I thought I might share some of my previous fiction work with you fine folks. Below are the first three scenes of one of the first novels I would like to write. It is essentially a romance novel set in a science-fiction setting that I am hoping will capture the feeling of the golden age of the genre, such as the works of Andre Norton. Think rocket men fighting space pirates in the asteroid belts and you'll get the general idea. For a twist, I decided I would switch the stereotypical strong spaceman for a strong space-woman.
The rough plot outline is as follows: A local lad witnesses the crash, removes her from the wreckage and takes her somewhere safe to tend to her wounds. The injuries she sustains during the crash lead her to suffer from amnesia. Vulnerable and not knowing any better, she falls in love with the local who rescued her. As her memory starts to return, the pair are dragged back into her mission. Eventually, she'll undergo total recall just in time to save the day. Back as the strong woman, she pushes her man away and he leaves. With the danger now safely passed, she has to reconcile the woman she became after the crash with the fiercely independent woman she was before. End result, she decides to risk allowing herself to be a little bit of both and goes after him, to tears, kisses and the promise of better things to come. What can I say, I'm a sucker for a happy ending!
I have no idea yet whether I would want to convert the novel into a series about the pair's exploits among the stars, or whether I would just use the same setting for multiple, independent stories...
Anyway, I hope you enjoy!
The pilot strained against the controls which bucked and shook in her hands. A quick arm movement and the flick of a switch, done almost without thinking, silenced the latest alarm klaxon to fill the cockpit. She did not need the alarm to remind her of the danger she was in: she could feel it in every wrench of the controls; hear it in the tortured cries of structural components pushed too far past their upper tolerance; see it in the number of failure lights winking on across the status boards; and taste it in the warm, dry and humid air that was drawn into her lungs with each ragged breath she took.
Of course, the three low-orbit interceptors that were busy pulsing mega joules of energy into the hull of her doomed lander were not helping matters. Evasive manoeuvres during atmospheric re-entry was one of those piloting techniques broadly considered as being the equivalent of trying to fly through an asteroid belt at maximum delta-v while sitting on one’s own hands. It just wasn’t done, not by anyone with even half a brain that was planning on seeing any more tomorrows. Not that that was in anyway impeding the pilot from pulling every trick she knew of to keep her ship jumping and bouncing just enough to throw off the aim of her pursuers.
It all came down to the how right her intuition had been. As soon as she had spotted the interceptors on approach, the pilot had pushed into a deeper re-entry angle in the hope of outpacing the pursuit. Admittedly landing would be an issue, but she had no hope at all if her ship got reduced to a small field of debris whilst she was still inside it. Eyes flicking to the near-range scanners, the pilot watched as the separation and rate-of-closure values finally began to change in her favour. Quickly running the new numbers in her head, she smiled grimly. All she needed was another ten seconds. Just ten more seconds and the interceptors would be outside of weapon range and unable to fire upon her without dropping below escape velocity. It was a gamble, but she was betting that these flyboys were definitely not earning enough to take that kind of risk.
With three seconds left until relative safety, the pilot swore as something towards the aft gave way explosively and caused the whole lander to jump, almost yanking the controls out of her tight grip and dislocating her shoulders in the process. Cursing to herself, the pilot wrestled with the recalcitrant controls, determined to force the dying vehicle back into an approach angle she actually had a hope of surviving. A glance at the status board chilled her blood – even if she survived re-entry, there was no way the critically-damaged ship would ever be able to land, at least not without a significant and probably terminal addition of the word ‘crash’.
Training and experience warred with intuition and desperation as the pilot considered her few remaining options. Given her purpose and her opponents, surrender was out. Applying power and breaking for low orbit would destroy what was left of the lander’s systems even without the additional damage from the interceptors which would then be free to fire upon her. Her mission was too important to allow her the luxury of dying. All the sensible options were unfeasible. That left something crazy.
With her mind made up, the pilot’s fingers flicked across the control boards, deactivating certain systems and overriding others. Within seconds, a lethal feedback pulse began building in the lander’s powerplant and a new alarm sounded, this time notifying the pilot of the impending explosive meltdown. Noting that the interceptors were piling on the power to escape the explosion, the pilot extrapolated their course and compared vectors. What she had in mind would require some finicky timing and positioning to pull off. Locking in a roll program, the pilot released herself from the acceleration couch and began pulling herself towards the escape pod, stopping only to collect a small case from the safety webbing behind her chair.
