Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chapter 6 from the 1st book as I'm writing the sequel

As I'm writing the sequel to my science fiction space opera The Freelancer Chronicles Volume 1: Apex Predators...

I've taken time out to make a Serenity/Firefly Themed Bejewelled style game downloadable at Anarchos Games.

I have more games on the way as a cross promotional thing.

I've also made rough drafts for promotional youtube videos.

Sorry, I've been less active on twitter.

Act 2: The sky ripped in half, and oblivion poured forth.

"Secrets which span solar systems from days, wars and races gone by are sometimes best left to die."
- A maxim of the Arglois people.

The old storyteller stirred the oatmeal cooking above the morning camp fire. His young students continued gathering around him as he filled each of their bowls for breakfast.

When they were all comfortably settled down and were eating, he picked up his story from before.

“And so the prince carried this wisdom with him and he eventually became a king and he married a beautiful woman who he was in love with since he first laid eyes on her, when they were both young. She brought him nothing but pure joy and happiness. But the story does not end there, because sometimes kings gain enemies by simply being a king, and there will always be others jealous of the power and the wealth of kings.

Such a jealous person was the king’s own younger brother, who openly challenged the king. A few years later and this brother, however, soothed over his past transgressions with well-practiced words and apologies. He even offered to have the king over to his own home for lunch.

The king was going to go walk along the river’s edge again to see what he could learn from nature, and if he had he would have come across a different tortoise talking with a different scorpion. Instead, the king accepted the lunch invitation from his younger and power hungry brother. The king did not forget his earlier encounter with a tortoise and a scorpion, that lesson has served him well throughout the years, and enabled him to overcome many of his enemies. The king would not be stung by his brother’s poisonous treachery.

Right before lunch, as they were sitting down in the front room, the king’s brother began the conversation. ‘My king, my brother, I hope you will find this lunch a pleasant surprise to your taste buds. Plus, I have an even bigger surprise for you after we eat.’

‘If by surprise, you mean the poison you purchased in the market yesterday, then don’t bother, because my agents saw you.’

‘Brother, the poison is for the weeds in my garden.’

‘Do not bother lying, your hired cook covers her face to stop the poison fumes, and the royal assassin has already snuck into the back of your house and has killed her. So I will not be eating any poison today. My guards wait outside to arrest you.

‘Oh, brother I’m sorry.’ He cast his eyes upon the floor.

Here is where I’ll stop this story for a moment because at that very moment, a different story was unfolding at the river’s edge.

Chapter 6: Open wars.

If they are to fight, they are too few; If they are to die, they are too many.
- Chief Henry, Mohawk Indian, 1755 A.D.

Conlan Archeological Digs,
Planet Okpara
313 A.E.E. (After Earth’s End)

Riana needed more funds for her army. She almost snorted at the idea of her having an army. Twenty two Delezerian wannabes including herself and Markus, wasn’t a true army yet, but it was a start. It’s been a long six months. The money that Laira was funding her through Mack and Anders wasn’t enough. It took money to keep these families in food; growing food on Okpara was a tough job, tougher than anything Riana’s ever tried. Markus and his cousin Malik were competent enough to continue the training of her “army”. She had to strike out on her own and Freelance her talents for killing in the now exploding criminal wars across the systems. She also needed extra cash to help track down Si-letah who was in possession of Joachim’s mind. All of the reports she read from the Delezerians showed her that Joachim was already a casualty. So her thoughts weren’t on rescue but on vengeance.

She had hurdles to over come on that path. Si-letah was one of the noble bloodlines of the Greys, which meant he might be able to crush whole starships with just the power of telekinesis, which he had by all listed accounts. She had a hope, though, according to Shiva’s notes, a Grey who possessed a Human was limited by that Human’s strength. That was great news, but the Grey given enough time could rebuild that mind and make it strong enough to still be a nightmare to deal with.

Joachim apparently went to the corporations which fund The Consortium. He brought along a half dozen brilliant ideas and then he grabbed billions in investors’ money and dissappeared off the map. Paul like wise went with him.

The Azurian Corporation took the biggest hit financially and personnel wise. Joachim slaughtered all the representatives they sent to him with contracts.

