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by Steph Bennion

Ravana O'Brien is confronted by her past in more ways than one. Secret agent Kedesh is back on the scene, seeking recruits for a mission. Artorius, the young boy from PAW-PRINTS OF THE GODS, has been traced to a shadowy American base in Alpha Centauri...

CHAPTER ONE (excerpt)
An unexpected reunion

ebookRAVANA O’BRIEN WAS CAPTIVATED. It did not matter that the tiny theatre was no more than a scruffy storage shed tucked away at the back of the market, the stage a pile of shipping pallets draped in threadbare carpet, nor that the repurposed runway lights illuminating the performance creaked ominously on rusty chains above where they sat. Nor did she care that the actors themselves, two elderly women dressed in old-fashioned survival suits, stumbled over their lines and gave each other prompts. The story spoke to something deep in her soul. She would never look at life in quite the same way again.

“Is this rubbish nearly over?” murmured the dark shadow that was Endymion, sitting to her left. “My arse is getting numb sitting here.”

“Shush!” hissed Ostara, who sat to Ravana’s right. “This might be a good bit.”

Ravana frowned, the play’s spell upon her broken. Endymion, the tall Nigerian youth who had recently wormed his way into her affections, fidgeted on his packing-case seat looking bored. The usually chirpy Ostara, a diminutive Chinese woman in her twenties, wore a puzzled frown as she studied the stage for its next revelation. Ravana had to admit she was not quite sure why a play about two old women pining for their lost sweethearts should resonate so strongly with herself, a seventeen-year-old Indian Australian from the Epsilon Eridani settlements. Even by late twenty-third century standards, Waiting for Goddard was a strange and confusing play. One woman was part way through a dreadful rhyming soliloquy fairly typical of the play’s previous lovelorn odes:

“Lost in space, adrift in his hollow moon,
“His heart cried to me, a bright star-hewn tune!
“Wrought of loneliness, all hope nearly lost,
“I send you my love, whatever the cost!”

That the tale referred to a hollow moon was enough to keep Ravana enthralled. The play was about the mysterious disappearance of the Robert Goddard, a twelve-kilometre asteroid colony ship which had left the Solar System for Barnard’s Star more than a century before and vanished without trace. Its sister ship the Dandridge Cole, launched at the same time, had better fortunes: after a successful fifty-year voyage to a planet called Frigg, it had gained a second life in the hands of dispossessed adventurers seeking a refuge of their own. The Dandridge Cole, still in orbit around Barnard’s Star, had been Ravana’s home for the past ten years. She stared again at the stage’s panoramic holoprint backdrop of an inside-out world, wondering if it had been recorded aboard her own familiar hollow moon.

The makeshift theatre was at the tiny spaceport of Lan-Tlanto on the planet of Ascension, as Frigg was now known. Outside the settlement’s protective dome, the area had little to offer other than harsh alien scrubland and thin, poisonous air. Inside, the spaceport’s reliance on black-market trading meant there were far too many shady characters around for comfort. With time to kill whilst awaiting cargo, Ravana needed little persuasion after Ostara spotted a poster put up by the touring theatre company. Waiting for Goddard was a play she had heard of but never seen. Two hours later, baffled yet spellbound, Ravana was amused to note that the enthusiasm of her colleagues had not lasted long. The rest of the pitifully small audience never made it past the interval.

“What I don’t understand,” whispered Ostara, gesturing to the women on stage, “is why are they in love with two men they’ve never seen?”

“Or why we’re here watching it at all,” muttered Endymion.

“All they heard was that garbled radio message at the beginning,” Ostara continued, pointedly ignoring Endymion. “That’s hardly a basis for a lasting relationship.”

“I think that’s the point,” Ravana replied, albeit hesitantly. The play was certainly odd; the second half mainly consisted of the two women trying to outdo one another by shouting dreadful poetry at the sky. “The Robert Goddard took away their dreams.”

“Very deep,” said Endymion. “Wait, are they finished?”

Ravana realised the play had come to a somewhat abrupt halt. The women had concluded their amateur dramatics and were bowing to the audience, or at least those who remained. Their anxious expressions sought approval. Endymion shook his head and sighed. Ravana yelped as she found herself dragged to her feet.

“Bravo!” cried Ostara, clapping wildly. “Well done!”

Ravana smiled and joined in the applause, reluctantly followed by Endymion. The performers smiled, bowed again and meekly shuffled from the stage. Dusty overhead lights came on as the spotlights faded within the shed. The show was over.

