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BREAK, BREAK, HOUSTON
Division One Book 10
BY STEPHANIE OSBORN
If Division One can’t find Omega, Echo will die.
When Alpha One sets out on an emergency assignment to rescue the NASA mission to which Omega once had been assigned before it ends in catastrophe, all hell breaks loose. But galactic medicine can save Echo, even from the brink of death…
Or can it?
What’s left of Echo’s mind—after he is resuscitated—rejects his life, his love, and his friends. Devastated and distraught, a heartbroken Omega flees Earth, deliberately losing herself in the galaxy on a dangerous, self- assigned mission, without realizing that she holds the key to Echo’s survival. Fox and the others must find her before Echo dies…again.
Books in the Division One series:
Alpha and Omega
A Small Medium At Large
A Very UnCONventional Christmas
Tour de Force
Definition and Alignment
Break, Break, Houston
with more in the work!
BREAK, BREAK, HOUSTON
Division One Book 10
BY STEPHANIE OSBORN
An Interview with Agents Echo & Omega
(This is a transcription of a recent GNN broadcast interview.)
Hello! This is Karen Docter of the Galactic News Network, here to interview the lead team for the Pan-Galactic Law Enforcement and Immigration Administration, or PGLEIA, Division One. The Alpha One team consists of Agents Echo and Omega, the chief and assistant chief of the Alpha Line special forces department. Viewers will recognize them as they recently saw action when they protected Coalition President Pulgey Entiyti from another assassination attempt, helping Division Five personnel eliminate the criminal power behind the attempt. Since then, interest in the pair has grown among the Coalition worlds, and we decided it was time we knew more about this dynamic, charismatic team.
1. What is your name? Do you have a nickname?
Agent Echo: Well, Echo used to BE my nickname, before it became my code name. These days, Omega calls me “Ace,” though.
Agent Omega: Yeah, I do. An’ he calls me “Meg,” as often as not. So then our friends and colleagues caught on to that, and most of ‘em call me that, too, now. An’ sometimes he calls me “baby,” like in “baby agent”…though nobody else does!
Echo: Or better. I can get away with it, ‘cause I trained her, and we’re buddies and partners. But she’s one helluvan accomplished lady, and I don’t think she’d take well to what would be — or at least, come across as — a put-down from ‘most anybody else.
Omega: Exactly. But I don’t think the others really have a nickname for Echo.
Echo: Nope. An’ that’s the way I want it.
2. Who is your best friend? What kinds of things do you do when you’re together?
Echo: (jerks a thumb at his partner) Meg, without a doubt. Best friend I’ve ever had in my life. And I trust her with that life.
Omega: (nods) Yup, that’d be Ace. An’ the feeling’s mutual, hon. As for what-all we do together, it’s more a case of, “Is there anything we DON’T do together?”
Echo: Yeah, I gotta agree. We cook, an’ watch TV, an’ go to movies an’ ballgames, an’ dance, an’ go horseback ridin’, an’…
Omega: (laughs) Alla that. And then some. We even took our vacation together this past summer.
Echo:( snorts) Sorta. Even if it WAS divided into two parts.
Docter: Care to elaborate?
Echo/Omega: (in unison) Nope.
Omega: We can’t.
Echo: It’s classified.
3. If you have a family, how do you get along with them? If you don’t, are there people in your life that you consider family? How do you get along with them?
(Omega tucks her head and stares at the floor. Echo watches her in concern.)
Echo: Want me to handle this, baby?
Omega: Um, well, start it, I think, Ace.
Echo: Okay. The gist of it is, since Earth doesn’t know about the Pan-Galactic Coalition or its law enforcement administration, they can’t know about US. So when we become agents, we lose our past, as it were. And that generally includes family — I mean, they’re there, they just think we’re dead or something. That said, sometimes serendipity happens. So I have a surviving parent working elsewhere in the Division One’s Earth-based Agency now; the other parent was deceased before I entered the Agency, and I was an only child. I do still have aunts and uncles and cousins scattered around, but I never see ‘em. Meg? Well, that’s a long story. It turns out that one of my old enemies kidnapped her when she was a kid and biologically engineered — then telepathically brainwashed — her to be his tool to kill me.
