Chris Trengove

Writing about writing

Posts Tagged ‘sci-fi

CLAWS OF VENGEANCE – PROLOGUE & CHAP. 1

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ONE YEAR EARLIER

Scarab fought hard, bringing into play every Man-Jee-Do move she knew. She landed some telling blows, but she was outnumbered five to one – and clearly her captors knew she was a master of the Mangy martial art. The snatch squad carefully kept their distance, using weapons rather than paws to subdue her, finally laying her low with a scything sword slash to her left shin. Scarab went down with an anguished howl, and the squad – masked and covered from head to toe, could have been Katzers or Mangies – grabbed and manacled her, quickly and efficiently. As she struggled and lashed out, one of them rammed a gag into her mouth.
Without a word, her captors dragged Scarab out of Tantamount’s house and into the street, where a covered farm wagon was backed up to the door. It was unremarkable, just a battered wooden cart of a kind used by both Katzers and Mangies. The leader quickly looked up and down the street – it was empty. The hooded driver of the wagon held his whip at the ready, as the sturdy farm rat between the shafts shuffled its paws, awaiting the signal. The squad bundled Scarab into the rear of the wagon and pulled the covering across. As the crew piled in after her, the leader signalled to the driver, who lashed at the rat with his whip. With a jerk, the wagon set off, and the leader leapt up on to the driver’s bench alongside him.
The rat and wagon picked up speed and quickly reached the T-junction by the mouse butcher. Here it took a left turn, just as Mynx appeared from the street on the right. She glanced at the rat and wagon with little curiosity – they were a common sight in Katzburgh – and continued on her way home to Tantamount’s house. But as she approached the familiar thatched cottage she started to have a feeling that something wasn’t quite right – the fur on the back of her neck was ruffling.
Moments later she’d reached the front door – and now every muscle in her body tensed, ready for action. For on it, daubed in crude red letters she saw the words:

MANGY LOVER

oOo

CHAPTER 1

‘I can’t believe it’s been a year since Scarab was taken,’ said Tabith. ‘There was a time you’d have been glad,’ replied Ninelives. ‘That was when I first met her. I hadn’t got to know her. I just thought of her as a Hunting Poodle. A Mangy. But now… it’s hard, not knowing what happened to her.’
Ninelives shrugged, put his arm round Tabith’s waist, drew her towards him as they padded towards Katzburgh’s main gates. ‘We did the best we could Tab. We followed up every lead. If she was taken by Katzers, they either killed her or smuggled her out of the city. It was as if she disappeared into thin air.’ ‘I just can’t believe that Katzers would do such a thing. Everyone liked Scarab. I went to her Man-Jee-Do classes. Everyone thought she was cool.’
‘I know,’ said Ninelives. ‘But some Katzers just saw a Hunting Poodle. A Mangy. They couldn’t accept it.’
The two young Katzers strode arm-in-arm through the gates, acknowledging the guard who watched all those who came or went. His name was Maxwell Tibbles, latest of a long line of Tibbles called to be gate guards. His uncle, Rampart Guard Marvel Tibbles, had laid down his life a couple of years previously, defending the city against Warrod and his hordes.
Ninelives and Tabith had to shoulder their way through crowds, for it was the day of the Festival of Fish – a Katerwaul, one of the many Katzer festivals that divided up the year. There was nothing the citizens of Katzburgh liked better than a chance to eat, drink, sing and dance. Today most of the traffic through the gates was heading outwards, as the Festival was held just outside the city walls.
Ninelives and Tabith were more solidly than ever a couple since they’d both almost died in the Upriver territory a year previously. But they were still close to Mynx, Ninelives’ sister, and Spacer, their enigmatic psychic friend, and it was those two that they were now hurrying to meet.
They reached the edge of the Festival ground and surveyed the colourful stalls and wooden rides that covered a half-mile square. Looming over the area, a massive dark presence, was The Flat Rock, a local landmark. All around, there were tents in which rough wooden tables groaned with bowls and platters of Katzer favourites: smoked carp and roach, eel fingers, crayfish and snails, as befitting the ‘fish’ theme – but also starling kebabs, fillets of mouse and all kinds of milk, cream and yoghurt dishes.
Although it was a cloudy day, the Festival had attracted a good turnout. Young kits rode brightly painted roundabouts and swings, squealing and purring with pleasure as their parents whirled them round or pushed them higher and higher. Over the whole festival floated the joyous sound of music, played by a dozen bands, as well as individual singers and players. Closest to Ninelives and Tabith was the teenage band Skratchers, whose screeched vocals and pounding beat made conversation almost impossible.
Tabith leaned into Ninelives, shouted into his ear: ‘Where did you say we’d meet them?’
‘By the salt fish stall.’ Ninelives pointed ahead. ‘There… next to the helter-skelter.’
Mynx had already arrived, and was munching on a snail-on-a-stick, the garlicky smell detectable yards away. Ninelives hugged his sister, as did Tabith, warmly but a little less enthusiastically. Ninelives and Mynx were bound by ties of family, but Tabith and Mynx had had their differences in the past.
Now the trio gazed around them, trying to locate the fourth member of their crew: Spacer.
‘Did he say he was going to be late?’ asked Tabith.
‘Not really. Well, not as such,’ replied Mynx. ‘You know Spacer… he can be hard to pin down.’
‘Where’s he been anyway?’ asked Ninelives. ‘It’s been weeks since I saw him.’
‘He’s been doing some kind of class,’ said Mynx. ‘He told me he wanted to use his powers to help people.’
‘Spit and screech!’ laughed Ninelives. ‘Really? Spacer? Is he learning or teaching?’
Mynx shrugged. ‘I dunno. He didn’t say.’
Ninelives looked around the milling crowds again. Still no sign of their friend. He checked the sun, now starting the descent from its zenith. ‘We could be waiting for hours. Let’s check out the Festival – Spacer knows we’re here, he’s bound to catch up with us at some point.’
‘All right,’ said Mynx, ‘let’s go on the helter-skelter! Last one to the top’s a furball!’
Pushing and shoving each other, laughing and squealing, the young Katzers rushed to the stairs that led to the top of the wooden tower.

