Authors: Chrystalla Thoma
Tags: #adventure, #young adult, #science fiction, #suspence, #novelette, #parasites, #chrystalla thoma, #rex rising
Hera, member of the Gultur race governing the
Seven Islands, thought she knew right from wrong and what her
future held in store. A chance meeting with a lesser mortal,
though, will turn her world upside down and force her to see her
race and the laws with different eyes. For Hera, knowledge means
action, so she sets out to put things right and change her
Taking place in the World of the Seven
Islands almost three years before the events in Rex Rising, this is
the story of Hera’s first confrontation with the truth.
Author’s note: At the end of the story you
can read the first two chapters of
© Copyright 2011 by Chrystalla
All rights reserved. No part of this book may
be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by
any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in
writing from the author.
The characters and events portrayed in this
book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or
dead, events, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
by Chrystalla Thoma
Many thanks to Marion Sipe, Katie Salidas and
Barbara Elsborg for critiquing and proofreading this story for
he sky stretching
over the urban sprawl of Artemisia was a blazing blue, the day
bright and windy, just perfect for a first coast patrol. Hera
wondered what the town looked like from up close. When they’d
arrived in the early dawn, flown in by helicopter, she had only
caught a brief glimpse of it, a web of tall buildings and dark
streets. The military Gultur complex where they had landed was
located at the outskirts, protected with high walls and fences.
She stepped onto the hard
deck of the wavebreaker, her black boots rasping on the rough
surface, and climbed down into the co-driver’s seat. Absently she
pulled on her safety belt, then reached to her hip and checked if
the safety catch of her longgun was on.
Footsteps rang on the deck, and a moment
later Sacmis climbed in beside her, grinning. “Ready?”
Hera grunted a vague reply. Of course she was
ready; they’d trained for patrolling for most of the past year. If
only she could concentrate on the task at hand and not on that
The engine of the wavebreaker, an old
speedboat model launched at least ten years back, rumbled into life
and Sacmis mumbled a quiet, “Here we go.”
Hera looked back at the town as they sped out
of the port and saw nothing but faint lights flickering. Then
those, too, faded as they circumvented a cape and raced alongside
sheer cliffs, slicing smoothly through the waves toward the
Sacmis drove, her sandy hair pulled back in a
neat ponytail in the standard military style, long strands whipping
in the wind, her expression distant but determined.
Hera just stared at her, fingering her own
non-standard hairdo – a thick braid wrapped around her head like a
ribbon – her mind not quite on the task of patrolling.
Which was unexpected, ill-timed and annoying,
given it was her first official unsupervised patrol as a member of
the elite Gultur force, granted the privilege and power to make
But finding an old message from her mother
the previous night had also been unexpected and ill-timed – a
message Hera had discovered hidden inside an old scripture book at
the bottom of a drawer in her room.
Or just forgotten
. Meant for
Her mother, Tefnut, wherever she was currently
posted, probably did not even remember her daughter anymore.
Then who was it written for? The message
spoke of things best left unsaid – the War, the lesser mortals, the
future. It fanned embers of doubt that had burned in Hera’s mind
for some time now. ‘
The mortals did not start the Great
The words floated before her eyes.
suffered like we did
if not more
That was blasphemy and would land her mother
in jail if it became known. Of course, that was only if Tefnut
still lived, something Hera would probably never know. Mothers were
not allowed to see their daughters after these entered the service
at the age of four. Twelve years had passed already.
Hera had hesitated, about to burn the piece
of parchment, wondering why she wanted to save a mother she could
barely remember. All she recalled was a feather-light touch on her
brow, a soft voice singing in her ear. A lullaby, soft musical
notes and a warm breath caressing her neck.
She raised a hand to touch the spot and shook
her head. Maybe that had not been the reason she’d kept the
What if there was some truth in those
words? Tefnut’s words had sounded like those of an insurgent. A
rebel. A member of the resistance. Maybe even of the Undercurrent
group, the oldest name linked with the rebels.
Hera shook herself and took in the landscape
they sped through.
Stop making up stories in your mind.
There had to be a perfectly good and innocuous explanation for that
On the far right, the islands of Kukno and
Torq formed dark masses shrouded in fog, mountains and glittering
towns visible in places. The wavebreaker bumped on the choppy sea
and Hera patted her safety belt, finally releasing it, feeling
suffocated. It was but a small act of defiance to the regulations,
and it made her feel better and worse at the same time.
