Dreams of Dancing in the Sky -Part 9

Dreams of dancing in the Sky

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

Chapter 33
Private offices of Supreme Flight Leader Helen Campbell, Neo Amsterdam

Supreme Flight Leader Helen Campbell, was in the middle of reading the reports on her desk for the third time. Her spies in Neo Geleen had sent in the reports of the battle with the pirates. That battle had taken place over three months ago. Everything she read made her realize just how far Jordan Price and her Thunder Hawks were already starting to slip from under her control. The more that Jordan exercised her control over the Neo Geleen Flight and the Council the more Helen felt her power slipping away. If these reports were to be believed, then the Thunder Hawk Flight presented a much greater threat to her than she first thought. A threat that she needed to either control or remove.

Without looking up at her daughter, and Wing Second Lacey. Helen demanded quickly. “How accurate are these reports?”

“Far too accurate to be the ramblings of mad men, mother. Those were just the preliminary reports. I am still compiling the follow-on reports.” Lacey answered her with as much control as she could. “Permission to speak freely Flight Leader?”

Helen knew what was on her daughter’s mind. “Given.”

“You should have killed Jordan Price when she was in the Grand Council Chamber. Letting that thing walk out ALIVE was YOUR mistake. The Council Guards could have ended this problem before it got out of hand. And it’s just getting worse. Even now, those eight Flights that she has control over are aligning themselves with her. Even more frightening is the fact that none of the Sky Dancers in those Flights are rebelling against their new Flight Leaders. I will NOT go into the fact that we are losing supporters among our own party.”

“What do you mean we’re losing supporters among the inclusionist party?” Helen snapped at Lacey. This was something totally new to her.

“It’s simple mother. Even now as we speak more and more of our fellow Sky Dancers are aligning themselves with Jordan Price. The reports of the battle against the pirate fleet and Jordan Price’s victory have them WANTING a Thunder Hawk section in their Flights. The idea of having that kind of firepower is more than enough for the other Flight Leaders to court Jordan Price’s favor. Even now, Flights from all over New Holland are sending her Sky Dancers that have come into season. All of which are either junior Golds and Blues. All in the hopes that a member of her Flight will mate with them.”

“Are you telling me that Flights are intentionally allowing mating flights?” Helen was floored over this news. Lacey shook her head no.

“Mother, these are not consensual mating flights. Flight Leaders are sending their exclusionist or rebellious elements that have come into season for these mating flights. One by one our supporters and those of the exclusionist party are being grounded through pregnancy. Jordan Price’s rebellion is slowly growing, but it is growing none the less. It won’t be long before they come for us.”

Helen thought about what Lacey just told her. “Have these changes in attitudes effected our standings inside of the planetary Congress?”

“That is a little confusing mother. Within the Parliament the city representatives are backing you, mostly on the grounds of tradition. While the mine owners are backing Jordan Price this is to be expected as they are more concerned over profit. As it stands we still hold sway there to a point. As the city representatives outnumber the mine owners. It is the High Families in the Hall of Lords that are waffling. Of the thirty-one High Families represented only nine are solidly behind us. There are five, one is from Neo Geleen, behind Jordan Price. Of the remaining seventeen nine can go either way, four have to report back to their Head of Family before making any decisions, and the last five no one knows what they’ll do from day to day. In short mother, we need to stay away from the Hall of Lords.”

Helen turned and looked out her office window as she contemplated this last piece of information. If the Hall of Lords was in turmoil and the Parliament was in a hopeless deadlock, then this could be the time for the Sky Dancers to truly take control of New Holland. Yes, she was the one to push Jordan Price and the events that placed the young woman in her current position, but that was done to address the threat of the pirates. Now, with that threat removed, there was no longer a need for the Thunder Hawks. If Helen could get the Parliament and Hall of Lords to restrict their numbers, then Helen could regain control of the Council.

Slowly a plan began to form in Helen Campbell’s mind. One that would finally place in her hands the planetary Governorship for New Holland. And with it the vast wealth and power of the Casper Crystal Mines. Looking over at the Parliamentary Building for New Holland a smile came to Helen’s face as she realized that her plan could work. Only she needed to strike now, while the iron was hot.

“I need for you to arrange for me to address Parliament and then the House of Lords as soon as possible. Before you ask yes, I heard what you said earlier about the both of those august bodies of government. Trust me, I know what I’m doing.”

“And just what is that mother?”

“I am going to use the very thing that Jordan Price hates the most to rid us of her. The High Families, and their House military forces.” At her daughter’s blank look Helen sighed. “While Jordan Price and all other males of our race hate us, there is one thing that they and Jordan hate more. The High Families. Her distain for the High Families is well known and documented.”

“And just how is that going to help you regain control over this situation mother? So, what if she hates the High Families? Who doesn’t?”

“Yes, that is true but you’re missing the most important fact here. Jordan Price has had more than one run-in with High Family members. I will use those run-ins as a reminder to them of just how volatile young Jordan Price is. Then I will point to her new position among the Thunder Hawks. Telling them that she can now attack and wipe them out if they don’t do as she wants. It will be the imagined threat of her dictatorship that will drive them to back me as I force Jordan Price to accept me as the true leader of the Sky Dancers.”

“I hate to tell you this mother. But your plan won’t work.”

“Oh, and just what insight do you have that I do not into the minds of those pathetic High Family worms?”

“It’s simple, mother. Greed. The High Families are only concerned for profit. They care nothing for political goals or motives. You want to stop Jordan Price from replacing you. You’ll have to do it in the one place that she’ll respect.”

“And just where is that?” Helen growled at her daughter.

“The one place where ALL Sky Dancers are equal. The skies over our cities.” Lacey knew that she was playing with fire. Yet she had to make her mother see the truth of the matter. “If you try using the High Families to remove Jordan Price and the Thunder Hawks now, you’ll bring down the Imperial Military on our heads.”

“ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?” Helen screamed at Lacey. “I may be a Gold and the Supreme Flight because of my power, but I’m no match for the weakest of Thunder Hawks. Let alone the most powerful of them all, Jordan Price.”

“That is your only chance mother. Challenge Jordan Price for the undisputed leadership of all Sky Dancers or step aside and allow her to take your place.” Lacey knew that she had to make her mother see reason. “And firepower doesn’t matter if you keep the challenge to hand-to-hand, and a flight challenge.”

