The first episode of my latest sci-fi work in progress.
In sharing the opening chapters of a work in progress, I'll inevitably have to jump to another book after a certain number of episodes: it's not workable to post an entire book on my blog piece by piece. Things get changed as I go along, earlier parts are rewritten, and it becomes a mess. So this week, after sharing 7 episodes of Mutiny, I'm posting the first part of the next Brent Bolster book. If you haven't read anything from this series before, you'll get a flavour, and if you'd like to get the first book, I've kept it at 99 cents/ 99 pence for quite a while now, and there's a link after the chapter below.
These books are a fun mixture of space opera and detective fiction, with a range of humour throughout, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently's Detective Agency, Space Team, and Red Dwarf will find something to enjoy, and I hope you get a kick out of this snippet.
Gloabon space Station The Gamulon
Fleet Admiral Squernshall glanced over his shoulder, but the corridor behind him was empty. No surprise there, he told himself. Very few Gloabons visited the lower decks, and certainly no uniformed officers. Down here, in the bowels of the space station, the vast apparatus of the air purification and water recycling plants carried on their ceaseless work without the need for oversight or maintenance. Only the black jackets came down here, and the members of that highly specialized engineering crew were an insular bunch. They kept themselves to themselves, and though it was a prejudice rarely admitted, the rest of the Gamulon’s personnel preferred it that way. We’re a long way from home, but we carry on our daily lives as though we were still on Gloabon, Squernshall thought, and the black jackets make it all possible. But the last thing anybody wanted to be reminded of was that they were all floating in space, many miles from proper civilization, and reliant for every breath on the pipes, pumps, canisters, and whirring fans of the lower decks.
Squernshall’s handset buzzed, and he pulled it from his pocket, staring at the screen. The message was short:
Take next right turn. Walk thirty paces. Wait.
Squernshall grunted at the impudence of the sender, but he marched forward, keeping his handset ready. The next corridor on his right was narrow and unlit, its depths disappearing into the darkness, and somewhere in the distance, the sound of dripping water echoed. The tang of chemicals stung his nostrils, and as his eyes adjusted to the gloom, Squernshall detected a miasma of swirling mist hanging in the air.
You cannot be serious, he thought. He was a fleet admiral! How could anyone expect him to venture into such a vile place? But then again, perhaps his contact was merely exercising admirable caution. No self-respecting Gloabon would even notice this meagre access route. Within the limits of the station, this was probably as close as Squernshall could get to dropping off the radar completely.
Turning sideways and pulling in his stomach, Squernshall sidestepped into the gloom, counting off thirty paces with difficulty. Was the corridor getting narrower as he went along? Were the walls pressing in on him? I’m as good as trapped, he told himself. But no, he could still move well enough. It was just a moment of panic, easily dismissed with a little self-discipline. Perhaps he just needed to work on his waistline a little. It must be about time for a visit to the gymnasium. After all, he’d missed his last scheduled workout. And possibly the one before. Oh well, he thought. There’s always next year.
There. He’d reached thirty paces. What now? He glanced at his handset, but its screen was dark except for a small, red icon: No signal. Squernshall blinked and tapped the screen, but the icon remained stubbornly in place. No connectivity at all. Was that even possible on The Gamulon?
“Yes,” someone whispered in the shadows, and Squernshall gasped, stiffening his spine. “You are in what we might call a black spot,” the voice went on in a guttural whisper, its tone edged with dark glee. “No one can track you here, and the zinger cannot operate. No one can reach you. Except for me.”
“That’s enough of your nonsense,” Squernshall snapped. “I take it that you’re Gernst?”
There was no reply, but beside him, something shifted in the mist, and a dark figure detached itself from the shadows. Squernshall’s hand went to his sidearm. “Stay back. I can’t miss from here.”
A sly chuckle reverberated through the narrow corridor, and a flicker of fear stirred in Squernshall’s gut. Had he been fooled? Lured into a trap? There’d been rumors of discontent among the black jackets: wild tales of unauthorized meetings, unofficial groups vying for superiority, demanding change. I’ll show them change, Squernshall told himself. Cross me, and they’ll regret it. But when the figure drew nearer, Squernshall’s bluster died away.
The Gloabon before him was not tall, neither was he powerfully built, but he exuded an eerie sense of menace. He moved with the easy grace of a predator, his glittering eyes fixed on Squernshall, and his hands hanging loose at his sides. But it was his face that shocked Squernshall. He’d heard that some of the black jackets had taken to adorning themselves with tattoos, but he’d never taken it seriously. It was not unknown amongst Gloabon soldiers, especially those serving far from home, to have discreet symbols tattooed on their upper arms, though these were always small and completely hidden by their uniforms. But this Gloabon, whose features seemed twisted into a permanent sneer, bore strange patterns on his cheeks and neck: intricate curves and interlocking blocks of color that seemed to represent…what? Squernshall had no idea what it meant, but instinctively, he felt it was wrong. Un-Gloabon.
The figure stopped. “I am Gernst, and I am alone. There is no need to draw your weapon.”
“Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” Squernshall moved his hand away from his weapon, but not far. “I don’t have time for games. Where can we talk?”
Gernst muttered something under his breath, then he turned back the way he’d come, beckoning Squernshall to follow. “This way, Fleet Admiral. I’ll show you to my luxurious office.”
Squernshall bridled at the insubordination in Gernst’s tone, but he followed him into the darkness. He was going to need Gernst’s help. For what he had in mind, no one else would do.
Thanks for Reading 🙂
This episode will be included in my monthly anthology as an ebook along with this month's blog posts. The anthologies will only be available to my patrons on patreon where, for a few dollars a month, you can have instant access to all the ebooks as soon as I compile them. Also, the support of patrons will help me to keep writing and providing content for you all. Learn more when you head on over to patreon and check it out
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