1001 Starry Knights: The Seven Voyages of Sinbad, chapter 1


Piracy in space is a tricky thing at the best of times. As the sound of the fighting grew louder outside my cabin, I wished it was a little bit trickier. First, there was the difficulty of finding a target to attack. Intercepting a faster than light ship is notoriously hopeless. But there were ways to know where someone would be before they arrived. Second, there’s the problem of disabling the target. It requires a substantial technological advantage to capture another ship without destroying it. This thought wasn’t very comforting either, as a scream rang out nearby. The Empire was full of such technological advantages. The last hurdle was the question of what a space pirate would steal that could be remotely profitable.

The door was thrown open. Three inches of hardened steel, designed to keep out hard vacuum in an emergency, fell to the ground. In the doorway stood a figure. An eyepatch over one eye, she didn’t look like a day older than twenty. Nobody in the Empire had to look old if they didn’t want to. Her teeth were bared in a savage grin. Scales were visible on her hands and legs. She was dressed like someone’s idea of an 18th century pirate. I stared, recognizing the body-type, reptilian mixed with human. Then her fist slammed across my chin, and sent me spinning to the ground. Darkness rose up to embrace me like an old friend, and left me falling into the arms of deep sleep.

Ten years had passed since Humanity discovered the existence of intelligent life, out there in the stars. Even in their wildest fantasies, nobody had really thought alien life would be interested in humans. But the Empire needed us. A galactic feudal government that stretched across two arms of the galaxy, they were dying. Their technology had bit them in the ass, resulting in a massive decline of the birth rate, and a population contraction that had been going on for ten thousand years. For reasons nobody understood, and everybody had a theory on, they were genetically compatible with humans. This had been a good thing for humanity, saving it from the fate of being subjugated and violently dominated by the Empire, which was what usually happened to foreign races. Of course, it had its downsides.

I’m a scholar. Hired by the Eudaimonia Universalis, the governing body of humanity in space, to study Imperial culture. When dealing with an alien race that could wipe you out on a whim, it’s important to know their culture. Who knows what socio-cultural equivalents they might have to flipping the bird? I had gotten passage aboard one of the large, stolid ships of the Beast Kingdom, traveling between stars to visit cultural havens. The captain had looked deeply alarmed when we had been jerked out of our travel by the untimely appearance of a gravity well in our path. When we’d slowed to a speed that didn’t spit on Einstein’s grave, we’d been ambushed. The captain had locked me in my room, and had fought gallantly, and hopelessly, to stop the boarders. The leonine alien had been a decent person. I hoped he wasn’t dead.

The world swam back into focus. I was lying in a medical bay, on a bed. I felt surprisingly good, and not at all like I’d been violently hurled into unconsciousness by a fist like a half-brick. The bay was lit brightly by sterile white lights, giving everything a clean feeling. I was fairly sure they were there for my benefit, as Reptile Kingdom sickbays usually resembled the worst battlefield hospitals imaginable. Not because they weren’t capable of making them comfortable. The Reptile Kingdom was just not, traditionally, a great fan of making its citizens comfortable with convalescence.

A woman stood over me. Her skin was the color of charcoal, and she had scales like chips of obsidian glass across her arms and legs. She was muscular, her arms bulging. She was obviously inhuman, a tail growing from the back of her hips, and a pair of large horns visible on her head. She wasn’t dressed, presumably to show off her well-sculpted physique, and her hands and feet were large, inhuman claws. She had to be close to seven feet tall. “Oh, good! You’re awake. We were worried you might have been hurt! Our captain wasn’t sure you’d be okay. You humans are fairly soft!”

Her voice was sweet, even bubbly. I readjusted my expectations. Most Reptile Imperials I’d met were humorless, serious individuals. But I was aboard a pirate ship. It would only make sense that they were atypical. I moved to sit up, and she rested a hand on my chest. “Not so fast, human.” She took out a pair of handcuffs. I stared at them as she placed them over my wrists. They physically resembled a pair of iron clasps and a chain. I imagined they were probably more exotic than that, but I’d rather not find out how exotic. I looked up at the woman, raising an eyebrow. Had she been purely human, she could’ve bent me into a pretzel knot. With the addition of Imperial genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and metaphysics, she could’ve ripped her way through the hull of the most advanced human Fleet ship with contemptuous ease. The handcuffs felt slightly patronizing. She gave me a broad, sweet, sharp-toothed smile. “It’s for the look of the thing.”

