Dellani Oakes, Lone Wolf, sci-fi, romance, Science Fiction, futuristic romance, Shakazhan, The Maker, Dellani's Quote of the Week
A friend of mine on Facebook asked these questions about our characters. Since Book 4 The Kahlea is coming out in January, I thought I’d share a little bit about the main character. Wil VanLipsig is a dichotomy. He’s generous, kind and sensual. He’s murderous, barbaric and cruel. Whether you love him or hate him, he doesn’t care, so long as you don’t get in his way. I’ve done character interviews with him, which I answered after I’d written the first couple of books. His answers revealed a lot. These do, too.
1. What does your character look like?
He’s tall, muscular, handsome. Dark wavy hair that comes to his shoulders, eyes so dark brown, they look black. A former Galactic Marine and assassin, he’s seasoned by wars so horrendous, we have no basis for understanding.
2. Where was your character born?
He was born on a planet you’ve never heard of, in a section of space we haven’t found yet.
3. What is your character’s job/status?
He’s an assassin and a colonel in the Galactic Marines. His status? He scares the crap out of everyone he meets.
4. Does your character have any pets?
5. Did the character have a bad childhood?
Yes. He came from a planet where women and children were considered possessions of the father. He could do anything he wanted to them, including kill them. He was violent and beat Wil and his mother from the time Wil was 5 years old. He killed Wil’s mother and had him banished. Rather than face that, Wil left to join the Galactic Marines when he was 16 years old.
6. Are the character’s parents still alive?
7. What is your character’s biggest accomplishment?
Depends on what you consider an accomplishment, I suppose. He’s a first rate warrior, a hardened killer, his battle plans are epic. One author described them thus: “VanLipsig’s plans are Symphonies of Destruction bathed in the blood of his enemies.”
8. Does your character have any hobbies?
Not unless you include bedding women. In which case – yes.
9. How old is your character at the beginning of the story?
He’s 86 – but looks 26. He was genetically altered 60 years ago, and has hardly aged a day since.
It’s been a few weeks since the Pallanachi warriors attacked Shakazhan. The residents are still reeling in shock. Trying to get their lives back on track, they are evaluating how they could have done better. Wil knows that at their current state of preparedness, they can’t possibly survive and turn back a concerted attack by the evil Kahlea Grand Master, Zoiathula. Since there are many different people below the crust, he makes a bold decision. Not knowing if those he sends will return, he orders a team into the treacherous depths of the artificial planet.
Meanwhile, Champion Sta Hyt Mai makes plans to hone her fighting skills, as well as how to train their small army into a true fighting force.
For fun, I thought I’d include the prologue & first chapter of The Kahlea to whet the appetite.
The arrival of the Timocuan warriors has been a godsend to the folk of Shakazhan. Add to this the revelation of the Klash, the warrior branch of the Kindred, the chance of success against the Kahlea has grown exponentially.
So much has happened to the people of Shakazhan – the Maker’s complete terraforming, the birth of Mariah VanLipsig, the presence of the Chosen—those children who have powers similar to Mariah and her cousins. All this, and more, has the folk of Shakazhan on edge.
With the Pallanachi’s attack, the war with the Kahlea has become very real. Regrouping, making repairs and licking their collective wounds, they vow to be stronger, more vigilant, and ready for anything the Kahlea Grand Master throws their way.
By blind, dumb luck, only a few were injured, including Styx. Though she was hurt in the battle, her wounds were not severe, easily mended by the Kindred crew. Had Mai not acted when she did, the situation would have been much worse. Neither Mai nor Matilda seemed to suffer adversely from their combined attack. Both recovered quickly, recuperating in less than a day.
Once Matilda was declared whole and sound by Emily Swiss, Wil turned his attention to the flaws in their plans. His reliance on the energy net, had been a gross miscalculation. As a whole, he felt the entire operation was a complete failure. However, it did expose the holes in their defenses, causing him and his team, to go back to the planning stage. To that end, he called a meeting of the leaders, on board Hammer.
