The emperor of the galaxy has fallen, leaving his exiled daughter to pick up the pieces.
The once-idyllic Andlios Republic has fallen into chaos after the passing of Emperor Freeman. His son, Cronus, a madman bent on total control of the galaxy, rules in his stead. Adrift on the fringes of republic space, Katrijn Freeman must return home and fulfill her father's dying wish: restore democracy to their fractured republic.
There are more forces in play, though. Another princess with a claim to the throne and the Earth Ministry on the other side of the galaxy, bent on domination.
It's a race to restore order as Katrijn must traverse the cosmos with her closest allies, caught between humanity's two great civilizations. All while Katrijn and her friends explore their own humanity, trying to avoid repeating the same mistakes that have led to much suffering.
It's a space adventure for the ages.
This collection includes:
"It's a classical space opera mixed with some ancient Rome + medieval Scandinavia. A fascinating juxtaposition and difficult to pull off but Walsh makes it work."
"It's a classical space opera mixed with some ancient Rome + medieval Scandinavia. A fascinating juxtaposition and difficult to pull off but Walsh makes it work."– Matt Saccaro on Cydonia Rising
"This was a great read, in fact I had a hard time putting it down. The characters are well described and the storyline is exciting."– Debra Schwitzer, Goodreads Reviewer
"Once this book unlocks the vast, rich, and challenging universe that Dave has conjured in his ongoing literary Big Bang, you will never look back."– Robert Jeschonek on Cydonia Rising
"Once this book unlocks the vast, rich, and challenging universe that Dave has conjured in his ongoing literary Big Bang, you will never look back."a00. Space Girl
Jace leaned back in his chair, carefully resting his bare foot on the console in front of him, doing his best to not trigger anything. The metal chassis felt cold to the touch, but so did just about everything on the ship. It had been seven cycles since Jace had bought the Pequod and struck out on his own, yet it still didn't feel like home to him after all of that time. There were a few rooms he had made his own, but they were few and far between. The ship's control deck—a glorified cockpit with room for maybe four people—had always been one of the areas where Jace had gone out of his way to make it feel like it was his.
Those areas that Jace spent time in were always in a constant state of disarray, Jace inhabiting them throughout most of his flight time while ignoring the rest. He knew he didn't always have to be in the control deck while traveling and that autopilot took care of most of the work, but when you flew alone as Jace did, there were fewer and fewer reasons to sprawl out or search for alone time. There was also the neurotic fear of something going horribly wrong and not being close enough to take evasive action thanks to not having a crew to rely on. That being said, most of his voyages were "alone time" by choice.
Jace was selective about what jobs he took, and he stayed away from most of the live cargo or transport jobs. The Pequod was up for carrying more people, with plenty of additional quarters and room for at least twelve to live comfortably, but for Jace, his solitary existence was what felt comfortable to him. That meant moving shipments from moon to moon, planet to planet within the Andlios Republic under the rule of Cronus Freeman. Jace snorted to himself at the very thought of Cronus Freeman while he shook his head, picking himself up out of the command chair and stretching his arms out as far as they could go before his hands smacked against a part of the hull. He was hungry anyway and the great expanse that was space whizzing all around him could wait for him to get back. He figured it wasn't going anywhere without him.
Jace plodded down the metal steps into the ship's galley, forced to duck through doorways and sidle through the hallways that were rough on his bulky frame. He was tearing through the compartments looking for something that wouldn't require much of him while sucking on a pack of water. He wore a few days' worth of stubble at most times and his hair was in a constant state of disarray, a light brown mess that he always ran his fingers through. He was hungry and anything would do. Maybe some of that freeze-dried stuff that never quite tasted like what the label said it was, but it didn't require him heating anything up or having to wait for it. That stuff also lasted for years, which was helpful when he was on longer jobs. He'd always pick up fresher foods before he left for a job, but after a few days, it was back to canned food and freeze-dried stuff. At this point, he was just under a week out from Cyngen and he had eaten his last apple two days prior, so freeze-dried was about all that he had left.
