Discover more from The Rough Draft by Rachel Aukes
A new book begins (Secondhand Spaceman prequel, Chapter 1)
(I changed my newsletter platform to Substack because I like the format. It should be seamless on your end, but I wanted to let you know since things will look a little different.)
I’m back from a two-week vacation in Costa Rica in time to head off to Demicon in Des Moines this weekend (May 5-7). I’m stoked to be their author guest of honor—it should be a lot of fun.
When I get back home, I’ll be hitting the words hard. I have two books done: The Lazarus Key (speculative thriller) which is ready to send to my early readers; and Judge Mental (superhero fantasy) is with my editor at Aethon Books. In addition to Judge Mental, I’ve promised them a new 3-book series called Redline Corps, which I’ll start as soon as I wrap up my two works-in-progress. One is Legion Quest, a portal/progression fantasy; the other is Secondhand Spaceman, a classic science fiction. I’m about 30% through the first draft of both books, and expect to publish them this year. I’ll focus first on finishing Secondhand Spaceman, speaking of which, how about the first (unedited) chapter of the prequel (and backstory)…
Secondhand Launch, Chapter One (unedited)
“Looks like I’m dead. Again.” I dropped the game controller on my lap and leaned back, rubbing my eyes.
Without my elf providing cover, Jacob’s barbarian died a second later. He cussed and then threw his controller, and it bounced off the wall. I made the mistake of telling him once that he’d save a lot of money if he spent the cash on anger management courses instead of replacing game controllers. That time, the controller had gone straight for my head (fortunately, Jacob has lousy coordination).
My phone played the ominous Star Wars music—you know, the stuff that played whenever Darth Vader came on scene. I pushed my glasses up my nose as I checked the clock. “Crap, I gotta get to class.”
“Skip it,” Jacob said. “Let’s go again. We can kill this prick in ten minutes, tops.”
“No can do, buddy. I was late for both classes last week. Teach told me that she’s dropping me a full grade if I show up late again, and I’m already sitting at a B.”
“Seriously, Frank. You gotta stay. I can’t kill Margon on my own,” he grumbled as he strolled over and picked up his controller.
“You can’t kill a rock on your own.” I swiped my phone off the table, grabbed my backpack, and paused before leaving our apartment. “I’ll be back after lunch. We’ll kick Morgon’s butt then.”
He gave his controller a shake, and it sounded like loose plastic bouncing around inside. I chuckled at his frown and then took off running for my Vehicle Controls and Safety class.
I’d made it barely a block when my phone beeped. I slowed to a jog so I could read a text message from Clarissa.
Want me to come over? XOXO.
She must’ve forgotten I had class. Still, it was a tempting offer. I went to reply, but the phone wouldn’t accept my passcode. Jacob’s and my phones were identical, except his phone had a dent in the corner from an unfortunate incident of being thrown across the room. And… sure enough, this phone had a dent. I entered his passcode and unlocked the phone. We didn’t buy matching phones to be twinsies; we bought them because we got a super deal by buying two at the same time.
I couldn’t help but chuckle, thinking of the impact that text message would’ve had on my roommate who hadn’t been laid since the Stone Age. I started to text a reply, but it was nearly impossible texting while jogging, so I called her instead.
She picked up on the first ring. “Guess what I’m wearing right now?”
“Uh, I dunno,” I replied. “What?”
“Nothing at all.”
“Nice. How’d you know I had Jacob’s phone?”
There was a weird pause. “Frank?”
“Uh, yeah, duh.”
“What are you doing with Jacob’s phone?”
I stumbled to a stop. “Wait, you thought you were talking to Jacob?”
“You’re supposed to be at class. Why aren’t you at class?” Her words were rushed, and she sounded flustered.
I bristled. “Were you seriously sexting my roommate?”
“For your information, he put the moves on me first.”
“What?” I may have over-enunciated.
“We’re a thing. Deal with it,” she snapped.
My body was going fuzzy while my brain was getting precariously close to exploding. “When did this happen?”
“About six months ago, give or take.”
My jaw slackened. “But we’ve only been together for six months.”
“Give or take,” she said.
I went to push up my glasses up my sweaty nose, but my first attempt knocked them askew and left a smudge on a lens no thanks to my shakiness. Sure, my insecure self may have wondered about Clarissa cheating on me before, but that it was just me being neurotic.
“You’re seriously surprised?”
“Of course I’m surprised! You’ve been cheating on me with my best friend, of all people. What the hell, Clary!”