I was marched through the corridors of the ship. The temperature was at sauna levels, hot and dry, and I found myself sweating as we walked. We entered the bridge of the ship. The crew there were mostly of the Reptile Kingdom, although I recognized one of the famed navigators of the Aquatic Kingdom, a woman whose lower body resembled a squid. She hovered with a small ring of water around her hips, moistening her skin and apparently holding her up. I’d give my left nut for the chance to bring back whatever technology was doing that. It seemed like it was holding her upright, hovering in mid-air. But then, my attention was drawn to the captain.

She was the woman who had cold-cocked me. She stood, her arms crossed, studying me seriously, a frown on her face as she sat on the bridge. “You are a problem, human. We were expecting a dignitary aboard that ship. Some noble of the Beast Kingdom who we could capture, and ransom back. No harm. No foul. But when the crew refused to surrender, we had an idea of what we had gotten ourselves into.” She studied me, her face cold. “Of course, if your government finds out about this, we will watch our empire kowtow in a desperate attempt to show that our kind is harmless. If Heaven finds out, who knows what the psychotic old deity will do.” I watched the screen. Solar prominences rose in slow, lazy arcs. We were someone in the photosphere. Reptile ships did that to recharge and to jump between stars. Forces that would annihilate most ships played lazily off of the coruscating shields, feeding them energy. “We should throw you out of the airlock. Leave you to burn, where you can’t do us any harm.”

“I presume you won’t believe me if I said I won’t tell anyone, if you let me go?” I asked hopefully.

“Oh, yes. I can see that working. Here’s this human. Where’d we find him? Well, we robbed his ship and kidnapped him. Whoops.” The captain leaned back. Two wings spread behind her. Her crown of horns was impressive. I hadn’t realized it last time, but she was a Dragon, one of the nobility of the Reptile Kingdom. One of the people who had earned, often through blood and ruthless pragmatism, that title. If she said she would throw me out of the airlock, she was absolutely serious. “But, as it happens, there are other ways to hide that knowledge. And just as fortunately, there are those among the nobility who would pay great amounts for a human partner. Wipe your memories, and leave you in the hands of one of the nobility.” She smiled brightly. “Yes. I think that will work.”

“Not, traditionally, a good move. You’ve heard of the great Aberrant Pirate Loquicia?” The crew exchanged a frown. “No? There’s a reason for that. Let me tell you what happened to her.” I smiled. “I discovered it on one of the planets of the Aberrant Count Artorias, while discussing matters with one of their telepaths. They told me of her, a being who now exists only in the racial memory of the Aberrant Kingdom.”

It was a few hundred years back, when humanity was known, but still bound to the Earth, looking up at the stars and thinking they were motes of light in a great glass sphere. The Pirate Loquicia was one of a race of telepaths, squid-like creatures that were annexed into the Aberrant Kingdom, five hundred thousand years ago. They had been a race of consummate masterminds, needing to do little for themselves, living on the labor of enslaved servants. The Empire found them, and paid evil unto evil. Loquicia was born long after that time, but she might have been the strongest telepath born to the Aberrants in living memory. She was capable of insinuating herself into the minds of others, and slipping past their defenses. She could’ve been an empress. She could’ve raised an army, and threatened to shake the pillars of the Empire itself.

But she was a recluse, and an introvert. She did not crave the spotlight, or attention. And so she worked as a pirate, sneaking into places, using her vast powers to keep others from feeling the touch of her presence. She was able to walk into the most secure vaults of the most well-guarded planets, the hulls of the richest trader ships, and walk out with anything she pleased, as invisible as the night. So she became a pirate, and those she robbed never even realized she had robbed them. The things she took were as though they had never existed.

