||Draft 2 Digital
||Jun 20, 2011
Morgan Selwood's Supertech skills are in high demand. Will she choose the autocractic admiral or the freedom fighters? An action-packed space opera.
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Greta van der Rol
He will use force if necessary to remind her of her place…
Autocratic, aloof, Admiral Ravindra wants to use the strange alien female and her gifts in his battle against an unknown force threatening to annihilate his worlds. Born to rule, a man of wealth, power and privilege, he will have what he most desires.
She will use courage and independence to carve a new future…
Morgan Selwood is a Supertech, bioengineered from birth to stand against the horrors of the Cyber Wars. Her abilities and appearance are the stuff of legend, exactly what the resistance needs to throw off the yoke of millennia of oppression. Caught in the crossfire Morgan must choose sides.
Together they will face a threat beyond imagining.
Steam rose from Jones’ food pack, filling Curlew’s tiny common room with the aroma of beef stew. “That’s one month down.” He took the container out of the warmer and brought it the two steps to the table.
Morgan glanced up at him, still chewing, as he sank down on the bench opposite. She swallowed her own food. “Yeah.”
One month’s worth of the existing food supply gone. Another month, maybe a little longer if they rationed even further and then perhaps they’d be fishing Tariq’s body out of the cargo hold, wondering if a bit of cannibalism might be in order. The thought made her gag but at least it was an option. Running out of air—that was something else altogether.
She speared some more synthetic plast-food from her own food pack and lifted it to her mouth.
A staccato bleeping shattered the silence.
She flung her fork on the table, leapt through the forward hatch into the bridge and dropped into the captain’s chair, her heart pounding with a mixture of excitement and tension, hope and apprehension. She flicked off the wide-range scanner’s alarm and reached into the computer system with her mind to adjust the sensors to maximum magnification. Something had just come out of shift-space close enough to trigger the warning. Maybe she’d got it all wrong and Curlew was still in Coalition space. Because otherwise…
In a fraction of a millisecond she’d loaded the ships’ images into her implant, extrapolated, rotated to adjust for angle of approach, measured. The largest of the three ships was two point one five times Curlew’s length, but it had a quite different profile, long and angular. No bulky cargo hold, so not a freighter. The two smaller ships were more recognizable, if unfamiliar; small ships with narrow profiles shaped a little like arrow heads. Short wings, so they’d probably be capable of atmospheric flight. She checked against the ship database on her implant. Unknown ships, unknown origin. A worm of apprehension twisted in her belly. Stupid. What had she expected? Of course they weren’t Coalition ships. Curlew had plummeted so far beyond known space the navigation system was as useless as the shift drive.
One thing for sure—the ships were headed this way.
The red numbers on the view screen counted down time until intercept. Twenty-four minutes, thirty seconds… twenty seconds… ten seconds. Until they reached here. And then what? Whatever it was, it was better than dead. Surely.
“Are they ours?” Jones’ voice startled her. He sat in the navigator’s seat on the other side of the bridge, gripping the arm rests with rigid fingers. He’d better keep his hands off the controls.
“No. At least, they’re not Coalition ships.”
His Adams’s apple bobbed. He might be a prat but he wasn’t stupid. No non-Coalition worlds had spaceships worthy of the name. And yes, she was scared, too.
Were those ships manned? Maybe ‘occupied’ was a better word. Wriggly green things with three heads? Energy beings? What other aliens had she ever seen on the holovids? She tried to lick her lips but her mouth was dry. Hard to imagine that she might be the first woman to encounter an intelligent alien. Let’s hope she lived to tell the tale, maybe end up in somebody’s history book. She rolled her shoulders to loosen up tense muscles. “Better suit up.”
She pulled a survival suit out of the compartment in the bulkhead next to her and scrambled into it with practiced ease, while Jones struggled with the fastenings on the front of his suit. She helped him fit the helmet over his shoulders. He clamped it in place; the instrument lights reflected in the curved transplex, distorting his features. He mashed his lips, as nervous as she was.
Five minutes until intercept.
The fighters were visible without magnification now, dark shapes in front of the starscape, one slightly behind the other. The view screen showed them in color; grey, like their larger companion.
Using her implant, she magnified the image of the protuberances jutting from both short wings. Muzzles? The twinge of apprehension in her gut strengthened. Surely they wouldn’t just destroy Curlew?
