Sneak Previews


Can you say “Insta-lanche”?

Dr. Helen Smith (wife of Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds) recently started a new social hub for like-minded libertarian-ish people, called simply Helen’s Page, and yesterday I posted a notice that Perigee was on sale for 99 cents. Professor Reynolds then gave it a brief plug on Instapundit, and BOOM went the dynamite!

As of right now, it’s #12 on Amazon’s technothriller list and rapidly closing on Tom Clancy’s six. Of course, that won’t really mean anything until I’m making Clancy-level bank and can buy my own personal baseball team. Anybody know a good Hollywood agent? Yeah, I know: oxymoron. But for now it’s awesome just to see it on the same browser page as Jack Ryan’s creator.

Some readers have inquired about the sequel, titled I Have No Freaking Idea What To Call This Book. Or if that doesn’t work, maybe something simple, catchy, that nicely bookends the two novels.

Like, I dunno, Apogee. Yeah, that’s the ticket! All shall gaze in wonder and despair at my luminous, unrestrained genius! ‘Cause I’m a writer, beeches.

I first posted a preview last year, back when I was still toying with “Terminal Velocity” as a title. So for you newbies, please allow me to make it easy for you. For my old readers: hang on, more is on the way. I do appreciate every single one of you, and in all seriousness give thanks to God every time more copies are downloaded through the wonder of Amazon.

In the future, I’ll collect these sneak peeks under the new “Book Previews” category. Enjoy!

. . .

APOGEE

by Patrick Chiles

. . .

Keep breathing.

Simon Poole could barely think of anything else at the moment. It was something he’d always taken for granted, and now the sudden realization surprised him. This, despite spending much of his adult life at the mercy of the various machines that had encased his fragile human body and provided for its needs. He’d learned how to escape from a crippled submarine or survive a rapid decompression in space, but through all of those years the simple act of breathing had always been something he just did.

Until now.

Poole’s skin tingled sharply, a harsh warning against the rapidly evacuating air. His lungs hurt like hell, which he knew wasn’t about to get any better. It was best to just let them deflate — once the pressure differential had dropped enough, holding his breath would rupture them like overinflated balloons. He’d have to will himself past the reflexive panic that would surely come as his brain began to ache for air, before hypoxia set in. Before he became delirious.

He just hoped his eyeballs didn’t freeze first.

He struggled with the release mechanisms surrounding the airlock hatch, and cursed the engineers that had made them so overcomplicated. And what a damned stupid place to store the emergency patch kits in the first place…more items for his flight debrief logs once they returned to Denver, whenever that might be.

The compartment walls behind him fluttered and rippled as the supporting air escaped. The hab was essentially a big Kevlar balloon and would collapse as it deflated, like a child’s birthday decoration. The cylindrical walls seemed to constrict around him, something his vacuum-addled mind strangely welcomed. Maybe it would be warmer.

Keep breathing.

A sudden, stabbing headache sharpened his focus and brought him back to the task at hand. Poole braced himself against the lip of the hatchway and gave the latch one final, frantic twist. The stubborn portal flew violently open and he felt a stinging blow as it connected with his left arm. With mostly normal air pressure on the opposite side, the simple act of breaking the seal was enough for the hatch to release as if it had been kicked open by some unseen giant.

No matter. Poole had to keep going, and so he ignored the throbbing pain to push ahead through the welcome rush of air. As the compartment emptied into the thinning vacuum behind him, he inhaled deeply and finally risked holding his breath. The headache mercifully disappeared with it.

Thinking clearly again, he used his good arm to reach back and pull the hatch shut. It was much harder working against the torrent of air flowing past. Grunting from the strain, he felt the hatch seat itself against the rim and heard a satisfying whistle as air pressure returned.

Peering through the door’s small porthole, he watched the habitation module finally collapse around its central frame. Now fully exposed to space, it began fluttering like a loosely-gathered sail in doldrum seas. The blood stains that had pasted the sleeping compartment bulkheads were shaken loose, and he watched globules of his first officer’s vital fluids undulating across the voided chamber.

Simon Poole turned away from the window and numbly took stock of his surroundings. It didn’t take long as there wasn’t much to inventory: some emergency rations, a first aid kit, and that was about it. And there — the emergency patch kit. A fat lot of good it’d do him now.

After another long, luxurious draught of air, he sighed with the understanding that this tiny compartment was likely to become his sarcophagus. As ancient Egyptian kings had once commanded their servants to face eternity buried with them beneath the great pyramids, so would he spend it in a tiny aluminum cylinder, doomed to forever circle the Moon.

Keep breathing.

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