Two weeks from now, I’ll be releasing the second Endurance boxed set — surprise! I haven’t had a chance to talk about it until now. 🙂
If you like science fiction romance, or you’re a fan of the Endurance series (as many of your emails and messages asking about the next book always assure me you are), this is a chance to pick up three of the main novels and one of the novellas in the series as a price that is less than you’d pay for all the books bought individually.
So if you’re also a fan of boxed sets, this is your deal.
Because we’re two weeks out, this is when I would normally run the first chapter in the upcoming release. That would be chapter One of Xenogenesis.
But there’s a nice little bonus after the chapter, so keep reading….
The short night had ended when Pasi found Rex at the side of the pool and told him in a voice that wouldn’t reach any of the guests that there was a call for him and the caller was refusing to be put through to a virtual screen.
Rex handed Pasi the book he had been reading. “Where is the call now?” The demand for security and privacy wasn’t unusual. Some of the people he dealt with preferred to keep their business affairs off the Forum and out of general gossip.
“In your office, sir.”
“Do you know who it is?” Everyone who was paranoid enough to insist upon privacy and who might have reason to call Rex was already here, somewhere in his house.
Pasi shook his head, his dark eyes troubled.
Rex patted his arm. “It’s fine, Pasi.” He looked around the courtyard garden. The growing daylight was revealing the aftermath of a night of indulgence. There were people asleep or passed out on the loungers around the pool and two more drifting on floating loungers in the water, their feet wet, their eyes closed. One—Rex thought his name was Evram—was snoring musically, his glass of whatever he had been drinking still clutched in his hand.
From somewhere inside the house, Rex could hear music. Now he was consciously listening to it, he had the sensation it wasn’t the first time the track had played in the last hour or so. Someone had put their own playlist on cycle and left it running. At least the jazz was low-key.
“It might be time for breakfast,” Rex suggested.
“Cook is already working on that, sir,” Pasi told him. “Along with a variety of morning-after preparations.” He glanced around the garden himself. “A large number of garments have been strewn across the house. I gathered them in the front foyer for guests to sort out as they leave.”
“You might also have a pile of disposable robes on hand, just in case,” Rex suggested. “What clothing is left behind can be recycled.”
Rex walked into the house. All the walls had been pushed aside for the evening’s party. Rex had paid the environmental engineers who controlled the climate in the Palatine to set up sultry weather for the night, even though the Palatine was currently moving through its winter cycle. The humid evening had encouraged most of the guests to dive into the pool at least once during the night. Some had removed their clothes. Some hadn’t. Everyone appeared to have had a good time, either way. It had certainly sounded as if they had. The laughter, the music, the chatter, had all filtered through to his office where Rex had been reading, a pleasant backdrop to the peace in the room.
The lounge pit had its share of occupants, too. One of them was Barny. He was snuggled up against the pretty strawberry blond whom Rex had noticed very early in the evening, looking pouty and reserved.
Rex diverted to the lounge pit, crouched down at the edge and bent farther to shake Barny awake. Barny stirred and blinked. “Dad?”
“Any idea where Julian is?”
Barny frowned. “I think…upstairs.” The blonde stirred sleepily and nuzzled his chest and Barny’s frown deepened as he looked at the top of her head, almost as if he was just realizing she was in his arms.
“In his room?” Rex clarified.
“He has company.”
“I don’t doubt that.” Rex rose to his feet once more.
Barny tried to sit up. The blonde was a dead weight, holding him down. “Do you need something?”
“I thought you might want some breakfast before the stampede to the kitchen begins.”
“Hell, yes.” He shook the blonde. “I’ll dig Julian up, too.”
Rex nodded, satisfied. He headed for his office. As he passed the private sitting room next to his office, he halted and backed up a few steps to look inside. Something odd had caught his eye as he had passed by.
Now he could see what it was that had snagged his attention. There was a tight ball of bright orange übersilk on the floor, huddled in the angle created by the wall and the big terracotta tub holding the miniature cocoa bush.
