Below is an exclusive excerpt from Supernova, which follows Althea as she protects her now-sentient ship the Ananke. The ship, meanwhile, is learning about humanity. Our excerpt concerns Constance, the leader of the revolution touched off in Lightless. She’s in charge now, and is in danger of proving that power corrupts.
Supernova comes out July 27.
The alarm blared, the sound of it physically percussive. Constance flexed her fingers around the barrel of her long gun warily, keeping it low.
At the point that Mattie had marked out on the blueprints, there were five doors. She gestured Mattie toward one door and Ivan toward another, and they left to explore the rooms she had indicated while she moved on to the third door. It opened easily and led to nothing but a room of small arms. She left it and moved on to the fourth.
Mattie was back in the hallway when she emerged, crouched beside the fifth door, his lock picks out, two of them tucked beneath his teeth. He lifted his eyebrows at her beneath his long bangs.
“Think this is it,” he said around the lock picks.
“It’s the only one locked so far. Low security, but I bet there’s an electronic lock on the other side.” He sounded like he relished the idea.
Constance watched him wiggle the metal bits around a little longer and then checked her timepiece. Less than twenty minutes before the air locks shut them into this segment of the greenhouse; then they would be thoroughly trapped and as good as dead.
“Move,” she told Mattie.
When he was away, Constance fired a burst from her gun at the door. The lock shattered, and the door fell limply open. Mattie scowled at her.
From somewhere nearby a burst of weapons fire echoed hers.
Mattie started, dropping the lock picks on the floor, but Constance threw out a hand to still him. Beneath the relentless alarm, she heard the sound of a different weapon firing: Ivan’s gun.
“Stay here; open the inner door,” she ordered Mattie, and before he could protest, she chased the sounds of the firefight past the door through which Ivan had disappeared.
Ivan’s door had led to a sequence of rooms in labyrinthine combination. Constance walked as swiftly and as quietly as she could from room to room, following the echoing and intermittent gunfire.
She saw them before she heard them. Ivan had gotten close enough to his attackers to disarm them. One man was dead already, and as she watched, not close enough for a clear shot, Ivan tackled another, the man’s head slamming hard against the floor.
The third attacker picked himself up off the ground, grabbed his fallen gun, and stepped forward to aim that gun at Ivan’s temple. Ivan turned his head to look up not at the man holding the gun but at the gun itself, which was aimed directly at his skull. He looked at the gun with a strange and wary anticipation. Constance had seen that expression on his face before, though she could not remember where.
“You set that bomb off,” said the man, panting from the struggle. “Did you come here alone?”
Ivan didn’t answer. The second man, the one he had slammed against the floor, was stirring beneath him, blood coming from his head but his eyes blinking open. Ivan still had him pinned down, but the man with the gun had Ivan pinned in return.
“Answer me,” the man with the gun said. “Are you alone?”
Constance finally got a clear shot. She fired efficiently twice; the man holding a gun on Ivan
dropped dead. Ivan did not flinch but stared blankly at where the gun had been. Beneath him, the last surviving System soldier was breathing hard, captive. Constance scanned Ivan quickly: no serious injuries that she could see.
There was no time for relief now, but Constance felt it anyway. “Move,” she said to Ivan, and he obeyed, and she shot the soldier in the head.
She led him back out of the labyrinth of rooms to the hallway and then into the room where Mattie was working on cracking the electronic lock while throwing anxious glances at the gaping doorway. Something settled in his shoulders when Constance and Ivan both returned. Ivan went to crouch beside him, peering over Mattie’s shoulder at the little handheld computer Mattie had hooked up to the security system. Constance stood guard while they tapped and forced their way in, and the alarm continued to wail.
It seemed to take forever, but she knew that it could not have been more than a minute or two before the door opened. They still had fifteen minutes before Mattie’s estimate of when the air lock would close. They would need to get out in seven. They would do it, she told herself, and tried not to listen to her troubling doubts. What if this was the wrong door? What if what they were looking for was not inside? If it wasn’t, all of this had been for nothing, none of it would matter—-
“Huntress,” Ivan said. They had taken out all the System cameras and broadcast equipment before entering the base, but it would take only one mistake for the System to learn Constance’s identity, and so he called her by what had become a title.
Constance turned and saw the bomb.