A secret baby grows up to wreck havoc on the galaxy trying to reconcile her parents marriage, not realizing the terrible sacrifice it will require.
THE STAR CAPTAINS’ DAUGHTER
In the Year of Her Holiness 2296
Others before self. Junior shifted in her seat, first one way and then the other. She slid her butt off the edge and stuck the computer stylus up her nose. Others before self.
The Intari ambassador’s nasal drone rattled her spine. She knew the energy building in every part of her would culminate in disaster which would embarrass the hell out of her very elegant star captain mother.
Best friend Rehama Kahn leaned close and whispered. “Only ten more minutes. You can make it. Remember your breathing exercises.”
Breathe…one...twothreeBLASTOFF! Junior’s legs jerked beneath her and she scampered up the wall like a squirrel. The rocks mortared together provided excellent finger and foot holds.
“Junior!” Rehama had made a wager with Ret she could sit still through the Young Diplomats’ Conference.
Ret’s laugh chased her all the way down the ventilation shaft. “Told you. She may look fifteen, but she’ll always be a five year old at heart.”
Guilt stabbed Junior’s heart, though it did not slow her escape.
Rehama had made the bet to encourage her mastery of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.
Strips of light shone through vent slats. Junior snaked towards it, powered by all the energy she’d accumulated since the start of the ambassador’s speech. She hit the vent full-throttle. The vent crashed against the far wall and she shot out, right into waiting arms which wrapped around her. They fell to the marble floor together.
She lifted face off his chest and looked into his stormy blue eyes. He’s gorgeous!
“Hi! I’m Junior. What’s your name?"
“You do not remember?”
A slamming door alerted her and she launched off the boy and away into a crowded market.
Ducking behind stalls selling Arion tapestries and Intari swamp sponges, she peered over a blue-skinned Neboan trying on lipstick in a lovely shade of maroon.
The conference instructors would have certainly alerted Sachi. Her mother had left the security chief in charge of the teens while she negotiated a technology exchange with the Intari. But, Junior had spent the better part of her childhood outwitting Lieutenant Commander Sachi Owada and knew all the tricks. If adults realized what Space Brats know, they’d round us all up and turn us into special ops commandos.
No sign of pursuers.
She pointed at the Neboan’s first choice. “I like dark maroon best on you.”
The Neboan frilled his ears in gratitude and bowed.
Junior looked over her shoulder and realized the open-air market backed a sound stage. Already she could hear Denahi dancers leaping and twirling to musical instruments which made a twang similar to Japanese Yamatogoto. She slipped behind a tapestry and climbed through the criss-crossed support beams.
Sliding leg over the last beam, a hand appeared before her and she looked up to see the boy she’d fallen on. Never one to stop a silly grin, she took his hand. “Sorry I fell on you.” She straightened up beside him. “The Intari ambassador bored me to death. I couldn’t get out of the conference fast enough.”
The boy hugged her. “I have found you at last.”
“Huh?” Junior’s eyes bugged out, chin on his shoulder. What the hell? He’s really cute! She hugged him back, his body warm and snug against hers. I wonder if I can get a kiss. “I’m sorry, but you’ve mistaken me for someone else. I’m Junior, well, Gennie O’Keefe, actually, but everyone calls me Junior. My mother’s Star Captain Olivia O’Keefe of the USS Maverick and my dad…” Pain bit her heart. “Well, my dad died last year. What’s your name?”
“You did not fall on me.” The boy lifted his face from her hair. Only a centimeter taller, his eyes shone blue in the dim light and his full lips curled. “I caught you. I failed to sufficiently brace myself for the speed of your ascent.” The formal way he spoke and his tone seemed so familiar, and she swore she’d run her fingers through his dark blond hair before.
Yes, please, go on breathing warmly upon me! Junior pointed a finger at his chest. “Do I know you?”
A small laugh escaped him. “Yes. We know one another very well.” He slid his fingers up her check and held her red braid to the light. “I understand you are disoriented. We knew your memory would have difficulty crossing the Threshold between Dreamtime and Waking Moments.”
His scent intoxicated Junior, but she’d caused enough chaos in her life by not accepting reality. “I’m sorry. This is just a terrible…”
“I will not leave you.”
Junior darted eyes from his earlobe to his gaze. “Wha…what?”
“You fear I will leave once I realize this is a terrible mistake, but it is not a mistake and I will not leave. I am Ariez, the one who loves you.”
Something about Sachi lecturing her on boys’ pick-up lines rambled through Junior’s mind, but she couldn’t remember her mentioning anything this weird. “Ariez.” The sound of his name and his voice soothed her. Déjà vu. The raging energy calmed into a swirl of goodness.
He waved fingers in front of her face.
Rather than distract her, his gesture weighed down her eyelashes with pleasant feelings. An image of dark green ferns, moss, fallen leaves, and him falling off a log, laughing drifted through her thoughts.
“Remember.” Ariez murmured and kissed her temple. “Come.” He led her by
Junior followed him towards a tent flap. “Where are we going?”
“The arboretum. You will remember our Dreamtime more quickly if we are surrounded by trees. You love trees, and birds.”
