Author Archives: Greg Dragon

About Greg Dragon

I am an Author of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Crime novels. Human stories of life, love and relationships in settings both spectacular and mundane. I’m also a seasoned blogger, hardcore reader, and entrepreneur. Visit http://gregdragon.com for a list of my books.

Days Until Home – Chapter 20

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Days Until Home: 18

When a fourth slug did not come through, Viktor chanced a look down the hall. He could make out the figure of Telly attempting to reload, and he threw all caution to the wind. Bracing his feet against the edges of the hatch, he used his good arm to heave the wrench. It moved with a velocity that he did not expect, and slammed into his attacker with tremendous effect.

Pausing only momentarily to marvel at what he had done, he pushed off towards the unconscious man and snatched the gun out of the air. Time, we just need time, he kept thinking to himself, as he struggled to bring Telly back towards the cargo bay.

“Leave him out there, Vicky, he’ll only be trouble,” said a wincing Seibert from the open hatch.

“We need him as a hostage, to make Hayes back off,” Viktor said.

“Viktor, don’t be crazy, he was just trying to kill us,” Jessica said, now looking out past Seibert.

“Okay, you might be right,” Viktor said reluctantly, then stopped for a minute to catch his breath.

“I’m getting a call,” Jessica said suddenly, “it’s from Vega on the bridge, what do you think I should do?”

“Hold on,” Viktor said, and pulled himself back inside. He secured the lock before turning to face them, the loaded gun now by his side. “Go ahead and answer it. I wonder what sorts of threats they have for us now.”

“Go ahead, Marisol,” Jessica said, and the other three leaned in close to listen.

“Things have gotten out of hand and the captain is livid. Is there any way that I can convince you all to turn yourselves in?” Marisol whispered.

“We did not do this thing!” Viktor yelled into the comm.

“Even if you didn’t, Viktor,” Marisol said, “we will need to continue the discussion before, but without you men trying to kill one another. The Captain isn’t aware that I’m making this call. He’s convinced that you all had something to do with the explosion, but I don’t want anybody innocent to get hurt. Who’ve you got there, Jess, can you at least tell me that?”

“Why should we trust you, Marisol? You did nothing to stop that lunatic from trying to murder all of us. Seibert is wounded, do you know that? We were unarmed and you all decided to execute us on the spot!”

“That wasn’t me, Jessica, it was Telly and Adelaide. Gauge, Femke and I want justice but we want it done right. We can talk to our captain, make him see things the way we do, but we can’t do it if he feels that you are out there hiding and possibly organizing a mutiny of some sort.”

Jessica studied the face of Seibert and Viktor, they both seemed tired and willing to comply. “What should I say to her? She says she wants to help.”

“Marisol has always been there for us, she’s always stood up to Hayes’ slag,” Seibert said. “Even if they think we did it, she would not let them get away with murder. She’s the only one on the bridge that I trust, but I’m not sure if they will hear anything that she says.”

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Days Until Home – Chapter 17

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Days Until Home: 26

A new bridge crew, thrown together out of mere necessity, and lacking the glue that he was used to. Winchester Hayes glanced over at Femke, she had been uncharacteristically silent since they took back the ship and hadn’t even bothered to look at him.

Gauge on the other hand was a different man. Smiling, offering up jokes—JOKES—Gauge Schneider, the navigator, was telling jokes. Winchester remembered a time when he, Angelo, and Booker had a wager going that Gauge was secretly an android that the Kerwood brass had snuck aboard to spy on their activities. None of them could prove it, but needless to say, the last thing Winchester Hayes expected out of his brilliant navigator was a joke.

He thought about the time on the Matsue when he had called his room and Marisol was in there with him. That would explain it, he thought, but the motivations of Marisol Vega were only understood by Marisol Vega. They were family now, they had bled together, and they had fought side by side to win back the Kerwood.

“Listen up,” he said, standing and grasping the back of the splintered seat. “I know that this is crazy, not what any of you signed up for, but we did the thing and we’re getting home.” He looked over at Femke, trying to read her eyes, but he couldn’t decipher what was reflected there.

“Tempers are hot,” he stopped and laughed, “ooh boy,” he began to pat the seat violently, “when I find out who did this—” he had to stop and collect himself. “The Matsue had no slagging right to offer up one-sided bargains when we were crippled and reeling for this … this … violation.” He shook his head and bit his bottom lip, struggling to keep things professional and somewhat positive.

Every muscle within his body wanted a fight. He wanted to punch someone or something, hard, for what happened. He never could talk when he was angry, and the thought of Angelo Lu only made his heart race with anticipation.

Telly spoke up, “we’re with you, Skip. You don’t have to go through this alone.”

