So today I have a long time supporter of my blog and all round lovely author David Ellis Overttun for a very special guest post which includes an excerpt from his upcoming novel Mirror in time which is the fourth book in the Terra Nova series which will be released this year. Now over to David:
I first met LJ when I used to be on Twitter. (I have now turned that over to my wife, Natasha.) At the time, I was a totally unknown author. How would I know? When I did a search of “Overttun”, I would get “Do you mean: overturn” — period. I can proudly say that now I am a relatively unknown author. Do the same search now, and you get the same “Do you mean: overturn”. But, now at least, there are some search results. How will I know when I’m known? When I just get the search results. (Do a search for “rowling”. You don’t get “Do you mean: rowing”. Although, I bet there was a time when you did.)
LJ is the poster child for open minded and supportive. With all the great books and authors out there, who would give someone just starting out a second glance? She is also the reason why my covers are so sharp. During our correspondence, after I finished my first book, Universe: Awakening, she said (and I’m paraphrasing), “you might want to get a more eye-catching cover.” Being charitable was an understatement. So, I turned that part of the book over to Natasha, and we’ve gone from…
What a difference!
With all that’s been going on in the world right now, I’ve been finding it hard to set aside the time to finish my 4th book, Mirror in Time. I’ve been doing some ARC guest posts of some of the opening chapters to put pressure on me to finish. LJ has been so kind to assist me in this kick-in-the-pants endeavor with this guest post. So, many thanks! (Also, an FYI. It’s working. Just before Xmas, I sat down and wrote about half of chapter 12 of the paperback version. Only 2-½ chapters to go!)
* * * * *
Our story so far…
As night falls, a transport flies toward a towering mountain range. Stars that should fill the sky are obscured by a random patchwork of contrails.
AV Sundog comes under attack tantalizingly close to its destination and, its lone passenger, Prefect Godvina, is now recovering in the Observatory’s medical facilities. While she has not sustained any physical injuries, the stress caused by the evasive maneuvers have caused her aura to contract. The attending physician expects she will return to normal in a few days, but an individual known as the “Advisor” draws attention to the emotional impact of her current condition. The Director of the Observatory agrees, but his concern seems to go beyond the clinical interest of the two medical professionals. This is personal. Just how personal is revealed when he turns his scrutiny to the pilot of the atmospheric vehicle, Agent Thalia, exiling her and the two escort pilots, call signs: Avenger and Golden Boy, from the facility.
Before departing, Thalia goes to a bar known as “No Man’s Land” to take the edge off. There, she meets Avenger and Golden Boy. They advise her they need to file a report of the incident. And now, ARC eChapter 2: “History”.
* * * * *
Godvina opened her eyes. Her vision was blurred, and all she could make out was fuzzy pale-gold light. She was stiff and sore. “Where am I?” she thought. Her first answer would have been AV Sundog. The last thing she remembered was passing out during an inverted dive. But she was now in a reclined position lying on what she could only assume was a bed. Her vision slowly began to clear. She was in a medical capsule.
A holographic cover receded to either side. Around her was dimly illuminated, and there was a pale-gold light off to her right.
“My love!” Jo’el said as he rushed to her side. He grasped her hand and kissed it. “You are awake. Raise light. How do you feel?”
The room gradually became illuminated with simulated daylight at a rate that matched the ability of her eyes to adjust.
“I…I am fine. I guess. What am I doing here?”
“You came under attack.”
“Yes, that is the preliminary report from Agent Thalia. You appear to have passed out during her evasive maneuvers.”
“Now, I remember! That bitch went out of her way to do this to me! Maneuvers my ass!”
As she rose to get out of the capsule, she noticed her aura. “What happened to my corona?!”
“Dr. Kyros says it has retracted…”
“But it is only temporary. A few days at most.”
“A few days?!”
“Please, my love, calm yourself.”
“I will show you calm!” She stood and faced him, her full, thick, strawberry-red hair cascading on her shoulders. Her piercing blue eyes were malevolently transfixed on him.
“How is that?” she said with stone-cold calm.
“Very calm.” Jo’el had seen this many times before. He had learned to stay out of her way until the storm had passed.
“Clothing. Computer, link with Agent Thalia, voice-only.”
A section of one of the walls, the height of a closet, opened into the room.
“Where are my clothes?”
“They are in laundry services.”
“Emergency notification. Why are they there?”
“Well…they were a bit…”
Then, she remembered and erupted with a howl of anger.
“Unable to link with Agent Thalia. Her nexus appears to be nonoperational.”
“Fucking coward! Computer, current location, Agent Thalia.”
“Agent Thalia has just departed Building K, Chi Mesa.”
“Godvina, you cannot leave looking like this.”
She turned and faced him with a look that sent a chill up his spine. Then, something quite unexpected happened.