Ostara looked around the empty theatre. “What happened to everyone else?”

“The ones not stupid enough to sit through the whole thing?” asked Endymion.

“Shut up,” Ravana told him. “A bit of culture now and again won’t harm you.”

“Tell that to my backside,” he complained. “That seat gave me splinters.”

* * *

Outside the makeshift theatre, the market bustled with activity. Lan-Tlanto’s habitation dome, three hundred metres in diameter and sixty high, was one of the oldest structures on Ascension and tiny compared to later settlements on other faraway worlds. The market hall was in the centre of the dome, overlooked by cheap hostels and towering storage sheds, a rowdy meeting place where stalls bristled with displays advertising the vendor’s wares. Those who frequented Lan-Tlanto were a colourful bunch of traders, spaceship crews, mechanics and crooks drawn from the four corners of humanity. English remained the language of trade but the air buzzed with a dozen different languages laden with colourful curses. Ravana hesitated as a glimpse of a red-headed woman in black awoke an unwelcome memory, then dismissed it as paranoia. Lan-Tlanto was a place to be wary, where smugglers and traders had their own way of dealing with rivals. Danger was never far away for those looking for trouble.

For those happy not to ask questions, anything could be bought or sold at Lan-Tlanto: farming supplies, spare parts, software, robots, even second-hand spacecraft; but its speciality was illicit drugs and weapons. City administrators at Newbrum, Bradbury Heights and the other legitimate settlements of Ascension had for years left Lan-Tlanto to fester, happy to keep the planet’s undesirables on the far side of the world, out of sight and mind. Yet times were changing. There were to be elections next month to choose a new Administrator and council for Lan-Tlanto. Quite who the voters were was a mystery; the spaceport was currently considered illegal with no official residents.

The smell of fried, spicy delights from food stalls, each offering weird and wonderful delicacies from across the five systems, was making Ravana’s stomach rumble. The odours clung like sweat, the skin on her face itching beneath her thick make-up. Swinging her bag to her shoulder, she momentarily closed her eyes and jabbed a mental finger to bring up a time display in her mind’s eye. Her cranium implant, a communication and control device, was a legacy of her childhood in Epsilon Eridani, lodged in her head by someone who should have known better. Its biological processor used brain cells cloned from those of Epsilon Eridani’s mysterious alien greys, a fact she found profoundly disturbing to this day.

Ostara stopped to stare at an election poster for a candidate called Damian Nyx. Scowling, she glanced at her wristpad, which most people used as their link to the five system network. Even Ravana thought they were far more sensible than brain implants when it came to latest fashions. The same could not be said for Ostara’s attire. She wore a long tweed coat that came down to her knees and a matching hat with flaps that could be untied to cover her ears. Endymion and Ravana were less conspicuous in their usual grey flight suits, though being teenagers amongst old grizzled smugglers inevitably turned stares.

“Wow,” Ostara remarked. “I can’t believe we were watching that play for two whole hours. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? Still, it’s one way to kill time.”

“And brain cells,” quipped Endymion. “What now?”

“We should head back to the ship,” said Ravana. “Ostara, are you sure you don’t want to come with us? Father was saying he hasn’t seen you in months.”

“It’s been almost a year! The last time I saw you in Newbrum you still had those awful scars on your face,” remarked Ostara. “You still haven't said how you got rid of them! But I’ll give the Dandridge Cole a miss. Investigations don’t take care of themselves, you know.”

“How is Newbrum’s premier detective agency?” asked Endymion, adopting a gentle mocking tone. “Still chasing lost cats?”

“Someone has to bring order to Ascension,” Ostara said solemnly. “The world you abandoned for your new adopted home. You used to mock us for living in a ‘crazy asteroid’.”

“Stop it, both of you,” chastised Ravana. “It’s been lovely to catch up. Come on, let’s get to the dock. I’ve a feeling those mechanics are all-too ready to start stripping the Platypus for spares if we’re late getting back.”

“Spares for what?” retorted Endymion. “Museum exhibits?”

“Hey!” she protested. “That ship has a good few years left in it yet.”

Feigning annoyance, Ravana stomped away through the crowded market, challenging the others to follow. The supplies they ordered should have been loaded onto her father’s freighter by now. Despite Lan-Tlanto’s reputation, it was nothing illegal; the issue was more that their Dandridge Cole home was not recognised as an official Commonwealth colony in the Barnard’s Star system, which made regular trading difficult.

