V&A SHIPPING! STILL FREE! http://www.amazon.com/V-Shipping-J-R-Murdock-ebook/dp/B00B1MVTYM
I woke up this morning to see that V&A Shipping had reached #42 in free Space Opera! That’s quite exciting! My Goal and hope is to get it into the top 10 of Space Opera! Now that would be something.
But I cannot do this alone. I do need your help. If you have an Amazon account and you haven’t picked up a copy yet, please consider doing so. It will help move the book up the charts and help it gain some much needed visibility. And hey, you get a free ebook out of it. :)
I’ve sold a few copies of V&A Shipping II as well as a couple copies of Giant Robot Planetary Competition. This was the goal all along to help get some other titles a little bump while getting this one moving along.
If you’ve gotten a copy, THANK YOU! You’re awesome! If you’ve shared my post in your social media feeds, THANK YOU! You’re even awesomer! If you’d like to help a little more, please consider leaving a review on Amazon.com or goodreads.com. Both help tremendously.
Again, thank you for all your help and support.
Wait, has Jay lost his mind? Again? V&A Shipping is free?
That’s right. You’ve waited this long to jump onto the series, Now you can jump in for free! Just follow this link (http://www.amazon.com/V-A-Shipping-ebook/dp/B00B1MVTYM/) and BAM! Free ebook just for you!
If you’re subscribed to Kindle Unlimited you can also read it there. Actually, you can read all my books on Kindle Unlimited now. Well, all my self-published works that is.
So don’t delay! You’ve only got until the end of the week to pick up V&A Shipping for free, then it goes back to its regular price.
For those that are wondering, yes, the events in Giant Robot Planetary Competition take place in the V&A Shipping universe and they take place after book 2. No, you do NOT need to read V&A Shipping to understand what’s happening in GRPC. The gang does make a cameo and that’s all I have to say about that.
If you’ve read (or listened to V&A Shipping) please consider leaving a review on Amazon. You don’t know how helpful these are to selling books. If you don’t have a device to read a kindle ebook, you can still get a free copy as this also helps move the book up the charts. If you have any ‘smart’ device you can download a kindle app to read the book. Need help? Contact me and I’ll walk you through the steps.
Thank you all for your support and your help with making V&A Shipping the success that it is!
YES! That’s right. Big giant robots that like to smash things are coming your way.
July 1st I start a new series. Giant Robot Planetary Competition: Entry Level is the first book in the GRPC series. These will take place in the same universe as the V&A Shipping books. I’m super excited to get this one out there. I’ve had the idea for some time, and now it’ll be in your hands! (or at least on your ereaders).
Beta Readers loved the book with great things to say like:
“What did I just read?”
“You did a bait and switch on me. This isn’t funny at all.”
“I loved the part <deleted> and then things <deleted>.”
“Are you sure you want to release a book like this to the world?”
So yes. You can see there is much excitement about this book already. Is it funny? No, not really. This is a departure from V&A Shipping in that it’s not humorous. Are there funny parts? Yes, but not as many as you’d expect from someone that wrote a short story with Vampire Cows! Is it entertaining? Well, it is giant robots trying to destroy each other. I thought it was rather brilliant.
The book does follow the life of Ravikanth Helio, an orphan, as he’s abducted from an orphanage, put into slave labor as an asteroid miner, and finally used as a pawn in the galaxy’s greatest competition. A competition where one thousand giant robots fight for the mineral rights to an entire planet!
I’ll make sure to shout loudly on July 1st when it’s available! Until then, check out my other books I have available. I’m sure I’ve got something to tide you over until then.
Hey! What’s that? a new cover for V&A Shipping? Why yes, yes it is. (recovering, see what i did there?).
Now don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the cover that Starla did for me. I love all the covers she did for me. But i ran into an issue and it had to do with cost. I have a lot of books and need a lot of covers. So rather than wait until i have enough money for new book covers, i decided that the best thing to do was take a the time needed to learn enough about PhotoShop and build my own. I also took the time to rebrand all the covers so there is a common theme not only for the books in a series, but across all titles. So I’ll be posting all the covers here over the next few days while i get ready to post new titles in the coming year. I have three books done, written, complete, ready to rock and roll. So while I spend some time posting those covers here, I’ll be getting those ready to post for sale.
It’s an exciting time. I can’t wait to get these news books out there. I hope you’re excited as well.
Now, for the sale!
For Cyber Monday week (sure, why not. All week long) if you buy any one of my books and email me your receipt, I’ll send you any two of my titles FREE! Just let me know what you’d like and what format, and I’ll send it on over. So what are you waiting for? Get on over there and buy a book!
