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The Fourth Guardian
cover design 2006 Ardy M. Scott.

 

Book Excerpt

 

 

The Fourth Guardian

 

Geoff Geauterre

 

 

 

The pilot's eyes jerked from navigation to helm to plotting, but no matter how hard she stabbed sensor relays and controls, the screens showed a huge magnetic cloud rushing upon them.

A roiling miasma with its own charged life seemed bent on swallowing them whole. She glanced over her shoulder and cursed softly. The commander was aware of everything happening on the ship, but her cup never even shook.

Shar-Mei, group commander of the Battle Maiden squadron, glanced into the chair's built-ins and wondered if she should call the ominous sight forming and moving in on their flanks, an emergency. One would call attention to problems when there's a way to deal with them. But what do you do when there's not?

"Lieutenant Ri-Nell."

The pilot sighed. "Yes ma'am."

"I don't wish to intrude, but I believe we're headed into a difficulty here. Wouldn't you agree?"         

Ri-Nell took a deep breath. "Yes, ma'am."

"I know I gave orders to cut corners getting home, but look where that put us. How many corners were we cutting?"

"Ma'am, it looked like a short-cut. Nothing on the charts showed this existed. I ran it through the computers, and they suggested it was a negotiable anomaly, but not something to worry about."

"Not something to worry about?"

Ri-Nell's lips trembled. "I'm sorry, ma'am."

"Well, don't take it so hard. We shouldn't have been out this far anyway." Shar-Mei scowled. "What idiot drummed up these orders? How in a star's comet-shit can you track space pirates in their own domain without knowing where you were going, or how you would get back?"

"I don't know, ma'am."

"Neither did the idiot who sent us here."

Bridge staff looked at one another worriedly. It didn't look good. The plotting tech wanted to smash the screen she worked over. Damn monitor kept telling them they were lost. How in hell could they be lost if one moment they knew where they were, and the next they disappeared off the screen, followed by something that didn't register except as a pair of contrasting numbers?

"Ma'am?"

The commander looked over her shoulder and nodded to her best plotter. "Yes, Nubis. What is it?"

"I know where we are. Remember the legend of the sea of ships?"

"Wasn't that an old wives' tale?"

"I don't know what else you'd call it. That's the old wife, and it looks like we've been invited to dinner."

Shar-Mei chuckled.

"This is not the pilot's fault. I should have been up to speed when she consulted me, but I wasn't."

"So…we're near Epsilon Ceti XII."

"In an area we could plot…yes. We would be."

"But we're not?"

"No. We're not. I sent out a sensor sweep and get a bounce-back, and then when it's working at all, I get readings that disappear, reappear, and don't make sense." She shook her head helplessly, feeling the weight of having failed herself as well as everyone else.

"So that's what we're headed into?"

"And what's attracted to us."

Lieutenant Ri-Nell nodded miserably. "She's right. I've been trying, but nothing I do pulls us out. Our scanning beams don't have enough power to punch through it."

Nubis, a hardened veteran, walked over and patted her on the shoulder.

Shar-Mei smiled. It wasn't a nice smile. The growing mass had surrounded their little craft, and attempting an escape would have been futile. So she shouldered the mess and made light of it.

"If this is anyone's fault, it's mine. I knew those charts were funny, but did I say anything except, 'Yes, ma'am?' No, I did not. That damn hookworm script they use changes character whenever there's a change in the weather, and I fell for it like a rookie."

Her smile became sarcastic. "No doubt there's something mentioned in a Galactic's chart about this area, but did they think to supply us with the proper coding? No, they did not. They just shoo us in one direction, and then in another, and we're supposed to make the best of it."

A chuckle built into a rolling of soft laughter and threw off the helpless feeling sneaking up on them. Color came back into the pilot's cheeks.

Shar-Mei's features were cool, calm and collected as she set down her cup and crossed her arms, fingering the hilt of shoulder knives in sleeve sheaths. "You know, if I wasn't burdened with my rank, I'd like to sit with the person who convinced the general staff about this 'opportunity' to track down pirates in their own backyard. Yes, then after a nice, long, shared bout of crying, because this entire mission was a stupid gesture, I'd cut the bastard's gizzards out and string them for a necklace!"

The shrieks and bellows bounced around the bridge as their craft disappeared in the silent storm.

Years later, it was whispered that had the legendary Shar-Mei never befallen such a fate, what followed would never have occurred, and half the problems that arose would not have happened.         

Then hindsight is like a cosmic twist of gas.

***

The Syrian's three eyes took in the audience. It wasn't often a courtroom attracted such an attendance. The place was packed. The matter before them was so engaging because of the alleged crimes involved that a world watched breathless.

The vocoder affixed in his midbreast clacked and translated into booming tones. "Bring the accused forth."

A section of the floor slid aside, and a man barely in rags, weighed down with gravity restraints, stumbled up hidden steps, and once in the court, the floor sealed behind him. He blinked in the light, as if not having seen them for quite some time, and looking down he shook his head. He was in the middle of a startling white octagon. Then he looked up and cursed when he saw the alien judge.

"Regis Tregarath of the House of Nald, you've taken your place upon the Block of Truth, and as you speak be warned. A lie will cost you dearly."

The prisoner straightened, grimacing at the bite of the metal straps crisscrossed over his back, digging with its harness into his waist and down his legs, torso clamps culminating in unbreakable links to the force globes enclosing his fists.

"All right, here I am," he snapped hoarsely. "Would you mind telling me what the charges are? Nobody got around to that bit when I was ambushed, shackled like an animal, and thrown into a hole not fit for man or beast!"

The audience reverberated with the news, many shocked at the abuse the prisoner suffered. Some wondered resentfully if it weren't a plot. Observers glared accusingly at the contracted judge. The Syrian Octopoid was taken aback.

The vocoder vibrated with indignation. "The accused will refrain from commenting upon his misfortune, until more pressing questions are put to him."

Glumly, the prisoner muttered something about pretentious Syrians, but he kept glancing nervously at the plate beneath his feet.

In the recesses of the mystical device were mechanisms that took only a moment to index the subject once brought to life, and once indexing took place, the "subject" stood "revealed."

Shifting the harness so he could be more comfortable, he looked around, and his mouth went dry when he saw his family high up in a shielded booth. They stared at him, his mother amazed, his father furious.

He was disgusted at the court's theatrics. All the rest was bad enough, but this was the worst. He hoped his parents might have been spared this business.

Struggling against the four gees set in the harness only triggered the force globes, and with every attempt to fight his captivity, the gravity increased a quarter percent. It was said some had fought against this trap for hours before succumbing, and then had to be revived by an emergency med pack.

