By reality I don’t mean reality TV. That’s in a dimension all by itself. I’m talking about the wild and crazy world we live in. We’ve all heard a variant on the line, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Well, I read something yesterday that left me excited, grossed out, and disappointed.
One of my mainstays is science fiction. Reading it, writing it, watching it, and hopefully living it. I’m always thinking and daydreaming about the possibilities the future holds (hopefully with me owning a nice winter home in the Caribbean). One of those daydreams turned into my sci-fi series, Vitalis. It takes place in the future and so far has managed to span multiple solar systems and worlds. I’ve explored new possibilities, new creatures, new ecosystems, and what happens when those are mixed together. And the age old maxim that in primitive cultures and the animal kingdom, violence really does solve things.
Let’s take an example of an alien creature I created that sort of resembles a massively overgrown cockroach. It can spit out a neurotoxin that leaves its victim in a paralyzed state. In some cases (e.g. low doses) the victim is still somewhat aware of what’s going on, although delusion and hallucinogenic. The creature then takes the victim back to the hive where the queen injects multiple eggs into the victims belly, turning them in a host. As the initial neurotoxin wears off the victims find themselves returned to wherever they were before. The eggs release their own similar neurotoxin, but the host quickly acclimates and builds up a tolerance. Instead of being paralyzed and wiped out it just makes them unaware of what’s going on inside them and kind of loopy.
The hatchlings then begin to feed, and they do so voraciously. The innards of a person are devoured and the chemicals these little buggers release keep the host alive as long as possible, although in a messed up state. Then they eat their way out, usually about the time the host finally dies.
Creepy stuff, right? Only possible in fiction? Well this is where I mention something I read yesterday about a bug here on earth. The cockroach family, ironically enough, has some particularly vicious members.
There’s this little emerald green wasp cockroach that is around the size of a carpenter ant. Big, but not massive. These wasps prey on their bigger cousins, the regular cockroach. The size difference is truly David and Goliath, but the wasps roaches have a secret weapon. A neurotoxin that they deliver to the belly of the bigger roaches. That paralyzes the roach’s legs and lets them plant their eggs on the big roach’s legs. The wasp roach then delivers a second poisonous blow to the brain of the big roach. This doesn’t kill the roach, but it turns it into a zombie by making it not care about much of anything.
Wasp roach then grabs the zombie roach’s antenna and leads it back to its nest. Time passes, the eggs hatch, and the big roach just chills while the babies eat it from the inside out. Creepy stuff, and something that happens right under our noses. Or wherever these buggers live.
The point is I was disappointed to learn that my idea for something outlandish, gross, and terrifying is already happening. And it happens here, on Earth, in present time. The only thing left is for me to figure out something even more bizarre and horrifying… and I love a challenge!
But hey, if you’d like to read more on Vitalis and the various futuristic terrors that humanity encounters, be my guest to check out:
There are a couple of reasons I’ve never gotten into paranormal romance. Mostly it involves the tried and true mainstays of paranormal being either werewolves or vampires. Except the vampires are sensitive, effeminate, sparkly, or some other preposterous mutation on a classic monster.
Werewolves? Okay, those are usually less sparkly and more animalistic. I can appreciate them more, even if they do tend to smell like wet dog. My problem here is tying the paranormal into the romance. Typically werewolves are portrayed as turning to their wild side when they suffer intense moments. Well, the culmination of a good romantic moment involves a lot of, uh, intensity. So if the hero happens to suddenly need a trip to the pet groomer while he’s getting his groove on, that could be very awkward. And bestial. Not something that makes me want to have my belly rubbed, to say the least.
In spite of all that, I’m going to attempt to venture into a new foray in the near future. I think I’m going to do a serial novel, which means a novel cut into a few parts that area each stories in and of themselves. I did this in the past with my Vitalis series and it met with great success at first. Then it got chopped apart by some bogus reviews and lost its momentum as it dropped off the ratings charts. I’m hoping the PNR category is not as critical or filled with vindictive writers.
