The winds of change tear asunder an old alliance

A Matter of Principle

by Frasier Armitage

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.

The shrill clink of Westminster glass rang as Octavius tipped another goblet from his decanter. Photo by Charl Folscher.

Mayor Flavius swilled the liquid with a steady hand and sipped. “Don’t tell me. Bottled 410 AL. Am I right?” 

“What?” 

“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.”

Why did it feel as if those lights were a stranglehold around Octavius’s neck? Photo by Nathan Dumlao.

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.”

It’s just like what was written in the ancient texts. Photo by Kiwihug.

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!” 

And you would make us microbots to the Polity. Photo by Yuyeung Lau.

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.”

They cheered when those drones exploded in a shower of fireworks tonight. Photo by Designecologist.

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.” 

“What?” 

Octavius regarded him with venom. “Leave. Now.” 

“But Octavi—”

“If you align yourself with the Polity, you set yourself against me. Here, I draw the line. Whitehall will not stand for it.” 

“Be reasonable.” 

“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.” 

“I—” 

“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. Photo by Quentin Grignet.

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.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

New leaders ride the shifting sands of power

The Sands of Change

Part II

by Shanel Wilson

Ward jumped off her flier in front of Westminster’s main gate. There was little difference from this place to the hundreds of other desert cities she had seen on Polity missions. She rolled her eyes at the sandstone walls that wrapped around the city. One blast from her pulsar gun would shake the primitive thing apart. Ward tossed her visor into the flier, nearly pegging Leonardo in the head. Shame it didn’t hit him. She would have much preferred to take these tours without Whitehall’s self-appointed guide simpering at her elbow.

“Let’s get this over with.” She stamped through the sand and through the gate.

Leonardo sped through the group of Ward’s crew she brought with her.

“Welcome to Westminster, Whitehall’s industrial sister. You saw the oil pipeline on your journey here, and they created all the glass for our photo-voltaic cells that power Whitehall.”

Hover trolleys were gathering workers for their morning shifts at the Smith and Wildcat Fields. A few of the citizens cast tentative glances at the group of heavily armed and armored newcomers, but none gave any greetings or welcomes.

A hover came blasting around the corner and stopped suddenly directly in front of Ward. A small cloud of dust caught up with the hover and swirled around the group. Leonardo coughed and waved his hands to clear the air. Ward crossed her arms as two men jumped out of the hover. Both were quite young and had piercing violet eyes.

“Greetings, Captain. Welcome to our fair city!” the shorter one exclaimed.

“Gonzalo? Sebastian? We are not scheduled to see Eglamour and the Smith until this afternoon.” Leonardo consulted his notes in the small folio he kept attached to his hip.

“Captain, I am Sebastian, son of Eglamour.” Sebastian gave her a small bow, ignoring Leonardo. “And this is my younger brother Gonzalo. We have eagerly awaited your visit.”

Photo by Hasan Almasi.

“And which one are you, glass or oil?” Ward looked the brothers over.

“We proudly represent the Smith, the Globe’s great glass factory. We would be glad to take you on our hover to the factory floor for your tour.”

“We are due in the Fields, as I said, Sebastian.” Leonardo pointed to his notes.

“Ah, yes, you see a tragedy has befallen Westminster since your comm. The great Benedick, the head of Wildcat Fields, passed away from a long illness, yesterday. We did not want to delay your important visit, so we are here to take you to the Smith.” Gonzalo stepped forward, his chest puffed up to appear as important as possible.

“Fine. I don’t care which I see first, but I need to see the oil fields before I leave. Who can give me that tour?” Ward asked.

“Benedick’s niece, Imogen. She has been overseeing the operations since her uncle fell ill, but I am sure she is mourning as she is his only remaining family. I assure you, we will be able to handle anything you need while you are here in Westminster.” Sebastian smiled and gestured for Ward to board their hover.

Ward sighed. She was already tired of the grandiose welcomes, but it came with the territory on a mission like this. That’s why she much preferred close combat. No facades in the way. Just you, the enemy and your weapon of choice. Her hand unconsciously slid over her sidearm as she stepped into the relatively small hover. 

“We do apologize, we only have room to accommodate Captain Ward on our hover. The rest of you are welcome to enjoy a pleasant stroll through our fair city and meet us at the Smith. Leonardo, I believe you know the way?” Sebastian climbed into the hover, followed by Gonzalo.

Leonardo fumed but before he could respond, Ward waved her hand.

“Johnson, you and the team will go on foot with Leonardo.” She touched the commlink in her ear.

“Yes, sir.” Johnson saluted and mirrored her and touched the commlink in his ear.

She was glad their commlinks had not failed so far. The communications around this place seemed primitive to what she was used to, and she didn’t want to rely on any of them to communicate with her team. These simpletons’ solution to the atmospheric disturbances which scrambled radio waves had been to program drones to carry messages for them. Pathetic, really. Any Polity child could have rewired a commlink to broadcast a message across the surface, even a surface as messed up as this one. Still, at least it meant they weren’t going to hack into the commlink and eavesdrop. Johnson would report anything else pertinent they may find along the way. And, as a bonus, she would be free from Leonardo for the first time since landing on this rock, or at least nearly.

“Gentlemen, shall we?” Ward reclined in her seat.

Sebastian took the controls and they sped off through the city. Ward especially enjoyed Leonardo’s face as they left. Maybe there were a few joys to be found, even if she couldn’t shoot her way through this mission.

A short while later, they arrived at the Smith. The two brothers gave her the grand tour, complete with a visit to each glassmith to see what they were working on. Ward hoped she would be spared gladhanding the locals, but she did her best to feign interest for a while. Colorful glass trifles were never interesting to Ward. Unless it served a purpose, she had no use for it. By the end of the second row of furnaces, she had seen enough.

The two brothers gave her the grand tour, complete with a visit to each glassmith to see what they were working on. Photo by Taton Moïse.

“Thank you for your time. I will meet my Marines now.” Ward nodded a farewell and turned on her heel to leave.

“There is no need to rush! Please, can we offer you a meal at our dining hall? We have some of the best chefs in the Globe creating delicious meals for our glassmiths that rival what the famed culinary men of Finsbury produce.” Gonzalo jumped in Ward’s way.

“We have provisions. Thank you for your offer. I have many important things to attend to.” Ward couldn’t justify any more time spent dealing with these windbags. She knew glass was worthless to the Polity, so she allotted just enough time to seem diplomatic.

“We would be glad to escort you to Wildcat Fields now, if that is your wish,” Gonzalo piped up.

“That won’t be necessary,” Ward responded.

“We humbly thank you for the time you have spent with us, Captain Ward. We will be glad to furnish as much glass as the Polity will need. We hope you see the value we . . . I mean, the Smith, will provide.” Sebastian placed his hand on Ward’s arm.

Ward wrenched her arm away. It took everything in her power to keep herself from pulling her sidearm on him. She took a deep breath and regained her poise.

“I will report to the Polity and let them know your keen interest.” She marched off without waiting for an answer.

Sebastian and Gonzalo watched her strong silhouette exit through the doorway at the end of the factory.

“That’s it?! She’ll let them know our ‘keen interest’? She thinks we’re fools! We cannot tolerate her disrespect!” Gonzalo ran his fingers through his hair while pacing around Sebastian.

“She’ll see the error of failing to strike a deal with us today, but we need to stick to the plan. If we do, our patience will be rewarded. The Polity will be crawling back to us before you know it.” Sebastian crossed his arms across his chest confidently.


Ward, her Marines and Leonardo arrived at Benedick’s house after a short walk from the Smith. Though the city was rustic to her eyes, Ward appreciated the functional nature of the buildings and the clean layout of the streets. She almost let herself enjoy the walk outside, except Leonardo spent the entire time trying to convince Ward to postpone her visit to Wildcat Fields.

