Jean Johnson The V'Dan: First Salik War

ISBN 13: 9780425276938

The V'Dan: First Salik War

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9780425276938: The V'Dan: First Salik War

A thrilling new perspective of the world created in the explosive, national bestselling Theirs Not to Reason Why series. It’s two hundred years earlier—the age of the First Salik War. And the battle against humanity has been engaged. 

The V’Dan always believed they were the chosen race, destined to make a mark on the galaxy. For the last few centuries, they interacted peacefully with other sentient species—save for the Salik. Cold, amphibious, and vicious, the Salik were set on one goal: to conquer every race within their grasp.

Now that the Salik’s ruthless war has begun, the fate of the galaxy is in the hands of two strange companions: Li’eth, a prince under siege and his rescuer, Jacaranda MacKenzie. A beautiful ambassador from the Motherworld, Jackie possesses more than the holy powers of a goddess. She brings a secret weapon—a strange, wondrous, and dangerous new technology that could be her and Li’eth’s last and only hope to save their people from extinction...

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About the Author:

Jean Johnson is the national bestselling author of the Theirs Not to Reason Why series which includes Damnation, Hardship, and Hellfire, and the Guardians of Destiny novels, including The Guild, The Grove, and The Tower. She believes the best part about being a writer is the joy of entertaining others. The second best part is inspiring them to do greater things than they would normally imagine, and to honor those who have tried. This is one of those stories, and she hopes you both enjoy it and are inspired by it.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

AUTHOR’S NOTE

Jacaranda MacKenzie, ex–Special Forces psychic and polyglot translator, had been requested by former Premiere Rosa McCrary to resign from being the Councilor for Oceania Province, representing hundreds of islands and their multitudes of cultures on Earth. Once she did, however, she found her military commission being reactivated and herself given orders to report to the Tower on Kaho’olawe Island, at the heart of the Space Force.

One more thing: For those of you familiar with my previous series Theirs Not to Reason Why, you may already know this, but for those who do not, I would like to explain something that has been overlooked by certain readers, which in turn has caused some of them unintended discomfort.

Enjoy,
Jean

Praise for Jean Johnson

Titles by Jean Johnson

Title Page

Copyright

Author’s Note

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

Special Excerpt from The Blockade

CHAPTER 1

APRIL 24, 2287 TERRAN COMMON ERA (C.E.)

DEMBER 17, 9507 V’DAN STANDARD (V.D.S.)

TUPSF EMBASSY 1, V’DAN SYSTEM

Getting changed in zero gravity was not easy. Clothing did not “fall naturally into place” but had to be tugged this way and that. Hemlines remained rumpled unless pulled straight and tucked into waistbands and so forth. And a skirt? Forget it. Forget all skirt-like objects in the weightlessness of insystem space. Jacaranda MacKenzie might wish to dress in a formal outfit to properly represent the people of the Terran United Planets, and she had brought skirts for wearing when they were in a gravitied environment, but she was not doing so in zero G.

That meant donning her military uniform. No longer a mere Major, equal in rank to their pilot, Commander Robert Graves, she had been promoted to the rank of Colonel. It was an awkward promotion, but the new, revised regulations on how an embassy should be conducted included the fact that all military operations within that embassy’s jurisdiction had to have civilian oversight.

Just as the highest-ranked officers of the Space Force reported to the Secondaire and the Premiere of the Terran United Planets, all of the military personnel headed to V’Dan space had to report to the Ambassador. Which meant she had to outrank all of the personnel who were already assigned, and who possibly could be assigned, to her jurisdiction. By preference, she would defer as quickly as possible to Secondaire Pong and Premiere Callan . . . but should circumstances isolate the embassy, they had to have a clear-cut leader.

Jackie didn’t feel like she was qualified, but Rosa McCrary had confided to her in private that she, too, had never felt like she was qualified to lead the military during her tenure as Premiere. Jackie, at least, had military experience. Still, Jackie only had to don her shirt with its silver eagles on the collar points and shoulder boards. She wasn’t the Commander-in-Chief, and she never would be at the rate things were going, and that was just fine by her.

They did have an illusion of microgravity on board the Embassy 1, but only because the ship was gradually slowing down in its approach to the planet V’Dan. That meant anyone or anything unsecured had a habit of “drifting” forward into bulkheads and doors. Jackie was somewhat used to zero-gravity maneuvers and could sort of brace herself telekinetically, but that did nothing for hemlines. Or fellow travelers.

“Ah, sorry!” Ayinda muttered for the third time as she swayed and bumped into Jackie’s back. “Sorry, Jackie . . . At least we won’t have to deal with this for much longer. Right?”

