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Children of Darkness (Paperback)

Children of Darkness (Paperback)

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Book 1 of The Rogue Star Sci-Fi Series

Ebook Version

Audiobook Version


Marcus Drake just wants to run his business in peace.


When he finds a derelict ship drifting far off any of the major space lanes his first thought is that he’s scored a nice bit of salvage.


Little does he know that his discovery will set him on a path that will carry him from the depths of Alpha 114 to a conspiracy at the top of Earth’s government and out hunting for a weapon capable of changing the galaxy.


Can Marcus and his friends survive the dangers they’ve stumbled into?




182 Pages


5.5 X 8.5



Publication Date

February 8, 2018


Sand Hill Publishing

Look Inside

The blaring of the ship’s intercom woke Captain Marcus Drake from his favorite dream, the one about the dancing girls and the hot spring. He glanced at the clock on the wall and groaned. Only four hours since his shift ended. Whatever Solomon wanted better be important.

Marcus swung his long legs over the side of his bunk and stepped on something sharp. “Damn it! Lights.”

The overhead lights came to life, not quite blinding him. “Damn it! Reduce brightness by half.”

The lights obliged and after a moment Marcus’s vision cleared. The state of his little cabin made him want to turn the lights off again.

Three months of accumulated junk spilled out of the storage bins. Clothes in desperate need of cleaning, food containers from half a dozen restaurants – each from a different planet – along with the other odds and ends he’d collected in his travels. On one shelf, in a neat row, sat twenty leather-bound books, his mother’s collection. An island of order amidst the chaos. He smiled when he looked at them and a bit of his annoyance leaked away.

Marcus raised his sore foot and found the remains of a small statuette he’d picked up at the spaceport on Titan two months ago. At least he didn’t break the skin.

He picked his way through the debris to the intercom and slapped the switch. “What?”

“We’re picking up a distress beacon.”

“We’re in the middle of nowhere. Who the hell would travel through this part of the galaxy, besides us, of course. The nearest trade route is half a day from here.”

“Yeah, but the distress beacon is out there nonetheless.”

“Fine, I’m on my way.” Marcus released the intercom switch. He threw on his clothes and ducked out of his cabin. Six steps to his left and the automatic door to the cockpit slid open. He smiled as he stepped through the door into his only true home in the galaxy. 

Seated in the copilot’s chair, was the short, round, blond figure of his best friend and navigator, Solomon Keys.

He glanced  back at Marcus. “You look like shit.”

Marcus scratched the three day’s growth of stubble on his cheek. “Thanks. This is what you get when you wake me up after four hours’ sleep. You sure the beacon’s legit?”

Solomon didn’t dignify that with a reply. Marcus grinned. Solomon’s people skills sucked, but he knew computers. Solomon told him computers were easier to deal with than people. If he didn’t like the way a computer acted he’d just change its programming; he had to talk to people.

“I’ve pinpointed the beacon’s location.”

When Solomon gave him the location he shook his head. “None of the big merchant houses come out this far. Did you identify the beacon?”

After a moment of typing Solomon said, “I’ll be damned. It isn’t merchant class at all, it’s expedition class.”

“No exploration ships have come out this way in years. It’s gotta be pirates.”

“You always say that.” Solomon typed another command. “We haven’t even seen a pirate in three years. Come on, somebody might be in trouble. Shall I prepare for a return to real space?”

“We have a schedule to keep. We can’t be late again.” Last time they hadn’t made their delivery date their client, Axis, cut their fee so much they’d only gotten enough to refuel. “We can report their location when we get to Mars.”

“It’ll take three days to get there and three more for a rescue ship to get back. Whoever’s out there might die before anyone arrives. You know we need to stop and try to help. Besides we’re six hours ahead of schedule.”

“Fine, have it your way.” Once Solomon got an idea in his head it would take a plasma grenade to get it out. Best to go along with him. “Bring us out well away from the beacon. I want a good look around before we go in.”

“Understood,” Solomon said. “Revision in three.”

“Inertial dampers on full.”


“Auto-guns online.”


“Shields at maximum.”

The Rogue Star came shuddering back to real space. Nothing shot at them which Marcus took as a good sign. A ship’s most vulnerable moment came just after first leaving hyperspace. Marcus learned that lesson the hard way years ago. He activated the ship’s sensors. No heat signatures or movement detected, they appeared to be alone. 

“What do you think?”

Solomon squinted bloodshot, blue eyes as he studied the readings. “No energy readings. Nothing to indicate a battle. I’m just picking up a single large object drifting at random. It’s the source of the distress signal.”

“Well, let’s take a look,” Marcus said, curious now despite himself. He pushed the engines to half power and guided the Star toward the object. He took a deep breath and tensed and relaxed his muscles one group at a time. They had no need to worry. If he told himself that enough times he might start to believe it.

They approached the object and Marcus activated the ship’s powerful floodlights, revealing the gray hull of a large star cruiser. Something had blown a hole in the side of it. Marcus could have flown the Star right through the hull.

“Run a full scan of the ship. I need a classification and note of our position. This thing is slagged but I bet we can get good credits from a salvager.”

While Solomon worked, Marcus piloted his ship in a quick orbit of the cruiser. Hundreds of laser bolts had scarred and pitted the durasteel hull. She’d seen plenty of action, no doubt. The guts of one engine dangled from a six-foot gash in its housing. Something had blown the second engine away leaving only an empty hole. He spotted several smaller holes in the hull toward the rear of the ship. Whoever they ran into did a thorough job.

When he’d finished his orbit Marcus guessed the cruiser measured three hundred yards long. Even as scrap it should sell for a quarter million credits.

“Finished your scan yet?”

“Almost. It’s a class three Earth Force destroyer. Minimal weapons. Probably decommissioned and sold to a private buyer.”

“When you’re finished plot us a course out of here.”

“Not so fast.” Solomon ran a hand through his shaggy blond hair. “I picked up a life sign. Someone’s alive over there.”

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