Blade Dancerby S. L. Viehl, Allen Douglas
Jory Rask is a professional shockball player. The fastest runback in the game, she is loved across Terra. But Jory Rask has a secret that she's lived with for twenty-four years. In a xenophobic world that despises aliens, she is not quite human... See more details below
Jory Rask is a professional shockball player. The fastest runback in the game, she is loved across Terra. But Jory Rask has a secret that she's lived with for twenty-four years. In a xenophobic world that despises aliens, she is not quite human...
- Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
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- Product dimensions:
- 4.36(w) x 6.64(h) x 1.18(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
Read an Excerpt
"THE PATH CHANGES, SO TOO MUST THE TRAVELER.''
-Tarek VARENA, CLANJOREN
All I was trying to do when they caught me was bury my mother in an unmarked grave.
I should have seen them coming-I was out there alone, in the desert, in the middle of the night-but I didn't. Maybe because I was tired. And upset. And committing a felony.
The tired part came from staying awake since getting Mom's last signal. I'd ditched practice, dodged my offcoach, disguised myself to avoid any stray media hounds, rented a glidecar under an alias, then headed from the city for the desert. All that took forty-nine hours, with no time for a catnap in between.
I hadn't gotten upset until I'd walked through the front door of our house.
I tried not to think about that as I carried my mother's body over a mile out to the south ridge. I knew it would be safer to burn her, but I couldn't bring myself to get the petrol and the matches. I couldn't do that, not to her. I'd already done enough.
Like the felony part.
Have to finish this before dawn or someone'll spot me.
On the way to where I figured no one would ever find her body, I had to deal with the uneven terrain on top of my exhaustion. If I fell, I might end up cracking my skull, or worse, junking my knee. In the distance I saw buzzards circling over something else dead-which reminded me, I'd have to make the hole deep or they'd get at her. Other things waited in the shadows and watched for a chance at a midnight snack, too. Vultures. Coyotes. Rodents. I'd once seen a dead ewe out here covered with a seething blanket of black roaches.
I won't let them chew on you, Mom.
The temperature, which had been scorching when I'd arrived, had dropped enough to make my face feel numb and stiff. Some of the local cacti flowered at night, and I could smell their thin, desperate perfume. The sweat collecting on my scalp and under my arms had no scent, but made me itch, probably because I couldn't scratch. I hated being sweaty, even when there was no one around to notice my body odor-or lack thereof.
I knew what my mother would have said right then: You should have showered before you left the house.
"Yeah, well, I was busy."
Her face bounced against my chest with every step I took, and left wet marks on my shirt. I was glad it was dark. I didn't want to look at her. I didn't want my last memory to be of her like this.
My last memory was bad enough.
The desert silence, something I usually enjoyed, started to get to me. It was too quiet. There should have been coyotes yipping, wind whistling, crickets chirping, something. Instead, all I could hear were my own footsteps thudding against the sun-baked earth, crushing weeds, skidding a little on pebbles here and there.
"Help me out here, Mom." I shifted her weight in my arms. "Haunt me or something."
An image of her sitting calmly at our kitchen table with two teacups snapped into my mind-the way she looked up as she poured. Her hand on the teakettle. The smile that had always been a little sad.
What say you tell me about the game, Jory?
That had been six months ago, but I played along and repeated what I'd told her then. "Damn Gliders gave our defense a real pounding. We tied it up right before the one-minute warning, and the whole game came down to the final play. Thought the offcoach was going to strangle the defcoach." I grinned. "Dees kicked from the forty. Linemen everywhere, dogging anyone stupid enough to run a standard pattern and just mowing 'em down."
You are not stupid, my ClanDaughter.
I ignored the ghost voice in my head and babbled on. "Only Coach and I worked out this hook play-center run for ten, loop back to left field for five, then the old dip and dive past Dees. I snagged the sphere, cradled it in, and ran. By the time those tacks realized what we'd done, nobody could get near me. Felt like I was skipping on air all the way to the zone."
You are not skipping now.
