Space had been conquered. And colossal, powerful gates, with the strength of hundreds of suns, were built to connect one galaxy to another. And human race traveled through those gates, discovering and milking all the wealth the universe had to offer.
For millenniums, they basked in peace and prosperity. Undisturbed.
New planets were colonized. Trade flourished. Life flourished. And love together with it. Children were born, lived playing, laughing.
But that was not enough.
So it seems… For humans, nothing ever is.
With the Federation on the verge of a new election, a foreign object enters its borders, easily destroying the cruiser that detected it.
Another ship is sent to engage and properly evaluate the unknown entity, and the secretive Cosmic Justice League activates its agents to deal with the newly arisen crisis. But the question remains if planetary politics and the constant power struggle can be put aside in order for the mankind to address the new dreadful threat, unlike any they had seen before.
This is the first story that mentions KoShan, tagged 30RX2002K43L. Born and raised on the Gate 43L, KoShan is a space drifter, surviving the best he can. Enlisting in the Fleet to fly one of their vessels should had finally provided him and his family with the steady income. But the crew of his cruiser, including its Captain, is young and green and cannot comprehend that space is deep, dark and mysterious, and who ever ventures through its void sooner or later runs into things that extend beyond the limits of known, things that cannot be explained, and can terminate you without wasting a single breath.
This episode is from the Green Dwarf IV Galaxy
Chapter 1 – Triple Blue Moons and One Little Kitten Bar
Triple Moons Planet, Sector 51X
“What is the most important thing for you?”
Roko gave Lassandra a blank stare, causing her to sigh and explain herself further with a noticeable doze of a pure frustration. “You are already thinking too long,” she said. “I mean, you know what it is. You thought about it right away as soon as I’ve asked you that. So, what is it?”
Roko still stared at her. “Don’t go thinking how your answer may sound, and if it will please me or not, or what the world may think about you afterwards, or- “
“It’s about making my next kill as perfect as it can be…” It was not easy for him to say it, but it was easier to say anything to stop her, otherwise she was quite capable of lecturing him for another half an hour and ruining his whole afternoon.
He lowered his head, and dared not look again at her charcoal dark eyes, carefully studying him behind the curtain of ash-white hair that covered most of her cheeks-rounded, baby-wrinkles-free face.
“Well, there you go… that was not that hard.” She shrugged her shoulders as she commented in a completely indifferent voice. “That is the truth. No problem with the truth. Those people who cannot handle it, well, it is their problem, not yours… Not ours.”
“I know, but still... It is not like that-”
“No shame in saying the truth. You are who you are.”
“Yes, but still, I would like to be…”
“Sometimes I think I should expect of myself something more… I mean I am already forty years old. I lost all my hair and one of my leg. And… I probably should wish to-”
“Spaceshit! Like what? To be like a bioengineer or a judge? To be a tax inspector? You are a life taker! Almost God himself. What else could you want to be?” Lassandra's voice became higher pitched, almost upset, as she could not understand his problem at all.
“I do not know, just something more… I guess.” Roko was going to say something about a family, about somebody to share his life with, but he was not quite sure if Lassandra could understand that, or if she would think any less of him.
They set by the red-colored shank in a dusty hole called Triple Blue Moons and One Kitten Bar. It was one of those places that was fifty plus years overdue for a proper remodeling, with almost rotten wood planks for the floor that creaked with each footfall like in the time-forgotten saloons.
The place was settled appropriately in the old, forgotten neighborhood not even visited by the wondering and venturing tourists, completely lost to progress and interests of real estate developers who could not see that far away from the planetary Space Elevator.
The Little Kitten, with the kitten long gone and not seen in ages, was as full as always for an early mid-afternoon hour, with a whole of four seats taken. On the other side of that long, half-circular bar, set an old man and a midget, fiercely engaged in discussing matters that neither knew much about.
Lassandra wasted them no eye-time. She liked to shoot shit with Roko. He was very uncomplicated man, and often saw things very much the same way she did. Very simple and direct. Obviously, that may be sometimes very pleasing to everyone, always to have someone next to you who you didn’t need to explain things to, to whom you were accepted as you were. She had her share of arguing with the rest of the world, and Roko, well, he was cool. He did not care that she was bioengineered freak of now tabooed and outlawed past that would never live to look past twenty years of age.
