I am on the third story in a three story collection called Alone in the Dark. They are very short so I am grouping them together. They take place in different settings but all along the same theme. Alone in the dark. The collection should be out in the next few days.
Things never go as planned. My daughter hasn’t had time to edit my last two books and I had to find someone to replace her. (As an editor not as a daughter.) My sister has graciously agreed and so hopefully Sawyer 5 will be out in the near future.
It’s been a while since I have updated anything so I thought I would post about my upcoming books. I have two new short novels on the way that carry on the story of the characters in Driving Patera. The first is Sawyer 5 and should be out shortly after Thanksgiving. The second should be out after Christmas. I thought I would share the first chapter of Sawyer 5 for anyone interested.
Derek stared over the control panel of the Patera and into the darkness of space. The boredom was starting to get to him. He’d grown accustom to the excitement of bounty hunting and hauling cargo again was a real let down. He rubbed his palm across the stubble on his face and let out a deep sigh.
“What’s wrong with you?”
Derek started in surprise and looked up at the beautiful woman who had entered the control room. “Just tired,” Derek answered. “And bored.”
“We should be at Ixion to refuel soon,” his partner Keri told him. “And you can pick up some new music while we’re there.”
“I don’t need new music,” Derek said. “I have plenty to listen to.”
Keri reached past him and tapped the control screen, turning down the jazz that was playing through the ships speakers. “I need you to get some new music,” she said. “You really need to restrict it to the area you are in when you listen to this garbage.”
“Sorry,” he said with a smile. “I’ll try to remember.”
Keri stepped back to the doorway and hit the light switch. “Sitting in the dark doesn’t help,” she told him. “You know your body needs the vitamin d the lights help your body produce.”
“I know,” Derek growled. He preferred to have the lights dim but she was right. The woman returned and sat in the second control room seat. As soon as the chair activated and the suction held her body in to counteract the weightlessness of space she undid her grav boots and put her feet up on the edge of the panel being careful not to hit any buttons. She had a habit of not wearing anything but her skin tight thermal suit and a pair of shorts. It left very little to the imagination and even though Derek had no interest in the woman that way, sometimes it was hard not to stare. A flashing on the control screen yanked his eyes away from the woman and focused his attention.
Tapping the screen brought up a warning of an unknown object in the vicinity. Keri started poking at the auxiliary screen in front of her seat bringing up the long range cameras. “It looks like a small cargo ship,” she old Derek. “Probably Proteus class hauler. Strange to see such a small ship this far out, they must have extra fuel pods in their hold or they would never make it back to where ever they came from.”
As she spoke another warning popped up on the screen showing another ship approaching the smaller one. It was the size of the Patera but wasn’t a cargo ship. It appeared to be some kind of passenger vessel with several alterations. Derek leaned over and zoomed the camera in closer so he could get a better view of the ship. It was definitely a Venus class passenger ship but with a few additions. There were two laser canons facing forward and one to the rear, plus a missile launcher on her port side. As soon as all this registered in Derek’s head he realized the the forward facing canon were starting to glow as they powered up.
“What are they…,” Derek started but was interrupted as the canon fired simultaneously causing the small ship to explode into a million pieces of what was now scrap metal.
The remaining ship then reversed course and quickly disappeared from the view of the camera. Derek and Keri sat for a few seconds in silence, not really believing what they had just witnessed. Then Derek started panning the camera so that they could view the wreckage of the small ship. There wasn’t much to see other than chunks of hull and deck grating. There were no broken cargo containers, shattered oil drums, or any other signs of cargo. The ship must have been running empty which was unusual. No one wanted to waste expensive fuel flying an empty cargo ship. If nothing else a driver would load his ship with trash to be dumped off at an appropriate spot. Anything to offset the cost of running the ship.
Keri spoke up saying, “The ship was empty and by the lack of a fireball I would say it was basically out of fuel.” After a brief hesitation she continued, “Why would they bother to destroy a ship that would be floating dead in space soon? Why would they destroy a ship in the first place?”
Derek thought for a few seconds and then answered. “If they were thieves they would have tried to board her and take whatever was on board. They just wanted to kill whoever was on that ship. I have no idea why, though.” He reached for the controls to alter their course so they wouldn’t fly through the debris and damage the Patera’s hull.
“Wait!” Keri barked as she punched the screen and swung the camera back through the remains of the ship. “I thought I saw something!” She stared at the screen intently while the view slowly changed. The camera zoomed through the junk and on the far side of the debris they saw a small escape pod. “We have to check,” Keri said to Derek. “Just in case.”
Derek nodded and slowed the ship to a crawl, bringing it around so that they were approaching the wreckage head on. Inching through the debris was nerve wracking for the pair as they listened to the ragged pieces of the small vessel clang and scrape across the outer hull of the Patera. Hopefully nothing important would snag on one of the scraps and become damaged. After a few minutes that seemed like an hour, the ship came to a complete stop with the escape pod directly in front of the control rooms window.
