I Cannot Resist a Sunday Share
I had to read through Extraordinary & Powerhouse to create an audition excerpt for my ACX profile, and that made me want to share the fun.
More Than Meets the Eye
An excerpt from Powerhouse by K. M. Herkes
When Colonel Marcia Galloway got back from her inspection of the unit, Captain Jefferson was still mired on the paperwork required to document the prisoner interviews. She settled in with her Battalion correspondence to wait for him to finish. Lights came up in the neighboring interview room again some time later, and the glare through the observation window slanted over the desks.
Jefferson grimaced. “Is it time for another wellness check already? Sorry, ma’am. This is endless.”
“Take your time.” Marcia set aside her work and went to the window. “I’m not bored.”
A corpsman with delicate purple fur closed the hatch to the interview room with her prehensile tail. She smiled at Corporal Coby as she approached his corner with an medical kit and a pitcher on a tray, but her back-slanted ears and flared ruff were signs of displeasure she couldn’t control as easily. Treatment for an injured T-series soldier was menial, not medical. Cleaning and feeding armor-skinned giants who occasionally went berserk was no one’s favorite job.
She looked like a toddler next to the sergeant’s seated bulk, and she held out the pitcher at arm’s length. Coby docilely swallowed down whatever was inside. Blood slicked down his chin when he thanked the corpsman afterwards, and his fangs flashed.
The corpsman bounced into full retreat with her tail puffed out. The missing teeth in Coby’s grin gave it an impish quality. He held out the empty pitcher like a sacrificial offering, and when he laughed, the corpsman came stomping back, scolding him fiercely for startling her the whole time.
She shook the pitcher threateningly at Coby before setting it aside, and then melted into giggles when he cowered dramatically back. Then she insisted on giving Coby’s healing mouth a thorough cleaning, which reminded Marcia of nature documentaries about crocodiles and their attendant birds. The oral hygiene session segued into a full check of all injuries listed on the corporal’s chart, and that ended with a pat on Coby’s shoulder.
The corpsman walked out of the room wearing a smile, and Marcia looked back at Jefferson. “It isn’t easy to make people comfortable when you look like a fairy-tale monster. Most Tee’s give up trying. He’s a charmer.”
“He’s also smart, and he’s better educated than his platoon leader thinks he needs to be.” Jefferson paused. “I relieved Lieutenant Fontaine on Monday. He’d been throwing the whole platoon’s rank change and transfer requests into a deletion folder for a year. Thankfully, he was also stupid enough that he forgot to delete them.”
Marcia counted to ten several times. Past was past. The company was in Jefferson’s good hands now. “Did I miss a question?”
“No. That’s background. Coby should be a sergeant. He’s tested, and he has a strong recommendation from Gunny Rivera. I filed his papers to Battalion HR as soon as I found them in Fontaine’s desk, and HR promptly rejected him. Can you do something about that?”
“Not without a good excuse. HR’s decision-making balances a lot of criteria.”
“In this case, the sole criterion appears to be saving the Battalion some money,” Jefferson said. “Major Ito all but accused me of padding death benefits.”
The captain spread his hands out as if offering up his explanation. “Corporal Coby is already years past the typical age for flareout. If he makes it to Labor Day, he’ll break the early-onset age record.”
Marcia winced inside and allowed herself to shake her head in sympathy. “They should be rushing the promotion, not rejecting it. There’s a reason Ito’s staff call him Major Veto, but I’ll have a word.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” Jefferson nodded at his workstation. “That’s done. I’ve sliced the Gordian knot of red tape. All the indictments and transfers to DPS custody are squared away, so we can proceed with filing charges and interviews any time. Ready to light some fires under a few asses?”
He meant it as a joke. It wasn’t funny.
“I am ready to incinerate someone.” Marcia waved the hatch open and gestured for Jefferson to go first. The captain twitched when the panel moved by itself, and when he reached the cool air in the hallway, he gave Marcia a sidelong, worried glance.
Read from the beginning & sample the other stories in the series here: