2017 by Jeanne Linton. All rights reserved
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the joy in your eyes, the kindness of your heart,
and the sweetness of your soul never be taken from you.
1 - First Encounter
5 - Carmona
7 - City of Ming
9 - Sesro
12 - Kondor
16 - Evana's Escape
19 - Temple of Imar
26 - Leaving Yerba
29 - Return
of Jeanne Linton
Books by Jeanne Linton
Called upon to make
sacrifices for the common good, Sen and Evana embark on a diplomatic
mission to Yerba where they'll be reliable witnesses and help
negotiate a mutually beneficial treaty and bring lasting peace to the
galaxy. They leave Preta and their children behind in the capable
hands of Evana's sister Tali as they forge ahead into the unknown.
However, things don't
go as planned as the rogue faction that thwarted the original peace
treaty some years earlier takes this opportunity to rekindle the war
between the members of The Alliance and the Garendos. The previously
nameless faction, now known as the Pachi, emerges from obscurity when
The Alliance moves forward in their effort to reinstate the peace
treaty with the help of The Alliance's President, Mando. When the
peace seeking envoys land on Yerba, Sen and Evana are caught up in a
dangerous covert action that takes them to the island of Carmona
where they are helped by the Zapotec.
Join me in this
fast-paced adventure and discover the intriguing mysteries of Yerba
as Sen and Evana are drawn into the maneuvering between The Alliance,
the Pachi, the Garendos, and the Zapotec.
1 - FIRST
Manus hurries along the
narrow corridor pondering the dark intrigue that's developing on
Avesta which has now turned into a disaster of catastrophic
proportions. Upon entering the bridge, the barrel-chested man slumps
into the commander's chair that sits in front of the viewing screen
displaying the jewel-like planet as his mind contemplates the
implications of the developing mystery. Why? Why are they doing
this? Nothing makes any sense. Though I'm not a politician, I don't
understand the reasoning behind the killing of the Coryphe and then
fingering my man. Kos stood heads and shoulders above any other
diplomat that the Credens have had in centuries. He was loved by his
people and admired by every member of The Alliance. Sen had no motive
for killing him and killing a couple of Orandees and two young girls
is certainly beneath his dignity. He's a mechanic and fighter pilot,
with little interest in politics. Instincts tell me these
developments aren't going to end here. Moving his hand to the
control panel, "Bridge, what other ships are in this quadrant?"
within range, sir."
"Hail them. I'll
speak to Commander Keiran. Put the transmission through on the
highest security level."
As Manus leans back in
his chair, his mind continues to wander. Obviously, more than the
murder of the Coryphe is going on. If killing Kos was their only
agenda he would have simply had an accident or died in his sleep. Why
implicate us? We're not in a position to afford the loss of another
starship with four hundred highly trained personnel aboard. Not with
all the losses we already incurred. All I can think of is that it's
sedition orchestrated by a rogue terrorist group trying to seize
power because the members of The Alliance need peace just as much as
I'm also aware of
the fact that our population is diminishing and continued losses
could result in extinction. At the current rate of decline, in a few
hundred years we'll become like the Zapotec. However, unlike the
Zapotec, there's no population for us to assimilate into. I don't
want to lose my ship but if I try to leave the quadrant, The Alliance
The intercom bleeps,
"Commander Keiran, sir."
"Thank you, Nuri,
put him through."
"Good to speak to
you again after all this time, Keiran. What's happening here is I
find myself involved in a very thorny situation. What I need is for
my crew to be transferred from the Kritania to your ship. I know it's
a lot to ask but can you help?"
"How many, and
approximately four hundred people on board: skilled technicians,
maintenance personnel, fighter pilots, people difficult to replace.
It's become apparent that the only way I can save my crew is to
sacrifice my ship. Will you assist?"
"I can, but it'll
be tight taking that many people aboard. I don't understand why
you're not defending your ship and why you've chosen us instead of
Alliance already knows the Argost is here. We are being detained
while they are investigating the murder of the Coryphe. One of my
crew was fingered for the deed which places everyone aboard this ship
under suspicion as conspirators. If I move the Kritania, I'll be
fired upon but it's highly unlikely that the conspiracy will stop
with the destruction of my ship."
"I'd be happy to
accommodate your people in this situation but how do you intend to
sneak them off the Kritania without raising suspicion?"
"Once my crew's
safe I don't care what they do or think because this is a losing
situation so I can't make it worse. I'll start by shuttling
non-essential personnel to intercept behind Jonk-heer. Because they
don't know you're here, you can slip directly behind the satellite.
Because of your size and the nature of your technology, you won't be
detected by their sensors. We'll jettison the shuttles from the rear
hatch in the direction of Jonk-heer and hope that they have enough
momentum to reach you but you may have to lock-on and pull them in.
Before you approach Jonk-heer, shut down your thrusters and drift in
but be mindful of how you approach because you don't have clearance.
If you're detected, we'll have a different problem on our hands. If
all goes well, we should be down to a skeleton crew by the time this
"So what happens
if you're wrong?" Keiran asks.
operation will be my epitaph."
"I'm proceeding to
intercept. I'll be in position by the time you're ready to deploy."
communications, Manus leaves the bridge as his mind again wanders, I
hate losing a good officer. As he enters his quarters, that's
when it dawns on him. Dorinda, I think that's her name. I should
tell her what's happened to Sen. Hailing the bridge, "Have
Dorinda, the records clerk, report to my quarters immediately."
Opening his closet, he
takes out his officer's tunic and drops it on top of the lounge chair
beside his bed and takes off his parade tunic. He lays the white
tunic, decorated with his achievement awards, on the bed and gazes at
it. Well that didn't work out as I planned. I only wore it to
impress the powers that be in hopes of winning Sen's release.
