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Fortune's Wheel
Lisanne Norman
Copyright © 1995 by Lisanne Norman.
All Rights Reserved.
Cover art by Romas Kukalis.
DAW Book Collectors No. 996.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
If you purchase this book without a cover you should be aware that this book may have been stolen property and reported as "unsold and
destroyed" to the publisher. In such case neither the author nor the publisher has received any^payment for this "stripped book."
First Printing, August 1995 4 5 6 7 8 9
DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED
U.S. PAT. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES
——MARCA REGISTRADA.
HECHO EN U.S.A.
For my son Kai, and my brother Richard, who enrich my days by sharing with me their unique outlook
on life, and because I love them both dearly.
With special thanks to the following people and their expertise, Sholan Medical Guild Master - June
Third
Commander of the Sholan Forces - John Quadling
Adjutant & Adviser to the Commander - Gina Quadling
Sholan Tactical Commander - Steve Barrett
Sholan Technical Commander - Andrew Stephenson
Sholan Brotherhood sub-Guild Master - Les Heasman
Sholan Telepath Guild Master - Sherry Ward
Sholan Communications sub-Commanders - Linda Apperley - Judith Faul
Sholan Research & Development - Merlin Sholan Catering - Mike Hawkes
PART I
KHALOSSA
Prologue
Adjutant Myak pressed the chime on the outside of Com-mander Raguul's private quarters and waited.
He could have used the comm, but both he and the Commander preferred the personal touch. As the
door slid open, he stifled a yawn, extending his claws to scratch vigorously behind his left ear. He'd get
no more sleep that night either. The starship
Khalossa
was already on Yellow 2 alert.
Commander Raguul lay propped up on one elbow, regard-ing him balefully. The set of his ears showed
his irritation at being disturbed in the middle of his night.
"Yes, Myak?"
"The duty crew thought you'd like to know we've just re-ceived a transmission from the
Sirroki
, sir."
"The
Sirrokil"
Raguul frowned, ears flicking briefly. "She's the one that missed the rendezvous in the
sixth quad-rant, isn't she?"
"That's right, sir. You just posted her as officially miss-ing."
"You didn't wake me just for that, surely. What was it this time? Not more freak storms?"
"Not this time, sir. They've found the Others." Myak could hardly keep his tail from swaying with
pleasure.
Raguul sat up. "Found them?"
"Yes, sir. The
Sirroki
was shot down by them on a planet designated as KX 1311. Our people are in
hiding with a sec-ond group of aliens and request that we go to their aid."
"Natives, eh?"
"Not natives, sir, colonists, a new species. Sub-Commander Kolem thought you might want to hear the
original transmis-sion yourself."
Raguul was already out of bed and dressing. "Tell me about the Others," he ordered as he pressed the
seals on his jacket.
"They've a substantial base on the planet, plus two domed cities and garrison posts at each of the four
colony towns. They're capable of putting up a formidable resistance."
"Has—whatzisname—transmitted the locations of these occupied zones?" demanded the Commander,
fumbling with his belt.
Myak moved forward to help him. "Captain Garras, sir. Communications is still decoding the message,
but we be-lieve so."
"These colonists, what're they like?"
"They're upright and bilateral like us, and there's a tele-path among them," said Myak, stepping back as
he finished with die Commander's belt.
Raguul's tail began to flick as his ears and head swiveled round to look at Myak. "Telepaths, you say."
"Yes, sir. It seems that our telepath has formed a link to one of the female colonists."
"Has he now?" Raguul took the brush Myak was holding out toward him and, flattening his ears out of
the way, ran it cursorily across the top of his head. He handed it back to his adjutant.
"Apparently, sir," said Myak, returning the brush to the night table.
"Any more tactical details such as the numbers of the Others on the planet, their firepower, capabilities of
their craft?"
"There could be, sir. As I said, they're still decoding the message," replied Myak, following the
Commander out.
"Has a course been set for KX 1311?"
"They're waiting for your orders, sir."
"Tell die bridge to have a chart of sector six set up on the main screen."
 When Raguul reached the bridge, it was humming with suppressed excitement. Sub-Commander Kolem
rose from his seat, offering it to the Commander. With a nod of thanks, Raguul sat down.
"Have you finished decoding the message?" he asked.
"Just finished, sir," said Communications. "Putting it on audio now."
Raguul and his bridge crew sat and listened to the voice of Mito Rralgu, the communications officer from
the scouter
Sirroki
. Though terse, the message held all the information they had hoped it would.
Getting to his feet again, Raguul turned to Sub-Commander Kolem. "I want yourself, Tactics, Weapons,
and Sub-Commander Chaazu in my briefing room today at the fourth hour. See that the chart of sector
six is set up on the holo-table. Keep the ship on Yellow 2 alert and ensure Chaazu gets the message.
With a week of transit time ahead of us, I want those ground troops of his ready before we reach KX
1311."
"Yes, sir."
"In the meantime, relay that message to my comm. Sholan High Command will want to hear it. The
bridge is yours."
"Aye, sir."
* * *
Raguul was finishing his meal in the bridge mess when he was paged through the comm system.
"Approaching KX 1311 now, sir," said Sub-Commander Kolem's voice.
With a growl of annoyance, he gulped down his mug of c'shar and got to his feet. Changing his mind, he
turned and neatly speared the remaining piece of meat with a clawtip. These disturbed meals weren't
doing his gut-ache any good. Up until a week ago this had been a boring, routine mis-sion. He had a
feeling it wasn't going to last. Mop-up oper-ations had a way of getting very messy.
Kolem rose and stood aside for the Commander.
Raguul waved him back. "Sit, sit. I'll stand for now," he said, looking at the view screen displaying the
KX 1311 sys-tem. "I presume there's no sign yet of that back-up we were promised?"
