New Release – Star Thief By T. Jackson King

Today I have a New Release for you, Star Thief by my friend T. Jackson King.  It will be available on Amazon on Friday September 7th.  Tom has also given us the First Chapter.

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Description1

Jake Vitades takes rich aliens on trips to dead ruins. He gives them adventure and a chance at finding valuable tech. But looting ancient ruins is dangerous. And finding tech is rare. However rich aliens don’t mind bad odds. They like adventure on dead worlds. Whether they live or die in their adventures Jake does not care. He insists on advance payment. As an archaeologist specializing in dead cultures he prefers present day funds versus theoretical tech loot. It’s also safer. He and his crew like being safe and rich in a galaxy overrun by empires that don’t give a damn for new arrivals like humanity. But the world they are aiming to loot has surprises waiting for them. Still, Jake does what he is paid to do. Which is to help aliens loot dead worlds. No matter what happens.

chapter

 

Being wanted by two women is the primo fantasy for most guys. But it gets complicated when both are alien females with nicely feminine shapes. And messy when one alien is my Employer and the other alien is one of my crew. At this moment I wanted neither of them. A fact I guessed neither Laserta nor Sharp Claw wished to hear. So I focused on work. Which for me is scavenging alien ruins. I’m an archaeologist. Others call me a thief. I don’t care what anyone calls me so long as I’m paid. But looting a dead world can be dangerous. A fact I had shared with Laserta, my employer. She didn’t care. Being a super-rich member of the fox-like Mogel species made her arrogant. Manipulative. And demanding.

“When do we get to the Harl world?” she barked from her accel seat on my right.

I ignored the fox-like female with curves all too similar to a human woman and kept my eyes fixed on my ship’s front vidscreen. It showed a white-yellow star, tons of black space and the silver sparkle of the contractor spaceship hired by the Galactic Council to keep everyone away from the Harl ruins. Four hundred thousand E-years ago the Harl built the wormhole Gate we had just exited. They’d built tens of thousands of Gates throughout the Milky Way. Alien records said several species served them. Including the Tessene, who built my starship. Its AI had bonded with me, during my indentured work for Academician Lik Sotomor of Century Prime university on Primus 3 in the Noble system. My Greek parents had sold me to him on a seven-year indentureship. Which meant he paid them an annual fee for my work, I got room and board and worked in ruins found by the prof. I also got an education in galactic archaeology.

Five years into my indentureship I’d been exploring a wing of a Harl ruin when I came across the Tessene ship. Entering it led me to bond with its AI. Which fact prompted me to fly away from the ruins, breaking my indenture contract. I became a criminal with EarthGov certain to arrest me if I ever returned to Earth. But those were old facts. Now was the start of what I had been paid to do. Which was to get Laserta to the fourth world of this system and down to the ancient ruins of the Harl city. Leaning forward in my accel seat at the center of my ship’s Control Chamber, I fixed on our Astrogator, Meander the arthropod.

“Meander, distance to the fourth world?”

Up front the four-legged giant insect who resembled a praying mantis touched her control pedestal with one of her thorax hands.

“In Human terms it lies 41 AU distant,” she chittered softly. “A journey of six days. Closer, much closer, is the contractor vessel ahead of us. It lies 910,000 kilometers ahead of us.” Meander paused, her two head antennae laying down as her head twisted to look back at me. Her two compound eyes glittered under the chamber’s white-yellow lighting. “Will you protect our Nest?”

Laserta growled low, a sound I knew indicated impatience. Her short red fur stiffened. Shoulder muscles bunched under the leather straps she wore to support her personal gear.

“I will protect our Nest. This ship has powerful weapons. Sharp Claw is our Weapons manipulator. She will use them if I order it.”

Sharp Claw is a reptilian biped with the hour-glass curves of a human female. Now she turned to look back at me. Her two yellow eyes had slit pupils like cats and reptiles on Earth. Those pupils narrowed. The silvery scales that covered her from clawed toes to aquiline head glittered as the muscles underneath grew tense. Sharp Claw’s species had evolved on a jungle world where dinosaur-like creatures sought to eat anything that moved. For her, fighting equals survival.

“Shall I destroy the vessel ahead?” she hissed low.

“No!” I said quickly, reading the rapidly decreasing distance between my ship and the contractor vessel. We had exited the Gate at one-tenth lightspeed and would soon be close to the contractor. While our carbon-dioxide, gamma ray and x-ray lasers could destroy most alien vessels, attacking the contractor ship would bring the attention of the Council to this system. In the four years since I’d bonded with my ship I had learned that stealth and covert behavior was the best way to avoid being attacked by the warships of the fourteen alien empires that roamed the human side of the galaxy. And corporate warships were just as deadly, especially alien corporate warships that belonged to businesses which were old when humans invented agriculture. I looked up at the chamber’s ceiling.

“Akantha,” I called to the ship’s AI. “What is your analysis of the contractor vessel ahead of us?”

You could have just thought your question, she said in my mind, using the implant I’d gotten as part of the bonding with her at the Harl ruin.

True. But acoustic responses from you are reassuring to my crew. And expected by my employer.

A sense of amusement came to my mind. Then she spoke.

“The contractor vessel is a Wokan-built vessel with a hull covered in adaptive optic lenses that give basic protection from light spectrum lasers,” she said in a sing-song voice. “Domes on its spine, nose and ventral sides indicate CO2 lasers are its primary weapon. Four ejection tubes at the rear of the vessel indicate it can launch Fire and Forget missiles. Likely they carry thermonuclear or antimatter warheads. Its size is similar to my vessel.”

Which meant the contractor ship was at least 150 meters long. My ship might be alien-built but it had plenty of room for my five crew beings, valuables storage, a shuttle launch hangar, food and water storage, a Green Chamber now filled with alien grasses and trees, a Galley and my captain’s cabin just behind the Control Chamber. Exactly where Akantha resided I did not know, nor care. She was the ship. The ship was her. And the two of us had made a living by serving the greed of aliens.

“Neutrino com signal incoming,” called Lotan the Influencer in a flood of sharp-scented pheromones and clicks from his control pedestal next to Sharp Claw. The white and brown-furred mammal who resembled a standing meerkat twisted his body in the way that told me he was preparing to influence whatever alien was calling us from the contractor ship. While he talked with pheromones it was his entire body that had evolved to influence any living creature. Including aliens from other planets.

“Accept the signal. Display on the right side of the vidscreen,” I said, thankful my ship was outfitted with the Translator device that was one of the few universal elements of the alien-run galactic culture that mostly ignored humans.

A peach smell hit my nose. “Going up on the vidscreen.”

The vidscreen filled with the image of a triangular room covered in vidscreens, touch panels, tubing and benches. Seated on one bench was an alien who resembled a cross between an ant-eater with a long snout and a black and white-striped badger. It appeared to be a mammal, which along with reptile and avian were the standard bioforms on most inhabited planets in the galaxy. There were other lifeforms with no resemblance to Earth animals. Some of them had employed me. All of them were weird aliens. The only universal among them was the need to breath an oxy-nitro atmosphere, a preference for gravity, the use of the universal Translator and greed. Greed was innate among all species who left their home planet. It was an expression of the need to expand one’s home range, according to Professor Lik Sotomor. I didn’t care why any being was greedy or what type of animal they might be. I only cared for the number of Galactic Credits they paid me. The Credits and the Translator were the only cultural universals in the Milky Way. Everyone else did what they could get away with. Including me.

The proboscis lifted. Two black eyes focused on the image of me, Laserta and my five crew beings up front. A black tongue shot out from the snout, then sibilant hissing sounded.

“Visitor, this system is embargoed by the Galactic Council due to Harl ruins. Return whence you came through the Gate.”