The door slides open as
the exotic raven-haired clerk enters. "Excuse me, sir, I thought
I was expected." Embarrassed, "I didn't mean to enter
Dorinda," disregarding the situation. Bare-chested, he slips his
commander's tunic on. As he approaches, he looks compassionately into
her sultry dark eyes. "There's no way to break it gently, so
I'll come straight out. Sen is being held on Avesta charged with the
murder of five people. I'm sorry, Dorinda. There's nothing I can do.
"But … how?
Why?" as her brow furrows.
Touched by her
emotional reaction, "I feel the situation's part of a conspiracy
but there's no way I can intervene on his behalf." Standing
before her, he smells the essence of her hair, and perceives the
beauty of her features. But he has no time to think about that now.
There are pressing issues before him and he must stay focused. Gently
guiding her to the door, "I'll keep you informed if anything
changes, my dear, but it doesn't look good. I'm sorry, I'd like to
discuss the matter further but right now I have my hands full. If you
need time, you may stand down for the balance of your shift. I'm
sorry, Dorinda, but there's precious little time for grieving."
sir. I'll return to my post. Thank you," as she leaves.
Hailing the bridge
again, "Nuri, who's the shift duty officer?"
"Hoa is running
this shift, sir."
"Send him to my
quarters immediately, please."
personnel files from his consul, he scans the list as the door slides
open and a slender light-skinned Zapotec enters. Manus turns to
speak, "We have a major problem brewing, Hoa. I have no choice,
we must abandon ship but we must do it in such a way as not to be
detected. What I need from you is an orderly departure plan. I need
to be down to a skeleton crew as quickly as possible. Are you up to
the job?" When Manus looks into the small man's eyes, a feeling
of uneasiness comes over him. It's as though Hoa's ghostly eyes
virtually read his thoughts.
"I see no problem,
sir," as the quiet gentle man bows politely. "Where will
the personnel be evacuated to?"
"The Sebac will
pick up our crew behind Jonk-heer."
Many years later, the
high-pitched siren screams throughout the ship's corridors as the
nonessential crew scramble to the safety of their containment cones.
Only the bridge, engine room and navigation crew remain at their
posts as the ship approaches the asteroid belt that circles Yerba. At
the helm, Zenfeor, commander of the Sesro, fixes his eyes on the
vastness and complexity of the asteroid belt. The ship's computer
scans the thick asteroid belt searching for a safe corridor through
the dappled maze of hurling rocks. Flicking a switch, "Dolace,
can you plot a safe course through?"
think I see a channel through but the maze is a nightmare. The
swirling debris appears to be artificially created with only a few
clear channels through and many dead ends. If we can hold this
position, I'll scan what I think is an open channel to the other side
for rogue particles and hidden setups. At these speeds, even the
smallest object would penetrate the hull. We could lose not only the
ship but everyone aboard."
"Is there a way
around the belt?"
"Not really. It's
more like a canopy than a belt. An artificial gravity force surrounds
the solar system and holds the asteroids in orbit. The belt serves as
a failsafe system against rogue asteroids or unwelcome intruders."
"Do your best,
Dolace, because our lives and this ship are in your hands."
Directing his attention to his second in command, "How far are
we from Yerba, Mathes?"
hailing range, sir."
In a confirming voice,
"Is our hailing sequence in place?"
"Ever since we
entered this quadrant," reconfirming what the commander already
Switching to the ship's
intercom, "This is your commander speaking. Please make sure you
are secured in your cone and that the cone's lid is firmly locked in
place. Check the controls for life support. If you have a problem,
other units are available in the landing bay on deck 14. We'll be
engaged in evasive maneuvers as we enter the asteroid belt. If the
ship is hit, your only chance for survival is in your cone. We are
currently holding our position for just the right moment to enter the
belt and then to proceed to Yerba and the end of our very long
journey. I am hailing the Garendos to announce our presence as
peaceful emissaries. Hopefully, the reception will be cordial. Good
luck everyone; we enter the belt shortly."
Time drags slowly as
the bridge waits for word from navigation. Zenfeor spends the time
reflecting on the path that has brought him to this place. It seems
more like a dream than reality as he reflects on the occasion he sat
in the Viceroy's office waiting, his troubled mind searching for the
infraction that brought him here. He retraces his actions while he
and his officers were celebrating the return to Preta after three
years of active duty. How could he find out? I'm sure nobody saw
me slip out the rear door. They were all drunk and manhandling each
other and I knew I wouldn't be missed. The three-year interstellar
trade mission delivering goods and passengers to several planets,
outposts, and intergalactic docking stations, took us as far as
Credenzia. The trip was long and fraught with difficulties. We even
engaged the Pachi. If not for the Ortiki coming to our rescue we
could have perished or been taken hostage. The Pachi wanted the Sesro
intact. If not for that, we'd all be dead men. I understand the value
of the Sesro and why they want it. Although not particularly
maneuverable, it's one of the fastest and largest starships in the
fleet. Its size alone would make it a desirable home base for the
I have needs that I
can't control. If I can satisfy those needs, I can release the
pent-up tension that's been torturing me during the arduous journey.
I saw her standing on the corner earlier this evening and
instinctively I knew she's one of them … a fallen woman. Even from
afar, I drank in her beauty … that is for a Nardanian. I slipped
down the alley, my body tingling with excitement. Stepping cautiously
out of the dark shadows, I proceeded along the street to where I last
saw her. Looking around … she's not here. I expected her to be
lurking in a doorway, stepping out only as a vehicle approached in
order to not get caught. Like a moth drawn to the flame, his
body's wracked with excitement as the very thought of her arouses
him. I must be patient. She'll return to claim another customer
since the night is still young.
The area is the zone of
lost souls where the dimly lit streets are fraught with danger. It
draws the free spirited wicked into adventure and in some cases,
catastrophe. He fights the shame of his desire but he must have her.
