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Tomorrow’s Demise: CH 17

SEVENTEEN

Preparations

“So where are we going to find a big enough wagon?” asked Nathan as he and Emerald walked down the half-filled street.

“Old man Barley owns a shop on the outskirts of town. He’s been a friend for years. He should be able to help us.”

“I hope he doesn’t expect it back.”

Noon came and went, and still the temperature climbed. It was the typical misery Nathan had come to expect. He hated this place even more than his own miserable life back on earth. A hot breeze irritated his exposed skin, and he snarled. Emerald caught the expression and suppressed a giggle.

“Enjoying yourself?” he asked, a taste of annoyance on his tongue.

“There are other ways to enjoy oneself, but that was amusing, yes,” she flashed a warm smile. “You act like you’ve never been in a desert before.”

“I have, but that doesn’t mean I like it,” he said.

“Nothing about it?” she teased.

He struggled to keep from grinning like a stricken school boy. “Well, maybe not everything. There might be one or two things I can think of to like.”

Her laugh echoed down the street, causing more than one head to turn.

“Well, well, would you look at that,” a gruff voice said from across the street. “Such a pretty little thing. How’s about you forget that maggot and see what a real man can offer?”

Nathan looked up to see five men staring back at him. The speaker was built like a bear and nearly as hairy. Two of them were insect-like, the rest human. Nathan groaned.

Fighting the Berserkers was bad enough. He didn’t know how he was going to get out of this mess.

“Piss off, mac. I don’t have the time to play.”

They laughed. “He doesn’t have time to play. All the more reason to give up the girl and go about your business.”

The man started to move off the porch, a malevolent intent blazing in him. Nathan tensed, ready to fight. The silver flash hummed through the air, striking less than an inch from the post by the bear’s head.

“I suggest you go about yours,” Emerald growled, another throwing knife already in her hand.

The smaller man whispered, “She’s a Slayer.”

Emerald winked. Bear growled, but there was no force in it. Slowly, without taking his eyes off of them, he and the others backed away. She recovered the knife and returned to Nathan’s side.

“Nice. Can’t say that I’ve ever been rescued by the woman before.” He smiled.

Emerald wrapped her arm around his and said, “Don’t get used to it. My favors usually come with a price.”

Nathan resisted the urge to follow that one. “Got a boyfriend?” he asked.

She gave him the warmest smile he had ever seen. “I’ll let you know in a little bit.”

“Fair enough.”

“So tell me about your homeworld,” she said as they continued on to Old Man Barley’s. “Kane tells me that there are whole fields of green.”

 

Recent conversations had given him much to think about. Life continued to spiral out of control, waltzing with purpose down strange, wonderful highways no human should ever learn. He’d found someone to share, commiserate in his personal torment, but that did little to assuage the guilt of being trapped on an alien planet so far from home.

Home. The word almost sounded wrong. Nathan placed his head on the pillow and tried to think of all he was missing. Ultimately he concluded it wasn’t actually that much. An ex-wife and a child. His life wasn’t exactly the best there was. He worked too much. Smoked too much and didn’t give much of a care to most matters. Nathan grinned like a fool as he realized he’d turned into a real son of a bitch.

His biggest fear was that more of the Berserkers were loose on Earth. Binghamton wasn’t a very large city but it was only a few hours west of New York. Should those monsters manage to make it that far… He let the thought drop, knowing there wasn’t a thing he could do about so long as he was stuck here.

The collapse of part of Rook Mountain made going back through the portal all but impossible. There had been hope of returning once the Imperium finished crushing the Berserkers but now that hope was naught but muted glory. Nathan was stuck and decidedly out of his element.

“What in the hell have I gotten myself into?” he asked the ceiling.

Life wasn’t supposed to be this hard. By this stage of his life he’d expected to have a well developed retirement fund, a happy family, and a boat to cruise up and down the lake on perfect weekends. His current situation was a far cry from that lofty dream. Misery didn’t seem strong enough to describe what had happened since being pulled out from under the mountain.

Eventually, while desperately trying to fall asleep without success, he came to the inescapable conclusion that loneliness drove his actions. Alone and moderately afraid, Nathan stumbled from one misadventure to the next in the hopes of escaping an almost overbearing experience. He’d surrounded himself with an assortment of characters he felt he could trust, though that decision was far from final on a few, and gradually accepted that they offered the same camaraderie as his time in the army. Forget the fact that one of them had three eyes.

His final thoughts before drifting off to sleep were that perhaps he wasn’t as lonely as he initially thought.

