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First Warning: Acorna's Children

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2005-07-20
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Beloved by millions of readers, Anne McCaffrey is one of science fiction's favorite authors. Writing with award-winning author Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, she has created the bestselling Acorna series focusing on the adventures of the brave unicorn girl. Now the exciting saga of the next generation begins. First Warning Khorii, daughter of the near-mythic Acorna and her lifemate, Aari, must contend with an overwhelming legacy to forge a path of her own through a universe filled with new adversaries and adventures. A simple journey home to visit her parents turns into a race against time when Khorii happens upon a derelict spacecraft drifting in space, its crew dead in their seats. But this gruesome discovery is only a dread harbinger -- a deadly plague is spreading across the universe and not even the healing powers of the Linyaari can slow its horrific advance. Khorii, one of the few unaffected by the outbreak, must find the nefarious perpetrators and a cure before the disease consumes all in its path -- including her beloved parents.

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First Warning
Acorna's Children

Chapter One

Until the Condor encountered the derelict spaceship drifting through deep space, Khorii couldn't understand why the fact that she was taking her first long space voyage had caused so much fuss back home. She had flown on the Condor plenty of times when her family shuttled between her home planet of Vhiliinyar and the Moon of Opportunity (known as MOO to everyone except Uncle Hafiz and Aunt Karina now). This trip was just like those ones, only longer, although she did like seeing all the new solar systems and such that Mother and Father, Captain Becker, and her android friend Elviiz's dad Maak were so eager to point out to her.

When Khorii's parents decided to take her on a trip into Federation space to see her mother's human friends and family, Khorii had been afraid it would be really boring. But Mother had her reasons for taking her along. Mother's adoptive human fathers had come to visit when Khorii was younger, but she barely remembered them, and she had not yet met their mates and children. Mother said it was time and past that Khorii got to know them. Mother also wanted Khorii to see something of the worlds that she herself had known as a girl.

But Khorii was on her way, even though her Linyaari playmates, both of them, thought the prospect of a trip into a whole new sector of space was pretty scary. That was despite the fact that they were starborn themselves, and used to meeting other races.

Khorii was scared, too. But not for the same reasons her friends were. She was scared that it would be absolutely mind-numbingly dull, what with all of the adults talking about the Good Old Days and about people who were dead before she was born, as Linyaari adults seemed to do all the time.

At the same time she was worrying about being bored, she also thought that this trip could be thrilling.

But now, sitting in her berth and staring out through her viewscreen into space, she was not yet thrilled, and she wondered how it could have possibly been night for so long. Days and weeks and months full of nothing but darkness. Stars were everywhere, but not one of them turned the morning sky violet, as it was at home when Our Star rose over the mountains.

She understood, of course, the physics of space and light. She knew that it was Vhiliinyar's atmosphere that produced the beautiful skies she longed to see again, and not Our Star alone. Still, she couldn't help feeling that if she touched the tip of her horn to the screen, it might somehow purify the vastness and depth that had swallowed the ship and with it her family and friends, and turn the airless blackness into the light and sweet-smelling air she craved.

She felt a nudge under her arm and lifted it to see her cat Khiindi staring at her while his sides rose and fell with the passion of his purrs. Khiindi loved it out here. Well, he would. Cats loved nothing better than sleeping. Endless nights were good for sleeping. Of course, cats loved sunlight, too, but Khiindi just curled up under the nearest lamp and pretended it was his own personal sun.

Khorii sighed. How she longed to set the ship down someplace larger than the Condor, somewhere outside, where she could graze and run and play. And, right now, except for Khiindi, she was lonely. Her foster brother, Elviiz, usually annoyed her by being underfoot and in her way every chance he got, but now that he was closeted with his android father/creator, Maak, Khorii felt abandoned. Her parents, Acorna and Aari, were in their own berth, sleeping after a long watch. They had proposed this trip as a way to spend more time with their family after a long series of missions that had taken them away from Vhiliinyar, but at the moment it felt to Khorii that they were spending their time exclusively in each other's company. She was feeling decidedly left out.

Khorii stretched, yawned, and decided to go see what was happening on the bridge. Maybe she could get Captain Becker, her beloved Uncle Joh, to play a game with her or teach her more about gonzo physics.

When she got to the deck, it seemed that Uncle Joh also had better things to do. He was bouncing up and down in the command seat, alternately wringing his hands and clapping them together before spreading them over the various controls of his scanner array like a concert pianist about to pound out a sonata in one of the cultural vids Mother insisted she watch.

Drawing nearer to her human friend, she saw a spot of drool beaded at the side of his mouth. Becker looked exactly like RK, the ship's feline first mate, when RK was contemplating a particularly tasty specimen of vermin. Khorii rushed forward, worried that Uncle Joh, who was of course quite aged, being a contemporary of her parents, was having some kind of seizure. But then she saw the reflection of his eyes glittering avariciously in three of the scanner arrays and knew he was fine. What he was wearing was simply a heightened version of his characteristic "Yahoo, salvage!" expression: a mixture of enthusiasm, delight, and greed.

The Condor was a ship dedicated to collecting and "recycling" or selling salvage, and Uncle Joh loved his business. There was very little else that could thrill him so much as a bit of wreckage or refuse. It appeared that he had a particularly luscious bit of salvage in sight this time.

"What is it?" she asked him, sliding into her usual seat beside the captain. She had lived only six Linyaari years, the equivalent of twelve Standard years for a humanoid child, and was somewhat short for her age, even among her Linyaari friends. Khiindi hopped onto the headrest of her chair, which rose a foot or so above the top of her head.

First Warning
Acorna's Children
. Copyright © by Anne McCaffrey. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from First Warning by Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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