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Wednesday, June 25, 2003

All-righty, time for a small fiction sample again. This one is the opening of an untitled space-opera project that I started noodling with a year or so ago, and since then has been not so much on the back-burner as stashed in a Ziploc Freezer Bag and stuffed way in the back of my freezer, underneath two of those awful-tasting low-cal, low-fat meals that the commercials would have us believe are culinary bliss. Originally I was toying with the idea of doing a blog-serial, adding to the story every couple of weeks or so, but I've vacillated between attempting an online tale and, well, not attempting an online tale and simply saving this story for a later time. So, I'll just stick a chunk of it here and see if anyone is sufficiently intrigued to beg me to continue with it.

(Did I mention that I'm hot, bored and undercaffeinated today? Ah, I see that I did, a couple of posts down....)

Untitled Space Opera, Episode I: The Phantom Title

[Editor's note: Actually, not quite. I had toyed with the title Arras of the Stars, but I'm not sure if that would be for this story or for the Amazing Grand SAGA of which this would only be a part. What you see below could not possibly be any more of a "work-in-progress", except to the extent that it's not even, really, "in progress".]

ONE DAY late in the year 4763 OC, the Royal Family of Gavinar Five – Queen Ryann the Third and her two daughters -- prepared for the journey to Salengarde Prime to pay tribute to His Magnificence, the Most Holy and Revered Lord and Protector of the Galactic Realm, Zantor the Second, who was to mark his fiftieth year on the Throne of Stars as High Emperator of the Salengarde Imperium.

It was certain to be the most magnificent celebration the Imperium had ever seen, watched and joined by every one of the Imperium’s one hundred and eleven member star systems as well as a hundred or more of the pseudo-independent systems which nevertheless allied with the Imperium. Even the Oxcillan Protectorate, the Imperium’s most powerful rival in the Galaxy, would pay its grudging respect to the man who was about to become only the fourth High Emperator to achieve his fiftieth year. Every place in the Galaxy would mark the occasion, but nowhere would it be grander than on Salengarde Prime itself, when the amazing gifts for the Emperator would be presented for the first time – although most of them were already known to some degree. There would be, for example, a cycle of songs by Welf A’nibra, generally held to be the finest composer in the Imperium. There would be carvings by Jantina of Renald Three, carvings not just remarkable for their make by one of the greatest of sculptors but by the fact that they would be made from the golden bark of Renald Three’s migratory trees. There would be a new poem by Shinn Darhyl, the venerable poet of Dasken Seven who had not composed a single new verse in the nearly twenty years since he had become even more reclusive on his private moon. And there would be so much more! The festival, which was to last one Salengarde month (fifty-one days), would be the most amazing event that anyone could remember – even the Cyborgs of the Outer Reaches, whose communal memories were said to reach back hundreds of years.

Princess Tarina, at sixteen the older of Queen Ryann’s daughters, had dreamed of going to Salengarde Prime all her life and she had awaited this particular journey since a year before, when the Emperator’s Envoy – in all his prim and proper military bearing – had presented to the Queen the official invitation, signed in Zantor II’s own hand. Of course, father had known in advance; that was why he had prevailed upon the Queen to have a new Royal Cruiser built just for the occasion. The ship had been built and christened, its test runs had been a smashing success, and the day had at last come for Queen Ryann and the two Princesses to board the Royal Shuttle and go to their new cruiser which had been named The Jewel of Gavinar. Everything was packed, and the farewell ceremony was just two hours away. For Princess Tarina, the whole day was like a dream – a dream that suddenly turned sour, when one of the Queen’s consorts brought the word that her other daughter, Princess Margeth, had announced that she did not want to go.

"What?" shouted the Queen. "How dare she! Two hours until we board….two hours! Gods forbid that I have any peace from either of my two daughters! At least I could have sent two Princes away, but Princesses? By the Seven Holy Suns!"

She said quite a bit more than that; Queen Ryann's tantrums were the stuff of legend. A standard joke -- never told in the Royal Court, of course, lest word get back to the Queen – was that her husband had set aside his title as King Regent to take his seat on the Emperator's Council simply to get away from the eruptions of Ryann's anger. At this moment, Queen Ryann was still going on about the difficulties of Princesses when Princess Tarina, who had been standing there for all of it, hazarded to speak.

"Mother, would you like me to talk to her?"

"You?" The Queen stopped and stared at her older daughter. "Tarina, please. Margeth has a hold over you. You would do anything for her….if I sent you in there, she'd convince you not to go."

"Not this time, Mother."

The Queen furrowed her brow and stroked her chin. "I suppose I could always order the Royal Guard to bring her by force," she said. "Though it would be quite the scandal. I would be laughed at in my own Court! I suppose that I shall have to go."

"Mother!" Tarina stepped forward into her mother's path. "Margeth isn't going to listen to you."

"Nonsense, girl. Margeth will listen…."

"Mother, Margeth never listens to you. Maybe she'll listen to me. I think I can talk to her. She knows what this journey means to us."

"You mean, to you." The Queen put her hands on her hips. "I know that you've dreamed of going to Salengarde all your life. But Margeth is my child, and she is to be treated…."

"Let me try, Mother!" Tarina was pleading now, something which usually failed miserably with her mother. "If I don't succeed, you can fill her room with stun gas and have her carried aboard the Shuttle with the rest of our luggage."

The Queen stopped to consider that. "Stun gas….the idea has merit."

"Mother!"

"Oh, very well," Queen Ryann snapped. "Go and talk to her. You have thirty minutes, and then I am having her sedated. We can suggest to the news outlets that she was taken with a bit of fever….yes, it is that time of year…." The Queen was still scheming how to cover up the unwilling sedation of her younger daughter for a spaceflight as Princess Tarina bowed for her mother and then made her way to her sister's chambers.

Fifteen minutes later, it was not going well.

[At this point, fifty Ninjas would enter and do battle with Wonder Woman and Lara Croft.]

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