Outside, the gray cliffs of Dakru rose
vertically, hemmed with the white of crashing waves and foam. A
fine, salty mist fuzzed the air. The wind whistled through cracks,
and seabirds cawed and circled over their nests, high up on the
rocky summits. Pelicans rose from the water in a V line, dark wings
“Hera, have you heard a word I’ve said so
far?” Sacmis snapped.
Hera didn’t bother turning to her – she knew
her friend’s eyes, gray as the sea cliffs, would be fastened on the
sea ahead and her task, not hunting for a reaction.
A grin pulled Hera’s lips and she worked to
school her face into blankness, just in case. “No, as a matter of
fact, I have not. You mean it was something important?”
Sacmis growled. “Sobek’s balls, are you
trying to be funny?” She huffed and nudged Hera with her elbow.
“Something’s on your mind, huh? Spit it out,
Would Sacmis keep the secret? Would she not
feel it her sacred duty to denounce Tefnut – and Hera – to the
police? Did Sacmis have her doubts about the system, like her?
Hera decided she could not take that chance,
not even with a friend she’d known for so long. “Nothing’s on my
mind,” she muttered.
“I’ll get it out of you,
or later,” Sacmis threatened, an audible smirk in her voice.
Sacmis was not
, not one of the
Echo princesses’ line. Hera was an elite, a pure-line Gultur,
carrying the original strain of Regina. Sacmis carried a newer
strain with its own multiple mutations – a strategy the parasite
Regina used to ensure its survival against its many foes – other
parasites and viruses.
They were usually paired like that, elite
with non elite. The idea was to train them to command, Hera
supposed, although Sacmis had never been good at taking orders; at
least not from Hera.
One of the reasons Hera liked her. She
finally turned to peer at her friend. Sacmis’ eyebrows were drawn
together and she scowled at the sea as if she could flatten the
waves through sheer will.
So far it wasn’t working, much to Hera’s
Silence wrapped around them, punctuated by
the smash of the waves against the prow and the cries of
“Do you think blessed Nunet is looking at us
right now?” Sacmis muttered.
Hera blinked, caught by surprise. “Huh?”
“Blessed Nunet of the deep. Maybe she’s just
sitting there, the great Siren, whipping her silvery tail in the
water, watching us. Judging us. Weighing us.”
“Stop it.” Hera snorted and looked back to
the cliffs. “We did the libations, poured the oil and prayed to
her. Just follow the map and avoid those reefs. We do not want to
crash the wavebreaker on our first unsupervised outing.”
,” Sacmis grumbled. Her
friend drove well, Hera had to admit, but the turn of the
conversation raised the fine hairs on her arms. The gods, watching,
judging, separating the good from the bad people, deciding on their
Were the Gultur the good ones? Was Hera on
the right side?
Oh shut up.
She’d never wavered about her objectives when
she was younger. She would protect the Gultur from the mortals, do
her duty and produce offspring, and then, when she was older, she
would serve the temple and learn its secrets.
But two years back or so, it all began to
bother her – the single-minded faith in the purpose of the Gultur,
their supposed pre-destined authority over other races, their open
dismissal of questions and contradictions, and their
black-and-white perspective on gray areas in history, politics and
religion. So many things made no sense. And the biggest issue of
them all, one that bothered Hera so much it had become impossible
to ignore, was the one concerning the mortals.
If these puny mortals were intelligent enough
to almost beat the Gultur a few hundred years back, if they came so
close to emerging victorious from the accursed Great War, how come
they had been branded as mindless animals by the scriptures? And,
worse still, how come the Gultur believed this to be true? Hera had
never had immediate contact with mortals, not yet being of age, but
she’d seen them from afar, laboring in their algae fields, driving
aircars, bartering and counting money and talking with the guards.
Surely animals could not do that – at least not the animals Hera
had observed and studied so far; the cats, dogs, rats, birds and
all the sea animals. They did not look so different from the
Gultur, either. Less intelligent they might be, cruel perhaps, but
animals without a conscience?
And now this...worm in her heart, twisting
and boring deeper, echoing words from an old parchment meant for
anybody and nobody, and certainly not for her.