Oh, hi there. How are you? Good, that’s good.
While the Ardentia series gets a face lift, I’d like you to meet my latest project, a Sci-Fi Space Opera called, Light Tripper.
I’ll be posting chapters on the blog before the edited version makes its way to ebook for purchase.
The Morpheus system sits on the edge of the galaxy, a refuge for smugglers, bounty hunters and infamous space pirates. It is a world built upon few rules; lawless, leaderless and unaffected by the growing influence of the Planetary Alliance, a benevolent military force who bring salvation and peace to a divided universe. But there are rumours. Whispers of vanishing colonies and children herded like cattle. Morpheus continues to turn a blind eye, but what will become of them if the P.A. decides to expand its dominion?
For now Sal Tripp will just focus on what she does best. Bagging the biggest bounties in the system, aided by powers she doesn’t understand. Sal is strong, fast and can manipulate energy, channeling it through weapons with destructive results. But fearful of what her fellow space scum might do to her if they ever found out, Sal keeps her ability a secret that she shares with the only person she trusts, her vice-ridden father, a former Planetary Alliance pilot who owes credits to every gangster in the galaxy. Together they navigate the stars in their derelict ship, Light Tripper.
That’s before a blown thruster puts them at the mercy of the system’s most ruthless crime boss and weaves their path with a hardened super soldier who puts a higher value on Sal’s life than she believes it deserves. Then a giant P.A. battle cruiser descends on Morpheus and suddenly their way of life is threatened.
But this is not a simple invasion. The P.A. want more than territory, more than resources. Sal is thrust into a rebellion and her painful nightmares might just turn out to be terrifying realities. She will need to harness her power, unravel the lies and unite a system of despicable scoundrels to fight for freedom.
I hope you enjoy and please leave any comments/critiques in the comments section!
Of all the cesspits in Morpheus, Enos Station was the nastiest.
Sal paced the cockpit like a cat in a cage. The ship had been docked in the Enos cargo bay for two hours. Morgan should have been back by now.
“Just need a word with an old buddy,” he’d said before he left. “Maybe a quick drink.”
After all these years, how was Sal still falling for the same goopa?
In and out without having to endure the sleaziest third-class space station in the outer systems? Such a feat would require Morgan to keep his word. Sal promised herself again this would be the last time she’d believe him.
She thumped her fist against the off-white ceiling panel above her. The holographic control board twitched and fizzled, static blaring. Another thump stabilized it. She tapped several of the green symbols, then waved the projection aside.
A panel to her left opened and the weapon rack slowly began to eject, the ear-splitting sound of scraping metal filling the cabin. Sal groaned gutturally, tapping her foot. A Nothrosian with six broken legs could move faster.
As soon as there was room, Sal squeezed her hand between the grates, grabbing the PEP revolver. She popped out the cartridge and cursed Morgan some more when she saw a red blinking light taunting her. He was always forgetting to charge the thing.
Sal had won her fair share of fist fights, but when it came to survival upon this million tonne hunk of rusted steel, she fancied her odds a touch more with her revolver in hand. She spit into her palm and rubbed her fingers together to create some friction.
Strikes of blue light broke through her skin, sparking and crackling in sporadic surges. It took all her strength to harness this fist-full of lightning and before she accidentally melted her face off, Sal gripped the cartridge and transferred the energy. Each of the eight chambers flicked green as it charged and by the end Sal was drained. It was always more exhausting generating energy cold, where she had juice to spare if she’d been chasing down a bounty or punching in a face beforehand. The aftermath was the same though. Shaping that energy made her damn hungry.
Sal was startled by banging and cursing that flooded from beneath the floor.
She wasn’t often caught off guard.
“Hey!” She stamped her foot. “Keep stuhm down there!”
What was going on beneath the floor was a problem that would be dealt with later.
Sal loaded the revolver and tucked it into the waistband of her skin-tight cargo pants, keeping it out of sight beneath her well-worn, red leather jacket. Sal twisted her dark, frizzy mess of hair into a knot, then yanked Morgan’s cap over the top. The thing stunk of smoke and cheap moonshine and was printed with a semi-naked Plokami female, her tentacles placed strategically to keep it classy.
Sal rolled her shoulders, sucked in a breath thick with dread, then stormed to the back of the ship and hit the airlock button. With the same finesse of the weapon rack, the airlock opened.
Immediately Sal was bombarded by the bustling din. The cargo bay was overrun with scabs – space transients and general shady types – all clumsily competing to refuel the ship or scrape the thruster scorch from the wing, anything for a few credits to spend at the bars or risk at the dice tables. Sal vigorously shooed them away. Like she had credits to spare.
