Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift by Cora BuhlertWhile docked at the civilian space station Unity for repairs, the Republic of United Planets battlecruiser Great Endeavour undertakes a trial flight with an inexperienced bridge crew. Disaster strikes and the Great Endeavour crashes into Unity’s shopping concourse, killing more than three hundred people.

A tragic accident, but in times of war, the public is not willing to accept tragic accidents. And so the Republic’s government sends its best troubleshooter, Colonel Brian Mayhew of the Republican Special Commando Forces to initiate a cover-up.


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More information:

  • This is a novelette of 14100 words or approx. 48 print pages in the In Love and War series, but may be read as a standalone. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
  • Graveyard Shift started as a story I began during the July short story challenge and eventually abandoned, because it turned out to be too long for the confines of the challenge. Like many other stories written during the July short story challenge, the initial inspiration was a piece of SFF concept art, namely this one.
  • As a translator, some of the more interesting documents I get to translate are what I call “It’s not my fault, honest” reports. Basically, these are blow by blow accounts of unfortunate and often very expensive accidents, which intended to show that whatever unfortunate thing happened was totally not the fault of the person commissioning the report. Sometimes, they even have graphs and calculations to prove that it was totally not their fault. I always get a kick out of the “It’s not my fault, honest” report, since many of them are stunning documents of sheer human incompetence.
  • I always wanted to do the science fiction version of an “It’s not my fault, honest” report. Graveyard Shift is this story, though the ramifications of the accident are a lot worse than the ones I normally see in the reports I translate. And yes, really stupid accidents like this happen all the time – a cruise liner ploughs through a marina, a newly repaired ship leaves its dock, nearly collides with another ship and crashes into the pier, etc… Thankfully, they rarely kill anybody.
  • Even though Graveyard Shift is set in the In Love and War universe, it is quite different from the other stories in the series. For while the rest of the series focusses on Anjali and Mikhail, Graveyard Shift recounts the so-called Unity incident from six different points-of-view. Mikhail briefly appears, but not as a point-of-view character, while Anjali does not appear at all. Brian Mayhew is the only series regular who gets a point-of-view in this story.
  • Captain Elijah Tyrone, who loses his wife and oldest son at Unity Station, will show up again as a supporting character later in the series.
  • Katharina Woywood, the luckless Captain of the Great Endeavour was named for and modelled after German actress Katja Woywood in her role as Kim Krüger in the German cop show Alarm für Cobra 11. Coincidentally, regular viewers of Alarm für Cobra 11 may find the names of the first and second officers of the Great Endeavour familiar.
  • Cadet Merrill is named for celebrated science fiction writer and editor Judith Merril. Commodore Cox is named for actor Ronny Cox.
  • The various Republican worlds that appear in the In Love and War stories are all named after characters in the classic German science fiction TV series Raumpatrouille – Die Phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion. And so Legrelle, the planet that Unity station orbits, is named after Lieutenant Helga Legrelle, the Orion’s communications officer.
  • However, Burrichter, the planet whence the tasty pastries and biscuits served by Roland Cox to the rest of the tribunal hail, was named after one of my favourite bakeries, Café Burrichter in Vechta which has been operating since 1930. Their Spekulatius are the best you can find in North West Germany.
  • Mikhail’s reaction to the Spekulatius he’s offered show his conflicted relationship to food due to the hunger he experienced during his childhood and adolescence, as seen in Dreaming of the Stars.
  • I did write the coffee, pastries and biscuits into the story, because I wanted to convey the utterly blasé way in which Mayhew, Cox and Abasi decide whom to blame for the Unity incident and whom to send to the firing squad, while enjoying coffee and pastries. These people are utterly desensitised – well, maybe Mayhew not entirely.
  • Coincidentally, both the Unity incident and the events that led to the destruction of Mikhail’s homeworld Jagellowsk prove that the Republic of United Planets is its own worst enemy.
  • Coincidentally, I gave first half of the story up to the actual Unity incident to a few friends to read and asked them which of the people involved should be put on trial. Everybody agreed that Commander Flynn and Lieutenant Kim should be put on trial and that Captain Woywood as well as cadets Adeboye, Merrill and Watanabe definitely shouldn’t be. The opinion was divided on Cadet Giantano.
  • The cover is stock art by Grandfailure.
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