The View From the Deck Plate
Not everything I write makes it into print. (And believe me, that’s a good thing.) Most of the stuff that ends up on my cutting room floor deserves to be there. Characters who refuse to come to life, chunks of lackluster dialogue, and—occasionally—entire plotlines that weaken the story when they should be making it stronger. In other words, crap that has no place in a finished novel.
But once in a while, I have to cut something for reasons having nothing to do with quality. For example: the original opening chapter of Sea of Shadows got the axe because it had undertones of espionage that weren’t quite right for the story.
I wrote this piece a long time ago, and it was cut from the novel before we did any line-editing. You’re seeing it as originally written, complete with clumsy usages and grammatical errors. Despite any typos and other imperfections, I still think it’s kind of a neat piece of work. (Your mileage may vary.)
And now, without further ado, I present the mysterious Lost Chapter…
The alarm in the back of Jay Gilbert’s brain went off the instant he saw the other two men assigned to his team. Shit. Not good. Not good at all.
Jay trusted the alarm. It had managed to steer him clear of serious trouble for most of his nineteen years. And the few times that he had really screwed up had all come as a result of ignoring that little warning signal in his head. Not that Jay was psychic, like that bullshit on the TV hotlines. The alarm was more like a built-in bad news detector, and right now it was pitching a bitch.
The sun had been down for nearly an hour, but the parking lot behind the WizardClean building was well lit. Jay tried to get a better look at the two guys as he walked across the lot toward them. They were standing under a floodlight next to a green van with the WizardClean company logo on the side: a cutesy cartoon of an industrial carpet shampooing machine wearing a pointed wizard’s hat with stars and moons, surrounded by a cloud of little sparkly bits of fairy dust.
The men were dressed in green WizardClean coveralls, just like Jay was; the WizardClean logo embroidered small above the left breast pocket and large across the back. Both men were about Jay’s height, a little under six feet, and both were about ten years older than him ⎯ say late twenties or so. Any resemblance to Jay ended there. Where Jay was wiry and blonde, the men were dark haired and solid looking. Their skin was darker than his. Not African, but dark. Greek maybe. Or Italian.
Jay stopped a few feet away from the friendlier looking of the two and stuck out his hand. They looked okay, as far as he could tell. So why were they making the hair on his neck stand up?
The man took Jay’s extended hand and shook it. “Mike Umar,” he said. He smiled, showing lots of white teeth. The smile didn’t seem to make it to his eyes. “You must be Jerome.”
Jay forced himself to return the smile. “I prefer to be called Jay.”
Mike released his hand and tapped the second man on the shoulder. “Jay, this is my friend Rafii. He likes to be called Ralph.”
Mike’s voice had just a touch of an accent, but Jay couldn’t place it. Jay extended his hand to the second man. “Good to meet you, Ralph. I’m looking forward to working with you.”
Ralph ignored his outstretched hand. “We do not need a replacement. We have done this job a hundred times. We can do it with two men.”
Jay dropped his hand. “I’m sorry to hear about your friend. The Dispatcher said it was his appendix? Is that right?”
“Yes,” the man called Mike said. “He fell ill only a few hours ago.”
“You do not know how we work,” Ralph said in a quiet voice.
Jay felt the heat go to his cheeks. Hopefully they weren’t glowing in the fucking dark where this rude little bastard could see. Jay took a slow breath and said, “I’ll try to stay out of your way. I’ve got quite a bit of experience with carpet cleaners.” He grinned and made an effort not to grind his teeth. “I’m a Seaman Apprentice over at the Naval Yard. I scrub a lot of toilets, polish a lot of brass, and shampoo a shitload of carpets. In the big scheme of things, a Seaman Deuce is just above whale shit, and that lies on the bottom of the ocean.” He tossed off the last part like a punch line and threw in a little laugh. Neither of the men joined him.
“Let’s go,” Mike said flatly. He walked around toward the driver’s side of the van. Ralph opened the front passenger door, climbed in, and slammed it behind himself.
Jay pulled at the handle of the side door and the door slid open with a squeaky grind. He stared into the darkened interior of the van. He could make out the shapes of the cleaning machines, but not much else. His alarm was still going off like a madman.
