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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Interlude: The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival by Stephanie Osborn

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

This is not your father's Sherlock Holmes...

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is a science fiction mystery in which brilliant hyperspatial physicist, Dr. Skye Chadwick, discovers there are alternate realities, often populated by those we consider only literary characters. Her pet research, Project: Tesseract, hidden deep under Schriever AFB, finds Continuum 114, where Sherlock Holmes was to have died along with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. In a Knee-jerk reaction, Skye rescues Holmes, who inadvertently flies through the wormhole to our universe, while his enemy plunges to his death. Unable to go back without causing devastating continuum collapse, Holmes must stay in our world and adapt. Meanwhile, the Schriever AFB Dept of Security discovers a spy ring working to dig out the details of - and possibly sabotage - Project: Tesseract. Can Chadwick help Holmes come up to speed in modern investigative techniques in time to stop the spies? Will Holmes be able to thrive in our modern world? Is Chadwick now Holmes' new "Watson" - or more? And what happens next?

~~~



"...This is a really bad time for me to leave console at the moment, hon.”

Caitlin shot her a hard, annoyed look.

“You can’t be considering it,” she said flatly. “All hell is breaking loose here. I don’t care if the President needed you five minutes ago! You have to stay here!”

“Chill, Cait,” Skye tossed an aside to her friend, phone held absently to the side of her face with her shoulder as she tried to read the scribbled note Timelines handed her, around annotating her clipboard. “I’ve got more to do than I can shake a stick at now. I’m…what?” she said, staring at the note. “Software! Check the focus subroutine! Make sure it’s initiating at the correct point in the program! The last thing we need now is a software glitch causing a delay in timing. If that’s happening, no wonder the induction element’s hosed! Hardware, make sure the circuit’s clear! Holmes, I’m sorry, I can’t make it right now. I don’t have time to catch my breath down here.”

* * *

Holmes listened closely, not only to Skye’s direct comments, but also to her asides and commands, and to what he could hear of the remarks made to her. He covered the mouthpiece with his hand and informed Jones and Smith.

“It appears matters are not going well in the Chamber.” He punched the speaker button on the phone so the other men could hear. Then he returned his attention to the sounds coming from the phone. “Skye, what is happening?”

* * *

Skye watched as her teammates fought with the recalcitrant apparatus. One of the Hardware console members, Chad Swann by name and a longstanding friend of Skye’s, moved into the center of the room to check the circuitry of the monoliths. Skye grabbed her clipboard, flipping to the malfunction shutdown checklist, where she scanned the list, trying to determine the seriousness of their
situation.

Vaguely she heard Holmes’ query, but didn’t have time to devote to it. Still, she managed to find two spare brain cells to rub together, and replied abstractedly, “We’re having a malfunction in the induction element system. We can’t keep it focused…”

“Skye, we need you to make a call! Shut down, or put it in a holding pattern and troubleshoot?” Caitlin interrupted. Skye juggled phone and clipboard, trying to assess the checklist for priority red malfunction modes.

“Holmes, I’ve gotta go,” she said into the phone. “I need to figure out how serious this is—”

“DR. CHADWICK! We’ve got a GRAVITON SPIKE!” Sequencing shouted.

* * *

Smith and Jones watched as Holmes’ expression grew more and more grave as he listened to the sounds on the other end of the line. They heard Skye’s attempt to break the conversation, and Holmes was about to answer in the affirmative when they overheard the exclamation from Sequencing.

Holmes paled as they heard Skye shout, “Chad!! Get out of there! NO! EMERGENCY SHUTDO—”

The line went dead.

Instantly the entire building shuddered hard enough to knock books off shelves and send Skye’s chalk tumbling from its rack on the blackboard, smashing into dusty white shards on the tile. The three men grabbed for heavy furniture to avoid being flung to the floor.

* * *

When the quake subsided, the three men sat staring at each other, shaken. Holmes felt almost lightheaded, his grey eyes wide.

“What happened?” Jones demanded. “Did that earthquake have anything to do with Project: Tesser—”

“Emergency shutdown,” Holmes snapped out, leaping to his feet. “Graviton spike.” He didn’t fully understand the significance of the graviton spike, but from his reading of Skye’s quantum mechanics text, which perforce contained a significant amount of particle physics, he knew what a graviton was, and strongly suspected it was connected to the quake. “I am going down to the Chamber,” he declared in a tone brooking no argument. “The two of you may come, or stay.”

* * *

“Is your authorization in?” Jones turned to Smith.

“Your duty officer entered it into the system when I arrived this morning,” Smith observed.

“Good. We’re coming, Holmes,” Jones declared.

But Holmes was already out the door and down the hall, headed for the elevators at a dead run.

Jones and Smith sprinted behind.

