form of the saying "The pen is mightier than the sword"
says literally: "The feather is mightier than the sword".
It dates back from the times when pens were made of feathers. I
stay with the German form throughout this story. The meaning of
the two forms is the same.
The office AI Belva and the
character of "Slick Liz" belong to Elizabeth Bales who
claims to have no resemblance whatsoever to her "sister in
name". ;) [Thank you!]
I'd like to thank Elizabeth Bales
for doing a "scream test" on this story.
remaining mistakes in it are either intentional or just my fault.
1 any one
of the military expeditions by the European Christian countries
to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims in the Middle
2 ~ (for / against
sth); ~ (to do sth) any struggle or campaign for sth believed to
be good, or against sth believed to be bad: a crusade against
crusade v [I, Ipr]
(for / against sth) take part in a crusade: crusading for
fairer treatment of minorities.
person taking part
in a crusade.
Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English, XXXIV. Edition,
Oxford University Press, Earth, 2083]
Cmdr. Joseph Walsh heard about Crusader
for the first time when he entered his office on a Thursday
morning. His adjutant, Sheela McIntyre, sat together with Ranger
Niko in front of Sheela's desk. Both women were reading something
on Sheela's screen.
right, Niko," Sheela sniffled, "it's
fourth or fifth poem of his that has appeared in the forum,"
the female Galaxy Ranger said, "but it's the best so far.
It... it touches me."
rummaged in her upper desk drawer for a handkerchief without
stopping her reading and blew her nose audibly. "But it's so
Walsh raised his
brows at the sight. Apparently, his arrival had slipped their
attention. He cleared his throat audibly. The two women turned
their heads at the sound.
got up. "Sir."
I ask what's up here?" the commander asked, answering her
Niko called my attention to some poems that have appeared in the
forum during the last weeks, sir." Sheela was all business
now, like he had known her since she had worked in his office.
"She's here to have her last mission report signed. Since
you hadn't arrived yet, we had a look at them. The last one
affected us deeply. I'm sorry for the incident, sir."
be." Walsh waved the apology aside. "But poems? In the
His adjutant collected the daily mail. "The one today is in
the 'Staff' thread."
is a military institution. Poems have no place here."
know that, sir." Sheela slipped past him to put the assorted
letters on his desk. "But they are still there, scattered
across all threads except 'Miscellaneous'."
signed 'Crusader', sir." Niko added. "That's also the
best search command for them."
is the report Ranger Niko brought." Sheela handed him the
file, buzzed around him, and busied herself in the corner holding
his coffee maker. "I'll bring you your cup when the coffee
is done, sir."
his call to work when it came. He skimmed the file briefly and
signed the form for receiving it. "That's it for the moment,
Ranger. You'll be called if something doesn't fit."
He headed for his desk. His door whooshed closed behind him.
Poems. In the forum of a military base. He shook his head,
tossing Niko's report into his 'To do'-box. There are things
in this world... On a sudden impulse he started his console
to have a look at them. The first popped up under 'Lost &
Found', sub-thread 'Hangar Bay - Missing tools'...
When the swords of my
slash the night
tear the flesh
causing my memorized enemy to scream
I yearn for the
life I once had
and swear at the life I now live...
the silk whispers
when she moves by my side.
Silk and steel
what I am now.
A sword clothed in silk
to cover its
But the flowing cloth
is blown against the
revealing the blade
that's going to cut...
Silk is strong
it encompasses my wrists
holds down my
away from the handle
and prepares me...
handle a different life.
Silk and steel
protecting each other
in different worlds
neither of them
would be aware of...
...without the other.
The trouble began a week later.
of the personnel at BetaMountain had regularly begun to read the
mysterious poems. They were appearing in unexpected threads and
under unrelated topics. An increasing number of people were
searching the forum daily in the hope of finding a new one.
external offices and institutes became aware of the poems after
one popped up in a public thread that didn't limit access to
internal BETA accounts.
