Excerpt 3 – Pegasus

As previously mentioned, I had three ideas I was working on. I have already posted the first two on here, but through oversight had missed the third. Here is me correcting that oversight with the beginnings of a piece with the working title of Pegasus. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Flight Sergeant Erich Fenstein checked the twin ammunition readings of his sidearm again. It had become ritual for him on these dropship landings. The energy gauge was at eighty-five percent. He was going to have to replace the weapon soon if it kept bleeding power at such a rate. Meanwhile the solid munitions indicator told him that the magazine was still full. Fenstein triple checked that the safety bolt was still engaged. A slug penetrating the hull of the Hurricane-class dropship before it left the vacuum of space and entered atmosphere would be catastrophic as the artificial oxygen would vent into space and Fenstein knew that hurricanes didn’t have enough breather masks for his entire platoon to survive. He had raised this issue with both headquarters and the Musk manufacturing corporation. He had been met with the same indifference from both. Apparently it was more economically feasible to train a new recruit than it was to retrofit the dropship with enough safety equipment for a full passenger complement in case of emergencies. Fenstein tried not to think about that and checked his ammunition indicators again. Energy reserves were now at eighty-four point two percent. Soon, the hull of the Hurricane was shaken as a deep bass thrumming sound reverberated through the craft. The color had bleached out of one of the junior crewmen’s face the moment the reverberations had started.

                “Is this your first planetside drop, Kowalski?” Fenstein asked the pale crewman.

                Kowalski nodded his head to indicate that it was.

                “Well, don’t panic. That sound just means we’ve entered the planet’s atmosphere. You can hear the engines running now that their sound has something to transmit through. Not hearing that sound means we’d be in a lot of trouble. So stop worrying and prepare to engage you’re a-g belt.”

                “Yes, sir.” Kowalski said.

                Fenstein activated is own anti-gravity belt and surveyed his platoon. Of the thirty men in the passenger bay of the hurricane, half a dozen were, like Kowalski, preparing to make their first drop into a hot zone. Or perhaps Fenstein should think of it as a combat zone, as there was nothing hot about the arctic region of Eteocles that was to be the landing zone. A soothing female voice that Fenstein assumed to be some kind of AI came over the ship’s public intercom system.

                “Rapid atmospheric descent continues. Prepare for drop in four hundred meters. Three hundred. Two hundred. One –“

                The rest of the countdown was lost to the hydraulic clanking of the passenger bay door opening and the roar of the planet’s bitingly cold wind lashing into the now open passenger bay. The hurricane’s artificial atmosphere vented as a white cloud that squirted out of the bay doors like the smoke of a condemned man’s final cigarette. Fenstein tapped two fingers to his neck to activate the sub dermal communicator and yelled.

                “Okay, ladies. This is it. Go! Go! Go!” He wasn’t sure if the men could hear him so he held up both his hands in a thumbs-up gesture before popping the restraining harness that kept him in his seat, as well as the harnesses of the two men either side of him. The three of them approached the yawning opening that was the bay doorway and leapt out. The anti-gravity field of their a-g belts kicked in and they began to float at an almost leisurely pace to the planet’s surface. Fenstein looked up and saw that ten more of his troops, including Kowalski had made the leap and began their descent. That left seventeen still on board the Hurricane. He was going to have to work on their speed at drop zones in training; this wasn’t anywhere near fast enough.

                As if to confirm this thought, a grey-black column of smoke came billowing up from beneath a glacier that Fenstein estimated was two clicks to the northwest of the landing zone. It took a moment before he realized that an anti-aircraft missile had been fired at the Hurricane. The robotic pilots attempted to evade it with a series of sharp maneuvers, but it was too late and soon, the dropship was nothing but pieces of white hot shrapnel raining from the sky. Fenstein took a chunk no bigger than two centimeters across in his left shoulder and blacked out from the pain.


Excerpt 2 – The Bear of Albion

As I noted on the Richmond WriMos Facebook group page, I had three story ideas rattling around in my head. I posted the first one last night, and now here’s the second one, “The Bear of Albion.”

Chapter One

I’ve told these tales many a time, but I’ve never taken the time to write them down until now. I’m not as young as I used to be, and eventually, even my time on this Earth must run out. These days, I run a small pub, The Eagle & Dragon, just outside of the town of Glastonbury in the south of England. I’ve been in the area for a very long time, and while I feature in some of these tales, it’s always my nephew they want to hear about.

                I’ll get to him later, but since this is my side of the story, indulge me, and let me introduce myself. I’ve had many names over the years. These days I go by Ambrose if anybody asks, but mostly I’m just known as the landlord or the bartender. In my older life, I went by the name Ambrosius Aurelianus, though I was born in what is now Wales as Emrys Wledig. I’ve always preferred the name Aurelianus, but I’m probably better known by the title that meddling chronicler from Monmouth gave me: Merlin. Though Geoffrey was more given to flights of fancy than recording history, I have to say the old writer meant well and had noble intentions. I still don’t know how he came up with the story of me knowing about fighting red and white dragons.

