Merv had been standing behind that bar dishing out drinks and taking cash for a while. Some say he was here when the station was set up, and they built
the place around his pub. There’s them as says that when the first rock hounds got to the Camlann system, the Falcon’s Lair was already in orbit of
Ygraine, the main moon of the gas giant, and Merv was there polishing glasses. I dunno about that myself. I’d only been hauling rocks around this system
for ten years or so. It’s a living. There was enough nickel-iron and ferrous oxide floating around out there to pay the bills, keep me in oxy, patch the holes
in my atmosuit, and get me enough reagent to go back out looking for more. Every so often there’d be a rock with a high platinum content, and I got to
order the good stuff. I hit the motherload once: two hundred and sixty metric tonnes, sixty-eight percent pitchblende. Man, I wasn’t sober for three months
straight. But Merv, he’s a good man. Always made sure that you were re-supplied and refuelled, had a room in the back for you to sleep it off in, and
never let you spend more than you’d got. Unlike some I could mention. The only reason Phil the Greek’s got himself a fleet of rock hunting ships is the bar
tabs he’s foreclosed on. But that’s another story.
The story I’m telling? This was ten, fifteen years back. I was bellied up to the bar in Merv’s place, sipping what he claimed was genuine Scotch, when this
old feller walked in. Well, I say ‘walked’, but it was more like staggered. He looked about eighty years older than God (or say, thirty years younger than
Merv), and his shipsuit had seen far better days. It looked like it had been white, once upon a time. Now it was a yellowish grey, stained with food streaks
and grease. His hair and beard likewise should have been white, but were yellowed and stained. Looked like the air recyclers on his ship weren’t
scrubbing it properly, you know? He didn’t have the usual spacer’s queue and goatee either. We’re talking a huge bushy beard, that hung down near to
his belly, and a mass of grey curls hanging down to his butt. Damned if I know how he could get it into an atmosuit. What got your attention, though, was
the look on the old-timer’s face. He was scared, terrified more like it. His eyes were bugging out, and his mouth was pulled back in a kind of grimace on
one side. The other side would have been too, if the scar tissue hadn’t stopped it. A honking great scar ran all down the left side of his face, just missing
the eye socket. It looked like the sort of thing you’d need a really big knife to do; the old-timer had been in a scrap sometime. Anyway, this old guy was
looking round, panicked, eyes darting from corner to corner of the room, like he was searching for something. Or someone.
When he saw Merv, standing behind the bar polishing glasses with his back to the room, the old-timer’s eyes lit up like a string of alert keys across a
control panel. “They’re back!” he shouted, or tried to; it was more like a croak, “Mervin! They’re back!” And then the old coot collapsed. Mervin dropped
the shot glass he was cleaning and practically levitated over the bar. I know he vaulted the bar, because his feet sent another couple of glasses flying, but
I couldn’t swear to it. I’ve never seen anyone move that fast in my life, I swear. He got to the old guy before I did, and I didn’t have five feet of oak between
him and me. He got one arm under the guy’s head and another under his legs, and lifted him up like he was no more than a five-year-old who’s fallen and
banged his head. He almost ran into the Lair’s back room, carrying the guy. I’ll tell you, it was the damndest thing I’d ever seen - up until then, anyway.
Maybe I’d better explain that. Merv was not exactly the sort you’d expect to be able to pick up grown men and carry them at the run. To start with, he was
old. I mean, really old: he looked maybe a hundred, a hundred and twenty, but well preserved for his age. Then every once in a while you’d see a look in
his eyes, or he’d make a comment about something that happened maybe two hundred years ago in a tone that told you he’d been there and seen it
happening, and you’d have to revise your estimate upwards again.
