Edward Owen – Author

Combat Star Chapter 1

Just wanted to introduce my MC and give you a feel for this story. Feedback as always is welcome. If anyone is interested in being a beta reader, let me know. Also, I will be revamping the website so if it looks different the next time you stop by, that’s why.

 

Sales Rep for Pulsar Industries

Tara Kincaid                      Sales Rep for Pulsar Industries   Main Character- Combat Star

“Stay tuned for an exclusive live broadcast. UCA Marine Red Bravo Company is putting their perfect record on the line against a group of Mech-Heads. Confirmed reports of attacks against the Hollister Township have given the UCAMs the green light to take out the latest affront by Evil Repper slime on UCA soil.” Commander Ben “Riptide” Rawlings jerked his thumb toward the holoscreen. “That’s what I’m talking about right there, sweetheart. Perfect record. Don’t get any better than that.” Tara’s irritation had been hovering around Def Con Three for most of her meeting with the Commander. It shot straight to Def Con Five at the term of endearment. Only the potential of a sizable commission prevented her from ripping into the man with a verbal assault. “That’s my job, Commander, helping you maintain a perfect record,” Tara said, her voice dripping with as much sugar as she could muster despite the odor of male sweat and gun oil. “Pulsar’s new RG 73 will increase your squad’s effectiveness and reduce their fatigue.” She held up the weapon and pointed to the features as she named them, making sure to keep the gun below her cleavage. “Our new Xena grade energy cells are made with premium Bystrum ore and have 30% more power with a 25% reduction in mass. This means you can fire more projectiles and still reduce your overall equipment weight.” Tara depressed a small button on the side of the rifle releasing the magazine. “We’ve also increased the rate of fire by almost 100%. A three round burst will hit as a single unit. All the impact of a javelin style weapon without the weight or energy consumption.” Rawlings eyed the rail gun, the skepticism unmasked on his face. “100%? That means after the second mag the barrel will be a molten mess. Everybody knows you can’t force that many 30 mic rounds through a light-weight handheld. Sounds like your engineers didn’t do their homework.” With his comment, the Commander turned away from Tara, clasped his hands behind his back and stared at the continuing report on the holoscreen. “I can see you really know your ballistics,” Tara replied. “And what you say would be true if this was firing a 30, but it isn’t. We increased the rate of fire by dropping the caliber down to 20 mics. No heat buildup, and less kickback.” A mean, guttural laugh erupted from the Commander. “Are you fucking kidding me? You want me to send my men out against a Mech squad with self-healing armor carrying a little 20 mic popgun? I don’t know how you got past my assistant but this has been a complete waste of time. I suggest you make your exit Miss Kincaid and be quick about it.” A small smile pulled at the corners of Tara’s mouth. “So you think you can’t get enough penetration with a smaller projectile, is that your problem, Commander Rawlings?” The commander spun around and glared at Tara. “I’ll tell you what, we deploy at 1530 hrs. Why don’t you meet me in my quarters in about an hour and I can give you a demonstration of penetration.” Rawlings crossed his massive arms over his chest, his green eyes emphasizing his challenge. Several of the men in the ready room began to snicker. Tara fought back the urge to lash out at the group. “As thrilling as that sounds, Commander, I have a better idea.” Tara placed the gun back in its case, sauntered up to Rawlings and placed one hand on his arm. She ran her index finger over the exposed skin of his chest and licked her lips. “I’ll give you a live demonstration under battle conditions. If the RG 73 isn’t everything I’m saying it is, I’ll be waiting in your bunk wearing nothing but a smile. If I’m right, you put an order through procurement for twenty units.” Rawlings took a nervous step backwards. “Right. I don’t have time to babysit some sales-honey when the bullets start flying. We have a job to do out there. Besides, I wouldn’t want you to break a nail.” The squad roared, their laughter shaking the walls. Tara waited until the noise subsided and pulled her terminal from its pouch and showed it to Rawlings. “Your concern is touching but I have over a thousand hours of combat simulation and field experience. Under the Madison Act that gives me the right to sign on to any unit I choose. My application has already been processed. I’ll see you at 1530 hrs. Sweetheart.” Tara patted the Commander’s chest, spun on her heel, snatched the case off the bench and marched out of the room with it tucked under her arm.  

Catching Up

July 17, 2017

Hey gang, I’m back and yes I’m alive. I’ve taken some time off for personal reasons but slowly getting back into the swing of writing. Actually, my current WIP has 44 chapters inked in rough draft. Working title: Combat Star, book one of the Meridia Stone Wars Saga. Plotting and scheming like GoT but with greedy corporate types and ambitious military leaders. High tech mechanized warriors from the Räschnelle Republic square off against  well armed Marines from the United Commonwealth Alliance,  battles sponsored and televised to entertain the working class. It’s all about controlling the production of Bystrum ore which supplies power to everything. Add in our hero, Tara Kincaid, a weapons sales rep that gets roped into joining the Marines and a young woman with some supernatural abilities (everyone wants to use her powers as a weapon) and you have some idea of what the story is about. No worries, I’ll post some teaser chapters in coming posts. What’s that? Oh yes, there’s a love triangle with Tara and two very different men. All suitable for junior high on up. A few f-bombs (I apologize for my character’s language but soldiers sometimes swear) but no sex or gory violence. Still fun, I promise. Not sure how many books or how long but I’ll let you know when the muse tells me.

