listening to the podcast

Click on the menu below to find a link to the episode list.
For descriptions of each episode, check out my Show Notes at the top of the page. This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real people or events is purely coincidental.

WARNING: Some of the language may be offensive, but no worse than you would expect in an R rated movie.

Special thanks to NASA for the image of the galaxy.

Podcast of the novel BETWEEN EARTH AND ARCTURUS

Chapter One

BETWEEN EARTH AND ARCTURUS
by James Prescott (copyright 2013)

Chapter One


Commander Aguire thought about his captain’s transfer to a new ship. It seems everyone who’s like family to him eventually goes away. He glanced sideways at Leroy Donno, who had a rare smile on his normally somber face. Aguire’s mood dipped a bit lower realizing that someday Donno might go away, too.


 “You blew a year’s pay just to impress women, didn’t you?” Donno’s smooth southern drawl nudged José Aguire’s attention back to the Kansas highway where the snowy prairie rushed by at 200 kilometers per hour.


 “So, I bought a car.” Aguire answered, toying with the tint controls for the windows, alternately dimming the glare from the snow, then returning it to brilliant white. “Loosen up, it’s time to celebrate.”


“Your promotion isn’t official yet.” Donno’s smile stretched into a real grin. “But okay, I can see it’s hard to wait.”


“Right.” Aguire grinned back at the Lieutenant Commander, his buddy since pilot’s school, before the war.


Donno pointed ahead. “Let’s stop at McConnell before heading back to New Wichita and see if I’m gonna get transferred to Poluka’s new ship, or get stuck as your first officer, Captain Aguire.”


“Captain.” A grin brought out the chiseled dimples on Aguire’s lean face. “I’ll be a friggin’ captain the next time I board the Livingston, and of course I’ll get stuck with you as my first officer. You don’t think Poluka wants a bum like you, do you?”


“It doesn’t work like that anymore, buddy.” Donno shook his head with a sad, practiced expression. “The old Federation let captains choose their crew, but the New Fed changed all that. The politicians have as much say-so as the captain does.”


“Are you sure?


“They told us in the repatriation class we had to take. There’ve been lots of changes since the old Fed got wiped out. I hear things are really bad in Europe.”


To Aguire, Europe meant memories Madrid. He could almost picture faces from the orphanage. He hasn’t seen those guys since he joined the Navy, and his old amigos went into the Army. He should call them. He always plans to call them. This time he will. Maybe they can meet before he leaves again.


The car dropped them off at the admin building of the Exploration Corps Annex at the McConnell Spaceport and then parked itself nearby.


Aguire lazily strolled behind Donno to the lobby. His buddy was wearing the powder-blue uniform of the Corps, but Aguire was enjoying the civilian clothes a pretty sales-girl chose for him yesterday. He learned that letting a woman pick clothes for him was a good start for seduction. In fact, he spent last night in her bed.


He’d always been popular with the ladies in America and Mexico, more so than in his native Spain. They liked his strong, masculine face with straight black hair slicked back, away from his face. When he was a teenager he looked older, making it easy to lie about his age and join the Navy a year early. Now that he was thirty-two, he still looked like he was in his twenties, and sometimes, like when on planet-leave and away from his responsibilities, he acted like a teenager.


The lobby was empty except for a cadet playing computer games at the receptionist’s desk. Etched into the granite wall behind the desk was the emblem of the Exploration Corps, the symbol of his life for the last four years.


The cadet lurched to his feet and stiffened to attention which struck Aguire as an overreaction to their arrival.


Just then Aguire recognized the sneering voice of Gary Fisher coming in the door behind them. “So, Aguire, I heard you were back.”


Despite years of seniority, Fisher was stuck at the rank of commander, having absolutely no aptitude for leadership. Unlike most in the Corps, Fisher never saw combat in the military. In fact, Aguire suspected if Fisher ever were in a battle, one of his own people would blow his head off.


There’s a cheery thought: Fisher without a head.


Fisher flashed his toothy grin and held up a sleeve, displaying the four gold stripes. Aguire’s smile vanished.


“That’s right, Aguire. I’m an admiral now, and I’m looking forward to seeing you back in uniform, Commander.”


Aguire’s tongue came back to life. “An admiral? How?”


“The New Federation,” Fisher said, “recognizes faithful service, and gives credit to the deserving. I understand Captain Poluka’s getting the new ship, in which case I’ll have some influence about the reassignment of his officers. I’ll see about getting you transferred to my office.” Fisher laughed and swaggered onward into the building without looking back.


Donno made his inquiries about assignments, but nothing was posted yet. Aguire was quiet when they climbed back into the car and continued to New Wichita.


Something was very wrong on Earth if Gary Fisher got any kind of promotion. But if he jumped from commander to admiral then the universe just took a turn towards insane.


“I gotta visit my mom in Atlanta.” Donno said. “Drop me at the station. I’ll catch the next bullet train.”


“Yeah. Say hello for me, okay? You were right. There have been a lot of changes. How could the Corps do something as stupid as making Fisher a damned admiral? That asshole shouldn’t even be in a uniform.”


