After three years it’s finally here!
That’s right folks, as some of you saw yesterday in the news header to Being a Better Writer, the sequel to Colony is at last available for pre-order! You can click that link right there, or the cover image to go right to Amazon and secure your copy right now. Which, as of posting, is two weeks out from the November 19th release date!
Here’s a synopsis:
Jake, Anna, and Sweets are back in the long-awaited sequel to Colony!
Fresh off their mission to Pisces, the trio is looking forward to a well-deserved rest, and better yet, a fat paycheck after everything that occurred on the alien world. But all that comes to a crashing halt when they’re waylaid above Earth by their employer and find themselves with an extended contract, sending them right back out into space.
Worse yet, their trio has been split to best handle their new assignments. Jake and Anna find themselves attached to a scientific expedition, tasked as security escorts keeping the expedition safe as they investigate a new potential colony world thriving with a vast, vibrant jungle. Meanwhile, Sweets has been assigned aboard an UNSEC military vessel, tracking down the source of a pervasive cyberattack against their hardware.
But as both teams get to work, it’s clear that there may be more to their respective missions than they were led to believe. The cyberattacks are brazen and powerful, but simplistic and utterly untraceable. The alien world’s ecology defies logic and sense, puzzling the expedition team.
And above it all, the ripples of events on Pisces continue to spread through the galaxy …
And if you’re looking for more, hit the jump for an excerpt from the early chapters of the book!
Ahead of them, he could see the end of the station, and as they drew closer he could see that one of the airlock doors was open. A pair of guards stood aside it, clad in mottled green, and as they drew closer he picked out details. Skinsuit armor, like Anna’s or his escorts, but more uniform. Clear-cut.
He’d seen the type before. Gotten very familiar with it, in fact. The colors were different, and the armor was less bulky—likely owing to the lack of a need for dive systems—but it was still recognizable.
UNSEC Marines. Or soldiers. He wasn’t really sure what the proper term was. But there was no mistaking them. From the stance, to their arms, to the patch on each of their shoulders: a single, bright, white star surrounded by concentric circles over a field of light blue, the symbol of UNSEC.
His escort came to a halt in front of the pair, and he stopped as well. The one who had been at his back stepped forward.
“Sergeant Ultir,” she said. “United Nations Peacekeeping, Security Corp. Here for a POI transfer.”
POI. He knew that term. Person of interest. Not quite a prisoner, but no VIP either.
One of the guards nodded before speaking. “Captain Indiel is on the way.”
Captain Indiel? Is that the captain of the ship I’m about to board, or … ? He peered down the airlock, but the door at the other end was shut, giving him no clues as to the nature of his reception.
“You got the paperwork?” the guard continued.
“Right here.” His escort pulled out a datapad and passed it to the guard. A loud, metallic thump echoed out of the airlock as the hatch at the end began to open, first sliding out, and then upwards, to Sweets’ surprise.
Wait, he thought as the aperture continued to widen, giving him a view of the inside of the ship and the three figures standing perpendicular to his own stance. Not up. Sideways! Whatever ship he was about to get on, it had docked at an angle ninety-degrees relative to the station.
How are they going to cross the gap? he wondered as the hatch finished opening. The trio stepped forward. Is there some sort of special … oh. All three stepped out into open air … and hung there, floating forward as they twisted in the corridor. It took him a moment to catch up with what was happening as each of them touched down on the airlock floor, their steps at first ponderously long, but then tightening as they moved further down the causeway. The airlock adjusted its generators. Clever. There was a null-G area right in front of the ship that was probably home to just a tiny amount of gravity to give those who crossed it a sensation of “down,” and then from the look of it gravity increased as they moved down the airlock. Allowing them to start out with only a little bit of downward pull that they can twist in, giving them time to acclimate. I wonder if—There! the group’s steps reached normal cadence as they passed a line of lit LEDs on the floor of the passage. Very clever.
