SOME MATERIAL IN THESE BOOKS IS NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNG
CHILDREN. YOU MUST BE AT LEAST 21 IN ORDER TO BE HERE. IF YOU ARE NOT
OF AGE PLEASE LEAVE NOW!
LION OF SCYTHIA
Nikometros felt uneasy. Razor-sharp
shadows, cast by the harsh sunlight, made the landscape flat and
forbidding. The few sounds that came to his ears were muted, heard as
if from a great distance. The stench of burning flesh assailed his
nostrils. His horse shied as a vulture squawked and beat its way
slowly into the air. Nikometros leaned forward, patting the stallion’s
neck, soothing him. "Easy, Diomede, easy!"
The lone stallion and
rider picked their way slowly over uneven ground past a burned out
hovel. A dirty, unkempt figure moved slowly on foot alongside him.
Bits and pieces of pottery and other debris lay scattered by the side
of the track. The buzzing of flies around an unidentifiable corpse
lying by the rough track and the muted jingling of harness were the
only sounds invading the silence. He scanned the rocky ground ahead. A
few kites circled high above, almost lost in the intense blue of the
mountain sky. The tall young officer in Macedonian armor gripped his
horse with powerful tanned thighs, controlling it easily, his hands
only lightly resting on the reins. Light blue eyes squinted in the
glare beneath blonde locks poking out from under a bronze crested
helmet. He shifted his weight when his golden stallion fidgeted,
stamping and trying to turn as another horseman came up alongside him.
He turned to see his commander, Eumenion, smiling at him.
"I don’t like the look
of this place, sir," Nikometros murmured. "Those bandits obviously
passed this way and recently, but I don’t trust our guide. He keeps
assuring me they are nowhere near. Besides, this valley makes me
Eumenion glanced at the
short figure of their guide standing stolidly a few paces away. His
short and solidly built body, clothed in dirty rags, and reeking from
accumulated filth blended in with the desolate rocky ground. His dirty
face gazed vacantly at the hills around them.
"I’m not sure he’s
capable of guile, Niko", he replied. "He hardly seems aware of us.
Anyway, the men are ready for anything these savages can throw at us."
"I’ll move them ahead
then, sir." He snapped off a salute, wheeled his horse, and galloped
back to the
men waiting further down the dusty
track. The body of horsemen broke into a trot when Nikometros beckoned
them forward. His mind went back a few months to recent battles
against the Persians. As a young captain in Alexander’s Companion
Cavalry, he had led the elite of the army, sweeping all before them.
Laid low by foul water for several days, he found himself stranded in
newly conquered Sogdiana, as the ever-victorious Macedonian army swept
eastward. Now he found himself detached as an auxiliary commander of
new recruits, struggling to keep Scythia, part of the border
territories, in some sort of order. He examined the men as they
passed, putting a name to the face, examining their equipment, noting
how each sat his horse.
"Ten only," he muttered to himself.
"And only half-trained recruits at that. May the gods keep us." His
right hand went to the ornate gold armband around his left arm, as it
always did when he was worried. It had been his mother’s, and her
mother’s before her, a trophy of some long forgotten war on
Macedonia’s northern border. It featured a woman’s upper body merging
into the coils of a serpent. It was a prized possession, and he felt
that some daemon of good luck resided within it. He rubbed it
absentmindedly, hoping his luck held for them today.
Spurring his horse forward
Nikometros took up a position near the head of the column, the guide
running alongside and holding onto his horse’s mane. When they entered
the mouth of the defile, Eumenion raised his hand, and slowed the
column to a walk. Nikometros scanned the rocky hillsides, looking for
any sign of movement. Only the sun-baked earth met his intense gaze,
waves of heat distorting the air. A few scraggly trees sprawled over
the boulder-strewn ground, casting harsh shadows in the bright
sunlight. Sweat trickled slowly down his back. Flies gathered in a
small cloud around him, settling around his stallion’s eyes and mouth.
It tossed its head irritably, snorting. Nikometros shifted
uncomfortably, the worn, leather straps of his armor digging into
tensed muscles. The column moved slowly forward, penetrating deeper
into the valley. Eumenion moved up beside Nikometros, his brown
gelding whickering softly at the golden stallion.
"I’m worried, Niko. It’s too quiet.
We were close behind those bandits an hour ago, now they've just
disappeared. Have we lost them, or are they waiting for us somewhere?
They must know we are following."
Nikometros frowned at the easy
familiarity in Eumenion’s voice. He knew he’d have to find some way to
have a quiet word about it later. It was one thing to be relaxed in
his presence, but sometimes Eumenion was too friendly on duty.
Discipline was hard enough when separated from the main army, without
appearing to show favoritism. He’d known Eumenion since childhood, and
fought beside him throughout the Asian campaign. Consequently, he
often treated Nikometros as a friend rather than a junior officer.
Sometimes the men resented their special relationship. However, right
now he sounded worried. The bandits they were pursuing were probably
local tribesmen, but this last raid showed skillful planning. They had
been following the trail of burned out farms for three days.
"That gap in the rocks up ahead," he
went on. "If there’s a trap, that’ll be where it is. We’ll have to go
through there in single file, Niko."
Nikometros reached down and tapped
the guide on the head, grimacing as he did so. He was sure the man was
covered in lice. "Raiders… where are?" he said, twisting his tongue
around the recently learned syllables of the Scythian tongue.
The guide looked up at him with a
blank stare then pointed once more up the valley. Nikometros cursed
softly and drew his short sword, easing the small round shield on his
"A plague on this language. I wish I
knew enough of it to really question him and find out where he’s
leading us. I’d feel happier if we had enough men to send out a proper
scouting party, sir."
"Headquarters is sure of him, Niko.
The guide’s proved his loyalty before."
Nikometros grunted non-committedly.
He searched the pass in front of him with his eyes, before turning to
the fidgeting column of men and horses behind them. "Move forward
slowly, and as you love your lives, stay alert as we go through
He pointed his sword at the guide,
who looked up at him impassively, scratching his armpit. He leaned
down, gesturing with the sword.
"Take there up," he said then
cursing, tried again. "Take us up there, but if you lying, I kill you,
no make mistake."
The man looked sullenly at him then
turned away. The column, with the two officers at its head, moved
slowly up the path in single file, passing between the larger rocks at
the crest of the pass. Nikometros looked keenly about him when they
entered the pass, but could see no sign of danger. The shade cast by
the large boulders was a short but welcome relief from the heat.
Nothing stirred on the slopes, on either side, as the column moved
slowly through the pass. Nikometros found himself rubbing his armband
again, and dropped his hand self-consciously. The gradient dropped
away steeply on the other side, and the horses hooves slipped in the
loose scree. The clatter of the rocks and the jangling of metal seemed
too loud, echoing back from the sides of the valley. Nikometros slowed
and looked back to check on the men, seeing the last of them emerge
from the shadows of the rocks.
"That cursed fool’s half asleep," he
muttered to himself. He opened his mouth to shout at the soldier
swaying on his horse. A shadow flitted across the sun. He
involuntarily glanced upward, glimpsing swift movement above. Eumenion
grunted beside him, and Nikometros swung round, aware even as he did
so, that the last soldier was falling off his horse.
Eumenion stared at him; a wide-eyed
empty look of horror, and his hands scrabbled at his throat. He opened
his mouth and a small freshet of blood cascaded down his chin. He slid
slowly back off his horse, falling limply to the ground. Nikometros
watched all this in numbed disbelief. The silence and lack of
awareness of danger made the whole thing seem unreal. Eumenion lay on
his side, an arrow shaft in his neck propping his head up. He seemed
to be looking back up the trail.
Unthinkingly, Nikometros glanced in
the same direction. So little time had passed that the trooper was
still falling, though at least two others began to fall with him. A
shout of warning left his lips as reality flooded into his mind.
Nikometros jerked his horse’s head round, seeking the guide. He had
disappeared. As another cloud of arrows whistled overhead, he saw
figures moving on the far slope, many more than he would have
expected. Nikometros looked back at his friend’s body for a moment
then shook himself back into reality, cursing as he realized the folly
"Men, to me!" he yelled. "Form up on
me … shields over your heads."
One of the soldiers was surging back
up the path, whipping his horse in a frenzy. A man stepped out from
the shadows at the top, and cast a spear, taking the horse low down in
the neck. The horse screamed and reared, throwing its rider. Before
the man could rise, two youths were upon him, hacking downward.
The remaining men closed on
Nikometros, jostling his horse. Strained faces peered around shields
as they struggled to maintain a position close to him. The clatter of
arrows on the shields brought back an instant memory of hailstones on
the wooden roof tiles of his uncle’s hall near Pella, and of Eumenion.
He felt a strong desire to lose himself in pleasant memories, as the
weight of his responsibilities fell upon him. His commander was dead.
It was now his duty to care for his men. He looked quickly around,
taking in the situation.
Time enough for grief later,
he thought, I’ll have to act fast if any of
us are to live.
"Listen, men," he cried, pitching
his voice to carry over the din. "We are going to have to break free,
and we can’t go back through the pass. Follow me down the valley. Keep
in close formation, shields up!"
Nikometros kicked his horse in the
ribs, pulling his head towards the slope. The powerful stallion leapt
forward, plunging down, scattering rocks, and slipping in the loose
rubble. High-pitched cries came from the far slope when the ambushers
saw their prey escaping. Aware of riders close behind him, Nikometros
spurred his horse on harder, fighting for control on the steep slope.
The cries of the archers faded rapidly as his small troop raced
onward, down the valley floor and, within minutes, out onto a broad
plain at its base. They galloped onward, only slowing as their mounts
Pulling his horse up, Nikometros
turned to look back at his men. Only five remained. Sweaty,
dirt-streaked faces stared back at him. They wheeled their mounts
round, looking back the way they’d come. The horses panted and
snorted, their coats covered with foam. Nikometros flicked his eyes
over his men, registering who remained. He recognized Timon, an older
grizzle-bearded Macedonian conscript.
"You, Timon . . . I saw Doriskos and
Thyses fall. What happened to Leonidas and . . . who was that new man,
Periscus was it?"
"Fell in the first volley sir,"
Timon grunted. "And another three of us took wounds. What do we do
now, sir? We can’t go back through there."
Nikometros’ thoughts turned inward
again. Five of the men dead . . . gods! And Eumenion too . . . my
friend. He put his grief aside, thinking furiously. We can’t
risk going back through the pass, but the hills are low at this end of
the mountain range. Perhaps we can go around them. The Oxus River must
be close too, and there’s a garrison on the river. Maybe two days ride.
Lifting his head, Nikometros raised his voice so they could all hear
"We go around the hills, to the
west. That will bring us back to the Oxus River. Then we go upriver."
He paused, and his voice took on a gentler tone. "There’s nothing we
can do for our fallen. We’ll be back in force later. We can honor our
dead . . ."
His voice trailed away when a memory
he fought to forget pushed unbidden into his mind. He saw again the
ghastly stare on Eumenion’s face when death took hold of him. He
swayed then recovered his balance.
"Goodbye, my friend," he muttered,
"I’ll mourn you later, and I swear you will be avenged." Nikometros
gathered his thoughts, and then addressed his men again.
"All right, listen to me. We have a
hard ride to the river, but if the gods are with us, we can make it.
Keep close together, and don’t be tempted to fight if we run into more
of the enemy. This time we run." He quelled one or two murmurs at this
with a fierce look. "We’ll be back and we’ll avenge all our comrades
then." Nikometros looked into each man’s eyes as he spoke, seeing pain
and doubt in some, exhaustion in all, but also a determination to
survive. "Timon, lead out, double file. At a trot." He kicked his
horse into motion and the six remaining troopers formed a rough double
line, their shadows long behind them.
Toward dusk, shadows gathered around
the tiny column when they rounded the last of the hills. In front,
though still many miles away, lay the river. Nikometros reined in,
letting his horse rest. He gazed over the plain, searching for any
trace of the enemy. The ambush by archers and spearmen worried him,
though he tried to conceal it from the others. The rabble of local
tribesmen owned no horses, and none had been in evidence at the
ambush, yet they had followed the tracks of at least twenty horsemen
for the last three days.
Where are they now?
he wondered. Have they come through the
valley ahead of us? Are they waiting for us somewhere?
Nikometros looked around slowly then
pointed towards a small rocky outcrop about half a mile away, nestled
beneath the last of the hills. "We camp there tonight," he said, "and
try for the river at first light."
The men were reeling with exhaustion
as he led them toward the pile of rocks. He wished they could risk a
fire tonight but he knew it could easily be seen on these featureless
At least we have some rations, and a
warm blanket apiece, he
When they drew close to the rocks, a
motion beyond caught his eye. Involuntarily pulling back on the reins,
his spirit sank at the sight of a large body of true Scythian horsemen
coming around the edge of the outcrop. They rode easily, with
gaily-colored material hanging down around their horse’s legs.
Nikometros’ weary band had nowhere to hide, nowhere to run, and they
were heavily outnumbered. His men and horses, tired already, waited
for his command. He knew that to sit and do nothing meant certain
death. To flee, though, was but postponing their fate a short while.
Wheeling Diomede, Nikometros gestured towards the distant river.
"Ride for the river," he yelled, "we
will be cut down if we stay."
The horses reared, jostling and
bumping each other when his men hauled on their reins. Before they
could move more than a few paces, loud cries told him they were seen.
Nikometros kicked Diomede, forcing him into a gallop, in spite of his
great fatigue. His men strung out behind him, thrashing the sides of
their horses, hoping for more speed. He glanced back. His throat
tightened to see the Scythian horsemen only a few lengths behind. They
screamed war cries while they rode. Their horses moved easily, fresh
and full of energy. Nikometros snapped his attention back to his men.
He could see their efforts were hopeless. Already, the horses
faltered, their sides streaked with lather. As he watched, the
Scythian horsemen swept by on both sides then curved around in a
double line to block them. Nikometros cursed. His men hauled at their
horse’s heads, desperate to avoid a collision with the encircling
"Ride through them," he screamed,
"we cannot stay here to die."
As he did so, Nikometros’ horse
swerved violently, almost unseating him. He saw it was too late. The
soldiers sat slumped on their jostling horses in the middle of a ring
of screaming and laughing riders. The Scythians, brandishing weapons,
tightened the circle. At some unseen signal, the ring of galloping
horses came to a stop amid clouds of billowing dust, and a complete
silence fell. Every Scythian horseman sat staring in at the small
group of Greeks. All held a weapon at the ready. The Greeks stared
back at them, in no doubt that their deaths lay only moments away. The
moment dragged out. Still the encircling Scythians sat silent and
"Fight, you sons of whores!" yelled
Nikometros. "Come and find out how Macedonians can fight!"
Three riders detached themselves
from the ring of horsemen and moved towards him. They halted twenty
paces away. Two of the men were typically short and squat, but the
third, tall and slim, sat his horse silently. The tall man wore a
close fitting leather garment and leggings, with a cloak over his
shoulders. Gold ornaments and jewels hung from his neck and encircled
his arms. An ornate helmet of Persian design covered his head.
Nikometros locked eyes with him, acknowledging him as the leader. The
other two, far more plainly dressed, remained slightly behind him and
to each side. They exchanged a few words, too low for him to hear.
Then at a gesture from the leader, one of the others drew his sword
and rode forward slowly, shouting at Nikometros.
