouflage-colored duffel-bag, an odd transparent pipe with a fluorescent pink flower at the base. It looked similar to a traditional bong but more…alien. I frowned. Since when did she become a petal-puffer? Disappointing. Were Earth herbs no longer good enough for her?

I shrugged and grasped for a pair of binoculars to my right. The rocket was reaching its second stage. Coils fell from its massive body like a serpent shedding its skin. Someone had told me those were “gravitic repulsors”. They made it easier for massive, multi-ton, space-bound vehicles to exit the atmosphere. Once they reached the ionosphere, the vessels cast them off like useless clothing.

With a flare of light, the colonial rocket disappeared.

“Where do you suppose that one went?” I said in attempt to make small-talk, grabbing for a joint.

Rae gently puffed at the edge of the beaker-like mouthpiece of her “bong”.

“Dunno,” she said, exhaling pinkish steam from her nose. “More than likely, Gliese 163C. Terraforming efforts have begun there.”

“That’s New Sahara, right?” I said, lighting the wrapping of paper and leaf in my mouth. Canadian estate-grown cannabis – couldn’t beat it. Why anyone would want to puff petal over this was beyond me.

“Mhm,” Rae mumbled with a nod. Her eyes were fixed on the spot where the rocket’s wake had been.

“More and more phallics are leaving each month,” I mentioned. That was our local nickname for colonial rockets – phallics. For obvious reasons.

“Not hard to see why,” Rae responded. “Not much left here.”

I shook my head – my raven-haired cue whipping back and forth. “Bullshit. Earth’s still got some life in it.”

“We had a good run here,” Rae said cryptically.

“The planet’s still very much alive,” I rebuked while tasting burnt leaf.

“But it would be better off without us,” she returned. “At least some of us.”

I had no reply to that one. It was a given that the planet was overpopulated. Whole sections of it were uninhabitable. Continents were left barren, and the few fertile places left were massively impacted. Colonization of the few habitable worlds we discovered was inevitable. Still, there was a lot here to love.

Rae whipped around, nearly dropping her petal pipe, and leaned toward me. Almost within kissing distance. Here green eyes were dilated. Damn, I loved those eyes.

“Do you know what they call the duration it takes messages to cross the vastness of space?” she asked suddenly.

It was a weird question. I only had a rough idea of what she was referring to. Apparently, when ships traveled faster than light, time no longer moved the same way. I didn’t know my physics from flowers, but for every week that past when traveling at (or beyond) the speed of light, years past for those planet-side. Or something like that. I didn’t know the exact figures.

“Time…depth?” I guessed.

“Time-dept,” she corrected.

I gave a slow nod. “Heard about it. Something about faster-than-light travel affecting travelers.”

“Five months to us could be five minutes to a traveler,” she explained briefly. “Hard to say.”

“Time is a touchy thing,” I tried to agree, taking another puff. “I’m fine with the time I have left here.”

She said nothing.

After a few minutes, I asked, “You okay?”

“I think it’s time to go,” she finally said – dressing and packing her duffel.

“‘Kay.”

I dropped her off an hour later. She lived in Reno; I lived in Sparks. Not too far apart…but just far enough.  When I got back home to my dingy apartment, I zapped her a message via phonepad.

“Where did you go with your thoughts?”

*****

Five years later, I received a reply.

“My thoughts are still with you.”

Acknowledgements:

You can hear the original song – “Gravitational” – HERE.

You can find the other Knownothings songs HERE.

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Friday, October 12th, 2012 Prose No Comments

*Le Gasp* The Start of a Novel? At Long Last? Maybe…

A little background. This is an idea I’ve been kicking around as a prequel to this idea. I decided to start it first because…well…it came first. I have no idea how far I’ll take it. I know how all the events transpire. The only issue is that this is my first foray into fiction writing in eight (or so) years. I’m putting this up and out there to see if it’s a decent start.

If you happen by the site – whether on accident or on purpose – lemme know what you think.

Thief

Laerem was stuck in a supply duct.

Not the most dignified of locations, especially with another woman’s hindquarters mere inches from one’s brow.  Her “partner” had ordered them to stay very still. Night drones were heard down an adjacent corridor. Had her tormentor/accomplice done her homework, she would’ve known that supply drones weren’t armed – nor equipped with alarms. That didn’t stop the left-eye-patched upperclassmen – bald save for a raven-colored tassel-tail – from halting their progress.

