Guest Post: The Prize in your Serial by Gail Z. Martin

Please welcome to my blog today on her latest blog tour, the talented Gail Z. Martin.

by Gail Z. Martin

Shadowed path cover MartinWhen I was a kid, I picked my breakfast cereal by the toy surprise in the bottom of the bag. That hidden treasure mattered to me a whole lot more than the flavor of the corn flakes.

So I find it interesting that in fiction, readers are discovering the allure of a new type of ‘serial’–serialized fiction.  Of course, serials aren’t new. Charles Dickens made his living writing for magazines, stretching his stories out in installments for a breathless reading public. Magazines in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries ran a lot of serialized fiction, with readers awaiting the next installment in the forthcoming issue. And for a while, ‘penny dreadful’ writers cranked out lurid pulp fiction at a brisk rate, much like episodic TV does nowadays. Back in the day, radio shows also serialized stories, so that listeners would ‘tune in again next week’ for the next thrilling segment.

With the demise of many magazines, it took the internet and digital publishing to breathe new life into serialized fiction. Podcasters were quick to embrace the idea, with folks like Scott Sigler and JC Hutchins doing very well with the concept, and others like Christiana Ellis, Tee Morris, Rich Sigfrit and PG Holyfield bringing back the dramatic multi-actor radio drama format for serialized stories.

I took the leap into doing serialized novels with my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures ebook short stories and novellas a few years ago. The series focuses on the backstory for a favorite character in my Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings series, someone with a dark past whom readers wanted to know more about. I began writing sequential short stories that will add up, eventually, to three full novels about Jonmarc.

The Shadowed Path, my new book from Solaris Books, is a collection of the first ten of those short stories (plus an exclusive eleventh story) that comprise the first third of Jonmarc’s story. Taken together, they form a novel with a full story arc. I’ve had a lot of fun writing the stories, and having the chance to share Jonmarc’s  background, since he’s a favorite of mine, too. There are eight additional stories available in ebook beyond those collected in The Shadowed Path, with three more novellas coming later this year.

Serializing a story requires a slightly different approach from writing a regular novel, because each individual ‘episode’ has to have its own internal arc to a greater degree than do chapters in a book. The stories need to be able to stand on their own, but also link together to build a greater whole. It’s an interesting writing challenge, and I’ve been enjoying working with it.

Readers and authors get some wins with a serialized story that are also different from a regular novel, or stand-alone short fiction. Readers don’t have to wait as long for the story to unfold, but still have the anticipation of the upcoming installment, which is familiar to people who watch episodic TV. For those who prefer to binge read like they binge watch, the sequential short stories will eventually be collected into a larger, cohesive whole.

For the author, it’s nice to get feedback throughout the process instead of only at the conclusion of a full novel. Bringing out episodic work on a regular basis maintains a relationship and an ongoing connection with readers, preserving that link between books. And it’s a great way for authors who may have contractual obstacles that restrict bringing out new ‘novels’ (due to publisher right of first refusal, etc.) to be able to still create larger, cohesive works. Personally, I’m a fan of bringing out additional, sequential stories that tie into my novels because there are a lot of smaller adventures I enjoy sharing with readers that involve the characters and setting and which happen outside the full novels and which introduce secondary characters or expand on the world building.

Modern Magic cover MartinMy Deadly Curiosities Adventures short stories expand on the novels in my dark urban fantasy series with additional episodes featuring more cursed and haunted objects and supernatural threats. Readers get a chance to know the main and secondary characters better and spend more time in the modern-day Charleston, SC atmosphere. The first 10 of those stories with Cassidy, Teag and Sorren, are collected for the first time ever in Trifles and Folly, currently part of the Modern Magic ebook boxed set with 12 full-length books by 13 bestselling dark fantasy authors, just $1.99, only on Kindle for a limited time.

The Storm and Fury Adventures continue the Steampunk world of Iron & Blood, with Department of Supernatural Investigation agents Mitch Storm and Jacob Drangosavich fighting clockwork monsters and supernatural evil in 1898 alternate history Pittsburgh. And my Blaine McFadden Adventures will eventually provide six sequential, serialized novellas that fill a six-year gap in my novel Ice Forged. Three of those novellas are currently available, either individually or collected in King’s Convicts.

For me, the prize in the serial is the chance to tell more stories, explore more adventures, and keep readers on the edge of their seats, waiting for the next installment. So dig in!

From June 21-June 30 I’ll be doing my annual Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event blog tour, and I hope readers will stop over to my website, find out what all is going on and where to find the posts, giveaways, contests and fun events. And of course, please look for The Shadowed Path at your favorite bookseller!

The Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event includes book giveaways, free excerpts, all-new guest blog posts and author Q&A on 22 awesome partner sites around the globe. I’ll also be hosting many of my Modern Magic co-authors guest posting on my blog during the tour.  For a full list of where to go to get the goodies, visit

An Excerpt from Raider’s Curse, part of The Shadowed Path:

Jonmarc took off running. At fifteen, he was tall, just a bit over six feet. Years of working

alongside his father in the forge had given him a strong back and muscular arms. A mop of

chestnut-brown hair hung in his brown eyes, and he pushed it out of the way as he ran.

A worn path led to the open shed that was his father’s forge. Jonmarc could hear the steady

pounding of his father’s hammer on the anvil. The sound echoed from the hills, steady as a

heartbeat. He skidded to a stop just outside the doors.


Anselm Vahanian swung a heavy hammer in his right hand while his gloved left hand turned

the piece of metal on the anvil. Sparks flew around him, landing on the long sleeves of his rough-

woven shirt, his gloves, and his leather apron. The forge smelled of coal, iron, and sweat. To one

side lay two swords Anselm had completed for a client in the village. On a table lay a variety of

farm tools—iron pots and pans, and hoops for the cooper’s barrels. Jonmarc had helped to forge

several of the pieces, though he longed to work on swords, like his father.


“Mother said to tell you to wash up for dinner,” Jonmarc shouted above the clanging.

Anselm stopped and looked at him. “I’ll eat supper later. You know I can’t stop in the middle

of something when the iron is hot.”


Jonmarc nodded. “I know. I’ll tell her to put a plate aside for you.” He paused, and Anselm

looked at him quizzically, waiting for the unspoken question.


“Have you talked to any of the fishermen lately?” Jonmarc tried to make the question sound

off-handed, but Anselm frowned as if he caught the undercurrent of concern.


“You mean the talk about raiders,” Anselm replied, and struck the iron he was working.

“Do you think it’s more than just talk?”


Anselm didn’t answer until he put the iron bar back into the furnace to heat up. He was

Jonmarc’s height, with a head of wiry dark hair and brown eyes that glinted with intelligence. A

lifetime in the forge had given him broad shoulders and a powerful physique. His profession also

showed in the small white burns that marked his hands and arms, scars too numerous to count.

Jonmarc had gained a few of those burn scars too, but not nearly as many as his father. Not yet.


“Maybe,” Anselm replied. “The real people to talk to are the traders. Their ships go up and

down the Northern Sea coast, stopping at all the villages. I always get news when I trade iron

with them.”


“Have you heard anything?”


Anselm turned the iron rod in the furnace. “Some. One of the villages on the other side of the

bay burned. Everyone was gone when the traders came. No way to know why or how. Eiderford,

down the coast, did have a run-in with raiders a few months ago.” He eyed the iron, and turned it

one more time.


“So there are raiders,” Jonmarc replied.


Anselm shrugged. “There are always raiders. But there’s less to attract them here in

Lunsbetter than in Eiderford. We’re not a proper city, and we’re as like to barter as deal in coin,

so there’s less to steal.”


Unless they want food, livestock, or women, Jonmarc thought. And there are enough people

who trade with the ships that there’s probably more coin here than anyone wants to admit.

“There’s a garrison of the king’s soldiers beyond Ebbetshire,” Jonmarc replied. “Can’t they

stop the raiders?”


Anselm shrugged. “They can’t guard every village along the coast,” he said. “And they’d

have to know for certain when a raid was planned.” He shook his head. “No, we’re on our own.”

He paused.


“Don’t worry yourself about it,” Anselm said, drawing the rod out of the furnace and placing

it on the anvil. “We’ve doubled the patrols, and the fishermen are on alert.” He grinned. “And

tomorrow, those swords are going down to the constable and the sheriff. We’ll be fine. Pump the

bellows for me. The fire’s grown cold.”


Anselm stood in front of a large open furnace filled with glowing coals. Jonmarc pumped the

bellows that were attached to the back of the furnace, and the coals flared brighter, flames licking

across their surface. Anselm lifted his hammer to strike the iron. “Now get back up to the house.

Your mother’s waiting. Just save some for me.”


“I’ll make sure of it,” Jonmarc replied. The clatter of the hammer drowned out anything else

he might have asked. He stepped out into the cool night, and started back up the path to the

house. His stomach rumbled and he fancied that he could smell the stew. But the worry he felt

when he went to the forge had not lifted; if anything, his father’s comments increased Jonmarc’s

concern than the warnings about raiders were not mere tales.


If father says the men are keeping their eye out for trouble, then that’s the end of it, he

thought. Naught I can do. But he remembered his comment to Neil about keeping the axe

sharpened, and on the way back to the house, he detoured into the barn. Thanks to his father’s

craft, they were well-stocked with farm implements.


He walked over to the space his father used to butcher meat. Butchering wasn’t a pleasant

job, but it was necessary, and a task with which Jonmarc was well acquainted. He had learned

the craft from his father, practiced enough that it no longer made him lose his dinner to be awash

in blood and entrails. His father had taught him to strike swiftly and cleanly, to block out the

death cries of the terrified livestock, to go to a cold place inside himself until the job was done.

He had even learned a few tricks of the trade, like how to hamstring a panicked animal that was

likely to kick or buck. But nothing about how to fight men.


On the wall hung an impressive variety of knives. He selected a large butcher knife with a

wicked blade as well as a smaller boning knife, and made his way around to the back door,

hiding the knives among his mother’s herbs before going in for supper. Tonight, when everyone

was in bed, he would come back for them—one for him, and one for Neil. Just in case the men

were wrong.


If you want to see more stories about Jonmarc Vahanian, check out The Chronicles of the

Necromancer series and The Fallen Kings Cycle books, as well as the Jonmarc Vahanian

Adventures on ebook.

©2016 Gail Z. Martin all rights reserved. No duplication or reprint without written permission.


About the Author

Gail Z Martin headshotGail Z. Martin is the author of The Shadowed Path (Solaris Books), Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Solaris Books); Shadow and Flame the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books); and Iron and Blood a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

She is also author of Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen); The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities.  Gail writes three ebook series: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden Adventures. The Storm and Fury Adventures, steampunk stories set in the Iron & Blood world, are co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

Her work has appeared in over 30 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: Robots, The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Heroes, Space, Contact Light, With Great Power, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Cinched: Imagination Unbound, Realms of Imagination, Gaslight and Grimm, Baker Street Irregulars, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

Find her at, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on, at blog and, on Goodreads and  free excerpts on Wattpad



Sneak Peek: Duneman (Dawning Age Book 1) Epic Fantasy WIP

All right, here’s a confession. Yes. I’ve become a very bad blogger. Whereas for two years I posted twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays, with regular aplumb, I now find myself posting every other week at least once, two if I’m lucky. So I apologize. Amazingly, the audience for the blog remains steady, even when I don’t post. Some of my posts continue gaining new views regardless, so it’s encouraging that my content matters. But still, my drain creatively from being so busy with editing and writing has hurt my blogging. I am just not thinking up ideas or having creative energy for it like I used. I’ve failed to do some interviews too and had to back off on others. Sincere apologies for that. But I also do not want to be one of those people who posts boring blog posts just to post.  You don’t care if I bought new socks, changed shoe sizes, or what I ate. This blog is about writers and editors and helping the same. So I need content that’s appropriate with substance.

So, I hope this will be a worthwhile post. Those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know I have been working on my first fantasy novel, Duneman, since January2010.  Well, it’s finally done, four drafts later, and four agents are considering it for representation. In the meantime, I have started work on book 2 of that cycle, called The Dawning Age, which I expect to be 4-5 books total. Yeah, that’s right, I’m not sure. I’m a discovery writer, a pantser. The only reason I have an idea I can’t do it in three is because the agents asked for synopses of the next two books, so I had to throw something together. I did a pretty good job with Book 2, I believe, but I was totally lost on book 3…because book 2 isn’t done yet.

So meanwhile, here’s a sneak peek at my first fantasy novel. I hope you enjoy it. It took a while to write but I enjoyed every minute.


(Dawning Age Book 1) 


He gained consciousness sweaty and hot, lying on his back. It took a moment for the black spots to fade, replaced by the blinding sunlight and white sand stretching as far as the eye could see. Where am I?

The sandy landscape reflected sunlight and heat back at him as he sat up, shaking off the sleep. Scattered belongings—clothes, canteens, a shattered barrel and trunk, torn saddlebags—

stretched off into the distance toward the remains of a wagon. Footsteps led toward him, smeared and uneven as if perhaps he’d stumbled to where he lay. Sunlight glinted off flesh atop a nearby dune. Was someone else alive? Scattered severed limbs—an arm severed at the elbow, the hand still attached, fingers stiffened like claws, a leg severed mid-thigh, another cut off mid-calf—provided the answer.

His back ached as he examined himself.  Tattered brown pants stretched down to just below his knees where threads of scattered lengths were all that remained. He had no shirt or shoes or socks. The skin of his feet was sunburned cherry red. No wonder his body felt aflame. How long had he been there?

And then it hit him like a stone from a slingshot: Who am I? He searched his memory but no name would come. His mind was like an unpainted canvas or a new fence awaiting its first coat of color.

His left shoulder cried out with every movement of his arm, so he reached back to examine it with his right and found a long, scabby cut running in an arc down his back. Had he been in a fight? Who did this to him? He checked himself again for cuts and abrasions. His forehead hurt, and dried flakes of blood came away on his palm and fingers. He had a large bruise on his abdomen and small ones on his chest and stomach. Pain flared as he moved his right ankle, but he couldn’t tell if it came from sunburned skin or a jagged cut, scabbed over now from the heat and sun.

He stood and his feet cried out in protest. He wobbled, losing his balance and forcing him back down to his knees. He buried the pain in the back of his mind and turned slowly in a circle, looking around him. Scattered, thin cumulus clouds filled the clear blue sky overhead. Thick sandstone walls and clay-tiled roofs topping white stone buildings rose in the distance, a few spires and towers looming in their midst. A trail of smoke curled into the sky from behind them. A city!


Wait! Why didn’t he hear anything? A few sheep bleated from the west, their cries mixed with scattered insect chirps and bird calls, but there were no sounds of people, wagons, horses, tools. Maybe when he got closer. Ignoring his feet’s protests, he stood again and stumbled across the curved white dunes toward the sandstone walls.

Ahead, beside the city walls, a boy herding sheep stopped a moment to use the untucked tails of his loose-fitting light blue shirt to wipe sweat from his darkly tanned forehead. His boots stretched up over his brown pants well past his ankles, and he held a tall, curved wooden staff in his right hand as he watched the desert grassland and the herd around him.

Drawing near, the man called out to the shephard. “Ho, neighbor!  A fine day for herding.”  His chapped lips and parched throat hurt from the effort, reminding him how much he longed for water.

The boy nodded, staring at him with caution, his left hand wrapping firmly around the staff just below his right.
“What city is this?”  The man smiled, not blaming the boy for his wariness. I must look a fright.

“Chyllos, stranger.” The boy’s voice cracked in the way that occurs when one transitions from a boy to a man.

He must be older than I thought. “What day is it?”

“Third day.” The boy spoke with a gentle, plain accent, his words slow and deliberate.

Orean Midlands? The question popped into his head along with images of the Lands, his home. Multiple states, the Elbian pass and mountains, the mighty Esos River, source of water for much of the inlands. Then: I remember seven day. Could I have been unconscious that long?  “Do you know where I might get water?” He hocked, trying to call up enough saliva to wet his cracked, painful lips and throat, but none came. The boy carried no canteen, and there was no sign of a well.

“There’s a well in the square.”  The boy nodded toward the city walls.

The man limped past the first of the sheep, the boy shrinking away as soon as he moved. “Thank you kindly.”

The boy turned his body to keep the stranger at his front, and the man continued feeling the shephard’s gaze on him as he waded through the grazing herd and on toward the city. A wide, wooden gate stood open to one side with no one standing guard.

The stranger entered through the high stone walls, moving along a sandy street past shabby, rundown houses packed in side-by-side. Their second floors projected out over the boardwalk and into the street where crude signs dangled from creaking rusted hooks. The city appeared to be on the verge of collapse. What city would be this deserted at mid-day?

He hurried up the street, garnering surprised stares from a couple shopkeepers sweeping the wooden boardwalk in front of their stores. Ignoring them, he continued toward a sign labeled “tavern” at the far end, then stumbled up onto the wooden boardwalk. The tavern stood along yet another sandy street which wound off into the distance in both directions. A quick search revealed no currency in his ragged pockets. For a moment, he considered passing by to look for the public well, but the sun continued its baking blare and surely a tavern had water. He grabbed the door handle and swung it open, assaulted immediately by the smell of sawdust and smoke. Stepping inside, the scent of stale ale filled his nose as he waited while the door shut behind him and the sunlight faded away.

