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I Can’t Let it Go

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At the moment I’m 35k into a YA, military sci-fi series that is going to be awesome!

I wrote 75k earlier this year and have had to ditch most of it.

Why?

Let’s just say I do my very best to tell an amazing story with characters that readers will cheer for. Round 1 of this story this year didn’t fit the bill, so I scratched it.

I’ve come to terms with this…all except for the opening scene. I loved chapter one so much that I tried three different times to keep it, but to no avail.

So I’m going to share it here. That way it will live on. And maybe, in a few months or a year, I’ll read it again and think, “It’s not as good as I remember.”

Then again, maybe I don’t hope that happens.

Here’s the original chapter one for my YA military sci-fi series. Also, a teaser from the cover.

The facility glittered on the surface of the asteroid like a pool of water on rocks. Opaque, hexagon panels interlocked into a dome that rose twenty times Dalen’s height. Inside sat troughs configured in rows and filled with plants of all colors, shapes and sizes. Farming drones moved down the rows, looking for problems and reporting progress.

Dalen sighed and gently pushed away from the apex of the facility. Huge mirrors hung above his head. Beyond that lay the gas giant Tosen, and beyond that, the vast expanse of space. The adventure. The potential. The allure of making a difference.

When he turned back, the dome had receded, and when the tether pulled taut, Dalen realized this was the farthest he’d been away from this place since they’d arrived.

Less than a hundred meters. Pathetic.

A voice came through the system in Dalen’s helmet. “You daydreaming again?” Alarik asked.

Dalen considered giving his friend a rude gesture, but he knew his sister was watching. “Do you have a solution for your little problem?” Dalen asked. “Or do I get to float out here for another hour?”

“Working on it,” Alarik said.

“So two hours?” Dalen asked.

“Genius cannot be rushed,” Alarik said.

He could see the problem—a darkened hexagon of the dome. Alarik and his sister had tried to adjust the reflection from the mirrors. Again. Without getting the okay from the supervisor. They’d gone too far, focused too much light on the dome, and several sections had short-circuited. All but this one had come back online.

Dalen snorted. “I’m going to die out here.”

“We can only hope,” Alarik said.

“Can I have your rock collection?” another voice asked.

“No, Darsi, you can’t,” Dalen said to his little sister. “You don’t treat it with respect.”

“They’re rocks.”

“To the untrained eye.” He checked his oxygen level: only 40% remaining. “You two better hurry. If we don’t get this fixed before the shift change, Rachil’s dad is going to lecture you about trying something without testing it first.” Dalen smirked. “For hours and hours.” He could practically feel the flinch coming from his best friend and his sister.

“Almost there,” Alarik said.

“We did test it,” Darsi muttered.

“Uh-huh. How much longer is this section down for maintenance?” Dalen engaged his thrusters, aiming for the dark hexagon. He imagined landing and pushing off again, using the tether as an anchor, and traveling all the way over and around the other side of the dome, where he could land and do it again. And again.

“Got it,” Darsi said.

“You trying to ram us?” Alarik asked.

Dalen sighed and fired his thrusters again, this time bringing himself to a stop exactly far enough away to be able to reach out and touch the darkened hex.

“Go to the access panel,” Alrik said.

Dalen floated to his left to the seam between two panels. A small metal door just bigger than his hand popped open, revealing an array of lights and buttons. “Now what?”

“Push the red button,” Darsi said.

Dalen scowled at his heavy glove and then back at the buttons. “Hold on.” He made a fist and waited until a cool gel ran down his fingers and encased his hand. A green light lit up on the display on the inside of his helmet and he reached out and tugged his left glove off. The glove swung back and out of the way, the fingers adhering to the sleeve of his suit.

Dalen wiggled his fingers, watching the sleeve. It was so thin he could feel everything—unlike in the heavier gloves. He turned his attention back to the buttons and pressed the red one. “Done.”

“Did another button turn yellow?” Alarik asked.

“Yes.”

“Good. Hold it down until the red button turns green.”

“You seriously can’t do this from in there?” Dalen asked as he followed the instructions.

“Not without leaving a footprint,” Alarik said.

After a few seconds, the once red button became green. “Done,” Dalen said. He eyed the panel. “Nothing’s happening.”

“Patience,” Alarik said.

“Give it a second to reboot,” Darsi said.

A blinking light in Dalen’s helmet caught his eye. “Uh, guys, we don’t have much time. The patrol drone is headed this way.”

“Damn,” Alarik muttered.

“Almost there.”

“If I get caught out here you two are going down with me,” Dalen said.

“You’re not going to get caught,” Darsi said. “Did all of the lights in there just blink?”

“Yes,” Dalen said as he looked from the glimmer to the panel.

“Good, shut it,” Darsi said.

Dalen did so, and the surface beneath him faded from black to opaque. “Looks like it worked.”

“You have to get out of there,” Alarik said.

“You think?” Dalen asked. The drone’s weren’t intelligent. They would stay to the path prescribed, looking for anomalies.

Anomalies like him.

“Can you distract it?” Dalen asked.

“Way ahead of you, bro,” Darsi said.

“Get to the other side,” Alarik said. “We’ll draw it away.”

“What if it doesn’t take the bait?” Dalen asked.

“We all got into a lot of trouble,” Alarik said.

