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

Snippet 1: Recollection, Ghost Squadron #6

Scowotz, Nexus, Tangki System

The axe spiraled through the air and sunk into the tree trunk, inches from the ogre’s face. The tyrant roared, his beady eyes murderous as he glared at the tribe around him. They grunted back, brandishing their axes, ready to throw.

This definitely wasn’t the safest place on Nexus, Verdok thought. He’d been searching the planet, trying to determine where Kyra had sent the boy with the mohawk, the last known person to hold the Tangle Thief. Shapeshifting, Verdok had assumed dozens of forms as he searched, and he was no closer than when he started.

The goon that Verdok had been punishing charged away from the tree, his large feet thundering across the forest floor. He pushed both smaller and larger tribe members down as he headed straight for Verdok, an ugly grimace on his flat face.

Smoke from the many fires wafted through the camp, where the primitive race on Scowotz huddled in leather tents or washed their wool clothes in a nearby stream. Verdok, having taken on the appearance of the savage race’s leader, sat cross-legged, the black smoke making his eyes burn with irritation. Around him, several of the tribe’s males stood, their stance protective. They had no idea that their trusted leader was lying face down in the river, where Verdok had left him.

Those from Nexus, Verdok had found, appeared almost human-like, except they were larger and had distinct differences in their mental and physical capabilities. For instance, this race from Scowotz all had larger heads and poor verbal skills. They were flat footed and nearly toeless, which gave them horrible balance. However, they made up for this with incredible strength and superior height. Even the females were all over six feet tall.

The giant pointed his fat finger in Verdok’s direction. “You! Me! Now!”

It had been like this since Verdok had taken on the form of the chief leader. He was constantly tested for his position. They were an ugly race that relied on brutish skills instead of democracy. No wonder this race is dying off. Well, also they slept in tents with dirt floors and never bathed.

The putrid smell of the males that charged by Verdok to defend him nearly made him pass out. He picked up the axe closest to him and jumped to a standing position. The chief was easily the largest in the tribe, which was obviously how he’d taken the role. Brandishing the axe over his head, he swung it from side to side, the way he’d seen one of the other males do before battle, obviously an attempt at intimidation. Verdok, as a shapeshifter, was unmatched in his ability to quickly pick up the behaviors of the entity he was impersonating.

The chief’s supporters jumped back, hooting deeply. The male who had been about to challenge dropped his chest down, his long arms danging by his sides and knuckles brushing the ground. The giant grunted, his long hair hanging loosely in his face. Verdok swept his own mop of curly dreadlocks off his shoulders.

This race lived in the overcast north of Nexus for a reason. Their red hair and sensitive skin wouldn’t fair well on the southern continents, which Verdok had already searched to find wide open beaches and dark-skinned races who basked in the sun from morning until night.

The savage beat his chest, not at all deterred by Verdok’s show of intimidation. Although weapons weren’t something he was comfortable with, he’d watched the males of this tribe long enough to know that they never fought fearfully.

When his arm swung around, Verdok let go of the axe and it spiraled through the air, end over end, until it struck the beast in the chest. The giant’s thick hands reached for the axe lodged in his torso and froze before they connected with the handle. The crowd fell silent. The tribe members looked around with uncertainty. They grunted to each other, a babbling that grew in intensity as the giant stood frozen, his shocked gaze on the instrument protruding from his chest.

The brute gulped, and blood slipped from the corner of his mouth. This seemed to invigorate the crowd, their grunting growing in volume. The challenger stumbled forward several paces. Verdok didn’t move, even when his attacker was close, only five yards away. The beast rocked back on his heels, like he was thinking better of the decision to charge, but then he bolted forward, falling face-first on the axe.

The crowd cheered wildly, many of them throwing their meaty fists into the air. Verdok didn’t even grant the fallen tribesman a glance before turning to the rest of his tribe.

“Clear off!” he yelled. “There’s work to be done. Get to it!”

The crowd silenced at once, many of them looking at one another like they didn’t fully understand the order. Shrugging their enormous shoulders, they slowly dispersed. The men filed back in the direction of their tents, or toward the stream where the females were cleaning and gathering water. The surprise on their faces told Verdok that a leader usually celebrated after a victory when being challenged. However, Verdok didn’t care. He was only looking for an excuse to get as far from this primitive tribe as possible. The boy with the black mohawk hadn’t been here.

He turned and trudged purposefully in the opposite direction, not even caring that many of the tribe members were giving him curious glances.

Recollection coming April 3rd.

Mar 28, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 1: Recollection, Ghost Squadron #6

Snippet 2: Impersonation, Ghost Squadron #5

Landing Bay, Ricky Bobby, Tangki System

Although technically Ricky Bobby was both her and Eddie’s ship, for simplicity’s sake Julianna had been brief with Dex. She never tired of saying it…“her ship.” She popped out of the Q-Ship after landing on Ricky Bobby, motioning to the closest crew member.

“Parts need to go to Dr. A’Din Hatcherik’s lab,” she said, striding around a construction area. The whole ship was in renovation mode, which was why Eddie hadn’t accompanied Julianna.

“Tell me it wasn’t any fun,” Eddie said to her. He was standing on the top step of a ladder holding a beam up with one hand, although it was incredibly heavy. Knox stood on a neighboring scaffold with a fistful of wires, and his brow was scrunched as he worked on the repair.

“It was so fucking boring.” Julianna pretended to yawn. “The pirates didn’t even put up a serious fight. It was over before I knew it.”

