1. THE LONG WAR
Orion-Perseus Arm/Milky Way
32,000 light years from Galactic Core/2,375 light years from nearest edge of Consortium space
0.15 GC Revs since Start of Hostilities (approx. 15,235 years [Terran])
Inside a Shoal reconnaissance corvette, lost and hunted through a dense tangle of stars and hydrogen clouds a thousand light-years wide, a Bandati spy was being tortured by having his wings pulled off one by one.
In order to accommodate the prisoner, an air-breather, the bare steel vault of the corvette’s interrogation chamber had been drained of its liquid atmosphere. Misted brine formed heavy, wobbling droplets in the oxygen/nitrogen mix that had replaced it, floating in the zero gee like tiny watery lenses.
The Bandati had been pinned to an upright panel placed in the centre of the chamber, where the floor dipped to form a shallow, stepped well. The Shoal-member known as Trader in Faecal Matter of Animals noted the enormous iron spike that had been driven through the creature's lower chest in such a way that it was held immobile without, to his surprise, immediately threatening its continued survival. Nonetheless, it was not difficult to discern from the Bandati's ceaseless struggling that it was in some considerable distress.
Cables had been epoxied to the chamber wall directly above the scout's head, and hooks attached to the trailing tips of these cables had been inserted into the outermost edges of its five remaining wings. The tension in these cables pulled the wings wide, as if the Bandati were frozen in the act of gliding through the dense atmosphere of the world on which his kind had originated. Trader was reminded of a display he had once seen of small winged invertebrates, row after row of colourful dead husks pinned to a wall, carefully mounted, labelled and categorised.
Clearly, the interrogators had been in a creative mood when they had been ordered to extract as much information as possible from the spy."
Since I'm in an excerpt-posting mood, here's the first page (or 250-ish words) from the start of Stealing Fire, the sequel to Stealing Light I've been writing for Tor. It's due in by the 1st of July, so busy, busy, busy.