Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Excerpts From Select Varsavian Titles (coupons on bottom)
Just stopping by to post some excerpts from my various works, see if some might tickle your reading bones. Enjoy.
“Drop the sling,” Durwyn said over the intercom.
Surging with relief, I hurriedly snapped the lever down and watched as the sling fell through the hatch again, followed by the unwinding tether. The ship dipped just as it had before, and in a few short moments Durwyn was calling for me to lift the sling once again.
It took an eternity for the tether to rewind itself and I worried fiercely over Hayden the entire time but, finally, the sling came up through the hatch, dripping wet and containing Hayden’s bandaged-wrapped form, a glow wand held limp in one of his hands. I undid the sling and pulled the litter over to me, unstrapping it as carefully as I could before sliding it across the floor so I could finish lifting the sling.
“About time you showed up,” I told him, nearly weeping with relief at his weak smile.
As I went to secure the sling, light flared in the open hatch and it felt as if the entire ship was stood on its nose. All sound vanished and all I could see through the hatch was a glowing white sun where Qurba had been, and the sphere of the Vandread sinking slowly into it as gigantic red flames engulfed the monstrosity.
And then I was holding on for dear life as the ship was buffeted by a storm of chaotic winds. Sound returned in a fury of loud roars and moans and I thought for sure that we’d be knocked from the sky, but then, after some very long moments, the buffeting ceased and the ship regained control.
I looked out the hatch once more to see a dark field spattered with weakly flashing red and blue stars.
Qurba was no more.
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“Senator Benadack has betrayed us,” Governor Austil had told me as he paced his office back in Hoston, about a Long Month back. His red frockcoat had been unbuttoned, revealing the cream-colored shirt beneath and the heavy revolver at his waist. He was a tall man with a big gut that hung down over his crotch.
I’d been standing stiffly at attention on the plush gray carpet, dressed smartly in my black bondsman’s uniform: short frockcoat with tight breeches tucked into polished black boots, and the oval badge of silver pinned over my heart, proclaiming me Chief-Bondsman of West Canton. The sunlight beaming in through the wide picture window of the office had looked so peaceful, I remember thinking, with the brown plains around Hoston stretching flat all around and the city itself bustling below. Hoston still hadn’t even remotely recovered from The Incident and the ensuing plague of war, but it had been well on its way. West Cantonians were a tough people and that’s one of the reasons I was proud to call the governorate my home.
“My intelligence agents have intercepted several encrypted communications between him and Sworwatch,” Austil had continued. “Apparently, he plans to give Volda Hoston in return for a position in his government, when formed. An apparently lofty position at that, to be sure. In this capacity, he’s been working rather closely with the officers of East Canton’s army. Several prisoners we have in custody have confirmed this and their testimony has been traced back to the source.”
Governor Austil had then shifted his pacing to walk over to his desk, retrieving a manila envelope that’d been lying ambiguously upon the polished surface, the sunlight coming in through the picture window glinting off the sweat of his balding head and fat, clean-shaven jowls. Walking back over, he handed me the envelope. I hadn’t looked at it then, but instead dropped it to my side. There would be a time and place to examine the case file but, at that moment, I knew Austil had wanted my rapt attention.
“The senator is currently not in Hoston,” he’d continued once more, resuming his pacing. “My regular lawmen have been unable to locate him anywhere in West Canton, in fact. This is why I need you for this assignment. You are the best at what you do, Durwyn. Within that packet is a warrant for Senator Benadack’s arrest for high treason. There is another in there authorizing you for the utilization of lethal force, should you encounter any problems with the senator while trying to apprehend him—or in escorting him back to Hoston. He is too dangerous to remain free. I want you working on this immediately, Durwyn, and I want proof of the traitor’s capture or death soonest.”
“I understand, governor,” I’d told him.
“I knew you would, Durwyn.”
And there it was: the one single event, which had spawned from so many others, and which had eventually led me to this twisted world with no end, no hope of escape—a nightmare in truth.
Available Here: Amazon
“Master! Master!” the woodwose servant screamed from the sitting room.
I raced out there to see the air full of falling black feathers. Korax was a flapping blur, his talons out and attacking what looked to me like a flickering shadow.
“Aaahhhh!!!” the woodwose servant screamed, running from the kitchen and throwing something wide and white before him. A dinner plate. It spun through the air like a flying disc to shatter upon the flickering shadow.
Korax flapped tiredly to the ground, wings spread wide to make himself appear larger than he was, his beak wide open, and then I watched in horror as the shadow flicked out with a thin tendril to strike the vulture, sending my old friend spinning across the sitting room floor in a spray of black feathers.
The shadow then snapped out again, leaping across the room in a haze to strike at the woodwose, who dropped heavily to the floor, red blood gushing from the deep slit in the greenish skin of its throat.
As the shadow seemed to turn, it stood still just long enough for me to catch a glimpse of what it truly was. The sight sent the butterflies in my stomach off into a panicked frenzy for it was then that I knew that I was most certainly, absolutely dead.
