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 4
The panther-bird flew straight at Kali, its glowing red eyes like laser beams about to slice her in two. Bryce panicked and chucked the broom at the creature. The hastily thrown projectile spun wildly and Kali flung her hands out to block it. The animal screeched, banking left as the broom whizzed past her left ear, bouncing off the door frame a millimeter from Adrian’s nose just as he stuck his head in to see what was going on. The bird-creature flapped frantically, winging its way back up to the rafters. It gripped the beam with stiletto-like claws, glaring balefully at them, and chittering unhappily.
Adrian rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Your aim could stand improvement.”
“Next time I’ll take a course before trying to help,” grumbled Bryce.
“Thanks for the warning.” Kali smiled in appreciation. “And the broom.”
“Yeah, well…you’re welcome.” Bryce eyed the bird warily. The creature skulked along a beam, its baleful eyes glaring at them from the shadows.
The corner of Adrian’s lips twitched as he followed the creature’s movements. It was small, barely ten centimeters standing on the beam, hardly a threat against three full-sized humans. After the dangers of the Empire, it was rather comical.
“Nevertheless, your imprecise efforts appear to have had the desired effect.”
Bryce bent down to pick up the broom and the creature spat at him.
“Watch it you oversized rat!” Shaking his fist at the bird, he brushed at the spittle that clung to his uniform in slimy yellowish globs. The pantherbird scratched the beam and flipped its tail at him. He was sure it was laughing at him.
“It doesn’t appear to be a rat,” said Adrian. “And it doesn’t seem to like you.”
“The feeling’s mutual,” said Bryce, picking up the broom.
Facing the winged creature, Kali had a far-away look, one Adrian recognized.
“I don’t sense any hostility,” she said.
The panther-bird cocked its head as if listening to their conversation. Its furry, pointed ears flicked occasionally. It leapt nimbly to the next beam, its wings half-fanned, dropping dust and soot on the watchers below.
“What do you mean ‘no hostility’?” Bryce jabbed the broom handle at it. “The thing tried to attack us.”
“I sensed fear.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t mine?”
“That doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous.”
The winged animal slinked along the beam, its sinuous body moving fluidly, keeping a watch on Bryce and his broom.
“I don’t think it was trying to attack us,” said Kali. “I think it was trying to make it through the door.”
“It was trying to escape,” Adrian noted, squeezing into the room past her and looking up at the creature. The thing stared back with big round eyes that didn’t blink. They regarded each other, their heads cocked in mirrored contemplation.
“We surprised it.” Kali joined him, her shoulder lightly brushing against his arm. She said in a soft voice, “It’s alright little one. No one will harm you.” She indicated the door with an open palm. “You can leave now.”
Light ripples of encouragement and reassurance radiated from her and bits of it splashed against Adrian’s conscious walls.
The little creature chittered in query, glaring at Bryce.
“Bryce, put your weapon down,” said Kali.
“It’s only a broom.”
Adrian added in a firm tone, “Now.”
“Fine.” The young man laid the broom on the table and stepped back, grumbling, “It’s only a bird. With fangs.”
The bird-creature dipped its head towards Kali, gave Bryce one last glare, and pushed off, flapping leathery wings as it flew out the door.
“That was educational,” said Adrian, taking a better look at the dim cabin. Rough-hewn logs formed the walls, in the manner of an inexpertly fashioned children’s puzzle. The knots in the wood were mutant growths rooted in the relatively straight grain. There wasn’t a great deal of precision in the construction but it was solidly built, enough to keep the snow out at least, if little else.
In the far corner away from the bedroom was the heater, an antiquated monster with a fat belly and rusty pipes that reached up and snaked along the walls, opening in vented grates. A model from the previous century, clogged with grime and debris no doubt. Next to it was a squat cube that appeared to be a generator.
Adrian noted, “At least we know there is a food source if we’re desperate.”
“Adrian, we can’t,” said Kali.
He glanced sideways, noting her reaction and wondering if he would have to forgo eating anything she made a psi connection with. This kind of ‘closeness’ appeared to have its drawbacks. “Let me guess. You wish to make a pet of it.”
“No. I mean, I’m sure there’s something else we could eat,” said Kali.
Bryce started. “Hey now, you’re not eating me.”
Adrian’s voice was dry. “I doubt if you would be palatable, but I was about to suggest that you go to town in the morning and pick up some supplies.”
“I could do that.”
“In the meantime, we make this place habitable. I will see to the heating system and the generator. You can patch up the holes and remove the debris.”
“We should keep the cold out.” Kali closed the door, plunging them into darkness.
“Well, that wasn’t a good idea,” Bryce’s voice chimed.
“It will be once we open the blinds and Adrian fixes the generator so we can have some light.” They heard a bump when she hit the table. The slats opened and dim rays filtered in from a half-eaten moon. “We might be fugitives but at least we have a home now.”
