Who or what really killed the young son of Southern Baptist preacher Gareth Holbright? Where do the sympathies of straight-laced military commander John Herman really lie? What’s behind the cover-up of the closed moon colony? And will commitment-phobic Max and ambitious journalist Tina ever reunite?
The first book in the Cassiopeia Chronicles, The Right Asteroid is set in the early years of the twenty-second century, when human colonies in space have created the equivalent of a new Wild West. Freedom-loving asteroid hunter Max Julian wants nothing more than to have some fun and make enough money to pay off her space ship, in that order. Instead, what she’d thought was her last-chance asteroid turns out to be an alien probe – and Max makes first contact, setting off a chain of events that will change human life on earth, the moon, and Mars forever. Along the way, Max joins forces with an unlikely new team of human friends to save the lives of a half-million geometry-loving, high-tech aliens who call themselves the Kurool. But EarthGov will stop at nothing to prevent the aliens from settling on Mars.
Meet Max’s friends:
Lodan Greenfellow, an inquisitive agronomist, wants to understand the mystery of the aliens on Mars, but EarthGov wants to destroy the aliens and anyone who gets in their way. She might be in their cross hairs.
Gareth Holbright, a grieving Southern Baptist minister, wants to mourn the loss of his son, but finds himself embroiled in the political race for the new EarthGov president and on the opposite side from his anti-alien brother.
Tina Fiorici, an intrepid journalist for the New York Times, wants to write the real story about what’s happening with the aliens on Mars and about the burgeoning movement for independence. But the EarthGov doesn’t want the truth to get out.
John Herman, a straight-laced military commander, just wants to keep his career on track, but learning what EarthGov has planned for the aliens makes him willing to risk it all.
The Right Asteroid, the first book in The Cassiopeia Chronicles by California-based author Michelle Murrain, was published late in 2012 by Ursa Minor Publishing. This fast-paced adventure story with a strong flavour of grandiose space opera and Wild West narrative tells of a future world where humans have lived in colonies for generations on Mars and Moon and want independence from Earth and the company SolGov.…The book is entertaining and builds complex and realistic worlds. It also has a colourful palette of characters, from lesbian protagonists to a Baptist preacher and the black politician. The book has some minor flaws, but is all in all well worth reading for open-minded science fiction fans. –excerpt from review on The Future Fire
Max, April 2105
“Approaching Strelix Station, Max.” The voice of Max’s AI spoke, bringing Max to attention. It was time for a break. She’d been asteroid hunting for months, without any luck, and it was time for her to get some rest before she lost all hope. Besides, she needed supplies.
She wondered whether Sky was on station right now; it would be good to see her. Even though Max did well without any human contact for a long time, it would be nice to spend time with someone who knew her well. And Sky was always good company.
Max pushed some icons on her comm panel. “Max Julian, here, calling Strelix station, request docking permission.”
“Permission granted. Docking bay 25B.”
“Affirmative.” To her AI she said, “Got that, Jane?”
“Yes, Max. Adjusting attitude and direction now. Homing beacons activated. We’ll be docked in six point five minutes.”
When she first bought the AI, she decided to name it, although most people thought that was kind of creepy. AIs weren’t supposed to have a personality, but sometimes she suspected hers did. Anyway, she liked using a name.
Max just let Jane fly her ship as she was thinking about her short shore leave. She could only afford a week. She didn’t have enough money left to pay for more than that and her resupply.
Max had become a solo asteroid hunter about five years ago, after spending ten long years employed by Strelix, Inc., crewing a number of ships. They were the largest asteroid hunting corporation that existed. She’d spent nothing, and saved everything, even her shore leave allowances, so that she could lease a ship of her own someday, and go solo. She didn’t want to build a company to compete with Strelix, she just wanted the freedom to explore on her own, and reap all of the rewards. She learned over time, that it also meant taking on all of the risk.
She’d found one small asteroid early on, and it was only moderately successful, the asteroid miners she’d sold it to refused to take a flat fee they only wanted to give her a percentage. It turned out to be a C-type asteroid, mostly carbon, with only a little bit of magnesium, iron, and other trace minerals. It paid for itself, finally, at least.
She went for a year without a decent find. She remembered how lean that year was, and how close things got. She then had several mediocre finds, one complete dud, then, a good solid find. But that had been almost 2 years ago. If she didn’t find a good asteroid soon, she wouldn’t have enough Yuan left for payments on the ship. In a few months of that, her ship would be repo’d. She would do everything she could to avoid that fate.
She loved her ship. She looked around at it for a moment. She found the space cozy, even though many would find it cramped. It had small cockpit, with only one seat. There was a work area, with a workstation, and all of the equipment she needed to take samples and gather the data that would provide information for the mining ships who would buy asteroids from her. The ship had a small living area, with a tiny galley, and a dining space for one, with her bunk that folded up at night. She dreamed one day that maybe she’d upgrade to one of the faster explorer class ships—maybe one that spun for gravity. Not much more space, but more oomph to help her find better asteroids.
The mild shudder of the ship that meant it was docked brought her out of her reverie. She could feel the increased gravity from the spin of the station.
“Jane, docking sequence please.”
Max got up from her seat and walked back to get her stuff. She climbed up the ladder to the top docking door, engaged the airlock, and climbed up to the embarkation area for bay 25B. She closed and locked her door, hefted her bag, and walked to the hostel.
After she’d checked in, and unpacked her meager belongings, she checked her tablet to see whether Sky was on station. She was. She sent a message to Sky, and got back a brief message in return. “I’m leaving the station in a few hours. Come over before I go.”
Max got up, left the hostel, and made her way to Sky’s place, on the other side of the station. She stopped in front of Sky’s door, and pushed the doorbell icon.
“God it’s good to see you Max!” Sky’s arms were wide when the door opened, and Max fell into Sky’s embrace. They hugged for a while.
“Glad I came when I did. It would have been a bummer to have missed you this time.”
Max followed Sky into her quarters.
“Want a beer?”
“Sure.” Sky threw Max an aluminum bottle. Strelix beer was barely palatable, only really worth it for the alcoholic content.
“How the hell are you, Max?”
“Alright, I guess. But things are lean. I haven’t found an asteroid in far too long. It won’t be long before my ship gets repossessed.”
“Max, let me loan you some money.”
“Thanks Sky, but I’ll be OK.”
“You’ll wait until you are completely desperate, won’t you?”
“I know you, Max. You don’t ask for help from your friends enough.”
“I try to be independent.”
“You try too hard. Anyway, you know it’s there when you need it.”
“Thanks, Sky. So how are you? Where are you off to?”
“I’m shuttling the CEO of Strelix to Mars.”
“They are trying to negotiate some new contracts, but things are getting sticky. Mars is itching for independence, and that’s the last thing Strelix wants.”
“Mars isn’t going to get independence in either of our lifetimes, Sky. SolGov won’t allow it.”
“I’m not so sure of that, Max. I’ve been hearing some interesting rumbles, and if Strelix is worried, something real is happening.”
“Well, keep me posted. If I go completely broke, I might rather end up on Mars than on the Moon again.”
“Max, work with me. We’d hire you.”
“Strelix would never hire me back, Sky, and I rejected the pilot’s union’s offer a while ago, so I’m screwed there, too.”
“You’ll be fine, my friend. I know you. You always end up doing alright.”