Friday, September 23, 2016

Chapter 4

Erut escapes from the prison work camp and tried to make his way up the side of the cliffs of the Delbrin mountains when he is fired upon by a patrolling soldier. Erut manages to elude the soldier but his pursuer manages to get reinforcements. Soon a band of soldiers traps him within a small canyon.


“Find him. Find him now,” one of the officers yelled into the air.

The only other thing he could hear was the sound of his own heavy breathing and the wind that rustled through the trees. The smell of those trees moved in and out of his lungs. At times he felt as if he was breathing with the wind itself and he sensed a brief connection with the land around him. When he was finally able to calm himself down he closed his eyes and listened. The sound of shooting and shouting stopped. They were re-grouping and deciding what to do. At any moment they would figure out what he had done and come for him. For an instant, he closed his mind off from that fear and just tried to calm down so that he could think clearly of a way out of this mess. His panting slowed and he relaxed and listened. He closed his eyes.

The wind moved about him in calm and playful caresses and he became aware of its movements through the trees and rocks until he imagined he could see it as shrouds of fabric moving through the air. He opened his eyes and maintained the image and the world became alive with waving trees and the dancing playful motions of the breezes. But something was different. He became aware of a steady wind coming from one direction. He isolated that area in his mind. There it was: a steady sound, like air coming through a deep tunnel. It was a weak sound nearly covered over by the air that spiralled and expanded in all other directions. But it wasn’t air. It sounded like something heavier–like water.

“This way!”

Sounds behind him broke through his concentration. These were not gentle but crude and anxious noises. Feet stomped on broken twigs and coilguns were being loaded. They were coming his way and it was time to go. Erut focused his attention toward the direction of the new sound and took off across a field as fast as his feet could take him. There was another small stand of trees on the other side and he made that spot his new objective. Before he could reach it, though, soldiers burst forth into the field from the trees and raised their guns. This time, Erut decided to just go full bore toward his goal to maintain a full distance between him and his pursuers. The gamble paid off for a time. The soldiers had a difficult time trying to run at full speed and fix a target for their rifles. Shots went far and wide but came closer each time they were fired. By the time Erut reached the trees, shots were coming in closer to him. He reached for the tree closest to him so that he could pull himself behind it but a projectile landed exactly where he planned to put his hand and ripped bits of bark from it. He switched directions and headed for another tree. A projectile whizzed by him just where his body had been had he not turned. He dove and rolled until he was behind a line of trees. He took some deep breaths before he moved deeper into the woods. He could just make out an opening in the tree line just ahead of him so he made a mad dash for it. He ran while dodging low branches and exposed rock until the opening became wider. The soldiers were entering the woods.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Chapter 3

In chapter three the Crolats discover they have been abandoned on the planet of Pa'Zawhu by their Kevutian employers. They decide to try and found out what happened.

An excerpt:

Suriu looked toward the same spot and strained to see what Orov was noticing. At first he saw nothing but a great storm of dust on the other side of the dome. Dark gray particles swirled about in all directions. Some of it hit the dome and splayed across the surface. Vorky followed their lead and looked as well but saw nothing more than twisting dirt. But, in a flash he saw something break through the maelstrom higher up. It was a glint of sunlight that reflected itself off of something–something shiny. Suriu saw it too and recognized the pattern.

“A sail!” Suriu murmured.

“A sail?” Vorky repeated. “From a ship?”

“From our ship,” Suriu said.

“What?” Vorky cried out.

Orov snapped himself out of his disbelief and reached down to the squawker to unclip it from his beaded belt.

“Sunship Julinia, this is Blue Squad Ya. We are still on site. I say again: we are still on site. Request pickup.”

The three Crolats held their breath in unison and awaited a response. None came.

“Sunship Julinia, Sunship Jovinia, this is Hejun Orov. We are reporting from the surface. Request immediate pickup. We are still on site. Do you copy?”

Still nothing.

“Any ship! Do you copy? Squad remaining on the surface of Pa’Zawhu. Please respond!”