Due to creditors and bounty hunters coming after him, Laira dared not surface into the public’s eye and compete in some legitimate fighting tournaments. They would take not just the prize money but everything she owned. The corporations would hold her responsible for her brother.

Riana’s pain tolerance had grown over those past six months and so has her combat prowess, in every training simulation she could run she tied with or barely didn’t make the high score. Most of those high scores were set by the legendary commando and leader, Shiva Hull’ak, herself. Riana took the high score in one category and one category only, measured pain tolerance. She was as ready as she’d ever be.

So was her ship. It was a Delezerian personal attack cruiser. As PAC’s go it wasn’t the fastest, most armored, or most armed, it didn’t have the most cargo space either, but if you had a requirement for all these things, this PAC would make the top of that list. As an added bonus, her ship was completely invisible to modern day detection equipment. Other ships which sported old Delezerian metals on their hull were only harder to detect. Her ship was impossible to detect. Because of that she named her ship “Whisper”. She appreciated the fact that it was stylish looking and completely bad ass enough that Markus couldn’t wait until she got one ready for him.

Mack and Anders got her a lead on a few jobs to go make some more cash. Can’t have a war without fundage, can’t even feed my people without funds.

In order to properly fit inside her helmet, she had her long tresses cut down to slightly below shoulder length, it was still a bit odd not having long hair, but she’d get used to it.

She made one last adjustment on her armor; she hooked up an external keyboard and added a few pieces of unnecessary but functional looking equipment. Delezerian commando armor isn’t supposed to just work anymore without extra stuff. She didn’t want to tip her hand, so to speak, and she was going to play things out with her cards held tight to her chest as Dodson was fond of saying.

Her other mods included adding a kick ass internal sound system so that she could run music tracks on continuous loops if she wanted, and adjusting the light spectrum and power ouput on her blasters, electric cobalt blue kind of stood out. This weakened them, but they could be put back to their regular state of being at a moments notice.

She was confident that she would have to tweak a dozen things which she didn’t think of before she could get vengeance for her family. Thoughts of her family as ruined chunks of meat turned to thoughts of her sister, which stopped the trauma and resulting madness from pouring in. Poor Laira, she was still an emotional mess.

* * * * *

Redemption Space Station,
Borderland systems
313 A.E.E. (After Earth’s End)

Poor Laira, she was still an emotional mess. Zongxiàn sighed with that thought; it felt like a moment of synchronicity to him, as if elsewhere in the cosmos, someone else had the same thought at that exact same moment. Laira, despite her emotions, was a great student. Zongxiàn knew she had yet to master a single technique, but she’s only been actively practicing his advanced methods for two months. Still, she was further along than even he was when he fist tried this training.

Laira practiced the candle punch technique; most who practiced it could only extinguish the candle’s flame by positioning themselves so that their fist naturally stopped within a few inches of the flame. Laira’s focus, speed and force enabled her to do it by stepping back and stopping her fist at full extension about a foot and a half from the burning wick. Almost every single time, the flames went out. Thirty six lit candles to start and at the end of her kata, only two were lit. She would pause, relight all the candles which she put out with the force and speed of her punches, then start over again from the beginning. It was only six in the evening; Laira would stop her practice at ten.

They practiced their arts behind Zongxiàn’s soup kitchen, most people knew him as Lou around here. Some even had the nerve to call him “Kung Fu Lou”. That name always made him smile. Zongxiàn was an old man, though he didn’t look it. He practiced many martial art forms which he believed added to his longevity. He had the shaved head of a monk, the long eyebrows of a Black Belt Theater ancient master. Yet he had the body of a thirty year old athlete, but with more grace, speed, power and flexibility. Laira was seeking comfort in him in all the ways he was prepared for, except one, she found him attractive. Her latest comment was about his dimples. This made Zongxiàn a bit uncomfortable, she was pretty, but she was still mostly a child and was therefore entitled to grow up before making any decisions in that manner. Zongxiàn’s answer to her flirtation was to give her more lessons. He wasn’t sure if having his training fatigue her to the point where she did not have any extra energy to try anything was an answer, but for now it was his only answer. He could not kick her out of his school for these things, because this was his failure in his own eyes, not hers, and his honor would not punish her for his own shortcomings.

