Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reading - December 13, 2012

Hi Everyone,

Saturday I will be starting a new story arch in the Science Fiction world. I hope you will join me then.

I would also like to announce that I will be conducting a reading of my non-fiction stories at the Rain or Shine Cafe ( at 60th and Division on December 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm.

If you are one of my local readers I hope you will stop by - have a cup, and a nosh, and give me a listen. I hate to read to an empty room.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Start of Something New

Hi Everyone,

I hope you enjoyed the last story ark. I enjoyed exploring Ezekiel's character with you.

We are going to take a trip back to the fantasy Kingdom of the Last Dragons for the next few weeks.

I have just found out Cleara/Clearair is pregnant. I am at my whits end. Will she deliver a human child or a dragon pup? Can she deliver either successfully? This is not a mid-wife situation I had ever thought I would find myself in. It may take more than my healer's powers to get us through this one.

Check in this coming Saturday for the first episode.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Star Traveler Update - On the Trial of Ezekiel Watts: The Big One

Father found after 30 years of searching
Ezekiel Watts recognized as long lost father of Empress Minu
Explore the floating palace of Karakas
Use your GCP to tour the Hopeful Academy – Pet charity to Empress Minu

§          §          §

Who is Ezekiel Watts?
Use your GCP to join in a live, interactive interview

§          §          §

Collapse of mine on Galnon Station #2C
Galactic Officials report the death of William Braden
Read the details here

§          §          §

Live interview with Arr of the Henu
The last man to see William Braden alive
Relive their struggle in the bowels of the mines in Galnon Station #2C

§          §          §

ANNET Awards, Shattuck Rye
Best Investigative-Journalist

Listen to the touching acceptance speech

ANNET Fashion Recap
Will Lena Rye be this year’s trend setter?

§          §          §

Shattuck Rye, Investigative-Journalist, Appointed
New Corporate Communications Director for Empress Minu Starlight Foundation

§          §          §

Shattuck had made it to the big one.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Star Traveler Update - On the Trail of Ezekiel Watts: The Reveal

