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Category: Book Two

Yaasmin and the Borg

Test of Faith 004: An epic science fiction/fantasy trilogy adventure

Yaasmin tried to speak, but her words came out as gasps. Her round cheeks were flushed. She put her one hand on her hip. The other tucked a leather-bound book under an arm. She squinted up at the sky, face red. Isis stepped forward to take the precious scriptures from her and put an arm around her shoulder. A hunter stepped forward to give Yaasmin a water skin. She took it with a smile and tipped it up, ignoring the mess of water as it splashed on her face.

She stopped drinking to gasp and wheeze. All eyes looked at her, expectant.

In a few moments, she regained her composure. Her breathing slowed. She straightened back up and smiled, looking from eye to eye.

“The marauders control the city.” Her face was dark. “They let all of the mothers and children live. The Warren is largely untouched. That’s where I was hiding. The mothers also hid some other warriors—a few from each sect. They mounted an escape for me.” She frowned. “A lot of good women died getting the scriptures out of the city.”

Isis looked down at the book in her hands. She opened the cover with reverence. She placed a gentle hand on the pages.

“We will remember their sacrifice,” she said.

Isis looked down to where her index finger was pointing in the scriptures. She cleared her throat.

“Deliver me from my enemies, O my LORD; protect me from those who rise up against me.”

“Amen,” said those around her in unison.

Isis looked back at Yaasmin.

“Can you walk? We should keep moving away from the UN outpost.”

For the first time, Yaasmin took in the newest arrivals to the group. Her eyes widened. She nodded without uttering a word.

Samia turned and started to walk out of the illusion jungle. Behind her, the others followed. Some of the women congratulated Yaasmin for finding them. She returned their grateful smiles and took a deep breath before following.

Nicko bounded ahead in excitement. He had woken up moments before. He didn’t seem to care about the extra people in his group.

Liam shook his head and followed the group. One of the hunter women, Ai, slowed her pace to walk alongside him. She looked up at him for a moment before asking, “What’s it like?”

“What is what like?”

“I’m sorry,” she looked away, blushing. “It might be too personal.”

Liam was quick to respond, “No, no! It’s not personal at all. I just didn’t know what you meant. Being a ‘borg?”

“Yes,” she brightened. “That’s what I meant. I have never met a person-robot like you. I am very curious.”

Liam looked into the distance. There was nothing but sand for miles. “I imagine we have a long way to walk. Ask me any question that comes to mind. I have no secrets.”

Ai was almost eager, “How much of you is human?”

“Very few original parts remain. The only thing left is my eyes, brain, and spinal column. It’s easier to build a computer to interface with a human spine than to build an artificial spine. It can be done, but not on the cheap.”

Ai frowned at the words she could not understand. Then she asked another question, “How did it happen?”

Liam sighed. “It was slow at first. I was a good soldier. We had a very tight unit. We were special forces. The other members of my unit were my family. I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to protect my brothers and sisters.”

He continued, “Then there was the bomb. It took one of my legs. I thought that was the end of my career. My buddies were cheering me on. ‘You can still fight! Get an upgrade!’”

He walked in silence for a second. “That is where it started. I had a brand-new robotic leg. It was stronger. My friends in the unit said it made me a better soldier. If only both legs were robotic. Then I could run faster and jump higher. Yeah!” He raised a triumphant fist.

“The second amputation was voluntary. I chose to be a better soldier to better protect my brothers and sisters.”

He didn’t look over at Ai, who was gazing at him with an admiring smile. “We know about sacrifice for the good of our sisters.”

“Yes, but it didn’t stop there. I could, indeed, run faster and jump higher. I took more risks. I charged into battle. I was kick-ass, as the unit said.” He paused. “I probably shouldn’t have run gung ho into every firefight. That’s how I ended up taking several bullets to the chest.”

He pounded his chest with a metal fist. One! Two! Three! The metal twanged.

“No worries! They said. We could just put a metal plate in your new robotic chest!” Liam smiled. His mouth gears pulled back to expose two horse-shoe plates that simulated teeth.

“After that, I was bullet-proof. I could really charge into combat. Then, I needed stronger arms to carry bigger guns…” He trailed off. The continued to walk in silence.

