Authors: Tracy St. John
Clans of Kalquor Book 8
Tracy St. John
© copyright October 2013, Tracy St. John
Cover art by Erin Dameron-Hill, © copyright
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author’s
imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or
events is merely coincidence.
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Kat, who comes through even when the computer gods are wrathful.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
The Kalquorian Empire was and still is a civilization of great importance to the Galactic Council of Planets. The fierce but intelligent species has been at the forefront of technological, medical, and scientific breakthroughs for millennia. Their military might has never been in question; even their ancient enemy, the opportunistic race of Tragooms, hesitates to attack a Kalquorian force half its size.
However, Kalquor’s survival is in jeopardy. The force that threatened this mighty race was not one that wielded weaponry. It could not even be seen with the naked eye. It was a virus.
Centuries ago, this virus struck the home world of Kalquor, wiping out a substantial number of its people, particularly the females. Symptoms included massive bleeding of the body’s major organs, along with those of the female reproductive tract. Damaging the x-chromosome of the Kalquorians, the virus’ effects went beyond death. The majority of women not killed outright were rendered infertile, and daughters born to those who could bear children were not guaranteed the ability to do the same. The virus altered the very DNA of the entire race.
In an effort to keep their race from going extinct and prevent fighting amongst the men, family groups called clans were formed. Each clan was made up of one female known as the Matara (childbearer or ‘lifebringer’) and representatives of each of the three breeds of male: the Dramok (leader), Imdiko (caregiver), and Nobek (protector).
Despite their efforts, the numbers of Kalquorians continued to decline. So few children were born that extinction was thought by many to be inevitable. Despite all their medical expertise and attempts to find compatible species to mate with, the Kalquorian culture seemed destined to disappear.
A little over a decade ago, a scout ship from a small, isolated planet no one knew of flew into the Galactic Council of Planets’ space. These newcomers, searching for a new planet to house the overflow of their ever-growing population, called their home planet Earth. It was immediately remarked upon how incredibly similar they were to Kalquorians. The doomed race took note at once, and hope was restored. It was theorized that perhaps the Earthers were the fabled Lost Tribe of Kalquor’s ancient ancestors.
Earth, however, was not as enthralled with their potential distant cousins. Ruled by a government based on fanatical religious beliefs, Earthers were taught they were God’s Chosen, made in his wondrous image. They looked upon Kalquor with hostility and outrage, particularly since the beleaguered inhabitants of that empire suggested compatibility testing for purposes of interbreeding.
The leaders of the Kalquorian Empire, feeling they had no other recourse, decided the time had come to seduce Earther females and convince them to come to Kalquor. Women on Earth were treated as lesser creatures and second-class citizens by their government and religion, and the Kalquorians with their near-worship of women hoped they could entice these lifebringers to join their clans. And if the women would not be seduced, Kalquor was no longer above the distasteful necessity of abducting them outright.
Almost 2000 Earther women went to Kalquor, putting the Empire and Earth at each others’ throats. Then the unthinkable happened: an Earther woman joined the aliens’ ruling clan, making her Kalquor’s empress. Earth immediately declared war.
The fighting was horrific, with Earth’s greater numbers slowly overwhelming Kalquor’s more advanced technology. With its already dwindling numbers reaching crisis stage, the Empire was desperate to find a way to win the war and secure its future. They staged an invasion of Earth itself. Earth’s answer was to set off nuclear explosions beneath its own major cities, devastating the population and dooming the planet.
Most of the survivors have been rescued by Kalquor and the Galactic Council of Planets. An uneasy peace reigns for the most part now, though there are Earthers and Kalquorians alike who argue fiercely against the mixing of the races. With a few renegades from the old Earther fleet and army still on the loose, there is the occasional bloody skirmish with their old foe.
Unseen forces with grudges both new and ancient would like nothing better than to see the fighting continue. They manipulate from behind the scenes, setting events in motion that will claim the lives of the guilty and the innocent alike.
Elisa Mackenzie pushed her food cart through the detention halls of the battlecruiser Final Judgment. She moved the rattling wheeled piece carefully, determined not to spill a crumb of the overflowing dishes. The last hover cart had lost all power three weeks ago, leaving Elisa and the rest of the kitchen staff with seven battered and dented denizens on casters. They didn’t move smoothly as the hover carts had. It was yet another reminder of the deprivations on board the renegade starship.
Elisa wheeled the now nearly empty cart from the general population brig to the other half of the cruiser’s prisoner containment. She was on her way to the maximum security brig, where traditionally the most violent or dangerous prisoners were kept. It was time to feed the Kalquorians.
Her heart drummed in anticipation as it always did when she neared maximum security. She knew it was ridiculous to get so excited. It was stupid, in fact, if Elisa was honest with herself. Her secret fascination with the aliens was reckless to the point of being dangerous. If any of her fellow shipmates knew the thoughts she had, especially about the clan she was about to see now...
