Sunday, March 29, 2015

April Noteworthy Events

During the month of March we found ourselves lucky in love, unlucky in circumstances and all points in between.

Our readership has remained steady. Thank you for sticking with us. Won't you invite your friends to join us, please? We hope you are fans of our Facebook page, where you can get reminders of story postings along with other relevant information about out authors and related events. When you tweet out links to your favorite stories, feel free to include #LQR.

Our authors remain busy providing entertainment for our readers beyond just good books. Did you see that Meg Gray published a shiny new website? She's offering a free book to readers who sign up for her newsletter, so be sure to click on her picture in the sidebar and take advantage of that.

April Upcoming Events

Kai Strand and YA Bound are partnering to send Finding Thor on a week long book blitz. Between April 15th through the 22nd, you will see bloggers all around the interwebs hosting excerpts, interviews and best of all #giveaways to celebrate Kai's newly released young adult romantic suspense. Be sure to follow the blitz and interact with the tour hosts for your best chance to win!

Cara Cassidy always envisioned love as Thor, slamming his hammer into the earth, and the vibration resonating within her for a lifetime. She never expected love would be a thousand tiny actions from a normal boy. When international intrigue hits small-town America, more than the car chases will get your blood pumping.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Crash by Stuart R. West

"Really the only luck we recognize is bad luck." __Some guy in a bar.
* * *
Bah, bah, bah, buh, buh, buh, bah-baaah, I wanna’ be sedated…”

The Ramones blasted from the car’s cassette player, the volume maxed out (the only way to listen to the band). Wind blew through my hair, the promise of spring in the air. I could practically smell rejuvenation, particularly after surviving another knee-knockingly freezing Kansas winter. More importantly, today felt like Independence Day. Mom had donated her monster of a car to me. A real gas guzzler, but who cared? I no longer had to depend on others for a ride. Freedom tasted great.

“Bah, buh, buh, buh—”


OMG, Scrunch? Not a good sound, definitely not one of the few chords the Ramones abused. 

I slowed the Nova, pulling it to the curb.

Crap. Behind me a side mirror lay in the road, a casualty of my first day in the driving trenches. Next to it sat a parked Camry, minus one side mirror. Independence Day had already ended with a bang. Not a celebratory one, either.

Of course my Nova withstood the blow like a tank assaulted by a pistol. But explaining the accident to my mom was going to suck in every imaginable way since her picture’s practically in the dictionary under “uptight.” Right next to my boyfriend, Tex McKenna, that is. For a teen, Tex can kinda’ be a drag at times. He means well, but he’s the world’s biggest worry-wart. He’s also a witch. A “worry-warty witch.” But that’s a tale for another time.

Because now it was time to open up a can of damage control.

With mirror in hand, I headed toward the nearest house. Sacking up, I rang the doorbell.

A middle-aged guy yanked the door open. Right off the bat, he appeared harried, the look all adults seem to prefer. Mr. Hard Sell. “Yeah?”

“Um, hi. Is that your Camry out front?”

“Uh-huh.” He swung the door open, peering over my shoulder.

“Sorry. I think I hit it. Here…” I handed over the mirror, a war trophy.

“You ‘think’ you hit it or you hit it?”

Well, duh. But for once I kept cool. Clearly “Mr. Bitter McBitteryness” wanted to teach me a lesson, not wanting to go easy. “I hit it. Sorry.”

“Were you texting? Dammit, all you

What? No. I don’t text and drive!”

I guess he believed me as he released his constipated demeanor. With an exaggerated sigh, he said, “Well, come on in.”

After a couple years of tackling killers with Tex (don’t ask), I hesitated. “Stranger danger.” Then again, I can take care of myself. I stuck my keys between my fingers, sharp edges up. Ready to kick ass if necessary. Feeling empowered, I entered the house.

Inside, half-open boxes littered the floor, their contents spilling out like gutted bodies. The house smelled musty, the air oppressive. Doilies and other freaky knitted things covered the ancient furniture, bookshelves, damn near everything. Welcome to the land of old people.

A streak of fluid lightning caught my eye. Then a huge dandelion of a cat encircled my legs, humming like a sewing machine.

“Hey, kitty,” I said, reaching down to pet it. “Your cat?”

“Nah, I’m a neighbor.” When he fell back onto a paisley eyesore of a sofa, dust whiffed up, motes trapped in a streak of sunlight. “The lady who lived here died a couple days ago. Didn’t have any family. Fell on me to clean out her house.” His hands flew up while his mouth drew down. “Just my luck.”

