At last, the second book in the Shadowed Space co-authored by Lucinda Pebre and A.K. DuBoff is almost here! Shadow Rising continues the adventures of Kali, Mika, and the band as they try to find the missing women and unravel the truth about Tregaren's place in a larger scheme.
About the Book
Kali must stop a new threat rising in the Outer Colonies.
As kidnappings continue, it’s new TSS Agent Kali Wietris’ job to find out why. Her investigation points to a secretive planet, Red Ghost, where no one visits without an invitation.
Pirates are fifteen-year-old Treva’s best hope of finding a mother, who mysteriously disappeared when his absent father returned. With his mother’s warnings about criminal ties ringing in his head, Treva becomes increasingly worried about the cost of his father’s love.
Together, Kali and Treva must uncover Red Ghost’s secrets. The last thing they need is the complication of an experimental, sentient weapon known as the Destroyer of Worlds. With the fate of entire planets on the line, Kali must confront the rising threat and free the captives before it's too late.
Shadow Rising will be released on July 10th!
Herja surveyed the Alacrity through the viewport. At more than three hundred meters long, someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make her look like a standard cargo ship, with a boxy shape and rough paint job. Without a doubt, she was heavily armed, and—if the rumors were true—complete with an independent jump drive.
The Alacrity was on a steady course, away from Glaendor, and Herja didn’t think that anybody on board had noticed the Hyperion’s pursuit yet. Once they were detected, Herja would have to rely on the captain’s need to keep their black-market jump drive a secret. If activated, the Alacrity would disappear and be untraceable through the SiNavTech beacon network. Herja’s own independent jump drive made her just as maneuverable, but it didn’t do her any good if she couldn’t track her target.
An incoming request came over the comm. It was from the Alacrity.
Herja’s stomach flipped at being spotted so much earlier than she’d planned. But, if the captain wanted to talk, they were still in the game.
She smiled. “Gosta, be ready to move.”
The big man sighed in response, as if she was causing him pain for the fun of it.
She shook her head as she activated the comm link and turned her attention to the viewscreen. A seated man in his early forties, with close-cropped dark hair and angular features, stared back with half a smile on his stubbled face. “You’ve picked the wrong target. We never cooperate with pirates.” He smirked, anticipating her reaction to his next words. “This ship belongs to Marco Steyn of the Steyn Corporation.”
Before responding, Herja checked that their transmitting signal remained disguised. “Who?” She gave him a serene smile.
“You’ve got to be kidding!” he snarled.
Herja didn’t mention that they were targeting the ship because it was owned by Steyn. “You should cut your engine and prepare to be boarded. Do not attempt to alert any other ship. If you cooperate, your lives will be spared.”
“No, it’s you that needs to prepare to be blown into atoms.”
Herja abruptly ended the transmission. “I foking hate pirates, and Steyn is the biggest crook of all.” Gosta raised one eyebrow, which she managed to ignore for a whole two seconds. “We’re not pirating. We are appropriating assets.”
“Whatever you say, Captain.”
“And, you’d better believe it.” She opened a comm link to the shuttle bay. “Kinder, you ready?”
“Hold tight.” She muted the comm and straightened.
Kinder was too young, but weren’t they all? It wouldn’t be long before he was leading a boarding party. Despite it being a standard attack—not that any attack was routine—Herja couldn’t help recognizing the risks her crew took each and every time they raided a ship.
An alert sounded, and Gosta reported, “Their weapon’s system just activated.”
Herja wasn’t surprised. “Evasive maneuvers,” she spoke calmly. “Why do they never just foking surrender?”
Gosta scowled at her from the other side of the console, and she knew without asking that he would have handled things differently.
She scowled back, firmly stamping down her impulse to explain. It’s my responsibility, nobody else’s.
With her full attention on the situation, she switched over to manual inputs to maintain maximum control in the skirmish that was sure to come.
As usual when things got hot, Gosta sounded bored, “Their weapons are fully charged, and…”
Herja tuned him out as she felt for the missiles heading their way, ignoring the display. She took the Hyperion into a series of gentle, random rolls, dodging enemy fire as volley after volley launched from the Alacrity. It was a fine line between taking a hit or two to get in close enough to use the Catch-All, and maintaining safety. She spun the Hyperion to focus fire at the midsection of the Alacrity.
