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Fiction Contemporary

The Future Falls

by (author) Tanya Huff

Publisher
DAW
Initial publish date
Nov 2015
Category
Contemporary, Paranormal, Urban Life
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9780756407544
    Publish Date
    Nov 2015
    List Price
    $14.99

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Description

When Auntie Catherine warns the family of an approaching asteroid, the Gales scramble to keep humans from going the way of the dinosaurs. Fortunately for the world, they're wielding a guitar and a dragon.

The Gale family can change the world with the charms they cast, which has caused some supernaturally complicated family shenanigans in the past. So when NASA and Doomsday Dan confirm Auntie Catherine's dire prediction, Charlotte "Charlie" Gale turns to the family for help.

But Allie is unavailable because the universe seems determined to have her produce the seventh son of a seventh son of a seventh son of a Gale.  And the Aunties can't help because they're tied to the earth – although they are happy to provide their delicious, trademark pies.  And in the end, all Charlie has is a guitar...

...and Jack. The Dragon Prince, and a Sorcerer.

But Charlie might like Jack just a little too much, and Jack might like Charlie a little too much in return. Actually, between Allie's hormones, the Aunties trying to force her and Jack into ritual, the Courts having way too much fun at the end of days, and Jack's sudden desire to sacrifice himself for the good of the many, Charlie's fairly certain that the asteroid is the least of her problems.

The Gales are going to need more than pie to save the world from an incoming asteroid. But together there isn't anything they can't deal with – except possibly each other.

About the author

Tanya Huff may have left Nova Scotia at three, and has lived most of her life since in Ontario, but she still considers herself a Maritimer. On the way to the idyllic rural existence she shares with her partner Fiona Patton, six cats, and a chihuahua, she acquired a degree in Radio and Television Arts from Ryerson Polytechnic—an education she was happy to finally use while writing her recent Smoke novels. Of her previous twenty-three books, the five—Blood Price, Blood Trail, Blood Lines, Blood Pact, Blood Debt—featuring Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry VIII, romance writer, and vampire are among the most popular.

Tanya Huff's profile page

Excerpt: The Future Falls (by (author) Tanya Huff)

 

She lay stretched out under a beach umbrella, long silver braid coiled on top of her head, the fingers of one hand wrapped around a piña colada—made with real island rum and fresh coconut milk—the fingers of the other drumming against the broad teak arm of the lounge chair. She’d been watching a beach volleyball game and she hadn’t appreciated having her view of half-naked, athletic young men bounding about on the sand interrupted by the Sight of a falling rock.

Usually, what she Saw was as open to speculation as an election promise. She Saw fire burning in the center of Calgary, and her granddaughter holding a double handful of water, ready to put it out. She saw discarded antlers on an empty throne, and knew the bloodline had been both challenged and changed. Granted, the Elder God rising up from a rift in the ocean bed off Nova Scotia had turned out to be more literal than she’d anticipated, but, usually, what she Saw was the metaphysical equivalent of interpretive dance. She got out of it only what she put into it.

Usually.

She wasn’t in the habit of making the family a gift of what she’d Seen. A firm believer in anything free was worth the price paid, she usually arranged it so that the family worked for the information while providing her with weeks, or even months, of amusement. This time, however, she thought she might have to make an exception.

Having been banished from Calgary by her granddaughter, who was strong enough to enforce the banishment—pride warred with annoyance and occasionally won—she’d have to return to the family home in Ontario. To the old farmhouse where she’d raised her children and arranged for her grandchildren. In Ontario. In October. When the weather was seldom pleasant even with September barely out of sight.

Ontario meant Jane.

Who was less likely to be pleasant than the weather.

A warm breeze wafted past, bringing with it the scent of coconut oil and sweat, the sound of laughing young men willing to be charmed.

She had to be crazy to leave this behind.

Except . . .

It had been a very large rock.

Still, it wasn’t as if a few more days of lovely weather and obliging young men would make any significant difference in the end.

“. . . turns out that 2007 AG5 had masked the other asteroid.”

