Monday, January 30, 2017

Preemptive Sick Day

Hi darlins,

So, it looks like I've contracted my honey's illness. Fever, chills, aches, sore throat and stuffed nose--check, check, check, check, check! I'm going to be staying home from work tomorrow, but sadly not writing, as whatever I write at this point will be semi-incoherent. I'm sorry for the delay! I'll make it up to you!

Bye for now. *sniffle-hack-cough*

New Release: Soothsayer

It's heeeere! And it's so beautiful.

Cillian Kelly can look into people’s eyes and see their fates. He’s running from a past filled with mistakes, lying low and selling his services on the sly. When he learns that Sören Egilsson, a man who sacrificed himself so Cillian could escape imprisonment two years ago, is somehow still alive, Cillian has to find out how. What he gets is the body of the man he loves possessed by an ancient spirit who draws Cillian into a battle to the death for the right to control Sören’s fate, and the power that comes with it.

You can find it at the Nine Star Press website and on Amazon:

Right, so, I know a lot of my blog people have read this before. Yes, it's the story I wrote here. It's been spruced up, edited to within an inch of its life, and I've included missing scenes in the blog tour, so if you follow along you'll get more info and a peek into the future. 

Sequel potential? Like, say, what happened in Vegas and what will happen if Cillian has to go there again? Yes, yes, and yes! Check the book out, and if you're interested in more let me know! The more people reach out to me, the higher the probability I'll write the next piece of Cillian's story.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Twenty-Four

Notes: Another new perspective--I'm jumping all over the dang place, huh? Keeps you on your toes! Not the most cheerful thing ever, but it moves the plot along ;)

Title: Reformation: Chapter Twenty Four


Chapter Twenty-Four

Once upon a time, Claudia had been a botanist. She had gone to school for it, graduated with honors, and gotten a job with one of the premier vintners of the Central System, on her home planet. She had planned to dedicate her life to the finer things in life—rare vintages, new breeds of grape for pressing, and testing flowers, herbs, and additives to see what would make the most fragrant, harmonious combination on the palate. She had had it all worked out.

That was before she met Miles Caractacus, at the time an active-duty general in the Federation fleet. She hadn’t met him on duty, though; Claudia had been hired as the sommelier for a party his mother was hosting, and had been required to attend it as well. Required, in those very terms—not invited. That wasn’t something the Lady of the house did. But despite the rudeness of her interactions with her hostess, Claudia had agreed. It was an important event, full of important people—the networking opportunities would be tremendous.

And then she met Miles.

He was older than she usually looked for in the people she was interested in, but he had a way of moving, of speaking—a brilliant vitality that drew her and every other person in the room into his orbit. But he’d been drinking a Hoffman red while eating an octopus skewer, which was just an offense to Claudia’s sensibilities. Before she could stop herself, she’d walked up, held out a new glass of wine—a delicate pale pink Winnemaker from the mountains of Delgado—and said, “I recommend you try this instead.”

Miles had looked at it doubtfully. “I generally prefer reds.”

“I understand, but a red like that is for drinking on its own. It destroys the flavor of food, particularly seafood. This wine will enhance it.”

Miles had smiled a little half-smile. “I’ll let you in on a secret.” He’d leaned in close to her ear. “I despise seafood, but my mother has it at every party. This wine is the only thing I’ve found that lets me get through a plate of it without gagging.”

Claudia had blushed, but managed to keep from laughing out loud. “I see. Well.” She’d drawn back and put the Winnemaker down on the nearest table. “In that case, let me get you a refill.”

“How about I come with you instead, and you can tell me more about what I could be drinking tonight?”

“Oh, please don’t let me take you away from your friends.”

“Nonsense.” He’d smiled politely at the people surrounding him. “They’re all perfectly capable of amusing themselves for a while.” He’d held out an arm to her. “Shall we?”

She’d gone with him to the bar, spent the rest of the evening at his side in easy conversation, and ended up spending the night with him. He’d left the next day and Claudia had figured that was it, a delightful interlude in her very normal life, but then he’d commed her. Kept in touch, despite the distance and the challenges, and after two years of mostly long-distance courtship, when he’d asked her to marry him, she hadn’t had to think twice.

It was wonderful. It was terrifying. It was more responsibility than she’d thought she could handle at first—wife of the governor? Wife of a senator? She came from a planet with fewer than a million settlers, for crying out loud! What did she know about organizing events or schmoozing with politicians or living a life in the public eye? And it wasn’t easy, even beyond that. Miles was still gone much of the time, and there were moments when Claudia missed him so badly she wept, but she never let on. Thank god Garrett had been around for most of her adjustment period, or she wasn’t sure how she would have come out of it sane. Who would have guessed that Miles’s son by his first marriage would end up as one of her best friends?