Office of Cmdr. Walsh
a furious Senator Wheiner awaited Walsh in his office when he
came back from lunch.
don't give a damn if you know what asshole produces that stuff!"
the senator snapped. "I'm running for Premier, Walsh! It's
election week and the last thing I need is a reminder about the
summer of '84!" He paced the room, stopped, paced, stopped,
and kicked Walsh's dustbin. "I expect you to pin the ass of
that unpatriotic bastard to the wall!"
The commander fought to stay calm. "It would be easier to
accomplish that task if you – at least – would tell
me whom you want to have arrested!"
traitor calls himself 'Crusader'!"
agree that poems have no place in a military forum. But I don't
see how they do any harm there or how they endanger your
election. That's not the problem of BETA and the
obviously haven't read the last one!" Wheiner threw a
printout onto his desk. "Maybe it's not BETA's problem, but
it damn well is yours!"
grabbed the transparency and read:
of a whining man.
for the pride
of a whining man.
by the impatience
of the whining man.
wrote this knows a lot, Walsh. And he almost names names! Close
this leak. I'm warning you!" The senator stomped toward the
door and stopped before it opened. "And be careful about who
you send after this hack writer. If I'm in because of that
information you can be sure you and your gengineered pet are in,
Walsh leaned back in
his seat and sighed after the door had closed behind the senator.
Shit. Who the hell shall I send after a poet? Crusader could
be anybody with access to a BETA computer... Again his eyes
wandered across the few dangerous lines of text.
have to assign someone who will keep his mouth shut whatever
information is revealed. That leaves the S5s. But one of them
could be writing those things... Anyone with access to the
computers... Hartford is first choice to identify any given user,
but he's also the most likely candidate for hiding the origin of
something on the net. That makes him a suspect. Plus, he has the
highest education among them. Walsh shook his head. Hartford
was out of the question. Niko...
words of his adjutant crossed his mind. "Ranger Niko
called my attention to some poems that have appeared in the forum
during the last weeks, sir." Sheela had said. So it could be
Niko as well. And Fox...
snorted. He'd never found out what Fox really knew about Goose's
past but the man was a damned good observer. Odds were that he
had pieced together much more than he let on. What's that
saying again? Still waters run deep. Fox is a pretty high risk,
too. And anyway, he's still on Kirwin with his wife. That leaves
Joseph made a face at
the thought. True, the boy was the last person he would believe
to be a poet, but that also minimized his chances to track one
down. Whatever. Walsh reached for the intercom. I'm not
Wheiner's election manager.
Twenty minutes later...
should do what!?" Goose gaped at his superior. "How
the hell can I catch a poet? And in the comps? I'm glad if those
things don't eat my reports, sir."
sighed. "I know that, Gooseman. But the information used in
those poems leads to an insider. The first one appeared in
threads open to base personnel only. So almost everyone on this
base is a likely suspect. Except you."
again I get to hunt somebody I know personally." The ST
seemed to gnaw on the words.
sorry, but yes. The senator made it a prime order. And remember,
almost everyone on this base is a suspect. Even your teammates.
You are not to talk about this assignment with any of
"But sir, I've
got no idea how to hunt a poet!"
with trying to find out who placed the poetry postings in the
forum," Walsh suggested.
I'm not to ask Doc how to do it, right?"
Walsh chose to
ignore Goose's muttered "Wonderful!".
why is there such a fuss over some poems, sir?"
commander sighed. "The senator fears for his election,
Gooseman. He thinks that the poems might turn the voters against
him since 'the feather is mightier than the sword.'" He
ignored the incredulous look the ST gave him at the saying.
The next poem appeared just a few hours
later, during the first hours of the night. A lot of people were
woken by alarms from their personal consoles. Even Commander
Walsh was raised out of his sleep by the beeping of the home
console in his house at Phoenix military base. It took him a
moment to identify the symbol that had appeared on the screen.
