Jordan Price was like most boys on New Holland. He dreamed of dancing in the sky like the Sky Dancers. To fly among the clouds under his own power. There is only one problem. Only women could be Sky Dancers, and Jordan was a boy. Then came the day that would all change
Finding one’s true self.
Jordan woke the next morning to an uneasy feeling. Looking around the barracks room, he found himself alone. That was until he spotted the young novice for the Brothers of Balance. The teenage boy was staring at him in a way that made Jordan feel like a piece of meat. Getting out of bed Jordan headed for the communal showers. Like all Sky Dancers Jordan had figured out that his symbiont processed all his bodily waste through his skin now. That waste coated his skin in a layer of sweat and oils.
The only way to remove the waste was to shower daily. The reason behind this daily ritual was necessary for flight performance. If a Sky Dancer failed to bath they suffered poor flight performance. After showering and drying off Jordan stepped back into the barracks room to find Sara and Katlyn waiting. Looking around the room Jordan saw they were truly alone.
“Jordan, we need to talk. Please sit down honey.” Sara asked of the teen. Sara knew that the subject needed to be broached; she and Katlyn had put it off for far too long. As Jordan sat down, he knew it was important. Sara, and Katlyn only did this when something big had to be discussed.
Katlyn started off, and she saw no need to sugar coat things. “Jordan, we know that you are still male. The problem is you look like a teenage boy’s wet dream. We also know this has been causing you a great deal of discomfort. It is time to face facts. You can no longer face the world as a man or boy.”
Jordan sighed and looked down at his body. He knew this was coming, but had been trying to avoid it. The fact that Sister Katlyn was bring it up now, just drove the point home. Unlike, Sister Sara, Sister Katlyn didn’t mix her words of views with Jordan. He had learned this over the last four months. “Do I need to change my name?”
Both women breathed a sigh of relief as Sara answered her question. “No Jordan. In a way, your mother did you a favor by giving you a gender-neutral name. You only need to start thinking of yourself in the female. We can help you adjust to your new place in life. That is if you want?”
Jordan thought about what the two women were suggesting. Everything they were saying made sense to the young teen. Jordan looked down at his body one last time and made up her mind. “I would like to learn how to pass as a girl. I know that I’m still a male, but everybody else sees a teenage girl. I also know that just about everything I do screams GIRL. From walking to talking. My voice sounds like it belongs in a girl. I couldn’t pass as a boy if I tried to. I know, I’ve tried.”
“When?” was, all Katlyn asked. She had made sure that Jordan was never left alone, for fear of suicide.
“A few days ago, I slipped out just after dinner. I was bored, and want to see some of Neo Winterswijk. I had never been off Neo Amsterdam. So, I stole some of those novice robes and went for a walk around Winterswijk. I sort of got hit on by some of the local boys, at a soda shop. I panicked. I ran from the shop and haven’t been out on my own since. Other than to train or fly.” Jordan looked down at her hands. She waited for the nuns to give out her punishment.
“We’ll come back to that later, young lady.” Jordan winced at the use of young lady, but said nothing. “From now on you will wear the robes of a postulant when not flying or training inside of the Temple grounds. IF, and this is a big if, you leave any Temple grounds you will be escorted by at least two members of the Guardian Orders. You WILL learn the ways of each Order within the Temple of Ida-ten, not just the Children of Mars, Saint George, and the Blood Red Knights. You WILL learn them all. That means you start with the Nightingale Sisterhood as we are the ones you have most exposure to.”
“Yes ma’am. Am I in trouble?” Jordan knew that he was, but, had to have one of the nuns say it out loud.
Both Sara and Katlyn answered at the same time. “YES!”
“Um… what should I wear outside of the Temple grounds? I know that the last time I wore a set of robes from one of the Temples I attracted unwanted attention.” This was a real worry for Jordan.
Sara smiled down at the young teenage girl. “You will be provided a set of uniforms from the Daughters of the Dragons for those times. They will give you some measure of immunity among the civilians.”
Katlyn stepped in next. “You will also be allowed to wear certain local custom clothing, appropriate for a teenage girl of your age.” As Jordan heard this she turned white.
Since the end of the War of Succession, the teenage girls of New Holland, like most of the Empire, had taken to wearing Neo Lolita clothing. This trend was thanks to the Empress Maiha and her love for the fashion. Whenever she was seen outside of the Empyreal Battle Platform Ryuk she and the War Princess Alison were seen to be wearing the fashion, as opposed to their Kimonos. Jordan knew that those very attractive and sexually alluring clothes were now in her future.
“Um… Sister Katlyn, is there any way for me to avoid those?”
Once again, the two nuns answered at the same time. “No.”
Jordan sighed and looked up at the two young nuns. “Okay, already. I get the hint. You don’t have to hit me over the head with a wing wrench.”
Sara just smiled. “Yes, we do.” Hearing this the three young women laughed. Sara gave Jordan a friendly pat on the shoulder. “Don’t worry Jordan. We’re here to help you. The steps we are taking are only to help you adjust to being perceived as a teenage girl.”
“Your training with the other postulants will help you pass as a lady of culture and refinement. You’ll learn how to walk with grace and beauty. These are just a few of the things the Sisters will teach you.” Katlyn told Jordan with a small smile.
“Um… about that. What other nuns are here?” Jordan had only seen a few monks and Brothers of Balance since arriving.
