Knights of Tomorrow [Star Warriors 2]
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by Joe Vadalma
Category: Science Fiction
Description: Fans of Dan Simmons will love this series about humans vs. aliens for control of the Galaxy! ! Ten years after the Galactic Chess War. an uneasy peace exists between the Stygians and Olympians. There is trade, but also rivalry. The Stygian warlords are uneasy about the peace, since their honor has been besmirched by their defeat. Emperor Makido is extremely paranoid and trusts no one except his personal security agent, George. His paranoia is justified. There are many plots against him. The manipulative, scheming Empress Lydia whose powers border on sorcery, manipulates Makido into another war with the Stygians and is having a secret love affair with his son, Prince Ron Bo Kan, a hamlet-like character who schemes with the AIs to replace Makido with an AI. Even more sinister forces are at work; the super AI, Aristotle, has decided that it is only logical for the AIs take control of the galaxy, especially when he discovers the existence of the starbuster, which has the potential to destroy the galaxy. He cooks up a plan to replace the flesh rulers with AI. All this leads to galactic war, revolt, convoluted assassination plots, and espionage. Who will save the galactic civilization from falling into chaos?
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/Futures-Past Editions,
eBookwise Release Date: March 2010
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [393 KB]
Reading time: 250-350 min.
Time dragged for Prince Ron Bo Kan, youngest son of Emperor Makido ruler of the Olympic Empire. He paced his bedchamber, which was all shadows because he had deliberately set the lighting on the lowest level. What he was about to do was not only immoral but extremely dangerous. For the most part he was a cautious and moral man. Nonetheless, his obsession made him throw consequences to the wind.
When the mantle clock chimed twelve times, he went to the door and peered into the hallway. At that hour all was peaceful and silent. The corridor lights were dim. No one was about, not even the android servants. He exchanged his boots for soft soul moccasins and quietly but briskly walked down the long corridor of the royal family residence section of the palace. As he passed the stairway to the lower floors, a military guard snapped to attention and saluted. Ron returned the salute and said quietly, "As you were, Corporal Sonjohn."
The guard went to parade rest. Ron gave him a quick inspection and wished him good evening. He was glad it was Sonjohn on that duty post. He had served under Ron during the war with Stygians and was loyal and discreet. He would not be spreading rumors about the prince's wandering the hallways at that late hour.
After a few more steps he came to the door he wanted and peered around. With hesitation, he slowly turned the knob and eased the door open just enough to slip into the room. He closed the door quietly. The only light came from a dim lamp on a nightstand and the silvery glow from Olympia's two moons streaming in from the balcony doors. The room obviously belonged to a woman. A translucent silk canopy overspread the bed, the window had lacy curtains and heady perfume filled the air.
The room's owner stood on the balcony gazing out into the night. She turned and stepped back through the doors. "Ron?" she whispered.
She was tall with long legs, heavy breasts and shapely hips. The thin as mist gown she wore concealed nothing. A pendant with a dark stone was at her throat. Moonlight reflected on her face emphasized her high cheekbones and full lips.
Seeing her like that, Ron was so overwhelmed with her beauty he had to catch his breath. "Yes."
She wagged her finger at him. "You're a fool to come to my apartment. You know but a single door separates it from the emperor's rooms. You place us both in danger. If Makido caught us, we would be lucky if he only had us mindwiped."
Ron chuckled. "Ever since my father learned of my half-sister Lai's plot to have him assassinated, he hides like a rabbit when the fox is around. He dares not show his face anywhere outside his own apartment without at least a dozen guards around him. Even there, spy cameras watched by security men are in every room except his private water closet. He is watched even when he is with you or one of his concubines. He trusts no one except those his personal security agent -- this George with no family name -- tells him are safe. When was the last time, he entered this room?"
"He has not come here since the end of the war. When he desires me, I must go to his quarters, and as you say, security men watch every move through their spy devices while he attempts the sex act, poor man."
"So, you see. We are as safe here as anywhere else ... that is unless he has installed spy devices in your rooms."
"There are none. I have devices to detect them."
"So you see, there's nothing to worry about."
Ron took her in his arms and kissed her forehead. She tipped her head back, and their lips met. Hers were soft, full and slightly parted. A thrill went through Ron's soul as their tongues touched and her lush breasts pressed against his chest. They stayed in that position for several moments, her perfume sending his mind whirling and his heart pounding.
