Now Available: The Double

THE DOUBLE

SCIENCE FICTION

CLINT WESTGARD

David Aeida now commands his body, having cast Laila aside. He has sworn fealty to the Grand Regent, who wants him by his side and sees that his loyalty is rewarded.

But the Grand Regent is not the man he was. He is paranoid and suspicious of everyone, isolated in his tower, and thirsting for vengeance against those he feels have wronged him. How long until he turns on Aeida as well?

That is only the beginning of Aeida’s problems. For he knows the Seeker and the Society of Travelers remain to play their parts. Both desire nothing more than the utter destruction of the Church of Regents and all its works. And though Laila has been defeated, he knows better than anyone not to assume she has been vanquished.

The epic fourth volume of the Sojourners Cycle centers upon the many betrayals and lies at the heart of the faith of the Church of Regents and the devastation upon the lives of the faithful they have wrought. Desire and guilt, love and revenge, rage and despair will drive them all, with consequences for all the universes.

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Excerpt: The Double

In advance of the publication of The Double on May 3, here is a short excerpt:

The Grand Regent sits upon his throne, surveying the audience room atop De Gofroy’s tower. I stand at his side, as expressionless as I can manage, though I am suppressing a grin of delight. At long last, I have returned to my rightful place. A sub-Regent of the Watchers’ Order. A servant to the Grand Regent. A shield against all those who would stand against the faith.

The Grand Regent studies those gathered before him, casting his eyes from one face to the next, as though seeking to penetrate whatever walls they have built up to keep their secrets from the faith. That is against the Protocols, as we all know. What his gaze tells them is that he will see them revealed. And my presence says that, if he is unable to, the Order shall do the work for him.

Everyone here knows what that means, some of us only too well. I see Morris Loverne, that traitor, now rendered compliant, standing alert and stiff at the back of the audience chamber, ready to act should the need arise. It will not. His remaining loyalists within the Church have been arrested and subjected to the Acolyte’s ministrations. The rest are scattered to the winds. But with what he has already revealed and what I know, we shall find the rest soon enough. Laila Johar, the companion of my mind and enemy of the faith, has been overthrown and banished. I rule this flesh now. She is but a distant voice I barely hear. I have choked the life from her. Continue reading

Now Available: The Acolyte

THE ACOLYTE

SCIENCE FICTION

CLINT WESTGARD

After crossing the universes to join with Toma Osahi’s group of renegades in their battle for control of the Church of Regents, Laila Johar finds herself in a precarious position. While they both share the same goal—wresting control of the Church from the Grand Regent—Osahi doesn’t know who Laila really is. What will he do if he finds out?

While Laila struggles to keep her identity secret, Osahi and his people pull her deeper and deeper into a search for her missing friend Ana that promises to shed light on the dark secrets of the Watchers’ Order and the Acolytes. Before she can find those answers though, Laila will have to face what lies within.

Crossing the universes has unsettled the already shaky equilibrium in her mind. If she wants to return herself to her own body, she will have to act fast, for the consequences of what Acolytes did to her are still reverberating. And Aeida hides somewhere, waiting for his time to come.

The thrilling third volume of the Sojourners Cycle continues Laila’s incredible journey across multiple universes and against incredible odds, all in a desperate search for herself.

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Excerpt: The Acolyte

In advance of the publication of The Acolyte on November 30, here is a short excerpt:

It is some time after the channel vanishes—the ferry and the tiny room where Morris Loverne has just been overwhelmed gone with it —before I can find it in myself to move again. I feel adrift. Events have conspired again to leave me alone, with no one I can turn to.

Though I can no longer trust Morris—he is a creature of the Seeker and a Society agent, after all—his familiarity, our shared history, was a comfort to me. There was something like trust there, no matter how illusory it might have been. He was a friend once, however false he proved to be. Those are the only kind I have.

How pitiful it all seems now. The illusion of trust. That is all I have—illusions and lies. Even my body is not my own. My mind seems less and less so with each passing day.

Especially now, as I am reeling from the aftereffects of the transfer. My hands are shaking and my legs are trembling. It takes all my effort to keep my feet under me. I have to close my eyes against the sun, painfully vivid against the cloudless blue sky. My head aches. Everything hurts, actually, and, as I take a first tentative step, I collapse onto the rocks.