Why me and why this? A couple of reasons and none of them involve me being jealous of dogs because they can lick themselves. I enjoy trying different things, and PNR is new enough for me to give it a shot. I’ll put my own flair on it though and make sure I keep things fun, exciting, racy, and dangerous. No sparkles here – although I am considering a little something special along those lines.
Why else? It’s huge and popular right now and I’ll admit, most of my success with writing has been me getting lucky as I randomly wrote things that seemed fun to me. This time I’m trying to take something that is lined up in the right areas and to make it fun. A different approach, but hopefully the same end result.
I’m finishing up my latest attempt at a blockbuster, a futuristic amalgamation of The Hunger Games and Mechwarrior / Battletech. I loved writing it and I can’t wait to write more of it, but I’ll be taking a break long enough to try at least one, possibly two other books first. The first will probably be this PNR and the second will hopefully be a continuation of both my Voidhawk series and my Blades of Leander / Order of the Dragon series. What, that’s three books…unless I bring Voidhawk and the adventures of Alto and friends together for a single crossover bit of fun! Then back to my world of biomechs and, optionally, more Vitalis.
So many awesome ideas and not enough time! But not to worry, as long as the ideas keep coming I’ll keep writing. So stay tuned while I transition from giant robots to heavily muscled bikers rescuing teenage girls and trying not to give them fleas…
Mathew McConaughey won an Oscar the other night for his work in the movie, Dallas Buyers Club. This isn’t news at this point, so let’s move on to speech he gave. It was a speech that I found to be rather peculiar.
Mr. McConaughey rattled off three things that he needed every day. And then he ended the speech with a quote from Dazed and Confused, which I personally considered one of his finer roles. All in all though, the speech left me a little confused and wondering if he and Gary Busey have been spending a lot of time together.
I’m not here to discuss or judge the merits of that speech other than to draw attention to one of his three needs. He mentioned he needs someone to aspire to be. The target of that need is himself, 10 years in the future. It sounded a little cheesy to me in the speech, but the important part is the recognition of what potential the future holds and the fact that with hard work and hope can make for a great tomorrow.
For example, two days ago I would never have guess that my futuristic sci-fi book, Vitalis, would shoot from being in Amazon’s 18,000 – 19,000 ranking to being 2,412 this morning when I woke up. A book about the future with a bright future. It’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now my book and Mathew McConaughey have nothing in common beyond that tenuous line of logic, but if he wanted to pick a character to portray in a movie of the book, well, I would be open to talk about it. We could even call it the Vitalis Buyers Club…
Jokes aside, I’m very excited to see Vitalis doing so well. So I’m writing this, to try and convince other people to go and check it out and share my excitement with me. Readers write me about the Vitalis books and I love discussing the story with them. In fact, there’s been a few times where I’ve had new ideas, twists, and even characters arise from those discussions. And for only $.99 for a novel that’s well beyond 100,000 words, how can you go wrong?
So please, give it a look and some honest consideration. Vitalis has metric tons of fast paced excitement involving pirates, aliens, a new world, insufficient resources (including clothing, in some cases), politics, intrigue, and even a few crazy people. And unlike a lot of sci-fi the science isn’t there to be the story, it’s there to sit in the background, be cool, and allow the story to take place. As a few readers have said, Vitalis is a great intro into a genre (sci-fi) that they never had any interest in before.
…but my most successful book this month in terms of units sold is Vitalis. This omnibus contains the first 7 novellas of the futuristic science fiction series. I’m afraid to mention it out loud because it did phenomenal through the spring and early summer of 2012 and then met with ruin in the form of other writers trying to knock me off the bestselling lists.
