With the Convergence trilogy, I really wanted to create a world that felt really rough around the edges. There was violence in a lot of different ways and for a lot of different reasons. Some characters were crass while others were hopeful. There was romance, but it came with strings and burdens and sometimes a bit of desperation. I didn’t want clear-cut good and bad guys. I wanted compromise and shades of gray, and from the responses I’ve received since the books have been released, it was apparently a good mix.
Absolute Zeroes isn’t that. It’s supposed to be more light-hearted, more adventurous, a bit more action-packed. The protagonists are very obviously good guys. They’re assholes sometimes, but they love each other and they do their best to do the right thing. So here’s a first-day excerpt that hopefully shows how the guys try to keep their spirits up even in dire situations. Oh, and if you missed the character spotlights, you can find them here:
Two more crimson blasts streaked across the ship’s hull and a low shriek sounded near the engine room. Lights flashed along the circuitboard, signaling nothing good. Grey glanced across the cockpit, past Caesar, to the planet on their starboard side.
“What planet is that?” he asked.
“What?” Caesar asked, eyes wide.
“Planet,” Grey shouted, dragging the word out. “What. Planet. Is. That?”
Caesar glanced out the viewport and then looked at the display monitor between them. Most of the information on the screen had been replaced by flashing red EMERGENCY messages.
“Uh, based on our relative location between the gate we came through and Peloclade, that could be probably one of two planets. Maybe.”
“You sound confident,” Ark said, standing over his shoulder. “Go on.”
“It’s, um, either Taggrath. Primarily a Dyr-occupied planet.”
“Oh, good. Because the Dyr love us so much. Or?”
“Or Astrakoth. It isn’t occupied, so far as I know, save for maybe a science base or two.”
“Even better,” Grey growled.
“Why is that better?” Caesar asked.
“I was kidding. Both are bad. We’re about to go down hard. Who knows what’s down there?”
No sooner did the words leave his lips did the Sol Searcher turn into an unstoppable dive away from the ship pursuing them and towards the planet’s surface. Flames licked up the front of their craft as they broke the atmosphere, and groans coursed through the Searcher’s body.
“Zast! Move, Caesar,” Archimedes said frantically, pushing into the co-pilot’s seat. “Move, move! Strap into a passenger’s chair!”
As Caesar staggered out of the cabin and towards the quarters reserved for extra crew, Grey continued to wrestle with the steering rig.
“I’ve got maybe half the control we need,” he said through gritted teeth.
“To do what?” Ark asked. He strapped himself in and began flipping the switches needed to access emergency power.
“To pull up. We can’t even her out for crap.”
A jagged crack stretched across the main viewport. The cockpit began to heat up and a shrill whistling caused both men to wince.
“Some warning you were bringing us in to land would have been nice,” Ark snarled. “There’s a split in the windshield.”
“I can see that there’s a split in the windshield,” Grey snapped back. “It’s right in front of my face. Toggle the Peregrine drive.”
“Stagger the Peregrine, Ark! One second intervals. The start-stop might let me balance us out.”
“It might also blow the whole engine! Or rip us in half! Triggering a speed drive near-planet during a dive, that’s a bloody mad plan, Grey.”
“Look, the Searcher might be our ship, but she’s my baby. I know her better than anybody, and I’m telling you: we either try this and maybe die or don’t try it, crash into the planet going six hundred kilotecs and definitely die.”
Archimedes let out a mouth full of air with a whoosh. “To hell with it. If this doesn’t work, I’m kicking your ass in the next life.”
Grey just grinned.
Ark reached across the control console and let his hand hover over the switch that controlled the Sol Searcher’s speed drive. Not for the first time, he marveled that something with enough power to propel a spacecraft through the cosmos at a vastly accelerated rate was regulated by something as mundane as a little metal lever. He glanced over at his friend and began to toggle it back and forth.
The ship began to undergo a series of jolts, jerking the two pilots back and forth in their seats. Grey yanked the controls back, struggling for some semblance of control, even as two more cracks in the viewport split off from the original, making it look like a twisted trident. Below them, the world flashed by in streaks of color. The Searcher began to level out, but it continued its speedy drop.
“Grey,” Ark said, worriedly. He kept the Peregrine off and gripped the co-pilot’s controls.
“I can’t, man,” Grey said. “This is good as it gets. I’m aiming at that clearing up ahead.”
“The one. There!”
He flapped a hand on the display screen resting between them. It had automatically recalibrated itself to show the cleanest flight path, surrounding terrain and nearest plausible landing options…of which there were none.
“That’s not a cle- there are trees down there!”
“Do you see a better alternative, Ark? Because I am open to options!”
Archimedes’ eyes flicked from his controls to the viewport to the display monitor. He reached over and pressed a red button. The button lit up, indicating he had a clear transmission to the passenger’s quarters.
“Caesar, you hooked in back there?” he asked into the intercom speaker.
“Yeah,” came a tinny response. “What’s the situation?”
“We’re going down. Prepare for a crash landing.”
“Whichever one you pray to, pal.”
Archimedes flipped the button back to its inactive position and focused on the controls at hand. He and Grey gave a single nod to each other and then strained to steer their ship towards the clearest patch of forest available to them.
They plunged amidst the foliage like an apocalypse. The sounds of trunks snapping around the wings of the Sol Searcher was near-deafening. Greenery rustled against and stained the viewport. The spacecraft moaned in distress and then slammed into the ground with calamitous purpose.
Ark’s shoulder belt tore at the buckle. He jerked forward, slammed his forehead into the corner of the control console and knew nothing but a blackness deeper than space.