Today, I will meet a man, who others propose, has the answer to a question I have been searching for. A question that it has taken me many years to answer. It is nothing as tragic as an orphan’s tale, nor sobering as news from a long lost brother. No, not even the despondent letter from a dead loved one. The task set for me is not my own. I bear the standard and the weight of another. I will carry this burden until either I die or it is completed. A dying friend’s last words can have that sort of effect on a man. I cannot, and I will not rest until he is answered for. Continue reading “Just a Job”
Carter pulled open the door, intrigued by his anonymous guest. Before him stood a woman of average height. She had long dark hair, matching her Indian ancestry, was dressed in clothing distinctive of the corporate class, and wore a cunning expression. Her nose was pushed up, and her eyes very narrow. Her jaw was sturdy, but her cheekbones were more defined. Carter analyzed every feature in an instant.
“Dr. Carter Rasmussen, what a pleasure!” She spoke, extending her left hand to shake his.
“Uh, yes,” Carter slowed down, intentionally fumbling before he extended his left hand towards the woman, trying to gain insight.
“My name is Sylvia Daniels,” she spoke before he could continue. I’ve come to propose a business arrangement of sorts. Would you be interested?”
“That would entirely depend on the business, Miss Daniels.”
“Please, call me Sylvia. May I come in Dr. Carter?”
Carter hesitated, but then nodded his head, stepping aside for her. She walked in, stealthily, surveying his apartment like a hawk scanning for prey. “I wonder, how it is that you were able to find me, Sylvia. I did not expect I would be disturbed so soon.”
“Yes, well, Dr. Carter, business is business. May I ask you a question?”
“You just did.” Carter did not fancy interruptions so late in the day, and he was starting to get annoyed, not the least of which because someone had once again managed to track him down.
“Yes, well,” she smiled, “why do you go by your first name instead of your last?”
“I find that humanity, in general, is comforted by the known rather than the unknown. In another place, I might be inclined to scrap altogether my birth name and adopt something more fitting the setting, as you have done, Alegris Vaadne.” He looked at her, throwing the whole weight of his contempt at the woman.
“Very good, Dr. Carter.” She spoke, pulling off an electronic skin mask as her true features revealed themselves—the distinct, noble refinement of the Valdawar class. “I was wondering when you would tell. If you don’t mind, would you tell me what gave it away?”
“Your speech, Alegris; it is always the same. It is too well thought out to allow for conversational spontaneity. This was your defining moment of failure as my student.” Carter walked behind his counter, pulled out scotch, and pouring two glasses.
Alegris smiled, unfazed, “And you, Dr. Carter, are witty as ever. I see years of mental solitude have done nothing to rob you of your intelligence, nor your cold-heartedness.”
“Oh, please, Alegris, you let far too much show. Even now, in attempting to cover up human emotion you reveal much more. You ask questions only someone who knew me would ever ask. You have much to learn.” He handed her a glass, watching as she downed the entirety of it in one fell swoop. “So, who is it this time? And what must I do to get them off my back?” Carter leaned back against the counter, measuring the probability of her statements at his lowest speed, still nowhere near anything attainable by his former student.
“I still remember when I read your thesis on human perception in that community college newspaper. It was one of the most imaginative works I had ever read.” Carter glared at her, determined to have an answer. “It’s Volderhaus.”
“I already rejected his proposal.”
“He doesn’t take no for an answer.”
“Well, then you can tell him he has a lot left to learn.”
“Would you believe it, that is exactly what I told him? Still, he is awfully insistent.” She traced her finger around the rim of the empty glass, batting her eyes, making Carter uncomfortable.
“Carter, you are coming with me. There is no way around it this time.” For a second she looked genuinely sad, but Carter had to slow down to catch that microexpression.
“And how does he anticipate doing that?”
“Don, Kale,” Alegris spoke, and Two huge men broke down the door. Seeing the danger, Carter snapped to action. He pressed a button beneath the lip of the counter, and the room filled with gas. In moments everyone lay on the ground, but Carter, having altered his genome to resist the toxic effects. The men hadn’t even understood what was going on before they were unconscious. He bent down towards Alegris, brushing a hand across her cheek as he looked into her paralyzed eyes. “You tell him this. Tell him I’m done hiding. It’s his turn to run.” He grabbed his jacket, opened the window that overlooked the city, and jumped out, falling countless stories to the ground below.
Carter sat on a wooden bench in Velderado park, observing blurs, that represented people, speed across his vision, only to slow down to the point where their movement was almost imperceptible. He smiled, putting his hands behind his head and leaning back. Feeling the power of a Greek god felt good, but also Continue reading “Time Thwart”
Ben looked out the window of the palace. So peaceful, so still, he thought contentedly. “Is it not so unlike the turmoil of the courts, Master Badroth?” The young boy’s teacher looked up in his direction, identifying the cause of the boy’s remarks. Continue reading “Prince Ben of Ashkalar”
Palos sat on the rim of a fountain, surrounded by a rose garden, on a cold fall night. Behind him, he heard the gurgle of water gushing up and circulating into the pool. Before him, he saw a vast forest of evergreen and pine pushing out hundreds of feet below the cliff. His shoulders drooped and his eyes narrowed as he realized his plan had failed. He looked up at the moon, clear and full in the cloudless night sky. “I had but one task. One task I was entrusted with to complete and I could not even do that.” For given the hour, he was now sure his plan had failed. The princess had mocked him, playing him for a fool, and she had been right. I am a fool, the boy thought tragically. Continue reading “A Castle Full of Fools”
Princess Talis walked down the hall toward the servant’s corridors, a letter in hand, and a smile creeping across her face. When she arrived she gave instructions for a servant to take it the Count of Dumont—a man always looking for more power. He would fall easily enough for her trap. Now, she had but to wait. Continue reading “Gossip, Trickery, and Other Things”
Palos slowly raised his head, wary of the situation, knowing full well that at a moment’s notice guards could be hauling him away. He looked up at the princess, showing the utmost respect but with a blatantly nervous gaze. Continue reading “A Turn of Events”
An hour later Palos found himself tiptoeing around the palace halls, continuously checking his pocket, feeling for the letter the old man had asked him to deliver. He had been given very specific directions, and in order to hold up his end of the bargain, Palos was unwilling to tempt fate by doing anything else than adhering to ever bit of instruction. The old man had something Palos was willing to die for, and he had something to offer in exchange. It was just a business arrangement, or so Palos told himself. Continue reading “The Peasant and the Princess”
Palos felt the air whiz through his hair as he was roughly thrown down several stair steps while a gruff and brutish man yelled many nasty things, that are best left unrepeated, at him. He rolled onto his back, slowly getting up, working out stiff joints in a noisy street of Candaroon. He had tried many ways of getting into the palace, and all had been unsuccessful. He was now starting to panic as the fear that he would fail the mission took his mind by storm. He scratched his head for any ideas, reviewing the various ways his plan had epically failed. I could try going in through the stables, Palos thought, but a memory of three stable boys, each twice as big as the scrawny fifteen-year-old, caused that plan to vaporize. Continue reading “A Quest of Utmost Importance”
Jacob pulled out onto the road, heading home from the school he had attended for two years. His finals were over, and his time with the school was over. It’s time to move on. He thought, slightly sad, but mostly optimistic, full of hope for what the future held. As he drove down that familiar country lane everything seemed more real than ever before. The trees blossomed with flowers that looked like sprinkled snow. The green hills rolled out into the horizon. Birds flew above the treetops. And everything felt alive. Continue reading “Fate and Fortune”