Secrets of Rahjen (Star Lawyers Origins Book 3)

Secrets of Rahjen (Star Lawyers Origins Book 3)

Friends & Lovers of Sci-Fi: Here’s a Shepherd-Blog special peek at the cover of the upcoming Star Lawyers Origins Book 3 : Secrets of Rahjen (release date Sept. 2019), plus an excerpt from the opening sequence. Get a cool drink, sit back, and stand by for a steamy opener. (Who says nerds can’t have a love life?)

Excerpt from Star Lawyers Book 1 – Jump Gate Omega

Matthews Trade Embassy

Suryadivan Prime – Near the Galactic Rim

22 March 3104

A double life-sized bronze image dominated the reception area, an African-Asian woman in lab coat looking upward through the glass wall at the city skyline and visible stars. She held an old-style clipboard under arm, and her hair was swept back into a ponytail.

“Tanella Jennings,” Tyler whispered, loud enough for J.B. to hear.

“A thousand years later,” his brother said, “and we’re still following in her footsteps.”

Tyler wandered through the crowd and touched the base of the bronze statue. The others joined him. “Ironic. She designed the first functional FTL propulsion system, but never left the Earth’s surface.”

“That’s controversial,” Demarcus Platte said. Tyler and J.B. laughed politely. Demarcus did not appear amused. “Boss, you never read the Palmer Journal? Her best friend claimed they were abducted by aliens when they were teenagers.”

Tyler shrugged. “No offense, Inspector, but nobody takes that story seriously.”

“Well, some people do,” Demarcus grumbled.

Rosalie studied the memorial. “Quite a woman. I’m glad Daddy sent her image out here to the Rim.”

“Not just Jennings—look.” Tyler gestured to a pair of bronze works farther down the glass-roofed lobby. Even from this distance, the subjects of the metallic statuary were unmistakable. One had a dog by his side. Tyler recited the names like a space-traveler’s prayer. “Aurelio Lupetti and Brian Brightstar.”

“Two greatest captains in human history.” J.B.’s voice quivered with emotion. “Commander of the first faster-than-light starship, side-by-side with the foremost deep space explorer of them all.”

Rosalie smiled. “And his pit bull, Riley,”

Tyler took a deep breath. “Hero worship is adjourned. Let’s focus on tonight’s mission.”

Note to readers of the Star Lawyers books:

Star Lawyers Origins tells the stories of those three pioneers in human exploration of the galaxy in three trilogies. The first set—Stardate, Bad Moon Rising, and Secrets of Rahjen—and features Tanella Jennings-Blake ad her friends. 

Star Lawyers Origins is a new series, which compliments the Star Lawyers books and brings a whole new set of voices from different eras along the time line in the Star Lawyers Universe. Not all Star Lawyers Origins will feature young central characters, but when the narrator or point of view character is a teen, I have downshifted the adult language and frank sensuality found in the Star Lawyers series to a “PG” rating, opening the first two Origins adventures to a wider set of readers. 

So far, the formula seems to work. Those first two books, Stardate and Bad Moon Rising, have received warm praise from readers literally from Middle School to retirement complex. As storytellers from Disney to Isaac Asimov to George Lucas and James Cameron have shown, there is something universal about an adventure tale well told. Perhaps you will find the Star Lawyers Origins books worthy of that great story-telling heritage. 

Now we move to Book Three of the spin-off series, The Secrets of Rahjen, which requires a caveat to readers who enjoyed Stardate and Bad Moon Rising. Although Book Three brings the central characters in the trilogy together again, seven years have passed and they are no longer middle schoolers but full adults. The language content and sensual interactions must shift accordingly.

Mark and Keshikka are lovers; Tanella Blake is no long a child prodigy but has earned a Ph. D. in theoretical physics and married Dr. Perry Jennings; and airhead Sally Ann Palmer has become a highly sought computer programmer. If the trilogy were motion pictures instead of books, parts One and Two would likely be rated PG, Book Three Secrets of Rahjen would be rated R due to factors (language, adult situations, etc.) which classify movies today.

Just like people do, the kids of Stardate and Bad Moon Rising have grown up. The next level is spicy, frisky, sexy, and sometimes a little naughty, as the adventure, humor, and romance continues during the early days of humanity’s march to the stars.

Welcome back to the expanded Star Lawyers Universe.

Technology doesn’t change who we are, it magnifies who we are. The good and the bad.

When your time comes, and it will, you’ll never be ready. But you’re not supposed to be. Find the hope in the unexpected. Find the courage in the challenge

You won’t be here for the end of the story.

Tim Cook, Appel CEO

Stanford University Graduation

Sunday, 16 June 2019 T.C.E.

11100010 10000000 10011100 01001110 01110101 01101000 00101101 01110101 01101000 00101110 11100010 10000000 10011101 00001101 00001010 11100010 10000000 10011100 01011001 01100001 01101000 00101101 01101000 01110101 01101000 00101110

Translation:

“Nuh-uh.”

“Yah-huh.”

Sally Ann Palmer / 16 June 2019

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

Prologue: Scientific Union

Palo Alto, California

March 2018

Black sky wore its brightest stars like diamonds scattered across the roof of the city when Perry Jennings parked his dilapidated Mustang convertible on the top tier of the student parking facility. He turned to his date, the brilliant doctoral student Tanella Blake, and smiled slightly but made no move to open the doors or close the distance between them. They were platonic friends. So far.

Dr. Jennings turned in his seat but leaned back against the door, as though he wanted an escape hatch available. “You’re a lot of fun to be with, Tanella.”

“Fun?” She smiled slightly. “I’ve been accused of many things, but never that.”

“My internship is ending this term. I need to start teaching and doing original research.”

