The Woman from Eternity [Cosmic Reckoning Book 1] [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Hal Annas
eBook Category: Science Fiction/Romance
eBook Description: She Swore to End a Galactic War! The classic first science fiction romance, never before in book form! Only a few days earlier Aleta Windrow had been in the arms of her fiance, the handsome interstellar diplomat Norwich Wyatt. Then he had put her into a starship filled with refugees returning to Earth for safety while peace negotiations put an end to galactic war with rebellious colony worlds. But the refugee ship had been inexplicably attacked in space by unknown forces, and now Aleta is one of the two survivors of the attack, drifting helplessly in a lifeboat with a dying man. All Aleta wants to return to Earth, to the things she has known, to the life that is rightly hers, and to Norwich Wyatt whom she loves and has promised to marry. But her hopes of rescue turn to nightmare when she finds herself held a prisoner on a ship crewed by interstellar renegades from the piratical Novakkan words and destined to be auctioned as a slave when they land. Escaping, forced to dance nude before alien eyes, Aleta witnesses first hand the horrors, suffering and destruction men leave behind in the wake of their wars. Outraged, she swears an oath to "eradicate the disease of war from the minds of men"--forever--little realizing it is an oath it will take both her and her yet-to-be conceived children to fulfill! To survive Aleta makes a marriage to convenience to the wealthy, mysterious Nuyk. From him she begins to learn the secrets of a strange mental power that could prove the key to ending all wars. Soon Aleta finds herself falling in love with Nuyk and one night their marriage is consummated. But his tragic death leaves her vulnerable, and returned to the slave market, she is purchased by the ruthless, charismatic Novakkan warlord Rahn Buskner, who falls madly in love with her. Escaping again, Aleta at last reaches Earth and what she thinks will be safety with Norwich Wyatt. But she finds herself followed by Rahn Buskner and his armada. He offers her a fateful choice: Return to Novakka with him--or he will declare war on Earth, if necessary, to get her back! This is the first book publication of The Cosmic Reckoning, the groundbreaking 1950s magazine trilogy of interstellar romance and intrigue considered too hot for the paperback publishers of the era. Don't miss Book II of The Cosmic Reckoning, Daughter of Doom, the story of Aleta's daughter, or Book III, Witch of the Dark Star.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner, Published: 2005
Fictionwise Release Date: March 2005
This eBook is part of the following series:
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THE girl stared hopefully at the spot of radiance shimmering in the blackness between her and the stars. From beside her came a low moan, a feeble stirring. She lowered a hand to the hot forehead, glanced at the luminous dial of the oxygen gauge, and tried to calculate how long the remaining oxygen would keep her alive and keep life in the enfeebled body of the man. The distant radiance seemed to move.
Her heart beat faster and her blue eves strained to pierce the emptiness of space. The man groaned again. Her long sensitive fingers felt over his features, touched the cracked-lips. His breath was hot and coming in short gasps.
To avoid the sight her eyes would meet, she left the light off and began feeling her way through darkness to the distant end of the lifeship. After three steps she paused and slowly lifted her left foot. She stepped over the dead body of the com-man and, a little farther along, circled to avoid the bodies of the bearded Eg, the three Marines and the senior officer.
She found the water tap. Careful to hold the cup precisely under it so that not a drop would be spilled, she placed a finger over the pinpoint hole above it. The sound made by the faint trickle brought a burning sensation to her dry throat. She opened her mouth and tried to move her swollen tongue, and thought for a moment that she would faint. The water stopped running. She pressed harder against the tiny hole. After another futile moment she turned and carefully made her way back.
With slow and labored effort she got one hand under the head of the man and brought the cup to his cracked lips. With infinite care she tilted it. He groaned. A few drops of water ran into his mouth. He made convulsive movements with his arms and legs.
Fighting her own faintness, she held the cup out of reach and lowered his head. She switched on the light, eyes avoiding the scene of chaos toward the distant end of the lifeship. Again, she lifted the man's head and poured water between his lips. When the cup was empty she ran a finger around the inside, opened her own parched lips and touched the final drop of moisture to her tongue,
She felt over the bandage on the man's upper body. The thought came that she might make his breathing easier by loosening it. But she couldn't take a chance on his wounds opening again. She had to keep life in him somehow. He was the sole remaining link out here with her kind back on Earth.
She got two helmets and placed them nearby, then turned off the light. The time would come, she knew, when they could no longer breathe the nauseous air of death. And there was no way to get rid of the bodies of the men this man had killed. She couldn't work the mechanism by which men had earlier disposed of bodies. Nor had she strength left to drag them to the tube that would cast them out into cold emptiness.
