Coming in 2020
A New Series of Eight Books
Albacron: #2 The Keepers of Tyranny
Second in a Series
What if the rich do get richer? What if the poor do get poorer? Where will it all end 700 years from now? It ends in a land called Albacron … or does it?
1. WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE
It felt like flying, as if I had changed into an eagle and glided through the skies exploring a strange, yet familiar world. My eyes opened as the rush of wind whipped past my face. My hair blew out behind me, blond instead of cinnamon, the way it used to be before the Albacronians changed it. I glanced down. I’m wearing a stained and tattered dress … one I haven’t worn recently. How did I get here, and where am I?
I concentrated on the helmeted man standing in front of me dressed in a silver, tight-fitting uniform. He gripped a golden crossbar connected to the round platform beneath us, a platform that could hold four more like me. I noticed my hands grasped a gray crossbar.
The platform is moving … flying … and I’ve never flown before … or have I?
I peered over the edge and spied a beach speeding by thirty feet below. To our right, a dirt cliff rose nearly a hundred feet.
The platform dipped toward the silty beach, swung to our left over the water, then, after a sharp right, it climbed toward the cliff top.
It’s going to crash! As we drew closer and the platform still hadn’t pulled up enough, I shut my eyes and waited for the impact. This is it! My life ends here!
The platform lurched upward, and I opened my eyes in time to see us zoom over the rim. Treetops shot past beneath us. We gained more height, and a village popped into sight in the distance. As we approached, I spied many rundown shanties surrounding a group of finer buildings in the village square, the center one a six-sided, six-story mansion. Nine spires as tall as the building circled along the edge of the courtyard.
Climbing higher, woods appeared beyond the village to the west. To the right, a single-story factory stretched three hundred yards. A perimeter fence extended from either end of it surrounding the village like a snake around its prey. North of that, more woods.
Is this my home? My memory is failing … a disease of the aged … yet … I’m almost eighteen.
Slowing down, the platform lowered and landed in the courtyard in front of the mansion. Two militiamen dressed in yellow, skin-tight suits rushed toward us. They wore gray helmets and wielded shock wands.
“Got another one, sir?” one militiaman said while glaring at me.
“Yes,” the pilot replied. “Just another Vercundi wandering beyond the perimeter fence.”
Another militiaman smacked his wand into his other hand. “Why don’t they just fix that east fence?”
The pilot laughed. “Then we’d be out of a job and have to work like demons for our keep ….” He thrust a thumb toward me. “Just the way they do.”
The militiamen laughed, boarded the platform, and escorted me off. With one on either side, we started toward the mansion.
There’s something bad … something evil inside. I’m not sure what it is, but I know I don’t want to go in there.
I yanked my arms free, spun, and bolted.
This is crazy. Where can I go? They will catch me, but I have to try. I have to resist!
Something jammed into my back. A wand. A flash of light, a jolt, and my body lost all feeling. I fell unconscious before I hit the ground.
2. HOME TO ROOST
What’s that noise? Is that me screaming?
I opened my eyes to someone slapping my face. When I focused, a militiaman stood before me and another behind, pinning my arms.
“You must be conscious so you can face the Supreme Mayor,” the militiaman in front of me said.
The one behind me let go. “You’ve done a very bad thing.”
“And I see that it’s not the first time.” The militiaman in front grinned, reached out, and lifted a dark-green crystal strung around my neck. “I see you’ve already been awarded the ‘Crystal of Shame.’”
I stared at it. I remember … somehow I got that for … going outside the perimeter fence. At least that’s what I was told when I woke up one morning and found it around my neck. I must have done it again … but I don’t remember. Is this a nightmare? When am I going to wake up?
The tiny, windowless room we occupied jerked as though it had been in motion and stopped. An opening appeared when part of the wall in front of me slid into itself to the left. The militiamen forced me out, and I heard the opening close behind me.
They marched me into a room about forty feet square. I noticed a bright light buried within a cluster of crystals hanging from the center of the room. White poles supporting frosted, glowing globes on top stood along the walls every ten feet.
A well-dressed man in a yellow suit sat behind his semicircular desk holding a turkey leg. Before him stretched pans and bowls, each brimming with a different food.
I suddenly feel as hungry as a mouse in the dead of winter. I didn’t feel that way on my way here … but now … I’m starved.
The flavor-filled odors forced my mouth to water. Focusing on one huge mound of meat glistening in a brownish sauce, I caught my tongue dangling out of my mouth.
The man finished chewing and swallowed. He sat back and wiped his mouth and hands on his crimson, cloth napkin. “Another perimeter violator?”
“Yes, Supreme Mayor,” one of the militiamen said.
The mayor stared at me. “I know you. Electra. And I see by the ‘Crystal of Shame’ that you’ve done this before.”
I shifted my eyes aside. Tears as cold as icicles flowed down my cheeks.
“Stand by, militiamen.” I looked back to find the Supreme Mayor glaring at me. “Hungry, Electra?”
“I bet you are.” He tossed the napkin on the desktop. “You Vercundi complain about your poverty. A poverty, by the way, we Albacronians know you deserve. Your history proves that.”
He pulled his elbows back onto the gold armrests with his fingers spread, each touching a finger on the opposite hand. “Your punishment will be more severe than last time. After all, this is your third time. You remember when I decreed that you, your husband, Zosma, and your little sister and brother would go without food for three days.”
I stretched forward, my eyes on the food. “We were hungry. I thought perhaps there may be living things in the Big Sea.”
