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by Alex J. Cavanaugh


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A storm gathers across the galaxy… Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans. After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind. Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781939844002
Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press
Publication date: 03/13/2013
Pages: 268
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.61(d)

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By Alex J. Cavanaugh

Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.

Copyright © 2013 Alex J. Cavanaugh
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-939844-00-2


The war had escalated.

'Narcon and Vindicarn forces have entered sector 118-326. The Fesell continue to lay claim to sectors 118-325 and 119-325. Numerous skirmishes reported.'

Leaning away from the screen, Byron brought a hand to his forehead. Enemy forces drew closer every day, gaining in numbers. It was only a matter of time before the Cassans entered the war. After this latest advancement, it might happen as soon as today.

The Tgrens won't be happy about this development, he thought, arching his neck to relieve the tension in his muscles.

Byron noticed an available feed from the latest encounter. He entered his code and waited for clearance.

One of those rare moments I get to enjoy the perks of my position, he thought.

The visual appeared on his screen. A scrolling transcript ran across the bottom, and from the exchange, Byron surmised the recording originated from the squadron leader's ship. The view past the nose of the Cosbolt displayed only stars and the depth of space. The fighter altered position and a fleet of Narcon vessels dominated the scene. The narrow ships hung like bright stars in the vastness of space. The squadron leader sent a message back to his flagship, the Darentor.

At least it wasn't the Vindicarn and their damn disrupters, Byron thought, leaning closer to the screen. The Tgren medical facility had received enough mentally damaged pilots and navigators of late.

The transcript displayed the squadron leader's instructions as his ships approached the Narcon. He called for caution and restraint but did not order a direct attack. The enemy fighters maintained their position, hanging silent in the depths of space. Time appeared frozen as neither race made a move.

Without provocation, the Narcon opened fire on the Cosbolts. The squadron leader held his position, providing a stable observation point. Byron ignored the verbal feed and focused on the ensuing battle. The smaller, dart-shaped Narcon fighters ripped through the ranks of stout, rounded Cosbolts. Laser fire flew in every direction, flashing bright against the blackness of space. Two Narcon ships exploded and a Cosbolt spun out of view, stirring memories in Byron. He'd never faced the Narcon, but their aggressive tactics and movements reminded him of the Vindicarn.

Skirmishes my ass, he thought, scowling at the image.

Changing computer screens, he sent a message to his Tgren liaison officer. Byron wanted to know the current mindset of the local prefect before broaching the subject of intergalactic war. Relations between the planet's natives and the Cassans were healthy, but the Tgrens still resisted outside involvement. Byron understood their neutral position, as they'd yet to venture into space, but the attitude concerned him.

What will you do if this war appears at your door? I don't think the Vindicarn will care about your neutrality, he thought.

He punched the keypad and retrieved the week's flight schedule. If the skirmishes continued to shift closer to Tgren, Ktren's base would be called into action. His Cosbolt squadrons needed to prepare for a battle greater than the occasional rogue pirate raid.

Satisfied with the schedule, Byron made a mental note to speak with his squadron commander. The simulators still contained Vindicarn flight patterns, and he wanted all Cosbolt teams to brush up on their skills.

I'll need the training as well, he thought. It's been years since I faced the Vindicarn.

Pushing his chair away from the desk, he rose to his feet. Several joints popped in protest. Byron winced at the sound.

"You sit too damn much," he grumbled, snatching an empty glass from his desk.

Lifting a crystal pitcher from the thin table to his left, he refilled the glass. Byron downed half of the water, letting the last swallow rest on his tongue for a moment. The Cassan facility was cool and comfortable, but no amount of climate control could replace the lack of moisture. The dry desert air invaded every fiber of his body.

Lowering the glass to his side, Byron stared at the large map covering the side wall of his office. A gift from the previous prefect, the sturdy parchment showed signs of deterioration. The edges now curled and the sandy colored surface had faded with time. The section directly in front of him boasted new cracks and he frowned. Byron doubted the current prefect would be willing to supply a replacement map.

His gaze shifted to the largest land mass just above the equator. Two tiny dots, nestled in between mountains and a river, marked the placement of the Cassan base and the city of Ktren. Byron's fingers tightened around his glass. If not for the alien ruins buried within the surrounding mountains, only one dot would mark the map.

Something the Council of Prefects is so fond of reminding me, he thought. If the Vindicarn invade your planet, you'll be damned grateful we're here.

A gentle beep from the door panel announced a visitor. At the same time, a familiar presence touched his mind.

Byron returned to his desk and set down the glass. Enter!

The door slid open, ushering in a light breeze from the hall. He remained standing as his Tgren liaison officer approached, computer tablet in hand. She came to a halt and offered a proper salute before assuming a causal pose. Byron nodded, noting the playfulness in her thoughts. Straightening his shoulders, he offered his most authoritative scowl, determined to remain in control of this meeting.

