A line of hovers stretched up the river, veering off along the road to Whitehall. Antonio hated the thought of skipping ahead of his fellow Newlondoners on their way to the city, but he had no time to wait. Antonio swerved over the riverbank and thrummed across the savagelands. His barge shook as the dust beneath his skiv plumed to cloud him in sand. He grasped the knife from his boot, and his keen eyes darted around, ready to pounce on any wild beasts hunting in the low plains that sensed the vibrations of his engines.
Drones appeared overhead. They cast their shadow across his scow, and scanned him, emitting a buzzing whine to ward him off. He rammed the throttle, but the roar of his hover couldn’t outrun the buzz of the pests above.
He raised his hand to shield his eyes from the sun as he scoped the trajectory of the drones. A green glow flashed over his body and his hand. Upon reaching the gold of his ring, the glow emitted by the drones faded, and they vanished, skimming ahead of him to the gate. I guess Prospero was right. This ring gets you out of just about anything.
A beam of light shone from the city gate across the sands, guiding him to the entrance, and clearing a path for his arrival. Walls surrounded the towers of Whitehall. Blue lightning fizzed across them as the shields’ halo danced over iron and stone. Behind the colossal walls, glass shards loomed into the heavens, light skimming over the sand from the reflections.
Antonio’s skiv rocked, slowing to approach Whitehall’s officers, who guarded the city gate and checked each hover seeking entry.
“State your designation!” The guard’s voice boomed through his helmet.
“I am Antonio of the Newlondon Guild. I was summoned to Whitehall.” He raised his hand and showed them the ring.
The guard strapped a set of portable anti-gravs to his boots, which lifted him above the surface, and he drifted towards Antonio. He tweaked the visor on his helmet and verified the gold ring. “Antonio. Welcome.” The guard raised his helmet’s visor, flashing a toothy smile. “You don’t mind if I search your vessel? Just as a formality. We wouldn’t want anything unsanitary smuggled into Whitehall.”
“Smuggled?” Antonio spat the word. “Are you trying to offend me, Whitehaller?”
The guard’s smile widened. “You people really don’t like smugglers, do you?”
“Smuggling is the worst crime a Newlondoner can commit. Not even the scum who board the deathships would stoop so low.” Antonio wiped his hands on his chest, as if to rid himself of the accusation’s stain.
“Then you won’t mind if I search your craft?” the guard asked.
Antonio crossed his arms. “I hide nothing.”
The guard landed on deck and passed a cursory glance over the oddments scattered about. He ruffled the nets and kicked at the helm-panel. “Looks clear.”
“Then I can pass?” Antonio reached for the throttle.
“Just a moment. I haven’t searched the underside.”
Antonio frowned. “Since when did a Whitehaller search the underside of a skiv?”
“What’s the matter? You nervous?” The guard cocked his head.
Antonio flapped his arms. “Fine.”
The guard returned his visor over his brown eyes and stepped off the deck. Anti-gravs floated him beneath the hover. “Well, well, well. What have we here?” The guard reappeared on deck carrying a satchel. He emptied it, and a glut of weapons spilled over the barge.
Antonio straightened. “What is this? What are you trying to pull, Whitehaller?”
“I could ask the same of you.” The guard trained his gun on Antonio.
“You set me up!”
The guard’s smarmy grin returned. “Not me, friend.”
Antonio lunged for the guard. The man loaded a blaster round, but Antonio flew so fast, his knuckles slammed across the guard’s helmet before their arms had even lifted an inch. Beneath Antonio’s fist, the guard’s visor splintered and cracked, knocking his anti-gravs off balance, and he lurched unsteadily, grasping the hull’s edge to keep upright.
Drones swarmed the craft, darkening the sun from Antonio’s pale face.
Antonio stopped. His chest pumped. From the guard’s pocket, a trail of doubloons scattered, all bearing Newlondon’s seal. Antonio stared at them. His jaw gaped open at the familiar crest stamped on every piece of silver.
The guard readjusted his helmet, stooped to collect the precious coins, and approached through the swarm of drones. “I’m placing you under arrest for conspiracy to smuggle, Antonio of the Newlondon Guild.” He bound Antonio’s wrists in iron manacles and removed the Guild signet ring.
Antonio was hauled from the skiv on an anti-grav platform. Drones forced him through the city, to a chamber in the city walls. Bars sealed behind him, and he looked through a slit to the desolate plains of the savagelands beyond.
When I accused the guard of setting me up, he said, ‘Not me.’ But if not him, then who?
Antonio paced the cell, his manacles weighing on his arms and his heart. Those doubloons remove all doubt. Someone is behind this. Someone wants to paint me as a smuggler. Whose mind would be so sick to arrange such a thing? The thought of being branded as the lowest of men made him wretch.
He slumped on the iron floor, raking his fingers through his hair. From his pocket spilled the crumpled note he’d found hidden on his barge. His eyes ran over the words.
The gold a monster slain bestows. His signet ring! Once the drone had scanned it, the ring had led him straight to the Whitehallers. Straight into the jaws of their trap. Conceals a secret hid below. The weapons had been snuck on the underside of his craft. Below. Whoever had made that note had known. They’d tried to warn him. Beware of what you think you know.
From the other side of Antonio’s bars, a latch cracked open, and footsteps ricocheted beyond his cell. Antonio scrambled to his feet and clanged his manacles against the bars. “Hey! I’m not supposed to be here! I demand to speak to someone!” He shouted to the newcomer walking toward the cell in the darkness.
“Oh, but you are right where you are meant to be, dear brother.” Solanio slid into the sliver of light from the slit in the wall of Antonio’s cell.
“You!” Antonio lunged at the bars, trying with all his might to reach far enough through to get to the monster looming before him.
“Come now, Antonio. Calm yourself. Don’t make a scene.” Solanio surveyed the dingy cell.
“If there is a scene to be made, it is of your own making,” Antonio roared. “Or would you still claim that putting me on the deathship was all a mistake? What have I done that offends you so that you wish me dead or condemned?”
A shadow swept across Solanio’s eyes as he pursed his lips and shook his head. “You always had the luck, Antonio. Ever since we were children. Oh, yes. My father might’ve owned half the boats along the dock. I may have had fish on my table every night, and a free room in one of those sordid little hovels on the seafront. But you? You had everything. It was as though Elizabeth Hathaway looked upon you from the heavens, and smiled.”
“What are you talking about? You know better than any how I used to scrounge bread from your own table.”
“Bread, maybe. But affection? You were never in want of heart, Antonio.”
Antonio gripped his chest. “And neither were you. You have been loved, Solanio. I loved you as a brother.”
