2019/12/11

XSeed Book 3 Preview

The following is a preview of the forthcoming third book in my mecha thriller series Combat Frame XSeed:


An executive aide wearing a stylish white blouse and black skirt ushered James into a meeting room the size of a business-class hotel suite. No windows broke up the gold diamond wallpaper pattern. A middle-aged man with a gold cross on his gray lapel sat behind a wide walnut table between a pair of sullen men in dark suits.
That’s Chang in the middle, thought James. Those two suits must be security. I doubt they’re here to protect him from me.
The governor’s aide gestured to a chair across the table from the three officials. “Please have a seat,” she told James.
Can a guy get some coffee around here?” he asked. The aide turned and strode back across the soft green carpet.
Thank you for meeting with us, Mr. Trent,” said Chang. “I apologize for interrupting your Sunday morning.”
James’ shrug rumpled his white jacket. “Makes no difference to me. I’m between jobs right now.”
The aide returned with a piping cup of aromatic coffee. James accepted the paper-thin ceramic mug.
Thanks, Kid,” he said with a wink.
Kid—as James would thenceforth always think of her—slightly raised the corner of her mouth.
James took a long swig of the smooth, bold contents. The warm beverage energized him.
We are aware of your misfortune,” said Chang. “You have our condolences.”
James took another swig of coffee before answering. “That’s kind of you, but it was just a mining job. I’ll land on my feet.”
A nervous look passed between Chang and his security goons. The guy on the left, who looked like he only had a few years on James, fiddled with his silver pen. The older, pudgy one on the right breathed a heavy sigh.
You’ve not heard of the attack on Yarkand Mining Commune?” Chang said at length.
James frowned at the Governor. “Heard about it? I lived it. Didn’t Simon and Faust tell you they went in to extract me?”
Chang pursed his lips. “I was referring to last night’s attack.”
The cup slipped in James’ suddenly slack hand. His fumbling fingers set the mug down, but not before he sloshed coffee on the polished tabletop. “Last night?”
Kid leaned in to clean up the spill with a white handkerchief.
Correct,” Chang said slowly. “Just after midnight, a surprise kinetic strike destroyed the main ore receiving facility. Current estimates place the death toll at one hundred and thirty-two. Since you worked at the mine until recently, we hoped you might have some useful insights.”
James pounded the table, inadvertently spilling more coffee. Kid waited, probably expecting more messes to come.
Damned Socs,” cursed James. “I knew they were passive-aggressive bastards, but launching an orbital strike on their own mine?”
Actually, the attack was launched from the ground,” Chang corrected him. “The Coalition is blaming HALO.”
That doesn’t make sense,” said James. “Only grounders and Soc screwups work the graveyard shift. There were no worthwhile targets.”
Yarkand is vital to Western China Region copper production,” said Chang. “The SOC claims that Arthur Wake ordered the strike as an act of sabotage with no care for the human cost.”
James snorted. “Arthur’s a jerk, but he’s no idiot. That receiving facility’s been in operation less than a year. They can rebuild it in a month and use the old one in the meantime.”
Chang and his men conferred quietly. James had grown up speaking Coalition-standard Mandarin, but the Fels’ weird dialect combined with their hushed voices foiled his eavesdropping.
The Governor turned back to James. “I must ask a difficult question, Mr. Trent. Think carefully before you answer. Are you accusing the Coalition of staging a false flag attack on their own facility?”
If I was gonna pull a false flag,” James said, “that facility is exactly the place I’d hit. I bet most of the hundred and thirty dead were grounders, right?”
Yes,” said Chang, “as most of the casualties from this morning’s missile strike on Hong Kong were likely to be.”
James felt as if his leather desk chair were sinking into the floor. Lightning in a clear sky … “Did the missile attack happen around six?”
Chang nodded. “0600 precisely. Details are still emerging, but multiple Coalition satellites recorded three conventional warhead detonations in Victoria Harbour. An unmanned cargo vessel took heavy damage, but a nearby dockworkers’ barracks was completely destroyed.”
I saw three lightning flashes directly overhead right before your guys picked me up,” said James.
So did countless other witnesses,” said Chang, “including the Coalition. They’ve accused my government of launching the attack in solidarity with HALO and Wehrbund Bavaria.”
James folded his arms. “It definitely wasn’t you guys—unless you have invisible missile launchers that can fire from midair.”
The SOC claims to have photographic proof that the missiles originated from our space launch site.”
It’s just a bullshit excuse for the Socs to invade Hainan.”
We know,” said Chang. “That’s why we’d like you to provide an official statement on the Yarkand mine’s internal security, layout, and procedures. We need to make a case countering the SOC’s claims and bring it to the public at once.”
James bowed his head and gave a sharp exhale. “I’d love to help you out, but the Socs have my mom. She’ll be in danger if it gets back to them I shared confidential information.”
Another anxious look passed from Chang to his security advisors and even Kid, who stood beside James.
At last, Chang spoke. “The ore receiving facility wasn’t the only target at Yarkand. The attackers also destroyed the main detention center. All of the prisoners were killed, including your mother.”
James’ mind raced. His mouth fell open, but no words emerged. A sudden shock left him numb, as if he’d touched a live wire.
Why?” he finally croaked.
The Coalition interprets the detention center’s destruction as a symbolic blow. They attribute the nearly exclusive grounder casualties to Arthur’s ruthlessness and HALO’s stupidity.”
James stared into Chang’s dark eyes. He struggled to keep from trembling form rage. “Tell me what you’re gonna do about this.”
Chang opened his mouth to speak. His security goons each laid a hand on the Governor’s back, but he waved them off.
This information is top secret,” Chang confided in James, “but you deserve to know. My administration has been advancing plans in cooperation with Wehrbund Bavaria to build our own Combat Frame force. Lieutenant Frazer destroyed our carbyne plant, making XSeed construction unfeasible, but production has begun on an original CF line co-designed by Chaz Ritter and Ivan Eckhart.”
I volunteer,” said James.
Chang raised a cautioning hand. “Thank you, but we already have a professional pilot corps. There’s not enough time to train you before our new Stapfen combat frames enter service.”
I’ve been operating bipedal ore haulers for years,” argued James. “They use the same basic controls as CFs. Hell, I’ve got more time behind the stick than Faust!”
Mr. Hayden has combat experience,” said Chang.
James stabbed a finger at the Governor and each of his men in turn. “I helped my brother take down a custom Soc CF. He had an XSeed. I had a truck.”
Chang and his cronies conferred again.
We will consider your application,” said the Governor.
James sprang to his feet. “You can consider my—”
The door swung open behind James. A young woman with raven-black hair and pale skin stormed into the room. The hem of her cream-colored skirt churned as she approached. Kid rushed to clean up the coffee spill and turned to greet the newcomer.
Chang rose and bowed. “Your Majesty, what a pleasant surprise.”
Lenora von Bodensee gave the Governor a curt nod and met James’ stare with ice-blue eyes. “Why do you want to fight?”
James drew himself up. “The Socs killed my mother. They’re slandering my brother. I want justice!”
Follow me,” Lenora said with a grim smile.