“Mirror, full length,” he quickly said. “Look, you are back to normal.”
“So, I can leave?” she asked sarcastically.
“Yes, yes, of course.”
“Good. Get me something to wear!”
* * * * *
The three agents made their way to a secure room, a hardened location buried deep in the mesa protected by biometric security, anti-surveillance measures and sensors to detect changes in air quality and temperature.
“Agents Mica’el, Gabri’el and Thalia with a secure link to Prefect Tarsus,” Mica’el said.
Tarsus was the prefect at the Ministry of Defense and Security in charge of intelligence and their direct superior. They each stood at attention and bowed as his hologram appeared before them.
“Good even to you,” he said, returning their bows. “Report.”
“I have safely transported Prefect Godvina to the designated terminus. However, it was not without incident. It has resulted in some complications.”
“As per our orders, Gabri’el and I provided covert escort. En route, we encountered six Gendu AVs, fighter class,” Mica’el replied.
“They appear to be a new, more advanced design, able to penetrate military-grade camouflage,” Thalia said. Then, something occurred to her. “How is it they were unable to see you?” she asked, looking at Mica’el. “As a matter of fact, how is it I was unable to see you?”
“Let us just say that some adjustments were made to reduce the effectiveness of your instrumentation before you left for Jomo,” Tarsus interjected unapologetically.
“We were bait?! And you said nothing?!” she exclaimed, giving Mica’el then Gabri’el a dirty-look.
“Come, come, Thalia,” Tarsus said with a smile, “you know things such as this come with the territory. Your callsign is ‘Wind Goddess’, is it not? The best fighter pilot we have, no? Or did I make the wrong choice for this mission?”
“No, of course not, sir.” While she may have felt compromised, how could she have responded any other way?
“You all appear to be in one piece. I take it the mission was a success.”
“You were correct, sir. Misleading information of an AV, apparently unescorted, with you on board was sufficient to draw out dissident Gendu elements,” Gabri’el replied. “They were unmarked with masked transponders, but we inflicted sufficient damage to down all of the hostiles. I would imagine there should be enough wreckage to identify the source. Also, all the pilots ejected. We should have them in custody in due course.”
“However, sir, my passenger has suffered certain complications.”
“Her corona has retracted.”
“Really?” Tarsus said with a smile. “And that is a bad thing?”
“She is very upset.”
“And that is a bad thing?”
All of a sudden, the doors opened, and Godvina stormed in. “Get out!”
The agents were taken by surprise. Secure rooms were supposed to be inviolate.
“How did you…” Thalia started to say.
“I SAID, ‘GET OUT’!”
The three looked toward Tarsus, who nodded his head, and they departed.
“Good even to you, Prefect Godvina. I hope you are well,” he said calmly.
“Cut the crap, Tarsus. You know exactly how well I am. You vindictive bastard. You set me up!”
“On the contrary, it was a covert operation, sanctioned at the highest level, designed to draw out dissident elements within the Gendu. I had my best pilot at the helm of your AV and my best operatives as your escorts. You were never in any danger.”
“Your intent was not to put me in harm’s way. It was to humiliate me! You know how flight disagrees with me!”
“Yes, Agent Thalia mentioned a contracted corona, but she must have been mistaken. It looks perfectly normal to me…a little small perhaps.”
An individual’s corona was the dominant factor in determining position and status in Celesti society. Size mattered, the bigger the better. High-ranking officials in the various ministries had visible auras that continued downward past their shoulders, ending at their waists. Governing Council members had visible auras that surrounded their entire bodies. Godvina had a corona that was above average, more than adequate to allow her to rise to the level of prefect, reporting to Minister of Science Janus, himself. The ‘observation’ was an obvious slight.
“Are you sure? My corona is full…robust. How could I be a prefect otherwise?”
She wore a pale-yellow, two-piece suit that was standard dress for almost everyone in the Ministry of Science. She undid her single-button, lapelless jacket. Grasping each front panel, she slowly parted the garment affording Tarsus a more complete view of the white, mandarin-collar shirt underneath. While not busty, there was enough of a protrusion in the material to cause his eyes to widen slightly.
“You better have your vision checked, my dear. Have a closer look. I think you are mistaken…What was that?” she asked touching her index finger to her ear. “Cat got your tongue?” She glanced downward then back up at him and made a gesture as if she were biting her lower lip. “From your reaction, it looks like you are not getting any since I left you. I wish I could say the same, but alas…I cannot. I have learned many things in the intervening time…the Gendu way for example.”
The “Gendu way” was the common term for sexual relations through physical contact.
