"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, December 25, 2011

BEAST, Part 3

Merry Christmas and Happy Channukah to all of my readers! Today, with the help of my friend, author Tony Healey, I offer the final installment of your Holiday treat. So, before you begin racing to visit your in-laws, relax for a moment with your cup of chai and enjoy part three of our sci-fi adventure. (Pssst, if you missed parts one and two, scroll down. You'll find the links in the column to the left.)
Just a friendly reminder, some of the situations and language in BEAST are not what all of my readers expect of my blog, but I choose not to censor Tony's story. You've been warned.
BEAST is a preview of the forthcoming novel THE STARS MY REDEMPTION due out at the beginning of 2012.
If you like what you read here, then please leave a review on BEAST’s Amazon page here: BEAST
If you leave a review I will gift you the full novel for FREE when it becomes available. So simply leave your review and I will make sure you get it.
Tony Healey



PART THREE

Abe sparked a welding torch so that he could see in the pitch black, and walked back to the reactor. Squatting down, he cut through several of the coolant control pipes, and then turned the torch on the pressure control panel. He heard the whine of the reactor as it already started to overheat from insufficient coolant.

If the Draxx came into the engine room and discovered how he had sabotaged the ship, they wouldn’t have the time to fix the pipes, nor would they be able to shut down the reactor since he had destroyed the control panel. In case they tried to disable it manually, he also welded the emergency levers so that they couldn’t be turned. He had locked the ship into a cycle of overload, and it was so simple. The ship would explode once the reactor reached critical temperature.

It wouldn’t take long.

He listened for noise outside the engine room entrance before venturing outside and climbing the ladder to the main corridor. There were no Draxx about; none patrolling.

They’re confident they have everyone locked up, he thought.

Red emergency lighting flashed in his eyes and there was the low wail of the klaxons that the Draxx hadn’t silenced.

He padded silently along the corridor, making his way to the aft of the ship. He was passing the crew’s quarters when he heard a thump come from one of them. The door was locked. He forced it open with his robotic arm; the door mechanisms straining to keep it locked shut. He saw Lorna on the floor, hugging her knees. It was her quarters, then.

She was screaming at him as he walked in and pulled her to her feet.

"Come!" he growled at her.

She stopped screaming.

"Come!" he said again, dragging her with him out into the corridor.

"Where are the others?" she asked him.

"Locked up in the officer’s mess."

"Oh God..." She said, clinging to him as they walked. She was terrified.

They came to the intersection that would take them to the left, to the mess room, the gym, and the medical bays, and to the right which led down to the hangar deck. He paused at the corner. Lorna went to press ahead, not paying attention, and he shoved her back. When she looked up at him he had one finger up to his lips. Peering back around the corner he saw a Draxx foot soldier pulling apart a wall panel, throwing wires and circuitry everywhere.

It was at least eight feet tall, with a long snout filled with small but sharp teeth. Its thick tail swished from side to side, as it tore at the wall panel with its clawed hands. It had brown armour about its chest, and a belt with daggers and a pistol attached to it. Abe could tell it was preoccupied and ignorant of the fact that there were humans still roaming the ship. He left Lorna cowering around the corner and crept out behind the reptile. As he got less than three feet away, the Draxx seemed to sense him because it paused what it was doing and started to turn.

He wasted no time. Abe leapt on it, wrapping his mechanical arm about its neck. With his other arm he reached for the pistol on the reptile’s belt. The Draxx bucked and tried to toss him off, turning in circles and screaming with a hair-raising roar. It was trying to get at him with its claws, and Abe knew that if it did, the thing would probably tear him to bits. He pulled the pistol free of the belt and jabbed it into the Draxx’s side.

He fired.

An eruption of clear fluid and yellow flesh flew from the creatures torso, splatting up the wall. He fired again and again until it dropped to the floor. He climbed up off of it, stood, and as it convulsed on the floor, he fired at its twitching body once more.

