Thursday, August 24, 2017

Excerpt from Warden (Book 4)

So it's been a while since I posted anything - far longer than I intended (or even realized, to be honest).  Needless to say, the time got away from me, but I promise I haven't been idle.

For those interested, I'm still grinding away, trying to finish the next book (and I'm actually so close I can taste it).  However, someone recently asked if I could post an excerpt from something, so I decided to do so.

Frankly speaking, I actually have a pretty good stockpile that I could post something from, with the bulk of it being new material. However, I thought it better to post from something that readers would be familiar with, so here's an excerpt from the next book in the Warden series:


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Errol jerked awake, knowing instinctively that something was wrong but not immediately recognizing what it was. His hand went automatically to his dagger, resting on the hilt as he sat up, trying to get his bearings.

The cabin was still dark, and he innately understood that he hadn’t been asleep for long. Through the porthole, he saw a remarkably clear reflection of the moon on the still surface of the sea. And just like that, he realized what the problem was: the ship – it wasn’t moving. Not heaving up and down, not rolling side to side, not surging forward. It was completely still (which was completely unnatural).

The hairs on the back of his neck rising, Errol raced for the door, the outline of which was framed by light coming from the other side. Yanking it open, he saw the lanterns in the hallway burning uncommonly low, as if their light were diminished by some unseen force. Pulling out his wand, he raced down the passageway towards the stairs, then up and out onto the upper deck.

Once out in the open, Errol saw that his earlier assessment was correct: the ship had come to an utter standstill. Moreover, the water around them was completely calm, the surface lying so flat and motionless that one could almost mistake it for dry land. Eerily, there was no wind, and none of the usual sounds associated with maritime travel – no birds cawing overhead, no waves slapping against the side of the ship, no creak of wood or flap of sail.

Turning his attention back to his immediate environs Errol saw Jaden standing nearby, wand in hand, along with several members of the crew. Jaden cast a quick glance in Errol’s direction, noting his presence, then turned his attention back to the main deck. Following his friend’s gaze, Errol saw a bizarre scene below him.

All of the ship’s wards were flaring, beacons of red light that practically bathed the vessel in crimson. The fact that they were active meant that something malevolent was nearby, and it took Errol almost no time to single out the danger: a hooded figure standing in the middle of the main deck.

It was taller than any man – at least eight feet in height. Its features were hidden by the cowl it wore, but Errol saw two glowing red eyes within the hood and garnered the impression of an elongated, inhuman face. A dark robe – soaked and dripping water onto the deck – covered it down to its feet, but the girth of it gave Errol the impression of a powerful body underneath. Moreover, the robe seemed to bulge and swell ominously in random spots, as if there were a roiling ocean underneath. It was immediately evident that this was some type of creature from the sea.

The air around it was heavy with magic, pulsing with a dark and foreboding power that Errol felt seeping into his bones. More to the point, their visitor gave off an especially sinister vibe; it was singularly dangerous – something Errol would have recognized even if the wards weren’t blazing like bonfires. Apparently the ship’s crew felt the same way, because a large number of them (with weapons drawn) had surrounded the hooded figure, although none dared get too close. In fact, he saw the captain standing directly in front of it, giving the thing his undivided attention. It was at that juncture that Errol realized the creature was speaking, its voice a deep baritone that carried easily – especially since, as Errol had already noted, no wind was blowing.

“–sspass on the sacred domain of the Each-uisge,” the creature said. “Men are not allowed here.”

“How are we supposed to know that?” the captain asked, sounding harried. Errol had to give the man credit; there few people other than wardens who would dare to face some monstrous fiend like this.

“You were warned,” the creature replied.

“Warned how?” 

“A messenger was dispatched. You tried to slay it.” Unexpectedly, a supple limb, like the tentacle of an octopus but seemingly covered in seashells, slid out of the robe and pointed to a dark, blood-stained spot on the deck.

“What, that weird bird?” the captain asked, almost incredulously. “It gave no warning – just let out a bunch of caterwauling that grated on everyone’s nerves.”

