by Libbylawrence, with Doc Quantum
Now, at the space port, Arda Starr shook her head in a gesture that was uncharacteristic of most Venusians but was common for her. She found that the physical movement seemed to help her govern her thoughts and powers. “The past is just the past. It is over and can only distract me from what awaits me in the future,” she whispered to herself.
She looked around once more but saw no face that she knew and felt no mental transmissions from any friend or relation. She drew in a breath and walked aboard the craft. Arda was leaving Venus, but she was stepping into a larger role in the solar system and even the galaxy.
The young Venusian reached to pick up a holo-paper, but the news was the same as it had been for so long. Industrialist J.J. Kord, famed inventor of the stargate technology that had vastly improved the speed of interstellar travel fifty years ago, was struggling with his latest project. The old man wanted to create an alliance of worlds in which each planet would offer what it had and work with the others for mutual benefit and peace. This star system’s planets had once joined together as the United Worlds of the Solar System several centuries ago until that alliance broke down over interplanetary wars, but Kord’s proposed Commonwealth of Federated Planets had the potential to end warfare and establish an era of prosperity like none other. That was his goal, but he was faltering. The many races involved simply found more differences than they did similarities. Arda knew that was the nature of sentients.
She sighed and stepped aboard the shuttle. To her surprise, she then spotted the famous man himself. At first she thought that she was hallucinating, that her powerful imagination was somehow manifesting the object of her thoughts. Why would one of the wealthiest men in the universe use public transportation? He personally owned a fleet of spacecraft.
Arda smiled to herself as she felt the power and intellect the white-haired man emitted. He had to be Kord. No one else could radiate such a powerful personality. New ideas seemed to spring from his mind like palpable things.
She then frowned as her mind picked up a rather different type of thought. Arda herself was the object of desire occupying the thoughts of a young man with reddish-blond hair and an excitable manner. He craned his neck as she walked by, and she gave him an icy stare and a warning thought for his troubles. “Don’t even dream about it,” she thought as she blotted out an image of herself in an unsavory outfit.
The boy’s companion, a handsome, dark-haired youth, smiled at his sudden discomfort and swiftly led him to another topic. Arda recognized the young man as Rokky “Magno” Jones of Ophiuchus Tertius. (*) As a famous moopsball champion, he had just concluded a goodwill tour of Venus. He was a very popular sports figure, although Arda herself seldom gave frivolous activities much time. Still, she had heard of Jones and knew of his justly celebrated skills as well as his mutant power of electromagnetism that had earned him the nickname of Magno. Too bad he hangs around with bad company, she thought with a sniff of disdain.
The journey from that point on was basically tranquil, although Arda still occasionally caught the red-haired boy glancing her way. She picked up a stray thought of his that indicated he was Drake Gordon from the kingdom of Alania on Mongo, a trans-dimensional planet noted for its many exotic kingdoms. She also picked up mental images of a pretty girl who was clearly his twin, as well as an older sibling who seemed to be a source of worry for the boy.
He won’t take no for an answer, she thought. I hate to imagine there’s another sibling like him out there. The boy’s on a shuttle from Venus, most of the passengers here are wearing the traditional Venusian symbol that marks them as telepaths, and he still can’t rein in his thoughts and emotions. The guy must be a real wildcard. I hope I don’t get stuck working with jerks like that in the Academy. Arda herself wore earrings shaped like the Venus symbol — a circle with a cross hanging below it — and she touched one idly as she pondered her future.
Finally, the trip ended, and the passengers prepared to disembark. The wealthy J.J. Kord was visibly eager to get off the craft. Perhaps this was due to the fact that he had so much to do, and any delay — even the necessary delay of travel — stressed his active nature.
Suddenly, Arda received thoughts that shook her to the core. Three supposedly harmless baggage carriers were about to attack Kord. Images of bloody assault filled their minds and — through extension — her own. She cried out, “Those three are planning to kill Mr. Kord!”
Instantly, the two boys, who were a little distance in front of her, took explosive and effective action. The Ophiuchusian, Rokky Jones, raised his hands and displayed his mutant magnetic power that ripped two concealed phasers from beneath the cloaks of the three startled hitmen. They cried out and had begun to flee when an even more amazing thing happened.
Drake Gordon, Rokky’s companion from Mongo, jumped forward, and blazing bolts of electricity shot from his hands to block the criminals’ path and bring them whimpering into surrender as Space Patrol officers rushed forward. Arda Starr smiled in approval. For all his amorous thoughts, the boy from Mongo was a hero. He had powers unlike any she had ever heard of from a native of that exotic planet.
Rokky Jones raised his hands, his electromagnetic power causing metallic railings to wrap around the defeated crooks and hold them tight.
Arda Starr crouched down on her knees in front of the bound criminals and tried to read their thoughts. “They’re just hired thugs, but they’ve also been equipped with psi-screens,” she explained after a moment’s struggle. “I can’t ferret out the name of their employer.”
