Kate Sheeran Swed is a space-obsessed reading junkie who guzzles outrageous amounts of coffee in upstate New York, where she lives with her husband and kids. She reads equally outrageous amounts of science fiction, and especially enjoys the pulp stuff. Stacked vertically end to end, her book collection would collide with the International Space Station. She's aiming to reach the moon eventually.

Kate is the author of the Parse Galaxy space opera series, the League of Independent Operatives superhero series, and a quirky smorgasbord of other sci-fi and fantasy titles.

Toccata System - The Complete Trilogy by Kate Sheeran Swed

Enemy assassins unite to stop the AI-led attacks on their star system.

From Book One, Parting Shadows:

Raised by a heartsick AI, she's programmed to kill. And desperate to flee.

After growing up on an isolated space station, Astra dreams of solid ground. But with an AI guardian plugged into her head—and her nervous system—it's not like she's flush with choices. In fact, she's got just one: use her training to carry out the rogue AI's revenge. Her first mission? Assassination.

When her target flashes a jamming device that would guarantee her escape from the AI's grasp, Astra sets out to steal it. But the AI's plans are more dangerous than she suspected. Corrupted by heartbreak, the wayward computer is determined to infect the star system with a new order of digital tyranny.

Astra's been raised to care for no one but herself. Now she'll have to decide if she's willing to trade the star system's freedom for her own.

This set of intertwined novellas includes:

Book 1: Parting Shadows

Book 2: Phantom Song

Book 3: Prodigal Storm

A bonus short story, "Fated Queen"



  • "If you're a fan of science fiction that combines fast-paced plots with beautifully-imagined characters and lovely prose, definitely pick up Parting Shadows."

    – Jessie Kwak, author of the Bulari Saga
  • "a fantastic classic literature-inspired sci-fi series. Parting Shadows in particular takes a look at Great Expectations and goes, 'what if it was in space though?'"

    – Goodreads Reviewer
  • "I love the idea of an AI intent on revenge and going to any lengths, it's something so human and yet it translated so well to computers."

    – Odd Socks & Lollipops Book Reviews
  • "I wanted to smash the villain to smithereens, recruit Astra to be my personal bodyguard, become best friends with Isabelle, and kiss Henry. The plot twists were completely unpredictable and unexpected, and the character development and political climate were superbly executed."

    – Amazon Reviewer



Astra's VR training modules had not properly prepared her for the smell of clustered humanity.

They tried, sure. But the simulated odors the computers produced were nothing compared to the melting pot of Traveler's arrivals bay, where perfume and soap crashed into synthetic thread, metal, and ship oils. Not to mention fried food and sugared cakes from the carts lined up to welcome the children of the elite, as the Star Leaders Academy prepared to embark on a yearlong tour of the Toccata System.

Add the clomp and shuffle of a thousand footsteps, murmurs and giggles rising and falling atop a background of orchestral strings played through the ship's speakers—and the riot of colorful fashion choices—and Astra felt the distinct desire to ball her fists and clamp her mouth shut to protect her remaining senses.

She'd never stood in a room with more than three other people. Now, there were a thousand.

Or there would be, as soon as she stepped down from her pod dock to join them.

"That's the daughter of Septo's prime minister," SATIS buzzed in her ear. "In the red dress."

Astra's head throbbed as the AI spoke through the newly installed communication bud embedded in her temple. She wished they'd implanted the thing sooner so it could have had more time to heal. It felt like her skin was about to vibrate off her face.

A luggage bot zoomed by her feet, and she took a step back, wondering how fast SATIS would catch her if she dove into her pod and tried to fly away. "Half the people in here are wearing red."

"The one with the gold suitcase."

"Also applies to half the people here."


"I see her," Astra interrupted. "OK? I recognize her."

SATIS never trusted her to properly prepare. But she'd studied all the files. She saw their faces in her sleep. She wouldn't blow her cover by failing to recognize some famous person.

"And the man buying cinnamon dough from the cart," SATIS said. "He's the CEO of—"

"I know," Astra interrupted, hating herself a little for seeking out the man who was currently scanning his wrist to pay for his food. "I studied. Can you give me a second? I'm trying to adjust here."

"Adjust quickly," SATIS said.

Astra was here on SATIS' mission, after all. Astra's whole life was SATIS' mission. The AI's voice was literally a part of her body, and if SATIS wanted her to go somewhere, she went. If SATIS wanted her to say something, she said it.

If SATIS wanted her to kill someone? Well. Here she was.

Astra let out a breath and stepped off the dock into the full tilt of the arrivals bay.

"Excuse me," someone said, whirling away before she had a chance to respond. Another person bumped into her back. Astra tried to move with the crowd, but the ebb and flow made no sense. Here, a current sped up. Simultaneously, the person in front of her slowed to consider steaming squid from a food cart. A trio of young women pulled one another through the crowd, hands locked as they wove expertly through the mass of people and luggage bots.