Abe went and took Lorna by the arm. She was shivering and shocked. He looked left, as far as he could see up the hallway. There was no movement. He checked the way to the hangar deck. It was clear.

He went right, dragging Lorna along with him.

“That... that... thing...” Lorna was muttering.

“A Draxx,” Abe said, pulling her with him. “Don’t worry about it. It’s dead now.”

Lorna was looking down at it as he pulled her past it. In her slightly dazed state she was starting to realize where he was leading her.

"Where are we going?" Lorna asked him.

"To the lifeboat. We're getting off this ship," he said.

He made her move quickly down the ladder that led to the hangar. There was another way of getting to the lifeboat, but it meant using the main entrance and he didn't want to expose himself like that if there were Draxx in the hangar bay. He climbed down after her, the two of them reaching the floor of the hangar behind several large cargo containers. He peeked around one of them, and looked across the hangar. It was empty. He didn't know what the Draxx were after, but they weren't looking for it this end of the ship. It wasn’t cargo they were after.

The lifeboat was in the middle of the hangar. It was a large saucer shape, with a pointed front, and a cluster of small engines at the back.

"Up!" he said to Lorna, lifting her up from the floor by her arm and dragging her out to the lifeboat. He accessed the controls to the entrance and stood back as it slid open. He shoved Lorna inside first and then climbed in himself.

Abe watched the entrance hatch close automatically behind them and then he mounted the flight controls.

Inside the ship there were places for up to twelve people. Lorna sat down in one of the seats and buckled herself in. As Abe started the engines, she said behind him “I thought you were saving the others, not leaving them there.”

He said nothing.

Abe accessed the hangar controls, opening the bay doors and exposing the hangar to the vacuum of space. A rush of escaping atmosphere from inside the hangar flew past the front viewport like mist, sucked out. Abe brought the engines online, and pushing a lever the lifeboat slid forward through the hangar bay doors and out into space.

"Why have you left them behind?" she asked him.

He ignored her. They left the Royale behind.

"We have to go back for them!" she shouted at him.

When they’d come a safe distance from the Royale, he cut the engines and spun them about so they were looking back at the ship, and at the large spherical Draxx ship hanging from it like a tumor. Seconds later there was a bright white flash, the explosion consuming the Draxx vessel as well. The lifeboat was rocked by the resultant shockwave, the overhead lights flickering.

"You’re a monster..." Lorna said, although he suspected that she was not as sad about her companion’s deaths as she was making out. He sensed her relief at having survived, despite the fact he had left the others to die.

Abe shrugged.

He’d been called a monster before.

“Look, love, there was no way we could rescue the others. The ship was overrun. And I wasn’t risking my skin even trying.”

Lorna nodded.

“So you would have left me as well,” she said.

Abe grinned at her.

“Don’t matter, does it? Found yuh so no need to grumble,” he said.

There was a moment of silence between them.

“Now what?” she asked him, slumping back in her chair.

“A planet called Ractor Prime in the Alpha-Nimoy system, about three week’s journey from here. We might just have enough rations and fuel to get us there… if we’re lucky,” he said.

Lorna rolled her eyes.

“Three weeks!”

Just a spoiled brat like the rest of them, he thought. I knew her concern for the others was just an act.

“I can’t believe I’m trapped in this tin can with you for three whole fucking weeks!” she said, releasing herself from the safety harness around her seat and standing up.

Abe remembered Lorna standing with the others in the officer’s mess as the footage played of him grunting on top of her. She had stood there, laughing with them. Laughing at him. Her mutual affection towards him as he had nailed her had seemed so genuine.

He stood up. Lorna watched, startled, as Abe started to unbuckle his trousers. He had a considerable appetite, and food would not abate it, as Lorna would come to realise.


