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Authors: S E Gilchrist

Quest For Earth

BOOK: Quest For Earth
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Quest for Earth

S. E. Gilchrist

www.escapepublishing.com.au

Quest for Earth
S. E. Gilchrist

With the survival of her crew at stake, an old enemy waiting in the wings, and a mighty chieftain declaring his love, can Sherise lead her people safely home?

Honouring a pledge made in the blood-soaked dirt of a prison planet, Sherise volunteers to lead the stolen people of Earth safely home. But when a collision plunges her ship off course and they emerge three hundred years into Earth's future, they have nine weeks to repair the ship or the path back to their own time will close forever.

On an earth seething with predators and dangerous tribes, Sherise discovers love with the Lycanean chieftain, Maaka. But can she trust him, or is he only after her superior weapons?

With the safety of her passengers and crew paramount, Sherise must choose her alliances with great care. For an old enemy is hidden on the planet, and he wants all her people dead.

About the Author

S. E. Gilchrist can't remember a time when she didn't have a book in her hands. Now she dreams up stories where her favourite words are ... ‘what if' and ‘where'? S. E. lives in the Hunter Valley, Australia with her family (both of the two-legged and four-legged kind). Her stories are set in the exciting worlds of science fiction, ancient worlds, apocalyptic settings and contemporary small towns and several of her books have finalled in writing contests. S. E. takes a keen interest in the environment and animal welfare and loves bushwalking and reading.

Acknowledgements

I would never have realised my dreams of being a writer without the motivation and support of my family, friends and the wonderful writing community,
Romance Writers of Australia
.

Thank you to my face-to-face writing group for their support and generous sharing of knowledge,
Hunter Romance Writers
– a wonderful bunch of ladies who are just fun to be around.

For my wonderful children, Kerstie, Kyle and Blake—you are always my soul.

For my mother, for her courage and strength.

For my father, for sharing with me his love of the sea and science fiction.

For my brothers, Michael, Paul & Peter—thank you for sharing my childhood and giving me such great memories.

For Phil, for all those magic moments.

Last but not least—for my wonderful CP's & friends—Sandie James, Juanita Kees, Erin Moira O'Hara, and Kerrie Paterson.

Contents

About the Author

Acknowledgements

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Bestselling Titles by Escape Publishing…

Prologue

Darkon Year 6035

Planet Gazood

‘She's dying. There is nothing more I can do.'

At Rachel's stark statement Sherise's stomach clenched.

Eyes burning with useless tears, Sherise stared at the pitifully frail body huddled beneath the threadbare covers. Every now and then violent shudders would wrack the small frame. The little girl, Talia, whimpered with pain, her trusting gaze locked on Sherise.

At nine cycles of age, she'd only begun to live.

And what life she did know had been spent trapped on this rock.

Sherise bent down and brushed the damp curls from the little girl's forehead. ‘Close your eyes and rest.'

She stayed by the child until she had fallen into sleep, her breathing now mere whispers of sound. Sherise rose and walked to the mouth of the cave.

She crouched low and peered down over a land that swarmed with danger. A land that offered little in the way of food and protection for her band of women and children. Her grip tightened over her roughly hewn spear. With its inhospitable terrain and severe weather patterns, few star travellers dared touch down on the surface of Gazood.

It was the perfect place for a secret prison.

Her gaze lifted to the sky, to the space station orbiting this rock where their jailers lived in relative luxury. Where there were medicine and medie tubes.

She had to try.

She could not bear to bury another child.

Decision made, she studied the terrain with care and, satisfied all was clear from draptiles, she clambered down the rocky path. Her quick breaths were the only sound she could hear, the pump of her frantic heart the only thing she could feel.

Sharp, brittle branches scratched her uncovered arms but she barely noticed as she hastened along a well-worn track that wound through the prickly scrub to arrive at a small landing strip.

Here was the only compu station on the planet, where they could communicate with their jailers. Not that they had ever done so. Until now.

She placed her spear onto the ground within reach and coded her response.

‘I accept.'

***

Darkon Year 6038

On board
The Rising Star

‘The Bracken voyager prepares to enter the Azzirt Vortex, Commander.'

The Commander swivelled his chair and checked the data stream to his port side. He said in a steady voice, ‘They must be stopped. Regardless of the cost, the Bracken ship must never reach Earth. Are we within range?'

‘Affirmative, sir.'

‘Give me weapons lock.' He swept his gaze around the Command Centre, allowing his eyes to rest on each and every officer on his deck. Volunteers, all of them. Like himself. For every warrior here knew this was a one way mission.

‘Done, sir.'

‘Fire when ready.'

‘Commencing plasma bursts. Missiles are locked, coded and away.'

‘Status report …'

A flurry of voices responded.

‘Their ship is powering up the pulsar cannon.'

‘Sir, in fifteen sectons we will breach the PONR of the vortex.'

