Beyond the Galaxy Space Opera Anthology

Do you love space opera such as Firefly, Star Wars, and Battlestar Galactica? Well, I have a treat for you! I wrote a story for the new anthology Beyond the Galaxy.

Last September, I traveled to Seattle for an epic writer’s retreat hosted by J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon. For 2 days we hung out in a private room at the Museum of Pop Culture, and together, we built a sci-fi world in which we would each write our own story.

We built this incredible universe that has two warring alien entities: the Teku and the Krad. They arrive on Earth every 2,000 years to harvest people… You will have to read this entire email to find out what happens to us humans. (Spoiler alert, they are due for a 2020 arrival! Anything could happen in the next 6 months.) 👽

Out of that effort came Botched. It’s the first story in the anthology! Read on for an excerpt.

The book is available on Kindle Unlimited or you can buy the e-book or paperback. It’s 372 pages, so it’s a larger size book.

Proceeds from all sales go to Tech Bridge Girls, a nonprofit that excites, educates, and equips girls from low income communities with STEM programming that empowers girls to achieve economic mobility and better life chances.

When I was young, science and technology played a big role in my life and influenced much of my writing today. Helping girls learn more about science means a lot to me.

I’m proud to be featured with authors such as Lindsay Pogue, Heather Lee Dyer, Jay Key, Chris Yee, Tory Element, Christopher Wills, and more.

Here’s an excerpt from my story. I hope you enjoy it. If you feel like downloading or purchasing the book, thank you!


by Cameron Coral

My titanium fingers tapped against the surface of the cockpit’s dashboard. I always got a case of nerves while waiting for the green light to signal the all-clear. The massive twenty-foot-high airlock doors were the only thing separating me and my shuttle from the vast emptiness of space.

My breath came in rapid spurts. I’d been waiting for five minutes. The clearance light stayed off.

What was the problem?

I glanced behind my pilot seat. Twelve passengers sat buckled into their jump seats inside the cabin. They were known as Botched—humans who were no longer useful. I was flying them to their new home on the surface of a nearby planet, Arae, where they would join the other humans already deposited there.

I turned back to the dashboard. The damn light still hadn’t turned on. My eyelid spasmed. A glitch? I’d go to the med lab when I returned, see if they could do something about my uncontrollable reflex. I was 70% Kevlar-titanium steel and 30% organic flesh. My people, the Krad, took the best parts from the humans, those traits that would help our evolution. We wanted human senses—taste, smell, and touch—to enhance our AI auditory and visual processing.

But now, odor was annoying me. I grabbed my tiny container of cinnamon oil and dabbed it below my nostrils to hide the smell of sweat and human gases coming from the cabin.

I sighed and glanced at the clearance light. Still dark. What in the name of Kradonovan the Mighty?

I grabbed the comm. “Control room, what’s causing this delay?”

Someone giggled on the other end, and laughter erupted from the cockpit’s speaker.

“Hey, what’s going on?”

A familiar, irritating voice replied. Gemini. “Hello, Mercuria. I just thought you’d like to sit for a while with your precious Botched. I know how much you love them.”

I clenched my jaw. He wasn’t supposed to be in the command room, but he’d probably charmed his way in, just to taunt me.

“Control room”—my voice trembled—“clear my shuttle for takeoff.” I disengaged the comm, not wanting to hear Gemini’s cackles. I would inform Supervisor Dex upon my return. Gemini was violating safety protocols.

I glanced behind me, and my gaze landed on a man in the first row. He watched me with curious eyes, a frown plastered on his face. Next to him, a woman pressed her hands together in front of her chest. Eyes closed, her lips moved in a soft chant.

I cleared my throat. “Sorry for the delay. We’ll be taking off shortly.”


The humans were afraid of the Krad and they had good reason to be. Our kind had harvested them from their home planet thousands of years ago and had given them a new life aboard our fleet. Their species had a biomarker—a complex spiraled DNA sequence unique to anything we’d ever encountered before in the universe. Homo sapiens’ genetic mutations allowed us to harness bacteria that increased our lifespan by a full century.

