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A Merry Lone Wolf Christmas

The Lone Wolf book cover

The Lone Wolf book cover

I decided to share a short scene from my newest sci-fi, The Maker book 3 in the Lone Wolf series. The crew of the Flotilla and Hannibal have been gone from known space for nearly five years. In that time, Chairman Emmelia Spenser has missed Captain Ben Drexel, who protected her from Riley and his power hungry moves. It’s Christmas Eve and she misses him more than ever.

Gazing at the clock on the wall of her lavish living room, Emmelia Spenser, Chairman of the Mining Guild, watched the hands creep toward midnight. Drinking a silent toast to absent friends, she tried not to cry.

“Oh, Ben,” she whispered to the air, “Where are you tonight and what are you doing? Are you thinking of me as I think of you?”

She rose, walking to the window of her penthouse apartment, high on top of the Mining Guild Tower. The tropical setting seemed incongruous to the occasion. Instead of snowy slopes, she gazed into the crystal clear ocean. Lost in its depths, she sighed.

Tonight she’d been obligated by her position, to host an expensive party for all the somebodies in the Mining Guild. Emmelia had been the perfect hostess, paying extravagant and insincere compliments to the hideous wife of the head of the Miner’s Consortium. All the while harboring unkind thoughts that the woman looked more like a troll than a lady of wealth and substance.

All the board members were present, their trophy wives in tow. She couldn’t keep track of them any more. They all looked alike: blonde from a bottle, boobs by design, pouty lips, long legs and tiny little brains. They dripped furs, jewels, gold, platinum and other choice tidbits given them by their filthy rich husbands. Usually, there was a new one every other year and they all had names like Buffy or Tippy or Missy.Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00022]

Emmelia hadn’t been alone at her party, of course. There were any number of eligible men willing to escort the most powerful woman in the Mining Guild to a posh soirée. The one tonight, Brett, had was smarter, handsomer, better put together than most—but he wasn’t Ben. But few men could measure up to Benjamin Drexel, the former Marine Captain. He’d stolen her heart nearly four years ago when Wil sent him on assignment to protect her from Riley.

Brett had made the expected advances. Emmelia had repulsed them until she had too much champagne to drown her sorrows, then she gave in. He was several cuts above the average hanger-on, but he had to compete with the memory of Ben.

She had hoped that Ben would be back from his mission by now, or at the very least she would hear from him. But there were no messages and she was still alone.

“Tomorrow,” she whispered hopefully, “I’ll hear from Ben.”

A final sip of champagne and she made her way to bed, where Brett slept, looking for all the world like a child. She wondered how old he really was, twenty-five, twenty-six? Did it matter? He kept the bed warm, didn’t drool and didn’t snore. Slipping quietly back into bed, she curled up next to him, facing the door, crying gently.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00020]Brett must have sensed her presence, perhaps even heard her crying. He rolled over, putting his arm protectively around her, cuddling up behind her, breath warm on her neck. Tears fell anew, as she remembered how Ben did the same thing.

“Tomorrow,” she thought as she fell asleep, “Tomorrow—”

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

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The Fine Handcrafted Trailer

The following is a short story that is a spin off of my sci-fi series. This story shows the main character, Wil VanLipsig, as a little boy, before life grew hard and he found his dreams and innocence shattered.

Wil walked through the seaside resort with his maternal grandmother. He was nine years old. For his birthday present, his father, Pyle had allowed her to take him to the capitol city of Aenias Drax. It had been an amazing trip, full of adventures and fun. His grandmother took him to all the historical landmarks, famous buildings, museums, art galleries and concerts she could find. Although the smaller towns were provincial and stayed, this was a bustling, lively metropolis.

To Wil it had been like heaven, the most beautiful place on earth! Tree lined sidewalks skirted canals that were clear and clean, sparkling in the sunlight. Small cafés were scattered everywhere, dotted with striped umbrellas of yellow, blue, pink and green. Flowers grew  in pots and window boxes. Splashes of color caught the eye, dragging it artistically to the focal point of every garden. Wil’s sense of smell was acute even then, and he was able to pick put the different scents of each flower.

Walking one day from one museum to the next, they came upon a small building that sat directly on the edge of the canal. No bridge crossed the water, and a large garden stretched for nearly three blocks west of the canal. Wil could not see the other side, it was so large. Consulting their map, they could see that nearly a quarter of a mile of garden lay between them and their goal. Wil was anxious to see the displays at the next museum, and did not want to walk around because it would take them so much longer to get there. There was a man standing by a gate in the garden fence. He was letting people through, smiling and tipping his hat.

Wil’s grandmother approached him. “May we get through your lovely garden? It’s a long walk around and the boy is tired.”

Smiling, the old man answered her. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, this is the exit. Only way to get in the garden is from the south entrance. You’ll have to go around.”

“Can we go through the building?” She pointed to her left with her white gloved hand.

“Well now, you can try,” the old man said with a shrug.

“Thank you, we shall,” she said and took Wil by the hand, leading him to the business doors.

It was a pretty building, all glass windows and white painted French doors. When she opened the door, a tiny brass bell tinkled.

