Friday, 25 July 2014

4Q Interview with author Lockie Young


We are fortunate to have Lockie (Lockard) Young on 4Q this Friday. Lockie has written a YA novel, Ryan’s Legend, published by Morning Rain Publishers of Ontario and is happily working on the sequel. He is a familiar guest on the South Branch Scribbler with several of his entertaining short stories being featured. Lockie has been showcased on many blogs, recommended reading sites and most recently in the Times Transcript, Moncton’s major daily. You can find out more about Lockie, more of his poems and witty ramblings, by clicking his link below.

4Q: Thanks for being a part of the Scribbler, Lockie.  Sometime ago you and your wife, Trish, visited South Africa.  You brought back many great photos and as many memories I expect. Did this visit to a foreign country so far away, or the people, have any influence on your writing or inspirations?


LY: Africa was amazing. I can’t put my finger on it, and not to sound corny, but Africa had a profound effect on me, almost like a religious experience. When I stepped off the plane, it was like coming home, and I am not a person who likes the heat, so this was confusing for me. The people we met were so friendly, and it really felt like family when these strangers welcomed us into their homes and their lives. When I got back to Canada, and things settled down and my wife and I got back to work and a normal life again, I found I couldn’t stop writing about my other home, Africa.  I have several poems inspired by the amazing animals we saw there. The traditional animals like Giraffe and Zebra, which to me were only pictures in National Geographic magazine before, had been right there, outside our car window. My wife and I toured South Africa and Swaziland with my father in law and mother in law. My short story and poem titled Diary of an Orphan was inspired by a visit to an orphanage in Swaziland. 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
4Q: What can you tell us about the sequel to Ryan’s Legend?

LY: The working title is Ryan’s Legend Returns, and picks up where the first story leaves off.  It’s summer break, and the main character, Ryan, has a few adventures with his best friend Cory. Ryan teaches Cory, a city boy, about life along the sea shore, all the while anxiously awaiting the return of his other ‘Legendary’ friend Willie. Parts of the sequel were written at the same time as Ryan’s Legend, back in 1995, and were in fact all one book back then. On the advice of a self published Author and Publisher at the time, I split the original manuscript into two parts, as it was thought to be too long for a middle grade reader.

After my first book, was picked up by Morning Rain Publishing  I worked on finishing and adding to the second half, which is more than twice as long as Ryan’s Legend. It is currently being considered, and I am waiting on word if Morning Rain wants to publish it. I hope it will get picked up, and maybe be published later this year.

4Q: Please share a childhood anecdote or memory.

LY: Some of my readers and fans may know that I am a Plumber by trade, but long before I became a Plumber, when I was just a boy of maybe seven or eight years of age, I went with my Mom and Dad to visit relatives in a small community not too far from Moncton, called Harcourt. While there I asked if I could go to the bathroom, and I was directed to a small out building in back of the house. I could tell as soon as I opened the door that I was in the right place. When I returned to where the adults had gathered in the parlor, I was asked what had taken me so long. And I answered that I was very sorry, but I had searched that darn building all over and I just couldn’t find the flush handle for the toilet. 

4Q: Please tell us what’s in store for us in the future; what else you’re working on?

LY:  As you know, Allan, I lost my right leg last year to arterial disease caused by smoking a pack a day for 30 some years, and during my recovery, and adjustment to a drastic lifestyle change, I’ve been writing as part of the healing process. I’ve written several short stories and a couple of, what I’ve discovered are called ‘personal essays’ and I am also working on a memoir of my personal journey on this new road as an amputee. The memoir is a step outside of the box for me as I’ve never written a nonfiction work, and I find it both challenging and therapeutic as I revisit the past 2 years of my life. 
So, when I get stuck with what to write in the next novel in the ‘Legend’ series, and I need a change of pace or scenery, I pick up where I left off in my memoir, or I change genres and try my hand at another short story. I may see if my publisher is interested in a compilation of my short stories.  I haven’t written any poetry lately, but I have to be inspired for that too. The other day, when I was stuck on ‘The Legend Never Dies’ (working Title) I opened up a new word doc and I just wrote and wrote all day, missing lunch and almost missing supper, until I wrote The End at last. The word count on Paradise White is 8000 words, and I hope to whittle that short story down in edits. So that is how I roll. I took an early retirement because of my new physical limitations, and now I am fortunate that I can write whenever I want and I am enjoying the freedom to do what I really truly love to do. 

You have been a tremendous supporter of your fellow authors, sharing, giving us a pat on the back, being a nice guy so thanks Lockie on behalf of us all. Keep those stories coming.