 

“We need to talk,” Kane told Nathan after the last man left his recovery room. It was the end of the week, and final preparations were underway.

“What’s up?”

Locking his arms behind his back in the fashion of an old sage, Kane said, “I wish you to reconsider your decisions. This is not your fight. The dangers far outweigh the rewards. There is a strong chance you may not return to your home world.”

“That disaster back in the Gorge wasn’t my fight either,” Nathan replied. “I make my own choices, Kane. There comes a time in every man’s life when he loses the selfishness and all he has left is what’s inside. This is my time. I’m finally a part of something greater than myself, and it feels damned good. Besides,” he grinned, “I think I’m starting to like it here.”

That last was pure fiction. Aside from Emerald Razorback he hadn’t found much of anything to like about the Wastelands.

“I don’t want your blood on my hands.”

“It won’t be if what you say is true. We’ll all be going to meet our Gods soon. The greatest freedom a man can have is choosing his death,” Nathan replied. “Not to change the subject, but I think you need to talk to Emerald. This is the second time you’ve rejected her, and she’s hurt by it. She won’t say it, but I can see it in her eyes.”

“She and Braxton are the closest thing I have to family. What sense does it make for all of us to die?” He turned his back on his friend.

Nathan sighed. He’d run in to obstinate people before and, it appeared, that the ones here on Helscape were no different from those back on Earth. “If that’s the case, then what sense does it make for one to live after the others are gone? Personally, I’d rather die among friends than alone.”

Alone. The word stung Kane. It was his life’s story. There’d been acquaintances, a fleeting friend here or there, but nothing more solid. His emptiness was a testament to the Slayer’s life. So it had been since their violent inception, and so it would always be. Kane weighed the words heavily before rejoining his friends.

“Ah, but it reminds me of the old days,” Braxton said when they finished loading the wagon with the last of the supplies. “A noble quest fit for kings.”

Xill’s eyebrow raised in question. “Were you here in the old days?”

Braxton frowned. “I ain’t that damned old, ye crackpot! I was just makin a comment.”

“And how you wish you were coming and all of that squaffa,” Snake Eyes said with a smile. “I’ve heard this one before.”

“Ha ha!” the old man thundered. “Ya know me better than I know myself. You’ll do fine out there, lad.”

“I sure hope so.”

Braxton walked off laughing. The others were finishing packing their bags, leaving Snake to guard the wagon. The assassin was already gone. It wasn’t a big deal, but he was the one responsible for planning half of the mission and knew a great many secrets deemed important by them. The least he could have done was show his face when they left Black Tide.

“Lads, them Berserkers have raped the Wastes for two hundred years. There was an empire once. A human empire or so my da used to tell. Good men came and built a paradise out there. The Berserkers wrecked it all. My home. Tonight, you accept the mantle of change. May the Gods bless you on your way.”

“And fortune favor the foolish,” Nathan added.

“The suns are setting,” Xill said. There was an ominous tone in his voice. “It is time to begin.”

“So it is.”

The playful looks of innocence were lost as they shuffled their way to their mounts. Seriousness set in. Braxton stopped by Kane’s horse for a last word.

“I don’t suppose we’ll meet again, old friend,” he told the one hand Slayer. “Do me proud, boy, and take this with ya.”

The parcel was wrapped in a dusty cloth, having been secured there for decades. Kane was reluctant to accept it, but Braxton insisted.

“Tis an old dagger I found long ago. Some rumor that it came from the old empire. I dunno. But if it did, maybe you can help return it to the purpose it was designed for.”

Kane clutched the weapon to his heart. “I will use it only when necessary. May we meet again, Braxton Skrapp.”

The old Slayer turned and ambled away. It was a day for youth. His had come and gone, and there was nothing else to say. The fate of the world rested in their hands now.

Tomorrow's Demise I

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New Release: The Children of Never

Every once in a while I get a bug to do something a little different. You know what I mean. This time I decided to build on a world that won me an award from the Writer’s of the Future Contest a few years back. A world of magic, floating cities, and best of all- none of the traditional fantasy creatures or tropes. No magic swords here friends…though I am working on a book where the fella walks around with a sword that wants to kill him…enough about that.

I present to you a little bit of a ghost story. The Children of Never. Out today and ready for your welcoming arms. Enjoy.

Children of Never E book

The war priests of Andrak have protected the world from the encroaching darkness for generations. Stewards of the Purifying Flame, the priests stand upon their castle walls each year for 100 days. Along with the best fighters, soldiers, and adventurers from across the lands, they repulse the Omegri invasions.

