Snippet 1: Intergalactic Pest Control Series, Ganked In Space, #1

Prologue

Sector 12 Transgalactic Space Station

“I hate my job. I hate my job,” the portly custodian, Lonnie, sang. He belted out those four words with the heart and conviction of a soul singer as he danced his mop across the cafeteria floor of the deserted Sector 12 Transgalactic Station. He signaled the sensors flicking the lights on as he went, waking the station up.

Lonnie had the express privilege of being the first one to step foot on main floor of the station each day, and clean up the filth left behind by the final shift from the previous night. His arrival beat Grover’s from Maintenance by an hour.

Lonnie was a ten-year veteran of the station’s custodial staff. During his latest anniversary celebration, the management and human resources team pitched in to get a tiny plaque engraved with the words ‘Lonnie’s Paintbrush,’ and affixed it to the handle of his mop. They frequently made the joke that Lonnie was an artist in the way he cleaned the shit-stained bathroom floors.

He’d forced a laugh when his bosses, and a handful of people who otherwise pretended he didn’t exist, presented it to him. Worse still, he’d forced a ‘thank you.’

“Thank you for this backhanded appreciation of the job that I do every day. Thankfully I’m cheaper than bots or I’d be out of a job, you credit-pinching assholes. Thank you for laughing in my face, if you choose to acknowledge my existence at all.”

That was what Lonnie wanted to say. However, he could never say that aloud. That wasn’t the place of the galactic blue-collar worker.

The radio on his belt buzzed. “You in, Lonnie?”

“Every day for more than ten years you’ve asked me that, Grover, and every day, I’ve been here.”

“You ain’t hit the sublevels yet, have you?” Grover asked.

“You know my routine, Grover. I don’t hit them levels ‘til damn near nine.”

“You might wanna hit ‘em up a bit sooner, friend. It’s a sour sight down here in sublevel two.” Grover’s voice tightened.

Lonnie let out a long sigh, and his mop felt heavier in his hands. “What sort of mess are we looking at?”

“The sort that’s gonna require much more than that mop of yours,” Grover said. “I can’t say what it is. Maybe some sort of…excrement?”

A fire lit in Lonnie’s belly. “Damn techs must’ve had a party again. They did the same thing a few years ago. They like to make their own booze out of the junk they grease the wheels with down there, and then they lose control of their bowels.”

Grover made a noise of disagreement. “This ain’t nothing like no human could make. I don’t know, maybe it’s—”

His voice cut out.

“Grover?” Lonnie asked. “You there?”

Nothing but dead air.

Lonnie shook his head, putting his radio away. “Probably slipped in it,” he mused aloud. “And with that hip of his, ain’t no way he’s getting up on his own. Best go lift the old man out of the shit.”

He jabbed his mop into the bucket and pushed the whole apparatus down the corridor, toward the elevator. He drove it inside the compartment and pressed the button for sublevel two. A strange sensation knotted in his stomach, like his guts knew something he didn’t. Or maybe it was just the half-pound of bacon substitute and fifth of whiskey he’d had for breakfast. Either way, by the time the elevator slowed to a halt, Lonnie felt like doubling over.

The calm was the first thing that hit him when the door slid open. There were only two people on this part of the space station, so he expected it to be quiet, but this was different. This was like the calm at a graveyard. An oppressive quiet. The kind that hangs on death.

The smell hit Lonnie next. It immediately soured his belly and curdled everything in his guts. He gagged, grabbed his stomach and tried to hold his breath. It was no use. The bacon and whiskey burned on the way back up.

“Cleaning up after my own damn self,” Lonnie muttered, looking down at the new mess at his feet. “Something ain’t right about that.”

The smell in the corridor was thick and coated the inside of his nose and throat, seeming to crawl all the way down to his belly. It was metallic and reeked of rotten meat.

Wiping the corners of his mouth, Lonnie stepped further down the passage of sublevel two. He only had to walk fifty feet, to the first control panel alcove, to find the source of the smell. It was that stuff that Grover thought was excrement. Now, seeing it, Lonnie thought Grover might have been right. It definitely didn’t belong to any human.

“Hello? Grover, I’m here!” Lonnie called out. He tried to breathe through his mouth as he stared around the darkened area.

“Grover, where you at?” Lonnie tried again, growing more worried about his friend with each unanswered call.

The corridor was lit with only the secondary lighting along the floor, casting it in an eerie glow. Add to that the random sounds of machines clunking and gas valves equalizing, and the entire floor was a county fair funhouse, twisted by the heat and the dark and stinking of vomit.

Lonnie followed the trail of dim lighting, not knowing exactly why. He knew he should turn around and get right the hell out of there, just like most know when they should leave a place, but his body refused to let him, like an act of mutiny.

His legs forced him to move forward several yards until he found Grover.

He stifled a gasp, trying to keep down the rest of the contents in his stomach.

Lonnie found Grover’s foot first. His left foot, severed above the ankle. Following the trail of blood and nearly slipping on it, he soon came upon Grover’s arms, one of them gnawed to a stump, the other largely intact save for a few missing fingers. His head sat just a few feet away. If not for the bloody nub of a neck, Grover would have just looked like he was sleeping, the way he looked on his breaks, leaned back in his chair in the breakroom. Peaceful-like.

But this wasn’t a break, and it sure as shit wasn’t peaceful. There were never any monster bugs on Grover’s breaks.

Lonnie nearly yelled out when he found the beast crouched over his friend’s torso, which was ripped open to display his insides. Though, most of his insides seemed to be missing. The monster turned its attention from crunching poor Grover’s ribs to Lonnie, who stood motionless, his mouth hanging open wide. The monster’s needle teeth dripped with green poison from behind a set of garden-shear-sized pincers. Its yellow eyes glowed like the muzzles of two blasters.

Lonnie froze at the sight of it, confronted as he was by the most terrifying thing he’d seen, it was beyond his nightmares. But the blood and parts of his friend quickly shook him from his state of uselessness. He turned on his heel and ran, sliding back and forth on the excrement or whatever it was, nearly falling to his ass several times.

Lonnie ran until his lungs burned and his old joints ached. He heard skittering behind him, the sound of the thing closing in, ready to rip him to pieces just like Grover. He slammed into the elevator door and stabbed the button repeatedly with his finger.

The thing rounded the corner, a ravenous look in its eyes. The damn elevator doors were taking their damn time opening. Lonnie could feel the vibration of the doors as they attempted to open.

As if feeding off his adrenaline, the bug lumbered forward, head down.

The doors bounced open, hesitating like they were catching on something on the track. Lonnie jumped inside, slamming his hand on the button for the main floor. The bug sprinted, suddenly moving fast, its legs making a scratching noise on the floor. The elevator doors closed just as the thing slammed into them, making an awful crunching noise. The ride up felt infinitely slow, making Grover’s insides squirm with unease.

When the elevator made it to the main level, Lonnie darted through the doors, not waiting for them to open all the way, and sprinted to the administrative office. In all his ten years, he’d never used the red phone before—it was only to be used in the direst of emergencies.

“Yes, hello?” he panted into the receiver. “This is Lonnie DelMonico, head custodian for the Sector 12 Transgalactic Station. I’ve got a situation.”

Ganked in Space Releases October 25th.

