From Left to Right

The human brain is divided into two halves. The left side is the center for logic and the right deals with creativity.  Traditionally, males are seen as left-brained and women right-brained. Of course this is a bunch of hooey.  While each of us have one side of the brain that is dominant, no one is all one or the other. Neither is one side gender specific.

We all use both sides.

And both sides are dependent upon each other.

Most of my ideas come from the left side of my brain. I am extremely analytical and logic-driven. And while some critiques would argue with that, I didn’t say my flow of logic follows someone else’s. At work, they like to give us personality tests. I always rank in the .5 percentile of the population. Apparently, my logic processes jump steps that others need. Hence my dependency for beta readers and critique partners, so I can insert those things needed for others to follow the story. Even then, some don’t.

Oddly, to create a story I must turn down the left side of my brain and focus predominantly on the right. The creative side unleashes the things, events and people I see in my mind’s eye as the story unfold. This would be why I write a lot of description, I see the characters unfold like a movie in my head. Of course, sometimes the visual book station is on the fritz and I only get audio.

My left-brain says I need professional help and perhaps medication. That’s why it gets turned down low. But it does have to be on.

Unlike real life, a story has to make sense. The plot has to unfold in a logical way that readers can follow.

But there must be a balance.

I’ve written stories too left-brained. They end up very dry and linear. These are the ones I’ve plotted too much and followed the structure rigidly. I’ve never wholly written something using my right-brain; the left side won’t completely shut down. It works in the background.

Of course that doesn’t mean I can’t ignore it.

That’s why I have notebooks full of ideas, gifts of my left brain, waiting slowly to be translated through my right brain and onto the computer.

Until next time.

 

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Syn-En:Plague World, Chapter 2

PlagueWorldChapter 2

After making his announcement, the bug-ugly Groat severed communications.

Nell glared at the black screen banding the forward section of the bridge. Silver threads snaked along the veins of her hands and climbed her wrists. Great, she was a Human mood ring. She inhaled to a count of four then exhaled. The color didn’t recede. Probably wouldn’t until this threat passed. She tugged her sleeves down her arms. “The Founders and their minions can’t just say they’re going to board us, then do it. Don’t they need a search warrant or something?”

She knew the Syn-En were trying to contact him again. The brain box at the base of her skull tingled. Her husband had opened the Wireless Array to communicate internally with his men. And she’d been dragged along.

Bei’s almond-shaped eyes lasered on her. His blue irises darkened to cobalt as part of his consciousness merged with cyberspace. “According to the Erwar Codicils, the Founders can board any newly declared sentient species’ vessel.”

“How convenient.” Her fingers flew over the LED keyboard on the health hub embedded in the hull of the circular bridge.

Bracketing her, the nav and tactical hubs displayed innocuous schematics on the screen. But the light pulsing along the fiberoptic cables of their Syn-En operators gave away the deception. The Syn-En were girding themselves for battle.

Her stomach clenched. And her husband would lead the fight. Nell’s hands changed to silver gloves. She quickly powered down her station and clasped her metallic mitts behind her back.

A muscle ticked in Bei’s jaw and he arched one jet-black eyebrow.

He knew about her anxiety. Of course, he knew. Even if the color change hadn’t given her away, he sensed her mood swings before she did. Just as she did his. The whoo-whoo power had its uses. And its drawbacks. She flashed her shiny palms. “I still think the Founders should need a reason to board us.”

One, hopefully, that didn’t include the liberated slaves stowed around Bei’s starship.

He glanced at a spot near him. “The section cited is about the Founders’ moral obligation to guide new sentients.”

“Right.” Nell snorted. “Why don’t they just say they come in peace like all the other evil aliens from B-movies?”

Sitting in the bulky chair in the center of the room, Captain Pennig scratched the fringe of gray hair ringing his scalp. “They may not be familiar with Earth entertainment. Ergo, they do not know their expected lines.”

“That’s not exactly comforting.” She slogged across the deck. Her boots scuffed the metal grating. Underneath, lights and relays blinked and glowed.

“Admiral.” The ensign at the tactical hub shoved an image onto the forward screens. Youth filled out his dark features. “A shuttle has departed the Founders’ dreadnaught. Five Scraptors aboard. I’m detecting side arms and particle rifles. ETA in ten minutes.”

Bei held out his hand. “Not a raiding party.”

“Thank God.” She closed the distance between them. Her palm slid against his. Her skin prickled in awareness and memories flooded in—of him and her with nothing but skin between them.

Sucking in a breath, Bei squeezed her hand. “You’re not helping.”

Of course, she was. She’d masked the life signs of their unauthorized passengers.

Captain Pennig shifted on his seat. “I can delay their arrival an extra five minutes. Those thoughts are distracting.”

“Oh God.” She was broadcasting to everyone! Everyone.

The Syn-Ens at the hubs giggled.

Her face flushed. Instead of turning red, she knew her skin had changed to silver. Too bad the NDA wouldn’t just dissolve her and reconstitute her somewhere else. Siberia should be nice this time of year.

Wrapping his free arm around her, Bei kissed her forehead.

Her limbs filled with warmth. Her shoulders relaxed. The biting desire settled into a simmer. Bei was always calm while she raged. She clung to his black tunic and buried her nose in his neck. His spicy scent filled her. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

She pressed her lips to his jaw before straightening. They were in this together. “So what’s the plan?”

Captain Pennig straightened in his chair. “I have the Amarook shielding standing by. If they find our cargo, we can enable it.”

The tactical Syn-En zoomed in on the enemy dreadnaught. “Six missiles should punch through the hard points, then we can torpedo their fusion engines.” He pointed first to the cargo holds in the center of the fuselage then the glowing round balls of the reactors.  “No witnesses, no cause for war.”

