by Alex J. Cavanaugh


by Alex J. Cavanaugh



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Few options remain for Byron, a talented young man with a rebellious attitude. Slated to train as a Cosbolt pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth. Much to his chagrin, Bassa, the toughest instructor in the fleet, takes notice of the pilot. As war brews on the edge of space, Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality. Bassa must make a decision that could decide the fate of both men

Product Details

BN ID: 2940011114151
Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press LLC
Publication date: 10/05/2010
Series: Cassa
Sold by: Smashwords
Format: eBook
Sales rank: 584,140
File size: 482 KB

About the Author

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Currently the author lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Read an Excerpt


By Alex J. Cavanaugh

Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.

Copyright © 2010 Alex J. Cavanaugh
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-9827139-3-8


This will be an interesting day, thought Bassa.

Straightening his jacket, he adjusted the fall of the heavy fabric across his chest. He stared at his reflection in the mirror, conscious of the gradual changes in his features. The uniform still fit, as he'd kept up his physique, but his face no longer reflected the same youthful qualities. Lines formed around his eyes and the skin stretched across his chiseled features rough with age. He wasn't sure at what point the subtle alterations appeared, but he could no longer deny the inevitable. Bassa now showed his age.

"Still have a ways to go," he murmured, brushing aside the wavy locks that fell across his brow.

At fifty-nine, he was still considered in his prime. Cassans lived an average of one hundred and thirty years if they abused neither body nor mental powers. Serving as a fighter ship navigator for almost eighteen years took its toll on an individual. However, the past twenty years had been spent in a less strenuous manner. As the lead instructor on Guaard, he still flew every day, but without the stress of deep space battles.

Satisfied with his appearance, Bassa retrieved his personal computer pad from the desk. In passing, his eyes caught a flicker of light through his tiny portal window. Shifting his position, he took note of the small, glowing orb in the black sky.

"So far away ..." The training facility resided on a dark moon far from the solar system's star. Its light graced two habitable planets in the system, including his home world of Cassa, but the warmth of the sun never reached Guaard. The moon might not reside at the farthest end of the system, but Bassa knew better. The inhabitants lived on the very edge of existence.

Bassa exited his quarters and strolled down the short hallway. He paused at the lift, his gaze falling on the telepod's open door. New pilots and navigators were not permitted to use the teleporter pods until trained, but Bassa's rank granted him full access to the devices. The invitation to stretch his powers rather than his legs grew tempting, and he opted for the faster form of transportation.

Stepping inside the pod, Bassa waited for the gentle pop of the sealed door before visualizing his destination. The strength of the teleporter's power source, located in a compartment over his head, surged into his mind. He tapped into the device's ability to fold space, a feat made possible through his mental powers. The resulting jump was so brief that Bassa did not even notice its effects.

The door slid open, revealing the entrance to his office, which resided at the far end of the complex. Bassa strode across the hall and waved his hand over the press plate. The double doors moved aside without a sound and he surveyed his office with pride.

The wall over his desk was adorned with the Cassan fleet's insignia; the black, five-pointed star with double planets a sharp contrast to the white walls. His numerous medals and awards covered the two side walls, representing almost eighteen years of service as one of the top navigators. Two bookshelves occupied the far wall, and every book and file resided in perfect order. Bassa's large desk and chair appeared imposing in the spacious room, flanked by two smaller chairs for visitors. To the young and uninitiated, the room appeared daunting and intimidating, and it smacked of authority.

That's the exact impression I want to impart as lead instructor on Guaard, Bassa thought.

Before entering the room, he glanced at the wide bench just outside the double doors. Soon errant young pilots and navigators would occupy those seats, awaiting their turn in his office with growing anxiety. Bassa smiled as he pictured the nervous expressions of those foolish enough to warrant a reprimand from the toughest instructor in the fleet.

Bassa began reviewing the first set of simulator lessons. He and the other instructors made minor adjustments after every group passed through the facility, fine tuning and altering the flight patterns. The next batch of young men arrived in three days and he wanted to prepare for their first week on Guaard.

Satisfied with the changes, Bassa turned his attention to the upcoming roster. He liked to familiarize himself with each young man and the skills he brought to Guaard's elite installation. Those entering the program arrived with over two hundred hours of simulator experience and qualified for training in a fighter. Their skills were not in question, but rather their lack of actual experience. Bassa's primary job–prepare the young men for service in the fleet and the real dangers of space flight and combat. Guaard was the final checkpoint, and the lead instructor only certified those who met and exceeded his expectations.

His brief inspection of the incoming pilots and navigators served several purposes. Bassa sought those with heightened skills along with men who were potential troublemakers. In twenty years, he'd seen his fair share of rebellious individuals. He flagged those with even one mark on their record and required close scrutiny. Bassa expected discipline and obedience, and would not tolerate disregard of either quality.

