Tania was getting tired of not having any friends because, every time her mom changed her job, they had to move. But this time Mom had really gone too far and dragged Tania away with her to a temporary posting as senior security officer on Calista Station.
Things start to look up for Tania when she meets Mark and his friends Windracer and Shr’un. Windracer is an apprentice mediator, there to observe trade talks, while Shr’un’s father is a technician for Malachi Mining, the same company where Tania’s mom works . But all is not well. star-stones, gems forged in the heart of a dying sun, are being stolen and smuggled from the Station. When Shr’un’s father disappears, it appears that he may have been involved with the smugglers , but then things go from bad to worse – Tania’s mom disappears as well! Now it is up to Tania, Mark, Windracer, and Shr’un, with a little help from Shr’un’s highly illegal AI, to solve the mystery and rescue the missing parents.
"Intriguing, filled with fast paced, exciting adventure for the youngsters, a mystery to solve, some space travel – what’s not to love! Highly recommended for the young, and young at heart 😊" - Brenda, GoodReads"
"An unforgettable, fast-paced intergalactic adventure ... An outstanding innovation on a well-loved theme. The Portal Adventures is well-told and yes, thoroughly believable." - Shelley Davidow, internationally acclaimed author of Shadow Sisters
“Tania!” her teacher said.
“Sorry Miss.” Tania tore her attention from the flies buzzing at the window.
Ms. Denfry sighed. “I asked if you knew the name of the system where we find the Millennium Planet.”
“Epsilon Eridani,” Tania guessed off the top of her head.
Ms. Denfry shook her head, looking around her small class of thirteen-year-olds. “Anyone?”
As Tania expected, Charles raised his hand. Charles was such a nerd!
“Yes, Charles,” Ms. Denfry said.
“Tau Bootes, Miss.”
“Correct,” Ms. Denfry said, turning back to the holographic projection of the planet gently spinning above her desk. “Now, everyone turn their readers to page 45.”
Tania stuck her tongue out at Charles, but he had already buried his nose in his tablet and failed to notice. With a sigh, Tania bought up the screen on Tau Bootes – school was so boring! Luckily, she only had to put up with Ms. Denfry droning on for another ten minutes before the bell sounded and school was out for the weekend.
“Tania,” Ms. Denfry called, as she headed for the door.
Tania looked back.
“Can I see you for a moment?”
What now, Tania thought with a sigh.
Ms. Denfry waited until the rest of the class left. “Is everything all right?” she asked, seating herself behind her desk. “It’s just you haven’t been paying attention in class, and it’s been getting worse over the past couple of weeks.”
Tania shrugged. It wasn’t worth making the effort because she probably wasn’t going to be there next term, but try explaining that to a teacher.
Ms. Denfry studied her, wondering just what she was going to do with her. Tania scowled, and obviously uncomfortable with the scrutiny started to fidget with the strands of hair that had escaped from its ponytail. Her sun-bleached blond hair, coupled with her mother’s deep-olive skin, short, snubbed nose, and slightly pointed ears sometimes gave Tania the appearance of a mischie vous pixie. Now though, Ms. Denfry thought Tania looked more like an imp on the edge of outright rebellion.
It wasn’t even as if she was bad, Ms. Denfry thought with a sigh, as Tania continued to avoid her eyes; she just didn’t engage. Hiding another sigh, she reached into the top drawer of her desk and pulled out the envelope she’d addressed to Tania’s mother. “I’d like your mother to come in and talk to me.”
“Sure,” Tania said, taking the envelope.
As though her mother needed the grief!
Ms. Denfry watched Tania put the envelope in her bag. “I’ll phone her if I don’t hear anything by Tuesday.”
And now she didn’t trust Tania to deliver her stupid letter.
“Is that all?” Tania said.
Ms. Denfry looked at her levelly for a moment and then nodded. “I’ll see you Monday,” she said.
Tania shrugged. Whatever, she thought.
Outside, the schoolyard was already deserted. Not that Tania expected anyone to be waiting for her, but it might have been nice if someone had. Who was she fooling though? She didn’t have any friends. Every time she had made some, her mother got a new job and they had to move.
Dragging her feet on the bitumen, she started the long walk home. She just wished they could stay somewhere for more than six months.
When she got home the frontdoor was open and her mother’s car was in the garage. “Mom,” she called, wondering if anything was wrong. Her mother wasn’t normally home this early. She let the screen door slam behind her as she dropped her bag on the floor.