He switched his attention away from the airlock and towards the trio coming toward him. The rear two were armor-clad soldiers nearly identical to the pair on guard outside the airlock, different only in the rank pips on their shoulders and the design of a few of their armor plates.
The leader of the group, however, wasn’t wearing armor. Instead, she was clad in blue camo fatigues—not that it kept the two guards outside the airlock from snapping to attention as she stepped out. She was tall, almost as tall as Anna, at least roughly equal with his own height, and carried herself with precision. Her hair was cut in a manner similar to Anna’s as well, short and simplistic, though it held more grey than Anna’s had. There were more lines around the woman’s face as well, both marks of age and, unless he missed his guess, old scars.
“Captain,” his escort said, both of them snapping salutes at the woman. She returned both of them, and as she did he spotted another difference between the woman and Anna. Anna still had her left hand. Whereas Captain Indiel’s was clearly entirely cybernetic.
How far up does that run? he wondered, eyeing the captain’s arm as his escort relaxed. Forearm? Bicep? Shoulder? Then her eyes flashed to him, scanning him head to toe, and he gave her a nod.
“This the POI?” Captain Indiel asked. Her voice wasn’t harsh, but there was an edge to it that said she was used to command. There was a bit of an accent too, though where it hailed from he wasn’t certain.
Middle-eastern? Asian? North African maybe? It was hard to tell based on her looks—her complexion was such that she really could have come from anywhere.
“Paperwork?” Wherever she had come from, she was certainly no-nonsense. The guard passed her the datapad, and she held it up to her artificial wrist. Both devices let out a beep.
“Right,” she said, passing the datapad back to the UN escort. “You two are dismissed.”
“Yes ma’am,” the pair said, offering another salute. The captain returned it.
“Now,” she said, turning towards Sweets as his erstwhile escort began a quick-march back down the station arm. “You grab your bags and come with me.”
“Right,” he said, stooping and collecting the two duffels. “Just checking, but are you the captain of the ship, or—?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head and turning on her heel to move into the airlock. He followed, her escort taking up positions behind him. “I am Captain Kersic Indiel of the Stellar Marines. I am in command of the UNSEC-MV Casimir’s marine contingent.”
“Okay,” he said as he entered the airlock, his eyes on the line in front of him on the deck. “The Casimir? MV? I’m guessing that stands for military vessel?”
“Correct,” Indiel said, not bothering to look back as she crossed the line, her stride lengthening almost immediately. “The Casimir is a type 2 Wojciech-class Cruiser.”
“Wov—”He felt his tongue twist. “Come again?”
“Wojciech,” Captain Indiel said, slowing as he reached the line. “Watch your step, Mr. Candy. The gravity will grow lighter until you reach the ship.”
He nodded, though he’d already surmised as much on his own. He could feel himself growing lighter as he passed the line on the floor, the constant, steady downward pull of artificial gravity weakening as he moved past it. It was disconcerting at first, but not that difficult to adapt to. Indiel nodded before resuming her way down the airlock.
“Right,” he said as he began to float more with each step. “So the ship’s name is the Casimir, and it’s a Wov—” He twisted his lips around the strange word, forcing out a close approximation, though he was sure he was missing some subtlety to it. “Wojciech-class cruiser? How big is that?”
“I’ll leave it to the ship’s captain to answer that,” Indiel said. She was almost floating now, and as he watched, she pushed off one final time, her feet putting a faint twist to her leap so that by the time she passed into the ship’s airlock, her body was oriented properly with the deck. “After all,” she said, turning to look at him. “It’s his ship.” The tone sounded friendly, but her face was just as neutral as it had been when he’d arrived. “If your bags can take a hit, I’d advise throwing them,” she said. “Orienting yourself isn’t as easy as it looks.”
“I’ll be fine,” he said, gauging the distance. Time to put those freerunning skills to good use! It was a shame they were in a hurry. Even a flat surface could be a playground with the kind of gradual gravity generation they’d put on it. Two steps, then leap, more force from the right leg!