As to what progress that might be, even Laerem didn’t know. The blue-haired cadet was the victim of trite blackmail. One moment, she was on a tour of the Razhti Metanautics Muesum; the next, she was a wannabe terrorist. And all over a holograph…

*****

Blood trickled down her chin as she took the blow. Strands of her long, aqua mane matted her sweat-drenched brow and clouded her vision. She only knew the number of attackers by the silhouettes. Brave bunch, this trio – clocking a girl in broad daylight. Had it been any other day, she would’ve had to mull over who was out for her hide. It was, however, not just any day. The anniversary of her arrival to the Royal Fleet Academy Annex was known by all – the first native Razhti recruit, ever.

“Got something to say, bluebitch?” came the innovative challenge from the lead, stout silhouette

“Not really,” she said after spitting a molar. She hated having to grow new ones, painful as all hell.

“What about apologizing?” one of the hench-shadows suggested – rather forcibly by a boot-push to the shoulder.

“For?”

“For killing Telakni!” the lead shadow retorted.

He followed that up with a swift kick to her abdomen. Laerem doubled over, more for show than out of pain. Of course, it still hurt. Like a bitch, even. However, the four impacts to her person prior to that sad excuse for a gut-shot hurt far more. Anything after was child’s play, and she would know, having taken beatings as a child also.

Wiping the strands of hair from her colorless eyes, she finally got a good look at her “brave” assailants. The lead: Bortan, a short but solid specimen of stupidity – Cadet, Junior-Grade like her. He was known for having quick reflexes and a temper to boot. None too bright, but capable of surprising feats of force. His only real weakness was his vision – figuratively and literally – he was shortsighted and nearsighted. Parents hadn’t footed the bill for ocular correction.

The two henchies were far more capable than their stubby superior. Gromahd was a lanky but intelligent tactical cadet, destined for Core Fleet fame. The plain subordinate to Bortan’s left – Ashai – was a Fringe Noble; his status as a future Defender of the Kingdom almost guaranteed. Their blood was bluer than Laerem’s hair. What they were doing taking orders from a low-born ground-pounder-to-be made no sense. Perhaps they were all united in their universal hatred of the natives.

“Listen, boys,” she began with emphasis. “Can we discuss this another time? Classes end in an hour. I’m sure we can have a meaningful debate then.”

That attempt at diplomacy earned her a throat grapple. Two shaky fists firmed their way around her slender neck. The grip wasn’t tight enough, though. Ashai seemed unsure of what he was doing. Just like a Noble, never knowing how to get their hands dirty. He did have enough strength and resolve to pull her up to eye-level.  As Ashai held her, Bortan grabbed a fistful of hair and forced her gaze away – from her “choker” to him.

“No, we’ll talk now,” seethed the low-born leader. “We’ve been waiting a year for this…discussion.”

Bortan released his grip from her hair.

“Ash, release her,” he ordered.

Ashai gladly loosened his fingers. Laerem fell back to her knees. She caught a glint of red and silver from the corner of her right eye. Finally, the moment she’d been waiting for. Bortan was through with the theatrics. The proceedings were far too cliché for her to take them too seriously. Granted, being the pummelee wasn’t all that fun, but it was a means to an end. Eventually, attackers tired of bravado and went for the blade – either the one in their pants or the one in their hilt. Lucky for her, these three hadn’t figured out the former.

In his right hand, Bortan held a blade. Not just any blade; a curved Shiqaal hunter’s knife with cat-eyed jewels in the hilt. The blade itself was cast in a crimson alloy known only to form on asteroids…on the other side of the galaxy. In non-humanoid territory. How a commoner like Bortan got a hold of such a rare artifact, Laerem could only guess. Probably stolen, she thought.

Bortan motioned to his two lackeys to hold one arm each. She wasn’t putting up a fight as they brought her back to her feet, but she assumed the lead Luddite wanted to make it look good. Laerem attempted to look as scared as possible as Bortan brought the blade over his head in a wholly stupid sacrificial stance. Before the blade came down…she smiled.

