Dead in Space – Released!

It is finally time. It has taken quite a while to get it done but I am finally able to release it. I am proud to announce the release of the second book in the Star Traveler Series! As of this post, Dead in Space is available both on Smashwords.com and Amazon.com!

After taking the leap into deep space, the crew of the Icarus must traverse the long void between star clusters. Everything would have gone according to plan if it was not for a simple error on the part of a manufacturer. Facing death in space or an ancient trap, Captain Sinclair Barrett must make decisions that could seal the fate of the entire crew. Will he make the right one or will they be forever stuck in orbit of a dead world?

Where  can you get it?

 

She (1887) Review

She (She, #1)She by H. Rider Haggard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have been a fan of H. Rider Haggard’s work for quite a number of years though my reading of his works have been limited. For a time, I absolutely loved his King Solomon’s Mines and the sequel Allan Quartermain. When I discovered that the books were available in audiobook from from librivox.org, I had to download the other ones and read through them.

This book, She, has been on my list for quite sometime knowing that it has influenced many other writers like C.S. Lewis’ Queen Jadis and “She who must be obeyed” has been a line used in a few movies.

I found this book to be a rip-roar adventure just like H. Rider Haggard’s other works but found the story weaker than his other works. Ayesha was characterized very well and I thought the character was very fascinating. The problem I had the most was the ending. Though I won’t go into detail, it felt like the writer had accidentally designed a too powerful character and had to use a dues ex machina to solve the story beat.

This book is fascinating to read in the collection of imperial Victorian literature of the time and though our modern perceptions have changed and can consider this book racist, I found that H. Rider Haggard had kept it to a minimum focusing more on a story in Africa than anything else. If you can look past these, I think you will find a very interesting story.

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The Stories of 2017 – Where are They?

Over the year, since I released both Sword of Shadows and Kaon Rising, I have been working hard on getting some more stories told. Life has been very hectic on me which in turn has not given me much time to work on them. I thought it was time to give you an update on what to expect for the rest of the year.

Jassik Creed & the Meek Prince
Yes, I am still developing this one, and there is only 20% left to do on the first draft. There is still editing to be done, so I’m not looking at a release until December of this year. All the art is done, and I am hoping to release samples of it in the future!

Star Traveler 2: Dead in Space
This story went really well but hit a few snags that I was not anticipating both with my work schedule and with some plot issues I did not catch on the outline. 60% of the story is written, and I’m hoping to have the rest done by September of this year

Blood in Space: Harvest
I love this story, but it doesn’t love me. I keep struggling with getting it on paper due to writer’s block. I know there is something subconscious that I need to fix, but it has yet to come to me when I write it. I get to put a few words on paper when I have a moment, but it sits only 40% done. I do want to finish it because I thoroughly enjoy this one but it might not be until January of next year.

Ending
I have a whole bunch of other stories I want to write, and I might release them here and there when the energy hits me, but the biggest part that I have been fighting is writer’s block due to the stress and exhaustion from my job. I just find myself sitting at a computer screen staring at the words wishing the great ideas I just had would finally come out. Have no fear, I haven’t given up yet, and I will get these done. I love them, and they each hold a special part of my heart.

The Thing From the Lake (1921) Review

The Thing From the LakeThe Thing From the Lake by Eleanor Marie Ingram
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first picked up this title, I did it only because the title sounded interesting and unusual for books from the 1920s. I have a personal like for the older literature as it gives you an interesting look into our past.

The Thing From the Lake was a book that caught me off guard. I found the story to be very intriguing once you have gotten to the 20s style of flowery words and digressions in thought that would typically be cut out of books today.

I found that this book read to me like one of the first types of supernatural/science fiction type stories where what you would expect doesn’t turn out the way you thought. I was completely caught off by the (good) ending.

The book has some things that could be considered issues nowadays. As it was written in the 1920s, the opinion and way women are portrayed my strike a wrong chord with the modern reader. Though Ms. Ingram does well of giving her female leads personality, they do conform more of the cute, need-to-be-rescued type damsels though they do have action of their own and aren’t “sexy lamps” that could be easily replaced.

I enjoyed this book and look forward to rereading it one day.

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Writing My Stories…One Step at a Time.

Lately, I have not really had much to say. Life has been pretty bumpy for me as I am moving positions in the company that I work for. It is only one point of stress that I have in my life presently, and so writing has taken a backseat.

It really sucks when you do not have the energy to do the thing that you love. While I am at work, I always come up with these fantastic ideas that would be great on paper but as soon as I get home, family life takes over. Once that is done, there is the choice of sleep or writing, and many times I have to choose sleep.

It irks me that I have to keep pushing back the release dates on the two novellas I want to release this year, and right now, I’m staring into oblivion trying to find the time to finish them. Am I just complaining for the sake of complaining? No.