The tavern seemed typical for a small city, dimly lit with torches spread evenly around the room on hooks attached to the white plaster walls. The bottom half of each wall consisted of wooden slats hung side-by-side, the floor of matching dark wood with a thin layer of sawdust. As his eyes adjusted, he spotted a bar across the room beyond scattered round wooden tables and chairs. A bartender eyed him from behind the worn, polished surface with the same wary look as the shepherd boy.

“Good afternoon, neighbor,” the man said. “Can you spare a cup of water for a stranger?”  For a moment, he wished he could ask for clothes, too.

The bartender was large and muscular, his skin dark like the shepherd’s, a brown leather apron tied over the top of a loose fitting white shirt and brown trousers.He scowled as the stranger approached. “How did you get here?” he demanded in a scratchy baritone, as the stranger sat on a tall stool in front of the bar.

“I don’t really know. I’m told this place is Chyllos, but I’ve never been here before.”  He shrugged.

“What happened to your clothes?” The Bartender said, staying put at the far end of the bar.

The man shook his head. “I awoke on the dunes. The sun is brutal today. Can you please spare some water?”

The bartender grunted and turned to a large wooden barrel in the corner, reaching into it with a long metal ladle and pouring water into a wooden cup. Setting the cup on the bar, he slid it down to the stranger, watching as water splashed out onto the scarred surface.

The stranger drank eagerly. The fresh water cooled his mouth and throat. Even as he finished, he longed for more. He held out the glass to the bartender and croaked: “More please?”

The bartender grunted again, approaching with the metal scoop and pouring its contents over the wooden cup on the bar until he’d filled it once more. The man noticed the bartender held the scoop as far from the cup as he could manage so they didn’t touch. He drank again, smiling. Water had never tasted so good. He sighed, wiping his dry, cracked lips on his sleeve. “Thank you very much, neighbor.” His voice was louder and warmer now as the water lubricated his throat and the pain faded.

The bartender glared at him. “Okay, now be on your way.”

The man nodded. The bartender must not care much for nonpaying customers. “Can you direct me to an inn?”

“There are no inns available here for the likes of you,” the bartender said, ending the conversation.

“If I have offended you somehow—”

“You offended me the day you were born—you and all your kind.” The bartender’s eyes narrowed, cold and flat. The stranger finished drinking and set the wooden cup back on the counter. What have I done to deserve his wrath?  The bartender motioned to the cup. “Keep it. It’s worthless to me now.”

The stranger nodded and grabbed the cup off the counter, stumbling toward the door.

Sunlight blinded him again as he stepped back out onto the street. He looked around for an inn, searching the creaking wooden signs hanging from the buildings but seeing none in sight. He had to find some clothes and shelter. He limped west along the street past startled citizens sweeping storefronts or moving along the boardwalk with parcels. They hurried out of his path as he passed, scowling at him much as the bartender had. What have I done?  He couldn’t remember ever being in Chyllos before, and, the further he went, the more the silence bothered him. Where were the people who patronized these establishments?

At the end of the boardwalk, he turned into a dirt alleyway between buildings and bumped into a well-dressed woman in a lacy, silk dress who’d just emerged there. “Excuse me,” he said, stepping away from her.

Her brown eyes went wide and she stared at him in horror. “Get away from me!”

The stranger turned, confused, as she ran away down the street, startled by her fear and hostility. How could someone who’d never been here before be so disliked?  What was it about his kind that made them react with fear?

The bartender stood on a boardwalk, chatting with neighboring store owners and pointing at him. All three frowned, squinting angrily. Down the street, dust flew from wagon wheels as a large, dark-bearded man steered his team up the street in the stranger’s direction.

The stranger ducked into the alleyway, hearing the braying of donkeys and whinnying of horses ahead. At the end, he passed a stack of hay bales and moved onto another sandy street beside a large wooden stable. Maybe he could at least get shelter from the sun there.

As he turned right, onto the street, he saw the bartender and several others appear from an alley further down and hurry toward him up the street. Why are they chasing me?

Ducking back into the alley, he turned right again at the main street. Chattering voices came from behind and he glanced back over his shoulder as the frightened well-dressed woman pointed at him, jabbering to several men.

Quickening his pace, he looked for another alley or a good place to turn. He heard shouting and looked back to see the men following him now. The bartender and shopkeepers swooping in from the same alley the stranger had just used to join them.

Turning onto a narrower side street, the man hurried on past storefronts with faded paint fronts and a rotting boardwalk of crumbling wood. Where could he go? Then he heard whinnying and felt the dirt street vibrate as the dark-bearded man in the wagon turned onto the street, following him.

The stranger started running, his burned feet aching from the effort, but then the wagon was passing him. The driver looked down, whistling and motioned toward the wagon. “Get in, stranger!”

The man shot a questioning look. “I didn’t do anything to anyone, sir, I promise.”

“Get in unless you want to explain that to them,” the driver said, slowing his team to a crawl. “Trust me.”

The man could never outrun them. He sighed and jumped onto the back of the wagon.

“Cover yourself quickly!” the driver instructed as he spurred his team forward again.

The man slid down into a bed of straw and pulled the old blanket the driver had indicated over himself. The wagon increased its speed, bouncing harshly up onto cobblestones now as it turned sharply around another corner. What am I doing here?

He stretched out his arms, bracing himself against the slat sides of the wagon as best he could and ignored the outcries of his aching body as the wagon continued racing along, then slowed. Shadows fell over them as he heard the crunch of straw or hay and felt the wagon lurch forward and then stop again, suddenly.

It wobbled as the driver hopped down and the man heard creaks of hinges and the sound of wooden doors sliding together and a bolt snapping into place.

He slid the blanket back, his eyes struggling to see through the darkness. Whinnying and braying came from animals other than the team somewhere as the smell of smoke, hay and manure made him wince, then he realized he probably didn’t smell much better himself.

As his eyes adjusted, he focused on a metal stand nearby containing rows of horseshoes, expertly crafted. Then sat up, blinking.

“You plan to stay there all day or come out a greet a man properly?” the driver’s baritone voice asked.

The stranger brushed hay from his worn clothes and crawled toward the back of the wagon, spotting the driver waiting there with a pensive look. “Who are you and why are you wandering the streets scaring women?”

The stranger sat on the back of the wagon, gathering himself to hop down and fumbled for words. “I didn’t mean—”

“Come now, I’m only jesting,” the driver said with a laugh, wiping his hands on the dark apron covering his brown cotton pants and loose fitting tan shirt. Even his boots resembled those of the shepherd boy. The driver reached out a thick, muscular arm, extending his hand.

The stranger clasped it and slid down, his feet thumping onto the dirt floor as the driver stepped closer and got a closer look at the man, his face a mix of wariness and concern. “Why are they after you? Did you give them a reason?”

Fire raging in a nearby stove cast dancing orange and yellow flames across the walls around them. “What is this place? A smithy?”

The driver laughed. “That’s what they call me around here.” In the light of the fire, the blacksmith’s skin appeared lighter than the other residents the stranger had encountered. His eyes narrowed, locked on the stranger’s face.

“I just asked for water. That’s all. The woman bumped into me by accident.”

“What happened to you?” The smith looked him over, examining his clothes and face.

“I don’t really know.” The stranger leaned against a wooden pillar beside the open fire. “Is it a crime to be a stranger here?”

The blacksmith nodded. “Only if you’re a wizard.”

“Wizard?” the man asked. Is that what I am?

The blacksmith nodded. “You’re from the east, aren’t you?  People around here don’t have such light skin. From what’s left of your clothes and your accent, I’d guess one of the cities along the coast.”

The man shrugged. “I can’t remember.”

The blacksmith seemed puzzled. “You must have come here for a reason, although I’d dare say it appears you’ve had a rough time of it.”

The stranger sighed, nodding. “I awoke on the dunes under the brutal sun.”

The blacksmith nodded again. “The summer sun is harsh in the desert. You look exhausted. What’s your name, stranger?”

The stranger searched his mind, but still had no idea what his name was. “I can’t remember that either.”

The blacksmith raised his eyebrows. “How did you come to be here, then?”

The stranger shook his head. “I don’t know. I think I was attacked in a caravan. The town’s not friendly, is it?”

The smithy shrugged. “After what we’ve been through, some are a bit fearful around strangers, especially those from the east. I prefer to judge men on their actions rather than assume they mean ill. You don’t look like a wizard or a bandit to me.”

The stranger groaned, putting his face in his hands as if he could wipe the frustration away. “I don’t remember anything.”

“Well, if you try anything, you’ll wind up on the wrong end of a hammer, my friend,” the smithy’s eyes narrowed with warning, then he smiled. “Perhaps some rest might help you remember. I can’t offer you much, but you’re welcome to rest for a while in one of the empty stalls. This late in the afternoon, I have few customers. We can talk more later about who you are and how you got here.”

The stranger closed his eyes, sighing. “Thank you so much, Smithy, for your kindness.”

Smithy motioned toward the row of stalls down a corridor to the right. “There’s one or two empty down there. Help yourself.”

The stranger stood and moved down the corridor, forcing his aching feet and legs to take the steps one at a time. It felt like he’d forgotten how to walk. He found an open gate three stalls down on the left and braced himself on the gate post as he stumbed inside. The stall floor lay covered in clean hay. He found a large pile in the corner under the shadows and sank quickly down to his knees. His back cried out as if it were on fire. He lowered himself slowly onto his stomach, the smell of fresh hay filling his nostrils and soon fell asleep.

The Returning Cover front onlyEditor Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction including the novels The Worker Prince and The Returning, and the children’s books 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (Flying Pen Press, 2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun (Fairwood, July 2013), Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age  (Every Day Publishing, November 2013) and Shattered Shields with co-editor Jennifer Brozek (Baen, 2014). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and can be found via Twitter as @BryanThomasS, on his website at or Facebook at

SPACE BATTLES Author Profile: Meet Author Selene O’Rourke

One of the delights of editing an anthology is the chance to invite new writer friends whom you respect. Canadian writer Selene O’Rourke makes her published fiction debut in Space Battles with her story “Final Defense.” Selene lives in the great white north of Calgary, Canada, and is well connected with the Canadian Science Fiction community. She has several stories floating about and is in progress on a few novels as well. She is active on Twitter as @LenaOR but avoids Facebook like the plague. Don’t even ask. Below, we talk about her story, her writing, her projects and her future and then share an excerpt of her story.

BTS: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?

Selene O’Rourke: It’s a little embarrassing, but the first time I knew any details about the anthology was when I received an invitation to submit from the editor. We’d had several conversations over Twitter, some of which discussed our shared writing experiences. A while later, there was this email in my inbox. I knew I had to submit something. When someone goes to the trouble to reach out, and extend an invitation, it’s not something to be readily refused (especially from a newer author on the scene!) The question, of course, was what to write for it…

BTS: This is your first sale, correct? Tell us a little about “Final Defense.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?

SO: I’m so pleased that Space Battles is my first sale! Every new landmark I reach is so encouraging. “Final Defense” is the story of how a lone military vessel is pulled away from patrol duties to face a formidable foe. Of course they’re going to need a little bit of help, which is where the miner Forent Nahn comes in. I don’t want to give too much away, but I have a few surprises waiting.

Identifying the ideas from a story is always a tricky part. For this one, it began with me racking my brain about the battle, and how I could do something unique enough to stand out, but not so far as to no longer fit. After thinking about it, I knew I wanted my protagonists to use Solar Sails as the primary means of propulsion. Then the trick became the story. It took me a bit of time, but I had two concepts that I had choose between: space miners, or pod people fighter “pilots.” Eventually I decided to combine the two ideas, and the Nacre space miner Forent Nahn was born. Once that decision was made, the story started coming together, and it was time to get words on the page.

BTS: How’d you get started as a writer?

SO: So…this guy I knew on Twitter invited me to– Wrong “start,” eh? Sorry about that. Seriously, writing’s been that bug that keeps coming back to me, even when I try to ignore it. When I was much younger, I wanted to be the next H. G. Wells or the next Asimov–so much so that my work was extremely derivative of those greats. Teachers kept encouraging me, (some in more obvious ways than others,) and I kept at it until we reached today’s point.

BTS: Do you have plans to do any more with this story’s universe?

SO: Most of the short stories I write are generally intended as stand-alone works. That said, there’s enough of a backdrop in place that if the right opportunity came along, and the right kind of story came to mind, I could revisit the universe found in “Final Defense.”

BTS: Where’d your interest in SFF come from?

SO: I think I’d have to say it was a combination of factors. You start with a voracious young reader, surround her with the stories of classic Trek, Doctor Who, and Star Wars–some of it’s bound to rub off. As I grew older, my interest in science grew, especially computers. With that there was a bit of stigma, which pushed me even further into being a reader, and eventually, a writer. The Science Fiction side came easy. It took the combined efforts of the late Anne McCaffery, Monica Hughes, a certain Hobbit, and the Chicken Pox to kick me out of my Science Fiction only snobbery.

BTS: What are your writing goals? Career? Hobby? Novelist? Short story writer?

SO: I aim to make a career of writing Speculative Fiction. It’s a challenge I look forward to achieving, even if it takes a while. Thankfully, I’ve had a lot of teachers along the way. I started off as a novelist, but I seem to be doing more short work. The prophetic joke I heard when I joined my writers group (the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association) was that they’d break me of being a “primarily a novelist.” I think they may have succeeded. (Even though I have about a half dozen novel ideas in various states floating around…)

BTS: What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?

SO: I have several stories sitting in the hands of editors at the moment. I have my fingers crossed for them, but there’s nothing absolutely solid quite yet. In fact, a lot of my stories are looking for homes. It could be a story about two kinds of vampires on a space elevator, or the story of a blood sorceress whose skin becomes like steel. Or it could be my novel, looking at how Arthur C. Clarke was really right about Magic and Science being indistinguishable at certain levels of advancement. Or the urban fantasy journeys of a woman and her car. (Almost like an UF Knight Rider.) I’ve also opened discussions with a publisher about an anthology (or three) idea. You haven’t seen the last of me, coppers! Err…sorry. Eventually my inner mad scientist gets the better of me. It’s so early in my career, the possibilities are truly stellar.

Here’s an excerpt from “Final Defense”:

Final Defense

Selene O’Rourke

The emergency message indicator flashed at the helmsman.

“Sir? Incoming—”

The beleaguered Captain sighed before barking at the helm. “Tell those entitled ninnies to keep their comms to the proper channels! We need these frequencies for real emergencies, not their thrice-bedamned imagined crises.”

“Aye, Captain. Sending—”

The SWSS Symphony of the Spheres exploded in a brief corona of multi-colored light.

In Chatspace, Forent Nahn thought, no one can tell which branch of humanity you’re from: nacre or flesh. Minute adjustments of its sails kept the Chatspace signal strong as Forent let itself drift in the solar winds.

Forent pointed its laser-bearing arm toward a nearby asteroid and slic ed a mineral snack from the hunk of rock. It grasped the small rock in its dominant arm, clutching the stone firmly—perhaps too firmly—as one of the flesh chatters began to rant.

“We should’ve taken them to far orbit and jettisoned the blasted
pods. The things’re just a waste of our DNA.”

“Have you ever actually met a nacre, friend?” Forent tried to calm
the surge of adrenaline pulsing through its veins.

“I ain’t your friend, pod-lover. Don’t need to meet one to know
they’re ugly as sin.”

Ugly? Nahn thought, Fleshie’s never seen a nacre carapace
scintillate in the sun, I’ll bet.

“Sub-human. Not a man in the bunch.”

Not a woman, either—the genetic engineers who made us figured
brains in a pod didn’t need genders. Nahn was about to shoot its
response into the ether when the emergency channel flared to life.

“Mayday! Mayday! Man down! Asteroid 238-Williams-PS! All
available to rescue duties!”

Forent unfurled its sails completely, sending the trigger signal
to its asteroid-based maneuvering laser. “Forent Nahn responding.
Making best speed. You have axes for me?”

“Rotation too heavy to give you sun or ecliptic axes. Thanks, Nahn.”

Don’t thank me yet. “Still en route to Williams. Any other

“Not yet. You might be the closest.”

As it tacked to catch the laser’s thrust, Forent checked its heads-up
display. “Hitting maximum thrust, Williams. ETA two minutes, fortyone
seconds. Can you hold?”

“We’ll try, Nahn. Switching transmission to Rescue.”

Forent switched its focus to the Rescue frequency, transmitting
“Roger” to Rescue, while instructing Chatspace to mark it as “Busy.”

238-Williams-PS slowly grew to Nahn’s vision as it approached
the site of the neighbor asteroid. The once spheroid rock was pocked
with symmetric craters, a freckled oblong visibly spinning on an arbitrary
axis. Forent spotted a white, segmented dome hugging the surface—
a flesh miner’s habitat module. Technically the competition,
but an emergency meant all hands were to respond.

“We’ve got an incoming nacre, Nahn. You getting close?”

“Uh, Williams? I am the incoming nacre.”

“Oh.” Silence engulfed the Rescue frequency.

Well, that’s dandy, isn’t it? Forent thought as the pause grew longer.
“Williams? What’s the situation? What am I looking for?”

No answer.

“Williams. Respond.”

Nahn ran its comms through diagnostics, testing the signal.
Chatspace was still up, waiting for a status change. Time frequency
still chimed its regular interval. Forent transmitted a ping to Rescue,
the reply as instantaneous as radio would allow.