The glass dome which protected the city flashed bright when she followed him out from under the stage. He kept to the edges, behind stalls, in the shadows. “The arboretum is right through those arches.” She pointed. “Let’s cross through the vegetable market.”
“I cannot be seen here.” Ariez didn’t look back. “The Intari would use me to blackmail the Empress.”
Ariez led her through a noisy corral of wallow-beasts. They skirted the vegetable market and passed under the arches behind a cart overflowing with succulent leaves.
Once through the arches, nothing blocked the sunlight streaming through the impexi-glass dome. Trees of every kind loomed around as Ariez led Junior along a pebbled path.
She realized she’d stopped when he settled hands around her waist. The
arboretum faded from comprehension, replaced by a great redwood forest, beautiful and bright, the scent of evergreen boughs calming her nerves to bliss. “What’s happening?”
“Dreamtime in Waking Moments.” Ariez’s lips touched hers.
When his kiss closed on Junior’s mouth and her eyelashes rested on her cheeks,
her whole being came into synch with him and she knew they’d kissed before.
A bright light drew her attention over his shoulder and her eyes popped open.
A sword gleamed with Celtic swirls and gold hilt, stuck in a stone. All at once familiar and strange, it drew her with primal instinct. She pulled away and started for it.
Ariez looked. His face twisted. “No!” He shoved her aside and whipped a sword out of a hidden sheath. In blackness, he lunged, smashing his blade down on the sword trapped in the stone.
“You’ll hurt him!” Horror.
Ariez’s blade shattered and a force threw him back.
The Celtic sword trapped in the stone remained unblemished.
Junior reached to free the sword from the stone.
Ariez grabbed her.
“He’s hurt, trapped. I need to help him!” She stood two nanoseconds from twisting the boy’s wrists off.
“No, My Love. Listen to me, please. He is evil, bent on usurping the heart of the Holy Bennu.”
“You must resist.” He gripped her shoulders not too tightly.
Junior startled at the fear trembling in his face. She re-focused on the sword in the stone, and she saw a man with brown hair fall to his knees, screaming.
The man fell down, sobbing, utterly destroyed.
Warm tears dribbled down Junior’s face. “He is good.”
“You should not be capable!” Ariez cupped her face in both hands and pressed his forehead to hers. “Shhhh, My Love, I will protect you from all unpleasant thoughts and feelings.”
A warm cloud wrapped around Junior’s mind, evaporating the raging grief like mist on a summer morning. His kiss cradled her lips. The goodness of his touch replaced memory with only him.
Junior opened her eyes to the Intari arboretum. “Wha…what happened?” Alone with him among the trees, strange trees fluttered with leaves instead of evergreen boughs.
She looked over his shoulder and all around, and then back up. “This is so weird.”
“We have found one another in Waking Moments after a long and difficult search.” Ariez kissed her ear. “Our bond is established and will soon be complete.”
Images of a redwood forest drifted through Junior’s memory and little else but
him. “We were children together.”
Ariez smiled. “Yes, in Dreamtime. Everything will be all right, but we must leave at once.”
“Leave? Where are we going?”
“My ship is in orbit. It cannot remain cloaked much longer.” He let go of her
waist and took her hand, ready to lead her away from all she knew.
“Your ship? Oh, but I…I need to ask my mom if I can visit your ship. She…” The mention of her mother sent a wave of grief through Junior’s heart. “My mother…Olivia. My mother’s name is Olivia.”
Olivia! The disembodied voice rang through memory, but nothing else.
Junior’s lips fell apart.
“I will send for your mother later, but we must leave now if we are to cross the border undetected. Come.” Ariez pulled her hand.
“Border? What border?” Her feet stayed put.
“Junior!” Sachi’s voice echoed off the domed impexi-glass ceiling.
Junior wheeled around to see her godmother climbing a rock formation on the far side. The bright sunshine glinted off Sachi’s black hair braided around her head. “Oh, schmutz-butt.” She twisted out of Ariez’s grasp and kissed his cheek. “Gotta fly!” Away she dashed.
“You know what ship I live on. Message me on Interstellar!” Junior knew he gave chase, but so did Sachi.
The longer she evaded her godmother, the longer she could go without scrubbing the magna-converters with an old-fashioned toothbrush. Dread reignited hyperactive energy throughout her body.
Inside a minute, she’d lost herself in the crowded market. She didn’t dare slow down to look at the pretty Ethiopian necklaces imported from Earth, no matter how curious she was about her own homeworld. She’d only visited Earth twice.
Where to hide? Junior fastened gaze on an Intari climbing up the interior of the glass dome, cleaning, his green head bobbing. “Crackling!”
Slipping behind some workers in plain olive jumpsuits, she found a gray box and the climbing equipment inside. “Oh, yeah, this is going to be fun.” Glancing around, she pulled out the super-suction cups and fastened them to her feet and hands. The climbing proved awkward at first, but she soon caught on. All those rock-climbing programs in the Holographic Recreational Center really paid off.
Up the curved bubble ceiling she climbed, up over the arboretum. Looking down never frightened her. Only bugs scared her. Dark red hair smooth in a French twist caught her eye. Mom! Oh, schmutz.
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The cover art is a cropping of Cupid & Psyche by Francois Gerard, a Public Domain image.
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