sci-fi

The Majestic by J.A. Dowsett – Part 4/9

If you haven’t started reading this story yet, you can find part 1 here. Though, if you are all caught up, please continue! 

Nell got her fake ID as promised and the crew of The Majestic spent the next two weeks hauling scrap metal and construction equipment from Mars to Luna, and occasionally to Old Earth, the humans’ former homeworld. Supposedly once a thriving planet, since the war with the Greyns over two-hundred years ago, much of Earth was now underwater and only a few patches of land remained where mountains once stood. Still, the humans had plans to slowly rejuvenate their planet and one day inhabit it again, and part of the machinery they were delivering was a means to that end.

Earth was pretty, what was left of it, but Nell had no interest in the planet one way or another. She would much rather be travelling through the jump gates and visiting more interesting worlds, but the pay was good and the crew had collectively decided they didn’t want to chance taking the Majestic through any gates until they had a competent engineer on board. Unfortunately, they’d had no luck finding one so far in the Terran system.  

They were coming in to land at a scrapyard on Luna, Earth’s moon, when their need for an engineer suddenly became more than just theoretical.

“What was that?” Xendri asked as the ship sputtered and lurched to one side.

No warnings or alarms or anything gave Nell any indication of a malfunction. She gripped the steering column harder and tried to compensate for the sudden change of course. The ship responded to her commands, but barely. “According to these useless panels, nothing,” Nell exclaimed, her temper flaring, “but clearly that’s not the case!”

“What do we do?” Xendri questioned.

“Go down to engineering,” Nell responded through gritted teeth, trying to keep the ship from listing to the side, “and take a comm unit with you, I need to know what’s going on back there.”

Nell heard the pitter-patter of Xendri’s feet against the rusted metal floor as she hurried to Engineering, but she kept all of her attention focused on the task at hand. If I can just get us to the landing site…

Uh, Nell,” Xendri’s voice came through the cockpit’s speakers. They didn’t have a ship-wide communication system installed yet, but they’d rigged a few handheld units through the cockpit for the time being. “It’s bad. As in it’s on fire, bad.”

“Shit.”

Nell was a good pilot. She’d had plenty of experience on all kinds of ships, most especially Pentaurii ones. She knew what it felt like to be flying on one engine when there should be two. That’s what was happening right now. Except the engine didn’t just die, it’s on fire, which means the other one is in danger of catching fire, too. And so’s the drive core…and the fuel tank!

Nell tried to slow her ragged breathing, but the pounding in her chest beat a frantic rhythm and it was hard to concentrate over the sound. She squeezed her eyes shut for just a moment, trying to recall her days in flight school and all the lessons they’d given on what to do when things went wrong. Lean against the non-working engine. Course correct. Slow down and don’t tax your remaining engine. Cut the power and drift if you have to. Avoid entering oxygen-based atmosphere… Nell opened her eyes again and stared down at Luna, trying to pinpoint where she needed to land. Well that last part won’t be a problem, there’s no air on Luna.

“Nell, we’re working on trying to put the fire out,” Xendri informed her through the comm.

The ships’ fire-suppression system is supposed to do that. Nell picked up on what Xendri wasn’t telling her. Which means it’s not working and they’re having to do the job manually.

Nell tapped the comms button with the metal-coated tip of her tail. “Brace yourselves!” she announced as loudly as she could, hoping Xendri’s handheld comm would reach not only her, but also Vox and Quattro wherever they were on the ship. “This might be a rough landing!”

Angling herself on the right course, Nell cut the power to the main engines. That wouldn’t stop the fire, but it would prevent the second engine from going the way of the first. She relied on her maneuvering thrusters to course-correct as they headed toward the surface and found it was much easier to do so now that she didn’t have one engine struggling to do the work of two.

It was as inelegant as it was bumpy, but Nell managed to put The Majestic on the ground in one piece. Workers from the scrapyard thankfully caught sight of their distress and were on scene immediately with hoses spraying a fire-suppressing foam. Able to turn off the ship at last, Nell let herself breath in and out at a measured pace for a moment before she wiggled into her spacesuit and clamped the helmet shut.

558319_10151455425100120_920886056_nJustine Alley Dowsett is the author of nine novels and counting, and one of the founders of Mirror World Publishing. Her books, which she often co-writes with her sister, Murandy Damodred, range from young adult science fiction to dark fantasy/romance. She earned a BA in Drama from the University of Windsor, honed her skills as an entrepreneur by tackling video game production, and now she dedicates her time to writing, publishing, and occasionally role-playing with her friends.