“Of course, I am sure you are well-acquainted with that. Having once been a guardian, you must have made many forays into the Pleasure District.” She paused for effect. “Mmmm…touching…feeling…” she said in a low, throaty voice, slowly closing her eyes briefly, “you well know how I found those things…disgusting. But…I have recently changed my mind. How unfortunate…FOR YOU!” She snapped her jacket closed. “End link!”
* * * * *
Thalia, Mica’el and Gabri’el waited apprehensively in the corridor, wondering what to do. Tarsus had given them leave, but it was not the same thing as being dismissed.
“How did she do that?” Gabri’el asked, referring to Godvina’s entrance.
“I have no idea,” Thalia replied. “But entering a secure room like that is no small thing. Where did she learn that?”
“It is a security risk. Should we take her in for questioning?” Mica’el wondered.
“A prefect? Are you crazy?” Thalia exclaimed. “Talk about a career-ending move. But, if you are intent on suicide, Avenger, I shall step aside,” she said, making a gesture with her hand in the direction of the secure room door.
“The rumors must be true,” Gabri’el mused.
The implication was that Godvina had learned how to break the seal from someone…someone high up in security.
“A conclusion we should all keep to ourselves,” Thalia cautioned, “along with the bitch goddess’ entrance.”
The door to the secure room suddenly opened, and Godvina casually emerged. “Your master calls,” she said with a calm, icy stare before continuing down the corridor.
The three entered an empty room.
“We better get back to him,” Mica’el said. “Agents Mica’el, Gabri’el and Thalia with a secure link to Prefect Tarsus.”
They each again stood at attention and bowed as the hologram of Tarsus appeared before them.
“There is just one more thing I have to report,” Thalia said, acting as if nothing unusual had recently transpired.
“Director Jo’el has ordered us off Jomo. I understand he does not have the authority but…”
“In the interests of maintaining good inter-ministerial relations…I understand completely. Mica’el, Gabri’el, I place you in charge of the investigation of the hostiles. Thalia, find a suitable location close to Jomo to park your ship then return and keep Prefect Godvina under close covert surveillance.”
“So, the rumors are true,” she thought. Was his order something trivial to keep tabs on the remnants of a spoiled relationship or something more? She had to be sure. “Sir, is there anything in particular I should be looking for?”
“Yes, as you know, the first permanent streak across our skies appeared about 70 years ago. Since then, they have only grown in number. At the same time, Arkos has experienced increasing climatic and seismic activity that has placed a strain on the planet’s resources and economy.
“Director Jo’el’s work on space-time cosmology made him the most logical person to lead efforts to find a solution to this problem. Prefect Godvina is in charge of the Cosmological Data Collection and Compilation Center, and it would be natural for her to be working closely with him. What makes this unusual is that they are meeting at Jomo, in fact that they are meeting at all. Director Jo’el does visit the Ministry ziggurat in Eden. As you well know, face-to-face meetings are only reserved for issues of the most sensitive nature. None were stated on her visitation request. I think they are hiding something, and I want to know what it is.”
Thalia interpreted “face-to-face” to mean “intimate”. “Ugh, this is personal, a royal pain in the ass. But, on the other hand, should be an easy assignment. If I find something juicy, I might even get a commendation in my file,” she thought.
“Understood, sir. I will require access to her nexus and identification of any nexus that comes to within standard proximity.”
“It would also be ideal if I could tag her.”
Such access would allow Thalia to monitor everything facilitated by Godvina’s nexus. A tag was a device about the size of a button placed on the back of the neck. Enabled by an invisible film affixed to the nexus, it would also allow the Agent to listen in on any conversation within close proximity to Godvina.
“Ideal but not feasible. She is a prefect. Her aura will make it impossible for you to install the tag without her knowledge. This will have to suffice.”
* * * * *
So, now we see the reason for Jo’el’s concern. He and the recovering patient are an item. My original title for this chapter was “Fire and Ice” to describe the dichotomy of Godvina’s personality. (Who knows? Maybe, I still will. After all, this is an ARC.) However, I settled on “History” because it speaks to the former relationship between our fiery prefect and Tarsus.
Just an FYI, the part where Godvina torments Tarsus was inspired by the Seinfeld episode “The Implant” with Teri Hatcher.
We also learn the reason for Godvina’s visit to the Observatory. She is a scientist, here to investigate the composition of the night sky.
As always, I have asked Natasha for a visual to go along with the post. In the past, she would find something in one of the chapters for inspiration then I would do the wwit. For Mirror, I decided we would go in chronological order. So, to give her something to hang her hat on, I said, “Show me how you feel when (on those rare, almost nonexistent, can’t-remember-the-last-time-it-happened occasions) I piss you off.” Here is her thought.
Thank you David for that lovely post and your kind words, it means a lot!
If that was interesting for you here are some more guest posts both for Mirror in time and for previous books in the series:
For a deeper dive:
Through My Wife, Natasha, on Twitter: @neoverttun