Exclusive extract from David J. Williams' THE MACHINERY OF LIGHT


With the book's release just around the corner, here's an excerpt from David J. Williams' The Machinery of Light. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

You want more? Check out the author's website.

Here's the blurb:

With The Machinery of Light, David J. Williams completes his furiously paced, stunningly imagined trilogy - a work of vision, beauty, and pulse-pounding futuristic action.

September 26, 2110. 10:22 GMT. Following the assassination of the American president, the generals who have seized power initiate World War Three, launching a surprise attack against the Eurasian Coalition's forces throughout the Earth-Moon system. Across the orbits, tens of thousands of particle beams and lasers blast away at one another. The goal: crush the other side's weaponry, paving the way for nuclear bombardment of the cities.

As inferno becomes Armageddon, the rogue commando unit Autumn Rain embarks on one last run. Matthew Sinclair, an imprisoned spymaster, plots his escape. And his former protégé Claire Haskell, capable of hacking into both nets and minds, is realizing that all her powers may merely be playing into Sinclair's plans. For even as Claire evades the soldiers of East and West amid carnage in the lunar tunnels, the surviving members of the Rain converge upon the Moon, one step ahead of the Eurasian fleets but one step behind the mastermind who created Autumn Rain - and his terrible final secret.

Enjoy!
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Carson:

The Operative's about as furious as he's ever been. He's being hustled through the corridors of the Congreve spaceport, and his escorts are making sure nobody's getting near him. They're refusing to tell him where he's going. Montrose is refusing to take his calls. The president has clearly decided that there's no compelling reason to have him anywhere near her HQ. He wonders if he's being hauled away to execution. He's looking for the moment to try something along the way.

But they enter another hangar before he can act. A shuttle sits in the center, prepping for launch. He's hustled in toward it. The pilots are standing on a ramp, conferring with mechanics. The Operative thinks there's something familiar about those pilots, but it's not until one of them turns toward him that he knows for sure.

* * *

Haskell:

Haskell's coming to her senses. They don't amount to much. Her head hurts. She's on her back, restrained, in another train moving down another track. The only difference is that the heavily armed soldiers standing along the walls are American. An InfoCom colonel stands next to her.
"Awake at last," he says. "Just in time to see the president--"

"--go fuck herself?"

"She'll want you to be more articulate than that."

"She can want all she likes."

"I'd be careful about pissing her off."

"Yeah? Why's that?"

"She's in a pretty bad mood right now."

"I can imagine."

"You don't need to imagine anything. We'll be there in less than five minutes."

She stares up at him. "What's your part in all this anyway?"

"I'm a loyal servant of the president."

"That's a role that's going out of fashion."

He shrugs, turns away.

* * *

Carson:

"Carson," says Riley.

"Been too long," says Maschler.

"Indeed," says the Operative. He's trying not to look surprised. Trying to make it look like he knew this was going to happen--like he knew he was going to run smack into the men who ferried him off Earth all those days ago when that Elevator blew and set this all in motion. "You guys been staying out of trouble?"

"We've been staying off Earth," says Maschler.

"And that's fine by us," adds Riley.

They look at each other.

"How soon do we leave?" says the Operative.

"That'd be now," says one of the soldiers.

* * *

Haskell:

The train's slowing to a halt. Doors hiss open. Haskell's guards steer her gurney onto a platform, through more doors and into an elevator. She feels her stomach lurch as she drops at speed through the shaft. She's estimating she's now a couple klicks beneath the level of the train--which was nowhere near the surface to begin with.

The doors open. Haskell's pushed out, down another corridor, up a ramp to a massive pair of blast doors. More InfoCom soldiers stand in front of them. Haskell's escorts halt.

"Now what," she says.

"Now we leave you," says the colonel.

"You mean you don't make the cut?"

"I follow orders," he says in a tone that says maybe it's time you started doing the same. But Haskell says nothing. The colonel gestures to his soldiers and leads them back down the corridor while the blast-door guards scan Haskell. They wear the uniforms of Montrose's bodyguards.

"Can't be too careful," she says.

They ignore her, standing back as the doors swing open. Haskell watches as the space behind them becomes visible--

"Huh," she says.

She's looking down five more meters of corridor, at an even larger set of blast-doors. The bodyguards push her toward them, stop. As soon as the outer doors behind them close, the soldiers go to town, stripping Haskell down to her skin, lacing her with IVs, transferring her to another gurney and rigging her in yet another suit of specialized armor. They position that suit so that now she's upright.