No, I wasn't. Every step made my knee click, and serious pain pulsed up through my thigh muscle, courtesy of my artificial-joint tech. I'd have to spend a couple of hours fiddling with the ligament mounts again.
I warned you not to play so hard.
"I don't play hard. I get hit hard."
Rijor would not agree with you.
That reminded me. "Did I tell you about Rij's sib? She came downside to see me. Intergal Shockball heard our junta erased Rij's name from all the Terran databases for being part fish, so the nonhuman league is going to add him to theirs and retire his old number on his homeworld. Put him in their hall of fame and everything. You'd have been tickled."
He would have made you an excellent bondmate.
He might have, if a fan hadn't noticed water leaking from a tear in Rij's uniform after a particularly rough game two years ago. That same afternoon, an angry mob had dragged him from the arena and beaten him to death.
You should have Chosen him.
"Shut up, Mom."
The only choice I needed to make was where to plant her. After looking around, I picked a natural depression in the ground unpopulated by sagebrush and weeds, and put down the body. As I straightened, the moon came out from the clouds and made her dead eyes gleam. They were all white, no pupils, no irises. Anyone who'd have seen them would have thought she was blind.
No, Jory. Mom's ghost sounded as tired as I felt. They'd see the color of my skin, and call the authorities.
I didn't feel sorry for her. "Not a problem anymore, is it?"
I pulled the shovel out of my backpack and put it to use. The desert ground was dry but hard-packed, and it took a few minutes to find the right angle. Even then, I had trouble getting into the rhythm of stab-push-heave. Not like I'd had a whole lot of practice digging graves in the desert in the middle of the goddamn night.
I was meant for the embrace of the stars.
Her ghost was really starting to tick me off. "Next time die on another planet, okay?"
I should have been at a memorial center in the city, giving her a decent funeral. Flowers. Church music. Discreetly anxious attendants hovering during the services until it was time to reduce her remains to sanitary, scatterable ash. But not even a bribe of World Game tickets would keep the morticians from turning us in.
Mom and I weren't even supposed to be on Terra without special short-term visas. Instead we'd resided here illegally for twenty-four years. My mother had always been in hiding, first with the other aliens in the underground tunnels beneath the city, then by becoming a complete recluse once I had earned enough to buy the desert house.
I would have done anything for you.
I jumped-that time, she'd sounded like she'd been standing right next to me-then I shoveled faster. "Couple of fans cornered me last week outside Toronto arena. They had a new baby with them, told me they'd named her Jory." I had to stop to wipe the sweat from my eyes. "Nice people, but shit, Mom, that kid looked just like a monkey."
You should have children of your own.
"Me. A mother." I snorted. "When swine become airborne, maybe."
At last I judged the grave to be deep enough, and climbed out. I'd brought a length of old linen to wrap around Mom's body. She wouldn't have liked this part, either. According to her, bodies should be wrapped in a shroud woven by the family during the "Yay-You're-Dead" party. Where she came from, they loved funerals.
Death is not the end of the journey. It is only a new path taken by the traveler.
"No ship, no stars, not even a grass shroud, Mom. A hole in the dirt and cotton's the best I can do."
I folded her six-fingered hands over her sunken chest. She had beautiful hands, strong and graceful and competent. I'd never seen her claws emerge, not once in twenty-four years. The numbness inside me contracted into something else. Something tight and hot and furious.
I was burying my mother.
Do not grieve for me, ClanDaughter.
I didn't want to grieve.
I wanted to hit something.
"Why the hell didn't you call me?" The words exploded out of me. "I'd have stomped over anything to get to you! We could have gone back underground; I could have gotten the medicine in time. I could have saved you. What were you thinking?"
It was my choice. My path.
"You and your stupid fucking paths!" I kicked the shovel, sending it flying. Then I was on my knees, my arms around my abdomen, doubled over. Losing her hurt worse than anything that had ever been done to me. "How could you? How could you leave me like this? You're all I've got. All I've ever had."
Still, white-within-white eyes stared up at the stars I couldn't give her.
I honor you, Jory.
