“Butt?” cackled the man, his obviously drunken cronies providing him with a little more than false courage, “You’re kidding me?”
Cornelius Butt stared up at the large warrior, whose strange attire clashed with the more established clothing of the Forked Tongue’s usual clientele. The wit’s shirt and trousers were broken with a colourful design, of a square, multi-hued pattern. Similarly dyed cloth hung from the man’s right wrist and the basket-hilt of a sword, jutted out from behind his shoulder. His hairstyle left much, in the small bloodshot eyes of Butt, to be desired; almost pig-tails had gone out of style after the last Crusade.
Mind you, truth be told, Butt was no beauty contestant. Once described as vertically challenged, well briefly anyway, he sported a bright-red mohican and wore a crossed leather belt over a wide and hairy chest. His bare skin was covered in tattoos, each ‘tatt’, representing a successful mission, was garishly drawn and rendered in what looked like the distinctive hand of a drunken Tauran. On many occasion, Cornelius had been heard to say that his skin covering was a statement; art for deaf listeners.
Leather chaps covered his short, bowed legs and, at least, a silver codpiece protected not only his dignity, but that of the rest of the patrons of the salubrious bar. On the table in front of him was his multi-spiked helmet, which he now carefully placed onto his mis-shapen head. It had started with one spike and had belonged to a Perussian soldier. Butt had won the helmet in a game of Chicken in front of an armoured tank. In fact, the helmet was pretty much all that remained of that drunken challenge. It was well-loved now, polished and cared for, and he had added a number of other protrusions over the years.
As he stood, the others laughed and he heard another time-worn joke, but Cornelius was now in his routine. He checked that his two combat knives, Dunch and Bingle, were in place and that he had not lost ‘Aunty Lil’. With a less than subtle adjustment, he made sure his codpiece was not set to pinch him and grinned at the four.
“Ready?” he asked quietly, and, as they held their sides in uproarious laughter, he struck.
Leaping onto his recently vacated stool, the table top and then head-first at his antagonist, his call of “Luv Ya!” seemed rather out of place, as his spiked helmet slammed into the now non-grinning warrior.
“Oooh!” came the chorus from the bar’s patrons, “Cornelius’ Kiss!”
Butt did not stop. The helmet was left where it stuck, his would-be antagonist bleeding from his fatal cranial injuries. Using his momentum he bounced backwards, drawing Dunch and Bingle in a fluid motion, as he performed a flip in the air. The blades struck, one slitting a throat and the other disembowelling for effect.
“Aaah!” called his fans, as he dropped the knife and drew Aunty Lil. Gripping the wooden handles, around which the length of rusty wire was looped, Butt scrunched down, avoiding the swipe of a large sword and slid under the table, appearing on its other side and once more using it as a step to greater things.
His leap carried him across and onto the third warrior’s back, the wire whipping around the man’s throat and slicing quickly through non-resistant skin.
“What?” whispered Cornelius into the warrior’s ear, “Speechless?”
With a final twist of his hands, he discarded the garrotte and stood waiting for the fourth and final man. “For the egg!” the man screamed as his large blade whirled around him, then he struck.
“Check out these eggs...” murmured Butt, thrusting his pelvis forward and activating the laser derringer built into his codpiece. The blast ripped into the final warrior’s stomach, bundling him backwards to crash helplessly onto the table.
“B-u-u-r-t!” cried his audience, “Burt has spoken!”
“Good boy!” crooned Butt, as he man-handled Burt, his long time friend back into the disguising codpiece and looked to retrieve his weapons. In front of him, the strangely-clad warrior gasped for air, and drew a piece of something from his belt, waving it in Butt’s direction, before groaning and sliding unceremoniously off the wooden slab, to the floor.
Cornelius looked wonderingly at the slip of paper, a Starship ticket for two, a suite, all expenses-paid, First Class! His prayers had been answered! With a grin, he signalled the barkeep for another round and looked for Gruk; he felt the need for a new tattoo.