Nikometros stood his ground. He
resisted the temptation to draw his own sword. Their lives were in the
balance and he knew he must not precipitate a massacre by any sudden
action. A high, clear cry came from behind him, lifting the hairs on
his neck. A soldier pushed past him, still calling out in a high
voice. Agamis, the young Thracian, galloped towards the leader. He
called on his gods to accept his spirit, to know he had lived and died
"Agamis," Nikometros shouted,
A glazed look in his eyes, Agamis
spurred his horse, calling on his Thracian gods again and launched
himself at the trio. As he did so, a quick signal from the young
Scythian leader released the ring of horsemen. Agamis died, transfixed
by several arrows. The ring of horsemen surged inward, swallowing up
Nikometros and his men in a confused melee. The clash of metal and
harsh cries told Nikometros the final moment had come. His men died
around him. He dragged his sword from its sheath. Holding his shield
high, he dug his heels into Diomede’s sides. He swung his sword at a
horseman on his right, slashing him across the chest, while blocking
another blow with his shield. A spear caught him in the left shoulder
and another in his thigh.
I die with honor, father,
he thought, ignoring the pain and blood. A flare of pain in the side
of his head dizzied him for a moment and told him his helmet was lost.
The figure of the Scythian leader loomed in front of him. He swung
blindly, determined to take him with him in death. A jarring shock in
his arm swung him around when one of the leader’s guards parried his
blow. The man shouted and thrust his spear at Nikometros’ midriff. The
bronze point struck his breastplate and glanced off. Nikometros swung
his sword, pushing the spear aside then again, hacking at the guard’s
neck. The blow connected with his shoulder, slicing through the thin
leather. The guard cried out shrilly, blood soaking his chest and his
face pulled taut in agony. Nikometros pushed his horse past the dying
guard, seeking the leader. Horses milled around him. Sounds of combat
fell away behind. He couldn’t spare a look when another spear came at
him, searching for his life. His men’s cries and shouts faded then
ceased. He knew death had come.
"I am dead with you Eumenion," he
cried out, "but their leader’s blood will feed your ghost."
His stallion pressed closer to the
leader, and a startled look crossed the man’s eyes when Nikometros
swung his sword again. The man jerked backwards, pulling sharply on
his reins and half turned his horse to escape. Nikometros swung wildly
at the arms clutching at him and ignored the spears probing his armor.
Dropping his shield, he threw himself at the man. He fell on the other
horse’s rump. He slid off, clutching at the man’s leg with his hand as
he fell, dragging him off his horse. He fell to the ground, amidst
flailing hooves and dust, coughing and clutching his sword. Nikometros
pushed himself up on his knees. Blood streamed from a cut on his arm.
Horses stamped and moved around him. A stray hoof thumped into his
side. Nikometros looked around wildly.
. . . can’t see me for the horses,
The leader lay half-stunned on the
ground in front of him, making feeble efforts to rise. Nikometros
threw himself forward, chopping down with his sword. The blow hit the
man on the helmet, knocking it off and away under the horses’ hooves.
The leader cried out and raised himself on an elbow. When the horses
parted, Nikometros gathered himself for the killing stroke, knowing
his own death would closely follow. He raised his sword, his eyes
locking with the fallen man’s. Deep green eyes, wide and staring, met
his. Something stirred deep within them as they gazed at his pale blue
ones. Long locks of black hair framed a delicate, beardless face; a
face too soft, too gentle to be a warrior’s.
Awareness flashed through Nikometros’
mind at the same moment he started the killing downstroke, ". . .
gods," he blurted, "a woman . . ." His arm jerked the blade to one
side, missing her and burying the blade in the rocky earth. His sword
slipped from his hand and he knelt in front of her. Nikometros felt
himself weakening. His right hand crept across his body, fumbled
awkwardly with his armband again. The young woman’s eyes followed the
movement of his hand. Her eyes suddenly widened. A shadow crossed his
face as a horse moved up beside him and a stunning blow to his head
sent blood cascading over his face. Blinded, he was briefly aware of
someone shouting before he slipped gratefully into oblivion.
THE DEVIL IS IN
The night hummed, electric with
unbridled human energy. An inky black, moonless sky made a perfect
backdrop for multi-colored light displays and gaudy plastic
arrangements of false holly, pine trees, and religious figurines.
Nervous wisps of gauzy snow clouds insinuated themselves across the
velvet backdrop; their insubstantial fingers tenuously touching the
strobe-like flashes, reflecting and magnifying them. Combined with
raucously loud music and the voices of people jostling each other
along the streets and in the stores, the chaotic lightshow of
festivities turned the street into a parody of a 1970s discotheque.
It was Christmas Eve and death
stalked the living on this holiday night.
One tall figure, bundled tightly in
a heavy woolen overcoat and slouch hat, watched the party out of the
corner of his eye as he blended with the shadows in a deserted
alleyway. But the real cause of his celebration existed on the other
side of the window he jealously guarded.
The sensory intrusion of
merry-making reverberated through and around the man, a shadow within
a shadow, deafening and jagged inside his skull. He ignored it. The
window showcasing an old style 1930s ballroom, like a spectacular 3D
movie, captured and ensnared his imagination. Within his world, this
window, the only window to exist, he focused all his attention
on her, the one face shining in a room full of dull, faceless
A full instrument band filled the
room with cheerful, but seductive, music. She swayed with the crowd,
her delicate long-fingered hand grasping the neck of a champagne
bottle. Confetti and ribbons from packages littered her thick curly
hair where it came loose from a pair of fragile filigree combs that
earlier held it on top of her head. He loved to watch her hair
cascading down to her small waist. He reached out a hand toward the
frosty glass of the window; impulsively wanting to stroke that mane of
silken hair as it tumbled over her porcelain shoulders. A golden
strapless dress clung to her curves, imbuing her perfect body with the
aura of a priceless work of art. The dress shimmered when she laughed
and kissed the men surrounding her on the dance floor, under a large
bundle of mistletoe hanging from the ceiling. He watched her move away
from her admirers only to bend over and kiss a lone middle-aged man
sitting at the bar who beckoned to her.
When her breasts threatened to
escape from the tight, strapless dress she wore, the watcher’s painful
erection pushed against the hard brick wall of the alleyway. Blood
pounded in his ears, his hands shook harder, and his breath fogged up
the windowpane when he panted in anticipation. His world hyper-focused
on her and her alone.
Moist, pink lips formed a smile then
erupted into a delighted laugh when the pesky drunk at the bar grabbed
her arm. She distracted him by pointing at the big screen television
mounted above the bar. It showed the giant Christmas tree in front of
the White House as it came alive with lights, showcasing the multitude
of ornaments and glittering tinsel it carried. A split screen showed
an even larger and gaudier tree being lit in Times Square, eternally
heralding another year of good will, peace and the promise of new
hopes and revived dreams. It officially became Christmas Day.
She drunkenly swayed away from the
drunk’s grasp again and turned to talk to the man standing pressed
tightly behind. When he leaned forward, rubbing his hand over the
satin of her hip and whispering in her ear, her face diffused with
intense anger. Her elegant, ring-clad hand snapped up to slap him then
stopped, as if an invisible wall had prevented her from making contact
with the man sneering up at her. Sagging, she let her arm drop limply
to her side and turned away, a defeated, worn look sinking into her
beautiful face, momentarily aging it. She turned and fled.
Squeezing through the crowd, her
tall, voluptuous body made slow progress toward the room beyond. She
disappeared into the connecting room and out of the watcher’s view.
Shuddering with anxiety and breathless expectancy he waited. His gaze
alternated between the window and the street; knowing she’d appear in
one or the other. His breath caught in anticipation of seeing her
without the coldness of glass between them. While he huddled inside a
long wool coat, crouched within the alley, the crowds on the sidewalks
became noisier and their actions more blatantly sexual or violent.
Their smells and noises angered him, awakening a sense of violation
inside his gut that railed against the very presence in this world of
such human vermin. This moment belonged to him… and to her.
Young, uncaring and mindlessly
self-indulgent, men and women often ducked into the alleyway where he
now stood motionless in the shadows. They groped, gyrated and moaned
against each other; rutting in the alley like animals. Drunk beyond
all self-control, they rarely took long and often left with most of
their clothes open or missing, leaving naked bodies exposed to public
view. Although deeply repulsed, he liked to watch. Sometimes he
followed them when they left. But tonight was for her… only for her.
Tonight, the dream would bring her
to him. He’d waited and watched, just like the dream told him to, and
now, she would be his. His hands oozed sweat worse than ever and his
body shook so violently he was ready to explode. He pulled sweaty
leather gloves off and rubbed the moisture from his hands; roughly
swiping them over the soft wool collar while subconsciously pulling at
it, partially hiding his face. Nervously tucking the gloves into a
pocket, he licked dry lips and waited for her, like an impatient
teenager on a first date. The thought of finally showing himself to
this vision of pure angelic womanhood set panic scurrying around his
belly. Frantically putting the gloves back on, he pulled his hat lower
to hide his eyes. His gaze swiftly shifted from the doorway to the
building, to the street and back to the filth of the alleyway, like a
caged animal ready to gnaw his way to freedom. His gaze locked onto
the pattern of the brickwork he stood upon, forcing him to notice that
snow was falling again.
After what seemed like eons, she
stepped out of the building with a white fur wrapped tightly around
her body and the dim overhead neon light emphasizing the pale golden
cascade of her hair. She stood under the awning, slowly turning her
head to the right and left, cornflower eyes searching for a taxi and
giving him a private show of her classic beauty as her profile turned
to accommodate his admiring gaze.
She’s so clean, so pure and she’s
He vibrated with anticipation and
licked his lips again. He could smell the heavy musk of her perfume.
Clinging to the staircase handrail
for support, her body shivered with the cold. How he longed to warm
He poised himself at the mouth of
the alley ready to follow whichever way she went. She cursed loudly,
realizing the taxis were wisely staying away from the downtown area
tonight, then shivered again. The harsh cold seemed to make up her
mind for her. Shakily making her way down the stairs on thin-strapped
high heels, her hand slid down the rail. He held his breath, hoping
she wouldn’t fall on the icy concrete. She made it to the sidewalk,
turned right and slowly moved down the street away from the alley. The
watcher stepped out and turned to see if any of the loud party-makers
clogging the street noticed his presence. He grinned.
Soon she will be mine.
The grin widened into a leer.
The leer widened into a twisted snarl.
He hungrily riveted his gaze on her
retreating back and followed. He knew her destination. A cozy
apartment three blocks away.
While unseasonably icy rain pelted
the windowpanes of the big bay window behind her overstuffed, floral
velvet couch, Katherine Hurston lay snuggled warmly against Steve's
sweat dampened side. The glow from the television lit the darkened
room with shifting patterns of shadow and light. Neither of the lovers
noticed or cared what was on the screen.
His warm hand caressed her arm
gently as he spoke, his voice as soft and smooth as the velvety
material under Kat's body. "You know, someday we’ll look back on this
and wonder how we managed to be so comfortable and content just
spending days in this cottage. No restaurants, no clubs and no other
people to distract us. Do you miss it? I mean, going out, seeing plays
in the city or going to parties?"
She smiled up at the masculine cleft
in his chin that never failed to produce a flood of passion within
her. "No, I don’t. I’m tired of pandering to people in order to make a
corporate sale for a computer network that will be obsolete within a
year. I got tired of all the commercial politics years ago. The only
real peace I've felt in years is when I'm here with you." Kat reached
up and gently ran her finger over his lips. "Truth is, I could gladly
stay here like this for the rest of my life. I could stay here, alone
with you, for the rest of my life. I don’t want to live without you. I
won’t live without you.
She lifted her lips and ran them
over his chin then eased back, nuzzling his neck as she went. His
strong fingers ran up her arm, over her collarbone and then traced a
warm pattern down between her full breasts. Kat sighed with
contentment. "My life is yours, Steve. I could stay here forever." She
returned the caress, lightly sweeping her fingertips over the dense
blonde hair matting his naked chest.
"I could too, love, but…" he sighed,
his fingers gently teasing her taut, erect nipple.
"I know, you have your practice and
you can’t let all those criminals down." She laughed up into his
She sat up and took his hand gently
in hers, lightly rubbing it while she spoke. "Steve, I’ve never felt
this way about anybody before. She swallowed and continued, "I know it
sounds corny but I’m in love for the first time in my life. I’m
forty-eight years old and I’ve never been married for a good reason.
All the men I’ve met are nothing compared to you." She lightly kissed
the knuckles of his hand then held it tight against her cheek. "You're
handsome." She caressed his face. "You're one of the most intelligent
men I've ever met." She tapped his forehead and grinned. "You're
loving and generous." She ran her fingers over his chest. "And, you're
the sexiest man I've ever had the good fortune to be seduced by." She
playfully ran her hands over his stiffening penis. A deep, throaty
chuckle accompanied his groan of pleasure when she grasped him and
gently began to rhythmically stroke the hard shaft.
"We are good together." He ran his
shaking fingers over her cheek, cupped the back of her head and gently
pulled her toward him, his free hand seeking the warmth of her breast
Kat leaned toward him and lightly
ran her tongue over the curve of his ear. He shuddered with pleasure
and began to thrust his hips in rhythm with her hand. Kat whispered,
"Why don’t we live together, my love? Move in with me. It will be so
Like quicksilver, his face darkened
with anger, giving his clear blue eyes the look of hard gems. He
grasped her shoulders and thrust her away. "How many times do I have
to tell you I can't live here yet? Why won't you be patient? I thought
you said you'd wait forever."
The sarcasm in his voice lashed her
heart into ribbons. The old argument between them still had the power
to wound her. Kat's response was immediate. Her back stiffened as she
pulled her peach silk robe together. She grabbed the tortoise-shell
hair combs off the coffee table and used them to anchor her long, red
hair onto the top of her head. "We bought this cottage three months
ago so we could be together but you still insist on keeping your
apartment in the city. Why?" Her voice dripped hurt and anger.
She watched in trepidation as he ran
his hands through his thick blonde hair in agitation. He shook his
head slowly from side to side and said, "I told you, honey. I have to
be close to my office. I’m a lawyer and I never know when something’s
going to come up." When she made no remark, he continued, his voice
tired and tinged with irritation. "Aw, come on, Kat, you know how it
is...I know you’re stuck here because of your work but I’m here almost
every weekend, aren’t I? You know I’d like nothing better than to live
here with you but it has to wait. That’s all." He leaned over and slid
his hand into her robe. His fingers on her bare breast took her breath
away. He nuzzled her ear and whispered, "Be patient and when I can,
I’ll move out here and start a small country practice. Okay?"
Leaning into his hand, she murmured,
"Okay, I'll try to be understanding, my love. I don’t want to pressure
you. I’m just afraid that all this is too good to be true. I love you,
As he pulled the combs from her hair
and it tumbled down her back, his lips traced the contour of her ear
and neck and he whispered, "I love you too, baby. You’ll never lose
me, I promise."
He held her tightly to his bare
chest, devouring her neck and shoulders until she trembled against
him. She shrugged out of the robe and leaned back, naked, onto the
couch, his body following hers.
Rising up over her, he looked into
her eyes, his blue ones dark with passion, and said, "Kat, you’re the
only woman for me. Someday I’ll prove it to you."
"Prove it to me now," she whispered
as he lowered his body to hers and she spread her dampened thighs to
ONE OF THE GLASS HOUSE TRILOGY
"What is the most
cunning creature in the world? The one you never see or hear."