“Wait! Did you say hand-to-hand and a flight challenge? How is that going make things even? A Thunder Hawk is naturally stronger and faster than we are.” Helen pointed out to her daughter.

“Mother, think. Jordan Price maybe stronger than you, but in a fight, that doesn’t matter. It’s all about training. Training that Jordan Price does not have. As for the flight challenge, the same can be said as well. Sure, she’s faster, but as the Challenger you get to set the course for the flight. There is not one inch of the airways over Neo Amsterdam that you do not know, like the back of your hand. Force the upstart to face you here, in our arena, on our glass. She will either accept the challenge or concede outright.” As Lacey laid out her plan for handling Jordan Helen saw the wisdom behind it.

“Send the Challenge, Lacey. Use one of the other Flight Leaders to convey the message. Preferably one of the exclusionist party members. That way if Jordan Price decides to kill the messenger we won’t lose anyone important.” Helen’s order and callus remarks about the messenger unsettled Lacey.

With a bow Lacey left her mother and went to find one of the few exclusionist Flight Leaders still in Neo Amsterdam. Helen knew that her daughter would carry out her orders to the letter. Walking over to the cabinet in her office Helen pulled out a map of the city. With more than just a working knowledge of the city Helen took out a pin and began to circle certain buildings. After circling eight buildings Helen stood up straight smiling.

“Even if Jordan beats me in the hand-to-hand portion, she will die in the flight portion. All I need are the right people willing to act as my equalizers. Not even a Thunder Hawk can stop a ten-millimeter fully-jacketed round.”

Chapter 34
Neo Geleen Arena, two days later

Jordan had just touched down when her mother walked up to her accompanying another Gold Sky Dancer. Jordan knew the woman and her politics. Once more Jordan had to fight to keep her temper in check. Over the last month and a half, she was having to deal with the increasing number of requests for Mating Flights pushed her patience. “Mother, who have they sent us this time?”

“I am afraid that you are mistaken, Jordan.” Ileana sighed. She too had grown tired of the Mating Flights. “This young Gold is an emissary of Supreme Flight Leader Helen Campbell. It seems that she desires a Challenge Flight.”

“Who is it that Helen Campbell wishes to Challenge?” Jordan almost growled, already knowing the answer. She knew that this day was coming.

“You.” The Gold Sky Dancer’s simple one-word answer was one that Jordan was expecting. “It is to be a hand-to-hand and a flight challenge.”

“The conditions?” Jordan asked.

“The Challenge is to be held in the skies over Neo Amsterdam. It is for the position of Supreme Flight Leader. Five days hence from the time of your acceptance. If you should refuse, then you are to stop all recruitment of political backers.” The Gold Sky Dancer laid out the Challenge as she was instructed.

“Return to Helen Campbell and tell her that I have not recruited anyone to be political backers. That I have no designs on the Grand Council.” Jordan explained to the Gold.

“So, you are refusing to accept her Challenge?” the Gold asked.

Ileana placed her hand on Jordan’s arm to stop her from answering. “Jordan, wait. Think about the long run, and what your answer will affect.”

“Mother what are you talking about?” Jordan snapped. “I’ve never had any expectations in the political arena. Why should I even play to Helen’s delusions?”

“Because, my dear child. This is one time where the powers that be can be brought to heel. Forced to face their failings and short comings.” Ileana explained.

“So, you’re saying that I can take over as the Supreme Flight Leader, and end most of the bullshit that goes on in the Flights. Sorry mother, but I just don’t see why I need the heartburn or headache. Especially if I have to face her down in Neo Amsterdam. She wants to Challenge me, let her sorry ass come to me.”

Ileana sighed as the Gold Sky Dancer smirked before saying. “It seems that your daughter has failed to grasp the situation, Ileana Price. Not that it matters, she has clearly refused the Challenge. I’ll inform Supreme Flight Leader Campbell of the refusal. Pleasant skies and fair winds while they last Jordan Price.”

“Hold it, you arrogant bitch.” Jordan snapped. “Mother, please explain to me what is really going on here? Why is that bitch so happy about me refusing the Challenge?”

“Because if you refuse then Helen Campbell can go to the High Families and petition them to use their Military assets.” Ileana gave her daughter a thoughtful look before turning harshly on the Gold Sky Dancer. “And, seeing as how we have pissed off more than our fare share of High Families they will gladly do her this favor.”

“They wouldn’t dare attack us with outside Military Forces. Would they?” Jordan asked in pure disbelief.

“In more ways than one, Jordan.” Ileana almost snapped. “Your own attitude towards them has pissed off more than a few of the High Families. Let us not forget that you put the Saint-hills boy in hospital for three months thanks to that fight you two had three years ago.”

“This has got to be pure horseshit. That bitch wants to force my hand in a faceoff with her sorry ass. Why? She knows that I’ll beat her. Does she?”

“You are wrong Jordan Price. The Supreme Flight Leader can and will defeat you. You’re nothing more than an upstart fledgling that her mother should have put down. Real POWER is not how strong you are but what you can do with the power you wield.” The smirk on the Gold Sky Dancer’s face vanished at the moment of the last word.

Jordan cut lose with a thunderbolt at full power that cut through the fading evening skies like a hot knife through butter. The growl that escaped from Jordan’s lips was that of a pure apex predator. “Take this message back to your Supreme Bitch you sorry excuse of a Sky Dancer. In five days I will see her ass in the skies over Neo Amsterdam. She called the tune and I will collect for the piper.”

As Jordan turned to take off she stopped. “Oh, and one more thing. Tell her this fight will be to the death. Anyone, interferes with our Challenge then all bets are off. I will rain down fire and destruction on all those involved.”

“I will let the Supreme Flight know you have accepted her challenge, Jordan Price.”

Jordan decided to get one last dig in before she took off to complete her daily training. “That’s Flight Leader Jordan Price. Now, get out of my city.”

The crackle of lighting across Jordan’s hands was all the Gold Sky Dancer needed to see to know she had worn out her welcome. With powerful strokes of her wings she took to the skies. She, like so many others, had heard the stories of Jordan’s temper.

