Have you heard of StoryBundle? They have been around for a while and most people are familiar with them, but for those who aren’t, these are special deals where you can get loads of ebooks for a really deep discount!
eSpec Books is currently participating in the 200 Science Fiction Worlds StoryBundle where you can get over 200 stories for an insanely cheap price. There is a base package where you can get four books for $5, or all fifteen books for just $20. That is a lot of fiction! The bundles only run for about three weeks and we have just one week left in this one.
I am well familiar with many of the authors participating and I don’t think you could get a better deal. There are nearly a hundred and fifty great authors featured in these books, if I do say so myself. Here are the bundled titles:
- Escape Vector by Bryan Young
- Shout Kill Revel Repeat by Scott R. Jones
- Tangents & Tachyons by J. Scott Coatsworth
- The Way of the Laser by Eric M. Bosarge & Joe M. McDermott
- A Metal Box Floating Between Stars by Jamie Lackey
- Beamed Up by Ariele Sieling, V. S. Holmes and more!
- Fix the World by Bryan Cebulski, J. Scott Coatsworth and more!
- In Harm’s Way by Mike McPhail
- Into the Black – Tales from the Cassidyverse 1 by Adam Gaffen
- Lost Signals edited by Charles E. Gannon
- Mirror Shards edited by Thomas K. Carpenter
- Once Upon a Star by Anthea Sharp, Alethea Kontis, and more!
- Soulmates by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn
- The Future Will Be Written By Robots edited by Laura Morrison
- Transcendent 4 edited by Bogi Takács
Still not convinced to check it out? Here is an excerpt from my story “No Man Left Behind” from In Harm’s Way, edited by Mike McPhail.
No Man Left Behind
an Alliance Archives Adventure
Sergeant Justin Krougliak of the 428th Recon woke with a start, confused as someone delivered a powerful kick to the cot he lay on. If not for the pong of drying blood surrounding him, he would have expected he was late for PT or duty. He opened his eyes and struggled to sit up. The first thing he noticed was a Dominion officer staring down at him with icy blue eyes brimming with hatred. (The man wore no rank, but the uniform and posture were unmistakable.) The second thing Justin noticed was that his own uniform was covered in blood—mostly, from what he could tell, someone else’s. The third thing he noticed—and the most troubling—was that his radio-frequency tags were missing from around his neck.
Justin fell back on the cot and just stared up at the enemy, saying nothing.
The officer pivoted and walked out, calling back to two soldiers Justin hadn’t noticed until now, “Bring him.”
He didn’t resist, but he didn’t exactly cooperate, as they came to either side of the cot, gripped him by the upper arms, and hauled him to his feet. Justin’s head swam and if not for their rough hold on him he would have fallen. Maybe more of the blood was his than he’d thought. He struggled to regain his balance as they marched him from the cell, having no doubt they would drag him otherwise. They led him outside and across a barren compound to a Quonset hut that seemed to serve as temporary command of the makeshift camp. Though the bright sunlight caused his head to pound violently, Justin forced his eyes to stay open, doing his best to scan the terrain without seeming to. Not that the grunts hauling him around were paying any attention. Other than the blockhouse they held him in and the hut, there were no permanent structures. There were, however, plenty of soldiers bivouacked beneath the towering old-growth trees. He nearly slumped in relief. Not at the soldiers, but at the landscape. It appeared they were still on Demeter. One point in his favor, anyway. If he could just disappear up into the canopy…
Memories began to surface. He and the 428th had been securing a new sector. Coop was running Treybot, their bomb-detection robot, with the rest of the unit following behind, dealing with any explosive ordnance discovered. As they cleared the treeline, they encountered a company of Alliance infantry pinned down by the enemy. The last thing he remembered…well, that would be the last thing he remembered.
They must have joined the fight and, clearly, it hadn’t gone in their favor…or at least not in his. He had to assume some soldier had stripped him of his RF tags when they’d snatched him from the battlefield. The absence of their slight mass resting against his chest weighed heavy on him. With those tags and the right codes, the enemy could learn pretty much anything about him. Nothing critical, just his personal details. Given time they could learn more if they had resources inside Alliance territory. But nothing right now. Nothing that would endanger his unit.
