Sunday, 23 September 2012

Running around with guns

The doors slid apart. I held my breath, looked down the barrel of my pistol and waited.
Thirty metres down the corridor, the airlock hatch to my ship stood open. Cavendish waited for three beats, long enough for anybody in hiding to come out of cover.
Immediately Acre was moving, swinging her weapon to the left to cover the first cross corridor. Livingston was next, the soles of her shoes making hardy more noise than Acre. As she was left handed, she covered the right hand side.
I pushed off from the wall and ran, following the first two Bad Girls through the airlock and into the circulation space on deck seven of my ship. I expected to see bodies on the floor; marines from the Stobo assigned to guarding the connection to the citadel class.
“Permission to come aboard?”
“Permission granted, Captain.” Replied Gregory.
“The engineers are on board and the power plant is on-line.”
“That was quick.”
“The flight officer lost the key to the sealing mechanism a couple of nights ago.”
“Where are the guards?” Asked Cavendish.
“They got called away by the Captain of Marines.” She held up a small comms unit.
“Interesting. Tell us later about all the people you had to sleep with. The rest of my crew?”
“Cromwell and Hall are bringing the command crew through the forward airlock. We lost track of Chakrabarty. Nansen’s gone back to find him. And I don’t kiss and tell.” Gregory stepped back into the airlock and fired two rounds down the corridor. “We’ve got company.”
Acre trotted back from the weapons locker carrying weapons and ammunition. She passed them out to the other three Bad Girls and they took up a defensive position facing out through the airlock.
I activated the intercom. “All stations, report.”
“Engineering, three crew, power plant on-line. We’ll have drives and main systems in approximately thirty minutes.” Dodd; the most chatty of the three engineers.
“Give me a ten minute warning.”
“Yes, sir. Engineering out.”
“Hemingray on deck one. Pearce and Ash in tow. On the bridge in one minute, critical systems on-line in ten.”
“Let me know when they are. I’ll be on channel one.”
“Understood. Out.”
We would have an operational ship in thirty minutes. The citadel was locked to the Stobo but there were emergency procedures we could use that would force the docking clamps to release us. Getting away was another matter. We would be in range of the Stobo’s weapons long enough for them to reduce us to molten slag and, if the reconnaissance group was carrying enough fighters or fast attack boats, they could do the same.
The weapons locker had other equipment. I took a comms set and linked it with my implant, then selected channel three.
“Cromwell on three.” I smiled. I could rely on my troops to find weapons and comms sets as a matter of priority.
Two rounds entered through the open hatch and put a hole in the partition to the EVA suit locker. We’d need to check all the suits for damage later. I filed it onto the implant. Livingston responded with several short bursts from her flechette rifle.
“Lights going out.” Called Cartier. She trotted over to the locker and selected a new weapon. From the length it was either a plasma rifle or a long-barrelled large-calibre rifle. Cartier was my main sniper so I presumed the latter. She had turned the lights off so she could fire down the corridor without being seen. In the dim glow from the emergency markers I could see her hitch up the skirt of her sari then kneel and bring the weapon to her shoulder.
“Cromwell, I need you and Hall to gear up in standard marine kit.”
“Are we going back out?”
“Received. We’ll be ready in five.” She didn’t bother to ask why and complain about the danger.”
“Belay that order. Get down to deck seven immediately.” Interrupted Cavendish. ”I’ll go out with York.” I sighed, but there was no point in arguing with Cavendish.
Cromwell and Hall arrived in less than a minute. In that time Cartier had fired three rounds and, from the noise levels from outside the ship, achieved three hits. Gregory and Acre were in the airlock, protected by the outer hull but positioned where they could fire down the side approaches. Cromwell and Hall found the best place to add their firepower to Cartier’s. Our position was secure against an assault with small arms but once they got organised they would bring sonic emitters or grenade launchers into play