Mere disobedience isn't my biggest concern, he thought, but an arrogant attitude. A self-centered or cocky pilot is an even greater threat. I like spirit, but it has to be controlled in order to be effective.

Bassa's greatest challenge resided in such young men, and he was twice as likely to require those individuals to repeat the entire course. Outstanding talent and skill combined with arrogance he dreaded the most. Those young men were few and far between, though.

Thirty new pilots and navigators were slated to converge on the facility in three days. The young men arrived pre-paired, although the teams not set in stone at this point. During simulator training, the instructors rotated them in an attempt to discern the best combination. Bassa and his instructors analyzed the men further and approved the final pairings. In order to function as a team, a high level of trust and familiarity must be established between pilot and navigator. Without a strong bond, they were doomed in the field.

Bassa read through the history of each young man, making mental notes of potential problems. A navigator with a mark on his record Bassa flagged for observation. He also noted a pilot who'd almost failed the simulator test. Either posed a potential danger to the other members of the squadron. The instructors would monitor those two, prepared to remove either if necessary. Otherwise, the remainder of the men appeared manageable.

Retrieving the files on the last team, Bassa flicked first to the pilot. The young man's image filled the screen and he caught his breath. The familiar features and expression caught him by surprise. Brows drawn, Bassa stared in disbelief at the fighter pilot's photo.

Eyes traveling to the lone picture residing on his desk, Bassa compared the two images. The young man in the heavy frame possessed the exact same characteristics, right down to the cocked eyebrow and unconcealed smirk. Bassa also noticed similarity in the eyes. They boasted extreme confidence. There was no denying that the same unbridled spirit resided in both young men.

Bassa scowled at the thought and turned to the young pilot's record. No disciplinary marks caught his attention, which surprised him, but an unusual amount of notes had been added over the years. The same words repeated numerous times–possession of great skill marred by attitude. The young man excelled in every program he entered, but his cocksure demeanor threatened to undermine those accomplishments at every turn.

"You're one to watch."

Digging deeper, Bassa discovered that outside of his military record, the young man came with a load of baggage. His parents died when he was a child, leaving him in the care of a much older sister who couldn't handle the young boy. Shuffled from one facility to the next, he'd been in trouble more than once and his irresponsible use of mental powers and poor attitude were often cited as the cause. By some miracle, he managed to keep his record clean long enough to begin training for a position in the fleet. However, while no formal marks or disciplinary action resided in his records, there were enough cautionary notes to fill an entire log book.

The young man's an explosive problem just waiting for an opportune moment, Bassa thought.

A chime signified a visitor. Bassa had earlier summoned his senior pilot instructor and he granted permission to enter. As expected, the tall, lanky form of Rellen strolled into his office. He gave Bassa a proper salute, always respectful toward the senior officer, before a wry grin spread across his narrow face.

"Reviewing our next assignment?" Rellen said, pausing at the edge of the desk.

Bassa leaned away from his computer. His gaze remained locked on the young man's image, which dominated the screen once more. "Yes," he said with resignation.

Rellen frowned at Bassa's response. Moving to the side of the desk, his instructor peered at the screen. His smile returned and Rellen emitted a chuckle.

"I see you've discovered 715's pilot, Byron," he said.

"He's got some skill," Bassa admitted.

"And attitude. He'll provide you with a challenge, Bassa. Keep you from going soft!"

"Soft?" demanded Bassa, eyeing his instructor with skepticism.

Rellen's subtle wink gave away the intended jab. He relished pushing the envelope at every opportunity.

I never rise to the bait, though, Bassa thought. His quick reaction annoyed him. This young man and the potential scenarios his presence could produce had clouded his thoughts.

"Well, you've never allowed this type to simply slip through the program," said Rellen, crossing his arms and inclining his head toward the screen. "He'll either change or he'll fail."

Bassa eyed the screen once more, his gaze drifting to the picture on his desk. The similarity between the men continued to bother him.

He'll change or he'll wind up dead, Bassa thought.

Waving his hand in front of the press plate, Byron announced his presence and waited for his sister's response. The door did not open right away, which came as no surprise. Sighing, he turned to view the city, spread out across the valley floor for miles in every direction. The tall buildings spiraled into the air, their reflective surfaces glinting in the sunlight.

He didn't relish his first visit since his acceptance into the service. Byron maintained contact with his sister but only through telecom transmissions. He'd kept Sherdan informed of his progress out of obligation, although he no longer needed supervision or her approval. No doubt his sister relished that fact as well.

You were absent for much of my life anyway, he thought, letting the years play out in his mind.