For now, Darya Salko, my sword wielding daughter of Nephilim Assistant DA is on the shelf. I still have all the notes, outlines and manuscripts and I think hers is a story worth telling, just at a later time.

That’s all for today. Email is always welcome.

The First Book is Done

Katana and briefcase

 

Today I finished the first book in the Dark Angeles series, “Darya Salko”. Happy to announce that Creative Alchemy will be publishing it along with the next two books, “Sword of Souls” and “Where Angels Fear to Tread”. Stay tuned.

Special Monday Edition- Blog Hop tour for R.E. Blake

R.E. Blake is the pseudonym of the USA Today bestselling author of over 30 novels, featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Times, and the Chicago Tribune. He has a new book out, “Less Than Nothing”, that is getting rave reviews. I managed to catch him in the airport (not easy, the man runs like a deer!) and he was kind enough to share his thoughts on his new book.

Oh, stop complaining. Those ropes aren’t that tight. Just finish the blog …

New Adult? Young Adult? Contemporary Romance? Coming-of-age?

Less Than Nothing Cover

When I sat down to write the trilogy that turned out to be the Less Than Nothing novels, I had no idea what genre they were going to be. I sort of thought maybe NA, because they’d have some heat to them, there’s a central romantic theme to the story, and they deal with subjects that are more serious than the YA books I’ve read. What ensued has me scratching my head, though, and now I’m not so sure.

The books cover the trials and tribulations of Sage and Derek, two homeless teen street musicians in San Francisco who make a life-altering decision to hitch cross-country and enter a talent contest in New York.

Seems straightforward enough. That’s a road book. Like Huckleberry Finn, or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, or any number of other road tomes, only with a teen romance as the central driver. Only that’s not how it turned out. The characters took over, and apparently their story wasn’t a road story at all, but rather a love story combined with a coming-of-age saga.

There aren’t a lot of books that feature homeless main characters, much less homeless teens grappling with the demons of their pasts. These are characters with flaws, with depth, with problems and hopes and needs. Who aren’t adults yet, but also aren’t kids – caught in that neverland between responsibility and adolescence, but dealing with the harsh reality of survival on the streets.

Less Than Nothing is a tip of the hat to the Janis Joplin rendition of Me & Bobby McGee. It came on the radio while I was driving, and as I listened to Janis belt it out, I thought, “wow, wouldn’t that be an awesome story – road trip, two young spirits in love, making mistakes, fighting to succeed…” And that’s how the book idea was born.

But how to classify it? It deals with more complex and nuanced subject matter than the usual YA outing, so it’s not really Young Adult. And it’s got some steamy scenes, so it’s spicier than that genre. Which means it’s probably New Adult, but then we have the problem that the protagonists are both teenagers…in what becomes an adventure/romance. And there are no shirtless biker alpha billionaires, so not typical NA fare. So is it contemporary romance? Not really. Is it NA? Not really. Is it YA? Not really.

Whatever it is, it’s getting rave reviews, so maybe the genre isn’t as important as the story. A young girl developing into a self-directed being, on the threshold of adulthood but still possessing adolescent impulses and doubts, which aren’t always logical and can be in conflict with each other while co-existing simultaneously.

Whatever the genre, I’m thrilled at how it turned out. I think it’s a truly original take on the familiar story of boy meets girl. Because it’s about that. And not that. It’s about love, and dreams, and desperation, and possibility, and the hope for redemption, the fear of loss, of betrayal, of being let down and hurt by those who are supposed to protect you, and about overcoming your past to build a brighter future.

Anyhow, if you like stories that are off the beaten path, are quirky, and deal with teens growing into their own skin and discovering what they’re made of, this might be a good choice. If you enjoy love stories in a big, sweeping, complicated sense, with imperfect characters who sometimes behave in frustrating ways – just like real people do – then give this a try.

And if you figure out what the books are, let me know. Because when asked, I’m still uncertain what to say, other than, “You’ve kinda just got to read them to understand.”

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION: 

Sage’s life as a teenage runaway in San Francisco is simple: Snatch a few hours of sleep on park benches and bus stops; dodge perverts, predators, and cops; and make enough as a street musician to eat. But her world flips upside down when she meets Derek – hot, tattooed, and charming, a singer from Seattle whose looks and talent take her breath away.

What begins as a reluctant partnership quickly develops into a cross-country race against time – and awakens a hunger in Sage that’s unfamiliar and exciting.

As they travel from coast to coast, Sage and Derek pursue their dream, only to discover that they can never run far enough to escape the demons from their pasts.

Less Than Nothing is the breakout debut NA novel from USA Today bestseller R.E. Blake that critics are buzzing about and readers can’t put down.