Pam Yorlem noted that Dr. Grayson’s voice had remained admirably steady throughout his report. The Director of JPL had dark circles under both eyes and his hands had been shaking slightly before he shoved them into his jacket pockets, but, considering that he’d spent the night on the red-eye from LAX then taken a taxi directly to NASA HQ after landing at Dulles, that was hardly surprising. Dr. Mehta, one of the scientists involved with the Near-Earth Object Program, looked significantly less affected, but she was twenty years younger than both Dr. Grayson and, Pam allowed, herself. Perhaps that made her more hopeful.

No, she seemed too smart for that.

Drawing in a deep breath, Pam released it slowly and said, “Let me see if I’ve got this. Sixteen months ago, LaSagra in southern Spain, determined that 2007 AG5, an M-class approximately 45 meters in diameter, will pass within about 3.5 Earth radii of the Earth’s surface inside the geosynchronous satellite ring. Seventeen hours ago, you, Dr. Mehta . . .” Pam nodded toward the astrophysicist on the other side of her desk. “. . . discovered that 2007 AG5 was hiding another asteroid. A larger asteroid. An asteroid over a kilometer in diameter, masked by the metal content of AG5, including, but not limited to, the brightness of reflected light from its polished surface. You determined the existence of this second asteroid mathematically while killing time waiting for Vesta data to run rather than by actually finding another bright spot in the sky.”

Dr. Mehta’s brows rose, but before she could speak, Pam raised a hand.

“My apologies; that was uncalled for.” Blaming the messenger was not the response of a person with her training and experience. “I’m not doubting your math. I’d like to, given that we apparently have twenty-one months before impact, but I’m not.” At least not right now. It seemed a safe assumption that after discovering an NEO on its way to becoming slightly more than near, everyone would check and then recheck the math. “How long before the trajectories of the two asteroids diverge to the point where there’ll be too many sightings of the second for us to keep . . .” She glanced down at the screen of her tablet, frowned, and looked up. “Seriously, Dr. Grayson? The Armageddon Asteroid? You’re naming a large chunk of rock that will destroy a significant proportion of life on this planet unless we pull off the Hail Mary Pass to end all Hail Mary Passes after a Michael Bay movie?”

“Subsurface nuclear explosives are one of the listed diversion options,” Dr. Grayson pointed out. He covered a yawn with the back of his hand. “Sorry, I can’t sleep on planes. And technically, subsurface nukes are possible. Sort of.”

“Maybe Bruce Willis can save us,” Dr. Mehta offered, rolling her eyes.

“Let’s not rule it out. All right . . .” Pam rewound the conversation back to before the distraction of a scientifically ludicrous movie. “. . . how long before there’s too many sightings worldwide for us to keep this secret? And when I say secret, I mean out of the media, off the blog-sphere, public panic delayed?”

“Given the way the budgets have been cut for the big scopes and that amateurs tend to ignore asteroids once they’ve been listed . . .” Dr. Mehta tucked a strand of short dark hair behind her ear and shrugged. “. . . with luck, six months.”

“Or someone could stumble over it tomorrow the way Kiren did. Or we could luck out and it’ll be another 2012 LZ1—unseen until Siding Springs spotted it before the flyby.” Dr. Grayson shrugged. “It’s a crap shoot, Chief.” He spread his hands. “And we’re screwed either way. Twenty-one months, big hunk of rock, bam, extinction event.”

“Bam?”

“Scientifically speaking.”

“No.” Pam squared her shoulders. She was a Brigadier General in the United States Air Force. She’d logged over 5,000 hours flight time in over 50 different aircraft and over 38 days in space. She was the second woman to command a shuttle mission and the first to command the International Space Station. She was the first woman to be in charge at NASA and she didn’t do bam. “We stop it.”

“How?”

“I have at NASA, Dr. Grayson, the best and the brightest minds in the world—and I include the two of you in that assessment. That’s neither hyperbole nor flattery, that’s fact. I’m sure that in the six months before the panic starts, you and your colleagues, here and internationally, will come up with a solution.”

