Episode 1: Aboard Polaris
The woman beats at her attackers. Her body splits apart as a RHACS drub enters her. Not the first one; not the first time.
“Run,” the woman shrieks. “RUN!”
And the child does.
Pella awoke bathed in sweat and dripping tears. A shudder of guilt and horror scraped like thorns across her skin. A familiar tone penetrated her wounded brain as she rolled off the bunk and stood.
“Soames!” Strong, controlled, unlike the turmoil centered in her gut.
“Captain, the shuttle is cleared to land on Chandor.”
Commander Gouyen Walker’s statement knocked residual effects of the nightmare to the back of Pella’s mind.
“Noted. Who’s taking him down?”
“Aoife. Wants to get him to talk.”
Not going to happen. Their passenger’s poor disguise fooled no one, but if he wanted to cling to the illusion of anonymity, so be it. His privilege. He’d hired them for transportation, not companionship. She couldn’t help but wonder. Goodwin Harp, self-appointed leader of New Way traipsing around the galaxy on a reconditioned transport?
“Hope she doesn’t expect much,” Pella said
“You know Aoife, looking to gain an inside track.”
She let the comment pass. “Notify me when the shuttle has landed on planet.”
Pella dragged a shaky hand down her face. She had not intended to sleep, but several months in space jumping from one launch platform to another drove her to her bunk, and opened a door to the pain of her nightmares.
Like it mattered, awake or asleep, the dream pursued her.
She hid like a coward while Re-Hab Assimilation Camp human drubs traded off assaulting her mother. And then she ran away.
Pella hated to remember, but could not forget. It is what drives her. Somewhere in the galaxy her mother lives. Hear search will not end until she finds her.
Pella suspects her treacherous father knows where her mother is. She wants to find him, too, and ask that very question. After all, her mother is a captive because of his deceit.
Bile rose like a hot geyser. She hurried to her bathroom expecting to upchuck, but a few deep breaths and a cold cloth on her face calmed her unsettled system.
Her reflection in the mirror over the sink was anything but impressive, but she appeared to be in control, not at all the bundle of anxiety that ravaged her insides. Discipline was second nature to Pella.
“The shuttle has landed on Chandor.”
“Adams’ cabin is clear and unlocked. Your visit will go unrecorded.”
The gilded city flashed in the setting sun. Voluptuous exotic flora breathed poison into the atmosphere. Despite his mask and protective gear Goodwin Harp shivered, but didn’t slow down. He matched Emtet J’fal’s rapid pace step for step.
Harp’s rejuvenated body, massive ego, wealth, and an incredible memory convinced him he was superior to all other beings. Behind the mask and protective suit Harp had the appearance of a youthful and robust mid-fifties. His brilliant mind retained data he considered of import, including the contents of the book. He was the book. Should something happen to him before he reached his goal, everything would die with him, but he would not fail. He would become the greatest human who ever lived, bringing the Deity of Deities to the galaxy. And he would be immortal.
The skin on his face stung as icy fingers of cold penetrated the mask. Oh, how he hated this accursed place, but he needed these beings to solidify his standing galaxy-wide and establish New Way as the only way. First, he had to get to Bonnak Wallace, a direct descendant of the planet’s original settlers. Without Wallace’s support, New Way on Chandor was dead. And there were other compelling reasons to gain access to the planet. Perhaps it was best in the long run that his emissaries had been rejected, forcing him to come instead. Harp needed Wallace’s cooperation, but he needed Chandor’s rich resources of minerals and essential industrial gemstones more. He would not give up until he won Wallace over.
J’fal raised a cautionary hand. Harp stopped beside him with eyes lowered as a wizened Chandorian passed by flanked by guards and a bevy of exquisitely adorned Chandorian fems. Ugly as mud, to Harp’s eye, but no doubt real beauties by Chandorian standards.
So why, he wondered, did the males of Chandor seek true human fems, paying any price to possess one? Testosterone? It plagued every male in every species. Harp no longer had interest in fems for sexual purposes. When his sex drive diminished, he was glad to be rid of the animal urges of his body. Sex got in the way of ambition. Fems were nothing but trouble. For the same reason, he never had progeny. Filthy beggars all of them.
J’fal waved his hand bringing Harp back to the moment. He hitched his backpack higher on his shoulders as they moved on toward the government bureau entrance.
The door sighed open as they drew near and closed behind them with a hollow thud. Darkness was instant, followed by pinpoints of light that flashed randomly. Harp stumbled into J’fal.
“Fo can deca!”
