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Calixte knew Indus might let her people die. Still, Bevan's chances at succeeding had to be better with her than without. She entered the private spaceport belonging to her family, where Bevan was speaking with a technician. Silently, she pulled a flight suit off the pegged wall and stealthily made her way to the ship. She waited until the tech opened the ship's side door and then softly stepped up the plank and into the ship without attracting anyone's notice. She found a quick hiding place in the back, behind a large pack of supplies, where she crouched, waiting. Bevan entered and powered up the ship. They were off the ground in seconds. The proximity alarm sounded, and she could hear Bevan's curses from the front of the ship. She tried to ignore the chaos and focus on pulling on the borrowed flight suit, but she was shaking so badly she couldn't get her feet into the legs of the suit. Peeking from her hiding place, she could see the ship's view-screen fill with Uriga battleships. The ship shook with the passing of missiles ...
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About the Author
Jocelyn Modo may be crazy but writing keeps her from going insane. She grew up reading science fiction and fantasy and fell in love with romance when those girlie hormones kicked in. Nothing makes her day like working on her current manuscript, and nothing makes her crazy like working on her current manuscript. But all’s fair in love and war, and Jocelyn likes to put a whole lot of both in everything she writes.
Read an Excerpt
Knife-like screams cut through Calixte's sleep. Her bedroom walls flashed red, orange, and blue. Drawing her legs up to her chest, she looked out the window in horror. Uriga had come. Her home planet, Cephium, was doomed to death and slavery.
She leapt off her bed and ran from her room, navigating the dark, vacant halls in bare feet and her sleep gown. Coming to a stop outside the Throne room, she impatiently pushed her long blond curls over her shoulders, then pressed her ear against the door. She could hardly hear over the sounds of battle outside and the boom of her racing heart. To slow her heartbeat, she took a deep breath and held it. When she could hold it no longer, she released the breath and took another. Closing her eyes, she listened.
"We need to get a message to Leader Sarin of Indus," Admiral Ralphdon said.
"Agreed," Adviser Kaaner said. "But all communication systems are down."
"We send a soldier, then," announced Calixte's father, Leader Laborc.
She could picture her father sitting straight-backed on his throne, his advisors pacing the room, checking information as it streamed down the view screens that doubled as walls.
"Sending a soldier will be risky," Admiral Ralphdon said. "Leader Sarin will likely kill our man when he enters Indus territory. Indus has never been our ally."
Calixte agreed with the admiral. The only reason Indus and Cephium managed to live in neighboring solar systems for these many years was that Cephium feared Indus enough to maintain a polite facade.
"It's their neighborly obligation to aid us now in our time of need," Leader Laborc countered.
Admiral Ralphdon snorted. "Blood lustwould be a more likely motivation. Still, I agree. You may need your advisors here to negotiate with Uriga if Cephium falls before help can arrive. A soldier is our best choice."
Leader Laborc's hard voice slammed through the Throne room, calling forward soldier Bevan, a friend of Calixte's, and gave orders to deliver this message to Indus:
"Your friend and neighbor, Cephium, is under attack by Uriga. If it be your will to assist, Cephium will be indebted to Indus."
Calixte winced at her father's message. "Friend" was not a word he would ever have honestly used when referring to Indus. Did he think a race with so much against their existence could continue to survive if they were stupid? Laborc was sending Bevan on a suicide mission. They might as well surrender to Uriga now.
When she heard Bevan approach the door, she moved back into a dark corner. She'd become adept at making herself invisible, and here was another instance she found this skill of use. The door swished open, and he passed without seeing her huddled in the shadows.
He rushed down the hall, the sound of his boots echoing off the walls. When he rounded the first corner, Calixte cautiously began tailing him. Following him on his mission could mean her imprisonment or death, and a panicked voice inside her head counseled her to return to the Throne room and tell her father what she thought of his plan, regardless of the beating he would give to her. But she didn't listen to the voice because she knew he wouldn't listen to her. Laborc had made the plan in arrogance, without considering he had a daughter to send to Indus. Typical. He would not barter his blood to those he thought beneath him, not even for the lives of his people.
