Endgameby Kristine Smith
Ever since contact was first made between humans and the alien idomeni, tensions between the two races have been frequent and bloody. As the first genetically altered human-idomeni hybrid, former Captain Jani Kilian serves as a lightning rod for the anger, outrage, and hatreds of both sides. And now the ex-soldier finds herself in the unwanted role of/b>/b>… See more details below
Ever since contact was first made between humans and the alien idomeni, tensions between the two races have been frequent and bloody. As the first genetically altered human-idomeni hybrid, former Captain Jani Kilian serves as a lightning rod for the anger, outrage, and hatreds of both sides. And now the ex-soldier finds herself in the unwanted role of diplomat—serving the interests of her hybrid enclave, Thalassa, the only place in the universe that welcomes renegade humans, hybrids, and aliens alike.
But the all-powerful Commonwealth intends to bring Thalassa to its knees, and the time for diplomacy is at an end. With death surrounding her, Jani Kilian must return to where her nightmare began and once again take on her most powerful persona: warrior. For as the game approaches its inevitable conclusion, she knows only two options remain: victory . . . or extermination.
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The altar room in the Haárin transept of Elyas Station proved much more suitable than Imea nìaRauta Rilas had feared, warm and quiet as any in Rauta ShèrÃa. A place of clean, white stone, dark woods, and polished silver metal. A place of preparation, and acceptance of the will of the gods.
She had spent half the station-morning in prayer, as was proper for a godly bornsect. She had stood with her back straight, arms raised above her head, and intoned supplications to her favored goddess until the dry air rasped her throat and she grew light-headed from having stood so still for so long. Now, she lowered her arms in a smooth downward sweep, the cramps in her muscles and pain in her joints blending to form yet another prayer.
As her hands fell to her sides, Rilas felt the cuffs of her shirt tumble over her wrists. How she hated this shirt, its blue as blinding as that of an alarm illumin. How she hated her trousers, as purple as her shirt was blue. She thought of her usual clothing, her flowing trousers and overrobe in subtle shades of sand and stone. Her soft tan boots, so much more appropriate than the stiff black things she wore now. She imagined her hair as it should have been, arranged in the braided fringe of a breeder instead of as it was now, loose as a mane, its only binding a leather coil. A horsetail. Such was what the Haárin called the style, in imitation of the humanish.
Rilas turned and walked to the narrow bench next to the entry, where she had set her slingbag. She hoisted it to her shoulder, felt its comforting heft bump her hip. So many thingsdid it contain. And still a few more did she need to add. Such I must do, and quickly. Before it came time for her to board her shuttle to the city of Karistos.
Yet as much as she wished to depart, still she hesitated. She felt agitated, angered, as she had so often over the course of her journey from her blessed homeworld of Shèrá to this most ungodly of destinations. So much planning and preparation. And now I am here. At that point where planning and preparation transmuted into action and realization. Completion. Triumph.
And yet . . .
Rilas let the bag slide down her shoulder onto the top of the bench. She opened the flap and hunted, through the clothes and the tile samples and all those other objects of no importance. Once she reached the bottom support panel, she touched first one corner, then the one diagonally opposite. The panel separated from the bag frame with a soft click. She pushed it to one side and reached into the shielded compartment beneath, felt the tension leave her as soon as she put her hand on the shooter.
She lifted the weapon from its hiding place, confirmed its standby setting by pure reflex, then turned to a bare wall and sighted down. The case fit the curve of her hand, the weight filling an emptiness she had not realized she felt until now. Yet she knew she should not have felt surprise, for such was as it had always been. She possessed metal in her soul, nìRau Cèel had once told her, and as always he spoke truth.
Rilas bared her teeth. Such is as I am. Joy filled her as the air she breathed. Even her godless apparel no longer angered her. She always felt most as herself when she held a weapon in her hand.
She stood for some moments, arm extended, imagining targets past, targets yet to come. Then she lowered her arm, this time more slowly. Turned back to her slingbag and returned the shooter to its hiding place. Refastened the bag, raised it again to her shoulder, and departed.
The Elyas Station passenger concourse battered Rilas to the pit of her soul. Voices, humanish and Haárin, combined to a cacophony that pierced the brain. Corridors as long tunnels, walls colored red and blue and purple, lined with darkened rooms...the interiors of which she could not see, marked by signs she did not understand. Smells, ungodly and sickening, a mingling of hot foods and brewed drinks and bodies that had not entered a laving room for days. Tension, as those stenches enveloped her and those bodies passed close enough to touch.
She glanced at an idomeni timeform that hung from a purple-tinged wall, and her step slowed. Her shuttle had not yet arrived at its dock. Once more she had miscalculated, rushed when she did not need to do so. Once more she had time.
More time than I need. Her usual problem, and also, she knew, the cause of her anger. For that time needed to be spent somewhere, and as she traveled on public spacecraft, that meant she spent it in places such as these. Mongrel places, tainted by humanish, and by Haárin who had lost their Way. She watched them walk with one another, converse with one another, these misbegottens. Humanish, their hair braided in breeder's fringes whether they had bred or not, their clothes the flowing overrobes of the most strict bornsect. Haárin, hair clipped skull-close or left unbound, the females in wraps of cloth that clasped their forms or fluttered about them as though torn by winds, the females and males both in blinding patterns and colors avoided by even the most unruly outcast.
Yet I appear as one with them. Rilas pressed a hand to her stomach, and felt her soul rumble. Elyas is a godless place, Cèel had warned her, more so than any of the others you have visited. There, you will witness such as you never imagined possible. She remembered the weariness in his posture as he spoke, the anger in his bowed shoulders and the turn of his head.Endgame. Copyright © by Kristine Smith. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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