WHEN ALL OTHER OPTIONS RUN OUT, NEVER LET GO OF YOUR GUN.
Winner of the 2010 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Contest for best action/thriller. Finalist in the Kindle Book Review 2012 Best Indie Book Contest for science fiction/fantasy.
In a few hundred years, the Algol system becomes humanity's new home. The question is: Is it a better one? When a crew of arms smugglers botches their latest job, Corps-deserter and crewmember, Aly Erikson, is separated from her brother, the only person she can trust, and left behind to fight for her life. In the aftermath, as she tries to piece together what happened, a crew of roughneck settlers pressgang her into a dangerous mission in the heart of Corps territory. Time is running out to get back everything she's lost: her crew, her brother, her options. But no one is taking her gun.
Tammy Salyer and I crossed paths for the first time when we were up for the same award. That's not necessarily the best way to start a lasting professional relationship, but while we both lost the award to Hugh Howey, I was quickly won over by her expert world building. Contract of Defiance masterfully combines the grittiness of a military thriller with the potential of our technological future to produce at once a believable and emotionally intense tale of duty and honor. – Joseph R. Lallo
"For fast-paced action, adventure, and one crazy-tough chick, this one will not let you down. Start "Contract of Defiance" on a night before you have nothing else planned because you're guaranteed to keep reading well until dawn!"– Amazon Review
"I prefer my sci-fi action-packed, and CONTRACT OF DEFIANCE delivers. Aly is a creature of action, and Tammy Salyer's own military experience (she was a paratrooper!) serves her well when it comes to writing realistic, fast-paced combat scenes. Tammy probably never assaulted a space station personally - but her writing puts you into the action in a way that makes the novel realistic and impossible to put down."– Author Susan Spann
"A rocket ship full of sci-fi lovin' goodness powered by prose that borders on literary fiction. I can see why Contract of Defiance won a ton of of awards."– Author David Bruns
"Stood toe-to-toe with the likes of Christie Golden, R.A. Salvatore, and better than Richard Knaack."– Author K. Scott Lewis
"Arm yourself for a riveting quest on the galactic fringe in Contract of Defiance."– The Motley Chronicles
"A fast-paced and fun sci-fi space adventure with a great protagonist, Contract of Defiance by Tammy Salyer starts with a running gun fight and doesn't let up until the explosive conclusion."– Author Scott Whitmore
Maybe running for my life during a firefight with a squad of Corps soldiers isn't the best time to be having second thoughts about my occupation, but I have to ask myself, why the hell did I become an arms smuggler? I could have been an engineer!
David vaults over a discarded tool caddy like a champion hurdler and I follow on his heels, clipping one foot on a drill and pinwheeling my arms to keep my balance without missing a step. This is a race where the loser dies.
The rest of our crew already has the holodisc, so now it's just a question of distracting the Corps until they can get safely back to the Temptation and off of Obal 3. We can handle that. Our body armor doesn't provide as much protection as newer-issue Corps gear, but at least it's lighter, and we're starting to lose the two squads on our heels. We had enough time to deploy decoys around the station before being detected, and their shots aren't coming anywhere near us.
Still in the lead, David slams through a swinging door to his right. As I veer through, a round flies past my ear, whistling like a miniature surface-to-air missile and knocking the door from its hinges. That was close! Most of their shots aren't coming near us anyway.
The launch docks are just ahead and we propel toward them. David slams the heavy blast door behind me as I tumble in, barely making it through before the squad fans out behind us and fills the gap with bullets. Shielded by the blast door, he jams a wad of E-10 wax into the lock system, hoping to fry it and buy us some time, and we keep moving. Two rights, two lefts, then down a flight of stairs to sub-dock three and we'll be at our escape shuttle. Almost there.
A door to our left blows open and automatic fire stutters down the passage. Regular rounds. They must have realized seeker rounds were useless. I'm suddenly spun sideways as a round grazes my ribs, but the low impact does no damage to the armor. We make it into the concealment of the stairwell door that leads to our shuttle's dock. Locked! Smoke hangs in the air, burning my lungs with each ragged breath as I lean out of sight. David frantically scans the corridor but can't see through the haze.
"Bypass it. I'll keep them busy."
He fires down the corridor as I pry the face off the locking system and rip wires free until I can short it out. It hisses as the bolt slides free.
"Shit!" David yells.
Warm, sticky blood speckles my face. I jerk my head back and see it pouring from his left shoulder. He's pressing one hand over the wound, and I can't tell how serious the damage is. If the bullet struck bone, he has major problems.
Pulling him toward me, I try to get us both through the door, but he resists.
"It's open, come on!" I yell.
He lets go of his shoulder and pushes me backward with his good hand—hard. His eyes are squinted and his face pale, but the message in his expression is clear. Get out of here!
"What are you doing?!"
"Keep going. Don't stop. Get to the shuttle and get out of here," he says.
"No, David, I'm not leaving you!"
"Get back to the crew and finish the job. And little sis, whatever you do, don't let Rajcik out of your sight."
Before I can stop him, he throws his carbine into the corridor and yells, "Don't shoot! I'm unarmed!" He gives me a final push through the door and slams it shut, the sound like a coffin lid.
For a split second, I'm stunned, unable to believe he'd do this. Surrendering to a squad of Corps soldiers is a death sentence for deserters like us. A muffled voice outside commands, "Hands behind your head! Move forward slowly!"