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Book Review: Chris Pavesic’s Traveler’s Zone

Escape from a world of darkness into a magical realm of limitless adventure…

 

You may remember the first book in Chris Pavesic’s LITRPG series, Starter Zone, which I wrote a review for here. Well, Chris Pavesic continues the amazing story of Cami Malifux with Book 2 of the Revelation Chronicles, Traveler’s Zone.

When the review request came through for this one, I wasn’t sure I was going to have the time to read and review it, but I remember liking the first book, so I gave this one a shot. And I’m glad I did! Traveler’s Zone continues the story begun in Starter Zone, sort of like a second episode in a TV show. It’s short and sweet, while still managing to be really engaging and have a full story of its own. I was able to finish reading it in just two sessions, so it is a quick read. My only complaint is that I wish there was more of it, but then again, that’s more of a compliment than a complaint. One thing I will note, however is that I found L.G. Hodag’s character to lack purpose in this book. I’m hoping he will have more of a role in future installments, but it seemed like he was only in this book to keep Cami’s little sister company and as another example of how the game’s players and creators fail to treat NPCs or non-player characters as ‘lesser than.’

I wasn’t sure if LITRPG was a genre I would enjoy when I started this series, but Chris Pavesic has caught my interest and there’s so much more than just a ‘game’ going on in her series, that it makes for really engaging escapism. Bravo!

Traveler's Zone Announcement-2 copy

In Starter Zone, Cami kept herself and her younger sister Alby alive in a post-apocalyptic world, facing starvation, violence, and death on a daily basis. Caught by the military and forcefully inscribed, Cami manages to scam the system and they enter the Realms, a Virtual Reality world, as privileged Players rather than slaves. They experience a world of safety, plenty, and magical adventure. Indeed, magic, combat, gear scores, quests, and dungeons are all puzzles to be solved as Cami continues her epic quest to navigate the Realms and build a better life for her family. But an intrusion from her old life threatens everything she has gained and imperils the entire virtual world. 

 

Time to play the game.Saphs Book Promotions

 

Genre: LitRPG YA Fantasy

Page Count: 170 pages

Follow the Book Tour: https://saphsbooks.blogspot.com/2018/09/tour-schedule-travelers-zone-revelation.html

Read an Excerpt:

I was born into a world where silicone still ruled. Where the products of the earth outshone those of the sea. Integrated circuits ran all electronic equipment and scientists strove to make the conducting lines smaller and smaller. Silicon Valley tried, and failed, to make chips fast enough to upload human consciousness.

The Revelation came a few years later from the hydrologists. They designed a system that did not use silicone, but instead worked with water molecules. The hydrologists managed to imprint the consciousness of a human mind on a single drop of water.

The water was to be kept in self-contained, sealed aquariums—pure, undiluted, eternal—where virtual realities were constructed to meet every need and desire. All of human knowledge encoded and stored in literal pools of data and integrated with the drops of human consciousness. It was, the hydrologists claimed, utopia achieved.

The obscenely rich were the hydrologist’s first clients, many taken near the end of their lives. The procedure did not always work, but there were enough successes to spur people’s interest. People suffering from terminal illnesses volunteered to be inscribed, and the hydrologists worked and refined their process. Private companies formed and competition forced price wars. Hundreds of customers grew to thousands, and then to millions. There were landmark court cases arguing whether or not health insurance should cover the cost of the inscription–whether or not this was a medical procedure designed to save lives or a form of physician assisted suicide. The law struggled to decide if life ended when the body was drained to a dry, leathery husk, or if life continued inside those glowing, sealed aquariums.

I was thirteen when the governments seized control of the laboratories, first in the Eastern European countries. Then the labs of Europe and the Middle East were swallowed up. Terrorist attacks soon followed and destroyed most of the civilized world over the next three years. The United States, Canada, and Greece, those bastions of democracy, did not fall until the very end. Of course, by then no one cared whether or not the government or the private companies ran the uploading programs. Many of the aquariums ruptured in the strife and the droplets, imbued with human consciousness, re-entered the water cycle of the planet.

The destruction of the aquariums led to a moment of serendipity. Once the hydrologists learned that the human minds survived outside of the aquariums, they designed a world-wide system of interlocking realms to host the inscribed human minds. Right now the realms exist in Challenger Deep, the deepest known point in the Earth’s seabed hydrosphere, but the hydrologists have plans to expand their reach into the rest of the world. Soon, the only life left on the planet will exist in the virtual world.