He forced himself to relax, and by infinitesimal gradients, the weight lightened. Obviously, no one was taking chances. He smiled with a wry twist. That was a compliment.

"Regis Tregarath, otherwise known as Reg-I-Nald." The Syrian's booming tones echoed around the court. "You are accused of conspiracy to interfere with Outré Cultures, in direct defiance of the First Extraterrestrial Compact, whereas: 'A Citizen shall not abridge the code of Inter-Cultural Affairs'. The Second Extraterrestrial Compact, whereas: 'A Citizen shall not intervene with the historical parameters of Non-Space Traversing Beings'. The Third Extraterrestrial Compact, whereas: 'A Citizen of the Greater Arcturate shall in no way –"

"Look," interrupted the accused, sounding tired, "get on with it, will you? I haven't had a decent steam and rub for four months now, and the way this is going, I think I have a right to hurry the farce along, don't you? I mean, it's almost too much!"

The undercurrent murmurings in the courtroom stilled, and even the judge was lost for words. The sheer effrontery, the utter gall, the incredible lack of respect, the – the – there just weren't proper terms to apply.

"I'll make it easy on you," the prisoner added lightly. "Not that you could prove your case, of course, so I'll confess to whatever it is you want. I did it. Me. Alone. Unaided. There. Satisfied? Now all you have to do is come up with something approximating evidence, or reside yourself to a long stint at being poor. By the time my legal representatives are through with you – that's what you're going to be, my friend!"

Mat''Izzlog nervously blinked all three eyes as he pulled up facts on his screen and scanned what flashed before him, and then he breathed a sigh of relief. There was never any doubt, of course, but he feared the evidence might have been wrong. It was conclusive.

A tentacle punched a button and a hologram sprang up above them. All could see what that evidence contained. A hush spread across the floor of the chamber. This was not good.

First was the report by the well-known and reputable I-See Group. The documentation was irrefutable. Their agents bonded against perjury, or false witness, their sworn statements a matter of public record, and if that wasn't enough, the videos accompanying that testimony were.

All eyes turned to the accused, where he grimaced and looked trapped. He stared at the hovering record and felt condemned. Damn! Not only videos – but infrareds as well!

Sighted climbing over walls and balconies, and at one point an enhanced image outlay tightened the darkened features until, even crouched with weapons at the ready and garbed for bloody night work, it was unmistakably...him.

The accused stared dumbly at it, and then glanced at his father and mother. Frozen, she stood, staring at the scene. She hated scenes. His father, on the other hand, glared, hands clawed. The defendant swallowed. Next to them stood his fiancé. She looked annoyed. He considered that a plus. Unwanted marriage off.

Mat''Izzlog's three eyes glittered in triumph. "You will confess," he grated. "You refused to speak the truth before, but now you stand upon the Block of Truth. Your response will judge the color, the pattern, and the punishment to follow."

Everyone leaned forward in the expectant hush. Everyone stared at the octagon beneath his bare feet. Many licked their lips. This was better than any other entertainment.

"If the block turns blue, it will mean false testimony. Nerve tissues will singe, and spastic reactions will tear at tendons and joints. This is painful."         

"Yeah, tell me about it."

"Brown will mean the bearing of false witness. Muscles will cease ability to bear your weight, softer tissues will undergo changes in their chemical-metabolic structure, and internal bleeding will result."

"Wonderful."

"Black, the most deadly, will mean you deny truth. Your death, son of the house of Nald, will be of such torment that even I shudder to contemplate it."

"You guys are so great."

"But if you will confess to all charges, the Block of Truth can be set aside."

Reg-I-Nald bit his lower lip, and then shook his head almost violently. No one had ever beaten the Block of Truth, but if he didn't try, he'd die anyway.

He glared at his accuser. "Do your worst!"

Muscles rippled down his back, and he straightened against his bonds.

The Octopoid crouched, as if preparing for the prisoner to attack. Tentacles keyed the proper sequence of harmonics to psychic tonals, and the plate beneath the accused flashed for one brief moment, indexing the subject caught within its influence, merging until the color variations sorted themselves, and then died.

"Very well!" The judge's vocoder crowed. "It is now known that upon the month of the Moon of Tregom, the year 90098, you set down on the planet Myrill, and did, with full premeditation murder the head of the family of the Neenahsth. What were your reasons for committing this horrendous crime?"         

"Okay!" the accused shot back. "You want it – you got it! I did that vermin in because he was planning to exterminate the contracted miners of Quurulqu. If there's anything I won't tolerate it's the murder of innocents for profit!"

Mat''Izzlog stared in disbelief and then grumped with a frown. He had not expected such an answer, but the course was set. A tentacle tapped on a sensor pad, and the mechanism built into the floor came alive.

***

After humanity had made their petition for membership in the Greater Arcturate, a wealth of unknown technologies became available, and it did help, but not as much as they wanted.

A safer means of transport had been developed, but with an entire galaxy thrown open, a time of chaos came with it. Law and order degenerated into a business built of corruption and malicious enterprise, and the only bodies of interest capable of holding society together as they struggled to create off-world homes for hundreds of thousands, followed by millions, were the privately owned corporations.         

How were they to keep problems from boiling over when established structures came crashing down? A few gifted with foresight realized what was coming and consulted with their alien friends asking what they might contribute.

Once upon a time, the humans were told, beings known as Guardians of Light reigned in the universe. Masters of mind and body, they possessed a key to the puzzle of perspective.

The humans looked at one another, perplexed. Before moving into another plane of existence, the Guardians left behind plans for building mystical machinery. It was not known why they were left behind, but one or two machines were built, taken apart, and never dabbled with again.

If the needs of the humans were as great as they claimed, there were avenues they could approach, where appeals to the Galactics might be considered. Were they that desperate?

The heads of the world corporations didn't have to look at one another to answer. Yes, matters were that bad. So what would these machines do, if they were built and hooked up?

Shoulders shrugged. For one thing, it would change the course of their legal system forever. However, what they had now, wasn't worth much, but they did have to consider the rare possibility they might stumble over a mutant.

Eyes blinked. Mutant? What sort of mutant?

A Guardian, they were told. A living Guardian of Light. A mutation thousands of years ahead of their time.

Had such an occurrence happened before? Yes, their friends replied. In this galaxy, three times. What was the outcome? Alien eyes looked askance. Shoulders humped. That was for them to find out.

Matters had come to such a state the corporation chiefs took a chance. They applied for help, not believing anything would come of it, and were set back when a week later a world ship arrived and uncrated one.

Moreover, as promised, overnight their legal system changed. Those caught committing crimes confessed and were duly sentenced. Those caught committing crimes who refused to confess or lied...were destroyed before the eyes of the world.

