Thursday, April 20, 2017

Democracy

My Zimbio  (More words from the third novel...)

Rada Verkhovna.  People's power.

Stefan Cossack had been intrigued with Ukraine's democracy since attending the Dnieper Cossack's Rada with Ivan Mazeppa, shortly after the unification of East and West banks.  Mazeppa had waxed poetic about democracy in the Hetmanate, even if he wasn't willing to vest it with full powers.  He had hoped to establish a broader body, such as the one existing today, to bring consensus to the Hetmanate across a number of topics.  Unfortunately, resources and blood required to support the Tsar's wars had shortened patience for Mazeppa's experiments.

Peter the Great ended Mazeppa's advance at Poltava, much as the battle there (and the Great Northern War skirmishes leading up to it) ended Sweden's status as a first rate power.

Stefan had been part of efforts to reinstitute the Rada in 1917 and 1919, but these efforts were also quashed by the Russians, this time in the name of Communism.  Even waving Mazeppa's sword, Stefan's credibility was limited in those days.  Fighting with the Russians during the Second World War wasn't something he could parlay in his election to the Rada.  After all, immortality was something he had to hide...

Why put so much effort into getting elected to the Rada?  Why does democracy matter, anyhow?  In America, with its claim to the longest running one, critics of the new President seem to alternatively want to take the reigns of government away from this crazy system or mourn that Trump will do so.  Some contemplate how much more efficient the United States government would be if the separation of powers ceased to exist.

Others observe subtle (and perhaps not so subtle) favoritism advances the interests of the wealthy, some races over others, men over women, some sexual preferences over others.  Equal justice under the law... is that even a goal any more?  It does seem that most attempt to advocate for advantages for their own group, not equality for all.

Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely, they say.  Yet democracy in many places hasn't eliminated corruption.  Korea's leader resigns due to improprieties.  Some of the most vicious criticisms of modern Ukraine focus on corruption, with dramatic recent examples almost made possible through democratic elections of people with less than savory objectives.

Stefan was thankful for the financial resources Sessai brought, remembering the financial success he enjoyed before the kulaks lost everything.  "They say I have a sense of entitlement," he mused.

This debate in the Rada, that Stefan was daydreaming through, was about funding for various Ukraine units.  Oligarchs paid for some, while others received pay/benefits from the state.  Best case, the state of the Ukraine economy since Russia had occupied Donbass and Crimea suffered, although it might be accurate to observe we just failed to capitalize on early momentum enjoyed just after the Soviet Union dissolved.

Stefan was familiar with Russian accusations that natural gas and oil were stolen from the pipelines.  "Druzhba," those pipelines were called.  Hmm.  People were freezing...

The chairman recognized Stefan's raised hand.  "Thank you for the opportunity to address my esteemed colleagues, Mr Chairman," said Stefan.  "We must establish standard pay scales for all our military, and insure they are independent bodies, such as militaries in all western democracies.  We have come too far to continue to appear, or even be in fact, a collection of squabbling warlords.  I move that we vote to absorb all the military organizations within the Ukraine Department of Defense, standardize rank, benefits and authorities, and make other activities illegal."

"Second," shouted a number of his colleagues.  "We will need legislation to that effect," said the chairman.  Indeed, thought Stefan.  A worthy effort....

Find the prelude to "Ukraine Skies" here.

Find Ukraine Skies, Baltimore Lights here.  


The third novel (quoted above) is due for release in late summer, 2017.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lights

My Zimbio  This chapter may be inserted halfway through Ukraine Skies, Baltimore Lights.  At this time, it will appear in novel releasing summer 2017, tentatively called "Warrior's Edition."

"I hear you know a few things about flying."
Olya glanced up at her boss, Deputy Chairman of NATO's military committee.  "Well, sir, can't claim I have thousands of hours as pilot in command, but I've got a pilot's license and am planning to study aeronautics."

He nodded.  "Taking a break?"