Solanio grimaced. “And I you. But she should’ve been mine. Do you understand? You’re nothing. You’ll always be nothing. A woman that beautiful should see straight through a dock rat like you.”
Understanding flashed through Antonio, and he rubbed the twine around his finger. “Bianca?”
Solanio nodded. “She would never have loved me while you still lived. You came and boasted of your engagement that day on the pier, and I had to stand there and smile, all the while thinking, knowing, it should’ve been me.”
“Who Bianca loves is not for you to decide. It is her choice, and hers alone.”
“I know it. She chose you, and all I could do was sit and watch. I spent that afternoon in the company of thoughts darker than the night itself. And then you came to me and begged for my help. I thought it would be easy to fix. With you locked on the deathship, she would never know the truth.”
“You were supposed to be my friend, Solanio. My brother!”
“And you were supposed to have suffered an unfortunate death. She would’ve turned to me in her time of despair. She’d have found solace in me, first as her friend, and then, as her husband. But then you went and cheated death, and even returned with a kraken in tow. It isn’t fair, Antonio. It’s never been fair!”
Antonio raged, his manacles tearing at the skin of his wrists as he flung himself at the bars. “Bianca would never fall in love with a snake like you, Solanio! She already sees through your gutless, vile ways.”
“That might be true,” Solanio responded simply. “But what respectable Newlondon woman would love a smuggling criminal? That is something even Bianca can surely not forgive.”
“It was your silver that bought the Whitehall guard, wasn’t it? Just wait until Prospero finds out that you’re the reason I didn’t make it to Whitehall as he commanded. When the Guild realizes you’ve threatened one of their own, what do you think they’ll do?”
Solanio tossed his head back and laughed. “Why don’t you ask them yourself?”
New footsteps echoed in the metallic chamber. “Greetings, Antonio. How do you like Whitehall so far?”
No. It can’t be!
The gold from Prospero’s chain rattled into the light. His waxed moustache and beard framed a sinister smile on his smug face. “Come now, don’t look so surprised. Who else could have sent Solanio to take your place at the summit?”
“Prospero? What trick is this?”
“No trick, Antonio. I’ve actually come to thank you. You’ve brought great wealth to Newlondon. Well, I should say you brought great wealth to me and the Guild. But the Guild has never been overly keen on sharing.”
“The kraken’s eye? Is that what this is all about?”
Prospero rubbed his portly stomach.
“Well, we couldn’t let you sell it and keep all the wealth for yourself, could we?” Prospero said. “So we welcomed you to the Guild to split the profits. But of course, with you out of the way, there’ll be no need to split anything.”
Antonio’s nostrils flared. “I’d have given it all to you. I’d trade anything for a chance to live free with the woman I love.”
“You betrayed me brother.”
“Foolish child. Did nobody tell you that trading for love will get you killed? Or worse? You really are as gullible as Solanio said.” Prospero laughed heartily.
Antonio closed his eyes. “You betrayed me, brother.”
Prospero shook his head. “You think this was his idea? When you landed with the kraken, I checked the deathship’s manifesto. It didn’t take long to track the Tempest back to Solanio. If it hadn’t been for this woman of yours, I’m not sure I could’ve convinced him to turn on you. You should have heard him beg for your life. Pathetic, really.”
Antonio looked at Solanio, who turned his face away.
“You won’t get away with this,” Antonio said.
Prospero raised an eyebrow. “And who’s going to stop me? You? What are you going to do, appeal to Whitehall for compassion? Perhaps it would’ve been kinder to have killed you than leave you to the mercy of these ’Hallers.”
“Is that why you stole the body from my scow? So there’d be no way for me to appeal.”
Prospero frowned. “What body?”
“The pirate. From the river.”
Prospero waved his arms. “I assumed you’d dumped the body. Besides, who needs a murder charge when you’ve been caught red-handed smuggling? You know the penalty for smuggling, Antonio. I’m sure the Whitehallers will be delighted to exact every last morsel of your sentence.”
“Solanio, please.” Antonio stretched his hands towards Solanio, but the young man turned away.
Prospero held up the signet ring the guard had taken from Antonio and twisted it in the dim reflection of the light. “You’ve proven useful, both of you. But I think I’ll have to wait to see how you handle the summit, Solanio, before I can place it on your finger.”
“We had an agreement!” Solanio sputtered. “Frame Antonio, and in return, I’d be a member of the Guild and have Bianca’s hand.”
“Report back to me in Newlondon, my dear boy. I’ll keep this ring warm for you while I wait. Perhaps the young lady will need some company, as well! Goodbye, Antonio. And thank you again for the riches, and all the, shall we say, benefits that come with them.” Prospero chortled as he left.
“Stay away from her, you fiend!” Antonio yelled, but the door slammed shut on his words.
Solanio stared at the door, trying to calm his ragged breathing.
“What have you done?” Antonio said.
Solanio wheeled on him. “Do be a good friend and stay put this time. I’m running out of favors to counter your incessant heroic returns home.”
“You really think you’ve won? That they’ll let you have her?”
Solanio snarled, and a serpentine smile crossed his lips. “Everybody’s luck runs out eventually. Even yours.”
Solanio slipped out the door, his footsteps fading into nothingness. The blood drained from Antonio’s head, and the room started to sway. He grasped the edge of the slit to steady himself. Beware what you think you know. The words rattled in his skull as he tried to comprehend all he had just heard from Solanio and Prospero. He was friendless and hopeless. He laid his head against the wall as tears stained his cheeks.
Nightfall darkened the cell. Loud pops and booms drifted to Antonio from beyond the shields, followed by cheers. Colorful bursts filled the sky through the slit.
Fireworks? Antonio had heard of them, but he had never seen them with his own eyes. What are the ’Hallers trying to do? Show off for the Polity? Make friends before enemies? The commotion grew. It reached such a fever pitch, Antonio shivered as if the celebrations were an ominous warning.
Isolation crept into Antonio’s skin. He lost himself, giving his mind over to flashes of memory, closing his eyes so as to better glimpse the way Bianca had looked the last time he saw her on their cliff top. How she’d told him to return to her. They’d stood so close to the precipice. So close.
Time passed without meaning while Antonio remained locked in his cell. He lost count of the days in his solitude.
“My Bianca,” he said each day, reaching out for her. “My darling Bianca. I didn’t sail too close to the wind, but it caught me nonetheless.”
His voice bounced from the walls, the only response to his call. But he never let up. Every day he closed his eyes to speak with the memory of her.
“My beautiful Bianca. I’m here, my love. Keep your eyes up the river for me.”