Until Next Time!
I must be losing my mind! Why else would I price a book at 99 cents? I mean, really. Who does that? It’s almost like giving it away! Well, this is your chance. If you haven’t picked up V&A Shipping yet, it’s now on sale at all your favorite ebook retailers for only 99 cents. That’s right, pick one! It’ll be 99 cents. If it’s not, send me a link, I’ll send you a free copy.
If you paid full price for V&A Shipping, email me. I trust you. I will send you a free copy of V&A Shipping II. If you already have V&A Shipping II, I’ll send you one of my others title (that I’ve published myself, this doesn’t include the anthologies). So drop me a line and say “Hey! Murdock! I feel like I got ripped off for paying full price!” and BAM! Free ebook for you just for being awesome.
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/275220
So check it out. Let me know what you think. Don’t forget, that V&A Shipping II is also out there (and only $2.99). That’s right, you can get 2 books for only four bucks (well, $3.98 if you want to be picky about it). So what are you waiting for? Head on out there and pick up something to read!
Until Next Time!
The six months on Planchar, waiting for the Acid Rat to be fully repaired, gave Joey time to really become one with the team. He and Vic spent a great deal of time flying the Iron Butterfly. June even taught Joey how to fly it.
Joey flew it the day they all went back to Earth. He and June stood on the scorched Earth waiting for the rest to disembark.
He and June had spent a great deal of time together. During the move off their base from Munchkada to Planchar, at the request of Chancellor Pitrine, the two of them had grown closer. Much closer. He put his arm around her shoulders and she slid her arm around his waist.
He would have smiled, as her touch always made his smile, but the complete emptiness of the streets unnerved him. Nothing moved. Not even the air. Everything had a red haze in the hot, stale air. The sun burned far brighter than it should have and if it weren’t for the special sunglasses June had gotten him, he was certain he’d be blind.
Vic exited the Acid Rat first. He no longer wore his black pants, black boots, black vest with his white shirt. He now wore white pants with a red shirt.
Argmon, next off the ship, had healed. He refused to have any prosthetics to replace his missing arms. He looked lopped-sided with two arms on his right side.
Finally Dexter waddled off the ship. They’d probably all be dead if it hadn’t been for Dex. The suspicion Joey felt for the tri-ped had dissipated over the past six months and they’d had quite a number of their own little adventures.
Behind the three of them, a large cart carrying two coffins exited the ship.
“Where are we?” Joey asked.
Vic put his arm around Joey’s shoulder and pulled him away from June. “Kid, if you’d been on Earth, you wouldn’t have lived to see this place. This is San Diego in the future as you would have known it. I came back here and didn’t find anything to explain what happened on the planet when the sun went mini-nova. I don’t think I’d want to. It’s bad enough to just look at it and know that everyone is gone. It’s just you, June, and me, kid.
“I tell you what, I don’t feel as bad as I thought I would. I thought it would be hard coming back for the third time, but I think knowing that I’m not alone anymore, or even alone with June, I feel somehow better about it. You know what I mean?”
Joey guessed he knew, but seeing everything intact and no people, he didn’t like it. He felt sick looking at it.
“Kid, don’t dwell on it. Let’s get going.”
Vic led the way down the street.
“Where are we going?” June asked.
“Well,” Vic said as he turned around and started to walk backward. “I’ve got to bury my dad.”
“Who’s in the other coffin?” Joey asked.
“I figured since none of us knew where Joop-Nop came from, I’d bury him here as well. He didn’t do much on the ship, but he didn’t deserve what he got.”
Vic turned back around and kept walking. Joey sidled along side of him and matched his step. Vic held his head high as he walked. Joey did likewise.
They came up on an ancient cemetery. The headstones all bore marks of age, but because no more air moved, they had to have eroded long ago. They were ancient even before the sun went mini-nova. That put things into perspective.
Vic made his way through the headstones unerringly and stopped in front of a small, flat headstone and bowed his head. June pulled Joey back.
“Give him a minute.”
“That’s his mom’s grave. I guess he’s going to bury his dad here too.”
“Yup,” Vic said, raising his head. “They were meant to be together. Even if dad lost it in the end.”
Vic turned and picked up a shovel off the cart. Joey looked at Vic’s clean clothes.
“You’re not thinking of digging a hole, are you?”
“Oh hell no.”
