It’s another launch day, Station Central is going wide today

Station Central is now available on Smashwords! Today is the day at last and I’m pretty stoked. I always like to end the year on a high note, and this one’s pretty good. 

Which is nice because this year has been pretty much a dumpster fire. 

But here at least is something pretty cool. Now, no matter the platform or device you have, you can download Station Central. This is, in my humble opinion, the best Station 86 story to date.

It’s also Black Friday. I hope no one reading this has been out shopping today. We’re in a pandemic and I want all of you to stay safe. Today is a great day instead to do some online shopping, maybe write out your holiday cards or put your decorations up. Maybe just curl up with a good book and some hot tea. That’s what I’ll be doing. 

Here’s to a wonderful, if different holiday season. Stay warm, stay safe. And I hope you all enjoy a vacation adventure turned horrifying in Station Central.

Check out Station Central now on Smashwords.

Station Central, Episode Three

If you’re loving the story, you can now get the whole book on Smashwords.

Godfrey followed Akiko to a glass building not far from the loading docks. He glanced between her and Gene, wondering how far he’d get if he decided to run. He didn’t think it would be far enough. And he wouldn’t have put it past this woman to know just where Sennett and the others were, and detain them if he tried.

“Have you ever been to Station Central before, Councilman?” Akiko asked.

“No,” Godfrey said, as they walked past the front desk. The building’s main purpose seemed to be a tourist information center. The walls flashed with event information and activities. There was, according to the advertisements, levels for shopping, dining, museums. There was even a beach themed level, and an amusement park on the top floor.

“You should try Punchello’s for dinner one night, it’s my favorite,” she said. “My treat, I insist. Just tell them you’re there as my guest.”

They wove through the crowd of people milling around, looking at displays and taking pictures, until they reached a quieter hallway. There, Godfrey saw doors with the names of what he assumed must have been other council members. Akiko led him right to the end of the hall, to a door with her own name. She entered, letting the two men in.

Inside, Godfrey saw a white, high polished chrome desk. The floor was a simple tile, and the walls displayed posters of classic movies and plays.

“Please take a seat,” Akiko said, gesturing to two padded chairs on one side of her desk. She settled herself on a backless chair on the other side.

Godfrey sat, Gene settling in next to him. “So,” Akiko tilted her head. “Station 86 sure has been through a lot, hasn’t it? First, eleven of the twelve council members are assassinated. Then, you had that problem with the AI dogs. Then there was that botched election issue. I understand your friend was off planet at the time, and she was nearly killed by a lose virus on Station 16?” Akiko shook her head. “Poor man, no wonder you wanted a vacation. I’m so sorry to spoil your first day here with this.”

“That’s not my concern, Councilwoman,” he said, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “My concern is that I’m not a councilman anymore. I’m a private citizen. As I’ve already told you, Station 86 decided to change how we’re governed. We held a free election, and we chose two Marshals to lead us, one from each political party.”

“Yes, but the problem with that is that elections aren’t legal on the stations,” Akiko said. “You’re the remaining Councilman, so you’re fully within your right to claim these two people as fellow council members. But a marshal is not an official title.”

“If you’d had an auditor at the time, they certainly would have told you that,” Gene said. “But I understand that you lost your last auditor. He was on the ship with Councilwoman Thorn?”

“Yes,” Godfrey said, “but I don’t understand how you peoplethink you’ve got any kind of right to tell Station 86 what we’re going to do with our people. We decided that we wanted to be governed differently. Why should that be any of your business?”

Akiko folded her hands on her desk. “Because with Earth silent, my council and I are now the political center for all of the stations. Therefore, it’s my job to assign a new auditor to Station 86. Gene here will go back with you when you go home.”

“It sounds like we’ve got a lot of work to do together, with eight council seats empty,” Gene said.

“Nine,” Godfrey said. “I am not a council member.”

“Mmm, sorry,” Gene said, “but a council member can’t resign with empty seats. You’ve got to stay until all twelve are full. It’s down in the constitution you agreed to when you became a station citizen.”

“And in the oath you agreed to when you became a council member,” Akiko said, nodding. “I’m afraid you’re stuck until the council’s full again.

“But, please don’t let that darken your vacation. Relax, have fun with your friends. We can worry about all this when it’s time for you to go home.”

“Alright,” Godfrey muttered. “Since I’m stuck as a councilman, I might as well act like one. What are you planning for the Hollow Suits?”

Akiko and Gene tensed. “I think that would be a matter best discussed later, when you haven’t just arrived” Akiko said. “In fact, I wonder if I could ask you a favor regarding that. We haven’t publicly spoken about the Hollow Suits yet. Would you mind not mentioning it?”

“Why haven’t you told the people who live here?” Godfrey asked.

“Because we’re trying not to start a panic,” Akiko chuckled. “We’re handling it, even as we speak. There’s no reason to worry the people on the station. Especially since they, like yourself, are on vacation.”

“But if these Hollows get on the station-,” Godfrey said, but was interrupted by a knock on the office door.

“I’m so sorry,” Akiko said, rising gracefully. She went to the door, and admitted a young man in a bright blue suit.

“Jeremy, what can I do for you?” she asked.

“Sorry, Councilwoman, but I thought you should see what Commander Tanner just sent to everyone on the station,” the young man said.

Godfrey remembered his wrist pad buzzing as Akiko had led him away. He looked down now, and played it. Gene did the same.

All citizens and visitors of Station Central, please be advised that known terrorist Jason Whitehall has escaped from police protection and is thought to be somewhere on the station. If you spot him, please contact authorities imminently. Whitehall is thought to be armed with illegal weaponry, and is suspected in the murder of May Conner.

Gene was looking at his own wrist pad, his other hand over his mouth.

“Um, wow,” Godfrey said. “What’s this all about? I thought your council didn’t want to cause a panic.”

“Tanner is not a council member,” Akiko snapped.

She turned, flashing her smile again. “I’ve kept you from your friends long enough. Forgive my interruption.”

She opened the door wider, and gave Godfrey a gentle inclination of her head. “Have a good day, Councilman.”

Godfrey realized that he wasn’t going to get anything further from the situation. His long trip was also catching up with him. He stood, and said, “Thank you, Councilwoman. I suppose I’ll be seeing you soon, Gene.”

“Yeah, of course,” Gene said, but he wasn’t looking up. He was looking at his wrist pad still, his brows furrowed.

Station Central, Episode Two

You can preorder Station Central right now on Smashwords.


Sennett had rarely traveled off station with April. In fact, she’d very rarely traveled off station at all in her life. And after her experience traveling to Station Central, she doubted that she ever would again. April was miserable. She didn’t want to sleep, didn’t want to read or watch anything on her tiny wrist pad, the virtual screen almost everyone wore. She complained that her seeming cuffs, which made her look like a full Earthian child, irritated her. She was deprived of her normal routine. She fussed with Bailey. She pestered Sennett and Mason to go to the bathroom, go down to see the dining room and little on board shop. She wanted to do anything but sit still in her seat, which is really all Sennett wanted from her.

“Mommy, my wrists hurt again,” she whined, rubbing at the purple cuff with bunnies. “Why do I have to wear this?”

Sennett sighed. It had seemed like a simple decision, making April wear her seeming bracelet that hid her actual image while they were off Station 86. While it was no longer a secret that she was half Khloe, half Earthian, she didn’t feel like April needed that kind of attention while they were on vacation. It was hard, though, seeing her true face hidden. She looked so much like Lo without her seeming.

“Please don’t mess with it,” Sennett sighed. She rummaged around in her bag. “I have some lotion here, just hold on.”

“Attention, Passengers,” a pleasant voice floated over the sound system. “We will be arriving at Station Central in ten minutes. Please take this time to scan your area and be sure that all your personal belongings are accounted for. Your luggage will be sent separately to the hotel you registered with at the start of your flight. Thank you for flying with Station Direct, have a wonderful day.”

“Come on, let’s get your stuff together,” Sennett said. She looked into the travel bag she’d stuffed Bailey into, checking on him. He wagged his tail pleasantly.

Liam stood up, stretching out. “Been awhile since I flew commercial. I didn’t miss it.”

“No kidding,” Godfrey muttered.

They all headed down the aisle, and towards the exit of the ship. Sennett kept hold of April’s hand, as the crowd moved slowly onto the loading bay.

“No one go wandering off once we get out of here,” Liam said. “I ain’t been to Station Central in a while, but the last time I was here it was crowded as hell.”

“We get crowds on Station 86 too, you know,” Mason replied.

Liam shook his head. “Not like this, you don’t.”

Sennett was inclined to scoff at him, as they joined the line for the door. But as they headed out into the main level, she saw what he meant.

People were packed into the level, shoulder to shoulder. They were shouting to be heard by people standing right next to them. Children were whining and crying. Thousands of screens, from wrist pads to large ones mounted on food and shopping stalls were flashing and crackling their audio.

“It’s too loud,” April said, putting her hands over her ears.

“Come here,” Sennett replied, picking April up and putting her on her hip. She looked around, marveling at how bright it was. The ceiling was blue, with strange white things floating across it. Every stall had, in addition to their mounted screens, a bright flashing marquee to display their wares above the heads of the crowd.

“What are those things?” Mason asked, looking straight up at the ceiling.

“They’re clouds,” Godfrey chuckled, looking up as well. “That looks like the sky on Earth. I’ll be damned.”

“Let’s not gawk, boys,” Sennett said. “Come on, I want to check in to the hotel and get something to eat.”

“Me too. I’ve never needed a cup of Klav more in my life,” Liam muttered.

The crowd was so thick that they were having trouble moving through it. Sennett tried to lead the way, and found that she had to almost shove some of the people to get them to move.

“It’s weird,” Mason said, “I’m used to seeing a little more diversity in a crowd, aren’t you guys?”

Sennett looked around. He was right, she saw very few Khloe, Ma’Sheed or Toth people around them.

“Not every station can be the station of First Contact,” Godfrey said.

“No,” Sennett said, “guess not.”

Then she noticed someone in a black uniform. The patch on the woman’s arm was familiar, but she couldn’t remember why. It didn’t look like the Station Central symbol, a single star ringed by ninety-nine others.

“What symbol is that?” Sennett asked.

“Which one?” Godfrey replied.

“That one,” she said, looking back towards the soldier. But she was already lost in the crowd.

“Where did she go?” Sennett whispered.

“What’s wrong?” Godfrey asked.

“I think I’m seeing things,” she replied. “I thought I saw someone wearing the same uniform as the soldiers who came to clean house on Station 16.”

“What? Where?” he asked.

“No, don’t freak out,” she said. “I’m just, I guess I’m not as over that as I thought I was.”

Godfrey turned to her, giving her a searching look. Finally, he put his arm around her shoulder. “That’s what we’re here for, for you to finally get a chance to relax.”

“Yeah,” she said, glancing around them still.

April looked around them as well. “Someone’s calling for Mr. Godfrey,” she said.

“Can’t be,” Godfrey said. “I don’t know anyone here.”

But Sennett could hear someone calling, “Councilman Anders!” She turned, looking behind them.

“We should really keep moving,” Liam said, putting a hand on her arm.

“Wait,” Sennett said.

A man dressed in a well-cut suit was waiving at them. He was a large man, a bit paunchy, with pale skin and almond eyes. He wore a silver pin on his lapel, with a single star over an interconnected S and C.

“I think that man might know you, even if you don’t know him,” she said.

“That’s usually not good,” Godfrey muttered.

The man saw them stop, and hurried up to them. “Councilman Anders,” he said, adjusting his tie. “Good to finally meet you. I’m Gene Tao. One moment, please, my mother’s just catching up.”

“Sorry, but why do I want to talk to your mother?” Godfrey asked.

Gene looked confused. “Well, because she’s Akiko Tao, Chief councilwoman of Station Central. She’s sent you several messages.”

“Ah, now I remember,” Godfrey muttered.

“Godfrey, what’s going on?” Sennett asked.

Before he could answer, they were joined by Akiko Tao. She looked very much like her son, slightly heavy with thick, dark hair and pale skin. She was shorter, though, the top of her head reaching Sennett’s nose. Her makeup was immaculate, and she wore a gentle smile.

“Councilman,” she said, her voice deep and smooth. “It’s so good to finally meet you. If you’d told me you were going to visit Station Central, I would have sent a ship for you.”

“Councilwoman Tao,” Godfrey said, reaching to shake her hand. “I’m afraid you might be working under old information. I’m not a councilman anymore. Station 86 doesn’t have a council at all. That’s why I referred you to Marshal Joy Wheatly when you contacted me.”

Akiko’s smile never wavered. “Yes, I did receive that message. I expressed concern at the time, I believe.”

“You did, yes. However, I’m not in any position to speak to your concerns. If you have questions about Station 86, please feel free to contact one of our Marshals.”

“Perhaps,” she said, glancing around them, “this is a discussion that should be had in private, away from Station Central visitors. Would you join me in my office, please?”

“No, thank you,” Godfrey snapped.

“Please,” she laughed, taking his arm. “It seems clear to me that we have some things to discuss.”

“I think you need to let go of him now,” Liam said, stepping forward.

“I’m okay,” Godfrey said, pulling his arm away from her. “Fine, I’ll come talk to you.”

“Godfrey,” Sennett said.

“I’m fine,” he said, “It’s just a talk. I’ll meet you at the hotel.”

“Glad to meet you all,” Akiko said, before turning to leave. Gene and Godfrey followed, vanishing quickly into the crowd.

“What the hell is all that about?” Mason asked.

“I don’t know,” Sennett said.

“This ain’t good,” Liam said, looking down at his wrist com. “Sen, did you just get something?”

She looked down at her own pad. He was right, she’d received a security notification. She opened it.

There was a picture of a young man in a suit and tie, it looked like an employee photo. Underneath, the message read. All citizens and visitors of Station Central, please be advised that known terrorist Jason Whitehall has escaped from police protection and is thought to be somewhere on the station. If you spot him, please contact authorities imminently. Whitehall is thought to be armed with illegal weaponry, and is suspected in the murder of May Conner.

“We try to go on vacation. Godfrey’s grabbed by the local politicians and a terrorist is on the lose,” Mason muttered.

“Yeah,” Sennett said. “That sounds about normal.”

Station Central, Episode One

Preorder Station Central now on Smashwords.


Once upon a time, a company called Galitech launched a space station. They wanted to see if space habitation would be sustainable for everyday people. They also wanted to make money. So they created Station Central, the vacation destination in the stars.

It was far more successful than Galitech thought it would be. Millions of application were sent in to set up businesses. Everyone wanted to work there. Even the janitorial staff had more applicants than they could ever use. People wanted to live there. People who could afford it wanted to go there. A year before Station Central officially opened, there was already a five-year waiting list at every single hotel.

With its growing popularity came a desire to move out into space and away from the crowded plant.

Galitech was happy to oblige, but there were a few problems with their plan. The first hurdle was that the stations wouldn’t fall under any country’s jurisdiction. As such, there were no official laws. After much research and long boardroom conversations, a decision was made to give each station a council of twelve people who would govern. They created a set of laws that every station immigrant had to swear to. And they established a private army to help council members enforce the law if necessary.

The nations of Earth were less than comfortable with this arrangement. Somehow the thought of huge space stations full of people whose laws were being enforced by a private military concerned them.

To placate the nations, Galitech worked with them to establish the IHP, Interstellar Human Protection, to help keep order among the stations. Galitech created its army anyway but insisted that they were nothing more than private security.

The stations shared a unified money system, the same universal coin that had been used on Earth since 2087. They shared the laws agreed upon before they were launched. Each station had a council, a Galitech auditor and a team of IHP agents. Most stations created a police force. For the most part, it worked out.

There were some issues. Station 97 seemed to think child labor was alright until the IHP stepped in. And no one talked about Station 10, which was shut down without explanation. But for the most part, the stations were doing fine.

Then, the Hollow Suits attacked Earth. Hulking, walking battle armor suits, with nothing discernible behind opaque visors. They appeared on Earth without any demands and without warning. They didn’t seem to want anything, except to kill every human they could find. They were immune to electrical attacks, fire, and water. They couldn’t be starved, because no one could tell what they ate. No weapon on Earth could penetrate their armor. They couldn’t be spoken to, reasoned with, bribed, or distracted from their task. They were also aggressive against cats and dogs. No one could figure out why except perhaps to hurt us by killing our beloved pets.

Earth had no idea how to protect themselves from this attack There had been peace on Earth for a generation, most soldiers had never fired a weapon outside of training. The combined military forces of nations fell in months. The IHP hurried back to Earth, except for one team lead by Evelyn Greenwood.

The Galitech army was still waiting on Station 2. Waiting for an order to move out. There was just one person able to give that command, the Galitech CEO. She was dead on the floor of her board room, her eyes shoved into the back of her head. If the Earthians on the stations weren’t already the only ones left, they would be soon.

With the IHP gone, and Earth gone quiet, the stations looked to Station Central for leadership. There were the Hollow Suits to worry about, but there were also radical terrorists, murderers, and a thousand other things that could get out of hand on a space station.

The problem was, that was never what Station Central was intended to be. The leaders were vacation coordinators, not politicians.

But they still had to lead. No matter how distasteful the found what they felt had to be done to keep the stations safe.

Episode One


When we last left our heroes, they were once again recovering from disaster. Godfrey Anders had just stopped corrupt politician, Saul Mai, from stealing the election from Joy Wheatly. Part of Saul’s plot had involved allowing April, the daughter of Godfrey’s best friend Sennett, to be kidnapped by a genetic doctor named Cynthia Oswald. Both Saul and Dr. Oswald were shipped to Station 41, the prison station.

Unfortunately, in the midst of the most recent nightmare, Godfrey’s wife Ki decided that she needed to go to her home planet of Khloe to visit her family. In a message she left for him, she told him that she believed he was in love with Sennett, not her. Unable to stay in the home they built together anymore and worried about further attacks, Godfrey’s been crashing on Sennett’s couch ever since.

Sennett, meanwhile, has narrowly avoided death again. She saved Station 16, a disease research station, from a nanite that turned people into violent, rage monsters commonly called berserkers. She also managed to uncover the truth about the Hollow Suits and carried this information back Station 86. In the process, she was infected by the nanites. While she was given the cure, no one is sure how long it will last, or what the long term effects might be.

Godfrey was the first awake most mornings, due to his childhood on farm time. He woke, his blanket tangled around him. Soon, he knew, there would be four adults and one child vying for bathroom time. Wanting to take himself out of that equation he got up, taking a sweater and jeans with him.

In the bathroom, he shaved, then ran a comb through his mess of dark curls. His face, he thought, was looking haggard. The bags under his eyes were becoming more and more apparent. Sighing, he dabbed on a little concealer.

Just as he was starting to brush his teeth he heard a tiny knock on the door. “Hello?” April said. “I have to use the bathroom.”

“Hugug,” Godfrey called through a mouthful of toothpaste. He opened the door, admitting April and her AI dog, Bailey.

April was a striking child, with a mess of wild brown hair and bright pink skin that was her Khloe father’s legacy. Bailey had the body of a terrier, but with silky smooth metal skin. He wagged his tail when he saw Godfrey.

Godfrey headed for the kitchen, considering what he might make for breakfast. April had never had poached eggs before he’d moved in, and she seemed exceptionally pleased with them.

He went to the simulator, sighing. Before Earth had gone dark, he’d gotten regular shipments of fresh, real food, for his lunch booth. Now, he was regulated to simulating raw food and cooking it. But at least he could still do that, he reasoned.

Sennett’s adopted little brother, Mason stumbled into the kitchen just as Godfrey put a plate of eggs and sausage on the table. “You packed for Station Central?” he asked. “Sennett wants to leave right after April gets off school.”

“I know,” Mason replied. He was looking at the table screen while he picked up a sausage link and bit it in half. “I did it last night. I need to get over to the greenhouse and meet Jackie before we leave. And I’ll have to stop by my lab at school. One of the liver plants is stable enough to move, I think.”

Mason was twenty and looked every bit the college student he was. He was heavy, with dyed blond hair and enough tech to concern Godfrey most of the times. But even he had to admit, the young man was bright.

“You’re sure Jackie can be trusted in my greenhouse?” Godfrey asked, putting another plate on the table. “And with those organ growing plants?”

“Sure, she’s my assistant,” Mason shrugged. “You met her yourself, did your whole vetting thing before you agreed to let her around your precious plants. She’ll be fine.”

April and Bailey bounced in next. She was now dressed in a purple shirt and blue leggings. She settled into her chair, where Godfrey had just set a plate.

“Thank you, Mr. Godfrey,” she said, digging into her eggs.

“No problem, Little Bit,” he smiled. “Your mom up?”

“I’m here, but don’t make anything for me. I’m gonna just have klav,” Sennett said, walking briskly into the room. A tall woman with ebony skin, she had her thousands of braids pulled away from her face by a metal band. It was strange to see her dressed as she was, in a pair of jeans and a band t-shirt. She normally dressed in a suit, as a detective. Her brown eyes, flecked with gold, flashed across the faces at the table, before running a hand over her daughter’s head.

“I’ve got to head to the barracks and finish up some paperwork before we leave on vacation. And check in on Patty.”

“How is she doing as interim commissioner?” Godfrey asked.

“Hating every single second,” Sennett muttered. “But it’s just until Commissioner Schultz comes back from leave.”

The last person who came into the room was Liam. He was a pale man, thin but muscular. His goatee, which had been unruly in the past had been trimmed neatly now that he was living with Sennett. He wore a tight sweater over a pair of jeans that had a fade mark near the pocket in the shape of his missing holster.

“Here,” Godfrey said, holding out a plate for him.

“Thanks, Man,” Liam said. He carried it over to the simulator, making himself a cup of steaming black coffee. “You want one?”

“Sure,” Godfrey said, sitting down at the table with his own food.

Sennett, a cup of hot klav in her hand, sat down next to him. She started tapping on the table, pulling up morning news feeds. “I haven’t seen anything about the Hollow Suits yet. Guess that might be a good thing for us. Travel will probably be restricted after the news breaks.”

“Might not be able to get home, if that happens,” Godfrey said. He started scanning the feeds over her shoulder. “I talked to Marshal Joy the other day. She and Marshal Howard are working on some things to boost protection. She didn’t want to go into it though.”

“Of course not. The fewer people who know the details, the better,” Sennett said. She tapped on the table, taking over part of it to read her mail. “I guess the other stations can handle the Hollows how they want, there’s nothing we can do about it. But I think we stand a better chance if we’re talking to each other.”

She was beautiful in the morning, even while she was scanning over her email. Ki’s accusation before she’d left wouldn’t leave Godfrey’s mind in moments like this. She’d accused him of loving Sennett more than he loved her. Most of the time he didn’t think it could be true. But there were moments.

Suddenly, her face hardened. She shut her email with a swipe and took a sip of her drink.

“What’s wrong?” Liam asked, glancing over at her.

“Nothing,” Sennett said. “I just got an email from someone who shouldn’t be emailing me. April, go get your shoes and jacket, please.”

“Okay!” April said, scrambling away from the table.

“You excited for your last day of school, Little Bit?” Godfrey asked.

“Yes!” April said, and ran from the room.

Sennett turned back to the table. “I just got an email from Candace Campbell,” she said quietly, glancing at each of them in turn.

Godfrey sat back in his chair, whistling. “What did she say?” he asked.

“Someone needs to fill me in. Who’s Candace?” Liam asked.

“She’s the bitch who murdered my husband. Shot him in the back in the middle of the street.”

Sennett sat back in her chair. “She’s saying she needs to talk to me about something that she doesn’t want to say over mail.”

Mason propped his elbows on the table. “So, what if it’s about your birth parents?”

Sennett gave him a sharp look. “Why the hell would she want to talk to me about my birth parents, Mason?”

