Thank you for stopping by and joining us for our stop on the Read-A-Long portion of The Empire by Elizabeth Lang virtual tour. We are excited to post this segment of the story and we hope you enjoy it too!
The Empire – Chapter 10
Somewhere inside Adrian’s barely functioning brain, he identified the source of his problems was his head. He banged it against the floor, each collision with the cold, unyielding surface, easing the relentless agony in his head for a second. The First Officer quickly lifted him up. Like a wild animal caught, Adrian struggled to free himself, but Chell held him fast.
Adrian continued to battle. He was no longer a man; he was a wounded animal, crying out in agony until he had no more energy and his chest heaved in sobbing gasps.
“Hold on, Lieutenant.” Chell hated having to do this, but the Admiral said it was necessary. Fleet Command had deemed it crucial to bring this man under control. Sometimes, he wondered if there weren’t better ways of motivating people, but who was he to decide?
The officers filed out with a friendly nod in Kali’s direction. The meeti ng was over in almost half the time.
“You did well,” said Fleet Admiral Verel. The monitor blacked out as he folded the keyboard back into the desk. “They were impressed with your suggestions and grasp of the essentials regarding the Verindi.”
“The briefing material was very thorough, sir.”
He smiled, a relaxed curling of the lips that wasn’t enough to show his teeth. “But those are just facts. It takes intelligence to understand what it means and talent to find the right solutions.”
“I tried my best.” She was still the proper Ensign, standing ramrod straight, as if she was on parade.
“You can relax, Mirren. You’re making my back stiff just looking at you and its stiff enough already.”
“It’s sore, sir?”
“Nothing to concern yourself about.” He placed both hands on the table and stood up slowly, an old warrior who felt out of place when not in the heat of battle. “Do well with the Verindi and I may promote you to a negotiator role.”
“Yes, it means a promotion.”
Despite his easy manner, she sensed his acute attention as they talked. “I don’t know what to say, sir.”
“Isn’t there something you want to bring up?”
Her words were careful, her manner respectful. “Not unless you want to, sir.”
His head nodded, as if he had confirmed something. “Wait in your cabin.”
The First Officer continued holding Adrian to stopping him from hittin g his head on the floor. He rocked him, giving him encouragement.
Adrian cried out in agony again, his body twisted and his face contorted in an inhuman expression. The pain came in waves. Chell knew it was to make it more effective. People built up a limited tolerance if it stayed at one level too long.
Chell’s arms were wet from the sweat-soaked tunic, making his hold slippery, but it didn’t matter. He was not going to let him go until it was over.
Adrian stopped in mid-scream, a choking, startled sound that became a soft moan. His body went limp and his breathing came in staggered gasps.This was odd. Chell quickly laid Adrian back on the ground just as Admiral Verel swept back into the room.
“You were right, sir. He tried to hurt himself,” he reported.
“That was to be expected.” He knelt down on one knee and lifted Adrian’s eyelids. The eyes were unfocused. “It’ll take him a few minutes to come back.” He winced as he stood up, and cursed his aging knees.
His First Officer watched this with concern. The Old Man rarely showed weakness and he knew how stubborn he was about certain things, just as stubborn as Stannis was. “You’re still avoiding the replacement, sir?”
“Don’t you start.” Verel flexed his knees tentatively, wary of the tinge of pain in his uncooperative joints. “I like all my original parts.”
Adrian moaned and his eyelids fluttered.
“Lieutenant,” said Verel. “Look at me.”
Adrian gazed up at the ceiling, as if he didn’t know what to look at. Slowly the eyes focused on the Admiral. Verel pulled back a little, troubled by what he saw in those dark eyes.
“Stannis. Name, rank and Empire id,” he commanded.
For a few seconds, the lips moved but there was no sound, then he said in a raspy, whispered voice, “Stannis, Adrian. Lieutenant. Id Triple A. 362 549 318 002.”
Chell was surprised. “He’s a triple A?”
“Yes.” Verel nodded. “He rates even higher than I do.”
“No wonder they want him this badly.”
“Even genetically, he’s worth a great deal.”
