In 2154, Mileena Carter (Mile) is a cadet in the Earth Sciences Force investigating Needles, a newly discovered planet. An alien race, the Keeki, happened upon Needles, and offered a joint expedition with Earth. The Keeki are a race derived from a bird-like species, and the universal translator spews out their words in a haiku-like structure, which Mile has named KAIKU.
But when Mile, and the expedition, start discovering artifacts, pyramids, puzzles (nonograms), new planets, and more, they realize another force is driving their actions.
Will Mile be able to concentrate on the expedition, and ignore her attraction to a Keeki cadet named Tyne Tone, while unraveling the motivations of the Similo named Rawa?
Kaiku is the first book of a riveting science fiction trilogy that will keep you guessing until the end.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.41(d)|
About the Author
After accumulating books on writing for many years, Roxanne kicked thirty years of procrastination out the door in 2011, and started writing.
Roxanne can be reached at email@example.com.
• Sacred Trust
• Alien Innkeeper
• An Alien Perspective
Read an Excerpt
everyone involved uncovering treasures and adventures
The mound moved, and I fell.
Not down the rabbit hole, but close enough. Our exploration group had stopped to lunch on the flat top of a smidgen of a bump in the ground cover. Standing too close to the mound's edge when the earth shuddered, I lost my footing and tumbled down the small hill — landing on my rear. A few of our group of humans and Keeki scrambled down to come to my rescue. Trying to get my embarrassed body upright, I braced my left arm on the side of the mound. However, I soon found my arm buried in the dirt.
"What are you doing, Cadet Carter?" asked Major Sylone Craig, the human leader of the Earth Sciences Force's expedition on the planet Needles. Why didn't she just use my full name, Cadet Mileena Charlotte Carter, to embarrass me further?
"Just trying to stand," I replied. What did she think I was doing?
"Actually, I want to know why your arm has disappeared." A hint of a smile played across her slim face. Taller than I, at about six feet, she exuded authority — a necessary attribute with this bright group of exploration personnel.
And my superior loved teasing me. Just because I was the youngest member of the human contingent didn't mean I shouldn't be taken seriously. After all, a doctorate in exobiology at sixteen made me proud. However, Sylone was always available for conversation and advice, so I decided not to obsess about her teasing.
Tyne Tone, one of the Keeki cadet counterparts on our team, grabbed my right arm and pulled me up. I shook him off. Sometimes annoying, the Keeki were strong compared to most humans and, on average, taller and thicker in body. I suspected their evolution from birds, including their vestigial wings, contributed to their physique.
"Why is there an opening in the side of the hill?" asked Major Craig.
Not a hill, in my opinion. Actually, not much more than an eruption of soil, really. However, I did understand her gist about an opening — otherwise my arm wouldn't have passed through the thin surface. "I did notice my wandering hand touching a smooth object. Maybe a rock is buried inside?" I asked.
treasures and adventures," said Tyne.
The Keeki habit of uttering what sounded like haiku made me name their version of English, kaiku.
"Not a bad suggestion, Cadet Tone," said Major Craig, and then she raised her voice. "Okay. Let's finish lunch everyone, and then we can pull out our excavating tools." Sylone had grasped the Keeki kaiku soon after they'd joined our crew. The rest of us took a bit longer.
Someone grabbed my pack from the top of the mound while I found a flat spot at the base. No way was I clambering up any mounds again — at least not today.
I ate my lunch while I ruminated on this strange planet, and my bruised and shaky body.
My nemesis, the mound, stared at me. Although shorter than my initial impression, I was actually glad of its diminished height — any taller and I'd possibly have broken a bone on my descent.
Bland light green-brown vegetation covered all six mounds. Nothing remarkable, but at least some greenery. So far, we'd discovered little plant life on Needles.
My glance wandered to Major Craig. She certainly did cut a striking figure. Her short brown hair added to her regal stance, and her piercing gray eyes added to her elegance.
I found Tyne sitting a few feet away from me. Although the Keeki were stocky and muscled, Tyne's own six foot height gave his body a veneer of grace. The faint blue scales on his skin also upped my interest. I decided to spend time getting to know him better. Our expedition had only recently begun, so contact had been minimal so far.
Nourishment helped my body regain its equilibrium, so my thoughts turned again to Needles.
With little greenery and low rolling hills, in some ways this planet challenged my comfort level. My home town of Vancouver was one of the sweet spots of Canada. Surrounded by mountains — ski hills mostly — lush valley vegetation, the Pacific Ocean, and a West Coast rain forest climate, Greater Vancouver had everything. Of course, a parochial viewpoint, but this planet radiated dullness in a majority of its aspects.
Needles had one thing going for it, though — every once in a while color splashed our eyes.
The glorious sunsets decked out in red and orange intrigued me and, although the planet had little thriving low level ground vegetation, wondrous trees existed. The shapes and colors astounded me. Each small grove contained numerous tree types. From thin trunks to stout ones, from tiny trees to tall ones, each grouping contained many varieties, much to my surprise.
