Soft gamma ray emissions from the distant Gabriel Magnetar reflected off the residual gas of the neighboring nebula, except for the occasional maverick
scintilla that ignited firefly like sparkles in the dense atmosphere of Adora Prime. The interaction between the planet’s magnetosphere and the deflected
particles in its trailing orbital wake formed blue ribbon shapes like the aurora borealis of old earth.
Riggs had viewed this rare celestial phenomenon in the holographic theater prior to launch, but those 3D images paled in comparison to the electrical
battlefield enveloping Casper, the inner most moon of Adora’s three lunar satellites. Though he had never visited this sector before, the visual experience
outside his portal was familiar. The bursts of cold light, the blue streaks darting out and in each time two particle streams intersected; he had seen it,
somewhere, only stronger, more intense, almost as if the beams were alive, performing some divine ballet with its own purpose, its own…
“Breathtaking, isn’t it?”
He jerked at the soft feminine touch on his right arm. Riggs had forgotten he was on a class Four Stellar Jumper with three dozen other curious sets of
eyes peering outward at the end of their three-month journey.
He nodded at the petite female from Vega Minor and returned to the view from the portal. “Yes, and very rare. I’ve never seen anything so appealing, so
beautiful, except maybe...” He felt the discomforting rumble in his gut again and reached for the vacuum tube, “Excuse me.”
Riggs covered his mouth with the suction device, barfed twice, pushed the cleanser spray button to wash the acidic material off his face and tried to smile
at the female pathic still stroking his arm. She conveyed an enticing smile. “My name is Yarra. You haven’t taken any recharger juice, have you?”
He shook his head, “I’m Riggs,” and then quivered as he tried to swallow the traces of bile in his throat. “Damn stuff tastes like they extract it out the back
end of an Orealian swamp skunk.”
The girl giggled, “I’ve never sucked on the ass end of any creature, but I’ll agree; in its natural form, the recharger mix is bitter as hell.”
Quite a spunky little thing aren’t you. Just like Cali.
“A big guy like you needs to replenish his electrolytes.” She dabbed his mustache with a moist wipe and rubbed gently across his mouth, “I love soft lips.”
She surveyed the stewardess three isles over, reached into her personal bag and removed a small flask. “Here, give me your dispenser.” She didn’t wait for
a response, but quickly squirted a liquid into his recharger bag, massaged it with her thin tapered fingers, and suggested, “Try it now.”
He took a sip from the straw, “Damn, that’s almost good.” He inhaled another mouthful of the spicy butterscotch flavored liquid, “What the hell is…”
She pressed gently against his ear and whispered, “Barian ale.”
He whispered back, “That’s illegal, isn’t it?”
She smirked, “Want to give it back?”
Riggs chuckled, “No.”
“It’s all I have left from our celebration. Each of us,” she motioned to the other pathics around the ship, “took a quarter of our sign on bonus and threw a
farewell to our friends back home. And it was one hell of a party,” she poked her tiny elbow in his ribs and pulsed her eyebrows, “if you know what I
mean. I nursed a killer hangover for the first two weeks of the flight while we were inside the crossover corridor, then I went into the suspension chamber
like you before we entered Brane space.”
He pulsed his eyebrows right back, “Yes, Yarra, I’m familiar with such celebrations.” The blue skinned telepaths were notorious for the physical antics at
their parties. That’s how he met his wife, Cali.
Yarra tended his hand, drawing delicate shapes in his palm as she probed deeper, “Ever been to Vega?”
“Yes, many years ago. It’s where I met my…It’s been a long time.”
She examined the crevices of his right hand. “I don’t blame you for not going back. The exile colony is a dismal place. That’s why I’m here.” She pointed
to her chest with pride, “I was selected as a recruit for the Pallium harvesting project. Can you believe it? I tried for years to get assigned to one of the
battleships as a sensor amplifier, but the war ended and I figured I would never be allowed to leave that ugly place. Now look at me. Am I lucky or what?”
He studied her jubilant beaming face. Even at twenty or twenty one years old, she retained the expressive innocence of an adolescent, just like Cali, just like
all pathics from Vega. To be a child ripped away from your family, imprisoned on an arid world for no sin of your own, just the inhumanity of an arrogant
government; it was difficult to fathom how they fostered such a constant positive attitude.
Riggs felt her leg sneak a touch with his thigh and his male senses jumped to attention. He surveyed her soft hairless scalp, oversized pupils, and tiny
childlike lips, How could anyone not find them stunning creatures.
“I guess what they say about the side affects of Barian ale on pathic women is true.”
She winked, “You see the sparkle in my eyes don’t you?”
He tittered, “Yes, I do, but it’s been a long time and I was much younger.”
She moved closer and flared her small nostrils, “I’d ask if that was a problem but I can tell from the tempo of your pulse and your thoughts that…”
She covered her mouth with delicate nail less fingers. “I’m sorry, so sorry.” She buried her face in the crux of her arm, “Please don’t tell them. I don’t
want to go back. I waited so long for my chance. Please.”
Paxton motioned Riggs into his office while he concluded a call, “I get it, we’ve got problems. We’ve always got some damn problem. You get a lot of
credits to solve ‘em, remember? No, you be creative. I’ll be down to the operation center in fifteen minutes. Don’t make me pissed when I get there.”
He smacked the comm set on his ear. “Damn, Riggs, it’s been a long time. Lost a little weight. Looks good on you.”
