Dark Matter: Taliq by Alex A. Janek
Dark Matter Book 2
Taliq, a wolf descendant citizen of planet Terion, is on his way to Earth as a prisoner of the Gray. They want his high-level dark-matter knowledge at any cost. But if Gray can harness dark-matter technology, what will the final cost be to Terion?
If Taliq tells his secrets, will he be able to live with himself? Trapped and alone on an alien world, Taliq faces a stark decision, and finds a glimmer of hope, in this continuation of the space adventure saga that began with Dark Matter: Terion.Amazon
Excerpt From Dark Matter: Taliq © Copyright 2022 Alex A. Janek
The transition to normal space was only moments away. Karuq massaged his furry temples, trying to get some relief from his headache after the long flight, but the stinging pain from the fresh scar across his forehead and wolfen muzzle only made him flinch. It wasn’t the long flight in the hard crew seats that had worn him out.
I failed my brother, and I failed Terion.
Karuq had risked everything. He’d almost died. He remembered how Veiio, the foxen guard, had challenged the fanatic leader of the Brotherhood, and bought them just enough time for the Crocatos to arrive. He remembered his elation as it came down to save them. He felt again the joy and relief of seeing Kaila and the children safe. The children had already lost so much, but they had almost lost their aunt and uncle too.
The guilt and grief washed over Karuq again. Taliq was the children’s uncle too. Out of reach, the Brotherhood’s hostage, trapped on a year-long hyperspace transit to the ape-planet, Earth. One way or another, the Brotherhood would tear out Taliq’s knowledge of dark matter, perhaps killing him in the process, and use that knowledge against Terion, and the whole galaxy.
And that reminded Karuq of the nests of Brotherhood terrorists infesting Terion and threatening Terion’s peaceful future. He shuddered at the thought of the Brotherhood, with the Grays backing them, and how much they would be able to destroy.
Two days in the cramped Interceptor-class ship on their way back to Terion hadn’t done anything to help improve his mood. All he had to keep him going was the anticipation of seeing his darling Amak again, and their son, little Anyuk, and the rest of the pack.
“Time to reenter normal space: ten myccan,” Naro shouted from his position at the helm of the Crocatos. “Get ready!” His words had typical cheetahn precision.
Karuq tightened his seatbelt over his soiled Terion Defense clothes, issued so long ago. He leaned over to wake the wolfen Terion beside him. Congealed bloodstains stood out against the sand-colored fur of Nuzuth’s head. Blood splatters encrusted his desert camouflage outfit. A clean, pink scar ran down the middle of his wolfen ear and contrasted with his shabby appearance.
Karuq was in no better shape. The rosy scar across his muzzle, from the graze of an ion bolt, felt like it barely held the skin together. The tissue regenerator was merely a first aid measure. Proper cell repair would remove all traces of the scar and regrow his mottled wolfen fur later.
The hyenan medic, who had attended to him after he was rescued, had done her best with the limited medical equipment on the Crocatos, a ship not made for rescue operations. It was made to punch through enemy lines. And it had, allowing Karuq and his friends to escape. With no time for an orderly rescue, Naro and his team had rushed to get them off Remidian before the Grays could gather reinforcements.
Sand from the hot Remidian desert still trickled from Karuq’s fur. Karuq looked over at Veiio, whose alert eyes marveled at the Terion technology. Karuq owed him his life, twice over: Karuq hadn’t had the cold resolve to shoot to kill, not even a monster like Ardeshir. Without Veiio, Karuq would be rotting in the hot sun of the Remidian desert.
Karuq turned to him and said, “Naro agrees that you’ll stay with Terion Defense until we know what to do with you. We won’t send you back—unless you change your mind.”
The fox’s eyes filled with hope. “Thank you, Sir.”
“For the last time, stop calling me that,” Karuq said. “You must learn our ways, if you want to stay.”
“Excuse me—Karuq.” Veiio gave a shy smile through his red and white fur.
Karuq shook his head, and had to smile too. It was the right decision to not leave the youngster behind on Remidian.
Karuq turned to Nuzuth. “You can stay with our pack as long as you want.”
“Thanks. But—what about Terion Defense? Naro asked me to stay.”
“You don’t need to. I owe you that much, at least.”
“Terion Defense needs me. They suspect an infiltration by the Brotherhood and they want my help to identify the leak.”
Karuq nodded. “And Suka?”
Nuzuth looked at the floor and sighed. “She’ll understand. I’ll come and visit as soon as possible. Can she stay with you? For a while until—”
“She’s welcome until you two find a place of your own, and so are you.”
Nuzuth’s intense blue eyes that contrasted with his tan fur were grateful, and Karuq understood without needing words.
Karuq turned to the human. Reece’s eyes were red and sunken, and there were several days of stubble on his soiled face. Karuq spoke in the careful English he had learnt long ago. “Reece, do buckle up, we will drop out of dark field in, um, thirty seconds. I am afraid you will have to go back to the Centre.”
“Because I’m a human. I thought so, but it’s fine. Will I see you again?”
“Certainly, but did you not want to go back to your shithole planet—I mean, Earth?”
“I don’t know. After all, that—”
“Reentry to normal space in five connts,” Naro said.
The low hum of energy fluctuations made Karuq look up at the pilot section. On final approach for the reentry to normal space, the fusion produced only a whisper. He welcomed the silent transition out of the pure, endless nothingness of dark field, and the return to a star-filled universe.
The sudden, bright cone of light ahead blinded him for a moment, despite the automatic darkening of the forward windows. The microwave background radiation dopplered hard against the Crocatos close to the speed of light, and brutally decelerated the vessel. If not for the shielding and compensators, a hard gamma-ray flash would have incinerated them within a micro-connt.
Inside the protective field of the gravitational dampers and radiation shielding, the crew and the nucleus of every atom of their bodies weren’t smashed into a neutron soup.
The light shifted from violet to blue to green, and finally to red. It faded quickly as they decelerated well below the speed of light, and the Terion sun became visible. The pilot let the ship drift closer to Terion, until the howling fusion engines slowed the ship enough for the atmospheric entry.
Karuq savored the view of the growing blue-green marble against the darkness of space.
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