Oct 19, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 1: Intergalactic Pest Control Series, Ganked In Space, #1

Snippet 1: Determination, Precious Galaxy, #3

Chapter One

 

Solomon Vance’s Private Office, Monstre Corporation Headquarters, Planet Carina, Aurelis System, Precious Galaxy

The forest wasn’t a place of peace for Solomon Vance. He’d heard many speak of finding themselves when in proximity to nature. That was ludicrous. The notion that one could ‘find’ themselves was preposterous. There was no self to find. Creatures were all connected by star dust and other forces, and Solomon was that much closer to proving it. Not that he’d ever tell anyone once he’d proven this and assimilated hundreds of consciousnesses. That would forever be his secret.

Finally, after thousands of trials, he had successfully combined two consciousnesses. Adding a third, though, had proved problematic. Deadly, actually, for the test subjects. Still, he was that much closer to having the smartest computer in the universe, owned and operated by the fastest, strongest processor known to man: the human brain.

Solomon’s eyes swiveled away from the forest lying just beyond the bank of windows in his office. He hadn’t built the headquarters to his most prized company, Monstre Corporation, in the Chumash Forest because he found respite among the trees. He did it for practical reasons: he liked the privacy. That was exactly the reason that this office, where no one in the building was allowed but him, was his favorite place.

His eyes landed on the quote written across the far wall, the one he often read while sitting at his desk: “‘He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.’ – Adolf Hitler.”

He had many favorite quotes by that dictator, but this one had to be his favorite. Those words were what had inspired Solomon to build the monster. And now he owned more than the youth; he possessed a large population of minds.

“Those who own the greatest minds, gain the future,” Solomon said to himself, his voice echoing in the mostly empty office.

“Dr. Vance, I apologize for interrupting,” Dean, his AI, said overhead.

“Go on, then,” Solomon ordered.

He had known his private moment alone with his thoughts wouldn’t last for long. There were too many projects in the works. Too many that were nearing completion.

“Dr. Lukas would like to speak with you.”

Solomon let out an impatient breath. “Put him through.”

The screen hovering above his desk, seemingly suspended by nothing, flickered to life. The long face of the doctor stared back at Solomon. It had been many years since he’d seen Alan Lukas in person. The last time had been when he’d put him in charge of Starboards Corp and cut all ties to the company, or so it should have appeared. Solomon didn’t want to be traced back to the things he’d put Alan in charge of. He didn’t have that same fear at Monstre Corp; he was too removed from Federation law to be caught or punished.

“The agents from Ghost Squadron have escaped from Sutra Six,” Dr. Lukas said, his tone rising as he spoke. Solomon could hear the panic.

He shook his head and lowered his chin. “I told you that they weren’t my concern.”

“But that was when you thought that they’d be blown up when we detonated the building,” Dr. Lukas argued. “Now they’ve gotten away, and we don’t know what they took. What if—”

Solomon held up a hand to stop the constant babbling. Yes, he’d thought that the monster had uploaded everyone on Ricky Bobby. It had at first been frustrating when he learned that Dr. A’Din Hatcherik had escaped the monster, but worse was that he’d trapped it. That was no matter, though. The monster got away, and those remaining on Ricky Bobby were so few. They would try and come after him, as he’d seen, but there was no way they would succeed. They were simply outnumbered in force, prowess and numbers.

After a long pause, Solomon said, “They have the locations for the databases, you said.”

Alan nodded. “Yes, and they have the codes. I think we should change them. Possibly move the databases. We can’t risk—”

Solomon shook his head, cutting off the other scientist. “I have no plans to do any of that. We don’t run from ants, Alan, we squash them.”

“But, sir, they managed to break into Starboards’ headquarters and also Sutra Six.”

Solomon’s eyes narrowed. “I let them into Sutra Six, knowing we were going to blow it up. You are the fool who allowed them to trespass into Starboards.”

“I realize that I’ve made mistakes with security,” Alan said in a rush. “I figured that, due to this headquarters’ location and deceptive qualities, it wasn’t necessary to have many more security measures.”

Solomon sighed. He’d given Starboards Corp a floating building that was camouflaged in the sky, and still, Alan had messed things up.  “We are going forward as arranged. Changing codes would stall our plans. As for changing locations, that’s out of the question.”

“But what are you going to do when Ghost Squadron tries to break into another database location?”

Solomon felt the wicked smile break across his face. “I’m going to be prepared for them. I’m not running from these pests, I will ensure they are taken out on their next attempt. Then we will no longer be concerned about their intervening.”

Alan nodded, an unsure look on his face. “That’s a good plan, but—”

“Dean, disconnect vid comm,” Solomon said, interrupting Alan.

“Yes, sir,” the AI replied, and the screen went black.

Solomon strode for the door, his pulse beating harder, as it usually did just before he entered the room he was now headed for. “Dean, deploy a fleet of combat pilots to Makare and the surrounding area in the Hapeti system.”

“I calculated an eighty-seven percent chance you would make that decision, based on the current threat,” Dean stated. “I will enact defense protocol alpha now.”

Solomon wished that Alan could be as competent as the AI, but that’s where human error came into play. One human was prone to mistakes, whereas hundreds, maybe even thousands of consciousnesses, would behave much like an AI—only better. It wasn’t artificial intelligence. It was real.

When Solomon reached the unmarked white door, his chest tightened with anticipation. The rush was always the same. “Dean, open the door.”

At the conclusion of his sentence, the door slid back to reveal a solid white room. Solomon stepped forward, and the door shut behind him. The material of three of the four walls, as well as the floor and ceiling of the space, were made of a unique carbon-polymer material that conducted electromagnetic energy.

The special wall construction ensured that the monster didn’t enter Monstre Corp headquarters, where it might become disoriented and upload employee’s consciousnesses by mistake. The reinforcements kept the creature caged while it was home. However, most of the security measures weren’t necessary, since it followed every order Solomon gave. He was, in a way, its father, its creator.

Solomon stared around the all-white room, waiting for the monster to reveal itself. First came the loud humming, like that of an engine starting. Then the area in the corner filled with what appeared to be gray smoke, the density intensifying moment by moment. Solomon’s heart beat faster, but he kept his chin raised and his face neutral.

The monster rose off the ground, like an animal getting up after a nap to greet its master. Sparks began firing inside the monster as its color darkened, making it appear almost like a black cloud.

Solomon looked up at the monster, marveling at its appearance. It could expand to cover a great area, or shrink down small to fit into a room this size. It was the most changeable beast, with the ability to do one unimaginable thing: it could steal consciousnesses.

The monster roared with what Solomon interpreted as anticipation. The creature could understand him, but, for all his trying, he didn’t understand the strange noises his invention made. He’d programmed it, though, so he knew what it would say if words were available to it: ‘Yes, master. How may I serve?’

“I have a job for you.” Solomon looked up as the monster reared overhead, its outer edges unfurling like plumes of smoke. “You are to go to Sutra Seven on planet Makare in the Hapeti system. Stay vigilant for intruders. Only upload those not associated with Monstre Corp.”

The different lights buried deep within the monster glowed at once, seemingly in response to the order.

Solomon remained frozen as the biosynthetic machine floated closer, nearly grazing his face. Yes, he knew the monster could upload him. Take him. But that would never happen; its programming prevented it. Since its inception, Solomon had told the monster one thing over and over: ‘You can upload all but me. My control of you is absolute.’

The words that inspired this method came back to him then: “‘Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they’ll believe it.’ – Adolf Hitler.”

“Dean, release the barrier,” Solomon ordered.

A buzzing sound that he had barely registered over the noise the monster made fell away. The creature inched forward, nearly touching Solomon’s upturned nose.

“It is time. Go and follow my orders,” Solomon barked, his voice clear and loud.

The roar of the monster increased. Its black form spread, clouding Solomon’s vision like he’d stepped into a pitch-black room. He didn’t move, although something inside him squirmed. He didn’t blink, although his eyes were drying out from staring up.

