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UNEDITED excerpt

Claimed, Copyright 2005


Chapter One

             Tranell initiated what had to be her hundredth scan of the atmosphere around her vessel.  Still nothing.  It was official now; she was thoroughly and utterly lost.  She slammed a brown fist against the control panel in front of her.  For two days, she had been floating aimlessly in space somewhere between Beta-six and the Altruz quadron, both of which were designated as hostile regions.  Thanks to a malfunction in her light drive, she had traveled far off her original flight plane, exactly however was yet to be determined.

            “Shama!”  She yelled the explicative to an empty bridge.

            “I do not see the point in using such language Princess.”  The synthesized voice filled the control room.  “His Majesty will send an imperial vessel upon notification that you have not arrived on Sabr.”

            “Double shama.”  Tranell muttered, under her breath this time because she knew that it would be days before her father got word that his wayward daughter had again failed to show up on planet Sabr for her next year instructions in diplomacy, skills that were deemed necessary by everyone on her planet.  She also knew that it would be even longer before anyone could trace her exact location, since she had altered her original charts for extra time before arrival on Sabr.

            “SfarII.”  She addressed the Synthesized for Fun Artificial Roid version II.  Tranell had replaced the standard on board model each vessel came equipped with, uploading this seemingly sentient Roid in case the planets she visited proved a disappointment.  “Have you completed your search for habitable planets in this quadron?"

            “No Princess, and I must advise against landing if we do encounter one, the little knowledge that has been gathered about this quadron is not too promising.”  The Roid  provided.

            “Well maybe its time we learned more, so please continue your scan while I visit the clean room.”  With that order given Tranell headed to the meditation chamber for her ritual prayer.

            Tranell Shear was the third daughter of Galdar and Shala of the planet Kauthar.  For centuries her people had been instrumental in forging, inter planetary alliances within their quadron.  Chosen for their extremely rational nature, and ability to read emotions a Kautharian was an important asset at all conflict resolution forums.  However, at twenty creons Tranell and many in her generation rebelled, at least silently, against their pre-determined futures.  Tranell was more interested in space traveling than in diplomacy.  She had argued with her father on many occasions that Kautharians would soon out live their usefulness in the current environment.  For years the most severe conflicts had been over minor land rights violations, which were the cause of sparse demonstrations, even at the height of conflict, the events were hardly noteworthy.  She believed that with the lack of interest in exploration of new quadrons the Kautharians would soon become useless as ambassadors.

            Tranell stretched her long shapely legs.  She always felt better after her meditation periods.  It was a common practice for the Kautharians, who believed that not only was it therapeutic for the mind and body but for the soul as well.  They felt that the more mediation time one committed themselves to the higher spiritual awareness and inner peace they could attain. Shama, did she need some inner peace right now.

            “SfarII?”  Tranell began as she left the clean room.  “Is there anything to report?”

            “No, thus far I have scanned over a quarter of this quadron and have not encountered any oxygenated planets.

            “Have you been able to get a fix on the direction we came from?”

            “Not quite.  My central frame is not fully operational.”

            “Well keep working on it.”  Tranell dismissed, not able to disguise the irritation in her voice, although she blamed herself one hundred percent for their misfortune.  It was not SfarII’s fault that they were floating in the middle of who knew where, she thought, as she walked to her sleeping quarters.  Perhaps a quick nap would help to pass the time until her disembodied companion could find a planet.  She hoped an imperial vessel would locate her soon, the rations she had eaten only a half-hour earlier were meager at least and her already light food supply would dwindle quickly since she had not planned for this additional side trip.


On Kauthar…

            “What do you mean she hasn’t arrived yet?”  Galdar replied to the man on the viewer.  “Her vessel left more than a legion ago.”

            “Sir, I have dispatched two cruisers to look for her and nothing has turned up thus far.”