Riggs scanned the spider pattern of scars emanating from beneath the patch on Paxton’s left eye. “Can’t say the same. Your ass and gut remind me of a
Tufus balloon beast. Maybe you should give up the jelly stuffed marshmallows.”
The man across the desk glanced at the pink square in his hand, popped it back in the glass jar on the table and grunted, “Always, with the smart-ass
Paxton stood and walked to a steel cabinet against the wall. He inserted his thumb in the security box and the double doors opened to four shelves lined
with row after row of pint bottles. He removed one, relocked the doors, and returned to his desk. “Cost me a month of credits, but it’s worth it.”
Pax took two shot glasses from the top drawer of his desk, “The natives that ferment this stuff refer to it as the Nectar of Angels. Know why?”
“It relates to the Barian ritual of mate selection. It’s called, Vasen’ si, which translates to rite of bond. Ever hear of it?”
Riggs shook his head.
Paxton sat down, raised the rose colored liquid to his mouth, and slowly sampled two sips. He closed his eyes, issued a guttural moan and exhausted the air
in his massive lungs, “Damn I love this stuff.”
He again extended the shot glass. “Few people outside the Barian culture know how they make this stuff, Riggs. Sure you don’t want a…”
Riggs shoved the glass back so quickly, the top quarter inch spilled on the desk. “I said no.” He pointed to the comms device, “I see you still enjoy twisting
arms of those below you, Pax. You never learn, do you?”
“Shit, man. You’re not still holding me responsible forever screw up in your life, are you? I had nothing to do with your wife’s…”
“Bullshit!!!...Bullshit, Paxton. You didn’t pull the switch but you delivered us to the devil himself. And now you’ve brought me back again, to help a
government I don’t believe in. What do you plan to hold over me this time? You already took Cali. What, you think I give a shit about my life.” Riggs came
across the desk, “You scarred faced piece of shit. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.”
Riggs dropped to the floor and spasmed three times before going numb. He came too with scar face leaning over the desk. “I figured it was 50/50 you’d
react like that so I had them install the barrier.” He placed his pulse pistol back in its holster. “As for myself, I’d be just as happy to burn your head off, but
I’m under strict orders from the council. You know, I shoot you, they shoot me. Everything for the common…”
Riggs rubbed his chest, “Don’t say it. I’m sick of hearing that shit.” He used the desk to pull up and plopped back in the chair. “What makes them think I
care what they want? They have no leverage. You of all people should understand that, or does ugly sink deeper than your face.”
Paxton smiled, “You’ve got granite balls, Riggs. Always did.” He lifted the patch to reveal a cloudy glass eyeball, “Remember, the lost eye and most of
these scars came from our first encounter.” Pax cast a sinister grin, “But I don’t hold it against you. See, I’ve become compassionate in my old age.”
Riggs bit down on his tongue, “Answer the question, why am I here, and what makes them think I’ll help.”
“Trust me. When I explain your mission, you’ll want to help.” Paxton issued a peculiar expression for one so evil. “No, you’ll beg me to let you help.”
Riggs sat back in the chair and observed the winged aquatic creatures in the wall-sized aquarium behind the desk. “Get to the point. Why am I here,
For several seconds, Paxton picked at the palm of his left hand. It was as if he were trying to remove a thorn that had worked its way deep inside and
festered. No, it was more like he was struggling against…what? Above the white scar tissue, within that one black eye, he was hiding something, a secret
he refused to reveal for fear of…Riggs decided, The hell with it. Send me to a penal colony.
He drilled into Paxton’s sick mind, only at the primal level, not into his cognitive functions.
Paxton pushed back, struggled to bury something else so far down in the recesses of his brain, even a Level Six couldn’t penetrate his vault.
Riggs snapped his head.
That was the core emotion he was fighting to hide. Riggs became confused. With all the pain this slab of pus had caused in his life, why now would Paxton
fear exposure of anything? No, it wasn’t past discretions; it was what they were doing here, now, at this facility. But Pax never violated the Council's
directions. What ever was happening on Mors Island would be at the will and approval of the Council.
“Out of my head, Riggs!”
Riggs returned from his conjuring to the barrel of a blast pistol pressed against his nose. He displayed a Cheshire grin, then reached up and tried to pull the
trigger for scar face, “Here, let me help. I have no fear of retribution, Pax. How about you?”
The unexpected response unraveled the six foot eight inch administrator, “Stop it. You go too far, Riggs.”
“No, I haven’t gone far enough. I didn’t shoot your traitorous ass when I had the chance.”
Paxton’s breath accelerated. Even in the temperature controlled environment of the protective dome, two drops of sweat rolled across the folds of his
forehead and disappeared into his bushy eyebrows. It took an eternity until he offered a strange bequest, “Please, Riggs. Just hear what I have to say.
Copyright 2010 by Michael W. Davis
|Riggs, a retired Intel officer, is forced on a mission to help a government he demises expand their control into new regions
of space. He discovers the truth about his wife, what’s happening on Adora Prime, and humanity’s ultimate destiny.
|"It is a fast paced ride from start to finish. The
writing is tight, storyline fast paced and
characters are quite interesting. If you are
looking for a short novella to take you to places
amid the stars, then grab Michael W. Davis’s
wonderful SF adventure. I look forward to
seeing more stories set in this fascinating world."