By the time Endymion and Ostara caught up, Ravana had reached the far end of the market. Watched by the pretty boys in skirts and cat ears lounging outside Sekhmet’s Saloon, this was where the stalls gave way to a wide thoroughfare leading to the main dock. Ravana paused to let a six-wheeled transporter rumble past, its turbine hissing under the load of the spacecraft plasma engine strapped to its cargo bed. A pair of shadowy figures in brown cloaks waited in a similar manner on the other side of the road. Their eyes were not on the passing vehicle, but on Ostara, Endymion and herself.

“Drat,” muttered Ravana. “We may have outstayed our welcome.”

The others did not hear her. She hastened them onwards, following the transporter through the huge airlock doors ahead. Both sets between the main dome and the dock were wide open, contravening numerous safety protocols, not that anyone seemed to care.

Lan-Tlanto dock was little more than a large concrete hangar alongside the main dome, where robot forklift trucks laden with cargo hummed quietly between the airlock gates lining the far wall. Ravana turned towards the one for their own ship and stopped. Two men in green flight suits stood blocking their way, their faces marred by scowls as unpleasant as the plasma pistols holstered at their hips. She glanced back and saw a man and a woman enter the dock behind them, their brown cloaks now pulled back to reveal similar attire.

“Hey!” called a man at the gate, looking her way. “We want a word with you!”

He and his companion came towards them, walking with the confident swagger of professional thugs, no mean feat on a world with gravity around half that of Earth. The man and woman who had trailed them into the dock were hastening forward, their guns drawn. Ravana was mystified to see that the woman wore a blue badge with the words: ‘VOTE NYX’. Looking anxious, Endymion and Ostara shuffled closer.

Ravana cast a furtive glance around the hangar. In her mind’s eye, a deft mental jab flexed the purple icon of a duck-billed platypus, her private link to her father’s ship. The image turned green and expanded into a line of symbols, behind which hovered a cobweb image of the Platypus itself. Ravana found the control to tell the onboard artificial intelligence unit to start pre-launch checks, sensing they might need a quick getaway. After a moment’s thought, she set her implant to scan the dock for malicious devices that should not there.

“Who are they?” she whispered to Endymion. “Do we have anything worth stealing?”

“They might be Federation,” he muttered. “My sister said they were back at Bradbury Heights University last month, asking about your adventure on Falsafah.”

“It was Que Qiao who were after us,” Ravana pointed out. “And Dhusarians.”

“Same difference,” he grumbled. The new Terran Federation of Worlds, comprising of Yuanshi and Taotie in Epsilon Eridani, Falsafah in Tau Ceti and Mercury in the Solar System, had taken over much of what previously had been administered by China’s mighty Que Qiao Corporation. “One big unhappy family now.”

Ostara nervously huddled behind him as if trying to make herself invisible. Ravana’s father disliked having weapons aboard the Platypus and none of them were armed. It was then that Ravana realised just who the scary people around them were looking at.

“Detective Lee!” the first man declared. “Moritasgus would like you to pay him a visit. Come with us now and your friends will not be too badly damaged.”

His hand went for his holstered pistol. Ravana glanced warily to Ostara. The fearful look she got in return was a picture of dismay.

“Bouki Moritasgus!” exclaimed Ostara. “I thought he was in jail!”

“One of your detective cases?” asked Endymion, perturbed.

Ostara nodded. Visibly shaking, she was trying to stand firm. Being a detective was her dream job but chasing the low-lives of Ascension brought occupational hazards. Ravana did not need to ask what Ostara’s response to the man’s demand might be. As he and his three accomplices came closer, she checked her cranium implant’s targeting function. The dock was clear of hidden enforcement cyberclones, which had been her fear. The AI systems of the forklift trucks glowed bright yellow beneath the cross-hairs in her mind’s eye.

“Well?” asked the man, sneering. “Do we do this the hard way?”

“I have no business with Moritasgus,” declared Ostara, sounding much braver than she looked. “It’s his own fault for associating with slimy scumbags like Captain Nyx. I went to see him in Bradbury Heights and he locked me in a garage full of space rats!”

“Actually, that was me,” said the woman standing to their right. “It was hilarious.”

“I’ve got this,” Ravana whispered. She took Ostara’s hand and squeezed gently. “Whatever you do, don’t move a muscle.”

