Torchship Pilot Update

Sleepy Cat Audiobooks has hit a milestone on producing the audio version of Torchship Pilot. The whole book is recorded. Now it’s just editing, which is the hard part.

For the author that also means I have a list of typos to fix that were discovered during the recording. The corrected version is now live on Amazon. While I was at it I decided to add a bit to the start of the novel. For anyone who’s read it already, here it is:

***

Fragment of FNS Terror, Bonaventure System, acceleration 0 m/s2

Michigan Long floated through the corridors of the wrecked battleship. Her spacesuit was recycling the smell of her own sweat into her face. Even in free-fall, hauling out survivors was heavy work.

At a bend in the corridor she braced against the bulkhead. Spreading her hands flat on the wall let her sense any vibrations from survivors banging on their compartments. She was listening for survivors. Not resting from the effort of maneuvering in free-fall. At least the wreck had enough spin to let her rest against the wall instead of having to brace herself.

She felt some vibrations. Not the bang-bang-bang of someone trying to attract attention. This sounded like someone working.

Her radio was set for the standard suit emergency frequency. She called, “Anyone out there?”

“Oh, thank God. I thought we’d been abandoned. This is Chief Donner. Who are you?” The signal was clear. He had to be less than fifty meters away.

“I’m Mitchie Long. Where are you?”

“Corridor Twelve-Golf-Five. It’s blocked. I’ve been trying to get through.”

“On my way. Anyone with you?”

“About a dozen back in the compartment. I’m the only one with a suit. We need to find survival bubbles for the rest.”

“That’s going to be tough. All the ones I’ve seen are full. Let’s clear the block first.” She’d also seen plenty of spacers who couldn’t find a bubble fast enough as their ship was torn apart.

The Fusion Navy might skimp on safety gear, but they labeled everything clearly. Finding 12G5 only took a couple of minutes.

The blockage filled the corridor. A molten penetrator had passed through, liquefying structures as it went. The strands of steel alloy surrounded the hole in the bulkhead, looking like a spider web made of icicles.

“That you, Long?” transmitted the chief.

“Yeah. I see the problem. Hold on, I saw something back there.”

A cross-corridor had twisted and warped in an explosion shockwave. A thick spar was lying to one side, held in place by the wreck’s spin. She hauled it to 12G5.

Some shoving forced it through so Chief Donner could grab the other end. Then they could combine their leverage on the icicles.

After breaking four of them Donner said, “That’s a start on a hole.”

“It’s big enough,” said Mitchie. She squirmed into the gap. The coverall she wore over her pressure suit snagged on a spike. Tugging it free cost a slice in the heavy fabric. It wasn’t the first one she’d gotten on this mission, but at least her suit didn’t have any holes in it.

“Big enough for you,” was the chief’s greeting on the other side.

Mitchie thought it was a fair complaint. He was almost two meters tall. In gravity she wouldn’t even reach his chin.

“That ain’t a Navy suit. What ship are you from?” demanded Chief Donner.

“I’m off a freighter passing through the system. We were called in to help look for survivors.” Which was true, if incomplete. Telling him she’d had a part in destroying his ship wouldn’t help the immediate situation.

“Your accent is funny. What’s your home planet?”

“Akiak.”

“A Disker!”

“Yes, I’m a Disker.” Mitchie kept her voice calm and friendly to de-escalate things. “The Disconnected Worlds won the battle. We’re doing search and rescue. You’re going to a prisoner of war camp, which is better than staying here.”

“Like hell.” Donner pulled a pistol from the holster on his belt.

Mitchie kicked off into the corridor behind him. As she bounced off a bulkhead she considered the decision. Going back through the hole would have been too slow. Pulling her own pistol would have left them both bleeding out through holes in their suits. And trying to attack him bare-handed was ludicrous. So this was the best option.

It just wasn’t a good option. The corridor made a right angle just ahead. A bullet smashed into the bulkhead ahead of her, sending sparks and bits of metal flying.

She bounced through the bend and despaired. The corridor went straight for a  hundred meters with no cover.

There was a hatch. If it let into a compartment with cover she could fight it out there. Or she could use the hatch itself as cover.

Mitchie twisted the dogging wheel with one hand while the other gripped the edge of the hatch, ready to pull it open. The wheel released the hatch just as Donner came into sight in the bend.

The hatch pulled out of her grip. Air pressure flung it open against the stops, hiding Donner from view. Oh, crap. That was a pressurized compartment, Mitchie thought in horror.

Escaping air pushed on Mitchie’s suit with screams and the roar of wind. A Fusion spacer slammed into her, his limbs flailing in panic.

She grabbed the edge of the hatch with one hand. The other shoved on the spacer, trying to push him back into the compartment so the hatch could close. More people bumped into him, pushing back.

Vibration stung her fingers as a bullet struck the hatch. She pulled harder but an arm was caught against a hinge.

The roar of air became a whisper and then vacuum silence. Mitchie cursed in frustration but none of the dying spacers could hear her.

Another bullet struck the hatch. She pulled herself into the compartment, shoving aside more warm bodies. A table was mounted on the floor, now a tilted wall with the wreck’s spin. Mitchie wedged herself behind it and waited, her pistol aimed at the hatch.

Chief Donner broadcast a string of curses over the radio. She didn’t answer. When his helmet poked through the pile of bodies she fired. He twisted to try to spot her. She kept firing until he was still.

Mitchie thought, This war became brutal fast.

 

TWO MONTHS EARLIER

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