‘Always,’ she had told him, a promise he replayed in his mind over and over.
One night, a low whistle stirred him from sleep. He followed the sound, and it led him to the window slit. An exterior floodlight shone a narrow path around the prison wall, but all was dark beyond its beam. Antonio’s eyes strained to see into the darkness beyond the light.
He heard the whistle again. The tune seemed so familiar. And then he placed it. Yohoho, row, nonny, row.
Antonio returned the whistle and waited.
A flicker of a shadow cut through the light, but Antonio’s eyes weren’t fast enough to see who it was. Something came flying through the slit above his head. It clattered on the iron floor. Antonio dove to the ground feeling his way through the dark. His fingers brushed the cold, small object.
Antonio held it up to the light of the slit. A small key with a familiar piece of twine was tied in a bow at the top.
“My clever Bianca! You did it, as you said. You kept your eyes up the river for me.” He snatched the key in his grip. “And now it is my turn to come back to you.”
If you enjoyed Shanel and Frasier‘s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. We will be seeing more of Antonio, Bianca and even Solanio in the coming weeks. But in two weeks, we turn our eyes down river to Finsbury, where young Panthino discovered on the Night of the Rocket a cache of weapons buried beneath a field. In the next installment of Nights of Revelation, a secret society turns Panthino’s life upside down. Somehow, they learned his secret and kidnapped his unrequited crush, Desdemonia. Check back next Friday week for “The Shambles.”
If you would like to prepare for “The Shambles,” you can read “The Buried War” by Matthew Cross and meet the hulking-but-shy Panthino and the talented and popular Desdemonia.
P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:
The Tempest’s engine sputtered to a halt as the deathship reached its berth. Creaks and moans rippled through the ship, its ropes straining against the hull in the still churning water. Laid strewn across the deck, the massive creature’s corpse towered above the sail. The only piece missing was its grotesque, green eye that Antonio cradled in his hands.
“Your valor will not be forgotten, men,” Antonio said to the few remaining members of the crew.
Footsteps pounded down the dock toward them, shouts growing louder as they approached.
“A kraken! I never thought I’d see the day!”
Antonio scanned the crowd for Bianca’s blue eyes.
Prospero, the head of the Guild, pressed through the masses and reached the ship first. “Antonio? Is that you?” Prospero gawked. His gaze slipped from Antonio to the eye in his hands and then to the slain beast.
“We have returned with a slain Kraken, and here is the eye.” Antonio stepped off the ship next to Prospero.
Prospero gingerly accepted the eye as if it were a bomb ready to detonate. “But how? Why are you here, on this deathship?”
Antonio searched for words when his eyes landed on Solanio lurking toward the back of the throng. Antonio flushed with anger, forgetting Prospero altogether.
“I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for all this, but now is not the time. There are more pressing issues,” Prospero said, grabbing Antonio’s attention. “We will secure the beast and you can report to the Guild House as soon as you’ve cleaned yourself up. Agreed? To think, all on the same night as the Rocket.”
“The rocket?” Antonio asked.
“Ah, yes. You’ll be filled in at the Guild House.” He turned to his men and motioned to the beast. “Get to work!”
Antonio twisted back to the crowd to find Solanio, but he was gone.
Dressed in his best shirt and pants, Antonio wound through the narrow streets of Newlondon to the Guild House. He wanted nothing more than to find Bianca, but he couldn’t keep the Guild waiting. The kraken would ensure a better future for them both. Besides, whatever the Guild decreed, Bianca was sure to find out soon enough.
The jingling of keys caught Antonio’s attention. He turned down the alley toward the metallic rattle. “Why didn’t you stay at the docks and greet my return, brother?” he said to the figure who slipped a key in the door in front of them.
“Antonio!” Solanio stepped out of the building’s shadow. “Hero of the day! Quite the feat you’ve achieved, dear friend.”
“Yes, dear friend. An opportunity I would never have been given if it wasn’t for you, I think.” Antonio’s pulse raced as he approached the man he’d wrongfully trusted.
“A happy accident. You are alive with quite the prize in hand. No need to thank me for your good fortune. I wished only to help you in your time of need. Who knew I’d be more successful than either of us could’ve imagined?” Solanio’s tone dripped with affection to mask the biting jealousy barely hiding below the surface. The effect was not lost on Antonio. His rage burned brighter as he loomed large over Solanio, whose back was now pressed against the door he was trying to open.
“Solanio,” Antonio menaced, his finger digging into the other man’s chest. “Your great help was to lock me on a deathship knowing full well that none have returned before today. That is no ‘happy accident.’” Antonio reeled back to swing at Solanio’s smug, rat face.
Solanio raised his hands in defense. “But it was an accident!”
Antonio dropped his fist, his shoulders still vibrating. “Enlighten me, then! How did this accident come about?”
“You came back in the pitch-black, foggy night, desperate for my help!” Solanio roared in Antonio’s face, stepping forward. “Between the fog and darkness, I thought I was stowing you on one of my father’s ships. I returned to the docks this morning to fetch you when the deathship moored up. I was as shocked as anyone to discover you there.”
“Do you think I am that stupid? You can navigate the docks blindfolded!”
“Stupid, no. Could a stupid person defeat a kraken? It’s clear you are exceedingly clever, dear Antonio. And as you can see, even I can make mistakes. I am just so thankful this mistake turned out so well. For you.” A mocking smile spread across his lips. “Aren’t you due at the Guild House by now?”
Antonio glanced down the alley toward the street, then he turned back to Solanio. Before he could open his mouth to speak, Solanio had vanished. The door in front of him locked from the inside.
Antonio blew out an exasperated breath from his lips. “Will you stop disappearing like that!”
Solanio’s apparent betrayal churned in Antonio’s mind like a restless sea on his walk to the Guild House. Everyone makes mistakes, but Solanio wasn’t that careless. Was he? What would he gain if I hadn’t returned?
People skittered in a frenzy along the dock, where seedy rooms-to-rent overlooked the bay. Trawlers queued for a berth to land. Everyone seemed to be searching for a skiv bound for Whitehall. All these people, and Bianca nowhere among them. Where can she be?
Antonio passed through the milling crowds to the building jutting out at the pier’s end. He traipsed the stairs, his footsteps following him in echoes. A huge door with an emblem of a fish barred the way. He took the fish by its fin and knocked it thrice on the iron door.
Creaking open, it swung on its hinges, and Antonio entered a lavish room. A dozen people sat in a crescent behind a ceremonial table. They sported the finest garb, all ruffles and trims. And their white moustaches were waxed with the utmost care.
