Thank you for stopping by and joining us for our stop on the Read-A-Long portion of The Empire by Elizabeth Lang virtual tour. We are excited to post this segment of the story and we hope you enjoy it too!
The Empire – Chapter 7
The lights were dimmed when Kali ventured back into the cabin. Just a faint glow from the lighting strip above the door. Had he left the room after kicking them all out? That would be strange. Reaching for the light switch by the side of the door, she spotted a bump on the couch and a thin blanket stretched over it.
A ragged breath broke the silence and a strained sigh. Adrian moved restlessly, trapped by a burdened mind. His clothes lay neatly draped over the back of the chair. The bed wasuntouched.
There was a lump in Kali’s throat at the sight. She knew that despite what he had said earlier, Adrian didn’t want to be alone, but he felt he had no choice. Quiet as the shadows lurking in the room, she prepared for bed, watching to make sure he was not being disturbed.
Adrian was a realist. Each day unfolded to new disappointments an d this morning was no exception. His stomach was queasy and his mouthtasted bitter as the acid churned in his stomach. He spit out the cleansing water and splashed more of it on his face as he studied himself in themirror. Blood-shot eyes and the face lacked a healthy color, but otherwise he appeared normal. Whatever that meant. His jaw tensed at anotherstab of pain in his head. The tracer was only supposed to take a few hours to attach itself to his brain, or so the doctor said, but it was clearly takinglonger than that.
A visit to the medical unit was required. He didn’t have to report to the science lab yet, and breakfast wasn’t an appealing idea this morning.
Raking fingers through tousled brown hair, he passed a comb through it. It was a longer than regulation by one full centimeter, time for another cut.
There were never any excuses for a shoddy appearance.
Re-entering the bedroom, he averted his eyes when he saw Kali getting up. She wore a simple beige nightgown that gave her a soft, feminine aura that was hard to imagine in the severe black uniforms. Her gray eyes seemed lighter than he remembered. “The bathroom is yours, Ensign.
Kali winced at the formal address. Rank had never been a barrier before. “Thank you.” She slipped on a matching beige robe, trying to keep the atmosphere civil. “You’re up early.”
He stared at her for a moment, his dark hazel eyes deep with unknowable thoughts. “I have to go.”
“Thank you for the use of the bed last night. You didn’t have to do that.”
“Tell Bryce to clean up when he arrives. And have him deliver breakfast to Science Lab Four.” With that, he left.
“The pain is normal,” said Dr. Grift, as Adrian slid off the examination bed. The bio-readouts showed multi-colored graphs and in the center, adetailed scan of a brain in varying overlapping hues.
“You said the device only takes a few hours to attach itself.” He drew his dark gray shirt back on and refastened it.
“That’s right.” The scans clearly showed a small black area that did not belong in a normal brain. “It has successfully integrated with yournervous system.”
“But I still experience pain.”
“Well, you would,” Dr. Grift said, his eyes unwavering.
“I’m glad you do. I do hate having to explain the obvious. Especially if it’s unpleasant.”
“I need to be able to concentrate.”
The doctor punched in the commands to save Adrian’s scans. “If you’re looking for chemical aid, you won’t find any. Not until the Admiral changes his orders. They tell me you’re a bright man and a Firster. Genetically superior to the rest of us. I’m sure you’ll find a way to adjust. You’redismissed, Lieutenant.”
“Well, well, well, look at who decided to grace us with his presence. If it isn’t our former Tech Commander.” The hostility rolled in wavestowards Adrian the moment he entered the Science Lab.
The speaker, a man with an arrogant air and a perpetually tanned face, was a familiar figure to Adrian. He wore a white knee-length lab coat with a swirling science emblem like his. The Tech Commander markings were new and nearly made Adrian’s lips curl in sarcasm, but he
maintained a blank expression.
Alan Kegan was a dangerous little sycophant with no talent, ordinary intelligence and a disgusting ability to do ‘favors’ for those who hid his ineptitude and advanced his career. If his family had not been rich and had the right political connections, he would have spent his life in the juniorranks. A spoiled, vicious, nasty product of his class; the youngest son only marking time until he inherited his portion of the family fortune. Adrian had detested him the moment he set eyes on him. The toad appeared to have come up considerably in the Empire food chain. Kegan had been asimple lab tech—one who required constant supervision—on the Neutron Wave Project.