Nell stiffened. “Blowing up somebody’s ship is an act of war.” Geez, hadn’t they watched any of the Star Trek episodes she’d recommended? “If the Scraptors find our cargo, why don’t we just bash them over the head, cloak our ship with the Amarook shield, and split.”

Every Syn-En on the bridge stiffened.

She even felt the snap, crackle, and pop worm through her brain box.

Emotion smoothed from Bei’s wide cheekbones. “You want us to run from a fight?”

“No, I want you to advance in the opposite direction.”

“Retreat.” Pennig spat.

The Syn-Ens at the hubs glared at her.

“When you say it like that, it sounds bad.” Setting back, she clasped Bei’s hand in hers. The silver flowed from her skin to his, binding them in gossamer threads. “But it isn’t. Not really.”

Bei’s eyes narrowed. “We are Syn-En. We fight. We make a stand. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.”

If he said it was in their programming, she’d slap him silly.

His lips parted in shock.

Dammit. She’d forgotten he could read her thoughts in the WA. Too bad he couldn’t make sense of the jumble inside her skull. Then he’d understand. She had to make him understand. Unfortunately, logic had never been her strong suit. She inhaled a calming breath. “Destroying the Founders’ battleship would cause a war.”

The tactical ensign rolled his eyes. “Not if they never found the wreckage.”

Nell ignored him. “Groat is the Founders head Bug-ugly. If they didn’t send him here on an unrelated mission, then he’s bound to have reported in that his scans turned up something suspicious. The Founders will know where he is and with whom.”

“How will running away help?” Bei smoothed her cheek.

She leaned into his touch for a minute. This is why she married him. He was always willing to listen. “We tell them our bubble drive malfunctioned, cargo came loose and smacked ‘em upside the head. While they’re out, we transfer our guests to another vessel. They can’t convict us without evidence.”

Captain Pennig swiveled in his chair. He rubbed his age spotted chin. “We can come up with something that would provide their scans with false readings.”

“Groat would be discredited. Again.” Bei’s lips pulled away from his teeth.

Nell shivered. Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother probably saw something similar before she died. “Couldn’t happen to a nicer Bug-ugly.”

Her husband’s death grimace softened into a smile. A real one. Even his eyes twinkled. “We can spin it as an act of aggression on the Founders part. Might even convince some of the undecided sentients to join the Neo-Sentient Alliance.”

“More allies would be helpful.” Captain Pennig grinned. “Tell me, Nell Stafford. Did you just share a movie line with us or is some of our Syn-En cunning rubbing off on you?”

She tossed back her shoulders. “I do have original thoughts, you know.”

And she wasn’t exactly keen on thinking like a Syn-En. She’d much rather look at someone and take their measure than think of a hundred ways to kill them.

Bei leaned forward. “A hundred and sixty-seven, now.”

She smacked his shoulder. “That’s not funny.”

“No. It isn’t.” He set her hand on his arm. “Let’s greet our guests.”

She wiggled her silver fingers. “Maybe I should bow out of this one.”

“Absolutely not.” He guided her to the elevators. “I want to remind Groat that there’s more to humanity that it appears.”

“More to him, too.” Even on maximum setting, their scans had barely penetrated the Scraptor’s hard shell.  Her nails dug into Bei’s arm. “What do you think they are hiding under that armor?”

“Their vulnerabilities.” The doors swished open and he ushered her into the elevator. “We do know that under their exoskeleton, they are soft flesh and fragile bones.”

“Maybe that’s some kind of formless goo and under their helmets, there’s a giant cockroach working the rest of the body.”

Bei pushed the button to the docking bay.

“It could happen.” She’d seen it in a movie. “I kinda like the idea of squishing the real Groat under my shoe.”

“I could crush him as is.” Her husband flexed his arm. The small muscle belied the strength of his prosthetic limbs.  “Just say the word.”

He would, too, if she asked. But she wouldn’t. The Syn-Ens’ fledgling alliance with the Skaperians and Amarooks couldn’t take on the Founders. Not yet. But everyone knew war was coming.

Everyone knew the Syn-En would be the first on the battle lines. Bei would lead the charge.

And she would be at his side. She smoothed her tunic over her stomach. Perhaps, now was not the best time to consider bringing a child into the world. The elevator glided to a stop. Perhaps, there wouldn’t be another opportunity. Rising up on her toes, she kissed his cheek. “I love you.”

“This is just the beginning, not the end.”

#

Nell fidgeted beside Bei. How could ten minutes last so long?

Two lone Starflight shuttles crouched like sleeping beetles in the far corner of the hangar. The Cardinals Stadium could fit in the rest and still have room for a handful of behemoth recreational vehicles. Gunmetal gray ribs arched over the space. Curvy Skaperian technology mingled with the harsh angles and planes of Earth technology. Security orbs hovered near the ceiling. Blinking green lights indicated they recorded the scene.

Stationed like fence pickets, two dozen security officers lined the inner bulkheads. The NDA in the clothes and skin camouflaged them and their weapons perfectly. With a whirl of gears, the hull peeled away. Boxy wardens punctured the sparkly energy barrier holding in the atmosphere, before they crawled on spidery legs inside. Syn-En crouched inside the repair drones, preparing to stun the Scraptors with a few blasts from their Torp-67 should the stowaways be discovered.

The com crackled, then Captain Pennig spoke. “Founders are on final approach. ETA in forty-five seconds.”

“Roger that.” Bei rolled his shoulders.

The double doors behind them snicked open.

“Sorry to be late.” Paladin Apollie adjusted her breast plate as she raced inside. Red marks spattered like blood on the dark green surface as it molded to her torso. The yellow feathers on her head were divided into cornrows, each braid a testament to her kills in battle.