Time to play the game.

Purchase Links: Amazon  Smashwords

Watch the Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/m_i_T_ZGprs

chrispChris Pavesic lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.

Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2NlNJXB

Blog: https://chrispavesic.com/

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorChrisPavesic/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChrisPavesic

Enter the Giveaway: a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

The Majestic by J.A. Dowsett – part 3/9

If you’re new to this story, best to start at part 1. Otherwise, please continue… 

The hulking beast shuddered to life. Nell waited a beat or two, listening closely for any signs of malfunction. Not hearing anything other than the groan of vibrating metal, she nodded. So far, so good. No screams, no explosions in engineering. That’s a good sign.

Reaching to her right, she tapped the button that would close the airlock and bring up the outer ramp. Silence. Nell frowned, tapping the button a few more times for good measure. Nope. Not going to work.

“I need someone to check the front airlock and raise the ramp!” she called out.

“On it.” Xendri, whom Nell hadn’t even realized was in the cockpit with her, suddenly darted away, swinging down the ladder to the airlock.

Bending slightly, Nell watched Xendri’s small, lithe frame exit out the front airlock and check the manual ramp mechanism. She grabbed onto the lever with both hands and jumped on it, using all of her weight to try and force it to move, but it wasn’t going anywhere.

Seeing her distress, Claw came running out of what must be Hank McGrath’s office and applied his strength to hers. After a moment the clamp came loose with a shuddering sound and the ramp started to rise. Xendri darted back inside and Claw backed up to safe distance.

Nell waited until Xendri was back in the cockpit. “Please tell me that airlock is sealed shut.”

“All green!” Xendri grinned.

Either she doesn’t see the danger in what we’re doing, or she’s genuinely enjoying the fact that we’re all risking our lives in this hunk of junk. Nell frowned at Xendri, who elected not to notice. She sighed. Either way, we won’t learn anything sitting in this scrapyard.

Nell turned her attention back to the controls and set about pre-flight checks. Then she checked it again. No errors showed on her end, but if the wiring was faulty, then that really didn’t mean anything and that front ramp control not working didn’t really give her high hopes for the integrity of the wiring. Here goes nothing.

She powered the ship for lift-off, gripped the steering column tightly, and tilted upwards. ‘The Majestic’ shuddered and groaned, creaked and whined, but it rose and there were no explosions or blinking alarm-lights. Nell let out the breath she was holding. Okay. Next hurdle…breaking atmosphere.

She gave the ship a bit more power, urging it up and out of McGrath’s Scrapyard. They quickly left the rust-coloured dirt of Mars behind, whooshing through the air faster and smoother than an upside-down turtle should really be capable of moving. Nell allowed herself to grin. It wasn’t like flying a fighter, or even the well-used Silent Serpent. It was bulky and awkward, but it flew. It flew straight and steady with no fluctuations in the engines’ power, and she knew that once she got it into space, the shape wouldn’t matter. That’s if I can get it into space, Nell reminded herself.

She angled The Majestic higher, taking the smoothest course she could give the ship into the outer atmosphere of the planet. I’ll get this thing into orbit and make sure there are no leaks before I take it any farther than that.

To her surprise, there were no leaks or warnings of impending disaster in orbit of the planet, or even beyond that, in empty space. She took the ship through its paces and was pleased to discover that it was maneuverable enough. Must be those Pentaurii engines, Nell decided. I guess McGrath wasn’t lying when he said this ship’s better on the inside than the out.

“Isn’t it great?” Xendri was beside herself with joy. “A ship of our very own!”

Nell had to admit that her new Captain’s joy was infectious. A matching grin spread across her own face and she was still wearing it when they touched back down at the Scrapyard once more.

McGrath’s sleazy grin was back on his face when he saw them return and it was quickly arranged that they would finalize everything in the morning and go their separate ways from there. Despite being back where she was faced with the Majestic’s rusty exterior, Nell couldn’t wait.

A ship of our very own…

558319_10151455425100120_920886056_nJustine Alley Dowsett is the author of nine novels and counting, and one of the founders of Mirror World Publishing. Her books, which she often co-writes with her sister, Murandy Damodred, range from young adult science fiction to dark fantasy/romance. She earned a BA in Drama from the University of Windsor, honed her skills as an entrepreneur by tackling video game production, and now she dedicates her time to writing, publishing, and occasionally role-playing with her friends.