"Thanks a lot," she says.

The inner doors slide open.

* * *

Carson:

Congreve's dropping away. The engines of the shuttle continue to throttle up. The Operative shakes his head.

"You're InfoCom agents," he says.

"Imagine that," says Riley.

"Reporting directly to Montrose?"

Maschler laughs. "And all the time the man thought we were slumming it."

"Because you do it so well," says the Operative.

"Easy now," says Riley. "It's all just business, right?"

"Going to tell me where we're going?" asks the Operative.

"L2."

The Operative furrows his brow. "SpaceCom territory."

"Sure," says Riley.

"And if I try anything?"

"Try anything you like," says Maschler. He smiles--arches one of those bushy eyebrows. "If this ship deviates in its course, it gets taken out."

"Thought you might say that."

"So you may as well make yourself comfortable," says Riley.

The Operative's got a little too much on his mind for that. He knows that Montrose is moving him as far away from the action as possible. L2's the last place he wants to be right now. That is, other than in a ship that might blow to hell at any moment. . .

"Relax," says Maschler. "If she were gonna do you, she would have just done it back at Congreve."

"Besides," says Riley, "you're too important."

"Yeah? How's that?"

"You've got a mission."

"Which is?"

They don't take their eyes off him but both men are laughing in a way that makes it clear they're both sharing the same joke. And now the Operative gets it too.

* * *

Haskell:

The American command-center is a series of rooms that open into one another. Screens line the walls. Equipment's everywhere. Haskell's guards wheel her forward, maneuvering her down narrow aisles lined with consoles and seated technicians. No one pays her any attention. Apparently they've got other things on their mind. The atmosphere's thick with tension. Haskell's feeling the same way herself.

She gets wheeled up a ramp and onto a raised area that presides over the lower levels beneath. More bodyguards eye her. Stephanie Montrose turns from a conversation she's having with a member of her staff and regards Haskell with cold curiosity.

"So this is the famous Manilishi," she says.

"And this is the woman who stole the presidency."

"This isn't about who's president," snaps Montrose. "It's about our country."

"What's left of it."

"Exactly. We're losing this war."

"And you're the one who had to go and start it."

* * *

Carson:

"You want me to bag Szilard," says the Operative.

"Think of it as your greatest hit," says Riley.

Lunar horizon's dropping away from the window. The Operative exhales slowly, getting ready to move fast if he has to.

"So what happened to the real guys?" he asks.

"The real who?"

"The real Riley. The real Maschler."

"Don't know what you're talking about."

"Don't play stupid with--"

"Relax," says Riley. "They never knew what hit 'em."

Maschler scoffs. "And why are you asking such stupid questions?"

"Was that you back at the Elevator, or was that them?"

"Us. They'd already been offed."

"You were riding shotgun on me that whole time."

"We were watching you strut your stuff," says Maschler.

"Did all the work for us and then some," adds Riley.

"Fuck," says the Operative.

"It's all good," says Maschler. "We hung around the Moon and did some odd-jobs these last few days."

"Prepping the ground for the chief whore?"

"Ain't no need to get snippy," says Riley.

"We just haul the mail," says Maschler.

"Then you'd better start looking at the big picture. The East is coming to bash your skulls out."

"We've got the high ground, Carson. Those barbarians are about to get blasted back down the well."

"They've won unless you can switch the Manilishi on."

"Well, see, that's all on the boss. She'll find a way."

"You really think so?"

"She's a clever one," says Maschler.

"Not so clever playing with the Lizard."

"She had to do the dance," says Riley.

"She'd better know when the music stops," says the Operative.

"That'd be when you reach L2," says Maschler.

* * *

Haskell:

Montrose gestures at one of the screens behind her. The screen splits in two. Each half shows one of the massive Eurasian ships.

"Take a look at those things," she says.

Haskell's looking. "How big are they?" she asks.

"Two klicks long. Tungsten armor. As well as--"

"Pulse-detonation engines," says Haskell. "Nuclear warheads as fuel."

Montrose nods. "You see what we're up against." She gestures at one of her staff and the view on the screen expands to take in the larger perspective--a vast armada, rising out of the gravity well. Set against the shadow of the Earth, the ships of the East look almost like phosphorescence glimmering beneath the sea. And it's almost like Montrose's voice is a wave rolling in from those depths . . .

