Federi and the crew have been quiet - real quiet. He doesn't even want to tell me about his young days in Southern Free right now - possibly he's giving me space to get everything else done first. I'm going to post "Fanta Claus" on Smashwords; see if I can't get the visibility cranked up a little. I need to complete "A Friday Fairytale", but there is an aspect missing. I must also complete "Shooting Star" and get it ready for publication; but not before we've published "The Pourne Identity" by Douglas Pearce, on Honeymead Books. Honeymead is an ebooks only site. The book has a new cover by now and is being revised, but that process has been taking a backseat to everything else happening. It has not been an easy year.
So the most recent of the Solar Wind series is still "Nix Romipen". Here is a taster for the "Shooting Star":
The Shooting Star
((C) Copyright: Lyz Russo, 2016)
“ … for we’re pirates, pirates,
Freedom is our highest law
Shackle us, chain us, you can’t hold us
We’ll see you again on the ocean floor.”
(Excerpt, Pirate Shanty, probably from the late 2050’s)
“Earth can’t emerge!” Sarcasm dripped from the voice of the Great Vaughn. “They are idiots! And they’ve proved it! The first thing they did was eradicate two emerged species.”
“The Council has indeed declared them emerged, o Great Vaughn,” replied Aris. “And the Rapacins are eradicated, but the Moozils are merely genetically altered. They are not predatory any longer.”
The leader stared hard at his messenger, a hand covering his thin-lipped mouth as he considered. At two metres twenty, the tall, slender humanoid with a slightly dusky tinge to his deathly pale skin stood a good head taller than his underling. His eyes moved from his messenger out over the vast expanse of darkness. Vaughhi eyesight extended from the infrared side of the spectrum right into microwaves; because on the planets they had evolved, many things hunted at night, but there was no light as there were no moons.
The Great Vaughn could determine the distaste for the situation in his subject. Aris didn’t care for Earth’s emergence any more than he did. An emergence, he thought, or an emergency? Oh dear!
“Well,” he decided with an icy smile, “if they are emerged, let’s put them to the test!”
An eternity away, in a distant galaxy, nearly another universe, one much closer to Earth than the Vaughhi worlds of Valleylon, the same happy news reached the ears of the Emperor of the Threxes.
Threxes had no sense of humour. But they tried, every now and then. It had to be that the original Earth juice was still flowing somewhere in their veins, albeit very diluted. Most jokes ended with missing limbs.
“What?” The Emperor laughed. “Earth, emerged? Surely you’re joking.”
“I wouldn’t dare,” said Jocande, who was small for a Threx. “According to Corvick the Green, Earth is emerged. And there’s an Earth human on the Council.”
“No,” said the Emperor disbelievingly, swishing his spiked tail. “On the Intergalactic Council?” But if Corvick the dragon, who was a Council member, said so, it had to be true.
“Yes, Sire or Equivalent. And another position on the Council was offered to a second human.”
“Which that human turned down.”
The disrespect those puny creatures were showing! Malinor’s tail was switching from side to side. A huge wave of rage was boiling in him. Jocande slowly started backing away. Attempted humour wasn’t the only misdemeanour that resulted in missing limbs, or even death.
“With your permission, o Highest One,” he said, bowing low, all the while keeping a slit pupil trained on his monarch.
Malinor drained his goblet of life essences. He threw it against the wall, where the solid, heavy metal goblet chipped another bit out of the rock. The life essences, distilled from the heart-blood of fifty fliers, left dark-red splatters on the rock.
“Two Earth humans on the Council – and not one of us!” He smiled angrily. Jocande shuddered, viewing his ruler’s vicious teeth.
“Jocande,” ordered Malinor. “Go back to the Council Meet and find out as much about these creatures as you can! They don’t even have fangs, by the Fires! How can they hope to stand their own? How can the Council keep them emerged? How can they protect themselves?”
“Yes, o Emperor,” said Jocande hastily and made his getaway.
