Authors: Jenn Nixon
Heir of Abennelp
Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing, LLC.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, duplicated, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious and are products of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual events, or locales or persons, living or dead are entirely coincidental.
Cover by Nicola Ormerod
Edited by Elizabeth A. Lance
Text Copyright © 2015 Jenn Nixon
All rights reserved.
Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing, LLC.
Dedicated to my siblings.
She met the king’s eyes from across the Great Hall and saw them widen with surprise, but so slightly, no one else took notice. He abruptly looked away and spoke to the Royal Guardians concerning the threats against his kingdom. Holding back, she waited silently amid the group, the hood of her cloak tight against her face. She searched the crowd, and when she saw her daughter sitting next to the Boon woman, she clenched her fists and turned away. The king caught her attention a second time, and with his eyes motioned to the hall then back to her before returning to the group as a whole.
After he left with the elite Guardians in tow, Lady Tyra parted from the others and took the secondary hall to his chamber. The muffled voices inside went silent, the door before her opened and King Delos emerged. His moon markings were dark and his lips tightly pressed together as he shut the door.
“Why are you here, Ziola?” he said.
“I know everything, Harer,” she sneered in reply. “She is my younger reflection, born on the first of the Warming. Tell me the truth and give me my daughter!” she said, teeth clenched. “Or...”
“You?” He lurched forward and grabbed her by the arms. “You are responsible for all of this? Who are you working with?” He shook her, his moons growing even darker.
“Someone…” She smiled for a moment, enjoying his anxiety. “Close.” Ziola jerked from his grasp and glared at him. “I believed you all these cycles, each time I confronted you with more proof and you turned me away. Now I know you placed the spiritless Boon child in my arms. How could you do such a thing?”
Harer snapped, “This is why I have done what I did. You let me marry without knowing of our child! You’ve constantly pried your way into the palace with continued threats. You are using her to further your selfish agenda.” He shook his head. “No. No, you will never have her!”
Ziola raised a dagger; pressed it against his abdomen. “I could kill you right now and tell her the truth...”
“Guardian Finto!” Harer gripped her wrist with one hand and screamed into his personal communications device. “Intruder in the secondary chamber hall!” he barked and turned to her. “You will never make it out of here alive, Ziola.”
“Ah, but I will. Since you refuse me, you will be made to suffer as I have all these cycles.” Ziola narrowed her eyes. “I will destroy you little by little. Your deception will doom you and all that you hold dear.”
“You have lost your senses. I’ll never stop protecting her from you!”
“Let us hope she can protect you now.”
“Did you hear me?” the voice grunted, stripping her from the memory.
“Yes, yes, you traced the signal to one of the Royal Guardian’s PCD.”
“Not just any...This one belongs to Tiva Boon,” the man mumbled behind her.
“Send Pethor and the team; let us see if they are worth the time and effort we have spent.” Lady Tyra moved to the control console verifying the information at her fingertips. “He must find and detain them this time, especially her. You more than anyone knows what is at stake.” She felt his hardened gaze upon her and smirked. “Surely you are not having second thoughts?”
“Hardly,” he scoffed and pressed several buttons while the console chirped in response. “I’ll obliterate anything and anyone who stands in my path,” he said, calmly, “but I’ll do it in my own way.”
Stuck in the infirmary for days after the explosion on board the
Tiva eventually convinced Doctor Hino to approve her for limited duty, but with the ship being repaired and upgraded at Ovvella Base, there was little for her to do in security.
The only way to help Captain Maar and the crew uncover the alien threat responsible for the attack was to learn everything possible. Her friend, Aliri Caedm, had told her to rest after the injury, but Tiva’s restless spirit needed a distraction.
She spent her first day back on duty in solitude, resting, and reading. Dozens of reports were available on the elusive scout and salvage ships, but the database on Ovvella had more information than the
, and when she accessed their system and cross-referenced between the two, she came up with a name: Kihlmaro. It may be the name of the ship, species, or individual, but it was progress nonetheless.
During a battle with Captain Locke’s ship, the name was picked up on communications, but the transmission was incomplete and useless. When the
engaged the scout ship, the comm recorded the same name during a transmission. It could be coincidence, but she sent her findings to Emerala Teer in operations to confirm the report.