The fighters closed in, one on each side, circling around the freighter. Like sharks around prey.
She opened a communication channel. “This is Coalition freighter Curlew. We require assistance. Can you help? Over.”
She tried again, on a broader channel that might include the on-coming larger ship.
She flexed sweaty fingers inside her gloves.
The larger alien craft edged closer, the blunt nose growing in the view screen. The ship had adjusted its course so that it was running over the top of Curlew. Closer it came and closer, its hull clearly visible in the view screen. Scarred and battered. Not a new ship. And were those hatches all along its length?
Jones peered up as if trying to see inside the ship. His eyes were very blue and wide with fear. She probably looked the same.
A muffled clunk reverberated through the hull. Jones jumped. Morgan pushed down a surge of adrenalin and checked the sensor data. A rigid connection extended from a hatch in the alien vessel to the top of Curlew’s cargo hold.
“What are they doing?” he said.
The two fighters took up position, one on either side of the larger ship. She felt Curlew lurch a little as they changed direction and then they were underway, suspended beneath the belly of an alien vessel like prey being returned to the village after the hunt.
“They’ve kind of taken us in tow,” she said.
He grabbed her arm, his panicked fingers pressing hard against the sleeve of her suit. “What are you going to do about it?” His voice was a rasp.
She snatched her arm away. “I’m going to shut down the engines.”
The soft grumble of the sub-light drive died away, leaving only the sound of her own breathing and the thundering of her heart.
Oh, good grief. What did I do to get stuck with this idiot? “Do you want to hold out for a better offer? One more month and we’re dead, Jones. Finished. Starved to death, out of air.” She thrust out a hand, pointing to the cargo hold. “Couple of months we’ll be mummified, just like Tariq. I’d rather take my chances here.”
He backed off, mashing his lips.
A familiar shimmer of energy appeared on the screen, away in the distance. Morgan aimed the sensors, magnified. Sure enough. “Another ship just came out of shift-space, heading this way.” She checked the preliminary data. Wow. “That thing’s enormous. It’s five klicks long. And I reckon it’s a warship.”
Save her from fucking accountants. She had to explain everything. “It’s huge, it’s dark with minimal running lights and it’s very, very fast.” She glanced at the data. The ship above them was speeding up. What could that mean?
The sensors identified twelve rapidly moving pinpricks traveling in formation; a squadron of the warship’s own fighters? She increased the magnification; black, rectangular. The two fighters shadowing Curlew changed vector, on an intercept course with the new players.
Six of the black fighters peeled off to engage the two grey fighters. But the other six continued in pursuit of the larger vessel and Curlew. In moments a brief, brilliant explosion marked the end of one of the two arrowhead fighters. Its companion lasted a little longer until it, too, exploded into a ball of fragments and energy. The attacking ships’ shields sparkled as the debris impacted and disintegrated.
Morgan felt, rather than heard the alien ship above them release the link. The vessel’s hull seemed to slip backwards as Curlew continued its momentum.
“They’ve let go.” Jones’ voice oozed relief.
“You don’t say?”
She watched its progress on the rear sensors as the long grey shape receded behind Curlew, pivoted and powered away, its engines glowing yellow-white, toward the squadron of fighters from the warship. Strange. It couldn’t hope to win a battle at those odds. If she didn’t know better she could almost imagine the ship was trying to protect Curlew. That prospect sent her heart into overdrive. Why would the freighter need protecting from the new arrivals?
She brought the ship’s drive back up to readiness and strengthened the shields. Best get out of the way and hope Curlew wasn’t going to be a target, too.
The fighters approached, six growing rectangles. She could see details, now. A cylindrical body down the center, angled down wingtips, tubes slung under the wings. If they were going to engage it would be soon. Two more followed, fresh from destroying the grey fighters, Oh, fuck. Morgan held her breath. The six slowed down, intent on the long grey ship. But the other two swept on to match vector with Curlew, one on each side. Nobody was firing. Yet.
The larger ship angled itself with surprising agility to meet the attack, shifting position from minute to minute. Gun turrets appeared like spines, protruding all along its hull. They fired in line, blasts of beams shooting out at the attacking fighters. If it had been a fireworks display, it might have been pretty. Shields flared blue as the attackers took evasive action and regrouped.