Tony Healey hails from the UK. His first novel, The Stars My Redemption, featuring the main character from BEAST (and an engineer named Laurie), will be available on Amazon in early 2012. His short story, "Redd," which also centers on the main character from "Beast," appears in the anthology, Kindle All-Stars Presents: Resistance Front which is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for the amazing low price of 99 cents (about 86p). All proceeds from Resistance Front will be donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

BEAST, Part 2

Here we are! As I stated last week, my friend and fellow Kindle All-Stars member, Tony Healey, has commandeered my blog for the last three Sundays in December to share with you his short story BEAST. You may find Part 1 by clicking this link. BEAST is for sale on Amazon (at the bargain price of .99) if you'd prefer to read it on your Kindle device or app. Tony is also offering a special deal to my readers which he describes below.
Just a friendly reminder, some of the situations and language in BEAST are not what all of my readers expect of my blog, but I choose not to censor Tony's story. You've been warned.
BEAST is a preview of the forthcoming novel THE STARS MY REDEMPTION due out at the beginning of 2012.
If you like what you read here, then please leave a review on BEAST’s Amazon page here: BEAST
If you leave a review I will gift you the full novel for FREE when it becomes available. So simply leave your review and I will make sure you get it.
Tony Healey


PART TWO

The same afternoon, a man sent by Wang had tracked him down as he was making arrangements for the contents and cargo of his starship; he couldn’t keep hold of the lightweight cruiser now he was a man with a price above his head. The best thing was to disappear for a while. He didn’t bear Wang any malice for the way he’d probably reacted; he knew he would have dealt with it the same way.

His understanding for the way Wang was reacting, combined with the knowledge that he had botched a job and was now facing the consequences of his own sloppy work, was what made him want to run. Normally he would have sought Wang out, killing all of his men first, and then making an example of the man for wanting him dead. But this was a different situation.

For the first time in many years he had failed to carry-through with a job. In the process he’d killed a man’s young daughter – an immoral act, even by his standards. And for the first time in twice as long, he was going on the run and hiding. He didn’t want to kill Wang, despite him being an evil crime lord who didn’t exactly deserve to live; he was still a Father mourning a child.

Abe had murdered, raped, robbed and pillaged. He’d double-crossed and back-stabbed and tortured people in the past. But he’d never willingly killed a child. He was a monster by anyone’s standards, but that was one line he’d never crossed.

Abe had gone to where his private starship was stored in a hangar and had begun to rig it with explosives. He would connect a timer so that a few hours after he’d left it would blow and maybe trick everyone for a short while that he was dead. He would be long gone on the Royale before people started asking questions that he wouldn’t be there to answer. As for the starship, it wasn’t the first he’d lost, and it wouldn’t be the last. He would get another one, whether he had to buy one or borrow one. Ships were like taxis to him.

On his hands and knees attaching a charge to the underside of his ship, he’d heard the sound of boots walking toward him on the sandy floor of the hangar. He stood and turned to face his visitor and saw that it was a Klebin male, dressed in light body armour, holding a long-barrel laser rifle. The assassin motioned with the rifle for him to get up and stand to one side, and Abe did so willingly.

“Haaands aaaap,” he said.

Abe grunted in acknowledgement and put his hands behind his head.

“Wang sent yuh?” Abe asked him simply.

He wanted to know if this was someone collecting the hit Wang had undoubtedly put on his head, or whether it was someone with a genuine grudge from his past; they showed up every now and then.

The Klebin smiled, showing all three rows of yellow, sharp teeth. His eyes were pure black, like all Klebins, due to living on a dark world with very little sunlight; their skin was almost always white, with a few exceptions.

“There’s a pretty rewaaard for yaaaaa Laroche. Waaaaaang is paying gooood money, and he don’t mind yaaaaa being in a body bag either,” he said.

Abe shrugged.

“Wang’s got more savvy than to have me dragged-in alive, mate. That’s why he’s sent a half-brained dickhead like you to bring me in dead,” he said, starting to laugh.

“What aaare ya laughing at?”

“Well, you think you can kill me…” Abe said.

His assassin frowned.