Michaela had been wearing that vibrant color last night. He had seen it fluttering here and there when he had passed through the house, greeting guests and lingering for short conversations when pressed into it.
He had also heard her laughter, too, somewhere over where the tankball game had been running in 3D, with everyone gathered around the scaled images, swearing and groaning as the game progressed. When first blood showed, barely ten minutes into the game, it had been Michaela’s laughter that had underlined the moment.
Rex drew closer to the orange übersilk. The garment she had been wearing had been a throwback to ancient Terra, with loose, flowing drapes that outlined her still slender figure. Now, it lay in motionless heaps…and Michaela was still in it. She was beneath the silk, as if she had burrowed under it. The belt around her waist had gone. She had pulled up the loose folds of the silk to hide her face and arms. She was curled up into a tight ball beneath it.
Rex bent and pulled the übersilk away from her face and rested his fingers against her neck. The pulse was erratic, yet it was there. Her face, normally held in stiff lines of suspicion, especially when talking to him, looked very childish now.
He lifted her up and put her on the sofa. She weighed next to nothing and as soon as he let her go, she tightened up into another ball, her knees to her chest, her face hidden by her knees. She wasn’t completely unconscious, then. She was nowhere close to being sober, either.
Rex looked around the room, wondering why he was bothering to care. He spotted the crystal dish that didn’t belong on the sideboard and went over to it. Something white and powdery coated the bottom of it. There were red fragments in it, too. He had no idea what it was. Michaela’s definition of what constituted a good time had shifted over the years. Since Julian and Barny had emerged two years ago, the mechanisms for enjoyment had become more extreme.
He left her there. Pasi would take care of putting her to bed and having someone watch her. He was practiced at it.
Rex went to his office. The fixed screen showed the caller still patiently waiting for him. The man was as much a stranger as anyone on the Endurance could be. He had bags under his eyes and a thin face and jowls. His sandy hair was shaggy and rumpled. He looked overworked and underfed. Rex might have seen his face before, although he was not someone Rex knew either officially or unofficially.
“I apologize for the delay,” Rex told him.
“Rex Julyan?” the man asked.
“Your man…Pasi?” The man grimaced. “He said you might take a moment to get here. Unfortunately, this is not something I could leave for a more convenient time.”
“And you are…?”
“Burchard Bacchus. Head of the civil guard.”
Bacchus was a civil servant. No wonder they had not met before.
“Did someone complain about the noise? Or the heat?” Rex would have been surprised if they had. Everyone who lived within a kilometer of the house was here, somewhere.
Bacchus shook his head. “I saw the lights from your house as I passed over a couple of hours ago. There was no noise I could hear. That’s not why I’m calling.”
“You’re in the Palatine?”
“I’m at the white house,” Bacchus said.
The white house was on the other side of the parkland belt from here. Rex knew the place. It was one of the oldest houses in the Palatine and everyone seemed to have heard of it, even if they had never seen it before. People on the other side of the parkland liked their privacy, including Nerida Giles, who was the current owner of the house.
Rex’s gut tightened. When had he last spoken with her? It had been years. More years than he cared to admit to.
“You’re at Nerida’s house?” Rex asked Bacchus. “Is Nerida all right? Has something happened?”
Bacchus looked even more grim than before. His face, with the jowls and bags under his eyes, had already looked sad. Now his expression was alarming.
“No, I’m afraid Miss Giles is very much not all right,” Bacchus said and sighed. “She is dead, Mr. Julyan.”
Rex drew in a breath, riding out the shock. “She’s younger than me!” He was fifty-five, not even middle-aged yet. Then he put it together. “Why is the civil guard attending a medical matter?” he demanded of Bacchus. “Her medic should be there.”
“Oh, he is,” Bacchus said quickly. “He called us in because of what he discovered. She left a note, Mr. Julyan. It was addressed to you.”
Rex sank down onto the chair. His heart squeezed. “Then…?”
“Yes.” Bacchus sighed. “It appears she killed herself.”
