The Archer's Paradox - The Travis Fletcher Chronicles

BOOK: The Archer's Paradox - The Travis Fletcher Chronicles
3.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
The Archer’s Paradox

 

Book One of the Travis Fletcher Chronicles

 

By

Chris Devine

 

Copyrights

The Archer’s Paradox

First published by Christopher Devine in 2014

Revision 2

This edition copyright © 2014 by Christopher Devine

 

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance any real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor otherwise be circulated in any in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

Proofreading by Natalie Tipping

Cover Art by
Rhi Tristram

 

Distributed by Lulu

www.lulu.com

15489414

 

ISBN
978-1-326-06136-4

 

Dedication

For Ken (1929 – 2014). If a father had not taken his eleven year old son to Hull Fair, the germ of this story may never have been born in a daydream.

Acknowledgements and Credits

First and foremost to my wife Julie for her love, patience, ideas and continual encouragement when I was running out of words. Also for persuading me to ‘go for it’ otherwise this story would have just stayed on my laptop and probably got lost during an upgrade. Also for helping with read-throughs, picking out plot holes, and inconsistencies and rewording some of the nonsense that spilled out of my brain.

To Claire, Mike, Ryan, and Anna for their encouragement and being the best family a dad could wish for.

To Emily for being the cutest granddaughter in the universe.

To Natalie for her boundless enthusiasm for proof-reading, editing, suggestions, wading through the grammatical mire I created and still smiling at the end. I’ll never ‘double space’ after a full stop again!
  Find Natalie on
LinkedIn
:

To Rhi for the amazing cover art bringing my characters to life.
  Find Rhi on
LinkedIn
or
see her amazing
portfolio
at
http://rhitristram.wordpress.com/

And last but not least, to all the people that provided me with a montage of attributes I used to create some of the characters.

You can find me on Facebook as
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Devine/856088317744723

 

The Archer's Paradox

The initial stages of flexing of the arrow from the loose as it accelerates past the bow that make the arrow appear to be going in a different direction.

Chapter 1

 

“Well?” The Mercenary looked over the table at The Journalist. His ice blue eyes stared steadily back at her emerald green ones over his glass of vodka. He sipped and put the glass on the table without breaking eye contact. Ice blue and hard as granite; eyes that had witnessed so much held her in a thrall she could not break away from. Unbidden, her vision zoomed in until his eyes were all she could see; he seemed to be sucking her in. His head tilted a fraction to the right and his left eyebrow rose quizzically. “Well?” he repeated. His voice was little more than a whisper. His eyes drew her closer and she suddenly felt cold. It was as if he was stripping away her privacy layer by layer to reveal her inner most thoughts, boring into her very soul. She felt as if she would tell him anything he wanted to know. He did not even have to ask, she was there for the taking.

Stop!

With an inaudible snap, her vision pulled back to view the whole man again. The Mercenary’s eyes softened slightly and, was that a twinkle? A small, mischievous lift to the mouth confirmed her suspicions.

“Sorry,” he apologised, “that was rude and unforgivable, I’m sorry.” he repeated. She nodded her acceptance but she was in no position to say any different. “Thank you. Your motives are unclear and I need to know, but maybe now is not the time.”

 

In order to steady herself and recover her composure, she raised her glass, took a sip of her wine and appraised the man opposite. The label on the bottle said it was a Montrachet 1978 from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Even though she knew that the contents had never seen the inside of a winery, it did nothing to lessen the pleasure. Unlike the wine though, he was unremarkable, except for the eyes, which had returned to their crystalline blue hardness as he waited. Close-cropped fair hair topped a slightly bulbous nose and ears that did not lie quite flat, lips that belied the hardness of his eyes by curling and twitching into an occasional smile that seemed to be more of a vague echo of a more carefree past than happiness in the present. If she estimated by looks alone, she would put his age at no more than twenty-five, although she knew it was at least double that. He wore a gunmetal grey jumpsuit with no pockets, made of a pearlescent material that simmered slightly like liquid metal as he moved. It had no adornments, badges marks of rank, or any visible fastening. Soft soled shin length boots of the same colour and sheen finished the ensemble.

 

“Well?” he repeated as he pushed his chair away from the table and readjusted his posture, leaning back with his hands behind his head. On first inspection, the chairs, table and floor appeared to be moulded from the same piece of translucent material, yet the chair moved silently and smoothly. There was a brief pause before the chair modified itself slightly to accommodate the new pose.

She searched for a beginning. “How’s Star?” she said finally, her soft Welsh tones giving the question an almost sing song quality.

