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His little brother was there, clinging to her skirts with his
thumb stuck deep into his mouth as always. The boy's face
brightened at the sight of his older brother.
"Ben!" he said in his baby voice as he popped his thumb out
and then back in.
Their mother gently touched the golden brown hair of the boy
at her side and then removed his hand so she could kneel to
welcome the older son.
"Happy Birthday Ben," she said and swept her son into a warm
"Is the parade really for me mother?" Ben asked.
"Yes. Your father and the people want to honor the day of
your birth," she said.
No need to tell the boy that it was just an excuse for his
father to placate the people and give them another show of his
strength. With twenty-one sons, all of which were to be held
in high esteem by the population, there was a constant
celebration and parade through the streets of the capital.
"Your father will come for you and honor you on this day," his
mother continued as she checked to make sure that the innocent
face before her was clean and the clothing was appropriate.
Hiseyes, so blue, looked up at her with childish excitement.
She straightened a wayward curl over his forehead.
Not that it really mattered what the boy looked like. His
father, the esteemed leader of their world, would stop at the
appropriate place and display the boy before the people. He
would be announced as the twelfth heir to the throne. This
day only his mother would recognize the insignificant ranking
of her son's birth. She was nothing but a lesser wife who was
gifted to the emperor by her father as part of a peace treaty.
Her youthful beauty and grace were prominently displayed at
the time. She was welcomed into the emperor's bed,
compliantly did her duty and then gifted him with another son.
Perhaps if she had given him a daughter it would have been a
novelty and she would have earned a higher place in the order
Instead she bore another son in a long succession of sons. He
was another trophy to the never ending greatness and sexual
prowess of the emperor. And because the emperor had noticed
her son do something exceptional one day during his warrior
training the emperor was pleased and graced the almost
forgotten wife with a visit and as a result, another son,
Stefan Andreas, was borne and declared the twentieth heir to
the throne. And another wife had given him number twenty one.
There would probably be more. Why even bother to count them
after the heir and the spare both born to the same wife. The
first wife. The honored wife.
"Did you have your breakfast?" she asked. It would be a long
day for the boy. An exciting day.
"Good." She smiled at him. His face held the promise of
masculine good looks. The softness of childhood was giving
way to the angles and planes of manhood. He had the same look
as her brother, dead these many years, with his hair of golden
brown and his bright blue eyes. And young Stefan looked just
like him also.
How dear her brother, Stefan's, memory was to her after his
death so many years ago in the planetary wars. His loss had
devastated her father and the result was the treaty and her
life as a gift to the conqueror of their planet.
"It's time to go," the mother said. She took Ben's hand into
hers and with the other took the hand of his brother and led
them to the balcony that over looked the main thoroughfare of
the capital city.
In the distance the shield wall that protected the capital
could be seen. It shimmered beneath the assault of the two
suns that were at their zenith in the bright yellow sky. The
people were grateful for the shield wall; it protected them
from their enemies. They were also grateful for the strength
of their emperor and his armies. After all, without him they
would be at the mercy of the universe.
Or so the emperor told them.
All the wives gathered on the common balcony that faced the
street. Their apartments were all linked together by the
balcony on one side and a private courtyard on the other.
They all came forth, dressed in their best, with their
children at their sides. All came forth to celebrate the
birthday of son number twelve, Rubikhan Benjamin, born to the
mighty emperor and his fourth wife, the Princess Rowena of the
The banners proclaimed it. The heralds proclaimed it. The
broadcasters proclaimed it, placing the proper spin on all of
it for those who were unfortunate enough to have to watch from
their homes. The emperor is great. The emperor is strong.
Long live the emperor.
"Doesn't the emperor look great?"
"Isn't the Princess Rowena beautiful, even if she is getting
on in years?"
"How handsome the young Prince is growing." The very image of
his father. Or so they were told to report. All of the young
princes were the image of their father. Thus his difficulty
in telling them apart the broadcaster thought to herself. No
room for such rebellion. Not if she wanted to succeed. She
read the script as it ran across the screen before her.
"The young Prince is now twelve years old. It is reported by
his tutors that the Prince Rubikhan Benjamin is exceptional in
all of his classes, especially his weapons training. He has a
natural ability that astounds those that watch him." The
broadcaster checked her screen as the last sentence that she
read seemed different than the usual rote that she was
required to repeat at each birthday. Yes, she had read
correctly. A sentence had been added. The young prince must
be exceptional to have something different added to his
"We look forward to seeing him lead our warriors someday," she
went off the routine script with a genuine smile.
The camera focused on the balcony and the women and children
gathered there. Seven wives and twenty sons all lined up.
They were all there but the eldest. He had moved on to be
with his father a long time ago.
Rowena and her sons occupied the second apartment. She was
second in political ranking only to the first wife. The first
wife had given the emperor his heir and three other sons. Her
fourth son was only a few weeks younger than Ben. The boy
looked at Ben with his pale, sour face. Could he be jealous?