Lotan the meerkat moved to the center of the Control Chamber, drawing the alien’s attention. His furry skin shimmered and flowed in a way I always found relaxing. His two arms with four-fingered hands wove a pattern of ellipses and curves. He clicked in a flow of soft, sharp and musical sounds.

“Contractor, I am Lotan, Influencer for the research vessel Akantha.” Lotan gestured back to me. “Researcher Jake Vitades from Century Prime university on Primus 3 of the Noble system is here to conduct approved research in the ruins.” Lotan leaned forward. “What is that yellow stain on your proboscis? Have you been sipping Nagen? Well we all have our entertainments. We will not mention this to your captain. May we pass and begin our research?”

Smooth conviction combined with the eliciting of personal elements was one of Lotan’s special abilities. Now it was time for me to do my thing.

Akantha, project the holo of Professor Lik Sotomor. Commence the programmed dialogue.

Projecting.

To my left the entry portal to the chamber spiraled open. Through it came the eight foot high form of Sotomor. A cross between an insect and a reptile who stood on two scaled legs, the professor moved his mandibles.

“Why do you question this research expedition? I am High Teacher Sotomor of Century Prime university. Perhaps you have heard of me?”

The long-snouted badger alien leaned forward and placed its furred arms over its chest in a criss-cross manner.

“Of course I know of you, great teacher of ancient wonders,” it hissed. “I am Podan, current watch being for the contract vessel Megundat. We represent the Megun corporation.” Its black eyes blinked, looked aside at Lotan, then back to the holo. “We have no record of your research visit. However . . .” Lotan’s fur shimmered and flared as his head moved in an imploring way. “However, I am aware of your research into Harl ruins at the star Loganilla. The pictographs of the Harl beings were an amazing sight. You . . . you may pass. I . . . I will send notice of your research visit to the Galactic Council.”

Akantha, have Sotomor speak response 43A.

Speaking as directed, young Vitades.

The holo of my former boss and life dominator tapped pencil-like fingers against the hard shell of his thorax. “That will not be necessary. Before we exited this local Gate I myself sent notice to the council. Do you claim I am lying to you?”

“No!” loudly hissed Podan, his clawed feet scraping his ship’s deck as he stood and bent forward, arms still over his chest. “Your assurance is accepted! I will provide a record of our discussion to my captain when she awakens. You may proceed to the fourth planet.”

Use response 21C.

Amusement filled my mind. That response is obvious, young mammal.

The professor holo gestured with a thorax arm. “Your permission is accepted. Your lonely duty here is valued by me and all researchers. We will share our research with you upon our departure.”

The image of the snouted badger disappeared. The detailed image of the contractor ship that showed in one corner of the vidscreen displayed the vessel moving to one side in a brief flare of fusion gases. The Sotomor holo vanished. I looked up front to the six-legged form of Draken.

“Engineer, activate our fusion pulse thrusters. Turn on the magfield maneuvering units.”

The alien who resembled a walking worm twisted his low-lying body to focus on his floor-mounted control panel. An arm reached out from below his buzzsaw mouth and tapped several times.

“Thrusters and magfield units are activated,” Draken honked. He twisted round to face me with a head that held two red eyes, a gaping mouth filled with circles of dagger-like teeth and two holes on either side of his head segment for hearing. The circular mouth widened a bit. A pink tongue moved quickly. “May I move to the Power Chamber? To monitor their performance?”

I almost smiled. Draken came from a desert-like world with a white sun that put out intense UV and other radiation. His white armor-plated skin had evolved to allow easy entry of stellar radiation. He particularly liked the taste of neutrinos, which were emitted by all fusion sources. My ship’s fusion pulse thrusters emitted neutrinos in abundance. As did our fusion reactor. As a result Draken loved to sleep partly wrapped around the hulks of the two thruster units that combined helium three and deuterium isotopes in a powerful magfield chamber. The thrusters were powerful enough to move us at one-tenth of lightspeed. Which was our inertial speed on exiting the Gate. Activating the thrusters made it possible for my fifth crew being to do her job. I looked to the purple-feathered form of Flow.

“Pilot, take us inward to planet four.”

Up front the sole avian in my crew reached out a short purple-feathered wing and tapped her control pedestal. The small hand at the leading edge of her right wing moved quickly. Then her two wings folded back and hugged her eagle-like body. Twisting around on two clawed feet, she focused blue eyes on me. Her red beak opened.

“We are moving inward,” she chirped. Her head glittered with silvery fibers she relies on to sense external radiation, images and fields. “The space out here feels cold. I will fly us close to the intervening five worlds to gain gravitational acceleration and for the . . . the beauty of skimming above the gas worlds.”

Now I did smile. Briefly. Flow loves to fly through space like birds fly through the air. She senses magnetic fields and the flows of interstellar winds and particles. While Astrogator is my expert at traversing the Gates, Pilot is the one who moves us through real space and even down to stormy winds on planets. I looked aside to Laserta. This being whose face resembled that of a fox while her body held two breasts, curving hips and slender four-fingered hands, she met my gaze. I noticed her shoulders were no longer bunched.

“Laserta of the Mogel, we are embarked on our voyage to the Harl ruins.” Her two green eyes scanned me.

Her slim arms rested on the sides of her accel seat. Then she touched the silver release buckle that locked the accel straps across her red-furred body. She stood up with a jangle of sensors and devices that hung from a leather belt at her waist. Below the belt she wore green shorts and open-toed shoes. Above it her two fur-covered breasts swayed enticingly. She moved away from me toward the entry portal.

“So we are,” she barked bluntly. “I will reside in my cabin until my evening meal arrives. Bring it to me. Your physical presence is required.”

I wished Laserta would give up on demanding sex with me. She had made clear her breasts were similar to human female breasts in their ability to give milk to an infant Mogel. And Mogels mated the same way humans did. A fact she had made clear by dropping her shorts and showing her entry slit. But there was no romance in her approach. And I had not been with a human woman since my general lyceum girlfriend Akantha. She’d been a thorn in my side the same way the mythical Akantha had been to the god Apollo. Among the cold alien stars I did not need a thorn. Or romance. Romance was an illusion. Only survival mattered. So I told myself. I worked hard to believe it.

Sharp Claw scanned the laser controls that spotted her control pedestal. Next to them were spots that would launch Fire and Forget missiles from the Akantha’s six rear launch tubes. On the other side of the pedestal was the electromag repeller control that served to deflect stellar radiation of lesser power than neutrinos. She watched closely the local space energy vidscreen, noting the moving neutrino source that was the contractor vessel Megundat. It had not moved from its position a million kilometers inward from the Gate. Disappointment filled her. To live was to fight and survive. She yearned to fight something. Perhaps when they took up orbit above the fourth world some Harl device would attack them. It had happened on other Harl worlds. She expected such from this world. In truth she yearned for it. With a sigh she scanned the rest of the system. There were no moving neutrino sources that betokened other vessels. It would be a long six days.

She looked back to where Captain Vitades sat alone, still strapped into his accel seat. The female Laserta had left. Which left only her, Meander, Lotan, Flow and the captain. He was the only alpha male aboard the Akantha. His embrace and his mating with her was needed to quicken the eggs within her inner womb. But mating with the captain would cause her Mating Fangs to latch onto his neck, killing him. While such was normal among her people, she had grown to like the alpha male in the years she had worked for him. Perhaps she would find another bipedal alpha male to mate with in another system. She hoped so. Her body burned with her need to mate. On her home world of Rogain it was the duty of every female to mate and then birth eggs to replace the male lost in the mating ritual. While technology kept the giant predators confined in jungle reserves, her Notem people still needed to sink fangs into an enemy. And a mate. Perhaps at this Harl world she would face a bioform worthy of her ferocity.