Olya smiled.  "A rare opportunity to spend a few years in Europe.  I'm working on advancing my higher math skills and understanding this byzantine organization."  Shessler smiled.  "Let me know if you figure it out."

Olya was a few hours away from a long weekend in Baltimore.  Six months to accrue the vacation and "good will" to get away.  She glanced out the window.  Not a bad view of Brussels.  Shessler had eased into the role without fanfare, just as he had just walked past her desk into his office.

She smiled as she contemplated the introduction to her "twin."  Her interview at Norma Jean's was scheduled for Saturday.  They had told her she would begin work that night.  Olya had found an exotic wardrobe shop close to the airport and had the phone number for the frat social committee chair where the lacrosse team were (mostly) members.

Then she placed a call for a cab.  "Yes, to the airport."  She stood, walked to the closet where she had stowed her carry-on.

##

The interview had gone well.  The manager liked her "look" and agreed to give free entrance to the first ten from the frat she invited.  She was up on stage for the first time, under the burning lights, though she wasn't sure whether the heat she felt was from them or the flush color red she turned taking her clothes off for the first time.  "These boys are enraptured," she thought, as one, then another, folded a dollar in her g-string, staring at her subtle, firm shape.

She smiled at the tall one with black hair, flirting with her eyes.  "Team captain?" she wondered.  One of the others whispered in his ear.  His eyebrows went up and he glanced at her face.  "Vanessa?" he asked.  She bent down, patted him on the cheek, then walked into the dressing room.

"Mission accomplished," she thought, slipping on her jeans and heading to the door.

##

"Word around campus is that you're dancing at Norma Jean's."  Cammie thought that was a bit out of character for her room mate.  "What?  Who told you that?"  Vanessa wondered.  "Kids from the lacrosse team were there last night.  Said you were great," Cammie added with a laugh.

"Why would I do that?  What my scholarship doesn't cover, Mom's professorial benefit does."

"I guess girls do it for lots of reasons."  Vanessa thought, she knows me better.  Then a thought crossed her mind.  She checked the address and hopped on a bus.  It was about an hour and a half before she was staring face-to-face with herself, swaying naked on that stage, twisting around the pole, gathering dollars.  "I wonder," she thought to herself.

Olya walked right to her table after she left the stage.  "Vanessa?"  She just stared.  "Great to finally meet you.  I hoped you would come.  Olya," she said, extending her hand for a shake.

"I'm going to kill you.  I thought you were in Europe."

"A little vacation.  I get around."

"I'm planning on getting a security clearance and keeping my scholarship."

"You mean my scholarship?"

Vanessa said nothing, only glared.  "I thought this would be a fun way to meet you.  Anyhow, today's my last day."

"Sessai will kill you.  How did you get here?  Do you need money?"

"Don't worry about me.  Really, we can try to be sisters.  How is Tom, by the way."

"Sisters?  Ha..." Vanessa glanced away and back at Olya.  "What did you do there?  He called me non-stop for two weeks and suggested visiting me here multiple times."

Olya smirked.  "This is actually a bit tame compared to what happened at Cornell.  I was on a bit of an emotional ride at the time.  Cut off from my life, and all."

Vanessa took a deep breath.  "Listen, I hear you are well settled in Europe and Sessai tells me you have an awesome future in store.  This is the only place where this kind of thing can be a disaster for me."

"Really, I just wanted to meet you.  Ok, I wanted to take a dig, since you are enjoying what I worked so hard for.  I'm not sure I can trust Sessai, but if all the things he says are true, you're right, things will be great."  Olya looked at Vanessa.  "Mostly I miss my Mom."

Vanessa glanced up at the next dancer.  "Yeah, I guess I understand that.  Call me anytime.  Let me know if you need anything."  Vanessa handed Olya her telephone number on a small scrap of paper.  "Please don't write this on any toilet stall walls."

"Thanks, I won't," said Olya, glancing at the number.  "We ought to coordinate interactions with Tom."