But their strength wanes and evil spreads.

Lizette awakens to a nightmare, for her daughter has been stolen during the night. When she goes to the Baron to petition aid, she learns that similar incidents are occurring across the duchy. Her daughter was just the beginning. Baron Einos of Fent is left with no choice but to summon the war priests.

Brother Quinlan is a haunted man. Last survivor of Castle Bendris, he now serves Andrak. Despite his flaws, the Lord General recognizes Quinlan as one of the best he has. Sending him to Fent is his best chance for finding the missing children and restoring order. Quinlan begins a quest that will tax his strength and threaten the foundations of his soul.

The Grey Wanderer stalks the lands, and where he goes, bad things follow. The dead rise and the Omegri launch a plan to stop time and overrun the world. The duchy of Fent is just the beginning.

THE CHILDREN OF NEVER. Get your copy today and please- let me know what you think!

The Struggle For Originality

How many writers- new and old- suffer from trying to create something original? With more books being published than ever before, finding an original concept is proving more difficult. Let’s forget the part where Shakespeare basically ruined it for all when he knocked out the ten major themes in books. Seriously, save a little for the rest of us.

The bottom line is that chances are that great idea or story plot you are cooking up has already been done. That is not cause for concern however. Sure, just about every storyline you can think of has been written, but not with your individual twist.  Oh sure, there are some definite copyright infringements going on- take all those cheap, cheesy covers going around that have one of the Trade Federation Starships from the Star Wars prequels- but there are limitless possibilities an author can take to make the story theirs.

The future is a bold mix of what the mind might imagine and what has already happened being reshaped. I once read that it takes roughly 1 million written words, yeah that’s right 1,000,000 words, before an author gets good at his/her craft. That’s a lot. I mean a lot. At first I thought it was nonsense, but the more experienced I get the easier my books flow and the stronger the story and the prose.

All this helped me decide to write my own how-to book. I scoured numerous references and industry professionals I know from around the world to put together a comprehensive guide for beginners to build the foundation for their fiction book. Like so many things before it, there’s not much new information there, but the presentation is unlike any other.

So where do you fit in?

COVER FINAL

Here I Go Again On My….

If you’re old enough you know the rest (wouldn’t want to get hit for copyright infringement). Then again, I am heading off to see Whitesnake, Foreigner, and the Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience on July 3rd so maybe that has something to do with it. For those of you in the United States I wish you all a very happy 4th of July. As someone who defended our flag for over 20 years- in numerous warzones- I take great pride in this week and always reflect on those who came before me.

I don’t imagine the folks on Helscape know about that though….

SEVENTEEN

Preparations

“So where are we going to find a big enough wagon?” asked Nathan as he and Emerald walked down the half-filled street.

“Old man Barley owns a shop on the outskirts of town. He’s been a friend for years. He should be able to help us.”

“I hope he doesn’t expect it back.”

Noon came and went, and still the temperature climbed. It was the typical misery Nathan had come to expect. He hated this place even more than his own miserable life back on earth. A hot breeze irritated his exposed skin, and he snarled. Emerald caught the expression and suppressed a giggle.

“Enjoying yourself?” he asked, a taste of annoyance on his tongue.

“There are other ways to enjoy oneself, but that was amusing, yes,” she flashed a warm smile. “You act like you’ve never been in a desert before.”

“I have, but that doesn’t mean I like it,” he said.

“Nothing about it?” she teased.

He struggled to keep from grinning like a stricken school boy. “Well, maybe not everything. There might be one or two things I can think of to like.”

Her laugh echoed down the street, causing more than one head to turn.

“Well, well, would you look at that,” a gruff voice said from across the street. “Such a pretty little thing. How’s about you forget that maggot and see what a real man can offer?”

Nathan looked up to see five men staring back at him. The speaker was built like a bear and nearly as hairy. Two of them were insect-like, the rest human. Nathan groaned.

Fighting the Berserkers was bad enough. He didn’t know how he was going to get out of this mess.

“Piss off, mac. I don’t have the time to play.”

They laughed. “He doesn’t have time to play. All the more reason to give up the girl and go about your business.”

The man started to move off the porch, a malevolent intent blazing in him. Nathan tensed, ready to fight. The silver flash hummed through the air, striking less than an inch from the post by the bear’s head.

“I suggest you go about yours,” Emerald growled, another throwing knife already in her hand.

