Release Blitz: Vagabonder

I am so excited that VAGABONDER by R.T. Coleman & Aurelia Leo is available now and that I get to share the news!

If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book, be sure to check out all the

This blitz also includes a giveaway for a finished copy of the book courtesy of Aurelia Leo & Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, check out the giveaway info below.



About The Book:


Author: R.T. Coleman

Pub. Date: September 20, 2022

Publisher: Aurelia Leo

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 311

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, B&N, iBooks, Kobo


Humans have always feared Caen’s kind.


Survivors of a mysterious virus, Ruĝa Morto, that killed 80% of Earth’s population two centuries ago, they have endured enslavement as Neurologically Compromised Individuals, or NiCIes, owned by OnyxCorp. Now, in 2261, Caen begins a perilous journey to seek the Vagabonders, the original moon colonists, whom many believe hold the key to freeing his people.

He knows he is hunted. He expects death at every turn.

But he doesn’t anticipate meeting Dr. Ligeia Obumbwe, a human biogeneticist desperate to protect her brother Finn, yet another victim of the endemic virus. When OnyxCorp promises to keep Finn safe in exchange for her work in their lunar lab, she accepts despite her increasing unease regarding the
Corporation’s motives.

Ligeia and Caen become unlikely partners in a dangerous quest to reach the Vine, the space elevator that is the first step in their journey to the moon.

What they find along the way could help them bring OnyxCorp to its knees…or destroy everything they love.




The woman isn’t dead. She’s sprawled across Paysandú Station’s cracked tile where she collapsed in a heap, the strike from the
electristic still sparking across her back. Her bag skids to a halt a half meter from the alcove where I cower. It could have been me. It should have been me. 

The station’s traffic flows around her, steps over her. A few humans give her a glance; the Dua try not to look. From the dank alcove, I
watch her waist rise, fall; her limbs twitch, then settle. The drone—round, silver—hovers several meters above her. Taunting.

Something dark careens across the cracked tile floor. A human male appears to have kicked the back of the woman’s head, hard. I step forward, my fists doubled. 


“Are you crazy?” My sister’s breath cools the back of my neck. Her fingers tighten, her nails dig into my forearm. She jerks me back.

“It’s still up there.” 

I shake her off as the Dua’s dark head covering slides to a stop a few meters from the unconscious figure. Wispy white hair spills across the tile, and I run my hand absently through my own. “I can take out a drone.”

She digs her fingernails deeper into my skin. “We can’t just leave her out there, Eisa.”

“It’s too late anyway,” she whispers. I hear the Authority bots first, a steady, metallic thunk, thunk, thunk. Two stop at the woman. One positions as sentry; its sienna eyes glow behind a dark helmet. The other bends, emitting a low whine, retrieves the tattered bag, then lifts the Dua in its subarms. Its hands curve around her wrists and ankles.

The Dua’s thin legs dangle as her head lolls back. Eisa gasps beside me. “Goddamn,” I whisper. “A child. Why?”

“They get scared.” Eisa loosens her grip and retreats to the stone wall at the alcove’s rear. Her blue eyes glisten. “Mama always told them.

Humans know humans.  They say it’s like this in all the cities.” She shivers, pulls her arms across her chest, wraps her hands around her shoulders.

The last time I saw her, she was a child herself, standing very close to this same spot. Her face was blotchy and red from crying, and when I’d waved goodbye from the train, she’d buried her face against our mother’s shoulder. Mother’s eyes never left mine. 

Now that she’s grown, Eisa’s face is like my mother’s.

Elegant and open.  

“Where do they go?”
Eisa shrugs. “These days, we can get most registries to Caracas, but the Station there can’t get them anywhere else, so we’ve been trying Montevideo.” She nods toward the backpack around my shoulders. “That registry didn’t come cheap.”

And you’re definitely cutting the line
is unspoken, but I know it’s there. Hundreds of Dua wait for forged registries to a dwindling number of Republic of SoAm stations, bound for the American peninsula, maybe Morocco. Somewhere OnyxCorp isn’t.

“A child,” I repeat.

“Yes.” Eisa retrieves a drugstic from her pocket. She flicks it on and takes a light drag. “Imagine what they’ll do to you.” She breathes
out a soft vapor cloud that encircles her head.  

“They have to catch me first.” My voice sounds less confident than I intend.