~~~

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is available in print and ebook (all formats), and the first four books of the series have been released in a collected ebook edition, The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus. Book 5, A Case of Spontaneous Combustion, is a 2014 new release. All of them are suitable for gift-giving!


-Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Interlude: Islands, A Guest Blog by Sara Stamey

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Today I present to you an excerpt from Islands, by Sara Stamey, for your consideration as you do your holiday gift shopping! Also Sara and I have arranged to give you a sneak peek into the cover art for her NEXT book, The Ariadne Connection!

~~~



“Arrogant jerk.” I was rooted on the dark path among shadowed trees, staring into the night, hands fisted as I recalled the meeting with my “host.” I shook my head and pushed impatiently on, picking my way along the twists of the narrowing trail in the gloom, ducking under boughs. Laura had given me “the spiel” about the Caribbean plantation’s history and the restoration of the eighteenth-century Great-House by her employer’s grandfather, but not much about Leon Caviness himself. He was a dealer in rare art, who often entertained visiting clients. Laura hadn’t been very informative about her own role as social secretary for the bachelor’s estate.

Pat MacIntyre’s Cheshire Cat grin floated on the darkness.

I thrust past it, through a curtain of sweet-flowering branches. The shrouded path ended in an open expanse of black volcanic rock dropping away over a steep cliff. A nearly-full moon sailed above low cloud drifts, spilling white light and black shadows over the cliff, repainting the night in stark otherworldliness. Darkness seemed to ooze from the rock itself to absorb the moonlight. The narrow point dropped in fissured fault blocks, giant stairsteps down to the surf. To the right, a sheltered bay mirrored the shimmering trail of the moon, and to the left, the open stretch of ocean hurled wind and waves to crash in white foam against black rock.

Something held me motionless in the wild spot, breathing the salt wind, soaking in the night. The place gave me neither welcome nor warning. I was only an insect perching there. The sheer mass of rock, imbedded in water and moonlight, reduced the nearby presence of lights and cars to a fitful dream.

Almost. I belonged to that smaller, civilized world.

In another existence, I might have thrown off my clothes and danced homage to the moon, embraced the stones and flung myself into the cool arms of the sea, seeking their magic release from my grief.
Turning brusquely back to the path, I stopped short, then dropped to my knees near the rocky cliff edge and brushed a vine aside from a flat shelf of the stone.

A glass jar tipped and rolled over the rock with a clatter and the scent of rum. I caught it reflexively, staring down at what looked like a freshly-severed chicken head lying on a mound of grainy flour. Beside it, a crude face stared out of the stone.

The moonlight suddenly rippled in dizzying waves, my heartbeat echoing in my ears. No, it was a drum, beating out an urgent rhythm, overriding my pulse. The stone beneath me throbbed like a tautly-stretched hide, and the beat shuddered through me, demanding, my blood pumping to its rhythm, not my own. An indignant protest rose up in me, but there was something, some blind force in the night, in the echoing rhythm, that brushed this logic aside.

*the pounding beat is a live being. It takes my senses, the pores of my skin, opens them wide to greedily drink in the heat and the moonlight and perfumes of rum and flowers. It dances my feet to the driving rhythm*


I jolted back from the carving, skin crawling with irrational fear. I shook my head and took a deep breath, let it out. “Get a grip, Doctor Dunne,” I muttered.

Leaning forward, I studied one of the carved stones I’d come here to research. Moonlight and shadow highlighted grooves scored into the rock, a very basic petroglyph, one of the common designs found from Australia to Africa to Alaska. Nose and eyes, an elemental watcher looking out to sea. My hand felt oddly detached from my will, reaching down to trace the lines of the carving. The ancient face almost looked ready to find its tongue and speak.

“Wha you do here?” The harsh voice came from behind me.

I lunged on a burst of adrenaline to my feet, spinning around, startled into clumsiness as I stumbled backwards. A man clutched my arm and yanked me from the verge, a glimpse of boulders pawed by the sea below.

The face revealed by the bright moon was not reassuring. It was broad, black, and scowling. Long woolly hair hung over his brow and down to his shoulders in unkempt dreadlocks. His clothes were patched together from multi-colored rags of shirts and cutoff trousers, and he had thick legs and arms and big hands. A scar ran across his left cheek and pulled his upper lip into a sneer.

“Wha you wan here?” It was a slurred, single-word burst. “You wan trouble?”

Pulse thrumming in my ears, I remembered Pat MacIntyre’s warnings about the violent “Dreads.” There was no place to go except the path the man was blocking. He stepped closer, the whites of his eyes glimmering.

A crooning noise in his throat. “Liddy missy scare?” He chuckled nastily.

“Mr. Caviness is waiting for me at the Great-House.” I cleared my throat, injected some authority. “Now please move.”

“Huh.” A contemptuous thrust of the hand. “You go. Stay way!”

I needed no urging. The man stepped aside and I hurried through the bushes onto the path, fighting the impulse to run, the back of my neck prickling. I managed to retrace the twists and turns in the dark, tripping over roots in my haste. I stopped at the edge of the pool terrace, heart galloping.
Movement and voices inside the Great House, and a muted progression of piano counterpoint. Bach. Intricate harmonies, impossibly cool and civilized amidst the humid air and riotous foliage. Chords spilled through the night, pebbles dropping into a moonlit pond.

