Stephanie Osborn, Uncategorized

An UnCONventional Christmas by Stephanie Osborn

unconventional christmas stephanie osbornAn excerpt from Division One book 3, A Very UnCONventional Christmas

By Stephanie Osborn

http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

It’s Christmas in NYC, but for Alpha Line it’s anything but a Silent Night: The Agency has a mole, leaking classified information to toy manufacturers and film producers alike, and the Agents are in danger of losing their anonymity. To complicate matters, the Prime Minister of Lambda Andromedae III, complete with entourage, has arrived to negotiate a new trade agreement with Earth. Worse, the more paranoid Division One field agents look at Omega’s recent history with the Agency and suspect they have identified the mole!

Simultaneously, the discovery of a grim countdown in the most incongruous place possible — the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center — augers the threat of horrific events on Christmas Eve itself.

Meanwhile, Omega is struggling to adjust to her very first Christmas in the Agency, made more difficult by the exposure of parts of her past long hidden from her conscious mind.

Will Omega be able to refute the accusations, or be punished for crimes she did not commit? Will the internal conspiracy expose the Agency? Or will efforts to thwart it see Echo — and Fox — caught up in the accusations as well? What is the meaning of the countdown to Christmas Eve, and will any of Alpha Line survive it?Will Omega be able to refute the accusations, or be punished for crimes she did not commit? Will the internal conspiracy expose the Agency? Or will efforts to thwart it see Echo — and Fox — caught up in the accusations as well? What is the meaning of the countdown to Christmas Eve, and will any of Alpha Line survive it?

~~~~~

Excerpt:

~~~~~

Hey, Ed, come here a sec,” one of the YuleCon convention chairs called to her guest liaison.

Yeah, Brandy? What’s up?” Ed Smith replied, detouring from his intended route to the con suite and veering over to the Ops Room door. Ed was a stocky, strong brunet of about average height, in his mid-forties, though he looked younger. His eyeglasses gave him an intellectual appearance, and his goatee a rather dashing look.

Have you seen Doc Taylor in the last, oh, half an hour?”

No; I left him in his last panel with Howard and Sarah and ran to the con suite to grab something to eat. I didn’t get lunch or breakfast either, and I was starved. I got there just before they cleared out the food, as it was. Then I had to run back to my room for a minute.”

How long ago was that?”

Ed glanced at his wristwatch.

I dunno. Maybe an hour and a half, an hour forty-five?”

Mm,” Brandy said, thinking.

What’s up?”

That big panel he’s moderating this evening? We got a no-go from one of the guests. I have no idea where they went, but John apparently picked up a touch of food poisoning when he went out to dinner with that group last night, and he can’t get outta his bathroom, let alone leave the hotel room.”

Shit!”

Pretty much, from what I understand. Some puking, too.”

Ooo, that was cold, Brandy!” They laughed.

Well, you started it! Anyway, I need you to find Travis and give him a heads-up that John won’t be there. I know he kinda had a loose plan for how the discussion was supposed to go, so I need to know, like, ASAP, if I need to grab a substitute from the rest of our pool of guests. I’ve only got about two and a half, three hours, before that panel starts, and I’ll need to juggle some stuff in the schedule to find a substitute.”

Oh! All right, I’m on it. I’ll track him down, tell him what happened, and get back with you in the next…” Ed glanced at his watch again, “if it takes me an hour, I’ll be surprised.”

Good man! Thanks!”

And Ed headed off, to track down YuleCon’s Author Guest of Honor, Travis S. Taylor.

* * *

Okay, he wasn’t in the con suite; he wasn’t in the green room,” Ed muttered to himself, twenty minutes later, rushing through the hotel. “He wasn’t in the dealer’s room or art show. He wasn’t in his hotel room. He’s not in the hotel restaurant OR the bar.” He shook his head. “I ain’t got a clue where the hell he is!”

He abruptly stopped dead in the lobby, and three fen promptly ran into him from behind. Quick apologies were exchanged all around, and the fans moved on, as Ed stood where he was and pondered where to look next.

Maybe he’s sitting in on somebody else’s panel,” he decided. “I’ll just stick my head in the back of all the programming rooms and check.”

He headed off to the convention center area to look.

* * *

Ed started at one end of the row of programming rooms and systematically worked his way down and around the corner. He eased open each door, nodded at the moderator as he slipped inside, then stood silently in the back, looking for a certain familiar dishwater-blond head with ginger highlights. Upon failing to spot it, he nodded to the moderator again, and slipped out, heading to the next room.

He got to the corner of the L-shaped convention center and went around it, checking the last room that he knew had active programming. There were two more rooms past that, carved out of a ballroom, but no panels were scheduled in them for that time of day. Consequently, Ed fully expected them to be locked.

Still,” he considered, “I oughta go check. It’d be just the sorta thing for him to drag some fans off for a long technical discussion, if somebody left one ‘a the doors ajar. And it ain’t like I don’t have the keys, anyway.”

So he headed down the broad corridor toward the nearest door.

* * *

But when he reached it, he could indeed hear voices coming from inside. Ed took hold of the door knob, but it was firmly locked.

Reaching into his pocket, he fished out the special key ring for the hotel, selected one of the master keys, and stuck it in the lock. Pushing the door open, he stepped inside, prepared to tell Travis that he was needed and to quit hiding out with a brew—

And stopped dead, gaping.

The two rooms had been merged into the full ballroom; the tables for the panelists had been rearranged to form a long central table, and around that table, and at several chairs along the periphery, sat an entire phalanx of people in costume, from black Suits to chartreuse, betentacled, three-eyed aliens.

Who are you and what are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here! These rooms are supposed to be closed to all convention members when not in use! Are you with that film or something?” Ed demanded to know.

One of the people wearing black Suits, a strapping, middle-aged blond man, pushed back from the table and stood up, moving toward Ed, who stood his ground despite the fact that the man was intimidating as hell…and easily a head taller than Ed, who was not especially short.

May I help you?” the man asked, in a soft, cultured, European accent.

Um, you haven’t seen Dr. Travis Taylor, have you?”

No, we have not. Is there anything else we can do to assist you?

You can help me by getting outta here before I have to call Security,” Ed said, stern. “I don’t care who the hell you are, or if you’re from Hollywood or what! This facility is supposed to have been contracted exclusively for YuleCon’s use this weekend! And I’m on the con comm, and I’ve never seen any of you before in my life! If you’re practicing for the masquerade competition, you’ll just have to practice someplace else! Now, c’mon, get moving!”

The man in the black Suit glanced back at the others.

I believe we shall have to do just that,” he said, reaching into his jacket pockets with both hands. Behind him, the others all produced some sort of odd-looking wraparound sunglasses, putting them on and staring at him in silence; the aliens just looked odd to Smith, with their three-eyed spectacles. The man slipped on his own pair of glasses, then waved a cell phone in Ed’s face. There was a multicolored flash of light…

* * *

Ed found himself back in the broad corridor of the convention center, wondering how he’d managed to nod off while standing up. He looked around; the current hour’s panels had not yet ended, but he’d checked all of them, and Dr. Taylor was not there. Nothing was left except the two ballroom segments.

But they should be locked. Still,” he considered, “I oughta go check. It’d be just the sorta thing for him to drag some fans off for a long technical discussion, if somebody left one ‘a the doors ajar. And it ain’t like I don’t have the keys, anyway.”

So he headed down the broad corridor toward the nearest door.

* * *

But when he reached it, he could indeed hear voices coming from inside. Ed took hold of the door knob, but it was firmly locked.

Reaching into his pocket, he fished out the special key ring for the hotel, selected one of the master keys, and stuck it in the lock. Pushing the door open, he stepped inside, prepared to tell Travis that he was needed and to quit hiding out with a brew—

And stopped dead, gaping.

The two rooms had been merged into the full ballroom; the tables for the panelists had been rearranged to form a long central table, and around that table, and at several chairs along the periphery, sat an entire phalanx of people in costume, from black Suits to chartreuse, betentacled, three-eyed aliens.

Who are you and what are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here! These rooms are supposed to be closed to all convention members when not in use! Are you with that film or something?” Ed demanded to know.

One of the guys in an alien costume, dressed in rather more opulent clothing than the other alien costumes, turned to a strapping, middle-aged blond male in a black Suit.

Did we not just do this?” the guy in the alien costume wondered.

Ed watched in amazement as everyone donned odd-looking wraparound sunglasses, in despite of the fact that the room had no windows. The blond man rose and hurried toward him, pulling a smart phone from his pocket.

There was a multicolored flash of light…

* * *

Sugar pulled his actual smart phone from one pocket as he dropped his brain bleacher into another. He activated it with a couple of swipes, then waited for the other party to answer.