Once the Gold was gone Jordan released her anger. “Why can’t they just let us Be, mother? What is it that we represent to them that terrifies them so much? All, I’ve tried to do is protect this city and my Flight.”

“It’s because you can do what they cannot, my daughter. Your very existence is a threat to the order of things. You have not yet realized the powerbase you have gained inside of the Grand Council already Jordan. Even now, you are making great changes in how the Sky Dancers and the Thunder Hawks especially are viewed.” Ileana began explaining to Jordan.

“What do you mean mother?” Jordan questioned.

Ileana sighed. “Jordan, for the past few months Flights from all over New Holland have been sending you their junior Golds and Blues that have come into season for mating flights. With each mating flight you have been forced to send the Thunder Hawk that captured their mate to replace them until they can give birth. With each one they in turn send you a replacement Sky Dancer. Look around you, Jordan. What do you see as far as your Flight goes?”

Jordan looked around at the status of her Flight and the current members. Looking hard at the current members as they flew through their morning training exercises. Just short of a quarter of them were now made up of Golds, Blues, and a few Reds. It was as if the Flights were trying to spread her Thunder Hawks among themselves through some kind of breeding program. The more she looked around the madder she became. The Flights were doing what she had told them not to do by using her own beliefs against her. With each Flight Jordan lost one more Thunder Hawk.

“Damn. Why didn’t I see this before? And with each mating flight they gain more firepower. But, how am I gaining power in the Council?”

“What happens when a Thunder Hawk gets challenged Jordan? What happens to the challenger? How many of the Flights that have sent you Sky Dancers are now run by those Thunder Hawks?”

Jordan thought about what her mother was asking her. The truth was simple as they come. “You challenge a Thunder Hawk, it is always to the death with us. The challenger normally dies. As for those Flights the answer is simple. All of them are now run by those very Thunder Hawks.”

“Between the eight Flights that rose up to Challenge you directly and the four that you took care of at the Grand Council that is a total of twelve so far. You add in the others that have been taken over by the rest you now have control over two thirds of the Grand Council. You are a real threat to Helen Campbell. She has been the Supreme Flight Leader for more than fifty years now. She has used the political division between the parties to stay on top. Now, you come along and change all that just by being you.” At Jordan’s blank look Ileana wanted to pound her next to youngest child about the head and shoulders.

“Jordan, you are the following in every regard. Aggressive to the point of rudeness, yet you’re fiercely loyal to the point of fanaticism, belligerent towards the High Families, show total apathy towards the Grand Council, and I will not even dignify your attitude towards the mine owners by describing it with words. You’re completely antipolitical nor are you politically correct in anyway. In short, my lovely daughter, you are everything that Helen Campbell is not.” Jordan just stared at her mother with her mouth hanging open. “You have all the advantages to turning this planet around. You also command the most powerful Sky Dancer Flight in all of our history. Never has there been a Flight made up of just Thunder Hawks.”

Jordan thought about what her mother had just told her. Shaking her head to clear the thoughts that ran through her head, Jordan turned to Ileana. “I need some space to clear my head, mother. Take care of the mornings training please?”

“Of course, Jordan. Take to the skies and find your balance.” With those words Ileana waved for Jordan to take off.

Not wasting her time Jordan headed for the skies. She needed to think. For more than two hours Jordan road the thermal drafts of the upper clouds. With each passing hour she rose and fell going over her feelings for the Challenge. As much as she wanted to just forget about the Challenge she knew that she couldn’t. As she flew Jordan listed the facts behind her need to accept the Challenge.

First there is the fact that the High Families would surely back Helen Campbell in a bid for power against her proved this. Second, was the mine owners. These men and women had power and wealth. While they often butted heads with the High Families over the running of the cities they were left alone when it came to the mines. It was only the Sky Dancers that kept the High Families out of the mines business. Next was the actual Grand Council itself. That alone was enough to give her heartburn. The two warring political parties have driven such a massive wedge within the Grand Council that it was almost impossible for them to get anything done. It was that division that had allowed more and more of the exclusionist party members to gain power and influence over the inclusionist party. Now, that power was waning. All thanks to the rise of the Thunder Hawk Flight, a Sky Dancer Flight that was led by her the very first Thunder Hawk in centuries.

As she flew Jordan also realized something else. Helen Campbell would not easily give up her position as Supreme Flight Leader. Jordan knew without a doubt that Helen would cheat in their Challenge. The problem was how and when. Even in a hand to hand fight Jordan outclassed Helen in both strength and training. That only left the flight portion of the Challenge. That was where Helen would cheat. The question was not when but how would Helen cheat. The more Jordan thought about that part of the Challenge and how it would affect not only the Council, but the High Families Jordan found her answer. Helen would use the High Families to kill her. That would be the only way for Helen to win the Challenge. As Jordan returned to the arena she began to form a plan to deal with the High Families interference.

Chapter 35
Neo Amsterdam Arena, five days later.

The Flights had gathered over the last two days to witness one of the greatest events in their current history. Every Sky Dancer that could be there was the there. Blues, Greens, Reds, Golds, all were alike this day, and all were equals. Mixed in among them were civilians of every station in New Holland life. They were all here to see history being made on this day. Not in over six centuries had there been as actual Challenge Flight for the Supreme Flight Leader position. For the last six centuries that position of authority was only held by election. No one had ever thought about Challenging for the Supreme Flight Leader position when Helen Campbell was elected. For the last fifty-seven years the Grand Council had been held in a nonstop unbreakable gridlock.

Now, that gridlock was about to be broken. Lacey Campbell looked around at the gathered Sky Dancers, and people of Neo Amsterdam. On every level, there were miners, mine owners, ship personnel, shop keepers, Lords and Ladies, members of High Families, all were here to see the downfall or death of a Sky Dancer. Everywhere she looked Lacey wanted to unleash her anger on these people. It was the idea that most didn’t really care who won the Challenge that angered the young Sky Dancer.

Her mother was putting her life on the line to protect the peace. They did not in her mind understand the threat that the Thunder Hawks represented. She just knew that if Jordan Price and her Thunder Hawks were able to gain control over the Grand Council then the peace would be shattered. The rights of the people would be crushed under the rule of Jordan Price. That, all that would come from the Thunder Hawks and their rule would be nothing short of a true Dictatorship. One that would rival the Dictatorships of Earth’s twentieth century in oppression and bloodshed. She just knew that Jordan Price should not be allowed to live beyond this day.