"Not yet, sir."
A sudden burst of sound filled the bridge, then stopped.
"Our long-range scanners have activated a coded message from the life pod, sir," said the comm officer.
"Get onto it immediately," said Raguul.
''I'm picking up an incoming signal in sector five, sir," said Navigation. "It's an Alliance fleet identity. They
should be on screen any moment now."
A portion of the upper right-hand quadrant of the screen appeared to waver, then steady as a group of
ships material-ized out of jump.
 "Identities coming in now, sir. Battleship
Cheku
, accom-panied by the cruisers
T'chelu, Rryabi, Vriji
,
and the
Vek'ihk
, a Sumaan craft."
"Signal from the
Cheku
, sir," said the secondary commu-nications officer. "
Cheku's
comm officer says
Commander Vroozoi wishes to speak to you in private. He adds that the tanker and escort ships are
following."
"Patch it through to my briefing room," said Raguul, turn-ing away from the screen.
"Force Commander," said Raguul, a flick of his ears ac-knowledging the other's superior rank. "What
can I do for you?"
"Raguul. I see you struck it lucky this time," said Vroozoi. "High Command says you've found a den of
these Others."
"Yes, Commander. As you know, our report says there are only a few thousand of them on the planet.
Though I doubt we'll need all your firepower, it's still comforting to have it. We aren't equipped for an
extended military campaign."
"Each to his own, eh, Raguul?" Vroozoi dropped his mouth in a lazy smile. "That's why we're here." His
tone changed and became sharper, more businesslike. "I want you to join me an hour from now for a
tactical briefing. You'll get a copy of your new orders then. Your assault craft will remain on the
Khalossa
, but they and their crews will form an integrated part of my task force. Once the planet has
been secured, you'll be in charge of the diplomatic side. I'll see you within the hour," he said, reaching
forward to close the channel.
Raguul frowned at the comm. He'd come across Vroozoi before. An ambitious male, that one,
determined to climb as high as he could within the forces. Rumor had it that there were more than a few
people who had had the misfortune to be between him and what he wanted. Their shattered careers
littered his past like fallen leaves. Raguul didn't intend to become one of them.
He sighed and, leaning forward, paged Myak, requesting him to join him. Switching off the comm, he got
to his feet and headed back to his bridge.
Sub-Lieutenant Draz looked up from the scanner display as the Commander reentered the bridge.
"Scans show no sig-nals going in or out. I'd hazard a guess that our people have done some heavy
damage to their coastal base. The Others appear to be blind and deaf."
"Let's hope you're right. The last thing we want is a pro-longed campaign. I'll take that seat now, Kolem,"
he said. "Order my shuttle made ready. I'm to join Vroozoi on the
Cheku
within the hour."
"Yes, sir," said Kolem, hurriedly standing up and moving to one side.
"Message decoded, sir. It's for our resident Leskas," said the communications officer.
"What?" Raguul swung round to face him.
"It's from the
Sirroki's
telepath, Kusac Alda, to our Leska pair."
"You said that," said Raguul testily. "What's it say?"
"It's security coded, sir," the comm officer said apologet-ically.
"Then pass it on, and tell them I expect an explanation," said Raguul, pressing his hand to his stomach as
 a stab of pain hit him. He grimaced as he kneaded his gut to relieve the pressure. He just knew this
mission was going to be messy. Some people had weather-wise joints. He had a trouble-predicting gut.
"Message incoming from Shola, sir," called out the sec-ondary comm officer.
Raguul stifled a groan. This was all he needed. "I'll take it on the main screen. Patch it through."
The image of Chief Commander Chuz of the Sholan High Command replaced the view of KX 1311.
"Commander Raguul," he said, ears flicking in acknowl-edgment. "You've located the Others."
"Yes, Chief Commander Chuz. We've located some of them at least. Seems they were using this planet
as a hospital and R & R base. They call themselves Valtegans. I'll be able to tell you more when we're in
contact with our people on the surface."
"I want information from these Valtegans as soon as pos-sible, Raguul; so does Alien Relations. I've put
you in charge of interrogating all prisoners. I want to know as a matter of urgency why they destroyed
our colony worlds. AlRel also wants information collected on this new species of natives. Get your First
Contact people onto that. Send us the results of the
Sirroki's
debriefing as soon as you have it; at least
it'll give us a starting point." He stopped talking to glance briefly to one side.
"I've been asked to remind you to convey the message from Konis Aldatan to Kusac Alda as soon as
possible. Until we received your report regarding the
Sirroki
and the Others, Konis had no idea where
his son was. Kusac disappeared a year ago and hasn't been in touch since."
^
"I'll pass the message on, Chief Commander."
"Good. Keep me informed of your progress." The screen went blank.
A glass of white liquid appeared in front of Raguul. He took it gratefully from Myak. "Thank you," he
said, down-ing the contents and handing the empty glass back to his ad-jutant. "Couldn't you make it
taste more palatable?" he asked.
"I'm afraid not, sir. I'd have to see the dispensary about that."
"Then do it, please. I've a feeling I'm going to be taking a lot of this vile brew."
"Rhian and Askad, our resident Leska pair, are waiting, sir," said Myak.
"Send them in."
The two telepaths came onto the bridge. One look at the set of their ears and Raguul knew their news
was not good.
"Commander, we're here to report on the message we re-ceived from the life pod. It was from Kusac
Alda, telepath on the
Sirroki
," said Rhian, the female.
Raguul nodded and waited.
Rhian looked at Askad.
"Well?" prompted Raguul. "One of you had better tell | me!"
"Kusac's requested our intercession on behalf of his Leska," said Askad.
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