Excerpt for The Grand Revenge by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Red Universe Presents


The Grand Revenge

by Victor Lorandi


Copyright 2017 Victor Lorandi


Smashwords Edition License Notes:

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Contents

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chatpter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Epilogue

About the Author

Other Books by the Author

Connect with Me

Prologue

Fargos was standing his ground while Eric Red paced around him. He was showing his anger to the Crimson Guard, sure that the other man was equally angry. That monstrosity of a mask did not let any emotions through its white eye-holes.

He decided to taunt his opponent, try to get the best out of him.

“You fight well, Eric. I thought the Crimson Guard was all about muscle and no brain. You often show up, raze hell and leave. No finesse to your methods.”

He tried to put some laughter in his words, but couldn't really bring himself to do it. The situation was not so funny. He jumped at Eric, swinging his sword with confidence. Eric parried it and took the moment to taunt Fargos back.

“That is one fine looking sword you have there, Fargos. I may as well learn to use two swords, just so I can keep yours.” He said.

That was an old taunt, but it got to Fargos anyway.

“Oh, you'll have my sword. In your gut!”

Fargos plunged forward, aiming for the soft spot on the belly of the beast before him. Eric quickly sidestepped and swung his own sword against Fargos. The pirate felt a burning pain on his waist as he tried to regain his balance, turning towards the Crimson Guard. Before he could actually recover his footing, Eric plunged, the point of his sword aimed against Fargos's eye.

There was a loud explosion and the world around the pirate Captain seemed to melt away. It was a boarding pod of another pirate ship that had crashed into his own ship. Fargos felt himself slipping away, but he managed to shout a final order.

“Get the bastard, men! Triple to the man who brings me his head!"

He felt something was wrong with his face, like there was something missing there. His consciousness seemed to blink. First, there was a volley of lasers pining Eric down. Then another explosion. At last, another Crimson Guard entered the hangar and started making short work of his men.

Pirates fell all around him as he tried to push himself to one of his survival mini-ships. It was designed for one man, but could fit two if necessary.

The other Guard quickly finished off the other pirates. Now the man was entering the pirate pod and preparing for decoupling. Eric ran out of the hangar. Fargos felt his heart sink when he realized what the man intended to do. He was going to leave that hole into space open, let it suck out the remains of all the pirates he had defeated, Fargos included.

He tried really hard to reach his escape vehicle, but something grabbed his ankle. He turned around, scared like never before.

The Crimson Guard had his feet and was staring at him.

"Where are you going? Are you running?"

Fargos tried to get loose from the man's grip, but it was hard and tight.

"Are you? Because if you are, it's useless. You'll survive anyway. I'm going away and you'll feel cold and pressure around you build up, but don't fret. You'll live to see another day, Fargos."

Fargos felt strange with the presence of that particular Crimson Guard.

"Who are you?" Fargos asked in gasps.

"I am known for many names, Fargos. One of them is Light of the Universe."

The man got up, letting go of Fargos's leg. He went back into the boarding pod and started the decoupling sequence again. Fargos tried crawling towards the escape vehicle, but he would never have made it. He felt his world spin and his body go cold. His eyes felt like they were about to pop, but it was strange, because he could only feel one eye hurting. The other one seemed to be having no trouble adapting to the lack of atmosphere or oxygen. It was his end.

Until he breathed again. Like the first time he felt the air surge in his lungs, Fargos puked and started screaming for air, crying out of pain and scare.

"Relax, Captain. You need your strength." a familiar voice said.

It was someone from his crew, but he couldn't tell who it was.

"I'm going to take you somewhere where we can cure you."

"No, leave me. I'm a disgraced pirate." Fargos said between clacking teeth.

"Silence, sir. You don't have a choice in this matter. None of us do. Just do what I tell you and we can continue our work."

But there was no work on Fargos's mind, only rage and hatred.

Another flash and he saw himself strapped to a bed, much like the hospital beds he had aboard the Crippling Pain. There were lights pointed at him, and someone was examining him carefully. Fargos jumped scared. He felt a sharp pain in his head, like someone had poured alcohol on a wound.

"What's going on?" he gasped.

Zibar, his Grig first mate, showed up in his field of view.

"Do not worry, Captain, all will be fine. You must rest and recover. I will take care of the rest."

The Grig turned away and Fargos's vision started to dim, but he could still hear Zibar's voice.

"Can you fix him or not?" The tone was severe.

"I can't do what you are asking me, but I can cover the wounds and make him more comfortable for the next leg of your trip."

"What are you talking about?"

"I'll give you the contact of a better man than myself. He can solve your problems. For now, I'll make sure he can survive the trip."

"Do that, doctor. But remember that if he doesn't make it, it's your neck on the line."

The rest of the conversation started to blur out and Fargos's thought how convenient his consciousness was, to make sure he listened exactly what needed to be heard. So strange.

The next time he opened his eyes, he was now in a much more comfortable bed with clean sheets and the smell of roses in the room.

He looked around without moving his head afraid he could pull something out of place. He could still feel the tingling in his head, but something was very different.

The room was light and bright, with a huge window over a vast garden full of grass and an ocean that crashed not far from there. He immediately knew where he was.

He was home. His home planet of Yantheria. He missed the planet, but he could never go back. Ever in his life. It was forever out of his reach. So, how was he even there?

"Ah, you're awake. Good."

Fargos looked at the man talking to him. It was a thin man with a full beard and black eyes. They were artificial eyes, mechanical and painted to look like holes in the void of space.

"Who are you?"

"My name is Herstings. I am you attending physician. You have a very interesting problem that needs solving and I can help you."

"What's happening. What happened?" Fargos asked, feeling his throat scratch with thirst.

"Relax, Captain." Zibar said from somewhere he could not see.