Elisa set her expression to one of boredom as she entered maximum security’s guard office. She suppressed a groan when she saw the two men in the room: Ensigns Chris Coombs and Don Remington.
Of the two, Coombs was the least offensive though he smelled like he might have last showered around Armageddon. He did just enough work to avoid getting into too much trouble with everyone else, and not one iota more of effort than that. The man took laziness to a near art form. Despite the strict rations of the ship’s dwindling food stores, he managed to look flabby and indulgent.
Better looking and sweeter smelling, Don Remington was still an asshole. There was no getting around that fact. He made rude comments and insinuations in Elisa’s presence when there was no one around to report him for it. She treated him like a nuisance, ignoring him for the most part.
She did her best to hide her fear of being alone with the man. Letting Remington know how vulnerable Elisa felt around any of them would be a huge mistake. He was known to be belligerent and bullying when he knew he could get away with it. It wasn’t farfetched to imagine him taking his ‘flirtations’ too far in the right situation. Thus far, Elisa had managed to make sure that situation didn’t happen.
She wasn’t surprised to see both men in the room, though there was only one guard assigned per shift. Coombs and Remington often took an hour to play cards as one traded guard duty with the other. They were in the thick of a poker game now, from the looks of things. Coombs’ shock of dingy blond hair hung to the tip of his nose as he squinted at his hand. The men were supposed to keep their hair regulation short. No one seemed to have reminded the lackadaisical Coombs of that fact in the last several months. For that matter, no one had apparently bothered to tell him to keep up appearances at all. Wearing his uniform jacket open to display a stained tee-shirt, as he did now, wasn’t in keeping with military protocol in the slightest.
In contrast, Remington was as official as an ensign in worn clothing and shoes could make himself look. The man was low in rank, but he carried himself as if he ruled the ship. His hair was always short and clean; his clothes pressed, if becoming a bit threadbare; and his shoes shined despite the heel of one coming loose. He was ambitious enough to look the part of up and coming fleet officer. Remington was also mean enough to run over those who didn’t get out of his way. Even though Earth’s official military was long gone, he still ached to advance and be important. It had escaped his notice that being in his thirties and having gotten no farther than the rank of ensign boded poorly for his future advancement.
Plus there was that little matter of Earth’s fleet no longer existing. As far as Elisa knew, a few scattered remnants of ships like Last Judgment were all that was left of a force that had been millions of vessels strong.
As Elisa entered the guard office behind her clanking food cart, Remington did his usual perusal of her body. His eyes traveled from the top of her hair-netted brown tresses down to the crotch of her food service white trouser uniform. She knew she should be used to it by now, and not just from Remington.
It wasn’t that Elisa thought of herself as a raving beauty. She was sure she’d never come close to that particular description. Moreover, she was no longer young. Seated firmly at middle age, Elisa had left youth and its innocent dreams behind. She knew there was nothing in her appearance to excite any real interest.
At least there wouldn’t have been back on Earth before Armageddon had destroyed that planet and most of its people. Women were a rarity now, and Elisa was the only female on board the battlecruiser. Men naturally had thoughts of a less than saintly nature when they saw her, even though she neared fifty.
Remington’s particular leer managed to make her feel filthier than most of them, however. He’d told her more than once, “Girl, if I ever catch you alone, I am going to be made a very happy man.” He left no doubt what he intended to do with her to make himself happy. He’d grabbed her a few times. Just a week ago, he’d caught hold of her hand and pressed it to his semi-hard crotch before she could snatch loose.
Elisa hated the man. Passionately.
Coombs wasn’t as bad by a longshot. He was just lazier than most. Even when it came to the easy job of guarding the three men imprisoned in Maximum, he could barely be bothered to put in the bit of effort it required. As Elisa trundled her rattling cart through the room, he never looked up at her. He continued to study his cards, peering at them through slitted eyes in the dim light. Most of the ship was kept at half illumination as they tried to conserve precious power. Headaches from eyestrain were a common complaint.
Elisa looked over Coombs’ shoulder to see what he was holding. Three of a kind, deuces. He’d been winning pretty well to judge from the stack of chips in front of him. Too bad for him he wasn’t winning any real money, not when there was no actual income anymore. For those Earthers who hadn’t surrendered following Armageddon, there was only running, surviving, and trying not to get caught by the Kalquorian Empire.
Beyond the small table the men sat at, the guard office held little. There was a dusty vid that was supposed to only be used in emergencies. The crew was constantly reminded to conserve power whenever possible. Despite the energy rationing, the guards often played concerts and movies saved in the system. Elisa couldn’t blame them. Besides work, there was damned little to do on the ship.
On the far wall hung a couple of frequency disruptors, five percussion blasters, cuffs, and an old black uniform coat turning gray with dust. The recycling unit had quit working some time ago, and the bin used for refuse was overflowing. The com system sat silent.