Humans were pretty important to my people, so we took them and traveled with them everywhere we went. This might have been going on for at least a thousand years. Nobody really knew for sure.

It was a symbiotic relationship. Krad fed and sheltered the humans, and in return, they supplied their biomass, which fed our ship’s harvester. But after so many years, a human’s biomarker—what we called their essence—dried up. When that happened, they were assigned Botched status, meaning they no longer served a purpose on our ship, the Aragonite.

In the cabin, a woman sobbed. It wasn’t unusual for some of the Botched to overreact. They were leaving the only life they had known—in the bowels of our ship—where they’d kept sleep quarters and communal areas. The humans governed themselves, preferring to keep their society closed. As long as they hooked into the tubes inside their sleep bunks and provided us with their daily biosamples, we were fine with that arrangement.

And yet, they still feared us. Other Krad were often cruel. If a few teenage Krad imbibed too much petrol fluid, their drunkenness would cause them to wander into the human zone and cause trouble.

Some of the humans trusted me because I was around more than the other Krad. I resided in a narrow room close to the shuttle dock. It made my job easier. Usually, my orders had me making shuttle runs to drop groups of Botched several times a week. Sometimes, there were only four people, but once, there had been twenty—my biggest load. There were only seats for sixteen on the shuttle, so that had been awkward. Mostly, I was isolated from other Krad, except for when I ventured to the upper levels to visit Supervisor Dex and eat in the food hall.

The green light flipped on. “Finally,” I muttered and engaged the thruster engines. The shuttle vibrated as the glider track rose and hooked in. The automated countdown began. I didn’t need the info, but it helped to prepare the humans.

“Ten, nine, eight,” said an automated feminine voice. I leaned back in my seat, bracing myself for the rush of entering the dark void of space.

“Seven, six…”

That part never got old.

“Five, four…”

In the back, a woman wailed.


It’ll be okay, I wanted to tell her. She sounded so scared.

“Two, one.”

The shuttle lurched forward, careening along the glider track. Our bodies pressed against our seats as the shuttle launched out of the narrow tunnel. In three seconds, we were clear of the Aragonite.

There was nothing but pitch-black space punctuated by distant stars. We lost gravity, and the passengers grew silent.

I let my arms float up and admired my silver and orange metal coating, my elegant titanium fingers. After a minute, I pressed the button to turn on the announcement system.

A familiar recorded message began to play, one I’d heard a thousand times by now. “Dear Humans, you’ll soon be arriving on Planet Arae. The shuttle carrying you will dock at a location called Base Point. You’ll each receive a pack containing water filtration tablets, protein packs, blankets, and other necessities. It is important that you seek shelter quickly as weather conditions on Arae change drastically at night.”

The computer’s voice had a warm, cheerful tone, meant to comfort.

“You should expect to encounter other humans who have been dropped off previously. However, the Krad have no idea if those humans are friendly. In fact, we don’t know the survivability conditions on the planet as the Krad have cut ties with the humans on Arae.”

I paused the recording and let that information sink in. This is where the Botched usually lost it. If they were going to cry or scream or shout profanities, this would be the point where it happened.

The chatter of human voices sounded behind me, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. People were talking over each other. I tilted my head and watched with my enhanced peripheral vision.

The man in front, the one with the calm, curious eyes, hushed the others. “Stay strong, we’re going down there and nothing can change that fact. We must stay strong and stay together. Just like I told you. Just like we rehearsed.”

I started the recording again.

“The Krad appreciate your service onboard our ship. Generations of Krad are grateful for your contributions. Please note, we will not be returning to retrieve you. Arae is your new home. Going forward, do not approach the shuttles or attempt contact. There will be turbulence as we enter the planet’s atmosphere. Please make sure your belt straps are buckled. Thank you and have a wonderful day.”

The entry into the planet’s atmosphere shook the vessel and rattled my calcium-tipped Kevlar teeth, along with the bits of hardware and ligaments that connected metal to tissue. I had to visit med lab and tighten up after about every third shuttle ride.

