Tag Archives: Running Out of Space

FICTION FRIDAY – Extract from Running Out of Space – Book 1 of The Sunblinded trilogy

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This is an extract from Chapter 4 of Running Out of Space, which I’m planning to publish in the summer, along with Dying for Space and Breathing Space. Jezell is being carpeted by her father, the Iberian merchant space captain when a situation flares involving the ship…

As the Cap and Josian continued playing tunes on the emergency console, a rumbling shudder started somewhere beneath our feet.
That’s the engines. Is this a mega-bluff or is the Cap really going to take on the whole station?
SS Hawking was one of the planetoid class of space stations. Trader Level was sited around the equator, with the docking bays fanning out from reinforced spokes known as pontoons. The Cap was threatening to blast the pontoon connecting Bright Nova to Hawking.
Not that he’ll do it. There’s three other merchanters docked in the same bay… he won’t, will he? Because if he does and those three ships find themselves adrift, they could crash into the air membrane, or each other. Hundreds could die…
Screens dotting the console reflected rainbow colours across their faces, while the Cap and El Segundo watched the firefight on the docks, in between dealing with the coms-traf stacking up.
Watching all this unfold in front of me – so like a holovid – felt unreal. Seesawing between terror and excitement, I held my breath, hoping the Cap would continue to ignore my presence till the emergency was over.
A series of percussive bangs boomed sullenly from outside the ship.
That’s the tethers blown. The Stationmaster won’t like that one little bit.
He didn’t.
“Stationmaster is demanding alpha priority comlink, señor.
The Cap’s grin pimpled my skin. “Is he, now? Make him wait two more minutes, then patch him through. Jonte – you there, amigo?”
Jonte Prado, Chief Engineer, was one of the Cap’s primero compadres when he was Military. And it showed. He reckoned not to have favourites, but he did. Generally, they were all his old army pals.
I zoned out the stab of jealousy.
“…train those guns onto the pontoon on my mark. Un, dos, tres… Now!” His face was lit up, his eyes sparkling. It came to me that this emergency was bread and air to Papá.
“Capitán, I have the Stationmaster on a priority hail for you.” The careful formality told me that the Stationmaster could hear all this.
Capitán Campo at your service-”
A spluttering roar cut off the Cap’s greeting. “He’s done what? The piratical fuse-brain! Estrella Fugaz why are your armaments deployed? And you’ve blown the tethers at your docking station. Explain yourself, sir! You’re going the right way to be blacklisted from all Sector Two stations!”
“We are under attack, señor. Station security is doing nothing to help. Our assumption is that you are in alliance with the forces assaulting our crew,” the Cap’s voice was measured, but an underlying vibrato raised the hairs on my neck. He was furious. If I were the Stationmaster I’d be choosing my words with care, just now.
The Stationmaster did nothing of the sort. Chiefly because he was also enraged. “What wet-headed piece of reasoning brought you to that conclusion, sir? From where I’m sitting, a petty squabble ‘tween two Merchanter ships has gotten out of hand-”
The Cap’s voice coshed across the Stationmaster’s blustering like a durasteel bar, “Entirely due to the negligence of your own security in not restraining the crew of Bright Nova when they started attacking my crew, señor!”

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FICTION FRIDAY – An extract from Running Out of Space – Book 1 of The Sunblinded trilogy

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This is an extract from Chapter 2 of Running Out of Space, which I’m planning to self publish this August, along with the other two books in the trilogy, Dying for Space and Breathing Space.