"Zibar? Where are you? What's going on?"

"I will come back for you. Remember that."

"Come back? Where are you going?"

"To solve problems. Don't worry, you are in safe hands."

He heard footsteps and no longer could hear Zibar's voice.

"Are you a doctor?" Fargos asked looking at Herstings.

"In a way, yes. But do not worry your pretty little head with these details. You are here for cure. And I shall give it to you."

"What happened to me?"

"You were in a terrible accident, Captain Tellaris." the man said, scratching his nose. "I've heard all about you, you know."

"What accident?"

"Well, the Crimson Guard, of course. They are the accident. They are the mistake."

"Eric? Where, what happened?"

"If you mean Eric Red he's well and still hunting for your brothers and sisters."

Fargos breathed deeply. He was feeling dizzy again.

"What happened to me?"

"Nothing a few modifications won't cure. Don't worry none."

He went down again, but his mind refused to give in. He didn't see his surroundings, but he could see two faces very clearly. One was covered in metal, his head shaved clean and cables were attached to the top of it, leaving deep grooves in the flesh. The modulated voice laughed and the permanent scowl on the mask just made it the more terrifying.

The other face was quite the opposite. It was young and healthy, plump in a way, pink cheeks and dark brown hair flowing everywhere on the head. The eyes were of a light brown that seemed to sparkle with mystery. The young boy also laughed, but his face contorted in a sadistic smile.

Fargos knew exactly who they were. He would never forget their faces or names. Eric Red of the Crimson Guard and Thomas Rand from Earth.

He saw and heard only that for a very long time. Until there was only silence. Dead silence. Silence of the grave. Where no man can tread and no soul can whisper.

He opened his eyes again, except he could only feel the motion on his right eye. What he saw made his anger grow inside him. He had always been proud of his looks and his charming face. Now, the reddish hue and green spots on the left side of his field of vision meant only one thing. He had a mechanical eye.

"What is this?" he asked with disgust.

A short, stocky man stepped into his field of vision.

"It's your new eye. But, like I told your first mate, this is a replacement only. I don't supply special hardware."

"Who the Dryness are you?" Fargos asked.

The man seemed to realize something and put his hand over his mouth.

"Oh, dear, I forgot to turn on the image inducer. I apologize. I'm Herstings."

Fargos looked around. The scenery had changed drastically. He was no longer in his home planet, but in a badly lit hospital. He presumed, from the smell surrounding him, they were aboard a space-station. It was stale oxygen and bad air freshener.

"How long have I been here?"

"Standard procedure. Took me about five hours. Your first mate will be coming shortly to pick you up."

Fargos moved around a bit, feeling his body again after a long time.

"Have I lost anything else besides my eye?"

"Nothing that we can tell. Maybe something in your mind is lost. Only time will tell."

"Don't worry, Herstings. I know exactly what I lost inside."

He sat up and looked around for a mirror. He turned his look to Herstings.

"I want a mirror."

Herstings pulled a small mirror from his jacket and handed it to Fargos.

The pirate examined himself and felt a pull on his heart. His face was disfigured. The top left side of his head was covered with medicinal plaster and his eye was now a metal sphere with a red dot in the center. The right side was untouched, perfect as usual.

"Satisfied with the job? I mean, the eye. I had nothing to do with that plaster."

"The eye will do for now. Has my first mate paid you already?"

He tried to sound confident, but the sight of his mangled face had disturbed him deeply.

"Yes, he has."

"May I wait for him outside? I need to stretch my legs."

"I don't recommend that, but if you must."

Fargos got up, leaving the mirror on the bed. He felt angrier and angrier. There was a pain on his back as he walked and his knees seemed to be made of stone. He had no idea how long he had been out between dead and alive. He could remember the cold embrace of space, but not what had happened next. Not in details, at least.

He went to the entrance of the medical center and stepped out. Like all stations in the Empire, the corridors were bustling with activity. No one took a second glance at him. In a place such as this, no one ever did. They were all dejects and rejects. Monstrosities inside and out. Creatures forgotten by the Empire. Criminals.

He leaned against the wall beside the door to the medical center and breathed heavily.

He noticed people avoided looking straight at him. He was used to the opposite. He was used to having all those strange creatures from such different planets stare at his Human face that had such fine features. Now, he had nothing. He was just like the rest of them.

"Captain, what are you doing here?"

Zibar was standing in front of Fargos, who hadn't seen the Grig approach.

"I'm taking a walk, Zibar. What happened?"

"We were defeated. The Crimson Guard cheated."

"There's no cheating when pirates are involved, Zibar. We don't have a code of honor, only a code of survival. Tell me what happened."

"You need food, sir. You have been feeding through tubes for far too long for a human."

"Fine, but you will tell me every single detail."

They quickly went to the eating floor and stopped at the first bar they found, a slimy joint with a Horing as a waiter, dripping black ooze everywhere.

"Well? What happened?" Fargos asked after the waiter brought them food and drinks.

Zibar took a deep breath.

"After I picked you up from the debris of the Crippling Pain, I started to escape. Destroyers and Hunters came after us, but I managed to avoid their initial attack. After a while, they gave up and returned to the Red Vessel. I was wondering why they would do that. The battle was on our side and Crimson Guards don't retreat. They fight to the death."

"Then? What happened?" Fargos asked anxious.

"As soon as I managed to get far away enough, they opened a Ring."

"They escaped?"

"Oh, no, sir. They opened a Ring behind our ships. The biggest Ring I've ever seen. So big it started to pull on the ships, sucking them into the tunnel without preparation."

"How many went inside?"

"All of them. The Crimson Guard even lost a couple, if I'm not mistaken. They closed the Ring immediately after the last pirate ship was pulled into it. I opened a Ring and left the scene before they could turn their weapons in my direction. It was the last thing I saw."