The dream had vanished; the last ray of hope had gone. It seemed only yesterday that she had been in the arms of Norwich Wyatt and heard him tell her that the refugee ship would take her safely to her people, where he would join her within a month. Few could believe that Earth was at last to be free of war. But they had to believe--or giveaway to despair.
Now she had been adrift thirty-seven days. None in the lifeship had been able to make her understand exactly what had happened. All she knew was that the refugee ship had been attacked, driven deep into space and, finally destroyed. The confusion, the killing, the horror of the merciless fighting, had cast a shadow of unreality over the events.
Thirteen men and three women had got off in this lifeship. At first there had been order, but after days passed and then weeks, with the com-man sending out a distress signal, futilely, hopelessly, and with no rescue in sight, and food and water running low, the men had fought. They quarreled over little things. A man who ate more than his share was killed by two others and shoved into the tube. A woman giving her favors to the man who did the rationing was discovered getting more than her share of the water. Both died violently and the senior officer appointed another to dispense the water and food.
Five of the remaining eleven men mutinied and took control. The senior officer locked himself in the spacesuit compartment and escaped death. While the men were ravishing one of the remaining women and fighting over Aleta herself, the senior officer came out with a blaster.
The mutiny ended with three more men and one woman dead. No more violence resulted for twelve days. But these were not the disciplined men of a warship. They were the nerve cases, the wrecks of the war, and the end was inevitable.
Aleta had favored none. But the man she was now trying to keep alive had defended her during the mutiny and again when the final fighting broke out. He had defended her well, and all but the last spark had gone out of him in the effort.
About him, she knew only that he had fought in the war and been disabled. His features and upper body were mostly scar tissue. This made it difficult to guess his age, but the vigor with which he had fought here in the lifeship indicated he was under thirty-five. She hadn't known that he had an artificial left leg until it became necessary to remove most of his clothes to get to his wounds.
Again she glanced out at the shimmering radiance. It seems larger, nearer. She went to the instrument panel and set the dial to lower the temperature from fifty to forty degrees Fahrenheit, this to keep the dead bodies from decaying too fast. She pressed the button marked Flare. She placed more covering over the feverish body of the man.
She thought of Norwich Wyatt and their plans. Peace, he had told her, was being negotiated with the rebellious colonies in the SYZ System. That meant that he and she could at last go out to the green planet, near the edge of the galaxy, which resembled Earth in almost every respect except that it had never known war. They would be married and rear children in peace.
Now the hope for happiness had vanished. But she had always been healthy and vigorous and the throb of life in her body would not cease. Five feet ten inches tall, willowy, blonde, freckled, she was a picture of vitality, but the light in the depths of her blue eyes had dimmed.
If she lived--The ember of hope sought hard to flame anew. If she lived, she vowed, she would devote the last measure of her strength to eradicating the disease of war from the minds of men.
The locket watch hanging between her breasts ticked on. With every tic another second flowed toward death--toward eternity. The man beside her gasped out his strength at irregular intervals. Out in the void, time stood still. Or did it?
The radiance seemed larger, closer.
Again she went to the instrument panel and pressed the button marked Flare. Dizziness came with the effort. There was a lapse of memory. The next she knew, she was again staring out. The radiance seemed closer still.
An hour later she was able to make out the shape of the hull. She was not actually seeing the ship, she knew, for that was impossible in a lightless, void. She was seeing the radiant energy it had gathered, which meant that it had been in space for months on end, possibly years.
How much longer before she could discern the markings on its bow was a question she couldn't answer. She lost count of the number of times she had fired flares. And her memory was vague.
She studied the markings with rising tension. They were a series of ovals looped through one another. She made out the dots, the larger dot in the center, the nucleus.
For a long moment she ceased to breathe. Then she looked again.
"Please, God, no!" she gasped.
But as she looked the third time she knew, and strength flowed out of her body. Her, arms and legs trembled.
"Dear, God, no!" she prayed.
But she knew. The marking was plain now. The ship came on, loomed gigantic, its long radiant hull showing scars of untold space battles.
She sank down weakly beside the man, stretched an arm across his body as though to protect him. Her watch ticked on; her heart throbbed up in her swollen throat.
She prayed that she would faint and that the end would be sudden: But life pulsed through her body and the stimulant of fear kept her keenly conscious and sensitive to her surroundings.