Beside her, Ostara tensed. Endymion gave a wry grin. Ravana closed her eyes and concentrated on the glowing icon representing the nearest forklift truck. The operator menu now opening in her mind’s eye was similar to that of the cargo lifters aboard the Dandridge Cole. She just needed a few seconds to study the controls.

“Space rats?” Endymion was saying. “Bradbury Heights has really gone downhill.”

“Shut your mouth,” growled the man before them. His colleague had yet to speak. “You’d better persuade your detective friend to come quietly or... hey!”

His words ended in a strangled yelp. A forklift truck shot past Endymion, scooping the man up into its lowered forks. A second truck was right on its tail, bowling the woman onto the empty wooden pallet it carried and raising her high in the air. Ravana, her eyes still closed, watched the dizzy scene unfold through the trucks’ onboard sensors, her mind’s eye view jumping from one camera to the next. A gun slipped from the grasp of the woman trapped on the elevated pallet and fell to the warehouse floor with a thud.

The first truck surged towards the others, their wriggling colleague still stuck between its forks. Raising his gun, one of the men fired at the approaching machine. Ravana flinched as plasma bolts ricocheted harmlessly off the tough shell of the truck. In her mind’s eye, she saw her last two targets staring in horror into the camera as the forklift knocked them off their feet. Alarms began to sound, followed by the thud of boots as Lan-Tlanto’s security team finally ran into the dock. The truck crunched to a halt against the wall, pinning all three men between its forks. Only then did Ravana dare open her eyes. Security guards had surrounded both forklifts and were shouting at those trapped to drop their weapons. It took her a while to realise that the spluttering sound beside her was Endymion laughing.

“Space rats are not funny,” Endymion told Ostara, wiping the tears from his eyes. “But that was. Bloody hell, Ravana. When did you learn to do that?”

“That was you?” asked Ostara. Her bewildered stare moved from the trapped men to Ravana, who was holding a hand to her throbbing headache. “You used your implant!”

“Never mind that,” said Ravana, wincing. “Let’s get out of here.”

Ostara looked up at the woman on the raised pallet, who was on her hands and knees, staring down at the distant floor with genuine fear in her eyes. Endymion hastened towards the airlock, which Ravana saw was already open.

“I’ve reconsidered your offer,” Ostara said hesitantly, turning to Ravana. “A trip to the Dandridge Cole and away from the day job will do my nerves the world of good!”

* * *

Space-traffic control at Lan-Tlanto was half-hearted at the best of times. Given the circumstances, Ravana did not ask for permission to leave. She disconnected the walkway to the ship’s airlock immediately upon closing the cargo bay door, rushed to the flight deck and soon had the Platypus rolling onto the spaceport’s runway. The purple and white Mars-class freighter powered into the air, all four wings of its slim fuselage extended and its beak-like sonic-shield generator pointing to the sky. The chastisement they received over the communicator from the spaceport was more bemused than annoyed. Lan-Tlanto was used to hasty departures.

Ravana ignored the sarcastic messages and concentrated on their ascent. She had become more comfortable using her implant link to the ship’s AI and the reassuring stream of flight data in her mind’s eye. The shuddering of the ship intensified as the Platypus picked up speed, then eased once more as the wings retracted and the ship left the tenuous atmosphere of Ascension. The curve of the rusty-brown planet fell away and the sky deepened from pink to black. The roar of the engines faded to a grumble and finally fell silent. Through the flight-deck windows, stars glittered pin-sharp and bright in the endless void.

Endymion and Ostara were with her on the flight deck, Endymion in the co-pilot’s chair that was usually Ravana’s when she flew with her father Quirinus. A sabotage attack aboard the Platypus the year before last had cost Quirinus his sight in one eye and his pilot’s licence for Ascension airspace. Ravana, though only seventeen, had recently qualified as a fully-fledged pilot in her own right, allowing her to take over the regular cargo runs to Lan-Tlanto. She needed a second person aboard for safety reasons, but more often than not it was Endymion rather than her father who accompanied her. Ostara sat in the seat behind her on the right, her petrified expression finally fading to a broad grin as the ship’s shuddering ascent slipped into the weightlessness of orbital free-fall.

“Ship?” called Ravana. “Fire up the plasma drive and set a course for home.”

“Your wish is my command, Captain Ravana,” purred the AI’s female tones.

