Read Lady Lure Online

Authors: Flora Speer

Tags: #romance, #futuristic romance, #romance futuristic

Lady Lure

 

 

 

Lady Lure

 

by

Flora Speer

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2013, 1993, by Flora Speer

 

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Peri

1: A supernatural being in Persian folklore
descended from fallen angels and excluded from Paradise until
penance is accomplished.

2: A beautiful and graceful girl or woman.
Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary

Prologue

 

 

“Perri, daughter of the Amalini Kin, will you
freely accept this commission?” the Chief Hierarch asked in formal
tones.

Determined not to show him how troubled she
was by what he had just revealed to her, Perri straightened her
slender shoulders and met the pale green eyes of the most important
member of the Regulan Hierarchy.

Until that day she had never met any of the
seven Hierarchs face-to-face. On special occasions she, like other
Regulans, watched on her telscan while the splendidly robed
Hierarchs conducted the appropriate ceremonies in their sumptuous
official chambers.

Yet even in the Chief Hierarch’s private
office, where few would ever see it, there was ample evidence of
the far-ranging influence of the Regulan government.

On one wall hung a long Cetan sword. The
sunlight coming through the window set the curved, highly polished
blade aglow. Perri could remember the ceremony during which the
sword had been presented to the Chief Hierarch on the occasion of
the signing of the commercial treaty between Regula and Ceta.

On the wide desk sat a golden lizard, the
heraldic symbol of the ancient Styxians, one of the first Races of
the Jurisdiction – and a very peculiar Race, from all Perri had
heard of that people. Since Styxia lay on the far side of the
Jurisdiction and had only the most tenuous relations with Regula,
Perri wondered how the Chief Hierarch had come by the artifact.

And, of course, inlaid into the desktop and
into the wall immediately behind the Chief Hierarch’s chair were
representations of the Sign of Regula, a silver spiral that curved
inward and in again upon itself until it doubled back to its own
beginning, a never-ending, sinuous line as complicated and
mysterious, it was said, as the minds of Regulan men.

Those multiple symbols of the dignity and
authority of high office left Perri all but speechless with awe.
She could scarcely believe that the Chief Hierarch himself had
deigned to see her. She had expected to deal with his
underlings.

“Well, Perri? You did say you would do
anything to help Elyr. Do you intend to balk at this one
request?”

Unusually tall, ascetically thin, with
snow-white hair and beard, the Chief Hierarch always stood out from
the six Lesser Hierarchs. Even while wearing a plain white robe in
his simply decorated private apartments, the man inspired fearful
reverence in Perri’s youthful heart. It was all she could do to
prevent herself from going to her knees before him.

Reverence or no, Perri did have a few
questions. It seemed she always had a few questions, no matter what
the subject under discussion. Silently she prayed for the Chief
Hierarch to show greater patience with her than Elyr and his
mother, Cynri, usually did.

“Sir, I do not doubt what you have told me,”
Perri said. “But I have known Elyr for thirteen years, since I went
into his parents’ household at the age of nine. I cannot believe
Elyr could be guilty of a serious crime.”

“You do not doubt, yet you cannot believe?”
The Chief Hierarch raised thick white eyebrows in astonishment.
“Are your thoughts truly in such disarray?”

“It is only that Elyr has never given any
indication to me of having an unkind opinion of the Hierarchy.”
Elyr had never given Perri an indication of what his opinion was on
any important subject, but that was not the point.

“Did I say he has done so?” the Chief
Hierarch asked.

“You did not need to say it, sir. You implied
it.”

“You have allowed your irrational female
thought processes to lead you to an unwarranted conclusion.”

“Sir, please tell me what the crime is of
which Elyr stands accused. When his servant, Vedyr, came to me with
the terrible news, he said he could not discover what the charges
are.”

“There are certain matters too serious to put
into words.” The Chief Hierarch was frowning, and Perri trembled in
response to this sign of displeasure. “I can tell you no more than
I already have. Unless you carry out the task I have described to
you, your betrothed will die in a manner best left unmentioned.
Perhaps of more personal interest to you, since by virtue of your
betrothal to him you are a member of Elyr’s kindred, the entire
Amalini Kin will be exiled from Regula.”

That was a terrible sentence, one far worse
than death. Most Regulans dreaded the thought of leaving their
homeworld for more than a brief period. Perri could feel the blood
leaving her face. Her head swam with terror and confusion and her
trembling increased so much that she was afraid she would sink to
the floor. But still, she asked questions.

“Sir, I am only a poor, ignorant woman with,
as you have so kindly pointed out to me, irrational thought
processes. How, then, can I be expected to succeed in the difficult
and dangerous task you have set for me?”

“It is in your interest to succeed,” the
Chief Hierarch said.

“But I do not know how to pilot a spaceship!
I have never been away from Regula.”
Nor ever wished to
leave,
Perri added in a silent protest she dared not speak
aloud.

“No matter.” The Chief Hierarch was unmoved
by Perri’s emotional outburst. “Your personal robot is being
programmed with the necessary information to enable it to act as
your pilot. The technicians should be finished soon.”

“What have you done to Rolli?” Perri cried,
forgetting awe and respect for the Chief Hierarch in her fear for
the one entity on Regula that understood her.

