Got You Gatsby!
An Adhara Space Station Story
By P. Candice Goddard
Bulls opened the outer door to her rooms cautiously, it had been locked when she went to classes that morning and coming back now during lunch she had found it unlocked. Stepping cautiously inside she wished that she had taken her cousin Emerald up on her offer to have lunch with her and her friends Voodoo-Lily and Blu. Normally she would have eaten with them but she had forgotten a book for her Ptahian Studies class which was the class she had immediately after break and so had come back to her room only to find the door unlocked.
On any other day Bulls wouldn’t have been surprised, putting the unlocked door down to her companion Pomegranate, but the girl had been called away that morning with news that her mother had been gravely wounded in Cordelion Games. Pomegranate had rushed to Varuna on the first transport and wouldn’t be back for the foreseeable future so there was no reason for Bulls’ door to be open unless someone had broken in.
Bulls’ heart thudded with anticipation, the corridor into which her door opened was completely empty and ominously quiet. Most students were in the Great Hall having lunch. She was completely alone.
The door opened slowly to a horrible sight which confirmed her worst fears, her belongings from her bedroom, dressing room and the communal area as well as those of Pomegranate were scattered around in a jumble on the floor, the doors to all of the inner rooms left sprawling open in the intruder’s haste to get whatever they were after and escape.
Overcoming her initial trepidation, Bim anger began rising in her veins. She rushed through the rooms hoping that the intruder had left some clue as to who they were so that she could show them what happened to anyone who dared invade the abode of a Bim Royal but there was no clue at least none that she could find. For a moment Bulls considered calling her cousin Captain Roxzamora Thanyu, Chief of Adhara Security, she knew that Roxy as she called her would come immediately and that she wouldn’t stop investigating until she found the culprit and made them pay but Bulls also knew that Roxy had precious little time as it was and the Head of Academy Security Commander Fufu was more than capable of investigating the crime.
Flipping on her Com-D, Bulls finally did what she should have done originally and dialled the number for the Academy’s security office, stepping out into the corridor so as not to contaminate the scene any further. She quickly reported what had happened and no less than two minutes later Commander Fufu and a few members of his team were materialising in the corridor next to her.
Somehow, probably thanks to years of Alliance training Fufu maintained his composure as he approached the student princess and bowed apologising for failing to stop the intrusion before it had occurred. Bulls noted that his forehead looked a little clammy and knew that inside he was probably shitting himself. Her Other was Hora Bow’town, En Priest of I-Am, her Grandmother Lovelia, Queen of Bim, her Aunt Princess Wholia was the heir to the throne of Bim and Head Mistress of Adhara Academy, not to mention her cousin Captain Roxzamora was Commander Fufu’s superior officer and boss. Bulls couldn’t help smiling at the man’s discomfort despite her usually unaffected personality.
“I will begin my enquiry at once,” Fufu said. “I promise I will find the culprit.”
“You had better,” Bulls stated grimly. They both knew that if he didn’t Fufu would probably be taking a one way trip to the mines of Algol. He didn’t have the family connections she did.
“Your aunt has been informed. She’s on her way here now,” Fufu told her before directing his officers to begin their examination of the scene. “Did you notice if anything in particular was missing.”
Bulls thought for a moment, she hadn’t noticed anything in particular missing but then she hadn’t really been paying attention. “I don’t think…” she began and then she realised what had been missing, what hadn’t been anywhere in the jumble. Her most valuable possession, her diary. The book itself wasn’t particularly valuable but the information contained inside, the secrets she had kept even from Pomegranate were. If the intruder read them, if they published them she, her other and maybe her entire family would be ruined.
Rushing back into the room, Bulls began searching through the pile, ignoring Fufu’s pleading that she might be destroying evidence. The diary couldn’t be gone, it just couldn’t, I-Am wouldn’t be that cruel.
“Must you eat like that?” Bill asked, glaring with disgust at his brother-in-law Squidly-Diddly as the tiny boy slurped his soup. “Yeah,” he said exposing triangular teeth of various sizes in a smile. “And if you don’t want my sister to kick your face in you won’t mention it again.”
