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True Caderi

True Caderi by Levigne Michelle
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A space Shogun/robber baron and the daughter he's never met - will Qinda's conscience be enough to stand in Caderi's way?
Awe-Struck Publishing; November 2002
167 pages; ISBN 9781587493096
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Title: True Caderi
Author: Levigne Michelle
Caderi smiled and shook his head. "A love-token of some kind? Considering your vagabond life, I doubt the one holding the other half will ever find you." He let the coin drop, a tiny jerk on the thong, and went back to his seat. "You could find him with no problem, once you have free access to my data systems." He didn't look at her, but picked up a pitcher and poured steaming blue tea into his cup.

Is that a bribe, or a reward for cooperating and learning my lessons like a good little daughter? Qinda winced at the realization that she was all too easily accepting her fate.

"Sunrise begins in another minute or so," Caderi said. He raised his cup and gestured at a thin line of silver among the black, gray and deep purple shadows beyond the terrace. "There, between those two pylons with the green rotating lights."

The two pylons, if Qinda judged the distances correctly, were nearly five kilometers from the terrace and as distant from each other. She smiled against the queasy sensation in her stomach when she realized just how high off the ground the terrace sat. And nothing between her and falling but a carved railing of stone only knee high.

"Try the gisreg."

"The what?" She laughed, startled out of her contemplation of the distance and height.

"Here." Caderi picked up a purple and golden mottled globe and tossed it to her. He had a good throwing arm, smooth and whipcrack accurate.

Qinda snatched at the fruit as it arrowed straight for her. The gisreg smacked into her palm, skin slick with cold and melting ice, smooth and sparkling in the torchlight.

"Good hand-eye coordination. Your Caderi blood showing. I'll wager you're a fair hand at calculating distances without measuring rods or tapes."

"Somewhat," she admitted. "Where does this come from?"

"A lovely little planet called Aramar, on the edge of the Commonwealth. Just emerging from civil wars. One of my best customers for new technology."

"You supply weapons?"

"Don't give me that disapproving look, my girl." Caderi chuckled. "We don't. An ancestor learned long ago, those who deal in weapons eventually find themselves on the wrong end. Revolutionaries are notoriously self-righteous once they come into power. They also don't like being grateful."

"I'll keep that in mind." She slit the skin with her thumb nail and sniffed at the chill, thick juice that oozed out, bland with just a hint of sweet-sour. It thinned as it took on the warmth of her skin, the aroma growing stronger.

"Some people prefer it warm. Those who claim sophistication say it is best chilled. Less of a mess to eat, I suppose."

Qinda bit her lip to keep from asking how he preferred to eat it. She refused to give him even that much.

Silvery light streaked across the horizon line, turning rapidly golden, touched with rose and purple at the edges. Qinda watched it, holding the gisreg in her hand to let it warm. Lights far below the terrace sparkled: rapid, silent pops of red and white. She shook her head and turned her attention back to the sunrise. How often in the last Sol had she been able to watch a sunrise?

"Qinda," Caderi snapped.