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Under the Milky Way – part 2

Storm Westlake is beginning to wonder if she’s in over her head. She’s just been given the promotion of a lifetime and is THE fixer for the legendary Shine Clan. Late for her first major event, she takes her place at the head table.

Storm realized that one of the lesser businessmen was staring at her, sizing her up. He wore a simple beige suit. His brown hair was cut neatly over his ears, his green eyes penetrating.

A small shiver ran up and down her spine as her eyes met his. This was a man to contend with, a real player, despite his lesser status. Her professional eye examined him automatically, failing to categorize him as quickly as she could the others.

He worked hard for a living. She could see the lines of stress and worry on his face. He wasn’t rich, but he had ambition or he wouldn’t be here. He carried himself like a fighter, but had the manners of a corporate head. A bit rough around the edges, perhaps, though certainly well mannered.

Feeling her eyes on him, he regarded her calmly, a slight smile playing at the corners of his full lips. His eyes held a message she didn’t dare interpret. Danger lurked behind those green eyes and that smile. She’d have to be careful, he could read her as well as she read him, perhaps better.

“Storm, what’s up with you?” Sophie yanked at her arm. “It’s almost time. Pay attention! You have to introduce him!”

“Who?”

“Your boss! The man who pays you.”

“Sorry.” She stood awkwardly, smoothing her dress, her fingers gliding over the shiny surface.

A spotlight found her, holding her entranced for a moment as she collected her thoughts. She had a speech ready in order to introduce Ralph, the man who had financed this entire operation. His face, as yet unknown by most of the people in this room, was about to cross outer space between Earth and the Crystal Palace space station.

The orbiting space station was now home to his newest enterprise, fronted by Boone, run by the Shine Clan. And she, Storm Westlake, was to be Ralph’s voice.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to introduce the man who made all this possible. Most of you know him only by reputation, a few by name. Fewer still have the honor of knowing him personally. Of those, only a handful have the privilege of calling him a friend. And only two of us here are able to call him family. I now present to you, my employer, clansman and friend, Ralph of the Shine Clan.”

She started the applause. Most clapped politely, but those at the head table clapped with loud, happy enthusiasm. The spotlight winked out, leaving her sun dazzled in the gathering darkness. While she spoke, curtains parted across from her, revealing an eight by ten foot screen.

Give Books for Christmas!

Books make amazing gifts. They’re the kind of thing that keeps on giving since your loved one can return to them again and again. E-books make a marvelous last minute present. Below, I’ve gathered the websites of several of my author friends for you to visit and (I hope) purchase from. Other author friends, please put your links below in the comments.

My book, “Indian Summer”, is an historical romance set in St Augustine, Florida in 1739. It’s available at http://www.secondwindpublishing.com and http://www.amazon.com The novel is available in E-book and Kindle form as well as printed form. My new sci-fi novel, “The Lone Wolf”, is coming soon form Second Wind. ~ Dellani

For William Beck’s great spy thrillers:
http://www.booksbybeck.com/

For the beautiful & moving Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey by Jon Magee
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Paradise-Island-Heavenly-Journey/133686193356313
And Jon’s other amazing book, From Barren Rocks to Living Stones
http://www.facebook.com/pages/From-Barren-Rocks-to-Living-Stones/283465875540

For books by Bethany Warner
bkwriter.blogspot.com

For the work of Olwyn Conrau
http://www.olwynconrau.com/books.html

Visit Karen Vaughn here
http://www.karenvaughan.info/ Karen Vaughn
Find her book, Dead Comic Standing at http://www.amazon.com

For the books & artwork of Mickey Hoffman
http://www.mickeyhoffman.com/

For the funny and poignant, My Bad Tequila by Rico Austin
http://www.amazon.com/My-Bad-Tequila-Rico-Austin/dp/0981978916/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1291941988&sr=1-1

For your copy of Activate Intuition by Jim Wawro
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.activateintuition.com%2F&h=f0ed31wfI6BqSkTJ8l_Yv-1xBaQ

To find the work of Mark David Gerson
http://www.amazon.com/Mark-David Gerson/e/B002CQXFPM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

“From a Child’s Perception” is available at www.authorsden.com/annalfowler Anna Fowler

Susie Schecter http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=lifetimes+ago&x=14&y=1
Susie’s website is http://www/. lifetimesago.com

A Little White Lie – Part 20

Having found Aurialonus, Wil and Ben have to get him to their extraction point and off planet. Now comes the fun part, getting out of the palace and back to the ship.

Aurialonus looked puzzled, then rose gradually from his chair, staggering against the wall. Ben grabbed him roughly by the elbow, forcing him ahead of him at gunpoint. Moving at a snail’s pace, the three men made their way back upstairs.