The smaller man whispered, “She’s a Slayer.”

Emerald winked. Bear growled, but there was no force in it. Slowly, without taking his eyes off of them, he and the others backed away. She recovered the knife and returned to Nathan’s side.

“Nice. Can’t say that I’ve ever been rescued by the woman before.” He smiled.

Emerald wrapped her arm around his and said, “Don’t get used to it. My favors usually come with a price.”

Nathan resisted the urge to follow that one. “Got a boyfriend?” he asked.

She gave him the warmest smile he had ever seen. “I’ll let you know in a little bit.”

“Fair enough.”

“So tell me about your homeworld,” she said as they continued on to Old Man Barley’s. “Kane tells me that there are whole fields of green.”

 

Recent conversations had given him much to think about. Life continued to spiral out of control, waltzing with purpose down strange, wonderful highways no human should ever learn. He’d found someone to share, commiserate in his personal torment, but that did little to assuage the guilt of being trapped on an alien planet so far from home.

Home. The word almost sounded wrong. Nathan placed his head on the pillow and tried to think of all he was missing. Ultimately he concluded it wasn’t actually that much. An ex-wife and a child. His life wasn’t exactly the best there was. He worked too much. Smoked too much and didn’t give much of a care to most matters. Nathan grinned like a fool as he realized he’d turned into a real son of a bitch.

His biggest fear was that more of the Berserkers were loose on Earth. Binghamton wasn’t a very large city but it was only a few hours west of New York. Should those monsters manage to make it that far… He let the thought drop, knowing there wasn’t a thing he could do about so long as he was stuck here.

The collapse of part of Rook Mountain all but made going back through the portal impossible. There had been hope of returning once the Imperium finished crushing the Berserkers but now that hope was naught but muted glory. Nathan was stuck and decidedly out of his element.

“What in the hell have I gotten myself into?” he asked the ceiling.

Life wasn’t supposed to be this hard. By this stage of his life he’d expected to have a well developed retirement fund, a happy family, and a boat to cruise up and down the lake on perfect weekends. His current situation was a far cry from that lofty dream. Misery didn’t seem strong enough to describe what had happened since being pulled out from under the mountain.

Eventually, while desperately trying to fall asleep without success, he came to the inescapable conclusion that loneliness drove his actions. Alone and moderately afraid, Nathan stumbled from one misadventure to the next in the hopes of escaping an almost overbearing experience. He’d surrounded himself with an assortment of characters he felt he could trust, though that decision was far from final on a few, and gradually accepted that they offered the same camaraderie as his time in the army. Forget the fact that one of them had three eyes.

His final thoughts before drifting off to sleep were that perhaps he wasn’t as lonely as he initially thought.

 

“We need to talk,” Kane told Nathan after the last man left his recovery room. It was the end of the week, and final preparations were underway.

“What’s up?”

Locking his arms behind his back in the fashion of an old sage, Kane said, “I wish you to reconsider your decisions. This is not your fight. The dangers far outweigh the rewards. There is a strong chance you may not return to your home world.”

“That disaster back in the Gorge wasn’t my fight either,” Nathan replied. “I make my own choices, Kane. There comes a time in every man’s life when he loses the selfishness and all he has left is what’s inside. This is my time. I’m finally a part of something greater than myself, and it feels damned good. Besides,” he grinned, “I think I’m starting to like it here.”

That last was pure fiction. Aside from Emerald Razorback he hadn’t found much of anything to like about the Wastelands.

“I don’t want your blood on my hands.”

“It won’t be if what you say is true. We’ll all be going to meet our Gods soon. The greatest freedom a man can have is choosing his death,” Nathan replied. “Not to change the subject, but I think you need to talk to Emerald. This is the second time you’ve rejected her, and she’s hurt by it. She won’t say it, but I can see it in her eyes.”

“She and Braxton are the closest thing I have to family. What sense does it make for all of us to die?” He turned his back on his friend.

Nathan sighed. He’d run in to obstinate people before and, it appeared, that the ones here on Helscape were no different from those back on Earth. “If that’s the case, then what sense does it make for one to live after the others are gone? Personally, I’d rather die among friends than alone.”

Alone. The word stung Kane. It was his life’s story. There’d been acquaintances, a fleeting friend here or there, but nothing more solid. His emptiness was a testament to the Slayer’s life. So it had been since their violent inception, and so it would always be. Kane weighed the words heavily before rejoining his friends.