When humanity was discovered, every noble desired a human. But Heaven had laid own its mandate; Humans were not to be touched, not to be approached, until they were a mature species. But when someone is wealthy and powerful enough, even the words of Heaven won’t deter them. And so, a great ruler came to Loquicia. Nobody knows which ruler, for reasons that should be obvious. They might have been one of the great dukes, rulers of a hundred star systems. They might have been a King or Queen, one of those who could claim an entire ten thousand light year-long arc of the galaxy as their domain. It might even have been the Empress, though most would doubt that, as she was as committed as Heaven that humanity should have time to mature. Whoever it was, they offered Loquicia the infinite wealth of their realm, in exchange for the ultimate prize. A human.

Heaven is well-named, and very good at finding guilt. It was widely considered suicide to attempt to break the cordon. Even if Heaven did not notice the intrusion, the Empire would be sworn to turn them in. Execution of the violator and their extended family would be the likely punishment. Nobody in power had an interest in inciting war with Heaven. But Loquicia was a great believer in her own abilities. And so, the Pirate of the Shadows made her way into human space. Her adventures must have been fantastic, and her risks great. Three years after she entered human space, she reappeared, with a human. His name was Henry Every, a man who claimed to be a pirate himself. He had traveled willingly with her when she had approached him, and the two had gone to meet the ruler.

Of course, the ruler had planned to betray them. If Loquicia lived, she would be a risk, forever. She would leave open a path for those who wanted to hurt the ruler. When they arrived, the fleet of the world caught them, and cornered them. Loquicia would have been executed, her name disappearing from history. Ten-score warships had them cornered, telepathic shields provided by dozens of lesser psychics. But Henry Every and Loquicia had been prepared for this. They were no strangers to betrayal, and far more practiced.

It’s not clear what, exactly, happened. For obvious reasons, the stories are second-hand, more memories than anything else. Some say the two unlikely pirates died together, denying the ruler their prized trophy. Others say it was a long con, that Henry Every was given over, and Loquicia disappeared, her life being given to her in exchange for her disappearing from history. They also said that they had planned this, and someday, Loquicia would return to save Every. There are even some who claim that Henry and Loquicia had managed some great ruse, and Loquicia filled the mind of the Ruler with images of victory, while the two escaped with their treasure. Whatever she did, she disappeared from memory. Only the great planetary networks of Aberrant telepaths were able to keep the ghosts of the stories alive.

The room was silent. The bridge had all turned to watch as I told the story, enraptured with the tale. They hadn’t spoken during the story. Now, they were whispering among one another. The Dragon frowned, her arms crossed. She had looked interested during the story. Now she looked foul-tempered “What is your point? And is that story true?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know if it’s a fact. This was the story I was told, told as well as I can. Anyone wealthy enough to have a human kidnapped knows their kidnappers may blackmail them. They have no reason to trust you. They would kill you. It’d be more dangerous to give me away than to keep me.”

“So you are suggesting I could not overcome such a threat? That I could be at any risk?” Her voice was silken, her eyes narrowed. “And you still have not given me a reason that killing you would not be simplest.” I opened my mouth, and she held up a finger. “But…” She looked around the room. “You are an interesting story-teller. You have the gift of words. So, I shall make you a deal.” She leaned forward, smiling as she tented her fingers together. “Twenty days. That is how long we have, before we arrive at the buyer. Leaping from world to world. I have a deal for you, storyteller.” She looked around the group of surly thuggish aliens. Sharp-toothed, sharp-clawed, unhappy. “We like stories. Anything, really, to pass the time. Perhaps, if you tell good stories, and we aren’t tired of you by the time we arrive, we will continue on. Instead of selling you off as chattel, we will keep you, for just a little bit longer. Instead of having your mind erased, and your body enslaved, you will get to tell stories. Isn’t that a pleasant offer?”

My mind raced. The offer meant more time to plan. Less bondage. A chance to bond with my captors. Less coldness towards me. A chance to escape. I gave her my best false smile, and held my hand up. Her grip was strong, and she pulled me close, her eyes glittering. “And a single attempt to escape, a single betrayal? And you will be sold. And no yarn of betrayal or cautionary tale will save your hide. Do you understand me?” I nodded, swallowing dryly. Her teeth glittered as she smiled back at me. “Excellent.”

As I stood, my heart in my throat, I shifted into my most people-pleasing tone of voice. “Well, then, ladies. I know many stories. What kind of story do you want?”

