Saturday 27 May 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Author Francene Cosman of Nova Scotia, Canada.


This week we have Francene sharing the Story Behind the Story regarding her book – Nurse! A Memoir.  She  is also sharing an excerpt for your reading pleasure.

Francene writes from experience and from the heart.

Read on my friends.


Windsor Ontario was my first home, followed by several moves to different cities and provinces as my alcoholic father lost a lot of jobs until he found himself sober when I was ten years old. Those were difficult formative years, but strength comes from survival in a dysfunctional family. Neither of my parents had schooling beyond grade nine, and thus I was determined to go further. I escaped to books, bought with a small allowance each week, and a first job as a pre teen, helping to make tea and clean dust bunnies in an antique shop that also sold books. I never had any money left over as it all was spent in the shop. I loved the Nancy Drew mysteries and the Hardy Boys’ stories. The best thing that happened as a child was my father’s sobriety and a move to Renforth, NB, into our first home, and local schools where I grew up with a circle of friends and a river to swim in.  I started reading Reader’s Digest condensed books summarized popular titles down to the bare bones, a teaser  of sorts. If I loved the shortened version, I then would buy the full-length book. I felt happy to see a collection of books growing on my bookshelf and knew that I was learning so much simply by reading. I do not recall either of my parents ever reading a novel of any sort.  As I grew up and had to consider further education, I wanted to study medicine, and since there was no money for university, I entered nursing school in the Saint John General hospital. Three years later after graduation, I moved to Jersey City, NJ, and specialized in obstetrics for six months. On returning to NB, I worked in the Saint John General and the Victoria Public Hospital in Fredericton.  With marriage came a move to NS, where I worked in the Grace Maternity Hospital. Career was overtaken by motherhood with the birth of two daughters, fifteen months apart!

Nursing was the foundation that provided me with focus and intention as I became interested in community issues. Ultimately, I traded my nursing career for a political career, becoming first a County Councillor, then the first Mayor of Bedford. A stint as the president of the NS advisory council on the status of women was followed by my work as the executive director of the NS Liberal Party, then seeking elected office as an MLA. I was successful in that and served as Deputy Speaker, then Minister of Community Services, Minister for the Civil Service, Minister responsible for the Status of Women and the Disabled Person’s commission. I served two terms in government and then retired. I am not sure what it means to be retired, except that all the hours that are suddenly free from a paid job, become the hours filled up with volunteer commitments and the fun of being able to choose another path. I served for six years as a Governor on the Board of Governors of the NS art Gallery, and currently am the volunteer Curator of the historic Scott Manor House in Bedford, as well as volunteering on the archival committee. At the age of 82, I still have lots of ideas about other pursuits! In addition to writing, I am an amateur painter.



Working Title: Nurse! A Memoir



Synopsis: The memoir is a coming-of-age story following my footsteps in the three-year study program in the Saint John General hospital school of nursing. I was born to nurse but didn’t know it yet! I entered as an immature 18-year-old girl full of self doubt and the story follows along through the corridors of a busy general hospital as I face the challenges and learn the intricacies of nursing. Poignant, funny, sad, challenging, every raw emotion that could be felt. Three years later I graduated with skills that carried me throughout my busy life. The transformation from scared young woman to mature professional is detailed and hopefully engages readers. I am told that it is a “can’t put it down” book.

The story behind the story: I love storytelling and I love history. I believe we learn from the past and I wanted to capture the slice of time and professional training that took place over three years in training. I looked at Saint John and the hallmarks of my youth were gone. As I reflected on vast changes in my life, the streetscapes of my youth were obliterated, the Church I attended was decommissioned, the church where I married was torn down and the hospital I loved was imploded. I knew I did not want the story of the hospital and its training program to simply settle into the dustbin. And so, I wrote, at first just for fun, then finally with intent to capture the memories and bring them to life. Covid restrictions meant that time spent at home could be used productively writing my story.

As a student I walked the corridors to class and glanced at old framed photos of nurses from Victorian days. They were so prim and proper, yet no one knew who they were or why they had chosen nursing No one knew their story. This image is still in my mind and I know it inspired me to try to capture my story and that of my classmates. 

