Below is a 20 page sample of my sci-fi novel The Journey Forth. It is the first in a 26 book series, with this first one coming out late 2015.
Chronicles Of The Myles Standish:
The Journey Forth
By Scott C. Brown
5318 years prior…
Its diamond crystalline form gleamed even in the darkness of deep space, reflecting and refracting the light of the not too distant stars. With its course a never changing constant, it had followed the same path that the heavens had set for it so long ago. A silent journey across the silky black ocean that is deep space and out along the arm of a distant spiral galaxy. A pristine form that carried the treasures that mankind has sought since woman first came upon the earth. Beauty. Beauty in the form of peridot, diamond and sapphire. Created and hardened by a birth like few others.
It made no effort to change its heading as it swiftly approached its fate, for its creation, as well as its charted course, was one that had come about at the same time a distant sun had blurred the lines between creation and destruction. Worlds had been erased in those moments. Stripped bare of life. Seared clean of everything, as the brilliance that had once been this ancient sun suffered through the final stages of its long and wonderful life. A single final burst of its once massive strength was all it could manage as death overcame it. And it was no more.
In those moments that preceded this once brilliant sun gave its final throes, destroying everything in its wake, the universe gave forth what time and time again it had proven able, to create beauty in the midst of chaos. The energy melded the particles of death and destruction into a new form. Heating. Compressing. Releasing. Until what remained floated free of its bonds.
Set upon this path so long ago. It remembered. It knew. It was at peace with the universe that had created it and at peace with the silky darkness of space through which it was now allowed to sail free.
The Birth of a Soldier – 23 Years Prior…
The moon had just started a slow crawl through the night’s sky, casting its first tendrils down the darkened cobblestone streets, as the first wisps of fog stealthy crept from the sea. Shadowy figures moved along the pebble inlaid sidewalks, only to be succumbed by the pools of bright yellow light and sounds that spilled from the pubs and restaurants that were still open at this late hour. Two more tentatively than those more accustomed to the witching hour. With not a word having been spoken between them for the last stretch of time, they now stood across the cobblestone thoroughfare from their destination. A moment of stillness fell over the travel worn street, as the last shadow moved out of the darkened street, finally succumbing to the pull of forbidden fruits, and into a less than reputable drinking establishment a few blocks further down.
“Are you sure we should do this?” The softly lilting female voice cracked with the stress of what was now no longer being contemplated, but rather now taking place on that silent street. The hooded cape unable to hide her distress.
“We have talked about this. There is no way for us to make it work.” The young man’s voice whispered, with a gentle squeeze of her hand. “It’s what is best for him.”
“I just wish there was another way,” she murmured, choking back the tears that were welling in her sea-blue eyes. Both looked down at the basket they carried between them, as if the bound they shared drew their gaze like an unyielding force. “This just doesn’t seem right!”
“You know that they will give him a real life. His own life. Not this nightmare that we’re forced to live. I can’t bear the thought of him suffer through this with us. It was our mistake for believing them, not his.” He softly squeezed her hand. “He will have a wonderful life, with God’s grace and understand, someday he’ll come to understand why we did this for him. There is nothing more we can do than that.”
With a final embrace, together they crossed the silent cobbled street, climbing the two wide grey slate steps to stand in front of the two massive iron bound rough hewn wooden doors and gently placed their precious package on the polished stone stoop that was etched and inlaid with an artist’s representation of the planet they now walked upon interlaced with the Republic’s crest. With his hand over hers, they pulled the cord that hung beside the massive doors. As the chimes pealing call rang through the streets, the two shadows disappeared down the narrow alley from which they had first appeared. Their footsteps fading as fast as their tears were falling. Returning to wait in silence for the fate that they knew would soon be coming for them. It was not their faith in a higher power that made it so. It was their faith in those that had led them to this world.
On this far off world it was their beliefs that made them guilty, but it would be their faith that they would have to find solace in from the agony that the others would use in an effort to purify their souls and minds. Purify them and all those like them that had come before, as well as those that would follow the same path. This was their choice and not the path for which their child should be accused and punished.
Slowly the massive left door swung open. The sheer weight of it being revealed by the creaking of the hand hammered hinges straining with the effort. A brightly lit interior cast a column of light across the basket that sat on the stoop and out into the now deserted street beyond.
A stanch young man in a crisply pressed uniform and distinctly military haircut stepped through the door with his rifle at the ready. Seeing the basket and still surveying he empty streets for any sign of movement, he called back over his shoulder through the massive doorway. “Sergeant Slayter, looks like we have another one!”
