Here's a sneak peak of Resonance, Book 2 of the Recovery Series. Enjoy!
Standard Year 4319
I strain my neck and struggle to breathe. Pump my arms. My lungs burn, but I keep running. I need to run.
Wipe the sweat stinging my eyes.
Left right left right left right.
Break into a full-out sprint.
Pump my arms harder.
Crane my neck back.
Gasp for air.
The treadmill slows. I ease into a jog, then a walk. Glacia dabs her forehead with a small towel and offers it to me.
“So, how far?”
I check the distance on the treadmill’s display. “Three-point-four—”
“And the champ still reigns!” she half-shouts, causing a few people to glance our way. “Four-point-one, mister. Four. Point. One.”
We reset the treadmills and leave the Ember’s fitness center. Most people are asleep by now, so the halls are quiet except for the dull hum reverberating in the walls. We ride an elevator up to Glacia’s level and, like always, ‘Floor 10: Vancouver Living Quarters’ glows on the wall opposite the elevator when we step off.
We head the opposite direction of the food court, and Glace opens an outer gate that shuts us into a private hall with two dorm doors on either side. She steps into her room and half-closes the door, then turns and lifts her chin expectantly. I lean in to kiss her…and linger longer and longer. When I pull back, Glace stands on her toes and pecks me one last time.
“Ready to get home?”
“Eh. ‘Home’ is such a strong word,” I say with every hint of sarcasm. “I prefer ‘unfortunate birthplace.’”
“Whatever.” She smirks and shoves me out the doorway. “See you up there, mister.”
We meet a half-hour later in the Observatory, the large glass dome that spans a hundred yards down the center of the Ember. There are no walls, only the dome, so we can stand right at the glass and be level with the top of the station, as if we could walk right out into the void—which wouldn’t be a good idea, considering we’re both wearing our nightclothes.
Not to our surprise, several other people are already gathered there, seated in the scattered loungers and couches throughout. A few people are up on the StarPad, figuring out the exact moment the Kairos supernova will be visible—because we’ll only be able to see it for a few minutes, but for now, the darkness is filled with stars and the rest of our fleet. Above us, the Drake, and to our sides, the Doppler and Blazar. I can see people moving inside the Blazar’s Observatory, and know they’re watching for the supernova, too.
“Sometime in the next minute,” the woman at the StarPad calls out.
Excited whispers make their way around the Observatory, and everyone faces forward, toward the head of the Ember. The people deactivate the StarPad to cut out the glare on the windows. Silence overtakes the room. We all stare out at the void, waiting…waiting…and then—
An explosion of white, and the Kairos supernova graces our eyes. The white bubble churns in fast-motion, its wispy edges curling outward. The light deepens to a light yellow color, then a fresh shade of orange, then reddish. Within minutes, the supernova’s light is days old, then weeks…
And then it vanishes.
The rays of Undil’s sun glare through the Bridge’s windows, as bright as the supernova was last night, even with the light being filtered. To the left, a brown crescent hangs in the darkness: Undil, my home. The planet I spent my entire life wishing I could escape. Even now I want to pass it by and venture on to some other planet full of beauty and life, not dust and death.
But I can’t. Not now, at least.
I drink the rest of my now-cold coffee that Orcher brewed for me when I arrived on the Bridge earlier to watch our approach. The Bersivo Blend is just the way I like it: a light shade of tan, but not too white.
“Miranda hasn’t said much about Miss Haverns lately,” Orcher tells me, gesturing down at Station Control, where Captain Fallsten is seated beside Glacia, each monitoring their own panels.
“She hasn’t said much about Captain Fallsten, either.” I perk an eyebrow. “What if they’re actually becoming friends?”
Orcher chuckles. “I wouldn’t go that far.”
I watch a string of data orbs zip across the Bridge, sent from an officer on the second tier to someone on the fourth tier. Between those, on the third tier, I see Victoria conferencing with the lieutenants from the Drake, Doppler, and Blazar like she does every morning. At the bottom of the Bridge, just to the side of the stairs leading into Station Control, the gate opens and a station pilot walks in to relieve Captain Fallsten, who had to replace one of the night shift pilots because this guy was late. When he sits down, it doesn’t take long for Captain Fallsten’s shouts to reach us.