She huffed. “I’m looking out for my future. I need someone who’s making something of his life. Jacob’s going to be an accountant. You’re going to be a truck driver.”
“Truck driving is a legitimate career choice,” I rebuked. Obviously, since the three of us were enrolled in the same community college. I could’ve enrolled in the Accounting program like Jacob had, but the idea of sitting behind a desk could put me to sleep faster than counting sheep. I needed activity, and since I always had a knack for fixing things, I figured I’d be a mechanic. But then the supply chain shortage happened, and driving trucks suddenly paid twice as good as fixing cars. And since I had no one to count on for financial support, I took the best job I could find that wouldn’t make me want to kill myself.
“Driving trucks is a job, not a career,” she said.
“Pretentious, much, Miss Poli Sci Major?”
“Some of the greatest leaders in the world have Political Science degrees,” she snapped.
“Yeah? Like who?”
She blustered. “Like… presidents and stuff. Duh.”
“Fine, whatever, you really think you two are going to work out? Neither one of you has worked since we started school. I’m the only one with a job. And for your information, Jacob, with all his prospects, hasn’t paid rent once since we moved here.”
“He’s busy studying,” she said.
“He’s busy playing games and drinking,” I countered.
“Like you’re not there, playing with him. And don’t get me started on your so-called ‘job’. You write stupid messages for a stupid fortune cookie company. What kind of job is that?”
“It’s the best kind of job. It’s the kind that pays me to have fun.”
“Whatever.” There was a long pause. “We’re done, Frank. It’s over.”
A surge of anger hit me. “Wait, you can’t break up with me. You’re the one who cheated on me. I’m breaking up with you.”
“Fine, whatever. Goodbye, Frank.”
The call ended, and I stared blankly at the screen. I couldn’t believe I never had a clue about Jacob and Clarissa. He hadn’t acted weird at all, which made me wonder how many other times he’d been a majorly cruddy friend.
In the distance, I heard the campus bells ring in the top of the hour.
Someone slammed into me, and I barely kept myself from face-planting on the sidewalk.
“Hey, watch it!” I grouched as I righted my backpack on my shoulder. I picked up Jacob’s phone to find the screen broken. It was the highlight of my day.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I was running late, and I wasn’t looking where I was going, and I didn’t mean to bump into you. Honest,” a sweet, feminine voice said.
I turned around and dropped Jacob’s phone again. This redhead wasn’t just hot; she was hotter-than-a-hibachi-grill hot. She wore faded jeans and a white low-cut V-neck shirt that accentuated curves I didn’t think existed outside the pages of a Playboy magazine.
“S’okay,” I managed to say, which was impressive considering that my brain had suddenly disconnected from my body, and I couldn’t look away from her cleavage. But the V-neck was so low-cut.
She turned away and bent over to pick up books she’d dropped, revealing a butterfly tattoo on her lower back. I admired the artwork, or something like that. What can I say? I’m a nineteen-year-old guy. My hormones can kick my brain’s butt any day of the week.
My brain might not have been working, but at least my sense of common courtesy was still functioning. I rushed to assist. “Here, let me.” I pulled together the books and noticed an Advanced Calculus textbook. Gorgeous and smart, and way out of my league.
I handed them back to her as if they were ancient, fragile artifacts.
She smiled as she tucked them under her arm. “Thank you.”
“Any time.” I shuffled my feet, wanting to say something suave, but even on my best days, I wasn’t exactly smooth.
She cocked her head. “Wanna grab a coffee?”
Did she sound hopeful? No, impossible. In the history of the universe, there was never a time a girl like that would be into a guy like me.
I glanced at the campanile. Class had already started, which meant it was a galactic inevitability that my grade just dropped to a C. “I—well, uh, sure. Why not?”
“Great,” she beamed. “By the way, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Totty.” She held out her hand.
“Totty? I’ve never heard of that name before,” I said as I shook her hand. “I’m Frank.”
“I know. You’re Frank Woods. You’re the reason I came here.”
Her skin was surprisingly cold to the touch and wasn’t nearly as soft as I’d expected. In fact, it felt more like a metal clamp.
I tried to pull away but couldn’t. A sharp pain shot from her palm and through me, followed instantly by a numbing sensation and me face-planting on the sidewalk. Everything faded to black.
I’ll post new chapters until the book launches, so hang with me!
In the meantime, for new book releases, check out LL Richman’s new series launch, Vision Rising, which is already topping Amazon’s genre charts. Also be sure to check out Scott Moon’s latest release, Contact, which wraps up the awesome Blue Sun Armada series.
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