Reviews for The Comet's Return

The Comet’s Return, ISBN9780981996141, Mardel Books, e-book and paperback, 251 pages, by Toby Heathcotte.

This is a most unusual book. It begins with one of the main characters waking from a particularly unpleasant dream. From this point, I believe that little should be set forth about the characters, or of their actions. Granted, any number of these features could be described. However, with the number of plots, sub-plots, and persons involved, I believe such description would be a disservice. It would only serve to point the reader in one direction and stultify his/her overall understanding of the inter-involvement of the characters and their interrelationships. The story is replete with visions, premonitions, clairvoyance, reincarnated persons, and unusual thoughts about the reincarnated and their actions, that can be most enjoyed only by approaching the book as a whole.

Please be aware that this description should not be a deterrent to the reader, but rather a stimulant. The characters are believable and the action moves the story along at an enjoyable pace.  There are murders, love scenes and a vendetta that goes back centuries, and ideas about reincarnation that tend toward the unique.

In summary, the author has provided not only a novel that is easy to read, but one that provides some interesting material to contemplate. It has an unusual quality and should provide special enjoyment for anyone with interest in the occult.

John H. Manhold, Fiction/Nonfiction Author

 

“This journey of rediscovered love and spiritual awakening will leave readers speculating on forces that impact their own lives, long after the last page.” Michael J. Murphy, Suspense Novelist

“Deep, tormented characters evolve through a succession of dramatic lifetimes.  Celtic legends connect with known history, current and even future events, in a believable tapestry of karmic consequences, where good and evil intersect and sometimes even switch places.” Vijaya Schartz, Science Fiction and Romance Author

“I found this an exciting read about a crafty villain determined to keep Angela and Todd from their reincarnated destinies.” Cherie Lee, Novelist and Magazine Editor

 

 Excerpt from The Comet's Return, Alma Chronicles V

by Toby Fesler Heathcotte

2009 release by Mardelbooks.com

 

One

 

Vague Longings

 

Phoenix, Greater Hispania—May 25, 2061

 

In a dream, Angela huddled on hard ground. She heard a popping sound and looked up with a sense of dread. Yellow flames burst through the air. Something huge was on fire above her. Heat seared her skin. The stench of burning rubber sickened her. She felt the coarseness of the cloth in her dress.

Someone lay nearby. She reached out to help him. When she turned him over, his face was burned and blistered beyond recognition. Desperately she cradled him. She didn’t want him to die, but it was too late. She screamed for help.

 

The scream rattled in Angela’s throat and awakened her. She bounded out of bed then glanced involuntarily at the other side terrified that she would see the burned body lying next to her.

Her movement across the carpet turned on the lavender light recessed in the wall, allowing her to see and assure herself that she was alone in her bedroom. Her nightgown damp from perspiration clung to her skin.

The digital clock read two in the morning. What an awful nightmare. She’d never dreamed the same dream twice before that she could ever recall. And now for the past three nights this horror had been visited upon her in her sleep. Why? She pressed her hand to her rapidly beating heart and feared bad dreams could cause her to have a heart attack. She had to calm down.

Too exhausted to remain awake and unwilling to go back to her bed, Angela headed into the white-carpeted living room, grateful for the pale blue lights that welcomed her. She didn’t want to remain alone in the house. How comforting it would have been to have a man with her right now, the right man.

Her condo with its sleek styling and transparent furniture looked as lonely as she felt. The decision to remain single and focus on her career worked far better in the daylight than in the middle of the night. Intellectually she accepted herself as cool and focused and not at all needy. But beneath that persona seemed to dwell another, more passionate self, one capable of tremendous love and devotion, perhaps even obsession. Those feelings poured out of her for the dead man in her dream. That must have meant she could feel those emotions awake too.

Who was the man in the dream? Someone she fantasized? Maybe her intuition indicated she would meet the man, but why would she want to meet him if she were doomed to experience such despair because of him?

Who was she in the dreams? Her clothes seemed old-fashioned and an ugly style she’d never choose. That detail present in all the dreams seemed important, but how she didn’t know.

Nothing made sense. It was like she had a bomb in her mind that went off every time she fell asleep. She understood herself less with every passing day.

Her need to uncover the truth about things had prompted her to choose a journalism career. She felt the need even more now that the search had taken such a terrifying and personal turn.

Angela punched up the pillows behind her and flipped on the video wall, switching channels until she found a comedy show in progress. That would distract her mind and help her remain awake until time to get ready for work.