The point I’m trying to get to in a roundabout way is that the only thing that keeps my hope up that the novellas will come out. To want the next story to be told is how much I love writing and that even when the ideas just sit and fester in my brain, there will be a time to get it out. I mean, just writing this blog post that in the most amiable term is a rambling accident still smoldering.

I love writing and if there is any takeaway to this, do not give up on your writing even when the times are at their worst. The best thing you can do is find a way to transfer your idea in tangible form. Sitting right next to me is an index card holder that has my anchor scenes and plot points for a new novel I want to write. It’s being done one card at a time, but the great part is that it’s being done.

You have any tips on how to get through these times? If you do, why not leave me a comment below and let me know what you’re thinking. We writers need to stick together, and any help would be greatly appreciated.

Keep writing!

 

Trying to Unblock that Stupid Writer’s Block

Sometimes writer’s block is not a strong enough word to explain the suffering that a writer can experience when they hit a snag in the road. This has been the case for me since I released the first Star Traveler book. Since then, I have tried to force myself to write on the novella, and the pain has become unbearable at times.

For many of us, writer’s block is not a stop in the path. It can be an excruciatingly painful feeling that wells up in our chest and cause the anxiety to become stronger. This very blog post that I am writing is an attempt to unclog a sense with words but not on the project that is stressing me out.

I want to write, I am desperate to write, but this invisible block bottles up everything until I feel like I’m going explode. The problem I think that is the hardest to swallow is that I cannot figure out what causes these stop up of creativity and is the biggest stress of them all.

I honestly think we need a stronger word to explain the suffering and the pain writers go through like Writer’s Terror or something along that line.

Oh, well. All I can do is hope that this blog post helped relieve some of the pressure and maybe, just maybe, I can get back to the story that I want to write.

Thanks for listening to me.

Dead in Space – Sample Chapter!

I know it has been quite a while since I have had time to submit a blog post but life on in the real world has kept me pinned to the wall. For that I am sorry. Though this post itself is going to be short, I do have something to give to you.

Here is the first chapter for the upcoming Dead in Space, book 2 of the Star Traveler Series. Interested in a sneak peak of what you can expect? Then head on over and download the file!

Book #2 of the Star Traveler Series

I hope to get back to regular posting soon so thank you for your patience!

Short Story: The Witch-Queen and her King

The fight that ended their friendship also happened to break the realm. A girl stood on the edge of the chasm she’d opened in the earth and glared across the gap at her best friend’s retreating back. His knights closed in around him and she turned away, not willing to be caught staring. She stalked away from the gash as ash and cinders rained down around her.

The King moved the kingdom’s capital further north, hoping to avoid the worst of the environmental fallout. The landowners in the south moved their loyalty to the newly-crowned Witch-Queen in response to her promises to keep their land fertile. The kingdom slowly tore itself apart as everyone chose a side.

It was quiet for years, as resentment built on either side. The north was bright and cold. The peasants shivering and exhausted from their labors as they tried to pull life from the frozen ground. The south was dark and the sun’s heat built up underneath the ash that covered the sky. Magic flowed in the shadowed land, cruel and capricious. People there were well-fed but angry at the injustice in the land.

It was quiet for years, until all at once it wasn’t. Glares and whispered insults erupted into full-out violence over the smallest provocation. The villages on the borders were lost to the war, refugees flooding into the capital cities.

The Witch-Queen filled the ranks of her army with conscripted magic users. The King filled his with battle-hardened knights. The first official battle was forecast to be a nightmare of cold steel and fireballs. Soon after the battle had begun, though, the Witch-Queen herself waded into the melee. After calling her sorcerers to stop casting, she raised her arms and the bright sky dimmed slowly until it was as dark as night. The southern army was used to the dark, but the northern knights were not. They tried to hold their ground, but soon fled the field, led by their King.

An aide whispered to the Witch-Queen in the quiet aftermath, “How did you know they would retreat?”

“Because he’s always been afraid of the dark,” came the whispered reply.

In the second battle, the northern army came prepared with hundreds of torch-bearers. But that wasn’t what stopped the southern army in shock. They were startled, rather, by the salmon-pink paint coating every piece of armor. A horrible screech of anger rose from the middle of the southern army. The wind picked up unnaturally, swirling through both camps. Dirt and debris flew through the air until no one could see two feet in front of them. Both sides retreated some, afraid they would attack their own in the chaos. When the wind died down, every combatant had been so coated in dirt, they were impossible to tell apart. They shot stray arrows and fireballs at each other from a distance, but eventually gave up and retreated, calling the battle a draw.

The King watched as a depleted Witch-Queen was carried from the battlefield. His second-in-command stood beside him and shook his head in bewilderment.

“I can’t believe you were right. She really hates pink.”

.The nobles on both sides attempted to begin peace talks.The monarchs and their entourages met at a castle near the border. A peace treaty was composed, with excruciating slowness as scribes were forced to run from one solar to the other as the royals refused to actually see each other. A final dinner party was arranged by the Witch-Queen to accompany the final signings of the treaty.

