A stranded alien must choose between returning his queen to their home world, or saving his human daughter from the invasion that will result.
Explorer Bridge allows humanity to travel the distance between stars in the blink of an eye, but few know the actual price of its development. Stranded in our solar system and fearful of humanity, a secretive alien species, the orhatea, slammed an asteroid into Earth to manipulate humanity with a savior figure. Now that Explorer Bridge is complete, the orhatea can go home, but one of them has other plans.
Tenakee has studied the Book of Engaro since she was a hatchling. She recognized the humans as seed for the orhatea’s next evolutionary jump, but the others did not believe her. As the crews only female capable of creating telepathically controlled human clones, she used them to gather allies in Explorer Corporation. Now, with her transformation to Engaro complete, nothing can stop her from leading the orhatea to their destiny.
Earah has spent two human lifetimes working to return Amah to their home world. When he wakes as the human, Earl Clark, for the third time he feels betrayed. As prince to the orhatea queen and mother he has been loyal to her plans, even the one that left them stranded in Earth’s solar system. When Amah confirms that Explorer Bridge is functioning he knows he should be on Ora, but Earl’s memories haunt his vision, forcing him to choose between his alien heritage and his human family.
Erin Smart was comfortable with her special place in the Universe: The human daughter of a stranded alien. She assumed that when Explorer Bridge was complete, she would go with her father to his home world, but he died before they could make the trip. She was just getting comfortable as a leading member of the First Expedition Crossing when Earl Clark, her dead father, called looking for help. Now she must question everything she took for granted.
Preview of The Fundamentals
“You must go, before she wakes.”
“But how? How is she—”
“I do not know. Now go!”
Tenakee laughed from behind her black visor.
“The great Amah of the Orhatea lies, she knows I am Engaro.”
Tenakee rolled into a crouch.
Earl heard a puff of air from behind him. He ducked as a black glass orb shot past him to park itself over Amah’s head. Inside the glass, orange and black fire boiled like the magma of a volcano; Orahi, living fire.
Go! He heard two voices, both in his head. Neither of the onyx figures looked at him. They studied each other, preparing the next attack.
“Stop this,” he said. “We have a way home. Whatever happened between you we can resolve when we return to Ora. We can go home!”
“No,” Tenakee said, “you can’t. She has to die here.”
Go, Amah compelled him again through the Seed.
“I can’t your blocking my fucking path,” he screamed.
Amah’s eyes flamed from her skull. They were fighting, but not in a way he could see.
The glass ball above Amah’s head started spinning. Orahi sprayed out of it, stuck to the ceiling and walls. Where it struck, black and orange fire bloomed to life.
Go, now! Two voices in his head. They were determined to destroy each other and save him.
“No,” he said. “You must stop this fight. If you do not, we will all die here.”
“Jump,” Amah said.
The armored Tenakee jumped at Amah, striking with a black rod she pulled from the suit’s belt. Sparks cascaded from the rod, Amah screamed, a long high orhatea note of distress. On Ora, a million drones would have come rushing to defend their queen, die in her stead. But Amah was not with her Colony. She jumped back, falling through the far wall, landing on her back. Tenakee went after her.
Above the lounging pit, the orb continued to spin. Orange sticky fire made its way down the walls now, bubbling and spitting more fire. A drop fell on his shoulder from above the shattered opening. His linen shirt caught fire. He pulled it over his head and threw it into the room.
Behind the fire, two black figures turned to him as one being. Their voices chimed in his head: Jump!
The shuttle, he thought. He turned, but he couldn’t see the craft, or it was not there.
Jump! The voices rang like a bell, commanding, honey, passion, and dread.
He balanced on the balcony’s rail. The half-buried spire of the Burj Khalifa tilted first counter, then clockwise in his vision. His gut churned, and he tasted metal in his mouth.
A rumble behind him sent hot hair over him. The tattered remains of his shirt twisted past the balcony and lay flat against the invisible shuttle.
“Jump,” He said, then sprang out, arms and legs spread wide, he fell for a terrifying second before belly flopping on the craft. Air knocked out of his lungs, his vision blurred, and he fell.
From the corner of his blurred vision, he saw desert and metal and black fire spinning in rapid succession. Vomit sprayed over the edge of the shuttlecraft. He rolled over, looked for Amah, but she was not there.
That sensation of falling was the shuttle retreating from the imploding column of his home. Black and orange orahi cascaded down the chrome and glass spire. Each cascade created a new one, devouring the Tower like a hungry slug.
Hot air blew past him. Water filled his eyes, and his legs burned. Blisters formed below what remained of his white linen pants. A small stream of orahi worked its way through the fabric, burning his skin as it went. He kicked off the pants, they slid down the nose of the shuttle, he sat back, and waited for the shuttle to land.
Sand kicked up around him. In the distance, he heard the low rumble of thunder. A mushroom cloud of smoke, sand, and magma consumed the last of his home. A hot blast of air dried his eyes as the thunder subsided.
He slid off the side of the shuttle to land barefoot and naked in the sand. His legs gave way on contact. He collapsed face first in the sand. Stabs of pain echoed up his legs from the blisters. He searched for the aro, found what remained in his system and sent it to cover the pain. He needed arotea to cure his legs, but the Tower was gone, and Amah with it.
He searched the Seed for her. Found no sign of rage, or fear, or pain. There was no time for concern, he had to tend to his burns.
He palmed the door of the shuttle, it opened, and he stepped inside the ship. The layout was familiar if sparer than the standard design. He found the first-aid compartment, slid it open. “Explorer Corp. Medical System is online,” a man’s voice said through the ship’s speakers. “You may—”
“Burns.” He snapped, not waiting for the voice prompts.
“What is the severity of the burns,” the voice chimed in response.
His left leg had two long blisters that ran from just below the knee to near his groin. His right had one continuous thread of a blister that started at his ankle and circled around his lower leg several times before making a direct line along the inside of his thigh to his groin. The last of Amah’s aro infusion covered his pain, but that wouldn’t last.
“I don’t know, severe?”
“Is the patient conscious?”
Glass shattered to his left. Orange fire pressed against the front window of the shuttle. A small stream of magma poured into the flight cabin through the cracked pane.
He had left his pants lying on the front of the shuttle. Now the fire that burned his legs consumed the craft.
“What? Just give me the damn burn unit!” He yelled at the first-aid kit.
“Your choice was burns. What is the severity of the burns?”
Black, magma like, orahi poured on the chairs at the front of the ship and piled against the narrow opening between the shuttle’s flight cabin and the rest of the craft.
“Med system override. Give me the severe burn kit, now.”
Behind the panel, gears kicked into motion followed by a whirring sound. The magma crawling down the aisle of the craft pressed hot air against him. It crawled up the walls on either side and dripped from the ceiling. Each drop produced more fire that crawled toward him. A chime sounded from the first-aid kit. A bottle appeared in the opening, it was clear, filled with white tablets, a white sticker over the front said Aspirin.
“No, you planet-bound piece of shit. The burn kits. Now!”
The Explorer Corp Med System did not respond. He grabbed the bottle of aspirin and dodged out the open door. He ran, tried putting distance between himself and that consuming fire. The thick sand tripped him, he caught himself, breaking the plastic bottle. White pills scattered over the sand and a piece of plastic pierced his palm with the force of the fall.
Behind him, the shuttle exploded. He scrambled on his back just in time to see the craft’s door flying straight at him. He raised his bloodied palm and curled into a ball to protect his head.
The door hit him.