|Bryan Thomas Schmidt|
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Guest Post: Bryan Thomas Schmidt
My pal Bryan Thomas Schmidt returns to The One-Thousand to give us some insight on a character from his latest novel, The Returning, as well as a little piece of the book for free! Find out more about Bryan at the end of this post and click through to his website to get hold of his books for yourself! http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/
Character Sketch & Excerpt: Farien Noa
The antagonist’s childhood schoolmate and best pal Farien Noa has evolved into one of the more ccomplex characters in the Saga Of Davi Rhii. Farien is a Boralian Alliance military pilot and officer, like Davi, and he, Yao and Davi went to the military academy together. His father is a minor diplomat and businessman and Farien is, by far, the more blue collar in attitude of his three friends. He doesn’t always automatically side with what they think is right or even moral. He likes to consider other issues including how the decisions might affect his military career and family. This can bring conflict with his friends, despite their closeness, and does create some internal conflicts for Farien as well. He goes through the ringer in The Worker Prince, the first book, but in The Returning, book 2, he faces even more and has a much larger role to play throughout.
Of the three, Davi Rhii (protagonist), Yao Brahma (Tertullian-center in the cover pic), and himself, Farien is the more physical one. He’s quick to want to fight and to let his temper flare, and he’s also the one who struggled the most academically and to achieve success. As a result, he is very hesitant to jeopardize all he’s work for and often a bit jealous when his friends overshadow him. In the following scene, Farien is leading his friends in an investigation of assassins stalking Davi’s native people, the formerly enslave Vertullians. But recently, Davi and his friends have faced assassins coming after them as well. Here they visit a black market on Xanthis and Farien finds his personal morals and ideals challenged by some shady characters they meet.
Farien pushed the joystick forward, racing to catch Davi. Hot air pounded his skin as the g-forces threatened to pull his hands free of the controls. Clearly the time spent training worker pilots in the forests of Vertullis was paying off, as Davi had taken the previous corner so sharply Farien couldn’t believe he’d stayed aboard his Skitter.
As Farien slowed and pulled alongside, Davi glanced back at Yao who was trailing them. “Well, we haven’t lost him yet.”
Farien grinned, shaking his head. “It wouldn’t be hard.” He keyed the comm. “Come on, Brahma, you fly like your grandmother!”
“My grandmother’s survived this long for a reason—no one in our family’s insane.” Yao’s tone was one of patient calm. By now, his friends’ antics didn’t cause him any stress.
“Well, try to keep up, okay?” Davi said. “The streets are getting narrower and none of us know the city.”
“Plus, the blackmarket could be dangerous,” Farien added. “Wouldn’t want you left alone.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll find the impact crater or crashed-in wall easily enough,” Yao said, unaffected.
Davi and Farien laughed as both slowed down for their friend to catch them. The streets were getting more crowded anyway, and they needed to work together to make sense of the Skitters’ cheap nav system’s directions. Sleek and fast one-man ground craft operating on a system allowed them to float above the planet’s surface, Skitters’ controls and handling resembled those of a VS28, but their nav systems didn’t come close.
“You don’t really expect anyone to tell us anything?” Yao pulled between them, his pace constant as if it were up to them to stay with him, not the other way around.
“Just stick to the cover story and we’ll see what happens,” Farien said.
Farien wondered how long it would take for Dru to get himself into trouble back at their lodgings. He’d only agreed to stay behind, after Farien threatened to send him back to Eleni 1 on the next shuttle. The black market would be rough enough for the three officers without them having to worry about a cadet, espec-ially when it seemed Dru couldn’t keep himself out of trouble for very long.
Davi pulled to a stop at the next intersection, checking his nav computer. “It looks like it should be on the next block west of here.”
Fairen and Yao halted their Skitters beside his. All three glanced around. Yao looked particularly alarmed. “I really hope this cover story works. This doesn’t look like a place we want to be identified as military officers.”
Farien didn’t remember them being this soft at the Academy. He rolled his eyes at Davi, then frowned at Yao. “Just let us do the talking, okay? Chances are you’ll blend in with the other non-humans around here just fine.”
Davi nodded. “Yao’s right, though. We need to be really careful. If this place is half as dangerous as the rumors say—”
“I can’t believe we went to the same Academy. You two sound like scared kids. Just watch my back and I’ll handle it.” Farien accelerated the Skitter, turning left and heading for the next intersection as his friends hurried to follow him.
“Be cool, Farien. The last thing we need is to set anyone off.”
Farien sighed into the comm, cutting Davi off. “I’m leading this team, remember? Trust me.”
“That’s what worries us,” Yao replied.
Ignoring them, Farien turned onto the next street which dead ended at a large open field covered with ramshackle buildings and scattered canopies. A potpourri of scents struck his nose—fruits, raw meat, smoke, sweat, oils, perfumes. A handmade sign read “Xanthis Independent Market.” Farien parked and climbed off his Skitter as Davi and Yao stopped nearby. Already shady-looking characters gawked at them from the aisles between the market’s buildings. Farien saw Xanthians mixed with rough looking humans, a couple Tertullians like Yao, an Idolian and two Lhamors. He nodded his head toward the Lhamors, looking at Davi and Yao.