Shit. What if he just walked away? It wasn’t like he really needed this job. He could leave these two assholes to whatever whack shit they were up to.
But what about Amy’s ring? An eighth carat diamond wasn’t big by anybody’s standards, but even that was more than he could afford on what the Navy paid E-2’s.
And he did want to give Amy the ring. Not that she would insist on it. She would marry him without any ring, he was sure of that. But he wanted to do it right. He had played it out fifty times in his head… He would be decked out in his dress blues, and crackerjacks were easily the sharpest uniform in the world. Dark blue tailored wool with crisp white piping and a tightly rolled neckerchief. Even a lowly Seaman Deuce with no ribbons or medals looked great in his jacks. He would go down on one knee, just like the romantic guys in the old movies. And then, the ring. Amy’s sea green eyes would go wide with surprise and then they would go bright with happy tears…
The engine of the van rumbled to life, jarring him back to reality. Mike’s voice came floating out of the darkened van. “Are you coming?”
Jay climbed into the rear of the van and pulled the door shut. Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. He settled into the single seat rear seat and groped around in the darkness for his seat belt. The van smelled of strong soap and oiled metal. Maybe his alarm was wrong this time. He looked out the window as the van bounced over a pair of closely spaced speed bumps and rolled out of the parking lot into the night.
No one spoke. The minutes dragged on, the silence broken only by the rumble of the engine, the whine of the tires on the asphalt, and the occasional squeak of the suspension when the van ran over a bump or pothole.
They were giving him the silent treatment, but why? What had he done to piss them off? He hadn’t caused their buddy’s appendicitis attack. He hadn’t even asked to be assigned to their crew. Hell, he hadn’t done anything but offer honest work in exchange for honest pay. So, why were these guys pissed at him? Or were they pissed at him? Maybe they were just freaked out about their friend in the hospital. Maybe that was what his alarm was pinging on; they were stressed out about their buddy and it was fucking up their attitudes.
Jay leaned forward. “The Dispatcher says we’re doing the British Embassy tonight, is that right?”
Mike glanced over his shoulder for a half a second. “Yes.”
“What’s it like?” Jay asked. “I’ve never been in an embassy before. Is it all rich and fancy like the White House or something?”
“It is a building,” Mike said. “It has dirty carpets.”
“Yeah,” Jay said. “But I’ll bet it’s like a museum, huh? All kinds of famous paintings and statues… Ever see any famous people there? Like princes or movie stars?”
No one answered him.
They stopped at a red light, and a street lamp poured enough light in through the windows to reveal the back of the van. The three carpet shampooing machines he recognized, along with a dozen or so green plastic five gallon canisters: the famous WizardClean carpet cleaning formula.
The light changed and they accelerated through the intersection, leaving the street lamp behind and plunging the rear of the van into darkness again.
Jay sighed. “Alright,” he said. “I know you guys don’t want me here, but you’ve got to know I didn’t dream this shit up.”
Neither of the men replied, and neither of them even glanced back at Jay.
“The Dispatcher laid it out for me,” Jay said. “The company bills for three men. So they have to send three men, otherwise the customers complain. You guys were short a man. They were gonna send somebody, and I don’t have a regular crew yet. Luck of the draw.”
The men continued to ignore him.
Shit. These guys were whack jobs. Jay’s hand found its way to the cell phone in his right hip pocket. Maybe he should he call 911. But what would be report? He tried to imagined how the phone call would play out.
“9-1-1. Is this an emergency?”
“Yes. I’m stuck in a van with two rude assholes who give me the willies.”
“Sir, did you say ‘the willies?’”
“That’s right, the willies. The creeps. The fucking heebie-jeebies.”
“I see. Sir, other than the willies, are you injured or in immediate danger?”
“No, I’m not injured. I don’t know if I’m in danger. These guys are armed with deep-cleaning carpet shampooers and they’re not afraid to use them…”
Yeah. That would bring the cops running. Or the van from the cracker factory. It sounded crazy, even to him. Hell, it was crazy. But that didn’t stop his alarm from pinging like a pinball machine.
What in the name of god was it? What was his brain picking up on that he was missing? Some kind of funny vibe, he knew that much. But what? Were these guys stealing something? He looked around the darkened van and wondered what could be worth stealing. They couldn’t be smuggling, because they weren’t even leaving town.