Most were harmless, everyone had to eke out some sort of living, but it was the ones with the silver-stained fingertips that you needed to watch for. Dust didn’t wash off skin easy.
Sal had never partaken herself, she had enough trouble controlling the lightning in her veins without adding some powder concoction to the mix, but she had seen what it did to people. Most were calm, content to quietly enjoy their hallucinations, but others were just a bad trip away from clawing your face off. Those were the ones that Sal wouldn’t hesitate to unload her revolver into and no one was likely to say boo about it.
After all, this was Morpheus. There was no Planetary Alliance, no border control, no regulations and no standards. The only code around here was a moral one, and people with those were few and far between. That’s why Enos flourished. Its owners didn’t care about your principles or purpose in the galaxy, as long as you had credits to lose you were welcome and the station was not starved for punters. It offered services banned in most systems, including its infamous dice tables, where entire fortunes and bodily organs could be won or lost in a hand. Sal had heard tales of a captain losing not only his ship, but his entire crew. It didn’t surprise her though, Morgan had won their ship in a similar fashion.
Sal headed for the cargo bay exit, but had barely taken a step before being shoulder barged by another Enos arrival. There was drawn-out hiss as Sal was confronted by an eight foot, scaly-skinned Libraton.
“Watch where you’re going, human!” He flicked his forked tongue at her.
Instinctively, Sal reached for her revolver, but quickly reconsidered. Where there was one Libraton, there were another ten skulking around and this was a relatively small one. The others would likely be its larger siblings.
She bit her tongue, digging her hands into her jacket pockets and walking out of the cargo bay with her eyes set on the floor. She only glanced up to read the neon signs directing visitors to each entertainment hub.
The Dago Lounge was the largest bar on Enos and the best place to start her search. The most powerful bosses in the outer systems liked to congregate there and where there was underworld wealth, there were down-and-out space-bums on the hunt for a quick and easy way to score credits.
That was Morgan to a T, and Sal hoped she would find him under the first rock she kicked over rather than having to investigate some of the seedier joints. She was in no mood to drag him from the pleasure pits again.
She approached the heavy, sealed doors of the lounge and was abruptly halted by the doorman.
He was a pale skinned Eriog, not remarkably tall or well built, but by reputation incredibly strong. He was dressed sharply in a dark suit and wore a wide black visor over his eyes, a thin blue line darting back and forth across its shiny surface.
He put his hand on Sal’s shoulder.
She swiftly batted it away.
The Eriog replied by retrieving a sonic revolver from his jacket and pointing it directly at Sal’s head.
Sal frowned, raising her arms lazily in half-hearted surrender which the Eriog accepted, holstering his gun. He lifted the bill of Sal’s cap and leaned toward her dark, brown eyes. The blue line upon his visor began to zigzag and hum as it processed information.
Sal nodded. “Yep.”
“No diseases or infections.”
Sal signed. “That’s good news.”
“Abnormality in genetic make-up. Explain?”
Sal was suddenly nervous. She didn’t let it show. “I don’t know, guy. I just work here.”
She waited for the Eriog’s response, again feeling an itch to grab her gun and see for herself just how strong he was, but fortunately he didn’t seem interested in further details. He continued to speak blankly in his monotone voice.
“No outstanding warrants or bounties. Not currently banned by Enos management. Entry approved.”
The large steel doors slid open, flooding the corridor with pounding bass music and blinding laser lights.
“Welcome to The Dago Lounge.”
Sal feigned a smile and dragged herself inside, the doors slamming shut behind her. It was hard to make out anything against the flashing strobe lights, faces there one moment then gone the next. Further disorientating were the holograms projected in the giant room. Sal looked down to find herself upon a pitch black sky, dressed with a million stars. The walls and ceiling were the same, no sign of the cold, hard steel that encased them, instead the patrons walked amongst the dazzling vastness of Morpheus. It was magnificent and the first thing Sal had found on Enos that she liked, but she’d always been in love with the stars. It was the jerks that populated them that were the problem.
Sal glided through the constellations, making her way to the bar. She pushed past a group of blue-skinned Quisons, avoiding their bushy tails that swished in time with the music.
“What’ll it be?” the bartender asked, putting a glass down in front of her as she took a seat.
Sal was surprised to see the young man was human, all painted and glittered, decorated like a prop and wearing a tight shirt with alternating graphics. He was probably cute under all that eyeshadow and Sal was alarmingly aware of how long it had been since she’d had her itch scratched, not to mention that human men were hard to find. But he was just so… sparkly.
“Not much of a drinker,” she said.
“Maybe you’re after something else?” He leaned forward. “A taste of that silver supernova?”
Sal frowned. “Really? No foreplay? Just straight into the hard sell?”