Farien strode past the sign and up the aisle, passing right past the Lhamors as if they weren’t there. Davi and Yao hurried after him.
The signage was scarce and buildings not well marked. Finding anything here would be an accident. He debated the risks of splitting them up until a solution presented itself. A young Xanthian appeared, offering himself as guide. “Just a small fee for my services is all,” he responded to Farien’s inquiry about what he charged. The Xanthian wore ragged, mismatched clothes and clearly was overdue for a cleansing. Not to be trusted.
“We’ll figure it out on our own,” Farien replied as Davi hur-riedly handed the youth some credits.
“It’s been a while since we visited the market,” Davi said, shooting Farien a look. “Your help will be most beneficial.”
Farien sighed and motioned for the guide to lead the way. He shot Davi a look that said: Your responsibility! The youth pocketed the newly counted credits and smiled, walking as if he owned the place. “My name’s Qajuan. Whatever you need, I can find it for you, just ask.”
“Right now, we’re looking for something special,” Farien said, his memory racing to recall terms he’d heard used in stories of the market. You couldn’t just outright ask for assassins. There was a proper slang here, and one had to use it or be seen as an outsider who couldn’t be trusted.
“Lots of special things here,” Qajuan replied. “Anything you can imagine. A little more specific and we’ll find it for you.”
“Specialists,” Davi whispered, using the term Farien had been searching for.
Qajuan whirled and stared at him, his face indifferent. “Ah, many we have. Depends on your needs.”
“The three-armed kind,” Farien said.
Qajuan frowned. “Those kind are very rare, very expensive. Haven’t seen many here lately, but we have many others. Perhaps one of them can solve your problem.”
“Take us to someone who can arrange for any type we want,” Farien suggested.
Qajuan smiled, satisfied, then whirled around and started up an aisle to the right.
They wound through rows and rows of tables offering everything from Qiwi and Gungor meat to fruits like Feruca and Gixi, various dried beans and leaves and powders both medicinal and for brewing. The scents mixed together, a kind of pungent sweet, dusty smell filling Farien’s nose.
They passed into another section and here were various items of clothing and household goods—furniture handmade from high quality Vertullian wood, Idolian sand weavings with their intricate patterns of colored sand speaking messages from some mysterious religion long forgotten, Tertullian cloth of all shapes, sizes and colors. Farien had seen similar items in museums as a student and spent little time examining them, hurrying after their guide who seemed confident of the path he’d chosen.
They passed under a narrow archway between two canopied booths and Farien stopped dead. Stretching before him were endless tables of every weapon and armament imaginable, from the blasters he and his fellow cadets trained on to the more sophisticated blasters he and his friends carried as officers to the laser rifles sharpshooters carried into battle and the tiny weapons those with ill intentions hid in various nooks and crevices of their bodies. Yao and Davi shot him a look of warning as they passed him nonchalantly, following Qajuan. Farien stepped forward, moving slower but keeping pace. Then they rounded a corner and he saw military-issue laser targeting systems, the most sophis-ticated, restricted type. Troops trained for months just to learn how to operate them. No one outside the military was supposed to have access to them. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He knew stolen military weapons made it to the blackmarkets, but to so openly sell them?
Noting his interest, the dealer stepped forward. He was dressed in khaki from head to foot—pants and a shirt, even his shoes a light tan. His face was long, odd shaped, and at first Farien wasn’t sure if the man was human or some other species. Then he smiled and his teeth were a cornucopia of colors—Idolian. The teeth always gave them away. Their skin and hair colors often quite matched humans but with the long faces and arms and colored teeth, you could always tell. “How can I help you, my friend?”
The accent was sharp but the words understandable. “Just passing through.”
“These are very special,” he said, reaching his elongated arm out to stroke one of the targeting units. He leaned forward as if sharing a secret, his grin widening. “No one outside the military has them, except for me.”
Farien took a deep breath, tensing with the urge to arrest the man on the spot. “You must be very well connected.”
The man laughed, nodding. “Yes, I am. It’s very fortunate you’ve made my acquaintance.”
The man rubbed his hands together, stroking the target system while keeping his eyes locked on Farien. “How many?”
Farien glanced up to see Yao and Davi waving impatiently as Qajuan waited behind them.
“How many do you have?”
The vendor raised his hands in a questioning gesture. “I can get you more than you can afford.”
Davi cleared his throat. “Other matters await us.”
“Please,” the vendor frowned and waved dismissively without even glancing away from his new customer, “we don’t rush here. There’s always time.”
Then, amidst the shadows, Farien thought he saw a familiar blue face, red eyes staring at him. He blinked, looking more intensely and saw a tall, thin figure hurrying away. Hurrying to follow, he pushed the vendor roughly aside, sending him back into a table as two targeting units fell to the ground. Farien heard a cracking sound but didn’t look back.
“That’s no way to do business here!”
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.