“Please. We should leave the poor girl to her mourning. Perhaps we can come back after we have visited Newlondon?” Leonardo pleaded.

Her once-neat braid was frayed, and the rims of her eyes were red. Photo by Saif el Ouarti.

“The Polity cannot wait, regardless of when death takes its toll.” Ward pressed the button next to the doorway.

After a short wait, Imogen opened the front door. Her once-neat braid was frayed, and the rims of her eyes were red. The imposing figures of Ward and her Marines seemed to catch her off guard. Leonardo stepped around Ward to greet her.

“Please, pardon our intrusion. You must be Imogen. I am Leonardo of Whitehall. We know this is a difficult time for you, but may I present Captain Ward of the Polity?” Leonardo motioned to Ward and her Marines.

“Yes, of course. The tour of the Fields. It will be no problem.” Imogen brushed the hair from her face. “Forgive me for not inviting you in under the circumstances. We can head straight to the Fields.” Imogen stepped out into the street and closed the door behind her.

“After you.” Ward gestured to Imogen. She was pleased to meet someone willing to get down to business without the flowery shows of flattery.

“We can start at the refinery. There you will be able to see the beginning of the pipeline. This way please.” Imogen led the group to the northwest corner of the city.

Imogen maintained a quick but steady pace. Ward allowed her to stay a step ahead of the rest. Her questions could wait. Ward was more interested in observing her. She noted the proud way Imogen carried herself. It was the same fortitude Ward expected of her Marines.

They arrived at the refinery where Imogen gave a brief yet instructional tour. Ward appreciated her efficiency. Imogen answered all the questions Ward put to her with ease and intelligence. Imogen’s professional demeanor only broke once, as they passed Benedick’s office.

“And this is head office.” Imogen’s voice cracked as she saw her uncle’s name on the nameplate.

Leonardo placed a fatherly hand on her shoulder. Imogen gave him a sad smile and smoothed her hair again.

“Seems like it would be your office now. Under the circumstances, that is,” Ward remarked offhandedly.  

Leonardo scowled at Ward as Imogen’s face paled. Imogen traced the nameplate absentmindedly. Ward rolled her eyes at Leonardo and cleared her throat. She didn’t have time for emotional detours. Imogen blinked and turned back to the group.

The golden dunes were dotted with slow-moving oil rig pumps bobbing up and down.

“Yes, Captain. I guess you are right.” Imogen paused, then strode down the corridor. “This way please.” Ward noted the slightly faster pace that Imogen took the rest of the tour. Imogen proved she was capable under pressure, but Ward wondered how she would fare once they began negotiations. Imogen led them to a small but comfortable lounge usually reserved for crews returning from their shifts in the Fields.

“Captain, if you wish to see Wildcat Fields itself, we can take a crew hover from here. The Fields are managed by two-person crews because of the creatures that inhabit the dunes. Your Marines are welcome to wait here.”  

“Thank you. Marines, at ease, I will return shortly.” Ward nodded to her Marines and Leonardo.

Imogen brought Ward into a small garage of hovers and got into the nearest one. Ward climbed into the passenger seat, and they set out into the dunes. Ward shaded her eyes to get a better view. The golden dunes were dotted with slow-moving oil rig pumps bobbing up and down. As they sped past, Ward saw a few workers in goggles tending to the mechanisms.

Imogen brought Ward into a small garage of hovers and got into the nearest one. Photo by Sara Bakhshi.

“I could use a pair of those goggles about now,” Ward quipped.

“There should be a pair under your seat, but they won’t help with the sun much.”

Ward reached below her seat. The goggles she found were lightweight, made with straps of canvas and fitted with deep violet lenses. Ward slipped them on but saw nothing unusual except her vision was now tinged purple.

“The goggles help filter the light so they can see the ultraviolet rays more easily.” Imogen pointed to the lenses. “They won’t help you much, except for maybe keeping the sand out. You may have noticed some Westies have violet eyes. Those with violet eyes can see ultraviolet light, but women have the strongest sight. Ultraviolet vision is a valuable asset on the Globe, especially in a place like Wildcat Fields. Not only are repairs made easier, but many creatures bear ultraviolet markings. They would be completely camouflaged otherwise.”

“That is a useful trait. If violet-eyed women have the best sight, why aren’t the crews exclusively women?” Ward slipped off the goggles and stashed them back under the seat.

“Long ago, the leaders in Whitehall learned of this unique trait and asked if their scientists could study a woman with violet eyes. They were able to develop a surgery that would enhance the ultraviolet vision even more. It was agreed that once violet-eyed women reached a certain age, they would be sent to Whitehall for surgery, and they would be hired out to the highest bidder for work in repairs or for creature defense and research. The women soon became known as Westminster Brides.” 

Ward raised her eyebrows at the word “brides.” Imogen rolled her eyes and continued, “Not what I would have called them, but no one asked me. Whitehall, as it does today, controls the greatest number of resources and power in the Globe. Westminster was not in the position to refuse this arrangement, so the practice continues through today. Westminster rarely tries to compete with the prices Brides fetch, since much of the work for the Fields can be done with our own men.”

“You have one of the largest resources on the Globe, your oil. Why not leverage it if you do not wish to keep sending your women out in this forced labor?”

“When the Globe was established, we agreed to share these resources. That principle remains today, yet with a few more caveats. Finsbury once tried to assert its independence from Whitehall, to be free from their constant demands. Let’s just say that Whitehall ensured that it would never happen again. That sent a clear message to the rest of us of what could happen if we tried to operate independently from them.” Imogen’s fists tighten their grip on the hover controls.

Ward herself had “sent a clear message” to all the Globe leaders when she arrived, showing that the UPS Pacifica in orbit could destroy anything anywhere on the Globe with its lasers. She knew that would rankle some leaders, but had it also reopened old wounds in the other cities under Whitehall’s thumb?

Imogen brought the hover to a stop at a rig on a far ridge. Ward’s eyes scanned the ridge around her. She made a mental note to prod Leonardo about the failed Finsbury coup. Understanding the backward power dynamics of this rock was critical if she was to complete this mission successfully. Blazing oranges, pinks and purples painted the sky. Ward rarely got the chance to see colors like this while on the Pacifica or any of the other Polity ships she had been stationed on. Her mind drifted from politics and resources as she let the colors wash over her. 

Her mind drifted from politics and resources as she let the colors wash over her. Photo by Nader Abushhab.

“Benedick would bring me to this ridge to watch the two moons rise,” Imogen continued. “He also brought me here when he had something difficult to discuss. I thought this would be appropriate for today. How much oil will the Polity demand exactly?”

Ward sat up from her reclined position in the passenger seat. Imogen maintained steady eye contact while the breeze blew the loose strands of her hair across her face.

“I like a girl who can cut to the chase. The Polity will need forty percent of your production.” Ward cocked her head, returning Imogen’s eye contact. The Polity didn’t really need that much oil, but Ward knew better than to ask for what she truly needed. That much would be a nightmare to try and haul off this rock, anyway.

“That is impossible. The whole of the Globe will come to a screeching halt within a week at that rate. We can give no more than ten percent.” Imogen remained calm and resolved.

“Navy leadership won’t be happy, but I am sure I can talk them down to twenty-five percent.”

“I promised my uncle to protect our people. While the Polity may promise protection, we have done well for ourselves for five hundred years. We will give no more than fifteen percent,” Imogen’s gaze returned to the ridge while she waited for Ward to respond.

“Then I have no choice but to accept.” Ward raised her hands in a gesture of defeat.

