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A complex, exciting, utterly immersive saga from cover to cover.
Star Brigade: Resurgent (Star Brigade Book 1)
by C.C. Ekeke
4.0 stars - 16 reviews
Supports Us with Commissions Earned
Currently FREE for Amazon Prime Members
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A potent blend of traditional science fiction, military drama, action/adventure and space opera that will keep you riveted from start to finish.

In the year 2403, Earth's former citizens are now a leading species in the Galactic Union of Planetary Republics, a star-spanning bastion of peace and diversity.

If faced with terrorist threats of extraordinary origins, one of the Galactic Union's primary military weapons is Star Brigade-- a special operations unit dedicated to terminating such threats quickly and quietly.

But an old enemy returns on the eve of the largest trade merger in interstellar history, with a deadly vendetta that could bring the Union to its knees. And with Star Brigade's reputation tarnished after a past mission gone tragically wrong, the cost of failure has never been higher.

Star Brigade: Resurgent, a re-release of Star Brigade: First Renaissance, marks the explosive first installment in the Star Brigade Series.
One Reviewer Notes:
Star Brigade is a wild science fiction space opera...It is so rare to find classic science fiction today because it is so difficult to develop new beings, settings, and cultures. This author has done an excellent job of these.
Heartland Reviews
About the Author
C.C. Ekeke spent much of his childhood on a steady diet of science fiction movies, television shows and superhero comic books. He discovered his desire to write books in college when studying for a degree in advertising. An international trip or two provided further inspiration for the aliens and worlds seen in his writing. STAR BRIGADE: Resurgent, his debut novel, was originally published in December 2005 - this is the enhanced edition relaunched in preparation for the next books in the Star Brigade series. C.C. Ekeke spent much of his childhood on a steady diet of science fiction movies, television shows and superhero comic books. He discovered his desire to write books in college when studying for a degree in advertising. An international trip or two provided further inspiration for the aliens and worlds seen in his writing. STAR BRIGADE: Resurgent, his debut novel, was originally published in December 2005 - this is the enhanced edition relaunched in preparation for the next books in the Star Brigade series.
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Star Brigade: Resurgent (Star Brigade Book 1)

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Shaman, Healer, Heretic (Book 1, Olivia Lawson Techno-Shaman)

by M. Terry Green

Shaman, Healer, Heretic (Book 1, Olivia Lawson Techno-Shaman)
4.3 stars – 170 Reviews
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Even for a techno-shaman, a kachina in the bedroom isn’t exactly part of the drill. When Olivia Lawson wakes to find one towering over her, she panics. A Hopi god visiting the real world isn’t just wrong–it’s impossible. Or is it? Soon Olivia learns that the kachina is the least of her worries. As she struggles to save her clients, clashes with other shamans, and fends off the attacks of real-world vigilantes, Olivia finds herself in the destructive path of a malevolent ancient force intent on leaving the spiritual realm to conquer this one.

* * *

Elusive (On The Run Book 1)

by Sara Rosett

Elusive (On The Run Book 1)
4.3 stars – 309 Reviews
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If you enjoy Elizabeth Peter’s Vicky Bliss series or Romancing the Stone, Elusive has the same mix of mystery, international travel, and light romance. Zoe Hunter loves living on the edge. Free-spirited and spontaneous, she’s built a life stringing together various freelance gigs that keep her bank account barely in the black. But when her ex, Jack, goes missing along with several million dollars from his business and the FBI zeros in on her as a person of interest, Zoe’s life goes from delightfully unpredictable to downright frightening.

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Mistaken (The Mistaken Series Book 1)

by Renna Peak

Mistaken (The Mistaken Series Book 1)
4.0 stars – 19 Reviews
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Jenna Davis has tortured herself over the death of her fiance. She’s moved to a new city to escape not only the memories, but the shadow of her father, the senator. By meeting Brandon Richardson and succumbing to her desires, she takes a giant step forward in healing her grief-stricken heart. But Brandon has secrets that threaten to destroy her.

* * *


by Bradley Convissar

4.0 stars – 6 Reviews
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“Butchered” contains 2 new short stories from the author of “Dogs of War”, “King of the Merge”, and the Pandora’s Children collection of short stories.

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Blue Molly (Danny Logan Mystery #5)

by M.D. Grayson

Blue Molly (Danny Logan Mystery #5)
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Danny Logan is back in action!

Get your copy of the latest adventure from Seattle author M.D. Grayson

Someone wants to buy Sylvia and Mike Lyon’s Pioneer Square office building in downtown Seattle and whoever it is won’t take “no” for an answer. With their building being vandalized and their tenant’s being driven away, the Lyon’s do what many Seattleites have done for the past six years when they need help: they hire Logan Private Investigations. The mission: find out who’s behind the harassment and make them stop.

Danny Logan, Toni Blair, Doc Kiahtel, and Kenny Hale swing into action and soon find themselves facing off against a brutal drug lord – a man with a brilliantly diabolical plan to take his Seattle Ecstasy business nationwide. He’s ruthless, driven, and all too willing to resort to violence to accomplish his goals. But now, he has a problem – a problem named Danny Logan.

Action packed yet humorous, set in Seattle’s historical Pioneer Square, Blue Molly is a story that will captivate you from start to finish.

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About The Author

M.D. Grayson is the author of the Danny Logan mystery series including Angel Dance, No Way to Die, Isabel’s Run, Mona Lisa Eyes, and Blue Molly. He lives on an island near Seattle with his wife Michelle and their three German shepherds.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Mr. Grayson worked in the construction industry, as an accountant for six l-o-n-g weeks (square peg–round hole), and as a piano player on the Las Vegas strip. When he’s not writing, he loves zooming about on two wheels– bicycles and motorcycles alike. In addition, he’s a pilot, a boater, and an accomplished musician who’s always ready for a jam session!

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KND Freebies: Engagingly original CASH CHRONICLES: THE BOOK O’ SAMSON is featured in today’s Free Kindle Nation Shorts excerpt

27 straight rave reviews!

“Simply mind-blowing!...mutants and cowboys and incredibly entertaining…thanks to the author’s deeply engaging writing…”

It’s the 1880’s, and the West is riddled with Mutations who wield powers beyond those of Regular folks or who have fearsome deformities. Samson Emmanuel “Sammy” Cash is one of them…Don’t miss this absorbing saga while it’s 50% off the regular price!

Cash Chronicles: The Book o’ Samson

by James L. Monticone

Cash Chronicles: The Book o
5.0 stars – 27 Reviews
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It’s the 1880’s, and the West is riddled with Mutations, some who wield powers beyond those of Regular folks, others with fearsome but crippling deformities. Samson Emmanuel “Sammy” Cash is a Mutation with a shady past. He can make rings of fire and shoot flaming bullets, and he’s on the hunt for anyone who dares to persecute his people. Don’t let the attitude fool you, though; he’s a momma’s boy at heart and he falls in love just a little too easily.

He’s up against the forbidding Marshal Luther, who believes Mutants to be children of the Devil and will stop at nothing to eradicate them.

On his journey he experiences love and betrayal, and travels a mystical realm in his quest to save his people, and he learns as much about himself as he does about their origins.

