The second book in the Fury of Aces series and sequel to the action-packed BURNT ICE. Move over Star Wars! This is a superb space opera ... humans and hybrids and strange new creatures fighting for survival on Earth and across the galaxies ... A superb space adventure from a fresh new voice. this is the second book in the Fury of Aces series and follows on from the action-packed BURNt ICE. In our future worlds the Administration rules the Sphere of Humankind, the Games Board sanctions and funds wars and conflicts, and the Haulers' Collective roams the space routes like the caravanners of old. Political factions and galactic media moguls vie for power ... and money.
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By Steve Wheeler
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2014 Steve Wheeler
All rights reserved.
16 October, Year 581 post Earth Solar Flare,
Star System Gliese 581
'Marko, wake up.'
Sergeant Major Marko Spitz liked sleep. He always had.
He liked bed in general. In his forty-seven and a bit standard
years he had slept in a lot of odd places — sometimes too hot,
sometimes too cold, sometimes too comfortable, sometimes
deeply unpleasant — but that particular bed in those
particular quarters was just right.
He dozed in that wonderful place between sleep and full
consciousness. Aware that he was alone, he dreamt of his
beautiful Jan, wondering why she was not beside him.
The Base Augmented Intelligence had taken on a strident
schoolmistress tone as she formally addressed him, so
he reluctantly opened his eyes, his mind slowly climbing
towards wakefulness. 'Right, come on, out of bed.' Naked as
always, he padded to the small shower area, which had been
grown as part of the room; he smiled with the thought that
rank still had a few privileges. He pushed into the translucent
membrane, which folded and sealed itself as soon as he was
water started pouring over him from the overhead surface
at the precise temperature he liked and with just the right
amount of soap in it as well.
The soapy water was cleaned as it sank through the porous
material below his feet and recycled back up into the header
down onto the shower's organic base plate, where, after the
soaps had been recycled, the residue was consumed by the
room as it constantly refurbished itself.
wall again and the water stopped as he pushed his way back
through the membrane.
While drying himself with the fresh towel growing from
the cubicle's ceiling, he scanned the day's schedule in the wall
screen, noting who was on base and also where his own crew
Pulling on fresh overalls he uplinked to the Base Augmented
Intelligence then scanned for Glint. Glint had once again taken
Glint's behaviour in this respect was a constant grievance of
the AIs and it often petitioned Command to have the ACE
placed under its direct control, but the major had always
managed to block such a move. Undoubtedly, Glint created a
certain tension in some people. Everyone knew he could be a
bit of a prick at times and he'd made himself deeply unpopular
with some of the more straight-laced pompous types on base.
One of Glint's favourite tricks was to buy some meat from
the cooks, mash it up a little and then hurl it at whoever he
wanted to rev up. His aim was always as perfect as his ability
to catch the target completely unawares and in a fresh uniform.
Although Glint was sometimes intensely annoying and his
occasional disappearances irksome, Marko reckoned he was
becoming a superb entity with an extraordinary mind, good
engineering capabilities and constantly improving martial
arts skills. He was always grateful that Jan had convinced him
to bring Glint into existence and Marko was very pleased to
have the ACE around as his son.
After checking that he had on him everything he needed
for the day, including the issued communications headband,
he walked out through the living wooden door knowing the
that the bed would also make itself as it too was living plant-
Moving down the corridor towards the all-ranks mess, he
looked up to see the roof slowly becoming translucent, allowing
the light from the rising sun to penetrate all the enclosed spaces
as the interior of the building reinvigorated itself. Stopping to
growing from the walls, breathing in their perfume, he smiled
as Glint appeared as if out of thin air beside him.
appearances still caught most of the base personnel by
surprise, but Marko and the rest of his crew had become used
to it. And besides, the proud creator thought, what was the
use of having special abilities if they could not be used to
Marko nodded at him while slipping the very annoying
headband on. Base AI would not allow any of the Basalt crew
to communicate with their line-of-sight light-based comms
systems when inside the main base compound, claiming
that such use disregarded accepted security protocols. Even
the major could not argue the issue so they left it alone. Only
problem with the issued headbands was that Base could
eavesdrop on anything they discussed.
'Yes, thanks, Marko. Spent seven most enjoyable hours
hacking Gerald. I do believe that he is even more pissed at me
Knowing that he was being listened to by the said Gerald,
'No, Marko, that would be disrespectful. Gerald is a good
name for a Frontier Base AI. A certain air of dignity if you will.
And besides, even if he is annoyed at me getting that deep
into him he has been most helpful with my latest upgrades.'
He just smiled in his almost angelic way and told Marko to
They entered the main mess hall, which featured high,
structurally curved plant-based wall panels and a roof formed
from interwoven giant semi-translucent leaves. It allowed in
the perfect level of light for early morning as they made their
way through the throng to the area for Senior NCOs. The
grown tables and bench seats had the form of a much-altered
wood fungus, but none of the associated smells. Marko sat,
and Glint did an interesting thing with his tail, forming his
own seat that allowed his head to be almost at the same level
as Marko's and the table's other occupants.
and Glint, murmuring their greetings of the day. Reg looked
across at Glint, then looked at Marko to enquire, 'What the
a new upgrade but Marko had no idea of what it was. There
and calculating the fastest escape route, should the need arise.
The corporal came around and took their breakfast orders
but skipped over Glint, as he always had in the past.
'I wish to place my breakfast order,
Excerpted from Crystal Venom by Steve Wheeler. Copyright © 2014 Steve Wheeler. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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