Time folded upon itself. It seemed that she closed her eyes and opened them and the spacesuited figures were out there. Giants. The smallest of them seven feet from head to heels. Red eyes. Snow white hair. A greenish tinge in the flesh of their features. Monsters.
"Novakkans," she breathed. "Please, God, let me die."
She felt the slight jarring as they moved over and under the lifeship. She knew when they began working with the airlock, for the vibrations carried as sound in the fetid air about her. She even knew what they were doing, and the knowledge brought new terror.
If they blasted the lock open, she knew she would die quickly as the heat and air escaped. They were not preparing to do that. They were sealing a chamber about the outer lock. Then they would rip the lock apart and come in and take her alive.
She couldn't faint, couldn't lose consciousness. She could only wait. But prolonged and helpless terror finally exhausted her. Dimly she watched them come in. The next time things were clear she was on a table in a circular room with a Novakkan bending over her. Again she passed into unconsciousness.
Then she began to be fully conscious. Her hip stung where, she knew, she'd been given an injection. Her fear was less, her thirst greater. She was given a swallow of water. It hurt her throat and made her even more thirsty.
Later she was given more water, and as her mind cleared she realized she was strapped to the table. She received another injection and liquid that wasn't water. Her fears became submerged. * * * *
She slept. When she awoke she was no longer restrained by straps. A Novakkan stood watching her. Over seven feet tall, broad in proportion, he wore sandals, a colorful skirt that barely covered his enormous thighs, and a girdle six inches wide at his hips. His skin was green tinged from forehead to toes; his hair as white as snow; his eyes blood red.
In an earth language she understood, his voice deep and strong, he told her, "You're on a Novakkan raider. You've been taught to think of us as monsters. But we're not. We're descendents of Earth's exiles. So control your fear."
She knew it was true. Long ago she'd heard the story of how they'd grown and changed on the planet of exile. But this was not the memory so prominent in the minds of Earthlings. Novakkans were pictured as the scourge of the universe. They plundered the spaceways and planets from one end of the galaxy to the other.
Expeditions had been sent out to destroy them. But something always went wrong. The Novakkan ships would strike and vanish, scatter across parsecs of space. They couldn't be grouped for an effective blow. And while Earth fleets were searching for them, they would suddenly raid the home planet.
It was said that they rarely took prisoners.
Aleta made no reply. She no longer trembled in fear. Whether her quiescence was owing to the injections or her lack of interest in her fate was something that didn't bother her.
"Your full name?" the Novakkan demanded.
He was not the one who had given her the injections. He was broader, taller, and his body showed numerous scars. A half-moon scar from his left ear to his nose added a grimace to his fierce features.
"Aleta Aline Winrow," she replied, surprised that she could make her tongue work.
"I'm Rahn Buskner," he said. "I'm equivalent to the senior officer of a boarding party on an Earth warship. This is a raider and we haven't room for prisoners, but you have knowledge and it is necessary for us to drain it out of you."
Aleta gasped. "You're going to scan my brain?"
He shook his head. "We're going to question you under drugs. But it has to be delayed. We've deduced a few things. If they can be confirmed we will no longer need you nor the man who was with you."
"Where is he? Aleta asked, rising.
He handed her a pair of enormous sandals. "Put these on."
She suddenly realized that she was gowned in a fine nylox or silken smock. Nothing else. The thought brought confusion and color to her cheeks.
"My clothes?" she said.
"No time to bother about them now. We're tracking a ship and should be coming up on it soon. Come."
She followed him along a passage to another circular room. There on a low sleeve bunk was the man she had kept alive. He was still unconscious. She hurried to him, checked his pulse, felt of his forehead,
The Novakkan whirled at the sound of a sharp ringing. He glanced back, then plunged through the entranceway and allowed the bulkhead to close.
Curious and wanting to ask for water, Aleta tried the bulkhead. Seconds passed before she found the stud that would open it.
There was no sign of Rahn Buskner in the passage, but other Novakkans were hurrying along. Farther on, she saw still others, all hurrying, all buckling on metal or plastic armor. They glanced at her but didn't pause.
Returned to the room, she found that the man's breathing was even and that the fever had diminished. But it was evident that he had not been medically treated as she had.
Except for the bunk the room was bare. The walls were cushiony and she presumed that the ceiling was also.
Voices, deep and loud, sounded here in the room. The ringing came again and again at spaced intervals.
Exploring the walls, she found other studs, trying each in turn. She couldn't tell what the results were, but eventually a miniature viewplate lit up. Nothing showed on it except blackness and the stars.