Authors: Eric McMeins
THE INHERITED WAR
By Eric McMeins
I would like to once again thank all of the people who helped me with this, the second book of the series. My editor for working hard to make it as perfect as
possible, thanks Amber. My wife for allowing me the time away from her and the kids to write. I would like to thank all the fans who bought book 1 and wanted more, thank you. To all the friends and family who read and reread it to make sure I didn’t screw up on the story or left something out, thank you.
“Only after disaster can we be resurrected.” Chuck Palahniuk
Approximately 20,000 years
Jarrod sat firmly fixated to the holo vid in front of him. He had watched it a dozen times, and he was still numb from what he had seen. He rewound it and played it from the beginning. He saw a high angle shot of the Great Chambers, the room that had served as the galaxy’s government headquarters for countless years. Its seats and pews were packed to overflowing. The viewing gallery was full, and every race that had a representative present was there to watch the proceedings.
There were also over one hundred of his people there to witness this unprecedented day. The angle of the footage suddenly changed from up high to a tight shot of the grand doors behind the Overseers podium.
Jarrod held his breath once again as the doors opened and his father strode into the Great Chambers. Strong and proud, his father was unbent by hundreds of years that weighed upon his shoulders. The great man came to a halt directly behind his podium. He was flanked on either side by some of the greatest thinkers and scientists his race had ever produced. His father stole a long slow glance at the crowd assembled before him. Jarrod forced himself to listen once again as his father began to speak.
is a momentous and unique day in our history,” he began. His words were soft but firm, and the natural acoustics of the room carried them to the whole crowd. “We gather here today to welcome a new member to our great civilization. As many may know, this is the first time we as a government, have had to admit a new member that was neither tested nor approved by our kind since we endeavored to explore the galaxy.” He paused for a moment to let those words sink in to those around him.
“Not everyone in this great room,” he spread his arms in a wide and sweeping gesture, “approved of today’s newest members joining our ranks. But as they have, on their own, found the secrets of faster than light travel and have made their presence felt on member worlds, we have little choice. Together, we all can bring pressure onto these new peoples to amend their ways and join us peacefully in our great endeavor.” His voice almost seemed to echo around Jarrod’s cabin as he finished his speech.
After a moment of complete silence, his father continued. “Please, would the new member’s ambassador and his sponsor’s ambassador come to the front?” The image of his father was replaced as the main doors of the Great Chambers opened. Jarrod had been in that room countless times and knew that making the walk from the main doors to his father’s podium was daunting. Especially with the chambers as full as they were today. The two ambassadors were alone and silhouetted in the doorframe. One, the Roche ambassador, was short, squat and the sponsor. The other was the new member. An Esii. He was tall and thin, almost cadaverous. He had stringy white hair and a slightly blue tint to his otherwise pale skin. He was lithe and graceful as he walked down the aisle. He made some of the best dancers Jarrod had ever seen look clumsy by comparison. He defined grace of movement and almost floated across the floor as he moved. The Roche, on the other hand, stomped after him as if he were squashing bugs.
The Esii and the Roche came to a halt at a respectful distance from his father’s podium. The Roche ambassador bowed, the Esii did not.
“Would the honored ambassador from the Roche system honor us with a few words on behalf of the sponsored?” His father asked the being standing in front of him.
The Roche ambassador fidgeted for a few moments before working up the nerve to speak. “We, the Roche, officially request admittance to the alliance, of the peoples of the Esii System. We will hold their bond until they have proven themselves worthy in the eyes of this body.” The ambassador attempted to
replicate the all-encompassing gesture that his father had made earlier. He failed miserably. Clearly uncomfortable he continued, “I present Ambassador Svikari.” The Roche stepped aside and turned the floor over to the Esii.
Not many in the galaxy had ever seen, let alone heard an Esii speak before. They had been under quarantine for hundreds of years since they had first been discovered by Jarrod’s people. They were cruel, hateful people who delighted in torture and thrived in the shadows. For years they had been only a minor threat, and since they didn’t meet the strict definition of the Code, they would never benefit from his peoples technology. Unfortunately they had discovered, or more likely stolen, the technology for faster than light travel. His father was right. Like it or not, they had to be dealt with. Jarrod cringed as the being began to speak.