Yes, Echo, this is Sugar. We have a little problem here. Yes, someone with the convention has come looking for Dr. Taylor, and he has a key to the room. Of course I brain-bleached him…for the second time just now. Can you gather up your Alpha Line team and send them out, find Taylor, and bring him down here as soon as possible? I think if the man could actually be sent off with Taylor, we’d be good. But he is systematic, and keeps coming back here to search. Yes, he would be…but that’s up to you lot. My team and I have a treaty to negotiate. Of course, if the Director wants to help you look, that is his business. But if this ‘Ed’ person—according to his con badge—shows up many more times, it is going to look like a Keystone Kops routine down here. Yes? Excellent; thank you, my friend.”

Sugar looked up at the Prime Minister and his entourage.

My apologies about that, all. Alpha Line has gone to find Taylor, and they’ll bring him down to the man in the hall. That should solve our problem.”

Let us hope so,” the Prime Minister noted, seeming peeved. “We have had interruptions enough aplenty.”

* * *

Ed found himself back in the broad corridor of the convention center, wondering why he felt so very strange, almost light-headed. He hoped he wasn’t coming down with con crud, the ubiquitous, influenza-like disease that so often plagued such large groups of people.

He looked around; the current hour’s panels had not yet ended, but he’d checked all of them for Dr. Taylor. Nothing was left except the two ballroom segments.

But they should be locked. Still,” he considered, “I oughta go check. It’d be just the sorta thing for Doc Taylor to drag some fans off for a long technical discussion, if somebody left one ‘a the doors ajar. And it ain’t like I don’t have the keys, anyway.”

So he headed down the broad corridor toward the nearest door.

* * *

But when he reached it, he could indeed hear voices coming from inside. Ed took hold of the door knob, but it was firmly locked.

Reaching into his pocket, he fished out the special key ring for the hotel, selected one of the master keys, and stuck it in the lock. Pushing the door open, he stepped inside, prepared to tell Travis that he was needed and to quit hiding out with a brew—

And stopped dead, gaping.

The two rooms had been merged into the full ballroom; the tables for the panelists had been rearranged to form a long central table, and around that table, and at several chairs along the periphery, sat an entire phalanx of people in costume, from black Suits to chartreuse, betentacled, three-eyed aliens.

Who are you and what are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be—wait a minute…” Ed swayed, dizzy.

Again?” said the important-looking alien. “Perhaps you should take him farther away this time.”

Ed watched in amazement as everyone donned odd-looking wraparound sunglasses, in despite of the fact that the room had no windows. A tall blond man rose and hurried toward him, pulling a smart phone from his pocket.

There was a multicolored flash of light…

* * *

Back in the ballroom, Sugar, the head of the Agency’s Diplomacy department, sat back down, mildly annoyed. He pulled his actual smart phone, activated it, and waited for the other party to answer.

Echo? Yes, it’s Sugar again. Yes, that’s the third time now. We REALLY need for you lot to find Dr. Taylor and bring him down here before I have to brain-bleach this man into nappies or some such thing. No, I don’t know how they work! I’m a diplomatic negotiator, not a neuro-engineer!”

Perhaps,” Tortok suggested, “we should make the annoying human disappear permanently? It would solve a great many problems at the moment.”

NO!” Sugar exclaimed. “Echo! Did you hear that? Yes! You and Omega have GOT TO FIND TAYLOR! No, I don’t know WHAT the deuced man wants, I just know he’s looking for Taylor! No, I don’t even know Taylor. Look, just find him as soon as you can, and get him down here, preferably five minutes ago. Yes, thank you!”

A distracted Sugar raked his hand through his short pale locks, and pondered what to do next. He looked up to see the Prime Minister scowling.

Just then, a key rattled in the door’s lock, and the door opened.

Who are you and what are you doing here?” Ed Smith demanded to know.

Oh, damn it all to hell and back,” Sugar grumbled, rising and putting on his goggle-glasses.

* * *

No, no, no, Ace! I KNOW it was him! I swear, I saw him come down this way!” Omega declared, grabbing her partner’s arm and towing him down a hotel corridor. “I think he went into one of the party rooms!”

We gotta find him fast,” Echo said, as Fox followed along. “I gathered the Lambda Andromedans were getting more than a little annoyed by the constant interruptions. But somehow, I think the convention would be kinda upset if one of their guest liaisons went missing…permanently.”

Farkakt!” Fox exclaimed behind them. “That wouldn’t do us any favors with the Galactic Council, either!” He pulled his cell phone. “India? Have you found Romeo yet? Good. What about Taylor? Damn. Keep looking! We have a situation!” He ended the call and slipped the phone back into a pocket.

No, it’s okay, Fox, I’m sure I saw him go in here!” Omega banged on the door with her fist, and it was jerked open seconds later. The soft buzz of at least a dozen voices emerged from the depths of the suite.

What the hell?!” the occupant demanded. “The party doesn’t start until tonight, guys!”

We’re lookin’ for Travis Taylor,” Omega said, dropping into her deepest Southern dialect. “There’s an emergency, an’ we need ‘im, right away!”

Meg? That you?” Taylor’s voice emanated from somewhere in the depths of the hotel room, and abruptly he appeared in the entryway, sporting a longneck in one hand. “It IS you! Wow, ALL o’ y’all! What’s up?”

Echo reached out and took the beer bottle from Taylor’s hand, shoving it at the room’s occupant. Then he took him by one arm and hurried him out of the room and down the hall.

We have a situation,” Echo murmured, using Fox’s terminology. “We’ll tell you on the way, but we need to get you downstairs to the con ‘five minutes ago.’”

Dammit,” Taylor complained, “couldn’t Ah have finished mah bheer?”

NO!” all three Agents chorused.

Okay, okay, Ah’m goin’,” Taylor said, holding up his hands.

* * *

They spotted a bemused Smith standing near the dog-leg, where the various programming rooms wrapped around the interior corner of the building, and Omega gently pushed Taylor’s shoulder.

There. Go. GO!” she told him, and Taylor set off at a jog across the expansive area, just as Smith turned back for a certain ballroom door.

Ed! ED! Hey, dude!” Taylor called, waving, and Smith looked up.

THERE you are! Finally!” Alpha One and the Director could barely hear Smith say, from their position partly hidden behind some large potted plants. “Listen, I gotta get some information from ya, or better yet, get you back to Brandy so she can ask ya some questions. I told her an hour, but I’m runnin’ late—I’m more’n twenty minutes past when I said I’d have you. No idea where the time went…”

Whew,” Omega murmured, as they watched the pair wander off toward the Ops Room. “At least he’s in one piece. I wonder how many times they had to brain-bleach him?”

I’ll let you know,” Fox said, chuckling. “I need to get back to the negotiations anyway. Now that I ‘ve gotten a look at this ‘con suite’ I think we’re in good shape where that’s concerned. And thank you for the company while we ate.”

That was good curry,” Omega agreed.

Yeah. You need us to do anything special at the moment, Fox?” Echo wondered. “Now that we’ve discharged our little emergency?”

No, just keep doing what you’re doing,” Fox told his department chief, as he headed across the convention center. “That should cover things.”

* * *

Fifteen minutes later, after rendezvousing with Alpha Two in an upstairs corridor, Echo put his cell phone back into one of his many odd pockets, and looked up into three pairs of expectant eyes. He grinned tightly.

At least six,” he told Omega, India, and Romeo. “Fox said Sugar lost count at some point, and just stood by the door with goggle-glasses and brain bleacher at the ready, waiting for Smith to come back in.” He pursed his lips, then raised his eyebrows. “And that, my friends, is why some agents—no matter how smart they may be at other things—do NOT go out into the field.”

Omega put her fingers to the bridge of her nose. She snorted softly, then began to giggle.

Oh, maaaan!” Romeo said, eyes wide in amusement, and he snorted as well, then let out a snicker. That set India off, and she started laughing.

Finally, when he met Omega’s twinkling azure gaze, the whole thing hit home for Echo too. He snorted three times in a desperate effort not to laugh, before giving in and laughing anyway.

