It's the final book in the Phenomenal Witch of the Federation Series!
Here's your first look at the last book!
Marcus, Gemma, and Trey were still blowing themselves up when Professor Nathan Fellon rejoined them. It had been two very long weeks since he’d been able to participate, and they still struggled to find solutions.
It had been as entertaining as hell, though, from the snippets he’d been able to see while away resolving things so he could join the project full-time.
He’d arrived with a smile of anticipation, but it faded quickly when Professor Rimmer’s voice rang through the White Room.
“Oh, for fu—” the professor began and Cynthia cleared her throat warningly.
“Pity’s sake!” he finished at a roar.
His assistant was implacable. “It’s time to take a break, Doc. Don’t make me come in there.”
Marcus scowled but he capitulated. “You heard the lady, people. It’s break time.”
“Well, thank fuck for that,” Gemma told him, “or we’da been here all night and I desperately need a pee.”
“So it’s your fault then?” Nathan asked. “Your bladder got the better of your concentration and you blew us all to hell?”
She snorted and exited with more haste than grace. “Nate, if I’d blown us all to hell, we wouldn’t have made it to the White Room.”
“I hate you all,” said the biggest man in the room. “That last one hurt like a motherfucker.”
Cynthia cleared her throat again and leaned on the doorframe to the lab, drumming her fingertips against her biceps while she tapped her foot.
Even Marcus got the message. “It’s time to head out, guys. We’ll sleep on this and get back to it in the morning. Bring me your best ideas—hell! Bring me any ideas, even if your two-year-old thought it up with a fistful of crayons and some cardboard. I’ll consider everything.”
Gemma snorted and slapped his shoulder as she passed. “Will do, but I have to warn you, my two-year-old gave up on crayons when she discovered fingerpaint and sparkles.”
She laughed at the look of bewilderment on his face. “Glitter, Rimmer. Sparkles is glitter. Man, where have you been living? In a lab or something?”
“I… Well, yes, but that sounds promising. I mean magic sparkles, right? I’m thinking any idea coming from a glitter-fueled two-year-old has potential.”
Her jaw dropped. “Was that… Did you… Did you make a joke, Marcus?”
The comment made him blush, and he raised a hand to rub the back of his head. “I do have a sense of humor, you know…”
That made them all chuckle. They were still smiling as they passed him to reach the door. Phillip hesitated briefly and for a minute, the boy looked like he had something more he wanted to say, but then he turned and left.
Marcus frowned and looked at Cynthia. “What was that all about?”
“He merely wanted to say goodbye,” she explained, “but he’s as bad as you used to be and couldn’t find the words.”
“As bad as…I wasn’t that bad, was I?”
She smiled and pointed to the door. “You’re the last one, Doc, and Catering will be truly upset if you ruin another meal.”
“I…” He looked at his terminal and she scowled.
“I mean it, Doc. You put me in charge of looking after the team’s health and well-being and you are the worst one I have to ride herd on. I will pull the plug.”
He glared at her, but after one more glance at the screens, he sighed. “Fine, but I’ll have an early start in the morning. Don’t make me late.”
Cynthia was unperturbed. “You do know that if you get a good night’s sleep, you’ll blow yourself up a whole lot less in the morning, don’t you?” she reminded him acerbically.
“Thank. You. Cynthia,” he ground out and stalked out of the room.
He didn’t see the tiny smile that curved her lips as he left but he didn’t need to. He knew she was smiling, dammit!
His assistant followed him out, shaking her head. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Professor.”
She used his title, again—something she did when he’d done the right thing as if her recognition of it was a reward.
And it worked, dammit! He knew he was on the right track when she called him Professor or even Doc, and he liked it when she approved, even if he wasn’t interested romantically. If she’d been single, maybe, but she wasn’t.
Marcus pushed that thought aside, managed a smile, and raised his hand in farewell. “Thanks, Cynthia.”
She was picking her keys and handbag up when he surfaced and she gave him a happy smile as he emerged. “Your meal’s waiting, Doc. See you tomorrow.”
He watched her go before he made his way to the tiny staff kitchenette to find he didn’t need to heat his supper. It was still covered and hot. With a sigh, he sat and reflected on the past two weeks and their various attempts, none of which had succeeded.
It had been one hell of a ride, though.
As he mulled over the day’s work, he ate what Catering had provided and then headed to the car park. If the truth be told, he didn’t want to go home but he had to. The university had refused to provide him with a room.