Fine. “You want your man rescued or not, Williams? It’ll be a lot
easier for me to get there on time if you tell me where I’m going.”

Several seconds later, a data transmission responded. Designate
Largest Habitat Entry North. 26.3 kilometers 98 degrees.

The nacre pulled away from the navigational laser with a shift of
its sails, letting the solar wind slow its approach. As it closed with the
asteroid, Forent altered course to let the rock pull it into a high orbit,
scanning the surface as it did.

An irregular blackened crater caught Nahn’s attention first, marred
by the pure white suit hanging limply over a stone, midway up the
bowl of the deep depression. Asteroid dust drifted slowly from the
edges, a dark cloud building above the overturned rover at the base
of the pit.

Forent’s second orbit leeched enough speed away that it could
make finer maneuvers. Nahn magnified the view from its HUD, focusing
on the other miner as it circled the emergency site. With the magnification,
it could read the lifesigns tattlers on the flesh’s suit—the
lights were amber, but the air supply was nearing dangerous levels.

The nacre withdrew its sails, letting itself fall toward the injured
miner. It activated the drill in its dominant arm, chewing into the rock
near the victim to keep itself in place. It paused, then released a single
shot from its laser arm to get a feel for the stone.

Forent spread its sails, holding them ready. Flexing its dominant
arm, the nacre drew itself close to its flesh counterpart. Its laser crawled
along the asteroid fragment, steadily cutting at the mineral prison.

The stone snapped, descending lazily downward. Nahn cradled
the patient along its opalescent body, supporting the miner as it thrust
against the crater wall with its laser arm, and rose from the pit, sails
flaring to full span. As it gained altitude, Forent spun about, catching
sight of the approaching crawler.

The large-wheeled vehicle trundled forward, shielding its occupants
from raw vacuum with its multi-segmented body. A single portal on
that body lay open, a maw that stood ready to accept whatever offering
Forent had for it. Nahn floated carefully through the opening, and gently
lay the injured miner upon the platform.

As it pushed itself through the trembling portal, Forent Nahn
signaled for its maneuvering laser, its shimmering nacre pod fading
into the depth of space.

“They can’t be serious!” Captain Breen Zynt slapped the e-printed
orders back to the desk in her ready room.

“Ma’am?” Commander Gavin Roberts’ stoic expression stood
counter to his captain’s ire.

“Recon! For a pleasure cruiser, no less! Second-rate captain
probably took a micro-asteroid to his sails and lost his bearings!”

Roberts took a long, deep breath, his dark eyes fixed on his
commanding officer. “We are the closest military vessel, Captain.”

“No, Gavin. We’re the only military vessel in the Final system.
Just when we were gaining ground on the pirates in the Belt, they
send us to search for a civvie who needs his hand held to get back to

“Captain…” Gavin’s tone was cool.

Breen slouched in her chair, running her fingers over the back of her
prematurely gray hair. “Why do you put up with me, dear friend?”

The Commander smirked. “Tenure. It’d be too much trouble
breaking in a new Captain.”

Zynt’s gentle laugh echoed through her office. “Too true,
Gavin. Besides, how else would you get someone you went to the
Academy with?”

Roberts nodded, his smile emphasizing the contrast between his
teeth and his dark skin.

“You want to tell the crew, Gavin? Or shall I?”

“I got this one, Breen.”

The HMWSS Wakerunner was running night shift as it decelerated
for planetary approach. Scan indicators flared to life as the naval
vessel surged along its course.

“Duty stations ready! Captain to the bridge!” The duty officer’s
voice shook as he called the crew to heightened awareness.

Breen groaned when the announcement interrupted her sleep, but
rolled out of bed, duty pulling her to action.

The squeal of the bulkhead door, followed by firm steps upon the
bridge deck, proclaimed the captain’s arrival before she spoke.


“Debris field dead ahead, Captain. Preliminary signals suggest it
was the Symphony, Ma’am.”

Zynt waited for her duty officer to continue.

“But we have an anomaly. Three, really.” He indicated the main
tactical display, which was surging to life with a low hum.

The image slowly clarified, interpolating details at maximum
magnification. Upon the screen were three massive ships in formation—
each half the size of Final VII’s smallest moon.

“Get us a little closer, Helm. I’d like a closer look at those ships.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Wakerunner pulled forward on the solar winds, closing with the
foreign vessels.

“Weapons fire aft of unknowns, Captain!”

“Stand ready for evasive action. All hands to battle stations!”

“Ma’am?” The duty officer’s voice sounded hesitant.


“Weapons are continuing aft. Orders?”

“Why—” Breen’s thoughts were interrupted by the duty officer.

“Explosion registered! Unknown vessel has started moving
toward us!”

“Come about! Keep us away.”

“Ma’am! EMP—” Electricity leaped from the duty panel, blinding
the young officer.

“Comms! Get a line out to Command!”

“Negative, Captain! Communications went down in the EMP.”

“Get us out of range, Helm!”

“Switching to backups, Captain. Adjusting sails…” A loud pop
emerged from the system. “Backups shot, Captain. We’re drifting.”

Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here.

SPACE BATTLES Author Profile: Meet Author-Editor Johne Cook

Despite being one of the founders and editors (i.e. Overlords) of Ray Gun Revival, “With All Due Respect, his Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 story, is Johne Cook’s fiction in print. A technical writer by day and creative writer and editor at night, his interests include progressive rock, film noir, space opera, and racquetball. Johne is older than he looks but acts younger than he is. His short fiction has appeared in Deep Magic, The Sword Review, Wayfarer’s Journal, and Digital Dragon magazines. He can be found online at Facebook, on Twitter as @theskypirate and via Ray Gun Revival, where he hangs out often vaporizing someone’s puny planet for various arbitrary infractions. Married and newly a grandfather, fellow Space Battles author is no relation.

BTS: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?

Johne Cook: I heard about the Space Battles anthology on Twitter in February a year ago and thought I might have something fun to add to the theme. Of course, rationalization is the second strongest human impulse.

BTS: This is your first anthology sale, correct? Tell us a little about “With All Due Respect.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?

JC: It is my first anthology sale, and I’m delighted with the company I have fallen in with here.

This story features a character I’ve written about before, a space marine-turned-diplomat in homage to Keith Laumer’s “Retief” character. The Retief stories were funny and sharply satirical of governmental red tape while depicting the value of one good man whose primary gifts are common sense and personal initiative. In an era where we like to see how people change over the course of a story, I liked the idea of seeing how one good man could change the world around him over the course of a story.

I blame the situation in this story on my natural good-humored contrarianism. I grew up with Doc Smith and his endless technological escalation. For this story, I fell prey to a Whedonesque urge to tell a character-based story where the largest battle was really internal, man against his own nature, against his own fear. I wanted to see what would happen when one good man was stripped of everything and had nowhere left to hide. And honestly, I’m not as up on the latest trend in space armor and weaponry, so I thought I’d lean more on the man than his machines. In my vision, spacecraft of the near future aren’t that much different than what you might see today, no tractor beams, no artificial gravity onboard, no energy protective shields. In that environment, space battles become scarier because there’s no safety net, no formidable defenses to hide behind.

My original idea involved a sort of Trojan Horse, a diplomat going to meet with ravenous aliens and delivering the method of their destruction himself and leaving it attached to the hull of their ship or something. But along the way, I found surprising motivation for my alien antagonists and I discovered that the physics in space don’t work the way I’ve been trained to expect from every sci-fi movie ever. So that forced the first of many changes, ultimately leading to what I hope is a more interesting story.

BTS: How’d you get started as a writer?

JC: The seed was planted in the 4th Grade by my English teacher, Miss Kinane. It was the first time in my life that I ever felt I could do something effortlessly that others considered difficult and the curse of my daydreaming suddenly became a virtue. It was like discovering a superpower I was previously completely unaware of.

BTS: Where’d your love of SF come from?

JC: If writing was my new super ability, my dad’s phenomenal SF/F paperback library was my spice, my Melange, fueling that super power and stoking a fiery desire to see where it could take me.

BTS: Do you have plans to do any more with this universe?

JC: I’ve written two other stories with this character, Random Tenerife, entitled “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” and “Blessed Are The Persecuted.” I can imagine a series called something like “The Tenerife Beatitudes,” giving a SFnal treatment to all eight. As a person of faith, I was distressed that there wasn’t more SF I could embrace, and as a SF fan, I was distressed with the quality of the fiction passing itself off as being from the worldview I embrace. The thing is, I don’t care for preachy fiction. If I want answers from my reading, I’ll read non-fiction. I think the best Art asks questions without necessarily giving you the answer. This is where SF and my worldview can bring the greatest synergy.

BTS: You are a founder and editor of Ray Gun Revival magazine. Tell us about how that got started and what you do.

JC: RGR was spawned in 2006 in a surge of pure Browncoat passion when they took the sky from us. L. S. King and Paul Christian Glenn and I were so in love with space opera in general and Firefly in particular that we wanted to keep that space opera vibe going and started the magazine as a way to share that love with a new generation of readers and writers. It was also a testament to blissful ignorance of how much work it takes to cultivate such stories in an era where Cyberpunk (and later Steampunk) reigned supreme. Furthermore, it revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of one of the primary virtues of space opera, where bigger is usually better and we were looking for short stories. Fortunately, we didn’t know that we couldn’t make it cultivating and nurturing and growing a new generation of space opera and golden age sci-fi readers and writers. This summer, we celebrate the start of our seventh year of blissful ignorance and genre fun.

BTS: What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?

JC: I’m two-thirds of the way through a swashbuckling adventure space opera novel called The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, and have a number of genre mash-up short stories in the works.

Here’s an excerpt from Johne’s Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 story, “With All Due Respect”:

With All Due Respect

Johne Cook

The first attack came shortly after they exited the jumpgate outside of Aldebaran.

Random Tenerife was startled awake by a blaring klaxon. He heard the muted sound of a code being entered from the other side of the steel hatch. The interior bolt on his door unlocked. A red-haired stripling wearing spacer fatigues pushed the hatch open and poked his head in. “Mr. Ambassador?”

“Just ‘Tenerife,’” he corrected. Tenerife ran a hand over his face and rubbed away the sleep.

“I’m Ensign Salter, but everyone calls me ‘Salty.’ You should come with me.”

“What is the klaxon for?” Tenerife asked.

“It’s not for me to say,” Salty said.

“Very well.” Tenerife loosened the straps that kept him in his bunk and pushed off. As he floated over to the hatch, he saw two crewmen slide past pulling themselves hand-over-hand toward the cockpit in the zero gravity of the courier ship’s central corridor. He and Salty followed.

Three men were already floating in the small common area outside
the cockpit-proper. The man in uniform sitting in the elevated command
chair behind the pilot looked up at Salty and frowned. “Did you bring
the prisoner?”

The spacers parted and revealed Tenerife in back of the group.

“Captain,” he said.

“Salty, since you’re here, you may as well introduce everyone.”

“You know Captain Bolivar—he shares piloting and astrogation
duties with First Officer Ollie Wu. Abe Sigorda oversees the port cargo
hold, and Abe Fungee oversees the starboard cargo hold. They also
share some engineering expertise and help maintain the Kikayon, ergo
Portside Abe and Starboard Abe.”

Tenerife smiled.

“The only one missing is Chief Engineer Scott Magoro. He’s back
in the engine room.”

“Greetings,” Tenerife said.

“So, what’s going on with the klaxon?” Salty asked.

Mr. Wu spoke over his shoulder while scanning a display in front
of him. “That was a munitions-based proximity alarm,” said Mr. Wu.
“The interloper fired a dumb missile across our bow.”

Tenerife noted a collective shiver go through the tiny crew.

Salty raised an eyebrow. “A what?”

“An attack?” Starboard Abe asked.

“A warning,” Captain Bolivar said, turning back to his console.
“How far away are they?”

“Five thousand klicks and closing” said Portside Abe. “They
didn’t miss at that range, they intentionally didn’t hit us. This time.”

“Have they hailed us?” Salty asked.

“That’s the funny thing,” Mr. Wu said. “There’s been nothing but
radio silence.”

“Mr. Tenerife, I called you up here to see if you can shed any light
on these attackers,” Bolivar said.

Tenerife’s eyebrow arched. “Me? What do you think I would
know about this?”

Captain Bolivar shot Tenerife a look. “You were planetary
Ambassador for the entire Garçonne system. If such attacks were
common out here, you’d know about it.”

Tenerife stroked his chin. “Sorry, captain. This is new to me. The
most nefarious space ships out here in recent days have been our own,
but I took care of that myself. I suspect that’s why I’m being recalled
to Earth.”

“Then you’re useless to me,” Bolivar said, and turned back to his

Another klaxon went off, and the ship shuddered under multiple

“What was that?” Salty said.

Bolivar slapped a button on the console. “Mr. Wu, get us a jump
solution now!”

“Engine ready,” radioed Magoro from the engine room.

“Coming right up!” Mr. Wu said.

The rift opened, the power dimmed, and they jumped.

“Damage report,” Bolivar roared.

“Why didn’t you fire back?” Tenerife asked.

Bolivar glared at him. “Not now, Mr. Tenerife.”

“Everything remains green in the engine room,” Chief Engineer
Magoro said.

“How’s the hull?” Bolivar asked.

“There was no damage here,” Portside Abe said.

Starboard Abe had a different story. “Instrumentation says no hull
breaches between the external hulls and the internal hull. However,
the external camera shows some minor damage along the starboard

“Can you tell what they hit us with?” Bolivar asked.

“The gashes are about six inches long. I’d guess a cloud of
industrial-grade flechettes.”

“Why didn’t you raise shields?” Tenerife asked.

“For the same reason we didn’t detach the saucer,” Bolivar
snapped. “We don’t have such technology in the real world.”

“What about hull armor?”

Bolivar growled. “Tell him.”

Portside Abe tsked and started ticking things off on his fingers.
“Small ships like ours don’t have artificial gravity, and none of them
have protective energy shields. If somebody fires accurately enough,
it hits metal and causes real damage.”

“Ships are expensive to fund and time-consuming to build,” Salty
said. “The cost is so high and space is so vast that little actual combat
occurs out here.

“I’ve seen huge battleships docked at space stations,” Tenerife
said. “Don’t they use those warships for defense?”

Starboard Abe nodded. “The Terran Space Navy keeps some
dreadnoughts with reinforced hulls and spinning artificial gravity
and all manner of heavy weapons, but they’re deterrents more than

“So what does this tell us about our attackers?” Boliver asked.

“They’re telling us they can hit us whenever they want and they’re
unafraid of inflicting damage.”

Bolivar nodded. “That rules out pirates.”

“Is there any way we can find out if anyone knows about these
attackers?” Tenerife asked.

“Mr. Wu, dial up the system’s transmitter beacon,” Bolivar said.

“What’s a transmitter beacon,” Tenerife asked.

“When someone encounters an anomaly near the jump gates, they
flash a message to the galactic transmitter beacon. It’s like leaving a
note on the door for others.”

“We’ve found the nearest beacon,” said Mr. Wu. “Putting it on

The message on the Terran language band was repeated in Galactic
Standard, Mandarin, French, and Spanish. “Beware the Terran warship
TSN Manitou recently seen in this system. Reports indicate it has
been commandeered by aliens unknown to us. A cryptic message from
the ship translated their name as the Gruener, cannibals who have devoured
the entire crew of at least two ships. They intimidate ships and
compel the crews to heave-to and board the Manitou. Do not comply!
… Beware…”

“They eat people?” said Salty.

But Tenerife’s eyes widened. “First contact,” he said under his

The proximity klaxon sounded again.

“Everyone to your stations!” yelled Bolivar.

“Do you think it’s the Gruener?”

Bolivar rubbed his chin. “It could be a coincidental sighting of a
different ship, but I don’t believe it. There’s just not that much traffic
out this way.”

Mr. Wu yelled, “I’ve found the object.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a probe, sir.” He put it on the captain’s screen. The system
zoomed in and displayed telemetry data.

And then, as Tenerife watched, a warship slid through the rift.
“They’re here!” roared Bolivar.

Tenerife said, “How…?”

Mr. Wu pointed to the display. “When we opened the rift for our
jump, they launched a probe after us to show them where to follow!”

“Who does that?”

Mr. Wu looked at Tenerife and licked his lips. “Uh, we do. The
Terran Space Navy does that.”

Bolivar stabbed a button on his console. “Magoro, how long until
we can jump again?”

“The engine’s still in recovery. I’ll need another seven hours more
or less before the engine is ready.”

“Let me know when it is. In the meantime, Mr. Wu, prepare another
jump solution. Abe, can you hit anything with the laser?”

Starboard Abe radioed in from his station. “Yes, sir!”

“After we jump, you will have precisely one shot to take that probe
out before they can lock in on it to pursue.”

“Aye-aye, Captain,” Abe said. “I await your command.”

Bolivar spoke to Mr. Wu. “Try to put as much distance between
us and the enemy. Buy some time. I want to see how fast they are. As
soon as you have a jump solution, prepare an S.O.S. to beam to that
beacon before we jump. It’s a long shot, but I want to request any
passing dreadnought to follow our jump coordinates.”

“Captain,” Tenerife said. “Is there anything I can do?”

Bolivar glanced at Tenerife. “You can vacate my command center
and pray these cannibalistic pirates don’t rip our ship to threads and
eat us all.” He turned his back to Tenerife and kept barking orders to
his crew.

Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here.

Excerpt: Chapter One – The Relic Of Aken–My Sword & Sorcery WIP

Ordinarily I wouldn’t share something so early on but since this is a teaching blog, I thought it might be interesting to post an early chapter of this work in progress, a sword and sorcery book, and then perhaps look at it later when it’s published or at least further along. So for what it’s worth, here’s Chapter One (1st draft with a few polishes) of my sword and sorcery novel in progress The Relic Of Aken:

Chapter One:

Bel made his way through the crowded market ignoring the stares. Father just had to send him to the market on traveler’s day. He could pretend it was the sight of someone like him in the brown monk’s cloak, but he knew better. The Degan locals were used to seeing him, a towering figure with greenish skin, slightly pointed ears and canine tusks protruding above his lower lip on each side. “Beast” was a word he’d often heard used to describe himself. “Sub-human” and “Perversion” were others. He had to be careful not to seem brutish. It wasn’t easy for a person his size to move through tight spaces packed with stalls and people without bumping into others, and, with his size and strength, even the slightest bump could leave a bruise. The gods had cursed him from birth, he figured.

He focused his attention back toward where he’d last seen Holly. The short human girl’s ability to easily blend into any crowd was a liability here. If it weren’t for Bel’s height, he’d never have been able to track her movements. She moved way too quickly. The smell of human sweat mixed with animal droppings, leather, fresh meats and dust. It was a smell locked into his memory, one he detected blocks ahead, every time he drew near the market.

A red-haired human head bobbed ahead as it ducked under a large basket being carried between them by two fat human males. As she returned to normal height beyond them, Holly glanced back and their eyes met. She smiled. Who’d have ever thought a human girl and a half-orc could be best friends? The warmth in her green eyes melted the tension of his frustration. She stopped and waited for him.

He weaved past a man arguing animatedly with a young cock-eyed vendor, then arced around a wagon where other humans were unloading fresh, round melons into a stall and joined his friend.

“Try and keep up, will you?”

Bel snarled at her. “Try being my size in a place like this.”

Holly laughed. “Just roar and they’ll clear the way.”

“Father instructed me to avoid drawing attention to myself.” The way the old priest said it had been more like an order.

Holly rolled her eyes. “Where’s the fun in that?” Then she was off again, leaving Bel with the same quandary as he hurried to keep up.

Pale skinned, with hair down past her waist, Hollyanna was beautiful by human standards. Bel had heard boys outside the monastery talking about her many times. Sweet as a fresh picked grape, the apprentice blacksmith had befriended him from the week he arrived at the monastery. It had been her more than anyone else who’d taught him how to feel at home amongst humans. He wouldn’t have survived without her playful guidance and cheerful encouragement. They’d become fast friends and spent every spare moment they could together. Bel often wondered if it was his presence alone which had kept her from having many suitors. She never groused about it but he imagined she got lonely. After all, many other girls her age were married or betrothed and Holly was the best pick in the entire village.

He heard a grunt and stopped as he bumped something soft, looking down into Holly’s crossed eyes. “Uh, pay attention. I’m standing here.”


“What are you so busy thinking about that you’d run me over like that?”

Bel shrugged. “Fresh grapes.”

Holly’s mouth twisted as it always did when she was sure she’d heard a lie. “You’re hungry already? Gertie stuffed us before we left. You really need to shrunk that orcan stomach of yours.”

From anyone else, Bel would have regarded it as an insult. But Holly accepted him for who he is and her honesty was one of the things he treasured about their relationship. Other than Father, she was one of the only humans with guts enough to speak honestly to him.

“How much further? Are we sightseeing or shopping?” he cocked his head so he could roll his eyes upward as he looked at her.

She laughed. “I’m scoping the best prices, Bel.”

“You haven’t spoken to anyone but me that I’ve seen.”

“I don’t need to. I have acute powers of observation.” She grinned and turned abruptly down a narrow corridor between stalls.

Bel followed, drawing immediate ire from vendors as their tents vibrated every time his shoulders rubbed against the overhanging tarps forming their roofs. Hanging fruits thumped softly, seashell necklaces jangled, and crystal strands twisted as he made his way through.

“Your short cuts are not meant for half-orcs,” he commented as he stopped at a stall beside Holly. He recognized it as one they’d passed earlier on their way into the market.

“You made it, didn’t you? Just relax and let me negotiate so we can go home.”

As soon as the vendor’s eyes met hers, she was off to bargaining. Every item he showed her was the finest quality, he said. Nothing satisfied her expectations though. Bel chuckled to himself as he watched the vendor’s face redden with rising irritation.

Three young human males nearby stared and chattered, but their eyes were focused on Holly not him. She’d taken off her leather smithing apron before they’d left and was dressed in brown c otton pants that stretched tightly over her waist and thighs and a loose, low cut blouse which showed more flesh than Bel remembered seeing before. Was she trying to draw attention? He stepped forward a foot and glared at the boys, who quickly disappeared to busy themselves with other tasks.

Okay, so he didn’t want her lonely but that didn’t mean just anyone was good enough for his best friend.

In a few moments, she’d purchased several herbs and potions and began winding her way back through the crowded masses. This time, Bel stayed close on her heels.

“You didn’t have to scare them off,” she said as they left the last row of stalls and moved along the wider, less crowded cobblestone street which led to the stables.

“Who?” A glance told him she’d meant the boys. “They were young and derelict. You deserve better.”

“It’s not like I’ve got men pounding down the shop doors, Bel. It wouldn’t have hurt to let them admire me.”

“Father sent me to protect you. I was obeying his wishes.”

She leaned over and punched him hard in the arm. “From danger, not harmless stares.”

“Staring’s how all the danger begins.”

They turned a corner and Bel saw two men in the shadows watching a store across the street. A woman appeared, dressed frilly from head to toe, beautiful white lace decorating every curve and junction of her very expensive dress and hat. She carried a large bag draped over one arm as she hurried across the street toward an alley near where the men were waiting.

“Someone’s about to prove me right right now,” Bel said as his eyes turned back to the two human males. They were about to do something very stupid, he knew the signs.

Moments later, as the woman entered the alley, oblivious to their presence a few feet away in the shadows, they slipped in after her and Bel quickened his pace.

“Where are you going?” Holly sounded annoyed. “We’ve got to get back in time for lunch or Krell will never let me hear the end of it.”

A scream came from the alley, and Bel ignored her and raced forward through the shadows the two men had just vacated.

Entering the alley, he saw the woman backed against a wall, her pale face even whiter as her brown eyes widened with fear.

“Give us the bag!” A hairy bulk of a man said as he skinny, taller companion grinned lasciviously at her.

“He can have the bag. I want more!”

The bulky man tore the bag free of her grasp as his friend lunged, ripping the dress with a loud snap as the woman screamed again.

Bel let the roar rise from deep within, a soft rumble at first that soon rivaled a clap of thunder. Both men spun, startled, as the woman’s scream loudened at the sight of Bel.

“Leave her be!” Bel growled it.

The men’s eyes widened and the bulky one both dropped the bag as they bumped into each other trying to get away from the woman and take off down the alley away from him. Their footsteps pounded the cobblestones, dust flying with every step.

Bel turned to the woman, trying to soften his eyes. “Stay here. I’ll be back for you.” The woman’s eyes widened again and she screamed as Bel raced off after the two men.

His own boots boomed on the street as he turned a corner, closing on the men. The bulky one glanced back, panting. He was slower and clearly less in shape than his companion. Both were dressed like farmhands, worn wool pants and pull over shirts stained with the dirt of their labors, now turning steadily to mud from their sweat.

“Hurry!” the skinny one mumbled as he lead the way into another alley across the street.

The bulky man squealed as Bel’s large hand wrapped around his neck and ripped him off his feet and over the half-orc’s shoulder.

“Struggle and I’ll toss you like a catapult,” Bel warned as he continued running forward after the skinnier man.

The bulky man fell quiet, except for a few whimpers each time Bel’s running stride jostled him against muscled shoulders.

The skinny man turned a corner and stopped, puzzled. Bel hurried toward him and the man spun, running back straight at them, a knife appearing in his hand. The blade was long but looked worn and dull, having no shine.

“Stop! Now!”

The skinny man waved the knife. “Let me go, orc, or I’ll hurt you good.”

Bel could smell the alcohol on his breath from several feet away. The stench just strengthened as he approached. “Go ahead. It’ll appease my guilt if I have to kill you.”

The man growled and swung the knife in a wide arc. Bel pounded a boot hard on the pavement, sending vibrations through the cobblestones and causing the human to lose his balance. He swung an arm straight forward, intercepting the swing ing arm at the wrist and twisting. The man cried out in agony as the knife dropped, clanging against the stones of the street.

“This is a human town! Your kind are unwelcome here!” The skinny man screamed it as Bel yanked him off his feet and swung him over the opposite shoulder from his bulky friend.

“Shut up or I’ll make you do it.”

“She stole from us! We were just getting it back!”

The bulky man mumbled in agreement.

With one motion, Bel yanked them off his shoulders and sent them hurling to the street. They landed side by side in a pile of refuse, heads banging against the stones, leaving them dazed.

“I warned you.” He grabbed them again, this time encountering no resistance and swung them back over his shoulders, carrying them back the way he’d come.

“I thought Father instructed you to resist your violent tendencies.” Holly was in the street, waiting, her arm around the crying woman, offering what comfort she could.

“They started it,” he said with a shrug.

“Let’s get them to the authorities and get on our way then, okay?”

Bel nodded and followed as she led the way.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. His second novel, The Returning, sequel to The Worker Prince, is forthcoming in Summer 2012.

3 5-star & 6 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindle or Nook$14.99 tpb

A Book Day Thanks

We all have our Writer’s Journey and it’s different for everyone. Although I thought of this story idea in my teens, it wasn’t until 2008 that I actually began to seriously dream of being a published novelist. To be there three years later, is still unbelievable. Here’s the Acknowledgements from my first novel, reprinted here because these people all deserve so much thanks.  In this case, I just don’t have words.


The idea for this story came to me when I was a young, fifteen-year-old science fiction fan living in a small Kansas town where it sometimes felt like dreaming was the only way out.  Over the years, I lost my original notes, but the idea in my head and the names Xalivar and Sol stayed with me.

It took me twenty-five years to start writing it and I wrote daily through some of the toughest trials I’ve experienced in my life.  So this book you hold in your hand is a victory in many ways, and I’m very excited and proud of it and hope you’ll enjoy it and share it with others.

Thanks go first to Lost Genre Guild for inspiring me to try writing for Digital Dragon and to T.W. Ambrose for encouraging me to write more space opera stories, and then agreeing to publish them. An abridged version of the prologue to this novel first appeared in Digital Dragon’s May 2010 issue.

Secondly, thanks go to fellow authors like Blake Charlton, Ken Scholes, Jay Lake, Mike Resnick, Leon Metz, Jason Sanford, Moses Siregar and Grace Bridges who have supported, encouraged and advised me time and time again, no matter how silly my questions were or how many times they’d heard them before.  Special thanks to Blake and Grace for taking time to read and offer more specific advice to help me grow as a writer and to Mike Resnick for advice in figuring out this crazy business.

Thirdly, thanks to first readers and friends like Larry Thomson, Tim Pearse, Jeff Vaughn, David Melson, Todd Ward, Mike Wallace, Andrew Reeves, Chris Zylo Owens, and the members of the FCW-Basic Critique Group for actually seeming to enjoy my writing even in its roughest form and for giving me feedback which helped me to improve it greatly.

Fourthly, thanks to friends like Charlie Davidson, Aaron Zapata, Mark Dalbey, Nelson Jennings, and Greg Baerg, who, along with some of the guys above, have helped me escape from behind the desk and keyboard and laugh a little bit when I needed it.

Fifthly, thanks to Mitch Bentley for actually reading the book before creating the awesome cover art.  And thanks to Randy Streu, Jen Ambrose, Paul Conant and Darlene Oakley for their editing and advice, the El Paso Writer’s League for encouragement and fellowship, and Mike Wallace for the science of the Boralis solar system. Thanks also to Jeana Clark for the solar system map which brought it to life for me.

Thanks to you, the reader, for taking a chance on a new, unknown writer.  I hope you like it enough to come back for more.

Thanks to God for making me in His image and giving me the talent and inspiration to do this and continually opening the doors. I look forward to seeing what’s behind the next ones.


Let me add a few names of people who weren’t mentioned but would have been at this point if I wrote that today, including blurbers and others who’ve supported me so much: Mitchell Bentley (what a cover–sorry, I meant to add you in!!!!), Maurice Broaddus, Saladin Ahmed, Jaleta Clegg, David Lee Summers, my parents–Ramon & Glenda, whose thanks comes in the book’s dedication, Jamie Pearse, Sarah Hendrix, John H. Stevens, Kaolin Fire, Lee Gunter, Louis B. Shalako, Michelle Ristuccia, Shaun Farrell & Adventures In SF Publishing, Kevin J. Anderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kat Richardson, Sam Sykes, Patrick Swenson, Eric Reynolds, Johne Cook, John DeNardo, Charles Tan, John Ottinger, Lyn Perry, Mike Ray/RedstoneSF, Anthony Cardno, David Rozansky, John A. Pitts, Brian Knight. I know I’m still forgetting someone, but at least this is a better list.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

NOVEL EXCERPT: The Worker Prince Chapter 11

In this scene, Davi and his Squadron of worker pilots take on the Boralian Alliance forces on their own soil, fighting for their freedom against the oppressive regime. One of several battle scenes from the last part of the book, although there are action sequences throughout.

Davi pushed the joystick forward and his his VS28 fighter dove out of the cloud cover to rejoin the rest of his squadron. As he slid into the pole position, he glanced over at Tela in position off to his right. She smiled and waved.

“Imagine seeing you here,” he said over the comm-channel with a smile.

He heard Tela laugh as the squadron formed up around them, doing so without the usual chatter. Davi knew they were all as tired as he was.

His comm-channel beeped. “Squadron One, commander,” he answered.

Uzah’s yelling voice came through, struggling to be heard over at the explosions and laser blasts in the background. “Squadron One, we request immediate response. We have enemy forces pinned down on the east edge of the government complex. Please intercept vehicle traffic.”

The Alliance had been making use of Shuttles and Floaters to launch attacks and move troops around. His pilots strafed enemy launch sites as well as ground craft.

Davi keyed the comm-channel transmit button. “Roger, Ground Leader, ETA six minutes.” Davi ran down the pilots’ various skill levels and successes, devising a strategy he hoped would work. It all depended on the actual positions and activities of the enemy once they arrived.

The fighters glided over the tops of the buildings at close range, staying low to confuse the radar and maintain good line of sight with the ground. Davi divided the squadron into two groups of six fighters, assigning Tela to head the second group. “You go after ground weaponry emplacements first. We’ll try and take out any vehicle traffic.”

“Roger,” she said. They exchanged one last look before steering their craft apart as their assigned groups formed up around them.  Then each group vectored off toward their target areas.

A few minutes later, the government center came into view. Two columns of large Floaters moved up parallel corridors, attempting to flank the WFR forces. Their dark blue coloring made them hard to spot through the smoke on the ground but the shiny Alliance emblems reflecting light on both sides gave them away.

“Dru and Virun, form behind me. We’ll take the group to starboard. The rest of you form behind Jorek and take the group to port.”

“Roger,” the pilots responded in unison as they split into subsquads.

Davi smiled, remembering when Jorek and Virun had pulled him aside after the air raids on the enemy starports.

“We owe you an apology,” Virun had said.

“We’re sorry we gave you such a hard time,” Jorek said. “It was just hard to believe we could trust you.”

Since then, they’d become two of his strongest leaders.

“Go for their weapons capabilities first,” Davi instructed.

“Ah come on, boss! Total destruction is much more satisfying,” Jorek said over the comm-channel.

“You can destroy them after you’re sure they can’t fire back,” Davi said, knowing that despite his enthusiasm, Jorek’s focus never waivered.

“You got it,” Jorek responded, not big on comm-channel protocol.

Both squads executed the plan perfectly, swooping in on the Floaters from above, strafing them with laser fire. Outside his cockpit, multiple flashes appeared followed by booming explosions as Davi’s blasts disabled the front vehicle in the column. The next Floater in line swerved to avoid it, but the driver misjudged his position, running over troops fleeing the first Floater to seek cover, before crashing into the third Floater in line.

“Three down with one shot, not bad,” Davi said to himself. He adjusted his targeting and fired again, this time aiming for the laser cannons on the three Floaters. He shifted in his seat as the VS28 vibrated with each blast. The cockpit started feeling stuffy as the temperature rose along with his excitement and adrenaline.

Laser bolts flashed outside his blast shield. Spotting rooftop snipers, he didn’t even bother to dodge. Blasters wouldn’t do much good against the VS28’s shields even at close range. He circled around and watched Dru and Virun dispatch laser cannons on four more Floaters. Several more bright explosions boomed before the Floaters split up onto separate corridors in an attempt to avoid their fire.

“They’re trying to keep it interesting for us, boys,” Davi said over the comm-channel.

“Good. Moving targets are so much more fun,” Dru responded. To Davi’s amazement, Dru had become one of the better target shooters among the pilots.

Davi and three others swooped down in tight formation and fired. Laser blasts exploded around the Floaters again. Davi’s and Dru’s blasts hit their marks, taking out more laser cannons. Virun’s missed, but he aimed again and blasted the Floater’s engines, bringing it to a sudden stop.

