So, I decided now was a good time to share some of the first ‘dissent’ book. Each Sunday between now and release day I will share a chapter. That gives you three chapters before publication, and they will be shared (on here) in order.
In the book, there is a small scene-setting piece of text, a map and then the prologue. Therefore, in this post, you will get all of that!
Without any more delay, here it is. Enjoy…
The Great Freeze changed everything…
Before that time, our species colonised almost every part of our world. Yet centuries have passed since the onset of an ice-age which wiped out most human life. The phenomenon forced the few people that survived into a primitive existence. Living in small groups or alone, they fought to endure stark conditions. The climate was cold and cruel.
Then, two hundred years ago, alongside a species known as the elrupe, people began to form new colonies…
Ice shelves broke the surface of the ocean, shimmering in the moonlight off the shore of Port Harmony. When darkness came, the busy harbour town would always fall silent. To escape the cold, people would move indoors; and this night was no different to any other. The cobblestone streets had emptied steadily, until everywhere lay still. Everywhere, except on the wharf, where an animal trotted along the harbour wall. In the creature’s saddle, a solitary rider examined a large supply store. The heavy snowfall made it hard to distinguish the buildings bordering the wharf.
Opposite, a warden known as Ermine pulled open a heavy timber gate twice his height, unaware that he was under surveillance. As squadron leader, he was there to assess the progress of his crew. It was a job he had done for many years, which was evident by the tired way he handled the gates. He was certain someone kept making them heavier.
Within the supply store, an enormous Land Transport dominated the vast open space. The scarlet, torpedo-shaped vehicle looked immaculate, and towered above Ermine. Scattered around it, his squad were busy preparing heavy crates of seafood; six wardens in total. They were getting ready for their thirteen-mile journey inland, to Scorr Tanta. Each member of the squad wore a fleecy, dark-grey cloak, made from thick animal skins for insulation. These garments flowed to the floor, and covered the wardens’ crisp, white tunics. It was the standard uniform for a warden, and the same as Ermine’s; although he also wore a purple band on his arm, to signify his rank.
A seventh warden—the pilot—inspected his vehicle. He was paying close attention to the caterpillar tracks, encasing the two large sets of wheels at the front. These were crucial for the transport to travel across the thick ice and snow. It was essential to check for any damage that may hinder their journey. Scorr Tanta wasn’t that far, but Port Harmony was situated on a steep hillside leading to the ocean. The frozen terrain wasn’t the pilot’s only challenge. His machine would have to travel through the meandering streets, up the hills and away from the coast. Those sharp gradients always proved treacherous.
The pilot looked confident as he stepped away. Absorbed in his work, he didn’t notice Ermine approaching.
‘Magnificent, isn’t she?’ Ermine announced his arrival at the top of his voice. His nostrils filled with an overpowering stench of fish. Eating seafood was one thing, but Ermine hated the smell, and already wondered when he would be able to get clean. The transfer of seafood to Scorr Tanta was not the best part of his job. But luckily, he wasn’t the one who had to go out to sea and catch it.
‘Yes sir…sorry…didn’t see you arrive,’ the pilot replied. He swung around to greet his superior and almost stumbled on his cape.
Grinning, the pilot patted his dirty palm against the solid rubber tracks. ‘Won’t get in our way this time! Nothing is going to interfere with this…’
‘It would be wise…to not underestimate these Renegades.’ Ermine’s eyes wandered across the tapering frame of the impressive vehicle. ‘This thing may offer more protection than moving the crates with orgo. But we shouldn’t be over-confident…not until we’ve reached Scorr Tanta.’
Nodding, the pilot acknowledged the warning. ‘Yes sir. Of course, sir.’ He then turned his attention to the small rudder wheel at the rear of the transport.
Conscious of his schedule, Ermine studied the room. He counted more than a dozen containers, each marked with the Scorr Tanta insignia. The dominant, bright green S-shape, overlaying the greyish-T, looked glorious. Goosebumps ran all the way up Ermine’s arms every time he set eyes on the metallic emblem. Each of the marks reflected the hazy light, cast from timber pendants in the ceiling. The wardens however, were struggling to haul the containers, despite the tough metal runners fixed beneath. Time was precious, and they needed to work faster.
‘We need to be ready to leave…soon!’ Ermine called out to his squad. ‘The sooner, the better. Time to get those crates loaded. Rada isn’t known for her patience. There is also a Bicentenary to prepare for. Scorr Tanta is depending on us.’