It's only with this kind of woman that his depraved innermost needs
can be met because any other woman would refuse. As he fantasizes,
he's desperate to feel the warmth of soft flesh as he imagines her
sweet breath on his face and luscious lips that will surely excite
his passions further.
The sound of clicking
echoes along the street as she pulls at the loose but very short
dress, making herself ready for the next customer. As she approaches
the intersection, he bounds across the street. But what is this, she
isn't a Nardanian at all as he makes out her unusually fine features.
She's obviously a cross between Nardanian and Creden. Not full
Nardanian like himself. His very members quiver with the excitement
of the revelation knowing that she's indeed beautiful. Without a
word, he takes her hand in his. The message understood she guides him
down the dark street and into a nearby building.
As they enter the
apartment, instantly she throws off her dress to reveal her naked
body. "The usual fee," she says as she throws herself on
the rumpled bed. He's shocked at her cavalier behavior and shapely
form and the fact that she was already naked under her dress. Unlike
most Nardanian women, her breasts are plump and firm and her
shoulder-length brown hair accents her beautiful face. Extending her
hand, she giggles as she pulls at his clothing. His body tingling as
he quickly flings his clothing to the floor. She gets up, steps to
the table, and picks up a glass of already poured wine, "This
will increase your pleasure," in her sultry voice.
Putting the glass to
his lips, he tastes the fruity fermented flavor which pleases his
pallet. He quickly downs the glass and draws her to the bed that's
still in disarray from the previous client. She dims the lights from
a switch on the headboard and presses her silky skin against his.
Running her hands up and down the length of his body, she touches his
members. "Relax, my love, you are about to find pleasure beyond
your wildest dreams." She drags her tongue down his neck,
shoulder and across his chest, and then sucks on his navel. He closes
his eyes as electricity rakes his body and a sensation of falling
overtakes him. He sinks into blackness.
Waking with a start,
eyes wide with dismay, he rolls about in the cool sheets trying to
recall the events … but he can't. The room is now dim, not from the
lamp but from the approaching dawn as slivers of light creep through
the cloudy broken window. She's gone. Every trace of what happened
that night has been removed with the exception of a smudge of blood
on the sheets. When he tries to get up, he's struck by a dull
stabbing pain at the base of his spine just above his anus. He
doesn't remember her entering him. Did I pass out? Oh, my God,
does that hurt, as he gets to his feet. I didn't even pay for her
services. That woman may be beautiful and she certainly knows how to
please a man, but she's definitely no businesswoman. He looks for his
purse. Maybe she helped herself. But he finds his purse and money
intact. Wow, it must have been good because I can still feel it. I
just hope I didn't hurt her and that's why she left.
He collects his
clothing, dresses and walks down the hall in the direction of the
stairs. As he passes one of the apartments, the door stands ajar.
Looking in, the room is dusty and vacant. He opens another door ...
empty. He hurries out the front door to discover the board that once
barred it. That's when he sees the sign, "Condemned Building."
Low overhead, he muses but dismisses the incident.
Walking in the
direction of his hotel, What will I tell the men? I got drunk and
passed out … not exactly fitting conduct for a starship commander.
But surely they'll understand that even I need a diversion from the
monotony of space.
His thoughts are broken
by the drone voice of the matronly receptionist, "The Viceroy
will see you now, Commander Zenfeor."
As Zenfeor enters, "Sit
down, Zenfeor," the Viceroy commands.
His body rigid, he
takes a seat at the side of the Viceroy's desk expecting a reprimand.
"We must enlist your help, Zenfeor. Instead of delivering ore
and farm machinery to Credenzia, we are rerouting the Sesro to Yerba.
The President of The Alliance is taking an entourage of dignitaries
to negotiate a new peace treaty. It's a dangerous mission offering a
unilateral proposal. Since they don't trust us, the Garendos may
destroy you and your ship before you reach the planet. And then
there's the chance of encountering the Pachi. Not to mention the fact
that the journey in itself is a huge undertaking. Once you reach the
outer reaches of the solar system, there's the danger of navigating
the asteroid belt surrounding their solar system. Another problem is
the uncertainty of their docking bays for such a large ship, plus the
issue of the ability of the Garendos to supply your needs for the
"Do I have a
"Frankly … No!"
the Viceroy says emphatically. As he clears his throat, "Your
ship is being prepared as we speak. Mando and four others have been
assigned accommodations in the officer's quarters. Although you're in
command of your ship, Mando has superior authority. Don't challenge
him! Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir, I
"You may return to your shore
leave for now. For security reasons, inform your officers of the new
destination only after you leave Preta."
Mathes breaks the
silence as Zenfeor returns to reality. "Commander, we are now
entering a channel through the asteroid belt at maximum speed. I'll
advise if there's a problem."
Zenfeor feels the
pressure as the ship jettisons into the asteroid belt. The ship
bounces around as they're hit by tiny particles that failed to show
up on the sensors. Although they are moving quickly, it feels like
time is passing slowly. Apprehension builds. How do the Garendos
cope? I can't imagine it's easier for them and yet it doesn't seem to
impede them in any way. Why us? What an unlikely way to end a career
by being blown to bits by an asteroid!
Like a rocket shot
through a tunnel, they burst through to the other side of the belt.
The planet Yerba, fifth planet in the solar system, sits before them
in the distance. Hitting his communicator, "Karst, hold the
thrusters. Intensify our hail and wait for a response. Dolace, stand
down the weapons; we don't want to appear threatening."
Time passes. All is
quiet. "Sir," offers Mathes, "do they have the
capability of picking up our hail?"
"They know we're
here because I detected their sensors scanning our ship. Aside from
that, I'm sure of nothing. We'll continue to wait." The
commander reclines in his chair and closes his eyes. Finally,
apprehension turns to impatience. Switching to the engine room,
"Karst, proceed toward the planet slowly."
"I'm picking up a
signal," Dolace blurts out. "I can't understand it, sir."
thrusters, Karst." Zenfeor turns to Mathes, "Bring the
Garendos passenger to the bridge. He'll translate for us."