The memoir has a role in generating discussion about nursing education today. We are in a crisis in the health care system, where there are not enough nurses to fill the need, and where the profession no longer can retain staff because of a variety of reasons that must be addressed by government to resolve the crisis. This extends beyond nursing itself, into all the facets that supply a health care system. Shortages of doctors, and technicians, add impetus to the need to dialogue and find solutions before the breaking point is reached. Real change is needed and not band aid solutions. The evolution of the nursing education model currently in use came about when there was no crisis, simply change for change sake at the political level. Is the model relevant today? History records what worked in the past and points the way to analyzing what could work today along with reshaping nursing education to sustain the profession. Nurses deserve Sainthood, working under exhausting short- staffed conditions that are driving them away from the profession. The status quo is not able to sustain the needs and thus I hope that Nurse! A Memoir, can be a directional arrow to dialogue and analysis for renewal.






A question for you before you go, Francene:

What is the perfect setting for your writing?

I like a quiet atmosphere without distraction, and the earlier time of day, the better for me to write. I still prefer pen in hand and use coloured pens to write. I like a fresh notebook with spiral binding, one that can lay flat. No words go on the page until the inspiration button turns on in my head, as I cannot force creative juices to flow. The words must generate from somewhere. I keep a pen and paper handy because somewhere out of the blue, an inspired thought or full sentence will flow, and I can capture it and use it later. I love hunkering down in a good storm because it forces me to give up on other plans and just write. First drafts get inked out and using double spaces on the page helps that process. Eventually I use the dictate button on my computer and read the draft into it. But hand and pen and ink are the juice I need to be a writer. I am not neat, my office is a mess, but I can find what I am looking for, so there must be organization underneath it all.




This is an excerpt from a section in the book dealing with the case room delivery in the hospital.  It chronicles my experience with a delivery:


Often a mother would arrive on the verge of delivery and no doctor would be present. I did the best I could on these occasions, but I wanted to know more in case I had to be the one doing the delivery. On a momentous day for me, this is exactly what happened. As I was about to deliver the fetus without an intern or obstetrician, the doctor rushed ungloved through the door, and I looked at him expecting him to take over. “No, you're doing a great job.” He's confident. I'm not! I could see the crown of the head ready to birth. “Check for the cord around the baby's neck”, the doctor reminded me. I inserted my finger gently inside to make sure there was no evidence of the umbilical cord. “There's no cord, it's OK.” Then I supported the perineum so it would remain intact as the baby came out. I did as he instructed.  “Stop pushing now, just pant. I want the baby to come out slowly,” I instructed the mother. It seemed to take forever but only a minute went by as the mother panted and I managed to grab a sterile towel to wrap the baby shoulders as it slid out. A baby girl in my hands. I had no idea how slippery a newborn was in the first few seconds. God forbid that it should land on the floor. “I did it”! I delivered her baby, and it feels so amazing to do this I hope I get a chance again, it's glorious!

Thank you for being our guest thus week, Francene. I’m sure this will not be your last book and we wish you continued success.


A big thanks to our visitors and readers.

Sunday 21 May 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Author Natalie MacLean.


This week you will meet Author Natalie MacLean. She is sharing news of her new book,

 Wine Witch on Fire.

Natalie is an accomplished author and recipient of many awards. Please check out her website below.

Read on, my friends.





Natalie MacLean, named the World's Best Drinks Journalist, has also won four James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards. She’s the bestselling author of Red, White and Drunk All Over.

She hosts the NYT recommended podcast, Unreserved Wine Talk, and offers popular online wine and food pairing classes at


Working Title: Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much.  A Memoir


Synopsis: Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much is a powerful memoir about how one woman resurrects her life and career in the glamorous but sexist wine industry.

Natalie MacLean, a bestselling wine writer, is shocked when her husband of twenty years, a high-powered CEO, demands a divorce. Her year gets even worse when an online mob of rivals comes for her career.

Wavering between despair and determination, she must fight for her son, rebuild her career, and salvage her self-worth using her superpowers: heart, humour, and an uncanny ability to pair wine and food. 

