Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Hot Cauldron Review

The Hot CauldronThe Hot Cauldron by Lachelle Redd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading The Hot Cauldron. I felt like even though you are waiting for something bad to happen and the suspense is killing you there is still a lot of feeling behind her stories. I thought they were well developed and fun to read. I would read more from this author!

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Rebels Chapter 6!!

Thank you for stopping by and joining us for our stop on the Read-A-Long portion of The Rebels by Elizabeth Lang virtual tour. I am excited to post this segment of the story and  hope you enjoy it too!

The Rebels - Chapter 6

The Sleepy Goat.

Bryce closed one eye, angling his head, trying to make sense of the sign with the dopey grin. The thing looked more like the Insane Goat than some drowsy creature ready for a nap. He shrugged and pushed the slatted double doors aside, shrinking back when a wall of heat hit him like a steam bath. For a moment he stood there, basking in the glow, remembering what it felt like to be warm, truly warm from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. There was a cough behind him from a pocked-marked man with a limp and grinning black teeth.

“S’cuse me son. You coming, going, or haven’t made up your mind?”

“I’m looking for a good beer,” said Bryce, stepping aside.

The man shuffled in, pulling a shabby woolen cap from his head. “Then whatcha doing here?”
Bryce grinned, following the man to the counter. “Same thing you are I imagine.”

The place reeked of malt ale and wild pig turning on a spit in the corner. It smelled real, not the synthameat crap, which meant they were really rich or really poor.

The inn was half-empty, with a few afternoon patrons at the tables. There was a woman sitting at the far end of the bar, her ruby red lips moist, almost shiny, and some farmer and miner types—he could smell the earthy odors from here—and a smartly-dressed salesman with his display case open, talking to two men in grimy coveralls. Shiny new laser cutters lay on the table in front of them like a peace offering.

In a shadowy corner, a large man in a tough-looking leather jacket with a flexible plas-steel arm guard meshed into the sleeve, was hunched over a bowl of steamy stew. Bryce swallowed nervously. Being a low-leveler, he lived in the slums and haunts of the undesirables. He’d seen all kinds of things and this man oozed danger. He didn’t look like Security, but he looked serious.

He just hoped the stranger wasn’t some kind of cutthroat or ruffian who liked to beat up perfectly innocent strangers trying to make an honest, or fairly honest, living.

The barkeep took in Bryce’s faded duster and picked up a glass, polishing with practiced motions. His generous middle hung over the counter and he wore an open-necked white shirt that was crumpled on the left side and starchy stiff on the other, as if he only had time to press half of it. Or it could have been a new fashion. “Are you trying to badmouth my place again, Fizzy?”

“Only telling the truth is all. Now give me some of the good slop and be quick about it.”

The barkeep held the polished glass up to the hanging light square just above him. “I’ll think about it.” He turned to Bryce. “Now, stranger.

What’ll you have?”

Bryce unzipped his coat and slid onto the stool next to Fizzy.

“I’m new here.”

The man had a smile that hadn’t decided whether Bryce was a serious customer or a freeloader. “Could tell that from your face. You gonna order anything?”

“Not ‘til I can sell something.”

The barkeep’s nose twitched as if smelling trouble. “No credit here.”

“I wouldn’t think of it, but I’m a little down on my luck and could use a little help.”

“I’m not hiring.”

“I’m not looking for a job.” Bryce pulled the databands from his pocket and laid them on the bar top. Some romantic graffiti artist had scratched a heart into the shiny surface. “You know anyone interested in some fine, slightly worn databands? This…” He turned the fine silver mesh
one of Kali’s over, letting it twinkle in the light. “…is the latest fashion from Earth.” He didn’t know if it was, but he doubted if this back-worlder would know the difference. “Would be a nice present for the special lady in your life.”

There was a brief flash of interest, quickly suppressed. “Why would I be interested in something used?”

The businessman paused and glanced over at the unfolding transaction. He smiled slightly and turned back to his customers.

