Read The Cyber Chronicles IX - Precipice Online

Authors: T C Southwell

Tags: #lost, #despair, #humanity, #precipice

The Cyber Chronicles IX - Precipice

Chronicles IX







Published by T
C Southwell at Smashwords


Copyright ©
2011 by T C Southwell


Edition, License Notes


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Table of


Chapter One


Chapter Two


Chapter Three


Chapter Four


Chapter Five


Chapter Six


Chapter Seven


Chapter Eight


Chapter Nine


Chapter Ten


Chapter Eleven


Chapter Twelve


Chapter Thirteen


Chapter Fourteen




Chapter One


Tarl looked up
as the cell door opened to reveal two scruffy men armed with
lasers. He rose to his feet, helping Tassin up. The three Olgaran
girls cowered in the corner, whimpering. He estimated that at least
twelve hours had passed since the slavers had kidnapped them from
Omega Five, but in the constant lighting the only ways to measure
time were fatigue, thirst and hunger. If he was right, it meant
they were, in all likelihood, a long way from home. Even that was
not a certainty, however, since he had no idea if the ship had
entered one or more photon corridors or how long it had spent in

"Come on, out,"
the taller slaver said.

Tarl put an arm
around Tassin's shoulders as they exited the cell, and the girls
followed, trying to hide behind them. One guard walked away along
the corridor, the second man waved his weapon at them. "Follow

"Where are we
going?" Tassin demanded.

"To be

"You can't, I
am a queen, I -"

"Shut it."

Tarl tightened
his grip on her shoulders. "Don't antagonise them. Remember what I

The Queen
raised her chin and glared at the back of the man in front of them,
and Tarl hoped she would continue to heed his advice. They squeezed
into the lift and travelled down, then stepped out onto a docking
port entry, which stood open. A dark corridor yawned beyond the
ship's bright doorway, its dull metal walls pimpled with rivets.
Tassin shook off Tarl's arm and marched along it, her head

The repair tech
leant closer to murmur, "This is either a space station, or a
bigger ship."

"What makes you
say that?"

"Because we're
docked with it, and the ship we came in isn't capable of

"So what does
it mean?"

Tarl shrugged.
"Just that there's no escape here."

A murmur of
deep voices grew louder as they walked along the dim corridor that
weak lights illuminated at irregular intervals. The new
surroundings were more in keeping with a smugglers' environment,
unlike the smart new ship they had arrived in, and the two guards
looked right at home. They passed other unkempt men, who greeted
the guards in a strange dialect Tarl did not understand. At the end
of the corridor, they entered an immense chamber lined with
catwalks against dull, pitted metal walls, the floor crowded with a
motley collection of people, mostly men.

Some were well
dressed; others sported an overabundance of jewellery, but the
majority looked like more smugglers and slavers. On a platform at
one end of the room, a fat man stood behind a plinth, holding a
gavel. Beyond him, three women waited with bowed heads. Tangled,
matted hair covered their faces and torn clothes hung on them. The
fat man called out numbers, and shouts came from the crowd over the
background murmur as bidders made their offers. Tassin wrinkled her
nose at the musky stench of unwashed bodies, casting Tarl a haughty
look that made him wonder what was going on in her head.

Their guards
herded them past the crowd to a clearing beside the platform. The
fat man banged his gavel and the women were led away. One of the
slavers dragged the three Olgaran girls onto the stage, and the fat
man demanded bids from the crowd. Tassin waited with folded arms,
tapping her foot as if impatient to be sold. The Olgaran girls,
younger and prettier than the last trio of women, were sold quickly
and led off. A guard turned to Tassin and jerked his weapon at the
platform. She shot him a scathing look and ascended the steps, but
when Tarl tried to follow, the other slaver blocked his path,
shaking his head.

"Only her."

Tassin stopped
and turned. "He comes with me, or I don't go."

"You'll go,
whether you want to or not."

"No one will
want to buy a shouting, fighting woman. He stays with me. He's my

The second
guard went over and muttered to the first, who shrugged and jerked
his laser at Tarl. "Go."

Tarl followed
the Queen onto the platform, marvelling that her regal authority
even swayed slavers into letting her have her way. Tassin walked
around the stage and glared at the crowd, scanning it. The
auctioneer opened his mouth and drew a breath, but she raised an
imperious hand.

"Wait." She
turned to address the throng. "Only a man of noble blood may bid
for me. If a common man buys me, he will perish at my hand."

The crowd
laughed, and some men called raucous insults or snide comments.
Tassin studied the assembly, becoming intent on a man at the back.
She pointed at him.

"You may bid."
Her gaze wandered on and settled upon another individual. "And

Tarl groaned
and shook his head, admiring her courage while he wondered what the
outcome of it would be. The auctioneer gaped at her as she selected
two more men, then nodded to him.

"Pray continue,
my good man."

The fat man
bowed with a mocking smile. "Thank you, Your Highness."

Tassin clasped
her hands before her and raised her head to gaze at the crowd as
the auctioneer demanded bids. Several common looking men raised
their hands, and she glared at them. One of the men she had chosen
made a bid, and she cast him a slight smile and gave a regal nod.
Tarl wanted to laugh, yet it was working. Less and less of the
scruffy men bid for her, and two of the men she had chosen entered
into a bidding war.

