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Ebony McKenna

- Music to build a world
- Doctoring the Tardis

Book Excerpts
- Gravity's Force

Gravity's Force (Book Excerpt)
         by Ebony McKenna
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Chapter One, Vassi 20, 2989

He was born a dead man and he knew it. From the day of his birth, his life had not been his own; his people had been enslaved and murdered, his culture denied for three centuries. He saw premature age in the faces around him, people without hope, people worn from fighting. All his life--what little it had amounted to so far--he had been taught to believe that he was just one of a "dying breed".

Yet tonight, out of sheer spite, Kaeman felt like living.

He lay on the dusty hill on the outskirts of Djitani and looked back at the sparkling lights that disguised a dirty city, blurring the distinction between the slums and high-class suburbs. Breathing the thin, damp night air, he readied himself to return to the dust and grime. His dark eyes roamed the ramshackle outskirts to the slums, with their intermittent energy supply and run-down plumbing. He felt the stirrings of envy as he looked across to the bright lights of the apartment shards and cathedrals, with their glass and metal towers thrusting towards the sky. At night, from this hill, you couldn't see the grime - only the glimmer of lights from the tall buildings and hover tubes as they flung commuters to their destinations.

He watched the soft trail of lights from the underbellies of the floater vans zipping through the streets and knew that the only way he'd ever get inside one of those gleaming machines was if he was cleaning it.

Kaeman came to the hill when he needed space to breathe. He could lose track of time so easily looking at the night sky, with its Forest Nebula of green dust and the millions of familiar stars above him. It made him feel part of the larger scheme of things, made him believe that there might be something hopeful to look forward to.

There was a new star to look at these nights: Tyberon, the rapidly expanding morning star. Tyberon burned brighter each night, as it spun ever closer to Etania, sparkling and seeming to change colour as it rose above the horizon.

Kaeman lay back, savouring the contact with the soft earth, his callused hands gently sifting the soil. There was another bright light in the sky, regular but ever-changing: Etania's moon, Tessera. Tonight it was in crescent form, its light subdued by the gauze-like mist that had started to form around the hill.

Just then, Kaeman thought he saw something flash on its dark half. He squinted, and wondered if it could be a light trick caused by the mist. He held his breath, afraid to blink, staring at the darkened half of the moon. A moment later, he saw it again. He could have sworn that it looked like an explosion.

Pulling his news slate out of his coat pocket, he hit the index prompt, his scale-covered face momentarily reflected back at him on the blank screen as it booted up. But nothing about the moon uploaded. He hit the search engine, but the screen flashed at him, requesting a recharge before he could access new information. Kaeman swore under his breath: the nearest recharge station was an hour away.

He glanced up, just in time to see another spark of light flicker on Tessera's dark side. This time, he knew that it was no trick of the light. Springing to his feet, he cantered down the hill, stumbling and skidding over the damp weeds and clumps of dirt. His agile legs gathered speed as he sprinted down to the path that led back to Djitani. His body tingled with anxious curiosity as he ran towards the city, his arms pumping hard; and his heart beat heavily against his chest as his feet slapped on the flat road. He ran on, head turned sideways, watching as a chain of light burned across Tessera's dark half like a luminous necklace.

And then, directly ahead of him in the outskirts of Djitani, a blinding light and deafening boom tore the sky apart. Kaeman stumbled and fell, his hands covering his eyes to block the searing brightness. Shrapnel flew through the air, peppering the ground with debris.

Trapped in open ground, Kaeman had nowhere to shelter. He could do little but cover his head and dodge the flying chunks. He tried to stem the onset of panic as burning debris landed directly in front of him, digging craters into the road. Pulse racing, he picked himself up again and lurched desperately left and right, as a fresh explosion tore through another estate. He ran forward, fast, leaping over the smouldering debris littering the road, the flaming buildings lighting the way back home.

Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Ebony McKenna, All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

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