One More Free Book

TC-EbookI wanted to thank you all again for going on this writing journey with me. Hopefully, you are staying safe and healthy. I have one more book to keep you occupied. This next one is the first 5 stories in a science fiction short story series that I’m writing. Number 8 is well underway, and I plan to collect 6-10 in another volume like this when they are done. Until then, enjoy the first volume for free.

In the meantime, Tuners will be free next week (and book 2 and 3 will be 99 cents!). If you’ve already read them, please don’t forget to leave a review. Those really help us independent authors.

Thank you and stay safe.

Xmas Elf Only 99 Cents

XMAS ELFGet Xmas Elf: Secret Agent for 99 cents from now till 12/1/18 (US and UK only). That’s not all, Time Burrito will also only be 99 cents too! Why fight the holiday crowds when you can buy everyone you know a kooky Christmas caper for a buck? Amazon has a buy for others button. All you need is their email address. Here’s the description:

As one of Santa’s Elite Fixers, Jing spends most of his time waterboarding greedy toy manufacturers or responding to terrorists holding Rudolph for ransom. While not on the job, he relaxes in the North Pole, a paradise where he can forget all the killing and bloodshed and curl up to some Christmas music and hot cocoa.

Until a rogue group of elves betrays Santa and threatens what should have been a pleasant Christmas.

Every time a bell rings, an elf gets his Glock.

Note: Use discretion for children under 13. There is a bit of violence in the book (no worse then what you can read in the first chapter).

Watch out for the sounds of sleigh bells in the distance this holiday season,

Even More Free Books!

I’m giving away Kal’s Fall (The First Teristaque Chronicles story) away for free on instaFreebie. The best part is that there are over 20 Space Opera stories that you can get during the promotion. So head over to the link below and get them all!

20 Free Space Operas

If you want the first five stories of the Teristaque Chronicles in one collection, go here.

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Kal’s Revenge (Teristaque Chronicles 4)

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this space. The 4th story in the Kal series is out, and I have a teaser below. The 5th story is still in the works and should come soon. I have some big exciting news that I will share pretty soon, but for now enjoy Kal’s Revenge.

One more item before the story, the Playlist of the Ancient Dead kindle edition is only a dollar right now, and it won’t be for long. I suggest getting it now rather than later.

K-RevengeKal tapped the light display on her forearm. The countdown displayed 4:53. The seconds seemed to go down quicker when the cold vacuum of space threatened to devour her if the timing wasn’t perfect.

“Damn it, Hayden. Where are you?” She yelled at the airlock door between her and the void.

She stood on what would be considered the ceiling of a tiny airlock in the belly of a Tricore deep space mining vessel. However, ceiling was a relative term because she was in a Zero G zone, which was helpful because she was about to hand deliver several large crates a Teristaque Mech would struggle to carry. They were drifting in a carbon nanotube mesh sack that she had used to haul them to the airlock.

The vessel, a Tricore class A0C1H7, was almost entirely automated. It would travel through the most outer reaches of space with a solar sail on one side collecting starlight to power the ship. The other side of the sail collected space dust. Since almost every element floated through space from some long forgotten super nova explosion, the ship collected the raw materials that kept Tricore a leading supplier of replicator cartridges essential for every space faring culture.

The space dust caught on the collection end of the solar sail would eventually make its way down to the center through micro vibrations created from the interstellar wind. It was a genius design. In the center of the craft, an automated refinery separated the material into its elemental components. Then they were packed in to ready-to-be-used cartridges for small to medium sized spaceships. A nearby ship in desperate need of supply would dock and purchase a cartridge for a price a dying man would pay a warlord for water, and the A01CH7 would generate gobs of money for being one of the only deep space pit stops.

The crew of the Tricore vessel was only seven people, and four of them were advanced robotic repair crews who kept the refinery going. The other three would keep the ship from breaking down, and repaired the solar sail when the occasional asteroid would tear a hole in the thin material. They all acted as a flight crew. None of the men and women on board the long-term deep space vessel were responsible for security. In fact, there were no weapons on board. They had no reason for protection when they would never see the customers. A ship desperate enough to do business with a Tricore vessel, wouldn’t even see the crew as the transaction was entirely automated. The customers would dock, pay a fee, and find an airlock full of goods minutes later. Kal had no intention of paying for her goods.