“I was an unstoppable force in the field,” He paused. “That was until the next generation of ‘borgs were developed. They could have upgraded me, but at that point, it was about money. It was cheaper to release newer, better models. I was re-assigned to the cargo bay. I move heavy boxes all day.”

He sighed again. “The other members of the unit never even visited. I guess we weren’t as close as I thought. I hope they are being protected by a newer, better ‘borg. I still think about them from time to time.”

They continued on in silence. Ai was finally the one who broke the quiet, “So you are still a man on the inside?”

“I still have awareness and a soul (I hope). There’s nothing left on the outside. I didn’t need anything else to be a better soldier.”

Ai reached out her mind to him. All the women could do it. She brushed the edges of his consciousness. The borg could feel the touch in his mind. He stopped walking and looked at her.

“What are you doing?”

Ai seemed satisfied and pulled her mind back. “Yes. You have a soul. On the inside, you are still a man.”

She nodded and started to walk again.

Liam looked after her and then followed.


<< Start From the Beginning…

This is the next instalment of my second book, Test of Faith. If you want to read my first book for FREE, you can sign up for my mailing list . I am posting this book serial-style. Each Wednesday I will post the next section. Give me feedback, it encourages me to write!

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Notes from Paradise: January 2018

Reflections on then and now

What I said then…

Piers Anthony was a great author. He used to include little snippets of his life in the back of his novels. It was kind of a blog before blogs existed. I like that tradition. I’m going to borrow it.

I’m not saying I’m at the level of Piers Anthony, but you borrow from the best.

This here is the very first of my author notes. That should be noteworthy in some mighty hall someplace. Trade them with your friends! This is the very first note from MW McCabe! Eh-hem. Let me back down a couple notches. Right now, I’m only famous in my own head. Then again, that’s all that counts.

If you’re not having fun in life, you’re doing it wrong.

And then there’s the title of this nog (that’s like a blog post at the end of a novel).

What was I talking about? Oh, yes. The title. Paradise. Is that wishful thinking? When I have a buck or two under my belt, I plan to move to an island paradise. That’s a bit of a long-term goal. Is this paradise now? I suppose that’s a state of mind. I’m doing the work I want to do. I’m sitting at a keyboard in front of a new laptop. I’m not stuck in a cubicle and nobody is telling me what to do. Yeah, that’s the stuff.

Of course, this would be a whole lot better if I was making a couple bucks. (That’s where you come in)

Since this is my first nog entry, we don’t yet have a dialog. You don’t know anything about me. If you want a one-on-one chat, I’m always available by email. I am matt@mwmccabe.com. You know you wanna.

Anyway, I am an author with exactly one book under his belt. This here is the first book in a trilogy. I have the next two books in my head with plans for a continuing series. I’m going to see how fast I can slap these babies down. No promises at this point. But, big plans are sparkling in my eyes, fair reader.

I am oooooold. That depends on how old/young you are. I have one friend in her 70’s who calls me, “kiddo.” I look very young for my age, but I am 44. I have had to restart my life twice now, so it’s a good thing I look young. I’m gonna need it.

My future looks bright (God willing) so let’s fix our eyes forward. I have met my soul mate and am in love for the first time in my life. Looking back, you can see that past loves were only crushes. I connect with my fiancé on a very deep level. I like her insides as much as the outsides. Beauty will fade as you grow older. Inner beauty only grows more profound with age.

She has SIX kids and one grandchild. I am about to become an instant father/grandfather. I’m pumped about it. Four of the kids are adults, 22 through 26. There are two seven-year-old twins. The grandchild is five. I connected in an instant with the young kids, and I have a great relationship with the older kids. I’m looking forward to raising some young ones.

That’s all that’s fit to print! See you next time, fair reader! Stan Lee signed off with Excelsior. That kind of became his catchphrase. It’s time for me to pick my own.

Peace, love, and hope!

And this is now…

I was so incredibly hopeful two years ago—dangerously so. I say dangerous because I had a massive bubble to be burst.

It is now February 2020.

