Da Vinci Colony Installment 1: Red Smoke

Saint Kanye was falling and the flustered Florentine captain didn’t like his options.

Blunt force with a nuclear salvo would shatter the chrome-coated statue, carved 417 years ago by astroartisan Leopold Dollar from an orbit-trapped asteroid. However, that would just make a bunch of city-killer rocks rather than a single extinction-level event.

They might nudge the sculpture higher into orbit using repulsor dirigibles, but nothing guaranteed that Saint Kanye would remain forever at that new height. In fact, orbital physics suggested that, at best, it bought them a few more centuries.

The best option, as far as Captain Warwick Equinox was concerned, would be to dispatch hundreds of sonic drones to land on the rock and pulse the asteroid into (relatively) harmless dust. However, that presented its own challenges.

“Red smoke,” the scout reported as she stepped onto the command platform of the Medici.

The Kanyist bishopric Enclave had spent the last three days huddled in the Abat Voix, debating the theological downside of pulverizing the idol that had been scowling down at them from high in the violet sky above the planet Da Vinci.

Now, the holo beamed from Lieutenant Bessler’s ocular implant onto the flat brass surface of the ops table displayed crimson billowing from the cylindrical smokestack that jutted from a flat-roofed building next to the basilica dome.

“They can’t be serious,” Equinox said, struggling not to gape at the image.

White smoke would’ve meant: “Go ahead, do that, save the world, bless your soul.”

Yellow smoke: “Eh, we don’t like it, but…ok. If we have no other choice.”

Red meant nothing good. Red meant every faithful Kanyist in every colonial city taking up arms against the heretics. Red meant holy war if Equinox shook Saint Kanye to atoms.

“The Enclave issued a summons,” Bessler said. Her implant transmitted a new image, eyes-only for the captain and encrypted as blue-green “lorem ipsum” boilerplate for anyone else.

“REPORT AT ONCE TO THE ABAT VOIX FOR FINAL SETTLEMENT OF CONTESTED SITUATION,” the message read. “DECLINE THIS INVITATION UNDER PENALTY OF VIOLENT PURGE AND POTENTIALLY TERMINAL ORDEAL.”

The captain smoothed the front of his dark purple uniform jacket. His mouth curled into a grimace. He came from a family of Kanyists, but he had long ago lapsed in favor of the worship of the unknown and perhaps unknowable stars beyond their solar system. He rarely set foot in a church and had only once before – as a child with his family on pilgrimage – paid a visit to the Abat Voix. Yet he understood that the church supplied funds to the Da Vinci Exploration Service. He could ill afford to offend his benefactors. Nevertheless, this seemed above his pay grade.

“Establish a link to headquarters,” he told Bessler. “Let’s see if General Nucci would prefer to handle this.”

The general, a grim-faced woman with her silver hair drawn back in a bun, regarded Equinox with a furrowed brow as she inquired, “What makes you think *I* would prefer to handle this, Captain?”

Equinox cleared his throat. “Well, General, as a subordinate officer in the Service, I would never presume to represent our organization in such a capacity when the honor might be more fitting to someone of your stature.”

That got a mordant snort from Nucci. “The honor? Captain, the Enclave summoned *you*. Personally. They did not summon the *Service*. You suggested vaporizing their precious monument. They expect you to answer for that.”

The captain felt blood draining from his face. He had painted a target on his own back and Nucci wouldn’t take the bullet. In fact, she was pushing him directly into the bullet’s path. “Yes, General. Thank you, General.”

Comms went silent.

“Prepare the thopter,” the captain said. “We leave within the hour.” Equinox faced the looming statue through the dome, crossed himself, and muttered: “For the lyrics, the rhythm, and the melody.”

“Amen,” he added in unison with Bessler.

Continued in Da Vinci Colony Installment 2.

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Wes Platt

Lead storyteller. Game designer and journalist. Recovering Floridian.

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