Pain pierced Adrian’s head again and he gritted his teeth in annoyance, but otherwise he remained stony-faced.
Kegan came up to him, toe-to-toe and a nose shorter. A few lab-coated scientists and gray-jumpsuited techs were working around the roombut they kept their heads down, hoping to stay out of the line of fire.
“Professor Stannis.” Kegan spat out Adrian’s name and his nose flared. “You nearly ruined my career with that little stunt of yours. To think I admired you once. But things are different now. I’m in charge.”
“Are you really?” Adrian’s voice was acid on unprotected ears.
“You think you’re smart but who’s laughing now? All I need to do is tell the Admiral you’re not cooperating. Then what do you think will happen?”
Adrian’s lips lifted in a snarl and his eyes were penetrating, a spear of ice poised to strike. “What do you think will happen to you if this project doesn’t produce results? I doubt if the Admiral is a patient man and you are the Tech Commander. Push me too hard and I will bring you down withme.”
“Is that a threat?” Kegan’s face was so close, Adrian saw the individual hairs of the stubble on the man’s cheek and his hot breath carried the smell of coffee with too much sugar.
“I do not issue threats, only inescapable facts.”
“I can make your life very uncomfortable.”
Adrian tilted his head slightly, his eyes full of insolence, but he didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to.
“I’m the Tech Commander,” said Kegan, his voice rising.
“Are you trying to convince me, or yourself?”
Kegan’s tone abruptly changed. He became friendly and his eyes were sly. “If you do well, I could see to making things a bit more pleasant for you. The Admiral and I are close.”
Adrian snorted in derision, thinking the Admiral had very little taste and even less in brains. “So that’s how you received a promotion you are supremely unqualified for.”
“You’ll pay for that.” Kegan’s eyes flashed murderously.
“If you’ve finished this charade, I’d like to start work.”
Kegan picked up a large screened datapad and threw it at him. “Here! Phase One. You remember it don’t you? The one I was working on?”
With reflexes still dulled by his ordeal, Adrian nearly dropped the pad. “You mean the one you botched and I was brought in to fix?”
“Well then you should be able to do it faster, won’t you? You have one month.”
“That’s impossible,” Adrian gripped the pad tightly, the only outward sign of his growing anger,
“Phase One took—”
“I know how long it took.” Kegan stepped too close again. Adrian decided that sugar in coffee was disgusting and he would never have that combination again.
The insipid man continued, “I told the Admiral you would be able to complete it in a month. He likes fast results and I intend to give it to him.”
“You’re a fool. It took two years to generate the right compression wave.”
“Yes, but we know how to do it now, don’t we?” A rankly sweet smell punctuated every sentence as Kegan put his hands on his hips. “I must hand it to you, Stannis. You made sure you were the only one who understood the whole thing. Made the rest of us looked like idiots after they foundout what you’d done. None of us could reproduce the results.”
Adrian gave a cynical laugh, a corner of his lips curling in disdain. “You tried?”
“Fat lot of good it did. A whole year wasted and we couldn’t get past Phase One. Then they decided to bring you back in.”Kegan paced, circling Adrian, treating him like a caged animal. “Some people wanted to have you executed. Did they tell you?”
So the Sedener had been an illusion, thought Adrian. No one believed he was just a failed researcher, an embarrassment who needed to be put out of the way. In reality, they had given him a long leash and reeled him in when they found him useful again.
Kegan sneered, smelling success. “How does it feel to know the truth?”
“Do you think death scares me?”
An archly cynical female voice said from behind him, “Adrian isn’t afraid of death.”
Adrian’s back stiffened as the woman’s voice chilled the room, and there was another stab of pain in his head.
“He’s only afraid of life. Isn’t that right?”
Without turning to look at her, Adrian already imagined the steely black pupils and jet-black hair in his mind’s memory. There was no reaction in his voice, only a passive acknowledgement of her arrival. “Professor Boudreaux.”
“We weren’t that formal with each other once upon a time.” She came around to face him, another figure in a white lab coat but one possessed of an icy beauty, almost like a colder, female version of him. Her coat was pristine, with no markings, designating her as a civilian.
