As a regular reader of S.J.’s blog I am excited to announce that this is my stop during the blog tour for Dying for Space by S.J. Higbee. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 14 till 31 December. See the tour schedule here.
Dying for Space (The Sunblinded Trilogy #2)
By S.J. Higbee
Genre: Science Fiction
Age category: New Adult
Release Date: 14 December 2017
Cadet Officer Elizabeth Wright just wants to make her father proud, while the mercenary warlord is looking for her to replace his dead family…
I finally get the opportunity to become a serving officer and fulfil my childhood dream, as well as get to know my biological father, General Norman. And when I first clap eyes on Restormel, the HQ of my father’s space mercenary outfit, it’s the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen.
But appearances can be deceptive. There are dark secrets hidden in the twisting corridors and blood-soaked cells beneath the training grounds and banqueting rooms. Secrets that seep out. Secrets that demand fresh victims, because whatever else happens, they can’t be allowed to see the light of day…
You can find Dying for Space on Goodreads
You can buy Dying for Space here on Amazon
Elizabeth Wright has yearned to serve on the space merchant ship Shooting Star for as long as she can remember – until one rash act changes everything…
You can buy Running Out of Space on Amazon
About the Author:
Born the same year as the Russians launched Sputnik, I confidently expected that by the time I reached adulthood, the human race would have a pioneer colony on the Moon and be heading off towards Mars. So I was at a loss to know what to do once I realised the Final Frontier wasn’t an option and rather lost my head – I tried a lot of jobs I didn’t like and married a totally unsuitable man.
Now I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’ll never leave Earth, I have a lovely time writing science fiction and fantasy novels while teaching Creative Writing at Northbrook College in Worthing. I’ve had a number of short stories, articles and poems published – the most recent being my story ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ which appeared last year in Fox Spirit’s anthology Eve of War. I recently signed a publishing contract with Grimbold Publishing for my science fiction novel Netted, which is due to be released in 2019.
I live in Littlehampton on the English south coast with a wonderful husband and a ridiculous number of books. I can be found online chatting about books at my book review blog https://sjhigbee.wordpress.com/ and you’re very welcome to pop onto my website http://www.sjhigbee.com and my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/sjhigbeeauthor/.
Elizabeth Norman Reflects
My main protagonist, Elizabeth, is not only my main character but also the narrator of her own life story. It is a difficult story, involving kidnapping, murder and betrayal – and she is only in her mid-twenties by the end of this part of her life. So I asked her to explain why she has decided to tell all…
For whatever reason, I was right in the middle of events during a particularly unstable, difficult time in the history of Sector Two. After the aliens blew up Mercury and Earthcorp scurried back to Homespace with their sorry tails ʼtween their legs, any scumsac with a fast ship and a couple of mazers started preying on honest merchanters. This was the time before the main shipping lanes were fully beaconed, remember.
Because of who I was, I got a ringside seat at many of the key decisions taken around that time – decisions that still have repercussions today. But because the likes of General Norman didn’t want anyone poking into his affairs, there weren’t the reputable journos or commentators recording what was happening. This means there’s been a crateful of bilge talked about it all. I’ve yet to read an account of the events of the time that comes close to getting it right – so I felt it was down to me to put the record straight. Folks will be free to believe it or not, but leastways there will be a version approximating the truth alongside the dross that’s been talked and written about that time. Not that it will be published during my lifetime – I may be getting on a bit, but the rejuv is still holding sufficiently well such that I’m aware if some of this gets out, I risk facing time in a rehab centre – not something I’m keen to do at my time of life. Anyway, I’m hoping once folks have read the whole story, they’ll take into account the fact that I have also tried to atone for what I did.
And the other main reason – secrets only get heavier with time. And these bloody, dark secrets have scored holes in my soul such that I needed to tell all and hear it outside my head – every single, scummy misdeed and desperate attempt to stay upright and breathing… You’ll be aware that some famous names are involved, such as General William Norman, mercenary warlord and de facto ruler of Sector Two; Edward Wright, murdering psychotic dregger; and the noted sculptor Wynn, whose cheaper pieces these days will buy you a family-sized cruiser and more elaborate works will fund a new life on the other side of the galaxy.
