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Authors: Richard M. Heredia

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BOOK: Shadow Seed 1: The Misbegotten
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It had been speculated, as far back as the
twentieth century, that somewhere deep within the frozen ice sheets covering Neptune’s companion was a small layer of liquid water, provided the rocky core of the moon was warm.  After years of digging through the super-dense ice, the DeepCore team was approaching what they hoped was the discovery of that very water line.  If it proved fruitful and they found the existence of life, it could mean profits in the trillions for Estefan and his partners.

Sandy had been sent to represent his interests there, to let the consortium that had built the DeepCore facility know, the Aegis Synod was watching…  The fact Sandy had been sent with a security detail consisting of three Phalanx Class Cruisers and seven Agave Class Frigates helped stress their point all the more emphatically.

Sometimes carrying a big stick is all it takes…

His fingers moved and Sandy’s smile faltered as she read the import of what he was telling her with them. 
“How are things…?”
he had signed.

Her fingers told a succinct message in reply,
“Very promising and under control.”

He nodded his understanding when the seventh woman standing before him spoke.

“When are you going to tell us what happened?  We heard about the chase on the highways of Angel Free Town and all of us are worried sick!” she demanded, her fists clenched at her sides, both of her knees locked.

I was worried too, my dear.

She was the tallest of the group, who looked eye to eye with the Keeper himself when barefoot.  When she wore her customary five inch heels, she towered over all of them.  She had dark smoldering eyes, long eyebrows stretching near the edge of her face.  Her hair was dyed red and came to her shoulders before ending with a bob.  Her thin lips were pulled taunt as she glared at him, accentuated by a dimple on her right cheek.  She was lanky with long arms and even longer, shapely legs to match with a tiny waist and narrow hips.  She wore a custom, skin-tight leather jumpsuit, dark red, almost the color of dried blood, with a strip of black running down each side.  She wore heeled boots completing the outfit and would’ve looked like some biker chick of an age passed, except for thick mechanics’ belt she had slung around her waist and the pair high-powered eco-Halogen lights perched upon each shoulder.  She had already turned them off.

“How’s Saturn treating you, Ruby?” he answered
, using misdirection instead of answering her question directly.

She glowered.  “That’s not an adequate reply, Estefan…”  She left the threat unsaid.

“We have seemed to have come to an impasse,” announced Flavia, cutting through the conversation.

Everyone’s attention focused on the deadly vixen beside him.

Flavia motioned with her hand.  “You should all find something to sit on, because this may take a while…,” she trailed off as they all moved to sit.

Mena merely sat of the floor of whatever chamber she was within.

Then, Flavia began to detail everything that had happened since their arrival upon Earth until they’d sent out the message for this meeting, including her and Estefan’s polarized views on the matter.  After fifteen minutes of explanation, the Keeper’s one-time step-sister posed the three-fold question.

“What
should the Aegis Synod do about Milandry tech being used against us, what should we do regarding the Shadow Spark and what should been done with this Destro-Mancer the good doctor seems to be so afraid of?”

Ramona had been the first to answer, adding a
fourth dimension to the issue.  “Do you think it’s real, the whole thing, I mean?”

Estefan shrugged.

“It seems real,” replied Flavia.  “The attack against us make it moreso.”

“How do we know this isn’t some ploy to get Estefan out in the open?” countered Ramona.

Estefan laughed to himself. 
No one ever said Ramona was stupid.

“He seems to think that’s exactly what it is,” retorted Flavia, gesturing to the Keeper sitting beside her.

“But even if there’s a shred of truth to it all, the very idea of something as powerful as the Shadow Spark alone would force our rivals to go after it.  In fact, just about every organization I can think of, would go after it – the other members of the Board, local governments, the Agencies, even legitimate businessmen would all want a piece of it.  That’s not mentioning all the undesirables on the other side of the tracks.  Pirates, raiders, Mercs, smugglers, buccaneers and Trû-Knights are all going to want a piece of the action.  It won’t be long before the Clans and the Brotherhood, and the Yaku Alliance will be rampaging across the Solar System, looking for their share as well.  Everyone will be going after it.  It won’t stay secret for long.  Your little escapade on the streets of Free Town is proof enough already.

