The Ice Diamond Collective
An Adhara Space Station Short Story
by P. Candice Goddard
The first Ophedian knew of The Collective was a notification on his Com-D telling him that a new message had arrived. Puzzled by the unfamiliar Com-D ID code Ophedian looked blankly at the message notification expecting it to be yet another crazed fan that had managed to gain access to his private code. “What have they sent now?” He asked out loud of the benefit of his cousin Serpentine who was seated across the table from him. The cousins had met up for a meal at ‘Chip, Chop, Chip’, the most expensive Inarian restaurant on Adhara Space Station.
Serpentine glanced up from his menu with a questioning look in his eyes. He had not been paying attention and had no idea what his cousin was talking about. “I just got a message from an unknown Com-D ID,” Ophedian explained, “It’s probably a fan or stalker.”
“Oh!” Serpentine replied with some concern. “You need to be more careful. Who knows if the person is dangerous. Shall I read the message for you?” he asked holding out his hand to take the small hand held device.
“No, that’s all right,” Ophedian chuckled. “I’m used to it, besides you know what it’s like. I bet Quinn gets a lot of unsolicited messages.”
Serpentine sighed and nodded his head withdrawing his hand, “Yes, she does. Quinn has a lot of crazy followers. Real fanatics actually. It’s almost providential that she is locked up in The Tower so often. She gets the best security in the Alliance for free and all it takes is a little accusation of murder, rape and arson here or there.”
Quinn was Serpentine’s fiancee a perpetually unlucky woman who was constantly being falsely accused of crimes only for the supposed evidence to be disproven time and time again. Like Serpentine cousin Ophedian, Quinn worked in the entertainment industry, as the front woman for a musical band called Quinn and The Quasars whilst Ophedian was in the band Galactic Bulge. The two bands often collaborated on numerous occasions since most of the members had grown up together whilst attending Adhara Academy.
“Right,” Ophedian replied with a smile as he looked down at his Com-D and opened the message. No sooner had he seen it than the contents of the message than the smile disappeared from his lips and he pulled the Com-D closer to himself and out of his cousin’s field of vision. The message read:
Princess Ula Quintilica of Fish will marry Prince Serpentine of Serpents in just over a year. The marriage will be in nothing but name for it is a truth universally acknowledged that Quinn and Asgar are a match made in Empyrean.
I know that you feel the same.
If you have the spine to do something about it come to the first meeting of the Ice Diamond Collective. If you have a spine reply ‘yes’ and details will follow. If you have none, no response is required. Sliver back to the pit of Duat where you really come from and mind your tongue as you go. If this information leaks, so will your neck.
Ophedian shivered. He considered himself to be more of a lover than a fighter and the tone of the message was a tad stronger than he was accustomed to reading even from the craziest fan. It was also deeply frightening. For years Ophedian had maintained a close relationship with his cousin even going so far as to swear a Brohallian pact with him, linking them as Bros for life but secretly this had all been part of a ploy to help out his real bro, Prince Asgar of Niefleheim. The only people alive besides himself and Asgar who knew this fact were the current Kings of Brohalla, Cameron and Grun and there was no way this message was from either of them. They simply didn’t care enough about the matter to do anything about it.
At first Ophedian had been helping Asgar because he honestly believed that the marriage between Serpentine and Quinn was only an arrangement. He did not think that his cousin really cared for the woman and it was obvious that Quinn and Asgar were deeply in love and had been since their school days. Later when Ophedian realised that Serpentine actually loved Quinn and had even gone so far as to adopt a child with her before their marriage, he had simply been too invested in helping his bro to turn back. Over time he had convinced himself that he was doing the right thing. Quinn and Asgar belonged together and even though Serpentine had been badly burned trying to prove her innocence in a case a few years ago, none of that mattered because Quinn didn’t return his feelings.
“Are you all right?” Serpentine asked as the waiter approached the table. “You look a little pale. That message wasn’t anything too terrible I hope.”
Ophedian shook his head and tried to smile, “No, no. Nothing too terrible,” he lied as he quickly typed “Yes” and sent it to the unknown number.
“Really?” Serpentine asked again looking at his cousin. “You don’t look well. Whatever that message was must have upset you a great deal. If you’re being harassed we can go straight to the security headquarters and report the matter.”
Ophedian exhaled slowly and tried to calm himself. He had been working to undermine his cousin’s relationship for years. Why was he suddenly so frightened now? All he had to do was behave in exactly the same way he had been behaving for more than a decade. “Don’t worry about it.” Ophedian replied with a reassuring laugh. “It was just some fanboys sending me pictures of certain unmentionable things.”
Serpentine nodded, “Ah! I see,” he said before asking, “Now shall we place our orders?”
As Ophedian and Serpentine were leaving the restaurant Ophedian’s Com-D buzzed again. This time he chose to ignore it whilst he was still with Serpentine. He preferred to wait until he was back in his rooms at Sea Anemone Hall to see if it was an update from the unknown ID code. He had no idea how the unknown individual had found out that he was double crossing his cousin but he would need to investigate before he truly decided to co-operate with them or not.