“She always did hate me calling her that.” he mused, almost to himself. He steepled his hands and tapped his index fingers to his nose as he seemed to drift off into a private reverie for a moment. His eyes refocused on the present again and caught The Journalist. “I don’t know.” he replied evenly, his face fell, taking on a look of deep sorrow and regret.

“Will she die?” The words sounded surreal in her mouth.

“She’s already dead but that’s the wrong question, isn’t it?” he raised a small smile at a shared experience but his eyes did not reflect the humour.

Momentarily she remembered their first meeting and smiled back before asking, “Will she recover?” A stupid question in any other situation, but here it seemed almost natural.

“She must,” he finished simply, “but that’s not why we’re here is it?”

 

She took another drink and looked around the bar. It was starting to fill, as it always did just before a departure. Off-duty crew drifted in, in small groups. Wherever they stopped, a table and the requisite number of chairs in appropriate designs for the occupant oozed out of the floor and became solid, followed by drinks in a myriad of colours in drinking vessels of every conceivable shape. The whole procedure continued to fascinate and surprise The Journalist. She was not sure she would ever get used to it. The bar ran the full width of the ship, about four hundred metres, and occupied the middle deck’s most forward position. Open on three sides and about four metres from floor to ceiling with one complete ‘picture window’, it curved with contours of the ship and merged organically with
the floor and ceiling. It commanded the best possible view of the void outside and the blue and green planet dominating the forward view.

 

The Journalist guessed that about four hundred people of at least a dozen races now sat and chatted and an air of expectation was gathering. Although the bar could be no more than ten per cent full, a party atmosphere was growing. Without exception the patrons were all bipeds and of humanoid construction, mostly discernible as male or female, but each had unique attributes that gave clues to the type of planet or civilisation they had come from. Some wore a small and unobtrusive breather under their noses. This device, she had been told, supplemented particular gasses that each crew member needed that were not available in the ship’s atmosphere, as well as filtering any potentially poisonous ones.

At the next table sat a petite female, no more than a teenager to The Journalist’s eyes, but she had been wrong before. She had pointed features, small, deep set black eyes that flickered continuously like a nervous rodent, and voluminous deep red hair sprouting from a topknot like a volcanic eruption that threatened to engulf the entire area. She looked pale and weak, but had a look of determination on her face that said that she would not miss this event, whatever the cost. She was in deep conversation with a large, bald male with a barrel of a chest and powerful arms and legs. Both spoke different languages: his boomed with large, round vowels while hers was high pitched with short, sharp syllables, but each understood the other without difficulty. It sounded like a starling conversing with a bull to The Journalist but she kept her thoughts to herself. Noticing The Journalist looking, they stopped talking, stood up and bowed gracefully. The girl clutched her chest and winced in pain, gripping the edge of the table for support. The man put a protective arm around her and eased her back into her seat again. A look of concern crossed The Mercenary’s face, the first real emotion The Journalist had seen him exhibit since leaving Earth, but he relaxed when the girl raised her face to nod and smile at him though her brow was still creased in pain.

 

The Journalist and The Mercenary returned the bow, The Journalist taking her cue from The Mercenary, and they continued their conversation, glancing occasionally outside. Each crew member wore similar one piece jumpsuits to The Mercenary, also with no adornments, although the colour varied. She pulled her attention away from the surroundings and focused on The Mercenary again.

“How did it all start?” she asked.

“That’s a question with many answers.” he replied levelly, “Do you want me to begin with the dawn of time, how life evolved, my birth, or how I got here?” he continued, indicating the immediate surroundings. “They’re all linked, you know,” there was that twinkle again, then it was gone.

“It’s your story, you choose the appropriate beginning.” she prompted.

He nodded, satisfied and tossed the rest of his vodka down his throat. Almost immediately, the empty glass vanished and a fresh shot appeared on the table.

 

“I was born in England in 1957, the year Sputnik was launched. You could say I was born at the birth of the Space Age. Not that I ever cared about that sort of thing. Now look at me.” he finished, poignantly, spreading his arms.

“That makes you sixty!”

“You win a cookie.” His head inclined in mock acknowledgement. “I was born to average parents and had an unremarkable childhood. I was one hundred per cent average at school except for a hatred of mathematics that bordered on pathological.” he leaned forward, as if he was taking her into his confidence. “I took an instant liking to computers when I was in my primary school. A forward-thinking teacher remarked that one day computers would do all our work for us. It was then I resolved never to try at mathematics as there was no point” he shrugged. The Journalist smiled appropriately.

