Beginning of Rishalt, Book 2 of Taxyon Space
Dr. Nikki Bell is devastated when the Watchers reappear without her alien lover. Why did he return to his home planet without even leaving a message? In search of answers, Nikki jumps at the chance to join the diplomatic team invited to visit the aliens’ home world. On Rishalt, she must contend with the intricacies of Warrish society and an undercurrent of hostility.
Kiron Arqin Ramis is summoned home by his family to the unwanted honor of a new triad and union with a high-ranked female. Unable to forget Nikki, he accepts exile on a dangerous wilderness planet instead of complying with his family’s demands. But, the Triarchs have other plans for him.
Stakes are higher than the lives of two individuals. Earth leaders are desperate to acquire the aliens’ interstellar technology, while Warrish perceive few advantages to an alliance. Can Nikki and Kiron pierce the barriers separating them to find happiness with provoking an unequal war?
The intercom beeped. A shrill voice yelled, “Dr. Bell, you’re ordered to the hub. We have an emergency. Unidentified floating object on the monitors.”
Noting the edge of panic in the cantankerous Safety Officer’s voice, Nikki called, “Cut your jets, Tar. I’ll be up in a second.” Anxious to learn the worst, she left the lab and sprinted along the passage to the transit hub of Bathos, the submarine station in the ocean of Europa. What the styx could it be? The prototype spaceship, Taxyon One, had departed from Jupiter’s moon three weeks ago, leaving the fledgling colony without transport off the moon.
As she reached the door to the stairwell, Astrid Andersen raced from the opposite direction. The chief of the Division of Xenobiology ran gracefully, her long legs moving easily and her blonde hair bobbing behind. Nikki quelled a twinge of envy. Her mentor had arrived only recently and her muscles were still adapted to Earth’s gravity.
Astrid said, “I had not anticipated so much excitement during my visit. Is this alarm a normal occurrence?”
“Not in my experience,” Nikki admitted. “I’ve no idea what the monitors detected. Even Major Tarlick ought to recognize a large native animal.”
“Let’s find out.” Astrid pushed the door open.
They leaped up the stairs to the central hub and dashed into the transit center. Five of the Bathos residents crowded into the front of the room. The others were working on Topside, or away on a field trip. Everyone was staring at the big viewer. Everyone except for Roy Wong, who tapped frantically on his tablet.
As they entered, Major Tarlick glanced around, and gave a quick nod of recognition. Gesturing at the screen, he offered an unnecessary explanation, “Unidentified object on the starboard perimeter. Tech Wong is transmitting the image to Earth.”
The statuesque Dr. Andersen stopped at the rear of the room where her height allowed her to see easily over the heads of the people in the front. At ten centimeters shorter, Nikki pushed to the front of the awed group and peered out. Instead of the usual view of dark water rippling over red bedrock, and fat seaslugs feeding on mounds of microbes, a sphere the size of a house hovered on the left of the screen beyond the dome of the Greenery. Transfixed by the sight of the shimmering sphere, she froze. The iridescent surface of the sphere resembled the surface of Kiron’s bubble shelter. A shiver of excitement raced through her.
“It’s the Warrish,” she cried.
Her cool voice penetrating the shocked silence, Astrid asked, “The alien mermen you met?”
“Not mermen, but humanoid,” Nikki said. “No tails or scales. They have legs and gill slits.”
“They’ve come back?” Deirdre Foster, the director, asked. As the Station’s physician, she had relocated to the medical facility on Bathos after the disaster, leaving the astrotechs and shuttle pilots to camp in the reconstructed shell of Topside.
“Kiron predicted they would decide to speak with us.” Nikki flushed in anticipation of seeing her lover again. “He believed their leaders favored an alliance with Earthers. That’s their name for humans.” Fifteen days ago, he had met her briefly in the deserted Warrish base and given her a token of his affection. She fingered his gift, the copper bracelet on her wrist engraved with his family emblems.
“Fair enough.” A faint frown slid across Astrid’s calm face. “Why pop in unannounced like this? They must know how to communicate with us.”
Nikki nodded. “Correct. Their Watchers have been monitoring Galileo Station for years, and they have translators.”
“Curious,” Astrid remarked. “Perhaps they wish to make a dramatic entrance.”
“The Warrish?” Major Tarlick scowled. “Is it an attack?”
A commotion from the rear heralded the entrance of Tech Albright. Big Al, unofficial leader of the colonists, marched to the front and glared at the iridescent sphere. “Styx, our green-skinned mermen have arrived in style.”
Tarlick protested, “They’re attacking Bathos.”
Al slapped the major’s stiff back and boomed, “We’d be bloody dead if they wanted to attack us. They could have slaughtered us at any time in the years they’ve been on Europa. We can’t match their technology. If they’ve got interstellar transport, they’re surely capable of dropping a bloody big bomb.”
“They’ve been watching us for decades,” Nikki pointed out. “Plenty of opportunity to squash us if they wished.”
“Understood,” Tarlick groaned. “If they’re paying a friendly visit, do you think we ought to send divers to meet them?”
Nikki shrugged. “I’d guess the sphere is filled with air. They can breathe air like us, and the atmosphere in their submarine base was close to Earth normal.” She had become the expert on the aliens. In fact, nobody else had seen a live Warrish, although they had images and tissue specimens from the dead alien.
Director Foster said, “Major Tarlick is correct. We ought to meet them in their own element as a neighborly gesture.”
“Wait for them to make the first move,” Al suggested.
Astrid had been staring at the strange sphere. She tilted her head and asked, “Where is the entrance, Nikki?”
“If it’s like the bubble shelter, you can enter the membrane anywhere.”
They watched as the giant sphere drifted onto the seabed on the outer perimeter of the repulsion field. A shoal of alarmed eels circled above the roof of the Fishery, ignorant of the tank hatching their fellows for food.
Five tense minutes elapsed without a change.
Tarlick exhaled audibly. “They’re not attacking.”
“Reckon they’ve come for a chat,” Al grunted. “Who wants to meet them?”
After a slight pause, Director Foster said, “I’m the senior official on Galileo Station. Perhaps I should go?”
Al patted her on the back. “A laudable proposal, Dee, but you’re a bloody landlubber. You’ve never swum in these gloomy waters. I’ll take the job instead.”
Astrid said, “Nikki’s a fine diver and the aliens know her. She should be in the group.”
“Brilliant,” Nikki cried. “I’d love to pierce their big bubble.” With luck, Kiron was waiting inside the filmy shelter.
Major Tarlick insisted, “You’ll need protection.”
“Nah,” Al grunted. “Reckon we’ll have to trust they don’t mean to kill us.” He forestalled Tarlick’s objection, saying, “Okay, Tar, you hold the fort on Bathos with Deirdre. If we don’t come back, you can wield your bloody guns. Don’t be surprised if they fail to do any damage.”
“Three people would be good,” Nikki suggested. “Warrish work in units of three or six.”
“I’ll come along with you and Al,” Astrid offered. “Even if only to satisfy my curiosity about the aliens’ unusual physiology.”
Al nodded. “Okay, three of us. We’re all comfortable in the ocean.” He grinned. “Let’s dive in.”
If you’re not familiar with these characters, they are introduced in Europa.
Europa, Taxyon Space, Book 1 - SciFi Thriller & Romance
Daredevil scientist & scarred alien in perilous seas.