oOo

If Scarab stood on the tips of her hindpaws on the one chair in her cell, she could just see out of the high barred window. There wasn’t much of a view – just the scrubby courtyard in which she and the other the prisoners took their exercise, the high wooden fence that surrounded it, and, beyond, a gaggle of drab and indistinguishable wooden buildings. Still, she occasionally made the effort to peer out, if only to get a glimpse of the sky and, if she was lucky, the sun.
She wasn’t sure how long she’d been captive, although she thought it was about a year. Her captors hadn’t told her why she was locked up, or what they wanted, or what her fate was to be. Her cell was positioned in such a way that she could only communicate with the occupant of the cell across the corridor from hers, whispered exchanges through the food slots in the heavy iron doors. She found out that the prisoner opposite, an ordinary Upland citizen, didn’t know why he’d been imprisoned either. Not that it mattered now – he’d been taken away months ago, and she hadn’t seen him since.
Apart from twice-daily visits by guards – first to deliver a bowl of almost inedible food, second to allow her access to the small exercise patch – she was in solitary confinement. She spent her time doing mental exercises and, when she was sure that she was unobserved, practising Man-Jee-Do. Her cell was just big enough to allow her to carry out the complex manoeuvres.
Already a Man-Jee-Do Black Collar, being able to practise for so many hours a day had enabled her to develop several new moves, unique in their daring and complication. She was also developing extra strength in her claws, hooking them one by one into the wooden headboard of her bed and forcing herself to lift it with one claw. She worked her way through these exercises for several hours a day, and was confident that if anyone tried to grab her today in the same way they did a year ago, she would prevail, whether they were armed or not. Trouble was, her captors didn’t allow her anywhere near them. Food was shoved through the slot, and at exercise time the door was opened by some sort of remote control mechanism, leaving her to walk the enclosed corridor to the courtyard. While she exercised – fast walking or gentle jogging, enough to raise her heart rate, nothing that could cause suspicion – they looked on from a gallery above.
Now Scarab relinquished her vantage point on the chair. It was a dull day, and she couldn’t even enjoy a ray of sunlight on her face. She sprang down, landing lightly and silently. She decided to spend the next few hours, until the arrival of food, developing a Man-Jee-Do move that she’d started to work on a few days earlier. It was a work in progress, but she had high hopes for it. In any event, she had nothing to lose, and it passed the time.
Suddenly, a commotion: doors banging, shouting, an angry yell. Scarab padded to the door and looked out of the food slot, but couldn’t see the end of the corridor where the noise seemed to be coming from. She put her ear to the slot: more noise – screeching now, thumps and bangs. Scarab’s brow wrinkled. There was something familiar about that screech…
Scarab peered through her food slot again, desperate to see what was going on. But the corridor was dark, and clearly the four guards had either drugged or stunned their captive, for they were carrying a limp body, taking a limb each. The bodies of the guards were between Scarab and the unconscious prisoner, so that she could make out nothing, not even whether the body was male or female. One guard reached for his keys, allowing the prisoner’s head to fall to the stone floor with a crack. Scarab winced. If they hadn’t been unconscious before, they would be now. Another guard got the door open, and Scarab saw all four throw the prisoner into the cell like a sack of grain. There was a thump as the body hit the floor, followed by a clang as the door was slammed shut.
There was nothing further to see. Scarab abandoned the food slot, paced up and down. This was the first new prisoner in… what? Must be months anyway. Of course there were other captives in other cells. She saw them looking at her on her way to exercise… rheumy, hopeless eyes peering at her through their food slots. But this one was different. She knew she could communicate with the occupant of the cell opposite, or at least had been able to, until he was taken away. Briefly, Scarab allowed herself a glimmer of hope. Two heads were always better than one… and she at least had nothing to lose. Scarab went back to the food slot, looked left and right, even though she could see no further than a few feet either way. Nothing. No one. She put her mouth to the slot and whispered: ‘Hey!’
Nothing.
She whispered again, a little louder: ‘You, in the cell. Can you hear me?’
A moment passed. Then, a moan… barely audible, the sound of a creature in pain. From its timbre, Scarab could ascertain only one thing: that it was uttered by a female…