Lars set the transport ship down with ease, and a sort of smile could be seen on his face through the windshield. The Kezzin had obviously enjoyed returning to his home planet, a place he’d never thought he’d see again. And seeing his brother’s face when he’d landed the transport ship had been priceless, even for Julianna. Sharing someone else’s pride-filled moment was almost as good as having one herself.

“Did you get everything I asked for?” Hatch asked, waddling out from behind the cargo boxes that had already been unloaded.

“Not only did I get everything on your Christmas List,” Julianna began, “I also got you a surprise.”

“Surprise?” the Londil queried with skepticism on his octopus face.

“Check it out for yourself.” Julianna motioned to the lowered ramp at the back of the transport ship.

Hatch rolled his eyes but hurried over, curiosity obvious in his expression. He paused in front of the open door, his mouth popping open. “Is that…”

Julianna crossed her arms and nodded proudly. “It is.”

“How did you get this?” Hatch asked.

“It was actually Pip’s idea,” Julianna confessed.

Giving me credit…that was nice of you. I’m not interfaced with the ship yet, chirped Pip in Julianna’s head.

Which means you couldn’t have told on me if I had taken credit.

You’re a real pal, Julianna.

“Tell Pip that I owe him. I’ll have him interfaced with the ship soon to show my gratitude,” Hatch said.

“I’m not sure that should take priority over upgrading the gate drives,” Ricky Bobby said from the speakers. “They aren’t up to Federation standards, and if we need to make a quick exit that will pose a problem.”

Julianna smiled inwardly. AI rivalry. She’d suspected this would happen. Ricky Bobby had transitioned to Unsurpassed without issue, and having her old AI in charge of their new ship felt incredibly right. However, there were still things that would take time, and integrating the two AIs was one of them.

“What is it? What did the Commander bring you?” Knox asked, hurrying over after climbing quickly down. The guy wasn’t afraid of heights, and was as coordinated up high as a monkey in a tree.

“It’s…it’s something I’ve only seen pictures of,” Hatch said as a crew member pushed the Stutz Bearcat down the ramp and onto the deck.

“Whoa!” Knox exclaimed. “That’s incredible.”

Eddie strode over and halted beside Julianna. “How did you score a Stutz Bearcat?”

“I asked,” she answered frankly. “I simply asked.”

Damn that Fregin charm. If you ever use it on me I’ll be in trouble,” Eddie said.

Julianna shook her head. “Captain, I think you’re confusing a simple request with some sort of magic.”

Eddie smiled broadly. “Oh, that’s cute. You don’t see it.”

“See what?” Julianna asked.

“Your knack for persuasion,” Eddie said, winking at her.

“Again, I simply asked, ‘Can you include the car?’ That’s how it happened,” Julianna explained.

Eddie shook his head and whistled. “Damn, that mechanic never stood a chance.”

“Teach, you’ve been inhaling paint fumes for too long,” Julianna said, and strode over to Hatch. He was already flattened under the old car.

“Julie, this is incredible. I never expected to own a gem like this,” Hatch said, his voice vibrating with excitement.

“We’re glad you like it. Think you’ll be able to restore the car?” Julianna asked.

“The engine needs to be rebuilt,” Hatch said, sliding out from underneath the Bearcat.

“And the hoses all need to be replaced,” Knox added from under the hood.

Hatch slapped two tentacles together jovially. “But yes. We can have this baby up and running in no time.”

A cough echoed from overhead.

“Yes, of course. Ricky Bobby is right,” Julianna said, taking the mild hint from the AI. “We need to get the gate drives online first.”

“And the cloaks,” Eddie added.

“Yeah, yeah. You’ll get your ship upgraded,” Hatch grumbled as he waddled off. “Can’t even take a day off for my hobbies.”

Knox ran after him, almost bouncing. “Think how good that car is going to look next to your Bugatti and the Volkswagen bug.”

“Only a few more, and my collection will be complete,” Hatch said to the young mechanic as they sped off. “A ’57 Corvette, a 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda, a DeLorean…” His voice faded as they walked out of the bay.

Eddie turned to Julianna. “Think we’ll need a bigger ship to house Hatch’s car collection.”

I found interesting information on the VW bug, Pip interjected in Julianna’s head.

Like the fact that it was commissioned originally by Adolf Hitler?

Like the fact that making out in the backseat is considered extremely uncomfortable.

How… What? We really need to restrict the things you can search for.

Speaking of searching, I’ve been doing more enquiry on this vegan business.

“Oh dear,” Julianna said aloud.

Eddie gave her a curious glance. “Pip?” he asked, having read it on her face.

She nodded.

If I was in the captain’s head I could easily share the information I found on vegan recipes. Did you know there’s a cashew cheese that’s very smooth?

No. And no. There’s no way I’m giving up meat or cheese.

This is about living your best life, Julianna.

I’m starting to consider that involves ending you.

“Julianna and Eddie,” Ricky Bobby called. “Jack requests your presence in his office.”

Julianna sighed, laughing to herself. She could never guess what crazy thing Pip would come up with next.

“Tell him we’ll be right there,” Eddie said, laughing too.

Although he wasn’t privy to the jokes, he still seemed to enjoy the entertainment Julianna got from Pip. Maybe she should consider allowing him in both their heads. She just wasn’t sure how that would change things.