I was about to launch a book that I was certain would be a blockbuster. It was not. I was going to make a ton of money. I didn’t. Writers around the world were going to be asking me for success tips. That last one amuses me down deep in my soul.

They don’t.

I have aged a lot in the last two years.

I married my wife in January of 2019. That is now a year behind me as well. We are working on the VISA process to move her to the US. She lives and works in Rome as a chef.

How long will that take? We don’t know. They specifically ask you not to make any solid plans. It could take months. It could take years. I am bracing myself.

I’ve taken a lot of hits in the last few years. I am much more humble and pessimistic. Sometimes I plan for the worst (or at least brace myself).

The other day I was thinking out loud with my roommate. I was thinking about stand-up comedians. How long do they have to struggle before they “make it?” They do stand-up for months and years before anyone takes them seriously. They have to know that the chances of being famous are next to ‘nil. They work for very little or in some cases nothing.

I remarked that you have to love something to be willing to work at it for free. You have to like your art enough that you would do it for free.

That’s writing for me. I could be doing a minimum wage job and make far more than I do writing. Last month I made $0.40. Yes, that’s less than a dollar. I’m not complaining, I’m just giving the reality. I’m likely to make more in the future, but I’m not counting on it. I gotta do this for me. That’s the only thing that’s going to sustain me.

I’ve got the plot for this trilogy stuck in my head. It’s been stuck in my head for a good 25 years. It’s digging a hole in my mind. I gotta get it out and on to paper. Only then will I be free.

So, I got over my massive disappointment from the lackluster launch of book 1. I brushed off what I had of book 2. I started to release it in segments on Medium and on my own web site. Suddenly, I realized I didn’t know all the particulars from book 1! The major plot was still in my head, but the names were not. I decided to get my head back in the game. I am going to edit and release book 1 simultaneous to book 2. Maybe they will finish at the same time and I can grow momentum with book 3.

Releasing an edited version of what I have already written is much faster, but I will soon run out of content I have pre-written for book 2. We’ll tackle that problem later, eh?

That “new” laptop from two years ago is now a little less so. It’s gotten very slow. It’s time to take it to a shop.

I’m also looking for work. I need a side-gig to supplement my writing until I get some traction.

I hope it doesn’t take another two years to get the next one of these out. Look for my next nog at the end of book 3. Until then, courage!

Peace, love, and hope!

MW McCabe
February 1, 2020

Test of Faith: The Forgiven 003

 TWO

The hunters were the first to crest the hill. Their eyes followed a trail of twisted, broken metal. At the end of the wreckage was the blackened remains of the small ship, trailing black smoke. It looked like a ball of trash that had been crumpled up and thrown away.

The side of the ship exploded outward and a large robot emerged, cradling a small man in his arms.

The manticore slammed to the ground and Char slid down to the sand. Spells of healing flashed across his mind. He was ready now. “Is he ok?”

The robot turned his massive head to respond. His eyes were large, and the iris were rings of electronic lines. When he spoke, it was loud enough for all to hear, like from a machine. “He’s fine. His breed faints any time there is real danger.” He laughed, a harsh, metallic rumble, “That’s why he’s not a combat pilot.” He paused. “He’s not much of a combat anything.”

Char squinted at the robot. He was covered with a grey plastic that almost looked like skin. Was that sweat under his arms? “Who are you?” the next question tumbled out before he could stop himself. “What are you?”

The robot tilted his head back in an amplified laugh. “The name is Liam. I may look like a machine, but I’m still a human on the inside. I’m what you call a ‘a full-conversion cyborg.’ This here is Nicko, the cat-man.”

The other women were gathering around them. They admired the new pair with interest.

“Cat… man?” asked one.

Samia stepped forward. “I don’t know what a cyborg or a cat-man is, but we would like to know your intentions.”

Amaunet tightened her grip on a notched arrow. She kept her eyes locked on the newcomer making his way up the slope.

Liam lowered Nicko in the dirt like a delicate package and straightened again, raising both hands in peace. His gaze took in the surrounding women, ignoring the multiple arrows aimed at him. “Don’t worry about that guy. He’ll be fine. He’ll be awake shortly.

“I really wanted to thank you ladies for the assist back there. We didn’t have our escape plan completely thought out.”