“You display more concern over a robot than
you did for your betrothed.” The Chief Hierarch did not appear to
be either shocked or angered. He merely nodded his head as if to
indicate that a deeply held belief had just been confirmed. “It is
often so with women, foolish creatures that you are. Rest assured,
your precious Rolli’s basic memory bank is unchanged. Rolli will
still be able to teach you the finer intricacies of needlework or
recall the recipes for Elyr’s favorite menus.”

The Chief Hierarch spoke with the contempt
men reserved for the daily work of women. His manner annoyed Perri.
Considering what he was asking of her, she expected him to show a
bit more sympathy for both her and her robot. That thought produced
another question.

“Sir, how can you imagine that I have even a
minute chance of luring my prey onto the ship you will lend to me
and Rolli?”

“Because you and your prey, as you so aptly
call him, have one trait in common; curiosity. Both of you ask far
too many questions.” The Chief Hierarch paused, eyeing Perri with a
tinge of malice in his pale green glance. “However, if it becomes
necessary to lure him in other ways than by his curiosity, then do
so.”

“Even -” Perri could hardly breathe, but she
kept asking questions. “Sir, you cannot want me to – Do you? I am
sure Elyr would not agree.”

“If it were to save his life,” the Chief
Hierarch murmured, “Elyr might well forgive your misconduct.”

“I cannot think he would,” Perri stated
firmly. “Elyr’s morals are of the very finest quality.”

“Well, then, you must do what you think is
best.” Breaking off his talk with Perri, the Chief Hierarch looked
beyond her, toward the entrance to his chambers. There a manservant
appeared and paused just inside the door. “Yes, what is it?”

“Sir, the robot is ready.” At a motion of the
Chief Hierarch’s hand, the man quickly bowed himself out of the
room.

“Rolli!” Perri took a step toward the
door.

“Perri of the Amalini, you forget your
manners!”

“I am sorry, Chief Hierarch. It was not my
intention to leave your presence in a rude way.” Perri was relieved
to see him incline his head in acceptance of the apology.

“I do assure you once again,” the Chief
Hierarch said, “that nothing about your robot has been changed save
for the introduction of piloting and navigational knowledge. It
would be highly inefficient to add skills or information not
required for your upcoming tasks.”

“Of course it would. I should not have
doubted you, sir.” Setting aside the moral issues involved in the
assignment she had just been given, along with her own personal
qualms and her lingering questions about what she was being asked
to do, Perri reminded herself that she had no other way to save
Elyr. Taking a long breath to steady herself, straightening her
shoulders with a sense of firm resolution and commitment, she
looked directly into the Chief Hierarch’s eyes and said in the
formal tones required by the occasion, “Very well, sir. Of my free
will and volition, I hereby accept the commission you have given
me. I will do everything in my power to carry it out as you
wish.”

“I was sure that all the Hierarchs – and Elyr
– could depend upon you, Perri. I am pleased to hear that I was not
mistaken in my assessment of your character.” Pleased or not, there
was no softening in the Chief Hierarch’s expression, not even the
trace of a smile. Nor did his cool eyes warm.

“When shall I leave?” Perri asked,
envisioning days or weeks of preliminary training. In the meantime,
perhaps she would be allowed to visit Elyr. Thanks to the Chief
Hierarch’s willingness to help, she could offer her betrothed some
hope that the death sentence laid upon him would be revoked. But,
she reminded herself, only if she succeeded.

“From these chambers,” the Chief Hierarch
answered her, “you are to proceed directly to the ship that is
being prepared for you.”

“Right now? Without going home to pack or to
tell Elyr’s mother? She must be so worried. This news would relieve
her mind.”

“Cynri does not know of Elyr’s plight, and
you are not to send her any messages.”

“But, I thought – Why not?”

“Time is of the greatest importance in this
matter, Perri, second only to secrecy.”

“Secrecy?” Perri’s dark green eyes grew wide.
“Sir, what do you mean?”

“Understand,” the Chief Hierarch said, “that
I speak for the entire Hierarchy in this. Having confidence that
you would accept the commission, we have agreed for the moment to
withhold full disclosure of the charges against Elyr. Those charges
will not be made public unless you fail in the task set for you or
unless you take too long to complete it. Remember, Perri, not only
do Elyr’s life and the future of all his relatives rest in your
hands, but something far more important than life. The honor of the
Amalini Kin – and their continued residence upon Regula – depends
on you.”

 

* * * * *

 

“She will never be able to do it.” With Perri
dismissed from the Chief Hierarch’s chambers, the man who had been
listening behind the heavy folds of a window curtain stepped
forward. Of medium height and slim build, he had fair hair and the
usual green Regulan eyes set in a long face, which at the moment
bore a solemn expression.

“It does not matter whether Perri achieves
her mission or fails in it. Either way, she will not live long,”
the Chief Hierarch said. With a chuckle of genuine amusement the
ordinarily humorless Hierarch added, “And with any luck at all,
whether she succeeds or fails, the man she calls her prey will not
outlive her. Then, my friend, you and I – and our futures and
fortunes – will be safe.”

Chapter One

 

 

“Stand and deliver!” The voice coming over
the interspace comm system spoke with the emotionless rasp of an
ALF – an Artificial Life Form. Hearing it, Capt. Jyrit and his
communications officer looked at each other in astonishment for one
split second before Jyrit spoke.

“You know the response to that order,
lieutenant. Tell whatever metallic creature is hailing us to go oil
itself – after it gets out of our way.”

“Aye, captain.” The lieutenant repressed a
smile.

“Heave to and prepare to accept a boarding
party!” the unemotional words continued.

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