Meander relaxed as Flow guided her Nest through the cold empty spaces of the Harl system. While she enjoyed Flow’s genetic ability to weave a pathway through stellar magnetic and plasma wind flows, she yearned to again travel through the Gates. She had yet to find her birth star and home world of Dominion. Both had been lost to her when she’d been taken captive while repairing a graviton sensor platform at the edge of her system. She’d learned what slavery meant when she’d been sold to an amphibian of flexible limbs, sharp claws and an unforgiving mind. But her owner did not know her Dosune people possessed a defense against capture. Her breathing spiracles could emit a cloud of deadly gas that was a neurotoxin to anything that breathed. She’d been rendered senseless during her capture and while aboard the captor ship, only to awaken inside a stone amphitheater filled with aliens who bought beings brought to the sandy floor of the stone enclosure.

She had waited until her owner took her to its seaside residence. She had done the water misting chores it demanded and and had cleaned its habitation of the body refuse it ejected. When she learned the method by which it controlled a floater transport she waited for her owner to fall asleep in a tide pool enclosed within its residence. As an amphibian her owner needed to breath regularly. Every tenth of a light arc her owner extended its air tube and inhaled. That night it inhaled her gases. It died at the bottom of the tide pool. She had escaped in the transport, sold it at the local star port and escaped to a world where she worked and learned the science of Gates. She became an Astrogator of Gates.

For the last four years Meander had worked for the Soft Skin biped who called himself Jake Vitades. He was a fair and generous Soft Skin. So she was loyal to him. The vessel Akantha was her new Nest. It was a place she would protect with all of her abilities. It was also the sole means she had of exploring the Gate system in the hope of finding her home star. No one knew the location of all Gates, though some suspected the council had a detailed inventory. But the empires that controlled parts of the galaxy always compiled a regional list of Gates and the stars they served. Hopefully in time she would find her yellow-orange home star. Until then she would navigate her Nest through the Gates, earn Galactic Credits and feel accepted by the other Soft Skins who served their captain. She had the time. Her people lived long. But she was lonely. Perhaps a future employer would be like her, composed of chitin skin plates, a thorax, an abdomen, with four legs and two griparms. She hoped so. Until then she would be loyal to Vitades.

Lotan felt satisfaction. His empathic reading of the contractor being Podan had been accurate. The alien’s natural suspicion had been allayed by Lotan’s movements while his comment on the being’s use of the addictive liquid Nagen had put it on the defensive. Captain Vitades’ use of the hologram of his former teacher had been useful and made the process of securing compliance go faster. Lotan felt he could have obtained entry permission solely by himself, but the captain’s relationship with the vessel’s artificial mind was a valuable tool. While such minds existed on many empire vessels, Lotan had never met one with the independent personality of Akantha. And this Tessene vessel was a wonder he had spent the last four annual cycles observing. Lotan felt certain he could ‘bond’ with the artificial mind if his captain ever terminated. He looked back as the entry portal closed on the employer Laserta.

The infrared glow of the captain’s body showed elevated temperature and hormonal arousal. It was an obvious reaction to a female who closely resembled Human females. While he had never met another Human, the captain was like most bipedal omnivores. Sexual responses came first while survival came second. All such bipeds would deny this fact. But it was true. And while Lotan currently identified as a male of his Torsen species, he was self-fertilizing. Which meant he would change into a female Torsen format when he wished to birth an offspring. Such dual sexuality was normal to all Torsens. Not so for most bioforms from other stars. Though he had the impression Draken the Engineer might also be dual-sexed.

“Captain, should I visit with employer Laserta before you see her this evening?” he said in a mix of clicks and pheromones. “I might convince her to be . . . less physically familiar.”

His captain’s short black hair atop his cranium shone in the white-yellow light of the chamber. The Human’s black-haired forearms tensed. His amber eyes squinted. Clearly he was exhibiting captain mode versus sexual pursuit.

“No. No thank you, Lotan,” the Human said in a mix of acoustic verbiage. “While your work with the contractor being was well done, leave my personal issues to me. I can handle this employer. As I have handled other employers in the past.”

“As you wish.” Lotan turned back and observed the yellow star of the Harl system.

The alpha male being who called himself Jake Vitades could indeed manage this employer. Lotan had observed him do similar handling—a strange Human term—with prior employers. He could accept the captain’s decision. There were plenty of other bioforms who were subject to his Torsen ability to convince them to do whatever a Torsen requested. That memory brought to his mind the image of the prairie that surrounded his clan’s homestead on their world of Calitot. The large predators still roamed the grasslands, forests and mountains of Calitot. But none of them ever attacked a Torsen. The body shimmers, hand and leg gestures and seductive pheromones had evolved to protect every Torsen from such attack. Contact with other thinking beings had given his people welcome employment among alien stars and corporations. They were jobs meant to serve a purpose. The duty of every Torsen was to act in a way that protected Calitot. Which was why he had studied the Tessene vessel and its artificial mind. While he enjoyed working with the Human Vitades, he was prepared to claim the vessel and take it to his home world if Vitades ever passed into the afterlife. But he would be loyal to Vitades until some other bioform or natural disaster claimed the captain. Loyalty was the inbuilt nature of all Torsen. And he enjoyed the surprises that ancient ruins often displayed.

Flow loved the feel of the star’s magnetic field. This far out it was a soft caress. Further inward it would strengthen into a gale. At least the plasma wind and charged particles it brought were weak this far out. Sensing ahead to detect the cluster of plasma that came with a coronal mass ejection was a talent she had developed over the years of piloting in her home star system of Evangellia and its life world of Windy Air. Working with Captain Vitades over the last four years had sharpened her abilities. Her ability to sense gravitational sinks and use them to gain both speed and shelter from the stellar winds was something she enjoyed. Almost as much as the vision of the colorful striped worlds that were gas giants. It was sad that the other crew of Akantha had never experienced the joy of flying through the winds of their home world. They only knew of flying by non-sentient birds who were part of the biome of most every oxy-nitro world that hosted life more complex than single cells.

The sound of the entry portal closing on the red-furred female who was their employer allowed her inner self to relax fully. She did not like the bipedal female. She carried the scent of a hunter. And her efforts to control the captain disturbed Flow and the other crew beings, based on what she could tell of their body language. While not an expert at body language like Lotan, her people had evolved the ability to read the intentions of groundside beings. In particular the clawed hunters. The vegetation eaters did not worry her or any member of the Lunteen. They had been a steady source of meat protein over the millennia as the Lunteen learned how to grow seed crops, build cities atop high aeries and eventually to ply the cold dark winds of space. The ground predators were few now, confined to lands empty of Lunteen. But such was ancient history, brought forth by the feel of the stellar winds and magnetic fields.

What mattered most to her were finding lifeforms who might become allies to her people. There were very few avians flying the black depths of the galaxy. The Lunteen were the only ones in this portion of the galaxy. Based on her observations of the captain she felt his Human people might become the allies her people needed. While the Humans were new to galactic society, like the Lunteen, they were energetic and willing to take risks. The captain had taken many risks in prior visits to planetary ruins. He did so now as they flew toward the Harl ruins on the fourth world. She would do her best to make this visit less risky and very rewarding. With the galactic credits she was paid she could hire researchers to gather wind songs about how Humans now behaved in the areas overseen by the Galactic Council. While she had learned much from talking to the captain, she needed more knowledge for her people. Their world Nest was at risk from an empire expanding in their part of space. She must discover if Humans could make and deploy vessels able to fight in the cold depths of space.

