Science Fiction Excerpts

These science fiction excerpts are from past promotions we did when we had the booksthathook domain name.

Because all of that site is gone forever, I’m using my email to try to compile all the science fiction excerpts from those deleted posts. These science fiction excerpts are all ones I had permission to post. I am just moving them to our new website.

Excerpt from Live Echoes by Henry V. O’Neil

Live Echoes

Buy LIVE ECHOES on Amazon

Sealed inside a Banshee fighting suit, Ayliss Mortas was having the time of her life. The feed from dozens of micro-cameras made her helmet almost vanish around her head, and she half-expected the falling snowflakes to land on her face. Coursing down through the pale atmosphere, driven by a wind she could hear but not feel, the ice crystals either slid past at the last second or stopped inches from her eyes before melting against the faceshield.

Her arms and legs moved easily inside the now-familiar vehicle, but the freedom of actually traveling on a planet’s surface was astounding. All of her previous suit experiences had been aboard ship, in stationary simulators or large compartments, and there had been no room to simply run.

Now she was doing that, uphill, through an open forest covered in white. The briefing had told her the temperature on this part of Secured Planet 3157 was lethally cold, and her suit’s readouts confirmed that, which made it all the more marvelous. Heat exchangers kept her environment at a constant, comfortable temperature regardless of how much she exerted herself. A foot higher from the ground than normal, encased in an armored body loaded with high technology and powerful weapons, Ayliss thrilled to see the terrain passing much faster than she could run.

“Slow down, Mortas!” Cusabrina snarled in her ear.

Still bouncing forward, Ayliss turned her head to the right. Her helmet was fused to the shoulders of the suit, so a forehead-and-neck assembly rotated with her and changed the camera views. Reaching the limit of her head’s mobility, Ayliss laughed as the view continued to shift until she was essentially looking backward. Twenty yards behind and twenty yards away,

Cusabrina’s suit blended in with the snowy landscape. Bulging mechanical legs spread into an armored torso before sloping up into the bell-shaped helmet. Cusabrina carried her rifle in one swollen hand, reminding Ayliss that the veteran had insisted she leave her own weapon clipped against her back. The weapon was called a Fasces because of its multiple barrels, and could fire everything from large caliber rounds to grenades.

“How many times do I have to tell you, Corporal? My name’s Rig!” She called brightly, bringing the view back to her front before reluctantly slowing down.

“And how many times am I going to have to tell you I’m not an NCO?”

“Sergeant Tin said it would be easier to just call you Corporal. She said you go back and forth, promoted one day and busted the next.”

“This one’s permanent. Not that I care.” The older woman coursed into her peripheral vision, weaving between the trees. Ayliss admired her ability to move while bent forward, reducing her overall silhouette. She and the other new Banshees had been assured they would eventually pick it up, but her earlier attempts had always ended with a tumble. “See that boulder to the west? Get down behind it.”

Ayliss punched her tongue into the suit’s tube control, calling up the basic patrolling menu. The helmet materialized somewhat as the electronic display showed her a compass, her heading, the distance to the next course change, and a small schematic of the rest of the squad. Sliding her tongue, she shifted the schematic over and enlarged it to see where the others were.

Her Banshee Basic squadmates had been assigned as a group to Sergeant Tin’s squad, and so each of the five newbies had been assigned a veteran minder and mentor. They moved all over the snowy mountain in pairs, sweeping the ground for an enemy that was not expected to be there. More seasoned Banshee squads were slowly converging on the summit of a much higher mountain to the east, where the suspicious electronic emanations were originating.

Reaching the rock Cusabrina had pointed out, Ayliss dropped to a knee and peered over. What she could see of the snow-covered boulder was at least ten feet wide, and scraggly bushes rose up beyond it. Between the bare stalks, Ayliss looked down the other side of the slope. More untouched whiteness and denuded trees. Cusabrina moved up, coming to a stop just short of the crest twenty yards to her right. They were scouting a broad ridgeline that split from the eastern side of the mountain like a finger, and the other teams were spread out across the escarpment to their left at half-mile intervals.

“This is Cusabrina. We’re at Checkpoint Four.” A red circle glowed in the corner of Ayliss’s display for a few seconds, before dropping onto the schematic where she was located. “No sign of Sam. Or anything else.”

“Hold in place.” Tin responded, paired off with the Banshee that the training cadre had nicknamed Plodder. Biggest of the five newbies and a former military police officer, Plodder’s quick temper called for extra supervision. “Tabor, what’s the holdup?”

Ayliss studied the schematic, seeing that the team farthest to the west had fallen behind just a bit. Tonguing a map onto the schematic, she imagined them struggling up the incline. Tabor was an easygoing veteran, and so she’d been paired off with the equally low-key Legacy.

