Updates and Sample Sunday

On typos, updates, and a sample of work in progress

Recently, a reader sent me a few “oopses” spotted in JTN1 Convergence (Thank you, reader!). After applying them, I realized I had never announced an update to JTN 3 Stratagem that added a brief epilogue and Afterword, since a few readers were a bit disappointed by the fact the story just… ended.  Well–I’m sure Pam and Rett were just as disappointed for it “just ended” like that for them, as well. But, at least we have a little more closure, and the hint that life is going to go on for both of them.  At least until I (as the author) choose to twist things around for Rett again. (Which, I assure you, I have.)

If you got your copy of Stratagem from Amazon and subscribe to the automatic Kindle updates, you should get the new files (any books that were updated) next time you synch.  If you didn’t choose the Automatic Update option you should be able to update manually from the Manage My Kindle page. For those who got epub files, please message me and I’ll send you an EPUB via email.  I’m going to do a stint in Kindle Unlimited and so, unfortunately, have to remove the listings from other venues for 90s days.

Meanwhile, anyone interested in previewing a sample from the sequel?  Here’s a teaser–one of the prologues (by now you should know I’m a fan of two and three part prologues before the steady story sections begin).  This takes place a handful or so of days after the end of Book 3…

* * * * *

snip from “Sleeper”  (working title)

A Nyorfias Universe novel

Prologue II
The Bunker

Unknown location, Aurora Continent, Epnoce

0536.03.27 (Local reckoning)

“No movement, no heat sources, feel sure there’s nothing alive and moving down here to worry about, Fang Two,” said Corporal Steffi over the com. “Some traces of chemical in the air but nothing’s pipping any alerts. I’m sure there’s machinery down here and it’s on, but I can’t get any definitive readings and it’s pitch dark down here. There’s something blocking the visual sensors of the VARs. I’m getting every other reading we can want, I just can’t penetrate the darkness or get a read on any kind of topography more than ten lengths around myself.”

Sergeant Trebor touched the communications patch in the portion of headband that curved down behind his left ear. “What’s that distortion?”

“It’s this room, whatever it is. It’s huge, and apparently has great acoustics…I’m talking quietly but my voice is echoing like crazy.”

“All right. Stand by.” Trebor checked his VARs to make sure they were working and the visuals  were good, just in case Steffi’s had gone defective. Then he turned to the others of his patrol. “We’re going down.” He gave a nod to the F-troop third-up, Junior Sergeant Worren. “Keep the tea hot.”

“We’ll be waiting,” said Worren.

“I go,” insisted Zharré, pushing past Worren. Trebor had asked her to stay with the rest of F-troop on the surface and she had reluctantly agreed, but from the look on the young Kyarta’s face, she had clearly changed her mind.

Trebor nodded. “Can she borrow your light, Sergeant Worren?”

The F-troop third-up removed his shoulder light and gave it to the girl, who gave him a darting glance and a bob of her head in thanks.

“Ready?” Trebor asked her. “Stay close and stay behind me.”

She nodded vigorously.

The stairs were steep, much more like a ladder. Trebor tested the solidity of the handrails to either side, thinking it would be easier to skip the risers and slide down. Then he remembered the child following him and instead started down the treads. He kept his eyes on the pool of brighter light at the bottom of the hatchway, a circle illuminated by the shoulder lamps of his patrol. He stepped onto the floor and lifted Zharré from the last several treads, setting her down safely and patting her shoulder. Then he took up his VARs, sweeping the blackness in a standard mode before switching into combat modes. “I was hoping your VARs were malfunctioning, Stef, but something is dampening the visual receptors on mine, too.” Trebor handed them off to Bhayorn, then widened the beam on his shoulder lamp in the attempt to illuminate as much of the cavernous space as possible.

“Even with mine and Cara’s lights on full we only see the wall behind us and the ceiling,” said Steffi.

“The ceiling has structures that might be responsible for some of the acoustics,” said Carakenne. But for what reason, exactly, I won’t know until we can get some lights on.”

“It’s cold down here,” said Bhayorn.

“It’s Aurora, genius. It’s cold everywhere,” Steffi muttered, moving more to the right at Trebor’s gesture.

“It’s different kind of cold than outside on the surface,” said Bhayorn in defense.

“Smells odd in here, too,” Nerrah said as she moved off to the left. “Some kind of chemical.”

Jaq Pym pushed back his hood and his wild hair, released from imprisonment, crackled into its familiar wild disarray. The pale gold central crest glowed nearly white in the light from their lamps. Trebor kept an eye on him, knowing the Zetinorian’s sensitive locks often picked up on vibrations, slight changes in air temperature, or air currents their environmental scans might miss. Jaq often knew when there was going to be any seismic shifts, usually alerting them seconds before their geologic monitors did.

“The smell is probably a leak, either coolant or sleep gas for cryonic chambers,” said Jaq. “There should be a control panel left of this entrance somewhere that can tell us more.”

“You and Carakenne go check it out,” Trebor said. “Everyone else, stay close.”

With a nod, Jaq went ahead, Carakenne in his wake.

“I’m not getting enough of a level in air contamination to cause concern,” said Bhayorn, checking an enhanced display on the VARs, “but there’s definitely an anesthetic being leaked from somewhere.”

“How long do you think it’s safe for us to stay down here?” Trebor asked.

“Fifteen minutes, unless we can get ventilation going.”

“Got the panel here, Sarge, give us a minute,” called Carakenne across the gloom. “Ow!”

“What’s up, Cara?” Trebor turned, reached to steady Zharré who followed him so closely he almost regretted bringing her along. In the soft glow from his light, the girl’s long golden eyes—so much like his—were wide and frightened, darting back and forth as if monsters were going to burst from the shadows any moment.

