Gravity Key

 

By Lisa Cooper

 

WIDOW

1.     Poker

Tuesday, March 17, 2161

Midnight is not the time to stumble around the darkened catwalks of a starship looking for the women’s restroom.

That night, I relieved my bloated and always weak bladder and returned to the poker game, which was a mistake. The players were the officers of the Earth and Space Forces and our sly new allies, the Beldans.

The Beldans, tall, fierce and slightly feline looking, were the first aliens we met. Territorial and hostile to intruders, their space empire was seven thousand years old. Two years ago they wiped out our colony on Eridani 4, killing thousands of human troops and civilians including my husband.

Now the war was over, and we were all supposed to be friends.

My superiors assigned me to teach the card game poker to these aliens. One of them, Colonel Rhycin, a Beldan officer, took to five-card draw like a pig to mud and enjoyed his natural talent for taking my money.

Rhycin’s six-fingered cat-like paws stacked the chips he’d won, sorting them by color.

“How much have you lost?” His raspy baritone voice purred through my translator.

I shrugged my uncertainty and took another sip of my second beer. I’d lost a lot of money drinking and gambling on the recreation deck of the starship Europa, and I didn’t need to lose more. Not that after-hours beer and poker were my usual thing, but it had been over three years without sex or beer, never mind even poker. So two out of three seemed like a great release. That second beer put me into a satisfyingly numbed state that blocked out most of my resentment toward the Beldans and all of my better judgment about placing poker bets.

A greedy delight filled Rhycin’s green, hawkish eyes. “Can I exchange these for gold or some other precious metal? Your Human currency has no value on my planet.” He pointed at his poker chips with a toothy grin. “Or perhaps you’d like to earn them back?”

This one is treacherous. My hair prickled up as Rhycin studied me too intently for comfort. I gave him a weak sugar-coated smile.

“F.U. sir,” I replied. I doubted he’d know what that meant, but I was wrong.

“Several boring human females have made me similar offers tonight.” Rhycin’s bird-like eyes narrowed, and he looked me up and down. “But you’re Wilder aren’t you?”

I was buzzed and puzzled. How did this alien know me? And how did he have enough savvy with Standard English to turn my name into a sleazy suggestion?

“Sir?”

My stomach rumbled from the beer, and I released a most unladylike belch of alcoholic breath.

Rhycin’s pale gray skin peeled back from his indigo mouth to expose a glint of white teeth and pointed fangs made to shred meat.

“Jereine West is or was your grandmother,” he stated emphatically. “She discovered the gravity well in your star system. That discovery let you humans lose in the galaxy to invade Beldan territory. Some say that she even had a way to move freely around the galaxy. Is that true?”

A chill ran down my spine with a vague thought. I felt it on the edge of my awareness, but the fleeting glimpse escaped before I could grab it.

“Sorry sir,” I said. Rhycin’s curiosity made my heart race and turned my stomach into a twisted knot. I knew better than to be curious about what people thought of my grandmother. “I haven’t seen her in years.”

Time to put some distance here, I hazily thought. A few light years should do it. In six days, I’d be back on Earth with my son and far away from these felid menaces. The treaty mission raised my profile much higher than I liked.

I lived with strange thoughts and feelings. Things my brain half processed only to have them hidden behind a curtain of consciousness I couldn’t probe. Rhycin’s remark created another mental image that would make me crazy if I tried to understand why it scared me. What he said was true. Jereine West was my grandmother. She discovered the gravity well between Jupiter and Saturn almost forty years ago. Humans used the well, a temporary bend in the fabric of space created by the periodic conjunction of the two massive planets, to travel to nearby stars and start our first extrasolar colonies.

One of these colonies, Eridani 4, was a star system the Beldans claimed as their own. The attack, swift and deadly, nearly killed everyone in the Eridani colony.

I left the gambling table and cashed in my remaining chips with Alan Tolman, the duty officer for our makeshift casino and my former bandmate. He snickered when I attempted to hand him my poker chips but dropped them at his feet instead.

“You’re a lightweight as always. It’s ok to play the bass like that Gail,” he said in his South Jersey accent when I stooped to pick up the chips. “But poker? That’s a bad idea.”

I grabbed Tolman by the neck and rubbed his smooth, bald head with the palm of my hand. “For luck,” I told him and hiccupped.

Tolman drew back and fanned the air in front of his nose. “Whoa, your breath.” He untangled himself and nudged me towards the door. “You’re drunk. Shitfaced. Go sleep it off kido.”

I stumbled through the ship’s dim corridors to the cabin I shared with another engineer, Carole Rankin, and keyed my code into the door’s lock. The auto-lights cut on and glared blindingly into my face. I didn’t feel like sleep. Instead, I stripped, pulled on my robe, and grabbed a towel and my last sliver of soap. My stomach, still bloated by the beer, knotted tightly and rumbled again making me explosively burp up more air.

