Micheal Cobley

Interstellar Tactics




Orphaned Worlds, 1st Draft, 3rd Excerpt

This is the 3rd and final excerpt from the 1st draft. Once all the edits and revisions are done I`ll see if these three excerpts have altered substantially and if so I`ll post the new versions for comparison. This section is from the start of chapter 6 and involves Catriona:


Cradled in the growing green darkness, Catriona listened eye-closed as Segrana sang to her.

            The song was sad, a braided river of lament that ran beneath the hard harmony of sensations which Cat was feeling, smelling, hearing and seeing. Segrana’s song had begun several hours ago with faint, low notes of warning as the first Brolturan troops had stepped ashore. When it became apparent that a large offensive force was being assembled, undertones of warning turned to sorrow at the prospect of more death.

            Cat could feel their presence at the edge of the forest, could almost sense the weight of their booted feet. In the few weeks since the murder of President Sundstrom, her mind and her reflexes had become more deeply intertwined with the psionic weave of the continental forest. There was a breath and a pulse to it, the wave of heat and light as dawn swept continuously around the moon, the tug and sweep of weather systems bringing wind and rain. Then there was the purpose of the Brolturans, their occupation of Darien and their grand invasions of Segrana, of which this would be the fifth. Were they still trying to test the defences, or were they engaged in a war of what they imagined was attrition? The latter might make sense, were it not for the huge technology gap – the Brolturans could have fielded land, sea and air attack vehicles or even sprayed the forest with defoliant, yet they had not.

            They want something, the temple-halls perhaps, or the ancient knowledge chambers, or Segrana herself, she thought. Or perhaps they’re unsure what’s hidden here and are making these probing attacks to see where we fight hardest.

            She shrugged her shoulders and shifted slightly in her leaf-padded recess. It was a cuplike cavity in the branching shoulder of one of Segrana’s colossal pillar trees. During her sleep, pale rootlets had sprouted from the wood to curl about her brow while other tendrils tresses spilled down around her neck and shoulders. Slender vines entwined her limbs and fine opaque filaments spread across her bare hands and feet. The Listeners called these recesses Speaking Places and they were located near the forest floor. Cat’s was some twenty feet up and veiled by mossy creeper curtains, shrouded in humid gloom broken by the glows of tethered ineka beetles. Uvovo guarded her Speaking Place, above and below, and two Listener sisters watched over her.

            She was only peripherally aware of her immediate surroundings while her conscious perceptions moved in many directions. Her mind felt faster, sharper and more versatile than it had for a long time, certainly since her teenage years when her Enhanced talents had been at their peak. But this interweaving, this melding with Segrana’s farflung dominion was on an entirely different level. To be an Enhanced was to be in possession of an intellectual ferocity that dragged the focus inwards and which sometimes seemed on the verge of mania and cold, cruel thoughts. To be joined with Segrana was to see with a myriad eyes, to hear with all manner of ears and membranes, to smell and to taste and feel multifariously….

            Herself curled up in the Speaking Place, lit by inekas – above, the Listener sisters huddle together, exchanging murmurs – beneath, four Uvovo spear-carriers crouch in the lower bushy shadows, alert to the approaches – high above, another half a dozen watch and listen…

            Theo standing at the midpoint of a rope-and-wood footbridge which curves between two huge, hillside trees less than a mile away – she sees him from several viewpoint, forest creatures small and not so small, their images of him patchworking together into a shimmer composite, almost seen in the round – he leans on the bridge’s rope rail, fingers of both hands slowly shredding a sprig, leaf by leaf – he frowns, face dark with worry – Cat knows he is thinking about the defences he helped to prepare, the traps, the pits, the snares, the overhead drops – he is also frustrated at being kept away from the scene of the action, nearly 200 miles away and still watched over by a Uvovo escort – fragments of leaf and twig fall from Theo’s fingers into the hazy depths as he sighs and shakes his head…

            Malachi the Tygran sits on a high woven platform not far from Theo’s location, overseen by a Listener and five armed Uvovo – Cat observes him through the eyes of an umisk perched overhead and two kizpi foraging in nearby masses of foliage – Malachi is clad in grubby work clothes scrounged from the refugee Human researchers, kept safe half a continent away – He sits with his back against the mossy trunk, legs folded under him as he stares at the insects dancing a shaft of sunlight slanting in through a break in the canopy – The bright column makes the moist air glow, warming the insects that bob and sweep – Malachi is so entranced that he scarcely moves – Cat knows from Theo’s reports that since the suicide device was removed weeks ago the Tygran commando has steadily become more forthcoming, gradually learning how to be more human – But Cat cannot bring herself to talk with him at any great length – The memories of dead Uvovo haunt her still…

            Listener Malir speaks to Listener Josu across more than a mile of Segrana’s forested hinterland – Each occupies a vudron, thoughts and words merging with Segrana’s great sweeping psionic weave, now heightened by Catriona’s talents – Each is attended by senior scholars while messengers constantly come and go, bringing scout reports, taking orders to other Listeners leading smaller teams of Uvovo – The two Uvovo Listeners are quite different in temperament, yet Theo taught them well – Lessons in mobility were soon tested against the Brolturans’ assaults – He has shown them how to build traps that are portable and easy to assemble, or at least easier – Pits are permanent defences and have been dug at point on those routes most accessible to a ground force moving inland from the southwest – But the interweaving branchways of the mid- and upper-forest allow the Uvovo to be incomparably more mobile…

            …In the Speaking Place, Catriona stirred, opened her eyes to the silent, soft-lit gloom, the restless, glowing inekas, the haloed, golden radiance of a lantern hanging from a leafy creeper curtain. The air was cold in her lungs and the odour of leaves and blooms felt reviving. She levered herself upright, rolled her head back, left to right, massaged the aches out of her shoulder and stretched her limbs before sitting back, closing her eyes and slipping back into the weave…

            The presence of Segrana speaks, saying – The Time Is Here, The Time Is Now, Unmaker Sends War…

            The Brolturans move into the forest, squad after squad of tall, camo-armoured forms hurrying from daylight into shadow – Cat can feel the impact of their boots and track their progress along a shallow valley running westward – Ahead of them, pathfinders try to probe the ground through tangled undergrowth, flagging the location of pitfalls exposed during previous forays – Cat estimates their numbers at roughly 400 while Malir and Josu can command little more than half as many – This is by far the largest force to be pitted against Segrana…

            Theo’s words from a recent discussion come back to her – “This Brolturan commander, he has been cunning. So far he has only sent in small detachments to get a feel for the land and to gauge the Uvovo strengths and weaknesses. When he commits a larger formation he will have made up his mind and…it could get bloody.” He had then gone on to tell her that they almost certainly would have some kind of map derived from orbital scans, which would reveal features of the terrain but not the ground or cover condition.


Well, there ya go!

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Other Posts of Potential Interest:

  1. The Orphaned Worlds, 1st Draft, 1st Excerpt
  2. Orphaned Worlds, 1st Draft, 2nd Excerpt
  3. The Orphaned Worlds, 1st Draft Finished At Last
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  5. Orphaned Worlds Update – Soon!

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