- Author: Dana Kelly
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Rivers of Orion
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.
Cover design by: Keri Warhol
Library of Congress Control Number: 2018675309
Printed in the United States of America
Special thanks to my editor, Shannon Duggan.
The Only Constant
Into the Labyrinth
Worth the Price
The Big Score
Where the Heart Is
Decisions in a Vacuum
The Wreck of the Excrucio
The Way Home
What Makes the World
The Woman Inside
Friend or Foe
Building a Bridge
Truth in Shadows
Where the Rivers Flow
About The Author
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.
“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