The creature seemed to take offense. “There are more tongues in this world than solely that of men. It is only your arrogance that makes you think otherwise. Now it shall be your undoing.” 

The captain’s eyes widened in alarm. “What do you mean?”

“You have encroached where your presence is proscribed, cast your nets where it is forbidden, and willfully attacked a consecrated servant. Each of these alone violates a sacrosanct tenet of the Each-uisge. Combined, your transgressions constitute intolerable heresy – a stain that must be wiped away. Your ship – your very lives – are forfeit.”

“What?!” the captain screeched. 

“Thus I pass sentence,” said the creature, acting as if the captain hadn’t spoken. “Now I execute judgment.” 

The air, already pregnant with supernatural power, somehow became even more gravid as three elongated tentacles, each brandishing a flaming sword, suddenly burst from the creature’s robe. And then it went on the attack.




Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Audiobook Release: Extraction

In keeping with my commitment to make audio versions of all my work, the audiobook of Extraction has just been released.

With this, all of the current Kid Sensation stories have now been released in audio.  (I'm not counting Amped or Mouse's Tale, although the audio versions of those are coming.)

The plan had been to produce one new audiobook per month until I got caught up.  I haven't quite kept pace with that schedule, but I like to think I'm continuing to release audiobooks at a steady tempo.

Needless to say, I'm going to have to crank out books faster or the number of audiobooks will catch up to the number of ebooks even faster than I anticipated. So with that in mind, it's back to the grindstone.

***If you are interested in receiving information about my audiobooks - including new releases and free copies - please subscribe to my Audibook Newsletter.  (And if you do not have an Audible account, you can get a 30-day free trial and a copy of the Extraction audiobook by signing up here.)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Update on Kid Sensation #6, et al

It's been a while since I've posted anything noteworthy about my writing, so I figured now's a good time for an update.

As with so much in life, there's good news and bad news.  The good news is that I'm pretty close to being done with the next book, which is the second Fringe Worlds novel.  After that, I'll probably go to the next Warden book and then Kid Sensation #6 (working title: Replication).  Believe it or not, I've actually got the bulk of the story for those two already worked out in my head.  The problem (and this is the bad news), is that I've been having difficulty finding time to write.

Oddly enough (and I may have mentioned this before), I'm actually a pretty fast writer.  If I ever reach a point where I'm doing this full time, I'll probably be cranking out a book every month. At present, however, without even taking the day job into consideration, the other aspects of the writing business are taking up gobs of time. 

Take audiobooks, for instance.  The audio market has been very good to me since I started releasing audiobooks a year ago.  However, there's a time component involved: for instance, I received almost 70 auditions from narrators for the audio version of Amped (which will hopefully be released in the next week or so), and I listened to every one of them - some more than once.  And, at the very least, you have to listen to the finished product after it's done, and in the case of some of my books that's close to 10 hours. 

Then there's also book promotion.  I was blessed to have achieved a fair amount of success as an author without doing much promotion early on. That said, to maintain longevity in this business you have to remain flexible and openminded, so I've been putting additional effort into marketing.  I've also gotten creative in terms of my offerings.  For example, just this week I created a boxed set that's sort of a "sampler," containing the first book in the Fringe Worlds, Warden, and Kid Sensation series:


I'm calling it Worlds of Wonder: Three Novels of Science Fiction and Fantasy (mostly because I think the name sounds cool).

Of course, authors box their series all the time, but I haven't seen many that have taken this approach.  I don't know how fruitful it will be, but again, you have to stay nimble and think a little outside the box.

But back to the subject at hand: my writing. Frankly speaking, I'm probably at the point where I really need to hire an assistant to do some of the non-writing tasks: booking promotions, listening to the final versions of audibook files, etc.  That would free me up to focus on writing books. In fact, that would increase my writing output significantly even without making writing my full-time gig.  (And to be honest, I actually like the day job.) Of course, I haven't even touched on the things outside of writing that also affect my time, such as being under the weather (I was out of commission for two weeks earlier this year), auto breakdowns (anybody feel like installing a new transmission?), family/social obligations...