Impersonation releases Feb. 27th

Feb 26, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 2: Impersonation, Ghost Squadron #5

Snippet 1: Impersonation, Ghost Squadron #5 (Unedited)

Chapter One

Dex’s Parts and Manufacturing, Planet Kezza, Tangki System

Julianna peeked through the spokes of the old Stutz Bearcat at the six greasy pirates who had just entered the old warehouse. She slid out of sight, behind a tall shelf that rose to the ceiling in the giant warehouse. The rusty old car was parked on the second shelf and provided enough coverage from the pirates who had just entered the warehouse. The pirates sauntered into the mechanic’s shop, on time.

Fucking pirates stole and destroyed, but at least they were punctual, Julianna thought.

You know what I’m thinking right now? Pip asked in Julianna’s head.

She rolled her eyes, but smiled still. That it’s the perfect time to distract me?

Oh, dear Julianna. It’s not always about you, you know? One of these days I’m going to get a life of my own and it will be about me.

Is there a reason you’re bothering me right now? Julianna squinted, watching the backs of the Kezzin pirates as they huddled around Dex, the owner of the warehouse.

There’s a few things, actually. The first is about this car. I know someone who would like it.

Julianna looked over the rusty old vehicle. That’s very thoughtful of you.

I’m considered extremely thoughtful. Ask anyone. But I realize you don’t notice always because you have a lot on your mind, Pip said with a loud laugh in Julianna’s head.

Mind! Get it?

Julianna shook her head, securing her pistol into her holster just as the largest pirate shoved Dex in the chest. He was a sizeable man with a round belly and thick arms, but in comparison to the alien he was no match.

Also, I’ve been thinking about going on a health kick. Thoughts? Pip continued.

I don’t even know what to say about that. You’re an AI.

With feelings!

Fine, fine. What does this health kick involve? Julianna asked, humoring him. Two of the pirates had picked up long pipes and were slapping them into their palms. It was almost show time.

Well, a cleanse would be necessary. I’ve been considering going vegan. What do you think?

I don’t have the first clue as to how that would work. You don’t eat, Pip.

It’s mostly just food for thought.

Oh, no. You didn’t…

In fact, I did. But maybe you should consider going vegan.

Let’s discuss this later. Right now, I’m busy.

Dex shook his head furiously. “I don’t have what you want,” he yelled at the pirate. The Kezzin grabbed Dex’s shirt and lifted him in the air.

“Then if you don’t have our money, we’ll be taking parts,” the pirate bellowed. He turned his ugly lizard face to the brutes beside him. “Load up everything we can carry. We’ll sell it.”

Julianna slid soundlessly around the Stutz Bearcat, still mostly out of view. The pirates were too busy creating havoc to notice her standing on the large shelf, roughly ten feet off the ground.

The Kezzin holding Dex in the air laughed. “We were going to take the parts anyway and the money. Now we’ll just take more.”

“I’m going to need you to lower Dex,” Julianna yelled from the shelf.

All the Kezzin froze. The lead pirate turned, his narrow eyes enlarging. “Well, hey there sweetheart. You want me to pick you up? I can do that.” He looked at the closest Kezzin. “Let’s take her too.”

With a hungry look on his face, the Kezzin ambled forward. He dropped the pipe he’d had in his hands. That was a big mistake.

“Come here, little human,” the fuck head said.

“You want me to come over there? Okay.” Julianna backed up a step, careful to not bump into the car. She ran forward and leapt through the air. The Kezzin hadn’t expected the assault and like the cowardly assface that he was, he covered his head with his arms.

Julianna’s heel of her boot careened with his torso and he slammed to the ground at once. The pirate holding Dex, shoved the mechanic forward, spinning around to Julianna.

“Men, get her,” he commanded.

Julianna squatted down low, plucking the steel pipe from the ground. She spun around, bringing it across the face of the closest Kezzin. He flew back from the force, stumbling to the ground.

Two more pirates rushed Julianna, but she was already ready, having plotted this attack from high up on the shelf. She darted for the plane stationed in the middle of the warehouse, taking up most of one side. Leading the Kezzin, she ducked under the giant propellers. The pirates followed and Julianna spun the first propeller as she passed. It knocked the first pirate out, making him slam into the one behind him.

With the two pirates momentarily disoriented, Julianna took the opportunity to pick up a large wooden crate. She dropped it on the top of the fallen Kezzin and it smashed into pieces, knocking both of them out.

“Get her already!” the biggest pirate ordered.

Two more pirates rushed after her. She darted for the tarp that was on the other side of the plane. Jumping she cleared the spot that was splattered with grease. The Kezzin on her heels didn’t think to leap though and slipped, losing his balance he fell to his back side hard. The Kezzin behind the pirate corrected and darted around him.

Julianna spun around when she’d cleared the large tarp. Crouching down, she grabbed the edge of the tarp and ripped it forward, making the Kezzin fall on his back as well.

In a flash, Julianna yanked her pistol from her holster and spun around, pointing her weapon at the leader of the group. The coward thought he could sneak around behind her and jump her back. The fucker froze, putting his hands in the air.

Julianna released the safety and took a steadying breath. “If you want to live then get the fuck out of and never return.”

“Y-y-yeah,” the pirate stuttered, stumbling backwards.

“If I find out that you’ve ever bothered Dex then I’m going to tear off your balls and shove them down your throat.” Julianna said, her arm steady and eyes intense. “Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes,” the pirate said, and turned and ran, his men following him.

Julianna waited until she was sure they were gone before putting her pistol back in its holster. Damn it, Ghost Squadron needed to get better weapons. And soon.

For now, the weapons were fine since she was mostly fighting poor pirates that used their fist because they couldn’t get ahold of anything else. The control on weapons was the handiwork of Ghost Squadron. They’d been cleaning up illegal dealers, but for everyone they shut down, two more opened. That’s why there was no time to sleep, not that rest was entirely necessary.

