He's a criminal. She's far from it.
Together, they're Earth's last hope... they just don't know it yet.
Sinbad sh'en Singh had everything. A thriving smuggling career, his hologram on wanted posters on eleven planets, and plenty of women. Then she walked into his life.
Andrea Talltrees, member of a backwards cult not believing in space travel or anything else invented after the Twentieth Century.
She wants him to find her husband, a fugitive accused of being an Albegensian spy, the planet currently at war with Earth.
He doesn't want anything to do with an Earther, but a massive culture clash and a heavy dose of instant attraction get in the way, sending good sense flying out the viewport.
They'll brave some very unsavory characters, maybe even prevent a second interplanetary war...if they can stop arguing.
It's Star Wars meets Firefly in this exciting space opera thrill ride that doesn't let up. Pick up your copy today and join the adventure.
•Yes, I am a browncoat…meaning I love the TV series Firefly and its motion picture sequel, Serenity. How then could I assemble a space opera bundle without a true space Western? This one fits the bill and then some, bringing a colorful cast of characters into conflict—including that of the romantic variety—in a 'verse reminiscent of the one in which the space cowboys of the Serenity had their unforgettable adventures. This first book in the Star Smuggler series is loaded with charm, excitement, humor, and the flavor of the Old West, mingling space opera and horse opera…the perfect formula for great reading whether you're a browncoat or just a lover of bright-and-shiny science fiction adventure. – Robert Jeschonek
"This is one of the most exciting books I have read in ages. There's non-stop action and adventure, along with a slowly-building romance – all in an intriguing sci-fi universe that I can't wait to see more of."– Amazon Reviewer
"Excellent character development and the storyline and plot twist kept me wanting more. Hoping the next books keep me as entertained as the first."– Amazon Reviewer
George Windwalker kicked the big sorrel into a grudging gallop. The animal was old and fat and didn't like to run, much less travel along a mud-rutted dirt road. A slow, hoof-dragging amble was its preferred speed.
I should've taken the Jeep, dang it.
The vehicle might be rusty and antiquated, but it would have gotten him to his destination quicker than the horse. Like most Naturals, however, George never used an automobile if he could help it.
Anyway, the Jeep was for long distances and emergencies. While this was definitely an emergency, the Talltrees' farm was next to his own and the sorrel could take the road much easier than an ancient contraption with a primitive internal combustion engine. Its wheels actually touched the ground, and would hit every pothole and dip in sight.
"Git, you nag!" He slapped the sorrel's withers. "Or it's the processing plant for you."
The sorrel didn't move a bit faster. If anything, it seemed to move slower at his threat.
George wondered if it was aware horses were an Endangered Domestic Species and knew it was protected by the Federation itself. He brushed any thought of the horse's 'at risk' designation out of his mind, thinking of the current crisis.
An hour earlier, George had heard of Tran's arrest.
In the three days since an Albegensian warship fired upon a Terran deep-space freighter, blasting it to micro-particles with all hands on board, all Albegensi in Earth residence were taken into custody and detained for questioning in accordance with Standard Procedure in times of Global Martial Emergency.
Tran was one of the unfortunates.
George was old enough to have lived through two wars between Earth and its neighbors, so he was aware what might happen to Tran now. None of it would be pleasant.
At the moment, however, his concern was for the welfare of Tran's wife and son who were alone at the farm.
Turning the sorrel's head, he guided it through the gate, pulling it to a stiff-legged and grateful halt before the farmhouse. The animal snorted and stretched against the reins, attempting to reach the short grass growing in the front yard, as if it needed to replace the meal it missed by taking its owner on this unexpected trip.
The Talltrees' home was a small wooden cottage, every plank and nail placed by hand over one hundred and twenty years before by Ramon Talltrees, great-grandfather of Tran's wife, Andrea. Like the other inhabitants of the valley, Ramon had been Navajo by birth, native to the region where he was born, but a Natural by choice, living as his ancestors had centuries before, with as few contemporary conveniences, and their accompanying pollution, as possible.
On the porch's top step sat a slim, dark boy, arms resting against his knees. He didn't look up as George scrambled off the sorrel's back and dropped the reins, but stared listlessly across the field beyond the fence. At first glance, because of the blue-black sheen of his braided hair, he might've been mistaken for one of George's people, but the slight slant to his brown eyes marked him as part Albegensi…Tran's fourteen-year-old son, Acashi, abruptly finding himself head of the house and in charge of the farm.
