Hey, kids! Are you bored right now? Why not pass your time waiting for galactic entropy to end all our miserable lives by reading the first thousand or so words of ‘First Light‘, one of the four short novelette prequels to my book, Rooks of the Knot? (cover pictured below)
I’ve placed them below this little intro for your enjoyment. Read some more on Wattpad if you enjoy it ( http://www.wattpad.com/story/39966138-rooks-of-the-knot-first-light ) or wait for me to post more to this blog. The next excerpt will even come with a doodle!
And if you’re really bored, why not buy the novel on kindle and read that too–a recent survey has shown that there is a 97% survival rate among people who read my book.
(Full disclosure: one of the computers I wrote it on died. It was a sad day.)
THIRTIETH OF JUNE, YEAR OF CAMELOT 623, 14:23 PM (CET).
[Within the former State of Utah]
Shining in the desert, a few lighter grains of salt blew over flats that hundreds of years ago had been a massive lake, as the sun beat down on what for most of the continent was the hottest day of the year so far. An eagle flew past in the cloudless sky, taking care to avoid the smoke rising from the ruined buildings ahead. Rosebud watched the bird for a good while before it faded from sight.
“Huh,” said Serpentine. “What do you know? We have company.”
For a second Rosebud thought he meant the eagle, but that was gone now. So she blinked and scanned the area to see what he really meant, catching sight of an old land-based truck speeding away from the ruin in an instant.
“Well, that’s not suspicious,” she remarked dryly. “Should we see what they’re up to?”
Even in just those first moments of their being brought to her attention she knew better than to think that whoever was in that truck might have been responsible for what had happened to the burning compound. The fires within its fence had been going for a while; great rivers of smoke stretching towards the sun–speaking of a huge scope of damage, much greater than it seemed that one truck could have been capable of inflicting-and on a facility the Six’s earlier intelligence had deemed to have pretty impressive defences.
No, in all likelihood the guys in the truck were scavengers. Could have been nomads who trundled around No-Man’s-Land looking for anything they could live off, could have been part of a more organised operation, but at that point she doubted they were all that dangerous.
“Full speed ahead, Mike,” said Daniel, smirking. Well, as near to smirking as someone like ‘The Preventer’ could manage anyway; it was really more of an adorable smile, though Rosebud could see he was trying.
Ocelot changed gears on their hovercraft for pursuit of the other vehicle; Simon, Serpentine and Callie leant over the sides to look at it, and Prophet just sat in the back, smiling and holding her stupidly oversized gun. Rosebud didn’t spend a second longer than she had to looking at Prophet; she’d long since given up on trying to get her.
The truck must have noticed them because they swerved off the road to avoid them. Big mistake, seeing as the land-based vehicle was in no way suited to travelling over the salt dunes.
“Think they know who we are?” asked Ocelot.
No one answered him, but Daniel peered out and made a quick judgement call regarding size and distance of the truck, then turned back to the team.
“Sky, Night,” he said. “Why not say hello to the driver for us. It’s unusual to see fellow travellers out here.”
Callie and Simon looked at each other, smiled, and stood up on slightly wobbly legs.
“Keep it steady, Ocelot,” said Daniel.
Prophet laughed for some strange reason.
Then, almost in unison, Callie and Simon stretched their arms up and released their Wings.
These Wings were a variant of the only British technology that had managed to be replicated in the rest of the world for the better part of a millennium; scavenged from downed raiding parties sent by that now entirely isolationist island. The reproduction had been the work of Batswana scientists, and given to the pair by the Motswana diplomat they’d helped protect from Arcadian insurgents four years previously.
The Wings spanned out to eleven foot across from the harnesses on Callie and Simon’s backs, a system of seven multi-sized disks on each wing held together with a bat skin-like artificial membrane; each disk a super-compact engine that, working together, could carry an average man’s weight in any direction the hand-held controls tilted the disks.
This technology was relatively common in southern Africa, but not so much in the Americas, so it must have been a shock for whoever was in the truck to see two people jump off either side of the speeding hover-car and twirl gracefully through the air without ever touching the ground, then speed through the air towards them like avenging angels.
It definitely gave the driver of that truck a scare; he swerved one way, then the other, and then kept on going, throwing salt into the air as it gurgled forward. Callie and Simon fanned out, then swept back towards each other and crossed paths, inspiring Ocelot to whistle with appreciation.
Honestly, Rosebud was more annoyed than impressed with her teammates. Those two knew by now how difficult it was to refuel the goddamn things, so she wished they’d stop showing off for each other.
Callie was the more headstrong of the pair, and as such it was no surprise that she was the first to reach the truck. Gunshots came from the passenger window, but by that time she’d activated the shield on her arm; metal blades opening out in a circle like a fan.
As she drew the fire, Simon came up the other side with his own shield ready, the edge of which he used to slash at the tires on the right side. Must have been old rubber tires by the look of it-not exactly their most challenging foe yet.
Or so Rosebud’s first thoughts ran. But when the truck swerved and slowed as it began skidding to its inevitable halt, she saw movement in the back where the cargo was. A pair of gloved hands poked out from underneath the tarpaulin, and the sheet lifted a little, enough for anyone underneath it to get a look at what was happening without being seen.
Only, Rosebud didn’t need to see him fully. One of the gloves was white, the other was black, she could tell even from where she was, and while there was hardly a written law that only one person on the planet could make that particular fashion statement at any given time, there was also Occam’s Razor to consider.
Her heart skipped a beat. She knew who it was under there–and, therefore, who these people were.
It was funny how quickly the weight of past failures could grab hold of her, like an over-cautious friend grabbing her and pulling her back from reacting, for fear of the potential consequences she remembered all too well from the last time she’d encountered members of this group. For precious seconds, she thought of nothing but what cold cement had felt like beneath her knees, as vice-like grips on her upper arms had restrained her like her her fear restrained her now.
But fear that couldn’t be controlled had no place in her profession. Those precious seconds she was caught by indecision were few, and not so dear that they ended up costing her anything–this time. Which was for the best, given it had been acting without thinking that had been her downfall in the past.
So Rosebud Mason took a deep breath.
“Get in close,” she mouthed to Ocelot. For Callie and Simon’s benefit she leant out of the craft, waved her hat and yelled, “Altitude! Altitude!” and they must have heard her because they went up a moment later, thank god–she could at least breathe easier when she didn’t have to worry about those two getting shot from the side.
“What is it?” asked Daniel.
“They’re Lathyrus’ men,” she growled.
She had to struggle not to grit her teeth so hard the name wouldn’t come out.