Then Claudia had Renee, and life became more beautiful. Through Garrett moving away and starting his own family, through Miles almost dying during an assassination attempt, through the birth of her second daughter Yvaine, Claudia had found her center. She had settled into her abilities, come to a reckoning with her life. She could do this. She could live and thrive and be happy, no matter what happened.

Circumstances were testing her resolve right now, though.

Nooooo!” How could a six-year-old girl howl so loudly? “I don’t want to!”

“Well, you have to,” Claudia told her firmly. “You did it yesterday, Yvaine, why won’t you do it tonight?”

“Because look!” She pouted and pointed at her knee. “I have a scrape today. I can’t have a shower when I have a scrape.”

“I told you I would fix it. Five times. You’re the one who said explorers don’t use Regen.”

“They don’t.” Yvaine folded her arms stubbornly across her chest. “And they don’t take showers either.”

“Little explorers in this family do, if they want a story before bed.”

Yvaine’s mouth dropped open. “I have to have a story. I have to!”

“Then you better get in the shower, my dear.” Claudia waited while her daughter mulled that over in her mind, then finally—reluctantly—acquiesced.

“Fine. But when daddy gets back, no more showers. I’m having baths forever.” She flounced off in the direction of the bathroom, and Claudia straightened up with a sigh and looked over at her friend and bodyguard, Thérèse Tousaint.

“I’m sure you’re happy you got babysitting duty with me instead of following Miles now, aren’t you?”

“Considering where he’s going? Yes, I rather am,” Thérèse replied with a smile. “Besides, if you think your husband isn’t on babysitting duty with hundreds of cadets under his direct command, then you’re dreaming. I’ll go make sure she’s actually getting in the shower if you want to check on Renee?”

“Thank you.” Claudia found her older daughter in the living room of the bungalow they were currently living in, on the outskirts of a low-G tubular colony that projected from the surface of Kyres, a Central System planet—barely. It was a place billed as selling gentle, rehabilitative space to those suffering from transition illness or gravity sickness, both conditions that were more mental than physical, and untreatable by Regen. It was comparatively rural, but also moderately defensible, and bustling enough that Thérèse expected they’d be largely ignored.

Renee didn’t really seem to miss the crowds of Olympus, that much was clear. She was self-directed enough that leaving school had been as easy as anything, for her. Right now she was staring out the window and making notes on the glass screen.

“What are you looking at?” Claudia asked as she joined her daughter.

“See that ship right there?” Renee pointed at a decent-sized shuttle on the other side of the Ring Twelve. “It’s violating the timing clause.”

“How long has it been there?”

“Ten minutes! And the rules say that you can only leave your ship attached for personal loading and unloading not to exceed five minutes, because cargo is supposed to go through the ground docks.” Renee frowned. “It’s going to mess up the incoming traffic.”

“Hmm. What makes you so interested in it?”

“I’m doing a traffic census for my statistics class. I loaded my program into the visual computer system for our windows and set coded it to count all the makes and models and times, but when it throws up an outlier it alerts me. That ship—” she pointed again, “—is an outlier.”

Claudia was prepared to tell her daughter that sometimes allowances were necessary in life, but when she glanced at the ship again, she noticed that none of the dock’s light were flashing. Everything surrounding the shuttle was inert, standard green, like the ship itself wasn’t even there. Like it hadn’t even docked. Only there it was, and—

Claudia was moving before her thoughts could catch up with her, pulling Renee away from the window and turning off all the lights inside with a breathless command. The whole house went dark except for the emergency lights.

“Mom, what—”

“It’s just a precaution,” Claudia said before calling out, “Thérèse!”

She came out of the bathroom a moment later, holding Yvaine all wrapped in a robe on her hip. “What’s wrong?”

“There’s a ghost ship out there.”

Thérèse’s expression went stony. “Where?”

“Straight across from us.”

“The Vacarra’s place. They’re away right now, but anything docked there should still have to follow protocol.”

“No acknowledgement by the docking mechanism itself, even though the lights are working. It’s been there over twice the usual allotted time, too.”

Thérèse nodded once. “Get to the pod.”

Claudia’s blood chilled. “Are you sure?”