Not to worry though, Vitalis isn’t doing nearly that well. In fact my summer sales have taken a major slump. Vitalis, however, has been slowly picking up steam. It’s my sincere hope that this continues because, well, those books are really cool! It’s science fiction that doesn’t feel like science fiction. The books are about a bunch of characters put in situations and environments that change them. They grow. They evolve. They learn. Oh, and they get hurt, heartbroken, and sometimes chewed up and eaten.
There are three novel length books in the Vitalis series right now, Vitalis Omnibus, Vitalis: Resurrection, and Vitalis: Provenance. There are probably twenty or thirty more Vitalis books yet to be written, if not more. The setting is massive and the stories span planets and solar systems. And yet in spite of this, I’ve been told by a few people now that they were awesome books for introducing them to science fiction because they don’t like sci-fi, yet they loved the books.
I’m also working with a professional audiobook producer / narrator right now to turn Vitalis into an audiobook. He’s been very excited about the project for a number of reasons. One of them is due to how much he’s enjoying the story. Another is the fact that Audible.com felt the story was so good they put it in one of their special programs that encourages the producer to get it completed as quickly as possible. This encouragement comes in the form of a significant financial endorsement. I’m pretty certain that they’ll do their best to recoup this financial boon by boosting the audiobook’s placement so people can see it and buy it. After all, this is a business to them.
So with all that going on I’m wrapping up my current project, Sands of Betrayal (book three in my Order of the Dragon fantasy series) and presumably starting my 4th Vitalis book in the very near future. Why not seize the momentum? There are so many stories to tell I’m having a hard time narrowing it down and picking one! I’m sure by next week I’ll have something in mind though, since that will be the time I need to get started on it.
And since it’s also such a massive environment / universe / setting, there’s tons of room for characters and ideas. That’s my way of reaching out to my readers and fans and encouraging you to reach out to me. Talk to me and let me know what sorts of things interest you. What would you like to see? Or better yet, what fictional character that bears absolutely no resemblance to your ex or your boss would you like to see horribly disfigured or maimed in an interstellar accident? Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me…
To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
I was chatting via email to another writer the other day who was asking for some tips on getting his first book out there. The man was an English Lit professor and here he’s asking me for help with words. I found that ironic. But I shared what few tips I have. It boils down to writing a lot, accepting criticism, writing some more, making sure you find decent editors, and then doing some more writing.
I also touched on the reviewing process (part of the criticism speech) and how bad reviews can sink a book. I mentioned how Amazon is trying hard to eliminate bogus reviews, although they take some good ones along the way. I went on to talk about how my Vitalis series, when I sold them as novellas for $.99 a pop, were butchered by a couple of people that slammed them in reviews because I was allegedly trying to abuse Amazon’s system and being greedy. Nevermind that the price for buying the Omnibus is the same as it was for buying all seven novella length stories.
I had a possible epiphany while writing that. I took my novellas off sale after the abuse I received for them. Prior to the hateful reviews they were ranked in the top 20 and top 10 in their categories (sci-fi). Was it possible the bad reviews were actually bogus reviews written by other writers? In some cases I even had identical reviews on multiple books from the same person! It got me wondering, with Amazon’s push to eliminate bogus reviews would my novellas possibly stand a chance of being popular again?
With that thought in mind, I’m going to re-release my Vitalis novellas. Book 1, New Beginnings, will remain free. The rest will be $.99. Here are the links if you’d like to check them out – or at least try the first one (it’s free!).
Episode 1: New Beginnings
Episode 2: The colony
Episode 3: Parasites
Episode 4: Screamer
Episode 5: Squatter’s Rights
Episode 6: Evolution
Episode 7: Matriarch
or the Vitalis Omnibus (parts 1 – 7)
Vitalis: Resurrection, the novel length sequel
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
I’ll admit I’m not usually given to such eloquent words of praise. In this case though I think it’s very applicable. That’s how I feel about what a reader just said in a review on Amazon about my Lost Girls series, in particular the final book, Black Widow. Don’t believe me? Here’s the 5 star review in full:
I’ve been quiet lately. Too quiet, perhaps. After a flurry of blogging a few weeks back I dropped off the face of the earth it seemed. All is well, I just got busy. I had to write a host of blog posts for an upcoming promotion I’m doing for my Vitalis book, plus I’m finalizing the sequel to Vitalis (Vitalis: Resurrection) for release in a couple of weeks. I’m also going out of my way to coerce people into writing reviews for Vitalis and other books of mine. Between all that and a labor day weekend long road trip kept me pretty incommunicado.
