Happy Friday Everyone!
So I’ve decided, in addition to Tuesdays and Thursdays, I will begin posting longer stories in “parts” each Friday. I have several novella/novelette-length stories that I’m working on, and a few finished.
For the next few weeks, I’ll be posting the first of these longer works called Band of the Red. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it and the others to come.
Also, I may be adding more pages/content (not stories) to the site in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out and enjoy your weekend.
Band of The Red
PRELUDE TO WAR
At peace for thousands of years, and presided over by the loudest voices in ten galaxies, The Federation’s open-court held deliberation. The issue at-hand was whether or not to break treaties passed long ago by ancestors whose names have been forgotten. The leaders of many, great worlds pled for continued peace in the council’s enormous chambers. They cited that no man nor woman has a warring sense about them any longer. The strategically minded agreed; there was no favorable outcome to aggression, our weapons were powerful, but our tactics untrained. These voices echoed endlessly off the Council’s great, metallic walls.
And in reply? Nothing more than their echo back at them.
How did it come to this? The truth is, it should not have. At least it would not have, had the decision been left to those whom would fight. But they were not the individuals in the position to make the call. Those old, robed fools merely sat on-high, deciding the fate of Billions with less consideration than a larvae to its evening meal.
So, what then was the motivation to break three thousands of years of serenity, tranquility? It was, as it always has been, personal gain.
Two major factions began a conflict that led to Federation intervention; the Verbero, and the Mustela. The Verbero, represented in council by their Lord and namesake, sought profits with an unchecked desire. Verbero was a fat man in the grandest of senses. His robes fell over his stained undergarments, that rarely (if ever) were cleaned or changed. Jewel-encrusted rings shined across his plump fingers that groped mercilessly for all within grasp– in both a literal and figurative sense.
For many years, he and his faction had been responsible for trade among The Federation’s planets. He held himself a king. But fiefdom was not the Federation’s way. Often Verbero-shipments were accompanied by the Lord’s personal men; scoundrels and dregs of the galaxy that hassled merchants for increased payment on delivery. The Verbero (both the man, and those whom took his namesake) were unscrupulous scoundrels.
The Mustela, until very recently, were a poor and simple folk– farmers, hermits, the like. They wore the obvious rags of their station, and it was said their Council representative owned the only suit to be found in the whole system. Only after massive veins of the mineral D-335 were discovered within their planetary system, did the representative even have cause to wear it.
For whatever reason, (perhaps at the beginning of time, the formation of their solar-system allowed it) this mineral seemed most abundant in their system. As the main component to The Federation’s defensive weaponry, the discovery placed the Galaxy in a unique position. The balance of economic and political power tipped from Verbero to the Mustela.
In a literal, over-night sense, this tattered, agrarian system became the most important political power in The Federation. Their representative quickly curried the Council’s favor through his home-grown charisma and ever-present suit. Gal-Net news briefs showed him in Council perched humbly in his seat, or at banquets for those of The Federation’s highest esteem. As such, his voice became both well-heard and well-regarded.
That was, to everyone but Lord Verbero.
Ancient and unforgiving, the fat, old-bastard felt entitled to a share of profits from the D-335 mines. As far as the Mustela were concerned, he was not. For a moment, this was only a minor source of contention with either side pitted against the other in negotiations.
Why there were negotiations in the first place is beyond me. Had you asked, I’d have said Verbero wasn’t entitled to a damned thing– but I digress. The contentious negotiations later broke down. The Federation’s mediator, a neutral party if Gal-Net were to be believed, as well as the Mustela representative, failed to see reason for a tithe to Verbero. Though the mineral was found along his trade routes, he had not found it. And so long as the Mustela did not use his caravans to transport it, he had no rights to it. In simplest terms, the mediator sided with the Mustela even before the talks broke-down.
Gal-Net went wild when The Federation formally denied all tithe Verbero sought. Some called for Verbero’s head, others for annexation of the Mustela system. Still more made speculations and predictions of what was to come. Though most of them were wrong, the few that later turned out to be right, wished they weren’t.
What followed Gal-Net’s formal reports was the beginning of a series of hit-and-runs that turned to a formal declaration of war. While no evidence against Lord Verbero personally, was found, even a fool could see it was his men ransacking the Mustela trade-routes.
One such incident was widely reported, amid obvious rumors, on Gal-Net: Mustela’s caravan had made its hyper-jump between its system and the next, only to emerge before an armada. The plundering thieves tore through the Federation-appointed guard, and boarded the Mustela ships. They murdered all aboard, took the D-335, then made for the black market. The few Federation scouts that escaped did so with brutal, visual evidence of the attack. Even now, years past, the images of their scorched ships are used as a symbol of remembrance.
Following Gal-Net’s report, many system-leaders chose sides. Those seeking profit sided with Verbero, hoping to create a veritable aristocracy among the stars. The others, seeking justice and retribution, sided with Mustela. This led to a precipice of peace, where it was possible look down into a chasm of war.
How could we war over this? It was undoubtedly foolish, selfish even. But as I said before, it is not those who take up weapons to fight that have the final say. The Federation has always had a vast army, but its main purposes are defense, posturing. The Verbero though, have always had vast riches at their side. At that, rumor suggested that Lord Verbero, with aid from certain mercenaries, was building an army to rival The Federation’s own.
This was the point where we attempted to jump the chasm– leap its distance and land on the other-side at a peaceful resolution. A final round of peace-talks began. But the chasm was as wide as it was deep, and stretched into the bowels of planet as volatile as the Lord’s lust for riches. Little hope for peace remained, and when the talks once more faltered, The Federation began drafting recruits.
There was no point in lying to ourselves anymore. War would begin in the coming days. Ships and weapons that had not been launched or fired in anger for thousands of years would immediately loose themselves upon the stars. Until the first shots came, some held hope with bated breath that a last-minute resolution would be reached.
I for one, held no such hope. I had been drafted. The final session of Council in those blasted chambers determined my fate. With The Federation at his side, the representative of The Mustela appeared on Gal-Net to personally condemn the attacks suffered on the D-335 trade routes. Though the word was never said, war had been be declared. Undoubtedly, the fighting immediately began; either side laying in wait for the formal acknowledgment with their first targets already sighted.
But how did I feel about it? The truth was, it didn’t matter. I’m one of the few who smelled the Verbero’s treacherous nature before Mustela’s D-335 was ever discovered. I knew their Lord, greedy and ruthless as he was, would one day bring an end to peace. The only thing needed to spur the warring was something valuable enough to both he and The Federation. The trade-routes presented ample fuel for the fire, and I sensed it outright.
Never has a thing been more dangerous nor depraved than a leader whose sole pursuit is riches.
I smelled the proverbial fire before it was ever thought to be lit. And in the nights of the first peace talks, I dreamed of assassinating Lord Verbero and his seconds. I wished nothing more than to see his bloated corpse begin to rot beneath my outstretched hands. In the years that I have lived, the Verbero traders have slowly imposed their stranglehold on The Federation. Inside it has been near-invisible. From the outside, it has been subtle, insidious, but even with the greatest foresight there was little to be done about it; the Verbero had monopolized trade. At the formal declaration, that trade came to a screeching halt. The majority of The Federation’s populous who’d sided with the Mustela would starve before the end of the war unless something were done.
When the council adjourned live on Gal-Net, The Federation had split damn-near down the middle. It was almost as if one could see the aristocracy rise and exit the chamber to one side, while the crusaders wandered out the other. Regardless of my feelings, I prepared for war.