Fargos breathed deep. He had summoned all those ships. He had put all those pirates in harm's way. And he was now responsible for all their deaths. He had to do something about it.

"Have you heard from anyone that fell into the Ring?"

"I haven't tried to contact anyone yet, Sir. I'm afraid the Crimson Guard might be watching the pirate frequencies."

Fargos banged his hand on the table. It didn't draw attention at all, that was not the sort of place where calm people went to eat.

"Are you kidding me, Zibar? What is wrong with you? If you can't use the pirate frequencies, then use the official channels."

"I didn't want to risk losing you, sir. The Crimson Guard doesn't know you survived and that is to your advantage. I hoped to maintain that advantage as long as possible."

Fargos thought about it. It was a sound plan, in the end.

"Very well, then. But we must find a new crew."

"Are we going back to action?" Zibar asked excited.

"Yes, but not immediately. We have a very important business to attend to."

Zibar nodded and they ate their meal in silence.

With Fargos back in command, Zibar could only assume the man was going to rain destruction on some unfortunate rich place and go soaring into space to the next target as soon as he was ready. But that had not been the case.

The first order from the Captain was to go to Kradack to recover something. Without question, Zibar took them there on the rescue ship he had initially used to get them out of harm's way.

During their trip, Fargos seemed intent in finding out as much as possible about the battle with the Crimson Guard. He would not rest.

Once they were in Kradack, Fargos piloted the ship to a far region of the planet, a desolate area of deserts and constant strong winds that could rend the flesh from bones.

"Do we have a safety suit here, Zibar?"

"Yes, sir, in the emergency box."

"It should do. Come with me. We are going to draw some credits."

Zibar didn't understand. There was no pirate port around there. He knew it for sure. Kradack was like his home, such was the time he had spent there. There was nothing beyond the sands of the desert. But he did not argue with his Captain.

They left the ship and walked for about fifty meters before stopping.

"This is it. Give me your blaster, Zibar."

The Grig had a bad feeling. He had no idea what his Captain's intentions were and Herstings had told him the mind of Fargos could be damaged from the wound. He hoped the man had been wrong about that.

Fargos fiddled a moment with the blaster and put into wide shot, then fired at the ground. The shot opened a deep hole and bounced off of something under the sand. It was deep.

"Go back to the ship. I'll put a flare here. When I clear the area, use the tractor beam to pull metal that is in the region. Understand?"

Zibar nodded and ran back to the ship. Fargos pulled a flare from his belt pouch and lit it, sticking it on the sand, right where he had previously shot. The hole had already been covered by sand again, the winds carried it everywhere.

He stepped back and signaled Zibar. The Grig turned on the tractor beam and waited. The sands shifted and soon, a silver crate jumped out of the ground, flying to the ship and stopping right in front of it. The comm in the ship buzzed.

"Captain?"

"Into the cargo bay with that."

"What is it?"

"Stocking for rainy days."

"It is not raining, Captain."

"Do as I say, Zibar."

Fargos entered the ship and went straight to the cargo area. The ship was very small and the cargo area was a simple closet with room for four people. The crate was pulled up from an opening under the floor.

"Let's go, Zibar. To Hashand."

"Yes, sir."

The ship shot up and they went on to Hashand.

"Should we use a ring?"

"No need. We need to decide some things. We need time to discuss some plans."

Zibar left the autopilot on, turning off the Ring drive and went into the cargo area.

"What is that, Captain?"

"Money, you stupid thing. What else could it be."

"And you stored it under sand? Why?"

"A very old tradition created by the early pirates. They didn't have ports where they could entrust their loot, so they would find remote locations and bury their treasures."

"How quaint. And it worked, I see."

"It didn't. They had to keep maps with markers and other things to make sure they could find the treasure, but more often than not, the crew would mutiny and steal the map, going for the treasure as fast as possible."

"I see. So, how much is it?"

"More than enough. As soon as we land on Hashand, you are going to find me a plastic surgeon and a decent eye doctor. I want to make some improvements to this piece of metal in my head."

"And the plastic surgeon?"

"What do you think I need a plastic surgeon for? Breast implants? Use your head, idiot."

Zibar hated when Fargos treated him like that. But he was the Captain. And seen as how it was only the two of them, he didn't have anyone else to chastise.

"Sorry, Captain."

"It's fine. The rest of the money will be used to build a new ship."

"Build? Will it not be too expensive?"

"No, don't worry. I have contacts that can help take the price down a bit. After that, it's on with the crew and we can start our mission."

"And what is that?"

"I'll tell you as soon as I get my ship."

They started to count and share the money they needed first for the operations and then they made a rough estimate of how much they would need to build a brand new ship with all the specs that Fargos had in mind.

When they landed on Hashand, Fargos instructed Zibar to go and find a place where they could find a crew. Start scouting for the places where the pirates of the region gathered.

He went first at the Eye Surgeon and as soon as he entered, he felt secure about his choice. It was a legal place, registered and all. It was clean, sanitary and definitely of high quality.

A woman with a large smile greeted him from behind a desk.

"Hello, sir. Do you have an appointment?"

"No, but I'm sure I can make it worth his while. I can assure you."

He produced a small bar of golden and reddish mineral. It was gold mixed with redde stone. Redde stone was one of the rarest minerals in the Empire.

"Of course, sir." The girl said, almost hypnotized by the red shine on the gold bar.

She called her boss and after a couple of minutes, a man stepped into the waiting room.

"Please, sir, this way."

He led Fargos to a room on the back, like a medical bay.

"What exactly do you need from me, sir?"

"I need you to install this item here in place of this horrible thing in my head."

Fargos handed him a piece of paper with the specs for his new eye. The man examined it carefully and smiled.

"Quite the request. These are almost military grade extras. Why would you need them?"