The Majestic by J.A. Dowsett – Part 1 of 9

You may have read my last sci-fi serial, The Silent Serpent, (and if you haven’t, you can find it here.) This nine-part serial meets up with that same crew as they pour every last credit they have into a new ship of their very own… The Majestic. 

***

“McGrath’s Scrapyard,” the sign overhead boldly proclaimed.

Nell eyed the rusty crooked letters cynically, This doesn’t bode well…

Once past the garbage heap-style entrance, the moderately-sized yard was entirely hidden from view by a monstrosity of a ship, rust-coloured from top to bottom as if it had lain in that exact spot for a hundred years or more. It wasn’t large as far as ships go, but ships always seemed comically oversized when parked on a planet, and this one looked like nothing more than a rusted metal turtle flipped on its back.

“Ah, there you are!” An unfamiliar voice proclaimed, causing Nell’s fur to prickle and her tail to whip about, ready to strike if needed. “I was hopin’ to show you the beauty myself, but it seems you’ve found her already.”

The man came to a stop before her. He was full human, not Terian, since his dull brown eyes had no glow. He stood maybe six feet in height, with broad shoulders, but it was clear from his paunch that if he worked here, he didn’t do any of the heavy lifting. His gruff tanned face was mostly covered by a white-laced ruddy mustache that hung from the sides of each cheek like a piece of rope glued there for comedic effect.

“Oh, where’s my manners?” He stuck out his hand. “Hank McGrath.”

Nell eyed the calloused fingers encrusted with dirt, rust, and who-knows-what-else and decided quickly she wasn’t about to touch this man, let alone shake his hand. I’ll need a sonic shower just from standing in this place, she wrinkled her nose at the sour smell of rust and garbage, no need to make it worse.

If McGrath noticed her discomfort, he made no show of it. “Ah, and you must be Captain Xendri.” Not missing a beat, the middle-aged human shifted his hand as if he had been intending to hold it out for the Koowan Captain all along as she scurried over to join them.

“Oh, is this how humans do it?” Xendri questioned, trying to position her arm to mirror McGrath’s gesture. At half his height and with limbs more suited to running and climbing, it looked a little silly when she tried to do it.

The next several minutes were lost to Hank McGrath trying to teach Xendri how humans shake hands. The part furred, part carapaced Koowan seemed fascinated by the man’s lesson and eagerly practiced the gesture half a dozen times, despite the dirt on McGrath’s hands.

This gave Quattro and Vox enough time to arrive, followed by their former Captain, James Claw. Quattro and Claw were both Terian, their purple and blue eyes respectively giving off a faint glow, noticeable even in the orange-ish light of a sunny day on Mars. Otherwise they looked to be the same species as McGrath, though supposedly there were some other subtle differences between the two variations of human. Vox, however, was a different being altogether. At nearly eight feet, he was the tallest of them all, and though he was humanoid in shape, the resemblance ended there. He stood stiffly, barely moving, and he never bothered to turn to look at you since he could see in all directions, being made entirely of a white opaque crystal.

“Good to see you, Nell.” Words came from somewhere around Vox. He didn’t have a mouth, so Nell had no idea how he managed to make vibrations, or where the sound came from exactly. “I wasn’t sure you were going to be joining us, but I’m pleased to know we will have a pilot.”

Nell shifted uncomfortably. She had considered going her own way when the last ship they were on together needed to be scrapped after unexpectedly finding itself in the middle of a firefight. But this is what I want, right? The chance to pilot my own ship?

Captain Claw managed to draw her attention back to the present. “So this is it, huh? What do you guys think?”

Nell turned to look at Claw and then followed his gaze to the rusted metal turtle. “Wait. This is our ship?”

“Ain’t she a beaut!” McGrath proclaimed.

“She’s somethin’ alright,” Quattro twisted his mouth dubiously, fighting off the urge to laugh.

“It’s… it’s…” Nell struggled to put her thoughts into words. Garbage? A Scrapheap? Junk?

“It appears to have the shape of a space-faring vessel, without the substance of one,” Vox stated. “A picture of a ship, if you will. It also appears to be far below the value in credits we provided you to build it.”

McGrath just laughed, his belly shaking up and down in a disconcerting manner. “Ah, that’s just the outside! A good coat of paint’ll fix that right up. It’s the inside that counts, my crystalline friend. Come on, lemme give you the tour.”

