Tag Archives: military

Valor’s Calling Now Available!

Valor’s Calling is now available from Amazon!

http://amzn.to/2fuCp8I

 

The past calls you back.

Jiden made the decision to join the Century Military Academy after her attempt at a normal school ended in disaster.  She’s embraced this new chapter in her life and she’s ready to do her best.

Jiden’s best may not be good enough.  Her relationships with her friends have changed since she’s been away, her classes are harder than she expected, and things aren’t quite what they seem.  Jiden made enemies when she chose to return to the Academy, and those enemies will settle for nothing less than her death.

Jiden must fight with everything she has, not just to succeed, but to stay alive.  Jiden will prove that she isn’t afraid of the challenge, because the military life isn’t just a simple decision, the military is her calling.

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Valor’s Calling Snippet Three

Here’s the third and final snippet for Valor’s Calling.  You can find the first two here and here.  Valor’s Child is available today from Amazon!

The Enclave was weird. As we drove through it, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The buildings were all squat and low to the ground, vehicle garages were all underground. It wasn’t a big city, or at least it didn’t seem to be.

That was, right up until Karmazin drove down into what looked like an oversized garage… and the road kept going. I craned my head around in surprise as I saw that the road descended into the ground, winding deeper and deeper.

Karmazin gave his smirk, “My people come from Dalite Three, what we call Acrotan, where the cities are all underground. The planet’s environment isn’t as friendly as here.”

I shot him a disbelieving look. Century was a dry, dusty world. We didn’t get anything near a winter and it only ever rained near the two polar seas. I hadn’t ever heard anyone call our world “friendly.” It’s a dry, barren dust-ball, and most of us think our ancestors were crazy for leaving behind the cool green hills of Earth…

“We’re used to living underground,” Karmazin went on. “Most of the Enclave is below ground. It’s easier to maintain temperatures and it provides better defenses that way, too.”

“Who are you defending against?” I asked.

“Anyone who might attack,” Karmazin hedged. It was a vague enough statement to make me feel uneasy. I’d heard that Enclave citizens were prohibited from service in the Century Planetary Militia by a recent Charter Council decree. Was that because they felt the Enclave was some kind of security risk? For that matter, if there is some kind of fight, which side would Karmazin pick?

I knew they were refugees, from the Three Day War with the Dalite Confederacy. I hadn’t expected them to have defenses or for their aerospace port to look so militarized.

Karmazin pulled into a side street and then into a vehicle garage. He climbed out, “I’ll help you out with your bags,” he offered, moving to open the cargo compartment.

“I’m good,” I said quickly. “I can’t stay long, this is just a quick visit on my way to the Admiral’s house.” The words came out before I could help them. I’d planned

He cocked his head at me, “You’re sure?” There was something in his voice, almost an edge of disappointment. I wasn’t going to think about that, though.

“Yeah,” I forced myself to smile. “I’ve got a lot of the pre-class assignments to knock out.” That wasn’t a lie. I still had several papers to write and three more books to read. I hadn’t even started the military ethics research paper itself yet, in part because I felt like it was sort of pointless.

I’d planned on working with Ashiri and Karmazin. I can do it on my own. The very thought of spending hours with them left me feeling sick. “There’s an evening flight I’ll need to catch, I just have a few hours.”

I had seen there was an evening flight. I had no idea if they had any seats left, but I was going to the aerospace terminal regardless. I’d spend the night there if necessary.

“Well,” Karmazin said, “I’ll give you the quick tour, then.” He gave me a solemn nod, almost as if I’d hurt his feelings. Well, he probably should have thought of that before he started dating my best friend.

I banished the thought before I could go on. I wasn’t going to resent my friends. This wasn’t their fault. I was the one who’d changed her mind. I was the one who had been wrong and I couldn’t expect things to be the way I’d secretly dreamed they’d be.

“This way,” Ashiri said, leading the way. I followed them through the door.

Alexander Karmazin’s home was far more spartan than I’d expected. There was a small dining room, a smaller living room, both with a few simple prefabricated tables and chairs. There were a couple of decorative holoprojectors, which painted two of the walls with vistas of a rainy, lush planet.   I thought I recognized the pattern as one of the default settings, one that most people typically replaced with some kind of custom display.