The new book arrives soon. Read this stunning series' first two installments now!

8 comments:

  1. Good. We have the False-Flag recognition.

    Ritter and Eckhart...Would Chaz be a descendant of Tod? I recall he got married, even if he didn't have much time with his wife.

    Stapfen...are we getting stompy-mecha?

    Looking forward to the book.

    For the rest, I hold that the Systems Overterrestrial Coalition must be destroyed.

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    1. Lenora and Charles are the grandchildren of Kaiser Wilhelm von Bodensee of Neue Deutschland. Charles uses Tod's nom de guerre in place of his noble surname so as not to detract from his sister's claim to the throne.

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    2. The Grenzmarks already are stompy mechs :)

      Stapfens are mass-produced XSeeds minus the 1-D carbyne armor. They do excel at terrestrial combat, though.

      Thank you!

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  2. Brian

    Awesome hook! I'm so looking forward to the next installment

    xavier

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    1. Brian

      You're welcome. You put in the effort to entertain us and it shows.

      I'm very pleased to sponsor your series. And will continue to do so as long as you write it.

      xavier

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  3. I wonder what the governor was about to offer James, before Leonora intervened. And how was she listening in? He's now a man with little to restrain him, and righteous rage fanned to a firestorm. This was nicely written, ratcheting up the tension in stages. I opened a spot on my reading list. Maybe I'll enjoy reading as much as you enjoyed creating this.

    One thing broke my train of thought: 'He struggled to keep from trembling form rage.' Perhaps trembling with or trembling in rage would work better? He's just shy of seeing red. Not that I'd be familiar with the state. Er, harrumph.

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    1. Thank you. And nice catch. Repeated words like that grate on me, as well. I'll change the line for the final version.

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