Oslac's Odyssey

By S.E. Ney

Siphian Syzygy nearing publication!

Started the read-through while awaiting my editors to finish the final chapters. I was right, it’s about the size of Ystrian Dreams so not quite the doorstop that was Dragons of Mithgryr but not small either and packed with action.

I feel, once again, that I should warn potential readers that one of the species we encounter is akin to a giant spider. They are NOT spiders (they have 12 legs, two of which are used as arms, and 6 eyes for a start), but arachnophobes may well find enough similarities that they need to avoid this book. Personally, while not afraid of spiders I have a healthy respect for them — especially the big ones. These ones are HUGE and my characters are intimidated by them as well, and with good reason. Still, I do think arachnids get something of a bad rap. These characters are NOT Shelob.

I thought you might enjoy a preview. I can’t publish much without causing trouble for Amazon, but here’s a taster:

The night was warm. An occasional gentle breeze stopped it from becoming stifling, while the tick-tick, buzzing and occasional high-pitched note from the insects and other native fauna provided a background hum. Eidar’s three satellites – one natural, the other two cleverly disguised artificial moons that, amongst other things, monitored weather, kept a record for the Siphian’s relocations, and provided low gravity work areas safely away from the planet for some of the experiments – sent their silvery light down through the branches of the tree under which sat Crique. Brown furred with black paws and stomach, a streak of black fur ran from between her eyes up her forehead where it split into spirals that ran around her ears, which were also tipped with black. She was working on her computer while a slew of notes lay on the table beside her. As she worked, her elbow brushed the notes and sent several fluttering to the floor, but she was so focused on the computer she didn’t notice.

A paw quietly collected the sheets and replaced them on the table. Startled, Crique turned.

“Oh, Arren! It’s you! I didn’t realise anyone else was out here.” She indicated his stomach where flecks of dirt clung. “You’ve been working too, huh?”

The tall (by Siphian standards – three foot six inches) male looked down and quickly swept aside the dirt.

“I suspect we’re the only ones at this late hour, but I was collecting some of the night crawlers and saw your light from the field. What are you doing out here?”

She sighed and leaned back, stretching her back muscles that had cramped from being crouched over the computer for so long.

“We’ve been working on the Maranite problem for weeks and we can’t crack it. Driving us crazy! Ticcit sent me home but I’m so close and I want to have something for them by tomorrow.”

Arren indicated the sheets.

“May I?”

“Not your thing, is it?” Crique laughed.

“I do better with the fields, but I’m naturally curious… or just plain nosey!”

“I doubt you’ll understand it. Very boring chemical formulae, I’m afraid.”

“I’m dealing with very boring worms. You’re welcome to swap!” He went through the sheets. “As you say, not my thing but something to do with reproduction?”

“Um hmm. Trying to find a mix that will solve their problem without causing unwanted side-effects. Problem is, the species’ biology is so interconnected, every time we try something it has a knock-on effect somewhere else. Some of them are positive but would advance their civilisation way beyond their present level, and you know the rules.”

Arren nodded. Siphian technology needed to be very specifically targeted. The buyer got what they requested, no less and definitely no more. It was a fine line they had to walk to ensure they didn’t accidentally give an unintended technological boost. Their job was to crack a particular nut that the species was technologically capable of solving but, for whatever reason, had eluded them. Ticcit, their present leader, had indicated he suspected the Maranites were hoping the Siphian solution would have extremely beneficial side effects, and he worried this was because there was another planet in their solar system, presently occupied by a very different, and less advanced species, that the Maranites wanted to annex. Their reproductive issues were a legitimate concern for their own planet, and for that Ticcit was happy to provide Siphian services, but he didn’t want the solution to allow a war.

“You look exhausted,” Arren said. “You can’t think clearly when you’re falling asleep. Why not put this away and get some rest? You might come up with the solution while you’re sleeping.”

“Ha!” Crique snorted. “Like that ever happens!”

“Happens to me all the time,” he replied with a shrug.

“No offence, Arren, but figuring out how to raise or catch more bugs isn’t on quite the same level.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he smiled. “Some of them are downright sneaky! I swear they plot behind my back!”

“Crique!” called a voice from inside the house.

“Out here!” Crique called back over her shoulder.

Amanda Cyrus, one of only two humans (the second being her daughter, Max) allowed to live on Eidar, and former nanny to Crique and dozens of other Siphians since she moved to the planet, stepped out of the back door. She towered over the Siphians whose rat-like build allowed them to walk upright or on all fours as appropriate.

“Uh oh, look out!” Arren muttered, his whiskers twitching. “She’s got the fists on hips bit going. Give her another moment and it’ll be the tapping of the feet! After that, it’s a short hop to the wagging of the finger and then we’re doomed!”

Crique grinned and spun around.

“What’s up?” she asked.

“You should be in bed, my girl!” Amanda said, wagging her finger.

Crique and Arren struggled not to burst out laughing.

“I’m working on a problem, Nana. And I’m not two months old anymore.”

“No, but you’re still my little Crique and you can’t keep burning the candle at both ends. It’ll do you no good.”

“Are you all ganging up on me? I’m fine!”

“You have to go back into the lab tomorrow and put in another full day,” Amanda sternly reminded her. “If you don’t rest now, you’ll be asleep at your desk there. And don’t tell me you can grab some stimulants. That’s not a way to live!”

“There I have to agree with her,” Arren nodded. “I know they’re safe and non-addictive,” he added when Crique turned on him. “I use them myself when the spawning starts, else I’d never be able to keep up. Even so, the downer afterwards takes days to wear off. They may not solve it tomorrow, or the day after and they’ll need you then, too.”

“Thirty more minutes,” Amanda said, going back in the house – an abode built to provide the home Amanda longed for and could never afford. It was a welcoming gift from the Siphians for which she was forever grateful. “After that I’m coming out and I’ll take that computer off you!”

“You have been warned,” Arren chuckled.