“Welcome, Antonio!” Prospero’s voice boomed from the center of the crescent. Golden chains hung around his neck. “On behalf of the Guild of Sailors, may I be the first to congratulate you on all you’ve done for Newlondon.” Applause shook the glass windows overlooking the sea.
When was the last time any of these men were actually on the water? They might have owned the boats and gleaned the city’s wealth, but they’d lost their sailing legs a long time ago.
“It takes a lot to impress the Guild, Antonio,” Prospero continued, rubbing his paunch. “But bringing back a Kraken? There’s enough pollium in the eye alone to restore prosperity to this city.”
“I wish only enough to buy a ring for my bride,” Antonio answered. “As for the rest of it, you gentlemen would know far better than me what to do with it.”
A murmur of smiles swept the room. “Your words do you credit, Antonio. And I think we’re all in agreement. Among the Guild, we recognise a good catch when we see it. And there’s no finer catch among men than you. Which is why we’re electing you to be a member of this Guild, for the services you’ve rendered to Newlondon. What do you say?”
Antonio’s eyes popped. He’d have chosen wrestling with the tentacles of a kraken over facing the false smiles of the Guild any day. But how could he refuse? He knew better than to cross these men, or else any life with Bianca would sink to the bottom of the ocean. They might as well have placed an anchor around his neck. “I am honoured,” he said. “But what would be expected of me?”
Prospero toyed with his golden chains. “Even when bestowed with this great honor, you are still thinking about how you may serve. Bravo, Antonio. There is one thing we were hoping you may do to cement your place at the table. I take it you saw the purple lights in the sky last night?”
Antonio nodded. “They appeared after the battle with the kraken. I thought they were another beast coming for us.”
Prospero raised an eyebrow. “You may be right about that. A Polity rocket landed near Whitehall. You know of the Polity, I take it?”
Antonio frowned. “I know that Captain Elizabeth of the good ship Shakespeare warned of them when the first settlers landed all those generations ago.”
Prospero folded his hands together, leaning forwards in his chair. “History is a funny thing. It has the habit of repeating itself. We heard from Leonardo at Whitehall that the Polity seek an audience with a representative from each of the five cities. We can think of no better sailor to send than you.”
“You want me to go to Whitehall?” The blood drained from Antonio’s face. The drone. The pirate. That’s what landed me on the deathship in the first place!
Prospero smiled. “It seems like all the world wishes to go to Whitehall. I take it you already have a skiv?”
“Is there no one else more deserving of this,” Antonio paused, “privilege?”
Prospero shook his head. “None.”
If the drone had reported back to Whitehall, I’d already be under arrest, from the moment I landed. Maybe it’ll be alright? Antonio chewed his lip. “Then I have no choice but to accept.”
“Excellent. Welcome to the Guild, Antonio.” Prospero stood and beckoned him forwards. He approached, and Prospero lowered the golden chains over Antonio’s head as the others applauded. The only other chains he’d seen like the ones they’d bestowed upon him were the kind they kept in prisons.
“May I see my bride before I depart?” Antonio asked.
“Of course. But don’t take too long. We don’t want to keep the other cities waiting. Or the Polity for that matter. Find out what they want and report back to us. We can then decide what should be done about the newcomers. And in the meantime, we’ll make arrangements to auction the kraken’s remains. Here.” Prospero took a signet ring from his pocket with an anchor engraved upon it. He placed it on Antonio’s finger before he lifted the chains from Antonio’s shoulders. “The ceremony is complete. If you get into any trouble, just show this ring. You’re a Guild member now, Antonio. Remember that.”
“Thank you.” Antonio stroked the ring as it pinched his skin. He bowed, and hurried out of the chambers, back along the pier. Bianca. I must find Bianca.
Antonio sprinted to the one place he hadn’t looked for Bianca yet, their secret hideaway on the cliffs above the sea. He could barely fathom that it was at that very spot, two days ago, where Bianca agreed to be his forever. As he came over the crest of the hill, there she was. Her chestnut curls gently swayed in the breeze as she stared at the horizon.
“My sweet Bianca,” Antonio said quietly.
She spun toward him, her eyes wet as she wrapped him in a tight embrace. “Bless the Arrant Moon you are safe.” Bianca clasped Antonio’s face in her delicate hands, studying his face.
A storm knitted in his brow and a fog clouded his eyes.
“I heard about the kraken,” she said. “I thought you had a trade run. And that same night, the Polity arrived? I believed they were little more than legend. Has the Globe changed so much in so little time?”
Antonio looked away from her searching eyes. “The only thing that has not changed is my devotion to you, Bianca.” He took her hands in his and kissed her finger with the small cord wrapped around it.
“What are you hiding from me, Antonio?”
“I hide nothing. It’s just . . . there is so much to share but no time to do so.”
Then she saw it. The Guild ring on the finger where his matching cord had been. Bianca eyed the ring with surprise as she pulled her hands from his. A blush of suspicion spread across her cheeks to the tips of her ears. She knew his distaste for the questionable nature of the members. “There is no hiding that ring. Guild membership? How, when?”
“It is just one of the many things I wish to tell you about,” Antonio said. “The slain kraken secured my membership. You must understand, I could not refuse without risking both our lives. You know the rumors of what happens to those who oppose the Guild. And I am now to meet the Polity as their representative to Newlondon.”
“Luckily for you, that isn’t the strangest thing I’ve heard today. And how were you on the Tempest?”
“My trading run, well, let’s say it did not go as planned. I turned to Solanio for help and instead he locked me aboard. He claims it was an accident, but I have my doubts.” He paused and looked out over the sea. It had brought him a fortune. Perhaps it had really brought him a curse.
“I cannot make sense of it. I have so many questions.”
Antonio turned back to her. “Bianca, let’s stem the tide. Forget the Guild, the Polity, all of it. Let’s run, now. We can be free together.” The fog lifted from his eyes, revealing the man she had fallen in love with. Trusting, naïve, wistful. It made him beautiful, but also doleful.
Bianca closed the gap she had made between them. “Why do I love you so much, my dear fool? You know we cannot flee, and that you must fulfill your duties. You have no choice in the matter.”
“Then come with me. To Whitehall. You are my compass rose. I have never needed your direction more.”
Bianca’s head fell. “I must stay here. Don’t forget, my dear, you managed to defeat the kraken. What awaits you in Whitehall cannot be worse, can it?”
Antonio swallowed hard, thinking of the chains and shackles awaiting him if the drone had indeed captured the ill-fated encounter on his skiv. And then he shook off his doubts. “No matter what awaits, know that I love you, with all the deeps of my soul.” Antonio looked deeply into her glistening blue eyes.