* * * * *
Even though Belen got to the administrative wing early, Vilma and Pelagius were already waiting for her, sitting on the small chairs outside her office with pensive expressions. Belen smiled to herself. She could have predicted they would be here.
Both of them jumped to their feet when she walked up to her door and unlocked it.
Vilma, who was the administrative lead for the Medical Institute, lifted the board in her hand. “One hundred expressions of support!” Her wiry hair was jutting out from her head, waving at her movements. Even her pale eyes seemed to be bulging slightly.
“And good morning to you, too,” Belen told her and went into her office. She didn’t invite them in. They would follow her in, anyway.
Vilma waved the board again. “One hundred is well over a significant majority, Belen. One hundred is sixty-seven percent of all medical personal on the ship. Nearly seventy percent of medics are insisting upon a raise…and not just a simple raise.” This issue of pay scales had been Vilma’s pet project for nearly a year now. Belen had finally relented enough to agree to a straw poll of medics, to determine the majority opinion on the matter. Vilma had probably spent all night collating the results.
“They want salaries that reflect the value of the role they play on the Endurance,” Vilma added. She sounded ferociously happy about it, too. If the medical profession got the raise they wanted, then Vilma would get the same raise. As much as Vilma would protest, Belen knew that had figured into her championship of the medics’ entreaties for more money.
Belen’s office didn’t have a desk or visitor chairs. There was the single high stool she used when she was tired and she sank onto it now with a silent sigh. It was barely eight in the morning and already she felt drained. “The work we do reflects the value of our role,” she said. “Treating the sick, making them well, that is our reward.”
Vilma nodded. “Exactly,” she said fiercely, her hair waving forward with the quick nod she made. “Without us, the population of the Endurance would not enjoy the good health and the pleasure a life free of illness brings them.”
“Because the environmental engineers who supply the breathable atmosphere and the mechanical engineers who keep the ship together and flying have nothing to do with that pleasant lifestyle at all,” Belen said dryly. “To say nothing of the tank ball players who provide entertainment, the civil guards who maintain the law and…oh, about twenty other essential professions we couldn’t live without.”
Vilma’s smile faltered for a fraction of a second. “Yes, but…medics are even more important than mechanical engineers. We should be paid in a way that reflects our standing in the community.”
“You get paid already,” Belen pointed out, struggling to keep her tone civil. These arguments about money reflecting perceived value always bothered her for reasons she had never been able to fathom.
“It’s not enough,” Vilma shot back stoutly.
“Not enough? You don’t have money for food?” Belen asked. “No, wait, you get basic rations just as all of us do. You get a roof over your head. What do you not have enough money to buy? I’m curious.”
Vilma’s mouth opened.
Belen glanced at Pelagius. So far, he had said nothing, leaving Vilma to argue by herself. His round face looked troubled.
“You’re head of medical services coordination,” Belen told him. “You feel as Vilma does about this?”
Pelagius looked at Vilma. His cheeks colored. “I…her argument has some merit.”
Belen turned back to Vilma. “The medics on this ship are considered to be an essential service. Therefore, we all are paid over and above the standard rations, as a reward for choosing to serve the ship. That’s why you live in the Palatine, Vilma. That’s why Pelagius can put on those expensive dinner parties of his every month. To ask for even more is offensive.”
Vilma looked taken aback. “But…but all the other essential services get paid more, too.”
“As they should,” Belen said flatly.
“I think, what Vilma is trying to say,” Pelagius said in his high, tight voice, “is that we train longer and the demands of our profession are more rigorous than, say, that of mechanical engineers. Anyone can be a mechanical engineer. Not everyone can be a medic.”
“And not everyone is a medic.” Belen got to her feet. “When a candidate is accepted for medical training, that is what distinguishes them within the community. Not some ephemeral credit value that will mean nothing next year. The work we do is the reward…or it should be. If any medics feel their work is no longer rewarding, they’re free to move on to another profession at any time.” Belen injected snap into her voice.