Could it be something to do with the embassy? Were they planning to rip off the Brits? A famous painting or something? A statue? That didn’t sound right either. They’d never get out the door with anything bigger than a paperweight, the guards would make sure of that.
Jay shrugged, the gesture lost in the darkness. He had no idea what the Asshole Brothers were up to. He half-smiled the second the name appeared in his brain. Yeah. That was them. The Asshole Brothers.
He sighed. Relax… Forget about the Asshole Brothers. Think about something else…
Think about… Amy. Jay smiled in the darkness. Amy, of the sea green eyes and the quick laugh. Amy of the ticklish feet and the cute little heart-shaped butt. Amy, who shared his dreams and believed him when he said that he wouldn’t always be a poor broke Seaman Apprentice.
Amy was pregnant. He knew that. She hadn’t told him yet, and she wasn’t showing at all, but he knew. He could see it in her eyes. She wanted to be happy about the baby, but she wasn’t sure how Jay was going to take the news.
That was why the ring was so important. He needed to propose before Amy told him about the baby. That way, she would understand that he wanted to marry her because he was in love with her. Not because she was pregnant with his baby. He wanted her to know that it was a bond of love, not of obligation.
His smile grew wider in the darkness. What would the baby look like? Would she — Jay just knew it was a daughter — would she have Amy’s eyes? He hoped so.
The van swung suddenly off the road and up a short driveway to a tall chain link gate. Mike leaned out the window to punch buttons on a key pad. The gate clanged loudly and began to roll to one side.
Jay stared through the windshield over the shoulders of the Asshole Brothers.
What the hell? This wasn’t the British Embassy. This was one of those mini-storage places. He caught sight of a faded orange sign on the side of one of the storage buildings:
You keep the key. We’ll keep it safe.
24 HOUR ACCESS
The van rolled through the gate as soon as the gap was wide enough.
Jay leaned forward. “What are we doing?”
The Asshole Brothers ignored him. The one who called himself Mike steered the van between two long storage buildings, identical rows of gray steel garage-style roll-up doors sliding past on both sides. The stretch of pavement between the buildings was a corridor of shadows, lit only dimly by a series of half-assed floodlights strung way too far apart to make any real dent in the darkness.
Jay raised his voice. “I said, what the fuck are we doing?”
Ralph said something softly in a language that Jay didn’t understand. Mike replied in the same language.
Mike looked over his shoulder and treated Jay to another of his bogus smiles, his teeth nearly glowing in the dimly lighted van. “It is a little detour. Nothing more.”
Jay felt his fists begin to clench. His alarm. He should have listened to his fucking alarm. “What kind of detour?”
Jay snatched at the buckle release on his seatbelt, and got to his feet, hunching over under the ceiling of the van. “WHAT KIND OF FUCKING DETOUR?”
The van braked to a stop in front of one of the steel garage doors. Jay grabbed for his seat back and managed to keep himself from falling over.
The man called Mike shut off the engine and both of the Asshole Brothers were out of the van before Jay had recovered his footing. The nearest garage door began rolling upward immediately. The Asshole Brothers stood in front of the opening door, apparently paying no attention to Jay at all.
Whatever the hell this was, it had to be bad. He had to get out of there. He had to get out of there now. Something really fucked up was going down, and he was not going to stick around to be a part of it.
Jay pulled the door handle as gently as he could. Quiet! Quiet! If he could get the door open without their hearing him, he might be able to get a decent head start. Just let the bastards try to catch him once he got going. The lock clicked softly. He pulled a little harder and the door began to slide open. Just a little more… Just a little…
The door squealed, a slow-motion version of the same squeaky metallic grind it had made the first time he’d opened it. Shit! Oh shit! They’d heard it!
The one called Ralph trotted over, covering the few steps to the van before Jay was all the way out of the door. By the time Jay was on his feet, Ralph was close enough to touch him.
Ralph’s face was nearly invisible in the shadows. “I am sorry,” he said. “This is why we did not want you along.”
Jay took a half-step to the side, trying to give himself room to run if Ralph tried anything squirrelly. “What the hell is this?”