Vic placed the shovel in the ground and gave it a turn. A section of dirt moved aside as easily as opening a door. He then pulled a control from his belt and pressed a button. One coffin rose off the platform and with the control, he guided the coffin into the hole, turned the shovel, and the matter was over.
“Quite impressive,” Joey said.
June hit him. Vic knelt down and pressed his closed fist to his head. He could have stayed there for a long time. Joey looked about the cemetery. Maybe his parents were buried here as well. Maybe he could find their grave site.
“Don’t,” said June. Almost all of these graves…”
“I’ve got to look.”
“Okay, if you’ve got to look, there’s a directory inside the office. That’s how Vic found his mom.”
Joey didn’t even wait for June to stop talking before he sprinted to the office. The glass had been smashed out, presumably by Vic. The map on the wall had faded in many areas and the writing, tiny writing, was barely legible. None of the plots were in any kind of order. So many graves. So many dead people. How could anyone…
“Provoski,” he muttered to himself. “Joey Provoski…Senior.”
Tears welled up in his eyes. The next plot he saw Alice Provoski. The writing had nearly faded away, but he could see their names. He had to see their grave. He just had to.
He ran from the office. He barely noticed June, Dexter, and Argmon sitting on the cart with the second coffin. He ran through the cemetery. Their plot sat at the far end. He ran the entire way. By the time he arrived in front of two crumbled head stones, he had to gasp for breath. The hot air made it extremely difficult to breath.
Please have lived a long life. Please. Please.
He looked first at his mom’s. The writing on the stone was all but worn away. 1966-2056. She’d lived to be ninety. Ninety years old. At the base of the stone only partial words could be made out. Joey’s imagination filled in the blanks. “I will never forget my baby boy, Joey.”
He wiped the tears away with his sleeve.
On his father’s it read “I go now, to be with my boy, for I’m sure he has gone ahead of us.” And the date, Joey had to read it twice. 1963-2097. he’d lived to be one hundred-thirty-four. Joey sat looking at the dates, amazed his dad hung on so long and right up until the end he thought about…
Joey crumbled to the ground and cried. If only he could have been there. Somehow the finality of his parents being dead brought the reality of what he’d gone through to heart. He could have easily continued living in ignorance, but he had to know. He had to see for himself. That didn’t make it easy. He pounded the ground with his fist.
He could have been there five minutes, or five hours. The sun hadn’t moved in the sky, and his friends waited, patiently. All four waited for Joey to return on his own. The second coffin was no longer on the cart.
June hugged him as soon as he returned and Vic slapped him on the shoulder.
“That’s as tough as it gets. Trust me on that one.”
And Joey did. He trusted Vic. He would trust Vic with his life for as long as they both lived.
Vic smiled and adjusted his sunglasses. “Should we go see who needs something shipped?”
B.T. Justice scratched at the wall with a rock he’d procured from the yards. Yards where big rocks were made into small rocks. Yards where he had to toil in the sun for hours a day and he’d lost nearly all of the paunch he’d once carried around. If nothing else, the six months he’d spent on the prison planet, Brakthanian, had gotten him into the best shape he’d been in since attending the academy.
He wanted out. He needed out. He needed a hamburger. None of that would happen though, and he knew it. Today, just like every other day, he’d go out to the yard and hear the warden shouting over the P.A. system “All you criminals need to think about why you’re here toiling under the hot sun making big rocks into little rocks.”
The pain of sore muscles he’d gotten used to. The annoying and constant prattle of the warden he hadn’t. He doubted he ever would.
Only one thing kept him going: getting out. Getting out of the prison and tracking down Vic and Argmon of the SS Acid Rat. The crew that had eluded him and defamed him and gotten him thrown into prison. It was their heads he saw each time he brought him hammer to bear on a rock. It was their skin he scratched, not the wall, to mark off the days he’d served.
The six months were nearly up. Soon, very soon, he’d be out. He wouldn’t be a Sheriff anymore, but that didn’t matter. Only one thing mattered. He had to find the SS Acid Rat. He had to put an end to them.
“Buford T. Justice! Get up. Time to go to work.”
Justice eyed the guard. He stashed the rock back under his mattress and rolled out of bed. The guard led him to the yard.
The sun hadn’t crested over the peak of Lifesaver Mountain, the name given to the mountain because it saved the prisoners from the first three hours of direct sunlight. They’d work a couple hours more before lunch, then sweat away the afternoon under the blazing sun. If it hadn’t been for that mountain, many a man would have died.
B.T. Justice looked up at the peak of the mountain. A ship, a large blue and gold ship, crested the mountain and descended down toward the prison. A blue and gold ship that Justice recognized as the Apprehension. A smile crossed his lips.