“Ah, but it reminds me of the old days,” Braxton said when they finished loading the wagon with the last of the supplies. “A noble quest fit for kings.”

Xill’s eyebrow raised in question. “Were you here in the old days?”

Braxton frowned. “I ain’t that damned old, ye crackpot! I was just makin a comment.”

“And how you wish you were coming and all of that squaffa,” Snake Eyes said with a smile. “I’ve heard this one before.”

“Ha ha!” the old man thundered. “Ya know me better than I know myself. You’ll do fine out there, lad.”

“I sure hope so.”

Braxton walked off laughing. The others were finishing packing their bags, leaving Snake to guard the wagon. The assassin was already gone. It wasn’t a big deal, but he was the one responsible for planning half of the mission and knew a great many secrets deemed important by them. The least he could have done was show his face when they left Black Tide.

“Lads, them Berserkers have raped the Wastes for two hundred years. There was an empire once. A human empire or so my da used to tell. Good men came and built a paradise out there. The Berserkers wrecked it all. My home. Tonight, you accept the mantle of change. May the Gods bless you on your way.”

“And fortune favor the foolish,” Nathan added.

“The suns are setting,” Xill said. There was an ominous tone in his voice. “It is time to begin.”

“So it is.”

The playful looks of innocence were lost as they shuffled their way to their mounts. Seriousness set in. Braxton stopped by Kane’s horse for a last word.

“I don’t suppose we’ll meet again, old friend,” he told the one hand Slayer. “Do me proud, boy, and take this with ya.”

The parcel was wrapped in a dusty cloth, having been secured there for decades. Kane was reluctant to accept it, but Braxton insisted.

“Tis an old dagger I found long ago. Some rumor that it came from the old empire. I dunno. But if it did, maybe you can help return it to the purpose it was designed for.”

Kane clutched the weapon to his heart. “I will use it only when necessary. May we meet again, Braxton Skrapp.”

The old Slayer turned and ambled away. It was a day for youth. His had come and gone, and there was nothing else to say. The fate of the world rested in their hands now.

 

  • Remember gang, book one: The Extinction Campaign comes out next month. Preorders will be available soon!
  • Tomorrow's Demise I

Why Do Some Writers Have It Out For Others?

Can anyone explain that to me in a rational manner? I’ve been doing this for a while now, almost a decade, and it never fails to amaze me how there is always some writer out there who wants to tear others down. Inevitably it is almost exclusively an independent author who has no true knowledge of the business or the inner workings of a complicated machine. They vent and fume over what peers are doing- without substantiating their arguments. How useless is that?

First of all, how many traditional authors are now looking at publishing their own works? The industry has changed so many times in the last few years that what was once the norm is now a waste of time. Take Facebook and Twitter for example. Used to be an author could build a good following and sell a few books along the way. Shifting dynamics in publishing have steered away from traditional social media. Remember what happened to the dinosaurs?

I read the message boards from time to time and find there are two types of people in them. (The truly honest ones are hard to find so I won’t include them in this) 1. The Know It All. You know them. These are the bitter people who have usually failed in their endeavor and decide that everyone else must suffer with them. Any idea they read is a bad one and they give you the ‘you can’t do that’ speech. Case in point. I ran across a discussion where a new writer was struggling with finding time to write and market their book. Several grumps immediately came out swinging claiming that marketing was unnecessary and a waste of time, because authors shouldn’t have to do that. Have these people actually read any current research? No matter= success suicide. Anyone serious about this craft needs to understand that the only way to succeed is to be well rounded in EVERY aspect of writing and publishing.

The second type are the ones who think everything one of their friends does is awesome! You know them too. An author will throw up a new cover and all the comments from their friends are ‘oh I love it!” or ‘this is so good!” when in truth its pretty close to a dumpster fire. Are people so thin skinned they can’t take receiving criticism? Don’t get me wrong, people can be dicks about it, but there is a right way to tell someone their stuff stinks and offer some helpful suggestions to make it better. Why else would you put your work out there? If my stuff is bad- which some it was absolutely terrible- I want to know.

For anyone interested in learning a little more about the fiction writing process, or for my peers reading this that might offer good feedback, I invite you to check out my how to: So…You Want to Write a Book? I’d love to hear from you.

COVER FINAL

It’s Go Time.

How did it get to be Monday again, already? I didn’t even get around to a cigar this weekend..… ah well. Since we can’t go back in time, best to press forward so let’s dive in hard. I feel this book is almost anti-climactic to the first Tomorrow’s Demise. The story is completely different and on a smaller scale. Hopefully you all are enjoying so far. Like I mention last week, I finally found a good cover for book 1 and will be releasing it into the wild in Aug. Until then…..

