This week Toad welcomes Natasha Bennett to her corner, to share an excerpt from her science fiction novel, Ouroboros, book two in her War of the Soulites series (Lyrical Press, Inc.)
Ever since she was a child, Natasha Bennett has been writing fiction, usually during school when she should have been listening to teachers. A fan of both science fiction and horror, she has a fascination with human psychology, often believing that a set of extreme circumstances can create a hero or a villain within a day.
When she's not writing, Natasha likes to spend her time designing web sites and watching horror films. She lives in Victoria, BC with her fiancé and two cats.
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Renolds looked at the view screen, and what he saw astonished him. There were hundreds of ships just floating in the graveyard, most having designs he had never seen before. One ship was a circle and nothing else. Another was pink, with red lights dancing over its hull. Some of the ships appeared intact. Others were just exoskeletons.
“It’s amazing that no one has discovered this weapon,” Renolds said.
“Actually, it seems pretty easy,” Jasper remarked. “Look at these ships! Some of them are far more impressive than the Vigilant, and those are the ones that were stripped right away. They hid Ouroboros in plain sight.”
Hannah looked down at the controls as a beeping alerted her. “Captain, one ship approaching. Very fast.”
Renolds turned around and saw a ship flying toward them. It was very small, practically the size of one of their shuttles. “Hail them.”
Hannah obliged. The face of a hairless alien came up on the screen, blue-skinned and with a face similar to an elephant. Blue smoke covered the alien bridge, obscuring its features.
“Waalaa!” the alien shouted, waving its stubby arms. “Waalaa!”
There was a brilliant flash of light, blinding the bridge crew. Then the words, signal lost flashed across the screen.
“The ship has been destroyed,” Hannah reported.
“Not sure. I’m reading three more ships approaching.”
“On screen,” Renolds ordered and the image of three cruisers appeared. They were considerably bigger than the ship that was just annihilated.
“Getting a message,” Hannah said.
“Let’s hear it.”
A muscular man with thinning black hair appeared on the screen. He was wearing an outfit made of what appeared to be some kind of blue leather. On his neck was a dab of blood. “Dramos Clain?” he asked with a trace of sarcasm in his voice.
Renolds shook his head. “What? What does that mean?”
“G’uck B’ulen?” the man asked with a strange clucking noise. He frowned. “English? I never thought I would have to speak that language again!”
Renolds opened his mouth. “I’m—”
“Unimportant, that’s who you are,” the man said. “My name is Ajalan, and this is Bocca territory. If you don’t leave now, I will be the last thing you ever see. We’ve already scanned your vessel. It’s on the brink of collapse, with nothing worth scavenging. You saw that other vessel that was destroyed? You don’t want to end up like them, do you?”
Jasper swallowed. “Wait...aren’t you cannibals? Don’t you want to eat us?”
Renolds suddenly remembered the story Rilek told him, and his stomach clenched.
Ajalan smirked. “You’re not exactly delectable. We’ll pass, thanks.”
“Wait! You know about the Soulites, right?”
“Heard of them,” the Bocca Captain said with a shrug. “So?”
“In this junkyard, there’s a weapon that can destroy them,” Renolds said. “Let me retrieve it, and I can save both our races.”
“On a broken ship? Somehow I’m not reassured,” Ajalan said. “Where is this weapon?”
Jasper shook his head frantically. Renolds was way ahead of him. “Sorry, but that’s privileged information.
A blond-haired woman stepped up and whispered something in Ajalan’s ear. He grinned at her, then nipped her neck playfully with his teeth. Finally, his green eyes regarded Renolds. “You might have a point, Captain. Here’s my proposal. We’ll send over an ambassador to show you what we can offer for this information.”
“I’m not sure if you have anything we want,” Renolds retorted.
“Don’t be so sure. We are far more than scavengers, Captain. Most of us are scientists. We have access to equipment and technology you can only dream of.”
“Fine,” Renolds agreed reluctantly. “Send your ambassador. I promise they won’t come to any harm.”
Without waiting for a reply, Ajalan shut off the transmission, switching back to Soulite space.
“This might be a waste of time,” Jasper remarked.
“If it stalls them from trying to blow us up, I don’t mind,” Renolds said.
After summoning Carl to replace them, he and Jasper left the bridge. Neilson joined them at the loading bay as a small blue shuttle landed. It didn’t appear very different from one of their own shuttles. They waited while the engine turned off, then waited another ten minutes.
“Why isn’t the ambassador coming out?” Jasper asked.
Renolds frowned. “Maybe he’s waiting for us to come in.”
Concerned, Neilson took out his medical scanner.
“Life signs?” Renolds asked.
“Yes—no,” Neilson said.
Jasper raised his eyebrow. “Yes or no? Which one is it?” When Neilson didn’t reply, he stepped forward. “I’m going in—”
“Wait,” Neilson commanded. His tone made Jasper stop.
“What is it?” Renolds asked.
“I’m reading pathogens. Fifty of them, most deadly.”
“Contagious?” Renolds asked, feeling his blood drop by a few degrees.
“Airborn,” Neilson replied. “The shuttle’s sealed tight. So far they haven’t escaped.”
“Yeah, for now,” Jasper said, panic in his voice. “Who knows how long before that door opens?”
Even as he spoke, a beeping started from the shuttle.
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