True Chivalry: part Sixteen

First Chapter

Previous Chapter

“Captain Jhunta, please wait.”

Maximilian turned. “What do you need, Sir Beras?”

“Before you go, I have a matter of strategy to discuss with you,” Ferdinand stated. “Do you believe we could count on the elves as allies?”

Maximilian shook his head. “Our prince found wooing their princess to be fruitless and abandoned that task. We also didn’t go to their aid against the trolls. They will not be inclined to give us theirs now.”

“I suspected as much,” Ferdinand muttered. “So, in your view, who can we rely on to help us?”

Maximilian thought for a moment. “Perhaps the Pyre clan. We do have a decent relationship with them. And one advantage that can be brought into play.”

Ferdinand stroked his chin. “That is, indeed, the case. I’ll go meet them at once. Please, lend me two soldiers from your unit as an escort.”

Maximilian nodded. “I’ll summon Bernard & Alicia. They’re the two I trust most in the unit. Either one of them could easily win Sir Pienta’s old spot when we’re able to hold the selection.”

“You may have to temporarily promote one of them,” Ferdinand stated. “We won’t be able to have a proper selection for a while.”

“Then I’ll look to your advice as to which one would be the better fit,” Maximilian said. “After you’ve had this opportunity to spend some time with them.”

*****

Janice moved carefully through the woods. She knew her camouflage was good, but she also wasn’t going to make the error of underestimating Amazon eyes.

She froze.

She could see a couple of archers in the treetops. One of them seemed to look directly at her. She felt the wand beneath her shirt, wondering if she’d have to use it already.

The Amazons moved on. She breathed a sigh of relief. They hadn’t seen her yet.

She crept closer. There was a pitfall trap to her left, very carefully disguised. Most people wouldn’t have seen it in the daylight, much less at night. She made a mental note of its location as she had for all the other traps she’d encountered.

She’d almost circled around their fortress. She’d been careful not to get too close. After all, she didn’t want to be seen and she wasn’t supposed to be sneaking inside. It was a simple recon mission, almost too simple.

She froze and jumped backwards. An arrow hit the spot she’d just been a split second before. It didn’t take her long to find the assailant. A green haired, brown eyed Amazon who had hidden herself in a large tree. She had a confident stance and a sabre securely tucked into her belt.

Janice reached for her wand when the Amazon tossed a pouch full of some kind of dust at her.

The wand didn’t work. It was some kind of powder mixed with leech stone dust. She wouldn’t be able to activate the wand for a while.

She drew her daggers. The Amazon pulled her sabre from its sheath and leapt down to meet her.

The blades clashed. Janice tried to twist one of her daggers to wrest the blade from the Amazon’s hands, but she managed to keep hold of it.

The Amazon kicked Janice in the gut and tried to follow up with a quick thrust to her stomach. Janice twisted her body, deflected the blade with one dagger and tried to push the second into the Amazon’s throat. The Amazon was able to manoeuvre out of the way and back quickly away from Janice.

“Name?” Janice asked, taking a breath.

“Petunia Notton,” she answered. “Yours?”

“Janice Kunar,” Janice answered.

“Well, Dame Kunar, you’re quite stealthy and skilled with those blades,” Petunia said. “It’s nice to meet a worthy opponent.”

“Likewise,” Janice responded. She quickly closed the distance between her and Petunia, swinging her blades. Petunia responded just as quickly, parrying and avoiding the the blows.

Janice caught glimpses of other Amazons taking position in the trees around them. They seemed more interested in watching the fight than joining it, but that could change at any point. Especially if it looked like Petunia was going to lose.

Janice knew she was going to have to end things quickly. She waited for Petunia to swing and fell backwards, like she’d tried to evade the strike and tripped.

Petunia quickly moved to follow up with a savage thrust. Janice somersaulted into the air, kicked against Petunia’s blade and slashed at her face. She expected the Amazon to recoil back in pain but Petunia surprised her by rapidly swinging up with her sabre.

They both backed away from each other. Janice had a somewhat deep cut across her chest. Petunia’s left eye was forced shut and blood was dripping down her face.

“Another time,” Janice said. She quickly grabbed the wand and activated it. To her relief, she’d shaken off enough of the powder for it to work.

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Concerning Grand Pilgrimage

At the start of this year I talked about my plans and one of them was to adapt Grand Pilgrimage into a full blown e-book. Well, that’s happened. It’s currently up for sale on Amazon under it’s new title Athena’s Wellspring. It’s later than I thought it would be, but it’s done.

It features gorgeous cover art by the Australian artist Nicole Cadet. With Inés, Sylvie and Serena all represented.

NCadetAthenasWellspring.jpg

Please, consider purchasing it if you like my writing. I did put it up for a relatively cheap price to make it as affordable as possible.

So, what’s next? Well, it’s got to be the Last Draconian. I’m going to work hard and try to get that one out on e-book for all of you by the end of next year.

Oh, and there will be a new chapter for True Chivalry out today. Probably in six hours or so. So, don’t worry about that. I just wanted to share the news first. Thanks for listening and happy holidays to all of you.

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Voyages of the Cerberus 219: The Cortex’s Plan

Lucy explained the Cortex to Paul and Grace. The siblings exchanged a brief look.

“Any ideas on weaknesses these guys would have?” Lucy wondered.

“They’ll have a shortened life span,” Paul observed. “Even if they try to mitigate it with cybernetic parts and enhancements, they’re still pushing their bodies beyond what’s healthy.”

“It might be possible to hack the hive mind,” Grace stated.

“You aren’t talking about normal computers. You’re talking abut human minds,” Paul said.

“Yes, but they’ve been wired to behave like computers,” Grace pointed out. “And they’re set up to allow their bodies to be controlled. Meaning we could, theoretically, send them all a command.”

“But their bodies are only controlled like that when they’re asleep,” Paul argued. “We might be able to send a command to those who are. But those who aren’t won’t just stand there watching.”

“Maybe we don’t have to send a command that’ll be carried out,” Lucy stated. “Maybe if we could disrupt their link and send a simple order to the sleeping ones, we could cause enough chaos to deal with them.”

“I can’t claim to approve,” Paul said. “It would be a huge violation of their autonomy.”

Lucy reached up and patted his shoulder. “Doctor, we all appreciate your distaste for violence of any kind. But right now these people are targeting this ship and its crew. If Grace’s plan will save us right when we need it, I’ll do everything I can to carry it out.” She turned to Grace. “I’ll lend you Kat since she’s good at hacking.”

“I’ll need her,” Grace admitted. “Based on your description, I doubt it’ll be easy to do.”

“There is another option,” Paul said. “Right now, they’re following at a distance. If we can reach Yujin before they come after us, we won’t need to worry. In all likelihood, they’re after the princesses. We get them to Lunais, we win.”

Lucy nodded. “That is something else to consider. But, given our history, I don’t think it’ll be that easy.”

*****

Antoine often wondered how Elijah managed to pilot so well. This was one of those times. The Blazer was going at its fastest speed directly through an asteroid field. Elijah’s face was both focused and determined. He was staring at his instruments as he moved.

He veered sharply to the left, almost causing Antoine to lose his balance.

Antoine checked the long range scanners. The enemy ships were moving around the field to intercept them as they exited.

“Now,” Elijah said.

Ussie fired their missiles.

The asteroids behind them ignited. The Blazer was shaken by the explosion, but not seriously damaged. The scanners went down completely. Antoine couldn’t tell where the enemy ships were.

Elijah turned it around and rushed back out of the field. He moved into the planet’s atmosphere and switched everything except minimal life support off.

“Think we really lost them?” Antoine asked.

“Probably,” Elijah said. “They’ll be checking the asteroid field for us. And they shouldn’t be able to detect the Blazer like this.”

“So, what now?” Antoine asked.

“We wait,” Elijah answered. “Not the most interesting thing, I know. But the surest.”

Ussie brought out some lanterns and used them to give the crew a look at the bridge.

“So, anyone got a good ghost story?” Elijah asked.

*****

“They are not going to Turing. Nor are they approaching Ca’urrg.”

“Where then are they going?”

“It is not certain.”

“Given all available data, we must extrapolate a probable destination.”

“The most probable destination is Yujin Prime. It has been reported that the Cerberus encountered the legendary Himestrix and came to be on positive terms with her.”

“I must interface with the mind.”

The captain flipped a switch. The wires entered her skull, connecting her directly with the great Overmind.

“Probability of retrieving the targets, should they reach the Himestix’s garden is virtually zero. Ergo, we must not permit the Cerberus to reach Yujin. Time until they arrive?”

“At their maximum speed, two days,thirteen hours and fifteen minutes.”

“Then, our speed is superior. We will reach Yujin space first and strike when they arrive. The Cerberus crew is expendable. Only the Swieth princesses matter. The Cerberus crew will be exterminated should they resist. All hail the Overmind.”

The monotone chant filled the bridge of the Cortex vessel.

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Voyages of the Cerberus 218: Those who pursue

Lucy detected something strange, for just a brief second, on her station. She went back over the readings, scanning them carefully.

At a cursory glance, it could have been a lot of innocuous things. Some space debris with enough intact parts to cause a response, a ship passing at a distance, even a momentary response glitch from someone fiddling with the settings but there was something about it that didn’t sit right with her.

Her instincts told her it was a more sinister option. And she’d caught some readings of a vessel just as it activated a stealth field.

Of course, there was a way to be certain.

“Kat, I’d like you to launch one of the disposable drones,” Lucy said.

“Think we’re being followed?” Ophelia asked.

“I consider it a possibility,” Lucy answered. “A ship equipped with a stealth device, if my readings are correct.”

*****

“We’re being overwhelmed!” Antoine cried.

“I sssugessst a ssstrategic retreat,” Ussie said.

“There’s an asteroid field not too far from here, right?” Elijah asked.

“There are too many for hiding in an asteroid field,” Antoine pointed out.

“Oh, I know,” Elijah said. “That’s why we’re going to go straight through the field at top speed, unload missiles into the asteroids behind us and do a u-turn while their sensors are confused. We should have just enough time to go hide in that planet’s atmosphere.”

“It ssshould work,” Ussie stated.

“It’s insane!” Antoine countered. “If the piloting isn’t perfect, we’ll crash into an asteroid or hit our own explosion.”

“Antoine, relax,” Elijah said. “Have some chill. If it takes perfect piloting to succeed, I shall just have to pilot perfectly. Let’s go!”

*****

Kat released the drone. Lucy watched its feed with interest. If they were being followed, she’d definitely get a look at their pursuers.

It didn’t take long for the drone to get a response. It was destroyed by long range weapons.

“We’re definitely being followed,” Lucy reported. “Our drone was just destroyed.”

“I’ll try to shake them,” Ophelia said. “If we move quickly and use a complicated enough route, they may lose track.”

“And I’ll watch the footage again in slow motion and from different angles,” Lucy stated. “Maybe I’ll get a look at what’s after us.”

Lucy examined the drone’s feeds from just before the moment of its destruction. She spotted the ship. It was at a great distance and only in frame for a couple seconds, but it was there.

She quickly enhanced the footage. The ship was stout and heavily ridged. It probably only had room for about five or six crew.

“I have a shot of the ship,” Lucy reported. “The good news, our enemies are human. The bad news, only kind of.”

“What does that mean?” Filorya asked. She examined the image. The ship did not look familiar.

Ophelia looked confused as well.

“Kat, you’ve encountered them before, haven’t you?” Lucy asked.

Kat nodded. “I encountered them when I was a peace keeper for the Alliance. They call themselves the Unified Cortex. They’re a group who modified themselves with cybernetic parts. And we aren’t talking normal prosthetics or enhancements. Their bodies are remade to move automatically when their minds have to sleep to allow them to carry out more duties in a day. Their brains are equipped with transmitters to allow them to access one another’s minds. Members on separate ships will regularly plug into an amplifier to allow them to communicate as a kind of hive mind.”

