Friday is flash fiction day, and I’ve restricted myself to just over 800 words to bring you a piece of Viridian System series backstory, which readers of The Perihelix have been asking for. Well, they wanted to know more about the enigmatic Aramintha, anyway, so here’s some world-building about the planet York. I hope you enjoy it. No previous knowledge is needed as it’s pretty standard space opera fare, but the posts for letters F for Federation and I for Imperium might add substance.
The White Rose of York
“Torani! Wait for me!”
Aramintha’s screams at her brother were ignored as they raced through the corridors of the City Palace, fleeing the sounds of exploding buildings behind them.
No-one had seriously thought their evacuation plans would be needed. Her father, King Nestor, had assured the populace of York yesterday: the threat from the Federation was past, the Imperium were their friends, the disagreement over land-use was just one of those misunderstandings. All would be cleared up soon. Go home and carry on as normal.
Torani had muttered gloomily all through their study time that evening. “It’s a waste of time, Ara,” he’d said. “We need to get away, or drive them away. But of course they have more firepower than us. We must escape!”
“But where to?” Aramintha had asked. “And how? You haven’t passed your exams yet, and you won’t, if you keep avoiding your homework.”
“Oh, I know all the codes and rules by now. I bet you do too, for that matter. Maybe we can stow away in a spacecraft, and hide long enough to get us somewhere safe.”
“But, father said—”
“Father said what the people need to hear. You, our symbol of hope and posterity, me their future… both on the sidelines, rolled out for people to believe in. We’re not secure, Ara. We never have been.” Torani bit his lip as he took his thoughts further. Should they leave? Could they leave their father in this quandary?
Now, as the Imperium starcruisers targeted the city, they ran for their lives, twisting through the alleys they knew so well. Torani was headed for the royal spacepark, hoping that the guard remained at their posts. Ara followed, lifting the hem of the brocade dress that weighed her down. She used most unladylike language as she stopped to tear off the cumbersome head-dress that showed her position as the White Rose of York, the eldest daughter, direct descendent of the first settlers of the planet, who had battled the elements so bravely to create a proud and prosperous world-nation. The Federation wanted York, and had intended to take it, until the Imperium turned up to help repel them. And now the Imperium were taking over instead.
Torani turned a corner; another blast made the walls of the palace shake, dust creaking out of every joint and junction of wall, ceiling, floor and frieze. Ara reached the corner as the ceiling collapsed, cutting her off from her brother, filling the air with fine particles that went up her nose, into her throat and set off a paroxysm of coughing as her lungs fought to keep her alive. She scrabbled at the pile of debris, thinking of alternatives, decided the rubble filled the entire passage, and headed back for the route through the kitchens.
The palace was eerily quiet now, dust everywhere as the attack ceased. Ara paused to look into the yard beyond the delivery gate. There was no yard, just piles of brick, stone and timbers, shrouded in a pall of smoke that hung over the palace, obscuring the towers, if they still stood, and the proud flag of York, should it have survived. It had to survive.
A new sound, a rhythmic beat that Ara didn’t recognise, grew louder as she stood there, wondering what to do next. Where were the staff? Had they taken refuge somewhere safe? Should she find them? Was her father still with the troops? She squeezed out of the broken doorway and started across the yard. The beating noise broke into ripples and she recognised heavy footfalls, which seemed to head towards her from every direction. She was right — from the four doorways into the yard, skirting piles of rubble and clambering over others, black-clothed troopers with shiny helmets approached, holding weapons trained at her.
Two grabbed her arms, and she kicked and struggled, while they laughed at her. Another took out a small box and waved it at her. “Yes, this is her, scan matches. Take her away!”
Standing in her underwear in front of a row of men, Aramintha was determined not to break down. “I am a princess of the blood. You will not harm me!”
The man in the centre laughed. “You may have been the White Rose of York once, wench. But those days are over. York is ours. Your family is dead. You will be taken to the market today, and good luck to the poor sod that buys you. You might as well get used to it — you’re nobody.”
Dereham McInerny bought a wild young teenage girl in the market at Talia Prime, put her in the hold of his starship along with several other purchases, and planned to sell them as a job lot at his next stop. She might even be worth something in the fighting dens, since she was full of spunk. If she lasted that long.
© J M Pett 2016
Even if you miss out tomorrow’s post, come back for Monday’s round-up, with all the hints from my interviewed authors gathered together. And don’t forget to enter the Giveaway – which closes at midnight tomorrow night.