Ailon is a resource-rich, low-population world in the galaxy’s Independent Regions. Originally a mining colony of the nearby Avennia system, Ailon once tried to break free, resulting in a brutal war which they lost after Thaddeus Marcell pirated a convoy of badly-needed weapons and matériel that was en-route to the Rebels of Ailon. Now, it’s an oppressed and enslaved world, its conquered population forced to work at gunpoint for their Avennian overlords.
Still reeling from the wounds he sustained during his mission to Waverly, Thaddeus travels undercover to Ailon to see the fruits of his own evils firsthand. There, he volunteers for an organization that ostensibly works to provide medical care to the enslaved population, only to discover a brand-new secret rebellion, one that’s poised to start another war to try to free their world. But this new rebellion is naive, ill-equipped, and poorly-trained, sure to lose any battle they begin. Thaddeus, struggling with his new-found sense of guilt, must face a difficult and dangerous choice: Does he get involved and try to set things right? Because if the new Rebels of Ailon discover who he really is, they just might kill him…
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This might be a bit spoiler-y if you haven't read "Rescue at Waverly", but towards the end of that novel, you learn that maybe the protagonist (Thad Marcell) isn't much of a good guy after all. He's done some evil things, and in one key chapter he's confronted with all kinds of destruction he's committed in his quest to find home. (Now some of those accusations were baseless or greatly overblown, to be clear, but others had a lot of truth to them.) One accusation came from expatriates of a world called Ailon, which lost a war and became enslaved because of a very selfish pirate raid Thad once conducted. I thought that one would be a great subject for a sequel, and devised a main plot along with a series of flashbacks that would contrast who Thad used to be with who he's changing into.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Although there are some returning characters from the previous story who continue to develop in new ways, this one sees several new one-offs. You'll see them in "Rebellion at Ailon" but they aren't likely to ever appear again. To develop them, I did quite a variety of reading. Sun Tzu, Napoleon, Clausewitz, articles on guerrilla warfare, Revolutionary War spy rings, I even read some US Army field manuals! But most of all, after learning some of the "right" ways to conduct a war, I realized I actually needed very naive, inexperienced characters who know little about war, because that makes Thad–an experienced mercenary–that more valuable to them. And so much of the military history I studied became a guideline of what not to do when writing up the new Ailonian protagonists.
Finally, there were a couple characters I had to develop in very specific ways just to make the story's climax that much more emotional. This series is more than just pulp science fiction to me. Even though it's got starships and lasers and hyperspace, ultimately it's about flawed characters who have both good and bad sides. Sometimes you love and sympathize with them, and sometimes you completely despise them, and that adds quite an emotional aspect to the story. And so there's a flashback subplot that covers Thad's terrible and bloody pirate raid on an Ailonian convoy, and I'm hoping that the way that storyline weaves in with the main plot will powerfully tug at the reader's heart and maybe even shock them!
Here's an excerpt from "Rebellion at Ailon." It's important to note that Thad Marcell is operating under an alias, Chad Messier, because he's actually a wanted person on Ailon and doesn't dare to reveal who he is. In this scene, he's been volunteering with a medical clinic on Ailon, which ends up acting as first responders to a fire at a slave-operated factory. But he has to take charge because they really don't know what they're doing, and also gets a glimpse at just how mistreated the enslaved Ailonians are.
Thad took a radio and filter mask from Jason and equipped them after a quick check. Then he and ten other clinic workers jogged towards the refinery’s southern end as black smoke continued to steadily roll out of every opening in the building. A few squads of soldiers stood by the open doors of the loading docks, standing guard and watching with morbid interest as the clinic team climbed the concrete steps and entered the refinery.
Even through the filter mask that covered his mouth and nose, Thad could still smell the terrible smoke from whatever was burning. It made his eyes sting, but he gritted his teeth and continued. They were in a loading/unloading area. Long rows of tall metal shelving stretched up towards the ceiling around them, holding a disorganized collection of crates, barrels, boxes, and pieces of machinery. The tops of the shelves were invisible, buried in the cloud of sooty smoke that hugged the ceiling. Breaks in the rows marked off aisles that led further into the refinery. And the refinery’s interior was terribly loud, filled by the mechanical sounds of pumps, fans, and other machines. Beneath it all, he could barely hear the sounds of a raging fire.
