View Full Version : Combat!

August 13th, 2007, 07:56 PM
My first science-fiction sale to Samhain Publishing (http://samhainpublishing.com/authors/k-s-augustin) and due for release on Christmas Day (25 December)! So, if you have any mercy in your soul, you'll put aside a couple of dollars, ignore the turkey, boot the computer, buy the novella and make a poor writer like me happy! :unsure:

Combat! is told in the first person, which requires some discipline as the temptation to slip into second person can be overwhelming. There is (of course!) a handsome hero, aliens to overcome and some hot sex.

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Ebony Strike, Xin Dell, Vahsoon-ya, all different identities of the one infamous martial artist.

Seventeen years after she’s left, the people of her home-planet manage to track her down. They are desperate and starving and need her help. All she has to do is win the most notorious fighting tournament in the galaxy, run by a corrupt sector administrator.

Things are looking good, until she has the best sex of her life with one of her co-competitors … and is in danger of losing the competition, as well as her heart.

August 13th, 2007, 08:02 PM
The story so far: Ebony Strike has successfully fought through to the semi-finals of an illegal martial arts tournament but finds herself in the situation of sharing quarters with the other finalist. She is not happy.

In my game, I came across a variety of people who fought for a variety of reasons. Here, in the Rewards Series, Dinoh had kept things as quiet as he could in a noisy galaxy by opening entry mostly to the desperadoes. When someone is dangling at the edge of a precipice, they’re not about to complain if the helping hand they’re offered happens to be slippery. And that’s just what Dinoh’s little competition was—as slippery as they came. No guarantees, no appeals, just a few consolation prizes along the way that were big enough to keep communities coming back for more the next time, and for the winner, as Aldanen pointed out, more than enough to fund either a community for a year or a retirement beyond imagining.

I was in it for the children. He was in it for the money. But it could easily have gone the other way and I was no position to judge another being.

There was a small silence before he indicated the bed with a jerk of his head. “I see the sleeping arrangements have been pre-arranged.”

“We can take a bet on who gets it for the night.” My suggestion made it clear that sharing the space was out of the question. I already knew he was going to invade my dreams but I drew the line at him invading anything else. Dinoh wasn’t going to find me a willing partner to his perverse side-entertainments.

His eyes crinkled and I concentrated on the empty tumbler in my hand. Then the rug beneath my feet. Then the scuff marks on my boots. Anything, in fact, except his face.

“I’ll move a couple of chairs together. I’ve slept on worse.”

“Thanks.” I bent down to massage my calf, pretending it was to rub away a nagging ache. At least it stopped me looking into his eyes.

“We’ll have to agree on use of the bathroom as well,” he continued. “How about I use it first then return to my side of the quarters?”

“All right.”

I couldn’t avoid his smile as he rose, my eyes following him as he took his glass to the kitchenette sink.

“They left us some prepared food.” He indicated a tray next to the sink.

“I’m not hungry.”

“Then I suggest we get as much rest as we can.”
I nodded and only breathed a sigh of relief when I heard him disappear into the bathroom.

Usually I was more scintillating company. But this situation was far from usual. I’ll admit I wasn’t forced at blaster-point to enter the tournament but the dull and pained gaze of children’s eyes are often more dangerous than mere energy weapons. So, even though I wasn’t coerced, nobody could say I was here through one hundred percent free will either.

As for men, well, Aldanen was handsome enough. And appeared relaxed in my company. Which was a plus. I tended to intimidate men so they either avoided me or tried to prove how much more macho they were. But once they knew my name, even those hormone-driven idiots tended to drop off.

Except, even my name wasn’t my name. Back in the early days, when I was young and full of fire, eager to knock the impoverished and conservative dust of my home from my heels, I came up with what I now regard as a ludicrous show-name—Ebony Strike. To my youthful mind, it was a multi-layered pun, indicating the colour of my skin, the image of darkness, my slim build and perceived fighting prowess. Later, I cringed whenever I heard it. It reminded me of every gauche implausible fantasy I’d held about the rest of the galaxy. But by then it was too late. I was too well-known, the name stuck and the fans seemed to love it. Now, it’s like an old favourite jacket—battered and perhaps not one to wear to every social occasion, but comfortable enough. And, from time to time, it even gets me into those exclusive restaurants and venues I used to eye enviously when I was younger.

I came back to the present when the sound of running water stopped and, minutes later, Aldanen strolled past, smelling tantalising and inviting. With a grunt, I levered myself off the chair and, with one tight smile in his general direction, headed to the bathroom myself.

Nothing—not sonics, not sand, not scraping after a steaming—gets a person as clean as water. Sweet water, not salty. It clears the body and brain. Which was why it occurred to me, while I soaped myself, that Aldanen must be ex-military. Only the military put such emphasis on sleep, as though every impending situation is a combat one. If I was holed up with a fellow martial artist, I would have ended up talking the night away, reliving past wins and injustices and arguing finer points of technique.
But Aldanen, like a military man, wanted sleep.

Which gave me one insight into his character—he fought dirty. All military personnel do, it’s one of the enduring truisms of the universe.