Tamara Boudreaux was a brilliant woman in the field of Wave Dynamics. A ruthless, ambitious climber. They had got on well and the sparksbetween them had provided for some spirited discussions. Adrian always appreciated intelligent people who didn’t waste his time.
His eyes locked on hers, their past relationship seemed like yesterday and her face was as he remembered; her ice-chiseled features, the high cheekbones that most models would be envious of, her lush dripping-red lips, and the eyes that mesmerized. He said, “Times have changed.”
“So I’ve noticed.” She ran a finger along his collar, a teasing motion that stirred old urges as he stood, a man needing to be a statue. “You haven’t changed.” Her chuckle sent ripples of excitement and apprehension down his spine.
His teeth clenched. The time with the Therapists was too close and Boudreaux was too much; she had always been too much. His mind wasin chaos, a confusion of revulsion and old desires.
“We’re working together?” He kicked himself for such an obvious question. His mind was no longer working at full capacity; control was slipping through his fingers.
“Does that displease you? Or make you uncomfortable? I hope it does you bastard.” Her eyes flashed with fury. “You nearly destroyed my career until they found out what you did.”
“I warned you to leave.”
“Yes, but you didn’t tell me why!”
“Then you’re after revenge?” He wondered how many in this room had the same agenda.
“I will get my revenge one way or another.” She came close, her voice an icy whisper only the two of them heard. “I’m not a fool like Kegan. I know how to make you squirm.” Her voice was seductive in its menace. “You have a consort now, don’t you?”
“No,” Adrian reacted before he could control himself. His heart was racing.
Boudreaux took a step back, with a satisfied smile that was far from her eyes. “You should never have crossed me, Adrian. I’m not a good enemy to have.”
“Do we plan to start Phase One today?” Adrian said grimly, his mask back in place. “Or would you like to save time and tell the Admiral we’ve already failed to meet the target?”
Bryce, thrilled at having his own room, and after spending most of th e night arranging his personal belongings, overslept and didn’t manage toarrive at Adrian’s cabin until long after the scientist left. He was about to buzz himself in when a yellow blinking light on the door panel screen caughthis attention. He slipped his ident-key in the slot and pressed the retrieval button. A message appeared.
Your ident-key will allow you access to the room.
Lieutenant Stannis’ orders for the day:
Bring breakfast to Science Lab 4.
Clean the room.
I will be in meetings all day.
This was dead easy work, how hard could it be to clean one room. Most of it was self-cleaning anyway except for a few minor things like folding clothes and putting away of personal items. Maybe delivering some laundry. He didn’t know where to yet. He’d have to find that out.
“Sirs.” He nodded to two officers—a man and a woman with medical sciences emblems—who walked by and looked at him suspiciously.
Bryce wondered when he would stop feeling like he didn’t belong.
There was the little problem of bringing breakfast. He hoped the Lieutenant wasn’t too miffed at him for being late on his first day. He’d have to make it up to him somehow. Maybe a great big lunch. Speaking of which, his stomach growled in complaint at having been sorely neglected.
Time to get some food, for Adrian and himself.
Adrian peered inside the half-burnt accelerator unit, poking at charre d wires with an extended sonic probe. “How many attempts did you makewith this?”
His tone was flat but the barely veiled criticism of the words made Kegan bristle. “Three.”
“It exploded all three times,” Adrian noted impassively. He pulled out charred circuit boards and other twisted components to get to the less damaged ones underneath, throwing the useless parts to the floor with a clatter to join the ones already there.
“Yes,” Kegan said defensively, “if you must know.”
Adrian glanced up at him for a second before bending to his task once more. “Madness.”
Professor Boudreaux, who was setting up the computer simulations, said, “What Adrian means is that you’re a fool, Kegan.”
“Shut up, Boudreaux. If I wanted your opinion—”
“You would give it to me?” Her lips pulled back, revealing a row of pearly white teeth, like a shark who had just heard a bad joke. She saiddismissively, “You’re not only a fool, you’re pathetic.”
Adrian hissed and his fists clenched as sharp pain pierced the base of his brain.
Looking over sharply, Boudreaux asked, “Are you alright?”