The sound that came out of the Esii’s mouth was high pitched and grating. It was the most disturbing form of verbal communication anywhere in the known galaxy. “I represent my people in this endeavor.” He locked his eyes onto Jarrod’s fathers. “Hundreds of years ago you, Pures,” he said the last like it was a curse, “passed us by and quarantined our system because we failed to live up to some arbitrary standard created by men long dead. We languished for centuries, unable to move amongst the stars and reap the riches the lesser races have taken for granted. We are a people who know what it means to be oppressed and shunned.” He strode forward and pointed a long thin finger at Jarrod’s father. “NO MORE!” he thundered. “Today the tyranny of the Pures ends, and it ends here. Across the galaxy, Esii and Roche fleets are moving against the outposts of the Pures and will begin exterminating them with the goal of complete extinction.” Muttered whispers and shouts of outrage rang out from the floor and the gallery. “Here and now it ends with fire.” The Esii flung himself at Jarrod’s father faster than his father could react. At the moment of impact, a bright flash blinded all of the cameras in the room and ended the playback on Jarrod’s holo screen.
This is how the galaxy ends. He thought to himself. With betrayal and fire.
“If you take no risks, you will suffer no defeats. But if you take no risks, you win no victories.”
Sky was still connected to her escape pod and watching the area of space the Retribution and the Sun Eater had occupied only moments before. She had seen an Esii ship race to that spot immediately after the explosion. It had stopped briefly, then turned on an exit vector, and had run for deep space. She assumed that the ship had made it and jumped for its home. It had taken Cole with it, she was sure of that. Sky ignored everything around her and stared at that point in space for a long time. She was finally brought back to the present by an insistent call over her comm.
“Life Pod One, this is the Reckoning’s recovery ship. Do you read? We know you’re aboard and conscious, please respond.” The message was on some kind of loop because it was repeating without pause.
Sky activated her own com and sent her reply. “Leave me alone.” She cut the link and returned her attention to the spot. Again, she was interrupted, but this time by a loud clank and a jarring bounce. She spun her view to her rear and saw the rescue ship was pulling her back into its cargo bay with a tractor beam. Just when she was reconnecting her com her power failed and she felt herself slam back into her own body. She was groggy, dehydrated and starving. She accessed her suit’s crono to see how long she had been out there. Her mind reeled. Two days had passed since she had ejected from the Retribution. How was it possible? Two whole days spent staring at a spot in space, and she hadn’t even realized it.
Without warning the rear hatch popped off and cool clean air rushed into the pod. She looked around dazed and amazed at how many beings had crammed themselves into the cargo bay of the rescue ship. She blinked at the too bright light coming from the room and waited until she was able to see before she moved.
“Wait Doctor, you have been immobile for some time. Let us help you out.” The voice was familiar.
“Thalo? Is that you?” she asked, or attempted to ask since her mouth and throat were completely dry. It came out more as a squeak.
“Yes, yes. It is me, and it is good to see you too. We gave you as much time as the life support would allow, but we had to finally bring you in before you expired.” Thalo moved into the pod as far as he could so she could get a good look at him.
Sky tried to yell at Thalo. Why was he here and not out rescuing Cole like he said he would? She would keep quiet for now, it was Cole that was in trouble. All she managed was to mumble incoherently before passing out.
Thalo stood up and waved to the medics behind him. “Ok boys, come get her. She’s out.” He stepped out of the way as the medics rushed forward and extracted her from the crash webbing of the pod. Thalo turned to the giant next to him. “She is going to want answers when she wakes up, and I don’t know if I can give them to her.” It was barely more than a whisper, but Jeth heard it just fine.
He rumbled out a quiet reply. “I will be there with you, brother. As always I will be your rock.”
Thalo placed a hand gently on the giants arm and nodded his thanks. The medics had gotten Sky out of the life pod and onto a stretcher. They were calling for a medevac to meet them and take them to the planet.