“Junior,” he said under his breath. “Bring me a hamburger.”
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Vic looked at his crew; no, not his crew anymore. His friends. He didn’t know how to break it to them. How did he tell Argmon that the shipping business would close its doors? How did he tell June, a woman who would rather spend time in space to help her forget about Earth, that he didn’t want to fly any more? And Dexter, hell, he didn’t really even understand Dexter or the tri-ped’s motivations. Joey would probably take the news best. He’d only been with them for a short time.
All of them rushed, but Vic held up his hands. “No hugging! No hugging! I’m still in bad shape. I don’t need any rib crushing hugs right now.”
In all honesty, he did. Even though he wore new clothes, he noticed that June and Joey wore new clothes as well, and he looked good, he wasn’t certain as to his condition.
The smell of food, real food, not hospital food, entered his nose. All thoughts of telling them anything faded until he could eat a decent meal.
“Is there anything to eat?”
June smiled and led him to the table where the remains of breakfast sat. “I can order you something. The government is picking up the bill.”
“I don’t want to wait that long.” Vic put his hand to his stomach. It rumbled in response.
“Well, there’s plenty of left-overs.” Joey picked up a plate with a half eaten omelet.
Vic sat and ate. He only paused when he finally looked at Argmon and noticed the bandaged left side of his friend. As if feeling responsible for June and Joey being here wasn’t enough, now his father had gone and wounded Argmon. Another burden he’d have to carry thanks to his father.
“How are you doing?”
Argmon patted the bandages and shrugged.
“I’m sorry that happened.”
Argmon shook his head and chuffed.
Even though Argmon didn’t blame him, Vic still felt guilty.
But why should he? He hadn’t made his dad pull the trigger. He’d tried to stop him as best he could. No, he shouldn’t feel guilty for what his father did.
He couldn’t shake the feeling. He hadn’t gone back to see if his father had survived. He hadn’t come searching for his father sooner. He hadn’t stopped when everything his father had done to try and stop his shipping business. He had driven his father to do what he did.
“Vic, stop,” June snapped at him.
“Stop what?” Vic looked at her, confused.
“Feeling sorry for yourself. Like all this is your fault. We’re all big enough to make choices for ourselves.”
“I’m sorry, Vic. I just don’t want you to take the blame for everything that happened. You weren’t there when I pushed the button in your father’s machine.”
“But it was my father’s machine that sent you here.”
“Vic,” Joey said. “I did the same thing. I went in there and pushed that button.”
“Yeah, but my mom put you up to it. How do I not take blame for that?”
“Because you’re not your mom,” said June.
“I understand that. I should have never come after my dad. I should have stayed home and torn that machine apart.”
Joey sat up. “The hell you say. I mean, I didn’t have a bad life, but I always dreamed of something better. I never thought I’d end up in outer space. Granted this isn’t anything like what I had expected it to be like, but I’m here. I’m alive. I didn’t die a nobody back on Earth like everyone else.”
“But you didn’t get to live out your life either. You’re here instead.”
“And maybe I’m supposed to be here.”
“You two calm down,” interceded June. “Now this isn’t getting us anywhere. We’re not going to talk about who’s at fault. Vic, I wanted to talk to you about the business.”
Finally it was out. Vic put the fork back on the plate, wiped his cleanly shaven face with his napkin and looked up. He looked from one to the next. Argmon, Dexter, Joey, and finally June. He had to word this carefully.
“I’m getting out of the shipping business.”
June gasped. Joey wrinkled his brow as if he hadn’t heard right. Dexter blinked his eyes out of synch. Argmon barked and yowled.
“Stop! Stop. Stop. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. After what my dad said and after he stuck a knife into me, I did a lot of thinking about what he said.”
June held her hands up. “He’s wrong.”
“Just give me a minute to explain. I don’t think he was wrong. I mean, he’d built his machine to search the galaxy, to answer the mysteries of life, and to discover the unexplored. What did I do when I got here? I went to work. I didn’t go seeking any greater good. I didn’t do anything my father would have. I’ve wasted time I could have spent doing things for the benefit of people, not just for myself.”
“But Vic, you have.” June shook her head. “Look at the people here on Planchar. They worship you. You’ve brought them a shipment of something that could save their people and their planet from possible destruction. When no one else would help them out, you took a risk and you did.”
“I nearly got us all arrested.”
“But you didn’t.”