Troops jumped clear, seeking cover as Virun chuckled over the comm-channel. “That had to hurt.”

Virun’s fighter rocked with an explosion and orange flashes appeared on its port wing. “What the—”

Davi looked over to spot a laser cannon zeroing in on him again from the top of a nearby building. “Laser cannon, top of the Acron Industries building. I’m on him,” Davi said over the comm-channel. G-forces slammed him back against his leather seat as he put his VS28 into a steep turn and dove down, targeting the rooftop of the office complex.

Jorek’s voice came over the comm-channel. “Keep your eyes out for laser cannons on the rooftops.”

“How’d we miss those?” Dru wondered aloud over the comm-channel.

“Keep your eyes peeled for others. He really did some damage,” Virun warned them.

Davi’s targeting computer lit up as it locked on the target. Lining up visually on the guides, he strafed the rooftop. Alliance soldiers dove to each side as the laser cannon exploded. “One cannon down.”

“Thanks, boss,” Virun replied as Davi steered into position above Virun and to the right.

Virun’s starboard wing had black burn marks from the impact and a tear in the metal. “The damage doesn’t look unmanageable from here. Can you still control her?”

“I’m not out of this yet,” Virun replied turning the fighter for another run.

Davi and Dru both maneuvered into formation around him. Without further chatter, knowing what to do, they took out the laser cannons on the four remaining Floaters, and then targeted their engines.

As they circled around, Davi glimpsed Jorek’s squad making similar runs. In a few more minutes, the remaining Floaters had been disabled and the squadron reformed around Davi, heading to assist Tela’s team. Davi brushed his clammy brow against the sleeve of his flight suit.

They arrived at the government center to find charred remains of more laser cannons and Alliance equipment. One of the barracks was smoldering. In the beginning, the WFR had hoped to preserve as much infrastructure as possible, but Alliance resistance had made it so difficult they’d decided to do what must be done and worry about it later. They could always rebuild.

“Leave anything for us?” Jorek said as they circled Tela’s team.

“We were about to ask you the same question,” Tela responded as she joined their formation. The rest of her team formed up behind her.

A squadron of seven Alliance VS28 fighters appeared heading straight for them with laser cannons blazing. “Heads up, here they come!” Tela called into the comm-channel.

Davi spun his fighter into a dive as two laser blasts exploded off his starboard wing. “We need to capture that starport.”

“Let’s knock these boys out of the sky!” Brie said over the comm-channel.

Davi chuckled. She’d come a long way from the lost teenage girl he had known in training. Davi glanced over to see one of his fighters crashing into the top of another office building, as the Squadron divided itself into pairs and began targeting the enemy fighters.

“We lost Kinny,” Tela said over the comm-channel.

Davi pounded a fist into the side of his fighter. Kinny was an experienced pilot who had joined after the initial attack. “Wingmen, cover your leaders!” They didn’t really need the reminder, but losing one of his pilots switched him into teacher mode again.

Tela lined up on an Alliance fighter and unleashed a burst of fire from her cannons. The enemy fighter exploded, spiraling toward the ground. Tela let off a victory yell, “One down!”

Davi lined up another in his sights, firing several sloppy blasts through its wing. It spun out of control. “Make it two.”

An enemy fighter swooped in from above, firing on Dru at close range. Explosions rocked the hull of his fighter.

Smoke trailed from it, and Davi could see the damage out his blast shield. “You okay, Dru?”

Dru sounded rattled. “She’s a little shaky but I can still fly her.”

Davi and Tela both dove in to provide cover, blasting in unison at the enemy fighter trying to escape. It disintegrated with a bright flash.

Dru’s voice rose in excitement. “He won’t do that again! Thanks, guys!”

“Don’t mention it,” Tela said.

“Let’s clean this mess up!” Jorek said.

Davi watched as the enemy fighters retreated. “They’re running,” Nila said.

“Jorek, take the squadron and chase them down if you can. We’re escorting Dru back to base,” Davi said.

“You got it, boss,” Jorek said.

“Don’t let them lead you too close to the starport. They might launch reinforcements,” Tela warned.

“Don’t worry. We’ll be okay.” Jorek said as the others formed around him and peeled off after the enemy fighters, leaving Tela and Davi flanking Dru.

“I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m hungry,” Dru said.

Davi heard Tela’s laugh over the comm-channel as he keyed the transmitter. “Let’s go home.” They flew in formation back toward the WFR base.

326 pp · ISBN 978‐0‐9840209‐0‐4 ·Trade Paperback/Epub/Mobi · $14.95 tpb $3.99 Ebook  · Publication: October 4, 2011  · Diminished Media Group
Available now for 20% off on preorders!!!

Trade paperback only

 EPUB or MOBI — please specify in notes on order

The Worker Prince: Book 1 In The Saga of Davi Rhii

NOVEL EXCERPT: The Worker Prince Chapter 7

As Davi Rhii gets to know the workers on Vertullis, he also meets an intriguing fellow pilot, a woman named Tela, who takes an instant dislike to him. The problem is, Davi can’t keep his eyes off of her or her off his mind. Here’s some of what ensues…

A week after their argument in the corridor, Davi found Tela sitting at the controls of her shuttle, reading through maintenance charts. He took care to make noise as he entered the cockpit so as not to sneak up on her. She turned her head and frowned when she saw him.

“We seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot,” Davi said, sitting in the copilot’s seat. “I’ve been trying to figure out how it happened.”

“Maybe your charms won’t work on me,” Tela said. “I’m pretty good at seeing through people. Especially men.”

“Well, that’s just it. You seem to have taken some of the things I’ve said the wrong way,” Davi said, hoping she’d take another look.

“Like what?” Her eyes remained on the charts.

“I didn’t bring up your name in class to isolate you from the other trainees,” Davi said. “I was trying to pay you a compliment. I’m impressed with the way you flew the shuttle.”

“Well, thank you,” she said, still avoiding eye contact, focused on her charts. “But the last thing I need is people thinking you’re showing me special treatment. I’m there to learn the same as them.”

“And I’m there to teach you,” Davi said, “but someone with your flight experience is an asset for the entire class. You can help me to help them learn what they need to know.”

“I didn’t sign on to be a tutor,” Tela said.

“I won’t ask you to be, if you don’t want to,” Davi said. “All I’m asking is if they don’t understand something I’m trying to explain, maybe you can jump in and help me clarify it.”

“See?” She said, looking up for a moment. “You’re asking me to teach. No thanks.” Her eyes turned back to the charts as Davi wondered why he always seemed to choose the wrong words when he talked to her. A familiar buzz filled his stomach as heat rose within.

“Whatever you feel comfortable with,” Davi said. “The last thing I need is someone getting killed because they didn’t understand.”

“I wouldn’t let that happen,” Tela said.

“Good. I can use all the help I can get,” Davi said. “I’ve never been an instructor before. And I’ve never been a worker before either. It’s all new to me. I pretty much have to relearn who I am.” I wish someone would teach me how to talk to you!

“You’re doing fine. You explain things well,” Tela said, her blue eyes meeting his for a moment.

“Was that a compliment?” Davi melted inside like icicles in a desert. He smiled. “I might have to write that down. It might be ages before I ever get another compliment from you.”

She laughed, rolling her eyes. “Don’t get too cocky, okay? There’s always room for improvement.”

“Okay, so don’t get mad at me when I suggest areas you can improve,” Davi said. “It’s my job as your teacher.”

“You can’t improve on perfection,” she said, smiling. Was she joking?

“Now who’s cocky?” He teased as she laughed. “Some of the cadets seem to resent me because of my past. They don’t seem to realize, I’m on your side.”

“Can you really blame them?  You’re the Prince.”

Davi sighed, disappointed. “No, I suppose not.”

She slid back in the chair and her face softened a bit. “Give them time. They’ll come around.”

“I don’t suppose you could put in a good word for me?”

Tela’s face crinkled. “First I have to convince myself.”

“But you saw me at the rallies! Do you really believe—”

He stopped as Tela broke into laughter. “You’re giving me trouble?”

She smiled and nodded. “I couldn’t resist.”

“Well, I’d better let you get back to your work here. I wouldn’t want anyone to know we actually had a civil conversation.”

She smiled at him and his heart fluttered. “You like making jokes, don’t you?”

“When it makes you smile like that,” Davi said. Her eyes turned quickly back to her charts. “Okay, well, thanks for letting me explain.”

She nodded. “See you in class, professor.” It sounded so formal. He contorted his face, and she laughed again, twirling strands of her hair around her index finger. “I’m trying to work here.”

He nodded, stood, and backed out of the cockpit. The conversation went better than he’d expected. She’d laughed and joked with him. It was a start. And she’d twirled her hair—was she flirting with him? Best not to make too much of it. For some reason, all the way back to the command center, he found himself whistling a happy song.


After two weeks spent covering the basics of flight, Davi allowed the first of his students on the simulators. His class had doubled in size since it started, with Aron and the leaders adding more and more candidates with each new rally. Davi had done his best to keep the new students up to speed with the others. Some of them had the advantage of prior flight experience, while others had skill with Skitters. He still had neophytes to train, but at least some had a head start.

At the moment, Dru, Brie, Nila and another boy their age occupied the four simulators. Tela and the other students sat at desks behind Davi, observing as he took them through their first mock battle. Each student pilot sat in a mock cockpit, with controls similar to those of VS28 fighters—a screen where the blastshield would be simulated stars and incoming enemy fighter craft. The simulator itself moved as the trainees moved the joystick. Combined, the effect was a sensation reminiscent of being in an actual fighter during a battle.

“Keep your tails up there,” Davi instructed. “Easy on the joystick, Brie. It’s sensitive, designed to move as one with your body. Dru, you’ve got one on your tail. Evasive action!”

The trainees reacted to his instructions. Dru tried hard to stay out of the fire of the enemy on his tail as explosions flashed in front of him on the screen with each hit.

Brie steered her fighter toward the enemy behind Dru. “I got him!”

Davi realized that her excitement was distracting her. She was coming in at an odd angle and way too fast. “Slow down, Brie! You’re going to hit him!” Too late.

Brie’s screen erupted in flashes of yellow light and her console went dead. “What happened?” Brie asked, confused.

“You’re dead,” Tela said.

“You got him off my tail though. Thanks,” Dru said, chuckling.

Brie stuck out her tongue at him. “You’re welcome.” She turned to Davi with a sheepish grin. “I’m not getting it, am I?”

Davi smiled. “It takes practice.” For some more than others.

Brie cocked her head to one side in a flirty way. “Can you show me one more time please?”

Davi smiled. “Okay. Look.” He leaned over her from behind, holding his hand around hers on the joystick. “Pull back a tiny bit, like this. Enough to make her go the direction you want to go. Not too hard though.”

Brie smiled, looking up at him. “Oh, right. I gotta practice it.” Davi let go and she tried what he’d showed her. “Like that?”

Davi nodded, ignoring her flirting. “Much better. Keep practicing.”

He turned back to the other students and saw Tela shaking her head and heading out the door. Virun and a couple of others followed her.

“Wait a minute! Class isn’t over. Where’s everyone going?”

The others looked at him and shrugged.

      What’s wrong with her?

Brie and the others climbed out of the simulators as other trainees took their place.

“Okay,” Davi said, “let’s try this again.”

The second group was better than the first. A third did better still. At the end of the session though, Davi walked away discouraged. Some of the students would improve with practice, but others had him wondering if they weren’t wasting their time. He wished Tela had participated. She would have handled herself quite well, he imagined. Her performancce would have at least been more encouraging.

He left the classroom confused and wondering why she’d disappeared.



      Tired of watching Brie throwing herself at Davi, Tela had stormed out of the training room. It was disgusting, shameless—totally inappropriate in the classroom. She’d grown more and more irritated, until deciding she needed a breath of fresh air.

As she wound her way through the corridors, she started feeling silly. Why did it bother her so much? You don’t like him, remember? She’d known women who acted like Brie before. It wasn’t like she had any claim to Davi. They were barely friends.

Sure, things between them had settled down since they’d talked in the shuttle. He’d asked Tela’s opinion from time to time, and she’d done as he requested, helping him explain things when the trainees didn’t understand. So what was the big deal? Brie had every right to flirt with him. She’d acted like a fool. Why did she have such a tendency to do that when Davi was around?

She spent a few moments calming down, then turned back toward the classroom. Rounding a corner near the classroom, she spotted Davi exiting and heading up the corridor away from her.  He looked very discouraged. She hoped not because of her.

She followed him across the hangar and into a smaller cave on the far side, where the Skitters sat parked in several rows.

Long slender bodies topped with leather seats and two handlebars attached to a control panel, Skitters had been designed for recreational use, but were so fast and easy to handle, they’d been adapted for other uses. Borali Alliance ground patrols used them on a regular basis.

She stood in the shadows as he began looking them over. Two mech-bots entered through another tunnel and began working on some of the Skitters behind him. As she stepped out of the shadows into the cave, Davi looked up at her.

“Hey,” she said, with a slight wave and a smile.

“Hey,” he said, going back to examining the Skitters.

“How’d the rest of the session go?”

He shrugged. “We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Not even eye contact. So maybe he was upset with her. “Sorry I left. I needed some air.”

“I was disappointed you didn’t stay for your turn,” Davi said as he examined another Skitter. “Seeing someone actually succeed on the simulators would have been encouraging. I sure could’ve used it.” His voice sounded tired.

“Was it really so bad?”

“You tell me. You saw how some of the students did,” Davi slid into the seat of a Skitter, fiddling with the controls.

“Some of them are a long way from being flight-worthy,” Tela said, watching the mech-bots working behind him.

“Some make me wonder if they ever will be.”

It saddened her to see him so discouraged. He had always been so positive and supportive of the students. She wanted to do something to cheer him up. She took a seat on another Skitter and turned it on, hearing the steady hum of the engine and feeling it rise up off the floor to float on the air as she adjusted the controls.

“Come with me.”

“For a joy ride?”

Tela smiled. “Sure. There’s something I want to show you.” She waved toward the Skitter he’d been examining.

He shrugged, climbing onto the Skitter. The engine hummed as it rose into the air. “Okay. Lead the way.”

She slid the Skitter into gear and drove it out of the cave into a small tunnel. Davi accelerated his own Skitter and followed along behind her.

They emerged into the dense forest along a path. Sunlight streamed through the tall cedars, creating a patchwork of dark and light areas on the ground. The chirping of birds and insects blended with the hum of the Skitters as a light breeze tousled their hair. The sweet smell of cedar filled her nose.

Tela sped up, forcing Davi to speed up behind her. She admired the fluidness with which he maneuvered the Skitter. She’d never seen him fly, of course, but it seemed to her he must be as skilled as the commanders said. She wondered if he’d had much time to explore the forest around the base yet. She hadn’t seen him in the Skitter bay, but then she hadn’t been there much until the past few days herself.

She led him through several twists and turns then around a bend into a clearing where she pulled to a stop and waited for him to come alongside.

Amid cedars at the edge of the course on both sides there were several wood pylons with various markings. As his Skitter pulled alongside hers and stopped, she smiled. “Well, here it is.”

“What is it?” Davi said, trying to make sense of the pylons and markers.

“Our Skitter training course,” Tela said. “Aron asked me to set one up.” Why was she so anxious waiting for his response?

Davi’s looked around and smiled. “You did all this yourself?”

“Well, I may have borrowed some from a schematic of one of the Alliance’s training courses. With a few minor adjustments to compensate for ours being on land and not in outer space.”

Davi nodded, looking pleased. “This is impressive. You amaze me!”

      He’s impressed! She almost blushed. Why did she care so much what he thought? She’d never had time for men, not since her father’s disappearance. She’d been too busy for much of a social life.

“Thanks. Wanna give it a try?” She opened the side pocket on her Skitter and pulled out a helmet. “Gotta put on the helmet to see how it works.”

She slid the helmet on as Davi opened the pocket on his own Skitter and retrieved the helmet. As he began to put it on, Tela flipped the switch to activate the weapons simulator on her Skitter.

After they’d both adjusted their helmets, Davi nodded. “Ready.”

Tela accelerated and took off like a flash, zigzagging in and out between the pylons. Wind nipped at the skin of her face like tiny bugs. Trees passed almost as blur as she focusd on the markers and pylons. She glanced down at her control panel, verifying the weapons simulator was fully charged. The visor of her helmet showed a targeting frame as she passed the next pylon. Everything seemed to be working right.

The next pylon she came to, she maneuvered the frame to aim at the pylon and then hit the fire button. The visor image flashed as she hit the target.

She flipped her communicator on and keyed the switch. “Flip the red switch on to activate the targeting simulator. The black button on the joystick is for firing.”

She slowed down, allowing Davi to pull alongside as he fiddled with the controls. “Do you see it?”

“Yeah,” his voice came in through the helmet. “You did all this?”

“Well, I had some help. Go for a run,” Tela said, accelerating again and aiming as she came to each target.

Davi raced his Skitter alongside her, also aiming and firing. They raced in and out of the pylons, keeping pace with each other. The visor kept count in the bottom right corner of hits and misses. So far she had been dead on.

The total time for the course at full speed was less than four minutes. They reached the end in what seemed like a few seconds. She pulled to a stop as Davi stopped beside her.

“How’d you do?”

“Missed two.”

