Please welcome author Belinda Crawford to my blog. Riven, the second book in her The Hero Rebellion series, will be coming out in September. Today she is sharing an excerpt of Hero, Book 1 of The Hero Rebellion. You can purchase Hero on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.
It was windy on the foredeck, and cold, but the air smelled like freedom and Fink was warm against Hero’s back.
The ruc-pard purred, a rumble that vibrated from his giant chest into hers, and all the way down to her toes. She snuggled deeper into the hollow between his fore- and mid-quarters, enjoying the feel of his thick winter coat. Golden-red and silky, she sank into it, the hairs brushing her bare arms with every giant breath he took, the longer, coarser hair on his ruff tickling her cheek. Fink’s black, hairless tail wrapped around them both, the heavy weight of it draped across her feet, warming her toes.
Lazy images swam through her mind, carried on the distinct pink and mawberry of Fink’s thoughts – the taste of them sweet, the touch of them a soft fizz winding through her brain. She might have stopped and played for a moment in his memories, if the huge skytowers of Cumulus City weren’t spread across the horizon.
She’d seen all the holotours, interrogated all of the guides, but she’d never thought the city would be so… there wasn’t a word big enough to describe it. Surrounded by its sprawling mass of satellite ‘burbs, Cumulus City rose thirty thousand feet through the atmosphere, an endless patchwork of grey and green connected by the silver threads of bridges and the restless movement of the skylines.
Below, spires shot planetside and massive generators kept the city and its ‘burbs aloft, while giant tethers prevented it from drifting with the winds.
The city was her ticket, her chance, to see Jørn, to explore the planet’s surface without minders or gadgets or her mum looking over her shoulder. She rubbed the dull plasteel bracelet wrapped around her wrist. Or so she hoped.
She breathed deep and hugged her bare arms against the chill as freedom came closer and closer on the horizon.
‘Hero.’ The Lamb, the latest in her bevy of minders, stood in her peripheral vision clutching a heavy coat, the wind flattening her white-blonde curls against her head. Her mouth was pulled tight and her big green eyes were wide, almost swallowing her face. The way she eyed Fink looked to Hero as if she were waiting for him to flash his fangs and pounce, and she held herself like one of the old Terra creatures Hero had named her for, stiff and tense, leaning away from the ‘pard as if the extra millimetre would save her if he did. A brave lamb, wary but not scared.
Hero wondered at where Tybalt –butler, tutor, substitute parent – had found someone who didn’t quake before six-hundred kilograms of genetically engineered ruc-pard, bigger at the shoulder than Hero was tall, and twice as long. This woman wouldn’t be as easy to get rid of as the others.
‘Hero, you need to come in.’ Determination gathered on the Lamb’s face, in the firming of her jaw and the tiny crinkle at the corner of her eyes. When she stepped forward, Hero let herself be mildly impressed.
Fink flipped his thick, hairless tail, letting it land with a solid thwack on the deck not two feet from the tips of the woman’s shoes.
The Lamb stopped, her gaze locked on Fink.
It was hard to tell which characteristic people found most intimidating about him. It could have been the teeth, the claws, the sheer six-legged bulk … or it could have been the reputation: the stigma of a species mixed in a lab by not just a crackpot but The Crackpot—Woolsey.
They’d all been crackpots back then, those first-gen colonists, but Woolsey had topped them all. No one else would have thought to mix a little bit of rat with a little bit of leopard and a whole lot of alien to create something big and strong and scary enough to walk the surface with impunity.
Hero wished she could be like that: big and strong and scary instead of just strange and small and special. Old Terra, how she hated being special.
Centuries ago, humans colonized Jørn, a lonely planet on the far side of the galaxy. Arriving in five great colony ships, they quickly settled the surface only to discover, after a few short years, that the planet was killing them. The culprit, a native spore, carried on every wind to every corner of the globe.
Genetic engineering, blending DNA from Earth and Jørn species, saved their crops and livestock, but for humans there was no cure. Instead they took to the skies, turning their colony ships into cities that floated above the spore’s reach.
Hero Regan is special, and not in a way she likes. She hears voices, voices in her head that other people can’t. Surrounded by butlers, bodyguards and tutors, insulated from the outside world, her only solace is Fink, a six-hundred-kilogram, genetically engineered ruc-pard. They share lives, thoughts, triple-chocolate marshmallow ice-cream and the burning desire for freedom.
Their chance comes when Hero is allowed to attend school in Cumulus City. Here, along with making unexpected friends, Hero discovers she is an unwitting part of a master plan set into motion by the first colonists, a plan she must either help or foil if she’s ever to attain the freedom she craves.
About the Author
Belinda is a geek. She loves Star Wars, Dr Who, spaceships and girls who kick butt. When she’s not writing books or playing Guild Wars, she’s on a horse named Wombat or wrangling a small herd of cats.
Riven, the second book in The Hero Rebellion, is due out this September and Belinda’s currently hard at work on the third and final installment in the series.