You are my true fan!
I know this because you either got here from my email directing you, you know to check every Thursday for updates, or you followed a link from social media─in which case, you follow me there.
Either way, this "extra" week in May gives me a chance to break from the normal and offer you a digital download!
If you've been reading my blogs for a while, you know that Cynthia Hlady and I create illustrations for these stories. I own the rights to the images and can use them as I like. It gets Cynthia's work noticed and I get character images for my stories.
The illustration above is an example of the front and back of a bookmark I made (with Cynthia's character sketch of Lady Dauphine) for THE KING'S THIEF.
Download it with my blessing, but if you want to give back for the freebie, share this post to social media (you'll find share buttons on the right side of your screen).
Really, I just want you to have something from my book to have.
Below is a file you can download then print or upload to your computer or phone. Instructions on how to do that follows. Happy printing!
Follow the instructions below to print out your own bookmark!
Click the "Download File" above.
Click cntl J to get to your downloads.
Click "show in folder" on the "bookmark-download.docx".
Right Click on the file named "bookmark-download.docx".
Scroll to "print".
Uncheck the "Fit picture to frame" box.
Hit the print button.
Voila! Bookmark printed! Fold or cut the edges to your preference.
Follow the instructions below to set as your Desktop/Phone/Tablet background
If you're on a desktop computer, most of the time you just have to right click on the image, scroll and click on the "set as desktop image" selection and you're done! (P.S. This method doesn't work on chrome).
Otherwise... download the image then follow these instructions:
WikiHow has instructions with pictures!!
Go here: www.wikihow.com/Make-Any-Picture-Your-Computer%27s-Wallpaper
Otherwise, here is the run down for Desktop, Mac, Android, iOS and setting background images from your internet browser (except chrome for some reason).
Right-click your desktop and select “Personalize”. This option is at the bottom of the context menu that appears and will take you to the “Personalization” menu. Some sample images will be displayed under the “Choose your picture” header.
For simplified, on-the-fly wallpaper changes, simply right-click a photo on your computer and select “Set as desktop background” from the context menu. This lacks some of the customization options of the Personalization menu.
Click “Browse” to select a photo. You will be prompted to browse the folder on your computer to select an image file.
Click to select a photo and press “Choose Picture”. The photo will be set as your wallpaper and appear in the “Choose your picture” image list.
Select an option from the “Choose your fit” dropdown. This option is useful for images that are smaller or larger than your desktop resolution.
”Fill” will adjust the image so that there is no blank space around the image.
”Fit” will adjust the image so that no part of it is cropped out.
”Tile” will fill all space with repeated copies of the image. This option is best for smaller images.
”Center” will use the exact size of the image.
Select “Slideshow” from the “Background” dropdown to setup a wallpaper rotation (optional). Once this option is selected you can add pictures to the slideshow by clicking “Browse” and set a rotation interval from the “Change picture every” dropdown.
Press the “X” in the upper right corner to close the window. This finalizes your decision once you have settled on a wallpaper choice and optional settings. The settings are auto-saved as you select them.
Open the "settings" app.
Tap “Display”. This is listed under the “Device” header and will open a list of options specific to your screen.
Tap “Wallpaper”. This will open a list of places from your phone to select wallpapers.
Options here may vary depending on the model of phone or tablet you are using.
Tap “Photos”. This will open a list of ALL photos on your device, including those located in the Photos app, Downloads, or other third-party apps.
Tap a picture to preview it as a wallpaper.
You can reach this same interface by launching the “Photos” app, tapping a photo to view, opening the options menu (in the upper right), tapping “Use As”, and selecting “Wallpaper”.
Tap and drag the picture to adjust its positioning. You can also pinch or reverse pinch to zoom in and out.
Tap “Set Wallpaper” at the top of the picture. This will set the picture with your selected positioning as your wallpaper.
Tap the back button instead if you decide you do not want the previewed picture as your wallpaper.
Tap “Set Wallpaper” at the top of the picture. This will set the picture with your selected positioning as your wallpaper.
Using iOS Display Settings:
Open the "Settings" app.