"I will let you know if he calls again."

"Okay.  Good luck with the lacrosse team," Olya added, smiling.

"Bitch," was Vanessa's response.  "Nice to meet you too," said Olya.  "Yeah, nice to meet you," said Vanessa, as she got up and walked out the door.  Halfway back to campus on the bus, her phone vibrated.  "Trust you enjoyed the swords and the books."  Ah, so those were from her.  Interesting, thought Vanessa.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bobby

My Zimbio    Section from another chapter of the new book:

“Your customer assumes terms are the same as last time, with the exception that the amount has been increased to reflect inflation.”

    “This conversation never happened.” Cleo veritably ran from the bank.  Ducked into the train.  Immediately transferred 50% of her balance to another bank.  How did they find her and how much do they know, she wondered.  Then she walked to a news stand and bought every periodical and paper on it.

    Within a day she was sitting on a nondescript freighter for America, considering options.  “Why Bobby Kennedy?” she wondered.  “Should I accept?”  There were no options for rejecting the assignment, although she thought she might transfer all but $5M from the account and instruct her banker to return that amount.  Ultimately, she opted to keep the deposit and the assignment, but decided she would manipulate a new trigger.

    Review of Bobby Kennedy’s positions included strong anti-communism, progressive rights for United States citizens, alignment with “flower children” (Kennedy staffers hated all uniforms, be they military or law enforcement) and an interest in supporting the state of Israel.  “Israel… our old slaves?” wondered Cleo.

    One of Bobby Kennedy’s anti-communist colleagues was a hotel magnate, David Schine.  That might be helpful, she thought.  The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, was owned by Schine, and famous for its club, the entertainment there.

    Cleo decided the Israeli link was most interesting and enrolled in a popular Palestinian alma mater of the day, Hartnell College. She contemplated her romantic options… first considered in many, many, years. 

    In one class, a student raved against Israel.  Evidently Israel’s victory in the six day war drove young Sirhan and his family to the Old City of Jerusalem, a miserable place for a childhood.  She smiled at him, and they had lunch.  The Egyptian past was an interesting tie.  Wasn’t hard to direct his anger from general anti-Zionism to hi-profile Kennedy, who promised to send the Israeli’s a bunch of US Phantom jets.

    She thought about options.  Street cars might be a challenge, she thought.  Large caliber firearms are out of favor, she thought.  22 calibers are very accurate… and relatively quiet.

    She and Sirhan traveled to Los Angeles in May.  One day he showed her a 22 pistol he bought.  “This guy is crazy,” she thought, one night before heading to the Coconut Grove for a vodka.  The guy who bought it … said his name was Cesar.  “I have an affinity for that name,” she said smiling, when he offered to buy her another.  He was a security officer and liked the idea of working  for the Kennedy campaign.  Since police weren’t allowed to protect the candidate, staffers were exploring other options.

    She found a little closet which shared a wall with the kitchen that night.  A week later she cut a square hole at sitting height, then carefully reinserted the piece.  It wasn’t hard to insert a false ceiling and place her Savage/Stevens 22 in the space above.

    Cleo wore her favorite polka-dot dress the night of the California primary victory.  She walked from the Coconut Grove with Sirhan, then whispered she forgot her coat.  He glared at her… she knew he had his new pistol in his coat.

    Cesar guided the Senator into the hotel kitchen, where a group wanted to shake the hand of a rising star.

    With the commotion around the candidate in the kitchen, no one noticed her, even with the blue polka dots.  She removed the rifle from the ceiling cavity and sat in her supported firing position.  She pulled out the piece she had cut from the wall and gazed through the scope, waiting for her moment.

    Just as the firing started, Kennedy stepped into her observation window.  Cleo squeezed off two rounds intended for a spot behind the candidate’s ear.  She saw him fall, then replaced the wall segment and returned the rifle to the ceiling cavity.  She left her little closet and walked out of the hotel, never to return.
    The second five million arrived in her account the next day.  She arrived in London the following week.