“Some of those multi-packs probably still carry a residual charge.”
“I’m aware of that.” Everyone jumped as Adrian pushed the entire unit onto the floor with a loud crash. “This thing is useless. It would take less time to build an accelerator unit from scratch than to fix this mess.”
“Are you trying to say something about my work?” said Kegan, stomping over.
“Only that you’re incompetent as well as being a fool,” said Adrian, as he went to the storage compartments along the wall.
Looking over the neatly labeled drawers, arranged by category, he gave a small nod of approval at the organization. There was no excuse for shoddy work or not using your brain, even for a low leveler. The drawers slid open at a touch and he drew out components, arranging them on a
“You know, Kegan,” Boudreaux’s voice was rarely below a sarcastic tone when addressing the Tech Commander. “If you insist on being so defensive about every one of your mistakes, you’re not going to get any work done. Not that you’re getting any done now.”
“I’m the Tech Commander, I supervise.”
Boudreaux’s brow rose. “Adrian, I think you’re wrong.”
Adrian looked at her expressionlessly, though his eyes held faint curiosity—it was like old times. He brought the full tray over and sorted the parts by function. “About him?”
“Yes. He’s not only incompetent and a fool; he’s delusional if he thinks he’s fit to supervise either one of us.”
“I stand corrected.” Adrian’s tone was deadpan.
Bryce entered the lab with a tray, the delicious odors of roast chicken and buttery mashed potatoes wafting in with him, making stomachs grumble. Adrian continued sorting parts and neatly arranging them on one side of the workbench.
“Your food is here,” said Boudreaux, her mouth-watering. “Which reminds me, I’m off to get some lunch. I’ll see you in an hour.” Giving anotherglance at the tempting items on Bryce’s tray, she rushed out followed by the others.
Kegan continued glaring at the man who was ignoring him but decided it was much less rewarding without an audience. “Don’t forget. One month.” He left to get some food.
“What was that all about?” asked Bryce, putting the tray down on the only clear area of the table. He decided he didn’t like the look of the TechCommander and the woman; well she was beautiful, but she made him shiver in places that didn’t feel right.
Adrian looked blankly at the tray and the disappearance of the workspace he had deliberately left empty. “What is this?”
“It’s…” Bryce knew being late on his first day was going to come back to bite him. “…well, I know you said to bring you breakfast but I thought, as it’s…” He hoped he hadn’t messed up this assignment already. “Look, I’m really sorry. I know I messed up. I’ll try harder. You’ll get breakfast atbreakfast time and lunch at lunchtime from now on. I promise.” He looked at himwith slightly pleading eyes, hoping against hope Adrian wasn’t thecold-hearted bastard he always accused him of being.
Adrian continued staring at the intrusive tray. “Remove this.”
“Now look here. I apologized and this is just my first mistake.”
“The first of many, no doubt.”
“Fine!” Bryce grabbed up the tray angrily, sloshing coffee over the chicken leg. “I don’t know why you picked me. I wouldn’t have picked you in a million years!”
“You didn’t,” Adrian hissed, and clench his fists.
Seeing this, Bryce thought Adrian was angry and wanted to hit him. “I’ll go pack my things and you can tell the Admiral. The Sedeneris better anyway. It doesn’t have you on it!”
Keeping his voice even, Adrian said, “Plain ham sandwich. Leave the coffee.”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll get your damned ham sandwich. Plain.Before you throw me out.”
“You’re improperly dressed.”
“Isn’t it clean enough for you?” Bryce said sarcastically, determined to get his licks in since he was already on his way out. He was going to miss having his own cabin. And as for Kerril, he’d have to settle for remembering her in his dreams.
“Firster PAs wear a different uniform.”
“What do you care? You can dress up your next lackey if you find one good enough for you.”
“Familiarize yourself with the ship.”
“Why would I—” It was Bryce’s turn to stare at him, his mouth open. “Wait a minute. You’re not kicking me out?”
Without answering, Adrian used the cleared workspace and began building the framework for the new accelerator.
“Well, you could have said so.” Bryce breathed a sigh of relief.
“I believe I did.”
“You know, nobody understands you.”
“That’s not my concern.”