Usually Fargos would tell the man to take care of his own business, but today he was in a good mood.

"I'm going hunting. How long is this going to take?"

"Roughly an hour. I have to order the assembly of the pieces on the computer. Assembly takes about forty-five minutes. Installation can take between ten to twenty minutes. Depends on the state of the piece you have on right now."

"It's fresh new."

"Then that should not be a problem. Shall we begin?"

Fargos nodded happily and left the doctor to his computer work while he thought hard about what he was going to do after he had finished the first part of his plan, which was to reestablish his position as a Pirate Captain. He didn't even notice the time go by and soon the man called him to the operation table. The new piece was there. It looked uncomfortable, but was exactly the design he had requested. It was a callback to old traditions once again. Like the forgotten pirates of the oceans, he would now have an eye-patch. Except his eye-patch was going to make his life a lot easier.

Not long after he sat on the chair, the operation seemed to be over.

The medical bay was silent while the man worked on him. He had said it wouldn't be a hard procedure, yet he had made it clear that he was a demanding man. The procedure could be nothing but perfect. The man made the final stitch and moved back a bit to appreciate his work.

"I'm done. You can leave the payment on the way out. Is anyone coming to pick you up?"

"Yes, my first mate is waiting for me."

"I need your name for the record. Purely for control. I like to know on whom I've operated. Don't worry, there is no Grid involved here."

Fargos got up and looked around the room, testing the new eye. It worked perfectly. He had all the extras he had asked for showing green and prepared to be used.

"Captain Fargos Tellaris."

The man took a piece of paper from a drawer, wrote down the name and put the piece of paper away in another drawer with a bunch of other names.

After that, Fargos left the office and went outside, leaving the gold-laced redde on the secretary's desk.

The street outside was bustling with life and full of people taking care of their own lives. Many of them stared at the deformed face of Fargos, but he didn't care much about it. He was about to solve that one problem.

Zibar was waiting for him in a plaza near the eye doctor.

"Have you found a decent place for recruiting a new crew?" Fargos asked.

"Nice piece, sir. Yes, I've found a decent place where we can find some people. There are a couple of places, actually. They are all on the Old Quarter, in the Underground."

"Very good."

Fargos pulled a PDA from his pocket and handed it to Zibar.

"This is my dream ship, Zibar. You are going to contact the man named there and tell him that Tellaris is ready to find his whale."

Zibar tilted his head, confused.

"More old pirate things, sir?" he asked.

"Yes. More. I'll go fix the damage that accursed Guard did to me. Meanwhile, you get everything prepared with the shipbuilder."

Zibar nodded and started away. Fargos approached a small podium in the center of the plaza. The panel there indicated many pieces of information. He selected aesthetics and chose the most expensive and professional surgeon in the planet and teleported to the place.

It was like a palace inside there. He could feel the judging eyes all over him. He walked with confidence towards the secretary and gave him his most friendly smile.

"Hello there, good sir." he said.

"Good morning, sir. May I help you?"

"I hope you can. I need to have a facial reconstructive surgery immediately. Can you contact the best man you have?"

"Surely, sir. The waiting list for Doctor Ember is about two years."

"You tell Doctor Ember that I can pay in advance for his immediate services."

"I'm sorry, sir, but I can't really do that."

Fargos pulled a small blue stone from his pocket and slid it to the secretary.

"Could you repeat that please, I think I misheard you."

The secretary quickly pocketed the blue stone and smiled even more brightly than before.

"I will contact Doctor Ember immediately. Take a sit."

Fargos sat between an old Human woman whose face seemed to be made of plastic and an Elf with deformed ears. He had come to the right place.

A very handsome man showed up after a while and went to the secretary, who then pointed out Fargos. The doctor walked towards Fargos with the widest smile he had ever seen on a money sucker.

"Welcome. Please, follow me."

They entered the man's office.

"I'm Doctor Ember, the best this office can offer. I have to say, your methods are very suspicious, but I'm willing to take a risk here and say you can pay even more than I can imagine, Mr.?"

"Tellaris. Call me Captain Tellaris. And yes, I can pay much more than you can imagine."

"Great. In this case, please, what exactly do you need?"

"I need to reconstruct my face. At least the parts around the eye. I intend to keep it."

Ember examined Fargos's face and soon had an idea of what he could and should do to recover the looks from the damage.

"I can recover most of your face, but I must admit that if you intend to keep your artificial eye, we must leave behind some scars that will not go anywhere."

Fargos thought about it for a moment before deciding into it. He decided to do it. The scars would be a constant reminder of the past and would fuel his being.

"Do what you must, doctor. I just want to be able to walk around without looking like a freak."

Ember nodded and started to prepare the operation table, making sure all the instruments he would need were readily available.

After a couple of hours and many cuts and plastering with artificial skin, Ember stepped back, his green apron now dirty with blood, fat and bone dust. He put a hand on his hip and another on his chin, thoughtful.

"I'd say that's all I can do, Captain Tellaris."

Fargos couldn't speak well, so he blinked to the doctor and mumbled for him to show it.

"Surely." The doctor said, turning the chair around to a full mirror. It showed Fargos in his old splendor. Minus the eye, now covered by a black rectangle. Around it, some scars were visible, as if he had been burned in that exact point. No one could actually say what had happened. And even if Fargos remembered what had popped his eye out, he would never admit to it.

"Thank you, Doctor Ember. I'll recommend you to all my friends, if they ever ask for a good plastic surgeon."

He said with some effort. His face was numb, but the feeling was already disappearing.

"Thank you, Captain Tellaris. I presume you'd prefer to be kept out of the records."

"That's right, doctor. You've done me a great service and I won't forget it. Your payment is right here."

