Daughter of Doom [Cosmic Reckoning Book 2]
Click on image to enlarge.
by Hal Annas
Category: Science Fiction/Romance
Description: An Interstellar Bodice-Ripper! Aleta, a woman who witnesses the horrors of interstellar warfare swears an oath. "I will eradicate the disease of war from the minds of men!" Now it's her daughter's turn to pay the price of fulfilling that oath by mating with a strange, half-metallic man from the future, though her heart belongs to another. Aline, red-haired daughter of blond Aleta, has been raised in her father's castle, on a peaceful world, but soon she will be swept up as a prisoner into an all-out battle between Earth and its colonies. What Aline doesn't know is that she is part of a pattern long prophesied by star witches that includes her mother and herself: "The yellow star is a woman, tall, stately, fair, a queen. Men have died because of her, and because of her the galaxy will be divided. "The red star is a girl, slender, sensitive, auburn of hair, blue of eyes. From another era she will coax life and weapons of unlimited power. She will cast her lot with that of a man accepted as a god, whose power is greater than an armada. She will bring peace, but it is only a lull..." In the second volume of the Cosmic Reckoning trilogy you will meet: Aleta, formerly of Earth, now kidnapped by her native world and brought back to be tried for treason; Rahn Buskner, the Novakkan giant who captured Aleta, and then won her heart; and who has sworn to save or avenge her though he must destroy a galaxy to do it; Moxol. son of Aleta and Rahn, whose unrelenting war on those who hold his mother captive soon earns him the name, Moxol the Murderer; and Aline, daughter of Aleta and Nyuk, neither Earthling nor Novakkan, torn between her desire to aid in saving her mother and the overpowering need to return to the mysterious world of the Eg, where she was conceived, and solve the mystery of the strange powers she and her mother possess. Her fate is the strangest love of all time.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: June 2005
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [120 KB]
Reading time: 76-107 min.
"The yellow star is a woman, tall, stately, fair, a queen. Men have died because of her, and because of her the galaxy will be divided. At the head of an armada stretching from star to star Moxol the Muderer will prevail. (See Woman from Eternity.)
"The red star is a girl, slender, sensitive, auburn of hair, blue of eyes. From another era she will coax life and weapons of unlimited power. She will cost her lot with that of a man accepted as a god, whose power is greater than an armada. She will bring peace, but it is only a lull ... for there is yet the dark star. (See Daughter of Doom.)
"The dark star is the spirit of life and mystery in a dark sultry girl, soon to become a woman of bewitching charm and power to move men. Her net is spread over Moxol the Murderer, and the spell that she will cost will unleash the furies of hell. It will be she who opens the gate to another era and all the terrors of mortal and immortal creation from infinity to infinity. (See Witch of the Dark Star.) * * * * CHAPTER ONE
ALINE was seventeen when the SYZ patrol ship come down on Unor just outside the Environs du David. Half the compartments were sealed and what was left of its crew were more dead than alive.
There was no mistaking what had happened. Photonic blasts had raked it from nose to tubes.
Those of the crew who could talk told a wild story of a running fight with raiders which began just inside the spacelane and continued outward for weeks.
The word echoed all around Aline, made her slender body quiver.
The only father she had ever known was a raider. Rahn Buskner. He was not her real father. At puberty, when she learned the role her sex played in life, she had listened to her mother tell of a handsome red-bearded prince who had ruled a planet between two far-off suns. The story held her interest, and as it was elaborated she grasped why she differed so from her half-brother Moxol.
From as far back as she could remember the bulking green-tinged Novakkan, Rahn Buskner, had preferred Moxol, but had treated her kindly and brought her wonderful gifts from far corners of the galaxy.
He had built the big rambling fortress-like Castle du David where she and Moxol had grown up. Her mother, Aleta, had named the castle for a kinsman in the Solar System, and reigned virtually as a queen.
Rahn Buskner was the only father she knew. And Moxol was her brother. They were both in space, had been gone longer than usual. They might have encountered the SYZ patrol.
