Star Children Saga Book 1
by Palmer Pickering
Genre: Adult SciFi Fantasy
-Chanticleer’s Paranormal award
-Readers’ Favorite General Fantasy award
-Foreword Indies awards
-Killer Nashville Silver Falchion awards
-Chanticleer’s Cygnus Science Fiction award
-SPFBO Fantasy award
“The path to power is cloaked in shadows, so if you avoid all the shadows, you’ll never learn anything.”
It’s 2090: the last outpost of freedom is the moon, the best defense against technology is magic, and the only hope for humankind rests in the hands of the Star Children. Twins Cassidy and Torr must save Earth from a ruthless enemy at a time when the only force more powerful than alien technology is magic. Moon Deeds launches the siblings’ journey across the galaxy, where they must learn their power as the Star Children, claim their shamanic heritage, and battle dark forces that threaten humankind.
The Star Children Saga follows Cassidy and Torr as they slowly awaken to their destiny as the twin Star Children, born every millennium to reconnect with the source of all life. They come to discover the sheer enormity of their task: to find our ancestors on a lost planet across the galaxy and save humanity from a spiraling descent into darkness. The powers they must wield to accomplish this task are truly frightening and put at risk everything they love.
Come along with twenty-year-old twins Cassidy and Torr, who inherited deeds to land parcels on the moon. They want to use their moon deeds to get off Earth and escape a brutal dictatorship. But first they must unlock their shaman powers. A rollicking yet poignant adventure in the not too distant future, when we have colonized the moon and nearly lost Earth to a dictatorship. Only the shamans remain free, plus the lucky ones who escaped to the moon.
Join the adventure! An addictive space opera, science-fantasy series.
“Evocative, wholesomely absorbing, and thematically rich, Moon Deeds is a must-read for all science fiction fans … Stunningly written, filled with magic, science, and intrigue, and featuring fascinating, endearing characters and a brilliant ravaged setting, this ambitious sci-fi novel is one of few books that once started are hard to put down and will make fans eagerly wait for the next installment in the series. It’s a novel that deserves to be read by every science fiction lover. Highly recommended.” -THE PRAIRIES BOOK REVIEW
“A highly recommended read for fantasy fans everywhere … There are some powerfully adult themes at play in this epic-length space opera, making the character-driven emotional plot just as important as the galaxy-wide savior story at play in the wider story arc. Fantasy and science fiction fans will enjoy the combination of alien sci-fi elements, super tech, fantasy magic, and old mythologies, which are all woven into the everyday plot with great credibility. Author Palmer Pickering handles the balance of interpersonal drama and plot progression well, and fans of series like Star Trek and Doctor Who are sure to appreciate such craftsmanship.” -K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
“Intelligent, high science fiction at its finest … I found this novel to be as much a psychological thriller as it is a science fiction adventure, and the draw-in happens almost instantly. This is unquestionably one of the best books I’ve read this year and Pickering has roped in an entire family as new fans. I’d give Moon Deeds a whole bucket of stars if I could.” -Asher Syed for Readers’ Favorite
**Only .99 cents!!**
Short excerpt from Moon Deeds
Chapter One and part of Chapter Two
Chapter 1 – Star Song
West San Jose, California, Western Free States, planet Earth
July 8, 2090
Cassidy stood in the backyard, staring up at the sky and listening to the music of the stars. The Shaman’s Shield of gray clouds loomed far overhead, covering the sky in a thick, impenetrable roof, and casting a gloomy pall over everything. Ever since the Shaman’s Shield had appeared three years ago, she had not seen the stars nor heard their music. But today the thin, ethereal strains wove through the neighborhood noise. The music was faint, but it was there.
It had been louder when she was a child, before Grandma Leann had shielded her. Cassidy had thought everyone could hear the music, a constant background noise of such poignant sweetness that sometimes it was painful to listen to. But she had realized over time that others did not hear it. Or perhaps they heard it subconsciously, or in their dreams, because sometimes she heard an echo of it when musicians played their instruments or choirs sang. Cassidy had tried to replicate the sound, studying violin as a child, then piano, but neither instrument captured the elusive tones.