Again, the three waited in an uncomfortable silence. The hush was then broken by the sound of static on the squawker. Three ears drew close to the box to try and make out any words they could discern from the noise. Instead, the only thing they could make out was a terrible laugh that cut through the crackling before the box again went silent.

Orov, Suriu, and Vorky looked at each other in disbelief and shock.

Orov threw the squawker into the dirt. “I don’t believe this! They are leaving us here!”

“I don’t understand,” said Vorky. “Why aren’t they coming to get us?”

Friday, September 9, 2016

Chapter 2

In chapter 2 (402) we encounter from Book 3. Since his escape from the devastation of Pa'Myshka and his flight to the mysterious world known as Ardis, Erut was finally granted his wish to return home only to find himself carted off to a prison work farm in Kwanchu. There he works up a plan to escape and uses the things he has learned on Ardis to create some interesting diversions and opportunities for himself.

An excerpt:

He crouched at the edge of the building known as the processing plant with its smells of human waste and charred wood. It was one of many places where the recently discovered concoction known as “blast dust” was being produced for the military. Making it was a degrading and dangerous enterprise best left for prisoners and work slaves–like himself. Next to the processing plant was a walkway then came a long garden with a variety of flowers and plants. The dichotomy was stark and intentional. Those who listened well and followed the demands of the guards worked in the garden. Those who did not were left figuratively and literally in it up to their knees. Of the two places, he was more familiar with the latter. He was not one to be cooperative. He had seen and known too much in his time to just take the guards and their Kevutian masters by their word. He wanted out of this prison camp and the day had come.

He heard footsteps moving soft and slow. His heart skipped a beat and he tried not to panic. Running now would only expose him to greater danger and lay waste to his careful planning. He needed to stay focused. Besides, the steps were too light to be those of someone suited in an armored tunican. It must be another prisoner. And it was.

“Are you sure you want to go through with this?” said the other male prisoner in a soft voice as he approached him.

“Yes. It’s all I think about. I’ve been planning this for nearly a full acadon now. It has to be now or I will just fade away like one of those maksons over there.” He pointed to a large orange flower in the garden that was hunched over and falling away. The other man glanced at the flower beside them.

Erutvumot 8 or “Erut” turned to his friend and took him affectionately by the shoulders. “It’s not too late. You could come with me. You could all come with me.”

Erut’s friend looked into his eyes. Erut could tell that the idea of getting away from this place was inviting to him. It was all any man in this place could think about but the fire of passion that lit momentarily in the man’s eyes died out almost as quick as it came.

“No,” his friend said, bowing his head.

Erut knew his friend felt shame in his cowardice but said nothing about it. The feeling was understandable. Any attempts at escape or signs that something was amiss about the camp could lead to severe punishments. He patted the shoulder of his friend.

“It’s OK,” Erut said. “You needn’t say any more. It’s enough that you’re willing to help me.”

The man raised his head as if it were heavier than the mountains that loomed down upon them just outside the camp. He seemed barely able to maintain his gaze. He peered into Erut’s eyes as if it were the last time he would see him–alive, at least. “Good luck,” he whispered.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Chapter 1

The final book of the Milleran Cluster series begins on the planet of Pa'Zawhu, one of the last planets of the cluster not under the control of the Kevutian Conglomerate. The Kevutians are in the midst of invading and have brought three Crolat mercenaries with them to speed up the process but the Crolats soon discover that something is amiss.


The thin and frail man felt long hard thumbs dig into the center of his throat and cut off the air supply to his lungs. He gagged and flailed as he tried anything to get his next breath of air but it wasn’t coming. His mind went from simple terror to outright full-scale panic. All he knew was that he was going to die and there was nothing he could do about it. His last hope was to look into the eyes of the one holding his neck in a vice grip. It was an image of contrasts held in time by two strong and opposing desires. Hyson du-lo-Jogu, the emaciated Zawhan, wanted himself to live; the big muscular man in front of him did not.

“I asked you a question,” said the voice of the man holding Hyson in his deadly grip.