“How many does that make tonight, Corporal Hutchinson?” A strong Scottish timber carrying out into the stillness of the refreshing cool that spring gave to the night, as an older man of strong stature and a face that showed many years of rough living, stepped through the doorway to observe the small bundle that lay nestled in the basket at the corporal’s feet. Standing over two meters in height, he carried himself with a natural confidence that came with life experience. A small scar ran across the left side of a strong jaw and up to the earlobe, which was nicked by whatever had left the mark. The limp was distinct, but by no means appeared to disable his ability to stay fit, by the well-defined muscle tone of wide shoulders and narrow waist. The limp could not conceal the panther like qualities that the many years did their best to take away. Even an untrained observers, without a doubt, could see that if he chose it, nothing would slow him from overcoming obstacle.
Glancing at the heads-up display in the helmet, while finishing his check of the long quiet street that was laid out in front of the United Democratic Republic of Planets (U.D.R.P.) Orphanage, the neural network flashed the requested information. “Looks like we’ve had seven in our district alone.” Replied the young corporal. Passing his gloved hand a few times over the basket the built in sensors began to check for bomb residue and anything else that might be suspicious that it was designed to detect. After just a few moments the lights in the heads-up display went from red to yellow, then after another moment to green with the details of the analysis. “Looks to be all clear.”
“Just another case of loving parents wanting the best for their kid” The old sergeant commented, as he punched up the needed processing documents on his own netlink, and started making notes in the nightly log. “Well, bring the young’un in. At least they picked a nice evening to entrust its future to us. A bit cooler than usual, but nice nonetheless.”
Picking up the basket which held the small baby, the corporal followed the limping sergeant back through the massive doors of the orphanage. Gracing them was the wrought iron symbol of the U.D.R.P. Showing that its influence was not merely through political power, but by direct influences throughout all levels of societies of all settled planets. Once inside, Corporal Hutchinson set the basket down by the nearby examination station, and gently lifted the swaddled baby from the folds of the warm blankets and placed it on to the waiting table of the attached medical scanner. Attaching the small sensor pads to the baby’s body, the corporal typed out the needed information and checked off the list of tests to be completed and then initiated the exam.
Several moments went by as the scanner ran through its long series of required tests. The two men and baby waited in the silence, the corporal impatiently shifting his weight from one foot to the other, while the old seasoned sergeant stood relaxed, finding solace within. Something that only those that have spent many long tours in battle while waiting or the aggressor to show its veracity, or to show their own when their commands came down, can find within themselves.
The familiar beeping sound informed them that the medical exam was complete. The corporal picked the sleeping baby up once again, placed it into a waiting bassinet, then looking back at the results of the medical scan that was now being displayed on the screen. “Everything seems to be within the normal range. What do we log…” The corporal paused scrolling to look at a different part of the report “Him… in as?”
Typing commands in on the netlink’s keyboard only took a few quick moments before the old sergeant smiled at hearing the acknowledging beep. A series of numbers and a name flashed across the screen strapped to his forearm. Looking down at the baby boy’s freshly opened bright blue eyes, he stated. “Anderton. William Robert Anderton. Youngest member of the Anderton family. There is an address listed off Produce Row, right here in New Vancouver. Looks to be about ten minutes from here.
We have a positive DNA match to mother Sanna Richeart-Anderton, and father Deven Anderton. Parents are married and seem to be well employed with the CisecCorp Agricultural Conglomerate. They do most of the farming around here. Deven is an executive V.P. in charge of crop rotation and Sanna is an executive assistant to one of the other V.P.s in distribution. Both are well above the average pay bracket, and according to their last required physicals, are in excellent health with a long life expectancy. No negative heredity to anything that doesn’t have a cure, or treatment. Both are also listed as above average intelligence. In fact their educational background shows well above the standard test scores. Though a bit young they seem to be doing very well for themselves with a wide financial portfolio, though little in actual personal holdings. No property listed, or vehicles. They have no gene modifications, or medical conditions due to injuries.
We’ll send an inquiry over tomorrow to find out why they want to give him up and get the final paperwork signed, since they didn’t fill out the form they should have for a blind drop, but by the looks of things, a lot of the families that are doing the same tonight are fully capable of taking care of their children at well above the average.
Makes me wonder what the sudden surge in voluntary abandonment is all about. I haven’t ever seen more than a couple of kids a week come through here, since I started my tour here. Let alone this many in a single night. In fact, I have never heard of it since they started the process.
I think I’m going to give the other posts a call and see if they have any idea what is going on. Maybe they know something we don’t.
Get him all tucked in for the night with the others and finish up the paperwork. If you need my help with anything I’ll be in my office. You should be able to handle it though with as much practice as you have gotten tonight.”
The young corporal started typing into his netlink. “Wilco, Sergeant.”
All over settled space hopeful and often desperate parents were dropping their children off on the doorsteps of the U.D.R.P. Orphanages, with grand dreams of giving them the best the government had to offer. The Orphan Clause promised that.