"Sir, you realize you just pulled me from a very important council meeting regarding this year's rtrax harvest," she said, arching one eyebrow. "I'm going to miss the heated debate over the amount of fuel required to complete the task in a timely fashion."

Her sarcasm bordered on the ridiculous and Byron's composure slipped. Trust his mate to see the humor in every situation.

"I know how much you enjoy hearing the council bicker over fuel consumption," he said, allowing a smile to tug at his lips.

Athee rolled her eyes. "Oh yes, fascinating. Jabbering fools! I'd rather harvest rtrax by hand than listen to them argue."

Byron glanced at his computer screen. His thoughts returned to the purpose for their meeting.

"Well, let me show you something that will interest you," he said, gesturing for Athee to sit in the closest chair.

Byron sank into his seat and retrieved the most recent report. He turned the screen so she could view the latest development. Focused on Athee, he watched her expression transform from curiosity to concern.

"They're that close to Tgren?" she said, her eyes wide.

Folding his hands in his lap, Byron nodded. "Our forces have moved to intercept, but the enemy is on the prowl. I doubt they'll stop when they reach the edge of Cassan-Tgren space."

"Are we a target?"

"High Command doesn't believe Tgren is an objective, despite our presence here. Intelligence suggests the Vindicarn are unaware this planet possesses the compound used for teleportation. Should they discover the rich deposits, their interest in Tgren would likely change. The Vindicarn have been in great need of the compound since we destroyed their main supply forty years ago."

You destroyed.

Her quick correction caused him to hesitate. I might've had something to do with it, he admitted, the sight of the Vindicarn ship's core erupting in a ball of flames replaying in his mind. He'd fired the rockets that destroyed the teleportation production ship, effectively ending the war. However, that moment of victory would be forever tainted by his final thoughts. His brother would never know Byron's accomplishments since the war.

Bassa would be proud of you, Athee thought. As am I.

The tension in Byron's shoulders eased. He couldn't hide his thoughts from his mate. Twenty years with Athee had taught him the futility of that endeavor.

"Lines are being drawn and soon High Command will declare our official involvement. Are the prefects ready to hear this news?" he said, shifting his attention to their present concern.

"That the enemy approaches no matter how hard they've tried to hide? No, but perhaps it will prod them into action."

"I'm glad you see it that way."

Athee leaned back, tossing her dark tresses over her shoulder. "It's about time my people woke up and realized there's a populated and dangerous universe out there. We were almost annihilated once. That was enough."

Buoyed by the determination in her words, Byron nodded. "Then I'll arrange a meeting with Prefect Enteller. Thank you, Officer Athee. Dismissed."

You're welcome.

Despite the gravity of the situation, Byron smiled. His mate knew to maintain an air of professional courtesy around him when they were on duty, and for the most part, she succeeded. Every now and then though, she tested his limits.

Two can play that game, he thought.

She pivoted sharply as she arose, her hips twisting in an enticing fashion. Byron watched with interest as she strode toward the door. He'd always admired her shape, but motherhood had added many attractive curves to Athee's body.

She paused and turned to face him, eyebrows arched. Byron didn't even try to pretend indifference. She'd heard his admiration loud and clear.

Go! I'll see you tonight, he thought.

Good luck with Prefect Enteller. If nothing else, you'll give him something to worry about besides fuel consumption.

Bassan poked at his food, turning over the orange roots with his fork. Tgren herren were not his favorite. He didn't mind them raw, but when cooked, the root possessed all the attributes of a sponge. Try as he might, Bassan couldn't get past the chewy texture.

"I know you don't like them very much, but at least make an effort," his mother said.

Uttering a sigh, Bassan stabbed a root with his fork and shoved it into his mouth. He chewed with haste, touching the herren root with his tongue only when forced to shove it to the other side of his mouth. When mashed just enough to slide down his throat, Bassan swallowed the offending vegetable. Seizing his glass, he took a drink of water to clear the remains from his mouth.

"Is it really that bad?" his mother said, raising a root on her fork.

"It's awful," Bassan said, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.

I could always prepare toluff instead.

He wrinkled his nose in disgust. Toluff contained two plants that on their own were very bitter. Combined in the baked dish, the taste was sharp to the point of physical pain and with a pungent smell to match.

His mother chuckled and inserted the herren into her mouth. Bassan poked at the remainder of his meal, hoping to locate the least spongy root on his plate. If he choked down just one more, it might satisfy his mother enough to excuse him from the table.

Bassan was about to stab at a small root when his mother rose from her chair. She turned toward the door just as the panel slid aside. Bassan's fork slipped out of his hand as his father entered. His hopes of escaping the offensive roots vanished on the spot.

