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Authors: Kae Bell

Tags: #science fiction, #space, #time travel, #monsters

The Star Plume

BOOK: The Star Plume
8.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



Copyright 2016 Kae Bell

All Rights Reserved


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
businesses, places, events and incidents either are the product of
the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, business
establishments or locales is purely coincidental.

Chapter 1

As her hummingbirds worked nearby, capturing
color clouds on beating wings, Princess Cressida worked among the
stars. In the distance, she noticed a faint shimmering on the star
field’s edge. Odd, she thought. She did not remember setting a net
so far away. But the color was caught. It glimmered, unlike any
color she had seen.

Done with her work, she looked again toward
the horizon. The color flashed in a gentle celestial wind.
Intrigued, she walked toward it, stepping from star to star, her
steps long and assured, her dark hair twisted in a low bun at the
nape of her slim neck.

As Cressida moved toward it, making slow
progress, the color undulated. It wavered first silver then blue
then gold.

At last she reached the strange color cloud,
which she studied. It was soft, like the other colors, but tougher,
heavier. She scooped it into her catcher bag. She’d look at it more
closely once she got home. It was late and was time to go. She
turned to rejoin the hummingbirds.

But when she turned, Cressida saw only a vast
field of unfamiliar stars. She had wandered farther than she had
realized. She was alone in a sea of strange starlight.

Her horse Flyer was nowhere to be seen. She
called his name. But there was no whinny in reply. Nor could she
hear the beat of hummingbird wings.

, she thought.
Not part of
today’s plan to be stuck out here alone
. She was tired from the
day’s work and her long walk. She wasn’t sure which direction to
go, so she sat down to think on a blue dwarf star that twinkled and
winked at her.

It was the first time she had sat down all
day. Her muscles ached with relief when she set her heavy cloud
catcher bag down. As Cressida leaned back against the blue rock,
her eyelids grew heavy. She tried not to but she couldn’t help but
doze off in the silent sky.

She woke. What was that? She sat up when she
heard the sound again. She listened harder. It was soft, but
unmistakable. It made no sense though. Music? Out here?

As she continued listening, she discerned a
slow, soft tune sung by voices the likes of which she’d never
heard. She didn’t understand their words, but she heard them, many
individual songs blended into a single harmonious sound. She looked
around but there was nothing and no one here except the sky and the

The Stars.

Were singing.

The ethereal voices soared and fell in a
joyful melody. She had not heard stars sing before. The sound
slowly faded and morphed into what sounded to Cressida like low
laughter. She wondered, crazily, if the stars were laughing at her
for getting lost.

She heard heavy footsteps, followed by a
and a
. Then again, louder. Someone was
coming. She stood up, brushing stardust off her knees, She peered
into the distance.

“Hello?” she called out. The night swallowed
her puny voice.

From behind the blue dwarf, a tall lanky man
appeared, dressed head to toe in a shimmering star suit. On his
head was a vast sparkly cowboy hat, a foot and a half high. His
shiny boots were covered with thick stardust and around the ankles,
heavy silver spurs. With every step, his silver spurs jangled. A
thick ring of keys on his belt made the ‘clink’.

“Hello little lady. Haven’t seen you 'round
these parts before. Are you lost?”

“Umm, well yes,” Princess Cressida said and
blinked several times. “I am lost. I’ve been gathering colors.” She
showed the man her bag filled with soft clouds of red, green and
yellow. “And I must have wandered too far. From over there.” She
pointed in a direction that was an endless field of stars. She
turned. “Or maybe over there.” She frowned, confused.

“Happens now and again, never fear. New folk
lose their way up here, get all kinds of dis-orientated. But you’re
in luck today. This blue dwarf star sent out a distress call when
you set up shop here. So I come to see what was the ruckus.”

He stuck out his hand.

“I’m Zav. Short for Xavier. I’m the Star
Wrangler ‘round here.”

She politely took his offered hand. “Hello.
Thank you for coming to help. I’m Princess Cressida. I live, well,
quite far from here actually.” She gestured into the darkness.

“Ahhh.”Zav nodded knowingly. “I’ve sure heard
about you.” Wrangler Zav grinned. “Stars talk, you know. Word gets
around about visitors. You do good work.”

“Why thank you. If you please, what is a Star
Wrangler?” Princess Cressida asked. She didn’t want to seem
ignorant, but she had no idea.

Wrangler Zav stuck his thumbs in the belt
loops of his silver trousers and furrowed his brow. Stardust dotted
the stubble on his chin.

“Well, out here on the far edges of the sky,
it’s mighty unruly. The stars are wild, untamed, not part of any
constellations known to you and me. So they act up, get into star
scuffs. The old stars argue with the new stars that want to change
things. It’s just the way. The new stars try to outshine everyone
else. And of course there’s the black holes trying to gobble
everyone up. Takes a lot to keeps things in order, everyone in
their place. I keep ‘em in line. Plus, all kinds of star creatures
out here on the edges, some you've never even seen in the sky.
Gotta watch out for some of them.”

Princess Cressida looked skeptical, staring
at the vast sky all around them. “Seems like a big job for just one

“Oh, I’ve got a bunch of folks work for

Wrangler Zav scratched his chin, thinking.
“Let’s see now.”

“I got a Star Tuner…So the stars sing in
tune. I heard them singing to you, so you know about that.”

Princess Cressida nodded. She’d loved the

Wrangler Zav continued. “And a Star Shiner…so
they look all sparkly and such.” He patted the blue dwarf on which
they sat.

“A Star Mender…cause sometimes they get
broke. He patches them up, good as new.”

“And of course there’s a Star Stables….for
all the baby stars.”