Fargos pulled two small bars from his pocket. They were not as big as the one he had given to the eye doctor, but they surely covered the operation and the doctor's silence. There was no reason to think otherwise.

He got up, followed by a very grateful surgeon, and left the place. He looked around and found another one of the transporters nearby. There was a short line waiting to use it. While he waited, he stared at his reflection on the glass wall of a nearby office tower. It was strange to see that face again so soon. Another man might have kept the reminder for a longer time. Maybe until his revenge was done. But Fargos was a man of realism. There was no way he would have time to fix the damage done to him if he intended to kill Eric Red. And he had all the intentions of doing it.

He finally stepped into the transporter and immediately went to the Underground, near the place where Zibar told him they could and would find crew members.

The place was very quaint and full of people that seemed to have left behind their regular lives a long time ago. Much like himself. He sat on a table near a corner, where he could see the entire place and measure the quality of the crew he would be getting. He also took his time to think about his main plan and how to make it come true.

After some time, Zibar showed up, a smile on his nearly canine face.

"It is done, Captain. However, the time for the ship to be ready is about a year."

Fargos nodded. Yes, there was that, also. They would have to wait. He would have to let the hatred inside him simmer for longer than it was acceptable for him. He cursed under his breath and decided to leave.

"Where are we going, Captain?" Zibar asked as they stepped into the streets.

"We are going to find someplace to stay. Then, you are going to find people willing to take some risks to find me information."

"What type of information do you mean?"

"I mean the type of information that will help us achieve our goal."

Zibar scratched his chin, confused. He didn't want to be chastised by Fargos, but his curiosity was far too great.

"And what is our goal, Captain?"

Fargos stopped and looked up at the sky. It was bordering the red shade of night. The sun was still climbing down on the horizon of the planet, leaving behind those beautiful colors only a polluted planet could provide.

He took a deep breath and his voice came out calm and decisive.

"Our goal is to eliminate those who tried to do the same to us. Eric Red, Thomas Rand and their associates. They must die. I must have my revenge. I will have my revenge."

Zibar nodded and smiled. He liked that idea.

Chapter One - Fresh Start

Thomas woke up with a strange noise coming from the bathroom of the suite. There was something there that was broken, he presumed. Couldn't be sure until he checked.

He got up, tripping over his dirty clothes and walked towards the bathroom. He opened the door still sleepy, and found before himself nothing but a drone cleaning the floor.

"That's right. They do that." Thomas said out loud.

He turned around and walked back to bed, but before he could roll under the covers, the drapes on his room's windows opened automatically. A sweet feminine voice spoke to him from the radio on his nightstand.

"It is time to check out, sir. Please, grab all your belongings and vacate the room. The Red Star Hotel appreciates your preference. Have a nice day."

Thomas tried to cover his face, but the sunlight was too strong to be avoided. He grunted and got up, grabbing his dirty clothes from the floor. He stuffed them all inside a travel bag and exited the room, his pajamas pants dragging on the cold white floor.

On the living room, other drones were working, pulling shades open, putting things into place and cleaning the utensils he and Rinkler had used the night before.

On the couch was the scientist that had brought him here. Gustav Rinkler, the only man he trusted completely with his life. His only friend for a very long time, also.

"Good morning, Doc."

"Morning, Tom. Why are you up already?" he answered half-asleep.

"It's check-out time. We have to go."

Rinkler rolled down from the sofa, landing beside one of the little drones.

"What nonsense is this? I didn't order room service. Tom, call the front desk."

"Come on, Doc. We are almost out of money. We need to go and find another work somewhere."

"Oh, posh. We can make it for another week or so here. Relax boy, I'll take care of it."

"Fine, I'm going back to bed. Wake me up when we are supposed to go."

"Quiet, boy, I'll settle this."

Thomas dragged himself back to bed and dumped his bag on the floor from where he had just picked it up.

After a while, he fell asleep again. But his sleep would not last long.

Rinkler got up from the floor and went to one of the many comm stations in the apartment. He clicked the central button and opened a direct channel to the front desk of the Red Star Hotel.

"Good morning, Dr. Rinkler. How may I help you today?" the girl on the other side said.

Rinkler was still not used to seeing the green skinned creature he grew up reading about as myth talking to him.

"Yes, Mathelda, I'd like to prolong my stay."

"I'll see what I can do, Doctor. Hold for a moment."

Rinkler waited patiently.

"I'm sorry, Doctor. But I have orders to have you leave the room, and the Hotel by that account."

Rinkler blinked hard twice.

"I'm sorry, why?"

"Orders from high above."

"High above, what does that mean? The board of directors? The president? Major shareholder?"

Mathelda cleared her throat and, if Rinkler was not mistaken, she went pale.

"No, Doctor. The order comes from the Imperial Desk at the planet."

"What?" he said surprised.

"It is an Imperial order, Doctor."

Rinkler felt his stomach turn upside down and freeze.

"Dear me. We'll be down in a minute. Did they leave any messages?" He said, already getting up from the little stool he had used to talk to Mathelda during the past week.

"No, doctor. But they are going to come pick you up in a few minutes."

"Oh, darn."

He closed the communication and ran to Thomas's room, pulling on the boy's covers and shouting like a madman.

"Up, up, up, boy!"

"Why?" Thomas mumbled sleepy.

"Because the Emperor has found us and has evicted us. They are coming for us again!"

Thomas jumped from the bed and grabbed his bag, pulling out a small communicator.

"Professor, come in!" he shouted at the comm.

"Thomas, how may I help?"

"You have to start the engines and land on top of the hotel. We have to go as fast as we can. Away from the planet, that is."

"I'm afraid that is impossible, Thomas." the Professor said.

"What, why?"

"They have blocked the ship's controls."

Thomas looked at Rinkler with a terrified face.

"They can do that?"

