This is something of a first for the current series of books: a sneak preview of the next episode!
This excerpt from The Ravening Deep is one of the first scenes in the book in which we really get inside Euryce Eilentes' point of view, and it broaches the subject of Throam's abandonment during the Battle of Meccrace Prime in List of the Dead.
It also brings into focus some elements of the story which by this point in the text have only been referenced casually: the footage of dreadships broadcast by the crew of the Leo Fortune, and the devastating phenomenon now referred to as The Falling.
And of course... what Armada Wars novel would be complete without the obligatory gym scene?
Hit the "read more" link to see the excerpt.
Euryce Eilentes had waited for the ship to make her next jump before heading off to the gym compartment. Although the regular crew in Disputer were probably used to it, most other people — those who did not often travel between the stars — found the nauseating experience of crossing a wormhole’s boundary to be a remarkably effective prophylactic against the notion of exercise. As a result, the gym was usually quieter during jumps.
Quiet was what she needed. Quiet, and endorphins.
Eilentes reached forwards with a wavering hand and prodded the treadmill’s controls. Pace increase, gradient increase. Beads of sweat ran down her arm. She wiped her brow quickly, while the machine spooled up to make the run more difficult, then leaned into the new conditions with increased determination.
Thirty-eight minutes, read the timer.
She felt a tightness in her calves and the beginnings of a stitch encroaching on her midriff, and remembered to control her breathing. Deep, steady, pull in that air, that wonderfully sterile naval oxygen-nitrogen mix. Out, you carbon dioxide, out! Get thee to a scrubbery.
The holos at the end of the wall were showing round-the-clock feeds from three of the many worlds’ most popular news channels. She stumbled when she recognised Meccrace Prime in the central display.
That damned footage again. Whoever had recorded it, she wished nothing but the worst of luck for them. Each time those images popped up — and they had been popping up everywhere — she was forced to remember.
Wormholes flaring in the night. Great, dark leviathans emerging from them, as though spiders had created their own gargoyles to plague the nightmares of man. Imperial ships firing on each other for almost a full hour, punching holes through each other’s hulls. The intruders penetrating the planet’s atmosphere, contaminating her with their touch, sullying her pure skies.
And then of course, just before the footage ended, was The Falling.
That’s what they were calling it out in the colonies, now that the footage had been leaked by the empire’s cheerfully anonymous whistleblowers. Eilentes had to admit the name was as accurate as it was dramatic. She had been on the surface of Meccrace Prime when it began, so she was quite happy that the drama was justified.
The Falling was exactly what it had felt like.
The sound, that was what she remembered most vividly. A terrible sound, catastrophically intimate, reaching into her most primal gut and yanking it out, exposing it to the daylight. A sound that gripped her by the soul, as if she were feeling the sundering of the skies themselves, the demolition of the foundations of a heaven, as if she knew deep down in the core of her being that the gods of old had been felled brutally before their own creation.
And at the climax of each sound, the impacts.
She tried not to think about the stone, metal, and glass shearing away from the sprawl of the Eyes and Ears installation, but trying just made her brain focus more. She could still hear Caden protesting as she all but dragged him back to the shuttle.
We have to go back.
But we couldn’t, she thought. We couldn’t go back, not even for Throam.
The timer ticked over to forty, and the track slowed gradually to a warm-down pace. She dropped to a light jog, grabbed her towel from the side rail and wiped her face and neck. The machine rumbled on.
Ren, why didn’t you try?
“Everything is fucked up, Elm. I can’t see a way out.”
At the time, even with the shrieking roar of the The Falling going on about her, the injured Doctor Bel-Ures to think about, and Caden’s suicidal desire to go back into the facility, something about the way Throam had said that had plucked at her mind; it had been tantalising but elusive.
Now, after four days of thinking about it, she understood.
Ren had not been talking about his hopeless situation inside a crumbling complex, or the inadvisable separation of the team. He had been talking about her.
She was sure of it.