Keith Draws is working on the typography for the cover, so I’ll show you some of what he’s come up with. Let me know which version you like the best!
“Hey, mate,” a familiar voice said from my left.
I looked over to see the garden gnome sitting on the arm of the couch. A sigh escaped me after I blinked my eyes a few times.
“Great,” I muttered. “You again.”
“Exactly!” the gnome said without moving its lips. “Me again.”
“Go away,” I mumbled. “You’re not real.”
“Are you sure about that?” the gnome asked slyly.
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
I reached out to the gnome, sure my hand would pass right through it since it was nothing more than a figment of my imagination—a figment that had followed me around for the last three days after a binge on what I had thought was absinthe at a local watering hole in San Elira. I still didn’t know what I had consumed, but I knew it wasn’t absinthe even if it was the same electric-green color. My fingers bumped up against the solid ceramic gnome, sending it crashing to the floor.
“Owwww!” the gnome cried, its voice muffled. “What the hell, Mike?”
I peered over the arm of the couch to see the gnome face-down on the wooden floor. I blinked a few times. This isn’t real, I reminded myself. None of this is real.
“I’ll ask again,” the gnome said, still face-down on the floor. “Are you sure?”
“Fuckin’ great,” I said, reaching down to pick the gnome up. “Now you can hear my thoughts as well. What the hell was that shit?” I asked myself, remembering the silky, smooth, slightly sweet taste of the liquid I’d gotten smashed on.
“It’s what the locals call ‘Silandra,’” the gnome answered after I put him on the roughly hewn coffee table in front of me. “I heard it was a beverage the natives concocted a thousand years ago.”
“That’s what you heard, huh?” I asked, deciding to go along with the hallucination.
I checked my surroundings beyond the couch. I was in a small bungalow or shack somewhere near the beach. The low roar of ocean waves breaking on the sandbars mixed with the slight rustling of tropical vegetation outside the shack.
“And what exactly is this ‘Silandra’?” I asked after turning my attention back to the gnome.
“It lets you talk to the gods,” the gnome said solemly. Continue reading
Christmas time is supposed to be full of cheer, good food, and goodwill toward men. For Tabitha and me, Christmas time… well, let’s just say it isn’t our favorite holiday. Each year we put on a pleasant, smiling, cheerful face for our spouses and our kids, but Tabby and I both hate it with a passion. Especially now, but I guess I’m thankful that we’re old now and it won’t matter much longer.
My earliest memories of Christmas are from age three. I don’t remember much other than receiving a brand new gaming console that I had to share with my sister Tabby, who is a year older than me. The gaming console was nowhere near as memorable as my fully animatronic Professor Puzzleton doll. And not just the small doll without all the goodies. Santa must have known I was a good boy by the fact my Professor Puzzleton was the full-sized four foot tall version, complete with computer software to interact with and upgrade the professor’s abilities, along with a full year’s supply of board games, coloring books, and sing-a-long activities.
My father, Jason Gould, was a realtor at the time, and by my third Christmas he was earning more than mom. Rochelle Gould, my mother, worked as a financial analyst for one of the largest banks in the world, and from what she and Dad told me later, was bringing home six figures per year in salary alone. With bonuses… let’s just say that between the two of them, Tabitha and Avery Gould were spoiled little shits—but to be honest, so were Mom and Dad.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with living in a six thousand square foot mini-mansion and being dropped off at elementary school in a $140,000 Mercedes or a $125,000 BMW SUV. Once in a while it was Dad’s fully restored 1969 Dodge Superbee. He once told me he spent almost as much restoring it as he did on his Mercedes. We didn’t have servants, but I don’t remember Mom ever spending more than a few minutes actually cleaning anything other than the dishes after dinner. I barely remember Anita and Devonne, our regular housekeepers who showed up twice per week to do the chores none of us wanted to bother with.
Tom Edwards just sent me the final artwork for my upcoming post-nuclear novel “Skydark.” Still working on this one, but it should be out sometime this summer (2017)!
(disclaimer: there could be a number of errors in this, but I literally just finished writing it about 10 minutes ago!)
I banged my palms on the steering wheel in time to the music while waiting for the light to change. Twenty more minutes and I’d be home for the weekend. My mind wandered to Marla, a woman I met a few weeks back on an internet dating site. We’d spent two nights together in those three weeks, and my brain hoped that it was only because of my work schedule that we hadn’t been able to connected more often. I felt my heart race at the thought of the skin-tight dress she’d worn the previous Saturday when we’d driven up to Boise for—
The blare of at least three horns shattered my concentration and brought me back to reality. I felt my face turn red as I wondered how long I had made the cars behind me wait to turn left onto Borah Ave. A glance in my rearview mirror once my foot hit the gas pedal made me turn even more red. Their multiple rude gestures and mouthed insults were the proper payment for any dumbass who couldn’t get off his cell phone or stop picking her nose long enough to notice the light had turned green.
