Once a month the Science Fiction Romance Brigade authors showcase snippets from new work, WIPs, cover reveals or other fun things. The link is here for all the participants.
I’m sharing from my SFR Galaxy Award Winning Hostage to the Stars, which is on sale for $.99 at the moment.
He rescued her from space pirates … but can he keep them both safe from the far greater evil stalking a deserted planet?
Space travel without Kidnap & Ransom insurance? Not a good idea. University instructor and researcher Sara Bridges can’t afford it, so when pirates board her cruise liner, she’s taken captive along with the mistress of a wealthy man, and brought to a deserted planet. When a military extraction team sent to rescue the mistress refuses to take Sara too, she’s left to the mercies of a retired Special Forces soldier, along as consultant.
Reluctantly reactivated and coerced into signing up for the rescue operation to the planet Farduccir where he once was deployed, Sgt. Johnny Danver just wants to get the job done. But when the team leader leaves one captured woman behind, he breaks away to rescue her himself.
As Johnny and Sara traverse the barren landscape, heading for an abandoned base where they hope to call Sectors Command for help, they find villages destroyed by battle and stripped of all inhabitants. A lone survivor tells a horrific tale of the Sectors’ alien enemy, the Mawreg, returning after being pushed out …
Searching for evidence to give the military, Johnny is captured. He regains consciousness in a Mawreg cage–with Sara next to him. Death is preferable to what the aliens will do to them… And even if they do escape their captors, can they alert the military in time to prevent another invasion of the Sectors?
One minute Sara was sound asleep in her bunk in the tiny cabin on board the Star Swan and the next moment the sound of alarms jolted her into wakefulness. Sara threw on a robe and stuck her head into the corridor. “What’s happening?” she asked a passing crewman.
“Pirates. We’re being boarded.” He looked her up and down. “You’d better get dressed, ma’am.”
Saluting, he moved toward the gravlift.
As she shut the portal to her cabin, she was puzzled by the calmness of the man’s demeanor. Was this a terrifying disaster, as the klaxons suggested? Or was it a routine situation and they’d be on their way shortly? She wasted no time in getting dressed, wishing she had a weapon, which was ridiculous of course because what would she – a Sectors university researcher – do with a weapon? Especially if the ship’s crew wasn’t putting up any fight. She had little of any value with her, but she took a moment to hide her ring and a bracelet, wrapped in a scarf under the bunk. She knew the cache wouldn’t escape even a perfunctory search but the jewelry had sentimental value. Why not at least try to outsmart the pirates, if the bastards were greedy enough to search even her closet-size cabin?
“All passengers and crew will report to the dining room at once,” The ship’s AI announced, adding, “Per protocol, no weapons allowed.”
Sara joined the small group of people moving through the corridor. She grabbed the sleeve of a crew member she recognized, the stewardess. The Star Swan wasn’t a big cruise liner like the Nebula-class ships. She could never afford that much luxury on her academic pittance of a salary. Carrying mostly cargo, this vessel only had a few cabins for passengers and the cheaper fare reflected the few amenities. This woman had been friendly and efficient about any request.
“Excuse me,” Sara said, “Was the earlier announcement about pirates on the level?”
“Yes.” The crew member didn’t stop walking but she gave Sarah an odd look. “It’s not a rare occurrence in this quadrant. Unfortunately for us, we were stopped to make minor repairs on the engines in this old bucket and the pirates were out hunting.” She stepped into the gravlift and Sara followed. “I’ve been through this before. Most of us have. These are human-descent pirates, from Farduccir, not the Shemdylann.”
“Oh.” Sara digested the information as she ascended next to the stewardess. She fought the vertigo gravlifts always gave her. Even she had heard of the alien Shemdylann. “So what happens next?”
“The pirates are mostly interested in our cargo. Probably offloading it now in fact.” Her companion shrugged. “Everything’s insured.”
Sara stepped off the landing ledge into the corridor. The longer the stewardess talked, the more calm Sara felt as her adrenaline levels subsided. This incident would make an exciting tidbit to tell people about when she got home. “So the raiders don’t bother the passengers and crew?”
“You never know with pirates.” The woman seemed ill at ease, but not afraid. “Our line pays the pre-negotiated ransom on the spot, credits transmitted to a bank on New Switzerland. Routine. Expense of doing business in this part of the Sector.”
She’d arrived at the cafeteria and Sara saw the other passengers clustered at one table in the front of the room.
“You’d better go join them. You can’t sit with the crew.” The stewardess gave her a not so gentle push. “Good luck.”
Sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach again, Sara grabbed her arm. “Why do I need luck? You said there’s a preset ransom for us. Routine.”
She received a pitying stare now, as the crew woman broke her grip. “For the ship and the crew. You’re on your own. I hope you have good K&R insurance.” She walked away.
Stumbling a little, Sara made her way to the passenger table, feeling exposed and vulnerable. She slid into a vacant chair next to the only other woman.
“Hey, it’s not so bad, relax.” The woman patted her hand. “I’m Tresha Immer. I’ve seen you in the corridors.”
Early in the cruise, Sara’d learned from the stewardess that Tresha was some kind of Sectors’ admin person, mid-level in an obscure branch of the bureaucracy. She had the single luxury suite on the ship and the crew had formerly bent over backwards to supply her slightest whim, while gossiping about her. Apparently an influential politico with a lot of gravity didn’t appreciate her receiving less than stellar service and attention, so people rushed to do her bidding. “What’s K&R?” she asked the table at large.
“Kidnap and ransom insurance. Did you bring your certificate?” asked the Tregon Inc. trader sitting across from her. “Do you have good coverage? These Farduccir are greedy bastards.”
“I-I don’t have any insurance. I’ve never even heard of it before today.”
The man shoved his chair away from the table. “The government shouldn’t allow people like you to travel in these parts. “ He shook his head. “My sympathies. Any last messages you want us to send to your family?”