Friday, May 30, 2008

Bastina's Necklace - Excerpt

copyright Roscoe James

Bastina's Necklace is another story from the Galactic League of Planets. A series not focused on any particular set of characters but rather on a time and place when galactic travel is the norm and nine planets (other than earth) have been discovered which have intelligent life living on them. Earth has become a Corporation and the UN has been replaced by the Galactic League of Planets which governs our galaxy.

The Telling of the Tale of Bastina
Ancient legend from the planet Azanate

“Mommy! Please, mommy? Tell me mommy. Tell me the story of Bastina and the knight that saves them”

Tucking in her son she turned his bedside light down and settled on the edge of his mattress.

“Okay. Just a little. But you have to get to sleep.”

“I will, mommy. I promise.”

She smiled, pinched his cheek, and rubbed the top of his head. Taking his hand in hers she found as much joy in her son’s rapt attention, wonder, and fright, as he found in hearing the ancient tale.

“It was long, long ago on a planet named Odan that a Princess…”

Chapter 1

“I implore you, father, you must reconsider. We can do it tonight, after the christening. We can steal the Ark and find our world and our people,” Princess Anleen of Bastina pleaded, “We can finally save them!”

The air, as always, was heavy with soot and the smell of vanstar oil burning in big brass wall sconces that struggled to keep at bay the suffocating gloom that clung to the great cavern much like the shroud of oppression the planet Aznate had become for the Bastina people.

Somewhere in the dark recesses of the maze of caves the Bastina people called home, the relentless sound of dripping water was a constant reminder of just how urgent the situation had become. The experts of both peoples agreed that within the next twenty years the sun’s decline into the death rattle of a newborn nebula would ravage the planet melting all the surface ice, flooding the tunnels, caverns and caves, forcing them all to the surface where ultraviolet levels would kill them almost as quickly as drowning below ground.

Her father, the current king of Bastina, a kingdom neither one of them had seen or set foot on, as was the case with the last 174 Bastina kings and queens, was adamant, “It has been decided. Bastina is gone, lost forever. No one even knows where to look. We have only stories and fairytales of where we came from. It is time to accept the Aznate’s invitation and join our two great people as one. It is the only way to insure our passage to the new world.”

“You forsake them! You are nothing more than a traitor! And,” she stepped closer to her father’s throne and sneered, “I refuse to marry that stinking Aznate, Druuk!”

Her father was not a man to be denied and was on his feet before she could take a breath, his face pressed inches from his daughter’s and stated in a flat, menacing tone, “You, daughter, will do exactly what I say with exactly who I say exactly when I say. And I curse the memory of your fool grandmother for putting those stupid ideas into your head! It is nothing more than a fairytale. Now,” and he continued to challenge her stare, “I believe you have a wedding to prepare for. I am the King and it is my order!”

Her gaze steady, her nostrils flaring with each breath, she matched his tone, “And I am your daughter, a free woman of Bastina, not this Haark forsaken rock, and,” she mocked, “how can you claim to be the King of a place you say is nothing more than a fairytale? I would rather be a virgin sacrifice than marry that piece of Aznate slime!”

“Careful what you wish for, my daughter. Married or not I will chain you to Druuk’s bed and let him have his way with you. Better a royal consort than a dead virgin!”

She had expected as much. Her grandmother, the King’s mother, had told her once. My son does not believe these things; he will only laugh in your face. If he actually gave credence to these so-called fairytales he’d have to admit that he and all the rest of our family have failed the Bastina people miserably.

Yes, she knew the fairytale well. Every child of Bastina had fallen asleep to the stories. Far, far away in another galaxy, circling a star not unlike earth’s sol, a glimmering collection of six planets, all traveling in the same orbital path and plane, all seemingly connected to each other by a thick band of asteroids that, from a distance, seemed to form an elegant necklace circling a smiling golden sun goddess.

The asteroids, an eclectic mix of white shimmering frozen carbon dioxide and water, gleaming nickel and iron chunks with rough jagged edges and black monoliths of silicates and space debris, tumbled lazily as they all bumped and cajoled their neighbors in perpetual territorial fights.

Touching her own necklace she steeled herself to advance the attack. When her father saw where her fingers landed he bellowed, “And get that thing off your neck!”
When his hand shot out to jerk it off she jumped back.
“Don’t you dare!” she shot back, “While you may be a fairytale King, this,” and she lifted the heaviest stone and stretched the necklace out below her chin, “Is the oldest known relic of my people! Of the lost system of Bastina!”

This was not the first time they’d had this argument however, this time, she feared, it would be the last.

