“What thinkest thou of the execution?”
A chill ran down Reva’s back as she remembered watching the corporal get sucked out the airlock. “It was… unpleasant,” she said, understating her own horror.
“Indeed, but ‘twas also necessary,” Gulchina told her. “Mutiny is a disease which must be purged. Every soul which doth not fulfill his duty is as a scourge, for the ship must operate as a body—the many must unite as a single whole.”
“Why are you keeping me, then?” Reva asked softly.
“Because I have a use for thee, which thou shalt learn of hereafter.”
What sort of use? she thought. Fear froze her tongue, though, and she decided it would be best not to ask too many questions.
“And what did you think of my speech?” Gulchina asked, switching abruptly to her own language.
“Don’t be coy with me, Reva. The speech about our celestial birthright. The speech that made the crew cry out for vengeance against the corporal’s betrayal.”
Reva’s skin tingled as Gulchina traced the designs on her neck. She tensed as the henna chilled her, gripping the edge of the table as goosebumps shot across her arms. Lifting her chin, she did her best to hide her vulnerability.
I think it makes you absolutely insane.
“I don’t think I understood it,” she said, figuring that Gulchina was really just looking for a way to lecture her on it. Better to open the door and move the discussion as far away from herself as possible.
Gulchina’s lip curled up into a sneer. “What about it don’t you understand?”
Crap, Reva thought to herself, her mind racing.
“It’s just—why this talk of a birthright among the unknown stars? What use are those stars if no one lives there?”
“Ah,” said Gulchina, her expression softening somewhat. “Reva, you must learn to expand your vision. What were greatest empires in the legendary history of Earth?”
So it’s a test now, not a lecture, Reva realized with some dismay. Gulchina was always testing her, and she never felt that she quite measured up.
“There were many great empires: the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, British, Americans—”
“And how many of these empires survived?”
Reva frowned. “What do you mean?”
“How many of those empires last to this day?”
The question was nonsensical, considering that the Earth of Legend had long since passed into the realm of myth. Ever since the ancient colonization of Gaia Nova, the location of Earth had been lost, and none had been able to rediscover it. The only evidence that it had even existed was the legendary database the colonists had carried with them, the sum of human knowledge. The histories from that database had been handed down from generation to generation, and Gulchina had collected many of them. It was from those histories that she selected passages for Reva to study.
“We don’t know,” Reva answered. “Earth has been lost to us for thousands of years.”
“Then how many empires survived long enough to reasonably still exist today?”
Is this a trick question? Reva wondered, cold sweat beginning to collect on the back of her neck. She shivered, and not just from the henna drying on her skin.
“None of them.”
“Indeed,” said Gulchina. “It is the first rule of history that every empire must fall. The Earth of Legend was littered with their bones.”
“But what does that have to do with our birthright?”
Gulchina paused in her work to look Reva in the eye. “Do you know what we are?”
“Pirates?” Reva guessed.
“No, Reva, not merely pirates. The ancient Muslims divided the world into two parts: Dar Al-Islam, the lands of submission, and Dar Al-Harb, the lands of war. They inherited this concept from the ancient Romans, who divided the world between civilization and the barbarians. We are the barbarians, Reva—or as the Muslims later called them, the “Hameji.” We are the ones who reject civilization and refuse to submit to their control. And just as the barbarians overthrew Rome and Baghdad in turn, so too shall we tear down the Gaian Empire and lay waste the Coreward Stars.
“But first,” Gulchina continued, her cold eyes aflame, “we must journey into the wilderness, build our strength, and become a mighty people. That is where the birthright comes in.”
She’s crazy, Reva thought to herself. She’s absolutely mad.
Gulchina drew the tip of the brush across Reva’s face, finishing the last details. “If you think that the stars are empty, my dear Reva, you are gravely mistaken. The near ancients realized this when they built their magnificent observatories and telescopes. As they gazed into the vastness of space, they recognized that it was the height of folly to believe that man is alone in the universe.”
“What do you mean?” Reva asked, her voice barely louder than a whisper.
“The human race is not the only intelligent race in the universe. Somewhere out among the unknown stars, there are sentient alien beings possessing intelligence like us. We do not know when or where we will find them, but if we are to claim our birthright, we cannot avoid making contact.”
Captives in Obscurity, book 5 in the Sons of the Starfarers series, will be available in ebook form on May 15th. Pre-order or find out more below:
Captives in Obscurity
There is no escape beyond Star's End.
Isaac and Reva are running out of time. Gulchina's cruelty knows no bounds, and on the edge of known space, no one can stop her. But an unexplored planet holds an ancient alien secret that may prove to be a game changer.
About the Book
THERE IS NO ESCAPE BEYOND STAR’S END.
The deadliest pirates in the galaxy have stolen the technology that will transform it. Now, on the edge of known space, they are poised to start an empire of their own.
Isaac and Reva are running out of time. Neither of them knows the extent of Gulchina’s plans, or whether the madwoman will keep them both alive after she achieves them.
But an unexplored planet beyond the Far Outworlds holds an ancient alien secret that not even Gulchina has uncovered. That secret will tip the balance in
SONS OF THE STARFARERS
BOOK V: CAPTIVES IN OBSCURITY
This series is rated T! according to the AO3 content rating system.
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