Buy Ukraine Skies, Baltimore Lights here.

Buy the prelude, Jung-gug-in, here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Maneuver in Ukraine

My Zimbio  Below is an updated post revealing a section of the first chapter of the third "Ukraine Skies" novel (tentatively called Warrior's Edition):



    Vanessa Smith was watching the waves off the Outer Banks, North Carolina, United States of America, pondering the questions that a surfer faces.  Which wave shall I ride?  How shall I catch it?  Do I have the skills to ride it where it will go, and if not, can I do anything about that now?


    She was standing on the sun-bleached porch of a little beach chalet, sipping a cappuccino made by one of those new-fangled coffee machines that let you choose whatever you want to drink.  Your own little barista, plugged into the power in your kitchen, connected to your home network or mobile phone, so you can even instruct the thing to prepare you something when you aren’t around to push the buttons yourself.

    Hank stepped up behind her, wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her neck.  “Much nicer to have a warm, willing to please, barista in residence.”  She turned to him and kissed him back.  Together they watched an osprey, hovering above the water, hunting for fish.  It dove, but emerged without quarry.

    “Time flies,” he said.  She nodded, a bit sad.  A short break from the Army.  Yes, she won her wings, and orders for the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment in Ukraine.  But would she be stuck in an S3 air role at Regimental Headquarters, or even worse, sent to some Ukraine maneuver or government headquarters where her Russian might help McMaster more than her budding tactical and piloting skills might, at the moment?

    She turned to Hank, wondering if she would see him again.  So many options for him in New York City.  She felt something pushing against her, and let her hand move to explore his pajamas.  “You fly,” she said, smiling mischievously.

    The osprey dove again, this time emerging from the water with a fish in its claws.  “That bird isn’t going to let go,” thought Vanessa.  Her fingers found the back of Hank’s fuzzy hair and she kissed him again, more passionately this time.
##
    He stood watching her check her bags.  Two big green duffle bags and a wider canvas tote.  She clutched the camoflauge purse he had purchased from that custom shop for her… perhaps a bit more feminine than standard Army or surplus store options, but still camoflauge.  She loved it, laughing and kissing, when he gave it to her.  He wondered whether he would see her again as she waved, then she turned and walked to the gate.  Perhaps he should have bought her that diamond ring…

    Vanessa handed her ticket to the United employee at the gate.  No time to spare.  “Oh, you have been upgraded to first class,” said the pretty brunette.  “Well… thank you.”  Vanessa wondered whether that was Hank, the airline, or some other kind passenger.

    She walked down the tunnel to the aircraft, then found her seat at the window.  She could see Hank waving at the window.  She waved back, unsure he would be able to see her.  It all seemed like such a miracle.

##

    Captain Smith thought that the assumption of command in Ukraine went smoothly.  The battalion property book officer understood the equipment in her troop thoroughly and prepared useful piles of paper to support the process.  Troop command.  Amazing.  Deux ex machina?

    Her platoon leaders were outstanding (fabulous US Army word) officers without exception, intrigued to follow an A-10 driver with an Iraq Bronze Star for valor on her chest.  True, she was young for a troop commander, and relatively new in a helicopter. But Captain Smith’s thoughts about air ambushes and the aeronautics degree from Hopkins affirmed the Army’s decision to put her in that job.

    McMaster liked to lead from the front.  It was an old habit, and “HR” thought it kept him sharp.  Many cav commanders commandeered a helicopter and called instructions from there.  McMaster would ride in the 2d Squadron formation, with his tank crew modified somewhat so his tank was responsive to the lead troop commander’s coordination, while McMaster himself listened to the regimental command and intelligence nets, watching the evolution of Common Operating Picture on his Google glasses from his perch in the TC’s chair.

    The regimental headquarters were located in Dnipropetrovsk, prepared to displace to Kremenchuck.

