Starblazer is a science fiction adventure story, with futuristic guns, space battles, cool armour, fast ships, and a motley crew of misfits. If you love rip-roaring adventures, impossible odds, and the final frontier, then I hope you’ll love this book!
I’m working on finishing this story, and I would love to hear your feedback in the comments, so let me know what you think; I’ll be updating new chapters as I finish them!
The parks in New Atlantis were green and lush. A gentle breeze stroked Aya’s cheek and the sound of her mother’s laughter filled her ears. A picnic was laid out on a blanket. Her daddy was serving cheese and little Luke was squeezing a piece of white chocolate through his fingers.
“Do you want to sing the friend song?” MAX asked, cocking his ceramic head to one side in that manner that was so close to a human’s, and yet all his own.
“Yes!” Aya bleated, rocking backwards and clapping her hands, “the friend song!”
She imitated the bot’s movements as he began to dance, calling her parents to do the same and even baby Luke was joining in.
“Do you want to sing the friend s-s-s-song–song–sooooong?”
Dammit. Aya tossed her soldering iron down on the bed next to the juddering ceramic hand of her oldest and dearest friend. She didn’t have time for this.
“I really thought you could take the upgrade. I’m sorry buddy.” His rounded bucket-head blinked at her, his eyes flashing orange and the thin line of his mouth dark. Silent. She shook her head. His files were corrupting. She flashed up his program on the small JPC attached to her forearm. The screen was infuriatingly small, but it was the most powerful quantum drive she had access to.
“Aya!” the shrill voice of Cecile Tanaka seared through the apartment.
“Not right now, Nanna!” Aya scrolled through the lines of code. The processor wasn’t big enough to take the mod. If she could rip it out and start over with a hardware upgrade, he might be no worse for it.
“It’s past seven, Aya, I thought you had work today?”
Aya grimaced. ‘It’s a Thursday, woman. You know I have work today,’ she thought. “I’ll be down in a minute!” She couldn’t focus with the interruptions and if she was going to delete the new code, she had to make damn sure she deleted the right bits.
“You said that half an hour ago. It’s not me who’s saying anything, it’s Mr Mendoza: Hasn’t he written you up once before? I thought you wanted this job?”
“I’m busy, Nanna!” she screamed back, barely looking up from the tiny screen. “I have to fix MAX.”
“Stop worrying about that dusty old pile of junk and start worrying about your future.”
Aya spun around to see her grandmother standing at the door, her face firm as she stared at the component parts of Aya’s play droid littered across the floor. “Aren’t you a little too old for a sitter-bot, anyway?”
Aya deflated. Nanna couldn’t seriously be suggesting she throw MAX away? It wasn’t even her decision to make. Aya had been the one to fix him, upgrade his components, and provide the regular services they could no longer access on Ceres. Max was hers, and she wasn’t about to let him go. “He’s not just a sitter-bot, he is my friend.”
MAX gripped her hand. The floor shook again underfoot. Pictures fell off the walls. Terror ripped through her, twisting her stomach. But MAX was there. MAX wouldn’t let her get hurt.
“Oh Aya,” Cecile continued, “Isn’t it time you made some real friends? If you lose this job, then what? I can’t feed us both.”
She wasn’t going to get this done, not with her grandmother looming over her. Aya suppressed a growl of frustration. She had to go, but she couldn’t leave MAX to corrupt.
“Fine.” She snapped. Her JPC would do. She didn’t know what would happen to him, but she knew the computer that was part cybernetic, part Jovian wearable tech, was powerful enough to store his code for now. She tapped a few commands to transfer the contents of MAX’s programming, then stood. “I’m going.”
“Oh, and now you snap at me? Berate the woman who raised you, who gave up her home for you, her bed for you so you could have somewhere to rest your head, and now all I want for you is to keep the job you love, and I’m the bad one? I’m the monster?”
Aya tried to tune her out as she listened to the familiar gripes. She grabbed her jacket and goggles from a shelf and picked up the modded grav-plate. “I’m going to work. Look. See? I’m leaving. You were right, and I was wrong.” She glanced at the JPC display: 87%.
“Don’t be like this, Aya.”
“Don’t be like what? I’m going to work. I’m doing what I was told.” She withheld a growl as she barged past her grandmother toward the front door of their one-bedroom apartment. Cecile was right, she was running late. But MAX’s programme was still only at 93%. 94… 95%.
“Aren’t you going to have breakfast? You can’t live off that spaceport food.”
Good enough. She’d still be in range for a few minutes. She grabbed her rucksack.
“Bye Nanna, I love you. Have a good day!”
She slammed the door behind her, silencing her grandmother’s words, as she stepped out into the notorious Tellus wind.
Aya pulled her jacket around her and threw down the grav-plate, hopping on and zooming up the road, adjusting her goggles, mask, and rucksack as she went.
The clay dust of Tellus was like a thick fog. It was particularly bad today, and she could feel the town’s grav-coils running too hot. The heat rose from the ground and hit the cold air, sinking from the tessellated roof of the Eden Sphere a kilometre or so above her head. Far enough that any trace of its existence was lost in the swirling dust of the muddy sky.
Tellus wasn’t a bad place as backwaters went. At least they had decent grav-coils and an atmosphere, which was more than could be said for some of the mining colonies further out in the black. They even had trees in Tellus. Grimy, thin-looking things, with wide leaves, raised hopefully upwards at the Daylites spilling their precious UV down on the residents for the government-mandated six hours of glorious, fog-covered sunshine a day.
Aya veered around a neighbour trudging along the lonely street of the Dutch Quarter and then took a right toward the subterranean entrance to the loop. In theory, her grav-plate was capable of two hundred k’s an hour, but even with her mask and goggles, the dust would shred her skin at that speed. But as soon as she saw a clear run to the entrance, she picked up speed, then slipped down the steps and out of the curse of the wind.
She glanced down at her JPC. Max was at 100%, but her clock told her she only had twenty minutes to cross town. She couldn’t risk waiting for a pod. She’d be crammed inside an airtight container with five strangers as they were sped through underground tubes to the next station, where they would have to crawl along at painful increments through the station before being let off again. No one believed her when she said they made her travel sick, but it wasn’t motion that got her, it was the constantly changing speed.
The loop platform was half empty. That didn’t stop the pods from crawling through at low speeds to match the moving walkway; they were pre-set. But it meant Aya could skip the queue without the usual reprimands. She tapped the ground with her toe, and the grav-plate slid across the platform, where she grabbed hold of the back of a pod just as it took off into the loop. Squatting down low behind the pod, Aya had a wild ride for two minutes to the next station, where she skipped the creeping pods and dashed to the first in-line. She grabbed the lip at the back of the otherwise smooth, rounded vehicle and dashed off once again.
She called it bunny hopping. But most people, security included, called it dangerous and illegal. If everyone did it, she would agree. But she was the only one with a modded grav-plate. Besides, she knew what she was doing. Plus, she was late for work.
As she got closer to Tellus Spaceport, the stations grew busier, and she had to work harder to swoop in and out of the crowds before grabbing the next leaving pod. She almost always heard shouts as she left the station. She didn’t know if people were shouting at her because it was dangerous or they were just annoyed that she was skipping the queue. Either way, she was long gone before they could call any kind of security.
Every station looked identical, but she could always tell immediately when she had reached the Spaceport. Even outside of peak time, it was thronged with people, burdened with luggage, looking lost and fighting over the few seats in the latest pod. The passengers were so eager to get inside the pod, slowly moving in tandem with the station platform, that they barely stopped to let the people out, and often forgot that their luggage had to fit inside as well.
Aya slipped through the crowd but ran out of momentum at the stairs. She glanced at her JPC as she grabbed her grav-plate and dashed up toward the concourse. 8am. She barely took in the bustling crowds and concession droids as she pulled out her lanyard and waved it at a security droid then dashed through the massive security gates. She weaved out of the crowd and ran at full speed to the familiar glass-fronted HQ of the Ceresian Scavengers. The neon letters blinked in the window.
Her heart sank as she saw Nilo Mendoza waiting for her, staring at his watch as if he had nothing better to do than wait for her.
“8:02,” he said, shaking his shaggy head of hair, “Am I crazy Aya? Am I a madman?”
“No, Mr Mendoza,” she said reluctantly through panting breaths, though his wide eyes and inane questions begged her to answer otherwise.
“Am I paying you to flit around Tellus spaceport, or am I paying you to be here on time?”
“I’m sorry I’m late,” he’d recover quickly enough, especially as she knew exactly what to say to distract him. “The loop was nuts today.”
He threw up his hands in despair. “The loop is nuts every day!”
Aya let him rant as she put her things aside and prepped herself for work.
“Those lunatics had one job! An underground railway. What do they do? Pods. PODS! It’s public transport, not a-a-a spooky-house ride! In fact, a spooky-house ride probably has more capacity than that insane dollar carnival they call a transport system. And how did they pay for it? With our taxes, that’s how.”
“It was built before you were born, Scav.” Jakob was a braver man than Aya. One of the few blonds in Tellus, Jakob was taller than Mr Mendoza by a foot or more but was still intimidated by the grumpy old scavenger.
“You’re right, and yet we are still paying for it, taxes every year, debt growing, mining operations still using the same equipment from fifty years ago.” Mr Mendoza had taken his attention completely away from Aya and she was pretty sure he’d forget her tardiness by lunchtime. But it was still best to keep her head low and just keep working with Jakob on that mercury vortex engine they’d scrapped from the smashed-up corvette.
It was going to be a long day, and she didn’t know when, if ever, she would be able to get MAX back online.