He mocked her. “Ha! Lost system of Bastina! Your people! A fairytale! Nothing more!”

She could feel it happening. It always did no matter how hard she tried to stop it. Her eyes burned and the first tear slid slowly down her cheek. She determined not to blink before spinning on her heel leaving him to gloat.

She hated it most when he would no longer argue. When he suddenly realized his arguing only fueled the fire more. When he passed it all off as completely insignificant with a wave of his hand and a few sarcastic barbs.

I will show him.

“Oh, and Princess.”

She kept walking and ignored him.

“Don’t forget about your wedding plans. There is still much to do.”

Once she was sure she’d been swallowed completely by the shadows at the far end of the great royal hall she let her emotions boil to the surface and stood sobbing uncontrollably, shoulders heaving, and let resolve harden her heart.

Anleen lifted the biggest stone again, brought it to her lips, kissed it, and whispered the words of the old language, the Bastina tongue, words her grandmother had taught her, “Hi-ek tan da ko leet. Ny-ka da ko lilt.”


Dirk Roberts punched a button on the overhead silencing the vicinity alarm, checked his heading, and hit the COM link to request emergency docking clearance.

He tried to recall the last time he’d put into port, any port, for more time than was needed to take on provisions, drop off a load, and pick up another. Enough time to come out of his light speed tin can, asses the current state of humanity and alien-anity and crawl back in.

A full bird colonel in the Corporate Space Fleet by the time he was 28, in line for his first admiral’s star before 30, he found the politics of military command much more demanding than any enemy confrontation.

Seen as a natural leader, a man not to be overlooked or ignored in any crowd, his natural wit and strict sense of justice and fairness, had taken him a long way.

It had been a simple thing that had changed his outlook as well as his look forever. A natural occurrence between two beings no matter what planet they happened to hang their hat on. A naturally fulfilling moment in his life ravaged by the unnatural hate of other world racism.

But that was then. This was another time in another place with a decidedly unfulfilling purpose.

Then he saw it peeking around the edge of the mottled white planet. He’d heard about it. Everyone in the galaxy had heard about the Aznate ark. More than a hundred miles long with a girth at its widest point of twenty, a height of five and light-beam bells at each end that could swallow small moons whole. It was the biggest machine of any kind, to date, anywhere.

“Ah, right Aznate control, Q-class 33265, captain Dirk Roberts, requests docking for emergency repairs. No cargo, no crew, technical assistance required.”

He punched the coordinates into the NAV unit and sat back to take in the sights while Aznate control took care of docking.

He’d been limping along in deep space at LS – 2 for over six months, a trip that should have taken less than a week, after dropping a load of machine parts at Meline and setting off for Handrac on a deadhead to snag a load of yandaw crystals when his light-compression unit had blown. Sniffing the stale cabin air, he wondered if the entire ship was as dank as he was.

Limited to light speed 2 he’d had to run for the nearest port he could find. In spite of Galactic League Space Regulations that required all inter-galactic-transport to carry one years provisions during any light-beam jump, just like compliance with light-compression unit maintenance schedules, his operating budget wasn’t quite up to GLS standards and he’d been rationing everything, including water, for the past six weeks.

He didn’t care. He’d survived worse.

He smiled at the skull and crossbones, a genuine pirates flag he’d bartered away from a slag hauler just outside earth’s asteroid belt, stuck to a bare patch of wall beside the front observation window. He decided the story might not be as good as a pirate’s tale, but it might get him a free drink or two in the port bars.

As his ship got closer he studied the Ark closely, especially the small silver glimmers along side. With a start he realized the glimmers were actually galactic class star cruisers, the latest in Corporation bullet ships that could hit LS – 200. Huge ships in comparison to his freight hauler. The dimensions of the Ark dwarfing the bullet ships put the true bulk of the Ark into perspective. He whistled in admiration.

Grabbing his black long coat and three cornered hat he got ready to leave the stinking tin can he called home. At least long enough to take a shower and get a drink. Or three.

Patting the bulkhead affectionately he promised to put his mistress right again.


“But, mother. How can you expect this of me?”

“You are the only heir to the Bastina royal line…”

“How can we claim royal blood rights to a place my father doesn’t even believe exists?”

“That’s beside the point. The Aznate believe and it’s the Aznate that are offering passage off this Haark forsaken melting snowball and safe haven on their new planet. There’s even talk with the League of Planets of getting our own world some day.”

Petulant and rebellious, Anleen insisted, “But we mustn’t! Safe haven is four hundred light years in the wrong direction! Further from true certainty for the Bastina people! Even the ones on Bastina!”