“A romance!” shouted the black-skinned lizard woman who, until now, had been standing silently behind me. Her voice was like a schoolgirl, full of giggles and cheeky mischief. “Something with a human and an Imperial!”

“But not some namby-pamby scholar! Make it about a warrior! A hero! A great soldier!” shouted one of the bridge crew, a smooth-skinned woman with large, bright eyes, and curiously slender looking fingers. Her skin was bright green, with red patches. She reminded me almost of a tree frog. I felt slightly insulted, but people rarely wanted to hear stories about scholars.

“With a lot of sex!” shouted the navigator, her tentacles flashing different colors, a bright grin on her face.

I nodded slowly, and turned towards the captain. “And you? What requests do you have?”

She narrowed her eyes, providing a deadly smile, white teeth shining in the ferocious glare of the sun, as a massive loop of superheated gas rose and fell behind her, a fifteen thousand kilometer-long waterfall of plasma. “My request is simple, scholar.” She spat it like a curse. “I want a true story. Something that really happened. Not some false myth. Not some pack of lies meant to provide good feeling. I want to know that which has happened.”

I gave her my broadest smile. “Perfect. I know just the story.” I leaned against the wall. “Do you want to hear it here, or somewhere else?”

The Dragon waved a hand. “The cafeteria.”

Most Reptile Kingdom messes were not pleasant places. Utilitarian to the point of being deliberately brutal and uncomfortable. The only comfortable part of Reptile architecture were their command decks and fighter cockpits. It was actually a fascinating ethnological study in ergonomics for a warrior culture. When you had hundreds of thousands of years to perfect your designs, you could get very creative.

Again, however, this was not a typical Reptile Kingdom ship. The dining room was filled with fine wooden tables, polished and varnished to glorious shines. The silverware was actual silver, glimmering sweetly in the light. The crew filed in, a couple of dozen in total. Of course, a couple of dozen was enough for a ship like this to leap between stars like a gazelle, and burn the heart out of any single ship that dared to challenge her. The crew could conquer a world full of humans with their own strength of arms. The Empire was ancient, and decrepit, and in desperate need of humanity. But we didn’t keep them at bay with our weapons.

We fought with words and stories.

“On the Imperial Throneworld, there was a cabbie. He was, as it happens, a human. One of those poor, unskilled individuals, who had dreamed of going out to the stars to find adventure and romance, and who realized that, for a human, there are only a few who can hope to offer something besides their own bodies. He was on his last dime, and had begun to wonder if there was a choice out there. And on a certain day, he took a fare…”

The cabbie looked out across the world. His eyes tilted upwards towards the Pearl necklace. One hundred and seven of the most beautiful worlds that filled the Perseus Arm lay like blobs of a careless lover’s semen on the bosom of the Empire. But that was a metaphor he did not frequently use with the Imperials. He took a long drag on the cigarette. It was part of his image. Imperial Citizens could easily use the public transportation or the Construct gates from world to world. But there was a narrow margin to be harvested from those Imperials who were wealthy enough that they wished to indulge in transportation. A human cabbie could be something of a prestige option. He adopted the manner of one of the British cabbies of legend, and had dedicated a fair amount of money towards giving himself a mapping memory implant, which could guide him towards any location on one hundred and eight worlds. It was very impressive to the locals, who were surprised a human could remember his own name, let alone anything actually useful.

The small ship had room for two people. The greatest scientists in the Eudaimonia Universalis would be stymied by how it worked. As far as the cabbie could tell, the large buzzing globe in the engine room began to hum, he experienced a pang of intense desire for salt-water taffy, and the ship accelerated into the sky. The trips were mostly automated, but he had to make conversation for the look of the thing. He leaned against the console, chewing his meat pie. He made them himself, and sometimes shared them with thrilled imperials, who were overjoyed for a taste of traditional Earth cooking.

The computer buzzed. A ride was being called. He stubbed out the cigarette in the ash tray, and punched a button. The cab began accelerating at a bone-jellying rate. Within fifteen minutes, it had docked. Not simply with one of the transportation hubs, but with a private residence. On the Throneworld itself. He whistled softly to himself as he opened the door. This was a world where only nobility could afford apartments. For someone to live in a private residence, they had to be at least a Duke or Duchess. They tipped well, although they almost invariably demanded he sell himself to them.

