Thank you for stopping by and joining us for our stop on the Read-A-Long portion of The Rebels by Elizabeth Lang virtual tour. We are excited to post this segment of the story and we hope you enjoy it too!
The Rebels – Chapter 8
Determined rays forced their way through the canopy of leaves and icicles sparkled in rainbow hues as Bryce lifted a gnarled root and stared at it suddenly as a chuckle burst from his lips and he looked quickly at the cabin. The root looked like a lumpy carrot, with the Lieutenant’s face, or at least his nose. Long and stern, just the right kind to look down on lesser people.
He chucked the root into a dented pail and dug his trowel into the dirt, clawing through the thick, withered weeds. In a previous lifetime, this must have been a pretty little garden. Fortunately a few edibles remained. At least Kali had declared them edible. Cold-roots, she called them, adapted for unforgiving temperatures. He knew nothing about growing things—he was a Domer back on Earth. Well, everyone was since The War a millennia ago.
He hadn’t seen a real sun or breathed non-recycled air until he’d been shipped off to one of the New Colonies. But then he’d made the mistake of ‘borrowing’ some choice items from the wrong supply hold on the ship—a VIP diplomat returning home from assignment. The man had some fine things. Being a diplomat must have paid loads.
The vindictive man made sure he was sent to a penal colony, for life, which Bryce thought was rather steep for two bottles of vintage wine and a few baubles. He never even had the chance to taste the wine. The Empire had been generous and offered to commute his sentence to fifteen years if he’d serve them in the military.
And here he was again, a fugitive from justice. Life was very unfair to him. But at least he had a chance to taste a few good wines and ales on the Trykor. The flagship had been very well-equipped and an enterprising Personal Assistant to a Firster had special privileges he wasn’t afraid of using.
The trowel jammed, firing a shock up his arm. “What the…” Biting his lips, he dug carefully, scratching the dirt away until a dry, knobby bulb appeared, attached to a long…
Bryce yelped, dropping the trowel and staggered back, landing on his backside with a thump.
Kali knelt down, brushing away the surface debris from the skeleton. Bits of insect-eaten cloth clung to it: brown, splotchy animal hide formed a thick jacket, remnants of a cotton shirt in a checked red and brown, and tough black pants of an unidentified material that was mainly intact. The bones were dry and white, entirely stripped of flesh. “It’s only a body.”
“It’s only a body, she says.” Bryce’s face was pale. “I’m not like you. I don’t see dead bodies every day.” Even though he was a ship’s weapon specialist, death was something distant. The flashing trail of a phaser canon and a fiery explosion was all he ever saw of it.
Picking up a long, thin bone, Kali turned it over. “From the placement…these are all faced down.” Her lips pursed. The bones had one arm stretched above the skull and the other bent under the chest. “I think…he was trying to crawl back to the shack. It’s hard to determine how he died with all of the flesh gone.”
“That burns,” said Bryce, “dying out here all alone.”
“Dying anywhere isn’t pleasant.”
“Yeah.” He ventured closer to the skeleton. It seemed more like a sad figure now, not a creature out of a horror vid that would rise from the grave. “At least we know why the shack was abandoned.”
With care, Kali laid the bone down in the correct anatomical position. Her people had great reverence for life and for the memory of a person after they passed on. “We don’t have access to a crematorium, but we could bury him. I could say a simple Tellar service.”
“I doubt if he was Tellaran.” Bryce didn’t have to ask who would be doing the digging.
“Everyone deserves dignity. Even if we didn’t know who he was.”
“What if he was some crazed murderer?” he asked. Delaying the inevitable was his favorite pastime, especially when it involved digging holes. He figured he’d dug enough of them already. “I mean, he died and no one bothered looking for him.”
“You have a point.” As a medic, she knew all about skin and bones, muscles and sinew. Nothing told her if this had been a good man or not.
She couldn’t use her psi senses on the dead.
It did make her wonder. Who was this man? Most likely a loner, not unlike Adrian. She hated to think Adrian would end up like this, living and dying alone with no one to care. Not if she had anything to do with it. “We should still give him a decent burial. Maybe he liked being alone. Or he was hiding from the Empire. People probably misunderstood him.”
Bryce peered closely into her unfocussed eyes. “Who are you talking about?”
