Just four days left to score some amazing bonuses. The below excerpt is from one of the stories featured in In Harm’s Way. Robert will have a story in Footprints in the Stars as well. Please consider checking it out on Kickstarter, or perhaps helping us spread the word.
The deck plating rattled, adding to the cacophony that made it difficult to concentrate. There were concussive sounds coming from all directions although it appeared there were few direct hits on Biânjìng itself, but Jasmine Yue found it difficult to discern anything with assurance. All she knew was that the red alert klaxon woke her far too soon after her twelve-hour shift ended, then she was back in her scrubs and out the door of her cabin in under five minutes. As she hustled into the Emergency Room, adjacent to the colony’s clinic, it was clear casualties, other than nerves, were light – for now.
CMO Dhruv Naccarato, tall, dark-complected, and with impossibly straight black hair, nodded at her arrival, her hands attending to a leg wound. Yue immediately donned surgical gloves and awaited instructions.
As the pair silently worked on the victim, a man Yue did not recognize, she was given the highlights: a score of small alien spacecraft had arrived, somehow avoiding Quatrième’s planetary defenses, and opened fire on the Biânjìng colony. They had been firing back and forth for the last half hour.
There had been archaeological remains found on two of the other colony worlds, but they dated back centuries or millennia, confirming humans were far from alone in the universe. Yue settled on Biânjìng, the fourth human establishment on an alien world, helping establish the Quatrième colony. She arrived just as the last of the dome was completing, allowing oxygen to flow and humans to breathe. The scope of the years-long project astonished her along with the promises of new discoveries, never anticipating she would be part of the first contact with a living alien species after just four years. This was not how anyone had hoped for a living first contact to go, although it did confirm the worst fears of some factions still on Earth.
“Focus,” Naccarato snapped, forcing Yue to blink twice and study her colleague’s hands. They were carefully repairing vein damage to the man’s left leg and Yue needed to keep the area sponged clean. Noise around them increased as more injured arrived, more than the small medical staff could reasonably handle.
“I need more hands,” Naccarato snapped, her voice betraying a trace of her Indian heritage. “Tell Rocky to send whoever he can spare.”
Another nurse confirmed the order and hurried off to signal the deputy commander while Yue began arranging the dermaplast that would be packed around the wound to protect it from infection and help new skin grow.
As the pair began to close the torn skin, the loudest whoomph yet reverberated through the casing. Heads snapped up, brows knit in concern, and everyone hushed leaving the various machines to hum by themselves, waiting for someone from CentComm to let them know what just happened. Seconds later, the speakers flared to life and the red alert signal was cut off.
“Remain in place,” the stern voice ordered, one Yue didn’t recognize. “Alien vessel down half a klick from Biânjìng. Other ships are either destroyed or fled. Remain on highest alert.”
After the message repeated, silence fell over the Emergency Room but that lasted only seconds as doctors and nurses resumed work, giving orders, receiving confirmations although everyone’s voices were now subdued. Volunteers, anyone with EMT or even basic First Aid training, were beginning to arrive. Naccarato, to her credit, afforded them a quick acknowledging look and then directed them without pausing with her patient; freeing the more experienced medical staff to tend to the direst of injuries. The colony had three operating rooms, all of which were in service, which was why she and Yue were working in the ER. The energy level rose but there was efficiency, not panic.
Still, Yue worried what would happen to the colony and to the inhabitants of the alien starcraft that lay just a short walk away.
Robert Greenberger is a writer and editor. He has worked for Starlog Press, where he created Comics Scene, the first nationally distributed magazine to focus on comic books, comic strips, and animation, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Weekly World News, Famous Monsters of Filmland, ComicMix.com, and is a founding member of Crazy 8 Press. His dozens of books, short stories, and essays include Hellboy II: The Golden Army, for which he won the IAMTW’s Scribe Award, and The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Murder at Sorrow’s Crown, co-written with Steven Savile. He is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, and holds a Master of Science in Education from the University of Bridgeport and a Master of Arts in Creative Writing & Literature for Educators from Fairleigh Dickinson University.