This Excerpt comes from a story about two new characters named Zhang Han and Cornelia Carthage: two friends, one of whom believes in a cause worth going to war for... And is going to great lengths to prove it. We hope you enjoy the excerpt, and come back to check out the Anthology as it posts on jameswylder.com!
You'll get to read stories not just by James Wylder, but a slew of other talented writers like:
Josephine Smiley, Taylor Elliott, Jordan Stout, Elizabeth Tock, Miguel Ramirez, Colby McClung, Evan Forman, Genevieve Clovis, Briana Stanford, and more!
10,000 Dawns: Anthology. Coming this summer.
Story by James Wylder
Art of Zhang Han and Cornelia Carthage by Raen Ngu
This is part of the 10,000 Dawns finale, and is available for download in PDF or epub formats along with the rest of the finale celebration here: http://www.jameswylder.com/home/10000-dawns-the-finale
“Was this really your plan? If this was your plan—“
“This wasn’t my plan.” Cornelia replied. They both panted for a moment, then Cornelia turned and grinned. Her smile was infuriating but she couldn’t help but start to turn her own frown into something she wouldn’t let quite form a smile. “Mostly. But I can adapt to it. Ever flown a rocket?” Han shook her head.
“I'm a Marine, not a pilot.” Cornelia nodded and ran over to the control console. She looked it over, frowning.
“This is surprisingly complex for something whose sole job is to go 'up'.”
“They call it rocket-science for a reason you know.”
“Yeah, and we stopped using these for a reason to.” Cornelia replied, thumbing a few switches, and pulling open a big panel to fiddle with the wires. The lights became brighter, and consoles lit up throughout the room. They might just get off Titania yet, even if it was on a missile. Cornelia brightened up.
“This orbital rocket is an old re-purposed passenger rocket, so it was built to carry people! I mean, its technically a bomb now, but it'll do.”
“Cornelia, this rocket it meant to blow up a Centro battleship in orbit, not let us survive the trip...”
“It was meant to let people survive the trip a hundred and fifty years ago. Do you have a better plan?” Their banter was cut off by a crackling sound on the overhead speakers. It was a man's voice.
“Your friend is right, you'll never survive lift off. We'll blow you up remotely.”
“I cut that system first.” Cornelia said, Han hadn't even noticed.
“Wise. We'll still shoot you down.”
“That's up for discussion.”
“You think you're worth talking to.”
“We are. Plural.” She replied.
“Of course. You and your little friend are guilty of crimes against our people now. You should feel honored I took the time to speak to you personally.” The man's voice replied.
“So, who do I have the honor of speaking to?” Han mouthed “honor” back at Cornelia while making finger quotes and doing a short mocking dance. Cornelia turned away and Han secretly hoped she was rolling her eyes. She was a bit disappointed to see Cornelia was just walking towards a voice panel on the wall.
“You have the prestige of speaking with Corinthian Candlelight, a First Holder of Titania.” Han tapped Cornelia on the shoulder and mouthed.
“Corinthian Candlelight? Seriously?”
“The names just keep getting worse and worse don’t they?” She mouthed back. They really did. Meeting 'Alabaster Armoire' had been bad enough as it was.
“Hi Corinthian Candlelight, I’m Cornelia Carthage.”
There was a pause on the other side, probably someone was pulling up files.
“Never heard of you.”
“Well, data dumps take a while to arrive from Earth don’t they?” The man on the other end grunted.
“You’re certainly giving up a lot of information.”
“I have nothing to be afraid of from you.” She said plainly. Han scoffed. Cornelia made a face.
“You have a lot to be afraid of, Cornelia Carthage. The Vigilance of the Free Slavehold of Titania isn’t for sale to anyone from Earth. You know nothing of what its like on the Rim. You sit in your alabaster cities, and you pretend that life here on the Rim can be governed by the principles you decided are moral. But morality is—“
“Isn’t calling this place a “free slavehold” kind of… stupid? Like, I’m not a refined gentlemen, but isn’t that not how words work?” Han interjected.
“You insolent snot—“
“Like do you point at trees and call them horses? Or point at yourself and call it ‘not a thumbsucker’?” Cornelia kept in a snicker.
“You Centro people are all the same. You grew up rich and fat on Earth.”
“—Actually I’m from Mars. Cornelia is from Earth. I’m Zhang Han, Martian asskicker. And yes, that’s an official title.” The man grunted.
“Then you of all people should understand what we fought to build here. What we toiled to—“
“What others toiled to do for you.”
“Our hands guided theirs.”
“Your hands are too slippery with blood to guide anything.” There was a pause as long as 5 heart beats.
“You will regret this. Foreign spies aren’t welcome on this moon, and your punlishment will be severe. Maybe I’ll cut out your tongues and make you my personal concubines.”
“Wow, you are an idiot.” Han said.
“Don’t expect the slaveholder to be particularly moral, Han.” Cornelia shrugged. “Anyways, we’re going to kill him, right?” Han looked at Cornelia. This whole stupid endeavor had been her ploy to this moment, this agonizing moment. She’d wanted her to see this place, this hellhole dressed up in posh dresses and frock coats. Their eyes met. Han’s teeth slid slowly onto the top of her lower lip.
She was done with the military.
She was quitting.
She was going to join her friends in the independent Mars student rallies.
Heck, she was going to be a student again.
She was going to ask out that cute girl from the Black Hole Lounge and...
“Yeah. We’re going to kill him.” Han said, and she knew Cornelia had been right. These people on Titania, hidden in darkness and surrounded by gilded lights were now in two groups: those who she would kill, and those who would be liberated. She'd seen hell out here during the Rim Gang Wars, trying to bring order in the name of Centro Systems... But Cornelia wasn't just about order. She was about morality. Titania had been built on the backs of slaves, and it was a crime Han couldn't turn her back on. She had to do this. The pointless war on the Rim had changed in her head, a switch had flipped, and there was no going back. Cornelia grinned.
“Bold words, but you aren’t getting off this moon alive.”
“Am I not?” Cornelia said, bemused. Han really hoped she actually had something up her sleeve.
“We'll shoot your rocket down the minute it launches.”
“Will you?” Cornelia mused, and pulled a tablet out of her pocket, which was close enough to a sleeve in this case that Han was willing to let it count. The tablet lit up, showing a map of blips around the city.
“Because you gave me a full tour of your facilities, and its entirely possible I left things scattered around at the following co-ordinates. You might not want to touch them. They're dirty bombs, they'd ruin all the careful terraforming you've been having your slaves do to this moon... But its your call, I wouldn't want to decide for you.”
There was silence, and Han stared at Cornelia. This woman had thought this through so far ahead. Even when they were in a corner, she had a contingency. Any lingering doubt left her: she would gladly follow Cornelia into her war. Back into her nightmares.
“You wouldn't dare.” The man said, his voice cracking.
“I always dare.” She replied. “Now choose.”