"Cash?" Leaving the sorrel munching on Andrea's daisies, George looked up at the boy.
He had to call twice before Cash turned from his dull contemplation of the field. The hopelessness in his young face made the old man want to cry.
"Where's your mother?"
"…inside…" It took the boy a moment to answer, gesturing behind him.
As George started up the steps, he caught the old man's arm.
"I'm worried about her. She hasn't eaten since they took Dad away." He held an oak leaf, shredding it into strips as he spoke. "She just sits there. I had to carry her upstairs to sleep."
Throwing the pieces of leaf onto the steps, he looked across the field again.
"I'm scared, George." There were tears in his voice but they wouldn't show in the eyes. Tran's son wouldn't allow that. "I've lost Dad. I don't want to lose her, too."
The old man patted the boy's shoulder and went through the front door. Though those following the Naturals' teachings were allowed the use of electricity, it wasn't the solar power utilized by the rest of the world, but the hydroelectric kind supplied by a small generating plant set on the falls of the river meandering through the valley. Most still utilized fuel lamps as the usual mode of illumination.
No one had turned on the lights and it was so dim George thought the room was empty. Then he saw Andi, sitting beside the fireplace.
It was chill for an April day, but no fire had been laid. She was in the old rocker, an item handmade like the rest of the furniture, her gaze focused into the emptiness of the hearth. She was wearing a sweater, a long skirt, and knee-high suede boots, all handmade, all products of the farm. Her thick honey-yellow hair hung in a single braid over one shoulder.
She didn't look up as George came in, didn't acknowledge his presence.
Huddled in the rocker, hands clutched against her chest, she was as blank-eyed as someone's ancient grandmother. Only one hand moved, twisting her wedding ring around and around. Seeing her tear-stained blondness, George once again marveled that she was mother to the dark-haired, dark-eyed child sitting on the front steps.
She looks so young. Like Cash's older sister, not his mother.
She didn't acknowledge he'd spoken.
As he called again, however, she said, in a low monotone. "They took him away, George. Arrested him on suspicion…what does that mean? Suspicion of what?"
When she looked at the old Navajo, her eyes were bleak, lashes wet with the tears Cash refused to shed.
"How can they think Tran's a spy? It's preposterous." Shaking her head, she stared at the hearth again.
"Come on." George put his arms around her, pulling her to her feet.
"Where are we going?" Mildly protesting being moved, she clutched at his hands for support.
"To the kitchen." He steered her through the open doorway at the back of the room, pushing her toward a trestle table in its center. "Cash says you haven't eaten. That isn't going to do anyone any good."
While he found the kettle and put it on to boil, she sat quietly at the table. Luckily, Cash had stoked the cast-iron stove earlier, and it was still hot. George added another log and silently studied Andi. She was pale, as dazed as someone abandoned. He didn't like that. The Andi he knew was a feisty little thing who could lick all of her one hundred and ten pounds in wildcats, and took no guff from anyone. This docile, apathetic creature was unlike her.
She's in shock, he decided. Returning to the table, he pulled out a chair and sat down, thinking frantically of something to say, anything to get her talking and take that lost look from her face.
"What will you do, Andi?"
"Do? I…" She looked across the table at him. "George, I don't know. What can I do?" She made a helpless gesture. "If I knew where Tran was taken, maybe I could petition the local headquarters, get affidavits from our neighbors saying he's no spy, somehow get him released…but I don't know where he is."
George had a good idea where Tran had been taken, but he hated to tell her. He also knew she had little chance of freeing her husband on the strength of some signatures on a document, even if she were lucky enough to find anyone brave enough to sign it. Only two times in the past three hundred years had the United Terran Federation relinquished a prisoner because of public pressure.
"He's probably been taken to an intern camp." He made his words blunt. "If that's so, you may never see him again. Those places are deadly, Andi."
"An intern camp? Oh, George, I never realized something like that existed, not on Terra." Her voice rose, becoming shrill. "Things like this don't happen, not here, not now. This isn't the twenty-first century. They can't simply come in and take a man away like…"
Closing her eyes, she shook her head. One hand went to her mouth, stifling whatever she was going to say, stilling her trembling lips.
