Sunday, March 3, 2013

Elizabeth Lang - The Empire - Excerpt & Giveaway

About the Book

"It will be interesting to discover which will make you beg. Will it be the pain or the pleasure?"



How do you tame a man without breaking his spirit?



The galaxy is under siege from alien invaders. The Empire is the only force that stands in the gap, trading the freedom of its citizens for a tenuous security.



Amidst this chaos, Lt. Adrian Stannis is a brilliant scientist trying to stay out of the limelight. He hides on a research vessel plying the Outer Rim and finds peace of a sort with Kali Mirren, a psi-enabled humanoid. But his days of anonymity may be coming to an end. Someone has discovered his secret and is determined to make him pay for his treachery. He must finish the project he abandoned years ago, one the Council deems essential in its fight against the aliens, but things are never that simple where Adrian is concerned.



Is he more man than machine, or have years hiding behind a mountain of logic eroded his humanity? Can he learn to love and will he be able to survive the tangled web of political expediency and psychological manipulation that surrounds him?


Will Kali be able to save him from himself, or is there a mystery surrounding him that may explode in their faces?



Everyone wants to know the truth, but will it set them free?


Excerpt


The Empire - Chapter 1

Why does time seem so slow when you’re waiting for something to happen? Is it simply a trick of the mind or is there a dimension you enter, a special mocking place, where time expands just to drive you crazy?

Ensign Kali Mirren didn’t care if it moved faster or slower, or if all the laws of physics broke down in a messy heap; she only wanted to know one thing, where is Adrian?

Lt. Adrian Stannis was their resident Science Officer and computer expert. His preferred epitaph, if he bothered to have one, would be “Leave Me Alone—or Else.”

She drummed impatiently along the edge of the control panel, unconsciously following an old marching tune. They’d arranged to have this shift together—or rather, she did, and he didn’t object—but his tactical station was conspicuously empty. A quick call to his cabin produced nothing. She checked the log for the medical unit. Still nothing. Her fingers tapped harder. Adrian is never late. Something must be wrong.

Stars stared at her from the main viewscreen, sprinkles of light moving sedately past their antiquated ship. Don’t worry, he’s fine, they seemed to be telling her, but she didn’t believe that for one minute, not in this galaxy.

The bridge was quiet, always too quiet for her. It was the curse of being a Tellaran on a ship full of humans—their minds closed to each other.

The Sedener was an old science and exploration vessel with a complement of under two hundred. Everything was well past its expiration date but was meticulously kept in good repair. The institutional gray walls were well-scrubbed, with the golden fist symbol of the Empire stamped at appropriate intervals.

She closed her eyes, placing blunt-nailed fingers to her temples, and pushed her mind out, concentrating on an image of the missing man.

Liquid hazel eyes stared back at her, chestnut brown hair, regulation short, and a cultured face with a faint boyish quality that tempered his normally serious demeanor. He might have been handsome if he bothered to look agreeable instead of staring coldly at people.

Sighing, she pushed harder, stretching her mind to its limits, feeling the tension like a band ready to snap. Adrian hated having his privacy invaded, but she had no choice. Whispers of emotions from the crew licked against her consciousness like gentle waves.

Adrian had been agitated today. Tightly held emotions, normally strangled into submission, had escaped his control more than once. She hoped to ask him about it, but now, it may be too late. She couldn’t delay any longer; the shift required a Duty Officer.

It was the last thing she wanted to do. Once she reported him, Adrian would be in trouble with First Officer Barker, a thin whip of a man with a perpetual twist of a sneer on his lips. Her own lips curled in distaste at the thought of the most detested man on the ship, the head of Security
Section, the one who meted out discipline. He was the ‘Eyes and Ears’ of the Empire on the ship. Even the Captain was wary of him. Barker didn’t like people who were smarter than he was, and he positively hated Adrian.

