Gladiators in SPACE! – Part 5

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

The meeting didn’t go unnoticed by my owner. He visited me in my cell that night. He looked around and said, “You know your problem Hal? You’re not appreciative. I’ve given you a place in this galaxy, one where you could be great, remembered for more than just being a false prophet. You give away your sponsors presents and arrange for secret meetings with other fighters. Just ungrateful.” He made a tisking noise and continued, “You could be on some distant Trans-Neptunian mining asteroid, but I took pity and bought your crime from the Venusians. You weren’t cheap you know.”

“Sorry?” I asked.

“You’re damn right you should be sorry.”

I let him ramble about my ungratefulness and tried not to laugh. He might think he was doing me a great favour but I was here on a mission. I was caught on purpose but he would never believe me.

“You’re so smug. I can’t wait to watch you get destroyed in the arena. Actually let’s make it easier on your next opponent.” He snapped his fingers, walked away, and two burly guards stepped into my tiny room. As he left he said, “Make sure he knows what we think of false prophets here on the Mederei!”

The two large guards walked into my cell. One had a large scar across his face and the other was scowling in order to look as tough as the first one.

Scowl-face grabbed me by my shirt and lifted me off my feet. “Don’t struggle,” he grumbled, his voice like two rocks grinding together. He held me up for the scar-face, who poked me with his index finger.

They both chuckled as scowl-face put me down. “We don’t like false prophets.”

Scar-face tried to smile. It was terrifying. He said, “If you see any let us know.” The two just turned around and walked away. I was still trying to process what had happened as they turned the corner and Scowl-face winked at me.

“Ok. I’m never winking again.” It seemed Aly was right and I had friends in both the gladiators and the guards.

A full out revolt would mean a lot of dead people. I didn’t want people dying for me. I had to find another way. I was thinking of different ideas when a messenger brought me a package. It was a bar of Earth Chocolate.

I opened the package and was dismayed to find a piece of plastic and small sticky patch. I put the patch behind my ear and the micro-vibrations permeated into my skull as sound.

“Hal. Can you hear me?” I recognized the voice of my engineer and friend Adric.

“Hey Sunny! How’s the black?”

He chuckled, “You never get tired of that joke do you?” I had named my ship “Hey Sunny” for cheap laughs.

“Nope. Great timing by the way. I need to learn how to hack the anti-teleport devices on here.”

“You see the second sticky? Place that on a computer terminal and I’ll do the rest.”

“I thought you said you couldn’t hack the computers on the Mederei?”

“You wound me Hal. I said I couldn’t hack them remotely.”

“Sorry for doubting you Adric. I need you to hack them and install some new software. It’s in our main memory banks under, ‘I have no idea what this is but I’m sure it’ll be useful someday’.”

“You have a gift with names Hal,” he replied sarcastically before asking, “You ok?”

“Aren’t I always ok?”

“No.”

“I’m fine. I’m dealing with it. What’s the news on the Venusians?” I had tried to save the royal family during the revolution but they had disappeared.

“No word on the royals but the church has taken control of the military and the parliament. The new Sun-Speaker is now as good as a King.”

“What aren’t you telling me?”

“They’re shooting down anyone who’s trying to leave Venus or the Empire.”

“We need to help them. Run the hack and go do what you can. I’ll join you in a few days. Good luck my friend.”

“Don’t die!” was the last thing he said before cutting the com.

With my new found business contacts and mini-army it was easy to get someone to slap the sticky on a computer terminal. I had a plan and it would take everything falling exactly into place. Thank Sol I could see the future.

I decided to make my move at the grand melee. It was just me and ninety-nine other combatants. The idea was that a hundred fighters went in and only one came out. Everyone rushed into the arena at the sound of the bell. I sauntered in, trying to project confidence and mischief. I suppose it was a normal entrance for me.

The floor rumbled as the hundred combatants ran towards the large weapons cache in the middle of the arena.

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Gladiators in SPACE! – Part 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

I was sleeping off my fight with the wolves when a woman who had more cybernetic implants than I had thought possible came to see me.

She looked vaguely familiar but I couldn’t place her. She looked at me with a combination of anger and embarrassment. “I’m dying,” she said and she was right. As I probed her mind I could see that it was failing, as were all her cybernetics.

“I’ll do what I can.”

