First Watch by Auburn Seal
Early Reviews for First Watch
“Holy shit, it was awesome! I think it might be my favorite of your books so far!” – Megan C.
“I read the whole book in 2 days. I…sacrificed sleep so I could find out what happened next! This book has all of the elements that I love in fiction…I loved it.” – Kristi D.
“Super cool!” – Kendra S.
“I found it hard to put it down and finished it in 2 days. I look forward to reading more of this series and seeing this universe grow and expand.” – Gary T.
Here’s a little from the back of the book:
Will New Eden offer refuge or will humans find trouble in any galaxy?
Levra Shield and her husband Gunnar survived the treacherous journey from Earth to New Eden. While she thrives among the native Ddaerans, Gunnar travels to deep space for a top secret mission under the direction of Abramov Command.
After a long absence, Gunnar returns with new orders to explore a remote part of New Eden, but Levra senses not all is as it seems. Does the mission conceal a sinister purpose?
Suspicious of Abramov’s motives, Levra is determined to save the peace-loving Ddaerans from a terrible fate and must take drastic action to uncover the threat.
Product Warning: 18+ for language and sexual content.
First Watch is similar yet different to anything Auburn Seal has published before. Just as you’ve come to expect in her historical mysteries and paranormal romances, this SF adventure is packed with action and suspense, sprinkled with romance, and sustained by villains you love to hate. But unlike anything else Auburn has released before, First Watch is set in front of a science fiction backdrop complete with space travel, mysterious circumstances, family drama, and an entirely different world of conflict. Auburn also breaks her own mold by introducing content she’s not utilized before. While used sparingly, there are some adult situations with sexual content and rough language. These are interstellar pioneers we are talking about here, not a genteel set of proper homebodies, after all. These characters face challenges that we Earthlings can only begin to imagine!
What do you think? Maybe a sneak peek?
Okay, if you insist! Without further ado, Chapter One for your reading pleasure. (Links to purchase at the end of the sample.)
Novux Sky Lunar Elevator, Maldives, Earth
Levra Shield stood on the floating oceanic platform under the late-afternoon sun holding her husband Gunnar’s hand tightly, overcome by the dread of what was coming next. She fought to keep her balance while the rough seas rocked the Novux LiftPort, the Earth elevator’s anchor structure atop a massive rig off the coast of the Maldives. The elevator would take her sister off-planet and change all their lives forever.
She hugged her sister one last time before Michelle—Mitch to all who knew her—walked through the steel, restricted-access-only doors: the beginning of a journey that would take her to deep space. Mitch had taken numerous trips on the Earth elevator before, but this time she would be gone longer. Could be five years, but it could also be much longer.
Mitch had qualified for a deep space exploratory mission, Altius 1, and Levra was filled with mixed emotions about the journey her sister would soon begin. Instead of short-term missions in this galaxy which were her usual trips, Mitch would explore deep space beyond the farthest reaches of the Andromeda galaxy and into a much more distant galaxy, which meant she’d be gone a long time. The system was named Altius, and her team would investigate the existence of a black hole near the planet Tortia.
Evidence from the unmanned probes sent by various world governments proved time functioned differently on Tortia, likely relative to its proximity to the black hole. It was all rather exciting—if she could forget the ache in her stomach at the unavoidable goodbye.
On the one hand, she was excited to watch her sister’s dreams finally become reality, yet Levra felt desperately sad as she faced this goodbye. The farewell would likely last much longer than either of them anticipated or wanted.
Levra knew Mitch was thrilled to go, she was caught up in the excitement of her forthcoming adventure, but she didn’t know what Levra was about to announce. Somehow Levra was going to have to break it to her sister in the next five minutes that she and Gunnar would be gone when she got back. Like out-of-the-galaxy gone. She’d only found out last week but hadn’t known how to break the news to Mitch, her younger, more adventurous sister. Levra had wanted to tell her many times over the last few days, but the weight of the information was heavy on Levra’s shoulders.
How could she say goodbye to her sister, quite possibly for the last time? There was no guarantee Mitch would be able to gain passage to New Eden when she returned to Earth in five years at the completion of her mission. No way of knowing even what condition the Earth would be in by then. All the political talking heads and doomsdayers—who Levra tried desperately to ignore—kept going on about the next world war.
Saying goodbye amid such uncertainty put Levra’s stomach in anxious knots, but it couldn’t be put off any longer.
Gunnar, Levra’s new husband, pulled the two women into his arms and spoke. “What will I do if I’m not breaking up your fights? Did anyone ever tell you two that you fight like sisters?”