The King sauntered into the dining hall with a cocky grin. It disappeared as he stood looking at the stuffed pig on the feast table. Color drained from his handsome face, then flooded back as he shouted.

“You SWORE! You swore you would never bring it up!” He grabbed his nearest nobles by their cloaks and dragged them back towards the door. “The treaty is OFF!”

The Witch-Queen had just entered the hall from another door and stared disconcertedly between the stuffed pig and retreating king.

“Oh dear.”

“But, your majesty, didn’t the king’s brother prepare the menu?”

“Yes. Oh, this isn’t good.”

The Northern Kingdom took its King’s insult to heart, though no one was quite sure what the actual insult had been. The King’s brother fled to the south and was assumed to be a traitor rather than just a jackass.

The Witch-Queen’s guards were all sent to the stocks when her pet bird was discovered missing, a taunting note left in its cage. “You always did leave your windows open at night.” A few months later, a new type of coin was minted in the north with a figure of a canary stamped on one side.

In retaliation, the southern army was ordered to set up barricades to stop all trade of cocoa into the northern kingdom. Food and other trade caravans were let through, but all cocoa products were confiscated and burned in great piles on the border to torment the chocolate-loving King.

The unrest in both kingdoms continued, and fights broke out often among the few people still living near the borders. The armies, however, seemed to be occupied more with winning a giant staring contest than actually going to war. Spies in both courts were kept busy with the tasks ordered by their respective royals, but the tasks tended towards inconvenience and annoyance rather than true sabotage (one spy in the Northern capital was put in the dungeons after getting caught hiding dead fish in crannies all over the castle).

Harvest came and both monarchs were forced to dismiss the majority of their armies to gather crops. Winter soon followed, and the conflict dwindled down to insults carried by royal couriers. Everyone dreaded the spring, when the war was sure to start again.

The neighboring kingdoms had stayed out of the struggle thus far, but an enemy was gathering to the north. They attacked the northern kingdom during planting season, while the army was scattered in the fields. A wave of refugees poured over the border and were quickly taken in by their southern neighbors. The capital was taken and the King captured within a fortnight.

The messenger who brought news of the King’s capture wasn’t sure what to expect from the Witch-Queen. Perhaps joy for the defeat of her enemy, or fear for the coming armies? Instead, she stood, burning with fury and ordered her generals to be gathered. The army was already pouring in, the planting taken over by northern refugees.

The army marched at dawn the next day, the Witch-Queen riding at the front. The weather reflected the Queen’s displeasure and the air crackled with electricity. The march north took a few weeks, and northern soldiers who had been scattered quietly joined the column.

The invading battalion wasn’t expecting much resistance. Their first strike had been a complete rout, and all their intelligence informed the command that there should be no support from surrounding kingdoms. When a full army showed up, they were surprised and quite confused. It was a rather ragtag army, full of angry sorcerers and knights in dirty pink armor. And in front of them all was a young woman with power sparking off her skin.

“I am the Witch-Queen,” came her amplified shout, “and you will turn over the asshole…I mean the King.”

The invaders laughed uneasily and refused. The battle was quick and brutal, with the sorcerers raining fire down on the invaders’ heads and the queen opening up the ground under their feet. The enemy couldn’t get close to the magic users to stop them as the pink knights formed a solid wall around the ranged fighters.

When the bulk of the invaders had been destroyed, the Witch-Queen rode in with a detachment of both knights and sorcerers to storm the command center.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to rescue you, dumbass.”

“I don’t need to be rescued!”

“Fine, stay there then.”

“…Wait!”

“What?”

“…Thank you.”

“…You’re welcome.”

It took a lot of work to repair the damage that had been done, both to the world and to the people. A lot of apologies on both sides, magic and hard work. Both monarchs offered to resign in recompense, but the people wouldn’t hear of it. They did insist on merging the kingdoms again, though. There was a long period of debate about who would rule, but in the end it was easily settled with a royal wedding.

There was no easy happily ever after for anyone in the realm, but there were plenty of good times. Trade flourished between the north and south so resources were distributed evenly. They built a full-time army made of both magic users and knights, and every single troop wore salmon-pink armor or robes. The currency was all changed to feature a canary rather than choose one of the royal faces. Stuffed pig was never allowed on the royal menu, but there was always plenty of chocolate.

The King and Witch-Queen’s arguments were legendary and common, but they limited the damage to their own apartments and both had learned to apologise. They had each learned the dangers of arrogance and stubbornness, and each valued the other too much to risk losing them.

The great chasm that the Witch-Queen had ripped in the earth remained untouched as a reminder of the dangers of pride. Of course the meaning was lost within a generation and it became just another tourist attraction. But the story of the Witch-Queen and her King was never completely forgotten.

