It’s publication day for Zanzibar’s Rings. The final episode of the Viridian System series hits your kindle or iPad or other reader – or your bookshelf if you’ve ordered the paperback. Today I’ve got an exclusive excerpt for you.
An Exclusive Publication Excerpt!
This is from the middle of the book, 800 words. I think it’s self-explanatory. Every time I got to this stage of my reviews and pre-publication checks of the book, I had to continue reading it.
Lars stood behind the airlock, arms folded across his chest, staring stony-faced through the porthole. He stopped himself running his tongue around his teeth, realising where the old habit stemmed from. Yes, he was waiting for his father. No, he didn’t give a damn whether his father would approve of his general hygiene and tidiness. Sod the man.
Pete had the task of going aboard, checking whether he was in one piece, and mobile, and most importantly, doing a status check on the shuttle and retrieving its black box.
Why it was called a black box was a mystery, but they had been built into human spacecraft of all descriptions since spaceflight began.
Lars took a deep breath and let it out again, counting to slow himself down. He returned Pete’s thumbs-up sign and watched him open the shuttle’s hatch. Pete was suited up. Standard precautions.
“Okay, I’m in. Untidy. Looks like it’s been banged about inside as much as the outside shows.”
Lars listened to Pete’s commentary, a routine they’d done many times before. There’d been no discussion about who was going in for this one.
“No sign of a passenger in the cabin, office door is closed. Strange, it’s on manual. Here goes.”
Lars heard a grunt of effort as he pushed the door aside. “Just stay there sir, I’m your rescue party, from the Viridian planets. … you fell, then decided to stay there. Are you hurt? Any broken bones? Good. Can I help you get up, sir?” There were indeterminate sounds of Pete’s movements to lift a person off the floor when in a spacesuit. He was not hearing the passenger, thank Sirtis. “Yes, we tracked you in Viridian space and located you in a very nasty bit of debris around one of the planets. Are you on business here? Which planet?… We can discuss that later. If you wait there, sir, I need to check the shuttle’s integrity. Won’t take a minute.”
A pause. Lars visualised Pete running the quick check and downloading several key pieces of evidence. Taking out the black box, which had a complete record of the journey. And checking on the manual, if it was in plain sight.
“Right then. Let me help you to the exit. You will be coming aboard a private spaceship, capable of galactic flight. It’s quite big, but has a small crew. We will settle you in a cabin to keep you safe from operational hazards.” A pause, probably Birith was querying the operational hazards.
“You never know what we might encounter out here. It’s best if you stay in the cabin unless we invite you into the public area.”
Lars smiled. ‘Public area,’ i.e. kitchen.
“When did you last eat?” Birith had obviously complained of being hungry. “We can sort something out as soon as you’re settled, sir.”
Lars noted the things Pete had obviously not asked, like why did you not get into a rescue pod and where is the pilot. Birith would surely put a great deal of blame onto the pilot. How were they going to cope with that? Lars didn’t feel confident of interrogating him, and Pete would have trouble keeping his cool.
Maybe Wayne… he had a great counselling mode. What about interrogation?
“Right sir, the airlock is quite secure. Step in. No, the air and gravity are the same. Oh, the suit is precautionary. We have a decontamination cycle to go through.”
“Closing shuttle port. Closing spaceship port. Decontamination sequence initiated. This won’t hurt sir, it’s like a spray, with no liquid. Okay, now to open the airlock and my colleague will take you to your cabin. I’ll stay here and unsuit.”
Lars could hear a sigh of relief from Pete, even over the soft sound of the hatch opening. He unfolded his arms and stood up straight.
“Hello, Kaa Birith. Let me show you to your cabin. There’ll be a hot drink waiting, and a snack will arrive about five minutes afterwards. Just settle in, and we’ll answer your questions when you’ve rested.”
Lars turned and led the way. He could hear Birith following, but almost felt sorry for him. He seemed bewildered by the turn of events, aged by the experience of a space accident. Was it only three years since Lars had last seen him?
He stopped at the cabin door, showed Birith in, indicated the drinks, the spray unit, and the viewscreen. “The viewscreen is operational for general entertainment and simple queries. As you probably know, the galactic comms are down, ever since that green lightning hit everything. I’ll leave you to rest.”
Lars exited quickly, but he was sure he heard his birth name being called. He ignored it.
Zanzibar’s Rings 2022 Ch19
© J M Pett 2022