“Whadaya mean? Ya think I can’t kill yaaa?” he said, agitated, getting a bit closer to Abe and jabbing the rifle in his direction. “Look at ya, Laroche. I have ya at gunpoint. In a second ya head’s gonna resemble a--“

That moment of anger, that split second of clouded judgment was all Abe needed. He stepped forward and reached for the barrel of the rifle before the Klebin even knew what was happening, twisting to the side as he fired off a few shots reflexively that reverberated in the confined hangar like small atomic explosions. Abe yanked the rifle free of his hands, spun it about and smashed the side of the Klebin’s head.

A few pointy teeth flew from his face as the rifle connected with brute force and a soft oomph sound.

“Wahhh!” the Klebin yelled as he stumbled to the left, reaching for his holster and the extra pistol he had there.

Abe flipped the rifle up, so that he had it by the butt, slipped his finger over the trigger and blew the Klebin away. The alien hit the other side of the hangar with the full force of the blast, shot at close range, and sat slumped against the hangar wall with blue blood bubbling from the giant hole in his midsection. He made a rattling sound from the base of his throat, his hands momentarily grasping for his throat, and then he was still.

Abe tossed the weapon inside his starship, and walked over to the Klebin, dragging him across the hangar. He bundled him inside, and closed the hatch, setting the timer as he had planned to before he was interrupted. Now when the ship blew up, and they sifted through the wreckage, they would find a body too. It wouldn’t take them too long to run a test on the charred remains and see that it wasn’t human but it was extra time he had brought for himself. It wasn’t until after he’d walked away from the hangar that he’d realized he was splattered with blue blood, not that it mattered.


If the crew knew how he had arrived onboard, and of the reputation he had amongst other degenerates and villains such as himself, they wouldn't have taunted him the way that they did. Several days ago they had convinced one of the women, a blonde called Lorna to sleep with Abe so that they could secretly film it for their own amusement. She had come into the engineering room and started talking to him, being unusually friendly.

Gradually she had gotten close and closer to him, running her hand across his wide, muscled back, feeling the scars that swirled like gnarled bark beneath his oily clothing. She'd slowly un-buttoned his shirt, kissed his chest, kissed his neck, sucked his bottom lip.

He'd picked her up, easily, like carrying a child she was so light, and carried her small frame from engineering to his bunk opposite. It was not as luxurious as those the crew slept in, but he had slept in worse. There was a bunk and a wash basin. He needed little else. He’d lowered her gently on to his mattress and had made short work of removing her thin trousers and her uniform top.

She was younger than him, with small breasts that grew erect once he had played with them. Little did he know that the rest of the crew had planted a small recording device there in his quarters and had watched the whole thing, as he had kissed and slobbered over Lorna, taking her twice; first roughly and savagely with her squealing beneath him, and then slowly, holding her in his arms and kissing her gently as he drove himself powerfully in and out of her.

Intimate contact with a woman was a seldom act for him. Usually he would just pay a prostitute when he caught the urge. Every few months he would get that aching in his groin, and the impromptu erections that made him have to pay for relief. The women were of differing quality, at both ends of the scale. Since losing his arm, and his eye adopting that dead white colour, women who weren’t in the business to charge him to stay in their bed for the night hadn’t looked his way. He paid to fuck, but the fact was that you couldn’t pay anyone to be intimate with you.

He understood how his appearance repulsed most women. He’d been stitched up and put back together so many times, he was completely unrecognizable as the same idealistic and handsome young man who had joined the Terran army all those years before. He’d been fresh-faced, zealous... and very, very na├»ve back then. That had been before Massa E Kym and other battlefields, when the spirit and heart of that young man had been blasted to smithereens by the harsh realities of interstellar war.

For Abe the black gulf of years between who he had been then, to the man he was now, seemed to span centuries. Millennia. Only the stars themselves ever remained the same.