The people in the kitchen had woken up and were struggling against their bonds. Wil took their gags out, telling them to be still and he would free them. When the maid saw Aurialonus, she spat at him, making a rude gesture, recognizable in any language. Aurialonus seemed to fold in on himself, suddenly looking very old.

Dragging and shoving him roughly, Ben and Wil forced him to the ballroom and through the doors to the terrace. Shouting and gunfire greeted them. Dragging Aurialonus back inside, Wil swore loudly.

“The gas wore off, I can’t believe I forgot!”

Ben looked outside. “They’re coming this way,” he muttered urgently.

“Got any bright ideas?” Wil was furious with himself and he was taking it out on Ben. Both knew this, and let it slide.

“You’re the genius, I’m just a grunt. If you don’t get brilliant fast, we’re dead.”

“Back to the kitchen. Take him.” He shoved Aurialonus at Ben. “Get the servants out.”

“What are you doing?”

“Giving them a Krall cocktail.”
He shut and locked the doors, dashing for the king’s bedchamber as Ben half carried Aurialonus back to the kitchen.

In the darkened bedroom, Wil ducked through the doorway and dropped by Krall’s body. The Marine demo expert was covered in items of heavy destruction. Wil regretted his death, mostly because it was damn inconvenient. They could have used him now. The fact another human being was dead on the floor hardly fazed him. It might bother him later, right now he hadn’t the time.

Using his knife, he cut straps, stripping Krall of all his toys. With a wicked smile, he concocted a little surprise of his own design, grabbing items at random from the room. He made three bombs in less than a minute. The soldiers outside were finally organizing and planning to rush the castle doors.

Running across the hall, he found a room overlooking the terrace. Crawling out the door, he peeped through the balcony balustrade. Setting the timer on the first bomb, he hurled it over the edge.

As it exploded with a satisfying blast, he heard the howls of men being ripped apart. The second bomb followed the first, landing to the other side. Horrified shouts reached his ears as the men below tried to figure out where the shower of death was coming from.

The third present was a little different, full of all manner of debris from the bedroom. It also had a special ingredient Krall had fondly called joy juice. It was Krall’s own concoction and similar to nitroglycerine, only less unstable and more volatile. This he dropped right over the edge of the balcony on the lip of the terrace where the men were attempting to enter the ballroom.

Flinging himself back into the bedroom, he flattened himself on the far side of the bed, hands over his ears. He saw the flash of the explosion before the kaboom rocked the palace. Pandemonium and panic reigned as the soldiers all tried to run away at once, knocking one another down and trampling each other.

Taking further advantage of this disorganization, Wil slipped out to the balcony once more, unslinging his weapon. He opened fire on the chaos on the lawn. Bullets flew from his weapon, laying down a veil of lead and explosive pellets.

Howling like a Civil War Rebel, he hurled smoke bombs, grenades. One last blast from his weapon and he heard it click on an empty magazine. Grabbing up Krall’s and Bennett’s guns, he ran full speed down the stairs and slid down the bannister the last few feet.

Behind him, he heard the blasts on the ballroom door as the soldiers finally entered the palace. More screams, howls and curses followed. Wil trotted leisurely to the front door, checking Krall’s weapon, satisfied it had a full clip. He sauntered to the door and froze. Not dogs this time or soldiers, but a very beautiful, dark haired woman in a filmy, white nightgown was pointing a very lethal looking weapon at his balls.

“Who are you?” She demanded as all hell broke loose behind him.

It was only a matter of moments before the soldiers made their way into the main palace.

“Who are you?” He repeated, hoping to distract her. It didn’t work.

“Why are you here? Have you come for Aurialonus?”

His silence confirmed this.

“Thank God!” She put the safety back on the weapon and lowered it.
“Come this way, quickly!”

Wil trotted after her. “Who are you?”

“Princess Rashima,” she said over her shoulder as she ran. “I was to be tonight’s prize, but he could not manage it.” She took the gun, holding it in one hand, letting the tip drop limply. Wil chuckled.

“It might have been the drug I put in his tea.” She shrugged. “Hurry, while he still sleeps.”

“But we got him already,” Wil remarked.

She raised an eyebrow, glancing over her shoulder.

“You got his double, which you would have discovered as soon as you began to interrogate him. Then it would have been too late. Come.” She gestured urgently.

A Little White Lie – Part 19

The royal family has been rescued, so half the job is done. Now, Wil needs to find the raving lunatic, Aurialonous. Leaving the others to convey the king and his family to safety, they go in search of the dictator.