He sorted through the packets inside the metal drawer, tossing aside a few before picking out one labeled "Cherry" and slamming the drawer shut with his hip while he held the packet up to his mouth. He gnashed his teeth against the top, trying to tear it open when he heard the alarm from the deck blaring throughout the ship. Great, he thought to himself, he must have miscalculated something or he was on a collision course with an asteroid and certain doom. If Ro were still alive, she'd be lecturing him on being reckless again, and the thought brought an impulsive smile to his face, even with the possibility of certain doom hanging over his head. That was something he wanted to avoid, at least for the time being.
He quickly found himself regretting not wearing shoes while he sprinted down the corridor, up to the metal stairs and into the control deck. Jace slid effortlessly into his chair and slapped a button above the control chair to turn the alarm off, the packet dangling from his mouth. He surveyed the readings only to see that he was rapidly approaching an object in space. It wasn't anything natural, it was man-made and it was definitely too small to be a ship, even a smaller ship. There was also a life sign, which made his heart jump a bit.
Jace quickly entered a few commands and zoomed in on the object, a projection rotating on the left-hand side of the window before him. It was a life pod, a larger one, too. It was large enough to fit multiple people, but his scans were just picking up a lone lifeform in it. They were still deep out in space, about five days away from the Cydonian-inhabited planet of Cyngen near the outskirts of the system. That meant almost two weeks out from Andlios. He was out in no man's land and knew if he didn't stop it, whoever was aboard that life pod was a goner.
With a groan, the ship's HyperMass Drive powered down, Jace watching the space around him turn from streaks to still stars. There was still no visual on the life pod, it being a few klicks out, but his sensors were still reading it. Most life pods didn't have much by the way of comm systems, but he sent through an automated reply just the same, curious as to why the life pod didn't have its distress beacon activated. This was pretty deep in the middle of the frontier, so there was a good chance that whoever was aboard had given up hope and was just waiting for death to come.
The Pequod was a smaller class freighter, which gave it higher maneuverability and the ability to be a bit quicker with still enough room in the cargo bay to fit that life pod. With a flick of a switch, the cargo bay door was opening up, a display showing him the door status while he inched closer to the pod. It wouldn't be an easy pickup for most pilots, but for Jace, this was all a part of his job. There were often times where he'd be asked to retrieve lost cargo in remote systems, being hired out by logistics companies who were too embarrassed to admit that they had lost some in a transfer and instead paid him to do the dirty work for them discreetly.
Picking up a life pod from deep space wouldn't be much of a sweat. Jace deployed the cargo arms on each side of the bay doors, controlling them via twin joysticks on the dash. While the Pequod inched closer to the pod, he put the arms in motion. The arms reached out, the right grabbing ahold of the pod to stabilize it while the left edged in to get a grip on it. When the pod was firmly locked into place he retracted the arms and waited until his display showed that the pod was secured and then he closed the bay doors.
There hadn't been a visitor aboard with him in at least four standard months, which only made him more self-conscious about the shape of the ship. Jace quickly fumbled for a pair of socks and his boots, slipping the socks on in a hurry and pulling the boots up over his feet, clumsily clomping to his feet and almost tripping over his left boot, which he hadn't fully stepped into yet. He let out a sigh, wondering if he had maybe lost a step when it came to dealing with the human race since Ro passed seven cycles prior.
Jace quickly shook the face of his dead wife out of his head, pulled on his jacket and strapped his pulsepistol's holster around his waist. While it hadn't crossed his mind before, he was now imagining a setup with a life pod floating helplessly waiting for some moron to swoop in to save the day only to find himself in the middle of an ambush. Jace knew how to take care of himself and had a fair amount of practice with a gun, but it was mostly for show just in case someone tried to get the jump on him. The walk down the stairs to the cargo bay was a bit more graceful than his last bout with the stairs, but he had company to worry about.
The meter on the door read that the cargo bay had finished pressurizing and that it was safe to go in, so he took a deep breath and flung the door open, fighting off the chill he felt from the room that just moments before had been exposed to the freezing depths of space. Jace tugged on his jacket, cursing to himself for being a good guy while he stomped over toward the life pod, searching for the door.