“That gun on your hip says otherwise.” Imogen smirked. “But I thank you for accepting. Shall we return? I am sure you want to get back before it is too late.”

“Quite right. Though today has been more informative than I had imagined.” Ward leaned back as Imogen started up the hover. Imogen was the first person with any brains around this place, so far. Ward appreciated being spoken to without artifice. Ward would have liked to entice Imogen to join her crew on the Globe, yet she knew Imogen would never leave the Fields. Especially since they were her responsibility now, something that made Imogen even more attractive as a crew member. Too bad.


Gonzalo watched Ward’s flier blast off into the darkening sky.

From the window of the apartment he shared with Sebastian, Gonzalo could see the flier’s red engines flair as Ward headed towards Whitehall. Jet engines were Polity tech, unlike anything he had ever seen. Sebastian sat on the small couch tossing an ornate glass ball in the air.

“There that wretched woman goes.”

“Come sit, brother.” Sebastian motioned to the cushion next to him.

A muffled ping escaped Sebastian’s pocket.

“What’s that?” Gonzalo searched for the source of the sound.

“It’s Father’s comm.” Sebastian pulled it out to see the message.

“When did you take it? Father will . . . “

“Father will what?” Sebastian interrupted. “He’s so confused, he doesn’t even know what year it is. Someone needed to be responsible for it. Let’s see what the message says.”

The blue screen read:

Eglamour, you are cordially invited to the auction of the Eye of the freshly slain Kraken in Newlondon Harbor. All invited are welcome to bid for the Eye. The most valuable bid will win! Good luck and looking forward to seeing you in our esteemed city soon. Sincerely, Solanio of Newlondon

“What did I tell you, Gonzalo? Luck is on our side. Ward will no doubt attend, so we will be sure to have a bid so extraordinary, Ward and those greedy Newlonders will be eating out of the palms of our hands. Tomorrow is a new day.” A sly smile crept over Sebastian’s lips as he clasped his brother on the back.

“And it will be ours!” Gonzalo cheered. Sebastian clicked a button on a remote resting on the coffee table. Brassy, upbeat tones filled the room with the newest Whitehall disco hit. The brothers danced around the room while the two moons rose through their window.


If you enjoyed Shanel’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Shanel’s “Shadow of the Dunes,” which kicked off the Westminster stories in the Globe Folio series.

And make sure to check back next Friday week for the next story in “Nights of Revelation.” Frasier Armitage takes us back to Whitehall as the governor and mayor grapple with the shifting power on the Globe in “A Matter of Principle.”

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

The old guard falls as new leaders rise: “The Sands of Change”

The Sands of Change

Part I

by Shanel Wilson

Hot air buffeted the hover as it sped through the dunes. Eglamour lifted his collar to protect his neck from the sand spray. He shut his eyes from the blazing sun, but the bright lights of the Polity’s Kite Night display flashed in his mind instead. Travels through the savagelands, especially by hover, were dangerous because of the beasts and bandits that lurked there. Eglamour forgot all about those threats today. A new, larger one threatened to dismantle the precious way of life he helped nourish in Westminster.

The uncertainty the Polity brought to the Globe rattled Eglamour to his core. He sunk deeper into his seat wishing the pilot would go faster.


Sebastian lounged with his feet on top of his father’s desk. His younger brother, Gonzalo, peered out the office window to the Smith below. To the left, glassmiths twirled molten glass at the end of their blowpipes, creating intricate and delicate designs. The right side was filled with grand annealing lehrs for the larger glassworks like the wall pieces ordered by Whitehall.

Hot air buffeted the hover as it sped through the dunes. Photo by Jeremy Bishop.

“We should have gone to meet the Polity instead of Father.” Gonzalo tapped his fingers against the glass.

“All in due time, Gonzalo. Let him savor these last few vestiges of power before we take our rightful place. With Emilia finally gone, Father will soon see his time is over.”

“You are right, as always big brother,” Gonzalo sighed. “But the Polity arriving could mean great things for Westminster. We need to make sure Father doesn’t ruin our chances.”

The office door opened and a slouching Eglamour shuffled into the room.

“Greetings, Father! Welcome home.” Sebastian jumped up from the chair to greet Eglamour.

“Yes, welcome home! What is the news from the Polity? We are so anxious to hear. There were distant lights in the sky coming from Whitehall. They must know how to throw a great party!” Gonzalo grinned.

“My sons, it was no party.” Eglamour sat at his desk wearily. “The captain the Polity sent, Captain Ward, she made it clear the Polity intentions here. We need to be cautious, especially if we want to keep our little desert haven the way it is.”

The brothers exchanged a curious look.

“I will explain more but first, has Emilia sent the comm she arrived in Whitehall yet?”

“There has been no word, Father,” Gonzalo said.

“I am sure there is nothing to worry about. Whitehall must be flooded with people. Comms are spotty as it is. Perhaps she had trouble finding a drone to send her message in the clamor of the rocket landing. I am sure she is fine.” Sebastian reassured his father, confidently patting him on the back.

Eglamour nodded at his eldest son.

Gonzalo tapped his fingers against the glass. Photo by Alexandra Gornago.

“You are probably right. I must go see Benedick to tell him what I learned. I trust everything has been running smoothly in my absence?”

“But of course. Smooth as glass, like you say, Father.” Sebastian winked.

“Thank you, Sebastian. You will do great things with the Smith when it is your time.”

“I’m glad you think so.” Sebastian smiled wryly, with a quick wink to his brother.

Eglamour rummaged through bits and bobs that littered the top of his desk. He paused to check the communication logs again. Seeing nothing had come through, he muttered to himself and kept shifting things from one spot to another.

“We’ll leave you to it, Father,” Sebastian said, tugging at Gonzalo’s sleeve.

“Yes, nice to have you back, Father.” Gonzalo closed the door behind him and Sebastian.

Eglamour, lost in his thoughts, failed to look up.


Soft, white curtains diffused light across the bedroom where Benedick was resting. A fit of coughs interrupted the relative quiet of the room. Benedick held his chest and laid back against his pillow when he heard a knock at the door.

“Come in,” Benedick managed to squeak out.

A young woman entered the room. Her hair was pulled into a neat braid that cascaded down the length of her back. She carried an elegant, glass water pitcher to the side table and filled Benedick’s glass.

“Uncle Benedick, Eglamour has come to tell you of the Polity landing. Should I show him in?”

“Please, my dear Imogen. Thank you for the drink.”

Imogen patted the back of his hand and left the room. Moments later Eglamour poked his head around the door.

Soft, white curtains diffused light across the bedroom where Benedick was resting. Photo by Slava.

“Come in, come in, old friend. Thank you for coming to see me,” Benedick said, inviting Eglamour to the chair near his bedside.

“Good to see some color in those cheeks, old man.” Eglamour shook Benedick’s hand before taking his seat.

“You old liar. I have never been paler in my life. With the days in the Fields long gone, the only sun I see is through the window of your beautiful glass over there. That is, when Imogen allows the curtains to be open.”

“You are lucky to have someone watching after you.” Eglamour looked at his hands folded in his lap.

“I take it Emilia has left already. She will serve the Globe well. You should be proud.”

“I shouldn’t have let her go. She could have waited a little longer. And now with the Polity, who knows what they will have the Brides do?” Eglamour let out a breath. It seemed as if he had been holding it in since he arrived.

“Don’t worry without reason. Come, tell me what happened with the Polity. What do they want?”

“They have come under the guise of peace, but they were sure to make their might known. They seek resources through our lands for the good of the Polity.”

“I would have never thought we would have seen this day during our lives.” Benedick coughed and closed his eyes in pain.