“I appreciate that, Telly, but I just wanted to thank you all. Now let’s get to the silver back gorilla in the room. We have some strong concerns about Mr. Sharapov, don’t we? Mhm, yeah buddy, we have some strong concerns. We’re going to have to deal with that one way or another, and I don’t think it can wait—especially now that he knows we’re onto him.”

“Skip, he may actually be innocent,” Femke spoke up for the first time. “He seemed pretty scared when we questioned him, and he was actually shaking. You may not know it, but you’re pretty frightening when you’re angry … plus, Telly chiming in. Well. Let’s just say that most of us would have melted if we were in that same situation. It’s only fair to have him tell his side of the story, if anything we’ve accused him of even sticks—”

“I was just getting to that, Funky, I’m not about to airlock the man. I just want answers before we get home. There are countless lives lost due to one person’s selfishness on this ship. I can’t have that, the dead can’t have that, and we need to make sure that it isn’t going to happen again.”

Marisol Vega raised her hand and Winchester nodded, “Skip, um, the Matsue’s still trying to get a hold of you. I’m not good on insults and they’re getting nasty.”
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Days Until Home – Chapter 14

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Days Until Home: 83

“So let me ask you this. If the Matsue hadn’t shown up, what were you going to do to get the crew and cargo home?” the gruff voice said with a hint of frustration behind it.

Winchester Hayes sat at the desk with his arms in front of him, one on top of the other, and his head bent low over the intercom. His face was a mask of determination, and the upper arm blocked the view of his hand crushing a ball of paper. He was squeezing it so tightly that it was becoming painful, but it kept him from falling off the precipice and becoming something that he had sworn not to become.

He inhaled slowly and began his retort, “My chief engineer and his brilliant staff were on it. We weren’t down long enough to need rescuing and—”

“Do you hear yourself, Hayes? You lost more people on your watch than a wartime captain handling a destroyer. How do you think the Lu and Hawkins’ family feel about you not being ‘down long enough’? I think that they would be very annoyed to hear the man responsible for—”

“Hey, that’s enough. I may be contracted with you, but I am not your toady. If you don’t want to reconsider the green light on us being stripped and salvaged while we’re down on one knee, then, I am very disappointed. I have had a long, successful run with the Kerwood. Even you with your nasty opinion of me would have to admit that. We have been the ship that the superstars ask to be transferred to, because, we get things done. I removed every facet of a life to dedicate myself to this ship and your organization, and what do I get? A call for help answered by some spineless shit, who sits comfortably in an air conditioned building, telling me what the family of my friends would think about my refusal to take an ass—”

“That’s enough, Captain Hayes. I owe you an apology, and I just want to clarify that I am not in an air conditioned building. I am home with family. I took this call as a courtesy. Anyway, I fully understand your position, and it is a regrettable and unfortunate position that nobody could dream of being in. Not in their worst nightmare. But the Kerwood Corporation wants you home. The losses that we have suffered already are far greater than we can afford. You called because you’re a great man with tremendous pride, but the ship is crippled, Captain. Allow your rescuers to do their job and when you get back we can help you put the pieces together.”

Winchester adjusted his seat and began to rub his forehead with frustration. Bitter-sweet doesn’t quite describe it, he thought. We’re in a bigger ship that can get us back home, fast, but the reason we came out here will become null and void. I can’t have Booker and Lu’s lives become the result of a worthless mission. “Thanks for taking my call. Enjoy the rest of your day,” he said flatly and disconnected the communication.

He sat back and scanned the room. It was spacious, clean, and meant for important guests whenever the Matsue’s captain would have one along. When his eyes found the bed, he thought about Femke, and how waking up on the Kerwood had been the stuff of dreams on their trip. One minute happiness, the next, death and total anarchy. It was funny how life was so unstable, and no matter how many times it happened, he could never prepare himself enough for it.
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Days Until Home – Chapter 11

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Days Until Home: UNKNOWN

After securing Femke to the bed in order to treat her wounds, Gauge had checked the only working computer panel in the room. He tried to see if there was any way to access the lower levels, where the miners and engineers had been strapped in for the trip.

The explosion had come from that area, and an itch in the back of his mind wanted him to believe that he, Winchester, Marisol, and Femke were the last survivors on the ship.

Winchester Hayes was concerned for his engineers, knowing that they were his only hope in getting his girl back on track. If the Kerwood was damaged beyond repair, the engineers could do what was needed to give them a chance to survive a wait for rescue. They could also get the atmosphere back online so that they could comfortably work on their current situation.