“We’re not taking any chances. Get to the pod now. Two minutes, go, go.” She handed Yvaine, who was thankfully quiet, to Claudia before darting for the front door. Claudia took a deep breath, then turned toward her room, leading both her daughters along with her. She pushed the bed back into the wall, then pressed her hand to the center of the floor.

“Emergency protocol 99, initiate.”

When Claudia lifted her hand up again, the print remained, glowing green. A moment later the floor retracted, opening up to the door of the stealth pod beneath it. The escape pod was covered in a substance that made it invisible to light, radar, and emitted no radiation of any kind to follow. After launch, it would continue on the original course essentially dead in the water, but Claudia had a protocol to follow for that too.


“Mama, what—”

“We can’t—”

“We’re not taking any chances,” Claudia said. “If it’s a false alarm, then we’ll—” The security system suddenly started to blare. Claudia turned wide eyes toward the door, where Thérèse appeared a moment later.

“They’re using acid-laced micro-explosives, trying to melt through the wall around the door rather than blow it up,” she said grimly. “They want you alive. Get in the pod, now!” Renee clambered down into the little black pod, then reached up for Yvaine. Claudia handed her youngest over, then looked back to her friend.

“Come on, we can all leave together.”

Thérèse shook her head. “Someone has to cover the energy signature of your escape.”

“They’re not looking for that right now, they’re trying to break in! We have time, it’ll fit four!”

“If they’re good enough to get this far without being noticed, then they’ve already seen more than we know.” She looked grim, but determined. “Get in there and leave immediately. Remember, don’t send out the signal until you’re at least twenty-four hours out.”

“No.” It didn’t make sense. Or rather, it did, but it didn’t seem like it could be real. Even with the scent of the acid at the door, the low thud of the micro-explosives digging deeper and deeper, Claudia couldn’t quite believe it. She couldn’t lose Thérèse. They had been friends almost as long as she and Miles had been married. “No, please—”

“Claudia, go!” Thérèse turned and vanished into the hall, and a moment later the security alarm said, Warning: Structural Damage Detected. Structural Damage Detected. Evacuation Required.

They had to go. There was no choice. Claudia lowered herself into the pod, then shut the hatch. Vaguely, she was thankful her girls both seemed too shocked to speak—she didn’t think she was capable of comforting them right now. She repeated her instruction—emergency protocol 99—and the pod obeyed. A moment later, they fell through the bottom of the bungalow and out into space, heading away from the planet.

A moment after that, the bungalow exploded.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Twenty-Three

Notes: As one of my readers has pointed out, sometimes my writing, and this story in particular, seems to be influenced by current events. And I cop to it--it is. It totally is. This is inauguration week and it's got me on edge. I can't listen to the radio or go on Twitter or FB without being confronted by new realities in America that, needless to say, have me somewhere between afraid, angry, and contemptuous. And yes, those emotions influence me. So this is a chapter in the head of my story's antagonist, and if he strikes you as disgustingly familiar...well. It is what it is. More lighthearted sci fi space fun next week!

Title: Reformation: Chapter Twenty-Three


Chapter Twenty-Three

Pic from The Creators Project: hologram

Raymond Alexander was…vexed. He stared at the hologram of Commander Orwell, who looked decidedly uncomfortable, and waited for the man to begin to sweat before he started speaking. “You’ve had nine standard days to break through Pandora’s shields. Nine. Days.”

“Yes, sir.”

“When I require a comment from you, Commander, I’ll ask you for one,” Raymond snapped. “But as you’re so eager to talk, maybe you can explain to me how a colony of that size can withstand the firepower your ships are bringing to bear on it?”

“Their energy shields are more complex than we initially thought,” Orwell admitted. “And they seem to be bolstering them somehow. The shields are getting smaller—we’ve decimated the outer edges of the city—but they aren’t losing any of their power where they’re in place.”

“Why haven’t you extrapolated from that to figure out how much more of your bombardment is required to completely reduce them and given it to them?”

Commander Orwell frowned. “Two reasons. The first is that a hurricane has been pounding the region for the past three days, big enough that it seriously negates the effects of our plasma weapons. The second is that we haven’t had the opportunity to refuel and resupply our ships since we began the offensive. To put it bluntly, sir, we’re running out of firepower. With the Academy’s fleet soon to arrive, it makes sense to save some of our reserves for fighting them.”

Raymond repressed the urge to sigh. “You are an elite fighting force with more than double the number of ships heading your way, all of them crewed by little better than children, and you’re worried about destroying them? Are you the same man who helmed the Relentless for seven years? Because that man was bold—he was a man of action, not a frightened miser.”

