Far in our future: the Unified Galaxy! Kymn Valence, the galaxy’s second most dangerous woman, has been found guilty (in absentia) of over one hundred and sixty crimes and remanded to the Draper Extrasolar Penitentiary, aka Draper’s Rock. What she didn’t know was that within the prison was a gateway to the afterlife of the alien Nepthli… now taken over by the Draper’s Rock prisoners!

Stairway to Heaven created by Douglass Barre



Part Five (of Five)

The Stalker was a figure unlike any Kymn Valence had ever met, and that was quite a statement coming from the galaxy’s second most dangerous woman. Unlike most of the prisoners she had seen since arriving at Draper’s Rock, he (if it was a he) wasn’t dressed in either tattered prison uniforms or stolen alien angel robes. The Stalker was about eight feet tall and covered in some sort of grey flex-leather bodysuit beneath what looked to Kymn like a spiked exoskeleton made of human bone. A smooth obsidian faceplate covered the Stalker’s face completely beneath a gray hood. He sat in a crystalline throne in the center of a snowflake-shaped building of gold and glass.

“Kymn Valence,” the Stalker said. “The most dangerous woman in the galaxy.”

“Second most dangerous,” Kymn corrected.

“Really,” the Stalker said in a deep, obviously altered voice. “Who is the first? And how is such a determination made, anyways?”

“Butterfly, obviously,” Kymn said wistfully. “And there’s actually a firm out of Betelgeuse IV that compiles a list every year. It helps us set our rates in the troubleshooting business.”

“I can imagine,” the Stalker said. “Especially concerning how much trouble I have heard about you shooting.” He paused a moment to signal to one of his men, who quickly brought over to Kymn a tray with a crystal goblet and a strangely shaped bottle of some kind of beverage. Kymn brushed it away with a gesture. It was likely some kind of test… would she drink the poison? Could she survive it? Something like that.

“I presume by this point you know why I’ve brought you here to speak with me,” the Stalker said.

“I think I’ve pieced it together,” Kymn said, thinking back over the experiences she’d had since coming to Draper’s Rock. The empty prison and the mad recruiters wandering about it. The portal in Orange Block and the dead Nepthli. The alien heaven and the gangs of mooks wandering its streets.

“Someone found or created a way out of Draper’s Rock that lead here, to a parallel dimension inhabited by Nepthli spirits or paranaturals or something. You guys, being the universe’s worst criminals, streamed over there and took over the place. Unfortunately, you did it without a plan, and because you haven’t moved back to our universe to resume your lives of rapine and pillage, I assume that you haven’t found a way out of what you all so creatively call Draper’s Sky. As such, you’ve just expanded the prison, not escaped it. Now, since you don’t know any other way to deal with each other, you’ve ended up in a bunch of gangs fighting over territory you’ve taken away from the indigenous inhabitants. Am I reasonably close?”

“Reasonably,” the Stalker said.

“The only thing I didn’t parse was why you gang leaders call yourselves Pates.”

“It’s short for Patriarchs. The Ox-Mixer came up with the term. He’s the Pate of the Cathedral Tower.”

“Of course. Patriarchs.” Kymn rolled her eyes. “Men and their exclusionary language. So this is the part where you try to recruit me for your gang, right?”

“Yes. Your reputation precedes you, obviously, but that’s not the only reason,” the Stalker said. “I believe that there is some fate bringing the two of us together. You may not know this, but this is not the first point in time that the two of us have crossed paths. Not in this life, but I have had many. U’kufa, Augustus, Roger, Trylon…”

“I don’t believe in reincarnation. Or fate.”

“But you believe in blood. I know the blood that runs in your veins of old.”

“Look, if you want me to sign on to your gang here, that’s one thing, but don’t try to sell me on your personal Jesus.”

The Stalker moved faster than anything Kymn had ever seen. Between the seconds he shot from his position in the alien throne to standing behind her. She tried to move to a defensible position but his bone gauntlet closed around the currently nonfunctional quantum boot around her wrist. She threw a kick at his head but her boot did no damage to the spiky bone helmet over his grey leather hood.

“Stop,” he said. “This isn’t an attack.”

There was the sound of cracking circuitry and bending metal, and the q-boot crumpled and shattered in his hand.

“You could have broken my wrist,” Kymn said.

“If your foot didn’t break during your ill-advised kick, your wrist wasn’t going to break under the amount of pressure I used. The q-boot is gone. Your abilities are once again yours.”

“They already were,” Kymn said.

“Now you can have them if you return to the Rock, though. In the meantime, I want you to use your sympathy magics–”

“Symphathetic quantum connectivity,” Kymn corrected.

“–to connect us. See for yourself.”

Kymn considered that it might be a trap, but the Stalker’s hand was still gripped tight around the new crumpled metal bracelet on her wrist. She reached out and found that she couldn’t connect to the being inside the leather and bone armor, so she connected the horn at the top of his helmet to her right palm. This way, if she needed, she’d be able to deflect or pull any attack he made with the sharp point.

As soon as the quantum link was made, though, she sensed that he was right. Something in her blood recognized whatever strange armor surrounding the Stalker.

“All right,” she said, determined that the best place to solve this mystery was going to be where she could keep the Stalker close at hand. “You’ve got yourself a new recruit.”

“Good,” the Stalker said. “Then the war for Draper’s Sky can finally begin in earnest.”

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© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.

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