Note: A ‘Despoina’ is a feminine title of royalty. A ‘Despoir’ is a masculine title of royalty.
On the Green Moon of the Fifth Quadrant of Jellsh, the Wind Racers say that a bar is no place to go when you have troubles. But, if you know the bartender, you might get a few good drinks—and a couple life tips—when you go. This particular bar was located in the shady part of the city. The men who liked to brawl with their light sabers and shout at intergalactic sports news went there. They were all seasoned Wind Racers, and they had established the Laser Light as their turf a long time ago. So when the slight, blond-haired boy sat came into the building, most of the regulars watched him suspiciously.
Dost came in and sat down at the bar. He knew the young bartender, Cato, and was talking to him about politics and the new Lightning Stryke racer ship that had just come out. Cato had taken the Wind Racer test, and had scored three hundred and twenty percent. The only thing that was keeping him back was his sick father. Cato was trying to sell the bar, and find a new place for him and his dad.
Per the norm, Dost bought a drink and drank to the health of the Emperor Comet. As he drank, Dost thought about the girl he had met that day. She was a Despoina, but she hadn’t been like any he’d ever met. Her name was Apairë. Apairë…
Apairë hummed happily to herself as she placed her imported Galactic black diamond combs in her auburn hair. She tilted her head coquettishly, looking at her reflection in the mirror. She had no idea when she would ever wear something so fancy, but she thought it looked alright—attractive, even. But perhaps—just maybe—she could wear it tonight at dinner with that young handsome Wind Racer. What did he say his name was? Dost? Yes, that was it! He was so sweet, and quite nice, in an awkward, ‘what-in-the-world-am-I-supposed-to-do’ sort of way. At least, that was how he had seemed when Apairë had met him, earlier that week.
She had been waiting at the space-harbor for her grandfather’s spaceship. He was the Ambassador of the Fifth Quadrant, and he had been on a ambassadorial trip to the nearby planet of Gashaad. Apairë, standing in the line to get a drink, tripped over a rolling soda can that was pursued by a young man. As she tripped, the young man dove to catch the can and they ended up laying on the ground, a very awkward tangle of arms and legs. As the passersby rushed by giggling, Apairë and Dost stared at each other for a long moment, transfixed. Finally, Dost said something.
Apairë swallowed. “How do you do?”
“I’m-I’m fine, thank you…and you?”
“Well,” Apairë laughed, a little, “Aside from the fact that I’m sitting on your boot and it’s rather uncomfortable, I’m doing quite well, thank you.”
Dost joined her in laughing. “Ah, well, let me help you up.”
He took her hands and pulled her up. “I’m Dost. Dost Diarmand.”
“I’m Despoina Apairë Pyros.”
Dost’s eyes widened. “Despoina? I’m sorry, my lady, I had no idea, please…”
Apairë laughed again. “Oh, please, don’t! It’s just a title.”
They were talking together when her grandfather came up to them, huffing and puffing. A robot was carrying his trunk, trailing behind him.
“Apairë,” he called breathlessly, shielding his eyes from the bright sun. “Who is that you’re talking to? Is that a boy?”
Apairë closed her eyes in resignation. “Yes, grandfather.”
To Dost, she whispered, “My granddad has been trying to set me up with a boy for the last two years. He’ll probably invite you to supper.”
Dost grinned. “That would be fine with me.” He stepped forward and shook the Ambassador’s hand. “Sir, it’s an honor to meet you. I’m Captain Dost Diarmand.”
The Ambassador squinted in the sunlight and peered at the young man. “Ah, a Diarmand, eh? I knew your father, Brutus. He was an amazing racer. Are you a Wind Racer, then?”
“Yes, sir. I’m in the 14th Division under General Grenouille.”
“Ah! Old Grenny!”
The Ambassador leaned in and put an arm around Dost’s shoulders. “Listen, son, later this week, I’m having a little get-together—nothing fancy, just a few friends—and perhaps, you would honor us with your presence?”