He raised his bloodied face from the
fresh kill, the antelope forgotten as the voices filled his head. They
called to him, a siren’s song, stroking every cell and fiber of his
brain. Picking up his spear, he rose onto his knees, listening. He
anxiously fingered the black stone hanging around his neck; its angled
facets catching the light in a rainbow of colors. Fear twitched thick,
knotted muscles as he aimed his mind toward the message he knew he
must listen to and obey. He could hear Umbra, his grown son, in the
next valley, and the other men of his village. They all froze, joining
their thoughts to his; listening to the distant message.
Garagh, my father, do you
hear? They call again,
Umbra’s thoughts connected with Garagh’s mind, that was now filled
with images alien to memory.
Yes, I hear, my son. It is stronger
this time. We must answer, as we have been taught to do by the
ancients. Call the others. We must go--- now,
No resistance was possible, or
given, as he rose onto trembling, muscular legs. Slinging the kill
around his thick neck, Garagh scanned the horizon for the other
hunters of the tribe, his dark, penetrating eyes protected from the
fierce sun by a thick brow. He could hear their thoughts and feel
their reactions, and he knew they were aware of his inner workings as
Come my brothers. We go to the camp.
We must ready ourselves and our people for the journey. It is time…at
Aiming his resolute face toward the
south, he took his first step into a journey that would last 30,000
years and change the fate of mankind
Dr. James Hay felt a river of sweat
run down the valley of his wide, sunburned back. The deepening color
of his skin highlighted the small triangular scar on his right
shoulder. He ran his fingertips absently over the faint ridge while
carefully inspecting the rocks scattered over the table before him.
Straightening with a groan, he
rubbed his hands over the knots aching in the small of his back and
lifted his eyes to gaze at the brilliant blue of an Australian summer
sky. As a cool breeze swirled around his body like a playful puppy,
shivers of delight ran though him in spite of the intense humid heat.
A small, secret smile curved his lips. His stomach muscles tensed when
the damp, sensual smell of the rainforest mixed with the perfume of
orchids wafted into his nostrils. His body betrayed him…
It smells like her; primal, sensual,
The forbidden thought sent a jolt
through him, his body responding in spite of a lifelong regime of iron
control. He pulled in a ragged mouthful of the heavily scented air.
It’s been too long… way too long.
The undulating sensuality of palm
fronds swaying in the wind brought back a memory of watching her
dance, her body moving with grace and elegance against the man who had
held her tightly against him. Passion swirled through his loins,
building an unquenchable fire. A torrent of desire that flooded his
mind and body. He closed his eyes and willed away the feelings, the
mental images assaulting him from all directions. With a ragged
breath, he turned toward the sound of soft footsteps approaching from
behind. He turned. Please be….
The lone figure of Maggie Chin, an
elegant Chinese girl of twenty-two and one of his postgraduate
students, slowly made its way toward him. Like a cold shower, her
approach served to snap him out of this useless reverie and reminded
him that fantasies, by their very nature, cannot fill an empty life.
He yanked his shirt off the branch he’d hung it on to dry out, slipped
it on and took a deep, cleansing breath, dispelling the images he’d
fought to bury since his trip to Washington.
Work is what I need. It’s always
been there for me and it always will be. Besides, Samantha Louis
doesn’t even know I'm alive and if she did, a woman like her wouldn’t
want me. He used his tried
and true mantra to rebury the past and get on with the present.
He studied the site several
volunteer students were working on with the diligence of ants. Their
chatter and laughter echoed around the site, silencing the lorikeets,
cockatoos and insects that normally dwelled there. The tangled,
dripping vines of the rainforest almost obscured the view of the
central site where a small knot of trusted people gathered. Each one
worked feverishly on a facet of a towering, coal-black obelisk
standing in the center of a perfectly round bare spot fired into the
middle of the rainforest. Its smooth, geometrically cut surface
reflected the sunlight beating upon it with all the brilliance of a
perfect diamond. James stood on the outskirts of the site, away from
the group, his hands resting on the carvings etched deeply into large
fragments of the hard rock they’d found laid out in a perfect circle
around the obelisk. Observing the high-energy activity of this elite
group of volunteers, his body quivered with fatigue and suppressed
Part of it had to do with the unique
object they’d found, but another part was due to the telephone call
he'd made from his seedy hotel room two nights ago.
She is on her way to Australia.
She’ll be here any moment. God, I wish she was coming here for me
instead of the promise of a big story.
In spite of the knowledge that she
couldn't be interested in anything other than another literary award,
the thrill of seeing her again sent another tremor through his body.
They had only met once, at a gathering of science delegates in
Washington, D.C. where he gave a talk as guest speaker. He vividly
remembered talking to her briefly about his work investigating
Australian mysteries; her genuine interest surprising him. He also
remembered thinking how it would be easy to drown in the blue of her
eyes and lose himself in her arms. The memory of Samantha’s lithe body
encased in a flowing black velvet dress, her flaming auburn hair
cascading down the soft bare flesh on her back remained etched in his
mind. Samantha Louis, as he found out later, worked as a world-class
freelance journalist. After hearing she’d won several major awards, he
stopped paying attention, knowing she was out of his league.
When a family friend out walking in
the bush discovered the obelisk, and he sent a photo and a map to the
University, James knew the find would be an international media circus
unless he moved fast to contain it before it became public knowledge.
That’s when he decided to do a thorough background check on Samantha
Louis. He liked what he saw and heard about her integrity and
professionalism. Her honest and precise reporting motivated him to
contact her when it became obvious he’d have to let the media in on
his find. James needed her to report the truth, to keep out the rest
of the sensation-seeking press with her clout and, more importantly to
him, to protect the Aboriginal people he loved
He realized he stood there with a
silly grin on his face and instantly pulled his thoughts back to the
present situation. Maggie stood patiently waiting for him to notice
her before speaking out. "Lost in another world huh?" She fingered her
long, black braid and smiled up at him. The silken tropical print of
her blouse whispered when the breeze caught it.
Her child-like voice, smooth
porcelain features and tiny figure never ceased to stir up feelings of
fatherly protectiveness inside him. But then, he felt that way about
all his students. He grinned at her. "No, a new found world, Maggie.
She held out a neatly typed report.
"You asked for the analysis data I did of the black rock found on the
coast, remember? To compare this one to?" Her calm, patiently
modulated tone, one used by very young people when dealing with older
authority figures, made him chuckle.
"Right. Too much on my mind lately."
His face split into a lazy lopsided smile. When she turned to go he
added, " By the way, I don’t think I ever thanked you for dropping
everything, including your PhD, to come and help us with this. I value
your expertise with the analysis. Thanks, Maggie."
She held up her tiny hand with an
indulgent sigh. "I’ve told you before, Doctor, no thanks needed. This
is a chance for me too. Anything that has to do with people’s beliefs
and myths is just a part of the whole. Besides, I get tired of
Oriental mythology. I wanted to see how other cultures fared in that
department. Anything else I can do before I go help Ratana with the
etchings?" She raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow at him.
"Well, thank you anyway. I’m sure
your husband doesn’t appreciate your absence." When she grinned, he
ventured on. "Since you ask, would you indulge me and go see how
Nathan and the others are doing down at the blockade?" He
absent-mindedly swatted at another mosquito attracted to the sweat
saturating his clothes.
While she quietly walked toward the
dirt road leading into the clearing, he opened the report, briefly
scanned it then looked up to search for his research assistant. "Ratana,
where the hell are those computer readouts I asked for?" he bellowed
over to the young Aboriginal woman kneeling at the base of the obelisk
and taking notes.
From where he stood, her thick brown
hair obscured her face, but her body language spoke volumes about
Aboriginal pride. Her wide shoulders tensed then relaxed, before she
replied, "Patience, Uncle. They’ll be here when they’re finished.
Eddy’s gonna bring ‘em and you know how slow he is, so calm down." She
immediately dismissed him, absent-mindedly brushed dried red clay from
her dark brown legs and returned to her work.
Grunting in frustration, he scanned
the other students gathering information, hoping to spot Eddy at his
usual pastime of harassing the female students when they bent over.
James snorted with disgust at the image of Eddy’s small, piggy eyes
devouring the sight of the young women’s bodies while they worked. He
pushed the image out of his mind as he strode to a battered and
ancient army tent used as a base office. He paused at the closed tent
flap and listened. Issuing a low snarl of anger, he stepped inside.
Eddy sat at the computer terminal, downloading files onto a computer
disc. The young man’s frail-looking and bony body was bent towards the
screen with intense concentration. The thick glasses he wore reflected
the streams of file names moving down the screen. The slack-mouthed
look of greed and evil malice shone from his pale face.
"What the hell are you doing?" James
demanded when he looked over Eddy’s hunched shoulders and saw the data
from the find streaming down the screen.
The young man’s skinny body jumped
at the sharp whiplash in James’s voice. "Just backing up the files,
Doctor Hay. That’s all." The pallor of his face blended his small
features in with the dull, yellowish tinge of his T-shirt. He
stammered, squirmed and peered anxiously at the flap of the tent.
James leaned over Eddy’s shoulder
and stared closely at the list of files copying onto the disk. He
could feel his cheeks and neck suffusing with a red-hot flush of
anger. He glared at Eddy’s frightened face. "Okay, Eddy. Who’s paying
you for this? One of the newspaper guys or your uncle?"
"I can’t talk. He’ll kill me. I
didn’t mean it, Doctor Hay. Please don’t hit me." Eddy cringed back
into the chair, his hands outstretched. His words degenerated into
childish whimpers, sputtering and stuttering. Eddy jumped out of the
chair and bolted out of the tent. James ejected the computer disk out
of the drive and tucked it into the pocket of his khaki shorts. As he
left the tent, Ratana headed in, almost bumping into him. "Hey, what’s
going on? Eddy just flew past me like his tail was on fire," she
asked, concerned at the thunderous look on his face. "And, you look
like you just caught a blowfly in the teeth."
"He was copying our files. I’ll bet
he intended to sell the disk to one of those newspaper vultures trying
to get in here. I caught him in the act and he ran." Running his
fingers through the wet hair wildly capping his head, fought back the
bile rising in his throat at the thought of a student, even one as
unsavory as Eddy, selling his data to those who regularly ostracized
his work. "It was bound to happen sooner or later, I suppose. Peter
would give anything to discredit me. I know he forced that kid on me
so he could use him in some way. I just hoped Eddy would prove me
"Well, what’s done is done. I’ll
make sure Nathan knows to keep him out from now on. At least you know
he’ll bleed the reporters dry before he gives up what he’s stolen, if
anything." She laughed, deep and throaty.
"Well, I managed to catch him before
he made off with the disk anyway." He fingered the blue plastic disk
while he mentally counted the stack of them on his desk.
"And, if they choose to print what
he claims to remember, we'll hit them with a lawsuit based on faulty
information. I'll be Ally McBeal and you can be Bobby what's-his-name
from that other solicitor program." Ratana roared with laughter at the
image of herself trying to walk in clunky heels and a micro-miniskirt.
He snorted, suppressing his own
laughter. Forcing his face into a serious expression, he proclaimed,
"They deserve it. Those people are like cockroaches, they just keep
turning up no matter how hard you work to get rid of them."
subsided into a disjointed series of chuckles. "Yeah, and you’ve
always been so nice to them too. Seriously, James, this find is
drawing reporters from all over the world. This Louis lady you
contacted better get here soon. We can’t keep the rest of them out
forever, you know. The only reason they’re not swarming over this
place is because it’s a protected Aboriginal hunting ground but that
won’t keep them out for long. What do you plan on doing when that
happens, shoot them?" Her deep brown eyes studied the distress James
knew his face revealed.
"If I thought for one minute it
would help to let them in, I would. At first, excited about my finds,
I was the first one to call them, wanting to share my work with the
world. I found out real quick how idealistic that turned out to be."
He scowled and took a deep breath. "This is so much more than I’ve
ever found before. Mick told me I’d have no choice this time. I have
to cooperate if we’re to save it from the bureaucrats. Problem is, I
don’t trust any of them. Maybe this American-lady journalist can find
a way, I don’t know. I do know one thing, though, if Ms. Louis doesn’t
show up soon, I don’t know what to do short of turning Nathan’s
hotheaded native guards loose on them."
He groaned and sat down on a stool
beside the tent flap. Rubbing his eyes, he continued, "This is one of
the greatest alien finds ever and we have to beat off the press, the
government and the nutcases just to study it. Worse yet, my own boss
at the University refuses to let the board know I’ve found anything
worthwhile. If I go back down to Townsville to get the funding I need
from the board, the bastards here will seize the obelisk and we’ll
have nothing. It’s a no win situation, Ratana. I’ve waited years for
something like this to happen and now it feels more like a disaster to
me than a blessing." He rubbed his eyes again. "God, I’m tired."
"Excuse me, Doctor Hay? Do you
remember me? You called and invited me to come to do the story for
you…," Sam looked awkward as she stood in the doorway of the tent. She
tugged at a sweat stained business suit and pulled a high heel out of
the sticky clay, obviously feeling like a complete idiot. James could
almost hear her ranting inside his head.
Damn those travel people! No one
warned me about what was out here. Neither did that bloody
photographer of mine. I’m gonna kill him when we get back to the
He had to admit she did a good job
of being embarrassed while maintaining a professional pasted-on smile.
When the tall, wide-shouldered man
she knew to be Doctor Hay, rose and turned at the sound of her voice,
Sam’s mouth dried up. He looked just the way she remembered. The sheer
raw masculinity of him seeped into her body like hot oil; it massaged
her libido. She felt her body come alive under his amused stare.
He’s not handsome but, boy, there’s
something about him that hits a woman like a ton of bricks!
Sam thought as she took in his
looks at a glance, comparing the way he looked now to the shy stranger
in a tuxedo she’d met before. Tall, older, but still
muscular; in top shape. Long legs, tanned, rugged…wow…his eyes.
She felt her stomach knot up when those incredible gray eyes swept
"Ah, Ms. Louis, you finally
arrived." James became aware of his voice; deep, sensual and vibrating
with suppressed desire. Inwardly, he flinched and took a firm hold of
his emotions. He took in her tall, athletic figure, superimposing his
memory of her curves under a clinging dress onto the woman standing
awkwardly in front of him now.
He also saw the young, tall,
handsome man standing behind her with a video camera on his shoulder.
"Who the hell are you and how did you get past the guards at the
roadblock? I don’t talk to reporters so please leave. Ms. Louis, you
may come in." He turned back to Ratana, immediately dismissing the
cameraman as one more irritant to ignore.
"Doctor Hay, Marc is with me. If I’m
doing the story, I need my cameraman." Sam’s eyes flared with
irritation at the preemptory tone James knew he fell back on when
under stress. Deliberately, she reached out to pat her cameraman’s
arm, clearly sending a message that she would refuse to cooperate
without the young man. Marc smirked at James, but his eyes flashed
James studied the two and his heart
hit his shoes when his fantasies of her disintegrated instantly. The
hollow feeling inside his chest sharpened into anger, but he looked
deep into her eyes, responding to their fire against his will. The
sight of a running figure behind her yanked him back to the moment.
"Just a moment, Ms. Louis."
Maggie trotted up, gasping for
breath and holding her side. "Doctor Hay. Nathan says to get ready.
There are some high-ranking military guys at the barrier. He says he
can’t keep them out."
He nodded at Maggie, whose look of
anxiety and furtive glances at the computer reminded him about saving
any of the data he may have overlooked. Ratana had already thought of
it. She sat in front of the computer deleting files at a furious pace.