Not a single soul was in sight.
“What do we do?” someone asked over the radio.
“I’m not sure,” someone else replied nervously. “I guess we start looking around for slaves and escort them out.”
“But what about the fire? Can we do anything about that?”
“With what? We don’t have any firefighting equipment!”
“Guys, I really don’t know about this. We’re medics, not firefighters. This isn’t safe. Ria, isn’t there another unit better suited for this?”
Ria’s voice cut into the radio conversation. “Not near Zhale,” she replied. “Two other Zhale clinics are on their way but they’re an hour out. We’re the only ones here. It has to be us, and we have to act now.”
Thaddeus shook his head. The team had no idea what they were doing. They weren’t trained for this kind of situation.
This wasn’t that far off from a battle, he realized. Gather intelligence first. He keyed his radio and used his best command voice, just like the old days when he’d been a mere captain commanding small task forces or personally leading boarding parties. “Listen up! We need to scope things out! I’ll take point, everyone follow me, and pay close attention to everything you see! Don’t stop for anything yet, we will be moving very quickly!”
The others walked up behind him and several shrugged at each other. Thad waited for a moment, took a deep breath, and then broke out into a jog towards the gaps in the warehouse shelves.
They didn’t get far. They passed through several aisles, weaving between some parked fork trucks, and then encountered a chain link fence which ran from the concrete flooring up into the cloud of smoke. A large chain link gate sat in the path, but it was shut and locked up. Thad yanked at it in vain. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” He keyed his radio again. “We can’t even get in, someone go talk to the soldiers outside and get this worked out!”
The other men hesitated, looking around at each other uncertainly, and Thad cursed. “Fine, wait here!” He sprinted back through the aisles, jumped off the loading dock, and half-expected the soldiers twenty meters away to think he was an escapee and start shooting at him. But they respected his orange ARF jacket and watched him approach with nothing more than mild curiosity in their expressions. He tugged off his mask. “There’s a locked gate beyond the loading docks, I need you to open up access!”
One of the soldiers, wearing a different uniform than the others—maybe he was an officer? Thad didn’t understand the force’s structure or markings yet—actually laughed. “No, we’re not going anywhere near that!”
Thad grunted angrily. “How many people are going to die in there?”
The officer shot him a disbelieving look. “It’s not my problem. They’re only slaves, not citizens.”
“Not your problem? Then why the hell are you guys even here?”
“You’re either stupid, or new to Ailon,” the officer scoffed. “My regular orders stand. Keep watch over the loading docks and make sure no slaves escape from custody.”
Thad hurled his filter mask over his shoulder in rage. “They’re going to die!” And yet the officer’s expression remained unconcerned. “How do the locks work? Is there a master key, or some kind of emergency circuit to release everything?”
“We use key cards.”
Thad glared at the man, incredulous at his nonchalant attitude and wanting desperately to grab him by the neck. “Do you have a key card?”
“Of course I do.”
Thad continued to glare, hoping to see some shred of humanity in the officer, but he still seemed entirely unconcerned about the situation. “Can I have it?”
The officer frowned, and then pulled a red plastic card from his pocket. Clicking a button on it, he held it out towards Thad. “Timer’s set. It will deactivate in an hour.” Thad snatched it and started running back towards the refinery, stopping to scoop up his filter mask on the way. As he left, he heard the officer say to his men, “Stupid Ailonian. He’s going to die in there.”
“Better him than us,” one of the other soldiers remarked.
TJ Mott grew up on a small cattle farm near the booming metropolis of Westboro, Missouri (population ~140). He holds a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Northwest Missouri State University and works as a software engineer in Omaha, Nebraska.
He's always been a nerd with a strong interest in science fiction and has decided to try writing some of his own.
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