Written by Chris Trengove

April 12, 2017 at 4:06 pm

CHAPTER 1 OF ‘FRANKENSTEIN VIGILANTE: THE INCORRUPTIBLES’

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At presstime we’re working on the final chapters of THE RECKONING, the third book in the FRANKENSTEIN VIGILANTE series – book one, THE INCORRUPTIBLES and the second volume, THE FEAR, are both currently available. Here’s the opening chapter of THE INCORRUPTIBLES, in which our heroes are found fighting off ruthless mobsters The Silencios:

OUTSIDE, IT WAS PAST MIDNIGHT, but who would know, the way days were in The Smoke; the dirt, the smog, sulphurous vapour eternally swirling, daylight hours often as dark as night.
That was one of the passions that drove Doctor Pedro Robledo Efrain’s furious efforts to find solutions; not so much the dark of the days but the filth, the mucous acid air that ate away soft membranes and turned eyes red as roosters. Tonight, he’d been working eighteen straight hours in his laboratory, the electro-acetylene arclights throwing pools so brilliant that individual molecules might almost have popped into view; but only Efrain’s rumbling hungry stomach marked the passage of time.
Several years ago, he had brought electricidad to life, summoned it from the skies, harnessed it, certain that one day it would render coal and shale extinct, evolve The Smoke to a state of grace beyond steam. But, summoned, electricidad refused to capitulate, other than on a scale that could power Arielectros and other small two- and three-wheeled vehicles. These were being seen in gradually increasing numbers on The Smoke’s streets, humming along for the short distances they could achieve between battery changes.
On the grand scale needed to light and power The Smoke, electricidad killed even while it promised a new life. Efrain had succeeded in storing the new force in accumulators; sidecar-sized for the Arielectros, and massive lead and glass structures for heavy duty usage. These batteries would hold their charge for a short while, but the real problem remained: how to transmit electricidad over distances longer than a city block without fatal side-effects. Efrain’s single-minded determination to solve this conundrum provided all the sustenance he needed to work days and nights at a time.
With the kind of money they made, the danger pay, the pioneering electricista engineers might have leapfrogged into The Smoke’s affluenzos but for the extreme peril of their work, which had a fifty per cent mortality rate. Efrain had built diffusers to neutralize stray death waves, but so far they didn’t react fast enough to be much use.

