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Authors: Owen R. O'Neill,Jordan Leah Hunter

Loralynn Kennakris 1: The Alecto Initiative

BOOK: Loralynn Kennakris 1: The Alecto Initiative
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The Alecto Initiative

Loralynn Kennakris #1

Owen R. O’Neill
&
Jordan Leah Hunter

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and organizations either are the
product of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously, and any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events,
or locales is entirely coincidental.

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment
only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would
like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy
for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it
was not purchased for you, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your
own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of these authors.

Copyright © 2013 Owen R. O’Neill and Jordan Leah Hunter

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written
permission of the publisher.

Cover illustration © 2013 by Curt Johnson.

Cover design by Pleiades Web Press.

Published by Pleiades Web Press
1141 Catalina Dr. #257
Livermore, CA 94550

 

DEDICATION

Slavery, human trafficking—call it what you will—has been
part of human history since our earliest days.
No regularly practiced human activity casts a longer or darker shadow.
To all its victims—but especially the girls—for whom an
Arizona
never
came, I dedicate this book.
Jordan Leah Hunter
,
April 2013

To the best woman I have ever known:
You believed in me, you gave me strength,
you kicked my lame ass over the finish line.

With more gratitude than words could ever hold,
I dedicate this book to you.
Owen R. O’Neill
,
April 2013

Some things just take time . . .

Back in 1990, give or take a year, I had what I thought was
a great idea: a military science-fiction story about the adventures of a female
fighter pilot. In those days, military Sci-Fi stories with strong female
protagonists were pretty thin on the ground and I thought that was a shame. I
was taking a creative writing class at the time and participating in a weekly
writing group made up of a few classmates, so I wrote a short story as an
exercise and, having second thoughts, decided to spring it on my writing-group
buddies first. Their response is something I choose not to dwell on. The class
was spared and I decided it was premature to quit my day job. But Loralynn
Kennakris was born.

I didn’t entirely give up the concept, however. For much of
that decade, I poked at it and wrote bits and pieces and gathered ideas while
the world changed and a number of authors took up the task of writing military
Sci-Fi with strong female heroes. By the late 90’s, my ideas were old hat and
being eclipsed by changes in my personal world. By the Millennium, Loralynn
Kennakris and her adventures were becoming an increasingly distant memory.

Fast-forward to November, 2011. That’s when I told Jordan
about Loralynn Kennakris and my ideas—I know not why. She asked to see more. I
dug up a copy of my original short story (MS Word for DOS format, no less!) and
printed it for her. I warned her of the reception it had received. She stuffed
it in a suitcase and left on a three-week trip to Hawaii.
That’s that
, I
thought.

A week later, I got a text message from her that changed
everything. Most of all, I got a writing partner who could finally give
Loralynn Kennakris the life and the voice I never could. As she was about
drinking age at the time, you could say she was overdue. The result you are now
reading on some device that probably didn’t exist when I conceived her,
delivered to you over the
Internet
, which almost no one had heard of
then, and which pretty much only supported this radical thing called
email
.
How times change.

This novel is the first of a planned series. The second novel
is already well underway, and you can read an excerpt from it at the end of
this book. There will certainly be a third and a fourth, and probably a fifth
and . . . who knows? If you enjoy
The Alecto Initiative
, thank
Jordan for bringing it to life. If you agree with my writing buddies from all
those years ago, blame me.

And assuming you’re the former and not the latter, please
visit
www.loralynnkennakris.com
to see what we’re up to, get some background
on our universe, and read excerpts of upcoming Loralynn Kennakris novels.
Welcome to what we think will be an exciting ride. . .

