Coming soon, my new novella- consisting of three short stories with the same protagonist, the alien female Jaloon Roe. A technician on the planet Commonwealth, she has to navigate off-world gangsters, alien assassins, and worst of all, her own family.
Below is the concept art from the book and a sample of the book itself.
The Phentari assassin flexed its four tentacles and yawned, its feeding mandibles quivered back and forth. Planetfall at last. The trip had taken two weeks, from stargate to stargate, until the correct connection was made and he had entered the Andromeda Galaxy via the gate on Commonwealth. Longest trek he ever took. The assassin was feeling cramped.
The converter mask chafed around the sides of his mouth. Its edges bonded molecularly with the Phentari’s skin, preventing it from being accidentally jarred loose. His race’s natural habitat was a methane rich atmosphere and the device converted the local gases to ones he could breath. First time the alien ever had to wear one and he hated it.
He surveyed the world around the landing platform. It was cold and stark. What vegetation existed was spindly and weak, barely surviving as it crawled up between cement blocks. Nothing like the lush steamy swamps of equatorial Phena, with blue vines thicker than steel beams, and the waters so vibrant you could stick your face into free running rivers and come up with a fish stuck on each mandible.
The assassin pulled a black cape closer around his shoulders and rubbed his tentacles rapidly to generate heat. He’d have to make the best of it; endure the discomfort, the weird smells, the odd aliens. For his life began today. Normally on a cape such as his, a dward, there would be red hash marks indicating the number of personal kills. The Phentari had none. This was his first job as a professional assassin\bounty hunter (the terms meant the same thing in the Phentari tongue). He could hardly wait to sew in his first red stripe.
He pulled up his target’s image on his datapad. Yes indeed, once he killed this Jaloon Roe, Orion female, things would finally start rolling for him.
Jaloon stared at the bank balance on her datapad and decided that it would take more than fifty gallons of utoban to wash away her blues. She owed her corporate masters a lot of credits for “inappropriately destroyed equipment” from a past job. Or they claimed she did. Personally, she didn’t feel all that responsible. A lot of people had died on that misadventure and she had lost the bottom half of her left leg, but all they cared about was their stinking tools and gadgets.
She kicked over the wastepaper basket, then felt guilty about making more work for the cleaners so she replaced the two balled up papers back in the cylinder. Her bargain basement cybernetic leg scraped against the stump.
Time for another readjustment.
A chute opened in the wall and a soft bubble, containing twenty solo field goggles, emerged from it. It floated over to her workstation and popped, leaving the gear safely on the bench.
Until her debt was paid off, this was where she was stuck. Doing the shit work. Cleaning and maintaining every else’s soiled gear. The overlords at Space Systems Development Corporation didn’t want to risk her dying out in the field and leaving a hole in their budget, so they took half her paycheck and benched the Grade C technician for the time being.
I could quit. I could sue.
But they had ten thousand lawyers and she could barely make rent. In a perverse way the situation gave her some job security. As long as she owed them money, they would keep renewing her contract.
She dove into work, cleaning and maintaining the goggles. The standard field goggles could be switched to low-light vision, IR and UV scans, atmospheric chemical analysis, long range and microscopic viewing. All of this was controlled by voice command. She had to check that each of the linkages still connected to their microprocessor and that information displayed was correct. A long and tedious job which took her the rest of her shift to muddle through.
“Your numbers are down,” her human supervisor chastised her later on. “You should cleared at least three times as many units.”
“Sorry about that Gomez,” she said with fake sincerity.
“It’s Mister Gomez,” he said. “I’m marking your dereliction down on your daily report.”
She didn’t reply, but swear words flew in her mind. The beetle-backed little turd of a man shuffled away. A nasty little shrub of a mustache twitched under his acne scarred nose.
Honorifics such as Mister or Miss didn’t translate well into Galactic Basic, the artificial bureaucratic language of the Alliance, which is what they were speaking. So many different races with a rainbow of languages came through the stargate that Galactic Basic accidentally had become the planet’s official language. Still, this middle manager insisted on having some petty leg up over his subordinates and the regular worker suffered as a result.
She punched out via DNA scan and left the sterilized corporate glamour of the SSDC offices for the grimy utilitarian concrete and metal pipe ridden city of Commonwealth.
Commonwealth. City and planet shared the same name, and technically the entire continent did too. Its purpose was to maintain a trade foothold for the Galactic Alliance by guarding the stargate, allowing travel between the two galaxies, and in doing so the planet had become a trade power in the Alliance.
Commonwealth was the only city on the planet. There were a plethora of mining camps and agricultural hubs across the continent, but these all connected back to the capital city by shuttle or high-speed tube train. Religious nuts and idiot neo-communist groups had occasionally landed to set up some doomed utopia on another continent, but those who survived almost never had contact with the outside. Only the city of Commonwealth mattered.
And what a city it was. Now in its one hundredth year, it had spread out from the initial explorer landing platforms and pylon geothermic taps, which converted the planet’s natural heat into energy to power the stargate, and covered approximately 5,426 square kilometers. Over all Commonwealth was broken down into 32 municipal boroughs.
The weather outside mirrored Jaloon’s mood. Greasy rain sprinkled down from gasoline scented clouds. Streets were devoid of almost all decorations. A multi-hue of alien species wandered about, running from dry spot to dry spot. She decided to grab some fast food from the corner Horrokroshcu King before catching the tube back to her corporate apartment tube.
The herd animal’s meat tasted especially processed today. Even hot, it stuck in her throat. She tossed the rest in a dumpster. Vermin from a dozen planets started a war over her trash. Roars, snarls, and hisses echoed out of the bin. She backed away.
The ecosystem of the planet was in constant flux. Each new race accidentally brought with it a host little scavengers and parasites. Some flourished, others went extinct. There were a few civil servants whose entire job it was to track the invasion, growth patterns, death rates, and factional wars of one invading animal against another. It was like watching a galactic war in miniature. Whole nations blossomed and sputtered out under the city’s dermis.
Nothing could be done about the vermin. Inspections, gassings, sterilization programs only went so far. With the amount of trade Commonwealth had running through it, alien species were bound to slip through. You could never be a hundred percent.
Time to go home. She started a slow walk towards the tube trains, when her datapad lit up. Incoming call. She groaned. It was her sleazy cousin, Jimune. A wanna-be ladies’ man who had spent most of his teen years trying to convince Jaloon to star in an “art film” that he would direct. He had since given up on film stardom, but his current occupation was no less shady.
“Well there she is,” Jimune Roe said over the datapad. “You’re still looking pretty fit.”
“What do you want?” she asked. “It’s been a long day, my hands are worn down to the last layer of skin, and I ate a bad sandwich. So get to it.”
“Jeez, you haven’t changed. Still the icicle up your cunt.”
“HANGING UP NOW!”
“No wait. I want to hire you to fix something.” Her finger paused over the disconnect symbol. “I know you need the money.”
They negotiated a price. Not much, but enough for her to be able to afford a higher caliber of crappy food for a while. It was well worth an hour of her life.
Directly after she hung up on her cousin, another call came in from her mother. Very odd. Usually by this time her parents were blacked out or too drunk to use any device correctly. She answered. The call beeped, a red dot appeared briefly on her screen, then hung up. Sounded like her mother. Jaloon tossed the call from her mind and went into the tubes.