Then he was fully awake and opened the message Belva, his office
AI, had copied from the 'Generic Thread' on BETA's forum...
forced to hunt
forced to hunt himself
caught up in
laying back his
he howls the pain of life
at unlistening stars.
seeing only the man
seeing only the wolf
left his quarters to meet Doc and Niko at the cafeteria fifteen
minutes later than usual. Having breakfast together had become a
habit since Zach had taken the temporary assignment on Kirwin. He
yawned and fell into a light trot to make up for his late start.
He'd been up and around till the wee hours of the morning. ALMA
hadn't been too keen on accessing the forum and monitoring the
network. There were laws in place restricting AIs from doing
that, though ALMA usually didn't give a damn about them.
ST grinned. There were times when it came in handy that his
electronic nanny was a ruthless piece of code...
waitress behind the bar asked if he wanted cinnamon coffee
instead of the usual batch. Goose nearly dropped his tray. She
was smiling! At his perplexed nod, she intensified the smile by
at least a thousand lumens – and gave him an extra
Shaking his head, he
searched the hall for his friends.
unit is over there at the window." A service mechanic in a
greasy BETA coverall pointed towards a table where Doc and Niko
were already talking over steaming mugs.
Goose replied, confused, and wished his ears hadn't caught the
whispered "I'm so sorry..." of the tech behind him. He
hurried to meet his teammates.
pushed the tray across the table and pulled a chair close. "Does
anyone know what the hell's going on here?!" he asked in a
low voice. "Everyone is so–" He searched for the
right words "–friendly to me this morning." He
sniffed at the cinnamon coffee then took a small sip.
conscience, my Goose man," a grinning Doc
published another poem last night, Shane," Niko explained.
"Obviously, a lot of people have thought about their
behavior towards you because of it."
poem?" Gooseman frowned, blowing at his steaming coffee. "I
don't read poems."
many other people do, Goose, and this one affected
"So it's not my
fault that they're behaving weirder than usual?"
at all." Niko laughed faintly. "Really."
comforting." Goose took another sip of his cinnamon coffee
and enjoyed the taste. "Do you read those poems,
admitted with a slight blush. "Some of them are really good.
And it seems that the author dislikes our most hated senator as
much as we do." She giggled and continued in a very low
voice: "I'm sure Mr. Wheiner is not happy about those poems
appearing in election week."
happy is an understatement," Goose mumbled with glee into
have observed the postings including the search item 'Crusader'.
There were 1,998,978 accesses without a given console ID number
while you were gone.=
Goose growled and threw his key card onto his table. "Easy,
pal, I'm on the way!" He managed to squeeze himself past
Poss into his kitchenette. "Any idea how to reduce the
number of suspects?" he asked his AI.
were without any console IP given.=
Goose expertly opened the vac-pac of cat food and emptied it into
the bowl. He watched Possessor attacking the food with a
ferocious growl before he turned back to ALMA. "Any idea how
to identify them without an IP?"
one private console was activated during all
"Wow! Do you
know whose it is?"
There was an odd sense of satisfaction emanating from the
the commander and SecStaff and send them the data."
you want to do it yourself? In case that the commander's
disturbed. It's already 21:18.=
not going anywhere this evening, ALMA." He sniffed and
decided to tend to the litter box before thinking about anything
else. "And lock the comm lines after you're done."
SecStaff interrogation room
last time! I monitored those poems because I want to know myself
who it is!" Doc gasped for breath after shouting the last
line at the interrogating security staff officer.
Flaherty wasn't impressed. "Ease your tone, Lieutenant
Hartford. We've got evidence that you – and you alone –
were constantly monitoring those poems. I ask you why would you
do that if you were not waiting for feedback on them? Besides,
you're known to have manipulated the networks and our mainframe
more than once."