As to the books currently on deck, if I can just get in some solid writing time, I believe I can finish the second Fringe Worlds book in short order. Depending on how fast my editor can get to it, I would be hoping for an early- to mid-June release. Then release Warden #4 by the end of July, and Kid Sensation #6 by the end of August.

Anyway, that's a rough estimate of my timetable.  After these next three books are released, I may go ahead and finish one of the other novels that I've started (like my zombie apocalypse story, which is currently trying to claw its way out of my brain).



***If you are interested in receiving information about my audiobooks - including new releases and free copies - please subscribe to my Audibook Newsletter.  (And if you do not have an Audible account, you can get a 30-day free trial and a copy of the audiobook of Sensation by signing up here.)




Wednesday, March 29, 2017

New Audiobook - Warden (Book 1: Wendigo Fever)

Continuing with my plans to produce audio versions of everything, the audiobook of Warden (Book 1: Wendigo Fever) has just been released.


Needless to say, I am still having a wonderful time seeing my work brought to life in this medium. (I'm also forunate to have found an excellent narrator, Mikael Naramore.)  In my own humble opinion, it turned out great.

The next audiobook will probably be Extraction.  On a side note, I'm currently in the process of selecting a narrator for Amped.  It's a very challenging process, as I've had the good fortune to have quite a few people submit auditions and many of them are outstanding. All things considered, it's a good problem to have.  Making a final selection, however, is just incredibly difficult. 

In other news, I'm still working on the next book in the Fringe Worlds series and hope to have it finished soon.




***If you are interested in receiving information about my audiobooks - including new releases and free copies - please subscribe to my Audibook Newsletter.  (And if you do not have an Audible account, you can get a 30-day free trial and a copy of the Warden audiobook by signing up here.)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Whatever Happened to Standing Behind Your Product?

So a few weeks ago I'm grinding away as usual (trying to finish the next book), when Mrs. Wonderful comes to me and says that our printer - an HP Officejet 6600 - isn't working.  Needless to say, she expected me to fix it.  This is actually standard operating procedure in the Hardman household:  if anything isn't working, hubby will know how to get it going again.  Oddly enough, this is a marked departure from her attitude when when first started dating, at which time she admittedly made an unwarranted and unsupported assumption that repairing things was outside my wheelhouse.  (If I remember correctly, she said that I "just didn't seem 'handy'," which is code for saying that I seemed like a smart guy, so there was no way I had any practical skills. In truth, however, I've been taking things apart and repairing them since I was in elementary school.)  It didn't take long to convince her otherwise, so these days when it comes to fixing things, in my wife's mind I'm like:





But back to the printer.  Just to see what was going on, I tried to print a page from the current manuscript I was working on.  I could hear the thing trying to do its job: mechanisms inside of it were apparently moving, gears were turning, etc.  Ultimately though, it just made a whole lot of noise without really doing anything.  (Hmmm... Note to self: try to make use of that last line in an upcoming romance (preferably in a bedroom scene) to be published under a pen name...)

Anyway, I tried to print again, but this time I peeked into the compartment that held the paper to see what was going on. I saw a mechanical arm descend with two rollers on the end.  The rollers touched the printer paper, but then nothing happend (other than the printer making a lot of noise again).  The problem was obviously the rollers, which were supposed to turn, thereby feeding the paper from the tray into the printer.

I reached into the printer and felt around until I got my fingers on the rollers (which I believe are technically known as the "pick rollers").  Guess what? They turned without any issues.  They weren't stuck, clogged up in some way, nothing.  In fact, all the cogs and wheels in that area seemed to turn without issue, so the problem was elsewhere.  (All of this stuff is sorta in what I'd call the undercarriage of the printer, so I had to get a mirror to see what the hell was going on in there.)  