***

To be continued in Part 2, next week. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

Cover Reveal: Unreachable Skies, Vol.1, by Karen McCreedy

All of us here at Mirror World are super excited about this upcoming release! Unreachable Skies is Karen McCreedy’s first novel and it is the first in a fantasy/sci-fi trilogy. Yes, you read that right, this is a cross-genre story. It’s set entirely on another world with no humans in sight. The natives of this world are beasts that can fly, until a plague leaves their surviving hatchlings wingless, sending their very-traditionally ordered lives into uncertainty and chaos. Zarda is an apprentice fate-seer tasked with leading her people through this dark and tumultuous time.

Volume One will launch August 17th, and we hope to bring you the rest of the trilogy over the next couple of years.

Without further ado, here’s the beautiful cover: US1COVERedited.jpg

On a world where it is normal to fly, what happens when you can’t?

When a plague kills half the Drax population, and leaves the hatchlings of the survivors with a terrible deformity – no wings – suspicion and prejudice follow. Continuously harassed by raids from their traditional enemies, the Koth, the Drax are looking for someone, or something, to blame.

Zarda, an apprentice Fate-seer, is new to her role and unsure of her own abilities; but the death of her teacher sees her summoned by the Drax Prime, Kalis, when his heir, Dru, emerges from his shell without wings.

A vision that Dru will one day defeat the Koth is enough to keep him and the other wingless hatchlings alive – for a time. Half-trained, clumsy, and full of self-doubt, Zarda must train Dru to one day fulfil the destiny she has foreseen for him, even if it is quickly becoming clear that the Prime’s favourite adviser, Fazak, is not only plotting against the wingless, but is gaining more of Kalis’ trust by the day.

Efforts to fight prejudice and superstition are certain to lead to death for some and exile for others; while Zarda’s own journey to understanding her role in events may lead her to abandon all tradition in order to protect her peoples’ future.

Pre-Order is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Unreachable-Skies-Vol-Karen-McCreedy-ebook/dp/B07F4KX451/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531687097&sr=8-1&keywords=Karen+McCreedy

Or in our Online store: https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/poetry/products/unreachable-skies-vol-1-ebook

Unreachable Skies: Vol. 1 – Paperback

Or wherever you prefer to buy books.

karen-mccreedy

About the Author:

Brought up in Staffordshire, England, Karen McCreedy now lives in West Sussex where she works at the University of Chichester.

She has written articles on films and British history for a number of British magazines including ‘Yours’, ‘Classic Television’, and ‘Best of British’.

Karen has had a number of short stories published in various anthologies. She also won second prize in Writers’ News magazine’s ‘Comeuppance’ competition in 2014 with her short story ‘Hero’.

‘Unreachable Skies’ is her first novel.

The Silent Serpent by J.A. Dowsett – Part 4

If you missed Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3, follow the links. Otherwise, read on! (This is a sci-fi short story by J.A. Dowsett that you don’t want to miss!) 

***

The Silent Serpent surged out of the Jump Gate into regular space and slowed immediately, though still moving far faster than the well-worn ship could have managed under its own power. Nell was back in the pilot’s chair and Xendri stood behind her, eager to see another new region of space. However, no sooner had Nell caught sight of what awaited them in this sector did her gold-flecked black fur stand on end. Whipping her tail around, she used the metal tip to tap the button that allowed her access to the ship-wide communications system, setting it to high-alert, while every other part of her remained focused on the ship’s controls.

“Xendri,” Nell said, tension making her voice clipped, “get the Captain. We have a problem.”

Before Xendri could so much as turn around, Nell knocked the controls forward and the old cargo vessel lurched, nose pointed downwards. Weapons fire was visible in the cockpit’s narrow window, but it made no sound until it grazed the side of the vessel, where it sounded like metal grinding against metal and sparks.

Xendri’s breath caught in her throat, but she didn’t let the stop her. “Captain!” she yelled into the rest of the ship as she exited the cockpit, clinging to any handholds she could find on the ship’s metal interior.

Captain James Claw stumbled into view just as Nell was righting the ship once more, sending the Terian shoulder-first into a metal wall. “What’s the prob-” He stopped mid-sentence, cleary able to see the issue for himself.

Xendri turned around to see what he was looking at and she finally was able to understand fully what Nell had grasped in those first few seconds out of the gate. It wasn’t just one ship firing at another or some sort of defense system they were on the wrong side of. They’d entered into an active warzone.