The next moment it seemed sunlight flooded through the condo windows. She had not realized she’d nodded off. She was late for work, again.

Dashing into the bedroom, Angela threw on her black skirt and blouse, grabbed her gold lamé blazer and makeup kit. She ran through the front door into the parking lot and climbed into her opalescent Bimi. The little car, with its sprays of pink and green feathery flowers reminiscent of a desert willow tree, had cost a year’s salary, but she didn’t care about the money. She felt proud to own such a lovely machine.

Angela sped down the boulevard from her condo through the Bradshaw Mountains. She steered the vehicle onto the beltway and edged it into the track of the moving electric grid beside a bright red Bimi with yellow and orange flames. She set the amethyst steering knob to autopilot.

A sucking sound indicated her car had slipped onto the hover field. Angela leaned up in the velvet seat to apply her makeup. At least that would save a few minutes after she arrived. She ignored the other cars and trolleys traveling in tandem with her at two hundred kilometers per hour. The fuel cell hummed as it recharged.

She opened the makeup kit. Empty. Damn. She couldn’t stop her thoughts: Who were the people in the dreams? Always the same. Why did the horrors keep repeating? She had an odd suspicion that she ought to know. If she didn’t get answers soon, she would lose her mind. Could losing sleep cause a person to become psychotic?

Once she arrived at the news bureau downtown, Angela hurried along the corridor, vexed with herself. The sliding glass doors into the news room opened for her.

The editor, Campbell, charged toward her along the row of cubicles between secretaries and junior reporters. “For the love of God, can’t you get here on time?” His gruff voice exploded. “What’s happened to you lately?”

Curious faces peered above work stations, no doubt eager to see a colleague dressed down, especially one promoted so fast.

“I’m sorry, boss.” Angela held up the hem of her skirt and hurried toward the makeup room door. Six minutes until air time. “Can we talk about this later?”

Campbell folded short arms over a starched white shirt, which barely covered his girth. He stepped into her path. His heavy eyebrows bobbed up and down in that annoying way he had of letting her know she’d disappointed him again, after all he’d done for her. “Sorry won’t get the job done here,” he chided in a sarcastic tone. “Do the words Alpha Centauri hold any meaning for you?”

Surely he wouldn’t send her four light years away to beam back news of wars among barely known civilizations. She preferred that he would banish her or put her in prison. Angela gasped, “You can’t be serious!”

“I can and I am. You’ll be here to get prepped on the news and get into makeup in a timely fashion, or I’ll be looking for someone else to fill your slot, and you’ll be on a space transport.” Campbell sliced a pudgy hand in the air with the motion of flight. He appeared to enjoy her discomfort.

Tired and listless, Angela didn’t blame him much. “I know I’m off my stride. I’ll try to do better.” She didn’t want to lose her job. Avoiding her boss’s eyes, she dodged into the makeup room and sat in the tilt-back, molded chair. She clutched her jacket in a death grip.

“Get that copy for me!” Campbell shouted at the assistant director and followed Angela into the room. He glared at her while the makeup man kinked the wavy strands of her long black hair into a tailored bob.

“Here, boss.” The assistant director, a nervous young woman, said in a shaky voice and thrust her arm into the room.

Grabbing the disc-shaped copyreader, Campbell tossed it toward Angela. “Get busy.”

To keep her head immobile so the makeup man could work his magic, Angela strained her eyes around his muscular, suntanned arm to read the news line traveling across the disc.

The makeup man brushed a dewy blue gel on her lids to bring out the color of her pale eyes. Standing back, he clamped a hand on one slim hip and surveyed her face. “Girlfriend, you really need an eye job. Only surgery could cover up these dark sockets. And whatever can we do with this cadaverous skin?”

Angela gathered up her belongings. “Thanks for the critique!” Normally she would laugh off his catty comments, but today under the cloud of such sorrow from the dream and exhaustion from lack of sleep, she felt offended by the makeup man’s comments.

“Well, you look a veritable harridan!”

The caution light blinked two minutes. “Leave me alone. I look all right.” Angela didn’t like being called a witch, even in jest.

True, she often picked the right moment to ask for interviews or knew the most telling question to ask. She credited her promotion to that knack for synchronicity, although some jealous reporters attributed it to what Granddad called her porcelain-doll looks.

