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Children of the Black Ship (Paperback)

Children of the Black Ship (Paperback)

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Book 4 of The Rogue Star Sci-Fi Series

Ebook Version

Audiobook Version

 

Everyone’s heard stories about ghost ships.

 

But they’re just stories…Right?

 

On the hunt for a missing friend, Marcus and Solomon find a massive black ship in the unexplored regions. Now they have to find a way to save their trapped friend and defeat a galaxy threatening danger.

 

It won’t be easy, but that won’t stop Marcus. He never leaves a friend behind and this time won’t be any different.

 

Paperback

 

 

Paperback

150 Pages

Dimensions

5.5 X 8.5

ISBN

978-1-945763-45-8

Publication Date

December 01, 2021

Publisher

Sand Hill Publishing

Look Inside

The interior of the Green Gagger Bar and Restaurant was nearly as hot and humid as the air of Croctus Prime. Marcus Drake wiped the tears from his eyes. A reptilian male of a near-human species native to the planet had vomited in the corner beside the bar. Bile slowly dissolved the floor and as it did the most horrific fumes rose up into the air. Air already polluted by smoke, dust, and every form of inhaled intoxicant Marcus knew and some he’d never encountered. If he had any nose hairs left when he finished this job, it would be a miracle.

Somewhere behind him—he wasn’t keen to look—another pair of lizard men bellowed and fought, shoving, clawing, and snapping at each other. The floorboards shook with the force of their stomping feet. There didn’t seem to be any reason for the contest. In the last two hours, three fights had broken out, all three of which ended with the fighters exhausting themselves while taking no wounds.

It was the scales, of course. The lizard men’s scales were so tough they’d deflect anything short of a direct blaster bolt. That’s also what made them so highly desired as workers, they could go into dangerous environments without protective gear which saved the companies that used them a fortune. And if said companies managed to capture and enslave their workers, well, that saved on salary as well.

He took a sip of his beer, or whatever the local equivalent was called, and winced when his tongue went numb. He could buy a drum of that poison and strip the Star’s paint. When Marcus had agreed to work for the Galactic Council, he’d hoped his days of hanging out in dumps like this were over. He should’ve known better.

“Slide down a couple stools.” Marcus nudged his partner and navigator Solomon Keys in the ribs and nodded toward the opposite end of the long, scarred bar. “I want to put some distance between us and that toxic pool.”

“Are you sure this is the right place?” Solomon’s head darted left and right as if expecting one of the locals to bite an arm off. His blond hair stuck straight up and sweat stained his blue tunic, sticking the cloth to his clammy skin. 

Just because the natives looked like crocodiles and fought like crocodiles didn’t mean they ate like them. In fact, Marcus was pretty sure they were vegetarians. Since he and Solomon arrived, Marcus hadn’t seen a single meat dish emerge from the kitchen behind the bar. What did pass for food smelled like it came from a decaying pit deep in the planet’s swamps. Which, for all he knew, was exactly what happened.

“This has to be the right place,” Marcus said. “There isn’t another spaceport for ten thousand miles and what are the odds of Blackwater City having two bars named The Green Gagger?”

“Then where is this guy we’re supposed to get off planet? He’s half an hour late.” Solomon slapped his cheek and his hand came away bloody and covered with a splattered mosquito the size of a hummingbird. “I hate this place.”

“You could’ve stayed on the ship. I offered to come alone.”

“Ha! And trust you to validate his credentials? If I did, you’d be apt to come back with a psycho killer that would murder us both the first chance he got.” Solomon waved his hand to shoo away another of the giant mosquitos. The blood suckers seemed to like him. “I just wish he’d bloody well hurry up.”

Marcus just nodded and put a hand over his mouth to hide the smile. A genius with computers, Solomon also had a knack for complaining. Marcus only worried when he stopped.

The door slammed and Marcus glanced right just as a pale, gaunt humanoid with a bald head and deep-set solid black eyes stepped inside. He wore a dark business suit that only made his skin appear paler. The new arrival clutched one hand to his ribs as he peered around the room.

“Wonder if this could be our boy,” Marcus said. “Looks like he’s had a rough time.”

Solomon spun all the way around, subtle as a hammer to the forehead. “He matches the description. Thank the universe, we can finally get out of here.”

“Easy, partner. He’s a member of the same race controlling the company enslaving the locals. We’ll see if he knows the boss’s code word. If he does, then you can validate his credentials.”

“Think it might be a trap?” Solomon’s enthusiasm from ten seconds ago vanished.

“I assume everything’s a trap until proven otherwise. After all we’ve been through, I figured you would too.”

“I’m not as cynical as you.”

“You say that like it’s a good thing. Stay put and keep your eyes peeled. I’ll check him out.”

Marcus hopped off his barstool and started toward the door where the stranger was still scoping out the room. How could he have missed the only humans in the place?

More suspicious than ever, Marcus tapped the command gauntlet that covered his arm from knuckles to elbow, activating the stun setting on the weapons module. A beep of acknowledgment sounded and a faint vibration tingled the back of his right hand.