Natalie questions her insider role in the slick marketing that encourages women to drink too much while she battles the wine world’s veiled misogyny. Facing the worst vintage of her life, she reconnects with the vineyards that once brought her joy, the friends who sustain her, and her own belief in second chances. 

This true coming-of-middle-age story is about transforming your life and finding love along the way.


The Story Behind the Story: This is a deeply personal, revealing memoir. Was it difficult to write with such openness and vulnerability?

I try to get everything on the page before I think of anyone else reading my work. I reassure myself that I’ll edit later. Otherwise, I’d never write a word. It would be like flooring the gas pedal while the brake is on. They’re two different mind states.

When I get to the editing phase, I do think about how people react, especially those mentioned in the memoir. That’s why I had friends and family read the book while it was still in development.

While I hope a broader audience will like the memoir, I know that’s out of my control. This is a very difficult statement for a control freak to make .

Fortunately, most of those who’ve contacted me about the book have been positive.


 **Do you feel more exposed for having written this memoir? You’re a wine professional in the public eye, and you write about your own issues with drinking too much. 

Yes, I do feel more exposed. I’ve written openly not only about the times when I drank too much in response to my divorce and online bullying, but also about my issues with hyper-competitiveness and perfectionism.

That’s why, for the first year I spent writing this book, I had no intention of publishing it. It was a private exercise in making sense of what happened that year.

I realized, though, that keeping this story to myself was a way of not connecting fully with others, like I had done with my mother, partner and son. My life had great curb appeal because I had kept all my imperfections hidden.

However, openness is the way to live a full, rich life. Vulnerability in this story opens a door and invites people inside my life to show them the cracks that they might recognize in their own lives.

Extending that openness to them is how I connect with readers, letting them into my story. In turn, they’ve let me into their lives with stories that have moved me deeply.

Putting my story — and my flaws — out in public is also a way of holding myself to higher standard of accountability. Now if I slip up, it’s no longer in private. But that’s actually reassuring as I have more people supporting me than when I was going it alone.


**Why did you change your mind about publishing the book? 

Many memoirists say they publish their stories so that others feel less alone. I believe them, but what does that mean? How do my words comfort someone when our situations can be so different?

As parents, we help our children to find the words they need to articulate their feelings. We ask them if they’re hungry, tired, sad, etc. Naming the emotion and talking about it gives them another way to deal with feelings beyond crying and tantrums.

As adults, many of us lose touch with our emotions or we haven’t developed the vocabulary for more complex feelings. Dr. BrenĂ© Brown says we can usually name just three — happy, sad, and ticked off — but there are actually more than 87 that she explores in her book Atlas of the Heart.

Just as a doctor must diagnose symptoms to treat a disease, I believe we need to identify our feelings so we can deal with them. Otherwise, they roam inside us like unnamed ghosts.

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote that, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” He believed if we can’t describe something, it doesn’t exist for us. I believe that, too.

The specifics of my story are different from others’ experiences, but the feelings are universal, as is the need for healing.




A question before you go, Natalie:

Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?


I write from my home office overlooking a wide-open field and beyond that, a river. It’s peaceful to rest my eyes on this pastoral landscape when I’m weary from the computer screen.

I prefer quiet, but if I have music on while writing, it’s slow jazz or classical with no lyrics. I have a large pot of decaffeinated green tea constantly steeping. Caffeine would have me climbing the ceiling Spiderwoman-style.

My desk is bare except for the large screen computer, keyboard and a mug of steaming green tea. Early mornings are when I get the best writing done before the froth of emails and phone calls washes me out to a sea of daily activity.

Get the free wine guide that suggests tips on organizing an informal wine tasting with friends and wines to pair with this book and other books at:

Indigo/Chapters just named it one of the "Most Anticipated Books of the Season" and it has hit #1 on Amazon.

"Funny, zesty, edgy, intense, a page turner." - Frances Mayes, #1 New York Times bestseller of Under the Tuscan Sun



Thank you for being our guest this week, Natalie. Wishing you continued success on your writing journey.


And a special thank you to all our Visitors and Readers. We do it all for you….





