Authors: Blaze Ward
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Exploration, #Hard Science Fiction, #Space Fleet, #Space Opera, #Military, #Artificial intelligence, #Galactic Empire, #starship, #Pirates, #Space Exploration
Queen of the Pirates
The Jessica Keller Chronicles: Volume Two
Copyright © 2015 Blaze Ward
All rights reserved
Published by Knotted Road Press
Copyright © Innovari | Dreamstime.com – Spaceship Fighters At Sea Photo
Cover and interior design copyright © 2015 Knotted Road Press
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This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Author’s Note (or: A brief thought on the history of the future. )
Other Science Fiction writers have done a much better job that I ever could explaining why science fiction writers use “modern” standards for things like weights and measures, even eleven thousand years in the future. I don’t think kilometers and kilograms will still be in use then, but my current audience needs to have a frame of reference they understand. In some interesting future, perhaps someone will translate my work into the–then–current units, with a note like this talking about what interesting barbarians we used to be. Best of luck.
Similarly, languages in the future will be interesting. We are fast approaching an era where there are only a few dozen major languages left. Personally, I think we’ll lose something culturally, but gain something by being able to talk to anyone and hear their story. In this universe (
), the seven major trade languages of the Concord (pre–Collapse) were English, Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Hindi, Kiswahili, and Bulgarian. (Don’t ask. Explanations are available elsewhere, and have to do with Bulgarian Fan Clubs.)
Most of those languages represent major international languages at a time when electronic communications capabilities mean that languages will start to ossify somewhat. They will still evolve, but they will do so more in pronunciation than in written. Think of all of the dialects of spoken Chinese that use the same written form. There will still be smaller languages. Henri Baudin, mentioned in the Promenade section of this book, spoke French as his first language.
Finally, a round of thank you’s. Leah and Dayle caught many mistakes that eluded me, and pointed out sections where I forgot to write things down (they were in my head, but never made it to paper.) I am absolutely indebted to Michael Kingswood for taking the time to read the draft and write things like “that’s not how it works today, so probably not how it would work in the distant future.”
This story would simply not be nearly as good without their help. Simple as that. All mistakes you find are still mine. And I wouldn’t mind hearing about them (politely, mind you) so I can fix future versions of the document. We all make mistakes. Character, so I have been led to believe, involves owning them and fixing them.
As I write this, I am deep into the third novel in the first Jessica Keller trilogy,
Last Of The Immortals
trilogy. More to come.) It will wrap up this phase of the story, and set the stage for future adventures. I hope you will come along for the ride.
is a universe I enjoy wandering around in, as well as having conversations with the characters: Javier Aritza, Doyle Iwakuma, Henri Baudin, and Jessica Keller.
Most importantly, in my mind, is Suvi. She was not my original muse, starting out, but grew into the role over time. She is the witness to history, and serves thus as our narrator, in her own way.
At this end of human history, she is also the Last Of The Immortals, living forever, but never losing her joy in the world.
It is a lesson I hope to emulate.
shade and sweet water,
West Of The Mountains, Washington
Date of the Republic August 1, 393 City of Penmerth, Ladaux
Jessica suppressed the urge to scratch her arms. Civilian clothing always felt wrong on her. Something about the drape and cut of the fabric was alien after so long in uniform. Marcelle had, however, been adamant. Jessica would not attend this dinner in anything remotely resembling her command centurion uniform.
They had compromised in the end. Jessica wore a dark blue tunic over dark gray slacks. Civilian, but close enough to her forest–green uniform. Muted enough that she didn’t feel like a peahen, but still, she felt an itch.
Marcelle smiled down at her as if she could read Jessica’s mind. After this long together, she might be able to. Marcelle had been her personal steward for more than a decade now. The woman had learned her habits, bad as well as good.
Marcelle was dressed far more flashily than Jessica could imagine herself ever appearing in public, a long pencil skirt in maroon, matched with a cream–colored blouse, and a bolero jacket so black that it appeared to absorb light.
Jessica smiled back. When Marcelle wanted to, she could pull off distinguished and elegant. Jessica was afraid she’d look like a clown in Marcelle’s outfit.
Jessica turned to the third person with them. She looked down on the woman, something she could rarely do, being short herself for a woman. Moirrey Kermode, however, was tiny. While Jessica was only 1.6 meters tall, Moirrey was barely 1.5. She was like a normal woman, shrunk down to a perfect 90 percent copy.
Tonight, Moirrey was the belle of the ball. Jessica didn’t sew, but she understood the patient crafting necessary to see a piece of cloth and rotate it in all dimensions to imagine what it could become. Moirrey wore an obviously hand–made frock, carefully and expertly gathered and ruched by hand as well. Depending on the light, it might be sky blue or a soft grass green. It looked quite perfect with the pixie’s raven–black hair.
Jessica smiled warmly at the young woman, one of her evil engineering gnomes. “Moirrey,” she said quietly, “I realize that I promised you a reward, but I still don’t think that this qualifies.”
What she really wanted to say was,
Are you nuts?
But she already knew the answer to that. The woman was the technical wizard from engineering, and this was what she had asked for as a reward.
Moirrey just grinned up at her.