“Don’t forget to obtain a good price.” Adrian’s tone was dead but it was soaked in hoarse cynicism.
Chell and the Admiral looked down in astonishment.
“Welcome back, Lieutenant,” said Verel.
“Are you done, sir?” He sounded bored and irritated at having been forced to waste his time.
“Then I have work to do.” He raised his head and fell back, as exhaustion robbed him of energy.
“Not today,” said Verel.
“Is that an order?”
“I don’t think it needs to be one, do you?”
His jaw tensed and he looked away. “No.”
“Are you going to be more cooperative?”
Adrian’s dead eyes still did not meet his. “I will finish the project.”
The Admiral bent towards him. “That was not the question.”
“I am never in a mood for word games.”
Adrian finally turned his head to look at him. Their eyes fixed on each other in challenge. “I…” The words of appeasement, the ones that would deliver him from pain, warred with Adrian’s rebellious soul. Anger gave life to his eyes. “…will not…”
“Be careful, Lieutenant.” The edge in the Admiral’s voice was sharp.
The First Officer bent down and placed a firm hand on Adrian’s shou lder, feeling an involuntary shudder passed through his body. “Lieutenant, don’t do this. Don’t force the Admiral’s hand.”
“What are you doing, Chell?” demanded Verel.
The First Officer’s eyes displayed no apology, only concern. The last few hours had been an agony for him as well, making him ask some fundamental questions. He had not liked the answers. His words came out like a flood. “I’m trying to help, sir. We’re both soldiers. Trained for killing the enemy, not hurting our own people.”
Verel raised his hands to stop him but Chell forged ahead like a storm that needed to run its course. “I don’t care what those bastards in Security Section say. In all the years we’ve served together, you’ve never liked using this kind of discipline.” His eyes never left the Admiral’s face.
“Your knees hurt. They haven’t bothered you in a long time, not until after you received the orders about Stannis.”
As if on cue, a stab of pain punctuated the Admiral’s left knee. He exhaled tiredly, feeling every one of his many years. “It doesn’t make any difference, Chell. You know that. We must do our duty.” He knew it was a weak excuse the moment it left his lips.
Adrian had been listening and weighing the words. “What charade is this?”
“And you!” said the First Officer, shaking his finger at him. “You’re too stubborn to even pretend to cooperate in order to save your own life.”
Adrian stayed silent, staring up at him. “Are you presuming to tell me what to do, Chell?” asked the Admiral. The words hung in the air like an explosive.
The First Officer stared back at his Admiral without batting an eye. “I will accept the consequences for my words, sir.”
Verel stared at him a moment longer. They faced death together, saved each other’s lives countless times, and stood side-by-side against insurmountable odds. At times Chell served as his conscience when the violence became too much, but his First Officer had never been this passionate about anything before. “We’ve known each other a long time.”
“Do you really want to end it like this?”
The First Officer was still on his knees beside Adrian. His eyes lowered and his head bowed, accepting the authority of the man over him. “If that is your wish, sir.”
“You think what I’m doing is wrong?”
“I think…” Chell hesitated, the torrent of words and feelings had passed, leaving him to try to understand what had prompted it and why. “There are better ways than trying to hurt people. You said it earlier, sir. You understood why the Lieutenant would hate people. It’s because of what they’ve done to him. But he’s strong too. Like you. He refuses to give up who he is just because people find it inconvenient that he has a will of his own.”
In a hoarse voice, Adrian said, “Do you think I will do what you want without being forced?”
Chell looked down at him. “I think you’re smart enough to find a way. You’re both Firsters after all.”
“If I didn’t know any better, Chell,” said the Admiral. “I’d think you were trying to manipulate us.”
“I wouldn’t dare, sir.”
Adrian said dryly, “He would.”
“I think the Lieutenant’s right.”
“Sir.” Chell’s eyes were dismayed. “I never intended—”
“Relax, First Officer.” Verel exhaled and paced slowly. “What you’re asking isn’t that simple. Even if I don’t break Stannis, someone else will.”
Adrian’s eyes narrowed, like a man certain that there was subtext he was not seeing.
