Presenting…an Earths in Space deleted scene! This was in the upcoming third novella before I decided to start over with a new approach. It’s deleted for a reason. This isn’t wonderful — too much straight exposition, for example — but it’s a chance to meet the characters, and it’s a little teaser for what the plot will entail:
The octahedron was lying on one of its faces, while the artificial gravity within hummed along to keep everything in its proper place. Gilmore knelt on top of the hull, tightening the last few screws of his masterful propulsion work and shoving the units back into their casings.
He had worked in peace and quiet for most of the time, but now people were present. He liked some of them.
Amena was his favorite, not that he’d ever admit it. He even tried to hide this fact from himself, until he needed to explain the unusual palpitations that seemed to occur only in her presence.
He had never seen such a natural beauty. He would almost consider her hypnotically pretty, but only lesser men were prone to hypnotism. There was more to her, though.
Just look at her now, about to brief her crew on their next mission. That smile. That fidgety excitement at the thought of something new. He envied how she saw everything. She stirred protective impulses he thought had atrophied years ago.
Right behind Amena was her sidekick. Kaden leaned lightly against the wall, but he didn’t slouch. He was always alert and always calm. Gilmore considered him a nice enough fellow, though he was nicer to women. Men needed to make sure they were nice to Amena if they didn’t want to become acquainted with Kaden’s highly trained fists.
Gilmore could do without Ballard, the ex-Navy SEAL who was ex for a reason. Ballard tried, sometimes, but never hard enough. The jerk didn’t deserve to be better looking than Gilmore, and he certainly did not deserve to be ogling Amena like that. Gilmore attempted to scare him off with a glare, but he persisted, which wound up being okay. Amena was oblivious to Ballard, and he did deserve to be beneath her notice.
Jem was, as usual, upside-down. This time, she was doing a handstand, but only using a single arm at a time. Her blood must have been a frequent visitor to her head. She had her moments. They tended to alternate between mildly impressive and considerably annoying.
The last person in the room was the most sensible. Gilmore considered Mariana the only other professional in this whole operation. She blended book smarts and street smarts better than anyone he ever met.
“Stop that,” she told Ballard.
She was easily his second favorite. Intellectually, he understood she should have been first, but Mariana never induced palpitations.
“Alright, let’s get started,” Amena said, her arms unable to remain still. “Pluto!”
Ballard’s face went askew. “Did you say…?”
“Yes! We’re going to Pluto. The planet, not the mythological figure. Ex-planet. Poor thing.”
Ballard shook his head and crossed his arms, knowing damn well how loudly he sighed. “Do we think there’s life on Pluto?”
“You do realize she’ll explain everything even without your helpful prompts,” Gilmore said.
Amena smirked. “Ballard, your objections have already been anticipated and soundly rejected. So, anyway, on the subject of Pluto…” The corner of her mouth curled up as she let out a little laugh. Then she got serious. “There’s this long ship in orbit over it, or I guess I should say most of the ship is up there. Part of it crashed onto the surface. The telescope’s picking up a faint energy signature, so there’s a chance someone might still be alive somewhere in there. Of course, our information’s about five or so hours out of date, because light’s such a slowpoke, so step one is to pop over there and get the real-time view, and we’ll take it from there.”
“Excuse me,” Kaden said, raising a hand. Unlike Ballard, his curiosity was genuine. “The telescope picks up energy readings?”
“It’s a special telescope,” Amena said.
Sela entered, carrying a stack of strange clothes nearly as tall as she was—not that that was saying much.
Kaden understood the specialness of the telescope, and he immediately went to relieve Sela of the burden. “I got that.”
“Thanks,” she said, smiling at him.
“Now you show up,” Gilmore said. “When the work is nearly complete.”
“Are you suggesting there’s any aspect of the work I could have performed better than you?” Sela asked.
“Not even remotely.”
Mariana explained to her, “His yelling missed its audience.”
“I figured as much, but I had an idea,” Sela said.
A better version of this story is coming out later this year, along with two other new novellas that have already been written. For now, the first pair of novellas is available for your reading pleasure.