Extreme pressure was being placed on the U.D.R.P. by the colonists on the new, as well older colonies. Pressure to provide more patrols in an effort to fend off the blatant piracy, that was becoming all too common place, had finally been settled with the creation of the Orphan Clause. Not just on the fringe worlds anymore, the rampant piracy had even found its way into the very heart of the U.D.R.P., with on many occasions catastrophic results. The clause allowed colonies to create orphanages that were automatic recruitment points for the various branches of the U.D.R.P.’s military. The children were enlisted from the time they were brought into the orphanage and stayed until the end of their mandatory contract, with off world tours of duty commonplace by the age of thirteen. These enlistment contracts usually consisting of final on the job training in the specialty that the orphan had best scored in, with the testing starting the moment they arrived. A worthy occupation was usually found early on. It was a required process annually during their entire term of service. Each year’s test was exponentially harder than the one that came prior to both challenge them, as well as to find their breaking point, which allowed the trainers to work in removing the weaknesses and advance the strengths of all enlisted.
The Orphan Clause had been such a success since its induction that it was not uncommon to have parents dropping newborns and young children off on the stoop with the hopes and dreams that the U.D.R.P. would be able to provide what the, for whatever reason, had failed to for their children. This was resulting in some children being given even when the families were able to provide more than a decent life for them. The Orphan Clause promised the best the U.D.R.P. could offer and it was being used in ways they had not expected.
What it promised were not simply the basics, such as food, clothing and shelter. Rather it went well beyond that. It brought about a complete lifestyle for those that were volunteered by their parents. Benefits included the latest educational programs, unlimited travel and many other perks. Even after retirement the benefits were plentiful with generous pay, which couldn’t be spent fast enough. The U.D.R.P. already provided everything a recruit could possibly need while enlisted, so with no real place to spend it, due to being stuck on a ship for years at a time, or a military duty station at some remote outpost, during their entire career. This situation allowed many to retire quite wealthy, which in turn allowed the money to flow outwards to the cash poor colonies and slowly find its way back to the heart of the U.D.R.P. Though the retiring veterans could live wherever they chose, they often had the choice of any outlying colony they wanted, though some were offered corporate and government positions. Many choosing the most remote locals, since they got even more than the normally generous contract renewals promised when they did, as well as most having visited them while they were enlisted. This came after the conscripted years of mandatory honorable service, which ended at the age of twenty-six for orphans and thirty for volunteers that signed on or before their sixteenth birthday, or with the required amount of contract renewals to retirement that was even more.
A contract renewal of two years was what almost all recruits that made it through their initial tour looked forward too. Signing one meant you received progressively better benefits with each new contract, better bonuses, better rank, better pay and better duty stations, but the most appealing benefit was the choice of a permanent living location, and with the renewal of a tenth contract it was often better than most corporate executives were able to live. Permanent living locations were based on prime colonial worlds with free housing of your choice, large plots of land, a retirement stipend, as well as a ration allotment. Any contract renewal past five though was purely for those that had chosen the military as their life, and there were some of those out there, though few and far between, but still recognized by their rank and titles. Those that reached six renewals were usually consigned a vessel or outpost and automatically obtained captain’s rank, or higher. Most of these never retired, but continued serving until their demise in one form or another.
Many of those that served more than one or two tours out along the fringe, found it best to relocate away from what little family they had left, simply because their family could never understand them as a person when they came back. It was often that military life created situations those that they knew from their past could never truly understand. Add to this the years that passed without contact, or socialization with civilians. This allowed an ever expanding flow of new financial resources to the somewhat cash shy colonies and was a welcomed change for all involved, since the new colonists felt more secure having veterans living amongst them, often offering them positions as security specialist with the new colonial governments. Those colonists that had been out on the fringe for more than a few months understood the benefits of having veterans in their community and more often than not treated them as local heroes, making the transition from military to civilian life much smoother than the reception they often found on the inner worlds.
It was a balance that came around by accident at first, but now was nearly a forced practice by the U.D.R.P., due to the high rate in suicide, homelessness, crime, health issues and mental instability amongst the retired that chose to stay on the inner worlds after retirement. Now it was not uncommon to find military leaders sending those that wanted to return to their home planets in for mental evaluations prior to allowing them, if they did at all. If they were it was only with the agreement of intensive social and personal counseling for the rest of their lives. Yes, it was found to be best for all if they simply stayed out on the fringe, or more outlying worlds, and make a new life for themselves. It was simply found that there really was no way to go home.
Corporal Hutchinson pushed the bassinet down the hall and into the small warm nursery where soft music played and several other bassinets were plugged into spots along the wall holding sleeping babies in a gentle glow that illuminated each of them. Plugging the bassinet into one of the empty spots, he leaned back and watched on as the system took over and placed the baby in the comfortable stasis until he, along with the others, could be shipped to their new home off world to one of the orbiting space stations that floated over many of the inner worlds, that had sections adapted for the Orphanages special needs.
