Starship's Mage: Episode 1

BOOK: Starship's Mage: Episode 1
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Starship’s Mage

Episode 1

By Glynn Stewart

 

Copyright 2013

All
rights reserved. This eBook is licensed for the personal enjoyment of the original purchaser only. This eBook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a
work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons— living or dead— is entirely coincidental.


Cover art Copyright 2013 by Jack Giesen

“Welcome aboard, Mage Montgomery,”
the spacer waiting just inside the starship told him. “Captain Michaels is waiting in his office. If you’ll follow me, please?”

Damien nodded
as he carefully maneuvered himself through the zero-gravity boarding area. Behind him, a short metal boarding tube linked the central hub of the massive rotating rings of Sherwood Prime to the keel of the container ship
Gentle Rains of Summer
. He checked the personal computer wrapped around his left arm as discreetly as he could, making sure he was on time for his job interview with the Captain.

“Our outer
ribs are on a low rotation right now as some of our thrusters are under repair,” the crewman warned Damien as he moved towards one of the doors on the outer walls of the main keel. “We’re only under about a tenth-gee, so watch your step.”

“That will be fine,”
Damien told the man. He watched the spacer move from handhold to handhold up the ladder to the outer keel, and carefully followed suit. If necessary, he was able to control his own motion even in zero-gravity, but Mages learned quickly that blatant, unnecessary use of magic didn’t make friends.

Damien was shorter and lighter than the spacer, though, so
he was slower and more careful with the handholds until they reached far enough out on the rotating outer keel for the pseudo-gravity to kick in. He settled onto his feet with a carefully concealed sigh of relief, straightening out his clothes and unconsciously checking on the gold medallion settled into the hollow of his throat.

The medallion announced to all who saw it that Damien Montgomery had the Gift and was recognized by the Royal Orders and Guilds of the Protectorate of Humanity as a Mage.
A member of one of those Orders would also recognize the symbols on it marking him as having completed a degree in Practical Thaumaturgy as well as being a fully qualified Jump Mage.

The last
was why he was aboard the
Gentle Rains of Summer
. The container ship consisted of a central steady state keel with the boarding pod at one end and the engines at the other, around which four ‘outer ribs’ rotated to give the living and working spaces with a semblance of gravity. She was a wondrous technological creation capable of accelerating at several gravities while carrying up to twelve million tons of fuel and cargo, but it was the silver runes inscribed throughout the interior of her hull that made her a starship. With those runes a Mage like Damien could jump her up to a light year in an instant.

“This is the C
aptain’s office,” the spacer announced. He knocked on the hatch sharply, and then stuck his head in. “The young Mage is here to see you, sir.”

“Come in, come in,”
the man behind the desk said loudly as the spacer gestured Damien into the room. “Montgomery, right?”

“That’s right sir,”
Damien answered. “I’m here about the junior Ship’s Mage position?”

Most starships that
could afford it would have two Jump Mages aboard. A Mage was only able to jump so often without using up so much energy as to fatally burn out their brains, so having two aboard would double how fast the ship would move.

“Yes, yes of course,” the captain
replied, gesturing for Damien to sit. “I’m Andrew Michaels, Captain of the
Gentle Rains of Summer
. I’m afraid I owe you an apology.”

Damien took the offered seat, glancing around the captain’s cabin.
It had the lived-in look of somewhere the occupant spent much of their time. The bookshelves, filing cabinet, and desk were all worn green ceramics, and the floating projected terminal on the desk was a model older than Damien himself.

The only
‘decoration’ in the room was a bronze plaque engraved with the silver runes that channeled mana to created magical effects once charged by a Mage.

“An apology?”
Damien asked.

“Yes, I’m afraid we couldn’t contact you earlier this morning,” Michaels
told him, to which Damien nodded slowly. Sherwood Prime’s internal communications net was oddly spotty for the main orbital dock of a world of two billion souls. “An old friend called me this morning and I’ve given the Ship’s Mage position to her son. I would have let you know in advance, but once we couldn’t I figured I owed you an explanation in person.”

Damien swallowed.
“Thank you, sir,” he said politely. He’d figured he’d at least get the interview, not be shut down almost before he’d introduced himself. “Is there any chance you’d be taking on a second junior Mage?” he asked carefully.