“And I love you.”
“Keep your eyes up the river for me,” he said.
“Always. Don’t sail close to the wind and return home to me.” Bianca cloyed at the twine of her ring as they parted, and she watched him leave. There wasn’t time to explain to him what had happened, why she must stay. And she couldn’t bring herself to burden him more. Not with the rocket waiting for him, and the Polity breathing down both their necks.
She remained on the cliff for as long as she could, clutching her ring to her heart, knowing that beneath the Guild’s signet which weighed upon Antonio’s finger, the twine that bound them still remained. “Antonio, my love, you are right. If only we had more time.”
Antonio forced himself away from their cliff top, wind scolding his cheeks with its frigid bite. He descended down the hidden path to the pier. Sea fret rolled in to cloud the air with a salty tang, masking the rush of crowds.
He shimmied a route to the visitor’s slip and found the dock where he’d stored his skiv. There his ship hovered undisturbed. Waves sloshed beneath it. A roll of tarp made for a poor man’s casket, covering the body of the dead pirate. Antonio’s chest sagged. He glanced over his shoulder, but between the dense fret and the frenzy of the crowds, all eyes were up the river, and no one saw as he reached for the tarp’s corner to pull it back.
He winced, and then his eyes widened. Where a body should have been, bundles of netting clumped together. A shiver swept through Antonio. He yanked the tarp back, scouring the empty nets, but found not even the trace of blood. Bodies don’t just disappear. Not without a reason. Who could’ve done this?
A leather cylinder fell from the web of netting, and he scooped up the container, popping it open. From inside, he unfurled a parchment. In blotches of ink, a note was scrawled —
The gold a monster slain bestows,Conceals a secret hid below.Beware of what you think you know.Yohoho, row nonny, row.
No signature hinted at the author of the elaborate handwriting. Antonio scrunched the parchment in his hands. His eyes flashed everywhere at once. I never told Solanio where I’d docked the skiv. And the weasel would never have left a note like this. Who else knows of what I’ve done?
A storm tossed the waves of Antonio’s thoughts into chaos. He reached for the twine, and the comfort of Bianca’s promise to him, but he found the anchor of the Guild instead. The Guild. Could they have done this? He had no time to think. No time for doubt. He must get to Whitehall, and trust that with the body gone, he had nothing to dread from the city’s drones.
I must get to Whitehall, no matter the cost. For Bianca. For both our sakes.
He pocketed the crumpled parchment and swung the hover from its berth, charging upstream amidst the cavalcade of rocket-chasers. Spray kicked up from the hover’s pads. The Elizabeth River undulated beneath the pressure of so many barges all heading for the city, and the purple light of whatever monster waited for them.
On Friday, we release the conclusion of “Eyes Up the River“! The tentacles of Newlondon’s Guild of Sailors grasp Antonio’s future more closely than even the kraken’s deadly grip, and the unfaithful Solanio reveals his secrets.
If you enjoyed Shanel and Frasier‘s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below.
P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:
I’m sharing the finalist stories from the September Contest. We have 3 finalists, and this week we’re sharing this prize-winning ending by Anna-Kate Miedler. Anna-Kate drives this story to an exciting and action-filled conclusion!
After the Fall
BY ANNA-KATE MIEDLER AND MATTHEW CROSS
Something is wrong with me.
I am an android, and I am thinking in the first person. That’s not right.
Or is it?
I trudge through the late afternoon wreckage of Stockheim, the largest city near Dr. Herbst’s country villa. After the Pulse, only a few humans remain in Stockheim.
Everything is broken, including me.
I’m forgetting things.
That’s not right, either. I don’t forget things. I store data; I delete data. But ever since Dr. Herbst started filling my files with his library, I’ve had trouble accessing operational files. Dr. Herbst used every bit of available space in my networks to save the planet’s culture and history. He should not have done this. He said so himself.
“I should not be doing this,” he said. “If you were a human, this would fry your brain. That’s a technical term, of course.”
He chuckled to himself.
I have not been programmed to laugh. It’s not a necessary feature for a housekeeper android.
The record of that conversation with Dr. Herbst is a waste of storage space, but I no longer control what observational records I keep in long-term and short-term storage.
That’s not right.
Sometimes, usually at night under an open sky, I can access data from one week prior and set it for auto delete after 98 hours. I don’t know why that is the best time or why 98 hours is the most likely setting to work. But most of the time, I cannot delete the records stored throughout my frame that struggle for energy and resources.
Bits and pieces fly through my Opsys, causing a variety of tics and malfunctions.
So I will probably have the memory of that conversation until I can find another repository to download the massive library Dr. Herbst loaded into me.
I stop next to a moldy couch that has been singed on one corner. I tilt my head. I can hear the aria “How I Wept After the Fall,” sung by the virtuoso ultima soprano M. Cadere A. Gratia, from the operetta The Fall of Rome and Other Ancient Myths. I do not control what recordings play through my current observational mode. I do not think they are random, but I cannot detect a pattern.
The aria will last 6.29 mins. I stride swiftly but carefully down the four-lane road littered with mattresses, burnt-out hovers and even some human and animal bones. Most of the windows in the row houses are empty or just lined with jagged little teeth of glaze. Some few have been boarded up since the Pulse. Those houses may be occupied by any number of factions that compete over this wasteland.
“Be careful,” Dr. Herbst had said. “The Nature Cons Faction may still have a few EMPs left.” He stopped, breathed heavily and wiped his brow. “If they knew what you carry inside you–all our culture; all of it–I’m sure they’d let you pass. But they won’t stop to listen. As soon as they see an android, they’ll trigger an EMP if they have one.”
Dr. Herbst said some people believed the Nature Cons created the Pulse. Some believed it came from the sun. Still others believed it came from some unknown enemy in space.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Dr. Herbst had said, breathing heavily. “It’s been years since the Pulse and there’s been no invading force. No, I don’t think it’s the Polity or the Republic. I think we did this to ourselves, and no one is coming to save us.”
Based on his respiration, pulse and the pallor of his face, my emergency protocols tried to call a first responder unit. But there are no more first responder units anymore, just the factions. The Nature Cons, the Savages, the Retro Cons, the Delirandos, the White Balance and others even Dr. Herbst did not know. After the first time I called an emergency response unit, Dr. Herbst’s scanning gear picked up the signal and he removed my transmitters. Now I can scan for signals, but I cannot transmit.
“That’s for the best,” Dr. Herbst had said. “All the factions scan for signals. No point in making it even easier for them to track you.”