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Western with a twist. Love it!
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an excerpt from

Cash Chronicles:
The Book O’ Samson

by James Monticone

Copyright © 2014 by James Monticone and published here with his permission

Beginning 1:1 Things wasn’t the same once the Mutation folk started meddlin’ in Regular folks’ affairs. The exploits o’ some o’ the most notorious Mutations, like The Worm, started not long after the Revolution. But it wasn’t until they started appearin’ in the West that folks really started to get worried. There was also the attempt on the life o’ the Texan ambassador in London by a Mutation assassin. Followin’ that was the widespread appearance o’ Mutations fightin’ for the North…guess they reckoned a governin’ body that was determined to respect the dignity o’ Blacks would look on Mutations with understandin’ as well.

Well the fear o’ Hell, nature or both showed so easy in people both North and South, even after the War, that you could smell it as sure as you can smell piss in the wintertime. White folks soon was able to look on the other races o’ the world more as equals and allies, seein’ as how the birth o’ Mutations didn’t seem to discriminate, and they was seen as the real threat. Everyone agreed about Mutations…they was evil. Blacks, Chinamen, Injuns, the majority of all of ‘em saw Mutations as the work o’ dark magic or somethin’ similar. It came to pass before not too long that Black folk was votin’ like it wasn’t nothin’, goin’ to school with white folks and eatin’ at the same tables. Things still had a long way to go, to be sure, but in those days everyone was shown some measure o’ human decency, except for Mutations.

    Mutations was subject to rights an’ laws like anyone else, but treated like second-class citizens by everybody they come across. The way the law treated ‘em and the way things actually went, well, they was two different stories.

    Then it came out that Mr. Lincoln himself was a Mutation, and well, from there things got interestin’. Folks took to believin’ all kinds o’ funny things; a lot o’ church-goin’ Regular folks noted the fact that he died on Good Friday, and they started hootin’ and hollerin’ about the Second Comin’ o’ Christ, sayin’ that Honest Abe was the Antichrist incarnate, come to start off the End Times. In the meanwhile, the Mutations went and canonized him, sayin’ his policies was their salvation. Resurrection Sunday soon took to bein’ called “Reconstruction Sunday” down south in memory o’ the facts about Mr. Lincoln.

    Like the Abraham o’ bible times, Mr. Lincoln was asked to sacrifice a son, except this Abraham actually lost him. Folks looked at that too like it was a sign, though not until after the assassination. They said he must have sacrificed little Willie to the Devil, and stories about seances at the White House to make contact only back up that claim.

    Wade and Sumner passed a modified version o’ their Reconstruction bill, speedin’ up Reconstruction and requirin’ an inquest to make sure the Mutations didn’t have nothin’ to do with the South’s rebellion. See, the fear o’ Mutations gettin’ into the government and changin’ things underhanded-like was on the minds o’ politicians and Regular folks alike. They praised Mr. Booth and looked at the madness that overtook the man who shot him, a Mister Boston Corbett, as a sign that Booth was actin’ in the interests o’ the Almighty. Corbett’s remainin’ years on Earth was far from pleasant.

    There was a host o’ presidents followin’ Lincoln, and each o’ them had his own ideas about how the nation oughta be run. Johnson naturally followed Lincoln, but there was some suspicion about him since he’d run as Lincoln’s running mate. He didn’t manage a whole lot and his drinkin’ wasn’t no big help either. Fact is, there was a move to impeach him and soon enough old Schuyler Colfax was put in, early as eighteen sixty-six. Grant followed in eighteen seventy, then Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Blaine…well this ain’t a history lesson, now is it?

    By and by, more people come to accept Mutations, but it was hard-won every time, and a lot o’ what happened can be credited to one man, whose story I’m gonna tell you now. Some say he went as far as to learn why the Mutations come to be in the first place, and well, if you’re real good, I’ll get to that part o’ the story this time around. If I don’t…well, you’ll have to come to me some other time if I’m still in town, talk to me ’bout tellin’ it.

Now any man who’s worth his salt knows that all the book-learnin’ in the world don’t do nothin’ to enhance a person’s storytellin’ abilities. You might question my use o’ words or the way I make my sentences fit together, but I guarantee if you found my story printed up by another man, bound by a third man and put on the shelf by a fourth, you wouldn’t doubt that I knew my business. Trouble is that young people these days, with their highfalutin’ educations and their understandin’ that there’s only one way to tell a proper story…they ain’t gonna wanna stick around for what I’m ‘bout to share. But the rest o’ y’all pull up a chair. Grab a brew, clean out your ears and sit tight, and I’ll share with y’all the story o’ Samson Emmanuel Cash–least my version o’ the story, though I’d say my version’s the most true to life. Keep your hearts n’ minds open…y’all might learn a thing or three.

Keep in mind there’s different versions o’ the story, stretchin’ back to even the days before old Sammy passed away. Some say the final picture o’ Sammy comes from a collection o’ unconnected tall tales told across the west and some o’ the midwest. Sometimes the stories even drop Sammy down in the middle o’ Aztec country! Some tales o’ random fires breakin’ out, some tales o’ legendary gunmen and others still, lost love and so forth. Well these is by people who don’t wanna believe in nothin’. Me, I say, what if them tall tales just was told first, but ain’t actually the way the story goes? What if this story’s the real one even though it was told a little bit later? Sammy coulda been behind every one o’ them tall tales, just nobody wanted to keep him in for one reason or another.

    Alright, well I can see you’re itchin’ to get started, so here goes…
Luther 1:1                             June 18, 1880


Charles Gadsden had a gift. Trouble was, that gift was one of those they talked about that was also a damned curse. So here he was, out in the desert of Arizona without a drop of water to his name, as he trudged through the sand under a blazing sun with no possessions besides a bedroll and the clothes on his body, and an empty canteen that was hot to the touch. He looked ahead of him only once in a long while–it was difficult at this point, lifting his head, and most times sweat got into his eyes anyway. He’d gotten used to the pattern of drops which fell straight to the ground from his forehead, its reliability helping to keep him sane.

It was three days’ ride to the next town from where he’d started out, but he wasn’t headed into the next town, nor was he riding. If he was lucky he’d find a source of water–more than likely a cactus–and find a way to draw it out. There was no town that would accept him if they knew about him. No town that should. And he wouldn’t force himself on them, or try to deceive them, because it was wrong. If he could take back what he’d done…God, if he could do anything…

There was a faint sound behind him, but he was too weak and disinterested to take a look. Charles was pretty sure he knew what the sound was anyhow. The knowledge that it was coming made it no less bearable, and putting forth less exertion beforehand was a more comfortable option. So on he walked, barely covering ten feet while they covered hundreds, and soon the pitter-patter of background noise became a hearty, overwhelming gallop that told him this was a group of riders who knew right where they were going.

“That’s the son of a bitch there!” one of them called, his bass voice clearly audible over the din of horses’ hooves without even showing signs of strain. This was a man whose power preceded him. An impressively large man in black and mounted on an imposing palomino, Charles knew from past experience, was approaching him, leading a team of like-minded riders toward him with a purpose.