Thanks, R.E. Boy, you tie someone up for a few hours and they dart out of the house like their hair’s on fire! At any rate, here’s where to find “Less Than Nothing”.

LTN1

 

Book Links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1n3D7dz

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1rnax8b

Apple: http://bit.ly/1xPBQe0

Ray Bradbury Challenge #47- Bar Fight

Sneak peek at my current WIP “Darya Salko”, Book One of the Dark Angeles Series. Darya is the daughter of two Nepilim (half angel, half human) and an Assistant District Attorney for the City of Los Angeles. She has a special knack for fighting demons and is very resourceful, as you will see.

Katana and briefcase

 

Bar Fight

 

Her gaze was drawn to the corner of the room near the front door. A man she did not recognize slouched against the wall, his hands jammed in the pockets of a long black coat. His eyes darted back and forth as if he were looking for someone. After a moment his gaze locked on a point on the other side of the room. Darya couldn’t tell what he was looking at but he pushed himself away from the wall and made a beeline in that direction. He seemed to be unaware of the other people in the room and bumped into several of them without even turning to apologize.

The only retaliation was dirty looks from the offended customers until he jarred a large man hunched over a pool table. The man was lining up a shot and the tip of the cue stick struck the side of the ball and  sent it spiraling off at an angle into the side pocket. He stood up and glared at the stranger gripping the pool stick in both hands.

“Hey asshole, you want to watch where you’re going?” the big man growled.

The stranger didn’t even acknowledge the man and kept walking. The cue stick made a loud crack as the man slammed it down on the table and stomped after the stranger.

“Listen, you little fucking asswipe, I’m talking to you!”

The big man reached out and grabbed the  stranger’s shoulder. The stranger whipped around and thrust his palm in the center of the big man’s chest and sent him flying onto the pool table.

As the stranger turned, his red eyes glowed beneath his bushy brows.

“Holy shit!” Darya swore under her breath. She turned back to Geoffrey and said, “I’ll be right back.”

By the time she sprinted across the room a melee had started centering around the stranger. Bodies flew as one tough guy after another took his best shot.

Darya dodged and weaved through the crowd. She glanced to her left and stopped short, then sauntered up to a tall man wearing a belt with a large buckle.

“Is that silver?” She asked him grabbing the buckle.

“Yes ma’am. Cost me seven hundred dollars. What, exactly do you have in mind, sweetheart?” He said as he slid his hand inside her jacket and moved up to her breast.  Darya clamped her elbow against his arm.

“Tell you what. Let me borrow this and when I bring it back we can talk about what I have in mind.”

She slipped  her fingers inside the waistband is jeans and flipped the buckle open with  her thumb. The belt made a popping sound as she pulled it free of the loops. He grabbed her wrist and forced her hand down inside his jeans. Without missing a beat she wrapped her fingers around his member and squeezed.

“Unless you want this removed as well, I suggest you let go.”

Darya’s eyes narrowed to slits and when she dug in with her nails, he let go of her arm.
With the crowd keeping the stranger’s attention, Darya hooked the belt around her waist, slipped up behind him and picked up a chair. She lifted it over her head and brought it crashing down on his head and shoulders. One of the legs split but the chair remained largely intact. He spun around, his jacket flying out behind  him and for a moment, Darya had the impression of large, black wings. Its breath washed over her and she  wrinkled her nose.

“I don’t know what corner of hell you crawled out of, but I think it’s time you went back,” she said.

The stranger’s human form dissolved  and in its place was a grotesque demon with wings and large, oval-shaped eyes.

It hissed, its lips curling back from a mouthful of  broken and pointed teeth.

“And who is going to make that happen? You, Nephilim?” the Demon said.

“First of all, yes I am. Second of all, asshole, I am not Nephilim. That would be my parents. And for the last thing, you are about to have a really bad day,” Darya’s said as she unwound the belt from her waist.

The demon rushed at her, claws extended. She side-stepped and knocked its feet out from under it with a low kick. It spread it’s wings and managed to avoid landing on the floor. As it was recovering Darya wrapped the end of the belt opposite the buckle around her hand and spun it like a weapon.

Darya’s swung  the belt and struck the demon in the back between its wings. Smoke erupted from the gash where the buckle connected with its mottled skin. And inhuman scream split the air and the demon whirled around to face her. The belt was already moving and the buckle caught  the demon flat in the side of the face, burning it.

With a gnarled hand it reached out, grabbed a hold of the leather and yanked Darya off her feet. She stumbled foreword and thrust her hand out, grabbed the demon by the wrist and use her momentum to flip it over her back. It landed with a crash on top of the table and Darya managed to jerk the belt free from its grasp. She jammed the buckle into its throat and the metal seared its flesh.  Black liquid and rancid smoke poured from the wound. The demon thrashed for a few moments and one of its claws caught her  across the forehead, opening a small gash. She ignored the blood as a trickled down the bridge of her nose.

Darya jumped on top of the demon, planting her knees on its chest. With both hands, she forced the buckle into its throat nearly decapitating it. Its blood sprayed out for a few moments.