The grey ship shifted position again, rotating on an axis. A missile seared past, then exploded as a beam from the defending ship hit it. Deflections spattered against Curlew’s shields, enough to start an amber warning light flashing in the bridge.
Morgan considered easing Curlew a bit further away but the two sentinel ships hadn’t moved. Another complicated maneuver brought the gray ship closer to Curlew. A bay opened in its hull. Oh, fuck, they’d fired a missile. Her heart thundered. No, not at Curlew—at one of the guard ships. The explosion sprayed all over the fighter’s shields and ricocheted to Curlew. The shields put on a light show of sparks. The amber light on the console turned red. Rear shield down to seventy-eight percent. Shit, that was all she needed; destroyed as collateral damage. She diverted power to the shield generator.
Two of the attackers fired two missiles each, four hunters tracking for a kill. The grey ship finished one but it couldn’t dodge them all. The first hit weakened the shields; the next two finished her. Radiation and debris from the explosion flowed past Curlew, causing the shields to light up like an advertising display in downtown Torreno. The warning system brayed an alert to go with the flashing red light. She turned off the alarms.
Only Curlew left. She would have swallowed if her mouth wasn’t so dry. A trickle of sweat oozed past her hairline. Still the two fighters shadowed the freighter.
A voice. A tremor surged through Morgan’s body.
She couldn’t understand the words but the cadence was almost recognizable. A business-like voice, issuing calm instructions which probably translated as something like ‘this is warship whatever. Identify yourself.’
“This is Coalition freighter Curlew. We need help.” For what it was worth, she transmitted Curlew’s identification sequence.
She counted her heartbeats; one, two, three, four. She’d heard words, not unintelligible hisses or clicks. Words, she was sure of it. The voice spoke again. It sounded like an instruction. But what? Think, Morgan, think. What would they want?
The fighter to the left of Curlew took up position in front and the one to the right dropped around behind, edging close. The voice spoke again, a few more unintelligible words.
Best guess would be ‘come with me’. She engaged the drive and matched speed and course with the leading fighter.
Not ten klicks away, the warship’s huge bulk took up the entire display on the view screen. The profile looked narrow but that was only because of the vessel’s length. Two-thirds of the way along its length and down to its stern a second level jutted above the first.
The leading fighter slowed to a stop. Another unintelligible command. She shut down the engines and hoped Jones wouldn’t notice her hands shaking. Nope. He was too scared to notice anything.
“What now?” he asked.
“Why ask me? How the fuck would I know? They could be strange, flesh-eating beings with three heads who eat humans for dinner. Maybe we’ll be on the menu.”
He scowled. “Why do you always try to make a joke when it’s serious?”
“It may not be a joke. If it’s not the Coalition and it’s not the Festive Fairy…” A shudder ran through Curlew’s hull. “Hang on. They’re bringing us on board. That was their grav beam catching on.”
This is space opera at its best. Set in a galaxy far, far away, Morgan (a Supertech which in itself is an excellent concept) is lost and unable to find a way home with only a single surviving shipmate to keep her company. Rescued from a one of the dominant species in the area and a questionable future at their hands, Morgan finds herself imprisoned on a ship with another species and under the watchful eye of Admiral Ravindra - a stuck up humanoid alien born into the ruling class.
There are fight scenes, conspiracies, ancient alien history to delve into and a romance that takes two characters by surprise. There is an entirely new culture to find out about, with customs and ideals that Morgan finds difficult to adjust to. The author created such an in-depth world, I was sad to end the book. I thoroughly enjoyed Morgan's Choice and will be looking out for her future novels.
Greta van der Rol scores again with a ripping space opera!
Greta van der Rol does proper science fiction: her stories are rip-roaring adventures with technology that's based in science and takes that next logical techie step in a universe far, far away. The narrative is tight, the action high, the peril real, the characters engaging and the consequences of internecine warfare and planetary squabbling dire.
As they say ... this is doggone good stuff.
But what the author does better than most is write hormone-attacking, drool-worthy, lust-inducing male characters, Admirals specifically. Admirals I'd be willing to serve under ... hmm, yes, moving on. I will admit to being a fangirl and I will also fess up to engaging in that most excellent past-time, `Casting Couch', where I daydream about the perfect male to fill Ravindra's shoes when Sam Rami comes knocking for film rights. Or Ridley Scott. I'm easy.
