Despite Covid’s attempt to bring me down, 2020 has been a good year for me, especially with my writing. I have stayed on task for my writing goals, I received great reviews on book 1, and book 2 is just about ready. Here are some exciting updates:
I heard so much about the ProWritingAid tool that I used part of my stimulus check to purchase a lifelong membership. It is such a wonderful tool for finding echoes, overused words, hidden verbs, and so much more. It’s so wonderful, in fact, that I’ve been using it to re-review book 1.
New and Better Editor
I had a decent editor for book 1, but they were not available this time around. So I found a new editor for book 2. She is more thorough. As such, I will be using her to go over book 1 as well.
New Ideas for Book 1
After receiving a 3-star review from Reedsy, I asked for more help on book 1. I received some fantastic feedback. Thanks to the feedback, I’m adding fight scenes with the Grapnes and a new character named Sergeant Ander Vizubi. Hopefully, these things will spice up the drama with action and provide new scenery so that everything doesn’t take place on a spaceship. Check out an excerpt later in this post.
(If you’ve already read book 1, let me know and I will send you the new parts so you don’t miss anything.)
Book 2 Release Date
I received editing suggestions from my content/line editor. A little revising is needed before it’s sent to a copy editor. I also need to design the book cover. I could have all this done by January, but I want to finish revamping book 1 first. Because book 1 still needs to be reviewed with my ProWritingAid program and survive my new editor, I will not be ready to re-release book 1 and release book 2 until March 1st. This is only 2 months behind my goal, so I’m very happy.
New Excerpt for Book 2
Hapker jogged to the transport pad with his combat helmet under his arm. The nanite infusion of his armor allowed him to move easily despite the thicker material. It had more mass compared to the enviro-suit but didn’t weigh him down. His own imagination did that.
He rounded the corner to find two squads of PG-Force officers prepping their weapons, readying their gear, or personalizing the settings on their augmented helmets. Hyped chatter filled the room until heads veered his way. He caught a few snide remarks, but no one spoke to him directly.
Lieutenant Gresher met him with a disarming grin. “You’re just in time, Commander. We will be ready in four.”
“Give me the sitrep,” Hapker said as he turned to the weapon locker.
The lieutenant snapped on his tactical belt and packed it with ammo and utilities. “A shuttle from the Cougar has landed in stealth-mode not too far from our science team.”
Hapker’s muscles loosened. Just Grapnes. No Tredons. He opted for a regular phaser rather than the more powerful RR-5 rifle. “From the Cougar? Virtuous Dealings left them behind?”
“Apparently, Sir. Our people noticed them, but not in time. The Grapnes activated a transport blocker.”
“Crap.” Hapker shook his head and exchanged the phaser for the rifle. “So they have our people as hostages.”
“Yes, Sir. Five.”
Hapker groaned inwardly. Whatever these Grapnes were after, they were desperate to get it. “What do they want?”
“We don’t know yet. The captain says they’re not responding.”
“What’s your plan?”
“Officer Chandly found the range of their transport blocker. We’ll encircle them to show them what we’re capable of. It might prompt them to surrender our people and leave.”
“And if not, I’ll negotiate.” Hapker considered the regular phaser again so he wouldn’t look intimidating as he tried to project reason, but the situation was already too volatile. “Sounds simple enough. Will heavy artillery be beamed down with us?”
“Yes, Sir. Chandly is coordinating it so we all arrive at the same time.”
“I’ll follow your lead,” Hapker said with a nod as he put on his helmet.
An officer made a face, no doubt wondering why he allowed Gresher take charge when he hadn’t let Lieutenant Sharkey do it in the initial encounter. He pondered on that himself as he followed Gresher’s team onto the transport platform.
The first incident wasn’t pre-planned, and he hoped there’d be a chance to neutralize trouble before it started.
No. If he can’t be honest with himself, who can he be honest with? The truth was he wanted to prove himself to the captain. It would’ve been smarter to allow Sharkey to take command. She had long since earned the respect of the officers, making her the best one to lead if the situation had worsened.
He phased onto the dismal planet and fell in beside Gresher as he mobilized the team toward a materializing railgun. Unlike the last time, he didn’t run far. An easy sprint put him in position behind the machine where he watched the other weapons appear. Like a one-minded hive, the officers snapped into their designated roles with precision and focus.
“Two turrets in my line of sight,” Sergeant Ander Vizubi called out.
Hapker glanced at the older man, taking in his solemn demeanor. Vizubi opted for the compact helmet, allowing Hapker to see his big nose and his dark grey-flecked hair. The sergeant might be the oldest PG-Force officer here, but he was hardly the least fit. According to the most recent health evaluation, age had not diminished his eyesight or his reflexes.
“Five turrets reported,” Gresher called out. “Fireteam alpha, target aft and starboard. Fireteam beta, port. Gamma, dorsal. Delta, forward.”
“Line of sight into port hatch,” an officer announced through the comm. “No sign of our people.”
Before Gresher could give an order, energy blasts erupted from the turrets. Hapker fired at them in return, then ducked behind his shielded railgun.
“Their shield is holding, Sir,” Vizubi called out. “We should use the railguns.”
“Our people are inside that ship, Sergeant,” Gresher replied. “Keep firing until the shield gives.”
Hapker adjusted his rifle to rapid pulse and took aim again. The energy blasts fell onto the shield and dissipated. His power cell depleted to a quarter strength before he stopped. “This isn’t working,” he said to Gresher. “Do we have a frequency finder?”
“Yeah, but they’re masking it somehow.”
“If we can get close enough…”
“Cease fire!” Gresher glanced at his power cell. “Scheisse,” he cursed. “What kind of shield do they have on that damned thing?”
“It can only be a Lazarus shield.” A shield within a shield where the depletion of one initiated the other as it regenerated.