It was small motion, the tightening around the corners of Orwell’s mouth, but Raymond noticed it anyway. “I haven’t survived so long out here in the black doing your will without keeping a sense of caution. If I’d had accurate information about the shield status over Pandora City, I would have deployed my forces differently. As it stands, whether or not the Federation ships are adequately crewed, I assume their commanders aren’t useless. They’re going to know how to use their weapons, and we need to be able to protect ourselves and respond in kind.”

“The man leading them is only a marine general. He has no experience commanding a fleet. This really shouldn’t be very hard.”

This time Orwell let his disbelief show openly on his face. If he’d been in the room, Raymond would have slapped him. “Miles Caractacus was the governor of a Federation planet after spending decades in command of the Federation marine corps. He might not have commanded the ships his troops rode in on, but he has ample experience in both space and ground combat. If you really think otherwise, then I suggest you read up on your history.”

“I suggest you mind your words,” Raymond replied, but internally he could acknowledge the truth of the accusation. Miles had been an incredibly convenient choice politically, and Raymond was still confident that the black fleet’s numbers and firepower would overwhelm the Federation ships, but that Miles was an untested leader in the field…no. “What’s your plan, then? Given that you don’t have time to make a refueling run.”

Orwell shrugged. “We’ll ease off Pandora for the time being. We could send in ground troops to get around the energy field, but there’s no telling what they might be walking into, and my people aren’t accustomed to those sorts of operations. Better to wait until we’ve handled the fleet. Once they’re destroyed, we’ll scour the wreckage for parts and fuel and then take the fight to the surface. We’ve scoured the coast for any sort of external defenses and taken them out, so we’ll set down just outside the city and prepare for an incursion. The Federation ships should be here within the next four to five days, and I don’t anticipate the battle lasting more than one. We’ll be on the ground and moving into the city by the end of the week.”

“Good.” Orwell might be disrespectful, but he was efficient when it came to getting things done. All the same, Raymond wouldn’t be sorry to see him removed. His second in command, Captain Abenabad, was standing by to take control once the destruction of Pandora was complete. It was time for new blood to lead, and Abenabad was more loyal to Raymond than he was to Orwell. He’d better be, if he wanted to keep the status quo with his family going. “Contact me again after you’ve taken care of the fleet and before the ground offensive.”

“Understood. Orwell out.” The link ended, and Raymond indulged himself in a deep sigh. It wasn’t a flaw in his plan, exactly, more like a little wrinkle that he couldn’t smooth out that disturbed the perfection of it in his mind. It was a cup he couldn’t balance, sending the perfect spin of his political mobile slightly awry. But then, such things happened. He could acknowledge his own imperfections. Look at what had happened with Kyle.

He’d gone about turning the boy into the right thing the wrong way. Raymond had never had a chance like that young, trusting child before, and he never would again. How people could stand to give their offspring the liberty of their own choices…he just didn’t understand it. You gave them everything, tried to mold them in your image, and then they ripped your heart out and betrayed you, over and over again. Raymond still wasn’t sure what he himself had done to make his father lose interest in him, but it must have been painful. And look at how that had come back to haunt the man.

It was at times like this that Raymond wished he still had something of a relationship with his sister. Berengaria was the only family member he had left—by choice, he reminded himself, it had all been by his own choice—and she refused to see him, just stayed locked in her floating palace, hidden away from the universe. Perhaps she had it right. The luxury of being able to turn a blind eye was…shockingly appealing.

But that wasn’t his fate. No one else had the will and the power to move the Federation in the right direction—a direction of consolidation, of coming together, of cutting away the excess to pare down to the heart of what made humanity great. After centuries, millennia, of fighting to rise to the pinnacle of what was possible, it was clear that the only way to do it was to boldly, and without apology, get rid of the people who threatened to tear civilization back down. How was it even possible that there were still people born who couldn’t handle Regen? How were there people who thought there was something guiding them across the universe, some theistic deity, rather than taking responsibility for their own fates? How could people expect not to have to strive for greatness, and instead content themselves with living on the fringes of society, atypical, nonstandard, and shameful? And the aliens, the aliens—what was there to learn from them? What could they do but dilute humanity’s grand vision for itself?

The call to action was greater now than it had ever been before. Raymond had felt the pull, and answered it in his youth. Soon, he would wipe the slate clean. The Federation would start fresh, a central, powerful force that controlled its own reach, only moving as one, never in bits and pieces. No fringe planets, no Drifters—those would be the next to go—strict policies on birth and health and death, and no contact with aliens other than getting them out of the way. It would be perfect. He was leading his species into perfection.