Jessica turned back to the front door of the small house and stilled her breathing. This place always seemed so much smaller when she came back here as a grown–up. In her mind, she was still eight and running around her mother’s garden, or riding her bike across the fields out back.
She smiled and knocked. Coming home hadn’t always been so pleasant.
Her mother opened the door almost immediately with a happy face and the smell of freshly–baked blueberry pie wafting out the door.
“Welcome, welcome,” her mother said, gesturing them into the small front room.
Jessica surprised her mother by stepping up to her and hugging her. They had not been a hugging family, when Jessica was growing up. But she was over that, she hoped. She could hug her mother. They were grown–ups now.
Marcelle got in a hug as well, so Moirrey did too.
It was interesting to watch. Mother was Jessica’s size, short for a woman, and had the sort of homebody squishiness about her that made Jessica work out constantly to avoid. Mother nearly disappeared hugging Marcelle, who was taller than most men, and then towered over the tiny Moirrey.
“It is so nice to meet you in the flesh, finally,” Mother said as she stepped back from Moirrey’s grasp.
“And you too, Mrs. Keller,” Moirrey replied in her birdlike singsong accent.
“Please, Moirrey,” Mother said, “call me Indira.”
“Indira,” Moirrey smiled.
Father would not suffer to be left out as the group filed into the living room. He stepped up to Jessica and engulfed her in a hug that felt and smelled like home, his strength and spicy cologne bringing back all the joys of her youth.
She really was home.
Marcelle’s hug was almost as fierce. She was another daughter around this house, these days.
Moirrey’s hug was much more polite.
“I’m no’ a fragile porcelain doll, da,” Moirrey complained, so Father picked her bodily up and squished her against his chest before setting the tiny woman back down.
“Better,” Moirrey said with a smile.
Jessica grabbed Moirrey by a hand. “Moirrey Kermode, may I properly introduce my father, Miguel Keller. Father, the reason I’m still alive and at liberty to join you for dinner this evening, Moirrey Kermode.”
The tiny woman, the evil little engineering gnome, blushed clear to the tips of her ears and covered her face with her other hand.
, stepped back into the salon and gestured to the house. “Please, make yourselves at home,” she said. “Dinner will be ready in ten minutes.”
Jessica watched her father settle into his favorite chair. She resisted sitting at his knee with an arm around his calf, like she had done when she was little. Then she realized she could do whatever she wanted, and sat on the floor next to him, letting his touch warm her.
Had it really been so long since she had been home?
She looked at the wall in the hallway where all the family pictures hung. Mother and Father dating, their wedding day, moving into this house, children and friends and pets and vehicles and sunsets.
The middle had been reorganized. On the left, pictures of her brother Vyacheslav and his wife Sasha. Their kids: Ruhal, Margaret, and Juan–Pablo.
All the classic things you would expect from a blue–collar household on the edge of Penmerth. The capital city of the Republic was still a Navy town, primarily. It retained a small–city charm, because significant amounts of industry were on
instead. There were still small–holder farms not far away. Her own uncle was a short drive away by land vehicle.
It was the pictures on the right that surprised her. A picture of her graduating from prep school on her way to the Academy. Her being commissioned as a still–wet–behind–the–ears Cornet.
Had it really been twelve years ago?
A picture of
, her first service with the Fleet.
, the little corvette that was her first command. The Destroyer Leader
. And in the center, a wonderful oil painting of
, done with the full flight wing coming out of the picture.
When had her mother taken to doing that? That certainly wasn’t Father’s touch. He worked in a civilian shipyard still. McKanless and Daughters. He was around ships all day, even now as an esteemed Master Builder, but once a Master Welder. He would not have put ships up.
No, the picture of children and grandchildren were something only Mother would have done. Perhaps she considered those vessels her other grandchildren?
In a way, she might be right. Jessica wasn’t married. Had never had any prospects of marriage as a poor scholarship student at Fleet Prep School. Might never have children, since it would require taking the time to find a person to share her life with, and then leaving them behind while she was off fighting.
Did she want a mate? A partner? A family?
Jessica stopped and listened to the voices in her head argue the sides. She hadn’t really ever even considered it. People considered her too intense, too aggressive, too hard. What man or woman would want her for her, and not just as a Navy hero?
She leaned closer in, and put her head on her father’s knee as he asked Moirrey about her homeworld.
Jessica listened to the sounds from the back room and let the most wonderful dinner slowly digest. She hadn’t had rabbit stew over rice and greens in years. Again, home. She held a wine glass in one hand and slowly sipped port with Marcelle and Father.
In Mother’s workroom, she could hear the sound of the spinning wheel slowly
as one of the two women worked the treadle and turned wool into thread. She was transported back.
Spring shearing out on her uncle’s farm. Coming home with a pile of dirty, smelly fleece bigger than she was in the back of the vehicle. Watching her mother’s fierce concentration as she washed it by hand, plucked through it, then washed it again before carding it.
Spun on that wheel into thread, and then plied into yarn. Homemade dyes from the garden, boiled down and fixed to the wool. Whole summers passed that way, the bitter smells permeating the whole house all summer, followed by mother knitting in the fall. Sweaters, hats, scarves, mittens, socks.