            “What about distress hails?”  He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

            “Negative there also.”  The middle aged Sabrian responded, his normally toffee colored hue discoloring, making his anxiety over the situation apparent.  “I apologize that you were not informed sooner, we thought Tranell was having another free spirited moment, and did not want to concern you.”  That and he knew Galdar would learn that the Princess had easily gotten though his security protocols… again, in order to make the necessary changes.  He was certain that all the enhancements made would keep out the most accomplished brigand.  Next time he would not underestimate the Princess’ abilities, if there were a next time.

            “Order an imperial vessel to scan all neighboring quadrons to see if we can get a trace on her vessel.”  Galdar ordered.

            “Immediately, sir.”  The Sabrian replied.

            “Galdar out.” 

            “Any news.”  Shala who hovered at the outer chamber came into the royal advisory room after sensing her husband’s distress.  She had hoped to get a chance to speak with Tranell.  That daughter of hers would definitely need some reprimanding after this latest stunt.  Shala always felt that she and Galdar indulged Tranell too much but neither had ever done anything to curb her adventurous nature.  Remembering her mate’s conversation moments ago she knew she could not to live with herself if anything happened to her youngest child.

            “Nothing yet.”  Galdar answered, his visage belying the worry and fatigue that Shala sensed from him.

            “You know Tranell, probably visiting some lower life form planet.” He rationalized.

            “But you are concerned?”  Shala asked, coming to stand beside him.  At fifty-seven creons, Galdar had retained his youthful good looks.  A finely carved face framed deep-set black eyes.  Full lips only enhanced his aristocratic brown features.  The only indicator of his advancing years was the graying of hair on his temples, and slight development of wrinkles at the corners of his eyes.

            “She is all right husband, you must believe that the One will keep her safe.”  She reassured.  Galdar turned to her, his brown eyes questioning.  “Do you sense something now?”

            “No nothing.”  She replied honestly looking up into her husband’s handsome face.  She could not tell him that the last trace she had received from Tranell had caused her to worry over her daughter’s safety.

            “Has Sousa or Saher mentioned anything?”  Galdar asked, referring to his elder daughters.

            “No, they haven’t sensed anything either.”

            For the first time in their marriage, Shala saw her husband look helpless.

            Galdar’s head hung low as he wondered over the fate of his daughter.  He had hoped that either his wife or other daughters would be able to get a trace on Tranell, the women of Kauthar being the most receptive in their sensory abilities.

            “Husband.”  Shala called, causing him to give her a look, which made her realize he’d already forgotten her presence.  “We will find her.”

            “I pray the One that you are correct.”  He said looking into amber eyes that reminded him so much of his youngest child.


Somewhere in space…

            Those same eyes looked at Tranell through the haze of her dream.  In it she was a girl of ten creons sitting at her mother’s feet, listening to one of her many tales.  Shala, who was adorned in her beautiful, richly colored robes told a story of a girl who longed for a different destiny than the one that had been chosen for her.  Tranell listened to the story intently memorizing every detail as her mother used slender bronzed hands to illustrate.  Shala was the best storyteller on Kauthar, coming from a line of translators whose responsibility it was to pass the history on to each generation.

            “How does it end?”  The child’s voice asked eagerly when her mother suddenly stopped.  “It hasn’t, my pet.”  Her mother tweaked her nose playfully.

            “Oh mother.”  Tranell sighed, she’d wondered over the story for years, now as the dream faded away realization sank in that her mother had been speaking of her.

            “Finally, you are awake.”  SfarII’s voice filled the room.

            “Any news?”  Tranell asked bounding from the sleeping unit as she pushed an unruly piece of curly hair from her face, her shoulder length tresses having come loose while she slept.  She’d become anxious isolated in the confines of the small transport vessel.  It had been over a legion since she had any live companionship.  Normally, she would have enjoyed the solitude but the possibility that she could be lost to her family forever, had an unnerving effect. 

            “Yes.  There appears to be an oxygenated planet, one point five, seven light years from here.”

            “Have you set a course?”