“When do you plan to discuss our idea with Lucas about our idea?” Orcher asks.
“After I write my expedition report.”
Orcher promoted me to Head Archivist after we left Belvun, and the first project he wants me to work on is enhancing the archives database. The current program is—in his own words—‘grossly outdated,’ but Orcher could never get Captain Blitner to develop a new program. Lucas Starmile, the man who gave us the tour of the Embassy on our first day, is too busy in the education sector compiling Placement Reports and Secondary texts to manage the program by himself. It sounds like a large task, but it’ll give me something to do while Michael arranges the Belvun Recovery Treatise.
Come to think of it, I haven’t seen Michael in days. Like on the expedition to Belvun, he’s been kept in his living quarters, this time writing the proposal he’ll present to Daliona, where the newest Faustocine formula for Belvun’s ecosystems will be manufactured.
“You’ll get all the necessary support from Threshold,” Orcher continues saying. “I’ll see to that. And I expect Chancellor Green will have you hire your own team, if he doesn’t provide you with one, that is. As for the program itself, I suggest you take a look into Orvad’s info systems sector. Remmit should be able to set you up with a techie there. Orvadians are always jumping at the chance to have contract work in the Embassy.”
I don’t show it, but the notion of traveling to Orvad excites me. Of course I want to go. Victoria and Officer Remmit both grew up there. It’s the city that sits beside the Undilaen Ocean, thousands of miles southwest of the Embassy. Orvad has a reputation for having the fastest-growing technology sector of any planet.
“Thanks,” I say after pretending to mull it over, though I made my decision as soon as he suggested it. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“All right, people,” Captain Fallsten’s voice suddenly echoes through the Bridge’s intercoms. She’s sitting in her perch at the top of Station Control. “We’re closing in. Initiating approach sequence.”
Undil grows larger with every passing minute. Its atmosphere shimmers along the curve of the horizon. Deserts and ridges and canyons begin to define its surface. Soon enough, Captain Fallsten opens a comms link with Officer Remmit, and they each relay information to each other. They both speak through gritted teeth, faking friendly demeanors for the sake of the approach.
“How about you engage those secondary reverse thrusters, Cap?” Officer Remmit’s voice echoes when the fleet closes within five hundred miles of Undil.
Captain Fallsten points to a station pilot, who swipes his finger up a panel. A hologram on the front display signals the activation.
“Is our docking clearance granted, Remmit?”
“Whoa, whoa. One step at a time.”
“Just get it done.”
A long silence, then, “Clearance granted, Cap. Now take us in easy and have a nice—”
Captain Fallsten cuts the link before he can finish.
We move into orbit, approaching zero-speed with Undil’s rotation. The other Embassy space fleets are spread in geostationary orbit. Lights blink on the stations secured to massive harbor bays, and transports and Molters zoom between them, dwarfed by every station they pass. The Ember descends toward its own harbor bay. The thrusters flare, the harbor bay closes in…and then we dock. The Ember shudders, and a metallic groan reverberates through the walls.
“Systems stabilized,” Glacia reports through the Bridge intercoms. “Airlocks secure, transports cleared for departure.”
Orcher reaches down and taps an icon on his desk panel. “All non-mandatory personnel are cleared to depart.”
With that, the commotion shifts. Officers on different levels of the Bridge shut down their workstations and file out the gate. Captain Fallsten stands from her seat and paces behind the pilots, pausing only to watch Glacia, who is reciting more data into her headset.
I meet Glacia once most of the crowds are gone, and we ride an elevator down to the docks on Floor 3. Most of the transports are full and lined-up for departure. Even now, one zooms forward through the silvery light shielding us from the vacuum of space.
“Ten seconds to departure,” one of the pilot’s announces after the transport we boarded is full and everyone is secured.
