Monday, April 15, 2013

Path of the Time Walker Excerpt

An excerpt from Wrath of the Void Strider's upcoming sequel, Path of the Time Walker...

Huddled in doorways, she met frightened eyes, and people hurried away at her approach.  In time, she arrived at a tiered shantytown, built from scraps and the remains of the colonial habitats.  At first glance, it looked like all the most structurally valuable pieces had been scavenged and moved offsite.  “What’s going on here?” she muttered.

A thin, ashen man stepped into view from inside his home and stuttered, “W-We have nothing.  P-Please leave us alone!”  He succumbed to a fit of coughing that left him stooped over by its end.  He slowly straightened, grimacing.

Taryn furrowed her brow.  “I’m not here to take anything from you.”  She nodded toward the darkened interior of his home, toward the others inside.  “What happened to the habitats?”

He studied her, and he coughed lightly into his hand.  “You don’t work for Rowan?”

“No.  Who’s Rowan?”

“She’s lying!” shouted a young looking woman from inside, and she cautiously approached the entryway.  She was thin, like her male companion, and her brown eyes were badly bloodshot.  Her dark brown hair looked frayed and ratty.  “Get back inside.”

“Please go,” he hissed, and he returned to the safety of his shanty.  The woman closed the poorly fitting makeshift door with a slam, and Taryn heard it latch.  A chorus of coughs followed.

Screwing down her brow, Taryn strode to the shanty door and pounded on it.  “Look, I’m not here to hurt you.  I really don’t know who Rowan is or what’s going on.  My friends and I came here to deliver some medicine.”  She pounded again.  “We’re here to help!”

A quiet moment passed, and she growled in frustration as she spun about on her heels and marched away, back toward the road.  Behind her, she heard the door creak open, and the ashen man shouted, “Wait!  Please wait.”  Taryn turned back to regard him.  “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen any friendly faces around here.  Rowan takes great pleasure in tormenting us.”

“Who’s Rowan?”

He puffed his cheeks.  “Rowan Fenmore.  She runs Hygeia.  Her and her kwercian army have been chipping away at the rightful government ever since they got here.”  He dryly laughed, followed by a moment of coughing.  Clearing his throat, he said, “There has been no relief effort, not really.  She keeps us alive, but little more than that.”

Taryn stepped close and set her helmet down on a gutted car.  “Rowan Fenmore… Is she related to Ashley Fenmore?”

The ashen man shrugged.  “I wouldn’t know.  She doesn’t actually talk to us, so much as she herds us.”  He glanced behind him and swept his arm around the shantytown.  “All human.  She saw to that.  Except for the kwercians, she found a reason to deport every member of every other race.”

Crossing her arms, Taryn looked puzzled.  “Why would she do that?”

“Again, I wouldn’t know.”

“Dmitry, get inside!” barked the woman.

He glanced her way and said, “No, Sonja, this one’s OK.  I got a good feeling about her.”

Sonja pointed past Taryn to the main road as a glossy silver sky car set down.  “That’s nice, but Oren and his thugs are here.  You know what they’ll do if they catch you outside!”

His eyes wide, Dmitry bolted back into his shelter and waved Taryn over.  “C’mon,” he hissed.  “They’ll beat you to death if they see you out here!”

She raised a brow.  “I’m wearing power armor.”

“Good luck, then.”  He closed and latched his door.

Taryn turned to face the distant sky car as its gullwing doors butterflied open.  A pair of gnarled oak thugs stepped out, followed by a lean pine of a man.  He tugged on the collar of his woven green suit and surveyed the shantytown.  Immediately, his eyes befell Taryn.  She stood defiantly in her gleaming black armor.  Her head feathers added a splash of red.  With narrowed eyes, he approached Taryn with his enforcers at his back.  “Who might you be?” he asked as he regarded her suspiciously.  His goons moved slowly to flank her.

“Taryn Sikes.”  She scooped up her helmet.

The pine fellow looked her over.  “That doesn’t match what’s printed on your shoulder.”

“Yeah, well, the Captain hasn’t gotten around to that yet.”

“Is he the captain of the Sanguine Shadow, or is that another misprint?”

Taryn shifted her weight over one hip.  “No, that’s right.  She’s the captain of the Sanguine Shadow.”

Oren nodded.  “Forgive me, but I thought Rowan got rid of all the xenos on Hygeia.  For their own safety, of course.  There’s a Canten’s pandemic here, you know.  Maybe it’s best if you and your ship were on your way.”  He pressed thin his lips.  “For your own safety, of course.”

She squared her jaw.  “What are you going to do to these people?”

“They’re sick.  They need their medicine.”

“Is that what you’ve got shoved up your ass?  Because, I don’t see how it could be anywhere else.”

He swallowed visibly and clenched his jaw.  “How unpleasant.”  Looking to his guards, he said, “Alon, Elon, make an example of her.  Make sure everyone here sees the result.”

“Yes, boss,” rumbled the larger of the thugs.

Taryn sealed her helmet, balled her fists and smiled.