It was an ideal target for a robbery had Tricore not been a Teristaque owned and operated company. The Teristaque, who called themselves humans, were one of the most brutal races in the galaxy. They enforced swift and decisive punishment, especially for deep space thieves. A pirate looking to score some replicator materials from an unarmed vessel would be on the wanted list of one of the largest armadas in the galaxy. Only the suicidal and the stupid robbed a Tricore vessel, especially because every approaching ship was carefully logged. The logs were then transmitted to the Teristaque network in the event a pirate’s reach be longer than their wit.

Six of the crates taking up most of the space in the airlock were Tricore Solution Number 3, a mix which supplied an average twenty person vessel with replicator supplies for about a month per crate. Kal’s vessel would use about half that, so the crates surrounded by her carbon mesh netting would last about year or so. However, six crates from an A0C1H7 was small in comparison to what she could have scored from the vessel, but a heist that could be misconstrued as inventory error was a much more desirable outcome than her vessel being tagged as an enemy of the Teristaque Empire, or as humans said (because humans under exaggerated their terror), The United Planets of Earth. Six crates would be enough to refuel with the five-finger discount, but not enough to do any more than confuse a crew and maybe earn one of them a chewing out from a superior. It was that seventh crate that was too intriguing to leave it in the possession of the Teristaques.

_______

A day before Kal found herself in an airlock waiting for Hayden. She found herself waiting for Hayden in a different capacity. Grannork, Seayolar, Maker, Haath-Nlo, and the couple other prisoners who decided to stay after their escape from the Fendpaake Asteroid Mining Prison were all waiting for Hayden. Grannork, who was an Orcandu with a foul temper like most Orcandus, was the first to vent his misgivings. “I will hoist Hayden by his entrails if he takes any longer.”

“Then you wouldn’t have any more of my delicious SPAM cakes,” Hayden said as he brought a steaming dish of canned meat products arranged as circular patties, stacked in a pyramid shape. He sent the tray down in the center of the mess hall table and everyone took a few patties, where as Grannork took a mound.

While the SPAM was decent considering they had run out of raw carbon for their replicator a week ago, it was nothing like a fresh banjer from back home. The memory of Kal’s village seemed like it was out of the distant past, even though it was a little less than two years ago. She had almost forgotten what her mother looked like. It didn’t happen overnight. It was subtle. During her months in prison and the year they had spent petty thieving in the stolen vessel of Dr. Feslerk, she thought about her mother less and less. Soon she forgot what it was like when her mother smiled, when she sang, and when she laughed. The only image that remained was her mother’s face contorted as she died under the fire of the Teristaque. She cried the morning when she couldn’t remember the sound of her mother’s song.

When they first broke free of the prison, they took inventory of the vessel. There was a lot of scientific equipment and experiments from the mad doctor. Since Haath-Nlo, her crippled insectiod cellmate from prison, had interspecies medical training, he was able to help them figure what they could sell and what they could keep. After they sold a bulk of the equipment, they cut the leaving prisoners their share and the rest decided to stay onboard.

Kal had found herself in command of the group not because she was qualified to lead a band of space pirates, but more because she was the one who always stepped up to make a decision when no one else would. She was also the one who had ideas when the fence who bought their medical equipment asked them about a job. She never called herself captain, but it was Maker who said it first, and the nickname stuck.

Ever since she fell into the role of captain, she reserved all her tears for the shower. In prison, she did everything to fight back tears. The inmates would serve her for all three meals if they saw her crying. Once she was out. It was like all the bottled emotion exploded from her. She mourned the loss of her village for the first time. However, she suffered in silence. To the rest of the crew, she was confident and capable. They didn’t know she was falling apart on the inside. She didn’t even talk with Hayden, who was human, and despite their feared reputation, seemed to always want to negotiate peace between the crew.

