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Newsletter Archive

FREELANCERS #28 - 04/15/24

Before we get to the first chapter of Nexus 99 - First Impressions, please click this link and vote for Phoenix Company Book 1 in a cover contest on Have already made it farther than I was expecting, but can always use a bit of a boost! Feel free to check out some of the other titles on there as well.

Without further ado, here's a look at chapter one of my WIP. For reference, this is set in the same galaxy and time frame as Phoenix Company.


My Childhood


The waitress checked her messages for the tenth time in half an hour. Even though the space station erred on the chilly side, a bead of sweat slid down the side of her face. Her breath quickened as she raised a hand to hide a small smirk on her face. Was she reading something amusing, or was it the anticipation of something devious?

“I’ve had my eye on the suspect for some time now. I got my first whiff of trouble when she stopped me from entering the back room. Her story at the time was my parents said I wasn’t allowed to use the restaurant’s pantry as a snack dispensary. But if that was the case, then why was she, not part of the kitchen staff, disappearing in there at the same time every week before her break?

“Inspector Mira was denied her tasty treats. Now she hungered for something else. Was it vengeance… or justice?”

A loud sneeze behind her caused the 10-year-old Ra’Shasi girl to jump out of her skin and drop the pencil she was monologuing into. The light blue and white fur on her fluffy tail stood on end, and her shriek caused everyone in her parent’s restaurant to look her way. The little feline humanoid turned around to see her often sickly friend, Sallyssa Ni Startail, behind her.

The 9-year-old leporan girl adjusted the pink bows on her bunny ears, then wiped her nose. “Whoo, ‘scuse me! You talkin’ to yerself again, Mira? You have friends, you know.”

As the suspect looked up from her holopad and spotted them, Mira Chai yanked Sally behind a table. She spoke in a harsh whisper as she swiped her long blue hair out of her face. “Sally, shhh! You’re gonna blow my cover.”

The leporan strapped her breathing mask back on and said, “It’s not my fault! The spices in this place keep ticklin’ my nose. What game are you playin’?”

Mira got close and narrowed her eyes. “This isn’t a game. It’s serious business. I’m investigating a criminal conspiracy.”

Her friend rolled her eyes. “Investigator again? Come on, Mira. Just say you’re stalkin’ people. My ma says it’s typical carnivore behaviour.”

Mira pulled out a decorated paper notepad with all the notes from her investigation to prove her case to the long-eared judge. The owner of the restaurant, her mother, came around the corner and hollered some instructions at her in their native Ra’Shasi tongue. The girls, friends since they were toddlers, got to work cleaning the table they used as cover.

As Sally tested one of her new inventions, a spray bottle with a digital readout shaped like a soap monster she dreamed up, Mira kept stealing glances at her suspect. The waitress checked the time on her holopad, told Mira’s mom she was going on break, waited for the mother to look away, then slid into the restaurant’s storeroom.

Mira gasped, then leaned in to scrub the table. “She’s up to no good. I can smell it. And my instincts are never wrong.”

“Except all those times they are.”

Mira continued, “That lady always felt shifty to me. I heard her family fled the Federated Empire under auspicious circumstances.” She emphasized the big word she learned recently, even though she meant suspicious.

Sally said, “Interestin’ hypothesis. This station is the last stop on the edge of the known galaxy. Only so many are here because they want to be. My star warren ran outta fuel and needed repairs. Pretty sure I heard yer folks talk about fleein’ some feline noble shenanigans.”

The Ra’Shasi girl waved a dismissive hand. “Nuh uhn! They just came out here to start this restaurant, so they could make enough credits to go on awesome adventures exploring unknown space.” She continued her glare at the back room. “I gotta find out what she’s taking and why.”

Sally pulled out a magnifying glass she made and meticulously cleaned every miniscule spot on her side of the table. “Maybe she’s doin’ inventory to pick up more stuff for yer folks. What kind of trouble could she even get into with grub in the pantry? You’re just makin’ stuff up.”

Mira had her notebook flipped out in an instant. “Nuh uhn! The rare sevor’an spice is a key ingredient in some bad stuff people cook up in shadowy places. I bet she’s part of some black market smuggling ring on the station.”

Sally raised an eyebrow as she reviewed Mira’s notebook scribbles. “I’m startin’ to think yer folks should monitor the extranet searches yer diving into.”

The excitable Ra’Shasi girl jumped on the table Sally had just cleaned. “Nonsense! These are all things I need to know if I’m gonna be an ace investigator on the Nexus one day. It’s the coolest place! Centre of the known galaxy, billions of inhabitants on a space station so huge it has multiple biomes with weather, powered by a magical beam of energy as wide as a moon that’s collected straight from the star. It’s gonna be so cool!”

Sally hopped up next to her friend and proclaimed, “And I’ll be a famous inventor! Or a Seeker roundin’ up Pre-Pulse technology so I can fix my star warren and cure my people.” Mira held her and patted her back as the excitement gave her a coughing fit.

She tackled her friend to the ground as she heard the sharp hiss of a door opening. The waitress exited the storeroom, secreted some items into her bag, and left the restaurant.

