Would you like a sneak peek inside Miltan Epsilon, Book 1 of the Jazz Healy, Reunion Series? Well, here you go.
I hope you enjoy…
Miltan Epsilon – Chapter 1 – Scene 1
Jazz Healy slapped the cockpit dash of her Z-Class long-hauler but the extra life-sign on the internal scan refused to go away. She scowled. “That’s the last time I let Rankovic talk me into a job.”
The tiny splice-kitten in the cot at her feet mewled.
“Don’t stress, little one.” Jazz rose, mentally cursing that she hadn’t made time to replace the broken mote cameras in the cargo hold. “I’ll feed you when I get back.”
The surplus life-sign radiated too much heat to be one of the other baby animals, escaped from its pen. That meant a person lurked below and Jazz wasn’t getting paid to transport people to Garbadon Minor.
After closing and locking the cockpit door she hesitated. Was it really safe to leave the kitten alone inside? Rankovic’s instructions had been to keep the red-and-black striped fluff-ball away from the other animals but that was out of regard for its safety – value, in all honesty – not theirs. The splice-kitten’s buyer was forking out a very large sum of money for successful delivery. So much, in fact, that Rankovic was willing to pay Jazz one hundred thousand Commonwealth dollars for nothing more than a basic intrasolar freight run.
Yes, definitely safer to keep the kitten behind a locked door.
She ran a diagnostic on the nanomachines that fortified her body – optimal; good – before rotating her cybernetic right arm and flexing its metal fingers. Finally, with her left hand, she drew her gun and set off.
Sneaking aboard should have been impossible. She had personally overseen loading, not once leaving the entrance ramp, and she’d closed that ramp as soon as the process finished. The animals had all been carried on by hand, their holding pens erected earlier from scrap pallets already in Jazz’s possession. There had been only one crate of supplies – feed, sedatives, straw, and the like – and she’d opened that in the company of the Customs officers who’d arrived with the delivery people. She’d even counted off everybody as they entered and left.
The internal scan, now hooked into her enhanced optics and displaying in the upper corner of her right retina, showed the life-sign continuing to drift aimlessly about the cargo hold.
She passed through the common room, an area filled with magnetized wooden chairs, a table grooved by a myriad cuts, cupboards, a bench, and other necessities for storing and preparing food. She barely spent any time in here nowadays, preferring to while away flights in the cockpit eating ration cubes and watching B-grade thrillers.
From there she ghosted through passenger alley, noting that each cabin remained locked and showed no signs of tampering. Her ship could berth nine but she had come to despise carrying human customers. They always wanted to socialize and took to complaining if she left them to their own devices. And the ones who didn’t want company usually planned to shoot or stab her while she slept. Nope, much easier to transport animals than people. At least, that’s what she’d thought until a few minutes ago.
Past the cabins the corridor branched, one appendage heading to engineering and the other to the cargo hold. Jazz skirted the engine housing – protected by blast-strength steel twice as thick as her – and stopped on the cargo hold balcony. Floodlights mounted in the ceiling gave scant opportunity for shadows to form on the large open area below but did highlight the many scuff and paint marks that decorated the grey walls and floor. The array of makeshift pens, open-topped and filled with straw, food and moisture-absorbent underlay, took up the center of the hold. Each hosted a young animal destined for a pet store on Garbadon Minor. Only the kitten in the cockpit had been privately bought.
The intruder stood out like a wheel-fruit in a field of crawling grass. A man, thickset, wearing a poor imitation of a Customs Officer’s uniform, the jumpsuit’s blue pants tucked into faded and fraying boots. He leaned over one of the pens, his back to her.
The scan showed no other unexpected life-signs. Jazz brought her gun to bear, braced herself, and said in her roughest voice, “Stop right where you are, put your hands on your head and turn around slowly.”
The man squealed and whirled about, both arms flying upwards. The words ‘Port Authority’ were plastered across the torso of his jumpsuit in thick white script. Brown hair in that awful yet timeless bowl-cut style and a bunch of multi-colored bracelets on his right wrist completed whatever look he was going for. He dropped into a half-crouch, hands pointing at the ceiling, sweat patches under his arms.
