I plan to have the follow-up to The Children of Amargosa ready to go in time for you all to use your Amazon gift cards on it. The beta reads are filtering back. But for now, here is a preview scene from Second Wave for you all to read.
“KR-27,” said the Navy lieutenant as he looked over JT’s rifle. “Either you hooked up with the Marines and Colonial Guard or Kray’s militia. Given you’re both wearing nano-fabric uniforms, I’m going to say the former.” He gently lay the rifle down by his feet, then offered his free hand to Yuwono. “I’m Lieutenant Aras Tarak, late of the CNSS Ban Ki-moon. And apparently, I’m now the military commander for the hastily improvised Edoras garrison. By the way, what sort of a name is Edoras?”
“Literary reference,” said JT. “Apparently related to the name of the mountain chain from what I heard.”
“Eric Yuwono, sir,” he said in that blunt tone he used when at attention. “This is JT Austin. We serve under Colonel Jovann.”
Tarak smiled. “You mean ‘General’ Jovann, though I doubt she’s aware of the promotion yet. Kind hard to get hyperdrones here lately, or I’d be home having my leg replaced.” He looked over JT. “Is your dad Admiral Quentin Austin?”
“He is,” said JT.
Tarak grinned. “As soon as I cleared LOS on reentry, I listened in on the fleet chatter.” He shoved his free hand at JT. “You have no clue how brave your father is. When it was clear we were going to be wiped out by those apes, he put the Valles Marineris between them and the surviving Navy ships. Anything we still had in orbit got away clean.”
“He came back for me?” said JT.
“Oh, I’m sure you were on his mind,” said Tarak, “but rumor has it he wanted to retake Gilead first, drive the apes off that one while we planned an even bigger operation here. That moron of a Fleet Admiral overruled him. If they’d have listened, you’d be headed back to Earth right about now.”
JT smiled. “Actually, I just inherited a cabin in the woods from before all this happened. I’d be up there hunting and fishing.”
Tarak gave Yuwono a skeptical look. “He’s kidding, right?”
“Killed two dozen aliens,” said Yuwono, “during the first ten days of the occupation. Managed to stare down Lucius Kray. Twice.”
JT could feel his chest swelling despite himself.
“Also now facing a court-martial for desertion,” Yuwono continued. “But then so am I.”
JT cleared his throat. “We… er… assigned ourselves to the team down in the transit center. Apparently, you’re not supposed to do that.”
“Oh. You’re those three. Where’s the girl?”
“With Suicide’s team. Probably getting flogged for insubordination.”
“Suicide? You mean Cui Yun, the pilot?’
“Yes,” said Yuwono. “That’s her legal name.”
“Man, I feel sorry for these Gelt,” said Tarak. “She is going to kick their ass in her sleep. You know that woman’s crazy, don’t you?”
“We know,” JT and Yuwono said in unison.
“Come on, I’ll show you around.” He led them out into the village, leaning heavily on his cane. JT watched him closely as he walked. By his limp, it became apparent that Tarak had somehow damaged his hip when the pod came down.
JT had not seen Edoras when Yuwono came here with Davra, Duffy, and Nardino. He had been in the Central Plains for most of a season. So to him, Yuwono’s gaping at what looked like an abandoned mining town made no sense to him.
“We really picked the place clean,” said Yuwono. “The night I left, we had almost a thousand tents up here and every building jammed with people. The school was converted to a field hospital.”
“If you see General Jovann again,” said Tarak, “thank her for me. She left enough equipment behind for those who stayed to keep that hospital running. Plus we gutted the local infirmary and the veterinary clinic. You’d be amazed how much stuff designed for livestock works on humans.”
“Break anything in the landing?” asked JT.
“My ankle,” said Tarak, “which healed well enough. Dislocated my hip. The longer liberation takes, the more that’s going to hurt when I get back to civilization.” The stopped in the middle of the square. Tarak spread his hands, still holding his cane in one. “And yet I’m now the commanding officer of this resistance cell. I’ve been in touch with my ship, listened and occasionally sent messages to General Jovann, though I still call her colonel. And we’ve created a little havoc of our own.”
“Where is everyone?” asked Yuwono. “We’ve been here ten minutes, and no one has shown.”
“Look around you. This place is not as abandoned as you think.”
From seemingly empty shops, saloons, and houses, a shabby group of people emerged. JT knew none of them but saw recognition in Yuwono’s eyes. Not a single Marine or Colonial Guard among them. Some of them looked tough, their clothes rough but not out of place in a mining town, maybe a bit dirty from lack of cleaning. Most, however, dressed for the city even though it was clear the city was long gone from their lives. They wore office shirts, slacks, and skirts, their feet, however, shod in makeshift boots. Some had the black uniforms that Lucius Kray’s people had fashioned. From the insignia on them, JT could tell Tarak had done his best to make them resemble Marine uniforms, but they clearly were not the nano-fiber that JT and Yuwono wore.
“We stay indoors as much as possible,” said Tarak, “lined the ceilings with as much cooking foil as we could lay our hands on. The Gelt don’t like the mountains for some reason, but they do occasionally send air patrols overhead. Especially at night.”
“Are they not taking us seriously?” asked Yuwono.
“Look at us. Humans are fractured. The troops directly under Jovann’s command are fractured by a large river in the east. Then there’s this Kray person. Last I heard, he turned up in a city called Riverside. I’d like to know how someone knew that because, from what I do know, Riverside went silent the day these apes came down. You still have random humans out there, and no one knows what happened to the survivors in that city up north, if there are any.”
“Don’t forget Susskind.”
JT had, in fact, forgotten Susskind and Major Furlong’s dispatches. For two days after the invasion, JT and Lizzy Parker really believed that the detachment in Susskind was the provisional colonial government on Amargosa. However, once Jovann had made direct contact with them, Furlong seemed content to let someone else face down the aliens. They only now heard from him sporadically.
“See what I mean?” said Tarak. “Fractured. From what I can see, their main troops, the ones who could easily have exterminated us… Well, you. I was recalled from leave over Saturn when this happened. But those troops were probably delayed. Think about it. Once daylight hit, you guys were able to take out the first wave easily. Those weren’t battle-hardened troops. No species is that inept.”
“Well,” said JT, “maybe the Grays.”
“They don’t count,” said Tarak. “By the time those big saucers came, you all had scattered. There’s one contingent of real troops on this planet from the get-go, and they’re all up north doing who knows what.” He smiled. “But, that doesn’t mean they’re not worried about us. They’re just worried about getting their new colony up and running more. Wanna see what I’ve been up to since I’ve been able to stand upright again?”