A soft rapping on his
cover wakes Sen from his repose. The latch, which can be released
from either side, is released. "You are wanted on the bridge,
sir. Please follow me."
Obediently, Sen walks
through the maze of corridors toward the bridge. As they enter,
Zenfeor greets him. "Thank you for coming," he offers.
Sen scoffs to himself.
Like I had a choice?
"We need you to
decipher this message. Play the message back, Mathes."
In an instant, Sen
recognizes the instructions. "It's instructions on how to
proceed to the planet surface. If you wish, I'll instruct the
Sen instructs Dolace,
"We have been instructed to land in Seiran but if we make a
threatening move, they'll fire on us."
At least we have
safe passage this far, Zenfeor thinks. However, he's apprehensive
because the Garendos were the ones who broke the last treaty by
inflicting havoc on the members of The Alliance, wiping out cities
and attacking starships. The Alliance retaliated in kind, striking
the Garendos strongholds outside their solar system. If not for the
protection of the asteroid belt which was put in place because of
previous attacks on their planet generations ago, Yerba would have
As the starship breaks
through the cloud cover above a jagged mountain range, Zenfeor is
impressed with the exotic beauty of the planet. Descending in the
direction of the foothills, they enter a vast stark-white arid salt
flat with few irregularities. At some time in the planet's
history, this area could have been a lake or ocean. Zenfeor peers
across the salt flats that seem to extend beyond the horizon. The
ship slows and then hovers. Creeping forward, an incredibly large
starship terminal appears along with a small city some distance
behind the structure. The terminal appears empty.
"I'm taking the
ship in, sir, but we're being monitored closely," Mathes
Another message blares
across the receiver. Sen translates, "The Sausi Guard will meet
us at the terminal and take us to Yandee where we'll meet the
Anasusi?" Zenfeor asks.
"The big guy,"
Sen answers almost jokingly.
Soon, the ship is
docked at the terminal and the Sausi Guard boards. Releasing the
latch of her cone, Evana finds Ulriam, Rem and Mando already out and
stretching but Sen's missing. Instinctively, she expects that
somewhere along the line he was called upon to translate. The
Garendos language is difficult even for an Enkidu, but it's
impossible for a Nardanian.
"Sen must be
helping the commander with the initial meeting," Evana suggests.
"That's why he's
here, Evana. Let's have a look at Yerba," Ulriam states.
"Will they allow
us off the ship?" she asks.
"Let's find out."
Mando and the others
follow the corridor toward the ship's lobby. As they proceed, they're
met by the Sesro's security. "We were coming to get you. The
Garendos and the commander are in the terminal lobby with the Sausi
Guard. You may want to take a few personal items with you because
you'll be staying here for some time," the guard states.
as Evana and Rem hurry back to pick up toiletries and a few changes
of clothes. When they return, they proceed through the lobby and into
the terminal entrance. She's startled by the appearance of the Sausi
Guard as the very essence of the men's size is intimidating and the
dark tight fitting uniform with black polished boots that reach
mid-calf depict their authority. Several more Sausi Guards march up,
click their boots, and stand at attention waiting for instructions.
Sen speaks quickly, carefully and deliberately as he enunciates every
word Zenfeor says to the Zapotec who seems to be in charge of the
meeting. Evana detects the seriousness of the situation by the tone
of Sen's voice.
Sen takes Zenfeor aside
to discuss a matter in private. Returning, Sen instructs his group,
"We'll go with Poe to Yandee where we'll meet with the Prema
Council. Several of the Sausi Guard will remain aboard the Sesro to
oversee the ship and assure our safe return. Zenfeor will accompany
us as the Nardanian representative. Ulriam, Mando and I will
represent The Alliance and Evana will come with us as my consort. I
have assured the Anasusi through Poe that this is a peace-seeking
mission. Under the circumstances, I'm sure you'll understand their
caution. Rem, I'm sorry but it serves no useful purpose to include
you on this mission. You'll wait here."
Rem nods in agreement.
Leading the way through
the lobby of the terminal, Poe guides them in the direction of a
shuttle bay. Respectfully, Evana follows the stately man in awe of
his appearance. Never has she seen eyes like his as they send shivers
down her spine and causing the hair at the nap of her neck to
bristle. His eyes are completely devoid of color except for a faint
hint of gray. The pigment of his skin is much lighter than that of
the Garendos and his polished scalp is completely devoid of hair.
Even though the man's appearance isn't threatening, she senses an
unexplainable power. He steps lightly, yet briskly, across the exit
ramp and into the shuttle bay causing her to pick up her pace in
order not to be left behind.
They proceed through
the shuttle bay where several armed Sausi Guards wait. Although
scared, she knows it's too late to turn back. Without uttering a
word, they boarded the shuttle. Obeying the hand gestures of the
ominous guard, she straps herself into her seat. As she examines the
unusual walls of the shuttle, she finds it's made of an unfamiliar
material. Thrown back by the thrust of the launch, the shuttle moves
quickly but silently forward. To her surprise, as though a shade has
been pulled away, the floor of the craft becomes transparent. The
experience, which is less than pleasurable, gives her the sense that
she could fall through the floor to the desert below.
They travel across the
desert in the direction of the foothills. Reducing their speed, they
encounter the charred remains of what can only have been a vast city.
Remaining silent, she's in awe of the devastation. They careen across
a large deep black pit … ground zero. Rubble lies beyond the point
of impact and is scattered about the surrounding area. The charred
remains of toppled buildings stand like monuments to unimaginable
destruction. Pressing beyond the charred remains, the land turns
green. They cross a mountain range and start down the far side. Soon,
the tops of spiraling buildings appear. As they continue into the
city, the buildings grow to enormous proportions. Larger than
anything she's seen before, she wonders at the engineering involved
in keeping such tall buildings from collapsing in on themselves.