“You just haven’t been around them Jordan. This is one of the few Temples that are segregated. The reason for the segregation is the Guardians here are ALL members of the Dragon’s Daughters. Then there are the Sisters of the Nightingale, like Katlyn and me. So, you will have plenty of teachers. We will also be moving you into the women’s dorms.” Sara just smiled at a very shocked Jordan.
Over the next two months Jordan came to understand the why of her being placed in the women’s dorm. As each day that past Jordan learned more and more about being a woman. To be more precise, a teenage girl. Jordan even made more friends among the postulants and novices than she ever had outside of the Temples as a boy.
The teenage girls that had come to the Temple of Ida-ten as postulants, and novices, taught her about all things a teenage girl should know. they did this in their spare time. The young girls bought the story that Jordan was a real tomboy before coming to the Temple. That and when they all saw Jordan’s wings the first time the girls all knew that Jordan came from a Sky Dancer family. It was common knowledge that they didn’t allow their girls to wear make-up or dresses.
This was the biggest sale point for Jordan’s story of being a tom-boy. The only problem was Jordan’s age. They all knew that there was no way for Jordan to be a candidate at her age. Jordan explained this away by telling them all that she had been at her sister’s ascension or bonding when she stepped to close to the glass. Most of the girls believed Jordan, except for one of the novices for the Dragon’s Daughters. This same novice also noticed that Jordan was emotionally down one day.
“Jordan, may I have a word in private with you?” Novice Emmeline asked while stopping Jordan during her morning duties. Emmeline led Jordan off to one-side away from the others postulants she was overseeing.
“How may I help you Sister Emmeline?” Jordan asked once they were by themselves.
“You can tell me the truth. I know for a fact that no female has ever conquered a black symbiont. Please, I am not trying to embarrass you, but my grandmother told me the legends surrounding the Blacks. How they can only be conquered by a male, and that the symbionts are male.
Are you the Black from Neo Amsterdam?” Emmeline had used the local dialect of New Holland.
Jordan smiled and stayed with Neo-Dutch. “I will answer your question, if you’ll answer mine first.” Emmeline nodded her head yes. “Which Flight Leader is your mother, and from what Flight?”
“My mother is Coria Lees, of the Grand Sunburst. She is a Red Sky Dancer for the third Wing. My grandmother is Bethany Lees of the First Wing of the Grand Sunburst. She is the one who told me of the legends of the Blacks. Before you ask fledgling, I left before my majority to join the Sisterhood of the Dragon’s Daughters. Yes, I used to be a boy.” Emmeline smiled at the shocked look on Jordan’s face. “Yes, young Jordan, I left the family so I could become a woman and still serve the greater good. I knew that like you I could never become a Sky Dancer. So, I came here and joined the Dragon’s Daughters as a Knight of Ida-ten. Now, what is your story?”
“Just as you guessed Sister, I was at my older sister’s ascension a few months back. They had placed a black off to the side to die as is normal. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking around the glass, and I got way too close to the black egg as it hatched. The next thing I know I’m waking up in the Hospital wing of the Neo Amsterdam Ida-ten Temple.” Jordan looked down at her body. “Looking like this.”
“What had your attention so that you would walk within reach of an unstable symbiont? Didn’t you realize the danger you were placing yourself in at the time?” Emmeline was beside herself in wonder at the pure stupidity of the situation. She couldn’t fathom anything that would distract her in such a way as to place herself in danger.
“The Empress Maiha, and War Princess Alison were standing on the Elders’ platform.” Jordan looked at her hands as she blushed. “They represented everything that I believed in at the time. The Empire and the Death Dealers. That is what I wanted to be before all this started. A Death Dealer. I didn’t have a lot other options at the time as you know. I was already saving up credits for my Jump to Hades. I had two more years of working the docks and I would have enough for the jump.”
“You do know that the Death Dealers would have paid for your jump out?” Emmeline asked at the blushing teenager. “Oh, you poor fledgling you had a plan, but not all the facts. No wonder you were so distracted by Empress Maiha and the War Princess.”
“Well, it does matter anymore. Now, I’ll never get off this planet. Sure, I can Dance in the Clouds, but I’ll never be part of the Flights. Almost ALL the Flight Leaders want me dead. Then there is the fact that me and every other Sky Dancer are no longer purely human. I have spent the last six months only in the company of Nuns, Monks, and Temple Guardians. When I fly, I must stay away from the storms or risk overload. Have I missed anything? Oh, and I am spending my Life Day a few thousand miles away from my family!” the sarcasm that dripped from Jordan’s voice was thicker than honey in the noonday sun.
Emmeline sighed and hugged the young teen. Outside of Sister Sara of the Nightingales she knew the pain that Jordan felt. Just as all the sons of Sky Dancers felt when they left home upon their majority. For most of them that was just before or just after eighteen years. Unlike their sisters who would not leave the home until they had completed their training as Sky Dancers. Training that took eighteen to nineteen months.
Here in Emmeline’s arms was a Sky Dancer forced to run from her home. To face life, long before she should have to, on her own. Working her heart out to learn everything she could about her new life. Train to control her new power and abilities. All while learning to be a teenage girl. No wonder Jordan was on edge most of the time. Emmeline squeezed her one more time then sent her back to her duties.
Once Jordan was working, Emmeline went to find Sara and Katlyn. It didn’t take her long to find them. Once they were free Emmeline confronted them. “Sisters, were you aware that today is Jordan’s Life Day?”
