I’m excited to announce that book 5 in the ASCENSION GATE series is coming soon (late May 2021). To get you ready for STAR EMPIRES, read on for a sample! #MilitaryScienceFiction #SpaceOpera
Pfeiffer knelt at the side of the glowing stone, one of several her team had
recently discovered in the tunnels of Krastian. Orange soil and stone
surrounded her in the dim tunnels, and she was on alert in case the vibrations
started, which would signal an approaching sand snake. Mostly those were taken
care of these days, but not when out on expeditions beyond their colony’s
She ran her tongue
along her top teeth, wondering if the stories she’d heard were true. Could they
have really found a new sort of stone that held more power than the others, one
that could be harnessed in ways yet to become comprehensible.
“Think it’ll do
the trick?” Master Sergeant Espinoza asked.
She turned to look
at him, and nodded. The idea of having
his kind in her command was only starting to feel normal, but she had a feeling
it would always be a bit out there. Vampires, they were called, in spite of
their origination being a factor of genetic engineering to create super
soldiers. It had gone wrong, leading to the uprising on Earth and so many other
conflicts, at least, until the vampires had learned to control themselves and
both sides had learned to work together. While Pfeiffer had been in the
military, she had been junior at the time and only involved in the Earth
conflicts. Her trip through the gateway to the stars and her command here on
Krastian had come much later.
“Take it in for
testing,” she said, giving Espinoza a nod. She stood, taking in this massive
cavern, and couldn’t help but wonder if the carvings had been a result of the
Goldies or the Apophians. Considering the Goldies and those they served had
once been slaves to essentially mine this planet for the Apophians, he had to
imagine this had been at least done by the latter group, or by the slaves for
What her intel
work led her to believe, though, was that regardless of the origin, this was a
factor of the traveling system they’d once had in place. The Apophians had used
portals fueled by the energy in these rocks to travel, at least until the
Goldies had first fought them off. When later the one known as Apophis had
woken, thanks to the poking around of those on Earth—related to the genetic
engineering efforts—Earther warriors had helped close it all back up again.
Unfortunately, Pfeiffer hadn’t arrived until after that war had ended. Years
later, they were still working to make this place habitable. Those former
slaves had stayed clear at first, but within a year of the Apophians being
defeated and pushed back through the gates before closing them, the fighting
was back on.
Goldies were, once
again, on the offensive. For several years now the fighting had dragged on,
especially as Earth Command had issued orders for expansion. In general, they
stayed clear of the Outer Wars, but recent rumor had it they’d made efforts to
colonize three other planets, and were having issues with them.
in, eyes roaming across the team, and then to what was clearly metal walls,
partly covered by collapsed stone and soil. It looked like someone had tried to
hide it, to bury it. Then again, on a planet like this, the sand snakes or any
number of battles could have caused the cave in.
“What is this
place?” Pfeiffer asked.
Espinoza said, “it’s an old command center.”
voice said, and they turned to see Shrina in silhouette at the entrance. Shrina
wasn’t a Marine or soldier, and she wasn’t a vampire, exactly. She was
something else—with powers more directly related to Apophis, her transformation
had been one of death and rebirth. At least, that’s what the stories said. And
when she’d woken, it was with new powers, fangs and whatnot like the vamps, but
also with wings. Leathery wings with curved hooks on the end. Gray, almost
purple skin. And scales, not all over, but in some places. Claws instead of
fingernails. It was indeed a transformation, to the extent that when Pfeiffer
had first laid eyes on the woman, she’d wondered if she was wrong about
religion and had found herself staring at a demon. In fact, since then she’d
learned that Shrina was about as far from a demon as one could be, having proved
her friendship and loyalty over and over.
Pfeiffer raised an
eyebrow as their new arrival knelt to fit in, then joined them. “I’d love to
have seen this place in action back in the day.”
“And I’d love to
know who buried it,” Shrina said, confirming what Pfeiffer had been thinking
about the place.
“This was beyond
the capabilities of the Goldies,” Espinoza said. “My guess, Apophians before
they were kicked out by them.”
over to their visitor, voice low so the others couldn’t listen in.
“Shrina, may I ask what you’re doing here?”
Not that Pfeiffer didn’t appreciate the help, but Shrina had proven herself an
invaluable part of the fighting forces, off scouting new locations for
expansion more often than not, lately.