Bill signed and looked away. His wife Cordelia was busy overseeing the Cordellion games and thus he had been forced to bring the presents his in-laws had sent to her younger siblings to the school himself. Krakiana, Krakini, Squidony and Fitzkraken, Squidly’s larger brothers and sisters had seen him earlier in their rooms gratefully accepting their parcels. Squidly-Diddly alone had insisted on meeting with him in the great hall during luncheon, where he now sat maliciously slurping his soup in an effort to torment the brother-in-law he hated.
Bill had hoped to get away from the tiny bugger as soon as possible but no sooner had he had the misfortune to sit down than a hologram of Academia had popped up on the dais at the top end of the hall and announced that there had been an incident in the school and everyone was to remain inside the hall until they were informed they could leave. Having said that the ghost like manifestation floated down to where Emerald Verdian, Voodoo-Lily and Blu Planter were sitting with the Lilitian twins Sedussa and Sirene not too far from Bill’s place.
Bill strained to hear what was being said as Academia told Emerald something about an intruder and a robbery before she and her entourage were quickly ushered from the room.
“I wonder what that was all about,” Squidly-Diddly said giving Bill an evil look just for the heck of it before turning to the person he was actually speaking to, his best friend Gatsby who was sitting next to him, looking sadly at a picture of his mother, Bill’s childhood friend Quinn.
“I think they said something about a break-in,” A voice said from the far side of Gatsby. Bill was surprised to see Emerald’s youngest brother Green, a boy five years older than Squidly and his friend sliding a crayon from Gatsby’s pencil case and haphazardly colouring in a picture drawn otherwise completely in green. “No one tells me anything. I should have been informed and allowed to go too,” he said with a sigh “If it concerns my sister it concerns me,” Green gritted his teeth colouring more frantically with yet another of Gatsby’s crayons.
“You’re an adult. You don’t have to wait here,” a voice said behind Bill’s back. For a moment he was petrified. It sounded like Foxzia Thanyu, she had a sinister habit of sliding out of the shadows. Bill peered around nervously. There was no one behind him. He scanned the hall. Foxy was nowhere to be seen and neither was her unmistakable nude BFF Jana, she couldn’t possibly be there. Perhaps he was hearing things? “Why don’t you ask if you can leave?” he heard a voice say from under the table and suddenly a crushing weight bore down on his feet and the glint of shark teeth shone from under the table.
It was all Bill could do not to scream in fright and agony as he tried to drag his feet free from Shelley, Foxzia’s god-daughter and protégé. He got up and tried the door, if only to get away from the horrid Rumpton Court children. There was nothing cute about any of them, each and every one of them was more insane than the last.
“So you were just going to leave without so much as a hello to Albert or me?” Bill’s younger brother Edgar said coming up behind him with the rest of his Pyjama Party bandmates. Dorian, Lazarus-Bell, Leonidas, Manwell, and the bromantastic twosome, Cameron and Grun.
Turning around Bill saw another of his younger brothers, Albert waving from the far end of the hall and realised that everyone was watching him. He signed and went back to his seat where he was joined by Pyjama Party and the notorious Albert. “Well dear brother, don’t leave us in suspense. You must know what’s going on.”
Bill sighed, he didn’t have a clue what was happening but none of these young freaks would believe that.
Wholia Thanthou rushed up towards Bulls’ room as fast as her legs would carry her. Of all the rooms that had been broken into why did it have to be Bulls? Her brister Hora had entrusted her with her child’s care. Bulls’ not only attended Wholia’s school but during her education lived with her and her husband at the Palace of Mirrors. She was responsible for her and she had failed miserably in that responsibility.
“At least it wasn’t the heir to the throne of one of the other planets,” the assistant headmaster Alejandro said as if reading her thoughts. “Can you imagine the fallout?” Wholia stopped for a moment and looked at the man. If only the clause in her prenuptual agreement didn’t stipulate that she could never take another husband. She would have added this man, her lover for the last decade to her harem. Even if Hora was angry she wouldn’t make too much of a fuss so long as the culprit was found. It was in all of their best interests to keep any issue that could harm the family quiet. “If only it had been one of Whita’s children no one would have cared at all,” Wholia said but inside she knew that her daughters would have raised the school to the ground if their wards had been the victims. She hurried along now hoping that the culprit would be one of the servants who could be quietly killed.