“Sorry boys, but this one will be going to the Reckoning’s med bay first. If anyone has a problem with that you may want to remind them that the five ships that warped in and saved your home world will do what I order.” He shot them an evil little smile as they glanced at each other. They nodded to Thalo. “Good. Life is always easier when everyone agrees.” He turned toward the first mate of the rescue ship and waved him away. The mate ran off for the bridge, and within moments the ship was speeding off to rendezvous with the Reckoning.
Jeth chuckled and patted Thalo on the head. “Don’t get too used to giving orders; we won’t be here much longer.”
“I know, just enjoying it while I can.” Thalo walked over the Sky and reached out to grab her hand. He didn’t let go until they had finished their journey at the med bay on board the Reckoning.
Sky awoke to the sounds of a fierce argument. She recognized both voices involved.
“You had no authority to bring her here.” Her father said with an edge of anger creeping into his voice.
“I have all the authority I need. I out rank her.” Thalo responded and crossed his arms in defiance. “She took the same vow we all did when we joined Cole’s navy. She holds the corps rank of Captain and as a Lt. Commander, I out rank her.”
Navy,” her father snorted, “six ships doesn’t constitute a navy. She is my daughter, and I will see her transferred planet side.”
Thalo tensed, and a dark look passed over his face. “That Navy just kept your world from being destroyed and sent an Esii Battle Fleet running scared.” He pointed his finger at her father. “If I ever hear anyone impugn the reputation of this fleet or anyone that serves in it, I will bring all the fire power at my disposal to bear.”
This had gone on long enough. Sky sat up and spoke. “Both of you, please be quiet.” It had an instant effect on the room. Both her father and Thalo turned to look at her and their argument died on their lips. Sky opened her mouth to continue but found herself suddenly smothered by her mother. The next few minutes were a blur of tears, apologies, and fierce hugs. That wasn’t the end. As soon as she got herself detached from her mother she was bowled over by her sister and a fresh round of tears started.
Wiping at their eyes, the siblings released their hold on each other. Finally, her father stepped forward and placed his hands on either side of her face. “Welcome home.” He kissed her on the forehead and wrapped her in a fierce hug.
After composing herself, she looked to her father and then Thalo. “Why are you here, Thalo? Why aren’t you getting Cole back? I thought you said you knew where he was.”
Thalo held up his hands in a defensive position. “I know where he is going, but I lack the means to initiate his rescue.”
“Man the new ships and take them to wherever Cole is being held. The Esii can’t have many ships left. Now is the time to strike, not when they have rebuilt.” Sky glanced over at her medical readouts, and seeing that she was stable and healthy she started to rise to her feet.
“Take it easy,” Thalo said as he placed his hands on her shoulders and prevented her from standing up, “it isn’t as easy as all of that. First, two of the AI ships were badly damaged along with the Reckoning. Second, your home world is almost defenseless, and third, the remaining ships are needed here.”
“Why, are we being threatened?”
“Not like you’re thinking, no.” Thalo sat down next to Sky. “That ship Cole took out was massive. Parts of it are still floating around out here, and some are threatening to impact your planet. Our ships are needed here to help divert, destroy or tow away those pieces big enough to be of concern. I am sorry, but in this case the needs of the many far outweigh the needs of the one.”
Sky’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “Where is he, Thalo?”
The question hung in the room like a weight. “The Esii home world,” Thalo responded quietly.
“I...I need to be alone for a minute.” Sky’s voice was thick with tears. “Please.”
She didn’t look up but heard them all quietly leave, all but her mother. Rain, her mother, sat next to her and placed her arm over her shoulder. She let her oldest daughter cry in her arms until she felt Sky beginning to regain control of her. Rain ran her fingers through her daughter’s hair with one hand and
held her close with the other. “Tell me about him dear.” It was the same thing she had said to her over the years whenever a boy had broken her heart.
Sky let out a small laugh. “Thanks, I needed that.” She wiped at her eyes and settled back to tell her tale. She started with the kidnapping and how she was convinced that Admiral Nasser had also taken her parents. She had been given no choice. She had to do what they wanted to keep her parents and sister safe. She told her mother about the ship they had built for her and what they wanted from her. She talked about Earth and the people that had lived on it. She struggled to tell her mother about the heart wrenching choices she was forced to make when she was experimenting on the humans. She told her mother that when she first held the newborn Cole in her arms, she knew he would be the one that they were looking for. She had other children that were being monitored, but Cole ended up being the only one who survived having his DNA altered. She had watched Cole grow from a small child into a man, and her love had grown with him.
