WolfSinger Publications

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Time Warp: Book 1

- William Paul Lazarus

Caught between planets, unable to determine friends from enemies, Prince Anton finds himself and his all-knowing robotic horse companion on a strange journey to his home with a fierce rival, three mismatched humans, two stowaways and an animated hologram in a comic saga that warps time and space.

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I

Bathed in the light of a universe of stars, Dalian Crown Prince Anton leaned back in the plush captain’s chair and watched the panorama of space. Isolated, hurtling through the cosmos, he finally began to relax. The awful events that sent him into space seemed so far behind him now: the civil war with neighboring Kajia, the attack on Dalia, the decision to send him to safety with only Thurgose, his automatonic horse, for a companion. There had been no time for anyone else to accompany him.

Out here, on the swirling edge of the galaxy, Anton felt such calmness. He could have picked up one of his 4-D video games, but did not. For a moment, he could be lazy, resting between lessons from Thurgose. He gazed languidly at the starry blackness, munching on freeze-dried dydala. He thought about having some humsta, the syrupy porridge that was his normal breakfast, but was mostly grateful that choosing what to eat was the hardest decision he now had to make.

“Brubiscon,” Thurgose interrupted in its metallic voice.

Anton turned his head. As usual, the little horse was hooked into the controls. However, it had shifted to the side, hooking its legs into the media control unit.

Tossing his blond hair in disgust, Anton waved it off. “I don’t want to see a movie,” he said. “I just want to enjoy the view.” He turned sideways to stretch his short legs across the chair, letting his bare feet dangle over the armrest.

Thurgose did not respond, but simply dimmed the interior lights and projected a holographic image against the far wall. Anton gasped and sat up as his father, Frighem Laren of Dalia and Kajia appeared. He looked so real Anton almost reached out a hand to touch his father, whose face had become a purple mask as age seeped through the familiar yellow coloring of youth.

To Anton’s surprise, the Frighem had smeared chocolate-colored culka powder under his eyes. Only fighters on Dalia wore that since it spoke of determination and death. Anton leaned forward in his seat.

“My son,” the Frighem said in hushed tones. “When you see this, I may be dead.” He began talking about the civil war between his planet and the neighboring planet Kajia when the old man suddenly grew silent. His mouth remained open, and his lips moved, but no words came out. Anton glanced quickly at Thurgose, the robotic rocking horse projecting the video, and back at the wall. His father seemed unaware of the loss of sound.

Then, strangely, a hole appeared in the Frighem’s forehead, blossoming red and ugly in the middle of one of the deep purple creases. His eyes seemed to roll upward then disappear. In a moment, the picture vanished, too, swallowed by the darkness of the room.

Anton gasped. Stunned, he realized he had seen the assassination of his father. His stomach heaved. He slowly began to cry as the lights went on. Death did not usually move him; on a planet where life spans were short, death happened frequently. However, as prince, Anton had one clear duty: to perform the funeral rituals for his father. Far away, he was not there to say the Mourning Prayer, to light the traditional pile candle. He could not dust his father’s hands and feet with the good Dalian dirt.

After a moment, Anton collected himself. In his precarious position, isolated in space, he could not grieve long. He ran a hand through his lavender hair and allowed his natural yellow hue to return to his face. A couple of tears crossed his black eyes, but that was all.

He took a deep breath. He would be strong. He had to be.

He started to stand. There was a lot to think about.

“Please remain seated,” Thurgose said. “There is more.”

Somewhat uneasy, Anton dropped back into his chair, turning again to face the wall. The light from Thurgose’s plastic eyes shone again, but no image appeared. Instead, there was a loud buzz followed by a calm, harsh, sinister male voice.

“Anton,” it said. “I am going to kill you.” Anton sat up, trying to recognize the voice. It had an odd accent, but he had heard it before.

The speaker continued with calm invective. “You can run to the outer reaches of the universe.” His voice was youthful, vibrant and arrogant. “I will find out. I….” There was a harsh sound, and the tape cut off, too.

“What is all that?” Anton cried, jumping to his feet. He wanted to do something, anything, but didn’t know what. Thurgose was as impassive as usual. It stood by the controls, slowly shifting its legs back and forth to activate the various functions. Anton heard a click. The interior lights returned to the normal level. Everything seemed the way it was before, except nothing was the same.

Thurgose rocked back, disengaged itself from the controls and rolled to Anton’s side. “I am your protector,” it intoned. “I have been programmed to insulate you against bodily harm.”

Anton trembled and touched the plastic head, finding the special sensor device built into the automaton’s surface that sent reassuring warmth into his hand. The automaton came to his waist, the perfect height for petting without reaching.

“Do you know who was threatening me?” Anton asked.

“Yes.” The horse paused. “I have analyzed the voice, and it belongs to Wyron, the Prince of Kajia.”

Anton nodded grimly. He should have known. As royal children, they had often played together. Now, Wyron wanted control of the two sister planets. Almost unconsciously, Anton continued to stroke the horse’s head.

“I wonder where he is now,” he thought aloud.

“I have detected no metallic compounds or radiation in the vicinity,” Thurgose reported. “The exterior sensing equipment has been activated since we left Dalia, and no such signals have been received. I monitor them on a regular basis. You may be assured of your safety.”

Anton relaxed a little. He walked over to the closest portal. He pressed the switch, and the blue metal shield swung wide. Looking out, he could see the bands of stars stretching in all directions. Not a few minutes ago, everything seemed so calm and inviting. Now, there seemed no pattern, no clear paths.

“Where are we going?” he asked Thurgose. He didn’t expect an answer and didn’t get one. Thurgose simply ran through a rainbow of colors as if searching memory banks for a response it knew didn’t exist.

“Did you have to show me that today?” Anton continued. He could have enjoyed a few more moments of peace. That illusion was gone forever.

“I can only do as programmed,” Thurgose said.

“That’s all I can do, too,” Anton replied. He felt very depressed. All he really knew was confined to the metallic interior of this ship. His memories were a mishmash of images that floated together in a hazy soup. His father was dead; his planet lay in desolate, contaminated ruins. And he floated in space toward some unknown target. Somewhere out there, perhaps a few light years behind, rode someone who wanted to kill him. Anton turned back and looked at Thurgose.

“I am the Frighem now,” he said almost in wonder. The very idea awed him.

“Yes,” Thurgose said. “You are chief flower among the eastern skies, god of youth and firmament, first son of the great Frighem Laren, son of the great queen Rena, Brubiscon of the Gorean festival and bearer of the Whiten bushels at the festival of Alain. And, you are also the Frighem.”

Anton shook his head. What did any of those titles mean on a spaceship somewhere in deep space? “I am the leader of one,” he noted sourly.

“I am ever ready to obey my Brubiscon,” Thurgose assured him.

“Then what am I supposed to do now?” Anton asked.

“Now is everything,” Thurgose recited. “Dugozy. 1654.”

“No philosophy,” Anton pleaded. “My head is reeling.”

Thurgose responded by changing from a slight yellow color to an off-gray, the signal it was ready to instruct, and began to roll along the metallic strips in the flooring to the teaching nook.

Sad and disheartened, Anton followed the little automaton into the aisle. And, for just a moment, he tried to ignore what fully he realized lay ahead.