EXCERPT FROM WAXING WAR
COPYRIGHT © CAMERON COOPER 2021
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
“Colonel Andela?” the med assistant murmured. “He’s coming around again.”
I moved over to the bed with its banks of monitors and therapy units and settled in the chair Anderson Marlow had vacated only a couple of hours ago. I hadn’t been able to use it. Sitting and remaining in one place didn’t come easy to me, these days.
The room looked like a medium-sized bedroom in a private home, with color on the walls and soft flooring underfoot. The window was a large one, looking out upon the city-and-country patchwork quilt below, and letting in warm sunlight.
The bed and its monitors ruined the homey effect.
Jai Van Veen lay on his side on the bed, the covers drawn up to his shoulder. For the last two hours he had looked like a man merely sleeping, but the measuring devices around him and the assistant interpreting them all assured me he was emerging from an unconscious state.
His face was unlined, youthful. The eyes had lost their crinkles and laugh lines. He stirred, drawing in a swift, small breath. But the eyes remained shut.
I’d been here before, so I leaned forward. “It’s okay, Jai. You’re safe. You can open your eyes.”
He opened them. Dazzling blue pierced me. “Danny…” His voice was a harsh croak, the simple word malformed. The muscles and organs which provided clear speech—tongue, teeth, cheeks, throat and lungs—would all have to get used to talking.
Because I’d done this before, I knew he was disoriented and said, “You’re in Wynchester, at the Laxman Institute. What can you remember?”
His focus shifted away from me. “Terra…” He drew in another long, long breath. “We were there? That isn’t a bad dream?”
Over Jai’s shoulder, I saw the assistant smile. Jai remembered Terra. Finally.
“You were dreaming about Terra?” I asked Jai. I’d been well coached not to lead him in any way.
He frowned. “I think…I don’t know.” He drew another quick breath. “Anderson…”
“He was sitting right here until a couple of hours ago. He was falling asleep in the chair, so I sent him to find a bed. He’s fine, Jai.”
Jai relaxed. A little. The frown came back. “We were on Terra.” His tone was firmer.
“Dinner…” he muttered.
The assistant nodded, looking even more pleased.
“You remember it now.”
“It’s the last thing I remember,” Jai said. “We sat at the table. You were next to me…”
I let out a sigh of relief. Slowly, so he would not notice it.
“I don’t remember anything more, after that,” Jai added. He stirred, taking in the room. Then the banks of equipment.
I could see him put it together. “Oh, no…” he breathed. He lifted his hand and peered at the back of it. Turned it over to peer at the palm. Anderson Marlow had told me he was looking for the crescent shaped scar on the pad of his thumb, when he did that.
He lowered the hand. “I’ve been cloned,” he whispered.
“Yes, Jai.” I didn’t shift my gaze to look at the medical assistant, but I could hear that she had grown more alert. “Do you want to try to sit up? Carefully—you’ve never done it before.”
Which was a small lie. He’d tried to sit once before. He’d also surged from the bed, hysteria driving him. He’d also slipped back into unconsciousness. Four times so far.
Arnold Laxman had assured Marlow, me, Lyth and others, that this panic upon waking to a new body wasn’t usual, but it wasn’t unknown, either. “The trauma of dying affects everyone differently,” he had lectured us. “And Van Veen’s death was unexpected and doubly shocking as a result.”
“His death also meant the failure of the mission to Terra,” I pointed out dryly. “That won’t bother him at all.”
Marlow rubbed at his mouth, hiding his grin.
In the end, in a particularly delicate operation, Laxman had excised Jai’s memory of dying. “A secondhand report will be far less emotional for him and it will get us past the sticking point.”
So now Jai remembered right up to where Laxman had smoothed out the neuron pathways, and no farther. Last time, he’d not remembered much at all, and the massive disorientation had induced a child-like hysteria, with a grown man’s strength that had taken four people to hold him down until they could render him unconscious again.
I’d had to put Marlow back together after that, too. He’d been one of the men holding Jai down, and Jai had not recognized him at all.
Jai rolled onto his back and sat up very slowly, studying the room and the medical assistant. Then he turned to me. “I died?”
“Heart attack…stroke? What?”
I drew in a breath. Crunch time. “You were assassinated by the Terrans, Jai. Right there next to me.”
He stared at me. “Why don’t I remember that?”
“Because when you did, you fought the memory. Laxman removed the memory, so you could ease into it.”
He swallowed. “I have to presume you’re telling the truth, simply because it is so unpalatable.” He looked around the room once more. “This is Wynchester?”
“Yes.” I got to my feet. “There is more unpalatable truth to hear, Jai.”
He looked back at me.
“That last memory you have, of the dinner?”
“That was over a year ago, now.”
Jai drew in a breath. “You had to grow the clone. I wouldn’t countenance having it ready, because I couldn’t afford to lose the negotiations, and that felt like admitting defeat before we’d even got to Terra.” He put his face in his hands.
I rested my hand on his shoulder and felt him trembling. “Marlow will be very glad to see you.”
Jai shook his head, ground the heels of his new, unscarred hands into his eye sockets and looked at me. “No. Not yet. Not until…not yet. Just you, Danny. Just until I sort this out.”
I glanced at the medical assistant. She gave a small smile and a shrug. I got the impression that a demand for time alone wasn’t unusual either. Although the whole science of cloning and inserting personalities and memories—which was rapidly becoming known as transferring—was so new that what was considered usual might still be an amazing run of consecutive outliers.
After going through the process of waking Jai, I thought ‘transferring’ wasn’t nearly profound enough a term.
“Sure,” I told Jai. “Until they let you out of here, I’ll keep everyone away.”
I had no idea how to explain that to Marlow in a way wouldn’t hurt, but I had also been the idiot sitting in an evening gown next to Jai and failed to save him—and security of the mission had been my responsibility. As far as I could see, this one was on me.
Having Marlow hate me for breaking the news that Jai didn’t want to see him just yet was a small price to pay.
“Nothing is prettier than that,” Marlee Colton added. “Not even…” She trailed off. “Wow,” she finally added.
Yep. I agreed one hundred percent.
Danny and her allies brace themselves for war.
The bellicose Slavers are hellbent on war. While the Slavers fight each other, Danny and the Carinad worlds work to find a way out of a seemingly inevitable conflict they are ill-equipped to face.
When a Terran falls into their hands who knows the Slavers’ plans for invading the Carinad worlds, Danny thinks she may have found the key she needs to delay war, if not halt it forever…
Waxing War is the fourth book in the Iron Hammer space opera science fiction series by award-winning SF author Cameron Cooper. The Iron Hammer series is a spin off from the acclaimed Imperial Hammer series, and features many of the characters and situations from that series.
The Iron Hammer series:
1.0: Galactic Thunder
2.0: Stellar Storm
3.0: Planetary Parlay
4.0: Waxing War
5.0: Ruled Out
6.0: Stranger Stars
7.0: Federal Force
8.0: Redline Rebels
Space Opera Science Fiction Novel
And don’t forget that if you pre-order direct from me (use the SRP buy link, above), then you get your copy of the book a week earlier than everyone else.