He hated being in the dark. They were floating blind. The black was poking holes in his girl. Starry fingers reaching in to suck the life from anyone that was vulnerable. He had gone from his standard sarcastic but cavalier attitude, to one of intense brooding. Gauge was beginning to wonder if he was truly okay and didn’t believe him when he asked and was given the standard, “I’m good … just thinking.”

They were both leaning against opposite walls of the medical bay and Winchester braced himself between the bed—that Femke was on—and the adjacent wall. Marisol Vega was still asleep, herself, and had not even so much as stirred since Gauge set her nose and she had passed out a few minutes after.

Winchester looked up at Gauge for the first time in an hour and the big man met his gaze with cold blue eyes, embedded inside a mask of stoic resolution.

“You know what one of my biggest fears is, Gauge?” Winchester asked.

“I don’t know, Cap,” Gauge replied. “Is it what we’re going through right now? All of our crew dead. The survivors a mystery to you. And, we here, stuck, helpless, and running out of options?”

“Not this, but something similar. Back on Earth we used to do a lot of hiking. Me and the family that is. Man, we use to travel to parks and just, you know, walk. Well at least the parks that still had trees. Like in Indiana, when we used to go to see my parents. Cole loved our hikes. He thought that trees were the most magical things in the world. But I imagine for a kid growing up in our world that makes sense. Can you imagine? Something as natural and part of the Earth like a tree, an alien thing to my human child? Seeing how he reacted to nature, it made me realize just how fucked up we are, you know?”

“What do you mean, Cap?”

Pah, I’m rambling. Feels like I’m just wasting precious oxygen,” Winchester said under his breath.

“I wouldn’t worry about it, Captain. If there’s anything we’re set on, it’s oxygen. Now you were saying that the world is, erm, fucked. What’s the reasoning?”
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Days Until Home – Chapter 08

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Days Until Home: UNKNOWN

“Hey Skip, this is the guy that I was telling you about. Booker Hawkins,” Angelo Lu said as he approached the lone, dark table in the back of the lounge.

Winchester Hayes kept his eyes on his coffee for a few more seconds before looking up to acknowledge him. Goddamn it Lu, he thought, you know that I need prep time before meeting these candidates. He inhaled and tried to not make it look obvious that he was doing so and checked his speech to make sure that he was coming off professional.

“Mr. Lu, always a pleasure to see you, Chief.” He got up and shook the shorter man’s hand and applied the squeeze in a way to let him know that he wasn’t happy.

He noticed for the first time the handsome black man that was standing behind Lu. He was his height, 6’ even, broad shouldered, and wore a look of determination across his smooth, shaved face. Winchester stepped away from Lu and shook hands with Booker.

“So you’re Dacascos’s old pilot eh?” he remarked, noticing that Booker’s shake was strong but not as firm as he expected.

“Yes sir, that’s me, alright. I piloted the Shirley for Captain Dacascos for three long years. Good to meet you, Captain Hayes.” He seemed to want to get off the subject as fast as they had wandered into it.

“The Shirley … what a dumb name for a ship – don’t worry Booker, me and Dacascos are tight. I wouldn’t sit here badmouthing his sweetheart with anything new. You know what I mean? I break his balls about that ship every time I see him. You do know why he named her that, right?”

“I dunno, Captain Hayes, I’m thinking it was an ex-wife, mom, something like that?”

“It was his damn dog back on earth. That clown had one of those annoying chihuahua hybrids. Rat dogs I call them. Loved that beast more than his own damn wife, and then it ups and dies on him.” He reached back for his coffee mug and drained the rest, then looked past Booker to the waiter and raised it up to let him know that he was empty. “So, yeah. A beautiful piece of machinery like that ship of his, he names it after a rat dog.”

“I’m sure the Kerwood has a noble history behind its name, Captain,” Booker said, and Hayes looked at him as if he had just insulted his mother.

“First rule, Booker T—”

“Just Booker, Captain—”

“First rule, Book. Keep it respectful like you’re doing now, but other than the Kerwood, my orders, and the mission, you and I are still two men. So, stow the pleasant wafting of smoky fumes up my hairy, earth-born ass, please. I know that some of these douchebags love that shit,” Winchester swept his arm across the room to indicate the numerous officers and ship owners that were enjoying their meals, “but I ain’t one of them.”

“So I hear, Captain. No smoke up your ass, I got it,” Booker said, smiling for the first time and looking as if he was stifling a laugh.
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Days Until Home – Chapter 05

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Days Until Home: 41

“This is slim, Lu. When I gave the okay to cut the rations, I was assuming it would be about 500 calories.”

Winchester Hayes paced the small space like a panther as he looked at Angelo with some frustration. “This sort of thing could get messy. You’re a small guy, so it works out for you but imagine a man my size trying to live off of this.” He gestured with a block of hardened nutrient paste.

