Here’s a teaser blurb for you guys:
The residents of Celestica Space Station really do live on the edge (of the known universe, and next to a supermassive black hole). And everybody knows, the farther you get from the civilized universe, the closer you are to the monsters that lurk in deep space.
Lyra is a plucky doctor at the hospital that serves Celestica and the surrounding moons and planets. Like most of of the residents on Celestica, she’s running from her past. That makes her extra motivated to protect the present. Living this far from the civilized universe though, anything and everything can go wrong. The only question is, what will it be this time?
In this case, it’s a mysterious new patient brought in from a nearby planet. And also, a mutant rat that starts a bar fight. The mysteries just keep stacking up, and it’s up to Lyra and her oddball friends to figure out what’s going on before it’s too late.
This story has mutant rats, orc miners, a head of security that looks like the Predator, and a very cool jellyfish named Gorb. And also, an A.I. Zombie. Snarky Sci-Fi with mystery, mayhem, and monsters.
Want a sneak peak? Here are the first 2 chapters:
Lyra looked around the waiting room at the lime green walls and sighed. Who in their right mind had let a jellyfish choose the paint color? The jellyfish in question, Gorb, was busy at the moment manning the hospital check-in desk. She was trying to sneak up on him.
Her phone buzzed a notification. She muted the phone and looked around, but Gorb didn’t seem to have noticed. Whew.
She glanced down at the phone to see what the notification was. It was Ian, reminding her again about her guest appearance on his popular web show, Fear Zone Universe. She put the phone away.
When she looked up, Gorb was distracted by a new arrival. Yes! Panther-like- no wait, ninja-like, she snuck up behind the desk and snatched the full, steaming, cup of coffee with sugar and cream. Then she tiptoed across the room and around the corner.
“Hey!” Gorb yelled. “My coffee’s gone. I know it was you, Lyra!”
“Thanks, Gorb,” she called out.
“Fine,” she heard him mutter, “I’ll go get some more.”
Lyra smiled and continued down the hall. That’s when she saw Arthur trying to make eye contact with her and attempted to hurry past.
Arthur just followed and raised an eyebrow. “I have to admit, Lyra, you are top notch, both as a doctor and as a person.”
“Stop kissing up, Arthur, it’s not going to make your life any easier.”
“No, that’s not what I meant,” he said, stepping in her way.
She tried to look at him as murderously as possible, but somehow it wasn’t getting through. “Don’t think my Hippocratic Oath won’t keep me from hurting you,” she said.
He stepped aside but, unfortunately, continued, “What I mean is, why in stars name are you way out here in the middle of nowhere if you’re actually competent?”
“Look,” she said, holding him against the wall. “One, watch your language when we’re in patient areas of the hospital. Two, I realize that you’re fairly new here and that you’re really annoying, but every doctor, nurse, and clerk here are all first rate. And frankly, they’re all better than you. We happen to be the best at what we do. And three, well, just go ahead and say it.”
He tried to wriggle free, but she held him there.
“Under the coat,” he said, “all your leather and tattoos that everybody can see, well I think it’s holding your career back. As a doctor. And trust me, you’re gorgeous and all-” His face turned red.
“Careful,” Lyra said and narrowed her eyes at him. Arthur wasn’t bad himself. He was tall with sandy brown hair and thoughtful eyes.
“Well,” he bravely continued, “I’m just afraid nobody will take you seriously.”
He was right, though, a little. On a normal planet, it would be a problem. It was one of the reasons why she was on a space station at the edge of the universe and not on a normal planet. “I like myself, Arthur,” she said. “You should try it sometime. Besides, everybody here takes me seriously. Just wait until the first thing goes wrong, you’ll see.” She raised an eyebrow at him. “There’s more? Fine, out with it, then.”
“Why are you out here next to an unstable black hole on purpose?” he blurted out.
“And there it is,” she said, releasing him. “You’re a scaredy-cat as well as a marginal doctor.”
“Resident,” he said. “And I won’t be here long, I’ve put in transfer papers to a dozen systems. When I get back to my homeworld, I will put in a good word for you. We have a beautiful planet, excellent benefits, the best laboratories-”
“Not interested,” she said, racing past him down the hallway and not slowing down to see if he was even there to listen to what she was saying as she continued. “And what in the galaxy’s back end would make you think that I need job offers from idiot interns?”