Samia nodded at him, cautious, “You were escaping from a UN outpost. We are at war with the UN. Any enemy of the UN is a friend of ours.”

Liam laughed again, this time with hands on his hips. “How about that? Today started as just another boring day.”

Zahra spoke up. “These creatures have escaped from a UN outpost. They will be out to search for them. We need to hide ourselves.”

Char cleared his throat. “I have that covered.”

Closing his eyes, Char murmured a spell. Hot air shimmered in waves around them. Suddenly, green grasses and trees begin to pop out of the ground—lush and green. Behind them, a lake formed, seeming to grow out of the sand.

“That should do it,” said Char. “A little phantasmal terrain will keep them searching.”

Liam whistled.

“Looks like y’all have yourselves a little wizard. Pretty handy, that.”

He admired to lush jungle that had appeared around them. He switched his vision to infra-red. It looked real to all his sensors. That means it would look real to anybody looking for them.

He nodded. Nice.

He looked back to Samia. She was clearly in charge.

“We literally didn’t have any plans. Wanna see where this goes? Where are y’all headed? My borg abilities will come in handy.” He looked down at Nicko, “Sadly, this one has very few skills that will come in handy, but at least he’s entertaining.” He looked up at the rest of the group. It was a decent size party. “What other capabilities are we working with?”

Samia held up her hand, “You first. I don’t know what a cy-borg is. Our city had little use for technology.

Liam tapped his head. A hollow clank reverbarated. “Up here, I still have the brain of a human. Aside from my eyes, that’s all I have left. That’s the ‘full-conversion’ part. Some cyborgs are just a little robot.” He motioned up and down on his body, “I’m all heavy metal, baby!”

Maani grunted under her breath, “I don’t know if he answered the question.”

Liam looked from face to face. “No? Nothing?”

Kerr raised his hand, “Yeah, I’m tracking with you. Go on.”

 “As far as abilities, most of my senses are enhanced. If I had my weapons mounted, I’d be set up for battle. As it is, they only equipped me for hauling boxes. Unfortunately, what you see is what you get.” He tapped his chest. The metal twanged. “My hull can take a lot of damage. Your arrows there can’t penetrate me.”

Amaunet murmured. Her arrow flashed in light. “How about an arrow of light?”

Liam chuckled. “Like a laser? Wouldn’t even tickle. Go ahead, try it.”

The words were barely out of his mouth before Amaunet let fly with her arrow. The women collectively sucked in a breath.

The bolt of light crushed into the metal of his chest. He didn’t even flinch. The arrow crumbled and tumbled to the ground, a smoking pile of ash.

Kerr was curious. “Energy absorption?”

Liamed turned his focus to the scientist. “Most forms of energy. Kinetic energy can penetrate my armor with sufficient force.”

Kerr nodded. “Interesting.”

Samia raised an eyebrow. “Impressive. Now what did you mean by ‘inhassed sinces?’”

Liam shrugged his massive shoulders. “I can hear things a normal person cannot. For instance, I can hear the woman who is approaching us through the desert. You should probably take up defensive positions.”

Samia’s eyes widened for a split second, but she was quick to mask her surprise. She motioned at her archers with two fingers and then waved them in a circle above her head. Take defensive positions.

The hunters complied, quick and silent. They arranged themselves in a protective arc in the front. Each had her bow raised and pointed toward the jungle behind them.

Now they could all hear the noise. A panting and crashing. Whoever it was, she was making no attempt to mask her approach.

A woman emerged from the underbrush, gasping for air. Her face was red and a large, leather-bound tome was clutched to her chest.

Isis brightened, “Yaasmin!”

On Writing

I have loved telling stories my entire life. I am good telling stories.

I am a writer.

My father’s words echoed in my head for many, many years.

You will never make any money as a writer.

—my father.

I should be fair. He said “artist,” but writing is my art. I discarded that a long time ago as “not a real career.” I ran away from myself for many years, but I always came back to the same conclusion. I am a writer. That’s how God made me.

So now the next question is, “How do I make money as a writer?”