I settled in for the long-drawn out drama I knew awaited me. No “wam-bam, here’s my insurance info, ma’am.”

“How’d she die?” I sat in a chair, the plastic cover snapping beneath me like milk crackling over cereal.

“I dunno. Heart failure, I guess. But that’s what they always say when no one wants to mess with an autopsy.”


We held a mini-wake of silence for the late “Miss Doilie.” Finally I chuffed out a cough to wake the guy up from his self-induced coma. “I’m Olivia. Olivia Furman.”

“I’m Dave.” He said it like he couldn’t believe what a kick-ass name he’d been blessed with. With lifted eyebrows, he waited for my awed response. Gonna’ be a long wait.

“Ah, hey, Dave.”

“So…how old are you, anyway? Sixteen? Go to school?”

“Yeah, Clearwell High.” I grimaced, mainly because I hated thinking about that hellhole in my free time.

Dave laughed. “Unlucky you. I went there, too. So is that ass-hat, Hastings, still busting everyone’s chops?”

“Oh, yeah. One of my fave peeps, my boy Arville. Kicking ass and taking names. Unless you’re a football player.”

“Guess some things never change.”

We found common ground, a mutual enemy in Clearwell High’s heinous vice-principal. Time to pull out the Olivia charm and make a fast get-away. “Anyway, you want my insurance info? Kinda’ sucks. My first day of driving and everything.”

He ignored my comments, glaring at my jacket through narrowed eyes. His hot-doggy finger jabbed my way in a lawyerly fashion. “The Ramones.”

“Hm? Oh, my buttons.” I shook my jacket, jangling my bling. “Yeah, I’m into old school punk. Nothing on the radio here unless you’re into country or top 40.”

“I hear ya’. I liked The Ramones, too. You’re kinda’ young to even know about them.”

“That’s me. Young on the outside, an old soul on the inside.”

“You want somethin’ to drink? A beer?”


“Oh, crap, sorry. A soda?”

“No, I’m good.” A clock on the mantle ticked away as we stared at one another. World’s most apathetic showdown. Clearly the guy wanted company, and I pulled the short straw. And he thinks he’s the one with bad luck.

“I like your car, by the way.”

“What? That ol’ hunka’ junk? My mom gave me her Nova when she bought a new economy ride. Gah. So embarrassing.”

“Really?” He brightened, no doubt visions of racing stripes zipping through his head. “Man, I’d love to have a car like that.”

“Huh. I think my mom gave it to me to punish me.”

Again he lapsed into silence. Unmoving, contemplative, spent for whatever reason. I wondered if he had also died in this house of horrors.

Blink, move, say something, do anything, dammit!

The cat came to my rescue, twisting around my legs. A welcome distraction. “Hey, cat. What’s the cat’s name?”

Dave snorted, a very phlegmy sound. “Sparkles. I need to sell the cat on Craig’s List, but…I think it’s kinda’ a gay name.”

Oh, no, he didn’t just go there. Keep cool, Olivia. You’re at his mercy. Don’t say anything you’ll regret. Just keep your mouth shut. Just…

 “Hold up, hold up, hold up! You can’t use ‘gay’ like that! It’s insulting…,” my finger flicked out like a switchblade, “…derogatory, uncool as hell, discrimi

“Wait, sorry, sorry, sorry.” He waved twin white hand flags. “Didn’t mean anything by it. Are you gay?”

What? No, I’m not gay. And even if I was, you still

“Guess you’re one of those politically correct types, then.”

I don’t know what pissed me off more--his insulting use of the word gay or his condescending grin, a challenge. Either way, I unleashed Hurricane Olivia to wreak retribution. Not happening on my watch. “Sounds like you think being politically aware is a bad thing! You know if more people in this crappy city had an inch of sensitivity, then maybe

“Hey, I said I was sorry. It’s just…old habits die hard. You know…it’s the way we talked in high school.”

“Sucks to be you.”

“Yeah, maybe.” He rubbed his cheek, apparently pondering his suckyness. “Anyway, whatever. I still hate the name, Sparkles. Wanna’ help me rename the cat?”

Slowly, I counted to ten, lost count around three. Chilling, I let out a long, cleansing sigh. Adults can’t help their stupidity. They know not what they do. It’s bred into them. “Sure, fine,” I said.

“Well? What do ya’ think we should call the cat?” Dave tossed the mirror up like a baseball, catching it with casual grace.

It seemed so simple, really. Fate sealed the cat’s name, no doubt about it. “How about ‘Crash?’”