Solar Wind Log, 19 May 2117
Astounding Peace and Quiet! All projects are running smoothly. The Unicate didn’t retaliate against us for Federi blowing their mound apart. Lim is well-behaved – he grew to adult size within two weeks, but without his mound directing his thinking he is very impressionable. Michelle is looking after him.
Calypso Base is flourishing. Shawn and the gypsies are helping Michelle turn it into a thing of beauty. They are gaining land by the week. Lim is working hard, and seems to be enjoying it. I suspect he was supposed to be a worker in the Mound. It’s his programming.
Mindy Adamson and Keenan Quinlan are under the supervision of Itzak, up at the Space Base. They are helping with the construction of the new sectors there. That place, too, is looking good. Old friend Radomir, you did well! The Seafloor Base is growing; so is Island Base. And surprisingly, Las Village. They should have named it after Paean! I had no part in that one!
Ronan and Rushka have built a new co-house for themselves, the Schatz family, and Dana and Johnny, on Tortuga in the Caribbean. They seem happy. Rushka certainly never complains. The men appear to do all the kitchen duty; she reports that whenever they try to get the women to cook, she prepares them a goulash. This ensures that the men volunteer to take the duty back. I don’t understand the logic; Rushka’s goulash is very good, it’s the one dish she can actually cook!
The Tzigan and his wild bird aren’t aboard; they’re on an extended honeymoon, right after I thought they were back! But I’m beginning to wonder if the constant unrest has to do with the man’s bad history following him about like a mongrel dog… Ha! Here my thinking is going Cigany-way! Rampant superstition!
Federi invited me to a drink last week, teleported in and fetched me. He has built a casino on water on that crater the IRP made of his land. This explains why he and Paean needed such a lot of time off. I tested some of his machines, and it doesn’t seem as though they are weighted. But perhaps it’s only my beginner’s luck. His smile got a bit sour after a while.
The Intergalactic Council invited me to sit in as representative for Planet Earth. They offered this position to Federi first, as Prince of Earth (originally Falco’s joke, but our Tzigan is now perpetuating it) and he actually turned them down! The man is unbelievable. To be offered such a position of political power… in any case, I’m happy to take it in his stead. They meet once in a while; there’s a meeting scheduled for tonight. Not too serious a schedule if I compare it with my own plans for meeting with all my bases, the Admiral, the various leaders of the various countries and international associations, and so on. Endless red tape! Nevertheless Dana advises me that these initial meetings are extremely important, to learn the ropes. Once I’m ready, she tells me, I can then take over all the ropes and ignore any further meetings. Sounds good to me.
Things, in summary, are going so smoothly that I wonder at times what all the fuss was about in the past!
R Lascek (Pirate Captain and Commander of Earth)
1: Back aboard
“She’s actually floating! I can’t believe it!”
Paean’s cynical little remark was ringing in Federi’s ears as he took his position in the galley, stretching all his limbs so they crackled. Stretching the sunshine of a six-month holiday out of them. Activating nerves that had been so laid-back they had nearly gone to sleep. His fingers tingled.
At least he had Paean with him. And as long as the young Irish musician was by his side and loving him the way she did, he was never really back from his honeymoon. His mind still basked in the many dreamy hours they’d had together.
Back to work. Ha! Such a lot had happened, it was like a step backwards, retaking what he’d always been doing. Stuffing good food into crew on the Solar Wind. His mind twisted and bent, trying to get back into the old frame – and found to its surprise that it couldn’t. It had outgrown the role. But the job description was simple enough; his hands organized his workspace for him while he decided to ignore his mind and allow it as long as it needed to reunite with the menial tasks his body was carrying out.
Cooking; cleaning; quartermastering, stocking up the ship, going through the supplies and organizing them, fixing anything that was broken aboard, directing the croaches – the little cyborgs on six legs that Paean and Wolf had created from roaches so that there would always be enough ‘hands’ to do the dirty work. And of course, his round... pacing through the whole ship, checking that everything was in order and nobody was adding poison to the drinking water. He’d be doing that again, right after getting lunch on the go.
