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Rivers of Orion

Dana Kelly

Copyright © 2021 Dana Kelly

All rights reserved

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

ISBN-13: 9798506761327

Cover design by: Keri Warhol

Library of Congress Control Number: 2018675309

Printed in the United States of America

For N

Special thanks to my editor, Shannon Duggan.


Title Page



Chapter 1

The Only Constant

Chapter 2

Into the Labyrinth

Chapter 3

Worth the Price

Chapter 4

Night Drive

Chapter 5

The Big Score

Chapter 6

Monday Blues

Chapter 7

Where the Heart Is

Chapter 8

Falcon’s Lure

Chapter 9


Chapter 10


Chapter 11

Memento Vivere

Chapter 12

Decisions in a Vacuum

Chapter 13

New Blood

Chapter 14

The Wreck of the Excrucio

Chapter 15


Chapter 16

The Way Home

Chapter 17

Orthogonal Vectors

Chapter 18

Binary States

Chapter 19

Primary Succession

Chapter 20


Chapter 21


Chapter 22

What Makes the World

Chapter 23

The Vessel

Chapter 24

Sunset Beach

Chapter 25

The Message

Chapter 26


Chapter 27

Lake Front

Chapter 28

The Woman Inside

Chapter 29

Friend or Foe

Chapter 30

Building a Bridge

Chapter 31

Crime Ring

Chapter 32


Chapter 33


Chapter 34

Earth Star

Chapter 35


Chapter 36

Basic Training

Chapter 37

Truth in Shadows

Chapter 38

Waking Nightmare

Chapter 39

Where the Rivers Flow

About The Author

Chapter 1

The Only Constant

Oil drained down from a filter, headed straight for Orin’s eyes. Reflexively, he rolled away, dislodging a cardboard drip trough. His wrench dropped noisily to the hangar floor, and oil poured all over it. Climbing to his feet, his breath caught in his throat as Liago—Orin’s boss—marched toward him.

“Well, well, if it isn’t another screw-up from Orin the Moron,” Liago snarled. “Clean it up, right now! Starship oil’s a biohazard, or are you too stupidtoremember that?” Liago was ocelini, a proud species descended from the great cats that stalked the jungles of a distant world, and leopard fur covered his body. A leathery base capped his downturned nose, and lengthy whiskers reached beyond his brow. Prominent, angled ears sprouted from his head, framing his thick, flowing mane. He wore a garage manager’s uniform and a pair of steel-toed boots. “I never should’ve promoted you from the parts room, but I guess that’s a mistake I can always correct.”

“It was about to get in my eyes,” said Orin.

“I didn’t catch that,” Liago shot back. Glancing at Orin’s fists, he stomped close and seized him by the shoulders, digging his claws into Orin’s joints. “You should really learn to speak up.”

Orin fought the urge to cry out. “It was… I mean…”

Liago hunched lower, his breath hot against Orin’s forehead. “I couldn’t make that out,” he hissed. “I told you to speak up.” Liago squeezed with all his might.

Orin’s hands spread wide as he howled in pain.

Liago shoved him stumbling, and Orin landed hard on his tailbone. “That’s what I thought. Now, clean this up!”

After a moment, as Orin slowly got back up to stand, a pair of mechanics approached the spill. “Don’t you dare help that worthless piece of crap,” growled Liago. “He cleans it all by himself.” Sheepishly, they returned to their work.

Between scrubbing the hangar and detailing the engine compartment, it took hours to finish.

Orin clenched his teeth as he scrubbed his hands, and when they were dry, he tossed a stained shop towel into a blue bin. Methodically, he put his tools back in their box, closed it up and set it next to his backpack. Taking a deep breath, he faced his boss. “It’s done.” He glanced at his phone. “I’m clocking out for the day.”

“Clocking out? I clocked you out as soon as you started mopping up the spill, but feel free to clock back in, because you’re not done until you change that oil filter. In fact, you’re not leaving this hangar until it’s done right—until I like it. Understand? Even if we’re here all damn night.”

“In that case… I quit,” said Orin.

“Yeah, right.”

“No, I mean it. I quit.” With fury in his eyes, he screamed, “I quit!” He shouldered his backpack, grabbed his toolbox, and stormed out of the hangar.

Liago guffawed so hard he needed to lean against a nearby wall. He glanced to his left, to the parts room counter, and chuckled. “Jazz, you better hurry. Looks like Orin the Moron is taking a second lunch.”

“It’s Jasmine,” she snapped, and she sprang from her chair to dash through the door leading out of the parts room. Her coal-black braid danced wildly as she moved. Exiting the hangar, she caught up to Orin as he marched across the parking lot, fuming under a gloomy sky. “Stop!” She lunged to grab hold of his shoulder, but he shrugged out of her grip. “Wait!”

Orin halted, turning to face her, and she leaned back slightly to regard him. His arms bulged within their sleeves. Grease smudged his jeans and work shirt. Sweat traced the neck of a snug undershirt. A wave of sandy locks crashed across his forehead as an ocean storm raged in his eyes. “For what? More insults?”

“Don’t let him get to you!” Glancing back to the hangar, she said, “At the very least, get him to fire you, so you can collect unemployment.”

“Fire me?” Orin scoffed. “No, Liago’s never going to fire me. He’s having too much fun insulting me.”

“I’ll admit he rides you pretty hard, but it’s not all bad, is it?” She squeezed his hands, her rich, olive-brown tone a perfect complement to his lightly tanned skin. “You’ve got me, don’t you?” Gazing upon him with exaggerated adoration, she hopped up to steal a kiss. “I like to think our lunch breaks are enjoyable.”

“That’s not the point. I was about three seconds away from decking that jerk.”

“Yeah, and he’d have ripped you

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