(My apologies to Monty Python.)
One of my good friends and fellow bloggers, Brenda Bensch, runs a regular feature called Wednesday’s Work-in-Progress (WIP). I decided today to follow her example and post an excerpt from my writing. Ganwold’s Child isn’t my current WIP, however. It was my debut novel, published by Tor Books in 1995. Now I’m preparing to relaunch the three Sergey books on Kindle and Nook. If you like high-tech, fast-paced military science fiction, this may be the series for you.
The Sergey Chronicles is the story of one military family, and Ganwold’s Child begins with a mother doing what mothers do instinctively. . . .
Darcie didn’t expect to live.
With the hand she could move enough to reach them, she tore unit and command patches from her uniform shirt, leaving only her name tag, rank, and combat surgeon’s insignia. She drew out the chain from around her neck, yanked off the two crystal pendants hanging with her ID tags, shoved them into the corner behind her.
“Mama?” The child stirred on her lap, trying to push himself back. “Why are—”
She put a finger to his lips, her other hand cupping his head to prevent its bumping the metal bulkhead. “Hush, Tris.”
She could barely whisper. She sat on the bottom of a locker meant only for a pressure suit—one of four lockers in the maintenance compartment—with the toddler held snug between her body and her drawn-up knees.
Outside noises reached her, the roar of engines crescendoing toward thrust into lightskip. The fourth attempt.
She braced her head back in the corner behind the pressure suit, hugged Tristan to her breast and locked her teeth. Clumsy masuki! They won’t have a catch left if they strain the transport to disintegration first.
Lightskip warning horns screamed through the corridor outside the maintenance compartment. The vessel shook and groaned. In its turbulence, the child threw up.
Darcie swallowed against her own nausea at its sour odor. She wiped his mouth and the front of her uniform. “Don’t cry, little soldier,” she whispered. “Here now, hold onto me.”
The horns wound down as they had before, and she relaxed her brace against the plasmic sensation of entering lightskip.
She waited what seemed hours in stifling darkness. Her legs grew cramped, then numb from their position and the toddler’s weight on them. She tried to shift a little, to ease them, and pain arced up her back.
Her thoughts tumbled over each other without any order. She thought of Lujan, her husband, waiting for them at their destination. Remembered the way he had kissed her good-bye months ago on Topawa.
The locker had grown hotter, almost suffocating, despite the vents in its door. She wondered, in an oddly detached way, how long it would take for her and Tristan to smother. Wondered what Lujan would do when he learned they were dead.
The tremor of explosions shattered her reverie. Shooting? She heard the transport’s minimal weaponry reply, and then running footfalls, thudding up and down the corridor beyond her hiding place.
Another hour passed before the craft rocked at the impact of electromagnets and shuddered in a whine of winch cables. She started at volleys of light arms’ fire and bootfalls ringing through the passages. Armored bootfalls this time, not scuffing masuk footsteps.
Catching her lower lip in her teeth, she began to stroke the child’s hair.
The maintenance compartment’s door slammed open. Voices reached her—two or three of them, only yards away—but their words, modulated by their helmets’ electronics, weren’t understandable. Boots trod the circumference of the maintenance compartment. Over her pulse in her ears, she detected an oscillating hum.
She pressed a hand tight over Tristan’s mouth and bit off a groan. She had used lifeform sensors before; the locker’s construction wouldn’t jam them.
The hum shot to a sharp whine; the boots stopped outside her enclosure. She heard an order, and then banging. Metal clashed on metal until she thought her head would split and Tristan’s wail would be drowned in its clamor. When the locker door tore away, she stared up at three armored shapes silhouetted against the dull light.
The nearest one shoved aside the pressure suit, seized her by the wrist, and hauled her to her feet. She staggered, numb legs nearly buckling, and almost lost her hold on her child. From behind tinted helmet visors the other two soldiers’ gazes roamed her body.
Darcie jerked her wrist from her captor’s gauntlet and wrapped both arms around Tristan. “This is illegal, you know! It’s been a month since the hostilities ended at Enach, and the talks are—”
“I don’t think so,” the squad leader said. “Where’ve you been for the last few years?”
She glared at him. Forced herself not to let her breath catch when one soldier stooped to search the locker. Straightening, he handed something to his sergeant. “Look at these.”
The crystal hologram pendants. Her wedding portrait, and a picture of Lujan with Tristan.