"Apparently. Come on, we have to get out of here."

He grabbed his things and started for the door.

"Remind me again, why are we running from the Imperial forces?" Thomas asked.

"I'd rather not get into that discussion, I'm not sure I want to know myself. I' just trying to prevent the worst possible scenario."

"This is the worst." Thomas mumbled.

They went for the door and as soon as Rinkler opened it, he let out a whimper.

"Doctor Gustav Rinkler?" The man on the other side of the door asked.

Rinkler could do nothing but nod.

"This is he. How me he be of assistance? How may I be of assistance?"

"Is that Thomas Rinkler with you?"

"Yes." Thomas said before Rinkler tried to lie his way out of anything.

"Your presence is requested by the Emperor."

Rinkler swallowed hard.

"Really? To see who?"

"The Emperor." the man said plainly.

Now it was Thomas who swallowed hard.

"Are you serious?" he asked.

"I wish I wasn't. I'd rather avoid taking you to see our Emperor, but in fact, he has ordered us to escort you to his presence."

Rinkler didn't really trust them that much.

"Why?"

"Only the Emperor knows why he's summoning you. You must present yourselves."

"Right. Very well." Rinkler said defeated.

"Follow me."

They went into the elevator at the end of the corridor and pushed the button to go to the landing pad at the top of the Hotel.

"We have to settle our debt here first. I don't want to harbor any more enemies than we already have."

The man ignored him.

"Sir?" Rinkler insisted.

"The account will be settled by the Empire. Don't worry."

Rinkler thought that was strange. He knew the Empire had very lax rules about certain things, but that sounded far too generous. Way too generous. He looked around, trying to decide if there was a way to escape in case it was necessary. But the elevator was almost air tight.

"I see. Well, I'm going to have to thank the Emperor for this. What is your name, young man?" Rinkler asked, examining the man, top to bottom.

He didn't know what uniform was that. So far, he and Thomas had only met the Crimson Guard and the local militias of the planets they had visited. Three so far.

He could barely believe it had been only a month since they had survived to their arrival at the Universal Empire. It had been quite the week then, now they were relaxing. But right now that holiday was also over, apparently.

The man looked over his shoulder to Rinkler.

"I'm Captain Eremos Junger."

"That's it? A Captain? What regiment? What division?" he asked aggressively.

The man smiled crookedly.

"No regiment, no division. I'm from the Golden Guard."

"Are you under disguise? As far as I know, the Golden Guards are supposed to dress in golden armor and carry spears and blasters to be identified."

"I'm off the clock right now. A favor to a friend."

"Really?"

Rinkler looked at Thomas, who had already understood where that conversation was going. The boy moved farther from Rinkler, to the opposite side of the elevator, but before they could do anything, the doors opened and a shout filled the elevator.

"Drop your weapons, now!"

Captain Junger jumped out, tackling the man in front of them. He turned to Rinkler and Thomas.

"Go, hurry! We have to move, they are already here."

Rinkler jumped over the men and Thomas followed.

"Who are they?" he asked.

"Mercenaries!" Junger said, punching the lights out of the mercenary on the ground.

They ran for the landing pad through corridors made of glass. Outside, they could see a group dressed in blue and yellow running alongside the corridor.

"Are they the mercenaries?" Thomas asked.

"Yes. Keep running, I have back up waiting for us."

They were arriving at the end of the corridor where a heavy metal door awaited closed.

"Open the door!" Captain Junger screamed.

The door swung open just as Thomas was about hit it face first. Junger ran to the left as soon as he left the corridor and the two followed him without a second thought.

"Trust him now, Doc?" Thomas said as they ducked behind a metal box.

"Not really. He could be selling us to a higher bidder. As far as I know, he's just leading us on."

They couldn't really argue about that at the moment, because a flash of light blinded them and a loud bang cleared their thoughts completely.

Thomas fell to the ground, covering his ears trying to blink away the light from his eyes.

Rinkler stood firmly still, just waiting, his face a grimace of pain.

He felt a hand on his arm and could only presume it was Junger, but the yank was far too strong to be friendly. He fell to the ground and felt the warm end of a blaster against his temple.

His hearing started to come back.

"Stay back or I shoot him!"

"You wouldn't dare. He's too precious for you." Junger said.

"Try me, cowboy."

There was a moment of indecision when they all waited for the first move, but it was interrupted by a loud warning scream.

"Guards! They are coming."

"Shit." Junger said with the other mercenary.

Rinkler smiled. He had been right about the man. He wished he hadn't.

"What do we do?" The man with the blaster asked.

Now Rinkler's vision was returning in time for him to see Junger punch the mercenary in the throat and grab Rinkler.

"I'm getting out of here! Come on, Doctor."

Junger pulled, but Rinkler resisted.

"No way, you liar! I saw through your little disguise immediately. Let me go!"

"Shut up or I'll break your teeth. And if you don't walk, I'll break your legs and carry you myself."

Rinkler shook at the threat, but did not give way. Junger raised his fist, ready to clock Rinkler.

A scream of anger blew from behind the man and Thomas jumped against him, tackling him sideways, an elbow neatly pointed at the man's side.

Junger grunted in pain as Thomas jumped and kicked him on the chin, knocking him out.

Rinkler was astonished.

"Where in the name of all that is fun did you learn to do that?" He asked.

"No idea. Just did it."

They looked around, seeing the confusion and mess of mercenaries running for their lives. At first, they both thought it was Eric Red coming to the rescue, but after a second look, they saw golden armored soldiers blasting away at the mercenaries.

It was the fabled Golden Guard. Different from the Crimson Guard, they were organized in platoons with a clear commander and they fought with military precision where the Crimson Guard would have fought with violence and madness.

After the last mercenary had disappeared from the landing pad into the stairs leading down, the men stopped.