Emerald and co had intended to go to Bulls’ room. None of them quite able to believe what Academia had told them. Someone had been able to break not only into the school but also into the one of the rooms. Into her cousin’s room no less. Somehow they had taken a detour and ended up in Voodoo-Lily’s room where she switched on her computer and effortlessly displayed the school’s internal security network.
“I don’t think the thief is someone from outside,” Sirene said. “How would an intruder get in here? The school has some of the best security on Adhara and in the Alliance.”
“Who would it even be?” her twin sister Sedussa continued without missing a beat, “Everyone on the station is royalty or close to it. I know that Hora and Bulls are loaded but there must be easier targets.”
“Maybe they didn’t break in here for money,” Blu suggested innocently.
“What other reason could they have for breaking in.”
“Personal artefacts, the hair out of our hairbrushes ... Who knows?” Emerald said annoyedly as she tried to block out the conversation and focus on the screen.
“Maybe they were after information,” Voodoo-Lily said. On the screen in front of her was a hooded figure in the corridor labeled as being the one on which Bulls’ room was located. In its hand was an object. “Isn’t that a book they’re leaving with?”
“Oh my I-Am!” Emerald exclaimed, “That’s not a book, that’s her diary.”
Falling into silence all of the girls watched as Voodoo-Lily tracked the intruder from Bulls room right to the Great Hall.
By the time Wholia got to Bulls’ room, Commander Fufu was almost in tears. Bulls had trampled throughout the entire crime scene moving things and contaminating every bit of evidence the intruder might have left behind. He was going to die for sure.
Wholia glared at him angrily, “What is the meaning of this?” She demanded as she sent Alejandro to fetch Bulls from the midst of the jumble.
Dusting her nie-phew down tenderly, she smiled at her and tried to reassure her. “Don’t worry. Whatever has been taken will be recovered or replaced.”
Bulls’ shoulders sank. Her aunt just didn’t get it, but how would she explain that what had been taken could never be replaced.
She was trying to work out a way to put it into words when Emerald did the job for her. “The thief took her diary and they’re inside the Great Hall right now,” she said breathlessly. She had left her friends in Voodoo-Lily’s room knowing that Wholia hated the very sight of her husband’s daughter Sedussa.
Wholia’s nosed curled up as if she had smelled something bad. She had no idea how her sister Whita had dragged the girl up whilst she had been slumming it with her Lemonade lover but the bad habits she had learned obviously hadn’t yet worn off. “Duchess Veridian, we do not run in the halls here at Adhara Academy,” she said paying no attention to what the girl had said.
Emerald’s blue-green cheeks coloured. She knew that her aunt hated her but she’d rushed in the hopes of being helpful and maybe winning some favour but instead she’d been embarrassed in front of her friends once again. Veridian was the estate and title her cousins had brought for her. But by right of birth she was a princess of Bim, but none of that matter when you had been disowned.
“Don’t you get it?” snapped Voodoo-Lily tired of seeing her friend be put down yet again, “Someone in the school took Bulls’ diary.”
“Well a diary is nothing to worry about really,” Wholia said choosing not to get on the wrong side of a girl with connections to the throne of Ptah. “We’ll get that back and have the perpetrator and their planet punished.” She turned to look at Bulls with a reassuring smile but the look on her nie-phew's face told her that something was very wrong. “What did the diary contain?” she asked hesitantly.
Bulls’ eyes fell. “I had written some private thoughts,” she explained. Looking up but still not meeting her aunt’s eyes she said, “And some sensitive information.” Just for a second her eyes moved over to Alejandro.
Wholia felt as if the bottom had dropped out of her world. Her husband rarely stayed at their home preferring to spend time at his club or with their daughters at Rumpton Court. The only family member who made any claim to living at The Palace of Mirrors was Bulls and Wholia hadn’t thought she was paying attention. But the girl must have witnessed one or more of her trysts with her Thothian lover. “Oh shit!” Wholia exclaimed and took off half running, half flying down the corridor towards the Great Hall. If any word of what was in that book got out, it would cause civil war on Bim and even threaten the Alliance itself.
Wholia smashed the door of the Great Hall clear off of their hinges. Entering with her dark wings fully extended. “Someone in this room stole a book from my nie-phew,” she said her eyes flashing as muscle began to form on her body as if out of the very air. “I want it back immediately.”
