EXCERPT from Chapter Two of Outer Diverse, Book 1 of The Splintered Universe Trilogy: Galactic Guardian Detective Rhea Hawke sits in her boss’s office after she kills a lead in a skirmish before she is able to acquire critical information on a case. Hawke insists that the Vos (an alien race that had previously attacked Earth) are linked to the spiritual sect massacre she is investigating.
“You don’t get it, Hawke,” he cut me off, smacking the table with his large hand. “I’m not just taking you off the case; I’m closing it. You’re the only proponent of a Vos link and you keep killing your witnesses. We’ll pursue the spiritual killings some other way, with other—less controversial—operatives, but we’re not chasing some Vos-related fantasy. You’re the only one who believes that the Vos have something to do with Eclipse’s Uma-1 massacre and The Rose’s hit list. There’s nothing here to show me that the Vos have returned or intend to. It’s over, Hawke.” He snapped the dossier shut with a finality that made me flinch.
With that final move, he’d nullified my last two months of work: the countless hours of research; dogging subversives and terrorists across the galaxy to dark alleys and smoky back rooms of seedy bars on nameless planets; the needless sacrifices made by colleagues, not to mention my own blunders. With the case shut, Asphalios, even V’mer, had died for nothing.
“I went along with your crazy hunch,” Ennos continued savagely. “Now I’m cutting it loose. This investigation is over. You’ve done enough damage. I want your gun, your badge, and your Great Coat. We’ve impounded Benny.”
He was leading to this but it hit me like a MEC concussion wave anyway. I swallowed the saliva collecting in my mouth and kept swallowing down the ache that rose in my throat. A sudden tremble shook me. Tears stung the backs of my eyes and threatened to close my throat. He was firing me. Only, Ennos couldn’t do it outright. He was too soft on me. Because of my mother. He was trying to ease me out by convincing me it was my idea. Mouth compressing to a thin line, I commanded myself not to cry in front of him; I’d never cried in front of anyone. But I couldn’t say what I wanted to say or the dam would break and the tears would flow. I could only stare at him with the eyes of a wounded animal, pleading and glaring at the same time.
“Hand them over,” Ennos said, taking advantage of my silence. He motioned to me impatiently with his hand, eyes shifting away.
I fumbled shakily for the sobek wallet that held my Enforcer badge and slammed it a little harder than I’d intended on the desk. Then I pulled out my slim pocket pistol from an inside fold of my Great Coat and placed it on the desk beside the badge.
“The MEC too,” Ennos said. “You know the rules,” he reminded me. “It’s non-regulation. No civilian is permitted to have a non-regulation weapon or to carry anything higher than a Class D.”
I sucked in a long breath then snapped open the holster on my thigh and surrendered my MEC alongside the pocket.
Ennos scowled at the gun. My weapon of senseless destruction, he’d called it. Yet he’d pleaded for the design earlier, then bullied me with threats of confiscation after I’d demonstrated the MEC’s capability for devastation.
“Just so you know, sir,” I said, hand resting on the weapon and eyes pinning his, “if anyone tries to design this MEC from its parts, they’ll never succeed, because I rigged a failsafe mechanism based on an algorithm only I know. It’ll be useless.”
Then I slowly let go. Ennos’s face remained stony cold but I thought I noticed it twitch and his eyes briefly falter.
“The coat,” he said.
After another moment of hesitation, I shrugged out of my Great Coat, the Enforcer’s real badge. My shield. I folded it carefully and slowly, stroking the smooth sentient fabric with trembling hands, then placed it on top of the badge and weapons. I stood rigid in my black sleeveless top and trousers, arms hanging stiff at my sides and fighting off shivers. I felt naked.
“That’s all, Hawke,” Ennos muttered. He avoided my eyes and waved a dismissive hand while finding some files to study. “Get your personal things in Stores. Take a holiday in the Rec-Center. Find your life again,” he ended, not bothering to look up, and I knew I’d been dismissed. And fired.
Outer Diverse is the first book of The Splintered Universe Trilogy:
When Galactic Guardian Rhea Hawke investigates the genocide of an entire spiritual sect, she collides not only with dark intrigue but with her own tarnished past. Her quest for justice catapults Rhea into the heart of a universal struggle across alien landscapes of cruel beauty and toward an unbearable truth she’s hidden from herself since she murdered an innocent man.
Get the complete Splintered Universe Trilogy. Available in ALL THREE FORMATS: print, ebook, and audiobook. You can listen to a sample recording of all three audiobooks through Audible. Read the Splintered Universe reviews on Goodreads.
Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in 2020.