SIXTEEN

The Mad Hosking

“Don’t hurt me! Please, please, please,” Hosking whined from his knees. “I didn’t do anything wrong. No, I didn’t. I swear it.”

He knew he was a dead man but refused to give up. There had to be some way to salvage what his life had become. He’d come to them, purposefully seeking them out. Why? Old familiarity that no longer mattered? Perhaps it was the sliver of imagination burrowed deep in his mind that made him want their help. Perhaps not. He didn’t know.

“No. Don’t. Berserkers, I want to help,” he rambled without looking them in the eye. Kane stared down at the young man who had once been overly proud. His arrogance had been his downfall, and there he lay, rotting in a corpse covered in disease. It was with sorrow that Kane looked upon him now, for the war had turned his youthful innocence into insanity. A lump was forming on the side of his head where Snake Eyes had been forced to knock him out. He’d been babbling too much about things the public didn’t need to know. Now he sat in the same chair the Viper had once found himself tied in.

“No, no, no. Not die. Must kill them all,” Hosking stressed.

“He’s crazy,” the assassin growled. “Crazy and a liability. I say we put him out of his misery and move on. Consider it an act of mercy.”

“There will be no more unnecessary killing,” Kane said. “We have all seen enough to last ten lifetimes, and I’ll have no part in it. This man came to help.”

Hosking’s eyes sparked. “Yes. Help. I must help. Must.”

The Viper spit. “Give me a break, Kane. Look at him! He has no idea who he is or how he came to be here. Even I’m not so cruel as to let the man live like this.”

Kane hobbled his way to the prisoner and knelt. “Tell us your name,” he coaxed. “I want to know who you are.”

He violently twisted and turned against his bonds. The changing colors in his eyes betrayed his fear. He was trembling and covered with sweat.

“Tell me. We will not hurt you.”

“I am….” He paused, momentarily uncertain if they were worthy of knowing. “I am Lieutenant Yonash Hosking, platoon leader in the 65th Infantry Regiment.”

Nathan cracked a thin smile. There would be no killing tonight.

“You think me crazy?” Hosking laughed, taking the time to look deeply into each of their eyes. “I think not. I have been blessed with a vision more clear than any have dreamed of.”

“Why were you snooping outside our window? Work for the bastards, do you?” the Viper accused.

Hosking kept his mouth shut.

“Never mind him,” Kane interjected. “You can talk to us.”

“I saw a man I once knew,” he answered. “I knew you, too. I knew a world now lost to decadence and rot. What happened to me?”

“Lieutenant!”

Hosking jerked upright, choking back his sobs. “Sir!”

He watched Snake Eyes move closer. “Why did you look through the window? This particular window. How does any of this involve you?”

“I am on a mission handed down by the universe itself! I saw two men I recognized and followed them in the hopes of talking. They entered this building, and it wasn’t hard to figure out which room they were in. I found it wise to stay out of sight else my mission be compromised.”

“Lieutenant, what exactly is your mission?”

“To seek out and destroy as many of the enemy as possible so that I may assume my rightful place among the planets,” he answered coldly.

Snake Eyes looked around the room for help. No one seemed interested.

“And you believe we can help you?” Kane asked.

“I will not trust to strangers.” Hosking slumped back and said no more.

The adventurers gathered in the far corner to discuss the situation and hopefully find a solution that didn’t involve hurting him. Hosking’s arrival threw much of their plans into upheaval. Coming to a consensus thus far had proven challenging enough. They were divided, virtually leaderless. The cohesion built in the quest to find Kane in Lucifer’s Gap steadily bled away. Nothing proved as frightening as dissolution.

“There’s nothing up there. He’s gone daft,” Braxton said.

The Viper folded his arms and said, “You already know where I stand. Let me know when you change your minds.”

“You have got to be the most popular man in the Wastes. Can kids hire you for parties?” Snake Eyes asked him. “Whatever he is now, he used to be an Imperium officer. You don’t make it that far by being a slacker.”

“Can we let him go?” Nathan asked. He was disgusted with the whole affair. Nothing he could think of made him a judge of others, and he was ill at ease with it.

Snake Eyes laughed. “Turn him over to the Military Police? I’m sure they have a nice padded cell waiting for him.”

“So much for his defense,” the Viper chided. “At least he’ll be alive.”