A swirl of thoughts and colors assaults me. I try to blink them back, to no avail. Somewhere, lurking behind this internal cacophony, lies Aeida, waiting for his chance to take control. He is still so dangerous. No matter that he is not what he was, this is still his body.

A terrible coughing fit assaults me, bruising my lungs. I don’t know if I can survive another crossing, not in my current state. It was never like this before. But I was never like this before either. This remade mind, stolen and tamped, was not intended to be sent across the channels. It was supposed to stay lost in a universe known only to the Watchers’ Order and myself.

If I am to restore myself to my body, I will have to attempt another crossing, especially now that I am here in another lost universe. It is inevitable. The thought terrifies me. Will entropy work further upon me each time, until there is nothing left of me and Aeida but a twitching mass of limbs?

That thought is almost as disturbing as those I have about what has become of my body. I imagine it, hidden somewhere in the endless universes, suffering under whatever tortures Molijc can devise. He will not win, I tell myself, as I work to steady my breathing and still my body. I will not allow it.

The Seeker has asked me to become his agent for the Society, or whatever faction of the Travelers he serves, and foment revolt within the ranks of the Regents. I have no doubt I will have to account for my failure to do so someday, but hopefully when I next stand before him, it will by my own eyes that meet his terrible ones.

I do not have the luxury of worrying about him. My time is short; I can see that clearly now. It is only a matter of time before Aeida gains command or this constructed mind collapses in on itself and neither of us survives in any form. I must restore myself before that happens. I must destroy Molijc and end the tyranny of his faith before that comes to pass.

My urgency brings me to my feet. There is no time to linger. As I rise, the colors grow brighter and brighter, at their center a pulsating orb that penetrates deep into my brain, lancing it like some doctor removing a tumor. Darkness is ascendant, and I feel my legs go from beneath me again. Continue reading

Now Available: The Farthest Reaches

THE FARTHEST REACHES

SCIENCE FICTION

CLINT WESTGARD

A mission gone wrong in the vast depths of space. A strange artifact in a rancher’s pasture, that may or may not be of alien origin. A deadly contagion spreading like wildfire across the planet.

These and other stories explore the impossible choices faced by those who have lost everything and the fine line between faith and disbelief, reality and dream, silence and a scream. There are no simple answers in The Farthest Reaches.

A mindbending, universe expanding collection of science fiction stories that will take you to the edges of imagination.

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Excerpt: The Farthest Reaches

In advance of the publication of  The Farthest Reaches on July 27, here is a short excerpt from one of the stories in the collection, Dream Logic :

She suspected, though she had no proof one way or the other, that this fallen realm in which her dream had her trapped was underground.. Perhaps it was the ever-present shadows and darkness, the days as the nights, whole and unchanging that led to this belief. Her existence here was immutable unmarked by any sense of the passage of time. She imagined a world of caverns, hollowed out and reconstructed into this strange habitat that seemed to her without purpose. A dream within a dream, she realized, and perhaps it was just the dream state thwarting her senses and not allowing her to comprehend all that she saw.

The last words of the voice came to her mind, dimly and half-remembered, as though that were the dream and not this. She was following one of her usual trails toward a dispenser that she was knew was still working. After that, if her dream went as it normally did, she would go above to one of the higher rings where there was a large room filled with desks with screens. Some of the screens still worked, after a fashion, and she would sit and watch them flashing their information and images, until she grew restless and started moving again.

This time, compelled by the words, she continued on along the ring, chewing on the block of foul tasting food the dispenser had given her. She often felt ill after she had eaten the food, though this dispenser seemed to agree with her more than the others. It was clearly degrading, as everything here was, and part of her knew that it was only a matter of time until all the dispensers failed entirely. Would her dreams allow that to happen, would her mind compel the machines to continue to work or would the logic of situation play out as it should? And what then?

Not wanting to dwell on that, disliking the sensation of dreaming and yet aware that she was in a dream, she pressed on, ducking through corridors. Rather than taking one of her usual paths, the ones she knew were safe and abandoned, she went to those areas that the Fallen inhabited. Not all of them were unhazardous, she knew, so she went with care, always checking each door she passed through to make sure it had not sealed behind her allowing her no escape.