The only one who understood was her twin brother, Torr. They had shared a room as children, and she used to sing to him.
“I recognize that song,” he had said one time in the middle of the night. She had been sitting up in bed humming the tune that was streaming through her head. Torr had awoken from a deep sleep and sat upright, staring at her. “I heard it in my dream.”
“You heard me humming,” she corrected him.
“No,” Torr said stubbornly. “The golden people were singing to me. Their song said you and I have to find them. We have to follow their voices.” Torr closed his eyes and sang the melody more truly than she ever had, picking out parts of the multi-layered harmony she had never captured before. And he added something resembling words that she did not understand, but which made her cry.
In the morning he had remembered the dream, but he could not remember the song. For days afterwards he had tried to get her to sing it back to him, but she could not get the melody quite right, and she did not know the strange language. Then when Grandma Leann laid the blanket of silence over her, the song stopped. As time passed, Cassidy forgot the tune she had always hummed. She could only recall hints of it, like wisps of clouds that slipped away as she tried to grab them.
Now the sky was singing to her again. The melody came to her, carried on the wind as though from a distant mountaintop. She was filled with joy to hear it, though the song was more mournful than she recalled. She still could not understand the words, but she remembered what Torr had told her that night in their attic bedroom, that the two of them had to follow the golden people’s voices and find them. She did not know who they were, or where they were, but they were still out there singing to her. Calling to her. Waiting.
Chapter 2 – Miramar
San Diego California, Western Free States, planet Earth
July 9, 2090
Something was not right with the air. There was a crackling that Torr could only sense when he stopped breathing. An intermittent wave of whispering, skin-tingling static. He lay on the platform inside the shadows of the cement bunker and stared through his rifle scope at the Shaman’s Shield. For three years the cloud barrier had stood between the Western Free States and the Tegs. Torr had joined the Gaia United rebels at the southern border two years ago, facing the massive wall every day. It soared up into the sky as though it were a towering marble cliff or a plunging waterfall, five miles high, stretching east to west far as the eye could see, shimmering like water but solid as stone. As far as anyone could tell, it was a cumulonimbus cloud made of ash from the volcanic mountains, held together by an unknown shamanic magic. The scientists called it an electromagnetic force field, of a sort no one had ever seen before. At its peak, the wall curved overhead, sealing them in from above in a thick cloud cover. But today the southern wall had receded from its normal position, exposing flat desert scrubland and skeletal bushes coated in ash. Since dawn, dark, vertical shadows had appeared at the base of the wall, as though some giant creature had attacked it overnight with long, jagged claws.
Torr crawled forward and poked his head out through the open front of the bunker half-buried in the hillside, and peered up at the sky. The cloud barrier overhead still appeared intact; the sky was gray and gloomy as ever, though it smelled like a storm was brewing. He pulled himself back inside and settled down behind his gun, tightening its bipod and adjusting the sand bag under the butt of the rifle. He inhaled deeply, held in his breath for three seconds, then exhaled and held it out for three seconds, hoping the breathing exercise would stop his cheek from twitching. It hadn’t bothered him in months—now his left cheek was spasming non-stop. He could not shoot with it jittering like that.
Inhale one two three. Exhale one two three.
He glanced over his right shoulder at Reina, propped up on her elbows on the plywood platform between him and the cement wall. She was staring through her spotting scope. Her TAFT stood on its bipod next to her, loaded and ready to mow down Tegs should they come streaming across the plain. Torr wanted to die before she did; he didn’t think he could bear to watch her suffer, or see her dead eyes staring up at him. It was a selfish thing to wish, but he wished it anyway. Bobby, on the other hand, lying on the platform to his left—two hundred pounds of solid muscle—he wouldn’t mind dying before Bobby. Torr would lean into him as he died, and Bobby would tell him everything was going to be all right, even though they both knew it wasn’t.
