His Fire Maiden - Michelle M. Pillow

Chapter 1


Rifflen Federation Military Base, Desert Planet of Rifflen, V Quadrant

Violette Craven Stephans stared as the blood trailed down her forearm over her hand, only to watch as it drip steadily from her fingertips onto the hard tile floor by her feet. For a long moment the deliberate cut didn’t even hurt, but then a deep pain radiated over her, and she cried out as she moved to pull the limb close to her body in a protective gesture.

“This is a blood oath, Violette, between us.” Her father grabbed her wrist and shook it hard, forcing her eyes to meet his steely green ones. His fingers slipped in her blood as he held too tight. “I need you to remember this moment. I need you to remember what I tell you. And I need you never to speak of it to anyone.”

Violette was still too stunned by the fact that her father had actually cut her to give him a quick answer. In all of her eight years, she had never seen her father angry with her, let alone violent enough to do her harm. What made it all the more puzzling is that she hadn’t been doing anything wrong—at least, she didn’t think she had been. It wasn’t like the time she had burrowed a tiny hole in the military base’s transparent exterior wall because she wanted some sand from outside. The entire military structure was located beneath the moving white dunes of Rifflen’s sandy surface. That one hole caused a pressure crack that could have caved in and buried the four hundred and sixteen residents of the base. For that she’d been stuck in room seclusion for a mere two days.

“Your blood is mine, and mine is yours,” he continued. “Do you understand? If you do not honor your word, nothing in your life will matter for you will have forsaken your blood. Do you understand me? Blood is everything.”

Her father, General Jack Stephans, was an important man—not just because he was her father, a general in the Federation Military, and the sole authority on the Rifflen base, but because he was a humanitarian and an alienitarian. He dedicated much of his life to promoting equality and fairness between alien races.

“The universes are a big place,” he would tell people. “Large enough to hold all species. Humanoids are no better than a Kintok, or a Torg, or a…”

“Do you understand?” he repeated, louder than before, shaking her from her scattered thoughts. The smell of liquor was thick on his breath.

She looked from his eyes to her blood and then back again, trying to reconcile what she knew with what had just happened. Frightened, she nodded. The fear she felt of him at that moment outweighed the physical pain caused by his thin blade. Her fingers tingled with numbness. In truth, she didn’t understand. “I only wanted to watch the new holo-box. It didn’t say it was military access only. It didn’t need a code to view it. I thought it would be one of your species profiles or an award invitation. You always let me see them.”

The holo-box was a standard issue Federation communication device, initially used to send encoded memos and official orders. Now, they were utilized by the military for all sorts of formal letters, when more than a voice was needed. Private messages were always encrypted so that the wrong person couldn’t watch them.

Instead of an award, the holographic recording had shown the small image of her father, standing in his shiny white uniform on the round disc on top of the box. It appeared as if it had been recorded that very morning. He’d been talking about some strange things too, things that didn’t make any sense to her adolescent brain.

“Josselyn, I’m glad you are well,” the recording had said. “It’s what I’ve hoped for these last, long years. By this time and because you are still alive after the term of your imprisonment has ended, we have probably spoken. Knowing the temperament of your family, we have not spoken kindly. So much has happened and changed since that day long ago, and I have to force myself to remember that you don’t know the good I’ve tried to do. All you know is my sins. I cannot take back that which was done, but I can give you a new life. With these papers, you will never have to explain your age or your past. As my daughter, a general’s daughter, you will have