We're a month out from the publication of INDOMITABLE. Here's chapter One for your reading pleasure. Check out the full excerpt available at Tor.com, and please tell your friends.
April 14th, 92 A.E., Standard Calendar , 0545 Hours
Republic of Aligned Worlds Planetary Capital
Hold Marine Corps Central Mobilization Command
A round the size of Promise’s trigger finger hit her like a maglev. It tore through her mechsuit and mushroomed in her chest, just above her heart. Miraculously, it didn’t go off. Promise stumbled backward and off the cliff’s face, into thousands of meters of darkness. Neuroinhibitors flooded her system almost as fast as the pain. This is it flashed across her mind as her body flatlined. Tomorrow I’m hero-dead.
Her vision grayed out and she lost all feeling in her hands and feet.
Promise rag-dolled in her mechsuit… fell and fell and fell, perilously close to the cliff’s face. Her heel caught an outcropping several hundred meters below. Her AI, Mr. Bond, sealed the hole in her chest, and patched and packed it with cauterizing goo. Then Bond isolated the round kissing her heart in a null field, in case it decided to go off on its own timetable. Removing it was out of the question, and beyond the mechsuit’s capabilities. A Marine Corps cutter would have to brave that. And there were more pressing matters to attend to. Her heart had stopped beating.
The mechsuit intubated her and zapped her pumper. One, two, three… six times before her heart’s arteries and connective tissues remembered how to work in concert. A single stroke came followed by another, and then a stable thrum thrum thrum. Promise gasped, and came to. Her heads-up display blared with error messages she couldn’t process. Her ears weren’t discriminating sounds. Her body felt disemboweled, as if someone had ripped her soul clean out and now someone else was trying to stuff it back in but the fit was wrong. Insert leg there. No, not there, there. The tube down her throat was the worst violation. Mercifully, Bond pulled it out.
“SITREP,” Promise said, the words a faint, hoarse whisper.
“You’re in an uncontrolled descent. There’s an armor-piercing explosive round in your chest.”
“Is the APER hot?”
Promise exhaled, blinked hard, but still couldn’t make sense of her HUD.
“Today is a bad day to die.” Her voice was stronger now, the sky a starless void. “Why aren’t my lamps on?”
“Stand by,” said Bond at the same time that her proximity alarm howled.
Promise’s forward lamps lit several milliseconds later. She gasped, and threw her hands out in front of her, which sent her tumbling backward end over end. Meters away, the rock face somersaulted in and out of view.
“Could… have… warned… me,” she said through clenched teeth. Down became up became down until she couldn’t tell the difference between them anymore.
“I tried, Lieutenant.” Bond sounded mildly put out. “Tuck your arms to your sides. I’ll right you.”
Her mechsuit’s ailerons bit into the wind, stopped the tumble, and reoriented her: head down, feet up, knifing toward the watery deck. The distance opened between her and the wind-carved face at her six o’clock.
“Forty-five hundred meters.”
“There’s an island up ahead, ten degrees to starboard, three klicks out. Because of the headwind, you’ll cover one-point-three klicks before splashing down.”
That means a long swim… if I survive impact. “Comm the gunny.”
“Your comm is out. The APER pulsed when it hit you, and the pulse knocked out most of your systems, including your heart. My secondary shielding held. You’ve lost weapons, scanners, countermeasures, braking thrusters, and the gravchute. You’re going to hit hard.”
“…Of my armor? You’ve got to be kidding.”
“You tweaked my personality chip to make that impossible, ma’am.” Bond sounded a bit too sure of itself for Promise to be sure her tweaking had fully taken hold.
“Mr. Bond, I don’t believe my tweaking worked.”
Her AI made a tsking sound, three times. “Let’s debate that later, ma’am, during my next inspection. Your beegees were recently upgraded. Use your microgravchute embedded in the fabric between your shoulder blades.” Her beegees, or standard-issue mechsuit underarmor, were good for a lot of things. Prevented chafing. Absorbed energy fire. Made using the head while suited tolerable. Barely. The microgravchute was going to come in handy. But first she had to bail… out of her armor… which was the only thing keeping her alive at the moment.
“It’s double-shielded and should still work. Theoretically. I lost my link to it so I can’t tell if it’s operational. You’ll have to manually activate it.”
“And if it doesn’t work?”
Not one tsk now. “Passing three thousand meters.”
This is going to be fun. “Did I see lights overhead while we were flipping?”