“Then I took us on a bet. A dare. And I nearly got us all killed. I acted irresponsibly.”
“If I even knew what that meant…”
“You make snap decisions. That doesn’t mean you should stop the shipping business. It just means maybe you need to take some time before making a choice and maybe even a little input on those decisions. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Huh?” Vic sat up in his chair. “What do you mean?”
“What I mean is I wanted out. I almost left. On Munchkada I had an appointment to buy my own ship. I thought I could do this job better than you. I don’t need to do this job better than you. What I need is for you to listen to me. And not just me, but all of us. I need you to stop being so headstrong and listen to us. Your crew. Your friends.”
Vic looked at the food on the table, not really seeing anything. He had to process all that. Was she right? Did he just need to listen? Had he really been doing what his dad would have been doing? No, but then he wasn’t his father, was he? He’d grown into his own man. He’d started a business with Argmon and they’d done quite well for themselves. They’d done quite well for everyone on the crew.
He looked up. June crossed her arms. She didn’t look stern as if she’d intended to be mean, but she looked ready to counter anything he could say against not staying in the shipping business.
Joey, his innocent face still bruised from his battle with Mike, looked more grown up somehow. As if the week he’d spent in space had somehow brought him into manhood. He had an edge now and didn’t look like the soft creampuff Vic met.
Dexter, well, he was still Dexter.
Argmon narrowed his eyes at Vic, waiting for an answer.
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Joey tried to scream, but the gag prevented him from doing so. He twisted and fought his bonds to no avail. June also thrashed in her seat trying to get free and get to Vic. He could feel her trying to break free.
Dexter, after the first blindingly fast kick, kicked Hector a second time. Joey had taken one of those kicks and it had knocked him out. Hector looked to be affected, but he didn’t go down. He took blow after blow from Dexter.
Dexter kicked and knocked Hector through the balcony doors. A final kick and Hector flew over the railing. No scream ever came. Hector just slipped over the railing and disappeared.
Vic groaned. This prompted June to begin her thrashing once again. Dexter darted over to June and untied her hands. She stood up and promptly fell back down into her seat. Dexter next untied her legs. She untied her gag as she hurried over to Vic.
Joey felt his bonds slacken and he pulled at his gag. Once his feet were free, he rushed to June’s side.
“Check on Argmon. He was shot.”
Joey didn’t question, he just reacted. Even when he heard June say, “Hold on Vic. I’m going to call a doctor. Hold on, oh God please hold on.”
A wash of sorrow erupted from June and flooded onto Joey, nearly knocking him to the floor next to Argmon.
The big dog-thing had taken a hit, that much Joey could make out, but with all the blood, it was difficult to tell where. Argmon still breathed, but lay in a massive pool of his own blood.
Joey finally figured out what wasn’t right about Argmon. The shot from the blaster had taken his two left arms. They had been blown away in an explosion of blood. Joey gagged, then vomited behind the door.
“Joey! How’s Argmon? A medical crew is on its way. They’ll be arriving at the balcony any minute. Joey?”
Joey felt much better after throwing up. He looked over Argmon’s wounds. As best he could tell, the blaster had cauterized the destroyed limbs. The only blood must have been from the destruction of the limbs.
“Argmon? Argmon?” Joey nudged the Shathar. “Argmon, wake up.”
Argmon’s throat rattled, but he didn’t move. The big guy would live, Joey felt certain of that.
“He’s going to be okay, but he lost two arms.”
“What?” she screamed and ran into the room. “Dammit, where’s that medical car?”
She disappeared. Joey didn’t know what to do next. He couldn’t lift Argmon. He had no medical training at all. He felt helpless.
Sirens filled the air and bright green and yellow lights flashed about the room. Joey backed out of the way as four heavily muscled men entered the room and in a matter of two minutes, strapped both Vic and Argmon onto stretchers and disappeared back out the balcony, leaving June, Dexter, and he alone in the wrecked rooms.
“What happened?” Joey asked, still staring out the broken balcony doors.
“I heard them say they need to pick up one more down below. That must be Hector. Dex, I think we all owe you our lives.”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
“Don’t be modest.”
“Eep? Eep? Eep?”
“I’m sure Vic and Argmon will be fine. They’re in good hands now. Vic lost a lot of blood…”
“Argmon too. Look at it all.”
Joey wrapped his arms around June and hugged her, fighting back tears as he did. No matter how strong June sounded, her fear radiated out from her. When she started crying, he did too.