When her mother had told her of the three sniper positions she had setup with the help of the High Families she was furious. This went against all that it meant to be a Sky Dancer. Yet, if they were going to stop Jordan Price and restore order it had to be done. Now, all Lisa could do was wait and pray that the snipers would be able to kill Jordan Price in the flight portion of the Challenge.

Lisa was dragged from her thoughts by the arrival of Ileana Price. “Tell me Lisa Campbell. Do you believe that your mother will succeed?”

“Not only shall she succeed where the others failed, Ileana Price. She will do so in true Sky Dancer fashion. Unlike that monstrosity you call a daughter.” The sneer in Lacey’s voice was almost arrogant.

Ileana just chuckled at the younger woman, before answering her back. “She will fail Lacey Campbell. Just like all the others that have Challenged my daughter, your mother has greatly underestimated her. Before you say otherwise allow me to point something out to you. Something that both of you have overlooked. Jordan doesn’t play fair. Her favorite saying is the following. If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough to win.”

Lacey looked at Ileana in pure shock. The idea that Jordan would be doing the same thing as her and her mother never even crossed their minds. Ileana went on to drive the point home with a vengeance. “You thought that she would not think about placing snipers along the flight challenge path?”

When the look of shock turned to one of disbelief Ileana knew she was right. Pulling out her radio Ileana contacted to the belt at her waste. “The Flight Leader was right. Snipers have been posted along the Challenge Flight Path. Over”

The voice that came out of the radio’s speaker was one of confidence and poise, but not that of Jordan Price. “Copy that Flight Instructor. I’ll send in the Cleaning crews now. Out”

“Who were you just talking to Ileana Price?” Lacey demanded of Ileana.

“I do not answer to you Lacey Campbell. But I will answer your question. That was my Flight Leader’s Wing Second, Stephany Winter.” Ileana smirked.

“But how? How did you know? We told no one about the second part of the Challenge.” Lacey couldn’t believe that her mother’s plan was already in jeopardy.

“Jordan knows how to fight in ways that Sky Dancers do not. We figured that your mother believes she can win the hand-to-hand combat because of her vast experience over Jordan in this area. This will not happen. Jordan will not kill your mother on the glass, but in the skies over head. Nor will your mother win the hand-to-hand combat. You and your mother have forgotten that my daughter and her Flight of Thunder Hawks have been trained by Knights of Ida-ten in all matters military.” The roar of the crowd drew their attention to the arena glass.

Down on the arena floor two figures stepped out of two different entrances. On the North end standing in defiance of everyone was Jordan. There was no fear in Jordan’s face or posture. It was as if she was actively courting the other Sky Dancers to attack her in the open. Directly across from her stood Helen Campbell in total contrast in attitude towards Jordan. Helen’s stance was regal almost to the point of being arrogant. It was as if she felt that it was her right to rule over New Holland, and its people. A complete and total opposite of what Jordan presented.

As one they started walking towards each other. A deadly silence falls over the arena. No one wanted to break the quiet on the off chance they would miss any comments between the two combatants. Jordan just stared at Helen as if she was nothing more than a distraction to be removed. For Helen it was far more than just a Challenge for the leadership of the Grand Council. It was to be a battle of wills. If she didn’t enforce her will over Jordan’s Flight and win this Challenge her position in the Grand Council would still not be secured.

As they neared the center of the arena glass eight racks of melee weapons rose up out of the floor. Swords, axes, maces, pole axes, pikes, and even a few hammers were within reach of the two combatants. Jordan looked at the weapons and knew that she would have to select one of them, but which one. Watching Helen step over to the nearest rack of weapons, Jordan smirked. The war hammer that Helen choose would be of no help in this fight. Jordan knew that by custom she was supposed to choose the same type of weapon. The problem was Jordan didn’t believe in making things easy for anyone who Challenged her by following custom.

With this in mind; Jordan made her selection. The mace felt as if it weighted nothing in her hands. In truth the weapon weighted close to twenty-five pounds, and would crush bones, and organs alike. The weapons were ancient and barbaric, but that was beside the point. They were to insure an equality between the combatants. No modern weapons could be allowed during a Challenge. Only the weapons that each Sky Dancer was given by their symbiont and the weapons of the ancients.

Helen gave Jordan a look of contempt, and sneered. “Just like always, Price. You flaunt the Ways of our People. I should have had you killed on that first day.”

“That is where and when you made your greatest mistake Campbell. The same mistake you’re making now. You, and all your ilk, believe that the sons of Sky Dancers are not part of your people. We never were. The same can be said for Thunder Hawks. And until you start treating us as Sky Dancers, we do not have to abide by your customs. We’ll abide by the customs that we want to, and forage the ones that we need.” Looking down at the mace in her hand Jordan smirked. Then tossed it aside. “On second thought, you know something. I won’t even need this piece of shit. I’ll end this fight bare handed. Bring it on, bitch.”

With a scream at the came form her very soul Helen Campbell charged Jordan. The arrogance of the young Thunder Hawk was just too much for her to stand. She knew that she had to hurt Jordan. Hurt her bad enough that she would be on equal footing during the flight portion of the Challenge. If not, then Helen could only trust in the six snipers placed throughout the city to end the threat of Jordan Price.

Jordan’s smile at Helen’s loss of control failed to reach her eyes. She stood waiting as Helen charged. With all the skill honed over hours and hours of Close Quarters Combat training Jordan made her first move. Stepping to the side at the last possible moment Jordan dropped low and swept her right leg through where Helen’s feet would be. Just as advertised the move put Helen face down on the arena glass. Jordan continued to spin and returned to a full standing position.

As Helen starter to regain her feet the crowd roared in excitement over her take down. With renewed anger Helen turned and raised the war hammer. Again, she rushed Jordan only to have hammer stopped in mid-swing by the younger woman. Jordan had merely reached up and caught her arm just below the wrist. With an air of contempt Jordan held on to her arm as she spun around to throw her across the arena glass. Again, the crowd roared both in shock and encouragement. As Helen pulled her hands under her to standup once more a battle axe imbedded itself just inches from her head. Looking over her shoulder she saw Jordan standing next to the nearest rack.