“And last, the Star Chaser…”

“The Star Chaser?” Princess Cressida

“Sure, sometimes you get a star that wants to
roam free in the sky, so they go missing. So where there ought to
be light, there's darkness. That’s where the Star Chaser comes in.
My back up team.”

Wrangler Zav looked into the dark distance,
as if searching for something lost.

A loud ‘moo’, then a large black and white
belted cow came flying through the air to land gracefully by Zav.
She too was bedecked in silver and wore a sparkly silver cowbell.
Princess Cressida stared. The cow had the longest eyelashes
Princess Cressida had ever seen. The cows ears twitched back and
forth as she studied the Princess warily. She did not like

Wrangler Zav smiled and patted the cow’s
head. “This here is Blaise. She’s my best Star Chaser. She catches
those rascals and puts them back into place.”

Wrangler Zav stopped to listen to Blaise, who
was lowing anxiously at him.

“Uh oh. Sounds like we’ve got a problem. A
band of young stars runbling in the distance, planning to star

Princess Cressida leaned forward to peer into
the distance but she did not see any big groups of stars on the
horizon. “Star jump?” she asked.

“Yes, they fly fast through the sky, one
after another, falling from a great height, each going faster than
the last. Puts on quite a light show. It’s usually the youngins’,
they have no fear. It’s against Senti regulations, disrupts star
traffic, and creates all kinds of debris and such. You need a
permit for such things.”

Wrangler Zav turned into the wind, his nose
twitching. “Listen, Princess, you can wait here or you can join us.
But there’s a star storm moving in and the stardust tends to be
pretty thick. It’s not pleasant. I’d suggest you come along.”

He’d hopped onto Blaise’s sleek back and held
out his hand.

Princess Cressida looked around. She was lost
and far from home. She knew she couldn’t find her way back without
Wrangler Zav’s help. Certainly, she didn’t want to sit here during
a star storm.

She nodded, took Zav's hand, and hopped up
onto Blaise, who leapt expertly off the star, heading for the
horizon’s dark edge.


Blaise flew for a long time across the black
night sky. There were no stars out this far. Princess Cressida
could not see her hands in front of her but she could feel the wind
on her face and smell the sweet stardust carried on the celestial

Suddenly, they turned a sharp corner in the
Star Plume and the sky was filled with rays of brilliant white
light flashing back and forth.

“Whoa Blaise.” Wrangler Zav urged Blaise to a
stop a good distance from the gathered stars. “What do we have
here?” he asked.

There were hundreds of stars gathered on the
edge of the dark sky, in bright clusters. More stars appeared,
shooting across the sky to the growing gathering.

Princess Cressida had never seen so much
starlight. The stars were every size, massive bursts down to the
smallest points of light, and not only white starlight either but
all different shades of yellow, red and blue, glowing hot and
angry, gases swirling around them, mixing and forming.

The combined brightness hurt her eyes.

“When will they jump?” she asked. She thought
it sounded like a fun event to see from a distance, even if it was
illegal. The Senti were so restrictive lately.

Tearing his gaze from the quickly growing
numbers, Wrangler Zav glanced back at her, his face dark with

“Blaise was wrong. These stars aren’t
planning a jump. They’re getting ready for battle.”

Chapter Two

Wrangler Zav steered Blaise behind a
long-dead dark star. From behind the cold craggy rock, they watched
the scene unfold.

“A battle,” Princess Cressida whispered.
“Against whom? I don’t see anyone here but the stars. And us,” she
added, her face white with surprise. “They don’t want to fight with
us, do they?” She eyed their numbers and their sheer size. “I think
they would win.”

Despite the uncertainty, Wrangler Zav
chuckled “No, not us, thank goodness. Don’t think a human has ever
won a battle with a star before, though probably not too many have
tried. No, I’m not sure why they’re gathering for. But I imagine
we’ll find out sooner than we’d like.” He scratched Blaise between
the ears. “Huh, Blaisy?”

“How can you tell they’re here for battle?
They seem to be milling around randomly.” Princess Cressida watched
the gathered stars shift and twinkle, flying left and right in
front of her.

“You can tell by the light. When stars are
happy, like when they star jump, the light above them is blue
tinged. But you see there,” he pointed at the swirling vapor cloud
above the gathered stars. Stray rocks and dust kicked up from the
stars, swirled in the gaseous mix. “The star halo is red. That’s a
battle color.”

“I didn’t know stars battled.” She thought
longingly of her placid stars back home in the night sky over her
kingdom. She doubted her stars had ever battled or even could.

“No, it’s rare. That’s why we need to sit
tight. For them to gather like this, it must be a serious threat.
Odd, as I’d not heard of coming trouble. But maybe…”

“It seems like nothing could defeat this much
star power.” Princess Cressida interrupted him, confident in the
stars’ collective strength. She could not imagine a foe so

“Well, that’s the thing, I’m not rightly
sure. I’d heard rumblings and rumors at stops along the Star Plume,
but that’s all I thought it was. People make up stories when
they’re bored. But what I heard made no sense, because…” Wrangler
Zav stopped himself and looked into the night, then back at the
Princess. “Anyways, can’t do much but wait it out.”

As more stars arrived in increasing numbers,
the starlight grew brighter, filling the sky with light in every
corner. Some stars left trails of dust and light that burned bright
roads across the night sky. The Star Plume. Princess Cressida
watched, mesmerized.

The Red Dwarf stars had arrived in the great
numbers, forming a loose ring around the others. They were natural
fighters, young and fearless.

The first blast of light came from a Red
Giant star that towered over the others. He sent a massive fireball
toward the west.

“Someone must be coming,” Princess Cressida

Within seconds, the sky was lit with flashes
of light, as the stars sent a nuclear barrage toward the
approaching threat, roiling hot masses of gas and stone arced
through the air and exploded in the direction of the danger.

BOOK: The Star Plume
8.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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