Lu slicked back his hair and looked around, then leaned in to the captain and whispered, “You can always get more if you like, Captain. It’s the—”

“Not the point,” Winchester said, his voice loud and commanding. Angelo Lu looked around frantically and then resigned himself to listen.

“Captain, we had no choice with the food supply going bad all of a sudden. You told me to always plan for the worst case scenario and with our trip, these reduced rations will get us all the way through. I’m not trying to see my crew mates hungry, but we’ve been generous with rations the entire time here.”

“What about the packets from the esprISSo coffee maker? Is there something we can do with that?” Winchester said.

“In a pinch I suppose, if we deplete all our rations. But I don’t see that happening now. We caught it just in time and everyone gets to eat … really, Skip, it’s not that big of a deal.”

Winchester Hayes considered the situation and decided that Lu knew what he was doing—

Femke Gerhardt slipped in through the narrow passageway and placed her back on the bulkhead near Angelo Lu. “We can hear you guys in here discussing the rations. Do you mind if I give you my two cents?”

“What you got, Funky?” Winchester said, and he folded his arms defensively.

Femke said, “This is going to sound like paranoia, but hear me out. I have a hunch that someone purposefully sabotaged our supplies.”

“Oh boy,” Angelo said and rolled his eyes, “Do we really want to go down this path, Skip?”

“FIFTEEN MINUTES!” Gauge yelled out from the bridge and Winchester winced at the lack of time.

“Got it, big man,” Winchester yelled, “We’ll be right there.”

“Listen Cap,” Femke said, “You should talk to Marisol. There’s a rumor that we have a Lunar baby onboard the ship. Now, I’m not saying that he means to sabotage the mission, but what if he could make us sweat, you know, to meet some sort of anarchist agenda?”

“I don’t like to tell people this but I have an uncle who was a member of that church,” Angelo said. “People make mistakes. Come to our house and he’d dote on you until you begged him to stop. Just because someone’s parents were a part of that sick cult does not mean that they are out to poison our food supply. I mean, really, Femke? That is your enlightening addition? We just lost five minutes of strategy listening to your bigoted opinion.”
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Days Until Home – Chapter 02

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Days Until Home: 44

A family of three smiled out from the static monitor of the frame that sat atop the desk inside of the captain’s quarters. There was a handsome brunette, strong in her looks as well as her frame, and a tall, tired-looking man, with his arm slung lazily around her waist. In front of them was a grinning boy, smiling at the camera as he clutched a model spaceship. Behind them stood a large house and white picket fence to complete the cliché.

Keeping it company was an assortment of sheets, plastic substrates that reflected photos and details, scattered about as if someone had thrown them out of a box. The man behind the desk made perfect company for the mess. His eyes were puffy and didn’t seem to open past the slats that served as windows into a dark and dangerous place.

Winchester Hayes picked up one of the sheets and flipped it around in order to read the information on the back. “Everything checks out,” he muttered to himself and then got up and walked across the room to where the circular porthole revealed the monochromatic horizon line of the asteroid. “If I die on this spud I’m slapping god,” he muttered and then shifted his eyes to watch the miners.

“Yeah, that’s it, work as slow as possible,” he muttered, “this is what they send me out here with. Laggards.” He shook his head and turned back to his desk, his hand smoothing back his thick brown hair.

A slight movement distracted him and he glanced at his bed where a smooth, shapely leg had managed to escape from beneath the covers. “I’ll see you up there,” he announced, as he grabbed his jacket and threw it on before exiting the door.

As he passed by his desk, the edge of his jacket knocked over the frame, and the family became as forgotten as they had been for the last few hours of his life. He walked the dark passageway and then rounded the corner, pushing his way past a deckhand who was going back to his room.

“Morning Captain!” The man said, and Winchester stopped, turned around and regarded him.

“Morning? How the hell can you tell?”

“By the time, sir, it’s 5—”

“Goddamn it, Richard, it’s a friggin joke. I know what time of day it is. We’ve been here, what, fourteen days? Anyway, as you were,” he said and pushed past him to resume his march. The tight passageway was beginning to see a lot of activity, so Winchester pushed past several other workers to climb the stairs that led up to the bridge.

“Captain on the bridge,” a man in a powder blue jumpsuit announced and Winchester stopped and stared at him. When he had looked at the man long enough for it to become uncomfortable, he slowly looked around the room, as if to see if anyone would respond.

“Lu, it’s only us. Who the hell are you announcing that to?”

“Sticking to protocol, Skip, the way you instructed me to. Would you prefer if I stopped announcing your taking the bridge?”

“I need coffee, where the hell is my coffee?”
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