As a kid she’d thought everyone’s intuitions came to fruition like hers did. As an adult she downplayed the source of her knowledge to avoid being singled out as weird. The religious wars in the twenty-first century with beheadings, suicide bombers, and other atrocities had sometimes included witch burning. Her intuition warned her to be careful so she wouldn’t be accused of witchcraft even though she had never practiced it. No one had been accused in Greater Hispania, but it had happened in some mid-eastern countries. Insane cultists could rise up anytime, anywhere.

The sweeping trumpets of a classical march on the sound system announced the early edition as Angela dashed onto the set. Stars glittered and an occasional comet streaked across the midnight blue projected on the domed sound stage with its imbedded silver dollar sized cameras. Looking relieved, the assistant director sat beside the sync-master, the only humans among the holographic audience, which applauded around them.

While Angela slipped into her jacket, she hoped the events of the day held such high interest that no one would notice her weariness. Breathing deeply to calm herself, she tucked the copy disc inside her sleeve and slid into her side of the transparent desk.

Her co-anchor, Juan, nodded from the next seat. He adjusted the collar of his matching lamé jacket and smoothed the sleeve, cleverly calling attention to his model-perfect physique. He smiled with a practiced charm that Angela distrusted. She couldn’t decipher why he tilted his well-sculpted chin. Juan’s brown eyes flashed beneath plucked brows. What was he thinking? Probably whether or not he should have his eyes done! Maybe he could change the color. She found blue eyes ever-so-much sexier.

Angela set aside her thoughts about Juan. If she didn’t watch herself, she could become as catty as the makeup man. Besides, Juan had such talent and potential that he didn’t need to trade on his good looks.

The green light blinked on, the fanfare faded, and he smiled angelically. “Good morning, Phoenix and Greater Hispania. Juan Calderon reporting.”

“And I’m Angela Brock.” She smiled steadily into the monitor until the midnight sphere turned opaque, then she focused on the copy tracking across her field of vision. Nothing must break the cameras’ illusion that she and her co-anchor floated in the firmament.

 “An hour ago the Inter-Planetary Council censored Venezuela for threatening troop movements in the Caribbean.” Juan’s solemn voice made him sound like the sincere patriot he probably was. “President Gonzales reminded our Venezuelan neighbors that continued aggression may result in trade restrictions. So far, there has been no response.”

“In medical news,” Angela began with a genuine smile at delivering good news, “doctors at the Cancer Institute are closing their doors. Recent progress in research has revealed that ninety-five percent of cancers are curable with over-the-counter medications. The other five percent of patients, according to Dr. Lester Weinstein, steadfastly insist on their right to die of cancer. Dr. Weinstein said, ‘We must honor the patient’s integrity in such decisions.’” She felt enormous satisfaction that cancer had finally been defeated. She shuddered at even thinking of having it.

 The assistant director pointed toward the tiny barrel of the camera in the corner, and Juan shifted seamlessly to face it. “Halley’s Comet has returned to circle the earth. Today for the first time in seventy six years, it has become visible without the need for a telescope. In a light-hearted celebration of the Comet’s return, L. A.’s famed Griffith Park Observatory has announced June Fifth as the date for opening the Halley’s Comet Trunk, a time capsule, sealed in 1986. Dr. Todd Williams will preside. Dr. Williams is the astrophysicist who developed the tachyon drive, the first weightless propulsion system, the discovery that allowed faster-than-light travel throughout the galaxy.”

The viewfinder monitor rolled film footage of a sleek, new high rise in downtown Phoenix. An elegant looking man in a tuxedo stood beside Governor Goldman while she broke a champagne bottle over the cornerstone.

Angela’s camera light came on and she read the tagline, “Phoenix welcomes the Psi Therapy Clinic, which has opened for business. Dr. Robert Kegan, the managing director, reports that full services will be rendered according to the English paranormal model, a first for Greater Hispania and in fact for all of the United States of North America.” She smiled as the footage cross-faded with her image. “In further government news, the National Home Council will convene on Sunday evening, June Five for the culminating tally on this month’s issues to be voted on by the electorate. Stay tuned following this important message.”

When the familiar neigh of Tamale Tim’s nag whinnied in the monitor, Juan leaned across the desk and laid a warm palm over Angela’s. Startled, she withdrew her hand quickly and gave him a quizzical look. Holding conversations during commercials always broke her focus, so she didn’t like doing it.

“I’ve got tickets to the Mozart concert tonight. Will you go with me?” Juan looked boyish, as if dreading her response. Not surprising, considering how many times she had refused him. “Don’t say no. We can have dinner at the spaceport and watch the sunset. It will be fun.”

