Gentle Reminders Serialisation The Final Chapter
Legacy Universe: Gentle Reminders (Book One in The Rosewell Sequence)
Gentle Reminders is being serialised right here on SFBook with a new chapter published each week.
Previously in Gentle Reminders:
With The Gentle Reminder defeated and the first secrets of the Legacy uncovered, Maur Rosewell and the crew of the Jump Cannon depart from his family farm in search of the new crew they have so desperately needed. The threat of the Free Man Nation still looms, but for now, victory has been won.
You can visit the Legacy Universe website for more information.
Borealia, locally considered the capital of Norland despite its being part of Unified North America, was a dazzling city, but one without a strong identity of its own. Gleaming, mirrored glass towers composed a skyline that, almost without exception, bled into the clouds above. With spires, landing pads, and exclusive balcony bars jutting out of these perfect monuments, all linked together with tubular walkways, it resembled an ultra-modern tree-top city. There was very little natural about it though, man-made materials lining every part of its three-hundred square mile footprint.
It was a monument to man’s ongoing progress. If you wanted to get your hands on some bleeding-edge equipment at short notice then you could guarantee that Borealia’s rich merchants would have it in stock. Much of the population was made up of former mercenary, trade or authority employees who had settled down in a port they visited frequently during their careers. Visiting one of the Borealia’s many social destinations would invariably lead to you meeting a former colleague, a former business partner or a former jailer, at least for the crew of the Jump Cannon.
That meant, despite the intimidating technology and lofty elitism of the skyscraping towers, you would always receive a warm welcome when you arrived. The people of Borealia too, even those who had never been employed in the more extraterrestrial occupations, understood that after months away from Earth the only thing of any real importance is to feel at home, enjoy earthly comforts and be reminded that the difficulties of journeying known space won’t always press down upon you. Crime was almost non-existent, good behaviour an unwritten rule, and the weather warm but rarely baking hot. In all, Borealia was the perfect port town.
Easily available technology and safety was in stark contrast to everything inflicted upon the Jump Cannon crew in recent times. This was all offered by one city; an impressive reminder of man’s vital importance within known space trading as well as his willingness to pursue harmonious multiculturalism. It was a welcome counterpoint to the dirt and grit that Annie’s crew had been fighting their way through for so long.
Docked at a garage operated by an old colleague of Charles’, the Jump Cannon was being repaired to her former glory on a considerable line of credit that would have been offered to them in no other place. All the damage that she had incurred between Pura and Earth, even some small faults that had been detected during those first flights as a rebuilt ship, were being rectified as she and her crew prepared to face the future and put to rest the past. The dead, the victims of the Free Man Nation, had been laid to rest now too; returned to their homes and families with a heartfelt apology and a promise of financial support as soon as it could be offered.
Nestled between two glistening buildings, the garage sat suspended about half way up the pair. Annie was busy with activity, workmen moving in and out of the hangar and others working on the hull.
Beta Crew sat in a bar not far above the garage, watching the ongoings while sipping from tall stainless steel tankards. Each was dressed casually, Yazram’s usually black robes replaced with white to relieve some of the warmth of an unusually hot day in Borealia.
“We’re going to be working all the way to the grave to pay for all of this,” he said, taking a sip of the heavily alcoholic liquid and swilling it around in his mouth for a moment. “Are you sure we needed all the luxury? The floors could easily have been repaired with standard sheet metal.”
“I am just Annie’s caretaker Yazram,” Charles replied, taking a bigger mouthful. “She will only ever belong to Champion. It was my duty to return her to her former glory. After all, the actions of the Free Man Nation were not his, nor the Jump Cannon’s fault.”
“True, true. I could certainly have gotten you this all cheaper had we made a visit to Seeon.”
“Is that something you really want to do any time soon?” Thom asked. “You have a point."