Within seconds their horses thundered up to him, and one of them whipped past as it slowed, offering Charles, in a stroke of irony, a cool breeze that ended as quickly as it began. The sand they kicked up in their wake and all around him got into his eyes and resembled a full-fledged dust storm.

He stopped walking, and the riders were silent and still all around him; two of them flanked him while one stopped at his back. The lead rider was a tall, ominous figure who eclipsed the hot sun, but this didn’t make Charles feel the least bit relieved, not even for a second. The relative coolness of the rider’s shadow failed to make him ignorant to the facts of the situation–and the facts were dire.

He didn’t even look up.

The figure in front of him was silent for a long moment, preferring to loom while his men did the same on all sides. Charles could hear his slow dismount, and the measured strides probably intended to build suspense. Charles knew what was coming, and if he was wrong, he knew without a doubt he was at least close.

A cigar was lit. Sweet smoke blew into Charles’ face, but not as a blunt puff. Marshal Luther liked to savor his smokes.

After a moment more of silence the Marshal spoke to him, his voice low and ominous.


Charles licked his cracked lips, but his tongue felt like sandpaper. He drew in a breath and let it out slowly while rasping, “Marshal.”

The Marshal started to walk in circles around him, and the chunk, chunk, chunk of his spurs made a terrible sound that thudded into Charles’ head, exacerbating the dehydration headache that was already causing him agony.

“I thought my instructions to you were quite clear.” The Marshal remained deadpan but nonetheless threatening as he continued to loom, his voice holding steady at a low-octave purr.

Charles did not respond.

The Marshal stopped circling when he’d come around to the front again, and he stepped up to Charles until the tip of his cigar almost burned Charles’ nose. He put four fingers under Charles’ chin and lifted his head so they were looking each other in the eye, and this involved a painful stretch with the two of them standing so close. The Marshal was at least six-foot-four. His face was rugged and angular, with day-old dark stubble and black eyes that could pierce a man to his soul. Some women might have found him handsome, but most of Charles’ kind found him repulsive because of what he did and what he represented.

“I spoke clearly, didn’t I, Charles?”

“Yes sir,” Charles practically whispered.

“My diction…it was perfect, I hope. I didn’t come off sounding like some dirty Mexican or a Negro or a Creole, did I? My schooling, I hope, was effective in the matters it was meant to be. Wasn’t it, Charles? I am an expert in the English language, yes?”

Charles numbly nodded. He was taken aback by the Marshal’s comment, as he knew that there was a Negro in Luther’s own posse, but anyone who knew Luther knew that his problem wasn’t really with Negroes.

The Marshal nodded slowly in response. “I’m glad to see that your kind understands enough of it that you were able to answer me.” There was a long pause as his eyes narrowed, studying Charles as though under a microscope. He spoke slowly, with subtle menace. “So why is it, boy, that if you’ve mastered the language like you say, you can’t see fit to do as I damn well tell you? You know my words, and as you should also know, my word is law in these parts.”

Charles pondered this for a time. He knew the Marshal to be an impatient man–when he wanted something–and infinitely patient when given an opportunity to practice sadism for the sake of his wants. Otherwise, how could he enjoy this sort of drama? But there was no sense in allowing this pattern to continue. The Marshal would keep this up until Charles died, and what did Charles have to gain from his subservience except more of the same?

“You’re doggin’ me, Marshal.” It was a lot more than Charles thought he would be able to say clearly, but he forced it out. It elicited a low chuckle.

“I tell you to get the hell out of town, and I try to make sure your word’s good…and that’s the answer I get.” The Marshal paused to unstrap his canteen and take a long drink of water. When he stopped, he strapped it back on and wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve, then took a good long drag on the cigar before continuing.

“I’m givin’ you two choices. And really, these are the only choices a lawman like myself has any right to give dirt like you, so you will take what you’re given.

“Choice number one is, you disappear, fast. When I come out here a couple days from now, you’re nowhere to be seen, no matter how hard I look.

“Choice number two is, you die. You’ll hand yourself over to me and I’ll see you shot out here, far from everybody where you can do the least harm.

“If I had to guess, I’d say you’re about to go for one of those choices. To that I answer, ‘you’re a wise man, at least as far as your own kind are concerned’. I’ll be back out here in two days. If you’re not gone, I’ll assume you went with choice number two.”

Wrapping things up much more succinctly than he’d started, he took one more quick swig from his canteen, swished it around a bit and then spit it out on the ground to his right. It made the sand wet and was no longer drinkable…and Marshal Luther got on his horse and rode away without looking back.

Charles stopped and rested for a couple hours, then stood and trudged onward once the sun had dropped halfway to the horizon. The heat still made the air waver in front of him, or maybe it was his fatigue. At this point it made little difference. Forward was forward. The sun eventually dipped beneath the earth, and Charles stopped again.

He spent that night thinking. It would be a waste to consider either option with anything approaching hope. One option was outright death, the other an implication of the same. No, this could not stand. If Charles would die either way, then he would make sure that he sent a message with his passing, something that would make it worth it. It was the least he could do, after…

…after poisoning them. The fresh memory caused him to sob openly, and since there was no one around to hear him, he didn’t even care. What harm was there in letting the emotions in when they wouldn’t change a damn thing? He was a dead man, so what did it matter if he wallowed away his remaining hours? There was only one more thing he had to do, and he would get it done, depressed or not. With newfound resolve, he turned back toward home in the morning.


Marshal Luther and his men had spent the night in one of the local taverns, his men drinking and playing cards while he sat alone with his thoughts. Phoenix was a thriving, growing city, but it had its share of pests, and Luther was about to rid it of one of them.

The boy had been found sleeping outside one night, and nobody had a clue where he’d come from. All they knew was that apparently he took on a strange glow like a fallen star during his slumber, and many took to believing that this was the cause of the string of illnesses which the local doctors couldn’t find a cure for, but always seemed to be contracted close to where and when he decided to lie down for the night. The boy himself, in the meantime, managed to stay in perfect health, shaking off whatever ailed him while he slept.

Other than that, the boy was not remarkable. Short, a bit stocky, with ragged clothes and hair the color of a bay horse. His plain appearance was deceitful, to say the least.

Luther sat with his mug of beer in the darkest corner of the tavern, watching his men flirt with a bar girl, and shook his head, thinking about the victims. The poor devils hadn’t died quietly, not at all. He’d watched two of them fall apart, bit by bit, as their hair fell out, then their skin flaked off as their vision and hearing went…and by the time their minds were gone far enough they would scream, howling like rabid coyotes and panicking because they couldn’t hear themselves. After a while, the time came where their hearts would give out and they’d pitch forward onto what was left of themselves, and their faces would flatten as their heads burst like smashed pumpkins.

That boy, he and his kind were akin to the devil himself, and Luther would see to it that they got what they deserved. There were local churches which gave them sanctuary, but Luther gave them holy justice. Out here on the frontier, swift and thorough action was a necessity, because the people had to be protected. It was Luther’s duty, in this sitting duck of a city, this place without the fancy modern conveniences of the East. No street lights, no telephones, no pavement to speak of…just hard-working citizens who sometimes got caught on the wrong end of a rowdy argument, and other times were victimized by the Devil’s own handiwork.