“Empress?” the Lord called softly.
            It was the next day. Usov and Watts stood just inside the door of what looked to the mercenary like a sitting room. The Lord had not spoken to him when the guards delivered him here. He had merely dismissed them and escorted Watts inside. The mercenary could see he was still pissed from yesterday.
Empress Minu was on the balcony gazing out over the wispy clouds floating by. She turned.
The sight of her took Watts’ breath away. Not because she was such a beauty, though she was attractive. No, it was not her body with all its gentle curves, or her raven black hair, or even her creamy cocoa colored skin. No, it was her eyes. Watts remembered another pair exactly like them from decades ago in a whorehouse on the Outer Rings of Pygia. A girl named Talya. She had the same emerald green eyes with flecks of gold sprinkled in them. Just like Talya’s, Minu’s turned up at the outer corners. Those eyes had haunted Watts’ dreams years after he left Talya.
When the Empress smiled Watts could swear he saw Talya before him again except that his lover had possessed skin as white as the snow fields of Taradon and would have been in her seventies like Watts. This woman was somewhere around forty or a well preserved fifty.
“I understand from Usov that there has been a grave misunderstanding,” she said as she walked in from the balcony. “I must take responsibility for not letting him explain. I wanted to tell you myself.”
“They say confession is good for the soul,” Watts prompted. He tried to concentrate – to ignore Minu’s resemblance to Tayla. He wanted to maneuver the Lord into another blow up.
He would be ready this time. He would disarm Usov and take the Empress hostage.
“Please feel free to tell me why you would have the Lord buy you children in the slave market of Galla II. No, wait…they’re not for your enjoyment, right?” He asked. “They’re playthings for your friends, right?”
The Empress sat down in a chair and fixed those unsettling eyes on Watts. The idea skipped through his mind that this woman might be a relative of Talya. No one could have eyes that close to hers without being related.
“You really have had a very rough life, haven’t you?” the Empress said with a hint of pity in her voice.
“I don’t need you talking down at me, whore,” Watts taunted verbally, baiting the Lord. Though the word held no significant for Watts (he had loved many a lady of the night) it seemed to press all the right buttons to agitate the great Lord Usov.
“Empress?” Usov hissed under his breath.
Watts had lit his fuse. The only thing holding him back was the presence of his boss. Just one more push.
Watts asked. “What kind of a man pimps for his woman?”
Usov exploded, but Watts was ready this time. He side stepped the blow and let the momentum carry the lord forward. Watts came down with locked hands on the middle of the man’s back. He crumpled to the floor. Watts grabbed the weapon from its holster at his side and drew back with the intention of planting a blow across the back of Usov’s head.
“No! Father!” the Empress cried in protest.
Watts pulled up short. He turned on the woman who had run up behind him and stood a mere foot or two from him.
“What did you say?” he asked. He knew what he heard. He just couldn’t believe his ears.
“I said, Father.” She reached out and gently touched his shoulder. “I don’t want you to kill your prospective son-in-law before you have the opportunity to get to know him.” She smiled and Watts knew it was true. This was his daughter. She had to be his and Talya’s daughter.
“I am sorry. I shouldn’t have let the charade go on this long, but I imagined it so differently in my mind,” she apologized. “I never thought you would jump to so many false conclusions.”
Usov rolled over and came up off the floor.
“I am not pimping,” he hissed in anger. “How could you think such a thing?”
“Easy,” Watts admitted. “I saw you buy every child in the slave market.”
“I said it before. You have a filthy mind,” Usov repeated himself. “The same thing you have done for your young friend, I have done for dozens of children over the years. I was buying them to save them.”
Minu put a restraining hand on Usov’s arm. She smiled up at him.
“You will have to excuse, Usov. He is very protective. It is his nature and a quality I much admire in him.” She turned and took a seat, motioning her two companions to also take chairs.
“We have a school here,” Minu explained. “It is my favorite personal charity. The children are brought her to live and learn. Once they become adults they are given a dowry and sent out into the verse to hopefully carry on the good habits they have acquired here.” She reached out to Usov who had taken a seat beside her and cupped his cheek with her hand. “I didn’t expect Usov to come home with so many, but we will make room.”
“Usov was really there for you,” the Empress continued. “Please, sit down. I will tell you all about our rescue plan.”
Watts sat down across from the Empress. “You are Talya’s daughter?” he asked.
“And yours. My name is Minu,” she introduced herself. “Mother would have been so pleased that you remembered her.”
“Would have been?” Watts asked.
“She and my step-father were killed almost thirty years ago in an accident during a sky race. My step-father loved speed and my mother loved him.”
It was all starting to fall into place for Watts.
“Your step-father was Emperor Mallie.”
“Yes. He married mother when she was going to be thrown out of the brothel because she was pregnant with me. She was his consort at the same time as she was yours. They never kept my heritage secret from me. Mother kept track of you all the years she was alive. She knew about your many missions as a mercenary. She could have contacted you at any point while she was alive.”
“Why didn’t she?” Watts asked. “I didn’t know she was pregnant. I would have come for her and you if I’d known.”
“I think that is the reason she didn’t contact you,” Minu explained. “You were like a wild thing to her. When she spoke of you her eyes grew distant. She recounted the adventures you told her of your missions over the months you were together. I don’t think she wanted to cage you with a family.”
“The Empress kept track of you all these years since her mother’s death.” Usov offered.
Watts noticed Usov was making an effort to be civil to his prospective father-in-law. They were both going to have to do their best to mend the rift between them created by the unfortunate misunderstanding of each others motives and actions. It wasn’t the man’s fault that he did things that looked suspicious to Watts.
“I have worked as her security head for many years,” Usov continued. “When I saw the message about William Braden’s release I remembered the story she told about your mission with the Bradens. We knew where you were. Minu sent me to fetch you.”
“I thought you would be safer here with the security force of  Karakas to protect you,” Minu explained.
“But when I arrived at your home you had already left.” Usov squeezed Minu’s hand affectionately. “I searched the place for clues, but you hadn’t left any behind. We have a number of valuable informants dating back to the former Emperor’s time. I sent your photo to all of them. One of the hydra contacted me from Galla II saying they had you. I was afraid they would hold you for ransom, but that wasn’t the case. The hydra that captured you wanted it to look like a sale so he wouldn’t have to share with rest of his clan. They are nasty beasts.”
“Usov was there at the slave market for you. The purchase of the children was just his good heartedness.” She patted Usov’s leg as he sat at her side. “He had to confirm it was truly you with a DNA test before your purchase.” Minu explained. “We couldn’t take the chance of a deception on the part of the hydra.”
Watts shook his head. It was so much to take in. His daughter an Empress. His Daughter. He was a father. A father to one of the riches women in the verse. This was going to take some getting used to.