Blast-Off City Spaceport, Luther
The spaceport was a disappointment, as spaceports go. Luther had never been renowned for its fantastic natural beauty, history or even its scintillating nightlife. It was a poor, semi-agricultural world, with only one really major city to speak of. Butt lived in the less than salubrious district which adjoined the docks and warehouses surrounding the only real escape off-planet. Although he had thoroughly enjoyed his little altercation in the Forked Tongue, those men had looked altogether too serious for him. It was rather fortuitous that they had all died a messy death and that he now had his golden ticket.
Little time had been wasted in collecting his possessions, in fact the majority of the time he carried them with him, or on him as the case may be. His only concession to decency had been the long coat he had stolen off Gruk. Its length was of course relative, the giant Tauran thought of it more as a short dress jacket, but for Cornelius it was an all-encompassing sack with style. A rough woollen blanket, tied with rope and slung over his back hid his helmet and one or two other precious things. It was really no surprise that the Security details at the main entrance were less than willing to believe his story. The ticket, however, was genuine and carried no distinguishing name stencilled into its gaudy goldness.
People who could afford to travel First Class did so because they were very rich, secretive or criminals. Usually it was a combination of the three things and the Guards simply turned a blind eye, the moment Cornelius waved his special piece of paper in front of them. His trip through the liner’s brightly-lit corridors earned him a number of curious looks, but the ticket in his hand forestalled all questions. He was led to his suite by a rather obsequious servant, whose outstretched hand he ignored as he closed the suite’s door.
Dropping his simple sack onto the floor, swiftly followed by the now unbuttoned overcoat, Butt stood and stared. Never in his short and eventful life had he ever imagined that he would experience this level of luxury. With a grin he raced across the room, vaulted over a chair, used a sofa to give him momentum and landed onto the huge bed which dominated the centre of the room. Arms outstretched he lay there, looking at himself in the mirrored ceiling and waiting for the expected knock, signalling that he had been discovered.
Rising from the enfolding comfort of the bed, he swaggered across to the drink’s cabinet, poured himself a huge brandy, took an enormous swig, belched and scratched himself. This, he thought, is the life, and started to down the rest of the glass.
“Well,” came an unexpected voice in a low, entrancing contralto, “You’re nothing like what I expected, are you?”
An explosion of brandy signalled Butt’s complete surprise, astonishment turning to action as his hand swiftly dropped to his belt, drawing one of his wicked combat knives. Spinning on the spot, he saw the owner of the voice, draped in a luxurious bath towel, hair still wet and slicked back. There really was nowhere for her to hide any weapons, and open-mouthed, Cornelius drank in her beauty.
“Interesting attire” she purred, allowing the towel to slide to the floor, “Shall we get started?”
The now empty glass clunked to the floor as Cornelius raced to undo his clothing, his unknown guest sidling up to him, in a particularly sensual fashion. Her hands teased at the bright red spikes of hair which made up his Mohican, her long fingers caressing his cheeks and tweaking at his ears. Before he realised what was happening she kissed him, and Cornelius was completely overwhelmed by the sensation. As he struggled to hold her, his pleasure abruptly turned to pain as she bit his bottom lip. Not the playful nip of a lover, but the rending tear of an attacker. With a roar of pain he felt his flesh rip and she danced backwards, a stream of blood pouring down her chin, his blood.
“Not happy,” he mumbled, sucking at the ruin of his mouth, “and that just won’t do.”
Slowly he withdrew his knives, an evil and somewhat lop-sided grin splitting his face, “Let’s start again shall we?” he asked, turning the blades so that their serrated edges faced outwards.
“Why not?” she agreed, jumping forwards, her flashing limbs distracting him again, so much that he almost missed the click of metal on metal from behind him. Instinctively he ducked, a whistling ball of spikes passing through the space previously occupied by his head. This was starting to be fun, real fun.
Butt did as usual, the unexpected; somersaulting forwards, his legs flicked towards the woman’s face, but as soon as his feet jarred against the floor, he leapt backwards, blades outstretched. There was the satisfying feel of yielding flesh and an accompanying cacophony of curses. Not waiting to see the real extent of the damage caused, he twisted the knives free, quickly turning to the front once more.