Dave glanced at the furball and, damn skippy if he didn’t grin like a Cheshire cat. “‘Crash.’ Heh. I like it. ‘Crash’ it is.”

Just might get outta’ this after all.

* * *

Okay, this story actually happened to my daughter. More or
less. And she's one of the inspirations for Olivia Furman, my kick butt and take names later heroine of the Tex, the Witch Boy series.

For more of tales of Olivia, heroine supreme (who pretty much carries the action and threatens to steal the books away from my teen witch protagonist, Tex), check out the Tex, the Witch Boy trilogy: Amazon page. 

And please do check out Stuart's blog featuring weekly rants, failed stand-up comedy routines and incisive author interviews: Twisted Tales From Tornado Alley

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Reader Flash – Share Your Own Story

Now it’s your turn. We’d love you to share your own flash fiction inspired by luck, fate or karma. In no more than about 200 words share a story that explores the good, the bad, or the ugly side of things outside your control.  Are you feeling lucky?

Show us your writing chops. Post anonymously if you want, but keep it PG-13 rated. A good test is to ask yourself if you would want to read it to your teenager.

Leave your story in the comments and feel free to leave encouraging comments for other flashers! 

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Cube.

As luck would have it there was an empty seat at the back of the Magic Bean café.
I grabbed my Chai Latte and settled, facing the mall. The aroma of coffee grinds spiked my taste buds. The general bustle, clatter and conversation eased as the early morning addicts downed their double shots and sauntered off to work. 

There would be a lull, for an hour or so before shoppers came clamouring for their eleven o’clock fix.

With my lap top open and imagination racing, I began to write. My attention focused on weaving intrigue and creating conflict. My intrepid hero’s behaviour needed tailoring to push the plot forward. 

Lost in the world of my creation I allowed the words to flow. My friend would be along shortly. We met each week to write, chat and share the latest news on our publishing journey. Despite the activity around me my mind focused on the characters playing out their part in my newest chapter.

A shadow fell across my keyboard. I looked up, expecting to greet my friend.
Instead a stranger loomed over my table. His gaunt frame, sallow skin and hair resembling a chewed dog toy didn’t fill me with confidence. At least the café was a public place. No real danger.

What would my character do in this situation? Show no fear, nor dismay.

“Can I help you?” I asked, feigning genuine concern, trying to catch the attention of the wait staff.

“Yes. I need your help.” The stranger sank onto the vacant chair opposite me with his back to the public. Deep set eyes, sunken rather than natural depth, gazed around the café before fixing me with a piercing stare. “I have been watching, waiting for the right person to arrive. You.”

“Why me?” I asked before I remembered my character would be stoic, calm.

“You ordered Chai, in a specialist coffee shop. I am looking for someone who has the strength to stand against the current. Go against the flow, take the road less followed.”

“Enough.” I shook my head. Would my character explain I don’t like coffee? It does strange things to my heartbeat. No. Let the stranger think I possessed strength of character. I liked the idea. It didn’t fit me. Not shy, introverted, marsh-mellow me. Still, no harm in playing the part. “So, how can I help? If you are unwell, there is a great surgery around the corner. They take walk-ins and bulk bill.”

“I am dying. It is true. The doctors have done all they can.” The stranger’s gaze softened. The grey blue eyes glinted, assuming a faint resemblance of the colour they might once have been. A tic pulled at the stranger’s cheek. He lifted a hand, I thought to ease the anomaly, but he placed a small cube on the table beside my laptop. “The luckiest man alive gave this to me, now I am passing it on to you. He promised the cube would change my luck. Take heed and listen to my instructions.”

“You know the old advice, don’t accept gifts from strangers.” I concentrated on sipping my Chai and dragging my focus away from the odd cube.

“Not even when it is a dying man’s final request?” A smile lifted the corners of the stranger’s mouth. Sadly, bloody gums showed, though again, there seemed a remnant of once cared for perfect alignment to his remaining teeth.  “Do this, for luck. A simple task and you could be blessed with good luck. For the rest of your life.”

“You are not a walking advertisement for luck, mate. Really, you need to try another tack if you want to sell this scam.”

“Scam?” His eyes rolled and his shaking hand recoiled. “Not a scam. Please. Don’t refuse. I have no time left to find another soul with your attributes.”

Soul? Attributes? Nothing would make me accept his gift, nor did I want to waste more precious writing time chatting. His odour now overpowered the pervasive coffee grounds. Time to encourage him to leave.

