For this week’s post I thought I’d share scene 1 of The Rebel Queen.
The genre is a political drama set among an alien species. The story runs parallel to a section of Vengeance Will Come, which I discussed here.
It’s a longer post (approx 2,000 words) so make yourself a cuppa and get comfortable as you read. Please, do let me know what you think in the comments below.
“When Deckarians are looking for a planet to colonize they seek isolated and inhospitable planets. They prefer geologically stable, arid planets with thick crusts into which they can burrow.
The new colony begins the slow and methodical Deckarian terraforming: diverting surface waters into underground reservoirs, making the planet’s surface more hostile.
It is both a camouflage and a comfort to the Deckarian mindset that thrives underground. To be above ground is to be foolish and invite trouble; to be deep below is to be safe.”
Diary entry of Dr Susan Passive
– – –
The female Deckarian, Khuel, was half-hidden in the dim lighting of the drinking hole. The lighting matched the mood: unpretentious and quiet.
Having nothing better to do she watched the viewing screen with idle interest. Two human males circled each other in the Fighting Pit. Like all humans, both were lanky, long of arm and leg by Deckarian standards and covered with soft, fragile skin. One brandished an axe, the other a long knife. Both wore fear on their faces as they contemplated death.
Khuel was slumped forward so her leathery grime-covered forearms rested on the polished pine counter. Her dirty appearance suggested she’d come straight from work and was looking for a drink, not company. Even still, she’d already cast aside three hopeful males.
With her peripheral vision she saw a male Deckarian enter the drinking hole. He chatted with the pourer just long enough to prospect the room. Picking up his drink the male walked over to sit next to Khuel as though the rest of the counter wasn’t empty.
Here it comes, Khuel thought as the male turned to her, “I’ve seen you in here a few times but we’ve never been introduced. My name is Hun,” the male gave her a friendly smile. Khuel picked herself up slightly off the counter but continued to spin her empty glass without looking at him. Hun persevered, “Looks like you’ve had a hard day?”
She said nothing, but let out a long sigh. She pushed the glass away from her as a sign of completion.
“Don’t be in such a hurry to leave. Let me buy you a drink to improve your night,” Hun offered quickly and signalled the pourer. Khuel didn’t stop him ordering the drink, so she turned and gave him a weak smile in payment.
Hun wore the steel-studded collar of a clutch leader, marking him as modestly successful. He looked ten years older than her.
“There, is that better? A free drink or two and someone nice to talk to, the night is looking up,” Hun said. He hopes, Khuel thought with a slight smile.
“Sure, why not,” Khuel said, sitting up straight and turning her attention to him. Hun’s face lit up like a forming star in response to the encouragement.
“You haven’t told me your name yet?” Hun prompted.
Khuel smiled mischievously. “The drink will get you a smile, if you want my name you’ll have to do better than that.”
Hun smiled as though he’d just struck Rhodium and deployed a well-worn line. “You know you’ve got a pretty face when you smile.”
“So I’m not pretty when I don’t smile?” Khuel rolled her eyes and took a large gulp of her drink, “I bet you say that to all the females.”
Hun noted the rapidly diminishing drink and his window of opportunity. “So, you work in this sector?” he asked.
“I spend my working hours in near-darkness, elbow-deep in fertiliser, harvesting mushrooms.”
“That’s a valuable job. Food production is vital to the wellbeing of the colony.”
“Valuable, perhaps, but very dirty,” Khuel examined her mud-stained fingernails. Hun wasn’t very choosey, but given the age gap between them…
“Oh there’s no shame in the side-effects of hard work,” Hun said with pride. “Better to stink of sweat than smell sweetly like some who do no work.”
“Ain’t that the truth.” Khuel agreed with a sigh. Nothing like a little class hatred to draw friends together. “There seem to be more perfumed preeners in the colony every year; I don’t know where they come from,” she replied.
“Most preeners are pilots of course,” Hun said, “they walk around the colony as though they’re our betters. Some of the soldier class too. And then there’s the occasional worker-“
“Not many,” Khuel interrupted, “It’s not in the nature of us workers to consider ourselves better than others. Even if we were, we wouldn’t say it.”
“Have you…” Khuel started and then looked around to check they wouldn’t be overheard, continuing in a whisper, “heard the rumours that the rebel Queen favours the worker class?”
Hun had his glass halfway to his mouth but immediately put it down. He shot her a glare and checked their surroundings too. He leaned in close, but his tone was hard and pointed like a freshly sharpened pick, “Such talk is foolish. Dangerous. Definitely not for public airing; it could be seen as treasonous.”