“Who the hell are you?” Jazz said.
“Um,” the man stammered, then sucked in a deep breath and stood upright. “My name is Darren Tollett, Port Authority, Exotic Animals Division, and I demand you turn your ship around this instant.”
Jazz let out a gravelly chuckle. “Never heard of it.”
“It’s a very important division, I can assure you. You are carrying prohibited fauna, therefore you must immediately regress to Halinder Intergalactic on Garbadon Major. Upon arriving you will be charged with unlawful export as well as aiding and abetting illegal genetic exploitation. Depending on the state of the animal in question, you may be charged with animal cruelty as well.”
“I see. Well, I’m not turning around.”
“If you do not I will have no choice once we reach port but to press additional charges for kidnapping.”
Jazz started down the stairs, her gun never wavering from the intruder below. “How did you get onboard my ship?”
Tollett, or whoever he was, lowered his hands to rest on his head. “I came aboard with the other Customs’ officials, of course.”
“No, you didn’t.”
He bobbed his head emphatically. “Yes, I did.”
Jazz reached the cargo hold floor but moved no further forward. Best to stay well out of arms’ reach. Wisdom borne of experience. “Then you should have left with them.”
“I would have but I was busy looking for an animal listed on the manifest but not present here.”
Jazz cocked an eyebrow. “Oh really?”
“Yes.” Tollett dropped his hands to his sides before vigorously rubbing them on his pants. “There is a kitten listed on the manifest that is not in any of these pens. I want to know where it is.”
“There must be a mistake on the manifest then.” Garbadon Major didn’t do manifests for living organisms. They did scans and bio-prints. Time to reverse the heat. “And, speaking of charges, I’m sure as hell gonna do you for trespassing. I don’t know who you are, but I know you didn’t come aboard with the official Customs’ crew. They arrived in a group of three and they left in a group of three, happy as pigs riding choppers.”
Tollett furrowed his brow. “Cool, I guess. Weird but cool. Cooler if they’re wearing leather helmets and have nose rings.”
Before Jazz could figure out a response to the sudden change in persona, her peripherals – silver teardrops at the forehead corner of each eye – picked up a blur of movement and something pressed into her side. The following pulsating jolts told her she’d been bushwhacked by a high-grade incapacitator. Typical Commonwealth police issue. She snarled and turned towards the new threat, fighting to keep her gun arm raised. Her assailant swore and jammed the incapacitator into her again.
“You’ll have to do better than that,” she ground out, coming face-to-face with a skinny teenage girl wearing a deactivated stealth suit. The kid’s eyes widened, the freckles on her face wobbling in surprise. No, the freckles weren’t wobbling. Jazz’s vision was. If she didn’t act fast her nanos would overload and the kid wouldn’t need to do any better than she was already.
Footsteps sounded behind her and then another incapacitator – where had this Tollett guy stashed that? – entered the fray.
“Dammit!” Jazz managed before her nanos rebooted and excruciating, pulsating pain racked her entire body.
The last thing she heard before losing consciousness was the girl’s squeaky yet triumphant voice: “Score one for the animals, you jacked-up scum-su—”
Thanks for reading! Book 1 and 2 of the Jazz Healy, Reunion Series have a planned release date of May 4th, 2021. So if you’d like to read on, please make a note of that date. You could also bookmark my release timeline, which will give you the most up-to-date information.
Too, if you’ve enjoyed this preview and would like to support my ongoing fiction endeavors, you could consider buying me a coffee. Writers do be needing their coffee! 🙂 You can do so either by going to the site linked just before or by clicking on the coffee cup to your right. Buying me a coffee gives you access to an exclusive short story, Orion’s Belt. There is also a monthly or yearly membership option, which opens up more exclusive content, including Jazz Healy’s origin short story.
Again, thanks for reading!
If you’d like to join the conversation, you can do so here.