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Distress Signal by Mychael Black

Distress Signal
Coriolis, Book 1
by Mychael Black

Changeling Press

eBook BIN: 06046-01940

Captain Carter Therres doesn’t know what to expect aboard the Maelstrom, but it sure as hell isn’t the gorgeous man waiting in the maintenance ductwork. Ash Mracek is unlike other men Carter has known, and the scientist’s past involves something much more sinister than the Academy bombing for which he was framed. Now it’s a race to save Ash — and possibly Joren — before their enemies can take them out of the picture for good.

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Chapter One

“Dr. Mracek, we have the latest results in the dark matter tests. It seems you were right. The atmosphere of Aldebaran Beta holds the key to understanding how the Revenants can survive dark space.”
Professor Ash Mracek took the datapad and looked over the information streaming across the translucent blue holo-screen. “Have Nelog run the numbers against the existing records. I want irrefutable proof to present to the Syndicate.”
“Yes, sir.”
Ash watched his assistant Orla head back toward the labs. In a few years the young Tessi would be running her own research vessel. Ash relied on her friendship almost as much as her brilliance. Most people didn’t expect Tessians to be smart, but he had the feeling that was more due to idiots wanting to see Tessians naked. Orla, like the rest of her kind, was pretty — in a somewhat reptilian sort of way. If rumors on the station were anything to go by, Orla already had a multitude of would-be suitors hell-bent on doing damn near anything to get her pale green butt into bed.
Shaking his head, Ash continued on to his cabin, hoping for a brief reprieve before he had to face the Syndicate. Holo or no, he’d taken this gig to get away from humans. Hell, he’d been out here so long, working with various alien races, that his own kind had become more foreign to him than his daily encounters with the human-like Bysin or the feline Atji.
As the lead scientist, he did enjoy a few perks. His cabin boasted a huge picture window that looked out into the dark vastness of space. The bed was actually rather comfortable, and the bathroom was private. Of course, there was also his sitting area, complete with a state-of-the-art holo projector. He didn’t use it much, though, preferring to avoid contact with anyone beyond his colleagues here on the station. The light blinked on the holo just as he walked into the cabin, and Ash sighed. So much for a bit of downtime.
He keyed in his personal access code and stood still while the beam scanned his body. A figure flickered into view on the holo’s platform, and Ash gave the man a nod.
“Ash.”
“Joren.”
“Do you have any news for the Syndicate regarding the Revenants?”
“I do, but we’re still analyzing it.”
“What can you tell me right now?”
Ash held the datapad flat, and a small projection of a planet shimmered over it. “We believe the atmosphere of Aldebaran Beta is key to the Revenants’ survival.”
“Hmm.” The Syndicate leader nodded. “Keep at it then. I expect to hear back from you soon.”
“Of course.”
The holo flickered off, and Ash tossed the datapad on his bed. He hoped Orla and the others found what they needed and quickly. The Revenants had already sent raiding groups to some of the furthest colonies, which meant they were on the move. If a clue to how the wraith-like race existed in dark space could be found, then maybe the rest of the galaxy could find a way to stop them.
He left the holo and stared out into the black void through his window. At one point he’d enjoyed the company of his fellow humans, but when someone had needed a scapegoat, he’d been it. The Syndicate had had no choice but to send him deep into space. They couldn’t afford to strip his job away, considering no one else knew the things he did — or at least that’s what he’d been told. Now, though, he didn’t care.
As he gazed out at the stars, something in the distance shifted. Ash focused on it, or tried to, at any rate. The object hovered for a brief moment, before shimmering out of view. Then it reappeared. Much closer.
“Oh, my God.”
Ash ran out of his cabin, smashing the security alarm button in the hallway. The entire station erupted into chaos as everyone scrambled to safety. There were only a few guards onboard, and Ash took off at a run toward the security office. No vessels ever came out this way except to drop off supplies, and only one race had ships that looked and moved like the one he’d seen. He reached the security office and found the guards mobilized, readying their weapons.
“Is it true?” one of the younger ones asked.
Before anyone else could answer, Ash did. “Yes. Starboard side. It’s a scout, but that means more will be here soon.”
“Bring ’em on.” The youth grinned.
Ash rolled his eyes and slipped into the office. The captain got up, and Ash took the man’s place. He punched in the code for the Syndicate’s emergency channel. “This is Dr. Ash Mracek of SRV Maelstrom! Revenant scout starboard. Attack imminent. I repeat: SRV Maelstrom under Revenant attack!”
“Doc, we gotta get you to safety,” the captain said.
Ash stood to follow him and a split second later, an explosion rocked the small station.
“Now!”
The captain grabbed Ash’s arm and hauled him to one of the storerooms. Ash didn’t argue, not even when the captain kicked down the door. As soon as his arm was free, Ash made for the hidden access tunnel. The maintenance shafts doubled as escape tunnels in times like this, though Ash had never wanted to use them. The captain handed him an arc pistol, which Ash hooked to his belt. He wasn’t a soldier, but he knew how to shoot a gun.
“We’ll try to find where they’re likely to breach the hull. You stay out of sight.”
“Don’t have to tell me twice.”
Ash crawled down the ladder. The grating was shut overhead. The tunnel dropped into blackness. Ash continued until he reached what felt like a T-junction. He took the right path on hands and knees, moving as quickly but quietly as possible. All around him, alarms rang out through the station, muffled by the metal surrounding the duct work. He kept going, the urge to reach his staff in the escape pod tunnels strong.
Another explosion hit so hard, he lurched forward. Ash froze. Unless his bearings were off, that one took out his cabin. A third nailed what he thought may be the labs. Fear surged through him. These weren’t random attacks. Each one seemed to hit a place he frequented. A few feet down the tunnel, he spotted the faintest hint of light. Ash galvanized himself into action and crawled toward it.
He reached a grate and stared, his entire body numb. His colleagues lay everywhere, blood covering the floor and walls. Orla’s limp form slumped against one wall, her pistol on the floor beside her. Dead eyes stared directly at the grate where Ash should’ve come through to meet them all.
Ash backed away slowly, not wanting to alert anything that might be lurking. Revenants killed with the purpose of pillaging. Nothing in the escape tunnel had been touched. These revenants weren’t here to steal; they came to kill everything that moved.

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