Julianna looked around, impressed that she hadn’t made as big of a mess as she’d expected.

Dex, however, had his shirt ripped and looked to sustain a bash to his head when thrown back by the pirate. Still he was mostly unharmed. He scanned the warehouse, catching his breath.

“Is it was just you?” he asked, like expecting more people to jump out from behind the shelves.

“Yeah, you said there was roughly six pirates that bullied you.” Julianna stretched her neck from side to side, loosening up after the fight. She hadn’t even broken a sweat, but the adrenaline rush was sure nice.

“Oh…well, I just expected… When we talked, you said that your team would help with the pirates,” Dex said, confusion making his forehead fill with wrinkles.

“The team is busy.” Julianna swept her arm at the warehouse filled with parts. “We still have a deal, right? I got rid of your pirate problem. Can you load up my ship with supplies?”

Dex nodded. “Yeah, I’m a man of my word. I’ve got you covered. However, I’ve got a question. I saw your list of things you need and it’s quite a lot.”

“Those pirates were going to take a whole lot more than what I’m asking for,” Julianna said.

“No, no. It’s not that,” Dex began. “It’s just that based on what all you asked for… well, you must be outfitting a massive ship.”

Julianna smiled to herself, a new pride in her chest at the thought of Ricky Bobby. “Oh yeah. It’s an impressive battle cruiser.”

“It must be, to hold all the parts you’ve requested,” Dex said, awe written on his face. “Just one more question. And you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to.”

“Go on then,” Julianna said. She liked the old mechanic. He was a good man, one who had suffered for too long being bullied on the planet of Kezza that he’d tried to make his home.

“Who does this battle cruiser belong to?” Dex asked.

Julianna smiled wide. “Me. It’s my ship.”

Impersonation releases Feb. 27th.

Feb 20, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 1: Impersonation, Ghost Squadron #5 (Unedited)

Snippet 5: Degeneration, Ghost Squadron #4


Jack Renfro’s Office, QBS ArchAngel , Behemoth System.

“I’m not sure that I asked for your input,” Jack said to the empty office when Julianna and Eddie entered.

They both paused and regarded each other with a bit of confusion.

“I believe you said, ‘why can’t I ever find anything in this place,’” ArchAngel said overhead with an amused tone.

Jack’s desk was, as usual, covered in papers and folders. He used a tablet often, but also seemed partial to paper at times. Julianna kind of found it endearing. He was an incredibly strategic thinker, evolved in his problem-solving approaches, and yet he liked holding a paper report in his hands.

He shook his head at the AI, rolling his eyes for Julianna and Eddie to see. “It’s an expression. It doesn’t mean that I’m looking for you to provide a solution.”

“But my job is to make your job easier. I’m always looking for solutions,” said ArchAngel. She was playing with him, trying to get under his skin, and judging by the look on his face, it was working.

“I believe I was in my office alone, working. Is there no privacy here?” Now Jack sounded like he was playing ArchAngel’s game, a slight bit of amusement in his tone.

“There’s no privacy anywhere on this ship,” said the AI. “Which is why you should know that the Captain and the Commander have been drinking prior to this scheduled meeting.”

Eddie turned to Julianna, shaking his head. “Isn’t she a doll?”

“Simply delightful,” she said, almost laughing.

Jack sorted through a stack of papers on his desk, craning his neck to look under them. “I think my office could use some organization,” he admitted.

“I told you so,” said ArchAngel.

Jack shook his head. “I knew you were going to say that.”

Julianna did laugh now. “It’s like you two are married.”

“Maybe you should get out more often, Jack,” Eddie said.

Jack looked up from the papers and sighed. “I think you’re right. Something is wrong with me if my most intimate relationship is with a two-hundred year old AI.”

No talking for you, Julianna said in her own head, preemptively cutting Pip off.

            What? I wasn’t going to say anything, he lied.

            Well, there’s a first.

I mean, I might have said that you can relate. And as far as getting action goes, I’m about the closest thing to your boyfriend.

A shiver ran over Julianna. Do not. I repeat, do not ever describe yourself as my boyfriend.

I noted that shiver. I don’t know why you have to be so rude. I’d be real good to you, Jules. I’d whisper sweet things in your ear.

Julianna gritted her teeth, but smiled still. Pip had gotten more playful like this since evolving. It was kind of cute, but she liked pretending that she hated it.

I’m seriously considering having you removed from my head.

Oh! I have a better idea. Why don’t you have me paired with the Captain as well? That way I can share a space in both of your heads. I can help you, if you know what I mean. Wink, wink.

There was a silence while Julianna cringed.

            You do know what I mean? I’m winking right now, said Pip with a laugh.

            I don’t know what you mean. And having you bouncing back and forth between the two of us might make me crazy.

You’ll warm to the idea. It’s a good one. Think of all the fun we could have.

            I’m thinking about it and nothing fun is coming to mind, just endless annoyance.

Sure, sure, Pip said, a hint of mischief in his voice. Oh, and you don’t have to worry about me crossing the platonic boundary. You’re not my type.

A moment later, Pip added, at all.

            Do you have a crush on ArchAngel, is that it?

Pip made an audible shiver noise. Are you kidding me? That woman would have me by the balls. I wouldn’t be able to glance at another AI without asking permission.

Wow, you now have balls. Things have come so far.

It’s figurative language, dear Julianna.

