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Authors: Catherine Blakeney

An Imperfect Princess

BOOK: An Imperfect Princess
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An
Imperfect Princess

Catherine
Blakeney

 

Text Copyright © 2015 Catherine Blakeney
All Rights Reserved

Edited by Crystal Watanabe

 

This is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of
the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Chapter One

 

 

 

PLANET YERTARF

Post-Triumvirate,
Year 2

Herirfirf
Village

"It was a
pleasure doing business with you.”

Eneria d’Munt
flashed a brilliant smile as she shook hands with the chief of the small
village on Yertarf.  The planet was officially occupied by the Konkast, but in
this remote tropical region, the military held little sway and she was able to
complete a quiet business transaction for the underground smuggling group
Perihelion without their knowledge.

Five small
chests of mined jewels, gold, and other precious metals were hers in exchange
for basic necessities the village had been denied - seeds, fertilizers,
medicines, and invaluable replacement parts.  The Konkast had a nasty habit of
trying to turn their occupied planets back to the Stone Age in order to prevent
rebellions.  Isolation and starvation were their favorite tactics.  Yertarf had
been one of the first to fall to them, partially because the world’s technology
was rudimentary even before the invasion.  They had been mere primitives, and
no match for the invading Konkastians centuries before.

The village
chief, who adorned himself with enough precious metals and diamonds to rival a
jewelry store, nodded respectfully to her.   He was a large man, with the
purple toned skin of the local people of this area and a graying, droopy
mustache.  He could have made more money from dealing through official
Konkastian channels, but he could never have purchased the medical supplies and
parts that would keep his village alive.  He needed Perihelion for that.

"Fly
safely, Your Highness.”

Eneria returned
the nod, and waved goodbye as she tugged a small anti-gravity cart laden with
her purchases behind her.

“Oh, one last
thing.”  The chief stepped forward and began to remove a large brooch from his
coat.  Eneria paused, then tentatively held out her hand.

"It’s not
usual for you to sell finished pieces,” she commented.

"This was a
gift from the other side of the world,” the chief said, and placed the brooch
in her palm.  “You’re right, we do not usually offer finished pieces.  That one
seems to be of Konkastian origin, and I’d rather not wear it as adornment.  You
may have it.”

She sucked in
her breath as she studied the stone.  It was beautiful.  It was black opal, in
a delicate platinum and diamond setting.  The stone was half the size of her
palm.  While the raw gems and precious metals she had paid for were quite
valuable for electronics, the finished stone in her hand would fetch at least
half as much by itself.

"I can’t
afford to pay for this,” Eneria said, biting her lip.  To her practiced artist’s
eye, the craftsmanship of the finished piece was inferior’, but the stone
itself was of finest quality.  It flashed red and blue in the light.

"It is a
gift.”  The chief shook his head sadly, touching his arthritic fingers that
were too swollen to wear his rings properly.  Part of the supplies she had
traded them included his medicine.  “You have helped our people more than you
can know.”

Eneria dropped
to her knees gracefully, which would likely earn a rebuke from Aijo later on. 
According to the fairy, she
was
still a princess, even if her world was
as occupied as Yertarf.  But as far as she was concerned, she and the village
chief were equals.  “Your generosity will be remembered, sir,” she said,
clutching the brooch tightly.

"Be well,
Hope of Lathlor.”

“How’d it go?”

The chirpy,
bright voice of Aijo, her ex-governess, greeted Eneria as soon as she stepped
inside her old Lathlian shuttle.  The vehicle was her last tie with home,
although at this point it was more of a liability than a memory. Lathlians
limousines were not exactly common in Konkastian controlled space.

Eneria pulled
the brooch out and glanced at it, then put it back in her pocket. She’d take a
closer look at it later on.  “With the proceeds from today, we will be able to
pay for the maintenance, the upgrades, and the modifications.”  She patted the
console of the tiny ship lovingly, but finished with a smack.  “Within a month,
this will no longer be a Lathlian shuttle, but a nice generic custom shuttle
from Montares with absolutely no ties to Lathlor or Konkast at all.”

