First Chapter – IntrinsiC Connections

Today I have the First Chapter for you from IntrinsiC Connections, book two in the Petri Dish Chronicles, recently released by Mistral Dawn.

Intrinsic Connections

 

Description1

This second installment in the Petri Dish Chronicles finds Petri and her friends traveling from planet to planet in Daji’s spaceship, the Ruba, searching for a new home. But it’s a challenge for Petri to find a place where she can be confident that the dangerous secrets she carries within her will remain hidden, and Daji is losing patience with her indecision. As tensions between Petri and Daji reach critical mass, the most frightening part of Petri’s past catches up with her, and the question facing the motley crew changes from, “where will they live?” to “will they survive?”

*Please note: it is strongly recommended that this series be read in order, starting with book one, Rainbow Dreams.

*Please note: this story contains adult themes and material and is not intended for readers under the age of 18. If violence or explicit sexual content offends you, this may not be the book for you.

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Dust and grit swirled around Petri as she lifted a hand to shield her eyes from the harsh glare of the star that the planet she was currently on orbited. In truth, it was one of three stars, but by far the largest. The other two had nearly burned themselves out and were well on their way to becoming black dwarves. They did little more than light the night sky enough for most beings to navigate easily. It was rarely completely dark on this world.

Which was good, she reflected as she gazed out across the desolate landscape, since the remaining star made daytime travel difficult. It dried the lone planet that circled it and its older sisters to a world-spanning desert and created convection currents in the atmosphere strong enough to ensure that the parched soil remained suspended in a perpetual, whirling cloud. That is, when the dirt wasn’t busy coating anyone hapless enough to be out in it.

Sighing, Petri raised the scarf she wore to protect her airways over her mouth and nose and stepped away from the building she had just exited. It had been almost three days since she had been outside its walls, and she half-expected that her friends would have left her here. It was what they wanted, after all.

Thinking about Chessie and Sadaka, Petri grimaced. She wasn’t being fair to them. They just wanted her to stop arguing with Daji so much. Which made sense, considering that they only lived by his good graces. Still, he made her so angry sometimes she couldn’t help lashing out. Sighing again as a nearly overwhelming exhaustion washed over her despite the way she had just glutted herself and her power, Petri remembered how frustrated she was the last time she saw him. That had been right before she had stalked off his ship in a fit of temper. Sometimes she thought he was deliberately refusing to try to understand her point of view.

Stopping suddenly, she looked around again and realized the swirling dirt had disoriented her and she was going in the wrong direction. She peered through the haze trying to discern enough landmarks to make her way back to where she hoped the Ruba would still be waiting for her. It wasn’t easy, since there were several large, low-lying buildings in the small township, and they all looked the same; low to the ground, with no sharp edges, and coated in the ubiquitous pale gray sand. Most structures only had their entrances above ground, as the constant erosion from the airborne grit wore down anything built on the surface.

The shipyard was similarly underground, with a landing panel that was only exposed to the elements long enough for ships to land on and take off from it. The rest of the time, the landing strip was sheltered beneath a structure that was indistinguishable from half a dozen similar buildings in the area. Huffing, Petri acknowledged that the planet was named appropriately.

It was called Sheol, after an ancient human mythological afterlife full of shadowy souls who ate clay and lacked self-awareness. Petri couldn’t remember all the details of the myth; devoting time and attention to learning extraneous trivia was still a new concept for her and she hadn’t quite mastered it. But what she did recall certainly seemed to describe this planet with astonishing accuracy. Even down to the lack of sentience in the local residents.

She couldn’t blame them; this place was deadly dull, and she’d go brain-dead too if she had to spend a week here, never mind years. That was why she couldn’t understand Daji’s motivations and determination to leave Chessie, Sadaka, and her on a planet like this. The thought of it was enough to set her temper off again and start a cold ball of panic building in her stomach.

Petri could understand him wanting his ship back. They took up space and it cost money to feed them. That was one of the reasons she spent so much time in the building she had just left; a local bar and flophouse, where a new dolly was a novelty and much welcomed by the locals. Even after she gave the owner of the establishment his cut, her pockets jingled with hard currency, evidence of her popularity. She intended to give it to Daji to cover at least part of the cost of their passage and board.

But what she found maddening was that every time she suggested a planet for him to leave them on, he rejected it. Petri wanted a developed, well-populated world; one with cities that were big enough for her and her friends to lose themselves in. As a trader, Daji traveled to a variety of planets, many of which would satisfy Petri’s criteria.

But the kind of world that Petri was thinking about inevitably had a sophisticated bureaucracy with reams of laws regarding who could immigrate to their worlds, what background information was required from applicants, and extensive health testing and communicable disease prevention precautions. It was the health and disease testing that was the sticking point for Daji.

Chessie had the diddling skills to create new profiles and backgrounds for the three of them that would satisfy the bureaucrats, and Daji had no problem with that type of rule breaking because, as he said, it didn’t endanger anyone. But he insisted the health and disease tests couldn’t be faked.

The tests were no problem for Chessie or Sadaka. As humans, they would sail right through without so much as raised eyebrow from any of the medics. But as a human/Arcanum hybrid, Petri couldn’t allow her DNA to be scrutinized by anyone in authority. If she did, she would at best be executed, and at worst be turned into a research specimen.

