Book 4 in the Lunara Station series
New to the Lunara Station series? Start here.
About this eBook:
"What a glorious band of misfit heroes!"
"This is great sci-fi fun!"
Stranded in unknown territory. All alone and surrounded by enemies.
Another battle against the Cava Dara is lost, and the Star Rambler is barely limping on. Now, the crew is caught behind Bartoc lines, with a difficult choice: try to get home despite terrible odds or find the mysterious mind mages who vanished into the sector centuries ago.
If they succeed, it could be the one weapon humanity needs to turn the tide against the ancient threat its facing. If they fail, mankind could lose everything.
Can the crew defeat overwhelming odds in a world no one has ever seen?
Climb aboard the Star Rambler and find out!
"Great series of books! "
"Lots of action!"
"Wow! Our crew just keeps getting deeper and deeper into trouble. Looking forward to seeing how they can get out of the mess this time."
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Enjoy a sample from BARTOC SECRET
The following sample contains spoilers for prior books. If you're new to the Lunara Station series, start here.
Lenah carefully steered the Star Rambler toward the King Arthur’s hailing beam. The ship jerked without Lenah’s doing and was pulled toward the other ship’s enormous landing bay. Lenah turned off the forward pull when Martello’s head appeared in the cockpit’s hatch.
“You sure we have to go there?” the old man asked, and his usually friendly face was clouded with worry.
“I’m sure. This is Martius Buntus from CPL Corp calling us for a meeting.”
“Calling you,” Martello said, then looked at the ceiling as if it held an answer. “I’ll be in the engine room.” His head disappeared, and Lenah heard his retracting footsteps. Poor man. The hardened smuggler was more fazed about being pulled into a UPL warship than about being imprisoned in the galaxy’s most secure prison.
Lenah returned her attention to the front window where the King Arthur’s bay had come into view. Hundreds of small fighters stood in neat rows, each of them painted in the dark blue color of CPL, the galaxy’s most powerful corporation.
The hailing beam let go of the Star Rambler, and a light indicated their allocated parking spot next to a silver and white Cheung Corp shuttle.
Lenah adjusted her bun in the reflection of the front screen, then made her way through the ship. All she encountered was closed hatches. It seemed that everyone was sharing Martello’s unease. Just as well, she thought. The invitation had been for her only. For once, everyone seemed to take that literally. If Lenah could, she’d skip this meeting with UPL’s most famous war strategist too.
Martius Buntus was famous for two things: his good looks and his talent to anticipate enemy moves. Though head of his own corporation, CPL, he had been nominated as general of the UPL war effort. He would lead the UPL force into battle against the Cava Dara. There hadn’t been a true war in decades, and this would be his first big battle. Lenah hoped he would turn out as brilliant as everyone anticipated. She certainly wouldn’t want to be in Buntus’s shoes. Recent events had proven to Lenah that she wasn’t making the right decisions for her group. Thankfully, now all she’d have to do was fight with her magic, but she’d do so under Buntus’s command.
Corinna was waiting for Lenah when she climbed down the hatch. The other woman looked as flawless as ever. She’d dyed her black hair a platinum-blond and wore it tied in her signature topknot. Her lips were painted a dark red, giving her a fierce look accentuated further by a form-fitting military uniform. “I never thought I’d say this, but it’s good to see you, Callo,” Corinna said when Lenah came to a stop in front of her.
“Likewise.” Lenah grinned. “Listen, Corinna, I never got the chance to thank you for—”
Corinna interrupted Lenah with a dismissive wave of her hand. “If you’re talking about the lung, don’t even mention it. At the very minimum, it’s in my best interest to have you by my side in this war.”
“Huh, so it’s the fact I’m the only other mind mage,” Lenah said. “I think that must be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me, Miss Cheung.”
She was rewarded with a big eye roll that cracked some of Corinna’s hard corporate shell.
Lenah grinned even wider.
“Focus, Callo. We’re not here to become friends.” Corinna looked around.
Lenah took a deep breath. “Right.” She let her gaze roam across the large hold. “This is bigger than all of UPL Station.”
“Not quite,” Corinna said dryly. “But it comes close. Three hundred and twenty fighters, a crew of over five hundred.”
“Nothing Cheung Army could compete with?” Lenah asked.
Corinna pressed her lips into a thin line. “Not yet, no. And not for a while if this war keeps me away from my company.”
A thin man in a dark blue CPL Corp uniform approached. He saluted. “Lieutenant Howard Cornell.”
“Corinna Cheung and Lenah Callo.” Corinna stretched out her hand instead of saluting back.
The lieutenant took her hand after a slight hesitation.
“You’re here to lead us to our meeting?”
He gave a curt nod and broke into a brisk walk toward a hatch at the far end of the ship bay. For the first time, Lenah realized the buzzing activity all around her. Engineers were revising ships, and pilots climbed into their cockpits. The constant chatter of dozens of voices reverberated off the walls. Everyone was working with grim determination. The feeling was contagious, and Lenah found herself stiffening, focusing on the task ahead and wordlessly following the young lieutenant to their destination, the meeting with Commander Buntus.