How had they faired…? He shut down that line of thought fast. He couldn’t think about Coop and the others. They were either out there or they weren’t. He chose to believe they were, but he couldn’t depend on it, and worrying would only mess with his head. With deep, centering breaths, he shut down his emotions and focused on the shit-basket he was currently in now…and how to get out of it.
The guards let him trip over the doorframe he wasn’t paying attention to. Justin kept his expression carefully neutral and picked himself back up, standing at attention (out of habit) and seemingly staring at nothing as he assessed the room: A desk, a single chair (occupied by the officer from earlier), and nothing else. No help there. The guards remained outside, but a medic filed in and started laying out his kit on the desk: bandages, tear-tape, alcohol swabs, liquid sutures, a white transdermal pain patch. That’s it, nothing usable there—though the pain patch was a surprise. They must have plans if they were wasting that on him.
“If you would sit on the edge of the desk,” the medic instructed him, his tone businesslike and impersonal. Without hesitation, Justin complied. He didn’t know why they wanted to patch him up, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to improve his chances at getting free. Justin watched closely as the guy treated his wounds. He frowned.
There was a ring on the medic’s finger. A simple, silver-tone band. Flat and kind of thick. A wedding band? That’s what it looked like. Most soldiers—on either side—abstained from such open signs of attachment. Why hand the enemy a tool to use against you? Anything was a source of intel during wartime. Of course, he could be conscripted. Justin kind of envied the guy, his own finger never felt so bare as it did now. A fleeting image of his wife Kelly rose in his memory, wearing her trademark smirk and her flight gear.
Again he shut down his emotions, hard.
Justin watched closely as the guy treated his wounds. Motions quick and confident, but relaxed, as if he was just another patient, not an enemy soldier. The guy was good. Efficient. Not too rough, though there was a time or two before the pain patch kicked in where Justin couldn’t help but hiss. When the medic was done he rested his hand on Justin’s wrist, the cool metal of the ring pressed against his skin. Justin started to tense and pull away, feeling a faint prick as the medic tightened his hold.
Something wasn’t right. Justin’s breath came faster as his body tingled. Every impulse shouted at him to get clear, to break the medic’s grip. By then, of course, it was too late. He didn’t know what they’d done but his blood began to burn and every muscle in his body went stiff and unresponsive. If he could have, he would have screamed. All he managed was a grimace and he’d had to fight to manage that. A memory surfaced from his childhood of his mother warning him not to make faces: If you’re not careful, it will freeze that way.
What do you know? Justin thought. Mom was right. Silently, he laughed, but even in his mind, there was an edge to it. He knew when he was fucked.
The medic quickly stepped back, his hands falling to his side. Justin met his gaze and saw regret reflected back before the man looked away. With haste, the medic packed up his kit and left. For untold agonizing moments, Justin and his captor sat in silence. Justin had no idea how long, but his need to scream in rage increased exponentially. His grimace slowly shifted into a snarl as the muscles of his face relaxed. Or fell back under his control, at least.
“If we wanted to kill you,” the officer said in a cold matter-of-fact tone, “we could have done so on the battlefield, Sergeant Krougliak. But let’s just say we’re reserving that option for now.”
He pulled open one of the desk drawers and tossed a new uniform in Justin’s direction. Then he took something else out. Justin couldn’t move his head to see what it was but then he didn’t have to. The officer stood and walked around the desk to stand in front of him. In his one hand were Justin’s name tape, rank marker, and unit patch. In the other was a circular object.
“Your demolition skills are useful to me,” the officer said as he held up the patches, “but I am not a fool.” He then held up the object, a metal band much like the ring the medic had worn, only larger. Bracelet-sized, large enough to fit a man. Knowing what was coming, Justin struggled to move. His jaw clenched and his fingers twitched, but the rest of his body betrayed him as the Dominion officer secured the manacle snug around Justin’s wrist. He had regained enough sensation to feel the tiny pinpoints just touching his skin. “You’ve had a small taste of the neurotoxin from Corpsman Pierce’s ring…just enough to appreciate the severity of its effects. This…” The officer tapped the metal band. “This will kill you outright; don’t give me a reason to activate it.
“I’m through losing men and territory because of Allied soldiers. You work for me now, Sergeant. Krougliak…or for your life…however you care to think of it. Once you can move, change. My men will escort you back to your new quarters.”