Exhaustion & Creativity: A Clash of the Titans

There are times where I sit at my computer and stare at the horrible blinking cursor wondering where all the great ideas that I just had decided to run off to. Every time I never have a real answer. For me, it is a struggle to balance my need to be creativity with the actual physical exhaustion and mental drain that my paying job puts on me. Having a family, long hours at work, and the simple fact that after a hard day at work, I just do not want to do anything.

I fondly remember the days when I first had my typewriter or in my teens with my very first computer. I could do school and then spend hours just writing out all the stories that came to my head. There was no care in the world for perfect grammar, trying to make the story make sense and I was full of creativity potential.

Adulthood has been the complete opposite. I have these bouts of creative wonder that I burn to their full extent with hours of typing on the computer, but then it feels like weeks of unending misery as the great thoughts and stories I had on the car ride evaporate as soon as I sit down at my machine.

I know that creativity is in there and I know that I have to battle my depression or find the energy to tell the story I want to, but there comes a time where I cannot win. Those days it has proven to be better to hang up my pen than force it.

I guess in the end, the thing that has been constant is my continued love of stories and my refusal to get up. This rambling blog post is simply my emotions being poured out on the paper to try and work through the thoughts and the feelings I have on this subject. In a way, I’m trying to emulate the kid I once was and enjoy the art of creating that sweating over all the details and worrying all about the red and blue lines Microsoft Word is spitting at me.

I love writing. I know that will never change and I will have a continued battle between my Titans. If this post does anything, I hope it lets any other author in the same situation know they are not alone. We all have our particular monsters we have to beat. Just don’t give up.

From the Archives: Dark World Part 2

The security team lead by Commander Parker marched down the oval hallway lit up by florescent lights that stretched down the length of the passage like a double set of glowing railroad tracks. Silver struts crawled up the wall and connected on the ceiling, glittering like mirrors. Their destination was a bulkhead door with “Mess Hall” emblazoned on the front in red stencil.  When they came up to it, Ryan depressed the blue crystal switch. The phrase split down the center as the door rumbled open.

A small party of four people sat around one of the many blue plastic picnic tables lining the dinning room, huddled together talking in low murmuring tones. One of them with his back to the large window looked up in their direction. He mumbled something to the others and the rest turned to face him. The faces that he saw carried a mixture of hostility and relieved expressions.

Ryan cleared his throat. “I am Commander Ryan Parker of the Space Navy vessel Republic. We have quarantined this area until further notice.”

“Oh, finally,” growled a man with copper hair. His aqua eyes snapped in anger. “After half of us have been killed off already. Just wait a few more days and you space cowboys wouldn’t have to get off your lousy ship. We’d all be dead!”

“Mister…” Ryan started annoyed at the man’s words.

“Mathew Walters.” The scientist answered standing to his feet to face the Commander.

“Mr. Walters, you and this team are quite far from Earth. With the Space Navy battling the raiders all over the , how do you expect us to get here fast?” Ryan demanded with his arms folded.

Walters opened his mouth to answer, but an older gentlemen said, “Sit down and shut up, Mathew. You’re wasting air.”

Mathew glared down at the old man’s cool but serious face. He bit his lip as if to keep from saying something, then turned and left the room fuming. Ryan turned to a security guard and nodded to him to follow. The gray suited officer hurried out.

“I’m Dr. Adrian King,” the gentleman said answering the unspoken question. “I’m glad you’ve arrived. I was expecting it to take longer. Even with the standard hyper-drives it takes months for a ship to get out this far.”

“The Republic is equipped with the new Warp Drive system invented by Christopher McCully back on Earth. The Space Navy refit our ship first,” Ryan explained, glad to see a welcoming face.

“Warp?” Adrian said surprised. “I didn’t think they would start putting those on yet. Maybe when this is all over you can give me a tour of your engines.”

“Sure, once everything is back to normal,” Ryan answered.  He chose his words with some care; he wanted to re-mind these people that he was there trying to keep them from dying by whatever was on the dark world.

He turned to the rest of the members. “Captain Smyth has assigned a security officer to each of you. They will be your constant companions until we find out what is going on. Please do not go anywhere without them.”

“Has the ECU any idea what is going on?” asked a hard voice behind Ryan. He turned to face the voice and saw a dark form in the shadows leaning against the wall, arms folded across his chest.

“Uh…not at this time…may I ask who you are?” Ryan asked, looking at the shadowed face.

The man stepped forward with his arms still folded as he spoke. “I’m the Chief Geologist. My name is Velok.”

The commander stepped back horrified as his eyes took in the person in front of him. Velok was tall and built strong, his hair was pure black and his face was hard and cold. What stood out most about him was the color of his eyes. They were sparkling Burgundy.

“Your….your….” Ryan stuttered trying to get the words out of his mouth.

“I am Geminian.” Velok answered with a hint of an amused smile. “There are usually Gemininas this close to the Empire’s borders. You know of us?”

“I sure do!” Ryan hissed angrily. “We fought a war with you for seven bloody years! What are you doing here?”