“Despite what I’ve done?” That’s when I recognised her. She was Samantha, the assassin trainer from the Maidens of the Antichthon. I thought she’d been killed by Suzie when they’d escaped the Maiden’s mother ship.

“I’ll do what I can.” She lay on the ground and I placed my hands on her. I could feel her body dying and rejecting the cybernetics that kept her alive at the same time. I have pretty powerful healing powers but what happened next was a shock to me.

I concentrated on healing and felt the warmth of Sol wash over me. That’s the part where I burst into flames and need new clothes. This was different than normal, more intense, like I was healing more than one person.

As I healed her I felt everything that had happened to her. They’d brought her back to life and punished her for failing to stop us. They’d taken her apart piece by piece, including parts of her mind. The made sure to dig out the pieces of her mind that had any information on the Maidens. She’d been a horrible person but no one deserved what they did to her.

When the healing was over I was shocked to see two bodies. One was Samantha, put back together and the other was her cybernetics. They had become self-conscious and were accidentaly killing her by trying to become indipendant. There was an allegory in there that I’d have to remember for later.

Both looked up at me and smiled. The cybernetic one cocked her head to the side and said, “I’m a robot. Fascinating.”

***

It took another month for the fighters to open up to me. Each owner owned a couple hundred fighters and there were hundreds of owners. Some of the owners were based on the Mederei, others went from ship to ship. Owners never let their fighters fight each other, which meant I had a hard time getting in contact with my Barsoonian friend.

The more I fought the more people seemed to like me and I started getting gifts. They were indulgences from silk sheets to alcohol and everything in between. I gave it all away except for any chocolate or coffee; I have my vices. The more I fought, the more I had things to trade or give away.

The alcohol was particularly useful for trading. As a mild telepath and strong precognitive, it’s a terrible idea to drink. Alcohol breaks down walls as well as inhibitions. When I studied at the Psionic Clan Academy, I’d gotten drunk and spent the next two days in the hospital seeing one person’s possible lifetimes over and over again. They had to put me into a medically induced coma to save my life. The Psionic Clans may be no better than common thugs with super powers, but they take care of their own. Thankfully they didn’t know I wasn’t one of them.

The alcohol got me a special training session with my friend.

“You again. What do you want?”

“Do you know who I am? I’m here to save you and bring you back to your people.”

They looked around at the guards and locked doors, cocked an eyebrow and said, “Right, what’s your plan? Going to just teleport me out?”

“So you do know who I am. Teleport is out of the question. They have blockers all over the ship.”

“Of course I know who you are, Hal Sun-Speaker. I’m Aly. Why do you want to save me?”

“I’m not the Sun-Speaker. I’m just Hal. I’m here to save you because it’s what Sol wants and it’s what Mars needs.”

“Why in the nine hells would Mars need me?”

“Something is coming and Mars needs to be united. The future Emperor will need you to advise him.” I waved away any questions and asked one of my own, “How many Martians are on this ship?”

“Maybe a couple of thousand…” They looked confused.

“It’s not enough. We need more people.” I started wondering if the other people would help Martians or if humanities natural, and idiotic, racism would get in the way.

Aly laughed a deep rumbling laugh as if I’d said something hilarious, “It’s true what they say about you. The seer who doesn’t see himself.”

“What?” I hate being confused or surprised, it’s just not right and hurt my fragile ego.

“Just because the church disowned you doesn’t mean those who believe in Sol have.” Seeing my puzzled face they added, “Many believe you’re the true word of Sol and would follow you. On this ship, those who’ve seen both your power and your humanity would follow you out an airlock. You say you don’t have enough people but you have an army.”

“An army of gladiators might be useful…” The idea that I had an army made my skin crawl. I don’t like blind obedience, which is why I filled my crew with people way smarter than me, and almost as stubborn. I didn’t want an army but I could use one.

“It’s not just the gladiators.”

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Gladiators in SPACE! – Part 3

Part 1 | Part 2

I knew the wolves were bioengineered since wolves don’t normally have horns on either side of their heads and these ere two metres tall.

They didn’t look happy; on the contrary they looked hungry. I did the only sane thing and ran towards them. It worked and the wolves scattered. It must have been a funny scene because the crowd started laughing.