He gave Levra an extra squeeze and winked at her. She knew with this simple gesture that he was completely aware of how tough this would be for her. Levra’s throat constricted when she thought about how much she would miss her little sister. Bless Gunnar for adding some humor into the situation.
Mitch was first to break away from the hug, and Levra wasn’t surprised when Mitch kept the conversation light.
“I wonder where you will be teaching when I get back. You’ll probably have won all sorts of awards by then. Or maybe you’ll have kids? If I become an aunt while I’m in another galaxy, it still counts. And you better name her after me.” Mitch put her hands on her hips and tapped her feet in playful demand.
Her sister was never one for exploring deep emotions. She was similar to Gunnar in this way. They both loved fiercely, but they laughed more than they cried.
Levra could feel her own tears threatening to escape and was a tiny bit envious of Mitch’s ability to always remain composed.
Levra half-snorted, half-laughed. “Awards? For teaching? Yeah, right. I don’t know what planet you’ve been living on!”
“Mitch . . .” Levra began, her voice turning serious. It was now or never. She was out of time to wait for the perfect segue. “We’re actually going to New Eden. We got accepted for passage aboard the SS Northern Light. Gunnar will be one of the Flight Engineers.” Her words came out tumbled and breathless. “We’ll be gone before you get back.”
Mitch’s face blanched for a moment, her shock clearly written in her expression for a moment before she composed herself and laughed. “Well, maybe I’ll have them drop me off there when the mission is over.”
Levra smiled and swallowed a lump in her throat, refusing to cry. They both knew it wasn’t that simple.
“Attention Novux Sky passengers . . .” A woman’s voice sounded over the loudspeakers, killing the levity they’d been forcing and halting any opportunity to discuss the reality they might never see each other again. That their parents were almost guaranteed to be left on Earth—and with them both ill and declining in years, they would likely be dead long before Mitch returned. They’d already witnessed Mitch’s excruciating final farewell with them. And now it was Levra’s turn. When Mitch got back, her entire family would either be dead or living in another galaxy. How do you leave someone when you know that?
“Boarding has now commenced,” the loudspeaker voice droned on. “Please gather your belongings and report to the loading bay.”
Mitch turned and looked over her shoulder at the massive doors that slid open in sync with the boarding announcement.
“Do you know for sure how long you will be gone this time?” Levra asked, already knowing the answer to the question. She was trying to stretch her time, not yet ready to say goodbye. She wouldn’t ever be ready. Not if she was honest.
Mitch shrugged, her red curly hair brushing her shoulders, somehow looking very vulnerable even though she was outfitted in the sleek silvery uniform astronauts wore as their non-space gear. Even in this moment, Levra found herself jealous of her sister’s lustrous red locks, compared to her own hair which was brown and boring. “Not sure. Could be as much as five years. Hopefully I’ll be back before you guys become interstellar travelers.”
Levra watched Mitch’s eyes fill with tears and a bit of her heart broke. Again.
“I’ll miss you,” Mitch said.
Gunnar interrupted before Levra completely fell apart. “I’ll miss you way more than your sister will and you both know it.”
This was much worse than Levra thought it would be. Thank the stars above for Gunnar’s sense of humor.
Mitch was stubborn and had a knack for locking her feelings down before they got the best of her. Levra saw the determination to remain steadfast burning in her sister’s eyes. She wouldn’t let her own emotions consume her. Mitch had always been tougher emotionally than her sister. Levra wore her heart on her sleeve whereas Mitch always kept hers tucked away tight.
“It’s not fair that I always cry like a baby and you got the stoic gene,” Levra said as her tears ran down her face, leaving drips on Mitch’s shiny silver latex-covered shoulder.
“Don’t cry, Lev. It’s just space. We’ll talk over comms all the time. You’ll be sick of me. Trust me. It’ll be like I’m not even gone.”
Levra smiled and sniffed. “Okay, you promise to call when you can?”
“I will. Pinky swear. And if I’m not back before you leave for New Eden, you better tell me all about the journey. I’ll be pissed if you get to New Eden before I do. Good news, though. Cryo-sleep might agree with you. I mean, two years of beauty sleep should be amazing for your skin, right?” She gulped. “I love you and I’ll see you soon.” Mitch’s voice was warm, thick with emotion, and a little shaky.
“I love you, too, Mitch. See you soon.” Levra managed to choke the words out between her sobs.
“I almost forgot,” Mitch said. “Here.” She dug into her pocket and held her hand out to Levra who reached out with an open palm as Mitch dropped a coin into it.
Levra’s eyes widened. “Grandpa Mitch’s quarter?”