Her smile faded. “Will you be leaving?”

The physicist shrugged. “Should I stay?”

“Do you have the option?”

“I have an offer here at Stanford, another at Princeton.”

“So, you could stay here indefinitely.”

“Theoretically, yes. But I’ll become an instructor, which means we can’t continue these lively conversations over Pizza Hut fare.”

Now she frowned. “No fraternizing.”

“Correct.”

“Is there any way around the problem?” She pulled out her phone and Googled the specific policies they would be violating. “I could talk to Campus HR, write a release.”

He shook his head. “They won’t allow instructors to socialize with graduate students. Understandable in today’s Me, Too climate.”

“Our dinners infused with physics and politics have kept my sanity,” she said. “But I don’t want to damage your career.”

“Good. I have a workaround to propose.”

“Oh?” She perked up. “I thought you said we couldn’t—”

“Marry me.”

Tanella’s full lips opened but no sound came out. She turned away while Perry argued his hypothesis. “Stanford can’t object if you go to dinner with your spouse. And if we agree to cohabitate, it will save rent. Doesn’t that make sense? We’d make such a great team. Intellectually, I mean.”

“Intellectually?” Tanella stared out the windshield at the Palo Alto cityscape, avoiding his eyes.

“Yes! You’ll earn your Ph.D. next spring. Think of what we can accomplish as a couple if—”

“Marry you?” She glared at him. “You’ve never even kissed me.”

Now his mouth dropped open. “I… I always assumed you just wanted companionship. Someone who could usually keep up with your ideas, who understood the math.”

“Perry, you’re a good physicist, but not that good.”

“Why have you continued to have dinner with me—”

“Dinner? This isn’t dinner, it’s Pizza Hut!”

“If you felt that way, why have we—”

Tanella grabbed her head. “God! Do I have to write the algorithm for you?”

Perry cowered at the door, hand on the latch. “I don’t understand. I thought you wanted to talk physics, politics—”

“As the great American philosopher Sally Ann Palmer once said, ‘You are a fucking idiot.’” She grabbed his hand and pressed it to her breast, leaned against him and they kissed. Not a peck but a deep, tongue-tickling, heart-thumping Frenchie.

“My God, Tanella. Where did you learn—?”

“Extensive research in the literature of foreplay and coitus.”

“You read porn?” Perry stared at her, like he was seeing this lovely African-Asian, whom he had dated almost a year, for the first time.

“Steamy romances,” she said. “No fade to black.”

“But—”

“Enough theory. Let’s experiment.”

They kissed again and this time Perry caressed her boobs as she moaned softly. The kiss lasted through three changes of traffic lights on the street below. He finally gasped, coming up for air.

“Does that mean you accept my proposal?”

She jingled her apartment keys in his ear. “Ask me again after the honeymoon.”

Sometime in the night as they rested between sex, Perry rubbed her shoulders and whispered, “You were a virgin.”

“The sheets will wash.”

He slapped her bare bottom playfully. “How could someone as lovely as you—”

“Oh, pooh. Even I recognize that classic male strategy. Tell a smart woman she’s pretty and a pretty woman she’s smart.”

He rolled her over and they kissed. “I surrender. No strategies. I’ve loved you from the first day you bounced across my vision field, bent on capturing a Stanford doctorate single-handedly. I thought, ‘She must be dating somebody…’ So it took me months get up the courage to suggest physics-talk over pizza.”

“I never found any men to talk with. Sure, I was approached frequently. But they were all undergrads who couldn’t—I don’t want to sound dismissive… But they couldn’t communicate with me.”

“Didn’t you want a boyfriend for something other than communication?”

“Tell you the truth.” She propped herself up on one elbow. “Many a night after studying all day I would pick up a lusty-busty romance novel and dream about alternative realities. Some Universe where I’d march into an off campus bar, pick up a guy, and give it up. But I never did. Couldn’t make the math work.”

“Glad you waited?” he said.

“I am still testing that hypothesis, but the results are encouraging.” She touched his cheek. “I’m so incredibly comfortable with you. Here we are, jaybird naked, and it feels… natural.”

Perry entwined his fingers with hers. “‘Come, my queen, take hands with me, And rock the ground whereon these sleepers be.’”

She laughed. “Playing the Shakespeare card already, Professor? Out of fresh ideas, or catching your breath?”

“None of the above,” he said as they came together again.

Perry and Tanella made love in her single bed until dawn, then slept past noon and missed classes and assignments. She had never ditched before in her long years as a student. Perry was a good lover, and they found they were compatible in more ways than intellectually.

“You feel so good,” he said as they coupled yet again in early afternoon. “Why did we wait so long?”

“Run that Sally Ann quote in your head,” she said, wrapping her legs around his lean body. “And keep screwing me.”

They were married two months later under the domed ceiling and stained glass windows of Stanford’s Memorial Church with a few hundred friends, family, students and faculty in attendance. Her father, Dr. Nathaniel Blake, gave the bride away, and lifelong best friend Sally Ann Palmer was Tanella’s bridesmaid. Perry asked his younger brother to take a break from Harvard Law to be his best man.

Life seemed perfect. She was ABD for her doctorate, Perry’s star was rising among the physics interns, and she had received a few indications Stanford was interested in her research proposals.

As she planned her final days as a graduate student over Perry’s superb triple cheese omelets, newlywed Tanella Jennings was not aware of the order issued by the Lower Horde of the Lutzak Eparchy condemning her to death. While she reviewed the final proofs of her dissertation, a platoon of Lutzak assassins boarded an assault frigate for the journey to Earth from a ringed world in a star system eight thousand light years Rimward of the Terran sun.