Those who might have made capital, cheating people of their property and their dreams, became confused and afraid. If caught, they confessed and were sentenced, or they were put on the Block of Truth, where what they had seen happen...would happen to them.

At first, hailed as a miracle, it soon became condemned as a curse. It made a mockery of freedom of choice. Liberty, justice, mercy and compassion would be endangered forever. They asked their alien friends to dismantle the contraption and take it away. They were dismayed to learn that a subsection of paragraph seventeen in the legal guidelines said it wasn't possible. Once they set it up – it was theirs forever.

Nonplussed, the leaders of society conferred, and established that only crimes of the greatest importance and nature made its use feasible. Humanity breathed a sigh of relief, as the petty crimes could go on being petty crimes, and people welcomed what came of it.

The Block of Truth hadn't been used for over three hundred years. It was exciting, shocking – and the entertainment value made everything else pale in comparison.

***

For the entire afternoon questions were put to the accused, and every time, his answers came back...truthful, honest and unashamed -- and the Block of Truth glowed white!

The gift, they'd been warned could one day turn against them, was doing just that. The mystic machinery built of the genius of the Guardians, whose inner workings woven with alien brain wave patterns, shone forth and declared that the one who stood upon its surface…was one of them.

Behold, the Block of Truth silently exclaimed, in glorious multi-hued shades of white: Here stood the Fourth Guardian!         

Regis Tregarath was denied the slimmest form of concealment. A glow of purity shown on him. Nothing he could say, nothing he could think, would darken him. He was entrapped as a moth on the point of a pin of light. In exasperation, he silently commanded that the light dim, but even in that plea, the many hues of white increased their intensity until they were blinding.

Yes, he had killed many times, but he was not a murderer! His reasons were beyond a mere court to decide. Yes, he was guilty, but the glowing light described his true nature. He was innocence! He was outrage! He was the personification of justice!

His restraints glowed, fell from him, and melted away. The Block of Truth would not allow a Guardian to be endangered, and at that moment, he was forever changed.

***

President Amaron stared at the hologram until the record came to a halt, and the screen disappeared. His eyes felt like they were going to pop out of his head. A worried aide murmured something under his breath, and Amaron snapped around.

"What's that?"

The aide jerked back. "I'm sorry, sir. It's just that, well, we were warned…if you'll recall the history. We were warned that someday we might come across a Guardian of the Light." He giggled. "A Guardian of the Light, accused of murdering households because he's an avenging angel, and now we proved the legend right!"

"But what can we do about –"

The aide turned blue, his giggle becoming hysterical laughter. "He could lift his finger and be seated where you are, and there isn't anything that can stop him!" The laughter burbled and danced about the room as he suddenly started to wag his head and sing. "All he has to do is lift a finger – lift a finger – lift a finger! Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh..."

Amaron swallowed as he watched his most trusted assistant prance around like a clown, giggling, laughing, singing...and with a gesture he had him removed by the guards.

The rest of his staff looked startled and glum.

"He's right you know," said Colonel Johns. "A Guardian, reborn under our noses."

Amaron glared. "What are you implying?"

"If he started issuing commands, who would deny him?"

Councilor Albrecht, white-haired and usually the personification of dignity, seemed frightened, as he thrust his trembling hands deep in his pockets. "Are you saying the police – our police – would rebel against the government?"

All heads turned to Colonel Johns, in charge of Counterintelligence, and even though he wanted to make light of it, he couldn't.

"No one's thinking about that. But if he gave orders, even to his own guards. I don't know what would happen."         

"Is he still in his holding cell?" Amaron was stunned at the thought he could be moving around free.

"No. I had him moved to a delegate's holding area." The brigade commander looked around. "I did that because a number of guards began asking uncomfortable questions about where to house him, now that he was revealed as a… well, you know what I mean."

Amaron reared up. "Are you saying they refused to put him back in his cell?"

"Well, not so much refused, as suggesting he be moved to cleaner surroundings with showers, hologram viewers, a pneumatic bed, a small kitchen, visiting privileges –"

"I get the picture, Colonel Johns. You don't have to paint it in watercolors."

Councilor Chumwith, chairman of banking and treasury, cleared his throat. "Sir, given this has nothing to do with economic issues, if Regis Tregarath is kept prisoner another month, I foresee the gravest of consequences."

"What do you mean?"

"Hasn't it occurred to anyone? The Galactics. What's to prevent them from putting one of their monstrous world ships in orbit, and then sending one of their grotesque alien reps to take over? They've got the perfect motive. All they have to say is they're here to guide and protect a Guardian. Who would challenge that?"

"Chumwith, you've got something else up your sleeve, man. What is it?"

The blubbery councilor shrugged. "Once that happens every record in every computer will be opened to scrutiny. That's every record…even ours."

He didn't have to go into the matter further. Everyone focused on the possibility of long prison terms. President Amaron didn't think it appropriate for one of his station to endure that injustice if he could help it, and he was not alone in that thought.         

His address was to Alexander Mottled, the Councilor for Justice. "Mottled, what about that contracted judge of yours – what's his name? Matslug?"

Mottled cleared his throat. "Maat"izlog or something that sounds like that. He was not what I requested, but when a Galactic rep suggested him, I didn't think it prudent to refuse."

"Does he go by the book?"

"Every inch of him. I couldn't think what it would take to bribe one. What does an Octopoid need? What does an Octopoid think about? Do they look upon money the same way we look upon it?"

Amaron held up a hand. "Yes, yes. Whether he's corruptible or not, we do not have time to find out. What about Nald? How much influence does that man have with the mercantilists? I've got to know where we stand if we move on this situation, and I need to know where our enemies are, and what enemies will be made."

That was Councilor Delmar's concern as head of public affairs and relations. He nodded quickly. "Nald is one of the great merchant houses of the market. If they went belly-up, the market would take a tailspin and wouldn't stop until it hit earth. We can suspend them from acting against us, but if that suspension became permanent, we'd face a grassroots revolt from our own supporters. After all, you're talking about several hundred thousand credits worth of gold-platinums here."

"So killing the little twerp won't do."

Delmar shook his head, the flab in his cheeks flexing like hanging globs of jell. "That would be the worst you could do, if you were trying to commit financial suicide. The House of Nald would pack their business up and move out of the human sector. And if they went, hundreds of others would follow."         

Amaron's eyes narrowed. "Theory or probability?"

"The probability factor of that happening is close to ninety-seven percent, and we're talking about the least that would happen. If it did, I'd say we have seven, maybe nine months, before requiring bodyguards, and then even our bodyguards couldn't be trusted."

