Today on the blog, I'd like to share with you an excerpt from Elizabeth Lang's new book, The Rebels. Here is you exclusive sneak peek:
The Rebels - Chapter 14
With the security pass, Argus breezed through the customs checkpoint with his sullen prisoner in tow. Sparkling holiday banners announced ‘Tepetime Festival’ in large, cursive letters. Everyone sported eye-bleeding shades of red. He kept his head down and shoved his charge forward as curious passersby did a bad job of not staring at them while whispering to each other.
A child of about five pointed as the two men passed a row of concession stands. “Mommy, who’s that man?”
The curly-haired mother, with a huge sack of purchases with a designer label clearly visible in bright neon colors, pulled the child closer to her leg. “Don’t stare at the bad man. It’s impolite.”
The bad man glared at them with his one good eye like a cyclopean beacon, and the child hid behind his mother.
“You’re scaring the kids,” Argus said under his breath.
“I wouldn’t want to be accused of false advertising,” the Cyclops said icily.
“Quit stalling or I’ll carry you like a sack of produce.”
Adrian stopped and turned to face him. “And draw even more attention to ourselves?”
Touching the chain around his neck, Argus lifting it far enough for a corner of the official wafer to peek over the collar. “I have a pass, remember? Courtesy of your computer skills. Convicted criminals don’t have any rights.”
Adrian scowled at the reminder and continued moving. It occurred to him the bounty hunter stood more to lose if they were both exposed in the spaceport. He was already a prisoner, he had no preference in jailors. However, one that didn’t regularly hit him on the head might be an
improvement. There was one chance to escape, and that required them both to enter the freighter.
“Lane three,” said Adrian, staring up at the cargo vessels and the autoloaders that scooted between them with haphazard efficiency. They followed the busy corridor, weaving their way between stacks of crates and men and women in stained coveralls. This track was for small
shipments and fast ships, not the huge lumbering transports in the other lanes. “Bay nine. At the end.”
The bounty hunter grunted and nudged him to move faster.
The ship looked more like a sleek bird of prey than a transport vessel. The Falcon was scratched in fierce scarlet on the hull and a hooked scanner plate curved in front like a beak. The engine pods were slim funnels folded into the sides. The ramp was already down and two men stood at the opening. One leaned against the side and bit into a jammer stick. His face was animated and had a half-smile as he talked to the older, balding man wearing faded coveralls. Their smiles disappeared when Argus and his prisoner approached the ramp.
“We booked passage,” rumbled Argus, stepping forward, crowding his prisoner to the side. He pulled the neck chain out and handed the clearance wafer to the older man. The man stared at it.
The younger man accepted the wafer with a wry smile. “I’m Captain Berg.” He looked barely old enough to shave. “This is my ship.”
Argus nodded. “My apologies, Captain Berg. I assumed—”
“They all do.” His teeth flashed a brilliant white. He was a well-dressed young man. Affluent, people would call it. The kind who found it hard to work for a living.
Adrian wondered if his hastily constructed algorithms had made a mistake. The margin of error had been acceptable. He kept a frown from darkening his face. Of course, his life rarely fell within acceptable margins of error. Why would it start now?
“Is this him?”
Adrian never understood why people asked such obvious questions.
“My prisoner,” said Argus.
“Is he going to be any trouble?”
Argus pushed his surly prisoner. “Tell the man.”
“That depends on your definition of trouble.”
Captain Berg laughed. “I have just the place for him if he does.”
Adrian watched him intently, looking for signs. Either the man was giving an award-winning performance, or the algorithm was a dismal failure.
“I need one cabin,” said Argus.
“Follow Trey. He’ll show you the way, then come and see me on the bridge.”
The cabin was a cramped affair with a narrow bunk not designed for people with a weight management problem or someone like him. Argus tossed his rucksack on the bed and pushed Stannis next to it. They both bounced, one with a pronounced glare from his one good eye.
Argus listened at the door until the footsteps faded to nothing. He touched the warped surface. There had been a few noticeable dents on the other side despite efforts to pound it smooth, and a slash of darker gray paint near the doorplate. Not a good sign. He scanned the room, watching Stannis struggle to a sitting position and making a mess of the thin blanket. Nothing to jam the door with, only a stool tucked under a clear-topped desk. He would have to jury-rig something. At least the lock worked. Stannis couldn’t get out.
The man was finally sitting and staring at him. Planning to escape no doubt. He would be in Stannis’ position, before captivity became a state of mind as well as body.
A single metal shelf jutted out from the bulkhead. It was high enough that most people, including him, wouldn’t bump their heads in rough space. A thick rod was attached underneath to hang clothing with a couple of bent hangers threaded through. The cabin smelled of sweat, grease
and cleaner fluid. A flickering lighting panel in the ceiling and the frayed picture of two muscular men wearing tight briefs at the famous Negeb bodybuilding competition rounded out the furnishings. He scowled.
They hadn’t run into a single member of the crew on their way to the aft quarters section. The back of his neck itched and he rubbed it absently. It could mean they were on leave on Orasis, leaving the captain and Trey to keep watch on the ship. Or there was something else going
His first task was to see the captain and get a tour of the ship. He twisted the lock on the rucksack and flipped open the flap. The pistol lay at the bottom, secured in a box with an innocuous label. The only letters visible were the ’ED‘ at the end. He hesitated. Their hosts might not like their passengers armed, but what they didn’t see, was no matter to him. He removed the contents, clipped the holster to his belt, and covered it with his jacket.
“You’re expecting trouble?” asked Adrian.
“I always expect trouble. That’s why I’m still alive.” He pulled his prisoner up. “Turn around.”
Adrian turned. “A reasonable precaution.”
Argus unlocked the handcuffs, freeing his left wrist and pulled him over to the rod underneath the shelf. He passed the cuffs through the bar and reattached it to his left wrist. “Don’t go anywhere.”
“Don’t count on it.”
After the bounty hunter left, Adrian studied the handcuffs. They were simple in design. Purely a physical restraint without advanced security measures such as an imprint lock or nerve inducers. It was almost insulting that the bounty hunter thought this was an adequate restraint for him, but then he did use a coarse rope as well.
He had offered to make a deal but the bounty hunter never formally accepted it so he was not bound by any agreement.
There wasn’t much time. Kali sent a message saying she was on her way here. He had to move quickly and hoped the smugglers were doing the same.
All he needed was something thin and stiff. Stretched his right leg across the bed, he tried to snag the rucksack. His foot touched the strap just as the door slid open and a snub-nosed barrel poked inside. Adrian quickly yanked his leg back.
Trey entered, his balding head far too shiny and the gun hand steady. A weapon especially designed for ships, noted Adrian. Minimizing damage to inanimate matter.
The man aimed it at Adrian. “You’re the one who made the contact?”
Two men rushed past behind him in the dimly lit corridor, walking quickly, silent as ghosts, also armed.
Adrian said cautiously, “Yes.” It looked like the rescue was right on schedule.
Argus headed for the forward section, his boots clanging on the metal gangways, sending little explosions of sound echoing against the hull plating. The gangways ran along the outer edge of the hull, with one across the middle. There were stairs at each compass point for reaching the
bridge, service areas, secondary cargo holds, and the aft sleeping cabins.
An icy draft swept loose strands of dark brown hair across the bounty hunter’s face. He brushed at it irritably. He hated ships.
Tin cans in space. One of the jokers in his unit used to call them that. Floating coffins. They were a morbidly funny bunch. His fists clenched and his chest tightened, and a froth of memories drifted to the surface. He forced his hands to relax.
Eyes were watching him from the shadows; there was an uneasy feeling, like ants crawling up the back of his neck. He leaned over the railing, trying to catch quick, tell-tale movements. A dark empty chasm stretched below with only a faint red glow from lighting strips along the sides. The main cargo hold was empty, eerie shadows lurking in wait. The hatchway to the bridge opened, throwing a splash of pale yellow light across his path.
Were they smugglers or pirates? Neither would hesitate to sell him to the Empire if they found out who he was. Or something worse? His hand rested lightly on the bulge at his hip as he stepped through the entrance, blinking in the glare of the floodlights streaming through the clear metal panes in front.
Captain Berg saw him in the reflection and turned, a pasted-on smile already stretching his face. “Ah. Our guest.” He stretched his hand out, the fingers curling with the index finger slightly extended.
Argus hooked his fingers on his open jacket and stared at the friendly gesture. “Captain.”
Berg’s eyebrows lifted slightly and his smile widened into a gash. “This is my pilot, Porelle.”
A woman with her hair tied in a tight bun twisted around in her seat behind him. “Until I can find a better gig.”
“Don’t mind her. She’s been saying that for years.”
She scowled at him and turned back to what she was doing.
“This is Engineer Kain.” Berg slapped the shoulder of a man in gray coveralls half-sitting at the edge of the console, his leg swinging slowly.
The man nodded. He had been watching Argus since he came in.
“Passage to the Woltan outpost,” said Argus.
“Not much of a talker, are you?”
“I’m not paying for conversation.”
“True. Very true.” Berg chuckled, as if it were a private joke. He looked past Argus’ shoulder briefly. “Payment up front. You can make the transfer here.” His fingers tapped the console beside him. “We’ll even turn around.”
Like a sudden shift of wind, the rank odor of danger filled Argus' nostrils, and he slid his jacket back imperceptibly but not enough to reveal the gun. Light breathing, to the left. Faintly raspy. Someone with a bit of a cold. He said, “Half when we leave this planet. Half when we land on Woltan.”
“That wasn’t the agreement.”
“It is now.”
“I don’t think so.”
A menacing shadow quickly pulled back on his right. A crystal clinked. Time slowed. The look in Berg’s eyes changed and his mouth opened to say something he would regret.
A torrent of energy flooded Argus’ veins. In a single breath, he struck out, his left thumb pressing the pulsing vein at Berg’s neck and drilling his gun into the side of Berg’s temple. He pivoted, keeping the captain between him and the two armed men who had snuck in behind him at the door. They stared at him, their mouths opened in amazement at the speed at which the situation had changed.
“Stay back or he dies.” His finger tightened on the trigger.
Trey rummaged through the rucksack as he kept his gun pointed at Adrian.
“He has the key,” said Adrian helpfully, leaning against the wall.
“He’d be stupid not to.” He closed the flap. “The captain wants to know how you found us.”
“I used a search algorithm.”
“You think we’re fools?” The gun under his chin forced Adrian’s head back. “We’re not in the public directories.”
Adrian’s jaw tensed and he leaned closer into the wall. “I was not referring to a normal search engine. I wrote a complex computer program using an algorithm that searched for specific patterns in communications and navigation traffic and coordinated them with—”
“Clever. What I’d expect from the best, and you’re the best, aren’t you, Stannis?”
A paralyzing chill swept through him, and a lifetime of strangling emotions barely kept the fear from his voice. “I don’t know what you mean. My name is Chednu Varick. I’m a computer expert convicted of bank fraud. That is why I know about the computer systems.”
“We’re not blind. Not like the people on this planet.”
“You’re smugglers,” said Adrian. That’s what the algorithm searched for, people who worked outside the system, independents not affiliated with the Empire, and who operated in the murky depths where criminals hid their activities. No questions asked. This crew was one of three
suggested by the algorithm and they were the closest according to the tracking program.
“We have other hobbies too,” said Trey, a flesh-eating smile spreading across his face.
Adrian shuddered. This man wasn’t just a simple smuggler-for-hire and this wasn’t the world he knew with computer constructs, valences, and sub-atomic particles. He thought his experiences with the psychostrategist had taught him enough about the intricacies of human behavior, but it
seemed there was far more to learn and his carefully constructed house of logic came crashing down around his ears.
He sagged in the cuffs. “I did not include all relevant variables.” Or more likely, he didn’t understand how they related to each other. Someone like Argus, he could understand, the man was a simple barbarian, but these people were as alien to him as he was to everyone else.
Why did they have to be so complicated and inconsistent?
“What variables?” snarled Trey.
“You’re bounty hunters.”
“Hold on!” Berg gasped, as the vise-like fingers clamped around his throat. The men at the door hesitated, their guns wavering as they tried to find a shot.
“This is a mistake,” wheezed Berg.
“The mistake is yours.” The voice was low and menacing, a man about to pull the trigger. “Tell them to drop their guns.”
“If I knew you were this paranoid, I would have had my men wait outside.”
Argus flicked his gun and fired. The man on the right screamed as the gun flew out of his hand and smashed against the wall. The smell of burnt flesh filled the bridge as the man cradled his hand against his chest.
The gun drilled into Berg’s temple again. “There will be no second warning.”
“You shot my men,” Berg said angrily, trying to pry the fingers from his neck.
The fingers squeezed and Berg’s eyes bulged. His fingers desperately clawed at the iron grip around his throat. He barely squeaked out,
The hand loosened enough so he could draw a thin breath.
“Drop your gun. Now!” said Berg.
The man on the left dropped his weapon and it clattered to the deck.
The pilot, her lips thinned with displeasure, said, “This is what happens when you accept contracts from riff-raff.”
“Not now, Porelle,” snapped Captain Berg. “Look, whatever your name is. This is all a mistake. We’re here to help you.”
“I doubt that,” said Argus. “Hands behind your heads. Back up against the wall and turn around.”
With their captain’s throat in his hands and his gun at his head, the crew had no choice. They shuffled slowly to the wall he indicated and turned reluctantly.
“You’d better find a good place to hide,” said Berg.
Argus leaned in, his voice close to his ear. “What makes you think I’m going to leave any witnesses?” He struck like a bolt of lightning and the bridge flashed with the flare of a pistol.
Trey laughed. “Bounty hunters? Not even close.”
“Then what…” Adrian trailed off, a sickening feeling in his stomach telling him he had made a horrible mistake and that it might be his last.
The cuffs chafed his wrists and trying to imagine something worse than bounty hunters and barbarians was giving him a headache.
It was far worse.
Thank you for stopping by and joining us for our stop on the Read-A-Long portion of The Rebels by Elizabeth Lang virtual tour. We are excited to post this segment of the story and we hope you enjoy it too!
To read more of the Read-A-Long please follow the tour schedule…
02/03/2013 - The Edible Bookshelf -
http://www.theediblebookshelf.blogspot.com/ - Chapter 1
03/03/2013 - Vixie's Stories -
http://vickiejohnstone.blogspot.co.uk/ - Chapter 2
04/03/2013 - Decadent Decisions -
http://wlynnchantale-decadentdecisions.blogspot.com - Chapter 3
05/03/2013 - Independent Writers Association -
http://iwassociation.com - Chapter 4
06/03/2013 - Self Publish or Die -
www.selfpublishordie.com - Chapter 5
10/03/2013 - Reviews From Beyond the Book -
www.reviewsfrombeyondthebook.blogspot.com - Chapter 6
11/03/2013 - Great Alpha Speaks -
http://atrussell.com/Blog/ - Chapter 7
12/03/2013 - The Kat Daughtry -
http://thekatdaughtry.wordpress.com/ - Chapter 8
13/03/2013 - Sheenah Freitas -
http://sheenahfreitas.com - Chapter 9
14/03/2013 - Natasha Larry Books -
http://natashalarrybooks.com - Chapter 10
27/03/2013 - Castle Macabre -
http://castlemacabre.blogspot.com - Chapter 11
28/03/2013 - My World -
http://stephsgrn.blogspot.co.uk/ - Chapter 12
29/03/2013 - The Cro's Nest -
http://p45crok.wordpress.com - Chapter 13
30/03/2013 - Tink's Place -
http://myblog2point0.blogspot.com/ - Chapter 14
31/03/2013 - Reading, Writing And More -
http://stephsgrn.wordpress.com/ - Chapter 15
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Thank you for joining us and Page Turner Book Tours and Elizabeth Lang today on our stop.
About Elizabeth Lang:
I'm a science fiction writer who started off life as a computer programmer with a love for reading, especially science fiction, fantasy and mystery.
Being in computers, I found my writing skills deteriorating so I decided to take up writing. It became a joy to create characters, stories and worlds and writing soon became a passion I couldn't put down. As a writer, I like to explore, not only the complexity of characters but the human condition from differing points of view. That is at the heart of the Empire series, of which 'The Empire' and 'The Rebels' are the first two of a four books series.
You can connect with Elizabeth Lang at the following places:
Author Page on FaceBook | Blog | Twitter | Website
About Page Turner Book Tours: Page Turner Book Tours is fronted by the face behind Read2Review Kate. Page Turner Book Tours has been put together to help promote authors and give something back to the writing world. Kate has put together a team of incredibly talented people to help with the project by incorporating their individual skills into making new, fresh and exciting promotional plans that we hope you agree are amazing. If you would like to book a tour with Page Turner Book Tours please check out their tour packages. If you would like to become a tour host with Page Turner Book Tours please check out their Tour Host page. You won't be disappointed!