“A new one would cost four hundred easy.” Bryce slid it across the bar. “I’m only asking a third for this one.”

“I’ll give ya twenty-five.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.” He sounded affronted, which he was.

“How do I know it isn’t stolen?”

Bryce touched his chest and said with a strong touch of indignation, “I’m no thief.”

“Well, I don’t know that, do I?”

“Aw, give the kid a break,” said Fizzy. “He don’t look like a thief any more ‘en I do.”

“Then I definitely don’t trust him.”

Scooping up the bands, Bryce said, “Fine. I’ll take it somewhere else.”

“I’ll give ya fifty.”

That was said a little too quickly.


“Seven five.”

Bryce leaned closer. “One twenty-five and I’ll throw in the other one.” He placed them side-by-side on the table. “That’s two for the price of one.” People always like to think they’re getting more than they’re entitled to.

The woman with wine red lips, silver-bleached hair and a knowing, ex-stripper smile, leaned on the corner of the bar. She held a glass with pale green ale that matched her eyes. “You could always buy it for me, love.”

“Stay out of this, Teala.” A frown of irritation marred the barkeep’s face.

“I’ll take it if Gabin won’t. He’s tighter than…” She grinned, her eyes twinkling with unrepentant mischief. There was clearly something between them that the barkeep was reluctant to acknowledge.

Gabin snatched up the wrist bands, hugging them to his chest. “One twenty-five.”

“Done,” said Bryce.

The barkeep hesitated, his frown deepening and held out a pudgy hand. “Credit marker.”
Bryce dug into his pockets, keeping his head down. This was a problem. Like the Lieutenant said, they couldn’t use their own personal credit markers. “Damn. Must have left it in my other trousers.”

Gabin’s eyes narrowed but he rummaged behind the bar, pulling out a rectangular quick marker. “Charging you twenty for the marker.” He slotted the gray wafer into the credit register and punched in the numbers.

“But,” he said reluctantly, as any honest person would who had truly left his marker in his other pants.

“Take it or leave it. I don’t have all day.”

Bryce sighed. “Fine. I guess it’ll teach me not to be careless. Charge it up.”

The register plinked as it imprinted the amount on the wafer and Gabin slapped it into Bryce’s waiting hand.

“You’re a funny looking fellow,” said Teala, her eyes full of light mischief. “Military from the looks of you.”

Bryce swallowed a gulp. “I’m no soldier.”

“Your boots say differently.”

Damn. “I bought them off someone. Second-hand.”

She chuckled, a throaty sound that didn’t seem unfriendly, and restless fingers twirled the stem of the glass. “Trying to look tough with your fancy boots.”

“They’re good boots and it’s cold out there.”

“You must be new to these parts and down on your luck by the looks of you.”

Tugging on a toffee-dyed scarf stained yellow around the edges, he had a mournful, puppy-dog look, but not too much of one; just enough to be endearing. “I don’t usually look like this.”

She flashed him a friendly, pearly smile. “I’m sure you don’t. Your band might be the latest fashion from Earth but your clothes could use an update, by about a century.”

He twirled a loose strand hanging from the scarf. “We’ve had a few bad years. Lost everything in the war with the Andromedans. We were hoping to start over here.”

“We?” Her eyebrows lifted slightly.

Gabin the barkeep bent his head closer, listening intently as he dried another glass.

“My friends and I. We heard Orasis might be a good place to start over.”

“That someone was lying to you,” said Gabin. “You should get your money back.”

He gave them a wry smile. “I wish I could.” Worry drew deep gouges on his forehead, making him look far older than he was. “But one of my friends isn’t doing too good. He has to rest for a bit.”

“Sorry to hear that,” said Gabin, his voice warming.

“Yeah, we have the worst luck.”

“You should see Doc Faver if your friend needs help,” said the businessman behind them, packing away his wares.