Having taken a
moment to inspect the stone, Shrina finally answered, “My sister… sensed
something.” She was referring to Alicia. At the frown Pfeiffer gave her, Shrina
continued, “She’s been… changing, lately. Finding that the stones she’s been
experimenting with help her to understand this planet better than anyone. If
she says there’s something down here, I listen. Looks like she was right.”
The how didn’t
need to make sense, because so much of this place didn’t. So Pfeiffer nodded,
further assessing the area. Along one wall was a series of small, colored
stones with lines connecting them. Maybe artwork, or possibly some sort of war
table, but on the wall? She frowned, trying to make sense of it and the runes
carved along the top and bottom.
“You know what
we’re looking at, right?” Shrina asked.
Pfeiffer shook her
head. “No, what’s that?”
assessing the carving and the bits of precious stones along the various lines.
Only a few were lit, but as she analyzed them, she noticed patterns.
“You seeing this?”
she asked, turning to Espinoza. He already had out a small screen, which took
on a larger form, projected, when he ran his hand across it.
“Good eye,” he
said, and expanded the screen further to overlay against part of the carvings.
Not only did the stones line up with some of the planets on the map, most
notably some newer discoveries, but one of the lit-up stones lined up with the
new colonies. Which planets, exactly, she wasn’t sure.
making contact with the new colonies,” Shrina said, shaking her head with
then noticed something else. Another stone was starting to glow, just barely,
but there was definitely a light there that she was fairly certain hadn’t been
moments before. It was Earth.
“We have to warn
Earth command,” Pfeiffer said.
They all stared at
that stone, watching its glow intensify, knowing that this was undoubtedly a
symbol of dark times ahead. When Pfeiffer finally looked up, it was to see
Shrina already exiting, wings folded back to fit through the narrow opening.
going?” Pfeiffer asked.
“While you brief
Earth command, I’m going to ensure our army is ready,” Shrina replied. “Seems
we have a fight to prepare for.”
She was gone from
sight then, leaving Pfeiffer and Espinoza to share a worried look.
“Go with her,”
Pfeiffer said, stepping back to get a recording of this room. “The troops will
need your experience.”
“Roger that,” he
replied, and then jogged off to catch up with Shrina.
Pfeiffer was the only one of them who hadn’t been here for the last fight with the Apophians. She’d seen her fair share of action elsewhere, but had a feeling that wasn’t good enough preparation for this. If the glowing stones in any way signified the return of the Apophians, they were going to need all the fighters they could muster.
Check out my book PRIME EVIL, on preorder for May 14, 2020
All the bugs in the world couldn’t keep Chief Petty Officer Bryant from reaching Petty Officer Moldoon, the man who knelt with one of those damn creature’s slicers tearing through his armor. Armor that shouldn’t have been penetrable, originally made for the Marines but upgraded and enhanced for the SEALs.
Dark caverns in all directions echoed with the shouts and gunfire of the fighting. Shrill screeches from the bugs sounded on frequencies that threatened to drive the Earther forces mad.
The SEALs were there to infiltrate, while the Marines went toe-to-toe aboveground. Another day for the most clandestine section of the Interagency Intrusion Task Force, or the IITF, to get to work. Chief Petty Officer Bryant found this label humorous for the simple fact that their team was made up almost entirely of SEALs. He was a former Marine, true, and had risen to the rank of Staff Sergeant before switching over to the Navy and to go SEAL. Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training wasn’t easy, but with all the space exploration and threat from intergalactic enemies, he hadn’t expected anything less.
And now his team had the mission of taking out the mother of all bugs. By God, he would see it through, but first he had to get to his man. He charged through the enemy ranks, sending green and black goo from dead bugs spraying around him with his assault. A leap with his augments sent him over the head of one that reminded him of a mixture of praying-mantis-meets-scorpion, almost forgetting about the double tails until one sliced into the armor on his forearm.
Wound be damned, he’d made it. Other SEALs came behind to deal with the tails. Petty Officer Green sliced off the first while Petty Officer Robinson pumped the creature’s chest full of lead. Moldoon’s scream of pain reminded Bryant that he didn’t have time to linger and watch it go down.
Three shots hit the bug’s curved carapace armor, creating small dents but nothing more. (more…)
Kaylin braced her hands against the walls of the tiny escape pod, struggling to choke back her claustrophobia. The pod hurtled forward, heading straight for the swirling smoke of the time-travel portal.