“Right,” said Wynn, in a strained whisper. “We got another couple of intersections to go and a vent shaft before arriving at the ladders leading down to Service Level and the lifts. We’re definitely being followed. If they’re planning on making some kind’ve move, I reckon they’ll be waiting for us somewhere before we reach the shaft – Milla’s lot don’t like using them.”
Donice clearly wasn’t convinced. “Thought you said that the lifts was wired, compadre.”
“They are. On Basement Level. We’re going to be using the lifts on Service Level, where Station Security is far too interested to let the likes of Norby get creative.”
“How come you know so much about these tunnel rats, hombre?”
“They let me snag here for a while. In return for a cut of my earnings,” Wynn’s voice was even and if he was angered at Donice’s attitude, he didn’t show it.
“And you’re gonna walk away. Just like that?” She wasn’t cutting him any slack.
Wynn shrugged. “You heard Milla. Norby’s out for my blood, anyhow. I was already figuring to move on sometime soon. Before he zilched me.”
“Says you.” Donice rolled her eyes. “Unlike some around here – I’m not-ˮ
I heard the slight scuffle in the same instant that Wynn moved. He yanked Donice behind him. Just a nanosec before a thin, long-handled knife sprouted from his shoulder. As he stared at it, blinking in shock, I shoved him out of the way, fumbling in my pocket. My hand closed around the smooth metal cylinder, pulling it out. As I aimed it, arming the thing, my fingers felt like sausages.
Please – let it activate first time… I won’t get a second chance.
Someone, somewhere, heard my desperate plea. Not a minute too soon. The air between us shimmered. And the next knife bounced off the mobile force field and crashed onto the floor.
Tow-Headed Teener appeared from one of the intersections and ran at us, swinging a heavy chain, evidently heading for Wynn.
“Don’t!” The word fell out of my mouth, as I realised what was going to happen.
But he wasn’t listening – and apparently hadn’t understood what the force field would do. The chain hit first, before ricocheting in a snaking arc just as the boy thudded into it so fast that to this day, I couldn’t tell you if it was the chain or the force field that caused the damage. But he crashed to the floor, cursing and thrashing in evident agony, his left leg twisted at an impossible angle with a red puddle pooling under it.
I was about to flick the force field off to help him, when Wynn gasped, “No! Leave it. That’s Kester – so Norby won’t be far away.”
As if on cue, Norby appeared. He scowled at the boy lying on the ground, who called out, “Uncle… please! I’m bleedin’ somethin’ fierce. It’s my knee…”
Norby kicked him. Hard. “You always was a useless pile of piss an’ offal! Now look what you done to yerself!” He drew a Pacifier and shot the boy at point blank range.
Efra screamed, while Donice cursed. As for me – I said nada. Too busy staring in disbelief at what was going down right in front of me. This isn’t happening! It’s some nightmare. And I’ll wake up, soon. Please…
“Look what you girlies went an’ done! Killed poor ol’ Kester while he was lyin’ on his back with a busted leg,” Norby yelled. “The others ain’t gonna stand for that. You’ll get Basement Level justice for sure. An’ all cos yer wouldn’t let me take you’s back up to your daddies.” He flashed his rotten-toothed grin, adding, “Be seeing yer.”
And with that he dodged back into the side corridor.

FICTION FRIDAY Extract from Chapter One of Running Out of Space – Book 1 of The Sunblinded trilogy

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This is another short slice of the first book in the trilogy I am planning to publish in the summer…

My chicas closed up behind me.
“Rock steady, now,” I muttered, trying for friendly eye contact and receiving hard stares in return.
Someone shouted something I couldn’t catch. Whatever it was passed for wit down here. It was followed by an explosion of noisy laughter and a fusillade of crude comments from the rabble clustered around the graffiti-covered alcho bars that lined the plaza.
“Need to blue-shift our bods back up to Trader Level,” muttered Alita, treading on my heels.
“Easy…” I answered, trying to close down this conversation before my companions talked themselves into doing something stupid. Like being the least bit afraid.
These Dreggers will smell fear quicker than a miner probe can tag a seam.
“Makes you feel all warm’n fuzzy, does it? Handing out your pocket-change to our nippers?” snapped a pale-faced girl.
I raised my hands, palms out. “Hey, no harm meant, señorita.”
“For sure,” Donice added, solid at my side.
The Dreggers closing in looked even more sullen – if that were possible.
A man snaked his rank-smelling arm around my shoulders. “And where d’you call home, flower-face?”
Don’t stiffen. Remember to smile. He’s human, same as me. Even if he doesn’t smell it.
“Service Level,” I lied. “Reckon we’ve taken a couple of wrong turns.” I had to breathe through my mouth at the blasts of foul air he exhaled.
“I could put you right. For a price.” His grin looked like something out of a horrorvid.
“Gracias, but I’m sure we can find our own way back, señor.” I tried to ease away, but his arm stayed firmly across my shoulders.
“Nah. We can’t have you girlies wandering round here. Who knows what might happen?”
A tow-headed teenager welded to Bilge-Breath’s other side sniggered.
“We can take care of ourselves.” Donice didn’t bother to hide her irritation as she jostled my elbow, plunging her hand into her jacket pocket. Efra and Alita bunched up behind her, facing outwards, immediately defensive.
I tried to quell their twitchiness with a quick shake of my head.
The Cap will break orbit if he hears we drew our weaponry down here.
“You wouldn’t’ve come zoo-gazing down here in the first place if you an’ your up-swept friends weren’t so prodding stupid,” snapped Pale Girl.
An answering mutter of agreement rustled through the gang and the knot in my gut tightened.
We’re not zoo-gazing! Though I had the crawling notion it probably looked like it to this lot.
I kept trying to make eye contact with each Dregger blocking our path. “Please. Step away. We don’t want no trouble. Just let us go. We’re sorry for sullying your airspace.”
But no one moved, as they all stared back blank-faced.
Except Bilge-Breath, whose grin displayed a mouthful of blackened stumps as he finally released me. “Ain’t goin’ to happen, flower-face. We found you wandering all lost-like where you pretties got no business bein’.”
Tow-Headed Teener giggled loudly.
My stomach heaved as I caught a full faceful of Bilge-Breath’s halitosis.
He grinned wider, probably mistaking my nausea for hesitance. “An’ so we’ll take real good care’ve you, won’t we, Milla?”
“Hell, yeah. Your mamas and papas gonna be real glad to get you girlies back.” Milla finally cracked a grin.
Bilge-Breath was evidently fond of the sound of his own voice, “Bet they’ll be majorly generous, too. Where jer say you was from, again? I reckon-ˮ
“Pining for more brig-time, Norby?”
Bilge-Breath froze at the interruption. The rest of the Dreggers glanced back at the man who’d spoken. So did I.
And I was lost.