“Well,” he said carefully. “You said that Core person on Station 16 told you your parents were still alive and that they were looking for you. Candace was a member of the Core.”

She shuddered. It felt like the Core had been stalking her, ever since they’d shot her adopted mother’s ship out of the sky. They’d been the ones who’d set the berserker virus free on Station 16, which had infected Sennett.

“We don’t know that,” Sennett said.

“Actually, we do,” Mason said. “It’s in her file from the prison.”

“How do you know that?” Liam asked. “Prison records are supposed to be sealed except for to officials.”

When the others at the table looked at him, he shrugged. “I’m a criminal. It’s my business to know my rights.”

“I’m just saying, what if it’s about your birth parents?” Mason asked.

“Then I still don’t care to talk to her. Mom was the only parent I needed, Mason, especially if my birth parents are Core members.”

She got up, grabbing her mug of klav. “I’m taking April to school now. Everyone, please make sure you’re totally packed by the time I get home so we don’t have to wait.”

“I’ll keep after them,” Godfrey said, grinning.

“Thanks,” she said, turning towards the door. “Oh, and Liam. Patty’s going to meet us at the loading dock tonight.”

“What the hell for?” Liam sputtered.

Sennett turned back towards him. “What do you think? She signed off on you traveling. She needs to make sure you aren’t carrying anything illegal.”

Virus, Episode Three

You can preorder Station Central right now on Smashwords.

Thursday, AC April 6

Sennett was laying upside down on her couch, feet propped up on the headrest and her head just brushing the floor. She was watching the news, trying to figure out how they could make station life seem so boring.

No one knew better than a police officer how many stories there were to tell on any given day. Where were the stories of muggings and people finding their life’s savings that had been hacked just in time? What was this crap about what tie Marshal Howard was wearing, or how many times he’d worn it before? Why did they spend so much time talking about one missing boy, when dozens more were missing, had been missing? Was it just because he was an adorable little boy that was easy to put in front of the cameras? And what the hell did Sennett care if some celebrity on Station Central was gaining weight?

She was watching the news, but she was also watching the clock. She still had three hours and eight minutes until April got out of school and she could go pick her up. Maybe they’d go to the shopping district and replace April’s sneakers. Maybe they’d go down to Level One, get some frozen yogurt and people watch. Literally, anything would be better than what she was doing then.

Which was nothing.

Liam’s bedroom door opened. He came out into the living room, still dressed in a tank top and sweatpants, scratching his head vigorously. He stopped when he saw her, sitting upside down. “What the hell are you doing?” he asked.

“Watching the news,” Sennett muttered.

“That ain’t healthy,” he replied, shuffling towards the kitchen.

“I don’t have anything else to do,” Sennett replied, “I don’t know what you do all day.”

“Mostly I run the vacuum and read,” he called, “I do some research on the Core, what little there is to do. I clean my guns, and I rest up. This quiet thing, it ain’t goin’ to last, Sen. You might want to enjoy being bored while you can.”

Her wrist pad started beeping. She tapped the screen, still upside down on the couch.

It was Schultz. “Montgomery,” she said, then hesitated, a look of surprise on her face. “What in the hell are you doing?”

“Being bored out of my damn mind, Commissioner,” Sennett said, not bothering to sit up. She wasn’t on duty, after all.

“I’d hoped you’d get some rest. Which is why I don’t like having to ask you a favor,” Schultz said. “Can you come up to the barracks?”

“I will be there in fifteen minutes,” Sennett replied. She was on her feet an on the way to her bedroom before she even disconnected the call.

Sennett tried not to skip as she walked into the barracks. She couldn’t believe that she’d missed the smell of burned coffee and vomit that often permeated the place, but she had. In the waiting room, people sat on hard benches, waiting for any number of things. Two uniforms watched over them, a pretty young blond man at the desk and a wide, rough looking woman standing at ease next to it. They both waived at Sennett, then went back to their charges.

Past the entryway, where civilians only went if they’d been in trouble or were about to be, sat the desks of the detectives and ranking uniforms in neat lines. Sennett spotted Patty, recently promoted to street supervisor, and waived. Patty gave her a warm smile and a wave, then went back to her work. She had gray in her hair and lines around her eyes that hadn’t been as prominent before her partner died.

Joyce, recently promoted to detective, spotted Sennett. She was a solid woman, with her hair pulled back from her face severely.

“What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be on bereavement,” she said.

“Schultz called me in for something,” Sennett said, “I actually don’t have any idea what it’s about.”

“For someone who’s being called into the bosses office unexpectedly you look surprisingly happy,” Joyce replied.

Sennett chuckled and headed for the commissioner’s office.

It was considerably more crowded than she’d expected. Five people, two men, and three women stood around the room. They all wore black fatigues with their symbol, IHP in silver surrounded by one hundred stars, on the arms of their jackets.

Sennett did a quick check for rank. Both of the men wore a single line of white on their shoulders, indicating corporeal rank. One girl, who couldn’t have been more than nineteen and was bouncing a bit, wore no ranking at all. Another, with a long braid and a studious expression, had the double lines that marked her a sergeant. The last woman, with short cropped black hair, observing Sennett from next to Schultz’s desk, wore the four lines of a commander.

“Montgomery,” Schultz said, “thank you for coming. Please come in and shut the door behind you.”

Sennett pulled the door shut with a snap. She was suddenly less happy about the situation.

“This is Commander Evelyn Greenwood, originally from Station 68,” Schultz said, indicating the frowning woman next to her. “She’s from the IHP.”

“I thought IHP was on Earth,” Sennett said, reaching out to shake Evelyn’s offered hand.

“I was on a recruitment mission when the order went out, along with my second, Narumi Holms, Station 63,” Evelyn said, nodding to the woman with the long braid. “By the time we were in range of Earth no one was responding to my messages. I didn’t want to take green recruits into an unknown situation. So I decided to keep patrolling the stations. Turns out, that was a good decision.”

The younger girl was bouncing still, looking from Schultz to Sennett, then back again to Schultz.

Sighing, Schultz said, “This is my niece, Fernie.”

“It’s so amazing to meet you,” Fernie said, rushing forward to shake her hand. “As soon as I found out that we were going to be meeting you I just about died!

“Thank you, why?” Sennett asked.

“Because you’re a hero, of course!” Fernie said.

“I’m not, really,” Sennett replied.

“Since we’re doing introductions,” Evelyn said, “This is Lee and Wesley, from Stations 7 and 6 respectively.”

She indicated the two men at the back of the room. Lee was a broad man, who seemed to take up more room than any other two people that Sennett could think of. His hair was cropped short, nearly shaved on the sides. He gave Sennett a respectful smile and nod which she returned.

Wesley was leaning against the wall, arms crossed. He’d taken his uniform jacket off, revealing his arms. Somehow, Sennett was having trouble looking away from his arms, which were well defined. His dark hair curled and fell slightly around his ears. When he noticed her looking at him, he gave her a shy smile. She smiled back, then turned to Evelyn. “Nice to meet all of you,” she said, “What can I do for you?”

“We’re looking into a situation on another station. Fernie suggested that you might be of assistance since you’ve been instrumental in taking care of some strange situations here,” Evelyn said.

“That’s not how I would describe it, but sure,” Sennett replied.

“Have you heard about Station 16 going dark?” Schultz asked.

“Yes ma’am,” Sennett said, “I didn’t hear much, but I know it was in a few news feeds.”

“We got a garbled SOS from them before they went dark,” Evelyn said. “Fernie has a friend who lives there, Etta Simpson. She sent something out to her.”

She nodded to the younger girl. Fernie reached over to Schultz’s desk and tapped it.

The wall screen lit up with the face of a woman. Thick dark hair was flowing around her face, and a smudge of mascara was running from under her eye down to beside her strangely circular nose. She seemed to be in what looked like a dorm room, with messy looking bunk beds and a small table covered with bowls and coffee cups. The shades were drawn, and she hadn’t bothered with the light.

“Hey,” Etta said, whispering. “I know you’re off learning to be a superhero and all, but we might need some help here. Normally I’d go to Station security, but they’re not really around anymore. They’ve been replaced by these guys.”

They could see her open the window shade, then she held the camera up to the glass. There were soldiers, marching in battalions. They were armed with weapons that looked more lethal than crowd control. Black, with long muzzles and thick handles, they resembled the ancient two barrel shotgun.

“Pause that, please,” Sennett said. Fernie obliged.

With her new roommate being a gun runner, Sennett’s knowledge of weapons had increased dramatically. “That’s a Winchester Honorarium, second edition,” she said, “Based on those clips, they’re firing acid rounds. I thought the IHP banned the use of those on Stations.”

“They’re not banned on Earth, though. At least not all of Earth,” Schultz said. She came to Sennett’s side, inspecting the image. “I don’t see any insignia. But, I assume you agents have already checked for that.”

“Yes,” Evelyn said, “And we knew it was a Winchester.”

“We hadn’t identified the ammo, though,” Lee said, “That was pretty good.”

“Go ahead and play the rest of the message, please,” Sennett said.

Etta brought the screen back to her. “The mall’s been shut down, but no one’s explaining why. The weird thing is, there hasn’t been an outbreak. At least not one we know about. The lab’s open, we’re all still going to work every day. And if there had been an accident, even a little one, that wouldn’t be happening. You remember what happened when Qa broke that beaker, and it was only a sulfur mixture.”

“They shut the whole building down for three days,” Fernie said, pausing the video. “Actually, that was fun. They shut everything down, but still paid us.”

“This doesn’t sound like a normal station,” Sennett said.

“Station 16 is a disease research facility. It’s a company station, the only people who live there are people who work at the lab and their families,” Narumi explained, “Fernie was working security there with Etta before she signed up for IHP.”

“She was higher rank than me,” Fernie said. She started the video again.

“Listen, the soldiers aren’t the worst of it. There’s a woman on your home station, Sennett Montgomery. I’ve been hearing about some of the crazy shit that’s been going down there. Seems like the only reason that place is still in the sky is because of her.”

“What the hell kind of rumors have been running around?” Sennett muttered.

“Get her, get anyone you can think of, and come. Please, we’ve got people here who are scared. These soldiers are saying that they’re here to protect us, but they’re not saying what from. If it were just me, I wouldn’t ask you, but-,”

In the background, there was a knock. Etta looked up, and the video ended abruptly.

“The station went dark a few days after Fernie received this,” Evelyn said.

“And no one’s gotten any other word?” Sennett asked.

“Nothing,” Fernie said.

“We need to investigate the situation,” Evelyn said. “And, as Etta mentioned you specifically, Fernie thought it would be a good idea to ask you to come with us.”

She turned to Sennett, her eyes sharp. “Do you have any idea why Etta would have asked for you? I mean, besides you be a hero and all.”

“I’m not a hero,” Sennett said, “Lots of other officers and civilians did as much as me and more during the AI attack and the Core assassinations.”

“I agree,” Evelyn said, “That’s why I’m wondering if you know why she would ask for you.”

“Not a clue,” Sennett said.

“I think it’s a good idea for you to go,” Schultz said.

“You want me to go to a station that studies diseases and has gone dark?” Sennett asked. “What did I do to you, Commissioner?”

“It’s just a recon mission,” Evelyn said, “There are only five IHP agents not on Earth right now.”

“Our plan is to get into the station on Level One, and release drones to scan the rest of the levels,” Narumi said.

“How long would all of this take?” Sennett asked.

“The trip’s a few days, but we don’t intend to be there more than one or two,” Evelyn replied.

“So, I’d be off station for what, a week?” Sennett shook her head. “I have a kid, I’m not leaving her for that long.”

“April will be fine with Mason while you’re gone,” Schultz said. “If you’re worried, I’ll send some uniforms around from time to time to check up on her.”

“Commissioner,” Sennett said, “I really don’t think now is the right time for me to be leaving the station.”

Schultz sighed. “Evelyn, can you and your people meet us at the gun range? I think Detective Montgomery and I have a few things to discuss.”