Sol gives me a lot of guidance and a lot of information but he’s pretty skimpy when it comes to solutions. I knew I needed to survive and save my new Martian friends. They would be important to Sol’s plan, I think.

Lifting my hands above my head I projected my voice, “Friends, Romans, Spectators; tell me what you want! Should I kill these mindless and innocent beasts?” The crowd roared, my heart palpitated at the sound of that many people cheering. When they quieted down I asked, “Or would you rather watch me be devoured?” There was a pause. The crowd wasn’t sure how to react. The wolves, however, howled.

Turning to the wolves, I shook my head dramatically and shushed them saying, “We know what you want.” Again the crowd laughed. I had them right where I wanted them. “My friends. I am not a fighter. I am a prophet abandoned by his church. But the church isn’t the God and I don’t like killing.” I put special emphasis on the “I”. These games were being recorded and could be watched as vids across the system. If I could piss off the church a little I’d be more than happy.

Wolves are not patient animals and the leader of their pack, or the least patient one, what do I know, charged at me. As his great bulk and sharp teeth came towards me, I could only admire the quality of its teeth. Its friends started moving cautiously towards me.

“Stop!” I commanded mentally. When Sol choses a Sun-Speaker, he always chooses someone with telepathic talent, it’s the only way that he can communicate with them. Humanity has limited telepathic abilities and they’ve only been appearing for a few thousand years. I’m convinced that’s why the first Sun-Speaker was chosen two thousand years ago and not earlier.

The wolves all stopped at my order, except for the one charging at me. I needed to stop him quickly to prove to the others that I was the one they should follow. I concentrated in the same way as I had with the Barsoonian, only this time I didn’t go easy. I fully powered my fusion blast and looked at the crowd, “You want death? Fine, have death!” I made sure it was a short blast, no use blowing a hole in the ship, and it disintegrated the wolf, leaving a pile of ash.

The crowd took a collective gasp, the wolves bent their heads and whimpered, and I fought back tears. The poor animal was just doing what it had been bred to do. Telepathically talking to the wolves I said, “Its ok. Food is coming.”

One of the wolves moved towards me; I waited and let it sniff my hand. It licked my hand and nuzzled me. Not an easy feat with its horns. The crowd went wild.

A loud siren told to crowd to be quiet and my new owner, who was apparently the governor of the ship, said, “You are a nuisance but I expected something like this. Send in the pirates.”

Three men walked out of the gladiator gates. They were the space pirate brothers Adam, Aaron, and Alvin. I’d infiltrated their crew once to save a friend. It hadn’t ended will for the brothers. I guess it still wasn’t going well.

They looked pissed and smug, “We meet again Hal. Now you’ll finally get what you deserve.” They weren’t the brightest pirates in the solar system. I’ll spare you the details of the rest of the fight, it wasn’t pretty. Let’s just say the crowd got its violence and the wolves got their meal.

The showing off had taken a lot out of me. I managed to fake being ok until I got back to my cell. Once alone I threw up and passed out, thankfully in that order.

The fights continued along the same vein with me showing off and trying to kill as little as possible. The real work was getting Henrick and the other gladiators to trust me. The ludum wasn’t like jail, you don’t fight anyone unless you have too and no one expects you to be tough outside the arena. It’s a sort of unwritten rule that we’re all going to die in there either way.

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Gladiators in SPACE! – Part 2

Part 1

Not too long ago I went to my own funeral. I didn’t die but I was supposed to. My death was supposed to instigate a solar system wide revolution. Venus would fall and come back stronger as a democratic planet. The first United-Sol council would be formed and the solar system would be united and ready for what was coming.

My friends didn’t let me die and that made the Venusian Revolution burn too hot and too fast. What was going to happen wasn’t pretty but at least I was alive to try and fix it.

Since I died, every time I fall asleep I see the horrors coming for us. It’s not very restful but it makes wakening up a lot easier. I woke up in the hospital, more like medical bay, with a confused doctor and angry owner.

“What the hells’ your game Hal? How did you survive that?” My new owner was a fat Jupiterese man, whose old fashioned suit was bright orange with a green dress shirt and bright pink tie. Even in an angry whisper he was louder than his clothes.

“One of the gifts bestowed on me by Sol was the ability to heal,” I lied. The ability was given to me by my ship’s doctor who swore she’d used the last of the miracle formula on me. In a normal person it gave the eternal appearance of being eighteen. In me it let me heal faster and counteracted the slow painful death of channeling Sol’s power.