Draken joyed in the feel of neutrino particles passing into his body. Lying next to the fusion reactor and fusion thrusters of his vessel’s Power Chamber was a constant reward for his efforts to track and analyze the neutrino flows and gamma ray leakages from the ancient devices of this Tesseene craft. He again felt surprise at the consistent flows coming from this ancient vessel. It was older than any vessel now plying the dark depths of the galaxy. Yet it was regular in its function, reliable in its provision of hard-wired and broadcast power to all parts of the vessel, and the chamber’s ability to feed energy to the weapons mounts of the vessel was unsurpassed in his memory of service on other vessels. He was always ready to alert the Human Vitades if any malfunction occurred within the two power sources. But in the four annual cycles he had served on Akantha there had been no malfunction. Not even a momentary burp in the consistent transitions of neutrinos among their three basic forms. That consistency was a pleasure to feel.

This vessel’s power sources were less than the blasting curtain of radiation and particles which bathed his home world of Kaken. The white-blue star that provided light, warm and radiation to the lifeforms of Kaken was a stable source, despite frequent flares. Those flares had taught his Woomba people the necessity of hiding in the lava tubes that lay just below the surface of Kaken. Being in the tubes had led to the discovery of malleable metals. Melting and refining of those metals had led to congregations of Woomba and the knowledge of science and technology. Their first flight to another star, by way of the Gate at the outer edge of their system had taught them the ways of co-existing with beings used to much lesser gravity. It was a lesson Draken observed on the Akantha as Captain Vitades set the ship’s Control Chamber gravity to the level he called ‘seven-tenths gee’. That was half the gravity he and every Woomba was used to. But it was higher than the ‘one-half gee’ gravity that ruled on the world of the avian Flow. While she could fly through the air of some worlds, she treated him as he were a Lunteen like herself.

Draken valued such acceptance. It would be vital when he changed into a female and had eggs within that needed exposure to unfiltered stellar radiation. Then he would need the help of Flow, his fellow crew beings and especially the captain to find a world close to a suitable star on which he could deposit those eggs. They would eventually become white-skinned sextupeds who would have their first meal of stellar radiation. While dense metals were the normal Woomba food, unfiltered radiation could sustain Draken and any Woomba for a long time. And his inner self told him the Change was coming closer.

 

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First Chapters – Earth Vs. Aliens by T. Jackson King

Today’s First Chapter is from Earth Vs. Aliens, book one in the Aliens series by my good friend T. Jackson King.

TOM EarthVsAliensCoverDESCRIPTION

“Jack Munroe grew up in the Asteroid Belt and learned to never take anything at face value. In space, you assume, you die. So when Aliens show up in the distant Kuiper Belt, out beyond Pluto, asking for a First Contact ‘chat’ with his crewmates on the comet hunting spaceship Uhuru, he warns his captain not to trust words but to get the heck away. His evolutionary biology studies have taught him that bright skin colors, shark-like teeth and talons mean these Aliens are star-traveling predators! But that violates the ‘feel good’ society promoted by Earth’s Unity government. A bloody fight ensues and Jack realizes these Aliens are keystone predators aiming to add Sol system to their home territory. Jack leads a battle to ensure Humans will never be slaves to Aliens. If someone has to die to make space safe for humanity, then those dying will be Aliens!”

Chapter

Jack Munroe stared in confusion as the Alien ship appeared from behind the large comet and approached the Uhuru, outbound from Charon Base on a survey of the larger Kuiper Belt comets.

They’d expected to find lots of kilometer-sized comets out here, well beyond Pluto and a third of the way around the solar system’s edge from Earth’s position. The Kuiper Belt was the source of the short period comets, like Halley’s, that now and then visited the inner solar system. But no one expected First Contact with Alien beings. Least of all Captain Monique d’Auberge, too long in command of the European Union survey ship Uhuru, and five other humans.

Humans. They’d have to get used to thinking that way.

Jack tasted metallic sourness as, free-floating like the rest of the crew, he watched the front screen. As ship’s Technologist, he should have picked up some kind of warning that others were out here, hiding in the solar system’s backyard where the leftovers from its formation circled endlessly around the dim yellow star that was more a direction than an illuminator of deep space. Now they weren’t just a French aristocrat too full of herself, a Belgian priest, a Polish drive engineer, two British lesfems, and an Asteroid Belter whose grandpa had emigrated from the Tennessee hill country. They were people about to face something no one had expected.

After all, interstellar travel was impossible, according to the Rules of the EU bureaucracy in Brussels—and Captain d’Auberge’s need for certainty in space. No reason, therefore, to call on Jack Munroe’s dual training as an anthropologist and student of archaic cultural practices. No need, really, for anything beyond the ordinary science business of Pluto’s Charon Base as the EU searched for planet-killer comets before they could head inward and disturb Earth’s social tranquility.

“Shit!”

Max Piakowski’s curse expressed Jack’s own feelings, but not those of Monique. She twisted in free-float and frowned at Max. “Engineer, cursing won’t remove this surprise.” Her nose lifted higher. “Can you, perhaps, tell us how that ship moves without a drive flare?”

“Whaat?” Max stuttered. His thick black eyebrows squeezed together as he peered at the screen. “Oh! No clue.”

The rest of the crew now noticed how the Alien globe-pierced-by-a-spearhead moved without visible plasma exhaust, unlike their own nuclear fusion pulse Main Drive.

The six of them had gathered in the Pilot’s cabin as they approached Kuiper object QB1, a 283 kilometer-sized ball of reddish water ice and methane. They’d expected to celebrate the half-way point of their trip by geo-surveying the first object discovered by Luu and Jewitt back in 1992, long before China colonized Mars, Brazil took over the Moon, and the European Union forced America into an economic armistice that led, eventually, to mining of the Asteroid Belt and outlying settlements on Europa, Ganymede, Enceladus, Titan and Charon. “Getting rich is glorious” had become more than the slogan of China’s long-dead Deng Xiaoping—it had become the watchword of a world society that pretended war was extinct, commerce was always positive, and new wealth could pacify highly-taxed citizens.

Jack pushed down into his Tech station seat, snapped his restraint strap locks, and caught d’Auberge’s attention.

“Captain, do we match orbits with them—or do we turn tail and head for Earth?”

“Turn tail?” said Monique, lifting blond eyebrows. “Hardly. This is a momentous event in human history. We can’t—”

“Miss the chance to get rich?” Jack interrupted, unable to resist the sarcasm. He should be more of a team player like Gail and Hortense, the two Brits who functioned as Pilot/Doctor and ComChief/Ecological Biologist for the ship. But they’d spent six months in each other’s company and Monique had turned more and more rigid as time went on.

At Jack’s mention of the EU’s socially impolite raison d’étre, the Captain turned cold as a glacier. Gail and Hortense seemed embarrassed. Max looked thoughtful. And their Jesuit priest Hercule Arcy de Mamét, the Belgian comet expert who’d devoted his life to Kuiper Belt comets, frowned delicately. “Mister Munroe,” Hercule said, emphasizing for the hundredth time Jack’s lack of a doctorate, “your cynicism is out of place here. Aliens are on our doorstep. Aren’t you excited?”

Jack looked back at the screen, where the globe-and-spearhead had settled into a close equatorial orbit about QB1, just a few thousand klicks lower than their own incoming parabolic orbit. Its hull showed red, yellow and black bands encircling its length. It resembled a giant coral snake. “Excited?” He shivered. “I’m afraid. Damned afraid. And the rest of you should be scared too!”

“Enough,” said Monique, her manner brittle as she twisted in mid-air to again face the screen. “Gail, can you put us into a transfer orbit that matches up with that ship?”

“Yes m’am, I can,” said the Uhuru’s Pilot. “Maneuvering thrusters will be enough to match orbits. Main Drive is still off-line, but it’s Hot and on standby if we need to leave quickly. Captain, do we—”

Signal!” yelled Hortense from her duty post next to Jack. “We’re getting a damned fucking signal from that ship!”

