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Read a sample from FORGOTTEN WORLDS by D. Nolan Clark

Combining blistering action with jaw-dropping plot twists, Forgotten Worlds is the unmissable second novel in the Silence trilogy – widescreen space opera at its very best.

Chapter One

Behind the wall of space lay the network of wormholes that connected the stars. A desolate and eerie maze of tunnels no more than a few hundred meters wide in most places. The walls there emitted a constant and ghostly light, the luminescent smoke of particle-antiparticle annihilations. This ghostlight provided little illumination and less warmth.

For more than a century humanity had used that web of hidden passages to move people and cargo from one system to another, yet the maze was so complex and so convoluted it was rare for one ship to pass another in that silent space.

It was even rarer, Aleister Lanoe thought, to find four cataphract-class aerospace fighters blocking your way. Rare enough that it couldn’t be a coincidence.

“Those aren’t Navy ships,” Valk said. His copilot, currently riding in the observation blister slung under the ship’s belly. “Look at the hexagons on their fairings. They’re Centrocor militia.”

Lanoe recognized their configuration. Yk.64s, cheap copies of Navy fighters with big spherical canopies. He’d faced down plenty of ships like that in his time, and he knew that while they couldn’t match the performance of the Navy’s best fighters, they still wouldn’t be pushovers.

“Huh,” he said.

Lanoe and Valk were still hours out from their destination, a long way from anyone who could come to their aid. They could try to punch through this formation and make a run for it, but their Z.VII recon scout was slow compared to the Yk.64s they were facing. It would be a long and nasty chase and it wouldn’t end well. Fighting wasn’t a great option, either. The Z.VII carried a pair of PBW cannon, as good as anything the Centrocor ships could bring to bear, but their vector field wasn’t as strong. The Yk.64s could shrug off most of their firepower, while they would get chewed to pieces in a dogfight.

Lanoe tried opening a channel. “Centrocor vehicles, we need a little room here. Mind letting us squeeze by?” As if this were just a chance encounter on a well-traveled shipping corridor. “Repeat. Centrocor vehicles—”

“Lanoe,” Valk cut in, “their guns are warming up.”

About what Lanoe had expected.

Outnumbered four to one. Outpaced, outgunned, and no way to call for help. Well, if they had to fight, at least they had one advantage. The pilots of the Yk.64s were militia, hired guns working for the Centrocor poly. They’d been trained by a corporation. Lanoe was one of the best pilots the Navy ever had.

“Hold on,” he told Valk. Then he threw his stick over to the side and goosed his lateral thrusters, throwing them into a wild corkscrewing dive right toward the wall of the wormhole.

* * *

The recon scout’s inertial sink pulled Valk backward in his seat. It felt like someone was sitting on his chest, pinning him down. He was used to the feeling—without a sink, any pilot who tried a maneuver like that would have been crushed into pink jelly by the g forces.

It made it tricky, though, to reach the gun controls. Valk grunted and stabbed a virtual menu, bringing his cannon online. The ship’s computer automatically swung him around to give him the best firing solution possible on the Yk.64 Centrocor ships. That meant he was flying backward, which in turn meant he couldn’t see the wall of the wormhole looming up toward them. He was just fine with that. If they so much as brushed the wall—a curled‑up tube of spacetime—the recon scout would be instantaneously disintegrated, its atoms torn apart down to the quark level.

Valk trusted Lanoe to not let that happen.

“Coming in, seven o’clock high,” Valk called, and tapped another key to bring up a virtual Aldis gunsight, a collimated reticule that moved around his canopy to show him where his shots were likely to hit. It jumped back and forth as the computer tried to compensate for Lanoe’s spinning dive and the movement of the four targets. Valk cursed the damned thing and switched it off. He was going to have to do this manually. “I think they’re angry,” Valk said.

Streamers of PBW fire like tiny burning comets flashed across the recon scout’s thrusters as the enemy opened fire. Lanoe twisted them around on their positioning jets and most of the shots went wide, only a few sparking off their vector field.

“That was a warning shot,” Lanoe said. “You think they want to take us alive?”

“Why don’t you pull over and ask them?” Valk replied.

Lanoe actually chuckled at that one.

