Friday Fiction: Formerly with @danecobain

After picking out several books for our kids, I wandered the library looking for a read of my own and left empty handed. Books, after all, are like restaurants. We’re compelled to try one after hearing the praise from a friend (or seeing a glowing Instagram photo).

With that in mind, this week’s Friday Fiction is an excerpt from Dane Cobain’s Formerly. Author Photo

Chapter One

“ONE HUNDRED and forty-six thousand, three hundred and fifty-seven people die every day. That’s six thousand and ninety-nine an hour, one hundred and two a minute or five every three seconds. Over fifty million people every year. How about that for a target audience?”

Looking back, I should’ve anticipated an unorthodox interview. I mean, how do you deal with a man who reduces human life and death to numbers and statistics? And once you learn to deal with him, how do you laugh, talk, eat, live and work with him? Tech start-ups are notorious for their crazy founders, but John Mayers took the biscuit.

“Welcome to,” my potential boss announced, gesturing to the chaotic room around him. “Sorry about the mess. We don’t have many visitors.”

“I wonder why,” I mumbled. The office looked more like a frat house. The place reeked of stale beer and sweat, and a pile of stinking clothes shuddered and then sat upright. It lifted a crusty hand in acknowledgement and said something vague about caffeine.

“That’s Kerry,” said John. “He’s our video guy. He’s a useless bastard, but give him a camera and he’s a machine. Morning, Kerry!”

“Morning, dude,” he replied, shuffling out of his rags and into a semi-respectable pair of khaki shorts, flashing a glimpse of oversized thighs and off-white Y-fronts. He grabbed a starched Hawaiian shirt from the floor in front of the sofa, sniffed it to determine its freshness, and pulled it over his head. Then, he hobbled over to meet us inFormer.ly_Cover_for_Kindle the middle of the debris-strewn living room. He smelled even worse up close, somewhere between a cesspit and a brewery. “Don’t ask. It’s still rendering. I’m going to grab a shower.”

“Yeah, yeah,” John replied. “He always says that. Sometimes I wonder what we pay him for.”

I watched Kerry retreat through a narrow doorway as John cleared a space for me on the sofa. I didn’t really want to sit on it, but I didn’t have much of a choice. It crunched as I sat down; sofas aren’t meant to do that.

“So,” John said, clapping his hands together. “Let’s get straight to business. After all, we’re both men of business when all is said and done. Tell me what you know about our company.”

“Not much,” I laughed, nervously.

“I can see that,” John said. “You’re wearing a suit for a start. But you must have looked us up before you applied to join the team.”

“Well,” I replied. “I know the basic mechanics – you sign up, you post updates which are hidden from view, and then when you die, your profile goes live to the public.”

“That’s all you need to know. We plan to monetise death, Dan.” As he spoke, a key turned in the latch and the front door opened, letting in the cold and the distant sound of traffic. “We’re looking for a front-end developer, and you more than fit the bill in terms of qualifications and experience. But what about culture? Dedication? Think you can match us there? Hey, Flick.”

I turned to look at the newcomer, a pretty blonde woman who strolled into the room, pulled a MacBook Air from a tartan satchel and prepared to start work. She smiled sweetly at the two men who faced her.

“Morning, John,” she said. “Abhi’s here too. He’s just parking the car.”

“Good lad. When he comes in, tell him to come and meet Dan. He’s here about the developer job.”

“Hi, Dan,” she said, as she logged into her machine. “I’m Felicity, but everyone calls me Flick.”

“Hi, Flick,” I replied. “Nice to meet you. What’s your role? You don’t look like a typical programmer.”

“Thanks! That’s probably because I’m not a programmer. I just do whatever needs doing. I’m in charge of PR and office management, but I spend half of my time cleaning this place up and half of my time looking after the boys. That doesn’t leave room for much else.”

“How do you fit it all in?” I asked.

“I do a lot of unpaid overtime,” she replied. “And you will too if you join us. Good luck with that.” She smiled breezily and went back to her laptop.

“It’s true, you know,” John said, grimly. “I won’t pretend otherwise. This job will take over your life, and if it doesn’t take over your life, we’ll fire you and take on someone who’s more dedicated.”

“I’ve worked at start-ups before.”

“Not at this one, you haven’t,” John replied. “Ah, and here’s Abhi.”

“Morning, Boss,” he said, looming in the doorway with a cup of coffee in each hand. The staff at Starbucks had written “Abby” on one of the cups. He kept this for himself and placed the other one in front of Flick. “They never spell my name right,” he complained, turning to look at John. “How are you today?”