From high above, she
spots a tall structure with a large landing pod. It's dizzying as the
shuttle hovers above the pod while another shuttle is being pulled
out of the way. Once clear, the hovering craft descends and they set
down softly on top of a large red circle. As the guard opens the
door, he motions for them to exit. Gathered together on the roof of
the building, Sen speaks to the guard briefly and then they're
It's not until the
following day that they stand at the entrance of the reception hall
in order to appear before the Prema Council. Evana is mesmerized by
the pomp and ceremony that's undertaken in order to make the occasion
spectacular. The ritual is unlike anything she's seen before, what
with flags and horn blowing. Their entrance into the chambers is led
by costumed dancers who execute a short but elaborate performance
that leads them before a long Diaz at the front of the huge hall. The
process is so intimidating and loud that secretly she feels the need
to run and hide. Although Sen is a strong able man, how can he
protect her in a situation like this with the crowd behind them
pushing and shoving recklessly in order to hear the proceedings? He
stands proud-a fortress of courage and confidence. Viewed as a
traitor because of his association with the enemy, his very life is
on the line. Ulriam stands behind him slightly to the left, Mando
stands to the right, and both remain silent. Standing directly behind
Sen, Evana senses the occasional glance of the council members but
doesn't understand why. The wooden doors thunder as they close.
The chairman roars at
Sen, his voice filled with rage. Sen counters, calmly yet distinctly
but not wavering for a moment. The chairman hesitates; his voice
takes a different tone as he turns the pages of a large book that
appears to refer to the laws and statutes of Yerba. The dispute
continues as Ulriam speaks using Sen as his interpreter. The chairman
stands and shakes his finger at Sen as he screams accusations. He
then confers with the other six members of the council. As they
speak, the wooden doors at the rear of the hall suddenly burst open
and a large barrel-chested man with a long gray braid hanging down
his back enters. The man's very countenance is intimidating as he
marches with passion across the floor but stops short as he notices
Sen poised before the council. Making an instant recovery, he bows
and approaches the Diaz. The chairman speaks forcefully to the
It is in earnest that
the stranger responds. The shouting match that ensues is frightening
but the chairman doesn't waiver. He points directly at Sen, screaming
at the large stranger with rage in his voice.
His jaw taunt, the
stranger answers in two distinct words, "Nina Courdon". The
chairman's eyes widen. Standing stoic for a moment, he ponders the
dilemma before him. Turning to the others, first to the left, he
utters one word, and then to the right, he repeats the same word.
They converse for a moment and then each nods in agreement.
Through Sen, Mando
proceeds to tell the council what The Alliance offers them in order
to receive the Garendos allegiance. It seems like forever as Evana
stands waiting and waiting. It has been a very long day and she has
not eaten. A tingling sensation begins in her feet and makes its way
up to her knees. The room begins to spin …
"Evana … Evana
…" It's like a dream as she recognizes Sen's voice, "Evana
… are you alright?"
Her vision slowly
clears. The ceiling is obscure as her eyes gaze past him to discover
where she is. Of course, I'm in the Prema Council Chambers. "What
happened?" she asks.
The chairman that spoke
so angrily kneels at her side softly speaking several words.
"He asked for
your forgiveness," Sen offers.
Evana gives him a nod,
indicating her acceptance. Picking her up, Sen carries her out of the
chambers, down the long hall and into their quarters. As she lays her
head on his shoulder, "How did it go?"
"It went well.
That is, once we convinced the chairman of our honesty. He's not the
"So what's with
"Good grief, Sen,
after standing most of the day listening to a bunch of screaming men
quarreling about something that I had no idea what it was about. I
was hungry and thirsty. Isn't that enough to make anyone faint?"
Placing her on their
bed, he draws her near and whispers in her ear, "You know it was
a long boring trip to Yerba. Do you think our many adventures could
have left one of us in a delicate condition? Think about that night
when I woke you, the night we made spectacular love under extremely
"I don't think so
Sen. It's just that I haven't been feeling well for the past few
He pulls his shirt over
his head, "The very scent of you makes me crazy." Untying
her dress, "I'm only trying to make you comfortable."
"Yah … right,"
Several days later,
their party receives clearance to tour Yandee. It's a new city, born
of the destruction of Mercer. They left Zenfeor in bed in order to
catch up on his sleep and Mando is touring their building with the
Anasusi. Sen, Evana, and Ulriam wander along the narrow streets
looking for a restaurant where Sen can introduce her to Yerba's
cuisine. When they peer in the shop windows, they find the window
inset to be extremely thick. Looking up, the engineering feat
suddenly makes sense to him. He never really thought about how the
buildings, which reach a colossal height, can stand without caving in
on themselves. The structure is laid out in tiers of six floors with
a slightly smaller tier standing on top of the one below. He detects
a massive inner core reaching up to the top tier is the core's
counter support for the lower floors that are actually individual
cubicles topped with a terrace. Each terrace interlocks with the
center core and allows the building to withstand the fierce wind and
occasional movement of the tectonic plates. At various levels, the
buildings are connected by large transparent arched tunnels enabling
a person to maneuver throughout the city without having to return to
ground level. Even Sen is impressed by the ingenious design and well
calculated engineering of the city. The tall government buildings,
however, are built using mockups in order to create the illusion that
the buildings tower above the others in case of an invasion which
would draw the enemy to the tallest buildings and spare the
The streets are laid
out in an organized manner and clearly marked on the side of the
corner building. A transportation system, called the spine, is
futuristic compared to the rest of the galaxy. The population gains
access to the spine through various stairways leading underground
where passengers step into small enclosed compartments, pulled to a
launch site, and lined up orderly. From there, the compartments are
methodically launched along a swift moving track. The entire system
is paid for by ration cards issued by a division of the council. The
landing party received their ration cards when they received their
room assignment. As they tour the city they expected the large shops
to be filled with masses of merchandise but instead, the shops are
half empty. Even so, Evana manages to buy several very expensive
garments in the Garendos fashion from one of the shops. Thankfully
Sen, Zenfeor, Mando, and Ulriam were spared that expense because they
received military uniforms minus the distinctive insignias.