"Ratana what would I do without you?" He lightly shook her shoulder
then turned back to Maggie, her face a study in curiosity as she
inspected Sam and her cameraman. "Maggie, get the guys to pack up what
they have as soon as they can manage it. I don’t want anybody
confiscating our findings."
"Will you please tell me what’s
going on here?" Sam wiped beads of sweat off her forehead then stood
with her fists on her hips, an insulted tone tingeing the question.
James held up a hand to stay her
question while he continued to give Ratana instructions. "We have to
get pictures of all the markings on the stone made pronto. Have
whoever does them use the Polaroid and take them from different
angles." James deliberately kept talking, hoping to get his emotions
in check before he faced her again.
God…she is beautiful but this isn’t
the time or place.
The look on Ratana’s face told James
he wasn’t fooling her, no matter how cold and professional he spoke to
Sam. She responded to his orders with a smirk and a laugh in her
voice. "Don’t worry about Nathan. He’ll hold them for as long as we
need. However, that stone won’t wait and if the mobs are going to hit
soon then we have to get as much as we can before they do."
James sent a tiny smile to Ratana,
her knowing look boring into his thoughts. He took a deep breath and
turned to Maggie, who stood quietly, but alertly, by the tent flap.
"Maggie, go take some Polaroids of the obelisk; all sides, all angles.
Bring them back and give them to either myself or Ratana." Facing the
young cameraman, the video cam still on his shoulder, he barked out,
"You. Go with her and get some film of the artifact. When you’re
finished, I expect you to give the film to Maggie and clear off." When
the man hesitated, looking at Sam for a nod, which she gave, James
shouted, "Now!" Maggie turned and trotted away faster than she’d
arrived, the cameraman hot on her heels.
Her fingers flying over the
keyboard, Ratana spoke as if nothing out of the ordinary was
happening. "You know, it’s eerie. The markings on that thing are so
similar to the Aboriginal drawings at Split Rock it’s uncanny. The
black rock it’s made from looks the same as the stone in the Black
Mountain out by Cooktown. The only difference is, this baby is much
harder. Robbie had to analyze it standing up. Nothing would cut it,
not even his diamond tip drill. He’s kind of thrown by that, I think…"
Her voice coiled in tightly held
strands of self-control, Sam rounded on James. "Doctor Hay, if I
remember correctly you are the one who called me. We spoke about my
coming to do a legitimate story on what’s happening here. Remember?
I’m assuming you wanted everything recorded? To do that I need my
cameraman to have access to everything, and so do I. I need facts,
information, pictures…you know, something to write about."
James realized that his lack of
common manners was pressuring her to be sarcastic and he could see her
struggling to keep a leash on it, not wanting to start off on the
wrong foot. The jumble of guilt and desire that flooded up within him
threatened to give his feelings away. In response, his voice dropped
to even colder tones.
"Okay Ms. Louis, you may keep your
companion, but keep him out of our way. I don’t want to be tripping
over him every time I turn around."
His stomach twisted when Sam forced
a smile and nodded her head in agreement. "Agreed, Doctor Hay. Marc is
a professional and will not interfere in any way. Now, about the
information you’ve already gotten? And any pictures too?"
"Good. I’ll fill you in later. In
the meantime, when he returns you can take him and look around…get a
feel for things. Don’t touch anything though and keep out of the way."
He steeled his face with a stern look, in spite of feeling like he’d
like to dive into the cool of her eyes and just keep on sinking.
"Doctor Hay, this is unprofessional.
It’s…" Sam stood ramrod straight, her long fingers clenched so tightly
the knuckles went white.
"That’s what you people do isn’t it?
So go do it and leave me to my work, please." Her presence distracted
him far more than he could afford at the moment, and he knew it.
Sam stared at his face. James could
see her debating whether or not to push the issue. He towered over her
tall frame, intimidating her; obviously something she wasn’t used to
from anyone when she flinched but defiantly stood her ground. Without
further comment, she made a sound of deep disgust and with a final
sweep of contemptuous eyes over the tent and over James and Ratana in
the process, she stormed through the heavy vines surrounding the tent.
After she left, James’ shoulders
slumped and he quietly eased down on a chair tucked next to the tent
flap. "Why the hell did I treat her like that? Talk about being a
cad." He snorted, disgusted with himself. "I’m never that rude to
people, much less to beautiful women."
Ratana chuckled again. "You noticed,
huh? It’s about time, Uncle. We always wondered why you never
married." She leaned back in her chair. "Besides, you’re not fooling
me a bit. You’re rude to her because you know she’s the one who could
finally get you to hang it up and get a real life." She glanced at him
under her lashes and smiled. "You’re like an old, set in his ways
bachelor. You’re fighting giving up your freedom."
He threw her a disgusted look and
made a show out of ignoring her and her amateur psychology. When he
tried to clear his mind, he found that he was too tired to worry about
Sam, relationships or anything beyond his work. The obelisk took
precedent. He steeled himself to brutally keep Sam out of his life and
his heart, at least until he finished this work. Having decided that,
he relaxed and awarded Ratana a smile. She frowned. "All joking aside,
you look ragged, Uncle."
James closed his eyes in an effort
to escape for the moment. Deep fatigue and worry made James feel much
older than his 47 years. He leaned back heavily into the sagging
canvas chair, groaned and closed his eyes, determined to grab this
short respite from the chaos he knew was coming.
Ratana’s voice brought his eyes back
open. "James, all my life you’ve protected me, taught me and cared
when others didn’t bother. Why haven’t you ever made a life for
yourself? You’ve never told me why."
He propped his chin on a hand and
hesitated before answering. "When my parents died and I went to live
with Mick, all I could think about was becoming a doctor. Then, when
Mick taught me about our people, I knew I had to do something about
the problems I saw all around me; something to help. When every avenue
was blocked to me because of my mother, I realized the only way I
could do that was to find proof of our right to be here; our right to
claim the land." He paused, staring unseeingly at the computer screen.
"I never made time for a personal life before. No woman caught my eye,
even though my cousins tried hard to parade every girl over twelve and
under fifty in front of me." He smiled a tired smile and poked her in
the side. "Now, it’s in the hands of fate. I have other more important
things to see to." His gaze returned to the open tent flap where a
mixture of computer disks and paper littered the desk then back to the
clearing and the obelisk.
The exasperation in Ratana’s tone
yanked James’ attention back to the conversation. "It’s clear you’re
attracted to her and she to you. Get a life, Uncle. Give her a go."
"Listen to you. Just a kid and
giving me advice about my love life. What about you and Nathan? You’ve
never told me about that either." He hoped to get her off the subject
of Samantha Louis.
She lowered her eyes and came as
close as she could to blushing but she didn’t answer the question.
His weak smile almost reached his
eyes. "That’s what I thought. Well, this isn’t the time to be sitting
around talking about my personal life. We have to get this thing out
of here and somewhere safe. How the hell can we do it? Maybe she can
help if I let up and be nice." He shrugged at his lame joke then ran
his hands through his damp hair again. "I have to get back out there.
Our fearless government has arrived and I’m not so sure they won’t
arrest us." He started to stand up. Ratana pushed him back down into
Squatting down beside him, Ratana
reached up to grasp his hand. "You okay, James? You look more stressed
than you should be over this thing. You’re letting them get to you
before the fight has even started. That’s not like you. At the
settlement, you used to teach us kids to always look for
opportunities; to be more, reach out more than we were born to be or
have. Here’s our chance and you fizz out on us. Or did this Sheila get
to you? Have you finally met a woman who can get through that thick
hide of yours?" Her deep brown eyes peered into his, assessing how
well her jibes were working.
He shot a disgusted sideways look told
her, telling her that the old trick didn’t work anymore. "Can it,
Ratana. I’m not passing on the opportunity and I’m not stressed over
those damned reporters either, Ms Louis included. I’m just tired and I
am worried Eddy may have taken something the government people will
use against us. I want this thing secured before all the vultures,
academic as well as military and government, get to it and ruin our
chances of deciphering it."
" That can only mean that your old
nemesis is on her way then; our illustrious Queensland MP herself.
Don’t worry, we’ll be set up by the time she gets here. She won’t be
laughing at our work this time. By the way, I got the rubbings of all
the symbols for you. I hid them, and the fragments, in your car boot
before anyone tries to lock us down and take away all we’ve collected.
We have plenty of time to just talk for a change. So, tell me… what’s
eating away at you? I’d like to help you for a change instead of the
other way around." An impish smile twitched her lips.
In spite of her smile, James felt
irritation this unaccustomed bombardment into his private feelings. He
suppressed the feeling and deliberately smiled back at her.
"Thanks, little sister, but I’m
fine; really I am. I’m just out of fuel, I think. I didn’t sleep last
night. I kept waking up and crawling out to stare at that stone.
There’s something about it that seems familiar to me…Hell, I’m just
getting too old for this anymore…and I know it’s just a matter of time
before the military comes in here and grabs it all."
"That’s what you keep saying but
maybe, this time, the Uni will back you up. Maybe…" The impish look
left her face and was replaced with a deep frown when James didn’t
He reached down to scratch a
mosquito bite on his thigh then sat back and looked hard at Ratana’s
serious look. "Look, I know Peter Howard is on his own when it comes
to shooting down my work. Thank God the University board is willing to
give me time to prove my claims. It really pisses Peter off too. When
this proves out, he’ll be out…finally. At least we’ll have something
to work on when it happens, thanks to you." He patted her hand then
stood up, stretching his back. "Which reminds me. I have to call the
bastard, much as I hate to talk to him. He’ll have to get somebody to
cover my classes next week."
Ratana pointed to the cell phone
sitting beside the computer in the tent. "You might as well get it
over with." She smirked as he rose from his chair and stepped into the
tent to place the call. When he had dialed, she sat down in his
vacated chair to wait.
James heard the phone connect and
waited with tense muscles for the confrontation he knew was sure to
come. When Peter spoke, James let out his breath. "Hello Peter. It’s
James Hay here. I’m calling from the site." He knew he was speaking in
stiff, clipped sentences but couldn’t stop himself. "Look, Peter, I’m
on to something big here and I need you to find a replacement lecturer
for my classes for the next few weeks."
Peter’s deep, lazy reply came
through the line sounding like a tinny recording. "No way, Hay. You
get your ass back here and fulfill your contract. That bullshit you
chase can wait until you have a holiday coming."
James could hear the glee in his
voice and gritted his teeth. "Dammit, Peter, you know I can go to the
board and bypass your authority. They gave me leave to pursue this and
you know it. You may be the Chancellor but they hold the moneybag. Are
you really going to force me to call them again? Besides, in spite of
your determination to inject pettiness into our working relationship,
I still believe in calling you as a professional courtesy."
"Well, don’t bother, I don’t want or
need a professional courtesy from you. One of these days I’m going to
show you up for the crook and fraud you are, you know. Besides, you
know that I can delay anything you want to do for so long that you
might as well not do it to begin with." This time, Peter did laugh.
"So don’t give me any of your shit, Hay. I’m not in the mood for it."
James felt anger, bitter and black,
rising within and struggled to contain it. "Only a scientific idiot
like you would be this blind to fact, Peter. And get this through that
thick skull of yours, you may be able to make things hard on me but
you can’t stop me. And while we’re on the subject, I caught your
nephew, Eddy, trying to steal my data. I know you put him up to it.
What I can’t figure out is why you want it when you think it’s
worthless." James allowed a sneer of contempt to saturate his words.
The pause on the end of the line
delighted James. He could imagine Peter frantically trying to figure
out some way to deny his nephew’s behavior. When Peter spoke, his
voice was strained. "What my nephew does has nothing to do with me.
I’m not interested in your fantasies or your make-believe data. You
may have the board fooled into thinking your little trips have value
but I know you’re only fleecing them out of the cost of a free trip
for yourself and your primitive black friends."
Before James could reply to his
racist remark, Peter snapped, "Get back down here and arrange for your
classes yourself. And don’t call me for anything again, Hay." He
slammed the phone down so hard it came through the line with a crack.
James laughed out loud, knowing he’d
bettered Peter Howard for a change and feeling good about it. He
strolled back outside and smiled down at Ratana who was acting like
she hadn’t heard the entire conversation.
She was watching the activity in the
clearing while casually braiding her hair. In a calm voice she asked,
"What do you want to do about the site?" She snapped a band on the end
of her hair and looked up at him. "And how soon do you want to leave?"
Distracted by the hum of people
moving about, he muttered, "We have to protect it somehow." His gaze
shifted to the clearing. "How long do you think Mick and Nathan can
keep the reporters and military out? Aboriginal rights only stretch so
far. I don’t think Mick’s elder status will keep them out for long and
Nathan’s young guards are way too over-zealous for comfort. The whole
thing is waiting to go nuclear if we’re not careful here. Do you think
we can hold them off for another day or two?" His eyes searched hers,
knowing the answer before she spoke.
Shaking her head she replied, "Not
for that long. Nathan told me earlier that the military guys are only
waiting because some government bigwig told them to hold back until
she can get here from Cairns. When she does, they’ll be all over us
like flies on a dead 'roo. I don’t think anything is going to stop
them after that."
"It’s got to be Henson. She’s been
waiting to use my research to invade the Aboriginal lands for a long
time now and I think that asshole, my boss, is working with her. This
is just what she’s been waiting for. I should walk away from this and
let your grandfather handle it. Maybe then she’d back down."
"James, I don’t even want to hear
you talk like that to me. You’ve never quit on anything when it was
important. This is important. When Nathan and I needed someone at the
settlement, you were there. Grandpa didn’t raise you for nothing, you
know. You’re special…special to all of us who call you family and this
is something you’ve worked hard for. You of all people know you can’t
back down from the bloody vultures that want to steal the rest of our
land. Now, old timer, get off your bum and let’s go see what we can
find out about this alien stone we’ve been given."
Almost completely lost in thought,
James almost missed the twinkle that leapt into Ratana’s eyes as she
obviously decided to drop the other bomb on him, no doubt hoping to
get him fired up again. " Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. Mick told
me to tell you the elders of the clan will be here soon. They want to
speak to you about this thing. He says it’s a message they’ve waited
for and they seem to believe you’ve been chosen to understand it for
our people. Anyway, he’ll talk to you when he gets here."
James decided to ignore her feeble
attempts to get him riled. His lips twitched into a tiny smile then
settled into a serious compressed line. He took a deep breath and ran
long fingers through his already tousled and sweaty hair. "Thank God.
I can use Mick's help right about now. What about the mob Nathan's
boys are holding back?"
"As for how long the guys can keep
the mob off us, I have no idea, but I can tell you one thing. If
anybody can manage it, Nathan can. Come on; let’s go get scientific.
That always cheers you up. Take your stuffy teacher tie off, put your
‘Indiana Jones’ hat on and get your adventurer spirit in gear, Mate.
It’s time for a new adventure." She nudged him in the ribs, tossed his
old, battered Digger hat at him and then moved off toward the
When her tall, broad back was no
longer visible through the undergrowth, James went back into the tent.
Pulling the last computer disk out of the drive and putting it into
his short’s pocket beside the first, he muttered, "Damn it, she’s
right! I can’t lay down now and let the government take it away."
Staring at the computer, he continued, "I hope Eddy didn’t manage to
get anything else out to those sharks. This is my chance to show that
fat bastard at the University I’ve been right about Dreamtime and the
mysteries happening here all along. Peter Howard will shit himself
when Ms. Louis is finished and I hope he slips in it and falls on his
fat ass when he does."