“For a smart man, you’re not very good with people. Though you probably don’t care, do you? ‘Course you don’t.”
“Are you finished?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll go get your stuff. Do you have any other orders?”
With this unexpected second chance, Bryce was determined to do it right. Adrian seemed to be hinting there were more privileges to being a Firster PA that he didn’t know about. He wasn’t about to give them up before finding out what they were first. “Why didn’t you tell me to wake upearlier so I could get you breakfast?”
“Do I need to?”
Bryce thought about his reply. “Alright, what time do you start here?”
Adrian continued working. “0800.”
“Eight?” Bryce groaned at the inhumane hour. “Right. I’ll be ready tomorrow. Even if I have to force myself to wake up.”
“Don’t put yourself out.”
“Well if you can do it, so can I.”
With filled stomachs, work on Phase One began in earnest.
“We need more people for the ancillary tasks,” said Adrian. “Computer techs, weapons engineers, lab techs for the neutron mixtures.”
Knowing Kegan tended to recruit according to those who gave him the most benefits, not for skill or intelligence, he added sarcastically, “Preferably people who can read.”
Kegan had been hovering like a vulture, carefully watching Adrian’s every move, looking for any infraction to pounce on. “Give me a list.”
Popping in a translucent green data chip from a tray of blank ones on the table, Adrian compiled the requirements on his data pad. He handed the chip to Kegan. “The sooner the better.”
The Tech Commander might be an unpleasant toad, but he knew the price of failure. He raced out to exercise his authority.
“Unpleasant little man,” said Boudreaux. She activated the holoprojectors on the modeling unit and a rough outline of the accelerator unit appeared above the table. “Does your little consort have any useful technical skills or is she purely decorative?”
Her voice was innocent but Adrian knew nothing about Boudreaux was remotely innocent.
“If you touch her—” Adrian’s voice was low in case Kegan came back and overheard this conversation. Regardless of what his relationship was with Kali, and he wasn’t prepared to admit anything, she was his responsibility.
“Oh, I’m sure I won’t be able to touch her the way you do.” Her voice snaked seductively around him.
“I will end you.”
“You surprise me. I never thought you were capable of caring about anyone other than yourself. Of course…” Her voice became insinuating.
“She is a delectable treat. And as a consort, she is free.”
The look in his eyes could have frozen molten lava. “If you hurt her—”
“Oh, I don’t plan to, but I won’t guarantee that you won’t.”
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…
03/03/2013 – Tribute Books Reviews & Giveaways – http://tributebooksreviews.blogspot.com/ – Chapter 1
04/03/2013 – Vixie’s Stories –
http://vickiejohnstone.blogspot.co.uk/ – Chapter 2
05/03/2013 – Decadent Decisions –
http://wlynnchantale-decadentdecisions.blogspot.com – Chapter 3
06/03/2013 – Reviews From Beyond the Book – www.reviewsfrombeyondthebook.blogspot.com – Chapter 4
07/03/2013 – Great Alpha Speaks –
http://atrussell.com/Blog/ – Excerpt – Chapter 5
09/03/2013 – The Edible Bookshelf –
http://www.theediblebookshelf.blogspot.com/ – Chapter 6
10/03/2013 – Independent Writers Association –
http://iwassociation.com – Chapter 7
11/03/2013 – Self Publish or Die –
www.selfpublishordie.com Excerpt – Chapter 8
12/03/2013 – Natasha Larry Books –
http://natashalarrybooks.com – Chapter 9
13/03/2013 – Michelle Anderson-Picarella –
http://shellypicarella.wordpress.com/ – Chapter 10
17/03/2013 – SheenahFreitas –
http://sheenahfreitas.com – Chapter 11
18/03/2013 – Castle Macabre –
http://castlemacabre.blogspot.com – Chapter 12
19/03/2013 – My World –
http://stephsgrn.blogspot.co.uk/ – Chapter 13
20/03/2013 – Reading, Writing And More –
http://stephsgrn.wordpress.com/ – Chapter 14
21/03/2013 – Ami R Blackwelder –
http://amiblackwelder.blogspot.co.uk/ – Chapter 15
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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:
Author Page on FaceBook | Blog | Twitter | Website
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!
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