His face didn’t give much away. It was lined, sure: it had more wrinkles than you could count, but it was like leather, tanned with years in space, and looked
like it had just stopped changing at some stage. He still looked the same as when I’d first seen him ten years before. He had all his own teeth – the first set,
not regenerated. Something about the way they flashed when he grinned, or when he roared out that laugh of his, made me sure they were originals. His
hair and eyebrows were white, and stood out against the darkness of his spacer’s tan. His hair was fine, but wasn’t thinning, as far as I could see, but the
braid he normally kept it in brushed the heels of his boots. It takes a while to grow that long.
Nobody’d ever gotten a straight answer from Mervin about his age or where he was from; he’d always change the subject, crack a joke, or otherwise make
you forget what you were asking. The persistent were shown the door and given directions to the Greek’s place. Word soon got around that Merv liked his
privacy, and people stopped asking. It’s like that amongst the rock-hounds; a lot of us are out here for our own reasons, running away from something.
None of us really expect to get rich prospecting. Those who do soon give up and go back to being accountants and bank tellers. So, if a man doesn’t want
to talk, you don’t push it, and he doesn’t push about the things you never mention. Stipulate: he was old, and let’s move on.
Physically, Merv didn’t look like a weight lifter, either. He was tall - six two, six three maybe - but slender. Willowy. He looked like he weighed about sixty,
seventy kg’s and would be the first one blown out into the vacuum if there were a hull breach. Not my first choice of person to ask to pick up a ninety kilo
man, but I’d just seen him do it.
I followed them into the back room, to see if I could help at all. Merv was laying the old guy down on a cot as I came in, and reached for a blanket to cover
him with. Then he started to check the guy’s pulse and breathing.
“Anything I can do?” I asked. Merv didn’t look round, but went right on checking over the newcomer.
“Ah, Augustus,” he replied. Mervin’s the only person I ever met who insisted on using my full name. Most call me Gus. “Yes, there is something you can
do. Get on the comm to Doctor Welles and tell her to get her backside over here. Tell her it’s an emergency, and if she starts to give you any back chat,
tell her I’ll triple her call-out fee, just so long as she’s here within twenty minutes and brings her resusc kit with her.”
I hurried through into Merv’s office and got onto the comm. As Merv predicted, she started to give me the run-around, but her eyes lit up at the mention of
three times her fee. She was the only medic in the system at that time, and her standard fee was enough to mortgage your ship for a year if you weren’t
careful. I dunno why she became a doctor, but I can tell you why she was in Camlann system: money. She agreed to get right over, and I went back to the
sleeping bay to update Merv. He was sitting next to the old guy’s bed, a frown adding even more wrinkles to his face. The old guy was still out of it, and
Merv was holding his wrist, apparently checking his pulse. He looked up as I came in.
“She’s on her way,” I said.
“Excellent, Augustus. I may have been a little premature in sending for her. I think that young Bedwyr here may be all right with little more than a few hours
rest and some food. Hearing the old guy, Bedvere, described as ‘young’ must have caused a reaction in me, because Merv raised both eyebrows and
gave me a strange look.
“What?” he asked.
“’Young’?” I replied. “No disrespect, Merv, but he looks old enough to be my grandad.”
Merv snorted. “Does he, indeed? Well, I can recollect when he was a raw recruit who didn’t know one end of his weapon from the other, and couldn’t be
trusted with sharp objects in case he cut himself, so I will use whatever adjectives seem fit to me, thank you, Augustus!”
“You were in the army together?” I asked.
“We served together, yes. A long time ago.” He suddenly grinned “In a galaxy far away.”
“Huh?” I replied. Not the most startling conversational gambit ever. “The Andromeda probes haven’t even got there yet, Merv. What are you talking
He waved a hand dismissively. “Forget it, Augustus.” He sighed and hung his head. “A quote from a very old story.” He shook his head. “Five hundred
years, give or take a few.” He sighed again. “Where does the time go?”
“Uhm, Merv?” I said, “You’re getting very weird on me here.”