Ophedian drove back to Sea Anemone Hall without Serpentine who was leaving to take care of some business. He planned to go to his room to check his Com-D for the details that the unknown ID had mentioned would follow but no sooner had he arrived at the palace than he was informed that a courier had been. The man had come from Snowflower and Sons to deliver a brand new Com-D for Ophedian and the device was waiting for him in his room.
Hurrying to his rooms, Ophedian saw the package on his desk. It had been opened and examined as was the custom with all packages and letters coming to royal residences but the device had been carefully put back into its original packaging ready for Ophedian to open. The device inside was a B15-CU1+ . A top end and extremely exclusive Com-D. Unlike the average Com-Ds used by most of the residence of Adhara, the B15-CU1+ only had access to Synodos, the private internet for the social elite. Synodos was supposedly virtually impenetrable from hackers who weren’t already on the system and as far as Serpentine was aware, most people who didn’t qualify to have access to the exclusive internet thought it was only a rumour or conspiracy theory.
The fact that a secure device like this had arrived for him at the same time that he was receiving a message asking for his help to stop Serpentine and Quinn’s marriage could only mean one thing, the device was from the unknown ID. Ophedian took his old Com-D from his pocket and checked it for the notification he had received earlier, it was only a message from Asgar with the schedule for Galactic Bulge’s next recording session. The person had said that details would follow if he replied yes. He had done that, so where where the details?
For a moment Ophedian asked himself if this could all be a trick, some elaborate prank or hoax by one of his friends or fans. Who would go to the trouble of purchasing such an expensive Com-D just for a prank? Each B15-CU1+ cost Z1,000,000. A million zodiacs was quite a lot of money to spend on a prank and he could not think of anyone who would waste so much just for a joke but that didn’t preclude the possibility. He should probably stop now.
Ophedian’s mind flitted between decision and indecision until finally he switched on the B15-CU1+ and allowed it to scan his DNA. The first time it was activated the device would only load additional settings for an individual whose DNA was recorded as a member of Alliance Royalty or Nobility. Afterwards only the person who had activated it could even turn it on, let alone use it. Ophedian quickly followed the procedure to set up the device. No sooner had he finished than a notification popped up. A message had been sent to the device’s unique ID code and was merely waiting for him to turn it on. Ophedian nodded to himself. Whoever purchased the device would obviously have the details of its ID code. He quickly opened the message and read what it contained with baited breath.
Now that you have agreed to help you must take the next step. The Ice Diamond Collective will meet tomorrow at 17:00 AST. You will attend. Download the information attached to this message and input the codes into your B15-CU1+’s holo-imager. This will stop anyone from tracing the signal. Answer the call at exactly 17:00. Clandestine affairs attire only.
When he was finished reading Ophedian plopped the Com-D on the table and thought for a moment. It seemed that the person was not asking him to meet at any strange location. That alone pretty much excluded most of his most crazed fans who might have tried to lure him out to kill or abduct him. The person had given instructions that would stop the transmission from a holo-imager being intercepted and eavesdropped upon. Obviously whoever it was knew that he would have the instructions checked well before the time of the meeting. So more than likely whatever instructions had been given must do as claimed. This meant that it was unlikely that it was any of the dodgy prank playing A.I.s who were always trying to get an exclusive scoop for the entertainment of others. Lastly the person had stated that the dress code was clandestine affairs attire.
Clandestine affairs attire as everyone knew was a black outfit under a large black nondescript floor length cloak with a deep hood that should ideally cover the wearer’s entire face. Black gloves, black shoes and a black full face mask were the usual necessary accessories to complete the look. The request for this meant that the person wasn’t hoping to see his face and thus be able to catch him in a compromising situation.
When Ophedian had first received the message he had assumed from the way that it was worded that it was specific to himself but now he wondered about that. Who were The Ice Diamond Collective? The person who had contacted him must have recruited him into some organisation that already existed in the hopes of breaking up the arranged marriage. Ophedian knew that a lot of Quinn’s fans were upset that she had to marry Prince Serpentine. Perhaps it was one of them.
Whoever was doing this, and now that he knew there was a “collective” he thought he might know who that was, must be serious about breaking up the wedding of Quinn and Serpentine to help her to be with Asgar. If that was the case. If it meant helping his bro then Ophedian would do it.
Ophedian stood in the blackest corner of his darkened anteroom with the B15-CU1+’s holo-imager pointing directly at him. He looked at his old Com-D and saw the time tick over to 17:00 AST. The sleek, elite B15-CU1+ began to ring. He answered immediately.
Within an instant the holographic images of 11 other figures of various sizes and shapes had appeared in his room. They were all wearing the clandestine affairs attire. Ophedian caught a glimpse of what might have been the green skin of the side of someone’s face from under the hood of one of the others and quickly lowered his head in case any part of his face had also been exposed. If he was right, if he had seen green skin then his suspicions were correct. Quinn’s biggest fan was Voodoo-Lily, a Ptahian duchess who was deeply invested in the Quinn-Asgar pairing to the point of fanaticism.
“Welcome members of the Ice Diamond Collective,” a distorted voice said calling the meeting to order.