Mitch nodded. “You keep this until I get back.”
After one last quick embrace, Mitch turned and walked through the loading doors. Levra gripped the coin and watched her sister’s slight form fade into the distance. But as Mitch turned the corner, Levra saw her sister reach up and wipe a tear away.
Then she was gone.
“You okay?” Gunnar asked. Levra loved that he knew she wasn’t but asked her anyway, giving her the chance to lie to herself.
“Yeah. I’m all right.” She wasn’t fooling anyone, least of all herself. She squeezed the coin tightly, feeling the edge press into the sweaty palm of her hand. The slight pain distracted her from her sad, heavy heart.
“What’s this?” Gunnar asked, eyeing the coin that Levra flipped over and over in her hands.
“It was my Grandpa’s. His name was Mitchell Enric. See the date? 2015. He was ten years old when he got this one. He used to collect coins, and this one was from his home state of Kansas. Before he died, he gave it my sister.”
“She’s named after him?”
Levra nodded, fighting for a grip on her emotions. “Yep. He always wanted to go to space, but he had a spinal deformity that kept him out of the space program. He’s the whole reason my sister chose this career.”
Levra sniffled and Gunnar handed her a tissue.
“Goodbyes suck.” Gunnar squeezed Levra’s hand. “Come with me. I’ll buy you a coffee.”
Levra was grateful for Gunnar’s presence today. He made her want to be better, tougher. And he made her laugh, which made everything better.
With their goodbyes said, Levra went out to the viewing area. Even though Earth elevators were commonplace now, she could remember being a kid watching Cosmos and other space shows on the Discovery channel. Space was the Final Frontier. The discovery of the habitable planet New Eden was made during her lifetime, but she’d never imagined going to live there. Never imagined things could get so bad here that it would be necessary.
They knew so much more about the neighboring galaxies now than they had even ten years ago. Finding New Eden, a goldilocks planet in the Andromeda Galaxy capable of sustaining human life, had happened just in time to offer a solution to the rapidly declining global political crisis.
Levra and Gunnar leisurely made their way to the viewing bay outfitted for hosting those who wanted to watch the departure of their loved ones as they traveled up the elevator ribbon and out of sight into space. She glanced at her watch that doubled as a phone and mini-computer and saw she had about twenty minutes before lift-off. She always enjoyed watching her sister’s departures, she had never missed one. She never grew tired of the awesome sight as the massive elevator slid into the sky and up the carbon nanotube ribbon, seeming to go on forever. Somewhere, high above the clouds—Mitch had said something about geosynchronous orbit but those details were outside of her interest—the elevator’s lifter would dock at Novux Sky Docking Station, and the passengers would board another transporter that would take them to their various destinations in space.
Mitch would ride it up and then board a transport ship that would take her the rest of the way to the Nautilus-11 Space Station. She would layover there, along with the rest of the Altius 1 crew, until it was time to depart. Mitch wasn’t allowed to divulge too many details about their destination. China had spies everywhere, and NASA took extreme caution these days, especially after the near-miss with the elevator ribbon tampering last year. The US government, along with the help of her allies, had uncovered and mitigated an elaborate scheme by a conglomerate of multi-national terrorists last year in which the elevator ribbon was targeted. If they had been successful, the resulting explosions would have interrupted the Earth and Lunar Elevator programs—and thus the departure for New Eden—for years.
Levra cradled the cup of coffee Gunnar had bought from the small cafe in the waiting area and sipped it slowly while they waited. She had no desire to make the trip above the Earth’s surface. Even before the near-miss with international terrorists, living vicariously through Mitch’s travel was the perfect amount of adventure for her. She ignored the pit in her stomach when she thought about the voyage she would take in a few years to New Eden. With the rapidly deteriorating conditions on Earth, including devastating natural disasters like deadly volcanoes, earthquakes and ever-increasing hurricanes blossoming around the globe, the fear of staying on Earth edged out her panic at the thought of interstellar travel. Space travel had become the lesser of two completely terrifying experiences.
She heard the whirring of the elevator’s lifter that indicated it was getting ready to depart, and her stomach did little flips in anticipation. Levra gripped Gunnar’s hand as they watched the lifter shoot up into the sky. She blew a kiss to her sister.
“See you soon, Mitch,” Levra whispered as she watched her sister slip into the almost-night sky.
Gunnar spoke softly in Levra’s ear. “Don’t worry about her, baby. She’s so excited for this opportunity. She wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Trust me. This kind of adventure is in my blood just like it’s in hers.” He laughed, playfully nudging her in the ribs with his elbow. “I don’t think you got your genes from Great-Grandpa Mitch.”