He looked up at me and grinned. “Yes, I am, aren’t I, Augustus? Don’t worry! Things will only get weirder from here on out.” He rose from his stool by the
bed. “Do me a favour, will you?” he asked. “I’ve got some glass to clean up out there, and a customer or two to see to. Will you sit with Bedwyr until the
doctor arrives? It shouldn’t be many more minutes now. If he stirs or anything else happens, just give me a shout.”
“OK,” I said.
With a last look at the sleeping man, Merv bustled out to find a broom and clean up the mess in his bar. “Nothing to worry about!” I heard him call out to
the assembly of drunks, rock-rabbits and moonshine merchants, and “An old friend, a bit the worse for wear. Somebody’s wares, anyway! The doc’s on
the way, and he’s sleeping it off.”
I looked down at the old guy in the bed. ‘Bedwyr’, Merv had called him. The name seemed familiar from somewhere, but I couldn’t place it. On closer
inspection, I could see that the big knife scar on his face wasn’t the only one. He’d seen some heavy fighting, it appeared, and some of it a long way from
an autodoc, to get scars like those. Oh well, I thought, there’ve been wars enough in the last hundred years to account for that. Wouldn’t have picked
Merv for a mercenary though, and he doesn’t talk like a regular. I noticed something on the breast of his shipsuit, and moved the matt of beard and hair
aside to take a better look. It was a crest; a red dragon with wings unfurled and fire breathing from its mouth. There was a motto under it: ‘Draco
dormiens’. A unit badge? Not one I’d ever heard of, but known space is a large place.
It was only a couple of minutes later that Doc Welles came in, with Merv at her side. As usual, her shipsuit looked like it had come straight from the cleaner,
and could have been sprayed on. The doc was one of the few women in the mining colony, and she liked to advertise. Word had it that anyone who tried
to follow up on the advertising was quickly invited to take a swan dive off an asteroid. The guys referred to her as ‘sub-zero’ behind her back. This also
applied to her bedside manner. She could have been examining a side of beef for all the emotion she displayed as she examined old Bedwyr. Merv
hovered behind her all the time, looking over her shoulder to see the readings on her instruments. Eventually, she snapped her instrument case closed
and looked up.
“He’s exhausted.” She said. “Electrolyte levels are down, endorphins are way up, there’s a build-up of lactic acid in his muscle tissues, and he doesn’t
appear to have eaten in days. For someone his age, he’s done remarkably well to get here and dock before passing out. I’ll set up an IV, but otherwise,
let him sleep it off and he should be fine.”
“How long will he be unconscious, do you think?” asked Merv. He pursed his lips, and one finger tapped on them absently.
“Between sixteen and twenty hours, I should say”, she replied.
Merv nodded. “I agree. Give him three cc’s of ioprocaine, please, Miss Welles.”
Her head snapped around. “You want to wake him? The state he’s in, that dosage will…”
“Do him no lasting damage,” interrupted Merv. “Miss Welles, I was practising medicine centuries before you were born. I know what I am asking you to do,
and I wouldn’t unless it were important. This man came here with a message for me. He drove himself to exhaustion to deliver it in time, therefore time is
short. I cannot wait until he wakes naturally. Now wake him.” There was a command in the last two words that could not be denied.
Sub-Zero Welles gave him a look that was pure venom, but she set her injector to deliver the drug that Merv had ordered, and pressed it to Bedwyr’s
throat, just above the carotid, where you’d feel for a pulse. The injector hissed, and Bedwyr groaned. His eyes fluttered open, and he stared around in
panic. When he saw Merv, he relaxed a little, and Merv reached out and took his hand.
“I’m here, old friend,” he said “You can rest soon, but first you must tell me. ‘ They’re back’, you said. Has the time come? Have the High Hunt found us?”
Bedwyr nodded weakly. He licked his lips, and when he spoke it was a hoarse whisper.