~~~

And now for the surprise. Sara and I proudly present to you the cover art for her next book, The Ariadne Connection!



AND -- Don't forget to pick up a copy of Islands by Sara Stamey for your friends and relatives today!

-Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Monday, November 17, 2014

Interlude: Cassie Scot, Paranormal Detective, A Guest Blog by Christine Amsden

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Today we get an excerpt from the first book in Christine Amsden's popular Cassie Scot series, Cassie Scot: Paranormal Detective! MORE, the ebook format is on SALE for holiday gift-giving, at only $0.99! Check it out!


~~~





My parents think the longer the name, the more powerful the sorcerer, so they named me Cassandra Morgan Ursula Margaret Scot. You can call me Cassie.
I’ve been called a lot of things in my life: normal, ordinary, and even a disappointment. After the Harry Potter books came out, a couple of people called me a squib. Since I haven’t read them, I have to assume it’s a compliment.
Personally, I prefer normal, which is why the sign on my office door reads: Cassie Scot, Normal Detective.
You have to understand that around here, when your last name is Scot, people are easily confused. Not only are my parents powerful practitioners, but I have six talented brothers and sisters. Plus, my family hasn’t always been known for its subtlety. When weird stuff happens around here, the people who are willing to believe in magic are prone to suspect the Scots.
The day I opened for business I got a call from an old woman who swore her cat was possessed by the devil. She also swore she’d read my web site, which clearly stated the types of work I did and did not do. Exorcisms were on the No list, and while I hadn’t specified pet exorcisms, I would have thought it was implicit.
After that auspicious beginning, things went downhill. It seemed people weren’t entirely convinced an associates’ degree and six months as a deputy with the local sheriff’s department was quite enough to fly solo. I did receive three calls from people asking me to cast spells to look for lost items, two from people in search of love potions, and two from a pair of neighbors who each wanted me to curse the other. I thought I’d hit bottom, when a ten-year-old boy wandered into my office one afternoon and asked me to help him summon Cthulhu...
~
...“Cassie, I’m Frank Lloyd.” He released my hand but held my gaze as if he could take the measure of me by looking through them to my soul. Some practitioners can do that, actually, but I’ve never met one.
“Yes, I know.” I did not lower my eyes. Something told me that would be a sign of weakness. “What can I do for you?”
“I’ve got a small job for you, if you have the time.” It was very diplomatic of him to say it like that, since I’m sure he knew I had plenty of time.
“What’s the job?”
“Serving a subpoena.”
Ok, so it wasn’t sexy, but it was a job, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with magic–or so I thought. In any case, at that precise moment, I couldn’t have been more excited if he’d dropped some line out of a movie about someone trying to kill him.
“I can do that,” I said in a calm, measured tone. “Who am I serving?”
Frank broke eye contact and stepped around me to the desk, where he laid his black briefcase down and opened it. On top of a large sheaf of papers lay a plain white envelope with the name, “Belinda Hewitt” written on it in a long, slanted handwriting.
Hewitt was another name that many people in town associated with magic, though few were diplomatic where the Hewitts were concerned. Even my mom called them witches, and she normally wouldn’t call a woman a sorceress. (She thinks it’s sexist.)