Please visit Lockie’s Lectern at www.lockardyoung.worpress.com
 
Next week I will offer 4 teasers of my short story compilation SHORTS Vol.1. As well as what inspired these stories. The SHORT series is dedicated to my grandchildren with Vol. 1 for my oldest grandson, Matthieu. Vol. 2 will be published in September, with Vol. 3 to follow in November.
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Guest Author Bobby Nash. A excerpt from: ALEXANDRA HOLZER’S GHOST GAL: THE WILD HUNT

Bobby Nash is an award winning author that hails from Bethlehem, Georgia. An exceptionally creative individual that writes novels, comics, graphic novels, short prose, media tie-ins, screenplays and more. When not busy writing, he is an actor that appears in movies and television. His web site is below.


ALEXANDRA HOLZER’S GHOST GAL: THE WILD HUNT

EXCERPT WRITTEN BY BOBBY NASH

 

Energy crackled through the halls of the old castle like a thing alive.

With each whip-snap discharge, loud, thunderous booms echoed off the thick stone that made up the walls of the castle keep. Those stones, which had been so meticulously removed from their original home and shipped over to the New World piece by piece from an Irish castle the wealthy new owner had recently purchased, were unlike any other. It had taken months for shipping magnate Conrad Bartlett to disassemble the castle, catalog, number, and crate each piece, ship it across the Atlantic, and reassemble it on his families land in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Under normal circumstances, such an undertaking would have been a costly endeavor, but tensions in the Atlantic were high as both Nazi and Allied forces ran their military campaigns in the region almost non-stop. Soon, the entire planet would be gripped by the hells of war. If not for Bartlett’s military contract allowing him to cross the ocean at regular intervals, the yearlong reconstruction of the castle in the United States might never have been completed.

In hindsight, Conrad Bartlett might have wished that to be the case.

In addition to the physical attributes of the castle keep, he also brought with it the castle’s dark secret, a long and bloody history dating back to the earliest days of Ireland itself, perhaps even before that, a secret that had been locked away for centuries, hidden from prying eyes.

And now that secret had been loosed on an unsuspecting world.

Unless the specialist he called in could put a stop to it.

Outside, lightning sparked while thunder roared as the storm grew more and more fierce. Gale force rain pelted everything in its path with big wet droplets mixed with hail and flying debris tossed about by violent winds. The turbulent weather outside was like a mirror to the chaos brewing inside the recently rebuilt castle.

Hans Holzer let out a breath. He had only been on the scene an hour before things took a turn to the strange. Conrad Barnett’s telegram about his unique problem had piqued his curiosity, but he hadn’t expected to find anything more than a minor disturbance. He hadn’t expected to find much, most likely a displaced spirit long dormant that had been disturbed when its home had been disassembled and reassembled halfway around the world. It was enough to throw off anyone’s equilibrium, even if they had been dead for decades or longer, but as threats go, it was probably minor.

He was wrong.

Once the storm began to strengthen in intensity, he realized that things were worse than he had first believed.

Hans Holzer held a torch in front of him as he moved through the darkness. Flames from the torch cast the only light since the generator succumbed to a lightning strike just a few moments earlier. The torch had once been the leg of an antique chair, or at least an expensive recreation of one. A cloth curtain pulled from one of the windows then doused with lighter fluid and ignited completed the makeshift lantern. It was a quick solution to a minor problem.

It was the problem that lay ahead that concerned him.

“These walls are not pure stone,” he said aloud, running a callused hand across the uneven stone. “Whatever that metal component we discovered turns out to be, it is highly conductive. The lightning striking the weather vanes on the roof is not simply redirecting the electricity of the strikes. The energy is being absorbed through the walls.” He leaned in close enough to smell the earthy musk of the hand-carved stone. “Incredible. It’s almost as if the entire castle is alive. I’ve never seen--”


“Professor?”

Holzer sighed loudly at the interruption. It was not the first one of the evening. “Yes. What is it, Jamie?”

“I need a moment, sir,” Jamie McClenndon said from somewhere in the dark behind him.

Jamie was the latest in a long line of assistants who came to him because they wanted to learn the “real truth” of the world. Most were college students, like Jamie. They rarely lasted long in the position and Holzer suspected that Jamie would be no different than those who came before. Like the others before him, his desire to experience a supernatural moment came from seeing motion pictures featuring scary monsters. He wanted to see a ghost, to prove that they were real, and that he would be brave enough to interact with it. The reality of the moment was never what any of them expected and was rarely like what they saw in the movies. Ghost hunting, for lack of a better term, was not easy and the professor had little time or patience for handholding. If Jamie wanted to be coddled in the face of the unknown then he had come to the wrong place.