“Yes,” he said, “They’re about four days from the edge of known space by now, and heading our way. They’re coming, Myrddyn. The Fey are back.” His
eyes closed again, and his head settled back into the pillow. Merv squeezed his hand.
“One last question, Bedwyr. Did they see you? Do they know where we are?”
The grey head moved fractionally from side to side once in denial. Merv let go of Bedwyr’s hand. “Rest, old friend,” he said “Your long watch is ended,
and my task has begun.”
Sub-Zero and I exchanged bewildered glances. I was glad to see that this made as little sense to her as it did to me. Merv was muttering to himself.
“The timing couldn’t be worse,” he said, “so of course it had to happen now.” He looked up at me and crooked a single white eyebrow. “I seem to recall
that your ship is rated for atmosphere, Augustus. Am I right?”
“Yeeee-ah,” I replied, confused. “Why?”
“Excellent!” He beamed at me, white teeth gleaming against his browned skin. “My own ship is in dry dock, and if I know Bedwyr, his ship is in no condition
to take out right now. Are you fuelled and provisioned?”
“Yeeee-ah,” I repeated, unsure where this was headed, but not liking the conversation too much.
“Excellent!” he cried again, clapping his hands together. “Miss Welles, take care of Bedwyr. Your fees will be taken care of. Augustus, let us be off.” He
swept out of the room. Sub-Zero and I shared another confused exchange of glances. Merv’s head appeared around the door-frame again.
“Well, come along, Augustus!” he said, “We haven’t got all day!” The head vanished again. I shrugged and headed for the docking ring, and the
Branwyn. Merv was there before me, almost dancing with impatience. I pressed my palm to the lock plate, and it did it’s usual scan of my palm, pulse rate,
and blood chemistry to make sure that I was me, the hand was still attached, and I wasn’t under duress. The hatch slid aside, and Merv dived through
ahead of me. When I got to the cabin, he was already setting up an orbit on the nav-comp.
“Merv!” I protested. “What is going on? Where are we going? And who the heck’s paying for this little excursion?”
Merv concentrated on the nav board, his hands moving almost faster than I could follow on the keys.
“I’ll explain when we’re under way, Augustus. As for payment, I assure you that I have sufficient funds to cover this little jaunt, and to recompense you for
lost time. And as to where we are going…” he looked up at me and flashed that grin again. “We’re going to Avalon!” He finished setting the orbit with a
flourish and locked the board. I gave him a very dubious look, and slid into the command chair. I looked over the board. He’d set us a course that would
swing us around Lot, the gas giant, and bring us into the atmosphere on the far side. Smack in the middle of the biggest permanent storm on the face of
the planet. I started to protest, and Merv over-rode me.
“I am not suicidal, Augustus, nor am I crazy. The orbit is perfectly safe. Now clear us with traffic control, and let’s go.” Once more, there was that tone of
command in his voice, and I found myself advising traffic control of my intention to break docking and the course we would be taking out of controlled
space. Then for a few minutes I was too busy with detaching from the docking ring and manoeuvring into the orbit Merv had programmed. Once we were
clear and falling toward Lot, I turned to Merv.
“Now,” I said, “Some explanations would be good.”
Teeth flashed. “Yes,” he said, “you deserve a few, I suppose. Firstly, an introduction is in order. My name, Augustus, is not Mervin Emery; it is Myrddyn
Emrys, Prince of Carleon.”
I must have given him my patented blank stare. His piercing blue eyes rolled up towards the cabin ceiling. “Gods! Shelley was right! ‘Look on my works
ye mighty and despair’ indeed!” He looked back at me. “You might be more familiar with the name ‘Merlin’,” he drawled.
“OK,” I said, “We’re going back to Camlann station now, and I’m going to have Sub-Zero Welles look you over. I think you’ve been sampling your own
products for too long.” I reached for the control panel.