"Alpha, take pursuit, capture if possible, kill if necessary."

Five men dressed in gold continued after the mercenaries while other five remained there.

"Bravo with me. Clear the pad."

They started going around, their blasters trained, sweeping around the place, making sure no mercenaries were left behind.

The leader approached them with confidence. When he reached them, he looked at Junger and holstered his gun.

"We have one here. He's out. Take him in."

The other four came and took the unconscious man away.

"Are you Rinkler and Rand?" the leader asked.

"Who are you?" Thomas asked, his eyes mad with suspicion.

"Captain Eremos Junger, Golden Guard First Division. I'm here under Imperial orders to take you to safety."

"Wait, you are Eremos Junger? That guy there said the same thing."

The man pulled a disk from his belt pouch and showed it to Rinkler. On the disk was an engraving that read 'Captain First Class Eremos Junger, First Division.'

"Ah, we should keep this in mind, then." Rinkler said.

"Ask for identification?" Thomas said.

Rinkler nodded.

"Come with me."

"Our ship has been disabled. We can't leave it behind."

"We already unjammed your ship. It has orders to follow ours."

"I see. And where are we going?"

"A little planet called Garden."

They followed the real Captain Junger through the landing pad and inside a small ship that fit about fifteen people.

"Bravo Fehu to all Guards. Report." he said as he sat on the pilot's chair.

The speakers hummed to life.

"This is Alpha Fehu, we have prisoners and dead people. No Guards down."

"Leave the prisoners secured for the local militia. Return home."

Another voice came over the speakers.

"This is Bravo Uruz, pad is clear. No more prisoners or contacts."

"Come home, then. Bravo Fehu out."

Rinkler shook his head.

"Those call signs are familiar."

"The call signs are based on ancient Imperial mythology. Before the times of the Red God."

"Religious, then?"

"If you want to call it that, yes. A false religion, however. Only the Red God is true."

Thomas coughed.

"So the Golden Guard is religious?"

"Aren't we all, Mr. Rand?" Junger asked

"Call me Thomas."

"Very well."

The other guards showed up and sat down. They all looked flustered and tired.

"All aboard?"

"Yes, sir." one of the man answered.

"Then we're off."

The engines started and they were soon zooming through the skies. Before leaving orbit, Thomas saw the Star Walker following them.

"This is Sleip One to Star Walker. Come in."

"This is Star Walker, go ahead." The Professor answered.

"I'm opening a Ring ahead, follow us in."

"Roger that."

The ship started to hum louder than before and soon the white Ring showed up in front of the small ship.

In a few minutes they were in orbit of a huge green planet. Satellites and ships orbited it.

"Why so much defense?" Thomas asked.

One of the Guards behind him tapped him on the shoulder.

"This is the Garden. It's where all Holy Blood citizens are kept for their own safety. It's a haven for them. For you."

Thomas turned back, his eyes wide. All the Guards were staring at him. They knew about his blood color. He still didn't fully understand what that meant, but he was sure he would eventually discover.

Junger clicked his comm on.

"This is Captain Eremos Junger of the Golden Guard aboard Sleip One to Command Center."

"Go ahead, Sleip One."

"Requesting permission to land. We are under Emperor's orders to land at the Palace."

"Your landing permit seems to be in order. Go ahead. Direction five-nine over two-seven. Have a safe trip."

They continued through what Rinkler could only think of as a virtual gate of canons and disruptors. He didn't feel very safe now. He looked over the monitor on the control board. The Star Walker passed behind them without any problems.

"Is our ship allowed to land with us?" Rinkler asked.

"Yes." Junger said.

They flew into the atmosphere and Thomas and Rinkler were baffled to see what looked like a real paradise. Short buildings spotted the land and wide green areas could be seen everywhere. Trees grew all around and people walked down the streets without concerns. There were some guards dressed in blue and green walking the streets made of white stone, but nothing more.

"What is this place?" Rinkler asked.

"In one word? Safety." Junger said.

"Now what?" Thomas said.

"We are taking you to see the Emperor. Ha has ordered us to take you before him. Why, I do not know. You'll have to ask him."

Rinkler thought of something a bit embarrassing. Even if he hadn't had the time to look for it, he should have already asked. Thomas surely didn't know either.

"I'm sorry, but... what is he called?"

Junger looked horrified at him.

"Are you joking?"

Rinkler shook his head. Junger sighed.

"His Imperial Majesty Howard Byron Redde, the Thoughtful."

"The Thoughtful?" Thomas asked.

"He thinks a lot." said one of the Guards.

"It's not ironic?" Thomas asked.

"No."

They landed in front a tall building made with white stones surrounded by tall trees. The pad was just above the tree line and some birds flew away as they landed. The creatures were pink and blue and flew with grace.

"What are those?" Rinkler asked.

"They are called Enyx. They are eternal birds."

"Eternal birds?"

"They don't die. They become stone. Living stone."

"How is that possible?" Thomas asked.

"I'm sorry, I don't have time to answer all your questions. Please, let's go." Junger said impatient.

Rinkler and Thomas sat back and waited for the door to open. Junger stood up and went out. The other Guards stayed put.

"What is this?" Thomas whispered.

"No idea. Just go."

They started walking and the guards stretched out their hands, brushing Thomas as he passed. The boy felt strange about it. He didn't know what he meant to them, so he did not reprimand.

Outside was a beautiful day, full of sunshine and fresh air. Junger led them inside the Palace. On the way there, they saw the Star Walker landing on another pad not far from the one they were on.

"Can the Professor join us?" Thomas asked.

"You have an AI or Avatar?" Junger asked.

"I guess he's an AI, but I can't say for real."

"Guess?"

"He wasn't made with the Imperial parameters. We don't know."

"Show him to me. I'll be the judge of that."