On Board Hammer, Above Shakazhan, July, 3039
“This wasn’t entirely your fault, Wil,” Ben interjected, for about the tenth time since this meeting had started nearly three hours ago.
“But I’m ultimately responsible,” Wil answered, also for the tenth time.
“This is ridiculous!” Emmelia Spenser exclaimed unexpectedly, jumping to her feet in her frustration.
Generally she was silent during their meetings, still feeling like an outsider. Ben insisted she be present and Wil allowed it, considering she was now his daughter-in-law. She had a brilliant mind for strategy and organization, both of which he considered beneficial.
Matilda was there, as well as Marc and Becky, Felix, Lordvik and Tianna, Caprilla and the Kindred leader of the Klash, General Aldebaran. Emmelia had sat silently, biting back her comments, listening to Wil and Ben play the blame game—each taking responsibility for the near catastrophe, during their battle with the Pallanchi.
“Wil, I respect you greatly as a leader and a warrior, but I have to say that this habit of yours of taking all the blame is just asinine and, frankly, annoying. Everyone is allowed input in these meetings, everyone gives feedback. If the plan was flawed, then we’re all responsible, myself included. Spare us the martyrdom, and let’s get on with this meeting. Benjamin, if he starts to whine again, I won’t be responsible,” Emmelia boldly addressed her husband. Straightening her suit jacket with both hands, she sat in a huff, blushing deeply with the realization of what she’d said, and to whom.
Ben laid a calming hand on Emmelia’s shoulder. Wil said nothing, his black eyes staring ahead at something they couldn’t see. Since this occurred fairly often, no one thought anything of it. They knew Wil conferred with his artificial intelligence, Grandma. All mated pairs had rings from the Sentience, binding them in ways they still didn’t understand. The AI, housed in the rings, offered advice and counsel to all of them. Wil relied heavily on his for advice and a more objective outlook.
Two or three minutes passed. No one said another word until he was done. With a blink, he looked at Emmelia, who reddened again, turning her face from him.
“She’s right,” Wil said with no preamble or accusation. “So, now what? We scrap it all and start over?”
“Is the entire plan flawed?” Becky asked quietly, another unusual happenstance.
“We should examine each step, decide what to scrap and what to keep, not start all over,” Marc added. “What aspects are bad?”
“We can’t all man the ships, it leaves the planet unguarded,” Wil said.
“Right, Wil. What was our reasoning behind that?”
“No planetary weapons, Marc, you know that.”
“Therefore, we need planet based weaponry, Lone Wolf.” Aldebaran, leader of the Klash warriors, spoke gently.
“Yes, and not isolated to our side. An attack could come from anywhere.” Wil’s mind had kicked into planning mode.
“If this is necessary, why haven’t we done this before?” Emmelia asked, feeling more confident.
“Slack,” Wil said.
“No,” Matilda contradicted him. “Too many other things took precedence. We had to house our people, we had to train. We’ve been trying to find the Sentience’s data storage, and get her running at full capacity. As a result, we didn’t do the obvious thing, set up weaponry.”
“Then too,” Becky added, “we have this beautiful planet—untouched, uncorrupted. To mar it with the trappings of war, runs against the grain. That’s how I feel, anyway.”
“Our choice here is a simple one, Friend Wil,” Caprilla’s booming bass voice startled them all. “We plan and install weapons. Large and grotesque as they may be, they’re most necessary.”
“Is there any reason they can’t be attractive?” Emmelia’s question was so innocent, no one bridled at it. “Consider this, we have the Kindred and their technology. We have some of the most creative and experienced military minds in the galaxy. We can do this. Becky’s comment is valid, we hate to make this paradise into a war zone. But it has been all ready, and will be again. That being the case, why can’t we make pretty weapons?”
“Emme, guns aren’t pretty,” her husband said.
“Just because something is functional, doesn’t mean it must be ugly.” No one spoke. “A comparison, if you will. We’re all familiar with both the Mining Guild facilities on Aolani and those of the Committee on Home Base, correct?”
Silent nods all around.