Sara looked at Emmeline as if she had just smacked her, while Katlyn looked on in confusion. “How did you find this out Sister Emmeline?” Sara asked quickly.
“Just a few minutes ago, Sister. I noticed a few inconsistencies in young Jordan’s story. So, I confronted her about them. She in turn asked more than a few embarrassing questions of me.” Emmeline switched over to Neo-Dutch for Sara. “My mother is Coria Lees, of the Grand Sunburst for the City of Neo Ravenstien. I too left for the Peace of the Stars, cousin. Just as you did.”
Katlyn was once again lost as the two New Holland natives talked. Sighing in disgust Katlyn. “I really need to update my language translation program if I’m going to be here much longer.”
Both Sara and Emmeline laughed at Katlyn’s complaint. “Sorry Sister Katlyn, I forget that Neo Dutch is not part of the Empire’s Standard Language Matrix. It is one of the very small few that are not included. We were just discussing something we have common. We do have a problem though with our favorite Sky Dancer.”
“I gathered that Sara from the rather unsettling comments. What has Jordan done this time?” Katlyn’s worry showed in her voice.
“The fledgling has done nothing wrong, Sister Katlyn. On the contrary, it is something that we have done wrong. Maybe I should say something WE have overlooked. Today is Jordan’s Life Day.” Sara explained.
“Okay, just what does that mean? You forget that I’m not from here.” Katlyn told them both with some heat.
Sara smiled at her friend and fellow nun. “There are three days in the life of every New Hollander that have special meaning. The first is their Life Day, the day they were born. The next is their Name Day, that is the day that each child receives their name before their family. The third day is their Majority Day, the day they leave home. For the Sky Dancers, it is different for the boys and girls. For the girls, it is their Ascension or Bonding with a symbiont. The boys usually leave home and are never heard from again. For those not of the Sky Dancer Families it is the day they graduate for Primary School.”
“I see. So today is Jordan’s birthday. She turns sixteen today and she’s away from her family. A day she should be celebrating with her family. It’s no wonder she is so upset. Any ideas on how to fix this?” Katlyn wasn’t one to sidestep a problem.
“Not at this time Katlyn. To be honest, until we can get her family to accept her as a Sky Dancer she’ll never see past the gift she has been given.” Sara pointed out.
“I think the best thing we can do is send her out for a long flight. One that will take her beyond the outer edge of the city. Say, for three hours?” Emmeline gave Katlyn a smirk. “Make sure she knows she can fly through a thunder cloud or two.”
“And what will, we be doing during her little flight?” Katlyn asked.
“Correcting a mistake.” Sara told her bluntly.
Pirates of the Clouds.
Jordan headed for the upper most clouds the moment she left the Temple grounds. With powerful strokes of her wings, the young Sky Dancer put as much distance between herself and Neo Workum. It didn’t take her long to reach an altitude that most Sky Dancers could only dream of. Only the Golds or Blues could come close to this altitude. With each stroke of her wings Jordan felt Neo Workum fall away.
Her heart was filled with a happiness she had not felt in a long time. The teenage members of the Temple had thrown her a surprise Life Day party seven days ago, after her training flight. It had become one of her greatest Life Days. Jordan had let her mind drift as she flew though the Cirrostratus clouds that surrounded her.
Jordan smiled as she spotted the local Sky Dancer patrol thousands of feet below her. Jordan had already learned that the regular Sky Dancers were unable to match her flight performance. She was to be blunt stronger, faster, more powerful, in flight than any other Sky Dancer. Jordan wanted to laugh at their attempts to reach her height.
That was until Jordan realized that they weren’t trying to gain altitude on her but something else. Scanning the surrounding airspace Jordan found what they were hunting. The long prow of a Sky Raider transport ship broke through the clouds two thousand feet below her. This was no ordinary transport ship going between the cloud cities. This one was a pirate ship.
Of all the dangers that abounded on New Holland the Sky Pirates were the greatest. The wealth that is gathered by the crystal miners is enough to drive a good deal of men and women to piracy. It was the protection of the deep dive crabs and the city docks that was the main job of Sky Dancers.
A Sky Dancer may be able to survive the lower reaches of the atmosphere without an exco-suite but it was their ability to channel lightning bolts they were prized for. Sky Dancers were the first line of defense against the pirates. She watched as the patrol swung around and began to rake the transport ship with lightning bolt, after lightning bolt. Only to have this ship continue to fly on as if nothing had happened.
Jordan had been hearing tales that pirates had found a way to shield their ships against the powerful lightning strikes of the Sky Dancers for years. Here was the proof that Sky Pirates were armoring their ships against Sky Dancer attacks. Jordan watched as the second Flight rose from the city to come straight at the ship. Their own attacks had the same effect. Within minutes all eight Wings of the Rainbow Archers Flight were attacking the pirate ship. The pirates waited until the full Flight was engaged before firing the first return shot.
Three Sky Dancers were hit in the opening return fire. A Blue, and two reds fell to the rippling fire from the pirate ship. The second round claimed two more Sky Dancers, a Silver and a Purple. Only the Golds could completely avoid the withering fire from the pirate ship. That did not last long as a Flight Leader and a Wing Second were struck at the same time by the heavy guns of the pirate ship.
Jordan was going to stay out of the fight and let the Flight do their job. That was until they fired on the Temple of Ida-ten. Jordan unleashed the first of her thunderbolts in anger. Even though Jordan was further out than the others her and her thunderbolt wasn’t at full power, it was strong enough to take out the forward gun turret of the pirate ship.