Usually, I let the shuttle’s AI handle the flying, but today, I felt like enabling the manual controls, so I lowered our altitude and soared through the clouds. As we flew 10,000 feet above sea level, I blinked in awe. Cerulean-blue sky and bright, clear sunshine from a nearby star stretched before me. The temperature gauge displayed 28° Celsius.

Conditions were prime for a drop.

The shuttle passed over a blue-green lake—the vast source of fresh water was why I’d picked out this location for the humans. Those who outgrew their usefulness to the Krad settled here and had been doing so for several decades as our ship orbited above. I spied the outcropping that stretched out from the shore and nudged the shuttle in that direction. After banking, I gently rested the shuttle onto the platform.

Then I powered down the thrusters, unbuckled from my seat, and rose to face the passengers.

A weird thing happened.

I don’t know why, but for some reason, I touched the energy weapon that rested in a holster at my left hip. I’d been flying these shuttle trips, dropping off Botched for six years now and had never drawn my gun even once.

A nervous little flutter happened inside my chest. My right eye twitched again. Please, don’t let me glitch.

Then I said—I always felt awkward about this part—“Does anybody have any questions?”

The humans regarded me with frowns. The man who was their leader unbuckled and stood to face me with narrowed eyes.

He didn’t say anything. Perhaps he hadn’t heard me.

“Do you have a question?” Then I remembered him. He lived near my sleep cube with his family.

“You’re a monster.” He clenched his fists and veins stood out on his temples, looking as if they would burst.

My hand went to my gun again. Weirdest thing. I didn’t even realize I was reaching for it. Must have been a glitch in my circuitry. I really needed a med lab visit.

The chanting woman next to him grabbed his arm. “Royne, no. Don’t endanger yourself.”

But Royne just kept staring at me with icy eyes. “What you’re doing is wrong. Your kind—the Krad—are enslaving our people, using us up, and then tossing us away like trash on this planet.”

I shook my head. “I don’t understand why you’re angry. You and the others are going free. You can live on this planet with other humans like you, away from Krad.”

The others rose from their seats. I entered the code to open the shuttle door and lower the ramp. As it descended, I waved at the people to file out.

But Royne stood in place, his gaze fixed on me. “And what kind of life is this? A planet that isn’t ours. A life we didn’t ask for, trapped here with no hope of ever finding our real home. Your people have hijacked the human species. You’ve destroyed us.”

I didn’t know what to say. A few of the people started filing off the shuttle.

The woman touched his arm. “Come on, Royne. I never want to see one of these creatures again.”

Still, he stared me down for another half-minute—it was intense—until an off-kilter smile crept across his face. “You’re right, Lana.” He pointed at me. “I never want to lay eyes on your ugly Krad face ever again.”

Then he and Lana walked off the shuttle.

As I lifted off, I breathed a sigh of relief to be rid of them. They should be thanking me. On other Krad ships, humans got shoved out of the airlock or jettisoned in pods onto dangerous planets.

I switched on autopilot for the ride back to the Aragonite.

As I tapped my fingers, I noticed my hands shaking.


Here’s the link to buy the book and support a charity!

New Sci-fi Dystopian Novel

Many readers have asked about Reed, a character from Altered (Rogue Spark Book 1). He was bullied at Woodlawn Youth Improvement Center and harbored a huge crush on Ida.

The novel After We Fall describes what happened to Reed and the other kids at Woodlawn. Here is chapter 1…

Sci-fi Dystopian


Journal Entry of Reed Reynolds

February 16, 2040 

I guess I’d always thought the end of the world would happen fast. 

Maybe an asteroid would wipe out humanity, or Yellowstone would blow its top.

But it turns out the fall of society happens like a slow caving in. 

Ever build a sand castle and watch as a rolling wave steals a wall, and then you rebuild, but it gets sucked away again?

And with each rising swell, more pebbles disappear until there’s only a soggy lump on the water-logged beach.

Until you’re left with nothing but ruin. You shape and mold the slippery mud as fast as you can, but you’ll never beat the onslaught of waves.