When they parted to breathe, he gently pressed one earlobe between his teeth. From there he moved down to kiss her shoulder. At the same time, he slipped the straps of her gown off her shoulders and the garment slid down her body to puddle on the floor. As his lips and tongue moved down her breast to one nipple, she loosened his shirt. They parted for a moment while he shrugged off the garment, unzipped his trousers and stepped out of them. He stood back and admired her naked body in the moonlight while she paid him the same honor. His manhood was hard, straight and above average.
He swept her up in his muscular arms as though she were as light as a feather, gently laid her on the bed and crawled in next to her. He kissed her all over again, moving downward to her inner thighs and finally her secret place, the scent of which drove him mad. She sighed and moaned with pleasure. He reared up and mounted her. They moved together in a gentle rhythm until both burst forth in explosive ecstasy.
They kissed and caressed each other gently for a while before they began to converse.
"I love you dearly," she said. "But this cannot continue. The danger is too high. I cannot risk it." She sighed. "Not as long as the emperor is alive, and I am his consort."
"It must continue. I need you, Lydia. My father is a relatively young man. Do you expect me to wait forty years to have you to myself? I refuse to wait that long."
"You selfish damn bastard. I do not wish to have all my memories taken from me for betraying my master. That is what will happen if we are caught, which is inevitable if we continue in this elicit affair."
"There must be a way. Why don't you petition for a writ of divorcement? You don't love the emperor."
She put her hand to his cheek. "Oh, you naive fool. Don't you realize how hard I worked to achieve this position? I'm not about to give it up for a love affair."
This stung Ron as though a dagger had pierced his heart. He scowled at her. "So! Is that what I am to you -- a minor diversion? Now that you're through with me, you wish to toss me away like a used condom."
She set her lips into a pout, a gesture that drove him crazy. He could not deny her anything when she started a sentence with that expression. "No, Ron. I would never throw you away. I do love you. If the emperor would die today, I would be yours forever."
He figured that for a lie, to let him down easy. He gave her a sardonic grin. "Even though you know I could never be emperor? After all, my older half brother, Makido Kan II, would inherit the throne."
"I doubt whether the senate would give it to him. He's an incompetent ass."
"Like your master. The apple falls not far from the tree." He chuckled. "What makes you think the senate would go against father's will? In fact the senate is simply a bunch of old men with no power whatsoever. They simply rubberstamp what the emperor proposes."
"As prime consort, I hear a lot you're probably not aware of. Makido Kan II is disliked intensely by most of the senate. You, on the other hand, are favored."
"You forget I have several older half-siblings who are better liked by father. Second in line of succession is Aon Ao."
"Many do not trust him. Besides, this inheritance according to age is a recent innovation. According to ancient law set up during the time of Emperor Omega, it's the senate that chooses the next emperor. For many generations, a military man was chosen, not necessarily of the same family as the previous emperor, but someone who would expand the empire."
Ron stroked his chin in thought. He realized the senate would never choose the next two half-siblings in line of succession. Bon Bo was a hedonistic playboy and Desdemona was a beautiful ditz. "There is Ahilasha. She has politically savvy. The senate could easily pick her over me."
"Yes. There is that one. I never liked her. She's too much of a schemer. But I have influence too. I would see that she'd never become empress."
"You may not have as much influence as you think, Lydia. There are four other consorts, older now and out of favor, but they are a conniving bunch of bitches. They too have influence and would promote my half-siblings before the senate, each taking the side of their own child. Besides, your own position is precarious. Age a little or put on few pounds and suddenly one of father's two dozen concubines would take your place."
"That could happen," she smiled, "but I have my ways around the emperor. Don't forget, I am also a witch and have psychic powers which I could use to maintain my office."
He grinned. "Is that how you snared me? By witchery?"
She smiled in an enigmatic manner. "I should break the spell now that we must part."
"You are a wicked sorceress." He grabbed and kissed her. They made love again. When they finished, Ron dressed and returned to his own room. His mood was bleak. He realized their whispered good-byes signaled the end. They would no longer be lovers. Lydia would not allow it. If he returned to her room, she would call the guards and accuse him of rape. She would keep her distance from this day forth. They would never again be alone.
