Friday, July 30, 2021

The Recruit: An Adventure in the World of Draxis - Part III

This is a serialized short story set on the world Draxis, the planet that's central to my upcoming trilogy and frequently referenced in current stories in the Inherited Stars Series. 

You might think of Draxis as a legend comparable to the legend of Troy. For a long time the world wondered about this once-great civilization. Did Helen of Troy's face really launch a thousand ships? Did Achilles and Hector once engage in combat outside its gates? Did the great walled city of Troy ever truly exist?  

That question was left unanswered for centuries, until the ruins of Troy were discovered -- a vast, walled, Bronze Age metropolis  -- just as Homer described it and just where he said it would be. 

Now imagine Troy as an entire planet lost to time -- but buried in a very different way.

The Recruit was originally written as bonus material for Draxis--a scene turned inside out and told from a different character's POV. I hope you enjoy your first venture into the lands of Draxis, and that you'll come back for more of The Recruit in future blogs. 

This is Part III. For those who read the previous two parts, there's a brief recap below, or you can read Part I and Part II by clicking these links:

The Recruit: Part I

The Recruit: Part II

Or if you'd prefer to read all parts posted to date, you can find it here: 

The Recruit - All Parts to Date

Recap to Date

In the last snippet post, Baranar had just met a new recruit to the Death Rangers--a company of hardened men who patrol the ancient, dark and menacing forest nicknamed The Green Death. This new recruit is to be Baranar's partner. 

Baranar and his peer, Gallin, wager about how long this new recruit will survive (not long) but the stranger overhears their conversation and confidently counter-wagers them his sword that he'll survive the tasking. 

Then something catches Gallin's eye. The new recruit carries a Blade of Duumarr, the weapon of an order of deadly assassins believed to all be long dead at the hands of a past High Priest. If this stranger carries the blade, could he possibly be a lone survivor? Baranar follows the man to the stores, dreading the thought that his new partner may be a deadly assassin.

Part III begins as Baranar and his new recruit begin their duty as rangers in The Green Death.

_________________________________

My back to a tree, I chewed a length of Sibba bark, its spice biting my tongue, and studied the recruit. He stood in a tiny, open glen, staring up the hypnotic pipe of a Tree Well—a rare glimpse of sky surrounded by a circular wall of impossibly tall trees. Tree Wells often created illusions in the human brain of being trapped in the depths of a bottomless pit with no means of escape. A sensation of suffocation was the usual, and milder, reaction. Some went mad and tried to claw their way up to the unreachable heavens from the primordial floor. Those hapless souls were picked off by the hordes of flesh-eating limb dwellers that waited overhead.

But the recruit seemed unaffected, his face tipped to the heavens with the faint trace of light on his cheekbones. Was he praying? A chill swept over my skin. A Dumarrakhan might pray before battle. So rapt in his thoughts, the recruit was unaware what lurked in the ebony shadows just beyond the clearing.

I grimaced. This one would need no help finding fate.

The Green Death was ancient and wicked. No one knew how long it had existed. The trees never died here. They grew tall as mountains, spiking thousands of feet into the atmosphere. Below the treetops, countless layers of canopies formed distinct levels, each thinner of vegetation and deeper in twilight than the one above. Little light filtered through the tangled masses of leaf, limb and vine to the forest floor below. By day, a ranger might not always require lit lamps to travel, but by night, the Green Death was as dark as the miles-long lava tubes of Sarcassius. Though not as still and never as lifeless.

Something shifted in the twilight, little more than a blur of black in blackness to my trained eyes. I didn’t see, so much as sense, the fluid steps of a stalking farratora. I braced my knees and pressed my back to the tree, ready to jump. Where one farratora prowled, a dozen more were sure to follow.

It crept up on the recruit from the forest gloom. I knew from experience it would launch without warning from heavy-muscled haunches and twist its head mid-flight, driving upper and lower saber-toothed fangs into the recruits back, crushing or severing his spine. Then, he would lay paralyzed as the beast began to feed and the rest of the pack closed in to tear him apart.

This recruit would pay the price of overconfidence, and Gallin would have his prize. But more than that, a burden would be lifted from my shoulders and a threat eliminated. I might yet see my ninth season.

To be continued... 






Friday, July 23, 2021

BEWARE THE FLESHEATER

No, I’m not talking about zombies. I'm talking about this fierce looking combat knife called the Flesheater. 