Vilma looked as if she wanted to protest, although they had been working together for a long time and she knew the tone Belen had used was her don’t-push-me voice.
Belen relented. Just a little. “What in the world would you do with even more money, anyway, Vilma? Use your public spreadsheet as wall art?”
“Money is money,” Vilma said stiffly. “That’s the point. I can use excess money to buy anything I want.”
“And what are you going to do with all the pretty things you buy? Buy a bigger house to display them all? Where does it end?” Belen shook her head. “I don’t want to hear another word about pay raises, Vilma. Go back to your committees and tell them that. I will not present this to the Captain. I will not entertain any notion of money being in any way a reward or reflection of our status on the Endurance. The concept is utterly revolting.”
Vilma let the board hang at her side, clamped between her fingers. “Then, if there was a reason for a raise other than as a reward or marker of status, you would consider that?”
The woman was relentless. Belen admired her for that. She was a very good administrative director for the Institute, although sometimes her thinking was channeled.
Belen gave her a small smile. “You’re welcome to do more research and see if there is a better reason out there and I will listen if you find it. I doubt you will. Money is purely a medium of exchange. To add anything else to its meaning is asking for trouble.”
Vilma nodded. She was no fool. She understood the implications as thoroughly as Belen did. She just didn’t like it. If she followed her usual form, then she would try to get in the last word now. Belen waited.
“If money is really just a medium of exchange,” Vilma said, “then why do those who chose not to serve the ship in an essential profession end up with so much more than we do? They hoard their things. They flaunt them.” The resentment in her voice and her eyes was strong.
Belen had no answer for her, not for that question. It was one that had bothered her as much as it bothered Vilma. She looked at Pelagius. His expression was just as unhappy.
“If I knew the answer, Vilma,” Belen told her, “then they would make me captain.”
Pelagius snorted. “Captain Antoni Tyler has more than anyone else on the ship and he’s an essential service, too.” Now the bitterness was unmistakable.
“Pelagius,” Vilma said, horrified.
Then Pelagius remembered who Belen was. He gasped and put his hands to his cheeks. “Oh my…I…I must apologize, Belen. I had no intention of insulting your partner.”
“That’s quite alright,” Belen assured him. “Besides, you’re wrong. Tony is not the richest man on the ship. Not even close.” She knew those who were counted among the richest. She rubbed shoulders with them every time there was an official function and every time Tony socialized. They were his cronies, although even when she was feeling charitable she would still be hard pushed to describe them as his friends.
Vilma stepped back, disassociating herself from Pelagius and his faux pas. “Well, I must get on with things. If you will excuse me?”
Belen nodded and Vilma hurried away, relief making her shoulders droop.
Pelagius was still beet red and sweating.
“Really, it’s fine,” Belen assured him.
He nodded. “That’s not why I’m here.”
“You’re not here about the raises?” Belen asked.
“Oh, more money would always be useful,” Pelagius said, “Only, that’s my personal opinion. I don’t think higher salaries would in any way enhance our professional standing on the ship. In fact, it might even backfire.”
“By putting us on the same level as the Captain and his friends?” Belen asked.
Pelagius’ face bloomed again. “I suppose…yes.”
“That’s an argument I will use next time Vilma raises this, as she will.” Belen dismissed the subject with a wave of her hand. “What can I do for you, Pelagius?”
“More delicate than insulting your boss’ partner?”
However, Pelagius had already mentally shifted ground and this time he barely blinked. “I received a question from Ove Tenyson, who is in the Palatine right now, attending a…well, that’s why he contacted me. He was looking for directions on how to handle…a suicide.”
“Suicide?” Belen could feel her brows lifting high. “Has there ever been a suicide? Ever?”
Pelagius nodded. “I looked it up. Nearly two hundred years ago. Willard Bordon.”
Belen frowned. “The first person to be shunned.”
“That was before we properly understood how extreme the impact of shunning is upon a subject. Sentences are much shorter now. Bordon survived four years of shunning before he deliberately walked into a gamma radiation field and sat there until he died, two hours later.”