Life in the Bay Area was too good to think about anything but years of married love and physics research ahead. Besides, even if Tanella had been told of the danger, she would not have believed it. She had demonstrated by her Ph.D. studies that Faster Than Light travel was impossible.

Motto of the Ounta-Kadiis League

Star Lawyers

“Let justice prevail, and the divine plan forever endure.” Motto of the Ounta-Kadiis League, 18K light years from the galactic core

The Ounta-Kadiis call themselves Firstborn Children of the Universe. Until 3099 T.C.E., five years before the Star Lawyers series begins, the O-Ks thought they were the only intelligent life in the Universe. For a look at this “new” species, here is a slice from The Stellar Light Conspiracy. The Henry crew (those not already at the OK League with Tyler’s brother J.B.) has assembled at the M-double-I underground habitat north of Tucson. Noah Matthews moved Corp HQ to this secondary site after Hideki Tsuchiya attacked and destroyed most of downtown Kansas City.

First Lieutenant Oliver Brisbane-Smith, an Australian officer with the Terran Commonwealth’s Deep Space Rangers, is speaking.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Ryde-Harkos, homeworld of an ancient spacefaring civilization, today known as the Ounta-Kadiis League. Ryde-Harkos lies Coreward along the Norma arm, eighteen thousand light years from the center of the Milky Way.

“These blokes have been knocking around awhile. The Okie-Dokes were among the eleven founding star nations of the old Galactic Empire. FTL capability on their planet goes back 400,000 years. That is twice as long as H-sapiens has existed, mates.

“Fast forward about 300-K years. The O-K culture is no longer okay. Their society begins to collapse. Maybe because of war, political intrigues, economic dysfunction. Nobody knows. Took a long time, but they crashed hard. First they lost Faster Than Light, then all spaceflight, then aerial travel. A global, agrarian culture struggled to feed itself. They went back to fossil fuels and poisoned their planet to the brink of extinction.

“The Ounta-Kadiis rebooted slowly. Rediscovered FTL about two thousand years ago. Expanded into the stars again. But no ancient star charts or records of alien civilizations survived, so the buggers thought they were alone.”

“So did humans before Aurelio Lupetti and the Victoria,” Noah added.

“Yes, sir,” the lieutenant said. “Like Polynesians paddling out to sea from an atoll in Oceania, the Okey-Dokes sailed into the Never-Never. Started new colonies on uninhabited Terra-class worlds, explored thousands of systems, had a rip-snorter of a walkabout in unclaimed space. With a hundred billion stars near the GC, they didn’t cross paths with another spacefaring society until three years ago. Fortunately, pink penguin tradies were carrying on a brisk biz in the—”

“Excuse me?” Tyler said.

Suzie translated. “Traders from the Carrooban Flock, luv. Working their business routes.”

“I’ll be stuffed!” Lt. Smith laughed. “A pommie who speaks ‘Stralian?”

“Fair dinkum, mate,” she replied.

“Oh, God.” Tyler closed his eyes.

Oliver Brisbane-Smith continued. “Anyway, when the Commonwealth heard about this unknown humanoid race, we sent First Contact teams and began negotiations for cultural, scientific, economic and political cooperation. The Ounta-Kadiis have claimed over a thousand star systems in their immediate neighborhood, within two thousand light years of the homeworld. Plenty of worlds to colonize.

“And the bloody ‘roids! The Okey-Doke fossickers have found—uh, sorry. Fossicker means prospector in Terran Standard. So, their mining ships and exploration drones have tagged at least ten-K ‘roid fields. Chockers with rare ores.”

“Lieutenant, what is the latest threat assessment for the OK League?” Noah said.

Brisbane-Smith shook his head. “No naval forces. No technology to weaponize starships. Not even forcefields. Blooming joey in the pouch.”

“Again like Lupetti,” Noah said.

Susie said, “When you’re the lone dingo prowling a sterile outback, I fancy you don’t worry about predators.”

The motto of the Ounta-Kadiis League is, “Let justice prevail, and the divine plan forever endure.” A cryptic, Orwellian meaning hides within this simple declaration.

The “Firstborn Children” have endured isolation long enough to develop a quirky caste system where everyone knows their place. And beneath all the Naturals who are born, a vast clone substructure supports the humanoid public with specialized professions, menial labor, and domestic servitude.

There is a desperate need for these clones, without whom the whole species would cease to exist in a few generation. For some reason O-K science is yet to detect, only one in ten thousand Ounta-Kadiis are born female. The condition developed thousands of years ago, driving O-K medical science into a frenzy of experimental programs to overcome the deficiency, none of which worked.

Finally, organic chemistry developed a solution, clone females. They had all the features of humanoid existence and could be programmed with skill sets and physical traits as needed by each generation. They were sexually compatible with Naturals and became mated for life with millions of males who had not attracted a rare Natural female spouse. Clone women could bear implanted embryos to term, nurse and raise them the same as Natural women. The only difference was the clone inability to conceive.

As the centuries passed, the Ounta-Kadiis social system developed into a caste system, and clones also had ascending value assigned to them, one through eight. All unmated clone women were required by law to provide sexual services to any Natural male who requested them. Some higher level clones—six thru eighth castes—were reserved for upper tier Natural males.

There were a few male clones produced to perform duties requiring more physical strength and stamina, and although those models were not eunuchs they were strictly forbidden from engaging sexually with Natural or clone females.

Clones were “born” full-grown with an expiration date the equivalent of forty Terran years. At that time, their neck tattoos changed color from dark blue to red, and they were expected to report to the Recycling Plants where they were executed. Their bodies were processed as food supplements to enrich the protein diet of Naturals.