The thrusters engage. The window panels haven’t shut yet—they won’t until we enter Undil’s atmosphere—so the thrusters distort the air in the docks as we drift into the exit lane.
“Cleared to depart.”
My body drags backward. The thrusters flare and the transport moves toward the open gate. Silver light surrounds us…then darkness. Beyond the influence of the Ember’s gravity simulators, Glacia’s hair ripples outward from her head, waving in slow motion with every slight movement. I can even feel a slight tug on my own scalp, the gentle wave of my own hair.
I really need a haircut.
We zoom through the space fleets. There’s the Aster, which is hanging beside the Jean. Two transports flying the opposite direction disappear inside the Jean’s docks. Undil comes into full view when we pass the next harbor bay. According to the display screens, the surface is three hundred miles below us, but the transport closes that distance in a matter of minutes. The glare of the sun burns along Undil’s horizon, and it isn’t long before the window panels slide shut to protect the transport during reentry.
150 miles… 100… 75… 50… 40…
Turbulence. Flames and specks of other atmospheric particles blur the video feeds. Glacia’s hair falls to her shoulder in an untidy mess and she tries to blow it out of her face while gripping the restraints.
My body jostles around, and I fight to keep my neck steady until the shaking subsides. The transport levels out and decelerates. When the video feed clears again, Undil’s barren desert dominates the view. Mesas jut up here and there, and a gorge—the remnants of the Mavine River—stretches toward a city caught in a dusty haze.
The Undil Embassy.
The altitude gauge refreshes: 40,000 feet. The Embassy is still miles in the distance, but we’re closing fast. I can see transports zooming toward the docking platforms ahead of us, and others circle the city as they await clearance to land.
Shadows stretch through the rocky desert in the evening sun’s glow, black pillars behind mesas and black spines under small ridges. Softer shadows fill the dry depths of the Mavine river gorge, and as we near it, the Embassy’s form is also outlined. At its center, the Crown, the tallest tower on Undil. Its edges shimmer with the rays of light glinting off its windows. Standing around it are the three main branch towers, Shield, Horizon, and Threshold, each marking a corner of the inner city. Shield rises in the western corner, while Horizon and Threshold stand in the south and east.
I get a chill. It’s more magnificent than when I first saw it almost three months ago. For a moment—a very brief moment—I’m almost okay with the idea of calling this place home. I wonder how many other people feel the way I do, especially the people who have traveled to other planets. Who else secretly hates living on Undil and yearns to escape it forever, yet will always be forced to return?
“Hurry up,” Glacia whispers to no one, her voice strained.
I look at her: she’s breathing heavier, and her face is turning pale, and she’s gripping her restraints so hard, her knuckles are turning white. She’s staring intently at the disposal tube next to her seat. It’s just out of her reach without releasing the restraints, and they won’t unlock until the transport lands.
I shift my feet away, remembering the other girl who threw up when we flew Molters for the first time. That was a mess.
“You better have good aim,” I say.
And I’m not joking.
Glacia is too preoccupied to respond. First her legs tremble a little—then a lot. She closes her eyes, controlling her breathing through her nose and flexing her fingers impatiently. A line of sweat forms in her hairline. Her breathing becomes erratic—
—and then she vomits. She hits the tube…kind of. Some mush and fluid splatter inside it, but for the most part, she threw up all over her restraint and chin. She spits, tears glistening in the corners of her eyes…
…and vomits again.
The stench reeks. I’m not surprised when the officer behind us vomits, except he’s taller than her and manages to crane his neck far enough over to reach the tube.
I look away and breathe through my mouth. Don’t get sick. And yet…somehow I don’t even feel nauseous. Maybe my body is used to the trans-atmospheric flights. Orcher said some people get used to the transition from space to ground quicker than others.
That seems to be the case for me.
“Two minutes to dock,” the pilots announces. “Hang in there, people.”
He must have seen Glacia on the cockpit display.
People grow more restless as the transport nears the docking platforms. Chunks of Glacia’s vomit start to crust over, and stomach acid drips down the side of her seat. I resort to holding my arm against my nose to breathe through my uniform, as does the officer on Glacia’s other side. Glacia herself stuffed her hair behind her shoulder and is holding her head up—eyes open—apparently to keep her brain from spinning.
The Embassy slides out of the video feed as we curve to the left. The vast, darkening plain fills the view until the transport is low enough for us to see the docking platforms. Another transport settles onto the platform, then ours descends. The supports lock down and the seat restraints release, much to everyone’s relief.
“Somebody get her some medicine,” one officer in the next row grumbles before he hurries out.
I hoist up my restraint and grab two packets of liquid from the medicine pouch next to the cockpit door.
“Weak,” I whisper when I hand them to Glacia.
She swishes the first liquid in her mouth, then spits it in the tube and drinks the second.
The cockpit opens and one of the pilots steps out, thumbs jammed in his pockets.
“Cleaning station’s through there.”
He nods to a door at the rear of the chamber, beside a closet that contains pressurized space suits, one for each seat.
While Glacia’s inside, I hear what sounds like a high-powered spray, and when she comes back out, her right pant leg is soaking wet.
We exit the transport and walk to the elevator that takes us to the maglev station. Glace doesn’t say one word to me the entire time, probably because I won’t stop smirking whenever she looks at me.
I can handle something she can’t.
Inside the bright white station, the monotone voice relays departure times and destinations. We join a crowd of officers on a train bound for Crown Station. My body sways when the train propels forward, and soon we’re rushing toward the center of the Embassy.
I look sideways and see a blond-haired guy staring at me from down the aisle, hand held up in a half-wave.
“Lon Kelvin,” he says when he walks up to us. “We kind of met at the opening banquet back in June. You remember?”
“Right. You’re…Jeremy’s friend?”
“Unfortunately.” He exaggerates a sigh. “Meathead went off and joined Shield Tower. He likes to make things go boom.” Lon turns to Glacia. “And I remember you. Glacia Haverns, scourge of the Hologis arena.”
She cracks a grin, breaking her steadfast attempt to look annoyed.
“Speaking of Meathead, he’s meeting me in the Hall of Treatises. Just warning you.”
The maglev train slows to a halt in Crown Station. Once back aboveground, we make our way to the Crown’s most prominent room: the Hall of Treatises. In the center is the giant pillar where all treatises get signed, with the slogan ‘Remember the Future’ engraved on its front.
“Seems like yesterday…”
Lon muses to himself for a few seconds, but the content look on his face is interrupted when we hear the shout.
“OY! THERE HE IS!”
Lon barely has time to turn around before a guy wearing a black and silver uniform clobbers right into him. Jeremy Pilkins, the guy Glacia and I sat next to at the opening banquet this summer. His light ginger curls bounce on his head as he and Lon slap each other’s backs, and then he lets go of Lon and steps back to look at me.
“Arman Lance, right?” I nod in response. “Score! First time, every time.”
Then he turns to Glacia, who’s already giving him an annoyed look.
“Hold on, I got this. Uh…”
He snaps his fingers, shaking his head as he mouths a list of names. Then his expression brightens and he shoves his finger in her face.
“Gloria! You were sit—”
“Glacia,” she interrupts. “My name. Is. Glay. Shuh.”
Jeremy raises his hands defensively and sizes her up, but doesn’t say another word to her.
“Let’s go, Lonso. A bunch of us are throwing you a party at my place.” He nudges Lon in the ribs. “Biz is gonna be there, man. About time you two got to know each other, right? Gonna get down to Biz-ness, right?”
Lon rolls his eyes and salutes us before Jeremy shoves him away.
Glacia slips her hand into mine as we walk toward the Crown’s southern gate. “Can we go back to Belvun?”
“Aw. And here I thought you were glad to be home.”
“Yeah.” She scrunches her face and looks behind us. “Except I forgot about him.”
So there you go! The first chapter of Resonance. You can add it on Goodreads HERE.