Excerpt: Another Sunset

Nathan Pierce stopped short as he walked into the lounge car. The car and the sumptuous furnishings were lit in a ruddy glow as the sun set behind the train. He walked over to the bar, and poured a glass of water, marveling at the sight. He took a breath, and inhaled a whiff of pipe tobacco. He looked around, seeing smoke wafting up from a chair in the corner.

“Excuse me, who are you? This car is reserved for officers, and as far as I know, I’m the only officer on this train.”

A man peered around the edge of the chair back. He said, gruffly, “The only officer? What am I then, a mess cook?”

“I.. I .. I’m sorry sir. I didn’t know you were an officer as well. I thought…”

“Yes, I get it, you thought you were the only one. Well, technically you are. I’m no longer an officer. I’m retired.” He held out a hand. “Retired General Benedict Atwood.” Gingerly, Nathan shook General Atwood’s hand.

“I’m Lieutenant Nathan Pierce, sir.”

“You don’t need to call me sir. I told you, I’m retired. Have a seat, Pierce. But first, pour yourself a real drink.”

“I don’t drink.”

“You’ll drink if I tell you to drink, son.” Atwood rose, and walked over to the bar, leaning on an elaborately carved cane. He poured a glass of Bourbon and took it over to Nathan Pierce. “Here. Drink this.” He sat down again in the seat. Nathan sat down in the chair next to him.

“Beautiful, isn’t it.” Atwood said, looking out the window at the sunset.

“It is. The landscape may not be much to look at, but the sunrises and sunsets on this planet are magnificent.” He looked over at General Atwood. His short white hair seemed to be on fire in the orange glow. A deep scar cut across his face from his left ear to his chin, standing out in the harsh light.

“Never miss an opportunity to watch a sunrise or sunset, young man. In our line of work, you never know if you’ll get to see another one.” He looked at Nathan Pierce, appraising the younger man. “You’re new to command, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am. How can you tell.”

Atwood chuckled. “After serving for sixty years, I can tell. You still have the stink of OCS about you.”

“I just graduated last week. I’ve been given command of an Engineering Platoon. We’re on our way to Fort Bracken with supplies. We’re to help strengthen the fort’s defenses.”

“From what I can understand, they need it. That area has seen a lot of activity lately. The Stihlz have been moving in that direction. You’ll probably see some combat before long.”

“I certainly hope not. We’re engineers, not fighters.”

“If you’re in this army, you’re fighters. You may be trained as engineers, but you will do what is required of you, whether it be building or fighting.”

“I’ve never been in combat, “ Nathan whispered.

“On this planet, there’s no such thing as a noncombatant. Get used to it.”

The door opened, Nathan Pierce’s staff sergeant entered the car. “Sir, the cook wants me to tell you that your dinner is ready. Would you like to eat in the dining car, or should I have them bring it to you?”

“Have them bring it to the lounge car, please.”

The sergeant turned to leave, but stopped as General Atwood bellowed. “Wait a moment, Sergeant!” He turned to Lieutenant Pierce. “Please? You’re an officer now. This man is a subordinate. You give orders to subordinates, not requests.”

“But sir, I…”

“But nothing. If you want to lead, you need to learn to give orders.”

Nathan looked between the two men. He cleared his throat. “Sergeant Cobb, have my dinner brought to the lounge car.”

“Very good sir.” The sergeant turned to leave, and Nathan thought he saw the hint of a smile on the man’s face.

Benedict Atwood turned his chair slightly to face Nathan. “These men are soldiers, Lieutenant. They have been trained to take orders from officers.”

“I’m just trying to be polite, sir.”

“No. Don’t try to be polite. Lead your men, give them orders. They’re in the army, and they know what to expect from their superior officers. You get to know your men. You respect your men. But you need to be firm with them. Give them orders, not requests.”

“But what if I give them the wrong orders?”

“Then you give them wrong orders. It’s their job to follow your orders as best they can. If you have doubts, or if you need advice, that’s what your sergeant is there for. It’s okay to ask him for advice. He may very well have more experience in the military than you do. But never forget, you hold a higher rank. Work with him, but don’t ever forget who is in charge of your platoon, Lieutenant.”