They were
running on borrowed protocol codes, which allowed them to cruise through most
space checkpoints without problems.  But if they were ever stopped for another
reason, or pulled over by the Konkastian patrols, they’d be arrested and likely
executed on the spot when the officer saw that their codes in no way matched
their actual vehicle.  Konkastians were impulsive and often shot first and
asked questions later.

While they
broadcasted that they were a small freighter from Montares, they were in fact a
fairly beat up limousine shuttle from Lathlor, that same one they had escaped
in years ago.  Eneria had removed most of the seats from the back and turned it
into a somewhat livable miniature mobile home.  She had a bed, a desk for her jewelry
work, and a tiny bath and shower unit she had installed in place of the old
emergency head.  It had not originally been designed for long distance travel,
but it was all she had to her name.

The plan was to completely
modify the body, registration, and electronics of the little ship to make it
appear like another ship entirely--and to eventually do some key modifications
to Eneria’s own genetics.  There were a few strands of Lathlian DNA that would
be a dead giveaway if she was asked to do a spit sample.  Lathlians weren’t
supposed to be in space anymore.  Their planet was occupied, their own space
fleet subjugated, their people no longer free.

The mods on the
ship would be fairly expensive but they could be done quickly.  Modifying every
strand of DNA in her body would be a much more expensive and arduous task--she’d
be out of commission for several months.  The Pharinae who would do that sort
of extensive genetic witchery would need to keep her comfortable and
unconscious the whole time.  Aijo could technically do it by herself, but it
could take a lone Pharina years to change a full sized adult humanoid, and it
would take an enormous toll on both of them.  Aijo was also not well trained in
that craft; her specialization had been languages, psychology, and brain
reading.  There was a good chance she’d make a fatal mistake and kill them
both.

“Well, that’s
good,” Aijo said, fluttering around uselessly as Eneria hauled the chests of
gold and precious gems into the back of the shuttle.   Gravity did not affect
her species, and her shimmering rainbow clothing, made from woven light,
shifted with subtle quantum fluctuations in space-time. “You got a message from
Vaz while you were down there.”

“Oh?” Eneria
shoved away some boxes, trying to create a stable pile on her desk while still
giving her access to her tools.  Her father and mother had not been practical
in her career training, seeing as she was a princess.  She was somewhat skilled
with electronics, but her passion was gems and jewelry.  The value of the raw
gems and minerals was quite a lot on its own, but she would be able to
transform some of them into jewelry and increase the resale value during the
lonely journey through hyperspace.  Rubies would be reshaped for lasers or
earrings, depending on the quality.  Gold could be spun into threads and
chains.  Copper would become wires, or fired with zinc for brass.  Her craft
filled the long hours of traveling in hyperspace and kept her sane.   She was an
avid reader, but couldn’t remember the last time she’d been able to read a book
in Lathlian; the export of her home world’s culture was completely suppressed.

“Your mother
wants to know when you’re coming to visit her.”

Eneria grunted
in annoyance and ignored the fairy. She took the brooch out of her pocket again
and examined it a little more closely.  The play of light in the black opal was
magnificent.  She could examine the workmanship in more detail later, but for
now, a brief scan to verify the authenticity of the stone and metal would
satisfy her.  As far as she could tell, it was a genuine stone, but she wouldn’t
put it past the Konkastians to make paste jewelry.

“Enny, what are
you doing?”  Aijo came over and fluttered in her face.  “We’re supposed to get
out of here before we get caught!"

"Just a minute,”
Eneria grumbled, and held up the brooch.  “We got a last minute present from
the chief.”  She set a tiny spectroscopic scanner next to the brooch and waited
patiently while it read data back to her main work computer. 

The computer,
crafted together with the humanoids from Ulugool and Pharinae, had been one of
the few luxuries she had allowed herself since the coup.  Comprised of two
planes of solid fiberglass, the laptop folded into a neat rectangle only a few
millimeters thick.  The hinges were made of silver, but the rest of it was
transparent.  The entire thing was lined and studded with clear silicon
circuitry, and lights blossomed into a translucent viewing screen and a
keyboard, or whatever else she needed it to be.  The pads were touch sensitive
on both sides.   It could flatten into a tablet or open up like a book. It was
also nearly indestructible; nothing short of high voltage applied directly
could damage it.  It was worth as much as her entire ship.