Sunday 14 May 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Author Don Bourque of Moncton, NB, Canada.


I had the pleasure of meeting Don at the GMRD Book Fair in Riverview, NB, on April 22nd of this year and we had tremendous fun meeting new readers and sharing our stories.

Don graciously agreed to be our guest this week and tell us the Story Behind the Story.

Read on, my friends.

Born and raised in the Moncton, NB area, Don Bourque spent 37 years in the Army Reserve and retired as a senior officer. In civilian life, he worked in public education and private sector mental health. Writing has always been an interest, since being encouraged by his Grade 12 English teacher. Poetry and short prose were followed by a non-fiction account of his operational tour in Kabul, Afghanistan. He has now written and published two works of fiction, in Young Adult Fantasy.

Working Title: The Willow’s Wake Trilogy: Vol 1 Willow Awakened, Ascended, Avenged and Vol 2 The Grand Chieftain.


Synopsis: Born of inter-racial rape, a young Night Elf/Wood Sprite takes on racism with her newfound allies. Willow Awakened, Ascended, Avenged is a trilogy of Young Adult Fantasy novellas with a strong female character who comes of age while caught between two cultures.

A smith’s apprentice raised to lead a village, Garnidel is thrust into a war against the encroachment of humanity. Volume 2 of The Willow’s Wake Trilogy by Canadian author Don Bourque, The Grand Chieftain takes us to new adventures across the great serpentine river.

The Story behind the Story: At first, my inspiration in writing this trilogy was to inspire young people to resist bullying and address racism. As the story developed, the theme changed to resisting colonization and will conclude with conciliation.


A question before you go, Don:

Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?

I write best in a quiet corner of my living room, with a glass of water or cup of coffee close at hand. Most of my “notes” are bullet points on PowerPoint slides.




Thank you for being our guest this week, Don. Wishing you lots of success with your writing.


And a big thank you to our visitors and readers. You folks are the best.

On another note:

Good news for those who are waiting for Volume 2 of the Alexanders Series.

You are the first folks to see the new cover. Copies available by mid-June.

Watch here for more details.

Thank you.

Tuesday 9 May 2023

The Off-Earth Living Pods. A short story by Allan Hudson



Another short story for our visitors and readers this week.

Imagine what the world might be like in 2257, over two hundred years from now.

It could go this way.

If you remember my earlier story – The FarOut Mall - and what it was like shopping in Outer Space, this story carries on from there.


The Off-Earth Living Pods

September 23, 2257


The Caterpillar XN4789 is the largest truck out of the world. Its sole purpose is to transport water to the Off-Earth Living Pods (LPs), normally hovering above the globe anywhere from the international Space Boundary (ISB) of two hundred miles to the farthest one, the InterCosmic Manor 2240 which orbits at six hundred and three miles.  All two hundred and sixty-three LPs are self-sustaining except for their water supply. There’s no shortage of Adam’s Ale on planet Earth. Since the ice caps melted late in the twenty-first century, followed by a downpour of biblical proportions, only the extremely rich, and water-heavy industry exist on the mountain tops. By the virtue of Macintosh Fairweather, who foresaw and forecasted the extreme conditions coming to the planet, he proposed to the world’s leaders that the only way the human population would survive was to build living pods in space.

At first, they scoffed at his proposals, calling them the visions of a mad man. He warned them that they had the raw materials, the finances, the ease and simplicity of space travel, they should act now. Most rejected his ideas, some did not. Eventually, he convinced the world’s most populous countries, China, Canada, India and the United States to divert funds to the erecting of the first LPs. Unfortunately, the timing of his prediction was too late and billions of people perished in the flooding. Besides the 1500 residents living and working in the mountaintops, the rest of the human population lives Off-Earth either in LPs or the twin cities of Aether and Hemera in the Tranquillittatis Mare of the moon or the Arcadia Planitia of Mars. Interplanetary travel is a breeze thanks to the forward thinking of Geronimo Placedo who pioneered teleportation in the twenty-first century, a concept that was only thought of in science fiction publications of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. At present, teleportation is taken for granted and travelers often complain of the forty-two minutes it takes to transport from one planet to the next as it being too slow. No one complains about the 1.2 second trip to the moon though.