Available Here: Amazon
Jessica used a free hand to pinch her nose closed against the stench of rabbit piss as she followed Carlos down the row of hutches on Level 4. “How many did Emily say she needed?” he asked, seemingly unaffected by the vile stench.
“Ten,” Jessica answered, hardly opening her mouth.
The hutches ran alongside the right wall of a long passageway, running away from the cropfields; wooden cages surrounded by chicken wire, with large compartments in the back for eating and sleeping and plastic bins below to collect waste. There were anywhere from ten to thirty rabbits in each hutch. At the last one, Carlos swung its front door open and began taking rabbits out, checking them first to make sure they didn’t show signs of pregnancy, and then sticking them in the metal cage Jessica was pushing with the hand truck.
She felt bad for the animals as they hopped unknowingly to the cage door, curiously sniffing out what these humans were doing here, and they were so cute with their fluffy white fur and narrow faces. Carlos picked the biggest of the bunch and when all ten were crammed in the cage, he shut the hutch door and then Jessica followed him on to the prep room at the end of the passageway.
As she followed along, she had a chance to ponder over how things seemed to be calming down within Prometheus Mons of late. No one had died since Crystal and the arguments and accusations had all but subsided. She thought it might have something to do with Gray’s July 4th celebration, which gave everyone a memory of home—wherever those homes may have been—and seemed to ground everyone, causing them to reflect on their purpose for being there. Jessica knew she had and, better yet, Peter was actually starting to warm up to her more, which was awesome since Dennis seemed to have cooled. He was still friendly, still willing to have sex whenever she wanted; he just wasn’t as affectionate as he had been when they first started out.
This morning, as she and Carlos had passed Peter by, he’d actually pulled her into a small alcove and kissed her out of the blue. She’d been beyond thrilled, if a little embarrassed—and slightly grossed out by his halitosis breath—but she was still happy.
The prep room was bright, with white walls and a stainless steel sink attached to a counter jutting from the right wall. Knives bristled in a wooden knife holder on the counter’s surface and a plastic cutting board sat ready next to it. A hose ran from beneath the sink to coil on its own holder above the counter while the tiled floor dipped down to surround a slotted drain, for washing away the blood and guts.
Jessica parked the hand truck in a corner, facing the rabbits away from the counter and their doom.
“You ever kill rabbits before?” Carlos asked, reaching down to pick one up by the scruff and bringing it over to the counter, the rabbit hanging expectantly placid, perhaps thinking it was heading for a bath.
“Not here, but I’ve done it before at Gray’s ranch. Remember our deal though; I push the hand truck, you do the honors.” Killing chickens and fish was one thing; slaughtering cute little bunnies was another.
“I haven’t forgotten, mami.”
“Do you want me to get you a knife?”
“A knife?” Carlos said, putting a large hand over the rabbit’s head, as if he were about to pet it. “Not for this part. All the ones after will smell the blood and it will scare them, ruining the meat. Just keep them coming.”
“So what do you—” she flinched as he suddenly twisted the rabbit’s neck, creating a loud, hollow pop she could feel in her teeth. He tossed the dead animal onto the cutting board then waited for her to get another one. Still in shock, she reached in, took another rabbit out by the scruff, and handed it reluctantly to Carlos, and then watched as he did the same to it, twisting sharply, and then to the one after and so on. Ten hollow pops, each making Jessica wince sickeningly. She supposed it was probably more humane this way but the sheer barbaric vibe made her feel bad for the animals.
When all ten rabbits were lying piled on the counter, their black eyes bulging from their narrow heads, Carlos said, “Now I’m gonna need the knife.”
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“Thirty seconds! Get ready!” Theabert called out.
The side panels of the fuselage slid back and down, creating duel ramps that let in the gusting wind. Cornelius stood and had to immediately grab onto one of the handholds that were bolted to the ceiling to prevent himself from falling over. Holding on, he stared out the starboard side opening, his heart ready to pound from his battle-vest.
To his left stood Herd, to his right Sergeant Toni, a female buck sergeant whose first combat mission this also was; she was one of the few green enlisted in his charge.
Theabert stood in the port side with Ward and 1st squad.
Down below, the LAAV was following the yellowish-black squirm of a highway that was spattered with heavy Araian and imperial vehicles, though they were going by too fast for him to make out their details, and then the LAAV was soaring over a metal-walled settlement of domed buildings and winding streets.
As the LAAV dipped lower, Cornelius could see scores of helmetless Araians and helmeted humans racing for their homes and other structures, seeking safety as the quartet of LAAVs roared lower, knowing that something big was gonna kick off and they didn’t want to be a part of it.
Cornelius heard the engines of his LAAV turning on their screws, going vertical, and then the craft came to an almost complete stop, the wind gushing all around. The LAAV dropped towards a dome-topped building surrounded by a high metal wall. Cornelius recognized it as the suspected hideout from the morning briefing.
Two of the other LAAVs dropped low to either side of the building to hover above the rocky courtyard and 3rd and 4th platoons—run by Williams and Erikson respectfully—jumped out to run towards the building, the LAAVs then shooting back up to circle around, remaining on station for ground support.
