Novel by Jon Batson
Starwort Bacchus continues the search for her father’s legacy, carefully avoiding expanding Central Government presence, an epidemic virus spreading from planet to planet and the ever-present threat from those who seek to steal her birthright. To her and her crew, the promised haven of Planet Bacchus seems a dream they will never realize.
Midnight Whistler Publishers, LLC; (October 1, 2014)
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Adventures of a Space Bum: Book 2 – In Search of a Legacy
The time before we landed in Adonis was carefree. I awoke with a peaceful feeling and a curiosity about our journey. I set a bare foot on the cold, metal floor, stood up and walked to the refresh room. I splashed water my face and stood before the mist-covered mirror. A chill in the air told me it was early and still dark.
Ridiculous, of course, because in the far reaches of space there is no early or late, no natural light or dark; there is only space and it’s dark and cold. Space was where we were. I didn’t know exactly where, only in space. If I had to point the way out, I would be at a total loss. I was a starlost child.
I looked into the mirror and ran my hand over its face. My own face appeared, that of a girl barely two summers out of school, surrounded by brown hair, not quite shoulder length. My eyes appeared tired, my face held a bland expression. I turned my left shoulder, to the small tattoo on the blade: a starwort, a tiny flower growing in still waters. I wore the tattoo to remind me to keep moving, to stay out of stagnant waters.
A sound caused me to turn my head, a growl? No, a snore. It was Chineel, my friend, my ship-mate, my aunt, but not by blood. Being married to my uncle only meant she had bad judgment when she was young. I knew what that felt like.
I turned back to the mirror, focusing on my neck, on the left near the collarbone, the scar my uncle gave me on the night we parted. He wanted to give me more, but he couldn’t muster the strength, not with a broken whiskey bottle in his eye and an iron rod through his head.
Another sound caused me to turn. Beyond Chineel, in the next bunk in crew berthing was Dagon, the boy we rescued from Pallis, a planet always at war. We brought peace to Pallis by removing the last soldier moments before the planet died from lack of water and air. Dagon, whether he knew it or not, was named for the Philistine fish-god. It didn’t matter; it meant nothing in the scheme of things. I was sorry we could only rescue him and not the other children. It was too late for the others.
Dagon would correct me if he could hear me call them children. He would say, “You mean soldiers.” Yes, Dagon, of course: Soldiers.
The chill distracted me again. If the boy-soldier were to wake and look up, he would see me completely nude, without even a hand-towel to cover me. I smiled, thinking it wouldn’t matter. Dagon was a boy becoming a man, but he was a soldier first and I was his captain. He would see my nakedness and would wonder why I stood in the cold without covering. Nothing else would occur to him.
Why did I stand in the cold? Flax must have wondered as well, though she didn’t say anything. She was ubiquitous and could see me and hear me in any part of the vessel, inside or out. Out would not be possible in our current location, far from any planet.
“Can’t sleep, Star?” asked Flax, in a whisper so as not to wake Chineel or Dagon.
“I’ll come forward,” I said, turning from the mirror. I picked up a blanket from my bunk and wrapped it around me, only for warmth. Flax didn’t care if I was nude. I pulled my hair over the scar on my neck, an automatic movement since my schooldays. Only Abigail knew how I got it. She was my best friend in school and we shared every secret. I was heartbroken when she died.
In the galley, the chill of the cold deck suggested I should have also donned slippers, but I didn’t stop or go back. I kept on toward the bridge.
I remembered a planet we visited where everyone had a scar and showed it off with pride. A scar was a sign to announce your digital implant was removed; you were no longer tethered to the Central Government. Often these people tattooed something around the scar, a fashion statement as much as a freedom statement. The CG responded by making the implants smaller, infecting tattoo ink with them. I had no implants in my tattoo: I had been scanned by my one-time lover, Galium.
For a moment I remembered Galium. I missed him.
No, I missed the idea of him.
At the entrance to the bridge, I considered calling Galium on the interlink, but we were too close to home system and the trans might be picked up. We were headed for the space between Mars and Jupiter, The Main Belt. Being only two planets away from Earth, and knowing the colonies on Mars were under close CG supervision, calling radical activists on the interlink was not a good idea.
“Are you cold?” asked Flax as I settled into the pilot’s seat.
“Yes, it’s chilly.” I pulled my feet up and tucked the blanket around me.
“You wear a skirt and blouse most of the time, as a way to regulate your temperature and to give protection to your structural covering.”
“Yes, my skin; a tender covering for certain. I suppose I didn’t feel like clothes. Hope you don’t mind.”
“As you wish.” Flax had become more accommodating of late.
We sat in silence, moving though the darkness at speeds I had read about in school, the blackness speckled with a trillion dots of light, some of which had burnt out a thousand years or more earlier, their light getting to us only now. I sighed at the beauty.
“Yes,” said Flax. “It is beautiful.”
“How do you know, Flax? Can you see beauty?”
“Beauty is a thought, a consideration one way or the other. I sense you are pleased with the sight and are of the opinion it is beautiful. I believe you are wise and would evaluate the level of beauty. You believe it to be beautiful and I have faith in your judgment.”
“Thank you, Flax. I appreciate it.”
“It’s quite all right, Star.”
I smiled. Flax had taken to calling me Star when we were alone and our conversations were private. In public, she called me Captain. Back when I was the only rider aboard, I had taken on the position and responsibilities. Now I had a crew and a passenger.
“How is our passenger?” I inquired.
“Aristaeus sleeps soundly. We talked until well after you and the others had turned in.”
The man named for the Greek god, son of Apollo, was a technical genius. He tagged along for a free ride to Adonis. We were on our way to fulfill a repair request from a fully automated functionary on the planet.
The repair contract in Adonis was not an emergency, more preventative than anything. The advanced systems of Adonis predicted breakdowns and requested maintenance automatically when they did. Our response occurred according to the proper time line. All was right with the universe.
Aristaeus had saved my bacon before. He was a good friend. Still, it was good he slept and couldn’t come in to find me nude, which might be awkward. We weren’t friends in such a way. He enjoyed speaking with me, but enjoyed so more with Flax.
“You two speak a common language,” I told Flax.
“We do communicate on a different level. I am glad you understand.”
A small rush of warmer air came in from the side and from beneath the console. I smiled. Flax had noticed my shivering and raised the temperature.
“Where will we land?”
“The main platform on Adonis. It will give us a chance to take on provisions.”
“How long until we get there?”
“Time enough to nap and dress before you must meet people.”
“Good. Tired and naked is no way to greet your public.” I pulled the blanket tighter around me, looking at the lights on the console and those in the blackness surrounding us.