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Champions 14 of 28



The far continent of the new world has never been named, let alone settled. Only the savages roam freely across its grasslands, and after two decades without the stewardship of their Hubrin masters, those creatures have become feral, desperate, and ravenous. When their simple investigation is overwhelmed by a massive horde of those beasts, Lady Alex Smith, Lieutenant Stephanie Shylock, and Sergeant Mike Strong must find a way to summon help from the Selkirk Mandate –– while struggling to survive.

Available in print as part of the omnibus Scar Tissue.

Series The Champions of 1943 - Part 3

EISBN 978-1-926817-71-2
Published 2015-11-01 (ebook)

According to The National Post:

“Tam’s decade-long pioneering experience in this new, no-rules publishing world shows that small presses can invent themselves as they evolve. Iceberg just launched a new series, The Champions, which will release novella-length installments as ebooks throughout 2013, a latter-day take on the typical Victorian custom of monthly cliffhangers in magazines. Again, a merge of journalistic strengths — rapid writing to deadlines, and creativity.”

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The two moons had been high over the main continent of the new world for hours, but neither George Devlin nor Constance Cormack had noticed their arrival. Sitting in increasingly-uncomfortable chairs in the basement of the New Edmundston military headquarters – a grand designation for a house that had been bought by the army and re-equipped as a sort of outpost – they had very little sense of time.

That was, perhaps, a function of habit. Being based in the Saa Control Center for so long, it was easy to forget the significance of daylight, and the clock, when there were pressing matters to investigate… and even when there weren’t. As much as Constance knew George quietly hoped the current situation would fall into the former camp, she knew that the latter was preferable.

The Georgia Champion was leafing through a couple of files taken from the Nazi castle – lists of supplies that had been shipped into the facility, presumably for the research that led to the missiles, or whatever else Emily had stolen. Her comprehension of the information wasn’t helped by the fact that the documents were in German, but she was picking up enough of the written language to get by.

And some words were pretty universal – particularly if they hailed from the periodic table of the elements.

Glancing up at her lover, Lady Cormack asked: “They seem to have been ordering in a lot of titanium. Heard of it?”

George was paying little attention, but that never seemed to stop him managing to answer her. Without taking his eyes off the papers in his lap, he nodded, “It’s what the Saa told us would have been our next step for military hardware, if they hadn’t provided us with the alloy formulas for the Snapdragon fuselage.”

His disinterest was almost palpable as he spoke, and though she wasn’t the sort to take undue offense at being basically ignored, this seemed just one more sign of the descent George was again making – the fixation he was developing on something that, quite rationally, didn’t require his obsession.

The bonanza of answers from the Nazi lair had dried up with surprising speed, leaving new questions about what else they’d been building, and how they’d been getting their resources. Those were important questions, but after a month of close investigation involving help from all of the Saa screens, and a couple of different intelligence services, and volunteers from Jimmystown, they’d sucked just about all the data they could out of the documents they’d found.

Constance was all for trying to find the answers to those questions, but at a certain point it was necessary to acknowledge the limits of the information on hand. Re-reading the same manifest a dozen times wouldn’t change what it said – and it certainly wouldn’t provide new answers to someone who was reading it over and over. It was time to box up the found documents and give their minds a rest.

George just hadn’t reached that conclusion quite yet. She understood why, of course: he was still pursuing the villains who had killed his mother. Second to that, the Nazis had also so badly upended his thinking that he’d accused Shoshanna and Daphne of being spies. There was no faulting his determination to get to grips with these people.

But it was the commitment Constance had made to Lady Anne – to protect the young hospitality man – that now made it important for her to sway him away from his obsession, before it became all-consuming.

She had to handle this movement carefully, though.

Laying the lists she’d been reading down on the small table beside her chair, the greencoat did a purposefully-bad job of stifling a yawn, then gradually rose to her feet and cracked her knuckles.

“I say it’s time for some sort of meal,” she declared, and George immediately nodded… again, without taking his eyes off the files.

“Good idea.”