After an extensive tour
of the city, they return to their quarters, but before they reach
their rooms Poe intercepts them. "Were you waiting for us, Poe?"
voice carrying concern.
"Why didn't you
just wait in our room?"
there to arrest you. I'm here to take you into hiding until they sort
out a matter regarding Zenfeor. I trust your sincerity but I found
Zenfeor difficult to read. The man's mind is filled with scattered
thoughts and cravings and he seems to be a little stupid.
completely, they follow the small man through a series of corridors
to a launch site where a small hovercraft waits. Evana, however, is
unfamiliar with the Zapotec and she's apprehensive that they may be
falling into a trap.
The vehicle proceeds
quickly along the city street to the edge of town. Once free of the
buildings, he powers up the vehicle and they soar into the heavens,
across the mountains, over a large lake, and then they veer north
into the polar region. As they streak above the polar cap they bank
and then angle southeast. In the distance, snow-capped mountains
appear. The hovercraft passes so close to the summit they can feel
the chill of the frozen wasteland. Suddenly, the hovercraft drops
sharply below the horizon amid an intense powerful blast. Evana holds
her breath and closes her eyes as they follow the course of a tight
ravine along a whitewater river.
"What the hell was
that?" Sen demands.
"If they think we
died in an accident, they won't be looking for us so intently."
deception?" he asks.
"The Sausi Guard
is thorough. When they're done with Zenfeor they'll know the truth."
"What will they do
"They use drugs.
Nothing remains hidden but it takes time."
"So what are we to
do in the meantime?"
With nothing further to
discuss, everyone remains silence as they snake through the
mountains. Suddenly, they burst onto an open beach as a vast choppy
ocean lies before them. They hug the water so closely that the
transparent bottom of the craft is sprayed by the wind.
"We're going to
hit the water," shouts Evana.
"I know what I'm
doing, woman. Stop screaming."
she settles back into her seat knowing that she's not particularly
held in high regard by the scary-looking little man and he senses her
The sky is darkening by
the time the mountains appear in the distance. With every passing
moment the frozen snowcaps become more vivid and the mountains stand
lush and green against the crimson sky. Betelgeuse sinks and darkness
falls. With blackness surrounding them, she hopes Poe is flying by
instruments and not instincts because visibility is zero. Flickering
lights appear in the distance as the hovercraft slows and hovers. She
feels the descent and then the impact of the wheels touching down.
The craft rolls slowly in the direction of a row of lights.
"You'll stay on
Carmona until it's safe to return to Yandee," Poe instructs.
understand," Evana challenges.
Poe approaches, his
pale eyes burning into hers as he explains, "You won't like the
way the Garendos interrogate suspected spies. They use drugs that
force you to lay bare your innermost thoughts and completely excavate
your being. They will know all. Even the things you deny to yourself,
your sins, your lusts, your guilt, and your hypocrisy. It takes days,
even months to recover. Some never recover completely from the
internal conflict when interrogators reach deep into your inner-self
and bring out what and who you truly are. It is my desire to spare
doubting his sincerity.
"Because I know,"
he snaps rudely.
"Know what and who
"How can you be so
sure that you really know me?"
"I have Kai. I
know and understand Enkidu vanity," he answers defiantly.
Evana thinks to herself
… So what!
Poe gives her that look
again. A look that tells her he knows exactly what she's thinking. He
motions for them to follow him into the lights, which are so intense
everything else is shadowy. As they pass through the intense light,
their vision cleans and buildings appear. Poe opens a door and they
ascend an inner staircase. They follow a long narrow hall and enter a
large open terraced courtyard where a group of young Zapotec have
gathered. Although darker skinned, most of them are within the range
of Poe's structure with the same shaven heads. A few have preserved
enough hair to allow for a long braid that reaches to their waist.
All are male.
novices, brothers of Kai. When they pass the fourth level they go to
"What level have
you passed?" Evana asks.
level, a very long time ago," he pauses as he clears his throat.
"I have attained full Kai. Having full Kai offers me the
opportunity to serve the Garendos in their efforts to save our
candidates reach full Kai?"
"You ask far too
many questions. Remain silent." Turning to Sen, "You must
teach your woman humility. It would honor you much."
Sen gives her a
grimacing smile as he shrugs his shoulders.
Insulted, Evana walks
behind as they follow the stern but stately man through a maze of
terraced buildings. Scattered among the buildings are shops and
public services where personal everyday necessities are sold.
They exit the area and
follow the dark street consisting of small cubical homes to a large
compound where vehicles are stored. They walk through the open
compound and enter a building where a specially equipped land rover
sits running. "Wait here."
"Where are you
going?" Evana blurts out.
Poe gives her that dark
look again. His silence tells all.
pleads, "would you please SHUT
Cringing at his angry
voice, she squats on the floor and rests her head in her hands. She
jumps at the sudden opening of a door as the metallic sound echoes
through the empty building. Poe has returned in the company of a much
younger man who appears much like Poe with the exception of a long
braid. "This is Mah, a trusted member of The Brotherhood. He'll
take you to Roa. I'm sorry, but it's the only place where you'll be
completely safe." Turning to Mah, "You must leave
immediately. I faked an accident but by morning they'll know. The
fake accident will only buy you time. Gopala is the first place
they'll look." His eyes turning to Evana, "The woman
babbles. Ignore her."
"Come this way,"
as Mah leads them in the direction of the running land rover fitted
with enormous tires. Once inside the vehicle, they proceed along a
paved road into the black void.