One of the machines confronted her as she went, looming up out of the darkness, demanding her authorization. Its voice was disturbingly similar to the one that questioned her when she was awake, though they all sounded more or less the same. The flat monotone, parched of emotion.

“The area is contaminated. Please exit immediately. You are not authorized.”

She ignored it, ducking around its bulky frame and moving down the black corridor, the machine sounding an alarm that no longer functioned. The corridor ended at a door that was jammed, which she pushed and pried apart just enough so that she could slip through. She waited a moment to ensure it did not close on her and then turned to go further down the corridor, her path illuminated by a blinking red light along the ceiling. Was this the alarm the machine had started after her breach into his realm, she wondered, or was it from some earlier calamity?

There were a few doors off the corridor, but she knew by the shape and the markings on them that there would be nothing of interest in them. They were small rooms that had perhaps been used for storage or for those who had left to sit in and pass their days. Now they would be empty, or filled with the uninteresting refuse of the decay. At last she found what she had been looking for, a larger door than the others with symbols above its frames. It was open, its automation having failed, and she stepped through into a large chamber.

It was cavernous, the ceiling stretching up past the far reaches of her sight. There were giant tubes, fragile seeming cylinders, and pipes that curved and wound around on themselves, sheltered behind protective glass. Some glowed with dim activity while others were dark. The flashing red light was brighter here, more insistent, if that were possible. She ignored all of that, ducking around the artifacts of this previous age, looking for one of the Fallen. They would be here, she knew, the smell of them was undeniable.

After some searching she managed to find one. He leaned against one of the glowing cylinders, seeming to rest his head against it as he stared off into the distance. In spite of his faraway gaze she felt his eyes upon her, no matter where she stood as she considered her approach. At last, realizing that he would already have seen her anyway, she walked up to him directly. The heat coming from the cylinder on which he rested was tremendous. Instinctively, she crouched down as she moved forward, as though that would protect her from whatever force lay within the tube should it somehow be loosed.

Nothing happened as she came face to face with the Fallen man. The cylinder did not explode, as she had feared, nor did the man rise up and seize her. He continued to stare off into the distance, a leering grin marking his face. She eyed him warily, still unconvinced that this was not some manner of trap that he had lain for her. When he made no motion at all, after she had watched him for several minutes, she moved within range of his grasp, poised to flee at the first instant of motion.

None came and then she wondered if he were waiting for her to speak, to make plain her intentions. How did one address the Fallen? She had no idea, the machines mostly did not respond to her, perhaps it would be the same here. In this realm it seemed she had forgotten the tools of speech, though words still seemed to form as thoughts in her mind. She wet her lips and reached out to touch the man, thinking that if there were no words to speak, then this gesture might be enough.

Her hand had just brushed the cloth of his uniform when one of the machines seized her.

“You are not authorized. The area is contaminated.”

The Farthest Reaches is now available for preorder:
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Now Available: The Woman Who Didn’t Speak

THE WOMAN WHO DIDN’T SPEAK

SCIENCE FICTION

CLINT WESTGARD

In a failing colony, one woman will do whatever it takes to survive.

Soon after their arrival on the planet, everything starts to go wrong. Crops fail. Strange fevers afflict the colonists. Terrible storms rack the settlements. All the while their supplies slowly dwindle.

In the face of such calamity many retreat into despair, refusing to leave their homes. Others embrace an optimism, oblivious of all facts. Marjiana chooses a different path.

A story that asks what you would do when there is no hope to be found in the farthest reaches of space.

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Excerpt: The Woman Who Didn’t Speak

In advance of the publication of The Woman Who Didn’t Speak on June 29, here is a short excerpt:

1

There was no light in the sky when Marjiana rose from bed. The red sun—which she had yet to grow used to in the fifteen years she had lived on this planet—remained hidden from sight behind the horizon. It did not feel like home this place. Not even after all this time living here, not to mention the extended journey to arrive at this destination. It was still a place she had come to, not a place she was from.

And also the place she would be spending her remaining days, however many they might be. For there was no leaving here, no matter how much they all might wish to.

That was a thought best not dwelt upon, especially not first thing in the morning, lest it cast a shadow over the rest of the day. There were shadows enough in this place without bringing more into this world. Life was hard enough as it was.