Apairë stifled her laughter as Dost grinned broadly. “It would be a pleasure, sir!”
Standing in the large, spacious atrium of the Villa Pyros, Dost kept fidgeting with his hat. He hadn’t been this dressed up since his father’s funeral five years earlier. He could barely remember it, but he most definitely did remember the tight collar of the suit and the black hat that had been too big for him. As he stood, alone with his thoughts, Apairë came dashing down the stairs in a particularly unladylike way. She wore a floaty dress of pale green, accented with silver jewels and ribbons. Dost grinned; it seemed like he had been doing that ever since he had met Apairë. As she approached him, she smiled back.
“Shall we go into the library?” she asked brightly. “The others are already here. Did Barton let you in?”
“If Barton was the elderly man with the white beard and a scowl, then yes,” Dost said, offering his arm to her, “He let me in, and said he would return in a moment.”
“Oh dear,” Apairë sighed, as they walked down a long hallway, “His memory’s been very bad lately, and he forgets the silliest things. I shall have to say something to Mrs. Barton. Ah! Here we are!”
The library was full of distinguished-looking people in formal attire. There were only a few ladies there, as only a few women ever made it into the Wind Racers. The men were more numerous, and definitely louder. Dost froze, and momentarily panicked. He’d never gone out into what was considered ‘polite society’, and he didn’t want to cast aspersions on the Pyros family because he hadn’t been considered posh enough to come to this dinner. But Apairë pulled him over to her grandfather, who greeted Dost like an old friend, introducing him to famous generals, the Admiral of the Wind Racers, and even Despoir Staffom D’Gell, or the Emperor’s Mouthpiece, as he was commonly called. Soon, the white-haired Barton stonily called the ladies and gentlemen to supper, and they all sailed into the dining room.
During the five-course supper, Dost could barely listen to all the people who were talking to him. A prodigious lady Wind Racer kept him enthralled, as she had sailed under his dad. Despoir D’Gell took notice of him and offered him a job as a private secretary, which Dost politely declined. But it was the Ambassador’s conversation that interested Dost the most. Near the end of the last course, as the wines were brought out, he began speaking loudly.
“Let me tell you, Apairë,” he said, addressing her, but talking to everyone, “Let me tell you, times have changed now that we have a comet for an Emperor. We used to be a free people, with lives and with notions of our own. And then, a coupla slime-balls from Geshaad and Jellsh decided that we needed a king. So they called to Jupiter, Emperor of the Galaxy, Ruler of the Milky Way, and already King over us, I might add. They asked Jupiter to give us a king. Jupiter thought that it was stupid idea, and said no. But they asked again! He said no. And again, they asked! Finally, more to shut them up than anything, Jupiter sent a large comet to be Emperor over us. But really, do we need an Emperor who does nothing more than float around in space?”
Dost glanced at D’Gell. He had been getting steadily redder and redder during this narration, and finally, he lost it.
“YOU TRAITOR!” he roared, leaping up onto the table. “The Emperor will hear of your insubordination!”
Another man, a Wind Racer General, jumped on the table as well. “How can he, when he’s a rock and he doesn’t have ears?”
With an angry shout, D’Gell tackled the General, knocking him off the table. Soon, the whole dinner party had taken sides, and a knock-down-drag-out fight had begun. The servants had rushed from the room in a flutter. Dost quickly found Apairë and pulled her to the side, as a Wind Racer Captain sailed over her head and shattered a glass painting. Apairë gasped. “That was my mother’s! Dost, we have to stop this! Do you have a laser gun on you?”
“Of course, but how is that going to stop this?” he asked, puzzled. He handed his gun to her. Apairë fiddled with the switches for a moment while explaining.
“With a laser gun, you can open up the side and switch two of the positions on the wires, like so. They’re the sound wires, the silencer part of the gun, to use an old term. When you switch them, the sound of the laser gets extremely loud. There!”