Jack’s gut backflipped on itself. “Radio or visual?”

“Radio,” answered Max from his Engineer’s station at the rear of the small cabin. “Damn! This is moving too fast for me. Captain, I—”

“Shut up!” screamed Monique.

The Captain’s loss of her eternally cool manner shocked everyone into silence. All but Hortense, who seemed ready to float out of her seat. “But, but—”

“You!” Monique pointed at Hortense. “It’s a radio signal? What kind? AM or FM? What power? What wavelength? And do we have enough computer power to decode the signal so we can—”

“It’s in the clear,” Hortense said, her interruption of the Captain a rare defiance of Monique’s command rigidity. “English language, on Charon Standard Channel Four. No image. Yet.”

Stunned silence filled the cabin. To be found by an Alien ship was one thing. A wild card tossed into their lap. To have Aliens talk, immediately and in English, as if this were nothing more than a Hopper cruise in the Asteroid Belt, that was something else. These show-off Aliens had just played High Trump card, up front. Jack felt like getting out and physically pushing the Uhuru back to distant Sol. Get away! his instincts told him.

Monique swallowed hard, a thin film of sweat beading her pale forehead. “English? They’re talking to us in English?”

“Yes m’am,” said Hortense in a mousy voice.

The Captain blinked, then her face stiffened as she caught Jack’s look. “Fine. Put the signal on the speaker so we can all hear. Switch on data recorders. No immediate reply. I’ll do that later. Well?”

Hortense dipped her head submissively. “Signal is piped to the ship’s intercom system.”

“—Human ship, we ask you to respond to our inquiry. Are you ready and willing to meet our team, at the dome on the ice body below, to discuss the Rules of Engagement? Human ship—” The signal repeated its brief message, as if on a loop.

“Engagement? Rules? Dome?” muttered Monique, scowling as if she’d bitten into a sour lemon. She motioned for Hortense to cut off the repeating signal that spoke in the voice of a man from the British Midlands. The Captain scanned them all, her manner once more that of an unmarried daughter of a French ducal family that traced its lineage back to Catherine de Médici, a Captain who expected everyone to acknowledge her inherent superiority. With a light touch against the cabin wall D’Auberge free-floated over to the ship’s telescope station, pulled up the visor hood, and bent down to look at the CCD image picked up by the Schmidt refractor. “Gail, focus the telescope on QB1, then shift traverse control to my station. Now!”

“Yes, Captain.” Skinny, brown-haired Gail Winston did as she was ordered, then peered at him and Max with a look of sheer terror. Jack felt for her. Some Alien had listened to the vibechat of BBC-1 long enough to develop a Midlands accent. That was crazy and strange and . . . terrifying.

The Captain grasped the joystick control next to the visor, tilted it slightly, and the front screen filled with the vastly enlarged surface of comet QB1. In two minutes of traversing the lumpy surface of a comet too far from the Sun to develop a coma cloud, she covered a third of the comet’s reddish surface as the breathing in the small cabin grew louder, more labored and faster paced. Jack suspected more than just he and Gail were frightened by shocking events that moved too quickly for any of them to process, let alone understand fully.

“There!” whispered Monique in a triumphant tone. She pulled back from the scope hood, looked forward and frowned at an image of QB1’s north pole.

Jack looked too, like everyone else. He saw nitrogen and methane snows, scattered like dandruff atop the flatlands of water ice, all of it aged red-brown thanks to impacts from cosmic and ultraviolet rays, what Max called the Johnson-Lanzerotti Effect. The Alien dome where someone wanted to discuss the Rules of Engagement sparkled sugar-white against the shadowed landscape. The dome had a transparent roof and four small dots moved under the roof. Aliens? Jack cleared his throat, forcing Monique to acknowledge him with a backward glance.

“Captain, it’s time to leave,” he said, putting aside his fear and trying for cool logic. “I mean it. These Aliens, whoever they are, know too damned much about us. They know our commerce language, they know our comlink channel, they know—”

“Too damned much!” shouted Max, his space-darkened face sweaty as he gripped tightly his armrests. “We’ve got no weapons, no way to call home in less than five hours, no—”

“No sense of duty,” Monique said scathingly, looking from Max to Jack, then over to Gail, who sat strapped in to her Pilot’s seat, ready for thrust-gravity. “Pilot, fulfill my order. Put us into an orbit that parallels the Alien ship, but keeps us a hundred kilometers out. And tell the EVA computer to warm up the Lander. We’re going to meet our new neighbors.”

“Complying, Captain,” said Gail as she punched on the thrusters, moving them from freefall to thrust-gravity.

Jack wanted to hit Monique. He always wished that whenever she used her disdainful look and arrogant tone on him. He didn’t. Over the last six months, the woman’s behavior toward Jack had worsened, as if his Belter-style questioning of Brussels’ Rules upset her need for certainty, her need to believe the frozen unknown could be safe, routine and unsurprising. She’d even abandoned the official dogma of Cooperative Consensus of the Communitarian Unity and its long-dead founder, Amitai Etzioni. Around him, the others worked hurriedly at their stations or watched the front screen, acting as if the Captain’s decision wasn’t insane. He tried one more time.

“Monique.”

She whirled his way, blue eyes flaring with anger and surprise at his use of her first name. “What!”

“Think. Please think before you do this.” He wiped sweat from his forehead, then shivered as the cabin air-cooling kicked on. “We don’t know who they are, what they look like, where they come from, how long they’ve monitored Earth space communications, nor why they didn’t just come to Charon and visit us at the base.” He paused to let the last item sink in. “Monique, why didn’t they come to Charon?”

D’Auberge took a deep breath and eyed Jack as if he were a petulant little boy caught sneaking out of the girls’ bathroom. “Mister Munroe, why don’t you feel Hercule’s excitement?” She motioned to the ship’s priest, a man who’d devoted his life to the Jesuits, comets and self-denial, in that order. “Why so suspicious? That dome may be an Alien trading station, filled with wonders. And Brussels has always said that if true Aliens ever crossed the stars to visit us, they would be peaceful. No civilization develops interstellar travel without world union and an end to violence. Surely you don’t question Abbé Breed’s Fourth Principle of the Communitarian Unity?”

Jack did question it, but he’d not gotten his berth on Uhuru by being heretical. “That’s not the issue. The issue is, they act like they expected us. Doesn’t commerce negotiation require a common set of rules among traders? Doesn’t good faith in business require advance consultation, rather than this bolt out of the blue?” Monique’s certainty wavered a bit. “Don’t you think we should contact Charon or Earth for guidance on this situation?”

Monique smiled sourly. “Ah, the last refuge of a bureaucrat is an appeal to procedures. Anything to avoid a decision. I am better than that. Are you, Technologist?”

She was really, really going to do it. “No, I’m not. I’m scared. This doesn’t feel right.”

The Captain ignored intense looks from the rest of the crew and focused on Jack. “Feel? That’s base emotion talking. Whatever happened to your wonderful Anthropology? Isn’t this First Contact the event that will set off a Kuhnian paradigm shift in human culture?” He did not respond to her challenge. She sighed. “There is an easy way to solve this concern of yours. We will signal back. And we’ll ask for them to send us a visual image. Then, I’m certain, your fears will melt away.”

Signal them back? Jack blinked rapidly. “I wouldn’t do that, Captain.”

“But I am doing that, as Captain of this ship, as the adult in command.” Monique smiled pleasantly at Hortense. “ComChief, we might as well vibechat with our new neighbors while Gail brings us into a matching orbit. Open a channel, please.”