Each tree leaf encountered had a variegated green-orange pattern, but numerous leaf designs were evident. The shapes of their leaves tended towards round.
As for why we'd called this planet Needles, we blamed the Keeki. They'd wanted us to join them in an expedition to study this planet new to both of us. In support of our new diplomatic relations, Earth agreed. However, we'd had no idea what to expect. Hence Needle in a Haystack became our motto.
"Time to start digging," announced the major, after most of us had finished our lunches. "Let's do a proper dig; you all know how."
Before leaving Earth, the members of the expedition had been trained, or retrained, in archaeological digs. Human and Keeki alike.
So we staked and took pictures and videos before we began to remove the hillside's surface. Not long later, the major made us cease our digging. She reached into the hole my arm discovered and pulled out a chest with a green lid and gold trim. The rest of the artifact was a dark brown.
Although smudged with dirt, the artifact exuded warmness — perhaps because of its rough and glistening surface. What would make a chest twinkle? Gems? Unusual chemistry? Or maybe, alien DNA coated the surface? Perhaps an exobiologist needed to pursue my question, and that would be me. I smiled to myself, and my curiosity kicked in. After receiving a doctorate in exobiology, my interest in other worlds propelled me to the Earth Sciences Force's Academy. And, after two years of academic courses, I was now on a training mission — a practicum, by any other name.
"Okay, everyone, let's sit down and we'll discuss how to proceed. And then I'll assign today's duties," said Major Craig, pointing to a flat spot a short distance away. She needed to temper our enthusiasms with reality. Not that enthusiasm was a bad reaction in an exploration group.
Most of the group turned and followed her, but I lingered. The chest drew me in; it resonated with my left hand, for some strange reason. Perhaps my initial contact had created a harmony, an understanding of some sort.
Without thinking, I reached out and touched the artifact. After a momentary hesitation, the lid rose, and my curiosity made me peer inside.
After I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was Briny's face. "Why are you here? I thought you stayed back at the ship for testing?"
"You're a little confused, Mile," said our resident medic and scientist. Her blue eyes sparkled, and she gave a little toss of her tied back long blond hair. "You lost consciousness at the dig, so Tyne picked you up and ran back to base. Your crew hadn't travelled very far today so it didn't take him long to get here."
I tried to sit up, but Briny gently pushed me back down. "Just rest. Whatever gas you exposed inside the artifact knocked you unconscious."
"I'm poisoned?" I asked. I did a mental check, but my body didn't feel too bad.
"Probably not, but I've taken blood samples, just in case. I'll know soon enough."
I caught the look on her face. "Actually, you may not. Who knows what alien bug or chemical is running around Needles, ready to attack us? Remember, I'm an exobiologist." All the possibilities flooded my mind.
"A little paranoid, sweety." Briny smiled and rubbed my shoulder. "Rest a while. Major Craig and the crew should be back any moment," she said, taking my blood pressure. "It shouldn't take them long to pack up and bring the rover back."
A good friend of mine now, Briny and I had clicked on the trip out, and spent hours discussing alien physiology — of which we both knew little — but our ignorance hadn't stopped us from speculating.
Then I remembered my situation. Aack! Major Craig! I tried not to think about her response. I dozed as weird objects swirled in my mind — images of misshapen mounds and strange shaped treasures.
"Sleeping on the job are you?" asked Sylone, interrupting my dreams.
Apparently, the crew had returned. "Ah, ah, sorry. Tired for some reason," I said. My gassing had affected me far more than I'd realized. I sat up and looked around the small infirmary on our landed spaceship. Because there was only enough space for Briny, Sylone, and me in the room, a bunch of heads peered through the doorway.
"Briny, would you mind leaving for a few moments?" asked Major Craig. "And slide the door shut behind you, please."
She smiled and shooed everyone away so Sylone and I had privacy.
Not sure if I welcomed this time alone with our leader, I said nothing.
"Not too bright, Cadet Mileena Charlotte Carter," Major Craig announced. With her arms crossed, she glared at me.
"I know, I know. I have no idea what happened. I'm normally more responsible. Somehow the artifact put me in a trance, and I didn't comprehend my actions. I'm sorry; it won't happen again, Mom." Embarrassed, I decided to stop talking.
"I'll have to put some sort of notation about this incident on your service record, you know. Just don't do anything like that again." Sylone stepped closer and gave me a non-regulation hug. I hugged her tightly in return. "Now, have a cleanup, since you probably feel grungy after your ordeal, and then join the crew in the break room. We're going to have a meeting."
As a youngster being dragged along with my mother on her various Earth Sciences Force's exploits, I'd developed a taste for travel, and the time had allowed my home study education to proceed at a fast rate. When she'd recently spent two years at Earth Headquarters, my chance to speed through my university education and start at the Earth Sciences Force's Academy had happened. With two years of study at ESF — and now time for my practicum — the ESF authorities had reluctantly allowed me to accompany Mom on her current expedition. Family members weren't usually allowed together but, because of my youth, they'd made an exception. To my current knowledge, on our expedition our relationship was only known to Briny, our medic.