"Our lower orbit position is a total shambles," she says hollowly. "North America is shattered."

"And our defenses up in the geo?"

"Won't last long."

"So you've lost the planet."

"It's only a matter of time."

"I'm not sure I can help," says Haskell slowly.

Montrose gazes at her evenly. "I've already had the Praetorians purged. All the president's men and then some. More than ten thousand executed in the last two hours and you're welcome to join them."

"Cut the shit, Stephanie. We both know you're not going to do that."

A flicker of a smile. "Want to bet?"

"What's the point? You've bitten off more than you can chew, and you're not going to pass up any opportunity to get yourself off the hook. You're dreaming if you think I'm going to cosy up to you--"

"But you could do it," says Montrose, and buried deep in her voice Haskell can hear the faint stirrings of a plea. "Don't deny it. You could hack them, Claire. You could save our lunar forces--"
"Maybe. If the East's ships are even hackable. Have you been trying?"

"There's so much interference we can't get through."

"And you think I can?"

"I don't know what you can do, Claire. And I don't think you do either. But we can plug you into the systems and see."

"With your failsafes keeping an eye on me."

"You won't even notice them."

"Damn right I won't notice them. I've been down this road before and I know where it fucking leads. That's why I'm staying right where you've been keeping me. Right inside my skull. Because it sure as shit beats serving you."

"Goddamnit," says Montrose, "I already told you: this isn't about me. This is about our nation's darkest hour--"

"Which happened decades ago when scum like you stuck a knife into the heart of America. Snuffed out what was left of the republic and sold our people down the fucking river--"

"Don't you dare talk about our people," snarls Montrose. "Not when you're willing to stand by while they're condemned to slavery--"

"They're slaves already. Slaves of you, slaves of the East--what's the fucking difference in the end?"

"Just because they couldn't govern themselves doesn't mean we weren't in the right to rule them. To save them. They're dying, Claire."

"Let them die," says Haskell. "All they wanted to do was watch war on the vid. Now war's hit them where it hurts. Ever hear of the chickens coming home to roost?"

"You're talking like a traitor."

"Said the woman who had the president butchered. It's all total shit, and you're all going to be swept away when I get out of here--"

"Enough," says Montrose. She signals to a technician. "We'll find the lever that moves you or we'll break you trying."

"Good luck with that," mutters Haskell--even as the screens within her start to flare with unearthly light.

* * *

Haskell:

And then it's as though she's falling down some long dark tunnel, as though she's been falling all her life and then some, as though she's never going to be doing anything else, as though she never ever wanted to. Static surrounds her, assails her, beats against her. But up ahead a light's growing. She doesn't know what it is. She doesn't want to. She's praying to God that she won't reach it. She's cursing God for doing this to her--even though she knows she's the only one worth cursing. The light's growing all around her, shredding all the darkness. Thermal bloom blossoms toward the brightness of the sun.

But then static resolves into laughter that doesn't even sound unkind. She feels a presence close at hand. Even though she still can't see a thing.

"Show yourself," she demands.

"That would be tough," says a voice.

It's not a voice she's heard before. It sounds like it's right next to her. It sounds like it's amused. She's anything but.

"Goddamnit," she says. "Tell me who you are."

"What would be a better question," says the voice.

"Shit," she mutters. "You're--"

"A creature of many names."

"Name one."

"We'll start with Control."

* * *

Carson:

Moonscape keeps on falling away. Horizon curves past it. Lights keep on flaring out in space. The Operative stretches. He's doing his best to look more relaxed than he feels.

"So are you man enough to nail him?" asks Riley.

"A loaded question," says the Operative.

"You're the best assassin we've got," says Maschler.

"So what if I am?" says the Operative.

"So the boss can't relax with you prowling the corridors of Moon."

"I've been loyal to--"

"Yourself," says Riley. "So cut the shit."

"Though it's not like we can blame you for playing your own angles," says Maschler. "Who would have thought a supercomputer would come in such a tasty little package? You could practically wrap a bow on her and--"

"Careful," says the Operative.

"Easy, Carson." Riley grins. "It's just us guys now."

"And we've got some time to kill," says Maschler.

"Interesting choice of words," says the Operative.

* * *

Haskell:

"I've been looking forward to meeting you, Claire."