I'm no poet! Get that into your wooden head!" Doc yelled. "I
can't write such stuff. I wish I could. It would better my
chances with the ladies."
believe me stupid, Lieutenant. You're an educated man.
enough." Doc flounced back into the comfortless plastic
chair. "I'm not saying another word without my
Hartford, it's in your own interest to cooperate with–"
want my lawyer. Immediately."
slammed his hands on the table and got up. "As you wish!"
he snapped, and headed out the door.
minutes later Doc was transferred to the base jail. He had just
learned that his lawyer wasn't going to deal with him before
tomorrow. The burly MP escorting him made Goose seem like an
over-talkative person on speed. "I'm getting a new lawyer if
I ever get outta here," Doc muttered. The walking muscle
She huddled in his
warmth, enjoyed the intimacy of shared thoughts. A silent night,
there weren't many of those in her life, nor in his. A long time
ago she had accepted that to be here was worth the risks they
were taking. Though a part of herself still asked how much of her
desire, of her feelings lay in the attraction of danger.
laughed in her thoughts, whispered in her mind, telling her about
the truths in dangers, about the simplicity that made dangers so
adorably easy to understand.
aren't easy to understand,... her mind told him.
hope so," he whispered audibly. She snuggled up closer to
him on his narrow bed, and he soared in the rustling of silk and
the fragrance of sandalwood in her hair. "I like to win."
He kissed her before she could ask what he meant...
Floating scents in the
her invading physical call
and whispering silk in the
Nobody told the knight
the trickiest weapon of all
isn't made by a smith in his yard.
wandered across the memorized lines of text. She was riveted by
them, attracted. ...You said you don't read Crusader's
The mental image of him
sighed. ...It's a job. I've been ordered not to talk about
...You're not talking
about it right now... She giggled and the impression of a fanged
smile returned through their link. ...You have to identify
him,... she realized, suddenly sobered.
Someone fears for his political ass because of those poems...
He grinned and stretched,
catlike. She felt the flexing muscles of his chest beneath her
cheek. Their legs intertwined once again and both enjoyed the
gliding touch of skin on skin. It was a totally physical pleasure
complementing their mental joining. ...But I don't think that I'm
going to be much help...
opened her eyes in the dark. She knew he saw much more of her
than she of him. ...I'm one of your suspects!...
silence lasted – in the room and in their thoughts. ...How
did you come across the poems?... he asked finally,
She sighed at the
distrust before she whispered her answer. "I was looking for
some archeological texts about the Middle Ages. I didn't have
that much time before work so I just entered the words and ran
the search while I was away. When I came back, I found that every
data resource had been scanned. One of the words was 'crusader',
and that brought up some poems in the forum. That was so strange
that I had a closer look, and after that I was hooked." She
laid her head against his chest again, and her mental voice
added. ...And some of them reminded me–...
tips of his fingers touched her chin when the line of thought
didn't continue. He turned her face up into the glow of the LEDs
bright enough for him to see her eyes wide in the dark. ...You
were reminded of...?... he inquired.
freed her face from his hand, concentrated on the sensation of
heartbeat and breaths before she admitted. ...–of
...I'm sorry... He ran
his hand through her hair. Some strands of her hair were caught
under sharp fingernails. ...I'm sorry for being... She felt old
pain inside him, pain about being forced to hunt who he didn't
want to be caught.
Her breath touched him. ...We both know who we
Astonishment followed and
a word vibrating with... laughter?
Office of Cmdr. Walsh
ordered you to stop this!" was precisely the sentence with
which Cmdr. Walsh was welcomed in his office that morning.
Senator Eric Wheiner hadn't given Lt. McIntyre the chance to warn
her superior about him. "Tomorrow is election day and the
predictions are less and less in my favor!"
we're doing our best," Walsh snapped, annoyed. "We
aren't responsible for your public
enough!" Walsh's furious bark made the senator wince. "We
are working as fast as we can. If time works against you, I can't
change that!" He stomped towards his office, blocking the
door with his bulk in case Wheiner was stupid enough to follow
him. "And now – if this is not an official visit –
get lost and let me do my job!" Joseph slammed the
door shut behind him.
it's good to bark at the bastard! He called the forum onto
his screen to see what had caused the senator's outbreak this
time. He didn't have to search long:
A wolf at the leash
sword bound in its sheath
To hunt the whining man's enemy.
