Sunset in Silvana (Da'ark Nocturne Book 1)

BOOK: Sunset in Silvana (Da'ark Nocturne Book 1)
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Sunset in Silvana

 

by

 

 

Paul Sims

&

Robert Warr

Copyright

 

This electronic edition published by Paul Sims & Robert Warr,
2015

 

First Published in Great Britain by Paul Sims & Robert Warr, 201
5

 

First Edition

 

Copyright © Paul Sims & Robert Warr

 

The authors assert the moral right to be identified as the authors of this work
.

 

Cover design by I.Designs – www.indyscribabledesigns.com

 

The people and events described in this book are fictitious and bear no intentional resemblance to any real person living or dead.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, scanning, recording or otherwise, without the express written permission of the authors.

Chapter 1

 

Talia Milanova woke that morning with a smile on her face, as she had for as long as she could remember – though that, she had to admit, was only a few months. 
I’m so lucky to live in Silvana Zelyna,
she thought sleepily,
especially as a Hero of the Republic.

She stretched and yawned, luxuriating in the soft cotton sheets, a privilege provided by the state. 
I really don’t think I deserve such special treatment, whatever Major Valentine says.  And I don’t feel much like a ‘role model’.  Perhaps one day I’ll wake up and it’ll all have been a dream.  I’d better make the most of it.

She rose and walked over to the window, where she leaned on the windowsill to watch the city awaken.  The sun was still below the horizon, but the ringlight gave plenty of gentle illumination.  The view over the bay and along the chain of islands that reached out into the distance was beautiful.  It was softened by a light sea-mist that partially obscured the detail, lending an air of fantasy to everything but the large concrete tenement blocks that marched down the hill with regimented precision.

Talia had seen pictures of the area before the liberation of Silvana, with its attractive but wasteful arrangement of small villas in landscaped parkland, all set about with glow-trees.  Unfortunately, the need to house several thousand good Zelynan families, many of them refugees from Pregeor, took precedence over the comfortable existence of a few hundred privileged Silvanans. 
Since I’m one of those who benefited,
I shouldn’t really be critical, but it
was
rather beautiful.

As she watched the water lapping at the docks, a shuttle rose from the Skyport on a plume of flame, starting its journey to Restavic High Space Station. 
I wonder if Johan’s at the controls,
she mused. 
It’s a while since we’ve seen much of him – he practically lives at the ’Port nowadays.

The sun rose, and a melody played through her mind, as it did every dawn
.  I wish I knew what this song is

I ought to sing along, but I’ve don’t remember the words.  I’ve forgotten
where I first heard it, but it speaks to me of peace and freedom, and fills me with optimism for the day ahead.

Once the sun was fully revealed, the music faded, and Talia breathed a happy sigh and began her daily exercise routine. 
It wouldn’t do for a Hero of the Republic to get flabby
.  She usually found the exertion invigorating, but today she felt a tinge of sadness because of the absence of her friend and regular exercise partner, Anoushka.

They were the only females in their small group of Heroes.  That, and being set apart from the normal citizens by their status, thrust them together a great deal – an arrangement both of them enjoyed.  Anoushka wasn’t Talia’s equal physically or intellectually, but she had a light-heartedness and a gentle nature that Talia envied.  Whenever Anoushka entered a room she brightened the atmosphere, which – besides making her company a real delight – also proved of great value at the Restavic Down Medical Centre, where they both worked, Anoushka as a Senior Nurse and Talia as a Nurse Manager.

As she stretched, Talia thought back to when they’d first met – as far as she knew – when they were recovering together from the incident at Pregeor in a small private ward in Restavic City General Hospital.  They – and the other survivors of the disaster – had amnesia, their whole past erased by the trauma.

Since they had been kept in medically-induced comas as their bodies healed, the physical effects of the incident had largely been mitigated when they’d recovered consciousness, and their doctors soon began encouraging them to regain their full fitness through physiotherapy.  Talia had found the recommended exercises rather basic and boring, and had soon graduated to her own set of dance-based katas.  As with so much, she’d forgotten where and when she’d learnt these, but her muscles still remembered them well.

She remembered Anoushka watching her for a while, and then asking if she could join in.  Indeed, once she’d started, tentatively, to copy Talia’s movements, Talia remembered some sequences that were meant for two people, where the actions of each of them complemented those of the other.  From then on, they’d exercised together whenever possible.