Marcus sighed. Maybe he could speak to One R&D about that.
It was no secret that he hated leaving the lab—even if it was still there when he returned in the morning.
Sleep was hard to come by that night and when it did, it was plagued by dreams. He returned the next morning but felt worse than when he’d left. Cynthia took one look at him and frowned.
“Did you get any sleep last night?” she demanded.
He managed a bleary-eyed glare and took the coffee she handed him.
“I tried but I didn’t sleep very well,” he replied. “I dreamed.”
“And did your dreams come up with a solution?” she pressed.
After a gulp of coffee, he shook his head. “Not unless you count being blown up another half a dozen different ways as a solution.”
“So, you know what not to try?” she asked, and the slight smile was back.
Despite his mood, he couldn’t help but return it. “I know what not to try,” he agreed and sighed. “But I’ll have to try it anyway if only to confirm it officially.”
She grimaced. “That sucks,” she agreed and took his cup as he drained it. She put it on a lab counter and gestured toward their pods. “Shall we?”
He grimaced but nodded. “We shall.”
“Cheer up, Professor. It’ll be fun.”
“You’re not the one getting blown up. I’m fairly sure Nathan and Trey plan to ambush me on the way out of the lab so they can get payback,” he grumbled and closed the lid of the Virtual Reality pod over him.
“You know they’re far too nice to do anything of the sort,” Cynthia told him shortly.
Marcus didn’t acknowledge that with a reply, partly because he was in a hurry to get to his terminal and partly because Nate, Trey, and Gemma were waiting for him when he arrived.
“So,” the woman demanded, “did you come up with anything?
“Only about six ways I’m reasonably sure will cause us to explode in spectacular fashion,” he replied and they groaned.
He caught sight of his assistant at the back of the room. She cocked an eyebrow at him and he remembered what she tried so hard to instill in him.
“How about you?” he added, a little uncomfortable because he wasn’t used to asking.
Trey grinned and clapped him on the shoulder. “You’re getting better at this whole human thing, Doc, but I’ve got nothing.”
“Me, neither,” Nathan added, and Gemma grinned.
“What they said, Doc.” She moved toward her terminal. “So, which way did you want to use to explode us first?”
Marcus stared after them in surprise. “You don’t want to discuss this?”
Their head-shakes were unanimous as the others filed past him to their work areas.
He stared at Gemma. “Did you even bring me any sparkles?”
She laughed. “Sorry, Doc. The two-year-old switched to crayon, sans cardboard, and I spent most of last night with a scourer and bleach getting it off the walls.”
“Did you even dream?” he persisted, and she turned and rested a hand on her hip.
“Boss, I never dreamed a two-year-old could make a single crayon cover that much wall, let alone what one could do with six different colors.”
Trey snickered. “I’m so glad I’m single.”
“Keep up with comments like that, Trey baby, and you’ll have to explain to whatever partner you find why you can’t have offspring.”
He responded with a pained whistle and settled into his seat. “Come on, boss. Let’s see you prove your first theory wrong and not blow us up, today.”
It was a short-lived hope. They got the centrifuge to spin the gMU into eMU and send it out along the pipes and branches. Once again, the magic made the journey to the bulbs at the end of each line and successfully drew the radiation out of the soil and surrounding landscape.
And once again, the magic brought the radiation into the system and returned successfully along the pipes. Marcus held his breath and his entire body grew tense with anticipation. In only a few seconds, he’d find out if his dreams had steered him right or not.
The lab flashed out of existence and the team landed in the White Room.
“Well,” Gemma began, “that has to be a new record.”
“In more ways than one,” Nathan concurred.
“Now, tell me that was what the dream said would happen,” Trey added.
“Wait. We did science based on a dream?” Phillip sounded as though he didn’t believe it.
“I had to disprove a theory,” Marcus said and chose to answer his ex-student first before he turned to the others. “So, does anyone have a theory on ways we could do that and maybe not blow up?”
He looked around the room and was dismayed when all of them shook their heads.
“It was a good try, Doc.” Trey tried to console him but sounded resigned. “But your dreams were right. It was a sure-fire way to blow us all to kingdom come. What have you got for us next?”
“More of the same, I’m afraid,” he told them and they all groaned. He scowled. “Well, do you at least want to take a look at the idea to see if you can tell me why it won’t work or how we can tweak it so it does?”
“Sure thing, Doc.” Nathan sighed.