As his family was of Irish descent, Holzer had hoped Jamie would come in handy on this excursion, but sadly his knowledge of the homeland of his ancestors was severely lacking. He blamed modern education for the boy’s lack of knowledge.

“Make it quick,” Holzer said, not bothering to hide his annoyance as he checked his pocket watch. “Our quarry is here. I can feel it.”

“Yes, Professor. I know,” Jamie said softly. There was an unusual quiver to his voice.

“We must find him before…”

The crash of his equipment hitting the hard stone floor behind him interrupted his train of thought and Hans Holzer spun around to face his assistant, ready to give him an earful about responsibility and taking care of the sensitive equipment left in his care. The equipment he had been tasked with carrying was not only delicate, it was also very expensive.

“I’ve told you repeatedly to be careful… with… that…” his voice trailed off when he saw why Jamie had discarded the equipment in so loud a fashion.

“I­–– I think I’ve already found him,” Jamie said softly, careful not to move lest the sharp blade at his throat draw blood.

“Easy now, Jamie,” Holzer said, taking a tentative step forward, keeping the torch an arm’s length ahead of him and casting an orange glow on the intruder who held his young assistant hostage. “Don’t move.”

“Don’t worry.”

“Who are you?” Holzer asked the man holding the knife.

“You know my name, laddie,” the intruder said. He was tall, towering a couple of inches above Jamie’s six foot-two lanky frame. His arms were thick, muscled, and looked as though they could snap his assistant like a twig. His face was obscured by the light, his skin dark, but made darker by the soot and ash that clung to his body, giving him a mottled gray pallor. Long black hair hung behind him, matching the color of the thick matted beard he wore.

“I know the man whose body you wear,” Holzer said. “His name is Duncan. He works for Mr. Bartlett.”

“Very clever, you are,” the entity that had taken control of Duncan McGrath’s body said. “I see that you are familiar with my kind. So much the better. Oh, and his name was Duncan. He has no use for a name any longer.”

“Do not hurt that boy.”

“You’re not in any position to be giving orders, Hans Holzer.”

“You know my name?”

“Oh, yes,” the man said. “I know everything my host knew. Young Duncan knew who you were. He seemed to think you might save him somehow, although I think his faith might be a wee bit misplaced myself. You’ve given me a good laugh watching as you run about the castle with your little toys and gadgets. You amuse me, Professor.”

“What do you want?”

“Such a leading question.” Duncan smiled. “What do you think I want?”

“Freedom.”

“I already have freedom, sir. I am free to roam this castle at my whim. Look around you, do you see any chains to hold me hither?”

The professor smiled. “Actually, I do.”

“Oh?”

“It’s so obvious. Curse me for a fool; I should have noticed it sooner. This place…” he motioned toward the castle around them. He rapped a knuckle against the stone wall. “This place is your prison. The lightning, the stone, the mystery metal, those things aren’t meant to empower you, are they? This castle is your prison.”

“Nonsense!”

“Oh, sure, this far removed from your ancestral home, the power that keeps you trapped here has lessened, but not enough for you to escape. Not completely. You can move about within these walls, but you can never venture beyond them. You’re trapped here like an animal in a cage.”

“We’ll see about that, laddie,” Duncan said, his smile widening. “This animal still has teeth.”

“Don’t,” Holzer warned, but it was too late.

With a powerful shove, Duncan threw Jamie McClenndon at the ghost hunter. The student crashed into his teacher and they fell to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs, the torch falling from Holzer’s hand and rolling away.

There was just enough light to see Duncan run past them down the hallway.


 

 

About GHOST GAL: THE WILD HUNT--

Alexandra Holzer is just your average young paranormal investigator out to show an early 1960s New York City she knows a thing or two about ghosts. Join Alex's alter ego, GHOST GAL, and her fiancé, Joshua Demerest as they do battle with a very ancient ghost and his pals who have a score to settle with her famed father, ghost hunter, Hans Holzer.

 

Alexandra Holzer's Ghost Gal: The Wild Hunt by Bobby Nash is the first book in a series of new horror/adventures novels from Raven's Head Press.
Links:
http://www.bobbynash.com


Thank you Bobby for sharing your work here at the South Branch Scribbler.


