Tired of endless space? Get ready for Viral the third book in the Starship Hope Series. If you like a virus that does anything but social distance then you’re going to love this story.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The virus won’t kill them but the honesty might
Captain Dana Pinet and the crew of the Starship Hope have tracked down the thieving pirates who stole their embryos. A chance at finding a new planet for their people to settle is finally within their grasp. But when an alien truth-agent infects everyone on board, their survival will fall into the hands of an android, an escaped criminal, and a girl with uncanny abilities.
Everyone’s emotions are running as high as their temperatures when keeping a secret becomes impossible. The android may have an antidote, but with time quickly running out, the ship may be destroyed before he can distribute it.
If you like close encounters of the dangerous kind, then you’ll love Viral, the third book in the space opera adventure series Starship Hope.
Get your copy of Viral on Amazon today!
Captain’s Personal Log: 4327.10.5
Those stinking, lying Begarans. They have our embryos, and I want them back.
They pointed us toward the Fashin Teku ship that stole from us, but only some of our cargo, and three of the Teku survived after the truth serum the Begarans gave them. Dr. Jabar cleared them for duty, helping refit the ship as we race back to the Begaran home-world. The crew’s been working tirelessly. They were on twenty-four-hour shift rotations to make repairs after the explosion of the Des freighter knocked out propulsion, thermal regulators, life-support, and damaged the hull on decks eleven and twelve.
It’s been two days, and the crew is dragging. Most days, everyone’s work requires scrutiny, including mine. I know that, but we’re moving again, at last. Without the Teku, it would have taken us over a week to get to the Begarans. At least with their help, we can cut that time in half. I don’t trust them anymore than I could pick one up and throw them, but at this point, my people don’t have a choice.
This morning I woke up in a pool of sweat. Not because of them, but because of Peter Barnes. I’d been running away from him again in my dream. Sometimes he’s coming after me, other times it’s like it was on Zelenia, where everyone gathered together behind him to accuse me. Between the nightmares and the repairs, the sleepless nights are showing under my eyes and in the headaches, though there’s not much I can do about it. The ship has continued off-kilter since his escape, and worst of all, he knows my secret. It’s not what he knows, but what he’ll try to do with it that keeps me awake.
Rido’s healing treatments have been helping, but to be honest, I find myself struggling with how I feel about him. He’s a great guy, with wonderful bedside manner, but beyond the basic attraction, I’m not sure I can go deep with someone like him. We don’t have the same beliefs or ideals, and though I’m fascinated by him, there’s something missing. It’s not easy like it was with Wade. I know I shouldn’t compare, but I can’t help it. Wade makes me think and laugh without even trying. Of course, he’s going to marry Maggie any minute, and I need to come to terms with it. I had my chance with him, and I blew it. I’ll put on a smile for the event, even if it kills me.
Today I’m going to take a nanodot.
Dana reached into her side table and pulled out the tin of nanodots. There were only five left, a reminder that Barnes had already taken three. Her hand trembled, the small tin rattling. She put it down on the table and stared inside. Each white anti-anxiety dot was nothing more than a means of control. For the Zelenian Space Fleet, it was against regulation for any Captain to be using them, let alone being dependent on them, as she’d been. A captain dependent on anything artificially manufactured was in trouble.
She’d saved them after her psych treatments. After Kristoff’s explosive betrayal, a former friend and member of the Coalition Against the Hierarchy, she’d been a wreck. It had taken her months to come to terms with losing those who’d gathered to throw her surprise party at the Breezy Blue. After, Dana had kept the remaining nanodots hidden in a treasure box her father had made her as a little girl, regulating them for emergencies only. Before the incident, she’d worn an unreadable mask when she was anxious. Now, there were times she couldn’t disguise the anxiety. Dana reasoned it was just taking her longer than expected to get back to her old self.
No one needed to know about the dots. She wasn’t out of control or anything. She just wasn’t ready to lose the comfort knowing they were there gave her.
But now Barnes knew about them.
The question wasn’t if Barnes would say anything, it was when. The longer he went free, the greater the anxiety grew within her, disrupting her dreams. He’d taken three of the nanodots as if to taunt her. He knew she couldn’t go to the doctor and request more. Did he think he could use them to barter for his life? Would he threaten to expose her lie in order to get what he wanted?
Dana scoffed at the idea. She could quit whenever she wanted, she just needed a little more time. She wasn’t going to let Barnes back her into a corner. Should the truth about her anxiety get out she’d deal with it, but for now, she’d have to wait for him to make his move.
She popped the white nanodot to the back of her throat and took a sip of water, swallowing both down.