Hyson couldn’t have answered even if he wanted. His throat was being closed off. Speech was impossible but he made a coughing gurgling noise to make it seem as if he was trying to give a worthwhile response. Maybe then the monstrous creature before him would let him go. The problem was that he had no idea what was being asked of him. He just knew he needed to appear as if he was trying to cooperate.

“” the big man said. He punctuated each word by shaking Hyson’s head. Hyson gurgled some more as the motion allowed small bits of air to get into his lungs but now his eyes felt like they might be squeezed right out of his head.

The big man brought his face in closer to his victim. “Why don’t you answer me?”

The thin and disheveled Zawhan hanging from the tightening fists of the big Crolat was turning colors. The veins in his face were visibly pulsing as if they were trying to come and see for themselves who was bringing his life to a sudden end.

“Because he doesn’t know what you’re saying,” came a heavy voice from behind the big man.

The big man tilted his head just a little in the direction of the voice coming from behind him but kept his focus on the man in his solid grasp.

“Huh?” grunted the big man.

The voice behind him continued: “You could squeeze him like a gorfruit and he still wouldn’t answer you. He doesn’t speak Kevutian.”

The big man released his grip and let the scraggly Zarwhan fall to the floor like a folded paper doll.

“What do you mean he doesn’t speak Kevutian?” said the big man as he turned to face the person behind him. The beaded belt and neckband and the strands of beads attached to each ?? clicked together as he turned. “Everyone speaks Kevutian.”

“Everyone in the Conglomerate speaks Kevutian, Vorky” came the response. “We’re not in the Conglomerate. We’re on Pa’Zawhu.” The man continued by bringing up his left hand in front of him as if he was about to present a gift. “Pa’Zawhu!” he said, then brought up his other hand barely avoiding the coilgun clipped at his side. “Conglomerate!” He set his hands down. “That’s why we’re here, you fool. We’re being paid to help the Kevutians invade this planet so that it can be brought into the Conglomerate.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Book 4

Work has begun on the final book - book 4.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The preliminary book cover design:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Review

Here are some comments about Book Three (now officially titled The Suicide Fire) from a professional beta reader:

I absolutely loved the opening to this book. It grabbed my attention and made me want to read more... I actually loved all the characters. I usually have an issue when an author has several POVs because sometimes it can all be overwhelming. But that was not the case for this novel. I felt like each character had a very distinctive voice... Ony'a was my favorite character and her voice was written so well that I really wish I had more chapters told from her POV...I loved the plot of this book. I thought it was very unique. There were many twists and turns and I was surprised at the deaths in this book. They were completely unexpected... I thought the writing style was very impressive. It was descriptive and vivid and I was able to picture every scene clearly in my head... Overall, I loved this story. It was a unique plot with well-developed characters and an interesting setting.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Beta readers

The first draft of book 3 will be ready soon and I will be looking for beta or first readers to offer comments and find all the things I missed. I am offering a $20 Starbucks gift card for anyone willing to give the manuscript a quick read and offer comments within thirty days upon receiving it. Anyone willing to help me out?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


I usually do the Prologue and Epilogue last since they are often critical parts to the whole story. Those are now complete. The inspiration for the Prologue came from an actual historical event. In 1939, George Elser, a carpenter and a communist, schemed to destroy Hitler as he was to make a speech at Munich's beer hall. His plan was to set a bomb in the podium timed to go off 144 hours later–when Hitler would be in the middle of his speech. The plan failed when Hitler decided to move up his speech to an earlier time and he left before the bomb went off.

The Prologue to Book III:

Pa’Kevutu: Yakrutich, Kevutu, The Tower of the Supreme Magnate

Seloreger 6 “Selo” set his work bag on the floor and knelt down behind the great wood podium situated at the far side of the room. He was nearly finished. The cabinet door was open so he could access the wiring and hardware inside. Coated wires of various thickness and colors twisted and turned from the bottom of the platform through a variety of boxes and circuits before they made their way up through the top and into a collection of microphones. He was not interested in any of those. His attention was focused on the device he carefully put into place in a section of the podium he had carved out.

