So the Mouse book is in the hands of my editor now, and - as I've mentioned in a couple of comments on this blog - I anticipate publishing it this month. In the meantime, I've turned my attention back to the second Fringe Worlds novel (working title Efferus), which I actually started quite a while ago, but then pushed a little further back in the queue as the ideas for other books starting hitting me fast and hard.
For those who are interested, I will reaffirm my commitment to finishing the book and getting it published asap. In the meantime, I thought it might be fun to publish the excerpt below. (The usual caveats apply: not yet edited, etc.)
Captain Ward “Warhorse” Henry – commander of the Space Navy vessel Mantis Wing – was sitting at a table in his meeting room when a sturdy knock sounded at the door.
“Enter,” Henry said loudly. A moment later, the door slid open and Marine Lieutenant Arrogant Maker strode into the room, right on time for their meeting.
Maker marched towards the captain, stopping when he was about a foot away from the table and then snapped his hand up in a crisp salute.
Henry returned the gesture and then grumbled, “Be seated.”
The captain eyed Maker warily as the Marine sat down. Frankly speaking, Henry still hadn’t decided yet whether or not he liked the lieutenant, who had spent something like fifteen years as enlisted man and then a couple of years as a civilian before being commissioned as an officer. It wasn’t that the lieutenant was difficult to deal with – quite the opposite, in fact (although the same couldn’t be said of the Marines under his command). He’d been on his best behavior during the past two months – ever since that wretched debacle on Terminus, when Maker had almost blown up the Mantis.
Somehow, despite a laundry-list of felonious acts – disobeying orders, constructing and detonating a banned weapon, disabling (and almost destroying) a Navy ship in the middle of combat, etcetera – Maker had escaped court-martial. Moreover, Maker’s original mission (which was to find an alien race called the Vacra) had been extended, with the crew of the Mantis being put at his disposal. In short, despite outranking Maker by a mile, Captain Henry (and his crew) was subject to the lieutenant’s commands.
A lot of senior officers would have chaffed at this arrangement, but not Henry. This wasn’t his first rodeo; he’d actually had a number of engagements in which his ship was used to ferry lesser-ranked officers on various missions, and quite often the nature of those assignments put Henry at the beck and call of someone below his pay grade. Thus it was that he didn’t have any issue with the fact that Maker pretty much decided where they went and when.
Thankfully, Maker wasn’t a jerk about it. He didn’t try to lord his authority over Henry like several others had done in the past. Outside of dictates about his mission, Maker left the running of the ship to the captain. Moreover, he always showed Henry the respect and deference due his rank – such as when he’d entered the room and saluted a moment earlier.
Maker took a moment to get comfortable in his chair before asking, “Where would you like to begin, sir?”
“The woman,” Henry said. “She dislocated the shoulder of one of my engineers.”
“Permission to speak freely, sir?”
“Always,” Henry answered with a nod.
“Thank you, sir,” Maker said. He placed his hands on the table with fingers interlaced and leaned forward. “Sergeant Diviana is a highly-trained operative and an intelligence agent. Your engineer got fresh with her – touched her in an ungentlemanly fashion – and she reacted.”
“Overreacted is more like it. Granted he shouldn’t have touched her, but he didn’t break anything.”
“Well, from this point forward he’ll understand that “No” means “No.” That said, I’ll remind Diviana that we’re all on the same side and ask that she respond less aggressively if the situation arises again.”
Henry harrumphed at that last comment and Maker smiled to himself. After the job Diviana did on that engineer, the odds of a recurrence were slim indeed.
“Moving on,” Henry said. “Apparently one of my crew had a run-in with the doctor assigned to your squad.”
“I wouldn’t describe it that way, since the doctor really didn’t do anything.”
“And yet my crewman ended up with almost every bone in his hand broken.”
“With all due respect, sir, the guy’s an idiot. He punched an augmented man in the jaw. Need I say more?” Maker asked with a shrug.
“I understand your point,” Henry replied. “But still, if that Augman provoked him into throwing that punch, goaded him in some way…”
“Then you should be thanking us for revealing his stupidity. Everybody knows that Augmen are tough as nails, and throwing a jab at one is like trying to punch a steel girder. In essence your crewman should have known better. Trying to blame my doctor for a broken hand in this instance, just because he’s an Augman, is ridiculous.”
“Fine. I’ll make sure my crew knows that striking the good doctor with their bare hands is a bad idea.”
Maker frowned, not liking the implications of the captain’s statement, but before he could comment Henry moved on the next item on his agenda.
“Finally,” the captain said, “your companion.”
Maker smiled inwardly, pleased at Henry’s choice of words. Most people had a tendency to categorize Erlen – the exotic alien creature to whom the captain was referring – as a pet. It was a label Maker loathed (although Erlen himself didn’t seem to mind), and in the past he’d gotten into more than one altercation because of it.
Erlen was rarely far from his side, although these tête-à-têtes with Henry were an exception. Not because the captain had an issue with Erlen, per se, but more so because the alien’s presence served no purpose in the meeting. If a person – terrestrial or alien – had nothing to offer, Henry didn’t see the need to have them taking up space.
At the moment, the captain was launching into the current issue related to Erlen.
“It seems your friend,” he said, “had a brush with Lieutenant Kepler.”
Maker let out a slight groan. Kepler again. That guy was constantly finding a way to be a thorn in his side.
“There was an incident,” Maker acknowledged, then began struggling to keep a grin off his face as he remembered the particulars.
“As I understand it, your alien confederate spat some kind of compound on Kepler’s shoes. It immediately glued him to the spot. It adhered so completely, in fact, that my crew had to cut away that section of flooring in order to remove Kepler’s footwear.”
Maker finally gave up on trying to contain the smile that had been slowly overtaking his features. “But on the bright side, there was no violence involved.”
“Maybe by your standards, but I consider any act that harms this vessel as violence with respect to my ship.”
“Yes, sir,” Maker acknowledged, sobering almost instantly. “I’ll make sure the incident isn’t repeated.”
“I think that would be best – unless you want your friend confined to quarters.”
“Understood. Will there be anything else, sir?”
“No, we’re done. Dismissed.”
Maker stood, coming to attention. He gave the captain a snappy salute which was hastily returned, then turned and strode from the room.