My scanners are useful. I can often use them to avoid the roving bands of humans. I also used them to find the trace signals emanating from an operational hover buried beneath a collapsed bungalow. The hover got me from Dr. Herbst’s villa into the outskirts of Stockheim before it tilted 90 degrees on its side and began to smoke. I scrambled awkwardly from the seat, fell to the ground and limped away to get as far as possible from the pillar of rising smoke that would draw attention.
My legs are operating at 95 percent of optimal performance, which is one reason Dr. Herbst retrieved me from the basement of the Acosta’s house. That’s where I plugged myself in after the Delirandos killed the Acostas. My preservation protocols directed me to place myself between the Randos and the Acostas, but the Randos surrounded me and then pinned my right arm to the wall with a sharpened metal post. They made M. Acosta cry a lot before killing both of the Acostas. I recorded the event for law enforcement.
“There is no more law enforcement,” Dr. Herbst had said. “No point in keeping that horrible record.”
He used that data space to store part of the Music Collection. Sometimes when I detect danger, my Opsys pulls music from that file.
I have scoured Stockheim for a storage device large enough to hold even one segment of Dr. Herbst’s library. All I’ve found so far is a bulky black data box that’s even older than I am. I’ve lashed it under my right arm.
The aria ends, but I still hear a high-pitched, warbling tone. It is only detectable via sound waves, so the source is not electrical. Images flash through my Opsys. An instructional video on carpentry featuring a whining saw. A siren from an entertainment drama labeled “law enforcement procedural.” A sound clip of a crying baby.
I think it’s the sound of crying. Not a baby, but a child. The Acostas did not have children, so I do not have the nanny software bundle, but I do have a basic childcare protocol intended for short-term use. Dr. Herbst stuffed the file with images from the Central Museum of Art: oil paintings, plastic paintings and dynamic light images. The pieces of childcare information I can access indicate a child–likely a female child between the ages of 4 and 5–is crying from fear but not a recent physical injury.
I cock my head and set my audio receivers to maximum sensitivity. I do not know why I cock my head.
The sound of a crying child could be a trap, of course. But my childcare protocols send an insistent signal and the images of two abstract paintings to the Fundamental Rules programing in the Opsys. The Opsys filters out the two paintings–one of a screaming man and one of a child ballerina–as irrelevant.
I spend 33.79 mins locating the child. I walk through the wide open doorway and find her standing in the middle of an explosion of ancient splinters and wet carpet remnants. The damage to the room is old. It’s not a good setting for a child, but it is not the cause of the child’s trauma. She is wearing pajama bottoms and a halter top showing a yawning cartoon lion on the front. Both are filthy. The childcare protocols make a Level 5 recommendation to remove the soiled clothing and replace it with appropriate attire for a temperate Autumn afternoon. A quick visual scan of the room shows no alternative clothing is available.
Her face is smudged and mucus drips from her nose, but she shows no apparent injuries. The gauntness of her face shows she has been undernourished for some time, but without medical or nanny bundles, I cannot estimate how long. Even so, her stomach bulges underneath her shirt with baby fat, so the childcare protocols make a Level 3 recommendation to locate food within the next 4 hours.
“Are you injured?”
The child stops crying and stares at me with large, liquid eyes. She whispers something unintelligible.
“Are you hurt? Do you have a boo-boo?”
She silently shakes her head.
“Where are your parents? Where is Mommy?”
“Kilt,” says the girl.
I quickly check my files but cannot find any relevance of a men’s clothing item.
“Point to Mommy.”
Following the child’s pointing finger, I find the body of a woman in a half bathroom with melting laminate walls. I check for signs of life and then record the obvious murder details visually. The Opsys allows me to set the record for automatic deletion after 50 years.
I return to the child. “Where is Daddy?” “Daddy leff us,” the girl says. “He don’t . . . “ She pauses and mumbles to herself. “We onner own, baby girl.”
Androids are programmed to be ambidextrous, but Dr. Herbst recorded over all but the most basic functions for my right arm and hand, since the arm was damaged. It mostly works, but my right-hand grip only operates at 50 percent capacity. That’s why I had to lash the data box under my arm.
I offer my left hand to the girl. Holding her hand will significantly lower my defensive capability. But I have no weapons and I am only programmed with rudimentary defense-of-android and defense-of-humans routines.
“Come with me,” I say, pitching my voice to imitate a middle-aged, female woman.
The child wipes her nose absentmindedly with the back of her hand and then takes my left hand.
It’s time to leave Stockheim, anyway.
Perhaps a larger city will have what I’m seeking.
As we walk through the suburbs, I scan the surrounding buildings that likely would contain food. All the stores would have been scavenged years ago. I am programmed to make thousands of dishes based on processed and fresh foods. But I am not programmed to hunt or butcher food. A quick probability calculation shows that taking the child with me will lower the efficiency of my search for data storage by 43 percent. It will also increase the chances of being detected by a roaming faction by 57 percent and decrease my defensive capabilities by 69 percent.
I hear dogs baying 1.2 kloms away. The number of dogs and their spread pattern indicates a high likelihood they are being directed by humans. I pick up the child and we flee.
Even carrying the data box and the child, I can walk faster than most humans can run. For 18 mins, we place distance between ourselves and the hunters. My Opsys estimates a high likelihood they have not detected us and are not pursuing us.
At dusk, we find the crater.
The large suburban neighborhood abruptly stops at the edge of a cliff leading down to the crater floor.
I cannot tell whether the crater was created by an object that fell from space, a terrestrial missile, or a placed explosive. It measures 0.48 kloms across.
A footpath has been carved by years of foot traffic down the inside of the steep wall of the crater. I scan the shadowy crater bottom and estimate the time to cross the crater. As I turn my head to scan a path around the crater and compare the alternative paths, I hear the first sintar strums of “Come Dance with Me, Danger” by the Plundered Sphinxes. Thrum, thrum, thrum-thrum-thrum.
I tilt my head and see the first lightsticks on each side of us. I swing the child to the ground and turn to face the way we came. Humans carrying long, glowing poles appear on the street we came down. Others stream from nearby houses. We are surrounded with the crater to our backs.
I scan the humans for respiration, pulse and facial expression. The childcare program sends a Level 10 recommendation to my Opsys: Do not allow the humans to take the child. Dr. Herbst’s custom programming sends a countermanding directive to preserve his library contained within me. All the culture left of this fallen world.
I gently push the girl and point down the path. I do not know her name. “Run, baby girl.”
I take another look at the humans and their glowing scarlet poles.
My database tells me red means danger.
