eSpec Books has a current campaign to fund three books. We’ve met our base goal, so the first book is funded, which means I can start giving everyone a sneak peek at all the wonderful words inside 🙂 This first excerpt is by James Chambers, one of the very first people I ask to any project and for good reason. I hope you enjoy! If you do, please consider checking out our campaign for Defending the Future: In Harm’s Way. We have 18 days left to fund two more books. With your support and/or help spreading the word, we can make that happen!
A Beach on Nellus
Sarah Nuhr FitzRose spotted the missing planet cruiser, Mercury, submerged beneath clear water at the end of a trail gouged through the jungle to the narrow beach and into the bright, rippling surf. A tongue flick to the sheath of her helmet lit her augmented reality display. Among the illuminated strings of data blinked a red icon, confirming the proximity of the beacon sewn into the abducted girl’s clothes.
Sarah scouted the shore for a place to land. The next nearest scrap of earth on Nellus lay 660 miles away across a world covered 98 percent by ocean. She banked the glider and eyed a sandy strip fringed by vine-draped trees and elephantine leaves. Cutting altitude until spray kicked up, she fired her braking thrusters then skimmed her glider’s belly across the surface to slow her approach. The glider lurched sideways. Sarah wrestled with it on course, skipping from wave crest to wave crest. She nosed down, plunging the glider beneath the fluid’s skin. The sharp drop in speed pitched her forward, knocking her helmet against the cockpit glass. Caught by the undertow, her glider jerked sideways into shallow waters then spun and skidded up the beach, furrowing sand until it stopped hard against a thick wall of entwined tree trunks.
The glider’s systems malfunctioned and winked out. The echo of the crash rang in Sarah’s ears.
When the shock faded, she punched the cockpit release, lifted the glass, and spilled out onto the soft sand. Wrestling her feet under her, she stood, surveyed her landing, and found the glider’s frame crumpled beyond repair.
She activated a sensor in her helmet to initiate a diagnostic app for her vital signs and then confirmed her weapon remained holstered at her waist. Her sleek, black body suit looked undamaged, and seconds later the diagnostic confirmed her stats as normal and verified the com-link to her orbiting ship, the Sif. She retrieved her gear bag from the wreck and slung it across one shoulder.
Ahead, an endless ocean confronted her. Behind, the abyssal dark of deep jungle awaited. To either side, the pale sand narrowed until it vanished between the two realms. She could swim along the shore or trek through the lush growth to reach the Mercury. Either way, she belonged to Nellus now, to its barely charted oceans and its inscrutable jungle untouched since its discovery early in the Myriarchy War.
She referenced her frustratingly limited planetary knowledgebase. Nellus had claimed seven exploratory expeditions before then being ignored because it held no strategic value. The planet’s most common fauna, nicknamed nellies, resembled, according to their database image, a monstrous mix of lobster and tuna with a long, translucent fin rising from its back. Each had two mouths set vertically parallel and ringed with razor-sharp teeth. They hunted in schools, which could devour their prey completely in seconds, but feeding frenzies often continued with the school consuming its own, reducing its numbers by as much as one third before satiating its hunger. Only Nellus’ sea clouds, rare, enormous creatures larger even than Earth’s blue whales, preyed on the nellies. The database listed no such predators on land, making the jungle path far more inviting.
She cycled through her full mission plan. Radiant ghosts of terrain maps slid across her view augmented by meager data—water content, soil composition, weather patterns—regarding Nellus’ vast oceans dotted by a few scattered land masses, even the largest of which sometimes vanished beneath its tides. The only thing Sarah knew less about was her objective: the abducted girl.
James Chambers is an award-winning author of horror, crime, fantasy, and science fiction. He wrote the Bram Stoker Award®-winning graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe. Publisher’s Weekly described The Engines of Sacrifice, his collection of four Lovecraftian-inspired novellas published by Dark Regions Press as “…chillingly evocative…” in a starred review. His story, “A Song Left Behind in the Aztakea Hills,” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.
He has authored the short story collection Resurrection House and several novellas, including The Dead Bear Witness and Tears of Blood, in the Corpse Fauna novella series. He also wrote the illustrated story collection, The Midnight Hour: Saint Lawn Hill and Other Tales, created in collaboration with artist Jason Whitley.
His short stories have been published in the anthologies The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the Crucible, Bad-Ass Faeries, Bad-Ass Faeries 2: Just Plain Bad, Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory, Bad Cop No Donut, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, The Best of Defending the Future, Breach the Hull, By Other Means, Chiral Mad 2, Chiral Mad 4, Dance Like A Monkey, Dark Hallows II: Tales from the Witching Hour, Deep Cuts, The Domino Lady: Sex as a Weapon, Dragon’s Lure, Fantastic Futures 13, Gaslight and Grimm, The Green Hornet Chronicles, Hardboiled Cthulhu, Hear Them Roar, In An Iron Cage, Kolchak the Night Stalker: Passages of the Macabre, Man and Machine, Mermaids 13, No Longer Dreams, Qualia Nous, Shadows Over Main Street (1 and 2), The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson, So It Begins, The Spider: Extreme Prejudice, To Hell in a Fast Car, Truth or Dare, TV Gods, Walrus Tales, Weird Trails, and With Great Power; the chapbook Mooncat Jack; and the magazines Bare Bone, Cthulhu Sex, and Allen K’s Inhuman.
He has also written numerous comic books including Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals, the critically acclaimed “The Revenant” in Shadow House, The Midnight Hour with Jason Whitley, and the award-winning original graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe.
He is a member and trustee of the Horror Writers Association, and recipient of the 2012 Richard Laymon Award and the 2016 Silver Hammer Award.
He lives in New York.
Visit his website: http://www.jameschambersonline.com.
Other eSpec Books James Chambers has contributed to:
The Best of Defending the Future
The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries
The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson
Defending the Future 6: Dogs of War
Defending the Future 7: Man and Machine
Gaslight & Grimm
The Side of Good/The Side of Evil
Beyond the Cradle 1: If We Had Known
After Punk: Steampowered Tales of the Afterlife
Upcoming eSpec Books titles by James Chambers:
Three Chords of Chaos: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale
The Dead Bear Witness
Tears of Blood
The Dead in Their Masses
Upcoming eSpec Books title James Chambers has contributed to:
Defending the Future 8: In Harm’s Way
Beyond the Cradle 2: Footprints in the Stars