"Selling Mars" will be out later this year. If you haven't caught up with what's happening, feel free to check out "Mars on the Rise". Enjoy!
"Selling Mars" (Veetu Industries #2) excerpt.
Rounding a knot of trees, Cedo pulled them to a halt, not quite believing what was before them. Where there had been no civilization to speak of, there was now a small, brick building. At first glance it did not appear much, having just a single door and no apparent windows. What made it even stranger were the clumps of wires which sloped from the walls and into the trees. Apprehensively, he edged them closer, ears listening and eyes watching for anything untoward. When nothing, except for the settling of the forest came, he dismounted, letting the reins trail on the ground as he inched closer to the building.
When his fingers brushed against it, the door swung easily inward. There appeared to be no lights and, with the gloom growing, it took a moment for his eyes to adjust. The building was a single room, as bare as the trees. At the heart of it sat a tall, cylindrical creation,. Open to the elements, it was filled with metal discs. A multitude of metal arms extended from the outside of the machine, all still, all waiting. Wires spiraled from the top of it and crawled across the ceiling before out of tiny vents in the top of the wall. The apprehension remained, the room giving Cedo a strange feeling of disorientation. His skin prickled as he looked at the silent machine. He did not particularly want to stay in the tiny building but, for the time being, it seemed to be the safest place to be.
Leaving the building, he brushed his fingers against Billy's limp hand. “Come on,” he said softly. “We can stay here for the night.”
Like a rag doll, Billy slid from his horse, Cedo catching him as he began to slump toward the ground. Slowly, Billy dragging his feet, they made their way to the building, Cedo lowering him to the floor as they stepped through the door. As he moved to unburden the horses, he noticed that the hairs on Billy's arms had prickled to attention.
“What is this place?” It was the first time he had heard Billy's voice since the morning.
Never looking up from the satchels and bags, Cedo shook his head. “I do not know. All I know is that it is a roof over our head.”
“Don't like the feel of it.”
“You are not the only one.”
Cans, rope, a small box of sulfur sticks, clothing and soap spilled from the bags and Cedo felt himself smile. Even if they did not like where they were, at least they would be fed and clean. His fingers closed around a small metal and glass object and his smile widened as a lamp came out. Striking one of the sulfur sticks, he lit the lamp, the small flame throwing warm light around the otherwise cool and suspicious room. Billy sat against the far wall, clutching himself as he cowered before the machine. It remained as silent as when they had entered as if waiting for some command.
“Will you eat something if I cook?” he asked.
Billy did not look up, arms still wrapped around his knees. “If there's somethin' goin' I will.”
Cedo smiled; at least he was talking, even if it were about the most mundane things. “I shall be outside should you need me.”
Darkness had fallen and, bar the light sitting beside the door, nothing could be seen. The moon threw very little light through the thick trees, and what it did give him only made the forest even more ominous. Scrapping around, Cedo gathered a little firewood, shuddering as sounds floated to his ears. Animal calls, whistles, the rustling of things in the undergrowth. As he lit the fire he waited, with bated breath, for the bizarre, whispered numbers to start up. Perching himself on a rock, Cedo let the fire take hold, eyes scanning the small area of exposed sky above him.
The sky was as clear as water, a few specks of stars shimmering down. His heart stopped and he held his breath, terror stilling him, as it slid into view. Completely silent, with the underside lit up, the strange cross lazily rotated as it flew over his head. Barely above the trees, it quickly disappeared, sending Cedo to his feet to frantically search between the branches. It remained in sight for a brief moment, flickering through the trees before completely disappearing from view. Heart pounding, Cedo returned to the fire. There was no use screaming, no use making a fuss; no one would hear and Billy would not care at the moment. He felt a dislike for the new country rise and his stomach rolled. Spitting out the contents of his stomach, Cedo held his head in his hands. The air around him felt alive, like it was watching him and was preparing to tear him limb from limb.
Heart stalling, Cedo raced towards the voice, crashing through the door and stilling when he saw the machine. The arms were moving, lifting up and out, righting themselves. Tiny needles tipped the ends of each arm. The arms stretched before inserting themselves back into the machine. The metal discs moved up and down, shuffling. Those which were not needed lay still while the needles found the grooves of those which were. There were pops and crackles and then they began, breaking the silence as each played a different tune.
“Nine... Twelve... Twenty...”
“Three... Eight... Five...”
“Seven... Five... Nine...”
“Six... Nine... Zero...”
“Seven... Nineteen... Twenty-Three...”