An unconscious girl found on a clump of floating kelp radically complicates Bernardo’s life. The planet Ondas is supposed to be uninhabited. Why is the League government hiding the existence of the seafarers? In his attempts to protect the girl, the young biologist becomes enmeshed in a broader conflict about to take a recently colonized world to war. Bernardo uncovers a genocidal policy by his government directed against the child’s aboriginal culture. On this water world fraught with ubiquitous storms, Bernardo and his friends fight for the girl’s survival, discovering a long-forgotten truth that will shake the foundations of worlds.
Here is an excerpt from Strangers in the Gale:
“Listen, Mari, I’m just a simple engineer but those fangled theories don’t prove anything out here,” the man exclaimed. “Let them come out here in the bush, or what’s left of it, and see for themselves.”
“Oh, not the simple engineer sermon, Chief.”
“But it’s the storms. They don’t give life a chance. How any multi-cellular organism evolved on the land of this crazy planet is, is…”
“Is what?” Mariana wore the mischievous grin of friends badgering each other. The engines whirred and the craft lunged forward, steadily picking up speed across the shrubby fields and jagged hills that surrounded the station.
“Damned peculiar is what it is.” The chief swung his arm to the seat behind him and looked back. “What do you think, Bernardo boy?”
The biologist unbuckled his harness and started to move closer to the others. Suddenly, the rover swerved over a deep wash. He was thrown down onto the back of one of the contoured seats. The craft lunged to the left, ricocheted off a squat tree-like plant, twisted halfway around, and sank into a pit of mud.
“Is everyone all right?” the chief yelled.
“Open the door. Hurry!” Mariana exclaimed, hastily unbuckling her restraints. She rushed out of her seat and stepped outside.
“What is it?” Bernardo yelled, wincing at the barreling sound of his own voice.
“Well, Mato,” the chief supply officer remarked to the pilot. “Can you get this thing back on the road, or do we need to call for help?”
“I will attempt to, sir.” The engines whirled as the Vican worked the craft back and forth until it was free of the mud. They continued onward, rising over a long dune. Once over the top they could finally see the ocean. Just to the south lay a series of small white hills, and beyond them sat a long stretch of beach dotted with boulders. An immense flock of seabirds took to the sky, obscuring one of the suns, a large, hazy sphere of red and orange streaks.
The biologist unlatched the safety belt and made his way to where Mariana sat staring out the window. “Hey,” he said softly, rubbing his neck.
“Are you okay?” she replied in a distracted tone, her gaze focused out the rover’s window. Ondas was officially termed uninhabited, but there were accounts from the early days of colonization that suggested otherwise. How ironic, she mused, that through her demotion and transfer the Office of Discipline might have sent her to the place she needed to be.
“Yes, fine, more or less. What are you smiling at, Mariana?”
“This place is truly beautiful. Look.” She took a breath and turned her head to glance at the young biologist. Bernardo was a friend and colleague whom she had met at the academy, just the kind of informant used by League security. She knew that another reprimand would be very severe. How much could she trust him, she wondered?