The bunker was a cement box, a single room with a hip-high wall spanning the length of the open front, and one door at the side. Their ten shooting positions—the three-person platform, six benches, and a machine gun—were lined up next to each other against the front rampart, close enough that hot, spent brass would hit their neighbors if they ever ended up engaging the enemy. Torr figured at that point they’d have more to worry about than flying shells.
Five cots lined the back wall, which they used in shifts. Each person had a footlocker stuffed under the cots, overflowing with dirty clothes, books, and toiletries. Duffle bags and towels hung from hooks, and more belongings were stuffed into cubbies set against the side walls. A table and workout area took up the remaining floor space.
Bobby always joked that their bunker was a tomb, and now Torr saw the truth of it. They would die right here along with the rest of their company, dug into the hills of Scripps Ranch. Teg troops would come storming in from the south. His squad would shoot at wave after wave of enemy soldiers until he and each of his nine comrades-in-arms were killed. Torr hoped for a clean bullet to the head.
His left cheek finally grew still. He pressed his right cheek against the stock of his Dashiel, then set his eye to the rifle scope. The distance readout in the upper left field of view changed as he panned across the base of the cloud wall.
“It’s pulled back another hundred yards,” he said.
“Uh-huh,” Reina said at his side. “It’s at eleven-thirty-two yards now.”
“The wind is crazy,” he said.
“I can just barely pick up a mirage,” Reina said. Her voice penetrated his earplugs as though she spoke to him through a thin metal pipe.
Torr dialed back his scope and examined the faint heat waves at five hundred yards. They were angling left to right. Five miles per hour. At seven hundred and fifty yards they went right to left, and at a thousand they were bubbling straight up. A few minutes ago he had smelled a sea breeze, then a couple minutes later it was a dry, desert breeze from the east, and now the stink of the bunker and ten sweating bodies overwhelmed his nostrils. A few of the leafless bushes on the newly exposed ground swayed back and forth, while others were completely still. It was going to be a trick to shoot in this.
“Rashon,” Torr called across the bunker. “I know you’ve got your earplugs in.” Rashon grumbled and shoved in his ear protection. “I’m gonna take a shot,” Torr warned. Smiley and Bates fumbled for theirs. They were supposed to always wear them, but a whole lot of nothing had been going on for so long people had slid into bad habits.
He slowly let out his breath and aimed for a spot dead ahead, angling towards the ground just beyond the visible edge of the Shaman’s Shield, and gently pulled back on the trigger. The rifle recoiled sharply against his shoulder with a loud report. The bullet did not skitter and hiss along the face of the wall as it should have, but pierced the cottony mass.
“Bates,” Torr called to his buddy down the line as he threw back the bolt and the empty shell casing landed with a clink at his elbow. His heart was pounding in his ears. He was aware he was shouting but his voice sounded far away. “Go tell Lieutenant James the shield barrier is gone. We should send in some scouts.” The lieutenant would yell at Torr for shooting without his command, but Torr didn’t care.
Bates looked through his binoculars, and everyone else grabbed theirs. “Glad I’m not a scout,” Bates muttered.
They had never sent in scouts before. Nothing had been able to penetrate the Shaman’s Shield. Torr stared into the ghostly magic, the last place he would willingly step into. Staying in the bunker was not much better. They should run for their lives. Torr sucked in his breath and tried to focus his attention on the air entering and leaving his lungs. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. The gun metal was warm in his hands. His pulse throbbed in his fingers. He would pull the trigger between heartbeats.
Bates left their position, and Torr tracked the sound of footsteps running towards Lieutenant James’s bunker in the hillock behind them. Torr switched from his scope to his binoculars and scanned the base of the Shaman’s Shield. The clouds shivered, and a new expanse of what looked like snow-covered ground became visible through a shroud of floating ashes.
His cheek resumed its twitching. “Damn it,” he muttered, focusing on his pulse to quiet the nervous tic. The tic grew stronger, and he shifted his attention to a long, dark shadow. Something had moved. He held his breath to hold the image steady in his lenses. Masses of thick black tentacles crept from a crack in the wall and waved slowly through the air as though seeking prey.