"So…we can't kill him. We can't mind-wipe him. We dare not imprison him for long. What about sending him to one of the penal colonies or the convict mines?"

At that, Councilor Vinci of State Security, snorted. "You want a riot on your hands? You send him to one of those places, where the only personnel we've got is staffed by robots working the machinery, and you'll be shopping for another place to live…in another life."

The president slammed his hand on the desk and glared at him. "That sounds like a threat!"

Vinci shook his head, dogged. "Listen to me Amaron, I'm telling you that if you make a mistake with this boy, you'll end up by running. Most of my men and I will probably be dead, and the rest will be lucky to find holes deep enough to hide in!"

An aide standing beside Councilor Emi, head of the council for scientific affairs, leaned over and whispered in his boss's ear.

Emi's eyes glowed with the planted idea. "What about sending him to a place no one can get at…a place he can't break out of, yet will be safer than anything else we could offer a convicted felon?"

Amaron swung around. "What have you got in mind?"

Emi chuckled, liking his idea better. "Are you familiar with the concept of dimensional travel? We've been experimenting with one, opening and closing portals, and even sending and retrieving objects and animals. Now, if it works out, that could make it a unique solution to our problem."

"What are you talking about?"

The scientist coughed delicately. "Don't you see? While extended dimensional travel is still beyond us, we have found that a small portal can open up between worlds that are similar, even if they are different."

Amaron was intrigued. "Different? Different how?"

Emi shrugged. "Cultural growth. Technology. In this dimension, to us, it would be as if we stepped back thirty thousand years."

"What would that achieve?"

Emi smiled tolerantly. "We've been spying on these people, and on this world, their culture is highly unstable."         

Amaron went still and licked his lips. "So, we send the Nald brat through this portal, and hope the place does him in?"

"Essentially."

"What do you mean 'essentially'?"

"We can't just thrust him into a strange land without some protection. If that was ever found out, we'd be in the same fix we're in now, but worse."

Amaron took a deep breath. "What are you suggesting, then?"

"An alteration, Mr. President. One that looks good, but won't have much of a lasting effect one way or another."

"And the technicians you're using?"

Emi blinked. "We'd have to be careful there, sir. Most of them are contracted. Where their loyalties lie I could not say."

"Could they be replaced?"

"Yes, in time."

"I want all the information on this parallel dimension you've got. Then I want more studies performed to assure that you know what you're talking about."

Emi beamed, his silver hair shining. "The material will be in the system for you to access before the day is over."

***

Bemused over the situation facing his jailors, Reg-I-Nald took the opportunity to view his surroundings with a new perspective. Not bad. There were bathing and toilet facilities, a small but efficient kitchenette, a float bed, a small library module with access to non-secured information banks, and yes…he found a few prized selections to tap into as strains of haunting musical tones reverberated in the air. Next was a small desk alcove, and guest chair built into the wall, and the force field.

It was set to ensure his safety even if he were to go mad and hurl himself at it. But what he'd observed of his guards proved a transformation of attitude. A good number would have waited on him hand and foot. Others were frightened.

If anything happened to him, they weren't sure what would happen to them. He snorted when he heard it.         

The Fourth Guardian, indeed. Who would have thought it? Regis Tregarath, the only brat of the House of Nald, one of the biggest trading concerns in the sector. Killer. Maniac. Saint.

He shuddered at the picture. And how had it all begun? He tossed on his float bed and stared at the ceiling. His concentration digging at the hazy memory, and his tripleter heart quickening, and then 'it' surged up, swamping him, as if lying dormant, just waiting to be summoned…

The Chenese. The crustacean-like race that had the curious and repugnant ritual of serving dinner guests their female infants. It was a time-honored tradition. Broiled á la famille, thus making closer the bonds of a business arrangement.

With eyes wide, he saw the moments unfold. It was a repressed memory, but now he could look upon it clinically, objectively. What was the ritual called? His eyes narrowed. The eating of another's salt. A chill went down his spine. It was an occasion he thought he would never forget, but in some inexplicable manner he had forgotten.

His father, Doral-I-Nald, introduced a young Reg-I-Nald to their host on his first trip out of sector and was commenting on the young man's training and aptitude for business when a commotion broke out in the lower kitchens.

Portals flung open and a blue-veined female came lumbering in, all half ton of her crashing forward on the steps to confront her lord and master, red-veined Crag Chen-Chen. Alien vocoders realigned frequencies to accommodate the high keening squawks.

"My lord," she cried, mandibles clacking and gesturing widely. "I must protest. I beg of you. Our daughter is reluctant to submit, and I – I must agree with her! She refuses to see business apart from separateness from existence. She is stubborn, lord, but –"

Clearly, the dam misjudged the temper of her mate, or the importance of the dinner, which was evident in his rage.

Squealing too high for the vocoders to register, a mighty swing of an outsized claw caught the impertinent female and struck her aside. With a crash that dented the high density permalloy flooring, she landed flat on her back amidst cries of anguish at the sudden fall of her station.

What followed next was something out of a nightmare. The Chenese lord gave a curt command, and his infant daughter was dragged scrabbling and screaming from the kitchens to be brought up before them, and brushing aside her feeble attempts to defend herself, he then attacked her.

With the slashing of a curved spear blade, first went one claw, and blood shot out from the inner pressure of a rigidly built vascular system…then the other claw, and the smaller legs followed. Her screams only made more horrible what was happening, until finally, in the middle of the blood-splattered, quivering remains, her father gripped a weighted prong in a tentacular claw, and with a grim, high roar, separated her head from her body.

The blue-red blood had spread to the inner circle of the diners, and slowly the shocked audience pulled back. These hardened traders had seen a lot in their time, but this was too much even for them.

Then kitchen staff came up to the corpse and began sawing, tearing at joints and muscles, throwing away the organs, placing everything else in a steaming vat and sprinkling it with herbs and clarified squid butter.

The floor was mopped clean, fragrance sprayed in the air, music reestablished, and guests resumed sitting on cushions. The pressure boiler cooked to a high temperature, and condiments and appetizers arrived with a flourish.

Doral-I-Nald glanced at his son to see how the other took it and breathed a sigh of relief. The boy was doing all right. Reg-I-Nald had filled a goblet full of Nydrian wine, gulped it, filled it again, and mingled with the others, sharing a word, listening politely. He observed his father's rigid face, commented on lighter matters...and while the servants quietly and efficiently served...Reg-I-Nald started thinking.

Ritual was a great part of life among the Chenese, but he hadn't known what to expect. His father had tried to warn him there were space-roving people with barbaric customs, but then he just nodded, smiled, and looked excitedly towards his first voyage to outré cultures.

