About your Book:
Amari Prokop killed her first victim at age eight and had her own star ship at twenty-four. She started smuggling people from Earth to freedom on Europa for a price, but found that blackmail and murder paid even better. All that wealth should have made her happy. But it didn’t, nothing could fill that void she felt. She had to get out and start over.
Now on her last job, all she has to do was kidnap Cloee Thompson from a government prison ship and hold her until Amari’s “employer” was ready. The promise of a pardon was too good to pass up.
Colin Ross was an Interplanetary Space Security Force agent handpicked by the United Nations to recapture the mysterious terrorist Cloee and stop Amari, dead or alive.
Amari is an action packed dystopian science fiction novel with political intrigue, love, redemption, and betrayal.
Targeted Age Group: 14+
Genre: Science Fiction
The Book Excerpt:
This could be my last job. Amari Prokop sat back in her worn captain’s chair. The bridge of the United Nations Space Ship Samadra was as tired as her chair. She picked up her Martian coffee from the drink holder, the captain’s chair best feature. The bridge had grayish walls with a few pictures painted on them. The executive officer or XO as Amari called him, sat in the seat to the left of the pilot. The vast majority of the crew were fighters. She didn’t trust them to drive her to the pub on Europa, let alone her ship. “Any word from our employer? I’m still waiting XO.”
Borris Kyler turned his massive frame towards Amari. His blue eyes twinkled at her. “Not yet, since when are you this patient anyway?”
“Old age, I guess.” She dreamt about Borris occasionally, but not a lot, certainly not enough to actually pursue anything. That would be wrong, right? He has been with her through two crew changes, which she did every few years or so. It’s always good to keep fresh young crew on board; they take less of a cut. A pirate’s life is all about the money, right? Maybe I’ll take him during the next refit. He is the XO after all.
“You’re not that old, I still got you by three years.” His eyes pleaded with her, but she never caught on or she just ignored it. Borris chuckled, “Maybe I should tell everyone how old you will be on your birthday next month.”
Her thin lips twisted into a tight smile. “Maybe I should give you another scar on your neck. But, I won’t mess it up.”
Borris rubbed his neck just below his larynx. A few years ago, he got into a bar brawl with a man who called Amari a whore. During the fight, he got behind Borris and attempted to cut his throat. The moron missed the jugular and barely cut deep enough to make a scar. What kind of idiot brings a dull knife to the bars on Europa? Borris ended up breaking his neck and plunged the dull knife into the man’s eye, but Amari still gives him a hard time about it. “I bet you won’t.”
Amari couldn’t hold back the smile anymore. “What am I going to do with you?”
“I’m a keeper. You’ll never get anyone better than me.” The audio alert of an incoming encrypted message caught Borris’ attention. “Looks like he finally decided to call us.”
“Send it to my quarters.” Amari quickly got up and hurriedly moved through the small hatch.
The unmade bed in her quarters displayed her stained sheets to everyone who came in. The walls were decorated with more of her paintings. Rare wood furniture decorated the room. Ever since cutting trees or doing anything to the environment became illegal, wood furniture was almost impossible to get. When you are a pirate, such rules don’t apply to you. Her desk was a dark mahogany with a matching chair and a tan seat cushion. She flipped on her computer and video transceiver. She tapped the screen to open the message. The video was blocked and the voices were altered, as per her security protocol. A pirate can trust no one. “About time you called.”
The male computer simulated voice was just loud enough for her to hear, but not enough for someone listening outside the door. “I had to be sure, before I told you.”
“Send the coordinates of the target ship and the exchange point, encrypted of course.”
“Of course, no more screw ups this time. I meant what I said before,” the voice said.
Amari sat back into her chair rubbing her chin. The bar code on her left wrist was a constant reminder of her situation. “I won’t, but if you don’t keep your end of the deal, I will kill you and your whole family, myself.”
The smile almost came through the simulated voice. “I’m sending the coordinates now.”
Amari pulled up her message program. “Okay, I got them. Are you sure the girl is on board? If she’s not, this is all you’re doing, not mine. I didn’t get this lead and I won’t be held accountable for it, either.”
“Positive. I am sending you the layout of the ship and the security procedures.”