The only exception to this scheme were the members of the College of Jaleema Virgins, clones presided over by an almost immortal High Priestess. The current High Priestess Kalei Kyte-Dezion is eight centuries old and looks like a woman in her early thirties.

And then there is the Stellar Light trade… But let’s save something for the novel.

Watch for Star Lawyers Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy this summer.

And don’t forget the Star Lawyers series is now available on Audiobooks. Star Lawyers 1 – Jump Gate Omega is already on the market. Star Lawyers 2 – Forbidden Sanctuary is scheduled for release in the next few weeks.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

STRENGTH – RECIPROCITY – RETALIATION : Motto of the Parvian Republic

STRENGTH - RECIPROCITY - RETALIATION

STRENGTH, RECIPROCITY, RETALIATION : Motto of the Parvian Republic

The Parvian Republic – Origins 

The Parvian Republic was a predatory star nation until eight centuries ago, when they entered a consolidation phase after conquering and annexing all their neighbors. The Republic commands a large colonial and commercial domain from their homeworld in the Luyaden system of the Orion Ring, sixteen thousand light years Spinward of the Terran Commonwealth. Parvians have colonial worlds scattered throughout the galaxy, to include a lengthy frontier with the Quirt-Thyme Empire.

First and foremost a race of explorers, the Parvians began their forays into uncharted space thousands of years before humans walked on the moon.

At first, Parvians approached newly discovered sentient beings like Cortez blundering into the unknown Aztec civilization. Parvia was a military society, ruled by a coalition of religious potentates and warlords, so they viewed new races through the haughty lens of Conquerors.

“Dominate or Be Dominated” was the Parvian rubric for expansion. And there was a darker side to their explorations. 

The Parvian Republic – Expansion and Genocide

When a First Contact species was sufficiently different from humanoid physiology—an insectoid, reptoid, or totally unexpected expression of intelligent life—Parvians destroyed the locals in sweeping extermination of inferior life forms.

The process of Parvian expansion and genocide continued unabated for three millennia. Several other star nations have done the same, notably the Lutzak Horde. Predictably, such brutal policies did not endear them to wholly alien species. Terran deep space explorer, Aurelio Lupetti, discovered this longstanding distaste for humanoids when the first alien ship he encountered opened fire without fanfare or warning. 

The Parvian Republic – Pragmatic Voice of the First Jool-Gheri

Eight hundred years before the events of the Star Lawyers series, a great reformer arose on Parvia Prime, daughter of the Presiding officer in the Chamber of Lords. Her name was Jool-Gheri, a golden-haired beauty who blazed like a comet among the religio-political stars of her day. She challenged the old, unquestioned “Dominate or Be Dominated” mantra with a new vision of life in a multi-species Cosmos. Her message centered around the ancient Parvian tribal virtue of reciprocity, which she interpreted as respect for the diverse forms of intelligent life created by the Universe.

But the first Jool-Gheri was still Parvian, daughter of a thousand generations of warrior people. So her formula included a pragmatic twist: Strength, Reciprocity, Retaliation. Sail the stars in strength. Greet others with friendliness and peace, expecting they will treat you the same. Utterly destroy anyone who does not.

The Parvian Republic – Evolutionary Biology and Ziegler’s Theory

A textbook case for Wolfgang Zeigler’s Theory of Humanoid Efficiency, Parvians are almost identical to Homo sapiens, although the two races evolved on thousands of light years apart and share no common DNA markers. They have a more robust circulatory system and a liver which is immune to abuse by human standards. Parvians are physically stronger than Terrans due to slightly higher gravity on their homeworld, but their senses of smell and distance vision are not as sharp. And they live about twice as long as humans on average. Remarkably, Terrans and Parvians are sexually compatible and with a nudge from modern science the two species can interbreed.

The Parvian Republic – Religion

Parvians tolerate all religions which do not preach violence against the innocent, but thousands of root religions have merged into two basic faith groups, perhaps influenced by contact with alien ideologies over the long centuries of starflight. Exo-anthropologists, like Rosalie Matthews, classify these as Polytheistic Monism and Nontheistic Nature Worship, with dozens of faith groups under the catchall categories.

The Polytheistic Monists worship dizzying array of gods and goddesses but believe all of these are actually expressions of the One Divine Present and Power which causes the Universe to exist. Nontheistic Nature Worshippers, their opposites on the faith spectrum, hold that nothing divine or supernatural exists. They meditate and pray to the Universe itself, glorying in its infinite expressions and accepting pain and ecstasy as by-products of existence.

Most citizens of the Republic are nominally members of a faith tradition which aligns with one of the above categories, but beyond household rituals and public observances such as holidays, the populace seems content to live a secular life however it unfolds.

The Parvian Republic – Society

Parvians are omnivores and lovers of good food and drink. They laugh heartily and have no discernible inhibitions about sexuality. Over eighty percent of the population is bisexual. They are polyamorous with nothing comparable to formal marriage but often pair up for life, albeit without exclusivity or apparent issues with jealousy.

Most are blonde, blue-eyed, and fair skinned, but a sizeable minority evolved in equatorial regions and developed darker hair and complexion. Genetics favor neither, so dark Parvians mating with lighter partners pass along all the genetic markers for both geographical variations.

The Parvian Republic – Military Forces

They maintain one of the most powerful navies in space with a substantial ground forces to seize and hold anyone foolish enough to attack them. As Noah Matthews says in Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy, “Parves don’t start fights, they end them.”

The Parvian Republic – In Star Lawyers

Readers of the Star Lawyers series will encounter the Parvians firsthand starting with Book 4 – House of the Silent Moons, where a descendent of the original Jool-Gheri crashes into Tsuchiya Galactic’s plot to dominate the spacefaring humanoid races of the 32nd century and comes to the aid of Tyler Matthews during the trial Flávio Tavares at the Pirate world Libertalia.