Apairë replaced one of her combs, which she had used to trade the wires, and slid the siding of the gun back on. She turned to Dost. “You might want to cover your ears.”
She aimed up at the ceiling and shot. A loud, sonic shriek emitted from the gun, and everybody froze. Apairë handed the gun to Dost. “I’ll fix that later, if you’d like.”
Turning to the guests, she frowned. “Please, if you’re going to brawl and fight, I would prefer you to go out in the streets!”
Dost addressed them as well. “You know, if some people don’t like the Emperor, but you still want a ruler, for heaven’s sake, go and ask Jupiter for another one!”
The Ambassador, shooting a hateful glance over at D’Gell, said passionately, “We don’t want an Emperor! We can rule ourselves!”
“Yes,” D’Gell yelled, “We DO want an Emperor! And you know what, who cares about a comet, floating around in space! We’ll get a proper Emperor! Come, the future waits!”
D’Gell stalked out of the once-fine dining room, tripping over Apairë. They fell to the ground, but Dost pulled him away.
“Hey!” Dost shouted. “Get out!”
D’Gell got up slowly. “You watch your backs. I will have revenge, and it will be sweet. Come!”
Followed by his band of minions, he left the house. Apairë called to Barton and the other servants, and together, the rabble and the royalty cleaned.
As soon as the room was pretty much tidy, the guests left. They were silent and worried. D’Gell was not an enemy to be taken lightly. The Ambassador was called into an emergency meeting at the Palace, and he left, with an apprehensive air. Dost and Apairë lingered in the atrium, holding hands and simply being there for the other.
“How did you figure that out about the wires?” Dost asked.
Apairë blushed. “Well, my father was the man who designed the laser guns, and he showed me a lot about mechanics and robotics. I’m sure I could disarm a Galactic warhead in less than thirty seconds. But I’ve never tried that.”
“That’s pretty amazing,” Dost said, softly.
Apairë never remembered much of what went on that evening. All she could bring to mind was a single kiss, shared behind a column in the atrium. It was to be her first and last kiss.
A week after the disastrous dinner party, a mechanic monster appeared in the city. Knocking over buildings and killing hundreds of people, the metallic creation would gain the power of whatever it ate. And it ate everything. Most people who died didn’t even know what hit them. The machine rampaged through the city, eating people, stomping on spaceships and nearly throwing the planet off-course around its sun.
One thousand Wind Racers died at the hand of the monster, which was dubbed ‘The C.R.A.N.E.’ It stood for Completely Revolutionary Annihilation; Next Edition.
One Wind Racer, who had flown up close to the control panel before being knocked out of the sky, said that the C.R.A.N.E. was being run from the inside, by Staffom D’Gell. The Ambassador realized that this was the new Emperor, and took this information to the councils of Jellsh and Geshaad. They waved aside his warnings, saying that Jupiter would never have sent such a ruler to their planets.
Finally, when the carnage piled high, blood ran through the streets, and the rubble threatened to crash down on anyone who touched it, the C.R.A.N.E. spoke.
“LISTEN, PEOPLE OF JELLSH AND GESHAAD. I AM YOUR NEW EMPEROR. I AM SENT FROM THE RULER OF THE GALAXY HIMSELF, JUPITER. I USED TO BE STAFFOM D’GELL, BUT I HAVE EVOLVED BY JUPITER HIMSELF INTO THE C.R.A.N.E.. I HAVE THE DIVINE RIGHT TO EXECUTE ANY PERSON, TO CRUSH ANY PLACE, OR TO CLAIM ANY THING THAT I WISH.
Apairë wiped her hands on her apron. Yet another victim of the C.R.A.N.E. had died in her arms. Tears threatened to spill over to her cheeks, but she bit her lip. Searching for another patient, Apairë found a young Wind Racer, nearly buried in the debris of his ship.
