Wednesday, November 16, 2022

A Swift Kick to the Thorax by Mara Lynn Johnstone


Release date: November 14, 2022
Subgenre: Science Fiction, Space Opera

About A Swift Kick to the Thorax:


When space poachers release Earth animals on an alien world, threatening a fragile new alliance, they anger the wrong people. A veterinarian, an accountant, and a furious sign-language-fluent gorilla are coming for them.

Robin enjoys being one of the only humans around: an exotic outsider, strange and tall, with no shell and only two arms. Consulting for locals who want to keep Earth pets is a fine job. But when a swarm of rabbits invade town and humanity is blamed, everything unravels.

If Robin wants to save the alliance between two planets - and keep from getting sent home in disgrace - she has to prove that a powerful crime ring is behind the crisis. Luckily for her, she makes friends who are eager to help: from planetside, from the nearby space station, and recently escaped from the poacher's ship.

Those poachers may be bug aliens with an excellent range of vision, but they won't see this coming.



Chapter 1


Of all the things I expected to find under a hedge on an alien world, a rabbit didn’t even make the list. Rabbits weren’t allowed. Cats and dogs were barely allowed, and that was with all the screening, breeding, and training that Earth could muster. Nothing from our planet was going to cause problems for our new trade partners.

Nothing except for this rabbit, doing its best to hide among the greenery as if it didn’t stick out like a cotton ball in a salad. It was even a fluffy Angora breed, all wispy white fur with a dark face and feet, like it was wearing a sweater. This was a high-maintenance pet. It did not belong here. Judging by the fast breathing and the whites showing around its eyes, it knew that as well as I did.

“Can you catch it?” asked one of the turtledillo children behind me. The two of them were watching from a distance, worried that it was dangerous. They had flagged me down on my way to lunch, reasoning that the best person to deal with an alien on the loose was another alien.

“I should be able to,” I said, keeping my voice gentle. “These little guys are fast, and this one looks scared. It won’t hurt you.” I shifted position to reach farther into the cool shade. No smell of rabbit pee yet, just good clean dirt. “It might bite me since I’m the one going after it, but that wouldn’t even get through your armor.”

The turtledillos (properly called Rockbacks, though Earthlings agree they resemble an armadillo-turtle cross) shifted uneasily on scaly feet, each clutching their four hands together into anxious bundles. Their turtley beaks were shut tightly on the many other questions I’m sure they had. These two were probably siblings, given the identical size, mannerisms, and similar whorls of lavender paint on their shells. I would have liked to ask their names and introduce myself properly (“Robin Bennett, human extraordinaire and Earth animal expert; what can I do for you?”), but there was a higher priority right now.  

“Hey there, bunny bunny,” I cooed in English. “Let’s go somewhere safe, yeah?”

It kicked up its heels and was gone in a spray of leaves.  

Argh.” I crawled backwards out of the hedge, ducking low to keep my braid from getting stuck on the rough twigs. “Or you could make me chase you. Just what I wanted to do.” Switching back to Rockback as I stood to my full height, I asked the kids, “Can you stand by the gate and make sure it doesn’t get out?”

They vowed to guard it well, making a four-handed salute and standing as tall as they could (not even waist height on me) before scampering off toward the gate.

I wished them luck and began cheating at the hedge maze.


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About Mara Lynn Johnstone:

Mara Lynn Johnstone grew up in a house on a hill, of which the top floor was built first. She split her time between climbing trees, drawing fantastical things, reading books, and writing her own. Always interested in fiction, she went on to get a Master's Degree in creative writing, and to acquire a husband, son, and three cats. She has published several books and many short stories. She still writes, draws, reads, and enjoys climbing things. She can be found up trees, in bookstores, lost in thought, and on various social media.


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