A tall, dark-haired woman greeted us as we stepped inside. She have Ashiri and I both nods, “Ashiri, welcome back.” Her gray eyes locked on me. There was something watchful there, evaluative and somehow threatening, as if she didn’t know what to make of me. “You must be Jiden Armstrong. I’ve heard quite a bit from Alexander about you.” She had the same olive skin, the same quiet watchfulness as Alexander, I saw.

“Jiden,” Alexander Karmazin said, “this is my mother, Diane Karmazin.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” I said.

“Yes,” Alexander’s mother said. I wasn’t sure if that was agreement with what I’d said or simply an acknowledgment. “Alexander tells me that you’ll be staying for a few days?” Her voice almost sounded resigned.

“I’m afraid not,” I replied. “I’d meant to clarify, I only had time to swing through and say hello, I’m quite a bit behind on my studies.”

“That’s too bad,” Alexander’s mother replied. She somehow managed to make that sound both sincere and insincere at the same time. I didn’t know if that was because she really didn’t want me here or if she somehow realized why I didn’t want to stay. Either way, I was eager enough to take that as a way to make my exit.

“Well,” I said, studiously glancing at my datapad, “I probably should get back to the terminal if I’m going to catch my flight.” I looked up, “Thank you for inviting me to your home.”

“Of course,” Alexander said. He was looking at his mother though, almost as if he sensed something was wrong. I had no idea what was going on, but I felt like leaving was going to be the best thing I could do.

All I wanted to do was get out of there and I think Alexander was really regretting the invitation to visit. I felt like an idiot, but I managed to say polite things as I backed out and Alexander gave me a ride back to the terminal. I passed the trip in silence. Thankfully, he didn’t seem very talkative, either.

***

 

A few hours later I’d boarded a commercial skimmer and had my datapad out while I worked on some of my projects. I’d been lucky to get a ticket on the flight, the only one leaving the Enclave that day… but I’d scrapped my plans of staying with Karmazin and his family. Not with his relationship with Ashiri.

I’d managed to message the Admiral to let her know I was coming a few days early, just before I boarded. Now I was buried in work. Some people hated to work on a flight, but I welcomed the chance to tune everything out, to not think about how my expectations had been completely overturned.

The skimmer was surprisingly empty for a holiday season flight. It made me wonder if Karmazin’s people celebrated Christmas… or for that matter, if they celebrated off-season from everyone else. After all they were from another world. I knew there were some Christian and Jewish sects that followed the standard Earth twelve month calendar, in spite of the fact that it didn’t remotely match up to Century’s fifteen month years and three seasons.

My mind went off on a bit of a tangent, sort of wandering as I stared out the window. I watched the hydrogen-powered gas turbine, just sort of staring at the heat distortion from the jet wash. It was mesmerizing and I just sort of watched as the superheated gasses blurred the setting sun and desert.

I had a perfect view of the missile that came streaking in at us.

My eyes went wide as I realized what I was seeing. But by the time I could open my mouth to shout a warning, there was a flash of light and the entire skimmer shuddered. The detonation was muted, but the skimmer went into a spin. I heard shouts and screams from the other passengers and the whine of the turbines altered pitch. The smooth flight became a rough spin and I was smashed against the side window. Staring out, I had a great view of the burning engine as the skimmer cork-screwed towards the ground.

I’m going to die. The thought wasn’t as jarring as it should have been. I’d nearly died several times. It just seemed unfair that I’d survived being shot down and attacked by criminals, only to be shot down in a commercial aircraft.

There wasn’t time to panic. There wasn’t time to do much of anything. I found my hands going to my seat restraints, tightening them, even as I heard the skimmer pilot come on over the intercom, “Brace for landing, brace for landing,” his voice sounded abnormally calm and some absent part of my brain wondered if he was a graduate of the Century Military Academy.

The remaining engine roared as the pilot fed it power. The skimmer stabilized and the nose swung up. I watched the spinning sky and sand transition to mostly sand and some sky. This side of the aircraft was lower, the damaged engine providing little or no lift. The sandy, rocky ground whipped past, far too fast for me to pick out details and far too close for me to focus on it.

We hit, a bone-jarring, grating, sliding, and world-ending chaos. Passengers and their possessions flew through the compartment. Something heavy struck me a glancing blow to the head and I saw stars. I saw the skimmer engine ripped away and then a moment later we smashed, hard, into something and the entire craft jerked to a halt.

I unbuckled my restraints and stood. Passengers looked around dazedly. An attendant fumbled with one of the doors up front, but I didn’t see the attendant here near the rear. I pushed past my seat-mate and moved to the door, moving on impulse. The skimmer was damaged, the hydrogen tanks were probably leaking. We had to get off the craft before the hydrogen caught fire or exploded.