Now he bent over an aluminium chassis on which were mounted a series of ceramic coils, his focus so intense that he didn’t hear the laboratory door open. Didn’t see the killers who moved silently through the pools of blinding acetylene light. Didn’t sense the presence of death.
To the assassins, focussed on Efrain’s laboratory-coated back, the man seemed more vigorous than expected. Leaner. More youthful. But it was just a sense. How could it be more, the Doctor hunched over his coils, his face hidden from the assassins?
They glided across the laboratory in formation, an asymmetrical trident, the smallest and most lethal of the trio leading, blade glittering, held flat, parallel to the floor. The second assassin carried a spring-loaded cosh, and the third a short-barreled Smallwood shotgun, hammers cocked. The lead killer drew back for the attack, his plan to angle the blade in below the rib cage and then twist and sweep, so that the razor edge would slice organs, guts and blood vessels – not an immediate death but spectacular, and the Silencios loved spectacle. It kept the victim pool cowed.
But even as the murderer reached for Efrain, planning to lock one arm around the Doctor’s neck while the other plunged the knife, the Doctor turned and stood tall, his lab coat hanging open to reveal not a middle-aged, frail academic but the young, powerful Cerval Franks, leader of the youthful vigilantes known throughout The Smoke as the Incorruptibles. No one knew their identities, but they were capturing the imagination of The Smoke’s UnderGrunts and, increasingly, its hard-pressed middle class. One thing was certain – they were hated equally by Silencio mobsters and the Commission. In The Smoke’s oligarchy, the Commission was the administration and the executive, the Silencios the executioners.
The killer hesitated for a second then pressed ahead, knowing he was supported by bludgeon and shotgun; but the delay was enough. Cerval’s hand shot forward, holding the jagged end of a glass pipette. Its hollow tube pierced the assassin’s throat just below his Adam’s apple. Cerval withdrew the tube and stepped back, watching with an almost curious expression as the assassin’s hands went to the tiny round, red wound. He tried to speak, but air burst from the hole, diverted from his vocal cords, spraying pink foam. Nothing but a stunned, sibilant hiss – then the killer support crew burst into action, recovered from its moment of shocked paralysis.
In these desperate fractions of seconds, which stretched out into long and easy moments of contemplation as lethal action slowed time, Cerval wondered what had happened to the journalist. Where was she? Had he chosen the wrong one, distracted by sexual desire, the gut kick he’d experienced when she’d interviewed him? Too late now. She’d miss the sting, a sensational exclusive that would surely have enabled her to break free from the smarmy platitudes of The News Of The Smoke’s society columns.
During these contemplative fractions of time, it seemed that Cerval was a sitting target; for he took no notice of the two follow-up killers, the one raising his cosh and the other the sawn-off Smallwood. His focus remained on the standing knifeman who, though not yet dead, was immobilized by incomprehension and agonizing pain.
Then – pandemonium. A giant of a man – young, but well over seven feet tall – erupted from beneath a massive copper and teak workbench, sending it flying as if it were a child’s school desk. The giant seized the Smallwood, wrenched it from the killer’s grip, reversed it and fired both barrels. The blast almost cut the gunman in two, throwing him back in a splatter of red and fatty tissue, a stench of gunpowder and shit.
“Thorsten,” said Cerval reprovingly; ideally, his plan called for the assassins to be taken alive and made to reveal their employers. But even as he spoke Evangeline Evionne appeared, as if from nowhere, springing towards the third killer. Despite the shock of Efrain’s transformation into Cerval and the Smallwood’s deafening blast, his cosh was already raised and swinging down in a short arc which would shatter Evangeline’s skull – except that she was now where the cosh was not, seizing the killer’s arm as it descended. He stumbled forward, and Evangeline whipped him in an almost complete circle, initiating a violent somersault which ended when his head struck the sharp brass corner of another lab bench. He slid to the floor, leaking blood and brains.

It had all taken perhaps thirty seconds; and in the silence, shotgun blasts still echoing in their ears, Cerval stepped towards his still-standing assassin and gently shoved him backwards. The man sat heavily, the grunt coming not from his mouth but from the hole Cerval had opened in his throat. He tried to say something but only gurgled a bloody spray. From his sitting position he fell slowly sideways, to lie spreadeagled like a broken puppet.
“Can’t speak?” asked Cerval. “Now you really are a Silencio.”

A sudden explosion of sound and action and the three Incorruptibles whirled to see at least half a dozen more Silencio gunmen smashing into the lab. An ambush! A betrayal! The journalist? Or, Cerval wondered, at the moment he foresaw and accepted his own death, a set-up: the Silencio bosses were ruthless enough to sacrifice the first three assassins if it meant that they could kill or capture the young vigilantes.
A gurgle. Cerval looked down and saw a half-smile flicker across the face of the stricken knifeman. In a spasm of fury he slammed his foot down on the man’s punctured throat and heard the hyoid break. The knifeman’s silence was now eternal. Cerval turned to join his partners. They would sell their lives at high cost.
Cerval, Thorsten and Evangeline were hopelessly out-numbered and out-gunned. Cerval himself had no weapon – he hadn’t thought he would need one for this simple sting operation, designed simply to capture Silencio assassins and expose them. The sting was just part of Cerval’s longer term plan to sever the connection between the Commission and the Silencios, to empower The Smoke’s people to halt the city-state’s decline from democracy to autocracy.
He had dedicated his young life to this idea, and believed, heart and soul, that the elimination of crime and corruption, the destruction of the Silencios, the Commission’s most effective enforcers, was the first step. That was the story the journalist was supposed to tell on the back of this sting. The plan had backfired.