Something soft brushed between Astra's ankles, and she jumped, staring as a little dog with a mop of shaggy fur threaded its way through the crowd.

"Sorry," its owner said as Astra untangled her foot from the animal's taut leash. "Mind of her own."

Everyone else ignored the dog, as if its presence were normal. Expected.

They'd seen dogs before. They somehow knew how to avoid stepping on one.

Both the dog and the owner were gone before Astra could reply.

The smells that had annoyed her from the sidelines were now an all-out assault: perfume and boiled vegetables and coffee and cinnamon and sweat. Her throat clamped shut in protest, saliva flooding her mouth. She needed to get out of here, or risk losing her breakfast.

But the only way out was through.

Astra tried to breathe and missed a step. Someone kicked her heel, and when she leapt away, she stepped on someone else's.

"You're going to give yourself away," SATIS said. "Your vital signs are elevated. Calm down."

Flustered and trying to hide it—from the people around her, if not from SATIS—Astra moved aside. The river of people flowed on.

The food carts gave way to a different kind of marketplace, stalls packed full of knickknacks and humidifiers, throw pillows and blankets. As though these VIPs weren't arriving with trunks full of golden elephants or whatever the hell they used to decorate.

And indeed, this section of the market was mostly empty of customers.

"Stay on course," SATIS said. "Scan the area and familiarize yourself with the environment. It will calm you, and you can—"

"I just need a minute," Astra interrupted.

Ignoring SATIS' stream of protests, she ducked into the nearest stall.

Immediately, the sounds from the arrivals bay muffled. The only smells were of damp soil and greenery. Simple. Familiar.

The stall was filled with plants, hundreds of them. They overflowed with blooms and bursting buds, ferns indulgently taking up entire corners of the tiny space, vines cascading over shelves. There was a miniature tree with white lights studded through the branches. They were…pretty.

None of them even looked poisonous.

"What are they for?" Astra said.

Behind her, someone laughed. Astra turned to see a small woman with light brown skin looking over a shelf of purple flowers. She wore a pilot's uniform with a gray band around the bicep to indicate her training status. "For?" she said. "They're plants."

"Oh good, that explains it," Astra said. "Thanks for your time."

SATIS said, "Isabelle Chagny. Hero pilot's daughter."

Whatever that meant. Astra hadn't studied up on pilot trainees, and she really didn't care.

Instead of turning away, Isabelle smiled. "You're new, aren't you? I'm in my second year and I still find the arrivals bay overwhelming. I'm Isabelle."

"It's not overwhelming." Astra picked up the closest pot without bothering to examine its contents. "I just wanted one of these."

"A cactus?"

Astra looked at the plant. It was about four inches tall, with needle-like spines sticking out. Of all the lovely flowers and leafy oxygen-makers she could have grabbed, she had to pick up the ugly bastard.

That was about right, actually. "Yeah. A cactus."

"And to think," SATIS said, "that you aced the flora portion of our studies."

"This thing's not poisonous," Astra replied without bothering to hide the conversation. "I don't see the problem. It could be a weapon with these spines. Think big."

Isabelle laughed. "I doubt they'd sell poisonous plants to students. Someone's cat might get sick."

"You're giving yourself away," SATIS said. "Do I need to remove you from the situation?"

No. No, she definitely didn't want to be removed from Traveler. Not yet. SATIS might hold her leash, and she might never step foot on a real planet, but Astra was not about to give up the only taste of freedom she might ever get. No matter how weird it smelled.

She could pull herself together. She had to.

"You can pay over here," Isabelle said. "Are you connected to the SPA? She's Traveler's Standard Protocol Assistant, and she can—"

"No," Astra interrupted.

"No, thank you," SATIS corrected.

"No, thank you," Astra said, teeth gritted. "I can pay with my tablet."

One AI in her head was more than enough. Even as she thought it, she could make out evidence of Traveler's AI, announcements floating over the music in a pleasant voice. A Standard Protocol Assistant was a common model, used in transport centers, shopping malls, places with large crowds. Not that she'd ever personally come in contact with one.

Isabelle rolled up her sleeve and scanned her wrist on the boxy payment module to pay for a weepy hanging plant. It was a perfect choice for her. Pink and flimsy. "You don't have a wrist chip?"

"Nope," Astra said. Now committed, she paid for the cactus with her tablet and hurried out of the stall.

"We can't afford interruptions," SATIS scolded, but Astra barely heard her. Now that she was back out in the arrivals bay, the ship's AI surrounded her, its voice echoing from person to person as SPA gave them answers and promised to have refreshments waiting in their rooms. Whatever they required.

Ear buds, digi-glasses, chirping watches, regular old tablets, and yeah, wrist chips. All synced up.

Astra had not expected to find people as reliant on a computer as she was.

They gave up their freedom like it was nothing.