Adrian thought that calling this place a ‘home’ was somewhat premature and a rundown shack in the middle of nowhere was hardly his idea of an acceptable residence, but it was a shelter of sorts for people who had nothing. He didn’t plan to stay here indefinitely.
Adrian rubbed his hands and flexed fingers that felt as stiff as icicles. Candlelight flickered, throwing creeping shadows along the walls.
Candlelight. Primitive and barely adequate, but it was better than nothing. He set the dials on the generator, wiped a tattered cloth over the monitor screen, blowing at the dust and dirt, trying not to breathe it in. Antiquated seemed too generous a term for the machine. It belonged in a museum. Even the Sedener, their ancient science vessel, had technology from this century. He sighed, wondering if he was resigned to eke out an existence far from the cutting edge of all things civilized.
A panel to the side lay open, exposing tangled wires and circuit boards he checked earlier. The device ran on photovoltaic cells powered by solar panels on the roof. Not very efficient judging by the alternator setup. He paused a moment—if he was the praying type, he might utter a few words, or at least cross some fingers—and pressed the ON button. Bright light flooded the small cabin from illumination squares hanging from the rafters.
“Whoa,” exclaimed Bryce, his hammer poised to strike a joining tab. “Let there be light. Do you take requests? ‘cause I could sure use a beer.”
Adrian stared at him. “Is that all you ever think about?”
“Not all, but pretty close.” He grinned and rapped the tab.
Adrian scowled faintly, slid the panel back into place and went to examine the antiquated heating unit. His glower deepened as he stared at the monstrosity.
Bryce tugged the board to test the seal. It wiggled a bit but held. “Anything else?”
“There’s that wall.” Kali pointed.
A groan greeted that statement and he trudged over.
A thick crust of dust coated the heating unit and a latticework of cobwebs netted the monitor screen. Adrian leaned over it, shrugging off a shudder of repulsion as he used his sleeve to brush away the offending debris. Sensitive fingers felt along the edge of the access panel and hooked into a protruding lip. The covering gave way to a dull-edged bread knife.
Brown patches and a black scorch was burned into the middle circuit board. He yanked it out. “This requires replacement parts and a tool kit. I don’t suppose you’ve seen one during your explorations?”
“Back in your lab,” said Bryce.
Adrian directed a penetrating glare at him. “One that doesn’t require a suicidal trip back to Earth.”
“Oh, that,” said Bryce with forced lightness.
“Unless you’re volunteering.”
“We don’t have a ship.”
“We’ll find you one.” Brushing the dust from his sleeves, he studied the scarred board. “I can adapt the circuits from the medical scanner. As for the tools we need—”
“Wait a minute.” Kali lay down the piece of wood she was using to cover a hole with claw marks on the edges. “You can’t do that.”
“It won’t be simple, but if I bypass—”
“That’s not what I meant.”
A frown crinkled his brow. “I don’t understand.”
“What if we get sick or injured? This is an unknown environment. We don’t know what viruses are here and we haven’t been inoculated against local diseases. We might need the scanner.”
“I can easily convert it back if the need arises.”
“Can’t you find something else?”
“There is nothing else. We need the heater working before it gets colder.”
“Colder?” Bryce’s voice squeaked. His face twisted in a pained grimace, and looked as if someone had just frozen his pet cat and left it on his doorstep as a warning to those foolish enough to make their home in this winter wonderland.
“The average minimum temperature is minus forty during winter.”
Bryce groaned. “Don’t tell me this is summer.”
Adrian directed a long gaze at him—the kind he was famous for, devoid of humor and ready to dissect him for analysis. “Summer doesn’t come with snow.”
Adrian directed his question to Kali. “Well?”
“I suppose we don’t have a choice.” She sighed, retrieving the scanner from her pouch and handing it to him. “Don’t break it too much.”
The tall man in the faded leather jacket blended into the shadows of the alley across the street from the security station. Pekanas was the kind of place where you might expect dust balls to roll picturesquely down mud-spattered roads.
Wood trim finished the buildings and frost painted the windows in jagged cracks. Lighting globes sat atop old-style lamp posts made of wrought-iron. The streets resembled cobble-stones but the smooth surface quickly revealed it was only a design etched onto a gritty composite cement-sheet.
A pair of shiny hover-bikes zipped past, trying to beat the traffic standard turning from amber to red. An energy barrier sprang up and they ground to a head-jarring halt.
Young fools. Argus turned his head to the newer, box-like building at the end of the street. It was an anomaly amidst the rustic look of the rest of the avenue. A single word in white block letters
against a black background. SECURITY.
A chill wind lashed his face as he stepped into the street like a man who knew where he was going. Long strides quickly took him to his destination, the Security building, a squat structure at the end of the street.