Dr. Grayson stared at her for a long moment, then all the tension left his body at once and he sagged down in his chair. “You really believe that.”

“I do.” She had to because when in danger or in doubt, run in circles scream and shout was no way to live. Or die, if it came to it. “I’ll inform the president. I’m sure he’ll want to speak with both of you, and I’ll advise him to lock down both this information and what we plan to do about it at the highest security level. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you to mention this discovery to no one else.”

“It was why we got on a plane.” Dr. Grayson covered another yawn. “You can’t hack wetware. Well, you can, but it’s not usually where they start. I hear everyone breaks on the third day.”

“Dr. Grayson . . .”

Another yawn. “Sorry. Free associating.”

“Before you got on the plane, did you mention this discovery to anyone?”

“I told the wife we were heading east for another budget discussion.”

“What about Houston?”

“I thought we should see you first.”

“Dr. Mehta?”

She shook her head. “I told Dr. Grayson . . .”

“Of course.” Dr. Mehta had begun to look drawn, shocky if Pam was any judge. It seemed the younger scientist had held it together until she’d passed the buck upstairs and now reaction had begun to set in. “Talk to my assistant on your way out. She’ll see that you have a place to stay until we know when you’re heading back to the west coast. Get some sleep. Get ready for questions. In my experience, the joint chiefs appreciate PowerPoint.”

“And small words,” Dr. Grayson muttered under his breath. Given that she wasn’t intended to hear it, Pam decided she hadn’t. And he wasn’t entirely wrong.

“Thank you for this.” She gestured with the tablet. “You’ve given us a chance, however slight. I’ll let you know what else we’ll need from you as soon as I find out.”

She’d started making notes before they were completely out of the office. The heads of equivalent organizations internationally would have to be informed. Media Relations could spin any leaks—and there would be leaks, there always were—on the conspiracy websites the government assisted the deluded to maintain.

Only nine million dollars of NASA’s yearly budget went toward searching for NEOs, the majority of it supporting the operations of several observatories, and a significantly smaller portion into finding ways to protect the Earth from a potential collision. That would have to change.

While waiting for the president’s office to get back to her, Pam started running the numbers, lips pulled back off her teeth as she imagined bringing this before the House Committee on Appropriations. “Let’s see if this is enough to free up more than not quite half of one percent of the budget . . .”

With Dr. Grayson dozing beside her, Kiren stared out the window of the taxi, watched the rain, and wondered if she should have protested General Yorlem’s interruption. The military might consider an assumption by a brigadier general to be fact, but she was a scientist and she knew better. Would have known better even had this particular assumption by the general not so personally concerned her.

Dr. Grayson had been the only person connected with NASA she’d told, but before she’d spoken to him, right after she’d checked the math for the sixth time, she’d called her oldest friend—fingers trembling so violently it had taken her three tries to make the call. She’d known Gary since third grade when his parents bought the house next door to hers. They’d gone through middle school and high school together—double-dated at both junior and senior prom—and headed off to MIT together, science nerds and proud. Their ways had started to diverge then; he’d headed into engineering and she’d gone into space science and data analysis, but they’d stayed friends. Accomplices when possible.

She’d stood for him at his wedding to a wonderful woman, her red sari a burst of color by their canopy.

“He’s like my brother,” Kiren always said when it came up. Actually, Gary was closer to her than her brother who was five years older and a bit of an ass. She hadn’t called her brother when she’d worked out the mathematical possibility of the world ending.

Gary had listened to her babble, taken a deep breath, and said, “Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Twenty-one months?”

“Yes.” She chewed her lip while he thought. He might not have access to all the details, but he had information enough to draw the correct conclusions.

“Even if they free up the money, there’s no way we—you, NASA—can stop an asteroid that size . . .”

“It’s not so much the size, it’s how close it is.”

“All right. There’s no way you can stop an asteroid already that close in twenty-one months.”