She scoffs. “Caen. They’re looking all over for you. And you just waltz right in to the one place they know—”

“Our mother was killed.” Eisa looks at me as if I’ve struck her. I breathe in and almost choke on the station’s dank air. Synthohol,
anxiety, a protein packet, nanosynthetic hair, fear, burning fossil fuel, anger. Dua and human and machine, a miasma of confusion and uncertainty. It’s my second trip to Paysandú Station in so many days, but only today do I see how everything has changed in those eleven years. I glance at the holographic signage above B Platform, a projection of a grinning human couple. Copy scrolls
over their faces in bright red and black letters: OnyxCorp. From the Earth to the moon, making your journey to perfection complete. The woman’s toothy smirk spreads through perfectly generated red lips, her rounded features in sharp contrast to the man’s chiseled jaw and high cheekbones.

Travelers walking beneath the hologram might imagine they could touch the
woman’s hair as it flutters down toward the causeway floor. OnyxCorp.
Generating perfection. 
The image fades until only the black O logo
fills the screen. 

“She knew you’d come back. She always believed, wouldn’t let
anyone say otherwise.” Eisa takes another drag. “But you should never have come
back, brother.”  

“I suddenly had business here.”

“Not anymore.” She juts a thumb behind her, toward the bot
standing at C Platform. “If they find you here, we’re all as good as dead.” 

I’ve seen this bot type before. Subarms, armored torso,
electristic at the ready. The mechanisms that attach its round head to its body
are surprisingly vulnerable if you dare to get close enough. Or don’t have a
choice.  “It’s a Level 1, or a Level 2. You said they’re all here, in
the station? I count six bots.”

“Level whatever. They’re all lethal. There were dozens here
during the strike, but after—” Her voice wavers. “You can’t take down six bots,

“By myself, no. But there are hundreds—” 

“We’ve tried that.” Her voice breaks, and suddenly she sinks
to the ground. Her hand shakes as she brings the drugstic to her mouth.

“I’m sorry.” I settle on the broken tile beside her and pull
her to me. “It shouldn’t have gone that way. If I’d been here—”

“It wouldn’t have made a difference. They’re making a move,
Caen. We need to make ours. Montevideo is still using reclamation crews. They
won’t realize how old the registry is until you’re long gone. From there, you

“I know, I know. Find Lee Chou.” I pull her closer. She is
solid, strong. But she is afraid.  “If they’re starting to purge the
small cities now, more will need to get out of what’s left of SoAm. You need
help. Now that Mama’s gone. I should stay.” 

She scoffs. “You wouldn’t last a week. And they’d take down
everyone in Paysandú to get to you.” Another drone buzzes overhead. The
station’s lights glint against it, and Eisa ducks her head instinctively. “You
really want to help?” She scrambles to her feet. “Get out of here. Fulfill
this destiny of yours.” She spits out the word. “Take that,”
she says, pointing to the pack lying in the corner, “to the moon. Find our
people. Like Mama said.” 

I suppress an eye roll as I get to my feet. “You can’t
seriously believe that old story.” I glance at the bot. No change. Its
electristic emits a sienna pulse as it charges. “I don’t believe it.”

“Of course I don’t believe it. My brother, the only Dua who
can save us all? It’s ludicrous.” She crosses her arms over her chest. “But if
you stay here, you’ll die. And they’ll have their prize. Get out of SoAm. Hell,
go to the moon. Maybe it’s all true.”

“Vagabonders. Original moon settlers. The fairy tales Mother
told us at night.” 

“Some tales are based in truth. Maybe this one is one of
those.” She dusts off the seat of her threadbare trousers, and for a moment she
looks exactly like Mama. Before Mama was the Paysandú Station manager. Before
she had the lives of countless Dua children, their mothers and fathers, in her
hands. Their dreams of a better life hers to fulfill if she can.

How many dreams had she foregone? Did she have any of her

I run a hand over my face. Hot as hell today. Hot and wet and
close. “You’re scared. I get it. This,” I say, gesturing to the bustling
station beyond our hiding place, “is scary. But it’s real. OnyxCorp is real,
something we can fight, together. The Vagabonders—”

“You owe me.” The sharpness in her voice is Mama’s as well. I
look down at the broken tiled floor. Tiny weeds and moss push their way through
crevices created through time, neglect, apathy. “You haven’t seen it like it is
here. You’ve been out there, in the places no one wants to go. You saw how
OnyxCorp is working them, drugging them, keeping them under control. Where do
you think those Dua are coming from? They’re gathering us up like never before.
They’re realizing what we are, what we can do, Caen. And they’re scared. You
know what they’re willing to do when they’re scared.” She grabs the pack and
thrusts it toward me. “There’s some unfinished business on that digiscreen.” 

