Author Feature: The Huralon Incident by E.A. Wicklund

The Huralon Incident (Springbok Chronicles Book 1) in the series opener and debut science ficrion novel from E.A. Wicklund

“We’re still running for it?” murmured Zahn as he stood next to McCray.
McCray consulted the tank. “We’re thirty minutes from the heliopause. He can only target us with one of his two lasers while chasing us. We’ll make it into hyperspace before he gets a good hit on us.” 
One of the first things anyone learned about space combat was that the vast majority of laser shots missed. Because of the enormous distances involved, the information on a ship’s location could be many seconds out of date. In that time a ship could have moved thousands of kilometers from the last-known position, and it could be anywhere in a large volume of space. McCray felt that laser fire amounted to a crap shoot—a guess at where the target would be.
“Inbound signal,” said Ando, looking anxious, but then it was his first combat “Liu’s demanding we shut down our paddles and heave to.”
“Tell him to to piss off,” snarled McCray.
“Sir?”
“You heard me.”
Another red blast streaked past on the tactical displays, closer this time.
“Fourteen seconds between shots,” said Warwick. “A fast cycling time, but not for the smaller FireDragon lasers.”
“Copy that, Eyes,” acknowledged McCray. “Liu can shoot all he likes. he’s never going to hit us hard from that range. His laser will attenuate too much to do anything serious.”
“Twenty minutes to the heliopause,” said Zahn. 
“We’re slipping away,” said Warwick, and McCray glanced her way as her fingers dancing across her screens. She looked tense—lines forming on her otherwise smooth features—yet still focused on the job. “He’s five light-seconds behind and we’re opening the range.”
“You see, people?” McCray was grinning. Many of them had never seen combat before. They needed to know he had the situation well in hand. “We’re too fast. He’ll never catch us.” 
The ship shuddered suddenly. Red lights flared across their displays. DC1 Xiang,  the tall, pale-skinned damage control specialist suddenly appeared beside Warwick.
“Hit on Number Two Hyperengine,” Xiang reported “About sixty tons of armor blown off. Cosmetic damage only.”
“A lucky shot,” grated McCray. 
“Standby,” said Xiang, looking worried. “More data coming in. Critical hits on the hyper control runs. Secondaries are down too.” She looked up, the shock plain on her face. “Captain, we cannot enter hyperspace!”
“That’s not possible,” growled McCray, feeling the same shock. He gestured in the air and a screen opened with the harried face of Chief Engineer, Commander Guillermo Parsamayan. “Gui, what the hell happened?”
Gui looked frustrated. “A one-in-a-million shot, sir. Shrapnel from the strike slipped through a gap in the armor and hit both the hyperdrive control runs. This is supposed to be impossible.”
“How long to fix it?”
“I need a couple days at least.”
McCray felt his face sag. “Two days? You gotta be joking.”
Gui shook his head. “No way around it, sir. I got the nanoprinters making parts now, but hypercontrol junctions are complicated pieces of kit. Hyper capability is down for now.”
“Keep me informed, Commander.” McCray ground his teeth in frustration. How could a piddling little pirate do this to his ship and from such a long range? What would those assholes in the admiralty say to this? Whatever the reason, the choices on action had become far simpler now. “Helm! Roll ship and come port to 2-8-5.” 
The maneuver neatly unmasked three of Springbok’s lasers. She had four lasers to the Brazil’s two, but while Brazil could only fire one laser in a stern chase, Springbok’s cleverly designed geometry meant she could return fire with three in the same stern chase. At the helm, Raj replied to his order as McCray turned to Lieutenant-Commander Piper. “Guns, you have a targeting solution?”
Piper grinned ferally. “Locked and ready, sir.”
“Fire!”

A bite of… E.A. Wicklund

Q.01 What do you think drew you to writing Science fiction?

From an early age I studied military history, particularly aircraft during WW2. Technology proceeded at an incredible rate during the conflict. I found myself researching not only the technological developments, but the stories of how pilots used them. What were the advantages/disadvantages of the plane? How did pilots use them to effect or compensate for a flaw? To me, this naturally flows into Science Fiction. No matter what, or how much, technology is in a story, the stories are always about people. So the question becomes: if this story has some incredible technology, how do people use it, and how do they compensate for its flaws? Same questions, really. So progressing into a fascination for science fiction, and science & technology in general, was perfectly rational progression in my view.