On the third day, she felt whole again she met with the four new security personnel. Two were human, one was Joran, and the other was from Bayo. They all seemed competent and had extensive backgrounds, which would be an asset. She assigned Leo Ranndom and Hemko two each. Six protectors. It wasn’t as many as she hoped for, but better than she had before and she was grateful.
Returning to her room after the meeting, Tiva checked her computer and saw a message waiting. She was about to call the Artificial Intelligence, Gigs, to find out where it was sent from, but remembered what happened.
The technicians on the base could not repair the holographic interface and deleted Gigs from the main computer core. The virus, entered via a junction node on one of the lower levels, came from the scout ship aliens. Aliri and Emerala had worked non-stop for three days just to uncover the cause, and though they found an answer, it wasn’t satisfying. Losing Jimmi B’abot was hard on the crew and being unable to retrieve Gigs just added to the sorrow. She was going to miss the AI, it was yet another friend she mourned.
Tiva took a deep breath and sat, accessing the message. It was in text form, and the computer automatically deciphered the encryption sequence for her. She smiled when the computer lit up.
It was wonderful to receive your message. Father and I are glad to hear that you are doing well with the Union’s Vexillum and are safe. Things on Uucor have been quiet, though another group of bounty hunters did appear recently looking for you. These were off-worlders, a race I had never seen before. Do not worry, we threw them off track and gave them false coordinates to a nebula in the middle of the galaxy.
I’ve decided to put myself to work with the military here, and I’m learning how to fly. Father says I’m a natural. I miss you terribly, but I know you have your own destiny to follow. Please keep me informed of your situation, and if there is anything we can do to help you, contact us.
Blessings and good fortune, my dear friend.
Sighing, Tiva closed her eyes picturing Harai and Major Raku in her mind. She missed them and the calm she felt in their presence. That zone of comfort was not something she felt on the
. She was safer on the ship than Nucor, that much she knew, but with the Raku’s she felt like part of a family again.
She wished a message would arrive from Abennelp. Worry consumed her thoughts. Perhaps something happened to Neola, or the Loyalists. Rubbing the four crescent moon markings on her forehead, she rose from the chair, changed into a uniform, and donned Aliri’s amethyst crystal. The tension was building, and she had not trained in a while, her body craved action, and she was not about to ignore it.
She tried to find someone to spar with and found no one free, so Tiva went to the arboretum before returning to her living quarters. Spending time with real foliage had been relaxing, but she longed for the sun. She couldn’t remember feeling the warmth of the suns’ rays on her face. The last time she saw one was months ago.
After changing into her jumpsuit, and unbraiding her now waist length hair, Tiva gathered her weapons and credit chip and walked to the docking hatch. She had not purchased anything for herself since leaving Uucor. Not that there were many opportunities, but she needed another recreation outfit and some decorations for her dwelling.
Inside Ovvella Base, she found the nearest lift and rode to the promenade. The center of the base was full of people. She perused the wares in the various shops. Many of the merchants were pleasant and helpful, but she wandered alone for hours before finding anything that sparked her interest. A garment shop at the far corner of the row held an outfit that caught her attention, a beautiful off-the-shoulder lavender dress that matched her eyes. When she entered the shop, a young lady helped her find the right size and asked if she would like to wear it instead of changing back to her jumpsuit.
The boots she wore did not match well with the delicate fabric and style of the dress, so Tiva picked out something called a sandal, as well as a black sash, and when she glanced at herself in the mirror her heart fluttered. She remembered the dress she wore on her tenth Remembrance. It was one of the happiest moments of her life, but she did not dwell on it long.
Tiva paid and thanked the lady for her help. She smoothed the sash along her side, and surveyed the promenade for a place to eat. Finding a small café opposite the commissary, she felt a wave of concern hit her without warning as she entered. Several heads turned in her direction, but she kept her composure and ignored the stares. Perhaps it was the simple fact that she was wearing a dress, while a plasma gun and claw were tucked into her sash. Maybe it was her moon markings? As the only one of her kind in the Union, she was still unknown to many.
She approached the counter and ordered a juice and pastry. Unsure of why she garnered such attention, she found an empty table in the corner and sat down. She could lower her mental shield and listen for thoughts from those around her, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to know what they were thinking.
“Hello, Ms. Boon.”
She tore herself from thought, and met the crew commander’s sharp green eyes. “Greetings, Mr. Hill.”
“I’m glad to see you are doing well.” Jay Hill ran a hand through his flaxen hair.
