It’s the entire chapter, both Reven and Elizabeth’s point-of-views. The usual warnings about typos and things changing applies. Eliza’s name has already changed a few time, to be honest.
Reven will be available Mid-November, as part of the Winter Starr series with Starr Huntress.
The control panel flashed in alarming shades of red as system after system failed.
He mashed buttons, sending a distress signal. Backup would arrive too late, he knew. The shuttle’s engine struggled and the lights on the drive indicated a malfunction.
No easy escape.
Why had he thought this a good idea?
Oh, technology without practical application was pointless. That’s right. If he could go back twenty four hours and slap some sense into him, that’d be helpful. Not that he’d have listened. Reven never listened, not when he had his mind made up.
An aging medical shuttle had been chosen for the experiment. Teleportation was an older technology but the part were delicate. Fiddly, being the technical term he and the other engineers used. The teleport drive installed in the shuttle was the same as the machines the Mahdfel had used for generations, just shrunk down and small enough to be installed in a single person spacecraft.
The fiddliness increased proportionately as the size diminished. The compact machine meant air couldn’t flow and it was a bitch keeping a wrench in there to make adjustments on the fly. So the mini-teleport drive was installed in a large, boring, and completely toothless medical shuttle. Reven had plenty of room in the back of the shuttle to spread out and fiddle with the drive if it acted up. Well, he would have if he weren’t currently being fired on by a Suhlik fighter.
Sure, the shuttle could take a few direct hits but it lack maneuverability, speed and weaponry.
He was a sitting duck, basically.
Reven always like that Earth idiom. It made little sense because whenever he saw a duck sitting, it flew away when he approached. Sitting ducks were, in fact, surprisingly agile.
That gave him an idea. Not a great idea but his mind latched onto it.
Two ideas, actually. If the mini-teleport drive ever worked, then medical shuttles would materialize in the middle of an active battlefield. They needed to be able to so something other than suck up damage if that happened. He’d mention it to the Warlord if he ever had the chance. Second, the Suhlik on his ass wasn’t going to let him get away. He could either sit there and let the Suhlik blow him up or he could press the flashing button on the malfunction mini-teleport drive and let that blow him up.
He could die by inaction or his own action.
It wasn’t even really a choice.
Time and distance pulled him like salt-water taffy.
The confection was the first thing he demanded when he arrived on Earth. Michael had waxed poetic about the sweet for years, ascribing it every virtue and the ability to cure most ailments. With a mouthful of the sticky, gooey, chewy mess, Reven had to agree with his friend.
He wondered if he would ever see Michael again. Friends since childhood and closer than brothers, he had followed Michael to Earth.
Then he wondered why he was so conscious during a teleport. Normally his mind went blank as his molecules were disassembled. To be awake during that seemed unbearable.
The stretched taffy feeling increased.
If he ever came out of this, he didn’t think he could stomach any more taffy, not having been the taffy. Of course, coming out of this meant the teleport would eventually end. Currently it felt endless. Wrong. Then he had to trust the shuttle to pilot itself. The navigation system would locate the nearest Mahdfel base or craft and head in that direction, if possible. If not, he’d sit and wait.
Finally, pulled to his limit, Reven felt his consciousness snap and he slipped into oblivion.
The golden sun hovered just above the horizon, turning the sky scarlet and marmalade orange. For the first time in a year, Elizabeth wanted to hold a paint brush and capture it. The sun set too quickly for her to retrieve her watercolors from the house.
Awareness that she made a plan for the future needled her. It felt like a betrayal to David, like she was leaving him behind while she moved on with her life; created while he moldered in the ground.
David would be the first to tell she was being ridiculous. In his last days, he made her promise to find love again, paint her heart’s desire, have children and live. For him.
She swore, tears streaming down her face and sobbing so hard she made herself sick. She promised but she didn’t know if she could.
Living was pain. It was far easier to pack away the untidy emotions and nastiness of life and continue a dull existence in her widow’s weeds.
Mrs. Baldry would be thrilled if Elizabeth painted again. Of course, the aging housekeeper would flutter her hands and worry darkly about Elizabeth exposing herself to the elements. She’d suggest that Elizabeth paint a lovely floral bouquet or a still life with fruit and the curious knick-knacks cluttering up the library.
If Elizabeth were to paint again, she’d bring her canvas and box of paints onto the moors and let the December air brace against her cheeks. David would expect nothing less.
The one year anniversary of David’s death approached, which meant she needed to make arrangements for a gravestone.
She itched thinking about the trip into town. All she could managed was a trip once a week, to stock up on provisions. Fortunately the grocer wasn’t inclined to chit-chat. The stone mason was far more gregarious.