Belinda was a gifted herbalist and an expert potion maker. A gift is, well, it’s a special power tied to the soul in such a way that it can be performed almost without thought, and it has a strong influence over the bearer’s personality. Most sorcerers possess a gift, as well some seemingly ordinary people, though in the latter case you can usually find magic in their family tree. Belinda’s gift was growing things, but to say she had a green thumb would be like saying a diva could sing. Belinda could grow things, anything, anywhere, and under conditions that would starve farmers out of business.
She sold a lot of her plants and herbs to local practitioners, though my parents refused to buy from her because of the other thing she liked to do–brew potions, especially love potions. At any given time, she would have two or three men under the influence of powerful love potions that made them hopelessly devoted to her. She would play with them for a few months or a few years, depending upon how interesting they were, and then cast them aside. She’d torn families apart.
It was mind magic. My dad liked to say that magic itself is never black; only the uses to which it is put, but mind magic is already tinted a deep, dark gray.
As far as I knew, though, Belinda had never been married, so I wasn’t sure what Frank Lloyd would want with her.
“Belinda Hewitt?” I raised an eyebrow at Frank in question.
“My firm is filing a class action lawsuit against her on behalf of a number of men who feel her love potions have caused them irreparable harm.”
“Gutsy move.” I approved. I whole-heartedly approved, but going head to head against a practitioner could be dangerous, to say the least. For the most part, they did what they wanted to do and suffered no interference, not from other practitioners and certainly not from the law.
I wasn’t entirely sure what Belinda would do to me if I showed up on her doorstep with a subpoena. Probably, nothing, since she’d have to answer to my parents for anything she did to me. That may even have been why Frank chose me, but I wasn’t too proud to take advantage of my connections when it suited me, as long as the job itself was normal.
“Belinda is going to curse you for this,” I said as I took the envelope from Frank.
He just smiled. “I appreciate your concern, but it’s about time the sorcerers living in our community learn they are not above the law.”
What a beautiful sentiment. I used to think that way, back when I’d first dreamed of becoming a cop. Fat chance, though. The sorcerers in our community owned this town, whatever most of the regular folks thought. Everyone else was tolerated, and that included me.
For a minute, I wondered if I should try to talk him out of it. As much as I loved the idea of putting an evil witch in her place, Belinda wasn’t someone to mess with. That either meant he didn’t believe in magic, didn’t understand it, or he had an ace up his sleeve.
I lifted my eyes to his and saw the confident, calculating expression there. He was still sizing me up, and in that moment I took the measure of him as well. He wasn’t insanely successful because he walked into anything blindly.
“You have an ace,” I said. It wasn’t a question.
Frank just smiled.
“I’ll run this over to Belinda’s this morning,” I said. “I’ll give you a call when it’s done.”
Frank reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card. “If this works out, we may have some more work for you.”
I took the card from him, letting a genuine smile touch my lips. Lightning struck again and thunder rumbled. “Thank you.”
He packed up his briefcase and left without another word.
~~~