It’s many years since all these events took place. When you do get a chance to read or listen to what I’ve had to say – all I ask, is that you have an open mind and at least consider that this might be the truth, rather than the versions you’ve already heard.
Trying to present my gear so the dirt didn’t notice was a waste of effort. Sergeant Gently certainly thought so. The bane-faced misery glanced at everyone’s spotless kit assembled on their beds, before glaring at mine as if it had just crawled out of his bottom.
“I trust you had an enjoyable evening, Cadet.”
I fixed my gaze across the room. “No, Sarge.”
“I’m desolated to hear that. Cos while you were guzzling your steaks and knocking back vintage vino, your team-mates were working to get their kit fit for battle-readiness.” He pushed his face so close, a faint spray of saliva hit my cheek as he snapped, “Tell me, Cadet, is your gear battle-ready?”
“And d’you think that is acceptable, Cadet?”
Norman. The name’s Cadet Norman.
“I’m waiting, Cadet!” The snarl in his voice made me realise his anger wasn’t just show.
Not sure where he was going with this, I remained silent. No point in talking up more grief for myself as I was in it up to my neck, anyhow.
“Where’s your whiny excuses?” He assumed a falsetto, presumably mimicking me, “Please Sarge, I couldn’t get out of it. I had to go. And by the time I got back, it was already Lights Out.”
His voice was back to ear-ringing normality, “Well?”
My tight-wound apprehension morphed into weary anger. Oh, get over yourself. You don’t come close to the Cap for lethal sarcasm, as it happens. “Doesn’t matter, Sarge. Whatever the excuse, I’ve let down myself and my team-mates by producing sub-standard kit.”
“Delighted that lesson has gone home,” he sounded anything but delighted. “Six demerits for Red Group. And you’re on a charge, Cadet. Extra drill for the next two evenings – and I don’t care if you’ve got more banquets to attend!”
Muffled gasps around the room confirmed my own stunned conviction that it was a savage punishment.
“Yessarge.” Saying anything else would’ve earned me more demerits.
The rest of the inspection passed in a blur while I tried to figure a way of getting Red Group within touching distance of the other two leading groups. And couldn’t.
Once Sergeant Gently stomped out to ruin someone else’s morning, Irena sank onto her bunk. “Prodding hells, but that’s dank.”
“Sorry,” I mumbled, shovelling my kit into the storbin under my bunk.
“Don’t know what you could’ve done ʼbout it. Tried to clean your kit last night, as it happens. But he came by and stopped me. Threatened me with two demerits.” She kicked her storbin. Hard. “If I’d known then what I know now I’d have ignored the prodder and done it, anyway.”
Raquel approached. “Hey, hitting the lead in the Group Shield like this sure takes the shiny off it. Why didn’t you explain the situation, Liz? He all but begged you to.”
She trying to be funny? Cos if she is…
But her twitched gaze was clear of any mockery.
I let out the breath I’d been holding and slumped onto the bunk, feeling like something voided into the recycling system. “He wanted me to ask for some spare air so that he could yell about fairness not coming into it. That I’d still let down my team-mates no matter which way you sliced it.” I shrugged. “All that stuff.”
“But he said about you not being able to get out’ve it. So he knew.” Raquel’s face was puckered into a frown. Somehow, she’d got the notion that fairness mattered. Which it doesn’t, unless it’s a military version of fairness. Which isn’t what a civi calls fair. She needed to be put straight. It’s a painful lesson to learn the hard way.
“You gotta see it through the Sarge’s viewfinder. Having me in his training group is a bleak break. Whatever happens, the high-ups will be breathing down his neck.” I rubbed my eyes, wishing I didn’t feel so tired. “He cuts me the thinnest slice of air, word will get around that he’s a sweetslimer. Whereas he knows that the General mightn’t like it if he gives me a hard time, but Norman will respect him.”