“You said to watch our language in the patient areas,” he reminded, not as far behind her as she had hoped. She stopped and turned to him.
“I told you to watch your language. Because I’m in charge. And you’re a peon. I can say whatever I want wherever I want.”
Another doctor walked by and smirked. She was interested in what was going on, but obviously too smart to stop. She waved at them.
“Hi, Emily. Good morning.” Lyra said.
“Why are you nice to her?” Arthur asked.
“She’s earned it. You haven’t. And now you have set yourself back even further. If you keep this up, you’ll be retired before I’m nice to you again.”
“I don’t know if you didn’t hear me or if you just aren’t listening,” he persisted, “but I’m not going to be here very long.”
“I heard you,” she said. “Now, you listen to me, this small hospital serves this entire space station and the dozen or so surrounding planets. If we weren’t shorthanded, you’d be gone already.”
She kept going and even though she didn’t look back, she could tell he had fallen behind this time. Good riddance.
The one thing she couldn’t stomach was short-timers. Because what they didn’t get was that everybody here was here on purpose, not out of necessity or obligation. And that’s what made this place work. Rule number one, to Lyra, was that everything and everybody could be fixed with one tiny caveat, they had to want to be here on Celestica.
Lyra’s phone buzzed. This time it was a notification from Gorb that she had a new patient. She put the phone down and walked down the hallway to meet the gurney.
“Hello, I’m Lyra. You’re going to be okay, Mr.…” She looked around for notes and didn’t find any, so she raised her voice so that anybody in the vicinity who had the information could answer. After all, Gorb had a habit of lurking nearby. “What have we got, people? Is he a resident, a tourist, or an evil administrator?” She winked at the young patient.
The patient looked up at her wide-eyed and muttered, “Blackhole.” His face contorted in fear.
Lyra shook her head. Tourist.
“You’re perfectly safe here. Celestica Space Station is an absolutely stable distance from the black hole, ok?”
She could tell by his face that she wasn’t getting through.
Okay, I’ll try again. “Look, unless you’re immortal or something, your lifespan is a good eighty to one hundred and twenty years, right?”
He nodded, his face still a mask of worry.
“If you showed up here thinking you’re risking death by black hole, then, you’re approximately three hundred and eighty billion years early. Now, we can fix up that wound and then you can go home with no issues other than a very cool scar and a story for your friends about how you went to Celestica Space Station and got stabbed. How does that sound?”
That information seemed to comfort him and he visibly relaxed. “Better. Thanks. And hey, at least I’m not an evil administrator.”
“Thank goodness for that,” Lyra answered. She went around the corner to get Arthur. “Seeing as this guy doesn’t have tentacles, you can sew him up, right?” she asked, handing him the new patient’s chart.
Despite Arthur’s worry about Lyra’s career being held back, it was he who was struggling with the last part of his residency because of his irrational fear of cephalopod surgery.
He nodded and disappeared.
Lyra went back into the waiting room and turned to say something to Gorb. She was interrupted when a guy wearing a Halloween costume bumped into her. He spilled a red liquid on her white doctor coat. “Oh no,” she said, “Are you okay?”.
“Sorry about your coat,” he said. He was wearing a cape but not a mask. “It’s not real blood. You bumped into my spare fake blood vial.” He held up an empty plastic vial. Then he held up a partially bandaged hand. “Well, this is real blood, but I didn’t get it on your coat.”
Lyra rubbed her face with her hands. “We’ll get you fixed up,” she said. “Just so you know, it’s September. You’re a little early for Halloween.” She headed back to her apartment to get another coat.
Just another day on Celestica.
Gorb sat at his post at the front desk of the hospital waiting room. He glanced around the room which was, at the moment, mostly devoid of patients.
It was a happy room, though. And that was mostly thanks to him for wearing down Grayson, the hospital Chief of Medicine, until he agreed to repaint.
In Gorb’s opinion, all of the steel and cream and beige in the space station was emotionally debilitating. It had taken him only one boring afternoon to do the necessary research regarding the adverse effect of the boring former room color on his physical and emotional health. Then, once he got the psychiatrist to sign off on it, he was in business.