She shuddered at the thought. One scientist on Upworld had discovered her secret and she’d had the misfortune of spending a few hours in his custody. She still had nightmares from the experience.

Daji’s solution to that problem was a world like Sheol, a backwater, sparsely populated planet that lacked the resources and bureaucracy of the more developed systems. On such worlds, there were often few, if any, laws regarding who could immigrate or what standards they had to meet. The only problem was, a planet like that was Petri’s own personal idea of Hell.

The idea of being stuck in a place like this made her skin crawl. She had no idea how to survive on a world with as few people as this one had. Yeah, since she was new she had attracted a lot of business over the last couple of days. Novelty went at a premium in such places. But she wouldn’t be a curiosity for long, and then what?

Would she be able to make enough as a dolly on such a world to survive? Because she didn’t know how to do anything else. Chessie had her diddling skills, but how much demand for those could there be on a planet that lacked even a central global network? Hell, this place still ran on a cobbled together system built off satellites! Petri had lost track of the number of times the lights and air filters failed over the last couple of days thanks to the finicky power grid that was the best the local government could afford.

And what about Sadaka? The girl needed to be in school, and the educational opportunities in such a place were limited at best. In all likelihood, the child would grow up to work in whatever industry had necessitated that a settlement be founded on the world they settled on. Here, that meant she would grow up to be a miner, working in dangerous conditions to extract the rare mineral, trefoil, that was used to make the shielding in spaceship hulls. She would rarely be allowed out of the mines; her life would be lived in darkness, breathing recycled air. That wasn’t what Petri wanted for the kid she had come to feel responsible for.

Worst of all, what if the people here discovered Petri’s secret? A thrill of terror ran down her spine. There was no place to run. No crowd to hide in. If anyone ever suspected what she was and she was trapped on a planet like this, she would be dead.

Petri had tried to reason with Daji. First, she had argued that Chessie and Sadaka could go through the health screenings, if he insisted, and that she, herself, was in perfect health. She couldn’t bring disease to a planet because she wasn’t sick. He had insisted there was no way for her to know for sure that she didn’t have some latent infection, and that it wasn’t just other people’s safety he was concerned for. Every world had its own diseases, and part of the screening process involved inoculating new arrivals against whatever endemic diseases were in residence.

He had pointed out that given where she and her friends had lived, they might have been exposed to any number of microbes and toxins and that, when combined with the microflora of a new world, might turn lethal. And that was especially true of her with her hybrid physiology. The only way to ensure everyone’s safety was to go through the immigration health protocols.

There hadn’t really been any way for Petri to argue the point with him; no one, least of all her, knew what surprises her unique biology held. So, she had shifted the conversation to the fact that planets like Sheol didn’t have the resources to combat new diseases the way more developed worlds did. That by coming to a place like this, she would put people in more danger, not less. That was when the conversation had devolved into a shouting match.

Daji had started babbling about something called “population density” and how it affected the way “emerging infections” spread and whether they took hold in a population or burned out. Apparently, the more people there were living in close quarters, the more likely a new disease would be to infect and kill new people. At least, that’s what she thought the gist of his lecture had been about. It had been over Petri’s head and she had felt stupid for not understanding something he obviously considered common knowledge. It made her angry, and she had stormed out and gone in search of a decent meal for her power.

That was another reason she had been so short-tempered. With her new-found control, she had been able to feed from Daji on a regular basis without draining too much of his energy and endangering him. It was enough to sustain her and keep her power from getting out of control, but feeding in such a way left her feeling constantly hungry. The fact that Daji shared his food with them, and she had enough to eat for the first time in her life helped, but it wasn’t enough. She needed to feed her power.

Knowing that her stay on this planet would be short and that she wouldn’t be feeding on any of her clients here more than once, she’d had no qualms about feeding deeply from them. The first few may have felt a little tired and in need of a good night’s sleep and a meal when they left her, but nothing worse than that. After she had taken the edge off her hunger, the rest wouldn’t have felt even that much of a drain. And they all left completely satisfied with her services.

Being fed on by Petri made her prey feel amazing. Daji described it to her as an orgasm that touched every cell in his body and left him floating for hours. And being full again felt just as incredible to Petri. After the last couple of days, her body sang with her power and she felt like she might just have the energy to tackle all the reading Daji and Chessie wanted her to do.

Having time and resources to devote to anything other than getting the basics needed for survival was a new state of affairs for Petri. Her entire life before this had been devoted to getting enough money to put food in her belly, a roof over her head, and protecting herself from those who wanted to take what little she had. Now, she had leisure time and Daji and Chessie were determined to help her fill it.

Chessie lived with her father as a child, and so had a little more security than Petri in her early years. Since she hadn’t had to scramble to survive, she’d had the opportunity to learn to use the rainbow. Those skills eventually developed to make her into the diddler she was now, but she had also learned to enjoy learning. She didn’t have any formal education, almost no one did in Under City, but she had learned how to research and find things out for herself. Now, she was determined to help Petri learn as well. And Daji cheered her on.

It wasn’t just Petri they were after; they both gave Sadaka a mountain of data to process, as well. But the little girl was incredibly smart and took to the education like fur to a Paka. She delighted in telling Petri about what she learned, which only made Petri feel even worse about her own abilities.

