Excerpts from current or upcoming works

The Stocking
from Tales in Time
a short story collection

   Chapman stared at the fire roaring behind the open grate of the chimney as he rolled the glass in his fingers, the flickering light dancing upon its rim. Everything had been so perfect; so perfect. And now this. He tossed the sweet flavor down his throat and let the glass fall from his hand to the floor. The lone clerk behind the counter gave it little thought. Just another spot to clean from the rug.

   It had begun so innocently, all those years ago. The memory pulled at him; slapped him across his face like it was yesterday, a yesterday he has relived every year for forty-three years. His head rolled back and lay across the worn fold on the seatback, an obvious sign of use in this lodge. He came here every year. Was it to relive the memory in hopes that it would change, or was it to punish himself for a decision he’d made all those years ago. A decision, he could not change.

   He looked up at the glistening tree displayed prominently in the center of the hall, all twenty feet of it, wrapped in sparkling tinsel, lights and shiny glass bulbs. Each year the tree was slightly different, but the tradition continued. This year’s addition was red poinsettias inserted generously throughout. His eyes skimmed its features; a nice touch, he thought, as was the cotton-snow pulled meticulously through its branches. Even inside, it gave the impression of being outside in the dead of winter. Dead of winter, he thought. Much like he felt again.

from Star Eagle Six

I'

     He was alive; that was all he needed to think about for a minute. He took a deep breath and tried to relax. His frame shuddered as he exhaled and he could feel the clamminess of his skin beneath his flight suit. How many times had he cheated death in this war, a war against a faceless enemy? How could one fight an enemy he had never seen; had no visual cue other than the relentless onslaught of foreboding ships?

     He suddenly noticed the stars slipping beneath the line of the cockpit. His fighter was slowly rolling; no, tumbling, he now realized as the stars rolled past him to the left. He had neither attitude nor yaw control. In the weightlessness of space he would never have known without the visual reference. A simple flick of the attitude controls would tell him if he had any control left in the craft. He took a deep breath, releasing it slowly and gently nudged the stick, hoping for the best.

     The reaction was quick but not as expected. He toppled hard-over accelerating the roll. A pull in the other direction slowed the movement of the stars across the canopy. He knew instantly he had damaged thrusters. As venerable as the old girl was, well, he just had to hope she had a little more left in her. Another slight nudge eased the roll to near zero. It was likely the best he would achieve. The Talon fighter was a throwback to an earlier time, but she was agile and rugged, inspired from a long line of war-birds dating back hundreds of years to the Home Worlds. It was now all he had.

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