I got online and looked up the problem, and was directed almost immediately to HP's web site. The company actually has a video and lots of instructions about things to do when your printer isn't working. Long story short, I soon found myself with a bowl of distilled water, some Q-tips, and a cloth, all of which I used to gently and lovingly wipe down a bunch of the printer's rollers, which I gained access to after opening up the back and taking some parts out. Nevertheless, after all of that TLC, the damn thing still didn't work. 

At this juncture, my wife got on the phone with the store we'd bought the printer from.  They told her that we needed to buy a new one.

Huh???  F**k that!!!  

I raged that I'd take it apart first, and if I completely screwed it up we'd be no worse off, because - per the experts - we'd still need a new printer!

But before taking a crowbar to the printer's chassis, I went online again to see if other people had had this problem.  (Couldn't just be me, right?)  Sure enough, this was a common issue with this printer model.  Thankfully, however, someone had discovered the source of the problem: apparently there's a little plastic cog that sits on a metal rod on the printer's undercarriage.  The part of the rod where it sits is grooved so that the cog fits onto it, and the cog needs to be in that exact position when the rod spins in order to interact with a daisy chain of other wheels and cogs (see pic below) that ultimately causes the pick rollers to turn.






In our case, the cog had slipped off the grooved area, so that when the rod turned nothing happened. It was the work of about a minute to get the cog back in position, and voila!  The printer was back in top form (and my wife loved me again).  But three days later, the cog had once again slipped off...  This time, I superglued it to the grooved portion of the rod, which was a complete pain because - as mentioned before - all of this crap is on the undercarriage.  (One of the other people who posted online about this issue used epoxy, but whatever will keep the cog is place will apparently do the trick.)  We've had no printer problems since.

Now we come to the part of this entire scenario that really bothers me.  This is obviously a design flaw, as evidenced by the fact that it's a pretty common problem that - as far as I can tell - is completely unrelated to ordinary wear and tear.  HP could probably fix it by doing the same thing I did: just glue the cog in place (or do something to make sure it doesn't move out of position).  Or they could just tell their retailers that if anyone reports this type of problem they'll fix it for free.  Bottom line, though, is this: they need to be willing to stand behind their product.  Instead, I'm supposed to buy a new printer because of a flaw related to a part that probably cost 10 cents!  Seems to me that somebody is making out like a bandit in that sequence of events - and it ain't the Hardmans.

More to the point, I'd think HP would be interested in not losing customers because of these types of incidents.  Frankly speaking, because of this experience, I will probably never buy another HP product as long as I live.  (Not to get on my high horse, but I'm so disgusted that I might even sell the HP stock that I own.)  On the flip side, if they had made even a token gesture it would have been worth noting.  For example, when Tivo cancelled my "Lifetime: service, they at least had the good grace to offer me a $75 gift card. In other words they tried to soften the blow.  HP, on the other hand, just hit me on the back of the head with a sock full of pennies.  Not only that, but they apparently expect me to like it and ask for more, a la Kevin Bacon in Animal House:




 



Needless to say, that's not likely to happen.  I don't think I'm asking for much, though.  I just want companies to stand their product. (Instead of behind me with a paddle...)


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Opportunity Knocks

I have a friend with a very interesting problem.  She and her husband are entrepreneurs who own several ventures.  For a while now, their business interests have required them to essentially live in different states. However, they're tired of making the airlines rich with constant travel to see each other, and her husband really needs her help with the portion of the business that he's running.

Long story short, my friend has essentially decided to step back from the venture she manages and hand the keys over to someone else.  The job description reads something like this:


Business manager needed. Six-figure salary. Job requirements: high school diploma; honest character, excellent work ethic.


Believe it or not, she's having trouble filling this position.  Ideally, she's hoping to find someone from her family to bring in (although I don't think she'd be adverse to hiring the right person if she came across them randomly).  However, her own kids have their own careers that they are pursuing. Other relatives that are ostensibly suitable either don't have the right work ethic or don't want to move. (None of my friend's relatives live in the state where her business is located.)


