“This popular anthology includes 11 brand new tales from familiar names as well as a couple of stunning debut writers. Don’t miss their mind-blowing stories of alien encounters, space battles, and epic empires in the latest volume of this prestigious space opera series.
And as a taster, here’s the first page or so of my story, “Oresa” about intergalactic espionage agent Threnody Winters and her mission to bring hope to a dead planet:
According to her employers, Threnody Winters carried hope in her hands.
To her, it just looked like a sample canister. And after four interstellar jumps, six local space transfers, countless station layovers, and lines—oh, so many lines—she was starting to wish she could put the damn thing down.
She heaved her side-satchel onto the duraplastic table. The customs officer—a middle-aged person with short-cropped hair, red-brown skin, and station coveralls—popped the magnetic seals on the bag and started passing their hand-scanner through Threnody’s luggage.
The bag had started out crammed, the seals strained to bursting. A change of clothes, toiletries, an insta-shower box complete with shampoo compatible with most station hygiene units, data chips with preloaded books and an immersive city builder simulator (Watch Your Utopia Grow in Real-Time!), petty cash chits in every mainstream denomination for the vending bots, an expanding pocket tent, and lightweight bedding—everything one might need for a layover in a station port.
Now? Now she could probably leave it in a shuttle kiosk station and wouldn’t miss it. At least she didn’t have the tent anymore; that had been confiscated by the hostel on Ophi Station. She’d figured she’d lose it, but not before the halfway point in her journey.
So close. So close to delivering her burden. So close to completing this job. One last local space tug and then…
Threnody blinked. “What?”
“I said, do you have anything to declare?” A quick scan of the officer’s face with her optical interface implants pulled up their public ’net profile. Which was scant. They hadn’t selected a gender identifier, sticking with the default undisclosed, and their name was under a privacy lock. So much for the personal connection approach.
Threnody held up the canister. “Sample capsule. For research purposes.”
The officer tapped their scanner-headset, aimed the scanner-pad hand at the canister. And scowled. No doubt displaying glitchy data, courtesy of the scrambler integrated along the backside of Threnody’s belt.
They tapped the scanner again, then huffed. “We’ll need to inspect it. For contraband.”
“Contraband,” Threnody said, injecting every syllable with bewildered disdain.
“Could you place the item on the table…”“Oresa” by R.J. Howell, Beyond the Stars: Infinite Expanse
And if you enjoy Science Fiction/Space Opera tales, be sure to check out the rest of the Beyond the Stars series!