“Please, I wish you wouldn’t ask me. I’d prefer we have a professional relationship.” Angela dreaded the idea of establishing a relationship with Juan, or anyone else for that matter. She didn’t want to be part of a couple. Still she felt lonely for the love of a man.

“But why not? We’re perfect for each other!” Juan scowled, distorting the handsome lines of his face. “It’s not like you’ve got anybody else. If you did I’d understand. It seems you just refuse me out of spite, and I don’t deserve that.”

“Five seconds,” the assistant director hissed from the midst of the hologram.

What a relief! Angela sighed.

Juan relaxed into a bland smile and fixed his eyes on the camera lens. The rest of the newscast passed uneventfully, but Juan didn’t look at Angela again. Afterward, she felt fortunate to have a telecom interview scheduled and hurried out of the sound stage. Anything to avoid Juan’s accusing eyes.

At the end of the workday, Angela drove her Bimi onto the beltway. Normally, she loved to watch the Phoenix skyline with its towering glass buildings in geometric designs, set against the cloudless blue desert vault. Depressed today, she ignored the view of the northern beltway on the fast track drive. She leaned against the magenta seat and closed her eyes.

Although she felt guilty for refusing Juan, she would do the same to any man who happened to ask for a date. She wondered at her overwhelming lack of interest in the men she knew or met. She had no homosexual leanings like her brother, but something was definitely wrong with her. At thirty, most women wanted a husband, home, and children. Most of her friends had already found relationships that would probably end in marriages. Her biological clock demanded a decision before long. Becoming a mother seemed a wonderful prospect.

Angela was too old to be a virgin. Well, almost a virgin, except for one summertime affair at twenty-two when her curiosity about sex overcame her wits. That worthy young man waited far too long for her to make a decision, but he finally gave up and married someone else. Angela wished him happiness and felt only gratitude toward him. Sex had been fun, but love and commitment to him? Out of the question.

Half asleep in the cozy Bimi, she entered a dream fragment.

 

Angela stood sobbing before a closed coffin then looked down into her own reflection in the glossy wooden sheen. Did that mean she would die soon? Her dress fell only to her knees, too old and short a style. She had the eerie sensation of being in some other woman’s mind and feeling her despair.

 

“We’ve just passed the Anthem exit, darling,” said the baritone of the auto-pilot. Angela had chosen the voice for its throaty quality that made her tingle. “You’ll need to take the wheel in five minutes.”

Shivering, Angela opened her eyes and steered the Bimi off the beltway. Soon, if Governor Goldman had her way, the beltway would continue to Salt Lake City as it did to Los Angeles and San Diego already. For now, Angela must manually drive the last ten miles to get home, requiring as much time as sixty miles on the beltway.

Cacti and fir trees sprang from a raked-pebble lawn, and lights in small glass houses winked as Angela turned west. The red sun set low, and the rock-faced Bradshaw Mountains cast hulking shadows.

The darkness of her nightmares or these ridiculous forays into the mind of some unknown other woman, if that’s what was happening, had to cease. She needed to forget the dreams and focus energy on her real life. Mom and Dad certainly had the right to expect grandchildren, a fact they often mentioned. Angela sighed.

Duty to family seemed burdensome, but in the long run, she must respond to it. Since her brother lived on Biosphere Nine and hardly ever came to Earth for a visit, she had only Mom and Dad with their soiled chemists’ lab coats and Granddad with his jokes and wise sayings. Her brother might adopt since he was in a long-term relationship, but that would never satisfy Angela’s family. They counted on her to do the procreation and give them biological heirs. Certainly they loved her and wished her well, but they wanted little ones, portals for souls to reenter the world, as Granddad always said.

Disappointing her family haunted Angela’s days like the dream woman haunted her nights. She’d have to take action. No one could do this for her.

Steering with one hand, Angela flipped on the holophone and said, “Juan Calderon’s home.” A bit self-conscious, she smoothed her rumpled hair before he had a chance to see her.

A tiny image of Juan in a silk dressing gown appeared on the dash. “Hello?”

“Juan, you were right. We have the same career goals. We probably have a lot more in common. There’s no reason in the world we shouldn’t explore a relationship.”

“What? Is this a joke?” asked Juan’s surprised-looking hologram.

“No.” Angela laughed. “I seriously want to see you without cameras circling us. It’s too late for dinner, but if the offer is still open, we can catch the concert, and I’ll treat you to drinks at the End-of-the-World Café.”