Next week 4Q will be interviewing Lockie Young, an author living in Albert County, New Brunswick. Lockie has been a guest author several times and we look forward to reading his answers at 4Q

Friday, 11 July 2014

Guest author Mitzi Szereto. An excerpt from Normal for Norfolk

Mitzi Szereto lives in the United Kingdom. She is an author, blogger, Mitzi TV creator/presenter, literary mischief-maker and mother to Teddy Tedaloo, celebrity bear. . She also has a number of books and short fiction available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iTunes. She has pioneered erotic writing workshops in the UK and mainland Europe, teaching them from the Cheltenham Festival of Literature to the Greek islands. She’s also lectured in creative writing at several British universities.  Her website is listed below.


Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles) by Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thelonious T. Bear, ursine photojournalist, leaves behind the big city life of London to take an assignment in the Norfolk countryside, where he hopes to find the real England. Instead he stumbles upon gastro-pubs, crazed Audi drivers and murder. As the hapless Thelonious keeps ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time, he attracts the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Horatio Sidebottom of Norfolk Constabulary CID, who’s determined to tie Thelonious to the crimes. Add in a pair of hoods from London’s East End, celebrity TV chef Paolo Louis Black, and plenty of oddball local characters and it all adds up to a madcap journey through England’s most quirky county, where everything is normal for Norfolk! 

(Excerpt):

 

Little Acre was all abuzz with news about the murder of one of their native sons. Derrick Pickles, long-time proprietor of The Black Stag public house in the adjacent village of Kelton Market, had been found bludgeoned to death. Pickles had lived in the village since the day he was born, the pub having been in his family for generations. He’d taken it over from his father, who’d taken it over from his father, and so on and so on. The Pickles were a Norfolk institution, and Derrick was well-liked and respected in the community. Not even the taint of his only son going off to work in The City rather than positioning himself to one day take over the reins of the family business could dampen the locals’ affection for the family, though forgiveness wasn’t always as easy to come by. Feelings and memories ran deep in this part of the world, despite young Pickles defection to London taking place nearly two decades before, which, at least to the locals, might as well have been yesterday. Not even the death of his mother many years later could bring young Pickles back in line. But old Derrick stubbornly clung on, running the pub long after most publicans would have sold up and retired to Spain or Portugal—especially a widower with no one to stay behind for.

Being the only pub in the village, The Black Stag was a magnet for the locals, not to mention tourists in search of some local colour. Kelton Market was conveniently situated in the county, what with the ruins of an old castle located just outside the village and a bustling crafts and antiques market taking place on weekends, so it was a rare day, indeed, when the pub wasn’t busy. The fact that a murder had been committed was not something the residents of this part of Norfolk were accustomed to. The most crime they ever got was of the sort involving the theft of a cockerel from a farm or some youths out joyriding on a tractor. But murder? No. Murders happened in London and Birmingham and Glasgow. They did not happen in Kelton Market.

Therefore when Thelonious heaved open the heavy glass door of Little Acre’s one and only newsagents in his quest to buy a copy of the local newspaper (or as local as he could get), he discovered quite a crowd gathered inside the cramped little shop. A trio of men representing three generations and an elderly woman who had to have been pushing the century mark were gathered in front of the till, talking animatedly and all at the same time, the garrulous din being added to by a frumpy sixty-something woman behind the counter. She appeared to be refereeing the conversation, her heavy arms flapping and waving about as if she were attempting to direct a newly landed plane to an airport gate.

The youngest of the men was dressed in a white beekeeper’s suit, the hood of which had been pushed back behind his head. Hair the shade and texture of the round bales of hay Thelonious had seen in the fields of the surrounding landscape kept falling down over his eyes, causing him to reach up to swipe it away, whereupon the same thing happened all over again. He had the open and guileless mien of someone who’d grown up in the country and had little to no experience with big city life. The oldest of the trio had a pickled and world-weary look about him that could only have been achieved from a lifetime of heavy drinking. His deeply creased face was the colour of cured tobacco leaves, his overall appearance untidy and unwashed. He clutched an unlighted cigarette between the fingers of his right hand, the skin and nails stained a sickly yellow-orange from nicotine. Had it not been for his expensive-looking leather jacket, Thelonious might have mistaken him for a homeless man. The third fellow was aged somewhere between the two and, judging by his collar, appeared to be a vicar. He kept trying to get the group to quiet down, his pale palms making circles in the air as if he were washing invisible windows. Instead of having the desired effect, the group became even more animated, as if seeking to exorcise the vicar’s fruitless attempts at calm.

The elderly woman to whom no one paid any mind bashed the rubber-tipped feet of her Zimmer frame against the worn linoleum floor until she was in danger of toppling over. Nevertheless, the accompanying staccato of protestations coming from her shrivelled maw continued to fall on deaf ears. Her hunched form looked as if it might crumple into a heap of ancient bones as she slammed the rattling frame of steel to the lino again and again, her grey head bobbing up and down on her withered neck like a nodding dashboard dog. But no matter how much she crashed and banged and spluttered, she could not be heard above her village compatriots, who were determined to get their points across despite the fact no one was listening to anyone.