Nothing like a primed weapon to set his mind at ease.

He evaded a pair of drunk natives and sidled up beside the newcomer. “Looking for someone?”

The pale alien squinted at Marcus. “The taxi driver.”

Marcus relaxed a fraction and offered a grin. “That’s me. I was told you had something important.”

“Yes, I—” He gasped and staggered against Marcus, who reached out and steadied him.

The arm he kept pressed against his side moved uncovering a deep, nasty gash. Someone had tried to gut the poor bastard.

Solomon must have noticed something was going on. He rushed over and asked, “Is it him?”

“He knew the right answer, but I haven’t seen his identification yet.” Marcus slung the alien’s arm around his neck. “He’s hurt bad. Get on the other side. We need to get him to the Star.”

“You want to take him back before we complete the ID check?”

“If I don’t get to a medkit we’ll be identifying a corpse.” Marcus scanned the room but none of the locals paid them the least attention. Everyone was probably too drunk or high. “Come on.”

Solomon finally grabbed an arm and together they eased their passenger outside. Lights were few and far between which suited Marcus fine at the moment. A handful of transports were lined up along the street. Most of the natives walked or rode public transportation, but some had cobbled together hovercars. The one they rented at the spaceport stood out for the fact that it wasn’t held together with wire and plaster.

“I’ve got him,” Marcus said. “Open the back door.”

Solomon hurried ahead, punched the passcode into the rental’s security system, and opened the rear driver’s-side door. He helped Marcus ease the slim man into the back seat. Blood leaked down the seat to pool on the floor. No way were they getting the security deposit back now.

“I’ll stay back here with him,” Solomon said.

Surprised but pleased, Marcus slid behind the wheel. A second code activated the ignition and the car hummed to life. The headlights blazed through the darkness, revealing the empty dirt road. As he stepped on the accelerator, Marcus wondered why more places with hover technology didn’t give up on paving roads. They served no purpose. Old habits, probably.

There was some noise from the back seat and Solomon said, “I found his credentials. This is definitely our guy, Tomar Den.”

Marcus grimaced. “You’re supposed to be keeping pressure on the wound, not picking his pockets.”

“I have two hands, one of which is searching for anything that would tell us why Dra’kor was so eager to get this guy off planet.”

Marcus finally gave in. “Find anything?”

“No.”

That would’ve been too easy. The spaceport appeared in the distance. It was the only well-lit area in the settlement.

“We’re almost there. When I get him stabilized maybe he can tell us something useful.”

“He’s not breathing too good, Marcus.”

“Damn it.” Marcus stomped the accelerator and whipped around an ore freighter.

The Rogue Star was berthed in the private rather than business section of the port so he had to weave his way through freighters and maintenance vehicles. At least the ground crew was off duty so there were no people to worry about.

Their furious rush ended when the Star’s battered hull appeared in his headlights. Just over fifty yards long and half that wide, his ship looked like she’d fought a comet and come out on the losing end. He liked it that way. People tended to underestimate her.

Marcus tapped a command into his gauntlet and the docking bay ramp lowered. He parked just outside and leapt out.

“Help me.” Marcus tried to get Tomar on his feet, but the alien had no strength. “Grab his legs.”

Marcus hooked him under the arms, Solomon got him by the knees, and together they carried their limp passenger up the ramp. A few feet inside, Marcus’s shiny black war bot, Gruesome, watched him impassively. Gruesome stood eight feet tall and five feet wide and packed enough hidden weaponry to win a small war on its own.  Unlike Marcus’s old cargo handler, Gruesome was capable of more complex defensive programing and didn’t require a voice authentication every time Marcus approached. 

With much grunting and swearing they made it through the nearly empty cargo bay and to the spare cabin. Since Iaka quit traveling with them a month ago to focus on her research, they’d been using it for junk storage. Spare parts and garbage covered every flat surface.

Not exactly sanitary.

Marcus’s swipe sent everything on the narrow bed crashing to the floor. They laid Tomar down and Marcus brushed the sweat from his forehead before pulling his gauntlet off.

“Medkit, quick.” Marcus tore the alien’s tunic the rest of the way open. The wound was clean and deep, the sort of thing you expected after an operation, assuming the surgeon forgot to sew his patient back up.

Solomon returned with the box of medical supplies. Marcus flipped it open and pulled out a hand scanner. Hopefully Tomar’s species’ physiology was programmed into the unit. He tapped it on and ran it the length of Tomar’s body.

The readout indicated minimal internal damage. If Marcus could seal the wound and get some synthetic blood into him, he should be okay.

He tossed the scanner back into the kit and grabbed a synthetic skin applicator. Now to pinch the wound shut and seal it. Marcus reached for the wound. A moment before grabbing the skin he noticed something inside the alien’s body.

Was that a flashing light? Marcus eased a finger into the opening and wiped some blood aside. A small cylindrical device about four inches long and as big around as his thumb had been jammed into Tomar’s body. At the top a single red light flickered.

It looked an awful lot like a bomb.

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