This was the culmination of many sperons of planning and preparation. He managed to get himself hired on the preparation team and convinced them he was the one who should do the final work on the speaker’s podium. It wasn’t a hard sell. He had a long resume that described him as a competent worker throughout the city of Yakrutich. That, too, had been part of the plan. He was carefully placed with high-end citrans of the city sympathetic to his cause. His reputation was carefully and painstakingly groomed. By the time he applied for the job, he was perfect for it.

Selo removed a hidden cover inside the podium, The cavity behind it was exactly suited to his needs. Careful planning again. Each time he came here to do work on the wiring, he took some extra time to carve out this space in the wood and cover it with a panel that matched the interior. He pulled his bag closer to himself and dug through some tools and wires. He pulled a hidden handle and the tools all came up and out of the bag. He reached inside and carefully pulled out an odd-looking item. It was a simple yet effective device made of three clear cylinders, a solar-charged battery, and several wires and knobs. He turned the device so that two of the cylinders were lined up vertically next to a taller cylinder. Reaching within his bag he pulled out two containers. From one container he poured distilled water into the top of the vertically aligned tube until it was full, added a metal float and attached a wire to it, then sealed the whole thing with a specially designed cap that allowed the connected wire to move. He attached a second wire to the metal plate situated at the bottom of the second cylinder and carefully added the liquid from the other cylinder into the longer tube and sealed it. He took a deep breath and then, with meticulous care, he set the whole device into the pre-formed cavity. With a light touch he turned a valve situated between the two smaller tubes and watched as water dripped. The final step was to arm the device, which he did by connecting the wires to the solar charged battery. The whole mechanism was covered over by the fake panel.

All of this was done while scores of people walked around the large and elegant room. They couldn’t tell what he was doing inside the wooden rostrum though they had seen the long bushy haired man working with the speaker’s equipment many times before, so they paid little attention to him. The abundant hair, both on his face and his head, was nothing more than a disguise. After it was all over, witnesses would say they say a shaggy unshaven older man near the stand, but that man would never be seen again. Selo was looking forward to the time when he could finally lose all this itchy hair and be himself again.

Selo leant back and admired his handiwork. There was no visual hint whatsoever that just behind that panel was a simple yet potent mechanism designed to go off in about eight horons: just as the scheduled speaker would take the stand. The design was elementary, really. When the water in the top tube dripped out, the two plates would touch and complete a circuit sending an electrical signal to the explosive mixture in the long tube. The target speaking at the podium would be eliminated. Mission accomplished.

Selo closed the cabinet under the podium and put his tools away. He grabbed his bag and walked away from the podium in the way he thought an old unkept maintenance worker should move. It was hard not to bounce along with a light step; it was hard not to reveal a wide smile. So much planning, so much work, so much risk went into executing this one moment and now it was done. All he had to do was walk away and wait.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Chapter 35

Ony'a arrives to observe her brother's tribunal. Lagos describes all the reasons why he should be found innocent and why it is the invaders of his planet who should be found guilty. His words move the members of the tribunal except for the Maceoran Rin who decides to take justice into her own hands before others have a chance to rule on his innocence or guilt.

An excerpt:

Lagos took a deep breath and held himself as high as his exhausted body would let him. “Of the charge of treason I say I am not guilty, for treason is betrayal against one’s own state. I stand before you a Myshkan, not a Kevutian. I was not born on Kevutu nor do I owe any allegiance to that land. You may occupy my planet, take my property, enslave my children, and fill me with your philosophies but, as long as I live, you cannot take my heart. My heart belongs to Myshka, to Rishivon–its true name. There is nothing you can do to change that. Taking my life will only assure that my devotion can never be altered. Therefore, as a child of the Mother Rishivon, I cannot be guilty of treason against a foreign government. At worst, you can brand me a Myshkan loyalist.