Even with the anti-anxiety drug coursing through her, Dana sat on the bridge, tapping her fingers on the arm of her chair. After four hours they still weren’t going fast enough. She waited for the latest report on their engines with the patience of a two-year-old. Who knew what the Begarans could do with their stolen embryos by the time they finally reached full speed again?
The chair on her left where Wade should be sat empty. Her First Officer was out overseeing their progress in the engine room where the Fashin Teku were hard at work getting their tech integrated with the ship’s propulsion systems. In Dana’s opinion, it was the least they could do after stealing something so precious from them. The technology behind their upgrades was complex, but as far as she understood it, their advanced drive system, when coupled with their targeting coordinates, could propel them by bending space.
Ensign Cliff Harden cleared his throat from his standing station on her left. “Is everything all right, Captain?” he asked, glancing from her tapping fingers back to her face.
She waved him off. “I’m fine. I just want to know where we are on the upgrades. Any other reports coming in?”
He rolled his eyes. “No, but I’ll check again.”
Dana’s eyes flew to his face. “Was that a tone, Ensign?”
“No, ma–Captain. No tone intended.”
When Wade returned from engineering, Dana leaped out of her seat. He looked like he was fuming. She leaned in, whispering, “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” he said, his voice several decibels louder than hers had been, causing the bridge crew to turn in their direction.
Dana raised an eyebrow at him, and he shook his head. It was all right if he didn’t want to talk about it, but he didn’t need to shout. She tried not to let it bother her, though it grated on her nerves that he’d behave this way in front of the others.
Their interactions had been off since she’d refused to officiate his wedding ceremony. Dana wanted to put it behind them as soon as possible. Rido, the Healer, had agreed to perform the ceremony in her place—thank the Merciful. Neither the bride nor groom had said much to her since. Dana couldn’t even be sure she’d be welcome at the wedding anymore. She didn’t particularly want to attend the wedding of her ex, but she’d been willing to put that aside. Marrying them, however, was an entirely different matter. To Dana, it seemed more than a little inappropriate.
“Commander, report,” Dana ordered, adjusting her tone and volume to match his terse one.
Wade blinked, as if he didn’t understand her. Dana frowned.
“Commander? Are you sure you’re all right?”
Wade shook his head muttering to himself. Then he lifted his hands and let them drop slapping hard against his sides. “I did my best, Captain. They’re about as worthless as fleas on a dog.”
It was Dana’s turn to blink. He hadn’t been down there that long. Perhaps there were some compatibility issues they hadn’t considered. She needed every advantage she could get against the Begarans.
“Aren’t the Fashin Teku helping you?” she asked. “If they’re not pulling their weight, they can get off a lot sooner than the space station.” Dana wasn’t about to tolerate anything from them. They’d done enough damage.
“That would be way too good for them,” Wade muttered, sitting down beside her and then standing up again in agitation.
“That’s all you had to say. Have security escort them to the brig. I’ll deal with them myself later.”
“Ensign, have security escort our Fashin Teku guests to the brig,” Wade said.
“Yes, sir,” Cliff said as he relayed the message. A moment later, he looked back up, confusion on his face. “Um, I’m sorry, sir . . . they won’t do it.”
Dana stood from her seat to face him. “What do you mean they won’t do it?”
Cliff cleared his throat. “Well, um, they sent an audio message. Would you like me to play it for you?”
“Out with it, Ensign,” Wade snapped.
Cliff looked nervous. “Are you sure you want me to play it aloud?”
Dana placed her hands on her hips. “Ensign, either play the message, or relay it, if that’s not asking too much.”
Cliff shrugged and pressed the buttons on the panel that would allow the entire bridge to hear the message:
“Tell the Commander we’re a bit busy at the moment, and if he’d like to get off of his backside, he can take care of the lousy pirates himself.”
Dana’s mouth fell open a beat before she was able to recover. “Who was that, Ensign?”
“I’m not sure, Captain. There’s no identification code. It’s from a panel on level four.”
“Send security to—”
Wade cut her off by reaching over the panel, grabbing Cliff by the front of his shirt, and lifting him off the floor.
“Commander!” Dana reached out and pulled on the back of Wade’s uniform. “Let him go! What’s wrong with you? The message didn’t come from him, it came from our security.”
Wade was breathless. He couldn’t seem to focus on her voice.
Dana clutched him by the back of the shirt, and with the help of Valente, pulled him off of Cliff. “I think you need to take a breather.”
Wade blinked as if she’d slapped him. His eyes were a pinkish color. “What?”
“Valente,” she continued, “escort the Commander to his quarters.”
***To Be Continued***
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