Nothing worth achieving was easy. He would take the bumps and the lumps and emerge victorious in the end.

His comm beeped, and Raymond read the incoming message with a sense of gratification. Ah, lovely. His spies had found the location of Claudia Caractacus and her daughters. Raymond might have missed out on his chance to control Garrett via his husband or son—regrettable, but it was what it was—but his stepmother and sisters would make a serviceable lever in the meantime.

Shall we bring them in?

Please do.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Twenty-Two

Notes: More Reformation, this time with Cody and Ten and a little family time...which goes terribly, as family time occasionally does.

Title: Reformation: Chapter Twenty-Two


Chapter Twenty-Two

“This is ridiculous.” Ten stared at the three-dimensional model of the ship that Cody had helpfully projected in their quarters and shook hir head. “Completely ridiculous. I can’t believe that while I’ve spent the last week being dragged through fifteen levels of sanitation—fifteen levels! Like they can’t settle on a central location and route everything to be processed there, because nooo, that would be too easy—you’ve managed to just…just spy your way across a third of the ship with no one fucking wiser!” Ze turned to glare at Cody. “Since when did you get good at being covert?”

“I’m not being covert,” he said. “I’m walking around in an engineering uniform and fixing things. People are happy to see me. It’s amazing what you can get done with a molecular bonding wand and a little conversation.”

“You should bring me with you next time.” Ten reached out and flipped the hologram around, peering into its corners. “You’re missing a few deep pockets here and here, we should go back and fill those in. And two of us would be a lot faster at mapping out the rest of this thing. You’ve got the ports and engineering and a lot of the housing section, but there’s a plethora of secondary and tertiary piping that it would be good to get a handle on, especially if we want to be able to estimate how things will react with each other in unpleasant circumstances.”

Cody didn’t bother trying to correct Ten about any future unpleasantness. Ze was probably right, after all. Still… “I’m not the one who’s been whisking you off on projects every day without giving me a second glance. Livia, right? Chief sanitation engineer?”

“Chief pain in my ass,” Ten muttered. “She looks over everything I do. Everything! Like I need supervision or something! Like I’m not the best welder on this whole stupid ship, because it’s a skillset any infant could pick up. Like I don’t know how to connect pipes carrying disparate acidities and have no idea how to manage basic chemical interactions, my god. It’s like being with Symone again. I’m so sick of it.”

“Not sick enough of it to tell her no.”

“We’re supposed to be making ourselves useful, right?” Ten shrugged. “I recall that being shoved in our faces by the bitch that runs the place. I’m trying not to give her an excuse to make a nuisance of herself. But if you asked for me to go with you instead, I bet Livia would say yes.”

“Maybe.” Cody leaned back against the wall behind their cot. “And then maybe she’d bring it to Grandma’s attention and instead of me being able to slip away unnoticed because no one wants to work with me, we’d be watched and followed and everything would be reported back to her.”

“Everything is probably reported back to her anyway.”

“Yeah, probably. But she hasn’t—” The com unit on Jack’s ship sounded, and a second later they heard his voice.

“Corva wants to talk with you, Cody.” He didn’t sound happy about that fact. “There’ll be someone to escort you to her audience room waiting outside the shuttle. Don’t…don’t stall, okay?”

Ten arched an eyebrow and looked at Cody. “She hasn’t what? Kicked us off the ship yet? Clapped us in irons? Summoned us to her fucking audience chamber, who the hell does she think she is, queen of the universe?”

“I guess I spoke too soon.” Cody hesitated, then reached out and took Ten’s hand. “You don’t have to come. You could stay here and—”

“Yeah, no, crazy, you’ve got to be ill to suggest such a thing, are you ill?” Ten pressed the back of hir free hand to Cody’s forehead. “Don’t be stupid.” Ze leaned in and kissed Cody, then toppled forward onto his lap as Cody tugged at hir hand. “Mmmno, we—”

“Have to go, I know.” Cody knew he should feel nervous about it, but the truth was he was having a hard time feeling much of anything lately. It had been a week—a little more than that, actually—since he’d found out about the attack on Pandora. He’d spent the first part of that time feeling so much, worried and afraid and angry, so, so angry at everyone even obliquely involved. Angry at his dad for being there, angry at Garrett for not stopping this from happening, angry at Darrel and Grennson and even Ten for not being as affected as he was. It was stupid, and exhausting, and he’d felt guilty over it even as he’d indulged himself.