That was all he said; his stare continued to be fixed on the papers, and he certainly didn’t move. Constance waited for a moment, considered yawning again, or maybe offering some other subliminal sign, but there seemed no point to subtlety. Crossing the floor to stand before him, she reached down and pulled the paper from his hand, then collected the pile off his lap.

To his credit, he didn’t protest; as he looked up and watched her lay the documents atop the ones she’d been reviewing, he sighed: “Have I been working that long?”

“Mmhmm,” was her answer as she turned back to him. “I bet the minute you stand up, your stomach will remind you.”

They really hadn’t eaten in quite some time – a plight usually more painful for a Champion than an ordinary person, but Constance had trained herself pretty well to last without food. George nodded in acknowledgment of that fact, then came to his feet and waited for a stomach growl. One didn’t come – perhaps it would have been impolite – but he nevertheless felt hunger pangs.

“My mind just likes to disconnect from the rest of me,” he apologized needlessly, and Constance waved her hand dismissively as she drew closer to him.

“I know. Might want to have a word with it about that – I don’t want you starving if I go on vacation,” she put her arms around him as she spoke, and they enjoyed a brief moment of warm affection before he shrugged.

“If you go on vacation, you better take me with you.”

“Presumptuous,” she grinned, then bobbed her head towards the stairs.

The headquarters house was rickety, despite not being particularly old. Creaks sounded as they climbed up to the main level, where rooms meant for receiving and dining were instead filled with desks and radio equipment. It seemed haphazard, but then the addition of a military office to New Edmundston had come only after the threat of the Scourge had been raised. Prior to that, there’d been no need for a garrison – there were no savages to contend with.

No savages on the mainland, at least, but the reason Constance and George were working in a damp basement instead of at home in the SCC was because there were savages on the far continent – savages of one kind or another…

With that in mind, the pair stepped into what had once been the house’s dining room, and there found a tired-looking Canadian sitting with his back to his radio equipment, reading a creased-up edition of Popular Mechanics.

Glancing up from his magazine, the young man clearly stifled a yawn before offering a greeting, “Sir, M’Lady. Can I help you?”

“We’re just checking in about Quinn’s camp. Anything unusual?” Constance asked, and the operator frowned before looking back towards his log pad.

“No…” he began his reply, then lowered his magazine. Turning fully back to his radio, he ran his hands over the log. “Well. Looks like they didn’t do their evening check in.”

Constance hadn’t really been prepared for any news, though George was slightly readier to ask the necessary follow-up: “How unusual is that?”

The radio operator was already flipping back through his log, “It’s hit or miss. I don’t know them down there – they call into the airfield, we just pick it up because we’re all on the same frequency. But… yeah, they miss every now and then.”

“No idea why?” Constance frowned, and the operator shrugged and turned back towards his houseguests.

“Probably either atmospherics or power. Or both. That’s a long way to send a signal, even shortwave, and their sender isn’t like the fancy Saa-enhanced one in Gateway Town. That one can broadcast all over the Earth, because the dragons upgraded it. The one on the continent has been there for a decade, and…”

George blinked as the young soldier plunged into a deep and thorough explanation of unenhanced radio technology, which included some words the Viscount’s son had heard before, but which mostly qualified as gibberish.

Most relevant was the lack of a regularly-scheduled check-in from Quinn’s camp, which didn’t necessarily denote disaster, but was concerning. Silence under the current circumstances inevitably had to raise anxiety.

“When’s the next scheduled check-in?” Constance pursued that sentiment, and the soldier turned back to his log.

“In the morning… for them. So about nine hours from now. If we don’t hear anything, should I let you know?”

George nodded, “Please. And thanks.”

“Sure thing,” the man nodded.

With that he returned to his magazine, leaving Constance and George to exchange glances before backing out of the room and heading for the kitchen. Considering it was the middle of the night, and they weren’t in a town accustomed to feeding ravenous Champions, they’d have to make do with whatever supplies the army kept in the icebox.

And they’d have to wonder whether a missed radio call meant something significant, or nothing at all. When the sun rose over the mainland, they’d still be waiting for clarity; night had a long way to run on the continent.