Snippet 1: Corruption, Precious Galaxy (Book 1)


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.”


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

Corruption releases June 28th.


Jun 19, 2018 | Posted by in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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

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