“Prepare to Catch,” Herja ordered. “Lock on target, but do not go active.”
“Aye, Captain,” Gosta said. He would have had a firm lock on the ship from the moment the sensors had picked up the Alacrity. “Catch-All locked in.”
They were almost within range. Herja felt her heart thump as everything that could go wrong surged through her head.
“Activate!” she said as soon as the system confirmed they were in range.
Gosta authorized the well-aimed beam set up by the computer. The enemy ship attempted to execute a jump to avoid what they probably thought was a weapons blast; they would have made it two seconds earlier. Instead, the shield flickered as the Catch-All overtook the target ship’s systems and disabled everything except for life support. The Alacrity’s automated defenses would eventually overcome the remote hack, but not before Hyperion’s crew had boarded and secured the vessel.
The Alacrity was at her mercy. Herja could blow the ship out of space now, if she hadn’t wanted to take its cargo intact. Not to mention, there was also the danger that such a blast would expose them to the security patrols around the nearby planet.
Herja checked the live feed from the sensors, trying to determine if there were any other vessels in their immediate vicinity, then scowled in irritation. It was impossible to be sure. There had been a lot of covert TSS activity in the sector recently, and they were still too close to Glaendor for her to turn down her internal threat level.
We need those resources, she reminded herself as she glanced at the holographic display.
“Open a channel,” Herja ordered. She waited for the nod from Gosta before speaking. “You have one minute to surrender before I blow your ship into atoms.” There was a long pause—long enough that Herja wondered if the Catch-All had inadvertently rendered the Alacrity unable to respond.
The same captain’s head and shoulders filled the screen. Only, this time, he looked like he wanted to strangle her with his bare hands.
“Hold your position,” Herja told him. Like they have a choice. “And, Captain,” she continued despite his glare, “be ready to greet us. All weapons will be stowed in lockers and any onboard security systems will be disabled.”
“We are a cargo ship, not military,” the captain snapped, his face going red with fury.
“A Steyn Corporation cargo ship. I know—you said.” She sighed. “Cooperate, and you will be spared. Resist, and I will destroy your ship.” She switched channels to her crew, who’d been waiting in two shuttles, ready for as soon as she gave the go ahead. “Kinder, you have permission to launch. Good luck.”
The display updated in real-time as the shuttles arced away from the Hyperion, heading toward the crippled ship. Herja tensed as they entered weapons range, knowing that a single plasma beam could pick off a small shuttle before anybody knew they were under attack.
She activated the comm channel for engineering, trying to distract herself. “Hold position until we have searched the ship, then we will resume our journey to Glaendor.”
The console bleeped with an incoming transmission. “We boarded the Alacrity. There was no resistance.” Kinder sounded calm and steady; he may be young, but he had the makings of a decent team leader.
It was a shame that they couldn’t take the ship as a prize, but Herja couldn’t see how they could get it somewhere to sell that wouldn’t ask questions. Plus, what would she do with the crew? Though she’d planned to let them live, first they had to believe they were going to die; it was necessary in order to keep everyone in her crew safe. While it would be easier and more profitable to sell them into slavery, that was a line she wasn’t willing to cross—a line that would make her a true pirate.
“There’s a problem,” Kinder said over the comm.
“Problem, what problem?”
“Their cargo is farming equipment.”
“Are you sure that—”
Herja would have laughed if it wasn’t so tragic. Farming equipment could top the list for the most dreadful haul—hard to sell and useless to her people. Well, fok! What do we do now?
— — —
Treva was neck and neck with Nash as they raced through the covered walkway on the outskirts of Glaendor City. With his breath loud in his ears, Treva strained to gain the lead from the older boy. Nash’s longer legs wouldn’t save him from the humiliation of losing to the ‘little one’ this time.
With the metal floor clattering underfoot, their laughter bounced off the riveted walls before the sound escaped upward toward the protective dome enclosing the city. Turning a bend, the walls to either side were covered in dark patches—gang tags. They had crossed the invisible threshold into Starhills.
