AI Created This Demotivational Poster

Dinspiration

The above image was created by an AI attempting to make motivational images. I thought it was creepy and pretty relevant to a story idea I had, so I thought I’d share it with all of you. You’ll hear about that story here first. In the meantime, here are the deals for August.

The dystopian novel Atmospheric Pressure is on sale for only 99 cents August 3rd-7th. I am very close to finishing the first draft of the sequel to the book, so this is a great way to get caught up with the series.

I also have four free stories for you. The first two stories are an epic space opera series and can be found here:

Kal’s Fall
Kal’s Truth (Limited Time Only)

Also the first two stories of the time travel comedy Sperm Donor for a Cosmic Paradox:

Sperm Donor for a Cosmic Paradox

Customer Service Scientist (Limited Time Only)

Enjoy, and don’t forget to leave a review. They really help me out.

Advertisements

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.

instafreebanner

The Teristaque Chronicles

audiobookcoverviThe first volume of the collected Teristaque Chronicles is now out on audiobook. For those who’ve been following Spiral, you’ll recognize a lot of songs from many different albums. There’s even some of my wife’s stunning violin solo work.

The Teristaque Chronicles are a set of short stories that I’ve been writing to get my fix of Space Opera. I plan to write more in the series so be on the look out for future installments. For now, enjoy the audiobook. You can listen to a sample and download the whole book here.

Here’s the description: Kal has always been considered too fragile to participate in the village activities. Her lithe stature seems to link her to her father, and distance her from everyone else. He left the village to fight in the Teristaque Wars and never returned. She meets Sarge, a strange star species of the human race who seems to know the secret of the patch from her father’s uniform. Kal has always known she is different from her fellow villagers, and finally, she may be closer to finding out why.

You’re still here? Have a free download of the first Teristaque Chronicle story: Kal’s Fall.

The Teristaque Chronicles

TC-EbookThis year has been quite an adventure for my writing. Even though I just released a book last April, I’m going to release another one on July, 5th. The Teristaque Chronicles Volume I is a space adventure story in the vein of Star Trek. It’s up for pre-order now, so get your copy by following the link above. The book includes the first five short stories in one book, so it’s a great deal.

The Teristaque Chronicles is an ongoing writing project where I’ve been writing parts to a larger series in small novelettes rather than releasing a book. Eventually, each character in the series will have their own stories. Some advance the overall plot, others are just backstory to a particular character. Here’s a description of the first story:

Kal has always been considered too “fragile” to participate in the village activities. Her lithe stature seems to link her to her father, and distance her from everyone else. He left the village to fight in the Teristaque Wars and never returned. She meets Sarge, a strange star species of the human race who seems to know the secret of the patch from her father’s uniform. Kal has always known she is different than her fellow villagers, and finally she may be closer to finding out why.

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.”

To read more get the kindle edition here.

Hayden’s Mistake #newsciencefiction #scifi

Hayden's Mistake

Download the third Teristaque Chronicle here.

Hayden’s craft landed on Tek’Tu’Pat’s landing platform on the ocean. Tek was the wealthiest city of Nigramoto, and the landing platform was the largest on the entire planet. At a few hundred kilometers long and one hundred wide, it handled the entire off world transport. Every commercial, civilian, and military craft landed in different sections of the mega platform. It was the largest structure on the planet, and its silver sheen could be seen from orbit.

Freighters packed with the black decrand ore were lined in rows waiting for their military escorts for their trip into space. Frigates and squadrons of fighters flew in formation around each freighter. Since humans had spread to over three hundred systems, the energy requirements for human civilization required more energy than a star could produce. Decrand could generate one thousand times more power than solar panels could collect. The human race was powered by decrand, and Hayden was here to protect it.

Hayden was packed into a troop transport with several of his brothers-and-sisters-in-arms. A quick release belt kept him from being tossed from his seat when they dropped from orbit. His troop was a mean looking bunch with scars and the eyes of soldiers who had seen too much. Their power armor made them look larger than life. However, since they weren’t wearing their helmets, their heads looked small compared to their bodies. Sarge’s suit clanged against the metal floor as he stomped through the troops. Underneath the armor, Sarge was built, bald, and mean looking. He was almost more intimidating without the battle gear.

“Everybody suit up,” Sarge yelled. “You think you’re here for a vacation. We are here to work.”

Hayden fumbled for his helmet and wasn’t as quick to gear up. Sarge spotted his fumble, and put his face up to Hayden.