Omega, watching him, howled with renewed mirth, and all four Agents doubled up in the hall, laughing until the tears flowed.

~~~~~

Division One book 3, A Very UnCONventional Christmas, is available in print and ebook.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Division-One-Very-UnCONventional-Christmas-ebook/dp/B071K73MM9/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/division-one-stephanie-osborn/1126728664?ean=2940158614972

Barnes-Noble print: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-very-unconventional-christmas-stephanie-osborn/1126182634?ean=9780998288857

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Stephanie Osborn

Chromosphere Press Announces Division One Book Three from Stephanie Osborn!

11 JULY 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

HUNTSVILLE, AL

unconventional christmas stephanie osbornHappy Christmas in July! Now available: book three in the popular Division One series, A Very UnCONventional Christmas, by award-winning author Stephanie Osborn!

It’s Christmas in NYC, but for the Pan-Galactic Division One’s special forces unit, Alpha Line, it’s anything but a Silent Night: The Division One Agency has a mole, leaking classified information to toy manufacturers and film producers alike, and the Agents are in danger of losing their anonymity. To complicate matters, the Prime Minister of Lambda Andromedae III, complete with entourage, has arrived to negotiate a new trade agreement with Earth. Worse, the more paranoid Division One field agents look at Omega’s recent history with the Agency and suspect they have identified the mole!

Simultaneously, the discovery of a grim countdown in the most incongruous place possible — the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center — augers the threat of horrific events on Christmas Eve itself.

Meanwhile, Omega is struggling to adjust to her very first Christmas in the Agency, made more difficult by the recent exposure of parts of her past long hidden from her conscious mind.

Will Omega be able to refute the accusations, or will she be punished for crimes she did not commit? Will the internal conspiracy expose the Agency? Or will efforts to thwart it see Omega’s partner Echo — as well as Director Fox — caught up in the accusations as well? What is the meaning of the countdown to Christmas Eve, and will any of Alpha Line survive it?

Award-winning author Osborn is a 20+-year space program veteran, with multiple STEM degrees. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 30 books. She currently writes the critically-acclaimed Displaced Detective Series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files,” and the Gentleman Aegis Series, whose first book was a Silver Falchion winner. She “pays it forward” through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, and working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank. Osborn’s website is http://www.stephanie-osborn.com.

Division One series book three, A Very UnCONventional Christmas, will be released in ebook formats on 11 July 2017, and in trade paperback format on 25 July. Additional installments in the ongoing series are anticipated later this year.

ISBN:

978-0-9982888-4-0 (ebook)

978-0-9982888-5-7 (print)

The ebooks/print books are available for preorder at:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Division-One-Very-UnCONventional-Christmas-ebook/dp/B071K73MM9/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Barnes-Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-very-unconventional-christmas-stephanie-osborn/1126182634?ean=9780998288857

Other formats, and trade paper, will be available from your favorite bookseller!

Previous books in the series include: book one, Alpha and Omega [https://www.amazon.com/Alpha-Omega-Division-Stephanie-Osborn-ebook/dp/B01MXNQTFJ/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8], and book two, A Small Medium At Large [https://www.amazon.com/Division-One-Small-Medium-Large-ebook/dp/B06XTQX7GZ/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8].

Future books in the series are planned.

Stephanie Osborn

The Division One Series Debuts!

stephanie osborn alpha omegaStephanie Osborn, aka the Interstellar Woman of Mystery, former rocket scientist and author of acclaimed science fiction mysteries, goes back to the urban legend of the unique group of men and women who show up at UFO sightings, alien abductions, etc. and make things…disappear…to craft her vision of the universe we don’t know about. Her new series, Division One, chronicles this universe through the eyes of recruit Megan McAllister, aka Omega, and her experienced partner, Echo, as they handle everything from lost alien children to extraterrestrial assassination attempts and more.

Dr. Megan McAllister was already a pretty unique human — NASA astronaut, professional astronomer, polymath — when she encountered the man in the black Suit that night in west Texas. What Division One Agent Echo didn’t know, when he recruited her to the Agency, was that she was even more special.

But he’d find out, soon enough.

Award-winning author Osborn is a 20+-year space program veteran, with multiple STEM degrees. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 30 books. She currently writes the critically-acclaimed Displaced Detective Series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files,” and the Gentleman Aegis Series, whose first book was a Silver Falchion winner. She “pays it forward” through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, and working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank. Osborn’s website is http://www.stephanie-osborn.com.

Division One series Book One, Alpha and Omega, is available in ebook formatsand in trade paperback. Additional installments in the ongoing series are anticipated later this year.

ISBN:

978-0-9982888-0-2 (ebook)

978-0-9982888-1-9 (print)

The books are available at:

Amazon (Kindle): https://www.amazon.com/Alpha-Omega-Division-Stephanie-Osborn-ebook/dp/B01MXNQTFJ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1483394401&sr=1-1 , and

Barnes-Noble (Nook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/alpha-and-omega-stephanie-osborn/1125168253?ean=9780998288802 ,

as well as other fine booksellers.

~~~

Excerpt:

“I don’t get it,” said Romeo from his seat in the training observation room. “Y’all didn’t put ME through all this testing crap. Creativity testing and obstacle courses and puzzles an’ junk. I know we’re shorthanded an’ all, but…what gives? It’d be way simpler an’ quicker to just put her through the old testing.”

“We’re getting ready to start up a new department,” answered Fox, across the small conference table from Romeo; next to the younger agent sat his new partner, India. “Echo’s already agreed to head it up, while you were laid up with the leg. Good to see you off the crutches, by the way.”

“Damn good to be off ‘em. Still hobblin’ around a little, but that’ll go away eventually; ‘s why I’m keepin’ a cane handy for a while. So tell me about this new department. If you can, yet.”

“I can. It’ll be a kind of combination SWAT team and commando unit. Teams from this department will take the point whenever we have the really dangerous situations—the interstellar terrorists, the galactic invasions, things like that. We think, with her background, she may have what it takes to make it in this department. We sure as hell can’t send her back where she came from. She seems intrigued by the idea, at least. And no family complications to worry about. Single, only child, birth family gone in a car accident.”

“But, Fox, what if she can’t hang?”

“I don’t know yet, Romeo. We’ll cross that bridge—”

“We won’t have to,” interrupted Echo, coming into the testing observation room and moving past the table around which the others were seated, directly to the observing window. “She’ll make it.”

“But how do you know?” asked Romeo. “‘Got a feeling’?”

“Yup. Same one I had about you, junior.”

“WELL, the lady’ll hang, then.” Romeo sat back in his chair, satisfied.

“Damn,” muttered India.

Echo shot her a hard look, then returned his attention to the observation window overlooking the course.

“Have we started yet?”

“No,” Fox answered. “We’re still getting set up. And we were waiting for you.”

“I’m here. Let’s get rolling.”

“Done.” Fox hit a button on an adjacent control console.

Romeo, Echo, and India watched as the observation window, as well as a hooded monitor on the command console, showed several aliens of various types entering the obstacle course. Romeo gasped as he recognized a Betelgeusian giant arachnoid, possessing, by his estimate, a good fourteen-or fifteen-foot leg span—accompanied by several Division One agents sporting flamethrowers, lasers, blasters, and disintegrator rifles, entering the course. Two heavily-armed guards in black armor moved into position at the entrance. Romeo and India noticed then, with a shock, that they were FACING the course, as if the concern was from something inside.

“Hope she’s not afraid of spiders,” Echo remarked offhandedly.

“Hope she’s not afraid of death,” Romeo murmured to India. “Shit.”

* * *

Megan came into the observation room just then. She was wearing black workout leggings and sports-bra top, but the rest of her attire was somewhat odd: menswear-style black lace-up dress shoes, a black tie, a dress leather belt, and a pair of the special goggles-cum-sunglasses strapped to one hip. An unusual device, like a large plastic bangle bracelet, was fastened around her right ankle. Sensors attached to her head and torso connected to a small transmitter pack on her back. Echo met her and led her to the command console.

“All right, Megan,” Fox began, waving a hand at the view in the monitor, which now only depicted a door and two guards, “this is the obstacle course. When you go through that door,” he pointed to the image of the guarded door on the monitor, “you will enter the first of a series of six rooms, each of which has various…impediments…to your progress. Your objective is simply to reach the exit of room six as quickly as possible. The tracking device on your ankle will enable us to monitor your progress. You may make use of anything on your person, as well as anything you find along the course. In addition, you may select from one—and only one—of the items on this side table.”

Megan eyed the monitor display in detail before Fox led her over to the table. On it was an eclectic collection of items: a Phillips-head screwdriver, a small glass bottle, a pair of wire cutters, a coil of rope, a pen knife, a jar of cheese spread, a pocket-sized Winchester & Tesla Mark II death ray, a packet of facial tissues, and a chocolate bar.

Megan was in no rush. She scanned the table carefully, considering, as the four Division One agents watched. She looked herself up and down, fingering the items she already carried. Echo watched as she flipped over the tie and checked to see what was on the label. He smiled inwardly, pleased as he followed her mental processes, realizing he understood how she thought. Finally she reached out, picked up the pen knife, and clipped it to the belt at her waist.

Echo raised an eyebrow in carefully-hidden surprise and looked at Fox, who returned his gaze unemotionally. Romeo and India watched the whole scene in amazement.

“Ready, then?” Fox asked Megan.

“As I’ll ever be.”

“All right. Follow me.”

As Fox led Megan out, Echo turned to the console, put on a headset, and began entering commands. Romeo and India walked up to the observation window, and Echo hit a button. Blast shutters on the window began to close.

“Sorry, kids. Can’t watch this one; you’ll have to go through this yourselves soon enough.”