“Mr. Velok is the in charge of Geology. He’s quite good at his job.” Adrian clarified unsure of the situation that was developing.

“And Commander, “ Velok said. “The war is over. It’s been over for 5 years. The Geminian Empire and the Earth Colonies United now get along peaceably.”

“I don’t call incursions on our border worlds peaceable.” Ryan muttered low under his breath.

Velok raised a black bushy eyebrow.  Ryan felt guilty that he was reacting the wrong way. He was the Executive Officer of the Republic; he had a standard to set; treating the Geminian like he was demeaned that standard. The captain would not approve—even if he did not like the man’s race, common courtesy, not to mention professional rules of con-duct required him to treat the alien with respect. He mentally kicked himself.

“My apologies for my hasty comments, Mr. Velok.” Ryan said formally.  “I regret the need, but there is a security guard assigned to you also. Do not stray to far from where help can get to you.”

“Fear not, Commander. I learned years ago to watch my back.”

Adrian cleared his throat.  The Commander turned to him. “I—ah you need to know he’s not the only Geminian. His assistant, Feena, is here also.”

“I see…” Ryan said glancing at Velok. The Geminian had gone back to staring out the window at the moving fog that slowly crept toward the glass-steel pane. Ryan looked close at the man’s back where he thought he could make out the form of a weapon resembling a laser pistol under the Geminian’s royal purple jumpsuit jacket.

“I will tell Captain Smyth of your situation,” Ryan said to the rest of the men.

“You do that.” Said Velok without turning around. The commander looked at the back of the Geminian’s head but did not say anything. The two knew what each other had meant. Ryan was going to make sure his captain knew that Ve-lok was there and the Geminian just challenged him to do it.

*****************

“It’s over here,” said Doctor Bellows as they walked inside the structure.  Dry gray ground crunched under their boots. The whole area of two hundred feet by two hundred feet was encased in a larger dome. A breeze blew through the building, making a ghostly howl.

“Isn’t this place airtight?” Thomas asked as he listened to the hellish sound.

“Yes and no. Filters remove the outside stench. We keep the wind blowing through for air circulation,” Dr. Bellows explained as he looked around at the different holes in the ground.

Thomas glanced around himself and peered at the eerily moving shadows cast by the machinery, waving like phan-toms holding still in the dark areas of the room.

Bellows noticed his glance and said, “The shadows act that way because of the white dwarf’s light. Not much gets past the rubble in closer orbit. What does comes in different intensities and the changing lights make it wave like that.”

“I see,” Thomas said watching a waving shadow as if it were alive. He tripped over a rock and caught himself on a digging machine to keep from falling. “How much farther?”

“We’re here.”

The scientist stood in front of a big yawning pit filled with the phantasms. Thomas walked up to the edge, kneeled on one knee, and looked down in to the dark hole.  Below, dark gray shadows incited a fear that slowly crept through the captain’s soul. ‘Lord, protect me from this evil that seems to be in this place.’

Thomas glanced around and found a flashlight lying on the ground beside an archeologist’s nearby toolbox. He picked it up and made to climb down in to the pit. Dr. Bellows grabbed his arm and jerked him back up.

“Are you insane?” he demanded. “You can’t go down there! That plaque does something to people. The curse will destroy you.”

Thomas wrenched himself out of the vice like grip and said, “My God will protect me, Doctor. You can stay up here, but I’m going to go find out what is killing your people.”

Captain Smyth climbed down the small iron ladder imbedded in the side of the dirt, the inky shadows swallowing him. He heard the doctor give a strangled cough. Thomas asked, “How deep is this?”

“Nine feet,” came the answer, echoing down the chamber, absorbed in to the soft dirt walls. Dr. Bellows continued to talk. “What if…what if you are right and there are spirits you can’t see? What if it is demons that are causing this trou-ble? Aren’t you worried that they’ll hurt you?”

“I am a Christian, Doctor.” Answer Thomas as his feet his solid ground. “My God the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross 2,021 years ago to save me from my sin. He took the keys of death from Satan and will protect me from all harm. You know Psalms 23 don’t you?”

“I…I haven’t heard it in years. Just a silly superstitious rhyme anyhow from a old book written years ago.”

Thomas glanced up at the light blue dome that he could see from the bottom of the pit. Dr. Bellows sounded as if he was trying to convince himself of that. The Captain popped his flashlight on and sent the shadows scurrying in the cor-ners. The beam fell on a stone plaque lying in the middle of the pit.  He approached it slowly, keeping his electric torch focused on it, a block of dense stone, which, for it’s size, turned out to be quite heavy. He tried to roll it over with his foot and could not budge it. He again went on one knee and looked at the inscription. The fluid symbols flowed across the granite.  Thomas traced them with his fingers.

“They’re written in Thraasian,” Said a voice right behind him.