The sun is setting on the Westminster that was ours, Eglamour.

Eglamour reached for Benedick’s water glass and offered it to him.

Benedick took a sip. “Thank you, Eglamour.”

“Their captain will be going on tour through our cities to survey what the Globe has to offer the Polity. We must keep the peace to protect Westminster. Perhaps if we appease them with a portion of our goods, they will leave as quickly as they came.”

“I see. The sun is setting on the Westminster that was ours, Eglamour. Your sons are shaping up to be great heirs for the Smith, when you are ready to step back. My days are numbered, and I don’t think I properly prepared Imogen for what she will face when she takes over Wildcat Fields. Becoming the first woman to run Wildcat Fields in our city’s history is one thing, but now to do so under the eyes and demands of the Polity is something else entirely.”

“Imogen has already done an exceptional job with the crews in the Fields. She will serve Wildcat Fields and Westminster well. No matter the circumstances.”

“I do hope so, my friend.” Benedick reached for Eglamour’s hand. “Please look out for her when I’m gone. For me.”

“Of course. As if she was my own.”

“Of course. As if she was my own.”_Photo by Ricardo Moura.

“When are we to expect this captain to arrive in Westminster?” Benedick asked.

“They are supposed to send word shortly. I should start preparations.” Eglamour stood but kept a hold of Benedick’s hand for a moment longer.

“Yes, I must speak to Imogen so she can be ready. Thank you for your friendship all these years. We have made this city beautiful, haven’t we?”

“Benedick, don’t talk like that. I will be back soon. We will show the Polity our united city together.” Eglamour opened the door to leave.

“I hope it will be so. Farewell.”

Imogen appeared at the doorway, holding the door open for Eglamour.

“So long, dear friend. And goodbye, Imogen. I am sure we will see each other soon, as well.” Eglamour gave a nod to Imogen.

“Good to see you as always. Be well.” Imogen came into the room, carrying a small plate of food.

“Time for a bite to eat, Uncle. I hope Eglamour didn’t get you too riled up. You need your rest or else . . .”

“Thank you, my dear,” Benedick interrupted.

He was tired of Imogen reminding him of his declining condition. In the beginning, he hoped he could fight this illness and return to his beloved Fields. However, the days drew on, and it was evident that this was not a war he could win.

You are Wildcat Fields. You are its beauty, its mysteries, its life.

 “News from the meeting with the Polity is concerning, but it is nothing we cannot handle,” he continued. “We are Westies after all, aren’t we?” Benedick tried to smile, but he ended up looking more in pain than jovial.

“Don’t think I didn’t see you change the subject. I need you with all this Polity nonsense happening. Now eat. You need your strength.” Imogen set about tidying the already clean room around her.

Benedick watched as Imogen adjusted the curtains and straightened the few items on his dresser. Her graceful movements reminded him of his sister, Imogen’s mother. She had died when Imogen was only a child, and Benedick took care of Imogen ever since. They had grown inseparable, and Benedick’s mood grew sullen every time he thought about his limited future.

“Imogen, come. Sit.” He motioned to the chair beside him.

Dutifully, she obeyed and took his hand.

“My beautiful girl. I hoped I would live forever. You can see how well that has turned out.” He half-heartedly chuckled, which quickly turned into a fit of coughs.

Imogen handed him the glass of water and tried to bat away the tears that were starting to rim her eyes.

Imogen handed him the glass of water and tried to bat away the tears that were starting to rim her eyes. Photo by Manki Kim

“You have been doing wonderful in the Fields in my absence, but the time has come for me to turn over Wildcat Fields to you, officially. It needs a strong leader, especially with the Polity so close at hand.”

“Don’t talk like that. You have plenty of time.” Imogen’s cheeks burned with emotion.

“Neither one of us can deny this any longer. My days are numbered, and they are fewer than either one of us hoped. The captain of the Polity will be arriving soon to assess the city. I have little doubt she will want our oil. We must do what we can to appease the Polity while we protect our city. Our people.”

The tears were now silently streaming down Imogen’s cheeks.

“You are exactly what this city needs. Your compassion and strength will lead us and protect us. My heart tells me so.” Benedick wiped her face with a tender touch.

“I’m not ready for this, not without you.” Imogen looked down.

“You have been ready for years. I have taught you all that I can. You are Wildcat Fields. You are its beauty, its mysteries, its life. This is your time.” He lifted her chin.

Imogen’s lips slid into a small smile.

“I will do all I can to make you proud, Uncle.”

“I am prouder than you will ever know. I love you.”

Imogen leaned forward and wrapped Benedick in a warm hug. “I love you, too.”


“Has he come out of there yet?” Gonzalo paced in front of his father’s office door.

Sebastian leaned against the wall next to the door, picking at his fingernails. They had received a comm that Captain Ward was due to arrive the next day, but Eglamour locked himself in his office since returning from seeing Benedick.

“I’ll try again.” Sebastian knocked on the door, but they heard nothing. “Father, can you open the door? We need to finish the preparations for the Polity’s visit.”

They heard muffled noises, then nothing once again.

“We can’t wait forever!” Gonzalo whispered exasperatedly.

“Patience brother. This is better than we could have hoped. We will be able to handle the Polity visit ourselves, the way we want, since Father is . . . indisposed.”

“I like your thinking, Sebastian.”

“Trust me. We have to play this just right. The Polity is our best shot at putting those filthy Hallers in their place, for good. Westminster superiority will finally be recognized.”

“And when the Polity leaves, we will make sure they install us as the new leaders of the Globe.” Gonzalo’s eyes lit up.

“Now you’re getting it, Gonzalo. Go. I’ll take care of Father, and we will meet Captain Ward in the morning.”

They shook hands and Gonzalo disappeared down the stairs to the floor of the Smith. Sebastian slipped a key out of a hidden pocket. He unlocked Eglamour’s door and stepped inside.

The room was dark aside from the light filtering in from the gallery windows overlooking the Smith floor. Papers were strewn all over his father’s desk and floor. All the picture frames were placed face down and small glass ornaments lay toppled from their display stands. Eglamour slumped in his chair, staring blankly at the glowing furnaces below.

“Father, it’s me, Sebastian.” He stepped gingerly through the mess and switched on the side table lamp.

Eglamour winced at the bright light and blinked blindly toward Sebastian.

Eglamour winced at the bright light and blinked blindly toward Sebastian. Photo by Sunbeam Photography.

“Son, what are you doing here? Your mother will be worried you aren’t home yet.”

“Father, Mother has been gone for years now. Don’t you remember?”

Eglamour stared at his son for a moment and then turned back to the window. Sebastian examined the man before him. Eglamour’s gaunt face was covered in white stubble from lack of shaving. His proud shoulders now rolled forward, leaving him hunched and frail looking. Though Sebastian felt a pang of sadness over his father’s decline, he could not let that distract him from the task at hand.

 “It is time to come home, Father. Your work is done.” Sebastian rested a hand on Eglamour’s shoulder.

“I . . . I . . . I am waiting to hear from Emilia. She said she would send me a comm. I can’t miss it.” Eglamour shook off Sebastian’s hand and turned back to his desk. He began shuffling papers absentmindedly.

“Father, I am sure she is fine. You need your rest.”

“Perhaps you are right.” Eglamour started to rise out of his seat when a ping echoed in his office. “It’s her! I knew she would keep her promise!”

Eglamour pushed the papers around with renewed vigor, trying to find his small drone comm device. The messenger drone hovered outside his window, ready to relay the message to it. Sebastian easily found it under a picture of his sister. He handed it to his father and laid the picture back down on its face.

