In the tradition of Star Wars, a galaxy-hopping space adventure about a galactic kingdom bent on control and the young misfit who must find the power within before it’s too late.
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Cade Sura holds the future of the galaxy in his hands: the ultimate weapon that will bring total peace. He didn’t ask for it, he doesn’t want it, and there’s no worse choice to wield it in all of space, but if he doesn’t, everyone’s totally screwed. The evil Praxis kingdom is on the cusp of having every star system under its control, and if that happens, there’ll be no contesting their cruel reign. Especially if its fanatical overlord, Ga Halle, manages to capture Cade and snag the all-powerful weapon for herself.
Cade can’t hide from Praxis, and he can’t run from the destiny that’s been shoved into his hands. So he only has one option:
He has to fight.
Cade’s not going to let destiny send him on a suicide run, though. With some help from his friendsrebels and scoundrels alikeCade’s going to use this weapon to chart a new destiny for the galaxy, and for himself.
He just has to do so before everyone around him discovers that he’s a complete and total fraud.
Blending the space operatics of Star Wars and the swagger of Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Star Renegades is a galaxy-hopping adventure that blasts its way from seedy spacer bars to sacred temples guarded by deadly creaturesall with a cast of misfit characters who have nowhere to go and nothing to lose.
About the Author
MICHAEL MORECI is a novelist and author of comic books. His comics include the critically acclaimed sci-fi trilogy Roche Limit and the military horror drama Burning Fields. He's also written Suicide Squad for DC, Planet of the Apes for Boom!, and his other original titles include Curse, Hoax Hunters, ReincarNATE, and Black Hole Repo. As a novelist, Michael is the author of Spy Swap, an espionage thriller for Tor/Forge. He lives in Chicago with his wife, two sons, and dog.
Read an Excerpt
TEN YEARS LATER
The starship screamed through the sky, piercing the volatile upper atmosphere of the planet Quarry. Aerial detonations battered the assault cruiser, sending it careening off course and threatening to tear it in half. Inside the ship, the scanners were rendered useless, unable to predict the explosive squalls or chart a course to safety. The ship was flying blind through a neon-green-and-purple minefield, and Cade loved every second of it.
Cade's brother was less amused.
"I told you this was a bad idea," Tristan said, his arms folded over his chest as he expressed his disapproval from the copilot's seat.
"Did you?" Cade replied, feigning sincerity. "I must have missed that."
A nearby eruption on the port side rocked the starship. Tristan groaned. "Just try not to get us killed."
Visiting Quarry hadn't always been such a dangerous proposition. There was a time when it was a thriving planet and active member of the Galactic Alliance; its commitment to open trade brought its native spices to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and, with them, a small piece of Quarrian culture. But that was before the Praxis kingdom used the small planet to show the rest of the galaxy what, exactly, it was capable of.
Still, there was a way to reach the surface without incurring the wrath of the combustible atmosphere. Cade and Tristan, in fact, had a detailed flight plan that would have guided them to a small sliver of airspace that wasn't exploding. It was a hard-won map, learned through the trial and error of previous pilots, some giving their lives to find the one slice of sky that wasn't certain death.
They were nowhere near that sliver right now.
While Cade's penchant for taking unnecessary risks was well-documented — the Well literally had a file detailing his recklessness — he felt that his reasoning for abandoning the mandated "safe" plan was justified. After all, his and Tristan's pilgrimage was meant to be a clandestine one, and Cade knew how thorough the watchful eye of Praxis tended to be; if the ruthless kingdom was going to monitor any part of Quarry, wouldn't it be looking at the one safe place to land?