The explosion filled the bar with blinding white light and threw Darya across three tables.
She picked herself up and recovered the belt from the floor. The buckle was untouched but the leather was a smoking, sticky black mess.

 

Ray Bradbury Challenge #46- Darya Salko

This is part of the first chapter of my new series, Dark Angeles. The main character, Darya Salko, is a Deputy District Attorney for the City of Los Angeles. Her childhood was far from normal. Think Law and Order meets Supernatural. This is not exactly a complete story, but the muse wouldn’t let me waste the word count on something else. Feedback, as always, is welcome.

 

Darya Salko

 Katana and briefcase

“And Truth or Darya strikes again,” Stephan said as he collected files from the table and slid them into his briefcase.

 Darya enjoyed Stephan’s boy-next-door good looks that belied his age.

 He looks like a college student, she thought.

 “You’re going to tell me you didn’t know she would be here? What did you plan to do if she didn’t shown up?”

 “C’mon, there’s always a plan B,” she said. “It’s lunchtime.”

 Darya turned on her heel and made a beeline for the exit. Stephan scrambled to catch up.

 “Let me guess, you told Robert not to tell you if he found her so you could honestly say you didn’t know. Sandoval would be pissed if you got your skirt tossed in jail for a week.”

 The junior D.A.’s tone bordered on hero worship.

 “Oh, my young Jedi, you have so much to learn. Thompson knows I won’t waste his time. Besides, I knew he would give the jury a whole day to think about what a lying bastard Gainsworth is. I’ll bet his poor grandmother’s been dying since he was in high school.”

 Darya strolled down the steps of the courthouse thankful for the clear spring skies and the warm California sun.

 Doesn’t get much better than this.

 “What do you want for lunch?” she said as Stephan caught up to her.

 ”You buying?”

 He rushed to keep up with Darya’s long strides.

 ”Yeah but only if we go to Antonio’s.”

 Stephan rolled his eyes. “Let me guess, Veal Parmesan?”

 ”Is there anything else on their menu?”

 ”That’s fine, it’s not like I’m going out on a date tonight anyway.”

 Darya nudged Stephan in the ribs. “That is your fault. I happen to know that Elise was very interested in going out with you.”

 Darya continued down the steps but Stephan had stopped behind her. She turned. “You coming?”

 Stephan wasn’t moving. Silence filled the air as the entire city came to a halt. The people on the steps, those walking back-and-forth on the sidewalk and the cars on the street were all frozen in place.

 Small hairs stood up on the back of Darya’s neck. Old memories, locked away for more than a decade crept back into her mind.

 No, this is not happening again.

 Movement near the top of the steps caught her eye. A woman, dressed in designer clothing, pranced down the steps toward her. Darya studied her as she drew closer. The woman stopped and her bright blue eyes faded to white.

 ”Hello, Darya,” the woman said in a lilting voice. “How have you been, darling?”

 ”Do I know you?” Darya said.

 The woman looked down at herself .

 ”Oh, I suppose you wouldn’t recognize me in this.”

 The woman waved her hands. In her place stood a tall, lanky man with scraggly hair braided down his back. An anemic goatee clung to the bottom of his chin.

 ”Tonaias!” Darya’s eyes widened in surprise. “What the H … What in Heaven’s name are you doing here?”

 ”Nice save. Although, I daresay your first inclination was correct. I’m afraid my reason for being here has very little to do with our team.”

 ”I don’t want to hear about it. Undo your little magic spell. I’m going to lunch.”

 ”Celeya you know you can’t run away from this.”

 ”My name is Darya.”

 ”Why do you insist on pretending you’re something you’re not? Besides, better you go to the battle on your terms than theirs.”

 ”I finished this fifteen years ago. I did the good deed, I fought the good fight and we won. I have a life now. So go back and tell whoever’s in charge I’m done. And really, Tonaias, a rich socialite? I thought you were above vanity.”

 ”Well, my child, one takes the appearance that will allow one to blend most easily. Besides, have you seen the selection of men’s shoes this day and age? That is the true definition of Hell on Earth.”

 Tonaias  resumed his socialite appearance.

 ”Seriously, Celaya, there’s a storm brewing. You might want to be sure you have your umbrella.”

 Before she could reply, Tonaias disappeared and the city returned to life. Stephan nearly ran into Darya as he came down the steps.  The look of surprise on his face at her sudden change in position produced a small knot in her stomach.

 I know you can hear me. Leave me alone. You are not screwing with my life again.

 Darya forced herself to smile across her clenched teeth.

 ”Come on,” she said, “let’s go eat. I’m starving.”

 She scurried down the steps to the sidewalk and hailed a cab.

 *****

 Darya did her best to fake conversation during lunch. The incident outside the courthouse had clouded her mood and the meal barely held her interest.

 ”You okay?” Stephan said.

 Any other time, the look of concern on his face would have been amusing. Darya pulled herself from her reverie long enough to give him a smile.

 ”Yeah, I’m okay. Just a few things on my mind,” she said.

 ”Must be. You’ve hardly touched your lunch.”