Amari opened his latest message and skimmed through it. “An ISSF prisoner transport ship?” Soon after the United Nations became the world government, the Internal Security Space Force was established. It was sold on the premise of security, but the rumors about they actually do were far more dark. Nearly half a century ago, space was the last place where you were free, no one to tell you what to do or what to think or what to believe in. The UN determined that it was unfair that the people on Earth had to obey UN directives, but those on colonies or in space didn’t. The ISSF became the secret police. Their ships are not as heavily armed as military vessels, but they are more armed then your typical civilian ships, even pirate ships.
“Yes, is that a problem?”
“Hold on a second.” She dove into the meat of the message forcing a gleeful smile on her face. “Are these crew numbers right? Your message only says four. That can’t be right.”
“It is. The ship had to leave some of it security on Europa, lucky for us.”
“Yeah right, whatever, as long as it’s right. This will make it easy.” She typed the coordinates into the ships messaging system and sent it to the bridge. “Are you sure you want us to hold onto her for a while, before we turn her over to you? This seems like an unnecessary risk.”
“The risk is greater to me, if you don’t. Just send me video confirmation once you have her in your holding cell.”
“Sure thing, out.” Amari double tapped the screen to close the link. She set the computer to sleep as she stood up. If this all works out well, I will get some clothes that actually match. Maybe Borris won’t accuse me of having no style. Who am I kidding?
Borris was reading the coordinates to the pilot, Bill Westover. Bill’s average frame was complimented by his black greasy hair. The sliding sound of the door opening caused both of them to stop.
“Back already?” Borris asked without turning around.
Amari slid into her chair and popped the tablet out of the its arm. “Yeah, I am. This won’t be bad.” Her fingers tapped the tablet, pausing only to consider what she wrote. “The good news is only four crew members on board.”
Borris’ eyes widened. “Four, are you sure about that? That doesn’t sound right at all.”
“That is the information we have. Guess what the bad news is?”
“I can’t wait.”
“It’s an ISSF prison escort ship. Maybe we can get some payback at the same time.” Amari had lost crew members in the past to the ISSF. In fact, it was the ISSF that tattooed the bar code on her wrist, when she was caught as a child. Her stepfather boarded a similar ship killing the crew to get her back. The mere thought of killing those bastards lit up her day. How many people have they carted off to the processing camps? Everyone knows at least someone who was a victim of theirs. Yeah, payback indeed.
“Okay, we finished the equipment checks while you were in the back. Weapons, T-Pads, and EW Shielding are all up and ready to go. How many on the boarding party this time?” asked Borris.
“You and Bill stay here. I want ten with me on the initial assault and ten ready for backup, just in case we got some bad info. Assuming we have no issues and we secure our prisoner, I want to take some of the government weapons and equipment.”
“Bill, head towards that ship. I’m going to assemble the boarding parties. We should reach those coordinates in thirty minutes.” Borris rushed off the bridge mumbling the list running through his head.
Amari leaned back into her seat gazing on the blurred stars of near light speed. She was born in space, but she doesn’t want to grow old in it. But, this was it, her ticket out of pirating. What would she do? She has been on a pirate ship since she was six years old. Her mind flooded with possibilities and they were discarded just as fast. The only constant theme running through her mind was that she had enough. “Bill, fire up the EW Shielding.”
“What do you want to be this time?” The EW shielding was more camouflage than a shield. The ship will appear to the enemy’s scanner whatever the user desires. Amari got the device as payment for smuggling a high ranking government official’s son off Earth to Europa. The device was in development when she got it a few years ago and it’s still not issued to the ISSF fleet. The part Amari liked the most was that the victim ship wouldn’t know their scanners are wrong until they are in visual range, which was too late for them.
Amari pulled out her tablet again. She pulled out the list of ISSF ships spotted in the region. ISSF ships are so feared by the local populations, the ship’s name and coordinates are posted on the message boards, every time they were spotted. “Try the UNSS Gallantry, Captain James Wilbur.”
“Okay, let us know when we’re five minutes out.” Amari rushed to her room to prep for her last mission.
& & &
Lieutenant Cox yawned as she looked at her watch for the fourth time, waiting for her shift to end. The muscular ISSF officer enjoyed looking out into space. This was probably what kept her out away from Earth for so long. The transceiver chirped with a new encrypted message coming in. She leaned over the glowing console. “This is UNSS Riptide, state your identity and send your priority code signal.”