He stumbled home early in the morning after a night of quiet meditation over several refills of the same mug and a small bite to eat. Twilight was setting in, and his head had just started to clear as he covered the last few blocks, basking in the cool air.

Then he heard a commotion up ahead, a mass of nervous voices all chattering at once. As he peered ahead through bleary eyes, he was able to make out a group of people oddly illuminated for this time of morning and staring up at something, and before long he was able, tall as he was, to see the focus of their attention. Their wide-eyed, gape-mouthed looks did not do the sight justice.

“Get out of here!” he shouted at the dumbfounded crowd. When they did not listen, fascinated as they were by what they saw, he took out his badge and brandished it, growling, “I am an officer of the law! Get out of here, NOW!”

The crowd reluctantly dispersed, some of them soundly intimidated, and Luther stared up with trepidation at the horrific object of their curiosity, not wanting to get too close but not having the faintest idea what to do.

There was Charles, strung up by the neck from the roof of Luther’s own house, and there was such a glow coming off of him that, weighed against how he glowed when he slept, was at least three times as bright. But the thing that stood out the most was something far easier to understand. A simple placard with crude handwriting, affixed to his chest. It read:


Donet Give Me Choyces
Samson 1:1 Well now, them old legends say he was born up on a horse; in point o’ fact, his poor momma introduced him to this world while she was ridin’ in a wagon in the hopes of escapin’ a team o’ mercenaries who was intent on takin’ what she owed their client. Namely, him.

    His momma’d been scrapin’ together a meager livin’ as a whore when she got pregnant, and as her belly swole up she got less desirable, takin’ her off the market at a bad time. The mob leader who owned the town–cops, mayor an’ all–decided that her son would work for him all through his childhood in return for the money he’d lost while Jessica Cash was laid up; if it was a girl, there was just a different kind o’ work he had in mind.

    Don’t you shake y’head now! Lately the notion o’ whores been changin’ in these parts, but whorin’s a right honorable perfession to my mind, and his momma was one o’ the most honorable women ever did set foot on a brothel floor. She ain’t never left no one to fend for themselves, and she did things to survive most o’ y’all wouldn’t have the stones for. A child shouldn’t never be brought up doin’ that business or forced into it, but that ain’t no nevermind to this tale.

    That said, she eventually found a hidin’ hole in the one-horse town o’ Jericho. Namin’ her newborn boy–and you done guessed it–Samson Emmanuel Cash–she managed to feed and clothe him by workin’ at the local drinkin’ establishment, the Four Winds Bar.

    But Jericho, y’see, that old place was a den o’ corruption as much as any other town, just bigger and easier to get lost in, and young Sammy learned a lesson ‘bout the world’s cruel heart the night his momma was raped. He was only five at the time, but he ain’t never seen his momma scared and strugglin’ like that. Times like that, a child can show wits beyond what he’s been taught–there’s somethin’ inside us, call it a soul, call it a piece o’ the wisdom o’ God pressed like a piece o’ clay into our brains while we’re formin’ inside our momma’s womb. Some men got a lot of it, some men ain’t got but a small piece, and that’s the thing that tells us right from wrong. Whatever it is, young Samson had a mighty big heap of it. They call the brain a man’s “gray matter”, and that’s why, I’d reckon. ‘Cause for most of us, things ain’t never black and white.

    They lived in a loft above the bar where his momma worked, and the night was New Year’s Eve. Five or so o’ the patrons had a little too much to drink and they pushed their way into the loft with her…and the boy, he just couldn’t take it…

July 1, 1885


Sammy Cash rode into a lonely Utah town late one hot summer afternoon as the bugs and the frogs were out making noise and the people sat outside in the breeze with long, tall glasses of the coolest, cleanest water they could get their hands on. He didn’t get many a look as he rode past people save for the usual “stranger-in-town” stares that anybody is likely to receive in a small place such as this. This was a place where Mutations were more known about in stories than in actual life, and so nobody was suspicious unless someone had an extra arm growing out of their head or a big glowing nose like a firefly’s business end. This was a place that was also enduring a slow decline in population, most likely on account of stifling gun laws which had been in effect for a year or so. It would be little more than a ghost town some twenty years into time’s inexorable march.

He’d been in a lot of bars the past few days, talking with west-moving gold-diggers and people who knew the latest news for the surrounding area, and what he’d heard wasn’t good. During a poker game one evening he heard of a man by the name of Mutation Matthias–a nickname, to be sure–but this man’s reputation made it sound as though it bore meaning. Matthias was a sheriff and a Mutation-hater, and his nickname was derived from the same sort of activity that granted Buffalo Bill his name, except that instead of bison, Matthias was notorious for how many Mutations he’d shot dead. These days he was on the lookout for one Mutation in particular, a Mutation by the name of Rebus Cassidy, the same Rebus Cassidy whom Sammy and a couple recent acquaintances had taken to protecting. They were charged with the mission of getting him across the Sierra Nevada toward California, where he hoped to hide in a village-like enclave amongst his own kind. It was a relatively new development and the Mutations who resided there were spread very thin in their work, trying to assist their kind across the country, thus their partnership with the outspoken Rebus promised to be mutually beneficial. However, Sammy and his friends had fallen on hard times, and they were going to need to pay the local gang’s toll to get through a particularly hidden mountain pass without incident.

To pay that rather steep toll, they would need money.

Sammy was the one assigned the task of getting them that money.

The town bank was a small building, but it surely housed enough funds to pay off the gang and then some. Everyone in the group would have a decent amount of spending money. The bank was a single-story affair built with ponderosa pine, finished but unpainted, and totally unassuming.

So, tying off his horse in the alley next to it, he jumped off, masked himself with a red handkerchief of simple design and strode inside. Taking a quick look around, he noticed three men dressed for business, two tellers, another man at work in the back who was fat enough to be the owner and a very pretty lady with a purple hat and a slight but ample-in-the-right-places figure. Thinking on this within the first second after his entrance, he began to act on it with the next.

He drew one of his six-shooters and called out, “May I have everyone’s attention please!” They all turned to look at him, and reeled in fear when they saw his gleaming black top-break double action revolver, but none of them made a move against him.

He was intimidating enough even without the threat of punching a hole in one of them with a forty-four caliber bullet, though not enough to make anyone fear for their life. At six-foot-two he was a bit stringy, but he carried himself with a swagger in his dirtied-up and frayed brown coat which reached nearly to the floor. Beneath this coat, he wore a simple sand-colored button-down shirt and tan pants. Spurred boots ended just halfway up his shins. A flat, round black hat with a medium-sized brim sat on his head, pulled down just far enough in the front to hide his eyes.

However, probably the most peculiar thing about him immediately noticeable to the astute observer was his hair–long, scraggly brown hair which transitioned into red at the ends. It grew out straight and hung like a mane of matchsticks. His face looked soft, but roughened by twenty-three years of life on the road, on the run, and his slightly overinflated nose and squarish jaw did not contrast too strongly with the rest of the mosaic.

He kept his posture odd, as though he didn’t want to meet anybody’s gaze directly, which contributed to his intimidation factor rather than detracting from it…was he crazy? Drunk?

It was known across the state that this town had a relatively low crime rate, and that was why it was chosen as the town to rob. Whether that crime rate was a result of the new gun laws or the inspiration for them, only the people who lived here could say.