“I…” Kali took a deep breath, letting the cold air clear her head. “I was just speculating.”
“Yeah, sounded like it,” said Bryce with a slight nod of his head.
A loud crash made them jump, followed by a dull thud. In shock, they turned to each other.
The door banged open as Kali rushed in, Bryce a step behind her. Adrian sat doubled on the floor, groaning, his jaw clenched and his right knee bent. There were grayish streaks on his patched jacket. Twisted metal lay around him, the pipes of the heating system that had once snaked across the ceiling.
Grabbing the field kit from the counter, she knelt beside him. “Where does it hurt?”
“My knee,” he gasped. “I was…trying…to clear a blockage…in the heating system.” He made to get up but fell back groaning.
Kali pressed down on his shoulder. “Let me take a look at it.” She reached in her bag, for a moment feeling for the medical scanner, until she remembered it lay dismembered inside one of the cupboards, its parts cannibalized. Rolling the trouser leg carefully, her sensitive fingers probed gently, feeling the bones and ligaments and bending the joint. She felt his leg stiffen but there was no other reaction. “How does that feel?”
“Fine,” he replied through clenched teeth.
It amused her that many of her male patients equated physical injury with a personal weakness. “Fortunately, it’s only a mild sprain.”
Adrian pushed to get up and Kali pressed on his shoulder. “You need to rest. I will apply an ointment to reduce the swelling and give you something for the pain.”
“The duct needs to be fixed.”
“Bryce can do it.”
A loud groan from the other side of the room greeted her suggestion.
That night, with Adrian’s leg raised on a double-pillow, Kali massaged more ointment into his knee. There was a slow burning sensation followed by a minty coolness sinking through the skin.
He lay back, a feeling of well-being washing over him. Shadows played across the double-paned glass, casting strange dancing creatures on the walls. A shrill wind found holes that had escaped their repair efforts. The shack was so worn and weather-damaged that it would be less work to build a new one.
Buying a prefabricated dwelling was out of the question. They had to save money and it would be difficult to explain delivery instructions to the middle of the forest.
The truth was, he was bored. His mind was a highly tuned engine without a race and it was driving him to distraction.
Produce. Think. Solve. It was his life, his obsession.
Fixing the farming equipment had been a minor amusement more than a challenge. It took little effort to understand its function or what was wrong with it. He’d taken the liberty of increasing its efficiency using little more than a few spare wires and a wooden dowel. That had added a few mildly interesting days to an otherwise pedestrian exercise.
Kali’s expert kneading of sore muscles had reached his hip, sparking decidedly non-medical sensations. She stared down at him with a teasing smile. “I was wondering when you would notice.”
“You’re hard to ignore.”
“I certainly hope not.” She leaned over and they shared an exploratory kiss. “Do you need more stimulation?” she asked, as she wriggled in beside him and rested a hand on his chest.
“I always need more stimulation,” he replied, not quite certain in which context she meant, but more than eager to find out.
“Why don’t you build a lab? That way you can carry out experiments, do the kind of work you like to do.” She drew a light pattern on his nightshirt, tracing a large cursive ‘A’ on his shoulder.
“A lab.” There was a faint note of disappointment in his voice, though the idea was an excellent one.
“You don’t think it’s a good idea?”
Her tracing finger wandered past the confines of his shirt and touched exposed skin. A tingling shock of energy passed between them and he drew in a thin hiss. “It’s…good.”
“What’s good?” She followed the collar of his shirt, barely touching the skin, creating an irresistible itch.
Conversation would be impossible if she continued her actions, not that he would object.
“This…” He rolled towards her, feeling the soft curves of her body fitting into his, his mouth seeking hers with growing hunger. His lips traced down her neck, tasting the sweet saltiness of her inviting flesh. Hot blood pulsed in the vein at her throat. If he were a vampire, he could bite down and drink in her essence and they would be one.
What strange thoughts he was having.
“Are you content?” he mumbled, barely getting the words out before he returned his attention to her welcoming lips.
“We’re together and away from the Empire. That is enough.”
His mind intruded with the alluring image of her on the jump gate ramp, but for some reason, instead of the severe lines of her black uniform, she was in a fiery red dress that heated his imagination.
“You deserve more,” he said. More than someone like him. He traced the outline of her perfect face, committing each silky stroke to memory.