Keri and Derek involuntarily leaned forward to get a better look at the escape pod. There was a small view port in it but it was still frosted over from the change in temperature when it exited the ship. The small amount of humidity on the vessel had formed tiny ice crystals when it became exposed to the cold of space.
“We have to bring it in and check,”Keri said to Derek. “If there is someone inside the pod we can’t leave them to die and if we don’t get it inside quickly they will freeze to death.”
Derek agreed with her and started deploying the remote arm that was normally used for repairs while in space.
“I wish Beech were here,” he muttered as he extended the arm. “He’s better with this thing than I am.”
“You’ll do fine,” the woman told him. “Just don’t rush it. It will take a few minutes before the cold kills them.”
“Thanks for not putting pressure on me,” Derek answered wryly.
Derek slid the fingers of his right hand across the control screen guiding the arm to the pod. Using his left hand he worked the clamp on the end of the arm open and then closed on the pod as gently as he could. If there was a person inside he didn’t want to clamp down to hard and rupture the container.
“Got it!” Derek exclaimed as he concentrated on moving the arm back toward the small airlock on the side of the ship. Now they couldn’t see the arm or the pod through the window and he was guiding it using a simulation on the screen of the arm and the outside of the ship. Keri opened the airlock from her screen when the container approached it. When Derek place the pod inside and released it she slid the door closed again and pressurized the small space so that it was filled with air and heat.
Derek let out a sigh and wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Let’s go check and see what we have,” he said and hit the release on his chair. The suction that held him in place through the form fitting cushions released and he stood up. Keri did the same and followed him through the door and down the catwalk to the airlock door. Neither said anything as they walked. The only sound was their grav boots clanking on the steel grating as they walked.
When they got to the door they looked at each other in nervous anticipation and then Keri hit the switch to slide the door back. They felt a small amount of cold air drift out at them from the pod. The cold from space hadn’t all been driven out of the metal of the container. They both grasped a handle and slid the platform the escape pod was sitting on out of the airlock and onto the catwalk. It had moisture on it from the frost that the warmer air of the ship had melted. Without bothering to try and see through the view port on the thing Derek reached down and hit the release popping the seal on it. Swinging the top open on its hinges they looked inside.
Lying in the pod was a young woman. She looked to be in her mid twenties with dark hair cut short in military style. She was wearing street clothes which looked odd since she had on grav boots. Keri leaned forward and looked closely at the girl to see if she was alive.
“She’s ok, I think,” the woman said quietly. “She’ll probably be out for an hour or more from the anesthetic in the pod. That stuff really knocks you out. At least that way you can sleep while you freeze to death.”
“She’s not wearing a thermal suit,” Derek commented. “Why don’t you take her to your room and put her in your bed so she’ll stay warm until she wakes up. I’ll take care of the pod.”
Keri nodded, pulled the woman from the container, and headed for her room with the unconscious body floating behind. While she was taking care of the girl Derek closed the airlock and after shutting off his grav boots pushed off the catwalk and floated down to the cargo deck, pulling the escape pod with him. Landing and absorbing the energy from the landing with his knees he turned his grav boots back on and they kept him from bouncing off the deck as he settled the pod on the steel deck. He then locked the pod in place with a magnetic clamp that was used to hold cargo. He then returned to the control room and started piloting the ship away from the debris field and back to their original course.
Keri came in just as he finished setting the controls to automatic. They both leaned back in their seats and looked at the other. “Why do you think that ship fired on her?” Derek asked.
“I don’t know,” Keri answered looking thoughtful. “But I have a feeling we were lucky they were to focused on her ship to notice we were here.”
Derek nodded agreement and shrugged, “I guess we’ll find out when she wakes up.” He then noticed that the woman had strapped on her shoulder harness and had her two automatics hanging in it. “What’s with the guns?”
“It seemed like a good idea after what just happened,” she answered. “Besides, when I put the girl to bed I noticed she was well armed, too. If she happens to be a little hostile when she wakes up I figured being armed would even things out a little.”
Derek nodded and then turned back to watching the ships controls with a little extra attention to the long range camera.
Thanks for reading this and I hope you found it interesting enough to want to read the rest when it comes out.
My collection of four sci fi short stories, Driving Patera, is now available in paperback. At Createspace and at Amazon. I am also almost finished with a short novel with the same characters, I expect to finish it in the next few days and hopefully have it available in a couple of weeks. If things go right it shouldn’t be that long. It is great to be back to writing again after several months away from it. My day job and other things made it hard to find the time for a while but hopefully now I can stick with it a little better.
My first novel In Search of Home will soon be released in paperback. The proof copy is on its way from Createspace. As soon as I approve it, it will be available at Amazon and Createspace. If everything is right with the proof it should be available shortly after the first of February.