Even though his body still reacted to the naked beauty of the woman before him, Cornelius’ piggy eyes were filled with anger, not lust. He shuffled towards her, leaning forward and inviting the kick, she would not be able to resist delivering. As the spinning kick slashed through the air, he raised his crossed blades, presenting a nasty welcome for the bare leg. A crunching collision and a high-pitched scream announced the impact, his assailant dropping to the ground in an ungracious heap. Her moaning and the whimpering of the man behind Butt, were little distraction as he moved once more to the drinks cabinet and poured himself a fresh drink.
“Now,” he asked, raising his drink in a mocking toast to the pair, “where were we?”
There was no intelligible answer, but this did not distract Cornelius as he picked up one of his knives from next to his drink, wiped it on the dropped towel and sauntered forwards.
“Oh, yes,” he said, smiling in remembrance, “Shall we get started?”
The Ship’s Officer knocked on the door to the suite, with some reservation. A call had been received, with a rather strange message, given casually, with an inexplicable nonchalance. It was still hard to believe that on this ship, there was such criminal activity.
As the door opened, the officer gazed inwards seeing no-one. A polite cough brought his attention closer to the floor, where he saw the apparition that was Butt.
“Good evening, sir”, said the ship’s representative, in a cultured voice, “It seems you have had a little trouble?”
Butt’s grin, which displayed his uneven teeth, was not his best feature, nor was the alcoholic gust which played against the officer’s face. “No trouble, “slurred the unusual little man, “more of a misunderstanding.”
He waved the officer and his men past, stumbling slightly and grasping at the back of a uniform coat to support himself.
“Misunderstanding...see...” chortled Cornelius, indicating the crumpled and bloody form in the middle of the lounge floor. “Some people can’t take their liquor,” he commented sadly, making his way in as much of a straight line as he could towards the large double bed, visible to all in the lounge.
Joint gasps greeted him, Butt turning to smile knowingly at the men, as he plumped himself on the edge of the bed. Behind him, with one roughly-bandaged and still bleeding leg raised high into the air and both hands tied to the headboard was his other guest. A towel had been tossed across her, but did little to hide her more than obvious attractions.
Dismayed, the officer turned to face Butt, who merely belched, said “Frisky!” and fell off the end of the bed in a heap, snoring loudly.
Pain hammered through Butt’s head, the consequence of his drinking and the less than gentle treatment he had received from the ship’s crew. It appeared that his unwelcome guests had been important people and well known by the Captain. That had been his first mistake, emptying the less than pleasant contents of his stomach over the owner of the vessel had been his second, and making rather unsavoury comments about the man’s parentage had been the third and final one.
Cornelius squinted out through the bars of the cell they had thrown him into and grinned sardonically. He should have known that his luck could never have held, and perhaps the means by which he had earned his ticket and then dispensed his own form of justice had not really helped. It seemed that the men from the Forked Tongue had been on some sort of mission and he had rather screwed it all up.
The clink of metal against metal and the low murmur of voices signalled the return of his gaolers. Well there was one positive, he was not quite alone; they had left Burt in his own little cell, and that was always an advantage.
Jenna Macmaan was in pain, physical and mental and all the fault of the horrid little man, who winked at her through the bars of his cell. They had already removed her sidearm, well both of them actually; the one she had carried in open sight and the other one which she had withdrawn from beneath her skirts, when Butt had waved at her. She sat in a contra-grav chair, her damaged limb held in an immobilising cast, straight out in front of her. By her side, stood two of her Clan, who were also finding it hard to restrain themselves.
“Where is it?” she spat, her question delivered in a corrosively, spiteful voice.
Cornelius shook his head, absent-mindedly scratching his crotch before moving to place his face against the bars. “Absolutely no idea what you are talking about,” he replied dismissively.
“The Egg!” screeched Jenna, scrabbling at the belt of her nearest companion for his pistol. Batting her hand aside, the man moved forward, his dress mirroring in every sense those of the cold bodies now lying in the Forked Tongue. One hand flashed out, grasping Butt by the throat and raising him off the floor.
As he saw Cornelius’ face change colour, he turned and nodded to the ship’s officer who stood to the rear, “You can open it now, my brother and I will take this from here,” then as the man began to protest, “Just do it!”