A little known secret about Razhti humans – other than the curious origin of their blue hair – was their dexterity. They were capable of amazing and improbable acts of physical grace, particularly the women. This made them expert dancers and even more adept lovers.  Razhti courtesans, male and female, were renowned throughout the Kingdom. These boys should have guessed that a Rhazti girl would possess some of these traits.

Apparently, they didn’t. Bortan’s blade only cut air, and ended its downward swath with a clank to solid ground. Bewildered, he looked up. The blue-haired girl was above her attackers, poised in mid-flip over their heads. If he had kept his eyes open he would’ve noticed the back-flip, but now he stared at her exposed upside-down back and the muffled faces of his two high-status henchman.

Laerem completed her flip behind her two grapplers. Their grips had loosened once the knife started coming down. The lax restraint on her arms gave her the window she needed. One casual leap up and backward had turned the tide in her favor. Now behind her restrainers, she palmed both boys in the back – pushing them forward into Bortan. They collapsed like sports pins.

A dull ring signified that Bortan dropped his knife in the ensuing tumble. Laerem claimed it for herself.  “Spoils of victory,” she said.

A spray of heat whizzed past her hair. She felt a burning sensation across her left temple. Whipping around, Laerem found herself staring into the distant barrel of a pulse gun. In the hands of Gromahd, whom she thought had remained unusually passive during the scuffle. This time, his hands didn’t shake. And unlike Ashai, his grip on the gun was tight and resolute – his gaze, steel.

“Y-you know those are illegal on Annex grounds.” She fumbled her words.

“Don’t care,” was Gromahd’s tight reply.

“Who was Telakni to you, anyway?”

“My father.”

“Shit,” she said with a sigh.

As Laerem exhaled in defeat, a flash emanated from behind her. Warm yet cold on her back, she felt and heard the sound of electric cackle. The smell of ozone reached her nostrils, sizzling in her nasals. Gromahd’s face paled, as did the two other boys who still struggled to correct themselves. Another flash and a long, white bolt struck Gromahd square in the chest, launching him backward. He struck a wall then fell forward – smoke pluming from his back. The arc of energy had seared clean through.

Speechless, Bortan and Ashai collected themselves and made with the swiftest retreat Laerem had ever seen. With good reason.

“His piss-shooter was barely legal,” said a tenor female voice behind her.

Laerem turned around slowly, coming face-to-face with a girl slightly taller and a year older than she. A faux-leather eye-patch with an unknown sigil adorned her left eye. A single phase-scar also ran down the left side of her face like a clean, bird talon’s cut. Her head was shaved bare, save for one long, top-knotted tail of space-black hair – braided for the first half, free-flowing for the rest. Other than the scars, warrior cue, and thin-lipped expression, she was quite attractive.

The hard-faced teen hoisted a bulky, beige rifle behind her shoulders. “Now this,” she motioned to the hand-cannon behind her. “Is illegal.”

Words tried to form in Laerem’s open mouth, but they wouldn’t come.

“Just so you know,” the raven-tailed girl continued. “CP drones’ll be on this place in a matter of minutes.”

“B-but…I didn’t do anything,” Laerem sputtered. “Surveillance will show I was the one attacked!”

The other girl let the rifle fall to her side, “Yeah. About that. See the camera?”

Laerem looked to where she was pointing.

“I was just outta range of its field of vision,” she said. “Still am. And all those two other boys saw was light.”

“You mean-”

“Campus drones will think you fired the bolt.”

“And you’ll correct them, right?” Laerem asked.

“Yeah. About that, too.” The girl pulled out a hexagonal contraption from her legging. “Holocam with sound dampener.”

She clicked the side of the device. A holographic movie of the bolt attack replayed from her viewpoint. However, the footage made it look like the energy discharged from the crimson blade Laerem now held. The girl played the holo again in slow motion.  The effect was flawless.

“Nice blade ya got there,” she said, replacing the disk in her pocket. “Shiqaal design, if I’m not mistaken. Y’know, some of those hunter knives have been known to act in a projectile capacity.”

Laerem looked at the hunter’s knife but said nothing.

“Not that one, of course. Too small. But reputation is a remarkable thing.”