On the way to my room, I ran into Tyne. "Thanks for carrying me back. I hope I wasn't too heavy." His build certainly indicated strength. Again the faint blue scales on his skin stood out.
base medical welcome," Tyne replied.
What did Tyne try to tell me? The Keeki followed an emergency plan unknown to me?
"lightness of body,
aroma, touch, unusual," he continued.
Again, what was Tyne trying to say? He didn't like my smell? He didn't like how I felt when he carried me? Looking on the bright side, apparently I was no heavyweight.
Although I'd read through the mission documents, and listened to all the briefings, I now realized my negligence in researching our journey companions. I needed to study the Keeki. Time to remedy the situation.
"Well, I'm going to freshen up; I'll see you at our meeting." Walking past him, I gave a quick glance backwards. He'd also turned toward me, so I pretended to straighten my clothing. My glance revealed tufts of what I could only call peacock hair. Thinking back, I realized all Keeki, male and female, sported spiky, shiny, blue and green hair.
And, much to my surprise, I detected a whiff of a pleasing but unusual scent. A cross between rosemary and sage, I decided.
What would I have noticed if I'd been conscious when Tyne carried me back to the ship?
I was the last to arrive to our combination galley/meeting room. A couple of crew members snickered, but I ignored them and sat beside Briny.
"Okay, let's start," said Major Craig, getting everyone's attention. "It's time to plan our next moves regarding the artifact."
"Keep Mile away," a low voice mumbled.
Major Craig sent a glare to her left, but I had no idea who'd spoken.
"We're going to study the artifact Mile discovered. Cam, Briny, the artifact's in your science lab. Take an hour to do some surface testing. We've taken pictures and video recordings already, so scan the surface and take samples. I don't think you're going to find much, but you never know. Then we're going to open it up," said Sylone.
I slunk further down in my chair.
"Everyone else, update your daily reports — either here or in your room. We'll regroup in the lab in an hour."
I scurried to my room for privacy. Because of my eventful day, the time allotted made updating my report a challenge.
After the whole human/Keeki exploration group trickled into the lab, Major Craig took charge. "Cam, Briny, all tests complete?"
"Yes," replied Camothy Beal, our lead scientist. With two decades of ESF experience, he exuded confidence. And his short, slightly graying brown hair, slight build, and calm demeanor, helped his image. "Briny and I found nothing unusual. A little Needles dirt and such; nothing we wouldn't have expected from a box buried in a hillside."
Major Craig, said, "Okay, stand back everyone. Cam, put on your face mask, who knows what's still left inside. Open it up, please, and be careful."
Things he would've done anyway, but he tactfully tolerated Major Craig's orders.
Cam turned on the lab's exhaust fans and found his mask. The rest of us backed up a few steps. The artifact resided in a windowed enclosed chamber, with the attached exhaust fans on full suction.
Opening the chest proved anti-climactic. Because of the fans, nothing could be heard or smelled, so we used our eyes.
The outside consisted of rough stone with hints of gold, green, and brown. The inside contained four chambers. "Do we need further tests, Major Craig, or can we just dig in?" I asked. A couple of laughs wandered my way. My reputation had been damaged with my recklessness today, and my comment wasn't particularly astute.
"Cam, take pictures, and then let's set the contents out on four separate tables. We'll also need samples from the insides of the chambers."
So we idly chatted while Cam took additional pictures, and then we emptied the four chambers. Actually only three — the fourth contained nothing.
"Cam, Briny, see if you can determine anything unusual from the empty chamber; any chemical characteristics, unusual textures, fibers, and such," said Major Craig. "Tyne, you work with Squid on that table; Aran and Mile here; and Mist, you're with me," said Major Craig, pointing at the various piles. Mom split up most of the workload with human/Keeki pairs. The female, Mist, was the other Keeki cadet, and Squid was the second human cadet.
We put on gloves and started our analysis.
I glanced around. Most pairs appeared comfortable with each other, except for Mist. The female Keeki exhibited what I regarded as a sullen facial expression. Did being paired with Major Craig upset her?
Pretty, in a Keeki way, Mist's skin tended toward red, and her elegant posture impressed me. Even her tufts of hair revealed glints of red. Was this a female Keeki trait? For some reason her bearing implied arrogance. Of course, my minimal experience with the Keeki hadn't given me a lot of information to work with.
Time passed while we documented the large artifact and its contents.
Eventually our work was done and we relocated to an empty table in the break room.
"Aran, Mile?" asked Sylone.
Aran Silo, the leader of the Keeki, waved a hand; I assumed he wanted me to do the reporting on our investigation. "The objects we recorded appear to be household items. We found articles like plates and bowls and cutlery. Although we can't be a hundred per cent sure until Cam analyzes a sample, we think the plates and bowls are a kind of heat-processed crockery. Certainly designed to be long lasting. Now, saying these items are plates and bowls is a bit of a leap because we didn't find any remnants of food on them. They're also more square-shaped than I'm used to, but I do think they're dishes. Aran?"
Excerpted from "Kaiku"
Copyright © 2017 Roxanne Barbour.
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