Omega: Obviously, it didn’t work, thank the good Lord. But it was a near thing.
Echo: Yeah, what she said. But in the course of all his machinations to bring Meg’s and my paths to cross, he ended up pretty much killing off her family.
Omega: Well, my immediate family, anyway. Most of the aunts, uncles, an’ cousins got killed in a tornado outbreak when I was a teenager.
Echo: So…no, she doesn’t have any family left.
Omega: But we did sorta put together a kind of adoptive family inside the Agency.
Echo: Tell it straight, baby. YOU put it together.
Omega: Well, if you say so. But yeah, we have a kind of family now, mostly within the Agency, human with a few, um, “offworld” additions. Our colleagues in the Alpha Two partnership, Romeo and India — they’re life partners, now; mates — well, they’re kinda our siblings, as it were. There’s Echo’s, uh, parent, and there’s Director Fox — he’s sorta the patriarch, see, and his wife Zebra, who’s the assistant chief of Medical, she’s the ‘stepmom.’ So Fox, Zebra, an’ Di- uh, Echo’s parent, they’re the parent figures…though Zebra isn’t quite old enough, hence the ‘stepmom’ designation! Then there’s the chief of Medical, Dr. Zarnix Chifejuz, a Chesharilzi from the second planet of Gliese 667C; he’s kind of like Zebra’s brother or something, so he’s “Uncle Zar.” And there’s Coalition President Entiyti, the famous Draconan, and Admiral Lord Guurn, a Reptoid, both of Emdali; they’re uncles, too — Uncle Pul and Uncle Suud. And all of Suud’s family, too — his wife’s our sorta-adoptive aunt, and his kids are cousins, the same way! And the ambassador from Arcturus VII, His Excellency Zz’r’p ob Tii’rkin, too; see, he’s been my trainer for mental stuff in the wake of that whole telepathic programming crap, and we got to be good friends. So he’s a kind of uncle, too — he even calls me “nn’chn,” which is Deltiri for niece. Though he says, given his age relative to us humans, he’s probably more of a great-uncle. But still.
Echo: Right. So we try to get together for holidays, or whenever one of the off-world family members is visiting, and whatnot, and have these big pot-luck dinners and stuff. And when one of us gets in a pickle over something, the rest of the “family” comes together to help. It’s kinda nice, really. Even Fox likes it now. Especially when Meg calls him “Abba Fox.” I swear, I’ve seen his shirt buttons strain when she does that.
Docter: Wait. You call President Lord Pulgey Entiyti “Uncle Pul”? And Admiral Lord Suud Guurn is “Uncle Suud”? Such distinguished beings?
Echo: Oh, hell yeah. I’ve known Pulgey since the very day I became a Division One agent. He ASKED us to call him that.
Omega: Same thing with Suud. I mean, Echo’s known ‘em for, like, a couple decades, or close to it. He met Pulgey, Suud, and Fox all on the same day, an’ got drafted! He’s one of The Originals, the original agents present at the First Contact and official forming of the Agency under the auspices of the PGLEIA. Given I haven’t been around here nearly that long, I was perfectly willing to accord ‘em the respect of the more formal titles, but they weren’t hearin’ it. “Uncle Pul” came first, though, and when Suud heard me call Pul that, well…
Echo: (laughs) If Suud wasn’t already green, he’d have turned green with envy! He got downright offended that Meg wasn’t calling HIM “Uncle”! I pointed out that he hadn’t even asked Meg to call him “Suud” yet — if I remember right, she referenced “Uncle Pul” and “Lord Guurn” in the same breath — and he fixed THAT oversight in a hurry!