“Bullshit. We all know the Church disowned you.”

“The Church did but Sol didn’t.” Disowned was an understatement, they’d faked a funeral to get to me Venus and put me on trial for treason before trying kill me. The Church didn’t have all the blame; the major government authorities had helped.

“What do I do with a Gladiator who can’t fight and looked like he died?” He asked himself or maybe he was trying to speak to Alpha Century, hard to tell with his volume. “I know. I’ll spin it as a curse.”  He turned to me and said, “This won’t work twice. Every gladiator will know to finish the job from now on.”

“I have one question; can I get something to eat?”

They took me back to my cell. It was an eight by eight cube with metal bars. There weren’t any pillows or beds, just the cell. They brought me food that was surprisingly good. It was better than I normally ate. As I enjoyed the dessert of fresh watermelon in cubes I felt a mild ache in my head and knew a vision was coming.

Visions aren’t fun. They hurt, they’re vague, and they always give me too much information. This one was no different and before I could pass out or meditate to process the information, a guard came to get me.

“You’re headed to the training yards, false prophet.” I didn’t want to argue with the guard but he wasn’t wrong. I had never believed that Sol was a God but his powers and ability to see the future let me help people. I have always respected Sol but I don’t think he created the universe. I think of him like a wise old man trying to help his grandkids.

The guard brought me straight to a muscled dark skinned man, most likely Mercurian or Venusian, and then left me and him in the large grassy area. The man was in his late sixties, but was well built and was obviously strong.

“So you’re Hal?”

“That’s me and you are?”

“Henrick,” he smiled and held out his hand. He said something as we grasped hands but my brain decided it was time to give me as much information as possible on Henrick. I teetered, tottered, and almost tumbled for good measure, but he kept me from falling.

“Henrick Al-Mer of the house of Mers. Royal instructor to the kings and queens of Mars. You’re supposed to be dead.”

He laughed and shook his head as he said, “Look who’s talking. That was who I was once but there are no more kings and queens of Mars.”

“About that… Do you need a job?” He wasn’t my mission but I had helped smuggle the infant king of Mars away from the Venusian royalty and he could use an instructor on Mars and its customs.

“You’re a strange one, my friend. Here there’s nothing but the arena and death. If we survive a hundred fights or twenty years we are set free, but few fighters survive that long. I don’t expect to see anything but this ship for the rest of my life. I’m here to instruct you, not encourage your wild imagination.”

Shrugging I said, “Ok. Let’s get this part over with. What are you supposed to teach me?”

“Do you have any experience in hand to hand combat?” He asked and I spent the next week grappling, punching, and everything in between.

My next fight came much too quickly and as I waited outside the arena in my waiting area I turned to Henrick and asked, “Why are you the only person I ever see? There are tens of thousands of fighters but I never interact with them. ”

“The owners believe you’re more trouble then you’re worth and have told everyone to kill you.” He paused took a deep breath and said sadly, “and the fighters think you’re cursed. No one wants to talk with you or fight you.”

They must have raised quite the fuss cause when I walked into the arena I was faced by a jeering crowd and six bioengineered wolves.

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Gladiators in SPACE! – Part 1

Hello My Imaginary Friends!

I’m writing to you from the past. (Spooky!)

Baby Dragon was due on the 9th and Can-Con (Which I’m sure will be awesome) was the 9, 10, and 11.

That means today I’m either cuddling the little Dragon or at work compulsively checking my phone. Either way I’m in no state to write a post.

Since I’m busy, I’ve written you a story. It’s Heavily influenced by a book I just beta-read by S.M. Carrière. Thanks for the inspiration!

This is the fourth story in the Sun Speaker Universe but it’s written so that you could read it without having read the others. If you are interested in reading the rest check out my Stories Page.

Enjoy!

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Introspection, Faith, and Death

Last week was an amazing week for me. I got news that I will be a published author, I wrote 5000 words in Everdome, and there were a few other pieces of news I can’t talk about yet.

Everything was going great then my body utterly crapped out on me. I had a major allergy attack (which for me is thankfully not anaphylactic) and I’ve spent this week feeling like I have cotton balls instead of brains and I’m fairly certain a kitten could beat me up.