The door opened, and a human man stood beyond. He looked Orionese, tall, broad shouldered, with the slender frame of someone used to space-borne combat, narrow and flexible, with muscles like steel cables. The cabbie would have snorted at the man. He was obviously a kept pet, someone who had sold himself to a wealthy alien and had given up his pride. The Cabbie did not snort, because the man was also obviously one of the extraordinarily touchy race of desert-dwelling warmongers. The cabbie was perhaps not the most skilled or talented of humans, but he had the sense his mother gave him. “Trip for you and the missus?” he asked, affecting a British cockney accent that would’ve seen him up on charges in front of the Cultural Board had they found out he’d been practicing affectations without a license.

“No.” The man’s voice was firm, confident. He was stiff-backed, and confident. He didn’t elaborate and stepped into the taxi. “I will need to hire you for the day.’ The man waved a hand, and a large amount of Imperial credit was deposited in the cabbie’s account. A suspicious amount, in fact. “I will have several stops for you.”

The cab started. The man did not make conversation, and the cabbie had a feeling he was not a fan of tourist kitsch. The first stop was in the Credit Pits of the seventy sixth world. They silently sat side-by-side as the cab started. “You must live quite well.” The cabbie suggested. It would be a three hour trip.

“I make my way.”

“Must be good to marry into money.”

“I wouldn’t know.”

The cabbie looked over his shoulder. “You made enough money to get a private residence, on the homeworld of the wealthiest race in the galaxy? You must be something special.”

There was a frosty silence for a few moments. The Orionese man looked out the window, at the arc of worlds. “No. Just very foolish, and very lucky.” The cabbie looked over his shoulder. “It is a long story. But one I would like to survive me, I suppose. My name is Sinbad. I am a spacefarer.”

Sinbad’s story began, according to him, at the age of twenty eight. A former member of the Orion Hierarchy, he had held moderate office and rank for some time. When he retired, his pension had been forfeit, and he had been forced to take on a great debt simply to make the journey to the border, to where he could see the Empire. He had made his way to the Empire early, less than a year after humanity and the Earth had made contact. He had not been important enough for the Bureau of Emigration to check his passage out of human space. He had offered to work aboard a Beast Kingdom trading ship.

The young man studied the small set of dog tags that the trader had presented him with. A large man with chitinous skin and a beetle’s shell, the merchant-captain sat in the bridge with the handful of other men who were his crew. “Keep an eye on this, lad.” Sinbad had spent over a decade in the Orionese navy, which had given him the pride to be offended by anyone calling him ‘lad’, and the respect to not show it. He held up the tags. They looked like perfectly normal metal.

“What’s it for?” The men exchanged looks, grinning, in the way of any experienced group of sailors when dealing with the new recruit. This was going to be a test.

“Insurance, lad. Just never take it off.” The man grinned. “We’re going to be running trading routes through the independent realms here, close to Earth. Tricky business, good for those who are interested in taking a chance. Not much communication, never know what people will need here, never sure what their trading partners will say. We transport luxuries, mostly, occasionally passengers, and lots of information. Letters, trading prices, news. It is amazing, but information is often the most critical part of a voyage. We will be visiting many smaller realms which hardly ever see an official Imperial courier.”

It was the nature of Imperial technology. Most worlds were post-scarcity, but scarcity was a funny thing. When you had enough for everyone to live satisfied, full lives, people started thinking of new ways to be scarce. The massive engineering works of the heyday of the Empire had been long abandoned, but the desire for cultural works had grown intense. With the vast trove of Human culture thrown open, it became even worse. A species that thrived mostly on intellectual stimulation needed these things. Then there were the luxuries. Fine crafts made by the greatest craftsmen for ten thousand light years; Things that you bought, not because you needed them, or couldn’t reproduce them, but because they were special, and you could prove it. And of course, there were the things that simply could not be fabricated easily, as there always were. And so they traded.

They were small deals, and small stories. They didn’t stand out. Not in comparison with what was to come. It was on the third week of his journey that they came out of warp. The merchant hadn’t announced this beforehand. “Boys, look out the starboard sensors.” Sinbad leaned forward and checked the large screen. His jaw dropped. They were diamond ovals the size of houses, tumbling and spinning serenely through space. There had to be a dozen of them. His mouth nearly watered. The captain laughed. “Lad, those ain’t valuable for being a lot of fancily arranged carbon. Those are Star Clan eggs.”