After their parents' death, Sherdan assumed responsibility of her younger sibling, but not for long. Byron's bond with her was fragile at best, and he rebelled against her authority. When he turned six, his sister relinquished her guardianship. She shipped him off to a facility designed to handle troubled and abandoned children. Deprived of family and all he'd ever known, it forced Byron to survive by any means possible.

During those fourteen miserable years, Byron learned he could trust nothing but his own skills and wits. Sherdan's occasional visits did little to bolster his belief in people and he resisted all attempts to connect with her or anyone else on an emotional or mental level. Those in a position of authority bore the brunt of his anger and defiance. Despite his refusal to interact or bond with other Cassans, Byron's mind did not permit him to disconnect from the world. He relished knowledge and its potential to provide freedom, and applied himself to his studies with obvious zeal.

By the time he turned fifteen, his instructors noticed his dexterity skills. They praised his talents and encouraged the young man to increase his proficiency. Byron always excelled in his classes, but this form of recognition pleased him even more. Rigorous physical training soon occupied his spare time, reducing the occurrences of mischievous behavior. His life driven by purpose, Byron contemplated the opportunities his skills could provide.

And the only thing I wanted was to escape Cassa, he thought.

The day of his twentieth birthday he applied for military service. Despite his instructors' cautions that he might not gain admittance for another year, Byron secured accepted as a trainee in the fleet. His high academic scores and reflexive skills, coupled with strong mental powers, earned him the right to apply for pilot training. Unwilling to compromise his potential, and determined to prove his worth to those who'd doubted, Byron decided to pursue the prestigious position of Cosbolt pilot. The two-seat fighter ship was the fleet's elite weapon of choice and the first into combat. Only the most skilled pilots flew Cosbolts. Confident in his abilities, Byron applied himself to the program and finished at the top of his class.

In two days, I report to Guaard to begin the final stage of training, he thought, pleased with his accomplishment.

His triumphant thoughts faded when the door opened. A woman with features quite different from Byron appeared in the doorway. Sherdan regarded him with caution, her eyes scanning his face even as her mind probed his thoughts. Annoyed by the invasion of his privacy, Byron shielded his mind. Sherdan frowned with obvious displeasure.

"Just as guarded as ever," she said, her tone neutral.

"Did you really think I'd change?" Byron said, offering a smug smile he knew would irritate his sister further.

"Of course not. That would be asking the impossible."

This time it was Byron's turn to scowl. He enjoyed exchanging words with his sister, but only when he held the upper hand. Judging from her sarcastic tone, Sherdan's expectations for her brother remained low. He'd struggled with feelings of inadequacy as a child and refused to be saddled with her poor opinion now.

"I didn't have to come here you know," he said, prepared to beat a hasty departure.

His sister sighed and set her lips in a thin line. Offering a curt nod, she stepped aside. Wary from the cold reception, he entered Sherdan's home.

Her new dwelling appeared much larger than her previous home. Byron's sister had bonded with a mate and now shared his abode, although he did not appear to be present at the moment. Relief settled over Byron. He could imagine the image Sherdan had painted of her troubled younger brother.

Byron followed his sister into the food preparation room. Several vegetables lined the counter, their colors bright in an otherwise colorless room. He'd viewed so many white rooms as a child, shuffled from one facility to the next, that the surroundings caused unease. He slouched against the counter as Sherdan reached for a cutting knife.

"So," she said in a loud voice, her eyes focused on the vegetables, "are you still in training?"

"I just completed simulator training," he stated with pride, still leery of Sherdan's tone. "I leave for Guaard in two days. In six months, I'll be certified."

Sherdan shook her head. "My brother, piloting a Cosbolt!"

"And why is that so difficult to imagine?" Byron said, grasping the edge of the counter with both hands.

"It requires a great deal of discipline."

"And you think I'm incapable? I finished at the top of my class."

Sherdan ceased her activity and regarded her brother. Byron met her steady gaze, his fingers almost digging into the counter in an effort to control his anger. His sister might still doubt his abilities, but she could not argue with the facts.

"Then that is quite an accomplishment," she said at last.

Relief rather than pride colored her tone. Sherdan's indifference jabbed at his heart. Outside of their blood ties, bond existed between the siblings. Without further thought, Byron blocked that painful realization from his mind. He'd wasted his time coming to see his sister.

"Were you staying for dinner?" she said.

"No," Byron said, leaning away from the counter. "I'm heading back tonight, so I need to go."

"I wish you well then," Sherdan said, returning to her task.

Hands dropping to his sides, Byron stared at his sister. She paused in her cutting and turned to face him.


Excerpted from CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Copyright © 2010 Alex J. Cavanaugh. Excerpted by permission of Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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