A science fiction story in Olympus Union by Gary Bloom

Characters: Kro

Thirteen Cameron Avenue, Kamal. The darkened home was typical of most on Luna. Two levels protruded above the ground while two more sat below. The lower two levels, of course, were the well-utilized. Digging downward enabled better insulation, more warmth. Access to the subterranean networks was on the first level beneath the ground, the main entrance. The wealthiest families owned homes with three, and even four levels beneath the surface, but this wasn't one.

It was the darkness of night, as deeply so as night came to Kamal. The family who resided at Thirteen Cameron Avenue lay sleeping on the deepest level. At this time of night, the behavior was expected. At least, that was the thought of the men approaching the first ground level. Making quick work of the door's lock, they moved inside and shut it quickly and quietly.

"Which way?" one of the hooded men asked, quietly.

"Upstairs," the other whispered back.

As quietly as possible, they crept up the carpeted stairs. They were aided by the fibers, a higher grade and softer blended fabric. When Ibn Hinnic had installed this carpet, he hoped it would keep the steps quieter when the children ran up and down the stairs. Its intended purpose worked at odds for Ibn today.

Nearly two centuries ago, Bensalem Hinnic wrote "The Polymorph" in an era when books were still printed on paper. So well treated were the pages of those books, at the end of the printing era that many still survived, even as the older generation's books crumbled to dust. While many were discarded during the digital revolution, a special copy, signed "With respect to my descendants, Bensalem" has been passed down for generations in the family. This evening, the two interlopers sought to steal it for a private collector.

"Here," the first burglar whispered loudly, "I found the book over here."

The two men moved to a cabinet in the corner of the room farthest from the window. Opening the glass door, they gently lifted the book from its stand. From the opposite direction came a high pitched voice.


Turning, the two men saw a small child. The boy had been playing on the floor in front of the window. Now he was walking towards the pair, a quizzical look on his face.

"Who are you? Poppa said we aren't allowed to touch the book." He took an angry pose, shaking a finger. "It's not a toy, you know."

"Shouldn't you be in bed, kid?"

"I didn't want lights out, I wanted to play! I sneaked up like every night. You should put the book back, now." He stamped a foot to emphasize the last word. Stamping again, he yelled, "I said now!"

"Shut up kid," they growled. "Stop your stamping. Shut up kid, now!"

The boy kept stamping. Now, he pounded both feet, marching in place, on the verge of tears.

"Poppa! Poppa they took out your book! Poppa!"

"Damn it, kid," the first man, book tucked under his arm, headed for the stairs. The book steps in front of him, and he kicks the child out of the way. "Damn it! Let's get out of here, now!"

The young boy tumbled quickly down the stairs. Landing at an awkward angle, he slammed hard against the wall at the base. Thundering down behind him came the two hooded men, a book tucked under one's arm.

Hearing the noise, Ibn and his wife charge up the stairs. As they run, his wife shouts for the other children, who follow behind, to stay where they are. As they arrive, they find the small boy, and the door swung wide open. Diving to the child's side, Ibn pulls his son from the contorted position, laying him out more comfortably.

"Poppa," he gasps, in a small voice, "they took your book."

The boys’ eyes slide lazily shut. Looking at his wife, the question is unspoken, but answered. She looks down to her son as Ibn rushes back downstairs to the main communication system. Calling first for emergency medical technicians, he dials for the police force next. Speaking quickly, he explains that his house has been invaded, his son assaulted, and a priceless family heirloom stolen. Elaborating as much as he can, Ibn describes the scene, then heads back upstairs.

When he returns, the paramedics are already working on the boy.

"How is he?"

"He has some broken bones," his wife answered. Her eyes were red, but face was strong. "The medics say that he won't be paralyzed, though. They need to take him to the hospital."

"Yes," Ibn nodded, "absolutely".

"What did the police say?"

"They promised to keep their eyes open, but," he admitted with a sigh, "because what they stole is considered an artifact, it's unlikely to be stolen in Kamal."

"Your concern is for the book?" His wife was on the edge of outrage. Only the presence of the medics kept her in control. "Your son lies on a stretcher, and you only care for your book?"

"Watch your tone," Ibn warned. "If we can find the men who stole the book, we can punish them for what they've done to our boy. Our poor excuse for security officers tells me that we can't find them, though. How can I seek retribution? Even if my ancestor’s tome were retrieved, without their punishment, there will forever be a black mark on our house.

"Husband, wait, please."

She placed a hand on his chest, and a finger on his lips. Holding it there, they both watched as the medics loaded their son onto a stretcher. When the medics had exited, she walked to the door and shut it behind them. She would follow after shortly, but if she went right now, it would only be a hinderance. Placing a finger to her lips, Mrs. Hinnic ushered the other two children back down the stairs. She's call over an relative or friend to sit with them when she left for the hospital. Finally, she returned to her husband.

"If your desire for retribution is true, there is one thing that we might do. A man that I have heard rumor of. He is," she hesitated, "unsavory, at best. Still, I have heard that his methods are effective, his results always as requested."

"And you'd have me go see assistance from this mystery? This man who is, what, an avenging angel, perhaps?"

"No, my dearest, he is more of an avenging demon. One look into his inky black eyes will chill you to the bone. You will also have no doubt that he will make someone suffer for this crime."

Ibn Hinnic sat at a table in Dino's, a musty bar in Vilma. Around him, the dive buzzed with a mix of murmured conversation and old music. A glass of water rested in front of him, barely touched, with a lime floating atop ice cubes. He stared at the back wall. It's paint job looked fairly fresh, maybe three or four months old; it did little to clean the place up.

"Anyone ever teach you not to sit with your back to the door?" The man who owned the voice crossed around and sat in front of Ibn. He had close cropped dark hair and jet black eyeballs whose gaze was, indeed, chilling. "You're lucky, you know. I'm not usually here on Luna."

"Well, I was told that-"

"No, no, hold on there buddy, I'm not interested in how you found me. Probably better that I don't know, truth told. What's your name?"

"My name? Why would you need my name?"

"Let's keep this simple. Tell me your name or find someone else to do your dirty work."

"Ibn Hinnic. My name is Ibn Hinnic. Please, don't go, you're my only hope."

"Your only hope, eh? Well I'm Kro," the man chuckled, "and hope costs money."

"I've got money. Our family, we have an inheritance." Ibn shook his head. "We are far from wealthy, but we can pay for retribution."

"Retribution, huh? Why don't you tell me what you're looking for, my new friend."

"My home was violated. The sanctuary of my family was ruined. Burglars broke in and stole from me."

Kro laughed. Ibn stopped speaking. The two men looked at each other for a long moment, unspeaking. Finally, with a grin, Kro gestured for him to continue.

"They've stolen a priceless book that has been handed down for generations in my family. As they left, they badly injured my son. Even now, he lies in a hospital bed. I want my book back and my song avenged. Are you capable of performing these tasks for me?"

Kro offers Ibn a twisted smile. The two set about talking details. The mercenary agreed to complete the mission just as soon as he finished what he'd actually come to Luna for in the first place.

"No! No you must find them, before it's too late!"

"Take it easy there, professor." Kro's demeanor turned somber, gruff. "I do things in my own time. All my contracts come through, and I'll even bring you a souvenir body part as a bonus. Now, why don't you go ahead and buy me a drink."