“Alright,” Evelyn said. She headed for the door, her people forming a line behind her. Wesley lingered just for a moment, giving Sennett a short wave. Surprised, she returned it.

Schultz waited until the door was closed before speaking. “I’m sorry, but this isn’t a request. This is an order.”

Sennett turned to face her. “And why the hell is it an order, Ma’am?” she asked.

“I would think that my reasons for wanting you to go on this mission are clear.”

“I know why you want me to go,” Sennett said, “Your niece is going and you don’t trust her team to bring her back alive. But what I don’t understand is why you think that would be more important to me than my daughter.”

“Because I don’t think that these people are who they say they are,” Schultz hissed. She glanced toward the glass door, making sure that the IHP agents were far enough away. “This woman says she was recruiting new people just as the rest of the IHP was called o Earth. It’s too coincidental.”

Schultz reached into her desk and pulled out a bright blue handgun with a silver handle. “Since I can’t really send you off station just because some scientist we’ve never heard of asked for you, the official reason for your trip will be to test these new pieces. It’s called an icer.” Sennett lifted the weapon. “What’s it do?”

“It traps the perp in a gel casing, freezing them in place safely,” Schultz said, “The very latest in crowd control. The only problem is that the gel is a little unstable.”

“Unstable, how?” Sennett asked.

“Unstable in the time it keeps someone frozen. Sometimes it’s thirty minutes, sometimes it’s, well, not as long.”

“So you want me to go to a dark station that’s got a bunch of illnesses in little jars, and arming me with a weapon that might be faulty?” Sennett asked.

“I know it’s bad. I don’t like any of this. I don’t know why this scientist that we’ve never heard of is asking for you. I don’t like that my niece is tied up in this. I’m sure that she’s not lying to me, but that just makes me wonder who’s involved in a conspiracy and who isn’t. Sennett, I’m asking you to go as a friend. Fernie’s father was my baby brother. I don’t want to lose her too.”

Sennett crossed her arms over her chest, thinking. “This could be Core related,” she said.

She turned to Schultz. “You’ll make sure April and Mason are okay?”

“I promise,” Schultz said. “I can’t imagine anyone on this station will let anything happen to them. You’re a hero.”

“I’m not,” Sennett said, “especially if heroes get stuck doing crap work like this.”

Virus, Episode Two

Episode three of Virus will be available here tomorrow. And you can preorder Station Central on Smashwords right now.

Wednesday, AC April 5

With the care of a man holding a newborn, Godfrey Anders slid a pan of duck into his oven. It was set at a low heat, intended to allow the duck to simmer in its own juices for hours.

He hadn’t been able to get a real duck. No one had been in contact with Earth for a while now. But he hoped the simulated one would taste almost as good.

Godfrey stood up from the oven, brushing his curly, dark hair out of his eyes. He rubbed his chin, feeling the stubble. He supposed it wouldn’t be a bad idea to shave before his wife, Ki, came home.

Before he did that, though, he wanted to get the horchee chopped up. A hard root vegetable from Toth, it was real. It did, however, take awhile to simmer before it was soft enough to eat.

Just as he sat the first one down on his cutting board, the doorbell rang. A second later, it rang again. “Oh, what the hell?” he muttered, grabbing a towel to wipe his hands.

When he opened the door he found Mason Montgomery, carrying a canvas satchel and leaning on his doorbell. “There you are,” he said, “Why weren’t you at your stall?”

“I took a day off,” Godfrey said, tossing the hand towel over his shoulder. “It’s one of the things you can do when you run your own business.”

“You could have told someone,” Mason said, throwing his hands up. “I went the whole way to the food district.”

“Why?” Godfrey asked, “I told you last week you’d paid off your debt for freezing my plants. You don’t have to work for me anymore.”

“I know. I made something for the greenhouse,” Mason said. “I guess we can just head down now.”

“Um, no,” Godfrey said, leaning against his doorway. “I’m cooking.”

Mason gave him an incredulous look. “You took a day off, from your food stall, to cook?”

“I’m making a roast duck for Ki,” Godfrey said. “Which really isn’t any of your damn business.”

“That’s fine, I didn’t ask,” Mason said, shrugging. “I just want you to come down to the greenhouse. This is cool, you’ll like it.”

Godfrey sighed, checking his wrist pad for the time. He had a few hours at least until Ki got home. And the goose, at this point, only wanted to be left alone.

“Fine,” Godfrey said, “Let’s go.”

“So where’s April?” Godfrey asked.

“She’s at home with Sennett,” Mason said. He strode into the center of the greenhouse, then knelt to start digging through his bag.

“Huh. Did she take the day off too?”

Mason pulled a device from his bag that was about the size of his palm. It had eight metal legs, like a spider, and a single blue dot on the center portion.

“Kind of,” he said, looking up towards the ceiling. “Commissioner Schultz made her take a vacation.”

“Why, did something happen?”

Mason glanced at him, then back up at the ceiling. “I don’t think so, at least not yet. She just said Schultz thought she was burned out.”

“Does she seem burned out to you?” Godfrey asked.

“I don’t know,” Mason said, “I mean, she’s stressed out over the whole Core thing. And, I guess she’s not sleeping.”

Mason tossed the spider device in the air. It hit the ceiling, sinking it’s eight metal feet into the steel.

“That thing isn’t AI, is it?” Godfrey asked.

“No, don’t be dumb,” Mason said, “We can control it through our pads.”

“What do you mean, we? Did you have my wrist pad?”

Mason gave him a derisive look. “Come on. Do you really think that I can’t access your wrist pad remotely?”

“Stop doing shit like that!” Godfrey cried.

“How about you wait and see what this does before you complain?” Mason asked. He reached into his bag again and pulled out something Godfrey hadn’t seen since he’d left Earth.

A collapsible umbrella.

“Where did you get that?” Godfrey asked.

“Had it at the lab,” Mason said, “You wouldn’t believe how often it’s come in handy.” He opened it, then handed it to Godfrey. Then he started tapping things on his wrist pad.

The device on the ceiling extended a small tube from the blue dot. It bent horizontally, then started firing small blue balls in every direction. The balls burst open, releasing what looked like clouds. After a few moments, they started raining.

“Despite my better instincts,” Godfrey said as the rain started to patter on the top of the umbrella, “I am impressed.”

He looked up at the heavy clouds, marveling at how the soft rain landed on his plants. It even smelled a little like Earth rain. For a moment he was on his dad’s farm again, smelling the air after a thunderstorm had fallen on their crops.

“Haven’t seen rain in a long time,” he said, “I didn’t realize how much I missed it.”

“Yeah, rain was pretty sweet,” Mason said. “It’s really the only thing I miss about Earth. Part of why I wanted to do this.”

“I didn’t know you lived on Earth,” Godfrey said.

“Yeah,” Mason said, “New York City, America. My birth mom lived there. I guess my dad was some guy who worked at Galitech and had a wife. When my birth mom got pregnant he wanted her as far away from him as possible. So he sent her here, sent money. Then she got sick and died.”

“I’m sorry,” Godfrey said.

“Can’t complain,” Mason replied, “I was too little to remember her. And my mom was really great to me. Sennett too.”

The device on the ceiling was making a loud humming noise, drawing their attention. It was still spinning, but it wasn’t shooting anything anymore.

“Oh, shit,” Mason said. He looked at his wrist pad and started hitting buttons frantically. “I think one got stuck.”

“Why is smoke coming from it?” Godfrey asked, looking up as dark smoke and sparks began emitting from the rain device.

Mason’s head snapped up. “That would be because it’s about to blow up,” he said. He grabbed Godfrey from the back of his shirt and pulled him out of the greenhouse into his food stall. He slammed the door shut behind them, just moments before several things hit it.

Godfrey opened the door again. Shrapnel, more than he’d really expected from such a little device, littered the ground. A small fire was burning on the ceiling.

Mason grabbed a hose from the wall and sprayed the fire, soaking himself in the process.

Godfrey took a few steps into his greenhouse. A green tomato was hanging from a vine, a metallic leg sticking out from its side. He plucked it from the vine, then turned back to Mason.

“Look, there’s no progress without some risks,” Mason said, holding up his hands.

“You will clean this up,” Godfrey said, “before I get here in the morning. Then you will come here every day and nurse my plants until they are well again. Am I understood, Mason?”

“I was trying to help,” Mason snapped.

“And you nearly killed us both instead,” Godfrey said, handing him the skewered tomato. “Funny how that works.”

Godfrey was still fuming on the ride home. Upon arriving at his house he checked on his duck. It was still pleasantly simmering. Soothed by the scent, he returned to cutting up horchee.

Once it was in the pan with some spices and a bit of harral oil from Khloe, he sat down at the kitchen table and opened the news feeds on his wrist pad. He started with the S86 feeds, then expanded his search to all of the stations.

There was no news from Earth. Only speculation, none of which made sense. One writer thought sunspots had killed all of the radio frequencies. One said that there must have been some horrible World War 4 and no one was in good enough shape to communicate.

One reporter, apparently more creative than smart, suggested that Earth had regressed into a prehistoric world where technology was a foreign concept.

The last thing anyone had heard from Earth, it seemed, was the video from the day the AI dogs arrived. Most people assumed that the message had been about the dogs. Only Godfrey and a handful of others thought it might be something different.

Only one article looked like it might have any useful information. It was about two stations, 88 and 16. Apparently, both had gone dark, stopping all communication with other stations. Station 88 Godfrey knew about. It was the station the AI dogs had come from. But 16 was news to him. He saved the article, meaning to talk to Sennett about it later.

He got up to stir the horchee, wondering if Ki would mind if he made a trip off station. No one seemed to know anything about what was going on on Earth. He was tired of waiting for news.

The horchee was nearly done. It was tender and filling the kitchen with it’s tangy, bitter scent. He glanced toward the wall. It was 6:15. Ki should have been home. Her shift was over at 5:30.

He slid the horchee onto a serving plate, then sat it on a warmer. Then he checked on the goose, pouring juices over it.

7:00 came, then 8:00. Despite Godfrey’s best efforts, the goose was getting dry. But that was the least of his worries. He messaged Ki for what felt like an excessive number of times. There was still no answer. He called the hospital, only to be told that Ki had clocked out at the end of her shift.

Finally, at a quarter after the hour, Ki came through the door. She looked tired, her feet dragging along the ground. Even so, there was a flush on her cheeks and she was smiling.

“There you are,” he said as she took off her shoes. “Where have you been?”

“What’s wrong? I told you yesterday that I was going to stop after work with Morgan and Cheryl for some drinks,” she said, laughing a little. She came into the kitchen and pecked his cheek. She certainly had been out for drinks by the smell of her.

“No, you didn’t tell me,” he said, “because if you had told me, I’d have told you that it wasn’t okay. I took today off to make a nice dinner for you.”

“I didn’t know that,” Ki said. Her good humor seemed to be fading quickly. She headed for the sofa. “You never said anything about making dinner or taking the day off.”

“That’s because it was supposed to be a surprise,” Godfrey said, “Ki, I’ve been sending you messages. Why didn’t you respond to any of them if you were out having drinks?”

“Because I turned my pad off,” Ki replied. She threw her hands up. “When did you become one of those husbands who has to know where I am every second, huh?”

“I don’t know. When did you become one of those wives who makes plans without telling her husband?” he snapped.

“This is ridiculous,” Ki said, “I work damn hard all day. And if my friends ask me to go drinking, I should be able to say yes without checking in with you.”

He stopped a moment. “But I thought you said you did check in with me,” he said. “You said I knew about this already, so that would be checking in with me.”

“Can you not do this right now?” Ki asked. “It was a long day and I was in a good mood until I walked through that door.”

“Well you haven’t been happy at home for awhile now,” Godfrey said, crossing his arms.

“Oh, don’t play the victim,” Ki snapped. “What do you expect me to do, when I come home to you wrist deep in all this conspiracy shit, spouting crazy theories about Earth. Do you expect me to be happy about that?”