This attack didn’t go without reprisal as the pirates turned their attention on her. Jordan knew that she didn’t have the armor of a Second-Generation Death Dealer or Knight of Ida-ten. There was no way she could survive an attack by the heavy guns of the pirate ship so she dived on them. As she streaked past at less than three hundred feet from the ships drives Jordan unleashed a thunderbolt at full power.
The resulting strike destroyed the ships drive systems. Jordan continued her dive until she was clear of the ships belly before she pulled up into a climb that would take her past the bow of the ship. Once again, she released a thunderbolt at full power. Only this time, the strike was aimed at the prow of the ship. The full weight of Jordan’s strike would not be known for a few minutes. It was not until the ship started to fall towards the cord of the gas giant that the full weight of her attacks would come to light.
The pirate ship started to split apart at the bow in a slow and methodical manner. Section, by section, the ship broke apart as it fell towards it’s death at the center of New Holland. The Sky Dancers of the Rainbow Archers swarmed the escape pods of the pirate ship. No one would be allowed to escape justice in death if they could help it. The pirates on the other hand were still trying to fight off the Sky Dancers.
Every citizen of the Empire knew the punishment for piracy, either in space or on a planet. The punishment was the same. Empress Maiha had passed that law and punishment during her first year on the Throne. No one wanted to be placed in the High Priest Control System. To be cut off from the world for the rest of their life. To be nothing more than a living computer network system manager. This was a fate that every pirate feared.
Jordan spotted two fast attack aircraft and one high speed transport shuttle racing away from the stern of the Sky Raider. She knew these were the captain and the bridge crew of pirate ship. At the speed these three craft were flying there was no way for a normal Sky Dancer to catch them. It was up to her to stop the pirates.
With powerful strokes of her wings Jordan closed the distance between her and the HST shuttle. Jordan was so concerned with the HST getting away she failed to notice the fast attack aircraft swinging around to engage her. If not for the sudden up swell of air currents Jordan would have been dead. Twin beams of coherent light passed just feet below her.
The sudden attack by the two fast attack aircraft forced Jordan to break off her pursuit of the HST shuttle. Turning her attention to them Jordan tried something she never had before. Pointing one hand at each attack craft Jordan unleashed a thunderbolt at them. The one Jordan had targeted with her right hand took the blast head-on. The one on the left swerved and avoided the blast. Even at half strength Jordan’s thunderbolt ripped through the airframe of the one she did hit. The resulting explosion caused the one that was missed to swing even wider to stay in control.
This sudden movement allowed Jordan to fire a second thunderbolt at the fleeing aircraft. This time she didn’t miss. Her thunderbolt hit the starboard engine forcing the aircraft to wheel about and into a cloud to explode. With both fast attack aircraft now destroyed Jordan turned her attention back to the HST shuttle only to find it had escaped the area.
With her main target gone Jordan returned to lend a hand in rounding up the rest of the pirate escape pods. As she closed the distance Jordan began to count the remaining Sky Dancers. Jordan was brought up short by the final count. Out of the seventy-five members of the Rainbow Archers only fifty-one were still flying. This was not good. In over seven hundred years no Flight of Sky Dancers had ever been so devastated.
A full third of the Rainbow Archers Flight had been either wounded or killed. For centuries, the Sky Dancers had fought against Sky Pirates and never had this high of a loss. No Flight had ever had a full third of their members sidelined to injuries or killed.
It took the Flight some time, but all the escape pods were captured. None of the Sky Dancers would talk with Jordan. Even though she had stopped the attack she was still an unknown among her own people. As they approached the city’s edge the Flight Leaders and Wing Seconds broke off from the others and cornered Jordan in the air.
“Come no further Jordan Price.” Ordered the Rainbow Archer Flight Leader. “We have several Dancers that are due to come into season.”
“Why should that matter Flight Leader? I have every right to land within the Temple of Ida-ten. I have abided by the orders of Flight Leader Helen Campbell. I have stayed away from the Flights as instructed. I have trained on my own. I have done everything that you people demanded of me.” Jordan’s anger at being held separate from her own people filled her face, body, and voice, as the heat of her anger filled her words.
“Peace young one, our concern is not to hold you away from our people forever.” The Flight Leader hovered just in front of Jordan with her hands out to the side. “We are only worried that you have not yet gained full control over your symbiont. We only wish to keep our youngest Dancers from an unwanted pregnancy. That is our only concern.”
Jordan knew that this was a valid concern for the Flight Leaders. Not just for the Flights of Neo Workum, but all the cloud cities. Jordan knew that she still needed to work on her control over her symbiont. The training flight through the clouds seven days ago, had shown her this fact. Not for the first-time Jordan understood the restrictions that the Nightingale Sisters and the Flight Leaders had put in place.
“I understand Flight Leader. I’ll head for the Temple allowing you and your Wings to secure the prisoners.” Jordan turned to head for the Temple of Ida-ten, but was stopped by the Flight Leader.
“Jordan Price, we are in your debt. The Rainbow Archers always repay their debts. When the time is right come to us and we’ll teach you the control that you need. Just ask for one of us.” The Flight Leaders all flew towards the city leaving Jordan alone with her thoughts.
Change of plans on to Neo Geleen
Ten days after the attack by the pirates Sister Sara walked into the room that Jordan was using. As she entered the room she found the teenager only in her symbiont. “Are you ready for our next stop Jordan?”
