Exile - The Kan Ingan Archives: Book Two
Click on image to enlarge.
by Toni V. Sweeney
Category: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Description: What do you do if you're guilty of a crime, but not the one for which you've been convicted? Aric kan Ingan is a Non-Person, an Exile, stripped of title and citizenship for treason against the Arcanian Empire, a crime of which he is innocent. Caught in the intrigues of a secret society determined to overthrow his uncle's rule, Aric is accused and arrested, then compelled to watch the evidence saving him destroyed when the rebels threaten to reveal his affair with his uncle's Terran wife. Under a sentence of Civil Death, he wanders a lonely decade while his uncle withholds clemency, until at last, destitute and addicted to the two most powerful substances in the Galaxy, he enlists as a guard for a Terran mining colony. There, he meets Susan Moran, TerraFormation's company doctor, a beautiful woman with secrets of her own, and Miles Sheffield, his former mistress's younger brother, a brash young Terran eventually becoming Aric's best friend. Now and in years to come, these two will be a special part of Aric's life, forging a destiny affecting the future of an entire planet.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, 2012 Double Dragon Publishing
eBookwise Release Date: April 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [481 KB]
Reading time: 293-410 min.
* * * *
The most popular and profitable Recreation Planet in the Emeraunt Galaxy. Not a large planet. Small, in fact, compared to Arcanis or Andvari or any of the other worlds in the Lesser Galenic System, but a great place to visit.
Fifty billion tourists a year will tell you so.
Syriakis has the usual resorts, entertaining but very ordinary. Its main attraction and one claim to fame is Border Town, a strip of land only ten kilometers long and a quarter as wide, comprised of cafes, nightclubs, and a single Pleasure Dome built in the classic Arcanian style, separating the Business District of the city of Scylla from the Thieves' Quadrant.
The Unwritten Law: Lawbreakers leaving the Thieves' Quadrant can expect to be caught; Lawkeepers going into the Quad can expect to be killed...but Border Town is a neutrality, a Never-Never Land where Law and Disorder meet and pass without seeing.
There, the rich and the want-to-be-rich rub elbows with equanimity. Wallets are lifted with impunity. The tourists go there in eager panting herds, practically begging to be robbed, by the barkeeps, by the cutpurses, and if a necklace disappears or a purse is stolen... It's something to brag about to the neighbors back home: It was taken, right from under our noses! My dear, the place is lawless, utterly lawless. You simply must go there.
Yes, the streets of Border Town are truly paved with diamontium.
Because of its tales of boundless opportunity and wealth, there were others who came to Scylla, among them two members of the universe's oldest and most underpaid profession, and also an Exile, weary from ten years of wandering.
The Non-Person had no other place to go; the two young socializers had the Galaxy before them. They had worked a mining camp on Becker's Planet, where the sand stretched for miles, broken only by the gaping mouths of the mine entrances. They'd signed for six months as part of a Pleasure Herd, but there were too many women and not enough work.
Boredom set in.
The whore wrangler was only too glad to let them go. He needed to thin the herd, anyway, so it saved having to fire them. He paid them their wages (three months severance as per Union contract) and sent them out on the next ship, which just happened to be going to Syriakis.
They had been in Scylla three hours, were registered at the Board of Professions, had gotten their licenses and health cards, and were now standing on the busiest corner of Border Town, only a few yards away from the cobbled steps leading downward to the entrance to Thieves' Quad. The younger of the two, a plump, petite creature with the ice-blue hair of an Abydian, was staring with mouth agape, at the throngs of beings rushing past in an ever-flowing stream of shapes and colors, while her companion attempted to dodge those same fast-moving bodies.
"Shut your mouth, Sweetie," she called in a high-pitched nasal voice. "Before a buzzer flies into it."
The girl obeyed, only to open it again to ask, "Where are all those pickups? I thought you said they'd be falling all over us."