He had his own honors coming in just a few weeks after all.
Rowena took a half step forward to shelter her son from the
vicious looks coming his way while she tried to remember the
Dyson. His name was Dyson. Chubby cheeks, weak blue eyes and
white blonde hair. How could she forget his name? Was it
because he looked so much like his mother?
"Look Mother," Ben said.
The heralds were passing, carrying banners with her son's
name. Next there was a hover pod with a soldier on board. He
was being honored for some great accomplishment. Rowena stole
a look at the great monitor hanging on the side of one of the
buildings. It showed a close up of the soldier with the
subtitles of his feats. The soldier seemed bored as he slowly
drove the small hover craft down the street lined with wildly
cheering patrons. But he did wave to the crowd, which drove
the gathered mob into frenzied screams of celebration.
Next there were the various officers and the current top
celebrities. It was getting close to the arts awards day.
The top runners were all on open hover pods, wearing their
best smiles as they blew kisses to the crowd. One especially
handsome actor flashed his famous smile and the women gathered
along the street below screamed in appreciation at the treat.
"Where's my father?" Ben asked. Impatient as always, he
stepped closer to the balcony's edge and looked towards his
father's residence, ignoring the honorees that were lined up
right below his nose. Dyson stepped forward also, blocking
Rowena's face remained composed. She would not show her
aggravation with the child. Since they were close in age he
shared a tutor with Ben and it had become a competition
instead of a class.
Rowena had advised Ben to let it be. It would pass. The
boy's dishonesty would show itself, just as his mother's had,
at least to the other wives. She had born the heir. Why did
she always feel the need to remind them of it?
"He'll be here," Rowena assured him.
How many times had Ben actually seen his father? Twenty,
maybe that she could remember. There was never a time when
the boy had been with him, one on one. It had always been in
passing. There would be a comment on his growth, a question
about his studies and the typical urging to keep the boy's
focus where it should be.
Today would be different however. Today Ben was twelve and he
would get to go with his father to the governmental palaces
and share dinner with him while his father told him his plans
for the future. He would be introduced to the powerful on the
planet. He would be honored by all who came into his
Today would be different. Her son was special. Rowena knew
it. She had watched him, taught him, and he would excel. He
would be noticed. He would earn his place by his father's
side. He would accomplish great things. He would see the
things that needed to be changed and he would change them.
After today, things would be different.
Rowena bent over Ben's shoulder and inconspicuously pointed
towards the east.
"There he is," she said into his ear. Ben's hands tightened
on the balcony rail, his knuckles white with the strength of
How could the emperor be missed? His hover pod was, of
course, riding higher than the rest. It was bigger, as
expected; it needed to be because of the body guards, the huge
black newfs that never left the emperor's presence and the
personal driver. The sides of the hover pod were covered with
clear plexi to protect the esteemed leader of the people and
the top was covered with an ornate crown like molding,
indicative of the high position of its passenger. It was hard
to see exactly who was inside but Rowena knew who it was. Who
else could it be?
The heralds stopped below the balcony. Soldiers and security
officers lined up. The stairs were cleared. The hover pod
stopped and the emperor stepped out onto the platform that had
been placed there, just for that purpose.
He waved to the cheering crowd and proceeded up the steps with
the two huge newfs following. An assistant brought up the
rear. Under his arm he carried a large clear celpad and
stylus, which was no doubt the only way he could keep track of
all the details of the day.
The emperor looked dashing yet elegant in his uniform. A man
for the people. The protector of the planet. A loving father
intent on visiting his son.
Rowena placed her hands on Ben's shoulders and without a word
he stepped back, holding himself at attention as he'd been
taught. They waited for his father.
The emperor waved to the crowd once more as he found the
summit of the stairs. He took a few steps and then stopped.
The newfs quickly sat down behind their master, patiently
waiting for the next subtle command.
Ben's father stopped in front of Dyson.
"So you are turning twelve?" he said.
"Yes sir," Dyson responded with a bright smile. It wasn't a
lie. He was turning twelve. In just a few days.
Ben's shoulders tensed under her hands. Rowena squeezed her
fingers over the tense muscles. Patience my son ... Rowena's
eyes darted towards the assistant who stood at attention
behind the emperor and implored him with her lovely blue eyes.
The man shrugged his shoulders after he checked his celpad.
Dyson's mother's face held a self satisfied smile.
He has the wrong child ...
Who would dare to point that out? Who among them was brave
enough to risk their lives to tell the emperor that he had
made a mistake in front of the entire population?
Surely he would realize his mistake? If Dyson had any honor
he would tell it himself. If Dyson's mother was the woman she
pretended to be, she would and could smooth it over and turn
it into a victory for the emperor. Not only did he care for
Rubikhan Benjamin but he cared for Dyson, whatever his other
name was, also. It would and could endear him to the people.