They know there are two of us, and they'll be coming through the door in seconds. The only chance David has is if I can get help. The shuttle should be docked outside, and if I'm going to go, it has to be now. I take the stairs two at time, jumping over the rail when I'm still about two meters from the deck. Landing hard thanks to the body armor, I crumple to one knee, but ignore the sting and keep running.
My mind is filled with one stuttering mantra: get to the shuttle and rendezvous with the crew. I'm working on reflex now but I'm torn. Part of me wants to double back and ambush the squad holding David, but one against ten is asking to be shredded, and the rest of me says today is not a good day to die. It's the crew or nothing.
Bursting into the docking bay, I sprint all the way through. Where's the shuttle? The only thing in the cavernous bay is a modified and very used ISPS—Intersystem Propulsion Shuttle—sitting in the middle with its loading ramp open. Am I in the wrong bay? I keep running, not wanting to make myself a target to anyone who might be in the ship. If I get to the control room on the other side of the bay, I can stop and check my VDU.
I get to the blast door and start working on a lock bypass, but it begins sliding open before I finish. Fueled by pure reflex, I hit the man coming through in the throat with the stock of my AK-80 pulse carbine. Caught by surprise, he collapses backward, gagging and going limp when his head hits the floor. As I hop over him to get inside, the left side of my neck suddenly burns with liquid fire, as if I'm being branded, and the bullet pings against the wall in front of me. The shot probably would have gone through my skull if I hadn't been jumping when it hit me. Spinning ninety degrees, I land on my side and start firing back at the soldiers streaming across the bay. They quickly duck and cover behind scattered equipment. Climbing over the man I knocked out, I note with some regret that he's no soldier, but at the moment I have other concerns. Once inside the cover of the control room, I try to drag him in so I can close the damn door, but his body is too heavy.
The squad closes on me fast and a soldier springs through the doorway before I can get the man moved. I fire one-handed, aiming for his vulnerable neck, and he goes down like a felled tree, blood spraying the walls and me. He must have thought I'd exited through the rear door or he wouldn't have charged through like that. His mistake.
Everything falls quiet outside. I lean against the wall next to the doorway, listening and waiting. I can almost hear them breathing, and now I have two bodies to get out of the way if I'm going to be able to close the control room door. What are my options? I could dive for the second exit, but I'll be exposed. If I wait for them to move in, they'll have plenty of time to call backup and surround me. My options, clearly, are shit.
There's no more time to think it through. Scooting backward, I risk a glance through the reinforced porthole into the bay. There's movement out there, a couple people coming down the ISPS's ramp. They keep low, moving carefully, trying to avoid being seen. What are they doing? Doesn't matter—they may be just the diversion I need to get the soldiers off my back while I haul ass to the escape shuttle. If they'd just make some noise.
There are two of them. The bigger one is built like a champion fighter, and tall enough to have to hunch when standing beneath the ship. The other is about David's height, with dark brown hair and a several days of beard growth. They move with too much practiced stealth toward the front end of the bay to be civilians. Former Corps maybe? As they disappear from my line of sight, I want to scream in frustration.
"Put down that weapon!" It's one of the soldiers, but he's not talking to me.
Another voice rings out. "We don't want any trouble. Our mechanic is in the control room. We just want to get him out. No trouble."
"This is a Corps-controlled hangar. Put your weapon down and show yourself."
This is the moment and I lunge for the rear door. But the day just gets worse and worse as a soldier tackles me from behind. My ribs take both our weight as we hit the floor and I grit my teeth against a scream of pain. The soldier gets his feet planted and yanks me up by both arms, forcing me to drop my carbine. Fighting back, I kick against the wall and throw him off balance. He staggers backward, loosening his hold enough for me to jerk one hand free. I spin sideways, snatching at his sidearm as I do. It comes clear of the holster, and I shoot him right below his armpit where the body armor is thinner to allow for articulation. A look of anguished surprise freezes across his features. My other arm, still entwined with his, twists painfully as he falls, pulling me back to the floor. I yank it free and jump up, immediately taking a shot mid-torso by another soldier. The range is so close that it feels as if my entire chest collapses as it blows me back into the second doorway. Gasping, trying to force my lungs to suck in air, I watch helplessly as he aims, preparing to blow my head off.
A rifle report echoes across the dock, and the soldier is thrown into the wall behind me. The shot was well aimed, tearing through his neck, and he crumples lifeless to the floor.
Tendrils of acrid smoke from the volume of shots fired waver through the room as I lie bleeding, my lungs struggling to expand. Lurching to the wall, I lean into it, listening. Footsteps approach quickly and cautiously. There's no time to think, only to react. I check the soldier's pistol and then my own. Empty, dammit! I holster mine and scan the room, but the bluish smoke conceals any other weapons. Pulling an NKT bolo from my equipment vest, I lower into a crouch beside the doorway. Black dots shoot across my vision, making it hard to concentrate, and my legs shake, wanting to spill out from under me. Yeah, engineering would have been a better choice.
The black barrel of a rifle materializes, framed in the doorway. Trying to get the drop on the gunman, I lunge, staying low, and thrust the blade up, aiming for his vitals. But I'm too shaky. The blade barely nicks his thigh. As I pull back, prepping for another attempt, a galaxy of stars explodes through my head.