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By Lisa Medley
Every story has a genesis. Something that sparks the imagination and begins the what-if process. For Space Cowboys & Indians that spark was an NPR (National Public Radio) story I listened to in my car one morning as I was driving for my day job.
You can read the story here: When Science Beats Fiction courtesy of NPR
The gist of it is that after 10 years and 4 billion miles, a probe called Rosetta was about to harpoon a comet, and then place Philae (an exploratory lander) onto that comet. What? What? What?
Space?! Comets?! HARPOONS?!
What is this? The Wild West?
I was hooked. Of course, the writerly wheels began to spin, and I sped down the Google rabbit hole. I followed the Rosetta lander and the exploration of comet 67P. You can too. There are several stories here at NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/search/index.php?searchinput=rosetta
You can Google Rosetta or Philae or Comet 67P and find more than you could dream of. The Rosetta Probe even has a Twitter account. https://twitter.com/ESA_Rosetta
I incorporated a few of the real-life details into Space Cowboys & Indians, then tweaked them to my liking. Instead of a comet, my astronaut explorers are commissioned by a space profiteer intent on mining an asteroid called Amun, reportedly rich in precious metals and other resources. The first to reach the asteroid and mine its resources is sure to enjoy a financial boon that’s never been seen before opening the last frontier up the prospecting of near-Earth asteroids far surpassing to the California gold rush.
How can the chance of a lifetime go so horribly wrong?
Mining Engineer Cole Hudson signed up for NASA astronaut training, but after washing out short of getting his gold wings, he retreats to Alaska where he stakes out a gold claim. When billionaire entrepreneur Duncan Janson offers him an opportunity to join a mining team on an asteroid, Cole jumps at the chance.
But nothing is as it seems. Former NASA reject and rival classmate, Tessa Hernandez, is also a member of the team, and from the beginning of the mission test flight, things go wrong. They soon discover they’re not the only ones on the asteroid. As they try to escape, they are pulled through a wormhole and back to the early 1800s New Mexico desert where aliens and Apaches may be the least of their problems.
Roswell, New Mexico – the near future
Tessa Hernandez swirled her straw around the gin and tonic sitting on the bar top in front of her at O’Malley’s. Another Friday night in the Roswell bar—was this six or seven weeks since Janson had dragged her out of her self-imposed exile of humiliation with an offer she couldn’t refuse?
Ever since she’d been dismissed from the NASA training program, she’d been in a downward spiral. Anger issues, they’d said. Hadn’t passed the final psych eval. Even after completing the twenty-month program—she’d totally financed—they’d passed her over for promotion to astronaut. Let them try growing up with six older Hispanic brothers in a Catholic home in South Texas.
They hadn’t even seen anger issues yet.
She wasn’t sure what burned her ass the most, that she had been days away from fulfilling her dream when they’d booted her, or that they’d let her spend out before it happened.
But, now? Janson offered her a second chance. Her own personal patron saint of lost causes, it seemed.
She tipped back the tumbler and let the clear, tart drink slide down her throat.
“Want another?” Noah Wright slid up to the barstool beside her carrying a head-sized plate of greasy home-cut fries covered in cheese. His dirty blond hair feathered out beneath the ball cap, and his blue eyes sparkled with mischief.
“Sure. You buying?”
“Absolutely. Barkeep, send the lady another.” Noah gave her a crooked smile and shoved the plate of fries closer to her. “I’ll share.”
“No, thanks. You’re going to regret those tomorrow.”
“Probably. They’ll evacuate us, anyway, before we go. Might as well make ’em work for their money.”
“You’re disgusting.” Tessa smiled at him.
“I try. Besides, no way is my potentially last meal on Earth going to be space MREs.” He shoved a fistful of fries into his mouth. “Aaahve oooo sheen tha nooo ghay?”
“I had brothers—who were animals—and still, I have no idea what you just said. Swallow a few fries first, then talk.” Tessa slid her new drink closer to her and began again with the stir-and-ignore vibe she’d mastered.
Noah swallowed audibly. “I said. Have you seen the new guy?”
“Heard Janson flew to Alaska and dragged him off a gold mine claim.”
“Yep. Also, heard he was in ‘The Program.’ A reject. Just like us.”
“You had better be freaking kidding me.” She laid her head down on top of her tumbler, disgusted by what she knew was coming next.
“What’s that reaction all about?” he asked, wiping cheese off his cheek.
“You got a name for this reject?” she asked, hoping against hope.
“Hudson, I think. Like the river. Can’t remember his first name.”
“Cole,” Tessa mumbled. Just as she’d feared.
“Was he in your class?”
“Reeeeally? You gonna make me drag it out of you? Spill it. If we’re going to space with this guy, I’d like to know whose hands I’m putting my life into.”
“Oh, you’re safe enough. Not dangerous. Pendejo.” Tessa sighed. “Besides, you’re on the wrong team for him to cause you any trouble.”
“Cole is gay? You’re mad because he’s gay?”
“Good God, no. He’s…”
“I’m confused. Granted, it’s a state I’m familiar with. Still. What’s your grind with this guy? Do you know why he got booted?”
Bar noise picked up behind them as the band came onto the stage. “Money problems from what I heard. But if not for that, he’d still be sleeping his way through the female recruits.”
“Ah, I see then.”
Tessa whipped around on her bar stool. “What’s that mean?”
“You had a thing for him. Am I right?”
“Not. Even. Close.”
“Okay, I give up. Clearly I have no idea what your damage is with this guy.” Noah used his last three fries to sweep the remaining cheese from his plate and then pointed them at Tessa. “Whatever it is? Let it go. This is our big shot. Those losers still in ‘The Program’…” Noah made air quotes with his fries and fingers. “They have to follow the rules. Us? We’re making the rules.”
Tessa watched as Noah licked cheese from each finger. “I think rules are the least of our worries.”
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Lisa Medley bio
Lisa has always enjoyed reading about monsters in love and now she writes about them, because monsters need love too. She adores beasties of all sorts, fictional as well as real, and has a farm full of them in her Southwest Missouri home, including: one child, one husband, two dogs, two cats, a dozen hens, thousands of Italian bees, and a guinea pig. She may or may not keep a complete zombie apocalypse bug-out bag in her trunk at all times, including a machete. Just. In. Case.