Dragonstar – Part 01
Trace was picked up off the floor of the office by one of the guild’s enforcers, an orc and shoved roughly back on to the wooden chair. Wiping his split lip, the young half-elf contemptuously spat a glob of blood at the orc. This earned the 15-year-old another blow to the face, almost knocking him back off the chair. The coarse skin of the orc’s fist scraped across his cheek leaving behind a series of rough scratches and the force of the punch sent a tooth clattering across the floor. Only the grip of the thug’s partner kept him in the seat. Pulling his fist back for another blow, he was stopped by the dark-skinned human sitting behind the desk. “That’s enough,” the guildmaster Dorga ordered, “You’re getting blood all over my floor.” Growling, the orc cuffed Trace across the back of the head, hard, causing him to grunt in pain. “Brak!” Barked the guildmaster, “I said enough.” Sneering down at Trace, the orc stepped back. Standing up and walking around the desk, the guildmaster stood in front of Trace. “How many times do I have to beat it into you? I own you, you work for me. What’s yours is mine.” Dorga grabbed his chin, forcing the boy to look him in the eye. “Now, I’m only going to ask this once. Where’s the money you owe?”
Without blinking, Trace calmly answered. “I spent it.” Dorga looked into the boy’s face, searching for any sign of deception. Finding none, he slapped Trace angrily across the face. Pulling over a chair, he sat down in front of the boy. Gingerly rubbing the bruises on the side of his face, Trace looked at the guildmaster who seemed to be appraising him like a slice of beef. “You know, I’ve got a camera if you want a picture,” Trace said sarcastically.
As Dorga reached forward with his hand, Trace flinched involuntarily, his reaction causing the guildmaster to smile. “I like you Trace,” Dorga said stroking Trace’s face affectionately, an action that made the boy squirm with discomfort, “you’ve always been one of my favourites. You’re one of the best boosters in the guild and, until recently, you’ve been a good earner for me. I’d hate to see something happen to that pretty face of your’s.”
Trace smirked and hitched a thumb at the two orcs standing behind him by the door. “Bit late for that, looks like Teeny and Tiny over there already happened to it.” One of the orcs cracked his knuckles in anticipation of being told to continue the beating. Dorga, however, merely smiled. “Crud,” Trace thought to himself as he saw the guildmaster’s smile, “that is NOT a good sign.”
Dorga went back to his desk and picked up a tissue. “Kid, in a way, you remind me a little of myself when I was your age. Guess that’s why I’m giving you this one last chance.” He tossed the tissue over to Trace and looked at the boy sternly while he used the tissue to wipe away some of the blood from his mouth. “But this IS your last chance. You screw this up, or if I find out that you’ve been keeping the guild’s cut for yourself again, you’ll get a one way trip to the pound with the other mongrels.” Trace bit back a retort, if there was one thing he hated more than being called an elf, it was being called a mongrel but now was not the sort of time for backchat. Those sent to the “pound” quite literally ended up as dog food, or worse.
“So,” Trace asked sullenly, “what’s the job?”
“Nothing you can’t handle. You’re going to steal Lord Korodo’s new jumpcraft,” Dorga said smiling, his hand running through his short black hair.
“What!” Trace cried out in disbelief. “Are we talking about THE Lord Korodo, of House Mazorgrim, fourth nephew to the emperor umpteen times removed? THAT Korodo?”
“Yes, is that going to be a problem?” The guildmaster asked innocently.
“Gee Dorga, why don’t you just shoot me now and save the cops the trouble.” Trace said sarcastically.
The guildmaster shrugged, pulled a pistol from a shoulder holster and aimed it at Trace’s head. “If you say so.”
“Okay okay, I’ll do it.” Trace said holding his hands up.
“Good,” Dorga said smiling, “I want that vehicle at the usual place by noon tomorrow, no excuses. Now get out of my sight before I change my mind.” Brak grabbed Trace by the arm and roughly dragged him towards the door out of the office. “One more thing,” Dorga said as Trace reached the door. As he turned round to face the guildmaster, he caught a small object that Dorga tossed towards him. Looking down at his hand, he saw that it was his tooth that Brak had punched out earlier. “Don’t leave your crap on my floor.”
With that, Brak pushed him out of the door, down the short corridor and into the back alley bar that served as one of the guild’s safe houses. It had only just turned midday and there were already several people sitting at the bar or in traditional dark corners. Trace recognised a couple as being members of the guild, one or two of which smirked when they saw the bruises on his face. Brak shoved him of the front door and into the alley. On the way out, Trace tripped and landed in a dirty puddle cursing. The orc learned over him, sneering. “See you tomorrow kid, unless the cops get you first.” Laughing, Brak went back into the bar leaving Trace sitting in the puddle, the water soaking through his tatty pants.
