Not In Kansas Anymore

About the Book:

Seeking an escape from her life back in Kansas, Dottie signs up on a whim to become a Federation space captain! – of a tiny, solo-crew cargo hauler. Alone in space and wishing for adventure, Dottie goes off course to an uncharted star system to answer a distress call. Sure, the call is in an alien language she’s never heard, and yes, she’s probably going to get fired on her first Federation mission, but… to adventure!

After being forced down to the planet by an alien probe in orbit, Dottie meets Croen, a handsome grey-skinned man with vivid purple eyes and an energy rifle pointed right at her. Learning they are in a shared predicament, they set off together in search of the probes’ origins, what happened to the aliens whose ancient ruins litter the jungle, and how to get back home.

Along the way, they’ll face challenges, meet unexpected friends and learn home is where your heart is.

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Dottie awoke feeling as if she’d stuck her finger in an electrical outlet. A strange current tickled up her nerves, the bubbly fizz gurgling through her groggy brain and tilting her disoriented perspective sideways. Her eyes felt gritty, but she slowly forced them open to find herself laying down on the extended sleeping bunk in the dimly lit cabin of her ship. Quiet chirps drew her attention to the cockpit where Croen sat hunched over the console, tapping in commands and his attention focused on the console’s screen. The main viewscreen gave a view of outside, showing darkness and stars, and the ship’s hatch had been closed.

“What…” She coughed, her throat dry.

Tamma ul!” Croen exclaimed with a heavy exhale and a relieved look on his face as he left the pilot’s chair to kneel by the bed. “Calm, Dottie. Calm. Stay lay. Not rise.”

Dottie relented in her attempts to sit up and blinked several times at him, wondering if whatever happened had crossed her brain circuits somewhere. “You’re speaking English?”

“Try,” he smiled. “Computer make reference…taobe… Uhm, li- library? Connect to biochip. Not all way done.”

Dottie tried to put all he said together but became more confused. “Biochip?”

“Ah, yes.” Croen tapped his elongated index finger to his temple. “Small computer in brain. How much Pala work. Connect to our devices. Translate other language. Share information.”

“That’s incredible,” Dottie whispered, openly gawking at him. “Other languages? So you, the Pala, have made contact with other species?”

“Yes. Many.”

“Where? Who?” Dottie began sitting up and the room spun.

“Slow, Dottie. Hurt.” He steadied her as she groaned.

She certainly did hurt, but she fought against the pain and sat up on the bed. She’d never been one to take things lying down. Stubborn, her sister had always said. Determined, Dottie had always argued back. “What happened?”

He kept his hand on her shoulder, as if she might fall back over any minute. “Storm. Lightning strike beach. Remember?”

“Storm, right.” Dottie rubbed her eyes. “Came out of nowhere. Never seen a storm like that.”

“Ion storm from west. Comes every sundown.”

“Ion storm? Then, the ionosphere isn’t stable?”

“No. Getting worse. More violent each night since I brought here by probe.”

Inhaling deep to clear her head, she meet his eyes. “How long have you been here?”

Concern wrinkled his expression. “Three ytat. Equal sixteen your days.”

“Two weeks?” Dottie’s hopes of rescue began to fade. “But, your signal? Surely your people have heard it by now?”

“I have been…in- in-vest-igate?”

“Investigating,” she offered.

“Investigating. I put together your scan of planet with mine. I believe signal from ship to space is bent.”

“Bent?” Dottie scrunched her eyes closed for a moment, trying to put his broken English into context. “Do you mean refracted? Scattered? Uhm, sent in the wrong direction?”

“Yes. Sent in wrong direction. I sent signal to Targo’ot, closest station of Artecht Empire.”

“Ar-techt,” Dottie tried, but she felt like she sneezed through the last syllable. “Empire?”

“Yes, I-” He paused in his explanation, mouth slightly open in forming the next word. His eyes shifted to a darker hue as they darted over her expression and his head tilted left. “That word, empire, gives you concern? Why? Have I said wrong word in offense to you?”

Nervously, she swallowed and shied away from his inquisitive gaze. “In my people’s history, the term empire has always meant a great force coming to conquer others less powerful than themselves. Are your people conquerors, Croen?”

“Con-k…” he struggled to pronounce the word.

“Conquerors,” she stated more boldly, once again meeting his gaze head on. “Do you invade other planets, to rule them or take from them by force?”

His eyes went wide and shifted to bright violet. “Never. No. Perhaps wrong word. Artecht is meaning of look forward. Many planets, many species in Artecht, all one goal. Explore, share, look forward together for better now of all. Is much like your Federation from what I read in your computer files.”

