Meet the Heroes of Stellar Drift
In “Stellar Drift,” my story in Pets in Space 8, determined forest ranger Houyen convinces mysterious pilot Sairy and her pet to help him track the source of a deadly disease before a greedy crime lord gets there first. My story ideas usually start with characters and the trouble they get up to, so let me tell you about the heroes of Stellar Drift.
The Mysterious Pilot
Sairy Sarvand is a pilot. Or she was, until she had a rough landing on Qal Corona. To the military, she's missing in action. To the Citizen Protection Service, a military agency with multiple conflicting missions, she's a person of interest. The CPS wants to know what went wrong with their pilot and the experimental exploration starship that were part of a top-secret black-box project.
Now Sairy lives deep in the rainforest area of a continent-sized nature reserve. She has gaps in her memory and doesn't trust the CPS not to make her disappear for good in their desire to keep their secrets.
As part of the program, Sairy was trained in exploration tasks, such as detailed mapping, or sampling and testing life on alien planets. Her experimental ship has a hydroponics section, a well-equipped laboratory, and enough mealpacks (think futuristic TV dinners) to last for years. Sairy expected to be part of a small fleet tied to an exploration mothership. Instead, she and the ship crash-landed on a seemingly random fully colonized planet in the Central Galactic Concordance.
While she was figuring out where she was, sort of, she came upon an injured pet and took her home (see below). Then she discovered that the local rainforest inhabitants were excellent at not asking questions, and began visiting the small towns along a river. That's where she met the kind, sexy forest ranger who asked her for help.
And that, of course, is where the trouble starts.
The Determined Forest Ranger
Houyen Albasrey is a botanist and a ranger. His current assignment for the last three years is the sprawling mountainous rainforest area in a continent-sized nature reserve on the planet Qal Corona.
He's been a ranger ever since the Citizen Protection Service discovered his psychic talent for sensing and nurturing plants. The CPS tried to train his minder talent for plants, but he hated life at the elite CPS Institute and deliberately washed out. Rather than lose him, the CPS paid for a regular degree in botany. In exchange, Houyen agreed to serve as a ranger on the settled planets of the Central Galactic Concordance.
For reasons he can't fathom, one of the CPS's many missions is to partner with planetary governments to manage the various nature preserves and reserves throughout the galaxy, so he's been a CPS employee for decades.
He loves the work and believes in the mission to nurture the environments that are key to terraforming success. The rangers are the only check against rampant exploitation of precious resources. Unfortunately, the CPS has long neglected their responsibility. The ranger service is underfunded and understaffed, and it's getting worse each year.
Houyen is sure the source of a deadly fever is tied to an insect lifecycle, but his boss thinks he's crazy. Determined to prove it one way or the other, Houyen plans an exploration trip to the suspected location. The locals tell him that Sairy and her pet gargoyle know the terrain better than anyone.
He's been intrigued by the mysterious pilot from day one, but is it fair to involve her in something that could end his career and put her in danger? Not to mention, might put them in the path of ruthless thugs who believe the real goal is a legendary treasure?
The Heroic Pet
All Pets in Space® anthologies feature science-fiction romances, adventures, and (as you might have guessed) pets. I love animals, so in the stories I wrote for this series, I sometimes got carried away with the number of pets (especially in Pet Trade and Galactic Search and Rescue). In Stellar Drift, I managed to stick to one pet, a gargoyle.
In the future, people still have cats, dogs, ferrets, and foxes as pets. The futuristic pet trade also genetically engineers pets for the wealthy by creating fantasy creatures with a hodge-podge of traits. Gargoyles are a mix of canine, feline, and a few other species thrown in. (See this post for an illustration.) Exotic pets are expensive, but that doesn't stop some humans from treating them badly.
That's what happened to Kyala. She was abused and ultimately dumped in the rainforest and left to fend for herself. Luckily, she was found and rescued by Sairy. As Kyala's wounds healed, she and Sairy formed an unshakable bond of companionship. If you ever met Kyala, you'd be charmed by her sweet nature. You'd also likely be wet because she has a big tongue and likes to lick.
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