Novel by Jon Batson
When Starwort Bacchus seeks the key to her father’s legacy, a planet to make into a home, she must first go to a home she left behind, Khons, and one she has never known: Earth. She is followed by pirates and by officials of the Central Government. The sky and her little vessel are both getting very crowded.
Midnight Whistler Publishing, LLC; (October 25, 2016)
Also available for purchase at:
Adventures of a Space Bum: Book 4 – The Palace Guard
Icarus in Flames
“Senior Sergeant Phaeton!” yelled Captain Vikare. The Commanding Officer of the Icarus Constabulary stood at his office door, glaring into the common room of the Icarus headquarters. His right hand tapped against his left behind his back. On his chest he wore a ribbon of periwinkle blue, adorned with a tiny, pearled platinum, Icarus seven-pointed star. The medal had been awarded him for his recent apprehension of Datur Minot and his circle of criminals. A desk-full of unsolved crimes had been closed in a day with the explosion of the spire in the city of Daedalus.
“He’s in the Communication Tower, Sir,” said Sergeant Ariadne, looking up from her reader. The young sergeant also wore the blue ribbon with the Icarus star. She had behaved bravely during the recent events in Daedalus and served him well now.
Vikare sighed, pulling his lips into his mouth. He wished he could make Ariadne his senior sergeant instead of that trebium-scuttle, Phaeton.
“Call him, sergeant, and be sure to use his full title: Senior Sergeant. You know how he gets.”
Sergeant Ariadne let a tiny smile slip through her professional exterior as she turned away to attend to the calling of the Senior Sergeant.
Ariadne had been the smallest in her class, Captain Vikare reflected, and as a result had something to prove. She was also the smartest in her class. She was the first to arrive, the last to leave and the one to call if you wanted anything done right. She could shoot straight and true if needed, but was also the best choice to break bad news to family members. She was the one he would have chosen, if Phaeton hadn’t made sergeant before her. It was a flawed system.
The blood left Vikare’s face as Senior Sergeant Phaeton came striding into the common room, the full Icarus Star medal pinned to his chest. The seven-pointed, pearl-platinum star was as large as a man’s palm. No tiny ribbons for S. S. Phaeton! No, sir! The medal entered the room before he did. The reflection of light from the Icarus Star lit up the common room as if in preparation for his coming.
Senior Sergeant Phaeton was energized! Captain Vikare was mortified!
“Sir!” snapped S. S. Phaeton.
“Assemble the staff, Sergeant.”
“Senior Sergeant,” corrected Phaeton.
“It’s Senior Sergeant, sir.” Phaeton lifted a finger to indicate the bar beneath the chevron on his left sleeve. The additional bar, sewn with silver thread, indicated that the rank above had been raised to a senior level, but not enough to indicate a promotion to a higher rank.
“Yes, of course. Please assemble the staff,” Vikare took a breath. “Senior Sergeant Phaeton.”
The captain rolled his eyes as Phaeton turned in place, affected a similar stance to his captain and raised his voice to be heard above the rumble of actual work getting done.
“Attention! Attention! The Captain has an announcement.”
Phaeton turned to his Captain. He smiled with a nod, indicating that the staff was ready; he could now proceed with his announcement.
“Thank you, Senior Sergeant.”
Phaeton stepped back, confident that he had properly prepared the room for something important. Captain Vikare took a step forward. He sucked in a large quantity of air and delivered the edict in a low, resigned voice.
“The Central Government is coming to Cecrops. Headquarters will be established in Daedalus with a local HQ in Icarus. Recent events have drawn their attention and it has been decided that not enough control has been exerted over our little planet.”
The room froze as some constables glanced at others with wide eyes. A couple sucked in a mouthful of air and one new constable in the back fainted.
“An urgent transmission has been received concerning a vessel that recently left Cecrops for Victoriana. Flagged as a pirate vessel, Exterra Bacchus is to be apprehended and taken into custody, it’s captain and crew placed under bond. I will be looking for volunteers to …”
The Captain paused as every hand in the room, save for S.S. Phaeton and the unconscious constable, went up to volunteer. Vikare continued.
“… volunteers to undertake this difficult and dangerous mission. I only need three. Sergeant Ariadne, would you please choose three volunteers for the mission to apprehend these criminals?”
Captain Vikare turned back to his office as Ariadne chose three of the eager volunteers pressing her to become her best friend.
“Captain?” said Phaeton, following him into his office. “Uh, sir, surely I’ll be one of those going with you.”
“No, Phaeton, you’ll be here, receiving the officials of the Central Government and running this office. I expect with the CG here, there won’t be a lot to do, so you’ll be fine. Congratulations, Senior Sergeant. At last, you’re in charge.”
The Captain closed his door, with S.S. Phaeton standing outside, the frosted glass nearly touching his nose.
“Do you expect anything to still be here when you return?” said a voice from the corner.
“It will be here, Sector Agent, but it won’t be the same. It will never be the same again.”
Honor Toth stepped from the corner. “That’s treason, you know.”
“The answer or the question?”
“Both,” said Honor. He smiled. He knew, as the captain knew, that anything even slightly derisive regarding the Central Government was forbidden. The reaction of the men in the common room, the constable who fainted, even Phaeton requesting to go rather than stay; all were treasonous.
“Will you stay and continue the search for the fugitive, Galium?”
“Yes, Captain. I’ve no choice. My office has supported the CG’s suggestion that I lead the hunt. Orders reinforcing the assignment arrived soon after the initial order.”
“I’m sure criminals all over the rim are heaving a sigh of relief at the news.”
“Yes, there is rejoicing in many quadrants. While I am here, I cannot be there. It would be considered a vacation, were it not for the Central Government watchdogs over my shoulder at every turn. They’ll make sure I stay busy.”
“You’ve worked with the CG before, then.”
“In proximity; no one works ‘with’ the CG. One always works ‘for’ the CG, and it’s never good enough, quick enough or clever enough.”
“Yes, I’ve noted. I’m glad I won’t be here.”
“Why are you going? Surely not to actually apprehend Captain Bacchus and her crew.”
“And why not? There is an alert on the airwaves, the orders are explicit. Exterra Bacchus even altered flight plans after departure. That raises suspicion, don’t you think?”
“I’m under orders, Captain. I don’t think.”
The Sector Agent and the Captain exchanged knowing glances. The conversation was over. It would be forgotten. In fact, it never happened. The Sector Agent slipped out of the side door, into the growing winds of the coming storm.
“There is indeed a storm coming,” reflected the Captain. “The recent Indran storm will pale in comparison.”
Knock, knock! The door to the captain’s office opened. Sergeant Ariadne walked to the desk and snapped to attention.
“Sir, the volunteers have been chosen.”
“No sir, they are the ones you requested.”
“And do you agree?”
“Yes, sir. They are the same ones I would have chosen.”
“You did choose them, Sergeant.”
Ariadne smiled. Vikare looked at her with one brow raised, his mouth lifting slightly in the corner. They spoke a secret language these days, conspirators concealed by uniforms and medals.
“You’d better pack, Ariadne. We’ll be lifting off as soon as transport is fueled and stocked.”
“How long do you foresee this mission taking, Captain?”
“As long as it takes, Ariadne, as long as it takes.”