Read Derelict: Halcyone Space, Book 1 Online

Authors: Lj Cohen

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Colonization, #Galactic Empire, #Teen & Young Adult, #Lgbt, #AI, #Space Opera, #Fiction, #Adventure, #Computers, #Science Fiction

Derelict: Halcyone Space, Book 1

BOOK: Derelict: Halcyone Space, Book 1
7.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Halcyone Space, book 1
When Rosalen Maldonado tinkers with the derelict freighter, she's just hoping to prove she deserves a scholarship to University. She certainly doesn't count on waking the ship's damaged AI or having three stowaways, Micah Rotherwood and brothers Jem and Barre Durbin, along for the ride. They all have their private reasons for hiding aboard, and lives they are seeking to escape, but if the accidental crew can't work together and learn to trust each other, they'll die together, victims of a computer that doesn't realize the war ended decades before any of them were even born.


Halcyone Space, book 1



Published by Interrobang Books

Newton, MA


First eBook edition: June, 2014


ISBN-10: 0-9847870-7-0

ISBN-13: 978-0-9847870-7-4


Copyright 2014 Lisa Janice (LJ) Cohen


Original cover art by Chris Howard, copyright 2014




To Neil,
for always asking all the right questions

Chapter 1

All Ro needed was his signature.

She pressed back against the form-fitting surface of the chair and glanced at the door to her father's room. Once he signed, she'd be free. If he signed. With a quick gesture, she launched the heads-up mode on her micro and pulled up the scholarship application again, reviewing it for what felt like the hundredth time. There was nothing else she could add that she hadn't already sweated over for the past month. The rest was up to him.

After a final error-check, Ro signed and locked the document before collapsing the holographic display. All the color disappeared from the room, leaving behind bland standard-issue tan furniture and the glare of industrial lights reflecting off burnished metal walls.

The door opened, and she jerked upright, grabbing her micro as it tumbled off her lap. Her father strode into the common room and scowled when he saw her.

"I put on a fresh pot of coffee," Ro said, her voice rising as if she'd asked a question.

Unshaven and wearing the same rumpled coverall he'd had on for days, he brushed past her to pour himself a cup.

Ro studied the set of his shoulders and waited until he finished drinking. "I pushed the consent form to your micro."

He slammed the empty cup on the counter. "You need to stop wasting my time."

"Will you just look at it?"

"I've already told you. It's impossible." Turning away, he dropped his cup in the sink.

She clenched her hands into tight fists and stood, looking for someone or something to hit, but her only satisfying targets were the metal door to their compartment and her father. Both were equally unyielding.

"It won't cost you anything," she said, forcing her hands to relax and her voice to stay level.

His ice-cold green eyes stared through her. "Maldonados don't accept charity."

"It's not charity. It's a chance at a scholarship. A merit scholarship." Ro hated herself for pleading. "You know I'm good enough."

"I don't have the funds to send you, and I won't be beholden to the Commonwealth." The conversation ended as most of them did — with her father walking away and Ro shaking with pent-up frustration.

Her hands trembled, and she slammed them on the galley's counter. "Then cut me loose. I'll figure it out on my own."

He turned at the door to the bedroom he had claimed as his workshop, his stare piercing. "No."

The blood pounded in her ears. He disappeared inside. She swore at the closed door and stormed out of their quarters. Nothing had changed. Ro squeezed her eyes shut on furious tears, cursing herself for hoping this time would be different.

She dried her face, pulled out her micro, and lodged another formal request with Commander Mendez. Her soft boots muffled the pounding of her feet as she stomped down the corridor. At the first airlock, she slammed her hand against the ident plate. The red light blinked, shifted to amber, and settled back on red, mocking her. "Piece of shit design," she muttered as she lightened her pressure and rested her whole hand on the metal until it deigned to register her metrics. She'd built better ones as a child out of the junk her father discarded from his workshop.

Ro counted to three, waiting for the station's tired AI to parse her request and decide to give her access. The round door irised in silence. Daedalus didn't even bother to acknowledge her. Wiggling her middle finger at the recessed ocular, she stepped through the opening into the central nexus. She needed to get as far away from her quarters and her father as she could despite the confines of the station.

"And then what?" Her shoulders slumping, she paused at the door that led to the command section and glared at another one of Daedalus's blinking red eyes. "No, I'm not talking to you, dumb-ass." Once again the AI didn't answer. A third door dilated. Ro jumped back as one of the station's doctors stepped through with her two sons.

Turning to the observation port, Ro stared out at the craggy surface of the asteroid the station called home. Sunlight glared off the pitted surface of the derelict transport ship that had crashed here decades before Daedalus had been built. A field of solar panels glinted in the harsh light outside. This side of the structure always faced its star, the other side showed the night sky. She, too, was trapped in a synchronous orbit on Daedalus, always subject to her father's gravity.

He'd moved them to Daedalus Station three years ago, only telling her he had voided his previous contract moments before dragging her onto the transport. Two years before that, he cut off her access to the Hub's Virtual School, insisting she had everything she needed and refusing to "waste" any more money on it. He'd yanked her from anything she had gotten comfortable with over the course of too many years and too many postings to count.

"Hey, Ro!"