Because of her power, Petri had trouble focusing in the virtual world and controlling her surroundings enough to navigate through the material Chessie and Daji determined to be most critical. And the weird resonance that existed between her power and the digital environment made it extremely hard for Petri to concentrate. Not being able to fuel her power properly had only exacerbated the problem.

Sighing, Petri pushed those thoughts aside. Her power was now fully sated, and it was time she found out if she was stranded on this hellish world. She didn’t think so. Daji might have been angry enough to leave her, but she knew that Chessie would never abandon her. Still, if he had incapacitated the older woman in some way, it was possible Petri would have to find another way back to civilization.

After studying the town for a few more minutes, Petri thought she had the right building identified. Ducking her head against the ever-present wind, she hurried to find out if she still had a ride.

 

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New Release – Star Glory by T.Jackson King

Today I have a New Release for you, Star Glory, book in the Empire Series, by my friend T. Jackson King.

Star Glory

 

Description1

Nathan Stewart never expected to be homeless in the galaxy. But that is what happens when his starship Star Glory is ambushed by a fleet from the alien-run Empire of Eternity. His captain is given a choice–surrender and pledge that Earth will join the Empire as a Servant species, or Earth will be destroyed! Nathan watches all this happening from his job as an antimatter engineer on the Engineering Deck. But what can he do? He’s just a country boy raised on a Colorado cattle ranch. As two other Earth ships are destroyed, Nathan gets a wild idea that might save his ship. The idea works. The Star Glory escapes destruction. But the ship, his captain, his crewmates and Nathan cannot return to Earth without learning a way to defy the Empire. But learning about the entity that rules four arms of the galaxy and has now expanded into Orion Arm is dangerous. Nathan does his best to help his crewmates but will it be enough?

 

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Samhain in Southern Hemisphere – Beltane in Northern Hemisphere

As we begin to move away from Autumn and flow into winter here in the Southern Hemisphere we celebrate Samhain, stay toasty and warm in these cold months.  Blessed Be!

How To Celebrate the God & Goddess at Samhain

Posted on October 31, 2014 by ladyoftheabyss

In some Wiccan traditions, by Samhain, the Goddess has entered her incarnation of Crone. She is the Old One, the earth mother, the wise one we turn to when we need advice. She teaches us that sometimes we must let go in order to move on. The God, at Samhain, is the Horned One, the stag of great antlers, the god of the wild hunt. He is the animal that dies so that we may eat, and the grains and corn that once lived in the field before our harvest. We can honor these late-fall aspects of both the Goddess and the God in one ritual.

Begin by casting a circle, if your tradition requires it. Prior to starting the ceremony, place three sheaves of corn or wheat around the ritual space. You’ll also need a statue or other image of the God and of the Goddess at the center of your altar. Around the statues, place five candles — red and black to represent the dark aspect of the Goddess, green and brown to symbolize the wild God, and white for the hearth and home.

Place a plate of dark bread, enough for each person present, near the center of the altar, along with a cup of wine or cider. Circle the altar. The youngest person present will act as the Handmaiden, and the oldest as the High Priest (HP) or High Priestess (HPs). If you’re performing this rite as a solitary, simply take on both parts. The HPs lights the red and black candles, and says:

A pair of candles is lit
in honor of the Goddess.
She is Maiden and Mother throughout the year
and tonight we honor her as Crone.

Next, the HPs lights the brown and green candles, saying:

A pair of candles is lit
in honor of the God.
He is wild and fertile and animal
and tonight we honor him as the Horned God.

The Handmaiden takes the bread and walks the circle with the plate, allowing each person to tear off a chunk. As they do so, she says: May the blessings of the Goddess be upon you. The cup of wine or cider is passed around, and each person takes a sip. As they do, the Handmaiden should say: May the blessings of the God be upon you.

The Handmaiden then lights the fifth candle, for the hearth, saying:

This candle is lit
in honor of hearth and home.
The mother and father, the Goddess and God,
watch over us tonight as we honor them.

The HPs then takes over, saying:

We light these five candles
for the powerful Goddess
and her mighty horned consort, the God,
and for the safety of home and hearth.
On this, the night of Samhain,
when the Goddess is a wise Crone,
and the God is a wild stag,
we honor them both.

The Handmaiden says:

This is a time between the worlds,
a time of life and a time of death.
This is a night unlike any other night.
Ancient ones, we ask your blessing.
Goddess, great Crone, mother of all life,
we thank you for your wisdom.
Horned God, master of the wild hunt, keeper of the forest,
we thank you for all that you provide.

At this time, the rest of the group may also say thanks. If you wish to make an offering to the God and Goddess, now is the time to place it upon the altar.

Once all offerings have been made, and thanks given, take a moment to meditate on the new beginnings of Samhain. Consider the gifts that the gods have given you over the past year, and think about how you might show them your gratitude in the coming twelve months. As the old year dies, make room in the new year for new things in your life. You may not know yet what’s coming, but you can certainly imagine, dream and hope. Tonight, this night between the worlds, is the perfect time to imagine what things may come.

End the ritual in the way called for by your tradition.