“The Moderate Council wouldn’t be too welcoming to us just now, I don’t think," Maur said. “I caught the tail end of some news coverage this morning. They are still talking about the battle at my mom’s place, trying to figure out who we actually stood against. UNAPT have refused to issue a statement. Mom’s getting hounded by journalists.” “It must be a slow news week,” said Charles.
“Yeah, it must be. We’re doing the right thing not telling people about the Nation aren’t we?” Maur asked.
“There would be no point in saying anything,” Kerra said. “Even the press vultures aren’t going to believe us without a shred of evidence. Your mother said that UNAPT cleared the wreckage in the night.”
“Very convenient,” said Thom.
“For all the problems they’ve caused us, the Nation have done a pretty incredible job of keeping themselves under cover. It’ll only damage out reputation to sound like we’re babbling about some invisible clandestines. We need to make some money, can’t do that if all the agents think the Jump Cannon is staffed with crackpots.”
“Have you asked your mom to join us? At least until the heat dies down?” Thom asked, his head swaying under the influence of the alcohol. He had been behaving remarkably mature since the final confrontation with The Gentle Reminder. Any rookie naivety had been destroyed when the chef fully and properly transitioned to being a soldier.
“I suggested it, yeah, she wouldn’t go for it though. Said the press people would all disappear soon enough. Joked that she hadn’t quite recovered from my last crushing hug, said she’d see me again when her ribs felt normal again,” rambled Maur, staring into his tankard and missing home already.
“Speaking of which, how’s the Legacy treating you? Felt compelled to put your fist through a mortar round in the last couple of days?” Thom joked. He patted Charles on the back as he did, looking for approval. “It’s a good question,” said their temporary captain, the tone of his response less jovial but still not interrogatory.
“Nope. I can still hear it all the time but I think I’m learning to drown out the less-than-essential information. I get swamped with details about you guys all the time though.”
“Go on, tell me something interesting, surprise me!” said Thom. “You sure you want me to bust out a fact?” Maur replied, warning in his voice. “You really want me to tell these good people something shocking?”
“Go for it,” Thom said, bravado carrying him through.
“Four to five inches.”
“Four to five inches what?” he replied, face turning from cocky smile to concerned grimace.
“You know what I’m talking about,” Maur replied with a wry smile, again sipping from his drink.
The assembled group of friends let out hearty laughs at Thom’s expense. He slid down the back of his chair, bringing the tankard right up to his face to hide the embarrassed grin beaming from cheek to cheek. Even if it was at his expense, it was good to hear his friends laugh again.
“Come on,” he said, trying to get them to give up on the giggling, “we’ve been keeping the newbies waiting for long enough. Can’t sit around here all day while Maur gets all giddy about my manhood.”
“Ha, you’re right, you’re right,” Charles said, slamming his tankard down onto the table and trying to shake off the hilarity. “Let’s move. I have a speech to make.”
“Aye aye Captain!” Kerra jested, saluting with a haughty pout.
Leaving the muggy air of the balcony bar, the cold conditioned air of the hotel building hit them, drying skin and killing conversation.
Side-by-side, Kerra and Maur hand-in-hand, they walked through the gold plated walls and ornate décor hidden by the gleaming mirrored outer walls of the building. Staff and their robotic assistants passed them with heads ducked down, the commanding crew of the Jump Cannon absolutely welcome but understood as being more than capable when it came to confrontation. Legends of the Los Piratas attack, their crash landing and scraps regarding their most recent battle had followed them here, although the vast majority of people were interested parties rather than intimidated ones. By not disclosing information about the Free Man Nation, they had created a certain mystery about them, and the promises of adventure had only assisted in their hunt for able shipmates. They had moved up in the world in some ways, down in others, but despite the massive cost the overall benefit was clear. Some well-known faces were gathered to meet them.
Having descended two floors and crossed the nearest walkway into the building next door, part of the same complex, Beta Crew exited back into the open onto a recreation space that was still within view of the Jump Cannon. It was a fairly empty space in terms of furnishings, a few chairs and tables pushed to the sides of the platform.