I stopped acting like a jerk, and carefully arranged the coils and braids of her black hair around her face. Most of the pustules had broken before she'd died, and a few still oozed green fluid when I touched her-the same fluid that was all over the front of my shirt. Trickles of it ran down her cheeks, like dark tears.
"At least one of us can cry." I sat back on my haunches and pressed my palms to the sides of my pounding head. "So what do I do now, Mom?"
My answer came immediately, when light flashed in my face. "PRC. Hold it right there."
Five men surrounded me, and I curled my glove around the hilt of the knife I always carried, even during games. No one was going to do me the way they'd done Rij. The high-intensity emitters they carried made it hard to see their faces, but they were obviously well dressed. Every one of them had a weapon drawn.
With Mom dead, there'd be no more bribes from me. Evidently the neighbors had decided to go elsewhere to get some creds.
I straightened to my full height, and two of the men took an automatic step back. Nice thing about being nearly seven feet tall-it unnerved every guy I met. "Get lost."
While they were busy gaping, I picked up my mother and carried her over to the hole. They followed, forming a loose ring around me, Mom, and the grave.
"What are you burying?" one of them asked.
I could have lied and said a really big dog or something. But the reason to do that was going in the grave. What was the point? "My mother."
"Why didn't you take her to a mortuary memorial center?" The PRC agent pointed a beam at my face.
I stepped out of the light. "Because, stupid, she didn't like them. Take a hike."
"Put down the body."
I carried her to the grave and jumped in. New pain sizzled up my thigh as I laid Mom out in the bottom. The old fears came crawling along with it. Maybe I could cover her fast, make some excuses. I'd listed "future-ager" as my religious preference with the junta; that might get me some slack. Five faces stared over the edge at me. Someone enabled a weapon.
"You have ten seconds to climb out of there."
I used seven to bend down and kiss my mother's ruined face. Her brow felt hard and cold against my lips. "Honor you, Mom."
I ignored the outstretched hands and hoisted myself out. The dirt from the grave sides felt dry and crumbly under my hands.
The light was in my face again. "Step aside."
Planetary Residential Commission agents had no respect for the dead. I was tempted to teach them some. "Leave. Now."
PRC hands grabbed at me, holding me, patting me down. One of them took my knife. The other grabbed my breast and squeezed.
"No tits," he said as he slid his hand down between my thighs. "But feels like she's got a nice, tight slash." Mistake number one.
No female plays pro without getting groped in the locker room now and then. I'd been hit on for eight straight seasons, usually by rookies or new trades who hadn't been warned. If they came back from injured reserve, they never touched me again.
Nobody put their hands on me.
I took out two of them with one leg sweep, forcing the first backward and down by the hair while cracking some of the second's ribs with my boot. The third came running at me from behind, and I turned so he could collide with my fist. His nose fractured under my knuckles, and his jaw would have been next, but the fourth dove between us and tried to knock me away with a shoulder to the center of my chest.
It wasn't much of a block-I'd plowed through much worse on the field-and I weighed too much for him to move me. The problem was the not-at-all-human thing that swelled inside me. Worse than anger. My vision sharpened, my mouth dried, and I felt my claws punch through my gloves. Something huge and vicious lived inside me, and now it wanted more than a fistfight.
Take them down.
Rip their bellies open.
Fill your hands with their guts.
Take them down, Jory, now now NOW.
I fought it, curling my hands over, cutting my own palms as I forced my claws back into my fingers. Denying the ferocious surge was like being scalded from the inside out, but I'd kill them all if I didn't. Rij had taught me breathing methods to get through these rage spells, but that was for the game. With my mother there, it was personal.
And suddenly I wasn't too sure I could hold back the beast.
I had to get away from them. Right now. Before I could pick a direction, the fourth agent fumbled in his jacket, produced a weapon, and fired.
Mistake number two.
Light and pain crackled over me. From the whine of the blast I knew his weapon had been adjusted to heavily stun almost any life-form. Any life-form not wearing insulating thermal wraps, that is. In my case, it was like getting stung by a great big bee-it just pissed me off more.