A strange sight met their eyes. To Wil, everything he had seen in this city was unique and new, but this was peculiar even to him.

They stood in a small, cobble lined foyer. To their left was a set of large windows overlooking the canal. To their right was a beautiful, delicately tooled wooden bench whose scroll work was dusted with gold leaf. Behind it was the wall of an elderly looking, wooden building. Directly ahead of them was a small picket fence that sat upon a wall, making the entire edifice about four and a half feet tall. Two small, cement steps led up to the fence. An old man, similar to the one outside, sat on the other side, reading a newspaper. He was hunched over in his chair, reading glasses perched on the end of his nose.

He did not look up when they entered, just kept reading. As Wil and his grandmother approached the fence, his hand hit a lever and a short, yellow gate, like the kind at a railroad crossing, came down in front of them at the top of the steps.

Undaunted, his grandmother approached, opening her handbag. She extracted several bills and offered them to the man. He looked askance at her, shifted in his chair and flipped his newspaper.

“May we please come through?” Wil’s grandmother used her most sweet and charming voice. Her look was expressive of a willingness to comply.

“Nope! Got to come into the garden from the south. Ain’t coming through here.”

“But we don’t want to see the gardens. We’re passing through. The child is tired and anxious to see the art museum on Brach Street. Surely we could walk through your building to save steps?

“Nope!” He looked at her over his glasses. “What’s that you’re doing?”

He was glaring at her hand. She had rested it on one arm of the delicate, wooden bench to her right. As if she had been stung, she pulled her hand away.

“I’m terribly sorry. May we pass?”

“Nope! You look careless to me. You might scratch my fine, handcrafted trailer.”

He jerked his head to his left. They saw that the building to their right was indeed a small trailer that was lined with light gold wooden paneling. It already looked quite scratched. The other old man wandered in and out of the door, brushed against the wall, and passed into the garden on the other side. He seemed to be laughing. The doors opposite them opened. Tourists entered, turned left and passed into the garden, brushing past the back end of the trailer.

“I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous in all my life!” Wil’s grandmother was getting angry. Two bright spots of color rose in her cheeks as she stuffed her money away.

Wil, being only a child, wandered up the steps, slipped past the yellow guard gate and down the other side. He sat on a bench looking out the window at the canal. The old man hardly seemed to notice. Wil’s grandmother stood paralyzed with anger.

“You’ve just let my grandson past!”

“Yep. He’s small, he won’t scratch my fine, handcrafted trailer.”

“I won’t scratch it either! Now raise this ridiculous gate and let me take my grandson and leave!”

The old man scowled at her over his reading glasses. “Nope. Ain’t gonna let ya pass. You might scratch…”

“Your fine, handcrafted trailer! I got that part! If you won’t let me in, let my grandson out!”

“He can wait here while you walk around.”

“He can’t! He’s just a little child! This is a big city and I don’t know you! Now let him out!”

A young couple walked through the other door. Wil had the impression that the woman was beautiful, with blond hair. The man wore a bright red shirt. He didn’t really look at them, but gazed out the window. His grandmother continued to fuss at the old man. The young couple stopped and stared.

“Very well,” his grandmother sighed heavily. “You leave me no choice. Wil!”

He looked up at his grandmother. She wore her no-nonsense-will-be-tolerated face, the one she wore when she was about to do or say something extremely important. When she looked like that, he was to do exactly what she said, no questions. He faced her, solemn and quiet.

“Wilhelm, go over to the trailer. Take out your pocket knife and scratch the hell out of it!”

Startled, he did not react right away. Hand at his pocket, he stared at her a moment. Then instinct took over and he walked obediently to the wall of the trailer, grabbed his knife and extended his hand toward the wall before the old man had a chance to react.

“Now look here!” He rose, dropping his paper to the ground. “Stop that!” He grabbed Wil by the collar of his shirt, yanking his feet off the floor.

The young man stepped forward and grabbed the old man by his collar. He could not lift him off the floor, but he was enough taller he was able to make the old fellow stand on his toes.

“Here now, you can’t do that to a little kid! Let him go!”

Wil’s grandmother used the distraction to raise the gate and follow Wil over the wall to the other side. Deftly, she extracted her grandson’s collar from the startled old man. Thanking the young man for his assistance, she spun Wil toward the door and propelled him forward, crashing through like a bulldozer.

Over her shoulder she called loudly, “Your fine, handcrafted trailer is already scratched, you old coot! And by the way,” she turned to face him, still gripping Wil’s hand tightly. “It’s made in a factory in our town, and they don’t craft them by hand!”

Lifting Wil nearly off the ground, she stormed off toward the museum. They had walked only a few blocks when another café came into view. Wil’s grandmother made directly for it, and ordered a glass of lemonade and a plate of cookies for Wil.

“And I’ll have whiskey,” she told the waiter. “Neat.”

The waiter brought their order, she paid him and gave him a handsome tip to keep her drinks coming. “Wilhelm,” she told him in her no-nonsense-will-be-tolerated voice. “You are never to speak to another living soul about this as long as you live.” She did not mean the incident with the old man, rather the fact that she was drinking whiskey.