Her mother grew weary of her protests and it showed. “You will listen here, young lady, if you really do believe in Bastina and your people you will do this thing and be glad. This marriage has been arranged since your birth as payment to the Aznate people for all they’ve done for us, the real people of Bastina. You should feel flattered and overjoyed that such a debt can be paid by only you.”

“You! You! You! That’s all I hear from everyone! You do this! You do that! I’m sick and tired of it! I’m the only twenty-six year old virgin on the whole Haark forsaken planet and all because my father wanted to make sure the Aznate didn’t back out on the deal.”

“Yes, you. And we all thank Haark for you every night in our chants,” her mother sniffed in the elitist fashion most royals used when discarding other people’s feelings before continuing. “Druuk isn’t all that bad, dear. Really…”

“My Haark, mother, the man… No, the thing doesn’t even have a cock! He’s going to lick his way into me and spit! Spit, mother! Spit into his virgin bride until she writhes in blissful joy and happiness! Then, in six months, a… a… purple thing will come out!”

Her mother’s face clouded at the image but with a stiff upper lip and jutting jaw she was undeterred, “Now, Anleen, I will have no more of that kind of talk in my chambers. The experiments have been done, everything has been proven viable and one of our young women has even spoken very highly of the whole experience.”

Anleen grabbed her overfur and threw one more gallon of vanstar oil on the fire, “Yeah, but have you really looked at the results?” She leaned close, “Just remember, mother, when my firstborn, a purple thing with scales and stubby little antenna sticking up that stinks and has no cock, calls you grandma, be sure to smile.”

Throwing the overfur around her shoulders she stormed out slamming the door behind her.


Anleen carefully pulled the half-mask in place over her eyes, the one all Bastina were required to wear in public during the day because they were considered too ugly to be looked upon by the Aznate young, pulled her overfur tight around her shoulders and trudged down the dark dank hallway being jostled mercilessly by passing Asnates and other masked Bastina.

She knew what she needed and she knew exactly where to find it. Maybe there’d be some Marjing or Meline in the place. Anything nice to look at. Even a Zandill would be better than what awaited her on her wedding night.

She smiled at the soft tinkle of the bell above the door as she pushed into the only exclusively off-world pub on the planet and headed for the bar. A place the Aznates would never enter. Her only refuge from the stinking Aznates. Her parents would kill her if they knew. Ha, a fate worse than marriage! Or not!

After her first thimble full of jank death-blood, her preferred libation, she had an idea and giggled at the absurdity of it.

After her second she stopped giggling.

With the third she had no idea how she was going to do it but she had decided. Reaching inside her overfur she found the heavy ball that hung lowest on her necklace and, without looking, counted right two balls to the smallest, the planet Odan, the royal planet, and recalled her grandmother’s words.

“This, Lee,” her grandmother had explained invoking the nickname she’d given her, “this one is the royal planet. Odan. The land where all Bastina royals were born and raised. A snow world of beautiful blue ice, lush green trees and lichens, a permanent blanket of clean white snow and birds and animals that are the most beautiful in all the galaxy.”

“But tell me about the sky, grandmamma, please. The sky!”

“Oh, the sky. You always want to know about the sky, don’t you? Well, the sky is a deep azure and as the world spins, ever so slow, night or day, you can glimpse the rest of our systems planets lumbering along, all of them holding hands.”

She ordered another drink and scanned the mirror behind the bar looking at the off-worlders, imagining another life in another place at another time. Any place and time other than the one she was stuck in.

The first thing she noticed was the hat. How odd, she thought. She’d seen something like it before in D’s but she couldn’t place it. And a feather sticking up! Is it a real one? From a real bird? Having never seen a real bird she had no idea.

She watched the being push its way between chairs, its back to her, and she could guess nothing else about the shrouded figure. She did see two legs and funny looking boots.

When it turned and spoke with one of the waitresses she still couldn’t tell. With that much hair on its face it could be an Andrine female. The hands looked like a Rangdon’s or Meline’s but much bigger. And black.
And what’s that around its neck?

Anleen’s mouth fell open and she grabbed her drink.

When she looked back it was gone. Dropping some coins on the bar she found the waitress, a Meline, and inquired. Staring at the door at the back of the pub she wondered if she dared.

Slipping her necklace off and letting it drop into a pocket on her overfur, she dared.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Deer Run Falls - Release June 2, 2008

Just received my first release date! Monday June 2nd Deer Run Falls, a romance/mystery will be available at Liquid Silver books. I’m looking forward to hearing from my readers and hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks to everyone that’s been hangin’ out with me here at my blog. You should also stop by my MySpace page and join the crowd.

The bar is definitely open Monday night.


Roscoe James