“Damn you!” Carole screamed and turned over in her bunk. Her bright red hair was sleep-tousled and matted. “Shut up! And turn the lights out, will you?”

She hurled a pillow at me, but I dodged and stumbled backward into the narrow metal catwalk outside our cabin. My butt and right knuckles slammed into the rail making me groan when the stinging pain raced through my bruised fingers. I shook my hand frantically and dropped the soap, which fell through the cold grates under my bare feet.

This is why you don’t drink, I reminded myself. And you shouldn’t gamble either.

I peered down through the grates, but the darkness of the narrow passages prevented me from seeing where the soap landed. A dull throb welled in the knuckles of my right hand. I, licked them, belched again and kicked the pillow back inside our tiny berth. I slammed the hatch shut, and Carole screamed another curse.

The sheet metal wall of the crew compartments braced my unsteady hand, and I leaned against the panels for support. Feeling my way along the passage, I followed the row of dull, red emergency lights in the darkened ship toward the showers and toilets. The sound of rushing water and the warmth of steam lured me to the bathing area. I narrowed my eyes against the bright lights reflecting off the glistening steel walls, slung my towel onto a hook near the door and peered around the corner to see who else opted for a midnight shower.

A Beldan.

Hot water pelted down on his calloused, leathery hide and bathed his feet in a cloud of steam. His blue phallus slid within the grip of his six fingers under a lather of soap and hot water. He stroked solidly, pumping his hips to hump his hand. He didn’t see me since he was too preoccupied with himself in his pleasure.

This should be interesting.

That unique voice inside my head was not my sensible one. She belonged to the part of me that enjoyed crazy risks and always got me into trouble. I never knew what she was thinking, except during moments like these.

Shut up. We’re leaving. That Rhycin character scared the shit out me.

Forget Rhycin. Beldans have great butts and tight muscles. Watch.

Like all Beldans, he had an almost lipless cat-like mouth and big hawkish eyes. Dark gray, thick skin covered his body except where pale, bluish wheels formed long scars down his arms, back, and legs. A wet, thick mane of long black hair with red and gold highlights cascaded down his well-muscled back. Cream spots crossed his chest, thighs, and back. His left arm, covered with raised black tattoos was firm and robust. Here was a being of teeth, talons, and deadly stealth and he was jerking off in the women’s shower of Earth’s last battleship.

Look at him. He’s lean, and every rippling muscle is taught and etched in the perfect definition of masculine power.

His body was more human-like than I expected given the teeth and claws. I caught myself and tried to silence the analytical voice.

It’s a Beldan stupid. You shouldn’t enjoy this. Plus, this is the women’s bathroom. He’s either a pervert or an idiot.

A pervert, with the body of a competitive swimmer.

My inner dialogue could argue with itself all it wanted, but my eyes couldn’t leave stunning sight before me. Here was a powerful and gorgeous creature. His long-fingered paws caress along the engorged blue shaft. My lips were wet and chewed before I noticed the aroused fire between my thighs.

A rumbling baritone purred from his throat. His lipless mouth flexed upward in obvious enjoyment. He grunted and thrashed his hips in the spraying hot water.

The steam dampened my robe and intensified the heat rising in my blood as I imagined myself wrapped around those thrashing hips.

Not good, I thought, leave now. This is the enemy and a world of trouble if someone walks in. Go and report him.
The beer got the best of me. Another noisy belch escaped my gut with a horrid rumble.

The Beldan turned and gold, hungry eyes stared at me, unfazed by my voyeurism. There was no white around them, just a burnished yellow the same color as my own, surrounding a round black pupil. His thick brow ridges knotted together, and his jaw fell, exposing a dark indigo tongue and sharp, shiny teeth encased by a heavily muscled jaw. The tips of hard black talons peaked out from their finger sheaths. His masturbation slowed but didn’t stop as he studied me. He sniffed the steamy air between us with a look more puzzled than angered.

Play this right; I told myself, put him on the defensive. I parked both hands on my hips.

“Don’t let me interrupt. I’ve never seen a Beldan jerk off in the women’s bathroom before.”

He gazed around the room and shrugged. His voice, rendered through my cochlear translator implant, purred in a baritone vibrato.

“I’m pretty sure this is the men’s shower honey.” His neck flexed with a feline’s supple grace as he nodded to my left.

I turned my head and saw the steel urinals. He was right.

Men’s shower room; oh crap.

“I… my bad here,” My bravado evaporated in the steam, and a surge of volcanic heat flooded my face. I pointed towards the exit. “I’ll just be going. Excuse me.” I backed away eager to leave the smoldering room and the sight of his naked ass.

His response rumbled with confidence. “Wait!” he commanded.

The power and poise of his voice rooted me to the tiles beneath my feet. I froze and turned to look over my shoulder at him. Bony protuberances along his jaws brightened to the indigo of his member. His head tilted to the side, and he sniffed again.