When they broke apart, June called the front desk. New rooms were found and all three went to the same room. Dexter took the couch while June and Joey took the bed. They’d exchanged their robes for pajamas, but that didn’t matter. Sleep didn’t return.
When the sun did finally peek up, all three got up without a word and got ready. June phoned and found out where Vic and Argmon had been taken, so they left the hotel and took a cab to the hospital.
Vic had been put into intensive care for a severed artery and punctured lung, but Argmon was released. His left side where the two arms were missing had been bandaged. Argmon not only looked tired, he looked downright beat. They returned to the hotel with him, not being able to get in to see Vic.
June and Joey talked about Earth and the differences between their times. They didn’t laugh or joke, but spoke in somber tones about Earth.
It wasn’t until the following day that they were allowed to see Vic, and only then for a brief time. And even then, only June had been allowed to go inside. All the while Argmon stood with his head pressed against the door as if he’d be able to commune with Vic through the door somehow.
“So when do you get out of here?” June fought to keep her emotions in check. She could feel Vic’s pain deep in his gut. She didn’t want to make him talk a lot, but she needed to know a few things.
“Soon.” Vic coughed.
“Can I bring you anything? Anything special you want when you get out?”
His voice came out low and strained as he spoke. “A beer…and a smoke.”
“That’s so like you.” She didn’t want to beat around the bush any longer. “Vic, your dad, he’s dead.”
Vic closed his eyes and nodded. “I kind of figured that must’ve happened if all of you were still alive. How’s Argmon?”
“Well, your dad shot off two of his arms.” Vic winced at this news as if he’d lost the arms. “The Chancellor said there may be hope for prosthetics being that they were sheared off cleanly and if he would accept them, the city would present them as a gift.”
“Argmon’s not one to take charity.” Vic coughed again. “You don’t have a smoke on you, do you?”
“Vic, we need to talk about the business. About the shipping.”
“Yes, we do, but here isn’t the place and this isn’t the time. We all need to talk together when I’m doing better. The doc said my lung is nearly healed, just some excess fluid or some such thing. I’ll be out of here tomorrow.”
“I think that’s a great idea. Tomorrow. With everyone. We can have dinner and talk. As a team, not a crew.”
“Miss, I’m afraid your time is up,” a mechanized voice said.
“I’m going to miss Tootsie,” replied Vic and he closed his eyes.
June took his hand and gave it a quick kiss before leaving.
Back in the waiting area she let the others know Vic would be out the next day. They adjourned to the hotel, dined, and slept. During breakfast, Vic arrived.
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The old man’s eyes, beady and black like death, bore into Vic’s face. His face, wrinkled and covered with a thin beard and moustache, frowned.
“What are you doing here? I thought you were dead.”
Vic’s dad, Hector, stepped to the side of Joey, releasing his grip and allowing Joey to gasp for breath. He wore long, pale-red robes tied off at the waist with a thin, black belt.
“That was your first problem. You thought. Never did you think properly, did you? Always you thought you knew better. Always you thought you were right. You haven’t changed. Not one little bit.”
“Dad, you don’t look so good.”
“Don’t I? I waited for seventy years for you or your mother to come and save me.”
“Dad, I didn’t know. You even said yourself that time moves differently…”
“Don’t talk back to me. I wanted you to suffer as you made me suffer when you left me to rot back on that planet. A prisoner. That’s all I’ve been since I got here. A prisoner. I wanted to roam the galaxy and make it give up its secrets. I wanted to see everything. I should have been allowed at least that. But no, I was captured and jailed and because I wasn’t a telepath, I couldn’t defend myself. Each word I spoke just lengthened my sentence.”
“I didn’t know…”
Hector pounded his chest as if to free his voice. “Do you know how difficult it was to see you arrive? My boy. I wanted to hold you and tell you how glad I was to see you, but I couldn’t. I wanted out. And you showing up, nearly helping me to escape. When the escape pod ejected from the exploding ship, I waited, and waited. I waited to see you come back and save me. To save Bakcha.”
Argmon growled at this name. The name of his brother.
“Bakcha tried everything to signal to you, but your ship just kept pulling away. Bakcha fought and resisted, but they killed him. Do you understand? I had to see him die. I had to see you leave.”
“Dad, I saw the ship explode. Argmon saw the ship explode. We didn’t think anyone could have survived.”
“Even if you hadn’t come back for me, I could have forgiven that. I could have understood. I escaped from there three years ago. I came to find you. My only son. The fruit of my loins. The one to carry on my legacy. And what do I find? My son, a common criminal, gallivanting about the galaxy doing petty jobs for petty people and squandering his time with a petty business.
