Cary Caffrey has certainly marked himself as a writer with a future with his first science fiction novel, The Girls from Alcyone.
And the good news is, this science fiction thriller is part of a series, played out in richly developed galaxies by solid characters and with fabulous gadgets and gismos. The readership spans generations, from YA to good old boys with a penchant to escape from Earth and indulge in adventures. Soon to be released in paperback, you can now buy The Girls from Alcyone on Kindle from Amazon U.S. and Amazon UK or at Smashwords if you prefer to read on Ipad or Nook or PC, etcetera.
Sigrid and Suko are two girls from the impoverished and crime-infested streets of 24th century Earth. Sold into slavery to save their families from financial ruin, the girls are forced to live out their lives in service to the Kimura Corporation, a prestigious mercenary clan with a lineage stretching back long before the formation of the Federated Corporations.
Known only to Kimura, the two girls share startling secret—a rare genetic structure not found in tens of millions of other girls.
But when their secret becomes known, Sigrid and Suko quickly find themselves at the center of a struggle for power. Now, hunted by men who would seek to control them, Sigrid and Suko are forced to fight for their own survival, and for the freedom of the girls from Alcyone.
March 2, 2339
The wet cloak hung heavy over Dr. Lisa Garrett's shoulders. The wide hood kept slipping low over her face so she had to keep lifting it to see where she was going. She cursed as her foot found another deep puddle. Though cumbersome and stifling, the cloak at least gave her some protection from the torrential rains that always fell on Earth these days.
She might have passed unnoticed through the narrow and crowded alley were it not for the three hired bodyguards who shadowed her. The men stayed close to her side studying all passersby, shooting warning looks at anyone who ventured near their ward. They kept their sidearms in plain sight, worn on clips at their hips in easy reach of their hands. There could be no mistaking their intent.
Lisa knew the streets of Earth were no place for a young man or woman to be walking alone, but she felt ridiculous with the hired thugs traipsing after her. She couldn't wait to get back to Alcyone and the Academy where she'd no longer need the service. As much as she detested Earth, she had insisted on coming. Her work for the Kimura Corporation, the small but prestigious mercenary company, was at a critical juncture and she couldn't trust anyone to negotiate the meeting on her behalf. She needed this girl too much.
Kimura hadn't wanted her to make the trip from Alcyone. On Earth, she'd be exposed to attacks from rival corporations—either from those who wished to steal her as an asset or kill her as a threat. While the dangers were real, she was probably at greater risk of becoming the victim of a simple random mugging.
The heavy steel gate of the habitat groaned opened for her as she approached; the security system having already logged her as an expected guest. Inside, the small lobby was decorated in typical Earth fashion—garbage and graffiti, and smelling faintly of urine. She frowned at the puddled floor, almost as wet as the street outside and fed by a perpetually dripping ceiling.
Lisa removed her hood. The constant humidity was doing a number on her hair. She ran her hands self-consciously through her damp chestnut curls. At twenty-five, she was much younger than usual for someone holding Ph.D.s in Neurology, Genetics and Biomechanics. Her soft, curved face and large hazel eyes belied a fiercely competitive nature and a sharp, analytical mind.
Lisa knocked on the armored door of the small, cube-shaped apartment while her bodyguards waited at a discreet distance. "What a shit-hole," she muttered to herself, looking around at the crumbling hallway.
As the door opened, a middle-aged couple greeted her, but Lisa's eyes were drawn to the young girl standing just behind her parents. She recognized Sigrid instantly. Nine years old, with long blond hair, she was very small for her age. The girl was just a tiny, timid thing, but she was perfect—a perfect physical specimen, an ideal, and a very rare, genetic match for her program.
Finding her had not been easy. It was only her access to Kimura's vast resources that had enabled her to locate the girl. Now she just needed to persuade the parents to let her take their child away, halfway across the galaxy. Probably for the rest of her life. At least the family's current financial predicament was no secret. It was hardly an uncommon problem, but such information could prove to be important—and something she could use.
"Mr. and Mrs. Novak," Lisa said, extending her hand. "I'm so very pleased to meet you."
Mrs. Novak took her hand nervously. "Dr. Garrett...yes. Sigrid, come say hello to the Doctor."
The woman urged her daughter forward. Lisa noticed that the woman pronounced the girl's name Seegrid, rather than Zigrid. She made a mental note.
"Call me Lisa." She bent low, extending her hand to the small girl who took it politely.
Mrs. Novak motioned her inside. "Come in—please."
