Three colony ships escaped planetary annihilation. Only two made the jump.
Now the survivors of the third ship are on the brink of destruction.
The colony sends out crews like Bishop Jones and his sister, Anne, to scour the solar system in search of resources while dodging pirates and aliens.
What they uncover instead is a secret worth killing over.
They're labeled as terrorists and cannot return to the colony ship. All they want is to clear their names before the colonial military hunts them down.
If you like unforgettable heroes, plenty of snark, survival warfare, and sprawling galactic tales, then you'll love this space opera adventure
I stood below the fractured skies of our ancestral home, shaking my head. “Such a shame,” I said to Anne. “It really is beautiful. You think we’ll live here someday?”
Apparently, about a hundred and fifty years ago, we were testing some new faster than light engine and there was a freak accident. One of the ships was attacked by a rogue party trying to claim the drive. A lucky missile cracked one of the drive cores and set off a chain-reaction antimatter explosion.
Aliens came out of subspace declaring that only the chosen few races, which had been ordained by the gods, were to travel at the speed of light. Those who would blaspheme against the gods were to be eradicated.
Earth had sent several prototype colony ships off into deep space to escape their wrath; however, our ship was shot down and crashlanded on the moon.
No human or animal life survived on the planet, yet we had to come to the surface every few months for water. Luckily, the air was still breathable, just really cold. It’d been this way for a century and a half. What was left of humanity in this system was just barely surviving.1
“Bishop, quit daydreaming, and come help me with these repairs,” grumbled my little sister. “It’s only a matter of time before the Sentinels come searching. We have to get off the surface before sunrise.”
Hours later, I watched the beautiful sunrise through the canopy window as streaks of moisture beaded up and streaked down the glass. The Strider climbed toward space, and I watched the mountains fall away far below us. Looking out the side, I could just make out the black dots on the horizon, backlit in the morning glow. Sentinels.
“It’s gonna be close,” said Anne. She was an expert pilot. But even with her skills, she was right. “Get ready, it’s going to be rough.”
I nodded and reclined my chair, as I pulled on the interface gloves and helmet. A tingling sensation ran through my body as I became the ship. Or rather, its sensory network connected into my central nervous system. Through my sensors, I could feel the ground falling away and gravity lessening its pull on the ship. I could see the Sentinels clearly. Their long tentacles reached menacingly toward us as static electricity began building in their biological cores. I deployed our own weapons just in case.
“Beginning ascent,” said Anne over the comms. The nose of the ship climbed, and I could feel the G-forces increase exponentially as we went vertical and climbed for space.
Shock lances of focused static electricity began to hammer the back of the ship, but the armor plating held as the sky turned to black. The Sentinels needed oxygen for their biological cores, and thus, they wouldn’t be able to follow us into space.
“Did we get enough water for the colony?” I asked as I removed the interface gear.
Anne shook her head. “There’s enough to survive, but no one will be showering more than twice a month if they’re lucky.”
“You’d think for all of our advanced technology we’d be able to synthesize water.”2
“From what? Moondust?” she asked, laughing. “We need the oxygen and hydrogen from the water to power the colony ship and keep everyone breathing.”
“Just wait, sis,” I said. “One day, I’m gonna snag an asteroid and get enough ore to fix the colony ship and move us back to Earth.”
“An asteroid? How?” she asked between fits of laughter. “Even if we hitched a ride on one of the freighters, our little tub wouldn’t be able to handle the inertial stress. It’d rip the ship apart before you even attached to the asteroid.”
“Don’t laugh, sis,” I said, scowling. “It’ll happen one day.”
“Bishop, I love you. But you’re only seventeen, and you don’t even have an education. They’re not gonna let you use up resources that the colony can use for more important projects. Hell, the only reason we even have the ship is that Mom and Dad left it to us.”
“What’s my age have to do with it? You’re only sixteen, and you’re one of the best pilots any of us has ever seen.” She blushed. “I’ll find a way and I’ll save the colony ship.”
“Unidentified ship, please send identification codes,” chattered the comms console.
Anne responded with whatever today’s rotating code cipher was, and we proceeded to dock with a massive freighter. Once aboard, we helped connect the freighter’s hoses to our cargo bay and let their workers do the rest.
“I’ll catch you at dinner,” said Anne. I nodded, mind entirely elsewhere, and I headed off toward the back of the cargo bay.
I waited by some storage crates until a scruffy-looking man in his mid-twenties approached me.
“Bishop,” he said.
“Steve,” I nodded. “Did ya get it?” I asked, beside myself with excitement.
“Kid, you have to get that eagerness under control. If we hadn’t been friends, I’d have price gouged you for being an easy mark.” He chuckled. “Had to pull some strings, but yeah, I got it.” He pulled a small black cylinder out of his coat pocket.
“No shit, you’re serious?” I asked.3
“Military grade even. Don’t get caught with it.” He looked around again. “And you didn’t get it from me.”
I nodded and took the cylinder. We parted ways as calmly as we could and put some distance between ourselves. Hoarding military spec technology was a huge crime on the colony ship.
Back aboard the Strider, I quickly pulled out my interface gear and all of my tools and laid everything across the workbench. This is going to be so amazing!
I took out the new chip that Steve had acquired for me and set it on the antistatic pad next to my interface helmet. Carefully, I removed the access panel on the back and found the processing unit. I swapped it with the military spec processor and flipped the switch. Nothing happened.
I looked at the status indicators and the OVERLOAD indicator was flashing. "What the hell?" I asked to the open air. After some thought, I tested the power consumption at the test point near the processor and found that there wasn’t enough juice to power it.
After connecting some spare micro-thin synapse wires from the processor to the main power junction, the helmet came to life. I smiled as I cleaned up the equipment and tools and dragged all the interface equipment back to the cockpit.
After making sure all the connections were secure, I reclined in the seat and started up the system. The usual pre-checks went off without a hitch and in a fraction of the time. Then the headache started. I had expected some discomfort but nothing like this. I pushed on.
I became the ship. And vicious, agonizing pain erupted throughout my entire body. My vision went white.4