Ever since she woke up in the bar five years ago, her past memory not accessible to her, she called the bar home and Roko her best friend. If authorities ever found her, she would be tagged for decommissioning right away. But Roko would never talk. She could wager her life on that.
“Say, Roko, what do you make of all this election nonsense? That woman, Valra Simenns… Everyone sees her as the next messiah. Mother Savior they call her on many planets. You think she has a chance to win it all?”
“I don’t know. I don’t like politics. Besides, remember the rule. Only one question per day, and you... You’ve already used up your daily credit.” He took a deep pull of golden ale, frosting nicely in the large glass mug that was keeping its temperature hovering around the freezing point. “I’ll make sure I can give you an answer tomorrow… But then…”
“Fuck you, loser… You already gave me your answer. I get a new question tomorrow.” Although slightly disappointed, there was no anger in Lassandra’s voice as she took a swing at her own mug, her ale being the blushing color of a dessert sunset. It was thick and sweet and drinking it made everything else just a bit less important.
“You should be glad I even talk to you,” she said after a second. “You probably do not even remember the last time some hot chick like me bothered to pay you any attention...”
“Shut up.” Roko eyebrows twitch. He didn’t want to be reminded. Besides, he was fine being by himself. After Lexarta…
Then a kid walked in, straight through the main entrance door. He was maybe sixteen, maybe fifteen, and maybe not even that. His eyes were nervous and his step uncertain. He took a second to take everything in, and then decided to nod his head to Lassandra’s welcoming smile and inquisitive stare that stayed on him as he approached the bar.
He was a good-looking kid, Lassandra had to admit, although his too-short dark hair did poor justice to his skinny, pretty face. And when she saw the glow of his deep green eyes begging the bartender to approach him, she wished she was on the other side of the bar, offering him her own assistance.
He was not a tourist. Cheap clothes gave it away. His skinny face and thin arms could only come from starvation.
He wants something, Lassandra knew it before the kid opened his mouth and in subdued tone asked the bartender if he could speak to Rickon.
The bartender, almost as tall as Roko, looked at him angrily for hearing such a question, but before he could brush the kid off and send him out on his ass, the kid placed a card on top of the bar.
The bar tender swiftly covered the card with the white rag he used just a second ago to dry newly washed glasses.
Who was this kid thinking of flashing a card like that on a table? thought the bartender with his stare not hiding his thoughts. Even though the place was almost completely empty, anybody could walk in any second.
“Who gave you this card?” The muted yet angry voice was still too loud and all four of bar’s patrons now stared at the kid.
The bartender examined him with the murkiest of stares before disappearing to the back room, taking with him the card wrapped inside his white rag.
“Hey, kid,” Lassandra called him over, but his cautious and timid glance stopped her from approaching him directly. If she approached, she was quite not sure if he would turn and run.
“You want anything to drink?” she said in the end as she jumped to the inside of the bar. “Do not mind, Ton-Ton. He is not a mean guy, just does not like when he has to work before eight. I mean if you came after eight, he would be all like, what can I get you, and can I offer you this and that… and try to please you and stuff… So,” she stopped in front of him, looking at him and waiting for his order.
“I am sorry,” the kid answered. “I really do not want anything… to drink.”
“Maybe just a little drink?”
“Don’t mind her either,” Roko shouted from away. “She is not rude or pushy. She is always like that before midnight. I mean, if you came here after twelve, she would be all princess like, and-”
“Shut up, Roko!” Lassandra snapped at him, making the kid break out a small nervous smile.
“This way,” Ton-Ton interrupted their goofing around as he suddenly appeared and pointed with his finger to the back room where the kid was expected.
“Thank you…” he told them all while he hassled toward the door.
“I can only guess what the old man will do to that poor little boy…” Lassandra was saying to herself as the door closed behind the kid.
“If you like him so much, why don’t you stop him?” Roko asked.
“If you like him so much?” Lassandra could almost detect a trace of jealousy in Roko’s voice, “Why didn’t you stop him? You are a good guy. And he seems completely lost.”
“Yes, like a puppy. Like a kitten… So cute…” Roko had to admit as he shook his head.
“Poor little kid…” said the old man across the bar.
