BD Bradford resides on Canoples Station in 2364. He’s on his last break before graduating high school. The biggest worry on his mind is scoring enough creds to buy the latest vid-game, and making up with his girlfriend, if she’ll stop glaring at him. An announcement at breakfast hatches an idea in his ever-active brain – space pirates might be in the vicinity. Visions of creds tumbling around him after he captures the miscreants war with thoughts of what he did to torque off his girlfriend. He catches a glimpse of the villains outside the promenade’s viewport, but he beats feet to safety upon hearing one of his sworn enemies having a drama moment.
My life changed on an impossibly ordinary day. No warnings came my way, nothing to indicate that all I believe in is about to change—for the worst.
As I think back on it after all the space dust settled, I wish someone had given me a warning that I was about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life. Then again, I’m BD Bradford, intrepid investigator. No case is too big, no problem too monumental. Nothing would make me change a second of that very exciting day.
Nothing marks this Thursday as extraordinary. Canoples Station orbits Jupiter, and my eyes pop open like they do every other day. The illumination in my quarters changes from artificial moonlight to artificial sunlight at the same time it does every other day. My mom and older brother get ready for work like they always do. Even I get into the act by zapping breakfast while they take their sonic showers. When I take over a kitchen, watch out galaxy. Great teen food is about to erupt.
“What are your plans for today?” Mom pushes the pancakes around her plate.
They look more like asteroids after impact than pancakes. Lesson learned.
Canoples Station is crawling with animals. Illegal ones, to be exact, hungry for new owners. And this is just the beginning. Another horror lurks beneath, one that hits home hard for BD and his friends.
A whole week has passed since the volcano on Io erupted. My crew and I are chillin’ on the promenade. Absolutely nothing will disturb us today. Nope. Not a thing that has a chance of interrupting the planned exploration of the latest set of test scores for the pilot’s license that will be posted within the hour.
“What do you think?” Terry asks. “Did we pass?”
Cassie snorts. Even though we’re now officially a couple, I give her a sideways crooked look. So what if she passed that test the first time without breaking a sweat? We guys have to keep up our reputation of not being able to land with those silly rules in place.
We could have passed the second time, or the third. We didn’t have to take the test five times. Really, we could have done a lot better before now.
BD, Cassie, Carl, and Terry are back on the case—only this time it’s a case they have to solve fast. Turns out Sally Wild, intrepid reporter, has an agenda and it all has to do with making the C.I. team look bad before the Space Pirates trial. Can BD and crew prove they’re not making up stories and beat a clock that’s moving fast?
Our jaws are still hanging down near our knees. Me and my crew—Carl, Terry, and Cassie—can’t believe what just happened. Sally Wild made us look like fools, and we fell for it. Stupidly, we forgot every piece of advice that Chief Pelham has ever given us; ignored Wade, my older brother, about never giving an enemy an even chance; and stepped right into a trap.
“We’ll never live this down.” Terry drops his head into his hands. “Everyone will laugh us right off Canoples Station.”
He’s right and I can’t figure out a way to fix the mess that we’ve gotten into. Even though Chief Pelham promised us that the reporter from Inside Galaxy would never do anything to get her banned from covering the upcoming trial of the space pirates, she has. And she is still on the station. Worse, everyone else believes that she’s a poor, abused reporter rather than the Mercury tat she truly is.
“We have to fix this.” Cassie works her PocketPad, her answer to taking care of a problem. “I won’t let that reject from a Uranus mine make me look like a fool.”
That’s my girl.
There’s a carnival on the station, with all kinds of “legally” cloned animals, more than a few zero-G acrobats, and miniature clowns. BD’s ever present suspicious mind latches onto one thing when the advance team for Galactic Carnival arrives to begin preparations for a weeklong visit. The ringmaster looks familiar, but the man swears that he has never been to Canoples Station before. Even worse, children five and under are disappearing. A bit of investigating on BD’s part clues him in to the fact this has happened on every station Galactic Carnival has visited so far. He’s determined to uncover the true identity of the ringmaster and solve the mystery of the missing children, but at what cost. Is BD willing to lose his lifelong friends to solve this case? Will they prove Jenna Rock, Wade’s girlfriend, isn’t involved?
The normal sounds of the promenade seem wrong. I have a sensation of impending doom, much like the moments before the space pirates showed up. The desire to leap into action is very strong, so much so that I’m literally leaning forward with my fists clenched at my side.
“Easy,” Carl murmurs. “You don’t know for sure it’s him.”
Of course, I know this man we’re watching is our quarry. How can I not know that? Not that his appearance is anywhere close to his daughter, who right now is aboard Fomalhaut for a very long stay. Erin Markus did lead Spacers Rule, a galaxy wide ring of splifters, but she wasn’t in charge.
Oh, no, she was far from in charge of those thieves. The person with that responsibility has just entered Canoples Station and is talking with none other than our less than ethical governor, but I have no definitive way of proving that.
Mother Ship destroyed. Innumerable losses. A mysterious invitation. Problems at every turn. And the threat of returning violence.
Corina Amberchuck refuses to believe her parents are responsible for the loss of Mother Ship. When no one will help her prove that she’s right, she reaches out on a memorized band width, connecting with the infamous BD Bradford for help.
We left Earth long after the evacuation. No one would come ever again to save those left on the severely polluted planet. The original departure had happened so long ago that I had not yet been born, even though Believers tried to make all of us think that it was only a decade earlier.
Eleven years have passed since the day Mother Ship and her escorts escaped Earth. I am now sixteen, ready to step up for my training, but still a year or so exists before I can do that. All that is my responsibility these days is to do the best job possible furnishing sustenance for those who live on the ships, and keep an eye out for Believers.
Those on these ships with me were once Believers. My parents were actually leaders with that group—citizens of Earth who thought the governments were wrong about abandoning the planet, wrong about vaccinations, wrong about everything. Turns out those who stayed behind were the ones that had the wrong idea, and most of us paid a heavy price.
My name is Corina. I am not now nor have I ever been a Believer, even though most on this ship and every other craft in our flotilla think that. Even my parents imagine that I followed the same strictures and edicts that they did.