I'm pleased to announce the release of my first sci-fi romance. This is actually the 2nd sci-fi piece I wrote but it ended up first on the publishing schedule LOL I hope you enjoy it and be sure to read to the bottom. I'm having a book launch party. You can connect from the link below. There will be a prize!
BLURB: When survival is of the utmost importance, it’s best to shoot first and ask questions later, especially if you won’t like the answers.
The 22nd century is heinous. Finding a comfortable life in the Levinese Galaxy grows increasingly difficult.
Emma Gardine, one of a handful of female pirate captains in this throwback Victorian society, begs, borrows, steals and cheats her way through the planetary system on the hunt of a profit. An expert of guarding her heart and keeping people out, she never shows remorse and uses people until she gets what she wants, yet the hope for a normal life glimmers just beyond her reach. Then she meets Tarik Vartouth and her world splinters with new emotions and possibilities.
Tarik survived the murder of his sisters and the collapse of his laid-back existence. He’s sick of the mandatory breeding programs for genetic supremacy on Nazulara that sends innocent people to death and desires to campaign for democracy for his species. When the opportunity to befriend Emma is presented, he takes it and makes a play for her ship in order to carry out his own plot for revenge against his father—the Premier and ruler of the planet. Stakes are raised when sparks between him and Emma fly. Now their future and Nazulara’s, hangs in the balance.
Excerpt from Chapter One
Ominous creaks and groans emanated from deep within the bowels of CS4450-9 Beta. Traveling at high warp speeds through deep space for too long took its toll, and it would only be a matter of time before they’d need to dock somewhere for repairs.
Captain Emma Gardine entered the turbo lift and punched the button for the bridge. She always hated the identifier for the cargo ship. It may not be as important as other vessels in the galaxy, but it deserved a name. Between her and the crew, they called CS4450-9 Beta the Wraith Orchid because a slippery crew who hauled rare, sometimes priceless cargo commanded it.
Sometimes by orders, but most times illegally, which was what made them successful pirates.
Four levels zipped past in mere seconds. The top level of the ship held the bridge, as well as the sleeping quarters for the crew and a tiny galley kitchen including a common lounge area. Cargo holds comprised the belly of the ponderous craft with a vast, cavernous space in the center that had the capacity to store smaller space cruisers and luxury crafts.
When the lift doors slid open, Emma followed the metal catwalk and entered the bridge, her home away from home—wherever that was. It’d been so long she could hardly remember what it felt like to be anywhere besides the ship.
“Hey, gang. What’s the word?” Her gaze swept the dark interior of the cozy space, taking in three members of the crew who occupied it. “How far away are we from Nazulara?”
Her navigator and second-in-command, Tomis, barely glanced away from the monitor that bathed his face in a green glow. “No longer than thirty solar minutes, ma’am.”
“Excellent.” Emma dropped into her chair and grimaced when it squealed. The whole ship was falling apart. Ignoring the wear and tear problems, she propped her booted feet on the console in front of her. “Once we arrive and cycle through the annoying paperwork, let’s hit the bars and taverns. First round’s on me.” She frowned, noticing a scuff mark on the toe of one boot. Damn. She’d just appropriated the footwear from an unsuspecting traveler she’d met at the last port they’d stayed in. They were sexy as hell, came to the knee, and made concealing a weapon extremely easy.
Perfect for one of only a handful of female space pirates in the galaxy.
“I’m up for that.” Their artillery expert, Darcy, popped a stick of chewing gum in her mouth. “We’ve been on this bucket for far too long this time out.”
Emma grinned. “I agree. First thing I’m gonna do is find a real bathroom. Using these pop-up commodes and two minute showers is getting old. I want a leisurely bubble bath, a large glass of wine, and maybe a couple chocolate truffles.”
“Yeah, old school chocolate. Not that crap we picked up on Adaris-5. Tasted like wax.” Darcy tapped her monitor with a blue painted fingernail, which matched the exact color of her eyebrows and pigtailed hair, another ‘gift’ she acquired on Adaris-5. “Energy level on the photon cannons is holding at eighty-six percent. Our cargo is too heavy and we’re using too much power keeping it cool. We either need to dump some of it or pray we aren’t attacked.”
“What the hell are we hauling, anyway?” Tomis swiveled around on his chair. His eyes glittered dark as onyx. “I was pretty high when we left.” His laughter died off as Emma lifted an eyebrow. “What? Adaris-5 has no tax on drugs. I stocked up.”
“It sure ain’t weed we have down there.” Zach Isis looked over his shoulder with a wicked gleam in his eye and a secretive smile on his lips. Their cargo master and supply man, he knew the exact contents of each container loaded into the hold. “Well, in the refrigerated compartments we’re storing some sort of liquor and twenty slabs of grain-fed burfim.”
“Burfim?” Emma was puzzled, having never heard the term.
He shrugged. “I guess it’s kinda like an Earth cow. Sells well in the markets. We’ve also got six full freight boxes of salt in the regular hold, which will bring some serious cash once we land. Nazulara has no salt water on the planet. All fresh water lakes and rivers so they’re desperate for it. And”—he held up a finger—“since we stole it from the good, slow-witted people of Adaris-5, we’ll be bringing in a hundred percent profit.”
As laughter echoed in the chamber, Emma swung her feet off the console. Her soles hit the metal floor with a thud. “What do you mean we stole it? I thought we bartered coal for the salt?”
