And it’s not just my story. You’ll find seven other depraved stories in there, and all you’ll pay is one measly buck to get the Kindle version or $5.99 for the paperback. Go get it at Amazon!
Here’s a late Christmas present for you all. I wrote this little sci-fi story a while ago and never did anything with it. It’s not connected to any of my series and it’s not long enough to justify charging any money for. So I figure why not share it with you fantastic folks? Enjoy!
I found Rubica slumped against the entrance to port airlock 302. He still wore a crumpled blue librarian’s uniform, the elbows and knees black with grease. Hell of a place to come. Back in my granddad’s day, a rock the size of my fist had punched a hole in this section’s hull shield. Emergency hatches had sealed the hull to keep it airtight, but the section had been abandoned due to the radiation risk. I’d had to crawl a hundred metres through stale water in a rusted maintenance shaft just to get here.
I didn’t draw my gun. Rubica’s hands were empty, and besides, you work security as long as I have, you get to tell if a man’s a threat. Rubica wasn’t, not anymore. I was already too late. Two hours and eleven minutes late, by the glow of my watch.
The ventilation rattled like Death’s bones as it spat humid air over us. I tasted metal in the back of my throat. The place wasn’t supposed to be lit. Rubica must’ve rigged up the emergency lighting. I fished through my pocket and found a bent packet of cigarettes. The ventilation boys hated cigarettes, reckoned they fouled up the air system, but screw them. I pulled a cigarette out with my lips and offered the pack to Rubica. He looked at me for the first time and shook his head. His skin was traced with deep lines made deeper by the emergency lighting.
“Can you feel it?” His voice reverberated in the cramped space.
“Our heading. It’s different. A point-oh-five degree course change.”
“Point-oh-four,” I said. “The engineers managed to correct it some before you vented all the fuel.”
“Point-oh-four.” Rubica breathed deep. “Still enough.”
I sparked a match and lit my cigarette. I watched the flame dwindle slowly down, then tossed the match into a puddle in the corner.
“I have to take you back,” I said.
“In a minute, Gray. Please.”
I blew smoke at the ventilation grate above my head. Let the ventilation boys get pissy about that. “If I don’t bring you back soon, they’ll send someone else. Someone who won’t treat you so well. The XO’s got the crew into a frenzy. Everyone knows we’re adrift by now.”
His eyes crinkled at the corners. “We were always adrift. You and I would never have seen land.”
“Maybe not us, but our children, or our grandchildren. They would’ve made it.” That was why our ancestors made this ship. So their descendants could find a new home among the stars, a place to start again.
“Perhaps.” Rubica lowered his head so the shadows hid his eyes. “We met once before. Back when the Starfarer extremists tried to destroy the Archive’s servers. Do you remember?”
“Afterwards, I was tasked with repairing the data from the damaged servers. The restricted servers. I tried to focus on my work, of course, tried not to read the code. But I’m a librarian. Seeking knowledge is what I do.”
I showed him my sneer. It was a good one; I’d been practising. “Save it for the inquiry. It’s time to go.” I reached for him.
“Wait, just wait.” He scrambled back and held up his hand. His voice rose sharply, the first true emotion since I’d cornered him here. “You know there won’t be an inquiry. They won’t ever understand. But I need to explain it to someone. Please, just let me speak.”
I checked my watch again. The course change was irreversible now. I’d been so close, but Rubica knew every system. He’d sealed the doors to the engine rooms, cut off all external controls. When I’d felt that sickening lurch, the whole ship had groaned. It hadn’t changed direction for twenty generations. It had always been fixed on a single point, the planet Vera 3. Our home, one day.
And now we were pointed into the black, into nothing, forever. I supposed we had plenty of time to talk. I leaned against the bulkhead and waited for him to continue.
“Do you have children?” Rubica asked me.
“One. A boy. Just turned twelve. We wanted more, but with the population rise…” I shrugged.
“What’s his training?”
“Just like his father.” Rubica’s eyes crinkled at the corners. “Did you know that over the last three generations there has been a sixteen per cent rise in military and security training?”
I shrugged. Education was all computer-controlled, designed to ensure the correct proportions of children went into the most essential crew positions.
“I discovered that when I was rebuilding the code for the education program,” Rubica said. “The change was pre-programmed. On a timer. Five generations ago, the computer began increasing the militancy of the ship’s population.”