“Thank you, sir. The doctor has put me on limited duty for the remainder of the week.”
“Ah, good, good. So you’ll be back in no time.”
“With the luck of the spirits, I will.” She bowed her head slightly. “May I ask something, sir?”
“Yes, certainly.” He nonchalantly pulled back a chair and sat.
“I received a strange reaction when walking into this establishment that gave me pause. Do you know why these people are worried?”
“I got the same thing when I got here. I think the crew of the
is getting a reputation for not taking any crap from anyone.”
“I see, though I would rather I stay in the shadows, sir. I have people after me.”
“Yes, I’m aware. Not to worry, there are people in the Vexillum that have worse things after them.”
“But are any of them an elite protector to the former leader of their planet?”
“I highly doubt it.” He cocked his head to the side.
“How did the negotiations fare, sir?” Tiva changed the subject, not wanting to get into the politics of her homeworld.
“I’m happy with the outcome thus far. The war has been averted for the time being, but a lot of work will have to be done to keep the peace.”
“I see. You are a very skilled negotiator, I am sure the others were thankful for your assistance.”
“You flatter well, Ms. Boon,” he said, and grinned. “Well, I better go, I have work to do. I will see you on board.”
Tiva carried her purchases back to the
. She put the trinkets on the stands next to her bed, one was a sculpture of a sun the other a moon, and the candle holder she had bought looked perfect on the small table in the corner of her room. The man at the shop said many people used fire as a focal point for meditation. Since she did not foresee herself Calming any time soon, she would try the candle meditation next time she felt the need.
A hot shower and protein shake pumped her full of energy. She checked her computer hoping for a message from Neola, but was once again disappointed. Examining reports from security, she noticed a late addition to the
. A new weapons specialist named Adam Cooper. They had held the welcome dinner for him while she was in the infirmary. She stifled a yawn, and decided to review the rest of his record in the morning.
Stretching out on her bed, she rubbed the scar on her stomach and winced. It was still sore, but she would forgo the medication, she was back on duty in the morning, and wanted to remain sharp.
Tiva woke before the computer tore her from the dream. It was a simple, peaceful memory. She had been swimming in her pond, at home, performing the Calming. Someone was with her, sharing the experience. She knew him, his face was hidden from her, but he brought a smile to her lips.
She readied for the day, put on a clean uniform, attached her weapons, and placed the crystal under her tunic. Aliri’s gift brought her balance—as she had said it would. Tiva noticed the difference when she drifted off to sleep. Her dreams were not filled with the horror of death and war as they had been almost every night since leaving Abennelp.
On her way to the command center, she met Emerala and Raife in the corridor near the lift.
“Hello, Tiva!” Emerala Teer, the short, spirited woman with fiery hair and sun-like eyes ran up and hugged her.
“Greetings,” she replied and returned the gesture, but nodded to Raife Nassutt.
“I got your message about that name, Kihlmaro. I’m running it through all the data we’ve collected. We’re only on the base for another day or two, so I’ll try to hurry. I hope we find something.” She grabbed Raife’s hand and leaned into him. “Did you hear the news?”
“I do not believe so,” Tiva said.
“Raife and I are going to tie the knot.”
They both laughed and Emerala lifted her hand showing a large green gemstone on her finger. Tiva stared blankly at them.
“We’re getting hitched, taking the plunge, uh…getting married?” Raife said, rubbing his hand over a mop of dark hair.
“I see.” She put her fist to her heart. “Spirited blessing for your marriage. When is the occasion to take place?”
“Oh, we’re not sure yet. We just got engaged last night,” Emerala answered and stepped into the lift.
“I assume that means you are pledged to one another?”
“Yeah, that’s it,” Raife said. “I keep forgetting you’re not used to human customs. On Earth the man or sometimes woman asks the other to marry them, and gives a ring as a token of their affection, fidelity, and promise to wed.”
“What do your people do?”
“Our process is slightly more complicated and lengthy, but it falls under the same type of ceremony.”
“Well, maybe after shift we can get together and talk about it,” Emerala said.
“I would like that,” Tiva said.
“Oh, we can’t.” Raife grunted. “We have to finish that upgrade on the matrix before we leave dock tomorrow.”
“I understand, perhaps another time.”
“Absolutely.” Emerala walked off the lift first and moved to operations. “Besides, our next undertaking is going to take us a while to even get there, so we’ll have plenty of time.”