Mira’s eyes grew wide. “We have to follow her and get to the bottom of this.”

Struggling to catch her breath, Sally said, “But we’ll get in trouble! You need to resist this naughty carnivore behaviour.”

Mira grabbed her friend by the shoulders. “I am a carnivore, Sally. A carnivore… for mystery!”

Sally cocked her head to the side. “A mysteryvore?”

The investigator yanked her friend into the station’s streets and chased after her suspect.


Located on the far periphery of the known galaxy, a region called Horizon’s Edge, the space station known as Otherside stood as the last bastion of civilization before the vast unknown. Originally established as a glorified rest and refuelling station for deep space explorers, over time, enough visitors and stranded adventurers wound up making it their home. Now, the orbiting gas station turned jury-rigged frontier town had a special charm being patched together by dreamers and vagabonds.

Vagabonds and snack-denying criminal masterminds.

Strutting through a special garden deck, the waitress had a second shadow who dragged her bunny girl friend with her between bits of cover. Mira studied her prey and marvelled at the woman’s brazen stride. She smirked at her holopad and marched with purpose, paying no mind to anyone who might discover her misdeeds. The canny huntress and investigator could still detect her elevated breathing, however. The suspect must be doing this for kicks.

Mira tackled Sally behind the trunks of a massive rock man’s legs and gasped as the waitress entered the pharmacy. “See? I knew it. Definitely must be a narcotics ring on the station.” She scribbled more connecting lines between thought bubbles in her notebook.

Sally adjusted her goggles. “You really have a knack for jumpin’ to wild theories instead of relyin’ on actual data. Come on, let’s go back before your mom gets mad. She’s really intense.”

A shadow fell over them and a voice said, “Who’s going to get mad?”

Sally yelped and dove on Mira, which threw her into a coughing fit. Towering over them stood a goat-like humanoid called a satyr wearing a worn lab coat.

Mira secreted her notepad in the pocket of her oversized bomber jacket. “Uh, no one’s getting mad, Mr. Gesh. We were just…” An awkward amount of time passed as Mira struggled to conjure up a believable excuse.

The elderly man, already a little hunched, leaned over and appraised them with a cybernetic attachment over his right eye. Mira held her breath, sure he was running a lie detector over her.

He reached a hand over her and ushered a still coughing Sally into the pharmacy. “Come, girls. Let me get you something for that nasty cough. Alas, I can’t cure the genetic affliction, but I whip up something to let you breathe easier.” He put a hand on Sally’s back and gave it a gentle pat. Mira shuffled over to help the old pharmacist back into his shop.

Once inside, he retrieved a soothing inhaler for Sally and gave Mira a healthy snack bar tailored to her physiology, saying she could use more meat on her bones.

Mr. Gesh settled himself in his favourite chair and chatted with Sally about her recent experiments with genuine interest. He answered her questions and guided her away from some harebrained ideas.

While Mira munched on a stick of carnivore crunch, the keen investigator remembered what was at stake and resumed the hunt.

Poking her head around a shelf, she spied her suspect chatting with a shaggy-haired man behind the counter. Her tail almost knocked over some articles on the shelf as she watched and scribbled more notes. They exchanged some knowing nods, then the waitress left. Mira dove behind a display for vacuum patch kits as she passed. Once the first suspect exited the store, Sally returned just in time to witness the man pocket something from behind the counter before disappearing into the pharmacy stockroom.

Mira pointed and shook her friend. “See?! How’s that for data?”

Sally stared and adjusted her goggles. “Okay, maybe a few points are linin’ up.” She looked at the standing blonde hairs on her pale arm. “This whole thing’s givin’ me the heebly-jeeblies.”

The man exited the storeroom with a box tucked under his apron. The kids ducked behind the display again. Mira had to reach over and pull Sally’s bunny ears down before he noticed.

After he passed, the leporan whispered, “I wonder what he took. We should tell Mr. Gesh.”

She went to get up, but Mira stopped her. “No. We have to follow them now, or they’ll get away. This is our only chance.”

Sally got yanked once more and whined, “Mira! We’re gonna get in trouble.”

The starry-eyed investigator charged off after the suspects. “No, Sally. We’re going to stop trouble!”


The dynamic duo almost bowled over someone’s bot as they sprinted out of the pharmacy. Her senses fired up, Mira spotted the man’s shaggy hair turning down an alley opposite the garden display in the centre of the deck. Maneuvering through passersby with Sally reluctantly in tow, Mira risked peering down the alley. Right before a burst of steam from a faulty pipe obscured her view, she saw the suspects enter and close a pneumatic door at the end of the alley.

Mira pulled her jacket over her head and charged through the steam. Listening at the door, her feline ear twitched. She heard muffled voices on the other side.

Sally approached, speaking low and wiping her goggles after the steam abated. “Looks like an old maintenance room. Surprised it’s still here. I never seen someone use ‘em since the bots took over those duties.”

Unable to hear what was being said inside, Mira backed up and looked around. “Gotta be a way in.”