Omega: And there’s quite a few “friends of the family,” as it were — Dr. Whiskey, Dr. Rglfrz of Kardor, Dr. Doron of Edeptis. Oh! And I forgot Admiral Professor Lady Llydhuu Raiit of Ergis; she’s a “cousin”! And pretty much all of Alpha Line are, like, distant cousins or whatnot. Since he helped bring it together, Fox claims the whole Agency are like “his kids,” so hey.
Echo: Yeah, he’s kind of possessive of it. He doesn’t claim to be the sole founder or anything, but he had a definite hand in how it’s shaped up.
4. Do you have a birthmark? Scars? Where is it? How did you get it?
Echo: No birthmarks. Meg, you?
Omega: Nope. No birthmarks. Got a few scars, though. They’re on my back; there’s a couple patches of skin that don’t quite tan like the rest of me does. See, I got badly burned under the ion engines of a Cortian spacecraft. The Cortians are from the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy, a satellite of the Milky Way Galaxy, and they’re not nice at all.
Echo: Oh HELL no! They’re interstellar pirates and slave traders, and they came damn close to capturing me as one of their “prime acquisitions”! They’d have got me, too, except Meg smelled a rat and took action. In the end, to keep me outta their mitts, she nearly bought it under their engines as they tried to escape. It took a bit of doing to keep her alive and going after that, but with some serious help from the Edeptan healer Doron, we managed it. Given how badly she was burned, it’s really incredible that that’s the only scarring she’s got.
Omega: Echo had to travel clear across the galaxy, to the Outer Arm, to fetch Doron, see, and try to get back while there was still time. So…yeah, I was really lucky.
Echo: And tough, baby. Now, me, I been around the galaxy once or twice, and I have a few more scars. I got some places on my shins that are like Meg’s back — they tan weird — where a Froon spit at me, and that acid saliva just took off the meat clear to the bone, and the medics had to grow it back. That was way before Meg’s time, though. Couple scars on the chest, too; one’s a blaster graze from a shootout with a rogue Krefon — that was before Meg, too. The other’s where a gurfdin claw caught me while we were tryin’ to round it up. Oh, and there’s the bullet scar from the faked assassination attempt on the former Prime Minister of Alaygoon, what Earth knows as Lambda Andromeda III. There’s a few others, here an’ there — nothing big — but I’ve long since forgotten how I got most of ‘em.
5. When you’re angry, what do you do? Where do you go? How do you deal with your anger?
Omega: The gym. If I’m really, REALLY angry. I’ll go throw some iron around for a little bit, then try to split the seams on some kickboxing bags or something. Other than that, I don’t worry about it too much. I can be a bit of a hothead — Echo says its my Celtic ire coming out, though you might have to be from Earth to understand that — but it goes away as fast as it hits, so if it’s something kinda minor, I just wait for it to blow over.
Echo: Me? Depends on what I’m mad at, I guess. If I’m just annoyed at something, I’ll try to read an’ get my mind off it. If that doesn’t work, or if Meg and I have had an argument, I’ll go to her and sit down and try to talk it out with her…
Omega: (interjects) An’ I do that, too, if we’ve had a disagreement.
Echo: (nodding) But if it’s a big thing, yeah, I’ll probably join her in the gym and burn off some adrenaline.
6. If you had to make me a meal right now, without going to the store, what would you find in your refrigerator to feed us?
Omega: HA! That’s easy! Ace and I spend at least some time on most of our days off, cooking and freezing meals so we don’t gotta eat a cardboard frozen dinner. We got casseroles in the freezer aplenty.
Echo: We do, that. Plus generally the makings of a salad, maybe some soup. Even canned stew gets pretty tasty with a few herbs and a splash of red wine. But I bet Meg would want to feed you one of my cottage pies for the main course. It’s from an old family recipe, see, and she loves it. And then she could bake some of her family Scottish shortbread for dessert.
Omega: Cottage pie! Yeah! It’s got beef an’ potatoes an’ carrots an’ onions and ‘shrooms! Sometimes we throw in some other stuff like peas or beans or corn, though that’s not so much traditional…but it’s awful good!
