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WARPED ON A MOON TREK

DETAILS

 

Genre: SciFi/Cozy

Release date: 6/2024

Level of Fashion: Space Fashion

PB ISBN: 9780984965366
E ISBN: 9780984965373

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Tomorrow is yesterday and next week may never come in this new space adventure with notes of Veronica Mars and Lost in Space!

Sylvia Stryker is the Moon Unit Corporation’s employee of the month. Impressive, since her side gig solving intergalactic mysteries takes up most of her time. But she is put to a new test after her mentor, Neptune, flies through a wormhole to meet with a reclusive scientist about the faulty chip powering their lunar module. The contact has been hiding from accusations of murder on another planet. Even more startling is the identity of the scientist: a family member Sylvia never thought she’d see again.

 

When Neptune’s space pod vanishes into a parallel timeline, Sylvia is quick to follow, but a face-to-face with her younger self threatens her reality. She is thrust into a time-bending journey where the unsolved murder becomes central to her mission. With a missing boss, a malfunctioning navigational system, and a family reunion hanging in the balance, Sylvia’s race against time just might save the world…or eradicate it from existence.

 

Can Sylvia repair the circuits of time, or will she stay lost in space with a killer? 

chapter 1
CHAPTER ONE: Intergalactic Positioning System

“We have a problem,” Neptune said.

“Just one?” I asked. My morning had been spent repairing the intake valve on the Moon Unit’s air conditioning unit and trying, unsuccessfully, to reboot the Intergalactic Positioning System. We were somewhere between the docking station and Earth’s moon. This was a test drive of the new Moon Unit designs, sent on a mock journey designed to identify and work out the kinks before we took on paying passengers. There had been some trouble with Moon Unit Cruises in the past, and this was management’s way of minimizing bad press if something went wrong this time. On paper, the trip was a straight shot, and I was more concerned about what would happen if the AC crapped out than the possibility of criminal activity amongst the skeletal crew.

“There’s an asteroid headed to Earth,” Neptune continued. “Trajectory has it hitting the planet and knocking it off its axis in the next sixteen hours.”

“I studied Earth at the Space Academy. Asteroids have landed there before, and there’s never been any long-term damage.”

“This time is different.” He turned his back to me and keyed a command into my computer. We were standing in the uniform ward, which is where I was officially assigned to work. Neither the crew nor the passengers on the Moon Unit knew I doubled as an undercover security agent between laundering and folding uniforms, and that worked out just fine for me. On my first few moon treks, my work on the side hadn’t been sanctioned, and this way was a lot more secure.

Moon Units were cruise ships that delivered on the promise of vacation getaways on various moons in the galaxy. Our home base was on a space station between two of the thirteen colonies that made up the galaxy. When the company first started out, each Moon Unit had a number, but somewhere after the eighth iteration, MU-Corp settled on a mass-produced design and offered franchise opportunities to the masses. Now, there were any number of ships flying around from the docking station to moons and back, and I was but one of their employees. There’d been some talk about pulling the original crew members from flights to handle new employee orientation, but no one had contacted me about it.

Though that might have something to do with my unsanctioned activities in the past.

Neptune was a behemoth of a man, a solid wall of muscle and sex appeal wrapped up in black tech gear from head to toe. I had a similar outfit but had to wear a crew uniform to keep the passengers from learning about my double life.

Neptune typed a command into the computer, and a three-dimensional image appeared in the air between us. It rendered the solar system that included Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Using hand motions, he zoomed in on the image and blew up the portion that showed Earth. Our destination, Earth’s moon, was visible, as was a small white spaceship with the Moon Unit logo on the side. Trailing us but headed the same general direction was an irregularly shaped mass that looked not unlike a broken piece of a frozen Mars Bar. It turned over itself as it moved, slowly inching toward the blue marble.

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing at the object. My finger got too close to the 3D rendering, and the image blinked, as if on the fritz. I pulled my finger away, and the fritz dissolved into a ripple that spread outward toward the edge. “Sorry. I’m still getting used to this thing.”

“That’s the asteroid.”

“It’s bigger than Mercury!”