I crossed over the first two lanes, my light still a bright green arrow, when a blur caught my peripheral vision. I felt my nerves tingle all at once as I realized a blue Honda wasn’t going to stop at its red light. I couldn’t decide whether to jam my foot on the gas or the brake, but the Honda was moving so fast that I never got to make the decision. A loud bang preceded the crunch of metal and glass by a quarter of a second, the airbags in my Chevy Cavalier filling instantly and whiting out my world.
Here’s a couple more sketches from Vlad Momot for chapter 2 of “General Megatron.”
Twitter: @VladMomotArt / Instagram: @Vladmomotart
“Granite Base, this is Alpha-1. Launch Sequence stand-by.”
“Roger Alpha-1. Begin activation sequence.”
I listened to the comm chatter from Launch Control and the pilots while my goggles displayed vast amounts of information. The engine bay information window was bordered in red that turned to yellow as the Icarus’ power plant ramped up for blast-off. There were only two weapons pods, both defensive in nature, though I wondered how effective they would be should we pop out of the mountain only to find a thousand Kai warships waiting for us. I cycled through the acceleration creches, finding my parents’ two rows down from me, both a healthy green.
“Admiral Shaw, we’re cleared for launch,” the pilot’s voice said over the comm. Captain Jun was a female according to the display data next to her name, but she sounded like the gruffest, toughest Marine my brain could imagine.
“Roger that,” my father replied in a tight voice. “Let’s light ‘em up and get the hell off this rock ASAP.”
I turned my attention back to the engineering window. The fusion reactors had been steady at five percent until a few minutes ago when they began to slowly climb into the thirty percent range. I watched, holding my breath involuntarily, as the numbers inched into the low forties, then suddenly ramped up to ninety before leveling off and continuing their journey to one hundred. I expected the ship to vibrate or hum just like in all the movies, but I felt and heard nothing. I wasn’t sure if the gel in my creche was dampening any sensations. I could still hear the muffled noises of the last few sailors climbing into their own creches after securing the rest of the passengers. Continue reading
Mom and Dad talked for a while, though not before sending me off to a corner of the room to read. I had finally calmed down enough to begin once again daydreaming of the strange, shiny ship being prepped a dozen meters down the corridor from me. I felt ashamed that I had cried like a baby, but my mother forced me to admit I’d sneaked enough looks at the holos on the Wire to have a terrifying grasp of what the Kai did to their enemies.
Both Mom and Dad admitted to being just as frightened. When I asked how come they didn’t seem scared, my dad looked away when my mom said they had both done their share of crying over the last few years and didn’t have much—if any—tears left in them. The thought of crying so much that I couldn’t cry ever again scared me almost as much as what I’d seen the Kai do to our colonies. The only thing more terrifying, according to Dad, was how once the Wire went dead, truly awful things happened.
There were rumors the aliens harvested humans for food, used them in disturbing genetic experiments, even dissolving every living person in giant vats of acid. The tales that made me shiver were the ones describing how the Kai set everyone on fire.
I’d burned myself with a nanosolder tool when I was eight. It took almost a month for the wound to completely heal, and hurt even with the pain blockers the doctor prescribed. I shivered again at the thought of that kind of pain all over my body. Continue reading
I tried to raise a single eyebrow again, as this was certainly different than any of the True Responsibilities I’d imagined.
“Hey, good one!” he said with a laugh, and it even made my mom chuckle. “You almost got it.” He changed back to Serious Dad. “Denny, you don’t pay much attention to the news, do you?”
“Not really,” I answered.
Adult news was usually boring unless it had footage from one of the colony worlds under attack, or an important space battle (but those were typically labeled “disasters”). Mom never let me watch any of those news stories, and had done her best to firewall my comm so I couldn’t pull grisly details (and pictures or video) from the Wire. I knew why she didn’t want me to watch them, at least I thought I did, and it had to do with her own experiences in combat.
Mostly, the news always sounded like a bunch of voices all talking at once. Today in blah blah blah, this bad thing happened, a lot more bad stuff happened, here’s the weather and then sports. I did my best to tune it out, but because of my accelerated schooling, thanks to both of my parents being officers in the military, I knew a lot more than most of my peers about what was happening in the galaxy.
I didn’t seek out the news that most adults paid attention to, but I didn’t ignore it either. A lot of the stuff going on around the galaxy made no sense to me for a long time, but I’d learned a lot of “context” (a concept I still struggled with) which made connections between people, places, and events easier to understand. Ever since I found out about Mom and what happened to her at Janus, I paid more attention than ever to any news that entered the small bubble of my world. Continue reading