Laira already figured out some of Zongxiàn’s history. Zongxiàn was a member of an ancient group of Shaolin which called themselves, the Death Lotus. They were legendary and they fought for the people, but only when no one else would. There were signs up in Kung Fu Lou’s place if you paid attention. He had old fashioned photographs on his walls and other memorabilia which placed him at a few events in history where rumors reported that the Death Lotus had blossomed. That combined with the fact that the martial arts which he taught were all Shaolin forms made the connection in Laira’s mind.

One picture in particular caught her eye. It showed Zongxiàn and someone else with wavy black hair and dusky red skin. That guy had a half smile, half snarl on his face and a twinkle to his eyes. He was back to back with her master and the picture managed to catch some fast blurry motions coming their way. Those motions resembled bullets.

Laira figured out his past through these pictures and his own words. He was a man of violence, but now he preferred peace, and hoped he was closer to tranquility. He came here in obscurity, hoping to retire in peace and happiness. He fed the poor and gave them blankets and medicine because he was a good person. Good people were hard to find.

Laira also figured out his buttons. If she was older, she would definitely try to go out with him, but for now practicing her womanly charms served a dual purpose. One was to get better at them, and the other reason was Zongxiàn accelerated her training because he was nervous and thought that was the proper way to handle her. He was too good of a person to try to take advantage of her in any sexual or romantic way.

Laira needed the accelerated training, she was going to go investigate those clone rumors soon, and she was going to tell no one about her early departure, especially not Dealer. She wasn’t sure she could trust her droid anymore.

Zongxiàn’s mental powers were actually mostly internal energies, what the ancient Chinese called Chi, and a few psionic tricks, he was legitimate. Laira was on her way to mastering those techniques. Laira had all the practice techniques which would lead her to eventually perform those tricks, to branch herself out into the realms of the Greys and the few Humans who could master the discipline. Laira was going to rip Si-letah out of Joachim and get her brother back.

She noticed Dealer poke his head in. She knew he became untrustworthy out of fear. He didn’t want to die. When the other two personalities were merged, the original factory settings wiped them both out to a blank slate of memories and pre-programmed quaintness. The information from both were still there, so Dealer pulled on them both, but his electronic neural web was unstable. She knew how to fix it, but she wasn’t sure she should, it might wipe his intellect out, or it might make him whole. She didn’t like either result. She couldn’t trust him. He knew panic now, and maybe he knew hatred for Laira as well. He seemed odd. That settled it; Laira would have to leave tonight. She wasn’t sure what Dealer was up to, and she remembered all too well being sold out to Anders, and she remembered the assassin who somehow got by Dealer the other night at Sophie’s bar. She would leave tonight.

Dealer had it all worked out, the mob was already set to come in and murder Zongxiàn and kidnap Laira tonight. Dealer would make a fat profit for providing the mob their next “big thing” in the underground tournaments, and he would also earn a visit from the lead developer of Secure-Cyde robotics. That developer would be able to fix him, so that he wouldn’t have to die. His neural bleeding of electrons could be repaired, triage could be applied. Surgery of an electronic sort, perhaps? The hope for Dealer’s future depended upon this. The girl had no right, no right at all to give him life, just to stand helplessly by and watch it drain away. Dealer thought she was a genius, but no, her IQ tests were the lowest of the Conlans, which put her at a sub-genius level for her family. He knew she was bright and a genius amongst normal people; he looked up her official records, but she had no business playing in the realms of super geniuses.

Jay Ray slipped into the shadows inside Lou’s Soup Kitchen, it was shortly after midnight. The previous assassin which was here was local talent, which made her no good. Jay Ray wasn’t just good, he was the best. He would measure up the student first, and knock her unconscious before heading towards his killing of the master. It took him fifteen minutes to cross the compound and slide into the room. The room was empty. The drawers were packed. Jay Ray’s men did not notice the girl leave. He would have to commit acts of violence against them, while lecturing the ones he let live.

He slipped into the hallway and made his way towards the master’s room. Zongxiàn was there to greet him, and the old man tucked two fingers against the side of Jay Ray’s neck and threw him out into the open courtyard. Jay Ray never saw someone move so fast.