Walking around the way he had, just him and his mapmaking and his small efforts at fixing small things, had been kind of meditative for him. It had helped him tamp down on the storm inside of him, enough that he could at least make a good effort at being okay with the world. That kind of repression wouldn’t fly with Ten for long—ze noticed everything eventually, it was part of what made hir such a good scientist—but as long as he maintained his equanimity around hir, he could probably manage for a while longer. Of course, going to see his grandmother would probably test him, but he wouldn’t know until he tried.

“Okay.” He kissed Ten one more time, desperate to pull hir back down onto the cot so they could just be together for a while, doing anything other than talking, but now wasn’t the time. “Let’s go.”

The person waiting for them was Livia, a familiar face at least, but as usual she made no eye contact with Cody. “Let’s go, kiddos,” she said impatiently as they stepped down the shuttle’s ramp. “It’s not good to keep Corva waiting.”

“Ask me how much I care,” Ten replied.

“Ask me how many more kilometers of pipeline there are to be fixed up over the next week.” She turned and led them out of the bay, and Cody silently activated his map. If they were going somewhere new, he wanted to document it.

“Not fair, not fair at all, I’ve been doing more work than all the rest of your minions combined for the past week and you know it. You should let me do something interesting, I’m curious about the state of your oxygenators—are you using algae in conjunction with the sanitation system to emit more for the environmental system, or are you just cruising through space hoping you don’t run out of the stuff and that your scrubbers keep working and that there’s no localized explosion that opens a gap and vents all your precious resources into space before you can refill at whatever planet will have you?”

“You never shut up, do you?”

“You already knew that.” Ten kept up a steady flow of questions as they walked…and walked…and walked. It took almost half an hour of winding walkways and some very improbably stairs to finally make it to Corva’s location. Cody was sure they hadn’t gone the easy way. If she was trying to make it hard for them to find their way back, well…he smirked quietly as he registered the route and watched the changes integrate into his map.

The audience chamber wasn’t all that large, but it was definitely the most technologically advanced room that Cody had seen so far. Screens and holograms projected flight data, ship specs and a series of more personal notes that vanished the moment Cody and Ten walked into the room. In the center of it all was Corva, sitting in a chair that had an old-school direct connection to her ancient implant. She lifted her head off of the metal prong that slotted into the back of her head, and turned to look at them. She might have frowned, although it was hard to say—her expression barely changed. She reached for the mug sitting on the armrest of her chair and sipped at the dark, oily liquid within.

“Finally.” She glanced at Livia. “Leave. Take the other one with you.”

“Ten stays.”

“You’re in no position to make demands of me, child. Livia.”

Ten was making that face ze made when ze was about to do something spectacularly destructive, and so Cody squeezed hir hand. “It’s okay. I’ll be back with you in just a few minutes.”

“Is that true?” Ten demanded of Corva.

“Get out and find out.”

“Really.” Cody smiled for Ten, grateful that he was still so empty it felt natural. “I’ll be fine.” We won’t be disconnected, he added via the implant, and Ten nodded reluctantly. Livia pulled hir away, and as soon as the door closed, Cody turned back to his grandmother.

She didn’t waste any time. “There are no communications going in or out of Pandora. None. The planet is either dead or under siege, and this ship has no business putting itself in harm’s way. Not for the likes of you.”

“You were heading there anyway,” Cody reminded her. “Your business there came before me.”

“We can sell our goods elsewhere.”

“Not for as much.”

“Better that we still have someone to sell them to than risk annihilation at the hands of whoever is attacking that colony. I don’t want to go to Pandora.” She cocked her head. “But I also don’t want you on this ship.” Her voice turned harsh. “You’re a canker, a blemish. You’re a scut child who should never have been made, much less born. I told your father to get rid of you once he realized there were going to be problems, but he wouldn’t. I raised him too softly.”

“I’m sure you don’t make that mistake anymore.” Cody was amazed he sounded so calm.

“You’ve got them all fooled, don’t you? Fooled into thinking you’re a real person, when you’re just as fake as the womb you were incubated in. You’re a medical mistake, and it doesn’t do to let people start thinking of things like you as real. I won’t kill you,” which answered a question he hadn’t let himself wonder yet, “but I won’t be responsible for keeping you alive here. We’re turning toward Pollux. You’ll be on your own there.”

“No.” It was a gut instinct to argue, and Cody knew he had to follow it up with facts, fast. Corva clearly hated him—he had to make it worth her while to stay on course. “You should keep going to Pandora. Not because of the trade for your goods you’ll get there, but because of the trade you’ll get for me.”