The
Captain had the good grace to look somewhat sheepish. “I’ve actually agreed to take on two juniors already,” he admitted. “Kyle and Grace McLaughlin, I would guess that you know them?”

Damien nodded
his recognition of the names of his classmates. The McLaughlin family were the core Mage family of the Sherwood system, traditionally providing the system’s Mage-Governor and generally acting as an established aristocracy. Kyle and Grace were two of six members of the family who’d gone through Jump Mage training with him – he knew them both well and had been ‘close’ with Grace.

“Thank you for your time, Captain,”
he said politely. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be heading back to the station – I’ll need to see if any other ships have available slots.” He knew perfectly well that none did – and if any did, one of the other McLaughlin youths would likely have already snapped it up.

“I know it’s a point of pride not to lean on one’s parents,”
Michaels said quietly, “but you really should see if your family knows a ship’s crew who owes them a favor.”

Damien
focused his gaze on the spell plaque above the Captain’s head. “I’m a Mage by Right, sir,” he said quietly. “My parents were bakers… and died years ago.”

Mages by Blood were born to the core families of the Protectorate, the inherent nobility defined by the Compact that ended the Eugenics Wars of the Twenty-Second Century.
Mages by Right were identified by the testing every human child underwent at age thirteen. They had all the rights of Mages born of the main families, all of the powers and all of the official support from the officers of the Mage-King of Mars… but none of the family connections.

“I’m sorry,”
Captain Michaels said quietly.

The young Mage shook
his head in response his gaze still on the spell plaque as his Gift traced the lines of power and he read the runes. He blinked at it confusedly. “Um, sir, what is that plaque supposed to do?” he asked, intentionally changing the subject.

“It’s a security spell,”
the Captain explained, seizing on the topic change. “It detects if anyone enters the office with hostile intent.”

Damien traced the flow of energy through the runes and shook
his head again. “You might want to have your senior Mage look at it,” he told the Captain. “The scribe used future-imperative tenses instead of future-probabilistic. It’s actually slightly
encouraging
the chance of violence, not predicting it.”

He
turned his gaze back down to the captain, blinking away the lines of magic. “Magic doesn’t predict the future very well, sir. If the plaque was detecting hostile intent, it would be obvious to you well before it triggered an alarm.”

Michaels
looked at the plaque, and then back at Damien. “You mean I got scammed, don’t you?” he asked.

“A little bit, sir,”
Damien admitted. “Like I said, have your Senior look at it, I may be wrong – I haven’t seen a spell like that before.”

As he let the office,
though, Damien knew the Captain had been thoroughly scammed. He hadn’t misread a rune matrix since he’d started studying his gift at thirteen years old.

#

The same spacer escorted him out of the ship, but clearly sensed that the young Mage wasn’t interested in talking. Damien had contacted Captain Michaels as soon as the posting had gone up on the Sherwood internet – he knew he’d been the first to apply, as the Captain had told him so.

Nonetheless,
he’d lost the position before he’d even boarded the ship. He thanked the spacer and crossed back onto the twelve-kilometer long cylinder that was the central hub of Sherwood Prime. He quickly grabbed one of the transit tubes that took civilians up and down the central hub to any of the immense rings spaced evenly along its length, each rotating around the hub to provide the semblance of gravity. The sooner he was off the Hub, the happier he was - he was as comfortable without gravity as anyone born in a gravity well, but that didn’t mean he liked it.

His
rooms were on Ring Seven. Flanked on either side by multiple similar immense rings rotating around the hub once a minute, the central two rings were generally inaccessible by ship. This made Rings Six and Seven the cheapest places to live and eat on the immense space station.

At age thirteen, every child on a planet under the Protectorate was tested for Mage gift.
For the children born to the noble Mage families that served the Mage-King of Mars and bound His Protectorate together, the testing was a formality. For the vast majority of the rest of the population, it was also a formality, but for the opposite reason – children like Damien who had no Mage parents and became Mages were barely one in a million.

Damien found himself wandering Ring Seven aimlessly.
He paid for his room out of the small stipend the Mage-King provided every unemployed Mage. While his parents had lived, they’d received a larger stipend – an encouragement to have more children since they’d proven they would likely have Mage children. Damien’s younger brother and sister had died in the same crash that had killed his parents, long before either was old enough to be tested.