Tips:

  • Decorate your altar with symbols of the God — antlers, acorns, pine cones, phallic symbols — and representations of the Goddess, such as red flowers, cups, pomegranates, etc.
  • If your tradition honors a specific pair of male and female deities, feel free to substitute their names in this ritual wherever it says God or Goddess.

By Patti Wigington

Paganism/Wicca Expert

Beltane in Northern Hemisphere

Beltane blessings to all in the Northern Hemisphere as you begin to feel the sun on your face and the warm Spring and Summer months come forward. Blessed Be!

Beltane1

Beltane Festival is held in honour of the god Bel.

In some modern traditions he is also known by the names, Beli, Belar, Balor, or Belenus.

In the myth of many modern traditions of wicca/witchcraft, Beltane marks the appearance of the Horned One, who is the rebirth of the Solar God slain during the Wheel of the Year. He then becomes consort to the Goddess, impregnating her with his seed, and thereby ensuring his own rebirth once again.

Beltane marks the beginning of summer’s half and the pastoral growing season. The word “Beltane” literally means “bright fire”, and refers to the bonfires lit during this season.

It is also a time of beginnings, the beginnings of many new projects.

Beltane is a fertility festival, concerned with Nature enchantments and offerings to wildlings and Elementals.

The return of full-blown fertility is now very evident.

The powers of elves and faeries are growing and will reach their height at the Summer Solstice.

The celts respected faeries, active at this sabbat, and were sure that these Little People would come to the celebration disguised as humans to ask for a part of the fire, which, when freely given, would give the faeries some measure of power over the giver.

Beltane is the cross quarter holiday between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice it is the time when the abundance of flowers and green is a welcome relief from winters drabness; it was traditionally a day for leaping the Beltane fires, which were lit to honour the sun god, and for celebrating fertility.

Beltane celebrates the blessing between Mother Earth and Father Sky and honours all life.

Both are times when the “veil” between the worlds is thought to be thinnest, and therefore magik can happen, such as visits from faeries or similar other-worldly occurrences.

This is a good time for invoking our spirit guides to help us.

A blessed Beltane to you!

First Chapter – Blood of Denebria by Jean Kilczer

Today I have a First Chapter for you from Blood of Denebria, book four in the Star Sojourner series by my friend Jean Kilczer.  This is a great series.

jean-blood-of-denbria

 

Description1

A sinister alien race invades a peaceful planet, planning to eat its inhabitants. Jules Rammis has another heroic mission to accomplish.

Jules – telepath, astrobiologist and reluctant hero – has faced many nasty aliens in his adventures. But never a race so sinister, so cruel, that it invades the peaceful planet of Denebria specifically to use its people as a food supply.

Jules is drawn into the fray when his former father-in-law, retired Counter-Terrorist Captain Joe Hatch, convinces Jules to accompany his undercover team to Denebria, posing as a consultant. Jules must attempt to discover the BEMs’ homeworld in a mindlink with a BEM leader, and allow the Worlds Alliance Forces to engage the brutal race on their own turf.

It should be a walk in the park, but the BEM’s show more resourcefulness than anyone expected, and Jules and the team find themselves in a fight for their lives. Jules is compelled to increase his powerful tel abilities even further, but is it enough to vanquish the BEMs’ All Mother, or has Jules finally met his match?

The fourth book in Jean Kilczer’s Star Sojourner Series, Blood of Denebria is a standalone novel and can be enjoyed even if you haven’t read other books in the series.

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I watched stars streak by through the viewport as our small ship plunged out of control toward the deadly radiation zones of the inner galaxy. The Instrument panel sparked. Burned wires dangled as Sojourner made erratic jumps.

“Chancey!” I yelled into my BioSuit mic as I tried to loosen a strut that held the airlock’s damaged outer door shut. “The damn thing’s jammed!”

“Give me sixty seconds, Jules,” he said evenly. Chancey doesn’t get shaken. He burned through a tie-down on the lifeboat and snapped the clamp open. I continued to tug on the strut as he kicked off and floated toward me. His muscular body stretched the form-fitting suit around his biceps and chest as he grabbed handholds and pulled himself along in zero gravity. His black, sculpted features were grim in the airlock’s flashing warning lights.

“Mayday. Mayday. Mayday!” Joe Hatch called in his gravelly voice through his mic and held down the transmit button on the Star Positioning System. “This is the starship SL-5 Sojourner. Our ship is damaged and making unprogrammed jumps. Four adults onboard. Calling anyone. Request assistance. We are launching the lifeboat.”

“We’re trying to,” I said through my teeth and gripped the wrench tighter. My stomach lurched as the ship jumped again. I yanked on the strut. “Hang on, Huff!” I yelled to my Vegan friend. His thickset body was stuffed into a Terran BioSuit and his movements were awkward and stiff. He nodded his white-furred snout which was jammed against the helmet. I heard him whine as he tried to untangle a maze of exposed sparking wires on the lifeboat’s bow with broad, gloved paws. “I’m hanging good, my Jules Terran friend,” he said, “and wish I were not being so bounced!”

We were silent as Joe tried again. “Grave and immediate danger,” he rasped into the unit. “All vessels, warp through our distress call to Operations on planet Alpha.”

