Monday, July 26, 2021

New Release - Baswin, Book 5 of Taxyon Space


An alien spy on the run.

Two human sisters chosen as future astronavigators.

Their paths are destined to converge.

Psychic sensitives, Holly Moon and her sister Rosie, are chosen as candidates for Warrish training as hyperspace navigators. The sisters are eager to promote humanity’s advance into space. Will they succeed? They must pass a series of rigorous tests and adapt to the alien neuro-implants.

Alien merman, Baswin Kenton Tallis, Second of his Triad, lives on Earth disguised as a human. When Earth agents discover the secret identity of his older brother, Baswin must flee to the Warrish embassy in the Pacific Ocean.

Holly and Baswin are swept together on an island in the Pacific Ocean, but their destiny lies farther away and many forces threaten to drive them apart. Can they overcome the obstacles and find a haven?

Follow the adventures of the three brothers of the Flaming Comets Triad in Baswin, Book 5 in Taxyon Space. 

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Chapter 1

In the quiet village of Hampton in the Wold on the western fringes of the Indo Eurasian Union, Holly Moon placed her scrying mirror on the table next to the teddy bear. Opening the hinged copper lid, she gazed into the mirror. The reflective glass blurred into swirling ripples. The iridescent ripples widened, leaving a small transparent circle in the center. 

Tensing in anticipation, Holly bent over the mirror and focused her psychic senses on the expanding circle. The vision strengthened until she distinguished her target in a tumble of rocks at base of a sheer slope. The girl’s small body was pinned in the crack between two boulders. Judging by the position of the tangled blonde hair, she lay face down and motionless. 

Thirty minutes earlier, Detective Sergeant Powell had called Holly to ask her to scry for the missing girl. He had dropped off her picture and favorite teddy bear to guide the search. Holly’s life had become much more exciting since the detective had recognized her talent for finding lost objects and missing people. The Sergeant was prone to plead for her services on difficult or urgent cases in his jurisdiction. 

This one looked nasty. 

The girl’s faded shirt almost matched the yellowed hues of the earth-encrusted boulders and her body was partially buried in the middle of the rock pile. She would be difficult to spot from a distance. Was she dead or just unconscious? Anguish gushed into Holly’s mind. 

Tamping down her emotional response, Holly examined the girl as closely as possible with her remote senses. One pale arm stretched up, the fingers curled as if she had tried to claw to safety. Her blonde hair was damp and matted. A thin ribbon of wet blood stained the rock below her head. A bad sign. 

Spurred into action, Holly rapidly assimilated the physical details of the girl’s location and broke her trance. The crumbling walls of the pit might be the remains of a quarry or one of the bomb craters left in the wooded hills. The big cities had been rebuilt in the years after the war’s destruction, but nobody had bothered to repair the damage in small rural communities.

She grabbed her com, related what she had seen and punched the message over to Sergeant Powell. Her task was done. With luck, her description would enable him to pinpoint the site and recover the girl. Dead or alive.

Renewed anger and sadness at the girl’s dire predicament seeped into her thoughts. Leaning back in the chair, she shut her eyes and performed the mental exercises designed to sweep away the unpleasant emotions before they became overwhelming. She envisioned a favorite landscape, a beach of pristine white sand washed by sparkling waves.

As she relaxed, her thoughts drifted. In some ways, she was fortunate in her psychic talent. The requests for her services were usually more benign like seeking for an item of lost jewelry or a stray pet. In contrast, her younger sister had a talent for healing. Rosie worked at the hospital in the nearby town where she was exposed to sick people every day. After tending to a difficult patient, Rosie often had to rest at home for several hours to restore her usual cheerfulness. 

A few minutes sufficed to dispel Holly’s negative emotions. She swiveled around to gaze though the window at the verdant landscape. This room at the rear of the cottage overlooked the village allotments. Beyond the garden beds of vegetables and flowers, sheep grazed on grassy slopes at the edge of the woods. The soothing influence of the peaceful scene restored her normal serenity. She and Rosie often sat in this room for that very reason. Yet, sometimes she wondered if they had become too settled in this secluded village when the world had so many beautiful places. If only they had the credits, she yearned to travel and explore different regions of the planet. 

Holly withdrew her gaze from the window. Her scrying mirror lay open on the table. She picked up the mirror, intending to restore it on the shelf.

Her senses pricked. A premonition?

She glanced at the mirror.

Colors swirled over the reflective surface and a face appeared. A strange face with chiseled features and an extraordinary sweep of vibrant orange hair curling like a wave over the top of his partly shaved head. A male face, she guessed, despite his unearthly appearance. His eyelids were closed and his expression as calm as if he were asleep. As she watched, his eyes flicked open to reveal startling irises of a golden amber hue. His pupils widened and he smiled at her.

Who was he? Could he really see her or was he looking at something else? 

“Holly. Holly.”

Her sister’s strident call broke into her focused mind. She blinked and the mysterious vision faded from the mirror. 

Rosie burst into the room, waving a beige envelope. Her face glowed with excitement as she cried, “Holly, this letter just arrived. It’s from the Ministry for International Affairs.” 