It's the sharp bumps
that wake her. The morning light coming through the side window
exposes a sharply defined terrain, which is moss-covered and speckled
with large fern-like foliage. Leaving the paved road, they forge on
into the rolling hills where large trees with thick trunks send broad
stiff branches skyward. Here and there, huge jet-black rocks sit like
abandoned children as they approach an area where the hills appear
taller than the others. Cutting through the hills is a narrow gorge
where a group of large black stone stand at the entrance. They scrape
between the barriers and lumber along the narrow gorge until they
exit onto a delta where a wide lazy river snakes its way south. In
the distance, tall stands of trees create a completely different
environment and behind that, mountains cut across the horizon. Mah
leaves the vehicle to search for something while the others get out
and stretch their legs. Curious, Evana bends down to test the soil.
Mah blurts out, "The
gorge we just went through was the course of this powerful river but
it was diverted in order to reclaim the land to the southwest. The
diversion was necessary in order to turn the marshy estuary into
plains. After the marsh dried, the Garendos used the area for
military purposes and a landing strip allowing them access to
Carmona. They permitted us to use their facilities and to cultivate
the land when they left. The academy for novices is also in Gopola."
"So any Zapotec
can join The Brotherhood?" Evana asks.
is passed through the patriarchal line. Only those that qualify can
become members. Come," he commands as he returns to the land
Later, Mah pulls the
vehicle close to the riverbank and tells them to get out. As they
stand waiting, Mah hides the vehicle in the brush. "We leave the
vehicle here and travel up the river to the village called
Entrygate." Clearing his throat nervously, "Don't look at
me as though I'm crazy. There is such a village."
Stumbling after the men
through the tangled swamp grass, her thoughts turn to what Poe said;
They reach into your mind and search out your innermost secrets.
Well, they can completely empty my brain if they want because this
misery isn't worth it. Besides, what will they find? Certainly not
what they expect to discover unless they're a little twisted.
As they walk along the
riverbank they come upon an animal trail and follow the trail until
they encounter a boathouse. Mah opens the door of the building.
bloody boat is huge and we are only four. If we are to row up that
fast-flowing river I'll be an old woman by the time we get where
we're going, but she knows better than to open her mouth.
They slide the rusty
relic out of the boathouse and push it across the damp grass.
Surprisingly light, the boat moves much easier than she thought
possible. Upon reaching the riverbank, Mah places the oars
appropriately and all is ready. Evana and Mah are the first to get in
as Sen and Ulriam push the relic into the water and then climb in
themselves. They drift downstream until they get organized. Mah
instructs, "Follow my lead. Stiffen your arms and let your body
do the work. Everyone pulls at the same time."
Moving in synchronized
rhythm, to her surprise, the metal rust-bucket fairly glides across
the water. As Betelguise rises to midday, the smoke of a distant
village appears on the horizon. Who will look for us here?
It appears that the
headwater of the river is a large inland lake. With renewed energy
they lean into the oars as the boat skims across the water taking
them to a distant shore and the village located in front of a high
oddly shaped hill covered with large trees and moss. A gentle rain
begins to fall as they approach but soon becomes a heavy torrent.
Upon reaching the
wharf, she turns to look back at the course they have followed only
to find it lost in a hazy mist. She's trembling with cold and soaked
to the skin, her hair hangs in stringy clumps as rain runs down her
nose and neck. Upon reaching the wharf, a hooded man greets them and
speaks to Mah in a strange dialect and then offers his hand to help
her out of the swaying boat. Accepting his hand, she steps to solid
footing. They follow the man up the well-traveled path in the
direction of the village barely able to see where they're going in
the downpour. Upon reaching the secluded village Mah indicates his
desire for them to enter a large hut. Feeling more like drowned rats
than people; they enter the building to the welcoming sight of a fire
burning in a worn fireplace.
"You may disrobe,"
Mah commands. He opens a wardrobe closet and offers them each a long
warm robe with a drawstring waist which appears to be one size fits
all. Mah motions for her to take off her wet clothes. "The
Brotherhood frowns on modesty. It is the works of the flesh,"
Mah responds to her reluctance.
"Is that why Poe
"Enkidu are vain.
Modesty is a false sense of superior worth."
Not wanting to oppose
The Brotherhood, everyone disrobes quickly including Evana. As Ulriam
drops his wet clothes to the floor, she tries not to giggle.
Interesting… as she looks at his skinny legs and large narrow feet.
Not wanting to offend, she hides the nervous smile that creeps across
her face and throws the robe over her head.
"Sit at the
table," Mah instructs.
As they're seated, the
door opens and several robed men enter carrying covered plates.
Taking several dinner plates from a cupboard, "Woman, help me,"
Mah instructs. Instantly, she takes the plates from him and sets them
on the table. Mah continues, "You'll sleep here. Tomorrow, we'll
begin the trek to Roa. Eat well, sleep well, it is not far but it is
a difficult climb. There are hot spots and steam pools, so stay on
the trail because the island's unstable. Most who visit do not
linger." Gathering their clothing, "Hang your clothing by
the fire so it dries because you'll have to wear them in the morning
under the outer robes of our people and blend in. Do not speak."
Mah lifts the covers
from the serving plates to reveal well-oiled dishes of vegetables and
fish. When Evana places the food in her mouth, never has she tasted
anything so delicious.
"The food is
"Eat hearty. In
the future, food will be less plentiful."
She wakes early to find the fire has
gone out and the windowless hut is completely engulfed in darkness.
Suddenly, the door opens and she recognizes the silhouetted figure of
Mah. "Make ready to leave. Conceal yourselves because not every
person in the village is of The Brotherhood. Some were subverted by
the Garendos and may betray us."