That's from Book 1, Cassie Scot: Paranormal Detective



Succeeding books in the series include Secrets and Lies, Mind Games, and Stolen Dreams (coming soon)! Start your loved one (or yourself!) out right, with the entire set!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Interlude: Fires of Nuala, A Guest Blog by K. E. Kimbriel

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Today, in preparation for holiday gift-giving, we're going to hear a bit from Cat Kimbriel's book, Fires of Nuala! Enjoy!

~~~


On the planet Nuala, the scam that beguiling free-trader Silver has come to join has just been blown to the skies, along with the throne lines of three separate sovereign nations. 
The last male heir of one throne line, Sheel Atare, is unprepared to rule, but he's quick to seize allies wherever he can—like the beautiful and dangerous Silver. 
Now Silver has to choose: stick to the scam, or get sucked into the struggle to save Nuala—and Sheel Atare's life.




* * * * * * * * *

Mailan had reached the terrace when she heard the crash. Instinct took over; dropping her assorted bundles, she drew her cat knife and threw herself through the open doorway.

A jumbled scene littered the floor. Seeking Sheel first, Mailan found him on his knees, a cat knife gripped tightly in one hand. He had the tip of the blade pressed into the throat of a guaard. A guaard? Glancing around quickly, she saw Jude crouched, both knives held in throwing position, her gaze on—

"Crow?" Mailan's surprise sounded shrill. Vision widened, taking in the entire room. Pressed against the inner door, the off-world woman waited, the color of her face rivaling alabaster. Crow was almost as pale—and confused. He clearly had no idea—

"Seri?" Mailan ventured, wondering if she should speak, and if so, what were the proper words. Sweet Mendülay . . .

"Did you send him here?" Almost conversational, Sheel's tone.

"No. I sent him to the palace to speak to your sisters."

"Did you tell him where we were?"

"No."

"Then what" —Jude, rising now, her exasperation evident— "were you doing creeping around in the bushes?" Her voice easily rose an octave from start to finish, even as she gestured for Mailan to close the terrace doors.

Afraid Jude would lunge at the young man, Mailan quickly said: "Crow . . . how did you ever guess? . . ."

"Common sense. I checked a few other places on my way. Where you spent the night was not important—the current location was the major thing. And unless you went to the Ragäree's retreat—"

The knife pressed closer, and Crow stopped his careful recitation. "I doubt anyone else would guess. I have met you after duty before, Mailan. I knew where to look."

"Why were you creeping around the windows?" Again, that gentle speech pattern, which always meant Sheel was fighting anger.

Crow actually rolled his eyes. "Because I did not want anyone to see me sneaking around the temple grounds, of course. I did not intend for the entire guaard and local enforcers to find the place. Mailan wanted it kept quiet."

"Then why did you come?" There was no way for Mailan to warn Crow that his life depended on the answer to her question. Why Sheel was acting this way was unimportant. To those who knew him, he was on the edge of violence.

"Because . . . whatever you were doing, you needed help. You were—are—a mess, and one alert guaard on an heir is not enough." The youth was completely relaxed as he directed the last to Mailan; he had even dropped his knife, drawn instinctively when he was jumped, if his story was true. If? Could she doubt him? Why had she not confided in him? In more lucid moments she would have known he would read her worry.

"Seri . . . what do you need?" Mailan started, still afraid to move.

"The oath will do."

All three guaard stared at him a moment. Mailan was lost. . . . What oath? Did he . . .

Glancing over at Jude's defensive posture, Sheel drew his steel away from Crow's throat and reversed the blade, holding it point down between them. Crow did not risk looking away; his gaze still meeting Sheel's, the young guaard reached to wrap his right hand around the offered hand and hilt.

"On this I swear," Crow began, the whisper slowly gathering volume, "by life and honor, by blood and trust, that with this oath I will serve the son and daughter of Atare, obeying all words and following all leads, shielding their line and prizing their secrets as Mendülay guards mine own, for so long as they hold to their charge."

Mailan's knees felt weak. That oath—the sharing of oaths, the duty accepted by each at the feet of their Atare, the moment they were chosen to become guaard.

Sheel responded by folding his left hand over Crow's. "On this I swear, by life and honor, that I will take you as a guaard to serve Atare within the bounds of your oath, holding your trust as I hold to my charge—head, hand, and heart of the heirs, now and forever."

The group remained frozen in their tableau for several moments. Finally Mailan moved, reversing her grip on her cat knife. Noticing her action, Sheel sat back on his heels and shook his head.

"No, Mailan. I only ask for that oath once. And you . . . ‘spoke’ . . . for Jude." Grinning suddenly at Crow, he released his grip and added: "You did not have time to speak for him." Standing and turning his back to Crow, Sheel stretched, loosening massively constricted muscle. Glancing at the off-worlder, he said in Caesarean: "It is all right. No one is going to die."