The video signal on the monitor was snowy with distortion and the voice was equally garbled. “This is the UNSS Gallantry. Captain James Wilbur was killed in a recent pirate attack. We also have several wounded aboard. We’re requesting some assistance.”
Pirates! They’re now attacking ISSF ships! She turned back towards Staff Sergeant Baine, who was manning the navigation station. “Paul, inform the captain we need him on the bridge, now!” She turned back to the transceiver in the console. “Gallantry, we are still waiting for your code signal. We can’t proceed until we get it.” Beads of sweat began to come through her skin on her forehead. Come on, send it. We’re all alone out here and all we have is each other. I want to help you! Send it!
The grating voice broke her into her thoughts. “We can’t. The pirates destroyed most of our communication and security equipment. We are only able to even call you because our tech sergeant managed to piece the transceiver back together. I know this against protocol, but please you have to help us.” The voice became weak, nearly choking on tears. “If you don’t help us, we’re all going to die! We would help you, why won’t you help us?”
Why indeed? I hope someone would help me, if I needed it. It’s only some stupid regulation anyway, I’m sure the captain wouldn’t object. She leaned over the console and opened her mouth as if to speak, but the gnawing feeling in her gut didn’t allow any words to come out. “Paul, do you have them on scanner?”
Paul’s fingers flew over the touch screen controls never taking his eyes off the monitor. He scanned every pixel looking for something. As soon as the tiny ISSF ship icon appeared he double tapped it, bringing up the details of the ship. His attention to detail required him to pull out all the relevant information as quickly as possible, just like his training demanded. “Ma’am, I got it. We don’t have the code signal, but we do have the ISSF FOF beacon.” The FOF, or friend or foe, beacon was the redundant system to identify ships at very long distances. The codes themselves were so secret that they were only verifiable by computer. This system, as far as Staff Sergeant Baine thought, was never and could never be hacked. “They weren’t lying about the attack either. I am reading multiple small hull breaches, engines running on fifty percent power, and nearly half the bridge systems, including weapons, are not functioning.”
“One second.” Paul ran his finger down the ship diagnostic scanner readings. “They have it for now. I’m not sure for how long though. I—”
The door made a swoosh sound when it opened. A short bald man with crow’s feet along both of his eyes stepped through. “What do we have?”
Cox stood up handing the captain her tablet that she was taking notes on. “UNSS Gallantry called for emergency assistance. They were badly damaged in a pirate attack. Paul said they may lose life support, sir.”
Captain Alan Kizcek was born on a military ship where both his mother and father served. That was before they were sent to the processing camps, for believing that there is something more important than the United Nations. Bah! He didn’t believe what he was supposed to believe either, but who did? He just kept his mouth shut about it, too bad his parents didn’t. When he was second lieutenant, there was almost no crime what so ever out here. But, then UN decided that anyone not conforming to their way of thinking needed to be reeducated. Although he never saw his parents since, they were somewhere safe right? That act gave birth to pirates in space. It started out with the human trafficking and moved up to high jacking. In his over twenty years of patrolling the Milky Way galaxy, he never seen pirate ships attack an ISSF ship before. “Are you sure pirates attacked them? That’s very unusual.”
“Sir, all we have is their word for right now. Does it matter, really?”
“Lieutenant, we have a very important prisoner on board. We have to be very careful. Did our scanners confirm that they were indeed attacked, are we sure?”
“Yes, it did. The only thing was that they didn’t have the priority code. They said transmitter was destroyed in the attack.” Her eyes were no longer stone, but filled with worry. “Sir, can we proceed in helping them? It seems like you’re— you’re hesitating.”
Alan cycled through all the rescue attempts by terrorist over the years in his mind. The one thing is common was that scanner always picked them out. It has never been wrong before, why should it be now? “Okay, send our coordinates and come to a stop. People there are only four of us on board. We can’t afford to make mistakes.” He sat down in his captain’s chair focusing on the monitor in front him. “Cox, ask them what kind of help they need, so we can prepare.”
“Yes sir.” Cox leaned back over her console again. “UNSS Gallantry, do you read me?”