 

The blue green planet outside started to slip to the port side, slowly at first but gathering momentum as the great ship manoeuvred majestically on its axis. All sound in the bar ceased as the assembled crew raised their drinks in a silent salute. Everyone except The Mercenary, his stare remained fixed on The Journalist, pointedly ignoring the events outside. The great ship moved out of orbit, riding the surrounding magnetic fields provided by the planet and nearby star to propel it silently forwards. The Mercenary glanced momentarily at the receding planet and gave a little snort. The planet’s single moon appeared and hung in the forward view.

 

“I left education in 1973 with hardly any qualifications; drifting from one dead-end job to another.” he continued, oblivious to the external events. “Eventually I got a job selling computers. I earned good money, I had friends, girlfriends and even had sex occasionally. Life was good.” he finished, studying his glass intently. The Moon was now growing slowly in size and sliding slowly off the port side as the ship accelerated. A slight haze suddenly distorted the Moon’s features, indicating that the ship’s ram scoop had been deployed. The scoop extended in a one thousand kilometre wide radius around the front of the ship, a prelude to the firing of the ship’s fusion engines.

 

The Mercenary watched the Moon for a few moments. “I never did take you to dinner on the Moon, as I promised.” he noted, without emotion.

“I bet it would drive the scientists and
astronauts
nuts if they found empty wine bottles and leftover food at Tranquillity Base next time they went up,” she smiled.

“No one will ever go back,” he replied with finality.

She knew he was right but that simple phrase had a second meaning to her. She fought down the sudden wave of emotions that welled up from deep within her: sorrow, bitterness, loss, loneliness, panic.
What have I done? Oh God, how could I have been so stupid? What was I thinking?
She had the sudden urge to beat on his chest and scream to take her back, but it was too late. His eyes caught hers and held them. Calm, slight euphoria, the feeling of wanting to sink into goose down pillows…

“Better?” he enquired.

“Yes.” she nodded. “My turn to apologise. That was very unprofessional of me. You must teach me that sometime.”

“No need to apologise. You’re a long way from home and getting further away by the second. You will learn, in time.” he finished, glancing momentarily at the vista outside before returning his cool, steady gaze to The Journalist.

 

A very faint vibration indicated that five and a half miles away, at the stern of the ship, the six massive fusion engines had ignited. The Moon began to grow more rapidly in size, the assembled throng watched in silence, as was the custom that was carried out at each departure. The vibration faded as the ship continued to accelerate steadily and the engines reached their peak efficiency. There would be a point where the ram scoops would be gathering more hydrogen than the engines burned. This meant that the ship refuelled itself, thus minimising the amount of bulky fuel carried. The remaining debris and gasses were broken down into elements and stored for recycling through the ship’s systems: water, atmosphere, metals for emergency repairs. There would be a delay of a couple of hours while the ship made a safe distance from the nearby planet before the next stage of the journey, so the crew returned to drinking and chatting.

 

“You are blocking me!” the accusation came from a lithe female that had just appeared at the table. The Journalist jumped in surprise as she had not seen or heard her approach. Her pale, almost paper-white skin contrasted starkly against her jet black ship suit and shoulder length hair which was shot through with blue gloss, and pulled back from her face into a tight ponytail. Her ears were too long and too high on her head to be human. A wide, flat nose with a long tapered bridge disappeared under a paper thin, one-piece form-hugging visor. Its highly polished mirror finish reflected back a distorted view of her surroundings. Her posture, along with her thin almost non-existent lips, which were pressed tightly together, and proud angle of her head gave her a haughty and superior air. She inclined her head towards The Journalist in recognition and smiled with two rows of small pointed teeth. Without any visible eyes to convey emotion, she looked like a cobra preparing to strike. The Journalist felt that there was no warmth behind that smile for her.

“I’m blocking everyone Cat.” replied The Mercenary. His tone was not unkind and did not appear unduly irritated by the interruption. “What do you want?”

“The Hunab Ku is expecting us.” her voice rolled smoothly, almost like a purr.

“Thank you. It’s going to be a long trip.” The Mercenary acknowledged with a slight nod.

“Time enough for healing and restitution.” the emotionless visor held The Mercenary for a second before he looked away, pain and sorrow crossing his face once again.
Before turning and walking away, she smiled again, or was she about to attack, The Journalist could not tell
.
.
The Journalist watched her go, her stride long and stately with each step precise, perfect and unhurried; like a predator stalking its prey. Muscles rippled underneath her jumpsuit with every step only serving to enhance The Journalist’s image of a panther prowling the jungle.

BOOK: The Archer's Paradox - The Travis Fletcher Chronicles
3.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

A Young Man's Heart by Cornell Woolrich
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Out of the Black Land by Kerry Greenwood
Coveted by Mychea
Forgive and Forget by Margaret Dickinson
Flings by Justin Taylor
Evidence of Passion by Cynthia Eden
THE GORGE screenplay by Nicholson, Scott