“So, in a sense, the prudent thing to do is get the jump on everyone and see if this lead bears any fruit,” finished Leda, picking at her nails as she went along.

Katie grunted.  “It would have to be under the strictest of security and the Synod in its
entirety
will accompany the Keeper
wherever
he goes.  Over that, I will have no argument.”  She might be small for a woman, but once she put her foot down, very few had the strength, or the will, to budge it.

Estefan sighed, knowing full well she wouldn’t back down this time.  She would do whatever it took to be by his side.  That was one of the reasons he couldn’t mitigate the reward over the risk.  All the money in the world wasn’t worth shit to him, if one of his wives were hurt or killed.  He would never risk them.

“If it is a lie, then it’ll be one helluva shit storm,” commented Ruby.  Some of her earlier frustration had quelled with Flavia’s exhaustive explanation of what had occurred since her and Estefan had left the Moon.

“If it’s the truth, it’ll be an ever bigger shit storm,” added Mena, always one to cut through the bullshit.  “Either way, we have to find out the validity of this Shadow Spark claim.  There seems to be no way around it.”

“And if it is true, we’re the only ones that can adequately safeguard it from this Destro-Mancer character,” pointed Flavia, stating some of the same opinion she had voiced to Estefan an hour earlier.

“This is assuming the Celeste exists at all,” piped in Estefan for the first time, leaning his chin against the palm of his right hand, his elbow upon the hand rest of his chair.

“What makes you think he doesn’t?” asked Ramona, uncrossing her legs and then re-crossing them in the opposite manner, her hands resting upon the upper thigh.

Estefan shrugged.  “I don’t know one way or the other, but I will not assume he does just because it fits nicely into the overall story.  What if the good doctor and the Muslim people he represents have another reason for wanting the Shadow Spark off their planet?”

“Like what?” wondered Tirza, her tiny brow furling at the growing complexity of the problem before them.

Estefan stood suddenly, making his chair squeal in agony.  He paused to adjust the Grav-sensors on his suit, nullifying some more of his tremendous weight.  Then, peered back at the group, “There are so many answers to a question of that nature, we could be here all day
, spinning our wheels, and still not figure out what we should do.”  He paused to hold up his hand when a few of them began to speak at the same time.  “The question that must be addressed is not one of specifics regarding this detail or that.  The real question is a much bigger one and it’s infinitely simpler.  I will not sit here all day arguing, because its’ answer is a merely a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.”

They were silent, waiting what he was going to say next.

“This is what made Flavia and I argue a while ago, and it is why we called you all here, even though it was tactically dangerous to do so.”  He added the past part to warn them.  They were entering dangerous times.  “There is something going on out there in the Sixteen Worlds, something big, of that there can be no denying.

“How do I know this?” he asked rhetorically, clasping his hands behind his back as he began to pace.  No one answered.  “I know this because of what happened out on the streets of Angel Free Town.  Someone
not only had the audacity to make a run for me in my own city.  They fired upon me, using the most advanced tech of one of our rivals.  I don’t like the way that fact feels inside, the more I think about it.  Somebody had to be very desperate or extremely stupid to pull such a stunt, knowing how difficult I am to kill.  They even brought a Fermonist with them, which tells me their plight may be even worse than I’ve just mentioned.

“So,” he went on, “we know
something
is going on, we just aren’t certain of the details, but that’s not the crux of the question we must ask ourselves.  The question is, should we even care?”

There were a few gasp
s about.  Tirza stood, her hand over her mouth, her eyes bugging out with astonishment.