Jack was still ruffling through papers, looking overwhelmed. Eddie was peacefully whistling to himself, leaning back in a chair. Julianna took the seat next to him, hoping that Pip was willing to grant her some peace away from his distractions. He was way more fun than he used to be, but hell if she was going to tell him that.

Balls, Pip chirped just once as Jack cleared his throat.

Julianna suppressed a laugh.

Degeneration releases January 23rd.

Jan 19, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 5: Degeneration, Ghost Squadron #4

Snippet 3: Degeneration, Ghost Squadron #4

Chapter Two

Felix Castile’s Office, Unsurpassed, Tangki System.

The red light from the screen on the wall cast the office in an eerie glow. Felix narrowed his eyes, his lips pushing out in a slight grimace. He’d been staring at the image on the screen for a full minute and it still didn’t make sense. That was a rarity for him.

He swiveled to face the scientist sitting across the desk. “Explain exactly what I’m looking at.”

A regurgitated laugh sputtered from the man’s mouth. Elemius was neither tall or short nor fat or thin. He was also neither attractive nor ugly. He just was, with his plain brown hair and eyes to match. His repeated chuckle fell away once he caught the look of disgust on Felix’s face.

“It’s quite simple. I assumed you were well versed on chemical compositions,” said Elemius, gliding his hand over the top of his head, nervously.

Felix sharpened his eyes at the scientist. Elemius was the best. He’d been hard to retain, and he apparently knew how critical his involvement was or otherwise he wouldn’t have been so bold.

“I’m well aware what I’m looking at, but I don’t understand exactly what it’s supposed to be,” said Felix, enunciating each word, his hostility palpable.

“Right, well, chemistry isn’t for everyone. The same is true of genetic engineering.” Elemius cleared his throat as he stood. He pointed at the screen indicating a strand of DNA. “This example shows a specimen with nanotechnology directly enhancing their system.”

“I can clearly see that,” said Felix, his voice sharp.

“Right, of course you do,” said Elemius in a patronizing fashion.  “The specimen has additionally been hit with a toxin that degenerates the subject’s cells on a continuous basis.  I call it ‘degen’ for short.”

“That’s the reason for the change in the appearance of the DNA sample?” asked Felix. Now this was starting to make sense. He had guessed something was off, but couldn’t pinpoint it.

“Precisely,” stated Elemius. “Degen overwhelms a center in the body, continuously breaking down the cell membrane, attracting the attention of the nanocytes. As they flee to fix this area, they . This, in turn, stops the nanocytes from enhancing existing cells. That means the subject is unable to heal quickly, fight certain diseases, or revitalize the body. They begin to age naturally as well. So long as the nanocytes are occupied, they remain incapable of performing their original tasks.”

“You’ve distracted them, in essence,” said Felix.

“Correct,” said Elemius. “Which means, if the subject is attacked then they are unable to recover.”

“They are purely human, then?” asked Felix.

“Yes. Once degen is administered the subject is fully human. They will have zero enhanced abilities. No increased speed, strength or healing abilities. Degen degrades a person with nanocyte technology back to their former self.”

“What if they are put back through the process? Upgraded using a pod doc?” asked Felix, unwilling to celebrate this near success just yet.

Elemius held up a single finger, a triumphant look on his face. “It wouldn’t work. Degen will again attract the nanocyctes, rendering them useless. Its draw is too strong, and once it has the nanocyctes, then it holds them hostage.”

“So there is no way to reverse degen?” asked Felix.

Elemius shrugged. “I’m guessing there could be a way. Destroy the toxin in the system, but it would be incredibly difficult.”

Felix allowed a small smile that spoke of his satisfaction. This was it. Finally he’d figured out a way to destroy General Reynolds. The man was incredibly well guarded, which posed its own risks. However, even if Felix could get a hit on him, then he’d most likely recover without incident. Felix didn’t just want the General to fall, he wanted him to suffer. He wanted him to die like a normal human, vulnerable and defenseless.

Felix felt the urge to laugh. In his mind, he could see the General being stuck with degen. His eyes would be full of fear as he stared at the barrel of Felix’s gun. He’d know how fragile his body was. He’d know that he’d been beaten. He wasn’t as strong as he thought. And more than anything, most important to Felix, was that Lance Reynolds would regret what he’d done. He’d regret turning his back on Felix all those years ago.

When that regret surfaced in General Reynolds’ eyes, that’s when Felix would pull the trigger.

Degeneration releases January 23rd.


Jan 13, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 3: Degeneration, Ghost Squadron #4

Snippet 1: Degeneration, Ghost Squadron #4

Chapter One

Planet Sagano, Behemoth System.

Heat blasted Eddie in the face as he ducked under some fallen trees, and he stayed in a crouch as he sprinted through the burning jungle. The fire at his back was growing in intensity, although the crews had been fighting it for days.

A loud crack overhead tore his attention in that direction. The fire had overwhelmed a large stand of trees, which fell in on each other until the largest chose the direction they were going to fall. Eddie rolled to the side, dirt and ash raining down on him as the burning trees hit the ground exactly where he’d been.

He didn’t pause, but rather dashed forward to clear the next part of the burning forest. His vision blurred from his incredible speed, and his feet hardly felt as though they touched the soft ground before rising again.

Flames licked the side of a building, having jumped from some nearby branches, but Eddie sped up the ladder to the house, which had been built on stilts. Entering a burning building was one thing, but entering one that was held up by wooden poles in the middle of a forest fire was something else entirely. None of this seemed at all like a good idea.

Too bad he didn’t have a choice.