It was designed by world renowned martial artist and retired USMC Master Sergeant AJ Advincula (my sensei), and custom made by knife maker Jim Hammond.

It's also the knife my alpha gladiators use in my sci-fi romance series, The Survival Race. We’re first introduced to the knife in book one, Captive: An Alien Abduction SciFi Romance, where broken-warrior Max uses it as he and his “mate,” Addy, escape from alien captivity.  

This 14 inch knife, with its nine inch re-curve blade, was designed for one thing: combat. And Max knows how to wield it in a fight. 

I own this knife (though my husband mistakenly believes it's his, but let's not open up that can of worms) and train with it. Let me tell you, it is one serious weapon. You can cut a limb off with this thing! 

Don't believe me? Watch the ten second video below from karate camp 2013. (Yeah, karate camp isn't your typical camp, folks).

Relax, no humans were hurt in the making of this video. We simply took a rolled up tatami mat and soaked it in lake water. This dense, waterlogged tatami is supposed to simulate the muscle of a human arm. If you wanted to simulate bone, you'd add a dowel to the center of the mat. Anyone can cut through tatami with a sword, but you need to have good technique with a short blade. Play the video clip and watch what this awesome knife can do. 

*Warning* Don't do this at home kids.


If Max could see me, I hope he'd be proud.

For specifics on the Flesheater knife, its history and design—including the unique four grip handle—I encourage you to click over to Custom Knife Maker Jim Hammond's website.

Here's an except from Renegade (book 3) in which Max teaches scientist Griffin (this book’s hero) how to use the Flesheater combat knife to slit a throat as Griffin will be competing in the Survival Race.

***

Dawn cracked the sky. Chirping birds took flight as Max and Griffin approached the tree line of Duncan’s house. Max thrust a dagger hilt into Griffin’s hand. “Slit his throat.”


“Whose throat?”


“The tree. Imagine it’s your opponent. Slit its throat.”


Griffin glanced up into the branches. “He’s a little tall—”


The whack upside his head came hard and fast. 
“Don’t be an idiot.” Max grabbed the knife, slunk behind the tree trunk—roughly the width of a human head—and wrapped an arm around it. You hold the man’s head snug against your shoulder and neck. This prohibits him from moving and exposes his throat. Then cut him.” He sliced the tree. “It’s as simple as that. Your turn.”
 

Feeling stupid, Griffin slit the tree’s throat a few times.


“Moving on.” From behind, Max’s hand clamped down on Griffin’s nose and mouth, suffocating him as his head jerked back against Max’s body. Back arched, he saw sky. 


Max stepped backward and Griffin, helpless, stumbled backward with him. Max jerked him left and Griffin stumbled left, trying to keep upright. He jerked right, and Griffin stumbled right. “See how your body follows wherever I move your head?”


See it? No. Feel it. Absolutely.


“Feeling vulnerable?” From the laughter in Max’s voice, he enjoyed having the upper hand. 


Vulnerable was an understatement. Griffin struggled to breathe beneath the strong hand crushing his nose and mouth.


Flailing his hands to hit Max’s face or poke his eyes didn’t work. His head tightly pinned, Griffin was helpless as Max dragged him in circles. Good thing he didn’t eat breakfast, or the dizziness would’ve made him vomit. When Max stopped, something sharp burned across his neck. 


Griffin crumpled to the ground, clawing at his throat. It wasn’t cut as he feared. It was scratched. 


“Fingernail,” Max said. “There’s no time to slice you open for real.” 


“Uh. Thank you?”


“Here.” He gave him a hand up off the forest floor. “You try.”


After a moment to regain breath and bearings, Griffin stood behind Max and snaked an arm around his face. 


In a quick motion, Max slipped the hold. A hand clamped over Griffin’s mouth and nose again. His head jerked backward. A fingernail sliced his throat. “Too slow. Do it again.” Max shoved him away. 


On the next try, forest and sky spun. The ground slammed into his back, knocking the wind out of him. 


“Take control or you’ll be thrown.”


He coughed and gasped until his breath finally normalized. “Can’t you stand still for a minute until I get the technique down?”


“Where’s the fun in that? Get up. Do it again.”


Each frustrating time Griffin tried, Max countered and simulated slicing his throat. His neck burned. Sweat dripped into the raw wounds and stung. 

And then it happened. 

Maybe Max had fatigued from two hours of training on an empty stomach or maybe Griffin finally learned, but with quick and controlled movements, he found himself slicing a thumbnail across Max’s neck.


