A look at a cover to come…
Image credit: NASA
We couldn’t wait.
We’re moving ahead and trying something a bit different here at Astroguyz for this weeks’ free fiction offering. What follows is a sneak peek at something in the works: a rough draft of the third installment of our Solar Winds epic, in its largely unedited glory. Feel free to critique, provide input and let us know what you think; its your commentary that’ll make a good tale great.
Based in the year 2222 AD, Solar Winds portrays an imperial Earth, seeking to gain dominance back over its far flung planetary colonies and a solar system on the brink of rebellion. Not that a young Andrea Makati and her Zodiac Cartel colleagues wanted to play any part in this conflict, as they thread a dangerous cosmos…
Solar Winds: The Syzygy Gambit
“Hubris casts a deft stake wasted on the stage of youth.”
-An asteroid miner’s prayer.
Mars! Andrea thought that she would never lay eyes on her home world again. The pumpkin-orange globe of the fourth planet from the Sun now hung large ahead of her. The tiny moon Deimos shown as a speck off to her right as the control at Voltaire station began hailing her. Now to see if that code Karl gave me works with a damn, she thought as she deployed the laser pulse encoder and began transmitting.
Andrea also started scanning the Martian surface with her infra-ocular. A big, planet-wide dust storm appeared to be well under way. Few surface details could be seen. Perfect, she thought. That should put us well out of sight of any terraformers. Andrea powered down the pod craft’s antimatter coils, worrying about her plan down to the last detail. According to the code she had transmitted, she would appear to be just another joy ride seeking storm-skimmer coming in for this season’s match. There’s gotta be one this weekend, she thought. There always is… She only regretted that she couldn’t meet with her family or friends this trip.
This jaunt into the inner Solar System would be all business.
A flash caught her eye from below. She punched the dial on her heads-up display to magnify.
It passed underneath her in a lower orbit. She knew that she had very probably been visually scanned. By now, her super-sleek Holderson craft must be well known from her departure from Titan weeks ago and her subsequent passage through the Jovian system.
She glanced off to the horizon. Speedy Deimos had just set. Her native Phobos had to be on the far side. The Mars-synchronous transmission network had problems during nearly every dust storm, mostly due to faulty ground relay stations. Andrea knew that there was still chance that her approach had not yet been announced. I’ve got to destroy that drone, she told herself as she flipped over and corrected her course to intercept the satellite.
Her infra-ocular suddenly caught the flash of a maser powering up. Drop, dammit! She thought, clenching her teeth as the burst went wide. Barely. Andrea knew she would only get one more pass before orbital mechanics carried them both apart. She did not dare power up the antimatter drive again. She had never test fired the pod’s weapon system, which appeared to consist of a single scattershot gun. Hopefully, it could rupture a hull. The pod drifted past close enough for her to see the skin-flash on its skin. Legion! They were definitely on to her and the Scorpius Cell. They couldn’t have compromised the rendezvous point, she wondered, amazed. Not unless the Martian Underground has lost their touch. She pressed with both thumbs and fired. “Eat ball bearings, circuit brain,” she said as she saw the brilliant glitter radiate out ward into the sunlight. A brief halo seemed to encompass the drone as a spark flared and dissipated and they both drifted apart. Counter-measures, no doubt, no way I’ll catch it, now. Damn! She would have to give the order for the Cartel to evacuate back to the outer solar system. Damn!
Andrea caught a flash from the direction of Mars out of the corner of her eye, as a particle beam struck the wounded drone from below. The drone drifted lower and away into what Andrea knew would be an atmosphere-grazing orbit.
That came from the surface!
A robotic voice crackled over Andrea’s comm. “Glad to see you ma’am, we could sure use your wise and benevolent leadership down here. How was the vacation?”
“V.I.C.A.R.!” She yelled with delight. “Where are you freaks?”
“Please precede comm-out to the following coordinates.” The android replied over the comm.
Andrea was never so glad to hear a synthetic’s voice in her life.
As a precaution, Andrea came in on the uninhabited edge of the Tharsis Plateau. No stranger to the Martian desert, she then buried her craft from prying eyes and set off on foot. She carried a week’s supplies, a maser pistol, and wore a surface excursion suit. She knew that she could easily make the hundred klicks to the meeting point over open ground in about two days. Or I don’t deserve to call myself a third gen-Martian, she thought.
The Sun hung low in the west. Andrea knew that its crimson-pink hue meant only one thing: dust. It was early summer here in the northern hemisphere, and a Martian dust storm could be whipping along at 300 kilometres per hour by noon tomorrow. Every year, the dust storms got progressively worse. Martian terraforming was mostly to blame; this was a huge bone of contention with her fellow Martians (she, and they, hated the term colonists!). This isn’t Venus. Still, an overcrowded Terra wanted Mars for themselves, and a scattering of hick Martian settlers were not going to stop them!
To be continued…