I wrenched the door open and the smart-plastic ramp extended. I started to jump down it, but then I saw that no one was following me. I stared at the passengers, most of whom were either in shock or possibly denial. “Move it!” I shouted, “Get out of here!”

I reached over, popped the restraints off a nearby woman and jerked her to her feet. Without thinking I pushed her down the ramp, then grabbed the man next to her. “Go!”

Passengers started to move. Some fumbled with their restraints and I hurried to help them, pushing them towards the door. I didn’t want to think about how little time we had. Hydrogen gas would be spreading through the aircraft. All it would take would be a spark and the entire skimmer would go up like a bomb.

“Go!” I shouted, shoving a business-man ahead of me. I looked around, not seeing anyone else near the rear of the aircraft. I started towards the door when I heard a whimper of pain. I looked over and saw movement under a pile of bags. I reached down, throwing stuff out of the way and found an arm. I pulled, dragging the attendant out from under the pile. She was battered and bloodied, her eyes unfocused. “Let’s go!” I shouted, pushing her towards the door. We ran out, sliding down the ramp and then plowing into a group of passengers milling around the bottom of the ramp. “Get clear!” I shouted at them. “It’s going to catch fire!”

I pushed and shoved at people, even as I heard a whoosh. The sound turned into a roar and I felt a wash of heat, even as I stumbled away. The dusk turned bright as daylight and I looked back to see the entire aircraft engulfed in flames. “Go!” I shouted angrily at people as they stopped to gawk.

We weren’t anywhere near a safe distance away. I helped an attendant to herd people away from the crash site and the roaring flames. We’d managed to get two hundred meters away when the hydrogen tank exploded like a bomb. As the blast knocked me to the ground, I finally gave up and just stayed down. A moment later another hydrogen tank detonated, then the third.

I lay on the ground, listening to the roaring flames and the panicked shouts of the people around me. Someone shot at me… again. There was no reason that I thought of myself as the target, but somehow I knew that I must be. Someone had fired a missile at me. They’d nearly killed dozens of people… trying to kill me.

As I lay on the hard, hot ground, I had a dread certainty that they wouldn’t stop until they succeeded.

***

Valor’s Calling Snippet Two

Here’s the second snippet for Valor’s Calling.  You can find the first snippet here.

Valor’s Calling will be available on September 29th, 2017.

Dad was the one who flew me back to civilization. He’d raised an eyebrow when I’d asked him to drop me at the Enclave, but he hadn’t questioned it. He talked as he flew. Dad wasn’t as good a pilot as mom, so the skimmer bobbed a lot, but Dad’s stories were interesting enough to keep me distracted. It sounded like they’d found a lot of interesting stuff in this next level down of the old alien ruins under Black Mesa.

I was glad for the distraction, because I’d started to feel nervous. I’d messaged Alexander Karmazin to let him know I’d be coming by on my way to the Admiral’s house. He hadn’t responded other than to say he’d meet me at the Enclave’s landing terminal. Most towns on Century just had landing pads in residential areas. With almost all of Century’s surface being land mass, it wasn’t like we didn’t have enough room to spread things out a bit.

The Enclave, though, was supposed to be different. Karmazin had told me that they were refugees of some type, military refugees if you could believe that. His grandfather was the Enclave’s leader, his mom was some kind of important official there too, so Alexander should know.

The terminal we set down in looked like a military base. Most of it was underground, with a few buildings with sensor masts and what looked like weapon emplacements above-ground. Off to the side, past a few big cargo and personnel transports, I actually saw a row of military skimmers and beyond them I saw the big, sleek forms of Mark V Firebolt warp-drive fighters.

Okay, I thought, maybe there’s a reserve unit doing drill here or something.

Dad talked with traffic control and then settled us down near one of the personnel transports. As he dropped the ramp, I looked over to see Alexander Karmazin and Ashiri Takenata come out of the nearby terminal building.

I unstrapped quickly and hurried to the ramp. I felt a smile growing on my face, it felt good to see them in person. Alexander Karmazin stood tall, almost two meters, with dark brown hair and olive skin. Ashiri stood next to him, her short black hair tossed in the hot dry wind.   I opened my mouth to shout a welcome… and then I saw them standing close to each other, holding hands.

Oh.

