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Tales of the Spinward March Book 2: The Red Queen, page 1

 

Tales of the Spinward March Book 2: The Red Queen
 


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Tales of the Spinward March Book 2: The Red Queen


  Tales of the Spinward March

  Book Two: The Red Queen

  By David C. Winnie

  Dedicated to:

  HRH Queen Alexandria Victoria

  Doctor Marie Salomea Sklodowska-Curie

  Jeanne d’Arc

  Doktor Angela Dorothea Kasner-Merkle

  And to all the great women who come small in body, but mighty in achievement…

  Acknowledgements

  My Thanks to the following:

  Cover Art: Bogdan Maksimovic

  Book Cover Design: Creative Publishing Book Design

  Author Photograph: John McAlpine

  Credits:

  “Hammer to Fall” from the album “The Works” by Queen 1984

  “Drowned “from the rock opera “Quadrophenia” by The Who 1973

  “The Final Reflection” by John M. Ford. Pocket Books 1984

  All story tellers are slightly mad. Thanks to the Friday Night Poker Group, both members who have passed on and the present players who keep me sane. I raise a Joe. DCW

  FORWARD TO DAVID WINNIE’S THE RED QUEEN

  He outlined the Spinward Series to me over two pots of coffee (and several bathroom breaks) over 15 years ago. I was fascinated with the concept then, and now, as I am finally privileged to edit the output of this avant garde emerging writer, I continue to be enthralled. The Great Khan, Book #1 in the series, is one of the finest first novels I have ever seen in my 70 years of reading science fiction.

  The Red Queen, Book #2, will not disappoint you, as it continues the saga of the Spinward March through otherspace and the known and unknown universe. Feisty little Khan Annika Russolov will win your awe, respect and perhaps your heart, as she dedicates her entire life to the expansion of her Terran Empire.

  A word to those who are hesitant to invest in self-published books: Times have changed in the publishing world. Remember Frank Herbert’s Dune, felt by many to be the best science fiction novel ever written? 50-odd years ago it was rejected by traditional publishers twenty-three times, in a day when those publishers were often taking a chance on new and emerging writers. Today it takes a miracle of space and time for the new author’s novel to be picked up by the downsizing and beleaguered traditional publishers who depend upon their already well-known and well-loved authors’ output for the profit on their bottom lines. Thus, the emergence of the many self-publishing outlets. (I self-published my first novel, Three-Point Shot, for young adults, and it won a Writer’s Digest award that year.) Self-publishing is, today, the best way to get the new author’s work into the reading marketplace.

  Read and enjoy The Red Queen, recommend it to your SF-reading friends, and wait as I do with bated breath for #3 in the Spinward Series. Thanks for buying books.

  J. R. Nakken, Award - Winning Author of the memoir

  Confessions of a Martian Schoolgirl

  Autumn, 2017

  Here we stand or here we fall

  History won't care at all

  Make the bed, light the light

  Lady Mercy won't be home tonight…

  -Queen, 1984 A.D.-

  Prolog

  From “The Law of Angkor Khan.”

  Section 3: Laws of the Khan

  3:1.1 The Law of Succession. The Khan can only be succeeded by one of the eight heirs. The eight heirs will be designed by the heir File Committee. Each file will have its own committee that is responsible for designing the perfect heir. They File Committee will be advised by the File Council. The File Council will consist of members as assigned by the Khan.

  3:1.1.2 The Khan is free to select his or her bond partner from any Terran in the Empire. After the pair are bonded and before they consummate their bonding, the File Committee will extract genetic material from each partner. This material will be combined to create the basis for the heirs. The File Committee will adjust the genetic pattern to match the design of the perfect heir. Once matched, the pattern will be impressed onto a zygote and gestated using the Angkor/Vinithri egg system.

  3:1.1.3 At the biological age of five Terran years, the heirs shall be presented to their parents and the Empire in keeping with the Traditions of Khalkha Tribe.