“They did promise us quarantine facilities with full artificial gravity,” Jackie replied, adjusting her pant cuffs. Today’s outfit was a white shirt, black slacks with gray and blue stripes down the outer sides, black socks, and black shoes. Lace-ups, which meant having to fuss with the ties.

“Sí,” Maria de la Santoya agreed, speaking in Spanish. “But from what I learned from our guests, the facilities are military-grade at best. No paintings, no cushions, no artworks, no colors . . .”

Jackie gave up after a halfhearted try sent her twisting awkwardly. She focused her thoughts while Maria spoke, lacing them telekinetically. Still, the doctor’s words had to be addressed. Sort of.

“Speak in V’Dan, Maria,” she reminded the doctor. “We all have to speak it from now on unless we’re talking to the folks back home.”

Everyone on this expedition spoke V’Dan, the language of their forthcoming hosts. She and a handful of other telepathic polyglots had spent hours and days transferring the language over and over just to ensure that everyone who came along would be able to speak, read, and write in their host nation’s tongue. Perhaps not with complete fluency, which would only come with practice, but Jackie was good at psychic language transference.

They also all spoke Terranglo, obviously, but Jackie had wisely suggested a third language. Maria would have preferred Spanish—Terranglo was predominantly English with some Spanish mixed in—but for security reasons, Mandarin had been selected. Mandarin was not in the least bit related to the European languages underlying Terranglo. The phonetically written form of Mandarin had been transferred in its full to each embassy member, but so had a good chunk of classic ideographic Mandarin as well. That would give them a shorthand way to pass messages with a minimum of writing.

“Sorry,” Maria apologized. “I think first in Spanish, not in Terranglo, let alone V’Dan. I’ll be very bored in quarantine when I am not working if the quarters are as dull as we were warned. Unless they exaggerated.”

“From what I gathered, they are indeed that dull. We will have the equally dubious joys of learning V’Dan etiquette while stuck in cramped quarters,” Jackie added, sorting through her bags of jewelry. “But I’ve conferred with Rosa on some ways to keep us constructively occupied. Games and such that’ll engage bodies and minds, and our new vocabularies . . .”

Adding a necklace was also not a good idea in zero G, but Jackie did have a pin formed from the ideogram for Double Happiness crafted from silver and a rich blue cloisonné. Deciding it would suit the neckline of her blouse, Jackie started to pin it on. An inbound blob of brown and black warned her in time to quickly angle the pin in her hand out of reach even as she flung up her arm to physically cushion the woman drifting her way.

“Sorry!” Lieutenant Jasmine Buraq apologized, quickly twisting and grabbing at the nearest handles. “My toes slipped out of the grips when the ship altered speed.”

“No harm done, but everyone hold on just in case, while I pin this thing on my shirt,” Jackie said. “I don’t need to go into this first meeting bleeding.”

Jasmine twisted around, orienting herself upside down to the other woman. “Let me get that for you, since we don’t have a mirror in here. Centered, right? Got it . . . It goes a little weird with the silver eagles,” she added, her fingers working deftly. “But not too badly. There, centered. At least, upside down.”

“I have to remind the grunts somehow that I’m still a civilian as well as their superior officer,” Jackie joked mildly. Her own toes were firmly lodged under a set of handgrips. The ship braked again, though this time to the side, making everything first sway, then feel briefly heavier as their bodies pressed against the ship. She quickly pushed against the bulkhead, then clung to a handgrip when they shifted direction yet again.

Commander Robert Graves’ voice came over the speakers in the crew cabin. “Sorry for the rough maneuvers, folks. We’re getting some last-minute changes in our approach vectors from our hosts. ETA to buckle-up time, ten minutes.”

“Lock-and-Web, ladies,” Jasmine reminded the others in the crew. There were five guards on this ship, not including herself, three of them women. All of the females floating in the cabin, Jackie included, started packing away everything that was floating and bumping against the cabin walls. It wasn’t as if there was anyone else available to do it; while they were a fairly large expedition compared to the usual skeletal scoutship crews, everyone had to be their own janitor as well as whatever other role they were meant to fill.

For safety’s sake, the embassy staff, guard contingent, and their V’Dan guests had been broken up across several ships. Rosa McCrary, former Premiere and Jackie’s backup for the post of Ambassador, was on a different ship specifically in case one of their vessels emerged from hyperspace and smacked into an as-yet-untracked asteroid or something. It was a very, very small possibility given the vastness of space and the fact that they had done some previous astronomical surveys along the route, but nobody wanted to take chances by placing all their important people on one ship.

The last time that had happened . . . it had been on the Councilor One. Thanks to the efforts of a criminal with a serious grudge and too much technical knowledge, Jackie’s own grandfather had died, along with a lot of other Councilors, crew members, and even some Advisors. Several safety laws had been enacted since then, some of them common sense, and some of them perhaps a bit redundant and old-fashioned, but ones that had saved lives.