All of the women aboard the Royale were good looking, petite, all the product of fine breeding and good upbringing. He was of different stock, he knew that. But it hadn’t stopped him looking at them as they had passed him, regarding the slight curve of their hips, the gentle motion of their bottoms as they walked about the ship. He had noticed Lorna, too, with her golden hair and her soft features. Obviously the rest of the crew had seen him noticing her too, hence their little joke on his behalf.

For people who acted like they were of a higher breed than the humans from the outer colonies, the rest of the crew had certainly gone lower than he’d have thought them capable of when they’d convinced Lorna to sleep with him for their amusement.

After he’d finished, Abe had got up off of the bed and handed her a towel.

“Use that if yuh like,” he’d said.

She’d smiled at him politely, but had had a strange look on her face. She had seemed so eager to sleep with him, and had certainly been game when he’d brought her to his quarters. He knew when a woman was excited, and he had known that she was genuinely excited, and ready, to sleep with him when he’d stripped her off. Now she looked as though she were ashamed of herself. As he stood dressing himself and watching her clean herself up, it struck Abe that Lorna had the same look that so many of the prostitutes he slept with had when he had finished; sexually satisfied, but left feeling dirty.

He had learned to grow a thick skin against the repulsion he saw on their faces after sleeping with him and in the same manner he dismissed Lorna’s expression as just another example of that repulsion. It was a bit like eating a seafood dinner and then afterwards, remembering that you didn’t like fish.

Standing to dress herself, Lorna had said “I’ve got to get to the Command Centre.”

“Yuh,” he’d said.

A few hours later he had gone to the mess to fix himself something to eat, and he found almost the entire crew in there laughing and joking. They had quieted when he walked in, and when he’d looked at the vid screen he’d seen why. There he was, driving himself in and out of Lorna on his bunk, grunting like an animal. He looked from the vid screen and then at the crew as they started to laugh again.

“Really fucking funny,” Abe said, the vein in the side of his neck pulsating.

They laughed even more. One of the male crewmembers, Cooper, rewound the footage back to when Abe had been pulling his clothes off, a big grin on his face. He laughed as the footage played, and he sounded like a jackal. Abe saw red and lunged for Cooper, grabbing him by the neck with his metal arm and lifting him up till his feet dangled off of the floor. Cooper grabbed for the place around his neck where Abe’s artificial hand was closing, gripping hard.

“Funny now?” Abe asked through gritted teeth.

Lorna had stepped out from amongst the crew, and Abe looked at her, knowing that the planting of the recording device in his quarters had not been orchestrated by the crew alone.

“Stop!” she shouted at him.

Cooper was turning purple. Abe released his grip and he dropped to the floor. The other crew rushed to him, their attitude completely changed from when he’d walked in only moments before. The humour had left the room. On the vid display, Abe was on top of Lorna, his breathing heavy.

He looked across at Lorna. For a split second he thought he saw... what? Guilt?

Any other time, Abe thought, I would have snapped his neck.

He would have smashed the vid screen, too, if he knew he wouldn’t end up spending hours replacing it after. 

Without saying a word Abe left the mess room and headed for his quarters. He located the recording device and crushed it in his bare hands, reducing the small box to a crumpled fistful of black scrap. Then he’d returned to the engine room, expecting a visit from Captain Anderson for what he’d done to Cooper, but not receiving one.

Sitting on his bunk that night, replaying the love making, the embarrassment of them all laughing about it and the incident with Cooper, he had contemplated walking down to the crew’s quarters and doing some damage to Cooper to make an example of him. Perhaps maul him. Grab his face and squeeze his head until his eyeballs started to pop from the sockets.

But eventually he’d convinced himself to just lie down and let it go for the day, and he had done just that.

He’d let it go, sure… but he hadn’t forgotten it.


Abe had sat in the engine room, in the dark, listening to the sounds of shouting and screaming on the upper decks. This had gone on for several minutes, and then there had been nothing. The ship was more or less silent, save for the continual grinding of the reactor gears, and the gurgling of the coolant pipes in the engine room. He could hear no more activity.