Plus, Cade happily admitted to himself, the opportunity to fly his ship — which he'd named the Horizon Dawn, for no other reason than it sounded cool — through Quarry's fabled sky of doom was too good to pass up. Cade just wished they'd get through it already. It felt like an eternity since their starship had plunged into this thunderous, life-threatening turbulence, and Cade was beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, this was a bad idea after all. He acknowledged the white-knuckle grip he had on the stick, which belied his cavalier attitude. But then, as if the galaxy was in a wish-fulfilling mood, the ship began to settle. Cade waited, expecting something horrible to happen to compensate for the galaxy's generosity, and when it didn't, he breathed a sigh of relief. Even the sensors righted themselves, detecting the small amount of light that the nearest moon managed to capture from the flickering sun and deflect to the planetary surface.
"You see?" Cade said, turning toward Tristan and flashing a playful grin. "I told you there was nothing to worry about."
"You're the only person I know who can provoke death with a smile," Tristan replied, unable to hold back a smile of his own. Cade knew that his brother enjoyed the thrill of doing things that you weren't supposed to do, even though he couldn't indulge in them like his brother.
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
Tristan leaned toward Cade and spoke quietly, sharing a secret that no one was around to hear. "You're a good pilot, little brother. But you're not that good."
Cade shot his brother a wounded look. "I can't believe you'd say that. After all, I'm not doing this for me, I'm doing this for y —"
Suddenly, the ship's warning array bellowed to life.
"You were saying?" Tristan yelled over the alarm. He swiped through the control panel's notifications, trying to determine the problem. "There's some kind of pressure building in front of us, it's about to —"
Although the viewport was coated with a gossamer residue, a gift from the atmosphere's strange chemical makeup, Cade couldn't mistake what the electronic screaming and Tristan's truncated warning was all about: A neon-green fireball, large enough to incinerate the entire starship, had burst in the sky ahead and was thundering directly toward them.
Cade jammed the stick to the left, sending them barreling out of the raging fire's path. His reaction to the explosion was instant, but its proximity left no possibility for a clean escape. As the Dawn jerked to the side, the fireball tore across its underbelly, violently whipsawing the craft. Cade flared the ship's stabilizers as he fought the stick, which was bucking out of his grip. The dashboard spat out one damage report after another.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Cade muttered, muting the shrill sensors. He already knew what the most pressing damage was and, at the moment, had no interest in hearing about the functionality of the ice machine or anything else. The rear propulsion engine had been clipped, and unless Cade found a way to compensate for it, and fast, the Dawn was going to drop out of the Quarrian sky in a spinning free fall.
"Cade," Tristan said, trying his very best to stifle the frustration that Cade knew was simmering within him. "We really, really need to stabilize the ship."
At the moment, Cade knew that the only thing that would stabilize the Dawn would be the surface — and only after several bounces.
"I'm. Working. On. It."
That pesky surface. Cade reminded himself that he had no idea when they'd get out of this minefield and, when they finally did, how close they'd be to the ground. That made it a little hard to plot a landing that wouldn't leave parts of them spread across half the planet.
Cade fired what remained of the thrusters at full throttle and was treated to a final burst that pushed the ship in the opposite direction of its spin. That, combined with the stabilizers being stretched to their maximum limits, worked to bring an end to the Dawn's spinning. Metal shrieked and groaned as the ship fought against its own momentum until, finally, it came back under control. The ship was still free-falling, though, and Cade knew he didn't have a whole lot of time to solve this problem.
Meanwhile, Tristan unbuckled his restraints and carefully got up from his seat.
"What do you think you're doing?" Cade asked, agitated.
"I actually read that damage report, Cade. Our landing gear is stuck. I know it seems futile to fix that, but I figure it's best to have it working — just in case."
Tristan clambered out of the cockpit just as the Dawn began to violently stutter. Cade looked through the muddy viewport and watched as the ship, at last, escaped from the minefield for good. Below, the moon's soft light did a poor job of providing surface visibility, but Cade got a good enough eyeful to know he didn't have all day to figure out how to get out of this mess. Opaque darkness began to gain clarity as the ship hurtled closer to the ground, revealing a long, indistinct swath of brown and green. Cade gripped the stick and pulled back, hard, though it was of no use; gravity had the ship tightly in its grasp, and what was left of the thrusters was already screaming.