And then, quite gracefully, like a storm cloud moving over a great land, the monster pushed backward, sliding through the solid exterior wall, out into the Chumash Forest and away.

Determination releases August 30th!

 

Aug 24, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 1: Determination, Precious Galaxy, #3

Snippet 2: Investigation, (Precious Galaxy, #2)

Chapter Two

Bridge, Ricky Bobby, Cacama System, Precious Galaxy

The black gaseous monster drifted like fog on the wind, covering distant stars as it progressed. The battlecruiser kept a safe distance from the biosynthetic beast to ensure that it didn’t sense it was being followed.

Dr. A’Din Hatcherik stared out the viewing windows of the bridge, his mind wandering.

“Did you hear what I said?” Jack Renfro asked.

Hatch waved a tentacle up and at his back dismissively. “Yes, of course. If we stay far enough away, the monster can’t take down our shields.”

“And with the cloaks, it shouldn’t know that we’re following it, correct?” Jack asked in confirmation.

“Yes, that’s right,” Hatch affirmed.

Lewis had tired of observing the beast. At first it had been fascinating to watch the strange organism float through space, headed toward the unknown. The monster moved like seaweed on the surface of the ocean, drifting with the waves. After a while, it had simply made the detective sleepy.

Jack clapped his hands, startling Lewis back to attention. “There’s our star student.”

Dejoure strode onto the bridge, Harley unsurprisingly by her side. She looked up, blinking in surprise, like she wasn’t sure who the chief strategist was referring to. “Hey.”

“Ricky Bobby, can I get the image of DJ’s drawing?” Jack asked, rolling up the sleeves of his blue button-up shirt.

The girl smiled when her drawing of the Precious galaxy popped up on the main screen.

“Here you are,” Ricky Bobby said overhead.

“Thank you.” Jack looked up at the screen before turning his attention to DJ. “Thanks for joining us. After studying this in relation to the Precious galaxy, I have a few questions for you.”

DJ pulled herself up to sit on the strategy table, which was dark. Its light hadn’t shone since Lewis set foot on the ship—since the crew of Ghost Squadron had disappeared.

“What is it?” she asked, letting her legs dangle over the edge, and slipping her small hands under her thighs like she was cold.

“You emphasized five points in the galaxy,” Jack began, “which are connected by this zigzagging line, both in your drawing and in the galaxy. It’s apparently a gas of some sort. I’ve determined the points to be five separate systems. My question is, what is the significance of these systems?”

Dejoure looked down with uncertainty, kicking her feet back and forth.

“You were trying to find Commander Fregin,” Lewis reminded her, trying to help the kid out. “Are those points related to her whereabouts?”

Dejoure’s green and brown eyes swiveled up, a bit of hope in her gaze. She nodded. “I think so.”

“So those are places where the commander has been?” Jack guessed.

“Or maybe it’s where she is,” Bailey offered.

“You can’t be in five places at once,” Lewis said, shaking his head.

“If you’re in a shared computer database, you can,” Bailey countered.

Hatch turned around, pointing a tentacle at his star student. “That’s exactly correct, Lieutenant. It’s most likely that the five points are where the databases are connected. Maybe the commander’s consciousness has been transferred from database to database.”

Jack nodded, combing his hand over his chin. “Okay, I could buy that. So Vance has locations all over this galaxy.”

“I suspect that Vance has picked this satellite galaxy because he can dominate it,” Hatch stated.

Jack pushed off from the console he was leaning against, now standing tall. “We have a lot of exploring to do. We need to find out exactly why he picked something so far out of Federation territory. That’s my next objective. I’m going to start researching these five different systems, and determine the most likely location for a database.”

Hatch waddled away from the bank of viewing windows. “And I suspect that the Precious galaxy isn’t as far from Federation territory as we might think. It nearly killed us to get here, but I’ve got a hunch that there’s a shortcut between this galaxy and the one we call home.”

Lewis’s eyes skipped to Bailey, who was returning his curious look.

“Oh?” Jack questioned.

Hatch pointed at the monster framed in the viewing window. “That awful beast didn’t slingshot off a blackhole to get here in record time. I’m pretty certain of that. I’ve been running some tests and found a huge spike of energy on the outer rim of the Precious galaxy, although it’s lessening by the hour.”

“Do you think the monster came through a gate?” Bailey asked.

Hatch nodded proudly at her. “Yes, and although a gate of this nature should be incredibly difficult to maintain, I’ve found something else of interest.”

“Now is not the time to quit talking,” Jack said with a laugh. “Continue, doctor.”

“There’s a high level of doromantinium where the energy spike registered,” Hatch explained.

“So you think that D-factor was used to create this gate,” Lewis stated.

Hatch pretended not to hear this observation. “You see, I believe that this gate was made using D-factor.”

Jack cut his eyes at his nephew, suppressing a grin. “Then it appears that the mineral has many uses.”

“Yes, and to be honest, this ship can’t slingshot back to Pan galaxy without suffering major repercussions,” Hatch stated.

Dejoure rubbed her temples. “Our brains would all be scrambled.”

Everyone on the bridge laughed from the unexpected joke. The girl looked down, blushing.

“Yes, and I’d prefer to keep my brain intact,” Jack stated, continuing to chuckle.

“So it would serve us to find this gate,” Hatch concluded.

“Did you say you had a general location?” Bailey asked.

Hatch nodded. “I inferred it from the five points on DJ’s drawing. If a pilot would be willing to go to those coordinates and look around, I think that person would be able to locate the precise location of the gate.”

Bailey smiled. “I can definitely take a Q-Ship out to explore.” She looked to Lewis. “You up for some investigative work?”

Before he could answer, Harley barked loudly, gaining everyone’s attention.

Lewis smiled at the dog, thinking how handsome and intelligent the creature had become, having benefited from a full enhancement after being injured in an accident.

“Why yes, and I daresay we could use Harley’s keen eyes.”

Investigation releases July 25th!

Jul 18, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 2: Investigation, (Precious Galaxy, #2)

Snippet 1: Investigation (Precious Galaxy, #2)

Chapter One

Monstre Corporation Headquarters, Planet Carina, Aurelis System, Precious Galaxy

            The sound of Solomon Vance’s shoe made a sharp clacking sound as he tapped it on the white tile floor. His mother used to tell him that patience was a virtue. She was constantly spouting clichés that were inherently false.

Currently, Solomon’s patience was at an all-time low, as he stared at the back of the head of the scientist who sat at the main control center.

“We’re going to try it again,” he ordered.

Susan turned, her loose bun nearly falling out from the movement. “But sir, don’t you think we should make some changes to the process first? We lost two consciousnesses with the current protocol.”

“You’re fired,” Solomon spat, his lips forming a hard line.

Susan’s mouth popped open with alarm. She would know he wasn’t kidding, but it had to be a hard reality for her to accept. Thirteen years she’d worked for Solomon; he’d recruited her right out of school. Maybe this snap judgement was a result of his low patience, but he wasn’t about to go back on it.

“But, but, but—”

Solomon cut her off with a curt shake of his head. “You know better than to argue with me.”

“Yes, sir, I just thought—”

“Maybe it is you who lost the consciousnesses,” Solomon interrupted.

Susan shook her head furiously, visibly shaking. “I only did what the protocol dictated.”

Solomon put his back to the scientist, his eyes on the distant corner of the all-white room. “Dean, prepare the memory wash chamber immediately. Susan Gibbons will be there very soon.”

“Yes, sir,” the AI answered overhead. “The chamber will be ready in two and a half minutes.”