“Thanks. What I really need is a tool kit. Our heater needs fixing.” He fingered the quick marker. “I have money now, if you know a place that’s cheap.

“We’ve got to help him,” said Teala. “Before The Cold sets in.”

The Cold. Bryce shivered just hearing it.

Gabin picked up another glass, this time glaring at it before wiping a smudge on the lip. “You should go and see Harvey. He’s our fixer-upper around here. He should have something for you.”

“Thanks.” It was turning out better than Bryce expected. The locals were decent folks after all.

“The name’s Bryce by the way. Now how about a beer and maybe some of that tasty roast?”


The shop was an antique dealer’s delight. Equipment in various stages of disassembly dotted the room like a deranged metal zoo. A halfdozen upright shelves sagged under the weight of tools and parts Bryce couldn’t identify.

“You an Earther?” asked Harvey the fixer-upper, his scarred lip curling in a misshapen frown. His hair cascaded down past his neck and there was a perpetual stoop to his shoulders.

Bryce said cautiously, “I was born on Earth but raised in the Colonies.”

“I was an Earther too. Born and bred.” He shrugged, chasing away the memories. “A long time ago.” He twirled a wrench between his fingers.

“What can I do for you?”

“Gabin of The Sleeping Goat said you might have a welder I could borrow.”

“He said that, did he? You must have made an impression.”

“Not really.”

Harvey turned and opened a container, pulling out a long, square-handled welder and slotted a power cell into the end.

“Hey, Harve!” A thick-necked man with a day’s growth of beard crashed into the room, knocking over one of the dismantled engines sitting on a stand. “Sorry.” He barely stopped it from toppling over. “Did ya get my compressor fixed?”

“Watch where you’re going, you oaf!” Harvey rushed over, examining a scratch he didn’t seem to think was there before.

“I said I was sorry.”

“Yeah, that’s what you always say, Tem.” He rubbed the scratch vigorously with the end of a cloth that had seen better days as a bath robe.

“Unfortunately, the compressor is toast. One of the control wafers is shot. You’ll have to get a new one.”

“But…” Tem looked as if someone had shot his pet dog. “I can’t afford a new one and I can’t keep the hot house running without it. The crops’ll die.” In a flash, the pain turned to anger. “You promised you could fix anything!”

“That thing’s beyond fixing. You might as well junk it.”

“What am I going to do?” Tem plopped down on a crate and the thing made pained cracking noises. “I’ll lose the farm.”

Fix anything. The words echoed like a bell inside Bryce’s head. “I know someone who’s a whiz at fixing things.”

“No one can fix it,” said Harvey. “Not unless you’re a genius and a miracle worker all rolled into one.”

Bryce came over. “What if he can? What would it be worth to you?”

“Who is this miracle worker?” asked Tem, tucking his thumbs into his jacket pockets.

“He says he’s a friend of Gabin’s.”

Bryce wasn’t about to correct him. “Well?”

“Was gonna give Harve a hundred for fixing it. It’s all I can afford.”

“I could always use a hundred. How about it? If my friend can fix it, you give me the hundred.”

“I don’t know…”

“What do you have to lose?” asked Harvey. “The thing’s for the trash anyway.”

“My friend won’t come here. I’ll have to bring it to him.”

“Shy is he?”

“Something like that. And he’s not feeling too well.”

Tem sighed and got up from the crate. “Alright. Give it to ‘em.”

“I also need to borrow a tool kit,” said Bryce. There was never any harm in asking. He might get lucky.

There was a snort from Harvey. “What kind of fixer doesn’t have a tool kit?”

“We lost everything in the war. Had to sell everything.”

Harvey shook his head. “Damned aliens. I mean, we might be on the Outer Rim but we’ve heard the stories. Not that I like the Empire, but at least they’re not trying to kill us all.”

“Just rob us blind,” Tem grumbled under his breath.

Harvey slapped a heavy leather pouch on the counter. “Your friend can have that if he can fix the compressor, which I doubt.” The thing was tattered, the strap securing it nearly worn through.