He went for it, pushing himself into the air with just a touch of lazy spin. It wasn’t perfect—he was both too high up and had added too little spin to his maneuver—but other than that, it was fine.
Shame they’re not going to let me try again, he thought as he neared the edge of the airlock, roughly the same position the captain had been in when she’d dropped to the deck. I’ll bet I could do some neat tricks. The edge came closer, and he prepped himself. Legs ready for the impact, check forward momentum and … He stumbled a bit as he hit, but managed to recover without dropping either of his bags. He looked up at the captain and grinned, hoping the flash of momentary pain from his ankle wasn’t showing.
If she was impressed, or noticed, she didn’t show it. Instead she simply nodded and motioned towards the end of the airlock. The door there was shut. As he moved to follow, her two escorts dropped to the deck behind him with matching composite-on-metal thuds.
“Captain Kersic Indiel, company commander returning to the ship with POI in tow,” the captain said as she neared the opposing hatch. “He’s all ours. Permission to come aboard, Varus?”
“Permission granted,” a masculine-sounding voice said from a nearby panel. There was a deep rumble as the airlock in front of them began to open.
Indiel nodded. “Does the captain want to see him now, or—?”
“Later,” Varus’s voice said. “You can take Mr. Candy to his quarters. I’ll post a guard outside. The captain will meet with him after we’ve left port.”
“Understood,” Indiel said, glancing back in Sweets’ direction as the inner airlock finished opening. “Mr. Candy, if you would come this way.” She motioned him into the ship itself.
“Was that an AI?” Sweets asked as he followed the captain in. The ship didn’t look that different from what he’d expected … though he had to admit his experience was limited to entertainment shows and what he’d seen on Pisces. But those had been submarines, not stellar vessels.
“It was,” Indiel confirmed as she led him deeper into the ship. “Varus is the ship’s AI.”
“True AI?” he asked. “Or dumb?”
“True AI,” Indiel replied. “Level eight. Have you dealt with military AIs before?”
“Actually, yes,” he said. “Back on Pisces.”
Indiel came to a stop, and he pulled up short to avoid running into her. “You were on Pisces?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said, lifting his duffels to eye level for a moment. “Just got back. We were there when—”
“Shut it,” Indiel said, the words coming out in a quick snap. “I don’t want to know about it, and I don’t want to hear about it. If you just came from Pisces, that’s where my knowledge of the matter stops.”
“You didn’t know?” he asked, giving her a curious look. “You’ve got my papers on your … pad.”
“Your papers said you were a POI,” Indiel replied. “And that you were a security risk. They didn’t specify why. But let me fill in some pieces for you. Pisces is in the midst of a revolt. Whatever you know or think you know about it? You’d best not go blabbing it around. In fact, I’d advise very strongly against it.” Her finger came up to jab him in the chest. It was the real one, not the artificial one, but it didn’t matter. It was still a strong enough jab to shove him back. “Got it?”
“Got it,” he said, nodding. “But don’t you guys get the news—?”
“It doesn’t matter what we do or don’t get,” Indiel said, cutting him off. For the first time, a hint of anger was seeping into her expression. “If you want to talk about it, then I’d advise reading up the official reports first. Am I correct in assuming that as an envoy from SoulComp, you’re not an UNSEC regular?”
“Well, regardless of what you may know that we don’t,” she said, leaning close. “Don’t spread it around. Neither I nor Captain Sokolov would appreciate finding that our troops had to be muzzled for hearing something they weren’t supposed to, clear?”
“Got it,” he said, nodding. Then he added further. “I’m a hacker, ma’am. I can keep a secret.”
“Or ferret one out,” she said, her expression returning to stony neutrality. “And don’t call me ‘ma’am.’ A few of my troops have earned that right, but to you, I’m either ‘sir,’ ‘captain,’ or ‘Captain Indiel,’ clear?”
“Absolutely.” Her glare narrowed. “Captain Indiel.”
“Good,” she said, turning and proceeding forward once more. “Now that we’ve covered that, you do have experience with military AIs, then?”