When no response came, he glanced at me and Chancey and shook his head.

“Hurry up, Chancey!” I called as he approached, and yanked again on the jammed strut.

He reached me and gripped the wrench alongside my hands. With our boots braced against the wall, we pulled hard. I felt the strut move. “It’s loosening!” I said.

“Yeah.”

“We are about to abandon ship.” Joe said into his mic. Joe’s a retired captain with the Counter Terrorist Force of W-CIA, and my former father in law. We’d been in some tight spots together on planet Fartherland against General Ki Rowdinth, but I’d never seen his face so drawn, the lines of age so deep beneath his prominent nose and under the white stubble of his beard.

Grav adjusters swung wildly from Earth’s G- force to zero and back again, slamming us against the wall, then releasing us to float. With the airlock’s twisted door half blown, the danger was that one of us would be thrown out into space.

The adjusters swung back to E-force and our sudden weight as we yanked on the strut finally broke it free.

“C’mon,” Chancey said.

We went to the outer door and yanked it open to the eerie blackness of space, speckled with distant stars.

“Where the hell are we?” I whispered.

Chancey shook his head.

I listened to Joe’s continued distress call. “Any luck?” I asked him as Chancey and I made our way back to the lifeboat.

The look he gave me said more than his words. “I’m afraid we’re out of range.”

And out of luck, I thought. “I’ll lend you a hand,” I told Huff, and untangled two hot wires.

“Lend both of the hands, Jules,” Huff said. “This tangle of biting snakes needs the long human tentacles.”

“Hang on!” I yelled as Sojourner made another unscheduled jump. I tried to steady my breathing. I was using up air too fast, but we were still heading into some heavy radiation zones.

Joe set the SPS unit on Alpha’s Guard Station, though we had little hope of contact, and clamped it to his metallic waistband as the grav adjusters shut down again. The freed lifeboat tilted and floated into a wall. “Let’s go!” he said, “before the damned thing leaves without us.” He pulled himself inside the lifeboat and held open the door.

Chancey took the pilot’s seat and started the engines. Joe sat beside him and activated the distress signals on the heads-up holo display. Huff and I squeezed into the rear seats. It was tight quarters, to say the least. I helped him strap in, then clamped my own belts and stared out the viewport as Chancey guided the small craft through the torn outer door and into the vast silence of deep space.

“Does anybody happen to know why that ship attacked us?” I asked. “And who the hell were those crotefuckers?”

“The ship isn’t from any known system,” Joe said and studied the display. “I suspect we encountered a warship from the race that invaded Denebria.”

“They could’ve easily destroyed Sojourner,” Chancey said, “instead of just crippling her. I wonder why they didn’t?”

“Maybe they are not killers of people,” Huff offered.

I glanced at him.

“Maybe they are like the floe breeders of my homeworld who bite the tails off squigglers that crawl  onto their ice.”

“They bit off our tails all right,” Joe muttered.

A sense of desolation crept into my soul as Sojourner disappeared in another warp jump. Huff leaned his helmeted head against me and I patted his forearm. I watched over Joe’s shoulder as he studied the holo for Earth-type planets where we could land and await rescue.

Rescue, I thought, that would probably never come. “You see any promising planets, Joe?” I asked.

“The Search program located two possibles.” He pointed to two blinking dots on the holo. “They’re both E-types, but….”

I bit my lip as I waited.

“They’re both designated hostile-eight,” he finished.

“That’s a pretty high hostile rating,” Chancey said.

“Any chance on the Denebrian star system?” I asked.

“It’s off the map,” Joe said.

“My people have a saying for times like this,” Huff told us.

His people had a saying for every nuance in life. “OK, Huff. What do they say?”

“If you are lost in one of the oceans, do not search for rescue. Remain on your ice floe and let the rescue search for you.”

We were silent. The lifeboat was not capable of making jumps, and there were millions of “ice floes” out there.

I leaned back and closed my eyes. This was supposed to be a short trip to planet Denebria, where the gentle Denebrian folk were under attack by an aggressive race. We were supposed to drop off Chancey, a W-CIA undercover agent. As a telepath, I had agreed to attempt a probe of the invaders’ minds for clues as to their motivations, and possible methods to turn them back.

I pictured Shannon, my girlfriend from the Irish community on planet Fartherland, at home with her family and friends of dwarfs and tall people. I think we both knew from the beginning that we were star-crossed lovers, to coin a phrase. With no work for an astrobiologist in the small mining town of Gorestail on Fartherland, and with Shannon’s growing desire to return to her people and start a family, we both knew that the love affair was over.

After this supposedly Sunday jaunt, I was supposed to continue my work at the Los Alamos National Lab on blackroot, a strange animal-plant I’d run into, literally, on planet Halcyon, and visit my daughter Lisa on weekends.

That had been the plan. But the best laid plans….

Joe’s SPS suddenly crackled. “Mayday,” a voice came through in stelspeak. “Sojourner SL-5. This is Denebrian Outpost Deep Station warping through.

“Oh my God!” I clutched the backrest of Chancey’s seat.

“I knew that one of the Ten Gods would hear our prayers,” Huff whispered.

“We followed your ship’s jumps and we are homing in on your signals,” the voice said with metallic overtones. Was that the radio, I wondered, or the alien’s own timbre?