Pulling up the nearby chair, Corporal Hutchinson sat down and started logging the data and filing out the correct paperwork for upload that was required for when they were transferred to the orphan ship. Once in a while looking at one baby or another as he confirmed all readings were in line with what was required.
It only took him a few more minutes to wrap up the filing and finish his check of the other sleeping infants. Taking one of the empty bassinets from along the far wall, he rolled it out the door and placed it into the empty spot where he had taken the one that William, now in stasis, slept softly. Checking to make sure all was as it should be, Hutchinson made his way towards the sergeant’s office. He came around the last corner only to find Sergeant Slayter loading several weapons into one of the empty bassinets that were kept in the second nursery.
“Didn’t you hear me calling you on the netlink?” Sergeant Slayter shouted.
“No, I didn’t. I didn’t get anything.” Corporal Hutchinson stammered, looking on at a loss for words and checking his own netlink. “What’s going on?”
“The orphanages have been attacked!”
“What? Where? Why?” The aghast corporal asked.
“I don’t know who is behind it, but it is all of them and only a few minutes ago.” Sergeant Slayter slid the full bassinet in the direction of Hutchinson and began loading a second one. “Take this up front and put it behind the desk. I can only assume we are next, but they are not going to surprise us. Wake the other two and get them out there. If you didn’t hear it than that means communications are down, so they didn’t get it either. Check the vids on the perimeter too!” Looking up to see the corporal frozen in place, “Don’t just stand there soldier! Move!”
Only a few moments later, Hutchinson found himself wedged behind the table the four of them had turned on its side in front of the two massive doors, rifle in shaking hands, waiting. Sergeant Slayter and the other two young soldiers of the U.D.R.P. Orphanage were positioned strategically around the room in similar fashion. Each with a small stockpile of the few weapons that were kept onsite and anything else they could find to slow down any intruders. Each waited in their own way. Checking their weapon, looking at the picture of a loved one, or as the Sergeant, simply watching the massive doors.
Hutchinson heard a small thump against the massive door and looked to see what it was, just as Sergeant Slayter yelled, with a voice of command that recognized the sounds of Sticky Breachers all too well. “Down!”
Within a nanosecond the massive doors exploded inwards sending shards of ornate scrolls of wrought iron and wood slivers throughout the open space beyond, as the surface tore away. Though the massive explosion forced the doors to give way, shattering the upper hinge of the right hand door, it was only due to master craftsmanship that had gone into their careful design concealing the armor plate under the artistically placed panels of thick wood veneer that the doors themselves did not buckle and collapse inwards. It was by far not strong enough to damage the armor plate, but was enough to shatter the lock and slam the right side door against the entryway’s inner wall and bounce it back on its one remaining hinge, where it came to rest, sagging at a twisted angle.
All went dark as the substation only a few meters from the doors exploded into an amazing light show of stored electricity being dispelled into the shattered cables and electrical components that had once routed the power for several city blocks, while blowing apart the electrical panels inside the orphanage at the same time.
Smoke swirled through room from the explosives that had left the right hand door angled in across the entryway where it had once stood, proudly representing the U.D.R.P. Now it was debris for those that they could hear yelling outside. Shadows danced in the swirling smoke, backed by the few streetlights that were independently powered by solar, or wind, as the angry voices came closer to view the destruction that they had created. Rounds rattled the night sky as each electric ember of light dimmed into nothingness. The darkness slowly took hold.
It was at that moment that everyone inside knew the war had truly begun and was not simply another wasted drill.
The blackness was complete. Slayter, Hutchinson, Ray’na and Blentsfield remained hunkered down and motionless behind their makeshift barricades. Each clutching their assault rifles in anticipation of what was to come.
Though none of the three young soldiers were as battlefield hardened, Slayter knew that each would do their duty in the best interest of their brethren, the seven children in the nursery and the U.D.R.P. Their training dictated so.
“Hold steady, men!” Slayter called out quietly, “They’ll be coming soon enough.”
As if on cue they did just that. Not in a grandiose fashion, but rather as those not familiar with the ways of true war. They now naively partook of the chalice of courage, not knowing that it had often been known to poison lesser men.
A hand slid around the edge of the door, attempting to shove whatever was blocking it out of the way, apparently not realizing that it hadn’t come completely loose of the hinges as expected. The left side of the man’s upper body appeared, trying to peer around to see what was blocking it.
Slayter casually put an appropriately nicknamed ‘Pulping’ round into the man’s arm and watched as the nanobots did their work by turning the arm, then shoulder to nothing but a gelatinous mass that sloughed off onto the floor. Through the few moments of his screams, as those still concealed pulled him back behind the door in an effort to help, the man bled out before anything could be done.
“Is that it, Sergeant?” Hutchinson asked, checking his weapon for the umpteenth time.
