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New Release: Amp Squad – Valerie J. Mikles

Amp Squad - Valerie J. Mikles

QSFer Valerie J. Mikles has a new queer military space opera out (non-binary): Amp Squad.

Feared by her own kind. Hunted by extraterrestrial forces. Can one super soldier find her place among the stars?

Lieutenant Tabitha Chiu is plagued by doubt and conflict. Still heartbroken over the loss of her AI companion and marooned on a faraway moon, the space marine and her ragtag team of super-powered civilians stand as the last line of defense against alien hunters. But when her powers pick up whispered threats of approaching invaders, she’s horrified to discover her own people have betrayed her squad.

Barely escaping assassination, Tabitha and her fellow psionics flee the hateful moon to the sanctuary of a single surviving combat ship where she hopes to reunite with her AI friend. But when her newly resurrected acquaintance hijacks the craft, the nonbinary fighter is torn between protecting those she loves best and saving humanity from annihilation.

Can this conflicted officer and her misfit allies defeat a formidable enemy intent on driving them to extinction?

Amp Squad is the electrifying second book in the Ship Whisperer military science fiction series. If you like strong LGBTQ+ characters, unusual weaponry, and fearsome space battles, then you’ll love this pulse-pounding story.

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[SCENE: Exploring a derelict ship]

Heading out of the weird engineering office, Tabitha and Ryo found a long, monotonous corridor that finally gave them a sense of the vast length of the ship. Multicolored stripes on the floor and the base of the wall gave the illusion that it extended forever.

An access panel opened, and a team of six officers emerged, led by Saku. They swept the corridor, the barrels of their weapons dipping when they swept past Tabitha and Ryo.

“Durand, take Takumi. Chiu, you’re with me,” Saku ordered.

Ryo bristled but didn’t counter the order. Tabitha would be safer with Saku than a random squad member, since he understood her power and knew about the mysterious voice that had brought them here.

The team split into pairs and headed off in different directions. Ryo and his partner headed back into the access shaft. Tabitha sensed Ryo’s relief as he left and quirked her brow in confusion. She knew he was upset about his duty assignment, but did he not trust her on a mission?

Trotting up the hall to join Saku, she noticed the color markings on the floor changed from burgundy to lilac. Then Saku pulled open another access panel. She felt dazed watching him, wondering if his team had a diagram of the ship she’d somehow missed in the briefing.

“Is this your normal zone out or are you hearing that voice?” Saku asked, pulling a rope from his gear pack and hooking one end to her skinsuit. The simple protocol, which should have made her feel safe, instead made her feel like an invalid.

“I don’t hear anything. I feel a humming in my bones,” she said, touching the latch on her chest. Saku brushed her hand away from it.

“I think that’s the power trying to stay on. I feel it, too,” he said, connecting his Vaesr to her suit so he could read her vitals. “You sure that’s all?”

“Yes, ser,” she said, mildly offended. “Ship’s not safe yet. We need to finish our sweep.”

“You’re not having psychic conversations with Takumi behind my back, are you?” he asked, his voice tinged with jealousy and suspicion.

“No, ser,” Tabitha glowered, clamping her stunner to her wrist so that she had both hands free to climb. Saku went first into the shaft, climbed up one level, then pushed open a panel to get them out. They emerged into a hall that had more divisions than the level below, with wide bulkheads blocking the view.

“You notice how all these hallways have color marks, but no shape or line design? I guess there are no colorblind Yassi,” Saku commented, pointing to the dull, mustard-color lines.

“Or the lines aren’t for humans,” Tabitha said. A ship this under-crewed probably had service bots that followed the lines.

“That’s what I said.”

Tabitha flinched at the implication—that Yassi weren’t human. That she wasn’t human. She wanted to argue, but they needed to focus on sweeping the ship, and she was less likely to shoot him if he kept his mouth shut.

“Crew quarters,” Saku observed, peering into the first room. “At least we know the ship was designed for a crew.”

“Doesn’t mean it had one,” Tabitha said.

“No, this bed has definitely been used,” Saku said, shifting to the side so Tabitha could look in. She tapped her Vaesr to record the scene.

“Signs of habitation, no sign of crew,” Tabitha narrated for the recording.

“I imagine most of them went to battle stations just before the end. Which is not this deck,” he sighed, moving to the next room and doing a quick sweep.

By the fourth room, she grew suspicious. Every room looked the same. A disheveled blanket and an indentation on the pillow. The rooms had no personal trinkets or art on the walls. There was nothing else out of place. Curious, she stepped into the fourth room and opened the closet. On one side were shelves with folded clothing, and on the other side, two hooks each with a hooded, white cloak. Taking out one of the cloaks, she draped the hood over her head and pulled it around her shoulder. The hum in her bones quieted instantly.

“Chiu, this is no time to raid the closet,” Saku griped, staying by the door, his eyes darting from her to the hall.

“These cloaks are similar to the psychic shielding we put into walls,” Tabitha said. “Wearable protection. They could be very valuable.”

“For you or for me?” Saku asked.

Tabitha resisted the urge to throw a boot at him. “If we’re not on the same side, Commander, tell me. Have the courage to stab me in the front.”

“We’re on the same side, Tabs. We just have different needs when it comes to protection,” Saku said, his voice softening, his sentimental tone making her knees go weak. It didn’t escape her notice that he’d used her nickname.

“These could save us,” Tabitha said, deciding to collect enough for the Amps.

“Does it come in a plaid?” Saku teased, making her laugh. In the next few rooms, they gathered six more cloaks, folded them, and packed them into Tabitha’s gear pack.

At the end of the crew hall, the color on the floor changed from mustard to a brighter canary yellow, and wider doorways promised supply bays or labs. With the one-hour check-in time ticking closer, Saku itched for a change of pace, and eagerly opened the first door. His smile vanished and his rifle jerked to ready. They’d found the crew. Dead.

Author Bio

Valerie J. Mikles is a PhD astronomer who defected from academia to pursue her dream of being an out of work actor in L.A. She is active in community theater as an actor, choreographer, costumer, and stage manager. She also has a few youtube channels with short films and music videos, most featuring themes of asexuality or folk nerd comedy. She currently lives in Maryland with her three cats and works on weather satellites for NOAA.

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