The mayor shook his head. “The sea is as dead as your dream of the Vercundi people ever being free. And there are no sizable animals outside the perimeter to speak of.” He dropped his hands and leaned forward. “We provide the food for your work in the textile factory. You work and draw numbers for ‘The Nurturing.’ If the quotas are met, everyone who draws a number receives one day’s food ration for their whole family. It’s quite simple … and it’s totally under your control.” He sat back. “We Albacronians simply administer it.”
More tears inched down my face. I wiped them and sniffed. “I promise you that I’ll never go outside the perimeter fence again.”
He folded his arms. “I think you’re sincere. You have to think … what would happen to that wonderful ten-year-old brother of yours … Deneb … and his twelve-year-old sister, Meri Diana.”
“I know, Supreme Mayor. I’m all they have since we lost our parents.”
“They wandered off, I believe. Perhaps beyond the perimeter fence. Who knows what happened to them?”
I clenched my fists. “My mother died a few years ago in the factory. She got caught up in a giant loom and was stabbed to death. They removed her body and replaced her with my older sister, Chara, the next day. Cold … cruel … calculating.”
He stared at my whitening knuckles. “Be careful, Electra. You’re taking liberties.”
I felt my legs shaking and looked at the floor. “I don’t know about my father for sure, but I saw Chara disappear in our living room one night.” I slapped my right thigh. “The front door opened all by itself!”
He laughed and unfolded his arms. “Fanciful, to say the least. I’m afraid that a starved mind manufactures hallucinations. No one simply disappears into thin air.”
I jammed my hands onto his desk and leaned forward. “Yes, but I know what I ….” I stared at him gazing at my hands. Yanking them away, I stood straight again.
Now is not the time to challenge him … but I must! I remember now. It’s all come back to me. He shouldn’t be here, because everything has changed.
“Mayor, you should be in Adelphy, the Albacron capital, showing the Superior Albacronian and his High Council what my husband, Meri Diana, Deneb, and I found in the Ruins of Truth.”
He shot forward, his brow exploding toward his hairline. “What?”
I gritted my teeth. “The Ruins of Truth! The Lincoln Memorial in the ancient ruins of Washington?”
“What has gotten into you, girl? You spout nothing but fantasy.”
I dug my eyes into his. “The real history of the Vercundi people. We were not responsible for the Magnus Bellum … the great war. Nearly seven hundred years ago … it was something that just happened.”
The mayor looked into his lap and shook his head.
“Don’t you remember the globe with the images in it? The man in the images said I was the ‘Chosen One’ … and you took it to Adelphy to show the Superior Albacronian … and you appointed me the acting mayor.”
“The acting mayor?” He shot back in his chair, slammed his hands on his armrests, and blinked several times. “Have you lost your senses, Vercundi girl?”
I plunged my hands on the desk and leaned as close as I could. “Have you gone there and come back, or have you changed your mind and failed to go at all?” I thrust out a hand. “Give me the globe, then. I’ll go and straighten out the history before the Magnus Bellum.”
The Supreme Mayor shot to his feet. “You … the ‘Chosen one’?” He whipped back his head. “What an amazing tirade!”
“My people are not at fault … and neither are your people. Greedy men took over the world economy and blamed us for wrecking things so they could rise to supreme power. This once-great land was tricked by one man. A man with blond hair who lied at every opening of his mouth.”
The mayor eased a hand to his forehead. “You’re crazy.”
I jammed a finger onto my chest. “Most of my people were killed in the Magnus Bellum, and the survivors were made to live in villages simply to provide the Albacronians with all their needs. We lived in poverty while the Albacronians lived in luxury.” I stamped my foot. “I know. I was taken away, brought there, and forced to serve … nothing but a slave!”
He dropped his hand and glowered at me while shaking his head.
“You were supposed to correct that by showing the Adelphians the images in the globe.” I held out my hands palms up and scrunched my curved fingers together while stiffening my thumb. Bringing my hands together, the opening formed a ball about four inches in diameter. “The man inside it explained everything.”
“A man inside a globe …” he pointed at my hands, “… that small?” He darted around the desk, grabbed my throat, and threw the other hand over my forehead. “Why, you’re burning up with fever. No wonder you’re so delirious.”
He pushed me, and my torso fell across the desk. I rose as he walked back to his chair shrugging back into the fit of his suit. He turned and glared at me. “We’re sending you home first. Then we will bring you back tomorrow at first light to administer a proper and severe punishment.” He turned to the militiamen. “See to it that this one is returned home to roost.”
“To roost, Supreme Mayor?” one of them said.
“To roost,” the Supreme Mayor repeated. He sat down, leaned back, and laughed. It grew into a guffaw by the time the militiamen had marched me into the little room.
“Home to roost!” The Supreme Mayor continued laughing as the little room closed behind me.
It jiggled as though it moved downward. Stopping, part of the wall slid into itself leaving an opening. They marched me down a hall and stopped by a knob sticking out from the white wall.
I jerked my head to either side. “Wait. This isn’t the ground floor. I know what this room is. I know what you’re about to do.”
One militiaman shoved the same knob to the left, and the area inside the perimeter retracted into the left wall. They shoved me inside, and the door closed behind me. I ran to it. A window appeared, and I watched as they laughed.
“Let me out of here!” I banged on the door. “I know about this room. The Supreme Mayor said I was to go home to my husband … my Zosma. Let me out!” I shut my eyes and cried. “Someone, help me. Please!”
A bright, orange light filled the room.
“Here it comes. I am finished!” I shielded my eyes with my hands and waited. As expected, my body heated up forcing me to pant as my mouth felt as dry as hot sand. The temperature rose to an unbearable level. I looked at my tattered dress. It turned brown, then black. My body seemed ready to explode in flames. I screamed.
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