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Chapter One from Gabriel: Zero Point, the prequel to the Gabriel scifi trilogy

August 28, 2012 Leave a comment

November, 2166
North American Federation Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island

“Which one is he?”

Vice Admiral Eriq Cafferty looked up from his flexscreen at the sound of his attaché’s voice behind him and rubbed his eyes with one hand. The unforgiving steel bleachers he sat on played havoc with his lower back, and the squeaking of sneakers on the polished hardwood floor from the far side of the gym was starting to give him a headache. He twisted one hip, trying to get a bit of relief while at the same time politely facing his questioner.

His attaché, Lieutenant Commander Alejandra Basilio, was looking across the wide gymnasium at the sweat-drenched recruits crashing and banging into each other. Behind her sat a bald man in civilian clothes. His eyes were shut, most likely going over neuretics information. The two of them along with Cafferty had entered the gym a few minutes earlier and took a seat as far away from the action as they could to observe unseen.

It was ostensibly a pickup basketball game, but as they observed, fewer and fewer baskets were scored, while more and more grunts and curses were heard.

It was obvious to Cafferty that the young officer candidates were blowing off steam. Today marked the nine-week milestone in Officer Candidate School, and these six, five men and one woman, passed their Victory Runs the previous day. As of today, they were regarded as Candidate Officers, a position of some esteem and authority within the twelve-week long OCS class. According to Cafferty’s flexscreen, all distinguished themselves in one way or another, and passed each and every one of the NAFN’s toughest tests along the way. But only one had unanimously blown away the instructors with his mettle, determination, and intelligence. Not to mention scoring off the charts in raw skills, Cafferty thought. As best as they could be measured.

“The blond,” he said to Basilio.

Basilio squinted. “Ah, sir, two of them are blond. At least I think so. They’re all dripping with sweat,” she said, wrinkling her nose.

Cafferty smiled. “The big one.”

“Oh, the banger, not one of the bangees,” she replied.

Cafferty slid his flexscreen closed and pointed with it. “Yes, banger.” He waved the tube. “He’s been giving the instructors a hell of a time keeping him challenged on the courses. I’m sure you’ve seen the results of…damn.”

The flexscreen tube slipped from his grasp and clattered onto the metal bench in front of them, then bounced down through the bleachers, striking several more benches on the way down to the floor. The sound echoed off the walls, and the sneaker squeaking ceased.

Cafferty heard a low, “Oh shit,” from the game, then a much louder, “Admiral on deck!”

The six on the court snapped to attention facing the bleachers as the basketball bounced lazily away, coming to rest near the far door. Cafferty let the silence linger for a few moments, thankful for the rest it gave his ears, then waved a hand.

“At ease, Candidate Officers,” he called out. As one, the six went to sharp parade rest. He heard their low breathing sounds as each of them attempted to maintain a perfectly still composure while trying to catch up on oxygen. Tops in their class, he thought as he stared across the gym. These are the young men and women who will be leading us into the next decade, taking over for me and my generation’s bad backs. He twisted his other hip and felt a small, satisfying crack.

He waited a few more moments, then said, “Candidate Officer Gabriel, report on the double.”

A tall man snapped to attention, then jogged towards the two officers on the bleachers. Upon reaching them, he came to rigid attention again, staring at the wall above their heads.

“Officer Candidate, er, Candidate Officer Evan Gabriel, reporting, sir!” the young man said.

Cafferty chuckled. “Took me a while to get used to all the different names I was assigned during OCS as well.” He looked back at the other five, who were still at parade rest, and saw several curious glances in his direction. He waved his hand again. “Back to the game, candidates.”

The five looked at each other uneasily. Finally the lone woman in the group walked over to the basketball, picked it up, and threw it two-handed into the chest of one of the others. The game, or grunt-laced brawl, picked up where it had left off.

Cafferty folded his hands on his lap and turned his attention back to the young man in front of him. “Tell me, son. How does an additional title of Regimental Commander sound?”

One eyebrow rose almost imperceptibly on Gabriel, but his gaze never left the wall. “Quite an honor, sir!”

“An honor I understand you deserve based on what I’ve been told by your instructors. You’ll be nominally in charge of several other candidates for the final three weeks of school. Is command something that interests you?”