As he sat in his room brooding, his thoughts became darker. He could not live without Lydia. Perhaps that was the solution. He should end it all. Without that lovely woman, he saw no future for himself, only bleak endless days. They had said it as a jest, but it was true. She had bewitched him, whether by her psychic power or by her beauty and charm made no difference.
He went to his desk and started to write a farewell note. The right words would not come as he tore up paper after paper scribbling a few words on each. "Bah," he cried. "Why do I need a note? Lydia will know why I did it. I don't give a damn about anyone else." He reached into the drawer and pulled out his blaster. He put the muzzle in his mouth and wondered what it would be like to be dead. The religious, if they believed the official religion, claimed a person's soul went to a place called Hades. What this Hades was like and where it was located, they never said. The worst was that he would still be separated from his love until death took her. However, he did not believe in Hades or the soul. He was an atheist. Actually he had never thought much about religion. He figured death was oblivion. But what if it was not? Would he suffer what he was suffering in some dark and lonely place?
He removed the weapon from his mouth and replaced it in the drawer. There was one hope. She promised to be his forever if the emperor was dead. He should have his father assassinated. It would be easy to hire an assassin. But what if the murder was bungled and the person caught? The villain would point the finger at Ron. He would go through a humiliating circus of a public trial and be mindwiped. Besides, he did not know whether his conscience would allow him to commit such an odious act.
It would be better to murder the emperor himself, then he would not have to worry about any hired assassin betraying him. But did he have the nerve? Would his conscience allow him? And what then? Once Makido was dead, would things play out as Lydia surmised, and he pronounced emperor by the senate? He doubted it. Without becoming emperor, he knew Lydia would not have him. She loved the power she wielded too much.
"A pipe dream," he muttered. He saw a thousand reasons why he would not become emperor if Makido was dead.
His head hurt. He knew he must rest and get his thoughts together before he made the ultimate decision of his life. To live or not to live. To kill or not to kill. He drank several goblets of wine with the hope his sleep would be dreamless.
The imperial bathing room was ostentatious with golden fixtures and hand painted marble tiles imported from a stellar system a hundred light-years distant from Olympus. Imbedded into the bathing pool's walls were shelves filled with bath oils, perfumes, lavender soaps, sweet-smelling shampoos and other bathroom accessories. His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Makido Kan the First, enjoyed a warm bath with five of his concubines. Four of Makido's most loyal and honored guardsmen stood by to keep a sharp eye on the nymphs lest one should try to harm the leader of the Olympian empire.
The steamy perfumed air, warm water and the stroking of the concubines had lulled Makido into a semi-somnolent state. Hence, he was startled when a cold draft blew in as the bathing room door opened. The guardsmen immediately brought their arms to bear on the intruder. They relaxed when they saw who had entered. It was their leader, the head of Imperial Security, a man known only as George. His uniform was tight fitting and unadorned except for the imperial patch on his shoulder. He was short and thin with a small moustache and a stern expression. Makido had never seen him smile.
He marched briskly to the edge of the pool, bowed and said, "Pardon the intrusion, Your Imperial Highness, but we've received a reply from the Stygian Warlord Blacky concerning the Stygian raids on our outlying stellar systems."
"Good. Read it to me." Makido climbed up the shallow stairs leading out of bathing pool. He was followed by his concubines, one of whom took a large luxurious towel from the shelf and patted the emperor dry. Another retrieved his robe and helped him shrug it on. The nymphs proceeded to dry themselves, after which they left the bathing room through the door to the harem quarters.
George watched them with his eyes only, not as a man who lusted after such delightful naked beauties, but with suspicion. He looked at everyone that way. He removed a scroll from his briefcase and unrolled it. "Whoever the interpreter was who wrote this did not have a complete command of the Olympian language. It may sound a bit awkward and ungrammatical."
Makido waved his hand in a gesture of dismissal. "Never mind the grammar. Read it verbatim."
"Greetings to Your Imperial Majesty Makido Kan from Warlord Blacky. I received message regarding raids by warlords of my race. It is sad situation, but not one of my control. Because Warlord Growlgrr has joined ranks of defeated ..."
"What is that supposed to mean?" asked Makido.