 ”Guess I wasn’t as hungry as I thought. Can you let Lisa know I’ve got a couple of errands to run this afternoon? I’ll be back later.”

 ”Don’t forget, we have the Wilson deposition at 3:30.”

 Darya pushed her plate away. “Oh, I should be back by then. If I’m not, you can handle it.”

 ”Sandoval will be pissed if you’re not there,” Stephan said around his last mouthful of food.

 ”He’ll get over it,” she said as the waiter dropped the bill on the table. She signed it and handed it back to him.

 ”I don’t mean to be rude, but there’s something I need to take care of.”

 ”Hey, no problem. Thanks for lunch,” Stephan said as Darya left the table. “We will have to do it again sometime when your mind and your body are both here.”

 

 

Ray Bradbury Challenge #45- Lost Soul

Lost Soul

 man-in-suit

“Sir? Is that your bus?” the woman asked, pointing through the door.

He looked at her with a blank expression.

“I – I don’t know,” he said. “Am I riding the bus?”

“Let me see your ticket.”

She pointed to the item clutched in his right hand. He held it up and she took it from him.

“Oh, no hon this is one way from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. Welcome to the City of Brotherly Love. Are you waiting for someone to pick you up?”

She handed him back his ticket.

“I don’t know. This is Philadelphia? The one in Pennsylvania?”

Her expression changed and she frowned.

“Yeah, the one in Pennsylvania. Do you want me to call someone?”

“I don’t know anyone.”

“What’s your name? Maybe someone sent a car for you.”

He opened his mouth to answer and shut it without uttering a word. His brow furrowed and several moments passed before he said anything.

“I have no idea.”

Her concern ratcheted up another notch and she placed her hand on his arm.

“That’s okay. Let’s check your ID. Where’s your wallet?”

His face relaxed as he reached inside his jacket. His hand was empty when he withdrew it.

“I guess I lost it.”

“Stand up and check your pants pockets,” she encouraged.

His hair was well styled, his nails manicured and the suit certainly tailored. Not someone she would have expected to lose his wallet, much less his memory.

“All my pockets are empty,” he said.

Her concern was blossoming into worry. There wasn’t a mark on him, his clothes were neither dirty nor torn and his hair was pristine. It didn’t appear that he had been mugged.

“Why don’t you come with me,” she said. “My name’s Monique and I work here.”

“Thank you, Monique. I apologize that I cannot give you my name.” He paused and said, “But I do know I work in Los Angeles.”

Monique smiled. “That’s a start. How about I call you Robert, until we find out what your real name is.

His lips succumbed to a partial smile. “Robert is good,” he said. “For now.”

“Well, Robert, follow me.” She led him across the station to a door with a window and a sign that read ‘Security’. A man with ‘Steve’ stitched on his shirt sat behind a desk inside the office. He stood up and opened the door when he saw Monique.

“What’s up?”

“This gentleman seems to have lost his ID,” she started, “And, umm, his memory. I think we need to call someone. For now we’re calling him Robert.”

“Okay, Robert, have a seat.”

Monique followed him into the office. She and Robert took seats opposite Steve in plastic chairs. Steve picked up the phone and punched a number on the keypad.

“Yeah, this is SO Billings at the Downtown terminal. I’ve got a male, early forties, no ID and no memory … no, he’s definitely not homeless … okay, no, he’s fine here with us. We’ll wait. Thank you.”

Steve dropped the phone back onto the cradle.

“Philly’s finest is sending out two of their officers but it might be a while,” he said.

“They’ll be here in seventeen minutes,” said Robert.

Monique and Steve stared at him.

“How do you know?” Steve said.

Robert returned their looks. “I don’t know, but two officers will arrive at ten-forty two.”

“I don’t suppose you have tonight’s winning lottery numbers tucked away, do you?” said Steve.

“No,” said Robert.

“Just ignore him,” said Monique, placing her hand back on Robert’s arm. “You said you worked in Los Angeles. Is there anything else you remember?”

Robert looked at her for a moment and blinked as if he had not understood the question. Then he said, “Your favorite ice cream is rocky road but you don’t eat it because the nuts hurt your teeth.”

Monique pulled her hand back and stared at Robert with her mouth open.

“The only person who knows that is my boyfriend,” she said, eyes wide. “Wait a minute.” Her eyes narrowed and she gave Robert a hard look. “Jared put you up to this, didn’t he?”

“No, but he’ll be here twenty-two minutes after the police officers, at eleven oh four.”

Monique scooted her chair away from Robert.

“Why would he come here? He works all the way in downtown and we don’t have plans.”

“Don’t listen to this bullshit,” said Steve. “This guy don’t even know his own name.”

“I know about Rachel,” said Robert. “So does Cynthia.”

The color drained from Steve’s face.

“More bullshit. There’s no way – .”

Monique turned to Steve. “You’re sleeping with Rachel? Jesus, Steve, she’s a kid. Cynthia’s going to kill you!”

“Unfortunately, she’s going to kill both of you. And herself.”

A commotion in the station caught Monique’s attention and she stood up. People were running across the concourse.

“Holy shit, he’s right. It’s Cynthia and she’s got a fucking gun. I’m out of here.”