Ships of all shapes, sizes, and descriptions flew this way and that, defending the gate and the nearby space station from the largest ship in the area, which looked less like a ship and more like a floating platform atop which sat a silent, technologically advanced city. It was massive, as large as the space station itself and oddly square in shape, not like most of the vessels that flew around it. It was also…lifeless-looking. There were a few minor lights here or there, mostly near the guns, but otherwise the vessel was dark and unornamented as it drifted slowly through space.

“Delkrit,” Captain Claw whispered as he pushed absent-mindedly past Xendri.

Even being from one of the more remote corners of the galaxy, Xendri recognized the word. Everyone had heard of the Delkrit, though it was rare for anyone to have seen one, let alone survived to tell about it. They were the modern-day boogeyman. Tales that were told about the horrors that lurked out in the black of space to keep pilots and captains from venturing too far out into the uncharted parts of the galaxy. Not exactly a race, or even alive in the traditional sense, the Delkrit were machines with an AI hive mind programmed for one thing: to destroy all organic life. They were said to be the scourge of the galaxy.

Despite herself, Xendri followed the Captain back into the cockpit and squeezed herself beneath the wall and his arm so she could see what was going on. Nell had brought the ship around to join with the multitude of ships that were arrayed in a semi-organized fashion in their united goal to keep the Delkrit from destroying the gate. No matter which race this sector belonged to, the Delkrit were everybody’s enemy, and if the gate fell anyone within it would be stranded somewhere between here and the gate they left from, with no way to know how far they’d been tossed off course. And that was if they survived the gate’s collapse at all. It wasn’t lost on Xendri that had they not exited the gate when they did, that could easily have been their fate. As a spacefaring vessel, they owed it to whomever might be travelling through that gate to do what they could to ensure it didn’t shut down unexpectedly.

“Captain?” Nell questioned.

“You have any skill with guns?” Claw asked her and she nodded without taking her eyes off the task ahead of her. “Then use your best judgement,” he told her.

Xendri held her breath as Nell brought the Silent Serpent within firing range and strafed to the left, using the ship’s lasers for all they were worth. She left a few small explosions in her wake and managed to avoid being shot out of the sky. Xendri allowed herself to breathe again only when they were again skirting away from the horrifying cold and impersonal-looking Delkrit city, which fired at them only because its sensors detected their proximity, not because it ‘felt threatened’ or even felt anything at all. Xendri shuddered.

Just then, a team of Enbi ships swooped past them, so close their sudden appearance took Xendri’s breath right back out of her and Captain Claw swore audibly. Tiny one-man vessels, the Enbi fighter-ships were like a swarm of bees compared to the Delkrit city and just as angry, but as Xendri learned a moment later, they weren’t what had Nell or the Captain’s attention.  

“Shit, is that a Terran dreadnought?”

Between one breath and the next, by far the largest ship Xendri had ever seen popped into the sector, blocking out her view of this system’s sun. It was easily the width of the Delkrit vessel, if not wider, and it towered upwards as well, like a giant ark without sails. The words, ‘The Olympus’ were painted on the side, each letter easily the size of their own meager cargo ship.

“Wait, that gives me an idea,” Claw declared. “Nell, open up a communication to that Terran vessel.”

Nell’s eyes went wide at the command, but she followed it and hailed the Terran ship, even as she kept them moving, so as to make a difficult target for Delkrit guns.

Eye of the Storm – Part 3

“Nice to meet you, Summer,” Victor echoed my words from earlier, then turned back toward the bar. “Hey, Howe!” He called out, raising his head and his glass in search of the bartender. “Can I get another one of these?”

Curiously, ‘Howe’ was nowhere to be seen. I shrugged, about to use this opportunity to escape my new ‘friend’ and head back to where Debbie and Paul stood to either side of the jukebox trying to choose the next song, when the power went out. Without lighting or sound, the dilapidated old bar was just that. It was pitch black thanks to the shitty weather and the fact that the streetlamp outside the front window had also gone dark. Guess this isn’t just Howe blowing a fuse.

I could hear voices and shuffling even if I couldn’t make anyone out. It wasn’t crowded by any means, this being a Tuesday night, but it wasn’t a big place. Somebody must have bumped into Debbie because she squealed, “Paul, that better have been you!”

“Uhh…” I heard Paul reply.