“What’s your name by the way?” asked Tem.


Bryce set out with a cheerful whistle on his lips. He carried a box packed to bursting with food, the tool kit, and the fist-sized compressor unit.

Visions of a repair service, with himself managing it brought a smile to his lips. Adrian and Bryce Repair Service. Bryce’s Fix-It Shop. The Happy Fixer. He smirked, unable to imagine the Lieutenant being happy about anything.

A shadow parted from the wall and followed at a distance.

Also Elizabeth Lang has shared with us an exclusive picture from The Empire Series

To read more of the Read-A-Long please follow the tour schedule…

02/03/2013 - The Edible Bookshelf -
http://www.theediblebookshelf.blogspot.com/ - Chapter 1

03/03/2013 - Vixie's Stories -
http://vickiejohnstone.blogspot.co.uk/ - Chapter 2

04/03/2013 - Decadent Decisions -
http://wlynnchantale-decadentdecisions.blogspot.com - Chapter 3

05/03/2013 - Independent Writers Association -
http://iwassociation.com - Chapter 4

06/03/2013 - Self Publish or Die -
www.selfpublishordie.com - Chapter 5

10/03/2013 - Reviews From Beyond the Book -
www.reviewsfrombeyondthebook.blogspot.com - Chapter 6

11/03/2013 - Great Alpha Speaks -
http://atrussell.com/Blog/ - Chapter 7

12/03/2013 - The Kat Daughtry -
http://thekatdaughtry.wordpress.com/ - Chapter 8

13/03/2013 - Sheenah Freitas -
http://sheenahfreitas.com - Chapter 9

14/03/2013 - Natasha Larry Books -
http://natashalarrybooks.com - Chapter 10

27/03/2013 - Castle Macabre -
http://castlemacabre.blogspot.com - Chapter 11

28/03/2013 - My World -
http://stephsgrn.blogspot.co.uk/ - Chapter 12

29/03/2013 - The Cro's Nest -
http://p45crok.wordpress.com - Chapter 13

30/03/2013 - Tink's Place -
http://myblog2point0.blogspot.com/ - Chapter 14

31/03/2013 - Reading, Writing And More -
http://stephsgrn.wordpress.com/ - Chapter 15

Page Turner Book Tours and Elizabeth Lang have teamed together to set up an amazing contest, be sure to enter today for your chance to win a Nook!!

Thank you for joining us and Page Turner Book Tours and Elizabeth Lang today on our stop.

About Elizabeth Lang:

I'm a science fiction writer who started off life as a computer programmer with a love for reading, especially science fiction, fantasy and mystery.

Being in computers, I found my writing skills deteriorating so I decided to take up writing. It became a joy to create characters, stories and worlds and writing soon became a passion I couldn't put down. As a writer, I like to explore, not only the complexity of characters but the human condition from differing points of view. That is at the heart of the Empire series, of which 'The Empire' and 'The Rebels' are the first two of a four books series.

You can connect with Elizabeth Lang at the following places:

About Page Turner Book Tours:

Page Turner Book Tours is fronted by the face behind Read2Review Kate. Page Turner Book Tours has been put together to help promote authors and give something back to the writing world. Kate has put together a team of incredibly talented people to help with the project by incorporating their individual skills into making new, fresh and exciting promotional plans that we hope you agree are amazing. If you would like to book a tour with Page Turner Book Tours please check out their tour packages. If you would like to become a tour host with Page Turner Book Tours please check out their Tour Host page. You wont be disappointed!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cover Reveal!! Waking the Phoenix

Welcome to the official cover reveal of Waking the Phoenix, book 2 in the Mythrian Realm series! Waking the Phoenix is the highly anticipated follow up to Breaking the Nexus, which released on 12/12/12. While there is no official release date set, Waking the Phoenix will be out early this summer!

In the meantime, I will be releasing Warrior Unleashed, a novella featuring Sha’s half brother, a panther Chimerae (shifter) named Achaius. Be sure to look for that this April!