“Sure, okay, good. Uh, what changed your mind?”

“If I knew, I’d tell you.”

Perhaps she should go on home and change into something sexier. Angela glanced at her working silk gown and jacket. The fabric always looked freshly pressed. Good enough.

Screeching the Bimi’s tires, Angela turned and headed back toward Phoenix, determined to make the evening turn out well. Juan might not be the most interesting man in the world, but he was kindhearted and photogenic. They would make beautiful babies both the family and the press would love.

How would he be in bed? At the thought, Angela’s heart thudded with guilt. She couldn’t have felt worse if she had actually betrayed her beloved, but she had never promised her fidelity to anyone. Why did she feel as if she had? That emotion made no sense. She had to stuff it. And stuff it, she would.

When she arrived at Phoenix’s Symphony Hall only moments before the overture, the stone plaza twinkled with lights in olive trees growing from squares of real soil, not the earth-colored nutrient chips gardeners normally used. Cooling towers with banks of spring flowers rose high overhead and made the grounds smell fresh. The water bubbled to the accompaniment of a recorded Mozart piano concerto.

Entering the lobby, Angela glided beneath the crystal chandeliers on heavy carpeting that muffled her high-heeled step. She’d not seen the place since its restoration to is 1970s splendor. A few last-minute arrivals hurried past ushers clad in eighteenth-century costumes in honor of the composer. Angela enjoyed seeing the charming George and Martha Washington look alikes.

Juan, dignified in a tux, stood in a circle of a dozen or more concertgoers, older women in long black dresses and bejeweled wraps. His smile revealed how much the attention of signing autographs please him.

“Hello!” Angela hoped her voice sounded engaging like a date’s should, although she had little concept of what that meant. She was probably the only single woman alive who had not been on a date for eight years.

“There you are!” Juan shouted gaily and excused himself from his admirers.

“Oh, my goodness, it’s her.” One of the ladies nudged another.

“Who?”

“The female one, you know, his partner. I didn’t know they were married.”

“They aren’t.” The second lady rolled disapproving eyes. “What’s her name?”

“Oh, I can’t remember. Let’s hurry. I don’t want to miss the overture.” The women scurried through the portal as the lobby lights winked off, then on again.

“Hello.” Giving her a quick kiss on the cheek, Juan encircled Angela’s waist possessively. “I can’t tell you how glad I am you’re here, darling.”

At the use of that endearment a flush crept up Angela’s throat. “Well, thanks.” His familiarity made her uncomfortable. His heavy, musky scent oppressed her. She wished he smelled fresh and outdoorsy.

“Let’s find our seats.” Juan guided her through the doorway and into the center front section, some of the best seats in the house.

Practically every seat on the main floor contained a well-dressed occupant. Angela glanced up at the box seats nearest the stage and saw Governor Goldman next to an attractive older man. Her usual bodyguards sat behind them. Angela thought she ought to recognize the governor’s companion. Oh, yes, the man from the news spot, the new director of the Psi Therapy Clinic. How interesting. Rumors suggested that the governor might reconcile with the husband she’d divorced after the election, but from the look on her face as she flirted with Dr. Kegan, Angela guessed the rumors to be false.

The musicians filed in and sat down to prolonged applause. As the performers on stage began the first movement of Symphony 25 in G Minor, Angela found herself drawn into Mozart’s timeless music. Its power quelled all thought and worry. She dwelt in the fabric of the sound vibrating through her.

Between selections, Juan squeezed her hand and whispered about how lovely the music sounded and how beautiful she looked, but his words sounded empty. He treated her as if he already owned her, like the rights to a stage play¾her only value lay in being seen.

At the intermission, admirers again surrounded Angela and Juan.

“Here she is,” a woman said and thrust a program into Angela’s hand. “Sign this, please.”

From time to time, Angela had experienced some renown. Once in a while at market, someone recognized her and nodded or looked away embarrassed. Clearly Juan’s presence enhanced the attention. They were public people. Television viewers identified them as a couple already, and seeing them at a concert together confirmed their notions. Juan reinforced their belief by behaving as if Angela were his constant companion. By other people’s standards, she shouldn’t experience any anxiety about the date.