Monique opened the door and the bullet hit her in the center of the chest. She crumpled to the floor in a heap.

“Your whore’s dead, asshole and you’re next,” yelled a red faced woman holding a pistol.

One slug hit Steve in the neck and the second in the face. As he hit the floor the woman placed the gun against her chest and pulled the trigger. She joined her two victims on the floor.

Robert held out his hand to Monique. She rose from the floor, turned and looked down at her body then at Robert.

“My time was too short,” she said. “I wasn’t ready.”

“I know,” said Robert. “You are a good person, but your purpose was finished.”

“What about them?” She motioned toward Steve.

“I don’t know. I’m only here for you. We should go.”

“Okay. Am I going to Heaven?”

“Sort of. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.”

The two faded as the sirens closed in on the bus station and a hulking black shadow appeared in the office.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #44- Olivia’s Story

#44 Olivia’s Story

 Lauren-Olivia

 

“It’s his birthday today,” she said. “He would have been fifty-three.”

Her dark brown hair, pulled back in its customary pony tail, flipped as though agitated while she scanned the room.

“You can relax here,” he said. “Give the swivel a break and have some wine.”

She let out a sigh and reached for the glass.

“Sorry, old habits.”

He chuckled. “Twenty-four years is hardly enough time to have ‘old’ habits, Liv.”

Olivia Jordan was ‘Liv’ to only a handful of people close to her. At the top of the list was Napoleon Owen, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy, Retired; her dinner companion and grandfather.

“Yeah? How many operatives do you know that started training when they were eight? He gave me a gun for my tenth birthday. Not a bike or a video game. A Beretta M-9. I was shooting a two inch cluster at thirty yards before I started puberty.”

Olivia jerked the glass off the table, drained its contents and slammed it down.

“He was trying to protect you. Can you blame him?”

“Every day. Her blood is on his hands and nothing will change that fact. I need a real drink.”

Napoleon waved to the server.

“A bottle of Jack Daniels and two shot glasses, please.”

He turned back to his granddaughter.

“No, you can’t undo the past, but you can do something about the future.”

“Nappy, please tell me this isn’t the ‘find a man and settle down’ speech. I think Aunt Jo’s already gone platinum with that one.”

His laughter boomed through the restaurant. “What a colossal waste of time and whiskey that would be. Josephine means well but she’s not the brightest bulb on the tree. Does she even know you own a gun? Never mind. Anyway, what I’m talking about is the future of the United States. Russell and I had an interesting discussion over poker last week. That’s why I asked you to dinner.”

The waiter arrived with their ordered whiskey and Olivia had two shots poured before the man left the table.

“By Russell you are referring to Russell Thomas, current resident of the White House? Something tells me I’m going to need more than one of these.”

Olivia tossed the drink back and refilled the glass. She slid the other across the tablecloth.

“You’re already behind one.”

Napoleon drained the brown liquid and placed the glass in front of him.

“Yes, President Thomas. Things aren’t going well for our side. 9/11 caught us with our pants down and now every two bit thug with a bomb thinks he can have his way with us. It’s getting harder to deal with all the threats against our country.”

“Yeah, well isn’t that the job of the Foster Grant crowd? NSA, FBI, CIA, Thomas has a whole alphabet soup of meat-heads who are supposed to keep us Americans safe in our beds at night.”

Olivia drained another drink and sat back with her arms crossed in front of her.

“You’re right. We’ve got the best intelligence agencies money can buy. The problem is, the world has become much too small and everyone is watching everything we do. On top of that, these kids come out of Langley and Quantico and you can practically smell the government on them. They’re categorized, registered in a database and on the government payroll with a three thousand page ops manual stuffed in their back pocket. Our enemies have changed the rules of engagement and we aren’t keeping pace.”

“I know I’m going to regret asking this, but what am I supposed to do about it?” Olivia said.

“We need eyes and ears our enemies don’t know about. And if things go south, boots on the ground that can do what needs to be done, regardless.”

Olivia had her next drink halfway to her mouth and set it back down on the table.

“You’re serious?”

“As a bullet to the brain. You put together the team. I have some suggestions but you have the final say so.”

Olivia retrieved her drink and stared at it for a moment before sending it to join its bottle-mates.

“I want double my current rate. I assume you have some shell company set up already?”

“On paper you’ll continue working in executive protection. You’ll even have clients when it’s necessary to establish a cover. Your carry permit and other details will attract less attention that way.”

“One more thing.” Olivia filled the shot glass and downed it.

“What’s that?”

“I want all women on the team. None of your testosterone-driven knuckle dragging SEALs strutting around and stinking up the place.”

Nappy let out a chuckle. “Point taken. I will ask you to make a small concession on that, however. I already have your military liaison chosen. Young hotshot lieutenant looking to make a name for himself.”

“Dammit, Nappy! That’s just what I’m talking about. First he’s a liaison…” Olivia put her fingers in the air to mimic quotation marks. “… and the next thing you know he’s trying to run things. No deal.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and turned away.

“It’s James.”