“Oh, joy,” India muttered.

“You can monitor her progress on this schematic.” Echo hit another sequence of commands, and a panel opened on the wall. It showed the layout of six variously-shaped, interconnected rooms, a number on each room.

“How are you gonna evaluate her if you can’t see what she’s doing?” Romeo asked him, as he and India sat back down at the table, across from the schematic.

“I didn’t say Fox and I couldn’t watch. I’ve been through it. You haven’t. Yet.”

Fox re-entered the room. “She’s ready, Echo.”

“All right, then.” Echo handed Fox another headset, then keyed the microphone switch. “Megan? GO!”

* * *

The door opened, but Megan was in no hurry to charge through it. Any obstacle course that had a funky-looking little weapon like that strange pocket-sized ray gun as one of the equipment options was not one into which she intended to go running headlong. Let alone the armed guards stationed around it. So she eased around the left side of the doorframe, surveying the room from the threshold.

How odd, she thought, as she scanned the room; it looks like an ordinary study: hardwood floors, bookcases lining the walls, cozy fireplace on the far side, with a wing chair and decorative wrought iron side table next to it.

A heavy walnut desk with granite top stood in the center; a lamp and crystal decanter sat on one corner. Waterford crystal, it looks like. An EXPENSIVE study, then.

The door into the next room was in the far wall, to the right of the fireplace.

She stepped forward into the room.

* * *

Romeo and India watched the display as the first block lit up with a big red ‘1.’ Echo and Fox leaned together over the screened closed-circuit monitor.

“She’s in,” Echo observed.

“Aaannd the timers have started,” Fox noted. “Both of ‘em.”

India and Romeo exchanged glances…and thoughts. BOTH of ‘em?

* * *

Megan had taken no more than two steps into the room when she heard a faint, almost inaudible click off to the left. Quickly spinning, she saw bookcase holograms fade away to reveal a blank wall with horizontal slits halfway up. Oh shit, she had just time to think. She dropped flat on the floor as a flurry of projectiles whistled through the space she had occupied fractions of a second before.

Suddenly the fireplace roared, belching a tongue of flame into the room. She rolled to her right, out of its reach, in the barest nick of time. Another projectile barrage opened up. Scanning the room, she swiftly combat-crawled over to and under the desk, where she caught her breath as she analyzed her situation.

* * *

“She actually heard that,” Echo remarked in surprise. “Damn. I knew her ears were pretty sharp, but wow.”

“Pulse, one-twenty and steady; blood pressure, 130 over 90,” Fox read off the sensor readouts. “Respiration, twenty-three. High left hemispheric encephalographic activity. Trigger the plasma jet, Echo.”

Romeo and India spun around and stared in dismay at the two calm men. Plasma jet?!

* * *

A faint whine was the only warning Megan got before the plasma cannon behind the right-hand wall opened up. She crouched farther back, under the desk, until its initial salvo was complete. Then, in a momentary lull between projectile bank, flame-throwing fireplace, and plasma cannon, she reached up with her right hand, over the desktop, and grabbed for the decanter she had seen there. Miraculously, it was unbroken, having been below the level of the projectile barrage. She unstoppered it and sniffed the decanter mouth. Brandy. Perfect. She put on the special glasses.

She timed her next move carefully. In the split-second after the projectile weapons fired, while the plasma cannon built to discharge again, she emerged from her cover and flung the stoppered decanter with all the force and accuracy she could muster, straight at the plasma gun, then she turned and pushed with all her might against the back of the desk.

The desk slid across the polished floor just as the crystal decanter crashed into the now-firing cannon…and exploded. The improvised Molotov cocktail melted the circuitry and ignited the fuel tank, sending a geyser of flame out into the center of the room. But the desk was no longer in the center. Instead, it was now overturned, with its substantial polished granite top largely blocking the flame-throwing fireplace.

Megan held her breath, closed her eyes, and crouched in the desk’s opening until the flames from the plasma cannon subsided and the current round of projectile barrage ceased. Then, slightly singed, she scuttled on elbows and knees behind the wing chair. She overturned the marble-and-iron side table, heedless of the useless trinkets which tumbled off it, and caught it up in her left hand, holding it by the wrought iron pedestal. Using the tabletop as a shield, she moved up into a crouch, ducking behind it when the next round of missiles opened up.

“Aahh! Dammit!” A ricochet off the nearby marble mantelpiece winged her right shoulder. But she had reached the exit door. Still shielding herself with the table, she tapped the door handle warily with her right hand; no booby traps. She opened it; stepped sideways to her right…

* * *

Block 2 of the schematic lit up.

“Pulse, one-thirty and rising; BP, 135 over 92; respiration twenty-five. Hemispheric activity high and equally dominant,” Fox called out.

“Staying calm, thinking fast and getting creative. Great. Fox, did we get the fumes vented properly?” Echo asked, glancing over his shoulder at the two younger agents, so very intent on the largely-blank schematic, with a grin. Good idea Fox had, letting them see only a small part of the test. Ups the ante for ‘em, and gives us a chance to see how THEY react to the pressure.

“Yeah, no problem,” Fox responded. “Didn’t want it building to potentially dangerous levels, anyway.”

* * *

Fumes? What kind of fumes? Romeo and India sat staring, unbelieving, at the schematic while listening to the two men. WE’RE gonna have to go through this?

“How’s she doing?” Echo asked.

“If she maintains this pace, she’ll equal the record,” Fox responded.

“Dayum! Who set it?” exclaimed Romeo.

“I did, about six months ago,” Echo remarked, offhanded, his attention never wavering from the lithe figure going through its paces on the monitor.

* * *

This room was a formal dining room, of all things, complete with chandeliers and elegantly-set banquet table. Funny notions they have about obstacle courses, Megan thought. Whatever she had been expecting, so far this wasn’t it.

Megan discarded the side table and moved cautiously into the room, on the lookout for booby traps now. Her nose caught it first: an acrid, pungent odor. Then she saw the wisps of vapor rising from the floor.

“Acid!” she cried out in horror. The flooring was being eaten away underneath her.

Do they really want to kill me? I didn’t think that Echo-guy would’ve…but at least they would be rid of an eyewitness. Damn. Is this all just a set-up, then? An excuse for knocking me off? I am in such trouble…

An adrenalin-propelled standing leap took her to the near end of the banquet tabletop, irrespective of china and crystal, which tumbled this way and that, shattering. The way out, an open archway, was at the opposite end of the long table, but the opening was far out of reach of her ability to jump. The floor was now out of the question; large holes were starting to appear in it, a bubbling fluid underneath. She looked up.

The row of chandeliers ran almost the entire length of the oblong room, and were of the ornate Victorian candelabra style. Jumping up, Megan caught onto the one overhead and swung on it, tugging, testing. Strong enough, but not far enough, she thought, easing back down to the tabletop. If they only hung a little bit lower…

Abruptly, the table dropped out from under her, lowering by a full six inches, as what was left of the floor gave way. Megan lost her footing and fell, smashing china and sliding across the polished wood, over the edge. Digging her fingernails into the wood, she halted herself, her bent knees mere inches from the acid that now pooled around the bottom of the table. She slowly clawed her way back onto the tabletop. At least now I know how deep the acid is…

Suddenly, she whipped off her tie and belt. She threaded the leather belt through its buckle, making a loop, then used the pen knife to enlarge the last belt notch. Replacing the pen knife securely on her hip, where it clipped to the waistband of her leggings next to the glasses case, she quickly threaded the small end of the silk tie through the hole in the belt and knotted it firmly, jerking it hard to test it. Then she ran to the far end of the tabletop. She didn’t know if it would hold, but there was no time to change her mind. The table legs were starting to disintegrate now.

“Hope the farm skills are still with me,” she muttered as she swung the makeshift lasso.

The leather loop caught a prong of the chandelier, and Megan jerked it tight. Backing up as far as her improvised rope would allow, she made a running start, then swung forward.

No time to check the next room, she thought as she swung through the air. I just hope I hit the door opening straight, or this is gonna hurt bad…

“BANZAI!” she yelled as she reached the top of her arc and let go, flying head-first, arms stretched out in front, hands fisted, through the open doorway.

* * *

“Wow. Nice Superman jump,” Echo noted with a grin.

“Yeah, I liked it too,” Fox agreed, nodding.

Romeo and India just stared at the two men in consternation.

* * *

As soon as she was well through the opening, Megan realized she was in a bad way. Landing hard, she rolled, looked up, and blanched. At the far end of the room crouched a giant, hairy, black spider-like creature, with a leg-spread of at least fifteen feet, in a huge cage. To Megan’s horror, the front of the cage began to slide slowly up.

“Spiders. Dammit. I hate spiders. Why did it have to be spiders?” she muttered.