“My office building is flashy in spots, but overall have you ever seen a more comfortable, positive, flowing, organic environment?”
Everyone imagined the Mining Guild tower. Ocean blue, metallic glass, it rose in concentric circles on a cliff overlooking the sea. Ostentatious, it might be, but it was as beautiful as it was intimidating.
“No, Emme, the Mining Guild building is unique,” Matilda answered.
“And yet It’s highly functional. All our business offices, labs, marketing and storage facilities and even our manufacturing department are housed there.”
A quick look around the room told her she was making her point. All were leaning forward, hanging on her words.
“Committee Home Base, just as functional, right? But although the building is beautifully decorated, it’s harsh, cold, clinical. Strip away the furnishings and what do you have?”
“A bunker,” Ben suggested, looking slightly self-conscious. “I always thought it looked like a really big, ugly bunker until you get up close. And then, it’s a big, well decorated bunker.”
Emmelia smiled, thanking him for his support. She could see agreement in all their eyes.
“So the point you’re making is that we can make guns that are pretty?” Wil chuckled. “Well it’s unique, Madame Chairman.”
“I like the idea,” Matilda and Becky spoke in unison.
“Think about it, Wil, if they don’t look like weapons, the enemy might make a mistake, thinking us weak,” Tianna spoke for the first time.
“I think Emmelia’s right,” Becky added with finality.
Looking at her firm chin and pursed lips, Wil laughed resignedly. The other men joined him in a resounding chorus.
“We’ve been handed our assignment, gentlemen. The ladies have decided upon pretty guns.”
The women exchanged a smug look.
“That issue aside, and decided upon, what next?” Wil continued.
Lordvik cleared his throat, shifting in his chair. “Safer housing and a better plan to evacuate the children. As well as new assignments on planet for the residents. Kindred and ship dwellers can easily handle the duty stations there. The rest of us get in the way. If all of us are in one place, we’re easier to kill off.” Uncomfortable silence followed Lordvik’s statement. It was true. They all realized how foolish they’d been.
“So, what do we do now, Wil?” Marc asked.
“We each take a job, head up Kindred and smart bot teams, use our technicians, and start on our planetary defenses. We need a better ship to shore transport system, and we need an escape plan for the children.”
“I’ll do that one,” Becky volunteered unexpectedly. “That’s something Tianna and Emmelia could help me with. They’re the best organizers I know.”
Tianna grinned, and Emmelia smiled, winking at Becky.
“I’ll work on weapons, Friend Wil. Who will help me?” Caprilla bellowed.
“I will,” Matilda said calmly. “I probably know the most about land prep of anyone, including Marc. We pull in Drew Matisse and my father. Put Sheena on the teleporter problem. It’s just the type of thing she’d love.”
A sharp nod from them all and it was decided.
“What about data retrieval for Sentience?” Marc asked.
“The majority of her storage housings have been located and robot crews are working on it constantly. When all is complete, we roll. Until then, we can’t do anything,” Wil said.
“Something we’ve not considered,” Caprilla sounded rather like the voice of doom, drawing all their attention. “All the weapons in the world can’t protect us against a full blown attack without proper air support. Four sentient ships, one of whom is a mere infant, aren’t enough, even with our fighters. Lone Wolf and I have worked many missions together where the odds were against us. Even at its worst, we didn’t face what we do now. We were fortunate the Pallanachi didn’t come in full force. Their arrogance saved us from disaster. What might have happened, is a matter of speculation, but worth the time and effort, in order to proceed in an organized fashion to counter another battle. It’s my understanding that the Maker is capable of intrastellar travel.”
Wil blinked, focusing on Caprilla slowly, trying to keep in contact with Grandma as well as listen to his old friend. “Yes, but without a pilot, he’s dead in space.”
“Indeed, a sitting duck,” Caprilla used the expression with just a hint of a chuckle in his voice. Having never seen a duck, it was merely theoretically that he used the human adage.
“What do you propose?” Matilda’s question held a touch of fear.