Geoffrey (Geo) Galanos is the only person with enough experience to handle the XN4789. In Earth’s atmosphere, the vehicle would weigh over a million pounds, in space it weighs nothing at all but possess abundant inertial mass. Improper or inexperienced handling of the controls and thrusters could extensively damage an LP during docking, so only the most experienced orbital jockeys are hired to operate the large water transports. Galanos has nicknamed the XN4789, Potizo, the Greek word for irrigate. Today is the first water delivery for the colossal machine and the first LP needing an immediate re-supply is the hostile LV2. Galanos is the only one of three drivers that volunteers for delivery to either LV1 or LV2. As evil as the owners are, they know better than to fuck with Galanos. He carries not one, but two extremely rare Remington Valences, the most powerful ionic handguns in Off-Earth. Dubbed Sensei by the practitioners of sangfroid, the deadliest of Canadian martial arts, he has few equals in hand to hand combat. His very demeanor and Greek arrogance cause the boldest to step aside.

LP2129 (numbered after the year it was built) was the first LP built by the Save the World Conglomeration. Updated many times, the lowest orbiting LP is now a docking and work station for water transports and other space vehicles.  The smaller transports that enter the Earth’s atmosphere are hardy “pick-ups” that skim the surface filling their tanks for transfer to the larger trucks which are too big to travel back and forth. Mainly financed by Toyota, LP 2129 contains a spacecraft dealership, work bays, body shops, gym, a college for mechanics, welders, electricians, plumbers and millwrights, its own “breathe and feed” levels, the mandatory hospital and living quarters for the 2300 people that inhabit the LP. It also contains an armory. That’s where Geo is now as Potizo is being loaded.

Geo is a big man, muscles bulge from his limbs like tree knots. His long dark hair is tucked behind his ears, his eyes shine in anticipation. He’s wearing the latest design in space suits, slick and body forming. The armorer, Rieta Balser, helps him strap the Valances to his thighs after charging the weapons. She slaps him on the ass after she’s tightened the straps, pausing for a moment to squeeze the firm buttock. She winks at him before he leaves.

“If you make it back from LV2 big guy, I’m off at 1800 hours and I’d love to rub your sore muscles. Know what I mean?”

“Don’t you worry about me making it back Rieta, there’s nothing on LV2 that I can’t handle? I need to deliver a load to 2599 after but I could be free then. If your offer’s good, you’d better rest up while I’m away. Know what I mean?”

Before they depart with a chuckle and a promise, she warns him of the virkon-eptile detected on LV2 several days ago and passes him a Threat Detector, calibrated for the unique sounds of slithering scales, the faint scent of raw meat, and x-ray visuals of the flesh-eating monsters. If one of the virkon-eptiles, deadly beings brought back from an asteroid being mined by a worker named Virkon, is within a range of thirty feet, it will sound a loud warning and the bearer only has seconds to react. Otherwise, they are merely fodder.

Proceeding to the docking station on the 2nd level, he sees the setting sun reflecting of Potizo’s golden skin through the tall windows. It’s huge. It reminds him of the Zeppelins of the nineteenth century he saw at the aviation museum on LP2189, only five times as large. Passing through the air lock, he removes his helmet and oxygen pack and leaves them his locker. When he enters the cockpit, he breathes in the rare aroma of real leather on the pilot’s seat. They went all out on the interior. Sitting at the controls, he admires the 240-degree viewing field. Hovering cam-bots show the spacecraft at every angle. Settled in, the control panel senses his implant and appears within easy reach, the tryedellium panel is pure energy, stored in the ship’s memory, responsive to touch, voice. Due to limited breakthroughs in thought control technology and advances in human implants, he can command it to appear and rest at will.

“Check engines”

A multi gauge panel appears over the control panel, everything is in the green.

“Rear cam-bots”

The top panel is replaced with a ten-screen panel with images from behind, the docking arms holding the ship in place, the glistening exterior of the LP with the sun shining directly on it, the hovercraft of the exterior maintenance crews. Several cameras show the rear of the truck. The sleek metallic skin, the docking and transfer hub, the rear mounted laser cannon. He presses a combo of keys on his left-hand pad and the gun swivels and rotates wherever he looks. The lowest right inset zooms in to a full screen and a bullseye follows its every move. Even with the world mostly at peace, there are still pirates, especially where he’s going.