Quickly the door was opened and a grinning Jenna, licked her lips in anticipation of the world of hurt about to visit her ugly tormentor.
With his facial colour now a lovely shade of purple and his tongue protruding from his mouth, Cornelius was not really enjoying himself. The pounding pain had receded, only to be replaced by other more immediate agonies. To say that he was annoyed, was a slight understatement and as his new friend changed hands, in order to haul Butt to the opening, Cornelius demonstrated his ire.
Using his slight sideways movement, Cornelius stabbed the toe of his right foot into the softly yielding groin in front of him. With a yelp, the hold on his throat was released and he fell to the floor. Not waiting for any form of relief, he slammed his head upwards, his skull crashing into the descending jaw above him. There was a crack of breaking bone, a spout of blood and the wet feel of flesh bouncing off the top of his head. Glancing down he saw the remains of a tongue, flapping on the floor.
Hopping a half-step backwards, he swung his lead foot, toes turned up so that the ball of his foot impacted on the now squealing man’s forehead. Cornelius felt the man’s flesh give, saw his eyes roll backwards and pushed him to one side.
His brother had drawn his sword and was even now pulling his pistol clear, “You’ll die for that!” he screamed, aiming his weapon directly at Cornelius’ face.
“Not today!” stated Butt, thrusting his pelvis forward and clenching his buttocks as Burt shot out. A spatter of light, a scream of pain and then there were only two left; a ship’s officer whose hands were held high as he backed from the room and Jenna Macmaan, whose cursing had reached new heights.
Cornelius let her continue for a short while, he was all for educational exchange, but when she started to repeat some of the better curses, he decided it was time to move on.
“I get the strangest feeling that we’ve been here before,” he said conversationally as he leaned on her injured leg, even his weight causing the contra-gravity chair to dip. Picking up the fallen man’s sword, he tapped companionably on her protective cast, “I think it’s time for us to get better acquainted...”
A long drawn out scream caused the running officer to increase his speed, and he instantly decided that a personal report to the Captain was much better than stopping to use a communicator and then receiving new orders, infinitely better.
The short answer is yes. Two weeks in and between the UK and US, A Guiding Light has ben downloaded over 3000 times. Yes, I know that a fair proportion of downloads were done in a frantic few days as people thought that Amazon would repeat previous promotions and pull the free books after a week or so. Not happened yet.
After the first rush, there has been a steady stream of new interest, with the UK doubling the first week's numbers in week two. Some people must like AGL, as they have bought Sudden Dearth and A Leap Of faith too. Not in any way to the same level - yet. And that is where you get my definite yes on the worth of this promotion. 3000 new people have a copy of my book; it may already be read, deleted, discarded or even cherished, but there is the fact that Amazon have given me phenomenal exposure in comparison to my other efforts.
Long may it continue in the SF and Horror Top 20 - I just hope they discount the Wildwose too, then we'd be moving!
It's been a funny couple of days. I was one of the fortunates who received an eMail from Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon by any other name) telling me that they were price-matching a free promotion on another Distribution Channel. Okay, A Guiding Light had been free, but it was a while back. Nevertheless, I accepted the slap on the hand and waited to see what happened...and now I realise why the big pubishers normally get the discounted freebies. 1000+ DOWNLOADS IN 24 HOURS!
TINSTAAFL I know, but ream me with a pointy stick, 1000 in a day feels good. Sure Amazon have a plan (there were about 200 of us blessed by this offer)and I haven't figured out what it is yet, but I'm just enjoying watching AGL hit the Top 20 in both SF and Horror in the US AND the UK.
Will there be associated sales? I bloody well hope so, but we'll just have to wait and see...enjoy it whilst you can, I say
I think that it's about time we publish a little bit of the forthcoming Book IV. Youve all been patient...
Deep Space Graveyard Of Ships Unknown Location
Debris; a fallow field of broken dreams and evil thoughts. Viker studied what remained of his fleet and ignored the tears which rolled down his face. Brilliant feathers ruffled, an involuntary reflex half way between loss and rage. As each of the data streams blipped their end, his eyes grew colder, darker. He had lost many of his people here, to the demon-blessed construct. They had fought well, yet died too easily as beams of stupendous energy melted their hopes and dreams.
