“The Chronicles of Henry Harper” – Excerpt 3

So, I debated on this one. I could have used one of the more technical aspects. I’m rather happy with my description of how FTL drives work in the novel, for example. Ultimately, as those moments are actually kept down to a minimum throughout the book, I decided to settle on another of the many actiony scenes. I feel ever so slightly cruel for cutting this one off where I did…but then the book does release tomorrow! So you can always buy a copy and find out what happens ;-). On a more important note, this is the last planned excerpt. Starting tomorrow, and hopefully running Friday-Saturday-Sunday, will be a trio of tie-in-short stories for the novel. Two are already completely finished and ready to go, and I think I’ll have polished up the last in time for Sunday. Originally, I had only planned on the one, the other two were something of a last minute idea. Anyway, on to the Excerpt, this one is from Chapter 9 – Children’s Tears.

The others, not as used to ships, took nearly a full minute to catch him. They found him speaking to himself as he frantically manipulated the controls. “No! No! No! No! There has to be a way to stop it!”

“Henry, what’s going on?” Erond’s voice was worried.

When Henry didn’t respond, Vix stepped forward and laid a hand on his shoulder. “Harper!”

He batted her hand away. “Not now, damn it! The scan triggered a self-destruct. This ship’s core is going critical. I’ve got to stop it.”

Strangled cries came from Vix and Erond, and a whimper from Rhaye as they registered what he said. Erond’s voice was edging into panic as he said, “We’ve got to get out of here. Evacuate the Forgotten to the tent city. It doesn’t matter what they’ll do to us if we all die.”

Vix took one look at him, another at a trembling Rhaye and closed her eyes. “That won’t help. An engine core detonation this deep into the station, the already weakened station, would crack her like an egg.” Proceeding to ignore them completely, she walked up to Henry and bit out, “What do you need?”

Henry looked up at her, body language despairing. “Options. I need options. I don’t think I can stop this. They were far too thorough.”

Vix hesitated, obviously trying to think of something. It wasn’t her that spoke though. It was, of all people, Rhaye. “It’s a ship. Can’t you just fly it out of here?”

Erond growled. “Don’t be stupid! We’re layers in. How would we get out?” Then he gulped and bit his tongue. Vix was snarling at him.

Henry ignored the byplay as Vix lit into Erond for calling Rhaye stupid. He had frozen at the little Rashanta’s comment. Now he was pulling up a station map. Then he cursed as he realized it wouldn’t be accurate. Not accurate enough anyway. “Stop! We don’t have time for lectures. Erond, the plaza used to be a cargo egress area before they built another layer onto the station. Do the doors at the far end still work?”

That brought them all up short. Erond’s reply was slow and uncertain. “Yes, they keep them working in order to move large stuff, like festival decorations, in and out of the plaza.”

“Vix, get them open. Erond and Rhaye, you two know these tunnels better than anyone. Get over here and help me map a route the ship will fit through.”

“Wait, we’re actually flying out?”

NOW!”

They scrambled to comply. Within minutes, the doors were open and they had a route as far out as Layer 1, the last outer shell.

Henry bypassed normal startup and forced the anti-grav and thrusters online. Everyone heard the crystal spires shatter as he revved the main engines, breaking free. “Last stop! Everyone off.”

Rhaye was the only one that moved, but she stopped when Vix and Erond didn’t budge.

“We aren’t leaving Henry. You can’t fly the ship without help.” Vix’s voice was firm.

“I’ll manage. This is probably a death sentence. Odds are the escape pods don’t work. Take Rhaye and get out of here.”

Erond moved to a console, ignoring Henry. “Go, Rhaye. Tell the others what happened.”

“I won’t leave!” she claimed, stamping her tiny foot and making an angry, but still adorable, face.

Vix picked her up and vanished, coming back moments later without the Rashanta.

“You tossed her out?” Erond’s voice was disbelieving as he stared at her.

“If we live, I’ll make it up to her. Let’s go.”

“Fine. We’re out of time.” Henry punched the thrusters and they careened forward, the archaic ship responding erratically to the controls. They banged against the ceiling. Then the floor.

“Shit! Compensating.” Erond called, and the controls smoothed a little.

Henry gave a vicious grin. “I guess you are handy after all.” The ship darted through the main doors and scraped a bulkhead as it squeezed into a too-narrow passage.

Vix spoke up. “Not to rain on your parade, Henry, but how do we get past the last layer?”

“Blow it up, of course.”

“What? The ship’s weapons don’t work, Harper.”

They bounced off another bulkhead.

“Nope, but I told you, I’ve got friends on the outside. I’m counting on at least one of them having a ship in the scrum out there.”

“And being willing to fire on the station? Just who the hell are these friends of yours?”

They rammed a service door, crumpling it before them.

“Crazy people mostly. I thought that was obvious.”

“Great, I’m going to die young, riding a mothballed ship, with a madman at the helm. Fuck you, Harper.”

They passed into the second layer.

“Sorry, Vix, you’re a bit young.”

“Not what I meant!”

The screech of another close contact of the wrong kind with a metal bulkhead almost drowned Erond out. “Coming up on Layer 1, Henry. Whatever crazy shit you’re going to pull, it better be now.”

Henry punched the comm controls, already set to blast far above legal levels. It would burn out the comms in minutes, but that wasn’t exactly an issue here. The pre-programmed channels and encryptions, his entire library of contacts, started broadcasting. “This is Henry Harper. Calling all allied ships. I am aboard a sabotaged Veraseen patrol craft whose engine is about to go critical, taking the station with it. I need an exit. Any and all ships around Trabella Station able to help, I beg you to please blow a hole in the outer layer at the following position.” Punching in the coordinates, he set the message on loop.

Vix and Erond looked at him, utterly amazed. Vix voiced their combined thoughts incredulously, “That’s it? You actually expect everyone to believe that?”

Henry replied grimly, “I don’t need everyone, just someone.”

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