~~~

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel reinvents herself every decade or so.  The one constant she has reached for in life is telling stories.  “I’m interested in how people respond to choice.  What is the metaphor for power, for choice? In SF it tends to be technology (good, bad and balanced) while in Fantasy the metaphor is magic – who has it, who wants or does not want it, what is done with it, and who/what the person or culture is after the dust has settled. A second metaphor, both grace note and foundation, is the need for and art of healing.  Forthcoming stories will talk about new things that I’ve learned, and still hope to learn … with grace notes about betrayal, forgiveness, healing and second chances.”  A Campbell Award nominee.

Get Cat Kimbriel's Fires of Nuada at Amazon, Barnes-Noble, Kobo, Apple iTunes, and Book View Cafe! It makes a great gift!

Happy Holidays!

-Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Monday, November 10, 2014

Interlude: Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281, by Stephanie Osborn

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

How do you react when you discover that the next Shuttle disaster has happened...
...right on schedule?

Burnout is a science fiction mystery about a Space Shuttle disaster that turns out to be no accident. As the true scope of the disaster is gradually uncovered by the principal investigators, "Crash" Murphy and Dr. Mike Anders, they find themselves running for their lives, as lovers, friends and coworkers involved in the investigation perish around them. What happened to the Shuttle? Who is responsible and why? Why is the government calling it an accident? Why is someone willing to kill to keep it a secret? And how big is the conspiracy?

They say, "Write what you know," and I did. I finished the first draft and gave it to my writing mentor, Travis S. Taylor...and then Columbia went down. And I found that I pretty much nailed it in my fictional disaster scenario: orbital inclination, incoming trajectory, overflown states, intended approach to the Cape, region of breakup, debris field, I nailed it all. The only difference was a slight extension of the debris field into the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast, and this was due to the fact that my fictional scenario was no accident.

And right now, Burnout is on sale in all ebook formats! More, if you buy the print book at Amazon, for a limited time you can get the ebook too, for only $0.99! 

Why is this happening, you may ask? Simple. The December issue of Analog magazine, on store shelves right now, carries an article I co-authored with my partners, detailing our SPEARED concept and materials research -- a concept that was inspired by the Columbia disaster, killing a friend of mine aboard her, and my having just completed the Burnout rough draft when the disaster occurred. 

