Tale of the Madeus
- Debut novella from Christopher ‘Jack’ Nilssen and Dark Acre!
- First book in the Solarus Cycle, back-story for Project Zero Zero.
- Details the encounters in the Far Vacuum of the Solarus system between the Oslean Stellar Trade League Transport Vessel ‘Madeus’ and the pirate vessel ‘Staine’.
- Science Fiction – Space Opera
- Approximately 26K words
- 1st Edition Published December 27, 2010
- 3rd Revision Published May 31, 2013
- Cover by Jiří Horáček.
- Click here for the second book in the Solarus Cycle!
On the bridge of the Staine, Captain Trueborne sat and kneaded the lumpy mass of melted flesh at his chin. It pained him sometimes, the memory of that old wound trying to surface and interfere with his consciousness. For a pirate and privateer, the captain was something of an outlier: a teetotaler, he never drank nor partook in the drugs his crew favored. He rarely sought the solace of prostitutes, preferring instead to take his shore leave in solitude. The stories he told of himself to those people closest to him were half-truths and self-made legends, engineered to build a reputation that would strike fear into and illicit obedience from those under his command.
He never thought of himself as an enigma, but that was what he had become. The true extent of his myth was never made fully apparent to him. It was the stuff of whispers in the dark corners of station bars and storerooms of Trade markets, both black and white.
The truth about Captain “Two-Tooth” was far stranger than the fiction. The hidden fact was that Rodger Trueborne was not a native to the Solarus system at all. He was a refugee fleeing the Ix’anth Conflict, a great interstellar war between the nearby systems of Evanthus and Tambr that raged totally unknown to the denizens of Solarus. This war, which had claimed more than seven trillion sentient lives, would in all likelihood decimate both systems before it ended. It was a religious thing, something Trueborne could never fully appreciate, and those sorts of things were never really finished. He had seen three uneasy truces explode into interplanetary bloodshed, and he had lost more than his fair share of friends and companions to the endless fighting.
Most sensible people with the means fled counter-spiral, towards the Inner Systems. When he had laid out his plans to escape to Solarus, his last remaining contacts had assumed that he had finally gone mad and had dismissed him as a lost cause.
“Solarus! That’s a bit like falling out of the evolutionary tree now, isn’t it?” Torman DeBlight, a Trade officer who had always provided Trueborne with steep discounts and grey market contracts, could hardly contain his amusement.
“Try at least to pretend that it’s a viable option, ser. I ain’t staying here, and it won’t be long be fore DeWitte’s forces overrun even this enclave. And who’s to say running counter-spiral would be any better?” Trueborne swirled his drink in its crystal tumbler and looked up at his old friend.
“Oh, I don’t know. I think there’s a good thousand trillion souls who’d say life there’s a damn sight better than going out to a pissant barbarian system like Solarus! What have they got there? I hear only a handful of interstellar vessels, and those are parked here or in Evanthus. Oh, and the ambia I suppose, but they’ve no idea of the value of it and we’ve long since cornered that little market.” DeBlight poured himself another finger of drink from an ornate decanter and clinked his glass against Trueborne’s. The fading light of the second sunset cast long burnt-orange paths of light across the table between the two men.
“Call it a vacation then. A break from this endless violence.” He raised the glass to his lips, but paused as a burst of laughter from DeBlight filled the room.
“My dear Officer Trueborne, violence is what you do! Why do you think I’ve appointed you to so many of these contracts in the hives and lower warrens? Because of your peaceful nature?” Another barking laugh. “You get things done at the pointy end of the stick, my boy. It is what you do.” He punctuated each word with a jab of his finger.
“Yes, so you’ve said twice and I’m not one to deny the Truth according to DeBlight.” He knocked back the rest of his drink and wiped his lips with back of his sleeve. “Perhaps then, this nature of mine would be better served where life is lived closer to the quick? From what I hear it’s nothing but pillows and ambrosia the closer up-spiral you go.”
“Ah, but if that were only true. Things are no less bloody further core-wise. But I can see that you’ve made up your mind.” DeBlight opened a desk drawer and pulled out an ivory scroll-case from within. “I’d like to give you something, then. I had a feeling this would be our last meeting, so I made the arrangements to have this drawn up.”
“What is it?”
“An Annulment. Consider yourself freed from all your debts and responsibilities as they relate to business done with the Greater Tambr Trade Unity. I can tell by your gaping mouth that this comes as a shock! Officer Trueborne, you’ve more than paid off your debt to us with the services you’ve rendered. In fact, you’ve been free for more than two solar years. I’ve only kept you around because I thought you enjoyed the work!”
Trueborne snapped his mouth shut and put his hand on the case, fingering its carved exterior. “So it was true. I’d lost the accounting when the Orion broke during that run from Alor 4. I’d had no idea.”
“I hope you’ll not hold it against me. I endorse your little plan. I believe the Godsoar is doing an ambia run in a few days. But you were aware of this, weren’t you?” DeBlight winked at Trueborne. “Know that you’ll always have a home in our house, young ser. The socialist in me hopes this senseless conflict comes to an end; but the Trader in me knows that war is far more profitable than peace!”
“Perhaps I’ll return when I’m bored of living amongst the barbarians, ser. Time will tell.”
Trueborne had heard that a month after his meeting with DeBlight, Ix’anthi fundamentalists had bombarded the enclave. None had survived.
“Time had told, old friend. Time had told.”
“Captain?” Thorne looked up from her console to see the man starting blankly into the distance.
He shook his head and sighed. “Old memories, Thorne. Things best left buried. What is the status of the Pig?”
“Distance scans show she’s made the corrections to her Course. She’s doing what’s expected of her, captain.”
“Very good. Helm! Take us behind our little trickery and mask the engines. Prepare the forward mass cannons and charge the batteries.
“We break the Madeus this day. I want no survivors!”