Chancey glanced at Joe, who was staring at the holo display. “I don’t recognize the accent,” Joe said, “and we’re too far out for a Denebrian station.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” Chancey said. “I’d say we run silent.”

“I should’ve known it was too good,” I muttered.

“There they are.” Joe pointed to a blip on the holo.

I watched him flip a row of levers as he shut down the signaling systems. “What about those two planets?” I asked.

“Once we land this boat,” Chancey said, “we’re committed. She can’t drive off-planet and she can’t make jumps.

“On the other hand,” I said, “our air supply here is limited.”

He nodded and steered the boat toward a star system.

“Chancey.” Joe pointed to a small rocky outer planet with a moon in tow. “We’ll hide out behind that one.”

Chancey nodded and turned toward the planet.

“This is Deep Station,” the voice came back. “We just lost your signals. What are your coordinates?”

Joe shut off the SPS unit.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Can you hide in the shadow of that nighttime moon? I want to try for a telepathic probe of the ship.”

Chancey glanced at Joe.

“It’s worth a try,” Joe said and looked back at me. “See if you can get an image of their home system while you’re at it. The Worlds Alliance would like to know just where the hell they came out of. If we ever get back there to tell them.”

I nodded and lowered my head. With my eyes closed I mentally opened my mind to the void outside our boat and imagined myself drifting toward the starship, about two hundred yards away. It took a while, then I felt that strange, uneasy break between mind and body. My stomach clenched and I grabbed Huff’s forearm. He pressed it against me for reassurance. The prospect of probing alien mentalities, especially a warlike race that had attacked a peaceful people without provocation, was not conducive to a peaceful state of mind.

“I will hold your body and protect your living life in the arms of my being,” Huff said.

I felt the frigid black indifference between stars open up around me. The physical sensations ceased and there came that strange feeling of drifting, not through space, but through vibrations at the core of energy. The universe sang. I willed my kwaii, what we Terrans call soul, to move through the subliminal music and toward the alien ship.

The gray hull sparked with electrical streaks through glassy tubes, but metal was no more than the barrier of water when you dive beneath the viscous surface. I went through it and into the ship.

I mentally gasped and almost backed out at the alien nature of the chamber. I had entered some kind of a nursery. In the yellow lights, strings of burgundy eggs hung like dark grapes on vines from the convex ceiling, except that these grapes had eyes and gulping mouths within their fluid-filled sacs. Perhaps a hundred vines swayed in the flow of air from wall vents. Behind the transparent ceiling, blue and green liquid swirled, came together in emerald shades, then parted again.

Damn! I thought as a thirty-foot long amorphous alien with bulging egg sacs protruding from beneath her mantle floated above the ceiling, enmeshed in stems of the branching vines. She was attended by the vague forms of much smaller creatures who scurried around her body. One mounted her rear and heaved against her in what I assumed was a transfer of sperm. The other fed her dark chips. Her body undulated and eggs slid down vines like tiny droplets of black rain. The egg cases that touched the soft, white-furred floor beneath, bulged like glistening ripe melons, with developed fetuses that wiggled within their translucent shells.

And I thought blackroot was strange!

Could this be a warship? I wondered.

As I watched, a large egg case split open. Bubbly fluid leaked out. The brown “baby,” all arms and eyes and tentacles, plopped wetly to the encompassing folds of the furry carpet. His round mouth opened and closed as he gasped in air. Short, prickly hairs, like porcupine quills, began to stiffen and dry. He turned and climbed the vine on slippery tentacles, bit off a smaller egg and chewed it.

Jesus and Vishnu. As an astrobiologist I had seen some strange lifeforms, but these aliens were in a class all their own.

A round chamber door slid open and I instinctively backed away, then remembered that I had no physical substance. The seven-foot tall creature who entered had the largest eyes I’d ever seen on any Earth or alien species. They protruded from his domed head like two golden discs. Nose slits opened and closed as he breathed. His mouth was a downward curve of brown-speckled lips.

He stalked into the chamber on two muscular tentacles with splayed toes. More ropy tentacles were wrapped around his elongated body, with toes and fingers curled. He was all tentacles and head, with a prickly coat of sable fur that rippled across muscles as he walked.

Holy Christ and Brahma, I thought. BEMs! I’d seen photos of them on history cubes and in books. We called them bug-eyed-monsters because no race in the known worlds could pronounce their native name. They were an aggressive people, known for their brutal slaughter of captured enemies during the Twelve-Year- with the Worlds Alliance. Their unchecked breeding habits had driven them to invade inhabited worlds in a quest for much-needed resources. The war ended with their defeat and the destruction of their military machine. That was over a hundred E-years ago. They were never traced back to their homeworld and never heard from again, to everyone’s relief.

Until now. Had they rebuilt their war machine? Then Denebria was probably just the first world in another expansionist agenda. Great Mind, was the Alliance in for an all-out war? I resolved to gather as much information as possible while on this ship and hope that somehow we could relay it to Alpha.

I watched the BEM go to the baby, unravel three more tentacles and pick him up. He tucked the newborn under his short, furred mantle. To nurse? I wondered, as he left the room walking on four tentacles this time, probably to brace himself with the added weight of the infant.