The Security personnel loved their work, more so because they were a sadistic lot, Kali suspected, than for an actual love of the Empire. On the Sedener, there was little scope for their ‘talents’. Infractions tended to be minor. The only one immune to their attentions was the Captain.

Adrian had not felt the ‘wrath of Barker’ yet. His mind was far too valuable to risk the ‘retraining’ methods employed for officers. He was a First in the Privilege Levels, someone considered genetically valuable, to be treated with care. Without a gross breach of discipline, Adrian was
untouchable. Unfortunately, not fulfilling one’s duty was a serious offence.

Security and Political Officer. Adrian had said it with a faintly cynical sneer when she expressed shock at Barker’s behavior after she had been on the ship a few months. Her home world, Tellar, was nothing like the Empire, but alien invasions from the Andromedan galaxy had forced her people to abandon neutrality for the sake of survival.

An interesting combination, don’t you think? he had added in his characteristically flat voice. There had been a flash of interest from him, quickly suppressed. He regarded her with sharply intelligent eyes, always searching for something, and she immediately felt a strange connection
to this mysterious man.

Why had he spoken to her that day? She never found out.

Banks of status lights read green. Environment, navigation, weapons, scanners, all fine, except for Adrian.

“Kali!” Bryce, their ship’s weapons specialist raced in, his shock of burnt-orange hair, just a little too long, waved like flames on top of his head. He came to a wheezing halt and gave her a bright smile, his out-of-shape lungs protesting the increased demand for oxygen. Even without
the ability to read human minds, she knew that he admired her physical form. Flashes of images from his mind sparked from his mind like firecrackers—her fine midnight black hair, gray eyes that changed from dark to delightfully soft with her mood, to the fine athletic build that was
curved in all the right places—along with the intense over-sexuality of human males. Of course she was also an officer, wearing the authoritative black uniform with the golden fist emblem of the Empire over the right breast. Technically untouchable for a low-leveler like him, but Bryce was a dreamer.

“I’m trying to find Adrian.” She tapped the side of her head in emphasis. “Trying to contact him. He didn’t show up for his shift.”

“Oh yeah, that’s why I’m here. Thought you should know.” Bryce wore the gray jumpsuit of the lower ranks, a color he hated. They didn’t go with his eyes, which were a deep sea green and usually full of mischief.

She said in a rush, “What’s wrong? Where is he?”

“He’s in the brig.”

“What?” As far as she knew, Adrian had never been in the brig before. “What happened?”

“Beats me.” Bryce shrugged, his thin eyebrows lifting briefly. “Saw two of the bullyboys dragging him off.”

She asked in a stuttering voice, “Did they do anything to him?”

“Didn’t see any bruises if that’s what you’re asking,” said Bryce. “‘Sides, he’s a Firster and an officer; they wouldn’t dare lay a finger on him.” Kali’s lips thinned. She wasn’t so sure that Adrian wouldn’t be hurt. The security staff might not dare, but the First Officer was a different matter. “Was Barker there?”

“Oh, you mean old grom…I mean, our esteemed First Officer?”

“One of these days they’ll throw you in a punishment cell.” An orange light blinked briefly on her panel. She tapped it. Nothing major, just the air recycle system switching tanks.

“What do you mean, one of these days? I was there two weeks ago.” He shivered involuntarily and in her mind, Kali saw a red-tinged flash of a cramped cell and the distorted, ghoul-like face of one of the Security men.

“I thought you said you were on leave?”

“Yeah, well…” Bryce’s light green eyes lowered in embarrassment. “I was supposed to be. I sort of started early.”

“You didn’t?” she asked incredulously.

He shrugged. “I didn’t think anyone’d notice.”

Kali’s gray eyes darkened slightly. Their weapons specialist had a reputation, and following the rules wasn’t one of them. “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”

“Well, if you must know, yeah. Never been caught though. And what’s a few extra hours? It’s not like we’re doing anything important. I haven’t had anything to shoot in ages.”

“I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”

“Oh, was I supposed to learn something?” asked Bryce, an unrepentant grin on his lips. “Good old Adrian. I knew he was alright when Barker didn’t like him.”