Sighing, I take the bag, sling its strap over my shoulder.
Its contents bounce gently across my back. My mother’s digiscreen, an artifact
from a different time, a keeper of secrets. “Come with me.”

Eisa shakes her head. “Someone has to keep the station going.
Maybe get a few more out—”

“You’ve done enough. We’ve done enough.” 

Her arms are suddenly around me. I’m never going to
see her again. 
My chest tightens.

“You are the wanderer, brother.”

“A Vagabonder?” My voice is harder than I mean. She pulls
away and brushes her hand across her cheeks. 

“Maybe. Probably not. Either way, what do we have to lose?”
She cups my face between her palms. “I really missed you, big brother. Seeing
you, though—” She shakes her head, releases me. “You’re going to miss your

I glance at the registry interface to my right, maybe ten
meters away. Its electronic face glows faintly behind rushing silhouettes of
men, women, and children. The bot across the causeway still hasn’t moved. 

“I’m coming back for you.” I swallow against the lump in my
throat. I hold her gaze. Our father’s azure eyes, our mother’s face. 

“She always said this was what you were meant for.” She meets
my eyes. “Go find our people. Make this right.” 

I pull myself away and plunge into the light, the noise, the
buzz. Paysandú Transport Depot. I pass a media screen on my left; a hologram
head bobs in the foreground. The Vine looms in the background. The space
elevator. Thousands of miles away in the Indian Ocean. 

My destination. 

I fight the urge to look behind me. At the registry
interface, I fumble with the forged ID chip and drop it on the tile. My hands
tremble as I retrieve it and hold it beneath the reader. The interface buzzes
softly, and five seconds later, a holographic face appears, its features an
amalgam of faces that overlap and intertwine.

“Welcome. I’m TES, TechComm Enhancement System. Please state
your registry number for voice recognition protocol.” The interface crackles.
Only the worst for Paysandú.

“NCI790—” My voice catches; the last three numbers come out
in a hoarse croak. 

The interface buzzes.

“Not recognized. Please state your registry number for voice
recognition protocol.”

I clear my throat. “NCI790612.” Better. 

The interface chirps.

“Thank you, NCI790612. You are authorized for travel to the
following locations. Please state your destination.”

An area map displaces the distorted face. The cities to which
NCI790612—the falsified identity my sister has given me, an identity meant for
a young Dua, the last of his family—is permitted travel flash in green:
Montevideo, Belém, Caracas. The rest of the Republic of SoAm, what remains of
the South American continent, is red.

“Please state your destination,” TES crackles. 

I feel my sister’s eyes on my back, her heart pounding. Or
perhaps that’s my heart. “Montevideo.” 

The interface chirps. The map flashes green, zooms in to
Montevideo. “Destination recorded. NCI790612. You are authorized for travel to
Montevideo for four days. Return to Paysandú expected on 07.10.2261. Please
proceed to B17 Platform.”

I glance up at the grinning holographic couple as I adjust
the bag on my shoulder. …making your journey to perfection complete.
The O grows like a dead, white cornea surrounded by a black
limbal ring. I risk a last look toward the alcove. I don’t need to see Eisa to
know she’s there, willing me to hurry.

I turn to B Platform, merge with the crowd. A human male
behind me stinks of sweat and the chemicals they use to clean their garments.
He runs past me, bumps into a young human female who’s entranced by the
station’s crumbling ceiling. She stumbles, all elongated legs, sculpted torso,
and bioenhancements in a silver bodysuit. I follow her gaze to a mural,
possibly beautiful at one time. Green hills surround a gently cascading stream,
lush forests hide long extinct mammals no one in this station has ever seen in
reality. I pass the young woman, catching a whiff of lavender. No, not real
lavender. Just another bioenhancement. From the Earth to the moon, the humans
seek sameness. Perhaps to humans, sameness is perfection. Sameness in humans,
sameness in Dua, but difference between.

B17 is empty save for the bot, twenty-five meters to my left.
Its black metallic body stretches more than two meters from the floor to its
round titanium head. Thick cables connect the head with a bulging, armored
chest. Its shielded helmet is dark. A lean woman with light brown hair scuffles
past me, her left hand wrapped tightly around a child’s hand. The child
struggles to keep up; its head is engulfed in an occulus—their constant
connection to TES—far too large. As she draws nearer the bot, she tugs at the
child impatiently as she increases her stride. 

The child stumbles, and the occulus rolls away. A tuft of
stark white hair flashes before the woman covers the child with her body. 

A Dua child. 

She struggles to readjust the occulus, the only way a Dua
child could pass. The child whimpers. Perhaps it senses the woman’s fear. The
air is permeated by it.