“It’s better than any of the theories that anyone else is offering since no one else is offering any! My dad hasn’t responded to any communications-,”

“I know you’re worried about your dad,” Ki said, “But you’re not a detective. You’re not a council member. You’re a cook, that’s it. So let the authorities handle it.”

“Sennett said the station police are in such short number-,”

“Oh, does Sennett agree with you?” Ki asked, “I’m sorry. If I’d realized that Saint Sennett agreed with you I wouldn’t have argued.”

She turned and stormed toward the bedroom. “Sennett’s never wrong, she’s perfect.”

“Ki, I didn’t say that,” Godfrey said, following after her. She slammed the door shut on his face and locked it. A few minutes later, he heard the water in the shower turn on.

With nothing else to do, Godfrey went back to the kitchen to cut up the goose before it was completely ruined.

Ki didn’t come out of their bedroom the rest of the evening. Godfrey didn’t try to persuade her, either. He sat on the couch, surfing through different entertainment feeds and nibbling on the goose. Eventually his mind went to the article he’d read about the stations going dark. He turned off the wall screen and called Sennett.

He wasn’t at all surprised when she answered right away, not a trace of sleep on her face.

“What’s up?” she asked.

“I might have found something in the news today,” he said, “I also wanted to make sure you were alright. Mason said that your commander made you take a vacation.”

“Mason needs to stop telling people my business,” Sennett replied, looking more tired than angry. “But yeah, Schultz asked me to take some time off. Officially, it’s bereavement for Mom.”

“And unofficially?” he asked.

“She found out about the lead gun Liam gave me,” Sennett said, “Schultz thinks I need to get my head on right before I start thinking I’m above the law.”

“Cop with connections, the worst thing there is,” Godfrey said, grinning at her.

“Yeah, whatever. So, what did you find on the news?”

“A station went dark, Station 16,” he said, “No one knows why, and no one’s been sent to investigate.”

“Of course not,” Sennett said, “That’s the IHP’s job, and they’re all on Earth doing who the hell knows what. And none of the other stations are going to do it. Take it upon themselves to look after another station, maybe give aid? Hell no.”

“Too much to look after on their own stations, I expect,” Godfrey muttered, “Same old excuse.”

“Hey, we aren’t using it as an excuse,” Sennett said, “We’ve barely got enough officers to keep the peace here as it is. What are you doing up at this hour, anyway?”

“Ki and I had another fight,” he said, “She was out drinking with some of her friends after work. She thinks she told me, I think she didn’t. Anyway, I made this big dinner for her and it mostly went to waste.”

Sennett shook her head. “If you and Ki are fighting, calling me at this hour isn’t going to help.”

“I know,” he said, “It just makes me feel better, talking to you.”

“I don’t mind talking,” Sennett said, “but if you want to save your marriage, the person you should be talking to is Ki.”

“Come on,” Godfrey said, “If I could talk to Ki, do you think I’d be talking to you right now?”

Virus Chapter One

Stay tuned tomorrow for chapter two. Or you can get the whole book right now. Station Central is coming out on November 27th, but you can pre-order it right now.

Tuesday, AC April 4

(AC stands for accepted calendar, the calendar that all Stations have chosen to use)

It’s been three months since we left our heroes, cleaning up Station 86 after the AI dog attack. The station of First Contact is shaken and its people are afraid.

Most of them expected that living on a space station, too far away from Earth for direct communication to be possible, was going to be dangerous. Perhaps they hadn’t expected the dangers, like terrorists and human error, would be so familiar.

The station had suffered a great loss of life. Many of those lost had been police officers, fighting to protect civilians. The station’s police training program had stepped up its recruiting efforts and hurried its program. Officers were promoted to detectives and replaced with new, hastily trained cadets. Commissioner Schultz said to them that, as she was green herself, they would learn together.

This learning was taking place with varying degrees of success, much to the dismay of Detective Sennett Montgomery. Still without a partner, she’s been assigned to work with the cadets who haven’t mastered all of the skills they need to be on the streets. Whether they’ll survive to reach the streets has yet to be determined.

She stood behind a row of such cadets in the shooting range. Her hair, caught in thousands of braids, was pulled well away from her face in a ponytail. She wore simple jeans and a police t-shirt, with the 86 stars over her heart. The cadets were dressed the same. They aimed at a row of human-shaped targets set roughly twenty yards away. From the looks on their faces, an observer might have thought the targets were prepared to shoot back.

“Let’s try it again,” Sennett said, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Fire when ready.”

The cadets fired. Some of the targets fluttered or staggered, hit off center. Others didn’t move at all.

“You guys know you have sights on the air guns for a reason, right?” Sennett asked, “It’s not cheating if you use them, I promise.”

“Why do we have to do this?” one girl whined, “My aunt said you needed people to do paperwork and stuff like that. I mean, I know we all have to go through the training, but we don’t really need it.”

Sennett had to resist grabbing the girl by the ear and shaking her. “What’s your name?” she asked.

“Alexis,” the girl said.

“Alexis, your aunt’s a filthy liar. We need people for everything, especially officers to walk a beat. And even if you are going to ride a desk, you’ll still need to know how to shoot. You wear the uniform, your job is to serve and protect. So you need to know how to protect people with an air rifle.”

“But you saved the whole station with a disrupter,” a young man said. Sennett thought his name might be Bill. “Why aren’t we training with them?”

“Disrupters are illegal,” Sennett said.

“You have one,” a ma’sheed girl named A’vril said.

“I don’t,” Sennett replied, “I turned mine in after the AI dog attack.” She stamped on a button on the floor, setting the targets back in place. “Try again. Use your damn sights this time.”

She took a few steps away from the cadets as they took a few shots. Her wrist pad was blinking, indicating that she had messages.

The first one was from her brother, Mason. Going to Godfrey’s food cart, can’t get April from school. I’ll grab dinner.

Sennett sighed with relief. If she had to get April, she had an excuse to leave early.

The next message was from Liam, her new roommate. Hey, Sen. Simulator battery is wearing out. I’d go get another one but, you know, I can’t. Peace.

“Probably used it all up making junk food,” Sennett muttered. Reluctantly, she went back to her cadets.

A’vril was aiming for one of the targets. She took a deep breath and fired. The target fell, snapping onto the ground with a satisfying sound that Sennett hadn’t heard all day. “I did it!” A’vril cried, jumping into the air with her weapon still in her hand. When she landed her finger hit the trigger, this time unintentionally. The blast of air hit Alexis, throwing her back several feet.

“Oh, shit,” Sennett said, “A’vril! Put down your weapon and get running on the track. Can someone help Alexis up?”


Sennett looked behind her as Bill hurried to help a groaning Alexis to her feet. Commissioner Schultz was walking towards her, also dressed in training clothes. Everyone in the room except for Alexis stood at attention.

“Commissioner,” Sennett said, “How can we help you?”

“I just came down to see how our new officers were doing,” Schultz said, “When do you think they’ll be ready?”

“When Hell freezes,” Sennett snapped, casting a glair in A’vril’s direction.

“Why don’t we stop here for the day,” Schultz said, “all except for A’vril. You can keep running for a while.”

To the girl’s credit, the only credit Sennett had seen fit to give her that day, she didn’t complain. She just continued to run.

“Sennett, do you have time to talk?” Schultz asked.

“Haven’t you been here since six this morning?” Sennett asked. Even so she went to the rang, and lifted one of the weapons.

“I have,” Schultz said, “I’m getting ready to go home. But I like to shoot for a while before I head out. It relaxes me.”

“I guess you could use some sort of relaxation,” Sennett said as Schultz selected another air gun. “With the state of these recruits, I fear for the lives of everyone in the station.”

She stomped on the lever to bring the targets in place.

“Don’t worry too much,” Schultz said, “Remember, you’re working with people who need extra help. Not all of them are in such bad shape. That’s why I wanted you to work with them.”

Schultz fired once, twice, three times. The targets snapped cleanly against the floor.

“I thought it was because I was bored at a desk,” Sennett said.

“You were the one who’s been complaining about being bored,” Schultz said.

“Of course I’m complaining. You’ve got me doing paperwork and making schedules.” Sennett set up the targets and started firing. The targets snapped into place, but that didn’t surprise Sennett. They were only set up for twenty-five yards.

“What do you expect of me? You don’t have a partner. We don’t assign lone detectives to cases. I could put you back in blues and have you walking a beat again. But I thought you deserved better than that. Put the targets back, please?”

Sennett grimaced, then changed the settings to forty-five feet. “Sorry I broke the one you gave me, Commissioner,” she said, “In my defense, she was a useless fat sack of fat.”

“Is that how you talked to her?” Schultz asked, taking her shots.

“You know I didn’t,” Sennett said, as all the targets snapped back, “I was polite to a fault until I caught her taking bribes from that drug ring.”

She set up the targets again. “Then she had the audacity to accuse me of colluding with gun runners because Liam’s under house arrest at my place.”

“That’s only because he didn’t have a house to arrest him under,” Schultz said, watching Sennett knock the targets down.

Sennett replaced the target. This time, she set them at sixty feet.

“You’ve been through a hell of a lot in the last year,” Schultz said, “Your foster mother died in front of you, your little brother, your daughter, and the whole station. You didn’t take a single day off after that.”

“I didn’t really have the option,” Sennett said, “We had assassins on the station.”

“And you saved us, along with your friend Godfrey,” Schultz said, “You’re a hero.”

“I’m not a hero,” Sennett said.

Schultz shot, knocking down the first two targets. The third, farthest from her, only shuddered. “Hum, I need to get in here more,” Schultz said, “Anyway, we’d all barely caught our breath before the station was attacked by AI dogs. While we were dealing with that, the whole station found out that your daughter was half Khloe. You can’t tell me that you haven’t being harassed over that.”

Sennett fired three times, knocking all three targets down. “How about we leave my daughter out of this conversation?”

“Okay,” Schultz said, “let’s talk about something else. How long have you been wearing that caffeine cuff?”

Sennett glanced down at the copper colored band on her wrist. “You know that members of The Core are still around. April’s a target,” she said.

“Then I’ll send some uniforms to keep an eye on you, “ Schultz said.

“No,” Sennett said, “We’re short staffed as it is.”

“It’s not your job to worry about that,” Schultz said. She sat the air gun down and turned to look at Sennett. “I want you to take some personal time. A couple weeks, paid.”

Sennett sat her gun down as well. “Am I being suspended?” she asked.

“Of course not,” Schultz said. “But you need rest. You need to heal, physically and emotionally. I’d say the same to any of my women, not just station heroes.”

“I am not a hero,” Sennett said again, “and I don’t need to be taken care of.”

Schultz sighed. “Alright, I guess that wasn’t the right way to do this. Sennett, I know you’ve been carrying a lead bullet weapon,” She turned to give her a hard stare. “Look, I’ve been dancing around it, but you are messed up right now. Anyone would be, in your situation. But a messed up detective who’s starting to ignore the law endangers the whole station.”

Sennett opened her mouth to protest, but Schultz held a hand up. “It could be a suspension if you want.”

“Fine,” Sennett said. “I guess I could use some time off.”

On the transit home, Sennett tried to see the positive side of the situation. At least if she wasn’t going to work, maybe she could get some sleep during the day.

That is if she was able to sleep during the day any better than she could sleep at night.

She left the transit on level three, the level that housed the elementary and grade schools. It was crowded with children and teachers, hurrying to and from classes. Many people recognized Sennett and waved greetings.

Some gave her dark or suspicious looks. She made a point of smiling widely at them. She’d been dealing with the looks, and the comments, since the station had found out that April’s father had been Khloe. She didn’t think it was worth her time to get upset about it. The stares and whispers of the casual racist couldn’t hurt April. Terrorists could.

When she reached the lower grade playground she saw a crowd of kids. April and her friend Khal’Lee were visible right away. Khal’Lee because he, like all other Ma’sheed, had glowing skin.