Despite her relative inexperience, Anoushka enjoyed every moment of their shared callisthenics: sometimes, when they moved in true harmony, her pleasure was almost palpable, and even when she lost her balance and ended up flat on the mat, she took it in good heart.

Talia smiled as she remembered when, three days previously, Anoushka had landed on her bottom during a particularly tricky manoeuvre.  When Talia had leaned down and offered her a hand up, Anoushka had grabbed hold of it and jerked Talia off balance.  That she had ended up spread-eagled on top of Anoushka was enough of an indignity, but Anoushka had the temerity to tickle her as well. Talia had retaliated, and they probably would have been late for their shift if Boris hadn’t looked in and commented on the lack of decorum displayed by
some
Heroes of the Republic.  It was later that very day that Anoushka had a flashback to Pregeor, and now she was back in the hospital, undergoing treatment in its psychiatric wing.

Talia’s exercises seemed rather flat without her friend, so once she'd done enough to work out the kinks in her muscles and generate an internal glow, she showered, dressed, and went in search of breakfast.

“Morning, Talia.”  Boris Dechorsky was another of her tight-knit group.  He was actually her closest friend, apart from Anoushka.  He was a couple of inches taller than she was, and a few years older, but they rarely disagreed about anything, and often seemed to know what each other was thinking.  On the other hand, though he knew no more than she did about their lives before Pregeor, she somehow felt that his history was a sad one – maybe it was the lines on his face, which seemed to indicate that he’d faced a lot of pain in his past.

“Good morning, Boris.  Is there coffee brewing?”  She knew there would be, and he nodded as he poured a steaming mug and handed it to her.  “Thank you, Comrade.  How are things at the Skyport?”

He grimaced.  “A bit slow at the moment.  The tension with Telphania means we get less traffic, which means less to fix.  Ivan and I fill our time doing maintenance checks, but it’s hardly entertaining.  Speaking of Comrade Baranov, I wonder where he is?  I don’t want to be late.”

The young man in question chose that point to appear.  He was still half-asleep, and had not yet shaved.  Ivan Baranov was another of their small band – the youngest, apart from the boy Josef, he found his new-found celebrity a great advantage when it came to his social life.  His devil-may-care attitude sometimes grated, but he could be good company – when he didn’t have a hangover.  Boris glowered at him, but he just yawned noisily and scratched himself, poured himself some tea, slumped down in a chair, and rested his head in his hands.  “Just gimme a couple o’ minutes,” he muttered.

“Have a fun evening, Comrade?” Talia asked brightly.

“More fun than this morning.”  Ivan gave her a slightly resentful glare.  He knew she realised how much he drank on poker nights, and the delight she took in teasing him.  As recompense, despite Boris’s look of disapproval, she poured Ivan a small measure of vodka, which he downed gratefully.

“Thank you, Comrade Talia – you’re a life saver.”

“I hope so.  Yours would be the third life I’ve saved this week – though the others were in more danger, and their conditions were hardly self-inflicted.  Now go and shave before Comrade Boris here has apoplexy."

Boris raised an eyebrow as Ivan shuffled off.  “Yes – you stopped Leon bleeding to death yesterday, didn’t you?”

“I suppose so – but to lose half his arm like that… a turbine, wasn’t it?”

“Yes.  Didn’t look where he was going, the young idiot – but at least half a future is better than none.”  They sat in silence until Ivan returned and he and Boris set out for the bus.

Talia wondered how less enlightened nations managed without such a fine public transport system.  Boris and Ivan would be at work exactly on time.  She was on the afternoon shift, so she had time to eat a good breakfast and study for a couple of hours before she caught the shuttle herself.

She felt fortunate to have been made a Nurse Manager at the Medical Centre.  Though she couldn’t remember it, she’d been told that she’d been a Senior Nurse at Pregeor General Hospital.  Apparently, when the disaster occurred, she had succoured and treated the injured, and, like her fellow Heroes, had refused to leave before the last of the survivors had been rescued.  The Comrade President had been so impressed by her bravery and dedication that he had personally appointed her to her current position.