“I didn’t build my machine to come into space so I or you could use it to become a crook.”
“So you tried to kill me?”
“Not at first. I tried small things to deter you from your path of crime. I made things difficult for you. I reported you several times to GCP Central Office so they could start a case against you. But that did no good. Your crimes, they said, were so small that they couldn’t be bothered with trying to collect you.
“Two years ago I put a plan into action. Two years I’ve been trying to bring you down, boy. I couldn’t see you continue to run our family name into the ground. I hired Mike and we started to watch you from afar, then I saw how you picked up miscreants and outcasts. Mike fit into you crew quite well, don’t you think?”
Vic’s mouth fell open. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“I didn’t know Mike had a screw loose or I would never have used him. I didn’t want you dead, not at first. I had him try everything to get you to stop. Damn you’re a stubborn one. Even with your ship on fire and on the verge of breaking apart and being pursued by the authorities, you still didn’t stop. Even after your ship crashed, you still didn’t stop. I’m convinced now that nothing will ever stop you. Ever. Except this.”
Hector pulled a dagger from his belt. Vic, even in his weakened state, knew his father, old beyond belief, couldn’t fight.
“Dad, what are you thinking? I’m your son. I don’t want to fight you.”
“Then you make this all that much easier.” Hector swung his arm back and swiped the dagger across Joey’s face. Joey winced back.
“Hey! They’ve got nothing to do with this. You leave them alone!”
“Oh, so you’ll stick up for this lot, will you? Where were you when I needed you? You never tried to help me. You left me, your own father, to rot on that hell hole of a planet. Do you know what being locked up that long can do to a person? Do you!”
Spittle flew from Hector’s mouth as he raged. He gnashed his teeth and lunged at Vic. He stopped when Argmon growled, pausing for a moment to pull a gun from the folds of his robes. He raised the gun and fired it at Argmon. With a howl Argmon fell to the ground.
“No! Stop this. These are my friends.”
“And you’ll all die soon enough.” Hector tossed the gun to the ground and rushed Vic with the dagger.
Vic sidestepped and tried to grab his father’s wrist. He was rewarded with the blade puncturing his hand. A sharp intake of breath and he pulled his hand back and gritted his teeth. Hector look frenzied by the blood and pressed his advantage. With a scream he leapt at Vic.
Vic did manage to catch Hector’s wrist, but the weight of the old man pushed him backwards. The back of his legs caught on the bed and he fell over backwards.
“Yeeeeooooowwww!” Hector screamed.
With the weight of Hector behind the point of the blade, Vic couldn’t stop its advance. The pain wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be as the blade entered his stomach. He closed his eyes and coughed up blood. It couldn’t end like this. After all they’d been through. It couldn’t.
Hector leaned down and whispered into Vic’s ear, all of the insanity gone from his eyes. His voice sounded like that of a priest. “I couldn’t let you disgrace me, Victor. This is the way it has to be.”
Vic couldn’t move even if he wanted to. The blade in his abdomen felt like it sucked his life out.
“Be still now, Victor. It’ll all be over in a moment.”
Vic tried to raise his arms, but he couldn’t move. No! It couldn’t end like this. After all they’d been through only to die at the hands of a crazy old man. It just couldn’t end. Not now. Not like this.
“Dad. No. Please.”
As his vision faded, Vic heard something hit the door and crash it inward. A green blur crossed his fading sight and he his father’s weight disappeared. Vic laid his head back and heaved a struggled breath.
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Vic woke screaming and sweating and sat bolt upright. The waves of pain sent his body crashing back down. The doctor had given him a heavy sedative, but his dreams forced his mind to waken. In his mind he had to watch as Argmon was ripped from the Acid Rat and into the vacuum of space and Mike tore June and Joey to shreds just as he’d done to Joop-Nop. Then, over and over, Mike pounded his fangs into his shoulders, reopening the barely-healing wounds.
Vic grabbed his nightshirt as if pulling it off would help him catch his breath. He took a gulp of water from the glass on the night stand and spilt some on himself. He even poured a small amount into his hand and washed his face with it.
“Why? Why am I having these dreams?” He looked over at Argmon sleeping on the bed on the opposite side of the dim room. The Shathar hadn’t moved all night as best as Vic could tell. He envied his friend.
Vic caught his breath and got out of bed. He didn’t need any more sleep. He relieved himself and strode out onto the balcony. Fresh air. That’s what he need. A good lungful of fresh air.