Without further ado, I present the gorgeous cover designed by Blue Harvest Creative!

As the Nexus continues to break down, evil threatens the Mythrian and Human Realms. Millennia ago, only the sacrifice of the Great Phoenix was enough to imprison Ferren, a blood mage with the power to destroy the Human Realm. When the Nexus falls, his prison will shatter and he will be free to walk the earth once more, leaving a path of destruction in his wake.

Chaos engulfs the Mythrian and Human Realms as Ferren fights to escape his prison. Connor and Sha must race against time to find the last of the phoenixes before all is lost. There’s just one problem: the phoenixes have lain dormant for thousands of years. Can they stay alive long enough to save their world?

The key to saving the Realms lies in waking the phoenix.

Don’t miss the first book, Breaking the Nexus, available now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and in paperback!

Breaking the Nexus will be on SALE for $2.99 March 8-11 only!

A warrior trying to save humans. A detective searching for a killer. And a powerful romance neither expected.

Throughout history, myths and legends of extraordinary creatures have been told and retold. Fantastic tales of demons and banshees, gryphons and dragons, and of course, magic. Stories that every child grows to learn are nothing more than fantasy…or are they?

Beyond the world you see lies a hidden realm, the Mythrian Realm, inhabited by all of the creatures you’ve been told are mere fiction. Only one thing lies between humans and the truth: the Nexus. A magical barrier erected millennia ago to separate the two realms, it has stood the test of time. Until now.

For Mythrian Sha Phoenix, magic is nothing new. But when she stumbles upon a portal on the verge of collapse, her fate will forever change. Pulled through the portal into the Human Realm, she lands in the middle of Detective Connor Flynn’s brutal murder scene. Soon it is obvious someone is using blood magic to try to bring down the Nexus. Together, Connor and Sha must work to unravel the secrets before the barrier falls and the realms collide.

The Nexus is breaking and all hell is about to unleash…literally.

Buy it now:
·         Autographed Copy: http://lindsayavalon.blogspot.com/p/buy-my-books.html

Meet Lindsay Avalon!
I am a wife, a programmer, and now an author. I have an adorable mini Schnauzer and more books than I have room for. I love reading romance because no matter what may be happening in my life, I can always count on my books to end happily ever after. The day I met my husband was the day I truly began believing in happily ever after. After hearing me complain a few too many times that I had “nothing” to read despite the hundreds of paperbacks scattered around the house, my husband began suggesting I write my own stories. When I finally took his advice I discovered that although I enjoy my day job as a software engineer, my true calling is to be an author.
My sister drilled into me an appreciation for fantasy and mythology, something I try to bring to my books. My debut novel, Breaking the Nexus started as a book written for NaNoWriMo and has grown to so much more. It was the conduit that introduced me to a fantastic group of independent authors who have changed my life in unimaginable ways.
When I’m not writing, I’ve found a passion for blogging and interviewing fellow authors. I also love reading, baking, crochet, sewing sock monkeys, playing video games, and all sorts of random crafts. I have an incurable love of rubber duckies and stuffed animals, and I believe nobody should have to grow up if they don’t want.

Connect with me:
·         Blog: http://lindsayavalon.blogspot.com
·         Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/author.lindsay.avalon
·         Twitter: @LindsayAvalon
·         Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6568822.Lindsay_Avalon

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Empire - Chapter 4

Follow along with the Read-A-Long

03/03/2013 - Tribute Books Reviews & Giveaways - http://tributebooksreviews.blogspot.com/ - Chapter 1

04/03/2013 - Vixie's Stories - http://vickiejohnstone.blogspot.co.uk/ - Chapter 2

05/03/2013 - Decadent Decisions - http://wlynnchantale-decadentdecisions.blogspot.com - Chapter 3

06/03/2013 - Reviews From Beyond the Book - www.reviewsfrombeyondthebook.blogspot.com - Chapter 4