“Piece of sharp something… metal, looks like. She’s all right. We’re checking the panel,” said Jaq.

“Just be careful,” Trebor said, puffing out a breath. “I want what’s left of us to make it home.”

He crouched so his eyes were on a level with the Kyarta and took both her hands in his. “Listen to me. It’s all right, Zharré. Anything that tries to get you will have to go through me first. You have to give us both some room so we don’t hurt each other down here, all right?”

She compressed her lips for a moment, then gave him a nervous but trusting smile.

She’d been in the action, but hadn’t been a soldier, rather she’d been pressed into service as a sled pilot. It was only one of the functions she had been forced to perform as a slave to one of Iheolon’s favored subordinate officers. Trebor was glad her captors were dead—because after he and the others had learned had been endured by this child, he would have ripped the officer and his staff apart, slowly, with his bare hands.

“You remember this place?”

She shook her head. “Dark mind.” Her hands went to her ragged blue hair, her face wore an exaggerated expression of confusion. “Up, remember more.” She pointed to the surface, to the bunker.

Trebor guessed she meant that she was too groggy to remember much down here, but up in the bunker she’d become fully conscious.

“I hope you understood that, Sarge,” said Bhayorn.

“I try have words.” Zharré shot him a reproachful look.

“You’ll learn, Zharré . Don’t worry,” said Trebor. “He meant no harm.”

Bhayorn crouched slightly so his head was closer to Zharré’s level. “I was teasing you.”

“Do not,” said the girl. “Not like.”

“I’m sorry.” Bhayorn looked as sorry as it was possible for a man with thick black whiskers and heavy eyebrows to look, but it must have worked because Zharré, with a nod, indicated forgiveness. Trebor was glad that she seemed to trust most of F-troop enough to interact with them. She still cringed, flinched, or looked like she wanted to run from most anyone else who so much as glanced her way. Outside of F-troop, himself and Nerrah in particular, she only seemed truly at ease with the vet meds and the Ice Beasts.

Trebor figured she’d trusted him first because she sensed he had some Kyarta ancestry. He’d never given his racial background much thought. There had already been a mix of humanoid races—none familiar to the GTC—on the ship that brought the original settlers. Over the past five hundred years of Nyorfian history, those bloodlines mingled. Prior to the Nyorfian system joining the Galactic Trade Commission member worlds, nearly a hundred years ago, there had been a few offworld humanoids who came and wanted to settle. After the system joined the GTC, there were a lot more.

Like many Nyorfians, Trebor could pretty much recite his entire family line back to at least one person on the original ship. He’d not seen many Nyorfians outside his own family who had the same eye shape and color as the Kyarta,  no one had yellow-golden skin or the blue hair that was characteristic of the race, either. He was interested to have it investigated further once they were stood down and home at last.

It didn’t matter how she looked, if she was Talented or not. She had given her trust to him and Trebor had promised her a home, the protection and security of a family. He reached out and laid a gentle hand on his daughter’s shoulder as the lighting flickered overhead and made her jump nervously.

“It’s all right,” he said. “Cara’s found the lights.”

A sullen greenish-yellow glow soon brightened enough that they didn’t need the lamps on their shoulders. But immediately after the lights came on, a horrible discordant screech made Trebor grit his teeth; Zharré squeal, crouch, and cover her head with her arms, and the others hiss or curse in protest. Thankfully the earsplitting sound didn’t last long, and was followed by a whoosh and rush of air as long-frozen air circulation systems started.

“Sorry,” said Carakenne, her voice sounding far away in the ringing aftermath of the screech. “I should have defrosted them first, but I was more worried about the gas getting to us.”

“Can’t blame you there,” muttered Trebor, rolling his eyes as he remembered getting ambushed by gas traps over on the mainland. As he helped Zharré up, he wondered just how in two worlds the Coalition had managed to hide such a huge edifice. Even underground, it should have been detected by orbital scans once the GTC fleet had arrived. “Carakenne, Jaq, anything on that control panel that might be shielding this place—and maybe responsible also for blocking our VARs ability to see in the dark or map topography?”

“Checking, Sergeant. There’s a mess of systems here,” answered Carakenne.

“Good gods and deities.”

Trebor’s attention swung toward Nerrah. The squadleader was about twenty lengths ahead of them in the open space. Ahead of her, the open spot ended in rows of tall, narrow structures. Large Yixolryn glyphs marked the outward curvature of each row end. Lighted walkways ran between the rows.

“This is it, all right.” Nerrah moved into one of the passageways between the stacks. “Good gods and deities,” she said again as she turned slowly, her gaze traveling up the stack structure on the other side. “This isn’t what I expected to see.”

“What’s wrong? Are they alive?” Trebor asked. “Carakenne? Jaq?”

“Most of them, Sergeant,” Carakenne said. “Some of the pods aren’t active and I can’t tell from here if that’s because they’re empty or if the occupant is dead. Or if something is wrong with this panel. We’ll have to check each one.”

“From what we’re seeing… more than six hundred are showing lifesigns, as much as someone suspended can show, anyway,” said Jaq.

“Something’s not right about these readings,” Carakenne added. “I mean, the data doesn’t fit what we’ve come to expect from the average sampling of Coalition troopers.”

“We’ll want to get med and tech teams in here as soon as we can.” Trebor shouldered his weapon and then went forward to join Nerrah. He felt young Zharré take hold of his utility belt, trotting to keep up with him. He shortened his steps and went a little slower. The lighting brightened again as they reached Nerrah. Carakenne must have made another adjustment to the control panel.

“Good gods and deities.” Trebor cast his incredulous glance down the side of one row and up the other.

The walls were filled floor to ceiling with cryonic pods. And inside every pod he could see was a humanoid child.

* * * * *

More about “Sleeper” to come, also about the JTN Prelude!  Happy August!

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