We've always called it the Cluster of a Thousand Suns. Are there truly a thousand stars with inhabited worlds within the cluster? Perhaps, but I doubt anyone has made it a point to count them all. We much rather prefer the romance of the name to its reality.
Still, as we look to the night sky, and all those points of light, we have to wonder about the worlds that surround us. What are those other people like? What stories do they have to tell? A thousand planets means billions of possibilities...
The Thousand Suns Saga's story begins almost 15 years ago. Inspired by Star Wars, my partner, Tim, and I started by creating a couple of imaginary worlds where magic and technology lived side by side. Almost every day, we've added something new, building on the lore and mythology.
When asked to write a story with assassins as the theme, my mind immediately flew to the cluster's most notorious band, the Black Dragons. But what tale could I tell to best reflect their nature?
"Black Dragons" deals with the struggles of secrecy, of duty, and of failure. Does our heroine manage to overcome her hurdles, or is she destined to become one of the deceased herself? Find out for yourself, if you dare.
As the most feared group of assassins within the cluster, the Black Dragons rarely have reason to worry. When their reputation is threatened by outsiders, it's up to Selena Olian, prostitute by day, Viper by night, to stop them. However, she discovers that even the most talented of assassins sometimes fail...
Find "Black Dragons" on Amazon.
Find "Black Dragons" on Amazon.
The door was the same non-descript metal as the others that dotted the stone hallways. Selena pressed the access pad on the side and waited for the distinct “chink” of it unlocking. The door slid to the side.
Master’s office was a good-sized room dominated by a large, dark wooden desk near the opposite wall. The only real decoration was a stiff black rug beneath the desk. It extended out to rest beneath the two chairs on the reception side and the few weapons of the trade that hung on the walls. Master himself sat in the more comfortable executive chair behind the desk. He wore the close black outfit and mask of the order, so she could never make out much about him except that he was shorter and stockier than her. He looked up from the datapads scattered over the surface of his desk when she approached.
“Viper.” He greeted her in quen’nare, the modified voice low and grumbly. “Please, come in and sit down.”
Selena approached, offering a bow before she sat. “How did you know it was me?”
“I would not be a very good leader if I did not recognize those under me… And Fox called to let me know that you were here. Now, what can I do for you?”
“The imposters are getting bolder, Master. I had one openly brag that he was a Black Dragon when I saw the bad replica of a tattoo on his skin.”
“I assume you took care of the problem.”
Selena dipped her head. “He will not be making that claim again.”
“Good. The imposters need to know that we will not tolerate them besmirching our name. Our profession may not have the most favorable impression, but we have a long, honorable history and a reputation that we have well earned. I will not let that falter under my watch.”
Selena nodded. Everyone in the surrounding systems knew about the Black Dragons, and she had heard their name spoken in both fear and awe even before she joined. If you wanted someone dead, you went to the Black Dragons. “I understand, Master.”
Master sat back in his chair, draping his covered arms over the armrests, and sighed. “See if you can find out where this imposter was inked. If you do, do not kill the artist. See if he or she inked others, and make it very clear to this person that further marking will not be tolerated.”
Selena nodded again. “Of course, Master.”
“I am very pleased with your work, Viper. I do not regret welcoming you into our Brotherhood.”
“Even though I am a Sister?” she smiled back.
Master waved it off with a hand. “There is a reason we keep our sun lives separate from our moon lives. Do you know how many people would be all too happy to arrest us, even kill us if they recognized us?”
“I imagine it would be quite a few. I understand the reasons for all the precautions we take.”
“Of course you do, Viper. Is there something else you need to discuss with me?”
Selena shook her head. “I came here right away to let you know. I did not think it was something that should wait.”
“No,” Master agreed. “We operate on information. You have done well, Viper.”
She dipped her head to him. “Thank you, Master. By your leave.”
Master waved a dismissive hand at her before returning his attention to ’pads in front of him. She stood, bowed, and turned to leave. It wouldn't be easy to track down the tattoo artist, but she was a Black Dragon. If Master wanted it done, it would be done.
On a cold day on Hoth…er…in Eastern Pennsylvania, in the depth of night in the year of 1978, J.M. emerged into the world. She moved to Endor…er…Southern Maryland as a young child, where she began the process of creating worlds and stories about them. As an adult, she moved to Tatooine…er…Eastern Washington to spend the rest of her life with her soulmate (aka Tim).
There’s not enough time in the day for everything she tries to fit into her life. On any given day, you can find her reading and/or writing and/or playing video games and/or watching TV shows and movies and/or sewing and/or baking.
Find "Black Dragons" here.
Find J.M.'s website here.
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