    McMaster gave Lieutenant Colonel Artie Wyman the mission to screen between Slovyask and Svatove with 1st Squadron, including an active defense along E40 highway.  Wyman was preparing to displace through Kremenchuch to Kirovohrad in a wide sweeping motion.

Lieutenant Colonel Crabchuk was screening along E40 and E50 between Slovyansk and Krasnarmisk, with 2d Squadron’s center of mass at Luzova. Active defense along E50 would be supplanted with a displacement to Uman, crossing bridges at Dnipropetrovsk.

Third Squadron had the bulk of the Regimental air defense assets, where Lieutenant Colonel Tommy Isaacs was responsible for screening south of E50 and North of Polohy, defending bridges (and 2d Squadron’ crossing) at Dnipropetrovsk.  The squadron would be prepared to counterattack toward Kharkiv.

Lieutenant Colonel Tip Carney would repel any amphibious attacks thru Mariupol and Melitopol, screening between Zaporezhya and Nova Kakovka with 4th Squadron, east of Tokmak, North to Poloky and south to E58.  The squadron would consolidate west of Zaporizhya, prepared to counterattack toward Kharkiv behind Third Squadron if that were necessary.  Initial efforts for a combined arms ambush at Melitopol would complement screening efforts.

Tom Bryant’s Aviation Squadron ran simulated ambush patrols from its base in Kyevhi Rih to Rodisne, Vosnesensk, Vozryatski and Bashtanka, with orders to displace to Cherkavsky. 

    Can a part time warrior really lead a brigade in combat?  Happened all the time in the US Civil War.  But modern mobilizations typically give National Guard brigades less critical tasks (supplying sheets and pillows for barracks in combat zone).  A National Guard armored brigade that received a combat mission for its Iraq deployment this decade had a substantial number of casualties.

    In any event, the 26th Infantry brigade commander wasn’t suffering from any inferiority complexes.  A twenty-nine year veteran who began his career with an active duty tour with the Rangers, Mullaly had received an MBA from Boston University with his enlistment education benefit, while attending the Massachusetts National Guard OCS and BOLC.  He worked as a CPA for a “big six” (big four?  Big three?  Big two?) accounting firm, working his way through company and battalion command.

    He had moved to Virginia to serve in the Pentagon until selected for brigade command, returning for assumption of command ceremonies and paperwork three months before the deployment announcement.  His unit strength was “plussed up” from National Guard units across the country, although he tended to keep his own Guard leadership in command roles up and down the chain of command.

    He and his brigade flew into Ukraine for a NATO Sorotan exercise, some arriving in Kiev on commercial aircraft, others flying direct to Kharkiv on C-130 or C-123 aircraft.  US equipment arrived at railheads near Kharkiv, with trucks focusing on movement of 1-81 and 1-104 “light infantry” battalions, and members of 1-72 Tank and 1-31 Infantry joining M1 and M2 tank and armored personnel equipment at railheads for movement to staging areas.

    Press coverage and Russian response were ferocious.  Fortunately, his soldiers weren’t able to read the local Russian language news media.  Mullaly selected a five-story building in the northeast quadrant of Kharkiv (Kyivsky district) for his brigade headquarters and proceeded to build his multi-media tactical operations center on the fifth floor.  UAV feeds, radios, sand tables and a large auditorium for brigade ops meetings were perfect.

    Lieutenant Colonel Lowjack wasn’t happy to leave his manufacturing business for a NATO exercise, but he knew they wouldn’t select him for brigade command if he missed this mob.  He was delighted with the initiative of his command sergeant major and intel officer, who had prepared concrete bunkers for the anti-tank missile vehicles.

    Defending in depth at Stary Saltive would not be an easy mission if the Russians ever came across.  Of course, the Donets river was a fantastic obstacle, which he would easily defend once any attacking forces made it through the web of A company strong points and battalion antitank missiles pointed down the avenues of approach enroute to that beautiful bridge his infantry would preserve if possible.