“Of the charge of trespassing I also say I am not guilty. How can one be accused of trespassing on one’s own property? The chantry of the Masters was built long before Kevutu ever took to flight, long before you even knew we existed. It was built before even most of the provinces had been built. It was the first building of our people and it held the great Masters who taught us how to construct our provinces, build our homes, survive. A home is where a person finds his or her strength and refuge because hard work and a lifetime of struggles and triumphs have gone into it. Invading and stealing the home of another does not make it your own. Like a precious memory, a home cannot be inhabited by another and retain the same meaning. It can be occupied but the purpose of its being, so constructed and initiated by its original builders, can never be fulfilled and realized merely by filling its space. Therefore, I cannot be guilty of trespassing for I have gone nowhere but on the lands of my own people.

“Of the charge of sedition I say, once more, that I am not guilty. I did not cause, through word or deed, the people to rebel. You, yourself, did that by erecting large politically charged banners along the columns of our most sacred and precious building. The symbol of the Double Y is more potent, more calamitous than any long diatribe calling for disobedience could possibly be. In a single symbol is all that reminds us of being occupied by those never invited to our lands. It reminds us of those who are here to take our history, our work, our lands, and our possessions. It reminds us that we are not in control of our own destiny–an inherent and basic right of any free people. It reminds us that we are under the control of a people unlike ourselves. The symbol itself, not me, is the sedition. I am innocent of the very thing you have brought on yourself.

“Finally, on the charge of insurrection, I must admit my guilt, but I also claim that I cannot be held accountable for this crime because the authority that you claim is invalid. You have obtained it through fear and power–forces that are anathema to the heart and destructive to life. More than that, they are the very things that are poisonous to your own image of perfection.

“Fear: the fear of death, the fear of pain. This is how domination begins. Fear causes one to seek protection and safety and many are willing to give up their own freedom for that security. Fear is what allows power to flourish and power can only be exerted through control. By its own definition, power curtails freedom, curiosity, and expression. Power requires separation and hierarchy. Everything becomes focused on maintaining that hierarchy at all costs. Any expression of freedom must be sacrificed at the altar of maintaining control. Every person becomes trapped inside their role as the dominator or the dominated. The end product of both these roles is misery, for even the controller is locked into patterns of alienation and antagonism. Misery cannot be the focus of a good life nor can it be the main ingredient of perfection.

“Yes, perfection! I know of your religion. It is no longer just your own. When you come to a place you bring all the things that are part of you as well: your ideas, your philosophies, your obsessions, your prejudices. No matter where you land you will always step on your own footprint. You have been taught all your lives that perfection is the goal of every worthy citizen and that such perfection is best sought through the wisdom and guidance of your corporations. They told you that perfection will lead you to happiness and that a life lived in perfect happiness will lead to an afterlife with more of the same. They told you that the pursuit of perfection will lead to contentment with the order of things and joy will come in acting your part within that order. But, I have just demonstrated to you that the very act of forcibly exercising power over others leads to the misery of all. The very act of invading the home of another and violently enforcing your own will over those who do not share your own values makes any pursuit of perfection impossible. Your imposition creates great suffering and that agony is returned to you in the very act of trying to enforce it. You deny for yourselves any chance for achieving your greatest goal. You deny yourselves your own opportunities to seek perfection.

“Therefore I proclaim innocence to your charges and I do not recognize the authority from which they stem.”

Monday, June 20, 2016

The End is in sight

The draft of the final chapter has been completed. All that remains if the Prologue and Epilogue.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Chapter 34

The Myshkans are let out of the temple from where they have been under siege. Lyrin and Ony'a decide to go see Moku and figure out what they should do next. When they get there Ony'a is happy to see Erut once again. Omin and Avin are there with him. Moku explains to them all why he is willing to risk his life to help them. They decide that Lagos wants to be heard by the court and that they need to give him that chance.

An excerpt:

The doors of the temple were opened by the Myshkans trapped inside. The first light of the day was being pulled across the horizon like bright orange taffy wrapped in the green of the dipda/kovan canopy. Ony’a stepped out into the courtyard along with all the others who had been kept inside.

As promised, the soldiers were gone; the courtyard was quiet.