Sally stomped her foot. “No, Mira! This is far enough. Use yer head instead of that carnivore belly of yours. If you’re right and they are real crooks doing something bad, what’re you gonna do if they catch you? You’re gonna get us in trouble or worse, get really hurt. Let’s just go back and tell Mr. Gesh.”

Mira grabbed her best friend by the shoulder and looked her in the eyes. “Listen, Sally. This might be our one chance to prove we’ve got what it takes to make it on the Nexus. My belly and my head are saying the same thing. Investigators don’t run from a good mystery. And neither do Seekers! Being scared all the time is no way to live. Say yes to adventure!”

The skinny, rambunctious investigator clambered up some scrap parts in the alley and clawed her way into a vent above. Sally fiddled with the mask filter she had strapped to her chest as she looked between her friend’s tail disappearing into the vent and back the way they came. Her skittish herbivore belly, cursed lungs, and calculating mind all agreed it was a bad idea to go in. But an adventurous heart pounded in her little chest.

Mira crawled through the grimy vent. She got the distinct impression that it had never been cleaned. As she reached an intersection in the forgotten infrastructure, she tried to focus and zero in on the suspects’ muffled voices. The rancid, oily scents and loud thrumming of a nearby fan made it hard for her to get her bearings. A clanging sound echoing through the vents straight ahead drew her attention. With the clock ticking, Mira made her decision and moved that way.

She hissed as something yanked her tail. Looking back, she saw Sally sweating buckets behind her. The leporan, struggling to catch her breath, knew more about the station’s engineering and thumbed to the right to indicate the correct path toward the abandoned maintenance room.

Barely able to turn around in the tight quarters, Mira gave her best friend a quick hug before heading the right way. The muffled voices grew louder as the duo braved the station’s filthy guts. Sally’s palpitations worsened as the voices sounded spectral inside the vents. Her imagination, full of stories of real ghosts and other things to be terrified of, filled with ideas as to why this part of the station was abandoned.

Mira reached a grate. The voices felt so close. Trying to quiet her breathing as much as she could, several items on a shelf on the other side obscured her vision inside the dim maintenance room.

A gust of air blew past Sally from behind, and the confines were too tight to turn around and see what it was. The claustrophobic conditions made it even harder for her to breathe. She scurried forward to the relative safety of her brave carnivore friend.

Mira tried to keep her panicking compatriot quiet, but space was at a premium. The creak of stretching metal blended with the spooky voices and myriad other sounds echoing through the dirty vents. It all crescendoed as the grate flew open with a loud ping of old bolts breaking. The articles on the shelf crashed to the ground as the girls tumbled out. On their way down, the shelf buckled under their weight, sending even more items crashing down around them.

When the dust settled, Mira and Sally looked up from the pile of junk they landed on and saw the suspects staring back at them. The evidence of their crimes laid bare before their very eyes.

The waitress held a bottle of cooking oil she took from the restaurant. The dim light in the dust-filled room illuminated her lubed up skin as she stood there in her underwear. Pressed against the back wall wearing only an apron, the shaggy-haired man held a strange device in his hands. An archaic camera that captured images on film.

Mira and Sally caught the amateur photographer snapping artsy pics of his aspiring model girlfriend before fooling around on their break.

Everyone held their breath as the long, awkward moment hung in the air.

Her hand slick from rubbing her body with oil, the bottle slipped out of the waitress’s grip and clattered to the floor. The sudden movement triggered Mira’s fight instinct, and she grabbed the only weapon she could find. Teeth clenched, she aimed Sally’s soap monster spray bottle at the suspects.

Seeing the kid point something weapon-shaped at them, the man’s flight instinct kicked in, and he turned to escape out a side door. His bare feet slipped on the spilled oil. The items he pocketed from the pharmacy counter flew out of his apron pocket as he fell to the ground.

Sailing through the air in slow motion, Mira closed her eyes and sprayed the waitress with soap as the item landed on her nose. Opening one eye, then the other, she couldn’t make out what it was, but it felt slick and sticky at the same time. Using her claws, the investigator examined it, realized it was an unused condom, screamed, then hurled herself backward, spraying more soapy streams over her shoulder.

With the item stuck to her claws, she bowled Sally into a shelf which collapsed into its counterpart on the opposite wall. Buckets of paint launched across the room to cover the now soap-covered waitress before her still slipping boyfriend kicked her legs out from under her.

The door flew open with a hiss. Drawn by the shrieks and loud noises, Mr. Gesh, station security, and Mira’s mother pushed their way into the tiny maintenance room. Before they could respond, the still slipping man, wrestling with his lubed up, soapy, paint-covered and half-naked girlfriend, mistakenly hit a button on his ancient camera.

Everyone in the room joined the screaming as an obnoxious bright flash blinded the newcomers and captured the embarrassing moment on film.

Hope you enjoyed that fun intro to the new series! There's a 17-year time skip right after this so we can follow Mira's journey as an adult, but it's fun to see her and Sally's shenanigans as kids. Also, this got the same treatment as other newsletter stories, but the finished product will get more polish and refinement.


Here's the link to the archive of newsletters in case you missed any.


Talk to you next month. Have a good one!

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