“That’s the genius of it, Captain.” Zach cocked his cowboy hat at a rakish angle over one eye. “Those shipping containers were sitting unattended on the loading dock. I waited a few hours, intending to wheel-and-deal, but no one came for them so me and Darcy just rolled them into the belly of the Wraith Orchid. Now we’ll make more cash because we still have the coal, too.”
“Damn it, guys, we’ll never get legitimate contracts if you keep doing stuff like this.” She shot to her feet and paced between their chairs. With her fists firmly planted on her hips, her glare gave way at their expressions of shock. “Who am I kidding? The money’s not in playing by the book. Another couple of hauls like this and we’ll be looking for a vacation spot.”
“Good one, Captain! You almost had me rethinking my career path for a second.” Darcy popped a bubble, and the crew erupted into laughter again.
Emma grinned at the familial gaiety. She’d learned long ago that following the rules only netted her pain, heartache, and empty pockets. Ever since the day she’d become a space pirate, she’d set her own hours and crawled the galaxy looking to steal anything that wasn’t bolted down—even some that was thanks to Darcy’s penchant with high-tech gadgets. Everyone had a price, and her special skill in life was finding that cost. The more profit they brought in, the better all their lives would be.
And they wouldn’t need to keep running.
Before she could waste more time on introspection, an explosion rocked the ship. Stumbling, Emma gripped the back of her chair with one hand while the other rested on the phaser in the holster slung across her hip. “What the hell was that?”
Darcy studied her monitor and pushed a blinking green button. “Looks like a hunter. Markings indicate it’s from, uh,”—she tapped the screen as the feed went fuzzy—“Adaris-5.”
“Unassuming people, huh, Zach?” Emma smacked the back of his head. “I thought we were cloaked.”
Zach’s neck turned red. “Dude, that was probably my fault. Jade and I were getting it on in here and must have bumped up against the instrument panel when I should have been monitoring the area. Sorry. I guess they weren’t real happy when we stole their stuff.”
“That’s nasty.” Backing slightly away from the abused keyboard, Emma glanced at Tomis. “Where is Jade, anyway?”
Jade, the transient fifth member of the crew, was their resident advisor of protocol and spiritual matters. The problem with her was she could take on the appearance of her environment like a chameleon. Emma had befriended her on a visit to a spaceport a few years ago and couldn’t envision life without the shifter.
“Beats me. If she doesn’t want to be seen, it’s impossible to track her. She leaves no energy signature behind and has no fingerprints.” Zach shrugged. “I’m surprised you haven’t said something to her about it.”
“It’s usually not a problem. We’re definitely having a staff meeting after we dock.” Even though she prided herself on her close-knit staff, once in awhile it would be nice if they actually respected her and the ship.
Not that there was any respect on a pirate vessel.
Emma leaned over Darcy’s shoulder and studied the green blip on the monitor. “If we blast it out of the sky, will we have enough power to reach Nazulara’s port?” Another explosion shook the ship, but this time, Emma planted her feet and rode out the bucking as if the motion were waves instead of the imminent destruction of her livelihood.
“We should be golden, Captain. This ship’s got a whole lot more fight in her.”
“I hope so.”
“I have a lock on the fighter. Just give me the go ahead.”
“Are you sure there’s only one of them?” With all the extra freight the Wraith Orchid was carrying, Emma doubted their maneuverability would be such to evade a fleet.
“Yup, only one’s showing up on the grid.”
“Good. Fire when ready, and let’s get out of here.”
The next round of laser fire made the lights flicker. An overhead bin flew open, and tools fell out to clatter on the metal floor. Emma ignored the noise, and focused her attention on the green triangle. “Come on, Darcy. Nail the bastard. I don’t feel like playing around.” The last thing they needed was to be arrested and hauled before the local court system. This stretch of galaxy didn’t tolerate pirates, or her in particular, especially since that unfortunate one night stand she’d had with a judge’s son.
Of course, hog tying the guy right before escaping through the bedroom window wasn’t the best decision she’d made, but it wasn’t the worst either.
“Firing now, Captain.” Darcy’s fingers flew over the control panel as she checked coordinates, pressing a red, blinking button. “Got ‘em! Look, the radar grid’s clear.”
An explosion of lights and sparks lit the dark space in front of their craft. “Nice work.” Emma squeezed the other woman’s shoulder, then turned to her navigator. “Tomis, kick this bucket to the highest level of warp we can safely go.” She frowned. “That was too easy. Let’s not stick around to see if there’s a fleet hiding somewhere.”
“I’ll do what I can, but with all the extra cargo and the fire fight, we’re just about tapped out.” Tomis swiveled his seat around. He ran his palm over a rolling ball set into his console. The ship banked sharply to the right. The tools on the floor slid down the metal grating. “Main power’s sunk to sixty-seven percent and still falling. Do you want me to dedicate auxiliary power to life support and our shields?”
“Yes to the life support. Not right now to the shields. Use everything we can into getting us to that space port.” Emma gnawed on a thumbnail. Her gaze stayed fixed to Darcy’s monitor, as she prayed nothing else appeared on the green screen. The sick feeling in her stomach didn’t lessen as she felt the pick up in speed. “Tell you what, if we make it to our destination ahead of schedule, I’ll give you each a one thousand Earth dollar bonus.”
To read the back half of chapter 1, visit my website and click on the Damaged Cargo book cover: http://www.sandrasookoo.com
Publisher’s buy link: http://www.purplesword.com
Book video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFUr67nL4so
Book launch party at Simply Sexy Stories: http://simplysexystories.blogspot.com/?zx=1824e213244b82b