“Sit still!” barked Merv, and I suddenly found I couldn’t move. “Better,” he said. “Now, Augustus. I realise that this sounds improbable. You will have heard
the legends, and they are considerably garbled. Some of that is due to fanciful authors, some is due to misunderstandings, and some is due to deliberate
spin control on my part. I’ve spent a good part of fifteen hundred years making sure that nobody believed in me, or in the Order of the Dragon. I got some
rather good ideas from a webzine back in the early twenty-first, actually, but that’s neither here nor there.”
“The time for hiding is past. We must now act, and act quickly, if mankind is to survive as anything more than a slave race. An enemy is coming our way, a
very old enemy, and one that we have defeated before, at a place called Badon. After that defeat, we set sentinels in case of a repeat attack, and as you
have just seen, they are on their way. The Fey are coming, Augustus, and they are not happy with us.”
I tried to speak, and found that I couldn’t. Merv must have read the panic in my eyes.
“Don’t worry, Augustus,” he said in a kindly tone, “the command voice will wear off shortly. If you behave yourself, I won’t use it on you again.” He smiled.
“There are certain advantages to being only half human. The Voice is one of them; a minor glamour, but an effective one. Now, where was I?”
“The Fey are an old race, Augustus, and they rule a vast empire. Two thousand years ago, roughly, one of their colony ships encountered a wormhole.
They were thrown out of their own galaxy, and into this one. The accident damaged several vital systems on the ship, including communications and many
of the sleep pods. They managed to limp to the nearest habitable system, and found a world where they could survive. It will come as no surprise to you
that that world was already inhabited, or that the inhabitants called it ‘Earth’.”
“The Fey are an arrogant race. They had conquered a good portion of the races of their own galaxy, and enslaved them to perform menial tasks, serve as
cannon fodder in their wars, and so on. They see themselves as being at the top of the food chain, always. With so many systems out of function, direct
conquest of their new haven was deemed infeasible. They decided on a more indirect approach, one involving a small bridgehead and a covert
surveillance of the dominant species of Earth. They chose a remote corner of a small island inhabited by several warring tribes, with no central power
structure. One thing that they quickly found was that they were inter-fertile with the locals. This was fortunate. Two thirds of the Fey females had been in
the malfunctioning sleep pods. One of the first results of the experiments in interbreeding was myself. Unfortunately, they made the mistake of leaving me
in the care of my human mother. I was fourteen when I discovered the true nature of the ‘demon’ who had fathered me on a sleeping Welsh princess. The
meeting did not go well.”
“I eventually agreed to act on my father’s behalf, as a sort of spy and emissary from the Seelie Court to the humans. I decided early on that my true
mission was to make sure that daddy dearest’s plans never came to fruition, and that the Fey were thrown off our world forever. However, I could not
accomplish this alone, and if the locals suddenly started displaying knowledge of the true nature of the Fey, a lot of blood would flow – mine in particular,
and I sort of liked it where it was, thank you very much. What I needed was a military force that I could manipulate into attacking the Fey. I found it in one
of the local warlords; a lad named Uther Pendragon. Thick as three short planks, but gods, could he fight! The sort that men would follow anywhere.
Unfortunately, Uther got himself killed in my first attempt to unseat the Fey. This taught me two things: steel swords against pulse weapons equals fried
barbarians, and I had no idea of military strategy. I decided I needed time to learn both, so I knuckled down to learn everything the Fey would teach me. It
took me years to learn enough to begin plotting something that had a hope of success, and I still needed a strike force.”
“By this time Uther’s son Artos was about fifteen, a fine warrior by the standards of the time, and showed signs of having more of a brain than his father
had. I took the boy under my wing, as it were, and together we began to build our strike force.”
I found that I had control of my mouth again. “The round table?” I burst out.
