On the planet of Laboue, within the opulent chief residence of Hafiz Harakamian, in one of the hundreds of finely crafted, hand-joined cabinets of rare and lustrous woods in which he kept his smallest and often most precious collectibles, Acorna had once seen a display of brilliantly bejeweled and decorated eggs.. Created hundreds of years ago by a man named Carl Fabergé for the collection of a Russian czar not nearly so wealthy as their present owner, the eggs had dazzled the eyes of the young girl with their richly colored enamels, their gold loops and whorls, their swags and bows of diamonds and glittering gemstones, and their tiny movable parts--the delicately wrought scenes that unfolded from within their interiors.
Now, a fathomless distance from Uncle Hafiz's home and many years later, it seemed to Acorna as if the eggs had magically grown to giant size and lofted themselves into space, where their colors shone even more brilliantly in the blackness of infinity than they had in the memories of her childhood. They formed a festive flotilla visible from the viewport of the "Balakiir."
The flotilla had been growing in size since the "Balakiire"exited the wormhole that deposited them just beyond the atmosphere of narhii-Vhiliinyar, the second Linyaari home world.
The imagery was further borne out by the seemingly endless number of Linyaari space-farers, the denizens of those bright ships, who paraded across the comscreen to welcome the "Balakiire" delegation home.
Melireenya introduced Acorna to each of the officers as they appeared on the screen, so that Acorna felt that she was already at one of the receptions or parties her aunt and Melireenya were threatening togive in order to introduce her to Linyaari society and, most especially, to prospective lifemates. Acorna was so excited by the sight of the egg-like ships and the spectacle of her people's home rotating almost imperceptibly beyond them that she could hardly pay attention to the images on the comscreen.
The Linyaari welcoming her to this world all looked so much like her that they could have been mistaken for her by her human friends. The figures on the comscreen were pale skinned and had golden opalescent spiraling horns growing from their foreheads, topped by manes of silvery hair which continued to grow down their spines. Like her, they had feathery tufts of fine curly white hair adorning their legs from knee to ankle, to just above their two-toed feet. Their hands, like hers, bore only three fingers, each with one joint in the middle and one where the finger met the palm.
After the life she'd led, it was a little overwhelming to beamong so many others of her kind. All of the equipment andutensils she could see and touch were designed for people likeher. Nothing had to be specially adapted to her anatomicalpeculiarities. Nothing about her appearance was unusual to theLinyaari.
However, as like her as these people were, they were all, even her mother's sister and those aboard the "Balakiire," still stranger--strangers who took a proprietary interest in her without actually knowing her very well. Although she had ceased to be regarded as a child by the humans she had grown up among, she seemed to be regarded by her Linyaari shipmates as little more than a youngling.
This was a new sensation for her. Acorna had been jettisoned in a life pod from her parents' ship as an infantto save her from the fatal explosion that claimed the lives of her parents and the attacking Khleevi. She'd been rescued soon after and had grown up among humans. Specifically, she had been raised by her three adoptive uncles--Calum Baird, Declan "Gill" Giloglie, and Rafik Nadezda. Back when they'd found her they had been miners working in the far reaches of the human galaxies. These days they'd gone on to other things. Rafik, for example, was now the head of the House of Harakamian, the empire founded by his uncle Hafiz Harakamian,, an uncommonly wily merchant and wealthy collector.
When Acorna had first met Hafiz, he'd wished to add her to his many treasures, to be displayed along with the beautiful Fabergé eggs and the incredibly rare Singing Stones of Skarrness guarding his courtyard. However, her value to Hafiz as a collectible had sharply decreased when Hafiz learned she was not a solitary oddity but merely a member of a populous alien race.
Acorna's relationship with Hafiz, and the one between Hafiz and Rafik, had improved after that to the point that Acorna now used the name Harakamian, along with that of her good and gentle mentor Mr. Li, as a surname. Dear Mr. Li had passed on a few months ago, but the more durable Uncle Hafiz had recently married his second wife and was now enjoying his retirement in her company.
Acorna, along with her uncles and Mr. Li, had succeeded in rescuing the children imprisoned in the camps on Kezdet, a planet whose economy had once depended on the exploitation of child labor. They had been ably assisted in this task by the intelligent and resourceful siblings of the Kendoro family, Pal, Judit, and Mercy, themselves former victims of thecamps. Together, Acorna and her friends had been instrumental in changing the planet's laws and ridding it of the Piper, the ringleader responsible for the most heinous of the abuses. They had gone on to establish a mining and teaching facility on one of Kezdet's moons, Maganos, to nurture and educate the children they had rescued from the horrors of the labor camps.
Later, Acorna and her uncle Calum, while trying to locate her home world, had helped quell a mutiny among the Starfarers, human voyagers on a large colony ship. After being forced to watch their parents' murders during the, rebellion, and the subsequent bloodshed, murder, and exploitation that the ship's new masters were intent upon, the children of the ship were able, with Acorna's help, to wrest control from the mutineers and destroy them. In the process, they rescued the famed meteorologist Dr. Ngaen Xong Hoa, and his weather control system. The people who had seized the ship had used Dr. Hoa's new system to destroy the economy and ecology of the newly colonized planet Rushima. The mutineers were spaced by the triumphant youngsters, just as the mutineers had spaced their victims, when the children regained control of the ship.
While returning with Dr. Hoa to repair the damage to Rushima, Acorna, her adoptive family, and the children fell under attack by the Khleevi, a vicious bug-like race responsible for the death of Acorna's parents. Fortunately, Acorna's aunt Neeva and the delegation from narhii-Vhiliinyar had arrived in time to warn everyone of the impending invasion. With Acorna's help, the resources of Kezdet and the Houses of Harakamian and Li had been mobilized to rout the Khleevi.