 

Q.02 What were the best and worst things about writing the book?

The best thing was letting my imagination run free. I have written over one thousand pieces of flash fiction, and I love it, but the short form is very restrictive. While writing “The Huralon Incident,” I could suddenly say what I wanted and length (well more so than before anyway). I could finally write about concepts and ideas that had been bouncing around in my head for years, but could never fully express. The worst thing was, “killing your babies.” It’s important to keep the narrative moving at all times and that meant many of the little asides and tangents that I loved had to be removed. My book easily only represents one third or less of all the writing that went into it. It hurts sometimes but then again, no pain, no gain, right? I think the book is better for it.

 

Q.03 What fast food is your favourite and why?

I love this question! My favorite fast-food, easily findable anywhere in the US, is Arby’s. It’s best with a little pickle and onion and dripping with Arby’s sauce. But here in Austin, the fast food I crave the most comes from Hummus Cuisine. It’s a food trailer. In Austin, some of the most imaginative, progressive food ideas come from food trucks (we’re weird here in Austin and proud of it). Hummus Cuisine is run by a Lebanese couple, and they treat me like family every time I go there. Their gyros plate is absolutely to die for. Their tabouli and hummus is all hand-made and it’s wonderful. There’s no other flavor palette quite like it, and I adore it. Shawarma, which is also available there, even features in The Huralon Incident.

E.A. Wicklund served in the US Navy, as an Operations Specialist aboard several surface warships and is now an IT Consultant living in Austin, Texas with his beautiful wife, Shey, and daughter Hannah. He got hooked on books at a very early age and by twelve had read every Jack London book he could find. His father, a military officer working in Naval Intelligence introduced him to military history books and he swiftly worked his way through the entire collection. When other kids were reading Spiderman comics, he read about the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the greatest naval clash in military history. But when it comes to fiction, Science Fiction is his first love.

You can find him on Goodreads or his humorous flash fiction blog.

Jane Jago’s Drabbles – Four Hundred and Nine

They were Hollywood’s golden couple,  but celluloid affection rarely translates smoothly to real life. It was another celebrity party and both had drunk enough to make a savage fight unavoidable.

Her voice was lightly vicious. “He’s as anonymous as a Souza march, everyone has heard him – they just can’t remember where.”

“And you, my love, are like the common cold. Everyone has had you.”

She leapt on him with bared teeth. As they hit the floor the gunshot was shockingly loud.

He cradled her briefly to his breast before putting that pistol into his own mouth and pulling the trigger.

©jane jago

Sunday Serial – Maybe I

Maybe by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook . Sometimes we walk the edges of realty…

CHAPTER ONE: JESSICA

           “Well, you know what they say, don’t you pet? What don’t kill you, will make you stronger.”
            Jessica felt her teeth dig into her tongue with the effort of not snapping back. It was one of those glib sayings people trotted out every time they realised there was harm done they couldn’t heal. She wanted to snarl that what didn’t kill you could just as easily leave you broken and bloody, weakened and vulnerable and much less strong than you were before. It could also leave you changed as well as damaged, struggling to know who this stranger was that you had become – the one who jumped at shadows and whose heart started racing when a car engine started up. 
            It was not a good look for a woman who had once been decorated for valour.
            She forced a smile and did not cringe at the hand pat that went with the words of wisdom, delivered from the place of someone whose worst nightmares were about being caught on Scarborough seafront without her make-up on.
            “Your aunt means well, Jess.”
            The voice came from the door of the lounge, which was being pushed open. There was a smell of fresh coffee as Uncle David carried in a tray with a samovar and tiny cups.
            “Oh don’t be so daft, Dave. She knows I mean well, don’t you pet?”
            Jessica nodded and managed a half-smile, then busied herself moving the newspaper, and a couple of magazines about horoscopes and tarot cards, from the table in front of the paisley-patterned settee. Her uncle set the tray down with care then served the coffee as he always did – strong, black and sweet.
            His eyes were not patronising when he looked at her. But then he had fought at Goose Green and brought home his own ghosts to roost in the rafters of the perfect life his wife devised for them both. No children of their own, but then they had Jess.
            “So are you off to Whitby again to see that young man?” Aunt Susan peered over both the top of her cup and her bifocals.
            For a moment, just hearing someone naming the place sent a shiver through Jessica’s spine, and her imagination bridged the miles to place her on top of the cliffs, screaming gulls wheeling overhead, the wind that never slept and Roald, the image of a modern-day viking, hair blowing over his face, shoulders half-hunched in a fleece, face animated, telling her the history of the ruined abbey as if he had been there at the time.