Indus would not kill her. No, they would hear her father's message. She might even be able to convince them to come to their aid. Because Indus, for all their strength and dominance, had a weakness. Women. Most of Indus women had succumbed to the Histeric plague that swept the galaxy twenty-four years ago. Now the Indus race was made up of ninety-four percent males, with little hope of turning the number around. They would die if they didn't marry outside of their race. For many years, they had attempted to ally themselves with Cephium, who had nearly equal amounts male and females. Their attempt hadn't succeeded--mostly due to their lack of political finesse. Cephium was a political race.
Calixte was not stupid. She knew Indus might let her people die. Still, Bevan's chances at succeeding had to be better with her than without.
Indus, a proud race, promoted an image of bloodthirsty merciless warriors. They would find insult in her father's desperate request for assistance when he'd turned down their numerous requests for a marriage-made alliance.
She entered the private spaceport belonging to her family, where Bevan was speaking with a technician about the correct selection of a ship. As a recent graduate from the Cephium Space Force, he held little experience in special missions such as this. Calixte already knew the tech's answer. She'd spent her entire life finding ways to spend time in the spaceport, wishing she was the one flying the ships.
Silently, she pulled a flight suit off the pegged wall and stealthily made her way to the ship. She waited until the tech opened the ship's side door and then softly stepped up the plank and into the ship without attracting anyone's notice. She found a quick hiding place in the back, behind a large pack of supplies, where she crouched, waiting. Bevan might be her friend, but he was also a soldier. If he found her aboard, he'd have no choice but to report her to her father.
Bevan entered and powered up the ship. They were off the ground in seconds. Peeking from her hiding place, she could see the ship's view-screen fill with Uriga battleships. The ship shook with the passing of missiles. The proximity alarm sounded, and she could hear Bevan's curses from the front of the ship. She tried to ignore the chaos and focus on pulling on the borrowed flight suit, but she was shaking so badly she couldn't get her feet into the legs of the suit.
Finally, Bevan navigated the ship into outer space and the proximity alarm quieted. She sat trembling for a while before she gathered her composure enough to remove her sleep gown and draw the flight suit up her legs. Four hours at light-speed, and they would reach Indus. Her mind raced at this thought. She tried to talk over the panic lacing her troubled thoughts. She told herself it was her duty as the only daughter of the Leader of Cephium, whether her father agreed or not. She told herself that even if she failed her self-imposed mission and died in the process, it was still a better fate than becoming Uriga's slave. She told herself that, in this, her father was right. Indus was the lesser evil.
She leaned up against the ship's cold metal hull and thought of her mother. She'd died right after Calixte's eighth birthday, leaving her adrift in a male-dominated society. The last gift her mother had given her was a pair of silver wings with a note that said, "May you always feel free to fly toward your dreams."
She'd spent the first night after her mother's funeral in the family spaceport and many more nights after that. At night, few ships arrived or departed and she could find a corner to tuck into and dream of all the pretty silver ships, dream of escaping in one and flying free of Cephium's atmosphere, out into the wide galaxy. Her imagined travels always ended in the same place. The Trifid Nebula. A green and gold nursery of embryonic stars.
"In the Trifid Nebula, honorable women are reborn as stars," her mother had told her when she was a child. Her mother, though outwardly submissive to Laborc, still lived her life with more honor than anyone else Calixte knew. Calixte must do the same so she could rejoin her mother in the next life. This, her passage to Indus to save her people, was her first step in becoming the honorable woman her mother wanted her to become.
A low voice rang through the ship, startling her. "Cephium vessel you have entered Indus space. Depart immediately."
Checking the ship's clock, she discovered she'd spent the full four-hour trip talking down her panic. She could think of worse ways to spend her time. Still, she would have preferred to have spent at least some of the time planning her next move. Now she would have to rely on her wits and make it up as she went along.
Bevan straightened his shoulders and cleared his throat nervously. His finger hovered over the comm button, hesitating to reply. Calixte jumped up and raced to the front of the ship. He turned, startled. "What the hell are you doing here, Calixte?"
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
loved this story. it's so hard to find good sci fi romance that i'm always on the hunt so i was thrilled to find this little gem.