The injured being brought out of the patrol ship and placed on the rolling lawns of du David were, she knew, implacable enemies of Rahn Buskner.
Doctors came from surrounding villages, and as Aline, following the example set by her tall, stately, blonde mother, helped with the ministering, she was compelled to listen to tales of the weeks of fighting repeated over and over.
The dread thought came: "If it was so terrible, what must've happened to Rahn Buskner and Moxol?"
Then she became aware of a growing fear among the golden-skinned Unorian servants. The raiders brought wealth to the planet. The natives knew the iron rule of Rahn Buskner and feared to aid his enemies.
But for Aleta, Aline knew, the Unorians would let the injured die.
And then, as she steadied a half-smiling young Earthman while the burns in his back and side were cleansed, she turned away from his humorous dark eyes and looked at her mother.
Her mother's hands were trembling.
Long ago she had got the impression that nothing short of a holocaust could disturb Aleta. She had taken it calmly when Moxol first went to space with his father, at the age of twelve. After the ships had vanished Aline heard something like sobbing, but found her mother dry-eyed.
The Unorians often got excited, but not Aleta.
It was minutes before Aline understood what was happening. As she watched, she saw a Unorian doctor slink out of sight behind shrubbery. Even then it wasn't clear. Not until darkness came did she realize that none but the oldest family servants were still on the ground.
More than two hundred injured were sprawled on the lawns. Many of them would die. And still inside the ship, in sealed compartments, were dead that should be brought out and buried.
Aleta, she noticed, was hurrying in something like desperation. The full import had not yet dawned. She wanted a word with Aleta to make it clear, but couldn't pause at the moment when dying men were begging for water.
The walking cases helped, but most were so exhausted they could hardly move. It seemed impossible that they had been able to keep their ship under sufficient control to bring it down without crashing.
After midnight Aleta called, "You must rest."
"But there's so much to be done," Aline said. "We can't leave these men to die."
A tall Earthman, with a broken arm and minor burns, touched her shoulder. "You're an angel," he said. "No one could've done more. Don't exhaust yourself. We'll need you again after you've rested."
She had a brief word with her mother. "I can understand why the Unorians should be afraid," she whispered, "but not enough to go off and leave men to die."
"Aline," Aleta said, voice unsteady, "I'd hoped you'd never see the things I've seen. Try to understand about Earthmen and Novakkans. If your father's ships come down while these men are here..."
She left the sentence hanging, went on working, and it was sometime before the full meaning dawned.
Far back in the dim past a single planet in the Lexn System had been set aside for Earth's exiles. Some properties in the planet caused the exiles to grow to gigantic proportions, seven and eight feet tall. Their skin took on a greenish tinge; their hair became white, their eyes ruby red. Their strength and recklessness and enterprise increased with their bulk, and they took over the entire system and called it Novakka.
A new language grew, a mixture of all languages.
Warlike, intractable, they turned their energies outward, and for centuries had plundered the spaceways and planets.
The SYZ System was colonized by Earthmen. A score of years in the past, Earth reckoning, the colonies and Earth had fought a terrible war. The Novakkans took advantage of it to increase their raiding. They became known as the scourge of the universe.
Earth and the colonies settled their differences in order to deal with the Novakkans. They had never completed that task, but had hammered the Lexn System so hard and long, that the raiders scattered to outlying systems.
Into this ferment Aline and Moxol had been born. Their mother, Aleta, was an Earthwoman captured by Novakkans. Rahn Buskner had held her against rivals and efforts of the Earth fleet to rescue her.
But Aline had been conceived earlier. She had heard vague stories of her father. Where he originated, and exactly what blood flowed in her veins comprised a mystery that kept her restless and discontent. She meant one day to unravel it.
As she thought of these things, she got a clearer insight into the fear that had come to Unor. She even understood some of the things her mother had sought so hard to keep from her.
And, mentally, she rebelled.
It didn't seem right for ancient hatreds to be carried on down through the ages, to pass from generation to generation. It didn't seem right for Novakkans and Earthmen to fight constantly.
