Author: J. L. Lawson
Formats: Various eBook formats,
6 x 9 in. paperback; 195 pages
The Elf & Niederwald, is the fourth installment in The Elf series. What happened to the first star-ship to enter the cluster? Was it a phantom menace? Can a star cluster wake up? Do ‘galactic lifeforms’ experience dimensionality differently than their planet-arisen cousins? Is time something else entirely from what we think? The adventures of the Sheranara Triquetra-Julinissa-Polaris, the Captains Elf, and their ever-growing company on back-to-back missions directed by the Lords Sovereign to safe-guard the realms of the One.
Read an excerpt below or read it at the Voyager Press page:
Excerpt: “Under Attack” from The Elf & Niederwald © J.L. Lawson, 2013
In a remote corner of the galaxy, aboard the Kuralii-Estun Wing vessel, Valiant, two young officers fresh from the Academy chatted as they walked the corridor toward the bridge. One of them broached his own personal views on their assignment and the general orders of the mission… Again. He was rapidly losing any one to talk with at all on account of it.
“It’s just so boring out here!” he burst out with. His companion was a woman of similar years, but had far deeper experience with long-duration assignments.
“So what would you prefer, then?” her smile was irksome to the other cadet, but she continued. “The Valiant hasn’t been cleared for a mega-tosser for the whole ship. We can’t just bounce from place to place like an Elhelascorhim ship, or the Tahoe, or even the Dauntless for crissakes.”
He interrupted, “Yeah but we have tangle-vators. We could at least keep a skeleton crew aboard and the rest of us enjoy leave in rotation.”
She cocked an eye at him, “You can’t be serious. Put the entire ship at risk should an emergency arise just because you can’t occupy yourself constructively?! What are you twelve years old?” She stopped and faced him sternly, “How did you get through the Academy to begin with?”
He wanted to justify his ranting, but realized it would just be more of the same. He really couldn’t occupy his thoughts and activities when off-duty to avoid ennui. That realization was both irksome to notice and aggravating to admit. So he didn’t.
“Well I for one am going up the chain of command to find out if my ideas are agreeable to the Captain!” he finished. She rolled her eyes and increased her pace away from his company.
And after taking up his post on the bridge, and waiting as long as he could once his monitors had been set for stations-keeping, he turned to his Commanding Officer and mentor at Security.
“Are we supposed to just sit here waiting for this snail’s paced transport convoy? How long do we have to twiddle our thumbs out here in the middle of nowhere, Commander?” asked the junior officer attached to Kar Thrin, Chief of Security for the Valiant—lead escort ship for Kuralii-Estun Transport and Trade. The transport convoy in question was ferrying not just vital supplies from the fourth Orchard to the Second, but was also bringing several delegations from new member systems on inspection tours of the trade routes.
The Chief chuckled and glanced over at the smirk on his Captain’s face at overhearing the greenhorn’s whining. “Well, young Kar, we will wait as long as it takes. Of course. And do you suppose testing the new shield modifications the Lords Sovereign and Alliance Command were gracious enough to have installed for us qualifies as thumb twiddling?”
“Uh, no sir…” the newly graduated cadet replied sullenly.
“Then perhaps you would be so good as to monitor your station as the Valiant runs through her trials?” Captain Kar Mastisir invited.
“Yes Sir!” the young officer responded promptly, chagrined.
Kar Thrin leaned close to his long-time companion, “Captain, his mother is one of the most influential in the Rans cabinet at the moment.”
His friend acknowledged, “I hadn’t forgotten.” The Captain sighed. “And since we do have to twiddle our thumbs out here, the dense ISM of the Midway cluster out there,” he nodded his head at the main screen, “gives us the ideal opportunity for the trials.” He added as an afterthought, “And her son is her polar opposite it would seem…”
Helm announced, “Full Shields and maneuvering into gamma pattern six. Full power on the engines.” She turned back to the Captain, “We’ll be near the heart of the cluster before looping course back to the rendezvous position.”
“Thank you Chief,” the Captain smiled to his friend, Thrin, and relaxed into his chair. “Like Ran Isabou and Ran Lenora say: ‘Boring is good.’ Carry on.”
A while later, a blaring siren went off at the security station. Both men wheeled to the cadet.
Kar Thrin snapped, “What’s going on over there! Did your elbow trip the alerts again?!”
The cadet’s face was white as a sheet. The officers at the Ops and Science stations cried out in unison, “No sir! We detected a distress signal.”
The Chief Helmsman commented, “We’ve only just shifted course to scan the source with a higher gain sensor field per procedures…” Her eyes and hands were a blur on the controls in front of her.
The Officer at Ops shuddered, “There’s a build up of space lightning growing in strength and focus…”
The main view screen shifted to the immediate area around the Valiant, now well inside the Cluster. The crackling electrical storm filled the entire view forward.
“Shut down the sensor field. Increase Shield stability! Now!” the Captain ordered at once. To his comrade, Kar Thrin, he muttered, “Always thought the Midway was the perfect hide-out for renegades and pirates. You can’t see a light-second off your bow in here…”
“Captain, no effect! The storm is intensifying…” shouted the lieutenant at the Science station. “Recommend backing out at full power, sir.” The maelstrom through the screen looked like a physics experiment gone wicked. Although it was silent, the waves of turbulence issuing from it was rocking the vessel as if it were just a feather in a stream, not a Frigate-class star vessel.
Kar Thrin nodded his head, muttering “Well we seem to have confirmed your worst suspicions my old friend. They have us with our pants down this time. We’re easy prey.” He stared at the shuddering display forward, “And who has weapons like that?!”
“What about that distress signal?” the Captain turned and demanded. “Or was that just bait to put us in their grasp?”
The officers on the bridge turned to the Captain, the greenhorn cadet muttered, “It just blipped and was gone as soon as we changed course to investigate, Captain.”
“Structural integrity down to forty per cent!” Ops declared.
“Shields holding,” the Kuralii helm officer observed. “But this is going to get real bumpy, real soon, Captain. I’ve never seen ISM roil and spark like this before.”
From the Security station, Thrin had taken over from the junior officer, “Long range scans show the approach of the convoy. They’re within three light-years of where we entered the Midway…”
The Captain only hesitated for a second, “Comm! Send an alert to the lead convoy vessel. Warn them off from rendezvous. Send an emergency signal to the Admiral…” The Comm channels were crackling and popping as if every circuit was frying at once. The erratic static was near deafening across the bridge.
Before he could get the last words out, the screen in front of them blinked suddenly from the frenetically flashing maelstrom of the space lightning storm to an un-sparkling blackness—As if all the stars of the galaxy just suddenly burned out at once.
“What the…” the bridge crew gazed out the main viewer and gasped as one person.