“Great,” Trace said to no one in particular as he picked himself up, “either way my ass is toast.” Keeping his head down, Trace exited the alley and made his way down the street towards the nearest magrail stop. Trace smiled however as he looked down into his hand. In his hand was a wallet, he had lifted it from Brak’s pocket as he was manhandled through the bar.
Back in the bar, Dorga looked up from his desk as the door to his office opened. A drow strode in acting, as they always do, as if he owned the place. Without waiting for an invitation, he sat down opposite Dorga. “Are you sure that we can entrust this task to a child. My superiors are paying you for results, not for a baby sitting service.”
“Come in Caldrin, take a seat why don’t you.” Dorga said sarcastically.
“Don’t be facetious, we are concerned that the success of our operation depends on the skills of a mere youth,” snapped the drow. “This isn’t like bypassing the security on a convenience store’s safe, how can we be sure that the boy will be able to handle the pressure.”
“He may be young but he is the best slicer I know. That noble’s security system stands no chance.” Dorga said in an attempt to reassure the drow. The drow, however, still seemed unconvinced. “He may have a smart mouth on him, but he knows who’s calling the shots. He’s pistol-whipped worse than an unwanted puppy. He’ll do the job ‘cos he knows that he’s got no choice if he wants to see next week.”
The drow sat back in the chair, contemplating Dorga’s words. “There’s is a very good chance that the boy will not escape unscathed from this operation, are you so willing to sacrifice him considering that he seems so valuable to you.”
Dorga hesitated before answering. It was only a momentary hesitation, but it was enough for the attentive drow to note its presence. “He’s an asset, as long as the money is good, I don’t care if you put a bullet in his head to keep him quiet once the job is done.” Despite the fact that Dorga was skilled at deception and manipulating people to do his bidding, the drow was better. He could immediately tell that Dorga was lying.
The drow smiled as he handed Dorga an envelope containing several thousand credits. “I’m sure it will not come to that,” he lied, “if he is truly as skilled as you say, then I’m sure he will be returned to you safely.”
“Don’t suppose you’re going to tell me why you wanted the security taken down?” Dorga asked as he started to count the money.
Caldrin stood up and walked over to the door before turning to answer. “There are certain aspects of our operation that my superiors wish to minimise our connection too. An outside contractor is necessary. See to it that your boy does his part.” Not waiting for any answer, the drow left the office and headed outside. Once on the street, he walked over to a jumpcraft parked some distance away. The jumper’s cab was lined with a special material designed to both soundproof the cab and block any concievable type of surveillance device. It also acted as a magical Faraday cage, disabling any sort of magical communication making the cab secure for private communications. Activating the comm system, Caldrin connected to a number only know to a few people on the planet. The video screen showed nothing but static and the voice that emitted from the speaker was heavily distorted.
“Everything is proceeding according to plan. The local thieves’ guild has provided us with an expendable asset to bypass the security system.” Caldrin reported.
“Then the mission will proceed as planned?” The voice queried.
“Affirmative, by tomorrow morning Lord Korodo will be dead and nothing will link his assassination to the ISPD. Given the criminal record and background of the guild asset, the local authorities will have no trouble assuming that the death of Lord Korodo was due to a botched robbery attempt. We can expect a quick conviction followed by an even quicker execution.” Caldrin said devoid of emotion.
Trace’s short ride through the slums of Jurrika City, planetary capital of the planet of the same name, was an interesting study in the mindset of the average citizen. On any other world, a teenage boy with extensive bruises to the face and blood on his clothes might have attracted at least some attention or wary looks. However, House Mazorgrim, the royal house of the red dragons, ruled Jurrika and people learned at an early age to keep their heads down and feign ignorance in regards to what happened around them. Whether the bruises on his face were from a mugging, a punishment at work, an abusive family life or just the general violence a scruffy looking teenager might get involved in; people just didn’t care, especially in the poorer regions of the city.
Eventually the graffiti covered magrail pulled into Crystal Point, a warren of run down tenements and labyrinthine alleyways that served as Trace’s home. The buildings here were packed claustrophobically close, single and double story shacks filling the space between high-rise blocks of cheaply built apartments. Despite thousands of years of continuous habitation, Crystal Point was still without a decent power supply and they were still relying on the crumbling and ancient water system constructed before the chromatic dragons conquered the planet during the Dragon War over five millennia ago. Only the ministrations of the local temple kept the slum free from a deadly cholera outbreak.
