by Gary Inbinder
Table of Contents|
Chapter 10, Chapter 11
Chapter 12 appeared
in issue 243.
The Federation of New Earth is waging a foreign war with Algol 1 and is beset by corruption and strife within. Consul Finn, maneuvering against Consul Cato in a bid to make himself emperor, sends Aurelia to win over Republican Guard hero Ludwig, more familiarly known as “Luddy.”
Luddy and Aurelia come to realize that they are pawns in a power struggle. Luddy discovers Aurelia’s true nature and the secret of his own origins. Armed with the mysterious Aureus coin and the Spear of Fate, Luddy and Aurelia envision a new galactic Imperium that has a place for humans, androids and Algolians alike.
Aurelia squatted in darkness on the cold, damp floor of a tiny, windowless concrete cell. The only sounds were the rattle of a rusty ventilator fan, the scurrying of rodents and insects, and the buzzing of flies. The chamber stank of feces and urine, the odors emanating from a primitive, roach-infested toilet.
For the first time in her life, Aurelia was unkempt and unwashed: her hair greasy and full of lice. An acrid, sweaty stench replaced her spicy sweet floral, citrus and herbal scent. She wore a scratchy, coarse, moth-eaten chemise.
Finn loomed above her, holding a perfumed handkerchief to his nose, and shining a small pocket-light into her face. Aurelia looked up at Finn, squinting, and shielding her bloodshot eyes with her hand.
Finn coughed into his handkerchief, and remarked, “What an abominable stink, but I’m afraid you’ll have to get used to it, because you’re going to be here for a very long time.”
Aurelia turned away from Finn. Pulling up her legs, she rested her forehead on her knees and sat silent and defiant.
Finn waited a moment for a reply, and then continued. “Perhaps you recall the story of the Emperor Augustus and his daughter Julia? She was his only child, and the Emperor loved her very much. However, she was willful, disobedient, and given to vice. The Emperor had no choice but to banish her. He sent her to rot on a miserable little island, where she wasted away and died. Fortunately, for her, she didn’t last very long. On the other hand, I designed you for longevity. With spare parts and regular maintenance, you could sit here and stink for centuries.”
Aurelia turned, looking directly into Finn’s light-beam, her emerald eyes flashing with contempt. “You underestimate Ludwig, and me. If you were prudent, you’d kill us both.”
Finn smiled, and shook his head. “No, Aurelia, you’re both much too amusing to kill. Besides, Ludwig is still useful to me.” Turning off the light, he added, “I’ll be going now, but don’t worry; I’ll visit you from time to time, just to see how you’re getting on.”
Averting her gaze, Aurelia snapped, “Don’t bother on my account.”
Finn laughed, commenting, “I enjoy visiting you and will continue for my pleasure. By the way, before I go, I thought you’d like some news about Luddy.”
Looking back at the Consul, Aurelia exclaimed, “What have you done to him?”
“Ludwig is very well and happy with his new Aurelia.” Finn paused a moment, and flashed his light to study Aurelia’s reaction. “Yes, your little sister Berenice has been upgraded to an ‘A.’ What’s more, she’s pregnant with Ludwig’s child.”
Aurelia sprang at Finn, aiming a blow with her right hand that could have penetrated inch-thick armor plate. The Consul blocked the blow; using telekinetic energy, he slammed Aurelia against the opposite wall. She slumped to the floor, stunned.
“Still the wild animal, eh? We’ll see if a lifetime in this hole can tame you. Good-bye, Aurelia.” The Consul exited, leaving Aurelia in the dark.
After a moment, she came to her senses. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on the Aureus, visualizing the symbol. Luddy, she thought, the power is within; it will free us both.
Copyright © 2007 by Gary Inbinder