“Hive minds are cumbersome,” Filorya stated.

“Don’t under-estimate them,” Lucy cautioned, her yellow eyes opening. “They’re fanatics and very dangerous.”

“So, why would they be chasing us?” Ophelia wondered.

“They’re most likely doing mercenary work,” Lucy answered. “They’ll take on high profit jobs and use the funds to either upgrade themselves or buy information. One thing Kat neglected to mention is that the Cortex gathers all the knowledge they can about any and every one. The one thing they may not know about the Cerberus is that we’ve got Filorya. And that knowledge is going to make them truly dangerous.”

“If they go after high profit jobs, we can assume they know we have the princesses,” Ophelia said. “Or the Alliance has put a lot of credits out on us.”

“Their ship is half the Cerberus’ size,” Filorya noted. “It’s unlikely they can match our firepower.”

“Perhaps not,” Lucy admitted. “They may have 75% of our power in that ship. But it won’t be alone. If they came after us with a full squad, we’re looking at a dozen of those. We may be lucky though. They may have split in half to chase both us and the Blazer. If they weren’t entirely certain we had the princesses.”

“Any weaknesses we can exploit?” Ophelia asked.

“Perhaps,” Lucy answered. “I’ll need to consult with Grace and Paul.”

“Do it,” Ophelia said. “Kat and Fil can cover for you.”

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True Chivalry: part Fifteen

First Chapter

Previous Chapter

“So, the question is what to do until the Captain arrives,” Roderick stated.

“The question is more who to do it,” Miranda corrected him. “What we need is to scout around the Amazon’s base to give us a better plan of attack. The issue is getting close enough.”

“We couldn’t send a large unit,” Patricia noted. “We’re looking at two or three people at most.”

“Then I’ll go by myself,” Alexander stated. “I’m confident in my stealth abilities.”

“Fool,” Janice muttered. “You always feel mislaid confidence.”

“Well, if three of us went I imagine we could manage,” Judith stated. “Why, I’ll bet three of us ladies could pass as Amazons if we took some time to make ourselves some nice costumes. I’ve seen what they fight in, I could sew…”

“Stop,” Janice stated. She looked at Miranda. “Scrying magics?”

“Don’t work,” Miranda stated. “They’re either using magics of their own to block it, or they’ve got some leech stone around their camp.”

“I do think Judith’s right,” Roderick noted. “A woman would have a better chance. You couldn’t go, Vice Captain. Your face is too well known.”

“I’ll go,” Janice said. “Alone.”

“Are you that confident?” Miranda asked.

“My chances are, I believe, the best,” Janice said.

“All right,” Miranda said. “I’ll allow it, but I want you to take a wand of Phasing. Just in case you need to get out in an emergency. You’ll leave tonight and report back in the morning.”

“So, when are we doing our big offensive?” Frederick asked. “Tomorrow?”

“Our orders were to hold out for the Captain,” Roderick reminded him.

“But we shouldn’t just sit around!” Frederick declared.

“We won’t,” Miranda stated. “We’re going to build up some fortifications around this area, make it a proper base of operations. That way, we’ll have somewhere to fall back to if our offensive doesn’t go well. With this many troops, we’ll be able to work on that and keep watch for the enemy.”

George entered the tent quietly. “Don’t go over the information again on my count,” he said. “Young master Grut can tell me what’s been decided.”

“Me?” Alexander asked. “Well, I don’t mind.”

“We were just about done,” Miranda stated.

“Well, I only have one little thing to add,” George stated. “I would like Sir Garnak assigned to my unit. I believe it would be humiliating for him to have to work alongside his own troops.”

“Suspicious,” Janice muttered.

“Well, it’s no more than a horrid man like him deserves,” Judith began. “You should have heard all the awful things he said to us. I’ve never been so…”

Miranda held up an arm, cutting her off. “I know you have your reasons,” she said. “Consider him your second until such a time comes that he proves himself again.”

George bowed. “My thanks. Now, come along and explain what’s been decided for me, Young Man.”

Alexander sighed and followed him as everyone went their separate ways.

*****

A falcon landed on Cassandra’s windowsill. It had a message tied to its legs.

She opened it and read through the contents

My Queen,

I have successfully persuaded the faeries, centaurs and dryads to join our cause. They require a week to gather their forces properly. The new centaur queen has requested that I accompany her to oversee their preparations. With your permission, I will do so and return with those reinforcements. 

Loyally yours, 

Caroline Silvbrush. 

Cassandra smiled. She quickly wrote a reply, sent the falcon on its way and called her generals together.

*****

“So, we’ll have our allies in a week,” Rose muttered.

“Surely, we aren’t going to sit around in waiting until then,” Rachel stated.

Cassandra shook her head. “We are going to continue mounting hit and run attacks against the enemy. The more we whittle their forces down, the better.”

“I believe waiting may be prudent,” Susan argued. Her golden eyes met Cassandra’s gaze. “I do not fancy losing more troops than we have to.”

“I understand your objection,” Cassandra stated. “However, I believe it would be erroneous to quiet and allow them to ascertain that we are waiting for something.”

“Were they to catch wind of our allies they would mount a full offensive and try to wipe us out before they arrive,” Rose added. “I dislike losing our Sisters as well but her majesty is correct. Maintaining regular attacks is the only way.”

“I withdraw my objection,” Susan stated. “Just be careful out there.”

Cassandra nodded. “Tomorrow, the wolves and eagles will engage the enemy. The hawks will provide support for their retreat. Rose, Ivy, I’m trusting you both to fight cautiously and withdraw before they can strike with large numbers.”

“We’ll be in and out before they know it,” Ivy stated.

Cassandra nodded. “Then, take the rest of the day to prepare and rest. Guard duty can be divided among the rest of us.”