"Don't worry, they will. We just haven't got to the right spot yet. Now, according to this map..." She pressed the button on the side of the tiny map-card the Board had supplied, studying the miniature grid of Border Town appearing on its screen. "The cafes are the places to go. That's where the rich boys go slumming." The screen went dark, and she dropped the card into her purse and seized the other girl by the arm. "Come on."
"All right." Sweetie turned to take one last look behind her. "But I still don't see--"
What she didn't see was the man coming toward her, and the rest of her words were lost in the impact of her body against his. She was knocked off her feet, head rebounding to press her face into the chest of his tunic. Strong hands cupped her elbows, setting her upright again, and she found herself regarding that chest--broad, covered in rough fabric--then looking up until she was staring into the oddest eyes she had ever seen, smoky amber-gold, and unblinking. Sensing a prospective customer, she produced a simpering, guileless smile learned after hours of practice in front of a mirror. Men, she found, thought it irresistible.
"I'm sorry to have been so clumsy, but I..." Under the solemn steadiness of his gaze, she faltered. "M-my name's Sweetie. W-we're new here, you see, and I-I was confused by all the people..."
He half-turned away, and fearing he was about to leave, she caught his arm. It was scarred but muscular, half covered by a fold of his cloak, a band of raw-edged leather wrapped tightly around his wrist. He looked back at her.
She released him. "I... W-would you like to take my friend and me to a cafe, f-for a drink?" She could see her companion grimace at the crudeness of her delivery. Oh, if only I could be more professional about it! "A-and perhaps some...a-a little...fun...afterward?"
He still didn't speak, and she wondered if he understood. She was speaking in caravansi, the common language of the Galaxy. Everyone speaks caravansi. Don't they?
During their collision, his staff was dropped, and now he bent to retrieve it. As he did so, his hair, tied back in a long braid, fell over one shoulder. The girl stared, suddenly wishing her own hair could be such a wonderful color. One hand reached out to touch its brightness, then jerked back as he straightened to tower over her again. He still hadn't spoken.
"I-I suppose..." She stopped as he lifted her hand. It nearly disappeared inside his massive one as he pressed his lips against her palm, then released it, shook his head, and walked away. The girl stared after him, fingers curled over her palm as if protecting the kiss he'd placed there.
"Come on, let's go!" Her friend tugged at her arm. "The cafes'll be filled. I should've told you you'd be wasting your time with that one."
"Why didn't you, then?"
"I dunno. Wanted to see how you'd do, I guess. Thought you might get lucky."
Sweetie shook off her hand. "Why was I wasting my time?"
"He's an Exile, stupid! Couldn't you tell that?" At her friend's blank stare, she shook her head in exasperation, wondering for the hundredth time why she'd ever partnered with this Abydian bumpkin. Heck, the kid still has haystraw in her hair! "Don't you know anything?"
"No, I guess I don't." Sweetie's retort held surprising asperity. "Why don't you enlighten me?"
"In the first place, he's Arcanian. One of the nobility, I think. Nobody else in the galaxy has eyes that color...and a celibate one at that."
"You mean he's a priest?"
That earned her a pitying look. "He's an Exile," she repeated. "Banned from his planet, and to an Arcanian, that's worse than dying. They're real planet-lovers. Oh, they're warriors and explorers and all that, but no matter how far away they go, they always come back to Arcanis. The worse thing that can happen to an Arcanian is for him to lose his home, like your friend there." She nodded over her shoulder. "He probably took that Vow--"
"What kind of vow?" It was asked suspiciously, as if Sweetie half-expected her friend to be setting her up for an elaborate joke.
"Oh, the usual stuff... Giving up all the ways of life they had before. You know, women, money, personal comfort, don't cut their hair, until they're allowed to return home. Honestly, those guys are worse than priests! From the looks of that braid, I'd say that one's been away a long time. Wonder what he did?" She'd tired of the subject. "Let's go."
The blue-haired girl followed her, pausing for a final backward glance at the tall figure rapidly moving through the crowd. "What a waste!" She turned to run after her friend. He liked me, he really did. She was certain.