In outer space, there is no right or wrong...unless you get caught.
Cal and his crew roam the galaxy, stealing food and giving it to those in need. That's illegal, even in outer space, so staying away from the law is a general rule of survival—a rule his crew seems to forget at the worst possible times… Like kidnapping a ruthless galactic law enforcer, hoping to convince her they're innocent. Hey, what could go wrong?
A whole heck of a lot, but that won't stop them. The enforcer can harness primordial energy, which makes her body a weapon, and once she gets out of their power-sucking handcuffs, she'll execute every one of them for a myriad of crimes, most of which they're admittedly guilty of.
Yes, they're smugglers who've broken countless laws, but could showing her the good they do change the mind of a woman programmed to kill first and ask questions later? Maybe. If they live that long.
"This story was so excellent! I adored the crew … In this case, the "Firefly" aura is awesome, because I automatically adore the crazy crew members who feel like old friends. This is a fun yet serious and well done story line where, despite the best intentions, the enforcers also can be unjust. … It gives readers something to think about while also keeping us amused… I look forward to more of this series. I'm loving it!"– Emily Pennington, Top 500 Reviewer
"This was a rather well written tale. …The characters manage to shine and the brisk pace of the action that still allowed for a few moments of introspection and recovery just worked. And that is fairly high praise for me. I tend to be demanding when reviewing tales as I want characters that stand out from each other and don't just become simple descriptions and sets of actions. Dania and Cal are fleshed out characters with a backstory that affects their actions and thoughts and a group of subsidiary characters who have more substance than you find in many books."– MVargus, Top 1000 Reviewer
"Loved this book and couldn't put it down! The world building was incredibly detailed but not boring or "in the way" of the story like so many sci-fi books. I stayed up all night with these fun, quirky, and lovable characters, and I swear I got Firefly vibes while reading. Eaton can definitely write an action-packed, edge of your seat story with characters who have heart. I'd definitely recommend this book, and I can't wait for the next one in the series!"– Amazon review
"This is book one of the series, so you can't go wrong here. This is a soft science fiction story, focused on the characters and the setting rather than the tech. The story is well written and easy to read with a well developed setting that is rich in detail. The characters are also well done, with distinct personalities including some interesting quirks that makes them all real. The plot moves at a good pace and includes plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting. Overall, a highly enjoyable story and I look forward to the next book in the series."– Amazon review
Cal leaned toward the empty co-pilot's station as a yellow light flashed in his face. That can't be good.
Outside his ship's main view pane, the dock workers darted between the other freighters loading and unloading cargo. At least no one was shooting at him. Not yet, at least.
Every few minutes, a taskmaster would stop, look up at Cal's ship, and make notes in their ledger, probably wondering why Cal hadn't checked in any cargo.
As long as the workers made notes and didn't ask questions, everything would be fine.
Cal grimaced as the light on the other console continued to blink.
Why did stuff always go wrong when his maintenance guys were off-ship?
He tapped the blue communication button, calling his crew out in Midway Station. "Ty, that yellow light is flashing on your dashboard again."
Static filled the line before Ty's voice answered. "Come on, boss. I warned you about that."
Of course he did. "How about you warn me again?"
"Tap it three times."
He was joking, right? Cal tapped the button, and on the third tap, the blinking stopped.
"Did it work?" Ty asked.
"Yeah." Cal really wanted to tell him no. As usual, though, Ty knew every last quirk in the ship. "Are you guys going to fix that anytime soon?"
Ethan's voice joined the call. "I'll get on that if you want me to put the oxygen diffuser on the back burner."
Cal laughed. "I'm quite fond of breathing, so as you were." He glanced at the light again. "This flashing isn't the sign of a bigger problem, right?"
Ty snorted. "As long as it doesn't flash orange, it's okay."
"Just call me if it ever turns orange."
Great. One day he'd force Ty to sit down and explain every last modification he'd made to this ship.
"The flashing is just a short," Ethan said. "I checked it last week."
Cal rubbed his eyes. "Roger that."
This was just one more thing on the long list of repairs for the Star Renegade. Too bad "Bessie," the cadaver Doc Sanders had picked up in last week's trading run, couldn't be used as an extra set of deck hands. Then again, Bessie could stay right in the med bay where she was. The last thing Cal needed was any more dead weight on the bridge. He filled that spot enough for all of them.
He ran his palms over the pits and grooves behind the dashboard. If this little ship hadn't saved his rear end so many times, he might have thought of trading her in for a newer model, but in a galaxy where any semblance of creature comfort was hard to find, she'd become home.
"How's it going with supplies?" Cal asked. "You've all been gone too long."
"Patience is a virtue," Ethan cooed.
Cal fought against making a fist. He spent half his time wanting to slap that little piece of space trash upside the head and the other half thanking him for saving their lives. Ethan was lucky he was a competent engineer.
Cal checked the readings on the command panel. So far, the false docking codes he'd provided were still green. If anyone ran the markings on the hull, though, or recognized his crew, they were all toast. He'd used this ship on far too many smuggling runs for her not to be on every local law enforcement's radar.
Luckily, most station security officials could be bought. However, he didn't want anyone playing hero and turning them in for one of the many rewards out for their hides.