Cheered up by the mental image of
the Vice Chancellor at the University sprawled in the middle of his
own waste, he shut off the computer and headed back to the site. When
he approached the clearing, the absolute quiet, in contrast to its
former hum of activity, set off mental alarms. He could see the group
of students and village volunteers standing and facing the stone in
the middle of the circle. A group of soldiers stood frozen in place on
the road leading into the site. They shifted nervously, obviously
uncertain what to do in this situation. Their officer stood glaring at
the elders with the look of someone who wished he could be somewhere
else. The news people handled their cameras and tape recorders, taking
their cue from the military but not liking it. Nathan and his friends
stood beside the road, angry at their failure to stop the mob from
gaining entrance. All of them remained motionless and silent. And all
of them faced the stone.
Standing off to the side and
partially under the vine screen, he saw Samantha Louis and her young
sidekick filming the drama unfolding in the clearing. The look on her
face reflected the mood of the crowd standing inside the clearing; a
mixture of fear, awe and indecision. The deadly quiet bound all of
them to each other and to the stone and to the people themselves. When
James stepped out of the tangle of thick bush, he understood the
reason for their silence.
A GLASS DARKLY
BOOK TWO OF THE GLASS HOUSE TRILOGY
1 Corinthians 13:12
"For now we see things in a glass, darkly…"
Coal black shadows slithered across
the cool green marble tiles surrounding a massive fireplace. Its heavy
carvings of satin-like mahogany glowed dully in the flickering light.
Blood red shadows glowed uncannily from the dead eyes of gargoyles and
caressed their snarling lips, animating them, and making them appear
to move with the shadows in silent conversation. Tendrils of ebony
slithered up the dark carved wood of the walls surrounding the
fireplace, giving the shifting patterns the look of pale-veined
nightmares brought to life. Roaring flames, barely contained by a
firebox large enough to roast an ox, gave birth to a ruddy glow that
fought to overcome the shadows. The light flickering into the
cavernous room seemed to feed the shadows instead of subduing them.
Deeply ensconced within a
high-backed, Victorian armchair, Morgan Steele sat quietly, long
fingers laced over his lean torso and his gaze fixed on the ornate
burgundy and gold pattern of an antique Oriental rug under his feet.
Dark curling hair, shot with streaks of gray, spiraled around his head
like a wild thicket. His broad chest barely rose and fell under a
heavy velvet dressing gown while his head lolled. His long chiseled
nose involuntarily wrinkled with distaste when the odor of moulding
earth and leaves assaulted it. The room full of heavily carved antique
furniture seemed to be watching him expectantly as he arrogantly
occupied their space and drifted, deep in thought and oblivious to his
When a timid scratching of fingers
sounded through the thick oak door, only Morgan's restless brown eyes
moved in response. "What is it, Ehrich?" The heavy whispering bass of
his voice carried around the room in spite of its lack of volume.
The heavy door silently swung open,
allowing a bright square of light from the hallway to intrude upon the
room's gloomy interior. The shadows fled before it. Morgan continued
to stare into the flames as an ancient man with balding head glided
soundlessly into the room and stood patiently behind the chair,
waiting to be acknowledged. Steele raised one ringed finger, the
ring's ebony facets flashing multi-hued arrows of crystalline light
around the room.
"Mr. Steele, it is time for your
meeting with the scientists." The old man's freckled head bowed
slightly but his thin body, encased in an old-fashioned black suit,
remained ramrod straight and at attention.
"Give me fifteen minutes then bring
them into the conference room. Tell Travis I want a word with him
afterward and to bring his latest report." Steele's voice was barely
above a whisper but the tone of authority was one of absolute command.
Ehrich left the room as silently as
he'd entered. When the heavy door softly closed behind his retreating
back the shadows resumed their serpentine dance upon the walls and
furniture. Steele rose slowly and deliberately, like a wary prey
animal surrounded by ravenous predators. "What do you want from me?"
he ground out between whitened lips.
The dry rustling whisper of ancient
and crumbling paper filled the room.
Free us. Bring us to your world. We
can offer power…immortality. The barriers must be breached. Free us.
Free us. Free us….
The whispers faded, as if a great
wind had blown them away from Morgan's hearing. Morgan shuddered and
quickly moved to turn on all the lights in the room.
I’m losing my mind.
The sentence whirled around and around his brain until he grasped his
temples with shaking fingers and clinched his eyes shut, praying that
the litany would end. When it didn’t, Morgan dropped his hands, ground
his teeth and squared his shoulders.
But I won’t let the bastards know
it. I’m the king here. I’m one of the most powerful men in the world.
I can do anything…anything I want.
He threw his head back and stalked
to the door. Hesitating with a death grip on the knob, he turned his
face back toward the room, his eyes flashing like the black stoned
ring on his finger.
Even you can’t make me do what I
don’t want to do. He
sneered, opened the door and left, slamming the heavy door behind him.
The shadows oozed out of the walls,
undulating sensuously toward the portrait of Morgan that dominated the
wall above the fireplace. They converged upon the picture, caressing
it with tenuous fingers. The low, brittle sound of contemptuous
laughter echoed around the room, then abruptly altered into something
much worse. It permeated all, absorbed all colour and light from the
room and reverberated through the walls like the muffled, desperate
wailing of a lost soul buried deep within a cold, dark tomb.
The Rocky Mountains loomed
majestically into the gray sky that enveloped them like a lover. Their
immense power hibernated, torpid and frozen in sleep, while the
valleys hidden between them teemed with wildlife. Wild deer and elk,
thick-coated for winter, dug at hidden plants now deeply covered with
icy snow. The rare appearance of a huge, sleek timber wolf spooked the
deer into running for the cover of thick trees. Their hooves sprayed
powdery snow up into the air behind them. The wolf stopped to stare
with bright yellow eyes then quietly moved on, nose in the air and
ears erect and alert.
Spring in the mountains seemed to be
getting colder and colder as the years sped past. Even close to a
large city like Colorado Springs with its ever-present lure of fast
food, theatres and shopping malls, the mountains maintained their
secrecy and their promise of sanctuary in a turbulent world.
Andromeda Jones sat in a one room,
rustic cabin. It was sheltered within a small valley deep in the
mountains, isolated and secure within its cover of thick pine trees.
Andi’s blue eyes squinted through gold-framed glasses she vainly hated
to wear in public. She sipped spiced tea and stared at the news items
listed on her computer screen. She unconsciously fingered a thick
folder stuffed with articles and pictures about her sister, Samantha
Hay. Resting on top of the folder was a letter from a woman in
Australia who claimed she’d seen Samantha and her husband, James,
while hiking in the Blue Mountains. The woman claimed that they were
deep in the mountains living with the Australian version of Bigfoot,
called Yowies. As incredible as it sounded, Andi never let a lead go
without checking it out for herself. That’s why she now searched for
any news item related to the sighting. The furrows in Andi’s face
deepened as she scanned the current list of newspaper items on the
Please. Please. Just give me one
shred of information I can use. Just one, dammit! Samantha where are
you? Where the hell did you go with James that you don’t want me to
know about? Why did you think you had to disappear? What are you
A strong oath erupted from her lips
when she reached the bottom of the screen. "Doing snoop work isn’t as
easy as it used to be…or, you’re just losing your touch old girl," she
mumbled to the air. Feeling irritable and not knowing why, Andi pulled
up her thick, black hair, anchoring it for the tenth time with the
pair of carved wooden combs Sam had sent her from Australia. Andi
fingered the heavy carvings of Kangaroos, Emus and Koalas that
intertwined on the combs. It made her feel closer to Sam.
Sam, I can feel you out there. But
While the small heater fan
responsible for the condition of her hair pushed excessively hot air
into Andi's face again, she reached over and banged a fist against it.
"Damn piece of junk. Stupid thing is roasting me in the middle of
winter! The fireplace doesn't work right and I can't get the hang of
the damned stove. Is this some kind of plot to fast freeze me as a
warning to women who arrogantly want to live alone?" She swore again
then wiped damp hair away from her eyes and sighed with resignation.
"I guess I’ll have to ask Moon Wolf if he'll fix it for me again."
The thought of her Native American
friend prompted her to unconsciously search the smooth snow covering
her front yard. Andi looked for his footprints. "Wonder where the old
guy has been hiding these last three weeks?"
And why the hell am I holed up in
the asshole of nowhere talking to myself?
The thought grated against her fierce,
thick wall of inner determination and bounced off into the void she
reserved for those parts of herself she didn’t want to listen to.
Because, you dumb broad, Sam’s your
sister and you don’t just let it go that easy when she vanishes into
thin air. That’s why.
The antique air heater made a
grating sound as it passed over her again. Another slap coming down on
the dilapidated machine accompanied a string of curses. Finally, in
disgust, Andi folded her arms across her chest and glared with
flashing blue eyes at the computer screen. " So much for high
technology." She closed her eyes as the air from the fan ruffled the
papers piled up beside the printer. When the blast of air passed, she
opened them, sighed at the computer screen and wished she could make
any headway at all.
Her view shifted from the screen and
onto bare toes and long legs propped up on the desk in front of her.
"Well at least your legs are still good. Maybe you can fill these
useless days with modeling and forget about being a super sleuth
altogether," she chuckled as her toes wiggled into the fake fern
sitting on the edge of the desk.
When the telephone rang, Andi
jumped. Her foot knocked over the fern and her legs tangled as she
tried to reach for the telephone. Her ancient office chair rolled out
from under the desk and flipped her out onto the floor. " Damn it!"
she hollered as she reached up to grab the telephone. " What?" she
snapped into the mouthpiece.
"Jeesh, what did I do? Is that any
way to talk to a man who lusts for you? More importantly, a man who
has good news?" Marc’s deep voice rumbled across the line, a sly smile
embedded in it.
" What do you want, Marc? I’m busy."
Andi's voice lowered, heavy with irritation at his amused tone.
" Ah…busy are you? Since when? The
last time we spoke, let’s see…that would be yesterday, you were still
unemployed and had no plans or clues as what you were going to do
next. Has that changed in less than twenty-four hours?" An annoying
‘click, click, click’ of an inkpen being played with accompanied his
Andi could picture the smile on his
face widening as he baited her. " Oh, go pound salt, you jackass.
Okay…I’m still unemployed. I haven’t found Sam and James; I’m still
hot and sweaty in the dead of winter because my heater isn't working
right. I’m still worried about my rent and I’m sitting on the floor
with bruises because you called and I fell off my chair and I’m still
talking to myself like the fruit loop you think I am. Now are you
happy?" Her lips twitched into a smile, in spite of the anger her
" Yep, I am and I’m sure when you
hear what I have to tell you, you will be too. So, get those lovely
long legs of yours working and pull your butt off the floor. Get back
into your chair and listen closely. I have a wonderful story to tell
you." This time his laugh rang loud and clear.
" Stuff your stories up your…Hey! Is
this another one of your stupid sagas about how you managed to
sweet-talk another local bimbo into that playboy flophouse you call an
apartment? Because if it is…"
"Now just a minute here. I protest
my innocence." His voice switched to feigned injury.
"Okay, but this better be good. Hold
on." She dropped the phone onto the desk then took a moment to tuck
her long hair back into a knot on the top of her head. Sighing, Andi
eyed the bruises forming on the front of her legs and the tear in the
old cutoff sweatpants she loved.
Rubbing the sore spots on her shins,
Andi stood up and eyed the chair now sitting innocently against the
bookshelves. She grabbed the arm and roughly pulled it back in front
of her battered desk, seating herself firmly onto its worn leather
seat. " Damn thing…ungrateful piece of junk. I rescue you from the
trash heap and this is how you repay me," she mumbled, picking the
receiver back up and putting it to her ear. " Okay, give. What really
neat bedtime story are you hiding up your sleeve this time?" she
"No bedtime story tonight, Andi. I
have something solid for you. Les asked me to offer you a once in a
lifetime opportunity." His deep voice took on a faintly serious tone,
one Andi rarely heard in her conversations with him.
"Well? Don’t go coy on me now, Marc.
What’s this so-called plum opportunity you’re obviously reluctant to
tell me about? Spill it." She braced herself, waiting for the
inevitable practical joke to hit her broadside.
Another chuckle emanated from the
telephone. "Not reluctant, oh sexy one, just teasing you with
anticipation. You know I can’t resist baiting you; hoping you’ll offer
me a bribe of your body for a night…or two." When icy silence signaled
her reply, he groaned and continued, "Okay, okay, I’ll tell you
already. Lester wants an expose on that eccentric millionaire who's
holed up in that dead volcano in northern California. You know the
one; the guy you dated last year?" The humour had left his voice,
leaving an unspoken question in its place.
"Morgan Steele." Andi spoke his name
with a numb mind and fluttering heart. "Whatever it is, I won't do
it." The finality in the statement felt like it came from miles away
when she heard herself say it. The pencil she'd been running her
fingers around suddenly snapped in two and fell to the desk unnoticed.
"Before you go ballistic on me, just
listen, okay? This is right up your alley and I think you’ll want to
hear about this one." He paused for effect, and Andi deliberately bit
her tongue, knowing he was waiting for her to protest further before
he set the hook and made her feel a fool for doing so.
Not this time, Marc. I’ll wait you
out and then say no. She
smiled, waiting for him to realize she wasn’t going to take the bait
Marc rustled some papers and
continued as if he had planned it that way. "One of my uncle's
informants on the West Coast filed a report last week that suggests
Steele is using his millions to do covert work of some kind. Steele
has built a huge complex inside a volcanic island called Glass
Mountain in northern California. A huge lake called Medicine Lake
surrounds it. I think it's some old sacred Indian site." He laughed.
"Should be right up your alley! And, did you get that Glass Mountain
bit? That's where Sam, James and I went in Australia." He chuckled
again but with a self-conscious edge. "Yes, well, Steele has security
up the ying-yang there and nobody can get in unless he clears them. To
make it even more interesting, he’s hired a team of notorious
scientists to work there."
Andi could hear Marc rustling
through more papers on the other end of the phone. "Notorious? What do
you mean, notorious scientists, Marc?"
His voice held real excitement now.
"Rogues. Here’s the list. He’s hired Dr. Kenneth Braun, a
neurosurgeon. He used to be a top surgeon working at Johns Hopkins
until he operated while drunk and killed a patient. Since then, he’s
worked in second-rate hospitals and clinics. He was also doing
research on the ‘God Module’ and ‘Frontal Lobe Epilepsy" studies for
the Army. And then there’s Dr. April Newman, a psychologist who
graduated the top of her class and was considered brilliant until she
started taking shortcuts with her patients. It doesn’t say what but it
must have been really bad because she was forced out of the profession
within five years of being licensed. Let’s see, who else? Ah, yes. Dr
James Spindler, a physicist who pioneered the field in laser
development back in the seventies. He was living in Mexico and retired
until Steele got a hold of him."
Andi could hear more papers rustling
and felt herself beginning to feel impatience at his long, drawn-out
game. "Marc, what does all this have to do with me? I don’t have time
for any of your childish jokes. You know how I feel about finding my
sister," she snapped.
The irritating paper rustling
stopped. "Look, Andi, I’m not playing a game with you here. This is on
the up-and-up." He took a deep breath and continued in a lower voice,
"I’d like to find her too, Andi. I know you think I’m covering up,
that I was there and that I know what happened to her and James and
the rest, but I don’t. I’m trying to help."
The genuine sincerity in his voice
momentarily surprised Andi. She hesitated, her gaze watching the snow
come down outside the bay window but her sight focused inside on the
images of her sister Sam. They were full colour pictures of Sam that
Andi held in her mind and took out to inspect when she started to
weaken in her resolve to find her sister.