“Yes, Captain,” murmured a nervous Hortense, her long fingers flying over her companel. “Open, captain. Recorders are still running.”

“—Human ship, we ask you to—” Monique braced herself against the maneuvering thrust-gee and faced the motion-eye above the screen. “Alien ship, we are responding. I am Captain Monique Catherine d’Auberge, of the European Union, a member state of the Communitarian Unity, outbound from our science base on Charon in the ship Uhuru, on a mission to chart large cometary bodies. Please explain the invitation to visit your dome on the surface below, and please transmit a visual image of yourself. We humans prefer to see those with whom we talk.”

Silence filled the radio channel as the loop recording cut off abruptly. A signal whine sounded briefly, then eased away as the com panel automatically matched the incoming radio signal. “Welcome, Captain,” said a male voice that reeked of Midlands landed gentry tones. “I am Destanu, Link of the Pod Victorius, of the people called Rizen, who came not long ago to these small frozen bodies. We request you visit our dome so we may settle on the Rules of Engagement.” The casual voice paused. “You ask for visual images? Agreed. We had withheld such images until you requested them. We transmit on your Charon Standard Channel Three.”

The front screen wavered, lost the image of QB1, then solidified into a color image. They all stared.

The six-legged Alien in the image resembled a cross between a lion and a hippopotamus, but one with red-and-black striped skin, sleek body muscles, and talon-toes. The platy hide looked tough as steel. The sextuped’s front leg pair showed manipulative fingers more flexible than a human’s, but stiffer than ropes. The front end supported a dome-skull, below which were two black eyes. The wide-set eyes peered at them without blinking. A tool belt of some kind hung from the Alien’s midbody, otherwise it wore no obvious clothes. To one side of Destanu stood another Rizen, though it stayed in the background. The room occupied by Destanu and the second Rizen resembled their own Pilot Cabin, a place filled with metallic devices, blinking lights, and touch panels, with the low arch of a exit door off to the right. The Rizen commander opened wide the slash of its mouth, displaying dozens of razor-sharp teeth, teeth like a shark. A pink tongue moved in sync with its speech.

“Are you reassured, Captain Monique Catherine d’Aubege?” said a smarmy Midlands English voice that seemed totally incongruous coming from the lean, tightly-muscled Alien.

Hortense squeaked her reaction. Gail’s mouth moved silently. Max cursed low, a guttering string of Polish that didn’t sound pleasant. Hercule the Jesuit crossed himself. And Captain d’Auberge straightened her posture, slim hands pulling at her dark blue jacket. She focused on the screen image.

“I’m reassured, Link Destanu of the Pod Victorius.” She paused, stood stiffly before the motion-eye that returned her image to the Alien ship, and bowed slightly. “Welcome to Sol system. Have you been here very long?”

“Long enough,” said Destanu, its body plates rippling in a sine wave that matched the movements of its shark-like mouth. “Our custom when meeting species new to the Great Dark is to learn your language of power, study your culture, then seek a meeting at a spot outside of the species’ home space.”

“So you’ve met other lifeforms!” exclaimed Monique.

“Many others. The Great Dark is filled with life, some of which travels star to star.” The Alien glanced aside at some kind of monitor, then fixed its black-eyed gaze on Monique. “I see your ship is about to match our orbital footprint. Good. Our team awaits your team on the surface below. Do you accept our invitation to discuss Rules of Engagement?”

Jack thought the last question meant more than the obvious. The Alien acted far too relaxed. But Monique seemed unfazed by the incongruity of Brit-speech issuing from the shark-mouth of a red-and-black skinned Alien who’d come to meet humans on a deep space mission out at the very edge of the solar system. Slick, too slick, he thought. The ship’s maneuvering thrusters shut off and freefall replaced thrust-gee—which clued him to the fact the Rizen aliens looked glued to their floor despite no ship movement. “Captain?” he said, floating up against his restraint straps.

“One moment,” Monique said to Destanu, then gestured to cut off the visual and sound feed to the Rizen ship. She grabbed a wall hand-hold, then glared at him. “What! Can’t you see this Alien is peaceful? Not violent like your Belter Rebellion ancestors?

A species that crosses from one star to another is not an automatic threat, just a puzzle to be understood.” “A species that has gravity control, while we still use spin-gee for our habitat torus?” Jack shook his head, feeling stubborn. “Captain, why assume the Communitarian creed applies to Aliens? Why do you assume that evolutionary biology and natural selection don’t apply to intelligent species?” Monique’s stubborn belief in the Unity creed baffled Jack. He pointed at Hortense, their Ecological Biologist. “Hortie, you tell her what we discussed on the way out here? Tell her what red-and-black skin colors mean!”

The Captain glanced at Hortense. “Hortie? What’s he talking about?”

Hortense blushed at the personal question, though it would be hard for most people to notice thanks to her soot-black skin. The woman, who had seemed to enjoy their chats about sociobiology and cultural determinism, dipped her head, collected herself, then looked directly at Monique. “Captain, it’s the aposematic coloration principle of evolutionary biology. In short, extreme color variations in a species are a danger signal. Like the brightly colored poison dart frog of the Amazon Basin, which advertises to predators it is not wise to eat frogs that don’t try to hide.”

“Aposematic what!” Monique’s pale face slowly turned pink. “So we’re down to judging Aliens by skin color! Hortie, I’m surprised at you.”

Jack realized he had one more shot, if that, and sadly Hortie was not as tough-willed as her partner, Gail. “Captain, this is real stuff!” The glare in Monique’s eyes only motivated him further. “Hortie, tell her what the Alien bodyshape means? The talon-toes, teeth and body form. Please!

Monique glared again at Jack, breathed deep, then looked tiredly at Hortense Muggeridge-Mbasa. “Go on. Destanu will keep for another minute or two. What has Jack been doing to you girl?”

Hortie looked briefly incensed, glanced at a sympathetic Gail, then shrugged her slim shoulders. “It’s called Müllerian mimicry, Captain. A basic principle of predation and natural selection biology. In short, the Rizen’s shark-like teeth, lean-muscled body shape, and lion/hippo shape all reinforce the signal ‘don’t mess with me’. Like how the nomadidae bee resembles a yellow jacket, yet both species possess stingers. Or how the hunting cats resemble one another despite continental drift. Or—”

“Enough!” hissed Monique, angry disgust replacing the irritation of moments ago. She twisted in space and shook a finger at Jack. “You would have us judge Aliens on the basis of appearance? Racist! We Communitarians reject the outmoded sociobiology theorizing of that crazy professor E. O. Wilson! Genes do not control intelligent people! And out there is the first non-Earth culture and people we’ve ever encountered. I’m not going to insult them by refusing to play along with this Engagement ritual of theirs.”

Jack gave up. It would do no good to debate Gause’s Law, the role of keystone predators in a closed ecology, and sociobiology genetics with his Captain. She seemed to be automatically fighting him, and defending the wishful thinking of her social dogma, rather than questioning the motivations of dangerous-looking Aliens. But maybe he could convince her to be a little suspicious. “Captain, just what the hell are the Rules of Engagement?”

“Exactly!” Max said a bit too loudly “Monique my dear, you’re no diplomat, nor are any of us. Let’s go home, tell the topsucks about this, and let them take the chances.”

Monique stiffened at the challenge to her authority and at Max’s allusion to their romantic relationship. “No! The dome and the Rizen Aliens await us. There has been no assault on our ship, no threats, nothing to warrant an unfriendly response by us. We’re going.” She free-floated around to face the motion-eye, gestured and Hortense restored the AV comlink. “Link Destanu, please pardon the interruption. We accept your invitation to meet your team in the dome. But if you don’t mind explaining, what do you mean by Rules of Engagement?”