When Solomon turned back, he was revolted by the sight before him. Susan was crying, her nose turning red and tears streaming from her eyes.

“Oh, and Dean?”

“Yes, sir?” the AI replied.

He ran his hand absentmindedly down the sleeve of his suit jacket, smoothing it out as if there were wrinkles. “Send in another level-four scientist to replace Susan.”

“I anticipated this and have already paged Bruce James,” the AI informed him.

Solomon released a steady breath. Why can’t everyone be as efficient, he wondered.

“Sir, please,” Susan begged. “Please give me another chance.”

He shook his head. “You know the rules.”

“But my memories,” she argued.

This only confirmed for Solomon that he had made the right call. Susan had forgotten her place at Monstre Corp. She thought her opinion mattered. That Solomon tolerated insubordination.

“Your memories are the property of Monstre Corp. You know that.”

“Please let me keep them,” Susan begged, more tears falling. “I promise I won’t talk. I won’t tell anyone what happens here.”

Solomon released a sadistic smile. “There’s only one way for me to ensure that.” He lifted his hand, his silver ring with the gnarly-headed monster catching the light as he pointed.  “The memory wash chamber is expecting you.”

A loud wail echoed from Susan as she turned, hurrying for the entrance with her head down. The glass door opened as she neared, and Bruce James, a thin, young man, held it open for her. If he was curious about why Susan was crying, his face didn’t show it.

Bruce strode over to Solomon, his chin even. “You wanted to see me, sir?”

Solomon pointed to the seat Susan had vacated. “I need you to run the consciousness transfer process.”

Not missing a beat, Bruce pulled out the chair, sat down and began typing. “Which consciousnesses should I use?”

Solomon turned toward the row of windows that overlooked the Chumash forest, a place that had been reported to have high levels of radiation and was therefore uninhabited and classified as a no-fly zone. Obviously the forest was safe; he’d planted the reports about the radiation levels. It was the perfect location for his headquarters, with views of endless forest and protected from spying eyes. The building, a flat structure, blended into the landscape, even at the top of one of the highest peaks.

“Use two level-one consciousnesses,” Solomon ordered, staring at his own reflection in the window.

His long forehead was lined with wrinkles, but his eyes were still youthful. His bald head reflected the light above. He ran his hand over his scalp, enjoying its smoothness.

Bruce typed on the keyboard, pulling up a file. “I have two miners from Phoenix Tech.”

“That will work.” Solomon turned, his eyes swiveling up to the large screen.

Bruce double-clicked the mouse, pulling up a 3D image of a face. It rotated, the man’s eyes widening, trying to look around.

“Hello! Is anyone there?” the man on the screen asked.

Solomon placed his hands behind his back and lowered his chin, giving Bruce a commanding glare.

The scientist cleared his throat. “Bob Howard, can you hear me?”

“Hello! Yes! Where am I?” the man yelled, his face showing his stress, as wrinkles sprang to his eyes.

“Hold on,” Bruce ordered, typing. The image of Bob Howard disappeared, replaced with the 3D graphic of another face, a man about the same age as the first.

“Tom Culver,” Bruce stated. “Can you hear me?”

The man blinked rapidly in astonishment before a grimace took over his face. “Let me out of here! What have you done?”

Solomon gave Bruce a forceful nod. The scientist agreed silently, pulling up both images on the screen. The faces rotated, looking around but not actually being able to see anything. A copy of their physical bodies was stored in the database, locked in their file with a sample of their DNA, should they ever need it. However, it wasn’t necessary to grant them a body in the database. It would only confuse things.

“Okay, I’ve only got to erase the physical composition of the first subject,” Bruce said, leaning over the keyboard and typing. A cursor ran over the image of Bob Howard, erasing him one line at a time.

“What’s going on?” Bob asked, his voice frantic.

Bruce turned to Solomon, a proud smile on his face. “Don’t worry. I have them muted.”

“I’m not worried,” Solomon said flatly.

Aggghhh!” Bob yelled. “Something is happening to me!”

Bruce shook his head, tapping his fingers on the desk, his eyes intent on the smaller screen in front of him. “You’re not feeling anything. I’ve only deleted your physical composition files.” Bruce looked up at Solomon with a laugh. “Maybe he feels a little naked.”

Solomon’s face remained stony. “Now copy his consciousness into the second subject.”

Bruce’s smile dropped as he looked back at the screen. “No problem.” He jabbed at a few keys. “That should do it.”

A progress bar popped up on the screen, starting at ten percent. Solomon watched as it increased, everything in Bob Howard’s consciousness downloading into Tom Culver’s.

That had been a part of the plan from the beginning, besides having a database of brilliant minds. The end goal was always to have all the minds compressed into one; the single smartest mind of all time at Solomon’s disposal.

A red box popped up on the screen. Just like before.

The white words were a bold contrast against the red of the box. ‘Transfer failed’.

Solomon let out a sigh. Again, they’d lost two more consciousness. The transfer of one mind seemed to overload the other, killing them both.

“Let’s try it again,” he ordered, turning again to look out at the serene forest, where the trees towered, the giants of this land.

Investigation releases July 25!

Jul 11, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 1: Investigation (Precious Galaxy, #2)

The New Series is Almost Here!

Tomorrow is the big release of the new series! It’s packed full of action, laughter and some of your favorite characters.

Here’s what it’s all about:

 

A new evil lurks in the darkness.

After an explosion, the crew of a battlecruiser mysteriously disappears.

Bailey and Lewis, complete strangers, find themselves suddenly onboard the damaged ship. Lewis hasn’t worked a case in years, not since the final one broke his spirit and his bank account. The last thing Bailey remembers is preparing to take down a fugitive on Onyx Station.

Mysteries are harder to solve when there’s no evidence left behind.

Bailey and Lewis don’t know how they got onboard Ricky Bobby or why. However, they quickly learn that whatever was responsible for the explosion and disappearance of the crew is still on the ship.

Monsters are real and what this one can do changes everything.

The new team bands together to discover what happened and how to fight the monster lurking in the bottom of the battlecruiser.

Will they find the missing crew? Or will the monster end them all?

Experience this exciting mystery sci-fi saga and the latest addition to the expanded Kurtherian Gambit Universe. If you’re a fan of Dark Matter, Alter Carbon, or Star Wars, you’ll love this riveting new space opera.

Corruption releases June 28!

Jun 27, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The New Series is Almost Here!

Snippet 1: Corruption, Precious Galaxy (Book 1)

Prologue

Bridge, Ricky Bobby, Tangki System

Lights flickered overhead as the howling siren blared louder. The battlecruiser had passed through a strange mist that had set off the alarms. The vapor hadn’t appeared to be anything out of the ordinary, or thrown up any cautions from the navigation crew.

“What the hell is going on?” Commander Julianna Fregin demanded, staring wide-eyed at the radar.

“It appears to be a storm of sorts,” Ricky Bobby, the ship’s AI, stated overhead. “I’ve encountered these before, and they usually pass without incident. I hypothesize that it’s blocking sensors, which is what triggered the alarms.”

“So we have no reason to distrust the individuals from Phoenix Tech?” Captain Eddie Teach asked, referring to the ship they were scheduled to meet.

“I think that your level of trust with these representatives should be a separate consideration from any weather patterns you experience before the meeting,” Ricky Bobby said, that familiar clinical tone to his voice.

Eddie shook his head at Julianna. “Has he always been so pedantic?”

“Always,” she yelled as the sirens shut off, her voice loud in the sudden quiet.

Everyone on the bridge looked up, briefly distracted, then the crew took a collective deep breath, as the rush triggered by the emergency sirens died away.