Haskell can well believe it. She's heard about Control: the machine that's Stephanie Montrose's prime razor--and that had more than a little to do with the machinations that brought down Andrew Harrison. Because Control's specialty is intrigue.

And interrogation.

"I wish I could say the same," she says.

"Don't be so hard on yourself." Control's voice is smooth. "You've got every reason to hold your head high."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"I've followed your career for a long time. Who would have thought you would execute it with such aplomb?"

"I'm not into rhetorical questions."

"You'll miss them when I get to the real ones."

She nods. She's thinking fast. Control has her in a zone-lock. If there are any ways out of here, he's got a hold on them. But she's not ready to have him turn her inside out. She's not going to go down without a fight--

"I expect you to," says Control.

"To what?"

"Fight."

"You can read my mind?"

"I'm inside it already, aren't I?"

"But not all of it."

"That's why we're having this conversation."

"So what if I don't resist?"

"Then I'll have you all the quicker. This isn't about resistance, Claire. This is about the puzzle that's your mind. Which my lady Montrose has charged me with unlocking."

"You're not the first to try."

"I'll settle for being the last. Shall we begin?"

"I thought we already had."

Laughter rises up to swamp her.

* * *

Carson:

The shuttle's risen past the outermost of the Congreve traffic zones. Maschler's working the controls. The ship lurches as more engines fire. Suddenly the Moon's moving away at speed.

"Express haul," says the Operative.

"It's still going to take a few hours," says Riley.

"So let's cut to the chase," says Maschler. "Montrose knew what you were up to from the start."

"Did she really."

"For sure."

"How?"

"Fuck's sake man, you were too good to be true. Praetorian traitor willing to turn over the keys to Harrison's back-door and bag the Manilishi while he was at it?"

"It was true."

"But not the whole story."

"Is it ever?"

"Look at him," says Riley. "Like the cat that ate the canary. I think he still thinks he can beat us."

"Is that true?" asks Maschler. "You still believe that, Carson?"

"I think you guys are getting ahead of yourselves."

"You're the one who's done that. By thinking that the fact that you're Autumn Rain makes you invincible."

"I'm not exactly Autumn Rain--"

"You're not exactly anything," says Riley.

"Neither fish nor fowl," says Maschler. "How does it feel to be a prototype, Carson?"

"Never had much to compare it to," says the Operative.

* * *

Haskell:

"We'll start with some control questions."

"That's fitting," says Haskell.

Control ignores the barb. "With whom am I talking?"

"Claire Hask--" but as she says the words, pain boils up from within her, engulfs her in agony. She knows she should be screaming, but she can't. She can't even move her jaw. Can't close her eyes, either--all she can do is stare transfixed at the featureless light shimmering around her as fire sears across her nerves.

And then it all subsides.

"Wrong answer," says Control.

"Fucking bastard," she says.

"What I am is incidental. What matters is what you are."

"I'm Claire Hask--"

More pain. Control's voice seeps slowly through:

"We might agree to call you Claire for the sake of convenience. But what you really are is Manilishi."

She says nothing.

"Isn't that right?"

"Yes," she says slowly. "That's right."

"And what is Manilishi?"

"Isn't that the big question--"

"I'm not asking for the full answer," snaps Control. "You don't know. I realize that. That makes two of us. Just tell me what you do know."

"I'm a biocomputer able to perform hacks faster than the speed of light."

"And how do you do that?"

"I don't know."

Control says nothing.

"I don't know," she repeats. "I've tried--"

"So what would you guess?"

"I'd guess retrocausality."

"I'd say we can do more than guess."

"Signals from the future," she mutters.

"Could there be another explanation?"

"It's not much of a fucking explanation."

"Then perhaps we should think of it as a start."

3 commentaires:

cedunkley said...

Wow. I've seen these books mentioned here and there but this is my first taste of them. I normally have no interest in present-tense prose, but here it is done exceptionally well.

I'm going to have to add these to my wish list to pick up and read later when I'm ready for a break from Fantasy.

Thanks for the excerpt.

Christina said...

Finally the third installment! :)

Thanks for the excerpt, I just finished Burning Skies and can't wait to see how it all ends...

Jacqueline Lichtenberg said...

Found this blog via twitter's #scifichat and as an SF/F writer, and reviewer, I'm impressed with this as a web resource.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://www.simegen.com/jl/ (full bio biblio)
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com (current novels)
http://twitter.com/jlichtenberg
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