Daniel Arenson: The Heirs of Earth (Children of Earthrise Book 1)

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Daniel Arenson The Heirs of Earth (Children of Earthrise Book 1)
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    The Heirs of Earth (Children of Earthrise Book 1)
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The Heirs of Earth (Children of Earthrise Book 1): краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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"Be brave, Fillis'er," Rowan whispered to her robot, holding the electronic dragonfly. "I protect you."

The dragonfly buzzed in her hands, wings fluttering. "I will be brave, Rowan. Would you like to practice counting? Or the alphabet?"

David's eyes dampened. He had bought the dragonfly for Rowan on his last trip to a trading outpost, a dangerous journey to gather food, medicine, and information. It had come installed with full artificial intelligence, a conscious companion. The little robot sang with Rowan, read her stories, practiced letters and numbers with her. David had even taught Fillister to interface with his starship, to load information from its libraries, even remote-start its engines. In many ways, Fillister had become a family member.

"Fillis'er, be brave," Rowan repeated. She held the robot close, tears rolling down her cheeks. "Daddy, Fillis'er is scared."

Sudden fury filled David.

Humanity had once lived on Earth. Once they had ruled an entire planet, their homeworld. Once they had flown fleets to war, had defeated any enemy that dared challenge them. Once the legendary Einav Ben-Ari, the Golden Lioness from the tales, had cast vicious aliens back into the shadows.

But that had been long ago.

The Golden Lioness had seen Earth rise to glory, but she was gone now, and so was Earth.

Both heroine and homeland were now mere legends, perhaps only myths, ancient tales humans whispered of in darkness when all other hope was lost. Some said Earth was just a fiction, that humans had always been homeless, had always wandered across the galaxy, pests for aliens to hunt.

Once perhaps humans had been many. In the old stories, those you whispered in darkest nights, billions of humans had stood united. But nearly all humans were gone now. Today the last survivors hid—on distant worlds, on castaway moons, inside forgotten asteroids, in rusty space stations. Today the scorpions hunted them everywhere. Today they were like mice who hid in walls, fearing the cats.

Once David had dared to dream. Once had fought with the Heirs of Earth. Once he had believed in a leader, a hero who claimed to be descended from Einav Ben-Ari herself, who claimed he could find Earth, could bring humanity home.

After his brothers had died, David had lost hope in those dreams, in that leader.

But tonight I will dream again, he thought. Tonight I must survive.

"David!" said Sarai, rising to her feet. Fear filled her eyes, but she stood strong and tall, rifle in hands, her children at her sides. "How many—"

"Hundreds," David said. "We evacuate. Now. To the port! Run!"

In the tunnel behind David, rocks tumbled. The scorpions screeched, and their claws clattered anew.

David scooped up Rowan, and the solemn toddler clung to him, her dragonfly buzzing in her fist. Sarai lifted Jade, and the older girl snarled, green eyes blazing, her crystal sword held high. Across the hall, other people lifted their children, their elders, their ill and wounded.

The humans ran.

They raced through the glittering cavern, passing by quartz crystals the size of starships, between gleaming columns that could support cathedrals, and across a stream where luminous caterpillars wove lavender webs. For two years, this had been their home. For two years, they had found safety, beauty, even some joy here. Now, behind them, the columns shattered as the scorpions raced into the chasm, and crystals came crashing down like shattering chandeliers.

One shard slammed into a woman, tearing through her. She fell, gasping, dying, her flesh gleaming with crystal shards. A stalactite cracked and fell, crushing a boy.

From the shadows, like a gushing river, the scorpions roared forth. Each was larger than the largest man. They scurried up the walls, raced across the ceiling, and leaped down from above. Their pincers ripped through humans like scissors through yarn. One man tried to fight, only for a stinger to burst through his chest, dripping blood and venom. The heart fluttered on its tip like the last leaf on a winter branch. The shimmering webs of moths caught fire and curled inward, racing with luminous lines of fire, eerily beautiful wings of angelic death.

We were lions, David thought, gazing at the terror, at hell unfolding around him. Now we are lambs.

Those who had guns fired as they ran. But their bullets could not stop these creatures. Even the Inheritor warships had been unable to fight them. The scorpions swarmed, taking life after life. Humanity fell in darkness, so far from home.

Once we ran on green fields.

They ran on hard stones.

Once we were masters of the sky.

They bled underground.

Once we were heroes.

They died, screaming, afraid.

"Earth," David whispered, running with his family, delving into the darkness. He clutched his amulet, the precious Earthstone, the treasure of their lost homeland. "It's real. We must believe. We must remember. We must find our way home."

"Home," Rowan whispered, held in his arms.

"Home," Fillister repeated, fluttering his dragonfly wings in the toddler's hand.

Only a handful of survivors reached the spaceport. It was an echoing cavern, the walls inlaid with uncut diamonds, jewels that were worthless for those who craved but food and shelter and memories of home. The colony's starship stood in the cavern, draped with lichen and cobwebs. The ISS Whitehorse was old and slow and clunky, a warship past its prime. It was the ship David had once commanded, part of the Inheritor fleet. It was the ship he had fled in. The Whitehorse had taken the colonists here, abandoning the war. Tonight perhaps it would offer salvation.

"Into the ship!" David cried. Behind him, the scorpions were already entering the cavern, chortling, draped with human remains and hungry for more.

"Fillister, open the roof!" David said.

The robotic dragonfly buzzed, still held in Rowan's hands. The little machine could interface with every electronic component in the starship and hangar.

"Happy to comply!" the tiny robot chirped, and his eyes shone.

The stone ceiling parted, opening like a cat's eye, revealing the storming sky. Lightning flashed and rain fell into the cavern.

And there were more scorpions above.

They had been waiting.

The arachnids plunged through the opening into the cavern, claws lashing.

Some landed atop the ISS Whitehorse, denting the starship. Other scorpions landed on colonists, and their pincers sliced through flesh, and they feasted. Colonists tried to reach the starship, only for the scorpions to tear them down. A few humans tried to flee back into the crystal cave, but there too they found waiting claws and lashing stingers.

David stepped close to his wife, rifle raised. Jade stood near her mother, eyebrows pushed low over her green eyes. Her chin was raised, and she held her toy sword high, but tears wet her cheeks.

"I will fight them, Daddy," Jade said. "I'm a fighter."

Rowan, four years younger and always so somber, clutched her robotic dragonfly, whispering to her toy.

"Be brave, Fillis'er," Rowan whispered. "I keep you safe."

Around the family, the last of the colonists died. Blood washed the floor, hiding the shine of diamonds.

A familiar laugh rose.

Across a carpet of death, he walked forth.

His claws tore into bodies. A grin stretched across his massive jaws, and blood mottled his teeth, each one like a dagger. He was different from the other scorpions, twice the size, and rather than black, his exoskeleton was crimson and gleaming, the color of deep wounds. His eyes blazed gold and cruel like pools of molten metal eager to swallow flesh.

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