“I think Groat waited until we were off duty before contacting us.” Nell smiled at their resident Skaperian liaison. With Keyes staying planet-bound until she delivered the first Syn-En baby, Nell slated Apollie to be her new best female friend. The fuzzy muppet with feathers seemed to appreciate the offer even as she kept her distance.

Of course, Apollie had tried to kill Nell and had taken Bei hostage.

Apollie extended her velociraptor claw from her middle toe and cracked her knuckles. Her lanky, white arms hung at her side. A Syn-En patch decorated her sleeve just below her Emp Shield badge. “Where is our resident feather-face?”

Nell closed her eyes. Sensations rippled through her. Elvis the Amarook’s sensations. His thoughts merged with hers. Cold metal under the pads of her feet. The pungent odor of ozone. The hiss of the oxygen scrubbers. The drone of the Founders’ shuttle. Pheromones and—

Bei gripped Elvis’s invisible muzzle, holding it an inch from Nell’s bottom. “Just because she lets you sleep on our bed doesn’t mean you have other privileges, feather-face.”

Shaking her head, Nell broke the telepathic connection with the Amarook. Good God, she’d almost smelled… She shut down the thought and mentally bleached it from her brain.

Elvis shimmered into focus. Standing on his four paws like a wolf, he used his third set of appendages to free his snout from Bei’s grip. Furry hands plucked at Bei’s fingers until her husband released the Amarook. Elvis sneezed then ran his furry hands over the black feathers comprising a trademark Presley do. His blue eyes stared innocently at her. “He would not have known I was here, if you hadn’t given me away.”

Bei grunted. “I recognized Nell’s scent.”

Great, they both could track her. But if one of them peed on her… She scratched Elvis behind one pointy ear. “I didn’t give you away.”

Her husband winked.

Her brain box buzzed. Ah, yes. When she merged with Elvis’s mind, she’d broadcasted his thoughts into the WA where her husband had picked it up. For some reason, the Amarook evaded Bei’s sensors. Which made the Amarook’s crystalline fur perfect for a cloaking shield.

Elvis squeezed his hindquarters between Nell and Apollie and plopped down. “You should select a new mate. This one has failed to impregnate you. Again.”

Nell sighed. No matter how many times she’d told Elvis about her decision to wait to start a family, he refused to believe it.

Bei cupped Nell’s arm and moved her to his right side, placing his body between her and Elvis and Apollie. “I found schematics for a dog house. It looked really uncomfortable.”

Elvis bared his fangs. “My mate had her first litter of pups before we’d been paired for a year.”

“I don’t want a litter.” Nell swayed against her husband. “One at a time is more than enough.”

She laced her silver fingers through Bei’s. He squeezed her hand.

The Amarook sneezed on Apollie’s sandals. “I think it is the poor company you keep.”

Apollie glared at the canine. Her velociraptor claw tapped against the metal deck. “Behave feather-face, or bad things will happen to your caprinae heads.”

An ache pulsed at Nell’s temples. “Remind me why you two are here, again?”

“We are the representatives of our alliance.” Apollie raised her chin.

Elvis nodded, his feathers bobbed and a lock draped over his eye. “This is a Neo-Sentient Alliance ship.”

Nell fought back a grin. Now that they’d walked so neatly into her trap, she sprung the steel jaws. “Then please act like allies not squabbling two year olds.”

“Two year old Amarooks have already made their first kill and mated successfully.” Elvis smoothed back a lock of hair. “Besides, allies don’t experiment on allies.”

“We were all experimented on.” Apollie hissed back before jerking her vambraces over her forearms. The jewel embedded in the gold glowed.

The Founders’ oval-shaped shuttle drifted up from under Bei’s starship. No portholes blemished the red craft. Unlike the dreadnaught mothership, no guns bristled from her hull. The engines emitted a whirling noise as it nudged through the energy barrier.

“That’s not right.” Nell frowned. “Shouldn’t it have come straight for us?”

Her husband smirked. “They detoured around us. Their scans came up empty.”

She shook her head. “You mean they were spying on us?”

Apollie nodded. “It is a fair tactic. Every soldier wants information about their enemy before going into battle.”

Nell’s arms and hands flattened into swords. “Is cutting off their eyestalks and shoving them where the sun don’t shine, a fair tactic?”

Because, if so, she’d like to test it.

The shuttle hovered over the deck. Air currents tugged at her hair, pulling strands from her pony-tail and slapping them against her cheeks.

Squinting, Elvis cocked his head.

If his tongue hung out his mouth, he’d look just like a dog with its head out the window.

The Amarook sent her a bundle of disapproval, then an image of himself higher on an evolutionary scale than a dog. “There are many places where the sun doesn’t shine, Nell Stafford.”

Bei’s shoulders shook. Bowing his head, he manhandled the smile off his face.

Nell elbowed him in the gut. Her sword points melted back into fingers. “Amarooks aren’t the only thing that can be confined to the dog house.”

Her husband nudged her back. “Glad to see a touch of humor is calming you.”

She seriously doubted Elvis was being funny.

The air currents died down, but the shuttle hovered a foot off the deck. A door-shape melted off the curved hull and a white ramp rolled down.

Groat appeared in the dark opening. Red armor glistened in the lights.

Nell lifted her foot. “Let’s get this over with.”

Bei stayed her. “Let him come to us. He’s an uninvited guest.”

Four other Scraptors fanned out behind him. Each cradled a rifle.

Apollie sucked in a breath. “Weapons are not allowed during a consult.”

Nell snorted. The Paladin was a fine one to talk. She carried her own set of chef’s knives on her feet.

“Stand down.” Bei glanced at the Skaperian warrior. “Their weapons are powered down. In the second it takes to charge, we could kill them several times over.”

Nell curled her hands into fists. She mustn’t touch him when he was in battle mode. He would need his arms to fight.