There were also two celebrity deaths that have consumed my social media feeds. All of which kept making me think about death. I think Adam Ruins Everything can sum up the feelings I had.

Warning: This video shoves your mortality into your face.

I spent most of Monday catching up on Daredevil. The show has a few scenes where the main character discusses good and evil with a priest. It’s done in an introspective way that really speaks to me.

I was raised French Catholic. (Yes it’s tough not to say, “And with you” when I hear, “May the force be with you”) One thing I always hated about organized religion was the lack of introspection and questioning. In fiction people will say they are, “Searching for faith” or “Questioning faith” but it’s rarely explored. (On a side note, the lack of this exploration that probably soured me on the Exorcist.)

“Write a million words–the absolute best you can write, then throw it all away and bravely turn your back on what you have written. At that point, you’re ready to begin.”

David Eddings (Possibly referencing Heinlein or Bradbury)

As I’m approaching the mythical one-million words I’m starting to see themes in my work that I didn’t realize where there before. Dreams, intelligent villains, hope vs fear, sentience, and faith. If you’d asked me ten years ago if I’d have faith as a theme in my writing I would have laughed and said no.

However faith is more than just belief in a higher being(s) it’s belief if ourselves and those around us. It’s believing in humanity and hope. I’m sure, to some, it sounds overly optimistic or naïve.

In A Case of Synchronicity (one of the sequels to A Study in Aether), the main character (Elizabeth) starts doubting what she knew about her mother and what she knows about the world. She visits a church and speaks with the priest there about what is right and what religion means in a world saturated with magic. (Don’t worry the book also involves kissing, time travel, and scary vampires)

It’s a theme I’ve also been exploring a little with the Hal stories. (what is faith like in a galaxy where you know there’s a god living in the Sun?)

I’m always fascinated in characters that have faith without zealotry, spirituality without hate, or hope without fear.

I’m still not sure what I believe in the grand scheme of things (and I’m rambling little… sorry) maybe that’s why this sort of exploration and introspection appeals to me.

 

Do you think I’m being overly sentimental and naïve?

Éric

Back from Vacation

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Feels like it’s been a long time. Hope you enjoyed A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Funeral and are enjoying the Serial Story Only Human.

The family and I had a great time in Disney World, which has given me an interesting idea for a series of short stories. Travelling has always given me inspiration, last time I went to Disney I got a great idea for a supernatural fight in an airport that I added to A Memory of Faust, the second Elizabeth Investigates book.

A Study in Aether

Speaking of Elizabeth Investigates, I’ve finished my first pass through the multiple comments from a bunch of Beta-Readers for A Study in Aether. They were super helpful but a little discouraging. The book was written 5 years ago and over 400,000 words ago. (I know right? I’m almost halfway to mythical Million Word rule.) If you want to discourage someone who creates things, show them their first few tries. Ok so a bunch of people who I respect have told me it was good. It just needs a little polishing. Next phase is to fix the large structural issues and then to do a line by line clean-up. Final phase will be to do some re-writing of the prologue, epilogue, and a few clunky scenes. I’ll hopefully be done by Christmas. Sigh.

Conventions

Cap-Con

I’m feverishly roasting coffee for this weekend when we’ll be selling at Cap-Con, Ottawa’s premier model building competition and convention. Come check us out if you have a chance. I’ll have the following Flavours available in limited quantities.

Pop Expo

We’ve also added another event to our plans. We’ll be selling at Ottawa Pop Expo in November. YAY!

FADDS

We finished our summer long playtest and I’ve ironed out a lot of the kinks in the main system and created a kickass enemy system.

The magic items unbalance the game a little and the creation is overly arcane (pun intended).

I’m currently building a story for my next campaign and I’m considering using FADDS. I get more work done on it when I’m testing it.

 

How was your summer?

Éric

The Assassin Part 5

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

A sword pressed against her throat, “I’d like to say that I wouldn’t enjoy this but I’ve been looking forward to killing you.” Samantha, the woman who had trained and raised her, had a twisted smile on her face and Helena, no, Suzie, believed she’d enjoy it. “You know what your problem was? You were always too concerned with honour and what was right. That’s why we had to make sure you believed you were only killing evil. You never would have understood the cause.”