“I highly doubt it,” Hissed Blentsfield, still working to get the computer cabinet he was dug in behind better positioned, “I can see their lights.”
“I’m afraid he’s right,” Slayter stated. “They won’t give up that easily if they are who I believe them to be.”
“Who are they?” Hutchinson asked, trying to get a better view of the doorway.
“The Mandan Caste, I’m pretty sure. They’d be the only ones with a reason to attack us,” Slayter laid the Bot Slinger aside in favor of something more suited to the rush his combat experience calculated they would be sending next. “Pirates wouldn’t be so ignorant, or organized. They would go after the resource depots, not a damn nursery. Has to be the Mandan. They are also the only ones dirtside with the capabilities to put this together.”
The Mandan Caste was a well-recognized group of religious zealots. With claims their leaders to be the descendants of an ancient Native Indian tribe, located on the North American continent of Earth, they practiced extreme form of Hinduism, known as The One Path. Both the Mandan tribal representatives and the Hindi religious leaders on Earth denied any such relationship, going so far as to denounce the group and their practices. Through various methods, the Mandan Caste had become a powerful political and civilian power on this newly developed colony with its members gaining and holding several key positions in public office over the years following, holding control until just one year ago.
“Turn over the children and we will spare your lives!” Called out a voice from the street beyond the doors. “It is the only way you will be allowed to live. We of the Mandan demand it by our sacred right!”
“Yep. Guessed that one right,” Slayter mumbled to himself, clicking the safety off his Sweeper, “Would have been nice to be wrong.”
“What are we going to do, Sergeant?” Hutchinson asked, looking over at his superior. “Think they would actually let us go?”
“Doesn’t matter if they would. I’ll be damned if I’m going to give them a bunch of babies for their sick, twisted butchery!” Slayter laid the barrel on the edge of the overturned table and called out to those outside, in a muffled voice. “You can…” Letting his voice fade out.
“What did he say?” Asked a voice beyond the door. A moment later a head peered around the corner, only long enough to receive the round Slayter sent its way.
“I said, You Can Go To Hell!” Slayter called out in a loud clear voice, following it up with another burst from the Sweeper that tore shards of metal from the small vehicles the attackers had moved into place near the doors and sent them as shrapnel into those hiding behind them. Screams and shouts of pain could be heard, as they scrambled for better cover.
The Mandan Caste had been in control of Cirrus Epsilon all the way up through the day the religious leaders of the group thought itself powerful enough to have those very same extremist members finally attempted to force their beliefs onto the general populace as law in hopes of creating a one religion world. Which was what they had planned to do from the beginning. Yet with that last election not only had the bills they attempted to ramrod through been voted down, but the political members that had any relationship to the order had also found themselves forced out of office by a massive recall. Later, the recall was found to have been started by prior members of the same order who discovered the actual malicious intent of the group and let the public know. Once it was out in the open, it didn’t take long before they were removed from office.
Over the past turbulent year following the recall, the Mandan Caste became even more fractured. The fanatics becoming even more aggressive and even crossing into direct violence with their separatist actions on several occasions, including bombings and assassinations. As a result, they were now facing hundreds of criminal charges, many being brought against them by past members that had separated themselves from the following, due to the extremist views that had been so carefully hidden by the inner circle of leaders, as well as many others who simply refused to join them in their beliefs and suffered for it. That backlash being the direct result of the action that had been taken by their leaders, which in turn revealed many of the dirty secrets they had so carefully kept from the eyes of their followers and general population of the colony.
The fanatics had been targeting past members on many occasions, as a form of punishment for abandoning the religious order that they had sworn allegiance and fidelity to obey and keep for all their lives, as well as those that refused to accept their doctrine. And now apparently the U.D.R.P. Orphanages had become a target for accepting the children of those that had turned their backs on the religion.
Looking around at the three young soldiers, Slayter mumbled to himself, as he did the calculations in his head, realizing that today was the first anniversary of the political purging. “Well, we now know why so many children have been dropped off. Guess that makes some twisted sense. Would have been nice if someone in the damn intelligence division had let us know that this was a possibility. Something this big couldn’t have been pulled off without some sort of hint getting out.”
The silence inside stretched into eternity, as they listened to attempts at quiet movement outside. The pickups on their netlinks could easily hear the fanatics moving around clearly preparing for their next attack. Since the video feeds were the first things destroyed, Slayter and the others were forced to guess where and what they were doing by the sounds alone, which was made easier by the fanatics having discussed their choices with no knowledge they were being eavesdropped on.
Opening the case next to him, Slayter pulled out a set of aerial vid bots and linked them directly to his netlink. Tossing them into the air, they silently floated out of the orphanage and into the night, giving him a clear view of the sizeable group of attackers. A series of shots came from the attackers outside, as one after another they blew the aerial bots apart.