She smiled. “I didn’t miss any.”

“Well, you designed it. It’s my first time.” He said with a shrug, but she saw disappointment in his green eyes.

With an exaggerated shrug, she laughed. “Excuses, excuses.”

He scowled. “Wanna go again?”

Gotcha! She grinned and accelerated her Skitter like a rocket.

Davi raced to catch up with her.

They followed a curving path which took them back to the start of the course, and then both launched into it again. Davi gave it his best effort. She had to accelerate a few times to keep up with him.

As they neared the end of the course, he zipped in front of her. Her Skitter misfired. She groaned in frustration, pulling back alongside and getting back on course. He laughed as they raced onward, finishing the course in less than four minutes.

“Perfect score,” he said with a smirk.

That’s the Davi I know. She shook her head. “I missed because you distracted me.” But she knew his move to cut her off hadn’t been the only distraction. She had butterflies in her stomach.

“Oh right, like the enemy won’t ever try that,” he said, shooting her a look.

She laughed. He was right. They couldn’t count on total focus in a real battle. Maybe there were some things he could teach her on her own course after all.

“Shall we go again?” he asked, shifting excitedly on his seat. His voice had regained its usual energy, and she noticed the usual sparkle had returned to his eyes. The smell of adrenaline mixed with sweat wafted to her nose.

“Wanna switch sides?”

He nodded. “Catch me if you can!” He took off like a rocket.

She raced to catch up, determined that this time she’d be ready for any distractions.


326 pp · ISBN 978‐0‐9840209‐0‐4 ·Trade Paperback/Epub/Mobi · $14.95 tpb $3.99 Ebook  · Publication: October 4, 2011  · Diminished Media Group
Available now for 20% off on preorders!!!

Trade paperback only

 EPUB or MOBI — please specify in notes on order

The Worker Prince: Book 1 In The Saga of Davi Rhii

NOVEL EXCERPT: The Worker Prince Chapter 5

In previous excerpts, we’ve met the protagonist, Davi Rhii, and his friends and family and rival Bordox. Now let’s meet the main antagonist, Davi’s uncle Xalivar. Xalivar is a complicated character. Hopefully this will give you an idea what Davi’s up against. In this scene, Davi has been called back before his uncle, High Lord Councilor of the Borali Alliance, because he disobeyed orders and left his post on a distant base where Xalivar sent him to avoid criminal charges to come back and wrestle with his new identity as slave-born (worker-born).

Manaen escorted Davi as far as the throne room, but let him enter alone. Xalivar stood beside a window, staring out at the city.

“I gave you your orders,” Xalivar said, without turning to face him. Davi heard the anger in his voice.

“Can’t we talk about this?”

“Soldiers obey orders or they are disciplined. Don’t think because I’m your uncle, you’ll be given special treatment.”

“I’ve already been given special treatment,” Davi said.

Xalivar whirled around, glaring at him as his fists clenched. “Do you know what I had to go through to get the Council not to pursue murder charges against you?”

“I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”

“And this is how you show your gratitude?” Xalivar turned away again.

“I serve you best by being honest with you, don’t I?”

“You serve me best by doing as I instruct you without raising unnecessary questions,” Xalivar said.

Davi flinched at his uncle’s anger. What could he say to make him understand? “I’ve been reading history. I don’t understand why things are the way they are,” Davi said.

“Maybe it’s not your job to understand.”

“Before the colonists left Earth to settle on other planets, the Legallians and Vertullians were at peace for twelve years,” Davi continued. “When the Vertullians discovered they’d settled the planet next door to us, they didn’t fight, they sued for peace. Instead, we conquered them and turned them into slaves.”

Xalivar turned back to him. Their eyes met. “They cannot be trusted.”

“They sued for peace and we betrayed them, yet they can’t be trusted?” Davi saw from his eyes that Xalivar really believed it.

“Twelve years of peace during a time when everyone was distracted by other concerns,” Xalivar said. “After hundreds of years of wars.”

“Extremists and terrorists brought us together. Why would we forget all that when we settled here?”

“Do you know how many of our people have died at their hands? How many communities they destroyed?” Xalivar demanded.

“How many of them have we killed? Can’t the past ever be the past?” Davi asked. He’d begun to wonder. His uncle’s anger seemed pretty intense over something that happened so long ago. “Twenty years ago, I was supposed to die because of your decree, yet here I am. You let it go and protected me, because I’m your nephew.” Xalivar’s face changed when Davi mentioned the decree. Had he forgotten? Maybe he wishes I hadn’t survived.

“I protected you, yes, and here you are trying to undo everything I’ve done!” Xalivar threw up his hands in dismay as his pupils narrowed and his face turned gray with worry.

“How can I stand by when my own family is living in slavery?”

“Do you wish so badly to join them in their plight?” Xalivar said. “Everything I’ve worked for, everything my father and grandfather worked for could be undone by this, Xander! Do you not care about this family any longer since you’ve found a new one?” They both turned at the sound of the door opening behind them.

Miri’s feet shuffled on the carpet as she rushed in. “Why didn’t you tell me you were here?” she said, looking at Davi.

“I didn’t have the chance yet, Mother,” Davi said.

“He was too busy arguing the evils of our oppressive Alliance with his uncle,” Xalivar said. “He won’t let this go. I should have raised him myself, disavowed him of his moral illusions.” He stared accusingly at Miri.

“I raised him to think for himself,” Miri said.

“Well, he’s decided this family is the enemy now,” Xalivar said, fists clenching again.

“You’re still my family. I care about you,” Davi said with frustration. Did his uncle really believe that?

Xalivar waved dismissively to Miri. “I cannot do what he asks. You talk sense into him.” He turned and stopped beside the door to his private chambers, punching a code. The door slid up and Xalivar disappeared inside, leaving them alone.

“You’re trying to fight a system which has been in place for generations, Davi,” Miri said.

“It’s wrong, mother.”

“It won’t change overnight,” Miri said.

Davi knew she was right but was convinced he had to try. “Someone has to speak for the workers. People know who I am; maybe I can make them listen.”

“Or you will make more enemies than you ever imagined,” Miri said.

“So you would have me stand by and do nothing?”

“No, but I would have you recognize there will be more to convince than just your uncle,” Miri said, frustrated.

“I have to start somewhere.” Davi turned away, knowing she was right. “I won’t give up. I can’t.”

“Do you want to go to prison? Do you want to be killed?” Miri’s voice was tinged with desperation; worry filled her eyes.

“I’m willing to do what it takes to change things for my people,” Davi said as their eyes met.

“The Lords or the workers?”

“Both, Mother. I belong to both,” he said with a sigh.

“I can’t protect you.” Her voice was pained.

“I know. I would never hurt you, mother; I hope you know that.” He looked at her with love and smiled.

“I only want what’s best for you. Your uncle, too,” Miri pleaded.

“Can’t you see I have to do this?” Davi said, as tears ran down her cheeks. He hurt for her. He raised his arms and she rushed into his embrace. He stayed there holding her awhile.


Xalivar watched the Royal Shuttle depart with Davi aboard from his private quarters. How could he have been so blind? He’d forgotten all about the decree! He’d forgotten all about the nightmares which kept him awake, night after night. He’d never given much credence to dreams, but after his scientists had reported an increase in male births on Vertullis, Xalivar issued a decree and sent his Special Police squads to destroy all first-born males. They’d seemed so real to him then, but twenty-one years had passed. No one had arisen to challenge him in the decade that followed. He’d ultimately come to believe the dreams had been nonsense, but now…

How could he have been so wrong? He would do whatever it took to protect the Alliance. He loved the boy, but love wasn’t enough sometimes. Davi would have to be watched, although he didn’t want him harmed. Not yet. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that, but he was prepared to do what was necessary. Miri would object, of course, but neither she nor her son really grasped what was at stake. Anyone was expendable if they rebelled. It couldn’t be tolerated.

The Council was scheduled to meet that afternoon, and he knew what must be done. He had to keep Davi close, and he had the perfect means right under his nose. Funny, he’d almost failed to see that, too. He’d been all ready to order Davi back to Plutonis. I must be growing weary. I need to get more rest. I have to stay on top of such things. He smiled. Yes, it was the perfect plan. So perfect, it would almost seem like a natural course of events beyond even Xalivar’s control.


326 pp · ISBN 978‐0‐9840209‐0‐4 ·Trade Paperback/Epub/Mobi · $14.95 tpb $3.99 Ebook  · Publication: October 4, 2011  · Diminished Media Group
Available now for 20% off on preorders!!!

Trade paperback only

 EPUB or MOBI — please specify in notes on order

The Worker Prince: Book 1 In The Saga of Davi Rhii

NOVEL EXCERPT: The Worker Prince Chapter 2

This excerpt is from Chapter 2 and the protagonist, Davi, has been discovering that life on the neighboring planet, Vertullis, for enslaved peoples (aka workers) is worse than he’d ever thought under his uncle Xalivar’s rule. He’s now finding himself torn and coming into conflict with friends and family as he begins to question it. Here he’s just received a letter from his mother about his questions.

Davi sat at his desk stunned. His mother had always been candid, but the content of her missive left him at a loss. He’d expected her to remind him of his uncle’s love and urge him to not be hasty in rushing to judgment, but he’d also expected her to tell him he did not yet have the full picture to understand the reasons behind the decisions his uncle had made in regard to Vertullis. Instead, she confirmed everything he had discovered and been wrestling with. What now?

He would have to be careful. Xalivar would indeed have spies and most people in the Alliance were loyal to him. Davi needed to control his feelings and consider each move. Would he take on the whole Borali Alliance as Farien had said? Not even his status as a member of the Royal Family ensured success. He would be fighting an entire system and way of life for his people, and he knew few would support him.

Slow down, Davi, and remember your place.

Needing to get out of this office and distract himself, he decided to explore areas of the capital he had yet to see. After all, for the time being, this would be home. It might be a good idea to get to know his environment. He deleted his mother’s e-post from the server and shut his terminal, returned the paperwork he’d been reviewing to his inbox and headed out the door.

Outside the noise of the city assaulted his ears. As the twin suns sank toward the horizon, the late afternoon light began to fade, dressing the transportation corridors around him in a mix of light and shadows. Past the end of a long block of administrative offices, he entered the narrower corridors of a residential district. The area surrounding the Borali Alliance’s offices had become prime real estate and contained some of the largest houses in the city, most occupied by off-world government employees.

A few corridors over, a tall security fence sectioned off that neighborhood from the adjacent one. On the far side, the houses changed noticeably, three story apartment buildings mixed with small dwellings, the landscaping sparser, the corridors narrower. He heard even more noise here than in the area around the government center. People bustled around the corridors past shopkeepers on sidewalks drumming up business. It almost seemed like earlier in the day, rather than early evening. In such worker neighborhoods, life began when the people came home.

He wandered, pondering the juxtaposition between houses which seemed run down, set between pristine, newer dwellings on either side. In other places, a thatch-roofed house would have added plants or laser displays on the sides, its small yard kept tidy and fresh, while vines ascended the walls of sleek modern transparent aluminum dwellings with overgrown yards. Finally, he reached a point where the corridor made a sharp turn.

Turning the bend, he found himself in the market with rows of stalls and tents of all shapes and sizes, bustling workers and vendors. A few saw his uniform and looked at him with wary glances but most went about their business as if he weren’t even there. The smell of various perspirations mixed with manure and fresh meats and fruits assaulting his nose.

Vendors offered everything from standard vegetables like green heads of lettuce, orange carrots, and shiny red tomatoes to more exotic ones like Feruca, Gixi, and Jax—fruits from other parts of the solar system. Feruca was black with a thin skin and soft pulp and was often served with various sauces. Gixi, a round, purple fruit grown in orchards on Vertullis and Italis had a delicious, tender pulp and sweet juice. Jax were blue and oblong with crispy pulp and a taste, which went from bitter to sweet during boiling. All had been discovered when colonists first emigrated here centuries ago and now were regular staples of their diets.

Other vendors offered livestock for sale, everything from blue Daken and goats to Quats and Qiwi, a long antlered creature from icy Plutonis. Dark brown with white spots lining either side of their spines, Qiwi stood waste high on Davi and had four long legs ending in black hooves. Their antlers grew up to forty centimeters out of their skulls. He also spotted Gungors, the six-legged brown animals with yellow manes raised for their tasty meat. Davi moved on past as vendors hollered prices and argued with customers, while the various animals brayed and moaned around them.

As he neared a tent, someone grabbed his arm—a smiling vendor who looked half-human and half-Lhamor, gesturing with his bottom two arms when he spoke, his forked tongue giving him a strong lisp.

“’ello, Capt’in, my frien’, wha’ever you nee’, I can ge’ for you,” he said with the accent of Italis and patted Davi’s back like they had been lifelong pals.

There’s a reason others of your race use translators. “No thank you, just passing through,” Davi said, moving on.

The market fascinated him. He saw many species and products he’d never seen before, realizing how big the Alliance really was. He hoped someday he might have time to explore it. When he was younger, he’d dreamed of going on a starship to see the planets in the outer solar system—alien species, plants, animals, alien languages. He’d spent so much time in the office, he hadn’t even bothered to discover what awaited him on Vertullis. He dodged another eager vendor and ducked into an alleyway. Quats moaned and darted out of his path, scattering the trash crowding the walls as they ran.

Might as well see what the neighborhoods are like on the other side.

Entering a corridor so narrow it was restricted to pedestrian traffic, he set about exploring. The corridor and buildings curved, making it impossible to see one end from the other. He walked past doors and windows of one dwelling after another. Separate units shared outside walls like one long building. The area appeared deserted. Everyone must be at the market or already inside.

A woman screamed around the bend ahead.

He quickened his pace, rounding the corner to see an Alliance Captain the size of an air taxi with a worker girl backed into a corner. His gray uniform was dirty and wrinkled, his hair graying around the edges. The girl looked to be upper teens, almost a woman, her face full of fear and apprehension. The Captain struck her across the face with the back of his hand and was preparing to do it again.

“Please,” the girl pleaded, “let me go.”

“You’ll go, when I say you can go,” the Captain responded, his voice like poison.

Neither had noticed Davi creeping toward them along a wall behind them. As he drew near, his nose crinkled at the overpowering smell of the Captain. He reeked of sweat and alcohol. Not even the girl’s sweet, flowery perfume could overcome it.

“What do you want from me?” The girl demanded.

“I want you to show me the proper respect.” The Captain swung his arm, but instead of hitting her face, which she turned away, he grabbed the collar of her blouse and ripped it open.

She slid along the wall, trying to get away. “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.”

“Workers like you are always disrespectful,” the Captain said. “Stop moving and come closer.” She shook her head as he grabbed her and pulled her to him, trying to press his lips against hers. She kept wiggling and pushing, making it difficult.

“I’m gonna teach you what it means to obey now, slut,” he said. Buttons popped as he ripped her blouse again and threw her to the ground, climbing on top of her and trying to force her legs apart.

Davi rushed up behind him, grabbing the Captain by the shoulders and pulling him off. “Enough, Captain,” Davi said.

The Captain swung to his feet and whirled around, pulling free with a power that sent Davi stepping back. The sobbing girl picked herself up and cowered against the wall behind him. “Who do you think you are?” the Captain sneered.

“A fellow officer concerned with a peer’s professional conduct,” Davi said.

“I’m off duty,” the Captain said.

“You’re in uniform,” Davi said.

“I guess this worker slut’s not the only one who needs a lesson in respect,” the Captain said, looking Davi over. He towered over Davi, muscles bulging from his jacket.

Davi stepped back. Maybe he has slow reflexes.

The Captain swung at him and Davi ducked, throwing a fist into the man’s gut. His fist throbbed like it had hit an iron wall.

The Captain laughed. “Is that the best you can do?”

“Run,” Davi said, his eyes meeting the worker girl’s. “Get away now!”

The Captain swung at him again as the girl backed away. “Where you going?” The soldier asked, missing Davi as he whirled and reached for her. Her blouse pulled loose into his hands.

Davi glimpsed a necklace around her neck with a blue-green crest at its center. The Captain knocked him to his knees with a blow he hadn’t seen coming.

Where are my friends when I need them? He struggled back to his feet.

The Captain swung again, and Davi dodged to one side. “You need to learn to mind your own business!” Keeping ahold of the girl with one hand, he swung again at Davi’s midsection.

Davi ducked to one side as the girl tried to pull free. His adversary found himself pulled in two directions but managed to grab Davi’s collar and jerk him roughly off his feet.

As the Captain pulled Davi closer and closer, the girl bit the Captain, who yelled and flinched, letting her go. Davi tried to use the moment to pull himself free, but the Captain pulled the collar tighter and cause Davi to slip and fall away from him and into wooden double doors which cracked loudly as they splintered from the force.

Seeing the girl slipping away, the Captain chased after her, turning his back on Davi.

Davi needed some kind of weapon. He thought for a moment of his blaster, but the Alliance had laws and he could think of none which would justify shooting a soldier, especially not to save a worker. Besides, the Captain had a blaster hanging on his hip.

As he climbed to his feet and stepped away from the door, part of it slipped back inside the house behind him. He looked at the splintered wood and began pulling free a section he could use as a club. Wood creaked and snapped as he pulled.

“Why are you doing this to me?” the girl screamed, as she continued dodging the Captain.

“Because you’re a worker,” the Captain said, grabbing her again as he looked around for something to tie her with.