*****

“What is this rubbish?” Francis demanded. “You toying with me, Old Man?”

“Not at all,” George stated.

“Then why do I have to follow your orders?” Francis asked.

“Would you rather follow the young lady who was promoted to your position?” George countered. “Or, perhaps, the vice captain?”

Francis hesitated, thinking about it.

“This may be the best arrangement for you,” George said. “No one will think anything of a younger member of the elite being asked to act as second in command for the most senior member.”

Francis deflated. He didn’t like it, but it was the best he was going to get until he could speak with Maximilian.

“Don’t underestimate me,” he muttered. He took his spot by George’s side.

Next Chapter

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Voyages of the Cerberus 217: A Place of Safety

The Blazer launched, moving away from the Cerberus as quickly as it could.

“Is this really a good idea?” Antoine asked.

Elijah shrugged. “Won’t be the first time we’ve been a distraction. Besides, everyone is looking for us. If the princesses are elsewhere, they’ll probably be safer.”

“And Yuri did give her persssonal assssurance that they would be sssafe,” Ussie stated.

“Have you forgotten that they’re mercenaries?” Antoine asked. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re on the way to return them to Swieth right now.”

“I would be,” Elijah said. “Because not every mercenary is equal and that group still has their souls. Besides, there’s not one among them that would be welcomed on Swieth.”

*****

“So, we just have to find a place where these two can be safe?” Filorya asked.

“Seems unlikely,” Leon stated. “Even if we took them to Turing or somewhere else where we can always find safe haven, there would be a lot of effort put into bringing them back.”

“As much as I hate to agree with Leon on this one, he has a point,” Kat stated. “Wherever we leave them, their diplomats are going to do everything in their power to put the pressure on.”

Paul smiled. “Don’t worry. We know some places that won’t cave to that pressure.” He looked at Ophelia. “I’d suggest Turing. Their dealings with Swieth are minimal. They also have strong security.”

“Maybe,” Lucy said. “But they’d never be able to leave the station.”

“Are you two prepared for that?” Ophelia asked.

Azilla & Vivuna were cuddling up to one another, listening to the exchange.

“If that’s what it takes to stay with Vivuna, I will do it,” Azilla stated.

“I reciprocate,” Vivuna agreed.

“All right, I’ll put in a transmission to Turing,” Ophelia said. “Let’s just hope it doesn’t cause too much trouble for them. I really don’t want to strain our relationship.”

“Ophelia, I would offer an alternative,” Yuri stated. “One which would cause no significant problems for the person we leave them with.”

“Now isn’t that a bold claim?” Lucy asked.

“What do you have in mind?” Ophelia asked.

“Lunais of the planet Yujin,” Yuri answered.

“Lunais?” Ophelia asked. “She was…”

“The legendary Himestrix,” Lucy reminded her.

“I remember her,” Kat said. “She had a garden maintained through her seemingly infinite powers where various people from the two warring sides lived in harmony.”

“It’s not a bad idea,” Lucy said. “She has no need for diplomatic ties with other worlds and no one on her own can enter her garden without her permission or knowledge. A hostile force trying to take the princesses certainly couldn’t.”

“The trouble is that we have no way of contacting her in advance,” Ophelia noted. “And if we just show up, there’s no guarantee she’ll take them in.”

“I visited Lunais after I took my hiatus from my duties,” Yuri stated. “I believe that I am well acquainted with her values and how she thinks. I am certain that she would be willing to take them into her garden and grant them a home.”

Ophelia turned to the princesses. “Okay, we’ll give you a choice. We can take you to Turing Station or we can take you to Yujin to live with the Himestrix’s people.”

Azilla and Vivuna whispered amongst themselves for a moment.

“If I am understanding correctly, Yujin is safer?” Vivuna asked.

“Probably the safest place in the universe,” Ophelia answered.

“And there is nature there to be enjoyed?” Azilla asked.

“Oh it’s lovely,” Farah chimed in. “I still dream about it sometimes.”

“Then we select Yujin,” Vivuna said. Azilla nodded.

“All right, I’ll set course,” Ophelia said. “Let’s just hope Elijah and his crew can keep the mercenaries occupied.”

*****

The bridge was sterile, plain and highly functional. Those aboard were in simple, grey uniforms. There were small, circular pieces of metal embedded into their foreheads.

“Our records name it the Cerberus. It is a mercenary vessel.”

“A mercenary vessel? Then, why did they not capture the Blazer?”

“Apparently, they have had multiple rendezvous with the Blazer. It is probable that their captains are on friendly terms.”

“So, they are allies in this matter then?”

“Unknown at this time. There is no record of them meeting any time recently before the incident. However, they could have heard of the situation and come to offer aid.”

“The question then becomes whether that aid was accepted.”

“The withdrawal of the Blazer could be an indication to the contrary.”

“Or, it could be a feint. The princesses could very well be aboard the Cerberus now while the Blazer draws attention.”

“I will interface with the mind.”

The captain flipped a switch. Her metal ports opened and small cables jutted from the ceiling. She plugged them in, her eyes turning a dark green.

There were no sounds but the whirring of electronic components.

“It is decided. The left lobe will follow the Blazer. We of the right, will pursue the Cerberus. All hail the Overmind.”

“All Hail the Overmind.” The shout was surprisingly monotone.

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Allison And the Dusty Lamp

In Toronto there lived a teenage girl named Allison. She had no father. She lived with her mother and uncle. They were poor, but she always did her best. She’d even fixed up a run down, abandoned motorcycle so it basically worked.

Allison was sometimes made fun of in school for her slovenly appearance and her lack of money. When this happened, it was her friend Barbara who always came to the rescue.

Barbara was from a wealthy Chinese family. Her parents had moved to Toronto shortly before she was born and had established themselves as a real societal presence. Allison was a little envious of Barbara’s money and prestige, but she never let those ill feelings affect the way she treated her.