Suzie didn’t need to fight back tears; the heat of her anger evaporated them. “Do you know what your problem has always been?” She asked Samantha. “You’re slow.” In a practised single motion, she pulled her sword out of its scabbard and swung it against the other woman’s blade, pushing it away.

“I trained you. I know every move you have; do you really think you can beat me?” Samantha screeched.

Taking her sword into a right handed grip, Suzie lunged and bashed at the other woman’s sword. The wild tactic had the right effect; it panicked her teacher into attacking.

As the older woman attacked they locked swords and Samantha pushed down on her blade the two blades moving closer to Suzie’s face. With only her right hand on the grip of her blade she didn’t stand a chance and the blades would get close enough for Samantha to slide her blade across and cut her head off like a giant pair of scissors.

It didn’t come to that. Suzie knew she couldn’t best the other woman with sword skills alone. Her left hand shot out to the other woman’s chest. The energy she channeled out of the suit was enough to stop the other woman’s heart.

There was a smell of ozone and burnt skin as she stood over her mentor and made sure of the kill, just as she’d been trained. Her suit shut down. She’d used up all the suit’s power.

Movement caught her eye from one of the computer terminals. Hal was sitting there with a copying drive.

“What are you doing here?” she said confused.

“Have you ever had a key and couldn’t find the door it belonged to?”

For the second time that day she felt used, “You knew everything didn’t you?”

Lifting a hand and pointing at himself he said, “Prophet with psychic abilities. Of course I knew. Nice trick with the AI and navigation computer. Good thing I don’t need them. Oh and thanks for not killing me.”

“I haven’t made up my mind on that yet,” she snarled.

The sound of several people running towards the vault caught her attention.

“We’ll I’ve got all the information I need,” he shook the small drive, “Are you going to kill me or come with me?”

“What does it matter? We’re going to have to fight our way out of here one way or another.”

“I have another way out. Make your choice.”

She dropped her sword, the symbol of the Maidens and all their lies and walked over to him. He reached behind him and pulled out a sword. Its hilt had ornate depictions of a sun, and despite being the size of a longsword it was lighter than even her old blade. He handed it to her and she said, “What’s this?”

“A present. I’m more a talking or blaster kind of person so I don’t need it. It’s mine. I’m just re-appropriating it.” That’s when she recognized it as one of the many relics she’d passed on the way in. “Now take my hand, this is going to hurt.”

She took his hand as the guards rushed in. The next instant she felt like someone was slicing her insides to pieces and then blending them. Her vision blurred and suddenly she was on his ship.

Her body convulsed and she threw up everything that was still in her stomach and then some extra. Somehow he’d managed to put a bucket under her before she started.

“A matter transporter. Are you insane?”

“I know, they’re dangerous and illegal. I only use them when I know they’ll work. One of the perks of being a prophet.”

He was quiet then as he expertly manoeuvred the ship. Once they had jumped a few times she remembered the tracker, “You have a tracker on you.”

“Yeah I figured. I did a full body scan when I woke up. It’s on a ship that’s going to explore the outer regions of system.”

“Good,” was the only thing she could think of saying.

“We’re in orbit around The Adonis. I can dock and drop you off. If that’s what you want?” The silence that followed his statement was heavy with emotion.

Everything she thought she knew was wrong and she needed to think things through. Going to her apartment on the ship would be stupid. The Maidens were certainly going to hunt her down. She still wasn’t sure she could fully trust him.

“Is the job offer still on the table?” she asked.

He gave her that smile and a small part of her twinged in pleasure. Internally she cursed her body, this wasn’t the time. “Of course it is!”

“My only condition is that you never lie to me and I get full access to what you recovered from the archives.”

His brow furrowed, “I won’t lie but I will withhold some information if I think it’s important for a mission or your survival. And absolutely full access to it and my personal database.” She nodded and he seemed pleased. “Welcome aboard Suzie. Now there’s a woman that’s just developed a cure for old age. The Maidens have already sent two assassins to kill her. What do you say we go save her life?”

His enthusiasm brought a smile to her face. Strapping her new sword to her belt, she nodded and sat down in the co-pilot seat.

The Assassin Part 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

“Are you offering me a job?”

“I’d like to think of it as an adventure and a family and I have a few vacancies.”

“How can I trust you?”