Owen R. O’Neill, April 2013

Table Of Contents

Foreword

Beginnings

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Aftermaths

Author’s note

Sneak Preview: The Morning Which Breaks

About the Authors

Parson’s Acre Colony
Alpha Emzara-Furae, Methuselah Cluster

When the harvest failed again, her father dismissed
the last few workers and sold off the remaining equipment. Returning from
Gabriel, where he’d gone to deliver the last of it, he called her into the
kitchen as the dwarf sun retreated over the low squashed hills. It’s small
blue-white companion had already set and it painted the room with a rusty light that
aged everything it touched. He sat there at the cheap table—all the nice
imported furniture had gone the previous season—the deep creases in his face
picked out in harsh detail, the squat glass of amber liquid already in front of
him but as yet untouched, colorless eyes hooded and dull

There was work, he explained—work off-planet. He knew
people—had made contacts—it was decent work—would get them back on their
feet again. She asked how long. Six—eight months, he said. Maybe a year; maybe
more. “I found a place for you,” he went on. “Good people. They’ll give you a
job and a place to stay.” He didn’t meet her eyes but stared at the drink,
screwing it back and forth on the table.

Why couldn’t she just go back to school, she asked. She’d
already missed the beginning of the current term, helping him get the harvest
in, but it wasn’t too late. “You can go to school again when we get back on our
feet,” he answered. “They’re coming tomorrow. You should get your things
together tonight—they’ll be early.”

She asked their names. He took his cel out of his pocket;
thumbed up an address. “Blodgett. Down in Gabriel. Own a lot of business down
there.” He put the cel back, looked out the window at the gathering dark.
“Good people. You’ll be fine.”

What arrived in the morning was the Blodgett’s truck, right
after first light—three men in dull green coveralls with a patch on the
shoulder. Her father handed the driver an envelope while the other two looked
at her quizzically: lanky, raw-boned, angular, awkward and just a few weeks
past her eleventh birthday; freshly scrubbed with her long still-damp hair
pulled back in a ponytail and a small satchel at her feet.

“That it?” One of the men pointed at the little bag. She
nodded, mute. “Good,” he said and bent to pick it up. As he bent, he looked up
into her still forming face. “Don’t say a hell of a lot, do ya?”

She shook her head.

“Good.” He handed her into the back of the truck, a big
cent-weight rig with a covered back, and she saw five other girls and a skinny
boy, all about her age, huddling on the benches. The man tossed her bag onto
the truck bed and walked around the side, muttering. Her father stepped into
view as the truck engaged thrusters and raised his hand. She waved back as the
truck accelerated, staring after him until he was lost in the swirls of red
dust. Then, ignoring the others, she crammed herself into a corner, cold at the
pit of her stomach. She hadn’t been able to clearly make out what the man had
said as he walked to the cab—it had sounded a lot like: “What a fucking
waste.”

The Blodgetts were in the hospitality business.
They owned a cluster of establishments in Gabriel that catered to
travelers—she could tell that from the price lists. Parson’s Acre
was a poor colony; it served mainly as an entry point for travelers doing
business in the Methuselah Cluster, the farthest of the Outworlds,
lying a thousand light-years beyond the Outer Trifid. Gabriel, the site of
the colony’s starport and its only real city, existed to serve their needs.

Those needs were explained to them in a short orientation
meeting by uniformed staff overseen by a slightly-built man with graying hair
who spoke only briefly, welcoming them with a smile that did not reach his
eyes. Rules of conduct were laid out, especially the strict curfew they were
sternly warned not to break. Private cels were not allowed and would be
confiscated—email and cloud access would be provided to those who performed
well. After getting settled they’d be given their work assignments. That was
all. She had never been to a city before; if they were all like this, she
wondered why anyone stayed.

Afterwards, company men escorted them to their quarters in a
subterranean compound: a series of dormitories segregated by sex. The tiny
rooms, each housing four bunks, were arranged along bare corridors that had a
lavatory and a large communal shower at each end. They showed her and three
other girls into a room with their first names on their assigned bunk. Hers was
spelled wrong.