Why didn't she see it?
Because it was her son being noticed. Not Rowena's. Why was
she so vindictive? It wasn't as if Rowena got any of his
attention. She was long forgotten, as she had hoped to be.
She couldn't stand the man. The thought of him sickened her.
Yes he was handsome, yes he was strong, and yes he was
seductive. But he was also a shallow pool, without even so
much as a ripple given out towards those who should be close
Rowena didn't dare make a sound lest she seem jealous, or
weak. She had to remain strong and without emotion. It was
the only way they would survive the day. It was the only way
they could survive the rest of their lives. They could not
show emotion. Doing so would only weaken their position and
their position was tenuous at best. Did not the man even know
who had mothered which child? Could he not recognize the
mother at least and then conclude the son?
Politics ran deep in the colony of wives, just as it did
everywhere else in the universe.
"Then let us go and celebrate," the emperor said. He took
Dyson's hand and led him to the rail. He lifted their joint
hands together in a signal of victory. The crowd seemed
confused but cheered as they always did.
They had no choice in that.
Hand and hand the two went down the steps to the hover pod
with the canines and the assistant following, as they always
Rowena felt the trembling of Ben's muscles beneath her hands.
It didn't show. His posture remained impassive and his gaze
focused on the crowd below.
Be strong my son ...
They remained so, all of them on the balcony until the hover
pod disappeared from sight in its continuation of the parade.
There were looks of sympathy from the lesser wives. There was
a smile of victory on the first wife's face. They all moved
inside until all that remained on the balcony was Rowena, Ben
A servant, quietly sympathetic, took Stefan inside.
"I don't understand," Ben said finally as the first sun dipped
behind their building, creating long shadows that contrasted
greatly against the orange hue of the sky. "It's my
birthday," he continued with a sigh.
"He made a mistake," Rowena said. The all powerful, all
knowing, had made a mistake.
"Doesn't he know me? Doesn't he know who I am?"
How could she explain it? How do you tell a boy that his
father doesn't really care? That it's all for show, and
pageantry and pomp. There was only one son that concerned
him. The heir, which even now had his own room close to his
father so that he may learn best how to rule.
"You and Dyson are close in age. Perhaps he got the dates
"But my name is everywhere," Ben pointed out. "He would have
to know it is my birthday, not Dyson's."
Not if he didn't know the difference between them. And not
only did he not know who was who, but his assistant didn't
know either. After all, he had been the one whispering in the
Justifying it didn't excuse it. A father should know his
sons. He should know all of them.
Rowena didn't know what to say.
"Why didn't you tell him it was me?" Ben asked. He took a
step forward, removing himself from contact with his mother.
Her hands reached for him, then dropped as Ben stepped to the
balcony rail and gripped it once more.
A gentle breeze, herald of the coming sunset ruffled the
banners that proclaimed his name. Even now they were being
removed from the parade route, the workers busily efficient so
that nothing of this day would remain. After all, they had to
prepare for the next one. They had to get ready for Dyson's.
"You didn't tell him," Ben said. His voice cracked on the
words. Whether from emotion, or just the fact that he had
begun the change into manhood, Rowena couldn't tell. The
shoulders remained straight and the spine rigid as the boy
looked out over the street.
I didn't tell him ...
Excerpted from Shooting Star
by Colby Hodge
Copyright © 2006 by Colby Hodge.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 20, 2010
Posted December 9, 2008
One of twenty-one sons of the all mighty all knowing Emperor Rashad DeMarco Monaco, Rubjikhan Benjamin, son of the ruler¿s fourth wife, feels honored that his sire is hosting a public birthday party for him. That is until his dad wishes the wrong son a happy birthday leading Ruben to realize his father does not know who he is. He vows to cut all ties with the Emperor as soon as possible. He becomes an interstellar trader who has nothing to do with empire politics until he learns he is the target of a mass manhunt for apparently committing patricide the price on his head is 750,000 credits as reported by SNN news. As friends betray him, he suffers strange dreams that his brother Stefan is in trouble, but cannot stop to help him. On the run, Ruben crashes his ship the Shooting Star on a primitive orb where Tess the slave and her six years old son Boone save his life. He recognizes her from his weird dream, but fears something is not right as he senses evil especially with the Circe witches in the middle. --- Fans of romantic science fiction thrillers will want to read Colby Hodge¿s faster than the speed of light tale, SHOOTING STAR. Ruben is a fascinating lead character who learns a life lesson at his twelfth birthday party. Actually his sire eventually recognized him as the warrior amongst his offspring, but by then even with a gift of a blade Ruben severed all ties until he becomes galaxy-wide headline news for allegedly murdering his father. Ruben makes the story line fun to read as he learns who his friends are as the price on his head is a fortune. Tess is his ideal partner though she has trust issues. The audience will appreciate this entertaining story while afterward stargazing at the skills of this talented author. --- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.