The recon scout shook and groaned as Lanoe threw them to one side, narrowly avoiding the looming collision with the wormhole’s wall. Valk realized why Lanoe had cut it so close—hugging the wall kept the enemy from getting around them. The recon scout’s top side was vulnerable to attack, and Lanoe wanted to make sure they couldn’t get a bead on it. This did mean that Valk, in his observer’s blister, was right in the line of fire.

Wouldn’t be the first time. He swiveled around to face the closest Yk.64 and squeezed his trigger. The PBW fire tore off one of the enemy’s airfoils, but the bastard didn’t need them—there was no air inside the wormhole, so he could afford to lose a wing. Valk started to line up another shot when his view swung around and suddenly he couldn’t see the enemies at all. Lanoe must have pulled some fancy maneuver without warning him.

“Give me something to shoot at, at least,” Valk called.

“Don’t worry,” Lanoe replied. “You’ll get another chance.”

* * *

In the pilot’s cockpit at the front of the recon scout, Lanoe worked his boards with one hand while the other stayed tightly wrapped around his control yoke. On a secondary display he saw a three-dimensional view of the four militia fighters with their projected courses streaming out before them like ribbons of glass. The four of them were cruising along well behind and above him, lined up in a textbook formation. They had him boxed in, at a distance where they never came close enough to get a good, clear shot at him. It was a solid play—they were keeping their distance because they knew time was on their side. They could afford to pepper him with long-distance shots, knowing they only needed one lucky hit to disable his engine.

He couldn’t outrun them. If he tried to fall back, to let them get ahead of him, they could just close the distance and then they could carve him up or just shove him into the wall of the wormhole, and that would be that.

Militia pilots weren’t, as a rule, all that talented. The Navy aggressively recruited promising young talent—by law, they got the first pick of recruits—and the polys had to make do with whatever was left. Some were cadets who washed out of the Navy and found the only job they could get was flying for a poly. Others were recruited from the civilian population, given ten hours in a flight simulator, and sent out to do their best. This batch, though, were clearly a cut above—smart, adaptable. Patient.

He very much wished he knew who had sent them. And why they wanted to capture him.

If he was getting out of this trap, he was going to have to get reckless. “Valk,” he called, “don’t worry about wasting ammunition. When I pull this next trick, you hold down your trigger and don’t stop until your gun overheats, okay?”

“Wait,” Valk said. “What are you about to do?”

Lanoe didn’t waste time answering. He punched in a sequence of burns on his thruster board, then yanked his stick straight back and simultaneously kicked open the throttle.

The Z.VII had been built for long-distance patrols. It carried an impressive package of sensors and a very energy-efficient fusion engine. All that extra equipment made it bulky and slow to respond to commands, though. It had never been designed for close‑in fighting, and definitely not for stunt flying. The complicated maneuver Lanoe executed just then ran the risk of tying its frame in knots. He could hear its spars groan as the ship twisted around nearly 180 degrees on its long axis. It took more strain when the dozens of jets and miniature thrusters built into its nose and sides all fired in a complex rhythm. If Lanoe was unlucky, they might have torn themselves right out of their mountings.

Luck was on his side. Everything held together. It only appeared that he’d lost all control and sent his ship into a wild, uncontrolled vertical spin.

The Z.VII tumbled up and backward, right into the path of the pursuing militia fighters. They reacted quickly, breaking formation to make room and avoid a full‑on collision. Quickly, but not flawlessly. One of them sideswiped a second in a great shower of sparks as their vector fields fought to shove each other away. A third pilot started to bank, to try to get a shot in as Lanoe’s ship went cartwheeling past. It would have been an easy hit, and it would have ended the battle as quickly as it had started.

If Valk hadn’t already started shooting anyway. He’d done as asked, releasing a wild spray of PBW fire that lit up the canopy of the Yk.64. The militia pilot inside probably didn’t have time to scream. The shot tore the Yk.64 fighter to pieces, and the three remaining militia pilots had to scatter farther to avoid the superheated debris.

Lanoe pulled the recon scout out of its tumble and leveled out, skating along just a few dozen meters from the wall of the tunnel. They weren’t out of the woods yet. He opened his throttle as far as it would go and burned for speed, headed in exactly the wrong direction.

About the Author

D. Nolan Clark is a pseudonym for an acclaimed author who has previously published several novels in different genres.