“Would you be upset if I told you that I have been ready for the past week, Sister Sara?” Jordan giggled at the look Sister Sara gave her.
“Well, if that is the case, I suggest you finish packing. Brother Alex will be our pilot for today and that man hates delays. The way he acts a times you would think he was a commercial pilot before joining the Temple.” At Jordan’s look of confusion Sara laughed. “He joined the Temple after the last war. Before this he was a bomber pilot with the two-thirteenth bomber squadron from Hypha. That man is a true military pilot.”
“So… he should be used to delay’s? I thought that the military was like really big about being on time.”
“Honey child, have you ever heard the saying hurry up and wait. Well the military invented that saying. So Brother Alex may be more than used to waiting around for takeoffs, but he still hates the waiting.” Jordan had to laugh at Sara’s explanation.
Jordan had her bags packed and down to the flight line in ten minutes. As she walked toward the shuttle that would carry her guardians Jordan spotted seven Gold Flight Leaders next to the flight line. Jordan knew three of the Flight Leaders personally. The last four were all unknown to her. The fact that they were here at the Temple was not good in her mind.
Dropping her bag at the shuttle Jordan walked over to confront the Flight Leaders. Starting with her mother. Bowing slightly from the waste Jordan gave her mother a hidden smile. “Hello mother. I thought that the Flight Leaders weren’t allowed within the Temple of Ida-ten.”
It was not Jordan’s mother who answered her challenge, but one of the four Flight Leaders she did not know. “You dare to question our right to be anywhere on New Holland? How dare you? We go where WE wish and do not answer to groundlings or the bastard union of a black. Show respect to your betters or I will teach you the error of your ways.”
Jordan didn’t even think twice, she smacked the Flight Leader in the mouth knocking her to the ground. “DON’T EVEN BEGIN TO THINK OF YOURSELF AS MY BETTER BITCH! I COULD KILL YOUR HARPY ASS AND FEEL NOTHING! IF YOU OR ANY OTHER SKY DANCER BELIEVE THEY CAN CHALLENGE ME FEEL FREE. ONLY REMEMBER ONE THING. I FIGHT TO THE DEATH.”
All seven Flight Leaders were shocked to their cores. Never had anyone in the history of the Sky Dancers dared to raise a hand to a Flight Leader. Yet here was a teenager who not only broke the greatest taboo, but dare to challenge them all to a fight to the death. Only Jordan’s mother knew the fury that lay at the heart of her child’s rage.
Supreme Flight Leader Helen Campbell stepped between Jordan and the other Flight Leaders. As she neared Jordan she could see the flickering of electricity around the young Sky Dancer. Helen could see that Jordan was far more powerful than any Sky Dancer. “Peace, young Thunder Hawk. We come here with a request. A request that only you can grant.”
Jordan took a few deep breaths and stepped away from them. She knew that she had to get her anger under control. She knew that Sara and Katlin would be here soon. All she had to do was hold out until then. Turning around Jordan thought fast. “What is this request Supreme Flight Leader?”
Helen sighed. “We have a problem young Jordan, a problem that only a Black can solve. As you are the only Black we are forced to come to you. I know that you have no reason to help us, but please hear us out first?”
Jordan looked over at her mother. “Mom, what do you think I should do?”
The Flight Leader that Jordan had smacked butted in once again. “How dare you? Answer the Supreme Flight, now!” the woman ordered.
Jordan just ignored her and waited for her mother to answer her question. When it came, Jordan was surprised. “Do as you see fit my dear. I am not going to force you to do anything against your will. Not that I could to begin with. You always did as you believe was right.”
“You dare to let this impudent brat dictate what she should do? Where is your pride Flight Leader Ileana Price?” the angry Flight Leader was pushing Jordan’s temper to its breaking point. However, it was nothing compared to Ileana’s anger.
“Shut the frack up Heather Van Goth. I have had enough of your bullshit to last me a life time. As for allowing my child to decide what she wants to do with her life that is between me and her. And none of your concern.” When Jordan heard the name for this Flight Leader he knew what the problem was. Heather Van Goth was a member of the Van Goth High Family, and a Sky Dancer Flight Leader. This was not a family to play with.
“If you will not put this child in her place then I will.” As Van Goth turned to face Jordan she found not a child having a tantrum, but a pissed-off teenager with firepower to back herself up. It took less than a heartbeat for Heather Van Goth to change her mind. She had never been forced to face someone who held death in their hands.
“Flight Leader Heather Van Goth, if I were you I would back off before I get pissed beyond my limits. If you continue to push me, I will break my word to the Temple of Ida-ten.” Jordan was done playing political games with the woman. It may have been the lightning crackling across Jordan’s hands or the pure intent of murder in her eyes, but Heather Van Goth backed down as fast as she could. Jordan looked over at Helen Campbell. “As I said earlier Supreme Flight Leader Helen Campbell. What is your request? And why do you need me?”
“The answer is simple young Jordan Price. We have come to you to help us at the next hatching in Neo Geleen. We have gathered all the black symbionts from all over New Holland there. We have twenty-three candidates of age to present to the blacks, we still gathering even more, but no one to train them.” As Helen explained the situation to Jordan she figured out what they wanted.
“So, you have come to the only person to ever conquer a Black on all of New Holland, me. May I know why you have taken to saving the Black symbionts after all this time?” Jordan let her venom fill her voice.
“That is none of your concern Jordan Price.” Spat out Heather Van Goth. “Just do as you’re told or be done with it.”