The trap door at the top opened and then slammed over as Eddie spilled into the jungle hut. He scanned the room, and the smoke burned his eyes. The living space was open but there were some rooms at the back, so he ran in that direction while wiping tears out of his eyes.

He kicked the first door open and searched the room, which was empty. The structure rocked, probably from the fire consuming the front of the house, which was where the next set of rooms was located.

Without hesitating, Eddie darted for the next room and rammed his shoulder into the door, ripping it off its hinges. He still wasn’t used to his enhanced strength. After all, he’d only had this body for a short time.

Eddie pivoted to the adjacent wall and shot his foot straight at the door. The following area was empty at first glance and fire licked through the open window, spilling smoke into the space. Eddie covered his face from the blaze and was just about to turn back when something caught his eyes.

On the far side of the room between the wall and the bed was a small boy.

Thank the fucking stars! Eddie thought, relief swelling in his chest. “Come on!” yelled Eddie, extending a hand to the kid, who was about four years old. The boy’s large eyes stared at the intruding fire, and his face was swollen and red from the heat.

Degeneration releases January 23rd.

Jan 9, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 1: Degeneration, Ghost Squadron #4

Snippet 5: Evolution, Ghost Squadron #3


Alpha-line Q-Ship, Federation Border Station 7 Airspace, Lorialis System
“That’s the Omega-line? It doesn’t look any different than this Q-Ship,” said Lars from the copilot seat.
“That’s kind of the point,” said Eddie. “The differences are on the inside.” He pulled the controls to the side as Julianna maneuvered the other ship, the one Hatch had just created, up next to them. “Strong Arm,” he said, using Julianna’s call sign, “you wanna show Carnivore what that baby can do?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” said Julianna over the comm. The Q-Ship she was flying punched out at breakneck speed, leaving the other behind.
“Whoa, it can definitely move,” remarked Lars. “I’ll admit that’s impressive, but I thought the new line had some out-of-this-world features?” The Kezzin gave Eddie a sideways glance that showed his disappointment.
Eddie activated the thrusters to send their own Q-Ship racing after Julianna. “Just wait. There’s another feature you have to see in action.”
“Carnivore, did you just say ‘out-of-this-world’ while we’re racing through space?” asked Julianna.
Eddie snickered. “He’s been sheltered, so give him a break. We’ll teach him some fun references.”
A laugh echoed across the comm. “Don’t learn your lingo from Blackbeard.”
“Hey, I know things!” argued Eddie.
“If you three are done shooting the breeze, our target is ahead,” said Pip.
“’Shooting the breeze?’” asked Eddie, activating the second thruster to catch up with Julianna.
“Yes, it’s one of the many weird things about his new evolution,” said Julianna, a sudden edge to her voice.
Eddie shot Lars a look and raised his eyebrow but said nothing, and Lars returned the glance with a slight shrug.
“Target spotted,” said Lars, checking the radar. Julianna, as planned, had made an arc around the upcoming Black Eagle.
“That puppy is slow. It must have been kept in a rusty garage since it was decommissioned.” Eddie sent the Q-Ship toward the flying target, doubling his speed.
“Strong Arm, we are approaching and will be in position soon,” Lars informed Julianna.
“Fifteen seconds,” supplied Pip.
“Almost there,” muttered Eddie.
“Target’s fuel reserves are low. Engines have failed twice,” Pip informed them.
Lars flipped two switches overhead before adjusting his microphone. “Defiance Trading Company, we’ve determined that your spacecraft is in distress. We’re a Ronin tow craft, and we offer assistance.”
There was no answer over the static-filled comm, but the gray Black Eagle immediately spun in the opposite direction. For a moment it looked like it would stall, but the engines kicked back on and it shot forward.
“We’ve got a runner,” said Eddie, sitting up.
“Your engines are failing, Defiance. We can help you. We mean you no harm,” said Lars over the comm.
Another voice finally answered. “I don’t need any help. I’ve got a rescue craft already on the way.”
Eddie sent the Q-Ship after the Black Eagle and quickly caught up. The craft in front of them came to an automatic halt, causing Eddie had to swerve the Q-Ship around it. He overshot it by a short distance before doubling back and hovering just in front of the old craft.
“Fuel levels on Defiant ship are nearly depleted,” said Pip.
“How long could he idle?” asked Eddie.
“Three hours, roughly,” said Pip.
“I don’t have three hours to hang around here,” remarked Eddie. “This idiot needs to realize we aren’t the bad guys.”
“Unless he turns out to be an enemy, and then we’ll fuck him up,” said Julianna.
“There you are, Strong Arm. What say we end this already?” Eddie and Lars were only thirty meters from the other ship, close enough for a visual, and Eddie leaned forward to look into the Black Eagle. The murky dust covering the windows made it impossible to discern a figure, though.
“There’s a problem,” said Pip over the comm.
“Of course there is. Wouldn’t be a party without one,” said Eddie, not at all deterred.
“Fuel level is rising,” informed the AI
“How is that possible? You said it was near zero,” said Lars.
“It shouldn’t be possible,” said Eddie. “Maybe there was a malfunction with the gauge.” As soon as the last word left his mouth the rogue Black Eagle zoomed forward again in another attempt to get away. It wasn’t going to work, but the last-ditch effort was kind of cute. Eddie flew straight after it and kept pace.
“Have you guys been looking for me?” asked Julianna. Eddie couldn’t see her out the window, but a quick glance at the radar told him that she was hovering just above the Black Eagle.
“There you are!” Eddie chuckled. “Lars, tell this guy we’ve got him surrounded. You’ve got a nice voice, so I’m sure it’ll sound comforting.”
Lars shot Eddie a strange look. “’Comforting?’ Do I really?”
“Like an old grandmother,” Eddie assured him.
“If she had smoked for forty years,” added Julianna.
“Are you sure you want me to say we have him surrounded?” asked Lars. “We only have two ships.”
Keeping his hands on the controls, Eddie nodded. “Just do it.”
Without another question, Lars flipped a switch. “Defiance, we have you surrounded and we mean you no harm. Allow us to tow you from here.”
“I’m not falling for your bullshit. Just leave me alone.” The voice crackled through the staticky comm.
“Testy little tyke, isn’t he?” asked Eddie. “Strong Arm, we’re ready for you to graduate to the next phase.”
“Copy,” said Julianna. “Initiating. Be ready for next phase in three, two…and one.”
In front of the racing Black Eagle another Q-Ship appeared, and Lars’ eyes widened with shock. Eddie had wanted to tell him about this part beforehand, but he had also wanted it to be a surprise. He wagered there was no danger in that.
Lars whipped his gaze to the radar. Another ship had appeared behind the Black Eagle and almost at once the fleeing ship slowed, stalling once more before coming to a near-halt. A second later two more Q-Ships materialized on each side of the Black Eagle.
Lars flicked off the comm, disconnecting them from the Defiance ship. “I’m guessing those aren’t enemy ships, based on the smile on your face.”
“Those aren’t even ships,” said Eddie proudly.
Lars stared at the vessel just in front of the Black Eagle. “Huh? They look like ships.”
“Holograms are funny like that,” said Eddie.
“Holograms?” sputtered Lars. “Strong Arm, are you doing that?”
Julianna answered right away. “Yes, they’re projections. After the right modifications, Hatch was able to make them appear as actual ships on the radar too. Just one of many upgrades to this Omega-line Q-Ship.”
“Damn, that’s remarkable,” said Lars.
“Looks like it’s time to bring this guy in,” said Eddie. “Finally.”
“Finally?” questioned Julianna. “This took a whole five minutes—you’re so impatient. But yes, let’s bring him in and end this.”
Lars nodded, flipping the comm switch. “Defiance, we’re sending out tow cables. Cooperate, and you will not be harmed.”
There was no reply as Eddie fed out the cables and locked them securely into place. After they had been reinforced, Eddie signaled Julianna. “Strong Arm, we’re all set. Meet you back at ArchAngel.”
The Q-Ship projections disappeared from around the Black Eagle. “Copy,” responded Julianna. “I’ll be waiting with a welcome gift for our guest.”
“Freshly baked muffins?” asked Eddie, mock hope in his voice.
“With fucking crumble on top,” said Julianna.