Every other week, there were reports on the local news of someone who’d gone missing in the area. Treva wondered why people didn’t stay away. And yet, here he was.
All their pick-ups were on the outskirts of Starhills. Today there was only one, but it was further in than usual, and Nash had been late.
Treva glanced around, senses alert for danger. It was deserted, with most sensible people already tucked up in their allocated quarters for the night. The boys’ gleeful shouts faded, but they maintained their speed.
No way is Nash going to win again. Even as he thought it, pain stabbed the area beneath Treva’s left ribs, causing him to gasp and slow down. He struggled on, knowing that there was no chance of beating Nash with a stitch but unwilling to give up.
Predictably, Nash pulled ahead, powering on without slowing or looking back. It was too dangerous to split up, but Treva just jogged on, clutching his side.
In the fading light, he made out Nash’s silhouette jumping headfirst into a large disposal unit next to a transport stop. Limping over, Treva’s gasps of pain turned to giggles, which intensified the pain until he doubled over, sucking in air. When Nash’s legs started to thrash and kick, shaking the whole tube, Treva couldn’t catch his breath. He should be keeping watch to warn Nash of anyone coming, but he couldn’t help himself.
Nash emerged, smelling strongly of rotting vegetables but triumphantly brandishing a small bag. His fair hair, a stark contrast to Treva’s own dark curls, was plastered to his head. “That’s the last.” He scowled. “And if you don’t stop laughing, I’ll make you do all the retrievals in future.”
Treva’s chuckles eased off. Nash wasn’t kidding about making him stick his head into the dirty black tubes to retrieve the packages taped to the inside. “But you do it with such style.”
Ignoring Nash’s glare, Treva checked his battered handheld. It was difficult to make out the time through the cracked screen, and he had to tilt it toward a bright spot on the walkway until the numbers came into view. He forgot about his side-stitch and Nash’s threat. “Shite, we’ve eight minutes to get back to the Blue Pixie.”
Nash sighed as if it was Treva’s fault. “Try to make those little legs work if you don’t want me to leave you in the dust.”
As they ran back the way they’d come, Treva wondered why he’d bothered to come along. Though, there hadn’t been a choice; not really. He didn’t like to admit, even to himself, that he was already too deeply involved to bail.
In his mind, he could see Ava’s beautiful scowl and hear her snap in her heavy accent. “This is no game, and I’ve no time for stupid or lazy,” she’d say.
Treva pressed a hand to the painful area under his ribs as Nash gained a sizable lead. The pressure didn’t help him run any faster, but he couldn’t bring himself to release the spot.
“Stitch,” he shouted by way of an explanation for his slow pace when the older boy glanced back to check on him. A transport shuttle passed overhead, and Treva wistfully watched it disappear; the deliveries would be so much easier if they didn’t have to run everywhere. “Couldn’t we—”
Ahead, Nash stopped to wait for Treva to catch up, his scowl adding ten years to his face. Treva felt the air vibrate with the other teenager’s irritation. “You know that we have to avoid being logged anywhere. Besides, what excuse would we give for being so close to Starhills? We don’t live there, thank fok.”
We might be visiting friends,” Treva suggested when he reached the spot where Nash was waiting.
Nash shook his head. “Don’t be stupid. Nobody visits. Most of the kids don’t go to school. They’re too busy robbing, so where would you have made friends? They don’t have nothing to do with outsiders.”
Treva shrugged. Nash was right again, but he wouldn’t say so. “As if people are going to be staring at us like we’re celebrities or something,” Treva muttered under his breath, still annoyed that they were reduced to going everywhere on foot.
All the same, Nash made a valid point. It was obvious that whatever was in the packages was illegal, and it was much easier to maintain secrecy if they stayed off the grid.
The older boy set off at a fast walk. “Come on. The cameras haven’t been working down this way.”
How can he be sure they aren’t fixed? Treva couldn’t ask since Nash was already too far ahead; besides, he probably wouldn’t answer.