To erase the menace
the senator's race
For the Prime of Mankind.
make the effort to hide his grin when he opened a line to his
adjutant in the outer office. "Sheela. Contact SecStaff.
Tell them they ought to release Hartford. We have significant
evidence that he is not the suspect."
adjutant on the tiny screen smiled. =Already done, sir. I just
read it myself. And sir–=
are some urgent requests about Crusader's identity.=
but the senator feels deadly threatened by those
=Nobody, sir. The
main editor of Earth Times is asking about him. Apparently, their
political correspondent scanned the public threads of our forum
and wants to reprint some of the poems in his editorial
"Tell them we
have no idea who's spamming our forum, but that I am sure they
won't get in trouble if they reprint the poems with proper
credits." Eric will love it. Walsh's dark-brown eyes
glittered maliciously. "And send them copies of the ones
that aren't publicly accessible."
you sure, sir?=
want BETA to be sued for crippling a published work, do
=No, sir.= The tiny
screen showed a Sheela nodding most solemnly. =I'll prepare a
dossier for them right away.=
Leaning back, the commander allowed his malicious smile to
broaden significantly. Nobody shouted at him in his own office
without paying dearly for it!
BETA Mountain Base Jail
Staff cell block
looking guard who released him had to be a first-degree relative
of the one who'd jailed him yesterday evening. Doc was more or
less shoved to the admission counter to retrieve his belongings.
He had barely made a step across the marked line when the
forcefield closed with a high, slightly sizzling hum.
a nice day to you, too," the hacker grumbled and wondered
whether the sizzle came from the forcefield itself or because the
hem of his shirt had been caught in it. Then he noticed the tall
figure leaning against the wall where the corridor ran into the
main passage. "Goose?"
ST pushed himself off the wall. "Doc, you look
you spend a night next to a criminal Kiwi who argued with the
guards all night." He snorted. "Those idiots had
nothing better to do than repeat over and over as loud as an
interceptor starting up that it's forbidden to plant
marihuana on Earth. Again and again and–"
always," Goose finished his sentence impassively and pointed
vaguely towards the passage. "I'm told to bring you back
could have done with you in there." Doc nodded back towards
the arrest area. "We haven't got that many friends in
prison. Out here I can go without you." He headed down the
corridor. Goose, impassive, strolled after him. "My
apartment first. I won't go to work this–" He
The ST completed the sentence with an innocent smile that made
Hartford groan. "Honestly, Doc." His teammate's grin
showed slightly too many teeth to be comforting. "I'm here
because you could try to disappear on your way back to us... and
Walsh would hate to do the paperwork for another renegade
ever find out who that hack writer is..." The hacker mumbled
the rest under his breath. Goose raised a questioning brow at
him. "That so-called poet owes me a hell night in
jail!" Doc exclaimed.
The ST stuffed his hands into his pockets and prepared to wait
outside Doc's apartment. "He's gotten you also outta
Doc, already frisking for a fresh pair of trousers, asked through
the door. "What do you mean?"
got released because of a new poem, not because your lawyer did
didn't?" Doc repeated dully. Then the ST's words trickled
home. The offensive, dirty clothes dropped to the floor together
with the fresh ones. Doc stomped, infuriated, to his console. She
didn't?! The sound escaping his nose would have made any
rhino suffering from rhinitis proud. Doc considered it a snort.
Hitting one of the preprogrammed keys, he established a bugproof
line to his lawyer.
long till the well-known – and in law enforcement circles,
well-feared – face of Liz Gibson, Esq. – Slick Liz to
her friends – appeared on his console's screen. And he on
hers, as her raised eyebrow indicated.
why the call?=
quite well!" Doc was practically foaming at the mouth. "I
called you yesterday to deal with this irrational accusation of
me writing political poems. And you didn't show
Your talk is exceeding your breathing.=
still be in there, if not for a new poem."