At the kitchen on the ground floor, they found the people Wil and Emory had gassed earlier. A cook, maid and butler sat at the table, out cold. Two guards had collapsed by the door. They left the servants tied up and gagged, but killed the guards.

A narrow stone stairway spiraled downward. It led to the servant’s quarters and wine cellar. Chances were good if there were a bolt hole for the King, it would be down here. It was the most defensible place in the palace.

Switching to infrared, Wil surveyed the cellar walls with care. They were thick, solidly built, probably part of the original structure dating back several hundred years. Cursing silently, he accessed the map once more and headed for the wine cellar first. It was to their right, down a damp, sloping tunnel, smelling of niter and mildew.

A systematic check of the area didn’t disclose any hidden mechanisms. Even the racks of wine bottles were built into the walls, hewn from the stone face of the bedrock. Wil examined it all with his cybereye, looking for the hint of a seam. The wine cellar was a dead end. Frustrated, they retraced their steps.

A long, dark hall continued in front of them, doors on either side, servants quarters. Wil switched again to infrared, stopping and scanning each room as they went down the hall. All of them there were empty.

Three doors from the end of the hall, Wil hesitated. He couldn’t see anything through the door, meaning it was shielded. This door was securely set in the wall and bolted inside. Wil figured a little plastique would do the trick to open it. He wasn’t an expert like Krall, but he could make something crudely effective. He set the charges and they took safe positions down the hall from the door, blowing it with a remote.

The explosives made a muffled thump, the door flying inward in pieces. Nothing happened. Moving quickly and silently, they cautiously picked their way into the room. Two men lay dead, killed by the impact of the door. Neither was Aurialonus.

On the wall behind the dead men, Wil saw the barest hint of a seam in the brick. It ran along the lines of the mortar, but little was hidden from his cybereye. He and Ben began a thorough search of the room looking for the control mechanism to open the door. Wil was ready to blow out another section of wall, but Ben had an idea.

“Could it be a voice code?”

“Hell if I know.”

“I’m guessing a password. Think about it, a command attuned to a particular voice could be risky. But a password, anyone can say and it will open right up. I mean, considering how lax the security has been so far, why not?”

Wil chuckled, he had to admit, twisted as it was, the idea was logical. A frown replaced the smile. “We’re no closer than we were then, we don’t know the password.”

“Something easy to remember. Something about the family, a pet, even the name of the city?”

“Gundesburg,” Wil spoke clearly and loudly.

Nothing happened. The names of all the royal family did nothing either. Five minutes guessing and they were out of ideas.

“Damn Aurialonus anyway!” Wil grumbled. A click sounded and a hiss of escaping air. “You’ve got to be kidding!”

He and Ben took defensive positions, waiting. The door eased open and inside they saw the crumpled form of the petty dictator.

“You suppose the shock of the explosion killed him?” Wil asked.

Ben shook his head, stepping carefully toward the man seated on a hard wooden chair.

“No, he’s breathing. Sound may have stunned him.”

Wil nudged the inert form with the tip of his gun. The man stirred slightly, mumbled and slowly opened his eyes. Their guns came up and he raised his hands in surrender.

“It’s over,” Wil said harshly in the native tongue of Starflatz. “Get up.”

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 17

Things could have gone more smoothly for Wil and the others, but overall, this mission hasn’t been too bad. Yes, they’ve lost a few men, but they’ve found the royal family and it looks like our heroes may get them out alive.

The third man dropped his weapon, hands on his head. Lance yanked him to his knees, cutting his throat. The final fanatic grimaced at Wil, tossing his gun aside, drawing a knife, he invited Wil to fight.

It was a pointless waste of time, Wil knew it, but he loved a challenge. The man had earned a right to fight for an honorable death, and Wil adhered to an odd form of chivalry fathomable only to himself. Ben saw the look in his eye and started to round up the family members. With the help of Lance and Emory, he herded them out of the room.

Crouching in a fighting stance, the guard motioned Wil again as the lithe Marine sized up his opponent; shorter, but just as heavy, and well muscled. His confident movements showed Wil he knew what he was doing with the knife.

Standing with nonchalance before him, back straight, Wil presented an inviting target. He waited. A twitch in his cheek, a flinch of his right hand, and the soldier launched his attack on Wil, roaring like a lion.

Wil dodged the swinging knife, ducking under the other man’s guard. A sharp blow to the ribs sent his opponent reeling a few steps. Wil heard three ribs shatter. Breath coming in gasps, the guard prepared more carefully. His next attack was better planned as he took a running leap, his booted foot aiming for Wil’s midsection. Breaking stride, he dropped onto the lead foot, weaving an intricate pattern with the other; a powerful arc caught Wil behind the knee.