Chin high, shoulders back, and chest expanded with a deep, satisfied breath, Griffin was ready to take on the world. 


“Took you long enough.” 


Yes, it did. But the fact was Griffin had done it. He’d learn how to slit a man’s throat. 


Why the hell did that make him proud?


***

Each book in the Survival Race series (CAPTIVE, FEARLESS, and RENEGADE) are stand-alone sci-fi romances in which each book's couple finds their happily ever after. No cheating. No cliff hangers. If you enjoy...

  • Alien abduction/ alien captive stories

  • Action adventure romance

  • Enemies to lovers

  • Dark, brooding alpha males

  • Strong, fiery females

  • Exciting scifi romances with a fresh twist

  • ...then buy a copy and enjoy the adventure and romance today!

 
Stay safe out there!
~K.M. Fawcett



Friday, July 16, 2021

Pets in Space® is back for a new year of adventures!

 

 

IT'S BACK!!!!

Pets in Space® is back for a new year of adventures! 

 Join the incredible authors in this year's Pets in Space 6 for another out-of-this-world adventure. This award-winning, USA TODAY Bestselling anthology is packed full of your favorite Pets in Space®. Featuring eleven original, never-before-released stories from some of today's bestselling Science Fiction Romance and Fantasy authors, Pets in Space 6 continues their vital support of Hero-Dogs.org, the non-profit charity that improves quality of life for veterans of the U.S. military and first-responders with disabilities. Don't miss out on this limited-edition anthology before it’s too late!

Pets in Space is a proud supporter of Hero Dogs. Pets in Space authors have donated over $15,300 in the past five years to help place specially trained dogs with veterans and first responders. 10% of all pre-orders and the first month’s royalties of Pets in Space 6 will again go to Hero Dogs. Open your hearts and grab your limited release copy of Pets in Space 6 today so together we can continue helping this worthy charity!

 Pets in Space 6 is only $4.99 for new, original science fiction romance from leading authors. That's like buying 5 full-length novels for the price of a cup of coffee.

And one of those stories is MINE! The Thunder Egg is set in the Dryden Universe and features a bunch of brand new characters. Including, of course, a 'pet'. No, it isn't Puss who starred in For the Greater Good and Retribution. I'm sure you'll love reading about Neyru as much as I loved discovering her story. 

The book is available for preorder right now, for release on 5th October.

Don't forget to join the rest of the Pets in Space fans in the Pets in Space Readers Group on Facebook. And sign up for the Pets in Space newsletter so you get the news first. 


 

BUY LINKS:

 

Friday, July 9, 2021

THE TOMORROW WAR: ALIENS IN OUR FUTURE

The Fourth of July here in the U.S. marked the official kickoff of summer movie blockbuster season. And whether they’re brave enough to visit your local multiplex, or still watching at home, there’s plenty to keep science fiction fans occupied.

Like a battle with aliens in the future in THE TOMORROW WAR, now showing on Amazon Prime Video. This SF monster mashup is steered by LEGO movie franchise director Chris McKay, written by DEADFALL’s Zach Dean, and stars Chris Pratt, veteran actor J. K. Simmons, Yvonne Strahovski (Handmaid’s Tale), and a host of talented Black actors who miraculously do not die in the first thirty minutes! THE TOMORROW WAR, an alien-blasting actioner with a surprising amount of heart, was originally filmed for the big screen by Paramount and Skydance Films, but its release was delayed due to COVID, and the film was sold to Amazon for $200 million for a small-screen debut this past weekend.

This film is fun in a lot of ways, but I have to start by saying its founding premise has holes big enough to fly a spaceship through. Few SF writers or filmmakers get time travel right, and this one is no exception. Here we are expected to believe that 30 years in the future, bloodthirsty aliens have invaded the Earth and humanity is losing a war with them, to the extent that only 500,000 humans remain to fight the good fight. Our descendants discover a way (don’t ask for details) to go back in time to the present to recruit some of our billions of inhabitants to fight for them/us.

At first, they just take military troops, but even all the world’s armies aren’t equal to the challenge. So, a worldwide draft is instituted to feed the war machine fighting the aliens. The term of service is a short seven days, but only 30 percent of those drafted come back, and those that do suffer from severe physical, mental, and emotional trauma.