Dottie let out a held breath and relaxed. “Well, then I would recommend calling yourselves the Artecht Federation or Alliance when I introduce you to my superiors. If we ever get off this planet… You were saying about your distress signal?”

His eyes faded back to their normal lavender as he explained. “I sent signal to Targo’ot. Signal should be received two ytat ago. Was not. It went other direction, to uncharted space. Your space. Signal bent by ionosphere, I believe.”

“Which is why I picked it up instead of your people? That’s…” Dottie’s stomach dropped. “That’s very bad. Computer, did you send the distress signal to our probe and direct it to the nearest Federation com-station as requested.”


Dottie narrowed her eyes at the lifeless voice. “And did the probe acknowledge the command and leave orbit as directed?”

The computer took longer than it should to answer and came back with a beep that made it sound as if it were confused by its own findings. “Unknown.”

Sharing a look with Croen, Dottie restated the question in a different way. “Computer, is the probe still in orbit around Ozorius?”

“Unknown. A buildup of unstable ionic particles in the planet’s atmosphere is causing interference with the ship’s scanners.”

“Thanks a lot, Computer.” Dottie groaned, her chin hitting her chest as her hair flopped around her face. Her fine mess had just gotten all the more complicated. “Fuck.”

“Fuck?” Croen repeated.

Dottie’s cheeks heated as she regained control of her temper. “It’s an expletive. A word used to express frustration.”

“Ah. Then I believe it is correct for this situation. Fuck.”

Dottie giggled slightly then sighed. “Well, Croen, it appears you and I are both stuck here now, and no one will be notified about it.”

He frowned for a moment, moving from kneeling to sitting beside her on the bunk. “Will not more of your people look for you and pick up my signal?”

“Not for a while. I sort of went off course. They’ll wait until I don’t show up at my destination on time, which would be eight days from now, then the standard one-day grace period, then they will send out a search vessel along my charted path, which will probably take two weeks for them to determine I deviated quite a bit from the plan… Boy, I really got myself into a pickle.”


“Uhm, another expletive. Kind of. I mean that I got myself into a jam.”

“Jam.” Croen shook his head at her, amused. “Humans have strange words.”

“And Artecht sounds like I have allergies,” Dottie shot back with a grin. “I’m impressed, though. Your English keeps improving.”

“Yes. As we communicate, the chip will learn and alter my synaptic pathways accordingly.”

“That’s some impressive tech. Also, from the star charts you shared earlier, it seems your people have more advanced propulsion systems than us. I’d love to take a look at your engines. Wait- with your advanced propulsion systems, why has it taken so long for your people to find you? Surely they’ve organized a search party along your intended heading?”

Croen frowned, standing up and moving away from the bunk. Hands clasped behind his back, he stared out at the starry night beyond the viewscreen. “I too deviated from my designated flight path. I too am in a pickle jam.”

The serious tone he used only made it harder for Dottie not to laugh at least a little. When he turned back to her, his frown softening, she swallowed her laughter and tried to remain more professional regarding the situation they were in. “What were you doing all the way out here alone? Are you a cargo hauler like me?”

“No. I came in search of something.”

His cryptic answer made her brow winkle. “Oh. Did you find it?”

He sighed, staring back at the viewscreen as the darkness beyond began to lighten with the rising sun. “No, not yet.”

“What were you looking for?”

Her question earned an unexpected, deflated single-note laugh. His head shook slowly before lowering in defeat. “I am no longer certain.”

She opened her mouth to ask more questions, but closed it and sat in silence. Croen sounded so lost; a mirror of how she felt. Alone. Adrift. And a tad bit afraid.

Summoning her gumption, Dottie stood from the bunk and stepped next to him, her hands clasped behind her back to match his stance. “Well, at least we can be in a pickle together. And, who knows? Maybe the two of us can come up with a plan to get home, and along the way, we might even find whatever it is you’re looking for.”

His eyes lifted to look at her for a long moment, his strange irises swirling through several different hues of purple before settling on lilac. “You seem quite optimistic. Are all humans so determined to solve problems?”

“We do like a challenge.” She grinned. “And we tend to be at our best when the odds are stacked against us.”

The corner of his mouth twitched into a smirk. “Then, although I am sorry for the trouble it has caused you, I am glad you are here. Where do you propose we start?”

Dottie’s mind began filling with ideas they could try, starting with the investigation of Croen’s ship. Her stomach, however, had other ideas and gave a tiny grumble. “How about we start with breakfast?”

“Breakfast?” Croen looked puzzled.

“First meal of the day on Earth,” Dottie informed. “And by some accounts, the most important when you’re about to face a challenge.”


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