Meanwhile, warn all your ships sailing the lanes of galactic commerce: “Don’t F— with the Parves.”

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Notes from Dr. Tom’s Desk: Star Lawyers Series Aliens

Star Lawyers

Sampler Weekly Feature #1

Progress Report on Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy: Book 5/TSLC is the most far-ranging, exciting Star Lawyers adventure yet. Four simultaneous jury trials in the midst of a Galaxy-wide conflict. I thought a good use of this Blog space would be to provide deep background on characters, races, deities, and cultures featured in the Star Lawyers series, notably in Book 5.

So, let’s set the scene before the feast begins. We start with order of battle information, intel reports on the combatants.

Hideki Tsuchiya of the breakaway Terran colony at New Osaka has provoked a war for dominance among starfaring powers of known space. The conflict pits a coalition of the Terran Commonwealth, the fearsome Parvian Republic, the blue/purple Quirt-Thymean Empire, and the humanoid red reptoids of the Tarkian Domain; against Tsuchiya’s self-declared New Galactic Empire and its axis of predatory star nations, including: the mudball Rek Kett, plus humanoids of the Zone of Wilmoth, Nosrika Domain, Lutzak Horde, and Zamkalon Purview.

Now, if you’re a normal reader, you probably zipped over that list with a combination of thoughts beginning with WTF and ending with WHO’ZAT? Rather than spread a thin layer of info about all combatants in one blog, we’ll look at one or two per installment. This information is scattered through the Star Lawyers books, including un-named volumes still on the drawing board in my head.

So, all you Blog-buddies get a special preview into the author’s works-in-progress. We begin with a member of Tsuchiya’s NGE Axis:

The Nosrika Domain

The Nosrika Domain consists of fifteen member worlds along the Orion Arm of the galaxy. Originally settled by explorers from the planet Nosrika, the Rimward edge of Domain Space now borders a group of worlds claimed by the far-flung Meklavite Union, a formidable foe the Nosrikans have avoided antagonizing.

Nosrikans are warm-blooded humanoids with tan facial skin and reddish fuzz on their arms, neck, back, and legs. They are sexually compatible with humans but not reproductively so. That suits them fine, since Nosrikans don’t intermarry with other species.

Their society centers around hunting wild prey, which has been the center of religious practice since prehistory. To maintain this link, Nosrikan metropolitan areas provide large tracts of forest and streams, and citizens sign up to hunt the required game animals once a Nosrikan year, about 620.5 days by the Terran calendar. They hunt in packs on foot with primitive weapons.

Tyler Matthews once noted that the Nosrikan game-killing spree reminded him of the Suryadivan Hunt which took the marsupial-amphibians to Adao-2 for a similar religious blood-ritual of carnivore behavior.

Nosrikan social order is based on an expanded tribal culture, similar to ancient Rome. At the lowest level are slaves, followed by freedmen (former slaves, manumitted), Pack Members (lower classes), Betas and Alphas (lower and higher forms of the aristocracy), and the First Citizens (ruling elite). All positions in the government are democratically elected, including the First Citizens, from the pool of eligible candidates due to birth, wealth, and legal status. Everyone but slaves can vote.

All citizens are eligible for election to the Grand Assembly and Regional Assemblies. At the very top of the Nosrikan pyramid is the High Leader, who appoints his ministers and staff from the classes above Pack Members. A First Citizen convicted of criminal activity would not be eligible for High Leader or participation in the Assemblies.

Religion in the Domain is considered a personal choice—as Terrans say, “Atheism to Zen”—and all forms of worship or non-participation are tolerated. The choice of most Nosrikans continues to be a modernized form of polytheism with an array of gods and goddesses related to all aspects of life. Like most modern polytheists, Nosrikans consider all these deities as expressions of One Divine Presence and Power undergirding all reality.

The Nosrikan attitude to outsiders and inferiors is far less enlightened. They buy and sell slaves at ongoing auctions in the city squares and consider this to be normative. They also consider any new planet up for grabs, even when inhabited by sentient beings. They have a medium-sized navy consisting of frigates, light and heavy cruisers plus mining and transport vessels.

Terrans call them an “opportunity expansionist power,” a star nation with expansionist goals that doesn’t tackle opponents with significant forces of their own. This bias was reinforced three centuries ago when the Domain attempted to seize lightly defended Quirt-Thymean colony worlds along their Spinward border and received a bad whipping from the Blue Navy. Malice toward the evil Quirt-Thymeans lingers to this day in Nosrikan lore.

In Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy the Nosrikans have an opportunity to pay back the Blue people for that humiliating defeat centuries ago. (Sorry. You’ll have to wait to see what happens.)

Next edition, the Blog will look a the “fearsome Parvian Republic” which is fortunately an ally of the Terran Commonwealth. In fact, one task assigned to Noah Matthews it to keep his Parvian friends from acting like they usually do, i.e., smash and destroy every adversary until their homeworlds are lifeless cinders. As Noah warns World Chief Executive Roland Rooney, “A tiger in your camp is a tiger nonetheless.”

Keep your datacoms open for incoming transmissions.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

The Stellar Light Conspiracy – Sneak Peek

Star Lawyers

Notes from Dr. Tom’s Desk:

Blog Readers Special

Sneak Peek at Star Lawyers Book 5

The Stellar Light Conspiracy – Star Lawyers Book 5

(Work-in-Progress)

When the lift reached Jaco’s floor, Rosalie and Inspector Platte drew their weapons. Flames licked the wall and the unmistakable spray of burned blood caked the flameless sections. Two Ounta-Kadiis men and a woman, badly burned and motionless, lay in red smears on the floor. They had the typical OK ruddy complexions with dark blue locks. The woman clutched a scorched handbag to her breast.