After several silent minutes, they climbed out of a service elevator and made straight for the only door ahead. Lieutenant Cornell waved them through.
The automatic door of the command bridge shut behind Lenah, cutting out the noise from the corridor behind. The warship had been a place of business and yells, but in here, there was a serene and almost uncomfortable silence.
The bridge had two distinct parts, the working stations and a large empty area—the command matrix. Right in the middle of it stood UPL’s most powerful man—one of the most powerful humans currently alive.
“The mind mages, Corinna Cheung and Lenah Callo,” Lieutenant Cornell announced. His voice rang loudly off the metal plating on the floor and walls, yet Commander Buntus didn’t turn around, didn’t even acknowledge them.
He kept staring into the empty command matrix that during a battle would be transformed into 3-D holos of all participating ships and entities. Cornell hesitated a moment before taking a few resolute steps forward, motioning for Lenah and Corinna to come with him. Still, Buntus didn’t move, but the arrival of the newcomers hadn’t gone unnoticed.
Almost every one of the twenty people who sat behind the control stations looked up and stared. When Lenah tried to meet their eyes, most quickly looked away. The exception was a wiry, tall man, leaning comfortably against a counter in the middle of the room. He looked to be well past forty, but his dark brown eyes shone with the energy of someone half his age. Soft crow’s feet gave him the appearance of someone who laughed a lot, contrasting with his hardened physique. He looked like someone whose talents were wasted standing inside the command room of a warship. Lenah instantly liked him.
“Jones, I don’t like your plan,” Buntus said in a deep voice that echoed. He waved for Lenah and Corinna to stay back as he spun inside the empty matrix. Was he using an optical implant to see a simulation?
Still leaning against the counter, the wiry man spoke. “You can’t even see it.”
Buntus was silent for several seconds, contemplating the area. “I do see it.” He tapped the side of his head with a long and elegant finger. “It’s all about the power of the human mind. About imagination. Something a practical man like you probably doesn’t have. Only fools rely on visual crutches to win battles.”
“A statement our mages would surely agree with,” said the other.
The comment made Buntus turn to face Lenah and Corinna finally. Lenah was surprised to see he was every bit as roguishly handsome in real life as he looked in the media. His reddish-brown hair shone in the light and was arranged in an even cut that framed a perfectly angular face, strong jaw, and straight nose. He was wearing a tight combat suit made by CPL Corp that encased his thick shoulders and muscular legs. Martius Buntus was powerful and by the demanding look in his icy blue eyes, he knew it.
Corinna approached him with an outstretched hand, which he hesitantly took. A hesitation that appeared deliberate. When they finally shook hands, Corinna cringed under the pressure. “Corinna Cheung, a pleasure to meet you,” she said, her voice slightly strained.
Lenah approached too, holding out her own hand. She steeled herself and was ready not to flinch when the handshake—firm as a pair of big pliers—came. “Lenah Callo, pleased to make your acquaintance.”
Commander Buntus just nodded. He didn’t feel the need to introduce himself. “How much longer?” He looked sideways, toward the men and women sitting in the first row of stations.
“The initial swarm will reach the Last Inhabited Worlds at exactly 14:11 Cassidian Standard time tomorrow, assuming it stays straight on course,” a young woman blurted out, as if she’d been waiting to provide the information. Buntus didn’t acknowledge her but turned back to the wiry man. “You have your defenses ready, Jones?”
“As ready as they were yesterday, Commander. This is the Last Inhabited Worlds; we’re always ready for an attack,” the man said, and his eyes seemed to laugh, even though his tone didn’t give anything away but complete professionalism. He straightened and approached Lenah and Corinna. “Thuat Jones, Overseer of the Development Force for the Last Inhabited Worlds, mostly referred to as LIW here.” He shook both Corinna’s and Lenah’s hands with just the right pressure to be firm but not cause pain.
“Let’s have that bloody meeting now that we’re all here,” Buntus growled. Lenah wasn’t sure if he was generally displeased or if he didn’t like the friendly greeting Thuat Jones had given them, but they all followed Buntus into an adjacent meeting room.
A large screen showed Lenah and Corinna standing on a pagoda roof on Astur fighting hundreds of Muha Dara all at once. They carried an absent look on their exhausted faces as groups of Muha Dara attacked each other, commanded by their mind magic.
“This is what you can do?” Buntus gestured for everyone to sit down.
“You’ll need to scale this up considerably.”
“How much?” Corinna asked, leaning forward and folding her hands together. She was the image of self-confidence. Lenah quickly adjusted her own posture to sit up straighter, something that didn’t escape Thuat Jones, who looked at her with soft eyes.
“You defeated over four thousand of these creatures on Astur. Now, fifty-five thousand are coming,” Buntus said.