The automated door opened invitingly and officious gray walls greeted the newest visitor. A raised counter faced the doorway, with a single access gate on the right side and a security camera trained on the door from the corner. A freckled young officer in a dark green uniform sat straighter on seeing the visitor and shoved a tray of data chips to the side. A name badge read, Taylor. The young officer’s trained smile turned to a thin frown as he regarded Argus with the seriousness of a cadet wondering if this was a test. His pistol looked squeakingly new in the shiny holster at his waist. “May I help you?”
Argus imagined the young officer’s finger poised over the call button behind the counter. He tossed a badly scratched ident marker towards him and his voice was a rough, alcohol-soaked growl. “Your bounty log. I want to see it.”
“What?” The young man’s eyes crinkled as if this was the strangest request he’d ever heard.
“He’s a bounty hunter,” said a cracked voice, as a tall, gangly man with a thin graying beard emerged from door behind the young officer.
Sergeant stripes slashed his right sleeve and a badge with a worn bottom edge (as if it had been used to scrape something hard and nasty) identified him as Camsell. “We don’t get many of your kind here.” He leaned an elbow on the counter and looked down at him.
Argus faced them squarely, his hand nowhere near his gun, but not because he feared discovery. “Just passing through.” He could easily kill both of them without any weapons. “Trying to pick up some credits.”
“This is a peaceful town. We don’t need trouble here.”
His eyes bore into theirs, lips curling slightly. Then don’t get in my way. Instead, he said, “There won’t be any. I’m not here to make trouble.”
“They say people like you aren’t that much different than the criminals you hunt.”
“Then be glad I’m on this side of the counter,” he snarled, grabbing his ID marker. “I want to see the bounty log.”
Sergeant Camsell jerked his thumb in the direction of the corner. There was a hooded computer hutch with various screens. “Back here. Check it yourself.” He nodded to Taylor who pressed something behind the counter. A click unlocked the gate and it swung open. Argus pushed through, dropping his ruck beside the table with a heavy thud. He angled his body so they couldn’t see what he was doing, but he could watch them.
The computer screen displayed the Orasis planetary crest. A sleek, panther-like animal spreading fibrous wings and trying to look impressive with its talons extended. He touched the surface to bring up the menu and slotted his ident marker in the side. It wasn’t his, of course. A fake name with a fake identity to go with it. And a fake job. No one would guess he was audacious enough to waltz into security buildings as a bounty hunter, not when his name graced the same logs he was now searching for prey. He took great pains to make sure he didn’t look like the old days. No clean-cut soldier look for him.
Quickly scrolling through the options, he picked out details and committed them to memory. A couple of targets were in nearby systems, even one on Orasis at last sighting. Two had been caught and delivered by other bounty hunters. He glanced behind him. The older officer had left the room and the young one was reading through the data tray. Morbid curiosity guided his fingers as he called up a familiar bank of two rows, each with a golden fist symbol at the top right corner and rimmed in red.
Well, well…He leaned forward. The clean-shaven, crew-cut, uniform-pressed, square-jawed image that had once been him, had slipped to third place. With a lip-twisted scowl, he glanced over at the young officer who was still bent forward, reading reports on his monitor. Argus’ right fist clenched. One day…Hopefully very soon.
He turned back to the list. There was one cheery bit of news. Tucker the Rebel (or The Irritant as he was known in Empire Security circles) had dropped to number two.
He tapped on the first square and a new grim face expanded to fill the screen.
Lt. Adrian Stannis. The shoulder emblem showed the swirling atom symbol of the physical sciences division. Strange. What would a scientist be doing at the top of the ten most wanted list?
Wanted: Alive. $100 Million credits.
He gave a low whistle and glanced to make sure he hadn’t drawn any attention. Young officer Taylor tapped busily on his monitor.
Who did you piss off, Stannis?
At a hundred million it was enough to bring every bounty hunter this side of the Empire looking for the newest member of the Most Wanted club.
He wouldn’t mind collecting on it himself, but these high profile targets carried far too much attention for his taste.
He preferred bounties he could collect without making a personal appearance, and he usually didn’t touch ones that required them delivered alive. However—he touched the blankly staring eyes—if Stannis fell into his lap, he might find a way.
A hundred million could buy a lot of freedom.
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 –
http://wlynnchantale-decadentdecisions.blogspot.com – Chapter 3
05/03/2013 – Independent Writers Association –
http://iwassociation.com – Chapter 4
06/03/2013 – Self Publish or Die –
www.selfpublishordie.com – Chapter 5
10/03/2013 – Reviews From Beyond the Book –
www.reviewsfrombeyondthebook.blogspot.com – Chapter 6
11/03/2013 – Great Alpha Speaks –
http://atrussell.com/Blog/ – Chapter 7
12/03/2013 – The Kat Daughtry –
http://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
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Thank you for joining us and Page Turner Book Tours and Elizabeth Lang today on our
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
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