Ravindra is autocratic, a man of wealth and power and used to getting his way. Morgan Selwood is a bioengineered Supertech whose space ship is stranded in unknown space. Captured by Ravindra's fleet, she is an anomaly, alien, yet not - possessing powers that could prove useful in the fight to stave off a potential external threat to Ravindra's worlds.
Conspiracies and deals abound, and freedom fighters use Selwood's unique appearance and abilities to bolster their cause to throw off millennia of oppression. But not all is as it seems and Morgan must finally choose sides because the real threat lies not just from within because what's coming is from the past ... Morgan's past.
The action is non-stop and will leave you breathless. And the romance between Ravindra and Selwood? Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
I'll give it Five stars while I debate: Saahren, Ravindra, or Hudson? Whew, is it hot in here?
Action- Packed Science Fiction with a dollop of romance.
What a fabulous read. I enjoyed this work from word one and held my breath often in the journey through the pages.
The pacing is relentless, yet peppered with a wry humour and an authors certain knowledge that the characters are hers to command, and command she does. As a reader I was under no illusion that I wouldn't react to the characterizations. You can't help but like and care about the outcome of their situations.
This plot is well thought out, nothing jars the reader, from the outset of the novel you are caught up in the survival of the central character...Morgan Selwood...
So let me introduce her; Morgan Selwood; you won't forget her after you are introduced; she is a character that gets into the psyche and raises more than a smile and your blood pressure... Tough, smart, resilient and in control of herself...as good a way as any to begin describing "Supertech" Morgan Selwood.
A `Supertech'? So what is a Supertech?
A Supertech, is bio-engineered from birth, a living, breathing, complex and at times downright cantankerous woman with a supercomputer embedded in her brain.
Make no mistakes though, Morgan is all female, and then some, added to that she possesses an incredibly high IQ and attitude to spare!
Her eyes are artificial so she can link wirelessly with a computer; her eyes see so much more than a mere human can possibly see.
Most people can't make direct eye contact with her, she simply will not back off or look away, her silvery mercurial eyes can take the ability to speak away especially in the male of any species.
She is one feisty woman, outspoken, and not a team player if less than honorable intentions are afoot, she will ensure that someone pays the price for any lack of integrity.
So, what happens when she is in a craft that is running out of air? The Curlew, her ship, has one month left...one month before guaranteed death for both Morgan and her co-worker Jones.
Their distress signal is heard, and a rescue seems to have occurred, but by whom? The ship is taken in tow by a craft that neither Morgan Selwood nor her co-pilot Jones can be certain won't end in death of a different kind.
An attack from another craft, and they are boarded...rescued but from what? And by whom?
The aliens appear to be almost human. With the exception of their catlike eyes, and customs that relegate the male of the species in total control of the females. Not a happy situation for the feisty outspoken `supertech' her skills do not include pandering to the whims of male ego's...
The ego of one particular male needs no stroking...Admiral Ravindra, a man of courage, integrity and power...a man that makes a white dress uniform look like it was designed with only him in mind.
So what happens when Morgan's unstoppable force meets Ravindra's Immoveable object? Chemistry...with a capital `C'.
Author Greta Van der Rol writes beautifully, and the scenes between Ravindra and the lovely Morgan are handled with a touch both erotic and extremely sensual.
Morgan discovers herself caring for this dominant man. Caring more than she believed possible.
Their relationship has much to weather. Can he trust her? What chance do they have when she appears to have betrayed his people? What lured her into believing that what she was doing was right?
I have no wish to spoil this story for the reader. It is fast paced and well written. The history of the human race and beliefs that date back thousands of years are interconnected with those of the Admiral Tavindra's race... the Mirka.
The race known as Bunyada are their enemies...but are they terrorists...or freedom fighters?
And what of the alien ship? Who or what is Artemis? Will Morgan Selwood and Admiral Ravindra be able to defeat an intelligence created to destroy `primitive cultures'.
Author Greta Van der Rol has a deft touch, combining a well-drawn science fiction plotline with romance and adventure, with enough of the romance to more than satisfy those that enjoy it, yet not compromising the integrity of the science fiction setting.
Well written, fast paced, and intriguing. I have no hesitation in recommending this to all those that enjoy a provocative and enjoyable read.
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