“Avalanche and Lions are on the ground!” came Lieutenant Dennison’s squeaky voice over the com-waves. And then Cornelius’ LAAV was just a meter above the curving dome.
“Go! Go! Go!” the flight-officer yelled, and then Cornelius and the rest of 2nd platoon were running down the ramps to either side to jump down from the LAAV, just as they’d done hundreds of times in training, landing heavily on the curved roof, the added force of the warped gravity sending a vibrating jolt up from his ankles to the base of his skull, causing him to almost lose his balance as he wobbled on the thin strip of ledge, but Herd was there behind him and managed to push him forward with one strong arm, saving him from the fall.
Cornelius nodded his appreciation then keyed the com on his arm console, “Renegades in position!” and Lieutenant Dennison repeated the call.
A second later, 1st platoon landed on the other side of the dome, Rhento calling in, “Bombers in position!”
The LAAVs roared up to join the other two circling the settlement high above.
“All units engage!” Lieutenant Dennison said after repeating Rhento’s call.
Sergeant Theabert took point and led 2nd platoon to an access hatch on the dome’s western side, Rhento bringing 1st platoon around from the other way. Private Fivork of Ward’s squad then stepped over and placed a round mag-charge on the hatch before yelling over the com, “Fire in the hole!”
There was a muffled explosion followed by a cloud of smoke, and then the hatch was gone, having been blown inward. Cornelius ordered Ward and 1st squad into the breach first. He followed right after, close behind Private Fivork, activating his visor’s night-vision so he could penetrate the darkness beyond, his world becoming shades of blues, whites, and blacks all around to reveal a narrow hallway.
“Avalanche engaging,” Williams said over the com-waves. “Ground floor clear. Moving up.”
“Lions engaging,” Erikson said a few moments after. “All clear of enemy but there’s a whole lot of contraband lying around. We’re securing it and continuing search.”
“The hallway forks ahead and there’s another down the way, sir,” Theabert said from behind Cornelius on the platoon’s private channel. “We’re gonna need to split up and search the adjoining rooms. I’ll take 1st squad right. You take 2nd left. Roger, sir?”
“Roger that. I’ll take 2nd squad left and have the Bombers search the other hallway.” He keyed the com, telling Rhento to go on ahead, and then he took Herd and 2rd squad left down the blue-smeared hallway.
Cornelius broke the squad down into two fire-teams, Herd taking one, Sergeant Toni the other, and had them search every room down the length of the hallway while hoping he wasn’t going by the book too much.
He was suddenly more afraid of being fragged by his own troops than he was of running into a hostile rebel and had to keep his anxiety in check by rationalizing that he hadn’t gotten any complaints so far, so he was probably doing all right.
Then again, would they really bother with complaining if they were just gonna kill him?
He shook the unpleasant thought from his mind and made his way around several soldiers to head for the next room, thinking to make himself useful. He clicked the safety off his battle-rifle, setting it to burst. Positioning himself, he kicked open the door and his chest filled with freezing ice when he saw movement, a black shadow sweeping through the field of white and blue.
Dropping to one knee, he fired a short burst into the room, his adrenaline surging, and when he saw more shadows flash across the room, he switched to full auto and sprayed the room from side-to-side, bracing for the return fire.
“Shots fired! Shots fired, fourth floor!” someone shouted over the com, then, Sergeant Theabert, “Ceasefire! Ceasefire now, sir!”
Cornelius did so but didn’t break his gaze from the small room, which was full of smoke, the wisps appearing as black swirling cobwebs through his night-vision. He stood, but then immediately went back to a knee, bringing the battle-rifle back up to his shoulder when he saw more movement…and then he noticed the small lamp in the corner of the room, casting shadows along the walls as the door swung slowly back and forth; other than the lamp, the room was empty, absent even of furniture.
He’d been so keyed up that his mind figured the shadows for rebels, perhaps preparing an ambush.
He could feel his face flushing red behind his faceplate.
“What the fuck are you shooting at, sir?” Theabert roared, stomping down the hall towards him.
“T-thought I saw something moving, sergeant,” he mumbled, feeling like a complete idiot and wanted to be anywhere else but where he was at the moment. If this incident didn’t get him fragged he didn’t know what would.
Before he had time to explain himself further, Theabert stepped over and whacked him hard across both sides of his helmet, making his head ring. “Next time, don’t think, sir! Confirm your target before you get yourself or, more importantly, someone else killed! Got it, sir?”
“Got it, sergeant.” It was a struggle to keep his anger and embarrassment at bay, but at least he was able to maintain the former before he did something truly stupid. Instinct wanted to hit Theabert back but he had to remember where he was. And technically, he could’ve had Theabert arrested for assault on an officer, but that would be just as good as signing his own death warrant.
“Now keep searching,” Theabert said before shoving passed him back into the adjacent hallway.
Cornelius backed away, content for now to let the others take the lead in battering down the doors and checking the rooms.
Available Here: Amazon and Smashwords
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Share these codes with your friends and fellow readers!