They had never gone anywhere near the large garden with the grumpy guard again, but it was such a vivid memory for Wil, it drove much of the rest he had seen that day completely out of his mind. However, from time to time when they were alone, Wil would crack a wicked grin at her, and say, “Grandma, do you remember the yellow gate?”

© 2011 Dellani Oakes

A Little White Lie – Part 18

The mission isn’t going exactly as Wil had hoped. He’s already lost a few men and he still hasn’t found Aurialonus. However, they have rescued the royal family and Wil got to have a cool knife fight. Things are looking up. Now, if he could simply find the wretched dictator, he’d be happy.

Wil looked around for Emory and didn’t see him. Ben didn’t appear alarmed, so he waited. Emory came back a few moments later, smiling smugly. A whispered conference with the king, who smiled and nodded, and the grin widened. He trotted up to Wil.

“Royal stables to the south. Twenty-five thoroughbred horses, all saddled by the grooms. They are still loyal to the family and as soon as I explained what we were doing, they were happy to help. The guards there are no longer a problem.”

He chuckled remembering the short, brutal battle that had taken place. Pitchforks and riding crops made formidable weapons in the right hands.

“Can all of them ride?” Wil asked hopefully.

Emory nodded, “Yes, sir. The king confirmed it.”

“Get them out of here. Ben, you’re with me. We’ve got to find Aurialonus.”

Ben’s lips snapped shut on his comments, knowing it would be pointless to interject common sense. He gestured for the others to leave.

“Contact base camp when you get off the palace grounds. They’ll meet you,” Ben told Lance.

“Good luck,” Emory said, suddenly worried. He looked as if he wanted to speak to Wil, but there was no time for him to find the right words.

Later, he promised himself, he would talk to Wil and try to explain. If there was a later. Sighing inwardly, he squared his shoulders and took point, leading the way to the stables across the gardens. The men in the garden were still out, but the gas would last only another ten to fifteen minutes. They hustled along, careful where they trod, even a gassed man would wake if someone fell on him.

Wil and Ben exchanged a look, which in Wil’s case could have meant anything. Ben’s was one of puzzlement. Aurialonus had never been the main objective, but Wil was determined. Probably his bizarre code of ethics again.

“How do you propose to find the lunatic? He could be anywhere.”

“He’s still here.”

“How do you know?”

Wil shrugged, moving his weapon to the other hand as he drew a cheroot from his shirt pocket and lit it. “Matter of pride. He’d never give up when he’s come so far. To him, the palace represents power. Even without hostages, he considers himself as King. He’ll stay.”

“What a putz.”

“Yeah, well no one said he was smart.”

They were picking their way across the ballroom; empty save for dead bodies. They had no light, but each man moved with confidence in the dark.

“Got to be a safe room somewhere, a bolt hole,” Wil wended his way toward the servants stairway at the back of the house. There was a veritable warren of these, he knew since the blue-prints of the castle were feeding through his cybereye.

A Little White Lie – part 14

Finally on their mission, the team is now going after their various objectives. Wil’s hoping all will run smoothly, like clockwork. Why is it that things rarely run like the scenarios?

The second shot was successful and Emory went across followed by Wil, Bennett, and Krall. Lance, Ben and Billy headed down via the ropes Emory had attached. They repelled along the inner face of the wall, landing lightly at the bottom. They were on the wrong side of the building and had to go around. At Ben’s command, they moved cautiously into the confines of the gardens.

Wil watched until he lost track of them in the dark. Motioning the men forward, he sent Krall and Bennett through the adjoining suite. He clamored over the balcony railing after Emory, who was already squatting by the door. Holding up a hand, Emory showed five fingers, then added two more. Seven people inside.

Using a soft tap on his mike to signal Wil they were in place, Bennett indicated four more outside the door. There were usually six, so where were the other two?

A little sleeping gas and the guards went down. The door to the suite was unlocked, but Krall stopped before entering, checking carefully for booby traps. His paranoia was elevated, this place gave him the creeps. Whole mission stank like bullshit!

Wil was not the only one equipped with a cybereye. Krall’s was specifically attuned to explosives and their components. Having the capacity to record and retain information he came across, it was quite sophisticated. The man’s expertise in tandem with it made it nearly infallible.

He saw a trip line, a single strand of filament, thin as a golden hair, running across the base of the doorframe. He signaled Wil to hold and checked more carefully, finding this was merely a dummy. The real trap was further up, and not very high tech, but surely lethal.

Around the door frame, holes had been drilled and filled with lead pellets. If the door opened without the thumb print of one of the guards, it would explode. “Explains why it wasn’t locked,” he thought.

Ripping the glove off a guard, he held it up to the scanner. A green light flickered on and the door eased open soundlessly.

The other two guards were inside and had not been affected by the sleep gas. Leaping at them unexpectedly from the dark, the two Marines hardly had time to yell before they were down. Enough sound escaped Krall’s lips for Wil to hear him. None of the team would have broken radio silence if it wasn’t important, so Wil and Emory prepared to enter the chamber from the balcony.

Easing the door open, they crept in low, but Emory hadn’t thought to check for explosive devises like Krall had. Had they been upright, their heads would have been taken off. As it was, shrapnel flew in dozens of directions, stinging their skin through their protective clothing.

“Wil, two!” Bennett gasped, his breath ending in a guttural gagging noise. Wil knew he was dead. Nothing more was heard from Krall.

The two guards attacked Emory and Wil as soon as the smoke cleared. If they had thought to shoot the two interlopers, they might have been successful, but they rushed them instead, knives out, brandishing them wildly.

The guard nearest Wil fell suddenly, scrabbling at his throat. Blood went everywhere. The second guard hesitated a moment too long, Emory took him out with a projectile hook to the eye. The man’s head exploded as the hook expanded in his skull.

Another guard lunged at Wil from the shadows, flailing his arms furiously. Yet another leaped from the opposite side of the room, jumping Emory from behind. As Wil blocked the flurry of blows from his assailant, he realized these and the first two accounted for only four of the seven original occupants.

The guard threw a lucky punch, getting in under Wil’s guard landing on his chest. With a howl, the man fell back, clutching his knuckles. He had hit Wil’s utility and ammunition belt that was strapped across his chest.

“Hurts, doesn’t it?”

The guard looked up in surprise as Wil’s fingers came up and jabbed him in the throat. He collapsed with a wheeze, eyes rolling up in his head.

Emory was not fairing well. The guard was somewhat shorter than Wil, but about thirty pounds heavier. Wil ended the disagreement with his blade to the back of the man’s neck. The guard collapsed, spurting blood all over Emory and Wil.

With the back of his hand, Wil wiped his face, smearing the blood in ruddy streaks. A quick look around the room showed him that they were alone, except for corpses. The bed was empty! Where the hell was Aurialonus?

A Little White Lie – Part 13

It’s now or never for Wil and his team. Things change rapidly when dealing with a psychopath. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Word came after dinner that Aurialonus had changed plans. The youngest daughter was to be executed the next morning if his demands weren’t met. In addition, he’d demanded fifty million Uberbucks, the standard denomination of cash on Starflatz.

“That’s roughly seventeen thousand Galactic,” Krall told them. “Stupid lunatic can’t even ask for a decent amount of cash. Uberbucks aren’t negotiable anywhere but Starflatz. Does he actually think he’s gonna stick around once he’s got it? Moron,” he muttered. “What bullshit!”

“He’s not gonna get to spend it anyway,” Wallace pointed out as he gathered his gear. “We’re gonna kill him first, right?”

“A fool and his money are soon parted,” was Bennett’s contribution. The others stared at him. “What? I ran out of stuff to read in the brig, so I started a book of quotations.”

The team loaded into a shuttle which took them down to the planet. They landed at the one spaceport which was not held by Aurialonus’ troops and set up their base there. If anything went wrong, Ray would call the ship and Penny and Ishanti would go in, guns blazing.

Penny pulled Wil aside, apart from the others. Kissing him hurriedly, she gazed intently into his eyes. “Don’t die on me!” She whispered intently.

Wil allowed himself a moment of pure emotion, the last he would have until the operation was over. He kissed her deeply, all his unexpected desires for her expressed in that one act.

“You be safe,” he told her.

He turned to the rest of the team, switching to professional mode. A last glance at Penny and Wil disappeared into the darkness.

Aurialonus wasn’t too smart setting up his security. The prisoners were easily accessible on the ground floor on the back side of the palace which was flanked by the royal gardens.

Their surveillance showed no more than ten armed guards near the prisoners and about that many more on the second floor where Aurialonus slept—most of whom were outside his door. They weren’t guarding the balcony, positioned on the roof or any of a dozen other places Wil would’ve put people.

However, bivouacked around the palace grounds were several hundred soldiers who worshiped the ground Aurialonus trod upon. Since these soldiers and guards prayed every three hours even during the night, timing was dicey. Wil chose to go in two hours before dawn. Most of the soldiers were asleep and the guards were drowsy after being up all night watching the prisoners, guarding their leader and, in the middle of it all, praying fervently.

First they had to get over the seventeen foot wall circling the palace compound. Eight feet thick and made of native stone, it was nearly as hard as a diamond. Time for the monkey to earn his keep.

Emory produced lengths of fine, strong filament and fastened one to a grapnel hook attached to his weapon. Taking careful aim, he shot. A dull thunk and the hook automatically expanded in the stone, anchoring it safely. Emory scrambled up to lower lines for the team.

Watching the little man scamper up the line, Wil felt a shiver of doubt tickle his spine. It would be just as easy for Emory to alert the guards and have them waiting at the top of the wall.

A line dropped in front of Wil. Lance had another line in front of him and a third a few minutes later fell in front of Ben. Two men to a line, they scrambled up, lying flat on the wall before dropping to the ramparts. Emory was nowhere to be seen.

Wil switched to his cybereye, incorporating a special tracking feature. A sophisticated tracer located Emory a few feet away, moving toward the second story rooms of the palace. He was looking for vantage point from the wall to the balcony outside Aurialonus’ chambers.