Tap "Wallpaper". This button is listed in the sidebar on the left and will open the wallpaper options.
Tap “Choose a New Wallpaper”. You will be taken to the ‘Choose’ page where you can select between Apple wallpapers and pictures stored in your Photos app.
Tap a picture to preview it as a wallpaper.
You can reach this same interface by launching the “Photos” app, tapping a photo to view, opening the “Share” menu in the upper right, and tapping “Use as Wallpaper”.
Tap and drag the picture to adjust its positioning. You can also pinch or reverse pinch to zoom in and out.
Choose your wallpaper settings. The bottom bar lists a number of options on how to use your photo as your wallpaper. Tapping the first 3 will set your photo as a wallpaper.
“Set Lock Screen”: This option will set the photo as your wallpaper only when the device is locked.
“Set Home Screen”: This option will set the photo as your wallpaper only when your device is unlocked at the home screen.
”Set Both”: This option will set the photo as you wallpaper on both your lock and home screen.
”Perspective Zoom On/Off”: When on, this will automatically adjust your photo to fit the screen so that the photo scrolls slightly as you tilt your device.
”Cancel”: This will return you to your previous location without setting the wallpaper.
Open the Apple Menu and select “System Preferences”. The Apple Menu is in the left corner of the top menu bar.
Click “Desktop & Screensaver”. This will open the wallpaper and screensaver controls. By default you can choose from Apple sample wallpapers and your pictures folder. 
For simplified, on-the-fly wallpaper changes, simply Ctrl + click a photo on your computer and select “Set as desktop background” from the context menu. This lacks some of the customization options of the Display Settings.
Tap the “+” button to add pictures from another location. This button is in the lower right corner of the window and will prompt you to browse your computer for image locations.
Click a picture to set it as your wallpaper. The picture will be set as your wallpaper and can be viewed in the background. You can change the background as many times as you like by selecting other pictures in the browsing window.
Select the “Change picture” checkbox to setup a wallpaper rotation (optional). Once this box is checked, you can select a time interval to decide how often the wallpaper will change from the menu to the right.
This option will use all of the pictures in whichever folder is selected when selecting the checkbox.
Press the “X” in the upper left corner to close the window. This finalizes your decision once you have settled on a wallpaper choice and optional settings. The settings are auto-saved as you select them.
Using images from a web browser:
Choose your browser. Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari can set a desktop image directly from the browser window. On Chrome, images must be downloaded to the hard drive and set as a background image from there.
Images can not be set as wallpapers directly from mobile browsers.
Search for images. It is a good idea to include image size or resolution as part of your search parameters. With Google Image Search this can be done by selecting “Search Tools” under the the search bar and choosing an option from the “Size” dropdown menu.
Click to view an image preview. You can also view the full-size image by clicking the “View Image” button next to the preview.
Right-click the image (or Ctrl + click on Mac) and select “Set as desktop background”. The image will be set as your wallpaper without a preview.
This method will set an image to fill the screen by default.
Right-click the image and select “Save As…” (optional). Select a location on your computer and save to access the image with the wallpaper tools. This options is for Google Chrome users or those who want more control over how the image is used as a wallpaper.
Use the method that corresponds to your platform to use the downloaded image as your wallpaper.
December 2017 I went from trying to finish Kai's story to work on Pyromage. I've finished Kai's story and also The Silent Road which leaves me to finish Pyromage before I feel I can move onto another story. Even though I've posted THINGS I'M INTERESTED IN WRITING here.
But Pyromage needs to be done right. I love this story and want to make it great.
So, I went back and looked at it. I found it needed more. I'd been doing Homura's POV but I realized others needed to be brought in so that readers could see the connection between everything.
I went from one POV to George RR Martin.
There are now four characters that have vital roles so that readers don't get blindsided by events. When I read sometimes I think─well that would've been nice to see the ramp-up so that I knew what the hell was going on. I'll be on a part and then WHAM! I'll get hit by a writer going George Michael's trying to create a plot-twist that doesn't work.