Ony’a felt lost. Her home was far away, her father was gone, and now her brother had been taken away. What was there left to fight for? Who was left to fight with? She thought of her brother and what might happen to him. Would they harm him.? Would they give him a fair trial?

She stepped further out into the courtyard to the platform where her brother had begun the ritual just a few days ago. Everything was still in place, just where Lagos had left it all before he ran to the temple. She sighed. It would have been wonderful if the ritual had gone through, if they had just ignored those banners taunting them from the columns. They could have felt a sense of pride again. Her people could have come together. Maybe that’s why Rin did it, she thought, to provoke us all so that we would fight instead of banding together. As long as we are kept separate we will be weak and ineffective. The Kevutians know that. The maceoran knows that, but we didn’t come to see what they were doing until it was too late. Now, everything from the ritual has been left here in the courtyard to remind us of our foolishness.

But not quite everything. Ony’a noticed that the three containers of colored dust were empty. Did they know? It would be a terrible mistake if the Kevutians discovered their secret. She tried to think who she could tell. She thought of Omin and Avin but had no idea where they were right now. Then, she thought of someone.

Ony’a heard the sound of Lyrin’s heavy steps behind her. She turned around.

“I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now,” Lyrin said. She said nothing in return. He put his hand on her shoulder easily covering it. “What do you want to do?”

Ony’a looked into the distance. “I want to help my brother.”

“But how do we do that?”

Ony’a turned to face Lyrin.

“I don’t know but I think there is someone who might.”

“Who would that be?” Lyrin asked.



“Oh, he’s a merchant that works near here.”

Lyrin dropped his hand and looked harder at her. “Your brother is about to go on trial and you want to go shopping.”

Ony’a just smiled. “You’re just going to have to trust me on this. Coming?”

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Chapter 33

Avin, Erut, and Omin make their way east. Omin explains how explosives are derived from the elements used during the ritual. Along the way they discover Riahn performing a ritual for other Kevutians, not Myshkans. Omin protests, saying the ritual is only for Myshkans but the others decide to just leave Riahn alone since he is causing no harm.

An excerpt.

Avin stood first and walked boldly into the circle, leaving her sacks behind. The other two followed. She looked at the people surrounding her and at a small table set in the middle. On it were several cups, some with oil, others with dirt. The Kevutian in the middle of the circle still held one cup while the fingers of one hand were topped with the dirt. The person he had been facing had a spot on her forehead glistening with oil.

“What are you doing?” Avin asked with a hint of anger in her voice.

With great calm and without reservation the Kevutian answered her. “I am anointing others into the Fellowship of the Free Yocugu.”

“You’re what?” Omin howled stepping forward with great annoyance. His motion was stopped by Avin’s outstretched arm landing squarely on his chest. He moaned as he hit the solid arm, then looked at its owner, but made no further movement.

Yocu is the spiritual inspiration of the Myshkans, not the Kevutians,” said Avin.

“The truth knows no race, no class, no distinction. It does not belong to one people and not to another. If it is not true for all, it is not true. It does not exist in only one corner of the universe. Its light shines on all, for all times, and in all places,” said the man.

Avin wrinkled her brow in confusion. She took the end of her torch and lit it using the light from one of the standing torches. “Who are you?” she said, looking into his face. He said nothing in return but looked at her with a calm serenity she had rarely seen before, especially from a Kevutian.

After a moment, the man said, “I am no one.”

Avin stepped closer to him. No one else moved. She studied the face of the man before her more intently. She noticed a long shadow on his left cheek: a scar. The man saw her interest in the deformity.

“An unfortunate gift from Pa’Crolas,” he said.

Avin stepped back from him in horror. “You are Riahn, the Tormentor, Commander of the Detention Center.”

The man only smiled. “Not anymore,” he whispered. “I am no one.”

Monday, June 13, 2016

Chapter 32

Avin and Omin find Erut walking the perimeter of the temple looking for them. They take him up into a secret reconnaissance area up in the trees known as The Aerie. Erut tells them what has happened at the Temple and what he thinks will come next. The two Myshkans show Erut a new kind of staff designed for actual fighting (rather than the old feud fighting). Omin spots several squads heading their way so they decide to leave into the darkness and escape.