Hayden was the only Teristaque member of the crew. Through persistence, and grudging acceptance on Grannork’s part, he convinced the crew to start using the word human at least in reference to him. Since Grannork’s clan had been all but wiped out by the Teristaques, the hulking Orcandu seemed to have a personal quest to kill all humans on sight, Hayden being one of the only exceptions. Half of Hayden’s job, aside from piloting the ship was advocating on behalf of the humans. It was a little beyond most of the crew to discern the difference between a human who was a part of the corrupted government system bought and paid for by the interstellar corporations, and a human who was just trying to eke out a living for themselves.

Hayden also worked his way into Kal’s sleeping quarters. The attraction to Hayden wasn’t a surprise because of her half-human DNA. They both were attractive and liked each other. The surprise was that Kal had existed at all. Very few alien species were compatible sexually speaking. Even on the off chance that two species who evolved on different worlds had similar enough physiology for the desire for sex to occur, it was rare when a child could be conceived. Most interspecies couples used advance scientific methods to create offspring. A half human and half Nigramotoian natural birth was rare.

After breaking free from the prison, Kal had contemplated going to her homeworld of Nigramoto several times to gain insight into her origins, however, the trip would be a suicide mission since her planet had the largest army of Teristaques in the entire galaxy. The decrand coming from the planets core was worth more than half the UPE’s worth. Since everyone in her vessel were escapees from a Teristaque prison, going to Nigramoto was too risky for just information. Even though they had secured fake IDs and could dock on Teristaque stations, she couldn’t justify the trip. She had to hold out for a day when a job would lead her home.

Sarge, another escapee from the prison, who got her into this mess in the first place ended up on Nigramoto. Kal had a suspicion that he had information about her origin. It seemed like more than a coincidence that of all villages, he ended up skulking about hers. Both Hayden and Kal knew Sarge was up to something on the planet, but they didn’t know what and didn’t have time to find out. They had the more immediate concerns of running the ship. Which was why after a series of petty theft and small heists, Kal found herself plotting one over a casual SPAM dinner.

“I can make our ship disappear on their sensors,” Maker said. “I only need to plant the device on their array.”

Seayolar, a snouted alien with a raspy laugh said, “Then they’ll have already registered our S-ID by then. We spent a lot of money getting a stolen S-ID with a clean history from the Teristaques.”

“Ah that is why Grannork will fly me on a shuttle to purchase some supplies. I can attach myself to one of my space resistant bodies and ride on the outside of the craft. It will be a simple matter of floating to the array while Grannork completes the transaction.”

“What’s the point of stealing if we are going to pay for it?”

“The point,” Hayden interjected. “Is that we will be taking much more than we have bought. My friends used to do this back home. One of us distracted the clerk with a small purchase while the others leaned over the counter and stole the baseball cards.”

Seayolor roared with laughter. “You stole child cards!”

“Enough,” Kal interjected. “The point is that we can fly within their proximity sensors without being registered. Once Grannork and Maker fly away, the Tricore crew will not see anyone in the area unless they happen to be looking out the window. Meanwhile, one of us will go inside and secure a couple of crates.”

“Who’s going to be stupid enough to climb inside?” Seayolar interjected.

“Easy,” Kal said. “Me.”

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Kal’s Truth

Kal's Truth

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Kal laid in a metal prison cell gasping for air, the sound of her people dying and the village burning still fresh in her mind. Her eyelids were heavy and her body felt like it was buried in sand. The first thing she could remember upon awakening was a human male with gold and silver teeth, and black rot infesting his mouth. He wore a white coat and had a bright instrument that blinded her. Unlike Sarge, his hair was grey and creased like the wrinkles that came with age. But unlike her people, this man had spots. Only later would she learn that humans developed a condition called “liver spots.”

The man in the coat turned and said something to a Teristaque waiting in the background. Her memory was incomplete, like the patchwork of one of her mother’s quilts. Every moment was a snapshot. She was being dragged through a hallway by two Teristaques. Her possessions were locked in a box. Her body was stripped. She was sprayed with a burning liquid. More dragging. Another exam from the human with the rotting gold and silver teeth. Finally, she woke up in a prison cell.

While Kal’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, she heard a low grunt from the corner of the room. The grunt sounded like a krikshek beast back home. They were a fierce beast with a dire disposition and two large horns that could impale a villager. Kal attempted to scramble to her feet, but her muscles felt like she was trying to move through a thick goo, and she fell back down.