“Pretty good. This is Dan. He’s applying for the developer role. Think you can work with him?”

“You like music, Dan?”

“Of course,” I replied.

“Me too,” Abhi said. “I can’t stand working in silence. Sounds like we’re going to be friends.”

“Abhi is our back-end developer,” John explained.

“That’s right, Boss. Can I get you guys a drink?”

“No thanks,” John replied. “I’m sure you’ve got something to work on. Besides, I need a real drink. You coming, Dan?”

“It’s eleven AM and I’m being interviewed,” I said. “So sure. Why not?”

“That’s the spirit. Time doesn’t exist in this place. We work when we can, and we drink when we can. Let’s go.”


Friday Fiction: Inferno by @frederickbrooke

Summer is in full swing, and if like me, you’re on planes, trains, and automobiles you probably need a good read to make the miles fly by in between destinations.

Inferno by Fredrick Lee Brooke who is a mystery writer who has a unique take on the genre. Check out the excerpt which is the second book in the The Drone Wars series.

In a dystopian 2021, 19-year-old Matt Carney is betrayed by those he trusts most—and is forced to make the most difficult choice of all—as he unwillingly joins the inner circle of March22, a terrorist group taking major steps to strike a new, legitimate path by eliminating the most powerful and vicious militia in the country.

Inferno_EbookCoverPrologue—November 15, 2021 at 11 p.m.

San Francisco Bay

Derrick Sims stared intently at his control screen, operating the robotic arms with swiping motions of his fingers on a pad. At this shallow depth of 260 feet, on the uneven floor of San Francisco Bay, the submarine mechanics obeyed his commands in real time. He’d trained in deeper water, up to two thousand feet, where sometimes a delay occurred between a swipe and the corresponding motion of the arms.

The training had lasted for the past twelve months without any of them knowing what their mission would be. Earning triple what Sims had taken home as an officer in the US Navy had taken the edge off the secrecy. In the Navy, you rarely knew where you were headed either. You could be cruising off Hawaii or approaching the Kola Peninsula off Severomorsk in the Barents Sea. It all looked about the same from the inside of a submarine. And you were never far from danger. The kind of danger that could mean the end of the world.

“Handle with care,” said Jack McLamore, munching on a cold cheeseburger while staring at his own screen, where he followed Sims’s manipulations.

“You’re in more danger from high cholesterol than from one of those babies going off,” Sims replied, keeping his cool. McLamore had always been the coolest head during trainings, but today only constant eating kept his nerves in check. Sims guided the robot arms till they locked on a steel box the size of a small trunk. He lifted the box out of the muck, swiveled the robot assembly, which worked like a small underwater crane, then telescoped the arms to deliver the box into the cargo hold at the back.

“It’s that moment when it’s right over our heads that freaks me out,” McLamore said. He took another bite of his cheeseburger.

“Even if I dropped it, it wouldn’t puncture the hull and it wouldn’t blow,” Sims reminded his partner as box number thirty-six locked down safely in the hold. The robot arms shrank into themselves and came around again. The submersible could carry forty of the two hundred-pound boxes.

When the cargo hold was full, they would make the twenty-mile journey out to sea to offload onto the Nemo. They could reach the Nemo in under an hour, offload in forty minutes, and run back here for the fifth load. The Nemo was loading the boxes into a container that would be brought to an unknown port. Surely one of the West Coast ports. They wouldn’t risk smuggling this cargo through Panama Canal security.

“You believe everything they tell you?” McLamore said.

“I have to think they know what they’re talking about. We’re working to make this country safer.”

“Look at the size of that thing,” McLamore said. He was pointing at a section of cable from the Golden Gate Bridge, which had been destroyed this morning in a series of timed explosions just as an army convoy was crossing. Everyone had seen it over and over on TV. The convoy had been carrying those 240 steel boxes. The team in this submersible wasn’t supposed to know what was in the boxes, but Sims knew, and he knew McLamore knew. That was what made McLamore nervous. A single box, if it blew, would level the entire city and snuff out the lives of all four million inhabitants. 