“Damn. Guess the have some tech out there.” Slayter mumbled to himself, as he cranked up the audio pickups on his netlink “Guess we’ll have to do this the old fashion way.”
Sitting back, he listened in as they laid out the plan for another breach attempt. This time in force. The attacker’s ego had kept them from calling for reinforcements up to this point, but it hadn’t kept Slayter from triggering the emergency beacon the moment he heard of the attack on the other orphanages.
Hearing the footsteps on the wide slabs of stone outside, Slayter keyed the warning on his netlink to the others, then realized that the signal was now being blocked at all levels. Calling out softly he pulled his cheek tight against his rifle and focused his sights on the doorway. “Their coming at us again, boys. Just hold steady and make your shots count.”
All had upgraded their weapon choice in preparation for the next round of the assault and now slid into firing position. With time to click the safeties off and nestling their cheeks against the stocks of their various weapons in similar fashion, they each waited as their training had taught.
A voice called out in rage, “You unfaithful will now die!” Just as the doors exploded open once again, this time with slightly more success, due to the damage from the first sticky breach charge. Before the smoke had time to clear, nearly two dozen well-armed men charged through the widened gap, carrying with them more than enough firepower. The more than enough was the problem though, since it slowed most of them down, allowing Slayter, Hutchinson, Ray’na and Blentsfield also more than enough time to pickoff those leading the charge, along with the majority of those that had followed. All while the attackers tried to cross the open area between the door and the cover they sought with the weight of the extra gear.
The sound of an armed seeker grenade could be heard building up in the center of the room, where one of those injured had been able to pull it free. Before any of the four were able to stop the man, his arm launched it over the barriers and directly behind Hutchinson. He never stood a chance, as the grenade broke into multiple pieces and launched themselves at the nearest flesh. His. Dying in a gurgle of blood, for Hutchinson it was over in moments.
The smart shrapnel flew about the room in all directions seeking more targets, before its propellant burned off. A ricochet peeled off the stone of the floor an under the table to bury itself deep into Slayter’s upper thigh.
“Son of a bitch!” He cursed, as three more followed the first in seeker mode. Slayter triggered the electric defense system his armor provided, causing the seekers to short out, but not before doing serious damage to the muscles in his thigh.
Only a few of the fanatics made it behind the safety of nearby debris, as Ray’na and Blentsfield effectively found targets, making short work of those that had tried to carry the heavy units, luckily. The rest lay scattered around the room. Those that showed any sign of movement soon ceased, as Slayter and the remaining two placed pulping rounds in each body. The nanobots rapidly doing their work. The screams quickly faded, leaving only gelatinous masses that slowly spread across the stonework and merge into crimson pools.
“Call them!” Screamed one of the fanatics from behind an overturned desk.
“They will not like this!” Called another from the doorway.
“I don’t care if they like it or not! Get them over here! These infidels will not triumph!”
This is going to start getting bad, Slayter thought to himself, while slapping a thinskin patch over the holes the seekers had burrowed into the flesh of his thigh. Knowing the situation would have to change before they could be removed made him grimace with the pain. He jabbed himself with the injector, swapping the pain med vial for the coagulant vial. Slowly the blood stopped flowing and he took a deep breath of relief. Shifting into a better position, he scanned the room with the sights of his rifle.
The room again exploded with rounds, as the fanatics opened fire in an effort to allow more of their members to gain cover before being mowed down. Though they continued to fail at these attempts, but Slayter knew it was only a matter of time before they found some success and would then gain the upper hand. He had to work out a plan to get the children and his own men to safety. Children that are not much younger than his own men. Right now he had nothing.
4380 Years Prior…
Nickel and iron, with a mix of exotic and precious metals made up the much smaller, dark and dense body of the wayward asteroid. Created through destruction as well, its journey had begun even before its icy crystalline counterpart, though it came about as the separation of a much larger entity. A moon that had found itself much too close to the planet that it orbited. The impact it had met with separated its meager size from its prior greater form and sending it out on its journey. At the same time ripping away the atmosphere of the planet it had once been a part of in a final act of rebellion, slinging it out across the heavens, to be forced on a new course with the gravitational pull of each passing planet and sun, baking and boiling away the impurities leaving it in the strength and purity of form that it was now found.
“How long?” Admiral Donsier asked, looking at the report.
“Two days at the earliest,” Brensear stated “Three for all forces to be in orbit. I wouldn’t go with less than that.”
“What about the Reapers?” The Admiral asked with great distaste at the thought. “How long will it take to get them there?”
“They can be wrapped with their current detail and ready to drop in less than three days. Are you sure you want to use them, sir?”
“I don’t care for their methods, but they are the best at what they do. With a situation like this it’s not a soft touch we need. We need a statement made. They are the ones that can do that.”
“Should I draft up their orders?”
Admiral Donsier looked at the report once more. “How many do we have on planet?”