Paean was right. The old ship was in fact in the water; currently in the southern Pacific, at the height of the Tokelau island group. Paean had wondered why Captain still bothered to plot routes and lay courses; why he didn’t just move the ship to destination by her Perdita drives. Every so often the Solar Wind would hop across to Calypso to check on things. They’d had that experience when they wanted to check in on the Solar Wind during their honeymoon.
Federi had spent some time with his young wife on a commandeered yacht. Paean had realized at that point that yachting just for two people was a lot of really hard work. Federi chuckled softly as he remembered how she had thrown herself into it with full enthusiasm at first, but had slacked off after two weeks. He hadn’t hauled her over the coals too much for it. She was his whole treasure. He thought back dreamily to all the things they’d done, all the places they had seen, all the new experiences. It had been wonderful.
So why were they back?
Because Paean missed her brothers. And because the Solar Wind was their family. Tzigany cut off from their family were – fragments. Sad drifters. In danger of becoming outlaws. Ha!
The world was still infested with Unicate. Falco’s curse was still not resolved, because once Federi had established that the Mound was actually aware but that the Unicate Others were genetically hundred percent human, he’d lost his grip on how to tackle the whole problem. There must be countless mounds – how to find them all? And he’d survived pioneering into the depths of one and destroying it from within; but this didn’t mean that he’d survive it as often as he needed to! Another approach had to be found; but his mind had stopped there and decided that a holiday was in order.
But the threat was not the same any longer. It was now easy to teleport out for a while and forget about all that. They even had Calypso to plant and terraform. He almost understood Dana who had simply moved away and established her civilization on a faraway planet called New Dome.
Not on his left foot though! Earth was his planet. He had a birth right. His children, too, would have a birth right. How was this, allowing some aliens (because despite the human genetic code of the Unicate Others, still he could think of them as nothing else) to take over his home planet and allow them to drive away the native inhabitants? The days of the Unicate were numbered; large numbers, he supposed, but still.
And furthermore there was no way – no way! – he was going to sit on that hypocritical Intergalactic Council. Captain didn’t get it! The Council had tricked Falco into selling out the Earth.
He peered at that pile of unpeeled potatoes that sat on the Ironwood table ogling him. No Rhine Gold aboard to take over peeling; no Johnny Anyhow either. Shawn was aboard; but he was catching up with Paean, in the Crow’s Nest. His little girlfriend Nica, who was fire dancer Juanita’s little sister, was up there too. Federi wasn’t going to disrupt the Donegal sibs’ reunion with a potato peelery.
Oh well. Pasta was a perfectly good substitute for potatoes. They said it was healthy, especially if you were Mediterranean. Healthy for the cook, thought Federi as he put a pot of pasta on his gas cooker, because it cooked in minutes. Much less effort.
His gaze wandered out of the porthole into the Great Blue, and he remembered. Why he was here. What the Solar Wind meant to him. How he was an eternal slave to Earth’s oceans. Amazing how one could travel space and realize how small and fragile the Earth’s ecosystem was – and how un-unique… and still feel as though the galley of the Solar Wind, The Ocean, The Earth, was the centre of the Universe. Perceive the here and now as “The World”.
He’d done a round of the Solar Wind, first thing on returning; but he’d been so inconspicuous and habitual that it hadn’t elicited more than a couple of casual greetings from people who hadn’t realized that he’d been away. Anyway he had visited the Solar Wind for a round so darned often during his honeymoon… there was no way he could get out of the habit of worrying about the crew! Too many things had happened. Besides by now he was convinced that there was a morphic echo of himself running around the ship checking on everyone.
Vlad the Morrigan flowed into the galley.
“Ah! You’re back aboard!”
Federi nodded at him. “And yourself? Immortal as usual? Recovered fully?” The shape-shifting alien had had a near-lethal collision with some of the Intergalactic Council’s greatest crooks.