The Authority engages. Two points of sienna burn through the
dark visor. It takes a step. 

The woman kneels before the child and whispers against their
cheek. She smooths the white hair. The child’s dark blue eyes are wide,


She clutches the child’s hands, pulls the small body close. 

Run, damn you. 

The bot advances. Why do they try to pass?

They get scared. The forged ID I just used could have been given to a
mother. A child. 

I sprint past the Dua toward the bot. It screeches to a halt.
A Level 1. Clunky. Slow. It hasn’t even begun to access its defense protocols
when I reach it. Pivoting on one foot, I swing behind the bot, grasp the cables
that extend from its back to the base of its round head, and jerk. The bot
tries to spin in response, giving me the added leverage I need. The cable
bundle tears loose. Bright orange sparks rain down as I twist away from the
stumbling bot. 

The maglev shrieks into the Station and rumbles to a stop
seconds later. The Dua and the child are gone. Good. The bot staggers in a wide
circle, searching. Arrivals spill from the maglev’s compartments, humans at the
front, Dua in the rear, confusing the bot even more. When a drone finally
buzzes into the scene in response to the bot’s sudden malfunction, I am lost in
the crowd.

Onboard the maglev, I throw myself into a seat and peer out
the window. The drone hovers just above the bot, rotates slowly, scans the
crowd as it thins, disperses, human and Dua together. 

The maglev lurches forward, shivers as it gains speed. Soon
the bot, the drone, the station, and my sister are the past. My future is
another world. 

My future is the moon.

I take a long breath in and let it out slowly. The pack
presses into my back as it lodges between my body and the seat. I shrug it from
my shoulders and set it next to me.

What the hell are you doing? 

The question pushes through the maglev’s steady pulse and my
jumbled thoughts. In less than a week I’ve dismantled everything I’ve built
over the last eleven years. My position in the Dua Emancipation Party,
abandoned. My objectivity, destroyed. For what? 

Your mother died

The tattered bag next to me is all I have left of her, its
weight measured more in expectation and legacy than volume. I place a
protective hand over it and close my eyes to remember again the last time I saw
my mother’s face, eleven years ago.

It will be hard, son, she said. You will wonder why it must be you. I
wondered the same. Why did this information come to me? Why can’t I entrust it
to someone else, anyone else besides my own child? I don’t have answers, but I
do know that if we are to have any chance at freedom, you must be stronger and
faster and smarter than any human. You must learn all you can so you can take
this information to the moon and find our people. Only they can help us now.

I came back to Paysandú looking for a fight, an avenging
angel for my mother. My people. Brutalized. Arrested. Murdered. All because of
what they are. 

I leave a coward, running away and leaving behind the only
family I have left.

I realize I am not alone when I hear the shuffle of human
feet. I place a hand on the pack as the inquisitive face of a human girl rises
over the back of the torn seat in front of me. Her dark hair is pulled back in
a messy ponytail that contrasts sharply with her crisp silvery uniform. Her
occulus, the constant virtual companion of every human child until age fifteen,
is pushed back on her head haphazardly.

“Are you a NiCIe?” 

I grimace at the slur. She’s maybe ten or eleven; the word
sounds somehow harsher from her. She leans over the seat to get a better look
at me. 

“I am Dua.” 

“Is that the same thing as a NiCIe?” I consider setting her
straight. Not the way you mean it, like we’re the virus. Like we’re the
 Instead, I shift closer to the window and look out. “I knew
it. Because of your hair. And your eyes.” She slides down the length of the
bench to join me at the window. 

“Don’t you have parents somewhere?” The girl is one thing.
Human children tend to be curious, not violent. Adults are another matter. Dua
don’t transmit Ruĝa Morto, but humans don’t hear that. They only know what the
virus does to them. It makes them like us.

The girl shakes her head, her ponytail swinging widely.
“Dad’s in the other car. He’s asleep, but I don’t know how. This maglev is so
old. Do you think it’s noisy? I’m going to Buenos Aires. Where are you going?
We’re going to see my mother. She’s sick, in the med facility. Dad says it’s
the best in SoAm.”

“I’m sorry your mother is ill.” I say it as warmly as I can,
but it’s less warm than she expects because she narrows her eyes. “Mothers are
important,” I add, trying to smile.

The girl cocks her head. “She has a virus. Do you know what a
virus is?” She speaks slowly, as if I were a particularly dumb NiCIe. 

“Yes, I do.”