Startled, Thomas jumped up and spun to face the voice, brandishing the flashlight as a weapon. Dr. Bellows stood there and the Captain lowered his impromptu weapon. “I didn’t think you had the courage to come down here.”

“Well, you’re down here and it hasn’t killed you yet.” Stanton said sheepishly.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence. This plaque was not here originally?” Thomas asked.

“No, but there is a building underneath it. It seems to be an underground bunker that has been there for a very long time—I’d say a thousand at the most. We found writings in one of the tunnels that mention the Thraasian year 3444, about 1436 A. D. on Earth.”

“Tunnels? You found tunnels?” Thomas said.

“Yes, in the other parts of this dome and also in Dome 1 we have found entrances to tunnels that would have stretched for miles if they were still intact.”

“Why don’t you just enter the room that way?”

“Not all the tunnels are in good shape. Three quarters of them have collapsed,” Dr. Bellows said. He stomped on the ground. “The two tunnels that lead to this room are blocked. I will not risk using Plasma explosives to open them up. It won’t help destroying the writing on the walls.”

Thomas did not answer, but stood up and brushed off the gray dirt clinging to his knees.

“What are you going to do?” Bellows asked.

Before he could answer a chirp was heard. Stanton Bellows spun around frightened and ready to attack what ever it was.

“It’s here,” said Thomas showing the underside of his forearm. A thin piece of plastic molded to his skin and strapped in place glistened dully in the twilight. He pressed on it, activating the information display.  Bellows looked at it in awe.

“What is it?”

“It’s a Comm-Pad. I can access ship information, track my people, and communicate with them using this device,” Thomas said tapping on the screen.  It changed from graphics to text. “It seems Commander Parker has discovered Gemi-nians here.”

“Oh, yes,” Dr. Bellows said matter-a-factly. “That’s Velok and Feena. They work here. Velok used to be in the Geminian Imperial War Fleet. He reached the rank of Dagger-Colonel.”

Thomas nodded and then said, “Where did you put Dr. Dunbar’s body when he was killed?”

“We are keeping him in the freezers—ditto for all the bodies,” Bellows paused. “Well, all the intact bodies. We couldn’t do much for Dr. Nelson and his team.”

Thomas nodded, not wanting to think what the Plasma Generator had done to the team. “I’m going to have my Chief Medical officer come down and take a look at their remains. She may be able to help.”

“Who is she?” Bellows asked as he followed Thomas up the ladder.

“Shennandoah Roberts. She’s a good doctor; one of the best in the fleet.”

Thomas and Dr. Bellows made their way through the hallways back into the main room where they found Ryan sitting on the corner of the table staring at a Geminian leaning against the wall. They did not say a word, but looked at each other.

“Report, Commander,” Thomas ordered.

Ryan did without taking his eyes off Velok. “I have deployed all the security guards to each person as ordered, Sir.”

“Good,” Thomas said.  He looked around to find that some of the remaining scientists and their bodyguards lin-gered—perhaps for the assurance of company. “Where’s Lieutenant Riley?”

“Right here, Sir,” said the shuttle pilot, running up and swinging his legs over a table. He landed on his feet directly in front of the captain and saluted.

“I need you to return to the Republic and bring Dr. Roberts back. Tell here we are investigating several suspected murders and she is to come prepared for such.”

“Yessah.” He said in his ever-present southern accent. When he got excited it seemed to come on thicker.

He took off out of the area on his mission and Thomas turned back to Dr. Bellows. “Can you show me the bodies?”

******************
Commander Parker sat on the table as his commanding officer left, not sure what to do. Captain Smyth had not left any orders for him, but he could not sit around and do nothing. A piercing scream echoed through the room and hall-ways, forcing him explosively onto his feet.

Ryan drew his Laser pistol and flicked in on. The charging capacitor hummed as it powered up.  Ryan ran through the room bowling over a Security officer who was trying to get his weapon off his shoulder. He kicked open that half-closed hatch to the adjoining kitchen and leaped in with this weapon ready. Ryan saw a young girl standing by the counter looking upset.  She spun around as he had made his entrance. A blush crossed her face like wild fire as he stood there with the weapon and it’s hot red glowing tip ready to blast the danger.

“I…I’m sorry,” she said embarrassed. “I didn’t mean to scream. It’s just those stupid mole rats.”

“Huh?” said Ryan as he looked around the kitchen. It was small, with all appliances lined up in a neat row on one side of the wall. The other three sides were lined with metal counters reflecting the fluorescent light above. He was expecting some villain or space alien on the loose.

“Mole rats,” she said again, the flush deepening. “They get in to the food containers, no matter what we do. I was pouring some corn flakes when they came tumbling out. That’s why I screamed. I guess its stress.”

Ryan looked to the counter and saw a metal bowl with yellow flakes of corn in it Swimming gaily and squeak-ing in delight were fourteen or more small one-inch rodents. He walked over to it and stared at them. Their fur was dark gray like the surface of Lyra II and their pure white whiskers were longer then their bodies. They sensed his approach. A couple stood on their hind legs and sniffed the air in his direction.