“Just pickin’ a few flowers.” The drawling voice almost made her laugh. “Something to brighten things up when we go back aboard.”

Two short beeps sounded inside the helmet, and Ayliss immediately looked over at Cusabrina. She didn’t hear Tin’s answer, because her partner had hit the override.

“You awake over there, Rig?”

“Yes, Corporal.”

“Then why aren’t you seeing this?”

Embarrassed to have been paying too much attention to the electronic display, she quickly scanned the trees to their front. Heavy with snow, they quickly blocked the view as the ground fell away. Ayliss was about to switch to infrared when a distortion seemed to flash across the snow. That happened periodically, as if the micro-cameras had hiccupped, and it was common enough that it had been worked into the simulators. But that wasn’t it, because it happened a moment later and then again.

Zooming in on the undulating blanket of white, she finally saw it. Saw them. Sliding, slithering, pulling themselves along, a pod of pale, tentacled creatures crawled away a hundred yards down. Perfectly camouflaged, they zigzagged along with a fluid grace that was both beautiful and disgusting. Ayliss decided they looked like jellyfish back on Earth, except these ones weren’t anywhere near the sea.

“Got ‘em. What are they?”

“Some of the monitoring stations reported seeing these things from time to time. Harmless. They call them Snow Squids. You need to read the briefing materials better, newb.”

The pod slid out of sight, and even though they were obviously abandoning the area to the armored intruders, Ayliss shivered when she realized their patrol route went in the same direction. “That was revolting.”

“All teams, move out.” Tin came back up on the net. “Keep your eyes open.”

“Not if I have to look at those squirmy things.” Cusabrina muttered, and it took Ayliss a moment to check that her partner had only spoken to her. “Hey, Rig. Let’s stay put for a few. Give the octopus tribe plenty of time to clear out.”

Excerpt from Altered Starscape by Ian Douglas

Altered Starscape


The night before the Tellus Ad Astra left Earth Clarkeorbital, her commander, Lord Commander Grayson St. Clair, had gotten into a shouting match with CybDirector Veber. The exchange hadn’t exactly been career-enhancing… but, then again, St. Clair didn’t feel like he had all that much to lose. The Ad Astra command was more punishment than plum. The United Earth Directorate was trying to get him out of the way, after all.

“My Lord,” Veber said, almost sneering, “You are missing the import of this expedition. Through this diplomatic exchange, Earth and Humankind will be accepted as full equals within Galactic circles!”


“Lord Commander!”

Bullshit!” St. Clair repeated, more forcefully this time. “We will be, at best, very, very junior partners. They want our help in a war, and they don’t want to get their hands dirty. Nothing more.”

They were at a party—a diplomatic reception, actually, taking place in the spin-gravity section of the Clarkeorbital U.E. Naval Base. Some hundreds of political and diplomatic dignitaries were present, along with a handful of Medusae delegates representing the Galactic Coadunation.

“Accept reality, Lord Commander,” Veber said. “Things have changed. First contact with the Coadunation has utterly and fundamentally transformed the course of Humankind’s existence!”

“Yes, it has, my Lord. And we haven’t had a damned thing to say about that change, have we? I think I liked it better when we still had the Paradox.”

The enigmatic veil of the Fermi Paradox had been pierced at last late in 2088, when the new lunar radio telescope array first detected radio frequency leakage from a highly advanced machine intelligence located at HD 95086, some ninety light years from Earth. Direct contact came in 2124, when the United Earth Survey Ship Oberth had encountered the Coadunation fleet investigating Sirius eight and a half light years from Earth. The Galaxy, it turned out, was far larger, far more complicated, and far more populated than humans ever had believed possible.

The Great Silence of the Fermi Paradox was now and at last understood: the Orion Spur was a backwater wilderness, little explored, seldom visited, and ignored or overlooked by the repeated waves of interstellar colonization sweeping out from the Hub. Too, the Galaxy’s communication nets used technologies far more efficient than radio. Masers beamed data across interstellar distances point to point, making eavesdropping impossible unless you happened to be precisely on the line of sight between two inhabited systems. Hell, until the Coadunation had shown humans the trick, Earth’s technologies had not been able to detect tightly focused neutrino channels at all, and those carried the bulk of data transmissions for the Galactic civilizations.

“Damn it, man,” Veber said. “Are you afraid of the Coadunation?”

“Any sane man would be,” St. Clair replied. “Humans fear what they don’t understand… and we don’t understand them at all.”

“Primitivistic thinking!”

“Sure. And compared to them we’re primitives. You know… I’m still convinced that all of our airs–our lauded Imperium, the anachronistic titles and rank and ‘my Lord’ nonsense–it’s all just smoke and mirrors.”

“What do you mean?”