Ralph pointed into the van. “The soap.”
“What about the fucking soap?”
“The WizardClean soap. It is very expensive.” Ralph’s voice was much friendlier than it had been before.
“We substitute cheaper soap when we clean the carpets. The customers do not know the difference.”
The door of the storage unit was fully open now. A man emerged, pushing a dolly loaded with green plastic WizardClean canisters.
Mike walked over and grinned in Jay’s direction. “You see? We sell the expensive soap and make extra money.”
Ralph nodded. “We did not want to share our profit, so we did not want you along.”
The third man rolled past Jay with his dolly-load of soap canisters. Then he was out of Jay’s line of sight. That sucked, but he couldn’t watch all three of the bastards at once.
“Now we will have to share with you,” Mike said. “You know our little secret, so you will get one third. Do we have an agreement?”
Jay nodded. “Okay.” He glanced sideways, trying to catch a glimpse of the third man. No such luck. “Sounds good to me,’ he said. “I can use a little extra money.”
Yeah, right. Soap. Let these assholes think he was buying into their bullshit. Whatever this weirdo crap was all about, it sure as hell wasn’t soap.
Jay tensed his muscles, getting ready to make his break the instant they took their eyes off him. His right hand stole toward the pocket where his cell phone was hidden.
He’d be screaming for the cops as soon as he had a decent head start.
An arm seized him around the throat, squeezing his windpipe in the crook of a muscular elbow, cutting off his air supply. The third man…
Jay tried to reach behind himself, to gouge an eye, grab a handful of hair, anything. Something slammed into his back, just above his right kidney, and the pain shot through him like a nauseating wave of fire. Again the fist jack hammered into his kidney, and again. His stomach heaved and his vision narrowed crazily, strange blobs of light and color floating behind his eyes as he fought for breath.
He felt himself being dragged. Then, someone grabbed his feet and hoisted him off the ground. He tried to lash out with his feet, kick the second attacker, but the pain and lack of oxygen were robbing him of strength.
“In here!” a voice snapped. And then the speaker switched to another language.
A few seconds later, someone barked another command in the strange foreign language and Jay’s feet dropped to the concrete floor of the mini-storage unit without warning. His left ankle twisted on impact, and another explosion of pain ripped through him as something in his foot broke with an audible crunch.
The man behind him was not letting up on his throat. He half stood, half dangled from the pressure of that merciless arm. His throat flooded with vomit, but the crushing arm allowed it no escape.
“Look at me!”
Jay jerked wildly, trying to shake loose of the arm. Just a sip of air. Just a sip…
Someone grabbed his hair and yanked his head back. “Look at me!”
His eyes focused for a second and he saw the man who called himself Mike. There was something in his hand. Something long and shiny.
“Consider yourself privileged,” Mike’s voice said. It came from a million miles away, and the sounds didn’t seem to match up to the movements of his lips.
“You are the first,” Mike said in his impossibly distant voice. “But you are not — the last.”
Mike’s arm shot forward, and an altogether new sort of pain erupted in Jay’s groin. A white hot laser of agony. Mike’s hand jerked roughly upward, and the pain flared in its wake, tearing through Jay’s stomach and up into his chest.
He began to fall toward the floor in a crazy slow-motion glide that seemed to have no respect for time or gravity. His hands rose to cover the unexplainable/impossible rip that had appeared in his body. He felt his intestines and organs slither between his groping fingers in a hot rush of coppery wetness.
His head hit the cement, nearly driving the last light from his brain.
The ring… Can’t forget Amy’s… ring…
And the alarm in his head was silent.
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Trident Media Group about the possibility of hosting an excerpt from the new Larry Bond novel on my blog.
My reaction was fairly predictable.
Larry Bond? The Larry Bond? Military strategist extraordinaire? Inventor of the Harpoon strategy game used to train Surface Warfare Officers? The man who collaborated with Tom Clancy on RED STORM RISING? That Larry Bond?
Um… Yes. Yes, I would be interested. Sign me up. Now. Immediately, if not sooner.
I’ve been a huge Larry Bond fan since 1989, when his novel RED PHOENIX kept me tearing through the pages to find out just how badly the shit could hit the fan if the conflict in Korea went hot again. I’ve been waiting for a follow-up novel for about twenty-five years, and it’s finally here!