“Hello? Are you still alive?” Apairë crouched near the young man, taking up one of his wrists and feeling for a heartbeat. The Wind Racer’s eyes fluttered open, and he managed to say something.
Apairë gasped. “Dost? But you’re not—“
“No…not Dost…a friend of his…Cato…”
Apairë shook her head. She realized that this Wind Racer had dark hair, not blond, like Dost. “Do you know where Dost is?” she asked cautiously, afraid of the answer.
“Around…your house…he was…looking…for you…”
Apairë grew very frightened. Her house had been first crushed by the C.R.A.N.E., most likely because her grandfather had opposed the idea of an Emperor. Since then, soldiers, in similar uniform to the C.R.A.N.E., had been guarding it day and night. She had barely escaped with food and medical supplies. Apairë could not bear to think of her beloved Dost there. She had to go to him, she had to!
As she thought these things, Cato closed his eyes, and breathed no more.
Dost hid behind one of the columns in the atrium. It had taken him two days to get into the Villa Pyros without alerting the guards. When he had finally eased himself in through one of the windows, the body of Barton, lying across the threshold of the dining room greeted him. Dost stepped carefully over him, kneeling down to close his eyes. Saying a quick prayer, Dost dashed up the stairs and started opening doors. After what seemed like hours, Dost found a room that looked like it could be Apairë’s.
It was empty. Dost clenched his fists and brought them down on the bureau. He shouldn’t have expected to find her here. Not even the Ambassador had stayed. The servants had been killed. If Apairë had remained at the Villa, she would have been killed, or worse; captured.
As Apairë approached the Villa, she could see the faceless, uniformed soldiers that marched in a stiff sequence all the way around the ruins of her once-beautiful home. Hoping against hope that she wasn’t seen, she dashed across the courtyard behind the soldiers, hiding underneath the stairs that led to the atrium. Under the stairs, she pressed a few hidden buttons, and a teleporter appeared. Apairë vanished.
Dost suddenly heard a crash from inside the closet. Wiping his eyes, he took out his gun and threw open the door. “Who’s there?”
He lowered his gun, heart beating fast. “Apairë? Is…is that you?”
Apairë came barreling out of the dark closet and threw her arms around Dost. Overjoyed, Dost dropped his gun and embraced her. “Apairë, I thought you were dead!”
“I was trying to find you. I was working out in the city with the victims of the C.R.A.N.E.!”
“How did you get in here?”
“I installed a teleporter under the stairs when I was fourteen. I used to sneak out, and it brought me back without anybody noticing.”
“Can we get out that way?”
“Yes, but it only takes one at a time.”
“Alright, you go first.”
Giving Dost a final hug, Apairë broke away and teleported back to under the stairs. In a moment, Dost was with her. But something was in the courtyard.
“DESPOINA APAIRË PYROS, I KNOW YOU ARE THERE.”
Apairë and Dost gasped. “The C.R.A.N.E.?!”
“COME OUT, AND I WILL NOT HURT YOUR GRANDFATHER.”
“Grandfather!” Apairë pulled away from Dost. “He has Grandfather!”
“Apairë, no!” Dost shouted. “ You’ll be killed!”
He was too late. Apairë had run out into the courtyard that was crawling with soldiers. The C.R.A.N.E. was there. D’Gell gloated, and spoke to Dost, still under the stairs.
“CAPTAIN DOST DIARMAND, COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS OVER YOUR HEAD.”
As Dost came out from his hiding place, a group of soldiers seized him. Struggling, Dost was thrown before the metal feet of the C.R.A.N.E.. Apairë was near him, frantically trying to revive her grandfather. “Granddad, granddad, please, please, wake up!”
Dost looked at the Ambassador. His limbs were splayed at peculiar angles, and it looked like his neck had been broken. Dost crawled over to Apairë. “Apairë, Apairë, he’s not going to wake up, Apairë!”
Apairë seemed to realize this. She screamed up at the C.R.A.N.E.. “YOU DID THIS, D’GELL!”