Stephanie Osborn

Snippet from A Small Medium at Large by Stephanie Osborn

a small medium at large stephanie osbornWhen Ke’ri Gla’d’s caught a cab at her hotel to head for the Machpelah Cemetery late on Halloween, she was unaware that a certain black Lexus, some distance behind, was following her to that same destination.

“Not too near, not too far,” Romeo said to India, as he drove down the street, following the yellow taxi, several cars in front.

“Here’s hoping she doesn’t catch on, and that she doesn’t make too many detours,” India agreed.

“Well, I wouldn’t mind a drive-thru, which she might do, given how much she been eatin’,” Romeo decided.

“You’ve got no room to talk, honey!” India exclaimed with a laugh. “I swear, both your legs are hollow. I don’t know where you put it all!”

“An’ there she goes, into th’ coffee shop drive-thru,” Romeo said in satisfaction. “I’mma get me a big ol’ café breve, like Meg likes, an’ a Danish. You want an espresso, or one ‘a them frozen, blended things?”

“Get me a frozen mocha, I think,” India said. “But nothing else for me.”

In moments Alpha Two were in and out, slurping drinks and sharing the Danish, while never losing sight of their target.

* * *

In short order, the Lexus drove past as the taxi let out an older woman, short and slightly stocky, dressed in a form-fitting black jumpsuit, almost a catsuit, with a black-and-scarlet drape cardigan over that. Tall black boots with silver trim shod her feet; long white hair cascaded down her back.

“That’s her,” India said. “It matches the description of her disguise we had from Alpha Four.”

“Good,” Romeo said. “Then we’ll park on the side street, head in, an’ mingle with th’ professional magicians.”

“On it.”

* * *

By the time Alpha One arrived at the cemetery at last, full night had fallen. Street lights illumined the sidewalk along the street, but within the cemetery itself lay mostly darkness, only broken by a few flashlights carried by the few foresighted individuals in attendance.

There was a large crowd already there, numbering several hundred; in fact, the crowd was so large that it spilled out of the small, cramped graveyard and into the surrounding streets. Some were in costume, some in formal dress, but most were in street clothes. They milled about, watching; some were anxious, but most were bored or amused. Several people, two of whom were in tuxedos, three of whom were in more…esoteric…clothing, took turns attempting to raise the spirit of Harry Houdini. As Alpha One insinuated themselves into the crowd, Ke’ri Gla’d’s, in what was apparently another human disguise—a short, red-headed, middle-aged female in silken caftan and robes—eased into this smaller group.

“Watch, Meg,” Echo murmured, lips barely moving. “You can tell who’s who by how they’re dressed, and how they conduct their séance. The guys in tuxes will be really formal and kind of rote, and they’ll have a real stage presence. Those are the professional magicians, and they’re just here to honor Houdini’s memory; they don’t believe his spirit will return. But the ones who are wearing the robes and buckskins and shit are the spiritualists who really believe the stuff. And they’re halfway expecting something to really happen.”

“I have the feeling they’re the ones who will be right, tonight,” Omega replied in kind. “But I sorta don’t expect any of ‘em are necessarily gonna be happy about it.”

“And I expect you’re right,” Echo agreed. “Aha. Look, across on the other side of the family plot.”

“Alpha Two,” Omega murmured. “But not sticking close together. Good. Oh, and there’s Alpha Six, and Four. Is Five still extracting from the hotel?”

“Actually, Five wasn’t scheduled to get here until after us,” Echo told her. “They were working with the hotel’s offworld management, and extracted as soon as she set foot in the taxi. They should be…glance casually over your right shoulder.”

“Aha. Got ‘em.”

“Yeah. And we blend in rather nicely with the magicians’ societies here, too.”

“Yup, I noticed that.”

“Heads up,” Echo warned. “She’s decided to take her turn. Wow. Classic Glu’gu’ik quantum spirit contact ritual.”

“Ooo,” Omega hummed, intent on the scene.

* * *

Ke’ri Gla’d’s stepped forward, threw her head back, and raised both hands toward the night sky.

“Spirit of the great Hou’d’ni, hear me; for I am Carrie Gladys Hardin! I beseech you, I who am your kindred, of your blood and kind, come to me now,” Gla’d’s invoked. “Pa Da’ko ta Gra’ko On’de, de b’oo!” She paused.

“‘In the Name of the First Creator, it is time,’” Echo whispered the translation in his partner’s ear. Just then, Gla’d’s flung her arms wide.

“Ari Ho’d’ni, ne ko’ko’be, la’la’da ge nu!” she cried.

“‘Harry Houdini, I command you, come to me!’” Echo translated again.

“Well, it’s dramatic enough,” Omega decided, sotto voce. “And the language makes it sound like a magical incantation.”

“Shush—something’s happening,” Echo hissed.

* * *

Before the alien medium, faint colors began to swirl in the darkness. Within moments the colors thickened, darkened, as the very fabric of spacetime itself seemed to distort. A bipedal, humanoid form began to take shape, hovering several feet off the ground. It was a man, some five and a half feet tall, with curly black hair, a high forehead over vivid blue eyes, and handsome, chiseled features. The crowd sucked in a collective breath of shocked excitement.

But as the ‘apparition’ of Houdini materialized, its appearance changed from the traditional aspect known from photographs, into the classic short-bodied, egg-headed look of a typical Zeta Reticulan Gray, complete with bulbous head, flattened nose, huge black eyes, and lipless mouth. The crowd surrounding the ‘medium’ shrieked in fear and drew back as far as they could. Many of those farthest from the gravesite found themselves pressed against the fence surrounding the cemetery.

* * *

Echo and Omega exchanged meaningful, mildly disturbed glances, then looked across the crowd, where Alpha Two was embedded. Omega rubbed her chin, glanced at her watch, then shook her head. It’s cool. Wait. Don’t take her yet.

Got it. Romeo nodded slightly. He made a subtle hand gesture, and he and India both sent the hand signals that forwarded the order to the other Alpha Line teams.

Meanwhile, Echo reached into his pocket, palming his cell phone. His thumb tapped several places along its screen and cover, activating the audio recording app.

‘Carrie Gladys Hardin’ held up a staying hand to the unnerved crowd.

“Hold!” she cried in English. “The spirits of the dead do not always appear as we would. Harry Houdini, I address you.”

“I…hear…” came a quavering, eerie voice, sounding almost like a distant echo.

“You know who I am.”

“I…do…”

“You know what I seek.”

“Yesss…”

“Where is it?”

Houdini’s alien shade was silent.

“I adjure you, Harry Houdini, answer me! Where is it?”

What came from the extraterrestrial spirit’s lips next was in no wise English.

“On’de, oo de n ko’te a tw’a, n do’ok a ko’a’du’ne ba’wa’ne. Tor’ko kl’ee, bo kwa’ta’do! To’de, n do’ok la on’wa ne la’la’du wo’of. D’an, der klo’vi’t do’n. K’oi’du de we. Nda’da’be. Tra’de, ba on’de, n do’ok la on’de ne k’ap wi’if’de’z, n fes’nus pe’dun ge’da n nu’ke’ke. Ka’de, n do’ok la ne du ka’ka’du b’an dan kre. Gun’gun oi’ko’s’un, wo ga lo om, qu’a’du bre. Kin’de, n do’ok k’en’ti’do, der ne wo ku. Wo’pe’wo’be p’op n b’oo! Bu’ke n dwa’z, der or’k lu’ke n kwa’z!”

And with that, the ghostly apparition faded into nothingness.

The frightened crowd bolted.

 * * *

For what happens next, see:

https://www.amazon.com/Small-Medium-Large-Division-One/dp/0998288837/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

books, Cereal Authors, Displaced Detective, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Sherlock Holmes, Stephanie Osborn

Excerpt — The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival by Stephanie Osborn