The
discovery of his gift had changed his life, though. The Royal Testers, men and women who reported to the Mage-King, not the McLaughlin’s government of Sherwood, had arranged for his education to expand, and for him to eventually attend the elite school of magic that trained the noble children – Mages by Blood, versus Damien’s Mage by Right – of Sherwood.

Despite
that, the Testers couldn’t provide the interlinking web of connections the Mages by Blood – especially the grand-children, nephews and nieces of a man as powerful as the McLaughlin, recently reelected Mage-Governor of Sherwood for his seventh term.

Lost in
his thoughts, Damien realized he’d wandered off of the central concourse, which was brightly lit and patrolled by security even on as cheap and dingy a section of the space station as Ring Seven. He was still in public corridors, but these hallways didn’t have wide-open storefronts and bright lights.

Instead, easily a third of the lights were broken, and sealed doors with small nameplates or even just numbers
were the only exits. Finally starting to pay attention, Damien realized that someone had scratched out the corridor numbers on the intersection nearest him, and touched the medallion around his throat for reassurance – no matter how run-down the area was, no one was going to attack a Mage.

Conceding that his funk had resulted in his getting very lost, he brought up the map function on his personal computer, a black plastic band wrapped around his left wrist.
Its holographic display flickered in the air for a moment, with a small warning in one corner about connection issues, and then identified his location and a route back to his rooms in the main concourse.

“Nice
PC,” a voice said behind him. “Too nice a PC for so small a bit, don’tcha think?”

Damien
slowly turned around to find four large men, the smallest easily twice his own size – but carrying a length of black piping where the others were unarmed. He was hoping that the sight of the medallion would cause them to back off, but the largest man simply grinned at the sight.


Waay too nice a PC for a tiny Spark, boys,” he repeated. “Why don’tcha jes’ take it off and pass it over? Avoids anyone getting hurt.”

The
PC turned off, the holographic display and interface disappearing back into the band around Damien’s left wrist as he stepped back away from them.

“None of that now, little Spark,”
the big thug told Damien. “You PC, you cash, and that lovely gold medallion – or we start breaking limbs. You can’t spark with no hands, can you?”

Damien drew
on memory for a self-defense spell, reaching for the glove that covered the silver runes engraved on his palms, but a massive fist slammed into his stomach before the glove came off.

“Oops,
me fist slipped,” the man told the Mage with a grin. “Guess the Spark won’t play nice, will he?”

The
massive fist wrapped itself around Damien’s throat and lifted him off the ground. Damien was small and slight, the man likely lifted arm-bells that weighed more than him.

“Like I said,”
he said directly into Damien’s face, “The PC, the cash, and the medallion.”

He
reached for the medallion and Damien closed his eyes, finally remembering the spell he was after – and knowing what would happen when the thug touched the gold coin.

The
security spell carved into the runes under the collar holding the medallion flared into action as soon as they were forcefully removed from Damien’s neck. A blast of super-heated air shot out in all directions, burning the thug’s hand and throwing him back with telekinetic force.

Damien hit the ground and released
his own spell. A mental baseball bat slammed into the leader’s knees, and he heard one of the man’s kneecaps
crack
as the spell hit them. His face half-burnt and a kneecap broken, the man fell to one leg with his hands over his face.

Before Damien even start
ed to run, however, the thug was moving again. With one eye closed and his face bleeding from the heat burns, the thug rose on his one good leg and grabbed Damien with both hands. He threw the slight Mage bodily into the wall, crushing the breath out of him.

Still balancing on one leg, the
thug slammed one hand around Damien’s neck, crushing him against the wall, and then smashed his other fist into the Mage’s stomach.

Unable to breathe, Damien began to choke,
his vision graying out and pain tearing through his body as the thug struck him again. And again.

Then
one of the
other
thugs flew bodily into the leader’s back. Still the man remained on his feet, dropping Damien as he turned to see who was interrupting.

Damien
barely recognized the spacer from the
Gentle Rains of Summer
before the ‘liberated’ length of black piping crashed into the leader’s head. The thug wavered for a moment, and then the piping slammed up between his legs, and the mountain of a man finally crumpled.

Damien’s
consciousness crumpled with him.

BOOK: Starship's Mage: Episode 1
10.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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