So in honor of my friend Kalpana Chawla, and SPEARED, which I hope will prevent anyone else from dying like she did, Burnout is on sale until the end of November.

Here. Have a "taste."

~~~



...Overhead, the sky was a deep, rich, star-spangled Prussian blue; along the western horizon could be seen the faintest hint of deep teal. “Lessee…” he glanced at the TV, to the ground track Mission Control was displaying on the big front screen, then looked at the night sky, trying to correlate the two. “She oughta show up… somewhere over in there.” He waved a hand heavenward, in a vaguely northwestern direction.

Conversation in the back yard of the ranch house ceased as everyone clustered together in the darkness, searching the west-northwestern sky. The only artificial illumination came from the TV screen, and the NASA Public Affairs Office Commentator could be heard in the background as he delivered general remarks about the landing.

“…and this is a somewhat unusual re-entry pattern over North America, due to the successful efforts to retrieve the multi-million-dollar Next Generation Tethered Satellite, dubbed NexGen or NTS, which was co-manifested on STS-281 with the Mission to Planet Earth payload, Gaia-1. This nighttime landing will make for spectacular observations by residents of California, Nevada, southern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Coastal residents of the Gulf States may also be able to observe…”

“Hey, big brother,” Jimmy remarked curiously, “isn’t the commander of this flight an old friend of yours?”

“Yup,” Crash replied, still scanning the star-strewn, blue-black sky. “Lawrence Jackson. Jet. He and I flew in the same squadron in ‘Nam. Been buddies ever since. There’s almost nothing we wouldn’t do for each other—except give up a slot in the astronaut corps.” Crash pulled a wry face.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Ham Carter remembered. “He beat you out for the slot, didn’t he?”

“Uh-huh, he did—only because Jackson comes before Murphy in the alphabet.”

“Look! There it is!” Sally exclaimed, pointing into the western sky, and all but jumping up and down. “Crash! Isn’t that it?” she urged her brother-in-law.

“Yeah, Sally, I—” Crash did a double take and surveyed the blazing spark as it shot through the black velvet sky, then gave a swift glance at Hamilton Carter. “Ham, have they got a re-entry DTO on this flight?”

“No, Crash—I see it, too,” Ham acknowledged, forehead creasing with worry. “Listen… can I use—”

“Cell phone right here,” Crash scooped the instrument off the corner of the picnic table and shoved it into Carter’s hands as he looked back up. “Damn, Jet, get it in gear, old buddy!” he exclaimed with increasing concern.

“What’s wrong, Crash? What’s happening?” Jimmy asked his suddenly worried brother, as the flaming speck, growing larger and larger, flew almost straight overhead. Smaller sparks could now be seen peeling off the main object.

“Dammit! Jet, flare out, man! Shit! Break it out! NOW!!” Crash began shouting into the sky. Tracy, the “fourth team” relief FAO, was frozen, staring upward in shock, and Ham stood stiffly, head tilted back, listening to the cell phone he held to his ear. They all watched dumbly as the white-hot streak shot by overhead and disappeared behind the house, trailing flaming sparks in its wake.

Crash ran around the house to the front, trying to keep the airborne conflagration in view, and the others followed. “Damn, Jimmy, she’s comin’ in hot,” he belatedly answered his little brother. “Jet’s not bleeding off velocity in the roll reversals like he’s supposed to…” Crash paused, horrified. “Not that it looks like it would do much good, anyway…”

The gathered celebrants watched in stunned disbelief as the fireball plunged toward the southeastern horizon, flickered, and burned out.

~~~

Interested? Have a go at it on Amazon, then! (Here's Barnes-Noble and Books-A-Million too, if you'd rather.) Remember, I spent over two decades working in the civilian (NASA) and military (DoD) space programs, and put my knowledge to good use in this book. 

Happy Holidays!

-Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com