“We’ve got to help him.” She knew it would be hard convincing anyone to help Adrian. He had a natural tendency to alienate people.

“Why? It’s not like we’re friends.”

And there it was. She had to try though and she knew the young man’s penchant for heroic entertainment vids. “Bryce, he only has us.”

Bryce grimaced at the tone in her voice. “What d’you want me to do?”

“I must stay here until my shift ends.”

“Oh. You want me to do some digging ‘round?” He gave her a conspiratorial wink.

~~~

Adrian sat stiffly at the edge of the metal sleep platform, his back stif fly straight and his hands resting lightly on his knees. The cell was square, gray and devoid of anything resembling imagination.

A lock of dark brown hair strayed out of position and was firmly brushed back into place. His eyes faced forward, staring out into nothingness, the blankness hiding the active mind.

He had been analyzing a new batch of mineral samples in his lab when two burly guards from Security Section accosted him and dragged him to the holding cells.

What is the meaning of this? His steely eyes glared at them, demanding answers. There had been none. That was six hours ago and now he was late for his duty shift. If Captain Tarn had a reason for arresting him, he would have informed him by now.

Barker.

“Psst.” A voice called to him from the doorway.

Frowning, Adrian looked up. “What are you doing here?”

“Trying to be quiet.”

“There isn’t anyone here.”

“Oh. Yeah.” Bryce peered into the bare cell. “Comfy in there?”

“Are you here to ask irrelevant questions or did you have a real reason?”

Bryce grinned. “Kali sent me.”

The hard, impassive face softened briefly—at least Bryce could almost swear it had. “Tell her not to worry.”

“That’s a hard one to sell. Look where you are.” Bryce rested his hand on either side of the doorway. This was much nicer than the cell he had when he was in the brig. In fact, it was larger than his normal bunk space. Damned Firsters. They even suffer in comfort. “She wants to know what happened.”

Adrian gave him one of his classic stares—Bryce imagined the billions of wheels turning in his head—before saying, “I will tell her later.”

“You’re going to let her spend her whole shift worrying about you?” He wished the man would stop staring at him like that; it always made him feel as if he should have dressed for warmer weather. “Well?”

Adrian focused on a spot just past Bryce’s head, almost as if he were trying to see through the walls to where Kali was. “I’ve been told to report to the C.S.S. Trykor when we reach Base 337.”

Bryce’s eyes went wide as saucers as he mouthed, “Wow!”

“That wasn’t my reaction.”

“But the Trykor! That’s Fleet Admiral Verel’s ship.”

“I know who he is.” His voice was clipped, his tone unimpressed.

“Your career is set if you’re assigned to his ship. I hear they serve real food there. Not the reconstituted junk we get.” He stared at the other man as if he was an escaped mental patient who was only missing the body-hugging restraints.

“Then you go.” Anger punctuated every word.

“Well, I’m not the genius, am I? Just a lowly weapons specialist. Press the buttons and things go boom. Not much to it really. But you, I’m surprised they didn’t snatch you up sooner.”

If only he knew, but Adrian wasn’t about to tell him; no one needed to know anything about him. He turned away and paced his cell. “Tell Kali not to worry.”

“She’s not going to believe that, you know. But I’ll tell her,” said Bryce. “And I’ll tell her you’ve lost your mind.” He raced off before Adrian objected or glared at him some more.

~~~

After Bryce relayed what Adrian said, Kali’s lips pursed. “Did he say why he’s refusing?”

“You know him. Likes to keep everything to himself.”

She tapped her console. Why would Adrian refuse assignment to the best ship in the fleet? Did he know the Fleet Admiral? Was there a personal conflict? Knowing Adrian, that wouldn’t be out of the question. “Did you find out what they’re going to do with him?”

“Nothing good,” said Bryce. “You know the Empire. You go where you’re sent, or you go where you’re sent, or else.”

“So you don’t know.”

