Sunday, October 27, 2013

Excerpt: Critical Mass

Hey, all.

It's been quite a ride so far. I have four books out now, and working on the fifth. Still trying to get a handle on that "marketing" thing. Anybody know a move producer?

This week, I want to share another excerpt, this one from Critical Mass. It hits hard at the heart of one of the themes of the trilogy. I'm sure you can guess what it is, and how passionately I feel or it.

Without further ado, Critical Mass:

Jimmy sat on the porch, watching the dull routine of the afternoon in front of him. The air commandos not on guard sat in the shade of Nadia’s lawn for lunch, weapons within easy reach. Those on duty at the detention shacks stood their watches, ever vigilant against any attempted breakout. The occasional fly or wasp buzzed by, its hypnotic drone lulling the man in the wooden chair. The pain med Watts had given him was just starting to do its work, and the ache in Jimmy’s shoulder was finally at a tolerable level. But on the downside, that warm, sleepy feeling Jimmy hated so much was just beginning to creep in and steal the rest of his afternoon.

The old warrior’s eyes had just drifted shut when the screen door opened with a protest of springs. The steps on the porch were light and favored one side. The soft scent in his nostrils confirmed the identity of the other party. “Afternoon, Miss Paine,” he mumbled through the painkiller’s haze. Another smell, cool and yeasty, wafted to him and he held out a hand to receive the cold bottle offered, his eyes still closed.

He couldn’t resist his own grin at the smile in her voice. “You must have sonar, you old coot.” The chair next to Jimmy’s creaked as Jenna settled into it. She clinked her bottle against his and took a pull.

The first swallow went down good, so he took a second before speaking.

“How’s the leg?”

“Better, thanks. A little stiff, but I can work with it.”

“Good. Wouldn’t want ya to miss out just ’cause ya got a little hitch in your git-along.”

“Jimmy, I wouldn’t miss this if I had a whole leg off.”

“Big deal, eh?

Jenna looked out at the yard for a while before answering. “They lied to me. I don’t like being lied to.”

“But do you still believe in what they want? World unity and Kumbaya, and all that crap?”

Jenna tensed and clenched her jaw at the offhand remark. “When you kill someone, what do you feel?”

Jimmy bristled at the question. “You’re kidding, right?” Feel? How the hell am I supposed to feel? What kind of stupid question as that?

Jenna’s eyes narrowed with passion. “I want to know what you feel when you pull a trigger and put a bullet into another person, and let their life spill out. In whose name did you do it? Yours? Your country’s? And how did it solve anything?” She looked away. “That wasn’t even enough, was it? You had to teach others how to kill, too. For a border. An imaginary line on a map.”

She paused long enough to take a swallow. “So before you label someone’s beliefs as ‘crap,’ just think about what it felt like every time you killed someone for that imaginary line.”

The hair stood up on Jimmy’s neck. I swear, if you were a man, I’d pin your ears back… As it was, there was no way he was going to let that one go. It had been a long time since he needed to shift into sergeant mode, but the shift was a smooth as his last class of recruits.
"Young lady." He struggled through gritted teeth. "I didn't kill anyone for a line. I killed to save an idea. That idea was that free men should be able to defend themselves from oppression and tyranny and help other men to live free as well. Them poor jackwagons who stood in the way  of that idea were the ones I killed. And to tell you the truth, I don't feel a damned thing for 'em. That line on the map you're goin' on about is the line that say, 'on this side you're free to choose your own destiny.' And I'll spill as much blood as I have to to make sure it stays where it's at."


Jimmy sniffed and set his bottle on the small table between them. “Look at

you, giving me the ‘baby-killer’ speech. How many bodies have you left behind? Why don’t you tell me what you felt when you stood over the bodies of the people you laid out for a lie?"


He gave her a cold smile then and watched the steel in her eyes melt away. “I’ll grant you, hon, you ain’t any worse than me. But you sure as hell ain’t any sight better.”

Leaning his chair back, he said, “Now, I’d be willin’ to bet your vision for this earth ain’t too far from mine. We just ended up thinkin’ about it from some different places.” He fixed her eyes again with his. “I do know if I’d have had a half-dozen more of you on my team, we’d have buried less of our boys and more of theirs.”

Jenna broke her gaze away and looked across the yard. In the silence that followed, Jimmy imagined he could hear the gears working inside her head. He just hoped that, whatever she decided in the end about whatever it was she was pondering, it wouldn’t affect her edge when it came down to brass knuckles and billy clubs.

Things were going to get bad enough as it was.

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