As far as I can tell, that has to be a side-gig for a very long time. You have to be willing to make no money for a long time so you can make a lot of money later on. That’s true of a lot of things. Do what you love. Get really good at it. Then you will make money.

I’ve seen a lot of different advice:

  • Practice for 10,000 hours
  • Write 100 articles
  • Write 1,000 words

It seems like they are all saying the same thing. Write a lot. You’ll get better.

From what I’ve seen so far, that’s really true.

I self-published a book on Amazon. I envisioned it being a runaway smash. I would make oodles of money. I would be invited to speak at writer’s conferences.

How many copies did I sell. About 10.

How many reviews did I get. Two. One was from a friend. The other was just one word—Meh.

Ouch.

In anger, I calculated how much money I would have made working at Taco Bell for minimum wage. I felt worse.

But you know what? I wrote a book!

How many of you have written a book?

I look back at the prose. It’s really not good. I’m going back to release Book Two. If that catches on, I will re-write Book One. If not, I will write Book Three before re-writing Book One. I’m not hoping that Book Two will be a runaway success. I’m not making that mistake again.

I’m not writing for you anymore. I’m writing for me.

I was in the hospital for three months. I thought I would die. I did die once, in fact. My heart stopped and I had to be revived. This is my second chance. What am I going to do about it? Am I going to think about the trilogy that was always on my mind that I didn’t publish?

That was one of my regrets in that hospital bed.

I have had this idea for a trilogy of books since high school. That was like 30 years ago! Talk about procrastination.

So, my writing goals: One article per day. One chapter of my book each week.

Will I hit 10,000 hours of practice? Eventually.

Will I publish 100 articles on Medium? Eventually.

Will I write 1,000,000 words. Eventually.

Will I make any money? I do not care.

I am a writer. Writers write.


This is article #12 of 100… or so. I have written 12,820 words of 1,000,000. I have 987,180 words to go (I love spreadsheets). How many hours. Sheeze… you can’t track everything, yo. Get a life!

–Dude, seriously!

Click here to join Matt’s Writing Journey.

Test of Faith: The Forgiven 002

As the group continued to wade through the desert, High Priestess Isis increased her pace. She pulled up beside Samia. They walked in silence for a moment. Isis waited for the Hunt Leader to acknowledge her, but she never did. Isis was the first to speak.

“I said nothing before in front of the others, but how long do you want to continue this? We both know who is really in charge.”

Samia grunted, “I wasn’t kidding. I lead this Hunt, and will continue until our city is retaken.”

The High Priestess paused in her step but quickly recovered. She tried another tactic. “So what are we hunting?”

Samia stopped walking and looked hard at her. “Not ‘what’ but ‘who.’ This Hunt will continue until we see Lilith’s head on a pike for what she’s done.”

Maani was beside them now, sensing that her sister needed backup. “Well, said, sister. We will see Lilith’s head on a pike.”

High Priestess Isis lowered her head. The words of Bast echoed in her mind. A true leader knows how to follow.

Isis nodded and moved back to walk with the others.

Behind the group Zahra raised her voice. “We should angle north. We are near a Union outpost.”

Amaunet laughed. “After facing the army that attacked our city, what is a small Union outpost? They stay behind their shield, anyway.”

The group of hunters murmured their agreement. Isis counted them off. There were seventeen hunters, including Samia and Maani. The battle priestess, Meri, rode atop the manticore along with Char. She shivered as she thought of their perverted bond.

It was sad that Amaunet was the only Raven to remain. She was walking and talking with Kerr. He had saved her life in the battle. Strange, that. A man saving a woman. It sounded like the opening of a joke.

The Cheetah had fared a bit better. Two of them had survived. Zahra and Thoeris walked together, apart from the others. She was honored to have their two best fighters guarding their flank.

They were such a small group. How would they retake the city with such a tiny army?

Up ahead was the Union outpost and its’ glowing green energy shield. From this close, she could see that the shield was made up of interlocking green grids, each in the shape of a giant hexagon. Nothing could get through. Her women had tried in the past. It was like a giant turtle sitting out in the desert wasteland. She found it better to ignore them. They kept to themselves.


Nicko flashed his white fangs, “Strap in, big guy. We’re about to do this. Countdown commence! TEN!”