“Were we too late?” asked Johns, moving to stand next to his Lord, his Battle Amour shining with its newness.
“We left them here. It was over almost as soon as it began.”
“You were not to blame...”
“Ah, but I was,” disagreed Viker, “too eager in my new found power, but that has changed. What success have our people had?”
“Good, My Lord,” replied Johns, “although truth be told, it’s not a hard trail to follow.”
“Distress signals, radiation signatures and the ever-present debris make a unique trail of bread crumbs,” said Johns.
“Good. Order the fleet to jump with us. We will follow and pick up the pieces. I have no doubt we will find allies on our travel.”
“If,” muttered Johns, “the b*****d left anything alive...”
“It did,” said Viker, “I can taste their hate and thirst for revenge. We can use that.”
Asmode's Lair Spindle
Beelzebub squirmed within the confines of his throne; Asmode’s old accommodation was not to his taste, either in decoration or dimension. It had taken time to make his way here, many feeds were required to fuel his still bloated body. Followers had given their existence to ensure his survival and now he gathered them around him; deformed and mis-shapen, they were the residues of Asmode’s experiments. He was not concerned over their lack of beauty. What frustrated his ambition was their inability to provide him with an exit from this accursed planet. Their only service was in his alimentation.
“My Lord,” the wheezing voice already annoyed the demon and the face in front of him, did little to ameliorate the situation, “we have birthed more of our brothers and have made a discovery.”
“There is a ship...”
“...approaching the planet. We have recognised the signs.”
For the first time in a long while, Beelzebub smiled. This could be his chance.
“Our people must hide, until we know the identity of our visitors. We must be prepared to fight if necessary.”
His minion bowed and left, leaving the demon alone to think, and scheme.
Deep Space Arshavin’s Construct
Life was good. The promise of death and destruction that the demon foresaw had been fulfilled. World after world had been scraped raw; beings stripped of love and existence. He had sucked them dry, using them as fuel in his quest. Followers had begun to drift after him, their slow progress mirroring his own. They meant nothing to him, but could prove useful. He had even allowed a small contingent to land and occupy carefully constructed outbuildings. A bloody altar adorned the central temple and it pleased him to let them hold false hope of deliverance. Everything in its own time. He had captured the trail of his enemies and was now almost ready for them. One more world...just one more...
Kermadec Island Macaulay Disputed Zone
An Angel had come to earth and the people fell to their knees in adoration. He floated softly amidst a curtain of light, voices thrummed in counterpoint, their harshness only adding to the purity of their new God.
Dark shapes, hard lined and with rigid wings soared into the Central Plaza, moving the new faithful aside with the backwash of their Holy Fire. Johns grinned as the populace sprinted for cover, but he and his men were only the vanguard to their Lord. It was time. He flipped free a flare and fired it skyward, the red, yellow and gold flames blossoming into a fountain of colour and from within which sailed Viker. With an imperious back beat of his wings he settled to the tiled area at the centre of the Plaza.
“My Children,” his voice boomed out, “come to me...and be saved”
Asmode's Lair Spindle
The city had been raised to the ground yet the tunnels and laboratories remained, hidden below a nightmarish landscape. A pathetic excuse for a spaceship rattled to earth, its squabbling crew undecided about the salvage they would find. Their brothers above merely awaited the all-clear before they would begin to cleanse the area, ready for recovery of any valuables. Their Lord had been very clear. They had only two hours before he himself would purify this world, turning it into yet another of his burnt offerings.
Beelzebub watched them, a cruel smile on his face.
“Now,” he said, as the landing ramp crashed to the ground and a rag-tag army poured forth, “keep the prettier ones for my pleasure.”
Barely enough time passed for the first casualties to be reported when the Demon knew he had made a potentially fatal mistake. A beam of plasma burned its way through the atmosphere and incinerated friend and foe alike.
“Hello, Brother,” the voice smashed into his mind, tearing his defences apart, “I knew that something good would come of this...”