“Absolutely, Admiral,” he replied with a tiny nod. “It’s why I applied to OCS.”

Cafferty returned the nod. “And your friends out there,” he said, glancing at the basketball game. “Can you command friends? Send them into battle? Send them to die?”

He saw Gabriel’s jaw clench. Good, emotion, thought Cafferty. Can’t have robots in the Navy.

“Sir, I don’t have any friends,” he replied, and Cafferty caught a minute change in the tenor of his voice.

Gabriel’s file, the one Cafferty had pored over that morning on the flight in from Toronto, read like a Greek tragedy. Lost his mother to a rare form of untreatable cancer when he was only nine. Lost his father in an accident in the immediate aftermath of the Shanghai asteroid event when he was twelve. Lost his older brother when he had unexpectedly left Earth several months ago to pursue business on New Tokyo. He had no other immediate family, and he enlisted in the Navy, with the backing and help of his only other surviving relative, an uncle, a Navy man himself. He bounced around from one location to another, never staying in one place long enough to create any connections.

When Gabriel was a noncom serving in South Africa, he applied for Officer Candidate School. His commanding officer put in a glowing recommendation, part of which said that Gabriel would most likely be his commanding officer within a few years if he was granted entry.

What the file didn’t technically say, but Cafferty easily understood, was that Gabriel was alone and had been most of his life. He put his heart and soul into the military, and his achievements and grades during the first three quarters of OCS showed it. Looking at the square-jawed young man standing in front of him, hazel eyes boring into the wall, Cafferty knew Gabriel had been meant for something greater than grunt work. He suspected the man was destined for an important future.

“You have three more weeks of OCS,” said Cafferty. “After which time you will graduate to O-1, an Ensign, and be assigned to a North American Federation Navy regiment either on Earth or off-world. Do you have any preference as to where you’ll be sent?”

“No, sir,” Gabriel said immediately. “Happy to serve wherever I’m sent, sir.”

“While we both know everyone has some type of preference, I appreciate your flexibility,” said Cafferty with a small smile. “And that is the correct answer, of course.”

“Admiral, if I may?” said Basilio, and Cafferty nodded.

“Mister Gabriel, what are your goals?” she asked.

Gabriel shoulders shifted. He blinked twice, but regained his composure. “Ma’am?”

“Your goals,” Basilio repeated. “Why are you here?”

Gabriel opened his mouth to reply, then closed it. After a few moments, he answered, “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’m not sure what you mean.” His eyes never left the wall behind the bleachers, but Cafferty saw a flicker of uncertainty in them.

Basilio leaned forward. “Why did you enlist in the Navy, Mister Gabriel?”

Gabriel cleared his throat. “I’m not entirely sure, ma’am. I… I had nothing else. And it’s something…” He paused.

“Go on,” said Cafferty.

Gabriel’s lips twitched and he blinked deeply. “It’s something I thought I’d be good at. And I feel I am good at it, ma’am. Sir.”

Cafferty nodded slightly. “That you are, son. Seems as though you may have found your calling.”

He turned to Basilio. “Anything else, Lieutenant Commander?”

She shook her head. “No, sir. That’s all I wanted to hear.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Cafferty caught Gabriel’s gaze shift slightly to the man who sat two rows behind Basilio. Cafferty saw that the man had focused his eyes on Gabriel like targeting lasers.

“Never mind him,” said Cafferty. “He’s just an observer. From another department.”

“Sorry, sir, I…” Gabriel began, only to be cut off by Cafferty’s raised hand.

“No worries. Please,” he said with a wave, “rejoin the game. If I recall from my OCS days many years ago, you’ve only got a few hours open today, then it’s back to the grind.” He stared into Gabriel’s eyes. “But I’ll be watching you, son. Following your progress. I think you have a great deal of potential, Mister Gabriel. Don’t waste it.”

Gabriel’s posture tightened. “Aye aye, sir. Thank you, sir!” he snapped, then spun on one heel and jogged back to the court.

Cafferty watched him go, then grimaced as the pain in his back shot through his system once again. “What do you think, Alex?”