“Perfectly. So is Virian. And Jitanali is settled into Shrn. Suits me, she can keep a little eye on the planet. She likes it there.”
“Good! Hope they like her there too.”
“That’s an interesting point,” said Vlad. “The Were Folk were never asked.”
“They’re a bunch of cowards,” said Federi through his teeth and carved away at a potato. “They deserve a great predator for a Keeper.”
“Technically she’s not the Keeper of Shrn, I am,” Vlad pointed out.
“I know, I know.” Federi shoved a potato in the alien’s direction. “Care to peel, Vlad?”
“I don’t do potatoes,” said the Morrigan of Shrn haughtily.
Federi eyed the head that had emerged from the potato. The Romanian delegate. IRM guy who had viciously opposed all the Tzigany laws – or rather, freedoms – Captain had instated. Federi chopped him up into little pieces and added him to the stew. And remembered that he had meant to make pasta instead. He chuckled and shook his head. His hands were on autopilot.
“You’re dangerous,” commented Vlad with a grin.
“Uh,” said Federi. “Where’s Captain?”
“Off to a meeting with the Council.”
“I come back aboard and resume my duties,” grumbled the Tzigan, “and he’s not even here to see it?” He smiled. “Who’s on the bridge?” Jon Marsden was at Calypso Base. Old Sherman Dougherty was up at the Space Base, keeping Mrs Flanagan company as she held school with the gypsy children. Perdita – well, she was in the habit of accompanying Captain. So the chances were about even…
“My word!” grinned Federi. “This happens a lot?”
“Count the crew,” advised Vlad.
The Solar Wind jarred. Federi stared at Vlad, electrified.
“That was an impact!”
The Solar Wind sounded alarm: There was a leak in the machine room. Paean came bolting down the passage. “Federi, what’s happening? There’s this ship outside…”
“Why did nobody say anything?” thundered the Romany. “Like, ship ahoy or something stupid like that?”
“We didn’t see her, Federi. She was just suddenly there.”
“Right!” He stormed up to the bridge, Paean right behind him. “Virian! Move over!”
The younger Morrigan was panicking. Federi leaned over her and punched a sequence into the console.
The raider captain’s eyes flew wide open.
“What are they doing?!” The quarry was lifting clean out of the water. She headed their way.
The small raider craft cut a sharp U in the water and fled. The Solar Wind, however, caught up, no matter how they turned. She positioned herself right overhead. All they could see was the white hull. With portholes in it. Portholes! In the bilges? What on Earth for?
They had not been fully informed. He hissed softly through his sharp white teeth. When he got back ashore and got hold of that man who had sent them into this trap…
He stared at the white Zephyr, hovering above them. Surreal! And effortless, keeping such perfect pace that both ships appeared to be motionless against the moving backdrop of the sea. He’d believe that his engines had failed if it weren’t for the bow wave.
Hunting and rip-fishing in these waters had been good business. They didn’t only trade their catch with money but with favours. But this, bounty-hunting… the fact that it was considered dangerous, had sold him on the idea. He loved danger. But this exceeded what he knew about ships, and what he’d been told about the Solar Wind!
Vlad flowed onto the Solar Wind’s bridge.
“Fine defence tactics,” he commented. “Dripping on them.”
Federi smiled grimly. Outside the sun set magnificently. Nica, out on the deck, raised her clear eyes and stared at him, frightened. Gypsy girl, he thought. Amongst the pirates. Poor kid. He moved out onto the command deck and gestured to her to get below the deck. Shawn, in the rigging, threw him a thumbs-up with a grin.
Aw hell, didn’t the boy get it? The Solar Wind was under attack! Just because they could get away in the blink of an eye…
The ship had just suddenly been there?
Paean had gone through too much training and sharp situations to miss the presence of an entire ship! Federi commanded the Solar Wind to move aside a little and gazed down at the ship. A Unicate Pursuer. He frowned as he peered at it. An abused pursuer. That poor hull had been through the mill. In the wrong hands, anna bottle! But she was still a beauty; speed was written all over her grey compounding hull.