Excerpt: Peregrine’s Flight

The rising sun cast a blood red glow against the sky. Ahead, the Storm Rider lay silhouetted against the dawn sky.
Luther Wylde stood at the bow of the Peregrine, the sea breeze blowing through his long blond hair. He turned and raised the lantern in his hand, and waved it from side to side. In response a light flashed briefly from the bridge. Luther gazed towards the island on their starboard side, spotting another light in the crow’s nest of the Redwing.
Luther Wylde looked over his band of pirates gathered behind him, ready to board the Storm Rider.
A cloud of black smoke arose from the stacks as the Peregrine surged forward. Deftly. The pirates waited in anticipation as they drew closer to the Storm Rider.
Luther raised the lantern again, signalling to the bridge, and the Peregrine put on another burst of speed.
Shouts arose from the deck of the Storm Rider as some of the crew saw the Peregrine approaching out of the dark.
With a crash of metal, the two ships collided. Many of the Storm Rider’s crew were knocked off their feet by the collision. Luther Wylde leaped deftly up to the bowsprit and across to the deck of the Storm Rider, followed by his crew. The Redwing approached from the other side, ready to begin boarding.
Sailors of the Storm Rider were running to the deck now, with their swords and pistols drawn.
A sailor slashed at Luther, who ducked, and then parried the back stroke. He stepped into the next attack, and struck the sailor on the chin with the pommel of his sword.
Luther Wylde turned to meet the next attack. He parried, and then counterattacked, driving his opponent back towards the railing. His opponent lost his footing, and fell over the railing into the ocean below.
Pirates from the Redwing were now pouring onto the deck of the Storm Rider. Luther Wylde looked around for the Storm Rider’s captain. Spotting a man in a crisp white uniform standing at the helm, Wylde made his way through the fighting on the deck towards the captain.
“Captain Allene,” he said, drawing his pistol. “I thought I’d find you in charge.”
Captain Allene simply glared at him as Luther Wylde aimed his pistol at Allene’s head.
“There’s no need for further bloodshed, Captain.” Luther Wylde gestured towards the deck, awash in bodies and blood. “I suggest you order your crew to lay down their arms, and surrender your cargo. I’m feeling generous today. I may even let you and your crew serve me. The Storm Rider would make a welcome addition to my pirate fleet.”
Captain Allene nodded, and hung his head. He pulled a whistle from his pocket and blew it. The shrill blast pierced the noise of the skirmish down below. Some of the crew of the Storm Rider looked up, ceasing their fight. Gradually, the rest followed suit. As they ceased to fight, the pirates from the Peregrine and the Redwing sheathed their weapons, and gathered up swords and pistols from their captives.
In short order, the captain and the sailors from the Storm Rider were gathered together in a corner of the deck. A few pirates emerged from belowdecks, leading more sailors to join the group.
Luther Wylde looked over the gathered sailors. “Sailors of the Storm Rider. As you can see, you’ve been defeated. In a short while you will be asked to transfer the cargo from your ship to the Peregrine and the Redwing. Afterwards, you have the option to join our pirate fleet.” The sailors looked at each other, murmuring.
“If you choose to join us, you will be rewarded handsomely. You certainly know our reputation, and you know our success. You will have a share of all of the plunder as long as you remain with us. If you choose not to join us… Let’s just say it will be better if you do. Now, let’s get some cargo moved.”

Excerpt: Atlantis Lost

I’ve gotten off to a slow start this month, but I still feel I can reach my writing goals for the summer. Anyhow, here is the opening scene from my novel, “Atlantis Lost”. Keep in mind, this is still just a first draft, and it will be edited later.

—–

Captain Peter Strang looked out the viewport as his shuttle came around Saturn from night to day. Below the shuttle, the rings glistened in the rising sun.

The shuttle pilot looked over at Captain Strang with a gleam in his eyes. At a node from the captain, he pushed the controls forward, diving into the midst of the rings. Both men laughed as the pilot deftly wove among the chunks of ice and rock.

“Titan Shuttle!”, the voice blared out of the comm system, “What in blazes do you think you’re doing?”

Red faced, the pilot keyed the comm button. “Sorry, Titan Base… just putting the ship through her paces.” He pulled back on the stick, bringing the ship up out of Saturn’s rings.

“Titan Shuttle, you are clear for approach on docking bay 94.”

“Roger that. Nav is locked on.”

He looked over at Captain Strang. “So, this is it, you’re getting command of your own starship today.”

“Yes I am. It shouldn’t be too much different than commanding a fighter squadron, except that more people are depending on me.”

The shuttle flew on, past shipyards where several ships were being repaired or constructed. They flew past one ship, so new that it didn’t even have a name. Captain Strang turned to the pilot. “So, do you think that will be my new ship?”

“I don’t know sir, I’m just a fighter pilot pressed into shuttle duty until the conflict starts.”

Captain Strang gazed out the viewport again. They were approaching the fleet’s main base orbiting the moon of Titan. Two battered old ships sat moored to the docking arms of the station, almost hidden in the shadow. He couldn’t see the names, but he recognized the profiles. The Atlantis and the Lemuria, the first two space battleships built by Fleet Command. “Those two ships out there, the Atlantis and Lemuria, those have got to be close to being mothballed, aren’t they.”

“I would think so. They’ve served fleet well, but they have to be at least a hundred years old. I think the Atlantis fired the first shot in the war.”