"Stay where you are," a voice came from behind him. He froze in place, his hand moving up toward the pistol holstered by his waist. "Hands up." The voice was confident, unwavering, and very clearly female.
"Okay," Jace raised his hands up slowly. "See, I'm raising my hands. You know, I did rescue you from what seemed like imminent death out there."
"I don't know that yet," she said as Jace felt the barrel of a gun being jabbed into the small of his back.
"I see you aren't one for talking first, just right to the guns and the demands, huh?"
"Look." He felt the tension on his back ease up. "A girl just has to be careful out here in deep space. You aren't a bounty hunter, are you?"
"Bounty hunter?" He laughed. "No, I'd probably make money if I did that. I move cargo." He pointed carefully toward the crates in the cargo hold. "If you'll let me move I'll go and show you the manifest and where I'm heading."
"That could just be a cover."
"Okay," he gulped, trying to find a way to either reach for his gun or somehow talk her down. "You were floating with what my ship read to be about one day's left of life support out here in deep space. I was just trying to be a nice guy."
"I've met my share of nice guys." She grabbed a hold of his arm and pushed him face-first up against the life pod. Her rough gloved hands were patting him down and his pistol slid from the holster. "This the only weapon you had on you?"
"Yeah," he groaned, his face burning up against the cold life pod. "Can you let me go now?"
"Fine." She let go and Jace took a deep breath and turned to face her. She was in her mid-to-late twenties with mid-length blonde hair pulled back into a loose ponytail, which was draped over a leather jacket that hugged her tightly. "But I have some questions."
"You bet that I do as well." Jace rubbed his face, trying to warm it up. "This is the last time I stop for a helpless life pod."
"Yeah, well." She placed her pistol back into a holster on her thigh over her cargo pants, still holding Jace's pointed at him. "I'm not exactly helpless."
"Clearly my mistake," he joked, trying to lighten the mood. "Look, my name is Jace and this ship you are on is the Pequod. I'm not sure what you are running from, but you are safe with me for now. I'm heading to Cyngen right now to make a delivery, and you are more than welcome to tag along as long as you stop pointing my own gun at me."
"Why would anyone go to Cyngen?" she asked, looking confused. "Even the Republic barely bothers with them."
"Because I have a delivery to make, that's why." He straightened out his jacket. "Look, it's cold in here, you mind if we head somewhere else where we can warm up? You can point guns at me in any room on this ship, I promise you."
"Fine," she nodded, walking behind him while he headed for the door.
"I didn't catch your name," he said.
"I didn't give it." She jabbed the gun into his back again.
"This isn't a good start to our friendship, is it?" he asked, trying to feel her out.
"Fine," she let out a sigh. "My name is Kat, now can we move?"
"Well, Kat," he said in a sardonic tone while throwing the heavy door open. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
They walked silently through the ship, and any consideration of giving her the full tour was hampered by the gun pointed at him the entire time. They walked through the ship until they came to the galley. Jace pulled up a stool for himself and motioned at the one across the counter from him. She sat down, still clearly on edge. He knew better than to make any sudden movements, but there was another gun hidden in the drawer behind him, he'd just need to distract her to get to it first.
"How about you tell me about yourself, then?" He broke the silence.
"I'd rather not."
"Okay, then, how about how you got here? What's your story?"
"Not much to tell, really." She looked around uneasily, laying his pistol down in front of her, barrel pointed at him. "Things went south and I ended up floating in the middle of space."
"I noticed something on your life pod." He bit his bottom lip, clasping his hands together on the counter. "Other than the fact that it was a pretty big one, I noticed some damage on it. Did you come under fire?"
"You could say that." She stared down at the gun, not making eye contact.
"Not very talkative, I get it, I'm a stranger and all."
"I need to get to Cyngen," she said.
"As I said, that's where I'm heading, you can hitch along if you like, you just can't point a gun at me the whole time."
"I have no reason to trust you."
"No, I guess not," he drummed his fingers on the table absentmindedly, causing her to raise the gun up further. "Oh, sorry, a nervous habit."
She motioned with her head toward his hand. "So where is your wife?"
