A few weeks ago I mentioned that my Fantasy Space-Opera, Tilruna, was getting at least one prequel that was going to be based on a Shakespeare play, similar to what I do with fairy tales in The Yellow Hoods. Tilruna: Fall of House Andes is inspired by Hamlet and I posted the first raw scene here, now it’s time for the second one.
Reminder – These are RAW, meaning that I haven’t revised or edited them, never mind them having been near an actual editor. My process is initial draft, three revisions and editing, then beta-readers, then revision, then editor 1st pass, editor 2nd pass, THEN proof readers, and formatting for production. So I’ve got a ways to go.
— Scene 2 —
The door to the operation’s center became transparent and Elmath and Orathio stepped through it, before changing back, solid once again. The operation’s center was bowl shaped, with the sole operation’s officer standing around a table with a multitude of screens floating in the air, and a holographic projection showing their planet, its moons, and the station they were on.
The operation’s officer stood and stared, surprised, at the markings on Elmath’s bright uniform and then at her face. Immediately bowing his head, he straightened his dull grey uniform jacket and bowed his head, placing the tips of his fingers against his forehead. His white hair was braided down the middle and ended at his shoulders, the sides of his head shaved as tradition for members of the lower casts.
“No need for ceremony, Osman…” Elmath glanced at Orathio, an eyebrow arched as they came down to join the officer at the table.
“Bardrano.” Orathio waited for the officer to look up and then offered a small bow and touching of his forehead with one hand’s finger tips. “And are we agreed that we can skip any titles and pretense? No Fincane, no Osman , no Grand Librarian.”
Elmath and Bardrano nodded.
“Then let us get to the heart of this mystery. What can you tell us, Bardrano?” asked Elmath, resting her hands on the edge of the ornately carved table and moving her eyes from screen to screen.
“It’s a sustained mana-burst, just as we saw yesterday. And it triggered a few minutes ago.” He motioned at a screen, which came closer, and then widened it. “The waveform here shows that, like yesterday, it’s not a naturally occurring one.”
Elmath folded her arms. “Mana-bursts occur all the time around our planet, it’s a harmless side-effect of being between the two suns. Well, harmless if one’s protected, which is easy enough. Is this not likely the result of a reactor core failing or leaking? Have you scanned for a vessel in the vicinity with an emissions problem?”
“That was the first thing that I did,” said Bardrano. “There’s nothing… and this mana-burst isn’t lasting a few seconds, this has been going on for five minutes and seems to be directed at our station.”
“Hmm.” Elmath noted Orathio’s expression. She gestured at him.
“This isn’t unnatural in the sense that it’s from a damage mana-based engine, it’s unnatural in that it has the structure of a message. Bardrano, can you please show the start of the message from yesterday and today?”
Bardrano immediately brought up two screens with waveforms of the messages, the time displayed marked as zero.
Elmath leaned forward, frowning. “These start the same, but then they differ several seconds in. But what is this?”
“Recently, I’ve been studying the era of the first Gravitons, when a few Elven mages learned how to channel mana against gravity. We pushed our people off our world and the moons, and then later to the nearby planets.”
“And the Orks built burning engines, and the Dwarves their sailing trees,” muttered Elmath.
“Yes. The last Elven Queen who brought peace to our people and gave rise to the Governing Council was said to have won the war for many reasons, one of which was finding a way to get messages to her captains and agents right under the noses of her enemies.
“Messages wrapped in mana-bursts? Interesting. I didn’t know you could do that.” Elmath clicked on the waveform and watched it play, the time indicator quickly catching up to the present.
“Mana doesn’t take well to structure, the messages fall apart after a short distance. We abandoned it in favor of much superior technologies.” Bardrano scratched his head. “What I don’t understand is why we’re even picking up the message.”
Orathio let his eyes sweep over the room. “This station’s very old. I’m willing to guess it’s originally from the first Scourge of the Hemogoblins. The war that ended most of our fighting with the Orks and Dwarves.”
A warm sound pulled the trio’s attention to the waveform screen.
“What’s my father’s personal insignia doing there?” Elmath pointed sharply.