“He’s a lunch meat now…” answered the midget who was sitting beside him.
The kid was lead to the room with thick window blinds that almost succeeding in preventing any of the afternoon sunlight to sneak through. A little bit of it that did revealed a thick green glass desk behind which set an old man with wild gray hair covering most of his face if not for a huge nose that crookedly stuck out. It was so crooked and oversized that the young man had to wonder if it was in fact real.
“Please come in,” the old man greeted him with the smile as crooked as his nose. A mouth, full of missing and bad teeth didn’t help his appearance.
The old man was in the middle of writing something with an archaic-looking pen, but as the young man stepped forward, he stopped and pulled his hair backward, tying it in a nod.
“My name is Allan Constantixus…”
“Nice to meet you, Allan,” the old man answered politely.
“Are you Rickon?”
“No. No, I am not. I am most often referred to as Mister Vee, at least to my face.”
“I was told that I will find Rickon here and that I should speak to him…”
“You could not speak to Rickon. The man who gave you that card…” The card, golden coated, the size of a typical three-inch communicator, lay on the old man’s desk. “Who was he?”
“He did not say…”
“He did not say?”
“So, what, a stranger just meets you on a street and gives you this card, the type of a card of which only few still exist in the whole of universe?”
“I do not know… do not know any of that.” Allan seemed completely confused.
“But then tell me, what exactly you do not know?”
“I do not know what that card is or why the man gave it to me or who he is for that matter. But he said to come here and to speak with Rickon and that I will receive all the help I need…”
The old man’s face cut out a smile. It was hard for Allan to say if it was more a mocking smile or self-entertaining. It certainly was not intended to be comforting.
“Fine. Let’s start from the beginning. Why don’t you sit here, and tell me all about it, and then we will go from there.” The smile was not leaving the old man’s face as he pointed his old fingers with long well-manicured nails toward the old loveseat that covered one side of the room’s wall.
Allan set down quietly as instructed, unsure if the old couch will break or if the spring may jump out of it and sting his behind.
“Well, it all happened about two months back. I helped this guy in fixing his interplanetary flyer. He said he didn’t have much money, and since it was only the labor of my hands, I charged him only for that. He thanked me for being so honest with him, explaining that he could not afford to pay me more but that he can help me in some other way. At first I thought he was lying, but then he gave me a free space shuffle passage, he said he did not need it where he was going, with his flyer all fixed up, and told me if I ever need help to come here and do what I just did…”
“And he didn’t say his name?”
“No… I asked, but he said it would not matter… that the card was enough.”
“So, you just helped the man on the station without even…”
“No, of course not. About six months ago, he brought the ship to my boss’s lot when my boss was away. And he looked very desperate and in trouble, and I knew if my boss comes and sees him, he may fleece him for all he was worth. So, I helped him… It was just cleaning the engine subwoofer connectors that were all clogged up. Half an hour work. No trouble at all.”
“I thought he would give me a tip at least. But, he gave me the ticket and that card instead.”
Fine. So, what did he look like?”
“He was shorter than me, maybe forty years old, with long blond hair, and a scar…”
“But please, tell me,” the old man interrupted him suddenly, “why did you wait such a long time to come here?”
“Well, in all honesty, I tried to sell the ticket… I know they are very expensive. And I really do need the money, so… But it was not transferable. So I could not cash it in. So I decided to come. Except the original flight date it was reserved for went by while I was trying to sell it. And when I found out I could not, it was already too late. So, I had to wait all this time for an empty seat on a shuffle so I could use the ticket.”
“You understand I could not afford to pay the penalty and use it any other way. The space travel is very expensive, you know…”
“I know, I know, everything is expensive these days.” The old man sighed with regret, shaking his head, his voice knitted with nostalgia of the good old days. “Everything… everything except human life…. So, tell me then, what is it that you wanted from Rickon?”
“I have a sister that is dying… I want to save her. While I worked on the flyer I told this to the stranger, and before he left, he said that Rickon could help me.”
The old man let go of a deep breath before continuing. “Since you do not know, and seem to be a really decent young man, I will tell you… Rickon is not a person. It was a system created hundreds of years ago, a secret system that was constructed for the sole purpose of helping those that were part of it.”