Harp stilled, hiding the fury that raged through him. To have an inferior call him a clumsy shit deserved reprimand, but not now, not under these circumstances. But he would not forget.
A panel slid open revealing a well-lit austere waiting area. As they stepped through J’fal motioned to an industrial bin.
“Dispose of the protective garment and be seated. Wait until you are called. When you are ready to leave, I will bring a replacement protective suit and return you to your transportation.” With that he strode away and left through a door marked in universal galactic: No Entrance. Violators Will Be Detained.
Rumor had it that detainment meant being sent to the Chandorian mines never to be seen again.
Having been unceremoniously discarded like stinking garbage, Harp did as instructed. Under the protective garment, he wore a form fitting body suit. This he covered with a golden-threaded tunic from his backpack. His silver white hair, released from the confines of the protective suit, cascaded down his back in a shimmering fall. Confident his appearance was now appropriate for meeting the ruler of Chandor, he turned his attention to his surroundings.
Humanoid Assigned Need Artificial Intelligence units sat at terminals spaced around the perimeter of the room. At the center was an arrangement of upholstered chairs for the comfort of those who were waiting. The seats were empty.
Harp approached one of the male ANAIs. It continued working as though he didn’t exist. Harp resisted the temptation to pull out his weapon and obliterate the useless pile of components that made up the pseudo-human, and then remembered, he wasn’t carrying a weapon. It was not allowed.
Harp resented talking to any ANAI as though it were human, but he did not intend to spend hours in the waiting area when he was the only one with business to conduct.
“When will Director Jonfellow be available?”
The ANAI worked without pause as it spoke.
“You will be called.”
“I have an appointment.”
“You will be called.”
Harp seethed. He needed to make his case to Jonfellow and speak with Wallace. As a man of consequence across the galaxy it was reprehensible to be put off in this manner. Inexcusable! His lips thinned and for an instant a hint of his former visage appeared, his eyes fired by hate for everything beyond his control. Nevertheless, he was here as a petitioner. He must focus on his objective. He must bide his time.
Pella sat back on her heels and looked around Harp’s Spartan cabin. There was nothing that didn’t support his claim to be James Adams, a galactic trader. Of the fourteen passengers the Polaris carried when it left Earth, Harp was the only one booked to Chandor, the planet most distant from Earth. Harp had kept to himself, requesting meals be sent to his cabin. He was traveling alone, no aides or servants. Suspicious. Every time Pella had seen him on VidNet, he was surrounded by guards and acolytes. She shrugged it off. No business of hers. He’d paid handsomely for privacy and special treatment. With his creds in her account, her business with him was done except for getting him safely to Alpha 9, his destination after leaving Chandor.
She accepted that her uneasiness stemmed from Adams/Harp being on Chandor, the place she wanted to be. Not that the Polaris crew hadn’t been on Chandor, but only with access to Shirefel, the only metro on the planet. It was one thing to deliver cargo to intake; quite another to have access to the holdings of the elite. And that was Pella’s goal. To get to the holding of Brutus Tauk. What she would do when she got there ran headlong into a wall of ignorance. It seemed an impossible goal. She had no contacts on planet and no way to access protective gear, the only way true humans, and most off worlders, could survive outside the city.
As she left Harp’s cabin and headed for command bay, she trailed her fingers along the walls in passing, still delighted – and sometimes unbelieving – that this beautiful ship belonged to her. Before it was the Polaris, it had been Thunder II, the second transport in the Casey clan’s original company. As the company grew, the transport had been relegated to use for parts. During the time she was still working for Jake Casey, she had asked to purchase it. No, he’d said, just take it. It’s no use to the company. Pella couldn’t abide the idea of accepting what amounted to charity. The Caseys had done enough for her. She struck a deal to haul cargo and passengers at half rate with the rest of her income going to pay the debt on Thunder II.
Three intense years of hard work earned her enough to make the ship hers. It had a new name and a new purpose. With the help of her crew she’d honed the Polaris into a sturdy craft, and created a successful transport company ferrying people and cargo about the galaxy.
She should have been content, maybe even that thing referred to as happy, but every time she began to get comfortable, she remembered her mother’s screams.
Thank you for reading the first episode of Hunter’s Light, a sci-fi novel featuring Pella Soames, a young woman who survived an attack on her village by Re-Hab Assimilation Camp humans (RHACS) when she was a child. RHACS destroyed the life she had known. Now, years later, she sets out to find her mother and get revenge against her father for his betrayal. To continue reading about Pella’s adventures, click below to buy a subscription to receive episodes as they are posted. You will be provided with a pass code to access the new episode on Friday of each week.
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