Slick Liz leaned back and her picture on his monitor watched him
levelly. =So now we have a record in Security Staff's own files
showing that they arrested you on insufficient grounds. That'll
come in handy the next time you park yourself in the shit again.=
She looked at her sharply manicured nails.
glared at his lawyer. "And what if there hadn't been a new
poem?! I could–"
have come and torn them to pieces today.= She shrugged. =So,
what's your problem?=
night in prison is! I–"
door behind him hissed open. "Doc." Goose's impatient
voice cut in. "The Captain won't wait for all
"And I'll take
the kick, Doc," the ST said with a grin.
Doc whirled round.
=Just a piece
of advice from your lawyer, Walter,= Slick Liz's dry voice said
from the console. =A jury might consider the line 'Kick or Kiss'
on the backside of your shorts an invitation. Which prevents you
from receiving any compensation for injuries suffered as a result
of your "clients"= – she actually snickered –
TIMES - EVENING ISSUE - PAGE 2
Eclectic ~ Election
Kublai Dutch [For Earth, NOW!]
Senator Eric Wheiner [Honesty
Representative Alfred Sorensen [With allies among
before has Earth had three candidates with such different
Never before has the choice seemed so easy.
Pre-election polls place both Premier Dutch and Mr. Sorensen in
the electoral dustbin, with Senator Wheiner soaring to a
prodigious 80 per cent. Still, a seemingly unrelated event has
left me reconsidering my choice.
Over the last few weeks a
mysterious writer calling himself 'Crusader' has posted poems in
the forum of the Bureau of Extra-Terrestrial Affairs. His
...remind us of a rather weakly documented part of
our recent history.
Maybe all of us should have a look at his
poems before we head to the polls to elect the new ruler of old
planet Earth tomorrow. For that reason, you'll find three of his
poems in the sidebar on this page. For more, have a look at:
meditation candle flickered slightly, but the soft desert evening
breeze from the open windows wasn't strong enough to move her
hair or the flowing silk robe she was wearing. Her eyes rested on
the flame and the flickering caused ghost images on her retina.
Her mind grew still and yet she was wide awake. She'd been
restless during the day. Something she didn't quite recognize
candle flame's ghost images formed a face, familiar, close,
whispering thoughts rippled the surface of her mind.
like to win."...
know who we are...
Her self frowned at
the thoughts, turned them around, wondered at them. But the
disturbance was still there afterwards. They weren't the reason.
Her mind drifted on. The candle flame
invading physical call...
candle flickered vividly. Tiny threads of soot swirled up towards
a ceiling lost in darkness.
eyes widened. The ghost images danced in her field of view. She
hadn't seen the poem before, and she was sure she'd scanned the
whole mainframe. Her mind collected itself around the flickering
candle, and a flick of her powers erased the flame.
had found it. She loved the poems, liked the feelings and
connotations they evoked. Her AI Kassie scanned the whole forum
every morning before her wake-up call to see if new ones were
there. A new poem had become the most wonderful way to start the
Are you sure,
Niko? Regarding your behavior I can't believe that. Her mind
laughed at her excitement. Correction. She smiled back at
her mental self. The second most wonderful way to start
But she hadn't
seen 'Desire' before...
she got up from the woven carpet. I must have missed it...
melodic sound of her door bell interrupted her. She hurried to
type in the new set of search commands. The bell rang again; then
someone knocked at the door itself. With a sigh, she turned away
from her console. "Open." It was Shane.
console behind her beeped. Another 'Results: 0'. It wasn't there.
She recalled the memorized lines and altered the search commands
again. It had to be there somewhe–
love these flimsy silks you're wearing but we'll get in trouble
if you go out wearing them."
Her mind was still tuned to her search. She was close. She felt
"Because I'd have to
kill every man in the cinema if you do."
