Please enjoy this short sneak peek of my latest short story (in collaboration with fellow science fiction author Wilhelmina Kirk) Hacker’s Pursuit:
by J. L. Stowers and Wilhelmina Kirk
Sneaking off work should have been fun, but Kaida Winters was more worried about the problem eating away at her sleep than the janitorial schedule.
Wearing her favorite purple trainers and vintage rock t-shirt instead of her work uniform, she crept along the corridor toward the mess hall, keeping her head down so she wouldn’t get pulled into a conversation with anyone she passed. There weren’t many people on the space hauler Navis, about fifty or so – just enough to keep it flying—but that’s exactly why she tried to avoid small talk. Nothing ever changed, so conversations were the same day after day, and nothing but a time suck from what she really wanted to do.
And ever since their last stop, the crew had been on edge, and Kaida didn’t know why. The mystery was gnawing on her like a puppy with a chewed-up bone.
She tried not to care, tried to remember that no matter how much she hated being a janitor on a dirty hauler, she just needed to keep her head down until she was eighteen and could get a real job.
Not that Kaida’s current company knew she was only sixteen. She’d hacked her documentation when she’d applied for the job. But a more reputable employer would be harder to fool. Chances were, the company knew she was a minor but chose not to ask any questions. They had a history of hiring illegal workers. Sure, the old ship had a few cleaning bots, but there was nothing like barely paying underage teens or criminals to work long hours do everyone’s bidding. In exchange, Kaida received a tiny stipend to go with her bunk bed and locker.
But it was better than living on the streets on some dirty planet.
“Winters,” a woman’s voice called from behind.
Kaida cringed and pretended not to hear her last name.
“Winters,” the woman said more insistently.
Kaida straightened her back and turned to face First Officer Sheryl Owens, a bitter-looking woman with a knack for making Kaida’s life miserable.
“What, are you pretending to be deaf now?” Owens asked.
“No, ma’am.” Kaida lied smoothly, maintaining eye contact.
As usual, Sheryl Owens looked like she didn’t believe Kaida, even when the teen was telling the truth.
Owens leaned in, forcing Kaida to back away until her head hit a cold metal bulkhead. The officer’s teeth flashed white in the dim corridor lighting. “I know you’re up to something, Winters. Do you know anything about Shytles and Macafee’s schedules today?”
Kaida shrugged. “I know they’re working, aren’t they? Otherwise, I would be on a shift right now.”
“But yesterday,” Owens continued, “they weren’t on the schedule. They came to me personally to complain. And it seems this isn’t the first time it’s happened.”
Kaida scoffed. “Then why aren’t you talking to the duty officer? He obviously messed up.”
Owens hissed, her annoyance showing on her face as she leaned closer. Kaida wrinkled her nose at the woman’s bad breath. “I did talk to him,” Owens said, “but he assures me that he didn’t change anything.”
Kaida shrugged. “So he’s lying.”
“Now you’re accusing a ranking officer of lying?”
If you want to know what adventure Kaida has waiting for her, check out the full story published in The Expanding Universe Volume 5
Available for a limited time only.
Twenty-three never-before published science fiction stories by award winning & bestselling authors. One remarkable collection.
With a foreword by Kevin J. Anderson, this collection has something for every science fiction fan.
Aliens of the mind, blasters in space, an enigma, and so much more. A massive collection of brand-new, never-before published stories from past and future masters of sci-fi. Dive in and disappear.
More than 700 action-packed pages of never-a-dull-moment entertainment! When you discover we’re not alone in the universe, will you be prepared? Grab your copy of The Expanding Universe Volume 5 and immerse yourself in new worlds, with new friends.
Check out my other science fiction books here.