“I’ve not been in space since we left the hollow moon aboard the Indra,” Ostara confessed. “I’d forgotten what it was like. Did the ship always talk like that?”

“Woomerberg Syndrome,” said Endymion. Ostara gave him a blank look. “The AI caught a bug and got conceited.”

Ravana leaned back in her chair and wearily rubbed her eyes, still on edge after the confrontation at the dock. Now safely in space, she brought up the maintenance log on an auxiliary screen. A puzzling line of text had caught her eye during pre-flight checks.

“I’ve not been up in space since we left the hollow moon aboard the Indra,” Ostara confessed. “I’d forgotten what it was like.”

“You’ll soon get your space legs back,” she said, flashing Ostara a reassuring smile. “But I was right to be suspicious about the ground crew,” she added, gesturing at the console. “Someone opened the cargo bay door while I was jousting bad guys with forklifts. Your friends might have been planning to ambush us when we boarded.”

“That’s not all that’s suspicious,” Ostara said warily. There was a tremble in her tone that made the others turn and stare. Ravana, what happened to your face?”

Ravana froze. “My face?”

“Your make-up is smeared,” Endymion said hesitantly. “Doesn’t she know...?”

Startled, Ravana’s hand instinctively went to her right cheek. The fingers of her other hand fumbled for the communications console, bringing the flight-deck holovid camera view on screen. A pale streak marred her face below where she had rubbed her eye. Beneath the carefully-applied brown foundation, grey skin glistened with faint silver threads.

“Your scar!” exclaimed Ostara. “Couldn’t the clinic match your skin colour?”

“I didn’t have surgery,” snapped Ravana.

“But when I saw your scars gone, I thought...” began Ostara.

“It... It just happened. I was ill, then this rash appeared... it was horrible!”

Endymion leaned across and gently took Ravana’s hand.

“Aliens,” he said solemnly. “She caught the same weird virus from the cloning stuff Taranis left in the engine room. Remember those half-alien, half-human cyberclones?”

“Of course I remember. Ravana and I saw them being born!” retorted Ostara. “You were with me when we ran into two of them again in Newbrum! Ravana, is that what happened? Did you really lose your scars to an alien virus?”

“I don’t want to talk about it!”

Ostara seemed miffed. “I’m your friend! You can tell me.”

Ravana scowled and turned away. Feeling stifled, she shoved her thumb against the console to switch off the offending screen. The trauma of her illness last summer haunted every mirror. Ostara was her best and oldest friend, but now she lived on Ascension the closeness in their relationship was no longer there for Ravana to confess her fears. The best Endymion or her father could do was reassure her that everything was fine. Ravana felt the pins and needles where the scars on her face and right arm had been and knew otherwise. Ostara’s innocent concern left her flustered. Ravana felt hot and bothered.

“Ship!” she said crossly. “Check the environmental systems. It feels stuffy in here.”

“Increased carbon dioxide levels detected. Oxygen levels are six per cent below optimum,” reported the AI, catching Ravana by surprise. “Current crew manifest lists three occupants, as instructed. Readings suggest there is an unlisted fourth person aboard.”

Not for the first time, Ravana wished the AI had an actual unambiguous presence on the flight deck so she had somewhere to direct her startled stare.

“There’s someone else aboard?” she asked, suddenly fearful. “Ship, show the camera feeds for inside the carousel and cargo bay. And update the environmental settings to get some fresh air in here. I’d rather not suffocate before we get home.”

“Confirmed,” replied the ship.

“A stowaway?” asked Endymion.

“It could be one of Jagger Jamshid’s gang!” Ostara whispered fearfully.

“Who?” asked Endymion, confused.

“Or maybe Samurai Siduri,” she mused. “She hates my guts.”

Ravana’s eyes narrowed. “Just how many people have you annoyed on Ascension?”

All eyes went to the console screen. A holovid of the interior of the spinning passenger carousel appeared, its bunks and couch conspicuously empty. The next view was of the rear section of the cargo bay, crammed with strapped-down freight. Ravana caught her breath as she glimpsed what looked like a face peering from behind a crate.

“Ship, hold that view,” she said. “Look!”

Endymion squinted at the screen. “A woman,” he said. “With red hair.”

“Damn,” muttered Ravana. “Of all the people who...!”

“It’s her!” exclaimed Ostara, straining against her seatbelt to look.

“What?” Ravana asked, puzzled. The person she had been thinking of was not from Ascension, nor the Dandridge Cole. “You know her?”