            “It was all started by a woman – Hild. She was an amazing woman and not one you would want to cross. A princess of sorts. And for all she was an abbess eventually, she didn’t decide to become a nun until she was  in her thirties and she’d done one heck of a lot of living by then.” He paused and made a really broad gesture with one arm as if including the ruins and all the headland where they stood. “She loved this place. Would stand up on the cliffs, by the beacon that was here then and look out over the sea, and unbraid her hair so the wind could play with it. And, you know, when she established that first abbey it was nothing like you would think of a monastery today. It was more like a community – both men and women.”
            It was easy to picture Hilda in her Saxon dress, facing out over the waves. Jessica thought of that actress she’d seen playing Rowena in ‘Ivanhoe’.
            “No,” Roald sounded almost angry, “Hild was of Anglic blood – not Saxon. The ones Pope Gregory famously spoke about when he saw some being sold as slaves: ‘Non Angli, sed angeli’.
            Jessica looked at him her mouth very slightly agape. He did that a lot. It was very unsettling.
            “Non angerlee – what?”
            Roald grinned and gave an exaggerated mock wince, as if her pronunciation caused him pain.
            “Non Angli, sed angeli – ‘These are not Angles, they are angels.’ “

Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook

Part 2 of Maybe will be here next week…

Giants

They were the giants, whose shoulders lift us high,
And we, the living, cast our patronising smiles
In weighing deeds of those whose grandeur we decry.
We judge them from the giddy heights of gifted breath,
Belittling those whose words have filled our breast-milk tomes,
So forgetting soon shall we join them in death
And then will others come and rifle through our bones,
To pick the choicest flesh from them – and discard the rest.
Then laugh at all our fears and our misapprehended woes
Themselves to glorify, to think the wisest and the best.

E.M. Swift-Hook

Weekend Wind Down – The Mausoleum

From the eighth Fortune’s Fools book Iconoclast: Not To Be by E.M Swift-Hook which is now available for pre-order.