Whatever the case, they would be unprepared for this. Less of them would be armed, and even less than that would be decent shots. They wouldn’t have much use for their guns except for when they were forced to take down the occasional mad steer.

Sammy had no intention of actually shooting anyone…and hoped no one would call his bluff. Given that even a peaceful town such as this could still have more guns per person than most towns in the east, one of them might still put a bullet in him to save their own life. As long as they believed that their cooperation assured their survival, everything would be fine.

Then he remembered something.

“Oh, damn–pardon me, ma’am,” he said, nodding slightly with a sidelong tilt to the dainty lady with the purple hat, and then he removed his own hat, casting a flushed glance around him as if guilty that he’d come indoors and forgotten to do so. “Sorry about that, lady and gentlemen. Now if you’ll excuse me, this is a robbery. I do apologize for interruptin’ your lovely day, miss, but I need some cash and this is the only possible way that I’m gonna have it in time.”

His accent was somewhat of a mix between the effete drawl one might expect of a man from Georgia and the typical speech of a roughened man of the west.

The nice-looking lady started to rummage frantically through her purse, but he stopped her with his hand outstretched, palm down. “Oh no, ma’am, I would not dream of takin’ your money. Please just exit through the door here into the fine afternoon sun and don’t tell nobody about this until I’ve had time to finish my affairs. I do appreciate it. And I am sorry for scarin’ you.”

She stared at him as though he’d grown a third nostril as she walked haltingly toward the door, and he stepped aside. Then, from behind the counter he heard the fat man call out, “Why the hell does she get to leave? You and her in cahoots?”

Sammy stood aside to let her pass. “No sir, we are not. I simply know how to respect a lady and treat her proper, whereas some people don’t.”

That’s when the situation turned sour. A blow to the back of his head jarred him, and for a moment Sammy wasn’t sure how he could be so careless as to allow someone to get up behind him. It wasn’t until he rounded on the woman he’d graciously allowed to leave with his second six-shooter that he realized what had happened.

Actually, to say that he rounded on her would be a slight exaggeration, for he barely brought the weapon to bear by the time she whacked him again, her heavy purse pounding right into his temple–and a good part of the side of his head and his cheek in the vast vicinity of the same. Stunned, he wasn’t able to keep his aim in check on both sides of him, and that’s when the unthinkable happened. The fat man rushed him.

The “dainty” lady brought her purse back with both arms, preparing to swing again, her scowl and bulging eyes a testament to the ferocity with which she had besieged him and a disappointing thing to see on such a pretty lady’s face. What’s she got in there, bricks?

Sammy spun away from her and ran sidelong between his two attackers, quickly veering, then, toward the back of the bank away from the rest of the customers, lest they become caught up in the frenzy she started and decide to attack him as well.

The fat man was still coming. Sammy took him out with a swift love-tap to the temple using the butt of his pistol, and then hastily apologized to the lady. He made the mistake of looking up at her to more candidly express his contrition, and that’s when the entire bank held its collective breath, followed by the emptying of their wallets at his feet.

“We had no idea, we’re sorry, just…let us leave alive, please, sir,” the teller stammered as he loaded a bag with greenbacks.

Sammy’s irises were a deep fire-red, and they tended to be a dead giveaway to those who had or had not suspected alike, based on his hair, that he was a Mutation. Seeing how it affected people still made him uncomfortable, especially the lovely lady with the weighted purse, but he had no choice except to accept their offerings and make off quickly, before something worse happened.

The lady stood watching him, a mix of fascination and horror on her face. She wasn’t sure what to think of him; there was the glimmer of something approaching attraction in her eyes as she inched a bit closer and a bit closer, while she glanced from his eyes to the rest of him with apprehension. Why else, after all, would she behave so hesitantly after she’d been whacking him on the head only moments ago? Surely the revelation that he was a Mutation would only serve to reinforce her insane belief that hitting an armed man with her purse was a good idea–or perhaps it wasn’t so insane and she was simply calling his bluff. After all, it took a lot less to steal from an institution, even if it was at gunpoint, than it took to actually kill a person. A man’s true test was administered when confronted with this type of situation. Should he open fire to salvage it?

No. No way.

So what did she want? He felt he should ask her–it was the polite thing to do–but he knew in his head that it wouldn’t be worth the candle. So when the canvas bag the teller had dropped on the floor from a good distance was full, Sammy stooped to bunch up the top and scoop it up, his intent being to leave without so much as a backward glance. He thought it was mighty convenient that they kept a big canvas bag in the back, but didn’t question it. As long as it didn’t have a dollar sign printed on it to mark him as a thief once he took off down Owl Hoot Trail, he wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. He took his first step, and…


She hit him on the head again.

Sammy’s world suddenly went hazy and tilted to one side, then the other, then seemingly both at the same time. Though it hurt to lift his head, he shot a momentary offended look at the lady, or maybe at her double or triple, before he navigated his way out of the bank, leaning from side to side and stumbling a bit to keep just one step ahead of the mob of customers, whose courage had been bolstered by the lady’s relentless pummeling of his cranium. He narrowly made it through the back just before they could close the gap on him.

He dashed around the building’s exterior with the heavy bag, fumbled with the saddle on his horse before he managed to pull himself up into the straps, and finally he jolted the bay stallion into a gallop.  Sammy, firmly in his saddle, sprang out into the street just in time to narrowly miss a couple meandering townsfolk. It would take him a few minutes to get his wits about him, but it would no doubt take him a few days to shake his damnable headache…


…and the customer who found himself quite suddenly at the head of the line turned to the teller.

“Can I still make that withdrawal?”


Sammy stopped just at the edge of town, looked quickly into the bag he’d taken to confirm the contents, then galloped off quickly before the posse that would inevitably come was sent out. Mutations were hunted down in a great hurry when they were known to be outlaws. He sighed when he thought about the Mutations who might be forced to pay for what he’d done as poor, innocent scapegoats.

The darkening sky and sinking sun indicated that nightfall would come in three or four hours, so he’d have to make his rendezvous before then. With the reins held slack to allow the horse its freedom, Sammy galloped hard into the desert, following a path off the beaten one, but still in plains country, thus mostly visible. Thankfully, he’d been briefed on the approximate direction he needed to go in order to find the one or two hiding places which existed out there.

There were places where the ground took sharp downward turns, where caves were set into the desert sands underneath ridges. Hidden on the other side of these drops, one could try one’s luck against a pursuer and prevail, or even completely bushwhack someone once in a while, so long as it wasn’t against one’s principles.

It wasn’t until dusk that, from behind one of these ridges, Sammy spied ambient torchlight and it guided him in as a beacon. He slowed his horse to a trot as he got close so as to make as little noise as possible. When he was within range he spoke without raising his voice, and put one hand under his coat, ready to draw a weapon in case his friends had been compromised.

“Special delivery,” he deadpanned.

She stepped back from the cave entrance, far enough that he could see her face clearly, illuminated in the flickering red light of her torch.  He recognized the long, dark reddish-brown hair that fell to the middle of her back, and the delicate upward stroke of her eyes that made the blue ovals look almost Oriental. The long lashes, the high cheekbones, and the overall look of wisdom…Tori was older than him by a couple years, he had gleaned from his time with her, but nonetheless deferred to him and their other companion.