One day, Barbara approached her after classes. “Hey, you want to go to karaoke? My treat.”

“I can’t today,” Allison answered. “I’m helping my uncle.”

“You shouldn’t,” Barbara advised. “He’s already gotten you arrested once.”

“I know,” Allison said. “But he’s promised we aren’t doing anything illegal.”

Barbara didn’t trust her uncle’s vow, but wasn’t able to persuade Allison.

Her uncle took her to a small antiques shop where several of his friends waited.

They did not look reputable but Allison didn’t believe in judging people solely on appearances.

“You got it?” her uncle asked.

His friend produced a small, tarnished ring. “It should create a blind spot in the system,” she said. “But it hasn’t been tested properly.”

Her uncle nodded. “I’ll get that test for you.” He pocketed the ring. “Fingers, come along with us.”

A spindly, dark-haired man joined them. Her uncle drove.

“Where are we going?” Allison asked. She was starting to feel more than a little suspicious.

“Just to the museum,” her uncle assured her. “Nothing to worry about.

True to his word, he stopped the car at the back of the museum.

“Wait here,” he told her. “We’re just going to make sure everything is situated for us.

Allison watched them disappear. By this point, she was absolutely certain they were up to no good and she should have listened to Barbara.

Her uncle and his friend returned presently.

“Okay,” her uncle said. “The back door is unlocked for us. Just go inside and grab the item on the examination table. Okay?”

“Uncle, we shouldn’t steal from the museum,” Allison protested. “Let’s just go.”

“Who’s stealing?” her uncle asked. “They left the door open for us, didn’t they? Relax. We’re just supposed to take it back to the antiques shop and return it in the morning. Now go on.”

Hesitantly, Allison stepped out of the car.

“Hold on,” her uncle said. “Wear this ring when you go in. I think it suits you.” He produced the ring from his pocket.

Allison obediently slipped it on her finger.

She didn’t want to do this. She should have listened to Babs.

The back door opened. She moved inside. There were all kinds of interesting artefacts sitting around on shelves. On the table, was a dusty old lamp.

Not the most interesting thing in the room, but maybe that meant they wouldn’t miss it.

She picked it up and hurried outside. Her uncle was gone and she could see why. An RCMP car had parked right near where her uncle had been.

Her heart sank. She closed the door back up, knowing she couldn’t really hide. Nervously, she stroked the old lamp.

Multi-coloured smoke spewed forth and a pink-haired woman with pointed ears and a belly dancer’s costume emerged.

“Who disturbs my slumber?” she asked, stretching.

“S… sorry,” Allison whispered.

The genie carefully studied Allison and smiled. “Very well, Mistress. You have three wishes. No wishing for more wishes. No immortality and no changing a person’s fundamental nature. Okay?”

“Then… I wish I was safely at home,” Allison said.

“Granted,” the Genie snapped her fingers and Allison found herself sitting on her own bed.

“Wow,” Allison murmured. “Can you do anything?”

“I already told you the three things I can’t do,” the genie answered.

“So, if I wished for a large sum of money and a brand new motorcycle that could really fly…” Allison began.

“Granted!” the genie snapped her fingers. A set of keys and a slip of paper fell into Allison’s hands.

“A Lotto 6/49 ticket?” Allison asked.

“A winning ticket,” the genie answered. “As for those keys, it’s outside.”

Allison hurried outside, carrying the lamp in her backpack. There was a sleek, red, brand new cycle waiting for her.

She put on her helmet and climbed into the seat. It started like a dream. The genie climbed behind her. “Go ahead, give it a test drive,” she said.

Allison obliged. “Hold on,” she said.

The genie shrugged and held on to Allison’s waist. The bike drove beautifully. There was a strange switch that Allison didn’t recognise. She decided to give it a quick flip and see what it did. The bike launched into the air, flying over the road.

“How?” Allison wondered.

“You asked for a bike that could ‘really fly’,” the genie reminded her.

“This is so cool!” Allison exclaimed. “I have to show Babs!”

“Then I will wait for your last wish,” the genie said. She vanished back into the lamp.

Allison touched the bike back down and hurried to Barbara’s house.

She moved to the back and tossed a small pebble at Barbara’s window. Barbara stuck her head out a moment later. Allison waved her over.

“What happened?” Barbara whispered. “Did your uncle have you do anything bad?”

“Babs, you have to see this!” Allison said. “Trust me, it’s amazing!” She pulled Allison over to her new bike.

“How did you afford this?” Barbara asked. “Your uncle didn’t steal it, did he?”

Allison shook her head. “No, it’s really mine. Hop on the back. I have to show you something.”

Barbara hesitated, but she took a seat behind Allison and held on to her. Allison handed Barbara her spare helmet.

Allison launched the bike directly into the sky.

Babs held on tight, calmed down and started enjoying the view.

“Ally, how does this work?” Barbara asked.

“I don’t know, but it’s the greatest thing of all time,” Allison said.

She took Barbara for a short flight. The pair ended up landing on a hill. They got off the bike and lied down in the grass.

“Ally, you have to explain this to me,” Barbara pleaded, sitting up. “If you’re in trouble or did something…”

Allison shifted so she was using Barbara’s lap as a pillow. Barbara stroked her hair.

Allison explained everything. The museum, the genie, her wishes.

“You believe me?” Allison asked.

“It’s a lot to believe,” Barbara said. “But I know that you wouldn’t lie to me. May I see the genie?”

Allison fumbled with her backpack and found the lamp. She rubbed it and the genie emerged in the same rainbow plume of smoke.

“You have a final wish for me?” she asked.

“Not yet, I just wanted to show Babs that you’re real,” Allison answered.

The genie winked at Barbara. “Satisfied or do you need to touch me?”

Barbara’s face flushed.

“That’s enough!” Allison declared.

“Fine,” the genie said. She went back into her lamp.

“It truly is a miracle,” Barbara said. “But will you be okay? If your uncle finds out…”

“He won’t,” Allison insisted. “I’ll hide the bike for now and find my own flat with the money from the ticket.”

“Then, I’ll come over and see you,” Barbara said.

“I’ll look forward to it,” Allison said.

Little did either one realise that Allison’s uncle had seen her flying on a brand new bike with a strange, pink-haired girl riding behind. And he’d deduced what had happened. Not only that, he was determined to have the genie’s lamp for himself.

He waited near Barbara’s house. He’d parked far away and crept close. He waited for his niece to drop her off and he quickly abducted her.

*****

Late that night, Allison was woken up because her uncle was on the phone and insisted on talking with her.

“Hello?” she asked, feeling very sleepy.

“I know about the genie,” her uncle said. “So, let me put this simply. You bring me the lamp and I won’t hurt your little friend. Say hi.”

Allison heard Barbara’s voice “Ally I…” the phone was quickly pulled away from her.

“So, we have a deal?”

“Just don’t hurt her!” Allison declared. “Where do you need me to go?”

“The Antique shop,” her uncle answered. “And you’d better be here by dawn.”

Allison hurriedly dressed. She grabbed her backpack and rubbed the lamp. “Genie, I have my last wish.”

*****

Barbara was terrified. She had ropes tied tightly, binding her to a chair. Allison’s uncle was there with three other people.

“You sure she’ll come?” one asked.

“Sure she will,” Allison’s uncle answered. Barbara here is her little girlfriend. And she’s the type to do a lot for love.”

Barbara was just starting to wrap her mind around the words when she heard an engine outside.

“Uncle, I’m here!” Allison’s voice rang out. “Give me Babs back!”

Her uncle nodded and two of his friends untied Barbara. Each one grabbed one of her arms and they dragged her outside. Allison was sitting there with the lamp in her hand.

“You gonna hand that over?” her uncle asked.

“An exchange,” Allison said. “The lamp for Babs. But I’ll ask you, as your family. Please, reconsider. You don’t have to take things from others to survive.”

Her uncle grabbed Barbara himself and dragged her towards Allison. “Family or not, this is an opportunity I can’t miss. You see, I’ve always wanted to have absolute power over a nation and Canada would be so much stronger with me as Emperor.” he said. He pushed Barbara towards her. “Now, hand it over.”

Allison held out the lamp and quickly grabbed Barbara as he was taking it.

He eagerly rubbed the lamp.

“Your wish is granted!” the genie declared. She snapped her fingers and Allison’s uncle, as well as his companions, was in chains.

“The contract, is fulfilled,” she decreed. The dusty old lamp vanished.

“What is this?” he demanded. “What have you done?”

“I made my last wish,” Allison answered. “The RCMP should be here soon. With all the evidence they need to take care of you.”

She untied Barbara and took her back home.

“I’m sorry,” Allison said, removing her helmet. “Are you okay?”

“I may be better than ever,” Barbara said. She took off her own helmet, leaned down towards Allison. “Your uncle said you were in love with me.”

“I… I… that is…” Barbara interrupted her with a kiss.

“When you get your own place, let’s live together,” Barbara said. “Always.”

Allison stood up and kissed Barbara back. “Always.” she agreed.

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True Chivalry part Fourteen

First Chapter

Previous Chapter

George Napon stretched out. He wasn’t as spry as he used to be, that much was certain.

He made note of the mound of freshly dug up and returned soil. The battle had begun and there was already a mass grave.

The twins were taking in the scene as well. Roderick nudged Frederick and whispered something to him, gesturing towards the mound.

Alexander was letting his mind wander. Glancing furtively to the clouds and then quickly back to the road ahead.

Janice was watching the trees. Undoubtedly looking for any signs of Amazons.

George couldn’t help but morbidly wonder, out of all these promising youths, how many would return?

Maybe he was getting old and losing his taste for battle.

The group was greeted by Miranda at the gates. She looked upset.

“How goes the battle?” George asked.

“Not great,” Miranda answered. “I’m afraid we’ve lost Geoff.”

“Geoff?” Alexander snapped to attention and hurried over. “How… how did he…”

“Francis led him to pursue some fleeing Amazons and they fell into an ambush,” Miranda answered. “For the time being, I’ve removed Francis from command.”

George glanced behind her. Francis was staring figurative daggers into her back.

“An appropriate decision,” George said. “Have you distributed his and Geoff’s troops among other units?”

Miranda shook her head. “I merged them into a single unit and I’ve put a promising soldier in charge.”

“And which noble family are they from?” Alex pressed.

“She’s not from a noble family,” Miranda answered.

“But she is a worthy leader, I trust,” George pressed, trying to cut off the protest he saw coming.

“She is,” Miranda answered. “I’ve fought by her side against the Amazonian queen herself. She’s completely reliable.”

“then it’s fine,” George stated, glancing knowingly back at the other unit leaders. “Why don’t all of you meet with Dame Pienta to iron out the details for watches and such. I’m afraid the long road has tired me somewhat. So, I’m going to take a brief respite.”

Miranda glanced at him with an upraised eyebrow. She knew that he was up to something. He was certain of that much. He gave her a reassuring smile and she nodded, leading the others away.

George sighed, dismounted his horse and moved over to Francis.

“So, you’ve been disgraced,” George said.

“Not the time for your nonsense, Old man,” Francis said.

“Age can bring wisdom,” George said. “And I know full well the kind of man you are.” He glared at the larger, younger man. “So, what are you planning to do to her?”

Francis looked away. “Nothing. We’re on the same side.”

“A good answer if true,” George said. “See to it that you don’t deviate from that. Because if you do,” George partially removed his blade from it’s sheathe. “You’ll have to deal with me.”

“Like I’m afraid of some geezer,” Francis muttered. George heard it, but chose to take solace in the fact that Francis was looking away from him and trying to say it so he wouldn’t hear.

*****

Cassandra greeted the morning by scanning her forest and making note of every bird, rodent and even insect. Artura was on the encampment wall beside her.

“Artura, tell me, as a friend, how is my daughter doing?”

“She’s capable,” Artura answered.

“I have concerns,” Cassandra confided. “I don’t know if she can fight against Miranda. Perhaps it’s better if I withdraw her, but I don’t want to place the welfare of my own daughter above any other soldier.”

“You would be challenged,” Artura stated.

“By you?” Cassandra asked.

Artura shook her head. “Rachel, Ivy maybe Petunia.”

“Then let me ask you directly,” Cassandra said. “Are my fears unwarranted?”

“Your daughter is stricken by Aphrodite’s spell,” Artura answered. “If Miranda is as well, she won’t harm her either. If she’s not…” Artura reached into her quiver and produced a single, barbed arrow “I’ll handle it.”

“It truly is a pity that our peoples needs must be enemies,” Cassandra mused. “I’d love to encourage Courtney’s feelings, discuss the relationship with Hector and prepare a grand feast for Hera’s ceremony. But that’s simply not possible.”

“Maybe after the war,” Artura stated. “If they both survive.”

Cassandra thought about it. For Courtney’s sake, she kind of hoped that happened. But she also knew they couldn’t afford to go easy against a warrior like Miranda. Alas, a happy ending seemed far away.

*****

Caroline met with Ida in private. She still couldn’t believe how beautiful the centaur was. But she knew she had to push such fantasies from her mind. She was too old and this was a professional scenario.

“You wished to speak?” Ida asked.

“Yes, I did,” Caroline said. “Please, sit.” Ida obliged her, kneeling on her equine legs.

“I don’t know exactly what your grandfather told you about me and my guile, but one thing I can tell you is that I never lied to him. As an Amazonian ambassador, I have always been honest in my dealings with other races.” She studied Ida’s face to judge her response.

“He has told me that you don’t speak false,” Ida granted. “However, he also said that you don’t always speak the whole truth.”

She looked up at Caroline. It was an intense gaze.

“Then let me speak very clearly,” Caroline said. “The Torlans want to raze the forest between our kingdoms for its mineral resources. Something they vowed to us they would not do. Now, they’ve vowed to you that your area of the wood has nothing to fear.”

“And you believe they will break their vow to us as well,” Ida stated. “You have made that much clear. I do believe them untrustworthy, but I don’t know if we should rush into battle”

“Let me make it clearer,” Caroline said. “The mineral wealth of that land is not abundant. They’ll have enough for a decade, maybe twelve years at most. And if they win their battle against us, they won’t have as difficult a time against all of you.”

She took Ida’s hand and looked into her eyes. “Will you stand with us now, while our combined forces are at their highest or wait until they’ve gained more power and ours is diminished?”

Ida pulled away, turning from Caroline’s gaze. “Leave me to think on this,” she pleaded. “I will answer after an hour.”

Next Chapter

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True Chivalry: Part Thirteen

First Chapter

Previous Chapter

Cassandra returned to the Amazon encampment feeling triumphant.

Lynn and Rachel were the first to greet her.

“Well?” she asked, expectantly.

“We lured two of their captains,” Rachel reported. “With their units. About a quarter of the soldiers fell to Artura’s ambush. And one of the unit leaders. In short, we did awesome.”

“Very good,” Cassandra stated. “So, who slew the unit leader?”

“I did,” Artura answered. “One arrow through the throat.”

“Then I’ll see to it that you’re properly rewarded,” Cassandra stated.

Artura shook her head. “Just did my duty. No more, no less.”

“I appreciate that you think of it that way,” Cassandra said. “But I am officially offering special rewards to any warrior who slays one of their captains. And that, Dear Artura, includes you.”

“Then I will gratefully accept that,” Artura stated. Her voice was very monotone when she spoke.

“That’s the best I can expect, I suppose,” Cassandra said. “Any word from Caroline yet?”

“None,” Rose answered.

“Well, I’m going to get some rest for now,” Cassandra said. “I trust we have a rotating night watch lined up?”

“We do,” Rose said.

Cassandra yawned. “Then I leave it to you.”

She was on her way to her tent when Courtney approached her.

“Are you all right, Mother? You weren’t hurt fighting Miranda?”

“She’s a strong warrior, but she isn’t that strong,” Cassandra answered.

“Then you beat her?” Courtney tried to stop herself from sounding nervous.

“I would have, but she was fighting alongside a rather strong vulpine feralial,” Cassandra answered. “About the best I could do against the combination was hold my own.”

“Oh, I see,” Courtney allowed herself a slight smile. “Well, good night.”

“Good night, Dear,” Cassandra said. She had to restrain herself. Her daughter was too obvious. She just had to hope that Courtney didn’t encounter Miranda on the battlefield. She would never be able to bring herself to fight back against her.

*****

Miranda sat in her tent, staring at Courtney’s last message. She wanted to reply and let her know she was okay. She wanted to just chat about career aspirations, favourite animals and nothing at all. Like they’d used to.

But she couldn’t very well be exchanging correspondences with “the enemy.” Besides, she just couldn’t think of anything to say to her.

When had it become so difficult? They’d never stopped talking like this. Not even when…

Her thoughts were interrupted by someone entering her tent. She quickly hid the letter and turned.

“You wanted to see me?” Aiko asked.

“Yes, I did,” Miranda said. “I’ve relieved Captain Garnak of his leadership role. For the moment, I want you to take command of the combined forces of him and Captain Ogder.”

“You’re going to get yourself in trouble,” Aiko stated.

“You don’t have to worry about me,” Miranda said. “Besides, I trust you not to make tactical decisions that are that bad.”

Aiko nodded. “All right. Shall I let them know?”

“No,” Miranda said. “At dawn I’ll come with you and we’ll both let them know. While I trust their professionalism…”

“They’ll find it hard to believe?” Aiko interrupted.

“That they will,” Miranda said. She stretched. “Well, I’m going to go take my turn a s part of the night watch. You should try to get some rest.”