Frankly, I'm surprised that everyone isn't fighting tooth and nail for this position.  I mean, the job isn't rocket science at all.  The ability to read and perform some basic math are required, but it's far from complicated. And it's located in a major city, not some remote outpost in the wilderness.  Basically, the job is almost all pros, with very few - if any - cons. Nevertheless, no one that my friend has talked to seems to be excited about it.  In short, it's like opportunity is knocking and no one wants to open the door.

To a certain extent, I understand this: people get in their comfort zone and don't want to make a change.  Maybe they already have a job that they've held for a while and can practically sleepwalk through their daily routine. Thus, they aren't interested in shaking things up - even for considerably higher pay.  Or perhaps they have a significant other and worry about how relocation will affect their relationship. Or maybe they've just never been west of the Mississippi, south of the Mason-Dixon line, or what have you, and are worried about how they'll cope without a familiar support system.  Again, while I can understand these points of view, it just strikes me that they grossly limit one's potential. As the old adage says: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Looking at this from the standpoint of writing, I see indie authors every day who are still failing to take advantage of every opportunity presented to them.  For instance, there are those who only publish ebooks, forgetting almost entirely about the market for print.  Likewise, there are those who ignore the growing market for audiobooks (and I confess that I was one of them, but now find myself a convert).  In essence, if you're an author, you need to be selling on all fronts.

Granted, it's a little more work to put yourself in position to take advantage of many of the opportunities that are out there (and will take you out of your comfort zone in many instances), but the tremendous upside makes it worth it, in my opinion.  Plus, you don't want to look back at some point and realize that you missed a golden opportunity somewhere along the way.  But maybe it's like Thomas Edison said:

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

New Release: Mouse's Tale (An Alpha League Supers Novel)

At long last, the novel about Mouse - Kid Sensation's mentor - has finally been released. Mouse's Tale (An Alpha League Supers Novel) went live last night (and almost in record time).


Those familiar with my Kid Sensation series will probably notice one thing right away: the subtitle here is a little different than the one I used with Amped, the companion novel to the series that was released last summer (and which was aptly subtitled A Kid Sensation Companion Novel).  

Basically, I had a lot of ideas coming at me when I wrote this one, and some seemed better suited - and could be fleshed out in more detail - in other books.  (Truth be told, I've had numerous concepts popping into my brain about this book ever since the notion of writing it first occurred to me.) In short, this novel may also mark the debut of a new series that focuses more on the adult members of the Alpha League.

As always, however, I had fun writing this one and providing a little more detail about Mouse and his abilities, which is something I'm sure readers have been eager to learn more about, since he appears to lack any discernable super powers.

In other news, the audiobook for Terminus (Fringe Worlds #1) has finally been released. (I'm sure I've mentioned it a couple of times before, but I'm really enjoying the process of releasing audio versions of my work and wish I had done it sooner.)

I'm currently working on the second book in the series and hope to have it completed soon.  In the meantime, I have promo codes that I can use to gift free copies of my audiobooks, so if anyone would like audio versions of Terminus or Infiltration (Kid Sensation #3), please let me know and provide me with your email address.  (As usual, I'll give out the codes on a first come, first served basis.) Also please indicate whether you prefer the US Audible or UK Audible Store.  Thanks again for your support.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Delusional Authors Follow-up

So, a while back I wrote about Delusional Authors and posted about a friend and the book they wanted to release. The book had all sorts of problems (eg, no editing, massive plot holes, etc.), but - despite being a hot mess - did indeed get published.  The results were interesting enough to warrant a follow-up.

First of all, I think I only mentioned it in one of the comments to that prior post, but my friend actually has an excellent storytelling voice.  However, they aren't willing to do all the things necessary to make a book fit for human consumption.  Moreover, many of the same issues (lack of editing, and so on) were present in the second book in the series, which also got published.

Anyway, the books were limping along, getting middling page reads and minimal sales - nothing to write home about, but enough to make the potential evident.  So I came up with a book promotion plan which my friend acquiesced to.  The promotion went moderately well, but afterwards, the book went screaming up the charts.