“I think it’s an excellent class, Admiral,” she replied. “And I think that Gabriel is obviously the standout. I also think…”

“I want him.”

Cafferty turned at the sound of the voice behind him. The man in civilian clothes stood up and stepped down the rows of metal benches, his clanging footsteps competing with the sneaker squeaking from the far side of the gym.

“You can’t have him, Pete. You know that,” said Cafferty as the man reached the bottom of the bleachers. “At least not yet. He needs to get his feet wet first.”

“Then get them wet, Eriq,” replied the man. “Authorize an accelerated pay grade jump. Bump him to O-2 right away. I know you can do that.”

Cafferty shook his head. “And he needs trial by fire. Isn’t that what you’re always asking for when you cherry-pick my finest?”

“Put him under fire,” said the man as he glanced over his shoulder at the basketball game. “You know there’s a shitstorm brewing in the Canary Islands. And you know you’ll be sending people, regardless of the election results next week.”

The man turned towards the rear door. “Give him a wartime command. Get him to O-3. Then give him to me.” He walked out of the gymnasium without another word.

Cafferty watched the twin steel doors swing shut behind the man, then looked back towards the court. The six recruits were banging into each other, harder than before, as their time off wound down. He saw Gabriel posting up a heavier but shorter man, backing him down into the paint while dribbling. Just as he was about to turn and shoot, the young woman darted in and picked his pocket. She fired the ball back to the top of the circle where her teammate waited. His uncontested jump shot snapped the netting as it sailed through the basket. Gabriel’s expression at the minor failure was pure disgust.

“Admiral, may I ask who that man was?”

Cafferty answered without turning from the game. “An old friend from Naval Special Warfare doing his own recruiting.” He stood and stretched his back. “Every now and then he stops by to see a class. I suppose Gabriel caught his department’s attention as well as ours.”

“And you’re okay with that?” Basilio asked as she stood up.

He smiled. “As long as it’s only every now and then. Sometimes a young man or woman comes along that doesn’t belong in the regular Navy. Someone meant for something bigger.” He watched as the recruits played on, sweat soaking through their workout clothes, turning the gray fabric black. “And this time, it seems to be young Mister Gabriel.”

The two officers stepped down the bleachers. Cafferty stooped to pick up his dropped flexscreen tube and grunted as his back pain flared up. Basilio quickly bent and retrieved it for him.

“Thanks, Alex,” he said. “I’m not as young as I used to be.”

“None of us are, sir.”

Basilio walked towards the doors as Cafferty took one last look at the court. The bodies were crashing together once again. He heard a voice yell, “C’mon, big E, is that all you got?” He smiled and turned towards the door to follow Basilio out.

Good luck, Mister Gabriel.

*****

GABRIEL: ZERO POINT is available for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and other devices.

Great article on what really happens when flushed out at airlock. Good scifi research here…

July 18, 2012 7 comments

As a scifi writer, I love the idea of throwing the bad guy out of an airlock. It’s like the ultimate in poetic justice. Better than taking a lame blaster to the heart, or being eaten by a space slug, or falling into a star. But what really happens to the human body when suddenly exposed to total vacuum? How do I describe it to the reader?

I ran across a great article on Gizmodo last week that sums it up quite nicely. Keep the science tight and accurate, and you can still have a really entertaining death scene. Here’s the article:

http://gizmodo.com/5924522/what-really-happens-when-you-get-sucked-out-of-an-airlock

Love the closing paragraph:

So, while the end of your life in space may not be nearly as dramatic as Hollywood would have you believe, exposure to its vacuous expanse is still going to suck. And, more than likely, you’re going to die. Sorry. Just remember to breathe out first. 

And here’s a great GIF of a classic vacuum-exposure scene. Any other movies come to mind for you?

 

More of my shorts available! Wait, stop…I mean short story. New scifi short released, INCURSION

July 13, 2012 1 comment

You dirty minds… I’ve got a new scifi short story (not an actual pair of shorts) that just hit the various e-book platforms. It was a little idea I had rolling around in my mind for several weeks, finally sat down one day (taking up a valuable table at Barnes & Noble for many hours) and put it to paper.

