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Authors: Fay McDermott

Catch a Falling Star

BOOK: Catch a Falling Star
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Catch a Falling Star
Fay McDermott
(2012)

A girl from a world on the edge of human colonized space attempts to salvage the wreckage of a downed deep space fighter, only to discover she's got the living pilot on her hands. She's drawn into helping her handsome enemy, with his smiling eyes and voice like liquid sugar, even as her life crumbles around her.

Catch
a Falling Star

By Fay McDermott

 

 

 

For anyone who has ever wished to catch a falling
star.

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products
of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events
is purely coincidental.

 

Cover Illustration & Book Copyright © 2012 by
Fay McDermott

Cover art & design by Fay McDermott &
ghostmoongraphics.com
http://www.facebook.com/FayMcDermott

 

Chapter
1

Chapter
2

Chapter
3

Chapter
4

Chapter
5

Chapter
6

Chapter
7

Chapter
8

Chapter
9

Chapter
10

Chapter
11

Chapter
12

Chapter
13

 

 

Chapter 1

 

After sliding the
heavy barn door closed, the young woman rested against the
battered metal surface, brushing back the stray strands of hair
that had escaped her long braid. Her eyes went to the streaks of
purple and gold that painted the horizon, the final rays of the
summer day giving way to the night. It would start to cool down
now, she thought thankfully. The sweat that dampened and
darkened her brown hair also coated her skin, making her itch if
she allowed herself to think about it. A bath would be lovely
but she had no time for it. Not yet.

Pushing away from the
big door, she put one hand to her back, stretching to relieve
the tightness. Her gaze went up to the second story of the old
farmhouse, the dim light of a lantern barely visible in the room
she looked toward. She headed off for the house and the kitchen
to prepare the meal that she would carry to that dimly lit room.

With a bowl of soup
and a glass of water balanced on a tray, she opened the door.
The stairs had had to be taken carefully since she'd twisted an
ankle out in the fields; there was enough pain that she was
careful on it though she didn't think it was anything serious.
She deliberately did not limp, however, once she stepped inside,
just in case he was awake and watching the door for her.

She quietly moved to
the bed and set the tray on the side table. “Papa?” Her voice
was just above a whisper as she watched his dear, gaunt face.
“Are you awake? It's time to eat again, Papa.”

He turned his head
toward her, the wasting of his illness starkly evident when she
turned the lamp's light higher. Her smile faltered but she kept
it in place. He was her father. He was all she had left.

She had two brothers
though she didn't know where they were now. They'd gone to town
for supplies and never returned. There had been a conscription
crew making a sweep of the town and it was assumed they were
among those caught up in the net. If so, they were truly gone.
None ever returned once claimed by the Alliance to fill out
their “volunteer” quotas. She kept hoping that hadn't been their
fate, but inside she feared it was so.

That had been two
years before. Last winter, a terrible one, had taken her mother
and now her father was ill. The doctor had visited and
pronounced there was nothing to be done but let time take its
course. Her beloved father, all she now lived for, would recover
or he would not. She was determined to make sure he lived but he
was getting worse, not better. It became harder to deny every
day.

His sunken eyes, once
bright blue and full of laughter, were now dimmed and not really
seeing her at first. “Genia? There you are.” The mention of her
mother's name made his daughter pause, as it did every time. He
didn't remember anymore that his wife was gone for nearly six
long months now.

“No, Papa, it's just
Lyrianne with your snack.” She gently corrected him, knowing
he'd forget again. And again.

Helping him to a
sitting position propped up by pillows, she settled his
blankets. He watched her, his eyes watering and his gaze vague.
He had to draw in air before speaking again, the weak, quivering
voice hardly recognizable as his. “Lyrie? When you get a moment,
send Del up to see me. We have to discuss the plans for the new
springhouse.”

She started to
explain that Delvin, like Samtel, was gone, but what was the
point? He wouldn't remember, anyway; no more than he'd remember
in a few minutes that he'd asked her to send her eldest brother
up to see him.

She filled him on her
day's work as she fed him the soup, relieved he was able to hold
it down. He would only accept half the glass of water before he
refused more, claiming he had to lie down again. She didn't
argue. It would do neither of them any good to push him to take
more.

Bringing the tray
downstairs again, she set the kettle on to heat water for his
sponge bath then sat down at the table with a slice of bread and
a half bowl of stew. She ate because she knew she had to, not
because she was hungry, but managed to get it all down.

The sponge bath was
one of the most difficult times of her daily ritual, breaking
her heart as it did every time. It was impossible for her not to
see how terribly thin he'd become. Once done, she settled him
comfortably under the covers again to sleep.

Downstairs again
after ensuring he was sleeping as comfortably as he could, she
stared about for a moment, her mind numb, then took in a deep
breath and went back outside. The first moon was showing above
the peaks to the east, the light of the second one already
visible as its aura reached out toward the first.

Moonlight was
soothing and she was watching the sky in that direction when she
saw a flash, then another, then another, far too high in the sky
to bring sound with them. She knew what they were and wasn't
terribly surprised to see a sudden blossom of light appear,
growing bigger and brighter by the second before it suddenly
winked out.
It was strange that a battle in space could look
so peacefully beautiful when seen from the ground,
she
thought.

