Excerpt: Tishla

The next Compact Universe novella, Tishla, will be out soon. To whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt.


TishlaAnd so a month after the Gelt landed on Hanar, and only days after Tishla offered her life as penance for destroying what was not, in fact, a rogue colony, the Gelt emptied their colony transport of anything that could be useful away from the ship. Even the power system for the ship’s jump drive came off, engineers turning it into a crude source of central power.

Then the giant saucer began to move out over the ocean.

The entire colony gathered on the shore to watch. Behind them, the ruins of the human settlement of Gilead lay blackened and broken. The transport silently moved out to sea, becoming smaller with distance until it was only what one human called “a cigar shape” floating above the horizon.

Tishla stood with her back to the crowd, flanked by Colt and Palak. They watched as the transport came to a halt at the very edge of the visible sea. Finally, she turned to the crowd.

“There is an old legend among the Gelt,” she said. “When the Warriors of old went to a new land, the first thing they did was to burn their boats. It forced them to survive in a strange land and place themselves at its mercy.” She turned slightly to cast her arm in the direction of the transport. “I’ve been told some human explorers of your own blue water eras did something similar, that the first serious attempt to colonize a world beyond your own had the same mentality. Today, we take that step for ourselves. Without the colony transport, there will be no way to easily abandon Hanar. We will have access only to small transport ships with no hypergate. All of us, Gelt and human, will have to work together for our survival. Today, we burn our ship behind us.”

She nodded at two people behind a console. It was the navigation panel from the transport’s control center, rigged to an antenna one of the humans salvaged from Gilead’s destruction. One of the technicians touched the board. Tishla turned just in time to see the belly of the transport explode, then sections of the upper surface. Soon, the giant saucer erupted into blooms of fire, debris falling into the ocean.

“We are committed,” she said, turning back to the crowd. “We now have only each other. We have rejected the Compact and turned our backs on the Realm. We are Hanar.”

As she had hoped, the crowd began to cheer. Right now, Tishla could see what she wanted to build, a world of two species working as one. She placed her hands over her belly as she drank in the crowd’s elation. The twins could not kick yet, but she now had hope they would be born into a world not at war, at least not for stupid reasons.

“They love you,” Palak whispered in her ear. “How can they not? The question is will Laral Umish respect your decision.”

She smiled. “Umish is finding out that the humans aren’t as weak or frightened as that liar Marq led his father to believe.”

“Marq. Do you really think the Sovereign will brand him a war criminal?”

Tishla laughed. “He’ll say the words. But I doubt He will do anything.” She watched as the crowd noise died down. They would be expecting more from her in a moment. “Marq Katergarus, or whatever he’ll be calling himself now, is a dead man if he ever sets foot on this planet.” She raised her hands in the air to quiet the crowd. “Citizens of Hanar, both Gelt and human, the Realm calls me your ‘queen’ or your ‘governor,’ but all of you have heard the Sovereign. We are on our own. Let us reject the bloated nations that spawned us and build something new. Let Hanar be a foundation for a new order. Let us reject the Castes that have enslaved the Gelt for millennia. Let us throw away the idea of ‘core worlds’ vs. ‘colonies’ and become a core world unto ourselves.”

The crowd grew more and more excited, and several humans started a chant of “Tishla! Tishla! Tishla!”

“Careful,” said Colt in low tones, standing to her left. “Cult of personality and all.”

“They need something to follow,” whispered Tishla, “even if we have to turn me into a mythological figure.” To the crowd, she said, “If we are to do this, I cannot be your queen. A queen implies a hereditary ruler. While I may have inherited this world from my husband, that is not what we wanted. If I am to lead you, then I must be one of you. I am but a servant only recently raised by circumstance. I am not even what my people call High Born. Some of you might even have called me a whore. Such may be politicians, but hardly royalty. From this day forward, I will be ‘First Citizen,’ the face of Hanar. And one day, I will be repl-”

The bullet hit her in the shoulder.


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