07/03/2013 - Great Alpha Speaks - http://atrussell.com/Blog/ - Excerpt - Chapter 5

09/03/2013 - The Edible Bookshelf - http://www.theediblebookshelf.blogspot.com/ - Chapter 6

10/03/2013 - Independent Writers Association - http://iwassociation.com - Chapter 7

11/03/2013 - Self Publish or Die - www.selfpublishordie.com - Excerpt - Chapter 8

12/03/2013 - Natasha Larry Books - http://natashalarrybooks.com - Chapter 9

13/03/2013 - Michelle Anderson-Picarella - http://shellypicarella.wordpress.com/ - Chapter 10

17/03/2013 - Sheenah Freitas - http://sheenahfreitas.com - Chapter 11

18/03/2013 - Castle Macabre - http://castlemacabre.blogspot.com - Chapter 12

19/03/2013 - My World - http://stephsgrn.blogspot.co.uk/ - Chapter 13

20/03/2013 - Reading, Writing And More - http://stephsgrn.wordpress.com/ - Chapter 14

21/03/2013 - Ami R Blackwelder - http://amiblackwelder.blogspot.co.uk/ - Chapter 15

"It will be interesting to discover which will make you beg. Will it be the pain or the pleasure?"

How do you tame a man without breaking his spirit?

The galaxy is under siege from alien invaders. The Empire is the only force that stands in the gap, trading the freedom of its citizens for a tenuous security.

Amidst this chaos, Lt. Adrian Stannis is a brilliant scientist trying to stay out of the limelight. He hides on a research vessel plying the Outer Rim and finds peace of a sort with Kali Mirren, a psi-enabled humanoid. But his days of anonymity may be coming to an end. Someone has discovered his secret and is determined to make him pay for his treachery. He must finish the project he abandoned years ago, one the Council deems essential in its fight against the aliens, but things are never that simple where Adrian is concerned.

Is he more man than machine, or have years hiding behind a mountain of logic eroded his humanity? Can he learn to love and will he be able to survive the tangled web of political expediency and psychological manipulation that surrounds him?

Will Kali be able to save him from himself, or is there a mystery surrounding him that may explode in their faces?

Everyone wants to know the truth, but will it set them free?

About Elizabeth Lang:
I'm a science fiction writer who started off life as a computer programmer with a love for reading, especially science fiction, fantasy and mystery.
Being in computers, I found my writing skills deteriorating so I decided to take up writing. It became a joy to create characters, stories and worlds and writing soon became a passion I couldn't put down. As a writer, I like to explore, not only the complexity of characters but the human condition from differing points of view. That is at the heart of the Empire series, of which 'The Empire' and 'The Rebels' are the first two of a four books series.

You can connect with Elizabeth Lang at the following places:

The Empire - Chapter 4

Mornings can bring new perspectives or solutions to problems that seemed hopeless the day before. Kali wished she had one of those mornings, but today wasn’t one of them. There was a solution, but it was a ‘lesser of two evils’ kind.

She leaned hard on the buzzer, pressing several times in quick succession. The empty officer’s corridor was dignified and the gray-blue walls with the Empire crest at non-discreet intervals made her audacity seem like a capital offense. A lowly ensign shouldn’t be making a personal call on the Captain’s cabin, and certainly not this early in the morning. The door swished open and bleary eyes blinked at her.

“Mirren. This had better be good. And short.” Captain Tarn smothered a yawn and rubbed a towel over damp, wavy brown hair. “I haven’t had coffee.”

“It’s important, sir.”

He hung the towel around his neck and studied his youngest officer, noting the dark circles and the feverish brightness in her eyes. Either she had been dipping into the medical stores or she was bursting with an idea. “Let me guess, this is about Lt. Stannis?”

Kali met his eyes squarely, a cocktail of accusation and challenge in her voice. “Is he dead to you, sir?”