He noted other Chenese keeping their oculars glued upon their laughing lord and picked up a sense of trepidation. He engaged in other conversations, moved around, became immersed and listened. Some were used to the Chenese…used to their curious and bizarre attitudes, even though it seemed the race was mad.

Attendants had picked up their dam and helped her out of sight. He chuckled dryly, saying from what he'd just witnessed, she'd be lucky if she didn't end up part of the meal.

Then the main course was prepared, and Reg-I-Nald looked with interest upon diners who geared themselves for cracked crab. Some were observed taking pills before eating. A servant asked him to resume his seat, alongside his father. He nodded appreciatively and did so.

"Well, son, getting the outré viewpoint you were always asking for?"

"Yes, father, I am."

"Try that brown sauce next to the meat. It adds to the flavor."

"Thank you. I shall."

Then he watched his father, who was stoic, attentive to those around him, appreciative, while he, on the other hand, barely touched his plate.

"Reg," his father whispered, "if you can't eat, then move around. The Chenese lord is watching."

Smiling, Reg-I-Nald got up, waving to a couple towards the other end of the curved stone table, and started to move, stopping here, stopping there, laughing at a quip, sharing a joke.

Dancers gathered before them, and the musicians changed their tone to something more gay. Their lord clacked his mandibles, and the dancers bowed before him and his guests, and then began swaying, keening, stepping adroitly.

He overheard Doral asked if the other accepted the proceedings as a final "lock" to their contract. He looked around and saw his father nodding and touching his wrists together in a sign of agreement. Yes, he replied, it was acceptable. And the feast in their honor honored him most of all.

When he said that he took care not to look at his son. If he had, he might have seen an odd glint growing in the youngster's eyes as the evening wore on.

Several hours later Reg-I-Nald had a silly little grin on his face and was weaving in and out of the cushions of the clustering party-makers, smiling amiably, hugging a weeping female who wanted to tell all to all.

Separating himself from the delighted audience that formed to hear the tale, stopping for a second with a group of public relations representatives, ever on the job, he murmured into a personal recorder and sprinkled a bit of Neednn into his wine.

"How's it going?"

The professional looked up with a shrug. "So, so. There really isn't much I can use here. The Chenese have made a good deal for themselves in striking a bargain with your father's group. The trades market in this sector is scarce in animal furs, but here the stuff is overflowing." He patted the cushions nearby and invited the boy to sit. "Of course, the industry is changing. People are always switching styles, but the more bizarre the better. The silkie fur the Chenese have is just that."

"They say the fur is still half-alive after curing."

"It is."

The young heir shook his head distastefully. "Sick."

The professional laughed. "Son, people's wants are always opposed to their needs. The Chenese have more than mere furs to offer. There are at least twenty listed drugs on this world, that when properly purified and processed could make it possible to treat a dozen debilitating diseases. But right now, where's the quick money? It's in furs that squeak."

Reg-I-Nald chuckled, shook his head at the irony of it all, and with a genial wave stopped here and there, sipping from a friend's offered goblet, and agreed with him that contracts with this outré race would make them all rich, besides increasing their dividends on the open market...

Then having circled the banquet, he barely escaped being pulled into a contest with several squealing attendants without vocoders and found himself on a pile of soft silkie furs.

The thought of wearing something that quivered made him uneasy, but nonetheless, he lay back fingering the little bag of the forbidden Neednn he'd borrowed and wondered as he half-listened to the Chenese lord's boasts about his prowess among females, what a good dose of Neednn might do…in a Chenese.

A half hour later, they all found out. The Chenese lord was heard screeching, sending plates, bowls, and goblets cascading to the floor, rearing up, claws and mandibles reaching for something that wasn't there, and the entire assembly rocked into silence.

The music ground to a stop. Everyone stared, and then the lord stiffened and screamed with an even louder ear-piercing tone, and like some chemical experiment gone awry, Crag Chen-Chen exploded.         

Business guests, accompanying friends, followers, employees, along with attendants, yelled, scrambled, and shouted. People gathered their belongings, some speaking into miniature com units and advising flight personnel to rev up the engines.

Some Chenese ran to the remains, hoping to offer aid...but what could they do with a floor full of pieces?"

Finally, getting themselves in hand, dancers and musicians scurried out of the way, and those with no business dealings were ordered out. The banquet hall became a tense place to await whatever would happen.

After a few hours, a distant cousin to the Crag was located, and temporarily established as lord and master. To the shock of many, he directed that all contracts agreed to in the past were null and void. Obviously, he gestured, this was the work of the gods, and they alone knew how the previous Crag Chen-Chen deserved their pity.

Doral opened his mouth to protest, but the other's antennae did not waver in the slightest. Sorry, but that was the way it was. They expected all aliens to be gone by tomorrow afternoon at the latest.

Several attempted to say something biting, but a single look from Doral froze the inclination in their throats. They could take a hint. It was time to pack up their tents.

In consideration of what had occurred, the new Lord Crag explained, eyes swiveling nervously around as he tried to remain outside the huge splotch of gore, their social culture was due for a change.         

Glumly the guests retired to their rooms, and Reg-I-Nald repaired to his small apartment where he could shed his clothes. The remnants of the Lord Crag splattered all over him was disgusting, and he ran a bath.

He started to undress when a sound caused him to turn. A blue-veined female in the entrance to the suite stared at him, then moving with the grace of a dancer, she stepped to a foot from him.

Her vocoder rumbled. "Why, Outré, did you kill my lord and master? Speak well, I say, before you die!"

With a shock, Reg-I-Nald recognized the dam who had earlier that evening begged the life of her daughter. She was aiming an instrument in his direction, a space tool for vaporizing carbon rust that would do amply well for other purposes, too.

The alcoholic fog befuddling his senses dispelled.

"What are you talking about?"

She slipped closer, whispering with a clacking undertone that promised him no good. "I'm saying, Outré, that several attendants spied you slipping something into my lord's bowl, and sometime afterwards he passed into the Great Beyond. I warn you not to lie to me. I know the truth!"

She raised the killing instrument to oracular level, taking what seemed at that distance needless aim. "Speak well, for this is your last opportunity!"

Regis stared at her, took in his surroundings, knew there was no escape, and shrugged.

"All right, if you insist."

"I do."

"So be it." He straightened and looked her square in the eyes. "I killed that degenerate for taking the life of a child. I avenged myself and her, and then you. I could not rest, nay, I could not live if I had done otherwise. My horror cried for justice. Her spirit cried for justice. And your grief and rage begs for mercy and understanding. What I did was for you most of all."