Heart racing, the pilot strapped herself into the escape pod and sent the command for the lander to execute the roll program. Seconds dragged out into agonising eons as she forced herself to wait, hand hovering over the pod launch button. Finally, the lander had rotated enough that it would block the departing interceptors from seeing the launch of the pod. More importantly, it would also keep her pod from registering on any of their sensors for several crucial seconds. With a quick prayer to any deity who was listening, the pilot mashed her hand down on the launch button.
The sudden force of rapid acceleration pushed her hard against the seat as the escape pod blasted free of the doomed lander. The pilot had just enough time to admire the oncoming planet through the viewports before the powerplant back on the lander went critical. The pressure wave of the resulting explosion crossed the small distance to the escape pod and, barely diminished, smashed into its rear and sent it tumbling out of control. Even as the pilot desperately wrestled with the limited controls to stop the tumble, the small case she had brought with her came loose and slammed into the side of her head. As everything went dark, the pilot finally conceded that even her uncanny luck had finally run out.
The First Lieutenant in command of the interceptor flight had not been best pleased at what had looked to be a failed mission. The pilot of the lander was either really good, or really crazy and probably both. You wouldn’t have caught him risking his neck by pushing his ship into an unsafe entry vector. Then again, he wouldn’t have been caught trying to illegally penetrate an Imperial Protection Zone. He was one of the good guys, after all.
It was with no small satisfaction that he had witnessed the indirect destruction of the interloper’s powerplant. Obviously one of the earlier hits had done more damage than had been apparent, causing additional system failures in a cascade of inevitability that would see the righteous end the day victorious. He had quickly ordered the rest of his flight to apply maximum power and break for a higher, and safer, orbit. There was no way he would let the dastardly criminal take him or any members of his flight with them when they blew up, not if he could help it. Safely distanced from the doomed interloper, the Lieutenant had watched as the ship rolled in its final death throes before exploding in a rather spectacular and entirely satisfying manner.
He grinned as he held his right fist up in triumph.
“May all who challenge the might of the Imperial Defence Force receive the same reward!” He reached for his command console and the controls that would let him switch communication frequencies to match those of his commander back on the orbital station. It was time to report the success of the interception mission.
Colonel Johann Van Piers accepted the hardcopy printout from his aide with a nod. Scanning the report with a practiced eye, he nodded to himself. The interloper had been discovered, intercepted and destroyed. According to the sensor logs, no transmissions had been sent. The threat to his employer had been entirely neutralised. With a smile, he stood and straightened his jacket. He knew his maroon uniform of an officer within the Imperial Defence Force sat well on his frame and it never hurt to ensure that it delivered maximum impact. Especially when dealing with his employer and the mysterious faction he represented.
Excusing himself, Van Piers left his office and headed towards the core of the orbital. After several long minutes, he arrived outside a non-descript door in a non-descript corridor. It was the kind of door nobody noticed unless they were actively seeking it. Even then, access was impossible without a command wand and the correct security key code. Fortunately the Colonel had both and with a quiet click the door unlocked and retracted, permitting him entrance to the dark sanctum within.
Passing swiftly into the interior space, Van Piers bowed towards the figure sat opposite him. He had never seen his employer’s face and he doubted he ever would, short of shining a torch into the deep shadows. And that would be a quick way to seal his swift and painful death. His employer and his associates were not known for showing tolerance when it came to those that failed or betrayed them. He bowed stiffly.
“Report.” The deep bass rumble of his employer’s voice caused a shiver to run along the Colonel’s spine. Van Piers did not subscribe to the idea of a grim reaper, but if he had, he would have expected it to speak with just such a voice.
“As you ordered, the target was intercepted and destroyed. No transmissions were made.” Van Piers had learned quickly to keep his reports concise and as much to the point as possible.
“Good work, Colonel, good work. You are dismissed.” With another bow, the Colonel retreated several steps before performing a swift about-face and departing via the same door he had entered. Back in the corridor, he turned and began making his way back to his office. As he walked, Van Piers concluded that whoever that interloper had been, they had been a big threat to his employer. It was the only explanation he could think of for having received such unusually effusive gratitude.