“Mackenzie’s inside, Sammy,” she told him as he trotted his horse around the ridge and down to her position.

“Good. Lemme tie off my horse and I’ll be right in.”

She turned and headed back into the cave. He stopped her with a question. “Everything go alright?”

“Went just fine, Sammy.” She smiled, then turned and went inside.

He admired her from behind as he tied his horse to a ground tie right in front of the cave mouth. She had a delicate but firm walk, as though she knew what she was about and didn’t much mind being looked at all the same. Though no taller than Sammy’s shoulder, she carried herself with confidence that granted her a powerful but demure presence. Her riding pants accented her slight curves in just the right ways, and…

…and he turned away then, when his face turned red hot for the second time that evening. He liked women, it was true, but he always stopped himself just short of admiring them in the wrong ways when he could help it. He thought of his momma, and the things men had done to her, and he let the image of his ally fade out of his mind. They had important things to do anyway, and better that he not be distracted.

So he picked up the torch that had been left out for him, straightened up and entered the cave.

Three of them waited inside for him, including Tori, who did a smart pirouette to face Sammy as soon as she reached their two male companions ahead of him. One of them was their partner, a man named Mackenzie Ozark, who was fastidiously cleaning out the barrel of his gun at the present moment; the other was the man they had been charged with protecting, Rebus.

Ozark wasn’t as tall as Sammy, but he stood a sturdy six feet, and in the firelight you couldn’t tell that he’d had his nose broken as many as five times, as he liked to point out as many times as possible to anyone who would listen. From beneath a mat of perpetually sweaty, short-cropped black hair, he’d relate stories of beatings from Mutation-haters, people who figured out that he could see and leap long distances and were jealous, jealousy which had cost him so much in life that he ironically had nothing anymore for others to be jealous of. The abilities could be hidden, but their physical marks could not. His diamond-shaped pupils and the protruding nubs on his shins and thighs could be noticed by any keen observer.

Rebus was by far the worst off of the lot of them, whereas Tori had no incriminating traits at all, and she didn’t like to talk about herself. Rebus wore a large black coat at all times to cover the broad, black wings which sprouted from his back. Like bat-wings with tiny hands on the ends of them, they were nonetheless immobile. They possessed no nerves, but could not be removed due to the fact that they were attached to his spine–and no doctor would perform surgery on a Mutation with such a blatant divergence from normalcy. Rebus also had enormous, bulbous ears which extended far below the normal range of human ears. They appeared almost to drip from the sides of his face like they were melting. He always seemed to be sulking, a deep frown on his face most of the time, his posture that of a man who carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. Yet there was a keen intellect in Rebus’ brown eyes. He wanted to live, and he was looking to these three to make sure that would happen.

Sammy found it difficult to believe that this was the man who’d gotten half of the midwest worked up with papers he’d independently distributed detailing the need for Mutations to rise up and make themselves heard. Sedition, they were calling it.

Rebus rubbed his bald pate as Sammy approached, wiping away sweat that was brought on by proximity to so many torches. He looked nervous even when he recognized Sammy, for who knew how far behind the posse was?

“I got the money, but I’m surely bein’ tracked as we speak.”

“We should get moving, then,” Ozark replied idly, his icy calm relaxing Rebus a bit. Ozark’s voice was somewhat high and reedy, but he knew how to effect a commanding tone when he wanted to lead.

Sammy stepped aside for him to pass. “You know the way.”

Ozark took Tori by the arm as if to guide her out, even though she had her own torch, and he gestured for Sammy to take Rebus. He sneered privately at Sammy as he passed him as if to say “Of course I know the way.”

If Sammy were not the youngest one of them, he might have been more offended by Mackenzie’s agonistic behavior. He was put off, but he understood the need for someone to give directions, and for the sake of the mission he did as he was told.

Ozark and Rebus appeared to be in their early-to-mid-thirties, but Sammy had never asked. He accepted that Ozark had to know what he was doing, and had fallen into a sort of rhythm where he let Ozark take charge, despite the fact that things had started off very differently between them. Ozark was a very obsequious person, at first. Then, slowly, gradually, he began to assert himself, just as soon as he was comfortable with Sammy, and confident in their friendship. Sammy simply overlooked it and accepted that someone had to make the decisions. His pride occasionally nagged at him, but he told himself it was immature to feel emasculated because of it.

They got on their horses and traveled into the night, riding against the moon for the better part of three hours, and during that time there was no conversation, and very little of any other kind of sound passed between them. Occasionally there was a light jingle as the geegaws hanging from rigging on Tori’s horse brushed against each other. She liked to collect little trinkets and hang them from the saddle of her beloved blue roan, including such things as beads, an opalescent collection of dangling jewelry and an Indian dreamcatcher. The slick seat saddle itself was set upon a deep purple corona pad, and equipped with fenders and tapaderos. She was a woman who appreciated beauty and convenience, and preferred to wallow in finery.

Tori kept very close to Mackenzie’s side, every once in a while casting a meaningful look back Sammy’s way, the actual meaning of such meningful looks Sammy could not readily determine.

Mackenzie, by comparison, rode in a spartan fashion, without even the need for stirrups. He was able to use his powerful joints to spring into the saddle, and years of practice had refined the process to where he could avoid bruising his unmentionables. He kept only what he needed, similar to the way Sammy traveled, but he kept it much safer. His most important personal belongings were inside of a mochila; four separate locked pouches seemed a tad excessive, but to Mackenzie, what was good for the Pony Express was good for the common man. Mackenzie’s horse was a grulla. Strong and reliable, it was worth every penny and kept healthier than the day he’d bought it.

Rebus also had nothing but what he deemed essential–water, food and pen and paper. He had specially-designed stirrups which allowed him to climb them like stair-steps into his saddle, but otherwise nothing to make his journey especially comfortable aside from the horse itself. It was an exceptionally short, broad bay, easy to haul his girth onto.

Sammy paced Rebus and looked left, right and behind for any signs of danger, though there were none. In the full moonlight it was easy to tell what lay around them in this essentially flat land, which was why it was of the utmost importance to get as far ahead of the law as possible.

Even with their silence, however, there were sounds out here…there were always sounds. Occasionally, animals would mutate just like men and women, except these often came with much more bizarre results. Out in the desert, there were coyotes. Some of them had acquired odd qualities, ranging from heads growing from heads to the ability to become invisible while hunting. On this particular night, Sammy heard one of them howling a good distance away–it would begin, and as it approached crescendo, its voice would become layered as if joined by a choir…as if it were howling into a giant harmonica. Sammy would have taken out his own harmonica that night, but the noise had chilled him to his bones. His sympathies for Mutations extended to a degree to animals, but some things were not easy to swallow no matter where one’s morality lay.

There was one animal he saw in the night that brought him tranquility. It was a wolf, and it was far off in the distance. It didn’t make any noise, but it paced them with a calm, loping gait. He watched it now and then, but didn’t worry about it. He only wondered what it wanted and when it would let him know.