“Stay for the show if you want.” His eyes wandered slowly from my ankles up to my eyes and back down again. “Or maybe, you could help me.”

I learned to hate the Beldans with a passion that only a visit from death brings. At that moment, all I focused on was the cat-like purr of his voice, his gorgeous eyes, and crinkling nose that sniffed me out like an animal.

“Oh?” I replied and snatched a glance at what was in his hand. “How would that work?” I was mesmerized.

Go for it, the risk taker inside my head prompted. I promise you won’t be sorry.

The blue tongue licked the corner of his mouth, and he held out his free hand. With a beckoning motion, he urged me to come closer.

“Come over here, ”he commanded. My grandmother had warned me about the power of the voice, and this Beldan’s purred control through my every nerve and muscle.

Beldans are strong enough to shred a human into finger food with their razor-sharp claws, but my mental resistance had been lowered by the alcohol. I obeyed, without caution, drawn in by his voice and eyes and the surging steam.

I stared up at him unblinkingly, but fear knotted my insides.

He reached out his hand and stroked me under my chin, then pulled me closer to him to study my face.

“Well?” I tried to sound insolent. “Do I suit your needs?”

He chuckled. “Hmm, sultry, healthy, defiant. Good,” the Beldan mused. He took my hand and replaced his with mine on his member. He moaned then and exhaled deeply. “Your hands are filled with the fire of life. I’ve never felt ecstasy like this from a mere touch.”

I pull my hand back and forced control to my mind. The rebel in me submitted unwillingly.

“I don’t think you’re going to experience it now either,” I told him. “Enjoy the rest of your shower.”

A low chuckle rumbled from his barrel chest. “You are surly also,” he replied and stepped closer. “I like that.” He nestled his nose against my damp hair and nuzzled down across my ear to my neck. “I like that.”

A shock wave of pleasure bolted down my body and stuck between my thighs. Desire and fear competed for my attention as his tongue licked just behind my ear.

The Beldan raised his head from my neck, and the golden eyes met mine again. His right hand came up to my face, and his thumb gently caressed my cheekbone. He felt along the curve of my jaw from my ear to my mouth and then brushed across the fullness of my lips.

“What’s your name?” he whispered.

I closed my eyes and leaned into the touch of his hand. A living current flowed between us. I kissed his thumb as it caressed my mouth. That gentle touch was at odds with the reputation they had earned during the war.

“Gail, what’s yours?”

“Ambi,” he whispered. “I’ll be aboard for another two weeks, perhaps we can meet again. I have a private cabin.” His mouth curled in the Beldan equivalent of a smile.

“I can’t.” I pulled back and turned my gaze away from his curious stare; down into the pooling water at our feet and wiped away the steam and sweat that clung to my face. This Beldan had an excellent sense of irony and a natural talent for seduction. No was the last word I wanted to explain right now. I looked up into the penetrating golden eyes and drew a deep breath.

Damn even his eyes are hot, I thought, like gold coins.

“I’m due to be shipped back to Earth in two days to visit my family.”

Ambi stepped back from me, and the ridges over his brow drew together. His eyes narrowed, and he stood silently for a moment.

“You have a mate?” his tone filled with indignant ire and his mouth opened slightly to reveal the teeth and azure gum line. “You should have said that right away. This is how you honor him?”

“He’s dead,” I spat the word at him. “He died two years ago in the war killed by Beldan commandos.”

Ambi stared at me as it slowly sank in what that meant. His mouth snapped closed, hiding the fearsome teeth and he scratched the back of his head.

“But I have a son,” I continued in the same harsh tone. “He’s with my sister on Earth. That’s my family.”

Ambi nodded and folded his arms across his chest. “Oh.”

“I’m leaving this ship to take a two month leave to visit my son and my sister now that the Beldans have decided they aren’t trying to kill us all!”

I turned away, but then he said the most amazing thing; the very last thing I would have expected.

“Gail!” he cried. “I spoke in haste. I also lost many friends in that war and was almost killed myself. I am sorry for your loss. It was a foolish war started by Beldans who did not think before they pulled the triggers of their guns. It is good to have family and children, so I envy you. One day, perhaps I will have a family as well.” He stared down at the wet floor. “These are not easy choices or times, but I’ll do my part to make it’s a galaxy that’s safe for your children and mine. I hope in the future, humans, and Beldans will,” he paused and shrugged, letting his eagle eyes travel up and down my body before continuing. “I hope we’ll find better ways to relate to each other, ways that don’t involve bullets and death.”

Ambi wrapped himself in his towel, then nuzzled my neck again, lingering to nestle his nose gently below my ear.

“Be well Gail,” he whispered, “I will treasure this moment.” He stepped away from me and wrapped himself in his towel then walked out of the shower and out of my life.