“Get rid of the hammer Campbell. Use the axe. Maybe you’ll have a better luck. Because one way or the other this Challenge ends here on the glass.” Jordan taunted her. “Your High Families snipers will not get a chance to come into play.”

The pure shock at her plan to eliminate Jordan being so openly discussed was almost too much for her. She still tried to deny it. Then Jordan did something that no one expected. She waved her hand above her head in a circular motion. One by one six Thunder Hawks dropped out of the skies over the arena. In each Thunder Hawk’s hands was a struggling man in High Family Military uniform. With contemptuous easy they dropped the High Family’s soldiers in the center of the arena.

“As I said Helen Campbell. Your plans to use these men are done for. There is no way that I would not have thought about this approach. Or, the two anti-air batteries that were placed in the Orin Tower. Maybe you believed that your friendships with certain High Families would go unnoticed by myself and my mother. You are pathetic Campbell. All your and their plans for cheating have been taken into account.” Jordan just stood there smirking. “You are as transparent as a pane of glass. I knew you would try something. Do you think that I’m so stupid as to accept your Challenge and not take precautions?”

“How? What gave me away?” Helen demanded.

“Your own arrogance gave you away, Campbell.” Jordan sighed then squared her stance. “This fight and Challenge end now.”

With a fury that belied the rage she truly felt Jordan attacked Helen for the first time. Years of pinned up rage and depression boiled over in that one moment. Nothing was left on the table as Jordan attacked the one person who represented the feelings of every Sky Dancer son. Helen had never been on the receiving end of such fury. Even as Helen raised the war hammer to fend off Jordan’s attacks she knew it was a futile gesture. Jordan drove her left fist through the shaft of the weapon as if it was made of tissue paper. The speed and power of Jordan’s attacks was beyond anything she had ever faced.

When Jordan drove her right-hand palm fat into the center of Helen’s chest the older woman knew the fight was over. Helen felt her rib cage breaking from the blow. Jordan didn’t stop there as she lashed out with her right-wing to slash cross Helen’s left arm and side. As Jordan spun back around for the next blow, Helen jumped for the air. Abandoning her fight on the arena glass Helen knew that her only chance at winning lay in the skies over Neo Amsterdam. Helen knew that she needed space to maneuver and build speed for her attacks.

Jordan smiled as Helen took to the skies. Just as she had planned. By being the first to take to the skies, Helen forfeited the hand-to-hand battle in the eyes of the crowd and Grand Council. Jordan let Helen gain altitude before taking off to chase her across the skies. Jordan was going to end this fight where it should have begun. Even as Helen pounded her wing to gain altitude Jordan was already gaining on her. For the first time the people of New Holland saw the pure power of a Thunder Hawk in flight.

As Jordan passed Helen she called out to her. “Do you feel that Helen Campbell? That heavy dragging sensation? That’s old age Helen. Your old age.”

“I am not old you upstart!” Helen screamed at the top of her lungs. “I will kill you Jordan Price and end your threat to my rule.”

“You are pathetic Helen.” Jordan called back as she flipped over to dive on the older woman. As she folded her wings to increase her speed Jordan taunted her one more time. “Your time has come and gone, you ancient excuse for a Sky Dancer.”

The last taunt was more than Helen Campbell could stand. Helen unleashed her most powerful lightning strike on Jordan. The rush of power that flowed through Jordan from the lightning fueled her rage as she closed with Helen. Jordan’s first strike against the aging Supreme Flight Leader was to rake her claws down the woman’s back. Helen’s scream of pain could be heard down below within the arena.

No one had expected the two combatants to take to the air before the flight portion of the Challenge. So, when Helen left the arena glass all the spectators knew this was no longer a straight forward Challenge for the leadership of the Grand Council. This had now become a fight to the death. A fight that would decide the future of their planet and its people. Each faction was there for different reasons. For the High Families it was a continuation of the status quo, so long as Helen Campbell continued to rule over the Grand Council. For the mine owners, it was a break from that very stagnation with a shakeup in the Grand Council.

For the miners, dockworkers, warehouse workers, and all the other common people who were the true sprite of the planet, Jordan’s win meant freedom. They had all heard of her attitude towards the mine owners, and High Families. They also knew that if Helen Campbell were to win this fight there would be no stopping the High Families, or the mine owners. For the drop ship crews and captains, it would be business as usual no matter who won, as most of them were not from New Holland. The few that were wanted the status to be maintained as it kept operating costs down, therefore increasing their profit margin.

When Helen’s soul wrenching scream reached the arena, everyone’s eyes were pulled toward where the now falling Gold Sky Dancer high above them. What really grabbed their attention though was where Jordan now flew. Just mere feet behind Helen. With each passing foot of altitude Jordan punched Helen between her wings. What none of the non-Sky Dancers realized was just how deadly Jordan’s attacks were for Helen. Jordan, the Thunder Hawks, and every Sky Dancer there however did know. Jordan was breaking the back of the Gold Sky Dancer. Even if Helen survived the soon to be crash landing, she would never again take to the skies. If Helen was lucky she would with time be able to walk again, but flying would forever be lost to her. With the loss of flight, Helen would be forced to step down as Supreme Flight Leader for the Grand Council. Knowing this Jordan had concentrated her attacks on the wing joints between Helen’s shoulder blades.

With each blow more, nerves were destroyed. Jordan had been pushed by Helen into this fight. She was going to finish it now and forever. Jordan may not want the position of Supreme Flight Leader, but if taking that position was the only way to bring peace to her planet she would do it. Helen Campbell felt each blow to her flight pinons and wing joints with increasing dread. She knew that her nerves, tendons, and muscles in those areas were being damage beyond her symbionts ability to repair. With no way to fight back Helen surrendered to her fate.

Letting here wings fold back Helen closed her eyes and fell head first out of control into the arena glass. Seeing Helen fold her wings and go into an uncontrol dive Jordan pulled up and away. Hovering a few meters above the arena glass Jordan sighed at the body of Helen Campbell. The Challenge was over and once again someone had paid the ultimate price for issuing a Challenge against her. With each Challenge Jordan knew that she was losing a little more of herself to her symbiont.

“How many more times can I do this?” Jordan whispered to herself. “When will I no longer recognize myself in the mirror? Worse still, when will I no longer wish to look in the mirror?”