Cade had an idea. It was crazy, he knew that, but crazy was a big improvement over certain death. Turning to the dashboard's control panel, he worked his fingers over the ship's status report, getting a comprehensive picture of its vital functions. In front of him, Quarry's topography began to take shape: canyons, riverbeds, and valleys, every stitch of it barren. It was a wasteland just waiting to become Cade and Tristan's final resting place.
All of the ship's essential operations were functional, kind of, except for the rear propulsion engine, which was exactly what Cade anticipated. With a couple of taps on the control panel's touch screen and a double confirmation that this was really what he wanted to do, Cade disabled every other engine. The Dawn groaned like an aggrieved power generator being terminated against its will, and what little bit of resistance the thrusters had offered against the free fall stopped.
Cade's beloved Horizon Dawn was now dropping from the sky. And starting to spin again.
Behind him, Cade heard the cockpit door slam open; using whatever parts of the ship he could grab on to for purchase, Tristan climbed back into the copilot's seat and slapped his harness home.
"What happened to the engines?" he gasped, winded from the exertion of moving about the turbulent starship.
Cade could feel the heat accumulating at the front of the ship, the atmosphere's friction causing flames to spark around its nose. Ahead, a forest populated by black, dead trees rose from the ground like a line of jagged teeth protruding from the maw of a hideous beast. It couldn't have been placed in a more perfect spot.
"The engines?" Cade absentmindedly replied as he mentally ran the numbers calculating the ship's rate of descent and their distance to the forest. "Oh, yeah. I killed the engines."
"You what?!" Tristan howled.
Cade shot open the emergency flaps and fired the reverse thruster to get the ship better angled for its approach. He then called up the engine's manual-override screen. "You got the landing gear down, right?" He had to yell now over the noise of the ship melting around him.
"Yes, but that was when I thought you were going to avoid crashing!"
Cade ignored his brother's comment as he prepared to punch a maximum burn to all engines, grinning at this moment of unbridled lunacy.
The very tops of the trees came blistering into view, looking charred and awful. Cade still felt that a hideous monster was just waiting to loose itself from the ground and swallow the Dawn whole. But it wouldn't like the taste of what he was going to do next. He jammed his finger into the control panel's override command, sending maximum thrust bursting out of each of the ship's engines.
The Dawn heaved against its own momentum, pasting both Cade and Tristan to the back of their seats. A hostile swaying motion seized control of the ship, rocking it in every direction as if it were trapped in an ocean current, while the engines, overwhelmed by the sudden jolt of power, tried to find their level. They were still plummeting to the ground at a terrifying rate, but at least now they were flying forward. Cade just had to land before the full power burned out the engines for good. That would be bad. If those engines failed, the landing would be a lot less horizontal than he would've hoped for. People might even say he crashed.
As the ship fishtailed through its landing vector, Cade engaged the landing vanes — hoping they wouldn't be torn off the ship — and braced for impact with the forest below.
"Cade! We're coming in too hot!" Tristan yelled as he clutched the safety belts that ran over his chest.
"You think?!" Cade snapped.
The ship pounded into the forest, exploding a copse of brittle trees as it went. Metal screeched and screamed as the ship slammed into one tree after another — but it also began to slow. Cade wrenched the stick back — prolonging the time he had to rely on the rear engine to keep the ship stable — and let the path of destruction be the ship's natural brake. A large tree struck the viewport, splintering the reinforced, shielded glass into a multitude of pieces. The stick rattled so intensely in Cade's hands that it caused his entire body to tremble, and he accepted the fact that the ship's current conditions — too much velocity, too little stability — were probably the best he was going to get.
As the Dawn smashed nose-first into the ground, a mountain of dirt exploded over the viewport. Blinded, Cade could only hope there wasn't a ravine ahead, or a drop-off that flung them straight over the side of a cliff. But as the ship skidded across the ground, leaving another swath of pulverized trees in its wake, Cade realized their flight was at an end. His two modest goals had now been satisfied: get the ship on the ground; get it to stop while still in one piece. With an exasperated groan and a cathartic hiss, the ship finally came to a halt.
