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The Bull and the Genie
- Chapter 1 - The Gift
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Visit from old Friend[]

3015 - Taurus, Taurian Concordat


Zarantha Calderon frowned as she waited for her old mentor. Jacob Wilson had been her tutor—her mentor, as a child and when he’d left to go exploring, looking for “buried treasure” in his words, it had hurt.

Most especially because many lostech prospectors never made it back home. There were many who weren’t good at ferreting out the lost caches of the Star League—but very good at tracking down those who found them in time to relieve them of their treasure and their lives.

But Jacob had returned.

“Zarantha!” Jacob said as he entered her office, a briefcase under his arm. Her security guard looked annoyed. It had been scanned but not searched. Jacob had mentioned it was a “private present” to her and she’d forbidden it’s opening.

She’d ignored the muttered “and look how that turned out for the Camerons” from her senior security officer. Being paranoid was his job. Knowing when to not be paranoid was hers.

“Jacob! So, have you made yourself wealthy beyond measure? Returned to purchase the planet with your lostech and retire to your harem?”

“A harem is only for those who cannot choose!” the gray-haired man replied.

As if you ever had eyes for anyone other than your wife, Zarantha thought. But she was now old enough to remember dear, absent friends and family members, and it was all to easy to understand why Jacob had chosen to leave the world his wife was buried upon.

“But no,” he said, and then glanced at her security officer. “But my gift might explain why I needed to come back, Zarantha.”

I know that tone… She looked over at the officer. “Wilson’s been with us since I was a child. There’s literally no secret he isn’t cleared for.”

“Very well. Look at this.” He opened the briefcase, and there was…

A data core. Fine, they were expensive, representing the best in long-duration, high density storage mankind had achieved, but they weren’t unknown, though most of them had been fried in the war and the only ones currently available were made on Terra.

“A data core? The genealogical records for mankind?”

“No. Zarantha. A database. The Prometheus database. This is the sum-total of everything the Star League knew, from royal Battlemech designs to the newest R&D projects of HRAD before the coup.”

“You’re joking.” Zarantha said.

“No. Found it on the wreckage of a Star League warship—they were pulling back, something about a little periphery rebellion, and they had pulled the database and the equipment from a DoME base—apparently, Amaris had agents, and a nuke was detonated on this ship. I found what was left of the crew. The ones that didn’t die outright, starved or committed suicide.”

“I…” Zarantha winced, running fingers through her white hair. Dying like that wasn’t something she’d wish on anyone. “Wait, how did you access the core?”

“We have Wilma Millikan to thank for that.”

“Who?”

“The DoME director with the mission. She survived. By the end…” He pulled out a stained journal. “She wasn’t entirely sane, I don’t think. Who could blame her. But she became convinced that the war might destroy all civilization, until nothing was left, and she had a duty to future generations. She cleared the security lockouts, and made copies. I have them in secure storage.”

Zarantha bowed her head. “I hope she found peace when she passed.”

“If anything had convinced me it was for us, that was it.” Jacob quietly said. “The house lords haven’t stopped fighting once-and the only reason they stopped using nukes was that it might blow up the last ships they needed to move their armies. Comstar will work for anyone with the cash, and besides, they must be sitting on cores like this, and everyone else is either too disorganized, too small or too brutal to use this.” He lifted the core. “So unto you, I grant this boon.”

“Always a fan of drama.” Zarantha said. “It really looks less impressive than a magic sword.”

“Good. It’s not. It’s a genie’s lamp.”

“Yeah.” She sat back down, staring at the core. “And you know what happened to a lot of people who tried to make a wish on that lamp…”


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