  3:1.1.4 At the age of eighteen, the File Committee will select which of the heirs has achieved perfection as the reincarnation of the Emperor Angkor Khan and is worthy to rule the Empire.

  3:1.1.5 Upon the death of the Khan, the designated heir is the Khan, with all the honors, duties and responsibilities of the Khan.

  This Law, as all my Laws, is written by my own hand.

  ANGKOR KHAN

  Excerpt from the book “The Law of Angkor Khan” Terran Empire Ministry of Justice circa 3103 A.D.

  Chapter 1

  Imperial Palace, Amaar, Capital City on Argulea, Terran Empire. 5031 A.D.

  It was perhaps as fine a day in May as could be remembered. Weather control ensured the conditions. The Emperor was known as a creature of comfort. So, of course it was a fine day.

  A light rain had fallen. It ended at precisely at 3 a.m., giving all the gardens in the old city a good soaking, but not so wet as to spoil the day. With so many Very Important Persons coming in from across the Terran Empire, it would not do to dampen a single well-heeled slipper.

  At sunrise, the last of the cleaners left the streets. The city was perfect. A slight breeze blew, carrying the scent of fresh blooms through the entire region. The Empress was fond of roses: large, well-tended beds and planters filled the whole of Amaar.

  In the heirs’ nursery, the eight children were roused.

  Today, they were to be presented to the Imperial Court. Though clones, their parents, the Emperor Robert De L’Orange Khan and their mother, Empress Lorraine, had supplied their basic DNA. The File Committee then altered the genes, enhancing preferred traits, removing undesirable. The result were these eight children, brothers and sisters, but each unique. Tall, short, and one tiny. Hair color ran from as dark as the void to golden as the sun. Curiously, they were not a balanced eight. Rather, the committee had created five boys and three girls.

  Compromises had been made. You simply could not stuff every desirable trait into a single child. For instance, one could design the child to have excellent night vision. But the tradeoff might be that he (or she) would have smaller hands. These children were the result of over two thousand years of genetic mapping and manipulation. Each was to have unique physical or mental advantages over the others.

  The symmetry and balance was traditionally maintained. For the yin and the yang to be biased this way, most unusual.

  They were alike in the emerald eyes with an Asian fold, sign of their family line. And an unshakable belief in their own infallibility. Each was perfect. Everyone else was inferior. It was the basis of their programed genes. And the Proctors reminded them of it constantly.

  The Proctors. The daily constant in the children’s lives. They were teachers, counselors, coaches and disciplinarians for the eight. They sat on the File Committee and had helped design these children. The very future of the Empire depended on the Proctors. They helped to create the eight, and they were responsible for development of the Empire’s next Khan.

  Even with the importance of the day, routine must still be followed. The children arose at sunrise, had their morning exercise. After bathing came breakfast, then on to lessons. For the one with the experimental superior brain, today’s lessons were a direct download. The others sat in a classroom under the watchful eyes of Proctors. After lunch, they were dressed in their ceremonial clothes. Each was inspected by an eagle-eyed Proctor. All of them were reminded repeatedly, “Stand straight, head high! Not a wrinkle your
uniform, not a hair out of place.” This was the standard for these children. Anything less than perfection was unacceptable.

  Precisely fifteen minutes before the Khan was to enter the Throne Room, the children were inspected again, making sure each was exactly as it was supposed to be, perfect. One would expect eight five-year-old children to wiggle and resist all the attention and waiting. These were not ordinary children. They were heirs. One day, the best of them would be Khan.

  The Emperor Ming si Haun Khan and his wife, Empress Lorraine, entered the Great Hall. As they strode down the center aisle, the mighty and great of the Empire bowed and curtsied as the royal couple passed. Citizens all, regardless of the color of scales or skin, number of legs or multiplicity of orbs, their homage was proper. The Imperial Guard, imposing soldiers in royal purple and gold, made sure of that. Ming si Huan Khan had only been Khan for two years, following the assassination of his brother, the Emperor Robert De L’Orange Khan. There were quiet whisperings of his violent anger and of what happened to those who didn’t show him the proper deference.