Folding the mirror into its case, Holly shook her head in disbelief. “Why on earth would the Foreign Ministry send us a letter?”

“I know. Isn’t it weird? But weird is what we do.” Rosie giggled. “Anyway, the letter’s from the Regional Minister, Mr. Braithwaite.”

“It must be important,” Holly said slowly, holding out her hand for the letter.

“Here.” Rosie thrust the envelope into her fingers. “Read it.”

She unsealed the envelope and removed a sheet of cream-colored paper. The gold crown and sunburst emblem of the Indo Eurasian Union were embossed on the top of the letter. She had never seen such a posh letterhead. The sunburst glistened and the midnight blue of the territorial name created a vivid contrast on the pale colored paper.  

“Wow. It’s fancy.” She skimmed through the words and read the letter aloud,

“Dear Misses Holly and Rosyline Moon,

You are invited to an interview at our Regional Office to undergo a critical assessment of your paranormal abilities. Your employers have been informed that you will be absent for important international business.

A driver will arrive at the eighth hour on the morning of the fifteenth day of August to escort you from Hampton in the Wold to our offices at the New London Spaceport. Please bring any device you employ in your craft. The assessment is expected to last for the entire morning. Transport will be available for you to return home after the interview. You have the option of visiting New London in the afternoon.

We look forward to your attendance at this important interview.

Yours truly, Augustus Braithwaite, Senior Minister

International Affairs Division of Indo Eurasian Union

Office for International Affairs, New London.”

Wrinkling her forehead, Holly looked at her sister. “It’s a strange letter.”

Rosie cocked her head and murmured, “What do you think?”

Holly stared at the neatly printed lines of the letter. “It’s phrased as a polite invitation for some unspecified important international business. But we haven’t been offered a choice. There’s no request for a reply. No com code given for any questions.” 

“Sure. It’s a puzzle. Should we go?” Rosie’s eyes brightened in anticipation. “We’ve never had a chance to visit New London in the last few years. We haven’t traveled far from home since Dad’s death.”

“I don’t know.” Holly frowned at the letter. “How on earth did this Braithwaite find out about our psychic abilities? Only a handful of people believe in our talents. Even our neighbors in the village are skeptical. They joke about our quaint notions.”

 “Not all of them,” Rosie said. “Dr. Greene believes my healing touch helps her patients to recover. And Sergeant Powell trusts you to find missing people.”

Checking the date on her com, Holly said, “We’ll soon find out. Tomorrow’s the fifteenth.”

Rosie scrunched up her lips in disapproval. “They didn’t give us much time to prepare.”

“No time to scarper,” Holly joked.

“Well, I’m going for the interview,” Rosie said in a decisive tone. “I’d love to have a free trip to the city.”

Holly shrugged. “Okay. We might as well go. If only to learn why the guys at the Ministry for International Affairs are so keen to assess our paranormal skills.” 

“Right.” Rosie grimaced at the clock on the wall. “I’d better hurry to the transport station. My shift at the surgery begins in twenty-five minutes.”

The sisters parted for their regular jobs. Rosie worked with patients in the regional medical center in the nearby town, while Holly had a parttime job in the village post office with the mundane task of routing packages for World Parcel Services.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

New - Epic fantasy with adventure and romance

 Bridget Bramble and the Wandering Elf

In a land threatened by cruel invaders from the east, Bridget Bramble lives in a small village where she barters herbs and carved buttons. When marauders target her village and murder her family, she flees into the woods. Armed with her Granny’s advice and a bag of magic buttons, she sets out on the perilous journey to Oakenwald, the fabled land where elves and men live in harmony. As she travels farther from home, she encounters malicious creatures from the worst kind of folktale.

Lost in the foothills of the mountains, Bridget meets the elf, Windswift the Wanderer. He offers to guide her across the mountain range. But what is the elf doing in human lands? Can an ordinary, or almost ordinary, human girl trust a cold hearted elf to lead her to safety? 

Epic fantasy adventure and romance with darker overtones. This story weaves elements of folklore and a quest for a safe haven in a land where magic is real.  

Available at:  Amazon   iBooks   B&N   Kobo  GooglePlay   Other

Chapter 1 

Bridget Bramble fastened the buckle to close the satchel and placed it on the table next to her basket. She spun on her toes, gazing at her cottage and breathing in the homely scene. The spicy fragrance of the herbs hanging to dry melded with the lingering scent of the barley cakes she had baked yesterday. Jars of preserves and powders lined the shelf above her plates, bowls and cooking pots.

She had lived alone in the cottage in the two years since Granny had died, following her tradition of supplying herbs for the villagers. But she needed to replenish her stock and this foraging expedition was overdue. She had used the last of the white fungus three weeks ago. The shell-shaped fungus grew only in a special grove of birches at half a day’s walk from her cottage. The trip had been postponed by tending to a sick child and a spate of rainy days.