Watts was still trying to shuffle the information into some semblance of order when Shattuck burst into the room.
He and the two guards chasing him slid to a stop when they spotted the three other occupants.
“Mr. Rye,” Minu said. “I am so pleased you could join us. Please sit down.” She motioned for Shattuck to take a seat. “We have a lot to discuss.” She waved her hand toward Watts. “I believe you know my father, Ezekiel Watts.”

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Star Traveler Update - On the Trail of Ezekiel Watts: The Trap

            “Please Lena,” Shattuck begged. He was on Galla II, transmitting on his headset from a little rundown dive. “His purchase is the talk of the town. It took me a bit to track down the buyer, but I know who they are now.”
            “Even if I could raise that much credit what makes you think they will sell Watts to you? If they paid that much for him then they must have wanted him really bad. Have you thought of the fact that the buyer might be working for Braden?” Lena asked him. “I’m afraid you are getting in over your head Tuck. Tell the local authorities what you know and get them to retrieve Watts,” she suggested.
            “There are no local authorities here,” Shattuck said. His sister had no idea what this place was like and if she did she would be throwing even a bigger fit then she was. Shattuck knew if he miss-stepped here he would most likely just disappear.
“Besides,” he continued to argue, “he isn’t here any longer. The buyer took him. They’re on their way to Karakas.”  
“Karakas?” Lena said in disbelief. “You have got to be kidding.”
Karakas was one of the richest planets in the verse. You couldn’t set foot on it unless you had a royal bloodline or had inherited one of the top thirty fortunes in the verse. It was a party planet designed for the rich and powerful. There were floating palaces and private islands, underwater resorts and whole buildings full of endless parties with perpetual refill and cleanup teams. There were well manicured gardens and pristine beaches, mountain hideaways and desert oasis. Playgrounds where you could act out any fantasy you could dream up. And there were restaurants where you could consume the delicacies flown in daily from the four corners of the known verse. Whatever you wanted to experience you could find on Karakas, maybe even things you hadn't thought of.
“How do you intend to get access to the planet?” Lena asked. “Have you even thought about that?”
“I have,” Shattuck assured her. “I am going to masquerade as a bestselling verse investigative journalist. Clever huh?” Shattuck asked sarcastically.
“A reporter is the last thing they will allow through their security,” Lena warned.
“Not when I tell them Empress Minu has granted me an interview,” Shattuck said.
“You can’t lie about that, Tuck. They’ll check with her.” The Empress was well known for her love of privacy.
“And she will tell them she has asked me to come,” Shattuck said with satisfaction.
“I don’t believe you got her to agree to an interview. She is too reclusive.”
“Well, you are going to have to start believing. She is the one who bought Watts. I am going to expose her to the whole verse for her association with the slave trade. The news will bury her charities in scandal. I told her if she saw me I would include any rebuttal she had.”
“Tuck, that’s ridiculous. Why would she grant you an interview for such a flimsy reason? ‘Oh sure, just come on down and we’ll talk about my buying slaves.’” Lena said in a haughty voice as she imagined Empress Minu would sound. “You need to be careful. I can’t retrieve you from Karakas. Once you’re there you’re off the grid.” Lena warned. “That place has its own set of rules.”
“Work on the money, Sis. I’ll send you the galleys from the interview before I submit it to U.N. You deserve to read it first if you help me rescue Watts.”
“Now it’s a rescue?” Lena asked in disbelief.
“Yup, this doesn’t have anything to do with Braden any longer. I have shown his holo-image on every stop of this trip and no one has seen him. And,” Shattuck said with emphasis, “I don’t think anyone would forget that pockmarked face. No,” Shattuck continued with conviction, “this is about saving Watts from a life of slavery at the hands of someone the verse thinks is a benevolent philanthropist. If this works out right it is going to be the biggest expose’ in the history of the U.N.”