            “No, I was awaiting your instructions Princess, but I must state my objections again, I think the best course of action-”

            “Your objection has been duly noted.”  She interrupted a little impatiently.  “Now set a course.”


Chezar, Sector Two…

            “Sir, there is an unidentifiable vessel approaching our atmosphere.”  The centurion at the watch console reported aloud, after double-checking his monitors for plausible errors.  The young man’s words caused an immediate response from his superior, who came to stand behind his chair. 

            “Are you certain?” He asked, even as he looked over the officer’s shoulders at the anomalous readings.

            “Quite, sir.”  The last was added as an after thought.

            The ranking officers mind raced at the implications of an alien vessel landing on their planet.  The last contact their people had with outside worlds was over eighteen years ago, and the results had been fatal. 

“Open all hailing frequencies.”  He ordered.

Seconds passed in silence

“Nothing sir.” The centurion stated the obvious, turning questioning eyes on his commander.

“Disable the weapons.”  He ordered.  “Lock on the craft and bring it in.”

The command caused the younger man a moment’s pause before he initiated the tracking beam.  The next directive was equally shocking.  “Open up a line to the High Commander, immediately.” 

“Yes sir.”  The centurion said realizing the severity of the matter.



*  *  *

“What was that?”  Tranell exclaimed as the vessel suddenly lurched, the lights in the control room flickering off and on before submerging the room into complete darkness. 

“It seems that we are being pulled in a beam” SfarII’s voice responded.

Tranell was glad that they had not lost complete power.

“Can you open up a communication channel?”

“Negative.”  SfarII’s voice faded in and out.

“Can we pull free?”  Tranell asked, hopefully as her fingers flew across the control panel trying to reserve as much power as possible.

“No, all main cells have been depleted.  I am not sure how much longer I will have pow…wer.”  The Roid’s voice wavered at the end of the sentence.

“I guess that answers my questions about intelligent life.”  Tranell mumbled to herself.  She just hoped that the aliens were a civilized peaceful race.

*  *  *

Twenty centurions stood poised outside the foreign craft in anticipation of a battle.  Although the ship wasn’t much larger than their own patrol crafts there was no telling what type of creatures lurked within.

“Set to immobilize.”  The order came from Remare, the High Commander of Sector Two, who stood in lead position prepared for anything.  Normally, it would be unheard of for the High Commander to become physically involved in the happenings at the observation centers, rather incongruities were reported to the on Duty Commander, the Center Commanders and on up the chain which was lengthy to say the least.  The High Commander was rarely aware of the nightly activities at the various centers unless it was deemed as a threat to his Sector or the planet.  This evening was such a rare occasion.  Remare, having been roused from his sleeping quarters by his chief advisor and informed of the alien aircraft that was encroaching on their atmosphere, came immediately awake questioning his advisor while he hurriedly dressed.

Now poised at the alien crafts entrance an excitement at the unknown built inside him. 

“Open it.”  His authoritative voice commanded.

*  *  *

“We are…being…boar…ded.”  SfarII’s voice continued to flicker.

Boarded, the word rang in Tranell’s ears.  Should she hide, she asked herself.  If these beings were hostile there would only be a matter of time before they found her, well one thing was for certain she surely would not stand there passively waiting.

*  *  *

“It appears to be empty High Commander.”  A centurion reported after a brief search of the vessel had been performed.  Remare turned to the Duty Commander in charge of watch that evening.

“Your scanners registered at least one life form?”

“Yes sir.”  The man replied.

Remare’s eyes roamed the semi-darkened alien ship, the light beams they carried casting shadows on the metallic walls.

“Then there is something here.”  He stated before ordering the search to continue.

“Has anyone investigated those storage lockers?”  He questioned some minutes later, after their continued efforts had not revealed the creature.

“No sir.”  A centurion replied as he approached the storage units that looked barely large enough to contain an adolescent Chezarians male, however he dared not question the authority of his High Commander. 