The Captain’s hands tugged on the ends of the towel, not liking the taste of guilt in the morning. “It might be better if he was, for his sake.”

“What will they do to him if he doesn’t cooperate?”

Tarn sighed tiredly. Kali wasn’t the only one who had been spending sleepless nights. “He will cooperate or they will destroy his mind.”

“That would be worse than death for him.”

Tarn blew out a violent breath and his face came closer to hers as he emphasized, “Don’t you think I know that? But there’s nothing either one of us can do.”

“You’re wrong.”


Captain Tarn abhorred visiting the Security Section of his own ship . It was where his vile First Officer held court and abused his crew. Tarn understood the need for discipline, but he didn’t approve of the sadistic pleasure Barker and his people took in it. A contingent of his own blackclad guards waited behind him, phaser rifles gripped in ready hands. He paused at the door to the interrogation room. The metal barrier kept screams from escaping to the rest of the ship. Abandon hope all who enter here.

A shudder passed through him, leaving behind an aftertaste of old fears and disgust. He remembered his own run-ins with Security people in his younger days, before he learned how to play the game. What would he find? Most people were never the same after sessions with the retraining therapists. The psychological scars remained long after the physical ones healed.

Adrian had been with them for eight full days.

Tarn didn’t bother announcing his entrance. His personal override gave him access to every corner of this ship and he fully intended to exercise his power in that room.

“Stay here. Wait for my signal.” Tarn’s orders were terse as he pressed the flat of his hand to the ident-pad. The door slid open and Tarn gagged at the stench of humanity that rushed out to meet him. He steeled himself and entered, keeping the shock from showing as moans of
pleasure, not of pain, greeted his ears.

This brilliant genius of a man was a pitiful writhing figure sliding in a soup of his own waste. A conditioning unit imprisoned his head as Barker’s hands—

Tarn screamed in fury, “Stop it! ALL OF YOU!”

The First Officer continued working on Adrian’s wriggling body as he turned to face the Captain. “We are under Fleet Admiral Verel’s orders.”

On the other side of the platform, the Therapist snapped to attention, hoping to be regarded as a minor participant, not worthy to be included in the Captain’s fury.

“I know what his orders are,” said Tarn, his face red with anger. “You are relieved of your duties in this matter.”

Barker lifted his hands from Adrian’s body and slowly wiped them on a red-stained cloth. “You have no right to do that. Not where Security is concerned.”

Tarn raised his hand as if ready to strike one or both of them. His murderous glares gave every indication of violence to come. “On the contrary, I think you’ll find I have every right.” He struck his hand on the door control. Guards rushed in, a black wave crashing through a suddenly
opened barrier, their weapons ready. All of them had experienced the ‘wrath of Barker’ before and none of them would be upset if they had to shoot him.

Tarn’s words were a whip of authority. “I am relieving you of authority, First Officer. And charging you with acting according to personal interests, not that of the Empire.”

“That’s ridiculous!” shouted Barker, throwing the cloth on the table. “I’m only following the Fleet Admiral’s orders. Breaking this prisoner so he can serve the Empire.”

“And have you?” asked the Captain, a dangerous, challenging edge to his tone.

The Empire was not kind with failure; they both knew it. A note of defensiveness crept into Barker’s voice. “No but we’re close.”

Without the hands feeding the needs of his body, Adrian was still moaning. A fact that made Tarn even more determined to punish his First Officer.

“I highly doubt that.” The tone of contempt was a slap to the face. “You’ve had him eight days.”
He read the numbers on the life sensor panel. “And you’ve increased the drugs to a dangerous level, something the Fleet Admiral expressly said not to do. You were not to endanger the prisoner’s mind or did you forget to read that part of his orders?”

The Therapist’s voice rose in nervousness, “I was watching carefully, sir. I would never…” His fingers edged towards the computer with a fools desire to erase some incriminating information.