A lesser man would have been howling, his knee dislocated. Wil dropped and rolled sideways, using the momentum of the kick to propel him away from his attacker. Landing on both feet like a cat, he faced the soldier once more.

Lunging wildly, the guard rushed Wil, apparently deciding it was time to stop playing. Wil leaned backward, evading the whistling knife assault with ease. With a furious bellow, the man ran at Wil, attempting to tackle him.

A blow to one arm broke it, a knee to the chin shattered the jaw. Gasping and retching on his own blood, the guard fell to his knees, exposing his throat. In his good hand, he held out his knife, hilt first, asking for a quick death. He had earned it, having fought honorably. Taking the proffered knife, Wil drove it through his throat, severing the spinal cord. The lifeless body collapsed at Wil’s feet.

All the family were out now, lined up on the terrace, shivering from cold and fear, as Wil leisurely walked out the door. Ben had paired them up, an adult with each child.

One man stood alone, the king. Wil could have picked him out in any crowd, for he carried himself with pride. Despite his disheveled appearance, he looked like royalty. With a brief smile of thanks, he took his place in line giving his shoulder to his injured son.

A Little White Lie – Part 16

Things aren’t going quite as well as Wil could have hoped. Already, he’s lost some of his team. He expected casualties, but not minutes into the operation. What he doesn’t know is that his fun is just beginning.

Billy walked in the opposite direction, going carefully and cautiously. A few minutes later, they rejoined Lance, whose arm was bound in flesh colored plastic.

“You okay?” Ben asked, concern for his man and the safety of the team foremost in his mind.

Lance nodded. “Good as new.” He flexed powerful fingers.

They moved forward together, preparing to enter the ballroom from the terrace. Taking up a three point position, they examined each door. Lance stopped to check for explosives. Ben waited impatiently for him to finish.

Strangely, no explosives were on the axillary doors. Only on the main terrace door did they find crude booby traps, hastily done by amateurs. There was no alarm, another puzzler. These people sure didn’t think in
terms of security.

Movement to the west side of the terrace caught Ben’s eye and he signaled a hold. He and Wallace dropped to the ground while Lance moved into the deep shadows under the eaves, easing himself parallel to the wall. A click and flicker of light revealed Wil’s stony visage and Emory’s diminutive shadow in front of him. The other three relaxed a little.

“Ben, you’re losing it. I made all kinds of noise to let you know we were here,” he muttered.

“Aurialonus?” Ben asked.

Will shook his head. “Pay attention, ladies,” he stepped forward, taking point bedside Ben. “On three.” They counted silently as Lance eased the door open. Swinging inward, it gently tapped someone who was curled up on the floor.

Startled dark eyes in a pale, frightened face jumped open, but the little girl made no sound. Finger to his lips, Lance leaned in. His hair glowed slightly in the ambient moonlight. He did a quick recon of the room, scooped up the little girl, and deposited her on the terrace. He held up five fingers, then one. Six men in the room.

Wallace moved the girl gently to the side between two statues, motioning for her to be silent and stay put. In an uncharacteristic gesture, he took a small poncho from his fanny pack and laid it over her shivering shoulders. A tiny, cold hand touched his briefly before the child settled down with a smile.

Wil was in first, Ben right after with Lance and Emory in the rear. The guards slept with hands on their weapons. Three by the inner door to the palace, one by each of the outer doors. The others must have gone into the hall. Careless, Wil concluded and highly beneficial to his team.

Ben stumbled over a guard, falling noisily against the wall. With a yelp, the man tried to jump up, hands caught in his weapon strap. It was enough noise to alert the others, all of whom leaped up, trying to fire. One yelled for the men in the hall. Ben’s knife ended the guard’s life, but the damage was done. Wil cursed as he dropped on the floor. Ben squatted behind the dead guard. Lance ducked back out the door, aiming into the dark room. Emory had time to flatten himself behind another statue, sliding down the wall.

The corridor door burst open, the sentries rushing, guns blazing, shooting anything that moved; two of their own men. A ricochet caught Lance in his damaged left arm and another random slug buried itself in Emory’s thigh. Not serious, but annoying.

Members of the royal family had the sense to stay low, but pandemonium ruled for several seconds until the team members sorted themselves out enough to kill the guards.

Ben got two, Lance shot a third and Emory threw a knife with lethal accuracy at a fourth. Six down. Two members of the royal family clipped a guard in the knees, bringing him to the floor, where they summarily pounded him unconscious. One prince was hurt, a poorly aimed shot had caught him in the shoulder. Not a crippling or mortal wound, Wil noted automatically. He calmly shot the gunman in the head.