The only exception to that rule was placing Imperial Prince Kah’raman Li’eth V’Daania on the same ship as the premiere Terran ambassador, Jacaranda MacKenzie. That was a necessity because Li’eth and Jackie were in the earliest confirmed stages of forming a Gestalt bond, a sort of psychic quantum entanglement of their minds and mental powers.

Separating a Gestalt pair brought on mental, emotional, and even physical distress, something the Terrans had learned over nearly two centuries of scientific study of verifiable psi phenomena. It could be done for short distances and for short durations, but that was it. Putting the thirdborn child of the Empress of V’Dan through unnecessary torment was not considered diplomatically appropriate, and so onto the Embassy 1 he went.

He, of course, was changing in one of the other long, rectangular cabins, bumping elbows with some of the men. Just as she turned to pull herself out of the crew quarters, Jackie heard with both her ears and her mind his exclamation of pain.

“. . . Ai!” (Saints take you!)

. . . . ?) Jackie queried. She got an impression of someone’s foot having shoved—accidentally—against his face. At least he knew it was an accident; the soldier’s quick, almost babbled apology was sincere.

(I will be deeply grateful for the day when your people install artificial gravity on all your Saints-be-damned ships,) Li’eth groused. (No offense meant; I know you lack our tech, just as we lack yours.)

Jackie, mindful of the others waiting for her to move, pulled herself through the doorway and hovered in the middle passage out of the way while Ayinda and the rest scattered to find their assigned docking seats. She had to wait for Li’eth, since she had the aisle seat for their place in the cockpit. Waiting patiently, she could sense him putting away a few last items and latching the cupboards. (None taken, don’t worry. Even I could wish for artificial gravity—whup!)

The ship swayed again, and she had to clutch at the handgrips, steadying herself with her mind. The others yelped, and there was at least one thump of flesh into bulkheads that she could hear. Luckily, no one seemed hurt.

“Again my apologies, folks,” their pilot called out over the intercom. “Apparently, they’re having to calibrate the automated defenses to accept us as ‘friendlies’ on their Friend-or-Foe targeting programs. That means a lot of quick responses to course changes, to prove we’re willing to go wherever they tell us.”

(I could wish your people weren’t at war, so such things wouldn’t be necessary,) Jackie sighed.

(You wish it?) he challenged dryly. Pulling himself through the hatchway, he reached out a hand to her. She touched it in brief physical reassurance, then caught his lightly shod foot and helped him angle his way into the cockpit. “Swimming” after him, she pulled herself into the foremost cabin, waited for him to strap himself into his seat, then followed suit.

The intercom activated again after three more minutes and two more course changes. “Lieutenant Buraq to Commander Graves; all cabins are secure. I repeat, all cabins are secure. I am the last thing Locked-and-Webbed.”

“Understood, Lieutenant. ETA to docking . . . roughly fifteen minutes at this rate,” Robert stated, checking his instrument overlays on the main viewscreen. “But better slow than sorry.”

“Better secured than sorry,” Jasmine returned. “Buraq out.”

Li’eth, peering through the viewports beyond the transparent piloting screens, pointed. He leaned in close to Jackie, gripping their shared console so that he didn’t twist the wrong way in his seat. “There it is! V’Dan, Motherworld of the Empire . . . if no longer the Motherworld of our race,” he allowed. “That’s the nightside, and . . . from the outlines of all the city glow . . . that’s Ashuul, the main continent of what we call the eastern hemisphere.

“The Autumn and Winter Temples are located there. The Winter Palace, too, which is where we’ll be headed after quarantine. Winter came early this year, so you’ll miss out on the autumn holy days, but by the time we get out of quarantine, it should be in time to see the winter festivals getting started.”

Ayinda, strapped into the navigator’s seat, pointed slightly to the right of dead ahead. “There it is, people. Dusk Army Station. Our home away from . . . embassy, I guess, since we’re already away from home.”

“It’s big,” Brad murmured, peering out the front window. “Very big.”

The only reason Brad Colvers was with them was that he had finally agreed to a telepathic language transfer. That the copilot could speak V’Dan was thanks to one of her fellow telepathic translators, Lieutenant First Class Darian Johnston, stepping up to do it for Jackie. Neither she nor the copilot had wanted to merge minds for two to five hours. To his credit, Brad had only taken three and a half hours to make the transfer, half an hour longer than average, and far less than the strenuously resisting five that the V’Dan woman Shi’ol had taken.

“Unfortunately, the actual quarantine quarters are going to be cramped,” Jackie reminded the others. She settled her headset over her ear and turned it on to the channel Robert was monitoring. She had already announced their pr...

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