Gravity's Force (Book Excerpt)
by Ebony McKenna
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Page 1 of 4
Chapter One, Vassi 20, 2989
He was born a dead man and he knew it. From the day of his birth, his
life had not been his own; his people had been enslaved and murdered, his
culture denied for three centuries. He saw premature age in the faces around
him, people without hope, people worn from fighting. All his life--what
little it had amounted to so far--he had been taught to believe that he
was just one of a "dying breed".
Yet tonight, out of sheer spite, Kaeman felt like living.
He lay on the dusty hill on the outskirts of Djitani and looked back
at the sparkling lights that disguised a dirty city, blurring the distinction
between the slums and high-class suburbs. Breathing the thin, damp night
air, he readied himself to return to the dust and grime. His dark eyes
roamed the ramshackle outskirts to the slums, with their intermittent energy
supply and run-down plumbing. He felt the stirrings of envy as he looked
across to the bright lights of the apartment shards and cathedrals, with
their glass and metal towers thrusting towards the sky. At night, from
this hill, you couldn't see the grime - only the glimmer of lights from
the tall buildings and hover tubes as they flung commuters to their
He watched the soft trail of lights from the underbellies of the floater
vans zipping through the streets and knew that the only way he'd ever get
inside one of those gleaming machines was if he was cleaning it.
Kaeman came to the hill when he needed space to breathe. He could lose
track of time so easily looking at the night sky, with its Forest Nebula
of green dust and the millions of familiar stars above him. It made him
feel part of the larger scheme of things, made him believe that there might
be something hopeful to look forward to.
There was a new star to look at these nights: Tyberon, the rapidly expanding
morning star. Tyberon burned brighter each night, as it spun ever closer
to Etania, sparkling and seeming to change colour as it rose above the
Kaeman lay back, savouring the contact with the soft earth, his callused
hands gently sifting the soil. There was another bright light in the sky,
regular but ever-changing: Etania's moon, Tessera. Tonight it was in crescent
form, its light subdued by the gauze-like mist that had started to form
around the hill.
Just then, Kaeman thought he saw something flash on its dark half. He
squinted, and wondered if it could be a light trick caused by the mist.
He held his breath, afraid to blink, staring at the darkened half of the
moon. A moment later, he saw it again. He could have sworn that it looked
like an explosion.
Pulling his news slate out of his coat pocket, he hit the index prompt,
his scale-covered face momentarily reflected back at him on the blank screen
as it booted up. But nothing about the moon uploaded. He hit the search
engine, but the screen flashed at him, requesting a recharge before he
could access new information. Kaeman swore under his breath: the nearest
recharge station was an hour away.
He glanced up, just in time to see another spark of light flicker on
Tessera's dark side. This time, he knew that it was no trick of the light.
Springing to his feet, he cantered down the hill, stumbling and skidding
over the damp weeds and clumps of dirt. His agile legs gathered speed as
he sprinted down to the path that led back to Djitani. His body tingled
with anxious curiosity as he ran towards the city, his arms pumping hard;
and his heart beat heavily against his chest as his feet slapped on the
flat road. He ran on, head turned sideways, watching as a chain of light
burned across Tessera's dark half like a luminous necklace.
And then, directly ahead of him in the outskirts of Djitani, a blinding
light and deafening boom tore the sky apart. Kaeman stumbled and fell,
his hands covering his eyes to block the searing brightness. Shrapnel flew
through the air, peppering the ground with debris.
Trapped in open ground, Kaeman had nowhere to shelter. He could do little
but cover his head and dodge the flying chunks. He tried to stem the onset
of panic as burning debris landed directly in front of him, digging craters
into the road. Pulse racing, he picked himself up again and lurched desperately
left and right, as a fresh explosion tore through another estate. He ran
forward, fast, leaping over the smouldering debris littering the road,
the flaming buildings lighting the way back home.
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Ebony McKenna, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.