Sinbad had seen only one of the Star Clan. Leviathan, a creature that was like a whale insofar as he was gigantic, powerful, and swam an ocean of sorts. The great Star Clan Imperial was larger than the moons of Mars. To think such a powerful beast had once been one of these fragile eggs was humbling. “What are we doing here, sir?”

“Dropping off some mail. This place, we don’t come around often. Not often that the person here needs mail. But when they do, they need it bad. I’ve been running this route for the last 500 years.” He held up a finger, displaying a signet ring with a grin. “Special dispensation from the Aberrant Queen Pacifica herself. If I told you what I had to do to get this route…” He laughed merrily. “You’d never believe me. That much, I’m sure of.”

Sinbad looked at the panel, watching as a large crack appeared in one. “Beautiful. Do you usually get to see them hatch?”

The captain was next to him in a moment. “Oh shit.”

The entire ship heaved, bucking violently beneath their feet as it writhed, metal visibly warping and bending. The eggs were hatching, creatures like space-faring blue whales spilling out, a handful of them. The captain slammed a hand down on the engine console, as the other men scrambled to keep their feet. Sinbad grabbed onto the nearest handhold, as the artificial gravity flickered, and then flailed. “What the hell’s happening, captain?!”

“Ever seen a flock of baby Seteri catch a balloon?” Sinbad stared at the captain for a moment. “They’re, ah, experimenting. Learning their abilities. Generating a gravity field. We are, to them, a bright shiny toy thing that practically begs to be prodded at.” There was a hideous sound as one of the thrusters tore off the side of the small craft. “Oh, fuck.” The captain looked around, his face bent in a frown. “Lad, you’ve got the dog-tags?” Sinbad nodded, lifting them from under his shirt. “Good.” The captain kicked Sinbad squarely in the chest, sending him stumbling back under the iron-hard blow.

Where a bulkhead should have been, there was now an opening. Sinbad pinwheeled his arms as he fell back, landing heavily on the seat within, slamming his head against the back of the wall. He cursed long and loud, and in exquisite detail, as he held the back of his head. As he looked up, the door slammed shut. He hit a communications console. “Captain! Are you coming with?”

“Afraid not, son. Keep a hold of those dog-tags. Good luck. I hope I see you agai-” There was a sound of tearing, screeching metal, and the small lifepod was rocked violently, like a cork in a whirlpool. It tumbled and twirled end over end, spinning violently a sensation that gave some pseudo-shadow of gravity.

The next hour was the third most terrifying moment of Sinbad’s life to date, primarily because there were no anti-aircraft guns trying to shoot him down as his pod tumbled down towards the planet below. An hour of increasing gravity, increasing instability, and the desperate prayer that Beast Kingdom technology was as good as they said. When the roar stopped, he stood very still in the dimly lit pod. The only audible sound was his own breathing, raspy and slow. He held up the dog tags, and frowned softly at them, before slipping them back into his shirt. He’d promised, after all.

The door opened slowly. Heat assaulted him. Outside of the pod lay endless, rolling desert. Sand glittered under the harsh light of a blue sun, giving everything an eye-searing quality that would’ve been beautiful if he were not stuck in it. The horizon was flat, as far as he could see. There was no sign of water, or civilization. He felt a sudden, overwhelming sense of homesickness, and almost cried, but it would’ve been a criminal waste of water in his current situation.

He checked the escape pod’s locker. There were no supplies. It appeared that even in the great Empire, captains would neglect to properly stock their ships if they thought they could get away with it. After all, what were the chances of Imperial technology failing?

He stepped out onto the sand, and began walking. He made it perhaps a mile, cresting one of the great dunes near where he had started, before the ground rumbled violently beneath him. Sand began to shift and slide eagerly under his feet, and he turned. The small gleaming capsule sat at the center of a converging set of three massive mounds. He watched, his jaw dropped, as the sand erupted up in a geyser, three massive creatures breaching. They looked rather akin to worms, dozens of meters long, their skin cobalt blue, and gleaming. He watched as they fought over the large piece of metal, the largest of them eventually driving the others off, flailing its body like a whip the size of a subway train. “Shit.”