“Ship monitor.”

The screen is replaced by the command center and communications.  The right-hand pad controls the engine, steering thrusters, all external components. Entering the right combo, the ship unlocks from the docking arms, top thrusters ignite and push the ship slowly away. Letting the inertia carry him a thousand feet, another finger command and the fisome-fueled engine grows hot. Deeming his distance beyond launch perimeter, he commands the main thruster to boost him toward outer space. Satellites keep him posted at all times where each LP is located, where it is in its orbit. LV2 is at mile 455 and in the Scatter Zone where LP 2199 was destroyed by an asteroid and the debris field extends from mile 445 to mile 465. The computers have calculated his path in and exactly thirty-three minutes later, the path back out.

When he reaches the outer perimeter of the Scatter Zone, Geo leaves it on autopilot, ready in a second’s notice to take over manually if necessary. At mile 448, the ship hovers in its path when overhead a chunk of the former LP whizzes by at 20,000 miles an hour. A whole section, maybe three hundred feet across, circles the globe endlessly. The ship reaches LV2 at the apogee of its orbit, the timing synched by the delivery team. Going manual, Geo calls up cam-bot six and eight. The docking station on LV2 is on the bottom level. Huge bay doors with wild graffiti and murals, line the #3 octagonal. The second door slowly slides apart. Potizo would never fit inside so Geo skillfully parks its ass end near and the docking arms clamp on his upper frame. He shuts it down and dissolves the control panel. Freeing himself from his seat, he grabs his helmet, life support system and after strapping everything on, he steps into the airlock, backs into his EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit), custom designed by Bombardier Propulsion, locks in, hits the exit cycle button and as soon as the vacuum is restored, the door slides upward and he flies out. He loves the jet-pack; it’s their newest model, lighter, much faster than the previous one and easier to control.

Landing in the cargo bay, he watches the docking personnel, called bay-grunts, marveling at the size of Potizo, swarming around the outer perimeter admiring the sleek lines and high gloss skin, while others swing the off-load tubes into place and connect to the ship. They know who he is and stay out of his way.  By the time he enters the platform airlocks, he can see the huge pipes pulsating from the pumps sucking the precious liquid into storage tanks on the 2nd level. When oxygen is restored, he removes his helmet, unstraps his EMU, places them in an open visitor’s rack and locks it, pocketing the key. Even in the 23rd century, nothing beats an old-fashioned lock.

The receiving bays are the busiest in the LV2. Every LP has manufacturing levels but LV2 manufacture very little so shipping is a small section of the service octagonal. There specialty is drugs, weapons, gambling, prostitution and alcohol. Anyone needing such vices come here, very little gets shipped out, other than waste and dead bodies. Geo is met by the two members of the Pod Patrol, LV2’s own policing unit. Even though Geo is over six feet tall, the two men tower over him. Clad in black mondicor armor, which is hard and flexible, weapons strapped to wrists and thighs, they are an intimidating duo. The one with the eye patch and tattooed face is obviously senior and greets Geo with a raised hand.

“No entering the Pod with weapons, you’ll have to leave them with us.”

Geo stands akimbo and glares at the two men. Without weapons, he’s a dead man.

“I’m getting the bot-credits for the water and as soon as the truck’s empty, I’m leaving. If I have to walk through those revolving doors to the purser’s office, I’m not going in this hell hole without them. So, you have two choices. Either go get the payment and bring it to me or try taking the weapons from me. Your call.”

The patrolmen look at each other. They’re not usually challenged and when they are, they make quick work of the opponent.  They step closer, side by side, a formidable wall. Bay-grunts pause at their work to watch, grinning at the commotion. Eye Patch grits his teeth.