“They dangerous?” Ryan asked.

“No, they are quite tame for wild animals,” she said coming up behind him, but keeping him between her and the animated balls of fur. “I’ve seen Velok feed them from his hand—they climb in and sit there while eating.”

Ryan laid his hand down next to the bowl and they crawled in to his palm searching for food. “Their tameness must be why they are such a problem.”

“Oh, yes. Feena just despises them. She goes around with her weapon and blasts them if they get to close to her. I hate them myself.”

Ryan turned to the girl and smiled. “Well, We’ll just clean them out. I’m Ryan Parker, executive officer of the Republic.”

“Cassandra Bellows,” the woman answered. “And I am sorry about screaming. I just get sick and tired of them. Two months ago four of them crawled in to my bed for warmth. Scared me silly. I kept screaming and screaming. Velok came bursting in just as you did with my father and Adrian behind him. That was before…this thing happened.”

She shivered and Ryan placed a hand on her shoulder. “Are you alright, Ms. Bellows?”

“I’m cold and scared,” Cassandra said looking up at him with her chocolate brown eyes. “Everybody dying, daddy acting strange, people furtive, angry and scared. I want it all to go away.”

Ryan wished he could comfort her, but did not know how. She sniffed and then took a deep breath.

“I think I’m going nuts myself,” she said after a moment. “I’m seeing things.”

“What?” Ryan asked. “Like what?”

“I think I saw Dubar’s ghost when he died.”

Ryan knew strange things were going on, but he did not expect anything like what he just heard. “Tell me about it.”

“You’d just think I was crazy,” Cassandra said going over to the bowl and tapping it hard with the spoon to scare all the mole rats out. They scurried off in different directions squeaking and letting her know how upset they were. The girl did not say anything else, but threw the contents of the bowl in the trash receptacle and after checking another container, poured herself a new bowl of cereal.

“I won’t think your crazy,” Ryan said gently. “Everybody is having a hard time.”

“You won’t?” she said looking at him while she held the bowl and spoon poised in the air.

“No.”

“Bring the milk, please.”

Ryan looked at her for a second and then after fishing through the refrigerator brought out a canister of milk and followed her as she went back in to the dinning room. Most of the people had wandered off to their respective groups; the ever-present security officers stood there and watched the charges like hawks.

“I eat a lot when I’m scared,” Cassandra said as she poured the milk over her Cornflakes. “It’s a habit I picked up when I was at boarding school. I was scared of the teachers who loved to make our lives miserable.  When I could,  I snacked on anything I could get my hands on…would you like a glass of milk?”

“No, thank you,” said Parker.  He waved his hands in a negative gesture.  Cassandra set the canister down and started eating. “Tell me about the ghost?” he prompted.

She stopped chewing and looked straight at him.

“I promised not to laugh or think your crazy,” Ryan reminded.

She sighed and set the spoon down. “It was the day Dr. Morgan died. He was looking over Dome 2 as my fa-ther probably already told you and that was when…something…killed him. My dad thinks it is the curse.”

“What do you think?”

Fear crossed her eyes and she said quivering, “I don’t know what to think!”

Ryan soothed her with a gentle pat to the forearm and asked her to continue.

“Well, I was the first one there really and I rushed in thinking maybe a machine got him or he burnt himself with a laser torch. I walked up to the pit and in those eerie shadows I saw a form slip out of those horrible shadows and glide swiftly away. I stood there paralyzed as it moved. It had to be a phantom, it moved without noise and you could not hear it. It was shrouded in the fog and…” she broke down and cried, “I just want to get off this rock! I want to go home back to Earth where the shadows don’t seem to be alive and people don’t die by some curse!”

Her crying attracted some attention from the little groups in the room and Velok, The Geminian, came over and put a hand on Cassandra’s shoulder. “Everything will be okay.”

He seemed so confident to Ryan that it made him suspicious. The Commander looked up at Velok and both their gazes met in one long icy stare.

**********************

Thomas walked briskly down the hall with Riley ahead of him and Dr. Shennandoah Roberts beside him. She was a very pretty woman with emerald eyes and pale red hair, features inherited from her Irish father. She wore a jumpsuit like the rest of his crew, but with a green lab coat over it to hold all her doctor equipment.

Dr. Bellows led them to another part of the complex where the bodies were kept. It was the Kitchen storage room and seven large freezers lined the walls.

Shennandoah immediately went to work by simultaneously flipping the nearest freezer open, and removing her devices out of her pockets and setting them on the freezer beside her. She scanned the body while Thomas turned to con-tinue his conversation with Dr. Bellows. “You said that Dr. Morgan was doing his own detective work. Did he tell you anything about what he found?”

“No, not really. We were still sure that Dr. Dunbar’s death and the plasma reactor explosion were just accidents. He did mention some things, but I can’t remember what they were.”