However, it was far from vacant, with a multi-species throng of people waiting to meet Charles and his representatives from the Jump Cannon. Korakians, seetans, lunarks, purans, humans and more were assembled to meet their new boss, some of them already well-known.
Mikalas Yves, Ricard 56, Jewlia Ghan Xi, Izrak Sil, the list went on – Maur recognised these men and women as well as others. Those that he knew had all, with the exception of a puran girl he thought he recognised, somehow been involved in the history of Annie that pre-dated the Los Piratas attack. They joined them now after the hardest few months that the ship had ever faced. Josia 24’s presence still loomed over them, none of them forgetting the warning that Champion had given them about his evidenced involvement in the Free Man Nation attack.
There were still plenty of unfamiliar faces too, crewmen that had been contracted prior to them leaving Pura or new hires that they had interviewed in the couple of days that they had spent in Borealia.
A few of them Maur was a little unsure of. They had employed Yazram’s mind-reading ability to try and scan for Nation influence. No individual showed explicit signs of allegiance, but a few promising candidates had been declined on the basis that their overall thought patterns demonstrated traits that might allow them to be subverted by the Nation at a later date. This was not an exact science however, and these traits were assumed rather than based on any concrete research; Maur had attempted to employ the Legacy for further detection with no luck. This almighty power did not, it would seem, involve itself with the dealings of the mind.
Most were welcome, and to a man they had all demonstrated their ability to drink and have fun at a party held the night before. New integrated with old, and despite the wide-spread unfamiliarity of the one-hundred-and-ten men and women that he now called comrades, it still felt good to have a full ship’s complement again. Maur had missed the hustle and bustle aboard Annie; she had felt hollow since the losses suffered at the hands of Los Piratas. That wasn’t a problem any more, and they were prepared to face such threats once again.
There was an upturned box set just in front of the assembled mass. Charles stepped up onto it, the thick metal flexing under his weight. He was standing confident and collected as ever, but his fidgety body language said more. After words of comfort offered by Beta Crew and the wider staff, Charles felt ready to take on the title of Captain, and was even beginning to revel in the responsibility and far-reaching control of the occasionally chaotic workforce aboard Annie. He lifted his arms into the air, hands sticky from the heat of the day; the few beads of sweat on his face were caused by that rather than any nervousness.
“Thank you for coming, I’m sure a few of you are feeling worse for wear,” he said first, a quiet cackle of laughter escaping the crowd. “Rest assured that your time on the Jump Cannon will lead to many headaches like the ones you are suffering from now.”
“The Jump Cannon, or Annie as you will come to affectionately call her, is important to me. I boarded it having not long completed my military service. While few who were there for that first date would probably agree, I was still immature. I understood battle, I understood victory and loss, but I did not understand what it meant to truly fight for a cause. Up until then, I had bore arms because I had a talent and it made me money. This soon changed.”
The crowd listened attentively to Charles' out-pour, more emotion and honesty in each of his vociferously spoken words than even the veteran crew had ever heard from the man, perhaps save Maur. He dropped his arms now, and continued with his speech.
“I have come to consider the ship you see here,” he said, waving an arm out slowly towards the Jump Cannon sitting just below, “my home, the place where my family lives, and the site of my own self-discovery. In my few years of service to her I have learned more about myself and my own beliefs than I have done in the rest of existence, and I am not the only one”
“We enjoy drinking, we enjoy making jokes of each other, some of us even enjoy the fighting that comes with being a mercenary ship. However, we each hold deep moral values that will never be corrupted. In recent times we have faced threats that you will soon have to learn more of – threats which have promoted bigotry, hatred, and violent criminal activity. If any of you are so inclined, or if any of you enjoy victimising others and using scapegoats to explain away the problems with your life, and likewise if any of you are inclined not to value your colleagues, then leave now. You are not welcome on my ship.”
