“Come on, Boy; come on!” Frantically, a slightly over-weight, grey-haired man reached his hand down the very narrow passage to where his twelve-year-old nephew was still fooling with the wires. “Time’s out, Adair! Get up here!” Detrick growled.
After one final snip and twist of the wires, the boy abandoned his tools and flung himself onto the ladder.
“Take my hand, Boy!” said Detrick impatiently.
With a savage lunge, the youth pushed up off the ladder, turned in the air, and just managed to take hold of the older man’s hand. Detrick heaved and the boy scrabbled with his legs. Adair just cleared the tube as a deep rumbling began.
“Hurry,” the older man directed. “Close it up.”
The boy nodded, sweeping his unruly hair from his eyes. They both wore the pale, tan uniforms of the working middle caste.
Together, they lifted the large metal lid back over the opening of the tube and re-secured the latches, fixing it in place.
“To the stands, Adair,” said Detrick quietly, “before we are missed.”
Again the boy nodded and followed his uncle. Quickly they walked from the maintenance platform and clambered down the ladder from the catwalk near the stern of the massive ship.
Almost the whole planet was watching the event. Those who had not been able to secure tickets to watch live at the Royal Grounds were undoubtedly glued to their vid screens at home.
“For your crimes against the peoples of this planet,” the announcer boomed, “the sentence is death.”
Detrick and Adair took their place in the crowd. No one noted their arrival. All eyes were focused upwards. On a raised dais stood the newly ‘elected’ prime minister. He was dressed in a lavish, powder puff blue suit, with a cravat at the neck. Beside the raised area hovered the massive garbage ship. Three steps down from the Prime Minister on a platform stood several guards, clad in the steel gray uniforms that marked the warrior caste. Next to them, in wrist restraints, stood a grave, elderly gentleman dressed in a dark blue suit and a beautiful, young woman in a pale pink, silk gown. Even from where Adair stood, so far away, he could see her golden hair sparkle in the sunlight.
The prime minister descended the steps towards the prisoners. From a decorative sheath on his hip, he slowly pulled a long knife. It gleamed momentarily in the light as he held the knife aloft. Then, with a violent stroke, the prime minister slashed the older man’s throat.
There were gasps and cries from the crowd. The blood was splattered everywhere: on the prime minister’s light blue suit, on the guards, on the woman’s dress. The old man crumpled to the ground.
“I am not afraid.”
The woman’s voice startled everyone. The prime minster was still mic’d so her words, spoken so close to him, had carried to the crowd below and even to the vid-stream feed.
“Perhaps not,” said the Prime Minister, “but you will be when you are slowly crushed by the compacter in this garbage ship.” He gestured to the huge waiting vessel. “You are not fit for burial on this soil. Your carcass will be carried far away and dumped on the waste world of Quisquiliae, with the rest of the rubbish.”
There was silence on the dais. It was as if the world had paused.
“Guards!” sneered the Prime Minister. “Take out the trash!”
The guards hauled away the bloodied, lifeless form of the old man – one guard grasping his wrists and the other carrying his ankles. They swung him once and then tossed him. His body disappeared into the opening in the top of the ship. Then the blood-splattered guards returned for the girl. Adair watched with horrified fascination. She resisted. The young woman tried to pull away from them. Would she manage to fling herself off the dais and to her death far below? The guards shoved her violently and she tumbled into the garbage ship after her father.
“This is the end of an era,” announced the Prime Minister, “the end of this shameful portion of our history. This marks the end of oppression!” Applause broke out around them. Adair was surprised to note that much of it seemed genuine.
“It’s the end of the world as we know it,” Detrick said quietly. He had tears in his eyes as the waste disposal ship rose up into the air.
“That girl still has a chance,” Adair reminded him. “And no one will ever know I disengaged the compact cycle; no one will ever find any evidence because I reprogrammed the ship to crash into Quisquiliae’s moon after it empties its load.”
“She’s not ‘that girl’,” said his uncle, watching the last gleam of the vessel disappear into the atmosphere. “She’s our future.”
Do you want to know what happens to her?
Find out in The Dragon Warrior and the Princess.