This time Jordan didn’t need to correct Van Goth, Helen Campbell did it for her. “Heather, you will either remain silent or I will cut your tongue out! We are not in position to make demands or give orders. It is because of your Family and others like you that we are in this position! Now, shut up! I will be the only one to talk with young Jordan.”
“Very well, Supreme Flight Leader, I will hear you out fully. Why is it you need so many Black Sky Dancers all of a sudden?”
“The answer to that young Jordan is simple. Pirates.” Helens one word answer grabbed Jordan’s attention, he knew that there was more to this than they were letting on. “As you know the Sky Pirates have begun to armor their transports. The attack that you interrupted a few days ago, was not the first time we have faced these new Sky Raider transports. This is the first time that one has been stopped though. I read the reports from the Rainbow Archers Flight Leader. They would not have been able to stop that ship if not for you.”
“We should be Purging the Rainbow Archers, not dealing with this thing. The Flights can handle the Pirates. We just need to change our tactics.” This came from one of the other hostile Flight Leader. “We have never needed the blacks, and shouldn’t need them now. Really, Supreme Flight Leader, we should be killing this thing now not dealing with it.”
“Flight Leader Grace Marks, you will also curb your tongue. I do not need your approval for meeting with young Jordan Price. Nor do I need it to allow males the chance to Bond with a Black. The Grand Flight Consul met, voted, and approved this radical measure. You may not agree with it but you will abide by that decision. Now, you can either leave or remain silent, but I will not have you interrupt these negotiations again.”
Jordan scanned the faces of the remaining Flight Leaders. All three held their faces as if they were carved from stone. They gave Jordan nothing to work off of with their expressions. Jordan was saved from making a decision by the arrival of Sister Sara and Sister Katlyn. Sara was the first to speak. “You were told that the Temple is off-limits to your Supreme Flight Leader Helen Campbell. Why have you broken the accord?”
“We have not broken the accord Nightingale. We are outside of the Temple. The flight line is not part of the Temples. As for why we are here that is between us and the young Thunder hawk.” The way that Helen Campbell said thunder hawk grabbed Jordan’s attention.
“I will give you my answer Supreme Flight Leader Helen, if you will explain why you and every other Flight Leader calls me Thunder Hawk. Do that and I will agree to think about helping you with your problem.” Jordan had already decided to help them but he wanted some answers as well. This way she would get some of them at least.
“That is simple young, Jordan Price. Thunder Hawk, that is who and what you are. You are the First of the new Blacks. You are a Thunder Hawk. Does that answer your question?” Jordan just looked at Helen as if she had grown a second head. “That is your title young Jordan Price. You earned it the day you survived the bonding.”
It was this little piece of information that clicked in Jordan’s mind. He remembered the old tales her mother told as a child. During times of great crises, it is said that there would be born a Sky Dancer more powerful than any that lived. They would be a defender of the skies, and guardian of peace. She had heard the stories all her young life, but to be considered the Thunder Hawk was almost too much for Jordan.
“Fine, whatever. I’ll go to Neo Geleen as you have asked, but I am no Thunder Hawk. I’m just Jordan Price, last son of Ileana Price and the Price family, and conqueror of the black symbiont.” With that Jordan turned and walked away from the gathered Flight Leaders. Sara and Katlyn looked at each other and sighed.
“Come on Katlyn, we better tell Brother Alex about the change in flight plans. How do you think he’ll take it?” Sara asked Katlyn.
“Like a bad a case of hemorrhoids. I’ll take care of Alex, you deal with the bitches. If I deal with them it’ll get bloody.” Katlyn may not be from New Holland but she had already gained an extreme dislike for the Sky Dancer Flight Leaders. Sara just sighed at the back of her retreating friend, and fellow Nightingale.
“I see that more than a few of my fellow Flight Leaders have left a bad taste in the young Nightingales mouth my daughter.” Helen’s words came very close to causing a war on the flight line.
“Mother, if I were you I would count this a win and take wing before the rest of Jordan Price’s guardians show. They will not take kindly to you breaking the accord to leave her alone. Remember our guardians are living weapons, and are all combat veterans.” Sara’s warning didn’t fall on deaf ears for two of the Flight Leaders.
“Who do you think you are to threaten the Flight Leaders groundling?” Heather Van Goth thought she was just dealing with a normal nun. She was quickly taught otherwise by Sara’s speedy reaction.
Sara grabbed the obnoxious Flight Leader by the throat and lifted her off the ground. “I will say this once and once only Heather Van Goth. Never try the patients of a Nightingale Sister again. We may not have the firepower of our guardians, but we are more than powerful enough to handle the likes of you. Go away and never return to our Temples again.”
Sara dropped Heather on her ass and walked away. Helen Campbell looked down at Heather and sighed. “I warned you to behave yourself Heather Van Goth. We do not rule here in these temple walls. Be thankful my daughter was the one to deal with you. If it had been one of the other nuns, you would have lost your life in seconds. The Knights of Ida-ten are not to be trifled with, not even on a good day.”
“I still don’t see why you’re bowing down to these people or that petulant child. Just order them to hand the child over to us and be done with it. We only need the seed from that creature, nothing more.” Spat one of the three Flight Leaders who kept her peace during the meeting.
“Catharine, if you think you can force any member of the Ida-ten orders to do what you want please feel free to try. I for one have no desire to die before reaching my century mark.” Helen’s very cold and blunt words had the desired effect.