"I believe that since Growlgrr's defeat at our hands, he was obligated to do away with himself in a ceremonial manner. The Stygians are a warrior race with harsh customs. A warlord who goes down to defeat has suffered the worst possible shame. They have a motto, 'Death before defeat.' May I continue?"
"Because Warlord Growlgrr has joined ranks of defeated, no warlord be chosen as Grand Warlord. All do as please. I wish to discuss situation and other matters with Your Imperial Highness. Thus, I propose a snout-to-snout meeting with you at your convenience. I will travel to Olympia for this purpose. Regards, Warlord Blacky."
Makido laughed. "So Blacky wants a snout to snout chat, huh. Very well, send a message back saying that I wish to meet with him at the earliest opportunity and that he is welcome here in Olympia. Ask for an estimated date of arrival so that we may arrange for his visit."
George bowed again. "Shall I also see to those arrangements?"
"Yes. I want to give him a grand reception with a motorcade down Empire Boulevard. Extra heavy security must be provided for, not only myself, but for our guest."
"All shall be done according to your will, Your Imperial Highness."
George bowed, made an about face and strode swiftly out the door.
To Makido's surprise, he received a reply in a little over two weeks. With the enormous distance between Blacky's home planet and Olympia, he had not expected to receive one for months. He asked George, "How could he answer so quickly? I thought it would take almost three months just for our message to reach him by our fastest courier starships."
"The messages did not go on one of our starships, but on the Stygian ship that brought Warlord Blacky's original message. Apparently, one aspect of technology in which they are superior to us is FLT engineering."
"I see. We must initiate a crash program to catch up to them. We cannot allow barbarians to be ahead of us in any technology, especially in one as important as starship design. What's wrong with our scientists and engineers that they have not yet come up with faster starships?"
George shrugged. "You're absolutely right, Your Majesty. Perhaps it's our good fortune that the Stygians are at present leaderless. With such speedy starships, they would not be defeated as handily as in the late war with them."
Makido rubbed his chin. "Perhaps a trade of technologies might be in order."
"I agree. The subject could be broached with Blacky, but, My Liege, be cautious. We don't want to hand them our own secret technologies, such as the starbuster."
The emperor sighed. "The starbuster may be lost to us. Doctor Erodemous, its inventor, disappeared during war."
"We must find him. I will send one of my best agents to snoop around."
"Another project that I would like you to initiate is further exploration of the galaxy. If we can obtain faster starships either from the Stygians or inventing our own, we should expand our territory. As it stands, all we know the galaxy is a portion of the Orion arm and a little bit of the Perseus arm. We know next to nothing about the other arms or the central bulge. Suppose other enemy alien races exist with technologies close to our own, or empire forbid, even more advanced technologies."
George bowed. "I will see that more funds are allocated for exploration. Is there anything else that I can do for you, Your Imperial Majesty?"
"Only the usual, security, security, security. I want to know of any disloyalty or secret meetings or anything else that might jeopardize my safety."
"There is one thing. It has been rumored that your chief consort, Lydia, has taken a lover."
"That does not surprise me. I never trusted that woman. Who is he?"
"We have not determined that yet."
Makido scowled. "Don't move against her until you find out. For that sort of disloyalty, mindwiping is too good. I will think of a crueler punishment for her and her lover."
"As you wish."
It was a bright sunny day in Imperial City when Warlord Blacky and his entourage landed at the main spaceport. A convoy of black limousines waited at the edge of the landing area. Further back were stands for the press, key members of the Senate and the Stellar Council and other VIPs and dignitaries. The shuttles roared out of the sky in single file and came in for perfect landings. Several limousines sped out to the lead spaceship. Dignitaries and security agents piled out and formed a receiving line. First was the emperor himself, surrounded by four uniformed armed guards. George stood directly behind him. The rest of the line consisted of Consort Lydia, Prince Makido Kan II, Prince Aon Ao Kan, Prince Bon Bo Kan (looking bored), Princess Desdomia, Princess Abilasha, Prince Ron Bo Kan, Minister Lee Laslo (Makido's chief of staff), Pontiff O'Reilly (head of the Olympian Church of All Gods and Goddesses) and Minister of Defense Fleet Admiral Heathcote.