A creature slid from the shadows. It had a large bug-like body and three spiny appendages. It dragged the lower part of its body on the ground. There were stubs where other limbs should have been. The eyes were hideous, large, and clouded grey. The bug was a shade of brown. It sent shivers down Kal’s spine. She scrambled backward, but was unable to get very far and hit her head on a metal cot. The bang would have hurt if systems weren’t suppressed.

“Don’t be afraid,” the bug said in a deep voice. “You are recovering from sedation.”

“You speak Village Tongue!” Kal said looking for the “universal translator” on what she thought would be a wrist.

“There is a translation field covering the prison,” The bug said.

“What do you mean I was under sedation?” Kal said. She still wasn’t sure about this creature.

“They sedate all criminals during interstellar travel.”

“I am not a criminal!”

The bug laughed. Unlike Sarge, the bug had a slow wheezing laugh. Kal still didn’t quite know what to make of laughter. She had no room for it. The nightmares of her village were too fresh in her mind.

The bug must have sensed that its laughter made her uncomfortable, and stopped. It reached out an appendage to comfort her. “Do not fret my dear. Everyone here believes they are not criminals, and you’ll find that some do belong here even if you do not.”

Kal pushed the thing’s arm away, “I do not need your sympathy.”

She turned to inspect her cell, finding two metal cots. One small cot for her and a large one for her buggy cellmate. The walls were smooth and metal, with bars on the opening. There were two toilet facilities, one for a humanoid of her size and another for something larger. The toilets were located in two coves on the back of the cell for at least a little privacy from her cellmate, though a guard standing on the other side of the bars had a full view of either cove.

“I don’t offer you sympathy my dear, only advice. You will find friends hard to come by in this place.”

“I don’t want your advice either,” Kal snapped.

“As you wish. You could have had worse roommates, you know. Grannork’s cell also had room for one more.”

“Oh yeah? At least Grannork doesn’t talk as much as you.”

“Grannork is Orcandu from the Tristar cluster.”

Sarge had told Kal about the Orcandus. They were brutes, and one of the few species that the Teristaques feared. They were massive creatures of pure muscle with a jagged horn on the center of their forehead and fierce, razor sharp teeth. Rumors spread that Orcandus had mis-wired brains and experienced pain as if it were pleasure. Almost every ritual in their culture was meant to induce pain. Kal shuddered to think about what it might be like to share a cell with one. At least an old-disabled bug could be managed.

The bug finally gave up and dragged itself back to its side of the room. Kal traced the cold metal wall with her fingers. She thought about the village that she practically rejected, even though it had embraced her, despite her differences. Now, she wanted nothing more than to be a part of it again. She thought about the warmth of her bed and the wood grain of the ceiling. She used to see faces in the wood grain and would make up stories about them. Now the ceiling was a smooth metal surface with no defining features. She could almost hear the humming of her mother from the kitchen as she drifted into sleep.

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Kal’s Fall

Kal's Fall

Discover the secret of Kal’s father.

“Why do I look different mother?” Kal’Da’Hak often asked her mother, and her mom would smile and tell Kal that she was blessed by Earth Mother. Kal never felt very blessed by the Earth Mother. Her bones had the strength of twigs compared to her Earth brother and sisters. She was a good length shorter and her torso was thin. When the village built a new home for the Te’Cek family after the river swallowed their home, Kal wove rope for the roof rather than lifted stone and wood. The young always did the heavy lifting, and Kal was believed to be too fragile so she wove with the elders. The worst part was that her skin was the lightest green ever to have been born. Most of her Earth brothers and sisters had vibrant green skin and with blue, orange, or silver hair. Her skin was light green and her hair was black. Kal looked like she was sick even though she felt fine. The oddest part was her eyes. They were deep blue like a clear lake. None of her people had blue eyes.

In the woods, Kal would lift stone and logs. While she could not lift as much as her Earth brothers and sisters, she still could lift without breaking her bones. The myth of her fragile bones came from various accidents in her youth. The children would use stone balls during sport. While the stone ball would bounce off her Earth brother and sisters with little bruising, the ball would shatter Kal’s ribs. Her fragile nature made her feel like an outsider of the village as she would always be stuck watching the activities or be given duties usually only reserved for the elders.