“Are they truly so blood thirsty that they would dare to take the life of a Sky Dancer Supreme Flight Leader?” Catharine Delacour asked.
“Catharine, these men and women do not make idle threats. I have been face to face with one of their Knights. I have also seen what those Knights can do with their power. I have no doubt in my mind that they would and could destroy every last Flight on all of New Holland if ordered to do so. We may be powerful sisters, but none of us can withstand the raw firepower of just one of those Knights. Now I suggest we take wing like my daughter has suggested. I have a feeling that Jordan Price has won the respect and admiration of these battle-hardened Knights.”
“My daughter has done more than that Supreme Flight Leader. Trust me when I say that, it is for the best that we met with her outside of the Temple walls. If we were to have tried this inside the Temple, not even the Reverend Father would have been able to stop them from killing us all.” Ileana just smiled at the looks of terror that crossed the faces of the gathered Flight Leaders. With a downward sweep of her wings Ileana took off and climbed as high as she could. She wanted to be at an altitude that would allow her to follow her daughter Jordan safely.
Reverend Mother Katsumi
As the shuttle with Jordan’s guardians approached Neo Geleen the watchtower contacted them. “Nightingale flight four-oh-one this is Neo Geleen tower control. Do you copy? Over”
Brother Alex had been flying for more than thirty years. He had started out flying for Hypha Planetary Defense Force before joining the Temple of Ida-ten. When the chance came to join the Temple, he jumped at it. He barely survived the last crash that had cost him his left leg and ended his military career. So, he knew that the call was a legal contact.
“Go for Nightingale flight four-oh-one, Tower. Over”
“You’re cleared to land at Neo Geleen port on vector two-three-seven. Are you in contact with the Thunder Hawk? Over”
“Copy cleared to land vector Two-three-seven, Tower. That is a roger on contact with Thunder Hawk. Why? Over”
“Nightingale flight, you are to direct Thunder Hawk to land at the city arena. She will be met by the Supreme Flight Leader and your Reverend Mother Katsumi. Over”
When Alex heard that the Reverend Mother Katsumi was going to be meeting with Jordan he turned the two people who were better able to handle this problem. “Sisters! We got a problem!”
As Sara and Katlyn entered the cockpit they heard the Tower call again. “Nightingale flight, I repeat, you are to direct Thunder Hawk to the city arena to meet with Reverend Mother Katsumi and Supreme Flight Leader Helen Campbell. Do you acknowledge? Over”
Sara looked at Katlyn who was looking back at her. Then as one. “OH shit!” rolled off their tongues.
Brother Alex looked at the two nuns and chuckled. “Well, Ladies what do I tell them? They’re going to keep calling. I don’t know about you, but there is no way I am going to disobey the Reverend Mother.”
“Go ahead and answer them, tell them we’re sending Thunder Hawk to the arena. Then do us a favor and get a connection with the Temple. Let them know that the Reverend Mother is on planet and in Neo Geleen.” Sara didn’t want to deal with the Empyreal Reverend Mother Katsumi, but there was no way around it. One way or the other, they would have to face the Reverend Mother Katsumi on the city’s arena glass.
“Consider it taken care of Sister Sara.” Brother Alex reached over and flipped two switches. He then contacted the Neo Geleen watchtower.
“Neo Geleen Tower this Nightingale flight two-three-seven copy orders for direction of Thunder Hawk to city arena. Over”
“Copy that, Nightingale flight, cleared to land. Out”
Sara and Katlyn had returned to the rear area of the shuttle and contacted Jordan. After explaining to her the change in her landing zone the two nuns sat back and waited for Alex to land the shuttle. Hearing the orders to fly directly to the city arena Jordan dropped away from her trailing position and circled around to find the arena. As she flew over the arena grounds Jordan spotted the seven Flight Leaders from earlier in the day plus what looked like one of the nuns form the Temple.
With an ease that she had learned over the past months Jordan landed in front of the Flight Leaders and the nun. That was when Jordan noticed the robes that the nun was wearing. The robes were those of a Reverend Mother for more than Daughters of the Dragon. ‘Holy shit! This woman is the Head of the Empyreal Temple.’ Jordan realized.
Bowing deeply form the waist Jordan greeted her. “Greetings, Reverend Mother. I was unaware of your presence on New Holland.”
Reverend Mother Katsumi just smiled slyly at the young Sky Dancer. “There is no need for such formality young Thunder Hawk. You were not told of my presence because I ordered it. The Nightingale Sisters were only just told of my presence. As for my reasons being here those are simple. I was sent by the Empress to ensure that the Bonding of the black symbionts goes as planned. There has been a grave injustice on this planet. An injustice that the Empress has ordered to be corrected.”
Jordan looked at the glass behind the Reverend Mother. The sight that greeted her was one of pure wonderment. Thirty-seven black symbiont eggs laid on the glass hardening. Waiting for the right time to hatch. “Excuse me Reverend Mother Katsumi, but are those all really black symbionts?”
“Yes, they are Jordan Price. Thirty-seven to be exact, with another seven to arrive within the next few hours.” Jordan looked over at Supreme Flight Leader Helen Campbell. “Yes, Jordan Price, you heard me correctly. There will be a total of forty-four black symbionts on this very glass by nightfall. We will also have the rest of the candidates here by morning.”
“May I ask their ages?” Jordan knew that if she was going to deal with teenagers that were older than her there was going to be problems. Most of the sons of Sky Dancers had problems dealing with Sky Dancer females, and Jordan knew what she looked like.