“Power’s out across the street too,” somebody called, presumably looking out a window, “but it seems to have stopped raining, so there’s that.”

But my attention wasn’t on the bar patrons, it was on Victor. From the sounds of his stool scraping back, he’d stood and if the darker shadow over the bar was any indication, he seemed to be trying to clamber over it. “Howe?” He called out again from somewhere ahead and above me.

I heard a thunk as Victor landed heavily behind the bar, followed by rustling noises. In the background someone said, “Hey, a power outage doesn’t have to ruin the night, I brought my guitar!”

Despite my better judgement, I started forward, feeling for Victor’s stool. I found it with little trouble. It was still warm. Without thinking too hard about what I was about to do, I put my drink down, hoisted myself up onto the still-warm leather seat of the stool, and stood, stepping onto the bar. My foot hit what I presumed to be Victor’s drink. I made a point to avoid it as I let myself down the other side.

“Aha!” Victor proclaimed seconds before a match flared to life in his hands and our eyes met for the briefest of seconds in the sudden illumination. He seemed surprised to see me there. I was simply glad the ruddy light of the single flickering match didn’t allow Victor to make out the embarrassed flush of my cheeks.

“Here,” he shoved the pack of matches in my hands before grabbing another and starting past me. By the time I got a match of my own lit, he was halfway around the inside corner of the L-shaped bar and moving quickly. I hurried to follow.

A door I hadn’t noticed before now was open slightly. Pulling it wider, Victor disappeared into the opening, his body cutting off all view of the match in his hands. Rounding the corner myself, I almost bumped into him where he had stopped on a set of stairs headed downwards. In retrospect, wearing black was a poor choice, Victor, I silently admonished him.

I became aware of a strange sound coming from the darkness below. Halfway between a hum and a rumbly growl, I couldn’t identify it, but the sound unsettled me in way I couldn’t explain. “Howe?” Victor called again, more tentatively this time, I thought.

Silence greeted his call. I mean real silence; whatever that grumbly sound was, it stopped the moment Victor spoke. Against my better judgement, Victor started forward again, lighting a fresh match and raising it high above his head. I made it two steps before my own match burned my fingers, forcing me to shake my hand forcefully to put the fire out. I stuck my fingers in my mouth and looked down, less than eager to face the prospect of burning myself on another match.

My fingers in my mouth were the only thing that kept me from screaming. There on the ground, in a pool of his own blood mingling with the juice from a smashed jar of pickles was the bartender, Howe. His pale green shirt was bloodied and torn, and the gut I’d noticed earlier was missing entirely, having been replaced by a gaping maw, resembling nothing more than a fleshy crater. From that crater rose a field of spikes, like an over-sized porcupine had taken up residence inside the portly man.

“Holy shit!” Victor cursed and flailed wildly, causing his match to go out.

I fought the urge to vomit as he quickly struck another. The initial flare of light glinted off large yellow eyes and as the light settled to its dim brightness I became aware of what I was staring at. Well, not what it was, exactly, only that I was staring at it.

It, was the source of that strange rumbling growl from before and now the sound returned. A warning, low and guttural, it informed me on an instinctual level that I was in danger. Even with shock numbing my mental faculties, I didn’t need the warning. I fled, Victor’s heavy footfalls on the stairs proclaiming that he was trailing after me. Only two steps were needed to take me out of the basement, but they felt like twenty. I cleared the threshold of the door and quickly realized I was trapped by the L-shaped bar I didn’t know my way around.

Victor however, did. He made straight past me for the exit. I started after him, but a blur of motion crossing my vision stopped me.

The creature’s leap was silent. It’s landing wasn’t. Bottles crashed and the wood of the bar groaned as the massive cat-like thing landed on it. Soft guitar music was replaced by a cacophony of screams and curses from the bar patrons as the thing swung its head around, sniffing the air.

I felt a hand grab mine, warm in the darkness. I gasped, but it was only Victor, pulling me away from the scene and toward the back door of the bar. I stumbled along after him and we broke out into the cool, wet night air.

The rain had stopped, but the sky still looked dangerous.