The work she got was not hard: helping out in the kitchens
mostly, washing fragile items that couldn’t be trusted to the big autoloading
sanitizers or fetching things from refrigerated lockers that were many times
the size of her room. Sometimes she cleaned the guest suites. She was kept away
from guests though, unlike the older girls who were often assigned to take them
meals in their suites. She noticed that delivering meals often seemed to take
an unusual amount of time.

Each dorm had a terminal where those who’d been granted
access could get email and surf in their off-hours. That was the limit of the
leisure activities. She got an email from her father saying he was fine, doing
well; he hoped things were working out for her. She said they were. It was a lie.

For two months, she got emails from him regularly, always
much the same. He did say he was on Tolliman (she had vaguely heard of it) and
there was plenty of work in asteroid mining. Things were going well—even
better than he expected. But he said nothing about coming home. After three
months, the emails stopped. She tried sending him a few after that. They
bounced.

She got a new roommate every month or so. She made friends
with none of them. After she’d been there six months, she awoke in the middle
of the night to hear two of her roommates talking in whispers. They noticed her
stirring and stopped. That evening, both were gone.

Two months later, she was cleaning up after the lunch
period, her arms elbow deep in hot water and detergent froth, when the twinges
started. She tried to ignore them but by the end of her shift they couldn’t be
ignored and worse, there was a wet sticky oozing in her crotch that frightened
her. She crept to a bathroom, stopping to pant when the strong cramps came out
of nowhere, and once there stared in horror at the blood on her fingers. She
jammed a disposable towel between her legs and wanted to die.

Her boss found her there, curled up on a bench by the
showers. “What’s the matter with you?”

She shook her head, but the woman noticed the towel.

“Come on,” her boss said, taking her by the upper arm.
“We’re gonna see the nurse.”

The nurse made her take off her clothes and sit on a
narrow, thinly padded examination table. It had jointed metal arms at the foot
with stirrup-like things on the ends. “Lie back,” the nurse said as she moved
some lights into position and laid out an array of instruments. “Put your feet
in these.”

She asked why.

“Pelvic exam. You just got your period—nothing to worry
about.”

She did as she was told.

In a dimly lit room, devoid of furniture except for three
hard chairs and a bulky out-of-place desk, two men and a woman watched the
examination on a bank of video monitors. “She’s intact,” the woman said,
looking over at the two men with a smile. “Never can tell with these people.”

The older of the two men leaned back in his chair, put his
feet up on the desk and waved an index finger at the screens. “What’s the story
on this one?”

The second man activated his cel and consulted a file.
“Father brought her in eight months ago. Alcoholic. Had a big place up-country—let
it go to hell. Paid the deposit in cash.”

“What happened to him?”

“Shipped out to Tolliman—packet said he was a mining
engineer. No current certs but—”

“Mining engineer? What the hell was he doing here?”

“Couldn’t say. Record says he came out about nine years ago—lots
of money, no history and a drinking problem. Says here he married twice—neither
lasted more than a couple of seasons.”

“Where from?

“Had a New Caledonian passport. Issued on Skye though, so it
don’t mean much.”

The older man grunted. Skye was notoriously lax about
issuing passports. “Payments?”

“Nothing for the past five months.”

He scowled at his companions, displeased.

The woman gestured at the image on the screen. “
Look
at her.”

The scowl became calculating. “Okay. So what about this guy—where
is he now?”

“He did show up on Tolliman, but that’s all we know. No
taxes filed, no payroll submitted, no new accounts, no major transactions . . .
and no exit visa stamps.”

“How many times has he been off-planet before this?”

“None. No off-world contacts at all. That we know of.”

“Alright.” He took his feet off the desk. “Put her on the
list—send a message.”