Cade released the stick, expecting to find his grip impressed upon the metal; his body shivered as his muscles released the pent-up tension. After all that chaos, the ship was now silent, eerily so, and Cade couldn't resist shattering it with a victorious howl.
"You're a lunatic," Tristan said, throwing off his safety straps. "And just because you brought this thing down in one piece, don't get it in your head that this landing is anything to brag about."
Cade rose from the pilot's seat and took a few cautious steps away from it. He was unconvinced that the ship wasn't a sneeze away from splitting in half. Still, he couldn't help meeting his brother with an ear-to-ear grin. "One day, they'll tell stories about this landing."
"Oh, I'm sure they will. Cautionary tales are the best way to learn."
With a casual swipe of his hand, Cade waved his brother off and headed to the rear of the cockpit. There, fit snugly into a frame molded to its exact size specifications, was the ship's remote drone unit. Or, as Cade called him: Duke. Across the galaxy, being bestowed with the title of "duke" was a mark of nobility. It signified bravery, manners, and kindness. The Horizon Dawn's drone possessed none of these qualities. Mouthy and insubordinate, Duke never met a task he could do without resistance or complaint, but Cade knew two things: One, because Duke was connected directly to the Dawn, no one had a better handle on the condition of the ship in real time; and, two, Cade also could trust the old drone to follow orders and get the ship in working order. Probably.
"Wakey, wakey, Duke," Cade sang. "Time to earn your keep."
Cade activated Duke's control panel, and his mechanical body began to wheeze and whir. Like the Dawn itself, Duke was a fossil when it came to drone evolution; drones now were far more advanced and came with way better tech, more features, and seamlessly fluid body movements. Plus, whoever did the programming on the updated models had ironed out the kinks that caused older units, like Duke, to evolve into cagey old tin cans with sour attitudes.
When Duke laboriously stepped out of his housing, he sounded like he was going to take the wall of the ship with him. His boxy, bulky limbs released themselves of his casing with noticeable exertion, and when he finally was free, there was a pregnant pause before he spread out his broad shoulders and chest. His oval eyes glowed a soft yellow. Duke was a good head taller than Cade, painted black, with long arms that hung stiffly at his sides. If Cade didn't know Duke, he might be intimidated by him.
"Greetings, Cade Sura," Duke said as he came fully online. "How may I be of service? It seems that the ship has — oh, my. I take it that you fought a battle and lost, Mr. Sura. How dreadful."
"Knock it off, Duke. The flight logs are already in that brain piece of yours," Cade said. "Just have the Dawn ready to fly by the time we get back."
"Judging by the damage, I take it you'll return in four months?"
"You have four hours, and I don't want to hear any excuses. Also, set a security perimeter around the ship; if anyone or anything breaches it, let us know immediately."
"I will kill it."
"No. Absolutely not," Tristan ordered, poking his head in. "We have no idea if there's anything out there besides Praxis forces, and I don't want you shooting up any locals."
Duke's voice box rattled, his equivalent of a sigh. "Fine, be that way. I will instead play hide-and-deactivated should guests arrive. You Rai have fun out there, and try not to get captured and or killed."
Although Duke got on Cade's nerves with his "can't do" insolence, Cade had a soft spot for the cantankerous drone. At least it had some personality. His tolerance of Duke — after all, wiping his memory banks would take five seconds — ran parallel to the loyalty he felt for his ship. Sure, most other ships in the Well's fleet were sleeker, faster, even sturdier, but Cade didn't waste time thinking about that. The Horizon Dawn was his, and if all it had going for it was attitude enough to stand out from the pack, that was fine by him.
Cade patted Duke on the shoulder as he walked toward the ship's exit. Tristan was waiting for him there.
"You know, I was thinking," Cade said as he caught up to Tristan. "On the way back, let's take the easy way."
Excerpted from "Black Star Renegades"
Copyright © 2017 Michael Moreci.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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