Groat clomped down the ramp and across the deck.

His guard protected his ship.

The hair at Nell’s nape stirred. What in the world?

“Passive sensors.” Bei set his hand on her back. “Since their scans picked up nothing on the outside, they’re trying it again on the inside.”

“They won’t get anything.” Elvis plucked wiry peach-colored feathers from his muzzle. “The insides are coated with Amarook crystals. Their signals will bounce right back.”

Groat’s pinschers opened and closed. Fists swung from his hand appendages underneath them.  He stomped to within five feet of them then stopped. “The Founders demand the immediate withdrawal of three thousand Humans from their claimed lands.”

Nell blinked. Oh, thank God. The Founders were demanding more people relocated, not accusing the Syn-En of smuggling. Her gut clenched. But they had demanded boarding rights on a technicality. Why? She clamped her lips together. Bei was in charge. He would handle Bug-ugly.

“Why not send us a communiqué?” Bei stepped into the Groat’s personal space. “Why stop our voyage and board my ship?”

“I thought the NSA flagship, the Nell Stafford, would be more impressive.” Groat’s mandibles retracted. Spit glistened on his spiky teeth.

Nell squeezed her eyes closed. She hadn’t wanted the ship named after her, hadn’t asked for it.

Bei bared his own teeth. “Many have underestimated Nell Stafford and paid for it with their lives.”

Groat’s eye stalks looped down. He swung his arm and opened his hand. A red crystal skipped across the metal-plated deck and skidded to a stop near the toe of Bei’s boot. “The planet where the squatters live is slated for purification in ten days. The regulations require a verified contact. If you cannot remove the vermin before then, their deaths are upon you.”

Ridges erupted along Bei’s arm, tore open his sleeves.

Good gravy, her husband wanted to slice and dice Bug-ugly. Setting her hand on his arm, she calmed his NDA. The ridges slowly subsided. “What planet?”

“Surlat.” After a nod in Nell’s direction, Groat pivoted and stomped toward his ship.

Surlat? Nell cast about in her memories but came up empty. “Why do I know that name?”

Stooping, Bei picked up the crystal. “Because that is the name of the virus that wiped out over ninety percent of life on Earth.”

“Not just Earth.” Apollie dug her fingers into the feathers on Elvis’s head. “The Surlat strain nearly eliminated all life in the galaxy.”

Elvis clutched the warrior’s leg and whimpered.

Groat paused on the ramp. “If you’re foolish enough to attempt a rescue, you would do well to take precautions. Our information indicates the virus has mutated again. It’s deadlier than ever.”

ibooks

amazon

barnes and noble

smashwords

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Friday Funny—New Medications for Women

Sorry for skipping Wednesday, my modem blew out and we had to install a new one. It was an awkward night. Was I supposed to talk to my children? They stared at me as if expecting me to do something. My son did installed a new modem while I was at work. According to my husband, it only took him 4 hours. Now, I’m back. So enjoy.

New Medications for Women Only 

DAMNITOL Take 2 and the rest of the world can go to hell for up to 8 hours.

ST. MOMMA’S WORT Plant extract that treats mom’s depression by rendering preschoolers unconscious for up to six hours.

EMPTYNESTROGEN Highly effective suppository that eliminates melancholy by enhancing the memory of how awful they were as teenagers and how you couldn’t wait till they moved out.

PEPTOBIMBO Liquid silicone for single women. Two full cups swallowed before an evening out increases breast size, decreases intelligence, and improves flirting.

DUMBEROL When taken with Peptobimbo, can cause dangerously low IQ, resulting in enjoyment of country western music.

FLIPITOR Increases life expectancy of commuters by controlling road rage and the urge to flip off other drivers.

PENISCILLIN Potent antiboyotic for older women. Increases resistance to such lines as,”You make me want to be a better person … can we get naked now?”

BUYAGRA Injectable stimulant taken prior to shopping. Increases potency and duration of spending spree.

Extra Strength BUY-ONE-AL When combined with Buyagra, can cause an indiscriminate buying frenzy so severe the victim may even come home with a Donnie Osmond CD or a book by Dr. Laura.

JACKASSPIRIN Relieves headache caused by a man who can’t remember your birthday, anniversary or phone number.

ANTI-TALKSIDENT A spray carried in a purse or wallet to be used on anyone too eager to share their life stories with total strangers.

SEXCEDRIN More effective than Excedrin in creating the, “Not now, dear, I have a headache” syndrome.

NAGAMENT When administered to a husband, provides the same irritation as nagging him all weekend, saving the wife the time and trouble of doing it herself.

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Syn-En Plague World, Chapter 1

PlagueWorldChapter 1

“Do these patches make me look like a Guernsey cow?”

Admiral Beijing York disconnected his fiber optic cable from the communications port by his chair. He didn’t need thousands of years of warfare tactics stored in his cerebral expansion unit to recognize a trap. Swiveling in his chair, he faced his wife across their cabin. His completely naked wife. His gaze roved over the peach-toned skin. Neo-Dynamic armor glistened like a silver Phoenix up her spine. The NDA wings emphasized the curve of her firm buttocks and the damage done to her by the Scraptors.

His circuits tripped and his coding scrambled. He’d almost lost her six months ago, when humanity had visited Erwar to register as sentient. The NDA had saved her life. Bei refused to process what would have happened to him if she had died. He never wanted to eliminate the Nell Stafford glitch from his programming. Never.

Across the square cabin, Nell’s reflection scowled at him from the mirror attached to their wardrobe. “I knew it. I’m a big fat cow.” She plucked at the silvery NDA/skin patch on her left hip. “Do you want to break the terms of our marriage?”

