from Pantperthog to Knockando

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Zodiac Team extract

I'm finally getting round to doing something I've been meaning to do for absolutely ages - sending my science fiction novel about the Zodiac Team off to a literary agent. I don't know how many times I've written and rewritten the introductory letter, but it's ready to go.

Here's an extract from the story:

Military Strategy Officer Lewis R. Krakow smiled at the President, the Vice-President, the Chief Admiral and several members of the Admiral’s staff. Conspicuous in his unadorned black uniform, Krakow tried to catch the eye of a junior officer, Levski Tagge, who eventually approached him nervously.

"Is everything going according to plan?" asked Krakow.

Tagge, a nervous young man with watery eyes and a bad case of shaving rash cleared his throat. "They’re all in line, sir, except one."

Krakow sighed. At this point he would like to find whoever had had the idea of a big send-off of the battle platforms on a final voyage to the breakers yards that orbited Titan. Then he would have happily pushed them into an airlock and spun the wheel until their screams boiled off in the vack.

This whole thing was a security nightmare. The President and Vice-President of the United Democratic Federal Earth Government were sitting at the top of the tiered auditorium, looking out of a massive window. Only three feet of glass separated the most important people in Earth politics from vacuum. Below sat sixteen of the twenty Regional Commissioners, fourteen Continental Commissioners, three monarchs, and over a thousand other dignitaries shipped in from across the colonies. All to watch a row of spaceships fly away. What was the point?

He breathed heavily through his nose and clenched his teeth together. A thought struck him and he turned to Tagge. "Which one?" he barked.

"Pardon, sir?" said Tagge.

"Which bloody platform hasn’t shown up?"

"Er, The Wheel, sir. All the others are here with their crews for the final tour of duty."

That had been another mistake. Putting the crews who’d served on the platforms back on board to pilot them to their final destination. Many of those crews had been aghast that the symbiotic ships they had become enmeshed with were going to be destroyed. Krakow’s military police had put down two abortive mutinies already…

But surely there wouldn’t be a problem with Aries and his Zodiac Team? They were the most decorated insertion team in the whole combined services, world-famous folk heroes after liberating the citizens of New China from the turncoat Maoist Elite that had allied with the Palloshan. They had served admirably at Pel-Pel, Hiorsleigh – both in the horrific defeat and in the victory nine months later – and on Klailax fighting alongside the strange Klailaxuu.

Krakow’s mind was working overtime, replaying his last conversation with Aries, giving him the order to return in The Wheel from the Boundary Margin. Had there been any indication that Aries was going to go AWOL?

There was a rippling effect in the starfield outside the viewing window, as the light was bent by gravity, warping the fabric of the universe into a window. Then, The Wheel, an immense gyroscope-shape set around a long cylinder that housed a crushed artificial star, appeared, growing ever-larger with each passing micro-second until it matched the sheer vastness of the other battle platforms.

But it didn’t stop. Swinging violently in a new direction, The Wheel passed along the length of arrayed vessels. The Wheel’s aft ray batteries lanced down onto its unsuspecting and unprotected sister ships, slicing neatly through the corespace connectives and rendering them helpless.

Krakow leapt into action. "Shields up!" he barked into the command link. At his command, huge steel shutters rapidly unfolded down the viewing port, plunging the auditorium into sudden darkness, dimly lit by emergency lighting. Over the screams, Krakow heard several dull thumps and then noticed several dignitaries starting to float upwards from their seats. He ran out of the auditorium, sealing off the large room behind him. His magnet-soled boots connected with the corridor floor at the end of longer and longer leaps as the artificial gravity drained away.

Swinging into the Command Bridge of the space station, Krakow grabbed at the doorframe to pull himself inside. A large screen showed the critical hits – all eight gravity-well generators on the corners of the cube-frame that surrounded the station had been destroyed, their vital fluids boiling off into space as if they were ablaze.

"Status!" demanded Krakow.

Captain Ortiz snapped a salute. "No casualties, sir, but we are crippled. I have repair teams on the way."

"Docking bays?" asked Krakow.

"Still functional, sir, but without control over the gravity well, it would be too risky to launch any vessels larger than a shuttle."

"Damn it!" said Krakow, hitting the wall in frustration. The attack by The Wheel had neutralised both the platforms outside and any fast-contact units on the station.

"Sir, incoming transmission," said a technician.

"Route it to the main screen," said Ortiz. The picture melted from the diagnostic of the space station to a familiar face.

"Hello," said Aries. "I regret to inform you that I have decided to take operational control of The Wheel, along with my team, and to remove us from the jurisdiction of the Combined Services. It has been an honour to serve the Combined Services of the Earth Government, but in the interests of the peoples of Earth and the Colonies, I feel that it is necessary to preserve this ship and its fighting potential. I am therefore resigning my commission with immediate effect, and taking this vessel under private control."

There was a pause. Krakow, along with everyone else on the Command Bridge gaped at the screen.

"Oh, and Krakow, we’ve left a lifepod somewhere in the vicinity. I would count it as a personal favour if you’d be willing to pick it up. Goodbye."

The recorded message clicked off. All eyes swung to Krakow.

"A personal favour? Why, you utter-" Krakow’s words dissolved into a scream of rage. He turned to the technician who had first alerted him to the message. "You!" he demanded. "Did you track them, where did they go?"

"They dropped into corespace and disappeared in the direction of Rigel, sir."

"Rigel?"

"Sir, it’s been four minutes," said Ortiz. "They could have changed course three times already. There’s no way we could track them."

Krakow stood absolutely stock still, staring at the captain. Very calmly, he smiled. "Oh, I’ll find them captain. I can promise you that." Then, with the hip-swerving kick of a practiced zero-gee inhabitant, he left the Command Bridge.

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