“That’s the problem.”

“Where did it come from?”

He pointed to the edge of the rendering. “Current flight path indicates it came from the Kuiper Belt.”

“You live outside the Kuiper Belt. Have you ever seen an asteroid that size?”

“No.”

“Doesn’t that make you curious? About where it really came from? Who set it in motion? If it’s a freak of nature or a nefarious plot to take out Earth? Maybe Earth wasn’t even the destination. Maybe it was sent to take out your ranch.”

“When did you add conspiracy theorist to your resume?”

I turned my back to him, exasperated, and threw my hands up in the air. “I don’t believe this,” I said then turned back and put my hands on my hips. “If there’s ever a time for conspiracy theories, it’s when a giant asteroid is on its way to take out a planet.”

We stood there in a face-off: me with hands balled into fists that rested on my hips, Neptune with his beefy arms crossed over his broad chest. We’d found ourselves in this stance before, but even worse, the sketch artist who’d been employed by the Moon Unit Corporation to capture spontaneous moments on each Moon Trek had found us in this position, too, and our likeness hung next to the vending machines in the employee lounge. I would have made a stink about it, but considering the other position Neptune and I sometimes found ourselves in, I considered it a good thing the sketch artist didn’t have access to our crew quarters.

For all of the times we’d found ourselves at an impasse, I’d never once experienced Neptune giving in, but I knew one day I would wear him down. For starters, I was half his size, which meant I had twice the energy. I had exactly zero scientific data to back that up, but simply believing it got me up most mornings.

“So there’s an asteroid of unknown origin headed toward the third planet from the sun,” I summarized. “I agree with you. That is a problem. What do you propose?”

“An emergency ship is going to rendezvous with the Moon Unit at Zulu Twenty. I’m going to board that ship.”

I glanced at my space watch. “That’s in less than an hour!”

He continued as if I hadn’t interrupted him. “If I can get into position, I can hitch onto the end of the asteroid before it slingshots around Venus. The increased weight tacked onto the asteroid should change its course.”

“Who’s flying the emergency ship here?”

“It’s a self-driving vehicle.”

“I can’t believe you trust that technology.” I jabbed my finger at the 3D rendering again, this time not caring that with every jab, the image distorted then returned. “You’d have better odds warning Earth and involving their military.”

“Can’t. Earth’s moon is a military-free zone. That was the only way these vacation packages could be green-lit. If they dispatch Space Force, they’ll be in violation of a dozen regulations. If anybody finds out they deployed, there will be accusations, and just filing the paperwork to contest those accusations will bankrupt the planet.”

Time hadn’t been kind to planet Earth. First, people blamed it on the population. More people meant more need for resources, and initially, that meant new industries. But when space travel became viable, the wealthiest residents packed up and moved to a newer, shinier planet, taking with them the capital that funded those industries. Most of the planets had been retrofitted with domes and energy grids to allow residential development, and there’s nothing the wealthy like more than a chance to get in on the ground floor of a new real estate development. So while living quarters popped up on Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter, Earth, the OG of home bases, was left to scramble for a new identity.

It took a long time for Earth to recover from the change to their population makeup, and the history books described it as a dark stain on the planet’s history. Eventually, they rebuilt, depending heavily on trades passed down through generations. New leaders accepted that they could no longer ignore the siren call of the solar system to their aspirational residents, and they licensed off the moon as their most valuable asset to keep hungry developers from attempting to buy it outright. Moon Unit Corporation was the leader in the space cruise sector, and it was rumored that a late-night meeting between our CEO and Earth’s representative had resulted in a handshake deal that gave us exclusive rights to the planet’s only natural satellite. A lot of people felt MU Corp had taken advantage of Earth, but thanks to my ability to hack into the dark web and access the content of redacted documents, I knew the deal had single-handedly kept the planet from becoming the property of the highest bidder. After fighting space pirates and corrupt government officials, it felt good to know I was on the team of the good guys.