The girl had recovered. Yesterday, the clouds had lifted and she had prepared for the day-long expedition into the woods garnering seasonal fruits, herbs and the white fungus. She planned to fill the basket with ripe berries and nuts. Everything was ready for her trip.

She tapped her fingers on the leather satchel. It held plenty of cloth bags to carry the foraged plants and a pair of leather gloves to protect her hands from thorns or poisonous oils. She had packed two barley cakes, a chunk of cheese, an apple and a leather flask of ale for her midday meal. She always carried her small knife, the fire starter and a pouch of medicinal herbs. Her cloak and hat were on the hooks by the door. She had fed the chickens and checked that the ashes in the fireplace were cold.

She lifted the brown felt hat from its hook, and jammed it over her head, pulling the rim low over her ears and forehead. Only her ponytail swung loose on her back. She grinned, as gleeful as a truant lad, and eager for a day’s freedom from humdrum chores.

A rap on the door made her frown. It meant a delay.  

Annoyed by the interruption, she placed the satchel on a chair and went to see who was her early visitor.

Randall stood outside, an anxious expression on his face and a linen bag in his hand.

“Bridget,” he said, “I’ve come for the dried madder. We’re ready to dye a new batch of wool.”

“Come in.” She swept the basket off the table to make room for his bag. “Sit down while I fetch it.”  

As she opened the door to the larder, her brother demanded, “Why are you dressed like that?”

She glanced down at her working clothes. Randall ought to recognize her outfit from their hunting expeditions with Papa. She had worn the same clothes for those weeklong trips in the wilderness. The boy’s trousers Randall had outgrown, a faded blue woolen shirt, a man’s leather jerkin and ankle boots. Only the jerkin was a newer acquisition, freshened up with a set of her horn buttons. She preferred the freedom of a man’s clothing for lengthy trips into the woods. If she were mistaken for a boy at a distance, it might save her unwanted attentions.

She said, “I’m going foraging in the woods.”

“Man’s clothes. You’re so unfeminine,” he scolded. “How can you expect to attract a husband if you go around wearing a man’s clothes?” 

She squashed an angry retort. It was useless to argue with him. He was only voicing his wife’s opinion, likely shared by the old biddies in the village. She wrinkled her nose and sniffed. Her clothing had nothing to do with her unmarried state. He knew the real reason as well as she did. The blacksmith’s son had spread the rumor she was a witch and hated men. The lies were his revenge for the spell she cast when he caught her alone and tried to rape her.

Pressing his point, he said, “You shouldn’t be living alone.”

“I don’t want a husband,” she snapped and immediately regretted her outburst. Locating the jar with powdered madder root, she poured a quarter of it into Randall’s drawstring bag. “Here’s the madder. Do you need anything else?”

He thanked her, rubbed his short beard and stared at her for a moment. “You could come to live with us.”

Leaning her palms on the table, she dismissed his offer. “No. Hen’s teeth, Eveline and I would be at each other’s throats.”

He looked unhappy. “Bridget, I’m worried about Eveline. She’s bulging with the baby. Her ankles are swollen and she’s too tired to do her usual housework.”  

“She should rest,” Bridget said. “The baby’s not due yet. Not for three or four weeks, I’d guess.” She understood his worries. Their first child had been stillborn.

“You’ll come, won’t you, to help with the birth?”

Touched by his trust in her healing abilities, she said, “I’ll be there. Send for me once the pains begin.” Ever since she was ten years old, she had assisted Mama and Granny at births. Now, she served as the village’s only herbwife. Despite the rumors, her neighbors often called on her to help with difficult births and severe illnesses. Her trip to replenish supplies of medicinal herbs was as important as making charms for healing. Sorting through the jars, she selected a mixture of shredded raspberry and peppermint leaves. “Give Eveline a pinch of this mix in hot water at midday and make sure she rests in bed.”

Randall picked up the package. “You’re a good sister. I shouldn’t grumble about your clothes or how you choose to live.”

She gave him a goodbye hug to prove she still loved him despite their disagreements. Holding the door open, she watched him limp down the lane toward his house in the main village. Eveline might gripe about her sister-in-law’s weird habits, yet she never berated Randall about his lame leg. They were happy as a couple. Was Randall right? Would she also be happier with a husband? Maybe. If she found a man to love her and approve of her skills in herbcraft and carving magic buttons. She shook her head. Nobody in this neighborhood fit that description.

When her brother hobbled out of sight around a bend in the path, she returned to her kitchen and replaced the jars in the larder. Glancing though the window at the sky, she considered her delayed trip. She had meant to leave at first light, and the sun was already halfway to its zenith. Even walking fast, she could not reach the birch grove with the white fungus before late afternoon. Should she extend the trip and sleep overnight in the woods? The autumnal weather was mild and she had often camped in the wilds during the week-long expeditions with Papa. 

A shout erupted from the lower village.

Dogs yelped.

Bridget groaned. Not another interruption.

She peered out of the window overlooking the lower cottages.

