Authors: Sam Lippert
The Nathan Daniels Saga
©2012 Samuel A. Lippert
All Rights Reserved
Cover Art copyright
©2012 Rosanna Hardman
All Rights Reserved
Many thanks to my family and friends without whom this would not have been possible.
Thanks especially to Kira for her love and support. Thanks to Mom and my sister Trudie for the typing they did.
Thanks to Damon for proofreading and copy editing.
Thanks to Rosanna for her wonderful cover art, and thanks again to Trudie for turning that art into a beautiful cover!
Finally, thanks to you, the reader, for purchasing this novella.
This novella is dedicated to everyone in my life who has stood by me, in the good times and in the bad.
You know who you are, and I love you all!
I shouldn't have to say this, but...
All original characters in this work are fictitious! Any similarity to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. However, mythical and historical characters are my interpretation of those characters, and any similarity to their actual persona is intentional, however the accuracy is not guaranteed.
Nathan Daniels’ stomach was churning as he deftly guided his small trading ship towards the spaceport in Kurufet. Daniels was a freelance trader, and as such was not usually summoned by an Empress, ruler of over twenty planets. Granted, Kalifet was one of the smaller empires Daniels did business in, but the invitation was unusual nonetheless.
“Maybe she’s heard what a lover I am,” a wry grin crept across his face at the thought. Daniels was a handsome man. His hair was a sandy bronze, and his blue eyes were usually referred to by his conquests as “devastating.” He stood just under 6 feet, with a lean athletic build he maintained in the small gym he had equipped on board. Usually, his looks were enough to get him the woman that he wanted, but when that wasn’t enough, all he had to add was “want to go for a ride on my space ship?”
suited Daniels perfectly. She was small for a trading ship, so Daniels dealt exclusively in high value cargo. Often time that meant smuggling. Aside from the gym there was a fairly modern control room, a galley where Nathan could prepare anything from the old earth delicacy “the cheeseburger” to a flaming Crystall dessert known as Aa-Tra-Py. Daniels took his cooking seriously, as it was a way to break the usual monotony of space travel. He, of course, had living quarters and there was a guest suite for those times when he chose to supplement his income with paying passengers.
Daniels had been puzzling over the invitation since it was received three days ago. He supposed you could call it an invitation. He had just lifted off from Droshai, a small moon just outside of Kalifet’s sphere of influence. He had legally acquired a load of Halifren gems, which he had planned to sell in the Rhadasian Empire, where they fetched top dollar. Halifren gems were an aphrodisiac for the Rhadasians, a race of lizard people. And the mines of Droshai produced the best around. Daniels was positioned to make a fortune on the sex needs of some lizards.
That was not to be. As he broke orbit, two Kalifet cruisers intercepted him. His first thought was that Kalifet now claimed the small moon and he was going to have to pay an export tax or a bribe, but most likely both.
His inter-ship radio crackled to life, “Kalifet cruiser to private space craft,
, come in.”
Nathan had a decision to make. He could run.
was built for speed and could certainly outrun these behemoths. The problem with that plan was they outgunned him by about 200:1. If he ran, there was a good chance his ship would be disabled or destroyed before his speed could matter.
Answering the call was probably the more prudent choice. He was pretty sure he had enough cash on board to pay either the tax or a bribe, but definitely not both.
“This is Nathan Daniels, captain of the
”. He replied. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
The small view screen to his left lit up, and the image of a stern military official coalesced. He was a general by insignia, and he wore the uniform of the Empress’ personal guard. Nathan revised his calculations upward. He definitely did not have enough cash on board for a bribe. He doubted even the
was worth enough for that.
The Empress will see you.” Was all the general said. His image disappeared, and was replaced by the coordinates of Kurufet spaceport. Three days away in the opposite direction from where Nathan needed to take his gems.
Good thing Halifren gems have a decent shelf life,” he said to Max, his orange tabby cat, as he punched in the new coordinates, “I don’t think we are getting to Rhadasia anytime soon.” Max meowed what seemed to be his assent.
Over the past three days Nathan, at times in consultation with Max, pondered the reason for the mysterious summons. He was an optimist at heart and pessimist by training. Most of the scenarios he came up with ended with his head on one of the decorative spires in front of the palace. The Empress of Kalifet was known to be harsh when she was displeased.
“This is definitely going to call for the good-ole Daniels charm,” he thought as he brought the
to final touchdown. He would have sworn he saw max shaking his head as he unstrapped. “Let’s go see what Her Excellency wants.”
Daniels lowered the loading ramp and let in the warm afternoon air of Kurufet. The city had one of the few perfect climates in the known worlds, for humans that is. The temperature was always between sixty-five degrees and eighty degrees, with low humidity. By some miracle of meteorology, it only rained at night.