But wait, there’s more! I’ve been hard at work on Child of Fate, my new fantasy novel. This is going to be a long one and it’s a lot of fun. Hopefully I’m past the halfway point by now but I keep coming up with more things to add into it that I can’t resist! That’s great news for readers because I have hundreds of ideas for things to do down the road as well, which will lead to many sequels. What can I say, I lead a very active fantasy life. ;-)
A high level sample of what’s going on right now involves the hero and his friends trapped in a large complex of caves. They’re trapped between several clans of goblins intent on killing them and a small army of trolls and ogres that have been sent to find and butcher them. They’ve managed to escape immediate danger, but only at great sacrifice. And the main character, a farm boy turned warrior before his prime, just opened a door and was greeted by something large, green, and toothy. And Mr. Toothy just invited them into his home…what can go wrong? Did I mention the goblin in the corner named, “Bonky?”
Admit it, you’re a little curious now… hang in there, I promise to finish it as soon as I can! I’m still shooting for an October release on it, although it may be late October at this rate.
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
As a first time published writer, share some of your misery with other would-be writers to give them hope. How long have you been trying to break into the industry?
To start with, I gave up on writing years back. Sometime in February ’09, I decided I wanted to write an outer space novel inspired by the stories I read when I was a teenager. It took two years of giving up fun and entertainment, but I got it done. The one true misery I’ve felt was a sympathetic agent telling me that these kinds of stories don’t get published anymore. I took a long look at the F&SF shelves at my local Barnes&Noble and saw that vampires and werewolves had taken over the place.
Did you consider self-publishing as a route? Why or why not?
I checked out the author-friendly Smashwords. That led me to Novel Concept Publishing and editor Jason Halstead. Going it alone on my first time through was a bit daunting for me. It’s a much easier ride when you work with people who know the route.
What’s your greatest fear (as it applies to writing or not – your call)?
Well, there’s having cancer and wondering if you’ll run out of treatment options. There’s reading about relentless budget cuts for public schools when you have two school-age children on the autism spectrum. That’s plenty of fear for one man.
Tell us a little about The Capable Man – what is it, what’s it about, and why did feel the need to write it?
The concept began as a moral mirror-image of Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit Will Travel. The protagonist—an adult, not a teenager—survives by his wits and the courage to take action; but he is, in fact, a pirate. He finds that choosing to do the wrong thing comes easily, especially when you’re being rewarded for it.
EDITORS NOTE: Since debuting The Capable Man has shot up the ratings at an amazing rate. It’s listed on two top 100 bestseller lists already, and that was before any press releases or marketing / advertising has taken place. Having also read the book myself I highly recommend it to any futuristic sci-fi lover.
What’s next for Justin Maisling and the others featured in The Capable Man? Do you have a sequel planned or is the story told?
Yes, a sequel is in the works because I just can’t help myself. I have family and friends telling me that more should be happening to Justin. I feel the principal story has been told; however, there’s some unfinished business with certain unsavory folks that can be dealt with and there are repercussions following Justin’s actions. The working title is A Tolerance For Pain.
What’s next for Marc Hamlet – anything in process or any ideas nibbling away in the back of your mind?
I’ve done some research on horse training and black powder revolvers for a fantasy story that’s been in the back of my mind for the past year. It could be three novellas or three novels, depending on how hard I want to work. All I’ve settled on so far is the main character, the social setting and the California Central Valley.
