Trouble with Black Holes — A “Calls to Adventure” Excerpt

Presenting a second excerpt from our upcoming short story anthology, Honest Tommy: Calls to Adventure, set for release on Amazon Kindle on 3rd September, 2017. We join “Mucker” in the middle of a deadly adventure on board a Royal Navy freighter caught in the gravity wells of a black hole cluster, with only her pet octopoid for company as she desperately navigates the creaking accessways.

Don’t forget to read our first excerpt, “The Sensational Captain Dashworth“.

She attacks the foetid grime with jabs of her ladle, dislodging a solid chunk from the upper curve of the tube. It hits the deck with a splat just as the whole tunnel gives a lurch. Mucker splays her legs, steadying herself.

            The orange lights dip, then return to their normal misty glaze. Trouble.

            She sprints along the tube, forces the door open and jumps out into the filtration chamber. The dripping vat of water gathered by the transistors hangs overhead, but something is wrong: The unrefined droplets are slanting as they fall, hitting the deck several inches too far to the right.

            Parts of the chamber feel heavier. The exterior bulkhead is bowed slightly, as if Mucker were inside a giant lung that has just taken in a breath. Gravity, she thinks.

            She wheels open the pressure door and clanks up a flight of narrow metal stairs until she reaches the only bulkhead housing a blast window in her section. She passes this window every day of her duty; a thin porthole of glass, murky and pockmarked with crust and milky mildew. If this deck was of Humane height the window would stretch across Mucker’s chest, but as it is, the thick metal ceiling pipes forcing her to hunch, she comes up to the window at eye level.

            The view rarely changes: A slither of blackness with the occasional pinprick of a star. Today is different. Today, there is more to see through the three layers of Bodrington’s number seven shield glass.

            Amid the fathomless dark sit several whirlpools of mind-bending vibrancy, a coronal rainbow coalescing around them like vomit spiralling into a sink at a children’s party.

            The dormant voice in Mucker’s head knows what these whirlpools are and how they likely arrived here in such force and number. She’s read about Dark Child Extremals and Vendra Storms, but the universe doesn’t simply give virgin birth to these kind of monsters; more likely this was once the site of some pitched battle, and saw an illegal weapon backfire to spill its radiation into the nebula, maelstroms foaming up through the thin fabric of matter.

            It doesn’t matter; there are black holes outside, and the ship is coasting blindly towards them. Clearly Brame is trying to follow the flag’s footsteps, but the Men of War have great enough mass to skirt the edge of a black hole cluster so daringly. These sorts of through-lines are usually safe enough—Mucker knows this one has even become a minor char route in recent years, hosting trains of tea caravans through the Pausix Conglomeration towards the Demon Worlds of Kosz.

            But the Tea Ambassadors aren’t stupid enough to risk such a close vector.

            Brame is.

            Mucker runs.

            She dashes along the corridor, crow-legged under the low ceiling, and tumbles through the hatchway into the crew quarters. She skids up to the corner, barging shoulder-first into the wall and propels herself along the accessway to her cabin.

            The room is tiny, dominated by a thin bunk. Squat is suckered to her little window, squelching against the glass. Mucker cups her yolk-sac body and tries to prise her from the grimy pane. “Time to go,” she hisses, and Squat burbles wet gibberish.

            Mucker catches a flash of light from outside, and nestles up to the porthole, pressing her face beside Squat’s. Something caught the light out there. The flagship is still to port, and the closest metallic objects are the boundary buoys fathoms away. Something close.

            She tickles the underside of the octopoid’s body and Squat comes away from the window with a pop. Tucking the little critter under her arm, Mucker runs from her cabin.

      The accessway is dark. The lights have failed—surely a result of the reality-bending black holes. Which means there’s worse to come.

Honest Tommy: Calls to Adventure is written by Tom Hutchings and Tom Menary, and will be available for Amazon Kindle from 3rd September, 2017.

The Sensational Captain Dashworth — A “Calls to Adventure” Excerpt

Presenting an excerpt from our upcoming short story anthology, Honest Tommy: Calls to Adventure, set for release on Amazon Kindle on 3rd September, 2017. Here, Dashworth is trying his luck in a publisher’s office, attempting to shill his new book, Captain Thundergroin, while on his rounds for the Tea Conglomerate.

Dashworth watched him warily, and the moment Prisc disappeared down the stairwell the lad whirled to Plinkington, beaming. “Quick, I’ve only got two minutes, but I’m perhaps the most sensational person you’re ever likely to meet.”

            Plinkington blinked at him. “This is the same poorly-written tripe that mysteriously appeared in my pigeon-hole last month.”

            “Oh, you read it?”

            “I’m a publisher, sonny. It took me all of five minutes while I was on the privy.”

            “I hear geniuses do all their best work squatting on the lav,” Dashworth said. “What do you think? It’s got a sexy new cover.”

            It always surprised Dashworth how few people seemed to understand reality when it was staring them in the mug. “The monstrous new cover is irrelevant. It’s sensationalist drivel. The plebs want intrigue, black magic, back-alley murder and pestilence.” Plinkington gave the slim volume a flick, sending it spinning across the table. “In short, they want to be told that somebody out there in the Fifteen Galaxies has it worse than them.”

            Dashworth planted a hand on the cover, stopping it dead and only smearing a little of Captain Thundergroin’s blinding countenance. “Tosh,” he opined. “They want somebody amazing to turn up and remind them that life is fun and it’s good to be British. Even if you’re living in poverty without a ha’penny for a decent ermine cape.” He dreamed about that sometimes, laying in the dark of his room at the tea offices: A hero, striding forth from a doorway blazing with light, drawing a rapier with his cape and hair billowing. It was classic space-adventurer stuff, but none of the books Dashworth had seen in the Cheapside stalls and barrows could quite match the vision circling his head. The only trouble was that he could never seem to picture the hero’s face these days; only a fuzzy blur where his devil-may-care smile should go. It seemed so much clearer when he was a boy.

            “There’s no such person,” Plinkington sniffed. “And such flagrant showboating won’t get anyone anywhere. Besides, the only reason we stock penny dreadfuls is because they come with the patronage of the Crown. The Royal Family can sell anything these days, especially with present sympathy for Her Majesty’s condition.”

            Dashworth felt about as far from royalty as Quilton from a good scrub and a discreet walk-in clinic. He didn’t know why it all sounded so complicated. “If your so-called readers are still stuck in the Dark Ages, there’s only one hope for them. The new Penny Amazings my writer has conjured up will blow the malaise clean out of their morose little arseholes.”

            If Plinkington had any opinion on the excellent name Dashworth had chosen for his stories, she didn’t divulge it. Instead, she asked: “Your writer?”

            “Quilton, that’s right.”

            “Do you mean to say you didn’t even write this tat? Then what on Earth are you good for?”

            Dashworth had been surprised before; now he was stunned. His mouth didn’t seem capable of shutting, and his brain was off somewhere having a jolly time on a tire swing. “But,” he said, mustering every ounce of wit and repartee he could find, “it’s me.”

            “Well. Whoever you are,” Plinkington said, picking up the Penny Amazing and weighing it in her hand, “your two minutes are up.”

Honest Tommy: Calls to Adventure is written by Tom Hutchings and Tom Menary, and will be available for Amazon Kindle from 3rd September, 2017.