Finally, the concert ended. In spite of Angela’s earlier offer to buy drinks at the café, Juan insisted on seeing her home instead. That entailed his following her in his car on the beltway. During the ride, Angela fought conflicting emotions about Juan, a charming man, both on camera and off. Any woman in Greater Hispania would probably rejoice at the chance to have him visit her home, but the prospect made Angela shudder. A concert and public attention seemed one thing¾spending time alone with him, quite another. What would he expect? A kiss, or more?

After she locked her car in the parking lot, Juan hurried to her and caught her in an embrace.

Angela felt invaded, afraid, and put off. She knew his behavior and his words did not warrant such a negative reaction, close to revulsion.

With the same familiarity that Dad often kissed Mom, Juan pecked Angela briefly on the mouth and whispered, “I’m so happy you let me into your life. You’ll never be sorry!”

His forthrightness surprised Angela. “I’m glad, too,” she said, although she didn’t feel glad. She wished mightily that she had stayed home and read a book, exquisite as Mozart had been.

When they walked up the ramp to her condo, the computer sensed Angela’s identity. The metal door etched with rosebuds opened. The recessed aquamarine wall light came on, casting an underwater hue onto the living room.

“’Would you like a drink?” Angela hoped he would say he couldn’t stay. She knew little about Juan, including whether or not he drank alcohol. She tried to stir up some interest in learning about him.

“Maybe later.” Juan pulled her to him. “I’m very fond of you, Angela.” He kissed her on the mouth before she could pull back. His damp lips and intrusive tongue tasted like stale popcorn. “I want you to care for me, too.”

Extracting herself from his arms, Angela said, “A martini perhaps, or some wine?” He didn’t seem like the beer type.

“I just want to taste you.” Juan nuzzled her neck and pushed her toward the bedroom.

A shiver of dread coursed down her spine. “What are you doing?”

“I want to make love to you.”

“Not so fast!”

A look of defeat creased Juan’s perfect features. “How can we have a relationship if we don’t go to bed together?”

“Maybe we can’t, but this just feels all wrong.” A sense of betrayal assaulted Angela. “You’re a fine fellow, Juan, you’re just not for me.”

“But you said—”

“I’m truly sorry if I mislead you.”

Once she convinced him of her sincerity, she asked him to leave. The door closed on a dejected-looking Juan. Angela regretted subjecting them both to the evening. He didn’t understand her, and neither did she. She should want a relationship with Juan, or at least somebody. Kicking off her shoes, she wandered aimlessly around the condo. She took an open bottle of chardonnay from the refrigerator and found a goblet.

A wave of loneliness rolled over Angela. How mundane her life seemed compared to the bizarre quality of her dream life. She passed from the living room into the bedroom, and the lighting changed to muted lavender. She lay across the disheveled coverlet, drank all the wine, and fell asleep.

 

In a dream, Angela ran across hot pavement toward an antique airplane idling on the tarmac. Over and over, she screamed, “Don’t go! Don’t go!” But the plane took off, banked, and exploded.

Shafts of orange and red flames shot everywhere. The sky began to glow then pieces of the plane fell down around her, crackling and burning. Someone she loved was burning inside, but she could do nothing. Desolation engulfed her.

 

Angela thrashed on the bed, wrenching herself awake. The digital display on the bedside table read 8:00. She’d never make it to a nine o’clock broadcast. Exhausted, she dragged herself to a sitting position, flipped on her wrist phone, and said, “Campbell.” When her boss came on the line, she asked, “Could you get someone to sub for me today?”

“What in hell? You should be here now!”

“Please, Mr. Campbell, I’m sorry.”

“If you’re not on the air in an hour, you’re fired!”

“No, something’s wrong. I’ll get help. See a doctor, or something.” Angela wondered what kind of doctor to call. One who surgically removed dreams?

Campbell shouted to someone in the studio. “Get Hannah in a show jacket. She’s going on.” He snarled into the receiver, “Angela, I’m permanently replacing you right now. Don’t try to get back on the morning news.”

Not even the threat of Alpha Centauri? Angela sighed. What choice did she have? Her emotional reserves failed her, but she couldn’t afford to get fired. No other station would touch her after that. Campbell often had trouble finding reporters willing to take low-key assignments. On a hunch, she offered, “How about I fly over to L. A. and cover the Halley’s Comet exhibit?”

“You’re willing to take on a grunt job like that?” Campbell bellowed. “Let’s see how you can fuck that up!”

After ending the call, she jotted down the date she recalled from yesterday’s newscast then headed for the bathroom to find some aspirin. At least she’d remain employed until June Fifth.

Somehow she had to get rid of these nightmares.


 

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