Liam growled, throwing himself into the captain’s chair. It protested under his considerable weight. Nicko was strapped into the navigation chair, but both legs were hanging over the arms. He looked like he was lounging even when he was tied down. “Hold on, little buddy! I need a couple second…”

“There’s no time! We need to launch before the next guards come on duty. EIGHT!”

Liam clicked the belt down around him and squinted through the windshield. The massive docking bay doors were rumbling open. Beyond, the green energy shield glimmered. His brain calculated the mass of the ship and the force that would be required to punch through the shield.

“Uh, Nicko?”

Nicko was flipping switches and punching buttons. All the while, he was continuing his maniacal countdown.

“SIX! What’s up, Liam? FIVE!”

Liam nodded his head toward the bay opening. “What was your plan to get through the energy shield?”

“THREE! I don’t know. TWO! I thought you ONE! would think of something!” He screamed, “LIFTOFF!”

The acceleration pushed Liam back into his seat.

“WHAT?!”


Zahra trotted around them to scout ahead. She took a couple steps and then froze, staring at the Union outpost.

Behind her, the other women followed her gaze one by one.

“Huh,” said Shukura, standing beside her. “What are they doing?”

A small ship launched from the outpost. It was quickly approaching the energy shield.

“Shouldn’t the shield be opening to let it out?” One of the hunters asked the question they all thought.

The craft was drawing closer and closer to the energy shield. There were murmurs among the onlookers. Would it crash?

At the last moment, the ship banked to the side, and the women saw guns flash and missiles fire. Both exploded against the shield. There was no apparent effect.

“They are trying to escape!”

Amaunet raised her bow, “Any enemy of the Union is a friend of mine! Ladies, focus your fire on the same part of the shield. Maybe we can weaken it.”

Kerr chuckled. “With bows and arrows?”

Amaunet turned her head to glare at him. Her voice sounded like she was lecturing a child. She had to be patient and remember that he was just a man. “When I pray, God, my god, gives light to my arrow. It is no longer a weapon made by humans. It is a weapon of pure light from the almighty. It flies as light. It penetrates as light.”

“So… you can fire lasers.”

Amaunet grunted, not acknowledging the silly word.

Around her, women raised their bows. As whispers of prayer filled the air, arrows shimmered with light.

She whispered her own prayer, and her arrow hummed. Angry light hummed. She released the arrow of light and it whistled away.

The LENS in Kerr’s eye magnified his vision. He watched the arrow as it flashed and struck the shield in a blink of an eye. The energy shield crackled where the arrow hit. A red color overlayed his vision, and words scrolled across his vision.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 99%

Kerr firmed his lip. “I stand corrected,”

“Fire there! Where the tiles of the shield come together, the shield is weak.” Around them, all of the other women let fly with their arrows. The air was filled with the flashes of light.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 87%

This might work.


“We’re sitting ducks here!” Liam was screaming. He was terrified. He hated flying. He hated being shot down even more. “Our weapons don’t do anything to that shield!”

Nicko was busy picking lint off his uniform. He glanced up. “Why don’t you concentrate your fire where those other explosions are coming from?”

Was he insane? “What other explosions?! Are we on the same ship? I don’t see any other…”

Liam’s voice trailed off. There were other explosions, coming from outside the shield. Liam didn’t question his luck. He banked hard toward the new explosions and opened fire with all of his guns.


“Keep it up, ladies!” Amaunet was a battle leader again. Her voice carried loud over the group, “Fire! FIRE!”

Energy arrows filled the air with a symphony of whistles.

Kerr smiled as the readout on his vision continued to drop.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 46%

Inside the shield, Kerr could see the ship turn and fire at the same spot. Now the number on his eye was dropping faster.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 32%

Another light flashed in the air. Kerr turned to see Char had begun to project energy from his hands, as well. That boy seems to have some serious control over energy.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 26%

The getaway ship was barreling toward the energy shield, lasers firing. Kerr bit his bottom lip. Would it be enough?