Armed men were marching in a double line along the road into the village. She counted a column of fifty soldiers. Their helmets, sword hilts and spear points glinted in the sunlight. They wore thick doublets over leather kilts dyed dark red. A helmeted man rode a black horse in the vanguard, his blood-red cloak billowing in the breeze. Walking behind the leader, another man carried a banner, flapping in a blur of red and black. In the rear, other men led horses pulling two empty wagons.

As they advanced, her trepidation grew. Why were they entering the village? Had they come to collect tithes for King Athelric? Surely it was too early in the season. The tithe collectors always came after the harvest was gathered. And none of the king’s soldiers wore red kilts. Who were these strangers? 

Elder Grantham stomped onto the road to confront the leader of the foreign troop. Old Grantham called himself the village chief and fancied he ran the place. He raised his hand and asked a question, his words inaudible at this distance.

The cloaked leader barked an order.

A man in the front rank punched his fist into Grantham’s face.

The gray-haired old man crumpled, his body thumping onto the road.

Aghast, Bridget gulped. Grantham might be a pompous ass, but what hellish person would mistreat a defenseless old man?

A woman screeched inside the adjacent cottage.

The enemy leader gave a hand signal.

The foremost ranks split into groups. Five men rushed into the nearest cottage and dragged the occupants onto the road. A second set of men entered the house and carted out boxes of valuables. They worked methodically, moving from one cottage to the next in an organized manner.

Villagers yelled in anger, or screamed and begged for mercy. The raiders beat off the scant opposition and herded the others into a field. 

No wonder there was little resistance, Bridget thought bitterly. Two weeks ago, Jarl Keegan had commandeered eight of the strongest men in the village and the best riding horses for his troop. He had led them away to Castleton in response to a command from King Athelric. Since their departure, no messages had come from the Jarl or his men. Rumors swirled around the neighborhood about battles and marriage celebrations, although nobody knew the truth. 

Suddenly furious, Bridget resolved the horrid foreigners would not capture her or steal her best buttons. Shutting her eyes, she rubbed her fingers over the charm-inscribed buttons on her bracelet and considered what to do. Her cottage stood on the edge of the woods, up a small lane and well separated from the rest of the village. She should have a few minutes respite before the raiders arrived.

Randall and his pregnant wife lived in the main village. But she had no way to defend them against the attackers. Few of the spells in her scant knowledge of magic were designed to harm people. She had only once used her best weapon, the repulsion spell, to escape when the blacksmith’s son had grabbed her. Repulsion made an effective defense against a man at close quarters, but it would not work on an enemy at a distance. Her only option was to flee before the invaders captured her.

Luckily, her man’s clothes were good for running and she had a day’s worth of food. What else could she take for her flight?

A scream, abruptly cut short, propelled her into action.

Her thoughts buzzing in alarm, she ran to the chest by her bed and grabbed her most precious belongings, the blue bag with her best buttons, her sewing kit and carving tools. She stuffed them in a second satchel along with a spare shirt. She hesitated over her three books. The herbal treatise and book of ballads were too heavy to carry a long distance, although she decided to keep her great grandparents’ travel journal. Its pages had a wrinkled cover of oiled leather. She tucked the small book into the folds of the shirt. Returning to the fireplace, she grabbed the tin cup for heating water. Finally, she surveyed the shelves in the larder. The jars of preserves were too heavy, but she added three apples, the rest of the barley cakes, a bag of shelled walnuts and strips of smoked mutton in store for the winter.

She arranged the straps of the two satchels crosswise over her shoulders. Flinging her cloak over her back, she fumbled to fasten the button at her neck. She nudged the rear door ajar and peeped out. Just beyond the doorsill, a well-trodden track led uphill into the woods. Raspberry and currant bushes lined the path and provided a screen from the marauders in the village.

Heart thumping in fright, she lowered her hood over her head. She crouched below the tops of the bushes and scurried up the path into the shelter of the trees.


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Major Inhabitants of the Grand Masters’ Galaxy

The Grand Masters’ Galaxy is home to myriads of different living species, some of which claim to be intelligent and communicate in various ways.

Comments: This list is by no means a complete accounting of the species in the stories. In some cases, Violet encountered individuals of undetermined species or questionable sapience. For instance, she met several marine entities in the oceans of AguaSalva, including one that claimed to be the sole member of its species. 

Aman-ellans: Bipedal feline/humanoid entities with soft fur of various colors and patterns, and cat-like ears.

Brululians: Crustaceans resembling man-sized lobsters with triangular heads bearing eyestalks, ocher carapaces and many legs. Five genders; two compatible genders are required to produce offspring.  

Dragons: Winged reptilian species inhabiting the planet Sythos.

Elyrians: Bipedal, slender humanoids who communicate by telepathy. Each Elyrian bears a colored crystal on its forehead.

Flia: Flightless avian entities with brightly colored feathers, beaks and clawed arms. Only females travel off their native planets.  

Humans/humanoids: Inhabitants of Terra or the many planets colonized by humans over thousands of years. Occur in a variety of sizes and colors.

Ixioths: Giant insectoids with six red eyes, six legs, and a hump-backed carapace with vestigial wings.