Then it was gone. The Syndicate ship, the escape pod, the portal–all of it. In its place was a black abyss that swallowed all light and matter. Weightlessness consumed her body, but somehow, she could still sense motion tugging her through the nothingness.
The first time she’d experienced this, she’d thought for sure she was dead. But now she knew better–she wasn’t travelling to an afterlife; she was travelling through time. Although there was no way of knowing where or when she’d end up this time. In their desperate escape from the doomed ship, no one had been able to program in a destination.
The weightlessness ended as abruptly as it’d started. Light blinded her, and gravity yanked at her stomach. The abyss vanished, and she materialized back in reality, sitting on a bed in the corner of a room.
No. Not just anyroom. It was her room, in her old apartment, back at her childhood home in Cleveland. Kaylin hardly dared to breathe, terrified that the slightest movement would send her wheeling back into the abyss of the time-travel portal. She moved only her eyes as she took in her surroundings. (more…)
Giovanni remembered the jolt that had come, and the way the motion of time travel was unlike anything he had ever felt. Eyes closed, he imagined colors swirling, space imploding—he imagined it all, and then the ship slammed to a stop…or so he thought.
The notion that he was still on the ship vanished the second his nostrils took in the scent of jungle air, fresh from a recent rain. A damp back confirmed this, and when he opened his eyes he saw large leaves overhead, blocking out the moonlight. He wasn’t strapped into the time ship, he was lying on his back on the moist jungle floor.
Had it worked?
Groaning in pain, he pushed himself up and glanced around, hoping to spot Quinn or the others.
From what he could tell, he was alone in the jungle…nothing more. But as he stood and moved to the edge of the small hill he found himself on, he pushed leaves aside and caught his breath—the mountain where it had all started, where he had been with Quinn, Milo, and the others, was right in front of him, completely intact. Lights shone from where Marines were at work, preparing the defense. The Syndicate had destroyed all that, which meant they had gone back to nearly a year before, to the days before the invasion.
UNEDITED (Book 1 is still #1 in LGBT SCIFI! Crazy – over 6 weeks after launch).
(part of the intro redacted)
Communication was still exceptionally difficult with the middle portion of the country, so there wasn’t going to be any kind of search and rescue mission for Gran. Nor would anyone even know if her mother was actually her mother or not. Too many variables to even try it in the middle of a war.
And too dangerous to go out looking.
Quinn knew the truth, though. The truth she didn’t want to say out loud. She knew her mother well. She’d disappeared on purpose so Samantha would have a fighting chance. Some might have called it abandonment. But Quinn knew better. Her mother would have seen that Samantha could handle herself, but that she would hold her back. So she never gave Samantha a choice. She found her own way and set Samantha free.
“What happened after that?” Quinn asked, hesitant as to whether she really wanted to know.
“You wouldn’t believe me,” Samantha said. “Not sure I even believe what happened after that.”
“Ate berries and nuts mostly, like you taught me. Instead of stealing from other starving people.”
“Good. Anything else?”
Samantha beamed. “Took out an arc glider by myself.”
“I heard,” Quinn replied. “That’s the part that’s unbelievable.”
“But did you hear how I did it?”
“That’s the part that’s got some in the resistance worried.” Quinn tilted her head, debating. “How’d a human girl get Syndicate weaponry to work for her? Without Cody to unlock the controls… They want to run experiments on you to see if they can duplicate what you did.”
“Not happening,” Samantha said, voice firm.
“That’s what I said. Over my dead body.”
Samantha smiled at that. “It doesn’t make sense, Mom. But it happened. I’m not lying about it, and Eli witnessed it. I know I can do it again. Something’s different about me. And I’m not so sure it’s a good thing.”
“Even if you become the enemy,” Quinn said, “I’d still be by your side.”
“Exactly what I was afraid you’d say.”
“Don’t be. Your side will always be the good side for me.”
Samantha breathed heavy and looked around. Quinn wondered what was going through her mind. Too much had already happened to her at too young an age. She wished she could do something to make her daughter’s life safer. But the only thing she could offer was the will to fight.
“The thing about it, the thing I haven’t told anyone,” Samantha said. “Was what it felt like. That gun felt powerful. When I was holding it, I felt invincible. It gave me a rush even before I fired it.”
“Sounds like Syndicate tech.”
“But what if it means I’m destined to be one of them?” Samantha asked. “I don’t think I’d like that.”
“You won’t be. I promise. We’re fighting to stop them. And nothing will stop me from protecting you from them.”