“There were just over eighty active, along with an unknown amount of orphans.” Brensear stated from memory. “We have no confirmation of survivors from any, except one sight. New Vancouver. We lost contact before we could get solid numbers, but had confirmation by one of our spies that they were holding strong. We’ve heard nothing from the other locations.”
“How in the hell could something like this happen on our watch? Without us knowing anything about it?”
“I have no idea, sir. I don’t honestly see any way that we couldn’t know. At least have a hint at it.”
Admiral Donsier tossed the pad with the report showing on the screen, rubbed his temples. “I’m getting too old for this, Philip.”
“You aren’t the only one, sir.” His longtime friend stated.
“Cry ‘Havoc’ and let slips the dogs of war.” Admiral Donsier spoke softly to himself. Not being able to put the decision off any longer he thumbed his print on the orders Brensear had already drafted up for the Reapers. “God help us for this, Philip.”
“I doubt he will listen, sir. Once they are through with Cirrus Epsilon and whoever started this even God won’t forgive us.”
Admiral Donsier pushed the signed orders back across the desk in sad disgust. “I’m afraid you might be right about that, Philip.”
2076 Years Prior…
As time passed, both heavenly bodies found a similar path. They now charted the same stars, and were caressed by the same vacuum, yet until this moment had never known of each other’s presence. Racing through the vastness of space. Together. For so long believing they were alone on this journey of solitude. Until the day one caught a solar wind that started them both upon a chance meeting that had been thousands of years in the making. Neither ever understanding that two creations of such a vast difference could one day be brought together. Together they would create something wonderful. Beautiful. Deadly.
Run & Hide…
Sgt. Slayter lay behind the table knowing there weren’t many more options. They’d backed down five assaults and the enemy was getting smarter with each round. They no longer were rushing in mass. Instead they were making portable barricades and positioning themselves in an effective firing line along the perimeter of the building. The enemy was already calling in reinforcements again, so going out the front was out. The back and side walls had no exits that weren’t already covered heavily by the swarm of fanatics that were working to blockade them better than the original barricades they had already built since this started almost two hours ago. The basement was built on solid rock, without access of any sort. That left the roof.
Without power the auto-cannons were useless for ground defenses, but they had apparently had been successful running off the limited battery power to keep the few who dared to scale the walls, or drop from a line they had strung between the two adjacent buildings, from going farther than the spot they landed on the roof. Most were dead before they even made that. Apparently the attackers had planned ahead well enough to sabotage the battery banks. It was only due to a mandatory replacement of two sets just that morning that there was any juice at all. There was no way those battery banks could hold up against a full assault though. The guns simply drew too much power to operate. Scattered troops were one thing. A shot here. A shot there. Constant burn would drain the banks in moments and that is what it would take if those outside tried to gain access in mass by rooftop.
That left Sgt. Slayter with one option. Put his back against the roof access and hold them back for all his troops were worth. They had already been forced from the entrance, down past the main nursery, past his office and the armory. The only thing left was the mess hall and the stairs leading up to the roof.
Tossing the passkey to Ray’na. “Unlock the stairway and get the children moved to the top landing.”
Catching the passkey, Ray’na crawled across the floor, dragging the basket part of the bassinet for one of the children to the nearby doorway that lead to the roof access. With a swipe he had it unlocked an opened, rolled in and dashed upstairs carrying the basket with him. A moment later he reappeared and continued the process until all the children were upstairs.
Blentsfield slid over to where Sgt. Slayter leaned behind a file cabinet.
“Let me take a look at those wounds while we have a lull in this, Sergeant. Might be able to take care of a few of them.”
“Not sure how much you can do, son. It’s going to take one miracle of a doc to fix me up at this point.”
“Well, I was trained by one in field medicine.” Blentsfield stated, cutting open Slayter’s sleeve with his knife.
Sgt. Slayter gave him a look.
“My dad. He was a surgeon on Rialdas. Was there during the uprising. Lost him from Cypus Degeneration.” Busily working with the limited medical kit.
“Sorry to hear that.”
“He went quick. Unlike some of them.” Blentsfield pulled a slug from Slayter’s shoulder with a pair of forceps and held it up. “Care for a souvenir?”
“Already have plenty, thanks for asking.”
Several minutes later Blentsfield applied the last pressure dressing to Slayter’s thigh and opened the I.V. drip. Giving the bag a squeeze he pulled a few pills from a bottle and handed them to him. “They won’t do much, but might help take the edge off.”
“Can’t afford to lose my edge.”
“Sorry, but these won’t even be close to strong enough for that. Just a minor pain blocker. They will help with any clotting issues though. That right now is more on what I’m concerned with.”
Looking the young man over, Sgt. Slayter took the pills in his hand, as Blentsfield pulled a hypo from the kit an inserted a vial, shooting it into Slayter’s leg and another into his arm. A warm numbing to the area started spreading.