Jangalorans: Monkey-like inhabitants of Jangalore with six eyes, six legs and a puff of a tail.

Maanaans: Giant “metal mushrooms” with a domed hood and short foot/stalk. They communicate by vibrating wires under the hood.

Thoss: Bipedal, tailless reptilian beings or lizardman. 

Umloa’s Brood: Giant amoeba-like entities that can assume protean forms and engulf food or enemies. Communicate via smelly bubbles.

Wistralians: Plantoids resembling giant flowers with three petals, a short stalk, and trailing roots. Communicate by rustling leaves, or emitting scents.

Yelliasts: Dominant lifeforms resemble serpents with three round eyes and three pairs of transparent wings.

Books in the Grand Masters' Galaxy

Grand Master’s Trilogy, Boxset of Books 1-3 – Cheapest option  Amazon  iBooks  Kobo  B&N  GooglePlay

Cosmic Lock, Book 6, Amazon  (for pre-order)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

New - Fantastic Firsts Boxset

FANTASTIC FIRSTS - Four complete volumes. Begin four dramatic adventures in different series, ranging from contemporary superheroes on Earth to far future worlds.


Grand Master’s Pawn, Book 1 of Grand Masters’ Galaxy
Science fantasy and romance with super psychics in space. One young woman challenges the secret rulers of the galaxy and finds an impossible love.
Young empath, Violet Hunter, dreams of exploring exotic planets as a Grand Master’s pawn. Breaks in the teleportal network threaten countless lives, and suspicions point to the twelve Grand Masters. Violet must penetrate their curtain of secrecy to identify the culprit. Her challenges escalate when she meets the enigmatic man behind the griffin avatar. She plunges into a world of deadly intrigues and risks a perilous love. Armed with only her erratic powers and a mishmash of allies, she must battle the most powerful beings in the galaxy.

EUROPA, Book 1 of Taxyon Space
Science fiction thriller and romance. Daredevil scientist and abused alien merman meet in the perilous oceans of Jupiter’s moon.  
Dr. Nikki Bell’s plan to discover intelligent life on Jupiter’s moon hits a rocky start when her spaceship crashes on the icy surface of Europa. Seconds before she blacks out, she spies a man’s face in the water beneath the ice. When she wakes on the submarine Station, nobody believes her story. Convinced the mysterious stranger saved her life, Nikki searches for him while she explores the ocean and its alien inhabitants. 
Kiron Arqin Ramis chose exile as a Watcher on a remote outpost to redeem his family’s honor. He never expected to find an attractive Earther woman close to death. He violates the prime policy by rescuing her. Despite suffering the penalty, he strives to warn her about his hostile leaders.
Nikki’s unexpected meeting with Kiron triggers a chain of disasters in Europa’s perilous oceans. Can the daredevil scientist and scarred Watcher forge a new alliance despite their people’s antagonism?   

Super Starrella, Book 1 of Secret Supers
Teen superhero, Starrella, and her flying horse combat vicious killers in the skies of Atalanta.
The quiet summer before her freshman year turns frighteningly weird after Estelle Wright trespasses onto an Army base. Blown into the air and knocked unconscious, she wakes with a nascent superpower. Not to mention a winged horse with a snarky attitude and a mind of her own.
Back home in Atalanta, a serial killer is targeting the students at Goldman University. Before long she must juggle college classes with sneaking out of the house after dark to battle alien monsters. Estelle’s life is in danger, but who can she trust: handsome Mark Copper from military intelligence, or hunky Toby, the tough gangster with a motorbike? Both men have secret agendas, but falling in love is not in their plans.
Young adult superheroes, quirky animal sidekicks, and a dash of romance enliven this thrilling adventure.

The Lady is Blue, Book 1 of Atrapako on Eden
Science fiction adventure and alien romance. Sassy scientist thwarts schemes of scaly aliens.         
Dr. Lucy Stannis leads a quiet life as the chief biologist in the small human colony on the isolated planet of Eden until an alien spaceship arrives. She is thrilled to meet the captain, the formidable Blue, Sa Kamizan Veedak. But, arrogant scaled Atrapako disdain the puny humans. Conflicts between the cultures threaten the whole population as well as her friendship with Sa Kamizan. Lucy must employ her skills as a covert Terran spy to discover the aliens’ secret and save the colony.

Available at 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Beginning of COSMIC LOCK, Book 6 in the Grand Masters Galaxy

Grand Masters Violet and Athanor Griffin return from beyond the Cosmic Rift with two shiploads of rescued children and escaped slaves, but their enemies have not been idle in their absence. Avalon is in flames and their little son is missing. Finding him may be the easiest problem for the powerful couple. They must unite the fractious Grand Masters, stop the bloodsucking Ixioths from enslaving sentients, and seal the Rift to prevent new incursions of the vindictive Nulls. Can they overcome the challenges and secure peace for the galaxy?