The bartender raised his arms defensively. “I thought I felt a vibe and I was just trying to speed things up. I can normally pick ’em.”
“Anyone else given you a vibe tonight?” Sal asked. “Tattoos, grey stubble, stinks of moonshine and self-loathing?”
The bartender grinned. “Oh, you’re looking for Morgan, huh? He’s over there.”
He tipped his head to a darkened corner and Sal soon spied Morgan sitting at a table flanked by a cast of unseemly characters. Sal wasted no time forcing a path through the dance floor, earning profanities and hand gestures that transcended language barriers.
She arrived just as Morgan tossed up two glowing blue dice. Sal snatched them from the air.
“Time to go,” she snapped.
Opus was the only player at the table she recognised. Most Gordites looked alike, all loose-hanging skin and tusks, but Opus had a condition that left his face covered in disgusting, pus-filled cysts. Even so, he wasn’t the ugliest Gordite Sal had ever encountered. They were in general, not an attractive species, but they were clever and ruthless.
“Why, is that little Sal Tripp?” Opus bellowed, his sagging chin skin flapping as he spoke. “You were just a youngling last I saw you.”
“And you were less oozy,” Sal replied, gesturing to a freshly popped cyst on his forehead. Opus had a pretty Plokami woman at his side who quickly dabbed up his dripping goop with a cloth.
She narrowed her eyes. “Morgan,” she said firmly.
Morgan sat silent, his gaze was distant, seemingly waiting for the dice to land even though Sal had been holding them for a time now.
“Dad!” Sal yelled.
At last he stirred from his daze. His hair was shaggy, dark blonde and flecked with grey. He was tall, even sitting down and had strong arms covered in tattoos, mostly poorly drawn animals, but there were also words in languages that Sal didn’t understand and Morgan didn’t want to educate her on. He gave his glazed blue eyes a rub.
“Sal. What are you doing here? I told you to wait in the ship.”
“Ship,” Opus laughed loudly. “That’s no ship. It’s a scrap heap with thrusters.”
“I’ve been waiting,” Sal said. “You’ve been gone for hours.”
“I always meant to ask, Morgan,” Opus started. “Why is it that Sal has this delicious brown skin when you’re a dirty, pale sack of goopa?”
The players erupted with laughter.
Morgan’s face was overcome with bliss. “Sal’s mama was an island princess,” he sighed. “Some place with palm trees and water like blue glass for miles. Where was it again, Sal?”
Sal folded her arms impatiently. “You’re the one telling the story.”
“Ugh, I forget…I remember the hips though,” Morgan snorted. “And the rack.”
The players turned to Opus for translation.
“Oomas.” Opus grunted, simulating overly large breasts with his hands.
The players laughed again and Sal wasn’t interested in learning any more Gordite dialect.
“Well this has been great. Morgan. Let’s go.”
“Yes. Runaway, Captain Tripp, like a good little coward. I would expect nothing less of the Planetary Alliance.”
All attention now belonged to the Denian who had so far been silent at the end of the table, though his fierce one-eyed glare was reserved solely for Sid.
Morgan squinted to make out his face. “Do I know you, friend?”
“You do not and I have never been your friend.”
Sal could confirm that he was no acquaintance of the Tripps, there were only a handful of Denians in Morpheus to begin with. But he was certainly familiar with Morgan, enough to know that he was ex-Planetary Alliance.
It wasn’t a closely guarded secret. Most of Morgan’s tattoos were from when he served and everyone this side of the Koji Divide had been forced to endure a grand tale of adventure from the lips of the P.A’s finest fighter pilot. But it also wasn’t a past that Morgan sang from every corner of the system.
For every fond memory he shared there were a hundred he tried to kill with shine and dust. He was also mindful of those unhappy with the Planetary Alliance’s expanding influence throughout the galaxy; those who saw them as oppressors rather than saviours and didn’t much care that Morgan’s status was no longer current. It didn’t take a genius to see which club the Denian belonged to. His revulsion was palpable.
Opus grumbled. “That’s enough, Kar. Talk like that has no place here. Let the rest of the galaxy worry about the Planetary Alliance. They are no threat in Morpheus and neither is Morgan.”
Sal wasn’t surprised to hear Opus defending her father, for whatever the reason he was one of the few friends Sid had. She just didn’t expect him to say such things out loud within earshot of others.
Kar the Denian fell silent and Sal thought this as good a time as any to attempt a hasty exit.
“Well this was swell,” she chuckled with half a smile. “But we have to be going.”
Kar reacted immediately, pulling back his long coat to reveal a holstered gun. Sal noticed a small symbol embroidered on the left of his shirt. A solid black crescent moon within a blood-red sphere. Kar didn’t give her time to ask for its meaning.