There was nothing so horrible about the clean-limbed young man: beyond her window, sprawled on the lawn, gazing up at the stars. Their skin was of fine texture and pale like hers, like her mother's. They were little taller than she, soft-spoken, considerate, graceful in their movements.
And they were brave.
They had to be to face Novakkans such as Rahn Buskner, who had coursed the galaxy from end to end and fought every type of living creature that would give battle.
She couldn't sleep. Stars were bright and the purple lawns rolled away to the velvet horizon. The scent of the night, the shadows, the whispering breeze evoked fancies. She slipped out of bed and climbed the circular stairs to the tower.
Faint murmurings from the injured still reached her, but she closed her ears and studied the heavens. It took a moment to find the star she wanted, for it was remote. It took still longer to find the faint red spark beside it. But her mother had shown her.
The bright yellow star and the red dwarf gave life to the Eg System. It was unique. Not even Rahn Buskner had ever spoken of another system with two suns. Seven planets revolved around a dead star and drew warmth from a star on either side of their orbits.
Her mother had speculated that some special quality could be found in the Eg System. She had even experienced something there that led her to believe the planets were sentient. The part that was difficult to believe was that it had occurred inside solid substance.
Aline could not doubt her mother. The two of them had something in common, lacking to others. It was a sensitivity to the mood of surroundings, and she believed it was more highly developed in her than her mother. At times, it seemed, she could tell what people were thinking, how they felt, and what they would do in given circumstances.
She stood as if hypnotized, trying to picture her father, and wondering if she was different from all other life in this galaxy.
Her slender body suddenly grew rigid. The soft night breeze pressed her translucent weblike sleeping garment close against her flesh, outlining each seductive curve and hollow. Starlight painted her cheeks amber and turned her auburn hair to spun copper.
A tremor ran through her.
Controlling herself by force of will, she turned slowly, lifted a slender hand to her mouth.
It was the tall Earthman with the broken arm. Starlight fell full on his features. They were strong, even, marked by strain and suffering. His nostrils were distended, breathing deep. His dark eves were photographing every line and rill of her features and figure.
"I'm sorry," he said, voice deep. "I came up here to get a glimpse of the countryside by night." He gestured. "It reminds me of Earth. I was born there."
Cheeks flushed, Aline was acutely conscious of her sleeping garment. She moved to go by him.
"Please," he said, closing his one good hand on her arm. "I've been in space for months. You can't imagine how hungry we get just to see a woman, to hear a feminine voice."
He was wrong. She knew exactly how he felt. She had felt that way more or less all her life. At times, it seemed she was living among aliens. She felt sorry for him. She had never been more deeply moved to comfort anyone. She had never wanted more to listen to a deep, soft-toned voice.
Moving into the shadow, she lowered herself to a cushioned seat. He sat beside her. He talked of Delos in the SYZ System, with its cobalt hills and frequent visits by comets. He talked of Earth with its vast industries, and robot machines which functioned as servants. He told how it was ringed with space stations which served as forts, talked on of its commerce with nearby planets, with the Eg System, and how it was reaching out to colonize innumerable systems toward Andromeda.
Suddenly, she discovered she was talking, pressing close against him, telling of her dreams, of her loneliness, her hope someday to find her own father's people, others like her, others who could understand, who could share thoughts and dreams with her on that planet, or planets, that had sentient life.
His arm came about her, held her close and warm. The gentle breeze stirred her hair. Faint starlight filtered down just beyond the shadow. Her white garment looked like mist; she could feel the warmth from his hard muscular body through it.
His voice was husky. "You don't belong out here. You should be on Earth or Delos where your beauty would be appreciated.
He drew her closer. She made no resistance, and when his lips came down on hers it was as if she had suddenly come alive.
He lifted her to her feet. "I've got to think this out," he said. "Someway, I have to figure out how to take you back with me." * * * * CHAPTER TWO
THE day was very bright. She hardly slept, but never felt better. Her shoulders still tingled where he had held her, her body still glowed with the warmth that had grown between them.
He had told her things she'd never heard before. He had made her see through his eyes, and suddenly she had known that she had come to a crucial point in her life and nothing would ever again be the same.