·· • ··

An hour previous, Rowan watched as her kwercian brutes marched single-file through a wide door, into a spacious warehouse.  “It took you long enough!  Stack them in that corner,” she said and pointed across the room.  Dutifully, her oaken henchmen arranged them two-wide by two-high.

A particularly gnarled oak asked, “Anything else, boss?”  His massive arms creaked as he lowered them to his sides.

“No.  You can go.”  She crossed the room to inspect her delivery.  Glancing up long enough to glare at her minions, she added, “Actually, Alon, get Elon and you two go find Oren.  Pay the shanties another visit.  Their corrupt governor was just assassinated.  I imagine they could use some guidance after such a shocking loss, and I don’t want them getting any bright ideas.”

Alon, her burliest oak, grumbled, “Yes, boss.”  He followed the others as they marched out of the warehouse.

Rowan returned to her examination.  She ran her fingertips over the surface of the first crate she came to.  After a moment, she straightened and stormed over to the cell door embedded in the far wall.  “Where were these crates supposed to be delivered to before you stole them?”

Zerki answered, “They weren’t marked.  We just grabbed all the medicine we could find and packed it into the nearest containers.”

“Shit,” snarled Rowan.  She took a moment to consider.  “What facility?”

“I don’t understand.”

She slammed her wooden fist into the door, and a deafening boom rang through the warehouse.  “I don’t have time for this!  What facility?  I won’t ask again.”  Furiously, she gripped her rifle and set to unlocking the door.  A moment later, she threw it open and leveled the gun at D’Arro.

Zerki cleared her throat.  “K’n-yal.  The Thayless Estate.  If that’s what you mean.”

Rowan scowled, but her expression quickly softened, and she lowered her gun.  “That is what I mean.”  She kicked the door closed and set down her rifle.  Puffing her cheeks, she walked back to the crates, propping her chin in the crook of her thumb and index finger.  “Probably meant for the Sector Three Outer Systems, then.  Good.”

“Why should it matter?” Zerki asked, but Rowan ignored her.

Oren’s sky car was airborne a moment later, headed south to the closest shantytown, while Rowan set to unlocking each crate.  One at a time, she opened every large plastic pill bottle she found inside and smelled its contents.   Some time passed before she was finished.

Satisfied with her findings, she drew her phone and dialed a number.  She held the device to her ear.  After a moment, she said, “Hey, it’s Rowan.  Everything’s still on track.  I’ll keep this number for a few more hours.  Call me back if you get this message in time.”

·· • ··

Lightning flashed from her teleport device, and Taryn appeared directly behind the smaller brute.  The machinery inside her gloves hummed alive, and she tore free chunks of sappy bark from the assailant’s shoulders.  As the oak man yowled in pain, arching his back as he clutched at his wounds, she took the chance to spring from his head, throwing him off balance and crashing to the ground.  She landed on his neck, and a loud crack of wood filled the air.

“Elon!” cried the larger brute.  Gritting his teeth, with tears in his ears, he loosed a primal howl and reached for Taryn as she flashed away in a bolt of jagged light.  A blur of motion, and Taryn appeared behind Oren.  She gripped him around the waist.

“Alon, help!” he wailed as he felt himself lifted up off the ground.

Momentarily confused, Alon swept around and found Taryn as she hoisted his master.  “You!” he boomed and lumbered toward them both.  Again, he reached for her, past Oren, and she heaved.  Oren cried out as he was launched up in the air, and Alon tried to track him, then to catch him.

With a crunch, Oren hit the ground, dazed, his arms and legs splayed.  He coughed as he tried to stand.  “Help me up, you oaf,” he barked, and Alon reached down for him, momentarily losing sight of his opponent.  A blinding flash of light, and Alon found himself high up in the air, with Taryn’s arms around his neck.

Her internal display showed a diagram of her suit.  Every section was red, and the arms and hands were bright red and flashing.  I’ve got to time this just right, she thought, and she began to plummet along with the oak brute, directly down on Oren.

Frozen with shock, Oren stared up at Alon as he fell.  It was the last thing either of them saw as the burly oak struck the well-dressed pine with thunderous force.  Lightning flashed, and Taryn reappeared where she had been, but at a right angle to her original direction of travel.  She shot across the clearing, skipping along its surface, and she tumbled end over end as pieces of her suit broke off, cast high in the air.

At last, she came to rest at the outskirts of the shantytown.  What remained of her armor smoldered, and she wasn’t moving.  Dmitry and Sonja watched for only a moment, before they both dared to step outside their home.  Dmitry hurried to Taryn’s side and coughed as he knelt to check for signs of life.

Lifting free her shattered helmet, he set his fingers against her neck.  Glancing to Sonja, he exhaled a relieved sigh.  “She’s alive.”

“Thank God,” Sonja whispered, and she glanced toward the slain kwercians.  “Let’s get her inside.  See if we can’t get hold of her ship.”  She and Dmitry lifted Taryn by the shoulders and strained against the weight of her armor, but were unable to move her.  Slowly at first, then with growing boldness, more and more of the shantytown’s residents emerged.  They lent their strength to dragging Taryn to safety.

1 comment:

Nicole Harlow said...

Love this! Book is looking great!