The garbled voice seemed to be different somehow as if it became a female voice. “We read you. Are you going to help us?”
“We are. I am sending you the coordinates where we’re stopping. What is your ETA?” Cox asked.
“Okay, we have them. From our position, it will take about twenty minutes or so. We won’t be long. We’ll come out of Near Light Speed about two hundred kilometers from you.”
Near Light Speed was humankind’s greatest accomplishment. When light speed was determined to be too dangerous because micro-fractures in the hull from the stress, the UN decided to shelve the technology. Sometime later an inventor created near light speed, where you were able to travel within the Milky Way without the structural stresses on the hull. When word about his breakthrough was known to the public, the UN promptly confiscated the patent for security reasons. Years later, the public was allowed to own space crafts with this technology, for a hefty tax of course.
Lieutenant Cox’s pride fell on her face like a blanket. “Roger that, we will be waiting for you. The captain wants you to send you support requirements, so we can have them ready.”
An unmistakably long pause was broken by the audio notification for receiving their data. “Got them?”
“Yeah we do. See you soon.” Cox and Alan headed for the door. “Paul, we’ll be back after we’re done.”
“Yes ma’am.” Paul turned back to his station. “And here I thought we were going home early.”
The floor was cold to the touch and the bars surrounding her gave her no comfort. The nearly sterile walls outside the cage, made her feel that much more alone. The only amenity she had was a small window looking out into space. The beauty of the stars always calmed her heart.
Cloee Thompson was one of those girls that all single men notice when she walked into the room, or rather used to. Her once soft and elegant skin was dirty and tough like an old goat. Cloee’s blue eyes used to be similar to wading pools in the Greek islands, but now they were more like cold steel.
Her innocence has long left her, ever since that day she became a “criminal.” In the old days, terrorist or revolutionaries used to guns and bombs, she used her technical savvy. Before she was caught this last time, Cloee nearly did it. She targeted the finances of Earl Huffington, the Deputy Secretary General of the UN. She would get him, even if it was from prison. If they sent her to the processing camps, she would just escape again. There was one thing that hasn’t changed for her. Not her personality or looks or choice in men. Rather, her stutter, although it’s better now, but it’s still there. Cloee never thought that she would ever be considered such a dangerous criminal, especially to warrant a private prison transport back to Mars. She was in shape yes, but she was a hacker, not some kind of fighter or assassin.
She sat up on her plywood-like mattress trying to keep down the putrid meal they gave her a few hours ago. She stared at the hardened skin in the palms of her hands the signs of hard work, outside of her hacking day job. They’re going to kill me, or try to. Will I get help this time? Will someone help me escape, again? Even though I’m in an empty room, I don’t feel alone. I did what was asked of me and for that I’m happy. She gazed across the room as the clanging of feet on the metal floor approached her door.
The door slid open revealing Alan standing behind it. “Cloee–“
“What is it, captain?”
“We’re bringing some folks on board in a little while. There will be a lot of noise and strange voices nearby that you will certainly hear.”
“Why— Why— Why are you telling me? I’m your dangerous criminal.”
“Cloee, you’re not dangerous. My orders say you are, so, I have to treat you like this. I’m and placing a guard on the door while they are here, just in case.” Alan’s heart couldn’t help but feel pity for the stuttering girl. “Too bad you’re a crook. The ISSF could use a hacker with your skills.”
“But, I stutter. You would just have me killed. People like me get euthanized and my parents would get sterilized in order not to contaminate the gene pool.” She closed her eyes forcing herself to calm down. “You— You have to obey the law, don’t you?” Cloee asked.
“Yes, we do. As soon as their gone, I’ll get you some better food, sound good?”
Cloee smiled at him. “Thank you. I— I will pray for you and your family captain.”
Alan heart skipped a beat. “Don’t you ever say that again! I don’t want your curse on my family. There is nothing besides the UN, period! About the extra food—”
“Forget it. I hope you starve! Even now, you still spout your hate speech.” He stormed out of the room.
Cloee shook her head. “What did I say?”