“Humankind was doing okay on its own up until 2088. Then we learned we weren’t alone. Worse, it hit home for us that anyone Out There was going to be more advanced than we were, a lot more advanced. After all, we just became a technic species a few centuries ago. They’ve been out there building interstellar empires for millennia.”

Veber shrugged. “So what? We’re a part of all that now. Look at what the Coadunation has already taught us in just twenty-three years of direct contact!”

“With respect, my Lord, I have a feeling that we’re not going to like it when the bill comes due.”

“I don’t think I like your attitude, Lord Commander.”

St. Clair shrugged. “You don’t have to, my Lord. Tomorrow, Tellus Ad Astra leaves for the Galactic Hub. And I’ll be out of your way.…”

The Galactic Coadunation.

The word Coadunation referred to a biological concept: the growth of separate entities merging into a larger, united organism–a fair description of Galactic civilization, as it turned out. A decade had passed before human and Medusan AIs had learned to talk with one another, and even longer before humans began to understand something of the political complexities surrounding them in their isolated little pocket of space.

According to the Medusae, some ten thousand distinct sentient and highly technic species scattered across the Galaxy made up the Coadunation in varying degrees of cooperation, affiliation, and mutual support. And, it seemed, they were actively searching for potential new members. That was the good news.

The bad news was war.

Excerpt from The Ephialtes Shorts Collection.  Taken from Ephialtes Short IV: Be All You Can Be by Gavin E. Parker

The Ephialtes Collection


Kris stared at her.  “Prosthetics?”

Reed jutted her head forward a few millimetres and paused before saying, “Yes.”  She paused again.  “You are aware of the extent of your injuries?”

Kris hadn’t thought about the extent of her injuries.  She was banged up, she knew that much, but somehow it was something she hadn’t considered.  Her failure to reply was all the reply Reed needed.  “I’m so sorry,” she said, “I thought the nursing staff had been through this with you.”  For the first time she looked sympathetic, and she took a step nearer to the bed.  “Ms Stahl, the injuries you sustained were life-threatening and life-changing.  I’m very sorry, but you have lost your spleen, one partial and two whole fingers and,” there was a micro hesitation, “both legs, below the knee.”  She stopped and thought before continuing.  “I realise this might be difficult to take in.”

Kris made a slight nod.  She could feel her legs – there was a nagging ache in her right foot – but the doctor seemed assured and plausible.  She’d heard about phantom limbs.  It was shocking and disorienting, but it made sense.  “How long have I been here?” she said, with some effort.

Reed looked off to the side while she quickly did the math.  “A little over six weeks.  You’ve been in an induced coma for most of that time.”

“What happened?”

“While you were in the coma?”

“No.  What happened?”

“Oh.” Reed paused as she gathered as brief a summation of Kris’ situation as she could.  “Your troop carrier was struck and destroyed and,” she gestured awkwardly to the bed, “this is how you ended up.”

“What about the others?”

“In the troop carrier?”

“Yes,” Kris said tentatively.  She felt a rising dread at what might be coming next.

“Apart from one other officer there were only minor injuries; cuts and bruises.”

Kris closed her eyes and took a moment as the trepidation ebbed away.  “The other officer.  Is she okay?”

“It’s a he, but yes, he’s fine.  Broken ankle.  You were very unlucky that day.  Most of your comrades walked away.”

Kris nodded.  “Did we get them?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Did we win?”

“Yes.  Yes you did.”

Kris looked away from the doctor and closed her eyes again.  She pursed her lips together to try to stop them from trembling.  “Good,” she said.

Excerpt from My Delicate Destruction by Jillian Ashe

My Delicate Destruction


Maybe if I played this cool enough they would let me go. Though, I doubted it. Best-case scenario: I was thrown in a holding cell with a court date and no one to pay my bail. Worst-case scenario…I could only imagine what was legal for law enforcement now.

“Have you ever contacted Chase Wolfe prior to the purchase of your passage?” Smith asked me.

“No.” Another truthful answer. I was getting lucky. I was also getting annoyed. I hated roundabout questions that were just the same question reworded. I’d already told him that I hadn’t.

“But you do know a Kristopher Anderson.”

Crap, I had a bad feeling about this. “Yes.” How could they possibly connect me to him? There were probably a million Kristopher Andersons in the world.

“We arrested him a while back on assault charges and resisting arrest. Served time too.”

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t move or react in any way. He watched me, and it made me feel cagey.

“Why are you headed to the same planet that was his last known location?”

Damn, these guys were good. “Vacation.” I didn’t bother to elaborate.

Cromwell slammed his fist on the desk. I jumped about an inch off my chair. “Stop playing around! I know he’s your brother; the DNA we took when we processed you matches. Are you smuggling weapons to him? Are you working for him or Wolfe? Give me answers, damn it!” His fist left an impression in the table.



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