Welcome to the rebirth of an old segment. I’ll be posting bits and pieces of my writing on the blog. Some days, it will be a whole chapter, and some days it will be the first few words I wrote for the day, or the first couple of hundred words of a short story. You get the idea. Since I’ve just released, Mack ‘n’ Me: Arach, the third book in my Mack ‘n’ Me ‘n’ Odyssey series—and since I’ve almost finished the fourth book in that series, I thought I’d celebrate by posting the first chapter up here for you to read.
What's it about?
I ran away from home to find a better life—not be forced into one. You can call me picky, but a girl likes to be asked if she wants to work for you, not coerced—and Odyssey should know better. Now, I have to find a way to kick free—of Odyssey, and my trainer, Mack—without getting myself killed. Surviving the mission is just the first step. Getting out from under, that’s gonna take some doing.
Mack ‘n’ Me: Origins is a science-fiction novel set in the Odyssey universe. More specifically, it is the beginning of Cutter’s love-hate relationship with Mack and his merry band of space-faring freelancers.
NOTE: The main character swears like a sailor, and the support cast aren’t much better. If swears bother you, this story may not be to your taste.
Here you go:
I came from comfort and privilege… Well, I came from a background that could afford to send me to a government-run school—and that only because it was mandatory—and I was part of a system where you could go to university at the government’s expense, and then pay back the cost—if you ever got a job that paid enough.
This made me one of the lucky ones, in spite of my parents going through a bad break-up, and mum and me having to move to a poorer part of town. On the upside, I didn’t have to worry about where to sleep, or what, when or how I was going to eat, or if someone was going to… well, not at first, anyway.
When that happened, I left home. I left town. I ran as fast, and as far as I could. The freighter crew found me in the galley. I’d managed to get past the security code for the pantry, and figured I could cook something while they slept. I didn’t know about shifts and rosters and crewing a starship 24/7, not back then. That trip, I learned.
And I learned a bunch of other stuff, too. Like comms, and hydroponics, and life support, and a little bit of navigation. Mostly, though, I learned tech and security, because the captain didn’t know his smuggling runs were being watched by Odyssey, and Odyssey’s man thought I might have skills.
And Odyssey’s man kept me out of the hold where they kept the cargo.
“She’s mine!” he’d snarled, when the captain said I should be added to the manifest. “I found her.”
“She got past you at the port,” the captain had argued.
“I caught her.”
“Not before she had herself a fry-up.”
Not exactly true, I thought. Keevers had caught me while it was still half-cooked. What he said next bought him my undying gratitude.
“Which I’ll make sure she eats.”
The look I turned to him, then, must have been something, because he almost smiled—which I rarely ever saw, afterwards.
“She’d turn a good profit,” the captain said, and Keevers shrugged.
“She’ll make you more, when I get done.”
This had brought him a thoughtful stare, and, “Fine, but the cost of keeping her comes out of your wage, and you’ve got two years to prove your point.”
“Two years,” Keevers had begun, but the look on the captain’s face was enough that even I knew he’d better not argue. “Fine, but she’s hands off for everyone. I won’t have her training disrupted.”
This had gotten him another look, one I couldn’t interpret, then. Now, I know why Keevers had added what he did.
“You’ve got plenty in the hold to keep everyone entertained.”
I hadn’t known what he meant, when he’d said it, but it didn’t take me long to work it out.
“What’s up, girl?” he asked, two nights later, when he found me curled up in a locker.
Not that he needed to ask. We could both hear what was happening down the hall.
“Can’t you stop it?” I asked, and he’d looked sad. Sad and angry, and I wondered what I’d said.
“No,” he’d said, but he did, him and Odyssey both, and he kept me safe during that, too.
The first I’d known something was going very wrong for the smugglers was when the klaxons started to sound, and then cut off abruptly. The screams from down the hall stopped, and I heard the guy at the nav comm swear. He’d glanced up, as the captain came running into the control centre, was speaking before the man was at his console.
“She just came out of nowhere, sir. Nowhere. One minute we were in clear space, the next—”
“What came out of nowhere?”
And that was when the ship stopped dead in space.
All eyes turned to Keevers, but he was studying his board, pointing out the red patches blooming along the hull.