Retrieving his utensil, Bassan watched his mother approach his father. She placed a hand on his arm and cocked her head. No words were spoken, but Bassan knew his parents were exchanging private thoughts. He strained to hear their mental conversation but couldn't penetrate the barriers around their minds.

Bassan's shoulders sagged. Would his mind ever be strong enough? His parents could always hear his thoughts, but he lacked the ability to catch their exchanges.

His father shook his head and set his computer tablet on the counter. "Food first," he said, moving toward the table. "I'm starving."

Dropping his hands to his lap, Bassan straightened his back and sat at attention. He waited while his father pulled out a chair and collapsed into the seat. His father reached for a bowl in the middle of the table, his brows pulled together. Bassan held his breath, afraid to move.

Scooping a large portion of ground wild ltarkin meat, his father glanced at his son. "Evening, Bassan," he said, his voice heavy.

"Good evening, Father," Bassan replied, his tone clear and respectful. His father possessed zero tolerance for insolence.

"Finish your meal," his father said, depositing the contents of the spoon on his plate.

Bassan dropped his chin and stared at the six remaining roots on his plate. If he'd eaten faster and crammed just one more into his mouth before his father had come home, he might've escaped. Now he had no choice but to choke down all of his food. Gritting his teeth, Bassan stabbed at another root and stared at the repulsive vegetable.

I hate herren, he thought, stuffing the vegetable into his mouth.

He listened while his parents discussed their day. Simulator drills and flight patterns held little interest for Bassan. Despite the fact his parents flew Cosbolt fighters, flying did not intrigue him, and he had even less interest in the native aircraft.

He'd only experienced a Tgren plane once, but that was enough. Bassan had been very young at the time, but the sensation of leaving the ground frightened him. In contrast, he experienced a tug of curiosity whenever the Cosbolts flew overhead. Their movement was more graceful than a Tgren craft. On occasion, he rode in a Cassan shuttle, but that first flight always clouded his thoughts.

As he choked down the last root, Bassan heard his father mention the Vindicarn. Aware of the significance of that race, he turned his attention to his parents' conversation.

"Following our declaration of war, both the Narcon and Vindicarn took up position on the edge of Cassan space," his father said, his fork clanging against his plate. "The Nacinta has relocated to the outer reaches of the Tgren solar system. They report no activity though."

"Did that news settle Prefect Enteller's nerves?" Bassan's mother said.

His father shook his head, causing his dark locks to drop over his forehead. "Hardly. He was more concerned there wasn't a flagship in orbit over Tgren."

Those words startled Bassan. No flagship orbiting Tgren? Who would protect them?

Bassan's father lifted a forkful of food, his gaze shifting to his son. "We have six squadrons of Cosbolts on this base. We aren't defenseless."

His hands sliding to his lap, Bassan scrunched down in his seat. He hadn't meant for anyone to hear his thoughts.

"Why don't you clear your setting and go finish your studies?" his mother suggested.

Hiding his relief, Bassan nodded and grabbed his plate and glass. Sliding out of his chair, he pushed it under the table with his knee. He shot his father a guilty look, aware he was supposed to use his hands, but neither of his parents appeared to notice his transgression. Navigating around the central counter, he placed his dishes in the cleaning unit and retreated to his room.

The moment the door slid into place, Bassan retrieved a small canister from his desk drawer. Several bright red candies greeted him and he popped two of the sticky lumps into his mouth. The sweet taste of sugar and fruit began to ooze across his tongue. Bassan closed his eyes.

Stupid herren roots, he thought, returning the canister to the back of the drawer.

He spent the remainder of the evening on his studies. During the past few weeks, his class had analyzed some of the known facts regarding the alien ship buried in the mountains surrounding Ktren. While space flight didn't intrigue him, the complexity of the aliens and their ship fascinated Bassan. Twenty years of research had revealed much about the craft, although gaps existed due to the inability of the Cassan scientists to translate the language in its entirety. Bassan often spent more time speculating on the missing information than actually studying his lessons, and tonight was no different.

Deep in thought, he almost missed his mother's announcement that he ought to prepare for bed. Bassan suppressed a groan.

But I'm not sleepy, he thought.

Shaking his head, Bassan responded before his mother had to repeat her request. He rolled off his bed and retreated to the bathroom. At least his studies wouldn't distract him anymore. If he didn't fall asleep right away, his imagination could continue to roam.

He said goodnight to his parents before returning to his room. His mother sent a loving thought, telling him to sleep well. To Bassan's surprise, his father followed him and held the covers while Bassan squirmed into position. He smiled in appreciation. His father rarely tucked him into bed.


Excerpted from CassaStorm by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Copyright © 2013 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.
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