As though reading my mind he began to speak. His voice flowed with hypnotic cadence.  “Take the cube. Roll it. Read the numbers. They change with each roll, somehow they know what you need whether you play lotto, the pools, power-ball, lucky-loot, whatever. Choose one game and take a gamble. There is a draw tonight. What is there to lose? If you don’t trust me, fine. At least give the lucky cube a chance. You will win. I guarantee it. The cube does not lose.” He straightened. “When you collect your winnings…” He paused and again his eyes seemed to regain their colour and energy. Every fibre of his body appeared tense. I sensed desperation and hope. “You must immediately donate the complete amount to charity. Any charity. Your favourite good cause. Don’t keep any of the money for yourself.”

“Why don’t you do this? Why do you need me? I can give you a few dollars for you to buy a ticket if you are so concerned. You don’t need me.”

“If you donate the win to a good cause, luck will follow you. Good luck, for a good deed.”

I blinked. Sudden realisation hit me with sledge hammer force. “Bad luck for a selfish deed? Is that what you did? Kept some of the winnings for yourself?”

He closed his eyes and lifted a hand to his forehead. I tried not to notice the clump of hair clinging to his fingers as he kneaded his furrowed brow. With shoulders slumped he again looked up. “It seemed too weird to believe. Once you have used the cube once, pass it on to another.” He glanced away. “Or destroy it if you can find a way.” He turned back and sighed. The simple act left him gasping for breath. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve and leaned closer. Again I could sense lost energy, health and passion. He spoke in a hurried whisper, desperation scored each word. “It only works once. If you do the right thing, perhaps giving the cube to you might alleviate my guilt. I am desperate. Will you help me? Telling you my hopes might influence the outcome, but what do I have to lose? I am dying. Today is your lucky day. The cube is now yours.”

Without pausing to see if I accepted the gift the stranger grabbed a paper serviette and wiped spittle from his mouth. Staggering to his feet he strode away and disappeared into the crowded mall.

I wanted to rush after him and return the cube to his care.

What would my character do? Accept the cube? Find the stranger and return the odd gift? Take the chance and risk the gamble? Donate the win to charity? If the stranger told the truth. What should I do? Who couldn’t use extra luck? Good luck.

Scoffing my Chai, I snapped shut my laptop and sprinted from the café. Amid the bustle of rush hour I raced through the milling throng. I couldn’t see the stranger. His tall gaunt figure should stand out from manicured employees making their way to work.

Disappointed and needing to draw breath I halted my headlong rush. Trying not to pant aloud, my character never ran out of breath, I straightened.  Leaning against the shop front I gathered my wits.

Outside the mall’s newsagent and lottery office a sign caught my eye.

‘Thirty million dollars. Tonight’s draw. Try your luck’.

As the stranger said, what did I have to lose? Which charity would make the most of those millions?

If the cube provided the right numbers, perhaps a good deed would redeem the stranger. Perhaps his luck would change. He might live on.

What would my character do?

I headed inside to gamble on a change of luck.

Rosalie Skinner resides on the east coast of Australia when not totally immersed in the fantasy world of her writing.
Rosalie’s love of the ocean, nature, history and horses has enabled her to give her books an authentic air. Her latest achievement has been to ride through the Australian Snowy mountains and see the wild brumbies run. When not watching the migrating whales pass her doorstep she has more humble pastimes.
Other than being a published author, her greatest thrill is being a grandmother. Born over fourteen weeks early her granddaughter’s perfect development and growth are a miracle and joy.

Follow:  Blog,

Friday, March 20, 2015

They Called Me Lucky by Crystal Collier

Killing your darlings is a brutal and sad experience. Today, I’m excited to share one scene that got the ax in my latest release, SOULLESS (Book 2 in the Maiden of Time Trilogy). 

This excerpt takes place in the world of 1770 where people can heal with a touch, kill with a scream, or rob a person of their memories.

Darkness filled the world beyond the torches. No moon lit the sky, which meant the Soulless were prowling tonight, searching for Edward Hampton and his companions through any of their negative emotions. The festive music and dancing felt forced, but it alleviated the gloom and kept them hidden from the Soulless. 

Edward plied his fiddle in time with the Master’s guitar. He found it difficult to focus with his wife, Ethel, twirling in the crowd and enticing him to chase after her, but he had a duty to fulfill. The music wouldn’t play itself.

A member of their company occupied the shadows beyond their frivolities, and Edward escaped the constant temptation to join Alexia at the perimeter of light, keeping focus on his instrument’s rhythm as he moved.

“Mister Edward Hampton, are you running from your wife?” Alexia teased over his fiddle’s romp.

He chuckled. “I am glad you finally know about us.” 

“You are most lucky.”

His smile thinned, eyes turning to the dancers. “You are not the first to accuse me of that, though I hope for Ethel and I’s sakes you are a better prophet.”

She clasped both hand in front of her and kicked at the ground. “I do dream the future.”

He laughed.

“But what do you mean? How are you not lucky beyond measure?” she asked.

He stilled his bow and touched it to her shoulder. “None of us are lucky, Alexia dear.”

The Master glanced over, but continued to play. Alexia’s brows squeezed together in an unspoken question. She had certainly heard tales of her mother’s misfortune, but Edward doubted she understood how universally applicable her family’s experiences had been.

“I was an orphan.” Edward leaned on a fist. “I lived at an orphan house in London. No one had claim on me, and I had claim on no one.” He rubbed his bottom lip. “At ten, I ran away and worked the streets for money, begging, pick-pocketing, whatever I had to do. I had no idea of my unique…heritage.”


He shook his head. “One day I asked a gentleman for a farthing. ‘I shall give you a farthing,’ he said, ‘if you can tell me how many coins are in my fist.’ And he gave me a brief glimpse. ‘A shilling, three pennies and a farthing,’ I told him. He eyed me skeptically before examining the coinage and finding—of course—I was correct. He reached into his purse and changed the amount. ‘A ha’penny if you can do it again.’ He tried several more times, owing me at the end three pennies. Impressed, he quizzed me about this talent with numbers. I continued to share my calculations and observations: the number of bricks in a wall with only a glance, how many times a beggar woman had twiddled her hair while we spoke and what it meant she was thinking, the maps of the city I’d created in my head… The fellow, Larkins, took me under his wing. He put me up as the youngest clerk in a small bank he managed and paid me next to nothing, but with room and board, I could not complain. He included me in his business dealings, using my observations of his competitors or potential clients to guide his decisions. The bank thrived. His wife fed me like a son, and Emily—his only living daughter—became my sister and best friend.”

Alexia grinned. “You sound lucky indeed.”

He plucked at his sleeve. “Despite his disregard for me as a person, I was the most devoted servant. Larkins taught me etiquette and showed me off to his friends, bragging about the deal he’d discovered on London’s streets. Several rivals offered more pay, better conditions too, but I turned them all down primarily for one reason.” He pulled a laced handkerchief from his pocket. The initials E. L. shimmered in pink thread.

“Emily Larkins,” Alexia surmised.

“She fell in love with me. I cannot blame her, after all, I had come of age.” 

Alexia’s cheeks reddened. Edward recognized the shame and anger she harbored from her recent experience of blossoming into maturity, how she’d changed physically from her parents’ greatest embarrassment to the most sought-after prize of the community. 

“I was nineteen before I found the courage to ask for her hand.” He toyed with his ring finger, tracing a circle around the bare skin. “—Without speaking to her father, of course. We both knew he saw me as little more than a slave. ‘Go to him,’ she urged me. ‘Perhaps he will see your merit and increase your salary. If not, we shall run away.’ ‘And how will I provide for you?’ I asked. ‘You are intelligent. A hundred men in the city are begging you to switch employ.’

“I told her simply that her father had given me a chance, a home, and a future. I could not turn on him. Years we argued before I took her to Fleet Street. We married quickly and secretly under aliases. I continued to work for her father, and she grew steadily angrier about my unwillingness to confront him, thus adding to my own dissatisfaction.”

Alexia placed a hand on his sleeve. 

He pulled back, ashamed for the truth he must now share. “She left to live with her aunt when her wardrobe could no longer conceal the swelling of her womb. She bore for me a daughter, a daughter I never saw.” That cold place opened up in the center of his chest, the hollowness time would never heal. “Emily had grown tired of the deception. I was away on errand for her father when, without a word to me, she left our child in the care of friends and begged her father to marry her off. He did, and she went willingly.”

“Oh, Edward…”

“I followed after them. I had to, but she would not see me. Her new husband warded me off with the law.” He set the violin aside. “Lucky they called me. Luck exists only in games of chance.”

Alexia’s eyes glistened with unshed tears. “What became of her—your wife, your daughter?”

He smiled sadly. “I…I finally forced my way in and confronted her husband. He called me a brigand and liar, despite the marriage certificate. I could not prove the aliases were true. We had a scuffle.” 

“And?” she whispered, cringing.