Destanu peered at them, its unblinking black stare fixing on each crew member one by one. The toothy mouth moved swiftly. “Why, just what I said. Rules of Engagement mean the rules for how we Rizen and you Humans behave toward each other. I think you call it etiquette, or diplomacy, or some such thing.”

Monique smiled triumphantly, but kept her attention on the Alien ship captain. “That’s what I thought. Since there are four of your people down below, four of us will also journey down. Is the dome atmosphere—”

“Oxygen-nitrogen?” interrupted Destanu. “Of course. We breath the same mix as you, at nearly the same pressures. And our home world and home star are near duplicates of yours. But come in your environment suits, if that reassures you and your team.”

Gail leaned over and whispered to Monique, who nodded distractedly, then faced the motion-eye camera. “Good. Our landing craft will leave shortly. We look forward to meeting your people. D’Auberge off.” The Rizen image blanked out. The Captain twisted in mid-air, faced them, and put hands on slim hips.

“No arguments! We’re going down, the only question is who goes and who stays. Any volunteers?”

Everyone stayed frozen in their seats, except for Hercule, who raised a pudgy hand. “Me. I’ll go with you.”

Monique nodded, then eyed Jack and Max at the back of the cabin. “The ship’s Technologist and ship’s Engineer are excused from this trip, in view of their racists and archaic reactions. Gail, Hortense, Hercule and myself will leave just as soon as our can put on our EVA suits. Move, people!”

Everyone undid belt locks and free-floated out of the cabin. Jack was the last to leave, unable to resist a glance back at the screen. On it hung a globe-and-spearhead spaceship, its red, yellow and black-banded hull a striking contrast to the reddish ices and snows of QB1. His gut still jumped. His heart still raced. And fear nearly froze his joints. Would have frozen them, except for the idea that had occurred the moment he saw the Alien’s teeth, saw its body build, and decided not to believe what he heard from either Destanu or Monique. Maybe he could help the landing party, which would land unarmed, unwary, and at the mercy of the unknown. Maybe.

END

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Author Interview – Jean Kilczer – The Loranth

It is my pleasure to interview my good friend Jean Kilczer about her Star Sojourner series.  Today we are focusing on the first in the series, The Loranth.

Jean KilczerShort Author Bio:

While majoring in art in high school – yeah, they let us do that at Prospect Heights H.S. in Brooklyn, with nude models, too, I realized that the creative juices were flowing in a different direction: science fiction and fantasy writing. One evening I took pen in hand and wrote a short science fiction story titled: The Aliens. “Well,” said I, “that wasn’t so hard,” having no idea how poorly written it really was, and how skewed was the science in the fiction. But it launched me into a love of writing and a passion to become the best writer possible.

Jean The Loranth

Book Synopsis:

Astrobiologist Jules Rammis finds more than the mammalian lifeform he was searching for on the primal planet Syl’ Terria. Instead, he is lured into the grotto of a demented member of the telepathic race of Loranths who roam the sunken seas. Obsessed with the destruction of mankind for an accident that took his limb when a Terran ship landed, Sye Kor sees all humans as the evil manifestations of God, who crippled him.

While under pressure as Sye Kor’s hunter-slave, Jules develops his latent telepathic powers as a defense, and escapes the master. Now a powerful telepath himself, he takes on the mission of killing Sye Kor before Kor can unleash his gland-produced pandemic against humans.

But Terrans are already dying of Kor’s plague. With the virus ravaging his body, Jules goes after Sye Kor, intent on revenge. Through his encounter with the imperious Loranth monarch, Jules realizes that the race has no law to put a Loranth to death. They are waiting for him to execute the deviant Kor. With this knowledge, Jules puts aside his hunger for revenge and refuses to become their murderer. Surprised that Terrans also hold life in high esteem, the monarch summons his people for a Healing Bind that produces an antibody.

Though two hundred Terrans have died from Kor’s plague, starships were recalled in time and the pandemic is eradicated. Recovered from the virus, Jules is applauded as a hero.

INTERVIEW

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?

The Loranth is the first book in an eight-book science fiction action adventure series titled Star Sojourner. If I were writing it now, I think I would introduce some of the team members. In the later books, Jules hooks up with Huff, a lovable but powerful alien who resembles a Polar bear and provides a lot of the humor in the series; Chancey, a black dude from Harlem who is Jules’ outspoken sidekick; Joe the crusty older leader of the team; Bat, the laid-back Southern medic, and last but not least, Sophia Rella, Jules’ strong-willed love interest.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

To make a variety of aliens from different solar systems all seem very real as they co-exist on a primitive planet where none is aware of Sye Kor, the crazed Loranth who lives out of sight in an underground grotto.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

Developing the main characters, especially Jules, since he, and the rest, were all new to me. I did a character analysis of each major character, and learned how each would react in any given situation.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned which characters I wanted to keep in ensuing series books, and which I would let go of. I believe that one of the advantages of writing a series, besides the fact that readers who like one book might want to read others, is that you develop a deep understanding of your major characters and the tone of the books.

What are the future plans for you and this book?

I hope to get The Loranth out there on Amazon where readers can find it, and I intend to continue doing the series. I love writing them, and I hope readers love reading them.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?

Write what you feel passionate about, but always have an imaginary reader of your chosen genre looking over your shoulder as you write. I constantly ask myself: “What will be the most interesting and intriguing turn of events for the reader?”

Have you published anything else?

Besides six of the the eight-book series, I have two adult science fiction books: Kraken’s Keep, and my most controversial: The Empty Hands.

What’s next for you? What is your next project?

I’d like to examine a more psychological theme in the series that may not be as action-oriented, but will explore the characters on a deeper level as they confront an enigmatic animal-plant that has many facets itself to its makeup.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Yes. If you like action adventure science fiction, and wild rides, you may enjoy The Loranth, and the other series books.

Any advice for other writers/indie authors out there?

Writing takes years to develop to the point of being an accomplished author. Have patience with yourself. Strive for perfection, but mostly, write about themes and characters you enjoy exploring. Best luck with your writing journey.

Thanks for the interview, Ch’Kara. Blessed be –

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Meet The Characters – Jules Rammis from Star Sojourner Series

Characters3

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Jules Rammis, a wonderful man who resides in the Star Sojourner Series.  He comes from the creative mind of my friend Jean Kilczer.  I have read some of Jules’ adventures and look forward to reading more.  You can start his journey in Book One – The Loranth.

Jean The Loranth

Jules Rammis was a wild kid, and is a reckless, yet very appealing adult of twenty-seven. Lanky, blond, blue-eyed, with a smile that melts hearts, this laid-back action adventure hero is no superman, and often uses his wits to squeeze out of dangerous situations.

But Jules carries a heavy weight of guilt. At sixteen, this reckless kid flew a helicub high over mountains. His sister Ginny, along for the ride, was killed when the small cub flipped over and crashed in a canyon. Jules’ guilt over her death is the underlying cause of his continuing reckless nature, even as an adult. Though Spirit, a very powerful telepathic alien who developed planet Halcyon’s lifeforms, tells Jules that Ginny has reincarnated in a different solar system and is content, Jules still blames himself and has a subconscious death wish.

An astrobiologist by profession, and a powerful telepath himself, Jules has a talent for getting into trouble. It’s not that he seeks out risky situations, it seems the situations seek out Jules, who is coveted for his tel abilities, usually by the wrong Terrans and aliens who want his unwilling services for their own evil purposes.