Mervin, Myrddyn, Merlin, whatever you want to call him, frowned. “That was how Mallory interpreted it when Lance spilled the whole story to him in a tavern
several centuries later: a great order of chivalry! But he was interpreting the story through a thirteenth-century mind, accustomed to thinking in those
terms. No, the Order of the Dragon started out as band of border reavers taking assistance from a mad magician. As someone remarked centuries later,
‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’. A lot of the Fey technology was Psionic anyway. All I had to do was dress it up in a
belief structure the lads could understand and they were away, learning to use Fey plasma weapons as ‘magic swords’ which ‘threw lightning bolts.’” He
chuckled. “They couldn’t understand why Artos and I wouldn’t let them use them against the neighbours!”
“What Mallory interpreted as the great spiritual quest for the Holy Grail was a commando raid by Parsival and Galahad to nick us a power generator. At
last everything was in place, and we started our assault against the Fey. And pretty successful we were too. We destroyed their ground base, the hill of
Badon, and managed to get a handful of surface-to-orbit transports. I had to do some fast talking to explain our assault on the colony ship in orbit, I can
tell you! Magical chariots to carry us to an enchanted castle, that sort of thing. The attack on the transport was almost a disaster. It took a lot of ingenuity,
and even more luck, but we managed to get control of her in the end. We lost a lot of good men doing it, and before we finished, the commander managed
to get a message off toward their home galaxy. I regret to say that I took a great delight in killing him, but in my defence all I can say is that I was young,
and the bastard had raped my mother.”
“The message pod was travelling at sub-light speeds, so we knew we had a while before any help came running, probably a good long while. We knew we
had to mount some kind of defence, but couldn’t decide on the form of it. We had a council of war. Kei and Ector were all for conquering the world using
the Fey technology, and then turning Earth into an armed camp, but that level of preparedness is difficult to keep up for thousands of years. Besides, we’d
just stopped someone else from conquering the world; I didn’t see that we had the right to do the same thing just because we’d stolen their toys. In the end
we decided that the thing to do was study the Fey technology, learn what we could to fix it, duplicate it, or improve on it, and maintain the watch ourselves.
And so was born the Order of the Dragon, what Mallory called the Round Table, mostly because he misunderstood Lance’s description of Camlann, the
“Camlann?” I asked, “Like the name of this system?”
“Of course. We moved her out of orbit a few centuries ago when Earth started to venture into space. We’ve nudged human technology a couple of times
over the centuries, but never anything to give away our existence.”
“Why not?” I asked
“Well, once the general population got to a level of technology where they could understand the threat, we decided that to reveal ourselves would cause a
mass panic, and be counter-productive, so we just continued as we had been: arming, preparing, and salting away troops for the coming war.”
“Well, what did Mallory say at the end? ‘Yet som men say in many partys of Inglonde that kynge Arthure ys not ded, but had by the wyll of oure Lorde Jesu
into another place, and men say he shall com agayne.’ Again, his interpretation of the drunken ravings of young Lance. We’ve been training men and
putting them into cryo-sleep awaiting the day of need for the last two thousand years. There are close on two million men sleeping on a fleet of ships under
the cover of the atmosphere of Lot, below us. Our mission now is to wake the command crew, and they in turn will activate the rest of the sleepers. When
the High Hunt, the Fey military, get here, we will be ready to meet them.” He looked grim. “We will not go down without a fight.”
“Hang on,” I said, “this doesn’t make sense. The legends tell of a last great battle where Arthur was wounded near to death, and you were taken out by a
wench named Vivian before that. What about all that stuff?”
Myrddyn sighed. “The war with the Fey colonists wasn’t over when we captured Camlann. There were still thousands of them on Earth, as well as a
number of half-breeds and changelings like myself. We had a protracted guerrilla war to fight before Artos finally forced a peace with them. They’re still
around on Earth, you know: brownies, pixies, all manner of Ifrits and Boggles. They’re long-lived, but not particularly fertile, especially with their initially
limited breeding population. As for the ‘cave’ story, Vivian was my protégé. When I was injured in a sneak attack, she put me in a healing chamber – the
Fey equivalent of an autodoc. It took me centuries to recover from my wounds. In the meanwhile, we had several years of in-fighting and political intrigue,
particularly with Artos’ half-sister Morrigan, another half-breed like myself. Unlike myself, she sided with the Fey half of her heritage.”