Over in the stands Ileana turned to Lacey Campbell one last time. “That Lacey Campbell is the price of those who Challenge a Thunder Hawk. My daughter never wanted your mother’s position. She was content to just be a Flight Leader, and protector for our planet. Hear me now, you and your mother have your supporters among the Grand Council parties, inform them that this will be the last time a Thunder Hawk shows mercy in a Challenge. Remind them all that Thunder Hawks are the ultimate predators of the skies. Understand that of all the Thunder Hawks my daughter is the most powerful, but she is also the most forgiving. Do not try the patience of the other Thunder Hawks, Lacey Campbell. They will not be as forgiving.”

“We cannot just surrender to them Ileana Campbell. To do so goes against all that it means to be a Sky Dancer. No Sky Dancer has ever bowed to the whims of a man. You know this more than any of us. Yes, I know the truth as do all the other Sky Dancers that Thunder Hawks are our male counterparts. YOU should have done YOUR duty when YOUR son was first bonded with that symbiont.” Lacey answered her hotly.

Ileana sighed at the youngest daughter of Helen Campbell. “Lacey, I know what I should have done according to custom. But I am still a mother. I could not in good consciousness kill my own child. When you have had your first hatchling you’ll understand, until then, do not speak to me of one’s duty to our people. Understand something, a mother’s duty to her children exceeds any other duty.”

“Was that why you stepped down as the second most powerful Flight Leader in all of New Holland? To protect your child?” Lacey could not believe what she had just been told. The idea that a Sky Dancer should put a son before the safety of the Flight was beyond her grasp. “You cannot expect me to believe that you willingly gave up that power for a mere male? What is your real game here, Ileana Price?”

“No, game Lacey. What I have told you is truth. I stepped down to train my daughter Jordan and her fellow Thunder Hawks. They are what they are because I have trained them in our ways. If I hadn’t then you, your mother, and the Grand Council would have faced a far greater danger than the one you do now.” At Lacey’s blank look, Ileana wanted to pull her hair out by the roots in frustration. “Think child. What would have happened if those very Thunder Hawks had no guidance? They would have come at all of you with a vengeance. A vengeance without equal in ALL our history. All that power turned lose on the Sky Dancers for all the wrongs we have heaped on our sons down through the centuries. All that rage unleashed on us. Do you really believe that we could have withstood such an assault?”

It took Lacey a moment to understand where Ileana was going with her argument, but when she did Lacey turned white with fear. A fear that reached her very soul and turned it to ice. She, unlike her mother, understood the power that each Thunder Hawk wielded. The thought of an enter Flight of them attacking each regular Flight one at a time was almost too terrorizing for her to face. Ileana smirked at the look of horror that now graced Lacey’s face and turn to walk away, but not before throwing one last dig at Lacey.

“Next time you think that you have all the angles covered Lacey just remember one thing. Jordan doesn’t play by the rules, and never will. I look forward to seeing you at her coronation in four days Lacey. I expect you to be there.”

Chapter 36
Grand Council Chambers, Neo Amsterdam

Jordan couldn’t believe the bullshit she had to put up with over the last four days. The fitting of the circlet, and signet ring. The appointment after appointment of endless bureaucratic bullshit. The nonstop meetings with individual Flight Leaders from both political parties and the civilian government. Each Flight Leader, mine owner, High Family or worker union representative forced Jordan to take a different approach to gaining their backing. Yet with each meeting Jordan gained a greater understanding of the political structure of New Holland and the part that Sky Dancers played in that political atmosphere.

With the civilians, Jordan’s promise to keep the Sky Dancers separate from all involvement was more than enough to gain their backing. All they wanted was for the Sky Dancers to stay out of their business. Only the High Families had problems with this, until Jordan reminded them that they could be facing a military force unlike any other on the planet. The thought of having to face off against the total Sky Dancer force plus the Thunder Hawks changed the attitudes of the High Families in a matter of minutes. Everyone on New Holland knew that if you owned the skies you owned the battlefront. And Jordan now commanded the greatest aerial defense force on New Holland. In short Jordan owned the skies, and the upper hand.

The only High Family that truly gave her a problem came in the form of Ambassador Cologne for the Amazons. In Jordan’s eyes the man was nothing more than a pompous ass. One that needed to be put down like a rabid dog. When the Amazon Ambassador demanded that Jordan help their government foreclose on four of the cloud cities that supported mines owing them two year’s worth of Casper Crystals Jordan almost threw the bitch over the side of Neo Amsterdam. It was only Ileana’s intervention that saved the Ambassador’s life. Cologne may not have seen Jordan’s already legendary temper, but he had heard of it. Now, he knew the truth behind the stories, having faced Jordan’s anger first hand. He knew that no matter what his people wanted, they would never control this wild and untrainable fire brand.

That meeting had taken place two days ago and Jordan still had a bad taste in her mouth for the Amazon people. In her mind and the mind of her mother the Cologne High Family had jumped to the top of their shit list, them and the Amazon people. A true hatred for outsiders was settling in among the people of New Holland. One that threatened to destroy all Jordan’s hard work for the past year. It took all of Jordan’s considerable newfound skill at diplomacy to ease the tensions between the Hall of Lords and the Planetary Parliament.

Jordan looked over at her mother as they went through the final preparations for the coronation. “Jordan, I know the last few days have been one trial after another. I want you to know how proud I am of you. You have done what no Sky Dancer has ever been able to do. You have united the two political factions within the Grand Council and the three political forces of our planet. You, not some outsider, you a son of New Holland has done this great feat.”

“No mother. You’re wrong about that. All I have done is what needed to be done for the greater good of the planet. Helen Campbell could have done the same thing that I did, but she was too consumed with gathering power. As for the inclusionist and exclusionist parties all it took was the threat of more Challenge Flights to bring them into line. They ALL know they cannot stand against the power of a Thunder Hawk. I kind of proved that harsh fact. The same can be said for the Hall of Lords and Parliament. Those two august bodies understand that Sky Dancers control the skies. On New Holland, you control the skies, you control the planet. It cannot get any simpler than that, and they know this.” Jordan’s pragmatic view was disquieting to Ileana. That was until she realized just how right her daughter truly was.