“He’s not going anyway until we’re done talking. Until he looks me in the eye and admits what a filthy fashtapa he is.”
Morgan laughed. “I can’t even admit that to myself. What makes you think you’d get the honour… friend?”
Sal rolled her eyes. Morgan was smiling. This was going to get ugly.
From the shadows came two more Denians and they took position either side of Kar, their bony fingers grasping the same style of gun.
Sal looked to Opus but he was all done talking. There was no way he was going to take a bullet for Morgan.
She sighed. “I guess there’s only one way out of this then. Best just roll those dice, Sid.”
At first Morgan didn’t follow, but slowly a grin tugged at the corner of his mouth. He nodded knowingly and said, “Alright, baby.”
He threw the dice in the air and even Kar couldn’t help but watch them fly.
Sal moved quickly, roundhouse kicking the first Denian bodyguard across the face and sending him to the floor. As he fell she used him for leverage, propelling herself upward and straddling the second bodyguard’s shoulders. Sal drove her clenched fist hard into its eye and the Denian howled briefly before Sal tightened her thighs around its neck and flipped backwards, spinning the Denian over the top of her.
In the mean time, Morgan had pulled a large serrated blade from his waistband, a knife he called ‘The Deal Breaker’, and had skewered Kar’s gun hand to the table.
With his associates subdued, Sal grabbed her revolver and pushed it hard against Kar’s temple.
“Sorry, Kar,” Morgan said, gathering his worn jacket from the back of his chair. “My little girl wants to get going and you know how kids can be.”
Kar’s lips were trembling furiously, his mouth frothing like a rabid dog desperate to attack.
Sal reminded him with a shove that she had a fully charged energy gun pointed at his head.
“I’m going to rip you apart,” Kar muttered. “But you’ll still be alive when I start eating you.”
“Hey. What do you call a Denian with a broken nose and a missing hand?” Sal asked.
Before he could answer, Sal drove her elbow into Kar’s face, instantly breaking his nose. She then wrenched the Deal Breaker from his flesh and sliced his hand from his wrist in one strike.
Those at the table were aghast with horrified gasps and winces as Kar cried out in agony.
“Oh, don’t be such a baby,” Sal groaned. “It’ll grow back.”
Morgan grabbed his knife and wiped Kar’s green blood on his trousers. “That is nasty, Sal.”
He took her by the hand and together they fled The Dago Lounge, barging into patrons who seemed more upset about their spilled drinks than the mutilated Denians giving chase from the dice table. Sal was surprised they recovered so quick. She moved her feet faster, her fingers laced tightly with Morgan’s, then she let out a yelp when someone snatched her other hand. At first she thought it was Kar and she braced herself for a likely ass-kicking. Instead she found herself face to face with another human; a tall man with the darkest eyes she had ever seen. His stare was piercing and meant only for her even though there were a million dazzling distractions. His mouth and jaw were obscured with a black scarf and he stood tall and broad, holding Sal’s hand hard against his chest.
Sal felt her knees wobble briefly. He was human, big and pleasantly shaped and wasn’t wearing a speck of glitter. He was practically perfect. It was a shame Sal didn’t have time to swap details. Judging by the commotion and ripple through the crowd, Kar was only a few feet away.
“Can I get that back?” Sal asked, nodding toward her hand.
“You have to come with me,” he said flatly.
“Oh. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to, fella.”
Great, he was a crazy. Why did he have to talk and ruin it?
Sal attempted to yank herself free, but he didn’t relent an inch and all the while Morgan was tugging impatiently on her other hand.
“Sal. What’s the hold up?”
She puffed her cheeks. “Alright, you’ve had your fun, psycho. Now let go.”
The man said nothing and only clutched her tighter.
Sal had lost her patience. She wriggled her fingers free of Morgan and swiped her revolver from her belt. She pointed it between her would-be kidnapper’s eyes. “I can’t miss from here.”
His broad chest heaved a long disgruntled breath and he reluctantly released her.
Sal could see Kar now, charging through the crowd. She looked upon the stranger one last time and still his eyes were adhered to her as if she were the only person in the room. It was intrusive and intimidating and Sal didn’t like it. Before she could ask him what the hell he thought he was doing, he whipped back his coat and pulled out a plasma shotgun. It cocked with a whoosh and just when Sal thought he was going to blow an unsightly hole in her head, he spun on his heels and unloaded a round into one of Kar’s men instead. He glanced over his shoulder.
Sal didn’t need to be told twice. Morgan had already found her hand again and was dragging her to the doors of the Dago Lounge.
Apparently amputations and shotgun fire were nothing unusual. The Eriog doorman waved farewell as they ran past and encouraged them to visit again.