 

Scrivener Quick Start Day 2

I’m still working on the Scrivener quick tutorial. There are many features, but I can already see the strength for organizing ideas. For my professional work (textbooks) the references widow will let me document info for my students on the fly. We are switching to an online lab text next fall, and this program will allow me to incorporate media right into the document. That’s a tremendous bonus for a book that will be published and used online.

Scrivener’s media features will allow me to bring in images that are inspirational (novel) or are critical visual elements (lab text). The cork board is another element that seems useful, but I’m not sure how I’ll use it just yet.

I started a bullet journal for my next novel. Eventually the ideas and outlines I jot down will be transferred to Scrivener.  If you don’t know or do bullet journals, she has excellent YouTube vlogs on both Scrivener and bullet journals . I highly recommend both.

Finally, if they install Scrivener at my office, as I asked, I’ll do some screen captures and post what’s happening on my YouTube channel/s.

Today was miserable and stressful. One of the professors let her student destroy two (expensive) pH meters. Another one, can’t be trusted to make her student obey the lab security rules. Also, it was Monday, raining and I left my wallet at home. Writing this has helped me to de-stress. I hope that isn’t to much passive voice…

Cheers,

Lisa

 

Learning Scrivener

I’ve been following fellow writer Rachel Stephen (https://www.youtube.com/user/tryingtobeahero/videos) who does excellent vids on how to be an organized writer. I wanted to try Scrivener, which she highly recommended, but my novel was too advanced to delve in. I do have several textbooks that I’m going to turn in to free, online documents for our students (bookstore just rips the kids off), and Scrivener seems like the right software for this project. It has a few multimedia tools that have me excited

I’m trying the free 30 day trial of Scrivener. It is a sophisticated program, but I think it will be worth it. The tutorial is long and necessary.

My textbook revision project is mature enough to get me up the learning curve I think, and I’ll work on that over the summer.

It the meantime I have a great little notebook for organizing my next novel. The Key to Mnau

BTW. I have Grammarly dowloaded, it works on all my social media, and as I am the world’s most dyslexic speller, it saves my butt.

I’ll blog.

Lisa

Chapter 1. The Gravity Key- Free Read

1.    Malta

January 23, 2150

[Jupiter-Saturn Gravity Well opens in 3285 days.]

Like all good tales of adventure and magic, mine begins with a map. It was a tattered, ancient papyrus of crumbling fibers and faded Egyptian-blue hieroglyphics that Valdor Lon asked me to ‘borrow’ from the antiquities department of a London museum. Lon stabilized the ancient fibers and sealed the map between two transparent, flexible plastic sheets. Then he picked up his rucksack and his old black Gretsch guitar and told me to follow him.

I’m not sure if I was assigned to Valdor, or he was assigned to me, but he was the one I was supposed to learn from, so I thought that made me his apprentice.

Deep in the painted caverns of Malta, I unrolled the papyrus map and studied the pictograms and lacy designs that glowed neon blue in my headlamp.

“We getting close, aren’t we?” I asked.

Valdor Lon inched up behind me and waved his hand over the map. The blue glow from the lines intensified.

“Yeah,” he replied and pointed down the steep tunnel. “It says that this passage opens into a wide cavern filled with quartz crystals. The portal should be in there. If we can find it.”

I touched the tunnel walls; they were a smooth with an arched ceiling, not roughhewn or water tumbled. They felt very different from the rest of the island’s subterranean rooms.

“Volcanic glass,” I said. “What was this place?”

“The Hypogeum? It was a temple, a burial place. But it was built over an old gold mine, I think,” Lon replied. He pointed a flashlight at the curved ceiling. “No bats. Good, I don’t like bats,” his gravelly voice echoed down the vast passage. He pointed to the regular pattern of grooves that arched over our heads. “See the tool marks? Drilling rig made those, and it was a big one.”

I ran my hand over the glassy sides of the tunnel the walls. “Who did this?” I asked.

Lon lifted his hard hat and wiped his brow on his sleeve. His shoulder-length white hair, soaked with sweat, clung to his neck. He checked the laser sight of his sidearm and took the safety off, then picked up the canvas rucksack that held the Gretsch  and slung it over his shoulder.

“Hard to say. The tunnels were cut at least one hundred thousand years ago.” He grinned when he saw my eyes widen. “Come on Gail. It’s hot down here. Let’s find the portal and finish this before I pass out.”

“You should have taken the water-cooled backpack,” I suggested and lifted my bag, a worn nylon thing that held my bass guitar.

He shook his head. “Too much extra weight. You have to move quickly in a cave sometimes.” He strode ahead down the tunnel steps, his long legs covering ground quickly and I trudged after him taking long strides to keep up.

We walked another two hundred meters and the tunnel broadened to a low-ceilinged cavern filled with large clumps of quartz crystals. They glimmered white in the light from our headlamps.

“It’s beautiful,” I said. “Like rock candy.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “Beautiful and deadly.” He pointed at the loose gravel shards under our feet. “Take a look.”