The space station’s artificial light illuminated the Zen garden off to the left, the wooden bridge and small pond to the right and the various racks of martial weapons which surrounded the combatants.

Zongxiàn leaped outwards and landed with barely a sound, yet his orange Shaolin robes now started to make swooshing noises as he advanced in a quick semi-crouch, effectively keeping Jay Ray guessing about Zongxiàn’s footwork.

Jay Ray shot his fist out towards Zongxiàn’s face; this was followed by a spinning leaping back kick, a follow up back fist, an outside crescent kick, a hook kick, and an uplifting palm strike. None of Jay Ray’s moves touched the old monk. Jay Ray was shocked. In desperation he launched into a fist kata from Jeet Kune Do, and Zongxiàn stepped back and extended two ridged fingers pointed straight out. Those fingers connected with the soft spot between the middle knuckle and the knuckle which belonged to Jay Ray’s ring finger. It was a pressure point and a point from one art of breaking bones. Jay Ray’s fist was moving forward with his own momentum which met Zongxiàn’s and the weak point here, the point which broke, was Jay Ray’s hand.

Zongxiàn recognized the dark clothing and gear of an assassin when he saw them, so his next motion was to rotate both of his hands outward from his elbow joints, like making two circular motions pushing his hands and Jay Ray’s arms out to either side. Zongxiàn followed this up with a ninety degree uppercut to the bottom of the sternum, shattering it and breaking ribs. His follow up move was a thrust kick to Jay Ray’s destroyed chest, further breaking Jay Ray’s skeletal structure.

Jay Ray collapsed, the prize fighter of the mob, the best assassin for hire, was dying at the hands of a man who ran a soup kitchen.

Laira watched from the shadows, she was so proud and so in love with her older master. She was positively glowing. What she just witnessed was phenomenal. The silenced shot which came from nowhere opened up the top of Zongxiàn’s skull. Firearms and blasters were illegal here and hard to smuggle. Either someone highly skilled or highly influential with the guards got that gun in. Her mind focused on that because that’s where she would start looking for the people responsible. She turned to run outwards and away from her master’s death with tears filling her eyes and a dark form stepped into her way.

Schultz laughed. Jay Ray was nothing, and to get his revenge, all he had to do was wait until the Shaolin took care of him. A single bullet from him ended the threat of the old man while he was distracted with Jay Ray and now running towards him was the pale Goth girl. She was no match for him in own eyes.

Laira took a step forward with her right foot, pivoted sideways, placed her rear leg so that it came across the back of her forward leg and uncoiled that position by lifting her right foot into a rising kick which connected with the jaw of her assailant with enough force to shatter it. Her victim sprawled onto his back. When her right foot came down, her left foot rose into the air and it came back down with an axe kick to the guy’s groin.

“Who’s laughing now, bitch?” Laira continued running off into the night, she ran past Dealer and two other assassins running in towards the compound. She initiated the lockout sequence to keep Dealer off of her ship.

Schultz was sure he was choking on his own teeth, and he was sure that he lost a testicle to that stomp. He disagreed with this joint venture of Kempfana and Don Valdez, the new mob boss. He knew he shouldn’t have volunteered for this part of the mission. He just had to make sure Jay Ray would die on this mission, despite his team being sent to make sure Jay Ray was successful. Now he was sure he was going to die, he started to sob like a small child.

“Shut up.”

Schultz opened up his eyes and saw Rusty and Trakel and that robot Dealer were present. Trakel was the one who told him to shut up, and he started patching up Schultz, while Rusty and Dealer went to go work on Jay Ray.

* * * * *

New Armenia,
Mob Space
313 A.E.E. (After Earth’s End)

Si-letah sat alone in his ready room. He just reviewed the old and finished deal between him and Mina Howard for the hundredth time. In exchange for all the video evidence of her giving them murderous and faulty droids, she gave him a mercenary strike team of ex-marines. She offered a refitted orbital bomber, but for some reason he refused. Part of him rationalized that it would be more personal and raise fewer questions if the old dig site was demolished by a ground crew. That ground crew failed. Carpet bombing the area would have worked. A planted story of a gigantic breeding pit for Geysonis would have more than sufficed for cover. So the part of him that gave him that moment of stupidity was that bitch’s brother? He wasn’t sure. He was confused.