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

This is not your father’s Sherlock Holmes…

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is a science fiction mystery in which brilliant hyperspatial physicist, Dr. Skye Chadwick, discovers there are alternate realities, often populated by those we consider only literary characters. Her pet research, Project: Tesseract, hidden deep under Schriever AFB, finds Continuum 114, where Sherlock Holmes was to have died along with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. In a Knee-jerk reaction, Skye rescues Holmes, who inadvertently flies through the wormhole to our universe, while his enemy plunges to his death. Unable to go back without causing devastating continuum collapse, Holmes must stay in our world and adapt. Meanwhile, the Schriever AFB Dept of Security discovers a spy ring working to dig out the details of – and possibly sabotage – Project: Tesseract. Can Chadwick help Holmes come up to speed in modern investigative techniques in time to stop the spies? Will Holmes be able to thrive in our modern world? Is Chadwick now Holmes’ new “Watson” – or more? And what happens next?

~~~

“…This is a really bad time for me to leave console at the moment, hon.”

Caitlin shot her a hard, annoyed look.

“You can’t be considering it,” she said flatly. “All hell is breaking loose here. I don’t care if the President needed you five minutes ago! You have to stay here!”

“Chill, Cait,” Skye tossed an aside to her friend, phone held absently to the side of her face with her shoulder as she tried to read the scribbled note Timelines handed her, around annotating her clipboard. “I’ve got more to do than I can shake a stick at now. I’m…what?” she said, staring at the note. “Software! Check the focus subroutine! Make sure it’s initiating at the correct point in the program! The last thing we need now is a software glitch causing a delay in timing. If that’s happening, no wonder the induction element’s hosed! Hardware, make sure the circuit’s clear! Holmes, I’m sorry, I can’t make it right now. I don’t have time to catch my breath down here.”

* * *

Holmes listened closely, not only to Skye’s direct comments, but also to her asides and commands, and to what he could hear of the remarks made to her. He covered the mouthpiece with his hand and informed Jones and Smith.

“It appears matters are not going well in the Chamber.” He punched the speaker button on the phone so the other men could hear. Then he returned his attention to the sounds coming from the phone. “Skye, what is happening?”

* * *

Skye watched as her teammates fought with the recalcitrant apparatus. One of the Hardware console members, Chad Swann by name and a longstanding friend of Skye’s, moved into the center of the room to check the circuitry of the monoliths. Skye grabbed her clipboard, flipping to the malfunction shutdown checklist, where she scanned the list, trying to determine the seriousness of their
situation.

Vaguely she heard Holmes’ query, but didn’t have time to devote to it. Still, she managed to find two spare brain cells to rub together, and replied abstractedly, “We’re having a malfunction in the induction element system. We can’t keep it focused…”

“Skye, we need you to make a call! Shut down, or put it in a holding pattern and troubleshoot?” Caitlin interrupted. Skye juggled phone and clipboard, trying to assess the checklist for priority red malfunction modes.

“Holmes, I’ve gotta go,” she said into the phone. “I need to figure out how serious this is—”

“DR. CHADWICK! We’ve got a GRAVITON SPIKE!” Sequencing shouted.

* * *

Smith and Jones watched as Holmes’ expression grew more and more grave as he listened to the sounds on the other end of the line. They heard Skye’s attempt to break the conversation, and Holmes was about to answer in the affirmative when they overheard the exclamation from Sequencing.

Holmes paled as they heard Skye shout, “Chad!! Get out of there! NO! EMERGENCY SHUTDO—”

The line went dead.

Instantly the entire building shuddered hard enough to knock books off shelves and send Skye’s chalk tumbling from its rack on the blackboard, smashing into dusty white shards on the tile. The three men grabbed for heavy furniture to avoid being flung to the floor.

* * *

When the quake subsided, the three men sat staring at each other, shaken. Holmes felt almost lightheaded, his grey eyes wide.

“What happened?” Jones demanded. “Did that earthquake have anything to do with Project: Tesser—”

“Emergency shutdown,” Holmes snapped out, leaping to his feet. “Graviton spike.” He didn’t fully understand the significance of the graviton spike, but from his reading of Skye’s quantum mechanics text, which perforce contained a significant amount of particle physics, he knew what a graviton was, and strongly suspected it was connected to the quake. “I am going down to the Chamber,” he declared in a tone brooking no argument. “The two of you may come, or stay.”

* * *

“Is your authorization in?” Jones turned to Smith.

“Your duty officer entered it into the system when I arrived this morning,” Smith observed.

“Good. We’re coming, Holmes,” Jones declared.

But Holmes was already out the door and down the hall, headed for the elevators at a dead run.

Jones and Smith sprinted behind.

~~~

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is available in print and ebook (all formats), and the first four books of the series have been released in a collected ebook edition, The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus. Book 5, A Case of Spontaneous Combustion, is a 2014 new release. All of them are suitable for gift-giving!

-Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Uncategorized

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival ON SALE!

The first book of the Displaced Detective series is currently on sale in ebook formats for $0.99!

The Case of the Displaced Detective is a science fiction mystery in which brilliant hyperspatial

The Arrival
The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival

physicist, Dr. Skye Chadwick, discovers there are alternate realities, often populated by those we consider only literary characters. Her pet research, Project: Tesseract, hidden deep under Schriever AFB, finds Continuum 114, where Sherlock Holmes was to have died along with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. Knee-jerking, Skye rescues Holmes, who inadvertently flies through the wormhole to our universe, while his enemy plunges to his death. Unable to go back without causing devastating continuum collapse, Holmes must stay in our world and adapt.

Meanwhile, the Schriever AFB Dept of Security discovers a spy ring working to dig out the details of – and possibly sabotage — Project: Tesseract.

Can Chadwick help Holmes come up to speed in modern investigative techniques in time to stop the spies? Will Holmes be able to thrive in our modern world? Is Chadwick now Holmes’ new “Watson” — or more?

And what happens next?

Sample Chapter:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Prologue—Objects, Subjects, and Beginnings

A tall, dark figure, clad in formal Victorian eveningwear, strode briskly down

the shadowed street, casually swinging his silver-embellished walking stick. No carriages had passed in the last half-hour, and only one hansom cab had wandered by ten minutes before, its horse’s hollow hoofbeats echoing between the buildings. The gas street-lamps were long since lit, but between them were patches of deep darkness, patches entirely too broad for comfort in these circumstances. Beneath the brim of his silk top hat, eagle-sharp grey eyes darted about, studying the shadows, alert and aware. For well this man knew that danger lurked in the gloom this night, danger peculiar to him alone; and he was alone. So very alone.

But not for long. He was headed to a specific destination. To the one man he knew he could trust, the one man who would stand at his side regardless of danger—for had he not done so, many times before? Was not this the reason for the deep, if largely unspoken, bond of friendship between them?

His friend would help. There was no doubt in his mind on that point. Already today two attempts had been made upon his life, and well did this man need help.

“Not far now,” the words breathed past thin, pale lips. “Almost ther—”

The words died on said lips.

A hulking, brutish shadow materialised from the alleyway in front of him.

The elegant man in the top hat ducked just in time to avoid the lead-weighted bludgeon that swung through the space his head had occupied fractions of a second before. Instead, the silk hat took the brunt of the blow, flying across the sidewalk and into a puddle in the gutter, its side crushed. Flinging up his cane and grasping each end in his hands, the gentleman dropped into an Oriental horse stance, and prepared to do battle.

“’Ere, now,” the other figure said, in a coarse growl. “Hit’s th’ end o’ you, it is. Me superior won’t be ‘arvin’ it, an’ Oi means t’ see ‘e don’t ‘arve ta.”

“You can try,” the gentleman replied, calm. “But better men than you have tried, and here I stand.”

A guttural, angry sound emerged from the assailant, and the cudgel swung again, this time with enough force to crush bone. Deft, the gentleman caught it with the center of his cane, but to his chagrin the walking-stick, his weapon of choice in many a similar street altercation, chose that moment to give up the ghost. It snapped in two, splintering and cracking. He snarled his own irritation, and flung the pieces aside when he realised there was not enough left to use as a decent weapon.

Then he began to flit and weave as the other man smirked and lunged at him, swinging the club repeatedly, as hard as he could. It was a dance of death, and one wrong move by the gentleman would have serious, possibly fatal, consequences.

But the man in the evening dress was not without weapons; no, his best weapons were permanently attached to his person. The alert grey eyes watched, looking for some opening; and when he saw his chance, he struck like lightning. A fist shot out at the loutish face, catching the hit man squarely in the mouth just as he realised his danger and started to shout for help. All that came out was a grunt, however, and the assassin fell to the pavement as if pole-axed, with both lips split.

The gentleman hissed in pain, grabbing his fist with his other hand for a moment to let the worst of the discomfort pass before examining the damage.

“By Jove, he has sharp teeth for such a troglodyte,” he murmured, peeling off the ruined black kid glove to expose the bloody knuckles beneath. “Completely through the leather and into the flesh. I shall have to have this disinfected, for certain. No time for that now. Go, man!” He turned swiftly to resume his journey.

A crack resounded from the brownstone close at hand, and the man felt a spray of stone chips strike the side of his face. He flinched, and a sharp curse left his lips. He took to his heels and rounded the corner of the street, then disappeared into shadow.

* * *

Not ten feet away from the gentleman, though invisible to him, an elegant blonde woman in a white lab coat stood between tall, electronic towers. Behind her, concentric rows of computer consoles were manned by two dozen scientists, engineers, and technicians. Surrounding all of them was a huge, domed room carved from solid pink granite.

The woman stood for long minutes, silent, watching.

Finally one of the technicians broke the electronic silence.

“So, Doc, whaddaya think?”

“What do you think, Jim? How were the readings?” The woman turned toward him.