Larry Bond and his coauthor, Chris Carlson, are back with RED PHOENIX BURNING. This time, the North Korean regime has imploded, and the resulting power vacuum can only lead to a throw down of epic proportions.
I can’t wait to read it. Which brings me to the Bad News / Good News part of this blog.
The Bad News is that the excerpt they sent me is short. Really short. As in short enough to be kind of frustrating.
The Good News is that the nice people at Trident Media are going to give away copies of RED PHOENIX BURNING to five of my blog readers.
So, check out a little slice of the book, and then stick around for instructions on how to win.
UPDATE: Thanks for all the great comments! Our five winners have been selected. (The rest of us will have to buy our own copies.)
They were getting close, perhaps two hundred meters from the hill, when Guk reported, “We’ve found a body. It’s Chinese.”
That brought him up short. The others with Rhee had heard the report as well, and he signed for them to remain in place. “Confirm Chinese,” Rhee transmitted.
Guk responded immediately. “Digital pattern fatigues, weapon is a suppressed QBZ-03.”
Chinese weapon, Chinese uniform. The pieces fell into place instantly. Pathfinders, sent to seize and hold a strategic chokepoint, like a bridge, were a tactic as old as war. And the others must be Kim faction troops guarding the bridge.
“Engage the Chinese,” Rhee ordered. “Self-defense only against the other side.”
Rhee had barely finished speaking before Ban’s rifle boomed. Even with a muzzle brake and a suppressor, it sounded like a thunderclap. Rhee kept the glasses to his face long enough to see what was likely a Chinese soldier fall, and brought his own weapon up to cover Ban as he hurriedly shifted position forward. Oh was firing as well.
It was another two bounds before they saw any return fire, coming from the Chinese positions. It struck close to Rhee, who was in front, but Ban’s rifle boomed again and Rhee heard Ban report, “Target down.” The Kim side of the firefight was silent, but Rhee could hear the fire from his men, and Guk reported, “Engaged, two down.”
They kept moving forward, up the hill slope, team members staying low and bringing a lethal crossfire down on anyone that shot back.
Finally, they were near the crest, and Rhee saw a dead Chinese soldier, one of Ban’s victims, given the size of the hole in his chest. He switched back and forth between the IR goggles and the night vision binoculars, looking for enemies. All the nearby heat sources belonged to his men or freshly dead Chinese.
Guk’s voice warned, “Coming in from your right,” and the lieutenant and Corporal Dae joined the other three.
What do you think? Pretty damned cool, huh?
All you’ve got to do to win is write a non-SPAM comment on this blog, telling us a little bit about your favorite Larry Bond novel. Or, if you’re new to his work, go ahead and say so. (Every Larry Bond fan has got to start somewhere.)
The first five people to comment will receive a free copy of the book from Trident Media Group. The rest of us will have to pick it up when it hits the stands in two days.
So… I’m working away on Steel Wind Rising, happily tapping out a chapter about the nuclear fast attack submarine, USS Albany, when I come across a highlighted note-to-self in my story outline. It’s the kind of prompt that I often leave for myself: a simple reminder that more research is needed before I can finish writing the chapter in question. In this case, I need to alleviate (at least some of) my ignorance regarding radio antennas aboard Los Angeles class attack subs.
I know I’ll eventually have to make a phone call to someone who actually knows about submarine antennas, but I want to prepare for the conversation by reading up on the subject ahead of time. Basically, I’d like to ask good questions and avoid wasting the time of my expert.
I start with my usual stack of reference books: Combat Fleets of the World, Jane’s Fighting Ships, Jane’s Submarines, the submarine edition of Weapons of War, and even The Complete Idiots Guide to Submarines. Despite the excellence of these resources, I learn very little of interest beyond the fact that the hardware I’m interested in is designated as the ‘AN/BRA-34 High Data Rate Antenna’.
And off to the interwebs I go. I type ‘AN/BRA-34’ into my search bar, and Google immediately does three things:
First, it actually provides some potentially useful links to web pages about submarine radio systems. Good. That’s what I came here for.