I shook my head, about as much movement as I could muster. “But that still doesn’t explain how you’ve come to be here, now. Cryosleep can extend life,
but you sound as if you’ve been awake, running the show for two thousand years straight.”
Myrddyn flashed me that grin again. “I said the Fey were long-lived, didn’t I? I’m barely middle-aged by their standards. I, and the other half-bloods in the
order like Bedwyr, have stayed out of storage, working behind the scenes, organising, recruiting, training, and preparing for the return of the King. Bedwyr
has been on watch for the coming of the Hunt for centuries.” He glanced at the viewscreen. “Now, I think, it would be good if you concentrated on piloting
us through the eye of that storm. Just follow the course I plotted and we’ll be fine.”
Just like that, I had all of my motor skills again, and I needed them for the next half hour as we fell through the outer atmosphere of the gas giant and dived
through the eye of a hurricane roughly the size of North America. As we dived below the clouds, I saw it, spread out below us: the biggest damned military
base you ever saw, floating in the eye of the storm. Hundreds of ships were docked at it, thousands; immense cigars, tiny saucers, the source of every
UFO sighting in earth space for five hundred years and more. And I’d been living next door to this armada for ten years and hadn’t seen a thing. Their
cloaking technology had to be awesome! Myrddyn sent an acknowledgement code ahead, and a beacon brought us in to dock with the largest ship there.
I was suddenly forced to wonder who had designed starship docking mechanisms, and whether all human craft were Fey-compatible. Myrddyn lead the
way to the airlock, and bowed as the inner door opened.
“Welcome, Augustus,” he said, “welcome to the Avalon array, and welcome aboard the battleship Camlann. Welcome to Camelot!”
We were met by a delegation of military types, all with that rampant dragon on their tunics. Before any of them could start, Myrddyn swept through the
airlock, barking orders as he went.
“Gentles,” he said, “the hour is upon us. The word is given. Sound the war-horns, and wake the King. We have a battle in four days. Galahad: get up to
Camlann Station and retrieve Bedwyr’s ship; we need the reconnaissance data from it. Augustus here will give you a lift.” Again the smile flashed. “Won’t
you, Augustus?” He turned back to the man he’d addressed. “Oh, and pay the man, Galahad.” He turned back to me. “What, a hundred thousand credits
sound good to you?” My jaw dropped. A hundred thou was about what the Branwyn was worth.
I found myself saddled with a chinless wonder to take back to Camlann Station. Myrddyn disappeared in a whirl of uniformed types, still rattling off
instructions. I did my job: I flew the Branwyn. Over the next two days I did a fair amount of taxi work between Camlann and Avalon, as the Order of the
Dragon sprang to life around us. The system was suddenly full of ships dashing hither and yon as the sentries around known space were recalled to add
to the armada. Then things really got crazy as the fleet issued up out of the atmosphere and assembled in orbit. Old Jacek in traffic control at Camlann
had a nervous breakdown. The Order supplied a replacement.
Everyone knows what happened after that: how the armada of the Order met the Hunt in the Phryggia system and sent them packing. How the King and
the Order made the Fey technology available to the rest of humanity, and the diaspora that resulted. Me? I stuck around in Camlann system. Before they
left, Merv stopped by one last time. Seems that now that he’s back to his job as adviser to the ruler of known space, he doesn’t need the bar as a cover
any more. So that’s how come I’m standing here handing out hooch and polishing glasses. He brought a friend with him that last time. Tall guy, red hair
just going grey, bushy moustache. Good lad. Likes a good single malt. Gave me that dirty great pigsticker that’s hanging behind the bar.
|© Copyright Iain Muir, 2004