Even now after all her years as a Sky Dancer Ileana Price never really thought about the military might that Sky Dancers represented. On every city there was a Flight. Each Flight had between seventy-five to a hundred and twenty-five members. the scary thing was the smallest of Flights, the Thunder Hawks, were the most powerful of them all. Their raw firepower was beyond any other Flight.

“Tell me something, Jordan. Do you plan on dispersing your Thunder Hawks throughout the rest of the Flights now?” Ileana felt that this matter needed to be discussed.

Jordan sighed. “As much as I wish that I could keep the Thunder Hawks solely in Neo Geleen, but I can’t. With out me there the other Flight Leaders will continue to send their younger Golds and Blues for mating flights. Not that I don’t blame them really. They all want the chance at having first the firepower of a single Thunder Hawk and second a way to increase their Flight through breeding true Sky Dancers. Just look at the twins that Ronda King just birthed. For the first time in four centuries see have seen the birth of two Sky Dancers the way we were meant to be born. Don’t you see mother? Sky Dancers really are a separate species from Humans.”

“Jordan, I have always known this. Just as every Flight Leader has. We just went out of our way to hide this fact from the rest of New Holland. Now, that you are the Supreme Flight Leader that is just one duty of many that fall to your oversight. That was why we have always used the Gift of Life Banks to inseminate our members. It was felt that if the general population were to ever find out that we can produce our own Sky Dancers without the GLB that we would be viewed as less than human. It is also the reason why we have guarded the secret of our seasons so closely. During the early days of the Sky Dancers a great many secrets of our biology after bonding with a symbiont was felt to be too horrifying for the general public to know. The Flight Leaders of the time felt that it would be in our best interest to hide our unique nature behind layers of secrets.” Ileana knew that Jordan wasn’t liking what she heard. Then again Jordan hadn’t liked anything that she had been told over the last four days. This was just the latest unpleasantness.

“Mother, I understand most of this, but why hasn’t the Hall of Lords and Parliament been informed of our nature? What I mean is why hide the fact that we can reproduce without the need of the GLB form them?” Jordan almost demanded.

Ileana gave her a two-word answer. “The Amazons.”

That was all Jordan needed to hear to understand. Her meeting with Cologne had driven the point home that the Amazons were doing their level best to move in and take over New Holland. If they ever found out that the Sky Dancers could reproduce without their help it could force them to attack the Sky Dancers directly. Until now they never acted as more than a defense against pirates. With the Thunder Hawk Flight all that changed. Changed it in a way that no one saw coming. Even now, on fifteen of the twenty-one arena glasses that had symbionts ready to hatch there were black eggs. Each with possible candidates for when they hatched. Candidates that were chosen from the general population of the cities where they were laid.

“And soon there will be fifteen more Thunder Hawks to straighten our forces.” Jordan sighed as the reality of the situation set in. “Mother, am I do the right thing by allowing the Flights to chose from outside our families for the male candidates?”

Ileana place her arms around her daughter and pulled her into a tight but firm hug. “Of all your decisions Jordan this is the best of them all. Yes, it is time for Sky Dancers to step away from the old ways of secrets and lies. We must embrace new ways and ideals if we are to survive as first a people, and secondly a race. If you doubt me just look at the births of the newest Sky Dancers.”

“What do you mean by that mother?”

“For the first time in over five centuries we are seeing colors that were thought to be lost to us. Until these newest births there have only been Golds, Blues, Reds, and Greens, with the occasional Black or Purple. Ronda King’s twins are proof of this. One is a Bronze, the other a true Yellow. It is said, believed, that Kathrine White will birth twins as well. The Sisters of the Nightingale have been called in to consult on our unusual pregnancies. Almost every Sky Dancer that has gone through a mating flight is pregnant with twins. Only three are not carrying more than one. Four of them are carrying triplets.” Ileana told her daughter for the first time.

“Good lord mother! Why haven’t I been informed of this before now? Multiple births will draw attention that we don’t need.” Jordan almost whined.

“That is why I, and the others, have kept this quiet, and from you. Besides, this is a family matter. A matter to be handled by families, and no one else. Just as it has always been among Sky Dancers. Just ask your older sisters, and brother when you were born.” A small smile of mischief graced Ileana’s face as she let her mind follow back to that time eighteen years ago. “I put a nosey news hound in the emergency wing of the hospital for daring to invade the maternity ward just hours after you were born. The fool was trying to get pictures of the newborns for the few Golds that gave birth that day. We’re still trying to figure out who did more damage to the dummy. Me or Lisa Van Price. What we do know is that the news hounds have steered clear of the maternity wards ever since. It seems that their collective sense of self-preservation has taken a hold of them and isn’t letting go when it comes to our children. It’s hard to believe that was just over eighteen years ago.”

“Why haven’t I ever heard about that mom? I never pictured you as being one of those over-protective mothers? Wait that didn’t come out right.” When Jordan tried to correct herself Ileana just chuckled.

“Jordan, my beloved child, you will always be my little bird. Just like your brothers and sisters will always be my hatchlings. When the time comes for you to have your own family I fully expect that you shall be just as protective of your children as I have been. If not more so.” Ileana leaned in close to whisper in Jordan ear. “I’ll let you in on a secret, dear. All Sky Dancers have the maternal instinct to protect our young. Even you my dear.”

Jordan smiled at her mother. “Hopefully mother that will be a long time in the future. I don’t even have someone in mind for a wife yet.”

“She will come my dear. I have seen this in my dreams. You will be one of the greatest Supreme Flight Leaders of all time.” Ileana was interrupted by the sound of trumpets coming from the Grand Council Chamber. “Well, my dear. It looks like our time to ourselves is over for now. That is the first call.”

“I know mother.” Jordan sighed. “I just wish that I had your confidence in me. What if I make a mistake? People could die.”

“And that is why you’ll become one of the greatest Supreme Flight Leaders, Jordan. You care about more than just yourself. That and you are willing to listen to the advice of others. You may not like what you hear, but you always hear them out.”

With a swat on the butt Ileana pushed her daughter towards the door. “Now go claim your place in our history my child. I will be here for a while longer.”

Hugging her mother one last time Jordan heads for the Grand Council Chambers. As she entered the hallway the trumpets sound a second time. Ileana knew that her decision all those months ago had been right. “If only she knew what you had done mother. Jordan may well kill you in your bed. She might just do it any way.”