Rinkler pulled the projector from his pocket and waited for the Professor to pop up. When he did, he was sporting his best smile and cheery disposition.

"Greeting, Captain Junger. I am Professor Walker. I am a sentient intelligence. I am not defined as an avatar nor A.I."

"Really? Give me the projector." he asked Rinkler.

The man obeyed and Junger attached a small device on the projector. After a couple of seconds a blue light came from it. Junger pulled it and examined the report from it.

"Strange. Very well, he may come with. But keep him in your pocket."

Rinkler nodded and stuffed the projector in his pocket.

They entered the building into a large hall with tall windows and ample doors. There was no one around.

"This way." Junger said, leading them into the back of the palace.

They entered another room, bigger and more glorious than the previous. It was laden with golden tapestry laced with red stones they both presumed were ruby. There was a throne on the back of the room in front of a huge window that let in the sunlight. They couldn't make out if there was anyone sitting there.

Junger stepped in front of the throne and knelt.

"Your Majesty, I bring you Gustav Rinkler and Thomas Rand as requested."

Thomas and Rinkler knelt as well.

The answer didn't come from the throne, but from behind it.

"Come forward, Eremos. Don't be afraid."

The Captain got up and the two followed.

Behind the throne was a small pool full of clear water. There were three men sitting on the edges of the pool. One of them was fat and bald, one tall, thin and with a very peculiar skin, with a strange black hue to it, and the man on the center was an aging man with red and white hair. He had a stubble and some scars on his shoulders. Thomas and Rinkler could only guess which of them was the Emperor.

They had learned that appearances were never true and their presumptions about the Humans in the Empire had been debunked long ago. They were numerous, but not the only ones.

"Your Majesty." Junger said as they stopped in front of the pool.

The fat Human got up and smiled, leaving the room. The tall thin man was staring at them.

"Hello." He said. "I am Cerkos, servant to the Emperor. He extends his welcomes to you, visitors. May the Blood bless your life."

The broad man sitting opposite them smiled broadly.

"So, you are the legendary men from the Central Galaxy? Very unimpressive. I thought you shined like redde stones and flew above the ground. And where is your digital companion?"

He let out a loud laughter. Junger nodded to Rinkler, who pulled the projector, turning it on. The Professor popped up and greeted.

The Emperor let his laughter die out naturally.

"I apologize. It's just what is said about the creatures from the Central Galaxy. You are from there, aren't you?"

Rinkler took a step forward.

"Yes, your Majesty, we are."

"And how, may I ask, did you get out?"

"With help from outside."

"Whose help?" his tone was soft, but Rinkler doubted he wasn't taking note of everything he said.

"The Professor had the information. He gave us a ship design and coordinates that enabled us to bypass your security network."

The Emperor's face showed no sign of distress.

"I see. Very interesting. Eremos? What do you think?"

"I don't know, sir. I personally don't believe they come from the Central Galaxy. Nothing comes out. Nothing goes in. That's how it works."

"Until the Light of the Universe says so."

"The Light is a myth. Your Majesty."

The Emperor laughed short at that.

"Maybe."

He got up and dried his feet with a towel he pulled from behind him. He put on a white and red tunic and walked over to them.

"You may leave us, Eremos. Thank you for your service."

Eremos bowed.

"What is your next assignment?" The Emperor asked.

"There is a riot in Kradack we must suppress. Nothing big. The Crimson Guard has been causing major trouble with the pirates and leaving remnants everywhere. Eric is getting sloppy."

The Emperor nodded.

"I'll have a word with him. When you can, call Clerin, I need to talk to him."

Junger nodded and left.

The Emperor examined Rinkler, Thomas and the Professor from head to toe. He was curious about them, that much was obvious. His intentions were impossible to guess.

"Thomas and Gustav. The Humans from the Central Galaxy. Finally I get to meet you. I'm a bit frustrated to be honest. I thought when the day came that a creature came from inside the Central Galaxy, the Empire would be there to greet and welcome them, but from what I heard, you had nothing but trouble ever since you got here."

Thomas was quiet and still like never before. Rinkler coughed and stammered something. The Professor remained silent.

"Come now, friends. You are among brothers here, do not fear titles and power. This is the Garden and you are safe."

Rinkler coughed again and finally managed to muster his intelligence.

"Yes, well. Thank you for this welcome. An improvement to our first welcome."

The Emperor started walking and they both followed. Cerkos followed them as well.

"I hear you arrived at five-nine-five, no? A very poor space station. A regular stop to many travelers. Not the most friendly arm to get hugged by."

"No indeed." Thomas said.

"Yes. And after that the whole pirate problem."

"Yes." Thomas said.

"And the Crimson Guard almost killed you, Doctor?"

They stopped in front of a table none of the two had seen when they entered. The Emperor sat on a chair and invited them to sit. They sat facing the man.

"Yes, I was lucky. Eric was a ruthless man."

"And the whole ordeal with the battle over that little planet."

"That was exciting." the Professor said.

"I bet it was. I myself enjoy a bit of adventure every now and then. What about you, Doctor?"

"I prefer information over battle, your Majesty. I'm getting too old for that."

"How old are you?"

"Well, in our planet I'm about sixty."

"Oh? And already tired?"

"Well, I'm sure time dilation is different here and there."

"Nonsense. Cerkos, calculate his age, please."

The man approached Rinkler and looked intently at him. There was something odd about the man.

"What is he?" Thomas asked.

"An artificial human. He was designed long ago to serve the Emperor. He is the official record keeper of the private life of the Emperor or Empress."

"How long has he been in service?" the Professor asked

"Good question."

Cerkos looked at the Emperor.

"If his age is sixty as he says, time is indeed different on his planet. If we apply our standards to him, he would be over eighty."


Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-38 show above.)