Pre-order at Amazon 

Excerpt from Chapter 1: Dramatic Beginning

   A rippling sheet of vivid orange flames filled her vision.
   Violet had inspected her son’s surroundings via their resonating amethysts as soon as she had advised the captain of the watch to expect two friendly ships of escapees from behind the Rift. Instead of Mother Tingu’s pristine kitchen on Avalon, a wall of fire filled her senses.
   Stunned and bewildered, her mind whirled with questions. They had left their precocious thirteen-month old son with their old tutor who could control his erratic psychic impulses. What in the voids was she seeing? Were the flames an afterimage of her violent passage across the Cosmic Rift?
   Acting by instinct, she contacted her psychic partner.
   Their link vibrated with Athanor’s cry, “Avalon’s under attack. The portal is blocked.”
   Trembling in foreboding, Violet cried, “Varan’s with Tingu.”
   “If you’ll teleport to Tingu’s cottage and secure our son, I’ll reopen the portal.”
   “Instantly.” She focused on the familiar white-walled cottage, tapped her enhancer and spun into the eerie whirlwinds of the quantum vortices.
   She popped into normal space by the white picket fence. The gate swung on its hinges, squeaking in a blustery gale. Dense gray smoke and orange flames exploded from the thatched roof of the cottage. The roses climbing over the porch had shriveled into ashes, and as she watched in horror, fragments of window glass shattered onto the flagstone path.
   “Varan,” she yelled. “Mother Tingu, where are you?”
   No reply. Only the crackle of fire and hot gusts of wind battering against her body. Had she fulfilled her promise to rescue the children of Cinerea at the expense of her son’s life?
   Despair darkened her mind. Her baby son was dead, burned by the fire. She teetered on the edge of a black precipice. The abyss beckoned.
   She fell.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Fist Chapter of ALARIK, Book 4 of Taxyon Space

Two people fleeing their planets discover a shared destiny.
When an alien spacecraft crashes on Mars, the repercussions sweep throughout the solar system and endanger the fragile new alliance with the Warrish mermen.  
Alarik Kenton Tallis, Eldest of three brothers, was forced to infiltrate human society on Earth as a spy to insure his injured brother receives proper medical care. But when his transmissions are detected, he must flee the planet.
On Mars, Phoebe Wong, a veterinary scientist with dubious family connections, is desperate to escape the underworld gangs terrorizing the domed city. She jumps at the chance to join the colonists bound for a distant exoplanet.
Their paths converge on a space ferry bound for the outer planets. Troubles arising from the mysterious spacecraft pursue them to Jupiter. Will their flight end on Europa, the hyperspace gateway to the stars protected by three diverse species?

