I am very pleased to announce that Abattoir in the Aether will be released in the New Year, and to that end here’s a very exclusive extract from the forthcoming book…
Nathanial could only assume it was a man, though its height and bulk surely made it one of the most uncommon sort. He was cloaked in dark green, with a matching wide-brimmed hat pulled over his eyes to keep even the room’s sparse candlelight at bay. Thick, imposing boots covered feet large enough to stomp a bear in half. The hands, seen clearly from the cloak’s sleeves, were wrapped in bandages greying with wear, as was the chest and face of the man who now stood before them.
Nathanial scrambled to his feet. The nightmare man stomped into the room, the panel door sliding into place behind him as if it had a life of its own, and he seated himself behind the desk without so much as a word. Nathanial was confused as to whether he should sit or stand, but upon seeing Hague settle into the chair beside him, decided to follow suit.
The nightmare man spoke, and his voice was deep, echoing through the study like a controlled detonation. “Mister Nathanial Stone,” he said. Something in the violence of the voice, as if it had to crash the ramparts of the man’s face to leave his lips, was too much when taken with the enormous, ruined body. Nathanial was instantly frightened of the man.
“Doctor van den Bosch, I presume,” he said with a stammer.
“Mmmm. Excuse the gloom. I find electric light no longer agrees with me, and so I tend to keep to the darker parts of this place to avoid the discomfort.”
“I rather like the ambience, actually. One might think I was back on Earth, if the bay window behind you didn’t peer directly into the aether.”
“Indeed. I must say, Mister Stone, I was rather surprised to find you out here. May I ask what you were doing in a crippled flyer with the niece of Cyrus Grant in tow?”
Nathanial had no desire to tell him everything, and he most certainly did not want to reveal his recent adventures on Venus and Mercury. “I’ve been doing some travelling as of late. Our flyer took damage negotiating an aether vortex, and since then we have been limping toward Mars in hopes of finding a dock to make repairs. You should know, Doctor, that I had no idea such a station existed this far out,” he added, even though it was not entirely true, he had heard vague rumours of such a thing from Director White while working at Chatham, although he had almost forgotten about it, until now. “Nor did I know the space around it was restricted by any government. If I had, we most certainly would not have passed through.”
“Yes, but pass through it you did, and now you are in my care until it can be decided what is to be done with you and your friend, Miss Somerset.” Van den Bosch lifted a report from the top of one stack and began to thumb through it. “So, you’ve deduced that this is a station. That demonstrates something of your acumen. Tell me, do you know the purpose of this place?”
“Know?” Nathanial asked. “I know nothing. Your men have been quite careful to shroud everything in secrecy.”
“Secrecy must be maintained. It is our mantra. Do you know this word?”
“I do. I deduced this must be a structure of some incredible dimensions, if it could house as few as three cutters without difficulty and the sheer amount of floor space I have crossed in coming here. No aether flyer currently in service could hope to have said dimensions. That leaves a station.”
“Apply your powers further.”
“If you wish. We’re on a heliograph station, not a research station, as I’d initially believed.”
Van den Bosch clapped his enormous hands together so hard the resulting shock made Nathanial wince. “Very good! How did you come by this deduction?”
Nathanial smiled. “By mention of your name, of course. If this were a scientific post, out here to study the aether and its anomalies, yours would be a long-term position, to be held by someone on the downside of their career, but you are still in your professional prime. No one with your rather formidable reputation would allow himself to be tied to such a post unless it were either a short-term one, one destined to bring him great acclaim, or both. The construction of a heliograph station in itself is not something likely to grant you any sort of acclaim at all, given that two have already been built. That leaves a specific kind of heliograph station, one which has been placed at a strategic spot, not orbiting a planet or satellite, but one that has achieved its own, special orbit.”
“Toward what end?” Van den Bosch was clearly enjoying these questions.
Nathanial shrugged. “To speed communications between Earth and Mars, no doubt. The two spend many months of each solar year separated by the Sun. A heliograph station, or rather two such stations, placed in strategic positions could facilitate year-round communications between the planets, and when a station is built on Venus, the Empire would have in place a fast, efficient means of interplanetary network, thus giving us a distinct advantage over our competitors.”
“Excellent! I can see now why your reputation has grown so recently. You are mostly correct in your deductions.”
Nathanial arched an eyebrow. “Mostly?”
“And you don’t plan to tell me how I erred?”
The eyes beneath the hat were suddenly small and intense. Nathanial, who had been growing increasingly at ease with the man’s presence, was reminded then to whom he was speaking. Here was a man who was used to getting his way, one who would not think twice about destroying the reputation of anyone who got in his way.
Space: 1889 & Beyond—Abattoir in the Aether © 2011 by L. Joseph Shosty
Space: 1889 © & ™ Frank Chadwick 1988, 2011
Cover & Logo Design © Steve Upham and Untreed Reads Publishing, 2011
Cover Art © David Burson and Untreed Reads Publishing, 2011
The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent. All rights reserved.