The Captain turned on him with a rage that made the Therapist cringe and take a step back. “If there is any damage to his mind…” Tarn’s eyes flashed with fury. “…your career is over. Flush the drugs from his system. Now.” He tore the conditioning unit from its hinges, sending pieces
flying, and threw it on the ground with a crash as the Therapist rushed over to the panel and shoved the med tech out of the way. He worked frantically to follow the Captain’s orders.

Barker was livid. “You can’t get away with this, Captain.”

“I’m glad you still recognize my rank,” Tarn said with icy sarcasm. “Restrain him.” He would have preferred tying him up and throwing the detestable man out of the airlock—he suspected the entire crew would be falling all over themselves to help—but unfortunately, that would be an infraction.

The guards gladly followed his orders and bound the First Officer’s hands behind him with the same manacles he used for Adrian. Barker considered struggling but the look on the guards’ faces told him they were only looking for an excuse to hit him in the line of duty.

Captain Tarn said, “Command does not look favorably on people who fail or who act in their own interests to the detriment of the Empire.”

Barker spat out, “And you think you can do better? What happens when you hand him over and he hasn’t agreed to cooperate?”

There was a hard, resolute look on Tarn’s face. “He’s going to.” He gestured to the guards. “Take him to the brig. Keep two guards on him.”

Tarn’s steps were labored as he approached the bound man. Brushing back hair plastered to Adrian’s face by salty layers of drying sweat, he said, “I’m sorry I let this happen. You didn’t deserve this.”

He grimaced as he lifted Adrian’s eyelids; the man was barely conscious. He rummaged through the colored vials in the drug cabinet, reading the labels on the sides until he found the right one, and injected a stimulant into Adrian’s arm.

Adrian’s eyes fluttered and he gasped as liquid energy forced him back to consciousness. He groaned as his awakened body registered the abuse that made every breath an agony.

“Stannis.” Tarn said the name gently.

The bound man’s head moved weakly from side to side.

“Lt. Stannis.” Tarn’s voice became one of command. “You will hear me.”

Adrian’s eyes opened slowly, blinking at the bright lights overhead. He rasped, “Cap-tain.”
Tarn no longer noticed the smells; the stench of his own guilt filled his nostrils. He touched the restraints, sticky with the prisoner’s blood. “I shouldn’t have let this happen. You were right. I was a hypocrite. More concerned about my own career.” He owed this man, but there was little he could do to save him. “Kali Mirren has requested a transfer to the C.S.S. Trykor.”

Exhaustion seemed to rob the scientist of the ability to remain emotionless. He gasped, “No!”

“It’s too late. She’s offered the services of her psi abilities and the Fleet Admiral is interested. What do you think will happen to her if you refuse to cooperate?”

The struggle in his eyes was painful to witness. “I…don’t understand.”

“I think you do,” said Tarn, hating himself. “She requested the transfer because she wants to help you. She doesn’t realize she’s giving them a hostage.”


Finally freed from the manipulative drugs, Adrian’s mind was work ing again. He almost wished it didn’t as fuzzy details of the past week crystallized into a sharply focused nightmare. His stomach wrenched painfully and he groaned because there was nothing left to throw up.

A knife of despair plunged through his defenses as the captain’s words ripped out his insides. Kali had been a thin lifeline in the nightmare that threatened to drown him, but now…

He wrestled with the emotions that arose when he thought of Kali. He wanted her, needed her, but he couldn’t put her in more danger. “She…”

The words tasted bitter. “Means…nothing.”

“You know they will use her to pressure you, and you know what that means.”

I feel nothing. Sentiment is weakness. “She is…nothing…” Each word tore through him, a jagged blade twisting inside. “She…”

“You won’t mind if I give her to Barker then? I believe she’s on her shift.”

No! Adrian froze in shock.

Tarn headed slowly to the door, silently willing the stubborn man to answer. For a moment, he wondered if Kali had misjudged Adrian.

A hoarse voice whispered behind him, painful surrender in a single word, “Wait.”

Captain Tarn’s head bent in anguish.