*****

Francis couldn’t sleep.

He was still angry. Not just with the Amazons for their sneaky attack, but with Miranda for her soft leadership and for taking his unit from him.

Outliving her alone was not going to balance the scales to make up for this indignity. He needed more. He needed some way to make her suffer.

But he couldn’t do anything directly… No, that would be career suicide.

Maybe if he could find a way to get her captured by the Amazons, they’d properly mistreat her… No, that wouldn’t work. Amazons were too weak to treat their prisoners poorly. Besides, she’d grown up as friends to them. They wouldn’t…

He paused at that. Yes, she’d grown p as friends to them. The Queen’s daughter in particular. He glanced at his axe and smirked. If he could take her head, which he was confident he could, that would cause Miranda a lot of suffering indeed.

The best part was that no one could complain about him slaying an enemy.

He tested the edge of his axe. It was still very sharp. Would the Vice Captain openly weep? What sort of face would she show when he was through?

Next Chapter

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Voyages of the Cerberus 216: The Truth Comes Out

The Blazer had seen better days. That was certainly true. They’d also seen worse…

“Everything is on fire!” Antoine shouted.

Probably seen worse. Elijah looked around the bridge. The fires were relatively small and contained, for the moment, but they couldn’t take many more hits.

“We have to get out of the line of fire,” Elijah said. “Ussie, I want you to vent the plasma from our weapons around the ship for a smokescreen. Antoine, when she does that, set off an EMP. It won’t do much, but it should take out their radars long enough for us to escape. I’ll pilot us out of here. Oh, and we should probably start putting out these fires once we’re clear.”

Ussie and Antoine went into action. Elijah immediately took the Blazer past the trio of ships that was bearing down on them.

He almost thought they were free, until two more ships moved in.

Elijah sighed. He hated when he kept getting attacked by people with no chill. It was ever so inconvenient.

“There’ssss another ship approaching,” Ussie reported.

Antoine was running around the bridge trying to do some damage control.

“One of the ones we left behind?” Elijah asked. The Blazer shook from torpedo fire.

“It’sss the Cerberussss,” Ussie answered.

“Great, now they’re hunting us too,” Antoine muttered.

The Cerberus unleashed a volley against one of the attacking ships.

“No, they’re helping us,” Elijah said. The second ship moved about to face the Cerberus only to get hit by both the Cerberus and the Blazer.

“Messsage incoming,” Ussie said.

Elijah nodded. “Hi, Ophelia,” he greeted. “You look a bit thin. Have you been eating properly?”

“We can exchange pleasantries later,” Ophelia said. “For now, follow us out of here.”

“Kay,” Elijah said. He switched the communications off “That woman really should relax, you know?”

“Maybe you should be less relaxed,” Antoine suggested.

“Too much stress is bad for you,” Elijah said.

The Blazer followed carefully behind the Cerberus.

“Another transsssmisssion,” Ussie sad. “They’re inviting ussss aboard.”

“Should I wear a tie?” Elijah wondered. “Wait, do I even own a tie?”

“You don’t need a tie,” Antoine stated, rubbing his forehead with his palm.

“Oh, that’s good,” Elijah said. “Well, Ussie, let’s go. Antoine, check on our guests and make sure they’re okay.”

Elijah took a shuttle over to the Cerberus with his serpentine right hand.

Lucy and Yuri were there to greet them.

“I attempted to contact you,” Yuri stated.

“Did you?” Elijah asked. “Interesting.”

“Our long range communicationssss went down after a mercenary attack,” Ussie explained. “How did you find usssss?”

“Ophelia and I used your last known location and referenced the general area against areas with increased mercenary activity,” Lucy stated. “Come on, she’s waiting on the bridge.”

The first thing they noticed when they reached the bridge was Filorya.

“Passssifican,” Ussie hissed.

Elijah gave her a sideways look. “Have we met?” he asked. “I feel like we haven’t…. Have we?”

“This is Filorya,” Ophelia introduced. “She just joined our crew recently.”

“And I thought you had ssstandardsss,” Ussie muttered.

“Ussie, chill,” Elijah said. “I’m sure she’s perfectly nice. We can trust Ophelia and her crew.”

“Glad you think so,” Ophelia said. “Because I want to know just what the hell you’ve done?”

“Like, recently or ever?” Elijah asked.

If anyone else asked that, I’d think they were being a smart ass,” Ophelia said. “I mean, why are so many mercenaries after you and why are they saying you’ve abducted princesses of Swieth,” Ophelia clarified.

“Oh, that,” Elijah said.

“You really ssshould have been able to figure that out,” Ussie stated. “You ssspend too much time sssmoking that weed you cultivate.”

“Cannabis isn’t a weed,” Elijah said. “It’s a wonder of nature. And too answer your question, Ophelia, we didn’t abduct anyone. We found Azilla and Vivuna at a port. They asked us to help them find somewhere their parents couldn’t find them and that’s what we’re doing.”

“I feel like there’s more to the story than that and you’re just not extrapolating on it,” Ophelia said.

“That’ssss correct,” Ussie said. “It ssseemssss the princessssesss became intimate after getting to know each other. Sssince sssuch love isssss forbidden on Ssswieth, they ssstole an experimental sship and fled.”

“I don’t get why their parents can’t just be understanding and give them their blessing,” Elijah said, scratching his head. “But they have to be, pardon my language, anuses about it.”

“They would certainly lose face if it became public knowledge,” Lucy said. “Given the political climate on that planet.”

“All right,” Ophelia said. “We’ll help any way we can. Lucy, gather everyone together and try to figure out a place for the princesses. I’ll take our ships into an area with high interference where, hopefully, we won’t get caught by mercenaries any time soon.” She looked at Elijah. “Unless you had someplace specific in mind.”

“You know he takesss on thingsss like thisss without thinking,” Ussie said.

Elijah just shrugged. “What can I say? I like to help or meddle, depending on your point of view.”

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