Trafficking of humans
in the slave markets on Galla II
Read about the brutal treatment of the slaves

Interact with the captives
Use your GCP to enter the cells at the Slave Market of Galla II


            All right, this was the stupidest thing he had ever done. Lena was right and if he ever got out of here he would admit it to her face.
            Yesterday he was transported and escorted to this room in the floating palace of Empress Minu several thousand feet above planet Karakas. He was told to wait. He had been waiting ever since.
            It wasn’t as though he was being ignored. Someone checked on him regularly. Yesterday they brought him lunch and dinner, even a late night snack. This morning breakfast had arrived in a timely fashion.
            It wasn’t as though Shattuck’s accommodations were lacking either. Even though he was not invited in advance to spend the night, and had not intended to stay over, he was supplied with pajamas and a dressing gown. The room had a fully equipped bathroom with everything to keep him squeaky clean and well coiffured.
            The room had a wall scene where he could while away the hours watching U.N. almost bigger than life.
The balcony of the room had a lovely view of the clouds. The city of Runnamede was spread out below a vertical drop of several thousand feet.  
No, he would have been comfortable in this penthouse in the sky except for the fact that he was a prisoner. They had taken his headset and posted a guard outside his door.
What had possessed him? What made him think he was immune to their actions? What made him imagine he was any kind of a threat to people this rich and powerful?
Lena was right. He was in way over his head.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Star Traveler Update - On the Trail of Ezekiel Watts: The Buy

To say the trip to Galla II was miserable did not even come close. Lucky for them hydra were the speed demons of the verse. The trip was thankfully short compared to what it could have been on the ship of any sane species. If it hadn’t been for the driller danger, the captives would have almost been glad they were confined in such a small space.
The hydra jumped through windows with abandon. They rocketed through planet rings like a bearing in an antique pinball machine. They rode space waves like dexterous dust surfers in Trident’s cloud nebula - all of this, with no regard to how they threw their passenger/cargo around in the hold of the ship.
Watts explained what a driller was to Lucas. They took turns watching out for each other in alternate sleep shifts. Luckily the worm did not make an appearance.
By the time they arrived on Galla II not an inch of Watts’ body wasn’t bruised or aching from the jolting and shifting of the ship. He and Lucas held each other up in the empty square of the slave market as the hydra pelted their aching bodies with a high pressure hose. The lizards knew that clean merchandise always sold better than filthy.
            Afterward, they were all shepherded to cells encircling the square. Watts grabbed Lucas when they started to separate them. The hydra guard yanked the boy back away from the mercenary and started to close the cell door between them.
            “Watts!” Lucas wailed. He fought the hydra holding him.
            Watts pushed at the door to keep it from locking.
            The large hydra from the ship stepped forward. He said something to the one holding Lucas. The hydra released the boy who came running to Watts. There was no mistaking it this time, the two lizards smiled at him. Whatever that meant, it couldn’t be good.

            “Okay,” Watts whispered to Lucas as they sat huddled in the back corner of the cell. “Repeat it for me.”
            “We’re looking for someone decent to buy us. Someone well dressed. Female if possible,” Lucas parroted Watts’ instructions.
            “And?” Watts prompted.
            “And someone who speaks English, or has a UT so we can understand them.”
            “That’s the most important,” Watts emphasized. “We don’t have a chance of escaping if we can’t blend in. We can’t blend in if we don’t speak the language or have a translator.”
            “Right,” Lucas agreed.
            “And if they try to separate us again?” Watts asked.
            “I throw a holy fit,” Lucas said with a smile. “That part won’t be hard.”
            The kid was scared earlier. Watts figured there was a reason the boss lizard was keeping them together. He didn’t know why, but he hoped the beast would see that they were kept together until they sold. He certainly couldn’t help the kid escape if they were sold off separately.