The balcony overlooked the heart of Contaminar. Though the air still had the sting of pollution in it, Vic still wanted to be in the open air; something he had never needed before. Strange that he needed it now. Not just strange, but highly out of character.
He liked the cramped confines of the Acid Rat. He’d spent more time on that ship than anywhere else in his life. Why should he suddenly long for the open spaces? Could it be guilt? The guilt of losing crew members and systems weighed on him, but not to the point he’d want to give up his life of roaming the galaxy.
Could it have been the guilt of putting the sole survivors of Earth into jeopardy? He’d put himself at risk when he was alone and it never bothered him before. So why should it bother him now?
No, it wasn’t that. Something else clung to the back of his mind. Something he’d forgotten about. Something he needed to take care of. He’d taken care of securing the remains of Joop-Nop and Tootsie (Tootsie hadn’t survived the crash and couldn’t be fixed). He’d eluded the over-zealous sheriff. He’d made his delivery for Almo. He gave an initial statement to the authorities about Mike.
Mike! Damn! The boss. That’s what he had forgotten about. He turned and went back inside, closing the balcony door behind him. He’d gotten everything off the ship. Everything that is save the box Mike used to talk with ‘the boss’. He must’ve hidden it, but where? They’d taken everything off the ship except the Iron Butterfly.
That had to be it. Mike had stowed away on the Iron Butterfly. He must’ve hidden it there. Could he have been in contact with ‘the boss’ just before he attacked June and Joey? It had to be there.
“Argmon. Argmon! Wake up.” Vic tossed his bedclothes on the bed and dressed in the new clothes Chancellor Verbiddi made available. “Argmon!”
Argmon growled and rolled over to face Vic.
“We need to get to the ship. We need to check out the Iron Butterfly.”
The growl from Argmon said “Do it tomorrow.”And Vic new better than to argue.
“Fine, you stay there and sleep. We need to check out the Iron Butterfly. Mike had something on that little cruiser that he communicated with the person who hired him. It’s still got to be there. We need to get it and put this whole thing to rest.”
Argmon needed no further prompting. He sprang to life. A quick shake of his head and fur and he looked ready to go. Vic finished dressing and headed for the door. He reached for the knob and stopped. Something pulled him back into the room. He cocked his head and tried to listen. He couldn’t hear anything, but he felt something. Something that wasn’t right. It felt different than the nagging sensation he’d forgotten something, almost like someone inside his head…
Vic rushed to the door between his room and June’s. Locked! He hit the door with his shoulder then wished he hadn’t.
Argmon pulled him out of the way and bashed the door down with a solid hit. The darkness of the other room felt heavy, almost panic filled. Argmon started to go in first, but Vic pulled him back and listened into the room. There should have been some reaction from June and Joey. They couldn’t be sleeping that heavily. Not to sleep through the breaking down of a door.
Not only wasn’t there any noise of them getting up, but he couldn’t hear any noise of them breathing in their sleep. The room felt wrong. It felt evil. Just as he had been drawn to the room, he now wanted to rush out of the room, to get away from it.
“Come and join us,” an aged voice said softly.
A tingle of recognition ran down Vic’s spine. He knew that voice, but from where? Why should a voice he knows be hidden inside this room?
“What have you done with June and Joey?”
“Don’t worry. They’re safe, for the time being. Take a seat.”
A chair slide across the floor and stopped just in front of him. Argmon growled a deep growl. Vic put his hand up. “Let’s see what he has to say first.”
Vic sat the chair aside and didn’t sit down.
“Suit yourself. Either way, you’ll be dead soon.”
The flatness, the almost businesslike way the man said this froze Vic’s blood. It hadn’t been said maliciously, or evilly. Just factually. Vic looked at the chair, but remained standing.
“Where are June and Joey?”
“They are still here and they are with me. I assure you that they will not be harmed until I have dealt with you.”
“Who are you?” The familiarity of the aged voice begged to be identified. Vic knew this person. He had to. There couldn’t be any other explanation to how he could hear the voice and feel comfortable and nervous at the same time.
The lights came on. June and Joey sat in chairs facing Vic. They’d been tied up and gagged. Vic felt June’s thoughts and fear immediately, her eyes wide with fear. Joey looked as if he wanted to struggle, but a hand on his shoulder caused the kid to wince in pain with pressure applied.
The hand, that of an old man, was attached to someone Vic knew well. Very, very well. A man that shouldn’t be here. A man that Vic had seen die. A man that he knew to be dead for seven years now. A man that couldn’t possible be here in this room now. It just couldn’t be. It couldn’t.
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