First things first – Audiomachine, one of your hosts for this week’s Stories from Guan-Yu giveaway, has graciously offered a bonus giveaway of today’s tracks, Solace and Brain Mismatch. Follow the link to download, and read on for the rest of the goodies!
I am thrilled to announce the kickoff of “Stories from Guan-Yu,” a giveaway event pairing the world of Crucible with tracks from trailer music powerhouse Audiomachine. Over the next few days, we will be drawing you further into the world of Crucible, showcasing characters and events from the book in the context of Audiomachine’s gorgeous music, from some of their oldest industry releases to tracks off their most recent public release, Phenomena. You can enter up to once per day for the giveaway: five winners will receive a signed copy of Crucible and a signed Audiomachine CD, and one grand prize winner will win a book and all five featured albums!
I have been a fan of Audiomachine for a few years now, and often listen to their albums while writing—their music spans emotions from grief and loss, through hope, joy, and all the way to heart-pounding, epic moments. I hope that those of you who are blog regulars will get just as hooked on Audiomachine as I am, and I want to extend a hearty welcome to the Audiomachine fans who have come here to learn more about Crucible!
The Attack on Guan-Yu
“Solace” and “Brain Mismatch”
The attack on Guan-Yu is a truly horrifying event: a massacre of unarmed civilians by the most technologically advanced fleet humanity has ever seen. Our narrators live the terror and rage of that night, watching their loved ones die, and in the months that follow, they struggle to make sense of such ruthless slaughter. And yet, Crucible opens with one of the soldiers committing the attack, bombing the colony and going to her death with blood on her hands, believing that humanity’s survival depends on her actions. “Solace” and “Brain Mismatch” were natural choices to showcase the beliefs of Everett and her fellow soldiers, and the desperation and horror of those on the ground. The true tragedy of the massacre on Guan-Yu lies in the fact that no one, not the soldiers and not the colonists, know the whole truth of the colony.
“I didn’t plan on going out like this.”
“You didn’t?” But she could see that it was true. He was sweating, his pulse beating shallow at his throat against the desperate stillness.
“I always thought—you know.” At her unhelpful silence, his face twisted. “That I’d be able to do things that didn’t mean…” Dying. She looked down at her hands, and he let the rest of the words out in a rush: “The planes are fouled up. What if it’s a sign? What if the admiral’s wrong?”
A rush of bad temper. She hadn’t planned to spend the last few minutes of her life talking sense into some panicked kid. She didn’t want to admit that, because it seemed an awful lot like having regrets—and she refused to believe that she had any of those. Refused.
She had just wanted to sit, that was all. Sit and meditate, be calm in the certainty that this was right, until she could be in the cockpit and she could know that it was right. The bird would tell her. But if this stupid jock panicked, it would ruin the mission, and she had already staked her life on the belief that this must happen. She knew what the admiral would say, too: get it done. And this was what she needed to do.
She drew a breath to steady herself.
“A pilot like you, joining up right before this happens? Doesn’t that seem like a sign, too?”
“They said at command that we shouldn’t—“
“The admiral says we don’t let them get away with this.” Flat.
Hell of a thing for a kid to deal with, though. Must be twenty, at most. Transferred to the Minerva three days earlier, a kid they said to watch. Bright one, has a good future ahead of him. Well, not any more, he didn’t. He could choose to die quick, out the airlock, or less quick, in this run, or slow—while they hunted the admiral down. The navy’s flagship, he’d taken, no less. Jesus. And the admiral was seventy, wife dead and kids grown and not military anyway—he’d gamble more than this kid, for sure, who had everything still to do.
And so she tried not to wince when the boy nodded, but it was so damned hard not to feel cruel when he looked down at the floor like she’d slapped him.
“I hadn’t thought of it like that.” He was trying to be fair. She hated him for being so young, for that look in his eyes; she hated doing this to him. She didn’t want it to be the last thing she did. But she didn’t have a choice, did she? Not with what was going on down there. She’d spent her whole life waiting for a moment like this, and now that it came it was a shock.
He was too jittery for talk of glory, she judged. So was she.
“You can’t imagine the horrors you’ll put an end to,” she said, as gently as she could. Which was not all that gently, but at least what she said was true; he probably couldn’t. There were horrors that had already been, the admiral said, and horrors that were coming if these monsters were unleashed on the world.
“Really?” Desperate to believe it.
“Yes.” Her voice was emphatic. She had seen, and this boy could not have the first idea of it: skin stretched over metal, bodies on slabs, men and women with dead eyes and twisted limbs. And others—they looked so normal. Things on the inside, though, the admiral said, viruses and machines. And mind games. Some of them wrong in the head, even if you wouldn’t know it until…
Well, we don’t mean to find out, the admiral had said, with finality. So you do what you have to do to remember they’re not human. And don’t let the kid get sentimental. And how was she supposed to do that?
“We can’t heal them?” Of course he’d ask that.
“No.” She looked over. “You gotta put that out of your head. They’re not alive, not like we’d think of it. They don’t have souls.” He just looked at her, her words too far beyond for him to believe any of it.
“But what if they are? What if they do?”
“They don’t.” God in heaven, she could not deal with this. An alarm sounded: ships ready. “So are you coming?” Harsh; he looked like she’d hit him. These would be some of the last words he would ever hear, and that cut her up inside. Damn it. So she held out her hand, helped him up. “You’re a good man, Rios. Hell of a pilot. It’s an honor to fly with you.”
His hand was warm, his grip firm. One of the last moments she would ever have. All over soon, and right and wrong were turning over in her head, sin floating away into meaninglessness; he was beautiful.
Just a grab at life. She took her hand back, put on her helmet. Her hands were shaking now, and sweaty. She could feel her heart pounding against her chest. She had to concentrate to climb the ladder to the bird; light-headed, the spikes on the rungs biting into her palms.
The reserve pilots were watching them go, waiting by their tubes—some wishing they were her, some hoping she’d do what she had to so they didn’t have to go out. Most people weren’t made for combat, they said at the Academy, even fighter pilots. Crew of five thousand, they were bound to have a few. The admiral liked to mutter that peace was fine, only now he had a crew with no notion of war.
A measure of peace descended upon her in the cockpit. She had always felt most at home here. Tears stung her eyes; she could truly cry with how sure she was now, how relieved she was to know that.
“Everett.” A voice in her earpiece. “Are you ready?”
A moment to press her lips together. “Yes, sir.”
“No time for second thoughts.” Of course he would hear it in her voice. We have come to a moment, he told her in the still of the hallway, when what we know as goodness and mercy are not enough to guide us any longer. Your loved ones may not ever understand what you did here today, but they need you to stand for all that is good in humanity. Courage, Everett. Ours is a path of darkness and doubt. Do not waver or all will be lost. And she believed him.
“No second thoughts, sir.”
He accepted that without comment. “How’s the kid?”
“Good. And Everett—“
“See you in hell.”
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