RIFT - Scene 39, 40 and 41

Alright guys, here are a few more first draft scenes from RIFT. As always, this is for those interested in the writing process. If you´d rather just dive straight into the finished book, here are the main links: http://www.amazon.com/RIFT-Andreas-Christensen-ebook/dp/B00RM5HDYC/ (US and international readers) or here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/RIFT-Andreas-Christensen-ebook/dp/B00RM5HDYC/ (UK). If you do read these posts be aware that once the final scene is blogged I will start taking them down (beginning with scene 1 of course, so you will have some time to catch up). Once they´re gone from the blog though, they´re gone. :-)

I´m currently juggling several projects at once, mainly publishing related stuff more than actual writing, like the RIFT paperback and the Exodus omnibus edition - and a couple of surprises as well. If you sign up to my (irregular but relevant) newsletter, you´ll be the first to know what´s up! http://christensenwriting.com/signup.

Since the actual writing is what I like the most, I can´t wait to get all those other tasks out of the way, but it is necessary work too, so...

Well, enough of my blabber, here´s RIFT!

RIFT - Scene 39.

MARK

Mark Novak chewed his lip, pacing the room. This wasn´t going according to plan. In fact, this was the worst possible outcome. Ivanov had always been unpredictable. Worse, he had the ear of Head Servant Lunde. He looked at his guest. The young man sat in his lounge chair, and seemed to be making an effort to remain calm.

«What do you want me to do?» he said. Hordvik stared back at him.

«What do you think? Counselor, you know she´s no traitor. But she must have seen something she wasn´t supposed to. You know what they do to people who do, especially if they aren´t Moon blood.»

Mark nodded, though he had no illusions that Moon people would be exempted if someone like Ivanov found out they were a threat. So the question remained, should he write her off, or take a risk trying to save her?

«But what do you want me to do?» he repeated.

«I want you to go right now and stop this. Go to the First Janissary, or above him if it´s necessary. If anyone could do it, sir, it´s you.» Hordvik said. Mark continued pacing. He knew the young man was right. Susan Atlas was too special to let go so easily.

«If you need a character witness, I´ll be more than willing.» Hordvik said. That made Mark chuckle.

«No thank you, Head tacticus. That would only put you on the spot with her. No, I want you to stay here, and stay out of this. I do appreciate your concern, but like you said, if anyone can do anything about this, it is me.»

Mark stopped pacing. He suddenly knew what to do. It was a risky option, and it depended on finding out if blood really was thicker than water, something Mark wasn´t entirely certain of. Also, there were a lot of unknowns and even more guesswork. He couldn´t see any other options though. He smiled at Hordvik.

«First of all, relax. She´s a known heroine, remember? The ceremony was broadcast all over the Covenant. They need to take that into consideration.» Mark said. The young man shook his head.

«That won´t save her.» he said. Mark nodded.

«You´re right, it won´t save her. But it will buy her some time.»

Mark saw the confusion in the younger man´s face. In fact, it was Mark and young Hordvik who needed time. Time to put Mark´s plan into effect.

«Your father has access to security level four, right?» he asked. Hordvik nodded. Of course. The Hordviks were a prominent family in the Covenant, had been since long before Descent, and Even´s father sat on the Luna Council, an advisory board that some thought had far too much influence over the Head Servant. Mark, though not a formal member of the Council due to his lack of Moon heritage, had often consulted with them, but as time went by, he tended to work more directly with the Head Servant, especially since Alexej Lunde trusted his advice and the two had developed a good working relationship.

«It is time for you and your father to reconcile your differences.» he said. Hordvik just stared at him.

«I don´t care what you have to do. But after all, you already took the first step coming here to Legacy. Now, all you have to do is reach out personally.»

«Why?» Hordvik said. Mark furrowed his brows.

«Your father has a level four security access. I do as well, but I am monitored. Your father is in charge of all top level security monitoring. I´m sure, if you showed an interest in intel and security work, you could manage to persuade him to let you into level three.»

«I could get level three easily without asking him for it.» Hordvik replied. «I already need that clearance in my current work, so I was planning on getting it from the personnel security office.»

Mark sat down next to him shaking his head.

«Even better, but don´t go to PS. Instead, go to your father and make up. Then, once you have gone through the motions, done all the crying and embracing and all that, you mention your work. He has level four, there is nothing you need to hide from him. Work, got it?» he said. Hordvik just stared in front of him, and Mark knew this had to be difficult. For many years father and son hadn´t spoken, and now he expected the young man to try and heal such a wound in what must seem like an instant.

«From there, you have to feel your way forward. And when the timing is right, you complain that personnel security has given you an inadequate clearance. No bitching, just hint at not being able to do a proper job.» Hordvik turned toward Mark. It looked like he was beginning to grasp what he had in mind.

«So, instead of PS granting me level three access, I circumvent them by going through my father. That way, I would get clearance immediately, and they wouldn´t even know I had it until he remembered to inform them.» Mark grinned, nodding eagerly.

«And even if he did it at once, with all the forms and the bureaucracy it would easily take two to three days until monitoring took effect.» Mark leaned back. The young man was a good ally; intelligent, well trained, and he had very good connections. This could actually work.

«In that time, you can move undetected all over the level three system, as long as you cloak your movements. And you will have time to hide your tracks afterward.» he said.

«Don´t you think my father would be monitoring me personally? You know how he can be.» Hordvik said.

«Sure, that can happen. But in that case, you will have to make up a story and stick with it. Curiousity, perhaps, or a more desperate need to know. But whatever you do, don´t let him see your connection to me, or to miss Atlas. Remember, he wants to believe you´re back on track. And he might even help you hide some of your moves, as long as he believes your story.»

«So what is it you want me to do once I have access?» Hordvik said. Mark walked over to his desk, and scribbled a note. He handed it over to the young man, who looked at it.

«A name.» he said. Mark nodded.

«Level three includes certain drone footage from Warden territory. In at least one of those files, this person should be part of that footage. I want you to get me the location of that particular file and the key code for it.» he smiled. 

«You find that file, and I will take care of miss Atlas.»

 

RIFT - Scene 40.

SUE

«Get on your feet.» the guard said as the door burst open. Sue jumped. She had been so lost in thought, she hadn´t noticed the buzz of the locks or the ping of the key.

«You´re lucky, Tacticus. Someone up high decided to give you a second chance. Probably since you´re a decorated hero. So let´s move it, shall we?»

Sue got up. She didn´t have any of her things here, and come to think of it, she didn´t own anything important anyway. She exited her cell, and saw there were two more guards outside. She let them lead on, and they all walked down the hall and into an elevator. Once the doors slid shut, one of the guards touched a panel and the elevator began moving. Up, she thought.

Ping.

The doors opened, and she felt the breeze blow straight through her clothes. It was a cold day, and she wasn´t dressed for it. The chill felt good though, after three days in a cell with no windows and no communication except for a few short phrases with the guards. First Janissary Ivanov hadn´t even come to gloat, which surprised her. She squinted in the harsh light, and looked at the skyline of Legacy, the capital city of the Covenant. The view, even from inside the elevator, was magnificent. The Moon people had built an empire out f the ashes, and if she hadn´t know of the cost, she would have been impressed. Now though, after learning of the slavery and the mass murders and the way they controlled people´s minds with indoctrination and medication, all she felt was disgust. 

She took a few steps out of the elevator and saw the tethered airship off to the right. And a man in long robes standing beside the boarding basket. A man she had seen a few times before. The man who had sent for her to come to Legacy. She walked over to him, the guards two steps behind. Counselor Novak motioned for the guards to stand back, and they left her alone with him.

«Counselor.» she said, dipping her head slightly.

«Atlas.» he replied, his face grave.

«Some predicament you got yourself into.» he said. She didn´t know what to say, so she kept quiet.

«Luckily, I managed to persuade the Head Servant that neither imprisonment nor execution of a decorated heroine, whose reputation is known throughout the Covenant, would serve to please the public. So we found another solution.» A half-smile appeared on his face.

«Suffice to say, First Janissary Ivanov wasn´t pleased.» he said, and winked.

«Why did you do this for me?» Sue said.

«Well, that´s a long story. But let me just say this; I think you have it in you to bring about change. A change for the better.» And she realized he must know.

«But what can I do? I´m not even a citizen? And if I ever get there, I will still be English.» she said. She met his eyes, old and wise.

«And the Moon blood rules, right?» he said quietly. She nodded. He turned and looked at the skyline, and she came and stood beside him, covering herself with her arms to keep the cold out. Novak spoke again, while staring out at the sprawling city.

«Sometimes one have to take great risks in order to produce great change. By taking you out of the murderous clutches of Ivanov, I took a great risk. Some day there will be payback. And a common friend of ours - you don´t need to know the name - have taken great risks as well in the past few days. 

Now it´s your turn.» he turned back to the airship.

«Once you get on that ship, your life is in dire peril.» he said. She looked at him, trying to read that look in his eyes. Concern, determination, he was a hard man to read.

«I they were smart, they would shoot it down today. But they won´t because they have another way. A way that will look better in the eyes of the public. But it can happen at any time. So be ready.»

For what, she was about to say, but an airman came out of the basket, and motioned for her to enter.

Counselor Novak leaned over and whispered in her ear before she had to go.

«Remember, Susan. Bliss is ignorance. Not the other way around.»

 

RIFT - Scene 41.

SUE

For the last hour Sue had been blindfolded, and she squinted against the harsh sunlight. The air felt warmer than back in Legacy, and for a moment she feared that she had been sent back to Charlestown, kicked out of Service. Or worse, that she had been sent further south, to the Corpus in the far south, to slave under the whip until she wasted away.

Then she saw the uniforms. Not spit shine, disciplined like the Janissaries, but rather a loose resemblance binding individualistic bents together. She looked around. Some of the men wore beards, and many were laughing or chatting loudly. A large, bearded man in a colorful shirt stood waiting, but she noticed that even he wore elements of uniform than identified him as part of this outfit.

The Wardens.

It was the only logical explanation.

«Welcome, initiate Atlas.» the man said.

«Sorry about the rank, but our way is different. You´ll have to work your way up.» he grinned, a perfect set of teeth showing through his beard. And now that she looked closer, she saw that he was Moon blood, although the ruffled facade hid it well.

«Having read your resume, I have no doubt you will excel here as well. In fact, we have already decided on your specialization.» She looked at him quizzically.

«Why, you are a natural born ranger, of course. But let´s get you set up first.» He led her on, and they walked through the camp. The man talked and Sue listened. She was too stunned, realizing what lengths Counselor Novak must have gone to in order for her to transfer her instead of to the Corpus, or simply disappear. 

«You will have a few days to learn the ropes. Then, in a few days, the rangers will come pick you up. You will be only a full Warden once you have field experience. Unfortunately, Warden experience is the only thing that counts. We´re quite busy these days though, so it shouldn´t take long.»

They reached a large building, red brick walls and few windows.

«Alright then, here we are. A senior Warden will help you get settled in, and then you will spend the next few days with the other initiates. Just follow their lead, but don´t let these slackers drag you with them.» He laughed.

«You see, most initiates from the last batch have already progressed to full Warden by now. Those who remain just didn´t make the cut yet. Oh, we will make wardens of them still. Sometimes it just takes a little more time.» he said. Sue smiled, and looked was about to open the door, when the man, who still hadn´t introduced himself, stopped her.