Ileana Price knew what her daughter was getting at, and answered for the Flight Leaders. “They range from eighteen turns down to the youngest at fifteen, Jordan. Before you ask we have considered the ramifications of paring ones so young with a symbiont. I know that this is unusual Jordan, but we have no choice. Do not worry Jordan, I and the other Flight Leaders have told them that you, and you alone, are the one in charge. The Reverend Mother has also come to help you with the other hosts. She will be the one with over all control while you train the other Black Sky Dancers. The Empress Maiha has given her word on this.”
It was then that Jordan realized the Reverend Mother was here to help. Jordan couldn’t believe what she was hearing. This was the woman who was more than just a spiritual adviser to the Empress. The Reverend Mother Katsumi was the Head of all the Ida-ten Orders.
“Mother, can you please tell me why this is happening? Why after all this time are boys being allowed to bond with symbionts? Why here of all places? Why is it that the Empress Maiha taken to caring what Sky Dancers do with our symbionts? The Imperial Family has never before shown interest in how we conduct our affairs.”
Katsumi had to contain her smile at this last one. “She was at your Bonding ceremony. She saw that the blacks could be tamed. I have received weekly reports on your progress from the Reverend Mother for the Nightingales. I have passed these reports on to her Majesty. She highly approves of you young Jordan.”
“As for why it is happening, daughter. The answer is simple. You proved that the legends are true. Only males can tame the blacks. As for why here, that is again simple. The city of Neo Geleen has no Sky Dancer Flights. They were killed to the last Dancer during the last Pirate raid. The pirates were also able to kill the symbiont hive queen here. To be honest Jordan, this city is relying on the aero fighter defense force for protection. That is why we are here.” Ileana’s words and very blunt sincerity damned near unhinged Jordan.
The thought of an entire cities Sky Dancer Flight wiped out was unheard of. Then the idea of someone actually, targeting a city’s hive queen was beyond Jordan’s or anyone’s comprehension. In over ten centuries no one had ever dared to attack a hive queen. That crime held a death sentence, one that would be long, painful, and very gruesome.
Jordan was drawn out of his thoughts by Supreme Flight Leader Helen’s voice. “Thunder Hawk Jordan Price we need for you to help our sons conquer these forty-four black symbionts. We need to know how you were able to do the impossible. What did you do?”
Jordan stood there and thought back to that day all those months ago. The more she thought about that day the more her feelings of that time on the glass returned to her. “I will help them, but I will do it without you here. Leave me and those kids alone. Stay away from the Temple of Ida-ten. I will give you the fighting force you need to stop the pirates, but you will no longer keep males off the glass if there is a black. Those are my terms. Are we in agreement?”
“Agreed, young Thunder Hawk.” Helen Campbell knew that she had to agree. She did it before the opposition could object.
“Then take wing Flight Leaders, and do not return until you are invited.” Jordan’s order did not sit well with the other Flight Leaders. The only one who didn’t object outright was her mother.
Jordan, Sisters Sara, and Katlyn, along with Reverend Mother Katsumi stood still and watched as the Supreme Flight Leader led five Flight Leaders into the air and away from the arena. Only Ileana Price stayed.
“You have come a long way, Jordan. You are more than I or the Empress could ever hope for. I see an iron will lies behind your youthful eyes. One that you will need in the times ahead.” Ileana held her pride in check as she knew that she had done her child a disservice.
“That is where you are wrong mother. It was your treatment of me that allowed me to conquer the black in the first place. It will be that same treatment of the others that will allow them to do the same.” Jordan’s words cut through Ileana’s pride to tear her heart out. “It takes more than just willpower to conquer the blacks. It takes an anger that women cannot understand or summon. Only the blind rage of injustice can do this. An injustice that is long simmering at the hands of oppressors.”
“I see. I pray for the day that you can forgive me for my actions Jordan. Until then fly free my child.” Ileana gave Jordan a quick hug whispering in her ear. “Remember your lesson about the politics of the Flights, dear. Not all the Flight Leaders are in agreement with the Supreme Flight Leader.” She then took to the air. Ileana had to get away before Jordan saw her tears.
“Jordan Price, you remind me of another young lady. One that would be proud to call you her friend.” Katsumi chuckled behind Jordan as the thought of that young woman came to mind. ‘Yes, Jordan Price, you are very much like Maiha when I first met her. You will make a fine Flight Leader.’
“Who would that be Reverend Mother? I highly doubt that there are too many nuns that are as willful as me. In fact, I would be willing to wager that there are none such as me. Just ask the Sisters that have been my guardians this past year. I have lost count at how many times those ladies have boxed my ears for breaking the rules.” Jordan just chuckled at this.
“So I have been told, Jordan. Now, shall we go and greet the candidates?” Katsumi gave Jordan a small sly smile as she thought about the young Thunder Hawk’s words. ‘Once again Maiha, you have seen what others do not. Jordan Price is more than she seems.’
Jordan bowed to the Reverend Mother and lead her to where she knew the candidates would be waiting. As the two walked from the arena glass Jordan thought about what her mother left unsaid. After fifteen years in the Price Family Household, Jordan learned that her mother would often leave parts of a lesson out. A part that she was meant to learn for herself. This time was no different. Her mother’s words about an iron will and to fly free were more than just pleasantries. They were a warning. A warning as to what, was Jordan’s riddle.
----- to be continued ----
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