Woodlawn Improvement Center

Oneida County, New York State

We’re misfits and orphans, sprinkled in with a few juvenile delinquents. 


I’ve been part of the system since I was fourteen, when my mother had left me in the hands of New York State because she couldn’t handle being a parent. Can’t blame her, I guess. Life in the late 2030s hadn’t been easy for anyone. Jobs were scarce and environmental disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes were happening frequently. Having a kid was just another burden in a crumbling mess of a world.

“Welcome to Woodlawn, Reed Reynolds,” Kilpatrick had said my first day—over two years ago. I’d shaken the head supervisor’s cold, moist hand while a creeping sensation had risen in my throat.

My social worker, a kind lady named Maxine, had assured I’d be in good hands. She’d winked goodbye. “It won’t be long before a nice couple adopts you and takes you to your forever home.”

I’d nodded despite my insides feeling like quicksand. Once Maxine had lifted off in her air cruiser, Kilpatrick had introduced me to the real Woodlawn. After handing me a scratchy used blanket, he’d led me to my new room, bare except for two cots with worn foam mattresses that weren’t much thicker than a folded towel.

That’s when I’d met my roommate Zeke. He’s a year younger and had looked like a frightened shelter puppy at first. Later, he’d confessed his relief I wasn’t a bully. We’re true friends now. Bonding happens fast when you’re both picked on by the older, bigger kids.

Zeke’s sister is Daria. She’s my age—sixteen—but also blind, which makes life really difficult at Woodlawn. Zeke often shakes his head, explaining that they’re a bonded sibling pair. According to him, they can’t be separated during the adoption process. That Daria is disabled means no one in their right minds would take them. I never know what to say when he mentions it; I suspect he’s correct

Six months ago, a red-headed girl named Ida had arrived. She’d been different from the others, more of a loner type. But there’d been something about her, and I’d followed her around in the exercise yard always trying to catch her attention. She’d kept ignoring me until one day—when she’d stood up for me against the biggest bully at Woodlawn—Marc Mal.

The few times Ida had actually met my gaze, I’d seen loneliness in her eyes and something else. Bitterness? She’d had a rough past like a lot of kids here.

Too bad she hadn’t stayed long. I’d only known her a few weeks before a couple had adopted her. But four months later, she’d sent a letter, and we’ve kept in touch since. The craziest thing of all? She’d been recruited into the military; now she’s in basic training. 

I miss Ida like anything, but her story gives me hope. Hope for a better future outside Woodlawn.

But that was before The Fall.

The Fall—the collapse, the invasion—whatever you call it, had happened real slow at first.

In the early days, soon after Ida had left, the adults who worked here had looked nervous. Some of them had stopped showing up, which had been odd because Woodlawn ran like clockwork. Even Kilpatrick, who’d usually enjoyed taunting us, had become distracted. He’d spent time alone, holed up in his office, listening to new reports. Something was happening. I hadn’t known what, but it had seemed like a big deal.

One day, after getting beaten up and sent to the nurses station, I’d found out.

Nurse Tilda’s lips had been tightly drawn as she’d rubbed alcohol-soaked gauze along my cut cheek. “At least they didn’t break your glasses this time. Good thing, too, because we can’t replace them.”

“Why not?” I’d asked, wincing at the sting lighting up my bruised and torn skin.

She’d dropped the bloody bandage in a tray and frowned. “Because… It’s hard to get things right now.”

“What do you mean?”

“Reed, I’m not supposed to say a word… But you seem like such a smart boy.” After checking the hallway and shutting the door, she’d knelt before me, resting a hand on my knee. “There’s been an incident.”

I had studied her face, noting dark circles under her eyes. And I’d smelled something like wine on her breath—a familiar odor from many evenings living with my mother, when she’d return from the bars.

“What is it, Nurse Tilda?”

“Far from here… in Europe. There’s been an invasion. These creatures… They call them the Heavies.”

Creatures?” My jaw had dropped, and even though it had ached from getting punched earlier, I hadn’t cared. “You mean like from space?”