“In here,” her mother called from the main bedroom.
Tania followed her voice to find the suitcase open on the bed and her mother busy sortingn>clothesn>inton>piles.n>Mrs.n>Martin’sn>shoulder-length blond hair was pulled back into an untidy ponytail, in an unconscious echo of her daughter’s. A smudge of dirt marked the side of her nose.
“Hi,sweetheart,” her mothern said, holding her cheek up to be kissed. “I’m packing.”
“Duh, I can see that.” Sometimes her mother was so dense. Maybe it was the blond. “Why?”
“I’ve been asked to relieve as head of security at Calista Station for seven weeks.”
Her mother nodded.
At least her mother had the grace to look guilty.
“What about our vacation? You promised we’d go to Disney on the Gold Coast.”
“I’m sorry sweetheart, I don’t have any choice.”
“Yeah, right. There’s always a choice.” She’d been really looking forward to the vacation. She’d even boasted about it at school.
“Not this time, I’m afraid. Bill made it quite clear if I didn’t take the job Malachi Mining would rescind my contract.”
“That’s so unfair.” Maybe her mother wasn’t perfect, but that stank!
“To be fair sweetheart, Bill didn’t really have a choice. There’s no one else they can send, and the other security officer on the Station has only been working for us for a couple of weeks. Besides, we won’t be going for that long. I made it quite clear we needed to be back before the start of next term.”
“We? Me as well?” Tania said, shocked.
“You too. Aunt Sarah is away and I can’t contact her.”
“What about school? There’s still three weeks left till the end of term.” Not that she really cared about school, but she wasn’t going to let her mother know that.
“I’ve already spoken to your principal. He said it was all right.”
At least she wouldn’t have to give her mother Ms. Denfrey’s letter. And out-system, maybe that wouldn’t be too bad. She didn’t know anyone who’d been out-system before.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. I know things have been difficult since your father died, but we just have to soldier on.”
“Yeah, sure.” Tania sniffed, indicating what she thought of how her mother had been soldiering on. Maybe burying herself in her work was her mother’s way of soldiering on, but Tania thought it sucked. Four countries in two years; no wonder she’d given up trying to make friends.
“Are we taking the Space Elevator?” she asked hopefully, referring to the four gigantic structures placed around the Earth’s equator that reached all the way into space. The closest to Sydney was Nauru’s.
Mrs. Martin shook her head. “We don’t have time. The Elevator takes a week for the trip up to the transfer point, so we’re taking the shuttle.”
“Cool.” She remembered seeing the shuttle and its lifter at Sydney Airport, the last time they’d been there. The lifter was enormous, easily twice the size of a normal jumbo.
“The taxi will be here to pick us up at five tomorrow morning. The shuttle doesn’t leave until five pm, but we’ve got to get to the airport six hours before take-off to have our pressure suits fitted.”
“I’ll go and pack then.”
“It’s all right, I’ve already done it. We’re only going for two months, and to tell the truth, we haven’t got much left have we?”
Tania looked at the small pile of clothes and the single suitcase lying on the bed, remembering when her mother would have needed at least five suitcases for a trip. That was before her father died.
“We’ve got a pretty tight weight restriction,” her mother said. “But you might want to check I’ve packed everything you’ll need.”
“No, that’s fine.” Tania sighed; it was obvious her mother had everything under control. “Do you want me to start tea?”
“If you could. I thought we’d have pasta tonight.”
Tania headed off to the kitchen, unaware of how her mother’s sad, tired eyes followed her out of the room.
ANDREW spent his high-school years in the school's library lost in the worlds of Andre Norten, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov. Reading in turn led to writing, with the first draft of Trouble on Teral originally completed to read to his two sons at night. Now his children have left home he lives in Perth with his wife, one dog, and sixty four gold fish.
Andrew's first published short story (A Messenger to the Dragon) appeared in Aurealis - Australian Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1992. In 2016 he signed a three book deal with Canada's Peasantry Press for a series of three young adult (middle grade), action Science Fiction adventures. The open ended series is a combination of Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries and Andre Norton's juvenile speculative fiction.
A passionate reader of Alternate History Andrew is presently completing a series of trilogies for the older reader based on the Cross-Temporal Empire, following the Clemhorn siblings and their cousins the Perics.
For more information visit Andrew's author page.
CRISIS AT CALISTA STATION
Book 2 of the Portal Adventures
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