After a few minutes the shuttle door opened, the portable stairway slid out. Warlord Blacky and his entourage descended. They wore breathing masks attached to small backpacks.
Aon Ao whispered to Bon Bo, "I thought they were oxygen breathers. Why are they wearing masks?"
"They dislike the odor of human beings."
"What nerve! They're animals themselves."
When Blacky came abreast of Makido at a distance of three feet -- he would come no closer -- the emperor said, "Welcome to Olympia, Warlord Blacky."
Blacky's interpreter, Archimedes, a humanoid android, growled, roared and hissed. Blacky bowed and roared, hissed and growled in return. Archimedes said, "Warlord Blacky thanks you for your warm welcome, Your Majesty. He looks forward to a meaty discussion."
Blacky presented his chief consort, Warlady She-Claws. She-Claws was almost as tall as Blacky and muscular. She wore the traditional warlady uniform, metal breastcups, bandoliers, a short skirt, military cap and high boots. The metals of honor that she had won while she commanded a Starfleet were strung together to form a necklace on a silver loop. She said a few words of greeting in Stygian, which Archimedes interpreted.
The couple moved down the receiving line in this manner. Makido and Lydia followed. Behind them were Makido's guards and security people, and Blacky's and She-Claws' staffs.
After these had passed by Aon Ao, he whispered to Bon Bo again. "This Warlord Blacky must be very trusting of us. He allows our people to get between him and his guards."
Bon Bo chuckled. "He relies on his consort, She-Claws. I have heard that she's tough as nails and a champion at martial arts. She could rip you to shreds with one blow from those sheathed claws of hers. Also, the interpreter, Archimedes, provides additional protection. He's an android. It's a well-known fact that androids have the strength of ten men."
Blacky, She-Claws, Makido, Lydia, Archimedes and George entered the first limousine. George sat up front with the driver. Everyone else entered the other limos according to rank. With sirens blaring, the convoy left the spaceport and headed into the city. Crowds lined the road to catch a glimpse of the alien leader and the emperor. They cheered and waved flags as the limos passed.
When the limousines halted before the palace, a band played "Hail to the Emperor" and "Ode to War." ("Ode to War" was Warlord Blacky's theme song.) The emperor, the warlord and their parties strolled up the stairs to the main entrance of the palace on a golden carpet. Trumpets blared as they entered the enormous double doors. Once inside there were more ceremonies, speeches and photo ops. Afterward, the alien visitors were shown to their rooms.
That evening there was a lavish banquet followed by a ball. During the dancing, the warlord and his mistress sat on the sidelines watching with interest. Moving one's body in time to music was something the Stygians never did or even thought of doing. It was not part of their culture. When the festivities ended, Makido and Blacky agreed on a time to meet the following day. They wished each other a goodnight's sleep and retired to their quarters.
Before Lydia returned to her apartment, she said to Makido, "What beasts these Stygians are. Now that they're leaderless, they should be easily conquered. Are you going to move against them soon?"
"Not too quickly. I want to see what sort of proposals this Blacky is going to come up. Perhaps we can lull the Stygians with diplomacy before we strike. They have a couple of technology advantages that we must overcome first."
Lydia's eyebrows went up. "Technology advantages? What could they be?"
"Faster starships and more advanced artificial intelligence. Goodnight, Lydia."
She stroked Makido's cheek. "Perhaps you would like me to come to your rooms tonight?"
He eyed her suspiciously, but it was an invitation that was difficult to refuse. He looked her over. She had a body to die for. He smiled at her. "Yes. It's been a long day. I could use the sort of diversion you offer."
She took his arm as they strolled down the corridor.
The next day George called Captain Shane into his office. The officer walked briskly to a spot two feet from the chief advisor's desk, came smartly to attention and saluted. Shane was a tall handsome man with a thin moustache. Formerly he had been Princess Lai's lover. Because the Stygian warlord Blacky had killed her, he hated Stygians with a passion. Should the opportunity arise, he would seek revenge on the warlord. George was aware of the captain's dark thoughts and figured to use them to motivate the man.
"At ease, Captain. Please take a seat." Shane pulled up one of the cushioned guest chairs. "I called you in here because of your exemplary service record and excellent grades in the Olympic Armed Forces Academy. You have served the empire well and are well regarded by your superiors. I see also that you have a special commendation from the late Princess Lai."