“Yeah,” Samantha said. “But still. It could be a good thing. Maybe if I’m like them somehow, we can use that against them. Or it could be a bad thing. I just don’t know.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t be practicing with human weapons anymore then,” Quinn said.
“If it worked in my hands, wouldn’t that mean their other weapons could be used by other humans too? Maybe there are others like me. Maybe the resistance is right. They should look into how I did it.”
Quinn opened her mouth to respond, but realized she had no idea why, or how, her daughter was able to use the alien tech. She’d always thought of her as special, but this was a whole different ballgame and even beyond a mother’s love. Quinn’s heart was in her throat as she’d been listening.
Her daughter had almost been killed by the invaders, but her ability to use their weapons against them kept her alive. That alone should have already been enough to convince others that Samantha wasn’t a threat, that she was on their side. She had aimed the weapon back at the Syndicate. After all, Quinn had been Syndicate for several months. But she’d never changed her loyalty.
“And you?” Her daughter looked up, eyes wide. “You were on the command ship, right? You were basically one of them? Syndicate?”
Quinn couldn’t return her daughter’s look as she nodded. “It was complicated.”
“Try me,” Samantha said.
“Implants… if we tried to turn on them, or fight them in any way. Death. We found a work around, finally, but it wasn’t pleasant.” She thought of telling the whole truth, of relating how all of the Marines in her squad had to die en masse before being resurrected basically. But then figured that might be too much for Samantha to handle. A little bit at a time, Quinn thought. Instead, she lied and said, “Cody developed a process to short-circuit the implant with the aid of radio waves. More or less.”
“More or less?” Samantha said, shooting a doubtful look at Quinn.
Quinn shrugged and didn’t elaborate.
“But what was it like?” Samantha asked. “They’re supposed to be, like, the greatest military force the Universe has ever seen, right?”
“The gossip mill.”
Quinn frowned but nodded. “They are superior to us in almost every way. There’s no denying that.”
“And you guys just stole a glider and walked right out of their command ship?”
“Pretty much,” Quinn answered, not pausing to think about how relatively easy it had been to orchestrate their escape. Too easy, a voice whispered somewhere in the dark backwaters of her mind. The same voice that asked, over and over, if their captors were still watching everything they were doing, observing it all and, for some reason, letting it happen.
“Did you kill anyone along the way?” Samantha finally asked, stopping her mother near the edge of an outbuilding, droplets of water coasting down her cheeks.
“Sure, yeah, we had to. I mean, they’re the bad guys, Sam.”
Samantha shook her head. “I meant people. Humans. When you were forced to fight for them, did you kill anyone like us?”
Quinn groped for the right words. She peered into Samantha’s small, inscrutable eyes, and could find no good response. Instead she fumbled out, “I did what I had to do to make sure I saw you again.”
“Do you think that makes you … evil?”
Quinn digested this. “No, because sometimes you have to do bad to do good. That probably doesn’t make any sense at all, but I don’t know any other way to put it. You just have to try and minimize the bad as much as you can. At least I always do any time I pick up a weapon.”
“Is it weird that I liked it?”
Quinn shielded her eyes from the rain. “Liked what?”
“The fighting. I was scared at first, I mean I ran nearly every time the beetles came after us, but then after I stopped running from them and began running at them, I wasn’t scared anymore.”
Quinn tapped a finger on Samantha’s shoulder. “You learned the lesson of control.”
“What do you mean?”
Quinn opened her mouth and caught a few raindrops. “People with experience, even in extreme situations, are less likely to break than untrained people in significantly less danger. The reason is the perception of control. You felt like you owned your fate, didn’t you?”
“How’d you know?”
“Because that’s how I felt once upon a time.”
Samantha broke her gaze and stared at the muddy ground. “I feel like I was meant to do this, Mom. I know it sounds super spooky and all, but it’s like, I experienced déjà vu on steroids. It’s almost like I had been there before, y’know? Everything was in 3-D when we were fighting. Colors were different and I could smell and see better and it was like I sensed what was happening before it occurred. But now, just sitting around down in a hole in the ground sucks big time. I mean this is nothing.”
Quinn was taken aback. That was exactly how she’d felt on black sunshine. What if that crap was somehow given to Samantha? The thought built a fury inside Quinn. What if the two of them were being played somehow? She didn’t even want to go down that rabbit hole. But she knew there was more than they were aware of at play. “Be thankful you’re alive.”