How was your experience with Novel Concept Publishing, especially as a first time published author?
I wasn’t asked to re-arrange the furniture within my story, much to my relief. The editing process went easily although it helps to have a wife with a tech writing degree to copy edit for you. Truly, it’s been smooth sailing from the start.
What advice can you give to other writers trying to be published?
As everyone else says: don’t give up. I did once and I regret it. If you have a story you want to tell, sit yourself down and write it out… and don’t worry about marketability.
Where can anxious readers find you on the web? Website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Wattpad, book links, and anything else I neglected to mention.
My facebook account name is Marc Hamlet, although I rarely post anything there.
My twitter account (which is more fun than Facebook) is @MarcHamlet.
My blog is http://marchamlet.com/
The Capable Man can be found at the following links:
Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/e/2940013224728
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
I review a book, somebody reviews a book for me. Pretty darn good trade I’d say! Read on for a bit on the review done for Human Nature over at “Love on the Bookshelf”.
This book had me at post-apocalyptic. I admit, I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories whether they’re books, movies, or just a good yarn. Now, Human Nature didn’t have Kevin Costner, but it was still a really good story. Dawn Vincent, aka the Doctor, is one of a handful of people left on Earth that survived an alien attack. (I know! There are aliens!) Most of the aliens have left, deeming Earth unworthy of their attention, but they left a few stragglers that are causing trouble. You know, like killing and eating the humans. And not necessarily in that order.
The real theme in this book is growth. The human race is growing stronger against the aliens. As she works on patching people up, Dawn grows
more confident in herself and her skills – both as a doctor and as a leader. And, an unexpected love grows between Dawn and ________. Well, I can’t give it away, can I?
Read the rest of the review here.
I’ve been babbling about it for a while now and here it is, finally hot off the virtual presses!
Here’s the blurb:
Humans have advanced to span multiple solar systems, diminish the effects of aging, and conquer the human genome, yet their cruelty towards their own kind binds them to the stone age. The rim worlds are the outer solar systems for human civilization. Men and women earn their living with their wits and talents, although treachery often nets a bonus.
The Rented Mule is a ship with a crew seeking to earn an honest living in a realm of dishonesty. No stranger to trouble, they know the unwritten rules of the trade and have avoided being claimed as “salvage” for many years.
On a routine transport mission the Mule has to struggle with not only the usual dangers of traveling through rim systems, but also a new navigator with a troubled past and a romantic interest in the ship’s engineer.
Plagued by threats from without and within, the crew’s only hope when the Mule suffers catastrophic damage may be an uncharted planet. The fate of the Rented Mule and crew is in the hands of the neophyte navigator.
And here’s an Excerpt:
“Kira!” The navigator groaned as the words filtered through the disturbing images of her dream. She’d been reliving some very pleasant aerobic activity with Eric one moment, then felt as though she’d been sucked through the wall of the ship to be immersed in the absolute zero temperatures of deep space the next. She coughed, feeling like her lungs were coated in ice water. Somebody grabbed her, helping her up and over a metal ridge that pressed painfully into her ribs. She gagged some more, dry heaving until she could hear straight. Spittle hung from her lips and chills racked her body.
“Kira, we’ve been dumped out of cold sleep, your prox warning is going off, what’s going on?” Captain Sharp demanded.
Kira looked up slowly, wincing at the pain in her chest, throat, and head as she did so. He looked pale and miserable, but his actions spoke otherwise. She nodded and forced herself up, fighting back a wave of nausea. “C..c…cold, Sir!”
“Walk it off, damn it!” He snapped, perhaps a concession to his own condition.
Kira nodded and pulled herself out of the pod she’d been in. The others were either doing likewise or were standing around in robes. She felt a tug and looked down, her head clearing as she realized she was still fully integrated with the hibernation chamber. The light blanket that had covered her nude body was still on her, but she’d given the Captain quite a show in spite of it. She glanced up when she heard a scuffling sound and saw Eric was struggling into a robe and trying to join them. He brought a spare robe for her. That’s nice, she thought, then her view of her recent lover was blocked by the Captain. “Kira, snap to!”
