Conqueror of the Stars
“Enemy Class I Battlecruiser nine point seven-three klicks dead ahead,” Doc said. Christ, this gigantic monster was practically on top of them with enough armor and firepower for a small fleet. Even at a hundred thousand kilometers they’d be gobbled up.
“Shields up!” he ordered, but of course Dr. Glitch had already done that as well as activated the sound suppressors to discourage eavesdropping.
He slipped into the command chair and strapped himself in. “Fire!”
Even as he gave the order, he saw that Sky’s ship had beaten their mighty adversary to the punch. Her missiles struck the Cen’s force field amidships, only to explode outward in a blinding white glare. An instant later, Turtan’s birds bashed them head on, likewise to little effect.
“Warheads coming in,” Doc warned. “I’m taking evasive action.”
Turtan saw the Cen missiles approach. Victory veered to the left, but the bastards were heat-seeking and hungry for movement, and they caught them right center. Their shield absorbed the blows and transferred their fury outward. Still, Turtan’s body rocked, and he heard the bulkheads almost crack.
“They hit Sky’s ship hard,” Doc said.
He couldn’t worry about that. After all, it was a warship, and Cen technology was superior to humans’. The best thing he could do for both of them was find a way to beat the enemy.
|Title||Conqueror of the Stars|
|Series||Inspector of the Cross|
|Author||John B. Rosenman|
|Genre||Science Fiction Adventure|
|Tags||Galactic hero, galactic war, militaristic, emperor, romantic adventure, science fiction, science fiction adventure, aliens, futuristic, extraterrestrial, planet, alien planet, intelligent life forms, microorganisms, martial arts, hero, love, romance, cosmic, universe, court intrigue, torture, Iron Maiden|
They found themselves in a grassy circle. In the middle two naked Cen, a muscular male and a beautiful female stood writhing and moaning in some kind of oval-shaped garden, their bodies entwined by luxuriant silver blooms. The opulent clusters swarmed over the enemy with what seemed delicate hunger, feeding in a way Turtan couldn’t imagine.
“What the hell?” Sky said.
Turtan glanced at them. Sky was stunned; Lavinia fascinated. Despite the pressing danger, he could tell the Admiral’s wife would like nothing more than to open a laboratory right here and study this life form.
Turtan turned back. Thanks to his implant, he’d recognized this plant almost instantly as the exquisite silver growth the young man had enjoyed. It provided an opiate or narcotic of some kind. Yes, indeed, the soil was especially fertile here. He could smell its rich, musky, intoxicating heaviness. All told, it was more fuel for his Cen Gone Decadent theory, at least on this singular planet.
As he watched, one of the Cen twisted and stared directly at them, his gold eyes bulging. He opened his mouth, and Turtan thought he was going to shout to the others. Invaders—come at once! Instead, he moaned as a tendril rose and snaked obscenely inside his lips. Sunlight sparkled on its sinuous form. Turtan suppressed a shiver. Were these Cen in heaven or hell; did they experience ecstasy or agony? Perhaps an alternation of both, reward followed by punishment. Thinking of the fight-to-the-death battles he’d seen between Cen lately, he wondered if this was another war game. Step up, soldier. Do you want real pleasure and pain, and do you dare to engage the fiercest and most loving adversaries of all? Do you have what it takes to fight them, or will you die or go mad?
Fascinating indeed, as Lavinia might say, but they must move on. Hearing one of the Cen laugh, he led Sky and Lavinia back through the trees, leaving the entwined, struggling enemy to their For a while they were lost. The neat symmetry of rows pointing one way changed and they found themselves in a cramped maze with narrow paths formed by tall thick hedges. They turned right, they turned left, they went down short paths and then down longer ones. Some paths seemed promising only to bring them back to where they started, and some paths led them by the nose to mocking dead ends.
At one point, shadows passed overhead, and they stopped. Looking up, Turtan spotted winged figures. Enhanced Cen, or something else? He pulled out his bionocs, but the figures were already gone, leaving only the bright blue sky with a few pale puffs of clouds.
“I’ve found a way out!” Lavinia said.
They turned back to where Lavinia knelt on one knee beside the hedge. By God, he and the Radiants thought in relief, it looked like she was right. A neat square hole was cut at the bottom, just large enough to squirrel through. If it weren’t for this amateur, they would have marched right past it.
They traded glances, and then Sky, slender and more limber, went first. He waited.
Sky’s voice came through the hedge: “It’s a row like before. And just forty meters to the forest.”
Good! Turtan motioned Lavinia through and then brought up the rear. After he rose on the other side, they hurried down a typically straight, grassy row. Every step took them closer to the forest. He could almost feel soothing shade over his now sweaty head. The oranges here seemed larger and more plentiful than before. They hung everywhere, swollen and ready to burst.
Footsteps, voices. They halted. Where was the enemy coming from now? Unlike other places they’d been in this crazy maze, they could get no fix at all on the Cen’s position. Maybe it was the composition or arrangement of the walls. Sky, acutely sensitive to cues, spun catlike on her feet, drawing in information from all directions. He saw her sniff the air, though all he could smell was the rich lingering stench of the dreamers’ soil mingled with the cloying sweetness of the surrounding fruit, which he realized for the first time had an acidic quality.
Sky pointed. “This way.”
They crossed two rows and entered another. There Sky stopped and stood indecisive. The sounds of Cen were gone but not, Turtan realized, the sense of their imminent appearance. This part of the demonic orchard, he realized, functioned as a gigantic sounding board, and glancing down the current row they occupied, it seemed to him they had lost ground and were farther from the comparative safety they sought. Well, damn it, let them go to it.
They’d taken two steps when a Cen soldier appeared.
Would this never stop? Once again they slipped through the trees…
Right into an ambush of four Cen soldiers.
The enemy were as surprised as they, which was a good thing because it enabled them to immediately kill the two closest soldiers. The two other Cen struck the lasers from their hands and knocked Lavinia to the ground.
The bigger, stronger, faster Cen rushed them. Oddly, like the first two, they seemed to have no weapons. Turtan had no time to use his Radiants to infect the Cen or reach for the small laser in his pocket he’d taken from Lavinia. He dodged the Cen who came for him, leaped a dead body, and felt the enemy’s hand seize his arm.
He spun and surprised the Cen with two hard blows, one to the chest, one to the stomach. The enemy went “Whooompf!” and staggered back. Cen anatomy, though, had few vulnerable sites, and before Turtan could follow up his minimal advantage, the Cen darted in and rammed him square in the gut.
Gasping, Turtan expected the Cen to smash him to pieces. Retreating toward the trees, he saw the Cen hesitate. His great golden eyes widened.
“Turtan,” he said, “is that you?”
As if things weren’t bad enough, the Cen had recognized him! “Come and get me, bastard,” Turtan said. “What are you waiting for?”