She looked over her shoulder and shot the doctor's younger son a polite and not-in-the-mood-to-talk look. "Jem, Barre, Doctor Durbin."

Jem would hit escape velocity as soon as his test scores got transmitted off station. All the best Unis in the Hub, maybe even the ones on Earth, would be tripping over themselves for him.

He smiled up at her, teeth very white against dark skin, his brown eyes puppy-dog eager. "Didn't you see my message? I ran into a problem with the program I'm working on. Can I come by later and show you?"

Ro shrugged and didn't miss the frown that pursed the doctor's lips. The daughter of the station's engineer didn't reach anywhere near the Durbins' professional league. Everything about Leta Durbin came off as severe and elegant, from her sharp cheekbones to her close cropped tight black curls to the tailored bronze jumpsuit that brought out the highlights in her smooth, brown skin.

"Come on, Ro," Jem pleaded. "You're better at debugging than me, and you know it."

She glanced at Dr. Durbin and turned back to the slim boy. "I'll see if I have time later this week." He beamed up at her. She smirked as Dr. Durbin's frown deepened.

A syncopated tapping filled the silent nexus. Ro turned toward the noise. Jem's older brother Barre stared out the viewport, his gaze unfocused, his foot beating against the floor, his head bobbing to a rhythm no one else could hear. She and Barre were the same age, but Ro didn't think they'd ever said more than a few words to one another.

The two brothers had the same dark eyes, sculpted cheekbones and defined nose, courtesy of their mother. Barre had the woman's dark skin tone and hair, but sported dreads that hung past his shoulders. His unruly hair must have driven her mad. Jem kept his hair short and tight like his mother's, but his father's Afrikaner heritage gave the boy lighter skin and softer curls.

Dr. Durbin scowled at Barre. "Turn it off. Now."

Sighing, he shifted until he looked directly at Ro. She started before realizing he wasn't actually focusing on her but on a spot hanging in the air between them. His gaze shifted up and to the right before he blinked twice with deliberate slowness. Son of a bitch had a neural interface. They were pretty sweet, and, if she could even hope for a chance at one, she would use it for a lot more than listening to music.

"Coming to dinner?" Jem asked. "We could go over my design, now."

"Sorry. Busy." Ever since Ro had made the mistake of answering one of Jem's endless questions about coding on the ed-list, he'd pestered her with more and more complex problems. Encouraging him only led to more questions. Despite herself, she grinned, convinced if he stayed on Daedalus long enough, he'd come up with one she couldn't answer.

The Durbins headed to the opposite airlock into the core and the communal dining room most of the transient staff preferred.

Alone again in the nexus, Ro stared out the viewport, seeing past the rocky ground covered with tilted solar panels and the pre-fab domes of the station's segments connected by lengths of shiny corridors. She imagined the field of stars beyond the asteroid and all the inhabited places she could reach if only she had her freedom.

Anywhere would be better than here. Anywhere she could escape her father would do. It didn't have to be Earth. Maybe she could hopscotch her way closer to the Hub. Ro stared out across the star field. There had to be jobs for someone like her.


Commander Mendez stood behind a completely clean desk with her back to Ro, studying her latest transfer request. Ro shifted her weight back and forth as the silence lengthened. Bare walls reflected the harsh lighting. Metal conference chairs lined the far side of the room like orderly soldiers. She brushed at the grime on her shirt, but there wasn't anything she could do about the oil stains and the frayed hem.

"Mediating family disputes is not part of my job description," Mendez said, without turning around.

Ro swore to herself.

"However," the commander continued, and this time she did face Ro, her dark eyes shadowed. "I am aware that Daedalus has taken advantage of your talents in addition to your father's."

In her crisp gray and silver uniform, her black hair cut in the severe standard military crop, she at least looked the part, even if the station was the last stand of the barely competent, or the first step for the desperately ambitious. After three years on Daedalus, Ro still couldn't figure out which Mendez was.

"Some compensation is owed you."

Screw compensation. There wasn't much to spend it on out here, and Ro doubted it would be enough to book passage anywhere, even if she could override her father's injunction. What she needed was transfer papers.

"Your father's contract runs two more standard years before he's up for review."

Ro turned away from another adult lecture on patience. So what? Two more years trapped here, and she'd still have nothing to show for it. Two more years for her father to skirt the edge of insubordination until he got fired again. Then he could find yet another dead end job he could claim was beneath him and paid him accordingly. The only difference two years would make is by then, she wouldn't need her father's permission for anything, ever again.

"I don't have the authority to give you a permanent station position, but in light of your work here, I can appoint you as an engineering intern."

She stared at Mendez.

"It comes with a small stipend."

"Thank you, Commander," Ro said, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice.

Mendez's intense gaze never left Ro's face. "In a year, you will have earned the ability to apply for transfer. As a full citizen."

Ro's eyes snapped wide open. With a work history and maybe even a recommendation, she could go anywhere. It was just a year. Ro could do anything for a year.


The nondescript food pocket clunked from the vending machine just as Ro's micro vibrated. She shoved the sandwich in her mouth and projected the display on the bulkhead wall. Mendez hadn't wasted any time getting her plugged into the system. Work orders scrolled faster than her eye could follow.

BOOK: Derelict: Halcyone Space, Book 1
7.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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