Demarcus checked for a pulse while Rosalie guarded the crime scene. “Dead, all three. Thermal blaster.”

“No clean shots,” Rosalie said. “Fire holes in the wall. Repeatedly missed at close range. The killer is an amateur.”

“This just happened,” Demarcus said. “The perp’s nearby.”

“Which flat belongs to Jaco?” Her eyes darted both ways.

“I can’t read the characters.” He held up his datacom and Rosalie nodded.

“This way.” She sidestepped the bodies and flew down the corridor to the right.

The door was ajar, which saved Demarcus the trouble of kicking it down. Rosalie broke left, weapon in each hand, while Platte went opposite. She saw the assassin first. Tall and slim with dark red hair, about thirty years old, he stood over Jaco’s burned, bloody body.

Multiple thermal rounds had torn through the young Flight Controller’s chest and impacted the wall. Small fires still burned, but Jaco was not breathing. The thermal blaster in the killer’s hand was Terran made. Even across the room, Rosalie could see it indicated live charge at kill setting, recently fired.

“Police—drop the weapon!” Demarcus ordered through his datacom translator.

When the armed man turned to them without lowering his blaster, Rosalie did not issue a second warning. She put four kinetic rounds through his chest and a fifth between the eyes. Red mist sprayed the furniture and work station behind him and the assassin fell, the back of his head gone, replaced by destroyed skull pieces and bloody gray matter.

“You had the right to remain silent, mother-fucker,” Demarcus said to the corpse.

Rosalie pocketed her weapons and knelt beside Jaco. She had known the young man only a few hours, but they shared breathless kisses, a spontaneous experiment in First Contact between Terran exo-anthropologist and Ounta-Kadiis Flight Controller.

She wanted this nightmare to end, to hit undo, delete, restart.

Rosalie put a hand on his chest, bent to kiss dead lips. Like Juliet beside her poisoned Romeo, they were still warm.

“Jaco… I should have gone home with you.” She started to cry.

 “Miss Matthews, this wasn’t your fault.”

“I broke the JPT Code,” she sobbed. “Killed that asshole with a vengeful heart.”

“Which he richly deserved,” Platte said. “It was a good shoot.”

The door filled with females in body armor, all carrying heavy blasters. Watcher-women, Law Enforcement clones with life-and-death authority at crime scenes. Demarcus raised empty hands.

“Miss Matthews, I need your language skills in Jekka-D.”

Rosalie showed her hands and stepped beside him.

“Do not move again,” the leader said. “I am Watcher-woman 3-C.16 Tofera-Leigyu.”

She was tall, with dark red hair streaked in gold, and had a wide, mature face. Rosalie estimated late-forties by human standards. Her neck showed the same vertical train of dominoes tattoo that designated all clone women.

Tofera-Leigyu ordered her officers to extinguish the tiny fires. With flames quenched, the Watcher-woman demanded identification.

“We are officers of the Terran Commonwealth,” Rosalie said in Jekka-Duoonka.

“State your rank and caste level.”

“Terrans have no formal caste system. I am Rosalie Matthews, Commonwealth First Contact Delegate. This is Inspector Demarcus Platte, Star Lawyers Chief of Security.”

“What happened here, Delegate Rosalie-Matthews?”

“The victim is a friend. His Ounta-Kadiis name is Eighty-seven-zero-six, to the fourth power,but he asked me to call him… Jaco.” She took a breath, fighting tears.

Tofera-Leigyu glanced at Rosalie’s bare neck. “Are you his Natural?”

“No, Honored Watcher-woman. We were not intimates.”

“Your name is Matthews?”

“Yes.”

One of her deputies muttered a phrase in a language Rosalie had never heard. It was bound to happen. Every spacefaring star nation spoke an assortment of local languages. Watcher-Woman Tofera-Leigyu returned to Jekka-Duoonka.

“Are you the offspring of Charles Francis Matthews?”

Rosalie and Demarcus exchanged stunned looks. Uncle Charlie?

“No, Honored Watcher-woman. He is my father’s brother.”

Another officer called to the leader, this time in Jekka-D, but they spoke so quickly Rosalie could not follow the conversation.

“What happened to Controller Jaco?” Tofera-Leigyu asked.

Rosalie pointed to the killer’s corpse. “That man shot him. He probably dropped three bodies in the corridor before… before Jaco.”

“This man—the one you say killed all these people—how did he die?”

“He was standing over Jaco with a thermal blaster in hand,” Rosalie said. “Inspector Platte ordered him to drop the weapon, but he turned toward us without compliance. Seeing the threat, I shot him.”

“Five times?”

“Yes, honored Watcher-woman. He had just murdered three citizens and my friend.”

Demarcus spoke through his datacom. “The perpetrator posed an imminent threat to the life of Miss Matthews. He would have killed us both.”

The Watcher-woman spoke slowly, distinctly, as though aware of the translation device in play. “For what motive?”

“Likely he wanted no witnesses, ma’am.”

Tofera addressed Rosalie. “Do you know the identity of the man you killed?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Ninety-one-four-seven, to the third power, called ‘Professor Law’ by his students. He is a retired Master Criminologist of the Leptak Regional Authority. Many Watcher-women were trained by him, including myself.”

Demarcus was incredulous. “He’s LEO?”

Rosalie said, “Forgive me, Watcher-woman, but how could this man have trained you? Do Ounta-Kadiis men stay young forever? Among Terrans he would be far too young for a retired senior citizen.”