Great Mind, what were you thinking, I thought, when you came up with this one?

I moved into the next chamber, a bedroom, I assumed, of round staggered platforms like spiral staircases. Two adults lay curled on the platforms, their saucer eyes covered by great lids with lashes. Seven infants, ranging in size, slept or played in frosted cubicles stacked along the walls.

I watched the adult with the newborn open an empty cubicle, carefully place the infant inside, and insert a feeding tube into its mouth. Tiny tentacles waved from under the baby’s mantle and a slit seeped yellow fluid. The adult closed the lid and moved among the cubicles, tweaking dials and tapping the covers. The playing babies responded by tapping the insides of the covers.

I willed myself to drift into the next chamber, the galley, where metal straws, each in its own carved sphere, protruded from the ceiling like udders. Three adults clung upside down, their mantles clamped to the spheres, their bodies rippling as they drank through straws. Another BEM sat on a counter, eating curled green chips from a stacked pan. I wondered what the smells and sounds would be like as I drifted through the chamber and into the next one.

And there it was. The heart of the warship. The control room. Holo screens scanned space around the ship. Searching for us? I wondered. The big laser cannons, seen on monitors, jutted from starboard and portside. Only Great Mind knew what other weaponry was contained onboard. Chancey had been right. They could have blown us into the next universe if they’d wanted to. I could only guess at the nature of this ship: reconnaissance, attack vessel, support for ground troops? Or something else. A chill settled in my mind. Were they growing those juveniles as replacements for future lost combat troops?

Fifteen aliens manned the maze of controls in a circle. I saw no insignias nor any other signs to distinguish officers from crew. Perhaps, as with ant colonies, it was the queen who ran the show. If we ever managed to contact Alpha, the seat of the Worlds Government, I would relay that information. Kill the queens and you might abort the attacks on Denebria and other worlds.

I chose an alien who sat at a central console within the circle. Usually a power tag is in the center, surrounded by his officers. I conjured a red coil of telepathic power within my mind and spun it like a spider forming a silk thread. I forced it to spin and grow. A tel probe is no fun. It burns out brain cells and I always end up with a headache. At the least. When it swelled into a small tornado, I threw it at him and probed.

And was beaten back by a swarm of tel links. This was a communal mind! They descended like bees to sting my mind. I threw up mental shields as they tried to shred the coherence of my thoughts in a tsunami of deep probes.

Uh oh. I backed toward the hull. Time to leave this tangled web. But my shields were forced down in a synchronized attack.

Mind thief, one sent. What are you doing here?

Intruder, another shouted within my mind. Intruder! Intruder!

Invader of the homeship!

I’m leaving, OK? I sent. I’m going now. Bug off.

They conjured a mental curtain that blocked out the control room and the ship’s hull, leaving me lost in a void without reference points. I tried to squeeze out of the  spider web by moving toward an image I projected of the lifeboat. A tel force came through, stronger than the others. A thought in their native tongue plowed across my mind and left erratic furrows like spaces in my thoughts.

Was that the queen?

The curtain dropped. I was suddenly released, as though the web was ripped aside. I willed myself out of the ship and fled back to Sojourner, followed by a swarm of tel links that struck at me like bee stings until I entered our boat and my body.

The sensations of living flesh grew around me in layers. A murmur of voices. “I think he’s back,” Chancey said. I felt the pressure of the seat and my BioSuit and helmet against my body. The taste of air was stale as I drew in a long, shuddering breath. I opened my eyes. They ached from the sudden glare of light and I tried to rub them, but my fingers hit the helmet. Huff and Joe and Chancey were gathered around me.

“Jules Terran,” Huff said, “is your mind with your body again?”

I nodded.

“You were out there a long time, Chancey said. “What happened, tag?”

“Did you find out anything?” Joe asked.

“They’re BEMs, Joe,” I told him. “The Denebrian invaders are BEMs!”

Joe straightened. “Are you “Are you certain of that? Nobody’s heard from them for over a hundred years.”

“They’re back,” I said. “I’ve seen the photos of them on old cubes.”

“How come the Denebrians never told Alpha that they’re BEMs?” Chancey asked.

“The Denebrians were never in contact with them,” Joe said. “They wouldn’t know a BEM from an Altairian guzzler. They’re a clannish race. They weren’t interested in history beyond their own planet and the BEMs didn’t attack Denebria in the Twelve-Year-War.

“I’ll bet Denebria was on their short list,” I said, “before the BEMs’ defeat.”

Huff drew back his lips and shook his head, a sign of fear among Vegans. “Is my homeworld Kresthaven also on their list of shorts? We are also clannish about our clans.”

“I hope not, Huff,” I said.

Chancey sat and stared out a viewport. “I thought they got kicked down the technological ladder after their defeat, Joe.”

“They climbed back up,” I said. “Great Mind! I might have led them to us. Let’s get the hell out of here!”

Chancey swiveled his chair to face the instrument panel. “That’s why they didn’t destroy Sojourner.” He started the engines. “They know we’re from Alpha.” He glanced at Joe. “They’d like to know why an Alpha military scout ship was heading for Denebria.”

The clunk of metal clamping to the hull vibrated throughout the boat.

“That’s a tow line.” Joe stood up and stared at a monitor. “They’ve got us.”

“Damn,” I said softly.

“Listen to me,” Joe said. “All of you. Remember your cover. We came as consultants at the request of the Denebrians. We’re not taking sides in this conflict. We’re the avant garde of a peace-keeping force. You got that, Huff?”

Huff nodded. “I am here to keep peace from becoming war.”

“Joe,” I said, “there’s just one problem with that.”

“And that would be?” he asked grimly.

“The BEMs possess a communal mind, and it’s telepathic.”

He sat down hard beside Chancey. “Then we’d damn well better all believe the same lie.”

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New Release – Warlord’s Flame by L W Browning

Today I have a New Release for you, Warlord’s Flame, book two in the Krystile Warriors, by my friend L.W.Browning.  I have read book one Warlord’s Honor and it’s awesome.

Warlord's Flame (Krystile Warriors Book 2) by [Browning, L. W.]

 

Description1

Everyone is deserving of love. Var and Bess are not so sure.

Scarred Warlord Var is sent to rescue an empath with extra abilities, but Bess only wants to get away from him after a misunderstanding convinces her he plans to sell her to her death.

Danger lurks around every bend in this ill-fated mission and Bess becomes convinced that a mistake she made caused all the empaths to be hunted and killed.

Var and Bess battle each other and their own insecurities as well as dangerous circumstances and betrayals to escape to the sanctuary he promised her.

In the end, the passion they feel for each other cannot be denied and they’re forced to forgive each other and themselves and take the final ultimate risk for love.

 

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Halloween Promotion – Short Story Strands: Halloween 2012 Edition

Today’s scary book is Short Story Strands, a collection of short stories of the spooky kind by a group of talented authors.  This collection is FREE so grab yourself a copy and enjoy.

short-story-strands

 

Description1

Come celebrate Halloween in ways both spooky and fun in this collection of sixteen short stories spun by talented new voices in science fiction and fantasy.

Insecurity Complex, by Jade Kerrion
Empty Glass, by P.L. Blair
The Red Card, by Sheenah Freitas
Chanceus, by L’Poni Baldwin
My Soul To Take, by L.M. Boelz
The Nest, by Linell Jeppsen
The Medusa Touch, by Sam Kates
Skinshade, by T. Jackson King
Little Girls Squealing in the Yard, by Lalo LaFleur
Tender Moments, by Massimo Marino
Blood Relation, by Patrick Ottuso
Grandma to the Rescue, by Sharon L Reddy
The Power of Spirit, by Ch’Kara SilverWolf
Dominique, by Edwin Stark
In Space No One Can Hear You Scream, by Lisa Williamson
Spoils of Earth, by Michael Youngblood

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Halloween Promotion – Amor Maldito by Simone Beaudelaire

Today’s scary story is Amor Maldito by my friend Simone Beaudelaire.  We also have an excerpt to give us a taste.

simone-amor-maldito-spanish

 

Description1

Evening in South Texas. The citrus scented breeze fans the palm fronds. Lovers linger in the growing darkness, hoping to steal a moment alone.
But their solitude is about to be shattered as legends of the Border come to life to claim new victims. Tragedy, love, terror and myth merge in this trio of tantalizing tales… 

 

Excerpt2

Yesterday, in class, he’d noticed she’d drawn his name on her notebook and put a little heart around it. That was all the invitation Ethan Miller required. He’d been eyeing Yesenia Morales for weeks, wondering if he dared ask her out.

The pretty Mexican-American girl had been his tour guide when he’d arrived on the campus of The University of Texas- Pan American three months ago, freshly out of the Marine Corps and ready to use his G.I. Bill money to pursue his goal of becoming an engineer. From the first time he’d seen Yesenia, he’d been possessed by an attraction the likes of which he could not remember ever feeling, in all his twenty-two years of life.

As he sat in an uncomfortable seat in the recital hall, staring at the black velvet curtains covering the empty stage, he remembered the day. He’d driving around the campus for over an hour looking for parking, and had been reduced to using the Wal-Mart across the street. Muttering and grumbling in the heat, he’d jaywalked across the busy road, earning the ire of drivers, who honked, receiving a one-finger salute in response. At last he’d arrived, drenched with sweat and far from certain about his overall freshness, at the student services building, where his frustration had melted like a snow cone in the sun. A soft, girlish voice cut through the crowd, though the speaker was invisible.

“Okay, it’s time to go. I’m not waiting for anyone else. Hello, everyone. Welcome to The University of Texas- Pan American. My name is Yesenia, and I’ll be showing you around today. This is the student services building, as you might know. You can pay your bills, sign up for financial aid, and meet with advisors here. If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you the rest of campus.” The crowd parted to allow the young woman through, and at the sight of her, Ethan was instantly enthralled. Yesenia was not just pretty, she was gorgeous. She had shimmering black hair, pulled into two girlish braids. They hung over each shoulder, tied at the ends with little flowers.  She was tiny, not quite five feet. She was also slender, but had lovely curves, revealed just a little in a skimpy sundress that countered the blistering South Texas heat. He’d looked into her big brown eyes as she passed him, and was lost. Those eyes made him want to do something stupid, like write poetry.

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