“I’ve got bang-on, Dr. Chadwick,” Jim noted, glancing down at his own console, brown eyes darting about as he surveyed his readouts. “But I can’t say for everybody else.”

“Rock steady at Timelines,” someone else called.

“Sequencing looks good…” another said.

“Software’s running nominally.”

“Hardware’s humming right along…”

On it went, from console to console. Finally the woman nodded.

“Perfect,” she purred in deep satisfaction. “We’ve got our subject. Page Dr. Hughes and have her come down.”

“On it, Doc,” Jim grinned, reaching for the phone.

~~~~~~~

Kindle purchase link for The Arrival

Nook purchase link for The Arrival

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stephanie Osborn, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery, is a 20+-year civilian and military space program veteran, with graduate/undergraduate degrees in astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, and is “fluent” in several more, including geology and anatomy. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to almost 30 books, including the celebrated novel, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. Co-author of the Cresperian Saga, she currently writes the critically-acclaimed Displaced Detective Series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files,” and the new Gentleman Aegis Series. She “pays it forward,” teaching STEM through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, and working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank.

Her website is http://www.stephanie-osborn.com.

Fiction, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Stephanie Osborn

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival

This is an excerpt from the first book in my critically acclaimed science fiction mystery series, the Displaced Detective. Book 4 in the series comes out in November, with at least three more planned, quite likely more. The books are available in trade paper and pretty much every ebook format currently known to mankind! Purchase links are on my website, http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

-Stephanie Osborn

~~~

The Arrival

Prologue—Objects, Subjects, and Beginnings

 

A tall, dark figure, clad in formal Victorian eveningwear, strode briskly down the shadowed street, casually swinging his silver-embellished walking stick. No carriages had passed in the last half-hour, and only one hansom cab had wandered by ten minutes before, its horse’s hollow hoofbeats echoing between the buildings. The gas street-lamps were long since lit, but between them were patches of deep darkness, patches entirely too broad for comfort in these circumstances. Beneath the brim of his silk top hat, eagle-sharp grey eyes darted about, studying the shadows, alert and aware. For well this man knew that danger lurked in the gloom this night, danger peculiar to him alone; and he was alone. So very alone.

But not for long. He was headed to a specific destination. To the one man he knew he could trust, the one man who would stand at his side regardless of danger—for had he not done so, many times before? Was not this the reason for the deep, if largely unspoken, bond of friendship between them?

His friend would help. There was no doubt in his mind on that point. Already today two attempts had been made upon his life, and well did this man need help.

 

“Not far now,” the words breathed past thin, pale lips. “Almost ther—”

 

The words died on said lips.

 

A hulking, brutish shadow materialised from the alleyway in front of him.

 

The elegant man in the top hat ducked just in time to avoid the lead-weighted bludgeon that swung through the space his head had occupied fractions of a second before. Instead, the silk hat took the brunt of the blow, flying across the sidewalk and into a puddle in the gutter, its side crushed. Flinging up his cane and grasping each end in his hands, the gentleman dropped into an Oriental horse stance, and prepared to do battle.

 

“’Ere, now,” the other figure said, in a coarse growl. “Hit’s th’ end o’ you, it is. Me superior won’t be ‘arvin’ it, an’ Oi means t’ see ‘e don’t ‘arve ta.”

 

“You can try,” the gentleman replied, calm. “But better men than you have tried, and here I stand.”

 

A guttural, angry sound emerged from the assailant, and the cudgel swung again, this time with enough force to crush bone. Deft, the gentleman caught it with the center of his cane, but to his chagrin the walking-stick, his weapon of choice in many a similar street altercation, chose that moment to give up the ghost. It snapped in two, splintering and cracking. He snarled his own irritation, and flung the pieces aside when he realised there was not enough left to use as a decent weapon.

 

Then he began to flit and weave as the other man smirked and lunged at him, swinging the club repeatedly, as hard as he could. It was a dance of death, and one wrong move by the gentleman would have serious, possibly fatal, consequences.

 

But the man in the evening dress was not without weapons; no, his best weapons were permanently attached to his person. The alert grey eyes watched, looking for some opening; and when he saw his chance, he struck like lightning. A fist shot out at the loutish face, catching the hit man squarely in the mouth just as he realised his danger and started to shout for help. All that came out was a grunt, however, and the assassin fell to the pavement as if pole-axed, with both lips split.

 

The gentleman hissed in pain, grabbing his fist with his other hand for a moment to let the worst of the discomfort pass before examining the damage.

 

“By Jove, he has sharp teeth for such a troglodyte,” he murmured, peeling off the ruined black kid glove to expose the bloody knuckles beneath. “Completely through the leather and into the flesh. I shall have to have this disinfected, for certain. No time for that now. Go, man!” He turned swiftly to resume his journey.

 

A crack resounded from the brownstone close at hand, and the man felt a spray of stone chips strike the side of his face. He flinched, and a sharp curse left his lips. He took to his heels and rounded the corner of the street, then disappeared into shadow.

* * *

Not ten feet away from the gentleman, though invisible to him, an elegant blonde woman in a white lab coat stood between tall, electronic towers. Behind her, concentric rows of computer consoles were manned by two dozen scientists, engineers, and technicians. Surrounding all of them was a huge, domed room carved from solid pink granite.

 

The woman stood for long minutes, silent, watching.

 

Finally one of the technicians broke the electronic silence.

 

“So, Doc, whaddaya think?”

 

“What do you think, Jim? How were the readings?” The woman turned toward him.

 

“I’ve got bang-on, Dr. Chadwick,” Jim noted, glancing down at his own console, brown eyes darting about as he surveyed his readouts. “But I can’t say for everybody else.”

 

“Rock steady at Timelines,” someone else called.

 

“Sequencing looks good…” another said.

 

“Software’s running nominally.”

 

“Hardware’s humming right along…”

 

On it went, from console to console. Finally the woman nodded.

 

“Perfect,” she purred in deep satisfaction. “We’ve got our subject. Page Dr. Hughes and have her come down.”

 

“On it, Doc,” Jim grinned, reaching for the phone.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1—Water Falls Through Wormholes

 

“Are you sure, Skye?” Dr. Caitlin Hughes, the Project Director, a roly-poly redheaded woman, murmured to the attractive woman at her side.

 

“I’m sure, Cait.” Dr. Skye Chadwick, a tall, athletic, well-proportioned blonde in her late thirties, and Project: Tesseract’s chief scientist, tucked an escaped strand of long spun gold behind one ear; the rest remained in the thick French braid that draped down her neck. “We’ve dinked all the way around it for several months now. We’ve got the alternate continuum thoroughly mapped out, and we know what we’re doing. All systems are fully operational and running like the proverbial top. It’s time to go in and observe firsthand. We’ll watch the actual event, then send in an exploration team.” She turned and met her friend’s bright green eyes. “Don’t worry. Washington will be more than satisfied.”

 

“Oh, I’m not worried about that,” the project manager waved away the reassurances. “I just don’t want you or any of the team getting hurt if something goes wrong.”

 

“Nothing will go wrong,” Dr. Chadwick said, almost in a whisper, but with confidence. Dr. Hughes took one look at the blue eyes, glancing between the clipboard full of notes and the information on the monitors, and realized Skye was concentrating on the preparations. Caitlin waited for a few moments, allowing Skye to follow through on the prep work before speaking again.

 

“I can’t believe you actually found an alternate timeline like this one. It’s…well, it’s fascinating. The similarities, and the differences…”

 

“Yeah,” Dr. Chadwick chuckled. “You know, the parallel universe concept has been around a long time, and it looks like we’ve finally managed to prove it. I’ll be glad to get this done and the sanitized paper written and published on the matter. It’ll blow the community wide open, not to mention the whole field of research.”

 

“Watch out how you write it. If you’re not careful, your colleagues will think you’ve gone off the deep end and believe that TV show is real.” Dr. Hughes laughed.

 

“Oh, you mean the time gate thing they film up in Canada?” Dr. Chadwick grinned mischievously. “Whose idea was that, anyway? It’s made for one of the best covers for a classified project I’ve ever seen.”

 

“Nobody you’d know,” Caitlin smirked. “Friend of mine in the Pentagon came up with it. He’s a real smart-ass. Fun guy, but full of it.”

 

“You don’t mean Mike Waters, do you?” Skye snorted, a decidedly amused, if unladylike, sound.

 

“The very one. I didn’t know you knew him.”

 

“Hell, yeah. Met him when I was in Washington two years ago for that conference. I don’t think I told you, but he made a play for me. We even dated once or twice, but it didn’t work out. I never could figure out how he wound up in D.C. instead of L.A., though.”

 

“He said it was more of a challenge.” Dr. Hughes shrugged, then paused. “This is going to be really interesting, Skye. I mean, aside from the proof of concept, you’re going to get to watch one of your heroes. In action, no less.”