Bardrano stepped back. “The system just detected it in the header as the message repeated. This is impossible. A message that’s coming from nowhere, sent by a dead Head of House?”
Orathio swallowed hard. “This is indeed impossible.”
“I don’t care for the possible or impossible, this is happening before our very eyes.” Elmath snapped her fingers. “Play this for me.”
“Pardon?” Bardrano shrugged.
“The sound. I want to hear there,” said Elmath waving a hand about. “I want to hear this.”
“But it’s nonsense,” protected Bardrano.
Orathio turned. “Elm, what—”
“Just play it!” Elmath reached under her cape and slammed the hilt of a blade on the table. “Do it.”
Bardrano glanced at the weapon and then nodded.
Elmath and Orathio stood in silence until the sharp and disjoint sounds filled the room.
As Orathio went to say something, Elmath raised a finger and shook her head. “I know what this is. Give me a secure feed. I need you to run the waveform through it.” She started undoing the buttons on the side of her coat. “Hurry, don’t stare at Orathio. I gave you an order.”
Tossing her jacket aside, Elmath unrolled her sleeve, revealing a silver ring around her wrist and at her elbow. In between was a white metal frame and a series of pistons and electronics with a blue glow. With a wave of her other hand, pieces of the prosthetic flew apart.
Bardrano handed her a cable from the side of the table and she plugged it into a matte black component.
“May I asked what you’re doing?” asked Orathio.
Elmath’s eyes were wild and excited. “There are some secrets that we heirs to empires have, my friend.”
“Now what?” Bardrano shifted his gaze back and forth between the others.
“Now play the version that you’re getting back from me.” She smiled at Orathio. “Whenever my father wanted to send me a secure message during my time in the Outskirts, he’d send it encrypted to the resonance tone of my being.”
Orathio scoffed. “Isn’t that a Dwarven thing?”
“In the Outskirts, we used the best of all ideas and technologies.”
A new waveform appeared on the screen with the two others.
Suddenly the room filled with a voice that chilled them all to the bone. “Elm, I can feel you are near. I have little time before I am consumed by flames and leave this world for the next. Do you hear me, my daughter?”
“I heard you father,” she said, her eyes welling up.
As Orathio waved off Bardrano from interrupting, he watched in horror at the chilling fog of his breath.
The voice continued, “Our house has been betrayed and I, murdered.”
“Murdered?” whispered Elmath, her cheeks and ears going red.
Orathio pulled up a screen, his hands trembling. “This isn’t possible.”
Bardrano stood still, his panicked eyes darted about, his fingers touching the icy side of his face.
“My brother Daucilus… he took my life, our house, and your future. You must right this wrong,” said the voice.
Stepping away from the table, Orathio’s head kept shaking back and forth. “The room’s temperature’s not changed. The signal’s coming from nothing. This can’t be happening.”
“Avenge me, Elmath,” urged the voice. “Do not allow this treachery to stand. Swear it to me, Elmath.”
“I swear it, Father!” Tears escaped down her face. “I swear it.”
The chill lifted from the room. All eyes turned to the waveform screen that showed nothing.
Elmath pointed at Bardrano. “Play it back. I must hear it again.” Her voice was sharp and commanding.
After whisking through screens for a minute, Bardrano stopped and looked up. “I can’t. It’s gone. All of it. As if it never happened.”
Orathio turned away from the table and took several steps, his hand glued to his chin in thought.
Pulling the cable out and reconstituting her arm, Elmath held Bardrano’s gaze. “Get me a Graviton, and get me home, now.” She hesitated. “Please.”
“We don’t have one scheduled— I’ll make the arrangements.” Bardrano bowed and lay his fingers against his forehead.
“Thank you,” said Elmath, picking up her hilt and jacket. “Orathio, seek me out when you’re done here. I’ll be in the observatory.”
Orathio focused on her, the moment quickly wearing off of him. “Yes, of course.”
After Elmath left, Bardrano and Orathio stood there, looking at each other.
“What do you believe this was?”
Orathio tilted his head and pulled on one of his ears before straightening up and closing every screen at the table. “I fear this is a bad omen, a sign of things to come.”
What do you think? I’d love to hear. Post a comment or email me.