I knelt and picked up a hand full of the loose debris. The irregular shapes didn’t look or feel like stone. One tiny shard edged with a thin rim of gold caught my attention.

“What is this?” I asked him.

Valdor stooped beside me and took the fragment into his palm. “Chipped tooth, with a bit of gold cap still on it. That’s a recent one. I’m surprised they missed the gold though.”

He threw the tooth aside and reached into his pack for a line of halogen lights. He placed them around the cavern and connected the battery. An intense white glow filled the cavern, reflecting off the crystals.

I gazed around me. The loose footing was all bone; human bones and there were millions of fragments in all sizes. Twisted femurs stuck between splintered ribs and the shattered domes of skulls. The tiny shards of fingers and toes were cracked and crushed and ground to powder. I jumped to my feet and grabbed Valdor by the arm.

“Who are they?” I demanded.

“Things that like eating people. Gruens is what I call ‘um. Cave troll is another name.” He removed his backpack and slung the Gretsch over his shoulders. “About a hundred seventy years ago, some school kids disappeared down here. An entire class.”

I stared up at him and pulled at his sleeve. “I thought you said you’d been down here before.”

“Yeah, well, that was over three hundred years ago.”

“Wait, that’s not possible!” I exclaimed. There were wrinkles around his eyes, and the skin of his hands was weathered and dry, but Valdor was in his late sixties, or maybe early seventies at most. “How old are you?”

An impish smirk creased his craggy face, and his jade colored eyes shone with mischief.  “How old are you?” he asked.

“Sixteen,” I replied. “Well in two days I will be.”

“Honey you have a lot to learn.” He leaned against a large quartz clump and pulled a can of beer from his sack. “Right now, it’s how to find portals. You can worry about staying as pretty as I am later. You got that thing your grandmother gave you?”

I held up my braided wristband. Sewn into it was a gunmetal locket with a watch face on the top of it. Lon grabbed my wrist and opened the locket. Inside was a small transparent disk with four sets of metal interlocking gears.

“Yep, that will do it. Good now open up the map and walk around the room.”

“Why?”

He closed his eyes, shook his head and popped open the beer. “To find the portal please Miss. The map will glow brighter, and that little gadget in your locket will vibrate a bit. If you have your grandmother’s genes, you’ll vibrate a bit too.” He upended the can, took a long swig and belched.

I jogged to the nearest wall and slowly walked around the periphery of the cavern, cringing when my boots crunched sickeningly on the mass of shattered bones beneath them.

“What is this thing anyway?” I asked.

“A Gravity Key,” Valdor replied. “When you locate the portal, the Key will convert the sound from the guitars to hypersonic frequencies. That will unlock the portal door and keep it open for a little while.”

What have I gotten myself into, I wondered? I just wanted to pass algebra.

Well, you did pass algebra, my mind echoed back the hazy thought. You’ll do fine.

“I guess I don’t quite understand,” I said. “I thought grandma found the gravity well.”

“Yeah, she did find the gravity well. But even a bumpkin like you should know that a key and a well are not the same things.”

I looked over my shoulder and rolled my eyes at him. “Who you calling a pumpkin?” I yelled.

“I said a bumpkin!” he shouted in a feisty voice filled with frustration. “That means one who is untrained. Damn it, has Jereine taught you anything?”

I responded by making a stank face at him.

He shook his head in disgust. “Boy do I have my work cut out for me. A gravity well is made by two planets or two suns. It’s a bend in the fabric of space that creates a shortcut to another part of space.”

“Like a wormhole?”

“Sort of,” he said. “That’s an oversimplification, but it’s the basic idea. You can take a starship through a gravity well.” He downed another gulp of beer. “What were you taught about the keys, Gail?”

I was startled by the question. I remember grandma going over the history of keys and portals, but I didn’t pay much attention. “Uh, this guy made them.”

“And what was his name?” Valdor demanded.

“I don’t remember.”

“Keiden made the Keys,” Valdor replied. “Do you remember how many keys there are?”

I stopped and looked up at him. “Seven,” was my first suggestion.

Valdor skeptically narrowed his eyes.

“Nine!”

“Nine indeed, Miss,” he said, “And what do the keys do?”

“I wasn’t planning on taking a history test today,” I said.

“Just answer the best you can,” Valdor insisted. “Tell me what you can remember. I’m sure it’s all in that blockhead somewhere.”

I made a face at him for the blockhead comment. “There’s my key and your key and the Time Keyper’s key and, uh, that’s all I remember. Oh, yeah and the Master Key.” I resumed walking and sincerely wished that he would stop. “That’s about it.”

The inquest was not over, and Valdor pressed my memory further. “How does your Gravity Key work,” he demanded.

“I have no idea,” I replied with a teenager’s catty indifference. “But I bet you’ll tell me.”

“A Gravity Key works with the universal portal system,” Valdor explained patiently. “It’s a shortcut to any habitable world in the galaxy if you have a map, a key, and the right enchantment to open the lock.”