By-the-way, plot twists are highly over-rated. Predictability doesn't make a story boring. Suspense is key. It's about the drama. The action. The struggle. Tension.
If there is tension a story can be predictable and still be great. Not all the elements need to be in a novel. You can have one thing missing and still have a best seller─CHANGE MY MIND!
I'm firm on this notion. I see so many ruined novels, movies and tv series obliterated because the writers thought they were going to blow everyone's mind with this plot twist.
All they wind up doing is pissing EVERYONE off.
Don't you people know that audiences like a predictable story? They just want to be wrapped up in the drama. The tension is what keeps their mind off the ending. A satisfying finish is too hard to find these days already and now you want to cock tease us with your stupid twists?
You know what I say to that...
Oh! I'm sorry, I didn't know how this machine worked.
I don't want to do a stupid fling surprise on my readers. I don't mind the how are they going to get together after this!!! type of twists as long as they make sense.
True life is stranger than fiction. I've heard your stories and some are something nobody would think of. Truth lies in ridiculousness, sure. But let's not go twilight (Twilight Zone or otherwise).
In that respect, I have a small excerpt that may or may not remain. In fact, this will most likely change significantly in its final form.
As usual mistakes are my own.
This isn't edited.
Everyone's a critic and going to email me why I'm a horrible this that and the other. I don't care. Blah, Blah, Blah...
Just know this. It's still copyright.
Excerpt from WIP title: Pyromage
No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted without written prior permission from the publisher. This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, events, incidents and places are of the author’s imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
This is a totally unedited chapter. It may or may not stay the same after final edits and it may or may not remain in the story.
If you find any grammar, spelling or punctuation errors, please let know via the comments!! I may not get to them right away, but I will get to them. Thank you!
If you are totally lost & would like to start at the beginning of (working title) PYROMAGE, click the button below.
WARNING! PYROMAGE IS PART OF THE DARK HEART HEROES LINE AND CONTAINS NON-CONVENTIONAL RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MEN.
Even council members didn’t escape sheepherding duty. I didn’t fight the chore. Getting out into the open, where the winged flew, the miles of ocean spanned in an endless horizon and the breeze playing with my tattered robes, freed me of thought.
My brother’s cutter was due but hadn’t arrived. Patrols such as mine warned of the blue and white sails upon the horizon. His rations the only indication he was still alive. That and his notes. The enchanted, crewless boat arrived periodically, every available space filled with food, water and the list of items we asked for, leaving with whatever we thought he could barter. Wool, salt, and glass were a bulk of our trade.
The dragon we called home would be forgotten as a mountain if my brother didn’t fulfill his quest. At times, I was sure Aleenia herself did not remember we were crawling within her folds. Our mesa above the sea. Prison and sanctuary. Protector. Enslaved but safe. We called it Narrows Peak.
Fluffy white bodies pressed their black noses against the tough mountain grass. Up this high morning dew collected on the only foliage able to live near the ocean. Which was Paspalum.
The sheep were brought inside at night not because of predators. Or rather, predators other than me and my people. There was nothing but saltwater as far as the eye could see. Our dragon island stationed out so far from land there was nothing to hunt them. Except dragons.
Funny how most drakes thought dragons of old were extinct. Especially since we lived within one. Especially since our kind came from dragons.
A metal clawed hand grasped over the ledge before me. The hand met with another. A broad chest and shoulders rose over the bluff. The armored suit adorned by one of The Chintan, one of The Four, gleamed in the bright sun. His helmet mask was artistry of a snarling half-man half-dragon. I’d never seen his actual face. Nor did I ever hear his voice. I didn’t even know his name. But we communicated just fine.
No. That was wrong. I spoke. He listened. Not that I commanded him.
As one of the four Chintan he did what he well pleased. Including following us out here in the open.
“You’re getting needy.” I held an arm out to help him up. He didn’t take my offered hand. Typical. “Am I so irresistible that you can’t wait till I return?”
In salt air his armor could rust. Considering there wasn’t a single part of him not covered in mail, it might cause him trouble.
The Fire Chintan did not answer. Not in words. His seven-foot frame sloughed inches from my nose and heaved.