“Can I get a systems update?” Julianna asked, hands pressed behind her back, and gaze eagerly pinned on the radar.

“Everything appears to be normal,” Ricky Bobby stated. “I’m running a full system diagnostic now.”

The good news didn’t put Julianna at ease. Instead her eyes swiveled back and forth as she watched their battlecruiser near the Phoenix Tech ship.

“Relax, Jules,” Eddie encouraged. “Everything is going according to plan. This is a straightforward meeting. No funny business.”

She dropped her gaze, not looking convinced. “Ricky Bobby, does your scan include the defense network?”

“Currently, I’m halfway through checking the engines,” Ricky Bobby informed her. “A full scan of the defense network will take a little while, but I’ll prioritize it next.”

Eddie gave Julianna a skeptical look. “What’s up?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know, but something doesn’t feel right.”

“Aren’t you the one who says this isn’t a ‘feeling’ business?” Eddie teased, a sideways smile on his long face.

Julianna nodded absentmindedly. “It’s just that there’s something we’re missing, or so it seems.”

“The shields do appear to have intermittent failure,” Ricky Bobby informed them.

Julianna cut her eyes at Eddie, a heavy expression on her face.

“What’s going on with them?” Eddie asked.

“I’m not certain,” Ricky Bobby said. “I’ll have to have Liesel check them out manually.”

Liesel, the ship’s engineer, was currently off the ship, which meant that the shields would have to wait. Julianna shook her head again, trying to dispel the worry.

“We’re receiving a communication from the Phoenix Tech ship,” one of the comms officers stated, gaining the attention of the other crew members.

“Patch them through,” Eddie requested, mimicking Julianna’s stance and standing at attention.

“Ghost Squadron, this is Mariah Riley with Phoenix Tech,” a bodiless voice said overhead. “We’re requesting permission to dock and board.”

The shuttle was nearing Ricky Bobby’s port side at an even pace.

“Phoenix Tech, we’re experiencing some technical difficulties at the moment,” Julianna stated, staring straight at Eddie. He nodded, sensing what she was thinking.

A loud sigh fell over the speaker. “Good, I’m glad it wasn’t just our shuttle,” Mariah said. “Alarms went berserk when we flew through that mist, and now our shields are down, and all our weapons disabled.”

Julianna purposely walked over to the communications officer who’d patched through the call, and pressed a button on the workstation, pausing the line. “Ricky Bobby, how are our weapons?”

“They are all online. The shields are still down, but only sporadically,” Ricky Bobby answered.

Julianna gave Eddie a long look and then nodded, seeming to have read his mind. She switched back on the transmission. “Phoenix Tech, you’ve been granted permission to dock and board.”

“Great, thanks,” Mariah said, relief in her voice. “See you soon.”

Julianna didn’t reply, only ended the transmission.

Eddie smiled wide, trying to disarm her. He waved a large hand at her, dismissing the skeptical expression on her face. “It’s probably some dense fog that throws off the gyroscope sensors in charge of regulating the vapor pressure connected with the shields.”

She gave him a long, cold stare. “You made all that up.”

“I sure did,” he said proudly. “How did it sound?”

“When Liesel returns from checking the shields, I’m having her school you on ship technology,” Julianna said, seeming to let go of some of her tension. She watched as the Phoenix Tech ship neared their battlecruiser, the visitors dwarfed by the cruiser’s gigantic size.

“Do you think they’re going to talk?” Julianna asked.

“I think having allies in this big, lonesome galaxy is incredibly important, and I don’t know of any better friends than us,” Eddie stated proudly.

The ship lurched, knocking both the captain and commander forward.

Julianna stumbled, hitting her head on the edge of the strategy table in the center of the bridge. “What’s going on?” she asked.

“We’ve hit another pocket of the fog,” Ricky Bobby stated. “I’m working on classifying the weather pattern and taking a sample to scan for pollutants.”

The overhead lights flickered twice before shutting off completely, sending the bridge into complete darkness. The sirens blared once more, the red emergency lights strobing.

Eddie’s eyes darted up to the radar. The Phoenix Tech shuttle had docked with their ship. “Lockdown the corridor our visitors are in.”

Behind them, the crew worked in the darkened area, scrambling to get the systems back online.

“Ricky Bobby, did you hear me?” Eddie asked.

There was no answer.

“Ricky Bobby, we need a systems report,” Julianna stated, running her hand over her forehead. She pulled her hand away and realized it was streaked with blood. In the reddish glow of the bridge, she gave Eddie a look of alarm.

“Are you all right?” he asked, realizing she’d been hurt.

“I’m fine!” she yelled, her eyes going wide, as black smoke seeped up from the floor. “But what’s that?”

Eddie encouraged her back with one arm, shaking his head. “Ricky Bobby! Do you read me? What’s going on?”

The black vapor blanketed the entire bridge. No one coughed or tried to flee as the gaseous substance engulfed them; instead, they remained transfixed on the tendrils of smoke stretching through the air.

A moment later, the sirens stopped. The emergency lights faded, once again casting the bridge in total blackness. When the lights flickered back on, not a single crew member remained. The bridge was empty.

Overhead, the speaker crackled, static filling the empty space.

“Captain? Commander?” Ricky Bobby called overhead. “Something took me offline. The ship’s system has been compromised.”

Silence

“Captain? Commander?” Ricky Bobby asked again. “Is anyone there?”

Corruption releases June 28th.

 

Jun 19, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 1: Corruption, Precious Galaxy (Book 1)

Snippet 2: Preservation, Ghost Squadron, #7

Chapter Two

McCormick’s Pharmacy, Federation Border Station Seven

Lowering the Saverus goggles, Eddie confirmed what they’d suspected with a sharp nod.

Julianna held her gun close to her body, her back pressed to the wall beside the entrance. She cut her eyes at Eddie, who stood in the same position on the other side of the door. With a curt nod, she swung into the mostly empty shop.

“Hands up,” she commanded, pointing her weapon at an elderly woman who had been sweeping the floor of a wide aisle stocked with cold remedies.

Eddie directed his gun at a decrepit man sitting behind the counter, leaning over an adding machine.

“What?” the woman said, dropping the broom and hurrying closer to Julianna.

“Stay back,” Julianna ordered.

You’re holding a senior citizen at gunpoint, Pip scolded in her head. How low have you sunk?

She rolled her eyes. Penrae says that we can’t trust them, and fear and surprise, along with keeping them at a distance, could inhibit them from shifting.

Penrae, the same Saverus who tricked you into jumping into the middle of the enemy’s fleet?

I think we can trust that these two are up to something nefarious. The goggles confirmed that they are shapeshifters.

Or they are just two Saverus trying to make an honest living in a world that would distrust them if they showed their real faces.

Would you shush? I need to concentrate.

Yes, I think the evil villain you’re after just peed herself.

“What is this about?” the man behind the counter asked, looking between Eddie and Julianna.

“We need to see what’s in the back,” Julianna stated, her voice clear and deliberate.

“There are only supplies in the back. Nothing of much interest.” The old woman dared to take a step toward Julianna.

“Stay back!” Julianna commanded, her gun pointed at the woman’s head.

“We’re honest business owners,” the old man said, his body shaking as he attempted to push up from his stool.

Eddie kept his gun trained on the man. “We know what you are, so stop the bullshit, Saverus.”

The woman glanced back at the man. “You must be mistaken. We’re human.”

Eddie let out a breath, fully annoyed. “You have blue scales and creepy green eyes.” He tossed his head in the direction of the man. “And you are yellow with golden eyes.”