‘Ensign, sound the alarm. All brace for impact,' shouted the Commander. ‘Get our cannon online, now. Return immediate fire.'

‘Affirmative, sir.'

‘Incoming in ten, nine, eight …'

‘Explosions reported, sir, coming from the enemies' ship. We have hit target.'

‘Five, four …'

‘Enemy ship remains intact and operational. She's jumped!'

‘Two …'

Colder than a dead warrior walking, the Commander ordered, ‘Follow her.'

And the
Rising Star
entered the vortex.

Chapter 1

Darkon Year 6039

Inside the Azzirt Vortex

‘The first thing I'm gonna do when we land on Earth is take you to a ball game,' Bree said, a broad grin on her face.

Seated beside her on a couch in the passenger communal compartment of the long-distance space voyager, Sherise El Rajan nudged her best friend with her elbow. ‘After you visit your family.'

‘Well, duh. That goes without saying. You'll love it, and my brother, Zack, is the best quarterback the United Earth Corporation has ever seen. I can't wait for you to meet them all. How long now before we arrive?'

All around them, their companions fell silent while they waited for Sherise to respond. She smiled at their expectant faces, feeling both proud and relieved their journey was almost over. Many had become friends and she suddenly realised she would miss their companionship once they re-joined their families and former lives.

Especially, Bree. But she would never attempt to change her best friend's mind. She knew how much Bree wanted to be with her family again. Saying goodbye to her would be heart wrenching. But then who knew how long it would take to negotiate an alliance with Earth's government?
I may well end up spending quite some time on this planet.
And Bree had a long list of Earth things she wanted to share with her.

When she'd told Bree earlier she intended to brief the other passengers on the disembarkation schedule after they'd made contact with Earth's ruling government, her friend had insisted on accompanying her. Sherise should have saved her breath. The men and women were too excited to be nearing their journey's end to listen, but it had been wonderful sitting and learning about their families and the lives they intended to resume once they were home.

Cycles ago, these people had departed Earth to colonise a new world but were betrayed, transported to another galaxy and thrust into a war of savage intensity. The men had been forced to work in mines and some of these women had found themselves imprisoned with Sherise, Bree and other Darkon women and children on that terrible planet, Gazood for many cycles before they were rescued. Other Earth women had had to survive the best they could in an alien world. With peace restored and the gateway maps found, Sherise's brother, the new ruler of the Darkon Empire, had honoured his promise to send those who wished to leave on the risky journey to Earth.

She smoothed over a crease in the crimson, mid-thigh length tunic she wore over her skin suit. The crew on board the
Quinnie
were all volunteers, and Sherise had been one of the first to step up and put her name forward as a negotiator. They were under orders to forge an alliance with Earth's ruling entities by offering any who wished to leave the over-populated Earth a new life in the Darkos system. Even better if, once on Darkos, they ended up uniting through marriage with Sherise's people, so cruelly decimated by the devastation of the cycles-long war. Perhaps then both races would have the chance of surviving beyond the current generation.

Grinning, Sherise tucked her bare feet under her bottom. ‘A little over one of your Earth weeks.'

‘Yes!' Bree pulled her into a quick hug.

A sudden, powerful shudder jolted through the ship and flung them off the couch. Sherise fell against a bulkhead wall. Breath exploded from her lungs in a loud whoosh. Pain radiated down her arm. Screams and shouting ensued from the other occupants of the compartment. Dazed, she staggered to her feet. Her startled gaze met the frightened faces of the people she'd sworn an oath in the blood-stained dirt of Gazood to see returned safely home.

‘What's happening?' Bree scrambled off the floor, gripping a nearby chair for balance.

Sherise shook her head. ‘I have no idea but I intend to find out.'

To the others now raining a barrage of shrill questions at her she held up a hand for quiet. ‘Please, remain calm. Is anyone hurt?'

From the flurry of flustered responses, she quickly ascertained there were a mere few minor injuries. After advising those hurt to go to the medie chamber, she hurried to the internal comms panel near the hatch and called the bridge.

Static greeted her.

She met Bree's anxious gaze. ‘Comms are down. I must see for myself what has occurred.' To the others she said, ‘I will inform you what has happened shortly.'

Then she bolted through the open door, her bare feet slapping against the illuminated metal walkway, her goal the blast-proof door which protected the ship's central command cabin. Behind her she heard the footsteps of Bree following.

A horrendous whine echoed from the ship's bowels, reminiscent of a dying beast.

Horrified, Sherise lurched to a halt and shot a look over her shoulder. A warning slipped through her mind. Was the
Quinnie,
a ship half mechanical and half living organism, attempting to communicate with her? She tried to grasp the message but it vanished with the speed of a nixt missile. In its wake, an icy shiver slicked down her spine and brought with it a gut-wrenching memory of another time. And the faces of those who'd been lost.
Please Cercis, I cannot fail. Not again. I cannot allow anything to compromise this mission.
She straightened her shoulders.

BOOK: Quest For Earth
5.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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