The dam stepped back, oculars staring...the orifice of her mouth parted as if gasping for air.

"If you're so damn keen, revenge yourself for your lack of courage upon me, and the hell with you all!"

Her grip on the weapon tightened, but then she lowered it. A claw that could easily have crushed his head rose.

"You are an Outré, yet…" She gestured helplessly. "You killed one of us for one of us? You killed for my only daughter? I – I do not understand. I was told you were all barbarians. I was told…and now…" She shifted as an ocular glanced over a massive shoulder, and then it swiveled around. "What are you, Outré?"

"I am a man just like any other."

She fidgeted. "No. Not so. Not like the others. I know. I see now. There is a difference. What are you, Outré?"

"I don't understand the question."

She passed a claw over him, making him flinch, but then something happened, something extraordinary. He saw himself in another way. In a way that was cold and pure. He shook his head, backed up, feeling strange with a tingling that touched from head to foot.

His voice croaked as something inside clawed to be heard.

"I am aware. I am suffering. I, who have never had cause for want, wants. I, who have never known desire, desires."

He clutched his throat, his eyes bulged out of their sockets, and his temples pounded until he thought his head would explode.

He shouted. "Wha – what did you do to me? What's happening?"

Suddenly, he could hear the surf raging outside the castle walls. Smell the fragrance of the dew-misted gardens. Feel the weight of the stones beneath his feet. See the steaming blood of the dam as it rushed through her veins, and then he could even sense – his heart ached with it – the heave of the marshlands, the swish of smooth leathery bodies as they slithered in the jungle. He glimpsed a world he never knew existed – and it was killing him!

The dam caught him as he collapsed into a catatonic state. A tentacle touched the nape of his neck. An organic spine needle injected into the back of his head, and then pulled out and rested ever so gently between his staring eyes, and the poison that would have killed, worked its way into his nervous system as a potion to ease, to cause one to sleep…to forget.

His eyes closed, and his rigid body fell like a limp rag.

"Hush child," she clacked softly. "I know now what you are. What you have always been. You, who seek truth beyond all others. You, who now must sleep."

***

He blinked. It was dark. He felt his face, realizing he was in bed, and the taste in his mouth was, ugh, like re-used boiler seals. He stumbled up, made his way to the washing basin, keyed a light sensor, and stared at his reflection in a crystalline mirror.

He shook his head wearily. Whew. That must have been one hell of a party. But what happened? It was hazy, but…he could not remember. Was it important?

An internal need forced him to seek relief in the toilet facility, and when he was through he stripped off his clothes, dropping them where they fell. He made his way to the cleansing pool and dipped a toe in, only to jerk out. The water was cold. He shrugged. No matter. He pressed the controls, and soon the radiants warmed it up.

He sank into the depths and lay back, sighing with relief. It felt good to have a nice hot soak. He was worn out.

***

His eyes opened wide, the flush of memory suffusing him. Now he knew how it had begun. Each time he came across some nasty horror, he felt it necessary to balance the scales. He licked his lips. However, between the urge to exterminate vermin, and keeping up appearances, somehow he'd miscalculated something, so it was over.

What were those charges? The elimination of the head of the Neenahsth family? He snorted. That was nothing. But what had gone wrong? How had he been discovered? He thought he'd been so careful.

***

The Galactic shifted. A pseudopod formed into a handy claw and scratched blissfully at a piece of fresh molting, and he thought it was frustrating sometimes, molting. Especially now with all this trouble.

The seventh line of his crèche viewed the assembly with disregard. Silly beings. Why couldn't they accept the inevitable? He accepted it. Why couldn't they? Perhaps if they were made to see what was likely to happen if…the Galactic Elder chuckled softly.

"Gentle beings," his vocoder announced, stemming the raging arguments rending the proceedings into a farce. "Gentle beings, please, be calm. I have a suggestion."

Around the circle, Lord Galactics resettled themselves hastily. It wasn't often the Eldest spoke, let alone offered suggestions. Pseudopodals were thought more as beings of intellect rather than action.

"Gentle beings, we have an unusual situation stemming from the discovery of a new Light Bearer. While in the same context, concerning his nature for violence and quick solutions, being a creature of intense emotion, nevertheless he is what he is. I've overheard some of you intimate, that were we to allow his death, who is to say what can be gained, or what will be lost? Perhaps nothing, perhaps much.

"Perhaps the very Arcturate itself would be judged by our decisions, and what may follow? I cannot help but wonder if this is somehow a test of us, rather than of our lesser cousins…"

There was a sluggish reaction in the Elder's middle as a vacuole opened and closed with amusement. "If we interfere, if we act in any way, would we lose our favor? I contend that doing nothing is in fact doing something with negative results. Therefore, we cannot stand aside. I've studied the situation closely, and I believe I have a solution."

They looked up expectantly.

"I propose," said the Elder, "that we allow Regis Tregarath of the House of Nald to be exiled and watched, and when he matures he might be allowed to return home."

"But…" interrupted a Shith, a representative of a reptilian race of vegetarians with a taste for exotic teas, which at the moment he was sipping, red-tipped tongue lapping. "Is it not expected of us to render an impartial overview of this child's guilt or innocence? We know his guilt. The Block of Truth has shown us that. Why consider interfering in their decision-making at all?"

"Genen Seinak," said the patient Administrator Quolm, his oraculars peering fondly at his friend. "As usual you are right, but what we've forgotten to take into account is that the killings were not dictated by the boy himself, but by the circumstances he was thrown into."

Genen Seinak bowed to Quolm. "Could you clarify this?"

"Indeed. The humans think him guilty of only one crime, while we know he's guilty of far more, and therefore, are able to deduce the greater with the lesser. Do we condemn him for reacting to the demands of the fates? It would be the height of hubris on our parts, would it not, were we to assume we knew better?

"Is the boy a murderer, a killer, or a savior? How can we judge adequately, considering the evidence we've amassed, which at best is second-hand? We need a closer look into his soul to better judge. This means, we need time."

"And if," another asked, with a shrewd glint to an eye, "it is found the flaw lies not in the new Light Bearer, but in his race, what then?"

"Then," quoth Quolm, suddenly feeling his age, "what happens to the boy will be followed by what happens to his people. All his people. Everywhere. They will not be allowed to explore beyond the point of their outer limit, and for every hundred years, their space will be diminished and restricted, until finally, they will be driven back to their original solar system and confined there until they mature or die."

Had someone opened a tomb there couldn't have been a greater silence. Quolm bowed respectively to their Eldest, who, after a moment of consideration, nodded. The other had set the matter plainly, and now the choice was in the hands of those who didn't know it.

