The Umae teeter on the brink of extinction. Their blood rivals, the Hek, have mysteriously made huge leaps forward in technology and are now poised to exterminate them. Their godlike protectors, the Journeyers, have not been heard from for centuries.
Just as their society is poised to collapse, the Journeycraft Starshine returns to them from deep space. Prohibited from using advanced technology by an ancient set of laws known as The Protocols, the Starshine’s terminally ill Command Agent must lead a ragtag group of exiles on an overwater quest to investigate a clue to the Umaes’ ultimate salvation. But the Hek stalk them at every turn, and a would be dictator plots his own ascension to power.
Can the Journeyers restore the faith the Umae once had in them? Can the key to the Umaes’ survival be found in time? And what is the Starshine’s Command Agent willing to sacrifice in order to have the only thing he ever truly wanted?
The Protocols of Uma is the first book of The Journeyers' Tale series. It is followed by Blinding Sky and Journeys End, which will be released early 2018.
Interviewer: Welcome to Ink and Magic. I’m your friendly neighborhood witch. What kind of potion can I get for you today?
(Sol is a short, slightly built man with long gray hair. His skin is almost without pigment and is deeply wrinkled. His eyes are slightly pink. While he clearly appears old, he seems to have an energy about him that defies his years.)
Sol: Potion? You mean a drink of some sort?
Interviewer: Aren’t you familiar with magic?
Sol: I can’t say that I am. (He leans forward, listening closely).
Interviewer: How interesting! Well, I can use magic to make you a drink that can do just about anything for you. Health, beauty, special powers - you choose.
Sol: Hmmmmm...while that sounds fascinating, I think I’ll pass. Unless you are willing to give me a sample to run some tests on first.
Interviewer: What kind of tests?
Sol: Why, scientific ones of course! (He smiles). That’s what I do.
Interviewer: Explain that for me.
Sol: I am trained as a Journeycraft Life Agent. It’s my job to travel with a Journeycraft and attend the health of the crew, analyze any new life forms we encounter, try to develop new medicinal applications – that sort of thing. My Journeycraft is called The Starshine.
Interviewer: What is a Journeycraft?
Sol: A Journeycraft is a space ship. We use it to travel through space in search of a new home for our people, the Umae.
Interviewer: Is there something wrong with the planet you live on now?
Sol: Uma, the planet is called Uma.
Interviewer: Is there something wrong with Uma?
Sol: There will be. There is another species on our planet, a species somewhat similar to ours from what I’ve read, called the Hek. They are primitive but vicious. They want nothing more than to eradicate my species, the Umae. We have certain geographical barriers that prevent them from reaching us, but those barriers won’t protect us forever. Once the Heks’ technology reaches a certain level, they will be able to reach us. Then we will be defenseless, and they will destroy us. We need to leave the planet before that happens.
Interviewer: How awful! How much time do you have?
Sol: (leaning back, a new weight settling on his face). We don’t know for sure, but their technology has recently jumped forward with no apparent explanation. Our time is very short. Maybe as short as 15-20 generations.
Interviewer: But they are primitive and you can travel in space. Why not fight back?
Sol: Impossible. That is not our way. We do not kill. Our laws prohibit it.
Interviewer: So, you have the power to destroy them, but you won’t do it because you think it is wrong?
Sol: (lost in thought for a moment). Our laws, the Protocols, forbid it. We aren’t sure when or how the Protocols came about, but they were given us by the Directors, may they guide our path. There was a Cataclysm long, long ago. We think it had something to do with our technology. The Directors most likely limited our technological development to prevent a second Cataclysm.
Interviewer: Your people don’t use technology?
Sol: Not like the Journeyers do. They have simple tools for agriculture, they use fire, and they use herbal treatments for many ailments. They live in stone pyramids provided to them by the Directors before the Directors disappeared. We Journeyers are permitted to not only use higher technology, but to develop it even further. We just can’t share it with the other Umae. That would violate the Protocols.
Interviewer: Let me make sure I understand. An ancient group, the Directors, gave your people a set of laws and then disappeared. The Journeyers have been searching for-
Sol: Haven. The planet is called Haven.
Interviewer: Haven, so all of the Umae can move there and be safe from the Hek. But you don’t really know anything about the Directors or the Cataclysm?
Sol: Our history keepers, the Chroniclers, have a limited ability to study history beyond a certain point. We aren’t sure why. At least, that is what we are told.
Interviewer: Has it occurred to you that you might want to take a closer look at these Directors?
Sol: (sitting up in his chair) Now you speak of sacrilege. They gave us our technology and a way to save our people. We trust that wisdom.
Interviewer: So who travels with you?
Sol: Min is our Command Agent. He is also very gifted in technological matters. Eve is our Data Agent. It is her job to collect, interpret, and record all the information we experience in our travels. And then there is Jack.
Interviewer: Who is Jack?
Sol: He is Min’s student. (Sol draws a deeper breath and glances away)
Interviewer: Something wrong?
Sol: No, Jack is exceptionally intelligent, maybe more so even than Min. He’s a good young man. He’s just a bit too sure of himself. (Sol shrugs) Maybe we shouldn’t hold a talent like that back, I don’t know.
Interviewer: Are you going to make it? I mean, are you going to find Haven in time?
Sol: (eyes moisten noticeably. He releases a short cough) I don’t know. I don’t. There are so many variables that we don’t have values for. We are the last Journeycraft in existence, most likely. We just found that out. It feels unlikely to me.
Interviewer: That doesn’t sound very scientific.
Sol: It’s not. But there is a lot more to living than science.
Interviewer: I wish you all the best kind of luck.
Sol: (smiling warmly) Thank you. That’s not scientific either, but we will take what we can get.
John Brage is a lawyer, reader, explorer, and student of just about everything. Born and raised in Northwest Missouri, he practices law by day and by night chases his kids around with his wife and tries to find time to write. He is an avid fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Missouri Tigers. In his limited spare time he runs, works out, and reads.