They stopped on the leeward side of a short mesa, hidden from sight by anyone on a direct approach. Mackenzie checked through all of his belongings as though he had not been watching them closely in transit, to make sure nothing had fallen from his horse as it hugged the grulla’s belly really rather securely above the ground. He tied excellent knots to secure his things, and bundled them tightly, securing his saddle with a cinch, then checked and double-checked it all whenever they were set to embark from one location to another. He kept everything spit-polished, washed his clothes and the horse’s blankets once per day in whatever river or stream they came upon, even insisted on taking some of Tori’s things when the time was convenient, and he would tell her that she would forget or put it off until it was too late. This is something that had gone on for some time between them, since before their present expedition, and Tori had become downright lethargic over the course of it, more and more dependent upon Mackenzie with each passing day. Sammy wondered at their habits, but said nothing.

He watched as Tori and Mackenzie bedded close to each other. This time Mackenzie gave Sammy a forbidding look, but as usual Sammy found it difficult to read. There was the slightest trace of suspicion, but that passed and he nodded a goodnight. They were pursuing some kind of relationship, Mackenzie and Tori, and Sammy was not the type to intrude. He wondered, though, why Tori kept teasing him the way she did.

He shook his head and took the first watch, sleeping soundly once Mackenzie took over halfway through the night.


Opening his eyes in the dim light of predawn, Sammy smelled the fresh morning air and got up to get a good distance away from their makeshift camp to urinate. He could see his breath coming out of his mouth in thick gusts of steam, as well as the breath sputtering from the horses, and shivered slightly against the cold. This morning was crisp and his surroundings were clear, colorful and detailed, yet there was a surreal, dreamlike quality to it, almost as though he was still asleep. He was a light sleeper by nature, and from years of an outlaw’s life he was practiced at rising at a moment’s notice…yet he felt as fully awake and razor-sharp as though he’d just downed a gallon of brown gargle.

As he stopped at a not-so-inviting cactus to let loose, he spotted movement far away against the horizon. His head snapped sharply upward and he remained nonchalant, peeing while he readied himself to sound the alarm if need be. In the cold air his urine had a particularly putrid stench which steamed up to his nostrils and gave him more incentive to keep his head raised. The dark shape came closer, faster than it seemed anything should be able to.

“’bout time…you been trailin’ me practically since the sun went down.” Sammy mumbled. It was true; Sammy had been able to feel it.

Through the mist of morning it resolved itself, as he finished what he was doing and stepped away from the cactus to meet it.

He approached tentatively, although he did know this newcomer. They had met before, many times; it was a wolf. His wolf. With a dark gray, shaggy but straight pelt, it stood as high as Sammy’s waist, but padded forward with a silent tread that make its head bob up and down like it was dancing.

“Howdy, old friend,” Sammy said simply.

They held each other’s eyes for a long moment, an understanding from ages past communicated between them, and something glimmered in the wolf’s dark eyes. Then it turned and ran away from him, and Sammy followed. He understood what was happening now. This was not the real world, but it wasn’t quite a dream. Now his state of mind upon waking made perfect sense. The wolf was his guide, only approaching him through the medium of the spirit-world, and only when it had a lesson to impart.

It sniffed the ground as it looked for something, eyes also intent now on the ground before and around it. Sammy looked around as well, for all the good it would do either of them. He rarely, if ever, knew what the wolf was doing until the lesson was over, but the uncanny calm of its wisdom relaxed him.

The wolf ran into some very high grass and almost disappeared, but this grass was still half its height when it stood straight on all fours; with its head dipped low, Sammy had a difficult time keeping on its tail.

That’s when the landscape went crazy. It shifted in front of him like the images in the panorama shows, and there was grass for a long time, surrounded on all sides by desolate desert land…a chaparral with seemingly no reason for being.

A winged serpentine creature with clawed hands and feet descended upon this grassland, tearing away at it just to leave the dead blades where they lay. This menace was roughly the wolf’s size, perhaps a bit smaller, and it resembled the images Sammy had seen on parchment and other forms of artwork from China. It would be red, and then green, then red again, consistently changing colors. Sammy could not see the wolf at all now, but he did see a snake rise headfirst out of the grass and bite at the creature’s neck, a green snake with yellow stripes running the length of its body, and a yellow belly. The flying serpent thrashed in the snake’s grip and fought back, injuring the snake as surely as the snake injured it, as fantastic a struggle as Sammy had ever seen. And then the wolf made its presence known again, leaping upon the serpent’s back and sailing to the ground on top of it, where it pinned it and finished it off. Then the snake consumed it, unhinging its impressive jaws and wrapping them around the creature’s head, after which it gulped it down to digest it.

A second creature came to attack, and the process repeated itself. Four times in all creatures came, destroying more and more of the grass, creating bald spots in the chaparral that made it look like a cat that had gotten into one too many scraps. The fifth time, the wolf led the charge. It leapt and missed the serpent, which thrashed at him with its tail and struck a blow to his head. The snake came up and snagged the serpent’s ankle, and then the wolf leapt again at the immobilized creature, but it grabbed him in midair and swiped at the snake, breaking free of its grasp. The serpent and the wolf went down in a tangle of limbs, clawing at each other, and the wolf backed the injured serpent into a small cave which hadn’t been there before. With an ear-splitting howl, the wolf caused the cave to shake, and rocks were brought down from above, killing both occupants. The snake slipped through the cracks, presumably to consume its final meal of the day.

Sammy started forward, concerned, though he knew this to be simply a metaphorical representation of what was to come. It was a very real metaphor…

The snake was in his path. In the wake of the battle, it coiled upon itself and started to eat its own tail…

And Sammy sat bolt upright in his bedroll, covered in sweat and confused as hell.


Revere 1:1               June 19, 1880


There was a meeting in a remote section of the desert outside of Phoenix. Mutations of all types were called out here in secret, and many declined, but some who found the very act of mobility challenging were motivated to come, and they did. At least three who found it difficult to walk were escorted out by wagon, and they were brought and seated upon cushions or blankets in the sand. The person who called the meeting, one Melissa Revere, was there already, and she stalked back and forth nervously before them. Her green, speckled scales shone dully in the moonlight, and her forked tongue slipped in and out of her mouth irregularly in the typical manner of a serpent.

Melissa was a Mutation who was lucky enough to have attained more power than weakness in the changes which “afflicted” her, and she was ready to make other changes. Social changes.

She resembled a snake most of all in the way that her mutation represented itself, but her long, forest green hair and slender limbs gave her a look of elegance; her two-toed feet were protected by sandals only, as no shoemaker would create anything comfortable for her. When she spoke, it was with a strong, singer’s voice, captivating her audience immediately.

“We have all heard what’s happening,” the nineteen-year-old announced by way of capturing their attention. “We know why we’re here, and many of us have considered going up in arms over it. For this, I do not blame a soul, for I myself am of a mind to attack Marshal Luther directly for what he’s done. Yet I am a woman of simple means. Had I possessed the strength to do so, I would surely be in prison, or tenfold of my brethren here would be framed and murdered by capital punishment on my behalf.

“So I have gathered you, instead, that I may speak with you. And why? Should I gather, here and now, a posse of my own to track him down and kill him, and enforce an altogether new law as I see fit?”

