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Crow's Forest

Crow's Forest

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Hiro Gracenaught protects people. That is his job. Earth is a backwater planet, but not everyone that visits means well. There is also alien technology that has to be kept out of the hands of those that would harm others. There are only five Galaxy Peace Agents on Earth, but it's been enough. Until the day they were assassinated, one by one. Crow is a criminal by Earth law. He could go off planet and not be breaking any laws, but he was born on Earth, before the waters rose, and he's not leaving! He just keeps to himself, living in a virtual world that no one even knows to look for. He just doesn't get involved. Until that day he did. The assassins chasing Hiro are mercenaries. Their client wants the Galaxy Peace Agents gone. With them gone, Earth's just a backwater snack. With the agents gone, it might be centuries until anyone with the power to do anything about it would miss an isolationist world full of an aggressive species and a bunch of criminals hiding out where no one civilized would look for them. Getting rid of them and the indigenous species would be doing the galaxy a favor - very good for real estate values. When the dirty and old fashioned bullet hits Hiro’s heart, his last thoughts are chaotic and full of regret, until he blinks and finds himself in Crow’s forest. Now to save his home planet and all the lives on it, he’s got to convince a criminal recluse, with beautiful violet eyes, that they can’t just sit and hide, they have to fight to save the world. That world is a world that has rejected and threatened Crow for hundreds of years, so that might be a bit of a hard sell. There’s absolutely no time for making right the hurts of the past or for falling in love. Definitely no falling in love. Trapped in a magical forest made of unique technology, falling in love with a man who is afraid of everyone, Hiro may have to choose which world he wants to save.

Chapter 1 Not What It Seems

Tokyo had been Edo once, but the land that had been Tokyo was below now. Tokyo still thrived, densely populated with two spaceports and a diversity of population that might not have pleased Edo’s Shogunate. Hiro Gracenaught had been born in Tokyo long after the land had slipped into the darkness and he’d never missed it. Now, running for his life with the odds of successfully eluding his pursuers rapidly diminishing, now he was thinking about it. There had been a time when an officer of the law would have pulled his katana and stood his ground. Death would have some honor.

Running through a pristine business park, seeing his path by way of the embedded night vision lenses that translated objects and vectors as a collection of heat and density signatures, he felt about as far from an honorable samurai as an honorable Japanese man could get. There were no roads, only paths, most of them grown over with a wildness that Edo would not have tolerated, but Hiro had no real way to know what Edo had or had not been. He hadn’t been a historian, but law enforcement. There had been five Galaxy Peace Agents on Earth at the start of the day in Tokyo. Now there were, hopefully, three. Hiro really didn’t want that number dropping any lower.

The empty business park put him in a maze of dark wilderness with the human elements that were little more than granite ghosts. Darkness was enforced most nights, for the balance of nature and the benefit of non-human lives. That was all well and good. He wasn’t supposed to be running down the path, disrupting the little lives of rabbits, cats, and crickets that he’d never had any interest in. He could be there though. His credentials would get him into any sector anywhere on Earth. The hope had been that his pursuers wouldn’t have been able to follow him.

Fear was new to Hiro. He was powerfully built, had always been athletic, and had gone off world to the Galaxy Peace Academy when he’d been fifteen. There had never been anything to frighten him before. Fear made it hard to think. At least there were no civilians in the area.

The same augmented vision that allowed him to run and navigate in the moonless dark told him that he had six heat sources working on encircling him. None of them carried embedded IDs and his scans were unable to even identify species. Ninety-eight percent of the interstellar traveling community was peaceful, finding cooperation, trade, and negotiation much more useful than violence. That other two percent though could be a big problem. The other three Peace Agents weren’t returning his pings either.

Trying to catch his breath, he came to a graceless stop, half catching himself, hands on his knees. Some species were designed for endurance running. Humans were classed that way, but Hiro was sure that classification had been made on a pack of humans from fifteen thousand years ago, not Japanese men who had never been outside of an urban zone. It’s not like he didn’t run ten klicks a day, he did, but if the bastards chasing him had hearts, they weren’t showing any strain yet.

With very limited time and limited options, he had to assess the situation calmly, clearly, and for the best of the people of Earth. That was proving hard to do as his onboard strategy augmentation was suggesting without emotion that he had five minutes left in his life and he hadn’t even seen his enemy yet. He was going to die at the ‘hands’ of some peppermint swirl blob of cotton candy that spewed acid on him or something equally annoying and ridiculous. The galaxy was amazingly diverse.

