Tales From the Void

Tales From the Void

A nasty virus stymied most of my writing efforts this week, but it doesn’t matter because I have something rather special for you instead! Yes, my Star Mage Exile prequel has finally appeared in the science fantasy anthology, Tales From the Void

My last Star Mage Exile snippet was the beginning of chapter six. Read the rest of the chapter below or, even better, snap up the anthology for 99 cents and read the whole story as well as nine others from famous authors.

Chapter 6 (cont.)

Smitz snickered and poured himself another drink from the pitcher.

“That’s what’s available at short notice on the street.” Speidel held out his hand to take the gun back. “Unless you’d rather go without?”

“No, no. Not complaining,” Jackson replied, pushing the weapon into the back of his pants under his shirt. “No way. Just asking.”

After quickly checking it over, Carina tucked hers into her belt.

Speidel said quietly, “I picked up some explosives too. C8 with delay fuses. They weren’t difficult to find and they’ll probably prove useful. They have thirty-second and two-minute delays. Okay, let’s pay a visit to a smelting plant. I’ve hired one of the local transports. Let’s go. We’ll talk more about the job on the way.”

He clearly didn’t want to risk their conversation being overheard at the bar. The eight mercs rose and left with the captain, making their way outside. As they went to where the transport was parked, Carina got her first close-up look at the settlement. She wasn’t impressed. The place reminded her of where she’d grown up.

Like Carina’s birth planet, Orrana was far from the center of the action and way off trade routes, and it showed. No one was planning to settle there, so no one had made any effort to create a proper infrastructure, like good roads or basic public services. From the flimsy pre-fabricated buildings to the dim street lights hung on makeshift poles, everything was temporary.

She pondered the advisability of building a smelting plant on a planet that was prone to earthquakes, but the financial savings of refining the ore planetside probably offset the costs of rebuilding after a shock. The risk to the workers was undoubtedly low on the list of priorities, as it always was in ass-end-of-the-galaxy places.

Carina climbed aboard the multi-person transport Speidel had rented. The heavy vibration when he started it up signaled that the vehicle ran on some kind of organic fuel. Orrana really was about the most backward place she’d ever been. She slid into a window seat and rubbed a clear patch in the grimy window with the edge of her sleeve. Speidel input the destination and the transport pulled into the road.

“The smelting plant where the Dirksens are holding the kid is at the edge of town,” Speidel said once they were on their way down the potholed street. “We’re going to pretend we’re looking for work. Gangs of immigrants looking for labor are common. The guards shouldn’t be too suspicious at first. Don’t forget that you’re supposed to be contract laborers. Low-skilled, boneheaded grunts.”

“Sounds about right,” Carver said, her scarred top lip rising in a gruesome grin.

“That way, no one’s going to expect us to answer any difficult questions,” Speidel continued. “All we need is enough of a cover story to get inside the plant. Here are the plans.”

He handed out thin, transparent sheets.

“The red dot is the kid.”

Carina studied the blueprint of the plant. It felt weird to not see the image on a visor overlay and not to be able to interact with it. The smelting plant was large and complex, and the Dirksens had secreted the boy on a basement level at its heart. As she saw the scale of the complex, the desperate nature of their attempt began to hit home.

The Dirksens had chosen the place to hold their hostage well. Not only was the boy in the least accessible part of the complex, the place was full of people working for Dirksens: tough men and women who had led hard lives. They wouldn’t be averse to using their fists or whatever weapon came to hand to do their boss’ bidding, and there had to be hundreds of them.

“You’ve gotta be joking, sir,” said Lee, staring at the blueprint. His nervous tic had started up. Normally quiet, the man’s outburst signaled the dismay the rest of the troop was no doubt also feeling.

“Lee’s right,” said Smitz. “They aren’t gonna let a bunch of strangers in even if they believe our story, and if we try to fight our way in, we’re dead. With our regular armor and weapons, we might stand a chance, but with these antiques, we’ll never make it. Stop the transport and let me out. I’m going back to the ship.”

“You’ll stay right where you are, soldier,” Speidel said.

Smitz spat a brown, greasy ball of spittle at Speidel’s feet and got up to leave. The captain rose and roughly pushed the man back down into his seat. The soldier scowled and was about to stand again when Carina said, “Wait. What if we try something different?”

Read the first Star Mage Exile snippet here.