The sergeant held them up to the light, and she saw his eyes widen behind his visor. “Yeah, I thought the nametag looked familiar,” he said. “The colonel will probably promote us for this!” He tucked the holodiscs into his utility belt and reached for her arm. “It’s my duty to inform you, Lieutenant Dartmuth, that at no time in the last nine years has the Sector General recognized the governments of the Unified Worlds. He sealed the Accords under duress, so it wasn’t a legitimate treaty.”
She evaded his hand. “Nine years? Surely you can lie better than that . . .”
Her voice trailed off as she remembered the futile attempts to make lightskip. The masuk slavers must have succeeded at entering a time track whether or not they had crossed space. She questioned the legionnaire with a stare.
“The Enach Accords weren’t ratified as easily as the Unified Worlds had hoped,” he said. “They didn’t fail as completely as Sector General Renier had hoped, either. You may be able to make that up to him.”
“Mordan Renier?” Darcie stiffened. “Sector General?”
The squad leader smiled. “I wonder what kind of plea bargain the Unified Worlds might be willing to make in exchange for you?”
“It won’t work, you know.”
“We’ll see.” His smile turned grim. “Move.” He shoved her shoulder, indicating the corridor. “Maybe the war isn’t over yet.”
She yielded, her thoughts racing ahead. This transport has a cross-corridor aft of the bridge with an emergency shield door. . . .
Hugging the child to her body, one hand rubbing up and down his back in reassurance, she set her teeth. One soldier strode before her, two behind. They hadn’t applied restraints; they had no firearms ready to hand. They appeared to trust her feigned submission. But a glance back showed one soldier’s hand resting on the hilt of a boarding knife, one of a dozen strapped naked about his hips like armor’s tasses made of steel teeth. Boarding knives, she knew, could double as throwing weapons.
Several members of the crew lay in the corridor. She recognized Rahb Heike, the ship’s captain, and recoiled. He lay face down in his own blood. Masuk work.
A hand pushed her back when she paused. She stumbled, slipping in Heike’s blood before she could catch her balance, and moved around another bloodied body. Lieutenant Baraq. He had also died before the legionnaires arrived. She swallowed dryness and turned her head away.
She felt brief satisfaction at spotting several masuki sprawled in the corridor. The Unified soldiers had died fighting. But the ship was too empty, both of military personnel and civilians.
Light from the intersecting corridor cast a square across the concourse deck ahead. She shifted Tristan to her left arm and curled her right fist, keeping her head lowered.
Ten paces. . . .
She lunged left into the cross-corridor, her right fist punching the manual trigger on its bulkhead. The shield door dropped behind her with a whoosh that ended in a crunch and her pursuer’s garbled scream. She pressed Tristan’s face to her shoulder and forced herself not to look back.
The cross passage opened on one parallel to the corridor she had sealed. It led to the lifepods. If they’ve not been jettisoned already.
She pressed herself to the bulkhead to listen for pursuers and peer into the corridor. She saw nothing, up and down, but the smoke-obscured shapes of bodies on the deck. She tried to set the child on his feet, to rest her arm, but he clung to her, wide-eyed with confusion and fear. She smoothed his hair, kissed his forehead. “Come then, little soldier,” she said, collecting him again, and slipped into the passage.
Smoke from screen grenades stung her eyes, making them run and blurring her vision. She stumbled over a body and paused, panting. One of the surface troops, a young man she didn’t recognize. An energy pistol lay in his out-flung hand. She stooped to snatch it up. Glanced at the power cell in its grip when bootfalls echoed up the corridor behind her. Its charge light still burned.
Five or six armored figures emerged through the haze. She leveled the E-gun, squeezed the trigger. Its energy burst seared off the bulkhead into the knot of oncoming men. A cry rang back to her as one of them crumpled. Another, too close to avoid, sprawled over him as the rest sprang for cover. Darcie turned for the lift.
Its door stood jammed open, its platform suspended between decks. She glanced over her shoulder. Two armored shapes advanced on her, steel glinting in their hands.
Does Darcie escape? What new threats lie before her? And what about her toddler? If you can’t wait to find out, you can get Ganwold’s Child on your Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/Ganwolds-Child-Sergey-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B009SS3GM4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363193032&sr=1-1&keywords=Ganwold%27s+Child
I’m delighted that the book has received 5-star reviews! Please let me know what you think.
In the next few weeks I’m featuring fellow writers Angie Lofthouse and Heidi L. Kleinman Murphy, each of whom also has a military science fiction book in print or in progress–and each of whom were among my nominees for the Very Inspirational Blogger Award. You won’t want to miss their guest appearances on Hero Journeys!