He needed help, help from people who had the tech and the numbers to do something about this. Resolution was cold acid in his throat. He had to send the final distress call, the one that could only be sent once. The main office would have someone here fast, hopefully fast enough. Grimacing, steeling his nerves, he waited to make sure that all his prey, it felt more powerful to think his hunters were his prey, but he had to make sure they were all closing in on him. He needed them all in a smaller space. If one wishes to burn up the rats, one has to get them all into the same hole.

A moment’s rest was all he had time for. All caution to the wind, he ran towards the front doors of the nearest office building. His internal network connection threw on the lights in the courtyard and the first floor of the building as the doors opened for him. Inside was nothing like the plain grayness of the vast courtyards dedicated to the wild of nature. In the building was a riot of color, art, sculpture, hundreds of places to sit, living plants, dozens of small companion/service robots.

Hiro silently apologized to all the little bots that he was about to take to the ancestors with him. Mostly a negotiator, his fantasies of being a ferocious samurai had always been more elegant than he felt as he made the leap up to the reception counter. As a boy reading comics, the idea of fighting as if you’d die and that that makes you live had seemed so much more likely than it did now that he was faced with the reality of it.

No longer in the dark, his leap to the counter swirled the thin cloth of his full hakama pants and his long black ponytail. From inside his haori he pulled his badge, the physical symbol of his authority. “In the spirit of galactic peace I urge you to desist with your aggression! This planet is under the Protectorate and can not be molested without consequence!”

Whatever species his pursuers and would-be assassins were, wherever they were from, Hiro did not want to go there. All six of them sort of flowed into the lobby. If they held still, they might have looked like piles of black leaves and twigs, rotting and more dead than threatening. They weren’t still though. They seemed to move on a thousand little talon shaped legs, moving right over the top of chairs, bots, and plants, and leaving nothing but a sludgy ash mix smeared on the floor behind them. It made his hair stand on end. They were not going to make a smirk out of him!

“I am a Galaxy Peace Agent and I am notifying you that you are not welcome on this planet and you should leave immediately!”

With two of them behind him, another to his left moved slowly over a screaming and struggling bot. Before Hiro could do anything about that, the two in front of him rolled up next to each other. They rose against each other, their color shifting to a more of a human skin tone with dark green hair and emerald green eyes. Now wearing a frock coat and tight breeches, the creature looked very like the myth of European elves or yōsei. As beautiful as it had been hideous, the creature smiled. “I’m not a visitor,” it said in a voice beautiful enough to be a siren. “Humans are the newcomers here. Call your friends little mouse. It won’t matter. It’ll be over before they get here.”

The fear he’d felt before now felt like a mild startle. He started the final distress signal, that would use the energy within his own being to send, that would leave not even ash from his being. It wasn’t painful as it built up with him. With a sense of peace he surrendered to the dismantling of his own atoms to send the message that could save Earth. “I have done my duty.”

The creature moved so fast that even Hiro’s augmented systems could not track it. The hard metal of a pre-waterrise pistol pressed under Hiro’s jaw. There was no way to run. They were faster than he could ever be, even when he’d had a head start. He couldn’t fight them. In less than a second he’d be no more. The last thing he saw was a branch, so slender and pointed, just at the edge of his vision. He never felt the 18th century pistol ball roar through his brain. Thoughts lingered though. He’d done his duty, but regret lingered. He’d not loved. He’d not had a family. He’d never written a love poem. He’d not had a dog. He was no more.


Thoughts continued....

“Can you open your eyes? Come on. You’re alive, you know? It was a lot of fucking work too.” The voice was flippant, casual, and spoken in an accent Hiro had only heard in pre-waterrise movies.

His mind felt strange. The augmentation was gone. It left him feeling naked and nothing worked like he was familiar with. His eyes opened with a jerking flutter. A man of unknown age leaned over him. Shoulder length blue hair with natural curls and all the chaos of wild roses framed a delicate face with lavender eyes and an irreverent smirk.

“Am I dead? Is this the Galaxy Peace Headquarters?”

“I just said you were alive. Your connectome seems to be functioning optimally. I took out all that nasty tech though. It had no privacy filters. Did you know that? I don’t know what the Galaxy Peace Headquarters is, but this isn’t it. Come on. I’ll show you around.”

“Who are you?”

The man had already started walking away, down a dirt path through a rose garden bathed in golden late afternoon sunshine. He looked back over his shoulder and smiled, a radiant smile that made Hiro think he was seeing the sun for the first time. “I’m Crow. This is my home. You’re safe here.”

“But! The assassins! I have to stop them!”

“Don’t worry. I ate them.” That smile only got more triumphant.

Hiro didn’t feel dead, but he didn’t feel safe either.

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Latest Release: Chapter 2 The Tea Party   12-30 14:23
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