“I haven’t seen her in a whole month because she was too
sick, but Dad says she’s better now.” She leans closer, presses her chest
across the top of the seat between us. “I heard my father call it Ruĝa Morto,
so I thought that meant she would die. But my learning avatar, Willow,” she
taps the occulus, “said Ruĝa Morto doesn’t cause people to die. Not anymore.
But she says it changes people. I mean, humans.”

“You’re going to bring her home, your mother?” 

“They’re moving her to a better hospital, Dad says. Until she
changes back.” I want to laugh at the absurdity. I look away again, willing her
to leave. “My father says NiCIes are stupid. Is it true NiCIes have to do
whatever we tell you to do?”

“Why don’t you ask your learning avatar?” This time I mean to
sound harsh, and it works. Her face falls, her shoulder slump, and immediately
I feel regret. A child. Not her fault. I clench my fists, one of them gathering
the pack’s loose material into a ball. “We do what is rational. Many times,
what’s most rational is to do for others rather than for oneself.”

The girl’s lips crinkle as she contemplates this information.
She looks out the window at the rushing landscape, pulls the occulus over her
eyes. I follow her gaze. Scattered, crumbling, decaying buildings. Remnants of
rotting trees and vegetation cluttering deteriorating streets and jabbing
through disintegrating walls. Evidence of colossal floods that overran most of
the continent a century before.  

“No one lives there anymore, do they?” the girl says. “Willow
is showing me how it used to look. It was so beautiful. Oh, there was so much
water.” She frowns as she watches the scene play through her occulus, and I
wonder how the history of the planet’s environmental collapse is told to human
children. “She tells me even NiCIes can’t stay there.”

“Not anymore.” 

“Where do you live? NiCIes, I mean.” She moves her head from
side to side, biting her lip as the occulus continues its instruction.

“Wherever humans don’t want to live.”

The girl turns her head and pushes the occulus back to rest
on her forehead. I can see a question forming when the door at the car’s far
end swooshes open. An imposing human man with an over-large chest and a bald
head enters, glances frantically left and right until he spies us and heads our
way. His face is red, his mouth turned down. The girl stiffens as he halts
beside her.

“Magret, return to your seat now,” he growls. The girl lowers
her head and slides to the floor with a soft thud as he places a heavy hand
atop her head. Before he can push her behind him, she rises tall and whirls to
face me, her expression a mixture of fear and defiance.

“Goodbye.” Her words pour out. “You seem like a—a good
NiCIe.” She ducks around the man, runs down the aisle, and disappears into the
next compartment. 

The man’s breath is hot on my face. I look up, meeting his
eyes. This will set him off, I know, but I can’t help myself.

“They used to keep your kind isolated.” His jaw is clenched
and rigid.

“You’re free to leave.” 

Fury washes over him, and for a moment it is euphoric. He
raises his arms at the elbow, his fists clenched. “You walk around us, they say
nothing. You think you can just go where you want, infect who you want—” 

I rise slowly to make sure he sees me, really sees me. Sees
that I tower over him, sees that I could end any fight he cares to start. His
mouth snaps shut. For a moment I think he might go through with it, but he
steps backward. “Fuck you, NiCIe. You and all your kind.” He takes a few more
backwards steps. He won’t take his eyes from mine, and I respect that. Then he
spins on his heel and strides back the way he came, the aura of his anger and
sorrow thick between us.

I sink on the bench after the compartment door slides closed
behind him and let out a long breath. They, too, have lost. Loved ones. Homes.
Their planet. Hope. I draw the backpack across the seat and hold it tight
against my body, the image of my mother’s face suddenly coming to mind. But
so have we
So have I.

The maglev slows three hours later as it nears Montevideo.
Ramshackle buildings at the city’s outskirts show signs of habitation. A rusted
vehicle here, canisters filled with green vegetation there. Pieces of colorful
cloth blow in a light breeze. The permanent labor force, living where they are
told, in whatever conditions are allowed. 

The Vagabonders are a myth, a dream. A sacred tale tying my
people to one another, to a planet that can never be ours, to the barren hunk
of rock that orbits the Earth. Our home, the myth says. 

Our dream.

We all get to dream.

Copyright © 2022 by R.T. Coleman

About R.T. Coleman:

R. T. Coleman grew up in Little
Rock, Arkansas, where she nurtured a passion for reading and writing while
nestled among blankets and pillows in her bedroom closet. Her love of science
fiction was born when she saw Star Wars in the theater in 1977. Imagine her
disappointment when she realized she could never actually be Princess Leia.

She lives in Springfield, Arkansas,
with her partner Joe on their 25-acre farm, where she works as an instructional
designer by day and a writer and editor by night. Vagabonder is her debut

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