The following day Avilon had deposited her travel bag at the spaceport and reached her chosen observation point in good time. A bench under a tree. She had identified it as giving her a clear view of three of the entrances to the mausoleum. Like most across Coalition space, it was set in a small park. Many mausoleums were polyhedral with the octagonal format being most favoured.  This one was smoothly round beneath its dome, three stories high, with curved alcoves pushing the building’s walls out in bulges, so it looked a little like a sophisticated dessert, upturned on a serving dish.
Considering the venue, she had dressed appropriately and wore a traditional mourning veil over her face. Just as most of the women and many of the men present were doing as a mark of respect or simply to hide the signs of their grief. Except this veil was not as traditional as it appeared. Aside obscuring her features and making her hard to recognise, the fabric was designed to disrupt facial recognition in a way no amount of current technology could correct.
The weather was overcast, which seemed to fit well with the mood of the place. Two funerals arrived as she waited, the people filing in solemn procession through one of the entrances, the coffins bourne on silent gurneys, flanked by smartly clad relatives and followed by friends. Once inside they would be shown into one of the side-chambers of the mausoleum, where they would sit and listen to speeches in praise and remembrance of the one who had died.
After the second of the funerals had gone inside, Avilon checked the time and took the security cameras offline, before walking slowly to join a third funeral procession making its way into the mausoleum. There was nothing preventing her simply walking in to honour the dead, but as part of a larger group she drew less attention from the staff and it was not difficult to detach herself unobserved once inside. She had spotted Car Torbalen walking in the middle of the second procession, a veil over his head and his demeanour as grave as the rest of the mourners, only recognisable by his bulk and the way he moved. She wondered if he was indeed there to attend that funeral. It would have provided a solid pretext to satisfy the Legacy whilst removing him from under their scrutiny. It was a good idea to keep in mind that he was a very clever man.
Even though it was dull outside, the dimly lit interior of the mausoleum seemed dark. Avilon had to allow a few moments for her eyes to adjust as she looked around. The funeral procession she had followed was still slowly filing into a side-chamber, guided by silent ushers. There were also a handful of people in the main body of the building, come to visit their dead. Avilon looked up to where the domed roof was set with thousands of shining points of light. Most were white but there were reds and blues and greens there too, illuminated from around the dome. Each point of light, a gemstone formed from the remains of someone who had died many years before. The gems of the more recently deceased were set in special cabinets where relatives could visit them and place flowers or leave other tokens. These cabinets were in the alcoves, tiered around the walls, accessible by open walkways on each floor so the echoing silence and beauty of the dome was omnipresent.
Torbalen was visible on the top walkway, leaning on the rail and looking up at the dome. He had removed the veil and seemed oblivious to her presence or that of anyone else, lost in thoughts of infinity and mortality, perhaps. It was hard to tell as the lighting was too poor, but it was very clear he was alone.
This was not a place to rush or be seen to move fast, so Avilon walked as quickly as she could without breaking convention and drawing attention to herself. Appearing to be a not-so-recently bereaved relative, moving with purpose to visit her dead. Once she was on the highest gallery she lifted her own veil. Torbalen must have heard her approach as she made no attempt to move silently but he remained, arms folded on the rail, contemplating the starry vault of the mausoleum dome. It was only when she was a couple of paces away, he turned, briefly, met her gaze and stepped into the alcove behind them. Avilon followed.
“My parents are here,” he said, not turning to face her. He opened one of the cabinets to reveal two crystals resting in a soft cloth bed, nestled side by side in the gentle glow of the cabinet’s lighting. “It won’t be long before they are set in the dome – five years I’ve been told. They need the space for the more recently deceased.”
Avilon wondered what to say. Her own parents, dead in an accident that she had long since doubted really was one, would be somewhere in a Central mausoleum. She had never been to visit them and was not sure she would want to even if it were ever possible. She was no longer the child they had raised or the person they had known, in more ways than the merely physical.
“This is your homeworld?” she asked after the silence stretched too long.
“It was. Once. I don’t think any of us really have a home as such now, do we? And yes, I am here for the funeral of a relative. My brother.” He lifted a hand as Avilon drew breath to speak. “No need for condolences and you are not intruding on private grief with this meeting. We were never exactly close. In fact, I can’t recall the last time we had a civil word for each other – and that includes our shared childhood. But it was still expected for me to be here, of course.”
“Thank you for agreeing to meet me.”
Torbalen half-turned to sweep his hand over the cabinet, closing it again, leaving them in the dark of the alcove.
“You didn’t give me much choice. I need the information you have.”

E.M Swift-Hook

You can snag your copy of  Iconoclast: Not To Be on preorder now!

Courage

Brave is not the painted face of a brazen warrior tall
It’s more the paint that hides the tears of women feeling small
Courage isn’t facing foes with muscles rippling taut
It’s more about the difficult things you do because you ought 
Brave is not the proud explorer nor the mighty mountaineer 
It’s someone unsung doing that hard thing because it’s here
Quiet courage, faces misery deep and looks into its eyes 
Defeats her fears for years and years. Although inside she cries

©️Jane Jago 2019

Jane Jago’s Drabbles – Four Hundred and Eight

The pursuit had been going on for hours now, and Sharky was about beat. His body felt leaden and with every beat of his tail he knew himself to be getting weaker and weaker.
Something inside him refused to just give in, though, so he turned to face the behemoth. He kept his eyes open and his gaze stony as the monster came ever closer.
He might not be much of a shark but he determined to die with at least the semblance of bravery.
The monster stopped within a millimetre of his face.
“Tag,” it said, “you’re it now.”

©jane jago

Grandmother’s Hints for a Successful Life – Resolutions

New Year, new you!

I have very little doubt that at some time in the waning hours of the last decade ninety per cent of you will have been tempted into making at least one resolution for the improvement of yourselves or the planet you are lucky enough to inhabit.

There will have been earnest declarations of an absolute determination to live a greener more environmentally aware life, drunken avowals to the cause of losing weight, giving up smoking, and getting fit, and, we mustn’t forget those for whom 2020 was to be the year of the birth of the seminal twenty-first century novel.

But two weeks in how have you fared? 

All you little extinction rebels. Did you remember your designer shopping bags when you went to Waitrose? Have you traded in the Range Rover for a Leaf? And did you really manage to talk yourself out of booking that holiday to the Maldives? 

I thought not.

And who has stopped smoking? Lost an ounce? Actually used that gym membership? 

I see one hand raised in a sea of shame.