“Oh you absolutely shouldn’t. Trust yourself. See that key on the desk,” he pointed at an antique looking key. The heads up display on her suit said it held an electronic signature.

“That’s a key to the Maiden’s vault. Rumoured to have the solar system’s greatest treasures and enough information to take down governments. It also has the only known supplies of Antichthon metal.”

“How did you? Never mind. You want us to break into the Maiden’s vault?”

“Give me a few minutes to freshen up and we’ll head out,” he started to push himself up. He was trying to act tough but she could see that he was weak, maybe even sick.

Sheathing her sword, she moved towards him and offered him her gloved hand. When he grasped it, she let enough electricity flow from her hand to shock him into unconsciousness.

“You’re cute but I need to do this on my own,” she said to his unconscious form.

Taking the key, she went to the bridge. The ship wasn’t large but had enough space for three to six people to live comfortably. At the bridge she disabled the AI and took out the ship’s auto navigating computer. He wouldn’t be able to move safely anywhere but the closest planet.  She hoped that by the time he woke up, she’d be done at the vault and back to kill him.

Heading back to her ship, she knew what she was doing was treason to the Maidens and if they found out they’d try to kill her. She smiled a toothy smile, they would try. This could be the challenge she’d been looking forward to.

It was traditional for her to return the ship to one of the satellite cover branches and be debriefed by the manager there. She wanted into that vault and knew the only way to do it was to visit the Antichthon base. The home of the Maidens.

The base was situated in the same orbit as Earth but it was always on the other side of the sun. This was the same location as the mythical planet Antichthon which gave its name to the Maidens and the special metal they used.

The base was shielded with the same technology that was in her suit and in her ship. It was nearly impossible to find unless you knew the secret sub-quantum frequency to contact the base with.

As she exited the ship, one of the heads of the Maidens was waiting for her, “You’re breaking protocol. You’d better have a good reason.”

“Hello to you too, and yes. The target had information that I thought would be important.”

“What kind of information?”

“Information that I will give in my official debriefing that isn’t in a public airlock,” Helena growled.

The woman blanched and said, “Of course. Come with me.”

As they got deeper into the compound she knew she’d only have one chance and grabbed her escort in a headlock. It took four seconds for the woman to fall unconscious onto the ground. By the time her body hit the carpeted hallway floor Helena had her helmet on and gone into stealth mode.

There were five separate locked doors before she reached the vaults. The key opened each one for her until she stood in a room that looked like a cavern. The walls looked like rough-hewn stone. Her suit told her it wasn’t, but that it was Antichthon. “It’s real,” she thought. This must have been the last remnants of the planet. It wasn’t a myth as everyone had told her.

Inside the stone in the center of the room was an impressive door. Her suit read out the security on the door and it blocked her view. She dismissed the information and put the key in the hole. She turned the key and the door opened.

She was not prepared for what was inside. It was less like an archive and more like a museum. Weapons and artifacts from history and some that had fallen out of history. What she was most interested was the non-networked computer terminal. She needed the key again to activate it, but once she was inside she had full access.

The first thing she looked into was her current job. It had the same file she’d received and a secondary one that had more information. The Sun Speaker had healed two children on the Venusian ship and the explosion hadn’t killed anyone, only wounded another.

The file clearly stated that he then took the Martian heir from the Venusians, just as he’d said. She looked into his file and he’d been categorised as a dangerous element. “Uncontrollable and obsessed with doing the right thing” Those didn’t sound like dangerous qualities to her.

From the moment she read the original mission, she’d assumed the Venusians were the clients. Looking now it said the client was the Church of Sol. The next thing she read made her gasp and she could have sworn she heard her world view shatter.

The file on the Church of Sol stated that the Maidens were the assassination arm of the church. She wasn’t raised and working for a group of assassins that killed for the greater good. She worked as part of a shadow group run by the church.

She heard footsteps and knew she’d been discovered, but she couldn’t stop looking at the files. She looked at her own file. The first part read, “Parents killed during operation Clean Slate.” The operation had meant to clear the Martian parliament of supporters to the crown. Her parents were collateral damage.

“I wish you wouldn’t have done this,” sighed Samantha next to her.

The last thing she read on the screen before turning to her mentor was, “Agent’s skills are dulled by compassion and honour. Not recommended for essential operations.”

Read Conclusion