“Enchantment? You mean it’s magic?” I asked.

“No, I mean to sing something into reality. Keep looking. You’ll understand in a minute.”

Two-thirds of the way around the cavern, the locket buzzed slightly, and I paused. I stepped closer to the wall and watched the writing on the map glow brighter. I reached out to touch the rough-hewn surface of the rock and felt an eerie vibration in my hand. Suddenly a bolt of static electricity jumped from the wall to my palm. I screamed and jerked my hand back.

“Finally!” Valdor exclaimed. He picked up the lights and joined me at the wall. “Took you long enough. Hasn’t Jereine taught you anything?”

“Algebra,” I replied.

“Algebra,” he echoed. “Useful but not helpful for this.” He arranged the lights so that the wall was well illuminated then downed another swig of his beer. “You tell her I said she’d best get on the stick.”

“You watch how you talk about my grandma,” I replied far more harshly than I should have.

“’Scuse me,” he said sarcastically and dropped his beer can. “But if algebra is all you get out of this deal, it’s not a good one for you. We’re going do some dangerous things, Gail. I expect your grandmother to help you be ready.” He pointed at the bass guitar I carried on my back. “Did she at least teach you to play that thing?”

His words cut into my heart. “I’ve had lessons,” I replied sullenly.

“Lessons? Well, that’s dandy. Take it out.” Valdor belched loudly, reached into his pocket and took out an amber glass spray bottle. He pumped the nozzle, and a blue liquid clung to the rock face. He strummed his guitar and played an A minor arpeggio. A neon blue glow began to crawl up the wall to outline crude seams in the stones.

“Yep looks like you found it,” said Valdor. His wrinkled fingers touched the now visible seam. It went up the wall for two and a half meters and formed an arch that outlined a crude door. “Your genes are active.”

He opened his sack and took out a small hydraulic jack stand. Next, he screwed in the jack handle. Setting the guitar aside, he pulled a hammer and chisel from the same small canvas bag.

“How do you get so much stuff into one bag?” I asked.

He winked at me. “It’s an amazing bag. Be a smart girl, and you might get one of your own.” He stepped upon the jack saddle and nodded at me with a big smirk on his face. “Pump that lever and jack me, Wilder.”

My mouth twisted downward. Valor’s words were a double entendre of suggestive naughtiness. There were many mischievous puns concerning my name: Gail Wilder.

I stepped forward and applied a downward force on the jack lever. Slowly the jack lifted Valdor to the top of the glowing arch. His headlamp illuminated the worn carvings and inscriptions. He sprayed the sculptures and passed his hand over them. In the center of the span a triangular capstone pulsed neon blue.

“Well first we got to get it open, then I can knock out the cartouche in the capstone. Start playing.”

I looked up at him. “What do I play?”

He shrugged. “Doesn’t much matter; Beethoven, Led Zeppelin, Wagner, Metallica. All are good. I don’t give a rip. Just play low bleak notes. This isn’t a happy kind of portal. It’s dark and strong.”

I strummed the opening notes of Unforgiven, but nothing happened.

Valdor scratched his eyebrows. “Ok, maybe it’s not that dark. Just try some random power chords.”

I looked at my bass. My fingers hurt just thinking about that.

“You do know what power chords are don’t you?” he asked.

“Yes but not very well.”

“A root note and the fifth. Play the same shape around the fretboard. Start with E5. Just do your best, we don’t have all day. Improvise if you get stuck.”

I began to play, pressing down the E note on my A string and the B note on the G string. It wasn’t any particular lick, I couldn’t play it very well, and it wasn’t dark either.

Valdor shook his head. “OK, you’re, not ready for that. Let’s try something simple. Tune your bass with the A string on 432 hertz. Do you know the bass riff of The Chain?”

Now I smiled. I did know that. It was dark, beautiful and easy to play. I tuned the bass as Valdor suggested, strummed a few E notes and moved to the open A string. The riff was simple and scary. A-A-B-C-B-A-G-A-B-E.

A low hum issued from the rocks resonate with my playing.

Valdor smiled and nodded. “Just put that on vamp honey. You got it.”

He put his chisel on the shining blue symbol at the center of the arch and struck it with the hammer. A chip flew off and hit a quartz crystal. The entire cave rang like a bell.

Suddenly the wall dissolved before me. I gazed into a scene of a purple sky and rolling hills covered by red-leafed trees.

“I see a place,” I exclaimed. “The sky is purple.”

“The portal’s open now,” Valdor said. “Keep playing. You’re doing fine.” Chips of rock flew in all directions with every strike of his chisel.

Through the open portal, a small figure appeared in the distance. The creature paused and turned towards me with his head cocked as if listening to a distant sound and walked up the hill towards me. It was a child, a boy of about six, but he was no mere human child. His face was round, plump and happy but his massive jaws were pronounced and thickly muscled. Coarse, flaming red hair sprouted from his head, neck and down robust arms. Short matted red fur covered the rest of his body. The ears stuck out like butterfly wings and bright tuffs of hair sprouted from their tips.