He squeezed his eyes shut to clear the nightmarish image, and when he opened them the tentacles were gone. He stared into the dark fissure. Nothing was there, and his twitch calmed to a throbbing pulse.
His imagination was getting the better of him. It was bad enough his dreams kept him up at night, now they were bleeding over into his waking life. He checked other rifts in the cloud wall. There were no signs of creeping tentacles. He swallowed down an upwelling of panic and concentrated on his breathing and pulse.
One of their Gaia United scout vehicles rumbled by, bouncing over the rough terrain. Torr counted his breaths until the armored jeep disappeared completely into the murky borderland. Another followed behind. Then a third. A hawk keened overhead. Torr got back on his rifle and focused in on the gap where the scouts had disappeared, wondering if they were riding on solid ground headed to face the enemy, or entering an unknown dimension, a gray netherworld they would never emerge from. He stared into the void. There was nothing to shoot at. Breathe. Relax.
“Torr, come here.” It was Lieutenant James’s deep voice.
Torr scrambled to the floor and stepped outside the bunker onto the dirt. “Yes, sir.”
“Did I tell you to shoot?”
The large black man towered a full head over Torr’s six-foot stature. He glared down at him, and Torr stood tall, meeting his gaze. Lieutenant James cleared his throat and said, “The shield barrier is gone.”
“I know, sir.”
“We’re going to need your sharp eyes,” the lieutenant said sternly.
“Back to your station.”
“Yes, sir.” Torr saluted and hurried inside, exhaling with relief that the lieutenant wasn’t going to discipline him like he had the time Torr had taken his squad target shooting without his permission and used up all their ammunition. That time Lieutenant James had made him crawl on his elbows and knees around the desert floor in his boxer shorts, looking for shell casings until his skin bled. Then he’d had to hand load every single intact shell. He’d spent all his breaks in the armament shack, with the guys who normally reloaded ammo inspecting his work and being perfectionist pricks about it. It had taken him days.
He had gotten off easy this time, which did not really comfort him any—it just meant the shit was about to hit the fan. He wedged himself between Reina and Bobby, who gave him sidelong glances. Torr’s lips quirked up as he adjusted his elbow pads and settled into his prone shooting position behind the Dashiel. His TAFT assault rifle rested at his side. He should switch out his bolt-action Dashiel for the semi-automatic so he could execute the hordes of enemies when they broke through the wall and charged across the valley. But TAFTs did not have the range or precision of the Dashiel. He was the Designated Marksman of the squad. His job was to take out long-range targets. That meant he would shoot first. Focus in on a man’s chest. Or head. Pull the trigger and confirm the kill. Watch a man die. A man he killed.
“You okay?” Bobby asked.
“Your buddies up in Shasta will fix the Shaman’s Shield, right?” Bobby asked, trying to mask the desperation in his voice with a raspy chuckle.
Torr did not reply. His squad teased him mercilessly because he had grown up in Shasta, a fact he had let slip one drunken afternoon when a few of them had spent a rare day of leave at Del Mar beach, swimming in the ocean and drinking as much beer as they could haul out to the hot sand. He had made the even greater error of telling them his mother had been a Shasta Shaman when she was younger. They regarded him with awe and suspicion after that. Everyone thought the Shasta Shamans were crazy sorcerers. Dangerous saviors. They liked to ask him if he knew any magic. He didn’t, but they never quite believed him. He thought they teased him just so they could keep asking him the same question, hoping that he really did.
Torr thought about how furious the Shaman’s Shield must make General Tegea. He could picture the skinny, sour-faced leader of the Teg army pacing back and forth like a raving lunatic, screaming at his generals to do something about those pig-faced mountain wizards. He was probably trying to find magic for himself. But magic wasn’t something you could buy or learn by studying books and following schematics. It required a calm mind and a connection to nature and spirit that someone like Tegea could never understand, no less master. Sure, he could hire shamans, but if they had bad intent, as Torr was sure they would, their power would eventually turn back on itself. That’s how it worked, his mother always said.