Within a week he had the okay to choose a color. He went with a very cheery, green, Limonade-shade that he loved madly. Partially because it was fun and different, but mostly because everybody else in the hospital hated it.
He flipped through the Deeper Spaces Accessory Guide magazine looking for some new jewelry. No, no. Stars, no. What were they thinking? Already have it. Last year’s product, no thank you.
Gorb knew who it was without looking up. There was, after all, only one other person in the waiting area. And having been here for several hours, he was probably irritated by now. It was Gorb’s job to let him know that the delay wasn’t his fault. Luckily, this was the part of the job that he really liked. He looked up at the guy and pretended to listen.
“Look,” the patient began.
Gorb dug through a desk drawer and found a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. He placed them on his face, which was not easy, as he was a jellyfish and didn’t have a nose. The glasses were not prescription. They were his looking-down-on-people glasses, and they came in very handy. This is where people came to wait. This was a hospital, not a Starbucks. Oh, that’s good, he thought, I’m going to start using that. It’s simply the way things are.
“I appreciate your feedback, sir,” Gorb interrupted him. “But, this is a hospital waiting room, not a Starbucks. When you come here, you should be prepared to wait. You have a cell phone there in your hand to keep you occupied, or you could bring a book or a crossword puzzle. Anything to help you pass the time without getting all ragey on us hourly workers, ok?”
“Well, I still think I should have been seen by now.”
“We are very, very busy and we’ll get to you when we get to you. You got it, Mr. Gimpy Arm?” The glasses were sliding down so he pushed them back up.
Gimpy arm made a dramatic show of looking around the dozens of empty chairs in the room. “There’s nobody else here. How busy can you really be?”
“Are you dying?” Gorb asked.
“Are. You. Dying? Right now. Like, at this very moment?”
The patient just stood there and blinked. Gorb decided that now was the time to press the moment.
“Because if you’re dying. And I mean dying right now, then I can press this little button here. Do you see it? This little red one that I almost never get to push. Because when I push it, then red lights start going off everywhere, and sirens blare, and very busy doctors come running from their very important current duties to save your life.” He waved his jellyfish tendrils around dramatically.
Gorb realized he had the guy going. He smiled, a very subtle gesture that he could get away with because the humans never noticed.
“And if I press this red button, then you’d better be dying, because the doctors just love taking out those cool electrical paddles, you know, the ones with the noise that make the scary beeeeeeeeep sound? They’re the ones that they use to bring you back to life. You’ve seen them on television, I’m sure. And you know what else? If you’re not really dying and they do that stuff to you, it can actually kill you. And it also probably hurts a lot.” He whispered that last part.
“But you know what?” Gorb put the glasses back on the desk as they simply wouldn’t stay put in the middle of a conversation this fun. Pity. “My day has been extremely boring so far, and I could go ahead and push the red button if you want me to. You’ll get immediate service.”
He let his tendril drag dangerously close to the button. Then he looked up to judge the guy’s reaction which was sheer, delicious panic.
“No, no. I’m not dying, okay? But like I put on the form, I’m in pain. I think my shoulder’s dislocated or something. It happened when I was, um, helping somebody. Move something. Over to a new, um apartment.”
Gorb tried to raise an eyebrow, but he didn’t have one. “Sex injury,” he said.
“Wh- what?” Gimpy arm stammered.
“Look,” Gorb said, pointing. “I wrote it right here in parentheses, on your intake form. I put-suspected sex injury. See there?”
“Hey, that’s not what I said. And it’s not what I wrote, you idiot jellyfish.”
Gorb grinned at him, floating side to side jubilantly. “I was right.” He held out a tendril for the guy to fist bump, but he didn’t.
“It’s okay, man. I only sting when I want to sting. And somebody got lucky tonight, am I right? Well, in any case, you got lucky before you got hurt.”
He held up a tendril again. The patient looked deflated and he exhaled. He gave in and returned the fist bump with his good hand.
“Right on,” Gorb said.
“Can you please just erase that last part from the form?”
“No way. Altering patient intake forms is a class four felony. Very, very serious.”
“But you altered it already!” He protested. “I’m just asking you to un-alter it.”
