"I love sci-fi romance and am always on the lookout for a new author. This was a great introduction to a new world with characters that were memorable and believable."-Cyberclipher, Amazon reviewer
"I knew from page two of Greenshift that I had a writer-crush on Heidi Ruby Miller. I mean, holy crap, this girl can write! This is how you write Science-Fiction."
-Cary Caffrey, best selling author of THE GIRLS FROM ALCYONE
"Miller's characters blaze with life and lust and depth, and her world is a dichotomy of the glamorously sensual and the brutally dangerous."
-Mary SanGiovanni, Bram Stoker nominated author of THE HOLLOWER trilogy
"...I loved the world building in this, the attention to detail and the portrayal of the characters. Heidi has a talent for making them so real. The writing is flawless and descriptive, and all the premises and reactions believable and consistent. The bad guys completely gave me the creeps..."
-Pippa Jay, author of KEIR
"The action and romance are seamlessly woven together, transporting us and leaving us petulant for more when the story is over."
-from the foreword by Dana Marton, New York Times best selling author of THE THIRD SCROLL
"GREENSHIFT gives readers a delightfully malicious villain and a thrilling climax that had me on the edge of my seat and left me gasping for breath when all was said and done. Fans of Sci-Fi Romance are sure to enjoy this romance and action-packed novel."
-S.A. Sullivan, author of THE HAUNTED HOUSEWIVES OF ALLISTER, ALABAMA
"No spoilers here, but if you love planet hopping, space crafts, incredibly thought out societal pecking orders, stuff called scent bots and voyeurs, and characters you simply cannot resist rooting for...read this."
-T. K. Toppin, author of THE LANCASTER RULE series
Greenshift is the first book in a new series set within the world of Ambasadora. This space thriller contains elements of futuristic romance, military science fiction, a galactic empire, dystopian society, and space opera.
In this caste-ruled society, celebrity, beauty, and power mean everything and multiple partners are the norm. Love and jealousy are considered emotional fallacies, nothing more than fleeting moods and sentiments biased by hormones. But sometimes people just fall in love...and that can be deadly.
Mari's rare eye color makes her a pariah within Upper Caste society, which is why she prefers plants to people...except David, the former Armadan captain who shuttles scientists around on a refurbished pleasure cruiser.
But someone else is interested in Mari and her distinctive look--an obsessed psychopath who tortures and murders women for pleasure.
When the killer chooses Mari as his next victim, the soldier inside David comes alive, but it is Mari who must fight for her own life and prove she isn't as fragile as the flowers she nurtures.
FIRST TWO CHAPTERS OF GREENSHIFT
I’m giving you one more chance.
“Unidentified transport vessel, this is Captain David Anlow of the Argo Protector. You have entered forbidden space above an embargoed planet. Disengage your weapons or we will take this as a sign of aggression and release gunships. Do you acknowledge?”
The UTV’s silence mimicked their response to the first two hails.
David’s gunship crews were standing by for launch. Normally he would simply fire a warning shot across the UTV’s bow. The sight of a blue-white plasma ball rapidly filling the viewscreen was enough to force even the most powerfully equipped ships to surrender. And the mid-sized transport vessel facing off with them now only had low grade weaponry that would simply vaporize as it glanced off the Protector’s massive shields.
But David couldn’t risk a warning shot here without the plasma punching through the atmosphere of Tampa One and hitting the planet. The sharp silhouette of the oblong UTV was black against the green and white haze of Tampa One. He hadn’t been on the pristine planet in decades—few had since Sovereign Prollixer and the Quorum of Archivists designated it an eco sanctuary. That meant no new settlements, no harvesting or mining, only tourists who could pay the exorbitant prices that the Embassy-sanctioned outfitters demanded.
“Third hail,” Commander Lyra Simpra said, her cinnamon breath reminding David of his unfinished cup of chai from this morning. “Gunships are a go, Captain.”
Lyra had never been a patient woman.
His patience wore thin, too. “Launch gunships two and four.”
The situation felt wrong to David. He had been captaining the Protector for ten years and had moved rapidly through fleet ranks since enlisting as a teenager. In all that time he learned to hone his instincts. Right now they told him there was something he was missing.
To the gunships he instructed, “Close half the distance. Wait for my order to engage.” Then so that only his commander could hear, “Lyra, something feels off about this ship.”
“Aside from their outdated registration, non-existent transponder codes, and unwillingness to answer us?” the blonde Armadan asked. “Oh, and there’s the bit about their weapons being online.”
Only Lyra could get away with talking to him like that, and not just because of how they spent their time together off the bridge. He valued her opinion—she never let emotion cloud her judgment, even when it came to him.
“Do you really think it’s a coincidence,” she said, “that the day the Embassy sends down the quorum to reconsider the Archenzon embargo, this UTV shows up?”
“Why would they do this?” David asked. “They had to know they’d be hopelessly outgunned.”
“Desperation. To make a statement.” Lyra didn’t sound like she cared about motive. Her mood had been irascible since she returned from a meeting at fleet headquarters last week. She’d never told David what that meeting was about, and he never asked because there would always be parts of their lives they didn’t discuss—their positions as officers wouldn’t allow it.
