So, I’m Still Working on Through Fire

Which makes it hard to continue Elf Blood, because I haven’t had a chance to edit.  More about it here.

Part of what is there is about the novella coming out in a collection from Wordfire Press.

This is what I said at ATH:

And Not To Yield, a novella (around 30k words, if I recall precisely) set in the world of A Few Good Men, ten years later is in the process of being processed and it will come out in the next Wordfire Five by Five (an anthology of mil novellas.)  While it’s about ten years from Through Fire (which has Zen Sienna, not Nat and Luce.  Well, Luce appears once and it was quite interesting, because I have never thought of him as a son of a b*tch.  I guess we’re all different viewed from outside?) it’s part of the continuum.  It is in Luce’s head, and it sets up for what will be book six of the Earth Revolution.  It starts with Luce facing a court Martial.  So…

Ya’ll get an excerpt.  NOT a copyedited excerpt, because I can’t find the file I sent (shut up you.  I’m mid novel.  I have no brain) but an excerpt.)

And Not To Yield

 

Sarah A. Hoyt

 

The trial starts with a sad-eyed major sitting behind a desk. My desk. My office has been commandeered for my own martial court . We’re almost alone. The new laws require trial by jury – trial by twelve as the people call it – but that rule is for civil trials, not for military trials, where autocratic rule prevails. It’s not as bad as it was under the regime we overthrew, the regime of the Good Men, mind. You won’t get condemned and killed because one man, the sole, undisputed hereditary ruler of the Seacity, is having a bad day. No. Though there are two privates by the door, both fully armed, ready to shoot me down if I should make a run for it, I’m not treated like a criminal.

Instead, I’m presumed innocent until proven guilty, and I stand in my full uniform, with the colonel insignia at shoulder and sleeve, above the patch showing the legendary mountain from which my land gets its name. And I have a defense council, a judge advocate. He’s not a lawyer but an old friend, Royce Allard, looking hot under the collar and a little afraid.

He should be afraid. The procedures might be impromptu, the courtroom an office, but the results of this trial are full and binding and final. I stand accused of going AWOL in time of war, of disobeying the direct orders of my superiors, of unlawful kidnaping and assault and of “conduct unbecoming” which covered everything else of note. I guess military lingo didn’t have a term for going crazy and hurting important people. Then comes the bagful of minor sins, including theft, kidnapping, breaking and entering into a secure facility, menacing, risking important information falling in the hands of the enemy and risking being taken hostage, and a few other things, possibly including, but not limited to, using bad language and being seen in a ragged uniform. All together those are worth little. A few days in jail, a reduction in pay.

It doesn’t matter, because the major charges, if proven, will see me hanged by the neck till dead.

And they will be proven, because, you see, I am guilty.

***

War for me began ten years after revolution had freed Olympus Seacity; five years after I’d been made a colonel and head of our propaganda machine.

It is not war to pilot a desk. It’s not war to think up clever hollo-casts and sneaky methods to subvert the enemy’s carefully planted idea that their regime has given the Earth three hundred years of “peace and security”. It is not war to wait, to hope, to search the casualty lists every night, to pray to a God I wasn’t sure of believing in that his name wouldn’t be among the dead and missing.

Though we were both technically believers in the long forbidden Usaian religion, he was the believer, and I believed in him. And though both of us had been instrumental in the revolution that set the Seacity on the path to restoring the ancient principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the truth was that Nat – Nathaniel Green Remy – fought. I stayed home and planned and waited.

Home had been reduced to a small part of what had been my ancestral palace.

My name is Lucius Dante Maximillian Keeva. I was born to one of the fifty men who between them ruled all the Earth – the Good Men, as they were called — and raised as heir to Olympus Seacity and its subject territories. Or not quite. It turned out the intolerable rule of the man whom I have to call Father had other dimensions, other implications. Some of which led me to solitary confinement for fifteen years and to the raw edge of what I must for lack of a better word call sanity.

Nat – and his family – had hauled me back to life and humanity, and if what it cost me was surrendering power and position I never wanted and helping them install their government based on the principles of the long vanished United States of America, I could do that.

Two rooms in the house and the use of an office were all that would have been truly mine, anyway, had I ascended to rule as the Good Man of Olympus. The absolute ruler of that kind of vast empire is no more free than a slave. Oh, his particular whims and his odder tastes might be catered to, but like a slave he is the prisoner of his role, occupied with it from morning to night, his every minute poured into that role.

So, I wasn’t any the worse off for my change in roles, from would-be heir to the territory to officer in the revolutionary army of Olympus Seacity, which, with its allied territories and seacities comprised what we called The Freedom Army. And other people were happier. Probably. Almost certainly.