“Sorry, Captain,” she mumbled. “Never been dumped before.”
She reached down and removed the catheter, grimacing as she did so, then slipped the sensors that were adhered to her body and head off. She held the blanket tight and forced herself to climb up and out of the cocoon like bed, taking the robe from Eric with a grateful smile and slipping it on. Her feet were cold on the steel floor but she could tell from the Captain’s tone she had no time to worry about that. “Prox alert, gotcha Sir!”
Sharp and Eric followed her as she walked stiffly out of the hibernation room. Her body warmed and began to obey her as she walked, allowing her to pick up the pace. By the time they reached the bridge, only a few short minutes later, only a faint headache persisted. She touched the data port on her palm to the matching port of her station, then proceeded to mentally send the navigation system commands. The large display at the front of the bridge responded almost immediately, allowing them all to see what had transpired.
“That’s not an asteroid!” Sharp growled. He turned to Eric. “Get Tarn up here now!”
Eric took off with barely an, “Aye, Captain!” tossed over his shoulder.
“That’s why the dump from cold sleep, Sir,” Kira said. “The autopilot adjusted course but so did the other ship. It’s closing with us fast. ETA is less than ten minutes. It must be accelerating,” Kira muttered to herself as she fed more commands via the cybernetic link into the computer. “I don’t understand, even a cold dump takes hours – this hit my outer threat range seventeen minutes ago.”
“Had some modifications done to our chambers,” Sharp explained. “You’re going to feel like hell for a week or so because of it, but most of the time it’s only temporary.”
“Most of them time, Sir?” Kira turned to look at him.
Sharp shrugged. “Guy who done it said he only had one case of somebody suffering permanent brain damage.”
Kira swore. “Hey, you prefer to let them board while we’re still snuggled up in dreamland? What happens then? Pretty thing like you might get raped a few dozen times before they sold you as a slave. The rest of us most like get our throats cut – if we’re lucky.”
She nodded at the Captain’s logic. He said no more until Eric returned with a grumbling Tarn behind him. “Tarn, where’s your threat sensors? And the plasma defenders? Why aren’t they online and tracking?”
Tarn ignored him, staring at the screen and deciphering it. “Fuck, must be bugged up,” he muttered, then turned away to head over to the security station.
“Don’t give me that, you said everything was fixed!” Sharp roared. “Get them up and running now or I’ll shoot you at them!”
“Sir, we don’t know who it is,” Kira pointed out. “It could be another transport or even a naval vessel.”
“Uh-uh,” Eric said, slipping up quietly beside her chair and pressing his hand against her shoulder. Kira glanced up at him and smiled. This proved he wasn’t the kiss and tell type and that he would still respect her in the morning. Then again, after the things she’d made him do in the heat of the moment she wasn’t sure she could respect herself.
“Free agent would be steering clear of us,” Sharp confirmed. “Naval vessel would be broadcasting to us. This ship’s silent. You tried hailing?”
Kira nodded. It was standard procedure on seeing another ship, especially one with an intercept vector. “No response, Sir.”
“Hang on,” He grunted. “Must be a bug in the activation code, the program’s in there but it never executed properly.”
“What about our guns?”
“Enemy ship is out of range. They’ll be ready when it gets closer though!”
“What’ve they got to use on us?” Sharp asked.
Tarn laughed bitterly. “This is a transport! No sensors worth a damn on here. Mining rig’s got better eyesight than this thing does.”
Kira looked at the Captain and saw the muscles in his jaw flexing. She felt Eric squeeze her shoulder again. Her own free hand went up to rest on top of his. “Are these Pirates?”
“They’re not a welcoming committee,” Tarn muttered.