Signaling the team, Emory attached another line to his gun mounted hook. He had chosen a spot where the palace was slightly closer to the wall. A quick scan with Wil’s cybereye showed that room was empty. Emory took careful aim, pulled the trigger and watched the hook and line play out across the empty space. It was the merest whisper in the dark, followed by a metallic chink of metal against metal, rather than the dull thunk of hitting stone. Wil and Ben exchanged a glance. That might have been heard.

The team lay flat on their bellies until Wil did a short recon. Using his cybereye, he checked for movement among the guards. Nothing. With a nod, he told Emory to try again.

Excerpt from “The Lone Wolf”

I’ve always loved the following scene because it makes me laugh. I also like the pacing and dialog – probably because several of my favorite characters are in it. Wil has just introduced Matilda to some of his oldest friends, the Fellician warriors. These huge cat people are fierce mercenaries with whom he and Marc have often teamed up. Matilda isn’t quite sure what the make of them at first. This scene takes place in a restaurant when they all go out for dinner.

Caprilla’s musical voice filled Matilda with warmth. He held out his hand, long fingered and velvety. The feathery fur tickled her fingers like a living thing. He bent his head over her hand, kissing it lightly. His whiskers sent a thrill down her spine. He looked into her face with his clear, blue eyes.

“Friend Wil, this is an amazing lady you have here. Were I an evil fellow, I would fight you for her.” He purred over the last word, his tongue trilling the ‘r’ seductively.

“Aw, hell, Cap. It’s not polite to kill your friend before dinner. I guess you will just have to leave her with me for now.” He chuckled, taking her by the hand. “Don’t mind him, Romance, he’s always been a joker.” He protectively tugged her closer to him.

Caprilla purred deep in his throat, his voice rumbling like thunder. “I never kid about anything, Captain Romance. I have no sense of humor.”

The restaurant was a little crowded, but they were able to get a table on the dock overlooking the water. Matilda tried not to stare at the Fellicians, but they fascinated her. She had see non-human races before, but she had never met these amazingly beautiful cat people. She was surprised to find that many of them were mercenaries.

“We are naturally a warrior race, but too long we fought one another. The race was dying off, so our elders put us into mercenary service. We fight side by side with our females.” He bared his teeth at Escascia. “They give us much fight off the battlefield too. Friend Marc, do your females fight when you mate?”

Marc burst into loud laughter, spewing his wine on the table. Giggling, he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “Well, some of them do, Cavitus. Others make demands about what they want us to do and we comply or we might not get any.”

Cavitus looked amazed. “Your females talk to you like that? Do you not beat them?”

Wil chuckled, looking uneasy. “If I tried to hit Romance, she’d cut my balls off.”

Matilda felt as if she’d like to melt into a puddle, dribble through the deck and mingle with the waters below. Cavitus looked on with intense interest.

“But she is so small! I am interested in how your species manages to copulate. Sometime I would like to see just how….”

He was ready to embark on a long discussion when the waiter arrived. After they ordered, Cavitus was ready to take up the conversation, but Wil held up a hand to stop him.

“My friend, I know that among your people such matters are openly discussed. But we humans don’t generally discuss our mating habits in public. If sometime you would like to finish this conversation in private, I will be happy to answer any questions you have. However, I think you are making my lady extremely uncomfortable.”

Cavitus rose from his seat, bowing deeply, nearly knocking over three people, his tail smacking another diner in the back of the head. “I have brought shame on my people, Lone Wolf. I ask the kind forgiveness of this lovely Captain Romance. Sometimes my mouth says things before my brain can catch up.”

He bowed again, taking Matilda’s hand in his, kissing it gently. He sniffed her hand delicately. “She smells very good, Friend Wil. Does she taste as good?”

Wil laughed loudly, causing trepidation among the diners. “Yes, she does. Now, no more, Cavitus. I don’t think my sides can handle it.”

A few minutes later, their food arrived. Sensing that raw meat would be little appreciated by some of their table mates, the Fellicians ordered their steaks rare. Wil’s was almost as bloody. Only Matilda and Marc had their meat brown all the way through.

Wil looked at Marc oddly. “Since when do you eat your meat like that? I’ve seen people beg you to hit it again before it moos.”

Marc cleared his throat, scratched his beard and rubbed his nose before answering. “Well, after being on the station with Romance, I kind of got used to it.”

Caprilla closely scrutinized Marc and Matilda for a moment. “She is your woman, Friend Marc? I thought she belonged to Friend Wil.”

Marc looked extremely embarrassed. “Well, she and I, uh, worked together before she met Wil.” He mumbled.

The huge black cat looked skeptical. “So, she was your woman and you gave her to him? That is a very kind thing to do, Friend Marc. If you require a female, I am sure Ariella or Escascia would happily comply. I believe the genitalia are compatible.”

Matilda had never seen Marc blush, but she did now. It was as if all the blood from his feet came rushing to his face. He bowed politely to the ladies.

“I appreciate the offer, good friends, but I assure you there is no need.”

