Pax Novis by Erica Cameron
Publication Date: November 4, 2019 | Publisher: Entangled Teen
Cira Antares is deeply loyal to two things: Pax Novis—the cargo ship captained by her mother that transports supplies
across war-torn star systems—and her personal mission to save war orphans. But hiding them as stowaways on the ship
is illegal, and if any of them were found, not even her mother could protect Cira from the consequences.
She has successfully kept her secret…until supplies start to go missing. Food. Clothing. Tools. All signs point to her
stowaways, but they wouldn’t do anything to risk exposing themselves—or her. Especially not Riston, the oldest of the
group and someone Cira has grown close to. Someone she might even be falling in love with...
And petty thefts are only the beginning—whole ships are disappearing now.
Not caught in a firefight. Not destroyed by another planet. Vanishing. Without a trace.
And Pax Novis is next.
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Pax Novis Excerpt #4
“Aye, aye, Captain.” Relieved, Cira left before Erryla thought of some other assignment to give her and headed straight for the medical bay.
It was a short walk; the team that designed the PCCSs must have thought the bridge crews would sustain an inordinate number of life-threatening injuries, because the med bay was only a corridor away. As much as Cira appreciated not having to go far to reach Adrienn’s office, it didn’t make sense to have medical a whole deck away from engineering, the second-most accident-prone area on the ship. The arrangement did, however, make Cira’s stowaway conspiracy a whole lot easier to manage.
The on-duty nurse looked up as Cira walked into the over-bright, too-white room, but only said, “Ze’s in zir office,” before immediately returning her attention to her patient.
Nodding thanks the nurse couldn’t see, Cira strode toward the first door on the far wall and waved the ID chip in her flesh-and-blood wrist in front of the door’s sensor. A second later, the door split and slid open with a familiar shhhush.
“Have you seen your mother since breakfast?” Adrienn asked before she could speak.
“Only one of them. Which one are you looking for?”
“Meida, not the captain.”
“Then I can’t help you. Cap’s the only one I’ve seen.” Cira sat in the worn chair in front of Adrienn’s desk. “Something wrong?”
“No, just a small glitch in the power running to a modpod of med supplies I’ve been tasked to keep an eye on.” Adrienn shrugged and ran zir hand through zir brown hair. Ze’d recently started cutting it almost to the skin on either side of zir head, letting the middle section grow a few inches. It had taken Cira weeks to get used to the switch from zir shoulder-length locks, the last in a series of physical changes as Adrienn had slowly transitioned, but now it was hard to imagine zem with any other style. “Just wanted her to look at it before we left port in case we needed to grab a part before we cleared Mitu.”
“Speaking of clearing Mitu…” Cira cocked her head and waited.
Ze shook zir head, no words needed. There weren’t any new passengers for Cira and Adrienn to worry about. But Adrienn was still tapping at the arm of zir chair and avoiding her eyes. It was another few seconds before ze asked, “Do you ever wonder if it’s worth it?”
“No. It’s worth it.” They’d given five orphans her age or younger a place to call home. Twelve others had been given a ride, a new name, and a chance at a real life. Maybe it wasn’t much on a galactic scale, but it was something good for Cira to hold on to. There were days she desperately needed to feel like she was doing something to help others survive that chaos, when it got too hard to handle her guilt over having something as rare as safety and her anger at how little the quadrant was doing to help the children who hadn’t asked to be born into this mess.
In some moments, she felt simultaneously crushed by privilege and strangled by the restrictions of her position. She’d been born into safety while the rest of the quadrant was consumed by chaos. It wasn’t fair, and yet she could do so little about it. One day she wanted to go further, to push for institutional changes that would allow everyone in the PSSC the freedom
to help when aid, succor, or even just a free ride could be offered. She knew, though, that she couldn’t do any of this alone.
“You don’t think so?” she asked, a little hesitant to hear the answer.
“It’s—” Ze exhaled sharply, biting at the ring pierced through zir lip. “I’m a doctor. I love being able to help people, and I swore an oath that I would always do what I could, but the longer this goes on, the greater the probability becomes that someone will catch on or something will go wrong. The two of us are risking everyone on this ship—almost two hundred people. At what point does it stop being worth so many lives to help one more?”
Cira looked down at her hands, watching her mechanical fingers intertwining with her flesh ones. Jaelena had started this whole enterprise. Four cycles ago, Cira was a brand-new ensign and Adrienn a restless junior doctor. They’d intervened when a drunkard had been abusing a little girl, saving seven-year-old Jaelena. Adrienn and Cira had tried to get station security involved at first, but it had quickly become clear that leaving Jaelena there would mean more of the same for the underfed, badly bruised child, and that had been more than Cira could take. She had watched so many refugees—many of them children—disappear from stations where they had previously been fixtures, and she knew few of them had “moved on to a different home” like her mothers had tried to insist. Cira didn’t know all the atrocities of the war, but she wasn’t naive enough to believe that. Although she accepted that there were certain realities she couldn’t change, Cira hadn’t been able to look into Jaelena’s gray eyes and refuse to help. Neither had Adrienn.
With a lot of subterfuge and more credits than Cira wanted to think about, they’d come up with a plan. It almost hadn’t worked. Only Adrienn’s quick thinking had kept the dockmaster from checking their last-minute addition to the cargo manifest. Ze’d been committed to this endeavor from the beginning and in it to the end.
“What happened?” Cira met and held zir hazel eyes. “Something must have happened. You wouldn’t just change your mind and start questioning everything. Not after all this time.”
“Jaelena died.” Ze swiped up on zir screen and the text flashed to the wall display.
“No, she— What?” Cira stared, trying to make sense of it. Adrienn had highlighted Jaelena’s name in bright yellow, but ze hadn’t needed to. Her name was one of the first. Jaelena Aarin. Heart stuttering, Cira started reading the report, quickly skimming it for details.
Investigations are ongoing, but leaked video feeds from security stations and planetary defense networks have confirmed the truth. In apparent violation of the terms of warfare established in the peace summit of 3785, Pavonis S-class warships have destroyed most of the capital city on Oweba, the fourth planet in the Arae System. Hundreds died in the initial attack, and thousands have died since as medical personnel are limited and most of their supplies have been destroyed. From the timing of this attack, it can be hypothesized that the Pavonis Coalition ordered this as retaliation for the destruction of their research facility on Surka, a moon on the outer edges of their home system.
Names of those confirmed deceased have been listed below.
It sounds like Ladadhi. She shouldn’t have looked up those vids after meeting Riston three cycles ago, but curiosity had eaten at her. There had only been around six weeks between learning about Riston’s home city and Cira looking it up. Once she started digging for details, she hadn’t stopped. She hated to think of herself as an expert on the incident, but she practically was. So much about the description of what happened on Oweba sounded like the reports immediately following the attack on Ladadhi, the attack that had left Riston an orphan. Now, another attack, too much the same, had killed Jaelena
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Erica Cameron is the author of books for young adults including the Ryogan Chronicles, the Assassins duology, and The Dream War Saga. She also co-authored the Laguna Tides novels with Lani Woodland. An advocate for asexuality and emotional abuse awareness, Erica has also worked with teens at a residential rehabilitation facility in her hometown of Fort Lauderdale.
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