It didn’t take long for Thelonious to determine that something was definitely up—and the headline shouting at him from the front page of the Walsham Courier pretty much confirmed it. He pulled a copy out from the news rack and waddled over to the side of the counter, stretching upward on his short legs to hold out some coins to the sour-faced shopkeeper, who abruptly ceased her refereeing to gawp at him. Not that this was unusual—Thelonious got gawped at a lot, especially by people who’d never encountered his sort before. You would think she’d be a bit more discreet when it came to paying customers, he grumbled inwardly, biting back the urge to tell her to get a new front door fitted. The one she had weighed as much as a London bus. His right shoulder was beginning to ache something awful from the impact of it against the glass when he’d pushed it open. He hoped the B&B his publisher’s UK office had booked him into had a bathtub and decent hot water system so he could have a long soak later, because he didn’t fancy looking elsewhere for accommodation, especially at the beginning of the summer tourist season. For him to be able to work, he needed a home base, a sense of order. Chaos was not Thelonious’ style.

With newspaper in hand, he made his way out of the newsagent’s, only to pause outside to examine the cards and notices that had been placed in the shop window (which apparently cost each poster the princely sum of five pounds a week to display). He was curious as to what kinds of items and services people put on offer in these Norfolk villages and expected to see advertisements of either an agrarian nature or for church jumble sales. Not surprisingly, they were positioned too high up for him to read properly, but he did manage to make out a card for an electrician slash handyman as well as a flyer for a beekeeping school before his neck threatened to join his shoulder in protest.

Thelonious trundled back to where he’d left the Mini, climbed up onto the driver’s seat with the usual fanfare and aggro, then set off down the little high street with its requisite tea shop/cafĂ©, gift shop, post office (closed due to government cutbacks), and pub, which went by the rather portentous name The Drowned Duck. Within moments he’d reached the Norman church that marked the end of the village high street. It was also the turnoff for Baxter House Bed and Breakfast. Home at last!

Thank you Mitzi for sharing an excerpt of Normal for Norfolk. A story I am looking forward to reading. Discover more about Mitzi at www.mitziszereto.com - you'll like what you discover.


Next week The South Branch Scribbler will feature guest author Bobby Nash of Georgia USA

Friday, 4 July 2014

The FarOut Mall - Shops of Outer Space.


Shopping beyond the Ionosphere.

May 5, 2657 

The FarOut Mall is 603 miles above Earth. It’s located in the 16-A Octagonal of the InterCosmic Manor 2599 (the year it was completed). The Off-Earth Living Pod (LP) is two miles long, two miles wide and three hundred feet deep, taking twenty-one years to complete. Shaped like an octagon, the frame is built of lunarium, the hardest and lightest metal known to man, mined deep below the surface of the moon. The ore was smelted, refined and the frame was shaped in the Galactic Forge 2412. The surface is covered with a golden skin of polyalymel, a combination of high density plastic from Earth, malleable alloys and elements from Mars. It has the ability to absorb and store light, providing all the power the manor needs. Sand, immense heat and pressure have been added to the compound to create the nine hundred and fifty-seven transparent glass panels through which its populace can view the stars, other Pods and Earth. Each of its thirty levels is divided into eight sections called an Octagonal.  Each floor has 20 bulk elevators and 78 HTDs - human transmission depositories.

InterCosmic Manor 2599, informally referred to as “Mac99” in reference to the original pioneer of living Off-Earth in self-sustaining  Pods in the twenty third century, Macintosh Fairweather , is home to over 80 thousand people. More than nine hundred of them tend the gardens and the forest on level four, unofficially referred to as the ‘feed and breathe’ level. Hundreds more tend the animals on level three, or manage the silage and fodder or control the enormous stores. Another seven thousand inhabitants work on levels one and two which are devoted to the power plants, the waste center, water control, ventilation, heating, maintenance, computer and communications center, robot and probe repair, janitorial, the recycling complex, the air transport garages, emergency response department and the morgue. The shipping and receiving docks for goods traded with Earth, Jupiter, Venus, Moon stations and the other satellites occupy their own Octagonal on levels one and two.