Caprilla was about to continue but hesitated, clearly at a loss as to how to proceed.

“Marc is interested in Commander Grammery,” Matilda interjected, figuring it was her turn to do the embarrassing.

Caprilla pricked up his ears and eyed Marc speculatively. “That woman on the bridge with you? Oh, an excellent choice, Friend Marc. She is very pretty. I think the expression you would employ to describe such a woman is ‘smoking hot’?”

“Cap,” Wil came to Marc’s rescue. “Why don’t you bring us up to date on what you’ve been doing for the last sixty years.”

Caprilla chuckled, taking the lead that was given. “That would take much more time than we have. But I will say that we have fought bravely and won many battles. I have heard some of what Marc has done over the years. What have you done to keep busy?”

Wil didn’t answer right away. He stared expressionlessly gathering his thoughts. He had a rare moment where memories flooded over him, the blood, gore and violence would have made most other men ill.

“Much the same as before, but by myself now.” He exchanged a meaningful look with Caprilla, who dropped the subject quite abruptly.

Conversation lagged slightly as they ate, but the Fellicians drank a lot of wine and became much more frolicsome as the evening wore on. Wil and Marc drank as much as the Fellicians, but did not show any signs of it. Matilda got the impression they could have consumed twice as much as the Cats and not felt the effects at all. Unused to drinking much, she stopped after the first two rounds, already feeling giddy and lightheaded.

The females grew more frisky as they neared the end of dinner. By the time dessert was ordered, they both had assignations with two of the male team members. As the two Fellician couples rose to leave, saying their goodnights. Caprilla exchanged a look with Marc.

“My friend, I believe we two old tom cats will be left alone. I vote for sitting here till we fall into a drunken stupor.”

Marc chuckled, slapping Caprilla on the back heartily. A lesser man would have been flat on his face. The big black cat hardly felt it.

“No, Cap, this joint is too tame. I know more interesting places, I’ll show you around.”

Caprilla insisted on paying for dinner. “It was my invitation. I will fight anyone who argues.” Caprilla bared his ferocious teeth, growling menacingly.

Several other diners called immediately for their checks, too terrified to remain. Marc and Wil laughed loudly in unison, disturbing the other guests even more.

“Cap, you’ll fight anyone for any reason,” Wil teased.

“But of course, that is the way of a warrior, is it not? We fight for glory, honor and….”

He, Wil and Marc intoned together, raising their glasses high, “A big ass paycheck! Oohrah!” They drained their glasses, setting them down with a loud click.

“The Lone Wolf” – excerpt

The following is an excerpt from my novel, “The Lone Wolf”, due out later this year.  A friend of mine asked for an excerpt, so I decided to post it here.   ~ Dellani

CALL ME ROMANCE

(July 1, 3032)

Lights on the computer console flashed, catching her attention. The bridge was dark since only the bots were supposed to be at work. Matilda checked the instruments carefully.

“Rubee, lights,” she told the ship’s computer.

“Initiating. Welcome, Commander Dulac.”

The lights came up slowly allowing her eyes to adjust. There was a flicker of movement on one of her screens. Why was a mining unit on approach? Curious, she activated the Tri-D viewer, focusing on an incoming ship. None of the miners were due until 0800. Glancing at the chronometer, she saw it was only 0230.

“Mine Unit One, what is your status?”

Getting only static in reply, Matilda zoomed the viewer trying to get a visual on the pilot. The mining station’s automatic hails were being ignored. Long fingers flew over the keypad as she tried to figure out what the hell was going on.

“Mine Unit One, do you have an emergency?”

Nothing. Hitting her comlink, she beeped Marc Slatterly’s cabin.  “Captain!”

“Hmph?” She could picture him lying naked in the bed where she’d left him twenty minutes ago. “What? Matilda? Where the hell are you?” He hit the visual, rubbing his face to wake up.

“The bridge. We’ve got a problem. Get up here.”

“What?” Suddenly all business, he rose abruptly, searching for his pants.

“Unit One. Billy’s coming in hot and erratic. He’s not answering hails.”

“You know Guild protocol, Matilda.” He struggled into his pants, getting tangled as he tried to put his feet through.

She exhaled slowly, wiping her brow. She knew protocol as well as he, but in the ten years of Mining Guild service she’d never had to use regulation seventeen – destruction of a manned vessel. Until now….

“Maybe his comlink is borked.”

“Hail him a third time, then initiate protocol.”

“Are you coming?”

“On my way.” He didn’t bother to finish dressing. Grabbing his gun belt, he took off at top speed to the lift.

“Mine Unit One,” Matilda continued. “Slow your approach or I will enact Guild Regulation Seventeen. Do you copy?”

More static. She keyed in the coded sequence necessary to transfer the miner’s load to the cargo hold. Taking a deep breath, she tried once more.

“Mine Unit One, this is your final warning before I implement your self-destruct.” Tapping her comlink, she prayed Marc would answer.

“On my way, baby. I can go only so fast. Damn lift is slow.”

“Shit. I used the transporter.”

“There went my power. You know the drill, Commander.”