His cardiac sensors malfunctioned. Obviously, something serious was going on in that blond head of hers. He searched his memory files for a clue while closing the distance separating them in two long strides. The starship’s nacelles hummed underfoot but barely penetrated the tension in the cabin. “Our marriage is for life. If you’d wanted a term limit to our union, you should have said so fifteen months, two weeks, three days, five hours and six minutes ago.”

Her eyes widened. “What no seconds? I really am—”

“Fifteen seconds, sixteen seconds.” Stopping behind her, he combed his fingers through her hair and exposed the column of her throat. The silky locks sifted through his hand. “You are mine, Nell. Mine.”

Lowering his head, he kissed the pulse point directly under her jaw. Sensors embedded in the NDA comprising his skin registered her rising body temperature, the stutter of her heartbeat, and her spiking pheromone production. His body responded to her biologic coding. Bei had no doubt his reactions would be the same if he were just a man, instead of a cyborg.

With a sigh, she leaned against him. Her bottom cradled his erection. One hand held his head in place; the other stroked the seam where his prosthetic leg connected to his hip.

He turned off the internal alarms caused by the sensory overload. He really should create a mating failsafe. Even though he shut down his emergency protocols and prevented cascade failures with a thought, it was one less millisecond spent focused on Nell.  They had so little time to themselves as it was. He refused to waste any of it.

Her reflection’s eyes grew heavy. “So this,” she gestured to the shiny patch on her hip. “doesn’t bother you?”

Bei raised his head. His blue eyes locked with hers in the mirror. She wouldn’t let it go. Time to bring in the heavy artillery. “Does it bother you that I am more machine than man? That my legs, arms, hands, and feet can snap together or apart like Twentieth Century Legos? That I have circuits implanted in my head, and my chest cavity opens up like some battery compartment in an ancient gaming controller.”

“No, why would you think such things?” She spun about, plastering her body against his.

Tight nipples and soft breasts pressed against his chest. His sensors recorded each point of contact. Every time they touched was the same but different. And down lower… When he sank into her, he would be in heaven. He locked his facial muscles, revealing nothing. “We both have NDA for skin. Why would yours bother me?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Unlock your facial muscles, Beijing York. You are not allowed to use your cyborg mojo against me.”

Damn. How had she known? He unlocked his facial muscles. His lips twitched. “Cyborg mojo? I have basic programming, the same as any Synthetically-Enhanced human.”

“Don’t try to change the subject.” She poked his shoulder.

Tenth generation upgrades contained a lot of inertia. He didn’t move, but she did. Her body wiggled creating friction, heat, and a sensory overload. He set his hands on her hips, stilling the torture.  “Changing the subject is a valid military tactic.”

She poked him again. “So is staying on point. Now, do these NDA spots make me look fat?”

That question was pure quicksand. He turned it around. “You are not fat. You are beautiful. Gorgeous.” He waggled his eyebrows. “Come to bed and I’ll show you.”

Without breaking contact between their hips, he walked backward, aiming for their king-sized bed.

She followed, clutching his biceps. “Then why didn’t you just say so?”

“I had just finished reviewing room assignments for our official and unofficial passengers when I looked up and saw you naked.” His heels hit the drawer fronts on the platform bed. “The rapid switch from one program to another created a lag in my physical response.” In all areas but one. That one responded eagerly and demanded action. “I couldn’t have spoken if my life depended upon it.

“As excuses go, that’s a winner.” A smile curved her lips. She set both hands on his chest and pushed.

Releasing her, he allowed himself to fall backward. He bounced twice on the mattress before sinking into the foam. “I’m willing to do anything to make it up to you.”

“Anything?”

“Anything.” He crooked his finger. He would start with kissing her from the crown of her hair to her toes. As for the spaces in between, he’d— He cut his plans short. She hadn’t moved from the foot of the bed. He didn’t like this anomaly in the program. He didn’t like it when she was hurting and he couldn’t fix her malfunctions.

Sucking on her bottom lip, she smoothed the silver patch at her hip.

Bei scooted to the edge of the bed. “We’re isolated from the Wireless Array, Nell.” He could no longer join her in cyberspace and explore her intimate thoughts. “You have to tell me what is bothering you.”

“Does it feel different to you?”

He traced the curve of her ribs, brushing the soft skin under her breast. Her breath quickened. Moisture created a sultry fog over her belly. Closing his eyes, he stroked her hip. Her lower body advanced and withdrew with every touch. He called up the memory file containing frigid details to cool his body. This was about his wife’s needs, not his.

She shifted.

His hand drifted toward the juncture of her thighs. He locked his arm in place. “Aside from the lack of hair, your skin doesn’t feel any different.”

It should but it didn’t. His Chief Medical Officer hadn’t been able to figure out how the armor had merged so seamlessly with her body. She commanded it at will, reshaping it as needed, and her abilities didn’t stop there. She could interact with all NDA materials. He’d had synthetic skin since he was a toddler and could only perform a fraction of what she could.

Cupping his chin, she angled his face toward hers. “You’re not just saying that?”

He kissed the tip of her nose. “I mean it. I’d have to maximize my sensor sensitivity to the femptometer level to detect any change.” His hands glided off her hips to caress her bottom. “Given how attuned I am to you, the sensory overload would put me in an electronic coma.”

She pushed him back on the mattress. “Would there be a bed involved?”

“Yes.” He flopped backward and waited. Nell wanted to be in charge. He’d gladly let her. Even if her imagination threatened to short circuit his implants and upgrades. “But I wouldn’t be conscious.”

“We wouldn’t want that.” Bending forward, she planted her hands beside his thighs.

“No. Definitely not.” Bei curled his fingers into fists to keep from reaching for her. Compression alerts flared in his palms.

She set her knee on the mattress. “You have entirely too many clothes on.”

“What are you going to do about it?” It wasn’t much of a challenge. She’d mastered the task of stripping him fifteen months ago. Although now he didn’t have to move.