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Dec 19, 2017 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 5: Evolution, Ghost Squadron #3

Snippet 3: Evolution, Ghost Squadron #3

Chapter Two

Officers Lounge, QBS ArchAngel, Lorialis System

“You’re kidding me,” said Eddie, pulling back his arm and launching the dart forward. It whirled through the air, sticking hard into the board, a few centimeters from the bullseye.

Lars took the position where Eddie had been. “I’m not kidding you. Marilla says these aliens are telepathic. Isn’t that bizarre?” He threw his own dart and it landed on one of the numbers that bordered the target.

“I definitely don’t want to meet any those guys,” remarked Eddie. “I don’t need some alien in my thoughts.” He picked up a dart and twirled it in his fingers. The idea of having someone in his head, like Julianna had with Pip, was a bit strange. Sure, there were the obvious perks to it, depending on the circumstances, but Eddie wasn’t sure how he’d feel about an AI listening to the things that went on in his mind, let alone an alien.

Maybe that’s why Julianna had gotten rid of her last AI, Ricky Bobby. Eddie had been silently investigating the whole thing for a while now, ever since Pip became sentient. Julianna acted happy about the evolution, but there was something else going on. He could sense it in little ways. It wasn’t so much what she said, but what she didn’t say. When Eddie discovered Ricky Bobby’s existence, it came as a shock. For as well as he knew her, Julianna had never spoken about her former AI companion, despite how long she and Ricky Bobby had worked together.

Eddie wanted to approach her about this, but had yet to do so. He wasn’t sure why. Maybe he just didn’t know if it was his place.

“Yeah, I know,” said Lars. “One or two telepaths is one thing, but an entire species boggles my mind.” The Kezzin soldier watched as Eddie took his shot. Again, he narrowly missed the bullseye.

Lars didn’t bother lining up for his next shot. He haphazardly threw the dart, and it didn’t even make it on the board.

Eddie whistled through his teeth. “Damn, I’m glad you fly better than you shoot. Otherwise, you’d have been wasted by now.”

Lars shook his head. He realized he was being sloppy. It had been like this in recent weeks during his down time. That was the only opportunity that he had to let his mind wander, and it always shot back to the Brotherhood. Seeing the army that Commander Lytes had put together overwhelmed Lars whenever he thought about it, and he couldn’t help but dwell. Maybe he didn’t know those soldiers, but they were still his fellow Kezzin. They were his brothers.

He wondered about his family, too. Had his brother been required to join, once Lars had left? He didn’t like to think about that, but it was difficult to control his thoughts. Doubts and fears were tricky things to control. The moment you thought you had a handle on them was the moment they consumed you.

The screen on an adjacent wall flickered on, Chester’s pale face looking out at Eddie and Lars. “There you are, Captain,” he said, beaming. “I have something I think you should take a look at.”

