by Jeff C. Carter -
Lancet leaned over the dragon on his floor and gave it a sharp slap, sending a twang buzzing into the air. He stabbed and pulled at its strings with his thumb, index and middle fingers sending notes flying faster and faster.
Once, this instrument had been made of wood, ivory and tortoise shell. As it was passed down through the generations these materials had become increasingly worn down, rare and forgotten. Now the instrument was reinforced with iridescent bug shells from Eclectia. It was still beautiful, but the gradual decay and loss sickened him.
Lancet flicked the strings and let his frustration vibrate through the body of the instrument. He was playing an ancient song with a sparse, jangling rhythm. He loved this music for the silences between the notes as much as the notes themselves. He often sat for hours at the window of his spacious chambers, playing while he watched Sheba hanging in the sky and Eclectia spinning below.
The koto was sometimes called a ‘dragon’ for its resemblance to a giant beast from distant legend. His mentor Beebe had once said it was an excellent meditation on how to rule. He could command the dragon with just a few fingers at the right time and place, although the occasional slap produced a pleasing sound as well.
A gruff voice barked from a speaker on the ceiling.
“Lancet Palmar the 8th, please tell me you are being fashionably late and not just playing that damned koto again.”
Lancet stopped his plucking and rolled his eyes.
“Good evening, Councilman Moab. Please, do remind me which charity this is.”
“Save Avenir’s Orphans,” Moab replied.
Lancet hunched back over the koto and played a few discordant notes.
“Ah, now I remember why I abstained. I do not want to save Avenir’s orphans. I want them to stop wasting our precious oxygen,” Lancet said.
“Well until that comes to pass you need to suffer through these charity dinners with me. I’ve sent one of my men to escort you. Don’t dawdle.”
There was a chime at the door.
“Enter,” Lancet commanded.
A security guard fell through the doorway in a bloody heap.
A tall old man in a hospital gown strolled into the room and smiled. He held up a bloody hand and waved.
Lancet flew forward and jammed his fingers towards the man’s eyes. Before he could connect, a single blow sent him reeling.
Lancet crashed to the ground, crushing the ancient koto with a painful sound. The lunatic loomed over him, eyes and teeth gleaming with reflected starlight.
There was a sudden pop!
The attacker collapsed, streaming blood from the back of his head. Lancet saw Moab’s escort in the doorway, finger still on the trigger of his Shinpu.
“Who was that?!” the escort said.
Lancet had no idea. He tried to recognize the intruder’s face before it was masked in blood.
The escort holstered his weapon as he entered.
“Are you okay, sir? Should I call--”
The lunatic’s eyes flew open and he jumped up. He grabbed the escort and wrenched the man’s head violently around.