“They’re gonna fix it, right?” Reina repeated.
He turned to her. She was staring at him with those great big brown eyes. “Yeah, I’m sure they will,” he lied. Their hands found each other and he squeezed tight, trying to send her courage. They released their grip and turned back to their guns.
Reina reminded him of Cassidy. He tried not to worry about what would happen to his sister if the Shaman’s Shield fell. She would be fine. She and their parents would retreat to Shasta and hide in the mountain caverns. He wanted to get online and contact his family, but Johnson was hogging the only wired connection, playing games on his laptop, like usual.
“Johnson, find out what’s going on,” Torr said.
“I’m trying. The WestWeb’s crazy slow today. I can’t even connect to the Gaia United portal.”
Cell phones were useless inside the Shaman’s Shield, which jammed all electromagnetic frequencies, making it impossible to call anyone over the cell network, or even to text. Torr’s phone had died a while ago, and he hadn’t bothered to replace it—he had his laptop for games and music. He had used the dead phone one time for target practice, taking a small delight in watching it explode.
He could run five miles to the base’s communication center and call home to warn his family from their wired phones, but he was squad leader and couldn’t abandon his post. Not now.
“Check the radio,” he said to Johnson.
Radios hadn’t worked the whole time they’d been here, for the same reason the cell network didn’t function, but Johnson still checked occasionally, mostly because he was the Communications Tech and he was supposed to. Johnson put on his headset and started scanning frequencies for a signal. Without the Shaman’s Shield, they would have access to the electromagnetic spectrum again, but so would the Tegs. Even worse, without the Shaman’s Shield General Tegea would be free to bomb the shit out of them, or unleash some other alien Cephean weapon technology.
Reina got out her cell phone and tried to connect. Torr watched her screen over her shoulder. No service.
“Do you hear anything?” Reina asked Johnson.
He shook his head and continued scanning. “Wait. No.”
Everyone’s eyes turned to him.
“Static. Wait. Voices. No.”
“Let me hear.” Smiley was the closest and grabbed the headset off Johnson’s head, getting a shove in return.
Johnson unplugged the headset and tossed the wire at Smiley as the tinny speaker of the radio filled the bunker with a high-pitched whine.
Torr sat up. It was more noise than they’d ever gotten before; not the usual soft static of the Shaman’s Shield. Johnson continued scanning the frequencies. Short snippets of voices and buzzing static phased in and out. There was nothing intelligible, but signals were reaching the radio. The Shaman’s Shield was definitely losing its magic. Torr met Bobby’s eyes, and they both turned to stare at the thinning barrier.
Star Children Saga Book 2
Sequel to Palmer Pickering’s award-winning Moon Deeds
– A. Muir
“This is one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in a long time.”
– T. Govender
In Light Fighters, Cassidy and Torr are trying to survive on the moon while facing threats from all sides. As their shamanic heritage surfaces and they hone their magical skills, they are hunted for their power, escalating into a tension-filled game of cat and mouse.
Ridge is stuck between the sadistic Balty and the desire to control his own life. His magical gifts become entangled with those around him, pulling him between opposing forces. When his path crosses that of the Star Children, he must decide whose side he is on.
Meanwhile, we learn that while the twin Star Children are hoping to find the Star People, the Star People of Turya are desperately seeking the Star Children as well. Their stories interweave as the mythology of the Star Children unfolds.
A compelling expansion of the Star Children Saga.
Adult content: 18+
Palmer has been writing fiction since she was eight. She received her BA in American Studies from Wesleyan University, with concentrations in Religion and Race Relations.
She currently works in Silicon Valley in the gaming industry and high tech. In addition, Palmer holds a certificate in Chinese Acupressure, is a certified solar panel installer, and studied Tibetan Buddhism with the 14th Dalai Lama.
She lives and writes in the magical redwood forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.
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