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Dangers of Do-Gooding

Jez Patterson is a teacher and writer currently alternating between the UK and Madrid. Links to his recent and collected fiction can be found at: jezpatterson.wordpress.com.
Back when she'd been a captain of the Fleet, before she'd chosen to marry her mentally and physically enhanced first mate and lost her command, Percina would have been flying sorties into the warzone, protecting refugees, or destroying the bases of errant warlords.
Her current role was flying a vessel bringing food and medical supplies to a refugee camp on the border of the fighting.
Since she'd become pregnant, however, Martin considered even this to be too risky a role to play.
"You should put your feet up," he said.
"That's for heart attacks," Percina said. "Or nosebleeds." Or the cancan. Or levitation.
"I was just thinking about the baby," he said.
"You think the baby would be more comfortable if I stood on my head?"
Martin sighed, his previously flawless forehead now possessing a single worry line, his eyes equipped with crows-feet and bags. Like carrion queuing for the airport shuttle.
You'll want him there for the birth, her mother had told her. There's no relief to be had digging your nails into something that doesn't scream back.
"We're here," she told Martin, swinging the ship down towards less a sea of misery as an entire ocean.
"We'll take it from here," the local group of kings informed her, their eyes running over the crates of vital food and medicine stacked behind her.
The war on Creulkin had been raging for thirty bitter years and involved more factions than a dramatized history of the universe. The war had started over territory or resources... or over rare trees or tortoises. It didn't much matter. Winning wasn't so much a relative term as a meaningless chiming of syllables.
"You think their people will ever get the supplies?" she asked Martin as the kings began bickering amongst themselves.
"In the valley of the blind, the one-eyed man is king," he said. "Or the man who's got a monopoly on white sticks and guide dogs."
Percina sighed. "Their people are not blind. They just need someone to help them open their eyes."
"Percina, this is not your war."
"Martin, do you want our child growing up in a world of bullies and despots... or one which despises bullets?"
There are two things that unite royalty: a common enemy, or an enemy who is exceedingly common, her mother had told her.
Percina had considered portraying both, but no sooner had she pulled back to see the bigger picture than she saw this one looked just as confused as the initial mess splashed across the canvas. Even on the occasions when the different kingdoms had fought against an invader of Creulkin, each had waged war on their own terms, and several had even collaborated with the enemy as a chance to vanquish their neighbor.
The one thing every kingdom was clear about was that it wanted to be left alone to do things how it wanted, no matter what atrocities that entailed. It was tempting to side with the cynical and just let them slaughter each other--and then themselves.
When Martin entered, Percina was slumped in her captain's chair, eyeing a bottle of wine she wished she could open.
"Oh, Martin.... All of them are fighting over one giant ball that they'll only end up popping when they possess it!"
"Don't feel so bad, the galaxy's leading negotiators and mediators haven't been able to find a solution. Even if you could convince the people that their kings don't have a divine right to rule, the armies will obey those who pay their wages. There's a reason royalty put their faces on the coinage."
"I suppose so," she said and didn't push Martin away when he put his arms around her. In fact, right now, she discovered the oddest need to burst into sudden, uncontrollable tears.
"Of course," Martin whispered softly in her ear, "a coin isn't the only thing with two sides."
It involved giving them more than one "ball" to fight over, and there was no suggestion it would resolve all their issues. But it at least gave them a chance to show who was best and battle it out at regular intervals.
The Creulkin Games also came with lucrative TV rights and sponsorship deals, in which the companies involved were keen to maintain the clean, family image of the participating teams.
"That was easy," Percina said as the inaugurating ceremony concluded and an exhibition match between two Creulkin kingdoms kicked off in the newly built Central Creulkin Stadium. "I doubt we'll be so successful when it comes to negotiating bedtimes."
"I'm already looking forward to the day our child can drink," Martin said, raising his glass of the forbidden wine. "Until then... bottoms up."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, January 25th, 2017


I had an idea for a sketch featuring two people stuck, and bickering, in quicksand. Percina and Martin were created on the spur of the moment, merely to give the characters names and a reason for being there. I really didn't expect to see or hear from them again. When I was submitting the story to DSF, I was reminded that they also considered series of stories and was drawn to the challenge. All the ideas I came up with, however, either called for stories that would be too long or off-genre. Sheepishly, I went back to Percina to enquire if, by any chance, she'd experienced any other "incidents" she might care to relate. I was surprised, but delighted, to find she had more to say, and honored that DSF accepted them for publication. Thank you.

- Jez Patterson

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