«And by the way, Atlas. I understand you have a friend here, Warden Wagner, right?» She nodded.

«He´s in the middle of his specialization, and made full Warden just a few weeks ago. He is very busy, so please, just leave him be for now.»

Then he turned and walked away, without waiting for a reply. Sue watched him for a moment, wondering what his role could be, and decided he looked like someone she ought to listen to. His natural authority needed no rank, and the way he acted left no doubt that this guy held a very high rank - he just didn´t have a need to flash it around.

She entered the building, wondering how her new life here would be like. She wanted to start anew, but in the back of her mind she knew there there was no such thing as starting anew. Every human being was a product of their experiences, and hers had already paved a path from which there would be no return.

******

Eager to know when RIFT II (working title) comes out?

Or perhaps you´d like a free ebook?

Or maybe you just wanna stay in touch?

Sign up to my newsletter (irregular but relevant) here!

RIFT - Scene 36, 37 and 38

Still following the writing process? Cool! I´ve got three more scenes for you here on the blog. Remember, this is first draft material, so the finished novel is quite different. So if you just want to read for enjoyment, I´d suggest you go buy the book instead. This is for those of you who get something out of watching a book grow from random scribblings. So here it is:

 

RIFT - scene 36

MARK

He stood watching as she entered the great atrium of Strategos Command. The young woman had impressed her the first time, and he had great hopes for her still. It could go two ways. She could do extremely well, if she managed to shed doubt and trust her superiors. If she would give herself to the Covenant and all its splendors, she could be one of the first not of the Moon blood to rise all the way to high command. That would be evolution, and Mark Novak would be happy with such a development. If the Covenant changed from within, nothing would be better. 

He had a hard time believing in such a way though. There were too many obstacles, too many ways for such a person to meet with an abrupt halt. That would leave her a medicated citizens who told stories of glory days past, a wreck of a human being inside a near perfect exterior, a poster girl to set an example for future generations of English, from every corner of the Covenant.

The other way was the one he feared the most, but secretly dreamed of. To finally tear down the injustices, the false truths, and the villainy that kept a nation of murderers and slavers afloat. If she saw through the lies, and managed to resist, she might be just the one to succeed. She would have to be careful though. A lot of people would do whatever it took to keep the status quo.

Mark chuckled. Time would tell, and either way, he had more cards up his sleeve. The man could make a lot of changes as well. He wasn´t as charismatic as Susan, but he commanded respect, and he had seen trough many of the lies already. His greatest obstacle was his heritage, his loyalty to his people. Even though he had done his best to deny it for years, he was still of the Moon blood, and he didn´t stand a chance of leading the English if it came to blows.

Perhaps if the two could be brought together…

That had been one of his ideas when he sent the letter, requesting her presence here. Of course, he had other plans as well, but making sure these two wasn´t too far from each other was part of his schemes.

A sub tacticus was leading her away from the atrium now, and he figured he would stay in the background for now. His interest in her might raise suspicions. After all, nobody were above suspicion, when the survival of the Covenant was on stake.

No, he would see how this played out, keeping his cards to his chest (???) and wait for one of the others to make the first move.

He walked back to the lounge chair and sat down. Lately his joints had begun to give him some grief. But what could you expect? He definitely needed the treatment soon. He chuckled again.

He was the oldest man alive, and he intended to keep it that way.

 

RIFT - scene 37

SUE

The atrium had been impressive. The flags hanging from the surrounding balconies, black and white Covenant banners, surrounding the great open space, where men and women in every uniform she knew and quite a few others milled about. She recognized every janissary variation, of course, even those she had never seen in person, such as the Intelligence operatives and Military Academy staff. The Warden uniforms were familiar to her, but only because she had seen the First Warden at Initiation day. There were few from the Corpus, as expected, while the Students had a number of Scholars assigned here, it seemed.

Other uniforms were completely unfamiliar to her, and it surprised her that there were so many of them. But then she had never seen Moon blood units, except for airmen, and from theory she knew there were entire units, numbering thousands of people, that were comprised entirely from Moon people volunteers. 

Everyone, regardless of unit or service, had one thing in common though, with hardly any exceptions. They were all Moon blood. Even the few from the Corpus had the distinct features of the Moon people.

She wondered why Counselor Novak had sent for her.

«Just follow me through here,» the sub tacticus leading her said. He was young, barely seventeen, but had an air of authority about him, the kind that came from the knowledge that he was born to command. She had seen it so many times now, that she didn´t pay attention to it anymore. She just followed the youngster, wondering where they´d end up.

«This is the Janissary education office, where all basic and advanced training for janissaries are planned.» he said, opening the door for her. She entered, and saw three officers, from head tacticus to meridian, sat in front of computers, swiping documents and images back and forth.

«You will sit over there,» he pointed at the desk in the back of the room. The others will fill you in. Just get yourself familiarized with the tech and get to know your colleagues, and tomorrow you will receive your orders.»

Sue took a step toward her desk, and turned toward the kid.

«My orders?» she said, wondering what she could possibly contribute with here.

«Your task. A word of your advice,» he said, puffing out his chest. Sue almost laughed, waiting for him to dispense from his vast experience, «Just do your job her, whatever it is, and you will be on your way to greatness. I saw you, you know.» Sue looked at him quizzically.

«The ceremony. With Head Servant Lunde.» he said, extending his hand. She took it.

«It´s an honor, Tacticus Atlas.» he said, and pivoted before he marched out.

As soon as the door closed, someone guffawed from behind her. She turned around.

«Tacticus Atlas. How on Earth did you end up in this place?» Hordvik said. Sue let out a surprised sound (?), and walked over to him.

«Even,» she said. He smiled knowingly.

«Finally learned my first name, Susan? Well, you couldn´t keep calling me Tac now.» he said, his silver star stating the obvious. She smiled back.

«Head tacticus now. So you finally abandoned that footsoldier forever thing, did you?» 

«Hell no! They had to give me a star for me to work here, but if they try to make me meridian or something, I´d like to see them try.» he said, grinning. Then he walked with her to her desk, where a computer stood waiting for her command. A blue disc flashed softly on the screen, inviting her to touch it. Sue had never used one of these before. The computers they used back in Charlestown were worn, and fixed up more than once. This one didn´t even have a keyboard. She sat down on the perfectly ergonomic chair, and looked at the screen.

«How am I going to write? I assume they want me to write something.» she said. Even Hordvik leaned over and pressed a finger to the blue disc. It turned red,but nothing happened.

«See? It´s already configured for you. I can´t open it.» he said. Sue put a finger on the disc, and it expanded, revealing a landscape of icons and groups of images.

«So, here on the right are your communication tools. On the left are shared and personal files. Access to shared files depends on your security level. On top are utilities, such as clock, calendar, notes and so on, and once you get started, all your active stuff will be down at the bottom. In the center you will find your current assignments. Don´t worry, that one tends to fill up quickly.» Sue saw there was only one icon in the middle. Welcome, it said. She assumed that was a good place to start.

«How do I control it?» she said. Back in Charlestown they had swipe pads and control sticks in addition to the keyboard.

«Look, try to forget how you did things back home. This system is designed to be intuitive. See an icon you´d like to open, just press it, tap it or spread your fingers from the middle. The system will learn your habits. Wanna switch screens while multitasking, just use your palm, swipe from side to side. Wanna close something, just bring your fingers together or double tap. Everything is designed so that you figure stuff like that out yourself, and find methods that work for you.» He looked at her, while she tapped the Welcome icon.

«Thanks.» she said. 

«Just one more question.» she looked up at him.

«Where is the keyboard?» he laughed.

«Alright, just look.» he opened her message folder. It had just one item, some kind of standard welcome message. He tapped an icon to produce a new message. A cursor blinked in the recipient field, and he tapped it. A blue light projected a perfectly ordinary keyboard onto her desk, right where a physical keyboard would have been placed.

«Now you can write.» he said.

 

RIFT - scene 38

SUE

The welcome icon produced a tutorial for using the computer, and several documents regarding her work in Strategos Command, rules, regulations, work expectations and so on. There was also a lang questionnaire, and she filled it out meticulously. A few seconds after she had completed it, she received a message.

The message was automated, a profile sheet based on her answers on the questionnaire. She didn´t pay attention to it - after all, her answers were only partially honest, so an analysis based on them would be faulty in any case.

She looked around. Even sat with his face to his screen, working on one thing or another. The other two hadn´t even said hello yet. As far as she could tell, they were too preoccupied with their tasks to even register her presence. Some people might think this was a good job, she thought. She dreaded the prospect of spending her days in this room, in front of this computer, with people who didn´t even speak to her. Why had Counselor Novak wanted her to come? She sighed deeply, and turned back to her own screen.

A new task had appeared at the center of her screen. She tapped it, and a map opened up. It showed an area stretching from just west of Camp Gustavson to east of Camp Sharpe. The only town on the map was Fort Winter, Keisha´s home town.

«Please indicate the location of your capture.» the message below the map read. She was puzzled. Was this her task? She tapped the map once, just north of the small dot indicating Camp Gustavson.

The map disappeared, and an image appeared. It was a woman, who looked vaguely familiar. Below her face was a short resume. 

 

Colonel (Sub Strategos) Renee Marsden Dubois.

Wanted for subversive activity, specification restricted.

Status: Missing.

Last known location: North of Camp Gustavson.

Extremely dangerous.

Terminate on sight.

 

Sue remembered. 

Renee, who had told her of the world, and how the Moon people had enslaved them all. 

The image disappeared.

 

«Please answer the following questions.» the instructions said.

Sue waited, a knot forming in her stomach. What was going on?

 

«Do you remember this face?» - YES

«Did this woman speak to you?» - YES

«Do you remember anything she told you?» - YES

«Do you remember everything she told you?» - NO

«Did she mention the history of the Covenant?» - YES

«Do you believe she told you the truth?» - …

 

Sue hesitated. She knew she shouldn´t answer YES. That would condemn her in an instant. She ought to tap NO, right now. She moved her finger closer to the screen, but still she hesitated. Maybe it was a desire to finally stand up to them. Maybe it was uncertainty - after all, she had no way of knowing. Maybe it was the memories, pushing through a barrier, somehow tearing it down, bringing it all back. Even the memory of how the Covenant soldier had stood over Rory while he laid helpless in bed. 

A second rate citizen, expendable, Renee had said. And while that had felt like a blow, it hadn´t shocked her. Not really. She had known.

Terminate subject. Like mandatory euthanasia. Once you´re spent, you get terminated. She felt her blood boiling. They had tried to make her forget. To make her a pliable little subject again. Medicate her, take away those memories that had shown her the truth. Ignorance is Bliss, the soldier had said as she passed out. 

She remembered.

And still she hesitated.

She tapped the NO icon franticly. Too late. She turned away from the screen.

The men who had been sitting in front of the screens got up. They looked straight at her. Both were holding sidearms, pointing at her. Hordvik stood up as well, looking confused and angry at the same time.

«What the hell is going on?» he said.

«Sit down, Hordvik.» one of the men said, moving his weapon slightly.