“Not built for stamina, are you?” Not being tall nor short, I stood at an even six-foot.
He tilted his head as if to retort, but still, there were no words between us.
Then, the Fire Chintan did something unusual. He grabbed my arm.
“What?” I pulled back.
No answer. Not that I expected one. We had a certain amount of repour, but he’d never tried to touch me before.
The Fire Chintan pointed out into the endless waste.
“Yes.” I smiled. “It’s the ocean.”
That irritated him enough to palm the back of my head and point my eyes down his long, muscled arm to a disturbed part of the expanse.
Ocean current pushed and pulled, rolling the sea, like worms under a blanket. One of those rolling swells gained in size and speed. And it was headed for Narrows Peak.
“It’s just a wave.” My voice sounded calm, however, my eyes darted around, counting sheep. How many were still out?
My self-appointed guard shook his head emphatically and tugged at my sleeve.
“I can’t leave the sheep.”
He waved his arms in a universal sign all drakes knew as a flying dragon.
“No. It couldn’t be.” Denial held me fast, but The Chintan pulled me forward so hard my arm socket raged in pain.
The wave swelled higher and higher. Closer and closer. Until it grew into a column. A head sprouted at the top. Water formed into the unmistakable snout, fanned ears, and jaws of a Hydragon. Water dragon.
Yes. Apparently, the wave could be a dragon. It was a dragon. A Water wielder.
My brother should be here, handling this. He was the elemental Water drake.
We ran away from the wave.
Smart. The Chintan banked on hiding behind a ledge.
“Aleenia!” I tugged hard against his hold. “She needs to be warned!”
It didn’t seem to matter to him. The Chintan still pulled me along.
“Let me go.” There was no time for this nonsense. “Your cowardice is disappointing.”
At that, he stopped a turned back. His iron mask seemed to snarl even more.
Fine. I could nearly hear him think the words as he turned back.
The Chintan pushed me behind him and ran. Towards the Hydragon this time.
The wave was huge. High enough to crest over Narrow Peak. The grotto. Aleenia kept an opening for her charges that supplied us with air. For those too stir-crazy to remain within her crevasses they could escape into the open. Into the sun.
Everyone would drown.
“Get me to…”
My guardian charged over the side of the cliff—me with him. A ball floated in my stomach, jumbling nerves and dislodging my equilibrium. He ran so fast I couldn’t keep up. But that didn’t matter. I might not have wings, but I knew how to fly.
Caelum was, and would always be, within me. I needed my element more than ever. Especially as the Hydragon spewed sea water, charging for Aleenia, for Narrows Peak.
As The Chintan bolt down the inclined path to the grotto, my feet skipped two, three, then four of his paces. He was my anchor as I glided with him gathering the will for an elemental fight.
Aleenia, our safe-haven for decades, was in for a battle.
The Chintan knew it too. Fire engulphed his impressive battle gear. I had never seen one of The Four fight. Some called my influence over Wind impressive. His mastery over Fire impressed me. Flames licked over his body as an ever-moving shield. There was nothing natural about it. While I bounded in erratic precision, heat blasted my face. It was a wonder my robe hadn’t caught on fire.
Much like a tsunami using the current to build power for the oncoming wave, Water pulled away from the grotto opening, exposing part of Aleenia. The part of her soaked rock underside that hadn’t been out of the water since she first carried us from Casflamir’s war and made herself our home. Her legs and lower body looked like any coral reef. Water spilled out of cracks, indents and holes.
Temporary, she’d said. A place to hide from humans now that anything relating to dragons was a death sentence. My brother set off, meaning to make her words true. But he wasn’t here now.
The Chintan reached the bezel of the grotto’s mouth. No time. The Hydragon’s neck curved. Here came the blast.
My would-be savior tossed me behind the arch and from the corner of my eye, brightness shot out. Heat scorched.
Light… bright as the sun. I hid from going blind, lost in my helplessness.