"Yes," said their Eldest Galactic, "we must be sure of ourselves, lest we become ruthless and intolerant. We must not catapult this mess into the unimaginable, lest we become unimaginable. To do otherwise is to court disaster."

"What I'd like to know," put in a high-pitched keening from a Celstuloid, a creature of quivering crystalline hues, "is how we were fortunate enough to discover him at all? From what I've gathered he was careful to cover his tracks."

A contractee to the human's council, given special dispensation to travel to the Galactic's Forum to testify if called upon stepped forward. A heavily muscled tail twitched under his robes as his dragon head bowed in homage to the assembly.

"It appears this creature's betrothed wished to ensure the greatest return on her mating contract. She is of a profitable mind."

"By all the holies!" Someone laughed in a whistle. "The bitch spied on him for blackmail, and then realizing what she was uncovering, got scared and turned him in!"

The contractee's tail twitched in amusement, but he was of too low a stature to mention his own thoughts on the subject. The assembly rocked back and forth with laughter.

***

Once again, the legendary prisoner was placed on the Block of Truth, but this time he was clean, dressed in a simple grey one-piece, and no attempts had been made to have him shackled. Monitors zoomed in for a close-up of the strong, indomitable features. Dark, glaring eyes peered at the judge, while a muscle twitched along the jaw. It was obvious to those who studied humano-psychology that this unique being was prepared for the worst.

Then the plate beneath his feet glowed, and no electronics keyed it to life. It started itself, having sensed who stood upon its face, and a sigh reverberated through the chamber.

A softened hazy white changed to an off-white, where its intensity grew brighter, and at that point, it pulsed. Each pulse made it a shade brighter, a shade higher, until the prisoner stood in a pillar of blue-white incandescence. It was frightening and god-like.

The judge nervously cleared his throat sacs and fingered his vocoder. "Reg-I-Nald of the House of Nald. You stand before us condemned, found guilty of the crimes to which you have confessed, guilty of killing with premeditation. This is all that would be necessary to commit you to death, or worse, a brain wiping. Yet, the Block of Truth has shown another side to your character, one that calls for a different decision by this court than what might normally have transpired."

A hush followed as everyone leaned forward. Reg-I-Nald swayed as the truth hit home. He saw his mother clutching his father's arm, and when he turned his attention to Mat''lzzlog there was a flash of understanding between them.

"Reg-I-Nald, you are hereby exiled and sentenced to pass a term of indeterminate length on a world outside the Arcturate realm." A burst of noise arose. People cried, shouted, laughed, and cursed, some for having found a Light Bearer, others for feeling betrayed and frightened that a crime of such magnitude was not punished enough. "You will be placed on a planet civilized for its time, and you will interact with the indigenous population. You will become part of their culture, their society and their struggles."

"For how long?" the prisoner asked, stunned.         

"How long?" repeated Mat''Izzlog curiously, as if he were asking himself. "Of that I have no idea, young Reg-I-Nald. That decision lies with your own governing council. I, as a high court contractee, have done my duty. You have been tried, convicted, and sentenced. You will be escorted back to your cell, and where you go from there, and for how long, we are not privileged to know. You will be given a few moments to make farewells to your family. May the fates guide you. This court is dismissed."

Numbed, Reg-I-Nald was directed off the block, and once removed the pillar of light glittered with his outline, as if something alive and filled with power were left behind. He was escorted into a waiting area, shielded from the main hall, and there his family was brought for farewells.

Doral stood tall and grim of eye. The father wanted to crush the life out of the young upstart – unmitigated fool. Yet, the relief he felt that his son would live, was great. He stood there, unable to find the right words.

"Well, son," he swallowed, "it certainly looks as if you did it this time. Don't know where your luck comes from. Not my side of the family, that's for sure."

But Synthis, his mother, was not of such stern stuff. She flung herself about her son with a cry of grief intermixed with happiness and bawled. To think, her son, standing upon the Block of Truth and making the damn thing glow like a miniature star. Then abruptly she tore herself away, straightened, and with narrowed eyes hauled off with a well-rounded slap.

That done, she hugged him to herself again, the boy's red-sided face pressed against her own, her tears spilling forth.

"Mother, please," he begged helplessly. "Please, it'll be all right. You'll see. Everything will turn out fine."

"But – but you're a convicted murderer," she mumbled sorrowfully into his vest. "Oh, son, you're a murderer of people. How could you?"

"Please," he tried again, "please don't cry. I'll be back. Why you could almost hear that crotchety old Syrian say so, and besides, I've got a feeling I must come back, sooner or later…"

Over her shoulder, he looked at his father, but the older man's eyes held worry that didn't promise much. Influence notwithstanding, Doral was not sure if he could manage it, but he nodded to his only son that at least he'd try.

"And, uh, my fiancé…?" he asked.

His mother turned away. Her face tightened and pulsed hot with unsuppressed anger. "Don't you dare mention that bitch in my presence again! Spying on my son as if he were some commoner! Do you know what happened?" At his dumb look, she nodded righteously. "Well, I'll tell you! That bitch wanted more company stock in addition to the dowry. When your father refused, as well he should have, she set those loathsome sneaks to follow you. May they all rot in hell!"

Then her mouth opened and closed when she realized what she said, and why. Her legs bent, and she was about to collapse when he caught her and held her tight, whispering in her ear over and over again that it was going to be all right. She should get a grip on herself for all their sakes, and slowly, she pulled herself back up.

"Mother, I want you to know I will survive. And I expect you to survive. I expect you to both survive and do well, while I'm gone. Just think of it as an extended vacation." He smiled softly. "Do you remember when you couldn't get rid of me fast enough, when I was going to the university, and wearing those outlandish costumes?"

Father and mother smiled. Yes, they remembered.

"Then think of that. Think of it as if I were going back to the university, but this time it will be a bit longer before I return, and the studies I'll undergo will be of a different nature. But eventually, as you both knew, I'd be back."

"Promise?" she whispered, the agony in her voice making him ache.

"Promise."

"And to think…" she said tearfully, breaking her vow never to mention the subject again. "If only Shar-Mei had been more careful –" She choked the bitterness down.

Doral, white-faced, steered her to the portal opening behind them, the guard gesturing for them to leave. Then, just before they departed he looked back at his son, seeing the young man frozen, a look of grief upon his face, eyes shut tight.

Shar-Mei, Shar-Mei, Doral thought sadly, what a steady influence you might have been. What a daughter-in-law you would have made…what children you would have had…and he too felt like crying.

The cell's energy field dropped and admitted a tall silver-haired administrator in the white robes of a councilor, one of the elite cabinet, which, depending upon one's point of view, was either an honor or a warning.