"My wife?" He looked up at her, puzzled. "Who said anything about my wife?"
"That ring on your finger did." She motioned with her head toward his hand. "Is there anyone else aboard this ship that I need to know about?"
"Oh, right." He found himself absently playing with the ring, twisting it on his finger. "Sometimes I forget that this thing is still there."
"I don't need the whole story, just need to know who else is aboard this ship."
"It's just me," he said. "Just lonely ole' me."
"So she left you, then, huh?" Kat asked.
"No," he hung his head, carefully choosing his words. "She's dead."
"I'm a lot of things," he said, "but when it comes to my wife I don't joke around."
"Oh. I'm sorry to hear that."
"Oh, you know, it was over seven cycles ago now, I'm used to it. I travel alone now."
"So it's just you aboard this big freighter?"
"Can I have access to your ship's scanner to see for myself?"
"Oh, right. Look, I'm going to reach for my holoscanner right now, but I'm gonna do it slowly so don't think I'm up to anything, alright?"
"Fine," she said. Jace kept his right hand on the table and moved his left to his belt. There was no way he could reach behind him for his hidden gun without her noticing, so he snapped the lock on his holoscanner and placed it down on the table in between them.
"Just…" He began explaining where to find the scanner to her when she snatched it up with her free hand and began tapping away. "So I guess you know where to find the scanner, then."
"I've been around ships my whole life," she said, trying to keep an eye on him while she pulled up the info. "The scan is clean."
"Just like I told you."
"I guess so," she said, slightly lowering the gun.
"See, you don't need that."
"How do I know you don't just make puppy dog eyes at every girl you bring on board with some sob story about your late wife to lower their guard?"
Jace just laughed, letting his guard down.
"Hey, I'm serious here."
"You're a trip," he said. "You've probably seen some shit. My wife is dead, you can trawl through Republic records to confirm it if you want. Because shit, that is something I'd lie about, right? Why not? I'd lie about the only person I ever cared about being dead just to make a pass at some girl I just met."
"Okay, okay, fuck," she said. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to…"
"No, no," he said. "It's okay. I understand. I'm just some guy out here, you don't know me from the next goon. I took Ro's death kinda hard and ever since then I've kind of kept to myself out here, making runs on the fringes. I'm not very fond of the Republic either, you know. Nobody making runs on the fringes is getting fat Republic contracts, that's for sure."
"I guess not," she nodded, not making eye contact. "If you don't mind me asking, what happened to her?"
"I do mind," Jace stood up, looking around the galley before finding the packet of cherry protein he had pulled out before, tearing it open and taking a big bite from it. The packet lay right by the drawer where the gun was hidden, but the situation felt like it was diffusing itself, so reaching for it would only make things worse.
"Sorry, I didn't want to pry or anything, was just making conversation is all."
"How about this." He turned to face her, taking another bite of the grainy protein syrup and swallowing hard without really tasting it, not that there was much to taste anyway. "You don't ask about my wife and I don't ask why you are on the run, that sound good?"
"That works for me," she nodded, tapping her fingernails against the cold steel counter.
"Now can I have my damned gun back, already? I promise I won't shoot."
"Look," he said. "There's another gun right here next to me so if I wanted to shoot you I could have already. See?" He slid open the drawer and showed her his spare gun, and she frowned at it and shook her head.
"I guess," she said. "I mean, I still don't know if you'll…"
"If I'll what? This way we'll both have our guns. I promise not to shoot if you don't."
"Alright, alright, fine." She slid it across the counter, and Jace caught it and slipped it back into his holster.
"The charge pack as well," he said as he shot her a mischievous smile.
"You're perceptive, I'll give you that." She reached into her pocket, presenting the small battery pack and sliding it across the counter into his hand. "I'll still be watching you, though."
"I don't know how long you plan on hitching along with me." He slid the battery pack into the handle of his pistol, powering it on and reading the level before placing it back into the holster. "But I've got a few rooms down below, you can pick whichever one you want. I'm sure you are tired after being in a life pod for as long as you were."
"That'd be great, yeah." Kat seemed uneasy still, but at least Jace didn't have to scramble for his hidden gun.