Picking his way carefully through the garbage and rivulets of raw sewage overflowing from the drains, avoiding some of the darker alleyways, Trace made his way through the throngs of people packed together in the street. As he passed one of the market stalls, he stopped and slapped several of the notes from Brak’s wallet down on the counter, purchasing a few old loafs of bread and other food items. Keeping a tight hold on the bag of food, Trace eventually made it to a derelict tenement block that jutted up against the elevated magrail track. A steel security barrier blocked the front entrance. Fixed to it was a notice reading “Condemned – Unsafe Building” in common and draconic. Ignoring the sign, Trace went around the side of the building and climbed up an access ladder onto the magrail track. As he got to the top, one of the three-car maglevs swept passed at over 320 kilometres per hour. Trace had to hold onto the top of the ladder to avoid being blown off by the blast of wind. Once the maglev had passed by, Trace clambered onto the track and jogged over to a hole in the wall of the tenement abutting the track.
The hole opened up on to a cramped corridor that provided access to the various apartments. Trace had to be careful climbing in through the hole in order to avoid touching the heavy duty cables running through it. The cables connected to the power line supplying electricity to the magrail’s superconducting electromagnets and illegally tapping into to it to provide the building with power. Although the cables were insulated, Trace was not going to take a chance with several thousand volts flowing just centimetres from his face.
Flickering lights illuminated the corridor as Trace quietly made his way down it. Strange smells assaulted his senses; smells of cooking, of rubbish and filth, smells of decay. The walls were scrawled with graffiti in a melange of languages, common, elven, draconic, dwarven, orcish and goblinoid, languages from across the empire. The odd discarded needle or drug patch on the floor joined the occasional bloodstain on the wall. Eventually he made it a door at the end of the corridor and holding the grocery bag in one hand, rapped a sequence of knocks on the door.
An eight-year-old girl opened the door; she looked up and smiled when she saw Trace. “Hey sprocket,” Trace said in greeting as he tussled her hair.
“Hi T,” she said taking the bag of food from him as he entered. “Toby, T’s been fighting again.” She called out as Trace closed and bolted the door.
A ten-year-old boy, her older brother, entered from the next room. “Shiv,” he said as he saw the bruises on Trace’s face, “what the hells happened to you?”
“Just a disagreement at work,” Trace explained as he headed towards the bathroom, “nothing to worry about.”
Closing the door behind him, Trace looked in the mirror as he filled the sink with water. He grimaced as he saw his appearance, he hadn’t realised just how bad he actually looked. Underneath his scruffy blond hair, his face was a mass of bruises and dried blood. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his dislodged tooth. Trace opened his mouth and pushed the tooth back in place, wincing with the pain. Concentrating, he called on his one special ability and a blue aura of energy enveloped his hand. Passing the hand across his face, maintaining a contact with the skin, the bruises disappeared and the cuts healed instantly. The tooth also reattached itself to its root, a process that wasn’t exactly painless. Trace had no idea where his healing ability came from. As far as he knew, healing was the province of divine magic and only the faithful followers of the Gods had such magic bestowed upon them. Trace was not particularly devout and couldn’t remember the last time he had been inside a temple. However, on days like this he was glad to have it and didn’t question its origin. Trace finished by washing off the dried blood and changing into his favourite orange hoody and a new pair of cut-off pants.
When he opened the door a several minutes, he was confronted by a stern faced Toby. Trace could not help but laugh aloud; Toby didn’t have the face to make an intimidating presence. With his blond hair, freckles and short statue, he was just too cute looking. That didn’t stop him from trying as he stood there with his arms crossed. “I know what you’re doing T, but you can’t keep taking the chance. One day they’re going to loose patience with you.”
Trace sighed and scratched his head, “It’s not as if I have a choice Tobs, we need the money.”
“I know,” Toby said as Trace flopped down on the sofa, “but there has to be another way. If you keep narking the Guild, they’ll kill you like … like they did to my dad.”
Toby’s and Samantha’s father had been a police officer, one of the few in Jurrika City that was honest and sincere in his job. He had never taken a bribe or been “persuaded” to look the other way. This integrity had unfortunately been his undoing when he refused to bow to intimidation during a drugs investigation. The Thieves Guild had decided to make an example of him, to show other honest cops what their integrity might cost them. During the night, gunmen broke into their small apartment and shot him and his wife while they slept. Toby and his sister were awoken by the gunshots and fled the apartment using the fire escape, evading the guild hit men. Later the landlord had evicted them from their apartment and their neighbours turned their backs on them, refusing to get involved over fear of reprisal. With no living relatives on the planet, the two orphaned children were forced to live on the streets. It had been here that Trace had found them a month later and, out of a misplaced sense of guilt, decided to take them in.