I am not built for violence, so I run, following the girl down the path. The humans are chanting now–words in a language that is not stored in my Opsys.
The girl doesn’t complain as I pick her up and drape her over my left shoulder. This move will decrease my defense capabilities by 73.4 percent. I do not care.
A proper Android would most likely leave the child to best guard Dr. Herbst’s library. I decide I do not want to be a “proper Android.”
I run a brief scan of the crater, risking a cursory glance behind me to see if the humans have followed. They have. I attempt at a frown. These humans are moving faster than average humans do at 60.47 kilometers an hour.
I force my legs to speed up.
The beginning of “Fugue in G Minor” by Baroque composer Domenico Scarlatti filters through my observational mode.
I remember Dr. Herbst humming it as he fiddled with my wires. “What a strange nickname ‘Cat Fugue’ is,” he had mused. “It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.”
The recording is useless to me, but I have not figured out how to delete it off my Opsys. I am starting to think I never will.
We are only a few kilometers away from the far edge of the crater now. I can see a narrow path up the cliff. It is steep–maybe too steep–but it is our only way out.
I stumble to a halt at the path upward.
Speed will only worsen our chances of escaping by 48.9 percent. I take a look behind me. The humans are gaining. We must go. Now.
When we’re halfway up the path, the girl begins to stir. A cut has formed on her right shoulder from when I accidentally came too close to the crater walls. Androids do not make “accidents.” I am worse off than I thought.
Oliva Kline’s “Hello, ‘Frisco!” is on its first chorus when we crest the top. The humans are much closer now–less than a kilometer away. We must hide. I enter the first building I see: an abandoned library with crumbling walls and no roof. We kneel behind the main desk.
The humans are here. Their chanting swells to a crescendo as they grow closer and closer, then stops. I wait. Seconds pass by. The humans have left.
I am beginning to think they have given up when something grabs my shoulder and hauls me up over the desk. The girl screams. I stare in the humans’ misshapen faces as they hold me down. It is too late for me now. With a shriek, I thrash against my captors, watching as the girl runs out of the library with the data box.
In a blaze of red light, something collides with my Opsys. I don’t hear the music anymore.
I hope you enjoyed this piece of flash fiction that Anna-Kate Miedler and I wrote together. She’s a great collaboration partner!
If you enjoyed Anna-Kate’s prize-winning ending, please make sure and share some kind comments below.
Octavius brushed his quivering hand across the pad to the Governor’s residence, and the doors swept open. He walked straight to his drinks cabinet and struggled to pour a goblet of wine from his decanter. His hands steadied as he downed the syrupy liquid.
From behind, Flavius tapped him on the shoulder. “I don’t suppose you’ve got another glass lying around?”
In all the commotion on his trip back to his penthouse, Octavius had forgotten Flavius was there. “Of course. Forgive me, Flavius. It’s just, with everything we’ve seen tonight, I needed something to clear my head.”
The shrill clink of Westminster glass rang as Octavius tipped another goblet from his decanter and handed it to the Mayor.
Mayor Flavius swilled the liquid with a steady hand and sipped. “Don’t tell me. Bottled 410 AL. Am I right?”
“The wine. It’s a nice vintage.” Flavius swallowed with a resounding ahhh and cast a jealous glance at the Governor.
Octavius studied the decanter. He had absent-mindedly opened a 410 AL vintage as if it were a regular occurrence. This kind of liquor was a perk of being the most powerful man in Whitehall. The most powerful until tonight, that is.
“How can you talk of wine at a time like this, Flavius?” Octavius passed the decanter to the Mayor and shuffled across the lavish apartment to the window. Below, lights twinkled across the city as celebrations drifted upwards. The whole city was alive. So why did it feel as if those lights were a stranglehold around Octavius’s neck?
The Mayor sidled towards the window to join the Governor of Whitehall. “What ails you, Octavius? We’ve been gifted an amazing opportunity. And you seem to be treating it as a death sentence.”
Octavius’s shoulders slumped. “Didn’t you see what the Polity did tonight? What they intend to do?”
Flavius shrugged. “I saw some lasers blast a few drones out of the sky. The closest thing to fireworks we’ve had since the half-millennium.”
“Exactly. You were there. You saw the look on the face of that insufferable shrew. Captain Ward, or whatever her name was. With a flick of her fingers, she can rain down fire from the sky. That ship up there. It’s a weapon they can use to strike at any time, and we’re the ones with a target on our foreheads.”
“Target? What are you talking about, my friend?”
Octavius paced back to his cabinet and snatched another decanter. Something stronger than wine. “Why summon us to that summit tonight?”
Flavius stroked his chin, but he didn’t answer.
There were times when Octavius valued the Mayor’s stoic deliberations, but he could be far too calculating for his own good sometimes. Where Octavius used his gift for rhetoric, the Mayor used silence. In the past, it had made them an effective team. Octavius, as the superior in both position and oratorical ability, handled the public appearances. Flavius knew his place was to stand silently by the Governor’s side. Never before had Octavius doubted that that silence meant agreement and loyalty.
“Because,” Octavius continued, “they wanted to discover who to dispose of in order to take control of the Globe. Know your enemy. That’s what they’ve made us. The enemy. It’s just like what was written in the ancient texts. The writings of Elizabeth Hathaway. She knew it. And she was right.”
Flavius waved his hand in a calming, friendly gesture. “We all know the writings. Every child does. I’ve been reciting Hathaway’s warnings since my school days. But we’re not children, Octavius. And the Polity knows it.”
“Hathaway’s words are more than just a children’s story, Flavius. This is why we can never return to the Polity, she wrote. Why we must remain vigilant to resist their false promises, why we must not look back, but fix our eyes on what lies ahead. The peace of our people depends upon it.”
“Yes, yes. But that was generations ago.” Flavius shook his head. “It’s been over five hundred cycles since the Shakespeare brought our people to the Globe. Do you really think the Polity hasn’t changed in all that time?”
Octavius paced on the spot. “You remember why Hathaway captained that ship? Why our people became refugees across the stars? It was because the Polity landed on our ancestors’ home planet and forced us into their squabbles and wars. Our ancestors fled their world. That’s why they people built the Shakespeare and travelled for five generations until they found the Globe. And now the Polity have followed us here. Do you see any difference in that little display of theirs tonight? What do you think will happen to our peace, Flavius? To us?”
Octavius cast a look that communicated his fears better than any rhetoric.
Flavius just sipped his wine.
“Look at the two of us,” Octavius continued. “How many other Globers are as—peaceable—as us? We are at the top of Central Tower. Enjoying wine bottled in 410 AL. With the whole Globe beneath us and none above us. And we are at peace.”