April stood out for the same reason she would always stand out. She was half Earthian and half Khloe. Now that everyone knew, she no longer wore her seeming bracelet to pass as Earthian. She was taller than most of the children. Her hair was still soft and wild, brown like her eyes. But her skin was bright pink.

As Sennett walked towards the children, she noticed one of the playground monitors talking to a woman she didn’t recognize.

“Mommy!” April called, running over to her.

“Hey, Baby,” Sennett replied, catching April and giving her a big hug. “Do you know who that is?”

“No, Mommy,” April said.

“She’s visited the school a lot this week,” Khal’Lee said.

“Huh,” Sennett said.

Just then the woman saw her. She waived and walked down the fence towards them. “Detective Montgomery!” she called, “I was hoping to catch you.”

Sennett sat April down and said, “Stay here a minute, okay?”

“Okay,” April said.

Sennett walked over to the fence. “What can I do for you?” she asked.

“You’re April’s mom?” the woman asked, “She’s a beautiful little girl. Really extraordinary. But, I guess you already know that. Did you have a normal pregnancy with her? I mean, normal for an Earthian?”

“That seems like a personal and rude thing to ask someone you’ve just met,” Sennett said, crossing her arms.

“Right, right. Sorry, I get excited,” the woman said. She held out her hand. “I’m Doctor Oswald. I’m from Station 6, and I came to ask you some questions about April.”

“What exactly do you do, Dr. Oswald?” Sennett asked.

“I’m a genetic researcher,” the doctor replied, “We’re interested in learning more about the connections between the humanoid races.”

“I bet you are,” Sennett said.

“You see, April’s the first half-breed we’ve ever had. And she represents a wealth of information that we thought we’d never see. What we’d like is for you and her to come to Station 6 for a few days, maybe a week, to run some tests. Not anything big!” she held her hands up, just as Sennett was opening her mouth. “Not anything that would make your little girl uncomfortable. Just some basic blood work and observations on the two of you. And her father as well, of course.”

“You can’t have done much research,” Sennett snapped, “April’s father is dead. He died before she was born.”

“That is unfortunate, very unfortunate,” the doctor said, dropping the smile from her face. “Terrible, little girl growing up without the nurturing aspect of her father. Must be hard, being a single mom.”

“Yeah, it’s terrible, I’m a fighter, all that,” Sennett snapped.

“Anyway, of course we wouldn’t ask you to come just out of charity,” the doctor said. “My company is prepared to offer you a substantial amount of money for your time.”

“I don’t really need money,” Sennett said, “I have a good job and my house is paid for.”

“Of course, of course,” the doctor said. “I didn’t mean to suggest anything otherwise. And really, this shouldn’t be about money. It should be about the benefit to all of humankind. The knowledge we might gain April is incredible. Are you the only woman who can carry a child from another race? What is it about you and her father that worked to produce a child when so many other couples have failed. I’m sure you can see how valuable she can be.”

“I understand my daughter’s value, yes,” Sennett said. “I’m sorry, I’m not interested. I value my privacy highly.”

“I don’t think I’m making myself clear,” Dr. Oswald said. “We wouldn’t be doing anything troubling or invasive to your daughter. As I said, it’s just-,”

“Just some blood work and observation, I understand,” Sennett said. “You’ve made yourself quite clear, Doctor. Please, don’t take this as a personal rejection. It’s just that I hate the thought of my child becoming a lab experiment. Sorry you made the trip for nothing, Station 6 is a long way away.”

Before the doctor could respond Sennett turned, took April by the hand, and started towards the transit.

“Mommy, what did that lady want?” April asked, adjusting her backpack. “Did she see a crime happen?”

“No, Baby,” Sennett said, “she wanted to run tests on you.”

“Why?” April asked.

“You know why,” Sennett said, giving her hand a squeeze. “In the whole universe, you’re the first person to ever have a mom and dad who were from different planets. The doctors want to find out how you happened.”

“So that other people can have kids, even if they’re from different planets?” April asked.

“That’s right,” Sennett said.

“Like Mr. Godfrey and his wife?” April asked.

The transit train arrived, and they boarded. Sennett waited until they’d found a seat before she said, “Yeah, like Godfrey and Ki.”

“But they really want to have a baby. Can’t we do the tests, and so maybe it will help them?”

“It’s not that simple,” Sennett said.

“But why not?” April asked.

Sennett sighed. “Don’t worry about it, Honey, okay? That’s grownup stuff.”

April looked confused but didn’t push the issue further.

Bailey was waiting for them when they walked through the door, sitting politely with his tail wagging. He was an artificial intelligence terrier, with a silver body and the unnerving habit of behaving like a dog of flesh.

“Go put your shoes away and get started on your homework,” Sennett said, “I’ve got to get this installed and start dinner.”

“Okay, Mommy,” April said, but it was an empty promise. She was kneeling on the floor, stroking the dog. He opened his mouth and dropped a green rubber ball on the carpet for her.

“Bailey, no,” Sennett said, “not until her homework’s done.”

The dog scooped the ball back up right away. April groaned, but headed for her room.

Liam was sitting at the kitchen table, flipping through screens of text. He glanced up when Sennett entered the room.

The former gun runner was a tall, thin man with muscles that Sennett hadn’t been able to see under his oversized coat when he’d first arrived at her doorstep. His hair was nearly shaved. He closed his screens when he saw her. “What was that?” she asked.

“Letter from some friends,” Liam replied, “Did you get my message?”

“I got it,” she said, opening the side of the simulator to shove the cell in. “What did you do today?”

“Read some, ran the vacuum,” he said, giving a theatrical sigh.

“Yes, I am aware that you’re bored,” Sennett said, sitting down at the table. “And for the next few weeks, we’ll be bored here together. I have to take a vacation.”

“A vacation? That don’t sound like you,” Liam said.

“It’s not,” Sennett said, “Commissioner Schultz thinks I need some time away.”

“That ain’t a bad idea,” Liam replied, “Some time away from the station, in general, might be good for both of you.”

“I can’t leave, the school year hasn’t ended yet,” she said. “I don’t want this situation to effect April too much.”

“You don’t want the fact that a terrorist group is going to be hunting April as soon as they know she exists to affect her?” Liam asked, raising an eyebrow.

Sennett was walking, arm in arm with Lo. He was smiling at her, his pink crystal-like hair catching the lights above them. She noticed that he had a little gravy on his cheek. She laughed, licking her thumb to wash it off with.

“Stop that,” he laughed, “I can get it.”

“Sorry,” Sennett laughed, “It’s what my mom used to do if there was something on my face.”

He pulled a napkin from his pocket and wiped his face. “You are going to be a great mom,” he said.

Sennett heard the click, and she realized what was happening. It wasn’t real, it wasn’t ever real.

Even so, she saw Lo’s smile fade into a look of surprise. He fell against her, bringing them both to the ground.

Hot blood covered her as she tried to see the wound. It wasn’t real, it couldn’t be real.

Sennett sat up in bed. The feel of hot blood on her skin was replaced by the sweat that had soaked through her nightclothes. Tears were streaming down her face.

She got out of bed, stripping her clothes off and throwing them in the bin in disgust. It had been over five years. Was she going to dream about the night Lo died for the rest of her life? She pulled on a fresh pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt, then stumbled out into the living room.

Liam was asleep on the couch. The lights were off, but the wall screen was on. Mason, Sennett’s little brother, was sitting in one of two armchairs. With pale skin, a soft build and dark hair, it was clear to anyone that they weren’t siblings by birth.

“Thought Liam was staying up tonight,” Sennett said, taking the other armchair.

“He was, but I couldn’t sleep,” Mason replied, “Kept hearing things outside. It’s just some stray cat, but, well, you know.”

“Yeah, I know,” Sennett said. “Someone came to April’s school today. A doctor. She offered me a lot of money to let her company run tests on April.”

“What kind of tests?” Mason asked.

“Blood work and observation on Station 6. She said it’s to help couples like Godfrey and Ki have kids.”

“But you said no?” Mason asked.

“Of course I did,” Sennett said, “Those kinds of tests get shared, which means April’s name would get shared. So far only Station 86 knows about April. It’s safer that way.”

She tapped her earpiece so that she could hear the show without waking Liam. They’d both still be there when the exterior lights came on for the day.

You Can’t Trust The AI, Chapter Three

If you want to continue the story, you can get You Can’t Trust The AI right here. And while you’re at it, you can pre-order Station Central.

“Here,” Godfrey said, putting a plate of fries and a sandwich in front of April. “I haven’t been able to get hold of your mom yet.”

“What are you making so much food for?” April asked, surveying the counter. There was a plate of cookies sitting next to a stack of sandwiches and a humongous basket of fries

“It helps calm me,” Godfrey said.

“I don’t think cooking when your hands are shaking like that is a good idea,” she said.

Godfrey glanced down at his hands. They were shaking, even wrapped around a spatula. “Well, what you gonna do?” he asked, shrugging.

Mason came back into the stall from the greenhouse behind it. “I swept all the isles and turned on the watering system. That thing needs a serious upgrade, by the way.”

“Do you know why Sennett wouldn’t be answering a call?” Godfrey asked.

“Because she’s at work,” Mason said, reaching for a hand towel. “She’s probably doing something important.”

“What time is her shift over?” Godfrey asked.

“Why don’t I just send her a message, Grandpa?” Mason said. He shook his head, then tapped open his virtual visor. He started making typing motions with his hands. “What’s this big important thing you’ve got to tell her?”

Godfrey thought a minute. What was he supposed to say? He’d seen his father for only a few minutes, but it made him think the whole Earth was in danger? He thought someone might be on their way to endanger the station? He was scared, and he felt safer when Sennett was there? None of those seemed like the best things to tell her. “Just ask her if she saw that footage. Ask her if she has any idea what it might mean,” he said.

“Whatever,” Mason said.

April was looking toward the transit station. “Uncle Mason, I think someone’s hurt,” she said.

“Why?” Mason asked, not looking at her.

“Because they’re screaming,” she said.

That got both men’s attention. Mason’s visor turned off and Godfrey leaned over the counter to look in the direction that she was now pointing. “Can’t you hear them?” she asked.

Godfrey listened. After a few moments, he did hear screaming. But it didn’t sound like just one person as April had said. It sounded like a crowd.

“Come behind the counter,” he said, reaching for April. He lifted her off of her stool and set her down next to him. People were running past the stall. Some were calling for the police, some were just doing their best to get away, from what he couldn’t see yet.

One woman stopped long enough to say, “Get that little girl out of here, we’re under attack!” before running past.

“Under attack by what?” Mason asked.

Godfrey pushed a button under the counter. The steel shutter on the front of his stall came down, shutting out the street. “Stay here,” he said, “I’m going to find out what’s going on. Keep trying to reach Sennett. Try Ki, too.”

“But I want to see what’s going on,” April said.

“Hush,” Mason said, putting a hand on her shoulder. Godfrey slipped out of the side door.

The streets were flooded with screaming people, running from what looked like robotic dogs. One jumped on an Earth woman and started cutting her stomach open with a circular saw that extended from its middle. Godfrey ran for her, but just as he reached her a hand pulled him back. He turned to see Amy shaking her head. “Not her, she’s lost,” she cried, pointing across the aisle. “Get him!”

There was a Ma’sheed boy there, crouched behind another food stall, crying. Godfrey nodded and ran to get him. A dog lunged for him, only to be knocked back by a blast from Amy’s air gun. It was only distracted for a moment, though.

Godfrey ran to the boy. “Come with me,” he said, reaching for him. The child took his hand, and Godfrey turned back to where Amy was standing. She had an air gun in one hand and an electric pistol in the other. Godfrey scooped the child up into his arms and ran.

One of the dogs jumped, knocking into him. Godfrey fell, just barely managing not to land on the boy. The dog extended its saw, only to be knocked away by a Toth man who sold shaved ice a few stalls away from Godfrey’s. “Get up, Man!” he cried, holding a crowbar aloft in case another dog attacked.