Kira stared at him, eyes narrowed. Eric gave her shoulder another squeeze forcing her to relax. She looked at the display again. Even though they could all see it she felt the need to announce, “Seven and a half minutes, Sir.”
“Tarn, how long until they’re in range?”
Sharp swore. “Glad I spent so much on the weapons you recommended!” The ex-Marine wisely chose to stay quiet. “Kira, what’s our position? How long were we under?”
“A little over a month, Sir,” Kira had already figured that much out from the data on the display. She input several more commands to analyze the stars and compare their position. “Otherwise we’re on course for the mining region, roughly two months out. The rotation of this system’s planets and stations are further from us than a return to the jump station would be.”
Sharp swore again. “No outrunning them either I bet.”
The display popped up a new frame with calculations and text within it. The answer was clear seconds later. “No Sir,” Kira parroted the system’s visual display.
“You better hit those sons of bitches so hard they get turned into a wormhole.” Tarn grunted as he sat sweating over his chair.
Kira stared. She could see the sweat running down the side of Tarn’s face. She was still chilled to the bone and only the adrenaline of the moment was keeping her from falling to the deck. She glanced up at Eric again and saw the misery in his own eyes. He smiled in spite of it when she caught his eyes, which prompted a strange flutter in her own stomach. Her first real relationship and he was an engine jockey on a dead end tanker in the middle of nowhere. She bit her lip to fight back the tear, then smiled back at him. It wasn’t his fault that she’d fucked her own life up so badly that a desperate shot at running away on the Rented Mule was her only way out.
“Five minutes, Sir,” She croaked loudly.
Sharp’s hand rested on her other shoulder, squeezing so firmly it hurt. Then it was gone. Kira felt her heart thundering in her chest, something she had read was next to impossible after being dumped out of cold sleep.
“Where are Jeff and Kevin?” The Captain asked.
“I told them get suited up and stand by for emergency repairs,” Eric said. “They can handle pressure leaks and basic electronics, I’ve been showing them a few things.”
“Might need you in the engine room.”
Kira felt Eric’s hand stiffen on her shoulder. It might have been because she was suddenly squeezing his so much harder. “Aye Sir, I’ll keep an eye on things. Call me if I’m needed.”
He pulled his hand away but the warmth of it lingered on her shoulders. Kira set her jaw and blinked away the tears. After everything she’d done and all the sacrifices she’d made this did not seem like a fitting way to die.
“Sir!” She screamed, looking a fresh readout on the display. “We’re being—“
Lights flashed and an alarm went off, even though nothing seemed amiss. “We’re under attack Sir!”
“It was a relativistic projectile, no breech but it definitely hit us on the port side.” The inertial suppressors eliminated the shock from spreading throughout the two thousand ton ship. It was neither graceful nor pretty, but the Rented Mule could certainly take a beating.
A few second later another alert sounded, followed by fresh damage indicators. This continued for several more rounds, each spaced a few seconds apart. “Sir, they’re firing something large enough to clear our avoidance field but not big enough to do any serious damage.”
“Just a damned minute!” He growled. Then he slammed his finger on the panel, triggering the plasma defenders.
Sharp stared at display that showed the star field in front of them, watching a green mist streak out so quickly it was barely identifiable. It disappeared into the blackness, giving no indication of what had transpired. “Well?” He asked, his voice overpowering the steady chirps that indicated fresh hits form the enemy vessel.
“Limited sensors, Sir,” Kira said.
Tarn let out a whoop. “I got the bastards!”
The ongoing alerts continued. “Why are we still being fired upon?”
“Didn’t say I killed ‘em,” Tarn snapped. He went back to his display and began hammering in fresh commands. He snarled as two more plasma shots went out, both missing.
“Sir, less than two minutes until they’re on us!”
“Roll us twenty degrees so I can bring both plasma guns on line!”
“Do it!” Sharp snapped.