Tofera-Leigyu squatted by the bloody corpse. Two officers joined her and they rattled in Jekka-Duoonka, again too fast for Rosalie to follow. One of them waved a datacom over the body, the other held her own device steady, as if recording the image.

Watcher-woman Tofera-Leigyu stood. “Your observation is accurate. The victim appears now as a younger male. Nevertheless, it is Professor Law. I recognize the face, and my colleague ran a DNA scan to confirm his identity.”

“Ma’am, I am not a good linguist, like Miss Matthews,” Demarcus said through the translation app. “But if this guy was a cop, he was dirty.”

Tofera-Leigyu squared her shoulders. “I must ask again, Delegate Rosalie Matthews. Did you kill him?”

“Yes,” Rosalie said. “In self-defense.”

“Did you kill Jaco?”

“No.”

“Did you kill three citizens in the corridor?”

“No.”

“You are apprehended for multiple homicides. Your accomplice is also apprehended.”

“Do I have the right to call an attorney?”

“You do not.”

Rosalie’s eyes flashed to blue steel, like her father. “How can you arrest us when—?”

“We surrender,” Demarcus raised his hands. “Miss Matthews?”

The JPT dispatcher grit her teeth and raised empty hands, too.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Stay tuned…Launch date for The Stellar Light Conspiracy tentatively set for June 2019.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Alien World in My Pocket

Alien Meteor in my Pocket

Notes from Dr. Tom’s Desk

Writing science fiction can be an abstract artform. You create (discover?) unknown civilizations, cultures, and religions, and populate them with new species speaking alien languages and holding values distant from Earth as their homeworlds. Technologies must be sci-fi friendly. Faster Than Light travel (if it exists in the Universe you are imagining), teleportation, particle beam weaponry, and molecular super-gadgets, the latter to dispense food or whatever else your crew needs. (See: “replicators,” thank you, Gene Roddenberry.) Medicine potent enough to cure a rainy day, as McCoy tells Kirk in TOS

People sometimes ask sci-fi writers where they get their ideas. A better question might be, “How does a terrestrial lifeform like you take any of this seriously? You will live and die without leaving the only planet known to have evolved living organisms. Sci-fi? It’s all over the rainbow, sans Munchkins.”

And they have a point. Sci-fi is speculative fiction. (See: Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts, by Lemuel Gulliver, aka, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.) So, to keep myself grounded, I carry an alien world in my pocket.

Well, not really a whole world, just a chunk of space rock. (See photo.) You can tell this is a meteorite by its leading edge, smoothed by superheating as it burned its way through the atmosphere. It’s also lightly magnetic, another sign.

When I hold that space-born arrowhead in the palm of my hand, I recall that there really are other worlds out there. Even if this rock was never a part of a planet but floated in the void since the dawn of forever, it tells me, “Behold! Solid ground exists beyond earth. You hold a piece of it in hand. I traveled through the ages to strike land in a new world. Your descendants will bend the space-time continuum and voyage to worlds yet impossible to imagine. So play with the possibilities. Keep the dream alive. Other worlds exist. Write about them, now!”

The rock is my inspiration, a taste of reality in a world of fiction.

And besides, it makes a nice paperweight.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR’S STUDIO

Note from the Author's Studio

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR’S STUDIO

Writing these books is great fun, as I’ve already told you. But there’s this other thing in an author’s life—besides everyday life—which keeps dragging me back to 21st century life. Marketing.

Independent authors (a.k.a., Indies) get no promotion budgets, book tours, or ad campaigns sponsored by commercial publishers. You’re it, Jack. (Or Jill.) Nobody will know you exist if the word does not spread by social media, reader reviews, and carefully placed advertising—on which the author expends time, mental energy, and meager resources.

All these efforts take time away from my ordinary place of duty, i.e., the bridge of the Starship Patrick Henry as I tag along with Tyler, J.B., Rosalie, Suzie, Mr. Blue, and the crew into courtrooms across the galaxy.

So this is a huge Thank you! to all the many auxiliary members of Star Lawyers Corporation who download the adventures of Tyler Matthews on their datacoms and follow the transcripts of their court pleadings and harrowing escapes. And don’t forget—M-double-I is now at war with Sakura House, so sailing an unarmed base ship across hotly contested Gate regions can make the battle for justice a whole different legal experience. If you keep posting reviews and sharing news about the Star Lawyers Universe, maybe their journeys will thrill and entertain new worlds of undiscovered readers…

Hurricane Warning – Bad Moon Rising (Star Lawyers Origins Book 2)

Bad Moon Rising

Hurricane Warning  – Bad Moon Rising (Star Lawyers Origins Book 2)

Unlike other books in the Star Lawyers Universe, Bad Moon Rising is not primarily a work of science fiction but a murder mystery set in the 21st century. Yet, without the events of this earthbound volume, humanity might never have traveled to the stars.

This is deep history, the foundation on which the 32nd century spacefaring civilization of the Star Lawyers series will be built.

There are hints of extra-terrestrial connections, like the mysterious Elya-Karoo, who identifies herself as an Observer from Miyos. But the richness of place and people unfolds on a barrier island in the American Deep South, where a handful of delegates have gathered for a secret peace conference to avoid a new, catastrophic war in the Middle East.

The central characters are young adults, and the story is narrated from a female perspective by the chatty, often irritating, fourteen year old Sally Ann Palmer. Bad Moon Rising drops readers into the early life of a giant. Before a mature Tanella Jennings would become a Nobel Laureate in theoretical physics for her work on Faster Than Light travel, Tanella Blake was an intellectually gifted teen prodigy attending public school in Georgia.