"Thank you, sir."
"You have also been involved in intelligence work from time to time. Correct?"
"Yes, sir. It's all in my record which you must have read before you requested this meeting."
George smiled sardonically. "Very well. I may as well get down to the business at hand. I need someone for a special mission that will require much travel time and skills in intelligence work. Do you believe you can handle such an assignment?"
"Absolutely, sir. Since I'm not involved in any relationship at the present time, I'm quite free from any encumbrances, either financial or personal. As you noted, I'm experienced in espionage. Does the assignment have anything to do with the Stygians?" He leaned forward eagerly.
"Not directly. But if we ever go to war with them again, what I am sending you to obtain could be decisive."
Shane leaned back in the chair, disappointment in his expression. "I'm sure that someday it will come to that with those beasts. I'm at your service. Tell me what you want me to do."
"First I need you to swear by whatever you regard most sacred not to reveal to anyone except me the results of your mission, at the end of which I'll require a written report. Only one copy must be made on a special personal assistant device which you will hand over to me in person after the mission is complete. Everything about this mission must be regarded as top secret."
Shane nodded. "I swear by my honor as an officer and a gentleman. Nothing about this mission will ever be revealed to anyone other than you, not even under torture."
George handed Shane a pill. "If you are captured or kidnapped and you believe you may be interrogated, you're to swallow this."
"A suicide pill?"
"Yes. Are you still willing to proceed? And agree to take it if circumstances require?"
"Yes, sir. I'm an officer in the emperor's service. I took an oath to defend the empire with my life."
"Good. Before the war with the Stygians, a physicist by the name of Erodemous invented a device that could destroy an entire stellar system."
Shane's eyes went wide, and he grinned. "Wow. Use something like that on a few of those Stygian warlords' home system, and they'd know who rules the galaxy."
"A test of the device was performed but only once. Thus, we know that it works. We also know that Stygian spies were after the starbuster as it is called. However, in the chaos of the war, we lost track of Erodemous, the weapon and his plans and notes. I need you to find out what happened to him and his work."
"I see. What information can you give me?"
"Only that he had laboratories on Avalon in the Beta Cephei system and Africa in the Betelgeuse system. From what I can piece together of the notes given to me by the director of the OIS, Richard Rumsley, he sent an agent by the name of George Wiskopf to Avalon to meet with Erodemous. Wiskopf took along a scientist by the name of Zweistein. None of them returned. Their whereabouts are unknown. That's the essential story. I will include a file in the PAD I give you. I will arrange for you to travel to Avalon as a tourist. Your cover will be a marketing vice president named Jacob Jackson."
Shane looked puzzled. "I thought Avalon was a quarantined planet. Only persons wishing to apply for citizenship and certain social scientist and anthropologists were allowed on the planet."
"Lately, they have allowed a small number of tourists who wish to experience the medieval society and who can afford the high cost. Of course these tourists are given the proper garments, learn to speak as the natives and not take any modern devices. One of the highlights of this medieval trip is a dragon hunt. You will be required to participate in the dragon hunt."
Shane raised his eyebrows. "A dragon hunt? Are you telling me that there are such creatures on Avalon?"
"They were especially genetically engineered for the planet. How soon can you leave?"
"I'm ready now. I can study the info from the OIS on the starflight."
"Good. I'll have everything you need including a passport, credit cards and so forth for your new identity in a couple days. I'll book you on the next dragon slaying tour immediately." He hooked his own PAD into the planetwide web. He spoke a few words into the device. "There. Jake Jackson is booked on a tour leaving next Friday."
"What about a medieval costume?"
"That is supplied by the tour company. While aboard the starship, you will learn the native way of speaking and given orientation about Avalon society."
After Shane left, George had another visitor, a female Stygian, exceptionally beautiful in the eyes of Stygian males, with a bright orange main, wide yellow eyes and a fierce mouth. Currently she was a guard in Warlord Blacky's retinue, a position she resented since she had been passed over for promotion several times. By taking advantage of her discontent, George had given her a considerable bribe to act as a spy for the empire. From her, he learned of Blacky's ambitious plan to use the aid of the Olympian empire to become lord over his fellow Stygian warlords.