Her eyes narrowed. “What are you talking about?”

“The Federation has deployed a fleet to the colony. They’ll be there soon. They’ll take care of the pirates, and they’ll pay for my return.”

“The Federation doesn’t pay for hostages.”

“Then they can be used to relay a message about me to my stepfather, who will pay for me. He’ll pay anything you ask.” Cody knew that much was true. He hadn’t left things very good with Garrett, but Garrett would never turn away from him.

“That’s a lot of trouble to go to for an uncertain future.”

“Everything about your entire life is uncertain,” Cody said, letting a little of his disdain show. “Your ship is falling apart. Your people live huge parts of their lives in the dark, reduced to their work and nothing else. You have cargo that you can’t easily offload, but you have an expensive hostage to help offset your costs if you play your game right. Wait and see what the fleet can do. Bargain for me. You’ll be surprised at what you get.”

“Perhaps.” Her lips pursed like she was about to spit. “You know, I’m inclined to keep your little friend. Livia says he’s useful.”

“It’s ‘ze,’” Cody corrected. “And trust me when I say that you can’t handle the hurricane Ten would drop on your ship if you tried to separate us.”

“Fine. Then you’ll be offered as a package deal, but if I don’t get enough for you? I might rethink my stance on keeping you alive.”


Well. At least it was all out in the open now.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Twenty-One

Notes: Let's visit with a less familiar face these days, huh? It's time to do some digging.

Title: Reformation: Chapter Twenty-One


Chapter Twenty-One

The campus of the Academy felt disquietingly empty. Unprecedentedly empty.

It wasn’t that cadets had never been called to war before. The last time was nearly fifty years ago, but Sigurd could still remember the effects of that battle, even though he hadn’t been an admiral back then. That was the battle that Foster Alexander had truly made his name in, as a military commander and a leader. His family’s fortunes had risen ever since, continuing even after his death. Or, at least they’d risen for one member of the family.

Sigurd settled back into his chair and closed his eyes, thinking. He’d dismissed his staff—there was no sense in keeping around a host of schedulers and secretaries and professors when there was no one around to mind or corral or teach. He was alone in the central office building for the first time in…perhaps forever. Which was just as well, if he was going to be reviewing classified messages from Garrett.

“Mercury, repeat last transmission.”

The message began to play.

“I spoke to our ghost. She confirmed what I’ve suspected—narcissists with God complexes tend to keep their plans, and their resources, to themselves. I was worried we’d be dealing with a massive conspiracy, and there’s plenty of blame to go around for inaction and bad action, but when it comes to funding we’re looking at just one credit stream: Raymond’s. The ghost receives a yearly stipend from him to keep herself in style, but doesn’t have any access to the family fortune. She’s not allowed to make private investments, or make extra money off her own talents. She gets a brief financial breakdown each year of their holdings, but it’s nothing not available to the general public.” Sigh.

“I’m still working on tracking down how he’s paying for a war on the Fringe, but when it comes to who, I think you’re better equipped to go digging. Look at the specs I’ve sent you for the ships out there. We can’t get audio transmissions, but think about who could be manning this effort. This is about more than monetary policy, that’s not going to square with a lot of people. The ones he’s got playing pirate and attacking Pandora are good at what they do. Most places they’re hitting and running before we can get out there to properly investigate or counter; Pandora’s holding out because of a repulsion energy shield, but if they’re keeping at it then they’re organized.” There was another pause, this one accompanied by the sounds of Garrett’s hands in his hair, then sliding down over his face.

“Find me his captains. People who went through the Academy, people in positions of command who’ve either been dishonorably discharged, retired under suspicious circumstances, or gone rogue. I need to know who’s in charge if I’m going to know where to hit them. Tell me as soon as you find something solid.” The transmission ended.

Sigurd didn’t need to watch it again to see Garrett’s slow but inexorable decline—he could hear it in his voice. He wasn’t taking care of himself, but he wouldn’t, not yet. Not until he had taken care of Raymond Alexander, and Sigurd wasn’t in any position to step in and chide him. They didn’t know each other well enough, and he couldn’t risk estranging Garrett. The best he could do was help things along to a rapid and satisfactory finish, and get everyone back where they belonged.

“Mercury, cross-reference all Federation forces’ dishonorable discharges for the past…” He considered the timeline, when Raymond had come to power and how. “Fifteen years with notable associations, political, monetary or social, with President Alexander.”

Processing.” Then a moment later, “Complete. Seventeen names found.

“Remove deceased or currently imprisoned.”

Eleven names found.