“Yeah? How come?”
Rubica leaned back and closed his eyes. “You know, I think I will have one of those cigarettes.”
I passed him one. He took it and leaned forward as I lit it for him. His eyes flared in the match light.
“How’s your Earth history?” he asked. “The End War.”
That was easy. The warmongering Federation had been gearing up for nuclear annihilation against our people, the Alliance. The world was coming to an end. To ensure the survival of humanity, the Alliance built generation ships like this one and sent them out to colonise new worlds. Everyone on board knew the story.
“I dug through the ship’s historical records.” Rubica said. He leaned forward. “While preparing for nuclear war, like us, the Federation sent out colony ships. Only they did it first. Their space program was far more advanced than ours. They had all the data on possible habitable planets. We could build colony ships, but we didn’t know where to send them. So we followed the Federation ships. Do you understand what that means?”
I rubbed my sleeve across my forehead. Goddamn, it was humid in here. “You think there’s a Federation colony ship ahead of us, also on its way to Vera 3.”
“Not on its way. Already there. Their ship had a small speed advantage over us. They’ve likely been on Vera 3 for fifty relative years by now.”
“So what were we supposed to do when we got there?” I asked.
Rubica’s lips twisted around his cigarette. “Did you know this ship carries three thermonuclear warheads with delivery systems?”
I said nothing.
“Our education programs were designed to ensure that all two hundred thousand of us would be prepared—eager, even—to perform ground assaults by the time we entered orbit around Vera 3,” he said. “The Federation colonists would have no idea of our existence. Not until it was too late. That’s why I had to stop us ever reaching Vera 3. Do you understand?”
I stared at him a few seconds. Then I took a step towards him. “That’s it? You think we deserve to be damned to save a few warmongering Federation colonists? History hasn’t forgotten the Federation’s crimes. Why should their children be allowed to live beneath an open sky while ours are sentenced to an eternity adrift?”
“Whether Earth survived or not, the war is long over. Surely you realise that.”
I flicked my cigarette away and reached for his collar.
“Wait, please.” He twisted out of my grip and backed away.
“Time’s up. They’re waiting for you.”
“You know what I did was right.”
“Do I?” I asked.
“I was the only one who could turn us from this course our ancestors put us on. If you take me to the crew they’ll string me up and take twenty generations’ worth of frustration out on me.”
Something heavy formed in the pit of my stomach. I drew my pistol and let it dangle at my side. Rubica’s eyes went to it. He held his arms towards me.
“Wait,” he said. “Wait. Let me take the airlock. Give me that, at least.”
It took me a moment to understand what he was saying. I licked my lips. He was right about one thing: the crew would make him hurt. I wanted to make him hurt, for what he’d doomed us to. But I couldn’t take hold of him and drag him back. I didn’t understand why, but my body wouldn’t comply.
I stood there for a moment. There was nothing left to say. I handed him my matches and the last cigarette.
He sighed, all the tension going out of him. “Thank you, Gray.” He moved to the airlock’s emergency release and nodded at me.
I turned away and crawled back into the maintenance tunnel. I pulled the hatch closed behind me and spun the lock so it sealed.
The hiss of escaping air came a few minutes later. A rushing sound as everything in the section was sucked into space. Then nothing. It was over in a few seconds.
It was only then I realised Rubica was the luckiest of all of us. For a moment, he got to see the sky over his head.
What a year, huh? I don’t know about you guys, but my year’s been crazier than a box of doorknobs. A few periods where I was writing flat out and a hell of a lot more times when real life kicked my ass. This year I finished off a Postgraduate Diploma in Forensic Science. Next year, Masters degree. Jebus save me.
I debuted my noir-writing Harry St. John pen name this year. There’ll be more from Harry in 2014. I’ve got several short stories full of nasty people doing nasty things all lined up. If you’re a sicko like me, maybe you’ll enjoy them.
Miles Franco also had a new adventure this year in the second book in his hardboiled urban fantasy series. I don’t know if I’ll manage to get the next Miles book out in 2014, but I’ll try my damndest.