“In your eyes,” Kane said.

“Some of us have more to live for than blood and money,” Xill said, trying to end the argument before things got heated. The obvious dislike between Snake and the assassin was threatening to boil over.

“Look at him,” Emerald pitied. “He’s so sad. He’s alone in there. I feel sorry for him. No one deserves to die like this.”

“I agree with Nathan,” Xill added.

The arguments went on. Each had reasonably sound solutions, with the exception of the assassin. An hour was spent in discussion, now forced to travel in circles. Clearly Hosking had just become their greatest liability. One in which they might find their doom. Kane quietly listened to every argument and point of view. The intensity of debate was good, but only to an extent before it bubbled down to redundancy and, in the briefest aspects, necrotic.

Kane closed his eyes and tried to blot the others out. They would not find consensus. He knew that. Previous deliberations of going into the Berserker hive told him as much. No, any answer he needed for resolution in the matter had to come from within. He, Aradias Kane, was the linchpin upon which this tiny band would succeed or fail. Kane cleared his mind and listened to the depth of his soul in search of the answers.

It was becoming tedious when Kane finally decided to end it. The Slayer turned his back on these few he called friends, going back to the tied madman. Hosking’s fear was gone, replaced now with a burning sensation.

“Do you wish to finish your task?” Kane asked him. A gasp of disbelief came from the back of the room. Hosking’s eyes blazed. A reprieve!

“No choice. None for you either, Aradias Kane.”

Kane gave a start. This man knew more than he was letting on. “We are going to their lair. The hidden Hive itself. Will you join us?”

Six mouths fell open in shock. Not even the Viper was expecting this. The mission was already dangerous enough, and bringing this madman along would merely seal their doom. What was Kane thinking?

“Are you out of your ever loving mind?” the Viper choked. “He’ll get you killed, and you know it!”

“I have looked to my heart for guidance and am left with no choice. His soul is dying, and there is but one way to avenge it. I cannot turn him away. It is his destiny,” Kane said.

The choice wasn’t his to make. He didn’t actually know much about destiny, nor cared for the term all things considered, but it was a powerful word to throw around, especially when several of his companions were superstitious to begin with.

“Destiny or not, he’s a liability. As if you needed any more! He’s a greater threat than any dragon or raider will prove. You need assets in this idiocy, not what you’ve been collecting so far.”

“You piece of squaffa!” Snake Eyes exclaimed. “Like you have room to talk. I don’t remember you throwing your hand up to tag along.”

The Viper leveled his gaze on the man and said, “I have my reasons.”

“Right. You won’t do anything unless there’s a price involved.”

“Yes!”

They stopped and found themselves under the daunting scrutiny of the others.

“Yes,” Hosking said through the silence. “I will join you.”

 

Nathan and Emerald sat in the first floor parlor in uncomfortable silence. For his part, Nathan played the confused party much better than even he thought possible. Then again, he felt more confused than ever before. Helscape was a complicated world. Much more convoluted than any of his experiences back on Earth.

Across from him and halfway down a mug of lukewarm ale, Emerald couldn’t help but glower. She’d come so far in the hopes of acceptance by her friend and former mentor. Yet every move she tried to make was blocked by Kane without any thought. Thus far she seemed content to let that rift stew.

“Keeping that inside isn’t any good for anyone, leastwise not you,” Nathan finally said. He knew only too well the anguish of being rejected out of hand by those closest.

She finished her ale with a mighty gulp and slammed the mug down. “He treats me like a child. A child! As if I’m incapable of handling my own business.”

Here we go. “Kane’s just looking out for you. I imagine he’s trying to do that for the rest of us but we’re damned pigheaded. Something that will likely get us all killed.”

“Who is he to decide who gets to die?” Emerald countered. “I have just as much experience fighting Berserkers as Kane. This is my world too, Nathan. What right does he have to tell me, or you, no?”

Nathan held out his hands. “Hey, I’m not from here. Neither is Xill or Snake Eyes.”

“You know what I mean.”

“All right, fine. My take is that Kane doesn’t want to see you get hurt like the rest of us. I’m not saying you can’t handle it so don’t get defensive on me. Chances are this is going to be a suicide mission. He isn’t willing to let you die because of his decisions.”

Emerald gestured for another round, for them both, and looked Nathan squarely in his eyes. Soft eyes, she mused. “He doesn’t get to decide.”

Nathan resisted the urge to slam his forehead down on the soiled tabletop. They sat without talking for a while, both pretending to enjoy the almost rancid brew which Nathan was fairly certain was part poison.

