Ready Room, Huntership REGALIA
Branden Kel-Paten didn’t mind being in the ready room. He certainly didn’t mind the fact that Sass was leaning over his shoulder and he loved the fact that her fingers lazily toyed with the hair at the nape of his neck. He hated that the fingers on her other hand pointed to a question on the screen before him.
“There,” she said and he could tell by the way a small vibration rumbled in her voice that she was trying hard not to giggle. “Answer these.”
They were back to the last set of questions he’d promised he’d answer. But these two…!
Q: Boxers or briefs?
Q: The only question I can think of is: Branden, do you have ANY idea of how gorgeous you are?
Kel-Paten groaned inwardly.
Sass nudged him. “C’mon, give it a go.”
“Fine. Boxers or briefs.” He thought for a moment or rather, tried to think like Sass for a moment. No, better. Serafino. “My answer would be, why would you want to know about a breed of dog as opposed to a collection of legal papers?”
He craned his neck around and tried to peer innocently at Sass. She cuffed him lightly on the back of the head.
“Smart aleck.” But she was laughing.
“And to the second, “ he continued, “no. If anything, I’m aware people find me unusual. Beyond that, it’s, well, embarrassing.”
“I so love a modest man,” Sass intoned lightly.
Now that made him grin. And it was worth the embarrassment.
Sass’s comm link pinged. She swung sideways then perched on the edge of the table as she flicked on the mike. “Sebastian.”
“We’re ready for you in navigation,” Perrin Rembert’s voice said through the small speaker.
“On my way. Gotta run,” she added after disconnecting the link. She brushed his mouth with a quick kiss but he reached up and trapped her before she could step back, and made the kiss last several minutes longer.
“Incentive,” he told her when they broke for air. “To finish this damned interview.”
“It’s good to know you’re so easily bribable.” She winked.
He waited until the door slid closed behind her before turning back to the screen and not without a tinge of trepidation. And the next question brought up a flood of equally unsettling memories:
Can you tell us something about the time you were separated? Did you expect to make it back to Sass?
Which time we were separated? he almost replied. But there was no way Alecia, the questioner, would know of all the times over the past almost-dozen years that he’d lost track of Tasha Sebastian and his nights had been the more sleepless because of it. When his own existence had been threatened, as it was almost daily if he was honest about it, yes and no. Like the time he was almost trapped by the Illithians on Antalkin Station. He’d filed yet one more good-bye message to her even while knowing the very filing of that kind of message gave him the perseverance to survive.
If nothing else, she’d receive all those messages upon his death and the fact that she might be horrified by their contents—or worse—find them and him ridiculous mortified him. He’d have died of shame if he hadn’t already been dead. So in a convoluted way, that kept him alive.
But when she’d left him so abruptly on the Dalkerris…his initial thought was she’d somehow been kidnapped, transported away by some enemy faction. Only when a hull-breach warning blared through the ship seconds later and the Traveler’s ID blared right along with it, did he understand what happened.
It took several weeks after that for him to understand he’d understood nothing at all.
But back to Alecia’s question. Did he think he’d escape from the Void a second time, with Rall and what was left of their crew? Frankly yes, or he’d die trying and if he died, he fully intended to pursue the possibility of becoming a ghost and haunting her. By the time he’d realized what was going on in the Triad, and by the time he understood the impossible possibility of the Void, he discounted nothing. He may not know if there was any kind of benefic deity in the universe but he did know there were things that science and logic couldn’t explain. And if he couldn’t make it back to Sass alive, then he’d toyed with the idea of encapsulating his cybernetic essence into a bio-mechanical plasma, sending that through and somehow melding with the Regalia. He’d be with her always, then, protecting her.
Of course, if Tasha Sebastian no longer captained the Regalia, that would prove problematic.
Fortunately, he’d not had to do that.
How did you make sure your letters wouldn't be found all those years. Since you had to be careful what you allowed yourself to think in regard to her, how did you keep the letters confidential?
“Evidently, not very well,” Kel-Paten replied, leaning back in his chair. So much for his impenetrable security programs.”My problem, and I’m sure you’ve heard Sass says this, is I think in a very linear, logical fashion. So I assumed any attack against my secreted files would be in a very linear, logical way. Sass’s methodologies often defy logic. I tried to get her to explain her thought processes to me one time and she shrugged and said, ‘I just make shit up as I go along.’ It’s damned hard to counter for that.”
If a genie granted you one wish...what would it be?
“That’s easy. To go back in time and take her off the Sarna Bogue. It would have spared her the grief the UC’s put her through in her role of Lady Sass. It would have spared her the grief of Lethant. I’m sure initially, she’d have been less than happy. But the Triad—-for all its recent problems—-would have provided her with a means of expanding her incredible creative potential. And we could have worked together, gotten to know each other sooner. Twelve years sooner. I would dearly have loved to have had those extra twelve years with her.”
An explosion of black and white fur appeared suddenly on the ready room table. Branden-friend! Tank sat and regarded Kel-Paten through wide green eyes.
Kel-Paten tickled the furzel under the chin as he shunted his answer to the ‘send’ file, then he clicked off the screen. It slid soundlessly into the desktop. Tank thwapped at it as it disappeared.
“Good riddance, eh, Tank?”
Work. No like work. Play!
“I have to meet up with Sass in navigation. Chart updates are due in because of the new security beacons.” The fact that Kel-Paten was explaining all this to a furzel only surfaced momentarily in his mind. He stood. “Play later.”
No play now?
“Later. Work first.”
Work, work, work, Tank grumbled. He padded to the edge of the table, flopped down into a chair then thumped to the floor. Work, work, work.
The ready room doors opened. Grinning, Kel-Paten followed the fluffy creature out in to the corridor…
Now, back in real time at Linnea’s desk in Florida, I’m thrilled to announce that today’s edition of PUBLISHERS WEEKLY carries a review for THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES! This is an honor and a thrill! PW is the bible of the book industry and getting a mass market paperback reviewed (when one isn’t a huge name, and I’m not) is quite a coup:
The story's premise: artificially engineered creatures with razor-sharp claws and bodies covered in wriggling “energy worms” have gone rogue, dispersing across solar systems to breed and kill. It's up to alien soldiers like Lt. Jorie Mikkalah, essentially high-tech humans from another planet, to disable them. Jorie's search leads her to present-day Earth, where she must outsmart a glut of zombies holed up in Florida and rely on whip-smart detective Theo Petrakos for a base of operations, a convenient cover and a steady stock of “glorious” peanut butter. The narrative bounces easily from zombie attack to a visit with Theo's matchmaking neighbor, from military strategizing to tender moments between Theo and Jorie. This strange mesh of elements, held together by Sinclair's strong characterizations and methodical plotting, makes the book an unexpected treat. Though it may prove too light for sci-fi enthusiasts, fans of romance and fantasy hunting for edgier fare can stop singing the blues.(Dec.) – PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY 10/1/2007
PS: Happy 27th Anniversary to my real life hero, Robert Bernadino