"That didn't work, did it, asshole?" I knocked the pistol from his hand, grabbed his jacket, and jerked him up off his feet. As he dangled, eyes bulging, I showed him all of my pretty teeth. "Want to try again?"
I might have done more to Mr. Trigger-Happy, but the fifth agent stepped up to me. He was tall enough that he didn't have to stretch much when he put his gun to my head.
"Mine is set to burn a hole through your brain," Bright Boy told me. "Your move."
I dropped the terrified man and enjoyed the subsequent thud and grunt. "Tell them to keep their fucking hands off me."
"All right." He held out a hand. "I want to see some ID."
I tossed it at him as his men picked themselves up and brushed off their tunics. Trigger-Happy muttered a few nasty things, but Bright Boy told him to shut up and everyone to back off.
He checked my ID, gave it to one of the others, went over to the grave, then came back to me. "Identify the cause of death."
I was briefly tempted to say something like bubonic plague, but then they'd probably make a huge deal out of it and quarantine the entire commune. Besides, they'd caught me; it didn't matter that they knew.
So I told him the truth.
"Holy shit," one of them muttered. He had his light trained on my ID tag. "You know who she is? Jory Rask. The runback with the NuYork StarDrivers."
"I don't care if she's the first lady." The one in charge ran his beam up to my face again. "Remove the eyewear and show me your hands."
My sunglasses and gloves were all that stood between me and being exposed for what I was. When I was a kid, Mom had even sewn my shades on a strap around my head, to make sure they didn't come off while I was playing.
No one must ever see your hands or your eyes. Promise me you'll be careful, Jory.
I took them off.
Mistake number three.
Someone spit on the ground. Trigger-Happy muttered more filthy words.
"You're under arrest." Bright Boy turned to his men and pointed to the grave. "Drag that thing out of there."
--from Blade Dancer by S. L. Viehl, copyright © 2003 S. L. Viehl, published by Roc, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
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Jory Rask was one of the best professional shockball players. Yet when her secret was exposed, Terra shipped her off planet and banned her return. To honor her mother's last wish, Jory set out to find others like herself, those known as the ClanChildren of Honor. She located them on her mother's homeworld of Joren. Once they met, their lives changed forever. ................ Jory was determined to seek the vengeance denied their mothers. Her new found clan followed. To get vengeance, they must undergo training at the Tåna, the school for assassins known as blade dancers - the most lethal killers in the galaxy. In the heart of that school was a deadly secret! ............... ***** I have read this author from her first book release titled 'Star Doc'. I followed as the book became a series, eager for each new glimpse of Viehl's fascinating universe. Doing a search for the author's name on the net, over six months ago, I came across this latest title and began counting down the days until its release. I had begun to believe the day would NEVER arrive. But eventually, it did! .................... Well it was worth the long wait and then some! This Sci-Fi romp is unforgettable! It now holds a place of honor on my 'KEEPER' shelf. Excellent! *****
In the far future, Earth belongs to the Allied League, which consists of many different species, but the inhabitants on Terra are very xenophobic. Aliens are not allowed to live there and mating with another race is a crime. The children of that mating are denied citizenship and if discovered are deported, their money and property confiscated. Jory Rask is a world famous shockball player but when it is discovered she is part Jorenian, she is kicked off-planet. She travels to her mother¿s home planet but on board she meets an assassin from Reytalon who says she could go there for training as she has the moves to become a lethal BLADE DANCER. She thinks it is a fine idea once she accomplishes her mission on Joren but when she leaves she takes six other half-breeds with her, all Children of Honor whose mothers were sold into slavery but were recovered. The half-breeds were treated as pariahs but on Reytalon they are all treated as equals. Their common heritage forges a bond so strong that they become their own clan house, a fighting force that is almost unbeatable. After reading S.L. Viehl¿s ¿Stardoc¿ novels, reader¿s curious about the Jorenian home planet and culture will find it is very different than that of Earth¿s. BLADE DANCER satisfies the audience¿s curiosity through a story line that details the philosophy that Jorenian is based on. There are many twists and turns in this stand-alone novel and there are some unexpected surprises in store for a group of half-breeds who have become a family. Harriet Klausner