In the course of the eight-book series: Star Sojourner, Jules gathers a core team of interesting humans, and Huff, a Vegan who resembles a Polar bear. Huff is Jules’ closest friend, loyal to a fault, this simple, yet wise alien, represents the animal power of the earth and provides much of the humor that threads through the books. Sophia Rella is Jules’ love interest. Beautiful, headstrong, perceptive, she compliments Jules’ laid-back, sometimes naive attitudes. Chancey Jones, a black Harlem dude, is quick and brash. While he and Jules are close friends, sometimes these two young males challenge each other. Joe Hatch, crusty, crafty, the older leader of the team, plays the father role to Jules, but is often a harsh parent as he attempts to guide Jules toward more conservative behavior. Bat, the laid-back Southern medic, is the healer and Jules’ confidant.

The team is a cohesive whole that works well together. Each member would risk all to save another one. The interplay of these characters provides continuous growth for them all, especially Jules, whose sense of honor is the core of his personality, and often affects other members of the team. Before going off on a dangerous mission to save the slaves of a lithium mine at his own risk of life and limb, Jules recites to Sophia: “I could not love thee dear so much, loved I not honor more.” This is the major theme that runs through the entire series.

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New Release – Freedom Vs. Aliens by T. Jackson King

Today I have a New Release for you for Freedom Vs. Aliens by my friend T. Jackson King.  Now although this is the third book in the Aliens series, it can be read as a stand alone and is priced at 99cents for this week only, so grab it while it’s at this great price.

TOM FreedomVsAliensCarinaNebulaHubble1 (2)DESCRIPTION


Jack Munroe’s anti-Alien crusade runs into a roadblock. The Unity rulers of Earth attack his Asteroid Belt home. They aim to ally with the predatory Hunters of the Great Dark. But Jack is not about to let Earth be run by Alien predators who treat subject peoples as serfs and living meals. He attacks Unity space bases on Earth, destroys the Unity headquarters in Switzerland and encourages America and other nations to reclaim their independence. Jack then leads a fleet of powerful starships out to the stars to make a Freedom Alliance with subject Aliens. That requires finding common ground for Humans, the Melagun hippos and the ChikHo ostriches. Which he vows to do. Jack is determined to subvert a galactic system that says only carnivore predators can travel star-to-star!”

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First Chapters – The Rise of the Pheonix by Massimo Marino

Today’s First Chapter is from The Rise of the Pheonix, book three of the Daimones series, by my friend Massimo Marino.

MASSIMO Rise of the PheonixDESCRIPTION

In a dark future, a first contact and an alien colonization changes forever the destiny of the race of man. Aliens have regenerated a new, transgenic species of humans called the Selected.

The first contact with the aliens led to the apocalypse—Daimones Trilogy Vol.1—and then put the seeds for a galactic upheaval, space wars againts aliens, and galactic empires struggles.

The last humans—the ‘spared ones’—have all died but Hope, the second of Dan Amenta’s human daughters, though she’s living her last days, too.

Dan has seen Earth become a different world as the new civilization rises.

A new neurological drug, Fusion, is heavily produced on Eridu and has created the path for a rapid evolution of the new humans, richness and good fortune.

The past events—Daimones Trilogy Vol.2—revealed the crucial role the humans have in the galaxy organization…and made them aware of their strength.

Once Hope leaves this life, a moral obligation suddenly is no more. Things can change, and they must. A new order and a new course will put in place the events the Moîrai have sewn and destined to rip apart the foundations of the galaxy.

“Even with the best of intentions, cruelty is just around the corner.”

2013 PRG Best Sci-Fi Series – Reviewer’s Choice Award

Amazon Top Reviewer – “Massimo Marino ramps up the suspense. The first two books of the trilogy make Earth (or Eridu) seem like the flawed jewel in a galactic crown of civilizations. Will the new humans rise to the challenge?”

 

Chapter 1 – Memories

From Dan Amenta’s Journal

Those were days when I doubted what we were doing. The peace we enjoyed in Eridu—the planet once called Earth—vacillated due to the increase in incidents of sabotage. Someone methodically destroyed our plants and livestock—other survivors for sure—and we seemed unable to make the sabotage stop, find the perpetrators, or understand their motives.

The aliens who changed our destiny forever, the Moîrai, and their Selection process to rebuild a new race of man, had offered their assistance at all levels, but I and the other Selected had decided that humans should deal with human problems. Eridu was scarcely populated, so who else—other than discontented wanderers—would perform such barbaric acts? But there was that unmistakable sign they left at each time…the imprint of a mutilated hand. We discovered they were led by another race of aliens, the Kritas, who for eons had been challenging the Moîrai for the supremacy in the galaxy.

The fate of humans hung in the air those days. Only a few years had passed since the Selection, what we Selected called instead the Third Loss, the genocide perpetrated by the Moîrai with the ultimate goal to prevent humans from self-destructing. They played with our destiny, “to save us” from oblivion, they said, preserving only a few of us. They revealed ancient history of the two previous losses we humans had inflicted onto ourselves, plunging our race into millennia of darkness and the loss of our collective memory, of our past. Were we worth saving, or were the latest events—that we could be led to fight each other—the proof that the son of man was once again corrupted?

No matter how hard we tried to rein things in, humans will find a way to cause trouble when jealousy rules. As a Selected, I was getting stronger every day; I discovered new capabilities—previously unknown to me—the existence of which I kept a closely guarded secret. Every year, though, brought bitterness rather than contentment. I’m not aging or, at least, I can’t see any sign of it yet. But my wife Mary is, and so are my daughters, Annah and Hope, and Hope’s mother, Laura, too. My family: they all will die before me and I’m in constant pain because of this. I’m not alone in this fate, as other Selected face the same cruel destiny, but sharing the pain does not diminish it. It didn’t work like that; not for me, anyway.

We thwarted Kritas’ plans on our planet; we tracked them down and found the base they’d build underground using the large mines around Pittsburgh. In the last battle, many lost their lives, and we humans had no control on our destiny. I lost Marina, the Selected who shared with me the responsibility for our community, and I felt my life was always marked by losing someone dear to me every time I conceded myself to hope for the future. We discovered treason even within the Moîrai ranks, and received promises of full disclosure, promises that have not been honored.

Our communities are thriving, and a future of prosperity and plenty awaits us. At least, that’s what we all think, but the future is uncertain again and the Moîrai hide the truth from me.

I became one of the Keepers, a Moîrai ancient brotherhood organization. The Keepers enjoy a secrecy never violated in the millennia since their birth; feared and respected, their existence is never acknowledged in the open, a shadow force that permeates, guides, and controls the Moîrai Confederation in the galaxy.

A special drug that we call the Fusion makes interstellar travel possible; cells from the nervous systems of billions of dead humans allowed the Moîrai to produce an even more potent formula than the original available before the Third Loss.

Through the Palladium, a wearable device like a crown, the Moîrai made us Selected more similar to them genetically than to the other humans the aliens didn’t cull, the ones we call the ‘spared ones.’ Are the Moîrai using us to keep them in line while they’re still alive?

With time, the production of the Fusion went under our control and has brought us riches and good fortune. Eridu is now famous in the galaxy, and for reasons not related to its most ancient history. We are no more a feared race, an uncontrollable monster that could turn against anyone at any moment; others have taken our place in those rankings.

Fortunately, I believe I do have some friends among the Moîrai, but I feel I’m alone in my quest to find the traitors and those ultimately responsible for the apocalypse, for the Third Loss. Who can I fully trust? I question everyone’s motives, even the Keepers’.

I feel like we are threatened again by an advanced alien civilization. This time, they’re not planning for our physical demise, but they attempt to undermine our morals, to embrace our fate and forget our past. If that’s the case, what chance do we have to rise strong again?

Dan of Eridu, I’m called, the watchful eye of the new humans. I represent our interests in the Moîrai’s Supreme Council, but I perceive a barrier—an invisible threshold—and I can’t yet cross it.

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