Andi’s prize image was the way Sam
looked the day they’d found each other again after being separated as
kids at the orphanage in St. Louis. Another of the day Sam told her
she was going to Australia for the story of the century and how they’d
laughed about finding men down under. Another of the real photographs
Sam had sent her showed a very happy woman, smiling, with her arm
around the waist of a tall, serious looking man that Sam explained was
Dr. James Hay, the man she loved. The final picture of Sam and James
at their wedding with Andi smiling and half drunk holding on to both
of them before they flew out to Washington. And the picture Andi tried
not to acknowledge leapt into her memory as well. It was the picture
of Sam and James that appeared in an Australian newspaper eight months
ago. It was taken the day before they mysteriously disappeared from
their home in Australia, never to be seen or heard of again.
Brutally pushing the images away and
forcing herself to focus on the conversation and Marc, Andi rasped,
"Okay. What else have you got?"
Marc’s voice now held an edge to it,
almost a primal snarl. "Steele also hired Travis Parker."
"From the sound of your voice, I’d
say you know this Parker guy and you two aren’t exactly the best of
friends," Andi stated, her curiosity even more piqued now.
"He’s an egotistical, arrogant ‘whiz
kid’ engineer. He was trained at MIT, the most prestigious
technological institute in the world, and he gets off by coming up
with new ideas for bigger and bloodier war toys. Last time I heard,
he’d been thrown out of MIT in his last year because of several
incidents the higher-ups covered up. He’s an asshole, violent and
childish." The snarl in his voice deepened then was abruptly chopped
"You know this guy, Marc? It’s
personal then?" Andi waited, knowing Marc would probably avoid telling
her anything personal, as he always did.
"Yeah, I know him. We grew up
together, used to be friends. I haven’t seen him or heard from him in
years, but I hear about him enough." A small self-conscious cough
stopped what he was saying, or wanted to say. "Well, that’s ancient
history. Suffice to say, if he’s working for Steele then what they’re
working on out there can’t be in the best interests of anybody but
Parker and Steele."
"Okay, we’ll leave it at that for
the moment. Now, tell me what all this has to do with me. And why does
Les want me to go out and look into it for him? Why not you, or a pro?
I’m no investigator or even a writer. Why me?"
"The talk is that Steele is doing
illegal experiments that even the government is willing to turn a
blind eye to. Les thinks you could get in to find out what's happening
there. I couldn’t and neither could anybody else who didn’t have a
connection to someone big out there. You do. You’re a physicist and
you know Steele personally." Marc paused, waiting for a reaction to
Andi stared out of the cabin's front
bay window, letting her gaze wander over the pink and orange hues of
the setting sun. She scanned the heavy snowfall covering the pines
that surrounded her cabin. The shadow of an eagle swooping above the
pines captured her gaze and she envied its freedom.
I feel like a trapped animal caught
in an impossibly gruesome snare,
she thought. Andi drew a deep, cleansing breath while she searched the
open spaces around her home for the lone eagle that usually flew
overhead. Her mind struggled to contain her anger and her pain and the
empty sky emphasized her entrapment.
When the silence on the phone line
stretched into minutes, Marc asked, "Andi? Are you still there?"
"Yeah, I'm here. I'm thinking." She
took a deep breath, closed her eyes and let it out. When her eyes
opened again, a hard light of determination flashed within them. "I
told you before I came here that I've had enough of Les' harebrained
schemes and ideas and it still holds, Marc. I don’t owe you anything
anymore." A flash of guilt shot through her. She clenched her teeth
and squashed the feeling like a virulent bug.
His voice dropped to a soft murmur.
"You’ve never owed me anything, Andi. You just thought you did but,
the truth is, I would’ve gladly reunited you and Sam even if I hadn’t
fallen in love with you."
She rushed on before his words could
sway her. "Look, Marc, you may not think it’s a big deal but if you
hadn’t tracked me down and told me about my sister, then I’d still be
agonizing over being without a family. I tried to thank you for that
by helping with your investigations but I just couldn’t take it
anymore." She took a ragged breath then an old hurt and anger
returned. " I came here to get out of the gutter you two kept throwing
me into for the sake of a story. It lost me my position as a physicist
in Boston, then it almost killed me, remember?"
Marc's voice arrowed down the line
like a shot. "Damn it, Andi, of course I remember! How the hell can I
ever forget? That maniac doctor almost killed you because of my
stupidity." He paused then continued with a calmer tone. "Look, I
figured that eight months holed up in that cabin would be enough time
for you to get over it. I thought…"
"You thought wrong, Marc. I came
here because I finally woke up to the filth and violence out there and
I don't want it in my life ever again. I want to find my sister and
her husband then I want to settle down into an ordinary life, like
everyone else. I want to work at what I trained so hard to become...a
physicist. All my life I dreamed of finding a way to help the world
and to make a difference. After I find Sam I intend to find a way to
fulfill that dream. Besides, I'm happy here."
She took a deep breath. "Look, if I
had any money to fall back on at all, I wouldn't even take the puny
jobs you give me, but I have to eat. Truth is, Marc, doing the
occasional scientific investigation on my computer is all I want of
the outside world intruding on my new life. I’ve had enough of trying
to save the world for the moment. I’ve had enough of Les and you
dragging me into these crusades of yours. Maybe I’ll rejoin the army
of people who want to have crusades, but not now. I just want to find
my sister and get on with my life. Can you understand that?"
Andi knew she sounded vulnerable and
pleading but she didn't care if it got the job done and Marc stopped
tempting her with valiant causes, big ideas and even bigger amounts of
The exasperation in Marc's voice was
barely concealed. "No, I can't understand how a woman barely in her
thirties would want to go hermit. I don’t understand how you can throw
your life away like this. I also can’t understand why you’re so angry
at me, Andi."
Her own anger rose like a defensive
cobra. "You know damned well why I’m angry. I worked hard to become a
physicist. All I ever wanted was to contribute to bettering this
battered place we call home and you and Les played on my conscience to
get me to help you uncover the few corrupt scientists who only work to
gain power or money. You dragged me into the gutter side of scientific
research. You and your phony high ideals destroyed it all for me and
all for the sake of a shitty story on the front page of a newspaper. A
story that was forgotten days after it came out." She gasped for
breath as the words rushed out. Andi clamped her lips shut, trying to
still the hammering of her heart. She knew she needed to take a firm
hold on the old hurts before continuing. "You used me, Marc, and I’ll
never forgive you for that. You’re still trying to use me."
"I’ve never used you! I thought you
cared as much about cleaning up the dirt in this world as I did. I
thought… Damn it! How can I convince you that I never meant to hurt
you, that it wasn’t just the stories for Les that motivated me, that
losing you is the worst punishment that could’ve happened to me?" The
questions came out abruptly, tinged with pain, anger and genuine
Andi felt as if he’d reached out
through the phone line and battered her. She felt drained and tired.
"Let it go, Marc. It’s over," she replied, the words limp and
Her lack of emotion seemed to anger
him more. "Don’t you know I still love you? I still want to marry you?
Don’t you understand that every day you bury yourself away from me is
eating me alive?" The exasperation had transformed into frustrated
anger, then the anger disappeared and resignation took its place. "I’m
sorry. I didn’t intend to bring all that up again."
She chewed on her lower lip and shut
her eyes tight against the last blaze of sun now setting outside her
window. "It’s okay, forget it. It’s done and over with," she almost
whispered, remembering the haunted look on his face when she’d told
him she didn’t love him and that she was moving to Colorado. Andi
shoved the memory away and braced herself. "I have to go, Marc. Thanks
for the offer but I’m not interested. Morgan Steele is the last person
I want to see right now and I’m no longer involved with the scientific
community so I wouldn’t be of any use to you."
"Before you hang up, at least let me
tell you why I think you’d be interested in this one," he said in a
detached tone. He paused then went on. "We don’t know how yet, but
somehow, Steele is connected with Sam and James’ disappearance. I
thought you’d want to follow up on it."
Her elbow slipped off the desk and
her hair tumbled out of its combs as her head jerked up. An iron hand
clutched at Andi’s chest as she gripped the phone with white-knuckled
strength. "How? How is he connected with their disappearance? What do
you know, Marc?"
"All I know is that Steele was
throwing a lot of resources into finding the site James and Sam went
to in the Glass House Mountains in Australia. He spent a bundle trying
to get a hold of whatever it was they found. He was also in Australia
when they disappeared. Since he’s the type of shark that doesn’t do
anything on a small scale, it’s a good bet that what they were
involved with was big enough to warrant him grabbing them, especially
if he oversaw it himself. He rarely leaves his sanctuary and, when he
does, he covers his tracks so well that it’s hard to get any proof
that he was involved. He worked overtime to insure secrecy when he
went to Australia so this must have been big, important and probably
illegal. That’s all I know." The coldness in his voice disturbed Andi
more than his anger.
A determined scratching sound at the
door caught Andi’s attention. She let out the breath she’d been
holding while listening to Marc and felt relief at the opportunity to
think about what he’d just reported before she had to make a decision.
"Wait, hold on a sec, Marc. It's getting dark here and Pi's scratching
at the door. I have to light the lamp and let her in. I’ll be right
Placing the phone's receiver gently
down on the scratched surface of her desk, Andi walked over to an old
oil lamp sitting on top of the mantelpiece of a cold fireplace and lit
it with shaking hands. When the light took hold and the cabin
brightened with flickering shadows, she moved toward the solid wood
door and threw the heavy bolt. A blur of tawny fur moved past her legs
and headed straight for a large ceramic bowl that waited on the wooden
floor next to a cast iron stove. A nearly grown mountain lion buried
her head into the bowl and purred while she gobbled down a large meal
of leftover hamburger and salad.
Andi forced herself to relax and
clear her mind of conflicting impulses as she reached out to the big
cat’s bent head and gently stroked her neck. "Rough day in the hills,
Piwacket?" In spite of her racing mind and mangled emotions, Andi
smiled when the cat took a brief moment to rub her head against her
hand then immediately dismiss it to return to eating.
Marc's tinny voice emanating out of
the forgotten receiver brought Andi's attention back to her problem.
I can’t ignore any lead that will
help me find Sam and James and Marc knows it. Trouble is, I don't want
to see Morgan again. Never again.
Andi grimaced at the memory of
Morgan's hard, black gaze as he’d raked it over her body the last time
they'd faced each other. He’d made her feel naked and vulnerable. She
remembered every detail of how she’d become involved with the elusive
multi-millionaire. In her first year of working as a physicist in
Boston, Morgan had contacted her, offering a place on the team he was
assembling for a project. The offer was flattering, mysterious and
paid beyond Andi’s wildest dreams.
When she arrived in California to
look the project over, the force of Morgan’s dynamic personality, his
looks and his overwhelming charm had instantly enthralled her. She
stayed for a month, participating in the preliminaries of the project,
basking in the limelight of being chosen by such a man and being
totally consumed by him until he commanded her to move in with him and
to sever contact with anyone from her past. The offer forced her to
look hard at the man, instead of the aura of power he embodied. It
also forced her to take a hard look at what she’d become with him.
What she’d seen had scared her. She’d left him and he didn't like to
be left by anyone, at any time.
The thought of being in the same
room with him sent waves of dread up her spine. She felt as if an icy
claw was reaching into the heat of her blood and leaching its warmth
out into a snow-blasted and very dark landscape.
What the hell are you so afraid of?
He’s just a man who wanted you, a man who can’t take rejection, a man
who’s used to getting his way. That’s all he is, Andi, just a man.
She shook her head to dispel the artificial courage, straightened her
back and forced her mind back to the problem at hand and Marc.
Steeling herself for a verbal
onslaught, Andi sat down at her desk, picked the receiver back up and
placed it against her ear. Marc was grumbling and cursing in that
self-conscious way people use when they know nobody's listening.
"Marc. I'm back." When he continued to swear, she shouted, "Marc!"
until the line went dead quiet.
"Sorry about that. My damned beeper
started going off and the doorbell was ringing at the same time. Now,
can we please get away from all the personal stuff and back onto a
professional track? I want to get this settled today. I need an
answer. Do you want the job?" She could hear him struggling to sound
objective and uninvolved.
"Before I commit myself to anything,
I want to know what's in this for you? Why offer me something like
this when you know my conflict. I hate being the sneak and the spy but
you also know I can't turn it down if it finds Sam and James. So,
again, why are you doing this Marc? Are you genuinely trying to help
me or is this another one of those selfish ploys to get me to do your
The abrupt intake of air on the end
of the line gave the impression of a whirlwind coming from a distant
place. Andi flinched at the sensory impression. When his answer
finally came, it shattered the icy shell she’d hidden inside and made
"I know you have money problems and
that you won’t stop until you find Sam, even if it costs you
everything you have, including your health. I wanted to help but I
thought you wouldn’t take it so I talked Les into the story, knowing
he’d foot the bill for the trip." The defensive snap to his words
tried to mask the hidden plea behind them.
"Thank you," she whispered, touched
by his attempt to spare her dignity and glad that he wasn't trying to
use her. "I’ll take the job, Marc."
She watched Pi move away from the
stove and onto a tattered blanket she used for a bed. Kneading the
fabric, the cat looked like an overgrown domestic cat getting ready to
sleep. When the cat lay down, Andi thought of Sam and how she’d always
wanted a cat but couldn’t have one because of her restless travels.
Andi squeezed her eyelids shut against the tears gathering there.
"I don’t want or need your thanks.
Just do the job," Marc replied, the coldness of his tone reaching
Andi scrubbed the moisture from her
eyes, flashed angry glares at the phone and replied, "Fine. Send me
the tickets and all the information you have. When they get here, I’ll
leave for California right away. I’ll call you when I have something
you can use. I won’t need any outside help either. I’ll get you what
you want, have no doubt about that." The stiff dignity and hard
determination in her voice confirmed the statement.
Piwacket raised her head and
narrowed her eyes at Andi, watching her with studied alertness. Andi
smiled at the big cat and Pi gave a small yowl and laid her head back
down on her paws.
"I’m not worried. I know you’ll do
okay, you always do." The iron had left his voice when he finished
with, "I’ll send the tickets air express to the travel agent in your
town. You can pick them up tomorrow sometime. Goodbye Andi."
"Wait, Marc! Before you hang up
there’s something I want to get straight with you." Gathering her
thoughts, she hesitated. "I want it to be clear that if Morgan won't
see me then the deal's off. I won’t try to get inside by other means.
I'll get all I can on the complex and anything else I can dig up but I
want it clear that I get paid either way. Agreed?" she stammered,
embarrassed at the boldness of her demand.
To Andi’s surprise, he laughed.
"Okay, but know this; if you get in there, I expect you to get all you
can and to not let your past relationship with Steele influence you to
hold back, no matter what you find. Agreed?" By the time he finished,
his voice had moved from friendly to hard and uncompromising.
"Agreed. I’ll be ready tomorrow
morning and I'll call you just as soon as I know whether or not Morgan
will see me. Bye, Marc." She sighed with relief.
"One last thing, Andi." His voice
faltered. "You’ve never told me why is it so important to you to find
James and Sam. Sure, they disappeared after their meeting with the UN
but everyone's convinced they just don't want to be found. She’s often
gone off for months at a time without letting us know where or why.
You know how she is. What makes you so sure there's reason to worry
this time?" The genuine curiosity in Marc's voice came as a surprise.