The Sheep. Inside the deep cavern little black hooves skittered in the shadows. A few had made it back. Their fear of the burning sun, engulfing The Chintan, flashed in their eyes and highlighted the twist in their noses. Panic took them. White puffs bounced past Allenia’s snout. Her jaws so large, their white bodies could be mistaken for a flash of dragon tooth. But our Terragon, Aleenia deep in slumber, didn’t move. Down the corridor a handful of sheep ran to the stables.
The caverns deep bowels supported Aleenia. Not all of her. Just the more dangerous part. The head.
Her thick column of a tail, nestled under her jaw, raised her neck above the ground. She’d configured her body to give us great halls to gather and alcoves for privacy. No other drakes were here at the grotto. Few disturbed Aleenia save to place offerings. Plates of food lay in rows near her mouth.
Gray, craggy eyelids covered the black marble polish of her eyes. Though, that didn’t mean she was asleep.
“Aleenia!” I ran to her face. “Aleenia!”
“Wake up!” I pounded on her stone cheek. “Aleenia! Invader. Please wake up.”
I turned around, pressing my back against her cliff of a snout.
The Chintan still burned within his element. But his Fire wasn’t unfocused. The tendrils of flame reached out, protecting the entrance. The Chintan was impressive. Strong. Rumor foretold a Chintan was ninety-nine percent dragon. Even so, how long could he last against a Hydragon?
If he held off our attacker long enough, I might be able to wake Aleenia. But then what could she do?
Could she fight? Was she able to move after remaining sedentary for a century?
The light diminished. My Chintan valiantly held off the invader. But though Fire and Water were a perfect match for war, wind was the escrow between the two. As a council member it was my duty to protect my people.
I closed my eyes focusing on Elemental Wind. Caelum. Let’s play a game, shall we?
Games incited Wind. The secret was never to command. Always ask.
Light faded until a triumphant scream pierced the silence. The battle cry echoing in the chamber left Aleenia unshaken. The tip of her nose rested against the floor. Her deep breaths whirling around as if her snuffling would shield me.
A rush of water blasted The Chintan sending him careening into the walls. His body zigzagged with the current rushing into Narrow Peak.
Thank you for reading!
If you'd like to find out more about Pyromage join my Very Important Readers group for my DARK HEART HEROES line. (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH MY TABOO FICTION GROUP)
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Best. Cover. Ever.
It's also the story that won a Facebook contest. The reward was AMAZING!
My guy received the prize, but I got bragging rights! People loved my story. Further confirming my abilities. The prize was an Imperial Courier.
For those that don't participate in the Dangerous Elite virtual reality world─an Imperial Courier is a ship. A space ship. A space ship of amazing value.
And I won it with my writing and the efforts of my guy telling me a little about his character he plays in the game.
The process was a lot like THE KING'S THIEF where a friend told me about the world, the characters he was interested in and the situation he'd like to see them thrown into.
While Dangerous Gamble is only 5K words, it won a freaking award! So, I consider this a worthy story. It's also going to be the last FREE story for a while. Excerpts of my other novels will still abound! But I think I've proven that my books are worth your time and money.
If you'd like to tip me for this story, I invite you to purchase another story of mine on any retailer. Check out my books on these fine retailers!
Also, because this is a free story it will be doled out in parts. All the parts will be connected so you can follow the completed story.
Corran Antilles is having a bad life. Schlepping cargo for the Federation doesn't pay. Even worse, the corporate hauler assigned to him malfunctions inside Trevithick Station. Before Corran's ship-trouble costs him his life, he's able to land, but at the price of his job.
Down on his luck, with no money and no way to get home, Corran thinks he’s hit the jackpot when a stranger approaches and offers him the chance of a lifetime. But of course, nothing in the Federation is free, and there's always a catch.
A Dangerous Elite Fan Fic
© S.N.McKibben 2015
“HLR-4296, you are cleared for docking at pad thirty-eight.”
“Finally,” I moaned at the ever-so-gracious Trevithick control tower.
I pushed the throttle and shifted the HOTAS to line up with the toaster slot to get inside the station.
“Good girl,” I said to my hauler. She wasn’t acting up today. Well, it wasn’t my hauler. It belonged to Kingsley Enterprises—but someday, I, Corran Antilles, would own my own ship.
