It should be easy, they told him.
But when was war and conquest ever easy?
Private Pyrros Eav tasted the salty tang of blood as he ran his tongue over his teeth. He’d hit the ground hard when the first blast hit his transport. Save for a few loose teeth and that goddamned ringing in his ears, he was alive. Which was more than he could say for the other troopers on his transport.
He staggered to his feet, his hands reaching for his lasgun by instinct. He was completely and utterly alone.
This wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. Rhitec was going to be the perfect way to start his career in the Empire’s ground forces. It was just an annexation of a single world, inhabited by a people that hadn’t yet fledged to the stars.
A low boom sounded in the distance.
Well. The bastards turned out to be trickier than they looked.
He cursed the planet, the stars, and the Lords-damned Emperor himself as he stumbled off into the bushes. The ruined transport lay in pieces before him. Crimson splatter surrounded it.
Lords of the Dark, he thought to himself. Where did that blast come from?
He leaned his back against what seemed to be a twisted, spiky tree. He was still swaying. He had to pull himself together before the Rhitecci found him.
Crouching down, he tried his comms. There was only silence. His transport had been heading towards the Rhitecci capital; there should have been someone on the line.
He’d been stuck inside the hot, dark transport for an entire cycle, crowded in with the other soldiers, his armor smelling of sweat and shiroppu. Their officers hadn’t told them much. All he was supposed to do was hit the ground running, lasgun blazing, and do as much damage as possible so that the wave of soldiers that came in behind him could storm the Rhitecci palace to secure the planet’s leaders.
He swallowed another mouthful of blood. He knew he was cannon fodder, but he was cannon fodder with a brand new, top-of-the-line lasgun among a people so primitive they hadn’t even made it to the moons that orbited their planet.
It should’ve been fast. Simple. Easy.
Catching his breath, he took stock of his surroundings. Whoever it was that targeted his transport had to be close.
Time to go. Now.
The Rhitecci road before him was worn and broken, made of ancient stones. It cut through a forest that looked to be just as old. Its trees were going to be the best cover he could get.
Best thing to do was to stay here, he decided. If I’m anywhere near the capital there’s bound to be another transport coming through.
He raised his lasgun and hacked through into the tangled brush. Rhitecci sunsets were fast–the sky was already shading from green to purple–and he had to find someplace safe.
Lords only knew what could happen here in the dark.
That there excerpt above? Those are the first lines from the story I’m working on for The Expanding Universe anthology, a collection of over 20 short stories from your favorite space opera authors (including Craig Martelle and Terry Mixon!). Yes, it’s delayed book 3 in the series. But I think it’s going to be worth it.
You know what they say about the best-laid plans. Originally, I planned to wrap up the Darkspace Saga in September. Buuuut the way the story kept evolving…well. It looks like it’s going to be 4 books instead of 3 for the main series; and, even more exciting, I’ve signed up to write a full prequel novel to go in a box set with M.D. Cooper and Justin Sloan among others. Are you psyched?
I’m also planning a brand new spin off novel: the journey of the Satori from Earth and the story of Tadao Southwark.
So: the short story comes out in November, the prequel novel in December, book 3 (Sanctuary’s War) in February, and the Tadao Southwark spinoff in May.
You excited yet? Or are you planning to leave a flaming bag of poo on my doorstep for delaying book 3? 😉