Ermine acknowledged that he feared Rada. As both ruler of Scorr Tanta and head of “The Union”, she was formidable. Her lack of tolerance for anyone who disappointed her was well-known. It had been fifteen years since Rada’s ascension; a time which had created divisions in Scorr Tanta and resulted in people leaving. Those that departed built Port Harmony, whilst The Union itself was created once a peace evolved between the two colonies. That was the time when Rada moved Ermine’s squad from Scorr Tanta to Port Harmony. Their role was to ensure that those in Port Harmony followed Scorr Tanta law. Not to mention, that they had to supervise shipments moving between the two colonies.
Ermine missed their home city, and Port Harmony was not his favourite place to be. Even so, he always embraced any orders from Rada. Nobody argued with her; especially not Ermine.
One of the wardens looked up. ‘I was thinking sir,’ she said, gasping for breath whilst going about her work. ‘Two hundred years since people got together to build our city. Two hundred! Who would have thought that Scorr Tanta was that old? And it’s four years since The Union agreement too, isn’t it sir? Incredible! To think…how far we have come. Before that…before Scorr Tanta…our ancestors barely survived. Well…if you believe all that. I mean…it’s fascinating. Now look at us…three colonies working together. Us…the people here in Port Harmony…those folk in Eklips up the shore. Sometimes, I wonder if there’s more…you know people and—’
‘What’s your name warden?’ Ermine said sharply, marching toward his subordinate. She appeared young for a warden, and much too inexperienced. That, and she talked a great deal too. Wardens were not recruited for their ability to think for themselves—or to talk quite that much.
‘Well…Dee Nine!’ Ermine spoke in the sternest tone he could master. ‘It isn’t our job to be thinking. It is our job to be moving these crates to Scorr Tanta.’
With her spindly fingers fiddling with her plaited hair, Dee Nine’s face crumpled. ‘Yes sir…sorry sir…I was just thinking—’
‘Well don’t! You are Dee Nine…and your job is more important than your thoughts. Your job…is to make sure this lot gets to Scorr Tanta for the Bicentenary. That is, if you’re happy to do your job? Would you prefer to discuss your career with the commander?’
Dee Nine bowed her head and carried on with her work. ‘No sir. Happy to do my job sir,’ she muttered, understanding her place.
Nonetheless, as an infant, Ermine had also heard stories about their human ancestors. Those that had been pushed to the brink of extinction during The Great Freeze. Tales about the creation of Ermine’s home city, Scorr Tanta, often got shared with children too. But, they were just stories. Ermine gave little consideration to how much truth they held.
‘Now,’ he shouted, ‘unless anyone else has some…thoughts they would like to share…let’s get—’
His orders cut short when the shelter gates flung open, and something charged inside. Stopping in its tracks, the beast observed its surroundings. Its bulky body was taller than any of the squad members. Snow clinging to the animal’s thick, black fur was dripping onto the floor creating a small puddle. With a distinctive shape, a short stumpy excuse for a tail and a long slender neck, the creature was easily identified. An orgo!
More than any other animal, orgo coped well with the cold. A dense mass of wool kept their plump frames well insulated. Their two powerful legs toward the rear of their frame formed the source of their agility. This meant that they could outrun any man-made vehicle with ease. Having such unrivalled capabilities, most orgo were domesticated by the people living in Port Harmony. Even some of the wardens employed by Scorr Tanta owned them. Orgo were undeniably useful.
Tapping its razor-sharp claws against the solid floor, the beast watched the wardens with interest. Tiny eyes set deep in its head, flickered. Then, the creature shook to loosen the snow that invaded its fleece. With caution, it began moving further inside the building.
‘Sir…’ Dee Nine said, staying as still as her colleagues. ‘Did…did someone forget to tell them…that we don’t use orgo to move supplies anymore?’
Ermine stared at the animal, refusing to take his eyes away for even a second. ‘Lances…now!’ he said, in a soft but commanding tone, trying not to unsettle it. This orgo wasn’t one of theirs, and Ermine was certain that it wasn’t alone either.
In a ridiculous attempt to go unnoticed, the pilot started clambering up his vehicle. He had barely taken a step before the orgo snorted and turned to face him. Panic took hold, and he clutched at handrails, heading toward the cockpit. Few feared the orgo; they were generally docile creatures unless they felt threatened. The pilot, it seemed, felt differently.
The rest of the crew edged away from the transporter, closer to their weapons. With each step they took, the orgo moved closer toward them, lowering its head and stretching forward with curiosity. In turn, each warden removed their lance from the rack on the wall, preparing to defend themselves.
‘Hold position,’ ordered Ermine, when the orgo took a step away. For a few seconds, he tried to predict its next move. He refused to let the orgo out of his sight. But then, unexpectedly, its neck swung around and it hurried back through the gates.
‘What was that all about?’ Dee Nine asked, as the orgo vanished into the night.
Ermine screwed his face and shivered. For the first time, it seemed cold inside the building.