Within a few
minutes, the portable scanner had analyzed the structure and chemical
composition of the brooch.

“Wow, it’s not
even a doublet.  It’s a real black opal.  The diamonds are real…. but there are
some odd readings of silicon and copper and trace elements as well.  Platinum
plate, I bet. Cheapskates.”  She picked up the brooch and pulled out a more
conventional jewelers loop to examine it up close.  “As I thought, inferior
craftsmanship.  I’ll have to take it apart, but that might be for the best. 
Really, that sort of stone belongs on a pendant, not a brooch.”  Her aesthetic
sensibilities were finely honed, and she knew the stone was too heavy for
delicate fabrics.  It would make an evening dress droop in a very unflattering
manner.

“Enny, can we go
now?”  Aijo pleaded, her tiny golden faced scrunched up anxiously. 

“All right, all
right.”  Eneria forced herself to leave the work behind.  Hobbies or business,
it would all fall to pieces if the Konkastians found them on Yertarf.

She returned to
the front of the shuttle, settled into the driver’s seat, and started to warm
the water-based atmosphere engines up.  She slipped on the pair of goggles that
brought the view screen in front of her into the full three dimensions.  The
augmented reality glasses were the non-invasive option; some professional
pilots opted to have the lenses implanted directly into their corneas.

“Once we’re in
hyperspace, I’ll compose a letter to Vaz and we can send it once we drop out of
the wormhole.  The last thing we need is to have the Konkastians detect a
Lathlian message coming from Yertarf.”

"If you say
so.”  Aijo knew better than to argue with Eneria about the touchy subject of
her mother.  All the men in their family -- her father, her uncle, her cousin,
and presumably her brother -- had died at the hands of the Konkast in the coup
two years ago.  Her mother had kept Vaz in hiding on Montares, and no matter
how much Eneria pleaded with her, vowed to never leave it again.  Eneria hated
the place - they were Spartan in their tastes and values, and she’d have had to
give up her two favorite hobbies if she became cloistered like her mother.  No
jewelry, no unapproved books. Vaz was a much more physical person and fit in
fairly well there, although Eneria knew that she was still stifled and despised
having to act as a go between for her aunt and cousin.

“Okay, I think
we’re good to go.”  She flipped on the signal that broadcasted the false codes
to the orbital military base surrounding Yertarf.   As far as they could tell,
she was a normal freighter picking up much less valuable wood and fiber
products for delivery to Konkast itself. “We’ll be traveling four days to the
dark matter clearance and the node we want.”  Her fingers flew competently over
the dashboard. Although she had never been taught how to work on shuttles
growing up, she had learned fast when it was the last possession she had from
her old life.  There were still some quirks to the ship she had yet to figure
out, but she hoped the skilled engineers of Perihelion who would transform it
could tell her about those things.

“We received the
all clear from traffic control to launch.” Aijo settled into her gilded cage
and turned on her sunlamp using the special electromagnetic switch Eneria had
installed for her.  The Pharinae were a light-based race and Aijo needed to
spend most of her time basking in an artificial or natural source to recharge
her energy.

"Up, up,
and away,” Eneria replied.  She carefully engaged the horizontal repulsors,
then lifted the shuttle off with a warm hum.  The computer took care of most of
the hard work of piloting it, but this old model still required a human
operator.  Most of the newer shuttles from Ulugool ran on auto pilot.

They accelerated
through the atmosphere quickly, achieving sub-orbit in less than five minutes. 
The clean burning engine only released water vapor as its byproduct.  Soon they
were clear of the atmosphere and they saw the Konkastian orbital fortress in
the distance, tethered to the planet with an efficient and economical space elevator.

In a moment of
pique, Eneria shot the station a very rude gesture. 

“Someday, we’re
gonna get you assholes back,” she vowed.

“Enny!
Language!"  Aijo still considered herself Eneria’s governess, even if she
was more of a co-pilot and friend these days.  When Eneria had opted to leave
the safety of Montares, Aijo had insisted on going with her, claiming that she
was still honor bound to protect Eneria with her life if necessary.

BOOK: An Imperfect Princess
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