Kira rolled the ship, firing the thrusters manually to save time. She arrested the roll too late, but Tarn had already triggered his attack. The star field display went blank. One of the frames on the main display stopped scrolling updated data.
“Something else hit us,” Kira stammered. She was desperately trying to make sense of the data, inputting fresh queries to the system. “An energy weapon I think, looks like they found our primary sensor modules.”
“So we’re blind?”
Kira fought with her system several seconds before she slumped in her chair. “Looks like it…Sir.”
“Shut those damn alarms off, internal sensors will still tell us if there’s a problem.”
Kira silenced the alarms and stood by, expecting to have to cancel a new one in a few seconds. She realized she’d have to do it constantly and wondered if there was a way to issue a command so that only a different type of alarm would sound.
“Did you cancel everything?” Sharp asked her as the seconds ticked past silently.
“No Sir,” she said. “Trying to figure out how to differentiate between the existing attacks and more serious ones.”
“You may not need to. They’ve stopped shooting at us.” Sharp stared at the unmoving displays then turned to the ex-Marine. “Tarn, did your last shots hit?”
“Of course! Both barrels down the throat!”
“Your sensors show the damage before we lost them?”
Tarn grunted as he tapped clumsily away at the display. “Feedback from the sensor loss must have wiped out the logging.”
“So you don’t know for sure.”
“That range there ain’t no way I could miss!”
Kira glanced up and saw the stare down between the Captain and the security officer. She looked away, hoping she could ignore the growing tension in the room. “All right no, I got no way of knowing what shape they’re in now.”
Sharp stabbed the intercom button. “Everyone suit up now! Our attackers have destroyed our sensors but we believe they’ve also been damaged. If they board us they won’t give us the time to arrange a welcoming party — they’ll just blow the hull. Suit up and stand ready to repel boarders.”
“Sir, should I—“
“Go get your suit, I’ll mind your station until you get back.”
“Yes Sir,” Kira hopped up and hurried to the air lock. She met Eric on the way and they grabbed each other’s hands briefly, then let go and hurried on when Tarn came huffing along behind them. The suits were unisex and universally uncomfortable. Kira grabbed the tallest one and turned to glace at Tarn. Eric looked up, catching her gaze, then slipped between them while the ex-Marine busied himself with displaying a very hairy back and butt so he could slip into the suit.
With him distracted, Kira shucked her robe and jumped into her suit, zipping it up quickly before fixing the helmet on. The onboard system powered up and did a system check. With a few adjustments it read off a list of green statuses. Kira turned to see Eric helping Tarn into a different suit, then waited patiently for the porcine man to be ready.
“Get back to the bridge,” Eric told her. “I’ll help Tarn finish up, you’re needed up there.”
“Be careful!” She whispered.
“Careful’s my middle name, Legs!” Kira squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her fist at Tarn’s voice over the suit-to-suit radio. He chuckled even as she turned and stormed off.
Her station at the bridge was far from comfortable in a bulky space suit. They had evolved and improved over the years but still weighed twenty five pounds and remained bulky enough to make even a runway model feel like they were wearing a fat suit. She settled in as best she could and then had to break the seal on her suit so she could route the suit’s internal data cable to her palm. After she resealed it, and noticed the Captain trying to look everywhere but at her, she applied the external cable to her station to allow her direct input to the system.
“Sorry, Sir,” she said, somewhat out of breath. “I’m ready now.”
“Kira, the bridge is yours. Do what you think is best should the situation require it.” Sharp gave her tap on the shoulder that she barely felt through the suit then he turned and left the bridge.
She stared after him for a long moment, then turned back to look at the partially functioning screens. She swallowed loudly, aware that the only thing she could hear was inside her own helmet. “Okay, let’s see what we’ve got left,” she muttered, feeding fresh commands into the computer as quickly as she could think them up.
Book 2 has been written (rough draft), what remains is cover art and editing. October – November launch date planned. So snatch this one up quick so you can be ready for the next one!