They ushered Lisa into a tiny living room where she took the proffered chair, while the Novaks and their daughter settled on the small sofa facing her. The apartment was typical of the identical habitat units found in any city on Earth; small and cramped, but efficient. The modular structures could be stacked on top of one another as needed. The cramped confines might be called intimate by some—mostly by the corporations who sold them—but Lisa found them stifling.
"Lovely place," she observed.
"Oh, thank you so much. It's not much, of course…"
Lisa smoothed the pleats of her skirt. She knew how sensitive these meetings were, and how easily things could swing either way. Everything hinged on what she had to say next, and she chose her words carefully. "I can't tell you how happy I am that you agreed to this meeting, Mr. and Mrs. Novak. I know Kimura has already informed you they were considering Sigrid for the Academy—"
"It does sound exciting!" the woman blurted.
Lisa cocked an eyebrow, noting the woman's agitated state—or was it anticipation?
"I want you to know that Sigrid is very important to us," Lisa told them. "Many girls are considered for the program, but few are chosen. But in your daughter's case…" Lisa's eyes fell to the small girl sitting between her parents. "I'm very pleased to say that she does qualify. We would very much like to have Sigrid come and stay with us—if you'll allow it."
The parents breathed a relieved sigh, clutching each other's hands. Definitely a good sign—the family was clearly more desperate than she'd thought.
"We're so relieved—and so happy for Sigrid!" Mrs. Novak said. "She's looking forward to the Academy—I know it. There's…just one thing…"
Lisa braced for the question—the question that always came.
"We were just wondering…we're very grateful, of course—we know how reputable Kimura is, but this program…what exactly is it you're going to do to Sigrid?"
Lisa's answer was well-rehearsed, and she leaned forward with a warm smile. "Sigrid will receive the very best education and training from Kimura. I can promise you there's nothing like this program anywhere on Earth. You're very lucky, Mr. and Mrs. Novak. Sigrid is a very special girl. She's been blessed with a unique gift—one not found in millions of other girls."
Lisa nodded and her smile widened. "Yes. And I will show her how to use that gift."
Before Mrs. Novak could enquire further, Lisa took a data-pad from her purse and unfolded it, nudging it across the coffee table to the Novaks. On it was displayed the contract with the very extravagant sum Kimura would forward to the Novaks' accounts. "I believe this will be more than adequate to take care of your entire family's financial…situation."
Discussing the finances always felt perverse to Lisa. Fortunately, Mr. Novak's eyes bulged at the amount displayed on the pad. He pressed his thumb to the screen eagerly.
Mrs. Novak made a show of at least pretending to read the contract before signing. "The program does sound intriguing. I'm sure if Mr. Novak wasn't…well, if Peter hadn't had such bad luck with the markets…"
Lisa grimaced. She never understood their need to explain their financial difficulties.
Mrs. Novak sniffed. "No one could have foreseen the downturn in commodities. Still, I'm certain we would have wanted Sigrid in the program, regardless. We always suspected she was gifted. Isn't that right, darling?"
Mrs. Novak nudged her husband whose eyes remained fixed on the money displayed on the pad. He nodded, grunting assent.
Lisa retrieved the pad and folded it back into her purse. "Of course."
"And with Sigrid's birth-debt…" Mrs. Novak wrung her hands together. "Well, you know…"
Lisa knew all too well. Birth-debts were the increasingly popular practice that allowed debt-ridden families to defer their burdens to their unborn children. Girls like Sigrid were often born into staggering seven-figure debts. For the Novaks, selling their daughter's life contract to Kimura would rid the family of generations of financial ruin. It would take Sigrid most of her life to work off that debt as an indentured laborer for Kimura.
"Yes, of course," Lisa said, with practiced sympathy. "A tremendous burden on a young girl." Lisa believed in her heart that Sigrid would be better off with her than with these people—better off on Alcyone than on this crowded, dirty and crime-infested planet. The only people left on Earth were the people who couldn't afford to leave.
She reached across the table and took the little girl's hand in her own. "You and I are going to have a tremendous adventure. Have you ever heard of Alcyone?" The girl shook her head. "It's a beautiful planet, and it's full of girls just like you." Lisa smiled as she watched the girl's eyes light up. The girls always responded well to that. "There will be fields and mountains and grass, and lots of other girls to play with. Would you like to come with me and meet them all? I'm sure they'll love you so much."
Sigrid nodded vigorously, but Lisa could feel how nervous she was as the girl's tiny hand tightened in her own.
She led the girl to the door. Her parents already had her bags packed.