“Valdor,” I said. “Someone’s coming.”

“Who?” Lon demanded.

“A boy. He looks to be six or seven maybe,” The creature paused, and stuck his neck forward. His hooked nose twitched, sniffing the air and his six-fingered hand scratched his shaggy belly. “I think he can see me. He’s looking right at me now.”

The boy sat down on a rock on his side of the portal and peered at me with bright violet eyes as I played. He grinned, and large canine teeth protruded from his mouth.

“Hairy?” Valdor asked.

“Yes, red hair.”

“Not good,” Lon glanced down at his sidearm. He stuck the symbol with more force. “Just keep playing. Don’t stop. If I don’t get the control unit completely out it will just reform itself, and I’ll have to start over. Next time I’ll bring a diver.”

The hairy child walked closer towards the portal. He reached out a finger to touch the simmering space between us.

“Valdor,” I warned. “He’s touching the portal.”

“Keep playing Gail I’m almost there.” He huffed, slamming the hammer onto the chisel. “Just a few more blows.”

Suddenly, the child turned his head to look over his shoulder.

At the bottom of the hill, another creature appeared. Tall, male, and armed with a lance, he strode towards us with authority. An angry grimace filled his hideous face, his eyes widened, and he charged.

The child turned back to me and snarled, revealing two rows of sharp and gruesome teeth.

“Valdor,” I yelled. “There’s another one coming, and I think he’s mad. He has a spear.”

“Keep playing.”

“Valdor the first one is reaching through the portal.”

“Keep playing!”

“Valdor!”

“Play on!” Valdor screamed.

The child lunged forward through the portal, and a deafening boom shook the cavern. He was no ordinary six-year-old. Half a meter taller than Valdor, he stank of rotting flesh. I scrambled backward, gaging from the stench but kept my fingers on the fretboard and strings.

He roared and charged me. Valdor pulled his sidearm and shot straight down, hitting the giant in the top of the head.

The giant fell flat without even a gasp, just inches in front of me. The other creature stopped in his tracks. His expression turned slowly from horror to hate. He sprinted closer, intent on my extermination.

“There’s another one coming!” I screamed. “He almost at the portal, and he saw what happened oh shit! Valdor!”

“Play Gail, just one more blow.”

The sound of my bass notes resonated in the quartz. The creature’s hand lunged forward through the portal. Valdor whacked the arch again. A chunk of rock spun into the air. The portal turned back to stone with half the creature’s arm frozen inside. The fingers, each as long as my hand, clinched as they grabbed at the empty air.

The cave filled with foul odors of death and rotten meat. A putrid smell worse than skunk stench, made my eyes sting. I pulled up my shirt to cover my nose and forced myself not to vomit up breakfast.

Valdor Lon jumped down from the jack saddle and reach into his bag again. A long curved sword appeared from its depths. Its gleaming blade sliced off the giant’s arm at the elbow. Dark red blood spurted out in every direction, staining the rocks and pooling on the floor.

“This isn’t what I signed up for!” I screamed. I gagged and coughed up blobs of mucous. The fetid smell that clung to the boy’s corpse filled the cave.

Valdor took a rag from his bag and wiped the blood from his face and blade. “It’s exactly what you signed up for,” he said. He was breathing hard and sank to his knees.

“That was a child, his baby!” I pointed at the fallen boy.

“Who would have scarfed us both for supper!” Valdor raged. “Do you have any idea how many people those things have eaten? An entire class of fourth graders.” He kicked the body, rolled it over onto its back and pointed at the gaping exit wound in the creature’s forehead.

“Remember to shoot them in the head. They regenerate otherwise.”

I rubbed my eyes, wiping away the stinging tears and turned my back on him.

“What did you think you were going to be doing?” Valdor demanded. “Square dancing and eating ice cream? This ain’t the fair honey.”

I spun and stomped my foot with empty rage. “I thought it would help me understand algebra! Make me smarter. I didn’t want to kill anybody.”

Valdor’s expression changed from angry to pure exasperation. “So you signed up for this because you’re too lazy to study algebra?”

“Grandma said it would help me!” My eyes watered from the disgusting odor. I could barely see. “God the smell, it’s horrible. What is that?”

“You didn’t need help,” Valdor told me. He stood and began to gather up his fallen tools and stuff them back into his bag. “You’re smart enough to understand algebra or physics or whatever.”

A surge of mucus filled my mouth. I went down on all fours, and my breakfast poured itself on to the bone covered floor. I rolled onto my side and cried.

“It seemed like the easy way out huh?” Valdor asked when the worst of my sobs passed.

I nodded silently and squeezed my knees to my chest. I couldn’t decide what was worse; the stunned look on the boy’s face when the bullet hit him or his father’s anguished grief watching his child fall dead before his eyes.