The owner and the extremely wealthy occupy enormous, extravagant suites on level thirty. They, their robots and their appointed staff are the only ones allowed at that level. Even the HTDs are programmed to detect designated biological signatures from each person’s Mac99 implant that they receive when arriving or are born here. Refusing the implant is not an option. LPs beyond the 200 mile ISB or International Space Boundary are responsible for their own safety, their own laws. Of the 263 LPs circling the earth, only two are hostile. Both orbit at miles 450 and 455 respectively, in the Scatter Zone between miles 445 and 465, where LP 2290 was destroyed by an asteroid. There are very few rules there, every vice you can conceive and slavery is legal. The owners and their mercenaries are ruthless; people do as they are told.  The rogue LPs are officially called LV2477 and LV2501 but the populace refer to them as LV1 and LV2. Only one other LP orbits in this zone, the former InterCosmic PRT(prison/rehab/termination)2344,. It revolves the over populated Earth mostly uninhabited, a floating rusting hulk.  

On Mac99 manufacturing takes up levels 14 and 15. Level 16 is dedicated solely to education. Security headquarters, the armory, admin, governmental offices, entertainment facilities, a worship hub, and hospital are all on level 17, as is the shopping center. One Octagonal is solely devoted to trade.  The ethnic food franchises are in main entrance. The second hub is where the larger franchises are located, SpaceMart, Future Shop and Fong’s Hardware taking up half the floor area. Beyond that there are boutiques and specialty shops.

On the coveted outer wall the shops face Earth. Each boutique offers full transparent panels where guests can view the ever changing sky as they browse or shop. Luxuriously appointed, only the wealthiest of store owners can afford the lease. Alexander’s Fine Jewellery is one such occupant.  It is situated in the very center of the outer perimeter with the entrance facing the fine dining concourse, the upscale cafes where the moneyed take their lunch. The varied cuisine emits pleasant aromas of spices and rare herbs. People of every possible nationality roam the hallways, searching for baubles or necessities. If the buying patrons venture this deep into the shopping mecca, the only common denominator would be wealth.  Yet, dreamers and the regular drifters roam the halls.

A baby’s cry rises above the gossip and stray chatter that fill the open areas causing people pause. Babies are rare. The mother, her escorts and personal defense droid follow her to an open park-like seating area in the next establishment, Vittorio’s Gardens.  Joe Average cannot afford the protection and usually opts for sterilization. Dreaded creatures called virkon-eptiles, are carnivorous and prefer humans, especially their young. It is only preceding this interruption that patrons eye the golden droids hovering abundantly around the ceilings. One is stationary in front of every HTD which are busy today transporting shoppers.  Every defbot can react within a millisecond of sight, sound or smell of a virkon-eptile, destroying the worm like parasite instantaneously with a powerful laser blast. There is no hesitation from the droid, no matter what or who comes between the dreaded monster and the laser; it will be vaporized as well.

There has not been a sighting for over a year within Old Mack, until last week in Loading Bay 14 on Level 2. It was assumed it ate the driver only minutes before docking his water transport. It took two lasers 1/100th of a second to simultaneously detect and destroy it. Nothing remained except a small gathering of gray ash. Virkon-eptiles grew from dormant bacteria captured on an astronaut’s clothing when the mining of Asteroid Pliney took place last century, his name was Dismas Virkon. Exposed to high CO2 levels and water, the beings that evolved are reptilian, they can think and are able to manipulate their own DNA to replicate anything organic it comes in contact with. It can perform this function for only a short time, thirty minutes or less needing ten to twelve hours to regenerate. Scientists from the InterCosmic Lab2424 are making terrific headway at being able to duplicate this unique ability by experimenting on both dead and live specimens.  All but a small cache of virkon-eptiles have been eradicated. Only those alive are corralled on Prison 2344; they live off the human detritus from LV1 & LV2. Some of them escape. They are extremely fast. Sometimes LPs experience power malfunctions shutting down most defense systems. If a virkon-eptile is hiding, lying in wait, it is this moment it will feed. There was an outage on Mac99 yesterday.

That was why Alexander’s Fine Jewellery is having a PLS – Personal Laser System - installed. During the blackout Mac99’s emergency power went to where it was most needed, especially the HTDs and weapons on the top four floors. The general power was interrupted for only two minutes but 65% of the LP remained weaponless for that short time. That was too long when beings that could eat three humans in ninety seconds might be present.

Gracia Moeller, nee Alexander, does not want to experience such fear like she did when they experienced the outage before closing time yesterday.  Every unit went to immediate lock-down. Doors shut whether you were in or out or in between. Everyone was scrambling for a place to hide, knocking over the chairs, sliding and bunching up her antique carpets, tipping her Moon Drop display with several of the rare crystals shattering. People beating at her glass doors that she was unable to open broke her heart. She shakes her thick auburn hair out of her face as she tries to forget about last night and concentrate on serving her guest. Handing a gaily colored gift bag with the Alexander A in gold foil gracing the outer flap, to a young man distinguished by his spindly frame and bushy eyebrows, she says,

“Thank you for your business Mr. Dubrowski. This is a moment neither you nor your dear friend Candace will ever forget. Please bring her in sometime so we can meet her.”