She cocked an eyebrow. Lifting one hand, she swirled her finger over his belly.

His clothes melted and drained like warm water over his groin, down his legs and dripped into a puddle under his bare feet where they reformed into tunic, trousers, socks and boots.

“How do you like them apples?” She blew imaginary smoke from her fingertip.

He eyed her breasts. “I know something I like better.”

“I bet I’d like it better, too.” She set her other knee on the bed. The mattress dipped as she crawled up his body

Lacing his fingers behind his head, Bei enjoy the view. The brush of her inner knees and wrists against his skin sowed rogue electrical surges through his system.

She straddled his waist, teasing him. “I saw Doc today.”

“About your NDA?” Perspiration dotted Bei’s upper lip. She was going to make him pay for not answering her question. Using an arctic subroutine wouldn’t work either. The one time he’d tried it, she’d figured it out. He wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

She rolled her hips. A devilish glint blazed in her blue eyes. “He gave me the all clear.”

Bei would have to replace a few cerebral circuits if she didn’t stop teasing him. He unclasped his hands. One more minute. Just one, then he’d be on top. She’d not last thirty seconds before she started begging him. “I could have told you, you’re perfect.”

Snorting, she braced her palms against his chest. “I love that you think so.” She leaned over him and nipped his ear. “But I’m saying no more alien eggs in my Easter basket. We’re a go for a baby.”

Baby? He froze. The word surfed inside his skull. Baby? Baby. The word sank in, made connections. Adrenalin spiked his system. Springing up, he wrapped her in his arms then flipped her on her back. His mouth wouldn’t stop grinning long enough to kiss her. “Our baby.”

She nodded. “Little bits of you and me and…”

“And?” He shored up his smile. What else was there to worry about?

“NDA.” She sucked on her bottom lip. Moisture shimmered in her eyes. “It’s merged with my cells. It will merge with the baby’s.”

“Oh, thank God.” Bei sagged against her. His elbows dimpled the mattress, his forehead rested against hers.

She pushed his shoulder. “What do you mean thank God? Didn’t you want an one-hundred percent biologically human baby? Aren’t you afraid of technology penalties?”

“Technology penalties are a thing of the past.” Raising up a little, he smoothed her blond hair off her face. She’d taken his fears and made them her own. That world was gone. They’d created a new one. A better one. “And the only baby I want is the one that combines a little bit of you and me. As long as the NDA doesn’t harm him or her, our baby can sparkle and glitter all he or she wants.”

She searched his face. After a moment, she sunk into the mattress. “We could name him Disco Ball. He’d be the hit of the party.”

Bei didn’t bother sending a query for the term disco ball. His wife always referenced obscure Twentieth Century culture. Of course, she understood the reference. She’d been born decades before the century ended. Then she’d slept for nearly one and a quarter centuries before waking up naked on his ship. He loved Nell naked or clothed. He kissed her forehead, then her closed eyes. “Why don’t we name our child after your parents?”

She stroked his bare back. “I would like to name our son after you.”

He snorted. “I was named after some ancient city. Two ancient cities, in fact, that identify my Eurasian heritage.” And his designation as a second-class citizen, a Syn-En. Their children would be free and enfranchised. “I want them to have regular names.”

“Stafford was the name of the area my ancestors came from.” She scratched her nails along his ribs. “How is that different?”

In more ways than he could count and in all that mattered. He rolled onto his back. Having children seemed to complicate things, when it should have drawn them together. “Stafford has been in your family for centuries. I was given my designation when my parents gave me to the United Earth government to pay their outstanding debts.”

They had kept their other children; only he had been thrown away.

Rolling to her side, Nell threw her leg over his thighs. Her pale hand settled over his heart. “So that you could meet me.” She kissed his jaw. “So that you could save the Syn-En and her support crew.” She sucked his ear lobe into her mouth and nipped it. “So that you could save two alien races from a megalomaniac, liberate humans everywhere from slavery and medical experimentation, and help other species find freedom.”

She trailed a lazy finger down his abdomen and circled his belly button.

He held his breath as she explored lower. “I’m beginning to see your point.”

“Good.” She shifted on top of him and inched down his body. “Because it’s our pasts that got us here. That made you love me and me love you. That makes us an unbeatable team.”

He clasped her hips. “You can name the children anything you want.”

So long as he could start making them now and for the next nine hours and thirty-five minutes.

“Enough foreplay. Time to—”

The com embedded by the door burped.

“Admiral York.” Captain Cassius Pennig cleared his throat.

God damn it. Ten hours alone with Nell was not too much to ask. Bei held his wife still. “Unless you’re issuing an abandon ship, Captain, I do not want to be disturbed.”

Even then, he would stay in his cabin and finish making love to his wife. They had survived the destruction of a ship before.

Nell buried her face in her hands and chuffed in frustration.

Captain Pennig sighed. “I wouldn’t have disturbed you and Nell Stafford for an abandon ship, Admiral. I simply would have ejected your cabin and had you rendezvous with the rest of us dirtside.”

Damn. Bei released Nell. Warmth lapped at his toes. NDA crawled up his body.

Groaning, she rolled to the side but clasped his hand in both of hers.

He clenched his teeth as her uniform crept up her body, covering some of his favorite bits. “Report.”

“A Founders’ ship shot out of a wormhole not more than five Astronomical Units from our position. They scanned us and are now demanding to speak to you, Admiral.”

Curses in a hundred languages filled Bei’s head. “I’ll be on the bridge in three minutes.”

“Understood.” The com fell silent.