The communicator flickered. "Boss, you're not going to believe this," Ty said.
Cal tapped the button. "What's up?"
"A band of the king's enforcers just landed in Section Twelve."
Ice flooded Cal's veins. He glanced at their docking location: Section Twenty-Seven. Still, that was too close.
He leaned closer to the panel. "You're sure? It's not just similar uniforms like on Neptune Nine?"
"No, I'm sure. They have that freaky silver hair that sways around like it's alive."
Cal's shoulders tightened. He stood and stared through the window. A trader raced to one of the ships, closing the ramp as soon as he'd boarded. Another man dropped a package as he dashed for a different ship, not even bothering to pick the box up.
Cal certainly didn't blame them. The enforcers were supposed to be an interplanetary police force, but they were more like murderous vigilantes.
He slammed his fist down on the comm button. "Get back here. Now. All of you."
If the enforcers had found him, they had precious little time to get away. He glanced at the instruments. He could start as much of the prelaunch as possible until everyone was back on board.
He tapped into the station's public communications archive and checked for royal data extractions. The enforcer ship had done some basic searches on an illegal trading ring of some kind and an analysis of when the most people would be in the market area, but nothing else. Strange.
What were the chances that a band of enforcers had landed here by coincidence?
He shivered. It wasn't worth the risk to even hope.
Cal had made a vow to keep at least a million miles from the closest enforcer, and sometimes that hadn't been enough. He was wanted for killing an aristocrat with close ties to the royal family. It wouldn't matter that he didn't do it. He'd be executed for the crime, and the enforcers would move on.
He'd seen it before…the shiny white uniforms appearing out of nowhere…people screaming…blood running through the streets.
Cal shuddered. Enforcers didn't care if you were falsely accused. They killed anyone who even might be guilty, and they moved on.
He leaned closer to the glass, checking every entrance to the receiving docks for his people. Where were they all?
He punched the comm button again. "Call in. I want everyone back on this ship immediately. I'm starting preflight."
"Doc and I are on our way," Alanna's voice answered. "You're never going to believe what just happened."
"Yeah, tell me when you get here." Cal checked the instruments again. "Ty. Ethan. Answer me."
Static filled the line. "Boss, you're breaking up. Ethan and I are going to do some recon and see if we can figure out what the enforcers are doing this far away from the Bane home world."
Were they out of their minds? "Ty, get your ass back here now. That's an order."
"Sorry, boss, I can't hear you." The line cut out.
Dammit! If those idiots got caught, they might all be screwed. Cal would be executed for murder, and the rest of the crew, even if they found a way to avoid the smuggling charges, would be killed for just being on the same ship with him.
Cal gripped the edge of the console. This couldn't be happening to him again.
It had been sixteen years, but it seemed like yesterday when the enforcers had taken his father away.
Cal shook away the memory of the screaming, the blood. His eyes blurred and refocused on his fingers, white from clutching the console. He took a deep breath and wiped the sweat from his brow.
You couldn't negotiate with an enforcer. They killed without mercy. They were like robots, and his crew knew that.
Cal scanned the area outside his ship. Alanna and Doc entered the docking bay and held up their access cards to the chip readers on the security gates. Cal breathed a sigh of relief before his hands dampened on the console.
Alanna looked over her shoulder twice, her eyes wide. Doc's hair stuck to his forehead, looking like he'd just run a marathon. A single bag hung over Alanna's shoulder, too small to be holding all the supplies she'd gone out for.
Doc's hands were free. He didn't have his usual box of medical supplies and mad scientist gadgets.
The man never came back empty-handed.
Cal's stomach sank. Doc held one hand over his chest as he scanned his access card, while Alanna kept a palm on his back.
Worry creased her brow.
Something must have happened. Cal focused on the fact that they were alive. Right now, nothing else mattered.
Cal checked the area behind them and then scanned the security feeds of the hallways leading to the receiving docks. Traders and local guards passed the cameras, but no enforcers. At least no one was following them.
Once they got past the gate, Alanna moved beside Doc, placing his arm over her shoulder so he could lean on her. He'd definitely been hurt. But how? If it was enforcers, they would have been in pursuit.
The yellow light flashed on the console. Cal tapped it three times and it stopped.
Alanna and Doc were almost to the ship. Whatever had happened, he'd deal with it once they were safe.
Right now he had to get this ship ready to take off as soon as everyone was on board. With enforcers on the station, every second might mean the difference between living one more day and dying as part of some sick public spectacle.
He hit the comm. "Ty, Ethan. Come on. I know you can hear me. Please, do the right thing and come back to the ship."
Cal closed his eyes, breathing slowly as silence answered him.
Quiet was deafening at times, like the heartbeat of a twelve-year-old boy, drenched in blood, limping home to tell his mother that her husband had been stolen—murdered by the very people tasked to protect them.
The only thing Cal knew with any certainty was that the galaxy, with all its size and grandeur, was nowhere near large enough to hide in. In time, they always found you. He just didn't want to bring the rest of his friends down with him.
Cal straightened. They still had a chance to get away. All he could do was hope that Ty and Ethan wouldn't be foolish enough to go anywhere near those enforcers.