He gestured and Reg-I-Nald stepped into the corridor, neither wanting to speak. The guards followed, knowing there was no escape.

"Where am I being taken?" he finally asked.

"You are going on a journey few have taken. There is some risk, but it was the only solution the president and his cabinet could come up with that wouldn't panic our Outré friends too much."         

Reg-I-Nald stopped. "I've been told I was to be exiled. It will be another world then?"

The administrator shook his head, amused. "Not really, but don't panic. We're keeping our word, never fear. It will be like dropping you on another world in the general vicinity. And we have to ensure you stay where we put you."

The convicted felon swallowed his unease, squirreling away his dread, and followed his guide. "For how long?" he whispered.         

The other lifted his shoulders in a shrug. "Now that's a puzzle none of us have been willing to come to grips with yet. We know that eventually you'll be returned. The odds of there being another Light Bearer are remote."

"What kind of a society will it be…this place I'm going to?"

At that, it was the councilor's turn to stop. His eyes scanned the young anomaly beside him, appraising him for whatever he was worth.

"Now that I can answer. In some ways it's similar to ours, in others it is far more violent. And, as you like terminating criminals of monstrous caliber, you won't have to seek them out. They'll be all around you." He shuddered. "You should feel quite at home, young Reg-I-Nald."

"I see."

They recommenced their walk down the corridor. "You won't look out of place, you know. It is a humanoid society, and their people look like us, though there are some internal differences. We suggest not seeking a medical practitioner. You know the basics of transplanting healthy cells, so treat yourself if you have to."

Reg-I-Nald nodded dejectedly.

"You can imagine, of course, that there are a number on the council, including the president, who wish you were never born. Others are of a more amenable frame of mind. On that, I would suggest you think positively. We do not wish you to die, while at the same time, we hope you will…"

"I understand."

"As to that, you will not be wholly abandoned. We'll keep tabs on you, young Reg-I-Nald, never fear."

Reg-I-Nald took a deep breath, glanced behind him at the battle rifles in the hands of the guards, and decided to make a pitch.

"How about other options?"

Cool eyes took him in curiously. "For instance?"

"Weapons for one. I'd like to be armed to the teeth. And another thing. Information. I'll need that if I'm not to find myself at war with an entire culture bent on my destruction."

"Yes, we thought of that, and dismissed the idea. What would happen were we to set you in that world with weapons and technology thousands of years ahead of theirs? That might trigger the very disaster we wish to avoid. Something else had to be found."

"What do you mean?"

It was then the administrator smiled grimly as he led the way. They stopped at a chromalloy durilleum portal, made of the hardest substance known, which required several tonal codes to open, and when the massive block slipped from its casing in the wall, then slid aside to admit them, the condemned man looked into another world.

All shining metal, power generators, gravity shields, and down into the bowels of the super cavern, Reg-I-Nald gulped at what he saw next, separated from the rest. A chill worked its way into the marrow of his bones.         

An operating chamber, and overhead, a hologramatic map outlining DNA structure…he shuddered violently. He had heard of such machines, but never seen one. A gene lab.

"So, I'm to be turned into a vegetable."

The councilor gave him a wry look. "Young Reg-I-Nald, I assure you that is not so. This is only a means of ensuring your survival. Many would rather have dumped you on that world stark naked."

"This is different?"

"Yes. It is. Your senses will be heightened. So will your strength, your ability to endure."

"That's all?"

"That's all."

"And if I refuse?"

"Would you?"

"You bet your ass I would!" he shouted, and struggled to turn and run away as fast as he could. He would have done just that, and then a rifle butt struck the back of his head.

 

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Author Bio

Geoff Geauterre is a retired civil servant with a degree in History and special interests in Journalism and Research. He has lived in Florida, New York, Chicago, Boston, Maine, Montreal, Northern Quebec, Calgary, Northwest Territories, and parts of Alaska. He's said he gained his sense of humor from the back of a mule.

Experienced in Medicine, Administration, Security, Publications and News Services as a reporter and commentator, with over four years in the U.S. Navy, he later applied that background when attending the University.

Geoff has traveled to England, France, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Turkey and the Mediterranean Islands. He likes studying Philosophy, Comparative Myths, Legends and Religions. He is also reasonably certain of having gained prior experience in writing in another life. He only hoped it wasn't one that led him to the guillotine!

TTB Titles: A Nightful of Mages - sf/f novel
A Play of Shadows - suspense

Eyes of Light sf/f series
Behold the Eyes of Light - Book I
Far Come the Eyes of Light - Book II
Within the Eyes of Light - Book III
Beyond the Eyes of Light - Book IV

The Fourth Guardian - sf/f novel
The Soapmaster's Apprentice - sf/f novel

Author web site.

 

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The Fourth Guardian Copyright 2006. Geoff Geauterre. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

 

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  Reviews

Regis Tregarath, the only son of the merchant House of Nald has been arrested for murder. But what is he? Murderer? Executioner? Avenging angel? The Block of Truth was expected to execute him as it did to all those who lied upon it, the Block turning black when outright lies were detected. However, despite his crimes, the Block remained white, no matter what he said the Block just grew brighter. The judge from the Galactic Arcturate can hardly believe it; was he the Fourth Guardian? It seemed he was; a mutant on a different wavelength than the rest of humanity.

Some people are scared of him, some are in awe and still others want Regis dead. Fearing to kill him outright, the president, Amaron, sentences him to exile instead. But first they have to manipulate his genes to help him better fit in, but with his mutation things don't work according to plan. Regis' powers are increased even more, telepathy, healing and more, making him a lot different to those on the world he is banished to. A world thirty thousand years in the past, a world called Earth...

Part science-fiction, part geo-political thriller, The Fourth Guardian is a stand-alone novel, but could also be read as an extra to Geauterre's Eyes of Light trilogy. It is fast paced with intricate and interwoven plots. There are a lot of characters; at times too many are introduced without much information about who they are and with some of the strange names it gets a bit confusing.

The parts I loved best were those on Earth when Regis was sent into the past; there is something within him that makes him hunger for justice, to exterminate those he considers vermin and on Earth there are plenty of criminals for him to get to work on. Although there is some voilence in the book, it isn't particularly gory and it isn't lingered over for long.

Despite Regis being considered a criminal, he is a sympathetic character and he was my favourite. There was even a little romance towards the end of the book.

...I liked the book and thought the idea of a Block of Truth for trials was an excellent invention of the author's. Anyone who is a fan of sci-fi or thrillers would probably like this book too.

Reviewed by Annette Gisby, author of "Drowning Rapunzel" and "Shadows of the Rose" for Twisted Tales.
 



 

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