“Is this the part where you blackmail me?” Laerem asked.

“Persuade, actually.”

“To do what?”

“Join me on a museum tour.”

“I have class in ten minutes,” Laerem said.

“History of the Pirate King: The Early Years,” the girl countered. “Yes, I know your schedule. And considering you’re covered in blood, and kinda/sorta killed a kid, I think it can wait.”

Laerem sighed again, “What museum?”

“Metanautics.”

“Why?”

“Tell ya later.” She winked

“Whatever.”

The Razhti walked to the tasseled girl’s side. She returned Laerem’s acquiescence with a pleased – if wry – grin. And with that, she led the way, swinging the guilty rifle behind her.

“By the way, name’s Lenika,” she said, extending a hand. “Lenika Andrys. Most call me Leni.”

Laerem didn’t return the favor.

Leni shrugged, “Suit yourself, Laerem Praedopf.”

Quicker than the Razhti realized, she’d received a kiss on the cheek from her coercer.

“Cheer up. This’ll be fun.”

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Saturday, February 19th, 2011 Prose No Comments

“Crossing the Stars” – A Novel Synopsis

INTRO:

The Age of Decay had ended. Denizens of the Tarolis galaxy crossed the stars once more. Warlords became nobles, pirates became kings, and wanderers became heroes. Empires rose and fell, but one kingdom shined above all the others; Algarath.

Five hundred years later, an ancient power awoke and cast its vengeful eyes upon the cosmos.

In one day, it came out of hiding.

In one day, the kingdom fell.

VINTS: (aka. Vintrosu Ridrant) – Ten years ago, Vints – a man of noble lineage – witnessed firsthand the fall of the Algarath Kingdom. When mysterious white ships descended upon Algarath, he was there. Like many that day, he tried desperately to find cover from the strafing runs for himself and one other. A woman.

However, as the onslaught raged on, they were separated. An energy discharge left him horribly scarred, his left leg burnt to ash. His last visible memory of that day was watching her departure, her unconscious form cradled in the arms of a figure in black.

Vints awakens each morning to that last memory fading to black. To him, the dream is his waking world and reality his purgatorial nightmare. The life of a spacer replaced the life of a nobleman. He sullies it away with alcohol, minor crime and brawls. If it weren’t for the empathy of a local bartender, no place would be home.

A person from his past jolts him from his masochistic reverie…

Another woman; one he had saved so long ago.

VEK’SIRAHL – An orphan of a massacre, Sirahl wandered the halls of a battered space station for most of her childhood eking out an existence on littered food and the kindness of other displaced spacefarers. This had been the pattern since the death of her mother at the hands of mercenaries.

This changed with the chance meeting with a scarred spacer – a teenager with a talon-like burn mark across half his visage, and a left leg gleaming of metal. There eyes met, and unlike the countless times when her pleading expression surfaced, this time it did not. She did not beg. Sirahl studied him. He regarded her the same way.

Since that day, she called him Vints, and he called her sister. For over ten years, they formed a lucrative smuggling partnership. Sirahl thrived on the thrill of the chase, while Vints viewed it as a passable distraction from inner pain.

They parted ways when she chose to delve into another profession – piracy. He wandered the free territories of the Spiral Run, while she eased her way into the ranks of the infamous The Aquarian Queen. A ship captained by…

THAKRIEN THE DRAY (a.k.a. Thakrien DiSarra) – Five years ago a man proud of his pirate lineage learned of an excavation in the heart of the Noble territories. A mysterious vessel dating back over ten thousand years had been discovered. The Nobles themselves were in an uproar. No technology from prior to the Age of Decay had ever been discovered intact!

Thakrien decided then and there that he had to relieve them of their quarry. With a ragtag group of other Spiral Run misfits, he infiltrated Noble space and commandeered the vessel. What he learned upon entering shocked him. The ship was alive yet not organic. An empath among his crewmates informed him that although the ship itself was not made of anything biological, it did possess a soul.

He had heard of such ships before, legends passed down his family line for generations – starships that ran on the rarest of renewable energy sources, a lifeforce of its own. Another surprise was in store.

The vessel knew him.