After perhaps half an hour sitting in the dark, the comm. panel on the wall started beeping. He got up and walked over to it. He had a direct call, from the officer’s mess.

Abe hit the RECIEVE button.

It was Captain Anderson; he was perhaps the oldest person on the ship, and Abe hadn’t seen much of him since coming aboard. Whilst the ship was in transit he preferred to remain in his quarters, doing God-knows-what. He’d heard talk of Anderson building model ships. Grown men playing with toys was an alien concept to Abe and he didn’t understand it. Anderson distanced himself from the crew, and Abe had wondered if he knew what his crew got up to whilst he hid himself away in luxury.

"Frank? You there?" his voice sounded frayed, stressed. “Engineer?” Whatever had happened must have surprised Anderson, too, because he sounded pushed.

Abe smiled.

"Yuh. Here."

"Where have you been? The ship's been overrun. The enemy has taken over the command centre."

By the enemy he meant the Draxx, of course.

"I'm in engineering," Abe said simply.

"Thank God. We're locked in the mess at the moment. They locked us all in here after they breached the airlock. I don't think they had the foresight to disable the internal comm stations. At least they didn’t execute us…" Anderson said.

Abe grunted.

"You need to come and get us out of here, Frank, on the double."

Abe nodded but didn’t say anything.

"Frank?"

"Yuh. Still here."

Anderson sighed.

"Frank we need to get to the lifeboat. It has enough room and supplies for all of us, and it might be our only chance of escaping this ship. Once they've got what they want, they'll blow this ship up with us in it. That’s how they roll. You know that?"

“Yuh,” Abe said. He knew it.

Trouble is, he thought, do you have any idea how I fucking roll?

There were frightened voices he could hear in the background.

Those fuckers, he thought to himself. Quivering in their boots like children. If only I had footage of that!

In the pitch black, with the thought of them frightened half to death, he grinned as if he were the very darkness itself, incarnate.

"Come and get us Frank," Anderson said. “You’re our only hope.”

"Yuh," Abe replied, simply, closing the comm. channel.

The final installment of BEAST will magically appear here on Christmas Day at 8:00 a.m.
Tony Healey hails from the UK. His first novel, The Stars My Redemption, featuring the main character from BEAST (and an engineer named Laurie), will be available on Amazon in early 2012. His short story, "Redd," appears in the anthology, Kindle All-Stars Presents: Resistance Front which is available on Amazon for the amazing low price of 99 cents (about 86p). All proceeds from Resistance Front will be donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

BEAST, Part 1

Here's the treat I've been promising. My friend, and fellow member of the Kindle All-Stars, Tony Healey will be my guest for the remainder of December. It is my pleasure to present to you Tony's short story, BEAST, in three parts. BEAST is for sale on Amazon (at a whopping .99) if you prefer to read it from your Kindle app or device. He also has a special deal just for my readers, but I'll let Tony tell you about it.
To my readers with more sensitive "ears," please note that there is just a bit of colorful language in the story that is not generally spoken on my blog, but I've chosen not to sensor it. You've been warned.
BEAST is a preview of the forthcoming novel THE STARS MY REDEMPTION due out at the beginning of 2012.
If you like what you read here, then please leave a review on BEAST’s Amazon page here: BEAST
If you leave a review I will gift you the full novel for FREE when it becomes available. So simply leave your review and I will make sure you get it.
Tony Healey


PART ONE

He knew something was up when he heard the sound of another ship clamping itself to their side. From experience he knew the sound a starship made when it hit against another ship.

Abe was on his hands and knees in the engine room cleaning the proton filter plates when he felt the rumble and vibration of what could only be a gravity well drawing close to the ship and he’d wondered if it was an asteroid skimming past them. But then he’d heard the unmistakable scrape of metal on metal and a loud crash.

He stood and listened, forgetting about the proton plates. By the sound of it they were on the starboard side of the Royale. The security seals on the airlock would not open easily for them, whoever they were, but they would cut through in no time at all.