She was brave and human and he felt like neither.
“You are more, Adrian.”
“I’m a poor reward for your efforts.” Other than his mind, what else did he have that was of value?
Kali smiled and snaked her hand behind his head, burying her fingers in his hair. Hot currents of desire connected them and her presence was a feather touch along the walls of his conscious mind. You are my greatest reward, she projected.
He highly doubted that, but he resolved to give her more as she guided his head down for a deep, soul-searching kiss.
Fluted marble columns rose from the sun-baked floor like silent sentinels, soaring high above Charles Sester’s head as if giants strode through its arches instead of puny mortals. Runes etched in flaming gold above the doorway didn’t quite translate into Empire Standard, the closest approximation being, ‘The Mind Ascendant.’
The ostentation of it all amused Sester. For an organization that prided itself in subtlety, it was like being hit on the head with a power driver.
Unconsciously, he tugged the ends of his three-quarter length jacket, the fringes edged in braided silver filament and the collar straight and wrapping around his neck.
He looked up, letting the past blur into the present.
Over the archway, twelve mythical creatures spread crystal wings to the heavens, one from each of the founders of the Empire, Earth being represented by a fiery phoenix, fitting for a race that barely survived its own civil wars.
A niggling headache nagged at him, a bothersome pain with tiny teeth chewing at the base of his brain.
The child Sester had looked up at the fearsome crystal creatures, a shiver of anticipation dribbling down his spine. The shadowy entrance yawned like a magical doorway, and even then he knew that if he passed through it, there would be no going back.
The man and the child stepped over the line between past and present, life and death. Robed figures glided towards him, hooded guardians, their faces hidden in shadows. They surrounded him, hemming him in on all sides.
Their silence sucked up the air.
A delighted sparkle lit up Sester’s eyes and deep behind it a touch of encroaching madness. “To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?”
Also Elizabeth Lang has shared with us an exclusive picture from The Empire Series
To read more of the Read-A-Long please follow the tour schedule…
02/03/2013 – The Edible Bookshelf –
http://www.theediblebookshelf.blogspot.com/ – Chapter 1
03/03/2013 – Vixie’s Stories –
http://vickiejohnstone.blogspot.co.uk/ – Chapter 2
04/03/2013 – Decadent Decisions –
05/03/2013 – Independent Writers Association –
http://iwassociation.com – Chapter 4
06/03/2013 – Self Publish or Die –
http://www.selfpublishordie.com – Chapter 5
10/03/2013 – Reviews From Beyond the Book –
http://www.reviewsfrombeyondthebook.blogspot.com – Chapter 6
11/03/2013 – Great Alpha Speaks –
http://atrussell.com/Blog/ – Chapter 7
12/03/2013 – The Kat Daughtry –
https://thekatdaughtry.wordpress.com/ – Chapter 8
13/03/2013 – Sheenah Freitas –
http://sheenahfreitas.com – Chapter 9
14/03/2013 – Natasha Larry Books –
http://natashalarrybooks.com – Chapter 10
27/03/2013 – Castle Macabre –
http://castlemacabre.blogspot.com – Chapter 11
28/03/2013 – My World –
http://stephsgrn.blogspot.co.uk/ – Chapter 12
29/03/2013 – The Cro’s Nest –
http://p45crok.wordpress.com – Chapter 13
30/03/2013 – Tink’s Place –
http://myblog2point0.blogspot.com/ – Chapter 14
31/03/2013 – Reading, Writing And More –
http://stephsgrn.wordpress.com/ – Chapter 15
Thank you for joining us and Page Turner Book Tours and Elizabeth Lang today on our stop.
About Elizabeth Lang:
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.
You can connect with Elizabeth Lang at the following places:
About Page Turner Book Tours:
Page Turner Book Tours is fronted by the face behind Read2Review Kate. Page Turner Book Tours has been put together to help promote authors and give something back to the writing world. Kate has put together a team of incredibly talented people to help with the project by incorporating their individual skills into making new, fresh and exciting promotional plans that we hope you agree are amazing. If you would like to book a tour with Page Turner Book Tours please check out their tour packages. If you would like to become a tour host with Page Turner Book Tours please check out their Tour Host page. You wont be disappointed!