“No.” Oh, they’d try—the entire international community of space scientists would try—but, realistically, no. Unrealistically, no. Actually, no. Deflection efforts required years of warning. They had less than two. NASA had compiled a list of options back in 2007, but time had passed and Congress had never approved the funds necessary to begin developing them.

“But you’re not going to give up.” It wasn’t a question.

She almost managed a smile at the certainty in his voice. “No.”

“Well, then, I guess we’d better make the next twenty-one months count . . .”

Charlie loved Red Dirt music. It had a raw power that sang under her skin and buzzed through blood and along bone. More than merely a distraction, it was a cleanse and she desperately needed a few things washed away. It wasn’t always pretty music, but she’d take power over pretty any day and she much preferred music meant for kitchens or cabins or smoky bars where her shoes stuck to the floor than music trapped by the engineered pattern of acoustic tiles.

If the family in Calgary wanted to believe she’d run from the occasionally cloying domesticity of Allie and her babies, well, Charlie was good with that. The actual reason was no one’s business. Cloaked in their useful belief that musician meant irresponsible, she’d stepped out the back door and into the Wood and followed the music to Norman, Oklahoma, where she spent Wednesday night listening to the Damn Quails at Libby’s, Thursday night at the Deli with Camilla Harp, and Friday in Oklahoma City at the Blue Door.

John Fullbright’s concert, his first back at the Blue Door for a while, had been sold out for weeks, but Charlie was a Gale girl and a ticket returned in time for her to make use of it. Fullbright was amazing. His voice was a soft burr, a rough prayer, or shared laugh as required, and his roots were sunk so deep in Southwest Oklahoma he had almost a Gale connection to the place.

He wasn’t so young that he reminded Charlie of why she was on the road, but he was young enough the words “old soul” were tossed about the room between songs. He wasn’t an old soul, at least not so old it was obvious in his voice—Charlie would have been able to hear an internal age beyond Human norm—but he was undeniably talented.

“If you’re Canadian . . .”

Charlie stared across the table at the burly redneck she was sharing with; she hadn’t thought her nationality was up for debate.

“. . . you should hear John’s cover of ‘Hallelujah.’”

“Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’?”

“No, Handel’s ‘The Hallelujah Chorus.’ Of course Cohen.” He erased his frown with another swallow from a root beer can full of bourbon. “That boy and that song’ll strip the meat right off your bones. Closest thing to a religious experience you’ll ever get in a place where your shoes stick to the floor.”

Hearing her own qualifier thrown back at her, Charlie grinned and hummed a quick charm onto his tattooed forearm, the sound slipping through pauses in the room’s ambient noise. There were powers that respected a Gale charm, even this far south, and this man, who understood what music meant, needed a little luck in his life. From the moment he’d sat down beside her, she’d been half afraid of a lightning strike from the metaphysical black cloud hanging over his head.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for the Enchantment Emporium series:

"Fantasy buffs will find plenty of humor, thrills and original mythology to chew on, along with refreshingly three-dimensional women in an original, fully realized world." —Publishers Weekly 

“It’s a great adventure, full of music and magic and just a little goofy at times, thanks to the delightful oddities of the Gales.” —Locus

"Combine Huff’s ability to blend ancient traditions seamlessly into the modern world and make them seem perfectly normal with her characters who are appealing and fun to hang out with, and you’re in for an amazing read." —Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Combining Celtic folklore, musical references, and a love of nature and magic, this sequel to The Enchantment Emporium will appeal to Huff’s many fans and to readers who like their urban fantasy with more depth and character development.” —Library Journal

"Zingy characterizations and a quick pace." —Publishers Weekly

Quintessential Huff -- sharp, clean, funny. A heady mix of music, place and people that rings true on every level. Once again, I find myself hoping that this is a series that will go on.” —Green Man Review

"The Wild Ways is big fun from start to finish.... It’s got humor and drama, it’s fast-paced and sexy.... Huff just doesn’t write cookiecut characters; hers are fully rounded with many facets to their personalities. Whether you’re rejoining the Gale family or meeting them for the first time, I think you’ll be as delighted with this book as I am." —Charles de Lint

Other titles by Tanya Huff