I forced myself to smile, “Hey, guys, good to see you.” My voice sounded robotic and I felt like an idiot.

“Yeah,” Ashiri smiled back, her expression was wooden, “good to see you too.” She sounded nervous.

“So, these are your friends?” Dad asked from behind me.

All I wanted to do was turn around and run back up the ramp. I felt so embarrassed. Of course they were together. It wasn’t like Alexander Karmazin had showed any real interest in me. We’d been friends… and the one time he’d even hinted at wanting to be anything more, I’d thrown it back in his face by telling him I was leaving the Academy.

Instead I forced my face into something between a smile and a grimace and turned to my dad, “Yeah, these are my friends, Karmazin and Takenata.” I deliberately used their last names. It let me distance myself from it. If I thought about them as classmates, it didn’t feel like a betrayal.

“Great, well, I commed the Admiral, she’s covered your ticket from here back to Duncan City, so I guess I should get back home,” my dad said cheerfully. On impulse, I stepped forward and gave him a hug, burying my face in his shoulder. I wanted to cry, but I told myself that was silly.

He patted me on the back and gave me a last squeeze, then turned away and walked up the ramp.

I turned back to face my friends, they still held hands. It hurt, like my whole chest constricted around my heart… but at this point, I should be used to pain. “Let’s get out of his way, right?” I said as casually as I could manage. I shouldered my duffel bags and moved out of the way of the skimmer.

I was thankful for the sound of the turbines. It meant I had some time where I didn’t have to talk. Carrying the weight of my bags meant I had an excuse not to look at my friends. As the hot air blasted over us, I could pretend that the tears in my eyes were from the turbine wash.

***

 

“So…” Ashiri said a few minutes later as she and I stood by the curb, waiting while Alexander Karmazin brought up a ground vehicle. “We didn’t know you were going to be coming back. Alex and I started spending a lot of time together and…”

I realized with horror that she was going to explain how she and Karmazin had hooked up. The last thing I wanted was to hear any details. “Ashiri, it’s fine. Really, you don’t need to explain.” I swallowed, “It wasn’t like Karmazin or I were dating. We’re just friends, like you and me.” I said the words with as much sincerity as I could manage.

Ashiri shot me a look. I forced myself to meet her brown eyes. “You mean that… I mean, I thought you two…”

“There was nothing between us,” I interrupted before she could finish. “And clearly, you two are together. It’s fine. I’m happy for you both.”

“You’re okay, then?” Ashiri asked, her voice intent.

“Yeah,” I replied. “I’m okay.” It wasn’t like I had some sort of claim to Karmazin. Besides, I liked Ashiri, she was my friend. I couldn’t be angry with her. We’d been through too much together.

I’d be okay. Everything would work out.

If I just kept telling myself that, maybe I’d even believe it.

***

 

Ghost Star Wants You… To Leave Reviews!

Hi everyone, Ghost Star has been out for almost a month. As such, it’s time for me to pester my faithful readers to please leave a review!  Amazon, Goodreads, wherever you prefer… even just emailing me to tell me you hate it.

For those of you who purchased it (and I know you’re out there, I’m seeing the sales) please leave a review.  I read them all and I take what you all say into account.  This is a growing universe and your feedback helps me to improve as a writer.

Thanks for reading!  Kal

Coming Soon: Valor’s Calling

Valor’s Calling, sequel to Valor’s Child, is coming soon!  The second book of the Children of Valor series covers Jiden’s first full year at the Century Military Academy.

The past calls you back.

Jiden made the decision to join the Century Military Academy after her attempt at a normal school ended in disaster.  She’s embraced this new chapter in her life and she’s ready to do her best.

Jiden’s best may not be good enough.  Her relationships with her friends have changed since she’s been away, her classes are harder than she expected, and things aren’t quite what they seem.  Jiden made enemies when she chose to return to the Academy, and those enemies will settle for nothing less than her death.

Jiden must fight with everything she has, not just to succeed, but to stay alive.  Jiden will prove that she isn’t afraid of the challenge, because the military life isn’t just a simple decision, the military is her calling.

Valor’s Calling will be released on the 30th of September.

Ghost Star Release

Ghost Star, Book 6 of The Shadow Space Chronicles, is now available.

Lieutenant Commander Forrest Perkins is haunted by ghosts.