At last the
auctioneer banged his gavel, and Tassin was ushered from the
platform as two dirty, bruised men were led onto it. The slavers
took Tassin and Tarl to a chamber off the auction room, where they
waited for several minutes, while their new owner to paid for them,
he guessed. Tassin fidgeted, revealing how ragged her nerves really
were, and he resisted the urge to comfort her, since it would spoil
her regal air. The slavers who guarded them left when a tall man in
rich, but understated clothes arrived to take charge of them.
Tassin turned to him, and he bowed.

"Baron Ashmond,
at your service."

She held out
her hand, palm down. "Queen Tassin Alrade of Arlin, Omega

He smiled, took
her hand and kissed the back of it. "An honour indeed, Majesty. How
did a queen come to fall into such foul company, may I ask?"

"I was tricked,
My Lord."

His eyes slid
over her. "I am glad you came to no harm."

"Even commoners
find themselves respectful in the company of royalty, willing or

"You certainly
appear to be well bred, Majesty, though your attire is a little...
plain. However, you have a knack for spotting noble blood, it would
seem. You selected myself, Duke Jerom, Prince Ferlar, Lord Varan
and Count Edriss, the only noblemen out there. Uncanny."

"To one raised
amongst noble blood, it is natural to be able to spot aristocrats.
A prince would have pleased me more, however."

"And I am just
a humble baron, alas."

She inclined
her head. "Nevertheless, you will suffice, Baron Ashmond. At least
you are a nobleman, unlike those filthy boors."

"Indeed, and I
paid a handsome price for you, My Lady."

"Which will be
reimbursed as soon as you return me to Omega Five, I assure you;
plus a reward and your costs to transport me there, naturally."

Tarl listened
with growing amazement, wondering if Tassin's bold tactic was
actually going to work.

The baron shook
his head. "Alas, My Lady, it is not I who purchased you. I am but a

"Then to whom
must I speak in this regard?"


Her brows rose.
"Indeed. Then take me to him at once, My Lord. I am impatient to
return to my kingdom."

"First I must
enquire as to the reason for your plain attire, Queen Tassin."

She glanced
down at her riding habit. "I was out riding when I was abducted, My
Lord. I do not indulge in horse riding in a court dress, nor bedeck
myself with jewels."

"Of course."
The baron gestured to the door. "Shall we? Emperor Endrovar will be
eager to meet you."

"And I

Tassin headed
for the door, and Tarl hurried ahead to open it for her with a bow,
to enhance her claim of being royalty. The baron eyed him with a
smile, followed the Queen and guided her with soft-spoken
directions as they traversed several dim, shoddy passageways and
passed through two fair-sized rooms, one of which appeared to be a
foyer and the other a terminus. Tarl opened the doors for Tassin,
and she swept through them with her head held high, causing men to
step from her path in surprise. They arrived at a docking port and
passed through it into a ship’s plush corridor carpeted in burgundy
and hung with gossamer skeins of pale crimson silk.

Ashmond showed
them into a spacious room with carved, old-fashioned furniture,
deep burgundy carpets and a surfeit of dainty porcelain
brick-a-brack on numerous glass shelves and in several
glass-fronted cabinets. Coats of arms adorned the cream walls, and
Tarl glanced around with interest. By some lucky twist of fate,
they had come across one of the rare space-faring societies that
clung to a monarchical hierarchy. Several well-groomed ladies in
ornate court gowns watched them pass, sipping tea from porcelain
cups, their cheeks rouged and their hair piled in powdered
pompadours. A group of equally powdered and bewigged men in
britches and slit-sleeved jackets over ruffled silk shirts sipped
glasses of amber liquid he assumed was sherry or something similar.
His heart sank when he spotted the man who could only be the
emperor sprawled on a vast golden throne with burgundy cushions,
two near-naked girls feeding him bite-sized fruit.

overflowed his cream britches, royal blue smoking jacket and white
silk shirt, his enormous gut almost reaching his knees. Gold
tassels, buttons and medals ornamented his outfit, and gold chains
and bracelets were almost hidden by bulging flesh. His broad,
pugnacious face clearly had no trace of royal blood. A broken nose
and cauliflower ear told of past violence of the pugilistic sort.
Two cybers stood behind the throne, clad in smart burgundy and gold
uniforms. They were about Sabre's age, and Tassin stopped and
stared at them, clearly disconcerted. Recovering, she swept up to
the throne and inclined her head to the obese emperor, who eyed

Tarl bowed low,
making himself inconspicuous. Endrovar chewed a fruit, spat a pip
onto the floor, and belched.

"So, Ashmond,
what did you buy me today? This looks like a fine little strumpet,
but she has a bad attitude by the looks of it."

The baron
bowed. "The best of a bad lot, Your Grace; she claims to be a

guffawed. "Does she indeed? How..." He frowned, searching for the
right word, then snapped his fingers. "Presumptuous!"

"Indeed, Your

Tassin cast
Ashmond a frown and muttered, "This is a man of low blood, Baron.
Is this a jest?"

"Ah, well,
Emperor Endrovar was not born into royalty, but lays claim to his
title by dint of his vast wealth."

"That much is
obvious. Did he purchase his title, or make it up?"

"A bit of
both." Ashmond smiled. "And I'm afraid he has too much money to be
tempted by your offer of a reward for your return."

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