“Yes, sir.”

She lifted the clear Lucite lid over the red destruct button, hands shaking as she keyed in the final sequence.

“Mine Unit One, Billy? Can you hear me? Slow down!” Still no answer. “Don’t make me do this,” she whispered as her finger pressed the button.

The miner’s craft imploded, folding on itself like a deflated balloon. Biting her lip, blinking back tears, she turned away. Marc walked onto the bridge a second later, eyes glued to the screen. Taking her in his arms, he held her while she cried.

“You had to do it, Matilda. You had no choice. Look at his trajectory. He’d have come right through us.”

“I never had to do it before.” She wiped the tears fiercely away. And to a friend.

Marc checked the console, securing the destruct button without a word. Taking a life was never easy, but he’d grown used to it over time. Years as a Galactic Marine had hardened him. More as a Mining Guild officer had taken the sting out of senseless killing, but the first one was always the worst.

Taking her shoulders, he turned her to face him. “You did your job, Matilda. Sometimes that’s not easy.” Puzzled, he paused, looking around. “Why are you up?”

“Something didn’t feel right. I came up to check it out.” She shrugged, pressing against him as his arms held her.

“You’re like me. Your hunches are rarely wrong. I don’t know how I missed it.”
She smiled up at him, rabbit punching his ribs. “I wore your ass out.”

Chuckling, he had to agree. “How about we go back to bed and let me try to get even?”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “I need something to take my mind off….”

Marc slung an arm around her shoulders, kissing the top of her head. “I reckon I can distract you for an hour or two.” He chuckled, white teeth flashing through the confines of his dark red beard.

Back in his cabin, they wiled away the next hour. Afterward, though she was tired, she couldn’t go back to sleep. Something still felt wrong, like an instrument played off key. Now that there was nothing to occupy her mind, she focused on her misgivings. She wanted to wake Marc so she would have some distraction, but one look at his sleeping face told her that was unlikely. He didn’t sleep much, but when it did, it was deep.

Instead, Matilda rose and showered, dressing in a fresh uniform. She intended to go back to her own quarters after kissing him goodnight, but her feet took her to the cargo bay. As she approached, the creeping feeling on her skin grew worse, the hairs on her neck rising. Something wasn’t right, but she couldn’t determine what. Pulling herself away from the doors, she ran to the bridge, calling up the ship’s manifest.

There it was, plain as the nose on her face. There was a load of Trimagnite ore collected from the destroyed mine unit. In a panic, she buzzed Marc’s quarters.

“What the hell? Romance, where are you up to now?”

“Get dressed and get up here now! It’s urgent.”

“Again? Dammit, can’t I get some sleep?”

“Not if you want to live.”

Within five minutes, he joined her. She gave him a cup of joe to clear his befuddlement. Gulping it down, he made a face, but in a few seconds, he was clearheaded as she told him what she’d found, showing him the scan. Trimagnite had a very distinctive pattern.

“Damn! What was he thinking? He didn’t have the equipment or storage capability for this. Digging that shit without proper shielding is lethal!”

“So, what do we do? Trimagnite can make us all go nuts! Why didn’t he tell us?” Her voice held a note of panic.

“We both know the raw ore is not only toxic, it’s a very strong neuro-stimulant. I’m surprised he lived long enough to get it to the ship. I’m contacting Commandant Riley. We can’t carry this, we’re only minimally shielded. Even if we’d known ahead of time, we’re not prepared to transport it.”

His fingers flew over his keypad as he sat at the console, waiting impatiently to connect. Matilda stood nearby, hugging herself. Knowing it was Trimagnite didn’t make her feel any better, in fact she felt worse. Everyone in the galaxy knew the damaging effects of the semi-liquid ore; disorientation, hallucinations, madness and death. Once the process started, there was no halting it. They would die – horribly.

Lost in her thoughts, Matilda hadn’t realized Marc was talking to Commandant Riley. Instead of a uniform, he was dressed in a dull brown business suit, his hair neatly combed, looking a lot like a rat in the dim light of the control room.

“That’s what I said, sir. Trimagnite.”

“That’s impossible! I had no prior knowledge of the load, or I’d have sent a bot ship.”

“I sent a data file. You should be getting it in a moment. It shows the Guild Registry of the Trimagnite. Someone knew he had it. Commandant, I can’t expose my crew to this for more than twelve more hours. Otherwise we both know what could happen.”

“I don’t have any bot ships in the vicinity, but there is a Merchant Marine in the sector. He can be there in a couple of hours. He’s shielded and can transport to us. Dammit, Captain Slatterly, I had no idea. I’d never do this to you and your crew.”

“As long as we get it out of here, consider it forgotten. Who’s picking up?”

“The ship’s called the Loup Garou. It’s registered in Beta Quadrant. Guy’s a gypsy of sorts, works here and there, no set port of call. VanLipsig is the name. Wilhelm VanLipsig.”

There was a stunned silence. Marc said nothing, staring blankly at the screen.

“You’re sure that’s his name?” He asked distractedly.