He’s lost his ship and most of his crew, he’s been accused of being an enemy agent, and the woman he has come to love has been declared dead.  He’s a man with nothing left to lose… which is why he’s about to do the unthinkable.  His plan is simple: steal a prototype warship, assemble a crew, and hunt down the man behind all this: Marius Giovanni.
 
To do that, he’s going to have to find a place whose location is shrouded in mystery.  It’s a star system that has been erased from the star charts, a star system of ancient alien ruins, rumored to be haunted and cursed, and a place where death and misery befalls all who venture there.  Forrest will have to go to the Ghost Star.
 
Where better to bring the woman he loves back from the dead?
Get your copy here.

 

Ghost Star Snippet Four

Here’s the fourth snippet for Ghost Star.  You can find the first three snippets (one, two, three).  Ghost Star comes out at the end of the week (September 1st).

June 10th, 2410

124R36 System

Unclaimed Space

 

Aromata Atagi grinned as the four destroyers emerged from shadow space dead in the middle of his ambush. Engage, he sent and as one, the five frigates of his squadron opened fire.

Each of the frigates were substantially smaller than the three destroyers they faced, but at close range and with the element of surprise, that didn’t matter much. Thirty mass driver rounds smashed into the lead pair of destroyers, an overwhelming barrage against foes who had no idea that they were even under attack.

The frigates had angling shots above and below the belly-bands of the destroyers’ defense screens. Armor shattered and engine pods detonated under the salvo of tungsten-tipped depleted uranium rounds. Yet both ships went to battle stations, radar lashing out, weapons systems coming online and flailing blindly in an attempt to suppress the incoming fire.

Second salvo, Aromata commanded. These enemy ships were immaterial, but they needed to be removed so that he could hit his true target. His lieutenants replied, even as they volleyed another thirty mass drivers into the two lead ships.

One of the two destroyers broke in half, its midships shattered, all systems offline. The other was a powerless hulk, venting its hydrogen fuel and atmosphere from massive rents in its hull.

But in the time it took those two destroyers to die, they bought the next pair of ships time to get their systems online, time to search for the killers of their brethren… and Aromata’s smile faded a bit as he sensed that the fight had shifted.

Flank them, he commanded, and his five frigates surged forward, single firing pass. He didn’t need to give them more detail than that. His commanders knew how to move in coordination, they’d conducted raids similar to this one dozens, even hundreds, of times together. They had the initiative to move and maneuver, they knew their orders… and they knew why this one mission was different and why it was very important that they follow his direction perfectly… even if it meant that some of them might not survive.

Aromata’s frigate went high, while the other four split into pairs that swung low, firing their mass drivers from knife range, all four focusing fire on the third destroyer. Aromata, however, had a different target.

He took over weapons, reaching out with his psychic senses as he did so, feeling for the exact position of the Defiance-class destroyer… and it’s very important passenger. There you are, he thought, even as he aimed his frigate’s mass drivers, taking the time to line up the shot perfectly.

The frigate’s single turret fired, three mass driver rounds lanced out, too close to dodge, and smashed through the side armor of the fourth destroyer. The ship shuddered, but power stayed online and both its engine pods remained intact. That ship was Reese’s flag ship, and Aromata Atagi’s shot had just destroyed the vessel’s shadow space drive.

Reese Leone’s destroyer continued to spit mass driver rounds in reply and Aromata’s frigate shuddered under multiple impacts, glancing blows, but still enough that alarms wailed through the bridge. He saw that the third destroyer was crippled, the vessel yawing over, still returning fire, but spinning like a dying beast.

Mission accomplished, Aromata sent, withdraw.

All five of his frigates had sustained damage, two of them severely, but they retained their shadow space drives. They’d already plotted their escape routes and they jumped to shadow, leaving the wounded and crippled destroyers behind.

It would look like they’d been driven off, like a pirate ambush that had expected merchant ships rather than a military force. That is what Reese and his master need to believe, Aromata told himself. The five frigates he’d used had been taken from pirates, their systems cobbled together, wholly unworthy of the name of warships.

Every bit of evidence would suggest that Reese Leone had run into a pirate ambush by sheer bad luck. The damage to his surviving vessels would require him to make a stop at Formosa Station to either repair or transfer to another ship. Someone would recognize him, someone would talk.

And from there, it would merely be a matter of making certain that the other game pieces were set in motion. Five pirate frigates had just set in motion the downfall of all of Reese’s efforts. Aromata’s smile grew broad as he considered that. His master would be very pleased and Aromata knew that would translate to better rewards… and a better chance at overall victory. After all, while some Shadow Lords favored overwhelming force, Aromata’s master appreciated a more subtle hand.