Then, one of the worms turned towards him, and dove down. Sand began erupting as the worm tunneled towards him, at a speed which made running seem like a miserable way to spend his last moments.

“MOTHERFUCKER!”

He stayed still for a moment, watching to see if the creature was truly coming for him. It quickly became clear it was; There was nothing else in the path, and if he didn’t move, the wormsign would probably break his neck as it pushed him aside. He sprinted diagonally down the dune, skidding and skating, his shoes filling with sand. If he lived long enough to get blisters from this, he’d count himself lucky. The sound of rushing, churning sand was growing louder as he ran.

There was an eruption of noise. He turned, halfway down the dune, and fell into a spin. He tumbled, head over heels, as the creature rose from the crest of the dune, soaring gloriously through the sky. It slammed into the ground beyond him, its body arched over him, almost as beautiful as it was terrifying. Its tail followed the arc, and it disappeared into the earth.

He sat on the sand, staring. Then, the valley between the sand dunes erupted. Another creature rose. Its hide was so dark it might as well have been black. It was shaped like the other worm creatures, but it had teeth. Thousands of them. They were sunk into the massive blue worm. It must have been over a kilometer long, if the proportions were the same. It swallowed, in three great gulps, the entirety of the creature which had attacked his pod. Then it bent forward. Trickles of some drool, like waterfalls, poured down onto the sand, absorbed by the greedy earth. It loomed over him, like a building with a grudge. He took a deep breath, and decided to try diplomacy.

“I hope you choke on me, you gigantic ugly piece of shit!”

The creature roared, a gust of foul smelling wind, slick with the scent of gore, as it leaned closer. Within its mouth was a central spire, covered in hundreds more teeth. This spire too opened up, and a long, slender red tongue dipped forward, landing right in front of him. A figure emerged from the spiral. Humanoid, pink-skinned, naked, and extraordinarily female. She walked down the tongue as though it were a carpet, her arms crossed, with a haughtiness that made his knees buckle, as they tried to bend in front of obvious nobility. She stood in front of him, five and a half feet tall, her arms crossed, looking down her nose at him despite his significant height advantage, as though trying to figure out how an animate pile of waste had managed to address her. “Who are you, and what are you doing on my planet?”

The cabbie stared, transfixed.

“… And?” asked the dark-skinned woman, her eyes wide open.

“And, I’m afraid, it sounds as though the ship is about ready to jump.” I smiled brightly, as a wave of disappointment rippled through the crowd. “We’ll have to continue this story tomorrow.”

There was a wave of disappointed groans from throughout the cafeteria, and I smiled apologetically, holding my hands up. “Sorry, but I’ll be happy to tell the next part tomorrow. If I’m still alive.”

“And do they screw next time around?” The navigator asked, to hoots and catcalls. I gave a bright smile.

“Ladies, please, they had to have a chance to meet first. I can assure you that from what I was told, Sinbad spent most of his time in space enjoying the affection of young women. Now, I’ll see you all tomorrow, unless I’ve already been executed.”

The room drained out, as people returned to their stations. I sat down at one of the tables, and the captain sat across from me, her eyes cold. “Was that true?”

“As true as anything I have not seen myself. Some things in the story I corroborated. The existence of such planets, where Star Clan breed. The destruction of a freighter matching Sinbad’s description.” I leaned back in the chair, studying her features. “Are you going to throw me out of the airlock?”

” We shall see. Ask me tomorrow.”

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5 thoughts on “1001 Starry Knights: The Seven Voyages of Sinbad, chapter 1

  1. What a surprise to see this!
    Before I say anything I want to mention I bought this book on my android for my flight to Santa Cruz a while ago. I could not stop tell I finished this while sipping Venus Single Malt on the beach. This was worth the purchase.
    Surprisingly damn good quality novel for this niche genre. As a closet lover of Monster Girls and inspirations from things like the MGE universe. I was giddy reading this.

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    1. I am going to remove the amazon link. Supporting the author is fair enough but I would prefer if the author himself would put a link up if it leads to paid content.

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