    With the other three companies of the 1-81 infantry battalion on the western side of Donets, Lojack was sure he would offer disaster to any air assault or air mobile operation between Stary Saltiv and Kharkiv.

    Lieutenant Colonel Moredone was responsible for coordinating with the Ukrainian mechanized infantry division located southeast of Kharkiv and preventing penetration of threat forces northwest of the intersection at Chuhuiv.  Defending in depth as his  plan, which was integrated in a thorough defense of the airfield west of Chuhuiv, enabling secure refuel/rearm of US air force aircraft (mostly A10’s but perhaps an occasional F15 and/or F16) there.

    The 1-31 Mechanized Infantry battalion was responsible  for coordinating with the Ukrainian tank division headquartered at Cheringov, and configured with two companies forward (one just south of Berezivka, the other just north of Zolochiv, on the other side of the westward bend in the road there) and two companies in reserve (one just southeast of Zolochiv while the other company were prepared to defend or reposition on the edge of the woods there).

    Lieutenant Colonel Tielilly configured the  1-72 Tank Battalion with two companies forward (one north of Lisne, the other southeast of Cherkaska Lozova) and two companies in reserve (slightly northwest of Turkuny, in the treeline, and one south of the E105/E40, vicinity the bend in E105).  He was prepared to dispatch a company sized tank force to reinforce the 1-104 should an attack from Belorus not materialize. 

##

Rodisne, Vosnesensk, Vozryatski and Bashtanka.  Alpha troop, Bravo troop, Charlie and Delta.  Vanessa glanced at her ops lieutenant and First Sergeant.  The lieutenant smiled at her… he had predicted that objective and had already begun coordination for the air corridors to get them there.  First Sergeant Dominion only frowned.

Colonel Bryant was predicting where the Russian main effort might come, options for refueling and rearming in event of outbreak, and how the simulation would work these next few days.  “Any questions?” he asked.  Bravo troop commander asked something mildly pertinent to prove he was listening.  After saluting, Captain Smith turned and left the office with her troop leadership.

Bryant turned to his Sergeant Major after they all left for planning activities.  “Any issues?”  His advisor shook his head.  “No sir.” 

The Colonel smiled.  “Then let’s get to work planning our support for Fourth Squadron’s Melitopol ambush.”

##

    “What is your estimate, two?” Colonel Mullaly was studying large maps including Belorussia, Russia and Ukraine.  His Operations Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Fitzgo, had just been outlining company positions for each of the battalions of the brigade.  His Intelligence Officer, Major Whysmartie, suggested, “If we see anyone, I believe it will be elements of the 20th Guards, probably the 3rd Rifle Division.”

    Mullaly glanced at his “three,” the Ops officer, then told Whysmartie, “you need to be more certain than that.”

    Major Whysmartie smiled.  “We can expect three infantry brigades and a separate tank brigade from the 3rd MRD, supported by an artillery brigade, two rocket brigades and two anti-aircraft rocket brigades.  We think the 58th Guards will snatch Kiev, leaving Karkhiv to the 20th and its 3rd MRD.  The 49th Guards Army is oriented south of us.

    “Pretty overwhelming,” responded Mullaly.  Fitzgo chimed in, “We will have strong support from the F-16’s based in Kharkiv.”

    “That's assuming they aren't fully tasked with the 58th in Kiev.  What about A-10’s?”  Mullaly wondered.

    “Of course, the 104th is defending an airfield we hoped will be used to refuel and rearm both F-16's and A-10's but at the moment we think the A-10's will be oriented in the Donbass and otherwise supporting the 2d ACR against the 49th.”

    “There is a chance the 20th will bypass us completely and support the 58th grab of Kiev.”  Wouldn’t that be nice, thought Whysmartie.

    “What do you think about that, three?” wondered the commander.

    “I think we’re going to have a fight on our hands, mostly coming from the north, not the east.” Fitzgo spit in his soda can.