A eerie silence filled the hall. No one had seen the head mistress like this before except for during the evacuation of Adhara and no-one seemed to know what she was talking about. Wholia held out a thick strangely calloused hand from the fingers of which talons had grown. “NOW!”she demanded.
No one moved.
Wholia was beside herself with rage, her eyes were blood red. “STAND!” she roared and as one all the members of the student body stood. From somewhere in the direction of Bills table the sound of something heavy hitting the floor was heard. Wholia turned towards the noise. “What was that?” she asked with deceptive calmness.
There was a little shuffle, a little movement and Duke one of the oldest students stepped forward with a book in his hand. “This fell off of someone’s chair.” he said handing her the book.
“Whose?” Wholia asked turning her killing glare on Duke.
For a moment he didn’t respond, obviously he didn’t want to get another student in trouble.
“Don’t test me ape. Whose chair did this fall from?”
If being called an ape was an insult, Duke showed no offence. “It was Gatsby’s ma’am.”
In a split second she was in front of Gatsby. Her hand raised to strike but before it could fall she felt her arm gripped as if in a vice. Turning around she saw the person who had stopped her. It was her nephew Grun, another of Whita’s horrid children getting in her way. She was about to turn on him but she saw a look in his eyes like steel and his grip got harder almost crushing her wrist. “Think of Bim,” he whispered so that only she could hear.
Wholia instantly felt the rage subsiding. Perhaps Whita’s children weren’t so bad after all. Grun was impressively strong and Emerald seemed to have a developed a brain recently. She was just thinking as much when Fufu, Emerald and Bulls caught up with her.
“Commander Fufu, arrest this boy!” Wholia demanded as she folded in her wings and they disappeared as completely as her talons and muscles. “The stolen journal was in his possession until just now.”
“If you would be so good as to come with me your highness. You may stay with your mother in the tower,” Fufu said solemnly. He knew Gatsby, he was a nice little boy and probably wasn’t the thief but the case was made. He had been caught red-handed with the book in front of the entire school. The fact that he was five made no difference.
Gatsby looked around desperately. “It wasn’t me. It wasn’t.”
“Sure,” Bill said trying to sound sympathetic but failing completely. “You’re just as innocent as your mother.”
Wholia signed and shock her head. “I truly believed that our school could help him,” she said sadly. “How can a mother and son be so wicked?” That little bastard almost cost me everything she thought, no doubt he had taken the diary so that his criminal mother could use it blackmail her way out of prison and back into decent society.
Bill shrugged as he watched Gatsby being led away, Quinn was his lifelong friend but even he acknowledged that she was a rapist and murderer. It was little wonder that her son, his god-son was a thief. He had done his best for the boy but to no avail. “It’s the Fish Kingdom that Quintilica married into. The deep-dwellers and even some of the above folk are just so damn ugly. It addles their mammalian minds.”
“I see. Yes, that must be it,” Wholia said as she dragged Squidly back into the hall. He had been clinging to Gatsby promising that he would find the real culprit and get him out of The Tower as soon as possible. Finally when Gatsby had to get into the police car, Squidly had tried to follow him inside, weeping bitterly.
Bill took the tiny boy patting him on the back in a show of sympathy more for the crowd of onlookers than his little brother-in-law. “Don’t worry Diddly. I’ll take you to see him when I visit Quinn tomorrow.”
Undisturbed on the chair where he had been placed, Bill's pet Alexander the Great, yawned lazily as he shuffled around on his cushion before settling down for a nap. Deep inside the velvet cushion in the specially concealed compartment was a memory device with a full copy of Bulls’ diary inside. The flurry creature smiled to himself as he fell into a happy sleep.
The words "brister" and "nei-phew" are not typing errors or mistakes. Bulls and her "other" Hora are both intersex (formerly referred to in our society as hermaphrodites) recognised as sacred beings in the mythology of The Alliance.
The word "brister" is an amalgamation of "brother" and "sister" whilst "nie-phew" is an amalgamation of "niece" and "nephew".
"Other" refers to a parent who is neither "mother" or "father". The reason it applies in this case is because Hora is a male intersex person but prefers to be called female because his society on Bim is a matriarchy. Hora adopted Bulls and therefore is factually neither mother nor father just a parent.
The inclusion of characters like Bulls in Adhara Space Station isn't an attempt to push a transgender concept. Intersex conditions are real physical conditions.