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Cover

CAST OF CHARACTERS

 


Human characters
Rafe (Raphael) Aguilera: Former tank commander, employed at the refit facility in Pascagoula.
Willard Belk: Human tech at the refit facility.
Jonathan Kinsey: Professor of history, specialist on the Jao.
Ed Kralik: Jinau commander.
Ben Stockwell: President of the Jao's native government of North America; Caitlin's father.
Caitlin Alana Stockwell: Daughter of Ben, student at the University of New Chicago; Jao hostage.
Gabe Tully: Resistance agent; forcibly drafted into Aille's service.
Rob Wiley: Former U.S. Army lt. colonel, now military commander of the Resistance in the Rocky Mountains.
Jao characters
Aille krinnu ava Pluthrak: Subcommandant newly arrived on Terra; commander of all ground forces.
Ammet krinnu ava Binnat: Female veteran of the conquest.
Banle krinnu nao Narvo: Bodyguard/jailer assigned to Caitlin Stockwell
Chul krinnu ava Monat: A terniary-adjunct working in the refit facility in Pascagoula.
Dau krinnu ava Pluthrak: Pluthrak elder
Drinn krinnu Sant vau Narvo: A member of Oppuk's service.
Hami krinnu Nullu vau Dree: Pleniary-superior stationed in England.
Jita krinnu ava Hariv: Commander of the Jao forces in the initial phase of the Terran Conquest, replaced by Oppuk.
Jutre krinnu Kio vau Dano: Fraghta to Kaul.
Kaul krinnu ava Dano: Commandant of all Jao military forces in the Terran solar system.
Llo krinnu Gava vau Narvo: Pilot.
Meku krinnu ava Pluthrak: Current Pluthrak kochanau.
Mrat krinnu nao Krumat: Officer stationed at Pascagoula.
Nath krinnu Tashnat vau Nimmat: Supervisor at the Pascagoula refit facility.
Nikau krinnu ava Narvo: Narvo elder; one of Oppuk's pool-mothers.
Oppuk krinnu ava Narvo: Jao Governor of Terra
Pinb krinnu ava Hariv: Elderly Jao Subcommandant whom Aille replaces, no longer on Earth.
Ronz: Preceptor of the Bond of Ebezon Harriers; a member of the Strategy Circle.
Shia krinnu ava Narvo: Oppuk's former fraghta.
Tamt krinnu Kannu vau Hij: Aille's female bodyguard, part of his personal service; later Caitlin Stockwell's bodyguard.
Tura: Pleniary-superior of the Bond of Ebezon Harriers.
Ullwa krinnu Sao vau Binnat: member of Oppuk's service
Vamre krinnu Vallt vau Kannu: Production director at Pascagoula refit facility.
Wrot krinnu Hemm vau Wathnak: Retired veteran of the conquest, now residing on Earth
Yaut krinnu Jithra vau Pluthrak: Aille's fraghta.

A note on Jao naming conventions:

The Jao do not use surnames in the human manner. The designation krinnu indicates the kochan, or clan, to which the individual is affiliated. It can be translated by the English term "of the."


If the individual is directly a member of one of the great root clans, krinnu will be followed by either ava or nao, indicating whether the individual was born in one of the primary or secondary marriage-groups of the clan.


If the individual is directly a member of one of the lesser kochan, his or her kochan will be indicated by the krinnu designation, followed by the term vau, which then indicates the root clan to which his or her kochan is affiliated.


Thus, Yaut krinnu Jithra vau Pluthrak can be translated as: "Yaut, of the Jithra kochan, affiliated to the Pluthrak."


 


Prologue

"The Pluthrak scion has left Marit An, Preceptor. He should be arriving on Terra soon."


The Bond of Ebezon's strategist did not look away from the holo tank which, at the moment, was depicting the latest known activities of the Ekhat in Markau sector. "Send a courier to Terra then, Tura. Inform our agents that it is beginning."


"Finally," she said.


He turned and studied her. The young pleniary-superior's posture was excellent, the gestures and stance subtle and subdued in the manner that the Bond preferred in its private discourse. In public, of course, Harriers were expected to maintain a completely neutral posture at all times. Tura had risen quickly in the ranks of the Bond. The Preceptor had great hopes for her; indeed, had selected her for this assignment with the specific aim of furthering her training. Not the least of the responsibilities of the Strategy Circle was training its own replacements for the time when its existing members grew too old to serve.


"Do I detect a trace of amusement in the lay of your ears?" He waggled his own whiskers with understated humor.


"Not amusement, exactly. Call it . . . exasperated rueful-patience."


The Preceptor tried to summon up an image of that combination. It could be done, by a master movement stylist, but it would be an exceedingly difficult tripartite posture. The Preceptor's old bones almost ached at the thought.


"Finally, indeed," he murmured. "Twenty years, it has taken us."


The pleniary-superior seemed a bit confused, and the Preceptor realized he had lapsed into a humanism again. He did that often, of late. Not surprising, of course, as long as he had studied the species.


"A 'year,' Tura, refers to a Terran orbital cycle."


"Ah." She did the calculation in her mind. It was not easy. Translating the particulate human notions of time into Jao concepts was always difficult. "A very long time."


The pleniary-superior's eyes moved to the holo tank. It was still showing the reported Ekhat movements, but, not long since, she had seen the image of a young Pluthrak there. The same scion who was even now on his way to Terra. The Preceptor had spent much time, studying that face.


"Do you think he can do it?" she asked.


The Preceptor shifted into a very subtle version of the tripartite posture best-attempt coupled with uncertainty. It was very elegantly done, as always.


"There is no way to know. We can only create the situation, which we have done. There is always the chance he will shrink from the task—and, if he doesn't, the impossibility of knowing in advance what, exactly, he will create as well as destroy. Such is the nature of strategy, Tura. The element of unpredictability is inherent to its working."


"Yes, Preceptor," she said respectfully, and left.


* * *


Just before entering the doorfield, Tura paused for a moment and looked back at the Preceptor. He was turned away from her now, back to studying the holo tank.


There was fondness in her eyes, as well as deep respect. The old Preceptor was a splendid commander, and in all respects. The greatest of the Bond's strategists, even if, officially, only one of five members of the Strategy Circle. But, also, someone who invariably treated his subordinates with courtesy and dignity.


Tura had no doubt at all he would order her death in a moment, if he thought it necessary. The Preceptor was perhaps the most ruthless Jao in existence. But that knowledge only brought further admiration. If he found it necessary to do so, she was quite sure he would be right.


* * *


As she passed through the doorfield, she sternly corrected herself, remembering one of the Preceptor's maxims.


He would probably be right. Strategy did not deal in absolutes.


 


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