Considering their conversation before she attended that meeting, David suspected Lyra had requested a transfer. He shouldn’t have brought up marriage again.
The comm officer interrupted his thoughts. “They’re responding, sir.”
“Argo Protector we have families on board traveling from Tampa Three. We’re requesting an emergency landing. Don’t fire.”
“Convenient,” Lyra said.
David agreed. “Why are your weapons online?”
“That can’t be. Our ship isn’t armed.” The man’s voice sounded nervous, not necessarily like he was lying, more like the pronouncement caught him unawares.
David looked to his petty officer for confirmation.
“Still reading as online, sir.”
“Our sensors report your weapons are online. Disengage and we can discuss your emergency situation,” David said.
To his comm officer he said, “Relay this information, including the request for an emergency landing, to HQ.”
“I’m telling you we don’t have any weapons, online or otherwise.” Panic infused the man’s voice.
“We’re assessing your situation now,” David said.
“Response coming in from fleet HQ, Captain,” the comm officer said.
“Put it through.”
“Why hasn’t that ship been dealt with?” To David’s surprise, he recognized the voice as Rear Admiral Quartis. He expected a comm officer to relay the message. The Embassy must really be concerned with the security for the quorum’s little foray on-planet. Most likely the escalating terrorist attacks by the fragger organization this past week.
“Sir, there may be civilian families on board—”
“Squatters, you mean,” Quartis snapped back. “Trying to stake a claim to land on Tampa One before the embargo lifts.”
David had considered that. Debates consumed the Media feeds concerning the upcoming vote which would decide whether those citizens already living on the surface of Tampa One could remain. The single point all legislators agreed upon, however, was that no new immigrants would be tolerated. If the passengers in the UTV were Lower Caste citizens from the ill-formed and dirty world of Tampa Three, David could understand their desire to live in paradise on the rustic and isolated Tampa One.
“I’ll have troopers from one of the gunships board them,” he said, “and assess the situation from that end. If there’s no threat to the Protector, the UTV can handle its emergency in our docking bay.” To the comm officer David said, “Relay that order to gunship two.”
“If that ship doesn’t comply with boarding, engage and destroy. The Enforcer is on its way to back you up,” Quartis said.
David bristled. “I think one battleship can handle a UTV, sir.”
“Don’t forget who you’re talking to, Captain Anlow.”
“You might want to hold your tongue, Captain, before you make us all look bad,” Lyra spit out through gritted teeth.
“And, you might want to hold yours, Commander.” He didn’t need Lyra’s pissy attitude right now.
“The UTV’s weapons went offline,” the petty officer said. “Sir, it’s making a break for Tampa One’s atmosphere.”
“Tell gunships to follow,” David said. “Do not engage. Hail the UTV again.”
“That goes against direct orders, sir,” Lyra said.
“It isn’t protocol to shoot down a civilian ship with its weapons offline,” David said.
Every trooper on the bridge remained still, listening to the stand-off between the officers.
“Rear Admiral Quartis’s direct order overrides fleet protocol according to Section 4.30-74 of the Armadan—”
David cut Lyra off. “I’m not blasting a passenger transport out of the sky without true proof of threat. You may return to your quarters, Commander Simpra.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, David.”
His head snapped around at the use of his given name. That should have been the biggest surprise, but it paled in comparison to the shock of seeing her pointing a cender between his eyes.
“This isn’t personal,” she said.
“Gunships standing by—Sir, gunships from the Enforcer just fired on the UTV.”
David watched the wall-sized viewscreen as the UTV broke apart into hundreds of red-orange fireballs plunging through Tampa One’s atmosphere.
The sub-orbital ship’s gangway dropped slowly, first revealing stark white clouds mushrooming into a deep blue sky then the undulating surface of a brilliant turquoise sea on Tampa Deux. Wren had never seen anything like this back on Deleine, even along the coast of the Chac Territory where the ocean wasn’t quite as polluted as the rest of the planet. And it smelled just as she had imagined, like a thousand air purifiers were working at once.
She could never leave this beautiful place…because she was probably going to die here.
Terror seized her again, freezing her feet to the dock. Wren’s heart pounded so hard, and the blood pushed through her veins with such force, that she thought she might pass out.
“Please don’t do this,” she begged Carlos, the tall blonde Armadan who pulled her along the private dock. His large hand completely wrapped around her bicep, ensuring she went only where he intended. Not that he would help her anyway—he was only hired muscle with no authority to do anything except what Dale Zapona told him to.
She implored Dale. “Please. I want to go home. You can’t sell me.”
The wealthy business mogul ignored her pleas.
“You said you would show me the system.” Her voice elevated in panic and outrage, wishing she had refused his offer of adventure back at the mining consortium headquarters on Deleine. Sitting behind a desk all day and reviewing miners’ health benefits didn’t seem so bad. “You lied about everything.” She despised the memories she had of mooning over this man whose secret trade was in human trafficking.
“Shut her up,” Dale said.
Carlos pulled Wren up close to his chest. “You want me to remind you how rough I can be?”