The White Room shifted around them and a moment later, they stood around a large table in the center of another room. Marcus didn’t waste any time. He stepped forward and explained the theory behind what he wanted to try next. It looked sound, exactly like all the theories before it.
Nathan studied it, his head tilted in concentration. Finally, he pointed at one part of the equation. “What if we switch this…” He picked up a marker and circled the formula “With this.”
They craned forward and each studied the options intently. “It’s not a bad alternative,” Gemma conceded and picked up a marker of her own. “You know…we could also try this.”
She wrote her alternative below the other two, combining elements from both formulae. With a glance at Phillip, she asked, “So, what do you say, Prof? This is much more your field than mine.”
The boy blushed at her recognition but stepped forward dutifully and selected another marker. When he was finished, Trey nodded in approval.
“Well, that gives us alternatives, anyway. What do you say, Doc?”
Marcus scrutinized the original formula and the alternatives and considered each carefully with what he believed was an open mind. “I say we’ve probably found four more ways to explode but I damned well hope not.” So maybe it wasn’t that open after all. Still, at least he’d tried.
They chuckled softly at that and headed to the lab.
“Let’s try them,” Marcus agreed. “Cynthia could you take a photo of that whiteboard and send it to our consoles, please?”
An hour later, when they came to in the White Room for the sixth time, he looked at Cynthia. “I think we need a break,” he said.
“Hell, man,” Trey interjected. “We need more than a break. We need a drink!”
“Uh-uh,” Gemma protested. “We don’t need a drink. We need all the drinks.”
“You have a two-year-old, remember? And you’re not allowed to drink and drive,” Nathan remonstrated.
She stuck her tongue out. “It’s not time to go home, yet,” she informed him.
“True,” Marcus agreed, “but none of us are allowed to drink and drive a console and we have a whole afternoon ahead of us.”
“Ooh,” Trey snarked, “an entire afternoon of incinerating ourselves. I can’t wait.”
Rimmer smiled at him. “Well, I’m glad one of us feels that way.”
The man shook his head. “Trust me, no. I’d rather do anything else than go in there again and test another of your ‘I’m fairly sure this explodes us’ theories, Doc.”
The statement was more than a little sobering. “Yeah. Me too.”
They sat in silence for a while, staring at the floor, and Trey finally pushed to his feet. “Let’s get it done,” he said and offered Marcus his hand. “It’s better than sitting here and staring at our toes.”
The professor let Trey help him up and looked up at the ceiling. “Computer—”
“Wait!” Cynthia interrupted. “Don’t you think you should ask for help?”
“How do you mean?” he demanded and jerked his hand in the direction of the others. “We have every expert with any knowledge of the field right here.”
“Except one,” she corrected, and he opened his mouth to snap a challenge for her to name them.
“Only one,” she insisted. “Think about it.”
The scientists exchanged puzzled looks. Each one made a mental list of the experts in the fields related to what they were doing and reviewed any researchers who represented that field. It was Phillip who saw the obvious first.
“What?” Marcus looked at him. “What does she have to do with this?”
Gemma rolled her eyes. “Doofus. She’s only the world’s leading expert on magic, remember? You know, the stuff that’s an integral part of our purification process? The shit that’s fucking the works up? That expert.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Are you saying we need her?”
The other scientists exchanged looks, considered the idea, and finally looked at each other again for approval. Somehow, they all stared at Gemma when they were ready. The scientist folded her arms across her chest and gave Marcus a stern look.
“We’re saying we need her,” she told him as the White Room dissolved around them.
She gestured at the lab. “We’ll run the last couple of theories you came up with but I think we all know how that’s gonna end, and none of us are looking forward to it. It will give us the data she’ll need, though.”
“You’re assuming she’ll know what the fuck she’s looking at.” The words were out before Marcus could stop them, and their faces registered surprise.
“I thought you said all this was her idea,” Phillip challenged, and his boss blushed.
“I did, and it is. I’m sorry. I was only…uh…”
“Speaking out of turn,” Cynthia finished for him. “I’ll call her and tell her she’s needed. That way, you can get your theories tested and out of the way before she gets here—unless you want her to walk into the middle of an explosion?”
Hehehe, admit it, when this first started you weren't sure what they were doing! I think this is going to be a lot of fun! The 2nd snippet comes later this week! But, Witch of the Federation VI, the final book in this series, is up on pre-order now! It goes live July 28. Get your copy reserved so you can sit back and read when it arrives!