He let those words hang in the air, and a few faces turned to each other or looked around for any leavers. Nobody left, although Kerra thought for a moment that she would never dare to walk out on this impassioned speech even were she a card carrying member of the Free Man Nation. Global domination, genocide of alien species, human power – these would, she imagined, seem like irrelevant concepts while facing Charles’ flexing biceps and clenched fists.
“Good, I will consider this as you all making a promise. I will hold you all to it.”
“We will be here for another week or so,” Kerra said, moving forward into the limelight, the change in speaker cementing Charles’ words within the assembled mind. “Thom, Yazram and Maur will start moving among you soon to give you passes that will allow you to enter the garage and make yourself at home aboard Annie. Your cabin numbers are on the passes, as are the numbers for your armoury spaces. Please be considerate of the people still working on the ship, if you can’t access your cabin or locker now, leave it for a couple of days.
“We’ll be talking to local agents over the next few days and lining up the next three months of work. It will be continuous, and we can’t guarantee we’ll be back on Earth within that time, so those with family should probably try and spend some time with them. Quality contraband is welcome, encouraged even, but let’s keep the ship free of wildlife OK?”
“Hopefully you all understand these instructions, you’re dismissed for now. See you in a few days.” Charles finished his speech, stepping down from his soap box, and turned his back on the crowd as it grew into a rabble once more.
“You’re quite enjoying this aren’t you?” Kerra joked, grabbing Charles’ arm and offering him a congratulatory hug. She walked by his side, still holding on, while the passes were handed out.
“I’m just doing things as Champion would like them done,” he replied.
“Yeah yeah,” she said jokily, gripping his arm tight again.
While the others separated off to go and check-in with the progress aboard Annie, Kerra and Maur continued to walk through the halls of the complex towards their own accommodation. She swapped Charles’ arm for his. The beholder of the Legacy felt positive about the future.
“Have you spoken to Marc 14 in the last couple of days?” He asked.
“I tried to, he was sitting in Champion’s quarters just looking shell-shocked. I tried to make him feel better, but it’s probably best to just get our heads down and work. Try and get Champion back as quickly as possible.”
“Yeah, I guess so. Keep an eye on him though?”
“Sure,” Kerra said. “At least with the Legacy I won’t have to save your ass every other hour now.” She smiled and punched his arm playfully.
“Ha, I wouldn’t count on it.”
“Well, whatever happens, I’ll stick around.”
“You’re sure?” Maur asked. “No more worries about it affecting your work?”
“Well, the alien superpower certainly helps. And we seem to have managed so far. Plus, I don’t think we can afford to wait around any more, that bitch could have killed me in that military base were it not for you. If anything, I need to keep you around for protection.” She laughed, twisting her head up to his with a goofy pout. Her hair was blue just now, it felt soft against Maur’s skin as it tickled his arm.
Her smile continued as they approached their apartment door. Kerra’s words completed the set of circumstances he needed to move ahead from recent events. He knew now that he had her, he had always known that she would have him in return.
“Oh well,” she said. “That’s me walked you back to your door, this is where I get off.”
“Huh?” He didn’t pick up the joke. “Jesus! You gone soft? This is where you make the ‘inside is where you get off’ joke, dumb-ass.”
“Oh right! Inside is where you get off, coming in?”
She laughed and pulled him in close to kiss, arms wrapped around his neck. He opened the door behind her, lifting her up and carrying her in. The ‘do not disturb’ sign clicked on as soon as he kicked it closed behind him.
Below, in the garage outside, Charles and the rest of Beta Crew enjoyed the normality of port, forgetting their troubles for a while. In another place, in another building, The Thirteen met in person to discuss the death of The Gentle Reminder.
Maur Rosewell and the Jump Cannon’s adventures continue in LESSONS LEARNED, Book Two in The Rosewell Sequence. Expect a review very soon.