Frustrated, Alan headed back to the bridge. Being angry is not the best frame of mind to greet the crew from another ISSF ship. That woman always gets to me. Why do I always put myself in that position? I don’t need to her crap, but I do. Listen to me. I’m beginning to think I’m as crazy as she is. He assumed his seat in the captain’s chair once he reached the bridge. “Paul is everything going well??”
“Fine sir, I thought you were going to be greeting them?” Staff Sergeant Baine asked.
“I will later. Cloee got me upset again. At least, we’ll be rid of that woman soon.” Alan shifted in his seat, while turning on his tablet. He tapped the internal communications tab, which provided a video link to the cargo bay. The bay was littered with dusty resin crates. The little used room housed the ships spare parts, most of which were compatible with the rest of the ISSF fleet. In recent years, UN scientists made significant progress in composite alloy durability, especially in solid state electronics. Since then, normal wear and tear causes so little damage that the ships engineer became an additional duty. Funny, who would have thought that? “Cox, are you there?”
“I’m here. I thought you were coming down. Everything alright?” she asked.
“Yeah, it is. I’ll be down in a little bit. I’ve got— stuff I have to do first.” Alan was never a good liar and he could tell from her expression that he failed again. “I’ll tell you about it later, okay?”
“Sure.” Cox turned back to heavy plastic crate pulling out the hull breach patch kits.
“Sir, they should be here anytime now.” Paul tapped his console a few more times. “We should be in visual range in three minutes.”
Visual range, please. What a stupid protocol! The scanners are so much affective than the human eyes. “Alright Paul, let them know we’re ready for them.”
“Roger that sir.” Paul sent the message over the ship to ship secure messaging, which was customary when ISSF ships are within close range of each other. His console flashed a read error message. Disbelieving what he is reading, he gaped at Alan. “Sir, it says no ISSF ships are in range, but the Gallantry is well within range. I have never seen this before.”
“What does the scanner say?”
“It’s two minutes out.”
Maybe I should have let hey pray for me after all. “Open the bridge shield.”
“Yes sir.” Paul tapped his console again. “Done sir.”
The near silent sliding of two massively thick doors revealed the stars through a large porthole. Alan’s eyes strained as he looked out into space where the ship should appear. Without looking away, Alan tapped on his console to activate the video link again. “Cox, something is wrong, not sure what, yet. You and Chuck stay alert, got it? Take no chances.”
The puzzled look on her face was undeniable. “Do we need weapons?”
“No, I don’t think so. I’m probably just being paranoid.”
“Okay, we’ll be careful.”
“Good to go. As a precaution, I am keeping the link open.”
“Roger that, just don’t interfere sir.”
“Sure thing,” Alan turned his attention back to the porthole. He believes in scanners so much, he rarely even opens the shield. However, this case had two pieces of equipment giving him contradictory results, so visual verification was the only way to be sure. A white and yellow flash of light appeared just in front of the ship. The light gave way to a heavily armed ship, a mere two kilometers off the bow. “That is not the Gallantry!” Alan leaped over to Paul. “Quick, send a distress call on the ISSF band, send the scanner readings too. I’m going to buy you time.” He looked down at the video link. “Cox, get some weapons now!”
The befuddled lieutenant gawked at the screen. “What? What is—?”
Amari and nine other armed pirates materialized behind her before she could finish her sentence. The hilt of Amari’s particle beam pistol slammed into the back of Cox’s head, rendering her unconscious. Her thin lips twisted as her laser-like focus went to Austen, who was holding a wrench.
“Please, don’t hurt me. Please!” begged Austen.
Amari rolled her eyes in disgust of his cowardliness. “Take them away. Alpha team, come with me to the bridge. Bravo team, make your way to their T-pads. Keep your com links open. I will let you know if we need help. Got it?”
“Yes ma’am.” The team leader ushered them towards the hallway.
“Oh no, we’re boarded Paul!” Alan looked around frantically for some kind of weapon, since theirs were in the armory. “Got anything we can use for a weapon Paul?”
“No, they won’t kill us sir. Let them take whatever they want and leave.” Alan looked around one last time. Nothing! We’re so screwed! “I guess we have no choice.” He opened the door to see Amari with her team approaching the bridge.
Amari swiftly raised her weapon at the captain. “Give it up or I’ll kill your crew.”
“What do you want? Money? Weapons? Technology?” Alan asked.
