Worldbuilding is one of my favorite things about writing books. From altogether new worlds like my Federation Chronicles to our contemporary world which still needs to be drawn for a reader, the world an author builds around her characters is what allows readers to settle in for a ride, a way of introducing them to the lives of the characters and where their stories take place. This week, I thought I’d give you all a sneak peek at April’s MESMERIZED, book 2 in my Phantom Corps series because futuristics are one of my very favorite genres to write.
When You Least Expect It…
They call him the Shadow. Andrei Solace delivers death on silent feet as an assassin for the Phantom Corps. The perfect weapon in the fight against the Imperium, he’s sent to the same ‘Verse he left behind as a youth.
Piper Roundtree is a mercenary prepared for anything—except for being rescued from Imperial lackeys by the man she hasn’t laid eyes on in eleven years. While she remembers every mesmerizing sensation he gave her, she thought they were through. And against the backdrop of an impending war, their passion is reignited.
The girl Andrei once loved is now a fierce woman who can pilot a ship through canyons at high speeds, and drive him wild with equalabandon. As much as Andrei tries to protect her from the darkness inside him, Piper admires his skills and the code he lives by. Now the lovers must join forces—in more ways than one—to save the Known Universe before the enemy hurls it into irreversible chaos…
In MESMERIZED the Federated Universes are on the very brink of war with the Imperialists. Diplomacy has failed and Roman Lyons has given his people instructions to find the source of the materials being smuggled into the Imperium used to fuel a device to bring them all to their knees. The awesome thing about this series is that by this point, the basics of the world are in place. We know there are Portals through which all travel between Universes is carried out. In Relentless we’ve gotten to know Ravena and now it’s back to the Edge, back to the frontier ‘Verses on the border with the Imperium so the focus narrows again on the characters traveling through each ‘Verse heading far away from the Center.
To me, the key is showing what the world is like, both physically and emotionally for these characters, especially as they begin their voyage at the beginning of the book, all for different reasons, all with a purpose. So the world isn’t just the transports and the sidewalks, it’s the people and the way they’re all reacting to recent events… So here’s a scene from near the beginning of the book…
PHANTOM CORPS: MESMERIZED by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2011, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, The Berkley Group
Releasing Aprin, 2011
The tug in his belly, followed by the arrival chimes signaled the transport’s arrival at the Portal. Andrei stood and stretched. Thank the Gods he’d be stopping off in Mirage with Julian for a time. Too much portal travel didn’t sit well with him. He hated the confinement of it.
He nudged his traveling companion, who started awake and nodded up at him sleepily. Julian had been down, adrift after the loss of their friend and an old flame of Andrei’s, Marame, not too very long ago in an attack at the Portal Station on Ravena. Andrei had agreed with Daniel, his boss of sorts and the leader of the Phantom Corps teams, that Julian needed the work to keep his mind off the loss. To give him something to do.
After Marame’s murder, they’d ordered Julian on leave, but he’d only wallowed, drinking too much and he’d ended up in lock-up so Daniel hauled him from the cell and handed him to Andrei, as he’d come back from a trip to Borran to check the munitions depot.
As it happened, they all had plenty to do so it wasn’t difficult. Julian most likely knew it was about getting him away from Ravena to get his mind elsewhere, but he went where he was told because it was his job and grieving or not, he believed in it. Just as Andrei did.
Julian was good at his job. A good man to have at your back. Agile. Intelligent. The best hand-to-hand fighter he’d ever seen. And he had a fire inside to avenge the death of his friend. Truth be told, they needed people like him out in the field just then.
That didn’t mean Andrei was taking him along to Asphodel though.
Asphodel was full of ghosts and Andrei didn’t want to share that with anyone else. Aside from assignment with Daniel, he preferred to work alone anyway.
“Let’s go. We’re meeting Vincenz shortly.” He grabbed his bag, tossed Julian’s at him and unlatched the door.
The hallways of the transport were already a hive of activity. Porters wheeling carts around, passengers leaving their rooms, some heading back to them. Safety crew were on the high walks checking the seams. Others stood near the exits with their bright yellow vests, holding signs written in standard, telling each group where to disembark.
The noise and chaos of it rose as Andrei and Julian moved toward the disembarkation ramps. The white noise of it allowed Andrei to focus on important details. Allowed him to flick his gaze around the area, at the hidden spots, the elevated places where an attack could be launched. Allowed him to be sure everything was in the place it should be. Even chaos had its rules and a crowd always worked in a few, certain ways.
This one seemed to be fine. Worry was in the air. Which was normal given the way things had been going lately between the Federation and the Imperialists. And it was close to The Edge, where tensions had been heightened for far longer than those deeper in the Federation had experienced it.
Julian stood at his side, Andrei knew, calculating everything. Julian’s brain was like a machine. He was always making computations, always extrapolating data, working best and worst case scenarios.
“Documents,” the bored ticket taker barked as they approached.
Phantom Corps operatives always traveled with civilian documents, though they could, and did, pull in clout when it was necessary. Andrei preferred to slip, unnoticed through the public berths.
Most people hated crowds, but as they were waved through, Andrei again thanked all the reasons crowds were so annoying. All the noise and bustle tended to interfere with people’s ability to really concentrate. Not so him, but most others. And while they stumbled around, he could get his job done.
Julian tipped his chin toward the line of public conveyances for hire. “Let’s catch one to Vincent’s.” Vincent was Vincenz Fardelle, son of the leader of the Imperialist Universes. He’d left some standard years before, seeking asylum in the Federated Universes and had been integral to their information gathering here on the Edge.
Andrei followed him toward the conveyances. Shadows lived in Julian’s gaze. Andrei knew them well enough, he supposed he had some of his own. It did no good to give in to the gulf of grief simply waiting patiently to swallow a man alive.
Julian was alive. Andrei had known Marame. Intimately for nearly a standard year. He knew she’d agree that being alive was a good, solid thing. It was all a man had at the end of the day when the lights were off and there was no one around to lie to him.
In the meantime, there was work to be done and Marame wouldn’t have been offended one bit to know they were going to avenge her murder.
The conveyance driver nodded as Julian gave him the address. Andrei approved of the surly, quiet man who drove expertly through the madness of the crowds.
Andrei settled back against the cracked, stiff material of the seat and looked through the window at the passing scene outside. The streets of the portal city teemed with travelers. With vendors and polis. Hustle and bustle, Daniel had called it. But beneath the frenzied stream of people and the hum of their activity there was also tension.
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