In September, we brought you an exclusive excerpt from C.A. Higgins’ sci-fi debut, Lightless, which follows computer scientist Althea as she tries to defend her spaceship from a terrorist attack. Now we have an exclusive look at the second installment in the trilogy, Supernova, in which Althea has defeated the first oppressive government only to discover that the new ruler may bring a whole new set of problems to her military ship.
Supernova hits shelves July 26. Read an excerpt below.
The rock dust from the explosion billowed. Pallas’s gravity was so low that it could take days for it to settle back down again. The particles reached so high they dusted against the glassy ceiling of the segmented greenhouse enclosure that separated Pallas’s manufactured atmosphere from the distant stars. Constance stepped out from behind the stone in whose shadow she had sheltered to watch the dust and smoke poison the atmosphere. Some distance behind her, the glass walls that separated this segment of the greenhouse enclosure from its adjoining section shivered with the shockwave of the blast.
“Nice job,” said Mattie, with a cough, coming out from behind a stone windbreak of his own. There was blood on his cheek already, but they weren’t near done yet.
Ivan, following him out, was unbloodied. His blue eyes were as clear and distant as the starscape overhead, the one being slowly concealed by the creeping smoke
“Masks on,” said Constance. Mattie took his oxygen mask from Ivan and fitted over his nose and mouth, but when Ivan handed Constance her mask his fingers captured hers.
“Keep your head,” he said. After the warmth of Mattie’s Mirandan tenor, the sharp clarity of his Terran accent was startling. Constance did not bother to respond.
“The smoke’s spreading pretty fast,” said Mattie through the mask, with a speculative eye on the dust from the explosion, on the shell of the greenhouse enclosure. When the sensors inside the greenhouse enclosure sensed the smoke, Constance knew, they would close off this segment of the greenhouse enclosure to keep the other segments open and livable.
“How long?” she asked.
She knew Mattie was grinning by the crinkles near his eyes. “I think the System’s got maybe half an hour before they’re trapped in here.”
“Then so do we,” said Ivan, and put his own mask on.
The front of the slow, thick cloud of debris had almost reached them. “Let’s go,” said Constance, and stepped into the smoke and dusted stone.
The sunlight was dim and distant on Pallas, but not so distant as it had been on Miranda, where Constance had been born. She was used to seeing by the light of her own eyes. The System soldiers would be Terrans, like Ivan; they would be used to bright sunlight and clear day. She navigated her way through the cloud unerringly, stepping carefully over the olivine-flecked Palladian stone.
There was a flickering orange light ahead, pulsing through the smoke. Fire. Constance stalked towards it carefully. Shadowed and blurred figures moved around the fire—System agents, working to suppress the fire. In a place of limited oxygen, like the atmospheric domes, there was no higher priority than controlling a fire, and that would distract the System for just long enough.
Constance’s goal was the ground zero of the explosion. Here, the smoke was thick enough, and the flames hot enough, that few of the System had dared to come near. But Constance did not slow or hesitate, and Mattie stalked forward like a wolf on the hunt, and she felt Ivan’s presence at her back, unshakeable. When a few soldiers emerged, coughing maskless in the smoke, Mattie took them out easily with his pistol.
As they passed the bodies, Constance thought she heard Ivan pause behind her, standing over the corpses; but when she looked back he was moving again, with no reaction to the bodies that she could see.
The bomb she had planted had destroyed the outer wall of the System base’s armory. The System probably thought that she had planted the bomb wrong and missed out on her chance to destroy them, but the explosion had gone completely according to plan. Constance did not want to destroy this base. She wanted to get inside.
The air was clearer once she was through the shattered wall and into the uniform concrete hallways of the System base. Overhead, an alarm blared with incessant volume, red lights flashing over the hall like the fire flashed over the stone outside.
Ivan had taken off his mask and was wiping ash off his pale cheeks. Mattie tapped Ivan twice on his waist as he passed, dust congealed in the blood on his face. Ivan did not react, only scanned the hallway, sighted something, raised his gun, and fired.
Further down the hall, a camera that had not been destroyed by the blast shattered under Ivan’s bullet.
“Good shot,” said Constance, her voice muffled by the mask she had not removed, and she headed deeper into the base.
Excerpted from SUPERNOVA by C.A. Higgins Copyright © 2016 by C.A. Higgins. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.