“We’re not errand boys so we’ll take you up on option two. You’ve got five seconds before…”

Geo doesn’t give the leader time to finish his threat. He drives the point of his middle finger into the good eye with enough force to pop it out of the socket. A thin knife, concealed under the sleeve of his armor, extends with the flick of the wrist and penetrates the brain through the now empty eye socket. In the same instance, he draws his right sidearm and triggering the firing mechanism, slices the arm off of patrolman number two just above the elbow. Eye Patch drops to the bay floor, already dead before he makes contact. Number two is howling from the pain and tries to activate the wrist-paralyzer on his left hand when Geo gives him his full attention.  With precision unmatched, he slices away the weapon taking a layer of skin with it, drop kicks the big man with enough force to propel him against the revolving doors that shatter from the impact and the man falls to the floor, unconscious.  Geo walks casually to the fallen patrolman and places his weapon on the forehead and pulls the trigger.

Except for the hum of the huge pumps, everything has gone silent. Geo looks around for any other menaces before he holsters his weapon. The bay-grunts won’t meet his eyes and they return to their tasks. It’s not the first time they’ve seen death in these bays but it’s the first time anyone’s beaten these two. He gets a wide berth when he steps over the dead bodies and through the shattered glass doors on his way to the purser’s office which is two down on the left. He ignores the Do not Disturb sign on the prompter and walks in. The purser is a fat man, bald and sweaty with perspiration forming droplets on his brow. He looks up at the intruder intending to scold whoever it is. When he sees Geo looming over his desk and the startling point is the simple fact that he’s come this far and with weapons still attached to his thighs. He knows without a doubt that Morgan and Delvecchio are either incapacitated… or dead. He’s scared; no one makes it past them.

“What… what do you want?”

“H2O from Earth is being downloaded as we speak. You owe me 48,000 bot-credits.”

“I… I don’t have that much here.”

“Why not? You knew I was coming today.”

“I wasn’t expecting you this early. I’ll need a few minutes. Can you wait here?”

“No. I’ll go with you. Now let’s hurry, I’ve got other loads to deliver and my safety window is rapidly closing.”

Perspiration blooms under the armpits of Fat man as he gets up from his desk.

“Okay… okay, then follow me.”


Thirty-two minutes after arrival, Geo maneuvers through the debris field and enters the safe zone. Returning to home base, LP2129, he will fill up and make a delivery to LP2185. He hasn’t been back there since Gracia Moeller, the owner of Alexander’s Fine Jewellery flagship store was charged with murder of one of her clients. The charges were dropped when it came to light that she was informed the new weapons were not loaded. After a power outage and virkon-eptiles feasting, she installed the pulse pistols to protect herself, staff and patrons from the monsters. In anger she pointed one, which she was told wasn’t charged, at an abusive customer and that customer became dust. Geo wants to meet her.


InterCosmic Manor 2185 is an enormous, golden octagon orbiting the Earth at twenty-six thousand miles per hour in Low Earth Orbit, six hundred and three miles above the Earth’s surface, moving west to east. It circles the globe every 57 seconds. Approaching it a slightly higher speed, Geo sights it visually about to enter darkness over the Pacific Ocean. It glistens in the dying light like a radiant citrine. Within a hundred miles, he matches the speed of the giant satellite. Coaxing the ship in place he prepares to dock on the lower level. Giant arms reach out to clamp on Potizo’s outer docking frames. When secure, Geo locks down the ship. Preparing himself for a visit to the Mall area, he dons a clean shirt from the locker, his black and chrome space suit and matching helmet, knowing women stare lustfully at him when he wears it. A dab of his favorite cologne. He’s off.

Leaving his jetpack in storage, he informs the loadmaster he’ll return shortly then transports to the 16-A Octagonal. The doors open facing a food court. The aroma of heavy spices used in roasting moon chicken is wafting into the hallway, his stomach growls reminding him he needs to eat. Alexander’s Fine Jewellery is to the front and on the right. The food court is busy with shoppers relaxing and dining; people are browsing in the hallways, many with shopping bags full. The murmur of the different voices hums over it all. 

He takes in the hovering droids over his head whose only purpose is to kill virkon-eptiles. The abandoned InterCosmic PRT (prison/rehab/termination) 2177 houses the majority of beasts still alive. Some escape. Bounty hunters probe the LPs for any that may be hiding.