Now, he and his newfound spaceworthy companion – the soulship The Aquarian Queen – wreak havoc upon the fringe of Noble territories, exclusively worlds with ties to his ancestry. For somewhere along the Spiral Run lies his legacy, one that has eluded him for decades. Help arrives from an unlikely source. All he has to do is go back into the heart of Noble space, snatch up a noblewoman, and deliver her to the Borderguard – the self-appointed militia of the Spiral Run.

To accomplish this, he needs someone who looks like a noble to go in and find her. Sirahl, a newer member of his crew knows of such a man. A drunken spacer by the name of Vints.

DATHEDRA PREVANE (a.k.a. Dathedra Senai) – Ten years ago, the world she called home was laid to waste. The invaders didn’t even destroy the planet, occupy it, or remove anything. Their goal was single-minded, cold and efficient: eliminate all sentient life on Algarath. Thankfully, their attempt had left pockets of civilization intact. Somehow she survived but at a very high price. The youth she was betrothed to – Vintrosu Ridrant – was nowhere to be found.

Her rescuer, clad in black, announced herself as High Defender Ro Taal – the military head for her family, the Royal House of Senai. The darkly-dressed woman informed her that she was the last royal alive.

They made it off Algarath with the help of the few remaining members of the Algarathi military. The ragtag convoy escaped undetected, much to the surprise of the High Defender. Dathedra – barely fifteen – was left in the care of the Noble House of Prevane. Ro Taal gave her two warnings: “Never reveal who you are”…and… “In ten years time, I will come for you.”

Ten years came and went, and the former High Defender never contacted her. At the time of her betrothal age, she took matters into her own hands by hiring spacers to track Ro Taal down. She discovered that the few remaining members of the royal military had defected to the free territories of the Spiral Run and were now defending it in the guise of the Borderguard militia.

Contact was made.

Ro Taal informed Dathedra that she had not forgotten her promise, and that as they spoke plans were being made to bring her to the Spiral Run. The only hitch was finding a pirate or spacer crazy enough to do it.

Enter Thakrien the Dray.

RO TAAL: The world, the family, and the kingdom she had sworn to protect crumbled before her eyes in a matter of hours. Majestic vessels of unknown origin descended upon Algarath like sentient clouds and rained fire upon the once pristine world. High Defender Ro Taal’s first thought upon watching the destruction was the haphazard nature of the attack – thousands of ships surrounding the globe uprooting pockets of citizenry. It seemed more like an act of fear rather than precision.

That was how her mind worked. Amidst the savage landscape, the screams of agony, and the macabre array, she questioned the motivation. Their timing seemed far too convenient; mere days before a peace accord with key Spiral Run systems, one week to the day after she had made the greatest discovery in centuries.

The cause of the Age of Decay.

Ten thousand years of darkness were suddenly brought to light, and the family she guarded with her life held a connection to it. However, with the connection to the reason came with it the knowledge of an ancient enemy – one that roamed the stars long before humankind ever conceived of spaceflight. Ever since unearthing lost knowledge, she pondered the best way to reveal it to the masses. The invasion of her world forced her hand.

Her duty was clear now: protect whatever remained of the Senai family, and if none remained, find a way to fight against to the coming tide. By sheer luck or fate, she found one member of the royal family alive – the youngest daughter, Dathedra. Another factor in her favor was the knowledge that underground bunkers with contingents of her troops were also still intact.

Contact with the others were made, ships were found, a route of safety was plotted. Summoning all of her combat training, and pushing her loyal followers to the brink of exhaustion, they made it off Algarath. Heavy casualties resulted from the suicide run out of the system, but the core ships in her makeshift convoy still flew.

The Noble House of Prevane, ever-loyal and indebted, agreed to shelter the young princess until the time was right for her summons. The former High Defender then took to the stars again leaving Noble space behind her. She and her troops relocated to the Spiral Run and swore to guard the free territories from the inevitable arrival of a powerful nemesis.

Ten years have passed, and the time is upon them. Ro Taal – once the most respected High Defender in the Algarath Kingdom, now a scarred Borderguard general – again has a duty to fulfill. To defeat an ancient evil, one must awaken an ancient good.

For a poem about the discovery of The Aquarian Queen, go HERE!

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Monday, December 1st, 2008 Prose No Comments

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