The door opened, and a man walked in, followed by armed soldiers. She instantly recognized the face. The last time she had seen it, he had been looking straight at her, a threat apparent in those ice blue eyes. She had almost forgotten. He stood in front of her now, all six feet, hovering over her. That same black suit, white close cropped hair, and a face set in stone.

«First Janissary Ivanov.» Sue said, knowing she was lost. He didn´t even speak her name.

«Take this traitor away.» he said.

 

****

Want to be the first to know of my new releases, get the best discount and even a free ebook?

Sign up here!

RIFT - Scene 33, 34 and 35

I´ve got have more RIFT scenes for you guys! And as usual: this is first draft material. Enough said... ;-)

You can find the finished novel here: http://www.amazon.com/RIFT-Andreas-Christensen-ebook/dp/B00RM5HDYC/ (US and international readers) or here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/RIFT-Andreas-Christensen-ebook/dp/B00RM5HDYC/ (UK).

Just so you all know, once I´ve posted every scene from the first draft, I will begin taking down the scenes again (don´t worry, I´ll start with scene 1, so you will have a fair amount of time to read through all of them). So if you want to follow the process all the way, you will have to read them as I post them - you won´t find them here if you wait for too long!

Enough talk, here´s RIFT!

 

RIFT - scene 33

DAVE

«You shouldn´t tinker with that» Dave sat up, and removed his hands from the keyboard as Senior Technician Hasle entered. Hasle had gone easy on him for the last week since Dave returned from his stint out in the field. The old man probably knew. Probably been there once. Dave couldn´t remember all the details, only that there had been something frightening, something trying to kill them all. Monsters. They had gotten Greer, or so he thought. He had one image of Greer lying face down in a pool of blood. Another image of a senior Warden pushing him aside and shooting at something on the ground. Blurry images of firing his weapon, of a flicker inside his goggles disturbing his vision, of Greer shouting something.

What was he shouting? Dave gave up trying to remember. When he thought of it, he didn´t really want to remember. He´d had nightmares three nights in a row now. Nightmares of monsters trying to grab him, clawing at him, before they suddenly morphed into a familiar face. Greer, or Liz, or his Mom. «Please.» they would say, and he´d wake up, sweating and shivering.

«I´m just trying to see if the firewall can hold against a trojan hidden inside a secure file. You know, using the secure file to gain access, old style, but with better camouflage for the trojan.» he said. Hasle just laughed.

«Come on Wagner, you don´t think that haven´t been thought of? There´s a reason they call it old style, you know.» Dave nodded. He´d been less creative lately. Probably the nightmares, lack of sleep. Or the drugs. He knew the vaccine had protected him, but why did it have to make him so groggy?

«I think I need a break.» he said. Hasle just smiled, and walked over to his own work station.

«It gets better. Just give it time.» the old man said, and Dave suddenly felt an enormous gratitude toward his mentor. (More here)

«Thanks.» Dave said, and walked out.

Outside, he squinted in the harsh sunlight. He walked over to his favorite spot, and sat down. He closed his eyes, feeling the warm rays, the cool breeze and the chirping of little birds in the trees above. A fly buzzed by, and he raised a hand to swat at it.

He sat up, eyes wide open.

The buzzing.

The drone.

 

RIFT - scene 34

SUE

«Who is Buchanan» Sue asked. It sounded like an English name, but that couldn´t be.

«Who, and what.» Renee said, and got up from her chair, closing her tablet and taking her empty cup with her.

«I´m sorry Susan, but you will have to find out for yourself. There´s so much you should know, and we have so little time…» She checked her watch. It had a small screen, and a voice suddenly came out of it. Sue couldn´t hear the words though. She strained her neck and recognized the face of Dr. Gregory. Renee closed the screen with a quick swipe, hiding the face of her twin brother.

«They are coming. Took them long enough…» she said, unholstering her sidearm. Sue looked at her quizzically.

«I would love to stay,» Renee said, «but I´m afraid our time is up, and I´m needed elsewhere.» She smiled briefly, extending her right arm.

«Ordered elsewhere, that is. It has been a pleasure to meet you, Susan Atlas. I hope we´ll meet again, some day.» Sue shook her hand, still too surprised to say anything, and Renee quickly walked out, closing the door behind her.

What was that, Sue thought. She looked over at poor Rory, who would never wake again, would never learn what she had learned. Who would soon be just one more victim of these cruel lies. Lies that had formed their lives, and the lives of those before them. Centuries, built upon lies. 

She sat for a while, considering the implications. How her life had turned upside down in just a couple of hours. Renee should have been an enemy, but instead she had shown her that there was a world outside the Covenant, and that nothing was as it seemed. Nothing was as she had been taught. It was too much. What was it Renee had said, scumbags are coming. What did she mean?

The realization came slowly to her, and a chill went down her spine.

«No,» she whispered, «I´m not ready. Oh please, not yet.»

The explosion shook the ground beneath her, and the door burst open.»

«Two located. One incapacitated, one possible recovery.» the janissary said. Sue managed to have a good look at him as three others entered the room behind him. No, not janissaries, although the suits looked similar. The weapons looked wrong. And the helmets were different as well.

«Sub tacticus Susan Atlas?» the first one asked, and she nodded. He removed his helmet. There was no mistaking the features. Pure Moon blood.

«No..» she whispered again, although she didn´t think anyone heard.

«Ingolfson, Igorov, stand by for exfil. Olsen, you know what to do.» he said. The one named Olsen walked over to Rory and had a look. Then he shook his head.

«Terminate subject.» the leader said, and Olsen raised his gun. One shot to the head, and Rory was dead. Sue heard a scream grow louder and louder until she couldn´t remain standing and had to cover her ears with her hands.

«Let´s move her out.» the leader shouted above the scream. Olsen came over and grabbed something in his breast pocket. Sue never felt the syringe before the substance began to make her feel dizzy. Only then did she realize the scream had come from her. 

Olsen leaned over.

«Ignorance is bliss.» he whispered in her ear.

 

RIFT - scene 35

SUE

She heaved for air as she sat up. The sheets were wet with sweat, and her heart was thumping hard. A dream. A nightmare. She´d had a few of those since being snatched back from captivity. She mostly dreamed of Rory, of strangers speaking friendly to her, before her head world exploded in pain. Sometimes she could see the faces of her team members from the QRF, all dead now. Julian and Keisha came to see her, and she had hugged them both. At least some of her friends were still alive.

She got out of bed, and pulled on her bathrobe. Her shoulder was stiff and unwieldy, but the pain was gone. She flexed her arm a little. They enslaved you. A woman´s voice, faint, like a whisper. That was one of the memories that seemed to return again and again. Once she took the pills the doctors administered to her though, the voice faded away. She knew it would return, but every day the memory got weaker. The dizzying feeling of trying to remember something only got stronger though. She had no idea what it all meant; it was as if everything was buried just below consciousness, trying to break out into the open but kept tightly behind a barrier that grew stronger every day. She walked over to the water cooler and got herself a drink. 

She didn´t remember much from her days of captivity, but it didn´t seem like the intel officers cared much. All they seemed to care about was that she was alright. It was touching, in a way, but it still didn´t make sense. Still, she answered their questions whenever they came, and cooperated as much as she could. 

Some thoughts she kept to herself though. Like the words that pressed on in the back of her mind. They enslaved you. And some details were so blurry, she didn´t entirely trust them. Like that of the woman´s face, looking so similar to the doctor. As far as she knew it could be one of the doctors in Camp Gustavson, tending to her after her release. They had both spoken English, so she was probably just confused.

A knock on the door broke her train of thought.

«Come in.» she said, tying a knot around her waist to keep her robe in place. A tacticus in a fresh uniform entered. He looked around, and Sue was suddenly aware her drapes were still shut, keeping the light out. She smiled and walked to the control panel. She pushed the button, and the drapes folded up along the sides of the great window. She looked out for a moment and saw it was a sunny day. The view toward the green hills was magnificent, and she found herself staring. She turned back to the tacticus.

«I´m sorry, sir. What can I do for you?» The stone faced tacticus produced a flat envelope and delivered it to her. She cocked her head, and he didn´t wait for her question.

«You are requested in Legacy, sub tacticus Atlas. Personal request from Counselor Novak himself.» Sue gaped. She opened the envelope, tearing off the seal and accidentally ripping into the letter inside. She took it out and held the torn piece so that she could read it.

Counselor Novak had signed the letter, an order to immediately take the first airlift back to Legacy. There she was to present herself to Strategos Command, where they would find a suitable assignment for her. He ended the letter by congratulating her on her heroic performance, and her new rank.

Sue held out the single iron bar, and the tacticus finally smiled.

«I would help you with that, if you wore your uniform.» he said. 

«Congratulations, Tacticus Atlas.»

 

*****

So, how about you just go ahead and sign up to my newsletter?

I´ll give you a free ebook, you´ll get the best discounts (last one was 76% off!), and sometimes I just randomly give away signed paperbacks!

And I´d love to have you in my inner circle!

Sign up here!

RIFT - Scene 30, 31 and 32

So I have a few more RIFT scenes for you guys. Now, RIFT is out on Amazon, so this is purely for those of you wanting to have a look at the process from first draft to finished novel. It´s rough, with all kinds of mistakes, but it´s also the most important part of the writing process. Without a decent story in the first place, no amount of editing will make it readable, in my opinion. But thorough editing is the second most important part, so if you can´t stomach characters switching around, story inconsistencies, repetitive word choice, or poor spelling and punctuation, PLEASE just go to Amazon and get it there, instead of reading this!

But if you DO understand how much a book can change from first draft - and if it doesn´t interfere with your enjoyment of reading the finished novel, then be my guest when I invite you into my writing process. Here it is!

RIFT - scene 30

DAVE

They began the grueling task of checking if any of the monsters were still alive. A shot rang out, and Dave saw Scott standing over one of the largest of the beasts. They kept walking.

A medium sized monster further away was still alive, and tried to drag itself away from them. Dave and one of the seniors hurried over, but when they reached the monster, it rolled over. A small sound, a whine, made him pause. Dave thought there was something behind it. Bang. The senior Warden, who should be watching for snipers, finished it off.

«Never hesitate. They can get to you.» she said. Dave looked at the monster again as it lay still. It was dead alright.

But there it was again, a whimper, almost like a cat meowing. The larger one had been covering something. Dave walked around it and pushed with his boot at the dead form. It almost made him sick, although something, like a wall, made his emotions feel more distant than usual. He pushed again, and he saw a small claw sticking out.

«Oh man.» he said. «It´s got a baby.» Dave took a step back. The senior cursed and kicked the larger form away.

«Oh crap,» the senior Warden said, before he fired a burst at the two forms. The mother and the child. Dave stood speechless, and the flicker inside his goggles intensified. He took another step back. 

He was about to rip his goggles off, when Kirilov grabbed his hand hard.

«Don´t.» the older Warden said. Dave tried to object, but Kirilov cut him off.

«Just don´t. Or you will wish you didn´t. Trust me.» Something in his voice made Dave comply. A shiver, or was it something Dave imagined.

«Let´s move out, Wardens. Time to go home.» Kirilov said, and everyone followed, eager to get away from it all. Dave hesitated, before he followed like the others.

Dave wondered why nobody was watching for the sniper, but then again, the senior Wardens seemed to know their way around, so it was probably safe. Snipers probably left as soon as they had fired their deadly shots anyway. That had to be it, since nobody seemed concerned with it anymore.

«Just through the trees, and the airship will come pick us up.» Kirilov said. Dave looked forward to getting on the airship. He hoped he would never have to go out like this again. This was ranger business, and he was more convinced than ever that Tech was right for him. If he got a chance he could even find a way to fix the goggles.

They passed Greer´s body, and Dave was about to stop, when Kirilov slapped his back.

«Care for the living, Wagner. He´s dead, and now he returns to the Earth that birthed him.» Dave looked at the senior Warden, noticing he had a firm grip on his rifle. Determination. He knew the Moon people had notions about death that they never spoke of, and while English were left to rot, anyone of the Moon blood who fell on the battlefield would be taken back. The rumors said their ashes would be sent back to their home world, from which their people had come. Probably just rumors.

Dave glanced back at Greer once more. He lay so still, and there was almost no blood around the small hole in his back. It was almost as if he was asleep, except for the pool of blood he laid in. Dave walked hesitantly along with the others. Something was off, but he couldn´t put his finger to what it was.

He still felt as though his mind worked just fine after his brief disorientation. 

It wasn´t until he sat safely on the airship, on his way back from the slaughter, that he realized how wrong he had been. The realization made him sweat as he looked around at the others, aware, for the first time, of how wrong everything was.

Greer´s chest had exploded.

The exit wound in his chest.

He had been shot from behind.

His final words, what have you done to us?

He had been shot because of those words.

 

RIFT - scene 31

DAVE

He felt sick. Someone had shot Greer, murdered him for what he had said. What have you done to us, he had said. 

To us. That was the part Dave couldn´t understand, mo matter how much he tried. He could easily understand why someone might react like Greer to the carnage back there. Given the chance, the monsters would probably have slaughetered them all easily, but he could empathize with Greer feeling bad, sick even, from killing the beasts from a distance, one after the other until all were dead. He had heard of other boys in school, going out bow- hunting with their fathers, and after bragging about it in public they would admit to feeling a little queasy, no matter how necessary the hunt was for feeding the family. Dave had never had to hunt, but he could easily understand how that might make you feel.

To us. The words wouldn´t leave him alone. Greer hadn´t been the softest of them either. Dave knew he had applied to the Rangers, although he only made Guards. But he had seemed tougher than all of them, excepting Scott perhaps.

Kirilov scooted over, and produced a small pack.

«Alright guys, you´ve just passed your final initiate test. You´re full Wardens now.» he said, grinning. He opened the pack and let three small blue pills roll out into his palm.

«One each. Final stages of the vaccine.» They all got one, and Dave swallowed his with some water from his half full canteen. Better than taking another shot. 

«And now, the red one.» Kirilov said, producing three more pills. They all took them, and sloshed them down. Kirilov went to talk to the pilots, while Dave sat lost in thought. When the senior Warden returned, Dave considered telling him of his ideas. Of how Greer had been murdered. Of his final words. Perhaps Kirilov would understand what they meant.

What was it Greer had said? Dave shook his head, struggling to remember. His head was spinning. He needed to remember the exact words. For some reason, the words were important. Which words? What was happening to him? He blinked once, twice, and looked around. Baldwin was sitting next to him, and Scott sat in front with one of the seniors. Kirilov returned, and Dave was about to speak to him, when he found he didn´t know what he wanted to say. He laughed softly at his own stupidity. He turned, to tell Greer what he had thought.

Where was Greer?

He considered getting some sleep, but found he wasn´t tired. Actually, he was feeling better than ever. Stronger. More alert. He looked at Kirilov, and almost guffawed when he saw that the senior Warden had unusually long teeth. Why hadn´t he noticed before? His eyes gazed over at Baldwin. Wasn´t he clean shaven? Now he had a long, bushy beard. Strange. He looked at Scott, and sat up straight. His eyes were glowing red, and his grin exposed a set of sharp fangs. 

What the hell is happening here, Dave though.

«Easy now, Wagner.» he heard Kirilov´s voice, a note too gravelly. His vision was quickly fading. Scott was laughing hysterically in the background, and an inhuman shriek came from somewhere far away.

«What is happening to me?» he whispered. Kirilov´s reply was a growl, almost incomprehensible.

«You are a Warden now. Time to let go, Wagner.» Kirilov´s voice grew more distant, and his final words were  so far away, Dave wondered if he had actually spoken, or if it was all in his own head.

«Ignorance is Bliss.»

 

RIFT - scene 32

SUE

«So you are telling me there´s a world out there, with people living their lives, that we are not even allowed to know about? That people get to live until they die from natural causes? That the Moon people didn´t save us at all?» Sue shook her head, dumbfounded, and Renee smiled at her.

«I know it´s a lot to process, Atlas. And you are more eager than most. Hah, most of those we capture don´t believe any of it, at first. They cling to their beliefs like it´s a loved one, even when we show them proof of the opposite.» She lay the books away, and produced her tablet. While she swiped and moved boxes and images around, renee continued speaking.

«Most end up crying, whether it is from relief or anger or sadness, or all at once, I don´t know. That´s when I know they are beginning to understand. And nobody ever want to return. Not even those of the Moon blood. Can you imagine that?»

Sue stared at the map again.

«I knew there had to be others out there, but they taught us you were primitives, scavengers, savages… That the Covenant was a lone beacon of civilization. And yet, look at this map; the Covenant is so small!»

«Beacon of civilization…» Renee grumbled. «Look at this.» she said, pointing at a red dot by the sea, far to the north.

«Here´s Hudson, our capital. Built from scratch after the Fall, 99% underground to protect the people from air raids from the south. Like most of our cities. The Moon people think they have us subdued, but we never succumbed to them. One day we will set your people free as well. After all, we are the same.» There was a silence between them while Sue studied the map. Hudson was about the same distance from the Westfold as Legacy, although north instead of south - east.

«Why do some of you speak English, while others speak… I don´t know what your language is called…» Sue trailed off, as Renee began to laugh.

«Don´t you see, Atlas? We are also English, at least part English. And French, although you probably have no idea what that means.» The officer´s laugh died, and she began to explain.

«Before the Fall, English and French lived together in this land. Most of the English dominated areas fell, our entire western part of this country, while the French in the East managed to save most of their kind. Many of the English as well. And in the frantic final weeks, a lot of people fled here from the south - your descendants - because it was said that this land would be spared. Well, it wasn´t, not completely, but it fared better than the lands of the south, what you know as the Covenant. So in a way it is true that the Moon people saved your people, or what remained of it. But at what cost? They enslaved you! Made themselves your masters while you were weak. Those who wouldn´t comply fled north, or ended up in camps. That´s where they perfected their techniques for euthanasia, by the way. And my people, still too weak to give them a proper fight, had to stand by and watch what they did to you.» She fumed now, while her tablet produced images of war, prison camps, piles of dead bodies.

«But you did fight,» Sue said. Renee stopped, and waited for her to speak.

«You have fought for as long as anyone can remember. That´s what we were taught in school. That is true at least, isn´t it?» Renee shook her head and closed her eyes.

«No, we didn´t. We have never fought, except in self defense, to defend our villages, our children. Once it became clear that the Covenant was too strong to beat, we dug in. We have always skirmished, prodded your defenses, raided for information, for technology. But we have never tried to tear down the Covenant, as we should have. Because it would have meant the end of us.» Sue could see she was deep in thought. After a moment, Renee looked into her eyes. 

«There is only one power that could tear down the Covenant, and sadly, it is not us.»

«Who is it?» Sue asked. She felt cheated, and a simmering anger at everything she had been taught, everything she had taken for truth, her entire life a lie.

«Who could set things right?» Renee looked at her, as if considering her next words. In the end, one word was enough.

«Buchanan.»

********

If you haven´t yet signed up for my newsletter, this would be a good time!

I give my newsletter subscribers the best deals, a free ebook (ALIVE) and sometimes even signed paperbacks!

And I´d love to get in touch with you!

You can sign up here.

RIFT is out

Hi there!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday, and if you haven´t heard it from me yet, I wish you all a happy new year!

So, this is just a short post, to let you know RIFT is out on Amazon!

Here´s the US / International link: http://www.amazon.com/RIFT-Andreas-Christensen-ebook/dp/B00RM5HDYC/

And here´s the UK link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/RIFT-Andreas-Christensen-ebook/dp/B00RM5HDYC/

For those who buy on other Amazon stores, you can search for the ASIN number B00RM5HDYC and you´ll find it.

So that´s it for now. I´m waiting for the first reviews to trickle in, and I really do hope you like this book. After all, this is a new series (even though it is connected to the Exodus Trilogy) so until the reviews come in, I really don´t know whether anyone likes it or not. We´ll see!

And of course, the newsletter subscribers already knew all this, since they always get the news first! Want in? Sign up here!

RIFT - Scene 27, 28 and 29

Here are the next three scenes from RIFT, still first draft material, meaning the finished novel will look quite different. But if you like to follow the process and see what happens between these scenes and the published novel, read on.

The manuscript is now with my editor, and we´ll probably be going back and forth as we use to, before it is ready to publish. As soon as it´s out, my newsletter subscribers (who haven´t heard from me for a while now- too busy writing) will be the first to know. And they will get a 75% discount. Want in? Click here!

So, here´s RIFT:

 

RIFT - Scene 27

The first thing Sue noticed was the clean sheets. Then it was the white walls and the spotless suits of the nurses milling about. She remembered being captured by the Northerners, and the cleanliness of this place surprised her. She had been taught the people beyond the north border was dirty savages, and even the thought of them having something resembling a hospital was so distant from everything she´d ever expected. For a moment she believed she had been saved by a janissary rescue squad and brought back to Camp Gustavson.

But the language spoken around her was neither English nor the strange words that the Moon people sometimes spoke among themselves. She instantly recognized the sounds, reminding her of the first time she had been in combat. Of a woman taken prisoner. A woman she had shot.

Sue lifted her head, and a headache forced her down again.

«Careful mademoiselle. You have lost much blood.» A man´s voice, in accented English. He bent over her, and she saw a man with features that could have belonged to a pure Moon blood if not for the words that came out of his mouth.

«You need rest, for now. Don´t worry… Atlas, is that it? Hmm English then, am I correct?» Sue nodded carefully, wondering how he knew her name. A nurse came over and checked a machine standing by her bedside. She spoke a few words to the man, and then walked off. Sue tried to raise her hand. Chained to the bed.

«We have to be careful, I´m Sure you understand. We will talk more later. Now rest.» he said, and turned his back on her. She coughed, and tried to speak.

«Did any…»

The man turned back again.

«Please, mademoiselle. You shouldn´t speak.»

She strained to get the words out.

«Did anyone else survive?» she whispered. The man´s brow furrowed, and he took a step closer.

«I assume you ask of your own people, yes? The janissaries.»

She mouthed a yes, soundlessly.

«Two more made it here. We lost one on the operating table.» Sue thought his eyes looked sad. Curious.

«The woman had lost too much blood. The man lives though. The rest I´m afraid are dead. As are so many of our people.» he finished, about to turn back again. Sue cut him off.

«You know my name.» she said. «What is yours?» The man smiled at her.

«You should not worry about that, mademoiselle Atlas.» he turned away, and walked away. As he stood by the doors, waiting for them to slide over, he turned around, reluctantly.

«I am only a doctor.» he said.

«Your… name…» Sue said, feeling herself sliding back into unconsciousness.

«Dr. Gregory Marsden Dubois.» the man said, his voice distant, as he disappeared before her eyes, along with the rest of the world.

 

RIFT - scene 28

She was feeling better, finally. She couldn´t remember much of the past few days, only that she had been sliding in and out of consciousness until she finally remained awake long enough to notice more of the people around her. There were six beds in her room. All empty save hers and one more. The person in the other bed was on the far side of the room, and was unconscious all the time. Sue remembered the doctor mentioning that a man had survived. She tried asking the nurses about him, but got no reply other than confused looks and gibberish in that strange language. None of them spoke any English, it seemed.

On the third day - it must have been three days - the doctor returned. This time a woman in a camouflage patterned uniform came with him. The two had the same angular features and the same sand- colored hair, but hers was cut shorter. And she had stars on her collar.

«Mademoiselle Atlas, meet colonel Renee Marsden Dubois.» he said. The woman remained standing, one step behind the man, Dr. Gregory. Sue cocked her head.

«Your wife?» she said without thinking. The two laughed in reply.

«No, mademoiselle,» the woman said, «he´s my twin brother. You are very perceptive.» Dr. Gregory motioned for one of the nurses to fetch chairs, and they both sat down. The doctor looked at his sister, before he spoke.

«So, your friend is still unconscious, I hear. I´m sorry. I am afraid he will not wake again.» Sue glanced over at the unmoving form.

«Can´t you do anything…» Dr. Gregory shook his head.

«If we had your technology… He has sustained severe damages to the head.»

«But what if you got him back? What if you could arrange for prisoner exchange or something?» she trailed off. What was she thinking? How many times had she heard the orders not to take prisoners?

«The Covenant seldom takes prisoners.» the woman said, a hoarseness in her voice. «And even if you did, he would never get the necessary treatment. Rory, that´s an English name, yes?» Sue nodded, stunned. So it was Rory, and he was dying. 

«Only Moon people get cryo treatment, unless he already earned his citizenship.» Sue looked at Rory´s unmoving shape. A second rate citizen, about to give his life for the Covenant. Even if she could somehow break them free, Rory would die. Simply because he was English. Expendable.

Dr Gregory got to his feet.

«I´m sorry about your loss, mademoiselle. But I have other patients to tend to. My sister would like a word with you though, so I will leave you two together.» He walked out, and Sue looked at Renee.

«Time for interrogation then.» she said drily. The colonel only smiled. Sue thought it must be a high rank, from the way the nurses looked at her, but then she hadn´t even known the northerners had ranks.

«I believe we should talk.» Renee just said.

 

RIFT - scene 29

«Hold your fire. Wait for my signal» Kirilov´s whisper was inaudible except for the ear bud that amplified the sound inside Dave´s ear, making the order clear and loud enough. Dave felt a shiver running down his spine, but his finger on the trigger was remarkably steady. He blinked. The flicker in the corner of his vision was a nuisance, and though he mostly managed to ignore it, he was afraid it could hinder his aim. Once they got home he would have to see if it could be fixed. Hasle might have some ideas.

The monsters moved slowly, but steadily toward them, and Dave took aim at one of the larger ones. They looked like a mix of images he´d seen in school books, of ancient beasts now extinct. Dinosaurs, elephants, dragons. Most walked on their hind legs, while others used all fours. He even noticed one being carried by a larger one. Probably its mother. Even the baby monster looked fearsome, like it could devour a grown man.

He looked over at the others. Scott aiming at the center, Greer at the one on the far left, and Baldwin at the one furthest to the right. Most seemed to mill about behind the large one in the middle though. Scott would probably cut down half their number within seconds.

«Listen up.» Kirilov´s voice cut his thoughts off. «Once we open fire, they will spread out. So cover the flanks while Scott does the heavy lifting. Wagner, you pick off anyone trying to move closer. I don´t want anyone getting away, so once we´re done, we move out and finish them off up close. Remember, they will kill you if yu show the slightest weakness. So be swift and ruthless. And whatever you do, do not remove your goggles.» A trickle of sweat reached the corner of Dave´s goggle, but he gritted his teeth and tried to ignore the itch. He certainly wouldn´t oppose Kirilov´s orders.

«Everyone get ready…» 

Dave saw one of the monsters stroking the back of a smaller one, that seemed to have a hard time keeping up. The small one let out a yelp, and the larger growled in response.

«Fire!»

A deafening sound erupted, yelps and growls forgotten. Scott´s machine gun rattled, the bangs indistinguishable from each other, Dave hesitated for a moment, enough for him to lose his aim. Where was that beast he´d been aiming at. From the right flank a series of bursts kicked in, decimating the monsters on Baldwin´s side. Dave still tried to find his aim, but gave up and fired wildly into the flock. The monsters fell, their blood spattering all over as they tried to run for cover. But there was no cover to be had, and one after another they fell, writhing, screeching, yelping. It was slaughter.

«What the hell is this?» The shout from his left made him look up. Greer was half way standing, and Dave saw he had put his weapon down. He looked around, and saw Kirilov and the other seniors had joined in, firing at whatever moved out there.

«What have you done to us? Why…» Greer screamed hysterically, until his chest erupted, and he fell to the ground, eyes and mouth wide open, goggles pushed up on top of his head like a second pair of eyes.

«Sniper!» he heard Kirilov shout, and he took aim again. The monsters were all down now, but he scanned the far side of the clearing, searching for the sniper.

«Damn it, why didn´t the rangers pick this up?» one of the seniors said, before Kirilov cut him off.

«Shut up Jan. You know the enemy sometimes trail the monsters. Everyone, we have to make sure they are all dead. Let´s move it. Seniors watch for the sniper, juniors watch the monsters.»

«What about Greer?» Scott said, and Kirilov sneered in response.

«He´s dead, and he brought it upon himself. Standing up like that… Now move!» The three remaining junior Wardens stood up, and walked toward the carnage, the seniors following a few steps behind.

«Shit.» Baldwin whispered. The silence was palpable, and only their breathing and a soft whisper of branches moving in the slight breeze broke the quiet.

«Remember, keep your goggles on at all times.» Kirilov spoke sternly. A movement in his peripheral vision made Dave flinch and half- turn, but it was just the irregular flicker.

«What is it, Wagner?» Kirilov said.

«Nothing, Sir. Just something interfering with my goggles.»

«Hold it, let me see.»  Kirilov walked up to him and put something, an electronic device Dave had never seen before, up in front of him.

«What do you see?» he said. Dave hunched his shoulders.

«Nothing, just that box or whatever it is.» Kirilov seemed to relax, and put the box away in his pocket.

«Good. Now, everyone, let´s get this done so we can go home.»

 

*****

Alright, you know the drill. First to know, the biggest discounts, a free ebook, and absolutely NO spam.

Sign up here for all of the above!

RIFT - Scene 25 and 26

RIFT is currently with my editor, so all we can do now is wait. I´ll keep you posted on the progress, and in the meantime, you can follow the process right here on the blog. Two scenes today, so grab a coffee and read on. Oh, and by the way, i´ll be giving my email subscribers a head start once it is out, meaning a 75% discount, like I did with the last book. So if you want, just go here and sign up.

Alright, here´s RIFT for ya!

 

RIFT - scene 25

SUE

The Quick Reaction Force ran first toward the outpost closest to where the artillery had been located. The tacticus in charge there seemed relieved to meet Sue and her team, and while the four man team blasted away into the forest beyond the perimeter, Rory received directions to a path that would take the QRF around and to the west of the enemy position. They wasted no more time, and snuck out to the left, leaving the outpost to continue firing at the unknown enemy.

«Won´t they ever run out of ammo?» Sue asked. Oystein, one of the Moon people from her team, grinned while clutching his own weapon.

«Sure they will. In about two days, if they keep firing like that.» He laughed at her surprise. «They have a stash beneath the outpost, loaded with ammo, spare weapons, food, you name it.Trust me, Susan, nobody gets past that, even if there´s only five of them.»

«So even if they´re not replenished, they can hold out, firing like crazy, for two days?» she said. Oystein nodded.

«That´s right. And there are outposts like that all along the perimeter. The Westfold brigade will stand its ground, don´t worry.»

They moved in silence once they passed the mine fields north of the outposts. It wasn´t far, but they moved carefully, since they were now officially inside enemy territory. Reaching the artillery position took them almost an hour, and it was getting dark by the time they discovered that the enemy force had moved.

«Shit.» someone in the back mumbled. Rory and Christine was studying the ground on the far side of the position, and after a moment they gathered everyone.

«They moved out less than half an hour ago. We can follow them or we can wait for them to get away. Either way, the attack on camp is over, so our main task is completed. Rory said.

«Fuck that,» Oystein spat. «They´ll just come back. I say let´s get them while they´re close. We won´t have an opportunity like this in a while.»

«There might be more of them.» Raymond said.

«We´re better than them, and we have better equipment. I say we crush them now.» Alexandra said. If Sue didn´t know better, she´d believed she was Moon blood as well, the way she spoke. She had a bad feeling about this, but being the fresh face around, she kept her quiet.

«Alright, we do it.» Rory said, determination apparent on his face. «Attack formation, half speed, fire at will.» They would overtake the enemy shortly, even at half speed, since the QRF was lightly equipped whereas the enemy would be carrying a heavy load. There were no tracks, which meant the artillery would have to be carried. Everyone spread out, and soon they were moving through the woods.

«Stay sharp. I want the first shot fired to be ours.» Rory´s voice whispered inside her helmet. He didn´t have to ask Sue twice. She knew she was walking into combat, and while she hadn´t really had time to be afraid the last time out, she did now. She could feel the adrenaline rushing through her veins, and her hands were shaking. She saw enemies in every shadow, and if it hadn´t been for the lessons taught by Tac Hordvik, she´d already been firing away, blasting those trees and brushes into oblivion. Scaring away whoever lay out there, she thought. She wished for the suit to help her calm her nerves, but the suit had a mind of its own. She had to stay sharp, and though the suit had all kinds of aids available, its main concern was her fighting ability. She had to remain alert, even if it meant clattering teeth, shaking hands and vision that tricked her into seeing things that wasn´t there.

It was Christine who fired the first shot, but not at the enemy. The janissary suits would alert them to explosives hidden in booby traps, but the one Christine stepped into was nothing but a hole, one square meter, hidden by foliage and thin branches. Her scream as she landed on the sharpened stakes pierced Sue´s ears even as the suit muffled the sound inside her helmet. Christine´s shots went all over and it was a miracle nobody was hit.

«Trap!» Rory shouted. «On me, baseline front.» 

Everyone rushed into position, but it was too late. Oystein and Alexandra both fell from the first rounds as enemy fire rained upon them. Sue still had no visual on the enemy. Nothing to fire at. She kept her rifle ready.

«Get back here!» she heard Raymond scream. Somebody was running. To help someone, to chase an enemy, to get away from it all? No way to tell.

A kick in her chest followed by another, and then a stabbing pain piercing her shoulder. Two shots, deflected by her suit and one penetrating her armor. She felt the local anesthetic as the nano bots went into action, stitching her up, minimizing blood loss. She realized she was on the ground, surprised at not having noticed her fall. Something moving by in her peripheral vision. Friend or foe? Probably friend, since the suit hadn´t done anything. She knew it had a dozen ways to kill anyone who got too close to her while she lay wounded.

Then all sounds inside her helmet went dead, and a red triangle appeared in front of her visor. Malfunction, low battery. How can that be? I charged it just yesterday - it should last weeks! She thought. Then she rolled over and saw the leak, the tiny darts that had pierced the battery compartment just below her neck. And she saw two others being dragged along, held at gunpoint, all suit defenses incapacitated. 

This was not some random attack, from which the enemy had fled now that the janissaries were counterattacking. They had been lured out here, so the enemy could capture at least some of them alive. Sue suddenly realized that the savages, the primitive people from the north that was a major nuisance but never considered a real threat, had just outmaneuvered the janissaries, captured a closely guarded technology, and were now holding Sue at their mercy.

 

RIFT - scene 26

DAVE

The airship ride was dizzying and confusing. It wasn´t so much the ride per se. Dave had never been up in the air before, but the ship was big and the seats comfortable. It was the drugs running through his veins that was beginning to affect his vision and his sense of balance.

«I thought it was a vaccine.» he said to Scott, who sat right next to him. Scott looked like he was about to throw up, and didn´t reply. Kirilov though, grinned at him.

«It is a vaccine.» he said. He didn´t look like he was affected at all, unlike Greer, who looked just as bad as Scott. As bad as Dave felt. He looked over at Baldwin, who sat with his eyes closed. That seemed to work better, so he closed his eyes as well, until they popped open two seconds later. Didn´t work at all, at least not for him.

«We are going to intercept a group of infected. If they get past the zone, they will spread all kinds of disease. The vaccine will protect you though. As will these.» Kirilov nodded toward the weapons crate secured between them.

«How do we know they are infected? What kind of infection is it anyway?» Dave asked. Kirilov looked amused from the question.

«You´ll know. It will take you but seconds, trust me.»

Scott suddenly grabbed at his emergency airsickness bag, and managed to throw up in it, instead of all over himself.

«Yuk!» Greer said, but Dave could see he was struggling not to do the exact same thing. Scott heaved, still holding the bag in front of his face.

«This is so bad.» he said, voice muffled. Dave exhaled, trying to think of something else. But thinking was growing increasingly difficult. His mind was all jumbled, and he couldn´t keep a straight thought no matter how hard he tried. He even missed the descent, so when the airship´s anchor hit the ground, making the ship rock a little, he was unprepared. The senior Wardens, all Moon blood, laughed at the rookies. Greer couldn´t hold it any more, and threw up in his bag, and even Baldwin, who had managed to hold it together for so long, stumbled as he tried to get on his feet.

«Everyone, be very careful. We disembark in thirty seconds.» Kirilov shouted, so that everyone stopped and paid attention. He produced goggles, one pair each, and handed them out.

«Put the goggles on, and press the switch on the right. They will adjust to your vision.» Dave put his on, and pushed the switch. It felt a bit different from training, but he´d get the hang of it soon enough. As long as you paid attention to where you put your feet, the goggles had a wide visual area, enough that he didn´t have to move his head all the time. It felt natural. Then he inserted a small bud into his ear, and heard Kirilov´s voice clearly. He focused on Kirilov.

«Never, I repeat, Never take the goggles off. They are part of your protection. And don´t forget; the infected are lethally dangerous, and should be treated as such. Don´t let anyone get too close. And look after each other. Right, let´s move out.» Kirilov stepped into the basket, taking Baldwin and Scott with him. The fourth man inside was one of the Moon blood seniors. Dave didn´t know his name.

The first team descended quickly, and the it was Dave´s turn. Kirilov had returned with the basket, and commanded them all on board. Dave went first. Greer came after, still struggling with the straps of his goggles, and trying not to stumble as he entered the basket. Another nameless Moon blood senior was last on board.

The basket descended so quickly, Dave thought they was going to crash. But in the last instant, the speed decreased, and landed them smoothly on the ground.

«Out, quickly.» Kirilov commanded. His voice, barely a whisper, was still loud enough to hear clearly, because of the ear bud. Dave lifted his rifle, searching through the optical sights for movement. He saw that Scott held something that resembled a machine gun, while one of the seniors assisted him. Kirilov held some sort of sniper rifle, and the rest had ordinary rifles like Dave. He looked up, and saw the airship was gone. Only then did he notice how silent it must have been.

«Light and sound discipline in effect,» Kirilov said quietly, «They are less than one k away, due north west. We move to that tree line and set up an ambush.» Dave concentrated on the words, and found he had no problem understanding and processing them. He could think again. And his vision and balance was beginning to feel better as well. In his peripheral vision he noticed little flickers, but he figured it had to be the lighting optimizer working to make use of every light source available.

Then he felt more than he heard, movement behind him, buzzing by.

«What…» he whispered, before Kirilov turned toward him, a hard look in his eyes.

«That´s the observation drone, you idiot. Now quiet.» he said. Dave flushed. Of course. The drone would be filming them, recording everything. This was not just a rite of passage; it was also a test. If someone didn´t pass, they might end up in the Corpus. Or so he´d heard.

They moved swiftly, but quietly, and within a few minutes they had reached the spot where they would set up the ambush. They were hidden a few meters inside the thick woods, with a clearing in front of them and an area of scattered brush on the far side, about two hundred meters away.

«Scott, in the middle here. Greer, left flank. Baldwin Right flank. Wagner, between Scott and Greer.» Kirilov directed them into position. Dave felt light headed, a mix of fear and euphoria. He almost didn´t notice that the seniors took up positions behind them. Probably so that they could support them whenever needed. He shook off a bout of dizziness, and focused on the task at hand. He looked through his sights.

They waited for a few more minutes, the only sound was their breathing and little directions from Kirilov in their ears. Watch your ammo count. Be ready. Look after your team mates.

The brush on the far side of the clearing moved.

«Hold it. Let them come all the way out.» Kirilov whispered. Dave felt his palms slick with sweat. He adjusted his grip, never taking his hands from the weapon though. He closed his left eye, and peered through the sights.

The monsters entering the clearing was the most fearsome sight he had ever seen.

 

******

Did you sign up for the discount, the free ebook and the rest of the goodies?

If you haven´t you can still do so, right here!

RIFT - Scene 23 and 24

Alright, I´ve got TWO scenes for you today! Got to post frequently, now that RIFT is almost ready to go... So today you get to meet both Sue and Dave.

But first of all, I´d like you to have a look at the cover, by the very talented Yoly Cortez of Cormar Covers. Hope you like it as much as I do! :-)

RIFT Cover

 

RIFT - scene 23

Dave

Dave was deep in thought when the alarm sounded. He´d been trying to solve a particularly difficult problem, in which an algorithm meant do fool a secure folder into thinking he had pressed a correct password code didn´t perform as expected. Instead it made the folder initiate a self destruct sequence, which was about as far from what he wanted as he could get. He cursed silently, loosing his concentration. He got up from his chair and logged off the training interface. Then he got his jacket, and walked out. The sunlight blinded him for a moment and he squinted. He was expecting this to be like the last time, and was surprised when nobody stood by the door to hand out weapons and ammo. He kept walking, until he reached the square, where everyone was gathered. A Moon blood warden he knew as Kirilov was calling out names.

«Greer, Baldwin, Scott, Wagner.» Dave was certain he´d heard wrong, but Kirilov repeated the names until everyone was gathered around him.

«Let´s get you suited up. Follow me.» he said.

The four junior wardens walked after Kirilov, who stomped briskly over toward the building near the airpad, where he´d seen Liz enter when she returned from her first patrol. Kirilov ushered them inside.

The inside of the building looked nothing like he´d expected. The outside had the markings of a hospital, but this looked more like something of a cross between a lab and a warehouse. There were people he´d never seen before, in white coats. They looked like doctors. Or lab technicians. No way to tell the difference, since Dave had only been inside a hospital once, as a kid, when he´d contacted a particularly nasty strain of flu.

«Get moving, we don´t have all day.» Kirilov said. A female doctor led them through a long hallway until they reached the door at the end. She opened it and motioned without a word for them to enter. Inside a young man with distinct Moon people features stood preparing four syringes. The medical assistant turned, and Dave noticed the blood shot eyes and stubble on his cheek.

«Juri, thank you.» the woman said. «You can take the rest of the day off.» he mumbled an incomprehensible reply, and left the room. The doctor spread her hand apologetically.

«He´s been up for 48 hours straight, working.» she said. Dave shrugged it off. Poor sod.

The woman, Thorvaldsen, her name tag said, motioned for him to sit, and he took a seat while she took one of the syringes.

«Tilt your head.» she said. He complied, and she stuck the syringe into his neck with a steady hand. It hurt like hell, but only for a second, before the anesthetic numbed his skin. He´d had his share of shots in school, and only a couple of times had he got this kind of syringes. The difference was huge. This way, he didn´t feel a thing when she pressed the contents into his bloodstream.

«What is it, vaccine?» he asked. The woman just smiled, while Kirilov sneered.

«Did someone tell you to speak, Wagner?» he said. Dave didn´t reply, and Kirilov let it slide.

«Alright, you´re all set. You can continue through that door.» Thorvaldsen said, still smiling, and Dave got up. He saw Scott get ready for his shot, while he opened the door, and entered the next room. It was empty, with just a table and six chairs. He sat down, and touched his neck tentatively. The anesthetic was already wearing off, and it felt sore. He sat back and stared up at the ceiling, where a remote controlled camera hung, watching him. He leaned to his right. The camera followed. Then he did the same, this time to his left. The camera buzzed and followed him again. Then he got up, and moved to the other side of the room. The camera followed. He grinned at it. He didn´t look forward to whatever was coming, but damned if he´d show it.

A noise from the door opposite from where he´d come got his attention. A commotion, feet shuffling, something getting knocked over. Someone was fighting. He walked over to the door, acutely aware of the camera following his every movement. He grabbed the handle carefully. What could they do, really? It wasn´t as if he did something wrong. He opened the door, just a little. Enough to peer through the crack.

Three wardens was holding someone down, pushing someone against the floor, while a doctor struggled to find an opening for a syringe, careful not to hit the wardens. He watched, stunned, as the poor man got his head twisted so that the doctor could insert the syringe, and saw his face. It was Juri. Their eyes met. Juri´s eyes were wide open, and when he saw Dave he screamed.

«Ignorance is bliss! Bliss is ignorance! Don´t believe…» The tranquilizer worked astonishingly fast, and his head slumped while his eyes glazed over.

Dave shut the door as quietly as he could, and took a step back. What the hell just happened? 

He knew he shouldn´t have seen that. Had they noticed him? 

He looked up at the camera again, realizing again he´d been watched all the time. He half expected someone to burst through the doors at any time, to take him away, lock him up, or whatever they did to people who was too curious for their own good.

The door creaked.

He jumped.

Scott walked in, grinning.

«Shit man, you ready for this? Think we´ll get to see the Rift this…» he stopped, and Dave realized his face must give him away.

«What´s wrong man?» Scott said. Dave just shook his head, forcing a smile.

«Nothing, just… I guess it must be the syringe. I hate needles.» he said. Scott shrugged, and continued talking, but Dave couldn´t get his mind off Juri´s face. Those eyes had seen something. And whatever it was, it had driven him mad.

 

 

RIFT - scene 24

Sue

Sue began to familiarize herself with everything, from her new team mates, who mostly appeared reluctant to get to know new people. She understood. With the casualty rates of active Janissary units, it was to be expected that people would hold back. Nevertheless, she memorized their names; Rory, Henry, Christine, Alexandra, Raymond, Michail, Oystein. Three Moon people, five ordinary, including herself.

Although her rank warranted team command, her lack of experience meant she wouldn´t command anyone for a while yet, which suited her just fine. She never wanted command. But she noticed they all looked at her sideways, wondering. And perhaps there was a little envy as well, although nobody showed it openly.

She didn´t care. She would prove herself soon enough. She hoped.

Rory was the exception to the rule, and she became friends with him from day one. He had a dark sense of humor, which she shared, but he had a serious side as well, which showed whenever they were rehearsing tactics or cleaning weapons or talking about what lay beyond the border.

«Some of them speak English.» he said once. She had been surprised. The only one she had met had spoken a garbled tongue she didn´t understand. She shuddered at the memory.

«Most of them don´t, but I know it´s true. I´ve heard it myself, once.» He continued by telling her of one day almost two years ago, when the savages had attacked. They had almost overrun the camp, before the Janissaries regrouped, and struck back with everything they got. By the time the airships arrived, there were only scattered enemy pockets left. Rory had been there when one of these pockets surrendered. That was when he had heard the savage speak a heavily accented English.

«Where had he learned our language?» Sue asked.

«We´ll never know.» Rory said. «We executed them all. Orders.»

Sue thought about that story when she walked through camp on her way back from the shooting range. Strange to think that these people, the enemy, might be able to communicate with someone from the Covenant, had they not been trying to kill each other off every time they encountered one another. But she had learned- in school, in basic, and from experience - that the savages from the north would kill every one of them, if they ever got the chance. The janissaries were the only thing that stood between civilization and mass murder.

She passed Supply on her way, and Anna stuck her head out, grinning.

«Ah, Susan! You look like you´re getting settled in.» Sue smiled back. She liked the tacticus. Din´t understand her - but who understood Moon people, except the Moon people themselves - but liked her, definitely. Anna was an outcast, from what Rory had told her, but here, among brothers and sisters of arms, she had found her new home. There was a sadness about her, masked by a cheerful face and kissweed, but she seemed content with her life, somehow.

«Are Rory and the others treating you well?» Anna said. Sue nodded, smiling back at her.

«Yes, tacticus. Everything´s fine.» she replied. Of course, she didn´t have any new friends yet, and she didn´t see much of Keisha and Julian. Some of the QRF people might become friends, given time, but not yet.

«Good, good… And if you ever need anything, you know where to find me.» Anna said, as she usually did. Sue didn´s say anything as Anna´s head disappeared inside again.

She heard the whine a moment before Supply exploded.

One moment there was quiet, a nice winter day, with just a few wisps of snow in the air. The next, it was as if she had stepped into the fires of hell. Supply was a wreck, with everyone inside dead or dying. Anna…

Whines filled the air, and impacts turned the camp into a scene of random misery. Buildings exploded and burned, wounded lay screaming and dead littered the ground all over. Sue stood as if frozen, noticing the sounds had become muffled. It must have been one of the first blasts. What now? What to do?

«Hey, Atlas! Atlas!» Rory´s voice. She looked around. Rory was covering behind a corner, waving his hand at her.

«Sue! What are you doing?»

She realized she was standing up, in the middle of the street, while everyone else still able to walk had taken cover. She ran over to where Rory was standing. She clutched her rifle tightly, knuckles white. Rory grabbed a hold of her as she rounded the corner, pushing her toward the wall.

«Concrete,» he said, «better than nothing.» He looked around the corner again. Sue noticed the rest of the QRF was there with Rory. Raymond was holding a rocket launcher, but except for that they were all carrying only light weapons, rifles mostly.

«Shit, we aren´t prepared for this. Too many green initiates.»

«I´m not an initiate anym…» Sue protested, but he ignored her. She held her breath.

«We need to get to the barracks.» he said. He looked at her.

«How many rounds you got left, Sue?» She looked at him inquisitively, and he continued.

«Nevermind, it´s not enough anyhow. Like I said, we need to get to the barracks. Got everything we need over there.»

Christine was leaning around the corner now.

«It´s still standing.» she said. That meant Keisha and Julian would be alive, if they were inside. Sue felt a pang of regret for not being with them now.

«Alright then,» Rory said, «two lines, we move quickly. This is artillery- and I cannot for the life of me understand how those savages have got their hands on such weapons- but it means they can´t see us. So let´s just move as fast as we can. Don´t worry about cover.» The all nodded, gritting teeth, setting their jaws, bracing for what´s next.

«Now!» Rory shouted and jumped out into the carnage. Everyone followed, and Sue tried not to step on the wounded as they ran among the dead and the dying. Ten seconds, fifteen, twenty. She sprinted with everything she had, and her lungs already cried for air. Thirty, thirty five. It seemed an eternity, every second possibly her last. 

And then she slammed against the door, first one to reach the barracks, with Rory a split second behind. He grabbed the door handle, and flung the door open.

«Inside, quick!» he said. As they ran through the hallways, Rory spoke into a handheld device. She didn´t hear him through all the commotion. Through every door she saw people donning janissary suits, loading weapons, getting ready.

«Sue! You´re alright!» she heard a familiar voice. She turned toward the sound. It was Julian, and he smiled warmly at her. Sue almost choked up, and threw an arm around his neck, hugging him. She saw Keisha through the corner of her eye, zipping up her suit and checking her helmet before she lowered her visor.

«Atlas, get moving! No time for lover boy, we got work to do.» Rory shouted, and she let Julian go. She turned around without a word, and followed Rory into the QRF room. She sat down on her bunk, packing her escape pack on top of the larger long range pack, the way they usually packed for long range patrols.

«Leave the LR, we need to move quickly. Just the EP this time.» Rory said. She nodded and put the EP on, outside of her weapon straps and tac vest.

«You know, Julian and me, we´re just friends…» Sue said, and Rory stopped dead, eyes cold.

«Sub tacticus Atlas. Do I really look like I care?» he paused. The he turned away. 

«Just get ready. We move out in thirty seconds.»

Sue had time to check her sights one last time, a brief pat down to make sure all of her ammo pouches were secured, a quick swig of water from the sink, never touching her full canteen.

«Alright guys,» Rory said loud enough for everyone to hear. The sounds of destruction were muted by walls and windows, but Sue was glad he almost shouted, since her hearing still hadn´t fully returned from the first blasts. Rory stood broad legged in front of them. She was glad he took charge, even if he didn´t outrank anyone, he held a natural authority, and everyone followed his lead. 

«Listen up. Command have located the enemy artillery, but it´s too mobile and too close for them to strike back, unless they want to take out the entire camp here. So we do it. We go in hard, fast and without mercy. That means no prisoners.» Sue heard someone muttering behind her. Rory cut it off.

«Yes, I´d love to take prisoners too. We could learn a lot from that. But right now, our mission is to destroy that artillery. That´s it. Got it?» He spoke into his handheld again.

«This is the QRF, moving out.»

 

*******

RIFT is coming out soon, and if you want to be the first to know AND get a big discount...

You know what to do: Sign up here!

RIFT - Scene 22

First of all, EXODUS (ebook edition) is currently FREE, so if you know anyone who might be interested, you should tell them about it! Here´s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Exodus-Trilogy-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00AI9BMHS/

Alright, let´s turn back to RIFT. The final scene has been written, and in about a week it´s going off to my editor. But for now, you can follow the process here, first draft. Expect the final version to be very different, I´m just saying.

Now that Sue is no longer an initiate, she is about to transfer to another camp. So let´s see how that goes.

RIFT - Scene 22

The next day, while Tac Hordvik led them through contact drill, fine tuning their moves, making them act like a single organism, Sub Meridian Hoston came over. He stood there for a moment, watching them practice, before he waved them over. They lined up beside the tacticus.

«Tacticus Hordvik, it is time for the transfer.» Hordvik straightened, and the Sub Meridian continued to read their new placements from a computer pad/ tablet (select word- use throughout). Sue was to go to the Westfold Brigade with Julian and Keisha, while Quinn was being sent east to the coast, to join the Kosmopol Brigade.

They ended practice at lunchtime, and after eating, Sue went to pack her belongings. She was happy about the outcome. She got to stay with her friends, and although she got along well enough with Quinn these days, she wouldn´t consider him a friend. She would miss the tacticus though. After getting to know him better, and having listened to him at Survivor Night, she had grown to respect him even more. 

When she entered the barracks, she started. Tac Hordvik stood by her bunk, waiting.

«Susan.» he said, and she walked in. She didn´t know what to say, so she just waited for him to speak.

«The Westfold Brigade is a good unit. And you will do well there.» he said.

«Sure.» she said. She had no idea whether the Westfold Brigade was a good unit or not. «Actually, I´m not even sure where it is, Westfold.»

He smiled.

«Westfold is the westernmost part of the northern borderlands of the Covenant. In fact, if you go south from Westfold, you will reach Warden territory. As far as I know our people don´t have much to do with them though, even out in Westfold. But I´m sure I don´t know half of what happens out there.» He said. Then he looked at his watch.

«I have to go now. Counselor Novak made me realize something, and I have accepted a placement with the Strategos Command back in Legacy. I might be back later though, if it gets too boring.» Sue smiled back at him, and realized this might be the last time she saw him. Tac Hordvik had taught her everything she knew, and now they were both going in their separate directions. She straightened, and slammed her fist to chest.

«It´s been an honor, Sir.» she said. He did the same, a bit more slowly, before he spoke.

«The honor is all mine, Atlas.» Then he smiled again, before he turned and walked away.

Sue didn´t waste much time packing. She didn´t have much to pack anyway.

Five minutes later she was on her way to the train platform with Julian and Keisha. It was strange, the last time she had gone by train had been with a friend as well, but this time there was none of the uncertainty. Sure, she felt the excitement, and wondered how her new unit would be, what kind of commander she would get and what sort of tasks she would get. And there was always the uncertainty of knowing that at any time, she could be sent on a mission that ended badly. Janissary casualty rates was known to be high, that´s why nobody expected janissaries to serve beyond their mandatory three years. But she had done well at Camp Sharpe, and she had been to combat, where she had done even better. She still felt a pang of regret thinking of the woman she had shot, but everyone kept telling her she wasn´t to blame, and that there was nothing she could have done differently. So she tried not to think too much about it.

The train ride was much faster than the last time too. The maglev lines going from east to west was designed to carry troops and supplies quickly to wherever they were needed. So after two hours, the train came to a stop and everyone walked off and stepped out onto the platform.

«Over here, Janissaries.» a tacticus shouted from behind the platform proper. They walked over. Sue wondered whether to come to attention or salute. Regulation said they should, but there was something about the woman, a casual style and a somewhat relaxed smile, that made her hesitate. Julian did though, and the tacticus laughed.

«Yeah yeah,» she said, «you can quit that now. This ain´t Camp Sharpe. Here we do things a bit differently.» Sue cocked her head, noticing the smell. Sweet. She had another look at the woman, and noticed the look on her face. It wasn´t just her being relaxed or a more laid back attitued around camp. Her pupils were slightly dilated, and the she had a dumb smile on her face. She was affected by something, Sue realized.

«So welcome to Camp Gustavson. Let´s get you bunked up, shall we?» the tacticus said. «Follow me.»

The three of them followed the tacticus to a building toward the center of camp. Inside, she noticed the no smoking signs.

«See that?» the tacticus said. «No smoking.» She giggled.

«So keep it outside, alright? And if you need anything, and I mean anything, I´m right over there, in Supply. Just ask for Anna.» She pointed at a nearby building, where a stack of crates were being carried inside by a group of janissaries.

«Alright then…» she continued, looking down at her pad, searching with her finger until she found what she was looking for.

«We go by first names here, okay?» she looked down again.

«Keisha and Julian, you are housed in here. Just grab a free bunk, there should be plenty. Most of the guys in this room got caught up in an ambush last week. Those who made it won´t be coming back here, so just make yourselves at home.» Sue saw the stunned looks on her friends before they went inside. Anna didn´t wait for them, and continued walking. They reached a room at the back of the building, and went inside.

A lean fellow got up from his chair, and extended his hand.

«Rory Sanders.» he said. Sue took his hand and shook it.

«Susan Atlas.» she said.

Although not very muscular, he looked wiry and strong, with a firm jaw and a mustache that made him similar to Tac Hordvik, in an odd way. From his looks she could have sworn he was Moon people, but the name gave him up as just a regular guy from some small town, like her.

«So, I trust you take good care of her, Rory. Let her know what´s what and who´s who.» The tacticus turned to Sue.

«And don´t let him be too strict. He´s a third year vet, but you still outrank him. If you wanna come smoke, you do that, no matter what he tells you. You may need it, even if he don´t.» Sue nodded at her, before Anna turned and walked away.

Rory motioned toward one of the bunks.

«Get yourself situated, Sub Tacticus. The rest of the guys are having dinner so they´ll be back in about an hour.» Sue walked over and put her pack on a bunk that seemed unoccupied. She noticed Rory watching her, and turned toward him.

«So when do I meet my unit? Is this it? This room, I mean.» He nodded.

«We don´t usually get the green ones.» he said, looking her up and down.

«Green as grass, but already a Sub Tacticus. And assigned here, to the QRF. You must be special.» He looked honestly surprised, now that Sue noticed. So he hadn´t seen the show then, thankfully.

«QRF?» she asked. Rory smiled.

«Quick Reaction Force. If something happens, we´re the first to go. And something does happen around here.» He motioned toward the door.

«The Westfold Brigade is a pretty good unit, and we see our share of action. You might have got the wrong impression though, from her. It´s the kissweed from down south that messes people up. Look at Anna, Moon blood and all, she could have had anything. Instead, she choose to stay, doing a shit job, high more often than not. Probably disowned by her family, I mean, she´s been her for as long as anyone can remember. But for some reason the officers never crack down on it. Seems they think it´s alright for some reason. Shit.» he shook his head, but didn´t say anything more.

Sue hadn´t seen anything like kissweed at Camp Sharpe, but then again, that was a training unit. These guys saw combat all the time. She could figure some of them needed to unwind, although she wondered if there wasn´t better ways than by smoking kissweed. She changed the subject.

«So I´m supposed to be part of this QRF then. Is there some kind of training or something I have to go through first?» Rory grinned.

«Sure. As soon as we can get you suited up and get us a mission, we´ll go out there and train. And you´d better learn, Sub Tacticus. Else you die.» Sue nodded slowly. She had figured as much, but she had to ask.

«Ever wondered why us janissaries got the highest casualty rates?» Rory said. «We have a pretty straightforward selection routine, that´s what it is. You get through Camp Sharpe, you get thrown into the water. Sink or swim, live or die. A lot of people die.» He leaned back, rocking back and forth on two of the chair´s legs.

«You´re lucky though. The QRF got the toughest assignments, but we´re also the best unit in camp. And that´s not just something I´m saying. If you´re going swimming in the deep waters, having competent people around you can make all the difference. We´re pretty serious, you´ll see. And none of us smoke either.» Sue finally smiled. She found she liked the man.

«Sounds good.» she said. «Just one thing, and let me assure you, this is just because I´m curious, not because I´m planning to be the first smoker in the QRF. That kissweed, you said it comes from the south. You mean Covenant south? I´m from the south, Charlestown, and I´ve just barely heard of it. Or did you mean Corpus lands?» Rory shook his head.

«No no, not that far. I meant Warden territory. They bring in supplies all the time, Weapons, ammo, high tech gadgets of every kind. Kissweed. Other stuff.» Sue raised her eyebrows. She had no idea. She thought of Dave, from back home, who had gone to the Wardens after she talked his way out from being sent to the Corpus. What on Earth was going on down there?

******

RIFT will soon be released.

If you want to be the first to know, just sign up right here.

RIFT - Scene 21

Things are moving quickly, and I´m currently writing faster than I can post on the blog. I have my editor scheduled for December, and I´m shooting for a Christmas launch. I´ll keep posting the scenes throughout the editing phase, so if you are following these posts, you will be able to read all of them before I launch the book properly.

So, today it´s time to head north again, to Camp Sharpe, where Sue has impressed both Janissary leadership and Counselor Mark Novak, advisor to the Head Servant. Sue is about to become something of a poster girl for the Janissaries, to be shown off as a hero, the embodiment of the ideas of what Service is all about.

In my previous scene I mentioned that I thought Sue needs to have more to lose. And the keep reader will notice that in this scene I´m referring to her family back home and her late father (died of mandatory euthanasia at the age of fifty). I originally envisioned her an orphan, but I figure that as the story progresses, having something more to lose can only heighten the tension.

So let´s see what´s happening up north.

RIFT- Scene 21

The ceremony was impressive. There were no other words to describe it. For a week, the janissaries of Camp Sharpe had been busily preparing; setting up a great stage, creating a show of fireworks and laser effects, advanced stage lighting, sound effects, music and a huge screen in the background. There were flowers, banners Covenant flags everywhere. Everyone knew their place and everything had been rehearsed over and over again. The honor guard surrounded the stage, and all along the walk up to it, all the way back to the airpad. The cameras were everywhere, while behind the scenes, electronic defense systems would prevent any unexpected interference, and every armed man and woman not attending the ceremony were manning positions covering every entrance. Above, the airships, brandishing all kinds of weapons from machine cannons to rockets to laser defense systems, patrolled the air.

It was all too much, Sue thought, but it was out of her hands. She had done what she thought was best, and somehow the story had reached all the way back Legacy. When she had spoken to Counselor Novak, she´d had no idea it would lead to this. Nevertheless, she didn´t see how she could have done anything differently. It had never been up to her anyway.

Head servant Lunde stood before her, beaming. She avoided his eyes. The medal he held up before her looked heavy. It was white gold, brandishing the Covenant symbol in black. The Exceptional Deed of Bravery Medal. It had only been awarded to Janissaries four times before, and never to one still considered an initiate. Granted, she was no longer an initiate, but she had been when she did what had lead to her nomination.

«…And here you have her,» the Head servant said to the camera in front of them, «Susan Atlas.» Everyone cheered, and the screen showed the flapping flag of the Covenant morphed with her face. The music, a patriotic hymn everyone knew, was loud. The Head servant´s words were louder still.

«A young woman, saving her friends and exhibiting exceptional bravery under fire. An example for future generations, of what Service to the State means.» Sue cringed, but kept up appearances. For the previous week, since the announcement, she had been interviewed so many times she had lost count. She was being portrayed as the young woman from smalltown, doing her duty, serving bravely in the most dangerous environment. Nobody mentioned that she hadn´t seen combat at all since coming back from the mission where they lost Brad. Nobody mentioned Brad at all. It was all about her, a woman on her way to the responsibility of citizenship, an example to every young man and woman out there.

The cameras broadcast everything into mandatory viewings in every home in the Covenant. She should have been thinking of her mother. Of little (brother/ sister). Of her father, who would have been so proud to see her like this. So relieved that his daughter would have a different life than he had. A longer life, possibly.

But all she could think of was the young woman she had killed. The one she had taken prisoner, and then shot as the woman pulled a hidden gun at her. That wasn't bravery, it was sloppiness.

She looked at the audience, and saw at least one man here who didn´t think of here as a hero. First Janissary Ivanov had come, and he was fuming. She realized she had deeply offended him when she stood up for Dave on Initiation Day, and he didn´t seem like the type to forget easily. It was a wonder really, that he hadn´t stopped the whole thing, but she guessed that spoke volumes of the influence of Counselor Novak. This was his doing, although Head Servant Lunde seemed to enjoy the occasion immensely.

She saw Tac Hordvik standing to attention just below the stage, beaming like a proud big brother. Sub Strategos Janev looked equally proud, standing just as stiff beside the tacticus. As if this was his doing somehow. Her eyes darted around, finding her team. There was Keisha, brandishing a big grin, ear to ear, winking as their eyes met. Quinn, surprisingly cheerful and finally out of hospital. They would never be friends, but she thought she sensed a certain respect, and she could live with that. Julian stood there as well, smiling at her. She looked away. Ever since they got back there had been a tension between them. And it wasn't uncomfortable. She felt her cheeks go hot, and tried to think of something else, turning her attention to the Head Servant, who looked like he was ready to finish.

«Thank you, thank you all.» he said, and turned toward her.

«But most of all, Sub Tacticus Atlas, thank you.» He extended his hand, and her startlement seemed to amuse him greatly. Sub Tacticus? She had been an initiate just a few weeks ago. It was unheard of. She took his hand, and shook it, head spinning. Then Head Servant Lunde took off her single Junior Janissary bar from her lapel, and pinned the triple bar of her new rank in place. He turned, gave a big smile to the camera, and waved all around, making sure the camera got it from every angle, before walking off, followed by his aides and guards from Legacy.

Sue watched his back as he disappeared. As the cameras were switched off, people rushed in to greet her. 

«Congratulations, Sub Tacticus.» Tac Hordvik said, shaking her hand.

Keisha slapped her back.

«You´re famous now, girl,» she said, «you´re a heroine! A few more years, and you´ll be government material. I´m telling you, you´re set for life now. And a long life!» Sue smiled, relieved that this was finally over. Back in Legacy, and in every town all over the Covenant, people would watch the broadcast and the reruns, over and over. But here, tomorrow was a new day. This would all blow over, and people would forget about all of this. She would be a bit young for a SubTac, but that would be it. Soon everything would be back to normal.

*****

Have you signed up for the newsletter yet?

If you do, you´ll be the first to know when RIFT is out, and you´ll get it at a big discount. And you´ll get the FREE ebook ALIVE as well.

So what are you waiting for?

You can sign up here.

Connect with me!

Get ALIVE, the Exodus companion novella for free!

Sign up here to receive your free ebook!

Check out my books!