Available at Amazon  iBooks  Kobo  B&N  GooglePlay

Excerpt from Chapter 1

“An alien craft was discovered on Mars earlier today.”
Alerted by the chirpy voice of the announcer, Alarik Kenton Tallis sat up and stared at the image on the news feed. Tracks in reddish brown sand led to a squat six-sided cylinder. Great holes in its pitted surface were outlined in lurid orange stains.
The reporter, a young woman with a bouffant of purple hair, embarked on an explanation, “Metal-eating microbes have eroded the ship’s hull and interior. The Martian microbes were originally engineered to oxygenate the atmosphere. Their mutant descendants have become a well-known hazard for colonists.”
The camera lowered through an irregular gap and the view switched to the interior. Yellow blotches of microbes obscured the details of inner surfaces. Under the lumpy coating, Alarik distinguished the edges of hexagonal control panels set in the stippled metal walls.
She continued in a more subdued tone, “The spacecraft was discovered by a rescue team from Mars 4. The notorious microbes had destroyed much of the hull, and the mangled remains of a crab-like creature were found inside.” 
The occupant, presumably the ship’s pilot, sprawled on the floor. Four eyestalks drooped on top of a purple carapace and the clawed tips of three jointed limbs poked from under its shell. A trail of orange ran from a clump on the floor to the shell. The microbes also ingested metals and other nutrients from living creatures.
“Eekrepisth,” Alarik breathed. What was the semi-aquatic sentient doing on Mars? Did it intend to land on the arid planet or had its ship crashed in a dust storm? In either case, his duty was clear. He must notify the Triarchs. The Watchers would receive the news once the radio signals reached Europa, but he and his brother were likely the first Warrish to hear the announcement from Mars. He and Baswin had infiltrated Earth society as covert agents. The rest of his people, a handful of legitimate envoys, would be asleep in their embassy and submarine base on the opposite hemisphere.
The purple-haired woman said, “After applying the antimicrobial spray, the local emergency force closed off the site for evaluation.” The screen reverted to an exterior view of a fountain of liquid streaming onto the spacecraft. In seconds, a bubbly white foam covered its surface. 
Recovering her buoyant manner, the reporter concluded the short announcement, “The Solar Security Agency is investigating the incident. We are working with their spokesmen and will deliver details as soon as they are released to the press.”
Alarik walked around the small room while he considered the problem. The treaty with Earth’s major governments had permitted limited access to Warrish technology, although it had not stipulated how to manage interactions with other aliens and their technology. Eekrepisth were a notoriously volatile species, unpredictable and easily upset. If the dead Eekrepisth and its ship were not handled correctly, the Earthers risked inciting a nasty interstellar complaint and possible prohibition.
Fortunately, he was in the right place to send a quantum transmission to Triarch Webale, the leader responsible for negotiating the alliance with Earth. In his role as Rick Kent, the wealthy owner of an asteroid comprised of rare metals, he was rarely alone and his rooms were bugged. He ignored the monitors, apart from blocking the one in his washroom. But yesterday, he had escaped his money-hungry fans for one of his periodic visits to the room leased to his low status alias, Al Davis. The grimy apartment blocks were home to poorer families and hid a variety of illicit activities. He maintained this place for the rare occasions when he wanted to meet his brother or needed to send a message to the Red Tridents. Or when he sought a little privacy.
Placing three fingers in the correct sequence on his wrist com, a standard Earther issue device with special modifications, he activated the hidden qtel. Quantum transmissions were virtually instantaneous and almost undetectable.
He whispered a short message in his native language to inform the Triarch about the crashed Eekrepisth ship. At the end, he added, “Will await your instructions.”
Lying down on the lumpy mattress, he shut his eyes and relaxed. Somebody would reply soon. There might be a delay if Webale were busy or asleep. He didn’t know where his transmissions ranked relative to the Red Tridents’ other interstellar affairs.
Less than a sixth of an Earth hour elapsed before the reply came. A short pulse from his qtel preceded a shimmer in the air at the foot of the bed. The hazy column resolved into the blurry figure of Triarch Webale, his contact in the Warrish base on Europa. The red trident under his left eye made a vivid contrast to his pale wrinkled face and white hair. His flowing white robes, the traditional garment of the Triarchs, seemed quaint and outmoded. Alarik’s unconscious mind must have adapted to modern customs on Earth.
Jumping off the bed, Alarik dropped onto one knee on the cold floor in the formal protocol. He bowed his head and intoned the correct greeting, “Noble Triarch, I am honored by your presence.”  
Webale said, “You may stand, Overagent Tallis.”
As Alarik obeyed, the Triarch continued, “Your message was the first to note this spacecraft. Do you have any further information before I contact the Earther authorities?” 
“The ship’s hull was badly holed and I doubt the Eekrepisth had lived for long.”  
“Did the ship crash close to an inhabited region of their red planet?”
“It landed in the desert within reach of the city of Mars-4. By ill luck, the oxygenating microorganisms had attacked the ship and destroyed large portions of the exterior and interior walls. They had also partially consumed the pilot.”
“If I recall correctly,” Webale said, “the original microbes were engineered to extract oxygen from the Martian sands. The concept succeeded in increasing the levels of oxygen, despite the problems when the microbes mutated to consume metals.”
“Urish. The city domes are surrounded by a band of plasticized cement as a barrier against the mutant microbes.”
“Did the ship have other occupants?”
“Only a single Eekrepisth was visible in the image. No others were mentioned in the brief news report. I suspect the authorities have suppressed other details.”
“We have no agents stationed on Mars. You are the operative with easiest access to the dry planet. Our staff at the embassy must request official permission to travel to their Martian colony. Can you concoct a plausible reason for a visit to learn what the authorities have done with the Eekrepisth and its ship?”       
After a moment’s thought, an idea crystallized in Alarik’s mind. “Triarch, I believe I can. My alias, Rick Kent, could propose to visit the source of his wealth, the fake asteroid. In truth, the Chief Engineer of Taxyon Space, Vasily Kopsaky, has been urging me to donate a supply of rare metals for the new colony on Zeta Three. I could stop in Mars to assess the current state of the colonization efforts. My inquiries about the alien vessel would be consistent with an interest in potential new customers.”
 “Your suggestion has merit. We also have a stake in this colony. The Earthers require our tripilots to navigate safely in hyperspace. You have permission to proceed with this plan. In the meantime, the Eekrepisth incident will be handled by our embassy staff on Earth.” 