“Remove those not working in a command capacity.”

Six names found.

“Read them to me.”

Abenabad, Afi. Glazer, Domingo. Hall, Prinze. Orwell, Carver. Wellington, Fernanda. Xidao, James.”

“Known associations with each other?”

“The Hunter Massacre.”

Of course. The Hunter Massacre was the biggest black eye the Federation had sported in the past two decades, and it was entirely the result of over-eager, gun-happy officers deciding to take a nearby colony’s environmental emergency into their own hands. The Hunter expedition had been a colonizing effort that had gone wrong fast: the weather was too unpredictable, the crops were unable to grow as fast as they needed to, and those that did grow had carried pathogens that had taken weeks to manifest in the nervous system, but when they did—seizures, fainting spells, and memory loss for the mildly afflicted. Complete loss of mental and physical control for the moderately afflicted, including a predisposition to lash out at their surroundings for no reason.

Their medical staff was under-prepared to deal with the fallout, and requested Federation aid. Three ships had gone with supplies to take care of, and possibly evacuate, the colony. Less than a week later, they’d opened fire on the habitat from space, obliterating it and all its residents, as well as destroying one of their own ships, which had been the one actually spending time on the ground. Their rationale had been absolute bedlam in the colony, irreversible medical effects and the potential for spreading disease among their crews.

An investigation had proven that not only was the illness non-transferrable—you could only get sick if you ate the food—but that there had been significant disagreement among the leadership as to what course of action was best. The man in charge, Vice-Admiral Orwell, had insisted upon separation between his crews and the afflicted. One of his captains and all his medical staff had complained, and in the end, it was that captain who took her ship down to actively provide assistance. His response had been swift and deadly. Three hundred and twenty-one Federation officers were killed, and almost nine hundred colonists.

The hell with a dishonorable discharge, the man should have been court-martialed and thrown in prison for the rest of his very long life, but his trial was overshadowed by the sudden deaths of most of Raymond Alexander’s family. The news cycle churned on, and probably due in part to his long service and in part to the skeletons he could unbury if he needed to, Orwell and his officers were spared. They would never serve in a reputable navy again, but apparently they’d found a very disreputable one to lay claim to.

“Current employment records for Orwell.”


“Bullshit. Fine. Past five years.”

Consulting work for IslaTerra, Black Sky, Luminox.

“A think tank that specialized in population control, a defense contractor, and a weapons manufacturer.” How unsurprising. “Correlations with any Alexander holdings?”

None evident.

That didn’t mean they didn’t exist. “Flag those corporations and dig deeper, using any of the extended Alexander family names.”

Processing. Complete. Substantial investments in all three companies under the name of Evan Hardwick, Haven Alexander’s brother. Evan Hardwick has been deceased for twelve years.” Haven was Foster Alexander’s last wife, and had died at the same time he had. Her brother had passed away the following year in a shuttle accident, but before that he had run his own investment corporation. There had been a lot of dark money flowing through those channels, but it all should have ceased on Evan’s death. He had no children, and had kept a much lower profile than his sister. To use his name meant whoever was behind this—and Sigurd didn’t have to wonder too much about that—hadn’t been in a position at the time to act without it, but had been in a position to hide the illegality. Interesting.

“List all available monetary actions by Evan Hardwick in the past twelve years.”

There were over a hundred actions listed. Sigurd flagged them to be sent on to Garrett. “Correlate actions with any associations with Orwell.”

It didn’t stop at the three companies the computer had found before. If what he was looking at was true, President Alexander had been bankrolling Orwell ever since his discharge, and a lot of that money had gone into subtly-veiled construction. Some of those contracts had even gone through the military—bits and pieces of things, more little threads to pull that might lead to the revelation of an entire fleet of ships made by a thousand different hands, all of them pulling their creations into a dark void of secrecy.

Well. That couldn’t be allowed to stand. “Bundle this information and send it to Peacock. Highest level encryption. And recall my staff. I’m going to pay a surprise visit to the construction docks this afternoon. We’re going to get some records pulled.” The docks’ accounting system had a private server that he couldn’t access from here. Once he was on site, though, he should be able to get his hands on their raw data. A surprise inspection should do the trick, and if he had his staff run interference for him, a few minutes alone was all he needed.

The docks are off-limits to all visitors without prior authorization by the Admiralty.

“I’m an admiral, I think I qualify.”

You will be challenged.

“They’ll let me through if they don’t want to be court-martialed.”

Your time there will be limited.

“I know.” Sigurd smiled. “It’ll be a race.”