Neptune studied me. We’d been working together for a few years now. Our first meeting had been less than auspicious. He assumed I was guilty of murder and tossed me in the spaceship clink. It wasn’t until later, after I thwarted a plan to sabotage the spaceship we were on and catch the real murderer, that he acknowledged my usefulness. It took a little bit longer to convince him to train me in spaceship security, though we’d both agreed that my official position as uniform manager was a valuable cover for clandestine operations.

The last big case we’d solved, we’d come at from separate angles. Neptune had been arrested for a crime he didn’t commit—I always wondered if that made him feel any guilt about what he’d done to me, but I had yet to broach the subject—and I’d scoured the dark web for months trying to design a mission to bust him out. But as was usually the case, a simple jailbreak turned into a production that had repercussions felt around the whole galaxy. Since then, a few things had changed.

Federation Council, the reigning body that governed the thirteen colonies, had found itself in dire need of restructuring. Unchecked terrorist acts from space pirates had kept the council from seeing corruption within its own ranks, and the tradition of one-and-done elections for councilperson positions had been called into question. A new, radical group of movers and shakers didn’t accept the rules as they’d been laid out centuries ago, and as more and more alien life forms got displaced from their habitats, thanks to violence, each of the thirteen colonies became more assorted. Even Colony Thirteen, where prisoners were sent to serve out their sentences, had become a mix of rehabilitated criminals who had nowhere else to go when their time was up.

In more personal matters, Neptune and I acknowledged that there might be more to our synergy than an employer/employee relationship, but choosing a relationship over work wasn’t in either of our cards. I’d spent my life dreaming of space travel from Plunia, the planet where I’d grown up, and Neptune had fought in multiple wars defending the galaxy. We worked well together. Being half-Plunian helped, as it quickly smacked down any possible emotional attachments that my human half inconveniently reared.

I couldn’t speak for Neptune, but I thought it was better this way.

The Moon Unit corporation had given him a promotion and made me Employee of the Month, so I was pretty sure they agreed.

“The emergency pod has an override code,” Neptune said as if no time had passed. “If anything goes wrong with the autopilot, I can turn off the system and drive it manually. The Moon Trek is on target to circle Earth’s moon in three days. That gives me plenty of time to head off the asteroid and return.”

“And if all doesn’t go as planned?”

“It’s your job to see that it does.”

Already, I didn’t like the sound of this. “I already have a job. I have two! What if I don’t have time to rescue you too?”

“I’ll float around the galaxy for infinity.”

“You think I won’t let that happen, but it might be nice to get a break in my workload for a while.”

“I’m not worried about me. I’m worried about the moon landing. You’ll need to oversee it.”

Oh, right, fine. The rescue mission wasn’t about him. It never was. Except that one time when it was.

Neptune didn’t like to talk about that.

“The bridge has the coordinates for the moon landing,” Neptune said. “The captain and the first officers are monitoring the journey. There is a clear path from here to the moon, and the space travel controllers have confirmed a cease in space traffic for the duration of our trip.”

“It’s amazing what a little tourist money can buy.”

Neptune stifled a smile at my cynicism. Ever since Earth officials discovered how much money they could make by converting the moon to a vacation destination and renting out packages to various cruise ships in the galaxy, trips to the moon had been added to our regular rotation. It was among the less expensive getaways one could take on a Moon Unit, and the company found it worthwhile to maintain an entry-level experience to get potential repeat customers into its marketing funnel.

“So,” I said, returning to the matter at hand, “if the ship is on autopilot and the first officers have everything under control, what’s there for me to do? Aside from my uniform management responsibilities.”

“You’re off uniforms while I’m gone. I need you suited up in your security rig in case I need to communicate with you.”

“If I’m going to maintain my cover, I can’t just abandon the uniform ward.”

“Get Pika to handle it. She’s managed before, hasn’t she?”

I rolled my eyes. Pika was a playful pink Gremlon with an undiagnosed attention deficit disorder and an unchecked attraction to anything that sparkled. Relying on Pika would have consequences, though it was difficult to predict what they would be.

“What if something goes wrong? How will I reach you?”

“You won’t. For the twenty-three hours I’m gone, it’s up to you to handle whatever comes your way.”

COMING 6.25.24. PREORDER NOW! 

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