“Your prisoner actually, but we might as well take it all anyway.” Amari entered the bridge gesturing Alan to move over by Paul with her weapon. “Do what you’re told and no one will get hurt.”
Defeated, Alan raised his arms as he moved next to Paul. “The ship is yours. Please let us go after you’re done.”
“I promise. I am curious of one thing, why did you only have four members on board with such a valuable prisoner? That seems, I don’t know– stupid.” Amari studied every eye twitch and facial muscle movement of her prey, just like her stepfather taught her when she was six years old.
“I said the same thing, but I was overruled. We had to leave the remaining eight on Europa to conduct an inspection.” Alan’s curiosity peeked, “Why do you ask? You make it sound like you knew how many were on board.”
“Just curious, that’s all.” She motion to the alpha team leader. “Take them down below and put them in the T-Pad Chamber. That would be a good spot to secure them.”
Cox awoke in the T-Pad Chamber. The walls were smooth without any impurities that could affect the teleportation signal. The T-Pads dematerialize objects or people on the pad and re-materialize them anywhere within five hundred kilometers. ISSF tried the T-Pad technology first without the chamber, until one officer used it without his arm being entirely inside the beam. Since then, they erected a solid resin wall around it. The chamber had only one way in and out, so it was a perfect spot to keep prisoners for a short time. “What is going on?” Cox asked.
Alan lowered his eyes to the ground. “I’m sorry. We should have gotten weapons earlier, this is my fault.”
Cox put her hand on his shoulder. “It’ll be okay.”
“Ahem! Where is the prisoner?” Amari asked. She was standing at the control station behind a clear resin window next to the door. Alpha team was standing behind her, while the bravo team was bringing the loot to their ship.
“She’s in a cell by herself a few doors down the hall on the left. Take her, she’s psycho anyway.” Any amount of honor left in Alan disappeared when he gave up without a fight.
Amari turned her head slightly. “Alpha, go locate her and report back.”
“You are going to let us go, once you’re done? Please leave us the navigation and propulsion systems, so we can get home.”
Amari was caressing the control panel in front of her, in plain view of Alan and the rest of the crew. The large round red button seemed to be calling out to her. “I promised I would let you go captain. I keep my promises.”
Alan realizing what she was going to do threw himself against the clear resin, pounding on it as if his life depended on it. “Please don’t do this! At least spare my crew!”
Her emerald colored eyes twinkled while zeroing in on his soul. “This is for all those crew mates of mine you people killed.” In an exaggerated motion, she slammed down the big red button labeled ‘Transport.’
“Oh God, please help us!” begged Alan as the slight hum of the T-Pad began its crescendo.
“I thought you made talking about God illegal! Enjoy the ride.” She rushed out into the hallway to get her prize.
Cloee was scared, but not terrified. The noise of machinery, yelling, screaming, and other noises she couldn’t quite make out only added to her anxiety. Her pacing around the cell was getting faster and faster. What do I do? Something is very wrong here. Is it him? Did he come for me? No, not possible. He was the one who put me here in the first place. If he did, it’s probably only to return me to that— place. In front of her window, banging on the outside her porthole was Alan. “Captain?” She jumped back, horrified at the gruesome sight. Alan banged on the porthole for a few seconds before he succumbed to the vacuum of space. What happened to the ship? What is going to happen to me? Fear intertwined with the urgency to get out of her cage. But, what about them? She looked one more time out into space. She bowed her head and knelt down before her cot. “Lord, forgive them for sins and receive them into your kingdom. Give me the strength to meet with my next challenge and to continue to follow your will. Please forgive me for my sins, as I walk amongst those who want to hurt me—”
“Amen!” Amari bellowed. “That won’t help you Cloee Thompson.” Fearfulness came over Cloee like a virulent disease. This only encourage Amari even more. She leaned in, putting her face near the bars. “You’re going to need a lot of his help, where you going.” She reached down and opened the cage door. Almost in defiance, Cloee closed her eyes, only for a moment, and then calmly moved out of the cage. Amari loved it when her victims begged for their lives. She did not like this at all. “Take this piece of crap into our holding cell.” The alpha team leader came over and took Cloee by the arm. Amari watched them leave, and then gazed out into space. This is going to be my last job.