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Release date: 2021

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—By Mily Ketchum

The planet Naratu is dying. The only thing keeping the Mujai people from extinction is aerosolizing gold into the atmosphere. The Council has identified a planet abundant in the metal and have selected a team to gather preliminary information.

In comes Ayathesti—compassionate, a perfectionist, a loner, a geneticist. She accompanies the team on the 87 year flight. Her task? To isolate and collect DNA from an indigenous species to gene splice with their own. To create a hybrid species. The purpose? To establish a localized colony to supply gold as needed. But having a compassionate heart leaves Aya with an inner conflict: show mercy and prevent the enslavement of a new species or ensure her people’s survival?

Things grow even more complicated with Tiamet as mission leader. His intelligence, confidence, and drive are exactly what make him perfect for the position. But they are also why he's a perfect distraction for Aya. Being in charge has challenges of its own, including making sure everyone is moving toward the same goal. And keeping up with changes as they arise has him juggling priorities. Given his history with Ayathesti, he’s confident he can get her on board to do her part.

If Naratu is to survive, they both need to fill the demands of their roles. While Ayathesti wrestles with her sense of right and wrong, Tiamet faces the pressure of leading a successful mission, and both struggle to fight the pull drawing them together. Will Ayathesti compromise her morals and go through with her duties? Can Tiamet stay focused and return everyone home safely? Will there be enough time on the brief visit they’re in this foreign land—a planet they call Earth? 

Worth Reading 

"A science fiction romance story, involving scientists sent on a questionable mission to save their planet from environmental destruction."—Review by Michelle Hogmire: Co-Founder of The Haint

Sneak Peek

Ayathesti - 1

Is this really the new identity of my life? Savior of our species? I don’t know if my heart can take it. The walls of the Zeyo fade back into focus as my thoughts quiet under the pounding of my heart. The low murmur of the atmosphere grows to full volume around me.
The glass near my mouth fogs with my sigh when a shrill, twangy voice pierces the hum of conversation in the local lounge. A shiver crawls up my spine in the instant I realize I’m about to drown in the entirety of today’s gossip.
Nineveh approaches the bar where I sit. “Did you hear about Tiamet?” With a graceful swoop, she slides a wooden stool from under the bar and sits atop the velvety scarlet cushion.
Thinking only of The Council’s decision, which will change every aspect of my life, I’m slow to answer with an unenthusiastic “What?”
After placing the strap of her bag on a hook underneath the glassy granite counter, she looks at me with beaming eyes. “They selected him to lead the expedition!” She pinches her glossed strawberry lips together in a smile, her shoulders shaking with a suppressed giggle.
Though her comment evokes a proper stiffness through my entire body, I maintain my feigned disinterest on the subject. “Expedition?” I ask, staring at my glass on the countertop, arms folded against the padded edge, my voice hoarse from lack of use throughout the day.
I’ve had a thing for Tiamet ever since we attended The Academy of Science Advancement, or TASA, if you will. The thought of working closely with him turns my stomach over itself, threatening to tie itself in knots.
Nineveh swats at the air, rolling her juniper eyes. “Oh, stop it! You know . . . the expedition! On that planet to find an indigenous race to breed with!”
With a nod and a smile toward the bartender, I prop my glass between my fingertips. Another round. I wouldn’t say I’m a regular at the lounge, but I frequent enough for them to know my usual drink. My gaze sweeps across the mirror behind the bar, illuminated by amber lights embedded into the glass shelves where various bottles rest. To my left is the entrance, hidden behind a wall that separates the lavatory hallway from everything else. Just left of that is a pony wall separating the entrance from the crushed velvet sofas around a low glass table. Single-light chandeliers dangle over the wooden tables, whose surfaces showcase natural curves in the grain.
The same dark marble as the bar counter is infused into them, following these patterns like a black river carving its way through an underground cavern. The ceiling showcases a dark finish, garnished with tiny white lights to mimic the night sky. The same amber lights in the bar shelves wrap around the room to tie everything together.
“I’m thrilled you’re privy to all this rather useless information, Nineveh, but we won’t actually breed with them . . .” I don’t mean to sound condescending, but the uncertainty of how to drive the conversation away from Tiamet gets the better of me.
Nineveh folds her arms, wrinkling her freckled nose. “Come on! I know deep down you’re thrilled.” Her bubbly demeanor is constantly teetering over a line between being amusing and irritating.
“I didn’t know they would select him as director, but I had my suspicions he would be going.” After lifting a new glass to eye level, I observe the light refraction of the caramel fluid inside before pressing the rim to my lips, letting it slip through them.
“You don’t sound very excited,” she says with a look of disapproval.
I raise my eyebrows as a silent request to know when she’d ever seen me excited.
She grips my arm and shakes it gently. “I was certain you’d jump at the news since you’re going too.”
I hold back a grin and roll my eyes. It must be all she can do to keep from jumping up and down herself.
“You’re going too?” Tiamet’s voice rings in my ears from behind as he approaches. My heart rattles to a stop at his question. He places himself diagonally from Nineveh and me, leaning against his hands on the edge of the countertop.
“Not by choice,” I snap, building my defensive walls higher. “I am completely against creating a hybrid race for this.” With another sip, my fingertips collect the condensation from the outside of the glass before I rest it in my hands against the counter’s glassy surface.

About the Author

Mily Ketchum is an Architectural Drafter by day, Mom by evening, and writer by night. After seven years of working on the same project, she's ready to debut with Extension.

As someone who enjoys learning about new things, one consistent area of interest is psychology. This has helped her create dynamic characters in her writing and aides in their authenticity. Creativity is a motivator, and Mily expresses this in more than just writing—she enjoys sketching portraits from still images.

Also, being one of an analytical mind, she is taking control of the college education reins and working toward acquiring her Landscape Architecture degree. The goal she has in mind for this is urban planning. With it, she hopes to bring more nature and flow into the every day lives of those within the community.

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