What about all the wannabe Shakespeares out there. You bought the laptop and Stephen King On Writing. Spent a lot.

Written a lot? No. But I bet you’ve played every game you own and watched a lot of catch-up TV.

Now you have soberly faced up to the undeniable fact that you are the same you as you were before January arrived it’s time to listen to granny.

Don’t be making promises you can’t keep. Better to say to quietly yourself that you’ll try to do a few things a bit different than trumpet your intentions where you will be exposed to cruel ridicule for not lasting beyond January 3rd.

Granny’s first rule for surviving the year. Keep your head down, your mouth shut, your legs crossed and your phone in your pocket. 

And this time next year I hope you will have remembered that New Year’s Eve is really not the time to make any decision except maybe to just have another drink…

 

Coffee Break Read – The Black Angel

I’ve been cleaning hotels since I was fifteen years old – and now I’m forty and as plain as a pikestaff I’m still at it. I’m a good cleaner, though, so I’ve moved up the scale from backstreet boarding houses and these days I wear a nifty little uniform and clear up after the guests in the five-star Venezia Palace that looms over the resort like a fancy wedding cake. 
That Friday evening I had been called to the penthouse level to deal with a ‘little mishap’ in one of the bathrooms. I had just finished, when a wispy little lady drifted into the room. She blushed as if embarrassed to see me, so I bobbed a half curtesy and she smiled vaguely.
“Umm, miss. While you are here there’s a bit of a spillage out on the balcony.”
“Yes ma’am.”
I picked up my emergency kit and followed, admiring her silk lounging pyjamas but feeling a bit sorry for her obvious shyness and awkwardness.
“The maid was still here, Arlo, so I asked her to come and mop up here.”
‘Arlo’ was a handsome devil, but with one of them closed faces that makes me think that the wearer harbours bad secrets. He briefly lifted his head and his eyes slid across me without even really registering me as a human being. But I was so used to that sort of reaction that I wasn’t  even insulted any more. I just got on with my cleaning. 
I was almost finished when I heard a strange noise. It was like wings. Only not bird wings. It sounded leathery and slapping. I looked up to see another man standing on the breast-high balustrade. He was pale-skinned and bare-chested and he had black leather wings. They were folded now, but I knew the snapping sound had been those wings flying him in. 
Unlike Arlo, this man’s cold black eyes didn’t discount my humanity. Instead I could feel his gaze burning against the pulse point in my throat. It felt hungry and made me want to shiver. I made to turn and walk away, but it was as if my feel were nailed to the ground. 
Arlo looked up. “Leave the maid, Luce, she’s only here to clear up after Clumsy Clara here, who can’t hold her drink.”
‘Luce’ jumped lightly down onto the floor and was at the woman’s side in two strides. He pulled aside the woman’s silken collar exposing twin puncture marks in the papery whiteness of her skin. He showed his teeth.
“Arlo. Were you not told?”
“Since when have the likes of us done anything we were told?”
Moving too fast for the eye to register Luce was beside Arlo and he one hand around the other man’s throat. 
Clara made a small sound in the back of her throat before slipping to the ground in a dead faint. As she hit the ground the compulsion to remain in place left me and I went to her side.
As I knelt down, her eyes fluttered open.
“Get away,” she whispered. “While they are occupied with each other. Run away.”
I eased an arm under her shoulders and helped her to sit up. As I did so a she gave a harsh little cry, and I realised Arlo was moving. He walked like a clockwork soldier, or one of the automatons that go in and out of the clock in the hotel ballroom, and when he got to the balustrade he climbed over. For a second, he seemed to stand on thin air before plunging downwards. 
We were eighty-nine floors up and my stomach revolted at the idea of his body being splattered across the pristine stones of the foyer below us.
Only he wasn’t. A moment later he reappeared grinning savagely. His wings were feathered, but as black as Luce’s leather. 
The two men grappled with each other, standing on insubstantial air as they fought. The woman on the floor hid her face in my shoulder for a moment before struggling to her feet.
“Can I help you ma’am?” I asked quietly.
“I should refuse you. But I cannot.”
She took my hand and I walked beside her to where the two winged ones fought.
“Blood for blood,” she said and the men looked hungrily at me.
Then Clara let go of my hand and I fell. 
My last living thought was that the cleaning crew would never get my blood out of the marble floor below.

©️jj 2019

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