by Joy V. Smith
Lacie's parents leave her in her uncle's care to go back to their exploring as soon as she's 18 and graduated from the girls' academy, but later he takes her on a jaunt on his ship, Fire Seeker, where his impatience grabs the attention of the Interstellar Guard, who've been keeping an eye on him, and he has to drop her off and make his escape. Fortunately, she wasn't left alone; she has Embers, who is a gift—a spark, so to speak—from her mother, Sparkles. And she goes back to school, the space academy, part of her mother's plan for her.
After she graduates from the space academy, she's contacted by some of her mother's friends, who've been biding their time, and they take her to The Depot, where she meets aliens and AIs, and she and Embers find the star ship her mother reserved for her there This is a good thing because Embers has never stopped growing—and she's getting heavy! They name their ship Flame Bright, and that is just the beginning of her adventures with more aliens, AIs, princesses, diplomats, and villains. It's going to be an exciting ride!
BUY THE BOOK
Lacie Leigh stood in front of the mirror in the ornate and glittery ladies’ room, but she was looking beyond the girl in the floor length golden gown to a future in which she would not only be eighteen and graduated from her last year at the Caterpillars to Butterflies Academy but orphaned.
“Scary, huh,” said Marchella as she moved to stand beside her friend. No way Lacie would be wasting time admiring herself, she knew, though her future wasn’t as cut and shaped as Marchella’s.
Lacie turned away to touch her arm. “If you ever need help escaping from going back to that planet and that man, Marcie, you be sure to let me know.”
Marchella smiled. “It’s not what I wanted, but the family wants the connection, and Dad says the old ways are still the best. Also, he’s already arranged for my protection. I’ll have at least two bodyguards, and no one will ever suspect them.”
Lacie relaxed and smiled. “Your father’s work in genetic engineering does make for unsuspected friends—and foes.” The roommates had learned a lot about each other, though Lacie suspected that Marcie kept some secrets, just as she did. Then they both stepped aside as a green creature pushed her way between them.
“I don’t think this is Crystal anymore,” laughed Marcie.
“And your name is?” prompted Lacie.
“Jade,” the green haired, green-eyed girl dressed in an array of green shades in her dress, shoes, and accessories, told them. “I intend to stand out in that all white house.”
“How white is it?” asked Lacie, not loath to put off going out to the ballroom, though they’d be herded out soon, she knew. At CBA you were taught the finer graces along with diplomatic skills.
“You know my mother can only see things in shades of gray, so the walls are white, but the furniture and everything else has to stand out, and she loves seeing me stand out even more. I enjoyed being Crystal here, but now that she and the other parents have come to graduation, I have to get ready to go home.”
Marcie looked a bit wistfully at Lacie. “You’re going on to school, I know. Let’s keep in touch. It could get lonely for us after all this.”
Lacie said, “Of course. I intend to.” She looked at Crystal/Jade. “I told Marcie that if she ever needed help to call on me.”
“Certainly,” Jade agreed. “Just ask for Crystal.” And then a proctor found them and herded them with dispatch into the world.
Home Leves Lacie
Graduation, CBA, her friends, and Sylvain behind her and a birthday at home on Loyce in front of her tonight. Tonight! So soon! Lacie couldn’t help seeing her parents’ anticipation. She knew it wasn’t her they were eager to leave behind, but she still didn’t see why she couldn’t go with them. If she were younger, she’d scream, It isn’t fair! But she’d known better than that before going to CBA.
“Your uncle’s here,” her mother said with undisguised satisfaction. Then she took time to look at her daughter. “You know we’d love to take you with us, but it is dangerous, and you do need to go on to school to learn to pilot a ship and find out all you can about other planets and history and people.”
“I know, Mother,” Lacie said somberly, “and I understand and sometimes I just don’t care.”
Martine Collier nodded. She remembered times when she couldn’t go where she wanted to, but now she could. “Your time will come,” was all she could think to say, and then her brother entered the room.
“I was just talking to Torrill,” he told them, “and he said that he had restrained himself until I arrived and took only a finger full of frosting.”
They all laughed. Torrill Collier’s sweet tooth was legendary, and Lacie was sure her mother had packed plenty of sweets among the supplies for their trip to wherever they were going.
Dinner was happy, even hilarious, with her family focused on making her the center of attention. From the beef pinwheel to the turtle ice cream pie and the thickly frosted yellow sheet cake to presents that included a gift card to the space port’s ship supplies store and a planet cruiser with silver and black stripes and a top of the line engine, they gave her everything they could think of to make her happy.
Afterwards, with Uncle Sterling bedded down in the guest room, her parents turned to serious topics. “You are officially in your uncle’s care until you’re twenty,” her father said. “Then you make your own decisions and you can access our accounts. They’re in his custody until then too. After that they’ll be in your name. There should be enough for whatever you want to do, and your schooling is paid until you graduate from the Stars and Planets Academy. We have other things stored away for you too, which you’ll find out about when the time is right.” Then they tucked her into bed for the last time.
She kept from crying by focusing on her own plans; after that she slid out of bed and crept down the hallway to her father’s office. Sure enough, they were all there, and she edged down the hall to her mother’s office and hit the button that opened the comm link between the two rooms.
“I know, I know,’ her uncle said harshly. “You found another more intriguing cache that you just have to explore, but I was looking forward to working my own finds. Sparkles has at least one key and knows where there are more.”
“We’re just asking you to wait two years, Sterling,” his sister pleaded. “We could even be back before then.”
“Oh, yeah, if the IGGIES don’t catch you,” he said sharply.
“We know the risk,” Torrill said quietly. “That’s why we can’t take Lacie Leigh with us and risk her being taken as well. And why she can’t even know where we’re going or what we’re doing. However, what worries me the most, Sterling,” he said, “is your impatience.”
His brother-in-law snorted. “Don’t talk to me about impatience!”
“We’ve been accepted there though, as well as at the storage depot,” Martine put in. “Your find could well take longer to work through, and I’ve been waiting so long,” she added, a bit plaintively.
Sterling smiled at her. “I know, and I admired you for that, as well as how you’ve schooled little Lacie. She will be an asset later, if all goes well. I wonder if she even remembers her visit to The Depot and her acceptance by them.”
Martine looked at him uneasily, “The Guardian said it’d repressed her memory. I admit that bothered me a bit. But it was safer for her too if she didn’t remember.”
Sterling touched her cheek. “Of course it was, sis. And we’ve kept them safe as well.”
Martine stood up. “Oh, yes. Who knows what would happen if the Interstellar Guard got their hands on them? Mothballed or destroyed or used wrongly.” She shook her head. Her brother and husband looked at her and nodded. Martine was passionate in her belief that it was her duty to do everything she could to protect all the early civilizations’ technology that she found. And she’d started in her teens when she’d crash landed her planetary cruiser into a river and been swept into a cave with creatures in stasis that she’d revived and kept hidden until the last of them died. She’d searched for more ever since but never found any of them. She discovered other things though.
The next morning Martine was the first one up. She was already packed, but she dug up everything she could to give to her daughter; she wrote notes and left them in her room and on all the comm units being left behind. Remembrances of love and caring. And for the first time she felt the pain of leaving her behind. Before it had been a plan. Now it was for real and for how long?