How to admit the tragedy that had changed him forever? “I took it all—everything in his mind. He no longer knew how to walk, how to breathe…”


He ducked, unable to face her terror. “I had never before taken a memory. I did not know that I could. I acted in rage.” He lifted his gaze. “And I wish I could say I stopped at that, but the moment was an epiphany for me. I could have anything I wanted.”

“Did you take what you wanted?”

He exhaled and nodded. “For a time. The law could not stop me, but the Master did.”

Alexia glanced at the Master. New reverence for the man surfaced in the softening of her frown, the warming of her eyes. Good. The positive feelings would win over whatever sorrow she felt for Edward. 

Alexia licked her lips. “Emily, is she still alive?”

He covered his face. “The Master drew me away from society to learn control over my gifts, and her father placed her in an asylum where she died nine years ago. My fault, again.”


“My Emily saw a great many things I never could explain, and forgot so many it drove her to madness.”

“You altered her memories.” Alexia took a slow, deep breath. “And your daughter?”

“She answers to the name North, Elizabeth North. She does not know me, nor will she ever, though I hope to one day find the courage to bestow upon her her mother’s keepsake.” He folded the handkerchief and tucked it back into his pocket. “She is forty and two years of age.”

“Oh Edward…”

“We all make mistakes, Alexia.” He nodded toward Ethel. “But tonight I count myself blessed, for I have been given a second chance. Perhaps you are correct. I am most lucky.”

Crystal Collier is a young adult author who pens everything from dark fantasy, historical, and romance tales, to inspirational stories. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three (soon to be four) littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. 

Check out her Maiden of Time series, published by Raybourne Publishing, or a number of anthologies containing her short stories.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Time to Talk Luck

Luck. Fate. Karma. Many people believe in at least one, if not all of these things. This month our stories are exploring all the options. The good and the bad side of these tricky little blighters. But what about you? Have you had a run in with bad luck? Have the Fates smiled down on you? Have you ever seen Karma seek her revenge on someone? Do you think your actions dictate what kind of luck you'll recieve? If Karma will visit? We'd love for you to tell us if you believe - and why.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Thank the Lucky Stars by Eric Price

I’ve heard it called the final frontier, the sea of tranquility, the great unknown. I call it solitude. Destitute.

I’ve told you in my previous transmissions that I consider myself lucky. When they caught us, they could have killed us. No one would have known. It was a risk we took, Sandra, Max, and myself. And when Adam found us, maybe that was luck too. I don't mean him catching us, of course. But better him than someone else.

I’ve never given you details about what we did or why we did it. By now you’ve probably figured out most of it.

* * * *

Simon flipped off the video recording transmitter (VRT) and rubbed his eyes. He continued to shiver even after his third cup of hot chocolate. He could have drunk plain hot water to warm himself, his taste buds hadn’t reawakened yet, but he needed the calories. The hibernation periods drained him. Now that he had awakened for the final time, he’d need to replenish himself by eating a minimum of 5000 calories a day until he landed on Kapa1 Ceti VI.

The planet appeared as a small pinprick on the viewing screen. The star itself burned on the left edge. Had all the ship’s sensors not told him he had traveled nearly thirty light years, he’d have believed Kapa1 Ceti the Earth’s sun.

He walked away from the viewer and the dim yellow light it cast faded from the walls as it powered down. The walls of the ship reilluminated green as the food generator activated with his proximity.

“Hello, Simon.” The epicene voice hadn’t startled him since his first waking period. The fog of sleep still hung in his mind when he had first heard speaking on a space vessel allegedly occupied by a single passenger. When his heart rate slowed, he had felt completely awakened. Now, on his third waking period, he knew to expect the various components of the ship to strike up conversations, even if he didn't feel mentally revived. “What would you like? Another hot chocolate? Perhaps something to eat?”

“Yes. I’ll have lasagna with extra cheese and three pieces of garlic bread.” With a menu limited only by his own imagination, Simon knew he wanted his favorite childhood meal to start his rejuvenation before arriving on the planet. He decided it when the authorities sentenced him. He needed to connect with the life he had before he knew something was different about himself.

“Preparing one meal of lasagna with extra cheese and three pieces of garlic bread.”

The soft, high-pitched whine of the food generators electric motors created a welcome background noise.

While he waited for his meal, he returned to the VRT to record more of his transmission.

* * * *

We infiltrated the compound by walking through the main entrance. I’m serious. It was as easy as that. Sandra had a friend on the inside who printed us employee badges. And they call themselves the Department of Defense? Really?

Everybody knows about the five floors above ground and the two basement levels. They’re great. Seriously. Even the western side, which had to get rebuilt after that hijacked plane flew into it, looks amazing.