“Oh, well, since when is it a crime to be an alien?” the man asked, wheezing between each word as he clutched the countertop, inching forward.

“We simply asked to take a look in the back,” Julianna stated, pointing her gun at the woman before pivoting it in the man’s direction. “You two are going to stay frozen under my supervision while my partner checks it out.”

The old man hobbled forward, fumbling with the half-door dividing the counter from the rest of the shop. “That’s fine with me. You okay with that, Daisy?”

“I don’t see why not,” Daisy said as the man continued to attempt to pull open the door.

Why these two picked these feeble bodies, I don’t know. Jules lowered her weapon, focusing her gaze on the woman only a few feet away.

“I’ve got this,” Eddie stated, striding for the half-door where the old man seemed to be struggling with the lock.

“This darn thing needs to be greased,” the man said, taking a step back so Eddie could unlock it.

“Yeah, it’s pretty stubborn,” Eddie agreed, his voice returning to his more relaxed tone. These two didn’t at all appear to be the criminal Saverus that Penrae had described.

“Mind if I resume sweeping?” the woman asked Julianna, pointing to the broom she’d dropped.

With her curly blue hair and spectacles, she reminded Julianna of her own grandma. Julianna remembered that Granny used to whistle while folding laundry, and often called herself ‘an old fart’. The commander found herself smiling at the long-ago memory.

“The afternoon rush is coming, and I’d prefer to get my chores done before then,” Daisy said, inclining her head toward the clock on the wall.

Maybe these really are just two, hardworking Saverus, trying to make it in a world that won’t accept them for who they are. Shapeshifters aren’t considered the most trustworthy, but is it their fault they have such a powerful skill?

“Yeah, go ahead,” Julianna stated, stepping on the end of the broom so that its other end popped up.

She leaned forward to retrieve the broom for the old woman and only barely registered movement from the corner of her eyes.

The old woman had vanished, shapeshifting into the hulking figure of a man over seven feet tall. He reached forward, grabbing the broom, and swung it around at Julianna’s head. She ducked, then popped back up and brought her arm holding her gun around, slamming it into the massive man’s shoulder to no effect. He picked her up by her neck and threw her into a nearby shelf, knocking it over. Julianna’s head slammed against the sharp, metal shelf, and her gun flew from her grasp.

From the sound of it, the feeble old man had also shifted and was currently fighting Eddie. Julianna scrambled off the shelf and chanced a look in their direction. The old man had taken the form of a giant Kezzin, and he towered over the captain.  He’d apparently fixed his problem with the rusty lock, and threw open the half-door, making Eddie jump back to avoid being hit.

The Kezzin grunted before barreling in Julianna’s direction.  She kept her shoulders low, darting to the side to get him to chase her, his position matching hers. Tapping the side of his head with her hand, she taunted him in a circle, the two facing off, both looking for the perfect time to attack.

When the huge brute dove for her, Julianna pivoted, putting her back to him before springing backwards into the air. She performed a flip over the imposter, landing hard on his back as he continued forward. Before he knew what was happening, she wrapped her arms around his torso and used her momentum to tumble to the right, pulling the man over her body and down to the ground, pinning his hands. She grabbed his head with both her hands and slammed it into the ground. He fell still at once.

Yeah, so I guess they’re probably not as unsuspecting as I first thought, Pip said as Julianna peeled herself off the giant’s body.

You think?

A gunshot stole her attention.

Eddie stood, his feet a shoulder-width apart, with his gun pointed straight out in front of him. On the ground, lying lifeless, was the Kezzin. Its body flickered before shifting into the form of a giant snake with golden scales.

“I thought we agreed not to use deadly force if it could be avoided,” Julianna said, searching the floor for her gun.

“We did,” Eddie said, pointing at the ground behind her. “So what’s your excuse?”

She retrieved her pistol from underneath a package of gauze bandages and cast a look at her back. The man she’d fought had been replaced with a blue serpent. “Oops. I guess I don’t know my own strength.”

“Well, it could still be alive.  They do shift back when they’re unconscious,” Eddie reasoned.

“Good point.” Julianna aimed her gun and shot the Saverus in the head. Eddie gave her a questioning look. “What?” she asked, rolling her stiff shoulder. “We can’t risk these assholes waking up and starting another fight.”

“Good point. Shall we see what’s in the back of this seemingly innocent mom and pop shop?” Eddie asked, holding the half-door back for her. It was partially off the hinges, having been punished during the brawl.

Julianna strode behind the counter, gun at the ready, and eyes scanning the back area. She didn’t hear noises indicating that anyone else was back there, but she couldn’t afford to drop her guard again. Damn Saverus had hit a soft spot, reminding her of her grandmother. She understood exactly why they’d taken on such unsuspecting forms.

A curtain divided the pharmacy from the shop area. It was far less secure than most of the pharmacies on the station, but those tended to have lots of customers; the same didn’t seem to be the case for this store.

Julianna and Eddie stealthily moved into the back room, their guns leading their way as they searched the small space. It was no more than fifteen by fifteen feet, and the walls were lined with shelves all holding rows of an identical item.

“Holy fuck!” Eddie exclaimed, looking up to the ceiling.

“Looks like Penrae was telling the truth.” Julianna holstered her weapon and picked up one of the vials on the shelf.

There were thousands of small, labeled, stainless steel containers. The one in her hand read:

Race: Human

Gender: Female

Nationality: Asian

Age: 35

Build: Small

Strength: Average

Identity: Unknown

“So this is the Saverus’ one-stop shop for getting ahold of new identities,” Eddie deduced, picking up a vial and studying the label.

Julianna set down the vial she held. “Apparently, it’s one of many shops operating right under the Federation’s nose.”

“I don’t get why they don’t just absorb a person’s appearance, or whatever it is they do. Why have a shop for specific identities?” Eddie asked.

“I think it’s supposed to give them options,” Julianna reasoned, picking up another vial.

Eddie held up a bottle. “Hey, how much do you think they charge for these? Do we have a reason for Penrae to look like a Trid?”

Julianna stiffened after reading the label on the vial in her hand. “I’m guessing this one would cost a bit more than the rest.”

“Why is that?” Eddie asked, squinting in her direction.

She turned the label around as she extended her arm, showing him the bottle.

His eyes widened. “ ‘General Lance Reynolds’.”

Preservation releases May 16th.

May 9, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 2: Preservation, Ghost Squadron, #7

Snippet 1: Preservation, Ghost Squadron #7

Chapter One

Deck 12, Onyx Station, Paladin System

Verdok ran his tongue across the back of his teeth. Having a human mouth always took getting used to. Their teeth were so flat and seemingly useless. At least this body was strong and agile; he couldn’t stand impersonating weak humans.

He raised his hand and knocked at the door, listening intently to the shuffling that erupted from the other side. The person he was calling on probably wasn’t expecting any visitors.

Multiple locks clinked on the other side before the door slid back, though only as far as the chain would allow. A green eye partly framed by a bushy gray eyebrow blinked back at him. The person startled, jumping back and fumbling with the chain. The door finally flew open, and a woman stood staring, her mouth wide.

“General Reynolds!” she exclaimed, bowing low as she extended a hand, like she was so surprised she didn’t know how to greet the honored guest.

“Annaliese Vincent,” Verdok said in a warm voice. “I hope I’m not disturbing you too early.”

Annaliese threw her gaze down to the flowery dressing gown she was wearing. She clutched it self-consciously.  “Disturbing me? Not at all. But did I miss a note about a meeting?”

Verdok shook his head. “Something has come up, and I’m seeking your help with a project. Can I come in?”