That turned her around, and with a pang of guilt she remembered
the new quadro-D flick. "Is it really that late
forty minutes to make it in time."
glance wandered back to her console with the blinking LEDs
indicating the ongoing search. "I'm not finished
"What are you
poems. There's something strange." She turned again at the
keyboard. "It made me uneasy all day."
you'd like to finish before we leave?"
looked up at him. "Yes, if it doesn't bother you too much. I
really forgot the time during my search for 'Desire'."
She wasn't sure what to make of
the sudden flicker in his eyes. Disappointment or something else?
She sensed for the residual link between them but nothing
trickled through the connection. "Go on." He nudged,
one of his half-smiles whizzing across a corner of his mouth. "I
know you. You're like a pitbull if something's bothering
She was undecided. Most of her wanted to say, Forget the damn
lines of text, it's real life you desire. But there was also
the probing little voice that yearned for answers.
Goose suddenly said with a grin. "Until you've solved your
problem, you wouldn't even notice me if I were sitting on your
lap. So forget about it."
snickered at the image. "I'm pretty sure even if I didn't
notice a whole lot of other people would."
glittered off his teeth. "Probably. But I'd hate to be
ignored by you." He turned for the door. "Good
Her eyes had already returned to the screen. "And I'm sorry
The door closed
on her words.
2091-08-27 Sunday – Premier
forum scan complete. No posts found matching your search
possibility, and again no success. Niko leaned back and
stretched. She could tell from the cracking in her spine that it
had gotten pretty late during her efforts to find the source for
The lines in his
thoughts had been as clear as if they'd been written, as clear as
if he had learned the poem by heart. But she couldn't find it...
it wasn't anywhere in the forum. She had even e-mailed her
friends and colleagues, but no one knew about that poem. The only
answers she had received were a couple of requests for the new
one. It wasn't on the forum nor in any of the e-mail archives,
That can't be.
That's impossible. Or... not?
certain memory showed up again: a laughed Really? at her
statement We both know who we are...
recalled a strophe from one of the later poems:
to hunt the pack
to hunt himself
it almost literally! She snorted. She had been so blind. And
what incredible nerve to have me wasting our free time on
searching the whole mainframe for... No wonder he was so
understanding about it!
strophe from the first Crusader poem that had affected her
crossed her mind...
protecting each other
of them would be aware of...
Why hasn't he
told me? she asked herself with a slight stitch of pain. Why
doesn't he trust me with this?
disconnected her console.
Deep inside the main computer systems of
BetaMountain, the disappearance of a certain IP number from the
list of active computer stations was noticed. The AI immediately
loaded itself into the network and went to work.
buttoned the collar of her blouse and closed her belt.
Uncertainly, she looked at the door to the corridor. Just a few
steps... She lowered her head and clenched her fist. Why can't
you trust me, Shane?
opened a little and a growling voice asked: "What?"
It opened fully when Goose
recognized her and allowed her in. He threw a swift glance across
the corridor before he relocked the door and turned toward
He blinked, rather sleepy now that his battle reflexes had calmed
She laid her hand on his
upper arm, causing him to look directly at her. "Shane, you
know who Crusader is, don't you?"
He yawned and shook the sleep out of his head. "Do I
understand right that you're coming over at 5 a.m. risking our
careers – and my ass – to ask me about an
investigation I'm not allowed to talk about?"
is important, Goose." She was determined yet careful. Her
voice was soft, unresponsive to the angry growl that had crept
into his. She didn't let her eyes leave his face as she
continued. "You are him, aren't you?"
A poet?!" He almost doubled over at the idea. "Niko,
are you nuts?"