            Watts and Lucas stood on the sidelines as one after another of the other miner captives were pushed on the stage, bid upon and sold. Their complement was interspersed with the captives of the other hydra raiding parties - men, women and children.
            Watts noticed that any child offered alone was bid upon by a tall, slender, well dressed, middle aged man in the back with skin the color of coffee with a generous amount of cream mixed in. He was gathering young stock for something.
When it came their turn, Watts and Lucas were pushed out on the stage together just as Watts’ had hoped. There was a good selection of well-heeled buyers in the crowd with a smattering of females.
            Watts stepped forward. He was going to do his best to encourage the wealthy buyers.
            “My name is Ezekiel Watts. I’m strong and healthy,” he started as introduction. “I used to own my own ship and can fly anything you give me. I know how to read charts and…”
            The boss lizard yanked on the chain around Watts’ neck pulling him backward. Watts turned to fight, but the hydra had a threatening grasp around Lucas’ throat.
            “This lot will be sold as a pair,” the hydra hissed through the UT it wore for the proceedings. “The black has not been touched. As you can see he is fight ready. He would be a fine purchase for any gaming planet. You can also see he is emotionally attached to the white I hold. He will cooperate if the white is threatened.”
            Oh, this was not good. In fact, this was really bad for both of them. The kid had just become Watts’ whipping boy. Watts’ hands were tied. What had he done?
            The bidding started immediately. It was fast and furious. It appeared as though there were several in the crowd who wanted them. As the bids gained momentum, Watts watched them ricocheted between three buyers. One was obviously a master from the gladiator planet of Nom. He was dressed like a trainer and had two large guards with him that looked like they could take on several of the hydra in a hand-to-hand combat and win. The second bidder was a woman of questionable profession. No doubt she didn’t want Watts for his fighting skills. The third was an aging, small, wiry man dressed conservatively in a gray gown edged in silver.
            The woman was the first to drop out of the bidding.
            “I won’t fight,” Watts yelled over the bidding.
            The hydra threw Lucas to the ground and planted his massive clawed foot in the boy’s stomach. He flexed his claws, scrapping the boy’s belly. Lucas cried out in pain.
            “No!” Watts shouted.
            The lizard took his foot off Lucas who rolled away and into Watts’ outstretched hands. The lizard smiled at his audience in affirmation. The two men continued to bid.
The coffee colored man in the back tossed in a bid with the flick of his wrist.  
The new bidder moved forward slowly in the crowd as the bidding went even higher. The group around the stage parted for him as though he were royalty. He exuded the air of someone who should not be crossed. When the wiry little man caught sight of who he was bidding against, he immediately dropped out. They obviously knew each other.
            There were a couple more bid passes.
The hydra yanked on Lucas’ and Watts chains. He dragged them to the edge of the stage.
            “You wish to inspect the merchandise?” he asked.
            The two remaining bidders stepped up to the edge of the stage. Unexpectedly, the new bidder reached for Watts. He struck out at Watts. Watts ducked the blow, but felt a sting to his bicep.    
“Hey!” Watts exclaimed.
He caught a glimpse of some sort of instrument in the hand of the newcomer.
The man looked down in his hand and smiled. He placed the instrument in his pocket and removed a purse as big as a bitter/sweet melon from under his cloak. He tossed it effortlessly up on the stage at the foot of the hydra. It exploded when it hit the floor spilling out hands full of golden ingots.
“Sold,” the hydra shouted, “to Lord Usov.”
The winning bidder’s men gathered up his young purchases and Watts. They were moved to a waiting cruiser to be transported. Watts hammered down his instinct to fight. He chose to bide his time until he could figure a way out of this mess.