Only the Good Men had not let things go lightly. Authority and power are not surrendered willingly, unless it is meaningless and the rule of the Good Men was very meaningful indeed.

For ten years we’d been involved in a war; we’d lost countless people. Young people had been killed in the army, and people of all ages had been killed as the Good Men resorted to terror tactics on the territories; released bio-engineered viruses; destroyed crops and generally made the life of the citizens of Olympus and our allies hell. Against this Nat fought. Against this I composed a war of words, a concatenation of holograms to make it clear to the people under Good Men Rule that we were the better choice; that they should rebel and come to our side.

It worked. Sometimes. Entire cities and seacities had come to our side. But not enough to end the war.

Which meant Nat continued fighting, and I continued to check the casualty and missing list, every night, after a full day of work, and just before turning in.

This brings me to that August night. It was hot, and I was asleep, uncovered, in my too-large bed. My room was at the top of what used to be the palace, and the door opened to a terrace which in turn looked down all the way to the sea. That door was open, to a smell of salt air, and at first I thought what I heard was the cry of seagulls.

***

“How do you plead?” the sad eyed major asks, after the litany of charges against me is read. “On the charges leveled against you?”

“Guil—” I start. And my judge advocate is there. Royce’s hand clasps around my upper arm so hard that he will leave bruises. Which takes effort, since I’m six seven and built like the proverbial brick shithouse, and though Royce is not a small man, his hand doesn’t even fully go around my arm.

“Sir,” he says, and I am not sure if it’s to me or the major. “Sir,” he says, and this time he looks fully at the major. “Sir, Colonel Keeva pleads not guilty due to extenuating circumstances.”

The Major opens his mouth. For a moment I think he’s going to say I’d pleaded guilty, but of course he doesn’t. Instead, he closes his mouth and looks at me, eyebrows raised. Royce’s hand is like an iron band around my forearm. “Yes,” I stammer. “Not guilty due to extenuating circumstances.”

The Major nods. “Very well,” he says. “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

“Yes.”

The judge gestures, and one of the privates by the door, a young man who looks too young to grow a beard and too innocent to be in any military, comes forward with a small, dark box, which he opens. Inside the box is my piece of flag. Not the flag of Olympus, which is a blue flag with the representation of the mythical mountain, but THE flag, the one sacred to every Usaian. At some time in the twenty first century, after the fall of the United States of America, and after the founding of the religion based on the founding documents of that lost country, someone had put all the flags they could find that had once flown over American territory before the fall into a climate-controlled room. Since then every member of the religion got a little piece of the flag. Some were inherited within families. Mine had three stars, and a blood stain. The stain had been acquired when a past owner had been martyred to the faith. Another past owner, martyred to the faith, was my only friend growing up, and Nat’s uncle, Benjamin Franklin Remy. Ben has been dead for twenty five years. Which is good because he might very well think I’d disgraced him and our shared scrap of flag.

The young man hands me the flag. I know what to do. Usaians have sealed all their oaths with a kiss on their piece of the flag, that visible symbol of their allegiance, for centuries.

I press my lips against the flag, and then it is set on the desk in front of me. I look at it and mentally I ask Ben’s forgiveness. “I never meant to sully the flag or the Usaians by association,” I tell him. “But you see, I had to save Nat.”

***

The crying of a seagull resolved itself to the scream of a woman, and before I was fully awake, I thought I’d fallen asleep naked with the covers thrown away from me and some cleaning woman must have come in. I reached for the covers, pulled them over me, but the woman was yelling “Luce,” and shaking me.

I opened my eyes. The woman was Martha Remy. She’s a Lieutenant in the propaganda department, and my subordinate. But she’s also somewhere between my best friend and my sister. She is Nat’s twin, though she looks nothing like him. While Nat is tall and lanky and one of those rare brown-eyed pale blonds, Martha is short, softly rounded despite continuous exercise, and has mouse-colored hair. Only her eyes are the same as Nat’s, dark brown and deeply set, giving the impression of unexplored depths and something like an abiding and unshakeable sadness. They were filled with alarm now.

“Luce,” she said. “Did he contact you? Was there a change in plans?”

“Who?” I asked, sleep stupid, my voice slow, my tongue stumbling. And then, as my wits caught up with my wakening, “Nat?”

She nodded. “He’s five hours late,” she said. “I thought he’d come in. I thought he’d be– Did he tell you about changing plans?”

“I didn’t even know he was coming home,” I told her, and noted her surprise. It was hard to explain to her that our relationship didn’t work like that. He did what he had to do, and I was glad to see him when I saw him.