Davi ran up behind him with the board. Seeing him out of the corner of his eye, the Captain turned, raising an arm, as Davi swung the board down hard atop his head.

The Captain’s arm deflected the board, sending it hard against the side of his head. He froze and emitted a loud gurgling sound, releasing the girl and falling to his knees as blood poured from his ears.

Davi pulled the board away and saw that a large spike had entered the man’s head at the temple. The Captain fell over face down and lay still as the salty smell of warm blood rose into the air from a widening pool around the Captain’s head. Oh my gods! I killed him!

“Is he dead?” the girl asked, petrified.

Davi knelt beside him, feeling for breath. The strengthened stench almost made him gag but he swallowed hard. “I think so. I don’t know.” The Captain’s chest wasn’t moving.

The girl gasped. Davi saw her pointing at his chest where his ripped uniform revealed his own necklace—an exact duplicate of the one she wore around her neck.

“Where’d you get it?” the girl asked.

“I’ve had it since I was a baby,” Davi responded.

The girl’s eyes widened as she turned and ran back up the corridor.

“Wait! Come back here a moment!”

But her footsteps faded into the night.

Davi glimpsed faces peering at him from nearby windows and heard footsteps behind him.

A worker stood in the splintered doorway as it finally sunk in—he’d killed an Alliance soldier.

Davi took dark side corridors all the way back to his quarters, ducking into alleyways every time anyone approached. Gasping for breath until his lungs were about to explode, he ran as fast as his feet would take him, his soaked clothes sticking to his skin. I hope no one got a good look at my face. How am I going to explain this?!

326 pp · ISBN 978‐0‐9840209‐0‐4 ·Trade Paperback/Epub/Mobi · $14.95 tpb $3.99 Ebook  · Publication: October 4, 2011  · Diminished Media Group
Available now for 20% off on preorders!!!

Trade paperback only

 EPUB or MOBI — please specify in notes on order

The Worker Prince: Book 1 In The Saga of Davi Rhii

NOVEL EXCERPT: The Worker Prince (Chapter 1 opening)

This excerpt is the opening scene from Chapter 1 of my forthcoming debut novel, the space opera “The Worker Prince” wherein the protagonist and his buddies are introduced along with chief rival and antagonist number 2, Bordox:

“Why do they keep staring at us?”

Farien nodded toward the dance floor and Davi realized all eyes in the Bar Electric were focused on them.

Sweet, fruity perfumes contrasted with stale sweat from gyrating bodies and afflicted Davi’s nose. “I told you we looked good in our uniforms,” he joked as his eyes turned back to his friends. After twenty-one years, he’d never gotten used to it.

Farien stood shorter by almost a foot than his friends, but made up for it in a bulk which filled out his gray uniform. The shiny gold buttons and shoulder insignia appeared ready to pop loose at any moment. Yao was the tallest, thinner than the others. A humanoid from the planet Tertullis, he could pass for human if it weren’t for his dark orange tinted skin and purple eyes.

“I think they’re staring at you, Prince Rhii,” Yao said.

Like an old habit, Davi forced a grin and waved casually as the crowd watched his every move. “And to think I felt like just another cadet at the Academy.” He looked around. “Serve-bot!”

Metal feet pounding on the floor mixed with flashing lights and the electronic tones of a recent pop hit blasting through speakers overhead. The automated robot waiter waded through the crowd toward their table. Other cadets, a few officers, and regular citizens were scattered between the dance floor and tables as identical serve-bots worked the room with drinks and food.

The serve-bot stopped at their table on one corner of the dance floor. “How may I serve you, sir?”

“A round of drinks for everyone, on me,” Davi instructed.

“On you, sir?”

Davi chuckled. Bots’ vocabularies were simple, practical, devoid of any colloquialisms or idioms. “Bill it to the Royal Palace, please.”

“I’d need authorization—”

Davi sighed, holding up his ID. The serve-bot scanned it, its facial LEDs lighting up with recognition. “Right away, Prince Rhii.”

Yao and Farien chuckled as the serve-bot hurried off.

“Come on, Davi, when are you going to drop the childhood nickname and use your real name, like a man. Xander sounds much more mature than Davi.” Farien’s face was serious, yet Davi couldn’t help but laugh.

“It may be a nickname, but it’s one I like.”

Farien rolled his eyes. “Haven’t you been teased enough over it? Don’t you want to be taken seriously as an officer? We’re not kids anymore. We’re going into the world as adults.”

“Let the man choose his own name, Farien. No one’s asking you to change yours even though it sounds a little feminine.” Yao and Davi exchanged a look and laughed.

Farien scowled. “It’s not feminine! It’s a family name!”

Davi and Yao just laughed harder as Farien took a huge gulp of his beer. After a moment, Yao turned serious again. “Now that you’ve made the public happy, how are you going to deal with the other crisis?”

“What other?” Farien asked.

Davi and his friends came to the bar to celebrate after graduating from the Military Academy. After receiving congratulations and hugs from their friends and family, the three headed off to Bar Electric to discuss their assignments and dream about the future awaiting them—which meant Davi had skipped out on the celebratory dinner planned in his honor at the Palace.

“They’ll get over it.” Davi dismissed it with a wave.

“When have they ever gotten over it?” Yao asked with a knowing look.

Davi sighed. “Yeah, they’ll make me pay, won’t they?” They both laughed. “Let’s make it worth it then!”

“Vertullis,” Farien muttered as he took another sip of his favorite off-world beer. “Babysitting slaves, great.”

Davi chuckled and sipped his own beer. “What did you expect—some grand adventure?”

“No, but maybe at least an assignment on one of the distant planets with breathing apparatuses, aliens to encounter…”

“We can make our own excitement, as usual.” Davi pointed at Farien and grinned. Farien rolled his eyes and they gave each other a high five.

“You’ll be there supervising work crew guards. I get to be supervised by some newbie fresh out of the Academy like you,” Farien complained, a glint in his eye. “Funny how your Uncle couldn’t pull strings to get you a cushier assignment.”

“You’re a newbie fresh out of the Academy,” Yao reminded him, shaking his head as Farien grinned.

“You can shut up, mister star-student-professor,” Farien answered. Yao had received the most prestigious assignment of all.

His uncle’s explanation was that Davi needed to earn the people’s respect, not just count on it because of his uncle’s favor or position. But Davi did sometimes wish his uncle would relax a bit and use his influence on his nephew’s behalf.

Seeing his friends staring, he brushed it off and reached over to squeeze Yao’s shoulder. “Yes, congratulations, Yao, it’s well deserved. The Presimion Academy is a fantastic school,” Davi said, proud of his friend. The ceremony had consisted of the usual speeches, and faculty aggrandizing, but Yao had won recognition for his skills with math and sciences, and Davi had received the leadership medal.

“Instead of serving alongside newbies fresh out of the Academy, he gets to prepare pre-Academy newbies.” Farien downed the last of his beer in one long sip and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “Anyone else want another round?”

Davi and Yao shook their heads as Farien rambled toward the bar. “We’d better slow him down or there’ll be trouble,” Yao commented.

Davi motioned to the door as three girls they’d seen on the front row at the graduation ceremony entered. “I think the diversion we need just walked in.” Yao turned toward the doorway as Davi stood, making his way toward the three beauties.

He approached their table and smiled. “You all look even better than you looked at the graduation.”

“You remember us?” the dark-skinned one asked as the girls exchanged shy looks.

Davi laughed. “Of course. Who wouldn’t notice you three?”

The music swelled as Davi asked their names and chatted with them a moment. Then he offered them his arms. They giggled as they stood, two of them looping their arms under his as he led them back toward the table.

“You know who I am, right?” he asked as they neared his table.

The girls all nodded. “Of course, Prince,” the dark-skinned girl said.

Davi preferred the rare woman who didn’t, but he nodded and bent to kiss her hand as they stopped at the table where Yao and Farien waited.

“Yao, these beautiful ladies are Bela, Jaqi, and Vivi,” Davi said, helping the girls with their chairs. They smiled at Yao, ogling his uniform as Bela and Jaqi sat on either side of him. What was it about Tertullians that seemed so irresistible to women? Davi took the seat next to Jaqi. The sweet scents of the girls’ perfumes teased his nose and made him smile. Vivi sat down on his left.

“We saw you at the graduation,” Yao said, smiling awkwardly as Jaqi slid her arm into his.

“Congratulations on your awards,” Jaqi said. “You must be very smart.”

Yao blushed. Despite the fact they seemed drawn to him, he’d never been as comfortable around females as his two friends. “Well, I studied hard.”

“Yao’s being modest. He’s been appointed a professor at Presimion Academy,” Davi interjected.

The girls exchanged a look, then Jaqi scooted closer to Yao, resting her head on his shoulder. They’d worn beautiful gowns at the ceremony, but now their form-fitting pants and low cut blouses flattered their impressive figures. The most exotic of the three, Vivi’s dark skin hinted at mixed racial blood, but Davi couldn’t guess which.

Farien returned with another beer and smiled at Davi. “I see you two didn’t waste any time.”

“Meet Bela, Jaqi and Vivi,” Davi said as Farien took a seat between Bela and Jaqi.

“So pleased to make your acquaintance,” Farien said, as he put his arm around Bela. She smiled, snuggling up to him.

“Are you going to be a professor, too?” Bela asked.

Farien grimaced as Davi and Yao stifled laughs. “I’ll be serving on Vertullis, making sure our worker population continues to produce at proper capacity.” It came out with such bravado that Davi and Yao couldn’t hold back.

“Oh, Vertullis. I always wanted to visit another planet,” Bela said, looking impressed as Farien shot his guffawing friends an annoyed look.

“What about you, Prince Rhii?” Vivi smiled at Davi. Her accent was Southern with slow and precise words. He wondered why her family hadn’t moved to another system with the others.

“Call him ‘Davi.’ He doesn’t like formality.” Ignoring sharp looks from Yao and Davi, he pressed on: “Our fearless leader will be leading the workers as well,” Farien said, ignoring the fact that Davi would be his supervisor.

“Oh,” Vivi said, her eyes sparkling. “I always wondered what the workers are like. I’ve never met one.”

“Me neither,” Davi chuckled. “We failed to offer you ladies libations. What can we get for you?”

As Davi turned to search for the nearest serve-bot, a group appeared in the doorway—Bordox and three of his cronies. A huge, hulking cadet with light yellow skin and a dark beard, he sneered as he spotted them, then led the way to a corner table across the dance floor. Davi frowned. He hadn’t seen Bordox at Bar Electric in months. Why today?

His mind flashed back to an incident at the Academy after he’d beaten Bordox on the flight simulators. Bordox let slip about a rumor claiming the “royal prince’s blood wasn’t so royal”—an attempt to rile Davi up and create a distraction.

Davi and his friends had demanded to know what Bordox meant.

“Who’d have known you’re so fond of folk stories, Bordox.”

“If it’s a folk tale, I guess you’re the folk lore prince,” Bordox cracked. “A starport rumor about a baby who arrived in a courier craft from the stars and landed near the palace, adopted by a lonely princess with no offspring.” Then he and his friends had laughed loudly.

Farien had wanted to tackle him, but Yao and Davi managed to hold him off. It took their professor threatening to charge Bordox with impugning the reputation of another cadet without cause to end the incident, but Bordox had never really let it go. From that day forward, he and Davi became fierce rivals at everything. Bordox was not as smart or coordinated, and far less likable than Davi, but they each had their crowd and were very competitive. Since the incident, each set his goals of achievement at a level designed to ensure he could better himself over the other.

Davi sipped his beer and reached down to finger the necklace he’d worn around his neck since childhood. His mother had given it to him, insisting he never take it off, even though the symbolism of it was lost on him. He’d never gotten around to asking her about it, but he’d never seen another like it, and he knew many regarded it as a symbol of his Royal heritage.

“Would you like to dance?” Vivi’s question broke him out of his reverie. He spotted Farien and Bela out on the dance floor, and Yao had taken Jaqi’s hand and was leading her there.

Davi stood and extended his hand to Vivi. “Absolutely. I thought you’d never ask!” Vivi laughed and took his hand as he led her to an open spot on the floor.

Davi hadn’t danced long when Bordox and his friends came onto the dance floor. Not finding immediate partners of their own, they began tapping the shoulders of other men, looking menacing if they showed any reluctance. Then, paired with the former partners of the frightened men, they maneuvered themselves to the area surrounding Davi, Farien and Yao.

Davi and his friends danced as if nothing mattered until the song ended, then Bordox smiled and leaned close to Davi. “So, folkloric prince, what assignment did you draw?”

“It’s nothing as glamorous as yours,” Davi replied, doing his best to ignore him. The music started again and Davi and Vivi resumed dancing.

“Lieutenant of the Lord’s Special Police,” Bordox responded with pride. The LSP was indeed a respectable assignment. Only the cadets deemed most loyal and sure to serve with lifelong honor at the High Lord’s beck and call would ever be chosen. It didn’t hurt that Bordox’s father, Lord Obed, ran the LSP.

“We’re going to Vertullis to keep the workers in line,” Farien said, breaking the lull.

“Glorified babysitters. I wondered if they’d let you three do any real work,” Bordox replied as he swung his reluctant partner around them. The girl seemed too afraid to do anything but try and keep up.

“Yao will be teaching math and sciences at Presimion Academy,” Davi responded.

Bordox’s smugness faded a moment, before he recovered. “Presimion, well, at least one of you was smart enough to draw a real assignment.”

Davi wanted to reply but Yao and Farien maneuvered their dates in between him and Bordox. He did his best to maintain his composure, but Bordox had gotten him fired up.

“Are you hungry?” Vivi asked as the song ended.

Davi smiled. Not many girls would be so direct knowing who he was. He liked this girl. “Yes, I am, as a matter of fact. Would you like to order something?” She smiled, then nodded and he led her back to their table. Farien and Yao followed with the others.

As he helped Jaqi into her chair, Yao leaned toward him. “Don’t let him get to you. It’s all petty jealousy. You’ve always bested him at every challenge.”

Yao’s eyes met Davi’s as Yao slid into the opposite seat. Davi smiled, calming the raging storm within. It was true. Despite the constant challenges, Davi had always come out ahead. Bordox was still looking for an opportunity to prove himself better. Davi sighed, as he glanced over the menu. Perhaps Bordox’s LSP assignment would keep him off their backs. At least Bordox could feel superior for the moment, if he wanted. He didn’t have to know that Davi would have turned down the LSP if he’d been asked. It held little interest for him.

Davi saw Bordox motion for a serve-bot, as he and his friends requisitioned a nearby table. They threatened the occupants, who stood and hurried for the door, while Bordox and his friends helped themselves to the food and drinks the party left behind.

Davi glanced over to where the bar manager and Bouncer-bot stood watching the events unfold. “Aren’t they going to do anything about it?”

“His father’s head of the LSP, remember?” Yao said. “They can pull bar licenses whenever they want.”

Davi started to stand but Farien reached over and pulled him back down into his seat. Both of his friends shot him warning looks.

“Maybe you ladies would like to find somewhere more romantic to dine?” Davi suggested.

Their dates smiled. “That would be nice,” Vivi said.

Davi and his friends stood, taking the ladies by the elbows and leading them toward the exit.

As they waited beside the air taxi post outside, Davi glanced through the Bar’s window and realized that Bordox and his friends had abandoned the requisitioned table. The blue air taxi arrived and Davi’s group climbed onto the two benches behind the cab-bot driver. As the door shut, Bordox and his friends appeared at the taxi stand, waiting impatiently for another taxi.

“He never gives up, does he?” Farien asked.

“Let’s make ourselves hard to follow,” Davi replied. “Taxi, take us to the starport please.”

“Of course, sir,” the cab-bot whirled around and steered the auto taxi into the flow of traffic.

Their dates’ faces lit up. “The starport, really?” Jaqi said.

“We’re gonna take a little tour before we head to the restaurant,” Yao said.

The cab-bot consisted of a torso with two arms and a head, on which lights lit up when it talked, attached to a seat facing the control panel at the front of the air taxi. Created to take over simple tasks like answering phones or loading cargo, newer bots now performed even more complicated tasks, including some trusted with the safety of humans.

Davi relaxed as the air taxi turned between a row of buildings and rose up onto the main artery running through Legon, the capital city. While Davi and the others enjoyed the ride, chatting with their dates, the auto taxi executed a few more twists and turns on the transportation corridor before turning onto an off ramp marked with signs for the starport.

“You’re not gonna fly us to some remote star restaurant, are you?” Bela asked.

“Not really. We’re just trying to lose our friends,” Davi answered as the air taxi threw him forward against the safety bar. There was another bump as something hit them from behind.

They all whirled around to see another air taxi with the cab-bot disabled. Bordox was at the wheel.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Yao muttered.

Davi turned to the cab-bot. “Please outrun that taxi and take us to the north shore.”

The cab-bot’s facial LEDs lit up in the shape of a smile. “I am attempting to adjust our velocity, sir.”

The taxi jerked as Bordox rammed them again. Davi leapt over the safety bar and pulled the manual override lever, pushing the cab-bot to one side and placing himself at the controls.

“Do you know how to drive this?” Vivi said, alarmed.

“Davi’s the top pilot in our class,” Farien said and smiled.

“Let’s see what this thing is made of.” Davi began pushing buttons, bringing the air taxi to a much faster speed.