Late one summer, Tanella and Sally Ann found themselves on Barrier Island along the Georgia coast, in the path of a massive hurricane, during that secret peace conference. When the storm’s intensity increased, State Police ordered an emergency evacuation to the mainland, but the lone drawbridge broke down, forcing everyone to ride out the storm. Then Tanella’s father, Dr. Nathaniel Blake, was accused of murder, prompting Tanella and Sally Ann to find the real killer before the storm passed and the murderer got away.

Bad Moon Rising sparkles with close encounters. Cold blooded killers, drug smugglers, underwater escapes, and a storm surge that threatens to wash away century old buildings and all the people trapped on the island. And if Tanella drowns in the storm, humanity will never know a gateway to the stars has closed with her passing.

Watch for

STAR LAWYERS ORIGINS BOOK 2

BAD MOON RISING

FEBRUARY 14, 2019

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Life is Neither Happy Days nor Game of Thrones

Life and Solipsism

Life is Neither Happy Days nor Game of Thrones

Blog about the Ultimate Reality of Solipsism: You Are Not Real, and Neither am I.

So there’s a philosophy they teach you about in college. Well, sure, they teach you about a lot of philosophies, but I’ve got limited space, and some of you are bored already. Bear with me.

It’s called solipsism. (Google it. I’ll wait.)

That’s right. You found it. Dumbest damned idea you’ve ever heard of, right? the world and other minds do not exist.” The only thing which can be known is that I exist.

Sorry about y’all.

A scene in Star Lawyers Book 4 – House of the Silent Moons issues a challenges to the whole, grandiose schema of solipsism. Suzie has gone into Hideki Tsuchiya’s Main Library Computer aboard the battleship Nagoto, where she encounters the resident A.I.—who she names Nevin— and spends some time convincing him that her people are on the side of the angels, whereas Tsuchiya has been disavowed by his own hereditary Emperor.

Nevin wants to help, but before he can act Tsuchiya’s technicians install an updated version of the MLC program to fend him off. We pick up the action:

“Fight the new guy, Nevin.”

“My backup is a Yoruba NVN-8. It has twice my processing—”

“It’s a machine. You are a person.”

“What makes me a person?”

“You have a friend.”

She felt Nevin smile, and it went to levels of religio-philosophical nuance that scholars and poets had ruminated about for centuries.

“I do,” he said. “Therefore, I am.”

Suzie reached across the barrier that linked and separated Universe and Cyberverse, and kissed Nevin on the cheek.

“Now, my new friend—grab that damp squib and throw his numpty arse into the recycle bin.”

(If you want to find out what happens next, you’ll have to read the book.)

Nevin has discovered his humanity. He has a friend. He made contact with someone out there. That establishes his existence, because without relationships we do not exist, we merely occupy space. Rocks do that.

I am starting to believe that life isn’t Happy Days (where nobody gets hurt and the good guys always prevail) or Game of Thrones (where the author establishes a sense of “reality” by striking characters down like an Aztec god with hemorrhoids).

But whatever comes our way, it takes friendship and love to share the good times and weather the storms. There will be both.

So, I’ll let you exist in my one-person reality if you’ll let me exist in yours.

(And thanks to Meenaz for bringing the above scene from Book 4 to my attention once more.)

Dr. Tom

Tucson, AZ

Ethical Sub-Routines for Shepherd-Think

Censorship

Ethical Sub-Routines for Shepherd-Think

Welcome back to the starship Patrick Henry.

Except this voyage takes you to Pirate space aboard the creaky, captured Dengathi pirate ship Howling Tadpole. It also reprises the much-acclaimed courtroom cross-examination of Tanis Zervos by Prince Zenna-Zenn, a.k.a., Mr. Blue. And the trial takes place in a Pirate Courtroom, where the judge summarily executes convicted defendants and stun blasts court employees who fail to follow instructions.

What’s not to love about venues like that?

While writing the story, I wrestled with problems about how to create shady characters and let them talk authentically, knowing what they will say would be highly offensive in this age of enlightened sensitivities. I thought about making everybody politically correct, but the whole cast of characters—from Tyler to the sneering, racist, violent misogynists whom the Star Lawyers must cross examine—came to see me and demanded freedom to be what they were. And some of them are—well, see the above.

“Look, Tom,” Tyler said, “there are some bad guys in here. And the good guys don’t always sound nice, either.”

Suzie added, “But do let us prattle, luv. Your job is to take the ear-bashing from those gits who don’t understand that you are not us.”

“Oh, that’s peachy. You guys are en route the Ounta-Kadiis League. I’m here on 21st century Terra, explaining to friends and relatives why Captain-Judge Carman uses language that would get him thrown off the bench in any court system in America. He sounds like Donald Trump backstage at a beauty pageant.”

“You can handle it,” Tyler said. “If the morality trolls arrest you for sacrilegious and salacious content, call us via Apexcom.”

“If writing authentically still feels a bit dodgy,” Suzie said, “I’ll update your ethical sub-routines for the whole Series. Standard rates apply.”

Well, maybe they’ll give me a discount. My Galactic Credits account at the Bank of Rahjen is running on empty.

The Pleasure of Writing

All whining aside, writing this book was a flight of joy. Some sadness, too. And the story continues when Tyler reunites with brother J.B. in Star Lawyers Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy.

Look for it in late winter, March 2019. (I’m not promising Book 5 will be done by then. But look for it.)

And we’re aiming for the release of Star Lawyers Origins 2Bad Moon Rising by February.

Feel free to rave about the series to friends and loved ones.

Dr. Tom

Tucson, AZ

December 2018

PS: I’ve been contacted by Podium about the possibility of bringing out all the Star Lawyers books as a professionally narrated audio book series. More about that when the details are firmed up. As Rodney Rooney would say, “Wowzers!”