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t about to ask, was I?”

“Can you ask?” She wracked her brain, wondering what would convince Bryce to help her again. “I know you don’t like Adrian, but…”

“Well, I don’t hate him or anything.”

“You know Barker hates Adrian.”

They fell silent as Lieutenant Pincer arrived on the bridge to replace Adrian.

~~~

Adrian continued pacing his cell after Bryce left. He knew something was going to happen now that Kali knew where he was.

It didn’t take long.

Adrian.

His steps slowed, and he suppressed an automatic flash of irritation at having his mind invaded.

I don’t know why you’re refusing the new assignment, but please be careful. I will try to do what I can when my shift ends.

Now would be a good time to develop telepathy, then he could tell her not to bother. The last thing he wanted was to put Kali in Barker’s way.

Adrian sat down, ignoring the cold surface. He knew what Barker wanted to do to him.

“Psst.”

Before Bryce opened his mouth, Adrian repeated, “Tell her not to worry.”

The young man formed an exaggerated grimace. “You know if I tell her that, she’s just going to send me right back. Maybe I’ll make up something.”

That produced a pronounced glare in his direction.

Bryce swallowed hard and said quickly, “Or maybe not.”

As much as Adrian hated to admit it, Bryce had a point, but what answer would satisfy Kali? He didn’t want to tell anyone why he was refusing this assignment, that this wasn’t an assignment. It had a great deal to do with why a genius of his caliber was spending his time doing research in the middle of nowhere, far away from the privilege his position and reputation gave him. He had always encouraged the image of the eccentric, self-serving loner who didn’t like people—which he didn’t—and they believed him. All except Kali.

“Can you hurry it up? I don’t want to get caught here.”

“Then leave,” snapped Adrian.

“See if I don’t,” Bryce snapped back. “I’m not doing it for you.”

“I never asked you to.”

“D’you have an answer or not?” asked Bryce in a huff.

“Tell her…” Adrian hesitated as he considered his words carefully. “Not to worry.”
“Again?”

“My answer has not changed.”

“Would it kill you to say a few more words?”

“It might.”

It was Bryce’s turn to stare, as if he was trying to decide if Adrian was kidding or not. “I’ll tell her. But don’t be surprised if she sends me right back.”

Just as Bryce turned to leave, Adrian said, “Tell her, I’m not ready to explain and tell her to stay out of this. I will take care of it.”

“Yeah, what else is new,” said Bryce. “You know, it’s not a crime to ask for help.”

“You don’t understand.” It was better if no one else knew.

The tone made Bryce look at him strangely, for the first time taking a close look at the blank face. “You alright?”

An awkward moment of silence followed as Adrian stared at him. “I’m fine.” His voice sounded tight.

“I’ll just tell her what you said.”

“Bryce.” Adrian wasn’t sure why Bryce was making the effort, or if Kali had made it worth his while.

“Yeah?”

“Thank you.” His face was still stony, but sincerity flowed from his eyes; truth from a man who needed it from others, but who was often disappointed.

Bryce blinked twice. “It’s…well…nothing to it.”


Prices/Formats: $15.99 paperback, $2.99 ebook
Pages: 326
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: IFWG Publishing Incorporated
Release Date: November 1, 2010
Buy Links: Amazon, Kindle


About the Author

I'm a science fiction writer who started off life as a computer programmer with a love for reading, especially science fiction, fantasy and mystery.

Being in computers, I found my writing skills deteriorating so I decided to take up writing. It became a joy to create characters, stories and worlds and writing soon became a passion I couldn't put down. As a writer, I like to explore, not only the complexity of characters but the human condition from differing points of view. That is at the heart of the Empire series, of which 'The Empire' and 'The Rebels' are the first two of a four books series.


Links to Connect with Elizabeth:
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2 comments:

  1. Thanks for hosting the next excerpt. I hope people find it fun.

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    Replies
    1. You're very welcome, Elizabeth. Best of luck with your book.

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