            They started to separate Lucas and Watts as soon as they were brought on board. Watts wasn’t about to let that happen. He certainly wasn’t going to let Lucas out of his sight. He decked the guard that had a hold on the boy, grabbed the kid and shoved him behind him. He took a threatening stance between the guards and Lucas.
            “He’s staying with me,” Watts proclaimed in defiance.
            The man the hydra had called Lord Usov came up behind his guard.
            “The boy can stay with Watts,” he ordered.
            Even if he hadn’t been one of the early bidders, Watts noted that he was listening when he gave his speal in the slave market. The Lord remembered his name.
“There are clean clothes which I believe will fit you in there,” the Lord pointed to the room with the open door behind Watts. “There are also facilities for you to clean and shave. I will have clothing brought for the boy.”
He turned and walked away – not waiting to see if his instructions were carried out. He knew he was alpha male in this pack. He naturally assumed his orders would be followed. It pissed Watts off royally that he had to obey without question.
But, he had managed to keep Lucas – that was something.
            There were no windows in their room. No way to gauge where they were. Watts just knew from the sound of the engines that they were pulling into dock somewhere.
            “You stay close,” he told Lucas. “Let me do the talking.”
            “Okay.” Lucas agreed in a hushed voice.
            The engines stopped. There was the sound of children talking as they were ushered past their door. The noise receded and it grew very quiet aboard the ship.
            The door to their room swished open. Lord Usov stood outside.
            “I need you to come with me,” he said indicating that Watts should follow.
            The mercenary moved forward with Lucas in tow.
            “The boy must stay here,” Usov instructed.
            Watts stopped. “I’m not leaving him.”
            “He won’t be harmed,” Usov assured him. “I promise.”
            “And on what fly-by would you think your promise assures me?” Watts asked.
            “It wouldn’t,” Usov answered. “But the fact that you have made it very clear that the boy is leverage for us, and the fact that I am not threatening him at this moment with bodily harm, should allow you to be somewhat reassured.”
Usov motioned again for Watts to follow him.
“Please,” he asked politely.
Watts wrestled with the choice. What Usov said made sense, but he had no way of knowing if he would keep his word. What Watts did know was that he needed to get out of this room. See the lay of the land around them so he could form a plan of escape.
The mercenary turned to the boy.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he promised. “If they hurt you I promise I won’t leave here until I’ve killed this lying bastard,” he said grinning as he pointed over his shoulder at Usov.
Usov’s reaction was a sly smile. There was no reason for Usov to believe Watts could carry out his threat, but then again, he didn’t know Watts’ reputation.
            Usov escorted Watts out of the docking bay and down a series of endless hallways. He did not appear to be concerned that Watts might try to escape. They passed what must have been the Lord’s men. Each one they passed nodded in recognition to the man and greeted him with ‘Sir.’ No salutes. No snapping to attention. The man was respected, but not revered.
            “Where are we going?” Watts asked.
“The Empress has asked to see you.”
 Watts made a slight detour to look out a window. Jez! They were in a floating palace. He knew where they were. They were on Karakas. He had seen this place in vids on the U.N.
            Things started to fall into place. He was on the party planet; the home-away-from-home for the rich and famous. The place had only one Empress in residence, Empress Minu.
            “You bought kids for some rich bitch.” It wasn’t a question. It was an accusation. “Training them young for sex or combat slaves?”
            Usov turned on Watts so quickly that the mercenary would have thought he was part snake. He stuck out and knocked Watts to the floor before he could even duck. He was getting slow in his old age.
            The lord stood over him seething with fury.
            “You have a filthy mind,” he growled at Watts.
            “At least it’s just my mind,” Watts said rubbing his jaw. “How do you feel peddling children for some rich whore?”
            “Guard!” Usov called.
            Two men came barreling around the corner and practically tripped over Watts before they could screech to a halt.
            “Take him back to his room aboard ship,” the lord ordered.
            Each of the guards grabbed one of Watts’ arms and pulled him to his feet.
            “I guess her highness can wait,” Watts said. “I’m probably too old for her tastes anyway.”
            Usov wanted to strike him again, but Watts saw he was restraining himself.
“Take him away,” he hissed under his breath.
Watts had learned a number of valuable things on his short walk around the palace. He ticked them off in his head as the guards escorted him back to his room. They were on Karakas in the floating palace of Empress Minu. There was a docking bay and numerous ships that appeared space ready. All the guards were armed. And last, but not least, the lord was in love with his mistress. If Watts could get close enough to take her hostage, he could write a ticket home for him and Lucas. It was a sketchy plan, but he would color it in before the Empress asked for him again. He’d be ready next time the Lord took him for a walk.

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