The comm beeped. “Titan Shuttle, we have you for final approach.” The shuttle shook slightly as the station’s tractor beams took hold of it, guiding it slowly into the docking bay.

“We’re here sir. Good luck on your first command.”

“Thank you. It looks like they’re waiting for me.” Pete Strang picked up his bags and walked off the shuttle, crossing the floor to the waiting shuttle cart.

Off To A Slow Start

Well, it’s day 3 of NaNoWriMo, and I’m off to a slow start. I only have 467 words written so far, but it’s still early in the month. I still have plenty of time to catch up. For those of you that are interested, here’s the opening scene from “Upon A Midnight Dreary”.

——

Victoria Raven lay still. The rain was falling, running into her face, mixing with the blood running from several wounds on her face and neck.

She could still hear her attackers checking on other members of her family. She tried to avoid breathing, trying not to give away any sign that she still lived. As it was, she could feel the life leaving her body, drop by drop. She heard a pair of footsteps approaching.

She sensed one of her attackers looming over her, as another one approached. Something warm fell on her lips, the salty taste oozing into her mouth, she almost spit it out, but managed to keep from moving.

She heard a rough voice above her. “What happened to you Donovan? You’re bleeding.”

“Oh, one of those bastards pulled a knife on me. He pulled out a knife, I pulled out his throat.”

A pair of rough hands pulled the rings off of her fingers. More blood fell onto her lips as she struggled to remain still. A strange whooshing sound filled the air. The cold air seemed to grow even colder, as she sensed a new, chilling presence nearby.

A quiet, yet commanding voice filled the silence. “And what is this?”

“Lucius, we didn’t expect you here.”

“Obviously not.” The voice was cold, and full of contempt. “You know our rules. We do not murder in cold blood like this.”

“But they have been helping the Pinkertons. They’ve been opposing and hunting us. They’re doing their best to bring us down.”

“That does not excuse this sloppy execution, Donovan. We do not operate in the open like this.”

“No one is around, no one saw these murders, and none of them are left alive.”

She heard a slap. “Insolent fool! Listen. Do you hear the horses approaching? Pinkerton Detective Agency already has agents on their way. We do not need to give them any excuses to oppose the Baltimore Coven. Now, let us leave, before we are caught.”

More whooshing filled the air, and soon she could sense no one else around. In the distance she could hear the growing sound of hoofbeats. They built up to a thundering noise, stopping nearby.

There was shouting as the riders leapt from the horses, their footsteps muffled by the muddy ground.

“We missed them. Check to see if anyone survived this attack.”

“This one is gone. Check over there”

She heard footsteps approaching. Someone knelt down in the mud beside her, his hand going to her neck. “This one is still alive. Let’s get some help over here, quickly!” Strong yet gentle hands, started to raise her to a sitting position. She opened her eyes, a pair of cold grey eyes met hers. A shudder ran through her body as Victoria Raven breathed her last.

Excerpt: Arrow Of Vengeance

I just thought I’d post an excerpt from my first novelette, “Arrow of Vengeance”. This is still the rough draft, and needs some editing, though.


 

The earth shook again. Several of the spectators in the stable yard lost their footing on the muddy ground, falling to their knees. The archer held his aim steady, waiting for the trembling to subside. As the shaking stopped, he took a deep breath and loosed his arrow. The arrow flew straight and true, striking the center of the target, next to the other three.

A cheer went up from the crowd, money exchanging hands. The archer turned to a large bearded man behind him. “Okay, there you have it. Four pints of ale, and I still managed to hit the target. Pay up.”

Grudgingly, the man counted out 5 silvers, but held on to it. “I’ll tell you what, Fletcher… Five pints, double or nothing.”

“Another pint won’t make any difference, Robert you’ll still lose your money, I always hit the target. But I’m done for the day.” Arthur Fletcher unstrung the bow, carefully placing it in its waterproof case.

“You’re not done until I have a chance to win my money back, Fletcher”, roared Robert. He placed a hand on Arthur’s shoulder, spinning him around. In a flash Robert found himself with his arm behind his back, his face against the rough, splintered wood of the stable, and a dagger to his throat.

“I told you, Robert. I’m done for the day. I didn’t spend years training in archery just to entertain you. I’ll remind you that I once saved this kingdom.”

“You’re nothing, Arthur. You were drummed out of the guard, and now you’re nothing but a drunk, performing for more drunks.”

“Maybe so. Maybe I am drunk, but you take a look at that wooden block across the yard. An arrow right on target even after four pints of ale. And I remind you, that I’m just as deadly with this dagger as I am with an arrow. I would suggest that you pay up, and get the hell out of here.”

He withdrew his dagger as Robert took the silver pieces, and threw them down into the mud. He turned and walked off, grumbling. Arthur watched him leave, then continued placing his bow into its case, then bending down to pick up the silver.