Godfrey and the Ma’sheed boy scrambled to their feet. Together, the three of them ran for Godfrey’s stall. They reached the door and flung themselves inside just before a pack of dogs reached them.

Godfrey sat down on the ground hard. “Thank you,” he said to the Toth man.

“Of course,” the man said, “You are Councilman Anders, yes?”

“Just Godfrey,” he replied.

“Very well. My name is Othollo. I wish we were meeting under better circumstances,” the man said.

“Khal’Lee!” April cried, running to the boy. “Why weren’t you in school today?”

“What the hell is going on out there?” Mason cried before the boy could respond.

“Before I tell you, I’m going to have to ask that you suspend your disbelief,” Godfrey replied, “We seem to be under attack by robot dogs.”

“You’re shitting me,” Mason said.

“Did you get a hold of Sennett or Ki?” Godfrey asked.

“Not yet,” Mason said.

“Well, given the current circumstances, I’m sure she’s busy,” Godfrey said, “Okay, situation. We’re trapped in here by robot monsters, unarmed. Amy’s out there by herself trying to save everyone with two guns. Thoughts?”

“There are some tools we can use in the greenhouse,” Mason said.

“Good,” Godfrey said. He started towards the door to the greenhouse in the back of the stall. “ “Are you going out there again?” April asked.

“Honey, Amy’s all alone,” Godfrey said.

“I’ll come too,” Othollo said.

“I guess I’ll keep track of the kids, then,” Mason said.

Godfrey considered the tools for a moment, then chose a hand ax. After a moment of thought, he grabbed a metal trash can lid as well. A shield never hurt anybody, he reasoned.

He and Othollo headed out of the door. The dogs were everywhere. Godfrey saw people perched on top of stalls, huddled together. Some were still on the streets, running or trying to make stands with makeshift weapons.

Amy was easy to spot. She stood in front of a handful of people, firing with both of her weapons at the dogs that were circling them.

Godfrey had no combat training whatsoever. What he did have was the upper arm strength of someone who was raised on a farm. He swung his ax into the head of the nearest dog. It dented but didn’t split. “Well, that’s not great,” he said.

Othollo was swinging at the dogs with similar results. “They are horribly strong, aren’t they?” he said.

“I’m not great with all this technology,” Godfrey said, bringing his ax down into the hinge at the neck of the dented dog. This, at least, had the desired effect as the head of the dog broke away and slid along the floor.

“Get back in your stall,” Amy said, “You’re a civilian.”

“Because you’ve got this all under control, Officer?” Godfrey asked.

Amy sighed. “I liked it better when men stayed at home and kept house. Have you got the room in your place?”

“Yeah, plenty of room,” he said, swinging at a dog.

“Good,” Amy said. She waved to the handful of people behind her. “Let’s get going.”

Godfrey and Othollo led the way back toward his stall, doing their best to keep the dogs at bay. “Get back from the door,” Godfrey yelled, running the last few feet. He pulled the door open. A Khloe boy ran through, followed by a group of school age girls.

Then he heard Amy screaming. He turned to see her on the ground, a dog above her with its saw extended, cutting into her belly.

Godfrey ran for her, swinging at the dog with all of his strength. The ax head stuck in the dog’s body, he had to brace himself to pull it out. A teenage boy with a head full of curly blond hair lifted Amy off of the ground. “Where are we going?” he asked.

“This way,” Godfrey said, looking around for dogs.

They managed to get her through the door and into the greenhouse, where the others had collected. A dog banged into the door just as Godfrey got it closed.

Mason saw Amy and grabbed a couple of the blankets that Godfrey used to protect the plants when it was cold. “Set her down here,” he said.

Godfrey and the boy brought her to the spot and laid her down. “I’m an intern at the hospital,” the boy said, pulling a white box from his belt. Godfrey recognized it as an emergency care kit. “Hey, I’m Eric,” the boy said, kneeling next to her, “Don’t worry, I’m going to get you cleaned up, okay? Can you tell me your name?”

“Amy Wilson,” she said, wincing. “I think I’m going to need a little more than cleaned up.”

“Nah, you’ll be fine,” Eric said, “This is nothing.” The smile he gave her said otherwise. He pulled open her shirt and pressed a cloth from his kit against the wound.

Godfrey’s wrist pad, a gift forced upon him by Sennett, lit up. “Godfrey?” Ki said. Her quartz like pink hair was shining with a line of sweat along her brow. Her red skin was flushed, her eyeliner smudged. He’d never seen her look so out of her element.

“Your timing couldn’t be better,” Godfrey said, “You wouldn’t believe what’s going on here.”

“Please tell me it’s a bunch of homicidal robotic dogs,” Ki said, “Because that’s what’s happening here and I don’t think we can handle anything else right now.”

“Well, good new then,” Godfrey said, “Officer Wilson is hurt, can you look at her through this thing?”

“Yeah, take me over there,” Ki said.

Godfrey held up his wrist so that she could see Amy and Eric. “I’m going to need you to lift that cloth up, Intern,” she said.

“Yes, Doctor,” Eric said, carefully lifting it.

“She’s probably got internal bleeding,” Ki said, “Have you done your training on INR’s?”

“Yes, but I haven’t really used them before,” Eric said.

“What are INR’s?” April whispered.

“Internal nanite repairs,” Mason said.

A banging sound on the wall caught Godfrey’s attention. “I’m giving you to Eric,” he said to Ki, then took his wrist pad off and set it next to the boy.

“What are we going to do if they come through the walls?” Mason asked.

“Boy I wish I had an answer to that question,” Godfrey said.

The kids were huddled together, looking around them as the robot dogs crashed into the greenhouse from every side. “What’s going on?” one of the girls asked.

“That’s another good question,” Godfrey said.

“Oh, shit,” Eric whispered. Amy was choking, blood was coming from her mouth.

“Uncle Mason, help her!” April cried.

“I can’t,” Mason said, “I’m not a doctor.”

Amy was reaching for Eric. “I, I need-,” she said. Then she laid back onto the blanket. She wasn’t choking anymore. She wasn’t breathing anymore either.

“My God, she’s dead,” one of the girls whispered.

Godfrey set a hand on her neck, just to prove to himself that there was no pulse. April and Khal’lee started crying, as the banging continued from outside.

“Godfrey,” Ki said sharply from his wrist pad. He picked up his wrist pad. “We just lost her,” he said.

“I know, and I’m sorry,” she said, “I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but we don’t have the time to mourn her right now. We need to focus on getting the rest of you out of there. We’ve got the hospital on lock down.”

“Why don’t we stay here,” Godfrey said, “The dogs can’t get us here.”

“What if someone else gets injured?” Ki asked, “What if the dogs break through your greenhouse? Godfrey, are you really comfortable betting all of those people’s lives on a greenhouse you put together yourself?”

“Okay, come get us, then,” Godfrey said.

“Yeah, I can’t actually do that,” Ki said, “All of our personal transporters have been disabled.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Because we’re on lock down and the hospital officials don’t want all of us leaving to get our families.”

“That complicates things,” Godfrey said, “How am I supposed to get these people up there?”

“They’ll listen to you,” Ki said, giving him a smile. “You’re convincing like that. Just get to me safe.”

“I will,” he said, though he didn’t feel nearly as confident as he was trying to sound. He strapped his wrist pad back on and turned to face the others.

“The hospital has been established as a safe house. I intend to head that way,” he said.

“How?” Mason asked, “I can’t imagine the transit’s still running.”

“We’ll have to try,” Godfrey said. As he spoke, he heard the sound of dogs hammering on the outside of the greenhouse. “Look, I don’t know how long this place will hold. If we’re at the hospital, the authorities know where we are and they can help us.”

“But what if Mommy comes here looking for us?” April asked.

“Have we heard from her?” Godfrey asked.

“No, nothing,” Mason said.

“Most likely she’s dealing with this situation. Mason, it’s up to you, though. I’m not April’s guardian. Look, I’m not going to insist that any of you come with me. If you want to stay in the greenhouse, you’re more than welcome. Help yourself to as much food as you want. If any of you want to come with me, I only promise that I’ll do anything I can to get you there safely.”

Another dog hit the wall, denting it.

“I think I’ll trust you on this one,” Mason said, giving the dent a wary look.

“I am happy to come with you as well,” Othollo said.

Godfrey knelt in front of Khal’Lee. “Honey, where’s your mom and dad?” he asked.

“My dad’s at work,” Khal’Lee said.

“Who were you at the market with?” Othollo asked.

“And why weren’t you at school?” April asked.

“Um,” Khal’Lee said, “I kind of skipped.”

“We don’t have time for that,” Godfrey said, “The only thing that matters right now is keeping you kids safe until we get you back with your parents. Can you trust me to do that?”

The boy looked up at him, his brilliant glowing eyes wide. “Yes, sir,” he said.

“Good boy,” Godfrey said, “Who else is coming?”

Eric and the other teenagers looked at each other. “I’ll come,” he said, and the others nodded in agreement.

“Okay,” Godfrey said, “If we’re going to be risking our lives together, girls, we should at least know everyone’s names. I’m Godfrey, this is Mason and April.” He pointed toward each person as he said their name. “You seem to already know Eric, but that’s Khal’Lee and Othollo.”

The three Earthian girl’s looked at each other. “I’m Calli,” one pale girl, with blond hair and a large pair of ornamental glasses said.

“Becca,” said the second, who had a head full of braids and a Foundation Party pin on the front of her shirt.

“Connie,” said the last one. She was easily the tallest, in fact, taller than anyone in the room.

Finally, the Khloe boy spoke. “My name’s Tu,” he said.

“Godfrey,” Mason said, “You should take Officer Wilson’s weapons.”

“Why me?” Godfrey asked.

“Because you have the most experience with guns,” Mason replied.

Godfrey sighed. He picked up Amy’s weapon and tucked it into his belt. “Stay close everyone.”

Othollo cracked the door open. There were only two dogs in sight. Godfrey shot one, but it shook off the blast and ran for them. Mason brought a crowbar down on its head, but it kept coming. Othollo swung his pipe.

The dog lunged at Mason. He hit it hard with his crowbar, launching it a few feet. “Damn they’re heavy,” he cried, holding his arm.

“I have him!” Othollo cried, jumping between Mason and the dog.

Again, the dog ran around Othollo to get to Mason.

Godfrey, fighting his own dog, couldn’t stop it. Mason jammed his crowbar into the dog’s open mouth, then wrenched it upward.

The dog broke open, spilling organs out onto the ground.

“It wouldn’t come near me,” Othollo said. He walked over to the dog that Godfrey was fighting and gave it a solid kick in its side. It whimpered, shying away from him before launching itself at Godfrey again.

He shot again, finally disabling it. Mason crouched down, inspecting the organ’s that had fallen from the first dog. “These are all Earthling,” he said, “And they’re all in good condition. I think they’re harvesting them.”

“How do you know they’re Earthling?” Eric asked.

“I’m a biologist,” Mason said, “I’d be a piss poor student if I couldn’t tell Earth organs from others.”

“What’s a tech freak like you studying biology for?” Godfrey asked.

“Because I want to make biotech,” Mason said, “Hey, can you judge my life later if I still have it?”

“Does that mean the dogs won’t attack me?” Othollo asked.

“Maybe,” Mason said, “Or maybe it’s just this one dog that’s programmed to collect human organs and other dogs are programmed to collect Toth organs.”

“I hadn’t thought of it in that way,” Othollo said.

“How about we get to the transit station without attracting too many more of these things?” Godfrey asked. Even as he spoke, they could hear more dogs coming around the corner of the greenhouse. He knelt to grab Khal’Lee and pull him onto his back. Mason did the same with April, and they ran.

When the transit was in site, Godfrey risked a look back. There were a handful of dogs just behind them, but he could see more in the distance, gaining fast.

Suddenly April screamed. Godfrey turned to see Mason sprawled on the ground, he must have tripped. A dog jumped towards her and caught hold of her jacket.

Then it stopped. It let go of her and started sniffing her all over. Then it sat down and yipped at her.