“Yes sir,” he replied as he followed. “Level tens.”
“Plural? I’m impressed. You have been around, Mr. Candy. So then you’re aware of their dedication?”
“The loyalty compulsions? Yeah.”
“Good,” Indiel said, turning right as they reached an intersection. The new hallway they were in was far narrower than the one they’d just passed through, forcing Sweets to almost stack his bags atop one another. “Then Varus’s … predilections likely won’t bother you.”
“To a point,” Indiel said. “He’s loyal to UNSEC, if that’s what you mean. But he’s very protective of the Casimir and its crew.”
“He also serves as the ship’s specialist ex-o— Executive officer.”
He nodded. “I’m familiar with it. Ar—” He caught himself. “Excuse me, other military AIs I’ve interacted with have held similar positions.” Used them really well when they tried to kill me, too. Argus in particular had been quite ruthless, hijacking civilian communications channels, using remote overrides, and acting as an almost boundless force inside North Shore.
“Good,” Indiel said, stepping to the side and climbing a steep stairway. He gave it a sour look but followed, moving with her up to the next deck. “And I assume that you have a datapad, phone, or other device?”
“A couple,” he said as he cleared the top of the stairs. Indiel was already winding around toward another steep set of stairs. How many floors—I mean decks—does this ship have?
“Good.” Indiel began climbing the next set of steps. “Varus will give you a map of the ship when we reach your quarters, and you can settle in until the captain calls for you.”
“Right,” he said, his breaths coming a little quicker. “Do I need to start familiarizing myself with the ship’s computer systems?”
“I don’t know,” Indiel said as she cleared the top of the stairs and began moving down the hall. It was wider than the one the deck below had been, and Sweets relaxed his shoulders slightly. “I’m not privy to why you’re here, just that you are, and it’s my responsibility to ensure you don’t either wander off or end up dead. Unless, of course, we get an order to either effect.”
“Comforting,” he said. “So I guess I’ll just chill wherever you put me until the captain can see me?”
“Now you’re getting it,” Indiel said, turning as she reached another intersection and cutting across the ship. They passed yet another intersection, this one a wide hallway. “My job was simply to escort you to your quarters, and once that’s done …”
“Right,” he said. “But why a captain?”
“You said you were in charge of all the marines on the ship, right?”
“So don’t you have lieutenants or sergeants or something for this kind of work?”
“Usually, yes,” she said as they reached the end of the hall and turned left. “But in this case, given the orders I received, I decided to handle things personally. A hands-on approach. After all,” she said, coming to a stop beside a doorway on the left side of the hall. “Your security, as far as your arrival goes, is my responsibility.” She nodded toward the door. “You’ll be quartering here.”
Sweets nodded and tapped the controls by the door, which slid open at his touch. A small but serviceable cabin was nestled inside. Actually, Sweets thought as he stepped in. This is more than serviceable. It was just less than half the size of the berth he, Jake, and Anna had shared on their trip to and from Pisces, but there was only one bunk rather than four—and it was larger than his bunk on that trip had been. Aside from that, he could see space to stow his gear, a wallscreen, a fold-down table and even two small, collapsible chairs. A narrow doorway was open, revealing a small, private lavatory, complete with shower.
All in all, it was spartan, but at the same time, fairly nice, as long as he ignored the bland coloration. “Looks good,” he said, setting his bags on the deck. “Will I need some sort of security authorization to get in?”
“None,” Indiel said. “The room is sufficient?”
“Yeah, it’s fine.”
“Good, then stay here until Captain Sokolov calls for you. Varus can answer any questions you may have. If you need something specific …” She turned, glancing down the hall as footsteps began to echo toward them. “Those two will be outside your door,” she said, gesturing toward a pair of armor-clad soldiers. Both came to a halt and offered her a salute, which she returned. “Good day, Mr. Candy.”
Jungle drops November 19th! Pre-order today and get your copy right at launch!