Over the next month, my friend's publishing income increased exponentially, and they actually broke into the Top 1000 authors on Amazon. Needless to say, there were a couple of absolutely scathing reviews (which was to be expected), but overall readers were very generous and gave the books a big thumbs-up.  The first book now has an average of 4 stars on Amazon, while the second book has 4.6.

I was as shocked as anyone by the results.  I mean, the books seriously needed a lot more work to even meet minimal publishable standards, in my opinion.  However, the results speak for themselves.  I attribute the success to a) the willingness of readers to embrace a good story despite technical flaws in the book, and b) the fact that the story itself was truly engaging.  (Also, the books do appear to have good covers and well-written blurbs.)  However, I wouldn't advise any author worth their salt to publish a book like this.  In my opinion, readers are simply far too demanding of quality, and - although you'll occasionally hear about someone having success with a book like this (and writing that would give an English Lit professor a heart attack) - this type of thing is clearly the exception rather than the rule.

Now, of course my friend is getting ready to wrap up Book 3 in the series and get the audiobook out for Book 1.  Needless, to say, I'm really curious to see what happens.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Cover Reveal: Mouse's Tale


So someone just asked if there was a cover yet for Mouse's Tale.  As a matter of fact, there is.  I guess I just haven't really thought much about a cover reveal for the book.  I've done it once or twice in the past, but I suppose I should make it a staple of new releases on a going-forward basis.  Anyway, since I aim to please:






As to the book itself, it's back from the editor and once again in my grubby little paws.  I intend to review it as quickly as possible and then get it to my formatting guy.  With any luck, it will probably be released some time in the next week.

Needless to say, I'm super-excited about the book and hope readers will enjoy it.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Excerpt from Efferus (Fringe Worlds #2)

So the Mouse book is in the hands of my editor now, and - as I've mentioned in a couple of comments on this blog - I anticipate publishing it this month.  In the meantime, I've turned my attention back to the second Fringe Worlds novel (working title Efferus), which  I actually started quite a while ago, but then pushed a little further back in the queue as the ideas for other books starting hitting me fast and hard.

For those who are interested, I will reaffirm my commitment to finishing the book and getting it published asap.  In the meantime, I thought it might be fun to publish the excerpt below. (The usual caveats apply: not yet edited, etc.)


