Soli (Episode 1)

“How does it feel?” Raenalla asked, crouching like a cat on the open window’s sill, the neon lights of Kathanari making her edges glow.

Soli blinked, her fingers running over her skull. She couldn’t feel any scars or missing hair, but she knew the LumiLink had been inserted into her brain. “Normal. Hot, maybe?”

Raenalla giggled and made Soli’s metal table lift a few inches from the floor. “Firemancer! I thought you’d go water, like Fel.”

Anger sparked inside Soli’s chest at the mention of Fel’s name, and she scowled, violet eyes narrowed. “No. Not water. Give me your lighter.”


Ticket (Episode 2)

Flames danced across the back of Soli’s hand, drawn away from the lighter. She thought of the fire lengthening, becoming something else, drawing shape from her mind. The LumiLink tingled.

“A fox!” Raenalla gasped, hopping onto the floor to get a closer look. She giggled and reached for the fire, swearing as it touched her skin.

Soli laughed, feeling a sense of purpose and confidence that she hadn’t felt in a long time. She could change her life now. She could join the Guild of Flame, get a job off this cursed moon. This new power was her ticket out.


Stranger (Episode 3)

An elbow jabbed into Soli’s back, driving her into the shuttle’s darkened window. “Watch it!” she snapped, looking back.

A lean man with orange-gray eyes and an apologetic smile, shuffled back, hands upraised. “Sorry! Lost my balance.” He wore rust-brown, several shades lighter than his diamond-shaped face, and Soli instantly noticed the red stripe across his shoulders.

“You’re headed up?” she asked, flicking her eyes to the transparent ceiling and the spaceport high above.

“Yes, new tour.” He looked her over, eyes skimming her gray jumpsuit.

“I’m signing up,” Soli said.


“Astute,” Soli grinned.

He laughed. “Your sleeve’s singed.”


Rank One (Episode 4)

“Soli Ferdain, welcome to the Guild.”

Soli gave the spectacled lieutenant a wide, enthusiastic smile. “Thanks! So, what’s next? Tour to Agreda 3? Or Selen 7?” Visions of thrilling adventures filled her mind as the woman’s fingers tapped the inset display.

The lieutenant’s eyes flicked back to Soli dispassionately. “No, that’s for Flame Core. You’ll start at rank one. Ship heating, observation tour to Threkis. Two years.”

Soli’s excitement withered away. She felt cold, horror settling in beneath her skin. “Threkis, but that’s … but there’s nothing there. And heating? Anyone can do that.”

“Threkis, Private Ferdain. Report to Berth 12.”


Skip (Episode 5)

“I did not sign my life away to be a glorified heater!” Soli kicked the wall, cursing as pain lanced up her booted foot.

“You’d be away from Kathanari,” Raenalla said, shrugging at Soli’s heated glare.

“Two years of mind-melting boredom on a research vessel? I’d rather swallow a rattquellen!”

Raenalla giggled. “Don’t go then. Skip out.”

Soli blinked, anger cooling. “Skip out?”

“It’s not like they’d chase you down. Even the peacekeepers don’t bother coming into Quadrant 4 unless there’s a murder or something. So stay and don’t murder anyone.”

Run, or stay and die of boredom.


Accessory (Episode 6)

Soli sagged onto her bunk. Her shift had been long and boring, everything she’d feared. It’d only been two weeks aboard the Lightseeker 12, but it felt like years. Also, her CO was a dick.

Initiative was discouraged, curiosity stepped on like a bug. Just do your flaming job, he’d said when she’d dared to ask a question.

Staring listlessly at the gray ceiling, Soli barely registered the alarm that began to whine through the speakers.

“Attention. Accessory crew return to your bunks; prepare for evasive maneuvers. Flame Core, report to the bridge.”

Soli jumped up, excited. “Pirates!” she grinned.


Recruit (Episode 7)

Soli rounded the corner at a run and slammed directly into someone’s well-armored chest.

“Oof!” she gasped, staggering backward.

A strong hand snapped out and caught her elbow. “Careful.” The deep voice was amused.

Soli looked up into a friendly, unfamiliar face. He was not in Guild uniform and was holding a shock-pulse gun, currently pointed up.

“Uh, you shouldn’t be here,” Soli said, clearing her throat.

The green-eyed man grinned rakishly. “Hello … Ferdain,” he said, reading her jumpsuit. “Are you happy with your work?”

“Uh … what?”

“I have a thrilling new opportunity for you. Consider me your new recruiter.”


Offer (Episode 8)

Soli activated her LumiLink and felt her fingers heat.

“Wouldn’t do that,” the green-eyed man said, face still friendly.

“Why not?”

An explosion rocked Soli back on her heels, and she whipped her head around, catching sight of rust-brown jumpsuits and flashes of fire before a blast door sealed the corridor.

The man gripped her elbow. “Consider yourself lucky you’re not wearing stripes. Are you going to embrace adventure or fight and die on this failing ship?”

“Flame Core—”

“Are arrogant Alliance pricks who are going to use and discard you. I’m offering you freedom, adventure, and money, Ferdain,” he grinned, smile stretching wide. “What is the Guild worth to you?”


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