So what else is on the cards from me for 2014? I’ve got a couple of projects on the go, including one I’m particularly excited about. Those of you who read this blog might know I’m a big fan of Japanese giant monster (aka Kaiju) movies like Godzilla and Gamera. Well, I’m finally writing a book that’s been knocking around inside my head for a while now. Think Sam Spade meets Godzilla. With a big of luck and elbow grease, my first (currently untitled) Kaiju novel will see publication in 2014. Get hyped!
Wherever you are in the world, have a fantastic holiday season. Read some books, eat and drink too much, and embarrass yourself with those family members that you only ever see at Christmas because they’re a little bit weird.
Rock on, and I’ll see you all in the New Year!
I’ve just been interviewed by the folks over at Crime Watch, New Zealand’s biggest crime fiction blog.
Go check it out here, and have browse around the site while you’re at it. They have a great bunch of articles, interviews, and reviews of Kiwi and international crime fiction. One of my favourite crime fiction blogs.
If you don’t know how discounts work, it’s like this: you get cool stuff for less money than normal.
It’s pretty awesome.
Pretty good, right? Well, let’s beat that. If you haven’t picked up any of my Miles Franco hardboiled urban fantasy books yet, now’s a great time. The first book in the series is totally free at Amazon.com. You won’t pay zip.
These discounts won’t last long, so get in quick.
Stay classy, folks.
New release time! Leave Her Hanging, a noir mystery written under my Harry St. John pen name, is now available.
“I loved Ella. Now she’s a corpse, cooling off in the morgue with a noose-shaped bruise around her neck. The cops say it’s suicide. It wasn’t suicide. I don’t know who killed her, and I don’t know why. But I’m going to find out, no matter what it takes. And when I’m face-to-face with the man who broke my world, I’m going to break him.”
In this tough-as-nails noir crime novel set in Auckland’s dark underbelly, 17-year-old Jack “Spade” Miller must traverse a web of violence, love, and illicit sex in his search for justice.
Only one thing is guaranteed: no one is walking away unscathed.
Keep reading for a sneak peek at the first chapter. Stay classy, everyone.
Ella Lewis choked to death in the early hours of a lonely Monday morning. I didn’t find out until Wednesday.
It was humid, the kind of day where you sweat and sweat and it never makes a damn bit of difference. In the school quad I could hear the thud of a badly aimed football smacking into the side of the science block, and Mrs Trussel shouting for Jeremy MacKenzie to come over here right now, and students laughing and gathering to watch Mrs Trussel’s arm fat wobble as she waved her hands around. But none of that had anything to do with me. Not anymore.
I slipped inside the empty classroom and closed the door behind me. Mr Harvey was out getting his coffee. Ten minutes until the bell went. More than enough time.
My gut told me I should feel guilty for taking advantage of Mr Harvey’s trusting nature—he was the only teacher who still didn’t look at me like I was a stray Rottweiler—but my heart had more important things to worry about. I’d seen the way his face deflated when he read the yellow memo the admin lady had brought into class, the way his gaze lingered on me when he raised his eyes and told us fourth period was ending twenty minutes early so we could attend a special assembly. I knew it was about Ella. And I couldn’t wait another two hours to find out what’d happened to her.
It was only a few weeks into the new school year, but Mr Harvey’s desk already resembled a mountain range of paper and textbooks. I shoved aside a class roll and found a corner of yellow paper peeking out from underneath a calculus textbook. My heart hammered as I pulled it free, but my hands were steady. They’d never been this steady. I unfolded the paper.
My heart crumbled as I read. Each word scrawled on the yellow paper was another kick in the gut. My mind couldn’t take it. So it sought escape the only way it could.
Memory flooded me.
Dave jimmies open the boarding over the back door and we slip in one by one, ignoring the trespassing warnings and breathing in the musk. It’s Ella’s idea to break into the old abandoned Carlile house on Richmond Road, because we’re bored and a little bit drunk and what the hell else are you going to do in Auckland on a Sunday night when you’re sixteen, right? This isn’t really my scene and the others aren’t really my friends, but like hell I’m going to turn down a chance to hang out with Ella Lewis. Megan, Ella’s best friend, looks as nervous as I feel. She keeps saying we should leave. But Ella just grins that grin of hers, slips her arm through Megan’s, and drags her up the groaning stairs.