Olivia turned and glared across the table.

“No shit?”

“No shit. The whole team at the ready but only if you call them in. You still make the calls in the field.”

“In the field? What does that mean?”

Napoleon tipped the whiskey into his glass and swigged it down.

“It means that someone has to have your back on the outside. It means that a mission might get scrubbed and you won’t always get to make that decision. If it’s any consolation, you still get paid.”

Olivia stretched out her arms, laced her fingers and cracked her knuckles.

“You sure Mr. Gung-Ho SEAL boy is okay with all this?”

“Yeah, I’m sure,” said Nappy. “He’s the one that suggested you run the team.”

“Really? Then I guess I’m in.” Olivia tipped her glass against Nappy’s and downed her drink.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #43 – Raven’s Story

Raven’s Story

 Raven

 

Delta-three-niner to command, I have a clear shot at target Bravo-Six,” she said into her mic.

Command, Delta-three-niner you are clear to go hot, repeat, go weapons hot,” the reply sounded in her headphones.

She flipped the safety out of the way and the targeting sights on her heads-up display blinked from red to green. With the softness of a lover’s caress she squeezed the trigger. Her chopper lurched and the missile streaked toward the horizon. The explosion lit up the early desert morning, causing Raven’s eye-shield to go dark against the glare. She dropped her Apache helicopter to less than a hundred feet and streaked over the sand taking the same course as the missile. The building was in smoking ruins. Another enemy installation taken down. Bodies littered the tarmac, some still smoking. One of them was holding something. She swung around for a closer look and her blood went cold –

Raven sat bolt upright in her bed, sweat soaking her clothes and bedding even with the cool fall temperature. The dream came every night despite the pills, booze and random sex partners; all the chemicals and guilt in the world were no match for her Creole libido.

It had been a sanctioned target with solid intel. Collateral damage was part of war. She was following orders.

None of the platitudes helped either. Something had gone horribly wrong and regardless of what anyone said, she pulled the trigger, the blood was on her hands.

Her cellphone blinked the time: 03:35. It was unlikely that sleep would come and she had no desire to suffer through the dream again at any rate. Spending the night alone meant no awkward explanations for her insomnia and no embarrassing walk of shame for whichever guy she had dragged home from the bar.

Win-win as far as I’m concerned, she thought as she tromped into the kitchen.

The half-empty bottle of rum sat on the counter as both accomplice and accuser. Cotton mouth and a dull throbbing in the back of her head steered her to the fridge and the cold water inside. She drained half a bottle and pulled a box of Aleve from the drawer. Four tablets went down with the rest of the water.

Aleve, recommended by murdering, alcoholic chopper jockeys the world over.

Witty, but unlikely to boost sales of the pain reliever. The box landed in the drawer and she slammed it shut. The rum beckoned but she ignored it and grabbed more water.

“Is this seat taken?” she muttered into the darkness before plopping down on the kitchen chair with its back turned against the table.

Does drinking alone count if you’re drinking water?

The thought didn’t even depress her. Depression implied that she felt something. In truth, she was devoid of any feelings at all. Her weekly sessions with the base shrink had been a waste of time. He kept asking her how she felt. Empty and dead inside were apparently not the right answers. The man was an idiot. Raven was pretty sure she could take him in a fight and he wouldn’t last five minutes in her bed. That placed him in the useless category as far as she was concerned.

The feeble glow from the streetlamp bathed her kitchen table in a soft, yellow light. A stack of unopened mail, two dirty coffee cups and a three day old pizza box crouched like nocturnal creatures caught far away from the safety of the shadows. Amid the clutter was a small, black box. Raven flipped open the top and stared at the medal inside.

For Bravery in Battle. The words were inscribed across the back. Her intention had been to throw it in the trash. Yesterday. And the day before that. And every day for the last three weeks since she had arrived Stateside. It should read For Murder Most Foul. Then they could call it the Hamlet instead of the Medal of Honor. That would be fitting and keeping it would make some twisted kind of sense. She snapped the lid shut and shoved the box across the table. It careened between the coffee cups and came to rest against the pizza box.

“Gooooooooaaaaaaaaaalllllllll!” she said making a halfhearted attempt to raise her arms above her shoulders. She drained the second water bottle and stared at the rum. Maybe it would make her sleep this time. Maybe the dream wouldn’t come. Maybe monkeys would fly out of her ass and clean the apartment. Equal chance as far as she was concerned.

*****

… Delta-three-niner you are clear to go hot, repeat, go weapons hot – direct hit – building destroyed – body on the tarmac – holding something – the chopper swung around and she hit the spotlight. There were some odd fixtures – a swingset? And a body with small hands – one of them was holding a doll.

Raven jerked her head up from the table, a strangled cry forcing its way out of her throat.

An elementary school full of kids. The enemy had built a radar installation on top of the school. Their missiles had taken out a dozen of our fighters and three transports at the cost of almost sixty American lives. My missile took out the radar, the lives of twenty-seven children and three teachers. Not one military person had been in the building. The cowards had hid in an underground bunker, safe from the death that Lt. Raven Reneau rained down from on high. And the U.S. Marine Corps gave me a medal. It doesn’t get much more fucked up than that.

