Before I begin, please remember that this is an unedited sneak peek. Feel free to comment with any typos you find along with input. I want to know what you like… what falls flat… and where I need to clarify or improve my descriptions.
This story picks up in the Ardent Redux Universe after Houton’s Peril (Episode 5).
This sneak peek will be up from 15Nov18 until 30Nov18. The next chapter will be posted on 1Dec18.
Copyright © 2018 by J. L. Stowers
All rights reserved. This preview or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher.
Sylvine’s muscles screamed as she pinned the flailing man back on the gurney. He squawked and clawed at her but she held fast, turning her head to the young girl standing by with her jaw hanging open. “Now, Ember!”
The girl shook her head from side to side before reaching for the large metal shard protruding from the man’s leg.
“Use the blanket,” Sylvine ordered her inexperienced aide.
Ember jerked her hand away from the shard’s razor edges and grabbed a nearby blanket, cocooning it around the metal. With a deep breath she gripped it, closed her eyes, and pulled.
The man grabbed a handful of Sylvine’s hair and yanked before his eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed back on the bed.
Sylvine took the metal fragment and dropped it on the ground before nodding toward a nearby chair. “Sit, before you faint.”
Ember gladly took a seat while Sylvine busied herself within the flesh of the man’s thigh in an effort to control the bleeding. She worked quickly with the steady hand and dexterity of an expert war medic.
“Everything under control?” Talon asked as he strolled into the med bay, wrinkling his nose at all the blood on the floor. “Gross.”
Sylvine peeled the gloves from her hands and dropped them into the waste bin. She was learning more of their common tongue but still relied heavily on the translator pinned to her lapel. “He’ll live. It would be nice if we had some antibiotics or … anything really. I’m sure the crew would appreciate it too.”
Talon made his way over to the considerably less bloody side of the bed and pursed his lips as he examined the fist full of red hair. “I’ll see what I can do, but no promises. Meds are expensive on the black market and the prices will probably just keep climbing, all things considered.”
“Because of your war?” Sylvine asked but felt like she already knew the answer.
“I wouldn’t call it my war,” he replied. “Speaking of which, I had better get back to the bridge. You two have everything under control?”
Sylvine and Ember nodded in unison and then Talon left the room.
Ember approached the next accident victim with tablet in hand. “Name and injury?”
“Travis, and, if you can’t tell, blood is gushing from my head.” He pointed, clearly annoyed.
Sylvine finished collecting what medical supplies she could find and approached the injured man, who quickly recoiled.
“I don’t want you touching me,” he blurted out at Sylvine. “I don’t trust you lizard people.”
She stared at him a moment. It wasn’t her first encounter with racism aboard The Sparrow but each time she hoped it was her last. Still, she had more patients than time and Travis just moved to the bottom of the list. “Fine, bleed.”
“No, the girl, she can treat me,” he protested.
Ember looked back and forth between Sylvine and Travis before hurrying to Sylvine’s side. “Sorry, she’s the boss,” she explained.
Sylvine walked up to the next patient without hesitation. The woman sat cradling her arm and scowling at Travis. “You’re an idiot, you know that?”
“Oh, shut up Geneva. You’d still be in prison if Talon didn’t have a fondness for you,” he replied then mumbled. “I don’t know what he sees in you anyway, freaking amazon.”
Geneva laughed, and turned to Sylvine, speaking in a low tone. “I’m going to kill him.”
“Not now, please. Let’s at least fix your arm first.”
Travis’s demeanor shifted completely and he clamped his mouth shut.
“It’s just a dislocated shoulder,” Geneva explained. “When that blast hit us I was trying to save that dumbass over there, though now I’m not sure why.”
“If you call slamming my head into the door frame saving me, sure,” Travis grumbled.
“Anyway, it was just the three of us back there and Mark over there took the brunt of it. We’re lucky we got him out before the room sealed off—GAH!”