The jewellery store has only two patrons. A young man is serving one of them and a middle-aged lady is serving another. He notices the lady’s fine business suit, the latest fashion from Stile designers. Her short hair is in the latest bob, gems hang from her small ears. She has her back to him when Geo enters the store but looks toward him when she hears him enter. Both stop in their tracks and stare; the attraction is immediate.

She holds up a finger asking him to wait one moment and assists her guest to make a purchase. Geo can’t take his eyes off her and hopes this is the owner he’s heard so much about. She approaches him with a genuine smile that softens the fine lines around her eyes. Extending a hand toward him she introduces herself.

“Hello space jockey. Welcome to Alexanders. I’m Gracia.”

He takes her hand and looks down at her; she’s a foot shorter than him. He stares at the twinkle of mischief he sees in her eyes.

“Name’s Geo. Happy to meet you, Gracia.”

“Hi Geo. What brings you into our store today?”

“You do actually.”

Dropping his hand, she blushes at his directness with a questioning look on her face.


“Yes, I wanted to meet the lady that vaporized her guest.”

The rouge in her cheeks is replaced by a frown and beetled brow. He didn’t mean to be so blunt and can see she’s offended. He points at the pulse pistol in the fashionable holster on her hip.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you but I admire your gusto. Of course, everyone was talking about it and it was an accident after all but there are not many women that are comfortable using pulse pistols and only the most trusted applicants get permits.”

She stands back from Geo and leans her back against one of the counters.

“It was an accident, a deadly one unfortunately. As you likely know, the pistols are to protect us and our patrons from the deadly eptiles but I really don’t want to talk about it.”

“I understand. Bet no one messes with you. Have you had to use it since?”

This causes the weakest of smiles; she is overwhelmed by the big man’s sexual allure and softens her stance.

“Well, not on any customers, thank goodness. I’ve been practicing with the safety and have it down to a micro second thumb flip so it’s safe to shop here now.”

He likes the way she laughs. She likes the cologne he wears.

“Did you really come here for just that, Geo? Or do you need to pick up something for your wife… or girlfriend perhaps?”

He’s about to comment when the overhead lights flicker. Galanos’ threat detector screams its early warning signal of the presence of eptiles. Every main door on every floor slams shut. People hustle for cover crowding near the stationery defbots that have their own emergency power source. Gracia does as she’s been trained. There’s only one patron and her two staff and Geo. She rushes everyone to the main counter. The lights do an off-and-on dance for ten of fifteen seconds before everything goes dark. Gracia draws her pistol. Everyone listens. Eptiles travel with great speed, their hardened scales clatter on the overhead pipes. Several are on the move. Bursting through grills, they spill into different locations.

Two slithers into the food court. In the dark you can smell them, a scent that only be described as rot. The worm like being has two short legs in the front, three toes with talons, the posterior moves with leather-like scales A mouth slit is on the underbody, lined with crunching bones.  The defbots are programmed to recognize the eptiles by smell, sound or sight. Detection is immediate. Pulses from the droid’s cannon cuts the first one in half, the front clawing to escape before secondary pulses blasts it to ashes. The second one receives a direct burst under its antennas and vaporizes the front half of its six-foot length. The unmoving rear section gets zapped also, nothing of the beast remains.

The other one is perched on an overhead mirror in Alexander’s Fine Jewellery. They heard it enter after something fell to the floor. Gracia urges them to stay quiet and behind her. Geo stands at her side. The monster is young, only four feet long, hunting by instinct. It senses its prey below and is about to leap when the lights come back on. Like its kin, it is tormented by bright lights and scrambles for the opening that it came through. Gracia is fast with her pulse pistol and releases several bursts from her weapon. The first pulse of pure energy obliterates the eptile, the second, third and fourth pulse reflects off the mirror. One takes out a large section of the front door, another obliterates the counter with moon crystals and the third vaporizes Geo’s left arm from the elbow down. Gracia stares at the pile of ash at his feet, clamps her hand to her mouth.

“Oh, shit!” 



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See you next week with Atlantic Canadian Author Don Bourque.