Bordox launched another run at them, but Davi braked, and then slid in behind him, taking an onramp back up onto the air highway overhead. As he turned onto the onramp, Bordox’s frustrated face appeared in the rearview mirror. Bordox’s bulky body looked ridiculous behind the wheel of the air taxi. His dark beard couldn’t hide his aggravation as he struggled to turn the air taxi around.

As they merged into traffic, Davi couldn’t see Bordox behind them.

“Maybe we lost him,” Bela said.

“I doubt it,” Yao said as he and Davi exchanged looks.

In a moment, Davi saw another taxi racing up from behind. “Here he comes.”

Davi weaved their taxi in and out traffic, trying to keep Bordox at a distance, but the other air taxi continued to close on them.

“What’s his problem anyway? Why won’t he leave us alone?” Vivi said, her voice shaking.

“It’s a long story,” Davi replied, braking and bringing their taxi in behind the other. “Who’d have thought he’d fall for that twice?”

Yao and Farien laughed as Bordox hit the brakes, forcing Davi to dodge and bringing them side by side.

Bordox looked over—-his face a mask of bitter resentment. His friends stared at them with sneers of contempt. Bordox and Davi wove their air taxis through traffic, each trying to keep the other at bay.

“We’ve gotta get away from this traffic before someone gets hurt—” Davi was silenced by a jolt as Bordox slid his air taxi in behind theirs and slammed into them again. The windows around them cracked loudly as veins creeped out in all directions covering the panes.

“Better get us down to the lower airways,” Yao suggested, “before the windows disintegrate.”

Davi nodded and dove onto the nearest off ramp. Bordox followed. Now, buildings surrounded them, but the traffic had thinned. A group of barges plodded along ahead of them. He aimed the air taxi straight at the rear of one of them and accelerated.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” Yao inquired as he leaned over the safety bar close to Davi’s ear.

“Just secure everybody back there, okay? I have an idea.” Davi said.

“May the gods help us,” Yao answered, shaking his head. “You ladies might want to get into those safety harnesses now,” he said, motioning to the girls, as he and Farien began strapping themselves in. As the girls grabbed for their harnesses, and Yao and Farien turned to help secure and adjust them, Bordox rammed them again from behind.

The windows in both vehicles shattered, glass exploding around them with a deafening crash. The girls screamed. The wind blew against their faces, strengthened by their airspeed and pressing them back against the seats.

“Hold on,” Davi said. Slowing a bit as they approached the rear barge, he suddenly accelerated and pulled the air taxi up over the top of the barge.

Alarms blared from the speakers overhead. “Warning. Violation!” a computer voice screamed.

“Is this even safe?” Jaqi screeched.

“He knows what he’s doing,” Farien assured her.

Bordox’s air taxi cut across the incoming traffic lanes, zipping around the barge as Davi slipped between the two barges. In seconds, Bordox had squeezed in behind them again.

“I thought Bordox sucked at flying?”

“I guess he’s been practicing,” Farien said with a shrug.

Davi saw the first barge enter an intersection as Bordox accelerated toward them, and smiled. He had a plan. When the air taxi’s front passed the corner, Davi made a sharp turn, whipping everyone to one side and landed safely on a corridor to the side.

Bordox’s air taxi accelerated straight into the back of the second barge. Bordox and his friends looked shaken and confused, covered with blue Daken feathers from the barge’s shipment of the frightened, squawking birds.

Davi and his friends exchanged high fives, laughing. “That ought to hold him for a while.”

They watched as Bordox struggled to stand despite the slippery feathers all around him. His eyes met Davi’s in a hateful stare barely visible amidst the feathers dangling from the sweat on his face.

“He doesn’t look much different than he did before,” Farien joked. Yao and Davi laughed.

“Can we please get out now?” Vivi asked, trembling.

“Just a few more minutes. We know a great place on the north shore you ladies will love,” Davi said, relieved as he accelerated again and turned onto another corridor.

326 pp · ISBN 978‐0‐9840209‐0‐4 ·Trade Paperback/Epub/Mobi · $14.95 tpb $3.99 Ebook  · Publication: October 4, 2011  · Diminished Media Group
Available now for 20% off on preorders!!!

Trade paperback only

 EPUB or MOBI — please specify in notes on order

The Worker Prince: Book 1 In The Saga of Davi Rhii

NOVEL EXCERPT: Prologue from The Worker Prince

This is the first chapter of my forthcoming science fiction novel The Worker Prince. It’s a space opera in the vein of Star Wars and Star Trek. If you enjoy it, please spread the word.


Sol climbed to the top of the rise and stared up at the twin suns making their daily ascension. Yellows and oranges faded under the increasing blue of oncoming daylight, leaving a red glow on the horizon.

For as long as he could remember, he’d started each day with an escape from the heavy, polluted air and the noise of people, factories and traffic. He’d hoped the peaceful, quiet sunrises would calm him as usual to face the day ahead, but today he had no sense of peace, and the silence of the city’s edge drowned beneath the clamor within him.

My precious son! My God, don’t forsake us now!

The wait had been interminable, punctured by endless prayers to God for a precious gift. Now they had to send him away—their Davi! Was there no justice in this universe?

He glanced at his chrono and sighed. Wouldn’t want to be late to serve the Borali Alliance! After one last look at the twin suns, he turned and hurried back along the path toward Iraja and the starport stretched out on the horizon near the city’s edge.

He labored more with each breath as heavy air filled his lungs. The depot occupied a strategic site at the center of the planet ensuring easy access from all regions. Ignoring the droning soundtrack of the city awakening, Sol timed in on the chrono and greeted Aron, his co-worker and lifelong friend.

“Regallis,” Aron said, smiling.

“Regallis?” Sol asked. It seemed so far away—one of the outer planets in the system.

Aron nodded. “It’s perfect. Good population, frequent tourists, fertile plants, peaceful, no pollution. Best of all, no slavery. Davi should find a very happy life there.” Sol smiled at the thought. “I plotted coordinates for the capital. Figured it would give him the best chance.”

Sol clapped Aron on the shoulder, as the idea blossomed. “Thank you, Aron. We knew we could count on you.”

Aron, short and bulky, filled out the blue-green uniform jumpsuit, leather boots and tool belt both wore more fully than the thinner, taller Sol. They moved across a hangar toward their workstation, despite the deafening racket closing in around them—the constant hum of machinery, men raising their voices to be heard over it, the roaring of engines, the staccato hammering of tools. The sounds, the chaos of starships in all states of repair and the smell of fuel and sweat combined to make the hangar a place most visitors preferred to avoid. Sol didn’t even notice.

“What do you have left to do?” Aron asked as their eyes scanned the daily work assignments on their terminals.

“Test the seals and navigation system, replace injector. Then I need fuel.” Sol sighed, ticking the tasks off on his fingers like always. There would be no time to work on the courier today.

“My friend at the fuel depot has left over military fuel cells. They almost never ask for them back. He volunteered some for the courier.”

Sol beamed. If he’d ever had a brother, he hoped it would have been someone like Aron. “What did I do to deserve a friend like you?”

Aron shrugged. “Some people are luckier than others.” Sol laughed at Aron’s silly grin as they set to work on their assigned tasks.

As they commenced with their work, Sol stared through the hangar’s transparent roof at the clear blue sky overhead. Through a break in the gray, polluted clouds, the clean purity of a blue sky contrasted with his daily existence. He and Lura had adored every moment since the birth of their son. Every giggle, smile, or sign of personality sent waves of warm amazement coursing through him. There was not any more precious gift than that of this little creature who’d come from their love.

Lord Xalivar’s decree had taken the planet by storm. All first-born worker sons would be slaughtered for the gods. There were rumors that the crisis resulted from one of the High Lord Councilor’s nightmares, but no one knew for sure. Xalivar didn’t need a reason. Concerning the slaves, his word was law.

The gods! Gods our people don’t even believe in would dare to take away our Davi! Sol and Lura desperately wondered what they could do to save their precious boy. After hours of discussion, they’d found a single choice.

The next morning, Sol had begun modifying the round, silver craft designed to carry supplies and papers between planets in the solar system. Being a mechanic at the depot put him in the perfect position. He installed a vacuum sealer and oxygen vents and hollowed out the carrier cavity to hold the cushion on which he would place their tiny son for the journey.

Sol enlisted Aron, who had access to navigation charts for the entire system, knowing together they could find a place where Davi would be found and cared for. The courier’s sub-light drive would cut travel time to no more than a day to anywhere in the solar system.

Lura wouldn’t eat and barely slept, sitting with Davi and refusing to leave him. At least Sol’s work kept him occupied. He couldn’t bear watching her suffer, and if he didn’t act, Davi would be sacrificed with the others. Healing would come when they knew he was safe. Sol was, even now, working on a tracking device, which would send back a signal to the depot when the craft landed. They might never see Davi again, but at least they would know he’d escaped to a new life.

As the suns’ rays warmed the space where he stood, it comforted Sol to know their baby boy would see the same suns wherever he wound up. Shadows crept away like their quat, Luci, who loved to sneak around feeling invisible with her arched back and long tail. Luci would miss the precious little one, too. Sol offered a silent prayer of thanks for the time they’d had with their precious son then turned back to his tasks.


“LSP Squads are landing and moving toward our neighborhoods.” A co-worker appeared beside Sol’s worktable, his fearful eyes darting around like flies hovering over a corpse.

“We don’t have much time,” Sol said to Aron as the co-worker hurried off, and they abandoned the hulking barge to finish the courier.

Aron tested the navigation system, while Sol checked the seals. Less than thirty minutes later, the first reports of methodical killings came in—first-born males of all ages slaughtered by LSP squads moving from home to home.

“I hope Lura heard the news.” Sol couldn’t stand still.

“I’m sure everyone on the planet knows about it by now,” Aron replied as both did their best to hurry without making any mistakes. “She’s probably on her way here already.”

Sol nodded, fighting the tension rising within. She would follow their plan and head for the depot with Davi. With his supervisors watching, he couldn’t run home and warn her. He’d risk encountering the LSP squads, who tended to shoot first and ask questions later of citizens who interrupted them in action.

The supervisor was upon them within the hour. “There’s no courier on your worksheets.”

His gray jumpsuit bore not a blemish or wrinkle, unlike theirs which were covered with grease and grit. The stare from the green-scaled supervisor’s disproportionally large orange eyes might have been intimidating if Sol hadn’t already grown used to it. Tran hurried over waving the two lower arms extending from either side of his rounded, voluminous stomach. Two parallel arms extended out of his shoulders above them, one holding an electronic translator which translated his words from his native Lhamor—a series of clicks and clacks—into the common used standard, the official language of the Alliance.

Sol’s throat tightened, but Aron remained calm. “It’s the courier for Estrela Industries, Tran,” Aron said as he typed calculations into the navigation system’s computer. “We got notification they’ve moved up the testing. It’s for a top-secret program authorized by Lord Xalivar himself.”

Sol and Aron had long ago devised the story about the courier belonging to an important defense contractor. They’d seen too many other workers killed just for failing to meet their quotas. Since couriers were a part of their regular routine, it was easy enough to excuse their working on it from time to time if anyone asked. Before now, no one had.

Tran mulled this over, staring at them as if he could read their minds. “It’s almost done—a few minor adjustments.” Sol used a wrench to finish checking bolts on the courier’s hatch.

“Well, you can’t leave today without finishing your assignments.” Tran’s eyes reddened with suspicion before he whirled and marched away. At least they’d bought themselves time.

“If he goes to the manager—” Sol shuddered at the memory of past tortures for disobedience.

“He won’t. He flinches at the mention of Xalivar’s name,” Aron reminded him, as they hurried back to work on the courier. Sol’s breathing normalized again, and he hoped Lura was on her way there.

A clerk in a red jumpsuit appeared, handing Aron some parts for another project. As Aron signed the laser pad to acknowledge receipt, the co-worker looked at Sol. “They’ve started in your neighborhood. We just heard.”

Sol and Aron exchanged a frightened glance as the co-worker slipped away. Sol’s muscles tightened as his heartbeat climbed. He jumped at the communicator’s beep, then double clicked the talk button. “Station sixty-five.”

“Your wife is in the lobby,” the auto-bot receptionist responded. The line went dead.

Sol’s shoulders descended as he turned to Aron. “Get the pod to Test Pad Seventeen-A. We’ll meet you there.” Aron nodded as Sol hurried toward the lobby.

Lura waited with Davi wrapped in a blanket, rocking him in her arms. She wore a simple white jumpsuit and tan leather shoes, her long brown hair flowing down her back. As it had for fifteen years, her beauty took his breath away. The most perfect human he’d ever met had chosen him. He felt like a leprechaun from an Old Earth fairy tale grasping a pot of gold.

Sol hugged Lura, seeing the fear in her eyes. “Come with me.” Grabbing her arm, he steered her away from the four-armed auto-bot, which sat permanently affixed before a huge communications console. He tried to relax, knowing it was a mech but as they neared the door, Davi began crying.

“Is that a baby?” Tran’s voice came from behind them, and they turned to see him frowning as he approached.

“It’s our son,” Lura commented, then put a hand over her mouth as Tran reached for a communicator on the wall.

The clerk who’d delivered supplies to Sol and Aron earlier entered at a run. “Tran, Station Thirty-Four has no fuel.”

Tran stopped reaching for the communicator and turned to face him. “What do you mean they have no fuel?”

As Sol pushed Lura through the door, Tran whirled back around, scowling before the door slammed shut behind them.

Lura’s tears flowed as they zigzagged through the chaotic hangar toward the test pads. They almost couldn’t hear Davi crying above the din.

“I’m sorry…” Lura’s hand shook as she clung to his arm.

“Let’s hope Aron’s got the courier ready.” Sol tapped three numbers into a security door and it rose into a ceiling cavity with a loud, whooshing sound. He ushered her down a dimly lit corridor.

“I don’t know if I can let him go,” Lura said, as she had over and over since the decree’s release.

“If we want our son to grow old, we have no choice, love.” Sol’s practiced emotional burying failed and his voice cracked as they moved past numbered doors toward Test Pad Seventeen-A.

The dark walls and floor of the narrow corridor absorbed what little light the reflector pads overhead provided. If Sol hadn’t known the way, they would have progressed more slowly. They stopped before a gray door marked seventeen-A as Sol entered another key code into the security pad.

The door swung up and Sol rushed Lura and Davi onto the test pad, where Aron was busy double-checking the courier’s navigation system. Mounted on the launcher, the courier appeared bigger and taller than it actually was. Upon seeing it, Lura clutched Davi tightly to her chest.

“Lura, we must hurry!” Tiny daggers danced and sliced at the surface of Sol’s pounding heart.

“I’ve got the coordinates programmed. And I borrowed fuel for the sub-light drive from Station Thirty-Four,” Aron said and Sol winced. “It should take them a while before they miss it.”

Sol climbed a small ladder and examined the courier one final time. “Tran’s already been alerted. Why’d you do that?”

“There was no time to go anywhere else,” Aron said, his face registering alarm.

Sol motioned to the courier. “Let’s get the engines prepped. They don’t know where we’ve gone.”

Aron and Sol hurried about the final launch preparations as Lura held Davi and cried. After a few moments, Sol stepped down from the ladder to join her.

“He’s going to Regallis, Lura. Aron checked it out himself. He’ll be in the capital. Someone will give him a life we never could.” Tears flowed as his hands carressed the feathery down atop his son’s head.

“How can this be happening?” Lura said through her sobs. “We’ve waited so long for a child!”

Sol’s arms wrapped around her, holding his family for the last time. “We have to have faith, Lura. God will protect him. It’s time for him to go.” He reached for Davi. Lura resisted a moment, then kissed Davi’s forehead and surrendered.

His infant son lay so light in his arms—soft and warm. The eyes looked to him with total trust, but instead of cuddling with him as he wanted, Sol hugged the tiny boy to his chest and hurried up the ladder to the courier. Placing Davi in the molded cushion, he wrapped the safety straps around him, put the life support pad in place and turned it on. Its LEDs lit up bright green. The note he’d written for whoever found Davi rested secure in the info pouch on the side wall. Everything was good to go.

Lura rushed up the ladder beside him. She removed her necklace his mother had given her before their joining ceremony and set it beside their son. Since the ceremony, Sol had never seen her without it. Tucking the family crest emblem inside the blanket where it couldn’t float free and scratch their son, he reached for the hatch, bending down as he did to kiss Davi’s head.

“Always remember we love you,” he said, the last words his baby son heard before the hatch closed over him.

Sol clasped Lura’s hand and led her down the steps. He nodded as Aron entered the launch code in the computer, and they all moved out of range to watch. The courier’s engines ignited, humming as they rose to full power in preparation for launch. The room vibrated around them as the courier’s engines shot out twin columns of orange-red flame, rocking the pedestal upon which it rested, before launching into the sky on its journey to the edge of the solar system. Sol wrapped his arms around Lura as she collapsed against him, sobbing. Security forces arrived, surrounding them, and Sol glimpsed Tran’s orange eyes peering in from the doorway.

326 pp · ISBN 978‐0‐9840209‐0‐4 ·Trade Paperback/Epub/Mobi · $14.95 tpb $3.99 Ebook  · Publication: October 4, 2011  · Diminished Media Group
Available now for 20% off on preorders!!!

Trade paperback only

 EPUB or MOBI — please specify in notes on order

The Worker Prince: Book 1 In The Saga of Davi Rhii