Getting up from the hard floor, Chell said, “Then we must keep him on the ship. Don’t give Fleet Com—”
Verel’s hand went up immediately to stop him from mentioning the name. “The only way we can do that is if Stannis cooperates.”
A mocking laugh from Adrian greeted this statement. “So this pathetic charade has finally reached its conclusion. If you couldn’t force me into cooperating, you will trick me into it.”
The Admiral and Chell exchanged astonished looks. After the significance of what had been said, this cynicism was a cold avalanche. Verel said, “I know what it must look like to you.”
“Do you really?” His eyes were uncut diamonds, hard and rough with sarcasm and mistrust.
“I haven’t given you many reasons to trust me.”
The Admiral sighed tiredly, anticipating many long, frustrating ‘discussions’ ahead with this obstinate man. Facing a squadron of heavily armed Andromedans ships would be much simpler. “You’re not going to make this easy, are you?”
“I have no interest in advancing your career.”
Chell snapped, “That’s out of line, Lieutenant. The Admiral is not that kind of man.”
“Don’t tell me he won’t get a commendation if this Project succeeds. Then he’ll pass me onto the next person who needs my services.”
“You’re not a slave, Lieutenant.”
There was a dry laugh. “I’m sure your definition of a free man is different from mine, Admiral. Mine doesn’t include having a device in my head that can be used to control my actions.”
The Admiral grimaced at the damning words.
“And spare me any false platitudes,” said Adrian.
The rampant mistrust and cynicism was wearing on the Admiral. He blew out a breath of frustration. “Let go of your cynicism for just a minute and work with me.”
“I see no reason to.”
“You’re making this much harder.”
“You were under the impression I was trying to make it easier?”
“You’re a stubborn bastard, Stannis.” Trying to help this man was proving harder than torturing him. “I know you’re tired.”
“Having my brain shredded from the inside for an hour can do that.”
The Admiral winced.
“I highly recommend it,” said Adrian.
How could a voice be so flat but contain such sarcasm? “I’m not the one who ordered the implant.” This man was making Verel feel defensive, something he hadn’t experienced in a long time.
“You’re the one who uses it.”
“What if I promise never to use it again on you? I will stop the constant ‘reminders’. Would you trust me then?”
“I don’t play games.”
The First Officer had been observing, waiting for the two men to find their own understanding, but it was proving to be almost impossible. As long as the device was in his head, Stannis was right, he was little more than a slave. Whatever High Admiral Tennyson wanted of him, it wasn’t as a human being. He said, “I know it’s hard for you to trust anyone. Least of all us.”
The warmth and sincerity in his tone that made Adrian wary. “Trust is earned.”
“You’re right,” said the Admiral. “I can’t do anything about removing the device in your head or releasing you from this Project, that isn’t in my control, but I will try my best to make it easier for you. No more physical discipline.”
“If I cooperate?”
The Admiral shook his head. “It is my promise to you, regardless of whether you cooperate or not.”
“You expect me to believe that?”
“I expect you to test me on it. I will not use force on you. Or Ensign Mirren.”
Adrian’s eyes widened slightly in surprise at the inclusion of Kali.
The Admiral continued, “But I won’t lie to you. I cannot control if someone else orders it, then I would have no choice. The only way to keep you safe is if you stay here, but if I don’t satisfy my superiors, you will pass out of my hands.”
“Is that a threat?”
“It’s a reality I cannot control. I can’t stop you from being a fool if you insist on testing the consequences,” said the Admiral. “Once you pass out of my hands, I can no longer help you. I can only protect you and the Ensign if you stay here.”
“Who is giving you your orders concerning me.”
It was an unexpected question. Verel stared at him. He had been ordered to keep this information confidential. “High Admiral Tennyson.”
“I see.” Adrian looked up at the ceiling, his eyes deep with thought. “It would not be in your best interests to help me then.”
“Do you want to tell me why?” The idea Adrian might have a conflict with the High Admiral was worrying. It made what he was doing even more dangerous.
“So I answer your question but you will not answer mine?” The Admiral wondered if he could he afford to do this for a man he barely knew?