Finally, Emerald said, “the least he can do is apologize.”

Nathan finally relented and smiled.

 

It had been decades since the dawn looked so promising, at least that was how Gladak saw it. Helscape’s twin suns were barely cresting the far horizons, not enough to bring light to the desert but just what it needed to dilute the harshness of the night. Today was the last day of the great recovery operation. Most of the bodies still intact had already been taken back and shipped out. Scavengers helped keep the battlefield policed, but it still wasn’t enough.

Gladak stood atop his command tank with a look of sickness. Putrid smells of rotting flesh half-baked from days of exposure clung to everything. His skin stank of it after he showered, and it wouldn’t come out of his uniforms when washed. That it came from so many he once knew added to the sickness. His stomachs churned. The men and women of his division went about the task the same as usual. They had to be extremely careful to keep from falling into a Berserker hole. This made Gladak wonder how many had been dragged down into those holes never to be seen again. War was a gruesome business, and his experience would never get any worse.

“So it’s come down to this,” he mused.

“What’s that, sir?”

Gladak looked to his freshly promoted commander; he’d forgotten others were present. “Such a waste of life I have never seen, Commander.”

Hernron looked over the decay and said, “Happens most every day, sir. We just don’t see it. Seems to me we should have gotten used to it by now, but I’ll be damned if I ever do.”

“Commander, do you know my planet is a battleground for young warriors to hone their combat skills and the old to take their place among the honored ranks of the dead? Death in anything less than combat is dishonorable. Even I have my limits.”

“This is a damned fine group of men and women you have here, sir. I’d still put them up against any regiment in the Imperium,” Hernron announced. “What would resigning now do to their morale? They’ve been hurt enough already, Colonel. Help them save their pride if nothing else.”

“Look around you, Hernron. This is all that’s left.” His arm swept across the scattered remnants of the division. “The division died the day it entered this fell place.”

“It wasn’t your defeat, and they fought damned hard to make it out. Who’s going to step up and take them home to rebuild and rearm? They need heroes.”

Heroes. What are heroes but the corpses of our comrade left to rot in this wretched place? No, Hernron. There are no heroes anymore. There never was. We are merely ghosts awaiting our turn to join these fallen brave.

“Colonel Gladak!”

A gruff-looking man who hadn’t shaved since the battle climbed his way up the tank’s turret and reported, “Sir, we’ve found something I think you should see.”

Gladak couldn’t think of anything requiring his personal attention but obliged the man. Maybe Hernron had a point. He decided to go ahead and give the survivors a role model to look up and seek guidance from. He decided to be a professional officer once again. Perhaps in doing so he could lay his ghosts to rest. The sergeant led him through patches of spoiled remains, friend and foe. It was a depressing sight, but Gladak was amazed at how well his troops put the death from their minds and went about it as a regular task.

“We found his remains a few minutes ago,” the sergeant explained and stopped by a body. He then executed a crisp about-face and walked off.

Sudden realization sank Gladak to his knees. Blood-stained rocks beneath his feet looked drawn in tribute to a past greatness. His piercing eyes stared at the body, the slits narrowing further. The armor was rusted from over-exposure to the elements, and most of his skin had been picked clean save a patch here and there. It was all that remained of one of the fiercest warriors Gladak ever knew.

“Well, General,” he whispered, “things didn’t go quite as planned. We made a grave mistake, but I’ll not let the same happen again. I’m going to take this division and make it whole again.”

His left fist slapped Joneth Pierce’s armor in tribute, and he rose. Gladak calmly strode back to his jeep. This matter was almost over.

Tomorrow's Demise I

New Release: The Children of Never

Every once in a while I get a bug and take my writing in a different direction. Sure, I started out with elves and dwarves the usual tropes of fantasy, but I think I put them to bed with Where Have All the Elves Gone? Now my work takes on different aspects. I avoid the normal fantasy creatures in the hopes of creating something unique-ish.

In 2012 I submitted The Purifying Flame to the L Ron Hubbard Writer’s of the Future Contest and it actually finished 4th for the quarter. Whoa Nelly! Since then I’ve had this idea of expanding the world in those few pages and see what happens. The result is The Children of Never. At it’s heart is a ghost story, throw in some big baddies trying to stop time so they can invade this world, and well, I don’t want to spoil it.

The book is available for preorder now. I invite you all to swing by and check it out. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Read on, my friends. Read on.

Children of Never E book