“Can you run me through the story again, please?” asked Inspector Knobles of the Imperial Port Authority. He was wearing an official IPA leather jacket and taking notes.
Across the old wood table sat a short woman with violet hair and a nose ring. Her name was Vic Bianca. But everyone knew to just call her Vic.
“Ms. Bianca, please. Time is of the essence with such a case,” the man pleaded, sweat emerging from his brow. The room was lit by a fading candle and the light from one of the planet’s two moons passing through the lone, barred window.
Vic scowled, “One. More. Time.”
Vic then began to recount the tale of how she found herself arrested by the Imperial Port Authority on planet Nexus, the seat of the Empire and the throne of his Majesty, Emperor Yaigon Mith.
Vic’s story began at a place where so few tales of thievery and burglary do: a successful heist. She and her two partners in crime had successfully borrowed the Duchess Asolla’s diamond necklace on the planet Wayland. It was an Asolla family heirloom that had passed from Duchess to Duchess for over 3 Imperial Eras (and possibly would have passed to a Duke if the Asollas had ever birthed a male heir).
There were quite a few additional details that the Inspector didn’t care for. He urged Vic to skip forward, “Please, straight to the method of your arrival here on Nexus.”
Answering that question requires a little knowledge of how interplanetary travel is accomplished within the Empire. The essential method is dragons. They possess the unique ability to tap into the Rift, a sort of pocket-sized version of our dimension. The Rift, thus, allowed one to swiftly travel from place to place – even on an interstellar scale.
Different breeds of dragon took a different approach to the Rift. For example, a Hopper could jump from point to point within the confines of the Rift – although this was exhausting for them. A Glider could manually fly through the maze that was the Rift, although this was a complex and relatively slow process. Another type is the centuries-extinct Wyrm. They created permanent space-time distortions in the Rift that allowed anyone or anything to instantly travel between two points within the Rift. Wormholes, if you would.
In Vic’s case, she and her partners had previously acquired a Hopper. Now, this was a great crime in itself as all interplanetary travel was strictly controlled by House Mith. But Inspector Knobles wasn’t terribly concerned about yet another infraction on the part of this particular merry band of thieves.
Why, you ask? Because when the three thieves returned to their Hopper, necklace in tow, chased by Imperial guards and a handful of local bounty hunters, they immediately hopped.
This was all part of the plan. Vic was an expert dragon rider and had pulled off a dozen quick escapes in the past. However, this time, when she set the dragon to hop to Port Flag – a small moon that was a common resting place for scoundrels – things became distorted.
First and foremost, Vic wound up on Nexus. Alone. No dragon. No two pals. She did, fortunately, have the necklace.
“And you say you’ve never missed a hop?”
Vic nodded and then pulled on her shackles. She was bound to the table between them.
“You know, this has not been a cordial experience,” Vic groaned.
“I’ll make sure you get a pillow next time,” the inspector said casually, marking things off on a sheet of paper.
He stood up and turned towards the door.
“Wait, where are you going?” Vic protested.
Inspector Knobles turned back and folded the paper into a jacket pocket, “I’ve got all I need. The good folks at Nexus police will sort you out, friend.”
“You fuckin’ cocksucker, don’t just leave me here to die. I’ve got more to tell!” Vic shouted and banged her fists on the table.
Knobles opened the door and turned his head back to Vic, “Your execution is tomorrow. High noon. You’ve been blessed to see the golden sun one last time.”
Vic dug her fingers into the wood, pulling up little bits of wood and tearing apart her nails. Knobles could hear her screams as he left the police barracks.
Outside he was met by a woman with white hair and a hood covering most of her face. “Well?” she asked.
Knobles handed her the folded note, “Ms. Bianca stuck to her story.”
“Was she upset?” she asked, clutching the note and unfolding it.
The inspector shrugged, “You could say that, sure.”
She read the note.
“So, what now?” The inspector asked, shuffling his feet and looking up at the dual moons, opposite in phase.
“I bring this to our mutual friend and you get back to being a public servant,” she instructed with a hint of a smile.
She started to walk away, but Knobles called out: “What does it mean?”
She looked back and lifted her hood a bit, “It means the Rift is closing.”
The Mith Empire had traded death for death: they promised Vic death and she brought news of their demise. An empire without roads was no empire.