Belen shuddered. “And now there is a second suicide. Did you tell Tenyson to call in the civil guards?”
Pelagius nodded. His face worked.
“What is it?” Belen pressed him.
“The suicide. It was Nerida Giles, the former tankball topman.”
Belen found herself sitting back on the stool, with no clear idea how she had got there. “Nerida…”
Pelagius was studying her. He was an intelligent man, which his fussy manners and rotund figure usually disguised. “Nerida Giles was the first pro Rex Julyan put under contract.”
Belen breathed, forcing herself not to jump at the mention of his name. “I believe so.” Her voice emerged evenly, only the volume wasn’t there.
“Rex Julyan is a friend of yours, isn’t he?” Pelagius asked. Even the way he spoke Rex’s name was irritating. He said it deliberately, as if he was savoring every syllable. The admiration in his tone was undisguised.
Belen knew why. Tony had cronies and among them were some of the richest and most influential people on the ship. Business people, entrepreneurs and hard-nosed business owners. Rex Julyan put all of them to shame. Rex wasn’t a part of Tony’s circle of associates, though. He was too successful to slum among the rich.
Belen shook her head. “Rex Julyan doesn’t have friends. He has assets and I’m not one of them. I’m just a poor medic.”
Which wasn’t the complete truth. She wasn’t poor and Rex was no longer a friend…or anything else, either. He had enough assets without her.
The second four science fiction romances in a unique series, collected together.
Rex has never been worthy of Belen’s love. Can he change that?
Life aboard the Endurance is disintegrating—unemployment, inflation, crime and destitution, all ignored by the super-rich, including Rex Julyan, the wildly successful and most hedonistic man on the ship. When Rex meets an old Artificial Intelligence called Emma, she tells him there may be a way to save the ship, but does he care enough to try? For the woman he once loved, Belen Tirrell, is now the partner of the ship’s Captain, Antonio Tyler. She left Rex to be with him, long ago. Nothing would win her back now…would it?
How does someone afraid of their own shadow become a hero and win love?
Pint-sized Noa Doria and her “loser” friends help a stranger in trouble—none other than Haydn Forney. Haydn is the son of the most hated man on the Endurance, Fornell Acardi, leader of the psychotic Caver movement. Strife follows Haydn everywhere.
He must choose between the woman he loves and the child he has always wanted…
Liya and Gelin have worked for ten years to find a way to live together, despite few resources and less hope. Then Gelin learns he has been selected to become a parent…and the other parent is not Liya.
They can’t stand each other.
Devin Bronson has climbed from an abject childhood, determined to reach the pinnacle of the Endurance: the Captain’s chair. Association with the wrong people could destroy her hopes.
Adam Wary is a typical skinwalker, living hard and fast, for life can be short. When his friend Lincoln dies and leaves a message for Adam to give to a woman called Devin, Adam tries to deliver, to Devin’s horror. Lincoln’s message threatens Devin’s career and pulls Adam into the dark underbelly of the Endurance in search of the truth.
These four titles are part of the science fiction romance series readers are calling gripping, superb and fantastic. Written by award-winning SFR author Tracy Cooper-Posey, it is set aboard the marathon-class vessel Endurance, a generation ship a thousand years from its destination. If you like the smart, romantic SF of authors like Linnea Sinclair and Anna Hackett, you will love the Endurance series.Dive into this thought-provoking new romance series today!
This book is part of The Endurance SFR series:
1.0 Greyson’s Doom
2.0 Yesterday’s Legacy
3.0 Promissory Note
3.1 Quiver and Crave
3.5 The Endurance Box One
5.0 Junkyard Heroes
6.0 Skinwalker’s Bane
6.5: The Endurance Box Two
7.0 Mongrels United
…and more to come!
A Science Fiction Romance Novel.
If you like that sample, and you have not yet got into the series, you might like to know that Greyson’s Doom, the first book in the series, is free at any bookstore, including mine. 🙂