From ‘Man of Two Planets’ by Judith Rook.


A bright red light flashed on the main systems panel. Quickly, Vaire brought sound from the bridge into the room.

“First Peer to the bridge. Priority call!”

Darland stared at his lieutenant with eyes that had narrowed. “Why haven’t they called you?”

“Your cousin isn’t stupid. Something’s happened. I’ll come with you, but I’ll stay well behind until we know if there’s a situation.”

All was quiet on the bridge. Every officer was at his station and did not move as the First Peer entered. The captain was in his chair. On the huge observation display, there was nothing to be seen; only the nearby stars and the blue planet. But below that, the smaller communication screen showed the figure of a man, smiling, at ease, seated in another captain’s chair with two officers sitting behind and to each side of him.

Darland heard the door close. Vaire had not entered the bridge.

“Well,” said Darland, moving to his own seat, only slightly behind the captain’s chair. “It would appear we have company. Considering that we are, in a sense, trespassers into your planetary space, perhaps I should begin the introductions.”

The First Peer was at his best; self-possessed, charming, charismatic. “I do hope you will understand if we do not provide all the information you feel you are entitled to, but one would be foolish to be too free until amicable relationships are established, do you not agree?”

The man opposite studied Darland carefully. “Very well,” he said. “Introduce yourselves and I’ll tell you when I want more.”

His voice was strong and deep. He was a mature man, burly, heavy, with hair that had once been black but was now steel grey. He used the common language, spreading from Earth two millennia ago and still understood by all humans, although accents and dialects had created variants. This man’s speech was clear and precise, but there was something about him which caused Darland to tread carefully.

“My name is Darland, First Peer of the Courvenier family, and this is Morence Courvenier, Captain in Chief of the space arm of the family. He commands this vessel. I am a simple passenger.”

“And yet you have your seat on the bridge. Don’t try to fool me, stranger. You may not command the vessel but you tell it where to go, that’s clear enough. Where have you come from?”

“Ah, well,” said Darland, “that is something I will hold in reserve, if you have no objection, but I can tell you we are not here through intention, and we hope we will be able to relieve you of our presence very soon indeed.”

“We saw your ship go into hiding. What drive do you use? And you need not bother to change your position. We have you fixed.”

Have you indeed? thought Darland, glancing at his cousin.


Judith Rook was born in the UK and is now living in Western Australia. Judith has worked as a music teacher, as a mentor for beginning teachers and as a music journalist. She began writing imaginative pieces in childhood and is now writing novels and short stories. She is an avid reader, with science fiction her favourite genre, followed closely by the great classics. From time to time, Judith stirs herself to rally around important social issues and has been known to take to the streets in protest, so long as there are good cafés along the way.

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