An excerpt:

He wasn’t sure how it happened. One moment he was just walking along and the next he was face down in the dirt buried under a pile of dead leaves.

He had been heading north from Kodok province circling around the temple. He walked past the marketplace and noticed how empty it was. Next he passed Moku’s stand and remembered his first encounter with him. Continuing on, he crossed into Lukva Province and found himself in the only remaining copse of live trees left in the province. Most of the rest had been burned out or excavated to make room for Kevutian buildings and installations. He was glad to be in the woods after spending a great deal of time avoiding other Kevutians. Mostly he just told him he had been separated from his squad and was trying to find them. There were plenty of soldiers in the area, much more than usual, making it easy to blend in. Fortunately, no one seemed to recognize him.

He headed for the fields north of the temple when he felt a weight hit his back. Panicked, he pushed himself up from the ground and started swinging the shock wand he managed to obtain on his trek around the temple. Most Kevutian soldiers were quite skilled with their staff: swirling and spinning them in such a way that anyone unfortunate enough to be near one in motion would certainly suffer broken bones and a damaged ego. He tried to imitate that motion, but only succeeded in beaning himself on the side of his head. He held his head and looked up. There was no one there in front of him. In the very next instant all he saw was a whoosh of green as a leafy branch from the tree above smacked him hard on the face knocking him flat on his back. His face stung like he had just been smacked by a dozen angry grandmothers at once. He took a moment to open his eyes and when he did, he expected to see green leaves and sky, but, instead, saw a face looming over him.

Yea, it’s him,” Omin said, staring down at Erut.

“You sure?” came a voice in the trees. Erut recognized it as Avin’s.

Yea, I’m sure.”

Erut heard a body come sliding down from the trees and onto the ground. He could just barely make out the shape of Avin. She walked up to him so he could see her clearly.

“How did you ever make it out of Basic Training?” Avin asked Erut.

Erut eased himself up from the dirt with his hands. He felt sharp needles of pain follow his motions. Dead leaves crunched and shifted as he made his way up none too quietly. When he reached a sitting position he turned to look at Avin, but his neck didn’t let him turn his head completely. He groaned.

“Basic Training is a joke, nowadays,” Erut scratched out. “No one fails unless they hit an officer or say disparaging remarks about the SM.”

Omin moved from behind Erut’s head to the side opposite of Avin. “The SM? The sadomasochist?”

“The Supreme Magnate,” said Erut.

“Good guess,” Avin quipped to Omin.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Chapter 31

Rin gives the Myshkans under siege in the temple an ultimatum: they are to give up their leader. In exchange, the rest of the people will be let go. Lagos accepts the deal and is told he will be put on trial. His friends try to convince him not to do, that they can fight it out, but he tells them he wants to go and spare the suffering of everyone else.

An excerpt:

“Alright, we’re listening.” Lagos said. Someone had found a table and set it in the middle of the main hall so that everyone could stand around it and listen to the conversation. The only ones seated were Lagos at one end and Maceoran Rin at the other.

“Look,” said Rin. “I know you may not believe me, but it is really not in the interest of either of us to start a war.”

“Don’t want to get your butts busted back to your little rock?” Lyrin mumbled from above and behind some of the observers gathered around the table. Lagos shot him a glance that told him to button it tight. Rin pretended not to hear it.

“I appreciate you saying that, Maceoran Rin. I think we are all weary of fighting.”

Ony’a stepped up behind her brother and placed her hands on his shoulder. “Wouldn’t the simplest path to peace be to just let us go?”

The maceoran placed her fingers together almost as if prayer, then leaned forward. She touched the edge of her fingertips against her lips in a gesture of deep thought. “Oh, that it were so simple, my dear,” she said. “But it is not. You see, I have superiors to answer to and they have their own superiors and, of course, we all have the Supreme Magnate. They will want to know what we have done here to take control of the situation; they will ask who will pay for the incursion, how we will restore order.”