They crossed back into Glaendor City, and Treva felt that he could breathe more easily. They weren’t far from his tiny home. He was lucky enough to live in a district within the city proper and not in one of the outer neighborhoods. Like Treva, other locals tended to live in the zones ringing the ritzy center of town, where rich tourists liked to try their best to buy happiness. Occasionally, one of the wealthy off-worlders would wander outside the areas where flashing credits would prompt good service rather than turning them into an easy mark. Reading the invisible borders between neighborhoods was one of the lessons any kid needed to learn fast, and it always amazed Treva how some adults could be so oblivious.
Their path took them to another covered walkway tunneling through the ground level of several mixed-use buildings. Fortunately, they only encountered a few people.
Nash stopped short. “Shite.”
Treva followed his gaze to see Mr. Patrache, his neighbor, scowling as he marched toward them. Stars, it’s just my luck we had to bump into him. Treva looked behind; they could find another route, but they were already late and couldn’t afford further delays.
Nash sped up as if relishing a confrontation.
Treva could see from Mr. Patrache’s determined expression that there was going to be trouble. Why does he have to be so nosey?
Treva caught up with Nash, unsure whether to back him up or stop him doing something stupid. The two of them against one grumpy old man wasn’t fair.
Mr. Patrache shouted, “Treva, what are you playing at?”
Treva looked at the ground, unable to meet Mr. Patrache’s gaze. For a second, he hated the old man for making him look weak, but the feeling didn’t last; his stomach rolled over, realizing that there was little he could do to stop things from escalating.
Deep down, I’m just as bad as Nash.
The older boy halted in the middle of the walkway, eyes narrowed. “None of your foking business.”
The old man was bad-tempered, but he wasn’t a bad person. In the twelve years he had known Mr. Patrache, he’d helped out Treva’s mother hundreds of times. The trouble was, he thought it entitled him to act like Treva’s father.
Desperate, Treva grabbed Nash’s arm. “We’re late. No time for this.”
Nash planted his feet, pulling free with ease. In his mind, Treva pictured a flash of the knife that Nash carried in his pocket, with Mr. Patrache crumpling to the ground.
I have to stop it.
“Your mother would be upset to see you hanging around with people like him.” Mr. Patrache nodded in Nash’s direction.
True; if his mother had known, she would have been worried. Another part of him shouted that she was the one who’d left, taking with her any right to tell him what to do.
Nash loomed over Mr. Patrache. “Get lost, old man.”
Mr. Patrache stayed focused on Treva while a tremor ran up his arms. “I won’t be intimidated by shite like him.”
Doesn’t he see the danger?
“Tell him how it is,” Nash snapped at Treva as his hands curled into fists.
Treva couldn’t find the words that would save them all, so he gripped Nash’s arm again and tugged. “Come on,” he pleaded.
Nash shook him off, stepping into Mr. Patrache’s face, his expression hard and fists clenched. “Get out of our way. Treva doesn’t need you poking your nose into his business.”
The old man wasn’t going to back down, and Treva suddenly knew that he was afraid but was trying to protect him.
Increasingly desperate, Treva searched for a way out. “Nash, people are watching.”
It was only after he’d said it that he realized it was true. A woman a block away nudged her companion and pointed at them. They were drawing attention, and rule number one was to operate unnoticed.
Nash must have realized it too, because he shook out his arms and moved backward. “Stay away from us.”
Mr. Patrache started to respond but Nash was already going. Treva pressed his lips together, hoping to escape quickly and yet, he remained frozen in place by manners or guilt. He wasn’t sure which.
Treva started to back away. He intended to run after Nash, but Mr. Patrache’s surprisingly strong hand landed on his forearm.
“I know you won’t listen, but he’s dangerous, and… I owe it to your mother to look out for you. If you need anything, come find me.”
Nash dangerous! Treva wanted to laugh it off, but he couldn’t after what had just happened.
Mr. Patrache’s bright determined eyes glinted in the walkway’s light. “Promise me.” The old man’s grip tightened until it was painful.
Treva found himself saying, “Promise,” just to make him let go.
Nash can be moody and a know-it-all, but he’s not dangerous. It was no good. He couldn’t even convince himself.
Before Mr. Patrache could say or do anything else, Treva broke free, running as if his life depended on it. He caught up to Nash, only because the older boy had waited for him again, and he didn’t look happy about it. Treva’s heart was beating harder than it should and his stitch had been forgotten.