“I can’t do this,” I wailed.

 “You don’t have any choice now. You accepted the terms,” Valdor scolded. “You are a descendant Queen Shanakdakhete of Ethiopia and the last daughter in the line of Keiden. It’s your responsibility.”

My stomach heaved again, but only pale liquid came up. I spat out the bitter taste and wipe my mouth on my shirt. “I made a deal with the devil.”

“The Time Keyper ain’t the devil, kid,” Valdor said. “Just the opposite. Gruens are everywhere. We have to find these dark portals and close them.”

“No Valdor!” I screamed. “You have to find them. I’m done.” I snatched the Gravity Key from my wrist, threw it at him and ran up the steps. Neither my aching legs or the heavy pack and guitar would slow me down until I was above ground again. I couldn’t face what I had seen in that cave. I had to escape.

“I’ll give you some time,” Valdor Lon called after me. “Time to grow your ass up. But I’ll find you when you’re ready, I’ll find you! You’re a Gravity Keyper now Gail. There’s no running from that.”

I’m Done

With book one, mostly. Hard to believe it took two and a half years to finish this book.

Now I have time for yard work, blogging and DIY projects around the house. I’m also working on my story arcs for book two: The Key to Mnau and book three: Buck Wilder and the Master Key.

There will also be more time for my Facebook group the Eye on Sacred Knowledge. Yeah!

Follow me on Twitter: @scifiotica

On Facebook: Lisa Cooper

Gravity Key Updated Synopsis

Gail Wilder is the descendant of ancient Ethiopian queens and the unwilling guardian of a magical device that unlocks instantaneous travel to every habitable planet in the galaxy. While serving as a technical specialist on the starship Europa, she has a passionate tryst with Ambi, an alien warrior with a dark past. When Gail is forced to spy on Ambi’s space station, Guardona, she must learn to fight shoot and defend against all enemies, alien and domestic. Soon, she finds herself at the center of a contest of wills between her superiors and the station’s nefarious second in command, colonel Rhycin. All are determined to discover the truth about her device and use it for their purposes. When the lies surrounding her mission begin to unravel, Gail is forced to battle Rhycin not only for her life but for the lives of those she loves. Ambi’s now divided loyalties between Gail and Rhycin will decide who controls The Gravity Key.

Reality Check

Has it really been a year and a half? Where the hell is my brain and where did the time slip? I guess life has gotten in the way of writing but I am determined to have the Gravity Key finished by the end of August. In the meantime I’m writing about why I’m having trouble writing.

I went to the doctor yesterday and, well long story short (no pun), I’ve got to drop 20 pounds and get my blood pressure down. It was a reality check. At least I understand why I have felt like I’m in a freaking fog . I’m sure that I ate something in the last few days (ok a lot of things: salty chips, homemade death by chocolate, Japanese fried food high in sodium) that ran my pressure up. And I haven’t been to the gym in a couple of months either. So no choices, my weigh goes back to 130 lbs and my writing increases  before I get slammed with the fall semester work load.

The story as it stands:

I’ve decided that the many problems that I’ve had with this novel is due to only having one view point character. The entire story was based on the heroine’s first person view point. I’ve introduced a second view point, that of the alien admiral Borabi. He is a simple character in an exceedingly complicated position. Borabi could really use the heroine’s help to solve his major issue, which is rescuing his surviving family from slavers. She doesn’t trust him because he conspired with corporations and the military of earth earth to do some dastardly things. Eventually, the old admiral will be ordered to kill the humans that are working under his command to make sure the secret remains a secret. He will agree with great reluctance; he’s basically a decent guy. I’ve also decided to kill more of my darlings. Half of the humans who initially accompanied the heroine to the aliens base are going to get waxed (red shirted shall we say) thanks to admiral Borabi’s ‘difficult choices’. The guy has his reasons and in his position, many of us might do the same. We might not ever get a good night sleep again but…

I’m also working to make my villain more villainous, so he’s going to execute one of the main characters best friends early in the story.  He’s also going to get a sub plot about reversing his chemically induce sterility which will lead to his high jacking one of his twin brother’s testicles.

Peace.

next blog: The world of the gravity key.

The Gravity Key Update

I finished the very last chapter. It isn’t happy, exactly, but it is hopeful and sets me up for the sequel.

Possible titles for book II:

The Key to Mnau

Nine Shall Be the Number

The Time Keeper

Big problem now is chapter three, which I haven’t written because I have to show some personal relationships that don’t matter until ACT III and a bunch of world building. And it can’t be boring even though it feels that way right now…

I’ve worked out ACT III in my head. Now I have to mind map it and make the outlines for each chapter. I use MS EXCEL instead of notebooks to track everything and that mostly works for me. I have the timeline, world, chapters, characters and scenes set up as sheets in a workbook. I hate keeping up with notebooks; they are to bulky.

Love Lisa