The joystick in my right hand became conspicuously loose and I pulled the stick up and out of its cradle. As I stared at the now useless control stick in horror, I tried pulling back on the throttle. No go. The handle was stuck. I tried jiggling the bar. No good. Oh crap. I was going in the space station with no brakes and no control stick. The blue lights of the tunnel entrance illuminated a one-way ticket to being blasted to dust. My hauler drifted upward as we sailed through the hall of light.
Button, push the button. Joystick still in hand, I depressed the vertical thrusters. Nothing. The control stick was completely separated from the panel.
“Why now?” Out of all the endless megameters of space, why did something have to break here, when I had only millimeters of room? A stream of severed wires sparked on my right side.
I dropped the stick in my lap and pulled the wires out from the panel. What the hell? Rust coated the wires splayed out in my hand. Wear and tear had caused the malfunction. Hadn’t this thing been in the shop last week?
A layer of civilization occupied every available space inside the Trevithick dock and I was drifting ever closer with no way to stop. The ship maintained its forward momentum, and if I didn’t act fast I’d start hitting the walls and buildings inside the station. If I did enough damage they’d start firing at me. Who could blame them, with all those lives clinging to the walls? I’d become a Corran Antilles burger, if there was anything left of me at all.
A horrendous metal screech echoed inside the station as I passed the last of the lights going through the “mail slot”. Crap. No time.
I matched up two wires and squashed them together. My hauler started rolling in a slow spiral. No. Wrong wires. I held up the joystick and tried to stop the ship’s slow spin.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, I have time.” The station had some wiggle room. All was not lost. Just reconnect the wires and I’d have control back. Next, I twisted two blue wires together.
The nose of my hauler drifted up. Okay, now I had pitch. Instead of rolling into the corporate accounting office ahead, I was tumbling toward annihilation. No. No. No.
“I get my paychecks from there! Wings off the accountants!” I pushed the rudders back and forth, back and forth, at the exact moment my pitch turned away from the building.
Luckily, the thrusters were on low and the initial inertia kept me on a steady pace forward. But if I didn’t get a handle on it, my thrusters would have me going every which way.
In an acrobatic fly-by the nose of my hauler tapped the edge of the Kingsley building. Panicked faces looked right at me as I heard over the comm, “HLR-4296, please maintain a direct course to pad thirty-eight. This is your first warning.”
“Fuck!” Along the walls, gun turrets followed my ship’s progress. Fantastic. My feet pushed faster. Pitch and yaw, pitch and yaw. I got the ship to stop spiraling, but now my nose was making little circles as my hauler drifted upward. The opposite direction of pad thirty-eight.
I hooked up two white wires. Vertical thrusters lifted me higher.
“Ahhhh!” I positioned the joystick as if it were still attached to the base and pushed the attitude thrusters to go down. We did. Too fast.
“Crap.” Flight assist was still on. I flipped it off and finally felt a little more in control of the plunge of death.
My hauler pointed down and twirled. To keep from crashing nose-first I yawed left and right with a little bit of upward pitch. Finally, she straightened.
Coming into pad thirty-eight from a slip, I let her drift and lowered the landing gear. Another humiliating metal screech bounced off the walls of the space station. I turned and winced to see I’d hit the platform tower of the landing pad.
“Sorry!” I hit the vertical thrusters, which were working only intermittently. Going in sideways was not the intended strategy for a ship that landed from a dead drop. Nor was the landing spot ideal for coming in at a sideways glide. Not with a tower and buildings surrounding the pad.
The landing gear hit solid ground. A horrendous metal scraping that seemed to go on forever was probably making everyone in the station deaf.
My ship’s thrusters started pushing us toward the Zorgon Peterson outlet.
“Damn it!” I pulled on the thrusters. “Stop, already!”
The control was still stuck. Crap. I was done. All that effort to become a blazing ball of fire. If I didn’t stop soon I’d go crashing into the building after semi-landing. My thrusters sputtered. All engines powered down. The whine of my hauler indicated I’d run out of fuel.