“I thought you heard. Everybody in HQ is talking about it, though not too loudly. Fisher came out on top when he backed up the coup with information that led to the slaughter last year. He knew the secret location where the President’s people were meeting, and passed it on to…well…to the people who’re now our new government. He even got his own admiral killed, and he’s real proud of himself for that. Seems the New Fed appreciates it, too. There’s the train station. Listen, I’ll bring back one of my mom’s pies for you if baking is still legal.”


“Thanks.” Aguire forced a half-hearted laugh while the car hovered at the curb, and Donno got out.


“I’ll see you in a day or two.” Donno called over his shoulder and ran to catch the next bullet train to Georgia.


Aguire told the car to take him home, which the car recognized as the hotel.


From a window in his suite, Aguire looked down on the street where his car was parked, drumming his fingers on the windowsill.


A group of college-age women, tourists judging from the cameras they carried, stopped to admire his car. He chuckled when they took turns leaning on the luxury vehicle in sexy poses while the others took pictures.


“That’s right, girls,” he whispered. “One in a million can afford a car like that. It’s a sign of success, and I worked hard to get there.”


Turning away, he leaned on the wall, not noticing when the women moved on. His eyes panned the room that seemed larger when he first rented it. Spacemen aren’t supposed to be claustrophobic, but damn if this room didn’t feel like a cage.


Seven years in the navy, most of it fighting rebels on the moons of Jupiter, then almost five more in the Exploration Corps brought him to the brink of getting his own command.


“I worked hard, damn it.” He clenched his fists, and paced the floor, unable to stop thinking of the gold braid on Fisher’s sleeve. An admiral. They made him a goddamned admiral!


He stopped pacing when the com console caught his eye.


“I need to talk to Poluka.”


He pounced on the console’s call button and asked to be connected to Captain Paul Poluka. The screen indicated he was calling to California. Perhaps Poluka was at his father’s farm, then an elderly man’s face filled the view-screen.


“Hello. What can I do for you, young man?”


Aguire was so accustomed to being called “Commander” or “Sir” he almost looked around to see if a young man was behind him.


“Hello,” the white-haired man repeated, “Are we connected? Damn, I miss telephones.”


The old gentleman had a harsh, sort of impatient voice.


“Yes. Hello, sir. My name is Commander José Aguire. I’m trying to reach Captain Poluka.”


The old man was silent for a moment, staring with his bright green eyes in a way that made Aguire suspect that he hadn’t been understood.


“Paul? Yes, he’s here, but he’s having supper just now. Maybe he could call you later.”


“That’ll be fine. Thank you.” The screen went blank and Aguire began to relax. The Captain will know what to do. If anyone knows how to handle admirals, it’s the man that Aguire tried to emulate for the last ten years.


Poluka had a knack for finding creative solutions to impossible problems, yet Aguire always had difficulty veering from the narrow path of tried and tested regulations that governed everything from how to brush your teeth to how to nuke an enemy.


He lay down on the bed with his hands behind his head and asked the ceiling, “Where would I be without the Corps?”


He never liked thinking about where he came from, but sometimes he just couldn’t help it. He barely remembered the day his father died. Three years later, when he was nine, his mother died, too. He stayed in a Catholic orphanage for a while but later ran away, joined a gang, and lived in the streets of Madrid. The Navy turned his life around, giving him a career and purpose, providing a sense of order that he never knew before.


When the Jupiter War ended Aguire transferred from the Navy to the Exploration Corps, keeping his rank and rate of pay. His sense of duty, first to the Navy and now to the Corps, kept him focused on making his career not just what he did, but who he was.


On planet-leave, however, Aguire knew how to have a good time. His zest for partying was legendary and once got him expelled from Mars with orders not to return.


The com console chimed, and Poluka’s round face appeared. “Commander, how are you?”


“Hello, Captain. I hope I didn’t interrupt anything.”


“Nothing I can’t do later. What can I do for you?”


“Sir, Gary Fisher is an admiral now—if you can believe that—and he says he’s going to get me under his command. Could that happen?”


Fisher’s name brought a sour grimace to Poluka’s bland features. Like so many others, Poluka dealt with Fisher at the end of the war when soldiers were transferring into the Corps and Commander Fisher was working a desk in the capital city, making things as unpleasant as possible for everyone.


“I’ll be honest with you, José. It’s not entirely up to me. I’m not sure what I can do.”


4 comments:

  1. Brilliant beginning to a delightful that I've read and love! It's hard to imagine that anyone wouldn't share my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for such a positive response, but it is, as you said, a beginning.
    The book has 66 chapters, and I hope you will enjoy each one as the heroes and villains strive for their goals.
    Commander Aguire doesn’t yet know what his goal is but, at the end of the story, he’s got it figured out.
    Between Earth and Arcturus is available in print and Kindle format.

    Cheers,
    James Prescott

    ReplyDelete
  3. How do I listen on my Android phone?

    ReplyDelete
  4. You should be able to listen on iTunes, or download an app from Libsyn, my content hosting service.

    ReplyDelete