Author's Note: Hey guys. No, I'm not rewriting Seven Galaxies, One Star (at least not yet) but I found this file when I was sifting through my archives. I wrote it ages ago but never got around to using it. Anyway, thought I might as well put it out there. Enjoy, reviews are like candy, et cetera.
Matte is on hiatus for now because of writer's block.
Dedicated to drsunie, who will hate me for this, which is exactly why I am doing it. And now she's out of the state so as long as she doesn't send me anyone letter bombs I am relatively safe... or as much as I ever am.
... I believe the saying is "Are you game?"
(In hindsight that was a very annoying catchphrase.)
Seven Galaxies, One Star:
Ked Tride folded his hands together as he sat at his massive desk. I sat in a chair facing him, young again – Seven? Eight? I'm not sure – but in my eyes he still retained his hero status. I was stiff, sitting there, afraid to move or even breath as my father stared at his hands.
Nothing was aid for several minutes.
Then, Ked lifted his face and looked into mine. "Today is a day of mourning," he announced somberly. "Do you know what that means?"
I did, so I nodded, but he explained anyway.
"It means that we have suffered a great loss, and that we will spend today grieving for it." Absently, my father fingered the gold wedding ring on his hand. "Today is a sad, sad day."
I nodded in agreement. Tentatively, I asked, "Who died, Dad?"
A small smile curled his lips. "You don't know her, Bentley," he began, "but she was a wonderful woman. She served the Republic with every fiber of her being. Fought in the War alongside me, you know." His eyes glazed over as he reminisced in the past. "Part of my fighter squadron, only other person who volunteered to fly in that bomb. They wouldn't let her, but I always admired her nerve. After the War, when others let their lives full apart, she made use of that rashness. She was a bounty hunter. Her name was Patra Duprai."
I cocked my head, rolling the unfamiliar name on my tongue. "What happened to her?"
"No one knows, Bentley. It was an ordinary mission, but she never came back." He sighed. "Her father is decimated," he sympathized. "Poor man, lost his entire family in the War except for that woman, and here she is, decades later, dead as a doornail."
He smiled warmly at me. "Go play, Bentley."
Nervously, I left the office and walked down those many flights of stairs.
The familiar stretch of countryside greeted me in memory. Rolling plains billowed out in all direction, the horizon wrinkled with mountains, the other with a stretch of distant sea. A few clusters of trees spotted the otherwise immaculate sight. The Farthing estate a few acres away was quiet; the large stone house and oak trees seemed humbled by the loss. It wasn't a castle, really, just an old mansion made of worn gray stones, boasting one tower that did indeed look castle-like, and a courtyard between the two wings of the building. In comparison, my father's house was a shack: made of stone like the Farthing's, it had was vaguely rectangular, with one corner rounded off into an impromptu tower of sorts; it was here where my bedroom was situated. The sight of it struck me with homesickness, but being a memory, I took the home for granted.
I walked along, lost for anything to do, and found myself by the riverside. It was high – it was summer in Starza, and summer meant heavy thunderstorms – and I skipped a few stones off its surface absently. The air was thick with the promise of rain, and I stood up from where I had crouched, wiping sweat off my forehead. That's when I saw her.
A small figure sat on the edge of the only bridge that crossed the river, swinging her legs nonchalantly as she watched her reflection. What was at first a glance turned into a stare. I had never seen this girl around before – at least, never acknowledged her before. Walking the few yards between us, I settled myself a few feet away from her on the bridge, throwing a stone into the water with a resounding splash. She looked up, and I noticed the tears swimming in her ocean-blue eyes.
"Hey," I said coolly, smiling a little at her. "Why are you crying?"
She twisted a strand of hair around her finger. "What's it to you?"
Affronted, I replied, "I was just wondering."
She crossed her arms defiantly. "Go away."
"No!" I almost laughed, my voice was so offended and high-pitched. "I live here."
"Yeah, well, that's just great."
"There's no need to be such a sourpuss."
"Go away, or else."
"Or else what?"
"No. I live here. Besides, who are you to tell me what to do?"
"I'm whoever I want to be."
"Seriously. Go away."
"I warned you."
And she pushed me into the river.
I was rightfully surprised. What was this strange girl thinking? She had no right to come here and tell me what to do, especially to push me off a bridge. And she obviously wasn't from Starza, or else she'd know exactly who I was.
I admit what I did was childish. But, hey, I was a child and had every right to act like one.
So, before I fell in, I grabbed her ankle and pulled her down with me.
We fell into the cold water in a tangled heap, punching and kicking and splashing as we wrestled. The current pulled us a bit down stream, but we were both good swimmers, so it didn't bother us at all. She splashed water into my eyes, blinding me, and I kicked out wildly, whacking at her shins viciously. She retaliated by punching me in the jaw, the metallic taste of blood flooding my senses.
"Oh, it's on," I said dramatically as the volume of the fight increased. Screaming our heads off, we hit anything we could reach, so soon, bloody, bruised, and breathless, we were miles downstream.
She was the first to notice. "Oh drat," she said through swelled lips as she bobbed above water to have a look around. "This is not good."
"What?" I asked testily.
We both surveyed our surroundings with growing trepidation. The swollen river had carried us far from the Farthing's fiefdom of land and into the domain of the Commissioner of State for the Ascent, Lord Drake Sunner, who represented the Starzan galaxy. The river grew narrower, twisted and churning through cataracts and rapids.
"Well. This sucks." She summed up the situation quite nicely.
"My dad's going to kill me!" I realized suddenly.
She laughed. "I'd be more worried about our approaching doom, personally."
"If I do ever get home, my life is in even more danger."
"One thing at a time, kid." Treading water, she narrowed her eyes and looked downstream. "It looks like there's a branch hanging out ten, fifteen yards away. Do you think you could grab it?"
"Why can't you?" I replied bristly, more because I didn't think I could grab it than fear or anything.
She clenched her teeth. "I think you dislocated my arm or something."
"Oops," I said, grinning sheepishly. "All right then, I'll give it a try."
The branch was a thick one, strong enough to support us, I hoped. We passed under it, and I hooked my arm around it, grabbing her hand with the other. Trying not to loose my grip on her, I inched along, using the branch as a guide as I tugged us along. The current fought us, but in the end we managed to drag ourselves – soaking, frozen, and tired – onto shore.
She flopped over onto her back, nursing her hurt arm. Flashing me a smile, she said, "My name's Drecca."
"Bentley," I replied, and we picked ourselves up and started the long walk home.