About Dead World:
Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.
When they are hired to retrieve a weapons prototype from an abandoned planet, it seems like a routine job. But it quickly turns out that the planet is not as empty as they had thought. And soon, Anjali and Mikhail find themselves caught in a deadly chase across a radioactive wasteland.
This is a novella of 27500 words or approx. 95 print pages in the "In Love and War" series, but may be read as a standalone.
But they had places to go and things to do, and so, after a deep breath of filtered air, Anjali stepped off the ramp and onto the surface of Shashenok.
They crossed the square, cautious at first, keeping an eye on the dosimeter readings displayed inside their helmets and always scanning their surroundings for potential dangers. For though intellectually they both knew that the town and the whole planet were deserted and the only real threat the radiation all around, instincts and habits honed by years of war died hard. Besides, something about this place made Anjali actively uneasy and it wasn’t just the radiation or the decay.
From afar, the square had seemed smooth and even, which was part of the reason why Mikhail had chosen it as a landing place. But close-up, Anjali realised that it was not smooth at all. Some paving stones had sunken, others were cracked. In some places, grass and even small tress had broken through, as nature had its way.
The buildings lining the sides of the square stood still and silent. From inside the ship, they’d seemed like identical grey boxes. Up close, they still looked like boxes, but they were far from identical. Some had rows of columns like the Hall of the Imperial Senate on Gloriosa. A few had fronts of stained glass, now missing the occasional pane. Other buildings were decorated with murals, long faded but still recognisable. The style was different than the murals found on Rajipuri, more angular and tending towards the abstract at times, and the subjects seemed to be drawn from daily life — images of workers, soldiers, politicians — rather than from myth and legend like on Rajipuri. Nonetheless, the images were attractive and quite against her will, Anjali found herself wondering what the city had looked like before it was abandoned.
Several of the buildings — Anjali suspected they had been shops once upon a time - were topped by neon signs now long gone dark. The letters were large and blocky. Superficially, they looked like Standard script, but upon closer examination, Anjali found that she could not make out a single word, because some letters looked wrong, like interlopers from a different language.
“What’s up with those signs?” she asked via the suit com, her voice sounding almost sacrilegiously loud to her own ears, “I can’t read any of them.”
“I can,” Mikhail replied softly. Those were, Anjali realised, the first words he’d spoken since they’d left the ship. “It’s called Cyrillic, an ancient script from Old Earth. The language of Jagellowsk used the same script. Those were the letters I learned to read and write.”
Instinctively, Anjali reached for his hand.
Mikhail had once told her that he’d only learned to speak what the Republicans insisted on calling Standard in the camp for orphans where he grew up, because the guards would beat him for speaking in his own language, the language of lost Jagellowsk.
“So these people of this world spoke the same language as your people?”
Mikhail shook his head. “Not exactly the same. There are subtle differences. But both languages are close enough that I can understand the words and they both use the same script.”
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About the In Love and War series:
- Book 1: Dreaming of the Stars
- Book 2: Graveyard Shift
- Book 3: Courting Trouble
- Book 4: Bullet Holes
- Book 5: Dead World