“Of course, General.” Annaliese stood back, opening the door wide.

Verdok strode into the spacious apartment, his eyes intent.

“I’m happy to help on a consulting basis, as I’ve done in the past,” Annaliese began.

Verdok slid the briefcase he’d been carrying onto a side table, unbuckling the latches. “Actually, I was hoping you’d take a classified project.”

“But I’m retired, and my security access has expired,” the old scientist said, hurrying over and looking up at the General.

“I realize that, but…” He fixed a calculating expression on his face before saying, “I suspect that we might have a security breach in R&D. Until I’ve had time to investigate it further, I need someone I can trust.”

“Me?” Annaliese asked, pressing her hands to her chest. “I’m honored. I’ll take the project.”

Verdok nodded, lifting the case to reveal the two pieces of the Tangle Thief he’d stolen. “Are you familiar with this piece of technology?”

“That’s one of Dr. Hatcherik and Dr. Sung’s projects. I read about it,” Annaliese said.

“That’s correct,” Verdok affirmed. “And for obvious reasons, I can’t grant you access to the research data. However, I have every confidence that you can fix the device, based on your previous knowledge of the project and your skill set.”

“Fix it?” Annaliese asked.

Verdok picked up the two pieces of the Tangle Thief and handed them to the scientist. “Yes, unfortunately they were damaged in transport. I need you to not only repair the devices, but upgrade them.”

“Upgrade them?” Apprehension covered the old woman’s face. “The project was shut down because it was deemed too dangerous to pursue.”

“Correct,” Verdok stated. “But things have changed, and we need it operational. This is a matter of galactic security.”

Annaliese bristled with fear as she looked the pieces over. “I’m happy to help. This sounds serious.”

“It is. I can’t give you any more details, but it’s crucial that the device works to transport large objects.”

“That will take testing.”

Verdok nodded. “I assumed as much.”

“But what about the tears it leaves behind? The radiation leaks?”

“That’s not our concern presently.”

The scientist didn’t question this, she simply ran her eyes over the receiver, studying it. Maybe under other circumstance she would, but not when being told this by the General. He was considered the supreme source of truth and to be respected and followed. Verdok had learned this much studying the Federation.

“I also need you to unlink the device so that it can’t be connected to any other Tangle Thief clients. Otherwise, our enemies could track down this device with their own.”

Annaliese’s eyes widened. Verdok really had her attention. “I’ll make that my first priority,” she said.

“Splendid.” Verdok strode back for the door, giving the scientist one last look. “I’ll be in touch. For security purposes, you shouldn’t attempt to contact me.”

She nodded obediently. “Of course. I’ll get right to work and wait to hear from you, General Reynolds.”

“Very good,” Verdok said, a satisfied smile on his face.

Preservation coming May 16th!

May 5, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 1: Preservation, Ghost Squadron #7

Snippet 3: Recollection, Ghost Squadron #6

Chapter Two

 

Brig, Ricky Bobby, Tangki System

Eddie paced back and forth in front of the bars of the cell. They’d had this area of the brig cleared out of any other prisoners, knowing that was for the best. On the other side of the metal bars, his partner, Commander Julianna Fregin, stared back at him, a doleful expression in her eyes.

“Eddie, how much longer are you going to keep me in here?” Julianna said, her tone seeking to cut him. “I love you, and you’ve locked me away. What? Are you afraid of me? Are you afraid of my love?”

Unable to control himself, Eddie launched his fist into the wall as he strode the other way. The metal of the ship crunched, caving in from the assault.

“I realize you’re angry, but I’m not trying to hurt you,” Julianna pleaded.

“Dammit! Shut up!” Eddie yelled, heat rushing to his head.

Julianna covered her face, weeping from behind the cold, metal bars. “Why are you so hostile? All I seem to do is disappoint you. No matter what I do, it doesn’t matter.”

Eddie gritted his teeth together, pressed his fingers into his palms. I am stronger than this, he told himself.

“Tell me what I want to know!” Eddie yelled, his breath hot, spilling over his lips.

Julianna pulled her hands away from her eyes, tears streaming down her red cheeks. She grabbed the bars on either side of her face. “I love you, Eddie. I love you.”

Eddie let out a guttural scream, feeling the metal deck reverberate under his feet.

The door to the brig shot open, and Julianna, the real one, stepped through. She halted at the sight of her doppelganger behind the bars, her eyes narrowed. She halted beside Eddie, shaking her head.

“She’s fucking crying,” Julianna stated. “Please tell me you’re not falling for that bullshit.”

Eddie pressed his hand to his forehead, shaking his head back and forth. “It’s hard not to. It gets into your mind, and you forget what’s real and what isn’t. This isn’t something easy to compute.”

Julianna pulled her pistol from her holster and aimed it directly at the Saverus on the other side of the bars.

The monster held up its hands, real fear in its eyes. “You wouldn’t shoot yourself, would you?” the Saverus asked.

“Wouldn’t I?” Julianna asked matter-of-factly. “You may look like me, but you don’t know shit about what I’m capable of.”

The Saverus morphed again. It was like looking at a watercolor painting while on LSD. It took on the form of Eddie.

The imposter blinked back at them, hands up in surrender. “Hey, now. Julianna, you should shoot me. I’m not a bad guy, but I’m definitely not a good one.”

Julianna lowered her weapon, sighing.

“It’s a mindfuck game, Jules,” Eddie said, trying to console her. He’d been interrogating the Saverus for an hour and had gotten nowhere. The giant snake kept morphing into different humans it had encountered since being taken aboard Ricky Bobby. He and Julianna had really thought that, on the other side of the bars, they could resist the ploy, but it was incredibly tough to look at your partner crying and demand they answer your questions.

Looking as defeated as he felt, Julianna swiveled around to face him. “Maybe we have to give this up for a while.”

“Maybe we give it up entirely and throw this monster out the airlock,” Eddie said.

The Saverus morphed into the dog figure of Harley, looking up at them with large, brown, begging eyes.

“Fuck, when did it see Harley?” Eddie asked, throwing an arm at the thing.

Julianna let out a weighted sigh. “He was with me when I delivered its food.” She pointed to the uneaten tray of roasted chicken and boiled vegetables.

“That’s it,” Eddie declared. “Only you or I come in or out of here from now on. We don’t need it cataloguing others on the ship it can impersonate.”

The Saverus shifted into the form of Lars, the only other person it had met, when it woke up on the Q-Ship, before being sedated. “I’m not an ‘it’. I’m a ‘she’,” the Saverus said, using Lars’s voice, which made the whole thing even creepier.

“She. Oh, right,” Eddie said. “Because I want to ensure that I get your gender correct, you fucking snake.”

“As you should,” the Saverus said, an entitled tone in her voice that sounded all wrong in Lars’s usually humbled tongue. “And while you’re at it, you should know that I prefer my meat uncooked. And no vegetables.”

Now that did sound like Lars, Eddie thought.

“How about we feed you when you start talking? Tell us why the Saverus want the Tangle Thief,” Julianna said blankly.

The Saverus shifted into the form of Eddie again. The imposter gripped the bars, pressing Eddie’s face between the metal. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know, Jules. Anything. But I can’t tell you that. Don’t you get it? I can’t talk. I’m bound by an oath older than you or me.”

The real Eddie laughed. “Apparently you don’t know how old Jules really is.”

“Wait,” Julianna stated, staring at the replica of Eddie. “What did you say about an oath? What does that mean?”

Eddie shook his head. “Nothing that imposter says is real. What’s the point?”