Raquel whistled. “Gods above, that’s dank! Glad I’m not breathing your air.”
I bit my lip trying to swallow my irritation at her tactlessness.
The day didn’t improve during brekkie. Romeo slammed his tray down so hard in front of me, half his vit-drink slopped out of the mug. “What d’you do to earn us six demerits, Norman?”
“Nothing, as it happens.”
He leaned across the table, his face flushed. “You must’ve said something—”
Irena put her hand on his shoulder. “Flush it outta the airlock, why don’t you? She was prone. Sarge was going for her jugular, anyhow and she played it like a pro.” Her admiration steadied me as she continued, “Don’t reckon I could’ve been so vac’d cool if it’d been me. You wasn’t there. Ask round. The girls’ll tell you the same.”
“Don’t encourage him! It’ll take us a long light year to peel him away from the girlies once he starts his sweet-talk routine,” I said, trying to scoop the pool of vit-drink out of my brekkie bowl.
They laughed. A bit hysterically, it’s true. But still, it was laughter.
Before Romeo’s face darkened again. “What’ll we do to get our hands on the Shield, now?”
I shrugged. “Don’t think we can do it. Maybe we need to make our prime objective getting through the Officer Training—ˮ
“Prime objective! Listen to yourself! You sound like those prodding button-jabbers. I didn’t sweat seed these last nine months just to come second.” Romeo turned to Irena. “You’re with me on this, yeah?”
“Like you, I want to win so much it hurts.” Irena crammed another forkful of rubbery egg in her mouth. “But we’re not gonna do it, so regroup. We got no choice.”
Romeo jumped up. “You spitless losers! First sign of strife and you’re on your backs with your paws in the air. I’ll figure how to put us back on top. An’ when I do, I’ll let you’s know!”
Irena cursed solidly for two whole minutes after he stormed off to sit at another table.
Romeo’s tight-lipped anger didn’t abate as we stomped up and down the drill square, or during our emergency space-suiting procedure. And his snarling refusal of help during our astro-navigation lesson had me wanting to smack some sense into the zilcher.
I had my opportunity. Unarmed combat was my favourite class. The Cap had us kids trained in the basics of self-defence from the age of five and since Wynn’s death, I’d spent long hours battling the KillerKombat avatar and working my way up the BalanceJoust levels – set on practice mode, of course. Having said that, I’d reached Level Eight, which was good enough to more than hold my own with the rest of the class, even vets like Irena.
We were warming up with a free practice session and David had just joined us, released from sickbay after a fast-acting phage had cleared up his bronchitis. I was in the middle of showing him how to break his opponent’s arm. As David didn’t have the stamina to survive any prolonged physical fight, I was working out a set of moves he could use to quickly disable his enemy.
Romeo tapped me on the shoulder. “Let’s do this.” He flexed his arms.
I blinked. “You sure ʼbout this?”
I opened my mouth to answer. And got a faceful of Romeo’s hand for my trouble. The slap wasn’t sufficient to knock me down, but hard enough to split my lip and have me staggering. Stupid— Didn’t have time to curse my wet-brained slowness.
Launching himself, Romeo slammed me onto the practice mat with sufficient force to make my eyes water.
“Please, Romeo,” I yelped, flailing around for a likely hold.
He loosened his grip. “You quitting—”
Twisting round and out from under him, I grabbed his arm and pulled it back against the shoulder joint. “David? You get the arm like this. Then if you wanted to dislocate his shoulder, you’d continue pulling it round.” I tweaked Romeo’s arm till he cursed. “But that takes time and if he’s in a slink suit, he might have servos preventing that move. Leaving you exposed. Best option is to position it like this.” I jerked his arm up, forcing Romeo onto his knees. “Then you can jump on it…” I mimed the move. “Shatters the bone and takes all the fight outta him.” Letting go of Romeo’s arm, I sprang clear of him at the same time.