‘Wait…’ He wanted his squad to remain on alert. They would be stupid to assume this was a random intrusion.
‘We need…to get finished…now,’ the pilot said, spluttering over his words. He had managed to clamber into his seat.
Interrupted, Ermine stood in horror as three more black orgo exploded into the building. Each animal was saddled and accompanied by their owners. Ermine recognised the crimson cloaks and bizarre animal skulls, which concealed the intruders’ faces.
‘Renegades!’ mumbled Dee Nine, stating the obvious.
‘Scorr Tanta…our home!’ Ermine called proudly. His call instructed the squad to defend themselves, and their shipment. He had not expected this. The Renegades always ambushed them on their journey. They had never attacked the shelter before. With their new Land Transport, Ermine expected that the Renegades wouldn’t be a problem. How wrong he was.
Acting on their orders, the wardens immediately charged toward the orgo. Their lances were poised for attack. The orgo responded, and dodged their enemies with ease as they galloped inside the building. Two of the Renegades busied their foes, whilst the other dismounted and drew an axe from his saddle. Tossed and thrown around in the direction of the Land Transport, the weapon wasted no time cutting deep into the tracks that covered the wheels. The Renegades were efficient and well prepared; as always.
‘Stop!’ said Ermine. ‘In the name of Rada!’ But it was pointless. His words meant nothing to these outlaws.
The Renegade ignored him, and continued severing the vehicles tracks with unrelenting aggression. Whilst he worked, the other bandits lurched at the warden squad on their orgo. Each warden thrust their lances at the animals in front of them, but they were all unsuccessful in their attacks. Although they outnumbered the Renegades, the squadron still appeared outmatched. The orgo stretched out their necks and began butting their aggressors. They were systematically protecting the bulk of their bodies—and their riders—from injury. Each orgo avoided every lunge of a lance. Persistent, the wardens continued with their uncoordinated attacks.
Ermine ran toward the Renegade vandalising their new vehicle. ‘Drop your weapon. Stop what you’re doing!’ Instantly, another of the bandits knocked him from his feet.
His attempts to stop them was futile. The Renegades weren’t the sort to surrender, and wardens couldn’t match their skill. Holding their ground, the Renegades pressed on and distracted the squad. After only a few minutes, the tracks on the vehicle began to fall away. The armed Renegade had rendered it worthless and joined his accomplices.
In a flash, the outlaws changed formation and cantered out of the shelter; mocking the squad. Orgo were too fast for the wardens, but the Renegades didn’t make any attempt to race away with haste either. Ermine wondered why the outlaws had left the supplies behind.
With the wardens trailing behind, the Renegades trotted away from the supply building. In some way, they appeared triumphant. Stunned by their arrogance, Ermine was still confused. Why hadn’t they taken any of the crates? he thought. His ambition to detain the Renegades took over. Ermine wanted to be the hero, and he wanted to stop these criminals when nobody else had been able to. Joining the other wardens, he pursued their enemy.
Everyone moved across the slushy wharf, whilst the lookout remained hidden in the shadows. He had been there throughout the entire raid, and since before Ermine’s arrival. Knowing exactly what to do, he raced across the wharf toward the supply shelter at the exact right moment. Once at the entrance to the building, the Renegade dismounted and prepared to work alone—the way he liked it. When he entered the shelter, he immediately caught sight of the pilot that the rest of the wardens had left behind. The man now cowered in his cockpit. His head could just be seen through the glass cover, but he didn’t concern the Renegade. The pilot wouldn’t challenge him—it would be stupid to try.
The thief worked fast, binding the abandoned crates together, shoving each into place and creating a chain. It was easy work with no interruptions. Within no time, the Renegade completed his makeshift contraption and fastened it to his orgo’s saddle, using two pieces of spare rope. The beast was the engine, and the Renegade became the driver, of a long “sort-of” train of supply containers. He made his job look simple, twitching on his reins and cantering out of the shelter. With incredible strength, the orgo pulled the load behind them. In minutes their task was complete, and the Renegade laughed to himself whilst he dismounted by the shelter gateway. The thought of the pilot, quivering in his cockpit like a child, amused him
After removing a corroded can from the saddle of his orgo, the Renegade stomped up to the huge timber gates. From inside his container, he lifted a brush and began writing. He wanted to leave a mark, and send a message to those who wished to stop them. On the gates, in large red lettering, he wrote—RENEGADES. Then, returning to his saddle, the solitary Renegade punched the air to celebrate. He galloped across the wharf undetected; his mission a success. The wardens were oblivious that their supplies had been taken.
They were easily fooled.
There you go. Let me know your thoughts. Chapter One will be out next Sunday!