    “I think you’re right,” responded Mullaly.  “Adjust the plan.  I want 1-31 and 1-72 to be two balanced  Infantry/Armor task forces, but then I want one of TF 1-72’s companies attached to 1-81’s A Company commander, who I’m going to task with defending Karkhiv just  within city limits.”  Fitzgo nodded.  “Tielilly will be pissed about that,” he mentioned with a smile. 

    Deadpan, Mullaly answered, “Needs of the Army.”

##

    Vanessa was flying her cobra south along the Crimean Sea.  Her boss, Lieutenant Colonel Bryant, was wedged in the back seat with the Regimental Intel Officer, Major McKrockcity.  Colonel McMaster was sitting in the co-pilot seat.  McKrockcity was talking.

    “There is a chance the 20th will mass through Donbass to grab Dnipropetrovsk, but I think it’s more likely they will stay in place and we will see airmobile/airborne operations to support a 58th Guards Army attack on Kiev.”  As they flew over Melitipol, Colonel Bryant said, “If they attempt a beach assault around here, a 4th Squadron combined arms ambush can count on Captain Vanessa’s support.”

    “I think we need to be very prepared to place half of the Regiment south of Kiev to counter-attack on a successful 58th Army grab of Kiev, and half attacking North to retake Kharkiv from the 20th.  But if the 49th Guards come at Dnipropetrovsk from Donbass and,” he added, “or North across the water, we will be ready.” McMaster was grim.  He wasn’t comfortable with the rocket arsenal and UAV fleet he knew would be directing fire on his Regiment, if the Russians decided to take back Ukraine.

    “Roger, sir.”


These details might have been inserted in Ukraine Skies, Baltimore Lights (available here), but instead will be provided in the next novel of the "Ukraine Skies" series, scheduled for release in late summer 2017.

Isis

My Zimbio   First few paragraphs, second chapter:

    “We are cat people, not dog people,” said the woman.


    Cleo was surprised to find a beautiful middle aged woman sitting on a bench in the barn she selected.  She squinted at the woman and turned to her red dog.  “Sadites,” she told him.  He sat dutifully at her side.


    “You don’t remember me?” the woman asked.


    “Have we met?” Cleo asked.  What was this strange language… and how can she understand and speak it?


    “Of course not,” muttered ISIS, with a smirk.  “Well, there was a time I was your goddess and you, young princess, were the apple of Ra’s eye.  Then of course you ran off with that Julius fellow, scandalizing all of Rome.”


    “Your glorious country has been struggling ever since.  I might add that the author will receive quite a pile of manure for this Deux ex Machina, but who better to play that role here than yours truly?”


    “At risk of adding several wheelbarrows to the criticism, I’m going to give you some advice.  You have learned how to find Tsar Peter.  I suggest you attend the unification party at the edges of town tomorrow, and learn about this Swedish Charles XII.  Learn how to shoot one of those clumsy flintlocks.. and refresh your memory of a blade.  They’ve gotten quite nice since you handled one.”  Isis handed Cleo a dagger in its leather and gold trimmed sheath.  The sun god symbolism at the end of the handle appeared strangely familiar to Cleo.


    “Once you have promised the Tsar you will kill his Swedish rival, find the Danish crown prince in the Belgian court.  Befriend his betrothed and offer to dispense with the Swede in return for berth on a ship to America.”


    Cleo was confused.  “You don’t understand this yet,  but you will catch on.  You always do.”  Isis considered disappearing with a flash, in a cloud of smoke, but instead turned to walk away.


    “Oh,” she said, as an afterthought.  “Get rid of the dog.” Then, tossing Cleo a coin of the local realm, said “Get yourself a room.  There is a vacancy at the inn for you.” 
    “Thank you,” called Cleo, scratching Wolf behind the ears.  “But I think will keep you,” she whispered to her new companion.  “I heard that,” shouted ISIS.


Find the prelude to "Ukraine Skies" here.

Find Ukraine Skies, Baltimore Lights here.  

The third novel (quoted above) is due for release in late summer, 2017.