“Can you try?  Even the littlest bit may help,” Thomas pressed.

“All I know is that he is died because he hung around that plaque to much. He measured it, scanned it, even tried to lift it, but it didn’t help him.”

Thomas resisted the urge to throw up his arms, but turned instead to Shennandoah who stood to the side, listen-ing.

“Well, Doctor?”

“They were quite right that there are no visible wounds on the body,” Shennandoah informed him in her soft melodic voice. “So, I scanned on the molecular level.”

“And?”

“I found a patch of cellular disruption on his chest, the upper right side. The disruption has gone deep in to his body, tearing apart his heart and lungs at the membrane level. That’s what killed him.”

Thomas frowned. “What kind of weapon does that?”

Shennandoah shook her head as she reviewed the scans. “Our normal Laser pistols won’t. I cannot think of an-ything this place has that would.”

Thomas shook his head and rubbed his temples. “This is just getting more confusing. First he dies with no wound, now we find a wound, but we can’t figure out what caused it.”

“I would say it does solve one thing,” Shennandoah pointed out. “Whatever killed him, it’s not supernatural, but something physical.”

Bellows frowned. “What are you saying? That someone here is killing their friends?”

“No, I’m saying someone here wants everybody dead.”

***********

Ryan walked down the hallway with Cassi on his right as she talked about her life here and how everything was happy before the curse. He listened, but also thought about Velok. Ryan was sure the tall Geminian had something to do with the curse.

“Cassi, Tell me about Velok,” Ryan asked when she took a breath. “What type a person is he?”

“Oh, he’s a nice person once you get to know him. Different from most people I have met.”  Cassandra an-swered without breaking from her old conversation. “He’s very stern, but gentle at the same time—like when he feeds the mole rats.”

“Really? How long has he been here?”

Cassandra thought for a second and said, “For about 2 years. He came here after he got out of the Geminian Imperial War Fleet.”

Ryan looked at her hard and the pieces fell together in his mind. “He was in the military?”

“Oh, yes. He’s got a pretty uniform. He’s shown it to me before. One time about a year ago when a bunch of top brass had come to see the work we were doing—we had to put up with them because we get our grant money from them—and I convinced him to wear his uniform. He was so handsome in it. You should have seen the looks on those guys’ face.” She laughed at the memory.

“Did he have a lot of military training?”

Cassandra nodded. “I think so. He got all the way up to dagger-colonel.”

Ryan remained silent as they walked, but Cassandra continued to talk about the Geminian. As they were turning around a corner they heard the sound of weapons fire.

Ryan pushed Cassandra to the wall and drew his laser pistol. “Stay here.”

She nodded her scared face.  He crept up to the passageway and peered around it. A woman wearing a royal purple form fitting jumpsuit was blasting at the ground with a weapon. The yellow beam struck the dirt.  He heard her say something in another language.  She sounded frustrated.

Ryan jumped out and shouted, “Drop the weapon!”

She spun to face him and he locked gazes with a pair of large beautiful eyes the color of crystal. They sparkled when the hallway light hit them. Her long glistening mane of black hair was split into three parts, with two intricate braids on the sides and the center flowing straight down her back. The woman’s face had a beauty that hinted of a dangerous creature.  He tried not to look awed.

“Well, hello there,” she said in a very low a seductive voice. “You must be the Space Navy people that Velok has told me about.”

“I…uh…I’m Commander Ryan Parker…of the Republic.” He stuttered.

She put the weapon into her jump suits belt and gave him a cute smile. “Sorry about the weapon. I was getting rid of those dumb mole rats.”

“Uh…no problem. Just want to make sure no one was hurt,” he said, feeling uncomfortable with her as close as she was to him. “I need to go back to Cassandra and—”

“I’m right here Ryan,” said Cassi, stepping around the corner. “When I didn’t hear any laser fire I thought maybe it was a false alarm.”

“I’m Feena,” said the woman who stepped closer to him and extended her hand. Ryan put his pistol back into its holster and wiped his sweaty hand on his leg before taking her hand. It was soft and very smooth. He could smell an exotic fragrance about her.

“You’re the…the other Geminian?” he asked still stuttering slightly. He felt foolish and he tried to keep down the crimson blush.

“Yes, I am,” She answered, “but I wish I was human so you would like me better.”

He could not keep the blush away this time and Cassi tugged on his shoulder. “Aren’t we supposed to go see your captain?”

“Uh…yeah.” He said, confused.  He turned to say goodbye to Feena when a scream shattered the quiet. It rose high in pitch of agony.  Ryan took off running through the hallways, He came up to an open bulkhead hatch. Lying across the threshold was Adrian King.  Wrapped around his leg was a thin red creature long as a snake, with sharp one-inch thorns covering it.  Yellow eyes the size of teardrops sat on top of its head and stared straight at Ryan.

Doctor King…was dead.