Her words shocked the crowd as they sank in. Some of them murmured uncomfortably, some shifted nervously in their seats and doubt clearly formed in the minds of those who surrounded her.

Some, like Matthew Freedman, however, remained utterly silent and still; Matthew had a unique mutation which enabled him to operate his autonomic nervous system consciously. Unfortunately for him, this was not much of an ability…he had to put a great deal of focus into ensuring that his heart and lungs, among other things, functioned properly. His retainers, also Mutations–and these men of stature–worriedly murmured, concerned over Matthew’s safety should this rejected plan actually somehow come to fruition.

“I know the folly in this plan, my Brethren, believe me! I know that we cannot stand against the greater forces of the regular men and women of this country, for they are many, and we possess as many weaknesses as we do strengths. We are not organized, though I do seek to change that. Friends, first and foremost we must be prepared to resist the notion that we cannot remain in a place for fear of reprisal. We must have a home! We deserve it, and no less!” She put her fist into the air for emphasis, and many in the congregation followed her lead with a cheer, stirred by her conviction, connected with her through it.

“We’re not welcome here, or anywhere!” A Mexican Mutation with adhesive skin named Hector Rodriguez cried out.

There were nods of grim agreement and there were a couple “hear, hear”s.

“You’re right, Hector.” Melissa accompanied the concession with a look of sad submission, very nearly a theatrical pout. “You’re right, the normal people will never take us as we are and give us a place to live in peace. But I believe we can settle a new land, and it will take all of us, in concert, to make that happen.”

Now the buzz of doubt redoubled through the group, and she appeared to look into all of their eyes in turn to try and communicate once again her conviction, her surety, to all of them, that it might become contagious and make them all believe, just a little bit.

Guy Dawkins, a former soldier, shifted uncomfortably and appeared annoyed about something. The vast tapestry of burn marks all over his body were not the doing of those who hated Mutations, but the small circles where cigarette butts has been pressed against his flesh were–the experiments of immature “Normals” who wanted to see what would happen. His fists clenched and unclenched periodically, but he remained in place.

He was finely dressed for this meeting, unnecessarily so, with a black string bowtie, white suit and white pants which served to cover most of his burns, and stood out in stark relief against his short-cropped reddish-brown hair. There were small burns even on his face and hands, however, and he had come to accept these after a long life of persecution and seclusion. He kept himself mostly under control, being a man who believed in stern composure and etiquette regardless of circumstance. He was among those standing at the back, and had been observing the proceedings with his arms crossed, aloof but alert.

“Patrick Henry made an important point,” Melissa told them, raising her voice to overcome their murmurs. “He told us that we can choose our own way! We’re asked to live in fear, and I ask you now, what kind of life is that? Thus, in words as clear as the ringing of the Liberty Bell, it has been explained to us what we must do. And Harriet Tubman showed us the way!”

Joan Terry, a Black Mutation, shrilly cheered; she nearly forgot herself, but was reminded by the wincing of those around her that her intensely mutated voice would surely shatter the eardrums of everyone present if she didn’t rein in her passion.

“The next messenger of wisdom killed himself to get his point across, proving to us that our destiny is ours to choose! Let it not have been in vain. Those of you who are ready, you’ll help me organize an underground railroad after we locate a place to settle. In the meantime, be ready to answer threats with death if need be! How many of you can I count on?”

There was much discussion even as a few of them tentatively put their hands up. Melissa consulted a friend to her immediate left to confirm how many she had convinced, which came to twenty-three in all.

“Those of you who have agreed,” she said after the assemblage had calmed down a bit, “stay after this meeting has adjourned. We have things to talk about.”

The Mutations all got to their feet, some of them staying, more leaving.


Hector was the last to stand, and he still looked around him self-consciously as he attempted to forcibly pluck sand off of himself in the places where his flesh had touched the ground.


Dawkins was not among those who stayed behind, but Matthias and his retainers remained, if only to find out just what they would have to be wary of within the weeks and months to come.

Samson 1:2    Sammy’s momma didn’t have a lot o’ time to cut his hair, and the time came it was gettin’ a little too long. Once it got just past his shoulders, the brown gave way to red at the ends. Seein’ these men ravage his momma made Sammy angry. So angry that the memory of his momma’s comments about sinful men “burnin’ in a lake o’ Hellfire” came to his mind, and the ends of his hair got themselves a warm glow…

    …now people got all kinds o’ funny ideas ‘bout what it is tripped Samson Cash up more’n anythin’ else in his pursuit o’ he-roics. Some say it was the memory of his momma forever chasin’ him, riddlin’ him with guilt so that every woman he ever laid eyes on reminded him o’ her. My favorite…heh, heh…my favorite comes from the idea that he beat the Devil in a har-monica contest and won his fire powers–but the Devil tricked him and Sammy’s soul started slippin’ away a little bit more each day. ‘Scuse me if that ain’t the way I tell the story.

    But Sammy’s soul was full o’ anger to be sure, righteous anger, and he wasn’t always the best at keepin’ himself in check. That anger burned brighter than the hottest fire he ever lit, and it came out when his sense o’ right and wrong was offended.

    Now where was I?

    So his hairs all stood up an’ curled up and did whatever it is happens to ‘em when they’re affected by what city folk calls static e-lec-tricity…see that, s’even got “city” in its name. His hair was glowin’ too, but that wasn’t no lightnin’ glow, it was reddish like the ends o’ each long follicle, and his eyes glowed the same way. He was just a kid, but it was a frightful thing to see. Too bad them men wasn’t lookin’ his way, or they’d a’ known they was about to pay the Devil’s own price for their wrongdoin’.

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4.8 stars – 6 Reviews
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An original thriller that really gets in your head.

Adam Hutchens sees the world like no one else–a remote viewer whose incredible gift goes beyond explanation, even in the world of fringe science. When he inexplicably murders his grandmother during and intense psychotic break, Dr. William Creighton uses the opportunity to bring Adam for study to the Hillview Institute, tucked away in the Virginia mountains. Adam’s powerful ability fills in the missing piece to Creighton’s plans.

Adam soon learns that he is not the only one with a special gift. There are other remote viewers being studied at the institute, as well as clairvoyants, and a highly skilled mind-control sociopath. Surrounded by this volatile psychic energy, Dr. Creighton has tapped into the hidden secrets of the human psyche and is playing a deadly game between those who have the gift and those who want the gift.

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“Debut author Dent has penned a psychic thriller that’s difficult to put down thanks to its intensity and its quick pacing. Though the moral ramifications of the issues at hand are only lightly sketched, the cast never slows down as the good and the bad race to accomplish their goals, neither side quite certain of the capabilities of the other. In turns intriguing, disturbing and exhilarating, this is a solid debut from an author who seems, like [protagonist Adam] Hutchens, to be able to see things a little differently.”

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Family Matters (A Gracie Andersen Mystery Book 1)
4.8 stars – 24 Reviews
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The peaceful farming community of Deer Creek is nestled in the rolling hills of Wyoming County in Western New York. It’s home to Gracie Andersen, who once again finds herself in a cemetery, laying a family member to rest. Wrestling with unresolved guilt and grief over the loss of her husband and unborn child, Gracie desperately wants to get her life back.

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