“She doesn’t look familiar to me,” Endymion said unhelpfully.

“Ship, maintain our course and alert me straight away to anything out of the ordinary,” Ravana instructed. She glared at Ostara. “We’re going to the cargo bay.”

“Your wish is my command, Captain Ravana,” chirped the ship.

“We’re going to confront the stowaway?” asked Endymion. “All of us?”

“You could go alone,” suggested Ostara.

“Let’s go together,” he agreed, nodding sagely. “Someone has to keep you girls safe.”

Ravana rolled her eyes. Releasing her seatbelt, she pushed herself from her chair and somersaulted gently in the zero gravity back towards the rear of the cabin. The hatch to the metre-wide crawl tunnel was habitually left open whilst in flight, but the one on the far end into the cargo bay was sealed. The tunnel formed the hub of the ship’s passenger carousel, a squat cylindrical chamber which in deep space revolved six times a minute to mimic Luna-like gravity against its curved walls. Ravana slipped into the revolving tunnel, past the carousel entrance and onwards to the cargo bay hatch. Endymion was right behind her, followed by Ostara’s yelps as she struggled to remember how not to get bruised in free fall.

“Our visitor might be armed,” whispered Ravana, glancing back. “Once we’re inside, you two make your way across the floor. Endymion, I need you to guard the airlock controls for the main door in case our guest tries anything stupid.”

Endymion nodded. Behind him in the tunnel, Ostara lifted her head and waved.

“Ostara, your job is not to do anything stupid yourself,” Ravana told her.

Ostara shrugged. “I’ll do my best.”

Ravana released the catch securing the hatch and carefully pulled it open. The cargo bay lights were on. The spherical bulk of the extra-dimensional drive blocked her immediate view across the small bay, which was crammed to capacity with goods for the hollow moon. With one hand on the access ladder, she retrieved a cricket bat wedged behind a nearby strip of cargo netting. She was sure their visitor would appreciate the choice of weapon.

Bat in hand, Ravana launched herself across to a handhold on the ED drive and shimmied up across the power conduits which wrapped the drive like a web. Reaching the top, she slipped beneath the oxygen tanks lining the roof of the cargo bay, paused and looked across the hold. The intruder was crouched in the far corner, her arm looped through a rope securing a pallet of grain sacks. The woman’s stare darted between Endymion and Ostara, who had made their way to the floor on either side of the bay.

Ravana watched Endymion as he checked the airlock controls and armed himself with a rope knife. Ostara had spotted the woman and was gesturing excitedly. Ravana sighed. She had hoped to take their stowaway by surprise.

“It’s okay!” cried Ostara. “She’s...”

Ravana did not let her finish. With one hand on the ED drive, she planted her boots against the ceiling and launched herself towards the floor in a slow somersault. As her feet hit the grain sacks, she grabbed a rope to stop herself bouncing away and raised the cricket bat. Startled, the woman whirled around, brandishing a gun. Ravana’s fierce stare locked upon the intruder’s familiar stern features. The close-fitting black overalls she wore looked militaristic but carried no insignia. Ravana’s earlier suspicions had been right.

“You!” she exclaimed, scowling. “What are you doing on my ship?”

The red-headed woman grinned. “Ravana O’Brien! Caught you on the back foot?”

“You know her?” asked Ostara. “We met months ago in Newbrum. Her name’s...”

“Marion Kedesh,” Ravana said sourly. “Commander of the Grand Priory.”

“The English secret agent you told me about?” remarked Endymion, edging closer. He brandished the knife as if not quite sure what to do with it. “From Falsafah?”

“You make it sound so furtive!” Kedesh snapped irritably. “Sneaking aboard other people’s ships is not my usual style. I find myself on somewhat of a sticky wicket.”

“I thought Que Qiao locked you away,” grumbled Ravana. “Why are you here?”

“Artorius is in trouble,” said Kedesh. “Is there any tea on this spaceship?”

* * *

[End of excerpt from the novel THE AVALON JOB.]

Another ancient alien portal has been found, a mysterious machine that can twist space and time. Artorius, the young boy taken by Que Qiao agents after Ravana and friends saved him from the clutches of the Dhusarian Church, is the key to those who want the alien portal open. This time, not all interested parties are human...


Book 1
Book 2
Book 3
Book 4
Book 5
Main Sequence
Intro Anthology