Off to one side, the giant Thorsten had picked up the lab table and, holding it before him like a huge shield, was driving a handful of shooters back. Some were armed with Smallwoods, latest model, their blasts deep, booming, regularly spaced because every two shots required reloading; some were armed with the new multi-barreled Ximan machine pistol, a weapon whose wild inaccuracy was counteracted by its terrifying fire power. As the slugs hit the two inch teak of the table top, splinters flew off the reverse side, slicing into Thorsten, but the giant youth continued to move forward, fearless, a force beyond nature.
Evangeline was fighting her own battles, zigzagging with the unpredictable speed and the dance-like moves of karoeira, the martial art she had practised for twelve years. She hit one gunman so hard that his ribcage imploded and the Ximan flew from his hands. Evangeline snatched the weapon out of the air and tossed it to Cerval, who turned it on the attackers but was hamstrung by the weapon’s erratic pattern. In these close quarters, he might as easily kill or wound his friends as his enemies.

On one level, Cerval fought for his life. On another, he continued to wonder: if this was a Silencio ambush, how had they known of his plan? Had he been betrayed by the beautiful journalist? Or by one of the Incorruptibles, unthinkable as that might be? Was there an unknown informer?
He knew that he would never have the chance to figure it out, for he, Thorsten and Evangeline were going to die in this ambush. Already, Thorsten was weakening, lacerated horribly by the teak splinters and now under attack by two shotgunners who had outflanked him. Cerval lunged towards them, cranking the Ximan and seeing the heavy slugs stitch a blood-soaked path across one of the Silencio goons. The others were too close to Thorsten for Cerval to get a clean shot, so he dropped the weapon and sprang forward, knife in hand, accepting that he would die in the attempt to save his oldest friend.
He found Evangeline at his side and couldn’t help himself.
“Sorry,” he said.
“Better sorry than safe,” she replied and the two of them moved to join their staggering, bleeding, dying friend, the mountainous Thorsten Laverack.

Written by Chris Trengove

October 13, 2014 at 6:25 pm

THEN TWO COME ALONG AT ONCE…

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Although it’s been a year since I last blogged, I’ve been pretty busy, with commissioned animation work, script mentoring duties and of course new books.

Peter and I have been beavering away, and have added a second volume to our Steampunk Series FRANKENSTEIN VIGILANTE, this one entitled THE FEAR. It takes up the narrative a few months after the first book finished, with the revolution in The Smoke collapsing, causing violence in the streets and crushing repression by the resurgent Commission and their Silencio thugs. At first Cerval Frankenstein is more concerned about the terrible injuries suffered by his lover Evangeline Evionne during the showdown that led to the death of Silencio boss Franklyn Rooseveldt Pfarrer. But once she’s been fitted with state-of-the-art prosthetic legs, Cerval and his Vigilantes set out once more to take on The Smoke’s corrupt rulers.

Our other new book is the third in our Horror Series, a 27,000 word novella entitled NIGHT OF THE DOGS. Set in and around a rundown care home on an even more rundown sink estate, it posits the question: what happens when ‘weapon dogs’, trained by their ‘masters’ to be aggressive killers, get a taste for human flesh and turn on their owners? Brutal and horrific, it’s both a bleak portrait of modern Britain and a heart-pounding tale of terror.

We’re currently working on the third FRANKENSTEIN VIGILANTE book, to be entitled THE RECKONING. Watch this space!

Written by Chris Trengove

August 12, 2014 at 4:00 pm

THUNDERING AHEAD!

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Kevin Hopgood has done a very cool cover featuring Ninelives and Tabith aboard their war rat, and CLAWS OF THUNDER is now up for sale on Amazon Kindle. Sales for CLAWS OF FURY are slowly picking up, and hopefully there’ll now be symbiosis between the two titles. THUNDER is aimed at a slightly higher age group than FURY, and takes the story on a year or so from the ending of the first book. This time round Ninelives and co. investigate an eco-disaster, along the way encountering electric storms, giant mutant creatures and marauding dog soldiers. In a thrilling final showdown, Ninelives goes head to head with Gizzard the Merciless, in a battle that he can’t afford to lose. CLAWS OF THUNDER is the second volume of a projected Trilogy, with the third, CLAWS OF VENGEANCE, now in development. Watch this space!

Written by Chris Trengove

February 22, 2012 at 7:25 pm