“You asked me a question before.”
“Yes. Why did you sabotage the Neutron Wave Project?”
“It was not for the reasons you stated.”
Verel’s brow arched. “It wasn’t political or for money?”
It was a concession, not much of one, but it was a start. “You have powerful enemies.”
“I have many enemies, most in high places. You would be a fool to help me.”
“Let me worry about that.”
Adrian studied the Admiral’s face and his eyes, scouring them for a clue. He dipped his head in acknowledgement. “Then I promise to be less difficult.”
“That’s not much of a return for risking my life and my career.”
“That is all I can give you.”
Adrian still lay on the ground and the Admiral stood above him, but he was no longer a towering, oppressive presence.
“You don’t give me much of a choice,” said Verel.
“You’re the one with the choices, Admiral. I’m merely trying to survive them.”
The steps were small, some might call them miniscule. They were two people stepping over a dark chasm of uncertainty, their hands still gripping firmly onto the edges.
“You’ll always be difficult and cynical, won’t you?”
“It’s kept me alive.”
“Alright. Chell will help you back to your quarters. Have the day to rest. I will take care of Kegan.”
Also Elizabeth Lang has shared with us an exclusive picture from The Empire Series
To read more of the Read-A-Long please follow the tour schedule…
03/03/2013 – Tribute Books Reviews & Giveaways – http://tributebooksreviews.blogspot.com/ – Chapter 1
04/03/2013 – Vixie’s Stories –
http://vickiejohnstone.blogspot.co.uk/ – Chapter 2
05/03/2013 – Decadent Decisions –
06/03/2013 – Reviews From Beyond the Book – http://www.reviewsfrombeyondthebook.blogspot.com – Chapter 4
07/03/2013 – Great Alpha Speaks –
http://atrussell.com/Blog/ – Excerpt – Chapter 5
09/03/2013 – The Edible Bookshelf –
http://www.theediblebookshelf.blogspot.com/ – Chapter 6
10/03/2013 – Independent Writers Association –
http://iwassociation.com – Chapter 7
11/03/2013 – Self Publish or Die –
http://www.selfpublishordie.com Excerpt – Chapter 8
12/03/2013 – Natasha Larry Books –
http://natashalarrybooks.com – Chapter 9
13/03/2013 – Michelle Anderson-Picarella –
https://shellypicarella.wordpress.com/ – Chapter 10
17/03/2013 – Sheenah Freitas –
http://sheenahfreitas.com – Chapter 11
18/03/2013 – Castle Macabre –
http://castlemacabre.blogspot.com – Chapter 12
19/03/2013 – My World –
http://stephsgrn.blogspot.co.uk/ – Chapter 13
20/03/2013 – Reading, Writing And More –
http://stephsgrn.wordpress.com/ – Chapter 14
21/03/2013 – Ami R Blackwelder –
http://amiblackwelder.blogspot.co.uk/ – Chapter 15
Thank you for joining us and Page Turner Book Tours and Elizabeth Lang today on our stop.
About Elizabeth Lang:
I’m a science fiction writer who started off life as a computer programmer with a love for reading, especially science fiction, fantasy and mystery.
Being in computers, I found my writing skills deteriorating so I decided to take up writing. It became a joy to create characters, stories and worlds and writing soon became a passion I couldn’t put down. As a writer, I like to explore, not only the complexity of characters but the human condition from differing points of view. That is at the heart of the Empire series, of which ‘The Empire’ and ‘The Rebels’ are the first two of a four books series.
You can connect with Elizabeth Lang at the following places:
About Page Turner Book Tours:
Page Turner Book Tours is fronted by the face behind Read2Review Kate. Page Turner Book Tours has been put together to help promote authors and give something back to the writing world. Kate has put together a team of incredibly talented people to help with the project by incorporating their individual skills into making new, fresh and exciting promotional plans that we hope you agree are amazing. If you would like to book a tour with Page Turner Book Tours please check out their tour packages. If you would like to become a tour host with Page Turner Book Tours please check out their Tour Host page. You wont be disappointed!