Eddie, unflustered, pulled back his arm and released it with the dart. It stuck straight into the bullseye this time. Casually. As though he had planned this, he turned to the monitor. “I’ll be right over. Have you paged Commander Fregin yet?”

“Yes, she’s on her way here,” said Chester, running his hands through his spikey blond hair.

“Very well.” Eddie slapped Lars on the shoulder as he turned to leave. “Keep practicing, brother. One of these days you’ll be able to beat me.”

Lars smirked, showing his razor-sharp teeth. “Challenge accepted.”

Evolution releases December 21st.

Dec 13, 2017 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 3: Evolution, Ghost Squadron #3

Snippet 1: Evolution, Ghost Squadron #3

Chapter One


Defiance Trading Company Headquarters, Planet L2SCQ-6 in Frontier space, Unnamed System.

Felix Castile listened to the loud breathing of the Kezzin behind him. Commander Lytes must have had a deviated septum. It was the only plausible reason for his constant sniffling, always interrupting the silence.

Or maybe it was just a physical trait of the Kezzin. Felix hadn’t taken much time to learn about the species. He knew these lizard-type aliens could stop breathing for an extended period of time, but that was about it.

Felix prided himself on his ability to accumulate and use information, but only when it was useful. If it didn’t earn him additional power or prestige, then he didn’t seek the data out. Currently, his relationship with Commander Lyte existed solely to further his own plan—the complete and absolute destruction of General Lance Reynolds. The moment the Kezzin stopped being useful would be the moment Felix cut him loose.

All that Felix Castile did was for the goal. Every action, every day.

And that was exactly why he was here in this awful place, staring at a group of black market merchants.

The leader of the Defiance Trading Company, a rogue operation that stockpiled weapons and sold them on the black market, looked up from the pad in his hand. “We have loaded everything into your ship that you requested. I have yet to see the transfer of funds come over, though,” said the man, his voice raspy, probably from years of smoking or hanging out in filthy warehouses like this one. The man, Mateo, had a thick scar that ran over his left eye and down his cheek. Living outside of Federation space hadn’t been kind to him. That much was clear.

Felix surveyed Mateo’s crew. There were roughly a dozen men stationed around the warehouse, most of them with their guns at the ready and grimaces on their greasy faces. Felix had Brotherhood soldiers on each side of him, outnumbered by Mateo’s guards. No doubt, the arms dealer felt safe with all his people to protect him.

He was short-sighted. Only fools underestimated Felix. The arms merchant would soon understand that.

Felix cleared his throat. “You sold me three nukes. How many more do you have here?”

Mateo’s scar moved when he lifted his eyebrow. “Not sure why my inventory is any business of yours. I’ve supplied you with what you’ve asked for.”

“That you have,” Felix said, pulling his hat down over his eyes and taking a step back.

Mateo eyed the pad again. “Like I mentioned, the transfer hasn’t come through. We can’t let you to leave until that happens. It’s simple business. I’m sure you understand.”

Felix smiled darkly. “About that…”

He took a few steps back, his soldiers stepping in to shield him.

“Didn’t you hear me?” asked Mateo. “Hey! I’m talking to—”

Shots fired from above. Men yelled. Some tried to return fire, but they were quickly silenced.

Felix turned in time to watch Mateo clutch his chest as the bullet pierced the arms dealer’s flesh. Disbelief and betrayal rang out in the man’s eyes before he fell to his knees, finally collapsing forward.

Each of the men stationed around the warehouse lay in similar positions, blood puddling around them. None had stood a chance.

Stationed overhead were a dozen Brotherhood soldiers, each one assigned to take out their specified targets on the ground. The timing had been perfect.

Felix glanced up to the rafters, a proud look in his eyes. “Have your men load the remaining weapons into my ship.”

“Yes sir,” said Commander Lytes, his eyes lingering on one of the dead bodies for a moment. He hadn’t liked the plan and said there had to be another way. Lytes was wrong and must have seen that now. Perhaps next time he would trust in Felix’s plans from the beginning.

The door to the exit swung out in front of them. A man with a short black Mohawk and a leather jacket that had seen better days froze at the threshold. His eyes scanned the warehouse, falling first on Mateo’s dead body and then the others that were strewn all over the facility. His gaze snapped to Felix, standing roughly ten meters away. They’d missed one of Mateo’s men.

“Get him!” barked Felix.

The soldiers darted forward, right as the strange man reversed, heading back the way he came. Gun shots rang out from the hallway, echoing loudly in the warehouse.

Felix looked at Commander Lytes. “Have your men search the building. I don’t want anyone left alive. Do you understand? No witnesses.”

Commander Lytes nodded, hurrying off to where his men were gathering in the middle of the facility, having climbed down the rafters where they were stationed.

Felix’s eyes briefly rested on Mateo’s dead body. Perhaps he would be happy, knowing that his weapons would be used to end a long-standing battle. A fight that would shake the very foundation of the galaxy…of the Federation, itself. What better use could a man like Mateo have than to be useful? What better purpose could there be than to alter the status quo? Had Mateo never come to this warehouse today, he might never have realized his true destiny. He would have gone on living his life, worthless as it was, and died without ever truly mattering.

But Felix would make him matter. Felix would give Mateo’s life purpose. That would be his gift to him.

Soon, everything would be in place to make General Reynolds pay. Felix had figured out the best way to punish him for what he’d done all those years ago.

Break the Federation…and General Reynolds would be broken, too.

Evolution will be released December 21st.

Dec 8, 2017 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snippet 1: Evolution, Ghost Squadron #3