The old man let those words hang in the air, giving time for its subliminal meaning to sink into Allan. Then he continued in even more sober tone. “For some that uttered its name, it meant life. For others, death.”
Allan face frowned even more.
“But, Rickon does not exist anymore, haven’t existed for a long time,” the old man said with a heavy dose of regret, and then he looked the boy over again, noting how Allan got very confused. “You should not know that, but now you do…”
“Well, I can only tell you what a person told me… Why would he say that?”
The old man pretended not to hear that, and shrugged it off. “You do not seem like you have that much money on you to pay for medical services needed for your sister. Or is your look professed in such a manner as to deceive?”
“No… I do not have money… I already told you so. I worked mostly as a spaceship mechanic my whole life, ever since my mother divorced my father… she left too… and he…” From the cold look of the old man’s piercing eyes, the kid was sure that the old man was not interested in his life-sobbing story, so he stopped himself short.
“So, that’s what you are doing here?”
“I thought you could help… I really need a help with my sister… she is sick and she needs medical treatment…”
“What is she sick with? Viral? Degenerative? What?”
“They do not know… but she is dying, her immune system is… degrading… is what they called it.”
“Oh, I see... So, what if I can help you? What if I can save your sister? What is that worth to you? And how do you expect to pay me?” the old man spat out questions really fast, and before Allan could make any offers, he interrupted him. “You know how expensive such an endeavor can be, don’t you, boy?”
“I do know it can be very expensive…”
“Here on your personal page says that you studied to be a pilot, that you even finished some testing with an apparently very high score? I apologize for the intrusion but I took the liberty of taking the DNA you stained the card with and ran it through the system. So?”
“Yes, I worked in a scrap yard, and piloted everything around… Started doing it when I was ten years old. Nobody wanted to go into those old ships, afraid of ion radiation leaks, so I guess I had to…”
“Hum… I am surprised that the Federal Space Force did not make you a job offer, no?”
“Well, no they did not… I actually applied a few times to Space Marines, but was turned down…”
“Yes, well… that is normal… Space marines are more elite. And since you were born out of wedlock on Ritha VI. With no citizenship to your name… by the way, did you ever become a citizen?”
“No…” the shame nailed his eyes to the floor again.
“So, you cannot get a credit to pay for your sister, cannot get a government job… I really do not know how…”
Allan slowly started to realize it was a mistake to come here, the harshness of the reality and the bitterness of a defeat stroking his heart ice cold. He was ready to excuse himself and leave the room.
He had no idea where else he could go, or how he would find the way to get a ticket to return back home.
“But… I can offer you a job here…” Master Vee finally said.
Allan’s eyes lighted up with hope.
“Really? How much would I make?” he asked instantly.
“Yes, and I can credit the medical care for your sister…” the old man dodged the question. “You can pay it off as you work for me. We have a fully trained medical doctor that can take care of your sister… She was never really properly diagnosed by a fully-licensed physician, had she?”
“No… Visits by a fully-licensed physicians cost five hundred credits, and I could hardly-” Allan felt shameful to admit it. “I really did not have enough money to afford their services.”
“Well, you do not need to worry about that anymore. We have a private fully-licensed doctor working for our enterprise and he can diagnose and treat any disease your sister has… right here.”
Allan was not certain if he could believe his hearing. The old man’s fingers started to play on the desk as he continued to talk. “You will of course need to bring your sister here. There is an empty room above the bar where two of you will stay, and you…”
“Yes?” It almost sounded too good to be true.
“Will work for me…” the old man said with the crooked smile while he extended his hand and placed a work contract in front of Allan, a contract he just finished detailing. “You can look over the contract if you like…”
It was all moving too fast and Allan’s head was spinning with confusion. “But what kind of work would I do…? And what is in this contract…? It seems awfully long…”
“Oh, it just a normal contract. You can sign it either with this pen or pinch your finger and blood stamp it.”
The old man saw Allan’s sudden pause. “Now, if you have any doubts…”
“And my sister would be taken care off?”
“Yes, exactly… As long as you stay working for me, your sister would be fine…”
“Well, that is all I wanted…” Allan whispered as he took the pen to sign the contract. With no money, with the sick sister who was weeks if not days from dying, he felt he had nothing to lose. He was so very wrong.