As he started down the ramp, he hoped he was dressed appropriately for a meeting with the Empress. He was wearing the closest thing he had to a uniform. Beige all purpose slacks and an olive color short sleeve shirt with captain’s insignia on it. This was all topped off with a chocolate colored cape. He had an ornamental laser pistol strapped to his side, which would no doubt be confiscated before he was two hundred meters from the Empress. He hoped it would attract enough attention that no one would notice his back-up weapon, a small needle gun that was designed to look like a writing stylus in his shirt pocket. He knew it was risky trying to go before the Empress armed, but until he knew what this was about, he felt safer knowing he might be able to take a few of them with him if a fight broke out.
The dock master met Daniels at the bottom of the ramp. As Daniels paid the port fees, the dock master asked if he could be reached at the usual place, meaning a tavern near the spaceport, where Daniels usually spent his free time when he was in town. As he was about to answer, he saw the general and about a dozen troopers headed his way.
“Actually, I’ll be at the Palace, Ravi.” Daniels strolled over to the general. “Captain Nathan Daniels, at your service.”
General Marag was a seasoned military veteran. He had proven his loyalty to the Empress over three decades of military duty. Sending young men into battle and seeing death and destruction, on the battlefield had given Marag’s face the sternness that Daniels had noticed on the view screen.
The general stood an impressive six feet, four inches tall, and as is typical of a career military officer, he stood ramrod straight, making him appear taller than he really was. His uniform was impeccable, in the lilac color that identified him as one of the Empress’ guards. In fact, he was commander of that unit, a post he had served in for nearly 10 years. One thing Marag could not stand was shiftless ne’er-do-wells, which is exactly how he saw “captain” Nathan Daniels. What the Empress wanted with this lackluster man he did not know.
Marag said nothing, but continued walking towards the
. This forced Daniels to abruptly turn around and follow the general right back to the foot of the ramp. Once there the general motioned for four of his troopers. They left formation and entered the
. “If this is about contraband, I can assure you none is on board. Nothing but legitimate cargo.” Daniel’s palms were sweating, he was pretty sure that Halifren gems were legal in Kalifet. Besides he wasn’t in Kalifet space when he got them, and he was only here because he was forced. He wiped his hands on his slacks, in what he hoped seemed like a casual gesture.
The troopers came down the ramp. One came over to the general and muttered something that Daniels obviously was not meant to hear. Marag said something in the same low voice and the troopers took up positions around the
, appearing to guard it. From whom or what was unknown
Captain Daniels,” Ravi tugged on his sleeve. “Troopers here will not be good for business.” Nathan knew that many of the pilots who parked here were smugglers. He paid the man an extra 100 credits to compensate for his loss.
I sure hope I’m going to get that back,” he said, to no one in particular. At least they hadn’t slapped him in irons.
Putting the “captain” in restraints was exactly what Marag wanted to do, but his orders had been clear on that point. He turned and started towards the transport that would take them to the palace. Nathan stood there for a second and then decided it was best to follow.
Daniels had never seen an imperial transport before. As they approached, he checked out the sleek lines of the craft. Obviously a surface vehicle, repulsors kept it hovering about a foot off the ground. The front was bulbous and clear, certainly meant to give the command crew a full and uncluttered view. Gun turrets were set at various ports around the craft. From the look of it, it was built for speed.
Once inside Daniels was struck by the plushness. Colors were subdued and instead of benches, he saw couches with large cushions. What he could only imagine were very expensive pieces of art hung on the walls. This was not a typical military transport. It was obviously the Empress’ own yacht.
“Is this for my benefit, or do you always get to use this ride?“ General Marag just grunted and went forward to the command “bubble.” Six troopers followed, leaving two with Daniels.
Nathan flopped himself unceremoniously on one of the big sofas while the trooper continued to stand at attention. “Come on guys, live a little,” he said.
Daniels noted a fruit bowl on the table. Rummaging through it he found what appeared to be an overlarge pear. Picking it up he rubbed it on his pant leg and took a bite. It was the most succulent piece of fruit he had ever tasted. It was definitely good to be an Empress!
There was a slight sensation of movement as the transport headed forward. At the same instant, the walls of the compartment appeared to become transparent offering a three hundred sixty degree view around the transport. Nathan’s jaw dropped as he saw the priceless art that appeared to be hanging in mid air.
Kurufet spaceport was about one hundred miles outside Kurufet proper. As he looked to the rear of the craft he saw it shrinking into the distance at an ever increasing rate. Looking forward he saw the glimmering spires of Kurufet city, and the palace dominating the center of the city. It was the tallest and most impressive structure on the planet.
The transport got up to speed very quickly and the scene out the sides of the transport was a blur. Nathan estimated the speed to be near 300 miles an hour. He knew that speed would be reduced once they reached the city limits.