“Katheryn, if you’re implying that I set your younger sibling up to be bonded with that Black symbiont on purpose I will take your head off.” Ileana snarled without looking over her shoulder at her daughter.

“Mother I love you dearly. I also know that you would do whatever it took to end the threat that Helen Campbell and the dead lock within the Council represented.” Ileana could tell that Katheryn wasn’t going to let this line of investigation go. “I hate to tell you this mother, but I pulled the surveillance video of that bonding. I saw you intentionally point out the Black egg to Jordan. Why? Just tell that, and I’ll never again speak of this matter.”

Ileana turned to face her oldest daughter as the trumpets sound for the third and last time. There would be no stopping coronation now, and she could relax. Her job was done, and the planet was finally safe. She saw no reason to keep her secret form her daughter now. Looking her daughter in the eyes Ileana explained.

“The deadlock in the Grand Council had Flights fighting each other rather than the pirates, Katheryn. Without something to unify them the Flights would have eventually failed in their duties to the people of our world. You, me, and every Sky Dancer took our oaths to protect our world, not just our individual cities. The two factions within the Sky Dancers had forgotten their duty and were only concerned for their individual cities. We were losing the war against the pirates. Just look at what happen with Neo Geleen. A missile strike killed their Queen and the Flight died. The pirate would have started targeting our Queens on purpose. Once they started that we would have gone extinct and the cities would have fallen to the pirates.”

Ileana sighed. “The Grand Council couldn’t see past their petty arguments to the greater picture of things. So yes, I did point out the Black to your sibling. Yes, I hoped that Jordan would walk near the egg as it hatched. Yes, I did everything I could to manipulate the situation in her favor to becoming the first Thunder Hawk in over four hundred years. Yes, I acted like any other Gold Flight Leader should when she conquered her symbiont. I had to, to protect her and my plans. There are you happy now, Katheryn? Or does your need for revenge for your old Flight Leader demand more from me? Do you want my life as well?”

“No mother. I am satisfied. I now have the truth of things.” Katheryn just smiled at her mother then hugged her. “I will take this to the grave with me. No one shall know of what you did to protect our planet and our people. Besides, no one would even believe me if I told them. You went out of your way to cover your tracks mother. And did a damned good job of it. I hate to tell you this but there is no video evidence of Jordan’s bonding. I lied, just wanted you to admit to your manipulations and why you did them.”

“You my dear daughter are as devious as they come. I bow to your very astute observations and investigative skills. I hope that Jordan will be able to call on you and your skills in the future.” Ileana prompted Katheryn.

“As you are always saying mother. Family first, family always. I shall be there for my sister when she needs me. Just as will the rest of the family. What of you mother? What will you be doing from now?” Katheryn asked.

“Look around at the Council Katheryn. How many of the old guard do you see? Never mind I’ll answer that for you. There are only ten of the old Flight Leaders left. The younger generation are taking their places among the Council. This is a good thing Katheryn, as dinosaurs have no place in Jordan’s Council. No, only the flexible and open-minded need apply to this governing body. I stepped down because I saw the winds of change blowing the moment Jordan first stood against Helen Campbell. I shall return to Neo Geleen and continue in my duties as Instructor for the Thunder Hawk Flight. I also still have one last child at home to finish raising, or have you forgotten your baby sister Raven?” Ileana smirked as Katheryn face palmed.

With a grace that can only be gained by years Ileana walked past her daughter. “Come along Katheryn. We have work to do yet. Jordan may have secured the Council and a firm footing within the two planetary government bodies. She still has a long way to go to making the changes that need to be done to save our race.”

“How long do you think it will take before Jordan can just sit back and not worry about the rest of us Sky Dancers?” Katheryn asked from about ten paces behind Ileana.

“I fear that we have decades of work ahead of us Katheryn, decades. Change is inevitable as the movement of time. And just like time it cannot be rushed.” Ileana stopped and turned to look back inside at the Grand Council Chamber where Jordan was taking her oath of office. “Then there are times like this when change is like a bolt of lightning out of nowhere on a clear day. Up there is your sister, and Supreme Flight Leader. The youngest to ever hold that position, and I feel soon to be one of the greatest. So long as we do our part.”

“I shall do mine mother as will Sylvia and Raven once she has joined our ranks as a Sky Dancer. I also believe that Jordan will lean heavily on all three of us when the time comes. Sylvia will be her military advisor, while I shall fulfil the role as her Spy Master. As for little Raven, only the gods of the winds know that.” Katheryn told her mother.

“I believe that you are right Katheryn. I also noticed that you left me out of that little line up. Care to explain why?” Ileana smirked as Katheryn blushed. “Let me guess. I am due to come into season again soon and you expect me to be giving you a new sibling to spoil. Well, I hate to spoil anyone’s fun, but you’re too late. I am already with child. The Nightingales tell that I shall give birth sometime after the summer solstice. Have a pleasant evening Daughter. I know that I shall.”

Katheryn just watched as Ileana just turned her back and walked away. It would not be until the next morning after the celebration of Jordan’s coronation that Katheryn would learn her mother had taken a SST back to Neo Geleen. When she confronted Jordan over this Jordan just chuckled and said. “I knew that she was going to do that Katheryn. I also knew that she was pregnant. Leave her be, mother has earned her right to enjoy her last days in peace. After all this is most likely her last season. Let her spend her time with our baby sister, and hopefully baby bother.”

“Okay Jordan. Besides we got our hands full as it is just dealing with running the day to business of the Grand Council.” At Jordan’s blank look Katheryn laughed. “We are family little sister. As mother always says. Family first, family always.” They finished together. “I just know that we’re going to have our hands full. Come on, sis, let’s get started. The day is almost half gone.”

“No sis, the day has just begun. Until now, I didn’t have a clue on how I was going to get a handle on half this crap. Now, with you here to help I just might be able to what mom dropped in my lap. By the way, did she give you a hint as to why she set me up all those months ago?”

The end for now.

To all my readers out there in BC land. This will be my final posting for the year. As such I wish you all a Happy New. Please be safe if you plan on going to a party and drink responsibly. I would hate to send the Black Badges after you all for DUI.

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