“What’s a matter babyface? You need your mom to help dress you?”

Everyone called Hayden babyface, partially because Hayden looked like he should be in a boy band, and also because he was the new guy. No one liked Hayden, but Hayden knew it was more because he hadn’t earned their respect yet. Until Hayden had a chance to prove himself, he would be the butt of their jokes.

“No sir.” Hayden said. “There is no excuse for this recruit to not be ready, sir.”

“Recruit?” Sarge laughed, “You’re still in boot camp? Last I heard you were a soldier.”

Sarge narrowed his eyes, and came so close to Hayden that he could smell the tobacco on his breath. Hayden didn’t flinch and looked Sarge in the eyes.

“So why don’t you act like a soldier?” Sarge said firmly.

“Yes sir, sir.”

Hayden put on his helmet. He connected the breathing tube in front to the filter mounted in the chest. The heads up display in his field of vision ran through the checks of the various ocular enhancements built into the eye pieces. After they were all in their power armor, they looked inhuman. They had large black eyes and a tube leading from their mouth like a gas mask from ancient times. Hayden understood why the other species called a soldier in his body armor Teristaques. They were a fierce group to behold.

The troop transport landed with a loud clank. Sarge screamed at them, and they all clicked the quick release of their belts and jumped to their feet. The hatch in the back opened, and they all ran down to the platform. The landing platform from the ground point of view was a large flat plane of metal in every direction. In the area around Hayden, there were swarms of troops, hover tanks, fighters, spider walkers, disc rovers, and every military equipment imaginable. The commercial and civilian part of the platform were too distant too see.

Sarge lined up the troops for inspection. His commanding officer, Colonel Dodgery, came shortly after and said, “At ease.”

The men and women of the squad relaxed, and the red haired officer with skin tone of a man who drank too much walked slowly through the ranks. He wasn’t wearing power armor, and was dwarfed by the suited soldiers around him. He pulled a tiny piece of decrand from his pocket. It was no larger than his finger tip, but Hayden could see his muscles straining to hold it up even though his face didn’t register the burden. “Can anyone tell me what this is?”

“Decrand, sir.” Hayden said. The other soldiers laughed.

“Did I say you could laugh?” Colonel Dodgery said, and the others became rigid. “Sure that’s what the lab coat jockies call it, but to us it is the heart of civilization. Every member of your family enjoys their lifestyle from this rock. Why are you here soldier?”

“To protect the decrand?”

“You are here to protect our way of life. This is not like the soft inner planets. Out here is the frontier, and you are the law.  Have you ever seen a man bleed out?”

“Only in simulation, sir.”

“Jenkins!”

“Yes sir,” Tomahawk said. He was nicknamed after a weapon he had in his bunk that he claimed could be traced all the way back to his ancestors on Earth. It was a reminder that he came from a long line of warriors. The military was the only life he had known, and the only life he cared about. After the Liberation Wars, he was given some property on Earth, and a retirement settlement to last him a lifetime. He reenlisted the next day.

“Have you ever seen a man bleed out?”

“Yes sir.”

“Where did it happen?”

“A few clicks northeast of here.”

“What did you do?”

“Everything in my power to save him sir.”

“What happened?”

“He died from his wounds, sir.”

“What did you do after that?

“My job, sir.”

“And what’s your job?”

“To protect our way of life.”

“This is not a simulation. We are not on a civilized planet. We are on the border of the Treaty Zone. You may feel like you’re at home when you are in the walls of Tek but rest assured, there are rebels, hostile aliens, and creatures that don’t care about us or the way of life we are trying to protect. We live on the edge so others don’t have too. We are not guarding your mother’s flower garden. We are protecting the most important ore in the universe. If a freighter doesn’t take off every hour, people will starve. I expect the best. I honor those better than that. Dismissed.”

The troop called out their honor cry. Sarge and Colonel Dodgery walked away. The troop began gathering their gear from the transport. Spider, the communications specialist, turned to Tomahawk , “Hey Tommy, you got his speech memorized yet? You certainly know your part.”

Tomahawk gave Spider a rude hand gesture and continued to pack the gear onto the floating platform.

Hayden turned to Spider, “Does he give the same speech every year?”

“Everyday more like it. Every squad of fools like us that ship in from off world.”

“How many times you’ve been here?”

“Since the war ended? I’d say five. With a year off here and there. I’m surprised I’ve made it home each time.”

“Is it really that bad?”

“Nigs make a good workforce, but they’re tough mothers. Power armor or not, you turn your back on one. Count yourself dead.”

“Noted,” Hayden said. He had heard similar stories, and read all the debriefs. The local intelligent species, the Nigramotoians, dwarfed humans outside of their power armor.  They were broad shouldered, and strong. One Nigramotoian could flip a hover tank, and puncture power armor with a medieval weapon. They were a fierce species, and it was easy to see why. The gravity on Nigramoto was five times Earth’s gravity. Most planets had nickel and iron in their cores. Nigramoto had a decrand core. An unenhanced human outside their power armor would barely be able to move. Even with the standard issue muscle and bone enhancements each soldier received in boot camp, a human outside their armor was sluggish compared to a Nigramotoian.

They pushed the hover platform with their gear towards the edge of the landing strip. A group of battle mechs towered over them in formation. They were black with the United Planets of Earth colors. Each had a variety of missile, plasma, projectile, and laser weaponry. The mechs sat three people in the armored chest plate, one pilot, and two weapon specialists. They were deadly machines, but Hayden didn’t like cockpits. He didn’t like feeling restricted. While ground soldiers had the highest morality rate, he at least had the freedom a mech pilot could never have.

Hayden grew up in the cramped Los Angeles mega-city back on Earth. His father and three brothers all shared a four hundred square-foot modular apartment. The apartment would convert to whatever space they needed. Beds would descend from the walls at night. Showers would sprout in the morning. A living area rose during the day. A dining area shifted from the wall for meal time. Hayden’s life was regulated out of necessity. It was no wonder why three of the four children joined the military. Hayden’s oldest brother died in the Libration Wars. His frigate was caught in the path of a planetary bombardment, and his body burnt in the atmosphere of Sallax Prime. That left Hayden and his other brother Joshua, who avoided most of the conflict because he was a mechanic, and Hayden missed the conflict because he was too young. The war had ended by the time he could enlist.

Hayden’s brother back home, Paul, was an English teacher. He took care of their father who had retired from the desalinization plant after forty grueling years of labor. Most of the muscles and joints were replaced several times from the manual labor. If only his father had access to the enhancements available to military personnel, he could have had a less sedentary retirement. Either way, the arrangement worked out. Paul was never good at sports, and always was the odd brother out. It didn’t come as a surprise that most of the family would be light years away from the congested planet of Earth.

His group got to the edge of the platform, and Tek’Tu’Pat spread out before them. The city was alien in its architecture. Unlike humans, who built large vertical structures, the buildings were ziggurat shaped and communal. The buildings all connected more like growths, than like Earth buildings that were all separate. Various floating ships, vehicles, and hover discs were buzzing around the city like flies.

When humans first arrived on Nigramoto, the Nigramotoians were just entering their computer age. The cities were still really small with no more than ten million at the largest. Hayden even heard rumors that there were still Nigramotoians who lived in villages, living the lifestyle of their ancient ancestors.  By comparison, there were pockets of humanity who still lived in tribes up until technology swept the planet, and began creating the first union governments, that marked the beginning of the end of tribal life.

The most breath taking sight was the wilderness around the city. There was actual uninhabited land unlike Earth, where uninhabited land was very scarce and almost always reserved for the ultra rich. Part of what inspired Hayden to sign up for the military was a trip to Colorado with his father and brothers as a boy. Parts of the Colorado Rockies were some of the few public places on Earth with natural wildlife. The parks were tightly regulated. They were monitored with satellite, and the passes to visit the park were so rare people had to wait years for a chance to visit, or have considerable wealth to buy out a person’s spot in line.

While the passes were only limited to one per family, nature reserve brokers facilitated the transfer of passes from families who ran into money trouble before their wait. Hayden’s father held fast to his pass. Despite the offers and the times where he nearly sold their one and only chance to see the wilderness, his father didn’t budge. The Colorado Rockies were the most memorable moment of his life. Years later, Hayden signed up for the foot patrol if only for the chance to see the wilderness again. Here on Nigramoto, as far from civilization as he could get, Hayden might get a chance to walk among the trees again. The time spent on lifeless rocks, and cramped spaces seemed worth it. The sight before his eyes was an endless expanse of forest.

To continue reading click here.

Kal’s Truth

Kal's Truth

Click here to get the latest story.

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.

Support independent authors: get the kindle edition here.