“He could have killed me that day he won his freedom, Momma. He chose to save me because he saw that I was as much of a victim as he was. He never blamed me for the hell he went through his whole life. I had to destroy his body before I could rebuild it. He saved me and made me his. We saw the destruction of his world together. It didn’t break him. It made him stronger, gave him the resolve to do what was necessary. I forged his body and mind that forged his will.” She continued on with her tale and shared their experience on the lawless world of Pitt and of their battles with the Esii fleets they found afterward.
“You know the rest, he gave himself to save our world.” The last she said in a small voice. Sky found that telling her tale to her mother was cathartic, she felt drained and weak. She just wanted to sleep.
“I am so very sorry, I can’t imagine what it was like to go through all of that. Or find a mate that means that much to you.” Rain looked at her little girl. “You are exhausted, get some rest. I will talk to your father. Make him understand how important it is that you be here for now. Don’t be mad at him, he wants the best for you and he blames himself for what happened.”
“Why? There was nothing he could have done.”
“That is what hurts the most. We thought you were dead. Your father blames himself for not knowing you were still out there and in trouble. I don’t think he ever will forgive himself. I am afraid he will become very overprotective for the next few years, at least.” They both smiled at that. “Now get some rest and I will see you again very soon.” Her mother helped her lay down and covered her with blankets. Rain gave Sky one last kiss on her cheek and left the med bay.
Knowing sleep would be a long time in coming; Sky overrode the lock out on the med dispenser and gave herself a sedative. It took hold quickly, and Sky drifted off into blissful oblivion.
It had been a whirlwind week since Sky had returned home. She had been met at the space port by cheering crowds. She was a hero in her people’s eyes. To them, she would always be the one who brought humanity back from extinction and helped in the defeat of the Esii Sun Eater. Nixa wanted her to take pictures with them and shake their hands. Everywhere she went crowds followed and harangued her. They called her the Hero of the Battle of Nixa. They treated her like royalty.
But now she sat alone in front of the Nixa High Council. She had just spent the last four hours telling and retelling her story to the various Administrators that made up the council. They had asked her pointed questions and had made her repeat information over and over in an attempt to ferret out the whole story. She told them the truth and didn’t leave anything out. She was tired from talking for so long.
“If there are no more questions,” The Master of the Council said as he looked around the chamber. “You may return to your father’s side.” He helped her to her feet and guided her to her father’s viewing
box. “Now, I suggest a recess while her story is referenced to that of the Crew of the Reckoning and the Worlders that accompanied them.” He moved to bang his gavel and end the morning’s session but was interrupted by a shout from the Administrators section of the Chamber.
“I see no need for a recess. We need to discuss this now and not waste any more time.” The voice was strong and firm. It was a politician’s voice, and it grabbed your attention.
“The Master recognizes the Administrator from the colonies.” He pointed at the male Nixa that had spoken.
“Thank you, Master Administrator.” The Colony Administrator turned to address his fellow politicians. “I, for one, have heard enough. The story of this clearly damaged girl and her Worlder cronies is the stuff of fantasy.” A low grumble started to spread around the room, but he went on. “First we are led to believe that Pure Humans have returned to the galaxy. Where is your proof? I haven’t seen any. Wait, that’s right. He was spirited away by another human during the battle.”
At this, Thalo rose and addressed the chamber. “First of all, the human in question was possessed by an Esii and not herself. Secondly, I will not stand here and be called a liar by you or anyone else. Cole was real, and what he did for your people was real. Finally, if you call Sky damaged again, I will gut you like the fat slug you are.” Thalo returned to his seat followed by a mixed chorus of cheers and boos. The cheers outweighed the boos.
The Master banged his gavel and called for order. “Need I remind the Administrator that we gathered here today to hear her story, not cast dispersions on her reputation. Furthermore, we must decide on a course of action given the facts we learned here today. Now if you have something useful to add to the debate, please do, but no more grandstanding.” The Master shot the Colonial Administrator a withering look.