FICTION FRIDAY – Running Out of Space

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As I’m planning to release the first part of my space opera series, The Sunblinded trilogy this summer, I thought I’d post a short extract from the beginning of the first book, Running Out of Space

CHAPTER ONE

Yeah, I know – Basement Level – what were we thinking? But penned up on punishment duty with only the prospect of a single chaperoned shopping trip had driven us to it. Though the charms of Basement Level wore thin as soon as we set off from the lift. One light in four was working – and then only in Dim mode. The corridors were half the width of the upper levels; a big problem as I’ve seen sewage tanks more wholesome than those walls. You wouldn’t want to brush against them wearing anything other than throwaways, while keeping off the walls was harder than you’d think, because we were wading ankle-deep in… stuff.

Donice punched my arm. “Must be homely for you, Jezzy. Floor looks like your cribicle after you done tidying.”

Alita and Efra started sniggering.

“’Cept the smell isn’t as vile as your boots,” I replied.

Our laughter bounced around the filthy corridor, easing the mood for a couple of minutes but did nothing about the putrid smell. We struggled on a bit longer, until a grimy woman scuttled past, forcing us far too close to the walls. She didn’t even bother acknowledging our efforts to make room for her.

Efra and Alita stopped.

“Let’s turn round. Unblocking the heads is more fun than this.” Efra wrinkled her nose at the empty tunnel ahead. “Even the natives got sense enough to be someplace else.”

Alita began to mutter an agreement, but Donice silenced it with a scowl. “We’ve gone promming around for less than a nanosec. And you wanna run back ‘cos the scenery isn’t the same as on board?” Donice clicked her tongue in scorn. “Starting to sound like those old ship-abuelas.”

Efra flinched at the derision in her voice, but – being Efra – wouldn’t lock horns with Donice.

Breathing through my mouth, I straightened up. Donice is right. So what if this is a dank disappointment? We didn’t come down here for the view – we came to prove a point.

But Alita grabbed Donice’s arm. “Efra and me reckon this is a vile place. We vote to head back. Tramping through filth is a tragic waste of shore leave.”

All argument ceased when the floor crud rustled and heaved behind us. A cat-sized rat scuttered through the litter into the gloom beyond.

I shivered. “It’s gotta get better sometime, soon. We’re snagging the next lift we see, amigas.”

We continued trudging onwards for another ten minutes. Just as I was beginning to think the scuzzy corridor was leading into infinity, we turned a corner into a small plaza. With a blast of relief, I spotted the lift in the far corner and relaxed – now we were nearly out of here, we could do the tourist bit. Truth be told, the word ‘plaza’ probably gives the space more credit than it deserves. While the lighting was brighter and the floor litter had been trodden relatively flat, the buzz that normally goes with buying and selling wasn’t here. Under the stink of rotting rubbish was the sharper stench of desperation.

I passed a trader’s eye over the ratty stalls. Everything I could see on display would’ve gone straight into our ship’s recycler. The food canisters were crud-caked and filthy without the benefit of even the most basic steri-scrub. And the water on sale might have shown on the pacs’ Purity Scales, but the readings must have been blixed, because that cloudy stuff wasn’t fit to pass your lips. Even the powdered water looked like sweepings off a shower-stall floor.

If we hadn’t come down here, I’d never have known this place existed. How many on ‘Estrella’ know about it? This is what I joined the ship for… My heart was thudding with a mixture of fear and excitement. I felt alive. This was a hundred times better than trailing around the overpriced shops on Trader Level with a grumbling chaperone.

Though the people were a shock. There were no shades of yellow, brown, black, or white here; everyone’s skin was grime-grey. All wearing rags pockmarked with holes which only showed more scabby tatters, or dirt-scurfed flesh. I’d tried to blend us in; we were all in scut-gear – worn overalls and battered workboots. But we stuck out like a supernova on a dark night. Mostly because we were clean and well fed – everyone here was stick-thin. Even the niños

The Cap always says that we Iberians take care of our own better than anyone else. What if he’s right? Because I couldn’t recall seeing any children in this sorry state back in Nuevo Madrid.

Efra gave some creds to a pathetic, sunken-cheeked toddler sitting on the trash-covered floor – and in no time flat we were mobbed by a bunch of snot-nosed kids. None of us could resist their pleading, so we handed out all our shore-leave cash. Of course, one of us should’ve kept an eye out for trouble. But we didn’t. And when the niños started melting away, I looked up to see we were now ringed by another group. Far more grown-up and dangerous.