If they were Draxx, then they would be inside the ship in only moments. If it was an attack by pirates or mercenaries, then it depended on their equipment. Some melted the seals, some blasted them clean off... and some simply breached the ship itself by drilling through the outer shell. That was a much less common method of gaining access, though, as you risked hitting major ductwork and blowing both ships. But if you were that desperate to get inside you’d take that risk. Abe knew that.

He wondered if he should go up to the command centre and offer his assistance to the rest of the crew, or remain in the engine room and see who their visitors were before taking action.

Fuck 'em I’ll wait, he thought.

He took the heavy metal rod he’d been using to clean the filter plates and smashed the lighting panel. The engine room was plunged into complete darkness. He didn’t want intruders being able to flick the light back on. Abe sat and waited.


Frankenstein was their nickname for him, and he supposed he really did look a bit like the eponymous Monster. In fact he didn't mind the name. He quite liked it. None of them could have guessed at his real name. They took the name he’d given them – simply ‘Frank’ and nothing else – as gospel.

If only the rest of the crew knew where he had been over the years, what he’d done, they wouldn’t have taunted him the way they did. The crew were all from Earth – the very core world around which the whole of the Terran Union radiated -- and they were all more refined, a far better breed. They were handsome people despite their inherently disgusting natures, clean and well-groomed.

There was a distinct class divide between those born on Earth and the people of the outer colonies, who were decades behind the advancements of the rest of the Union. As you moved further and further away from the core worlds, the standards of living and society deteriorated. Some of the more backwater worlds were at least a century behind other worlds simply due to their distance from the rest of Galactic civilisation.

Abe's duties on-board consisted of working in the engine room, and maintaining anything mechanical on-board. This meant that he was almost always dirty and covered in grease and sweat from his labors. The others mocked him, called him names because of his uncleanliness. He also carried out general janitorial duties and the crew wasted no time in telling him when one of the toilets were broken or blocked-up.

Normally a ship of that size would make do with a replicant engineer and maintenance crew member. But the Union heavily sanctioned the creation and use of replicants. In layman’s terms, Abe knew that that meant they held the monopoly on them and used them strictly for their own ends. So only ships who in some way either operated for the Union or were owned by the Union were allowed replicant crews.

The crew mocked his appearance, his gravelly voice, his slurred speech. He was the odd one out, the man with a robotic arm and a broken face, the dirty one, the Beast, the Monster. In a way he might as well have been a replicant himself for the disregard they showed him.

He ignored them. Their comments didn’t bother him. Abe had faced death and beat it enough times to not let a few spiteful remarks get under his skin. He kept his calm. When he reacted, people died. It was that simple. He only needed the job to maintain a low profile for at least a few more months; otherwise he would have killed them all already.

He’d thought to himself, I bet they think they’re enduring me. But I’m allowing them to keep on living.

I’m enduring them.

They treated him as though he were scum, and he supposed that to them he was; those clean men and women in their clean white ship, transferring mineral shipments back and forth from the Alpha-Nimoy and Zara-X systems. It was easy work for them, and it was easy work for him. Compared to what he normally did, it was like having a holiday, a good rest.

Before taking the job, he had been contacted by a crime boss on the planet Farian, a man known simply as Wang. He’d offered Abe a lot of money to find his daughter, kidnapped a few days before by a rival gang moving in on Wang’s territory, transporting and selling narcotic star salts like 4Fava and 3Bz. Abe had done a bit of digging, bribing people for information, beating a few to a pulp to find out what he needed. He had discovered that she was being held in a compound hidden in an area of thick forest on the planet’s surface, and that she was guarded by at least twenty men.

After joy-riding a borrowed shuttle to the edge of the forest, he had proceeded on foot to the compound. He'd been a bit over-zealous in blasting a hole in the side of the compound with an A10 missile launcher, hoping to not only gain entrance but also throw the henchmen into disarray. However it had had the adverse effect of killing the girl he was meant to collect, the explosion erupting too close to her cell and killing her instantly.