They all knew that Mariah was one of the only people in the galaxy who could pilot the Maker. None of them knew if she was old enough. They didn’t know if she would be able to leave, once she joined with the Maker. Since none of his pilots had ever desired to leave once they joined him, the Maker didn’t know if it was possible to disengage.
“We find out from the Maker what characteristics his pilot must have. We know Mariah is one of these rare individuals, but chances are good that there are others who can come close to the right match,” Cap answered.
“Wouldn’t the Maker know? He would be able to sense it, wouldn’t he?” Becky asked.
“The Maker isn’t a god, merely an organic being, as are we. Grant you, a highly advanced and sophisticated being, but he’s potentially fallible,” Caprilla remarked simply.
“Once we find out, what then? We can’t ask someone to give up everything in life to move the Maker. We don’t even know if they would live through the experience.” Naturally protective, Becky was concerned for the safety of them all, particularly the children.
“Becky, a soldier knows the risks going into any mission. We can’t force anyone to do this job, but if it comes to the crunch, we need to know we have someone who can handle it. More than one would be best,” Marc spoke quietly to calm her.
“And if one of us is acceptable, what then?” she countered belligerently.
“Then we weigh the consequences and decide,” was his calm reply.
“What if the only one who can pilot that thing is Mariah, what then?”
Wil, Marc and Ben turned away, Becky’s accusing expression more than they could bear.
“Then we use it only as a last resort,” Matilda said quietly, her heart breaking even as she said it. “For the good of us all, it may be what must be done.”
“And if it kills her?” Becky persisted.
Matilda swallowed a lump in her throat and blinked away a tear forming in the corner of her dark, silver flecked eyes. “If she saves everyone in the process, then she won’t die in vain.”
“I couldn’t make one of my children do such a thing,” Becky said defiantly, her hands protectively across her abdomen, which swelled with her child.
“The difference is,” Tianna said tenderly, “it wouldn’t be our choice but Mariah’s. She’s small, but somehow I feel sure that if she wanted to join with the Maker, there would be nothing we could do to stop her.”
Wil cleared his throat. Lordvik looked uncomfortable, knowing what his friend was facing. He hadn’t lost a child, but two of his younger brothers had died in wars long ago, sacrificing themselves to save others.
“Let’s hope we’ll never have to ask this sacrifice of anyone,” he said.
“We overlook another obvious choice,” Caprilla’s voice, although velvet smooth, cut into their thoughts sharply, drawing their attention back to him. “There is one other here who might be able to take the pilot’s seat.”
“Who?” Marc asked.
“I should think the choice is obvious. I speak of the Champion, Sta Hyt Mai, of course.” He spread his long arms wide, as if encompassing the planet and everything around it, in a gesture of indisputable fact.
“Would she do it?” Marc asked.
“Undoubtedly, especially if she could kill a Kahlea in the process. Mai is more than any of us realize.”
An uncomfortable lull followed.
“This doesn’t have to be decided today,” Wil said with effort.
“Perhaps it should,” Emmelia countered. “We don’t know when another attack might come, this should be decided right away.”
“I shall talk with Mai later tonight,” Caprilla offered.
Wil’s nod was his confirmation.
“So,” Wil said more brightly than he felt, “We know basically what we need to do. Let’s get started right away.” Clapping his hands and rubbing them together, he forced a smile.
The others took this for a sign of dismissal and rose, leaving the room singly, or in small clusters. Marc lingered a moment. Becky waited just outside the doorway, talking softly to Emmelia and Tianna. Not knowing what to say, but wanting to do something, Marc took Matilda in his muscular arms, hugging her, nearly choking her in the process. After her quick punch to his kidney, he let her loose.
“Sorry. I just wanted to say—Well, I wanted you to know…I’m here if you need me.”
None of these men are good with emotions, Matilda thought with a touch of irony. They felt so deeply, but none of them knew how to express it. The love in his gesture was deep, pure and profound. Besides Wil, she’d never known a man as complex as Marc Slatterly. A gentle kiss on his cheek and her quirky smile, made him feel better. As if she’d comforted him, instead of him comforting her.