I suppose you know about that. The plane I mean. They couldn’t have erased it from the history books. Too many people remember where they were when it happened. I remember. My second grade teacher got called out of the room and returned with tears in her eyes. I didn’t think anything could soften the heart of that old bitch. What did I know?

But back to the building. We didn’t care about the seven floors everyone knew about. Our interests resided somewhere on the third basement floor. I know what you’re thinking. 'There is no third basement.' Yes, it does have a third basement. I’ve seen it. And it’s where you’ll find all the good stuff. Area 51, Roswell, the Kennedy assassination, Bigfoot, Yeti, you name it. If it exists, and the government doesn’t want you to know about it, the information is stored in the third basement.

So the files I wanted to see. The ones I needed to see. The ones about me. Yeah, they’re three floors down. I didn’t know Sandra and Max had connections too. I should have figured it out, but I didn’t.

Most of the stuff I mentioned, the stuff about aliens and hairy monsters, I don’t believe in any of it. Even after seeing the files. What I can tell you is the government keeps files on all of it. I read a few of the files. They didn’t change my opinion. But I didn’t come to read about them. I came to see if what I had heard had any truthful merit to it. Did I exist because of the Cloverleaf Project? And if so, what involvement did I have with it…or it with me.

* * * *

A high pitched series of beeps alerted Simon to his prepared meal. His tastebuds watered as his olfactory receptors started to revive from slumber. He brought the lasagna back to the work station and placed what looked like a wire hat on his head. Two sharp probes tightened against his temples, almost piercing the skin. Simon preferred the VRT, but to ensure he included every detail of his break-in at the Pentagon, he needed to use the memory extractor (ME).

His wife’s face came into focus on the view screen. Even on the day of this image, the final day she would see him as a free man, she had no idea what he had planned. Should he have told her? Probably not. They would have come for her too. Her ignorance kept her free then, and his completion of this mission will ensure she remains free. Or will it? Can he trust the government to uphold their end of the bargain? For all he knew, they had arrested her the second his shuttle launched.

No. They’d have no reason to arrest her. They knew she had nothing to do with any of it. After hooking her to an ME for three days, she didn't have a single private memory left.

He focused his mind. The image of his wife faded. The long wall of the Pentagon replaced it.

* * * *

Two security guards stepped onto the elevator. Simon cast a glance at Max to make sure he kept his composure. Simon thought he looked nervous, but it was hard to tell. Max always looked nervous. Sandra on the other hand, she could handle anything.

The guards only rode down two  floors. When the elevator stopped on the first basement, Simon, Sandra, and Max exited.

Simon pointed to the left. “If we follow this hall, we’ll come to another series of four elevators. We take one back up to the fourth floor where we’ll find a fifth elevator marked ‘Maintenance Only.’ Our badges should open it. It only goes to the second basement. A secret corridor not accessible any other way. A few top secret offices line the hall, and at the end we’ll find a stairway to the third basement. The one that supposedly doesn’t exist. The offices should all be vacant for the weekend.”

They followed the maze and found themselves on a floor clearly not the size of the entire Pentagon. Most of the small offices contained numerous file cabinets and a small desk. The offices had no labeling announcing their contents.

“Well, let’s split up and see what we can find.”

Simon headed into an office and started browsing through the file cabinets. The first had photos of world leaders meeting with aliens and transcripts of their conversations. He randomly selected one and started reading before tossing it aside to focus on his objective. The next cabinet had photos, transcripts of eyewitness accounts, and hair samples of tall, apelike men. He didn’t even bother reading these before moving on to the next file cabinet.

“Third time’s a charm.”

The first folder had a tab reading Cloverleaf Project. The cover had an image of a four leaf clover. Each leaf had a different word written on it: Strength, Agility, Intelligence, Luck. The first sheet in the folder read:


In an attempt to create the perfect human, top geneticists from around the world will collaborate to create a genetically superior human. They will combine DNA from human subjects with extraordinary qualities in at least one of the following characteristics: strength, agility, and intelligence. The experiment will also take DNA from individuals with seemingly unnatural luck to answer the questions: Does luck exist? And if so, can it pass through genes?

The first batch will consist of six artificially created zygotes (three male and three female) implanted into female volunteers all deemed unable to conceive naturally. As an added precaution, the test subjects, once mature, will be sterile. This will serve two purposes. First, it will prevent the artificial genes from contaminating the normal human gene pool. Second, many of the geneticists fear if two of our test subjects were to reproduce, it may create an F1 hybrid superhuman.