Soon they find
themselves following a trail into the heavily tree-covered mountains
through thick fern-like underbrush. Billows of steam rise through the
strange vegetation as the evocative call of songbirds' filters
through the trees and the occasional bee buzzes past. They walk
carefully along the black rock-covered trail past strange volcanic
formations. Mah explains, "The Island was formed over the
millenniums by magma. As the years passed, vegetation started from
the seed-filled droppings of migrating birds. With the gradual
breakdown of algae, vegetation and volcanic rock, the island became a
paradise. With years of wind and torrential rain, the magma continued
to break down and thus the sculptured formations. Ahead of us is a
stream but don't touch the water because it's scalding. And don't be
fooled by the colorful algae lying at the bottom. Some algae exist
only under these extreme conditions."
As Evana follows the
men into the mist, she asks, "What causes the mist?"
Mah responds, "The
cool morning air contacting the steaming pools. The mist burns off
when the air warms."
As they reach the edge
of the forest, the path widens and a large steaming lake appears. The
lake burps, gurgles, and churns and occasionally shoots a fountain of
water several feet into the air. Multi-colored coral-like plants wave
slowly back and forth with the circulating currents and although
breathtakingly beautiful, she understands its perils.
They move in the
direction of a snowcapped mountain and follow an undefined trail
where they cross a huge smooth rock. Silently, they press on as a
rumbling in the distance breaks the silence. Above the horizon and on
the other side of a downgrade, a jet of water spurts into the air.
"What is that?" she asks.
Mah answers. "There are many of them on the island. They shoot
up through vents in the volcanic rocks from underground rivers."
Indicating his displeasure at her unending questions, "We are
moving in the direction of Roa and The Circle of Light."
Surprised at his
comment, it slips out, "What's The Circle of Light?"
Mah gives Sen a shaded
glance, "I told you to control your woman."
hard to control." He asks, "So what is the Circle of
Incensed at Sen's lack
of concern about his woman's behavior, "It's the gathering place
of the patriarchs. Centuries ago, The Brotherhood was formed to guide
our people spiritually. They took the lead in protecting us from the
Garendos. In time, we gathered the members in Roa to hide them from
our enemy, the Sausi Guard. Although the Garendos are a technically
advanced civilization, they did not understand us and Kai initially.
They came to take our island and subjugate us. Although we suffered
several casualties, eventually the island itself scared them off."
"You beat them?"
"You could say
that. Actually, they defeated themselves by not understanding the
island's hidden dangers. Finally, they understood us and Kai and
realized we posed no danger to them. But that knowledge came the hard
The group continues in
silence. Now high enough to see the scope of the island she wonders,
Is Carmona really an island, or is it actually a continent?
Far below, she notices
a herd of long-legged horned animals with billows of hair at the neck
and rump, grazing in a high meadow. Only on Centra has Evana seen
such an animal as this. With the exception of the horn, the animals
are similar. Frozen in her tracks, she watches the stately creatures
move about as their manes flow gently in the wind.
Narrowing her eyes to
focus, she observes movement in the underbrush at the edge of the
meadow. Some distance from the herd, a white stallion stands watching
for sign. Sniffing the wind, he sounds the alarm. A yearling runs to
his mother as the feline, slinking quickly through the underbrush in
the direction of the yearling in intercepted by the stallion as he
brings his head up at just the right moment and catches the feline
between the front legs and flips him backward. The startled animal
lets out a fierce roar. When he hears the roar, Mah stops. "Keep
"But … But …
"Keep up," he
roars again. "We have a long way to go."
5 - CARMONA
It's late in the
afternoon by the time they reach the village. The unimpressive small
round huts are built of large reeds with thatched roofs, standing in
a semi-circle around a communal well at the base of a barren mountain
built behind a ridge on one side and sheltered from the winds by
several huge boulders on the other. Evana wonders at the reason for
traveling so far to reach this primitive excuse of a camp. Why didn't
they just hide in the woods somewhere near Gopala? Her eyes scan the
rugged black cliffs above the encampment where a large opening emits
Mah instructs, "Wait
here." He opens the door to one of the small hut, and then
motions for them to enter. As they enter, an old woman squats on the
floor by an open fire. Looking suspiciously at the travelers, she
speaks to Mah as her dark eyes trace their faces. Obviously she not
only doesn't appreciate the intrusion nor is she impressed by their
"This lady will
see to your needs. I must ask you to remain in the hut. Venture
nowhere," as he gets direct eye contact with Evana conveying his
lack of trust. Mah disappears.
The woman motions for
them to sit on the sleeping platform covered in straw. She disappears
and returns carrying a tray of tea and flat bread, cooked vegetables
and sliced fruit.
With Mah gone longer
than expected, Evana becomes bored and yet curious, she opens the
door slightly and peeks out. All she can see is a small boy playing
outside in the rain like any other child with the exception of his
pale skin. Responding to the creaking door, he's startled by the
strange looking woman, knowing she's an outsider.
"Get back in here,
Evana!" Sen shouts.
How could these
people scare off the Sausi Guard when they're unimposing and have no
weapons or technology?
With dusk descending,
the group beds down on the platform to rest. Unable to find sleep,
Evana's mind drifts to Tali and her children again. The sudden nudge
at her foot startles her.
"Follow me, gather
your possessions," as Mah leads them single-file up the path
behind the village. Carrying little to slow them down, they walk
single-file behind him.
Nervous about the steep
narrow trail, she clings to Sen's arm. When the trail turns to
stairs, they only go a short distance until they encounter a large
group sitting under cover in front of an open fire. They walk past
the group, enter a cave and proceed along a tunnel lit by strange
illuminators secured to the walls. As they venture deeper into the
cave, the passageway broadens immensely until it becomes more like a
cavern than tunnel. A streaming underground river parallels the
cavern but disappears beneath the bedrock. The cavern probably was a
huge aquifer during the island's early development. In the distance
... light and sound breaks the weird silence. Upon entering the
light, they encounter a circle of people, some chanting and some in a
deep trance. The chamber appears to be a ceremonial area but the
unearthly sounds are disturbing.