The only dragon I ever knew was my older brother, and he wasn’t a scaly lizard, just a man with a title almost as intimidating as his bulk. Vortigern was his name and a millennium and a half ago, he was the high king or “Pen Dragon” in these parts. You might know him as Uther. Though we were brothers, we could scarce have looked less alike. Vortigern was built like a bear, all muscle and red hair. I, on the other hand, was a small, wiry man. Still am, really. As the elder of the two of us, Vortigern was destined to rule. I, as the younger child took my vows and joined the priesthood of Rome. I was nineteen, and Vortigern was twenty-three when I returned to this fair isle. He had been the high king for five years by then, though there were some who didn’t consider him a legitimate ruler. The savage Picts of the north never respected his rule, and rumors of his adherence to the heresy of Pelagius had even reached my ears in Rome. This latter was why Pope Celestine had sent me and Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre to these shores to investigate.

The Holy father had been right to suspect that the Pelagian heresy had begun to take root in Vortigern’s forces, but I am happy to say that my brother had never been deceived by its fell influence, though many of his generals had. As a consequence many of Vortigern’s military minds were first excommunicated and then executed. Sadly, my brother was not as diligent in this duty as he should have been, and one of his generals, a man named Gorlois, fled and allied himself with the Celtic barbarians in Cornwall. That alliance was sealed when Gorlois was joined to Igraine, the daughter of a tribal chieftain in a ceremony  that was a mocking blasphemy of the Church’s marriage sacrament.

Gorlois’ treachery and heresy infuriated Vortigern. I had never seen a man as consumed with anger as my brother became whenever the traitor’s name was mentioned. His skin reddened until it was the same color as his beard and his voice grew loud enough to terrify the horses and his faithful hounds. Vortigern was not a man to suffer slights gladly, and it became evident to both Germanus and me that battle was coming.

Excerpt 1 – One More Shot

As I noted on the Richmond WriMos Facebook group page, I had three story ideas rattling around in my head and wasn’t sure which one to pursue. To that end, here’s the first one – tentatively titled “One More Shot”

Chapter One – November 23, 1963 – 01:30AM

Secret Service Agent Gerald Blaine’s nerves were on edge. Hell, the whole Vice Presidential detail was, ever since they had heard the fateful news from Dallas. Three words that had changed everything: “Lancer is down.” Those were the three words none of the Secret Service had ever wanted to hear, for they meant that the President of the United States was dead. The reality of it still hadn’t sunk in even now, half a day later. Blaine had seen the news footage from Dealey Plaza. He had watched the Presidential motorcade turn onto Elm Street, heard the three cracks that must have been rifle retorts. He had watched as President Kennedy’s skull shattered and pieces hit the First Lady, the Governor of Texas and the Governor’s wife. The sight had shaken him to the core. Blaine couldn’t imagine what it had done to the agents who were actually in Dallas at the time.

Blaine had been here in Washington as part of the Vice Presidential detail, preparing the grounds of the Johnson estate for the return of Volunteer and his family from Texas. Now, Blaine had effectively been promoted to the Presidential detail in the worst possible way. The Johnson estate was a dark, two-story building, lined with trees. Agent Blaine had drawn the perimeter patrol duty and was watching the entrances to the northeast of the house. As he filtered out the usual background sounds of the District of Columbia’s traffic, Blaine was convinced he heard something else, something out of place here. Footsteps. Someone was out here, and they were coming closer and closer. Blaine felt his body tense. Instinctively, he tightened his grip on the Thompson sub machine gun he was carrying. Now, Blaine could see the shadow of a man approaching from out of the night’s gloom. He worked the bolt action of the Thompson, the sound booming in his ears, as loud as it was distinctive. Still the figure approached closer and closer. Blaine pushed the stock of the gun into his shoulder and placed his finger on the trigger ready to squeeze off a burst of shots if the figure didn’t stop approaching.

“Who goes there?” Blaine asked, and immediately felt like a fool for saying something more befitting of a sentry at a medieval castle than a government agent at a modern house. The figure didn’t answer. Blaine squeezed the Thompson’s trigger and a short burst of automatic fire sent several bullets into the approaching figure, who dropped to the ground, dead. The noise of the gunfire had attracted the attention of several of Blaine’s fellow agents who were converging on his location. Blaine stepped forwards to examine the body more closely and all the blood drained from his face. There was no mistaking that face. Gerald Blaine had just killed Lyndon B. Johnson, fourteen hours into Johnson’s Presidency. Blaine thumbed the activation switch of his service issue radio.

“This is Agent Blaine,” he said, “Volunteer is down. I repeat Volunteer is down. Friendly fire. I killed him. Oh God, I killed him.” America had lost two Presidents in less than twenty four hours, and he, one of the men assigned to stop that very thing from happening, was directly responsible for one of them. Agent Gerald Blaine was violently sick, and retched the contents of his stomach into the short grass. He presented his wrists to his fellow Secret Service Agents, who cuffed him and led him away into custody.