Second, Google offers suggested revisions to my search terms, just in case I accidentally conjured up dumb old attack submarine antenna hardware when I was actually looking for some cute and sexy brassieres. Did I perhaps mean ‘BRA SIZES 34’? Or maybe ‘BRA 34C’, ‘BRA 34 DDD’, or ‘BRA 34 DDDD’? (I’m curious as to why the keyword algorithm skips over cup sizes A, B, D, and even DD. It’s like anything beyond a C-cup requires at least three letters to be interesting. But that’s another blog for another day.)
And third, Google AdWords floods my search sidebar with links and photos offering lingerie for sale. The ad contextualization software is so determined to put some kind of merchandize on my screen, that it burrows into the middle of alphanumeric military nomenclatures to find the only fragment it can hang an advertisement on.
I’m so put off by this intrusion of crass commercialism into my legitimate research that I only click on three of the bra advertisements. You know… for purposes of accuracy and authenticity.
So far as I’ve been able to determine, none of the featured brassieres can access EHF SATCOM from periscope depth. I guess that means I’ve still got a phone call to make.
PS: Steel Wind Rising is flowing quickly now. A finished first draft is not very far in the future, if I can stop clicking on lingerie ads that is.
Lately I’ve been searching for the title of a particular book. It’s a fish-out-of-water story about a family who moves from (I think) Manhattan to a small town in New England, where they struggle to acclimate to life away from the big city. The style is humorous, with occasional moments of drama and poignancy. I believe the title has something to do with crickets, but I could be wrong about that.
I read the book when I was about 16, and I’ve wanted to re-read it for a while now. The problem is that I can’t find the damned thing. I have no idea who the author might be, and my attempts to conjure up the title via Google have been pathetic. (Try Googling various combinations of book+Manhattan+New England+humor+crickets. You’ll get plenty of search results, but none of them have anything to do with the book I’m struggling to identify.)
On a whim, I just tried the same keywords on Bing, with no better results. Although Bing did come up with an entertaining Huffington Post article about students who got caught releasing hundreds of crickets in the halls of their Pennsylvania high school. A nice five minute diversion, but it got me no closer to my goal.
It’s not Google’s fault, or even Bing’s fault that I can’t find the book. It’s my fault for typing in crappy keywords. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything better to offer. Those are the best clues I’ve been able to come up with.
Until about a year ago, I had a better search engine for half-forgotten books. One that could summon up titles and author names from the most tenuous of hints. One that knew how to ask intelligent questions to help me zero in on my literary quarry.
It was my mom.
One phone call to my female parental unit could solve nearly any book-related puzzle.
“Hey Mom, remember the paperback you loaned me, about the convent that inherits an abandoned house from a mobster?”
“Let’s see… That would be The Nun in the Closet, by Dorothy Gilman.”
“Mom, what was the title of that book about the two Renaissance-era ghosts who pretend to be actors, and play themselves in a biographical movie about their own (past) lives?”
“Hmmm… I think that’s The Far Traveller, by Manning Coles. Or maybe it was Coles Manning. One or the other… Either Coles Manning, or Manning Coles.”
I can’t count the number of times I called Mom to ask a question about a particular book, and she nearly always had the answer. That woman knew books. Her memory was a bit iffy on subjects like basic cooking, phone numbers, and where she parked her car. But ask a question about fiction, and she was a superstar. She could remember author names, story lines, titles, and all the fiddling little plot twists that most of us forget. She was a walking card catalog. (If you don’t know what that means, go look it up.)
Mom and I were light years apart on politics, childrearing, and a hundred other topics. But we were in sync when it came to books. She didn’t just love them. She was obsessed by them. And she managed to pass that lifelong obsession on to me. We could both talk for about books for hours, and we frequently did.
I loved the literary search engine hidden inside of my mother’s head. It was always there when I wanted it, just a phone call away, and most of those of those calls led to delightfully rambling conversations about reading, writing, and the nature of storytelling.
But all of that is gone now. Or rather, my mom is gone, and that wonderful library of memories is gone with her.
Even now, a year after her passing, I find myself forgetting that the number stored in my phone’s speed dialer doesn’t belong to her anymore. If I hit the call key, the person who answers won’t know anything at all about the pirate adventure story I read in eighth grade. The new owner of Mom’s phone number won’t remember the book about the fish-out-of-water family that moves to New England.