His name was Chris Darby, and his parents and other kin still lived on Earth. He had gone to the SYZ System at eighteen and enlisted in the patrol because of the high pay. He was twenty-two and had spent most of three years in space.
As he talked, she shared every moment with him, suddenly found herself feeling toward his kin exactly as he did, disliking ship officers he disliked, admiring the commander he admired.
It was a wholly new experience, and as she went on helping the injured, she wondered how she would get the news to her mother and whether she would take it as calmly as she had taken Moxol's first venture into space. For she was going back with him, if not on the patrol ship, then with him when he returned for her.
Her mother slept late. When she finally rose she summoned the commander. What transpired during their talk remained a mystery, but Aline noticed that the tempo of setting the dead out of the ship increased. They were buried in shallow graves, and engineers worked feverishly to make repairs on the ship.
The day passed serenely enough for her, but the fear that had come to the planet remained. She couldn't smother it entirely, and it increased when some of the officers rounded up Unorians and compelled them to work under the muzzles of ray guns.
That was when her mother sent a message of caution to the commander. She heard the words herself: "Have your officers exercise extreme care. Should they harm a Unorian, your entire crew will be in danger of Novakkan vengeance."
Aline had heard the expression. It had never stirred her deeply, but her mother could hardly utter the words without going pale.
Whether the commander regarded the warning seriously was another question, but it was certain he drove his own men to the breaking point. He sent them out to forage for fresh food, for materials that were needed, for herbs and minerals for medicinal uses. and he took what he wanted from the villages and offered in payment only Earth notes and SYZ script, both worthless out here.
Her mother, Aline knew, kept a close watch on the planetary visual when she was inside the castle. Helping with the injured, she glanced up frequently and sometimes studied the sky for long minutes. The ship's officers did the same, and reports from the ship's instrument room were made to the commander, wherever he was, at regular intervals.
There was feverish haste on every hand.
Aline was aware of it, but she moved in a sort of glow, an aura of well being, that denied that anything in the universe could go wrong. She was looking forward to the evening, then the hour came.
The night was like silvery magic. It was filled with dreams and stardust. She had never been closer to any man, never understood one better, never found herself so perfectly in accord with any other. She had found the solitary one for whom she could make any sacrifice, for whom she could give up home, and even the dream of going in search of her own father's people.
With her head on his shoulder, his uninjured arm about her, they were sitting quietly on the cushioned seat in the tower, talking softly of things as far removed from fear and danger as the remotest star, when the ship's audio sounded "All hands".
He rose as if stabbed, tightened his belt, loosened his ray gun. For a moment she thought he was going to plunge down the steps without a word, but he turned back, drew her to him one more time, then was gone.
As she followed down the stairs more slowly and paused in the vast high-ceilinged hall she heard a faint cry from the music room. It was unmistakably the voice of her mother, and it meant someone had gone in and left the door open.
She hurried to the room, halted in the doorway. The acoustics amplified each sound and the voices were loud and threatening: "Give your word you will not send out a warning, and we will release you."
Ringed by seven men, three of them officers, her mother stood in indignant silence. Her hands and shoulders trembled; her features expressed anguish, anxiety.
Beyond her, the visual brought in a clear picture from space. On it was a ship drifting in without power. The markings were not clear enough for reading, but Aline had no doubt it was one of Rahn Buskner's.
One of the officers stepped to the wall, drew the drapes, and pressed a stud. As it was intended to do on bright days, the polarity of the crystal changed and became transparent. Beyond were the lawns where the injured had lain, and beyond them, the SYZ patrol ship. Lawns and men and ship out there were bathed in soft starlight.
One man stood staring at the castle, awaiting a signal. Others were hastily moving about the ship, crowding through its airlocks.
"What," Aline's mother demanded heatedly, "are you going to do?"
"If you will send that ship away..." The officer never finished the sentence. A second ship appeared on the visual, a tiny dot. It was using power which meant it was far out. It may have appeared larger on the ship's instruments. The makings may even have been clear.
At any rate, at that moment, a great ball of light leaped away from the grounded SYZ ship.