The military gives their new recruits no training, not even a helmet or boots. Just sends them through a wormhole to the future to be “White Spike” (alien) fodder. There are other details about the time travel, but, as Jim Kirk always said, they’d only give you a headache. It’s only when you just forget trying to impose any kind of logic on the time travel aspects of this film and instead take it as a straight-up humans vs. aliens shoot-em-up, that THE TOMORROW WAR starts to rise above its B-movie status.

Chris Pratt, often the Everyman hero in these kinds of films, plays Dan Forester, an Army Special Ops veteran hoping for a career in chemical engineering but reduced to teaching high school chemistry to support his wife and young science-crazy daughter Muri. Dan is—inevitably—drafted to fight the aliens. He briefly considers dodging the draft, an act which would require his estranged father’s help to remove the tracking device attached to his arm. He hasn’t spoken to the old man (played with gritty gusto by J.K. Simmons) for years, blaming him for abandoning the family when Dan was a child. The elder Forester tries to explain he left due to the symptoms of his PTSD from Vietnam, but Dan will have none of it (or of the old man’s attempts to make amends and get to know his granddaughter). In the end, Dan resigns himself to his service, refusing at first to take any help from the man someone later calls “conspiracy Santa” because of his beard and off-the-grid wackiness.

Chris Pratt leads his team against the aliens.

The fight between father and son, and the emotional costs of battle that can extend across generations, is an unexpected theme running through THE TOMORROW WAR. When heroes are busy killing bad guys, no one thinks about the toll it takes on them once the fighting is over. Yes, we have serious movies that address the issue (THE DEER HUNTER, ZERO DARK THIRTY), but it’s a rare thing to see a blockbuster film aimed at a mass audience devote screen time to the consequences of what we are all asking the heroes to do—that is, go out there and face the uber-violent monsters.

At one point, the heroine, Colonel Muri Forester (yes, that Muri Forester, as an adult, played by Polish-Australian actor Yvonne Strahovski) explains the aliens’ motivations: “They have no use for prisoners or government, technology, money... nothing. We are food. And they are hungry.” So you can imagine what it must be like to fight them and what kind of scars that leaves.

And, it turns out, [spoiler alert] when Dan meets his grown daughter in the future, now the kickass commander of the anti-alien fighting forces, she is aloof and cold. Eventually the truth comes out—when he’d returned from his draft service, he’d been unable to readjust to civilian life. He’d abandoned his family just as his own father had—and for the same reasons. Yikes!

That’s the most surprising element of the plot, though not by any means the only one. Of course, we have the usual “assembling of the team” aspect that is common to any action film. But in this case, the team includes a higher than usual percentage of Black, female, and older members.  Edwin Hodge and Sam Richardson stand out, as does Alexis Louder and Mary Lynn Rajskub (of 24). All these actors last longer than you might expect, as does big-bodied actor Mike Mitchell, and all are given worthy deaths when the time comes.

In the opposite corner we have the aliens, called White Spikes due to their nasty habit of shooting bone darts at their human opponents (not to mention their ripping teeth and their tentacles and their ungodly speed and their swarming numbers!). Not only are these some creatively creepy ETs, they’re some sneaky ones, too. In one of the film’s best twists [more spoilers], they didn’t just arrive in a fleet of spaceships one day and land on the D.C. Mall. They crash-landed into a glacier in Russia circa 1000 A.D. as cargo on a ship hauled by some other species a la ALIEN. Were they meant to be a planet-clearing weapon? Prisoners? We’ll never know, because the pilot of the spaceship died and, of course, no one is looking for a ship’s log.

Global warming eventually thaws the White Spikes out of their icy crypt, allowing them to spread undetected until it’s too late to stop them. They overrun the Earth, destroying humans, livestock, wildlife, and the lot, until, desperate, the last of humanity calls on the past for help.

I won’t tell you how the heroes come up with a plan to save the world. But I will tell you that the last 30 to 45 minutes of the film are exciting, ridiculous, glorious fun. And the solution won’t make your head hurt!  Yay!

Not only that, but the emotional ending of the film for Dan and his family is just as satisfying. Yay, again!

Yes, THE TOMORROW WAR may be too long and derivative and full of plot holes and we probably won’t remember it as a classic of the genre. But the aliens are memorable, the human characters are diverse and substantive, and the subplots are twisty and surprising. Do we really need more in our summer blockbusters? I think not. Spend some time with your popcorn and a beverage in front of this one. You won’t regret it.

Cheers, Donna

About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.