Over the comm an operator said coolly, “HLR-4296, docking complete.”
A wave of dizziness set my ass back in my pilot’s chair. Breathe. I picked up the joystick and looked at it once more, wires and all.
A tap from outside the hull reverberated through the ship. Exhausted, I pulled myself up, taking the joystick with me. Sparks protested as the wires separated. Dragging my feet to the bay doors, I hit the button to let the station team collect the cargo. Dragging my hand over my face, I tried wiping off my fatigue.
“Hey, Corran,” the team lead smirked at me. “Hell of a landing.”
“Up yours, Trip.” I handed him the joystick. “Here, have a present.”
“What the… hey, why’d you rip the control stick out?” Trip turned the controller around in his hand.
“I didn’t!” My voice echoed over another ship’s blasting thrusters. I clambered down the ramp, needing a drink. “Someone needs to repair this ship.”
Trip leaned against the frame, letting his guys do all the work. While he blathered on, men in Federation uniforms drove full dollies in and out of the cargo bay.
“Wasn’t this thing in maintenance just last week?” Trip was close to accusing me of causing the problem. Just like every other jack-hole in this place, he was looking out for number one. He tossed the joystick towards me. Out of reflex, I caught it.
“Hey, man, what am I going to do with this?”
Trip crossed his arms and watched his guys haul out loads of boxes. “Not my duck.”
“Well, it isn’t my problem either. I’m not maintenance.”
“No, you just wreck ships and stations.”
The click-clack of heels with an attitude rounded the corner. Ourora Kingsley was headed this way. Trip and his men scrambled to get the cargo out.
“Sorry, man, wish I could talk.” Trip picked up a dolly and started helping the guys pull freight. They all beat feet in a hurry to escape The Wasp coming straight for me. Ourora Kingsley was CEO of Kingsley Enterprises. She was technically my boss, and she toted a reputation as a prim, cruel man-crusher with a side of good business sense.
Because she was looking and walking toward me, I stood my ground. Albeit I had the sudden urge to pee, but I suspected she evoked that response in most people.
Cold, dark eyes with about as much warmth as a black hole stared me down. With pointy glasses and an hourglass figure, accentuated by a tight dress suit, she could turn heads. But she was a Grade A queen wasp. A nasty piece of work to whom I now had the pleasure of explaining the damages to the ship and the station. In more ways than one, I felt like bait. No one lingered. Hell, no one was around. Everyone had scattered as soon as the click-clack of her heels came within hearing range. No fuel trucks, no repair guys, no docking officials, and no Trip or his team.
“Corran Antilles.” The echoing heels stopped and the woman stood three feet from me. “You’re late.”
“There was a complication.”
“I’ll advise you that destruction of company property is deducted from your wage.”
“It just came off in my hand!” I waved the joystick at her.
She tracked the control stick’s every motion. “That too will come out of your last check.”
“What? It’s not my fault you don’t maintain the ship!”
“It was scheduled for maintenance five days ago and passed inspection.” She adjusted her glasses.
“The only thing that saved me was the fact that I hardly had enough fuel to make one round.”
Ourora’s dower expression never changed. “There are no excuses for your subpar piloting.”
“Subpar?” I sent the joystick skidding down the landing pad. “If you want subpar, take a look at the ship.”
“You should see the control tower, Mr. Antilles, or the station’s access corridor.” She pointedly eyed the tread marks on the pad where I’d landed.
“None of that was my fault.”
“Corran Antilles, on the grounds of your constant tardiness, and the damage done to this station and company property, you’re fired.” She turned and sauntered back the way she’d come.
“How am I supposed to get back home?” I railed.
“That’s your problem.”
“Great,” I muttered. “How much of my measly pay is left?”
“None, if you don’t return the pilot suit you were issued,” she said over her shoulder.
I looked down at my ratty over-clothes. The standard-issue pilot suit peeked from behind the many holes of my dirty shirt and worn pants. Still, if there was a wear and tear competition between my overalls and the ship I used to drive, the hauler would lose.
Part 1 End
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