She was just about to
turn back to her evening's work when she caught a comet-tailed
flash of light that brought with it a faint whizzing sound as it
seemed to arc toward her from the sky. It looked like it was
going to crash on their land, maybe no more than a mile from the
house. Her eyes wide, she watched its trajectory. It was not
going to come down as close as she'd first thought, but near.
The
whomp
of sound that followed the geyser of light as
it hit shook her into action.

Rushing to the mule,
she reached up and pressed the ignition, getting no response at
first. With a frustrated growl, she kicked the metal side of the
beast. Thankfully, she was rewarded with a mechanical wheeze
followed by the whine of the engine, spiraling up to full power.
She straddled the saddle-like seat, pulled her goggles into
place then grabbed the control bars, pressing down the
accelerator only to hear the engine wind back down to silence.

“No you don't, you
freaking stubborn piece of junk! You will work. You have to
work.” From the seat, she kicked the frame with her bad ankle,
which hurt enough to inspire a string of expletives. She pressed
the ignition button once more. Whether it was her “love” talk or
not, it worked and the engine was as close to purring as it ever
was.

The mule, as her
brothers had named it, was a hoverbike which they'd liberated
from a crash four summers ago. They'd rebuilt it, even claimed
they'd improved it, and actually got it running. She'd kept up
the maintenance as well as she could but it needed more than she
could give it, including several new parts. Her inexpertly
cobbled repairs weren't going to hold out forever.

It was her hope
whatever had just crashed onto their lands would have parts she
could harvest for use. If she couldn't use them, she could sell
them. Either way, she had to get there first. Pressing on the
accelerator while cursing in deceptively sweet tones to the
mule, she braced herself as it took off in the direction of the
smoke roiling and tumbling in the distance.

 

* * * * *

 

Following the path
through the cloistered trees, a trail only she could see,
Lyrianne directed the metal beast between tall sentinels and
reaching fingers of the trees and ground brush. Where others
would be caught and pulled and yanked from their seat, she felt
only the wind in her face as she urged the stubborn mule to
swifter speeds.

It was but a small
miracle that her star had chosen the meadow in the heart of the
forest ringing their land in which to fall. The wooded acreage
did not belong to her family but she knew it best and was upon
the wide open green in record time.

Broken tree limbs,
uprooted bushes and large chunks of dirt and rock were strewn
about the peaceful round and it wasn't until she'd completed the
climb up the small hill that she saw the bulk of the disarray.

The crash had
primarily broken the vessel into two chunks. Barely larger than
her bedroom closet, the cigar shaped capsule she came upon first
was a smooth, milky white metal with a viewport blackened and
stained with smoke running near the whole length of the pod. It
was a cast-off from the larger vessel screaming its death throes
on the other side of the clearing.

Shutting off the
mule's engine, the lack of its loud whine barely noticeable over
the downed craft's noise, Lyrianne remained in the saddle and
inspected the smoking wreckage farthest away. It would be too
dangerous to approach it yet, she decided. Though there were
only glimpses of visible flames, the noise and smoke coming from
it was sufficient warning.

Instead she turned
her attention back to the capsule. There must surely be someone
inside though she couldn't see through the blackened, smoke
obscured windows. She felt she needed to check but wasn't so
foolish as to touch the metal. She knew how super-heated
wreckage could get just from entering the atmosphere. She had to
let it cool so she leaned over it and tried to see into the
interior.

She considered her
options, looking around after failing to see anything beyond the
impenetrable black smudging that covered the window. Coughing as
she accidentally breathed too deeply, drawing in some of the
acrid smoke drifting her way from across the clearing, she waved
a hand in front of her face then stepped back.

Directing her
attention outward, beyond the clearing, Lyrianne listened for
the sounds of others approaching. So far she heard nothing
coming nearer but that was unlikely to continue. She had to work
faster than it would take for the metal to cool down or be
pushed aside by other scavengers. She was a woman, unarmed and
no physical match for some of her neighbors.

Finding a good sized
branch, she approached the capsule again. With a firm rap, she
hit the pod then leaned in to listen for any response from the
other side.

She could hear the
shriek of metal warping the compromised hull of the spacecraft
across the clearing. There were the intermittent creaks of heavy
tree limbs the fighter had dragged down with it but not yet
broken free of their trunks. There was nothing from the inside
of the pod.

The young woman
stared at the capsule and frowned. She gazed over at the bigger
piece of the wreckage, picturing what the two parts must have
looked like before they broke apart. The pod had to be where the
pilot sat and she was pretty sure there wasn't room for more
than one. If there were more crew, they would have to have been
in the other section.

Leaving the closed
capsule she walked over to inspect the rest of the ship. It was
small, relatively speaking, for a space vessel, just under
twenty feet from crushed nose to warped tail. The entire length
of the ship's surface was marred by radiating scorch marks and
other damage that she believed wasn't related to the crash. The
fighter's bristling armament, now silent and harmless, she
hoped, combined with its size and that it apparently had only
one occupant meant it was a starfighter. Fast, deadly, and IFPG.
Not that she needed to, but she confirmed its origin by what was
still visible of the symbols on the side facing her.

BOOK: Catch a Falling Star
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