“He was,” she said at last. “He was flying back with … with something. Some mission. I’m not sure what it was, but he was bringing something from Field Marshall Herrera, I think to General Cranston, but he never arrived. They called me to see if I heard from him and I hadn’t, but I thought you might have.”

By then I was fully awake. I said, “If something happened to him, then his chip would have reported his status to headquarters, and he’d be on the casualty list. He wasn’t. I checked before going to bed. Unless his chip was deactivated because he was on some sort of secret run?”

“Not that I know,” she said. “But it wouldn’t show on the casualty list, anyway, not by last night, because I talked to him at twenty three hundred, and he hadn’t left yet.”

“Oh,” I said. “Have you checked now?”

She shook her head. “And it’s weird,” she said, babbling. “Why is Field Marshall Herrerra using Nat as an errand boy to someone of a lower rank, too? It makes no sense at all.”

I rose from the bed, taking care to drag the sheet with me, though as I said, Martha was like a sister to me, and she’d probably not have batted an eye if I’d got out of bed in my birthday suit. But I’d spent fifteen years in a cell, under constant observation by cameras. Had to have been, because all the times I’d tried to commit suicide they’d come and rescued me before I died. Now I relished my modesty, such as it was. I pulled the sheet around my waist, and dragged it behind me, as I got to my desk, and pushed the accustomed buttons to bring up the hologram of the latest casualty list. Early on, these had been compiled by the week, but now every one of our fighting men and women had a chip implanted in their body which transmitted on an encrypted frequency. If the transmission were interrupted, we knew what had happened. Or at least we could presume it, even if we’d been wrong a few times.

Knowing at all times that your relative or loved one wasn’t on that list and therefore must be presumed to be well made the war bearable.

As the hologram of names solidified in the air, in front of me, I closed my eyes and did what passed for prayer for me, “If he’s not on the list, if he’s well—” I didn’t finish the promise because it wasn’t needed. If there was a God he knew what I was willing to do for such a boon. Anything. Anything at all.

I opened my eyes. I paged down through the As and on through the Ps and Qs. To the Rs.

I blinked. There, midair, was the line I’d dreaded seeing for ten years. Gen. Nathaniel Green Remy, Missing, presumed dead.

From behind me Martha made that sound like a seagull again, and her hand rested on my shoulder. Warm and far too moist. “No,” she said. “No.”

“No,” I said, more firmly. “No. Look, he’s not dead. And the chip is not sending the distress signal indicating he’s wounded. He’s just missing. That means the chip malfunctioned.”

“Or he was captured and someone is blocking transmission. Someone is holding him hostage.”

“Let’s not scare ourselves with worst case scenarios,” I said. “Do you know where he was coming from? What transport he was using? It’s likely just a deviation in course taking him through an area where transmission is blocked. He’ll probably get back into range soon enough.” I didn’t believe a word I was saying, and there was a reason I didn’t believe it. If Nat had said he’d be here, he would have been here. No two ways about it. So something had happened to Nat. But what? And where was he? And was he alive or dead?

10 comments

  1. A snotty corner of my brain says you’ve found an excellent way to drive us slavering mad by withholding the last bits of Elf Blood. The rest of my brain is too busy yelling “More Luce! D******t you haven’t even hinted whether Luce was successful” and there’s even a calmer corner going “Oh, I was kind of liking what I saw of Through Fire. A serious revision? This is going to be really good.”

    So, while Luce wins the popular vote, the EC is a three way toss up.

    So write whatever you please, I suspect your fans will like it. I’ll switch the majority of my brain into “find out more about this Wordfire Five by Five, especially the publication date” mode.

    1. Should be out within the month. Lin Wicklund betaed this for me, and it was done in chunks, and she kept telling me “if you kill Nat I’m going to come over and beat you.”
      Fortunately she’s too ill to… Er, I mean, not fortunately she’s ill, but…

    2. What’s wrong with waiting? Waiting means more time for analysis, and figuring things out. I generally read mystery too fast for me to figure things out before they are solved.

      Of course, part of the wait is so that the clues can be adjusted.

      Because right now, it is perfectly clear that the killer is standing right behind you, it’s a Gundam!

  2. I’m sure some people will read too much into the lack of “… so help you God.” in the swearing in. I noticed it, but upon reflection, their religion is based on the country, and is not Christianity.

    And then I looked at the phrase, and it struck me as being hard to explain grammatically. “So help me.” uses those words uniquely compared to any other usage of them. I can’t quite figure out where it comes from. “You clean up your room now, or so help me, I will give you a spanking you’ll never forget.” We say it all the time, but the meaning we inherit, because it’s not in the words, and even then, it’s more ornamentation than actual meaning.

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