“Okay, are you happy now, Father? She is safe, and you can go home. Gonzalo and I will take care of everything.” Sebastian took his father by the shoulders and guided him toward the door.

Eglamour stopped short and dropped the comm device on the floor. He clasped his hands over his mouth and tears fell from his violet-flecked black eyes. Sebastian bent to retrieve the device and read:

Benedick died in his sleep early this morning. He is finally at peace, and he flies with Elizabeth Hathaway now. –Imogen

Sebastian cleared the message and stashed the device in his pocket.

“Let’s get you home where you belong.” Sebastian shut off the lamp and took his father home.


If you enjoyed Shanel’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Shanel’s “Shadow of the Dunes,” which kicked off the Westminster stories in the Globe Folio series.

And make sure to check back Friday for Part 2 of “The Sands of Change” by Shanel Wilson. Part 2 brings Capt. Ward to the remote, desert city, and a deal is struck, setting new courses for Imogen, Sebastian, and Gonzalo.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

Don’t miss Part 2 of “The Voice of Beasts”

In Part I, Lorenzo escapes Belmont, the city beneath the mountain, only to find a harsh, blinding landscape and dangerous beasts. Ros saves him from a Mirrim attack, and the two head for Whitehall, following the purple streaks across the sky . . .

The Voice of Beasts

Part II

by Frasier Armitage

Wind shrieked as it battered Lorenzo. He craned his neck over the hovercraft’s edge and squinted through his goggles. 

“This is the place,” he said. “This is where the lights end.” 

Ros brought the skiv to rest below the ridge of a swollen dune. Lorenzo scaled the sand and peered over its peak, with her at his side. 

Whitehall’s towers glittered in the distance. Between the dunes and Whitehall stood a hulking monster of metal. Painted green and brown, it loomed from the ground like a mountain in itself, its landing gear propping it on insect legs. 

It loomed from the ground like a mountain in itself, its landing gear propping it on insect legs. Photo by Lynn Kintziger.

It loomed from the ground like a mountain in itself, its landing gear propping it on insect legs.

“Could it be a Mirrim?” Lorenzo asked. 

Ros peered through an eyeglass she carried on a necklace. “I’ve never seen one so big.” 

“Where did it come from?” 

Ros pointed to the heavens. “Only one place something like that could’ve been made. From the stars. It looks like the ships they used to tell us about in old fishermen’s stories.” 

“What stories?” 

“On long sailing voyages, we told tales to pass the time. Warships came from the Polity and landed on a world, forcing our ancestors to flee across the sky to this one. I thought they were just fairy tales.” 

“People came in ships like that to seek a home?” 

Ros nodded. “Apparently.” 

Lorenzo smiled. “Then we are the same. That ship and I. For am I not in search of the same thing?” 

Ros frowned. “I don’t think Belmont and space are in quite the same league.” 

“What do you know of Belmont? What do you know of these newcomers?” 

“I know they dress a lot better than you. Here. Take a look.” 

Lorenzo clunked the eyeglass onto his goggles and peered through. Around the giant frame, people stood in uniform, holding guns. They carried the authority of the Council of Belmont. Had they worn robes and hoods instead of guns, he would have feared them. As he peered closer, his stomach tortured him in waves of doubt. 

These people seek a home. We are not so different. That is why the smoke of their trail has guided me to them. It has to be. 

“What’s that?” Ros yanked the eyeglass from him. 

A convoy of transports swept across the sand from the direction of Whitehall. 

“A Mirrim?” Lorenzo asked. 

“Nah. More likely a welcoming committee. Looks like we missed our shot.” 

Lorenzo’s eyes widened behind his goggles. “You were going to shoot them?” 

“No. Our shot at being the first to offer a trade. Those Whitehall goons will beat us to the punch. Come on. The best place for us now is the city. News travels fast. Let’s make sure we get it first.” 

Ros slid back down the dune. 

Lorenzo halted at the top. “Should we not warn them of the Mirrim?” 

“By the looks of it, they can take care of themselves.” She pointed her fingers in the shape of a gun and mouthed ‘pew pew pew’ as she gestured her index finger firing rounds. 

Lorenzo shook his head and scampered down the dune. 

Not everyone is looking to kill something. There are some beasts who seek only some shelter and a little shade. 

Lorenzo scampered down the dune. Photo by Fernando Paredes Murillo.

They approached the hover. Lorenzo halted, pulling at Ros’s elbow.

“How do we know that’s really your baby?” he asked. 

She tutted and unfurled her gun. From the top of its barrel, she removed a shaft that formed a piccolo, and blew a melody through it. The ode drifted through the breeze until its sound touched the hover. At the end of her tune, its horn blared the final notes. 

“That was beautiful,” Lorenzo said. 

Ros reconnected the instrument to her weapon and holstered it, hauling herself on deck. Lorenzo followed. 

She struck out across the sand for Whitehall. Lorenzo didn’t totter as the hover leapt over the dunes. 

“You learn fast,” she said. 

“We have a saying in Belmont. ‘When burned, only the fool keeps reaching for the fire.’ I will not be burned a second time, Ros.” 

She flicked the hover onto automatic and scooped some fruit from a cubby in the helm-panel. Her eyes never left Lorenzo as she reached into her boot, grabbed a knife, and sliced a chunk of fruit, placing it to her lips. “What’s it like in Belmont?” she asked. 

Lorenzo perched on the edge of the hull, his eyes returning to the distant mountain hidden by mist. “Have you ever seen a furnace blaze?” 

“Of course.” 

“How far does the smoke rise?” 

She licked her lips. “Depends. Sometimes on a still night, it feels like it scrapes the most distant stars.” 

Lorenzo nodded. “Imagine if that smoke filled all the air. Made it impossible to see these stars you speak of.” 

“You’d choke.” 

Belmont is a furnace, Ros. Photo by DDP.

“Belmont is a furnace, Ros. The air is smoke. They’ve built pillars dedicated to fire, believing it protects them. But the flames imprison them. They cannot see or breathe or taste anything but its bitterness. Belmont is blind, Ros. As blind as I am without these.” He pointed to his goggles. 

She sliced another lump of fruit and it slipped down her throat. “Sounds intense. I thought Newlondoners had it bad.” 

“Newlondoners?” 

“It’s where I’m from. Newlondon. The last city. We spend our lives on the water. The sea, the river, you name it.” 

He raised an eyebrow. “But you get to sail where you wish?” 

“Where others ask us to sail. Most of us are doomed to debt. We’re not a rich city. Not since pollium stopped washing up on shore. We don’t have the spires of Whitehall or the glass of Westminster to fall back on. So we sail where people tell us and hope that’ll be enough. You got family in Belmont?” 

“I do. And it would’ve grown had I stayed. They’d already matched me.” 

“Matched you?” 

“Chosen me a bride. And from a good family, too.” 

“You were gonna be married? Why didn’t you?” 

Lorenzo’s brows knitted into a web. “When it comes to my life, should I not have a voice?” 

“So you ran away?” 

Lorenzo stood. “I would rather die screaming than be forced to live without a voice. If I’d stayed, I’d have been no better than that Mirrim lying at the foot of the mountain.” 

Ros nodded. “What was her name? Your bride?” 

“Narissa.” 

“Pretty.” 

“There are prisons with pretty names, too.” 

She tossed him the other half of the fruit. He caught it, and she offered him the knife. 

“Eat up,” Ros said. “You don’t want to enter Whitehall on an empty stomach.” 


A line of yachts and barges snaked up and down the river, all the way to the city’s gates. The whole Globe had come to Whitehall, following the lights in the sky. 

Three Moons had circled the heavens and twilight had settled by the time Ros passed safely through the checkpoint along the road to Whitehall. 