Her village and Earth brothers and sisters always treated her with respect. In fact she never felt unwelcome, or unwanted even though she felt alone. Everyone in the village looked out for one another, and Kal felt that she could never look out for them. A cart smashed the leg of one of her brethren, Wek’Ri’Ket, and Kal could not lift it. By the time she found a villager to lift the cart, Wek had lost a lot of blood and joined the ancestors with the Sky Father. No one blamed Kal or doubted her sincerity to help. Accidents were the will of the gods and not the blame of Kal’s birth. Despite the comforts from her fellow villagers, Kal felt guilty. Her “birth-blessing” was more of a curse. She would always be the weakest one of the village.

Kal also knew she was different beyond the constraints of her earthly form. Most of her Earth brother and sisters had fathers. She did not have a father. Her mom always told her that father had died in the Teristaque invasion. Kal’s father left the tribe to fight in the war while Kal grew in her mom’s belly. The Teristaques won the war, but left Kal’s village alone because they wanted Mother Earth’s metal, and Kal’s village had none. Despite never meeting a Teristaque, Kal imagined her father dying in a great battle and fighting to the last breath. She didn’t tell her family about her visions of war. Violence was abhorred by the tribe, and was only a last resort.

Aside from Kal’s fantasies, all that was left of her father was an insignia. It was a patch from his uniform. The patch featured a fierce bird swooping in an attack pose and strange lettering in a language no one in the tribe knew. Because the Teristaque’s were feared and hated by all, legend said that other tribes who lived in the stars followed the Teristaque fleet to Kal’s world and helped fight the invading force.

It wasn’t until her sixteenth season and her first real encounter with a star species that she would come closer to finding out the fate of her father.

_______

Kal pushed against a giant felled tree. Most of her Earth brothers and sisters would have easily pushed the tree without much effort. Kal pushed with all of her might, and the log barely budged. She wanted to push the log down a hill. There was a pile of logs and rocks at the bottom of the hill that she had collected from the woods. Kal planned to build a cabin by herself. She collected a fair amount of building supplies and even snuck a few tools from the tool common.

Kal liked her trips into the woods, and no one seemed to notice she was missing. She was free to do what she wanted, and never was asked to perform the tasks of the elderly. Kal thought about never returning many times even though she started building the cabin as way to display her strength to the tribe. However, the cabin would never be finished if she couldn’t push the log down the hill. She had dragged the heavy log from a long distance only to get it stuck in a rut near the top of the hill.

She pushed, pulled, yanked, and even tried to dig the log out of the rut, but it was too heavy. The rollers she used to pull the log long distances would not work in the rut. For heavy objects, the tribe would put rollers on the ground then would push or pull the objects to their destination. For several people, the task was steady and always flowing. A few of the young would pull. An elderly or Kal would dart back and forth taking a roller from the back and put it in the front. For a single person, Kal would push the log, move the rollers, and push the log some more. It was slow, but Kal was determined. And now she was thwarted by a rut.

“You know, that’s easier with two people,” A voice said from behind.

Kal nearly jumped out of her skin. She had been alone in the forest every afternoon for almost three weeks and never saw a soul. Behind her was a star species! The being was strange looking. It had thin twiggy arms, and a small chest to match. It had tan skin and brown hair. Kal was a good six inches taller than it. The being was definitely one of the star species. Kal couldn’t help herself. She reached out to touch the thing to make sure that it was real.

“Ok, ok,” the star being laughed. “I get it. You’ve never seen a human before.”

“HU-MAN?”  The clunky word did not roll of her tongue. “You mean star species?”

“Right,” The HU-MAN looked down at a device on his arm, “The translator doesn’t have human. Call me Oliver.”

“All-LIV-ER?” Kal had trouble making the words.

“Ah hell, just Sarge. The folks in the service days used to call me Sarge.”

“Sarge,” Kal pointed to him and then pointed to herself, “Kal.”