George didn't argue. He merely nodded in sad agreement.
They sat in silence.
Even after four world wars and two interplanetary ones, many people had no idea what happened to alien nationals during wartime. There were just as many who didn't want to know, but George was well aware. He'd had the misfortune to be a guard at a camp during an earlier war. The memory of the things he'd seen sent him back to the refuge of the valley as soon as his enlistment was over.
It had been years before he dared venture again from its safety.
There were four internment camps, and only the Federation marshals knew their exact locations. Even the guards were taken there blindfolded. George knew there was no way he could find his way back to the place he'd been stationed if his life depended on it.
Tran's life just might.
How can I help him? I'm only an old Navajo. He might be the chosen hataalii to his people, but to those Outside, he was merely an anachronism…like the Naturals themselves. What can I possibly do?
With sudden surprise, he had the answer, was aware it had been hovering in his mind since he heard of Tran's arrest, but…
Will Andi accept it? Do I want her to?
"Andi, if Tran's in one of those camps, I may know someone who can help. He could find out which one so you'll know who to contact."
He tried to sound optimistic, but was certain he failed, his own doubt getting in the way. It didn't matter who she wrote or went to see. The UTF didn't give up political prisoners.
At least it'll keep her from feeling so helpless. That thought didn't comfort him a bit.
"Who?" She looked up eagerly.
"Sinbad?" An uncertain smile hovered at the corners of her mouth, as if he'd made a joke she didn't quite understand. "Sinbad's a fairytale. He isn't a real person."
"This one's real enough," George assured her. "He's Felidan, a smuggler…has his headquarters in Old Town."
"George…where did you meet a smuggler?" Her smile was real this time with a startling wisp of teasing. "Is there a side to you we don't know about?"
He shook his head and returned her smile. "Some of the natives of Felida have the Eyes-that-Seek-the-Spirit. When I heard there was a Felidan in Old Town, I went to see if he had the gift. It would've been a great help to me in ministering to our people."
"No." He shook his head again. "He's a half-breed. His genetic heritage obliterated any ability he might've had. We got along, though, and kept in touch. I patched him up a couple of times when he got too close to the Coast Guard and needed a medic who'd keep quiet."
As Andi reacted to that with a disapproving frown, he shrugged and tried to look nonchalant.
"In a way, he's a friend."
"Do you think this…Sinbad…could help me?" She was thoroughly attentive now, more than George liked. "Why would he?"
"He was in a prison camp once. If he can do anything to thwart the UTF, he will. He…"
The teakettle's shrill whistle was a welcome interruption. George got up, quickly poured water into two cups and added spoonfuls of herb tea powder and sweetener.
"Here you are, blackberry tea with honey. Just the way you like it." With a flourish, he brought the cups to the table.
"Blackberry tea…" Andi took the cup, sipping slowly and savoring the taste. "I can remember when I was little…no matter what went wrong, you always made it better with blackberry tea."
From skinned knees to bad grades in school, George was always there. After her father, George was the man Andi most looked to for advice and guidance, even now. Though he wasn't a family member, George was as close to Andi as a grandfather.
"You're so good to me, George. I think you're the best friend I have."
George studied his cup, stirring his tea with great concentration. Praise always embarrassed him.
I'm not certain my tea can help this time.
Andi took another sip.
"Where can I find this Sinbad?" She set down her cup so suddenly the liquid in it splashed. There was more life in her eyes…and hope, too, but he was sorry his words put it there.
George continued stirring his tea. He was having second thoughts, and with good reason. It was dangerous to seek out a known criminal, especially for the purposes of obtaining classified information. He was urging Andi toward treason, and if she were caught…
"George? I said…"
"I heard you. Andi, forget what I said."
"Forget it?" She looked surprised. "Why? If he can help…I mean, you said he doesn't like the Federation…"
"He doesn't, but he dislikes Terrans even more." Reaching across the table, he placed a hand over hers. "He's dangerous, Andi. He's a criminal, and… I'm sorry I mentioned it. I don't want you to have anything to do with Sinbad sh'en Singh."
Gently she withdrew her hand from beneath his. George's heart sank. He knew by the stubborn tilt of her chin she'd made up her mind, and nothing he could say or do would change it. Whatever happened to her now would be his fault.
"Where can I find him, George?" she repeated.