He took a moment to make sure he was speaking of Riana and Joachim, instead of Shiva and her brother Ram, but it was hard, because these memories were almost like the same scenes played out in different times with different people. Some of those scenes were vastly different in many ways, but they were all the same in his mind. Back then, before he figured out the mind transference trick, he just drained people’s essences and took their memories. This act left them empty eyed shells of their former selves. He never absorbed any personalities which tried to rule his actions before he slurped up Ram’s brain.

Ram was dying, the Targlois troops Si-letah was using shot Ram a lot. Ram and his soldiers almost killed all fifteen hundred of the Targlois which raided his hide out. Two survived Ram’s wrath but they did report victory. Si-letah landed his ship and walked forward in his grey robes into Ram’s base, and placed his fingers on each side of Ram’s temples. Pure hatred poured forth from Ram, it made a psionic light, a focus which emanated from the middle of Ram’s forehead and it gave Si-letah a massive headache.

Si-letah made some decisions back then because of a brother’s interference, those decisions seemed fine at the time to him, but in hindsight they were the choices of a fool. The lesson burned bright in Si-letah’s brain. It burned brighter than the lights on the Grey walls of this room. He would not forget when he went to the crime lord and took his thoughts into him. He needed to segment off the memories of those he took, if their force of personality was too great, it would affect his thinking otherwise.

* * * * *

Kempfana’s estates,
Planet Macro-Tier
313 A.E.E. (After Earth’s End)

Quesada knew Kempfana was out taking care of Bachman, he helped arrange it. Rain was pelting the mansion. In exchange for Kohari’s aid in setting up and removing the current corrupt police force, Quesada just green lit High Commander Kreen, the military leader in charge of the entire planet of Macro-Tier. No, not just green lit, but also helped plan his downfall. There was a huge bounty on Kreen’s head, placed in the name of another mob family whose reputation couldn’t afford to be seen as backing out of this contract. Their honor and their reputation for being fearless easily trapped them. Check and Mate. They couldn’t afford to not pay it, and paying it would almost bankrupt them. Either way it’s a win-win for both Quesada and Kempfana.

Detective Chris Quesada was sent here to clean up the system, he went after and got dirty cops removed from office, like Detective Shane McPherson, who sold organs on the black market. In the process though, Quesada’s reputation was becoming tarnished, his badge no longer shined so bright. It wasn’t dirty to the point where it was a badge of darkness, but the hope and justice it represented was a pale light at best.

Quesada was also temporarily running things for Kempfana and Kohari while they were away and in front of him sat an unlikely pair: an attractive and young Human female and an old, battle scarred Targlois male. Their names were given as “Melody” and “Brick”. These two had made connections with The Maelstrom, which is a pirate organization running out of The Borderlands, and were representing them. The Maelstrom were seeking backing in their own war against the freelance pirate named Mocker. In times of turmoil like this, freelancers came out of the woodwork. Mocker, who fancied himself a Robin Hood type by all accounts, was deadly and he hated guilds and so refused to stand with The Maelstrom and respect their by-laws.

Melody had a recording of her and an investigator by the name of Mina Howard doing some naughty things to each other, which they were watching to sweeten the deal. Too bad, Mina had a hatchet face, guess it’ll make it easier to have her arrested.

Melody lavishly put on her lipstick; it was a bright red color. She leaned in and pouted her lips for him while he watched, she then “dropped” her lipstick container on the floor and sauntered and swayed on her hands and knees over to Quesada’s feet. Brick stood up and went and watched the door. Between Melody’s skill and the viewing, Quesada’s resolve didn’t last long, nor did his stamina.

“Well, for this recording and for services rendered, I think we can put an open contract out on Mocker for your pirate friends.”

“Why an open contract?”

“Mocker is a freelancer; the poetic justice is he’ll likely get killed by a freelancer. That should tickle your pirates fancy almost as well as you just tickled mine. Tell me, though what you get out of it.”

“I get the bribe money they sent; also I get to become a lieutenant in their outfit.”

“Nice. Now the price for me not telling is another round.”

“Only if you’re up for it.”

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