‘Thank you for helping me pick out that beautiful ring, I know she’s going to love it.”

Blushing and grinning he waves as he hastens to leave, already late on his lunch break from the Orbital Control Center where he monitors the propulsion systems in the eighth sector. 

Gracia waves back before surveying her premises. Beside her the PLS Installer, a bent- over middle aged man, terribly bowlegged and much too serious, is sliding a black box into a cubicle he shaped under the serving area that centers the premises.  The work station is within the twelve foot circle. The base is uncommon red pine harvested from underwater fifty years after the flooding of the lower mountains in Canada when a large portion of the Arctic polar cap melted rapidly in the twenty third century. Crafted into a perfect circle, the lacquered wood supports a thin 30 inch horizontal panel where the clients are served. The total surface of the counter is a layer of durable, touch and voice sensitive, extreme-tech plasma. The overall screen shows a replica of the circles of Saturn. The point of sale or POS system can be anywhere they are standing.

Gracia has her hands upon her shapely hips, jewels sparkling from several well-manicured fingers. Her silk jacket is tucked neatly behind them. She regards her number one sales person, Aisha regale one of their regular patrons to the joys of owning a four carat Martian cyntonium, the largest available Off-Earth.  Her part time worker, Cristofer, is rearranging her Moon Drop display, adding new pieces to replace the broken ones. Michelle her manager is helping a young couple select their wedding bands. There are two other patrons in the store, “just looking”. The Installer is replacing his tools in the small cloth bag he brought in with him. Wiping his hands on a faded blue cloth he turns to Gracia.

“Everything is ready to go Ms. Moeller.”

He hands her two pulse pistols, the latest in fashion weaponry as well as two stylish holsters that are chameleonized to change color with whatever outfit they may be wearing. One is custom built to fit in her hand only, programmed to recognize the ID signal from her implant only, the trigger activated by her nerve impulses only. The other is for her manager. With a long face that expresses little joy for his work, the installer adds as if by rote.

“These will be charged tomorrow by one of our guns specialists. He or she will be explaining the usage, the dangers, the responsibilities, the laws, the licensing and the deadliness of these weapons. I urge extreme caution, always. I hope you never have to use them. There are holders for these in the console I just installed, where they will remain at night to hold their charge. Did you have any questions before I leave?”

Gracia eyes the large letters emblazoned on the chest of his coveralls, BOB.  Thinking that the letters are his name, she says,

“So the guns are harmless now Bob?”

Scrunching his brow with a questioning look he replies,

“Name’s Ralph and yeah, you couldn’t kill a mars-bugg with these.”

What Ralph had no way of knowing is that the apprentice armorer, in her zealous approach to her new responsibilities did indeed charge these weapons. Not understanding the flag in the work orders, the “gunrat”, as they were referred to in the armory, loaded a full force to each one in her work station. In a parlance from the twentieth century, that still defines a deadly readiness –they are, locked and loaded.

Placing the paraphernalia on the counter top, Gracia turns to him with her hand out adding a smile.

“Oops, sorry Ralph.” She points her finger at the letters on his chest, “I thought…well anyway, thank you for the nice work. Please come back and visit again, bring the Mrs.…”

She is interrupted by the distinct sound of sharp heels clicking on the hard stoneoleum in the hallway. She stops shaking Ralph’s hand standing motionless with her ear cocked towards the sound. A frown crosses her pretty face, the dimples more pronounced. Ralph bug eyes at her sudden hesitation, deciding he should leave. Releasing her hand he hastens away.

“Good day to you Ms. Moeller.”

Gracia is ignoring him, all thoughts of the installer vanished, all thoughts of the loaded weapons eliminated. Pursing her lips, rubbing her hands in anticipation, she realizes from the gait of the approaching clackety-clack it is that damn Mrs. Abernathy.  The woman will not quit. Turning to Michelle who has heard the announcement as well, they nod in confirmation. They already planned what to do when the bothersome shopper turned up.

 

Agnes Abernathy is not as wealthy as she pretends to be. Inheriting a suite of rooms on the 27th level from her fourth husband is difficult to maintain when the slime left everything else to his mistress. Using the last of the currency her father bequeathed her, the botcredits are going quickly. She has the annoying habit of buying expensive jewels and returning them after she wears them to some social function that the rich dally in. Her relentless pursuit of spouse #5, in her mind, requires being seen at all the ‘right’ places, as well as being seen in the latest and richest baubles. Even after the passing of centuries, the advancement in sciences, the ease of living, some things never change.