Aleta screamed. Aline likewise.
"Fools!" Aleta stormed. "You can't fight Novakkans with a crippled ship."
But the damage had been done. As they watched they saw the ball of light shrink to a pinpoint, then burst. The first ship seemed to vanish. The other went into full power. At thirty degrees, it had already begun maneuvering before the explosion had reached its full extent.
As the screen cleared, they saw that the first ship had broken in half. It suffered a direct hit. The other was plummeting toward the horizon.
Again a ball of light leaped outward. They watched it shrink and vanish. The ship dropped below the horizon and was lost to view.
Other dots appeared on the screen, quickly vanished.
The officers looked at one another. "What now?" one said.
A grey-bearded man said, "I think we have sealed our doom."
The others prodded him for more information.
"We're sitting," he went on. "The Novakkans use what they call the Infinio Curl for sitting ships. They caught us on Syber when we outnumbered them ten to one, and not a ship got off. They drop below the horizon, go completely around the planet, calculate the range and zero in all their batteries. Then they bob above the horizon just long enough to empty everything they've got, and down again. They repeat it over and over, swinging back and forth underneath the planet."
"I warned you," Aleta said.
But what troubled Aline was not the strategy of the Infinio Curl. In those last seconds, before the explosion, her sharp young eyes had seen something the others may have missed. She was almost certain the markings on the ship that had broken in two were those that Moxol wore on his armor.
For a moment her blue eyes filled with mist, then she put the thought aside and clutched at her mother's arm.
"We must do something," she said. "We mustn't let Rahn Buskner kill these men."
The three officers repeated the dread name with something like awe in their voices. They looked from one to another. They studied Aline and Aleta. One pointed significantly.
"That must be the notorious Winrow girl," he said. "Wanted on Earth for treason. She vanished eighteen years ago."
Aleta's scorn was bitter.
"And this could be her daughter. She was with child at the time."
Aline shrank bark, confused emotions torturing her.
"It all ties in," another said. "Rahn Buskner. Aleta Winrow. So we've finally found their hideout. This may solve our problem. Hostages."
The thought failed to move Aline other than to a sense of outrage. But it was apparent Aleta was frightened.
"Do you realize," Aleta said earnestly, "Rahn Buskner would burn the surface of this planet, and us with it, rather than let you take us?"
"She's right," the greybeard said. "You youngsters haven't fought Novakkans as long as I. We were fools to fire on their ships. More fools to think of molesting their women. We might have got off with ransoms."
The officer in command lifted his chin. "We represent Earth and its colonies," he said. "The whole Earth fleet is behind us. If we allow Novakkans to dominate our actions, we are no better than this traitor." He pointed at Aleta.
"Having the Earth fleet behind us," the graybeard reminded him, "didn't keep our forces from being cut in two in the space lane. And may I repeat that we're sitting, and enemy ships are going into the Infinio Curl. We'd better strike our flag and talk terms if we can get them."
"This is a matter for the commanding officer. Take these women out to the ship."
Aline and her mother were herded out to the ship. She didn't see Chris Darby, but saw men working frantically, clearing out debris and making preparations for launching. They waited in the corridor until the commander admitted them to the chartroom.
He listened patiently to the officers, then said, "The idea of taking hostages is unthinkable. We are civilized men, not barbarians. But if there is sufficient evidence to indicate the older woman is, or has been a traitor, our course is clear. We must deliver her to proper authorities."
The greybeard stepped forward impatiently. "If we scatter across the countryside," he said, "some of us may live. We don't have much time."
"He's alluding to a typical Novakkan maneuver," another explained. "He expects the Novakkan ships to bob above the horizon with all guns blazing."
The intercom crackled to life: "Ships just out of range on three sides. Appear to be reconnoitering. Our instruments indicate they are heavily armed with both atomics and pbotonics. The debris of the ship we hit is still falling. Two lifeships put out from it. Engineers report will be ready for launching within the hour."
"Stand by," the commander ordered, then: "Check the files and if this woman is a traitor, detain her. Remove the other one. Clear for action."