Excerpt: EDJ of the Empire: Revenant’s Omen by Timothy Burns

EDJ of the Empire Revenant's Omen by Timothy Burns
EDJ of the Empire Revenant's Omen by Timothy Burns
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Chapter One

{content Old Empire Archive

Coming to consciousness in a trash-strewn alley behind a dive bar on a rough-and-tumble mining world was quite a rude awakening, let me tell you. I suppose it beat the alternative, though – not waking up at all. Not that Sam would’ve let that happen.

I could tell there would be a knot on the back of my head even before I managed to convince my hand to undertake the monumental task of venturing up there to check it out, and I was right. I didn’t expect that hand to come away bloody, but that it did so didn’t really surprise me, either.

It had been one of those nights.

I suppose I’d better back up a little bit since I don’t know who might end up reading this account. First off, I am Prince Edj Dumarc LaRand Bronacious Tarkle, son of Emperor Risherd Fontanue LaRand Bronacious Tarkle, Crown Prince and Heir to the Crystal Throne of the Empire of the Ninety-Nine Stars.

Yep, that Prince Edj. You might have heard of me, but if not, that’s okay. You’d be surprised how many Imperial subjects don’t even know they are Imperial subjects, much less who their next monarch will be. And you know what? That doesn’t bother me one bit.

See, I know something that all those pompous, overdressed, kowtowing arrogant fools back at my Father’s court can’t even begin to comprehend: the average person couldn’t care less what goes on in the Glittering Palace. What concerns them are their day-to-day affairs, not what’s happening light-years away to people they’ve never met and who think themselves so much better than the commoners that, if they ever did meet them, would treat them like dirt anyway. Less than dirt, really. Dirt has value, while commoners are simply numbers in a database.

I guess that explains what I was doing out there on the very rim of the Empire. I don’t have any more to do with those self-important, ego-inflated aristocrats than I absolutely have to. Don’t get me wrong, now – I love my father. It’s all the fools he’s surrounded by I can’t stand. And since in an Empire the size of the Ninety-Nine Stars there are always a ton of minor situations that need attention before they become major problems, I can always find reasons to be anywhere other than Alphum.

Like, for instance, on Herrig’s World.

I doubt there are more than a dozen people on the whole of the capitol planet who’ve ever heard of Herrig’s World, much less know that the place’s only major export is minzite ore. Yet nearly everyone makes use of the antigravity and artificial-gravity generators the refined form of this extremely rare mineral makes possible.

There are any number of products like this, of course, available from only one or a very few sources but highly desired everywhere, in this great Empire of ours. Few, however, are as universally used as minz coils. So, when the production of something as valuable as this experiences a sharp decline for no apparent reason, it attracts attention.

Now, this could have been addressed in several different manners. The navy could have been sent in to investigate, but they never do anything small. A flotilla of a dozen or more starships would have arrived, and chances are production would’ve suddenly undergone a miraculous recovery. At least until they left, anyway. Or an official auditor could have been dispatched, but he would have found several perfectly good reasons for the decline and filed a report saying, oh well, that’s just the way it is. He would be much wealthier by the time he did so, but, well, that’s just the way it is.

Or I could go there and make a few quiet, discrete inquiries and find out precisely who was profiting when several different mining corporations all suddenly started reporting record-low production rates.

It sounded so simple when I told my father I’d look into things there. But is anything ever simple?

During the two-week hyperspace flight from the agricultural world Demetria, where I’d just investigated and solved a nasty case of well poisoning, I read up on all I could find about Herrig’s World, which wasn’t a whole lot. It’s a relatively young planet, mostly jungle on its one huge continent, and its native life is at that stage in its evolution where every species is trying out all kinds of creative ways to kill and eat every other species. Think Earth’s dinosaur epoch on mega-steroids, because life there found a way to make natural ceramics early on. Everything is armored in super-tough shells, and every creature has its own uniquely lethal means of getting at the delicious creamy filling of these hard shells.

Minzite mining is the sole reason for a human presence there, and temporary mining towns are practically the only settlements on the whole planet. People have been plundering it for something like 400 years now, and they still have to import virtually everything they use there. It seems that a world full of hungry beasts with armor-piercing appendages just doesn’t attract many farmers or vacationers. Go figure.

The culture there is just what you’d expect in mining towns surrounded by lethal predators on all sides. Lives are cheap, passions run high, and everyone is armed to the teeth.

Oh, and did I mention the fact that the mines pay so well that, despite all this, people are willing to kill to get hired on?

It’s not a place for the weak or timid.