She did not turn on any lights in the house, preferring to move about by feel, and wanting to preserve their reserves of electricity for necessities and emergencies. A splash of cool water on her face after brushing her teeth was the only luxury she allowed herself. That and the coffee she set to boil atop a gas burner . It was not real coffee, but she had mostly forgotten the taste of the real thing. This was near enough, and even the supplies of it were dwindling.

Day by day all their supplies were dwindling. And what would remain when they were gone?

Another thought best put aside. There was a long day’s work ahead and Marjiana did not need to join those who had succumbed to the settler’s melancholy, remaining in their homes, leaving their fields to ruin, waiting for starvation or the elements to release them from their suffering. Not that it wasn’t tempting. But she had four mouths to feed—five if one counted Kjessel, and she supposed she had to. He was her husband, after all.

When the coffee was ready she drank it, savoring each drop, closing her eyes to listen to the stillness around her. Neither Kjessel nor any of her sons were awake, and none of them would be until after the sun rose. None of the neighbors were up and out in the fields either. The quiet—so strange, at first, after a lifetime spent on a planet with birds and insects, or on the vessel that had brought them here, where there had been a constant hum and hiss of systems at work—was now something she treasured above all else.

It was the one thing she would take from this failed world, if she could. Given there was no leaving here, it was her only solace.

She could hear someone stirring in one of the other rooms and, taking that as her signal, she rose from the kitchen table and went out to the fields to begin her day’s work.

2

Garuhj, the hetman, welcomed them all to the main square of the settlement, embracing many of the women and clenching the hands of the men, beaming from ear to ear. He had been elected hetman in the fifth year of the settlement, the first time the crops failed. They had failed twice more since then, to say nothing of the rhesus fevers, which had killed more than half of those in the settlement. Yet his beaming countenance remained unchanged.

Even now, as the crops began to show the first signs of the strange rot that no one could determine the cause of, Garuhj maintained his outward optimism. Marjiana suspected his own thoughts were not so positive, but the hetman was a politician above all, and versed in projecting confidence. She considered him a thing to be suffered, no different than the rot and the fevers, another of the burdens of this place to be endured.

Welcome Marjiana. Danjiel. Codij. Jeriem. I hope you are all well. Kjessel is not joining the celebration?”

Marjiana shook her head.

He’s not well,” Danjiel said, a little too quickly.

The hetman did not notice, his gaze already going beyond them to the next family of settlers he was to greet. In the celebration that followed, Garuhj gave his usual speech, marked by his typical platitudes and his claim that hope was necessary, in spite of all that had gone wrong.

When we set down on this day, thirteen years ago, it was to an uninhabitable rock. We knew there would be trials and tribulations, and no doubt there have been. Not all of us have survived them, and we would be remiss if we did not remember them. But we need to honor their memory and sacrifice by recognizing what we have achieved, which is so much.

Where once there was a barren windswept landscape, now there is soil, there is air and there is water. All the necessities we require to survive. Instead of looking at all those places where we have struggled and failed, we should look at what we have achieved, and recognize that we have it in us to survive here.”

Garuhj’s eyes flashed with emotion as he spoke. He truly believed. But the celebrations that followed were tepid, everyone only too aware of the failures of the colony. For they were in evidence all around them. The cloudless sky that promised no rain yet again. The thin soil they trod upon, from which little could grow, and which seemed to contain the germ of the rot that ate at what did.

Even the food at the celebration was a sign of failure, for it was taken from the ever-dwindling supplies the vessel that had brought them here had carried. Intended to tide them over during the first lean years after the terraforming was complete, they had been unused initially during those bountiful years, only to become absolutely necessary now.

As Marjiana and the boys prepared to take their leave of the celebration and begin the walk back to their home, about a kilometer from the central square of the settlement, Garuhj intercepted them, barely hiding his concern.

Leaving so soon?” he said. When no one replied, he added, “What’s this I hear about you not speaking anymore?”

Marjiana did not reply, shrugging and motioning her one hand slightly in dismissal in reply. The hetman blinked, unsure how to respond.

She started a month ago,” Danjiel said, flushing red under the hetman’s gaze.

What other symptoms does she have? Has the doctor seen her?”

Oh, she has no symptoms. She just chooses not to speak,” Danjeel said as Marjiana nodded.

