Courting Mayhem by Gail Koger

Prologue

They call me Mayhem. All I know about my mother is she gave birth to me in a refugee camp the Alliance had set up on a desert planet called Pegasi. We were survivors of a Tai-Kok attack on Rayet, a once bustling world which had been reduced to rubble and only three thousand men, women and children lived to tell the tale.

Who are the Tai-Kok? They’re the locust of the universe. These malevolent, depraved ghouls devour everything in their path. They are tall, hairless, skeletal humanoids with a mouth full of sharp metal teeth. Completing the nightmare are their three blood-red eyes that glare out of skin so transparent you can watch as your loved ones are being digested.

Six months after the attack on Rayet, the fiends struck the refugee camp. They quickly overran the soldiers the Alliance had left behind to guard the refugees and the slaughter began again. My rescuers were part of a Bjarke battle group who responded to the soldiers’ distress calls. Sten, a Bjarke warrior, and his partner Jacob Stone, a human he had freed from a Tai-Kok slaughter ship heard my wails of distress. They plucked me out of my dead mother’s arms and fought their way through the marauding monsters. The Tai-Kok considered babies a delicacy and they weren’t about to let me slip through their talons. Sten and Jacob had lost their families to the Tai-Kok. Protecting me turned into their life’s mission and we became a family.

According to my fathers, the epic fight lasted an entire day and they killed over two hundred monsters. Bjarke warriors tend to exaggerate just a bit. The number of Tai-Kok dead rose with each retelling.

Once my fathers had me on their ship, they ran a medical scanner over me, and got the shock of their lives. My DNA included Coletti, Bjarke, and Farin genes. I inherited the Farin’s silver hair and pointy ears, but my eyes were a translucent amber. Since they didn’t have access to my mother’s body or identification, they weren’t sure if she was Farin or something more. They couldn’t find any information in the Alliance database on my father or mother.

They knew when the Child Welfare agents discovered my unique DNA, they would simply hand me over to Zarek, the Overlord of the Coletti Empire. The Great War had decimated the Coletti population and Zarek actively searched for psychic females to breed with his warriors. Once he found out about my Coletti DNA the hunt would be on. My fathers didn’t want me turned into a broodmare and decided to keep me. Was that legal? No. If caught, they faced the Overlord’s wrath and ten years in prison. I later learned they had hired a computer hacker to create a birth certificate that listed Sten as my father. The records were changed to show my mother was a full-blooded Farin who had died in childbirth.

They quickly resigned from the battle group and went back to bounty hunting. Sten was a relentless hunter and never failed to capture his prey. Jacob had been an enforcer on Earth and was highly skilled at locating lawbreakers. They made an unbeatable team.

My fathers named me Sadira Ann in honor of their dead mates. To their stunned disbelief my berserker powers surfaced when I was eight years old. That’s when they started calling me Mayhem, because wherever I went pandemonium soon followed.

To keep me from destroying the known galaxy, my fathers started a training program tailored to my unique talents. As a berserker I was able to sense an enemy before he attacked and instantaneously know what my opponent’s next move would be. My mental shields couldn’t be breached by anyone. That proved useful if our target was telepathic. They would send me in to disable him. Not one of them expected to get taken down by a nine-year-old Farin female.

My Poppa Jacob introduced me to chocolate and used the candy as an enticement to improve my behavior. If I broke the rules, I lost my chocolate privileges for an entire week, plus all my Earth books got locked up too. Which sucked. I loved fairy tales, Nancy Drew mystery novels and Harry Potter stories. I kept trying to talk my fathers into taking me to a place called the Magic Kingdom. I wanted to visit the haunted house and do the pirate ride. They said when I reached twenty-one and hadn’t killed anyone or destroyed a planet, they would take me. I knew they would keep their word, but twenty-one! It did give me time to work on controlling my temper.

Since they didn’t dare leave me alone, they took me with them on their bounty hunting gigs. That’s what led to our problem with General Zan. He saw me, a tiny twelve-year-old child, beating the crap out of a full-grown warrior. To say he was intrigued would be an understatement. The General runs a super-secret spy network for the Alliance and knew a good thing when he saw it. He made my fathers an offer they couldn’t refuse. We either did the occasional odd jobs for him or he would arrest them and turn me over to Zarek. Females with Coletti DNA were worth their weight in Ditrim crystals.

My fathers had little choice but to agree to his terms. When I asked Zan what made him think I had Coletti DNA, he showed me a miniature medical scanner. Crap. The display showed I was twenty-five percent Bjarke, twenty-five percent Farin and fifty percent Coletti. I knew by the odd crawling sensation in my head, Zan was trying to breach my mental shields. The expression on his face when he failed was priceless.

These odd jobs usually had us tracking down the worst of the worst. We always caught our fugitives. By the time I was twenty, I was a formidable warrior and the bounties simply surrendered when they saw me approaching.

After the Coletti, Alliance and Katanic coalition wiped the Tai-Kok from existence, Papi Sten talked Poppa Jacob into returning to Earth. He had always refused to go back because it was too painful, but he admitted he was finally ready to search for any surviving members of his family. I quickly pointed out that I was now twenty-one. I hadn’t destroyed a planet or killed anyone, and they owed me a trip to the Magic Kingdom.

I didn’t know it, but my visit to the Magic Kingdom would change everything.