“Come on,” she said, as they passed the city’s gate. “It’ll be quicker on foot.” 

She grabbed Lorenzo’s hand and dragged him through a maze of gleaming glass towers. Dusk played its swooning song in the fading auburn light. 

As night settled, a cavalry of bulbs lit up the city, twinkling brighter than the stars above. Crowds gathered in the restaurants and bars to sample Finsbury’s finest food. Whitehall was alive with expectation, a city brought to life by whispers of what might lie beyond its walls. 

“Let’s get a table,” Ros said. “It’ll be the best way of finding out what’s happening.” 

“How? By eating?” 

“By listening.” She winked, yanking him into a colonnade of restaurants where the diners collected outside, and a thousand voices mingled in a symphony. “Table for two,” she said to an automated waiter, who flashed her a holo of the empty seats, and she selected the ones closest to the biggest table. 

Whitehall was alive with expectation, a city brought to life by whispers of what might lie beyond its walls. Photo by Alexander Popov.

A white light glowed from the chairs, vanishing as they took their seats. 

“I’ll have a grilled skycrawler, medium rare, with a side of greens,” Ros said. “What about you?” 

“Same,” Lorenzo answered. 

“And two ales.” 

“Ales?” Lorenzo cocked his head. 

Ros licked her scarlet lips. “Trust me.” 

He shrugged. “Very well. Two ales for me as well.” 

She giggled. “No. Those two ales were for both of us. You know what? It doesn’t matter.” She dug into the pockets of her waistcoat and fed the credits into the mechanised server. The automaton slunk away, its gears humming. 

“We have nothing like this in Belmont,” Lorenzo said. “We eat with family.” 

“Family is important to you, huh?” 

“There is fire and family, and that is all. At least, that’s what my father told me. He would never have dreamed of a world where people ate together. He would’ve called them beasts and carnivores. He could be like that. Always so devoted.” 

“Not a bad quality to have in a father. Devotion.” 

“I tried to make him see. To open his eyes. But he wouldn’t listen.” 

“Listening is how we learn. Speaking of.” Ros raised a finger to her lips, and tipped back in her chair. She swept her sun-goldened curls behind her ear and tilted her head towards the cacophony of voices ringing from the table behind her. 

She tilted her head towards the cacophony of voices ringing from the table behind her. Photo by Nils Stahl.

Lorenzo did the same. 

“I heard,” a man’s voice said above the others, “that someone from each city has gone to meet with the Polity.” 

“It’s definitely a Polity ship then?” a woman chimed. 

“Didn’t you recognise it from the ancient texts? I always said those technical documents would come in handy,” another man blustered.

“Tosh and nonsense. You’ve been petitioning the libraries to burn those documents for years,” the woman said. 

The automaton interrupted Lorenzo’s eavesdropping with two plates of steaming food. 

Ros sat forwards and leaned into the aroma rising from the plate. “Smells good, right?” 

Lorenzo nodded. I’m not eating with these strangers. I’m eating with her. There’s a difference. 

He scooped up his utensils and copied Ros as she carved her skycrawler into bite-size morsels.  He picked at the charred breast of the skycrawler and inclined his ear to the conversation on the table behind. 

“Well, if it’s the Polity,” the woman said, “we shouldn’t be just sitting here waiting for them. We should take the initiative and attack.” 

“Attack?” the man questioned. 

“Absolutely. You know the Book of Shakespeare. The Polity are the reason we ended up on this world in the first place.” 

“You think they mean to subjugate us?” 

“Isn’t that what they did before?” she asked between mouthfuls of food. 

“How many of their ships could they have sent?” the man said. “But instead, they chose a single vessel.” 

“A rather large, single vessel, if you ask me. Don’t you think they were making a statement?” 

“What statement?” 

“I don’t know. How about ‘don’t mess with us if you want to live’? I tell you, if we don’t act now, they’ll disrupt the peace here.” 

Lorenzo shook his head, slamming his cutlery down and gulping his ale. 

“What is it?” Ros asked. 

“Those people behind us,” he said. “They’ve already sentenced the newcomers to death.” 

“They’re Whitehallers. If they had their way, everyone would be sentenced to death. You might want to take it steady with that ale.” 

He swigged the dregs of his first glass. The drink stung the back of his throat, but his head never felt so clear. “These people just want a home,” he shouted. “Anyone who can’t see that is as empty as a Mirrim.” 

He glugged on his second glass of ale. A hand tapped him on the shoulder. He turned to face the man from the table behind, his brown eyes swirling as Lorenzo tried to focus on them. 

“You might want to keep your voice down,” the man said. “Not everyone takes as kindly to the thought of the Polity as you do, friend.” 

Lorenzo wheeled on the man, swiping his hand away, losing his balance as he stood. “Listen, friend, I come from the mountain. They come from the sky. What’s the difference? If you want to kill them, you might as well be killing me.” 

“Lorenzo, sit down!” Ros glanced around as a hush settled among the diners. 

Lorenzo pressed his finger on the man’s chest. “You’re scared because they have a big ship and carry guns,” Lorenzo said. “Well, don’t you carry guns? I never saw a gun until today. But look!” Lorenzo pointed at the man’s hip, where he holstered an antique pistol. “You’re all killers.” 

“Is it a crime to protect ourselves?” the woman said. “We have to keep the peace somehow.” 

People who started shouting their mouth off might find themselves catching a blast. Photo by Daniel Stuben.

“Peace? You say you want peace, but you don’t want peace. You want control. There’s a difference.” 

“Sit down, Lorenzo!” Ros stood and reached out for him, but he shrugged her off. 

“You should listen to your lady, friend,” the man warned, and he tapped the pistol. “People who start shooting their mouth off might find themselves catching a blast.” 

Bloodflame flashed across Lorenzo’s eyes. He snatched at the man’s weapon and yanked it from its holster. A raging fire coursed through his veins. He wrapped his hands around the pistol and bent the barrel until it almost snapped in two. 

The man stepped back. “What are you?” he asked. 

“This is the only way to peace, friend,” Lorenzo said. “I’ve lived my whole life trapped inside a cage that others made for me. But no more.” 

As Lorenzo stepped forwards, people around him reached for their hips. 

Blue lightning flashed over the crowd.

“Should we not accept these newcomers with open arms?” Lorenzo called out. “They are the same as you. The same as me. Do not be poisoned by how tall your glass towers reach. No matter how high they seem, they are still just glass. Who will join me in welcoming the Polity? Where is your—” 

A shot rang out across the colonnade. Blue lightning flashed over the crowd. Ros snatched at the knife in her boot and hurled it at Lorenzo. Just before it struck his face, the path of the blast met with its metal, disintegrating it in a fizz of light. 

Lorenzo fell to the floor, gripping his goggles. The flash overwhelmed him. The sound of a tussle bombarded his ears. Pounding fists silenced grunts. Boots slammed into flesh. Glass crashed all around him, as the frenzied air whooshed past his face. 

His vision returned and he glimpsed a shadow darting in front of him. Then an explosion lit up the sky. Sparks rained down on the plaza of diners, before another boom signalled a hail of light. 

Ros knelt beside him, grabbed her piccolo and blew a tune into it. 

Then she stood and a flurry of air knocked Lorenzo back as a thunder of fists rocked the plaza even more than the explosions in the sky. 

Above him, a hover descended, its horn blaring. 

A hand grabbed Lorenzo and dragged him to his feet, forcing him up the rungs of the hover as eruptions overhead ignited the heavens. 

Lorenzo stumbled over his feet, and the hand pushed him behind the helm-panel, before flinging the hover through winding city streets. 

Drones pursued them, but Ros turned her pistol to them, and blue blasts swatted them out of the sky. 