Garuhj seemed unsure of himself. “I will ask the Fenon to come by.”

Marjiana frowned and shook her head, with a finality anyone might have understood.

Of course, I understand, but what about your sons?” the hetman stammered.

It’s no problem,” Jeriem, her youngest, said. “We understand her fine.”

Garuhj looked as though he wanted to say more, to argue that Jeriem could not possibly be telling the truth, but a look from Marjiana stopped him short. She led her sons back home, aware as she left the celebration that a number of those present had been watching her conversation with the hetman very closely.

The Woman Who Didn’t Speak is now available for preorder:
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Excerpt: The Purpose of the System

In advance of the publication of The Purpose of the System on May 25, here is a short excerpt:

DISPATCH ONE

The air hisses, like a sigh expiring, as the airlocks link. Hidden gears turn, interlocking, the vessel and the habitat system speaking to each other, and at last the alarm sounds, notifying us that the doors are opening. The alarm continues to pulse, the light above the joined airlocks blinking red in unison with it. I adjust my metabolism, speeding it up from slow time, trying to time it so I reach my normal rates as the door opens and I have to move forward. I need to conserve my energy. There is no telling when I will be able to replenish myself.

Objective: CNS. Habitat A1.

A map of the habitat materializes in my mind as the thought is given voice. I see our path through the habitat to where the CNS is situated. Our target. The going will be easy until the first junction with the outer ring. After that, we will need some luck. Luck, the System’s Trojans and malware, and the System itself to guide us.

Only six of us exit the vessel, not the planned twenty-five. Those left behind did not emerge from the depths of stasis when the System alerted us to our imminent arrival. No information had been offered as to their status and I did not bother to query. They are no longer relevant to the objective.

I can hear the others whisper their invocations to the System, as we pass through the air lock, and I join them. “System guide us. System protect us. We will heed your call.”

The air in the habitat smells sweet, with hints of the sea, vegetation and earth, none of which exist here. The scent has been manufactured, I assume, for those that maintain the habitat. It seems an outrageous luxury in a place where strict functionality is the rule. The habitat’s purpose is to house the CNS, which runs the entire fleet. The Intelligence. There should be nothing extraneous, and yet the smell said otherwise.

We had infected the habitat. The System had, at least. Or other agents in its service. It was not important; we were all the System, all cells in its larger body, subjugated to the larger cause. We had infected this Intelligence, allowing our vessel to dock with the habitat and allowing us entry without being incinerated by the various firewalls. Now we had to evade its secondary security protocols, no mean feat for the six of us remaining.

I feel no fear, in fact, I feel nothing. My emotional dampeners are functioning. Logically, I know, we are all very likely to die. Our individual odds of survival are miniscule, our chances of success only slightly greater. But I am ready. We are all ready for what is to come.

DISPATCH TWO

I dreamed, I was certain of it, though such a thing was not possible in stasis. The images were fleeting, flickers in my data stream, enough so that I could almost tell myself they were messages from the System. But they were not. They were my own thoughts.

The unending streams of data—the intel and subvocalizations of my fellow chosen, my internal health sensors, and above all the System’s voice, with its constant intel updates and objectives—lulled me in my stasis, a comfort. That was what made the dream so disconcerting. It interrupted the streams, drowned them out, leaving me, in a sense, alone with my thoughts. It was utterly terrifying, or would have been, if I had not been in stasis, with my emotional dampeners active.

I saw myself standing before the Intelligence, blood pooling at my feet. I felt a touch of pain that was rapidly dimmed, my body responding with adrenaline and other dampeners. There was a taste of tin in my mouth. Blood as well, I realized. In my hands was my still-beating heart. I held it up to the Intelligence as though in offering.

The Purpose of the System is now available for preorder:
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Now Available: The Purpose of the System

THE PURPOSE OF THE SYSTEM

SCIENCE FICTION

CLINT WESTGARD

The System guides, the System protects, and they will heed its call.

The habitat appears defenseless, but is it? There are strange gaps in their communication, strange odors that no one can place. The System has given them their orders and has an explanation for everything.

But that explanation is called into question when members of their team start to getting killed. Those remaining have to ask themselves the unthinkable: is the System out to get them?

A science fiction story about a mission gone wrong in the vast depths of space.

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