Samantha looked up. “But that’s the point. I don’t feel like I am.” Quinn didn’t respond and so Samantha continued, “You know that whole ‘we sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who’d do us harm’ thing?”
“I’ve heard that a time or two,” Quinn answered, nodding slowly.
“Why should the guys have all the fun?”
“You’re not even a teenager, Samantha.”
Samantha scowled and tapped her right foot on the ground at a slow and steady pace like she was waiting for the other person to give in, just as she’d done as a toddler when she didn’t get her way. “I don’t want to be the person who’s asleep, mom. I don’t ever want to be that person. Just saying.”
Quinn didn’t reply, so the two silently trudged back through the rain which had stopped by the time they’d reached the entrance to the silo, what had once been formally called the launch control data center.
They’d barely had any time to inspect it after the reunion and so Samantha took Quinn on a tour of the areas she’d yet to visit. She told her mother everything that Comerford had originally related to her. She described how the entire complex was sixty feet underground, buried under several feet of steel-reinforced ballistic cement.
Before the invasion there’d been roughly six-hundred soldiers responsible for the nuclear weapons, a group largely under the 20th Air Force, Air Global Strike Command, that had been known as “Missileers.” Significant changes had been made to the base in the years directly before the invasion, the entire complex upgraded and restructured, new missile alert facilities constructed underground.
Unfortunately, nearly all of the soldiers at the base had left their posts after the invasion, save a brave handful who’d stayed behind and joined the resistance. These men and women had been trained in protocol and knew how to use the nukes if it ever came to that.
They padded by the mess hall, stopping for a bite to eat, past the tankage areas where waste was stored, and the alcoves filled with ammunition and supplies, and finally, beyond the heavy doors where the nuclear-tipped missiles were housed.
As they surveyed everything, Quinn caught nasty looks from several resistance fighters who recognized her as a Marine. She surmised that word had gotten out about the Marine operations in New Mexico and New York City.
Eventually, they found their way down to their sleeping quarters, which were located just beyond a bank of industrial generators. These were tethered to a vast field of buried propane tanks and a garden of above-ground solar panels and wind turbines that spit out just enough energy to keep the lights on and the missiles ready to fire.
Their room was only about twenty feet by fifteen feet in size, partitioned by a bed sheet hung from a suspended wire. The space was anchored by a pair of cots and heavy cabinets and an old TV that showed kids cartoons. Near Samantha’s cot were the trappings of her time on the road with the resistance: her rucksack, some mismatched clothes, an extra pair of boots, and a bandolier of ammunition. Zeus, the toy robot, was perched atop the TV, peering down at everything.
“I like what you’ve done with the place,” Quinn said.
Samantha nodded and eased herself down onto her bunk. “You see those guys giving you the evil eye back there?”
“They’re super pissed at you, Mom. Pretty much everybody in this place that isn’t me or a Marine hates your guts.”
“I don’t blame them,” Quinn replied, “but there’s nothing I can do about that.”
“Have you thought about apologizing?”
“Marines don’t apologize.”
“No, they just bust down doors and blow things up, right?”
“Yeah, but that’s only Monday through Friday.”
Quinn offered up a smile to Samantha that wasn’t returned. “The resistance dude in charge down here, Comerford, he’s a good guy,” Samantha added.
“Seemed like it.”
“I’d really like it if you’d tell him you’re sorry.”
“I don’t think it’ll do any good.”
“You never know unless you try,” Samantha replied.
FROM JUSTIN >>> That’s a long one! I wanted to get as much as I can to you ASAP, because (a) launch is right around the corner, and (b) I’m going to start posting snippets from Reclaiming Honor 5 here in the next 24 hours or so, probably. I’ll get at lest one more SW snippet to you before launch – I promise!
In the meantime, if you’re able to leave reviews for book 1 and 2, that would be amazing (Amazon/ Goodreads). That’s how people know you liked the books, and it’s how we know we aren’t crazy. Haha, who are we kidding, of course we’re crazy!
This week’s other book is a silly/ fun one, put together by MD Cooper…
9 Comedic space opera tales of big spaceships, poor life decisions, and lots of Pew!
Delta-Team – by M. D. Cooper
In 8913, a crack military unit was court-martialed and sent to a maximum security prison for stealing the general’s cookie recipes. Colonel Ramsey and his team promptly escaped and fled the core systems.
Today they serve as soldiers of fortune, or whatever else will make them a buck.