Well, that grey could be coated with another colour of reinforced compounding. Navy blue, thought Federi with a smile.
“It’s your karma, Federi,” commented Vlad behind him. “No sooner are you aboard, and they attack us!”
“Right!” Federi laughed. This was a superstition that had long hounded him; at times he wondered if there were some truth to it. He turned to Paean. “Little luv, brief Nica. She’s a pirate now, like it or lump it. And take charge of Shawn. And take the bridge, understood? Federi’s got some business.”
“Be careful,” she pleaded, moving towards the console. “Take backup. Pick me!”
He kissed the tip of her freckly nose. Vlad looked away, turning green. Virian gawped, her lilac eyes popping out of her head for a moment. Federi ignored both Morrigan.
“Backup is good, little luv. But I need you on the bridge, in charge of the Solar Wind.”
“Whoa, Federi,” Vlad cut in.
“She’s more qualified than your little girl,” retorted Federi before the Morrigan could finish his thought. “Virian! Come. Need backup!”
Paean’s blue twin blinked, her eyes once again doing the stalk-eye trick. “Me?”
“Don’t worry, girl, I’ll brief you!” said Federi. “Paean, is Wolf aboard? And Ailyss?”
“Exactly,” argued Paean. “If you don’t want me along, at least take Ailyss! She’s your second-best backup.”
“Need a Morrigan for this,” said Federi. Vlad’s mouth opened and closed. “Keep him in line,” commanded Federi, pointing at the Morrigan. “Come, Virian!” He led the way down to the deck.
“I don’t like it,” growled Paean.
“Neither do I,” agreed Vlad with a Dracula smile. “She has no experience with humans! They might shoot at her!”
“She looks like me,” grumbled Paean. “In principle. But prettier. Her colours are better.”
“What?” Vlad was floored. “Paean, I’ve been studying humans a long time now, and they don’t generally go for aliens!”
“What?” Paean laughed cynically. “How long have you been on the Solar Wind’s crew? And turquoise is his favourite colour!”
Federi moved down the rungs, followed by Virian.
“Why aren’t we actually teleporting?”
“Sick of teleporting,” said the Tzigan. “No art to it.”
“You actually enjoy this kind of thing?”
“Live for it,” grinned Federi. He was on the lowest rungs now, just where the waterline would usually be. He tied his new neosilk rope to the rungs. “Virian, you look too cute. Not good enough. Try a bit more vicious.”
“What do humans associate with vicious?” asked Virian, her lilac eyes stretching enormously in innocence.
“Come on,” laughed Federi. “You’re a predator! You can do it!”
“I don’t like intimidating my food,” said Virian.
“Okay. Let’s try this. What scared you most about Anthrim?”
“I get it,” said Virian and grew a mouth full of really vicious teeth.
“Better,” said Federi. “One more thing. Come here.” He pulled a red cloth out of his pocket and waited for her to bring her head of turquoise hair closer, hooked his elbow around the rung and tied the cloth around her head gypsy-style. “You’re a pirate now, see. Got to dress the part.”
“Thank you, Federi,” said Virian, touched.
“And now we go.” He uncoiled the rope and let it drop down to the Pursuer.
“They’re pointing guns at us!” objected Virian.
“More fun,” said Federi as he slid down the rope.
“But Federi, Paean said –“
A round zinged past Federi’s ear.
“Don’t let them shoot you,” he yelled at Virian and let go of the rope, jumping down the last two meters onto the raider’s deck.
“Federi, shouldn’t we-“
“Backchat all the way,” commented Federi, staring into a ring of machinegun mouths. Behind him Virian dropped down to the deck too. “So! Bon jorno! Who’s the Captain on this fine vessel?” He glanced about the Pursuer. Only one hitch. She had no sails. Federi liked sails. Especially after pulling that one on Anya Miller there before Hamilton. Well, retractable solar sails could be installed, he was sure of it.