“Last of the local anesthetics. Should keep things to a minimum for you over the next hour or so. After that you’re on your own.” Blentsfield stated, as he pulled another vial an injected it into Slayter. “At least we have lots of antibiotic. I’m loading you up with a broad spectrum. Should help until we can get you proper medical attention.”
“Son, I don’t think that miracle doctor I was referring too could have done a better job. Why did they put you into infantry instead of the med corp?”
“They said I was better suited to it.”
“Well, they should know. All the testing they do to categorize recruits to the correct field?”
“Yeah…”” A look of disappointment crosses Blentsfield’s young face, as another burst of rounds tore into the barricade they had set up, causing him to duck with instinct. Laying his rifle over the edge, he sprayed a wild burst down the narrow hall, before low crawling to the end of the table and laying down more suppressive fire. “So you would think.”
Before the dawn…
Heavy equipment could be heard rumbling outside the orphanage, as Slayter, Ray’na and Blentsfield strained to hear anything through their netlinks. All to no avail. The attackers had finally and very successfully blocked the audio pickups that had been giving the three their advantage.
“What do you think they’re doing, Sergeant?” Ray’na asked, slugging back a drink from the bottle of rum they had found stashed in one of the cupboards, wincing as Blentsfield did his best to bandage up the hole the lancer round had torn through his shoulder.
“Trying to figure out how to dig us out of here. At least I would be if I were them.” Blentsfield commented, taking a swig from the offered bottle.
“Sounds about right.” Slayter agreed through pain clenched teeth. “They’ll probably try to move a vehicle into place to use as a mobile barricade, while they clear the path. We bought ourselves some time with the mess we left, but we’re running out of options fast.”
“You’ll figure out something, Sarge.” Blentsfield stated. “You always do.”
“Wish I could be as positive about that, son.”
“Don’t worry, Sergeant.” Ray’na laughed. “That guy has more than enough for all of us. And I have to agree with him. You do always come up with something.”
Silence fell over the room once again, as all strained to listen to the growing group outside. No words could be made out, until the sound of a low flying aircraft was heard and the sound of small arms fire started in urgency.
“What the hell is that?” Ray’na asked, as the roof of the orphanage began to rain dust and small chunks of the ceiling down on them.
A moment later the babies could be heard crying, which quickly faded into the distance and was once again replaced by the silence. Slowly the roof access hatch was pulled open, as the three men took careful aim. A brightly colored, glow in the dark hair styled head suddenly appeared in the entrance. The generous smile of a young man dropped over the edge of the hatch. “Hey! Heard you guys were looking for a taxi. Is that correct? Already loaded up your luggage.”
“Taxi?” Slaytor gasped in shock.
“You got a problem with taxis?” The young man asked, as he dropped down to throw an arm under Ray’na, helping him to his feet and up the ladder.
“Not at all! Just surprised that you would show up in this area for a fare.”
“Hell, back home I was driving in far worse. Those guys out there didn’t even look up until I was already landing.” Grabbing Slayter’s he extended hand with his own, the young man stated. “Blinkers they call me.”
“Nice to meet you Blinkers.” Slayter said, as Blinkers yanked him to his feet, grabbed the front of his uniform and threw him over his shoulder. “Damn, boy. You’re a hell of a lot stronger than you look.”
“High gravity planet helps with that.” Blinkers laughed, jumping up the ladder to the roof, as rounds tore into the walls around them. “We’ll be discussing my fee in route.”
“Young man, you don’t need to worry about your fee! No matter what it is it will be paid in full!”
“Always good to hear.” Blinkers grinned, as he kicked a chunk of lumber down onto the pursuing group of radicals.
On the roof Blinkers dropped Slayter into the last available seat, confirmed the other two were strapped in properly, climbed behind the stick, as men began swarming onto the roof and surrounding the large taxi.
“They just don’t give up, do they?” Blinkers commented, as he fired up the engines.
“Yeah, they’re pretty set in their ways.” Slayter commented, as rounds hammered the side of the taxi. “Question for you. What sort of taxi is this?”
“Before I stripped the weapons off her, she was a Raven class APC. Picked it up cheap at auction.” Blinkers flipped several switches to fire up the engines. Reaching into a concealed panel he flipped two more and a set of miniguns appeared from recessed compartments on the hull. “Well, most of them that is.” Pointing at the joystick. “Care to do the honors?”
“It would be my pleasure!” Slayter said, giving the all too familiar controller squeeze, sending rounds tearing into the growing crowd of attackers.
Blinkers kicked the engines into overdrive and gently gained altitude and banked into the rising sun.
Sergeant Slayter watched the first rays of the yellow sun light the windshield, before everything faded to black and his eyes slowly closed.
Watch for the full novel late 2015