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Captain Ward “Warhorse” Henry – commander of the Space Navy vessel Mantis Wing – was sitting at a table in his meeting room when a sturdy knock sounded at the door.
“Enter,” Henry said loudly. A moment later, the door slid open and Marine Lieutenant Arrogant Maker strode into the room, right on time for their meeting.
Maker marched towards the captain, stopping when he was about a foot away from the table and then snapped his hand up in a crisp salute.
Henry returned the gesture and then grumbled, “Be seated.”
The captain eyed Maker warily as the Marine sat down. Frankly speaking, Henry still hadn’t decided yet whether or not he liked the lieutenant, who had spent something like fifteen years as enlisted man and then a couple of years as a civilian before being commissioned as an officer. It wasn’t that the lieutenant was difficult to deal with – quite the opposite, in fact (although the same couldn’t be said of the Marines under his command). He’d been on his best behavior during the past two months – ever since that wretched debacle on Terminus, when Maker had almost blown up the Mantis.
  Somehow, despite a laundry-list of felonious acts – disobeying orders, constructing and detonating a banned weapon, disabling (and almost destroying) a Navy ship in the middle of combat, etcetera – Maker had escaped court-martial. Moreover, Maker’s original mission (which was to find an alien race called the Vacra) had been extended, with the crew of the Mantis being put at his disposal. In short, despite outranking Maker by a mile, Captain Henry (and his crew) was subject to the lieutenant’s commands.
A lot of senior officers would have chaffed at this arrangement, but not Henry.  This wasn’t his first rodeo; he’d actually had a number of engagements in which his ship was used to ferry lesser-ranked officers on various missions, and quite often the nature of those assignments put Henry at the beck and call of someone below his pay grade. Thus it was that he didn’t have any issue with the fact that Maker pretty much decided where they went and when.
Thankfully, Maker wasn’t a jerk about it. He didn’t try to lord his authority over Henry like several others had done in the past. Outside of dictates about his mission, Maker left the running of the ship to the captain. Moreover, he always showed Henry the respect and deference due his rank – such as when he’d entered the room and saluted a moment earlier.
Maker took a moment to get comfortable in his chair before asking, “Where would you like to begin, sir?”
“The woman,” Henry said. “She dislocated the shoulder of one of my engineers.”
“Permission to speak freely, sir?”
“Always,” Henry answered with a nod.
“Thank you, sir,” Maker said. He placed his hands on the table with fingers interlaced and leaned forward. “Sergeant Diviana is a highly-trained operative and an intelligence agent. Your engineer got fresh with her – touched her in an ungentlemanly fashion – and she reacted.”
Overreacted is more like it. Granted he shouldn’t have touched her, but he didn’t break anything.”
“Well, from this point forward he’ll understand that “No” means “No.” That said, I’ll remind Diviana that we’re all on the same side and ask that she respond less aggressively if the situation arises again.”
Henry harrumphed at that last comment and Maker smiled to himself. After the job Diviana did on that engineer, the odds of a recurrence were slim indeed.
“Moving on,” Henry said. “Apparently one of my crew had a run-in with the doctor assigned to your squad.”
“I wouldn’t describe it that way, since the doctor really didn’t do anything.”
“And yet my crewman ended up with almost every bone in his hand broken.”
“With all due respect, sir, the guy’s an idiot. He punched an augmented man in the jaw. Need I say more?” Maker asked with a shrug.
“I understand your point,” Henry replied. “But still, if that Augman provoked him into throwing that punch, goaded him in some way…”
“Then you should be thanking us for revealing his stupidity. Everybody knows that Augmen are tough as nails, and throwing a jab at one is like trying to punch a steel girder. In essence your crewman should have known better.  Trying to blame my doctor for a broken hand in this instance, just because he’s an Augman, is ridiculous.”
“Fine. I’ll make sure my crew knows that striking the good doctor with their bare hands is a bad idea.”
Maker frowned, not liking the implications of the captain’s statement, but before he could comment Henry moved on the next item on his agenda.
“Finally,” the captain said, “your companion.”
Maker smiled inwardly, pleased at Henry’s choice of words. Most people had a tendency to categorize Erlen – the exotic alien creature to whom the captain was referring – as a pet. It was a label Maker loathed (although Erlen himself didn’t seem to mind), and in the past he’d gotten into more than one altercation because of it.
Erlen was rarely far from his side, although these tête-à-têtes with Henry were an exception. Not because the captain had an issue with Erlen, per se, but more so because the alien’s presence served no purpose in the meeting. If a person – terrestrial or alien – had nothing to offer, Henry didn’t see the need to have them taking up space.
At the moment, the captain was launching into the current issue related to Erlen.
“It seems your friend,” he said, “had a brush with Lieutenant Kepler.”
Maker let out a slight groan. Kepler again.  That guy was constantly finding a way to be a thorn in his side.
“There was an incident,” Maker acknowledged, then began struggling to keep a grin off his face as he remembered the particulars.
“As I understand it, your alien confederate spat some kind of compound on Kepler’s shoes. It immediately glued him to the spot. It adhered so completely, in fact, that my crew had to cut away that section of flooring in order to remove Kepler’s footwear.”
Maker finally gave up on trying to contain the smile that had been slowly overtaking his features. “But on the bright side, there was no violence involved.”
“Maybe by your standards, but I consider any act that harms this vessel as violence with respect to my ship.”
“Yes, sir,” Maker acknowledged, sobering almost instantly. “I’ll make sure the incident isn’t repeated.”
“I think that would be best – unless you want your friend confined to quarters.”
“Understood.  Will there be anything else, sir?”
“No, we’re done. Dismissed.”

Maker stood, coming to attention. He gave the captain a snappy salute which was hastily returned, then turned and strode from the room.  




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