Holding his head down meant that Ophedian could not tell who was speaking and the fact that it was a holographic conference call being broadcast to and from his Com-D meant that the direction the sound was coming from was also misleading. He could not even tell what accent the voice had because of the distortion. There was no way for him to identify who was speaking.
“As you are aware time is growing short for the dedicated to stop the marriage of Quinn and Serpentine. We have tarried too long and the wedding is nearly upon us,” the speaker continued. “We must take action.”
“Agreed,” another similarly distorted voice said. “We can’t possibly allow Prince Serpentine to marry Quinn. The marriage with him is just a political arrangement but Princess Ula is in love with Prince Asgar. She should have the right to marry the man she loves.”
“That’s true,” a third person chimed in. “But what do we do? There’s a reason for the marriage. The risk of civil war on Varuna. This marriage alliance is supposed to help maintain peace.”
“Well that’s not true,” someone said. “Unc… King Levi quickly arranged this marriage under that pretext but the real reason was merely to stop his son being offered to The Cordelion instead. He got Serpentine betrothed to Quinn and sacrificed his nephew William of Hapi to The Cordelion.”
Ophedian quietly snorted. Even though the voice was distorted just like all the others, from what the last person had said he had a good idea of who it was. It seemed that he wasn’t the only cousin of Serpentine’s in the Ice Diamond Collective. The last speaker must be none other than William of Hapi himself. William or Bill as his friends called him was the only person who would still refer to himself as William of Hapi when in fact his Uncle had adopted him. He was William of Hapi and Varuna to everyone but himself.
“There’s no way to stop the marriage other than to kill Serpentine,” someone said. “This isn’t a love match. The union was arranged by the monarchs of the Serpent and Fish Kingdoms under the pretext of avoiding civil war. There’s nothing that can stop it other than the death of one of the parties and since the entire point of this organisation is to allow Quinn and Asgar to be together, the person who has to die is Serpentine.”
“No!” Ophedian shouted before he realised what he was doing. “We can’t kill Serpentine. That’s ridiculous!” When he had replied in the affirmative to the message from the unknown Com-D, Ophedian had believed that he would do anything to help his bro to marry the woman he loved but he had never considered killing Serpentine. Thinking back to the threat that the unknown ID had sent he cursed himself for not realising just how dedicated and dangerous this group of fanatics would be.
“Enough!” the first person roared. “I already have a plan for how we can stop the wedding, all we need to do is implement it.”
Ophedian breathed a sign of relief and listened for the next few minutes as the leader explained the details of the plan. Soon afterwards the meeting was called to a close and the holographic conference call came to an end.
Ophedian turned off his B15-CU1+ and switched the lights back on in his room. Sitting down heavily at his desk he removed his hood and mask, exhaling slowly to calm himself. The plan that the leader, had come up with was a good one because it didn’t involved killing Serpentine but it was incredibly dangerous. If anyone found out what they were doing he was certain the punishments would be severe. For himself it would probably be seen as treason. He was a Varunian afterall.
Thinking about the possible punishments brought Ophedian’s mind back to the two people he had tentatively identified, Voodoo-Lily and Bill. It was obvious that Bill was not the leader of The Ice Diamond Collective but could it be Voodoo-Lily? She was only about 15 years old if he remembered correctly. He had just assumed that it was her when he had seen the flash of green skin but could he have been mistaken? There were many people with green skin in the Alliance, the leader could be anyone.
In her dormitory at Adhara Academy, Voodoo-Lily switched off the B15-CU1+ that had been sent to her on the previous day with instructions to answer a call at 17:00 today. She had expected to speak one to one with the person from the unknown Com-D number who had suddenly contacted her about helping to put a stop to the marriage of Quinn and Serpentine. She had gone along with the idea believing that she could help her favourite pairing to really be together. She had not expected there to be other people involved or for the talk to be so dangerous. Voodoo-Lily wished that she had not allowed herself to become involved but it was too late. She was involved and she could not tell anyone or ask for help or the leader would do as had been threatened in the very first message. Kill her.
As tears began to seep down her apple green face Voodoo-Lily pulled off her black mask and slung it onto her desk. Pulling her thick black coat tighter around herself she wept. There was no way forward and no way back. She was trapped.
Bill sat behind the desk in his office at Beauty Bills, his cosmetic surgery clinic. He had nearly made a fatal error when he almost called King Levi uncle. Luckily he had been able to stop himself before he said the entire word. Thinking back on the plan the Leader had come up with it sounded good. Serpentine wouldn’t get to marry Quinn and he wouldn’t be sacrificed to The Cordelion. It would all work out exactly as it should. All he had to do was wait until both Serpentine and The Cordelion were taken care of by the Leader’s plan and then he could swoop in and take Quinn away from Asgar. If anyone was going to marry Quinn it would be him.
Bill leaned back in his chair and laughed. He had a good idea of who the leader was, after all he had caught a glimpse of the man’s unique hair under his hood. Bill had never imagined that Ophedian, Serpentine’s maternal cousin and supposed Best Bro was really siding against his cousin in favour of some other man, but it made some sense after all Asgar and Ophedian were both members of the same band.