Without further ado, INCURSION:

A young boy working on his village’s plantation watches as alien craft scream overhead. His first emotion is excitement… until the technologically superior aliens start shooting. He has no choice but to grow up quickly, becoming one of his village’s most trusted defenders.

Incursion is a short scifi story of a people defending themselves against an alien invasion, and shows what human nature may really mean. Approximately 3,200 words (13 printed pages).

I’ve got to go by e-book distributors’ minimum pricing rules and the story is out for $.99, so I also have this available for free download as PDF. Otherwise:

Amazon KindleBarnes & Noble NookApple iBooks

Would love to hear your feedback (and if you wanted to leave a few lines as an online review on the various e-book sites, I’d be forever in your debt…)

Gabriel’s Journey, the complete trilogy with bonus Zero Point prequel, on sale 33% off while I’m away! Spread the word?

May 27, 2012 1 comment

While I’m away, the price gremlins will play! Last week I ran some two-day sales on the individual books in the Gabriel series; starting today, the complete collection of Gabriel’s Journey (including the Gabriel: Zero Point prequel) will be on sale for 33% off. Hey, that’s almost one third!

The regular price is $8.99 (which is a steal, IMO, if you consider the combined costs of the three: $3.99 + $4.99 + $4.99 = $13.97). Through June 10th (when I get back from my woeful, terrible, difficult business trip to the Mediterranean), this sucker’s on sale for $5.99, or slightly more than a Taco Bell Five Buck Box (which might be gastronomy’s worst nightmare).

Gabriel’s Journey is now available for $5.99 for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks. Sorry, I won’t be running this one through Smashwords for Sony/Kobo users (long story short – they take forever to push a price through to Sony/Kobo, meaning they’ll take forever to change it back).

If you could be so kind as to pass along the word, I’d greatly appreciate it (and I’ll reward!). Nothing would be more exciting than to return from the slog of two weeks of work on a cruise ship to a huge sales report. Well, perhaps there are a few more exciting things, but at the moment they escape me.

I’ve got some ready-made tweets if you want to use them. When I get back, I’ll randomly select TWO peeps that tweeted and give out a $10 Amazon gift card to each. If I do well in the on-board casino, I’ll make it THREE.

GABRIEL’S JOURNEY, complete scifi-adventure trilogy for #Kindle from @SteveUmstead, on sale for $5.99! http://ow.ly/bbchy #RT

GABRIEL’S JOURNEY, complete scifi-adventure trilogy for #Nook from @SteveUmstead, on sale for $5.99! http://ow.ly/bbbRd #RT

GABRIEL’S JOURNEY, complete scifi-adventure trilogy for #iBooks from @SteveUmstead, on sale for $5.99! http://ow.ly/bbbNT #RT

You can tweet ’em or Google+ ’em; as long as they’re tagged with my info I’ll see ’em. And feel free to Facebook ’em, but I won’t see ’em. I threw in the towel on FB long ago…

THANKS!

Gabriel: Zero Point is now in paperback (hey, why not?)

May 15, 2012 3 comments

Just a quick post about another very cool delivery from the UPS guy (I really should start tipping him). Over the weekend, the first shipment* of the prequel novella to the Gabriel trilogy arrived, and even though it’s obviously smaller (22k word count) than the others, the thrill was still as intense.

* Shipment implies I stock and sell thousands, but I couldn’t think of another word…

Without further ado, my expensive photo shoot of GABRIEL: ZERO POINT:

I’ve got them listed at the low-low price of $5.99, and I convinced Amazon to allow free shipping on them. Well, convinced is probably a strong word. More like hoped. And they did, for Prime Members, plus they’re part of that always-popular (and potentially confusing) 4 for 3 promo.

Jump over to Amazon to pick one up. Or two. Or a full case. I do need some new sneakers.

Today launches Gabriel:Zero Point with special weekend pricing

April 13, 2012 2 comments

The official day is officially here – the official launch day of Gabriel: Zero Point, the prequel novella to the Gabriel science fiction-adventure trilogy! Those of you who have read the series can find out more about how Gabriel came to be the man waking up in the seedy Jamaican hotel room at the beginning of Gabriel’s Redemption, and those of you who haven’t yet dipped your toes into the trilogy can start with a bite-sized story (22,000 words) to lead into the overall arc.

