Authors: Andy Kasch
Test of Magnitude
The Torian Reclamation
© 2013 Andy Kasch
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, religious bodies, corporate or governmental entities, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, including scanning, photocopying, or otherwise without the express prior written consent of the author.
Table of Contents
New Year’s Eve 2012, Earth
Brandon hated it when she got like this. All it took was a little alcohol, and suddenly his wife was interested in every other man but him. Usually, he could keep her away from booze—but tonight was New Year’s Eve, and the hotel ballroom was set up to make sure no one ever had an empty glass. Sheri was refilling hers too often. Brandon knew he would have trouble with her tonight from the moment they came downstairs. He did manage to keep her up in the room until after nine, which was a pretty good coup.
Once she was loose, however, Sheri quickly made up for lost time. She was highly skilled in giving him the slip at parties. Every time Brandon took his eyes off her, even for a moment, she became instantly lost in the crowd. By the time he found her again, all too often it was with her hand on the arm of some guy who seemed surprised when Brandon walked up to claim her. This was getting to be too much work. At least it would soon be midnight. Hopefully, the place would thin out soon thereafter and he could get her back to the room without a lot of resistance.
Sheri was too young when Brandon married her. He knew that now, and had come to the conclusion that you don’t want to be your wife’s first love. Let them get that out of their system first. Otherwise, you end up looking like a fool when they get bored and start looking around at everything the world has to offer a hot, young party girl.
“Honey,” Brandon said, “would you like to go outside and get a little air before midnight?”
Sheri looked at him like he had just grown a third eye. “Go outside? What the hell for? The party’s in here.”
“Well, it’s nice outside, and fresh air is good for us, especially when we’ve been drinking.” Brandon was being careful with his words, making sure he didn’t refer to
drinking, as he knew all too well how that would make her rebel.
“Oh, you want to smoke your cigar, don’t you?” she said. “I’m sorry, Honey. You go ahead. That’s a good idea. I’ll see you when you get back.”
Before he could stop her, Sheri turned sideways and slid through several layers of people. It hurt, but Brandon was starting to get used to it. She was simply uncontrollable. He spotted her again halfway across the room sidling up to a man Brandon dragged her away from earlier. Brandon watched as Sheri grabbed ahold of his arm to whisper something in his ear. The two of them started laughing. Brandon was near his breaking point.
Perhaps the best thing to do was go outside and smoke that cigar after all. He needed a break from the battle. There probably wasn’t much point in it any longer, anyway. Maybe he should just give up and see what sort of a mess she gets herself into. Of course, she would probably get his Corvette in the divorce. That factor alone may justify his continued attempts to keep a tight rein on her.
Brandon pushed his way out of the ballroom into the hotel lobby. He stepped out the front door into the parking lot, and then meandered over to the park adjacent to the hotel. There were a lot of people coming and going, some of them in costume. He almost bumped into Elvis on the walkway leading to the park.
As he lit his cigar, Brandon tried to think of a unique personalized license plate with the word
in it that he could put on the Corvette after some liberal divorce court judge awarded her his car. It would probably be months before she even noticed it. Some of the names he came up with made him smile. The fresh air did feel good on his face, and his special Cuban
Romeo and Julieta
that he had been saving tasted wonderful.
Two guys in extremely bizarre costumes passed by, coming from the direction of the hotel going into the park. They were both tall, thin, and covered from head to toe in bright leathery skin. As far as Brandon could tell, it looked like polished silver-colored alligator skin. The eye-holes were barely more than slits, and the bumps for their noses were strangely small. Maybe this was a new variation on those stretchy-bodysuit things you see some snowboarders wear on the ski slopes.
There was something alluring about those bright leather costumes. They were real-looking, and, he had to admit, pretty cool. Brandon casually followed the two alligator men into the park, keeping his distance while puffing away and taking in the nighttime scenery.
The cigar was a slow burner. If Brandon were to stay out here and finish it—which is what he felt like doing—he would miss midnight and Sheri would doubtlessly get into all kinds of trouble. This was so stupid, a man not being able to trust his own wife. He didn’t really want to go back in there. Brandon was enjoying himself now, for the first time all weekend.
He decided to stroll through the park and keep at the cigar. Maybe he could get a better look at those alligator men, who had vanished behind a grove of trees as the walkway veered to the right. Brandon continued in that direction, staying on the well-lit path.
As the walkway turned, the hotel fell out of view behind the trees. There was a pond on the left side, and a wide expanse of field with large patches of tall brush directly ahead. The path followed the shore of the pond. Brandon couldn’t see the alligator men anywhere. Maybe they were off in the bushes smoking dope. He stopped and surveyed the night view of the park, then turned to head back toward the hotel.
Suddenly, he was grabbed from behind by two sets of arms. Before he could let out a yell, an abrasive hand was covering his mouth. Brandon struggled, but was lifted off the ground. Another hand was on his left ear, and what felt like a leather finger inserted itself into his ear canal. Brandon kicked and squirmed and let out muffled yells, but quickly became dizzy and started losing energy. In another moment, his body went limp.
He was barely conscious now, and the two men who had grabbed ahold of him were dragging him through the trees like a ragdoll. The last thing he remembered seeing before passing out were tiny sparks flying from the cigar ember as his precious
Romeo and Julieta
rolled down the hill and into the pond.
Midnight came with all the usual fanfare back at the hotel. They played the scene from New York City on the big screen, and everyone counted along as the ball dropped. When the air horns started blowing, Sheri grabbed the man she was with by the neck and engaged him in a long, passionate kiss.
Then the fireworks went off. Ooh’s and ah’s filled the ballroom as the guests gazed out the plate glass window to watch the colorful explosions over the park. Sheri noticed one particularly bright firework that kept rising, seemingly forever, without ever exploding. She sighed and rested her head on the man’s shoulder while tightly grasping his arm with both of hers.
The man looked around nervously and said, “Um …where’s your husband?”
Sheri didn’t move. She just kept looking up at the night sky.
“Far away, I hope.”
Twenty Years Later, Tora Star System
“The view is spectacular. We haven’t seen anything like it.”
“Glad you are enjoying it, Ambassador.” In truth, however, Mip7 wasn’t glad about anything. He didn’t especially like the Azaarian ambassador, wasn’t thrilled about him being here, didn’t trust him, and he certainly wasn’t happy he liked the view. Everyone who ever came to the Cardinal-4 Space Station was always astounded by the view. They all reacted the same way, and it’s about all you ever heard visitors talk about. The residents who handled visitor relations were understandably less than enthusiastic about it.
“No,” the ambassador continued, “there is nothing else like this in our region of the galaxy. But then, twin worlds sharing the same orbit are rare.”