A Space Patrol officer approached them and quickly took their statements. Arda felt a wave of disapproval from the woman’s mind as the officer recognized the SPD cadet uniform Arda wore, but it was the woman’s expression that made her feelings all too clear. “Cadet Starr, I presume? Commander Lansing will be wanting to see you. We’d better get moving.” Arda noticed other officers taking statements from the two boys as she followed the brusque officer away from the port.
During the process of answering the questions from the police, all three teens were too busy to notice what others were saying about their efforts.
“They come from different worlds, yet they worked well as a team. What heroic teens!”
“They are too young to have picked up prejudices against other sentients.”
While the three teens failed to hear the reaction of the crowd to their heroic deed, the entrepreneurial J.J. Kord heard, and a smile crossed his face as the old genius had another brilliant idea.
Days after the attack on J.J. Kord, Drake Gordon told himself that he wasn’t lost as he stood hesitantly near the door to a rather seedy-looking hotel. His gaze narrowed ever so slightly as the reddish-blond youth from Mongo reminded himself for the hundredth time that he was not in Alania anymore. Indeed, the urban sprawl of thirty-first century HubCore was enough to dwarf the peaceful kingdom that had been the boy’s home back on the planet Mongo. Vice and virtue, splendor and decay — all were around him at every turn. Still, Drake thought, at least I’m not lost.
The phrase was meant both literally and figuratively. He was a self-assured boy, but he also needed a bit of mental encouragement, since his grand scheme was beginning to look more and more like a failure. Della will never let me live it down if I go home now, he thought. Plus, the people back home will alternate between telling me I’m turning out just like Dash and saying how badly I’ve worried them.
He shook his head ruefully, since so much of what he thought and felt was governed by family ties. It was like that on Mongo. Over countless centuries, several species of sentient humanoids had learned to co-exist on the same planet. And a large part of that co-existence had involved firmly entrenched social structures within the individual societies on Mongo. Each of those societies were governed by monarchies, and everyone was expected to know their place within his or her society. On Mongo, you were born into a social class. If you weren’t a member of a royal family, you were a warrior, a scientist, a merchant, a farmer, or a laborer. In Drake’s case, he was likewise expected to follow the family tradition of hero.
In the twentieth century, Drake’s ancestors Steve “Flash” Gordon and Dale Arden — along with scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov — had liberated the planet Mongo from the rule of the tyrant Ming the Merciless. (*) Ever since then, the Gordon family had been expected to fill the social role of planetary heroes. When he was younger, Drake had thought being a hero would give him a life of constant adventure, but in more recent years he had also learned about the burdens of responsibility that came along with this unique social role.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Flash Gordon comic-strip.]
Since his brother Dash was a few years older than him, Drake had already seen a few of the negative effects that came from the burden of responsibility. As the eldest brother, Dash was expected to fill the role of first hero of the planet, and he had been thrust into training from a very young age by their uncle after the death of their father. While the young twins Drake and Della had been allowed to have normal childhoods, Dash had been forced into an adult role far too early.
Dash Gordon, separated from his immediate family to train with a stern uncle for a role that had fallen on his shoulders, had always felt completely alone. No one truly understood what caused him to be this way, but he was a misfit. He resented being first hero of the planet, and he acted out to express his anger, rebelling against a social role he hadn’t chosen for himself. By the time he was in his late teens, he had become little more than a reckless, wild punk with few redeeming qualities. However, Drake saw his brother differently. He looked up to Dash despite the fact that his hot-tempered older brother had often been cruel to his younger siblings. Drake saw Dash’s pain, and he always believed his brother to be a hero of sorts. While he wasn’t the first hero that Mongo tradition demanded of him, Dash Gordon was a wild rebel who defied society and its traditions. Because of his very solitary role on a planet of social roles, he was uniquely alone. Dash had no one. But Drake had Della.
Della Gordon was Drake’s twin sister, and she was viewed as the family’s perfect child. She was the good girl who obeyed all the rules and always went the extra mile in doing her chores or studying at school. She was pretty, vivacious, kind, and wholesome, and she often irritated Drake with her know-it-all ways. Still, he loved her dearly, and he shielded her from the worst of Dash’s outbursts.
He thought for a moment about something Della had once told him after class. She was a natural teacher’s pet and seemed to be loved by even their robotic educators, if such a thing could be believed. She also loved to read, and she once told Drake about some play by the Earth writer Shakespeare.
“In the ancient world, people often felt their destinies were reflected by changes in the natural world,” she had said, eagerly explaining what she had learned on her own. “Meteors, bolts of lightning, strange sights and sounds often happened before some major life-altering event.”
At the time, Drake had listened but made little response. Now, he stood in the darkness in the midst of a rather dangerous neighborhood in HubCore, Earth, and he admitted how very true her words had been. A flash of lightning had indeed changed their lives forever.