One of the scurvy sailors moved forward. These weren’t Unicate in any way. Not Unicate Others; not human Unicate military either. They were wearing dirty tatters that looked as though they got their wash in the sea, on occasion. There was no specific pattern to their dress code. And their captain – he didn’t even wear a cap! What was the point in “captain” – the Tain wearing the Cap – if there was no cap? Captain Radomir went without one at times, but mostly he wore his smart ex-Unicate military looted cap with the beautiful Skull-and-Crossbones emblem. Well, that had been replaced before the Peace Talks with an image of Planet Earth.
“You’re the Captain?” asked Federi, incredulous. “Do you even speak – er – a language?”
“Glenn Wilson,” hissed the hulk. “Captain Wilson Glenn!”
“So what comes first, the Wilson or the Glenn?” asked Federi with a quirky lift of his eyebrows. Cor!
“The Captain,” snapped the big man. Federi sized him up. About Wolf-sized. Age maybe an early thirty. Blond – oh hey, never! – mousy brown filthy hair hanging in tangles that reminded Federi of seaweed. The sun finished setting, taking the blond out of the mousy brown. The rest of the crew, five of them, stood shuffling on feet that were bare but looked as though they saw more water than deck. These were basic fishermen! The left corner of his mouth lifted.
“So what are you fisher folk doing on a bounty hunt?” he probed.
“You are Radomir Lascek?” asked the fisher captain.
Federi laughed. A vivid image of him captaining the Solar Wind into Hamilton Harbour, into a nest of Unicate Stabilizers, flashed past his mind. No, he didn’t want to be Captain Lascek, not ever...
“You’re not Lascek,” snapped Glenn Wilson.
“No,” agreed Federi, “but I have a message from him.” He fished for S.I. Lucy in his shirt pocket. The faithful little Special Issue croach had accompanied him and Paean all the way on their honeymoon, running little errands and sorting minor glitches, and occasionally bringing some helpers to clean the yacht or the Tzigany World Casino. He handed her to Wilson, winking at her.
She bit the bounty hunter.
“Shoot them!” barked Glenn Wilson.
It took the fishermen a second or so to comply. They’d never make good pirates, thought Federi as he rolled and teleported. Virian flowed out under the sailors’ feet as they tried to shoot after her.
To the bilges, he ordered her telepathically. Disable every device you can spot.
Yes, sir, she replied.
Did they get you? asked Federi.
No, sir. Did they shoot you?
I move too fast, replied Federi. He took his surrounds in. He was belowdecks, in the passageway on the only crew deck. The Pursuer only had one. He dug in his pockets. He still had a few of those exploding balls of Paean-virus. In the meantime Wolf had made more; he was sure of it. He moved up to the slightly elevated bridge from inside, and back onto the deck, and flung the ball into the confused heap of sailors that were milling about trying to figure out where he and Virian had gone.
The fishermen swooned to the deck. S.I. Lucy teleported back onto his hand.
He walked up to the unconscious Glenn Wilson and hauled him up by the scruff of his neck. The guy was heavy. There was no hauling him. Federi enclosed him into his teleporter field and teleported with him to the bridge of the Solar Wind.
Virian, bring the rest of them!
“What’s this?” asked Paean.
“A present for Captain,” said Federi. “For when he’s back.”
“I think, it must go in the boardroom,” said his wife with a smile.
“And by the way, little luv,” he informed her, “turquoise used to be my favourite colour. It’s my second favourite now. And only when you wear it!”
She smiled. She’d forgotten that the man was a blasted mind reader. And he could hear her thoughts as loudly as though she were speaking them.
“So what colour is your favourite now?” she probed.
“You are.” His eyes wandered compulsively back to that Pursuer on the console screen. “Dark blue,” he added pensively. Virian teleported in on the deck with five unconscious hostages; he didn’t even see. Paean watched him in bewilderment as his gaze stuck on that ship.
“I’m in love,” murmured the gypsy.