"You really don't know, Marc? I
thought you of all people would understand. You were with them in
Australia." When the phone line remained silent, Andi took a deep
breath and continued, "I'm convinced that whatever they told the UN
has to have something to do with what they found in the Glass House
Mountains. I know you said that nothing happened, but I'm sure it did.
I also know that something is wrong, very wrong. Don't ask me how I
know, I just do."
She knew her words sounded lame. But
Andi had always harbored a certainty that her sister was not only
hiding but that something momentous had happened to her. Knowing Sam,
Andi surmised that something very bad had to have happened to make her
disappearance necessary, something dangerous and important. Andi was
determined to track Sam down and find out for herself. She'd spent
months haunted by dreams that Sam needed her; called out for her. Now
she had a chance to find out for sure.
"Fair enough, I guess. If you're
convinced there's a reason to track her down and rescue her, then go
for it." Marc stated with feigned indifference. A long pause followed.
Then he whispered, "Good luck, Andi," and abruptly hung up, leaving
her listening to the distant buzzing of the line.
After she hung up the phone, Andi
bent and picked up the plastic plant she'd knocked over when the phone
rang. Pi, who had quietly relocated and now lay at her feet, waiting
for Andi to notice her, raised her tawny head and stared expectantly
with large, liquid amber eyes. Andi reached down to pat her head.
"Well, my pet, seems I spoke too soon, huh? Life is full of
surprises." Fingering the artificial plant's shiny, stiff leaves, she
stared unseeing at them and muttered, "I wonder if Morgan is still in
the market for a good physicist… and if he’s gotten over my leaving
The small fan gyrating back and
forth in the background turned its head toward her, blowing more hot
air over her overheated skin. Goosebumps rose on her body as a rare
mixed feeling of excitement and anxiety swept through her. She
shivered, closed her eyes and wrapped both arms around herself, almost
wishing she'd refused to go after all.
A sharp rap on the wooden door
startled her back into the now dimly lit room. She moved slowly to the
door, almost afraid of what waited on the other side. When she slid
the door open to peek out, she let out a forgotten breath of air.
Moon Wolf, a tall, broad-shouldered
man with long blue-black hair sprinkled liberally with gray strands
stood stoically on the front step. His buckskin clothing, all the
subtle shades of earth and plant, gave him the appearance of being
bodiless as he blended into the fading background. He didn’t smile. He
didn’t move. His black eyes seemed to generate an aura of hazy energy
around his chiseled face as he stared into Andi’s eyes. Before she
could speak, he lifted his strong, square hand and stated, "I will be
going with you."
Andi opened her mouth to ask how the
old Indian medicine man knew she was going anywhere, why he wanted to
go with her and what the hell was going on? Before she had a chance to
formulate the first question, his granite gaze bored into her mind
with such ferocity that she stood almost paralyzed and speechless. He
stared for an eternity then dropped his eyes to gaze at Pi now
standing alertly beside Andi in the doorway. The big cat voiced a low,
soft growl then silently moved to stand at his feet, gazing up into
his face with adoration. He reached down with a steady brown hand and
caressed the big cat between her ears. She purred while eyeing Andi
with brilliant yellow eyes. Both man and cat turned and disappeared
into the thick, night blackened trees without a word or a backward
Andi stood in the doorway, numb to
the cold and the darkness until her body screamed a warning. She shook
her head, rubbed her hands up and down her arms to dispel the chills
rippling in waves under her cooling skin. She shivered and moved back
into the warmth of her cabin.
The door closed. The ice-laden
trees, now black and shapeless in the night, reached out bare, twisted
arms toward the tiny cabin. While the snow swirled around them with a
violent wind that swept in from the west, unseen watchers shivered in
THREE OF THE GLASS HOUSE TRILOGY
The upper northern most reaches of
ancient Australia baked under a hot sun. The land lay steaming under a
layer of thick, humid mist. Long stretches of thick fern groves, under
tall gum and flowering tropical trees, made the landscape a primal
forest of aggressive plants, each seeking to survive in a hostile
world. A roar, loud enough to make the leaves shake, blasted through
the foliage, shortly followed by a high-pitched scream of a
terrorized, dying creature.
Oily water rippled softly, parting
as the armored head of a large crocodile rose above the surface of a
slime green pool next to the outer perimeter of the forest. Cold
reptilian eyes scanned the muddy banks of the river and the small mob
of short-faced kangaroos milling nervously near the water in the hot
afternoon sun. The crocodile sank imperceptibly, a lazy flick of its
tail moving it closer to the riverbank.
Massive, six-foot tall, reddish
brown kangaroos moved toward the water's edge, impelled by a growing
thirst. In spite of their great size, they were nervous, scanning the
river and the dense shrubbery along its banks for predators. Females
nuzzled eager youngsters back from the water, unwilling to be the
first to drink. A young buck gave a bark of alarm and leaped towards
the cover of a stand of paper-bark trees when a shadow swept over him.
The shrill cry of a fishing eagle immediately reassured him and he
turned towards the river once more. Dropping onto all fours, he slowly
moved down to the water's edge and, ignoring the other kangaroos,
lowered his head to drink.
A surge of water rushed over his
snout, death following so closely that the young kangaroo never even
registered the fact. The head and chest of the animal disappeared down
a yawning gullet as teeth ripped through its hide, crushing its rib
cage. The momentum of the crocodile's rush carried it half way up the
riverbank, scattering the mob of kangaroos that fled screaming and
barking for the undergrowth. Lying on the bank, the hindquarters of
the kangaroo hanging from its mouth, the full size of the saurian
became apparent. The young kangaroo had stood six feet on its hind
legs but the monster's head alone matched its size. The crocodile
swung its forty-foot bulk ponderously, slipping back down into the
water and disappearing beneath the surface with a muddy swirl. The
water calmed, leaving only a few tufts of hair floating near the bank
and a splash of blood congealing on the grass.
The sun edged closer to the horizon.
Gradually, life returned to the riverside. A family group of
diprotodons, huge cousins of the wombat, lumbered into the shallows,
drinking thirstily. Smaller wallabies hopped cautiously in their wake,
sipping quickly then leaping again for the relative safety of the
forest. A lone thylacine drifted silently from the undergrowth to the
water's edge, drank and faded back out of sight. The fishing eagle
that had startled the young kangaroo, now past all caring, returned,
circling the scene then settling onto a branch of a dead gum tree
hanging over the water.
The bushes upstream from the dead
tree parted and a scaly snout pushed through into the grassy clearing.
The eagle turned its head, looking down with interest for a moment,
before returning to its grooming. The diprotodons snorted and splashed
their way ashore, herding the youngsters away from the intruder. Black
eyes gazed impassively as the huge beasts walked back into the forest.
The intruder cleared the bushes with a sinuous motion, its immense
bulk held clear of the ground. The giant monitor lizard, Megalania
prisca, dwarfed even its cousin to the north on the island of
Komodo, reaching a length of some twenty feet. The lizard's flat head
weaved from side to side, its long forked tongue flicking as it tasted
the air. It made its way slowly down to the water's edge where it
drank. After a few minutes it raised its head and turned slowly,
tongue flicking again. Abruptly it erupted into motion, moving swiftly
up the bank. It nosed hungrily at the patch of dried kangaroo blood.
Casting about it found nothing edible and moved on down river, tasting
the air, following a trail of bare packed earth that held the
impression of many feet.
Shrill voices chattered and screamed
as Aboriginal children raced through the long grass, waving sticks as
they ducked and weaved in some complex game. Motionless and unnoticed,
the small figure of a young girl sat quietly on a termite mound near
the edge of the grass. Pale-skinned but bronzed by the fierce sun she
was naked except for a bark loincloth and sun hat woven from grasses.
She smiled as the children played, half wanting to join them.
Why do you not, then?
came a gentle thought from behind her.
The girl sat still, recognizing the
flavor of the mind that spoke. I am no longer a child, Rima. I am
twelve years old and can feel my womanhood rushing upon me. There is
something I am called to do . . . The girl's smile faded and she
turned toward the figure behind her. Although she sat on a termite
mound over five feet tall, she had to turn her face up to look at her
friend and protector.
Gazing back at her was a huge hairy
being. A tall, conical head with a pronounced sagittal crest sat
squarely on wide shoulders and a massive torso. Long arms stretched
almost to knee level on muscular legs. Large pendulous breasts
revealed the sex of the creature despite the thick silky hair that
covered the whole body and face in a wave of brown with golden
highlights. Large liquid black eyes peered out of the hair, the
intelligence in them obvious and comforting.
The girl grinned and stood up,
throwing her arms out to balance herself. Images danced through her
mind of things never seen by her but remembered all the same. Gorilla,
large African primate . . . Bigfoot, semi-mythical creature of the
American northwest . . . Yowie, the Australian version of Bigfoot.
How wrong they were, she thought privately, locking away her
thoughts from the mind of the creature before her. They thought the
Yowie was a primitive, or a myth. Instead it is a creature created
long ago – or rather, in years to come – for a specific purpose.
The girl opened her mind, I love you Rima, she thought fiercely.
A low rumble answered her as the
Yowie put out a massive hand to stroke her leg.
What brought that on, little one?
I miss her, Rima.
The Yowie patted her leg softly,
nodding. Your mother loved you, child. I believe she still does and
will find a way to come for you. You were everything to her, her whole
world. That is why she named you Gaia. Rima chuckled softly.
She had to explain that to
I can remember her you know, even
though I was only a baby. Her mind was open to me and I can recall
everything she knew.
Gaia grinned suddenly. Even why she still
calls you 'Cindy', despite you having a name of your own, a name of
Rima shook her massive head,
her silky hair swirling around her head like a cyclone. That was
the first time I came face to face with humans who were not of the
'others'. I liked her. The Yowie glanced up at the sun dipping
behind the low hills. We must go back. It is
Gaia nodded and held out her
arms. Catch me then! She bunched her legs to leap off the
termite mound then hesitated. She dropped her arms and half turned
toward the river. "Hunger," she murmured. "Great hunger and coming
swiftly." Gaia turned back to the Yowie with an urgent expression on
her face. Go, Rima. Quickly! Chase the
children toward the camp. The great goanna comes.
Rima nodded and dropped into a
crouch, her long arms reaching forward as she flowed into a
ground-covering gallop toward the playing children. She roared
inarticulately, her mind screaming unheard warnings to the Aboriginal
children ahead of her. They looked up at her approach and ran
screaming, then turned and raced around her, laughing and throwing
clumps of dirt and grass. "Rima! Rima!" they chanted as the Yowie
turned and weaved, trying to chase them away from the river.
A small boy, clothed only in a broad
grin, ran close to the scrub leading down to the river. As he neared
them a brown avalanche hurled itself at him, long jaws agape, saliva
trailing in thick ropes. The boy screamed and fell over, his legs
tangling as the giant monitor lizard raced closer.
Gaia stood atop the termite mound
and watched the boy fall over. She closed her eyes, concentrating. The
lizard halted abruptly, all four legs scrabbling at the dry earth,
coming to a halt only feet from the sobbing boy. It hissed, belching
gouts of foul, saliva-specked air at the boy. It lashed its tail in a
fury and backed up, still hissing. Suddenly it turned and raced off,
its body raised and tail flying, crashing through the scrub.
Gaia opened her eyes, smiling. She
jumped down as Rima ambled up with a questioning look. I made it
see a bigger lizard, she grinned.
It got scared
and ran off.
made her look round. Several Aboriginal men emerged from the trees,
carrying spears and killing sticks. The children ran to them
chattering excitedly, leading the still sobbing young boy. Gaia put
her hand in the giant hand of the Yowie. Come on then, Rima.
You can carry me back to the village.
By Sydney Morgann
“For Danu’s sake, Captain, turn that braincase‑splitting alarm off!”
Malcolm shouted from the galley. His voice was calm, belying the harsh
words, but an octave above the normal bass thunder Captain Cea Knight
was used to hearing when the android deigned to speak directly to her.
Cea grinned mischievously then reached out and hit a flashing red
button on the ship’s console. The alarm stopped, leaving a ringing
vibration in the air that reminded her of the discordant music on the
last planet they’d visited in their quest for marketable technology.
Stretching long legs, way past cramped due to hours in the captain’s
chair scanning planets, moons and asteroids for a sign of derelict
ships or useable ores, Cea groaned. The groan combined with boredom
and a rising sense of cabin fever to produce a sound closer to pain
It feels like a damned itch I can’t scratch,
she thought while reading the data on the screen. The data indicated a
large, indeterminate mass dead ahead. It wasn’t moving.
“What set off the alarm?” Malcolm asked, still
rattling dishes in the galley. “A dead ship or an ore lode?”
She scanned the data then flicked the screen off after
instructing Mother, her pet name for the computer that ran the ship,
to save the data to the central computer brain. “Neither. It reads
like an anomaly. It’s probably just another half‑destroyed asteroid.
Those damned pirate scavengers keep using outdated atomics to blow
these things for the ore. The radiation sets off our alarms and we
waste our time checking them out.”
She punched a button and the lights indicating the
online sensors blinked out. “Not this time,” she snapped before
turning her back to the view screen.
The smell of cooked food coming from the kitchen set
Cea’s stomach rumbling. Worse, a rising streak of mischievousness
coursed through her, like a wave of overwhelming excitement.
“Hey, Malcolm! When’s dinner going to be ready? I’m
hungry, very hungry!” she shouted as she lay back in the chair, put
her feet on the center console then closed her eyes. In more ways
than one, she thought, a small smile spreading pink lips.
“It’s coming!” Malcolm responded while clanking even
“I hope so, and soon! If you don’t become more
efficient, I’ll trade you in at the next port and get myself a real
servant.” She grinned at the reaction that comment was bound to elicit
in the stiffly correct droid.
The seven‑foot machine stepped through the hatch,
balancing a large tray filled with steaming food and drink. “You may
well threaten, Captain, but you know as well as I you’ll never find
another combination robot of my quality for the price you’re willing
to pay,” he replied in a dry voice, tinged with rigid dignity.
“Why do you call me captain when I’ve asked you to
call me Cea when we’re not around others?” she asked, knowing he never
called her by her name unless they were having sex.
He does have his protocols to follow, she
thought with amusement.
“I am not comfortable with casual forms of address to
one’s owner.” Malcolm glared at her posture. “What is your full name
anyway? Why won’t you tell me? After all, if it’s really horrible and
you swear me to secrecy, I will be totally incapable of telling anyone
She snuggled deeper into the personal indent on the
captain’s chair and grinned up at him. “Okay, in that case, I’ll tell
you but I order you not to tell anyone. Not anyone!”
Malcolm balanced the tray and tilted his head, waiting
for her revelation.
Cea sighed. “All right, already! I hate this name but
my father loved it, so I’m stuck with it.” She sighed again. “It’s
Bodicea, after an ancient English queen who fought the Romans. She and
her daughters rode chariots, wore armor and wielded swords as well as
men. My father named me after her,” she grumbled.
“I am well aware of the history of that great and
noble lady. I fail to see why you are ashamed of her name,” Malcolm
said, again glaring at the bottoms of Cea’s dirty feet as they perched
on the command console.
“I’m not ashamed of it!” she snapped. “I just know
what kind of fun assholes would have with it. They’d call me ‘Body’ or
the ‘Bod’ or worse. Besides, I like Cea. It’s exotic and, since I
pronounce it Chee‑ah, it sounds almost like a dangerous animal,
a fast cat, doesn’t it?” She folded her arms across her chest, tilted
her chin at him in a proud manner and showed her teeth in a feral
Malcolm gently swept her feet off the console then
placed the molded synthetic plate and cup down beside her. “Will there
be anything else, Captain Cea? I have some minor repairs to make on
the aft engine and I would like to finish them before shutting down
for my recharge.”