Shadow Lord Invictus manipulated from behind the scenes, his focus always upon greater victory.

***

 

June 12, 2410

Formosa Station, 124R36 System

Unclaimed Space

 

Ricky One-Eye scratched at his bald head. The rash that had made all his hair fall out hadn’t gone away, despite the various drugs he’d stolen from the pharmacy. Nor had he been able to regain much of the weight he’d lost while living on garbage and rats in Yaitsik Station’s waste system. At least he didn’t match any of the wanted posters that had popped up for his capture across civilized space.

“Look,” he said in as ingratiating a tone as he could manage, “all I’m trying to do is get back home to see my ailing mother.” He gave a friendly smile, even as he scanned the bar for any potential bounty hunters or law enforcement.

“You look disease ridden,” the freighter’s owner growled. The captain had the only ship going out towards the periphery and he’d been pretty hard to talk around into letting Ricky aboard. Then again, since Ricky planned to murder the man and seize his ship if given the chance, that was probably wise of him.

Ricky’s smile wavered, “Well, you look…”

He trailed off as he recognized the man over the freighter captain’s shoulder, just walking out of the bar. “I understand, entirely, thanks for your time,” Ricky said absently as he rose from the table. He had to have been mistaken, there was no way that he’d seen right. He rubbed at his one good eye and then blinked disbelievingly at the retreating figure.

Ricky stepped out into the station’s corridors, he found his target and followed the man. There was no mistaking the blonde hair or the set of his shoulders. As Reese Leone paused in outside a docking port and looked over his shoulder, Ricky had to rub his one good eye in disbelief. Yet there was no mistaking him. The man sported an impressive set of scars across his face and head, but the shape of his jaw, the blue eyes, and the rest of him was unmistakable.   But… by all reports, Reese Leone was dead. Everyone was talking about that, and Ricky had consoled himself in the fact that the same navy boys that had ruined him had killed Reese not long afterward.

That son of a bitch, Ricky thought to himself. His hand fell to where his pistol should have rested, but then the pirate remembered that he’d had to leave his stolen weapons behind when he boarded the last transport. Ricky knew a guy on the station who could have got him a weapon, but that would have risked the criminal turning him in. After all, last time he’d been here at Formosa Station, Ricky had shorted the fence.

Ricky didn’t want to risk fighting Reese hand to hand. Besides, there was no profit in revenge.

But there might be profit in reporting the man’s survival. Ricky gave a wicked grin as he thought about that. If this was Reese and if his many enemies still wanted him dead, then finding out more about his presence here at Formosa Station could be very, very valuable.

Ricky ducked his head and moved past the man, but he stopped a short distance away and pretended to consult a station map. Soon enough, another man joined Reese at the docking collar. “You’ve made the arrangements?” Reese asked.

“Yes, sir,” the subordinate replied, “we’ve uploaded the coordinates to the rendezvous and we’ve completed our repairs. The Lord Admiral says that our replacement escort will meet us and provide us with the final coordinates to Golgotha.” Ricky nearly choked at those words. Golgotha, he thought to himself, that’s impossible, the place is just a myth…

He’d become so distracted that he missed whatever Reese said in reply. Reese’s underling went on, “Yes, sir, we’ll get them aboard immediately. The rest of the cargo has been loaded, would you like for me to lead you to your suite?”

“No, thank you,” Reese said. “I know the way. Please see to our other guests.” The man turned and scanned the crowd and Ricky felt sweat bead his brow as Reese’s blue eyes settled on him.

Ricky pawed at the map, as if he were tracing a route. He kept his gaze locked forward, even as he watched the renegade military officer out of the corner of his eyes. After a moment, Reese turned back and walked past the guards and onto the ship.

Ricky swallowed nervously. The news of Reese’s survival would be invaluable… but he didn’t have any proof. No one would believe him, especially not with a bogus destination like Golgotha. The place was a myth, a rumored system filled with alien ruins and a “ghost” star that was too dim to see with the unaided eye. It was legendary, a place of fabulous treasures… and a place where so many treasure hunters had reputedly died that Amalgamated Worlds had erased the location from the star charts.

There had to be some way to turn this information to his use, Ricky decided. Even if most people wouldn’t believe his story, there was bound to be someone desperate enough to do so. Ricky would find that person and he’d milk the information for everything it was worth.

***