Once a month the Science Fiction Romance Brigade authors showcase snippets from new work, WIPs, cover reveals or other fun things. The link is here for all the participants.
Because April is the 104th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic, I’m going to do one more excerpt from my SFR Galaxy Award-winning novel Wreck of the Nebula Dream. The story is loosely inspired by the Titanic, but set in the far future in outer space.
The hero, Nick Jameson, is attempting to rescue two children trapped in their cabin after the ship meets with catastrophe.
He shoved his way into the darkness of the children’s bedroom, pushing the hand lamp in front of him, trying not to think about all the hundreds of tons of debris piled above him. Standing up as soon as he cleared the threshold, lamp in hand, Nick faced a tangled mess, hardly recognizable as a bedroom. The bulkhead flexed intermittently in an alarming fashion, accompanied by the shriek and groan of overstressed metal.
Not much time before the wall goes and we go with it. Sweeping the pale light over the room, he found the children huddled together against one overturned bed. “Hi, remember me? I’m Nick. I was on the shuttle with you guys a few days ago.”
“You took the knife away from the lady. And you rescued Gianna when she was drowning.” Paolo nodded in the gloom. He got up and pulled his sister forward, dragging her with one chubby hand clamped around her wrist. She eyed Nick dubiously, left thumb firmly planted in her mouth, the other hand clutching the big teddy bear.
“Okay, Paolo, you seem like a pretty level-headed trooper,” Nick said, squatting to be at eye level with the boy. “We need to get out of here as fast as possible. You see the outer wall there?”
Paolo nodded. “It’s going to break, isn’t it?”
Nick tried to be reassuring. “We’ll be long gone first. Now, can you help me get your sister –”
“Her name’s Gianna.” The boy pushed his sister closer to Nick.
“Help me get Gianna to crawl out through all the mess to my friends? We’ve made a tunnel for you. She’ll have to leave her toy, though.”
The girl hugged the bear tightly and shook her head, trying to retreat from her brother and Nick. “Won’t,” she informed Nick, taking her thumb out of her mouth briefly.
“Sweetheart, we have to go. It’s going to get pretty windy and cold in here soon.” Don’t scare her, if she retreats deeper into the wreckage, might not be able to retrieve her. With an effort, Nick kept his voice level and calm.
“Carry me.” She raised her arms to him, the bear dangling in one grubby hand.
“Sorry, I can’t, there isn’t room,” he said with a small laugh, reaching out to tousle her hair. “We have to crawl. It’s like a game but really important. Tell her, Paolo.”
“Captain, what’s going on? Did you find them?” Khevan yelled from the other side of the debris barrier. “We’re running out of time.”
Nick ignored him, focusing on the scared children. He kept his voice reasonable. “Okay, Gianna, I tell you what, you go first and then your brother will follow. The bear and I’ll bring up the rear.”
She regarded him solemnly with huge eyes. “Promise?”
“I promise.” Hurriedly he crossed his heart.
She thrust the bear at him. “He’s not a toy. His name is Huntington the Bear.”
Good thing no one I know is here to see this. Nick took the bear, said, “Hello, Huntington,” and tucked it under his arm. Gently clutching the girl’s shoulder with his free hand, he steered her to the small crawlspace he had come through, right outside the bedroom door. Paolo followed.
“I’m sending the girl through,” he yelled, then moved aside to let Gianna creep on her hands and knees. “See the light?” he asked, pointing down the tunnel to where Khevan’s hand lamp gleamed faintly.
Gianna nodded, her curls bobbing.
“Crawl straight to the light, and be careful not to get your clothes or your hair snagged on anything, okay? Stay low.” Patting her shoulder, Nick waited while the child wriggled down the tunnel, stopping once or twice to look back at him for encouragement.
The next seconds were an eternity to wait. No sooner had Khevan shouted he had her and she and Mara were going out into the main corridor, then Nick nodded to Paolo. “Go ahead.”
The boy blinked. “My mommy –”
Give the kid credit, he doesn’t want to leave his mother behind. Nick squeezed Paolo’s shoulder. “I’ll check on her. You go ahead.”
“She’s dead, isn’t she?”
Too calm by half. Probably in shock. “I don’t know,” Nick said. “If I can get her out, I will, okay?”
“Okay. Don’t forget my sister’s bear.” Paolo pointed at the plush creature.
“I won’t,” Nick assured him.
“I got it, kid.” Nick snapped him a salute with his free hand.
Nodding gravely, Paolo got down on his knees to enter the escape tunnel. Nick made sure the boy was well on his way before searching for the missing mother. The beam of the hand lamp swept across a broken, bloody figure on the deck, all the way across the room, lying partially underneath half the ceiling.
Beyond my help. Nick crossed the cabin anyway and felt for a pulse. Finding none, he gently closed the woman’s staring eyes. At least her last sight had been of her two children, safe and unharmed beside the beds, which was some small mercy, Nick supposed. He stood up and took one final look at her. “We’ll take good care of them for you. I promise.”
Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, Sectors Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.
All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers stranded without enough lifeboats and drifting unarmed in enemy territory. Aided by Mara, Nick must find a way off the doomed ship for himself and several other innocent people before deadly enemy forces reach them or the ship’s malfunctioning engines finish ticking down to self destruction.
But can Nick conquer the demons from his past that tell him he’ll fail these innocent people just as he failed to save his Special Forces team? Will he outpace his own doubts to win this vital race against time?