Levra nodded, swallowing the lump in her throat. Suck it up, girl, she chided herself silently.
“You space travel types are crazy, that’s all I know.” Levra bantered back grateful for the distraction from the angst in her gut.
Once the elevator was out of sight, Gunnar led Levra to the boarding area to wait for the ferry. The mid-sized ferry would depart from the launch platform and take the newlyweds back to shore. She filed into line with the other would-be ferry passengers and waited for the boarding announcement. Her mind slowly pushed away the emotion of Mitch’s departure and replaced it with thoughts of her return to her and Gunnar’s new home in Seattle. Once again, she was grateful for her husband’s willingness to accompany her. Her parents were too ill to make the trip, and she hadn’t wanted to make the long journey to the Maldives by herself.
But now that her trip with Mitch was over, she could focus fully on getting settled into married life. She had plans to decorate their condo on the waterfront. She was leaning towards a rustic country style. Her mother told her that style had made a comeback in the early 2000’s, complete with a mason jar and chalk paint revival that captured Levra’s creative interest. In a modern world of contemporary design featuring all straight lines and monochromatic colors and super-sleek technology, she was drawn to the country charm of milk jugs, barn wood, and white picket fences. These things were all fairly difficult to find and, in some ways, it seemed silly to her to spend time decorating a home she would leave behind in a few short years. Still, she looked forward to it.
Her scheming was interrupted by the arrival of the boat. As she watched the next shuttle boat arrive, she heard an ear-splitting boom. The force of the deafening blast resonated through her whole body.
“What the hell just happened, Gunnar?” Nothing like this had ever happened at any of Mitch’s other departures.
Something was wrong.
She heard gasps from all around her as the other passengers looked skyward. She turned toward the direction the explosion came from—up. Gunnar’s voice stood out in the sounds of mayhem like a beacon in the night.
“Oh my god. No.”
All she could see at first was sparks and then smoke. Heat and raining objects followed. Something had exploded. Only seconds passed before her mind caught up with Gunnar’s outcry.
Emergency sirens blared and uniformed personnel scurried about the deck of the platform.
“Levra, come on.” Gunnar pulled her behind him as he raced toward a structure that would provide cover as larger pieces of what had to be the elevator’s lifter began to plummet from the sky.
Large chunks of flaming metal rained down on the platform while others crashed into the ocean, sending waves crashing into the already shuddering platform. Gunnar led Levra through the chaos, dodging what he could as they ran, but Levra couldn’t think past her sister. He practically dragged her along behind him.
“It can’t be.” Her words fell flat, as the evidence contradicting her statement fell from the sky, mocking her.
Something sharp struck her forehead, and she fell to the deck, her sister’s coin falling to the platform and rolling away from her. Warm blood slicked down her face. Her knees ached from the impact, her hands scraped and bloody from the rough metal platform.
“Lev, stay close.” Gunnar’s voice seemed far away as he pulled her to her feet and rushed under the covered portion of the deck.
“The quarter. I dropped it,” Levra sobbed as she stretched her hand out, trying in vain to reach the precious coin from her position under safe cover.
“Stay here. I’ll get it.”
Too numb to respond, she watched Gunnar race back out into the falling maelstrom to retrieve the antique coin.
Levra heard whispers and occasional screams travel through the awestruck crowd. She strained to hear what they said. She felt as if she was in a small ever-constricting tunnel and her heart sped up even as time slowed down.
“Explosion.” That word got tossed around a lot, she didn’t know how to process it.
Levra’s thoughts struggled to form in her muddled brain.
More chatter from the crowd. “Bomb or equipment malfunction.”
Her stomach sunk and turned over. She fought the urge to throw up. No, no, no.
“Definitely a bomb.”
Mitch. She has to be okay. She has to be.
Gunnar came back, wiping her face, holding her close to him, offering soothing words and comforting hands. “I’m here, Lev. I’ve got you. I’m here.”
His words seemed like they were at the other end of a tunnel, drowned out by the frantic cries of the rest of the onlookers. She felt his touch, yet he seemed so far away as her mind raced over the horrific possibilities. She felt like she was falling through an endless space as her mind was barraged with half-formed thoughts.
“Did you get it?”
He held up the coin in answer as two words from a stranger’s lips traveled through the crowd and found her ears. The devastating words penetrated the time-slowing fog that stopped time completely and froze her heart in her chest mid-beat.
Nothing like a cliffhanger…eh? Don’t worry, you can pick up the rest of the story RIGHT NOW!