*****

Raven shielded her eyes from the glare coming off the highway. A late model sports car pulled up beside her. She opened the passenger door.

“You sure about this?” said the driver.

“Yep,” she replied as she threw her duffel in the back seat and climbed in. The tires squealed as the driver pointed the car down the road. Raven didn’t even look back at the base fading in the distance.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #42- Kat’s Story Part 3

Kat’s Story Part 3

Kat

Kat “The Gat” McIntyre

She didn’t have to wait long. Denny rushed out of the theater, his dark features knotted up in a murderous scowl. His voice echoed from the restroom into the lobby.

“I’m gonna kill that fucking Irish bitch!”

Kat slipped from behind the video game and made a beeline for the men’s room. Two of the other boys came out of the theater as she reached the door.

“Denny! She’s out here,” one of them called.

Kat swung the bat as Denny strode out the door. He deflected the blow with his arm and pulled his knife from his back pocket.

“I’mna stuff that bat so far up yer twat it’ll knock yer teeth out,” he said.

“Pretty tough talk seein’ as yer mates have all turned tail on ya.”

Denny swiped with the blade and Kat blocked it with the bat. She caught him in the shin with the toe of her boot. He howled with pain and rage, lunging at her, arm extended. She brought the bat down and connected with his wrist, sending the knife clattering to the floor. Before he could recover she swung again, this time hitting him in the ribs. The thud of the bat against bone was punctuated by Denny’s screaming. He flailed with a wild swing, his fist catching her in the jaw. Kat stumbled backwards and Denny hit her with a shot that bloodied her nose.

“Fuck ye wanker,” Kat hissed as she wiped the blood from her face. She faked with the bat and launched a vicious kick that connected with his crotch. Denny dropped to his knees and vomited onto the carpet. Without hesitation, Kat swung full force, the bat slamming into the side of his skull with an ear splitting crack. Denny Martin went into a coma from blunt force trauma to the skull and never recovered.

*****

The magistrate regarded her with a steely gaze that made her squirm.

“Ms. McIntyre, you have been charged with five counts of aggravated assault and two counts of attempted murder. The only two things in your favor at the moment are your age and the witnesses who corroborated the attack you suffered at the hands of these five young men.”

The court appointed barrister put his hand on her arm as a reminder that she keep her mouth shut.

“Therefore, I am remanding you to Her Majesty’s Army for a period of not less than four years. Realize that you are still a ward of this court and on probation for the next eighteen months. If your behavior is anything less than exemplary, I will see you in prison. Do you understand the terms of your sentence?”

The barrister nodded and Kat stood. “Yes, your honor.”

*****

Kat trudged down the hall with the line of new recruits. Twenty three men and seven women made up the squad to which she had been assigned. The uniform itched and reeked of chemical cleaner. The squad filed into an open room with mats on the floor. The biggest man Kat had ever seen stood at the front of the room at parade rest.

“Nubes, listen up,” the man barked. “My name is Master Sargent Tomlinson. It is my job to teach you how to not die in combat. You will pair up with a partner. You will listen to me and follow my instructions.”

The squad leader marched down the line and matched each member with the person next to them. Kat’s partner was a young man with clipped blond hair, broad shoulders and a ruddy complexion. His name tag read “Donner” and he smirked as he sized her up.

“Your body is a weapon that you carry at all times,” said the Master Sargent. “Your ability to correctly use it as such will determine your chances of survival on the battlefield.”

Two men who had been in the back of the room came forward and demonstrated a basic throw as the Master Sargent explained the maneuver.

“This line, you will attack your partner as if you had a knife. This side will defend. Go!”

Kat rushed toward Donner. He dropped his shoulder and Kat flew over him and landed on her back, the breath knocked out of her. The Sargent called for them to trade places.

Donner came at her and she dropped her shoulder. He brought his knee up and caught her in the ribs, knocking her to the ground.

“Sorry, Princess,” Donner said under his breath. “Maybe you should be in the mess hall so you don’t get hurt.”

“McIntyre, get up and do the move again,” the Sargent said.

Kat squared off against Donner and he rushed at her. She dropped her shoulder and when he raised his knee she sidestepped and caught him in the groin with her elbow. He dropped toward her and she sent him to the mat on his back. He writhed in pain holding his hands between his legs. Kat knelt down and said “I’m not yer princess and don’t ya forget it, boy-o.” She started to walk away and turned back to the fallen man. “Yeah, you might want to try the mess hall so you don’t get hurt.”

*****

 

Discharge Record

Name: Katherine Anne McIntyre

Service Number: A56-45Y9867

Disposition: Dishonorable Discharge

Charges: Conduct unbecoming Sect. 653.34

Drunk and disorderly Sect. 656.82

Assaulting an officer Sect. 492.13

 

Katherine Anne McIntyre is hereby stripped of all rank, honors and entitlements bestowed upon a member of Her Majesty’s Army. A sentence of ninety days incarceration to be served prior to discharge.