Once my heart rate comes down, I see what a beautiful old place it is. Something about it seems lonely, mournful. The furniture’s mostly gone, but there are still scratch marks in the floor where it used to sit. We split up and go room to room, exploring, hiding, jumping out at each other and making ghost noises to try to scare the others. Jeremy’s got a bottle of tequila, so after a while we settle down in a bedroom and pass that around, swigging away, the others loud and talking, and me just sitting there quiet and trying to sneak glances at the way Ella’s almost-black hair catches the moonlight through the gaps in the boarding on the window.
And then comes the shouting from downstairs, the voices telling us they’ve called the police and we’re going to be in all kinds of hell for trespassing.
Everyone bolts. Jeremy and Megan and the others go for the stairs. The house creaks and groans. But me, I don’t know what to do. My feet are nailed to the floor, my heart’s pounding loud enough to start an avalanche three hundred kilometres away. I stand at the bedroom door, wondering if it’d be best to just hide somewhere and wait for everyone to go.
But a hand wraps itself around mine and tugs. I’m face-to-face with Ella, and there’s something burning in her eyes that’s never been more than an ember before. She grins at me and tugs again. My legs come to life. We race to the bedroom window and push at the boarding until the nails come loose and the night air spills in. Ella hoists herself up and slips through, her jeans catching on a loose nail for a moment, and then she’s free again, standing on the roof of the bottom floor, beckoning to me. “Hurry,” she whispers, cheeks flushed.
She holds the board out for me while I wriggle through. I avoid the nail that got her but catch two more in the process. And then I’m outside with her, looking over the lights of Auckland.
Ella grabs me by the hand again—this time I notice how soft her skin is—and she pulls me to the edge of the roof. She lowers herself over the edge and drops to the grass, rolling as she hits the ground. Gut churning, I follow her, the shock going through my shins. The shouting’s muffled now, further away. Ella takes my hand for the third time and leads me back to the road, and we run and run until we’re both panting and even the night air isn’t enough to keep the sweat off our foreheads.
We collapse next to each other on the grass in Grey Lynn Park and catch our breath. Even through all the city lights, there are stars out, but I’ve only got eyes for her. Her small breasts rise and fall with each breath she draws. Her mouth is split wide in a delirious smile, her hair acting as a pillow on the grass. I become aware of her hip bone pressed against my side, her hand lying half a centimetre away from mine. Her skin’s a couple of shades darker than mine—a gift from a Maori relative a few generations back.
I think about taking her hand again. Ball up my courage. And then I do it. She doesn’t resist. Her head rolls to the side and she looks into my eyes, smiles, squeezes my hand. I want to say something funny or cool to impress her, but the tequila and the adrenaline and Ella’s smell are going to work on me. So I stay silent and do the only thing that seems right.
I kiss her.
And even after everything to come in the following months—the pain, the anger, the screaming—I’ll always remember the way Ella’s lips taste in the moonlight.
And then I was back in Mr Harvey’s classroom, slumped on the floor with my back against the wall, reading the yellow sheet of paper for the third time. They didn’t use words like “beautiful” and “exciting” and “soft” to describe Ella. They used ones like “tragedy” and “suicide”. And I sat there, trying to process what the words meant, because there was no way in hell they could apply. Even after the last few months when everything went to shit, she wasn’t that kind of girl. She wouldn’t know how to be a corpse. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t shown up to class since the principal had finally let me back into school. She was probably just sick, or she’d decided to drop out and do her acting like she’d talked about. There was no way she was cooling off in a morgue or a hospital or wherever they took dead bodies. There was no fucking way.
It was nearly eleven by the time I got my legs working again. The bell would be going any second now. I had to get gone. I had to get to a bathroom and spew my guts out. And I had to work out what had happened to Ella Lewis.
I pocketed the yellow paper and closed the classroom door behind me on my way out.
Have you ever wondered what I look and/or sound like? No? Well too bad, here’s a video. My YA noir mystery Leave Her Hanging is scheduled for release on 25th September, so I decided to make a quick video of me as Harry St. John reading a short section of the book. Don’t ask me why I thought that would be a good idea.
Anyway, on to the video. You may note that I look fatter and hairier in this video than I do in the picture on my About Me page. That’s totally the camera’s fault, and definitely not just that I’ve become fatter and hairier. *shifty eyes*