It wouldn’t be a launch without a proper promotional price (and a hint of a very cool contest to come). But first – the story:



GABRIEL: ZERO POINT

Prequel Novella to the Evan Gabriel Trilogy
Evan Gabriel wasn’t always a feared and respected North American Federation Navy Commander. Before dangerous missions to the ice-bound planet of Poliahu, the deadly jungle world of Eden, and politically corrupt Mars, he was a simple recruit, fighting to make his mark in the elite Naval Special Forces…and was part of a top-secret military experiment that would change his life forever.Zero Point tells the tale before the science fiction/adventure trilogy, a tale of a young man faced with difficult choices and dangerous trials. Fans of the series will see part of the mysterious past Evan Gabriel carries with him, while readers new to the series get a preview of what is to come in a military man’s haunted life.

Zero Point is the true beginning of Evan Gabriel, and his story is just getting started.


.
I did mention special promotional pricing, right? For THIS WEEKEND ONLY (ending Sunday night the 15th), Zero Point will be less than a cup of coffee from a gas station. A whopping $.99 (£.77 for my friends across the pond). It’s currently available for Kindle US, Kindle UK, Nook, and Smashwords for other platforms (Smashwords is notoriously slow for distributing to Sony, iBooks, Kobo, etc. so I knew it wouldn’t be ready for today – Smashwords.com it is, sorry.)

         

Then watch this space Sunday night for an announcement of the Zero Point “spread the word” contest. I need all of my friends’ help to get the word out about the new release, so I’ll be giving away Amazon Gift Cards daily, plus a KINDLE FIRE or NOOK TABLET to one lucky winner at the end.

Hope you guys and gals pick up a copy, and hope even more that you enjoy it (and if you do, a review goes a long way for us struggling authors).

 

P.S. Hey look, it’s my 100th WordPress post…

Just published some short stories – need some horror or scifi in your diet?

April 3, 2012 2 comments

Well, lookie here… I snuck some published works in without the publicity frenzy of the media circus that usually surrounds my novel releases*.

* Disclaimer: I’ve never had a media circus. Not even a flea circus, actually. I totally made that part up.

Over the past year, I’ve done some short fiction, sometimes based on prompts, sometimes for informal ‘writing contests’, and sometimes just for fun. (I’ll ignore the short fiction that resulted from me writing a Chapter 1 and abandoning it…that doesn’t count, though lord knows I’ve done that enough.)

I took two of those works, polished them up, put together a cover, blurb, etc. and whipped up some ebook files. And here they are:

       

Now, coincidentally (or not*), both of these were from two different prompts/reasons from my good friend Al Boudreau. Special Delivery was his personal challenge to me (and keeping me in practice – the way a writer gets better is practice..therefore, writing) to write outside my usual genre. He gave me 24 hours, and if I remember correctly, I had it back to him in three. He gave a few lines to open it, and told me to run with it. It ended up just over 1700 words, and was quite different to step outside my usual scifi mindset.

The second one, The Awakening, was part of Al’s “Cage Match“, where two writers in similar genres are given the same prompt and 24 hours to write a short story under 2,000 words. Much more back in my wheelhouse, and very enjoyable. I was honored to go up against one of the most successful independent scifi writers today, Michael Hicks (he of the In Her Name series and Season of the Harvest).

* Coincidence that what I feel are my two best shorts came from Al’s prompts? Not if you know Al, a fantastic supporter of the community who tends to bring out the best in many a writer.

Both are now available for public consumption for all e-book platforms. Unfortunately, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble make it difficult-slash-impossible to publish a book for free all the time (first person to suggest KDP Select gets keelhauled), and I honestly have a hard time justifying charging anything for these stories. Therefore I also posted them on Smashwords, and eventually they’ll feed through to iBooks, Sony, Kobo; they are listed for free. Free as in beer.

Here are the links:

Special Delivery: Amazon Kindle ($.99) • B&N Nook ($.99) • Smashwords (free)

The Awakening: Amazon Kindle ($.99) • B&N Nook ($.99) • Smashwords (free)

 

Enjoy…would love to hear your thoughts.

 

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