Noting the addition of her nickname, Cea smiled. “How
about some conversation for a change?” she asked while making some
minor adjustments to the navigational sensor.
“I am not programmed for intelligent conversation, as
you well know, Captain. I was designed to service the ship and you,
nothing else,” his droll voice intoned.
A full, robust gale of laughter erupted from Cea.
“Yeah, I know about your servicing abilities…after the fact.” She
giggled. “My bargain basement copilot and mechanic turned out to own
some very special tools, ones I find very useful.” She glanced down at
the large bulge in his skintight pants.
“Why do you not employ a real human male if what you
desire is mere emotional companionship?” He cocked a black eyebrow at
She snorted and checked the gauges on the flight
console again. “Men! Slimy, lying bastards. I wouldn’t have one on a
bet,” she sneered. Turning back to smile up at him, she added,
“Machines are so much more…,” the grin broadened, “…reliable.”
“I suppose you found that comforting inside prison
where only females were available?” He pointedly glanced at the tattoo
of a sword piercing a penis that adorned her upper arm. A broad gold
band encircling the arm drew attention to the tattoo, instead of
The grin slipped off Cea’s face. “Sometimes, I think
your declared lack of emotion is a lie Malcolm. You seem to delight in
reminding me of things I’d rather forget.” She poked at the image of
an Energizer Bunny in the middle of the short, white, sleeveless
T‑shirt he wore. “And you seem to have a warped sense of humor, too.”
The grin returned. “Is this your way of protesting your
He continued to stare down into the icy, pale blue
eyes, challenging him to speak the truth. “Yes, it is. Now, is there
anything else you require?”
Ignoring the question, Cea grabbed the plasteel plate
heaped with crispy Martian sand worms and began to gobble them down.
When she finished a third of the delicacy, she noticed Malcolm still
standing beside her chair, stiffly at attention, and staring out the
front shield screen. “Aren’t you going to at least sit with me
tonight?” she asked with a playful smirk on her lips. “After all, your
positronic brain isn’t supposed to feel miffed when I insult you, so I
know you’re doing nothing but playing at being human again,” she added
before taking a long draught of the icy green Io water he knew she
Her gaze followed his outside among the stars, finally
singling out Beta Centauri, a blue‑white star with a glow around its
rim. “Beautiful, isn’t it? Almost as good as a moon for romance. If
you were a human male, you’d be taking advantage of that right now.”
Malcolm’s broad shoulders quivered, but his
expressionless face remained fixed on the shield screen. “I do not
play at being human. I am programmed to emulate human behavior.
Nothing more.” His voice rumbled under the soft synthetic skin of a
broad male chest, complete with thick black hair that peeked over the
low‑scooped neck of his shirt.
Cea studied the masculine face she’d created. The
cleft in his chin, laugh lines accentuating a full mouth, a strong jaw
with a five o’clock shadow, and a thick black moustache, all combined
in a male figure that looked remarkably like a young Sean Connery, an
ancient Earth, male movie star who starred in her favorite antique
films about a secret agent named James Bond.
She admitted to herself that Malcolm still excited
her, even after five months of service. “I dreamed of you Malcolm,
created you, slaved to save enough credits to buy you then have you
refitted, and now I enjoy you. It is a shame you do not enjoy me as
much,” she said, watching simulated muscles contract under the
tan‑colored synthskin of his body.
“I am pleased you enjoy my company, Cea, but I remind
you, once again, I was not programmed for emotions, only obedience. I
fail to comprehend why you continue to expect pleasure from me. I
cannot feel such a thing, or any other human emotion.” This time, he
turned and met her gaze. Brilliant turquoise eyes processed her image,
analyzing her mood and storing the information away in a databank
complex and large enough to learn as well as assimilate data.
“Then, why did they label you Malcolm?” she shot right
back at him.
“What does my name have to do with anything?” he
asked, tilting his head in puzzlement.
She laughed. “For a walking computer, you’re sometimes
very dense Malcolm. Or didn’t you know your name is an acronym? It’s
short for MALe COhabitational Luxury Mechanism.” A giggle bubbled out
of her mouth at the look of studied consternation this bit of
information evoked. “If that isn’t fancy talk for a walking dildo, I
don’t know what is.”
His face cleared. “My point exactly. Dildos do not
feel, they only function in the hands of their owner.”
Stifling a belly‑busting tidal wave of laughter, Cea
reached out and stroked the thick ridges of his exposed belly. “Can
you not at least believably pretend to enjoy it when I touch you, my
pet? It would give me much pleasure to think, even for a few minutes,
that a male who looks like you feels great passion for me,” she purred
while slowly moving her fingertips down toward the skintight black
latex pants he wore.
She leaned forward and ran her tongue over and inside
his bellybutton while running her hand down to cup the coiled mound of
Malcolm regarded Cea’s down‑turned head without
emotion and tripped the required connections in his positronic brain.
In response, an erection began to harden and grow under her hand. The
bulge became a fully erect penis that magically made its way past the
waistband of his pants and up his belly a full three inches. The
hardness came to rest under her palm, like something with a mind of
its own. Cea curved her fingers and closed her eyes, dinner and the
quest for wealth completely forgotten.
“I’m so glad I ordered the top of the line tool for
you after I found out what you are, Malcolm. It did cost more than I
wanted to spend, but…,” she murmured while she admired the perfection
of the penis she paid a month’s profit to buy. Her hand stroked the
silken skin, now moist and warm.
When her head moved toward the throbbing erection, his
left hand reached down to stroke her thick white hair. After her lips
clamped onto the engorged tip, his right hand slid under the waistband
of his pants and gently pulled them further down, fully releasing him
to fill her hungry mouth.
“Why do you foolishly seek to pleasure me, Cea, while
denying yourself the same pleasure?” he asked, cocking his head, as he
watched her run her tongue up the length of his erect tool. “And why
do you not want me to perform even the simplest acts of foreplay on
you? Why do you not want me to kiss you or caress you? Why…”
“Shut up! Don’t ask questions. Just get into the
spirit of the game, get with the program, will you?” she murmured
without breaking pace. She reached around to massage a tight buttock
while the other hand cupped and massaged a large testicle. She
groaned, spread her legs and began to move sensuously on the textured
leather of her chair.
“This is not logical,” he responded. “My primary
programming demands I behave in a logical manner. I must understand. I
can no longer accept your excuses for not informing me of your
motivations in the act. I must have accurate data in order to perform
with efficiency.” His erection lost some of its rigidity.
Cea pulled back, dropped her hands and took a
shuddering breath of air, clearing her head and regaining some
control. “Dammit to hell!” she exclaimed, expelling the air in an
explosive burst of irritation.
As his erection began to dramatically droop, she
shouted, “Okay, okay! I get the message already. Sometimes you are a
pain in the ass.”
“No, Cea, I am a heterosexual android with minimum
coital programming. When you purchased me, I was given explicit
instructions that no anal sex would be in my repertoire,” he said.
The irritation on her face increased to volcanic
proportions. “Oh, shut the hell up! I’ll explain, if it’s the only way
I can get laid,” she muttered.
He remained standing, his penis half‑erect and
dangling in front of her face like a prize she couldn’t have until she
earned it. “It is, Captain.”
She leaned back and crossed her arms across her
breasts. Erect and sensitized nipples rubbed against the soft, nubby
cotton vest she wore, sending a shiver of lust through her, ending
with a twinge of unbearable pleasure inside the engorged clitoris
which strained against the crotch of the shorts she wore for comfort.
“This feels too damned much like my father’s
schoolroom,” she snapped. “It would be nice to get something without
being forced to earn it for a change.” The memory of her father’s
demanding learning curve in science, literature, math and astronomy
sent a surge of pain through her.
Subconsciously, her gaze traveled to the far wall of
the cabin to rest on a photo of her father, grinning like every other
tourist in Greece, as he stood next to a statue of Cea, the goddess of
the hunt and her namesake. Below the photo, a full suit of
lightweight, new‑age armor, custom‑molded to fit her body, and an
enhanced replica of an ancient Greek sword hung, ready to don and use
if needed. Her father had given her both items when she’d “graduated”
from his lonely, space‑born classroom.
I miss those days of sword practice and dad’s teaching, she thought, her body stiff and
unyielding in the chair.
Malcolm cleared a throat that didn’t need clearing.
Cea turned her attention back to him and his rapidly
disappearing erection. Facing her past wasn’t something she liked to
do, and he knew it. “My history and my motives are none of your
business, android,” she grated between teeth she wanted to bite him
His penis throbbed momentarily, adding hardness back
to its beauty. Cea licked her lips and relaxed her tense body in
resignation. “If you must know, I can’t stand to have any male…,” she
glanced up at his impassive face, “…not even a synthetic one, in
control of me. Not in mind or body.” Her arms tightened across her
chest once more, pushing her large breasts above the vest. “I don’t
want intimacy, just raw sex. Is that so hard to understand?”
“No, but my sensors detect that you are not telling
the truth, at least, not the whole truth. I cannot function…”
With long white hair flying around her face like an
angry cloud, her head whipped upward again to glare at him. “Before I
bought you I traveled and worked with my father…” she unlocked her
arms and shot one out to point at the endless vista of space in front
of the ship. “…he educated me, taught me, loved me…” Her arm sagged
until it came to rest on the console. “…we lived by selling whatever
we could find out there. One day, we took on two paying passengers.
One turned out to be a thief, Xander Crowe, and the other…”
She turned her head away from his inquiring gaze.
“…the other was an undercover cop. His name was Tal English. I knew
him as Morgan Black, but I found out his real name later. I…fell in
love him. I was stupid, naive and very young.” She stiffened her back
and returned his gaze with a defiant one of her own. “While arresting
Crowe, English shot my father and killed him. I went to prison for the
theft of some technology Crowe stole from a government lab. I couldn’t
prove my innocence because the bastard got away. I spent two years
inside that hell hole, vowing I’d get revenge for my father’s life and
for the hell I lived for those two years. Somebody found enough
evidence to free me.”
Malcolm opened his mouth to speak. She held up a
shaking hand. “It doesn’t matter who. Even if I knew, I wouldn’t care.
All I care about is that I got out, scraped up the money to buy this
rust bucket, and got the hell off that planet I have no plans to ever
live on terra firma again. Space is the only place where you don’t
have barriers. And, I won’t give it up again.”
She glared harder at him. “All I wanted was to get
back into the freedom of space and be left alone, but, after a few
months, I realized I couldn’t do it alone. So I went back home to
Europa and bought you from a junk dealer I knew. I upgraded you as
much as I could afford, but I didn’t know I was getting a pleasure
droid. Much to my surprise, you ended up being a decent mechanic and
Malcolm reached out to stroke the tangled hair
clinging to Cea’s damp forehead and cheeks. She pushed his hand aside
with enough force to fling it away before he quietly returned it to
“Now, I search for anything that will bring me money
so I can stay free, and… I search for Crowe and English.” Her
expression collapsed into rage. Blue eyes glittered with icy
determination and hands gripped both sides of the chair, forcing the
muscular biceps in her arms to stand up and strain against the gold
circlets around them. “That’s all there is. End of story. Are you
“You were hurt, so you seek to keep yourself
barricaded, yet you need a human touch.” He didn’t ask, he stated.
“Yes! I was hurt so badly by Tal English that I swore
no man would ever touch me again. Never!” Her body sagged, released
from the tension that had previously held it stiff and unyielding.
“And, yes, I do need someone to touch me, hold me, care about me…” She
placed both hands in her lap and leaned back. Closing her eyes in
weary defeat, she added, “That’s why I use you the way I do.”
Her eyes opened, revealing sadness and the bright
shine of unshed tears. “Should I apologize for my needs or deny them,
His erection became hard, throbbing and urgent in
front of her face. “You need not deny yourself, Cea. Now, I
understand…” He thrust his hips forward, inviting her to taste him
She reached up and unbuttoned the vest that covered
her breasts. Her nipples began to harden as she admired him and licked
her lips in anticipation. She caressed one nipple, bringing it to a
taut hardness, before dropping both hands to the drawstring of her
pants and untying it. She stood and dropped them then shed the vest.
Standing naked in front of him, she pulled his shirt off, revealing a
thick mat of tangled black hair on a wide chest. Then, with shaking
hands, she stepped close to him and pressed her nipples against him
while shoving at his pants.
Malcolm grasped the pants and pushed them down his
long legs, while simultaneously clamping his mouth over one hard
nipple. He gently sucked then rolled his tongue around it, ending by
teasing the tip back and forth.
Cea threw back her head, closed her eyes and moaned
with pleasure. She grasped his waist then stood on tiptoe to rub her
engorged clitoris protruding from the thick white bush of her pubic
mound against his penis. She moaned again as his penis throbbed
Malcolm easily held her suspended with one arm as he
continued to suck on each nipple in turn, while rubbing his erection
against her clitoris. Slowly, he lifted his head and peered into her
eyes. “Tell me what you want.”
“I want…” she licked her lips and struggled for
breath. “I want…everything.” Her voice barely a whisper.
His lips creased into a smile. “Then you shall have
He eased her back against the console and forced her
legs wider apart. When her back and butt were braced against the
padded leather, he slid his thick erection into her wet and swollen
vagina, with agonizing slowness.
Cea grasped his shoulders while arching her back,
silently begging for him to take her, invade her, overwhelm her, give
it all to her, and hold nothing back. “Please…,” she gasped.
He abruptly thrust forward, impaling her with enough
force to bring his body completely against hers. Her moan deepened and
became louder. “Oh God, you’re so big. So hard…please…yes, please,”
she gasped between breaths.
He slowly withdrew, let his penis ride up to tease her
clitoris then slowly returned to slide into her again.
At that moment, a backup alarm in the defense sensors
erupted. Warning lights flashed red and urgent.
Malcolm froze, inspected the displays and said,
“There’s a ship in front of us, with laser cannons aimed and ready to
fire.” He withdrew and pulled his pants back up, then reached for his
Cea’s eyes slowly focused as she fought to regain
self‑control. Her mind, now clear and without any hint of passionate
desire, shifted to deciphering the data on the display screen. She
pushed off the console and sat down in the captain’s chair, placing
her hands on the controls. She punched up displays and information
about the ship she now saw bearing down on them.
“It’s an unregistered freighter. Big, well‑armed and
coming fast,” she said as she activated her weapons array. “They’re
probably space pirates.” Weapons warmed up and ready, she slipped on
the headband that allowed her to control the ship and its firing power
with mental commands. “If they think this old ship will be easy to
take, they’ve got a real surprise in store.” She grinned but her
expression held no humor.
“Ready to fire upon your command, Captain,” Malcolm
declared, now strapped into the copilot’s seat. He watched the
freighter approach then stop.
A deep, bass voice came over the loudspeaker. “Europa,
this is the Blackbird. We have you in our sights, and we will blast
you into atoms if you do not deactivate your weapons and surrender
your ship immediately.”
“Oh shit,” Cea spat. “It’s Scorpion and his
brain‑dead, scavenger crew.” She glanced over at Malcolm’s impassive
study of the ship that now lay implacably in front of them. “We’re
fucked, my friend, and we won’t get any Vaseline to make it enjoyable
either,” she muttered while hitting the button to deactivate the