A Moment in Sci-Fi, by D. Pierce Williams
In the next instalment of the “A Moment in Sci-Fi” series, I’m delighted to be able to showcase a piece of original flash-fiction by D. Pierce Williams, science fiction author, computer geek, aviation enthusiast and history graduate. If you like the story, please click a few of the links below to see what else is happening in the world of D. Pierce Williams and read the synopses of the books in this series. The latest book is The White Light of Tomorrow.
If you haven’t heard of “A Moment in Sci-Fi” before, this is an opportunity for any writer who wants to appear on this blog to introduce new readers to their writing style and published works through composing a 500 to 1,000 word piece on anything at all as long as it is in a science fiction setting. That’s life and science, chaps, never magic, so futurologists, biological speculators, philosophers exposing the human condition and otherworld historians are equally welcome to join in. Sometimes this series attracts new readers and sometimes it doesn’t but the outcome is solely in the writer’s crafty hands.
For those in search of context, the characters portrayed herein are Adrian of Tarsus, a low-ranking officer in a knightly order, and Mariel, his adopted daughter, who by the time the book begins, is old enough to become his squire.
The series is set far in the future when, after a mysterious disaster, Earth's colonies have been cut off from the home planet. As the colonies were sparsely populated (mainly for scientific and resource extraction purposes) and have no technological or industrial base of their own, the inhabitants have had to adapt to conditions suddenly and find themselves in a far more harsh and competitive environment. Exhibiting behaviour similar to a cargo cult (but in reverse), people have resurrected old ideas and institutions, including religion, which they adhere to and support with varying degrees of sincerity. The author has blended retro-Medieval and Renaissance history, rarely seen ingredients in a sci-fi setting, which creates a sense of originality and fun.
As a badly positioned subjective footnote, the order of St John (the Hospitalers) are reconstituted in this imagined future. Strangely enough, my own family claim mostly proven descent from a member of that order, who was present at the siege of Rhodes (the Ottomans claimed it, sailed in, went up the walls like spiders). We called them the Paynim (a word which didn't catch on) and they called us the Infadels (which did). The funny thing is, the Order of St John were supposed to be completely celibate, which tells you all you need to know about how seriously these warrior monks took their vows when they got back home with their suntanned stories and started waving exotic attars of rose and glinty trinkets at sorely neglected young barmaids. It had to happen.
Ash-Sham – The Jasmine City
The sweet citrus smell of the ancient City’s famous botanical gardens lingered on the warm afternoon breeze. Mariel ran barefoot across the hot, sun-bleached stones lining the courtyard of the Order’s barracks. She carried her friend Geoffrey with her, clasping the wound on his side and praying he wouldn’t die.
It was all her fault!
She ran past the Sergeant of the Guard, who waved as she streaked by, then up a flight of wooden stairs lined with potted palm trees to the second-floor balcony. She had thought to show Geoffrey the armoury, where the Knights kept the real swords in racks, their sharp blades gleaming under a coating of light oil. When the midday sun shone through the door just so, the weapons and armour looked like the silver and gold arms of the Archangels. As the squire (in training) to a Knight-Lieutenant, she was allowed to go there, but then Geoffrey brushed against one of the blades, cutting himself open at the waist.
She found the heavy wooden door to the room she shared with Adrian, her Knight, and threw it open so hard it crashed into the wall behind and bounced back at her.
“Bloody hell!” Adrian said from within. “What’s this about, then?” He sat at their table, in his big chair, with a mug full of ale at his side and a glass data pad in his hand. She said nothing, but ran to him and thrust Geoffrey into his lap. Adrian examined the unfortunate fellow, reaching up to turn on the old diode light that hung over the table. Mariel knelt beside him, wrapping her arms around his leg and resting her head on his knee. It was important that she didn’t cry. Knights don’t cry, and neither should their squires. Even squires in training.
“Well,” Adrian said. “This is serious. A very serious laceration indeed.” She tightened her hold on his leg, and felt him lean over to the shelf and grab the medical kit. She didn’t want to watch the surgery, to see Adrian sew Geoffrey up with the same needle and thread he used on himself and other Knights when they were cut and wounded. He worked for a minute, perhaps two.
“There!” He said. “You can look now, love. I have good news.” She raised her head, and saw Geoffrey’s yellow face and mane, his button-eyes staring back at her.
“There were no complications, and Sir Geoff is ready to roar again.” Adrian tossed the stuffed lion down into her arms. She stood up on the tips of her toes and kissed her Knight on the cheek before running back outside, slamming the door behind her.
There's more info on DPW’s website here: http://dpiercewilliams.com
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