Echo: So, lessee…a nice salad with mixed greens, some ‘maters, Vidalia onions — those are hard to find in New York, where our Headquarters is — maybe some sliced cucumbers, crumbled Cheshire cheese, and Meg’s patented balsamic vinaigrette; one of my cottage pies; and coffee and Scottish shortbread for dessert. How does that sound?
Omega: Yeah, and we can have it all ready in about half an hour, max.
7. What’s the one thing you’re afraid of losing?
(They answer simultaneously.)
(Nothing more is said.)
8. What makes you laugh out loud?
Omega: Echo’s jokes. He has the craziest, most outlandish sense of humor. But it can also be really dry, like, he delivers the one-liner or the punch line and you sit there, and then you do a double-take, an’ it hits you, and you double up laughing.
Echo: (grinning) I do my damnedest, baby. But I gotta admit, you have a way of seeing the humor in even the most serious situations. And when you come out with that perspective, and your point of view suddenly hits me, I’ve bitten my lip downright bloody tryin’ to keep from laughin’ out loud in the middle of a diplomatic situation!
9. Has anyone broken your heart? Who was s/he?
(Omega shakes her head in the negative before turning to Echo, who flushes.)
Echo: Aw, well. Not so much, now. (He takes Omega’s hand.) But yeah, a few years back, I met a professor of engineering who helped me out when a mission went south. When I was done, I came back and tried to court her, as Meg puts it, and I thought for a bit that it was gonna work. But we were too different in the wrong ways, and while I was finishing the mission, she’d found somebody else, and…well, it all came apart. She didn’t know who I really was, so with a little help from Fox, I faked my death and came back to the Agency full-time. She eventually wound up marrying the other guy. It…was painful.
Omega: And it didn’t help that, when Slug — the perp that tried to make me his assassin — started his end game against Echo, he killed her…AND her new husband.
Echo: (subdued) No. I…still feel guilty about all that. Not that there was a lot I could have done to stop it. I didn’t even know Slug KNEW about Chase.
10. What’s the one thing you want out of life that you don’t think you can have? Why can’t you have it?
Omega: Well, I guess by now, after the accusations against us in the wake of what they’re calling Adita’s Coup—
Echo: Even though the coup failed.
Omega: Yeah, thank the good Lord! But anyway, after all that mess, I guess everybody knows that Echo an’ I are engaged now.
Echo: Betrothed, baby. That’s the galactic term.
Omega: Oh yeah. So we’re betrothed now, and hope to be, um, formally espoused soon. But, um, well, Slug, he…
Echo: He tinkered with Meg’s genetics. Worse, he tinkered with her reproductive system, evidently with the intent that, if she failed in killing me, her kids would take over that “mission.” So we don’t know if that’s fixable, or if we’ll be able to have children. And Meg loves kids.
Omega: Well, you’ve made a few remarks about it, too, Ace.
Echo: (flushing) I suppose. As long as they’re yours and mine, with no tinkering, I guess I’m good.
Omega: So…yeah. Everything’s looking great, except for that. I know the guys down in the medlab are looking at it, at what they could do to fix that, but…we don’t know if they CAN.
Omega: (nods reluctantly) Yet.
Echo: (He takes Omega’s hand in his own) But in the meantime? We’re good, Meg and me. In every sense of the word.
Omega: (smiles) Yup.
Award-winning author Stephanie Osborn, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery, is a veteran of more than 20 years in civilian/military space programs, with graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences: astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, and she is “fluent” in several more, including geology and anatomy. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to some 40+ books, including the celebrated science-fiction mystery, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. She is the co-author of the Cresperian Saga book series, and has written the critically acclaimed Displaced Detective Series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files,” and the award-winning, exciting Sherlock Holmes: Gentleman Aegis series. Her newest venture: Division One, her take on the urban legend of the mysterious people who make things…disappear. In addition to her writing, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery now happily “pays it forward,” teaching math and science through numerous media including ebooks, radio, podcasting and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank.
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