“Thank god for small favors, a local who has half a brain. You couldn’t spare some of that jerky would ya? I’m mighty hungry, and I don’t know what’s good to eat or what will kill me on this planet.”

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One Way Trip to Solasoma

One Way Trip to Solasoma

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I woke from a deafening roar. My bed roll was tangled with ShaShe’s bed roll. The cave violently shook and ShaShe sot my protection. She grabbed my waste. I had no time to comfort her as the whole tribe scrambled in a state of panic. The warriors scrambled for their stone hammers, and the gatherers collected the children. DaWin’s baby cried, and she gave it some root to calm her down. The warriors gathered and looked to me. Warriors and gatherers were both sexes. Warriors were composed of anyone who could wield a hammer. Gatherers were anyone small who could fit through the cracks of rocks.

I nodded to the warriors, and the panic subsided into nervousness. Most of the tribe was hardened by the angry sun. They could deal with crisis as we’ve had many over the years, as many had succumbed to the wrath of the Sun God. This situation was different, and I could see the fear on the warrior’s faces. These were men and women who usually faced death with stoic bravery. I could sense their fear.

“We must go investigate,” I proclaimed to the warriors. They began to wrap themselves in the day fabric. It was black, lightweight, and loose to capture the sweat and create a breeze from our movement. The fabric wrapped every part of the skin. Deformities were a common punishment for those who had the audacity to bare their skin to the Sun God.

The fabric was weaved from the leaves of the Zuuzaan plant. It was one of the few that didn’t live in the shade of rocks, so it offered special protection. Water not in the belly of the Earth God was rare. Finding a Zuuzaan was a gift of the Earth God. For the most part, we stripped the fabric from the dead to create our clothes. Mine was a combination of my mother and my fathers.

ShaShe was not pleased. She voiced her objection, “You will not last long. It’s still daylight.”

“We are honor bound to protect the tribe. We must go investigate,” I said firmly.

She conceded with no further objection. Arguments never lasted long. The Sun God sapped the energy to argue.

The warriors and I carefully made our way to the front of the cave clutching our stone hammers. My grandfather claimed he found a spear made of wood once, deep within a cave. The wood spear burned when he left it out in the daylight too long. He gave me the stone tip when I accepted tribal leader after my father’s death. I wore it around my neck. The stone would heat during the day and leave a scar. The scar is my reminder to be wary of the Sun God or fall to the same fate of my father.

As we came closer to the mouth of the cave the heat rose before the first crack of light. Once we saw the light of day, the heat began to suffocate. Our bodies poured sweat. Our throats became dry. We carefully sipped from the water skin tube near our mouths. Drink too fast and you’ll run out before you can return. Drink too little and the Sun God will claim you.

We were leaving the protection of the Earth God. The Earth God was the only god to stand up against the Sun God. She sheltered the Water God in her depths. She provided reprieve and sometimes cave dwelling fauna for a scarce meal. Though for the most part, we hunted small creatures and ate plants that dwelled between the rocks on the surface.

We stepped out into the Sun God’s realm. The landscape was barren. There were no clouds in the sky. The baked sand and craggy rocks stretched in all directions. We were about to turn around when HaraTas, the leading female warrior, pointed to the horizon.

“Look. The Fire God signals us,” She pointed to a glint on the horizon. The glint was a regularly blinking silver light. The warriors murmured at the discovery. The Fire God was controlled by the Sun God. He burned at the whim of the Sun. But the Fire God was also a trickster. He gave us fire to cook our meals and make our tools. If the Sun God knew the Fire God was going behind his back, we’d surely loose the gift of fire. So why was the Fire God openly defying the Sun?

“We will answer the Fire God’s call,” I decided.

There was a nervous shift among the warriors. “But we will not have water for the return journey!” One said.

“We must answer the call,” HaraTas retorted.

“The Fire God will betray us!” Another said.

“Anyone who wishes to return may do so.  The Earth God held us in her womb and shook violently. She wants us to answer the Fire God’s call. We must honor the mother and answer the call,” I said and simply began walking. HaraTas followed. The others followed. I hoped I was right. The Earth God could be crueler than the Sun because of the hope she offered, especially if the hope was misplaced.

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