He’d fled the scene knowing that now he would have both gangs after his skin. After hiding out for a few days in the busy capitol city of Farian, he’d met a man due to start work as an engineer on-board a ship called the Royale.

He told Abe that he hadn’t even met his new employer yet, and that a friend had set him up with the gig. After buying the man a few drinks, Abe led him outside on the pretence of going to another bar. He wasted no time and knocked him unconscious, locking him in a metal dumpster with a gag around his mouth and his arms tied behind his back. When – if – anyone found him, it would be days later.

The following morning Abe arrived at docking station 11 and met the Requisitions Officer of the Royale, who agreed to take him on despite being obviously uncomfortable in his presence. If it had been for anything else, he wouldn’t have been employed. But because he looked like a scarred-up engineer with years of experience under his belt, he was taken-on no questions asked. And he could talk the talk. He could always talk the talk.


Part 2 of BEAST will magically appear next Sunday, December 18, at 8:00 a.m.
Tony Healey hails from the UK. His first novel The Stars My Redemption, featuring the main character from BEAST (and an engineer named Laurie), will be available on Amazon in early 2012. His short story, "Redd," appears in the anthology, Kindle All-Stars Presents: Resistance Front which you will find HERE for the whopping price of 99 cents (about 86p).

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Perfect Needle

I've found I enjoy knitting even a bit more than crochet. I like the simplicity of knitting in that one only has two stitches to learn. The rest is technique. If you can knit and purl, you can do anything. I've also found that knitting is much easier on my hands than crochet so I can do it relatively pain free for a longer period of time. Of course, crochet works up quicker. They both have found a place in my crafting. But enough about the crafts themselves, I want to talk about tools.

Earlier this year, I pulled out the pair of aluminum needles that I got years ago in my learn-to-knit kit and finally taught myself to purl. I found the aluminum to be awfully slippery and I kept losing stitches. Not a great start to my knitting career. Soooo. . .

I pulled out the plastic needles that I purchased years ago and tried again. I found I liked them much better because they had a good "tooth," more friction and held the cotton yarn I was working much better than the aluminum. However, I found as I continued to use them, the amount of friction continued to increase and made it more difficult to work the yarn. I ended up finishing the project with them (after all, it was only a washcloth), but I hoped I'd find a happy medium.
FYI, a great way to cut down on the friction is to run waxed paper up and down the length of your needles. This deposits a small amount of wax on them and makes the surface a bit more slick. Since my bamboos are only 8" long, I use this trick when I need to use my 10" acrylics.
I thought about purchasing a pair of wooden needles, but they were prohibitively expensive. Then I discovered bamboo.

You see, I'm a Bargain shopper with a capital B. After a gazillion years in retail, I know better than to pay full price for anything and I will generally wait for it to go on sale or clearance before I buy. I'm also moderately hooked on eBay. Bully for me, right?

Well, thanks to my nose for finding bargains and my eBay addiction, I found bamboo needles galore for dirt cheap. Did it matter to me that I would have to wait two weeks or more for shipping from Hong Kong? Heck no! The set of 8" needles I purchased ranged in size from 2mm to 10mm and have developed a lovely patina as I use them. Because they're natural, I don't find them to be cold in my hands like the aluminum can be. And they're so lightweight they're even easier on my weary hands. I like them so much that I purchased a 5" sock set from the same seller. I even bought a set of Tunisian crochet hooks in bamboo.

Don't get me wrong, I find the aluminum comes in handy for working with yarns that tend to be sticky. One in particular that I've worked is a cotton wrapped with a polyester filament. For the really slippery yarns I go to my acrylic needles or the plastic ones. You see, in shopping for needles I found so many for so little money that I now have needles for any occasion and I couldn't be happier about it.
You can find my collection listed on Ravelry. So what are your favorite tools? Leave me a comment and let me know. 
Happy Knitting!