The manticore let out a screech and took to the air. In three flaps of his wings, he was hovering near the energy shield. It opened its’ mouth wide, and a stream of green, bubbling liquid hit the shield in a torrent.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 12%

Now Kerr could see a crack beginning to form. It wasn’t visible to the naked eye, but he could see it. The shield was weakening.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 5%

Was it enough? The energy shield started to flicker. Kerr could see a crack in the energy shield, like a broken pane of glass.

With a crunch of metal, the ship struck the energy shield. Kerr winced. It sounded and felt like he was watching an automobile accident. There was a fireball explosion. The craft shot from the flames.

Kerr realized he had been clenching his fists.

The ship was pointed down. It was no longer flying, it was falling.


“We’re going down!” shouted the Borg. “Better brace for impact!”

Liam pulled hard on the controls of the ship, but to little effect. They were, indeed, going to crash. Liam slowed the feed of his video down. It was a trick he had learned when he needed to process extra information.

The desert under him slowed to a crawl. Would it soften their crash? They were passing over a hill. He tried to match the downward angle. It was the best he could do.


The cheers of the women turned to murmurs as they watched the ship disappear from view. A sickening sound of twisting metal reached their ears.

They broke into a run.


Writers Note:

It’s been many MANY years, but I am writing again. I feel good. It feels right. I am writing out on Medium, too. I will eventually make money, but I’m under no illusion that it will be quick. I’ve heard it takes nearly a year to start getting traction. Until then, it’s all about consistency. I need to get into a daily habit.

I was so pumped when book one launched, and then it was crickets. I was sooo disappointed. I hung up my typewriter for awhile. It all just seemed like a waste. I have since learned that it is common for a first book to fail.

I’m normal, y’all.

And, looking back, the writing of my first book is not that great. When I finish book two and start to accumulate a following, I will re-edit book one so that the “voice” matches. Then I will write book three online.

Here’s my big master plan: Have a big following online and THEN publish the trilogy on Amazon. I should have done it that way first, but I’m learning, here. I should create a course on all this… assuming it’s a hit.

At the end of book one, I wrote a long writer’s note. I told everybody (all three of you) that I was engaged. I have since gotten married. That was January of 2019. She is still working in Rome while I process her VISA application so she can come here. Anyway, sign up for my mailing list to get announcements of the next instalments!

Did you miss the last instalment? Here ya go!

Test of Faith: The Forgiven 001

Liam shifted his body to pick up the heavy crate, rotating at the hip. Inside his arm, gears whirled and whined. His brain calculated the angles necessary for the move. His manufactured skin could only wasn’t perfect, but he could feel enough. It was enough to get the job done.

The pads of his fingers pressed on the crate just enough to lift it. His brain weighed it for him and reported back—two hundred and twelve point five kilograms.

Liam sighed. Another crate.

He turned again and walked to the other side of the room. He deposited the crate in a precise line with the other crates. One thousand, three-hundred, and forty-seven.

He sighed again. Mission accomplished.

What to do now? How about moving another heavy crate? That’ll be swell!

The voice from the doorway was a very pleasant distraction.

“What are you doing meow?”

The ‘meow’ was probably involuntary. Liam turned his head to nod at his best friend. His voice modulator hummed. “It’s the same thing we do every day, Nicko. Try to take over the world.”

Liam chuckled, but Nicko didn’t notice. He was suddenly fascinated by something on his hand. He stared with furious intent. He licked at it. He shook it. Nope, still there. He noticed that Liam was looking at him. He smiled and waved at his best friend.

“Hi, Liam!”

Liam just shook his head. Nicko didn’t seem to notice.

“Are you ready to do this thing, meow?”

Liam tried to smile. The gears of his face twisted. He hoped it was coming out right.

Nicko was always doing what Nicko wanted to do. You couldn’t talk him out of it. Liam suspected it also came with his mutant cat DNA. It was usually better to agree than argue with a cat-man. Chances were high that he would just forget about it in a few moments.

Time to play along. “You really think the two of us can bust out of here?”

“I have the shuttle gassed up and ready to roll.”

Liam raised an eyebrow. He had really thought this one out. The cat was showing an unusual sense of commitment.

He had secured an escape vehicle?