Elizabeth had not always been antisocial. Once she had been quiet the social butterfly. The initial isolation of her and David’s moor home weighed on her. There was nothing here but the wind and sky. She had missed the street noise of London, the people, the carriages, the trains and the constant sound of life.
David loved the moors. He said the wildness and the unending vistas, endless horizons inspired him. She had to agree that the stark skies unlike anything else on Earth, and the sunsets amazed her. The setting sun lit up the sky in a reds, golds and just a tint of purple at the edges, where night had already taken hold.
He could paint that forever.
Except he didn’t. His time on the windswept moors had been cut short.
A year widowed, Elizabeth felt guilt over her feelings for her late husband. Thin chested and sickly, the man never made her burn with desire. Certainly she felt an affectionate fondness for him. A friend of her brother’s from the Academy of the Arts, Elizabeth counted David a dear friend. She loved his paintings. She knew that with a feverish certainty. He called her his muse. Of course she married him. His weak chest prevented an intense, passionate relationship, but he had been her husband as much as his health allowed. She had hoped to have children with him, gifted, artistic children, and they’d have a house filling paintings, laughter and sunshine.
After he passed, Elizabeth cried when her monthly blood arrived. She knew, logically, that pregnancy was impossible. They had not been together as man and wife for some months, but the bright red blood was another reminder of all that she had lost, another possibility gone.
The doctor’s advised David to move out out of the smoke and fog of London for his health. Clear air would benefit his lungs and, for a short time, he did improve. He sank his fortune into remodeling the moldering old hunting lodge on the moor and created the perfect artist’s home with high ceilings and large windows to let in the light. He worked with a bright intensity, filling the open space with color splashed canvases. He often painted the same vista at different points in the day, to capture the light and shadows. On more than one occasion, Elizabeth modeled for him by standing in the heather, shielding herself from the summer sun with a parasol.
On the days when he did not have the energy and could not catch his breath, she brought bits of the moor to him in bouquets of grass, heather and flowers to sketch while he drank his black coffee or smoked stramonium cigarettes to ease his lungs.
David painted in an colorful, fluid style unlike anything she had ever seen outside of the galleries of Paris. He deftly used light to capture emotion and Elizabeth found herself enraptured that a dollop of paint could move her so. Her own work was more detailed. She cataloged the flora and fauna of the moors, finding endless fascination with the variety of plants and flowers. Naturalists, she found, were more enthused about discovery and had less sensibilities for art. Illustrations, in short, were woefully amateur.
Someday she’d like to take a tour of the Pacific islands, possibly Australia, and catalog the wildlife there. The world was so large and so varied, she itched to explore, but David’s health would not allow him to travel. She contented herself with exploring the depths of the wilderness around Sweecombe Lodge.
Then winter arrived.
Elizabeth didn’t know loneliness until she only had the wind and the sound of David’s cough to keep her company. Snow and ice kept them housebound. Even when the weather was clear, it remained abominably cold. The frigid air slapped against her exposed skin and burned in her lungs.
The house proved impossible to heat. Even with heavy drapes, all those windows let in a powerful draft. Wind sliced through the walls like they were nothing. The cold clung to the stone of the hall, worming its way down through layers of clothing to freeze bare skin. David caught pneumonia and died the first winter in his dream home. Now Elizabeth was left alone with no fortune and only a folly of a house to show for it.
She thought about moving back to London, to familiar comfort if not family. Her only relative, her brother, worked painting society portraits in Paris. She could join him. Certainly, Paris was the center of the art world. She could sell Sweecombe to Gilbert Stearne, a local farmer who raised sheep, and then, perhaps, he’d stop hinting about courtship.
The man was not the marvel of subtlety that he imagined. He wasn’t bad, per say, but he did not appeal to her. He was everything David was not: stoic, practical, lacking in imagination, and healthy. Remarkably healthy, often bragging that he never had so much as a sniffle. However unbelievably uncouth to brag about his robust physique while knowing David had struggled for breath.
Selling the lodge to Gilbert made sense. She’d have enough funds to take a reasonable allowance, enough for a widow, and move somewhere practical, with reliable rail service. Perhaps she could take her voyage to Australia. Widows were expected to exhibit a certain amount of eccentricity.
Staying in David’s empty house served no purpose at all except to compound her misery. He had been the one to crave solitude.
She knew all that but found herself reluctant to leave. She still felt his presence in the home. When that light left, she would sell up and leave. London, Paris, Australia, or any random spot on the globe. She cared not.
A bright light appeared in the darkening sky, hanging in the heavens like a Christmas star, before falling to the earth. A golden tail stretching across the arriving night. The comet cast an intense glow as bright as day. Elizabeth shielded her eyes from the strong light, feeling hopeful rather than panicky.
It vanished as quickly as it came.
That had to be David, she decided, letting her know he still watched over her.