The latest acquisition was a pair of earrings. Flawless 1.4 carat shycetic gems from Phobos, the largest moon of Mars. Only 3000 carats were mined before the operation was deserted as being too costly with fewer gems being discovered. Light that is captured in them returns to the beholder’s eyes as a dazzling spectrum of strong colors. They are very hard to find. Making them even more valuable is that they are they only precious stone to have a scent, emitting an aroma that can only be depicted as floral. The stones adapt to each human’s chemistry to evoke a unique perfume. Highly sought after, they are very expensive. Mrs. Abernathy purchased them on Friday. She will want to return them today.

The irritable noise of her approach is hushed when she turns into the store to walk upon antique hemp rugs woven by hand in the 24th century by weavers from the “Double LP” (Love & Peace Living Pod 2401). Agnes Abernathy is doomly clad in this season’s colors, black and blood red. Only her pink hat covering short silver locks softens her somber presence. Her face and hands are dyed a silver slightly darker than her hair which is quite the rage for those that visit Earth frequently. For some unexplainable reason many rich men find it attractive. Holding a matching pink clutch in one silver hand, she swings a small tote with the recognizable A upon it. When she reaches the counter where Gracia is standing she moues as she waves the bag in the air before setting it upon the sales area.

“I’m sorry Gracia but these just won’t do, there is too much blue in their dispersion and it clashes horribly with my wardrobe. I’m afraid I’ll have to return them my dear.”

Gracia is trying very much to be nice, it is ingrained in her from her ancestors to show their clients respect but this has got to come to an end. With a smile that might freeze butter, she says,

“I’m afraid not Mrs. Abernathy. Did you not read the notice on your communicator when you purchased them? They are not returnable. It states very clearly on your notification?”

Abernathy steps back in astonishment at the boldness of Gracia’s delivery. Her immediate thought is the five hundred thousand botcredits the jewels represent. Currency she cannot afford to be without. Indignation takes precedence over kindness as she replies coldly,

“I care little of what is posted on my “communicator” as you call it. I’m much too busy to trifle over mere receipts of payment. I purchase many items here Ms. Moeller”

The speech is more formal. In her guest’s hesitation Gracia speaks up.

“You indeed make many purchases Mrs. Abernathy but you return everything.”

Gracia cannot contain herself any longer. She does not run a rental shop.  One hand akimbo, the other with an accusing finger pointing at her client’s grey pallor made pinkish by the boiling blood within.

“I’m wise to you Mrs. Abernathy, you wear the purchases to one of your calendar events and then return them but not always this soon. Of course we do not move in the same groupings, I did however, see you at the Spatial Charity Experience. Those very earrings caused quite a sensation amongst the hundreds that attended. I searched for the owner, knowing you had the only ones aboard the Manor. I’m sorry, but you own those now.  Now if you please, I would appreciate it if you would leave.”

Almost sorry she said it Gracia softens somewhat. Agnes Abernathy does not. In a loud voice so that everyone can hear, she exclaims her disappointment, the way she is being treated. More angrily she goes on about her distaste for anything she purchased, her demands for the return of the earrings. Gracia cannot calm her down. She has a sudden hate for this woman that continues to harangue her. Everyone in the store is still. The two “lookers” decide to leave. Patrons in the restaurants across the way have paused in their dining to listen. There is no stopping the dirge of anger that passes through Abernathy’s mouth. When the language begins to turn profane, Gracia decides it is time to summon security.  When she reaches down to the console she spies the pulse pistols. Picking up the one that is hers, the molded weapon slides easily into her grip. The sleek weapon is the most advanced available. It takes fifty thousand nanoseconds to respond to Moeller’s ID. Wishing it was loaded she points it at the yelling woman in a mocking gesture, even though it is illegal to use it on human beings.

Abernathy knows what is in Moeller’s hand and immediately shuts up, backing several steps from the serving area. Gracia thinks the weapon is sterile. Nerve impulses to the sensitive tellium surface of the trigger tells it to fire. A beat of pure energy is released to consume the first obstacle in its path which in this case is Mrs. Abernathy. Like a black hole, the woman implodes, every iota of her being is consumed within seconds.

Gracia Moeller cannot believe what she has done. Her voice is a shocked whisper.

“Ohh Shit.”

 





Watch next week when guest author Mitzi Szereto from the United Kingdom shares some of her awesome writing.