Nicko purred, “I figured out all the guard schedules. Meow! There’s only three of them between us and the hangar bay. We have to move in the next five minutes to make our window, though.”

Where was this level of focus coming from? He shrugged. At least it will break the monotony.

I can always say the cat made me do it! It was dark humor.

His mind darted through the logic. His brain was enhanced with a little computer wizardry.

Getting caught would likely result in severe punishment, but there is no job lower than “Supply Management.” He did hate his job. Were they going to demote him to a less interesting job?

The whole thought process took a nanosecond. Nodding, Liam shifted his bulk toward the door.

“Only three guards? We better do this thing.”

Nicko exposed his fangs, excited. His throat vibrated in a purr. Nicko was horrible at poker.

Liam willed his body into stealth mode. His footsteps—normally booming—were now almost silent. Of course, it severely drained his batteries and limited his movement to half speed. Stealth mode also changed his volume to a whisper, “Which way?”

Nicko sprang forward. His movements were always silent. He landed with a soft brush of fur, only audible to Liam’s enhanced ears.

Nicko disappeared down the hallway. “Walk this way meow!”

Liam wished he had his guns. This reminded him of his old field missions. He felt naked without his guns. He flexed his fingers.

He moved with ease behind Nicko, gears almost silent. Nice and easy. Like butter…

Nicko had dropped to all fours as he bounded down the hallway. At the next corner, he turned to look for Liam. Nicko waited for a couple seconds, and then disappeared, impatient. Liam smiled and continued his slow, silent walk. He had never seen Nicko this excited about anything.

When Liam finally rounded the corner, Nicko was already at the end of the hall. Liam’s enhanced hearing could make out some voices around the corner. That must be the guards. Nicko was waving at him, excited. He could hear them, as well.

Liam resisted the urge to walk at a normal pace, or to increase his pace. Slow and steady.

There was another sound in Liam’s ear. Nicko was still purring—and not in a quiet way.

Liam pressed a finger to his lips and flashed a scolding glare at Nicko.

He formed the words with his mouth. Oh! He nodded with firm lips. The purring continued. Liam rolled his eyes. You can’t win a battle with instinct.

Liam reached the corner. Nicko pointed at the corner in excitement. Guards, he mouthed.

Careful to keep his steps silent, Liam rounded the corner.

The three guards were facing away from him. Each had a laser rifle at his hip They were laughing, chatting, and passing the time—average guard duty. Liam raised both hands. His mind calculated the exact amount of pressure it would take to smash two heads together like coconuts. He didn’t want to kill them—just render them unconscious. The third guard would be surprised by the sudden attack, and could be subdued without…

“Meow!”

The call was loud and echoed off the walls. All three guards spun to face the sudden sound, raising their rifles. Liam was still steps away from them. His eyes opened wide. He reminded himself to never again take a cat with him on a stealth mission.

Liam’s brain fired at light speed. His body entered combat mode. His movement was enhanced. He needed all of his enhancements. One of the guards was running for the ‘panic’ button on the wall. Liam had moments to act.

A laser blast singed across the borg’s chest. His nasal sensors could detect burning bio-skin. That might have hurt, if he had nerves. Nanites in his chest were already being dispatched to repair the damage.

Liam hadn’t had a good fight since the war. It’s clobberin’ time. He sprung into action before the guards could fire again.

His two hands were already raised. Liam grabbed two of the guards by the heads and slammed them together. They crumpled to the ground.

Liam grabbed the last guard by the belt, stopping him just short of the big, red button. The frantic guard raised and fired at Liam from point-blank range. Pew! Pew! Pew!

Liam grunted. He resisted the urge to snap the small man’s neck. He was just doing his job. He spun the man around like a doll and placed him in a sleeper hold. The man struggled useless in the massive grip. Liam waited until the man slumped to the ground.

In a blur of fur, Nicko bounded past. “Gotta go! Gotta go!”

The need for stealth was past. Liam engaged full pursuit speed. His feet bashed against the ground as he kept up with Nicko. At the end of the hall, the cat man burst through a set of double doors and into the hanger. As promised, a small shuttle waited with open doors. Liam could hear the hum of the engines. Yee-ha, Nicko.