A week later, she was awakened early by the door to their
room opening. As she sat up, a tall man silhouetted in the entry pointed at
her. “You, get dressed. Come with me.” She slid out of her bunk in just her
underwear, pulled on her pants and a company work shirt, and slipped on her
shoes. The man tapped a finger on the doorframe, impatient. As she reached for
the little kit with her wallet in it, he leaned over and grabbed her arm. “You
won’t be needin’ that.” He glowered around the little room, taking in the
frightened eyes in the young faces, grunted and shoved her out into the
corridor. Another half-dozen girls were also standing there: most older than
her; most looking dazed and still blinking with sleep but one almost terrified,
her fists wadding the front of her shirt. The tall man waved to two others
dressed like him and she saw they all carried truncheons.

She asked where she was going.

“We got new work for you,” he said and gave her a shove in
the middle of the back.

They put her and the others in the back of a crowded cargo
lorry without windows. She had to tuck her knees up hard to get them out of the
way of the rear doors as they slammed shut and sealed. No one spoke. As far as
she could tell, they were all girls.

The flight was short and when the rear doors opened, she
could see nothing except a row of harsh spotlights illuminating a strip of
pavement with a line painted on it. The glare hid all other details but she
knew they were inside a huge building: the space gave back dim hollow
echoes as the men pulled them out and pointed to the line.

 “Over there—no talking.” They shuffled into place and she
saw others being herded to join them, maybe fifty or so: girls and young women,
some young boys, even a few adult men, looking shaken and cowed. More company
men with truncheons walked up and down the line, a few slapping them
suggestively. The people in line with her squirmed and twitched, some
muttering, others whimpering—one half-strangled cry that was cut off by the
thud of a truncheon. The air was sour in her dry mouth and she felt a
throttling panic form behind her diaphragm and start to spread.

Wide double doors off to their right opened and more men
stepped out. As they moved into the halo of light she saw they were young, most
of them, and not at all like the company men—a gaudy riot of gold hair,
jeweled eyes, wildly iridescent tattoos—and they all had guns.

They walked down the line, handling their rifles
negligently, and a kind of suffocated hush descended. Two more men followed
them out of the doors. The first was tall and heavyset, dressed in black. The
second was short, older, trim and graying, and dressed in a conservative suit.
She thought she knew him but before she could be sure one of the gaudy men
jabbed her in the midriff with his rifle. “You,” he barked, “eyes down.”

She dropped her eyes to her toes as the big man spoke in a
strongly-accented voice. “Shit. This it?”

“You saw the manifest,” the graying man replied and Kris
recognized his voice: the Blodgett’s general manager. She couldn’t recall his
name—
think
—the lurking panic was twisting her guts—
no, don’t panic
,
think
—it was something that began with . . .

“I ain’t got room for half of these. And I ain’t paying more
than lot price for the rest.”

“I can’t send them back—”

Treecher
. Was that it? Treecher?
Think
. . .

“Not my problem. Dispose of ‘em the usual way.”

“I’m already taking a loss here.”

“Not my problem.” There was a pause and then Treecher
started to say something. The big man cut him off. “You prefer I adjust our
agreement?”

Silence. Then Treecher said, “Fine. Take what you want—leave
the rest.”

The big man walked toward them, stepping into the light. He
had long black hair tied back, and large hands with wiry black hair on them. He
walked down the line, followed by one of his men with a drawn flechette pistol
and as he passed each person by, his flat voice said with hardly an intervening
pause, “Take. Leave. Leave. Take. Leave. Take.” Every time he said ‘leave’ a
muffled pistol shot punctuated his monosyllabic sentence.

Then he reached her. He stopped. His wide, thin-lipped mouth
opened in a grin. She became fascinated with the gold designs etched into his
teeth. His big hands reached out and ripped open the front of her blue work
shirt. Air touched coldly on her young, bare, just-budding breasts.

“Gettin’ there,” his lank voice said, pulling out the short
vowels. “Yep. Gettin’ there.” He bent down to where she couldn’t avoid his
eyes. “What’s your name?”

“Loralynn Kennakris.” To her ears, it sounded almost as if
someone else had answered for her.

“Fucked-up sorta name, Kris.”

The man straightened.

“Take.”

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