“See that?” he’d asked, and I’d nodded. “Comms mines. They’re patching in to the ship’s systems.”
“Comms mines?” The captain sounded alarmed, but Keevers stayed calm, focussed on his screens, and focussed on me.
“See that?” he’d asked, pointing to the way the engine rooms were flashing amber.
Again, I nodded.
“Teleport?” the captain shouted.
Keevers turned to the captain.
“We’ve been boarded,” he said, and I watched as he keyed several commands into the system, heard him curse when the screen flashed ‘Access Denied’ in reply.
“Can’t you stop them?”
“They’ve jammed compartment access,” Keevers told him, lifting his hands off the control board, and then lifting them above his head. He’d glanced across at me, nudging me with his knee, so that I did the same.
“What do you think you’re doing?” the captain roared, but I could see the armed and armoured figures coming through the door behind him.
I knew exactly what Keevers was doing.
It was still a surprise when he reached sidewards and grabbed me, dragging me to the floor when he threw himself out of his chair. I hit the deck, and then scrabbled sideways to get behind our work station, Keevers pushing me all the way.
“Hells bells, and stars and fury!” he muttered, but he kept his head below the level of the console, and snagged me tight against him when I would have bolted across the control room. “Don’t move, girl. You might live through this yet.”
I might? That came as a surprise to me, because the firefight going on above console level was like the shortest lightning storm, ever. And then they came, those armoured figures, moving quickly into the control room, until Keevers and I found ourselves staring up the barrels of some very big guns.
“Get ’em up!”
I got, raising both hands over my head—right up until I realised Keevers hadn’t moved.
“Keevers!” I turned, reaching for him, and was picked up and then slammed into the deck.
The weight on my back didn’t stop me from trying to turn around to check on my guardian.
“Get him to Medical,” was almost comforting.
“Maybe he has a chance,” was not.
I fought to get to him, but I couldn’t get out from under the operative pinning me to the floor.
I didn’t stop trying to reach him, until a hand grabbed the back of my neck and pressed my head against the floor.
“What do you want me to do with this?”
This? I stilled. I was a this?
“Keevers wanted to keep it alive,” said the voice that had ordered Keevers to Medical. “Port it over and lock it down, until he can explain.”
That first voice didn’t let my captor finish.
“Now!” Fury laced those tones, and light engulfed us both.
I was still shouting it, when the light faded and I landed on another deck. I was still held, and I was still pinned.
“Oh for fury’s sake, SHUT UP!”
I shut, but only because I’d caught a glimpse of where we were, and what was happening to Keevers. I’d never seen a regen room before. I thought they were drowning him. And I couldn’t do a thing about it, except watch.
I stared in horrified silence as they stripped him bare, my eyes drawn to the bloody holes stitching one side of his chest. They strapped him into a frame and closed the tank. I stayed silent, as the regen fluid engulfed him, and I saw clouds of silver swarm into the liquid and swirl around him.
I must have made some sound, then, because one of the medics glanced my way.
“What in the stars is wrong with you?” she snapped, and it took me a moment to realise she was referring to the person pinning me to the floor.
“Keevers was protecting her.”
“And you didn’t think she might need to know we weren’t killing him? Given where she’s been?”
Where I’d been? I remembered the cargo in the hold, the ‘training’ systematically carried out down the hall from the control centre, heard the medic continue.
“Do you even have a brain inside that tiny, little head of yours?”
She came towards us, and knelt down so I could see her.
I couldn’t help it. I tried to get away, shifting sideways in a panic that got me absolutely nowhere.
“I need a sedative,” she said, and another of the medics moved to a counter along one wall.
She ignored him, and turned back to me, while she waited.
“Keevers wants you to live, so we’ll make sure of that” she said, and I stopped trying to get away, “and he’ll pull through.”
I felt a sob catch in my throat. She looked almost sympathetic, but glanced up as her colleague brought her a hypoderm.
“But you,” she said, taking it, and turning back to me as she prepped the needle, “have had a shock, and you really need to sleep.”
“No,” I said. “No need to sleep. No…”
But she was relentless. Gentle, but relentless, and I was still protesting when the sedative took me under.
“Idiot!” I heard as darkness closed, but, somehow, I don’t think she was referring to me.
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