I’m going to do something silly. Out of all the works I could promote, I’m going to promote a self-published work for the Ditmar Awards.
Because I’m silly.
But also because it’s the damn most fun thing I’ve published this year.
And I did sell it, but the publisher folded.
It’s a novella, so markets for those are very limited, except in electronic form.
So there. Here is an excerpt from Charlotte’s Army. Download the entire 23,000 words temporarily free from Smashwords.
* * *
It was 4.06am ship time when the emergency bell went off in the corridor. In the few seconds it took me to jump out of bed and into my pants, I realised that the ringing bell signified a medical emergency and furthermore, that I wasn’t on duty. But I threw on my shirt and went outside anyway. In the corridor, Julia almost crashed into me.
‘Charlie! You’re going the wrong way. Not the hospital, the docking bay.’
I ran after her. ‘Docking bay?’
‘A shuttle came in from the Forward. Stab wound. A bad one.’
No. Another one.
We ran into the docking area, where a number of dock personnel and medical grunts already waited. The screen of the airlock camera, showed the shuttle already in place. Lights flashed. Flight assistance personnel were manoeuvring the ramp into place. A few nurses waited with trolleys. Dr Spencer was there, too, in full gown and gloves.
There were some low metallic noises, a squeak and the airlock hissed open. Two flight personnel ran out, carrying a stretcher with a blanket-covered form, which they put on the trolley the nurses had pushed up the ramp.
The whole scene passed in quiet, grim efficiency. Walking back to the hospital behind the patient, I tried to see the soldier’s face, but an oxygen mask covered it. Dark curls peeped from between insulating covers.
Into the operating theatre, the blankets came off.
His skin was pale and clammy. He was breathing irregularly. He had a deep gash in his stomach. The onboard medbot had done a reasonable job at stemming the bleeding, but this would require surgery. Dr Spencer spotted me and gestured me over to assist while he repaired the wound.
I worked in detached efficiency.
Later, after a tasteless breakfast and too-hot coffee, fatigue and shock hit. Another construct injured by his comrades. This one Landau, our pride stock, the recipients of the most advanced leadership modules. What ailed them?