I followed Cavendish and Livingston down to the assault deck where the main armoury held the ship’s largest supply of weapons and military equipment. Quickly we dressed in standard Imperial Marines uniforms and armour.
“What are we going back out for?”
“The Empress.”
Cavendish considered this. “We’ll never get near her.” She started to select her equipment. I looked at the racks and took half a dozen ammunition packs, then clipped as many grenades and diversion devices to the body armour as I could fit.
My implant activated as the comms set received a transmission. “Hemingray to York. Bridge systems are up and running.”
“Received. I need a download of the Stobo’s deck plan and security systems. Tell Pearce to intercept their communications and direct us. We’ll also need to know what Ladywood’s intentions are.”
“Understood. She’s already got the plans. Ash will be Zero.”
“Received.” I switched the set to channel zero.”
“Cavendish to Zero.”
“Zero, receiving.”
“Can we get back through the airlock on deck one?”
“Negative. There’s a full squad of marines up there and we’ve sealed our outer hatch. You need to fight your way out from the main lock.”
“Understood.”  I took an extra pair of smoke grenades from the rack.
The other Bad Girls looked so incongruous in their brightly coloured clothes and assault rifles.
“Listen up.” called Cavendish. “We need to hold an outer perimeter otherwise they’ll start bouncing RPGs around.”
“They’ve got a rotary launcher already.” Said Cartier. She paused to sight her weapon and fire another round. “Don’t trip over it.” I glanced down the passageway. "Or the marine who was carrying it." There were two or three bodies in sight.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Facebook friends are not real

Everybody I can persuade to buy Echo has done so. Some people I don't know have also bought it. I'm now trying to squeeze out a last few sales as I've almost broken even, which I think was goal number five or six twenty blogs or so ago.
To try and drum up the last few downloads I've started a Facebook page. I could have just pushed the book through my personal FB but I'm fairly sure people would get fed up of me shamelessly promoting it at them. Again.

The strategy is about like the one I use on twitter. Post a couple of paragraphs taken from an interesting part of the book. The difference, this time is that I've also set up FB accounts for the major characters and they're going to be commenting, making snide remarks and generally refusing to do what I want them to do. No change there then

It's a real pain in the bum. I have to keep switching accounts. To make it a bit easier I've given them all the same password, but FB software has cottoned on to that and decided I had to prove they were real people rather than sock puppets by asking for a different mobile number for each. Between us we have four mobiles so, if I ask to borrow yours, and then you find a strange text in your inbox, I've just added another member of the crew.

At the moment I'm working through the story set out in Echo. When I've done that I think I'm going to work on a back story for some of them. If you read Echo (and were paying attention), you'll know a little bit about Grace Hemingray, but almost nothing about Eleanor Pearce or Edmond Ash. I'd like to colour them in a little, give them a life before York.

I'd like to think the readers know a little bit about who some of the characters are and what they're like. I have notes on them in a paragraph that I cut from the finished chapter and paste into the new one. it tells me a bit about them. It also helps me remember their first names. Apart from Cavendish, who doesn't appear to have one.

Navigator                 Grace Hemingray loyal but lacks confidence to command
Weapons and tactical Edmond Ash         Cynical whinger
Comms and scans         Eleanor Pearce Geek
Pilot.                       Marcus Dryden.              Daredevil

C/S Cavendish         Pragmatist
LC (Suz)Anna Gregory          Likes sex. With pretty much anybody
P Caitlin Acre         Angry (but funny)
P Helene Cartier            

C Nat(asha)Livingston             (Left handed) medic
P Marianne Nansen
P Jude Cromwell

On a completely different note, I took the hard copy and showed my Dad. Science fiction isn't really his thing so I'm not sure if he'll read it, show it to everybody, or pretend he wrote it.

P Caro(line) Hall Easygoing. Doesn’t say much

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Psychos in a lift

She handed me a weapon. One in the chamber, safety on. The others had weapons that theyd obviously taken from Stobo personnel but Id seen the small automatic pistol that before. It belonged to Cavendish and I was surprised that shes managed to smuggle it in to the ball. The line of her dress didnt allow many hiding places.

We caught up with Acre who was securing our position further down the corridor. She glanced at the gun. Where did that come from?
I have no idea. I said.
Bet it chafed when you danced, Cavendish.
I didnt see you dancing. Said Livingston, who had appeared out of a side passage to deal with my escorting marines. Id have paid money, especially as shes wearing heels.
Gods in a row, were trying to get off a doomed ship. Get a grip. ordered Cavendish.
Sorry, Sergeant. Muttered Acre, grinning unrepentantly. As she reached the next corner she stopped and stepped back behind the bulkhead. As there was no cover, the rest of the Bad Girls dropped to one knee, looking to Acre for instruction. I glanced round to see Cartier facing the way we had come, weapon up, in case wed entered a trap.
Acre made hand gestures. I knew that, when working with Echo, they sometimes deliberately got them wrong or made up new ones, just to wind her up. This was bona fide. Eight targets, heavy weapons and armour. Fourteen metres. At that range the handguns we were all carrying would be useless.
What are they guarding? I whispered to Livingston.
Main lift shaft.
Is there another way?
The ship is fifteen decks down and less than thirty metres from the lifts. Its this or a series of fire fights with heavily armoured Imperial Guards whilst trying to go down the secondary ladders.
Cavendish was three metres in front of me. She turned and gestured me forward.
I need you to distract them.
If they report in that theyve found me, wont that give our position away.
Well hopefully deal with them before that happens. She slipped off her shoes and silently led me up to Acres position. Acre, like Echo, had been barefoot all night.
If theyre going to shoot, duck to your right. Dont use your weapon unless you have to.
Understood. I pushed the pistol into my sash at the small of my back and walked confidently round the corner. I was only a couple of steps down the corridor before muzzles started to rise in my direction.
As you were, marines. We were in luck. All the Imperial Guards would have taken up position around the Empress and the security of the Stobo was in the control of the ships marines. They would be competent troops but the Bad Girls had the advantage.
As they started to return to parade rest an officer appeared.
I took two more steps.
I said, halt! Marines, weapons up!
They were confused. Clearly the message that they were to capture me had not been passed on to all the marines. The officer knew what he was doing, but most of the others were uncomfortable about pointing weapons at a very senior officer.
Lieutenant, what do you think you are doing? Dont you know who I am?
It didnt matter what I said, just that their eyes were on me and they werent listening for the quiet footsteps behind me. I took as many steps as I dare. Two marines had their weapons trained on me now. I fixed on their eyes and, as they almost closed their eyes in involuntary preparation for firing, I threw myself down to the right. Cavendish and Acre were past me and amongst the marines. The Bad Girls werent as fast as Echo but they were much faster and stronger than normal marines. The officer went down first, an elbow smashed into his face. Most of the marines were wearing full body armour and helmets, but some had been dispatched from their barracks with their weapons and varying pieces of equipment. This created opportunities for the Bad Girls. They were in the middle of the marine squad who were afraid to use their weapons for fear of hitting one of their own. In hand to hand combat the armour slowed them down. By the time Livingston joined the melee, three of the opposition marines were down.
In a fight like this I was a liability. Cartier was still rear guard.
She looked in my direction and I jerked a thumb at the fight, then raised my pistol to cover the corridor we had just used. Go!
She didnt need telling twice. I focussed on my target area and ignored the noise from behind me, confident that Cavendish would prevent anybody firing a burst at my unprotected back. It felt like an age but, in reality, was only a few seconds until it was over.
York! Fall back. I obeyed Cavendishs command, keeping my weapon up as I backed towards the lift cluster, leapfrogging Cartier and Acre.
Nobody spoke as the lift compartment dropped towards the deck where my ship was docked. If there were marines waiting for us, we would be an easy target. I raised an eyebrow at Cavendish who just shrugged, then returned her eyes to the deck indicator. It took discipline not to watch the numbers changing. The other three marines were focussed on the door, waiting for it to open, weapons up and index finger touching the triggers. Acre and Cartier were on one knee, Livingston pressed against the wall of the compartment. I took up position on the other side. Cavendish stood in the middle, hands behind her back. In her dress, looking unarmed, she looked like a civilian. With luck it would delay the opposition long enough for us to start firing first.
The silence continued until Acre started humming an off key version of a well-known tune. Cartier sniggered.
Focus. Muttered Cavendish. Three, two, one.
Ting. Added Acre.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Do not read this

Twelve chapters down and I still haven't got to within 100 light years of the Clarke. A sub plot I wasn't really expecting has taken over the first part of the book. In theory, I should get on with the real story and cross the vast and unimaginable distances between chapters in the turn of a page.

However, there's so much happening that I want to describe, to colour in the universe that my characters inhabit. And I promised somebody that they could have a cameo which involves a bar fight and a saxophone. Does it move the story on? Not really. The only risk is that it slows everything down and the reader starts to shout 'Get on with it!'

But it's not about the reader. It's my story. Eventually I'll let somebody read it, but it's mine. I'm going to write what I like. I may edit stuff out before I show it to anybody but, then again, I might not.

This is a really boring blog. Sorry.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

I think there's going to be violence

“Majesty?” A lieutenant commander entered the compartment with unseemly haste. Two marines followed him through the hatch.
She held up a finger, then waited until he had composed himself. “I will receive your report now, Commander.”
“Majesty, we have picked up multiple ships dropping out of AltSpace.”
“How many?” I asked. He ignored me. If it was more than a handful then it was more than coincidence.
 “The Captain recommends that we leave orbit and disperse the ships.”
“How many ships?” Asked the Empress. This time he answered.
“Twenty three, Majesty.”
“Leave orbit.” I said. “Now!” This was no random event. Either they had come for us or for the Empress.
“Gabriel, as you know, in addition to the Stobo, I have a full squadron of frigates at my disposal. I presume that Captain Ladywood is capable of handling these new arrivals. So many ships must be a fleet of pirates. It’s happened before.”
“Absolutely not. It’s a reconnaissance group.” She looked at me blankly. “There is a destroyer and four heavy cruisers in the system, and they’re looking for the Stobo.” That might not quite be true, but it didn’t matter.
“Captain Ladywood agrees, Majesty.”
“Why now?” She looked at me. “Did you bring them here.”
“No.” I hoped that was true although the end game might be just the same.
“Then it’s a remarkable coincidence.” Commented the Naval Officer. “I have orders to escort Admiral York to his quarters and confine him there. The rest of his crew are being rounded up.” Ladywood clearly thought we were the vanguard and wanted us where we could do no further harm. I would have done the same. I had an idea what had happened but, right now, exploring that wasn’t the priority. I had to avoid being locked in my cabin. If the Empress didn’t act quickly, the warships would be upon us.
“How soon before they arrive at our current position?” I demanded.
“A little over four hours.”
“Esther, you need to leave orbit.”
“Thank you, Gabriel. I think you need to go with the Commander.” I knew she had an implant and could have recorded the names of all her senior officers, but she clearly hadn’t bothered. I was surprised that she had managed to retain the loyalty of her crew for so long.
“Sir, if you will come with me.”
We were in a small compartment one deck above the ball. It had a single hatch and I knew there were four Imperial Guards outside. I couldn’t think of a way to get past them and, even if I did, where would I go? Going with the marines was a better option.
The Stobo’s two marines took up position behind me as I followed the  officer. As we turned a corner, he nearly collided with a woman who had been the ball and was now standing in the passageway. It was Cavendish. The lieutenant commander turned to shout out a warning but his face showed increased alarm as he looked past me. There was a pair of thumps and the clatter of weapons falling to the floor. He reached for his holstered pistol but Cavendish put her hand on his shoulder and spun him round, head-butting him into unconsciousness.
“We need to get off the ship.” Said Cavendish. “Team two are rounding up the crew.”
“I’m surprised you got out of the ballroom.”
“Echo created a diversion. It got us as far as the hatch unnoticed.  After that we had to resort to violence.”
I grimaced. It never sat well, having to fight with other Imperial troops.
Cavendish saw me. “There’s an Imperial destroyer in system. Everybody on the ship is dead, they just don’t know yet. I don’t see why we have to join them."
She was right. I wasn’t sure that it made me feel better but I might not hesitate when we had to fight our way through the ship’s security. She handed me a weapon. One in the chamber, safety on. The others had weapons that they’d obviously taken from Stobo personnel but I’d seen the small automatic pistol that before. It belonged to Cavendish and I was surprised that she’s managed to smuggle it in to the ball. The line of her dress didn’t allow many hiding places.