Shoving off the bed, he strode to the nearest computer port and jacked in.  A thought released his avatar in cyberspace. The pixelated version of himself unlocked the steel, padlocked door to the wireless array.  Lightning bolts interspersed the torrent of data flying back and forth. Images of extinct Dobermans materialized. Black eyes and spiked collars glinted. He patted their cyber heads. “Protect us from attack.”

The dogs multiplied into hundreds and patrolled the perimeter.

Nell rested her head against his shoulder. “Do you think the Founders will attack?”

“We’re stealing their slaves when we pick up the humans from their planets. More than one have mentioned the Founders are grumbling about the effect it’s having on their profits.” Disconnecting from the port, Bei wound the fiberoptic cable around his finger before stowing it under his black hair. Her presence was a caress in his mind.

“And we happen to have a hold full of illegally liberated extraterrestrials.” She kissed his back before hooking her thumb in his waistband.

“There’s no reason to suspect they know.” Bei double-checked the ship’s internal sensors. Nothing indicated the Founders’ probe had penetrated the deepest recesses of his ship. Not that he was willing to bet anyone’s life on it. Crew, escort all guest biologics to their safety stations. This is not a drill.

Acknowledgements flew in cyberspace. Most of the guests were already tucked neatly out of sight. His men worked to remove all trace of them. So long as the Humans they’d picked up didn’t blab about the stowaways, the Founders should find nothing to expose the smuggling ring.

Bei strode out of the cabin, his arm around Nell.

“What do you think the Founders would do if they found out?”

“The Skaperians think they will simply ask for reparations and a return of their property.” Bitterness flooded Bei’s mouth. The Syn-En had been treated better right up until the United Earth Nations ordered him and his cyborg soldiers exterminated.

“Reparations in what? I didn’t think anyone used money anymore.”

In the corridor, crewmen stepped aside to let them pass. Most looked straight ahead, a few glanced at Nell’s flat stomach.

“In planetary resources.” Bei picked up a discordant ripple in the Wireless Array. Smiley face emicons mingled with storm clouds of worry. His crew knew of Nell’s clearance for pregnancy and feared the outcome of this encounter. He sent a salve of determination on the turmoil. Captain Pennig and Chief Medical Officer Los Alamos Cabo added theirs to the mix.

Doc Cabo also sent a red faced emicon.  Sorry, Admiral. I thought my files would be safe since you locked the WA.

Locked, but not disabled. After a lifetime of hiding their emotions, the Syn-En still weren’t accustomed to displaying emotions only expressing them in cyberspace.

Nell rolled her eyes and punched the call button for the elevator. “It’s not like they wouldn’t have found out anyway. They are our family.”

“Indeed.” Although, Bei would have liked to keep it to himself for just a bit longer.

The doors opened. A woman looked up. She blinked at the pair of them before stumbling from the elevator. “Excuse me.”

“Not at all.” Nell smiled and sauntered inside.

Bei’s systems flashed a warning. What was his wife up to? Her stream of thought contained more lightning bolts and pitchforks than thoughts. Following her inside the elevator, he leaned against the wall and pulled her flush against him. “What are you thinking?”

An ensign drew up short as the doors started to close.

“Take the next one.” Leaning back, Nell stabbed the close door button. Her blue eyes narrowed. “I’m thinking the next time we have five minutes together, there will be no negotiating, no foreplay, no nothing, but you and me, naked and not talking, got it?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He slanted his mouth across hers. His tongue traced the curved of her lips. She fisted his shirt and climbed up his chest.

The door opened.

He swallowed her groan. Desire steamed around him. He initiated his arctic subroutine.

Her jaw flexed. “Cheater.”

“Sometimes, it’s good to be the Syn-En leader.” He winked before escorting her onto the circular bridge.

“Yeah, well, it sucks to be the piss boy.” Crossing her arms, she grinned.

Referencing one of her favorite movies always calmed her and watching them gave him something to do while she slept in his arms.

She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “Let’s get this show on the road.”

Bei smoothed his features. Banding the circular hull, the forward view screens displayed the stars, planets and moons in front of them. Syn-Ens manned the com, navigation and tactical hubs behind him. Each cyborg, hardwired into the ship’s systems through the fiber optic cable embedded in their cerebral interface, controlled their stations with a thought.

Captain Pennig rose from the chair in the center of the room. Gray fringed his round head. Age yellowed patches of his NDA. Despite his years, his movements were fluid thanks to his ninth-generation prostheses. “They’re standing by, Admiral.” Bug-ugly doesn’t like to be kept waiting for a bunch of inferior humans.

The official log recorded only what was spoken. Commentary lived and died in the WA.

Then let’s keep him waiting a minute longer. Clasping his hands behind his back, Bei stood next to the vacant chair. “Which of the species is it?”

“Scraptor.” Pennig resumed his seat and uncoiled the nest of fiber optics at his nape. Blue light pulsed through the line when he jacked into the Combat Information Center.

“The jack-booted thugs of the universe.” Nell activated the medical hub.

Personal comments in the WA only, wife. Bei jerked his head at the recorders, a new requirement of the Erwar Codicils.

Nell stuck out her tongue at him.

He shook his head. Technically, she was duly elected to act as liaison between Humans and their allies. She was supposed to obey his orders. Of course, as his wife, she outranked him. And he wasn’t about to let her out of his sight. Bad things happened when they were separated. And the Founders were responsible for the latest. He stared at the screen. Bug-ugly doesn’t even begin to describe the Scraptors.

Pennig snorted. It’s a start. Besides, there are young ones in the WA. Other words wouldn’t be appropriate.

No, but they would be accurate. Report, all stations. 

Nell clamped her lips together. Anxiety reported from our rescued people. Authorized life-signs show readiness for whatever.

Bei sincerely hoped whatever never happened.

Navigation and com reported all in readiness.