Sylvine smiled after adjusting Geneva’s shoulder and Ember quickly brought her a sling.
“I don’t need that.” Geneva scoffed.
“Two days,” Sylvine said. “And limited physical activity.”
Geneva rolled her eyes but complied before standing. She towered over Sylvine and bowed her head to her respectfully. “Thank you.”
The rapid approach of footsteps caused everyone in the room, aside from the unconscious Mark to turn their heads toward the door. The Sparrow’s head engineer led a small group of pirates past the med bay.
“That can’t be good,” Ember said quietly.
Geneva took a few long strides to the door and peered out. “They’re heading to the engine room. Something must be wrong.”
“Ember, watch the patients, please,” Sylvine said before she followed Geneva into the hall and toward the bridge.
The Sparrow’s bridge was small and cramped, with Talon’s captain’s chair taking up most of it. Despite the enormity of the chair, he had refused to get rid of what he referred to as his ‘throne.’ Rather than sitting upon his precious seat, Talon swayed back and forth in front of the view screen over-looking the battle.
The distant stars twinkled beyond the Houston, a massive research vessel several times larger than The Sparrow. Space mines were scattered around the ship. A path had been carved through the mines by the rebel fighters, most of which have returned to their mother ships. Everything seemed to be going as planned, except for one glaring exception.
Rather than a handful of Galactic Conglomerate warships, one solitary GC spacecraft hovered in space, dwarfing the Houston.
“What in the heavens is that?” Geneva asked, pointing at the behemoth of a ship.
“I don’t know,” Talon replied, drawing out the words as he squinted at the screen. “But it seems we’ve lost the ability to jump.”
“What?” Geneva shouted. “Why isn’t anyone doing anything?”
“Look,” Sylvine pointed toward the top of the monstrous ship. A weapon rose up and pointed toward the Houston.
“Just received a transmission from Evelynn’s Revenge calling all ships to fire on the weapon.”
“Well, yeah,” Geneva said with a huff and another roll of her eyes.
“Do it,” Talon ordered.
The rebel ship Evelynn’s Revenge, The Sparrow, and the other rebel and pirate ships in the area released a volley of energy blasts at the weapon, but none made contact. Instead, each attack was absorbed by the large ship’s shields, which dispersed the energy around the ship in a brilliant display resembling a web of neon green lights.
“Ballistic weapons,” Talon ordered, furrowing his brow as the missiles also burst against the ship’s shields.
“Wait, look.” Geneva pointed above the weapon where two rebel fighters flew inside the shield and fired on the weapon.
Talon hurried to his seat and tapped away on the captain’s display. “Jag, I should have known.”
Sylvine held her breath as the two rebel fighters took another pass at the weapon, still failing to destroy it. She had seen more battles than she cared to recall, but there was something ominous about this ship that didn’t sit right in the pit of her stomach.
“No…” Talon mumbled softly as the two fighters took a path perpendicular to the gigantic warship. He turned to his communications officer, his voice frantic. “What frequency are they on? I need to talk to Jag, now.”
Sylvine couldn’t take her eyes off of the screen but didn’t hear any reply come from the communications officer. The small ships rose high above the weapon before turning in space and speeding back toward it, a kamikaze tactic she had seen many times. She turned away, her gaze landing on Talon’s face as he looked on, frozen in horror. In fact, the entire bridge was quiet as they witnessed the sacrifice.
The shudder from the blast shook The Sparrow and Talon punched his console repeatedly, bloodying his knuckles until Geneva finally caught his arm and held it steady. Talon, with his free hand, drew his blaster and took aim at his communications officer, the white energy blast making contact with the right side of his head, knocking him from his seat.
Sylvine felt the urge to check on the man, but instead held her position, sympathizing with how helpless Talon felt in that moment and not wanting to face the brunt of his wrath. Her own sister had sacrificed herself in battle to save Sylvine once, so she knew the torment of losing a sibling in the heat of war.