“I’m sure they will listen to you,” said Lagos. “You are, after all, a maceoran.”

“This may be true, but I did not get here solely on my charms and eloquence, abundant as they may be,” she smirked. “I, too, must follow orders. Those orders include maintaining peace and assuring that disruptions to that peace are dealt with.”

Lyrin pushed past the people in front of him whose forms were now knocking down several others surrounding them. “If you hadn’t put your arrogant banners of conquest on our temple, we…”

Rin’s face reddened as she forced herself to remain in control. Lagos rose from his seat and stood directly in front of Lyrin.

Lyrin!” Lagos barked. “I need someone to go to the front doors and keep watch!”

“But…” said Lyrin gesturing in the direction of the maceoran.

“I know,” said Lagos. “But this is not the time.” He looked up at the sacred walls and the high vaulted ceiling. “This is not the place.”

Lyrin looked at the unmoving woman at the table and then back at his friend staring him down. He huffed then relented. His hulking mass moved toward the front doors.

“You see?” said Rin indignantly. “This is precisely what the button pushers on Kevutu think of you. You are rash and untrustworthy. You do not understand that you are now part of the Great Conglomerate. All of this…” She raised her hands above her to indicate the temple itself. “Is also part of the Conglomerate.”

Friday, June 3, 2016

Chapter 30

We are introduced to a committee meeting of people on yet another planet. This one is called Ardis and on it Talib Jamanour leads a discussion of the current condition of all the planets in the cluster. They discuss the growing influence of Kevutu over the rest of the planets. They seem concerned about the loss of independence throughout the different cultures living under the rule of Yaves III. Talib listens to all the reports and then decides that he needs to tell the Elders that it is time to take action.

A quote:

“So, we gather once again,” Talib said. None of the others responded nor did they look ready to begin any conversation with him. “OK, reports, please.” Still no one moved so Talib looked to the person on his left. “Why don’t we begin with you, Hector?”

Hector Caheleru sat in a long dark gray robe and searched out the faces of those around him. “I think most of you already know about what is happening on Kevutu. Not much has changed since the last cycle except to get worse. The population has exploded exponentially, their resources are nearly depleted, and poverty and suffering is rampant.”

“Yet the people take no initiative to improve their situation,” added Talib.

“Yaves III has tightened control beyond what any reasonable person might call tolerable through fear, intimidation, and the subtle manipulation of their corp idolizing religion. As you know the Supreme Magnate has set off a campaign of domination throughout the cluster. Their efforts have made it possible for their population to expand to other worlds where they dominate the people while extracting their resources.”

“Yes, we are all well aware of their intentions. Any signs that there may be a change in policy or circumstance?”

“None. They have been unimpeded so far and feel emboldened enough to continue on their goal of total occupation.”

Groans and whispers followed the words uttered by Hector. As representative of the planet of Kevutu, it was his responsibility to send agents to that planet and compile a report for this committee. His reports were rarely full of good news.

“Thank you, Hector,” said Talib. “Jakobe?”

Faces around the table turned their attention to the representative next in line around the table. A dark skinned man in an indigo colored robe sat calmly though not content. Like all the others in the room he sat wrapped fully in his cloak so that only his hands and face shown–neither of which possessed any hair.

“I can report nothing of much importance since our last meeting,” said Jakobe. His words were heavy both with cycles of concern behind them and with the focused and meticulous manner in which he formed his words. The Kevutians are in control of the Chotian people and their resources. What spirit they had in them to fight has either died out or been annulled through their religious education. We have documented for them the brief history of their first act of defiance, the first in the Cluster, so that it might not be eradicated by the Kevutians. The Chotians are insular people and are happy enough to cooperate if they are left alone. Many of them are satisfied with the arrangement.”

“I see,” said Talib. He lowered his head in thought. “It’s a strange twist of irony that the first planet to resist the occupiers is also the first to capitulate to their demands and the least dissatisfied with their treatment.”