The rest of them left Wil and Matilda alone in the ready room. The doors closed and locked with a thought and Wil took Matilda in his arms, kissing her gently. As always when he was near her, he felt the passion in him rise. She responded as she always did. Another thought took them to their cabin where they made love, softly, gently, sensuously.
“I love you,” he whispered, feeling the words inadequate to express his feelings.
“I love you, Wil.” Matilda lay quietly in his arms, so long he thought she’d fallen asleep. “What will we do if he decides to use her?” Both of them knew what she referred to, it was also on his mind.
“I don’t know. I hope we’ll be able to do the honorable thing—but she’s so little. I can’t imagine living without her, but if we don’t use her, will she, or any of the rest of us live anyway?”
“That’s what haunts me.”
“We do the best we can for her and everyone else. If the time comes, I guess we’ll decide then.”
“Yes,” she whispered, nearly asleep.
Lying awake for several hours, Wil held her gently, half expecting her to wake with a nightmare, but thankfully none came. Her sleep had been troubled again, after the attack by the Pallanachi. She couldn’t remember the dreams well enough to tell him about them later, or said she couldn’t. He rather suspected that she found them so disturbing, she didn’t want to talk about them. Considering her last nightmare had come true, dropping her and their unborn daughter in to the heart of the planet, he could understand.
Slipping his arm out from under her head, kissing her gently, he dressed and left the room. A message on the comunit told her where to find him. He took the quickest route to Leordovik’s tomb—direct ship to shore transportation by Styx. Many people found hurtling through space in a bubble of air disconcerting, including his wife. Wil enjoyed the sensation of falling for miles, knowing full well that he wouldn’t crash on the planet’s surface.
The compound was eerily silent this late at night. It felt odd being outside at this hour. A shiver ran up his spine and he was almost sorry to be alone. Matilda lay asleep on Styx. Mariah had spent the night with her cousins, on Hammer. With a shrug to ease the tingle, he walked forward, hands in pockets, shoulders hunched against the cold. He’d forgotten a jacket and even he got chilly on occasion. His Kindred suit covered his body, providing the heat he needed.
A shadow moved to his right and detached itself from the duty post he was passing. The soft challenge, asking for a password, gave him the feeling of companionship. The young man stepped forward more into the light after Wil spoke the correct countersign. Wil offered the young man a cheroot.
“Lone Wolf, what brings you out at this time of night? It’s only for bats and night owls like me, not old men like you. You should be home asleep, beside your beautiful wife.” He took the proffered cheroot, leaning over the light Wil held up.
Wil chuckled. “Acey, anyone ever tell you that you’re completely full of shit?”
Smirking the younger man replied. “No more full of it than you, Old Man. Want company? The fellow relieving me is due any minute. You’ve the look of a man who doesn’t wish to be alone.”
“Actually, for the first time I can remember, I really don’t want to be alone with my own thoughts. I find myself to be rather sullen company. I’d be glad to have you to talk to.” The two men leaned against the wall of the duty hut, waiting for Acey’s replacement in silence. When he arrived, Acey checked out and departed, walking aimlessly. Wil had intended to visit Leordovik’s tomb when he’d come down, but somehow he was drawn a different way. They walked slowly to the edge of the lake, gazing into the still, black water.
“The sky is so empty here, not like at home,” Acey said with a hint of regret.
“I know. My home world was alive with stars. I’ve seen so many other planets in my lifetime, so many night skies. I don’t know, sometimes this place seems like home, and other times it’s like I’m a stranger here.”
“I know the feeling well. It’s disconcerting.”
“To say the least.”
“What brings you down here, Lone Wolf?”
“I don’t know. I thought I was gonna talk to the mummy,” this was the slang term for Leordovik’s entombed body. “I think maybe I came to talk to you, instead.”
Acey laughed with a touch of irony. “You’re the last person I can think of who would want to speak to me – on any occasion.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Truly, we’ve never gotten along terribly well. I don’t think you even like me very much.”