If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find, then maybe, you can hire the Delta Team.
Of course, if you’re not into LGBT Scifi, don’t worry, there are other aspects of both these books the make them wonderful. I hope you read for yourself to find out. Grab Sydnicate Wars here.
Samantha crept like a thief through a forgotten munitions warehouse, one of eighteen outer buildings (including several launch control support buildings), that ringed Shiloh, the former Francis E. Warren Air Force base.
She moved forward, a battered AK-47 in her hands as she removed a fresh magazine from her tactical vest and gently placed it into the gun’s mag-well before rocking it rearward. The weapon’s ammunition latch clicked and Samantha nodded to herself. The magazine had been seated properly, so she flipped off the gun’s safety. She was surrounded by a dozen Syndicate soldiers who were outside, readying to spring an ambush. She’d been foolish enough to venture beyond the watch of her mother, Quinn, and a small group of aliens, a hit squad of some kind she reckoned, had found her.
It was only a matter of time before they kicked down the doors to the warehouse, but she wouldn’t go quietly. She had thirty little friends who’d be willing to greet them if they did, she thought, running her fingers down the edge of the gun’s magazine.
Her tiny frame pressed against a wall, Samantha sucked in a few breaths, then counted several Mississippis. She kept the stock of the AK-47 up near her shoulder and the muzzle depressed, locked and loaded, ready to surge forward through a faraway door and open up on the aliens.
Taking to her heels, Samantha darted across the expansive warehouse. There were sounds on the other side of the door and she kicked it open, bursting outside, expecting hell and bringing her gun up and around in a sweeping motion.
BRAT! BRAT! BRAT!
She fired a burst from her gun, the recoil thrumming her shoulder as she obliterated a Syndicate soldier, blasting his battle helmet to pieces. The other aliens wheeled on her, surprised that such a small creature could be so ferocious. Before the invaders knew what had happened, Samantha was upon them. She swiveled at the hips, the gun bouncing against her shoulder, blasting through the remaining rounds in an instant. The enemy fell before her, the ground stained with the red and yellow fluids that poured from their stricken bodies in great abundance.
Samantha lowered her gun to the sound of somebody clapping.
Blinking, she looked down to see that the Syndicate soldiers were actually a collection of old engines and electronic equipment that she’d set atop a pair of plastic saw-horses. And the Syndicate battle helmet was little more than an aged computer monitor. Looking over her shoulder, she spotted Quinn moving toward her.
Quinn took the still-smoking gun from Samantha and studied it. “So how long has this been a thing?”
Samantha traded a long look with her mother. “Ever since the beetles started trying to kill me.”
Quinn looked up from the gun. “The what?”
“It’s a nickname on account of the aliens looking like bugs and all. Some of my friends came up with it.”
Samantha held her mother’s gaze. “Yep. I’ve moved on from enemies and allies. I’ve got some real, live, actual friends now.”
Quinn popped out the spent magazine on the AK-47 and pocketed it. “You mean like the older guy back there?”
Samantha nodded. “Eli’s a righteous dude. He risked his life to help me. He was there when I needed him,” she continued, a little heat in her voice.
Quinn held up the gun and peered down over its barrel at the electronic parts that Samantha had just blown to bits. “Do you know what the hardest thing in the world is?”
“Taking down one of those mechanized drones has got to be right up at the top of the list,” Samantha replied.
Quinn lowered the gun and peered into Samantha’s pale blue eyes. “Being a parent takes the cake, kiddo, because you’ve only got one job to do, but it’s the most important one there is: keep your child safe at all costs. That’s it, and God help you if you do like I did…”
Quinn trailed off. She lowered the gun and knelt before her daughter. “I’m sorry, Sam. You took off before I could say anything in the silo, but I’m sorry for letting you down. I should never have left.”
Samantha took back the gun and waved a hand. “That was a long time ago, mom.”
“Four months! Besides, you’re twelve! You don’t have any long time agos!”
Samantha removed another magazine from her tactical vest and expertly slipped it into the receiver and readied the AK-47 to fire. “You don’t have to apologize. I mean, you did what you did to prepare me.”
“For what?” Quinn asked. “Years of therapy?”
“For the day when you’re no longer here.”
“That’s awfully dark.”
“Possibly a tad on the morbid side,” Samantha replied.
“I’m pretty sure it’s against the law to be morbid at your age.”
“The world we live in, mom,” Samantha said, with a shrug.