Satisfied to leave such a delicate matter to the diplomats, Alarik gave the formal response, “I hear and obey.”
“May you dive into calm seas, Overagent Tallis.” With this blessing, the Triarch vanished as swiftly as he had appeared. 
Now Alarik was free to resume his normal activities. He heated water for a mug of coffee, an Earth drink he had learned to enjoy. Choosing a nutrient bar from the handful in the cabinet, he settled down to a simple meal. He had better keep up the appearance of living in this rented room. After dark, he would slip back to the inner city and organize his journey to Mars.  
After an hour of lounging in the small room and formulating an announcement of his trip, he grew bored with inaction and paced up and down the narrow space between his bed and the kitchen counter. As he passed the window, a motion behind the blinds caught his attention. He paused to peer between the slats. A small brown bird fluttered its wings and chirped. The sparrow, a frequent visitor, came for the seeds he scattered on the sill. Alarik was fascinated by the winged creature, especially since his home planet had no native flying animals. It cocked its little head, staring at him out of round black eyes. Amused by the cheeky bird’s persistence, he pulled the bag of seed from the shelf and raised the sash to sprinkle a few grains on the sill.
The sparrow hopped away from his hand. Its black eyes glinted, eager for the food, yet wary.
He shut the sash gently, and watched as the sparrow pounced on his offering. The seeds quickly vanished.
A prick of caution impelled him to look down.
A man dressed in casual clothes was loitering at the side of the building. He didn’t resemble any of the neighbors. The stir of caution intensified into suspicion. Had someone detected the energy perturbation produced by the virtual projection of Triarch Webale? 
Hidden behind the blinds, Alarik focused his scope on the face of the man at the corner of the building. Luckily, the man’s mouth was visible. The special translator converted the movements of his lips into words, “Alien signals originated in this block. Above ground level. Maybe third to fifth floors.”
From his room on the fourth floor, Alarik grimaced and swore under his breath. He had to escape and warn his triad brother. Once their covert presence was detected, Earth was no longer safe.
The man standing below paused, evidently listening to instructions. He whispered, “Yeah. Wait for reinforcements. Got it.”
Anxious to leave before the Earthers arrived to investigate, Alarik clipped his toolkit on his belt and stuffed his belongings into a small pack. He looked around the dingy room. He wore gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints, but he couldn’t remove all traces of his presence. DNA extracted from strands of hair and flakes of skin could be analyzed to reveal his alien identity.
The front door and fire escape staircase would be watched, but they might not think of the roof. He had chosen this apartment in a dowdy suburban district precisely because of its convenient escape routes. Entering the tiny washroom, he raised the window and leaned over to check for observers. Seeing nobody, he fired a hooked line at the edge of the roof, four stories above him. On his second attempt, the clawed end caught on the projection he had aimed for. He gave a tug to test its strength. Satisfied the line would hold his weight, he clipped the line to his belt and wriggled onto the windowsill. Balanced awkwardly on the narrow ledge, he managed to shut the window. His pursuers might not notice at first, giving him enough time to escape into the city.
After another scan of the vicinity, he rappelled up and scrambled onto the flat roof. He unhooked the line, which rewound silently into its tube. Crouching to avoid being spotted from below, he ran along the length of the building and leaped across to the adjacent block of apartments. The enemy might have pinpointed his room and the fake identity he had used to rent the place was forfeit, but they did not know his real identity. His other alias of Rick Kent, the wealthy Belter, was secure for the moment. Kent’s credit was still good and he could take advantage of the upscale apartment he owned in the city. 
Five minutes later, he reached the third of the eight-story blocks of apartments. He glanced to the west. The sun had descended below the tops of the distant skyscrapers in the center of the city. He disliked many aspects of this planet, yet the sunsets were glorious. An orange band like a streak of flame stretched across the horizon. The brightness would soon dim, giving him the advantage of dusk.
A hovercar zoomed into sight, heading toward the building he had abandoned. Guessing it carried the reinforcements, Alarik slipped into the shadow of the cooler stack and leaned, motionless, against the steel surface. The drone of the hovercar grew louder, then faded as it coasted to the ground on the far side of the buildings.
He shrugged the pack into a more comfortable position on his back. Hooking his line on a steel rod, he gripped the rope, edged over the eaves, and descended seven meters onto the upper level of the fire escape. By luck, nobody was in the room opening onto the staircase. He descended swiftly. Most of the rooms he passed on the stairs were also empty. One or two had occupants, engrossed in the triD entertainment and oblivious to his quiet descent.
At the bottom of the stairs, he hurried past the dumpsters to reach the public streets. Soon he had traveled a kilometer away from his abandoned room into a commercial area. He halted outside a small cafĂ© and pulled out his com. Instead of activating the Warrish transmission, he made a regular call. His younger brother, Baswin, had a similar multifunctional com.  
“Al?” Baswin’s hesitant reply suggested wariness.
He spoke in the standard Earther lingo, “Bas, can we meet? It’s important.”
“The usual place?”
“Second street.” He gave their code name for one of their prearranged locations for meeting safely.
“How soon?”
Estimating he would need tomorrow morning at a minimum to arrange his trip to Mars, Alarik said, “In five sixth of a cycle.” In standard Warrish usage, a cycle was one planetary day.   
“Okay.” Bas ended the call.
Checking he was free of pursuers, Alarik walked to the nearest subway station. He hunched his shoulders and slowed his pace to meld with the other pedestrians on the sidewalk, while he mulled over his conversation with the Triarch. In retrospect, he ought to have advised Webale about the risk of using his virtual projection. However, any warning might have been ignored. Triarchs were often reluctant to accept suggestions from their underlings.
He rubbed the knuckles of his fingers. The absent sixth digit itched as often happened when he came under stress. Desperate to save their youngest brother, he and Baswin had submitted to voluntary amputation for this covert mission. The lenses concealing the unearthly color of his irises and the skin patch over his triad tattoo could be removed. Alas, the mutilation of his hands was irreversible.  
Descending into the gloomy subway, he kept his hand on his knife. Once he reached the inner city, he would shed these garments and don a sleek business suit to resume his alias of Rick Kent, wealthy Belter.