Alarik was already on thin ice for hacking into the educational system and changing the graduation tests. The ironic part was that he had made the tests more, not less, difficult. Still, the teachers hadn’t liked it much. Darsi wasn’t even supposed to be working in the network yet; she was only fourteen. She was supposed to be babying plants, not playing with computers that were powerful enough to take out whole facilities.

And Dalen didn’t want to endure another of his dad’s lectures about his position in the colony or how it looked when he got into trouble. Oh, and when was Dalen going to give into his fate and become a farmer?

No, Dalen did not want to have that argument again.

Dalen checked is oxygen. Down to 35%. Plenty of oxygen. Not much time until the drone spotted him. Dalen slipped is fingers beneath the surface of a metal rung—the gel keeping the biting cold from his skin—and flicked his eyes on the display inside his helmet to disconnect his line from the top of the dome.

“What are you doing?” Darsi asked in a panicked voice.

“Relax,” Dalen said. “It might see the tether up there. I’m just going to move it.”

“If you float away we’re not coming after you,” Alarik said.

“And here I thought we were friends.” Dalen waited for the tether to recede into his suit before he climbed toward the surface.

He could activate his boots and walk, but it would take longer, and he only had to go a few panels before the next tether point.

All those hours of cleaning the domes from the outside was coming in handy.

There was always a certain rush that came with being untethered in space. Dalen knew Alarik was all talk, and if for some reason Dalen floated away his friend would find a away to get him back. So unless Dalen decided to run head first into another asteroid, or one of the mirrors, it was likely he wouldn’t die.

However, just the thought of floating alone out there caused a thrill of adrenaline to run down his spine. Quickly followed by an ice dread of fear. Space was the most unforgiving environment in the universe. Nothing survived.

Dalen shoved the fingers of his gloved hand clumsily under the next handhold and leveraged himself along the seam.

“Hurry,” Alarik said.

“Yeah, yeah.” Dalen checked on the drone. So far it hadn’t varied from its route.

Dalen reached for the next hold with his geled hand. As soon as his fingers grasped the hold, he tried to pull his other hand free.

The fingers of the glove wouldn’t come out. Like when the older kids at school used to have the younger kids put their hands into a bottle to get something out, then when they made a fist they were unable to get their hand free.

“Stupid thing,” Dalen said. He should have taken the time to gel his other hand.

“What’s wrong?” Darsi asked.

“Nothing,” Dalen muttered as he braced his feet on the seam and tugged.

This time the fingers came free, but the momentum of his yank threw him around to his back, pivoting from his gelled hand.

He hit the panel with a grunt.

“Was that you?” Alarik asked.

“Maybe,” Dalen said. He pulled himself back. Now he didn’t have time to gel his other hand, so he used a single finger to hold in as he moved down three more handholds and then over two. “Where’s that distraction?” He settled in front of the outlet and blinked his tether to life. It uncoiled from his suit and attached itself. Dalen always imagined a click, but in space there was no sound.

“Ten seconds,” Darsi said.

The drone might spot him before that. Only one thing to do. Dalen grinned. He took a deep breath, imagined the curve of the dome, calculated the number of panels he had to get past, assigned that much strap to his tether and pushed off.

Instead of gently pushing away from the dome, he rocketed back. It took an agonizing three seconds before the cable pulled tight and whipped him back.

For those seconds, Dalen imagined air rustling through his hair. His grin grew wider when he found himself moving toward his intended destination. The panels got closer. Ten meters. Five. Two.

“I hope you have the drone’s attention,” Dalen said as he fired his thrusters once, just long enough to slow him so he didn’t crash. When his feet touched down, he activated his boots. His feet held fast, and he took the collision in his knees, wincing as his butt almost touched the dome.

Before he straightened, he commanded his tether to detach and reel in.

He checked the position of the drone. It had paused.

“Don’t see the tether,” he muttered. Dalen ducked down, even though he was on the opposite side of the dome from the drone, and held his breath.

The end of the cord came into sight.

The drone didn’t move.

“Guys?” Dalen asked.

“Trust us,” Alarik said.

Dalen snorted and stayed perfectly still. He glanced at the next tether point and then at the nearest door. He could get to either without too much fuss. If he didn’t have to run.

“As promised,” Darci said.

Sure enough, the blip on Dalen’s scanner moved off toward Dome Two.

“You’re clear.”

“Come on in,” Darsi said as the light above the door below him blinked three times.

Dalen slowly made his way to the base of the dome, then entered the airlock. “Seal it,” he said to Alarik.

“Done.”

It didn’t take long for the small room to fill with atmosphere.

“We’ll met you in the corridor,” Alarik said.

“Got it.” Dalen shrugged out of his suit and put it down the maintenance chute. Unfortunately he didn’t have time for a shower, so he got dressed and emerged into the maintenance area of the dome. The early hour guaranteed that he would be alone. The morning shift didn’t start for an hour.

Familiar scents of metal, plastic, and oil filled the air. Dalen made his way through the tools and machinery to the exit. Even if someone caught him here, he could explain his presence. He’d spent enough time fixing the domes that he may as well be on one of the crews.

Just as he hit the button to open the door, his hand comm chimed. He pulled it out of his pocket as the door slid open. It was a message from Alarik.

“Stay in the maintenance room.”

Dalen glanced up and found a security guard in the corridor. He pressed the reply button in his hand comm and muttered into the device, “You are the worst friend ever.” Then he gave the security guard a lopsided grin. “Hey, how’s it going?”


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