 

Dr. Chadwick nodded, the expression on her face depicting decidedly mixed emotions.

 

“Yeah. I can’t believe he’s real. But you know, there was this science fiction author…he theorized that our literature is reality elsewhere, and vice versa. Lemme think…who the hell was it…? Somebody famous…Oh! Robert Heinlein! You know, his ‘World as Myth’ concept. And an Argentine writer named Jorge Luis Borges first introduced the concept, sorta, even before quantum mechanics did. So I guess it makes sense after a fashion.”

 

Dr. Hughes listened, understanding the notion; but she knew Chadwick better than to be easily diverted, and she scrutinized her friend, then pursued the issue. “This is hurting you.”

 

“He’s going to die—for real—and I get to watch it. I mean, in this continuum, there isn’t a happy ending after the Falls. Wouldn’t it hurt you, if he was your hero?” Dr. Chadwick shrugged.

 

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess it would,” Caitlin sighed, sobering. “Why are you doing this particular timeline, then?”

 

“Because the team voted, for one, and for two, it’s the only one we’ve found where the incident isn’t…spied on. The…compatriot, henchman, whatever you want to call him…got rounded up, in this particular scenario. There’s only the two men, and we’ll be the sole witnesses to what really happened. When it’s…over, we’ll send observers in, take a good look, record some data, and pull out. We’ll be the only beings in the multiverse with an actual record of what happened.” Skye shrugged, trying to appear indifferent.

 

“Oh,” Caitlin said, subdued.

 

“Dr. Chadwick, Dr. Hughes, it’s ready,” Jim the technician called from across the large underground room.

 

“That’s our cue,” Dr. Chadwick noted, managing to approximate a cheerful smile, addressing the room at large. “Everyone please stand behind the yellow line until the doors open. No food, drink, flash photography, or video cameras are permitted. Once aboard the ride, please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times until we come to a full and complete stop. Otherwise, they’re apt to end up in another universe somewhere without ya, and wouldn’t that fry your noggin?”

 

Outright laughter ran around the room, and Dr. Chadwick added, “Checklist out!” She raised the clipboard she had held absently in one hand for the last several minutes while she talked, scanning over it.

 

“Checklist…” the nearest experiment controller parroted.

 

“Checklist out,” the next nearest vouched.

 

“Checklist here…” and so on, around the room.

 

“Go/no-go call,” Dr. Chadwick announced. “Processing?”

 

“Go.”

 

“Software?”

 

“Go.”

 

“Timelines?”

 

“Go.”

 

“Sequencing?”

 

“Go…”

* * *

Ten minutes later, all was in readiness. Caitlin and Skye exchanged silent, eloquent looks. Caitlin “became” Project Manager Dr. Hughes, who nodded authoritatively. Dr. Chadwick accepted the unspoken permission to proceed.

 

“Sequencing, bring us to observation mode,” the chief scientist ordered.

 

“Going to observation mode,” the Sequencing position noted.

 

Dr. Chadwick checked off a block on her clipboard.

 

The room in which they stood was underground, deep beneath Schriever Air Force Base outside Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Chamber, as it was called, was the most secure facility in the United States, even more secure than Cheyenne Mountain, some miles to the west, newer, and far more advanced technologically. The underground facility was composed of a single large central chamber and eight smaller support rooms clustered around the main room, all carved of solid granite. Skye, Caitlin, and their companions occupied the central chamber, while support teams manned the equipment in each of the secondary rooms. Outside the complex, high-speed elevators and a network of corridors terminating in security airlocks covertly connected them to the rest of the base.

 

The center of the huge rock-hewn room stood empty. The controller consoles huddled close around the periphery, but eight large columns, monoliths of titanium steel and circuits, surrounded the empty center. Upon Dr. Chadwick’s order, a hum began, moving sequentially around the room from column to column as the system powered up. A carbon dioxide laser beam shot out, interlacing the monoliths in the classic hypercube design, exchanging data, forging them into one coherent unit. In the volume of space contained within the high-tech Stonehenge, vague, three-dimensional, ghostlike images flitted.

 

“Locus,” Dr. Chadwick called to the appropriately-labeled console, “dial in to Switzerland. Meiringen. The Falls.”

 

The images translated in a dizzying kaleidoscope, then settled on an almost holographic image of a tall, multi-tiered waterfall high in the Swiss Alps.

 

“Timelines, shift to Continuum 114…” Dr. Chadwick checked off a block on her clipboard. No change was seen, save that the hologram flickered momentarily.

 

“Continuum 114,” the Timelines position called. “Date?”

 

“Year 1891 of the Current Era, month five, day four,” Dr. Chadwick answered. Another check.

 

Multicolored flashes darted through the hologram for several minutes, then settled.

 

“Time?” came the request.

 

“13:30 Greenwich Mean Time.”

 

“Copy, 13:30 Greenwich,” Timelines answered.

 

The falling water sped up to a ridiculous rate, then suddenly slowed to a complete stop. After a moment, it resumed a normal flow. Abruptly two men could be seen on a ledge near the top of the falls. One—tall, thin, dark-haired, grey-eyed, handsome in an austere, hawk-like sort of way—sat quietly on a rock only yards from the pinnacle of the path, clad in Victorian-style tweed traveling clothes. A sturdy hiking staff rested against the side of the rock on which he sat, and he calmly scribbled something on a notepad. The other man was older: Balding, stoop-shouldered, almost reptilian in movement and appearance, clad in black, waiting patiently along the downward path, and in a subtle, almost menacing way, blocking it. Before them, the falls leapt down in tiers for over six hundred and fifty feet. To one side, a gleaming, wet rock wall; on the other, a sheer drop.

 

“Track subjects. Initiate recording. Begin silent protocol,” Dr. Chadwick ordered in an absent voice, her eyes fixed on the image in the center of the room. “Sequencing, foc

us, please.”

Suddenly the images in the center of the room became more than images. They solidified.

 

Skye and Caitlin tiptoed forward until they stood right outside the ring of monoliths, looking between two of the columns at the active tableau. Skye tensed, face drawn. Caitlin divided her attention between the events unfolding within the monoliths, and the pale, strained expression on her friend’s face.

* * *

The tweed-clad man studied his handiwork for a moment, then nodded to himself. He stood and removed the pages from the notepad, then placed them on the stone, weighting them down with a handsome silver cigarette case produced from a pocket. He studied the positioning, then adjusted case and papers. A small shift in the location of the hiking stick seemed to suit him at last, convincing him it would now draw attention to the objects resting on the dark grey stone. Then, with a grim, set jaw, he turned to his companion.

 

“Well,” he murmured, “shall we complete this unsavoury little business?”

 

“We shall,” his older, black-clad companion agreed coldly.

 

The pair turned and walked to the very end of the path, wet with spray from the falls. Tweed Suit, pale but calm, turned and faced Black Coat. With a fierce, angry growl, Black Coat launched himself at Tweed Suit, a murderous gleam in his eye. Tweed Suit dropped into a martial arts crouch and closed with his opponent, but despite Tweed Suit’s greater strength and skill, Black Coat’s fury gave him a strength that was equal to his opponent. The pair grappled, teetering on the very rim of the precipice.

~~~

Again, the book is titled, The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival, by Stephanie Osborn. It’s available through Amazon, Barnes-Noble, Blackwells,and other venues in the US and UK. Links may be found on my website:

http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Stephanie Osborn

Rocket Scientist in the House!

Osborn At Work

Hi there! I’m Stephanie Osborn. I’m a former payload flight controller, a veteran of over twenty years of working in the civilian space program, as well as various military space defense programs. I have worked on numerous Space Shuttle flights and the International Space Station, and count the training of astronauts on my resumé. Of those astronauts I trained, one was good friend Kalpana Chawla, a member of the crew lost in the Columbia disaster.

I hold graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences: Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics, and I am what I like to call “fluent” in several more, including Geology and Anatomy. I obtained my various degrees from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. In addition I possess a license of ministry in the Protestant faith; have been a duly sworn, certified police officer, and am a National Weather Service certified storm spotter. My space experience includes Spacelab and ISS operations, variable star astrophysics, Martian aeolian geophysics, radiation physics, and nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons effects. My travels have taken me to the volcanos of the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, where I clambered over any number of such volcanos, including being present for several phreatic eruptions of Mt. St. Helens. My relatively broad knowledge base and experience led the LibertyCon 2011 programmers to invite me to describe what it takes to be a polymath, more commonly labeled a “modern Renaissance man/woman.” I didn’t even know I was one until they asked me…

I am currently retired from space work. I now happily “pass it forward, ” teaching math and science via numerous media including radio, podcasting, and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science fiction think tank, while writing science fiction mysteries based on my knowledge, experience, and travels.

-Stephanie Osborn

My website: http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

My blog, Comet Tales: http://stephanie-osborn.blogspot.com/