Nash didn’t say a word on the way to the Blue Pixie, and there was a tension that hadn’t been there before the confrontation. Treva kept quiet and tried to keep up, not wanting to stoke Nash’s temper further.
The Blue Pixie was a good two hundred meters off the main walkway, along a footpath that always seemed to collect garbage. It was just inside the city, which gave it a legitimacy that it wouldn’t have inside the residential district.
Nash glanced at the time on his handheld. “Sixteen minutes late; not the end of the world.”
Treva let out a relieved breath when he saw that the club was still shrouded in darkness. He had been told not to be seen going in, once the club was open for business, since he was underage and Ava didn’t want to risk her license.
Lights positioned on the walls outside glowed orange but gave off little illumination. They would light up the area once the club opened.
A pair of hard-eyed bouncers glanced their way as they scooted past. Although he never said anything, Treva suspected that Nash spent more time at the club than he did with his family. Now that he thought about it, Treva didn’t know anything about Nash’s home life.
Friends should know things like that about each other. He shut the thought down, not sure that he could take anymore this evening.
The usual bartender was absent and a friendly young woman was frantically stocking the shelves with heart-shaped bottles. If Treva had been on his own, she might have asked for identification, but one glance at Nash and she returned to her work.
Has it really only been five weeks since I first came here?
Treva bumped into a table, almost upsetting a blue bowl with a red fish swimming circles at its center. Nash glared and Treva shrugged apologetically.
I have to be more careful. I need the money now more than ever and they barely seem to tolerate me as it is. He rubbed his face. It had just been a bad day, that was all.
Nash slipped between the tables and chairs as if he could see in the dark and made his way down a narrow corridor to a well-concealed door halfway down, where he knocked loudly.
There was a pause, and then the door swung open to reveal an elegant blonde woman in a pantsuit, which did nothing to hide her long legs. Ava’s ice-green eyes studied the two teenagers before she opened the door wider.
Treva stayed behind Nash as they went inside. The clean, fresh scent of Ava’s perfume permeated the claustrophobic space. As soon as the door closed, he felt trapped. The only light came from a holodisplay over a desk, and he could just make out the shape of an internal door to the left and an identical one to the right.
Nash relaxed and grinned, becoming more like the boy Treva had admired at their initial meeting. Six weeks ago, outside school, Nash had approached him, and Treva had thought he’d mistaken him for someone else. But no, despite the age difference, the boys had quickly become friends. Shortly after, Treva had started to help collect the packages.
Ava sat behind the desk, staring at them. “Well?”
Nash started talking, “Just made it, even with Treva’s old friend showing up to cause trouble.”
Treva was about to argue that it wasn’t his fault when Ava’s attention snapped to him, causing him to shrivel up inside. She didn’t like him, but he had no idea why.
Treva swallowed. “He’s not a friend, just a neighbor.”
“I don’t care who he is. Don’t talk to him.”
Treva nodded, relieved when Ava turned her attention to the small package Nash dumped on the desk.
Ava did something on the touch-surface desk before she focused on the viewscreen, effectively dismissing them.
Nash glanced down at his handheld. From his smile, they had been paid.
Treva looked forlornly at his own device, disappointed that he couldn’t see the screen in the low light. He stayed quiet, feeling stupid for not knowing how much they’d get. It hadn’t occurred to him to ask earlier and now he didn’t want to draw attention to his ignorance.
Nash leaned against the desk in the sort of insolent manner Treva admired but could never imagine emulating. Based on the spark in his eyes, he must have received a lot of credit.
The boys looked up as the back door swung open. Marco Steyn strode into the room.
Nash straightened and the grin disappeared. He gave a respectful bow of the head while sliding his handheld into his pocket.
Ava stood with a smile.
Marco nodded to Ava and Nash, but his smile focused on Treva. “I was hoping to catch you here.” His intense, brown eyes and dark complexion reminded Treva so much of his own; it’d always been obvious the traits hadn’t come from his mother’s side.
Treva was glad for the low lighting because it hid his burning face. “Hello, Father.”
- - -
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