Julianna didn’t look deterred, though. “She slipped up,” she said to Eddie before turning her attention back to the Saverus. “You’re bound by an oath, is that right? That’s why you can’t talk?”

“Well, and because she’s the fucking enemy,” Eddie stated at Julianna’s side.

Ignoring him, Julianna said to the Saverus, “Your kind, what they are trying to do, will have horribly devastating effects on our galaxy. If they get ahold of the Tangle Thief, then—”

When they get it,” the Saverus said, cutting her off.

“You’re not listening,” Julianna stated, shaking her head at the form of Eddie.

Julianna turned to the real Eddie. “We need to know more about the Saverus. This is getting us nowhere. There’s something preventing this one from telling us anything.”

Eddie agreed with a nod. There was something strange about this species, and more than the fact that it could become anything at will. “Maybe Marilla will know.”

Julianna turned for the exit, Eddie at her heels. At the door, he turned around and cast a last look at the species that had created more headaches for him than all the alcohol he’d drank in his lifetime. “Just so you know, we will let you rot here. You can’t manipulate us. We will figure out how to make you talk.”

The Saverus morphed into a version of Julianna and then collapsed. She extended her hands through the bars, sputtering out a cough. “I don’t have much longer, Edward,” the Saverus said using Julianna’s voice, her tone hoarse. “Save me. Please. Don’t allow me to die.”

Eddie shook his head at the attempt to manipulate his emotions. Although he felt cold wrap around his insides, he pursed his lips.

“Ricky Bobby, you might be the only one safe from this monster,” Eddie said to the AI.

“I’ll keep a watch on the prisoner, and I’m more than happy to interrogate her when you have new questions,” Ricky Bobby said overhead.

This produced a deep scowl on the Saverus’s face. An expression he’d never seen so prevalent on the actual Julianna’s face.

“That’s a good idea, RB,” Eddie said, firing his finger at the ceiling.  “Thanks.”

Recollection releases April 3rd.

Apr 2, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 3: Recollection, Ghost Squadron #6

Snippet 2: Recollection, Ghost Squadron, #6

When he’d passed through a thicket of trees, Verdok slipped into his original form, enjoying the feel of his own skin. His scales were green and camouflaged into the forest nicely.  Once he’d traveled into the cave he’d made his temporary home base, Verdok’s mouth began to salivate. He’d hardly been able to tolerate the charred meat that the females of the Scowotz had offered him. The animal, whatever it was, had been roasted over a hot fire for too long, and the meat had no flavor. He needed something fresh. Something with its blood still flowing.

When Verdok slipped into the cave, the familiar smell of prey filled his nostrils. The firelight danced across the cave walls, but Verdok ignored the nuisance. As a shapeshifter, Verdok adapted easily to his environment, even when not taking on the appearance of another. The Petigrens were warm-blooded animals and needed the fire to survive, especially in this cold region.

Three Petigrens scurried around the open cave, as Verdok slithered into the area and coiled his long tail around his body. They looked up and startled backward before correcting themselves and bowing low. Their instinct told them to fear him, but it was their law that told the Petigrens to serve Verdok. A law that the Saverus had created.

“Master! Master!” the Petigrens said in unison between clucking noises. They scurried around, picking up rocks and then dropping them. Digging into satchels while looking around bewildered. The Petigrens were the size of small men, but they had the ears, whiskers and facial features of a mouse. Tufts of hair grew in random places on their faces and body.

“Were you successful?” the first Petigren asked, bringing forward a bowl of fresh water.

Verdok ignored the offering and instead appraised the Petigren. The three had traveled with him for a week now, although when he had set out, he’d had twice the number. He might need more Petigrens soon.

“I was not, unless determining where the boy has not been is considered progress,” Verdok said.

Another Petigren rushed forward, sliding down to his knees and bowing his head. “Are you hungry, master? It would be my honor to gather food for you.”

Verdok considered the offer. The Petigrens weren’t horrible hunters, but usually what they came back with was small and unfulfilling.

“I’ll eat in a moment,” he said, feeling dirty after his short stint with the disgusting tribe.

“I ventured into the town at the bottom of the mountain,” the third Petigren said nonchalantly.

Verdok spun around, his yellow eyes widening. “You did what? I told you not to leave the cave.”

“I realize that, but I figured I could be of use to you,” the Petigren stated, kneeling beside the fire, scratching at the dirt and kindling like trying to make a bed out of the stuff.

“How did you have such a mistaken notion?” Verdok asked, swaying back and forth, his form stretching tall. Across the cave wall, the shadow of Verdok danced.

The Petigren hiccupped. “I simply went to the village and asked for help.”

“You what?” Verdok nearly exploded.

“I said that I needed a safe place, the safest,” the Petigren stuttered. The other two were now huddled together by the far wall.

Verdok didn’t say anything, instead he watched the Petigren shuffle nervously.

“As a vulnerable race, they didn’t question my requests for safety,” the Petigren explained, continuing. “And you said that the boy was sent to a safe place.”

“I did,” Verdok said, revolving to face the other two, who seemed to wet themselves from the eye contact. “Apparently, you don’t have a pea-sized brain like your brothers.”

“I assure you, we can think when allowed,” the rebellious Petigren said, regaining Verdok’s attention.

“What did you learn? Or did you only attract unnecessary attention to yourself?” Verdok asked.

The Petigren hiccupped and scuttled forward on all fours before rising to stand in front of Verdok. “I learned that there are many safe places on Nexus. The planet is considered mostly peaceful.”

Verdok’s forked tongue slipped from his mouth. “That’s not helpful. I’ve garnered that much information over the last several days.”

“But I heard rumor of a place considered safer than all the rest,” the Petigren stammered, visibly shaking, but still holding his chin upright.

“Go on,” Verdok demanded.

“The people in the village said that, for those who pose no threat, the inhabitants of Sunex welcome them into their borders,” the Petigren stated, hiccupping still. “They don’t allow savages, like those in Scowotz, or other bullies or predator types. However, they will protect those who can’t protect themselves. The people are supposed to be very peaceful, and the land absent of any dangers.”

Verdok mused on the idea. That does seem like the safest place on Nexus. Can it possibly be where the hologram sent the kid with the Tangle Thief?

“Did I do well, Master?” the Petigren asked, not at all cowering now. “Did I prove my worth to you?”

So that was what this Petigren was after? He was trying to prove he was more than a pile of bait or a servant to the Saverus.

Verdok swiveled to face the other Petigren, cowering in the corner. Even shivering in fear, they looked interested to see how this bold behavior would be interpreted. Verdok had to set a precedent. This Petigren’s behavior could have far reaching effects. He’d made himself useful by finding valuable information.

Verdok whipped around in a blur and struck the rebellious Petigren, sinking his razor-sharp fangs into the middle of its body. The rat-like man froze, his entire form rigid with fear and adrenaline. He began to convulse in Verdok’s wide jaws, which clenched his body tightly, not allowing him to move.

From Verdok’s peripheral, he spotted the usual fear from the other Petigrens as they watched one of their kind being struck. But this death served a purpose. The Petigrens were allowed to be mildly useful. They were allowed to sacrifice themselves in battle for the Saverus or to feed the greater species. But they served the Saverus. They did as they were told. What they didn’t do was go off on their own and find valuable information that would in turn make them more powerful.

Verdok’s body wound tighter around the stiff Petigren, constricting until it was in the perfect position. Then Verdok released his fangs, but kept his jaw wide as he slipped his mouth over the Petigren’s head, swallowing it whole.

Recollection releases April 3rd.

Mar 31, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 2: Recollection, Ghost Squadron, #6