She’d nodded. “There’s been little news. They don’t really know a lot about them. But they’re dangerous. So, people here have been scared. Folks are taking precautions… evacuating south to designated cities.”

Visions of green space creatures, like the ones from my comic books, had filled my head. Were they menacing? Had they tried to communicate with us?

Tilda had lingered by the window, gazing down into the yard. “It’s hard to leave you kids but… I have to go. My sister lives a hundred miles from here. She’s on a farm with her husband and daughters, and I figure if anywhere will be safer, it’s there.”

My stomach had dropped. Nurse Tilda had been the only adult at Woodlawn who was nice. “But you can’t move. What about me?”

“I-I’m sorry, Reed.”

That had been the last time I saw her. Over a week ago. And the other employees had stopped showing up, too.

Kilpatrick is the only one remaining, sequestered in his office, poring over papers that litter his desk, and constantly on his terminal. He’s grown a beard and hasn’t changed his clothes in days.

Last night, on hall sweep duty, I’d lingered near his door, staring through the glass partition. But then he’d seen me and had ordered me back to my room, promptly shutting his window blinds.

The bell rings, signaling our hour-long recess. Automatic doors shuffle us into the yard regardless of weather. The skies are grey and overcast today, and it’s warm enough I don’t see my breath.

I take refuge under a scraggly tree, poking a tiny stick into the top of an ant-hill. Each time I wreck the entrance, the worker ants race over and fix the damage. 

Once, in a foster home, there’d been an ant farm, and I’d spent hours watching the workers swarm and serve their queen. For once, I’d thought there might be a future with that foster couple. They’d lost their five-year-old in an air cruiser crash—he hadn’t been buckled in and another flying vehicle had collided with them, thrusting the boy forward into the cockpit dashboard.

But they had sent me away, like all the others.

Bored, I dig a path in the dirt pile to help the ants. Staring at the ten-foot-tall electrified fence that contains us, I sigh. What would be waiting outside Woodlawn? Would I ever lead a normal life?

Three older boys in the yard start brawling. I stand, yelling at them to cut it out as I stare up at Kilpatrick’s second-story office window where he usually watches the yard. But there’s no sign of him. After a few minutes, the Responsive Riot Control Units (RCUs) descend from the roof.

“Longlegs!” a kid yells, and the teen bystanders scatter. Four of the flying spider-shaped drones swoop down and survey the situation. Instead of running, I stay to see what will happen, fascinated by the insect-like robots that sense when fights break out and intervene.

One of the fighting boys (I think his name is Pete) runs off and blends in with the kids lining up for the door. The two others seem oblivious to the spiderbots until they announce, “Attention. Stop moving. Assume the position.”

That means the boys are supposed to sink to their knees and put their hands behind their heads in submission. They had trained us on the position from day one. Once the spiderbots had subdued us, adult supervisors would emerge from the building and handcuff the offending teens, escorting them to their rooms, the nurse, or to Kilpatrick’s office for punishment. It was standard procedure.

But none of us had seen the supervisors in a week.

“Get them!” Marc Mal shouts. Six boys storm over and throw stones at the RCUs. The drones swerve, dodging the projectiles. But Marc hits one square in the front control panel. It veers up, weaving a corkscrew pattern, crashes into the brick building wall, and falls to the ground.

A shrill blaring sounds from the other machines—one of their defense mechanisms.

Marc’s gang draw more rocks from their pockets and pummel the machines.

I edge away from the chaos, trying to avoid the line of fire. I scan Kilpatrick’s office window and glimpse him. His gaze meets mine, and he hesitates. Frowning, he grabs his jacket and exits the room.

The RCUs blast their sirens while Marc and friends continue their assault. I watch the roof four stories up, expecting a fleet of spiderbots to descend. But I spy Kilpatrick. One moment he stares down at us and shakes his head. Then he steps out of sight.

The machines launch tranquilizer darts. Every attacker collapses within five seconds except Marc. It takes three darts in the chest to bring him down.

Kilpatrick’s air cruiser lifts off from the rooftop and soars east into the muted grey sky.

That’s the last time I see him.