She had made many friends at the Medical Centre.  One of them, Dr Julia Romanova, had noticed how quickly she mastered new techniques, and had been sponsoring her medical studies.  She had been given an exemption from pre-medical training and the first year of a part-time medical degree due to her training and experience as a nurse, and she was three months into her second year.  That morning, she became so engrossed in her studies – she had just completed a course on ‘The Effects of Gradual and Explosive Decompression’, and was beginning to get to grips with ‘The Physiological and Psychological Effects of Exotic Atmosphere Leaks’ – that she nearly missed her bus.

Being a Hero of the Republic could have its downside: because of your celebrity, you had no privacy when in public, and always had to be ready for the curiosity of other citizens.  She could cope with formal occasions, but found impromptu encounters difficult – it was like being continually on parade.

Normally, she travelled with Anoushka, and they could lessen interference by sharing a seat and talking to each other.  People are less likely to interrupt a conversation than to address someone sitting on their own.  But on this occasion she was by herself, and the bus being nearly full, had to share a seat.  The elderly man she sat next to noticed the starburst on the collar of her uniform.  He kept looking at her, then looking away, but in the end he plucked up the courage to address her.

“My apologies, Comrade Hero, but I notice that you were at Pregeor,” he began.  “Are you by any chance Comrade Hero Talia Milanova?”

She nodded and smiled, but her heart sank within her.  Yet again she missed Anoushka, who always took these encounters in good heart, and shielded her from the worst of them.

One passenger, a girl of about eight, said proudly, “My name’s Talia, too – and when I grow up I’m going to be a Hero, just like you.”

“Good for you,” Talia replied, forcing another smile.  “But remember that every citizen who does their duty for the Republic is a true hero.”

The girl nodded vigorously.  “What was it like at Pregeor, Comrade Hero?”

“Hush, Talia,” said a middle-aged woman who sat next to the girl, who Talia judged to be her mother.  “Don’t bother the Comrade Hero.  I’m sure she doesn’t like to be reminded of that horrible day.”

Talia gave the woman a look of gratitude.  “Thank you – you’re right.  I’m sorry, young Talia, but I don’t even like to try to remember it.  When I do, it makes me shiver and shake, and all that I can remember is the fire, and someone’s face melting.”  Even as she tried to talk dispassionately about Pregeor, Talia could feel her heart beginning to race and the sweat building, but luckily she was just about to reach her destination, and could wrench her thoughts back to her duties.  She made her exit to a chorus of sympathetic farewells.

The day passed uneventfully.  Since, apart from providing emergency treatment for workers at the Skyport, the Centre primarily catered for tourists, they had few patients for the same reason that Boris and Ivan’s workshop was lightly loaded – the tension with Telphania meant few traders and even fewer passenger liners were currently visiting Ruine.

There had been border troubles for many years, especially since the citizens of Silvana chose the joys of freedom as part of the Republic over slavery to the repressive government of Telphania, but recently tensions had escalated.  When the investigations of Zelyna’s security forces had laid the responsibility for the devastation at Pregeor squarely on the shoulders of Telphania and its allies, the citizens of Silvana had become incensed, and had volunteered in droves for the armed forces.  Reports of Telphanian soldiers massing on the border meant it was likely to be only a matter of time before violence erupted.

The journey back that evening was quieter, and mostly spent in pleasant anticipation, as Talia was to have dinner with Major Valentine.  She knew it was part of his job as Security Liaison Officer to talk to them all regularly, but somehow these evenings had become more to her than just duty.  She spent especial care preparing, and chose her best dress - something Ivan noticed only too well.

“Oh, Comrade Talia, you
do
look seductive tonight,” he said.

She felt her face redden.  “It’s only a security briefing, Comrade,” she replied tersely.

“I bet you wish it was more than that.”

She dug her nails into her palms, and would have slapped Ivan had she been near enough.  She knew he was only teasing and meant no harm, but it was near enough to the truth to hurt.  The Major
was
attractive, as well as being considerate and charming company, and she sometimes found herself imagining what a deeper relationship with him would be like.  However, as Ivan well knew, the Major seemed to harbour no reciprocal desires – indeed, although he seemed friendly most of the time, there were some days when he treated her with an icy, almost inhuman, detachment.

BOOK: Sunset in Silvana (Da'ark Nocturne Book 1)
6.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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