She still wouldn’t have known her fate had Carlos not become bored during the journey and decided to make her his entertainment. He couldn’t seem to get it up until he saw her fear. Telling her Dale had made a deal with some psychopath for her enslavement was enough to bring on the terror.
She had been afraid every second of every hour since.
They crossed the synthstone dock over the sea as it became a boardwalk spanning a high dune. Her shoulder length hair curled up and stuck to her neck, and the humid air invited biting insects. Wren swatted at the winged attackers, but they were fast and raised red welts on the fair skin of her exposed arms and legs and where her sleeveless sheath had ripped during her struggle with Carlos back on board the freighter. Her bulging lower lip also bore the evidence of that one and only escape attempt when she had gone mad with the thought of him touching her again.
Carlos promised Liu Stavros would be worse, but the man waiting for them on the exquisite white patio was unexpected.
He was in his early twenties, she guessed, not much older than she was. And very good-looking, reminding her of the guys she and her friends drooled over on the Media feeds from clubs at the Hub and the few exclusive franchises on Deleine.
When he saw them, he spread his arms and asked, “What the hell is this?”
The pink shirt he wore billowed open where he hadn’t bothered to button it in the front, revealing a thin, but toned chest and abdomen. She couldn’t see any tan lines where the bronze skin disappeared beneath the waistband of his beige linen pants.
He flipped his dark shades up from his boyish button nose to look Wren up and down with light brown eyes—the same shade her eyes used to be until the vaccine turned them golden-orange.
“Where’s the blonde?” he asked. “And what’s up with the busted lip? You know I won’t pay full price for damaged goods.”
“She had a little fall,” Dale said, though he gave Carlos a look which said the difference in price was coming out of his cut.
“That a fact?” Liu said, unconvinced. “You’re lucky if I pay half because I already have one with chestnut hair in there.” He hitched a thumb over his shoulder toward the double glass patio doors.
If Wren wasn’t what he wanted, maybe they’d let her go. A small hope swam to the top of her fear.
The sick smile that spread across Liu’s mouth immediately sank her hope.
“But I guess you did come all this way.” A crazed expression warped his handsome features and a fast excitement infused his voice. “The mind minstrel’s probing the other one right now.” He let the double entendre linger in the air before asking, “Want to hear the music we’re making? I just got this thing last week. It cost more than that piece of shit shuttle you landed in. Got it from some Lower Caste kid who claimed he was a fragger. But if his scrawny ass was some anti-Embassy rebel, then I’m the fucking Sovereign.”
Dale seemed unimpressed. “I don’t need to hear anything and I don’t need to see anything. I just need my money, Liu.”
“Oh. Come on. You know you want to see it. I know she’s never seen one in action before.” Liu walked over and grabbed Wren’s chin roughly in his hand and stared into her eyes, or rather stared at them. She was used to people showing a mild interest in her rare genetic defect, but this man studied her irises as though he were a doctor…or some kind of mad scientist.
“How about it?” he asked. “They have any mind minstrels on that cesspool planet you’re from?”
She didn’t want to answer, didn’t want to speak to him or even look at him. So she closed her eyes. His grip on her jaw and chin tightened as he shook her head and forced her to stare back at him. “I asked you a question. Do they have any mind minstrels on your fucking filthy planet?”
“Then you’re really going to enjoy this.” He snagged her forearm and dragged her to the patio doors. She couldn’t see anything but the sea and sky reflected in the dark glass, but she could hear muffled music and voices from somewhere inside.
The cacophony of screamed lyrics and erratic beats blasted out at them as soon as Liu ripped open the door.
All Wren could make out at first was a triangle of light piercing into the darkness from the doorway. Then movement caught her attention near the ceiling. A small, thin parallelogram bobbed around as if in a lazy current and shined a strobing beam of blue-green light down onto the bed like a search beacon. Its focus was a rounded lump, secured by leather straps and huddled on one corner of the disheveled sheets.
Liu shouted over the deafening music. “Emotions drive the song, and it’ll pick up bits of conversation.”
As if to emphasize his point, an eerie strain of “Pick it up, p-p-pick it up,” grated along with the fast tempo, repeating until it was nothing more than a manic scream.
Wren’s entire body shook from the surreal scene and the sensory overload.
The primal shrieking only excited Liu. He threw his head back, spread his arms and bounced to the sickening beat. “I swear it’s reading her fucking mind sometimes.”
Liu pointed to the lump on the bed and slapped Dale on the shoulder. “The shit it spits out in the lyrics is genius.”
Dale’s jaw twitched in agitation, and Carlos’s skin looked grey in the strobing afterglow of the mind minstrel’s light.
Wren wished her sight had never adjusted to the darkened room when the naked woman on the bed twisted around in her leather bindings to face them. Her mouth gaped but no words came out. Dark stains dripped down her jaw and….
Wren followed the trail of drying blood up past the woman’s nose.
She should have never looked.
Then she wouldn’t have seen the empty sockets.
Liu smiled as he pointed two fingers at Wren’s eyes and shouted. “Let’s see what kind of music you make.”