  The royal couple seated themselves in their thrones on the dais, as ministers and military officers entered side doors and stood at stiff attention. Ming si motioned with a finger and a door at the side of the dais opened. With great precision, the eight marched out and stood, facing the royal couple. Seven of the children gave a deep bow. The last, the tiniest child and dressed all in red, did not. The Khan took notice, and forced a small smile. Excellent! The child provided him with an opportunity to appear fatherly. “Child, is this how you show respect to your Khan?” Blush suffused her slender neck, but she clinched her jaw firmly before favoring him with a barely perceptible nod.

  The Khan sighed. It was not starting well for her. He remembered when he was one of the eight. Every misstep, every tiny mistake for the next thirteen years would be noted and filed away. He dismissed thoughts of the child and lifted his finger again.

  A holo appeared and projected the story of the Great Khan, who had unified the people of the old Terran Union. How Angkor Khan had given them his law. How his cleverness had defeated the great Vinithri empire. His wisdom had forged an alliance with that alien nation. How it had led to the creation of the File Committee, whose job it was to continue and improve the Line of the Great Khan himself.

  The Khan scarcely listened. He had heard the story in many times over the years. The heirs were constantly reminded of their royal lineage.

  On his Naming Day, Ming si expected to be named the next Khan, only to learn that his brother, Robert, was to succeed. Oh, the years he waited, hating his brother. Robert De L’Orange had been a popular Crown Prince, traveling across the Empire, making the important speeches. The people came to adore him.

  Ming si, as an inferior heir, had been expected to live a productive life out of sight, out of mind, bearing the family name of ne-Khan forever. Of the Khan’s family, but not the Khan. His brother married the beautiful Lorraine. By law, ovum and seed were extracted from them before they consummated their marriage. That, in turn, was sent to the File Committee to be assigned and modified to create the brats now in front of him.

  Then the Khan at least had had the good graces to get himself killed by an assassin’s bomb. The Imperial Council panicked, naming Ming si Khan immediately, as clearly the children weren’t ready. He wasn’t concerned in the least about these children. Yes, one of them would replace him one day. But he was young and fit. He had the entire apparatus of the Empire at his disposal. He had the beautiful and dutiful Lorraine. Any threat to his crown would be dealt with severely.

  He studied the little, insolent child covertly throughout the boring presentation. It wouldn’t do to punish her here. He’d get through the ceremony, then tell the Proctors just how displeased he was with her. He remembered corporal punishment when he was that age. A good beating for rudeness might be just the thing.

  She was a homely little thing. Barely three feet tall. Her eyes were a bit too close over a pug nose that hovered over a pointed chin. With her golden hair pulled back in a queue, she seemed less a threat and more an object of his pity.

  Red sensed the Khan’s contempt. It mattered little to her. She listened to the thoughts around her, noting who she trusted and who would bear watching. Black was doing the same. He was an ally. After the death of their father, he had sworn his obedience to her.

  She focused herself on the Empress, who was visibly startled as Red caressed her mind. “So, I take it you are our mother, yes?” she asked. “Tell me, Mother, what were you thinking, marrying such an ass? Was it simply politics, or was there something else? Well, no matter. I am bored with all of this.”

  Lorraine put her lace handkerchief to her mouth. She hadn’t been aware any of the children had mindspeak. Robert hadn’t.

  Or, at least he had never told her of it.

  Red sighed. Aloud. Murmurs crossed the court. Such a thing was simply unheard of and unspeakably rude. She sighed again. The holo stopped, unsure of what to do. The Khan’s voice was stern. “Behave, Child,” he admonished. “I cannot believe a child of mine would ever be so rude.”