Estefan forged on.  “Why should we?” he repeated
again.  “What has anyone ever done for us?  When was the last time someone, anyone, has done anything for us?”

“But, Effy, that sounds so callous, so cold,” answered Sandy.
  “We are no longer
that
Synod – the one that went to war and slaughtered thousands, enslaved even more.  We aren’t them anymore.”


Of course, we aren’t, Sandy, and, to me, that seems reason enough.  Why help now?” he said.  “Why, because now there is a possibility countless lives could be at stake?  Is this what draws such concern from you now?”  He stepped around his chair, closer to their projections.  “There are always
countless
lives at stake, always.  It has always been the way of the Human Race and it’s the same with the Combined Race now.  Nothing has changed.  We haven’t reached some plateau of benevolence and suddenly all is well across the Solar System.  Sure, we have great technology, wondrous computer swarms and biological advances making the medicine we had as children look like voodoo.  But, it hasn’t changed the fact of what we are inside.  We’re still poisoned, we still bear the mark of sin or evil or whatever the fuck you want to call it!  It changes nothing!  So, I ask, why should I risk any of you for the good of any of them out there!  FUCK THEM!!!”

He sat wearily in his chair, winded as though he had been running a mile.  The chair creaked mildly, but no more.

There was stunned silence around him, only Flavia seemed to be breathing.

“It won’t change the fact they killed my family once before.  I cannot live if it were to happen again,” he mumbled
pitifully, his head bowed.  None of them had seen his lips move, but he had spoken loud enough for all of them to hear.

“Estefan?  Estefan, my love, look at me,” urged Tirza, having come to her knees, her projection closer to him than it had moments ago.  She was so tiny before him.

He raised his head to look into her digital eyes.

“They killed my family too,” she said, a single tear falling down her face, the 360-tru-def version of her so
accurate, he saw it shimmer as it fell to the ground.

“I know,” he barely managed, his voice cracking.

A new figure approached and knelt next to Tirza.  “They killed all of our families, my love.”  It was Katie, her eyes full with pain and regret she couldn’t be there to hold him.

“I know…”

“We have to do this, Effy, for them,” came a third voice, a third figure.  It was Mena, her razor-thin eyebrows coming together, imploring him to understand.

From further back, “We’ve lived good, long lives, Estefan.  We have exacted our revenge.  We helped destroy the government that took our loved ones from us
.  We helped bolster and balance the one that replaced it.  We have spent centuries building something special for our living family to the glory of ones that are dead.  Now, you tell me, there might be something out there with ability to threaten what we have worked so hard to construct.  Now, you say, we might all be in danger again…,” Leda paused to look around at the rest of them.  “No one -
I mean, no one -
threatens my family.  I will make sure they don’t, because I vowed long ago, if I could do something about it, I would fight.  I didn’t vow to stand aside or turn tale and run.  I vowed to fight, and though we may not know all the details, even if it was no more than a trap – I will resist with every ounce of strength in my body, because I refuse to be a victim again.  I will not wait this time.  I will destroy and kill in the name of this belief, Effy.  I will do it again and again, if I must.

“But, in order to avoid all of that, we need to do this, Effy.  We need to get the jump on everyone and put this whole Shadow Spark thing to sleep before word gets out and all hell breaks loose.  And it will, Estefan, my husband.  It will.  By the blood of our lost families, we have no choice.  The lack of time, the situation… what’s at stake has all conspired to make the decision for us…”
  She sighed.  “The Milandry girls already have an advantage over us.  We cannot afford to let that gap widen.  We need to close it.”  Her expression hardened as she looked directly in his eyes.  “We have to make it
disappear
.”

Around him, he could hear the others agree and knew he would be overruled.  He might by the Keeper, head of a meta-planetary empire, but he was not a despot within the Synod itself.  One of their closest held secrets was, between the nine of them, they were still a Democracy.

BOOK: Shadow Seed 1: The Misbegotten
10.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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