Hey there! This Friday, the third book in the Translocator Trilogy, The Ares Initiative, comes out, so I thought I’d give those of you who are excited about the upcoming release a chance to get started early with some snippets from the book.
I’ll post a chapter a day until Friday.
Here’s chapter 1…
THE ARES INITIATIVE
by M.G. Herron
Chapter 1 – Shift
Remethiakara nearly ripped the mothership to pieces as he shifted into hyperspace.
The massive living spacecraft heaved, quaked, and hurled him to the floor of the bridge. His head cracked against a hard edge—the armrest of the pilot’s chair, most likely. The impact would have been enough to break his skull, but he was spared a life-threatening injury by the thin but durable fabric of his armorsuit. It was still enough to split the outer shell of the helmet and send him tumbling backward, end over end, until he struck against a circular doorframe.
Air was driven from all four of Remethiakara’s lungs as his body impacted the shapeshifting carapace that made up the walls of the mothership. He focused on trying to regain his breath even as blood filled his mouth from a cut on his tongue. The ship continued to rattle around. He couldn’t make out anything but blurry shapes, streaks of brownish-purple, an azure luminescence flecked with black. Red spots crowded his vision as the multiplied gravity of the ship’s acceleration flattened him against the wall with such force that his organs lurched inside him.
He managed to choke down one ragged breath. Then another. It felt like breathing with weights on his chest, but it kept him conscious. A ghoulish sound like flesh being rent from bone suddenly crowded out the other sensations. His whole body tensed.
At first, he thought it was one of his own limbs breaking. Then he realized it was happening not to him, but to the mothership that carried him. Due to their truethought connection, her autonomous neural system screamed in his mind—a sharp sound that he felt as much as heard, a small needle being gouged straight into his eardrum. He closed his eyes and held on as an aft compartment was torn away from the tail of the ship, shredded as it passed through the hyperspace continuum, and scattered through a billion miles of space.
He felt the ship’s pain as his own pain, but muted, distant. The purpose of the pain was to allow the pilot—in this case, him—to identify the breach and respond quickly. A nanosecond after the aft compartment was torn away, Remethiakara hurled a sharp mental command at the mothership’s receptors. The living vessel’s vascular system clotted to seal the breach, preventing the rest of the atmosphere from bleeding out.
He did not need to see it to know it happened. He felt it as a flash of physical knowledge—similar to the way it felt when one of his servitor bots stitched up a deep cut in the soft flesh at the small of his back.
The pain faded to a dull throbbing as the breach was finally sealed. The sense of panic and urgency that had been transmitted to him with the sensation subsided. And the mothership finally achieved equilibrium with the hyperspace continuum into which he’d thrust her.
When the quaking rumbled down to a low vibration, and the artificial gravity returned to normal levels, Remethiakara sagged to the floor. There had been a high probability that forcing the ancient mothership into hyperspace would tear him and the spacecraft to pieces. Getting away with a lost limb was perfectly acceptable—even to be expected. But he also knew that were he to try the maneuver a second time, he would certainly not make it through alive.
Not that there was enough juice left in the star shard to make another shift.
He only had one chance to get this right.
Remethiakara pushed himself to his feet and surveyed the rest of the damage the shift had caused.
One of the fragile eggs containing his precious offspring had jostled free of the stasis pods where he’d put them for safekeeping. He hadn’t been sure how much of the ship would hold up in flight, and decided to keep them close. But they were too large and awkward at this point in their gestation for the stasis pod lids to close, and the straps he’d used to secure them had come loose in the turbulence.
The eggs shouldn’t be anywhere near the low gravity of space travel this late in their development. But what choice did he have? After the savages had swarmed through the Wall and overwhelmed his defenses with the help of more advanced Earthlings and their quantum teleportation device, he’d been forced to discard the old plan to ensure the preservation of his race.
Remethiakara bent down and gingerly ran his hand along the broken shell of the cracked egg—then jerked his hand up to his helmet, now gashed in a similar way. He swallowed his panic, jerked the busted helmet off over his head, and took deep draughts of air through his slitted nostrils and thin, lipless mouth.
Another of his children had been killed, this time by his own actions. That knowledge caused an inescapable feeling of guilt to clawed its way up from deep in his lower stomach. Globs of half-formed flesh were visible through the crack in the egg, floating in a thick amniotic fluid. He could see the curve of what might have been a neck. What a terrible waste. What a tragic loss.
He closed his eyes and looked away.
The young leader of the savages had destroyed four eggs. His own carelessness had ended the life of another. There were only four left.
With shaking hands, Remethiakara checked the remaining straps. Coming out of hyperspace might be rockier than going into it, and he couldn’t take any chances. These four eggs were his last chance to uphold his duty, his last chance to ensure the survival of his race, a nomadic species who had wandered the stars since the destruction of their native world.
Remethiakara rose to his feet abruptly and strode back to the center of the bridge, where a column of blue light in front of the pilot’s chair held a large chunk of meteorite suspended in its beam. The sable geode was so black that, from a certain angle, it looked like a hole in the light rather than an object suspended within it.
In reality, it was an ancient source of power called a star shard. Wrought by the intense heat of exploding stars, his race had been using their concentrated energy to power their motherships as they made way from planet to planet for aeons.
This particular star shard Remethiakara had recovered by tracking a human woman who had shown up on the planet where he’d been living. He used the star shard she brought with her to create a singularity that took him back to Earth.
There he learned that a group of intelligent Earthlings had managed to harness the shard’s energy with their own transport technology…but that they didn’t seem to grasp the true extent of the shard’s power. Their tech was inefficient, their defenses thin. Eventually, Remethiakara’s long patience had been rewarded. He cut through them easily and reclaimed the star shard as his own.
But then they had killed his children and destroyed the place he had called home for the last thousand years.
They would pay for that.
Remethiakara tossed the busted helmet aside and reached out with his gauntleted hands. The blue light bent and crackled, shooting sparks into his fingertips. He manipulated the beam. The display inside the helmet would normally show energy readouts. Without it, he cast the readouts directly into his cornea. An array of numbers and symbols no Earthling would be capable of comprehending superimposed themselves on his vision. After spending a moment tweaking the complex mathematical formula in his mind, he clenched his jaw.
It was as he suspected. The ship was just too large to expect anything else. Raising the mothership from what was meant to be the living vessel’s final resting place on Kakul, traveling through the planet’s atmosphere, and shifting into hyperspace had taxed the star shard to such an extent that its power was already nearly depleted.
If he was lucky, there would be enough energy left to complete his journey and little, if any, leftover. Was it enough to construct an incubator for the eggs until he could establish a more permanent settlement? He hoped so.
Remethiakara thrust his hands back into the blue-white beam of light and checked on the course of the jump. Noting that the two planets had moved away from each other more than the ship’s systems had predicted since the last time this ancient mothership had journeyed between the stars, he made some adjustments which took the unexpected orbital drift into account.
All Remethiakara could do after that was wait. He passed the time by monitoring the energy drain on the shard, and carefully feeding the eggs through a complicated manual link with the living mothership, using what little power the shard could spare to sustain them.
The end of the jump felt like it would never come.
Then it seemed to come abruptly.
He prepared better this time, strapping himself in beside his eggs.
The mothership quaked and lurched, throwing the metallic sphere of his last servitor bot across the bridge and smashing it to uselessness against the doorway.
The floor rumbled and there was a change of speed, like stepping off a fast-moving vehicle onto solid ground.
Remethiakara braced, then slowly relaxed as nothing happened for a moment. Was that it?
He unbuckled himself and thrust his gauntlets into the beam of light. The walls of the mothership turned transparent—or rather, they simply transmitted through the vascular systems what the outer membrane was experiencing visually, so that it seemed as if he could see directly into the black emptiness of space from deep within the heart of the mothership.
The velocity shifted abruptly again. This time he was expecting it, and it merely hurled his body back into the pilot’s chair, piling seven or eight gravities of force upon his chest. He fought to remain conscious as a cold blue planet blurred past on the starboard wall, followed by a massive orange one with an enormous ring system.
Then the spacecraft went completely still as the vessel exited hyperspace.
He slumped down, his chest heaving.
And felt his slitted nostrils and lipless mouth expand into a helpless grin.
Despite the hiccup in the landing, the ship had ended up not only in the right system, but almost exactly on target. Off by only a few hundred thousand miles. Not bad for a derelict mothership that was six thousand or so years past its prime.
Now the starboard wall was filled with the great red curve of a desert planet receding behind him.
Meanwhile, directly ahead, a tiny green and blue speck was just becoming visible in the distance.
He stood there for a long time, smiling, as the planet known as Earth slowly grew larger in his viewframe.
After another day it was the size of his fist.
It wouldn’t be much longer now.
If his brief encounters with modern Earthlings were any indication, they had already made note of his ship and were now making their own preparations.
He suspected that his arrival would not be taken lightly.