  “That’s because you are not my father.” Red placed tiny fists on her hips and lowered her gaze ominously. “My father was a Great Khan. You are merely an imposter, a pretender, a fake. You are not Khan!” She pointed to the Empress. “She is the mother of us,” Red cried, “mother of the heirs, wife of my father, the Khan!” She mindspoke to her brothers and sisters. “There, she is the one. She is our mother. Go to her, comfort her.” Six of the children broke with their training and rushed the Empress, who encircled them in tentative arms and issued quick kisses. The seventh, Black, hesitated, his gaze vacillating between his mother and his sister. He wavered, but stood his ground.

  The Khan reached out to probe the mind of the child, Red. When he touched it, he froze, then recoiled. Icy fury radiated from her, not just blocking his probe but sending it back with such force that he was physically moved back in his chair. His mouth gaped as burning mental fingers tore into his head, ripping and tearing as he gasped and choked. Then she was gone from his mind, placid, her head tilted to look regally down her nose at him.

  “I’m bored. I need a chair,” Red announced. There was a commotion behind the throne; a small wooden chair was produced. “That shall do for now, I should suppose,” she said. The servant who had produced the chair moved to place it beside the Empress.

  “No,” said Red, “my chair belongs there.” She pointed to a spot to the right of the Khan. The trembling servant looked first to the stupefied Khan, then scuttled over, placing the chair in the designated place. Red, strode up the stairs, followed closely by Black. She seated herself as if the nondescript little chair were a throne. Black moved behind her and stood at her right as she folded her hands calmly on her lap. “So, Uncle,” she ordered him. “Let’s complete this ceremony. I have studying to finish.”

  The whole of the Terran Empire exploded.

  On each of the one hundred fifty worlds there were protests. The Law of Angkor Khan were lessons every Terran learned in school. That was part of the Law. No one could break the Law and say they didn’t know. Nor could the Council or even the Khan himself could violate the Law and not be exposed.

  The Law of Succession was the easiest to understand. The most perfect of the eight was to be the new Khan on the death of the predecessor. Since each Khan was the reincarnation of Angkor Khan, his successor must be perfect as well.

  The child had pointed out the unthinkable conundrum the Imperial Council faced just two years before. Never had a Khan died before the successor was ready to assume the mantle and title. The law had no specific direction for the situation.

  The Empire suffered in the rule of Robert Khan’s father. Emperor Robert L’Orange Khan was a popular choice to lead the Empire. Upon Robert’s death, they met in a panic and decided on a course of action. The Empress Lorraine had agreed, on the promise that Robert Khan’s children would remain heir.


  She had married Ming si. He wasn’t a bad man by any means, other than being terribly vain. And he didn’t make too many demands on her. Being named Khan seemed to be good enough for him.

  The Empire was in an uproar. For the first time, it had a close look at the heirs, and the Red child reminded them not only of what they had lost, but how the Council had erred by failing to follow the law. Riots broke out on every world. There was talk of revolution. Ming si’s order went out. Imperial troops brutally quelled any disturbance.

  On Biafara Prime, a news commentator suggested that perhaps it was time to do away with the monarchy. He was dragged from his ground car by a mob led by his own son. They tore him to pieces.

  The Council remembered well the lessons of the so-called democracy revolution during the devastating reign of the eighth Khan. His own daughter had removed his name for all time over the devastation he wrought on the Empire. That mistake would not happen again. They raced back to Terra’s Giza Palace, capitol of the Empire.

  Terra was the only place the Leaders of the File Committees would meet with oust landers, those not Terra born. They were the highest priests and nuns of the Temple of Angkor Khan. With them, all final decisions of the designs and selections of the Khans were made. They rarely left their temple and never left Terra.

  Tahn was First of the Temple of Angkor, Leader of the File Committee and not coincidently, leader of the Red File. He settled back in his seat of the hovercar that was transporting the eight leaders that were the File Committee. He and his staff for Red File had meet after the Presentation Ceremony incident. She had responded to the download and stimuli perfectly! Even better than anticipated. The second sigh was the marker, showing that she indeed knew herself to be superior to the Khan.

 
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