Trace got up and walked over to Toby. “That’s why I need to keep…” he began but was interrupted by Toby.
“How many times do I have to tell you, it wasn’t your fault? You didn’t have anything to do with their deaths. Just because you’re a member of the guild doesn’t make it your fault.” Toby looked into the older boy’s eyes as he continued. “You’ve done more than enough, if it weren’t for you I don’t think Sammy would’ve made it through last winter. It’s time we started paying you back. I could help you out when you…”
Trace grabbed Toby and shoved him against the wall forcefully. The sudden movement shocked the younger boy. “Don’t you ever say that. I never had a choice about doing what I do but as long as I am around, YOU do. What would your father think if you started stealing? You’re smart, you went to school and everything, don’t waste that.” Trace left the room, heading for the small bedroom, leaving Toby rubbing his arms. Less than minute later he returned holding a crisp white envelope. He smiled and tossed the envelope at Toby. “Happy birthday, I know it’s a couple of days early but it couldn’t wait.”
“Thanks,” Toby said smiling as he opened the envelope, “how did you know my birthday was coming?”
“Sam told me.”
Toby pulled two ID cards and two slips of paper. When he read what was on the paper, his eyes widened and he looked at Trace in confusion. “Are these what I think they are?”
“I managed to track down your grandparents; they’re living on a planet in the Rosa system. Those are tickets on a commercial transport and travel papers to get you and Sam out of Mazorgrim, across Osorus and into the Domain of House Deserene where Rosa is.”
“Trace,” Toby said, his voice breaking, “these must’ve cost you a fortune! I … I don’t know what to say”
The half-elf pulled Toby into a headlock, rubbing his head. “You can promise to stay out of trouble and look after your sister. Those goldies can be a little uptight.” Both boys fell to the floor laughing.
Two hours later the three children exited the magrail station at Jurrika City’s spaceport, Toby and Samantha each clutching a bag containing their meagre possessions. Overhead, the sky was full of spaceships arriving and departing. Ships of every size, from small one-man shuttles to massive superfreighters, roared overhead representing almost every Imperial House or megacorporation. As they approached the plate glass doors of the civilian departure terminal, their way was barred by a 3-metre tall oruk in the uniform of an Imperial Legionnaire who levelled his assault blaster at them.
“All right you punks,” the oruk, a cross breed of ogre and orc, barked in heavily accented common, “Unless you got papers you ‘aint getting in. You street rats are trouble enough with letting you in to rob decent folk.”
Smiling innocently, Toby presented his and Sam’s travel papers to the soldier who inspected them carefully.
“Humph,” the oruk grunted, “they look genuine enough.”
“They should be,” Trace thought silently to himself, “after what they cost me.”
The oruk handed the paper’s back to Toby and turned to Trace, prodding the boy in the chest with the barrel of the gun. “Where’s your’s?”
Trace grinned sheepishly. “I er, haven’t got any.”
“Then take a hike shorty.”
“Aww come on,” Trace whined, “these are my friends, I’ve come to see them off, can’t I at least go as far as the gate?”
“Yeah,” Toby added, “it might be the last time we see each other!”
“Please mister,” Sam said sweetly, looking up at the oruk with big puppy-dog eyes.
“Then saying you’re goodbyes now won’t make a difference will it? No papers, no entrance, got it yet elf boy?” The oruk said smiling, brandishing his tusks.
Toby hurriedly pulled Trace away from the heavily armed soldier before he could make a scene. He knew that being called an elf was one of the few things that could make Trace loose his temper. After Toby had calmed him down, Trace realised that he had a problem. He didn’t know how to say goodbye, he had never had anyone worth saying it to before. There was an awkward moment while Trace tried to figure out what to say. Toby broke the silence by hugging a surprised Trace.
“Hey now, don’t get all emotional on me or anything.” Trace stammered as an embarrassed Toby let go. He bent down and hugged Sam. “Take care of your brother now, promise?” The little girl nodded.
“You stay out trouble too T,” Toby said, “as much as you can anyway.” Trace grinned in response and looked at his watch.
“You two better get going, you don’t want to miss your flight,” he said as he helped Sam with the straps on her backpack.
Toby grasped his hand and hugged him one last time. “Thanks for everything Trace, I mean it.”
“No problem, you take care now.”
“You too, see you around.”
Watching as they disappeared into the crowd, Trace waved as the closest thing he had to a family entered the spaceport. He was completely oblivious to the drow watching his every movement from a nearby parked jumpcraft.
Posted on Sunday, March 9, 2008, in Dragonstar, RPG General and tagged dragon, dragons, Dragonstar, dungeons, elf, fantasy, half, kid, noble, science fiction, space, street, thief, warrior, young. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.