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

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!”