“MY NAME IS NOT D’GELL. I AM THE C.R.A.N.E., AND ALL SHALL FEAR ME.”
“I DON’T CARE WHAT YOUR NAME IS, I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!”
She sprang away from Dost, eluding the soldiers, and, like a squirrel, started climbing up the C.R.A.N.E.. The control panel was situated near the beak. Apairë soon reached it, and went to work.
“YOU FOOLS! STOP HER!”
Dost grabbed the gun off of one of the dead soldiers, and began defending the feet of the C.R.A.N.E.. Apairë worked quickly, moving wires and rerouting the electrical current. It looked like they were going to win, that the planets of Jellsh and Geshaad were soon going to be free—but Jupiter was against them that day.
Apairë, in her haste, connected two wires—wires that were not supposed to be connected. The electrical current of the C.R.A.N.E.’s mechanical body went haywire. The C.R.A.N.E. began to shake erratically. The control panel caught on fire, and parts of the C.R.A.N.E. began to explode.
The dying C.R.A.N.E. gave one final shake and exploded. Apairë, unable to keep a hold on the beak, fell to the ground of the courtyard.
“APAIRË!!” Dost cried.
Her body hit the marble floor with a sickening thud. Shooting one final soldier, Dost tore over to Apairë. She was alive, but just barely. “Dost?” she asked softly.
“Yes, yes, I’m here!” he said through his tears.
“You…you have to finish… the C.R.A.N.E..”
“I don’t know how!” he said desperately. “How do I destroy him??”
“Cut the red wire…there’s a…chance that you…could die…” she said faintly. She coughed, and Dost held her closer.
“You can’t die,” he said, his voice breaking. “I won’t let you.”
“You…have to let…me go…” Apairë said weakly. “I won’t…forgive you…if these thousands…die in vain…”
Dost wiped a tear away from his eye. “Apairë, I love you.”
Apairë grinned dimly. “I love you…too.”
She closed her eyes and she became limp in Dost’s arms.
“And that’s what happened,” Dost finished awkwardly. He was standing in front of the Intergalactic Council of Jupiter, trying to explain what had happened with the monster known as the C.R.A.N.E.. A young man with spiky hair and glasses leaned forward. “So, you did destroy the C.R.A.N.E.? After Despoina Pyros died?”
Dost gulped and tried to stay calm. “Yes, Doctor. I was able to sever the red wire on the control panel with the laser gun. He exploded again, fell to his knees, and I was able to hang on until I could safely jump off. I lost my foot, in the attack, but it was a sacrifice for Jellsh and Geshaad.”
The leader of the council sat on his throne, contemplating the young Captain. “Captain Diarmand, you have been incredibly brave, and have lost your foot, your friend, and your love in rescuing Jellsh and Geshaad from the C.R.A.N.E.. When this council appointed Jupiter to be lord over the Galaxy, we never imagined that he would be so spiteful and unwise. Therefore, we are going to remove him from this position. I thank you for your sacrifices. Ladies and gentlemen, the council is adjourned.”
As the ladies and gentlemen of the council filed out of the room, Dost stood in the middle. He had buried Apairë, Cato and her grandfather in a cemetery on the planet of Earth. He knew he would never be able to go back to the Green Moon of the Fifth Quadrant of the planet Jellsh. The Doctor approached him, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“I know the way you feel, old lad.”
Dost jerked away. “Do not say that! You have never known the pain of losing your love!”
The Doctor looked at his Converse. “Yes, I have actually. And the one remedy is Time.”
Dost closed his eyes. “I will never forget her.”
“I’m not saying you should. I didn’t. Come with me, and we’ll see wonderful things. Anywhere in Space and Time. It’s there for the taking. You can’t go back to Jellsh. Come with me.”
Dost grinned, but it was only a shadow of his cheerful smile. “Wandering around space in that creaky old Tardis of yours? How can I say no?”