Wil puffed slowly on his cheroot, using the time to examine Acey appraisingly. Blowing out the aromatic smoke, he squinted through the haze before his eyes.
“On the contrary. I don’t dislike you at all. You’ve been kind of an arrogant, young punk, but when I was your age, I was so full of myself, I was disgusting. Why I didn’t get myself killed in a bar fight, I can’t imagine. Maybe in my own way, I was being watched over by a guardian angel. Who knows?”
“You believe in angels?”
Wil shrugged. “After what I’ve seen the past seven years, kid, I’m ready to believe just about any damn thing.”
Acey laughed. “We don’t call them the same thing, these angels, but we still talk of them. We call them anjellis in the old tongue. A very similar word in meaning and pronunciation. They’re spiritual messengers, by pure and direct translation.”
“Do you believe in anjellis?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps. I used to think I did, when I was a child. But we grow out of those fancies eventually. I don’t disbelieve, I suppose would be most accurate.”
“I used to believe in nothing but my own skills. Over time, I’ve re-evaluated what I think and what I believe. When you seen thousands of walking legends,” he nudged Acey so hard the slender man nearly fell into the dark lake. “You tend to rethink….” He paused, not knowing how to proceed. They lapsed into a comfortable silence again, each lighting a fresh cheroot.
“Pap told me about the meeting today, I hope that’s all right.”
“Nothing we discuss is a secret. It affects all of us.” The light from the compound limned Wil’s profile with a sliver of silver.
“That’s what troubles you, isn’t it? The fact Mariah might be called.”
Wil nodded without looking at Acey. “Could you allow Leo to do what might be asked of Mariah?”
Acey hung his head. “You ask a great question, Lone Wolf. I can’t honestly answer it. I like to think I would do what was best for the Timokuan as a whole, but—”
“But it’s your baby, a part of you. To sacrifice one so young—”
“Exactly. I hope that decision will never be ours to make, but knowing your daughter, and my son, I don’t believe they would ask. The choice would be theirs, not ours.”
Wil had been thinking the same thing. Sighing heavily, he nodded.
“There are legends among our people, where children have sacrificed themselves. Not because someone forced them, because they knew that it was the only way to save their homes and families. In each, the child goes willingly, little knowing what lies ahead. It is not for glory, but for the greater good. Our children, Lone Wolf, are like these.”
“And if you had the chance to stop Leo from making that sacrifice?”
“How do I justify saving my child, when everyone, myself included, could die?” He shook his head. “It’s not my decision to make.”
Nodding his agreement, Wil smiled. “You know, Acey,” he said simply, “I think this is the longest conversation we’ve ever had.”
Acey laughed again brightly. “Yes, Lone Wolf, I believe it is.”
“You’ve given me much to think about tonight, thank you.”
“Indeed? I thought it was you who had enlightened me.” Acey winked. “A mutual enlightenment then. A good thing among men.”
“You grew up good.”
Wil punched Acey’s shoulder with a force unequaled by any other blow the young man had ever felt, but he stood up to it without flinching. Despite what anyone else might think of him, Wil knew Acey was now the man he needed to be. When they’d first met, Wil had to teach him a hard lesson. Fortunately, it had done some good.
“Thank you, kid. You go home to that beautiful wife of yours, and sleep well.”
Acey winked. “Who says I’ll sleep, Old Man? As you say, she’s beautiful. Sleep is the last thing I have on my mind, when I get home.”
He nudged Wil sharply in the ribs. With a slap on the back, nearly equal in velocity to Wil’s punch, he headed toward his apartment building. Wil watched him leave with a smile on his lips. Shaking his head, he went back to his ship with a thought, undressed and lay down beside his wife. Acey’s words tickled his ear once again, “The child goes willingly, little knowing what lies ahead.”
For the first time that he could remember, Wil closed his eyes and prayed. Lord, whatever name you go by, I ask you in the name of your child who saved us, please don’t take my daughter away. Help us find another way. His eyes drifted shut and he slept.