“See this blue button over here?” Gorb asked. “This one calls security. You do not want me to push this one. Those guys won’t come in here to save your life. Oh no. Listen, the fun is over. What you want to do is go over there, keep playing games on your phone, and wait until I call you. Or I swear, I will start pushing buttons over here.”
Scythe stepped out of his ship, down the hallway, and into the space station Celestica. He looked around through the eyeholes in his mask at the metallic grey hallways. He smiled behind the mask, even though nobody would be able to see. He had waited a long time or this. Then he heard a voice.
“Welcome to Celestica. Can I see your ID?”
He looked around to locate the voice. It was coming from a thin, old looking orc off to his left.
“You need ID to enter Celestica,” the orc continued. “Especially if you are wearing all black robes and a mask. I mean, you could be anybody, couldn’t you? And it’s not even Halloween yet.” He shook his head before continuing. “Oh yeah, and I also have to ask, for this form here. Are you on Celestica for business or pleasure?”
“My name is Scythe,” he said, “and I am here to free you.”
“Okay,” the orc said, smiling. “That’s a new one. Free me from what? And what do you mean? Free me personally? Or is that sort of your weird crusade mission in life?”
He frowned suddenly. “You’re not a telemarketer, are you? Because let me tell you, even if you make it past me, that kind of thing is violently frowned upon here.”
Scythe shook his head, causing his robes to flap. “What I am is more powerful than you could possibly imagine. And my offer to free you still stands. But this is your last chance.”
“Great. Ok then. Neat, um, mask.” The Orc said, but now the outstretched hand waiting for the ID was trembling. “I’m still going to need to see your ID card, though. You know, space station regulations and all.” The Orc’s finger stretched toward a button that would probably call security.
“I told you. I am Scythe. Lord of Kingdoms and Ruler of myriads.” Unfortunately, the years of experiments he had spent perfecting his mind had left his physical appearance shocking to the normal beings in this universe, making the mask and costume necessary. Only until he freed them, however.
The orc’s finger halted without pushing the button. He brightened. “Well, that sounds more like it. Some sort of celebrity, eh? Why didn’t you just say so? Good for you. Just for the sake of asking, do you have to go to school for that kind of thing or is it like internet fame, where you sort of have to get lucky? Can I have your autograph? Your title sounds like something that would impress the young people.”
Scythe sighed. This was getting tiresome and he had wasted enough time already. He reached a hand out in the direction of the Orc, but didn’t make physical contact. He didn’t have to. “Time’s up.”
The Orc gurgled an objection and dropped to his knees. Scythe finished him off. The Orc fell over and stilled. He wasn’t here to reap old Orcs, he was hunting bigger prey.
Scythe made his way down the hallways of Celestica, ignoring the mildly shocked expressions as he passed.
“What, is it Halloween, already?” a passerby asked.
Scythe continued. These inferior beings couldn’t help it. Before long he would show them the error of their ways. And when he freed them into his realm, the first thing they would learn is that their eyes deceive them. My reality and my perception are so much better than their own. They will thank him then, yes, they will weep tears of grateful joy.
Still, a brilliant plan is a brilliant plan. And his plans always worked. In fact, the beacon was already here and set up. Almost everything was prepared. And so, he made his way further and further into the gigantic space station.
He walked freely down shining metallic walls and past hordes of residents who did not yet know their master. Until the crowds thinned out and he continued alone, back into the furthest, remotest corners. And there he summoned to him what would hopefully be the last of the lesser-intelligent minions he would ever need.
He stopped as he approached them, and they mobbed him, squealing everlasting allegiance. “Yes, my pets,” he said. “I have been preparing you from afar and now I am here. For now, I just need one of you. I will summon the rest of you when I’m ready.”
He held out a hand to the volunteer and communicated his orders very specifically. The instructions were understood, and the hairy beast scampered off.
Now on to the next part of the plan, which involved finding a place to plug into a communications and intelligence hub.
He strolled off back toward the main part of the station, humming along with the soft music playing in the hallway.
I hope you enjoyed the sneak peak! Don’t forget to pick it up on Amazon on sale for $0.99 on or after March 13. And feel free to email me anytime with questions or comments: email@example.com