*** Missed Part One, find it here. Part Two is here. If you’d like to read more of this serial, like this post, subscribe and/or leave me a comment!***

 

Eye of the Storm, Part 1

Remember that opening I shared as an example of how openings are hard to write? (You can read about that here.) Well, with two books currently in the works, I have no plans to do anything about the sci-fi novella I started, so… I thought I would share it with you. If you like this opening bit, let me know in the comments below and I’ll keep posting every week or two so you can see where this story goes (and keep me motivated in writing it at the same time!)

rain3

Chapter 1 – The Rain

The change came without warning, unless you count the rain. It pounded on the window of my battered Oldsmobile, demanding to be let in. I sighed, frustrated. So much for the Weather Network. Wrenching the rusted driver’s side door open, I was drenched in seconds. I scurried across the city parking lot, doing my damndest to avoid the worst of the puddles, though it hardly mattered now. The damage was done.

Inside the bar, the lighting was dim and yellow. Even so, it took a moment for my eyes to adjust.

“Summer!” Debbie ambushed me before I could so much as shake myself off like a dog after a swim. Her dry hair smelled like strawberries and stranded me somewhere between envious and nauseated. “You came!”

“Of course,” I mumbled. “You said it was important.”

Nodding, Debbie pulled back. “Come on. There’s someone I want you to meet.”

This is it, I realized, I’m finally going to meet the new boyfriend Debbie has been going on and on about. Despite this guy being the subject matter of all our conversations over the past few weeks, I really knew very little about him. I think she said his name was Paul…

“Well, if it isn’t Summer Green!”

Wait… Paul? As in Paul Sheffield? It was him, in the flesh. The very, very attractive flesh. Oh, god, what am I thinking. He’s Debbie’s boyfriend now… Not my highschool fantasy crush.

“Paul!” I didn’t manage much more than awkwardly saying his name before my nerves shut down my vocal cords. Leaning on a barstool, his elbow up on the bar, Paul was as drool-worthy as he’d ever been. Maybe more so. It had been years since I last saw him, but I remembered the day clearly. It had played in my mind over and over again to remind me of just how pathetic I was. Our last of of high school, Paul had left his group of much cooler friends to come over and give me a goodbye hug and I was so shocked I’d garbled any useful words that could have come out of my mouth in that instant. He’d walked away, a confused and sympathetic expression on his face and I just waved awkwardly and let him leave, instead of being suave and asking him to hang out over the summer like I’d planned.

In my fantasy, that summer would have led to a fabulous romance. In reality, I spent that summer working in a greasy 50’s themed diner, which was where I’d met Debbie. We were as opposite as people get, but somewhere along the line we became inseparable.

Speaking of Debbie, she’d managed to fit herself under Paul’s muscular right arm, her thin frame fitting far better there than my plumper one could have managed. She was looking up into his clear blue eyes, her own green ones twinkling. My slight envy from earlier came back with the same ferocity as the storm raging outside the building, developing into full blown jealousy.

“Paul and I are getting married!” Debbie exclaimed, looking to me for my reaction.

My eyes widened and my breathing became laboured. Face with them both and their sickening perfection, I suddenly became very much aware of my bedraggled and water-logged appearance. The nice white top I’d chosen for a night out with Debbie had been soaked through and was likely showing off my breasts, not to advantage like I’d planned, but more in an indecent sort of way. And my jeans, once form-fitting in a comfortable sort of way now just stuck to me in places where I’d rather they didn’t. I took a subconscious step back from the scene before me, wanting to be anywhere but here, but was stopped by a combination of the squashing sound my sneakers made and Debbie’s sudden frown as she began to realize I didn’t share her elation.

“That’s…great…” I tried to save face and failed.

Debbie pouted. “I know it seems unexpected and sudden,” she allowed, “but it makes sense when you think about it. Paul’s a dual citizen and is living and working in Michigan. If I want to be able to move in with him, we’ve got to get married. It’s just part of the immigration process.”

Whoa, immigrating? ‘Just part of the process…?’ I know Debbie moves fast, but holy hell.

I kept my thoughts to myself. “No, I’m sorry, I’m happy for you. I was just caught off guard, that’s all.”

Debbie beamed, assuaged. Paul smiled, that oh-so-cute lopsided smile of his that used to make me weak in the knees. Now it just made my stomach do uncomfortable flip-flops. “I get it,” he said. “You’re Debbie’s best friend, so it would stand to reason that you’d want to get to know the man she’s going to marry. Lucky for us, you and I go way back.”

“Yeah, lucky…” I mumbled. “If you’ll both excuse me, I’m going to go get myself a drink.”

***

Let me know in the comments below if you’d like me to continue sharing this story and if I get enough comments, I’ll put part two up on Thursday, next week! Thanks for reading.