Khuel put her hands up in tired surrender, “Sorry, I didn’t meaning anything by it. I wasn’t saying I wanted a new Queen, just repeating the rumours that I’d heard.” Hun looked at her sideways. The hunter had become skittish prey.
“Oh come on, don’t be like that,” Khuel pouted, “you’re the first actually nice male who’s talked to me tonight. Sometimes I just think too much…”
Hun didn’t say anything and just sipped his beer with a grim look on his face. I’ve spoiled it, Khuel thought. In several quick gulps Khuel emptied her glass and then started to spin it on the counter. The pourer quickly rescued the glass before drifting away.
“Do you want another?” Hun asked, opening the door to more conversation. Khuel shook her head. Hun grabbed at the bowl of roaches on the counter and began to eat them. Hun spoke quietly in a conciliatory tone, “There’s nothing wrong with thinking anything, you just have to be careful what and when you say things.”
Khuel nodded in understanding and let the silence linger to defuse the tension. “I just thought that maybe some fresh ideas could improve life in the colony for everyone, not just those at the top,” Khuel reasoned.
“Do you really think that?” Hun whispered.
“Sure, why not? Just to be clear I’m not advocating for a new Queen, so don’t freak out on me… I just think some things in the colony could benefit from a change.”
Hun took a slow and very deliberate drink.
“So you’re optimistic and cute… I promise I won’t freak out on you,” Hun said and spoke conspiratorially, “I’ve heard a thing or two about this rebel. She has a lot of interesting, unconventional ideas.”
“Really? Like what?”
Hun gave a knowing smile. Khuel leaned in so that their faces were almost touching. She whispered to him, “Even though I’d never support another Queen, there’s something intriguing about her ideas. And the whole conspiracy – rebels hiding out somewhere in the colony… there’s a danger and a mystery about it which I find… more exciting than I should.”
Hun nodded slightly as he took another drink. “I suppose I could tell you what I know.” Khuel swiveled on her stool toward him and a shrewd glint appeared in Hun’s eye. “Not here; we can’t talk about it in public,” he said.
“Are you just trying to get me back to your bunk?”
“Yes,” he said candidly, “but I do know quite a bit about the rebel group and the Queen’s plans for the colony.”
There was a pause before Hun repeated her own challenge, “A smile will get you that much, but you’ll have to do better than that for more information.”
“I am curious,” Khuel admitted, “but how do I know you’re not just leading me on? Swear on G’Nar.”
“May G’Nar crush me if I’m lying,” Hun said with his hand on his head. “And what will I get in return?”
“I promise on G’Nar we’ll have a night to remember,” Khuel replied. She looking at his half-full glass, “have you finished your drink?”
“Almost,” Hun gulped down the last of his drink as though dying of thirst on the planet’s arid surface. He enthusiastically dug credits out of his pocket and placed them on the counter. He winked at the pourer as he followed Khuel out of the drinking hole.
Outside of the drinking hole the corridor was awash with Deckarians and humans slaves. Like the old saying went, ‘only the dead rest in the colony’, and everyone was about their work duties. They crossed over the crowd and into a quieter side-tunnel.
“Where are you bunked?” Khuel asked.
“I know somewhere closer that is just as discreet,” Khuel whispered and led him through several corridors before getting onto her hands and knees and sliding into a narrow access-tunnel. Hun laughed as he climbed in; the crawl-space was so narrow it forces them into each other’s arms. Khuel kissed him and Hun returned the kiss with twice the vigour. Khuel broke free from his kiss and whispered into his ear, “You will tell me everything?”
“Yes,” Hun promised breathlessly, his hands beginning to explore. Khuel smiled as Hun started to nuzzle her neck. Her arms around his neck, she twisted the silver ring on her finger, exposing the hypodermic needle hidden inside.
“Yes you will,” she said, and drove the needle into the soft tissue behind his ear.
He reacted instantly, trying to pull away from her in the tight space. The look of pain and surprise on his face became fear as he crawling backwards, but losing momentum fast. Khuel tucked her legs up into a sitting position as she watched Hun collapse to the ground, like the sack of garbage he was.
Khuel wiped his saliva from her mouth and rubbed it disgustedly on the wall. She smiled her first real smile of the evening; the Queen’s Sting had just captured another rebel sympathiser. Perhaps he would be the one to finally lead them to the rebel Queen.
END OF SCENE 1