“Someone went over the cliff’s face with us,” Bond said. “I can’t tell friendly from foe, not without my scanners.”
“It won’t matter if we botch the landing,” Promise said. She stretched her limbs to slow her fall, and then made a slight correction with one hand, and rotated onto her back. “Open up on three and stay level. I’ll rise. You fall away.”
“Roger that,” Bond said. “Good luck, ma’am.”
“On my mark.” She counted down from three. “Mark!”
Her mechsuit’s chest, arms, and shanks unsealed. The air chilled her to the marrow. She felt the slightest movement upward before the suction ripped her out of her suit and into the open sky. For a moment she felt like a leaf blown about the air by an unrelenting gale. She wrestled the wind for control for several seconds. Far below her the lamps on her mechsuit grew dim.
Promise spread-eagled to kill as much speed as possible. She pressed her right thumb against her pinkie for a two-count. Her mechsuit’s lamps vanished. Bond just splashed down. She flexed the thumb again. Prayed the drive-by-wire backup transmitted the impulse from her thumb to her minigravchute. She was nearly panic-stricken when the chute deployed a second later and dislocated her left shoulder.
Her descent slowed to a survivable fall before reaching an all-stop. Her night vision intensified until the darkness around her lifted. The sun crested the horizon. Howling winds fell silent. Promise looked down, looked between her mechboots, looked at the endless indigo ocean for as far as the eye could see. Her arms flailed widely for something to grab hold of as the fear of falling warred with her other senses; contrary to the laws of physics, she was standing on air. No, she was floating. Flying, maybe? Somehow she was hundreds of meters above the watery deck, holding station. After a few moments of abject terror she willed herself to calm down.
I’m not falling. I’m safe. Relax, P, you can figure this out.
A far-off object entered her field of view. A door perhaps, maybe a person. It was moving toward her. The door became a human silhouette and then a heavily damaged mechsuit: armor crushed; helmet lost somewhere in the clouds. The driver’s eyes were open, lifeless. Now she could see the rank on the driver’s armor and her bloodshot eyes. Then another mechsuit floated into view. Promise turned her head and saw not one but three lifeless bodies, all suited, all closing in. None wore helmets. Their faces were cadaver blue. Their hair waved gently in the air though no breeze stirred it. With nothing to grab ahold of or push off from, somehow Promise was able to rotate in the air and look behind her. The sky was raining dead Marines. Above her. Below her. The nearest boot opened his mouth to speak.
“Lance Corporal Tal Covington, present.” The voice howled like a windshot cavern. Covington’s eyes rolled up into his head and began to bleed. Then his body blew apart.
Promise threw her hands up without thinking, slammed her eyes shut to blunt the bright flash of light that followed. A moment later it dawned upon her that she was still alive, not blown to quarks. When she dared to look, Covington was still floating in the sky, two meters away, but his body was rent asunder. The explosion had frozen in process milliseconds after happening. Covington’s armor was cracked a thousand ways, his organs and bones stitched together with little else but air.
To her right, Promise heard labored breathing, followed by an anguished cry that punched her squarely in the gut. A blast of heat swept over her, blistering the side of her face, her lips, and the inside of her mouth; the taste of death was on her tongue. Turning, she saw a mechsuit engulfed in fire. The wearer was desperately trying to put the flames out with what was left of his gauntlets. She couldn’t look away from the hands. Metal and flesh clung stubbornly to skeletal hands. Then, as unexpectedly as the blaze had appeared, it simply went out. The smoking remains of a scorched mechanized Marine came to attention, and a blackened skull opened its mouth. Bits of charred flesh dangled from its upper lip. “Corporal Vil Fitzholm, present.”
“Private First Class Molly Starns, present,” came from Promise’s opposite side. Starns started convulsing. She ripped her tongue from her throat and threw it at Promise. Starns’s head rolled to the side and off of her shoulders. Bits of connective tissue refused to let go.
“Staff Sergeant Moya Hhatan, present.” Hhatan was floating dead ahead of Promise. “All boots present and damned for eternity.” Hhatan’s lips curled upward, exposing shaved canines stained with blood.
No, this isn’t possible, Promise thought. Hhatan was trying to swim through the air toward her. I watched you die. I tried to save you but your wounds… and the enemy was so close. You sacrificed yourself for me. Told me to go and then… I ran away.
“I’m so sorry, Staff Sergeant,” Promise said. Hhatan was nearly on her. “I tried, really. I did my best, I couldn’t stop them all.” Promise raised her hands palms-up in front of her and kicked her legs to try to get away. “Please. Please… you have to believe me.”
Staff Sergeant Hhatan drew a Heavy Pistol from her holster and took aim. “You don’t deserve to live, Lieutenant.” Then something peculiar happened. The staff sergeant’s face grew young. Years of experience melted away, the eyes changed from blue to green. “You left me on Montana.” The voice morphed so quickly that Promise barely registered the change. Now complete, Hhatan’s appearance was for Promise a looking-glass mirror. “Your time is up. Good-bye, Lieutenant.”
Promise heard her own voice say, “I’ll see you in perdition.”
Hhatan’s gloved finger tensed around the trigger of the Heavy Pistol, took up the slack. The air cracked in two. Muzzle fire blossomed. When Promise opened her eyes the bullet had traveled half the distance from Hhatan to her. A second later it was a meter away, and then half a meter off. Promise screamed as the bullet pierced her temple, drilled through the crown of her skull, and tore her mind apart.
Legalized marijuana is a damnable enterprise that infects my state, Colorado.
That's according to SAM and some of the brightest minds in medical research...in the country (Harvard, UC Denver, John Hopkins - see the link below).
All around it's bad, bad, bad. Generations will pay the price. Chances are my state is trafficking drugs to yours and with it God knows what else. There is a thin but growing link between legalized marijuana and human trafficking. Not to mention the addictive quality of pot, or how it damages the brain. Smoke pot and drive, or operate heavy machinery, or participate in any number of risk-involved jobs? Er...not a good idea. DUIs are rising in Colorado thanks to legalized pot. So is drug use by twelve year olds. So is crime. It's no tax gold mine. The overwhelming majority of users aren't chronically ill. They are drug users with a state sponsored license to use (and be used). Smoking marijuana comes with a host of health risks. Those who suffer and smoke could simply end up worse off. Just read what the US government says about it:
Legalized marijuana is Big Tobacco 2.0 on monkey juice steroids.
If you smoke pot, I hope this post gave you pause. I wrote it because I care about your future. Your life matters. You were meant to live for so much more than this.
If you smoke just because, and reading this made you mad, good. I hope you have a horrible night's sleep and in the morning wake determined to make a change.
If you are chronically ill, you have my sympathies. (I'll gladly keep you in my prayers). But, I'd ask you to consider alternatives to smoking marijuana to ease your pain.
YOU WANT THE TRUTH? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!
How 'bout a #giveaway?
I have three, signed, advanced reading copies (ARCs) of INDOMITABLE to give away.
In the first few chapters of INDOMITABLE, Promise Paen and Victor Company are on the march, keeping time with Saw An Old Lady, a real military cadence that I've modified for the twenty-eighth century.
Cadences are traditional call-and-response songs sung by military personnel while marching or running. In the United States military, cadences are sometimes referred to as Jody Calls, after Jody (Jodie), a recurring character in some traditional cadences.
To win yourself an ARC, all you need to do is sound off! Share your favorite military cadence here, on my blog. Better yet, write your own. Better still, record yourself singing a cadence, and post the vid for all to share. Do that and you're entered to win. I'll draw names from a combat helmet. (I happen to have one handy)
Don't just stand there. Get singing. Move, Move, MOVE!
So, on the way to Taekwondo last night I was rear-ended AND pushed into the car in front of me (the photo is a dramatic representation). I actually didn't think to take a pic of my vehicle). And I don't drive a Lotus or whatever that red thing was.
Note to self: phone = camera = pictures. Any questions?
My boys were in the back. Thank God they're fine. The Colorado Springs PD and Fire and EMS were top-drawer. My kids were in awe. Watching the tow truck load my vehicle was the highlight of Andrew's day. Caleb wants to be a fireman. Nate couldn't stop smiling. The boys asked for souvenirs - hub caps and busted tail lights come cheap...er...sort of. We practiced our "thank you, sirs/ma'ams" and handshakes and praised our first responders for a job well done.
No serious injuries to the other drivers either. Some soft tissue stuff by the looks of it...but nothing major.
Damage to my car: high single digits.
Damage to my person: I have a sprained thumb and wrist, and strained muscles in my left arm and neck/shoulder. Ibuprofen for 3-5 and NO sparring. Well, bummer, I like to hit people and padded bags so that's no good.
As for the fool who cut into our lane several car lengths ahead of all involved, as we were slowing at the light, and then slammed on the breaks, leaving skid marks, causing the entire three-car accident, next time, DON'T.
To the young woman who hit me, remember to go easy on yourself. Thank you for thinking of my sons first. We had a nice chat. Hugged. I met her husband who's in the Air Force. Sweet couple. Quality people all around. The eye contact and unqualified apology went light years. Grace exists for reasons. I've been given more than I deserve in this life. You have mine too.
To the other young lady who went to the hospital in a neck brace (probably just precautionary), you're in my prayers, ma'am.
A few parting thoughts:
That said, I'm naming today "Hug My Kid's Day." And tomorrow and the next day too.
I've become a big fan of the audio book format in recent years and for obvious reasons. There is no such thing as "finding time." We allocate time for what is important. I can read and drive, read and eat, read and close my eyes (presumably while not sleeping)...while listening to audio.
How much time to you spend behind the windshield? Carpool? Kid's sporting events? Waiting in line at Starbucks? Plenty and you know it.
Why not leverage that time and shrink your reading stack?
Don't know what to buy mom or dad. Hel-lo? Audio. Summer car trip? Audio. Commute to work? A. U. D. I. O.
To help you out, check out Soundcloud. It's a great site with audio book links from all of the major publishers. Sign in, check it out, share links from your favorite books, and find new books to read...er...listen to.
Here's a link from my first book. The reader, Andi Arndt, did a smashing job.
My youngest, Caleb, breaks into dance each time a movie's credits roll.
Today's dance music courtesy of The Peanuts Movie, which was fantastic on all levels by the way.
Watching C move for me is pure joy. And the kid has rhythm too.
In the interest of discovering good fiction, you might consider browsing this list of supposedly Hugo-worthy books from Sad Puppies 4. I found it interesting.
Note to all bodies: when it comes to the methodology and process one follows to arrive at her/his Hugo award nominations, I'm Switzerland. That AND civility and grace should rule the day in any case.
Please refrain from posting a for-or-against comment about the Sad Puppies on my blog. Please. I'll delete it. It's my blog and I am Switzerland. There's room for everyone in Switzerland and a waiting hot cup of Swiss Miss too. I have below-zero interest in debating "Slate Gate." Go read the posts of Eric Flint or John Scalzi or Brad Torgerson or George R. R. Martin if you want to get lost in the weeds. (Some good reading in those weeds by the way).
Some accomplished authors appear on SP4's list: Eric Flint; Anne Leckie (I've interviewed her twice on my blog, here and here); John Ringo; and Brian Sanderson among others, and many authors I know little or nothing about. I find myself overwhelmingly book-curious after examining a list of "must-reads." Are you even the tiniest bit curious?
If yes, then scan the list, buy, and read good books. If, after reading this post, your hackles are up, well, I really am sorry. May I suggest a heavy bag? I hung one in my garage for just such moments. Wrap your knuckles tightly, or buy some monkey gloves, and have at it. It's cheap therapy, folks. Trust me on that one.
P.S. Dartboards work well too.
W. C. Bauers
Half the family is down with colds. So Andrew and I headed to church and then to Mimi's Cafe for some daddy-son time.
Andrew's fourth grade class is learning about the American Revolution and the various functions of government. When I asked Andrew what he wanted to discuss he answered history. Fine and well, I thought. History it is.
Two weeks ago Andrew's class sent a letter to the queen (Mrs. Degrassio), asking her to repeal the Stamp Act. Being infinitely wiser than King George, the Queen admitted to her folly and consented to the colonist's plea. Had King George actually done the same, we'd probably be singing "Long live the Queen" instead of "Hail to the Chief."
During breakfast (I had lunch) we also discussed the Boston Massacre and how John Adams risked his reputation and his wellbeing and his family's safety to defend a group of British soldiers accused of murder. Why? Because Adams was at that time a British subject, and as a God-fearing man and a lawyer who cared deeply about the rule of law, he cared more about the truth and right living than about his own reputation.
Good man, John Adams. We desperately need men like him today.
Good job, Mrs. Degrassio.
io9 just mentioned INDOMITABLE (and by association UNBREAKABLE) among 16 great reads to get your mind off of the election.
Thanks, Charlie Jane Anders! Admittedly, I'm biased. But, I couldn't agree more. Please check it out.
Another great read on the list is Rachel Bach's FORTUNE'S PAWN, book one of the Paradox Series. Full-bite, militaristic science fiction with a plucky character named Devi who looks like a pixie but hits like Thor.
Time to #EscapeElectionFatigue and celebrate #WomenWarriorsRockingMilitarySF!