“The hyperdrive is back up,” one of the pirates in the bridge advised.
“Let’s get to the rendezvous point,” Geneva answered on behalf of Talon whose face was still glued to the screen.
Sylvine glanced back over her shoulder at the gargantuan ship and the surrounding debris as it blurred and then vanished as they jumped into hyperspace.
Geneva eased Talon back into his seat and he melted into it.
Sylvine took the opportunity to check on the communications officer, who unfortunately did not survive Talon’s rage. She nodded toward Geneva who quickly barked orders to load the corpse into the incinerator.
While Geneva stood tall next to Talon’s seat giving orders in his stead, Sylvine slipped out of the bridge and back to the med bay.
“What happened?” Ember stood up from where she was gathering a mess of medical supplies from the floor.
“Talon’s brother, Jag, is dead,” Sylvine said flatly, holding her chin high. “We’re en route to the rendezvous point.”
As a child growing up in a ruthless war with the Yushred, Sylvine had to learn early on that there was a time to grieve and a time to fight. She quickly retrieved the supplies she needed to suture Travis’ head wound and approached him with determination in her eyes.
He began to protest but she quickly reached up and wrapped her hand around his neck, squeezing just enough to make him uncomfortable but not to cut off his oxygen entirely. She stared into his eyes and frowned as he clawed at her forearm, his hands slipping harmlessly off of her scaled flesh.
“I am going to stitch your wound,” she began, the translation device spitting out the Vaerian words she spoke in Common. “With your cooperation or not.”
Travis, realizing he was no match for the Royal Vaerian Warrior woman dropped his hands into his lap and attempted to nod.
Sylvine released his neck and stared him down another moment before she pushed him back on the gurney and cleaned the wound before suturing it. Once she was done she grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled him into a standing position, dragging him toward the door.
He cowered in her hands as she stared at him once more. “I will not be disrespected any more. Spread the word.” With a final shove, Travis was reeling out into the hallway and Sylvine slapped the button on the wall to seal the door behind her. She stripped the gloves from her hand once more and threw them in the trash before catching her own gaze in the mirror above the small sink.
Her time with Dani Devereaux, Jag, and the rest of Osirion’s crew was brief, but she had developed a fondness for those humans that she had a difficult time cultivating for the pirates. In fact, aside from Talon, Geneva, and Ember she didn’t care a whole lot for any of them, and even then it took some time for that trio to grow on her.
A low growl emanated from Sylvine’s throat as her frustrations came to a head.
“S-should I go?” Ember’s quiet voice called out from behind Sylvine.
Sylvine drew a deep breath and turned to face the young girl whose eyes were wide with fear. “My apologies, Ember, I forgot you were here.”
Ember shrugged, “It happens quite a lot. No worries. Is there anything I can get for you? I know you knew Jag. I’m so sorry.”
“He’s not my loss to mourn,” Sylvine said again with another sigh.
“I mean,” Ember continued, “You guys were friends, right? Around here that gives you the right to morn just like anyone else. Maybe things are different where you’re from, but no one will look down on you for being sad.”
There was a kindness in Ember’s eyes that touched Sylvine’s heart. Despite her age and lack of experience, the orphan had been a mentor of sorts to Sylvine when it came to the ways of humans. The advice, though often unsolicited, was always appreciated. The humans of the galaxy were quite different than Sylvine’s people, the Royal Vaerians. Though human-like in appearance their emotions were generally much more suppressed than those she’s encountered since her rescue by Dani and the others, a trait that Sylvine herself often struggled with.
“Hey,” Geneva said as she filled the door of the med bay. “We need to go get our folks off the Houston after we drop out of hyperspace, provided they made it. I’d like you to come along to make sure they’re all okay.”
Sylvine nodded to Geneva before offering an encouraging smile to Ember. “Thank you.” She checked on Mark once more before grabbing her travel medical kit and hurrying out the door after Geneva.