Riley’s hands fluttered over his keypad as he verified the information. “Yes, says here Wilhelm VanLipsig. Goes by the handle Lone Wolf. Do you know this guy?”

Marc didn’t reply right away. “Yeah,” he said hesitantly. “At least I used to know a guy by that name, but he died awhile ago.” Suddenly, he was all business again. “Thank you, Commandant. We’ll be ready for VanLipsig. Slatterly out.” Marc sat at the console, not even remembering to disconnect.

Matilda broke the connection, looking at him carefully. “What’s up?”

He jumped at the sound of her voice as if she’d shouted. “Ghost from the past, baby.” He shook his head. “I was sure the bastard died….” He rubbed his eyes with his fists. “We can’t do anything more for now. Let’s go back and get some sleep. Rubee will wake us when the guy gets here.”

Rubee was the ship’s computer. She ran operations while they slept.

They went back to Marc’s quarters. Of course, once they lay down, he didn’t want to sleep. Instead of his usual style, Marc took her roughly with an intense focus as if trying to purge his memory of something highly unpleasant. He had never behaved like this before. Matilda would have been worried, but he urged such intense sensations from her body, she could hardly think.

Exhausted, they curled up together. Marc lay behind her, his arms around her protectively, as if by his presence alone, he could keep her from harm. They slept deeply and Rubee woke them a couple hours later when the Merchant Marine ship hailed them.

Once he was up and dressed, Marc was all business. He called her Commander Dulac and she followed suit by calling him Captain Slatterly. It seemed odd for him to be so professional when they had just been so intimate, but she knew something was bothering him.

As Matilda followed Marc to the docking bay where the ship was locking on, she noticed he was armed. The energy weapon he wore was hardly standard Guild issue. On the maximum setting, it could take down a man Marc’s size, putting a sizable hole in him.

“Expecting an army? You can kill a xar beast with one of those.”

“I wish I had something bigger. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. If I order you to fire, Commander, you fire. No questions. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

He opened the door to the docking bay. The other ship had attached and the airlock was pressurizing. As the door spiraled open, Matilda sensed a shudder pass through Marc. He raised his weapon, covering the entrance.
Slowly, with a casual air, a man entered the airlock. Nearly as tall as Marc, he was leaner of build. His curly, dark brown hair fell to his shoulders. He stood still while Rubee scanned his identification tag before releasing the force shield in front of him.

He wore a black eye patch over his left eye and a scar ran from his left temple to the corner of his lips. It was an old scar, worn and somewhat sunken. A slight stubble of beard shaded the lower half of his face, all but the scar line, which was a pale crescent in the dark. His uncovered eye glittered black and dangerous in his ruggedly handsome face. Holding his arms from his sides, he waited as Rubee scanned him for weapons. Finding none, she gave clearance for him to pass.

He stepped forward, lighting a dark, thin object. The pungent odor of a cheroot filled the confined space. Squinting past the smoke, he gazed into Marc’s eyes. Marc’s weapon remained pointed at the other man’s head, his calm expression strangely predatory.

Their visitor sized Matilda up with a glance, dismissing her as non-threatening. He puffed on his cheroot thoughtfully. A crooked grin cracked his face in half, the scar pulling his left lip up at an odd angle.

“Marc, it’s been a long time.” He held out his hand.

Marc remained aloof, not taking his eyes off the visitor, lowering his weapon or acknowledging the proffered hand.

“Kind of a cold reception, isn’t it?” His voice was rasping and low.

The smile was replaced by a slight frown, a hint of sadness in the obsidian eye. Then the same placid expression took its place. Nothing in Marc’s face betrayed what he was thinking or feeling.

Marc spoke calmly. “Commander Dulac, please show Colonel VanLipsig to the lounge.”

“Of course, sir.” Looking puzzled, she did as he asked, feeling his eyes on her.

Marc followed, covering the man from the rear. When they had seated themselves, Matilda ordered three cups of joe from the synthunit. Marc kept his weapon out on his knee with his hand resting upon it. The other fellow leaned back, seemingly unconcerned and at ease. Taking a sip of the joe, he grimaced, glancing down at his cup before matching his gaze with Marc’s.
“Marc, I know we parted under difficult circumstances, but is this really necessary? I’m here to do a job, nothing more.” He carefully kept his hands in plain view, moving slowly, talking with deliberate ease.

Marc looked at him blankly, his expression bland. “I thought you were dead, Wil.”

VanLipsig nodded slowly, thoughtfully. “You were sure you killed me.” His voice was flat, toneless, unemotional. He shrugged casually, tilting his head to the left. “I got better.” There was a flash of a chilling smile.

“The reports….”

“The reports of my death were greatly exaggerated,” VanLipsig quipped, dark eye glittering mischievously.

Marc’s fist dented the table with a furious blow. “Dammit, Wil! Can’t you just stay dead?”

VanLipsig threw back his head, laughing caustically. The laugh became a long, high pitched, chilling howl. Matilda felt a shiver run through her to the very bone. She did her best not to show it, but a subtle shift of her bearing betrayed her. His gaze penetrated her soul, laying it bare, finding it wanting.