So I make do with Google as best I can, even when I don’t remember enough about an old book to summon up a decent set of search terms. And I try very hard not to think about the incredible resource that’s suddenly missing from my life.
It’s official! The Kickstarter is now live, and the Fountain War Book project is a go!
The rumors are true. I’ve been invited to write a military science fiction novel based on the computer game EVE Online. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this.
EVE is a fully-realized virtual universe… Nearly 8,000 unique star systems, swarming with asteroid belts, mining ships, research facilities, industrial complexes, pirates, and starships armed to the teeth. Imagine sweeping stellar empires, backstabbing politics, enormous fleets of warships, and battles of massive proportion.
Someone recently referred to EVE as “the largest collaborative work of science fiction in existence.” I’ve played the game, and I’ve seen what goes on there. That statement is not an exaggeration.
Below is the first sample piece I wrote for the project. If you like what you see, drop by our Kickstarter page.
It’s going to be amazing!
1 — REQUIEM FOR A TITAN (PRELUDE)
It was coming apart now. All of it… The plan… The months of careful preparation… The whole fucking thing…
Captain Darius Yaaah lowered his body into the pod, feeling the warmth of the semi-liquid amniotic gel enfold his limbs and torso. He gave a final encouraging nod to his bridge crew as the door of the armored capsule swung down to enclose him.
The interior of the pod was dark, but there was no need for lighting here. He wouldn’t be using his eyes to see.
With a series of muffled whines, the manipulator arms of the pod brought the slender interface cables into position, aligning platinum connector ends with matching jacks at the supraclavicular nerve bundle and five other key points in his cervical and thoracic spine.
Nano-fine connections mated, and the familiar ice water sensation rushed through Yaaah’s arms and legs as the mainframe’s neural interfaces synchronized with his central nervous system. The HUD projection unfolded itself in his brain, an ever-changing latticework of tactical symbols, tattletales, and sensor feeds, flickering and shifting in the blood-lit darkness behind his eyelids. Targeting data, engineering data, weapons statuses, crew reports, available power levels, heat loading, and a thousand other details.
This was usually the part he liked best—feeling two and a half million metric tons of Caldari Leviathan come alive—the enormous warship merging with his mind and his nerve endings—ready to jump the void between stars, or blaze into battle at the merest twitch of his whim.
That long-held pleasure was absent today. Soured by the knowledge that the whole situation was about to go to hell.
When it came (when the shit started to fly), even the massive armor and weaponry of his ship would not be enough to save him.
On the HUD, he could see last-second maneuvers as the fleet prepared for transition to hyperspace. Over fifty capital ships and supercaps, jockeying for position within the formation before jumping out of this star system to the midpoint cyno.
This was supposed to be a combat Op. The Imperium’s fleet sallying forth to rain havoc and destruction in some stellar system owned by the TEST Alliance.
But Yaaah knew that the mission brief was a sham. This entire fleet operation was a giant fucking trap, designed to lure a single ship to an ambush in the deep and trackless gulf of interstellar space.
The target was Yaaah himself. His ship too, but mostly Yaaah.
When the fleet came out of jump at the midpoint, every vessel in the formation would turn on him. More than fifty Dreadnoughts, Titans, Carriers, and Super-Carriers—all coming after his single Titan. Incalculable destructive power, focused on removing Yaaah and his ship from existence.
They knew. He had no idea how they’d found out, but after all of his caution and subterfuge, they had finally penetrated his cover. The bastards knew…
The Imperium’s intelligence branch had identified him for what he was: an infiltrator and a spy for Pandemic Legion.
Now it was time for the Imperium to plug their security leak. Eliminate the traitor in their midsts.
Yaaah had played the game well, but it was nearly over. He had, at best, a few moves left to make.
On the HUD he called up a window showing the bridge of his ship. His crew was practically vibrating with pre-combat jitters. Their faces wearing that strangely tense half-smile that signals the human body’s internal preparation for anticipated danger. Limbic systems ramping up for the coming fight with heady cocktails of dopamine, cortisol, and adrenalin.
His crew was expecting a battle, and they were going to get one. Just not the kind of battle they had in mind…