Mason scrambled to his feet. He scooped her up and kept running.

A transit train was waiting at the station, having just arrived. Godfrey jumped for it, the others just a moment behind him. When they were all in he turned and started firing, keeping the dogs at bay until the doors closed and the transit left the station.

Why Utopia Works

As a lover of comic books, I’m surprised it took so long for Utopia to end up on my radar. Now that it’s there, it’s easily one of the coolest shows I’ve watched all year. And given how much tv I’ve been watching recently, that’s a high bar. 

Utopia was a dark, horrifying, fun ride that honestly hasn’t had a bad episode yet. I’m waiting for the next season. While we wait, let’s break down the first season of Utopia and talk about why it works.

Utopia is the story of a group of comic fans obsessed with a comic called Dystopia. They’ve all been waiting for a follow-up series, called Utopia.

But they’re not just waiting for the story. They’re waiting to see what horrific tragedy Utopia might predict. Because this group of online buddies doesn’t just love Dystopia for the story. They’ve spent years looking deep into the storyline and artwork for clues as to what’s going on in the real world.

This is something I think a lot of us think we want to happen. I’ve had fantasies of opening wardrobes to find new worlds since I was a child. Like everyone else, I find nothing but mothballs and old coats. 

But what if I did find something? What if it turned out that your favorite fantasy world was real? I think most of us would find out pretty damn fast that we don’t really want that and we’d like to go back to our regular lives right now, talking animals or not. 

That being said, it’s really fun to think about. And that’s where a lot of the enjoyment of this show comes from. It’s a very realistic view of what might happen if our conspiracy theories turned out to be true. 

Another choice the creators made that worked well for them is to make the main character, Jessica Hyde, totally selfish and crazy. She is willing to do literally anything to survive, including straight up killing innocent people.

This was a brave choice. And it could have gone bad. I mean, we all love an anti-hero, but your MC has to be at least a little bit likable. That’s hard when your MC starts the series by shooting an innocent woman in the head.

And yet, in the way the story progresses, you don’t hate her. You understand where she’s coming from. Maybe you still don’t agree with everything she does. But you at least sort of understand why she did it.

Finally, Utopia managed to find the most perfect item that makes things go viral. It has an incredibly catchy catchphrase.

Stay alive, Jessica Hyde. 

It’s a great line that gives a lot of information. Who’s our main character? Jessica Hyde. There’s some reason why she might not stay alive, but people sure want her to. It also sums up the biggest storyline for the first season. What does Jessica Hyde want to do? Stay alive. What does the bad guy want to do? Kill her. It’s a simple conflict that has a complex resolution. The best kind.

Altogether, this show was designed to draw you in, make you scream out loud, and wait with bated breath to see what happens next. Things we could all do well to remember in our own writing.

Stay alive, Jessica Hyde. 

After a year of nightmares, Sennett and her family need a vacation. Together with Godfrey, they’ve faced assassins, killer AI dogs, mind-altering viruses and politicians. So they’re setting off for Station Central, the ultimate vacation destination with water parks, roller coasters, fine dining and the best hotels in the stations.

But they’re barely off the ship when Godfrey finds himself embroiled in Station politics that he can’t seem to avoid. Sennett discovers not one, but two people stalking her on the station. One of whom might have the secret to her birth family.

Through it all, Sennett and Godfrey are haunted by a darker set of questions. Where are the Hollow Suits, and what are they planning?

Preorder Station Central now on Smashwords.

You Can’t Trust The AI, Chapter Two

Stay tuned for chapter three tomorrow. Or, you can get the whole book right now. And don’t forget to pre-order Station Central, available now on Smashwords.

Sennett Montgomery sat in the Commissioner’s office, drinking klav and carefully stretching the kinks out of her neck. The transmission beads on the ends of her hair, set in thousands of braids, clicked together gently as she moved. They were the only sound in the room.

Commissioner Bernice Schultz was late for their appointment, and Sennett was grateful for it. Between her increased responsibilities at work and the ordeal of moving into her mother’s house, it was the first peace and quiet she’d gotten in two weeks. Besides, Schultz had inherited a hell of a mess. Sennett wouldn’t have touched the commissioner job for anything.

Of course, her break couldn’t last forever. The office door opened, and Commissioner Schultz came in.

Schultz had been a detective for years, but Sennett didn’t think that she’d ever heard her say more than two words. When she’d first been promoted, Sennett had worried that this quiet, small woman with pale skin and short cropped hair wouldn’t be up to the current clusterfuck that was the station. What she hadn’t reckoned with was Schultz’s sheer energy level. She came into the room looking as though this was the first thing she’d done all day.

“Montgomery,” she said, as Sennett got to her feet, “Good to see you. Sorry, it took me so long to get you in here.”

“It’s fine,” Sennett said, “I guess you haven’t assigned me a partner yet?”

“No,” Schultz said. She sat at her desk and gestured for Sennett to sit as well. “It’s getting done, don’t worry. But there isn’t a senior detective without a partner. We’ll figure something out. In the meantime, I’m sure we can find something for you to do.”

“I’m fine with that,” Sennett said, “I’m still trying to convince myself that this is real. I’ve wanted to be a detective since I was a kid.”

“Well,” Schultz said, “I think we all know that it should have happened sooner than it did. Stone was-,”

Almost without thinking about it, Sennett touched the black band across her detective badge.

“Stone was a murderer and a traitor,” she said, “It’s hard to be angry that she didn’t promote me because of my Khloe husband.”

“Donovan was a good officer,” Schultz said, “We’ll be hard-pressed to replace him. And we owe it to him to make sure that not a single Core member remains on this station.”

“Voit and Stone lived here for years before we found out they were Core,” Sennett said.

“Ah, but we weren’t looking for them,” Schultz said, “We’re smarter now.”

“I hope so,” Sennett said.

“How’s your little girl?” Schultz asked.

“She’s doing okay. She’s with my brother Mason on campus right now. Mason owes some work to Godfrey Anders, so he’s been finding excuses to stay on campus to avoid him.”

Schultz laughed. Just then, her desk screen went blank. Sennett’s wrist pad, which had been on the screen saver, did the same. “What’s this?” she muttered.

Both screens came back on, showing the IHP logo for a moment. Then it was replaced by an image of an Earthian man. Sennett was sure that she’d never seen him before, but there was something familiar about him.

“This is a message, for every member of-,”

“What the hell is this?” Schultz said, trying to regain control of her screen. “It’s got to be coming from a secure IHP facility, but where?”

“We don’t hear from them in months, then they hijack our whole comm system?” Sennett asked. They both turned to their screens as the rest of the message played.

“Don’t let any unknown-”.

“Unknown what?” Schultz whispered.

“An undeclared ship arrived just a little while ago,” Sennett said.

“My son, Godfrey,” the man said.

“That’s why he looks so familiar,” Sennett whispered, “Godfrey looks just like him.”

“What was that you said about an undeclared ship?” Schultz asked.

“It’s the same kind of thing we get every day,” Sennett said, “Still, seems weird.”

“Can you go down to Level One and check it out?” Schultz asked.

“Sure, no problem,” Sennett said with a nod.

“Take the bullet shuttle to save time,” Schultz said. Sennett nodded. She still thought this was an overreaction, but she wasn’t going to argue about a trip on the bullet shuttle.

Level One was always a fantastic mess, no matter the time of day. Shuttles came in from everywhere in every time zone. They carried tourists, visiting dignitaries from other stations and planets as well as relatives coming for visits. Sennett found no exception to this rule when she arrived at Level One. It was a sea of people from every humanoid planet. She saw Khloe people, like Godfrey’s wife and her former husband, with pink or red skin and crystal like hair. She saw Toth people, almost indistinguishable from Earthians until one saw their black eyes and nail beds. The most visible people were the Ma’sheed, who came from a planet with a dark sun that gave off warmth but no light. The Ma’sheed and every other living thing on their planet were bioluminescent.

Officers were calling people away from the docking station, probably on orders from Schultz. Sennett made her way towards them to help and was surprised to see Joy Wheatly and Howard Stoat standing near the barrier that the police were trying in vain to enforce.

“Marshals,” Sennett said, “Maybe you should head back up to Level Two.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell them,” said a haggard looking man standing beside them. He was a heavy man, who seemed to have been strained by the day’s events already. His face was red, his tie was off center.

“Sennett,” Howard said with a grin. “Have you met Leon? He’s our new head of security.”

“And as such, I suggested strongly that Level One might not be a safe environment if an unknown ship is docking,” Leon said.

“Son, you saw that message the same as the rest of us,” Joy said, her eyebrows arched. “If whatever comes off of that ship is dangerous, I don’t want to hear about it second hand.”

“I just hope we’re not explaining it second hand to your successor,” Leon said.

“There’s a ship from Toth trying to come in, let’s have them circle the block,” Howard said into his wrist cuff.

“Which one is the unannounced ship?” Sennett asked. Leon pointed to one a few docking stations away.

The ship was a standard civilian transporter, common for station to station travel. As Sennett watched, the passenger door opened.

A small robotic dog walked out of the ship. It looked like an Earth terrier, with floppy ears, a long snout, and a short tail. Its body was silver and chrome. Sennett expected it to walk in a jerky fashion, but its movements were smooth, as though it was a living animal.

“Hell,” Howard laughed, “we were all worried about a little dog.”

Sennett tapped the two metal dots on her temple to pull up her virtual visor. Information about the dog appeared in front of her eyes. “It’s got artificial intelligence,” she said, “Looks like it’s a model built on Station 88.”

“We’ll need to quarantine it, then,” Joy said, “You know that AI isn’t allowed on this station.”

“Oh, that’s such an outdated law,” Howard said.

“Sir, don’t you remember Station 90?” Leon asked.

“That was a simple overreaction to a flu outbreak,” Howard said.

“A simple overreaction that caused twenty-seven deaths,” Joy replied, “Then there was that incident in Russia on Earth.”

“What happened in Russia?” Sennett asked.

“A hospital was using AI nurses to look after newborns. They were killing babies that they didn’t feel were healthy enough,” Joy said.

“There was an investigation into that one,” Howard said, “I still think their government was behind it.”

A row of dogs was coming from the ship. These ones looked more like Dobermans, with larger bodies and sharper looking faces.

“What the hell is going on?” Sennett asked.

The dogs walked to the barrier. They looked around at the guards and citizens. Then, as one, they started doing something that resembled sniffing.

“Let’s clear the civilians out of here,” Joy said. “Everyone, get back, please!”

She snapped her fingers, trying to gain the attention of the people around her. But even those who could hear her didn’t seem inclined to listen. Sennett saw some people lean down to touch the dogs, who didn’t seem to respond to the caresses.

Sennett took Howard by the arm when he reached for one of them. “I think this is about to be a bad situation, sir,” she said.

“Oh, Sennett, you’ve been spending too much time around Foundation members,” Howard said, “This is strange, but I don’t think there’s any reason to panic. They’re just little dogs.”

Then a man started screaming.

One of the dogs jumped, pulling a man to the ground. It was holding him down with its paws, a surgical saw extending from its belly. There were screams from all around the Level as other dogs attacked.

“Get these people out of here!” Sennett cried, pulling Howard back. She drew her weapon, a simple air gun, and started firing. It did nothing.

“Well, that’s not good,” Sennett muttered.

Leon pulled a steel battalion from his belt, extending it with a flick of his wrist. He pulled Joy behind him and swung at the dog that jumped at him. The dog bounced back, shook itself, and lunged again.

Deciding that she didn’t have another option, Sennett pulled a second weapon, a disrupter, from her back pocket. She started firing at the closest dogs, shutting down their power one by one.

“Do all of the officers have those?” Howard asked.

“No, they’re actually illegal,” Sennett said, “Too dangerous for street use.”

Joy had pulled an electric pistol from her belt. “Seal the transit! Don’t let these things off of this level,” she called, firing at the dogs.

Sennett and Joy fired again and again. But the AI dogs just kept coming, in a steady line from the ship. And the transit was still running.

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