Tuesday, March 17, 1992

Simon riffled through the pages to find extensive notes on the process, the specific genes isolated, and prenatal care given to the expectant mothers. Finally he found the page he wanted. A list of birth records. Just as he expected, he found his own name, date of birth, and his mother’s name. He read the remainder of the names.


He staggered backward and sat in an office chair. It almost rolled out from under him, but he grabbed the arm and secured it. He read the names again.


His head spun. Flashes of his life danced before his eyes. Images of his childhood. College. He knew them all. He always had. He couldn’t remember a time without them. He read the names again, first to himself, then aloud.

“Sandra. Max. Julie. Adam. No. No. Not her too.” He read the last name ten times. Fifteen. Twenty. “Not Susan. Not my wife.”

He flipped back to the overview and reread the last paragraph. How they had wanted children. How they had tried. For how many years? Seven? Nine?

Sandra burst into the office.

“I thought I heard you scream.”

He looked at her through eyes glassed over with tears.

Max came to Sandra’s side and she pushed on. “What is it Simon? Did you find what we came for? Are you part of Cloverleaf Project?

Simon couldn’t speak. He reached across the desk and handed the list of births to Sandra.

Sandra took the list, read it, and handed it to Max.

Max read the list and threw it to the ground.

“We’ve got to go. Now.”

The alarm in his voice instantly sobered Simon. “What? Why?” But as he asked, he sprang to his feet.

“I may have blown everything. I told Adam you suspected you had involvement with the Cloverleaf Project.”

“So? You didn’t tell him our plan, did you? You didn’t tell him we planned on breaking in here?”

“No. But I didn’t have to. He just knows things. He always has had a way of just knowing.”

They bolted for the door. Simon jerked it open. A flash of silver and Simon felt the barrel of a gun press against his head. His instincts wanted to snatch the gun in a swift movement. He knew he could, but his eyes focused down the hall at the fifteen other guns pointed at them. A tall, muscular man with dark hair stepped forward.

“I hope you found what you came for, Simon.”

“Adam, listen, this concerns you too.”

A single laugh escaped Adam’s throat. “I know. I’ve seen all the files. They showed them to me when I took the job. Sure, my badge says ‘Pentagon Security,’ but I’ve only had one objective: protect these files from anyone else involved with Cloverleaf Project. We weren’t the only batch of super babies, you know. The project ran for ten years. Eventually someone would learn they may have been a part of it and want in here.”

Adam gestured toward the stairway. “Come along, now, we have a special new punishment lined up to try on you three.”

* * * *

Simon removed the ME and rubbed his temples. He placed his plate, utensils, and napkin back into the food generator.

“Recycling initiated,” said the not-quite-human voice.

The low hum of the engines started again, and he returned to the VRT.

* * * *

So we received our sentence. Sandra, Max, and myself each got sent different directions in space. Three pioneers to the three closest planets potentially habitable by humans. I have no idea how much of this you already know. I didn’t say anything in my previous transmissions. I knew the government would screen them. You’d have never seen them… Or at the least you wouldn’t get them in their entirety. My only hope for you to hear this one is if Julie still works for the department. This is the last message I can send you. I only have one transmission beacon left, and it has to contain information about the planet I land on. If I fail to send it, the government will come for you.

If I calculated correctly, and if the ship’s sensors are accurate, which I’m sure they are—I designed them myself—you should be about 30 years old now. It’s challenging to conceive, even for me, since I’m not much older than that myself. But by traveling nearly the speed of light, my ageing doesn’t progress like yours.

I’ve spent my time between hibernation periods pondering my decisions. Did I do the right thing? Was it worth it? I think I did. And it was. I only learned of your existence the day they sent me into space. By all accounts, you shouldn’t exist. I guess we really were lucky. My only regret is that I’ll never get to meet you.


To be continued… April 17

Dedicated to Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015), without whom, modern science fiction would likely not exist.


Eric Price lives with his wife and two sons in northwest Iowa. He began publishing in 2008 when he started writing a quarterly column for a local newspaper. Later that same year he published his first work of fiction, a spooky children’s story called Ghost Bed and Ghoul Breakfast. Since then, he has written stories for children, young adults, and adults. Three of his science fiction stories have won honorable mention from the CrossTime Annual Science Fiction Contest. His first YA fantasy novel, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, received the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval and the Literary Classics Award for Best First Novel. His second novel, The Squire and the Slave Master, continues the Saga of the Wizards. It is scheduled for an August 4, 2015 release. Find him online at authorericprice.comTwitterFacebook, and Goodreads.