That poem in your thoughts–"
up with it?"
not in the forum."
it is. I found it on my search for the bastard." He
shrugged. "Or better, ALMA found it when I had her
"It's not. I
spent almost all night looking for it. I searched with the text
you remembered and under 'Crusader'. It's not there. And the only
way you can know a poem of his that hasn't been published yet is
that you are him."
his head. "I discovered that one during my search for
Crusader," he persisted, earnestly, controlled – too
controlled for her tastes. "I can show you if you
activated his console and offered her the seat. Leaning over her
shoulder, he typed: 'Merchandise register'. His fingers danced
across the keyboard. 'Imports'. She was very aware of his bare
upper body next to her, his arms slightly touching her while he
typed. He entered the search command: 'Crusader'.
poem appeared on the screen.
Her eyes flew across
the pale-blue lines. "I'm sorry..." She groaned,
leaning her face against her hands. "I was so certain and
yet feared that–"
He grinned. "I'm flattered."
Nobody's ever believed I could write poems." He snickered.
"It's a weird idea." She looked up at him and the color
of his eyes suddenly deepened. "As for weird ideas... Any
interest in a late breakfast with me?"
not even 0530, Shane," she reminded him. "It would be
an early breakfast."
0530?" He frowned and his smile grew rather lascivious.
"It's more likely to turn into an early lunch,
lecher!" She laughed faintly and got up from the chair. "I
need some rest, not the promise of that empty fridge of
His grin deepened.
He caught her in his arms, drawing her close. "That's fine
with me." She felt his unshaved chin stroking across her
hair as he breathed her in. "I'm tired, too."
was sure they wouldn't be getting the sleep they needed any time
– BREAKING NEWS
Sorensen is the new Premier!
Sorensen, who ran as an outsider
in this Prime election, won with 42.3 percent of the vote.
Though last week's prognosis had placed Senator Eric Wheiner
on top with a majority of almost 80 percent, the senator got less
than 30 percent of the votes finally cast today. His result was
nearly as bad as that of former premier Kublai Dutch, who failed
to convince the voters to grand him a second period.
Office of Cmdr. Walsh
sorry that I wasn't successful, sir." Gooseman stood at
attention in front of Walsh's desk. "I did my
expect more." Walsh took the report and flipped loosely
through the two pages with a complete set of printed poems
attached. Ah well, nobody could accuse the boy of being gasbag.
He scribbled his signature underneath and put the file aside.
"The order is set to normal importance from now
The ST sighed in relief. In his job that meant he'd never have to
go after that poet again. There are always prime orders,
classified orders, very important– A smile flashed
across a corner of his mouth. "Sir, may I speak
want to catch Crusader." The commander raised his brows. "I
think he did me a favor." Walsh said nothing. "Eric
Wheiner as a senator is a pain in the butt but as premier? Hell,
spare me that!"
suppressed a grin. "Dismissed."
his best, the commander thought after Gooseman had left. He
knew that was the truth after he'd shifted through the report.
Goose wasn't a poet. He couldn't think like one, couldn't imagine
how to track one down.
would continue his search. Of course. The order to look for the
forum spammer who'd caused such major disturbances among BETA's
personnel wasn't limited by time. But without the prime order
Whoever Crusader was, most
likely he had cost Wheiner his victory.
took out one of the poems and closed the file. He had read that
one when it had first appeared in the generic thread. He wasn't a
man who cared for poems, but somehow this one had touched him.
His console beeped, indicating
new e-mail. He immediately recognized the symbol that appeared:
the white shield with the blood-red cross inside –
Crusader. He opened the electronic message that had come through
the all-personnel-mailing list and began to read...
Feather and sword
seem comparable to me
the feather is mightier
than the sword
and the laughing blade cut the bird in two
Feather and sword
didn't seem comparable to
For a long time
Walsh looked thoughtfully at the monitor with the few, light-blue
lines of text on dark ground. Then a sad smile flashed across his
face and was gone in an instant. He folded the printed poem he
had taken from the report file some minutes ago and put it in his
wallet behind a tiny yellowed drawing of a running beetle:
I was believed dead
by my guards
by my enemies
But life is strong
takes, rapes, swallows
it doesn't allow you to leave
it's not finished with you.
I am still
to be continued in