“What was all that about?” Ros said. 

He raised his head. There wasn’t a scratch on her. “Ros, are you okay?” 

“I’m fine. Which is more than can be said for those Whitehallers.” 

“You saved me. Again.” 

“What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment. Now are you gonna tell me what got you so riled up?” 

Another boom thundered overhead as sparks speckled the sky. 

“What is that?” He pointed up. 

“Just a little light show to celebrate the arrival of the Polity. Something I overheard at dinner.” 

“So much talk. So much hate. Why can’t people just accept one another?” Lorenzo shook his head. “My whole life, talk has kept me caged. I’m sick of it. I’d rather be in the company of Mirrims than listen to their babble.” 

Ros swept through the city gate and plunged into the darkness beyond. She eased off the throttle and switched it to automatic, turning to Lorenzo and running a hand across his cheek. “You don’t know what you’re saying. Come on, let’s get you sobered up,” she said. 

“No. Ros. I know exactly what I’m saying.” He took her hand in his. “Those people, they’re dangerous, Ros.” 

“Nothing I can’t handle.” 

“No. You don’t understand.” He gripped her hand. “I wish I could explain it. Thank you for saving me. For listening to me.” 

She smiled. “You really think the Polity are harmless, don’t you?” 

“I believe the only harm they bring is the hatred their presence stirs in the hearts of others.” 

She rose and pulled her pistol from her hilt. “Okay, Lorenzo. I believe you. But until we reach the river, I have to keep watch. There could be any number of beasts stalking us right now, and we wouldn’t hear them coming.” 

Lorenzo shook his head. “We’re safer here than back in that city.” 

“What do you mean?” 

He stared at the flashes of light raining down on Whitehall. “It’s not the beasts without a voice we should be worried about. It’s the creatures who speak which are most to be afeared.” 


If you enjoyed Frasier’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Frasier’s “Pillars of Smoke,” which kicked off the entire Globe series and then Part 1 of “The Voice of Beasts.”

In two weeks, the next installment of Nights of Revelation will take us to the desert dunes of Westminster in Shanel Wilson’s “The Sands of Change.” As the leaders of the oil fields and the glassworks feel their grip on power slipping, the next generation begins its rise to power. And the Polity’s arrival on the Globe only quickens the flow in the hour glass.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

At long last, we bring forth Nights of Revelation

On the Night of the Rocket, in the mountains of Belmont . . .

The Voice of Beasts

Part I

by Frasier Armitage

Purple streaked across the heavens as Lorenzo staggered over the mountain. Mist saturated his view, and a trail of violet blurred through vapor. He followed the light’s path as it burned above him, before it altered course and lowered as a distant speck. Then the lurid glare faded, but its afterglow still fell in shards of purple light, painting the sky. 

The glow drew him, pulling him towards a sanctuary of light. Its trail was a road stretching out above him, beckoning him away from the mountain. Rocks jutted from the ground in random clusters. The only road to follow was the one above him. 

He inched forwards, beginning his first reluctant steps away from Belmont, and the life he left behind. Each stride strengthened his resolve, and as the distance between Lorenzo and the city grew, so did the surety of his heart. 

Navigating a way down the rockface of the mountainside strained the muscles which the mines had nourished. His tendons stretched as he clambered down steep embankments and clawed his way across narrow ledges.

The ground levelled, and a causeway wound a path towards a faint amber shimmer which danced over a gate. Everybody knew about the Gatekeeper who kept watch over the mountain, but he’d never pictured the gate that led to Belmont until he saw it now. He shied away from where the bizarre haze shielded the entrance, and took the road leading down the mountainside. 

Dawn approached as Arrant Moon rose, reflecting the sun’s light. Day opened up to brighten the sky, and Lorenzo squinted through the onslaught of golden fire. His red eyes had never seen the sun. Twilight scorched his vision with disorienting intensity. He staggered as the world around him blurred in a blinding white. 

Mist thinned until it vanished, the last barrier between the raging sun and his innocent eyes. The sound of water trickled across the flatland. A tree’s shade gave him a moment’s relief, and a shadow emerged in the direction of the water. He tottered towards it, feet dragging him forwards as daybreak fractured the world around him.

“Hey!” he called to the distant shadow. He flapped his arms. “Hey!” 

The shadow sharpened as he neared it. A figure. They raised their hand and fixed a gun on Lorenzo. 

“Help!” he cried. 

The barrel of their pistol thundered as a bolt of blue plasma flashed. The shot brushed past his shoulder, whispering as it flew beyond him to strike a form behind. A body thudded to the ground. Lorenzo fell to his knees and turned to see a young man splayed lifeless. Plasma scorched his skin in burns and blotches. 

But at the sight of the man’s face, Lorenzo fell. He shivered, pointing at it, his jaw agape. Staring back at him was his own face. A perfect replica of his own body lay dead on the ground before him. 

Footsteps followed the shot, and the figure emerged from shadow. They holstered their gun and offered Lorenzo a hand. 

“That was close,” they said. “It almost had you.” They hoisted Lorenzo to his feet, their face a blur. 

“What almost had me?” Lorenzo asked. 

“It’s a Mirrim. A mirrorbeast. Deadliest creature in the savagelands. It’s a good job you yelled, otherwise you’d have been the one lying in a heap.” 

“That thing is a creature?” 

The figure nodded. “A nasty critter. The only thing they’re good for is target practice.” 

Lorenzo bowed. “Then I owe you my life.” 

“Pfft. Are you kiddin’? You gave me the chance to shoot a Mirrim. If anything, it’s me who owes you. Where are you heading to anyway?” 

Lorenzo shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m following the sky.” 

“Okay. That doesn’t sound crazy at all. Why don’t we start with where you’re heading from?” 

“I come from Belmont.” 

“Belmont? Is that a joke?” 

Lorenzo shook his head. “I swear it.” 

It’s a Mirrim. A mirrorbeast. Deadliest creature in the savagelands.

The figure leaned closer and peered into Lorenzo’s squinting red eyes. “Well, would you look at that? A real-life Belmontian. That explains the outfit at least, or lack of.” 

“What do you mean, outfit?” 

“Your clothes. Those rags barely cover you.” 

Lorenzo picked at the strands of fabric hanging loosely from his body. “We have no need of clothing when mist covers us.” 

The figure’s hands rested on their hips. “I don’t know the rules in Belmont. But if you hadn’t noticed, it’s not exactly misty today. Come on. I’ve got a spare set of clothes in my skiv you can use.” They turned and slunk into the distance where the sound of rushing water cascaded. 

Lorenzo tried to follow, staggering blindly. He waved his hands in front of him, shuffling across the plain.

“Are you okay?” they yelled. 

“The light,” Lorenzo said. “It’s so intense, I can barely see.”

They appeared at his side. “Here.” A pair of goggles was pressed into his hand, the lenses tinted dark as coal. “We use them for sailing into the sun.” 

He fixed them around his head and the light dimmed, softening everything into focus. The figure before him took shape. She smiled through thin lips, her yellow hair a mane of curls, and her startling blue eyes glistened like two hot flames. Clothing wrapped around her slender frame, hiding her body in oil-stained folds, and her waistcoat matched dark leather boots. 

“Better?” she asked. 

Lorenzo pirouetted to take in his surroundings. A river flowed not far from where they stood, and a machine that must’ve been her skiv hovered above the water. Behind him, across a flat plain, at the foot of the mountain where the mist clouded, lay the creature’s plasma-blistered body. 

“Where is the tree?” he asked. “The one that gave me shade so I could see you?” 

“The Mirrim was the tree,” she said. “It took a couple of seconds to shift from one form to another. That’s how it hunts. To match its prey, it becomes its prey.” 

