I’m about a week behind on this preview. I apologize for that. But, without further ado, here is a small preview of Horizon of the Void Book 1!
The Horizon of the Void dropped out of hyperspace in an unexplored backwater system and immediately went into evasive maneuvers as the captain, Amily Saris, attempted to avoid collision with a mammoth asteroid. A metallic rip resounded through the small freight hauler as the rear sensor array was reduced to splinters by the errant asteroid.
“I just replaced that!” Amily yelled as she jerked the flight control hard to the right to avoid a smaller chunk of rock—smaller, but still large enough to reduce the Horizon to space dust. “That was close.”
“Captain Saris,” the uninflected voice of the ship’s onboard A.I. came over the speakers, “auxiliary sensors have picked up three ships entering the system.”
Amily cursed under her breath as she slalomed the hauler through the asteroid field. “Ape,” Amily called over her shoulder to her navigator, a simian-like Arborian whose name was impossible for human mouths to form, “find us an asteroid to hide on.”
Ape chirped an affirmative. “There’s a big one just there, Captain.” The Arborian pressed a button on the navigation console that sent an image to Amily’s screen.
“Got it Ape,” Amily called back. “Grell, ready the mag-clamps.” Her Minoxian co-pilot began to manipulate toggles and buttons with his thick fingers.
The captain maneuvered the hauler to land on the large asteroid Ape’s computer indicated. Landing on the slowly revolving rock proved to be easier than she had expected. The ship settled nicely into a small crater. The freighter jolted as the landing gear settled onto the surface of the asteroid. “Activate the mag-clamps,” she ordered. The ship shook as Grell activated magnetized clamps on each of the four landing struts, meshing the ship with the asteroid.
“Power down all non-essential systems,” Amily ordered the ship’s A.I. The lights in the cockpit dimmed and turned red.
“Sogorians.” Grell huffed.
“What do you mean Sogorians?” Amily asked. Grell grumbled in response. “Well it’s not my fault, you great oaf!” Amily snapped back. The Minox mumbled unintelligibly under his breath then settled back in his chair to sulk.
“Did the scanners pick up any information on our friends out there?” Amily asked no one in particular.
“Grell is correct, Captain,” the A.I. answered, “before we cut power I was able to pick up the ships’ IFF signals.”
“Good job, Riz.” Amily had taken to calling the shipboard artificial intelligence Riz soon after taking over the Horizon. “Any idea what we’re up against?”
“Scanners indicate two Ataxes-class interceptors and a Fomenter-class gunboat,” Riz answered.
“So, we can’t outgun them or out run them,” Ape interjected from his seat to the rear and left of the cabin.
“That would be correct Navigator…Ape.” Ape, as the newest member of the Horizon crew, had introduced himself to the A.I. in his native language, which Riz was fully capable of understanding and pronouncing. Amily had to formally request that she refer to the Arborian as “Ape” because the loud screeching of his given name irritated Grell’s short temper. The A.I., who had developed certain quirks in its personality circuits, continued to struggle with that directive.
Amily was opening her mouth to speak when the whole ship shuddered violently. “What was that?” Before anyone could respond the ship shook again. The asteroid buckled. “Captain Saris, external scanners indicate that the asteroid is breaking up,” Riz stated matter-of-factly.
“Breaking up? How does an asteroid this size just break up?” Amily stared out of the forward viewport at the asteroid field around them. As she was returning her attention to her pilot station, a flash of green caught her eye. She watched a medium asteroid break into dozens of smaller chunks. Another hyphen of green split open a smaller asteroid a moment later.
“They’re shooting them!” Amily shouted, flipping the activator switch for the sub-light engines. Systems that Riz had only just shut down began to power up. “Looks like we don’t have any other choice but to fight our way out.” Grell flipped a toggle to release the magnetic clamps. They snapped back into place with a hollow thud and Horizon drifted slowly away from the asteroid. “I’m going to need you on the topside cannon.”
Grell grunted and stood, ducking his head so that his horns didn’t drag along the top of the cabin. He swatted Amily’s shoulder with his tail as he walked past. “I know, big guy. We’ll get out of this, I promise.” And then the hatch whooshed closed behind him.
Amily pushed the acceleration handle forward, giving the engines more power just as the asteroid they had been hiding on disintegrated. The shockwave sent the freighter tumbling through open space, out of control. “Activate the ballistic shield!” Amily ordered. Ape chirped an affirmative and a hazy globe of red surrounded the ship. Just in time to protect Grell and the topside cannon from being crushed by the impact of the Horizon with another asteroid. Grell bellowed over the ship’s comm. “Glad to know you’re alright up there,” Amily snapped back, though she was relieved the ballistic shield, a recent addition to the Horizon’s repertoire, had actually functioned—and kept her friend safe.
The impact with the asteroid had the positive benefit of halting the Horizon’s haphazard spin. But it left the freighter an open target for the Ataxes interceptors who had closed the distance while Horizon was out of control. The blue hyphens of their electromagnetic lasers flashed through space where the ship had just been. “The asteroids were just to scare us,” she said as she maneuvered the freighter away from the asteroid and the incoming interceptors. “They’re not shooting to kill. Ape, activate energy deflectors and plot us a course out of here.”
Ape chirped, as he was wont to do when things got heated, and set to work. “I’ll work on getting us the hell away from these headhunters.” Amily gave Horizon full power, rolling the ship in an attempt to throw off any targeting locks the pursuing fighters might have. The topside cannon started chugging as Grell opened fire on the Ataxes interceptors. The ship shuddered as an EM laser slammed against the energy shield.
“Give me some breathing room back there Grell!” Amily shouted. The big ox’s response was a string of broken profanity. “Watch your mouth you oversized calf!”
Ape shook his head. The Arborians were an austere species and, despite being one of the more humorous members of the diminutive race, Ape continued to be baffled by the biting banter between his captain and her first mate. “Captain, if you can find us a point of egress I have a series of jumps programmed into the nav-console that should shake our pursuers.”
“I’m working on it Ape.” Amily shoved the flight controls forward, sending the Horizon into a deep dive beneath a cluster of space debris. “Be ready to hit the jump on my command.” The Arborian chirped an affirmative.
Over the ship’s comm, Grell’s howl of victory echoed throughout the craft. “Scratch one Ataxes,” the captain called, “nice shooting up there Grell!” She rolled the ship to the left, dodging a massive chunk of rock, one half of the oblong sphere blown completely out by the Fomenter gunboat’s heavy laser. The freighter was slammed sideways and warning claxons blared. “What was that?!” Amily called, speeding the ship towards another asteroid—and cover.
“Deflectors at forty-one percent,” Ape reported. “It appears the gunboat has entered the fray.”
© M.E. Dill, 2017
Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts, reactions and comments on this bit of the story.