The weird object McLamore was pointing at looked more like a Greek column at the bottom of the Mediterranean than a steel cable with over five hundred strands wound together. He looked beyond the underwater drones that were giving the March22 leaders real-time information on their progress. That cable had to be three feet in diameter. It stood straight up, as if it had bored into the ground when it hit. Thousands of tons of tensile steel could very well bore a hole in bedrock, Sims figured, dropping through seawater like a pile driver. The column rose into the murky dimness about thirty feet off to their right. Cables like this, extending right up to the surface, had to be interfering with surface shipping. March22 had calculated correctly that debris from the bridge destruction would prevent the military from swooping in on the same day to recover their deadly cargo.

Sims smiled, thinking of his year of training. March22 had been prepared. March22 had gotten here first. After waiting offshore, they had guided the submersible into San Francisco Bay and gotten started less than two hours after the bridge was destroyed.

“Damn, this one’s stuck on something,” Sims said. The robot arm was trying to claw the thirty-seventh box out of a tangle of wires and ropes. He swiped left and then right again, wiggling the box to work it out of the mess. But the box fell and settled down into the tangle again.

“Let the master have a turn,” McLamore said. He had finished his cheeseburger.

Sims transferred control of the robot arms to McLamore with the touch of a button. Their orders were clear. They couldn’t leave a single one down here. After thirty seconds of skillful meaneuvering, McLamore extricated the troublesome box out of the tangle. Sims watched as McLamore manipulated the box to free it from one last thin cable that stretched over the top. The box suddenly fell free again as one of the robot arms lost its grip.

McLamore shifted in his chair, and giant sweat stains appeared under his arms in the dark green uniform shirt.

“Butterfingers,” Sims said.

“I went to my lawyer, you know. Wrote my last will and testament,” McLamore said. Beads of sweat covered his brow and upper lip as he brought the robot arms down for another try.

“I told you, they’re not going to blow,” Sims said.

He hoped to God his information was correct.





Friday Fiction: Green's Calling by @ADStarrling

Summer is the perfect time for leisure reading. Whether on planes, trains, automobiles, a good read can speed up the dull spots between destinations. A set of characters you can follow through a series is the perfect discovery for these slower months in the office.

AD Starrling’s award winning Seventeen has a third book out. An immortal healer. An ancient legacy reborn. A chain of cataclysmic events that threatens to change the fate of the world. Green’s Calling could be your introduction to a whole new world. Check out the excerpt below.Greens-Calling-Blast-WEB


July 1706. London. Kingdom of England.

Conrad Greene ran across the wet, sloping lead roof of the Banqueting House, his breath misting in the cool night air. Moonlight flashed on metal to his right. He caught a glimpse of a blade falling toward his neck and ducked. The sword skimmed past his head with a faint hum. Feet skidding on the slick surface, he spun around, dropped to one knee, and lifted the short, silver-gilded staff in his hands.

A grunt sounded above him as the burly swordsman brought his weapon down once more. The edge of the blade struck the staff hard, raising sparks in the gloom. The man’s lips pulled back in a vicious grin, exposing two uneven rows of stained teeth. The muscles and veins in his neck and arms bulged with superhuman strength as he drove the sword into the staff.

Conrad’s elbows slowly folded toward his chest. Air left his lips in a low hiss as the tip of the man’s blade inched closer to his left eye. He pushed back with the staff with all his might, dark spots dancing across his vision. A figure dashed past them on the left. Conrad caught a glimpse of soft, brown curls. His heart stuttered inside his chest. He swore, fell back, and rolled out of the way of the falling blade. He landed close to the balustrade that ran around the top of the building and climbed swiftly to his feet. Ignoring the swordsman charging toward him, he peered through the rainfall at the dark shapes engaged in a fast-paced and deadly battle on the moonlit rooftop. His eyes sought and found the woman who had run by him.

She was almost at the north end of the terrace, where a young man with brown hair and eyes stood confronted by three armed attackers; blood from the wounds on his left shoulder and flank had already soaked through his long-sleeved, ruffle shirt and stained his leather jerkin.

‘William!’ the woman yelled, her voice edged with fear and desperation. She passed the weather vane on the sloping roof and unsheathed the rapier at her waist. Relief darted across the younger man’s face at the sound of his name. He glanced at the woman over his attackers’ shoulders and raised his own blade to block another strike.

Conrad clenched his teeth. He turned to face his opponent and twisted one of the metal rings on his short staff. The weapon extended and a spear blade sprang out at either end. A loud battle cry preceded the attack of the burly swordsman a heartbeat Conrad blocked his blade, kicked him in the groin, and hooked the staff behind his neck. He yanked the man’s head down at the same time that he drove his knee up into his face. A guttural groan left his adversary’s lips, and he slid to the ground, unconscious.