Lorenzo shuddered. “Why did I not hear the creature approaching?” 

“That’s the one way to know if you’re dealing with a Mirrim or not. They make no sound. They can’t. Something about the way their skin changes means you’ll never hear them coming.” 

“But I heard it fall.” 

“Thanks to my plasma rounds.” She took her gun and kissed the barrel. “This baby’s never failed me yet.” 

Lorenzo frowned. “How does it work?” 

“The gun? You just point and shoot. What’s the matter? You never seen a gun before?” 

Lorenzo stared at the corpse, transfixed by how easily it could’ve been him. “What should we do with it?” 

“Let it rot. It’ll be a warning to passersby. Now are you coming, or not?” She raised an eyebrow and sauntered to the machine that floated above the water. 

Lorenzo followed her up the rungs of the craft, the cold metal tingling his fingers as he hauled himself onto the hover’s deck. 

She rooted through an old sack and tossed him some clothes. 

“Thank you,” he said. 

“No problem. You can pay me back later. The interest isn’t too steep.” She winked. 

Lorenzo frowned. “What do you mean ‘pay you back’?” 

She rolled her eyes. “Let me guess, you’re gonna try and tell me there’s no such thing as trade in Belmont, aren’t you? How gullible do you think I am?” 

“The fire feeds all.” 

“Not unless you feed it first. Everything’s a trade. See?” 

Lorenzo rubbed his chin. “I have nothing of value to give you.” 

“Not yet. But when word there’s a real-life Belmontian roaming around gets out, having you owe me a favor might come in handy, if you catch my drift.” 

Lorenzo fumbled the clothes over his tattered rags. “I can tell you my name, if that’s worth anything?” he offered. 

“Well someone’s got a high opinion of themselves, don’t they? Safe passage downriver and fresh clothes just to know your name. What are you? Royalty?” 

“What would you give me for my name?” 

“I’d trade like for like, if you’d accept those terms?” 

“Alright. I accept. I’m Lorenzo.” 

“Rosaline. But you can call me Ros.” 

“Ros? That’s a short name compared to my own. I’ll take these as compensation.” Lorenzo glanced at the clothes he wore, the leather jacket and canvas sailor’s trousers, tucked into thick boots. He straightened the goggles over his eyes. “How do I look?” 

“Like you still owe me, buster,” she said. 

Ros stood at the hover’s prow and worked the gears with the grace and skill of an artisan. Engines roared as she slung the skiv around, and shot off down the river. Lorenzo toppled onto the deck. Spray rushed up the side of the barge, splashing over him. 

Ros stifled a giggle into her sleeve. 

Lorenzo peered over the hull’s edge, wind whipping his hair back. He staggered on deck, the motion throwing him from side to side. “What manner of beast is this?” 

“It’s no beast. It’s my baby.” 

“You said that about your gun. Are all your babies so deadly?” 

Ros smiled. “Did you see those lights last night?” 

“I can still see them.” Lorenzo stared at the purple trail leading across the skies. 

“Really? I don’t see anything.” Ros shrugged. “Must be those pretty, red eyes of yours. What else can you see?” 

“I see you. And this baby of yours. The land. And the sky. And a purple trail leading that way.” 

“Towards Whitehall. It’s where we’re heading now.” 

“To follow the lights?” he asked. 

“Something like that. If you can see the afterburn, maybe your eyes would make a fair trade for those clothes.” 

Lorenzo backed away, his face aghast. “You can’t have my eyes. Or else how would I see? Is this what the world is like? Full of people swapping limbs for finery and fetishes?” 

“Pipe down, sailor. Your eyes can stay where they are. I just want you to show me the way. To the spot where they landed. That’s not too high a price to ask, is it?” 

Lorenzo puffed a breath of relief. “I accept your terms, Ros. For what reason do you seek the purple sparks?” 

She smiled. “Who knows what these newcomers might have to trade? Now, fair warning, this might get a little bumpy.” 

“Bumpy?” 

Ros slammed the hover over the riverbank. Its pads reverberated as the ground undulated below. Lorenzo’s legs wobbled, and he gripped the helm. 

Ros pushed him off the controls. “Keep those eyes peeled, Lorenzo. We’re heading into the savagelands. Quickest way to Whitehall. But Mirrims could be anywhere. Got it?” 

Lorenzo nodded. 

They passed over the wilds of the savagelands in silence. But silence was the mark of the Mirrims. Lorenzo wanted to speak just to prove that he was still himself, but Ros hushed him with a look. She stalked the horizon with a predatory gaze, her hand resting on the hilt of her gun. 

They passed rocks and the odd outcrop of grass, but could trust none of it. Not even the sand. Who could tell if a single grain was not a beast waiting for them, lurking? 

In the distance, another barge ploughed across the bedrock and dunes. Their silhouette warped in the sun’s heat. 

Ros nodded towards the craft. She placed a finger to her lips, and drew her gun. 

Lorenzo understood. 

The hover pulled alongside Ros, and she signalled with her arms to the captain of the barge, counting down from three, two, one. 

She blasted a horn. But no blast came from the hover beside her. 

It tilted to ram her and she fired a burst of plasma at the hull. Blue plasma burst like lightning across the hover as its metal shell writhed, morphing in and out of shape. The ship convulsed, and Ros fired again, before it collided with her hover, shunting it off course. Ros fell from the helm, and the gun clattered across the floor. Lorenzo toppled and when he rose, there were two of Ros on deck. He reached for the gun, and scooped it in his hands. 

“Lorenzo. It’s me.” There was only one voice, but both of them moved their lips. 

“Quiet,” he said. 

Sweat poured down his brow as he glanced from left to right. Which of them is Ros and which is the creature? 

“Lorenzo! It’s me! Use your ears!” 

“I said quiet.” They both stood by the helm. “I just point and shoot, right?” 

Both Rosalines nodded. 

“Okay. You.” He signalled to the one nearest the throttle. “Step forward.” 

They shuffled in front of the rudder, out of sight from the Ros that stood behind them. 

“Where do I come from? Both of you point on three.” Lorenzo said. “Three. Two. One.” 

The first Ros spun and pointed to the mountain in the distance. So did the Ros behind, at precisely the same moment. 

Lorenzo shook his head. His hands rattled on the pistol. “Change places. You go behind, and you in front” 

They swapped. 

“On three, I want you to point to your baby. Three. Two. One.” 

The Ros behind pointed one arm to the deck and her other arm at the gun he held, and the Ros in front frowned, pointing at their stomach. Lorenzo fired. The blast rippled over her body as plasma ignited her skin, charring her to a crisp. 

The remaining Ros picked up the Mirrim and flung it over the side of the craft. 

“Thanks,” she said. 

Lorenzo’s shoulders relaxed at the sound of her voice. “You said your baby never lets you down. Does this settle our debt?” 

She snatched the pistol from him and holstered it. “Keep your eyes peeled.” 

“We’re nearly there,” he said. “The purple sparks gather ahead.” 

Ros swung the hover in the direction Lorenzo pointed. They sped across the dunes, ever closer to discovering what manner of monster those lights had belonged to; ever nearer to where it lurked, waiting for them in the sand. 


If you enjoyed Frasier’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Frasier’s “Pillars of Smoke,” which kicked off the entire Globe series.

And make sure to check back Friday for Part 2 of “The Voice of Beasts” by Frasier Armitage. Ranging from the harsh desert of the savagelands to the glass towers of Whitehall, Part 2 is filled with a race, a brawl, and a chase.

Finally, view the beautiful, original photos used to illustrate “The Voice of Beasts,” learn about the photographers, and follow links to their other work.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross