This spring I was asked to contribute to the upcoming Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance. As it happened, I’d been sitting on a space opera idea I was dying to write. Which just goes to show that any idea you come up with that you think is going to be a hard sell might get an open door unexpectedly. When it does, run through that door before somebody slams it shut!
Excerpt from Nuns and Huns, Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance, coming soon (UK and US)
The ship emerged from the colossal stresses of the wormhole with all klaxons blaring warnings. Captain Althea Eudora hit the override to silence them. If the ship’s structural integrity failed, crushing them all or perhaps peeling away and exposing them to hard vacuum for another variation on sudden violent death, she didn’t want that cursed noise to be the last sound she heard.
But the controls responded to her frantic hands, moving faster than her mind could, and the red warning indicators gradually shifted to green. Death by any method became a less pressing concern, to be replaced with the next: where were they? And when?
Her navigator, Su Carst, spun her chair in a circle as she took in star charts overlaying the real-time display of their current position. “Captain, confirming we emerged from the wormhole following the same trajectory as the exiles.”
“Excellent. Comm, can you pick up their ship’s beacon?”
Nia Thule frowned in concentration, long slender fingers tapping her console. “I have the signature, but it’s degraded. Enough to indicate a significant lapse in time between their emergence and ours.”
Althea nodded. They’d all known the risk they were taking. The trip through the wormhole was one way, and although they’d only been a month behind when they’d seized this ship and gone in pursuit, they’d been prepared for significant time dilation on the opposite end. “How much?”
“Over five centuries.”
“So much.” Althea slumped back in her seat, as much as the harness allowed. “They’ll have forgotten everything, their descendants.”
“Which might make our mission easier,” Nia suggested hesitantly.
It might, at that. The leaders of the warrior caste their government had rightly identified as a threat had been deported without warning, shot to the far side of a newly discovered wormhole while on a manufactured training exercise. Those men, deprived of everything they had a right to and trained to solve problems with overwhelming force, would hardly be predisposed to listen to a scientific delegation from their home world.
But their descendants wouldn’t have to be reasoned with. And they would carry the same precious genetic material that had been so abruptly purged from their race, lest any future generations rise to threaten the order genetic manipulation had made possible. The very order that doomed them all, according to every projection Althea and her team had run from the sanctity of their cloistered institute based on Pangaea’s third moon. The very traits that guaranteed a vibrant and adaptive race were also disruptive.
Life, Althea mused, had such a tendency to be messy. Biology disapproved of political expediency. So strongly that if her team proved correct, the world they’d left behind no longer existed. The will to fight ensured the will to survive. Without the very traits that threatened the status quo, their civilization had unwittingly sowed the seeds of its own destruction.
She’d tried to get their leaders to listen to reason. At first. And then she’d realized the willful ignorance that met her team’s results was the only reason she remained at liberty. Before somebody suddenly started listening and recognized her team as the next threat to the ruling body, she’d plotted grand larceny, treason, and a host of civil infractions from small to great. And somehow, together, they’d done it. They’d hijacked the supply ship on its biannual run to their moon, and plunged headlong in pursuit of their hope for survival.
They’d made it this far fueled by desperation and determination. The same motivation would carry them through the next steps. “Triangulate that signal, and then scan the nearest inhabited world for our genetic markers.”