*  *  *

From her hiding place in the storage unit Tranell could read the anticipation in all the men, they were anxious and eager to do battle.  Now her second question had been answered.  Well if it was a fight they wanted, it was a fight they were going to get she thought to herself as her grip tightened on her free bar rod.  Someone was coming closer; she could trace him as he drew nearer.   The alien was searching each unit and it would only be a matter of seconds before she was discovered.  Tranell counted down, five…four…three…

            The centurion, positioned in front of the next door, was prepared to find another empty unit.  The censors must be defective, he thought to himself, there was nothing here, a sightless Chezarian could see that much.  That was his last conscience thought as the heavy door swung open catching the unsuspecting humanoid off guard.

            Tranell let out a blood-curdling yell that effectively stunned her invaders allowing her much needed seconds to immobilize as many beings as she could.  They were huge, she noted as she whirled by one, knocking him off balance.  Free bar extended to its full five-foot length, she swung expertly at heads and legs.  There were too many of them!  She knew that there were only precious moments left before they were able to extinguish her life. 

            Her free bar poised, she hesitated long enough to get a real look at one of the giants whose eyes were the most peculiar shade of lavender.

            “Mother.”  She cried as a yellow light flashed from the hand of the giant, hitting her in the abdomen.

            For and infinitesimal moment time and space stood still as a link formed between mother and daughter.

            “What is it?”  One unscathed centurion asked curiously.  All eyes glued to the alien that had just crumbled at the feet of the High Commander.

            Not quite sure himself.  Remare could not answer.  Staring down at the motionless creature.  It looked less threatening than it had flying through the air at him seconds before.

            “Are there injuries?”  Remare asked, looking around the room as his men who were victims of the surprise attack righted themselves.  Even the centurion first assaulted had begun to come around, staring at the heap that lie in front of their High Commander.

            Turning back to the object of interest Remare stooped to shift the garments that hid the limp creature.  It was definitely humanoid, he observed as he exposed a darkly colored arm.  His fingers lingered in the mass of curls obscuring what must be the beings face; it’s texture unlike anything he had ever felt.  He gasped as he pushed the hair away.  It was a woman; at least it looked like one.  With the dark tresses pulled away he had a better view of her.  Full lips looked soft in sleep, and her nose although broader than he had ever seen on a woman complimented her face.  Her sable skin was smooth to his touch.

            “It’s a woman.”  He stated for the benefit of the men around him.

            He heard their startled gasps, a woman had single handedly disarmed eight of his best centurions.  Granted she did have the element of surprise on her side, but it wouldn’t ease the bruised egos of the injured men.                    

“She is not one of us.”  Remare stated the obvious, one needed to only look at her dark coloring to know that she was not Chezarian.  Positioning his arms under the unconscious figure he lifted her causing the garment she wore to shift, revealing long legs as deeply colored as the rest of her. 

A collective gasp emitted from everyone in the room as they stood in awe.  The men had never seen anyone like her.  Traditionally, Chezarian females were fair in coloring from head to toe, there were of course those occasional beauties that had been born with dark hair, but never in their history had there been any with dark skin to match.

“Will she be claimed?”  Another centurion spoke from the back of the group, breaking the long silence.

As Remare stared down into the beautiful face of the alien woman, he knew that no one else could possess her but him. However, neither his intense attraction, nor his position could allow him to break with centuries of tradition.  The Claiming Challenge was an age-old Chezarian rite that pit man against man in the pursuit of one woman when she was unable to select her mate from the numerous suitors, or if a woman were left unprotected.

“Yes.”  Remare finally answered, holding the light bundle in his arms a little tighter as if to shield her from the other men.

“I too wish to enter the challenge.”  Another centurion spoke, than another.  Soon all centurions present had unofficially entered the challenge, and Remare knew that once word spread of the alien captive that more would enter.  The man who would eventually become her mate would be admired for holding her rare beauty.  He looked down at the woman who had within a matter of seconds disrupted his Sector and senses for he too declared his intention to join the challenge.

“Dispatch the physician.”  He ordered.

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