Quinn sighed. Mother and daughter stared at each other like strangers for a few awkward seconds. “So … are we cool or what?” Quinn asked.
“Like an Eskimo on an iceberg.”
Quinn smiled. “So what do we do now?”
“How about some mother-daughter stuff?”
Quinn beamed. “Awesome. Like what? Maybe go inside and play with some dolls or paint our nails and braid our hair?”
A playful smile tugged at the corners of Samantha’s mouth. “Mother. Seriously?”
Quinn returned the smile, but then her eyes narrowed. “So how ‘bout sending some lead down range with momster?”
Quinn stood over Samantha’s shoulder as she aimed at a cluster of bottles and rusted cans they’d salvaged from a base dumpster. Everything was lined up in ragged rows atop a clutch of wooden pallets. Samantha lowered the weapon and looked back at Quinn.
“Do you ever wish you had another kid, mom? Specifically, a boy?”
“How could you even ask that?”
“Because the world has basically ended and we’ve got to cram as much heavy conversation in as we can. I mean, we could die at any moment so I’m thinking we’ve got to live, like, all of my teenage years in the next few weeks at most.”
“You’re being silly,” Quinn said.
“So that’s your answer?”
“No, my answer is it’s a really weird thing to say to your mother. And that’s saying something coming from you.”
Samantha did a slow-burn.
“Fine, okay,” Quinn said. “The answer is no, no I did not want a boy. And you know why?”
Samantha shook her head.
“Well, it’s got a lot to do with feral dogs.”
“Yeah, and I’m the one saying the weird things …”
“Listen, young lady. What I meant is, have you ever wondered why, when you see images of war torn countries there are always wild dogs running around?”
“Not something I typically think about, no.”
“It’s because canines can get by on almost nothing. Women are a lot like that. Men, on the other hand, are definitely feline. They put up a front, acting like they don’t need people and that works for awhile, but eventually you find them lying behind the couch.”
“Nice visual. So in your little analogy there I’m what? A stray dog?”
“That’s right, pumpkin,” Quinn replied, squeezing Sam’s cheeks. “You’re my little pitbull. A scrapper. Somebody who can get by on very little. You’re everything I hoped you’d be. Now let’s talk about that rifle of yours, because I noticed before that you’ve got a serious problem with your muzzle climb when you go fully automatic. You lost your ability to stay on target.”
“So what’s a girl to do?” Samantha asked.
Quinn fished in the pockets of her cargo pants and removed a three-inch piece of metal, a threaded muzzle brake for the rifle that could be screwed on. She tossed it to Samantha. “Screw that onto the end of your weapon. It inhibits recoil and rise.”
Samantha screwed on the muzzle brake and took aim at the collection of electronic parts. The weapon looked immense in her tiny little hands. “I’m going hot, mom.”
Quinn stood back, watching her daughter fire into the debris, a number of disordered thoughts competing for her attention. For starters, what kind of mother would stand idly by watching their pre-teen daughter fire out a friggin’ assault rifle? It was simultaneously the most absurd thing she’d ever seen and the most natural. The world had been turned upside down after all, and the old rules and norms had been taken away with it. The country had been robbed of many of its adults and in their places had been left children.
She tried not to think about how many others were out there fighting like her Samantha. Just trying to stay alive. There was nothing wrong with Samantha. She was perfectly normal. The whole, wanting to be a pint-sized warrior was just a phase she was going through because of the invasion.
Once the enemy was defeated, things would return to the way they used to be. Quinn hoped. She kept thinking this thought over and over, as if repeating it, mantra-like, might make it so.
FROM JUSTIN >>> As I said at the top, the book’s already up for preorder! It comes out in just 2 weeks, so be ready. This is the book where a lot of the answers start coming out, and you find out what the big baddy is really up to.
Stay tuned for more! I’ll keep bringing the snippets, if you keep reading them. Of course, it is 4th of July weekend, so we’ll see. I might be too busy barbecuing hot dogs and making things go boom.
As always, I like to share someone else’s book, so here’s Scott Moon’s…
Hundreds of years have passed on Grendel since they last saw a modern army. That is about to change.
Three centuries ago, the planet of Grendel was purchased and terraformed into an imitation of 9th Century England and Scandinavia. Galactic civil wars, a cycle of financial recessions, and corporate raiding forced bankruptcy. The project, like many others, was abandoned.
Check out his book and all the other amazing space opera and space marine books available to you!