“How did they get such high tech?” Gresher seemed to say to himself. “God, I hate those things. We’ll use half our arsenal before that thing goes out.”
Hapker agreed. “They have our people for a reason. They must want something.” He powered down his rifle and handed it to the lieutenant. “I need to find out what it is.”
Gresher frowned. “You’re going over there? We’ll cover you, but I can’t guarantee it will help.”
“I’ve got to try. Give me a frequency finder. I’ll transmit the information as soon as I can but do nothing until it’s obvious they’re not willing to communicate.”
“Understood.” Gresher detached the small device from the side of his helmet and handed it to him.
Hapker put it on, waited a few seconds for his visor to recognize and accept it. When the icon appeared on his visor, he eye-clicked it. With the frequency finder activated, he inched out from behind the railgun with his hands up. His stomach soured at the thought of Bracht commenting on how he surrendered twice now. This set a bad precedent, but it was the best option.
“Cover him,” Gresher said through the comm.
Hapker eyed the turrets as he took slow steady steps. The frequency finder remained at zero and he willed it to move.
“That’sss far enough,” a voice called from the shuttle.
Hapker’s muscles went taut. He held his breath as a Grapne with a beige patch over one eye appeared from the open hatch and strode down the gangway. Another man hunched behind him. The skinny figures approached, the leader with a grin that matched the mischievous glint in his eye. The second Grapne huddled close to the other’s back.
Hapker faced the cycloptic man and spoke through the mic. “Where are our people?”
“On our ship. My captain sssays he will releassse them when we have the Tredon children.”
“What do you want with them?”
“Justisss,” the Grapne hissed.
“Justice for what?”
“Not your consssern. Hand them over and we’ll sssend out your people.”
Hapker clenched his jaw. Why wouldn’t they tell them anything? What were those children to them?
He stepped forward hesitantly. The frequency finder remained at zero. “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”
The Grapne straightened and frowned. “We are not terrorisssts. We are the victimsss.”
Hapker took another tentative step. “Victims don’t kidnap innocent people.”
“We must have the children. Give them to usss and all will be well.”
Hapker moved closer. The frequency finder zipped through some numbers but returned to zero. One more step. “Tell me why you want them so badly.”
“Tell them,” the cowering Grapne said in what would have been a whisper if Hapker’s helmet hadn’t picked it up.
The one-eyed man smacked him on the shoulder. “If we told them, they’d keep them for themssselves, now hush.” He turned back to Hapker as though nothing had happened.
This mystery roiled through Hapker’s gut, but these Grapnes wouldn’t tell him anything so long as they had the upper hand. He stepped again and numbers rolled up on the frequency finder.
The one-eyed Grapne put up his palm. “Don’t take another ssstep, or your people are dead!”
Hapker held his hands out in mock innocence as he eye-clicked the information to Lieutenant Gresher. Before the Grapne could say anything else, phaser fire erupted from the squads.
“Defusers activated,” Gresher announced in the comm as he and the other officers flooded forth.
Hapker let his tension fall away. The defusers would keep the Grapnes from shooting their people with phasers. Hopefully, they didn’t have firearms.
The cowering Grapne screamed in a high pitch and covered his head while the one-eyed man flinched at the sound of his turrets being taken out. Then his eye bulged and he threw his hands up. “I sssurrender. I sssurrender. It wasn’t my idea. It was our captainsss. Please don’t shoot me. I give up.”
“Situation secure,” Gresher announced.
Hapker confronted the Grapnes. “You’re not getting the children so you might as well tell me why they’re so important.”
The Grapne’s dismay changed into a simpering smile that showed his yellowed teeth. “You must arressst us. We have violated your tressspassing laws.”
Hapker’s skin prickled. “Why do you want the children?”
“We sssurrender. Arressst us. We underssstand if you mussst impound our shuttle.”
Hapker’s expression tightened. “We will arrest your captain. The rest of you may go, but you must go now.”
The Grapne’s one eye widened. “No. We can’t go. Our ship isss gone. Our shuttle can’t travel far.”
“Crap,” Hapker whispered. Per Cooperative policy, only the higher ranking Grapnes could be arrested. The PCC wouldn’t allow him to leave the others stranded and bringing them onto the Odyssey was a bad idea. People claimed Grapnes were unintelligent yet devious. Whatever they were after, they would undoubtedly create more trouble to get it.
“Lieutenant Gresher,” he said through a private channel. “Do we have enough security to monitor the Tredon boys as well as the Grapnes and keep our passengers safe?”
“We can’t watch too many people at once unless they all stay in one place, which I doubt they’ll do.”
Hapker put his hands on his hips and blew out a breath.
“We have the important places already guarded, though,” Gresher added. “And if they’re after the children, they have our protection.”
Hapker raised a hand to stroke his chin and struck the helmet. Gresher made good points. Despite having more misgivings about the Grapnes than the Tredon children, he didn’t have enough justification to treat them differently.
“Fine,” he said to the Grapne. Get your people out here. After we inspect them and your shuttle, you may park it on our ship.”
The one-eyed Grapne bowed. “Thank you. Thank you. Your hossspitality is mossst appreciated.”
Hapker held back an eye roll and met up with the lieutenant. “Gresher, they’re all yours.”
As the man took over with the Grapnes, Hapker gazed over the dull land. A craggy outcrop loomed only a kilometer away. Some slopes appeared flat enough to hike and its cracks and crevices offered good handholds for rock climbing. He sighed. If only he could go exploring rather than babysit.
Let me know what you think! Keep in mind, this hasn’t been reviewed by my new editor yet.
Thank you for stopping by and checking on my progress for writing book 1 and book 2. I hope your 2020 went well and that 2021 is better.