The Syn-En ensign at the tactical hub clenched and unclenched his hands. His Adam’s apple protruded from his scrawny neck. Founders weapons are hot. Ours are on standby. The ensign’s lips twitched. I can still beat them to the draw, Admiral.

Obviously, Bei wasn’t the only one to spend his down time watching old Earth video clips. Excellent job. All personnel await further orders. “Hail the Founders’ ship, Captain.”

The com beeped. Pennig’s hands relaxed on the arm rests. “Hailing ship.”

A red Scraptor materialized on the forward view screens. Onyx rounds glittered at the top of his eyestalks. Mandibles peeled away from razor-sharp teeth. “Admiral Beijing. How kind of you to keep me waiting only five Earth minutes.”

Bei shunted the voice print to the CIC for confirmation, but he didn’t need it. He would never forget the gravely inflection or the arrogance. “Groat.”

“I am flattered you remembered me.” Groat raised one mammoth claw to his bullet-shaped head. When he shuffled backward, the com zoomed out. The Scraptors resembled Earth scorpions. Hardened armor gave their eight limbs a segmented appearance.  An oversized tail allowed them to walk on two legs and could inject their victims with poison from the stinger. Claws formed the top set of limbs, then human-like hands, and lastly limbs, ending in sword-sharp points.

“You made an impression, Groat.” All of it bad. Bei cracked his knuckles. “Since I don’t think this encounter is an unfortunate accident, why don’t you state your purpose?”

Groat chuckled. His human hand massaged his claw. “Soldiers like us have no time for social niceties.”

The Syn-En have nothing in common with that scum bucket. Period. End of discussion. Nell activated subspace scans. She overlaid them with information from their previous encounters with the Scraptors. Humanoid. Bipedal. Their internal anatomy was hazy, but their vulnerable points had been protected.

The energy weapon at Groat’s hip was an upgrade. Guess the little encounter on Erwar had an effect after all.

The tactical ensign seized the data. Sending information to engineering now.

Not so much as a muscle twitched while Bei waited.

Groat’s mandibles contracted. “I am invoking Section Ten, Article Sixteen beta of the Erwar Consortium policies and procedures.” His hand dropped to his weapon. “Prepare to be boarded.”

ibooks

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Friday Funny—Some Airplane Humor

Our flight attendant once said, upon landing,  “Be careful when opening the overhead compartments, as “SHIFT HAPPENS”…
Subj: SOME AIRPLANE HUMOR
United Flight Attendant announced, ‘People, people we’re not picking out furniture  here, find a seat and get in it!

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On landing, the stewardess  said, ‘Please be sure to take all of your belongings.. If you’re going to leave anything, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have. ‘

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‘There may be  50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this  airplane’

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An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship  into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a ‘Thanks for flying our airline.’ He said  that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally, everyone had gotten off except for a little old  lady walking
with a cane.

She said, ‘Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?’

‘Why, no, Ma’am,’ said the pilot. ‘What is it?’

The little old lady said,  ‘Did we land, or were we shot down?’

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As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Ronald Reagan, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: ‘Whoa, big fella, WHOA!’ ;

************ *********  ********* ********* ****

After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced, ‘Please take care when opening the  overhead compartments because sure as hell everything has shifted after a landing like that.’

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Another flight attendant’s comment on a less than perfect landing: ‘We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal.’

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Overheard on an American Airlines flight into Amarillo , Texas on a particularly windy and bumpy day: During the final approach, the Captain was really having  to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant said, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Amarillo …. Please remain  in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!’

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‘Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and, in the event of an emergency water landing,  please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments. ‘

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‘As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses….. ….except for that gentleman over there.’

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Heard on Southwest Airlines  just after a very hard landing in Salt Lake City.
The flight  attendant came on the intercom and said, ‘That was quite a bump, and  I know what y’all are thinking. I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the airline’s fault, it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it wasn’t the flight  attendant’s fault, it was the asphalt.’

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After a real crusher of a landing in Phoenix, the attendant came on with, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Capt. Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the  gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are  silenced, we’ll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal.’

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Part of a flight attendant’s arrival announcement: ‘We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting  through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of US Airways..’

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Heard on a Southwest Airline  flight – ‘Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking  section on this airplane is on the wing and if you can light ‘em,  you can smoke ‘em.’

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A plane was taking off from Kennedy Airport . After it reached a comfortable cruising altitude,  the captain made an announcement over the intercom; ‘Ladies and  gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Flight Number 293, nonstop from New York to Los Angeles . The weather ahead is good and, therefore, we should have a smooth and uneventful flight.  Now sit back and relax…. OH, MY GOD!’
Silence followed, and after  a few minutes, the captain came back on the intercom and said,  ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you earlier. While I was talking to you, the flight attendant accidentally spilled a cup of hot coffee in my lap. You should see the front of my pants!’

A passenger in coach yelled,  ‘That’s nothing. You should see the back of mine!’
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A man boarded a plane with six  kids. After they got settled in their seats a woman sitting across the aisle from him leaned over to him and asked, “Are all of those kids yours?”

He replied,  “No. I work for a condom company. These are customer complaints.  “
I WISH I COULD THINK THAT QUICKLY.
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New Release: Syn-En: Plague World, The Founders War Begins

Yep, my cyborgs are back! Plague World is finally available and only 99cents for a limited time.

PlagueWorldAdmiral Beijing York and his cyborg soldiers have been busy rescuing refugees since Humanity registered as sentient. Their latest mission takes them deep into hostile territory to Surlat, home of the Plague that nearly wiped out all life in the galaxy.

Their mission of mercy quickly turns into one of survival. For a dark secret will be revealed, igniting a war.

Can Bei save his wife and Syn-En family, or will they become the first casualties?

 

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Cover Reveal—Syn-En: Plague World

Here’s the cover for the latest book. Should be live on Thursday.

PlagueWorld

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