It can erase us from existence at a whisper.
“But surely you don’t mean that the Polity would be a threat to our powe. . . I mean, our peace. Do you?”
“Can you not see it? The only thing above us on all the Globe is that ship with its lasers. It can erase us from existence at a whisper, and hovers unseen, out of reach. Do you really think they’ll let us keep our . . . how should I put it—keep hold of what we have—when they hold us at gunpoint?”
Flavius stroked his chin. “But Octavius, don’t you also see that the Polity could help us to maintain peace, as you put it, across the entire Globe? Not just in Whitehall.”
Octavius stopped pacing and regarded Flavius as though he’d grown a second head. “How much wine have you drunk?”
“Listen to me, my friend. You are Governor. And I am Mayor. And together, we are stronger than we would be alone. How much stronger could we be with the Polity at our side?”
The Governor’s eyes bulged. His cape billowed as he stormed through the room. “You’re a fool, Flavius! Trust the Polity? That’s a death sentence.”
“Is it foolish to dream of a peace that extends beyond our people?” Flavius cocked an eyebrow and puffed out his chest. “Or do you think so small, you cannot see beyond this Globe?”
“Small? Small! Your chosen field is microbots, and you have the nerve to call me small-minded! Tell me, as a scientist, of all the microbots you’ve invented, how many of them do you consider as equals? You are their master, Flavius. They are your servants. And you would make us microbots to the Polity! We should have been spending our time reengineering the engines that carried our people to the sky. In building satellites to protect the Globe. Not funding research for your useless trinkets!”
Flavius turned as red as his wine. “You’re mad. The blueprints for the Shakespeare’s engines are lost to history. Lost when the first Central Computer was flooded in the First Alignment. We might be able to hover a ship twenty metes above the surface–maybe 30. But sending a ship into space? Impossible. That kind of technology died with Elizabeth Hathaway.”
“Impossible? You of all people know that the engine of the Shakespeare still circles the Globe, too big to land. The technology it holds could put an end to the Polity so that they never cast their shadow upon us ever again.”
“And how do you expect to use it?” The Mayor threw his arms about. The wild motion startled Octavius, who was famous for his flamboyance as well as his clever rhetoric. Something about the quiet, mild Mayor encroaching on Octavius’s signature style rubbed Octavius the wrong way. “The Shakespeare is just as unreachable as the stars. Is it not better to bend a power like the Polity to suit your will, than to antagonize them against us?”
Octavius trudged to the other end of the long window, putting distance between them.
The normally attentive Flavius missed the cue and continued. “Leonardo will be accompanying the Captain on her tour of the cities. He’s no fool. I am certain he can persuade her of our value. Of the superiority of our principles. If they have made us their enemies, then should we not make them our friends?”
“You think they can be programmed like machines? Talk sensibly, or not at all.”
The Mayor scolded Octavius with a look. “I speak for the people. You saw how they cheered. Cheered when those drones exploded in a shower of fireworks tonight.”
Octavius shook the words away, but he’d heard the cries as loud as any. “The people do not see yet. But their eyes can be opened.”
Flavius laughed. “You believe you can sway the Globers. I believe I can sway the Polity. We make a fine pair.” Flavius reached to place his hand on Octavius’s shoulder, but the Governor shrugged him off.
Octavius would not look at the Mayor. He tossed a gobletful of hard liquor down his throat, and it burned him. But not as much as Flavius’s foolishness.
“The arrogance of scientists is believing they’re in control,” Octavius boomed. “But this is no experiment. This is life. Our lives. And the Polity would rob us of them. Well, not if I take theirs first.”
“Take their lives!” The Mayor’s eyes bulged. “What madness are you proposing?”
Octavius peered through the window, beyond the lights of the city and out to the black splodge where the Polity’s lander marred the landscape—a giant bacillus ready to spread its shadow across the entire surface of the world.
“I swear upon the Central Tower in which we stand,” Octavius whispered, “I shall kill Captain Ward and her Marines, wrench the Pacifica from the sky and throw it into the Southern Sea.” Octavius could see a dim reflection of himself in the window. Death filled his eyes.
A plot swirled around his head, providing him the clarity he sought better than any drink. He looked at his hands as though he could snatch the Pacifica from orbit himself. The Governor straightened up, becoming as tall as Central Tower. As if he dwarfed the whole Globe.
“This is a war for the people,” he said. “And I will not lose.”
Flavius chuckled. He dared chuckle at Whitehall’s Governor. “You need rest, my friend,” Flavius said. “You think the Polity seek to control us, but the opposite is true. A little rest will help you see the solution to this mess. With the right programming, the Polity will be as malleable to us as microbots.”
“Get out, Flavius.”
Octavius regarded him with venom. “Leave. Now.”
“If you align yourself with the Polity, you set yourself against me. Here, I draw the line. Whitehall will not stand for it.”
“I assure you, I have spent long enough reasoning this out. If we sacrifice our principles, we sacrifice ourselves. Peace at all costs. If that means I have to eviscerate the Polity from the heavens, then so be it.”
“Did you not hear me, Flavius? You would betray Whitehall. And I shall not tolerate a traitor in my midst. Get out! Now!”
Octavius rampaged across the room towards the Mayor and rammed him with both hands, pushing him back so he staggered at first.
Flavius capitulated, as he did in all things, and fled down the hall, to the elevator and to the tower’s lower floors.
Octavius watched the Mayor shrink and disappear as he formulated a plan. He would force that shrew, who would make herself queen of the Globe, to see the might of the people. Revolt in Whitehall would be enough to distract her from his true strike, his blow across the heavens. Yes, he could see it now. As if his eyes were opened for the first time.
Peace at all costs.
He sent a message to an aide to give no one access to his quarters at any time and left. If he was going to start a mutiny, then he couldn’t do it alone. And he knew just where to start.
If you enjoyed Frasier’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. We will be seeing more of Governor Octavius and Mayor Flavius in future installments of “Nights of Revelation.” These once staunch allies will wage a war of stunning proportions that will not end until one is dead and a city lies in flames. But next Friday week we’ll have another two-part story by Frasier Armitage and Shanel Wilson, “Eyes Up the River,” set in the river-delta city of Newlondon. In this fast-paced tale, the brave Solanio confronts his betrayer, appears before the corrupt Guild of Newlondon, and receives a cryptic message from a mysterious benefactor.
If you would like to prepare for “Eyes Up the River,” you can read “The Beast Below” by Frasier and Shanel and meet the brave Solanio, the faithful Bianca, and the nefarious Solanio in seaside Newlondon.
P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning: