Chapter VIII – Empowering Escape

The Staging Bay raged with combat, blobs of plasma and gunfire sailed through the air as demons continued to appear from portals. The Marine was shooting in two directions at once, holding the shotgun and assault rifle in each hand, blasting holes into Imps and Demons with ease. A Security Marine on a higher landing suddenly becomes possessed, it took the strength of every nearby survivor to tackle it and push it from the railing. The former human falls and splashes into a toxic waste tank and quickly dissolved into the green corrosive sludge. The Marine climbs to the next level above with little effort and begins mowing down the hordes amassed there. He sensed a large-jawed demon closing in from behind. He pivots slightly, tightly swings his shotgun toward it and fires two rounds. The Demon collapses with a dying grunt.

A Hell Baron suddenly materialized on the main level, roaring fiercely. A blob of green plasma closely zips past the Marine. The Baron took a few steps toward him and reached its arm back to throw another volley when almost every survivor opened fire on the hulking demon. The beast roared with fury and hurled the searing mass toward the Marine, it roared past as he narrowly shifts out of its path. The Baron was staggering against the barrage but still standing until a screeching grenade rolled to a rest at the demon’s hoofs and explodes. The blast severs the Baron’s midsection and injures some nearby Imps, the alien splattered to the ground with its unusual organs spilling onto the cold floor. The Marine was starting to clear the level of invaders under a constant onslaught, but there were still several Cacodemon attacking throughout the Staging Bay.

He climbs higher and gets into range of the bloated abominations. The first shotgun blast went up what passed for the demon’s ass. Then crossing to the next demon, he presses the barrel against its single eye. Blue blood splashed over the walkway, the Cacos tumbled and splattered to the ground. A blob of blue plasma hurls toward him from a demon at the far end of the walkway, he dodges by briefly bounding onto the handrail. He approaches firing both weapons at once, the Cacodemon hissed angrily and sank into a bloody deflated mass. He then stomps up the adjoining metal staircase where a squad of survivors was holding out. They turn their heads and see him approaching. A Security Marine was continuing to bark orders, an Engineer wades through the squad and greets him.

“Amazing work, marine” he states, thankfully. “I don’t know if we would have been able to hold out much longer” he says, as he resumed firing. “I’m Takeshi, I used to be a technical specialist around here. Who are you?”

Unable to come up with an answer, the Marine remains silent. “How did all this happen?” he returns.

“Something to do with the teleporter, but that thing is way beyond my security clearance” Takeshi says in a mild Japanese accent. “From what I’ve heard, the damn thing just started running on its own, these freaks started pouring through and they couldn’t shut it down” he loudly explains, picking off possessed humans one at a time, the sound of exploding grenades echoed from below.

“We sent a scouting party to find some escape pods, I hope we don’t have to send another”

About ten minutes passed when they noticed two of their scouts approach. They jogged toward the squad shouting,

“We found a bunch of pods! Sector-H has full suites of escape pods on all levels” they shout their report over the continuing gunfire. “The rest of our team didn’t make it”

“Excellent work. I’m sure your team did all they could” Takeshi says.

“You’ve just saved our asses” yells a survivor.

“We gotta go and fast” the scout continues. “One of those possessed cock-jockeys is going around destroying pods”

“That’s all I need to hear. Let’s lay down some suppressing fire and move out” Takeshi orders.

They moved strategically to the top level of the Staging Bay and through the passage leading to Sector-H, returning fire against the demons and former humans as they went. The corridor was wide, cables and large conduits stretched down its length and curved down intersecting paths, smashed maintenance robots lay motionless alongside the corpses of humans and aliens. Every meter they encountered more invaders.

Several waves of devilish skulls with tongues of fire charged through the air toward them and erupt against their storm of bullets. They turned down a right hand path and stumble upon a mob of Imps and Demons, the Marine quickly begins tearing limbs from their torsos, ripping into one demon after the other, painting the hall in dripping blood and leaving the survivors in disbelief as the hall vibrated with alien screams. The Marine slaughters the last Imp and they moved on. After a couple more minutes of fighting they soon had a clear path to the outer rim.

Something suddenly occurs to the Marine. In the brief gap from combat, he asks broadly, “Are there anymore survivors on the station?”

“Actually, there are some survivors in a Data Storage Vault in the Central Processing Facility. Sector-B. They’re trapped inside.” Takeshi recalls.

“You plan to go after them? It’s a bit distant” another survivor asks.

The Marine remain silent in thought, weighing his chances.

I can make it, I know it. He decides to himself.

They walked into the ring and the survivors wasted no time assembling into the escape pods on that level and trickling down the access staircase to the other pods below deck.

“I’m going after them” he states.

“You’re braver than I am, Marine” Takeshi states, pausing at a pod’s hatch.”I’ve gotta know, how did you manage to fight like that? It’s unbelievable”

“No idea, my instincts are taking over. I woke up from an artificial hibernation just recently and I have no idea how I got there” the Marine explains.

“Sounds like a classified project, possibly genetic testing. It doesn’t happen often, but the UAC won’t think twice about breaking laws to further their agenda” Takeshi offers. “This squad has had about all it can take, we’ve lost a lot of friends to these freaks. If you’re really going after them, then you should know that the reactor probably has a little less than two hours before the radioactive gas will leak. You need to secure your escape by then, because you won’t survive the initial flood of the gas”

Without saying another word, Takeshi ducks into the pod. “Good luck, Marine” he says, then closes the hatch.

The Marine studies a nearby station schematic posted to a wall, finds the most direct route to Central Processing before moving out. Outside the base, several escape pods undock from the station and are launched into space.

In Central Processing Administration, the emergency rescue squad lays defeated. Their bodies were scattered in close reach of each other on one side of the long rectangular common area, along with the charred remains of aliens. Their armour held cracks and gaping holes that revealed charred, smoking flesh. A pair of the fallen squad had been dragged to the centre of the room by large-jawed demons who were making disgusting blusts of noise from their feasting on the disgraced marines. The disturbing smacks and slurps of the gorging Demons rouses Major Sergeant Martinez from unconsciousness.

Knowing the danger undoubtably surrounding him, he stays perfectly still. He found himself on the cold floor with one of his marines strewn atop him. He allows his vision to restore, then quietly takes inventory of his equipment, he still had his pack stocked with energy cells, but couldn’t find his plasma rifle. He peeks out from his place on the floor and scans the area, carefully taking in everything he could see. He sees his dead and mutilated squad, the large-jawed demons were in view. He sees only one plasma rifle that wasn’t smashed or overloaded, lying on the hexagon floor tiles just behind the foul beasts. Silently, he reaches into his pack and readies a magazine of energy cells

He slips out from under the corpse and sneaks toward the armament with one delicately placed step at a time. He closes on the rifle and lifts it from the floor. Standing barely a meter away from the demons, he carefully extracts the magazine and sees that only three rounds remained. Gripping both at once, he almost drops the empty canister trying to insert the new one. Martinez reloads and a confirmation tone rising in pitch emits from the rifle. The demons made a curious grunt and turned toward the sound, Martinez fires point blank at the pair, turning them to finely textured, smouldering ashes.

He allows himself a sigh of relief, there didn’t seem to be any more aliens nearby. His eyes were inevitably drawn to the sight of his squad, they were mauled by Imps and missing limbs or heads. The image of their motionless bodies becomes permanently etched in his mind, fuelling his fury. He drops his pack onto a desk and retrieves the armour shards from an inner pocket, he snaps them twice into four sections and applied them to damaged spots on his armour. The nano-tech shards reform and patch the damage. During the repair, he finds his data-disc computer. He activates it and sends a signal to the USM Hurricane. Disturbingly, the ship did not respond. He uses a homing scan and received a signal from further out in Mars’ orbit, the ship had somehow undocked and moved away.

Chapter VII – Wrath of the Marine

The recently revived Marine moved fast, his instincts were sending him some previously unknown signals and seemed to imply lots of trouble, but he couldn’t seem to slow himself down. Any doubt he had in his mind was silenced and new focus took hold. He knew some dark evil had invaded the base and that he had what it would take to strike it down. With complete confidence, he shoots out his arm and grabs a brown spiked demon by its throat. He had known it was approaching for some time and that more lay ahead. The Marine looks into its dimming angry eyes, his grip continuing to close, crushing it into crumbs. He then slams it nose-first into the closest wall. Further along the path, he sees a group of imps approaching. He raises his sidearm, with new-found focus he shoots them down with pinpoint accuracy. A single imp remained and closed in, smartly dodging the shots fired. The Marine closed his hand into a fist and socked the imp right in the face, it collapsed with a crater in its skull.

At that time, the Marine hears a notification about weapons fire occurring in the fusion power plant. Realizing the power plant was a short distance away, he decides to head there and help whatever survivors he can find to escape. He turns toward the direction of the plant, fighting demons as he went. Arriving at the entrance a gathering of possessed members of station security staggered before the large door, absently lugging their pistols and shotguns. They lock their dark eyes with the Marine’s and fired their weapons. The Marine returned fire and swiftly rolled to evade fire.

“Die” the former human moaned.

The Marine easily dodges more of their bullets and proceeds to quickly empty the magazine, the former humans caught the rounds and hit the floor. The Marine approaches the large door, the dead zombiemen laid before him, bleeding out. He reaches down and pulls a shotgun dripping in blood from a zombieman’s dying grip.

He pulls the manual door release and it slowly raises into the ceiling. He hears demonic grunting and assault rifle fire coming from within. He pumps the forend of his shotgun, a spent shell flies out and drops to the ground.

Inside the power plant, a group of engineers led by a space marine walked through the outer ring of the facility, they came upon yet another spent escape pod module.

“Damn” swears the Marine “This one’s gone, too. There must be some pods left around here, somewhere”

They run to the next pod module.

“What the fuck is this?” An Engineer says, surprised.

The escape pod had been destroyed, turned into a smouldering, spark-shooting crater.

“This looks like it was done with an energy weapon” another Engineer says clinically.

“Who the hell would do this?” The Marine asks.

“Help!” sounded a desperate cry from further along the circular ring, accompanied by the sound of fast foot falls.

A trio of engineers were running towards them. A blob of green energy approached them from behind and detonates on contact, graphically consuming the engineers, leaving only dust behind. The group of survivors was shocked.

“Holy shit!” One shouts.

The corrupted Chief Administrator steps from the shadows, grinning madly and gripping the BFG 9000. The survivors ran for their lives, the Marine fired his pistol in retreat. The former Administrator’s chuckle echoes through the rounded hall.

The Marine moved through the short hall, a security office was through a door on the left, large-jawed demons blocked the path into the plant. The Marine steps toward the nearest demon and shoots at the optimal distance, dropping it quickly and targets the next. He shoots shell after shell, tearing through the revolting hell-spawn one at a time with blooms of blood coating the rounded walls. The Marine clears his way to the Staging Bay. The titanic area was rimmed with seven levels of walkways connected by steel staircases, a pair of massive anti-gravity cranes were attached to the ceiling, different levels held crates, hover-lifts and tool cases, on the lowest level there were two large vats of bubbling toxic fluid. The massive arena was roaring with assault rifle and chaingun fire that sprayed wildly in all directions.

A determined force of marines and engineers were fighting for their lives. Imps and demons dominated the area, along with revolting demonic blobs that float through the air, and more demons were appearing from nowhere, teleporting from flaring green energy. The Marine leaps over the guard rail, drops from above and slams into a demon, shattering its bones in an instant. An angry mob of monsters had encircled him, staring with countless pairs of red eyes. The first demon stepped toward him and the carnage began. The Marine wound up his closed fist and punched the imp square in the chest, the force shooting it back and striking the demons behind it. He made a few more quick strikes in effective succession before the power of his blows began to spike. He finds the strength to begin ripping limbs from the demons in progressively more efficient and faster maneuvers, arms and heads were torn and discarded, the cries of tortured demons briefly filled the air. The survivor’s gunfire rained down on demons around the Marine from above. The Marine aims his shotgun at the nearest cacodemon and fired a few shells, sending it to the ground with a messy impact.

“Hey, you!” sounds a voice from above. “Catch!” A survivor drops an assault rifle to the Marine.
The standard issue of the marine corp, the SSAR-40 spun slightly through the air and glistens brightly against the artificial light. He smoothly catches the rifle and puts it to efficient use.

Unlike the previous installment this story has much more action.  Aiden has assumed the identity of a Freeborn warrior, named Jorge. Freeborn warriors, unlike the genetically engineered Trueborn, are born naturally from loving parents, instead of being born from an artificial womb.

The book opens on the planet Glory with Base Commander Kael Pershaw in a discussion with his personal aide. Unaware of Aiden’s false identity, he is disgusted upon learning that he had easily defeated a Trueborn warrior in a brawl. The Commander despises the Freebirth under his command. After another fight results in the death of a Trueborn warrior, Kael Pershaw punishes Aiden by forcing him to wear the Dark Band of Shame. In spite of the punishment, Aiden’s unit are selected to carry out a rescue mission. Him and his squad deploy their battlemechs into a region known as Blood Swamp.

After locating the stranded warriors and their crashed mechs, their combined forces plan for an attack on a unit from a rival clan. The Trueborn warriors, having no experience piloting mechs through swamps, are humiliated that a Freeborn will command the operation, which ultimately ends in victory. So great was the victory, that the Trueborn warriors are entitled to compete for a Bloodname title, something only Trueborn are entitled to obtain.

Aiden, secretly a Trueborn warrior, interrupts the Bloodname ritual and reveals his true origin, demanding the right to compete. Kael Pershaw, compelled by a witness, sends the conspirators back to planet Ironhold to stand before the Grand Council where a decision will be made on the matter. Falconer Commander Ter Roshak is summoned to testify for his role in giving Aiden a false identity. Ter Roshak testifies that he was convinced that Aiden is the reincarnation of his former Commander, Ramon Mattlov.

Ter Roshak and Aiden’s defence is overruled, both men reject the decision and demand a Trial of Refusal, the right of any Jade Falcon warrior to contest a judgement by going into combat against some of the clan’s best warriors.  The votes of the trial decide the odds of  three to one against the accused. With the odds stacked against them, only cruel violent fate can reverse the decision.

Another highly recommended title, especially for fans of action driven stories. I encourage you to read it yourself and discover how the subsequent clan battles turn out.

Chapter VI – Forethought

In the Data Storage vault, Dr. Manning, Dr. Osborne, and Dr. Stone were crouched beneath desks as the marine continued to fire on the teleporting intruders.

“You’re sure that they’re coming?” Diane asks.

“All I could find out is that the station computer registered the arrival of the rescue team” Louis replies.

“Aren’t we able to monitor their progress?” she presses.

“I tried, I don’t have high enough authorization” he explains.

“We can’t tell if they’re in trouble?” Hugo asks.

“No, we can’t”

“This is bad! We’re stuck in here and the reactor is going to leak in a few hours, and finding a functional escape pod could take longer than we’d like” Hugo laments.

Shots continued to ring out as more aliens appeared from flashes of green energy. The Major’s pistol ammunition was soon spent as the flashes of portal energy began to ramp up. He drops the useless pistol. Looking away from the intruders only for a moment as he bent to reach for the chain-gun, he lifts the weapon as his eyes fell upon a sizeable mob of demons. The barrels of his chain-gun were turning. He fired a long stream, decimating the hoard, then rapidly shooting small bursts on each target as it teleported into the sealed chamber. Beads of sweat began to spill from his brow as he swung the armament from target to target. Blooms of erupting gore cascades through the air, the stench of death was overwhelming. Major Daniels let out an enraged chord when he saw the demons spawning ever faster.

Location: Phobos, Alpha Labs Division, Level 2 of Sector-D, Bio-Medical Laboratory R7

The lab was dark and silent with a large and spotless interior. Three examination tables filled the centre of the room, a wheeled scanning apparatus rests nearby, a pair of tall medical cabinets were against the walls. A sealed door led to a short junction ending in a secured observation room. Metallic tiles line the walls and floors of the modestly sized room, the ceiling was dotted with small lamps, and held a robotic arm. The walls housed a pair of monitors displaying the words “System Failure.” A large capsule sat in the centre of the room. A harshly emotionless voice of the Artificially Intelligent Automated Command System boomed.

“Subject stasis revival is now complete. Scanning”

The diagnosis system silently checks the subject’s vitals.

“Subject stasis: good Stasis procedure: successful. Pod opening”

A hermetic seal is released and a curtain of smokey condensed air drifts from the seam. The robotic arm came to life and locked into a port on the surface of the pod and lifts the lid away. He was wearing a special suit designed for subjects of artificial hibernation. He wakes from stasis, lifts himself from the capsule and examines his surroundings. Red lighting illuminated the room, emergency notifications scrolled across the wall-mounted monitors, he hears a distant station notification.

“Alarm: Critical. Reactor failure” it wailed.

The stasis pod dominated the room, it was sapphire, framed with chrome lining and had rounded edges. Thick tubes and cables converged on the pod leading from outside the walls. The marine could recall most of his memories, but couldn’t come up with his name, or any identity, nor could he recall how he came to be placed in the pod. Through an adjacent passage he sees a suit of space marine armour lying on the shelves of a wide open security locker. He walks over to it and picks up the helmet, he found it strikingly familiar. He examines the call number but finds that it had been removed, only the scratches from a crude grinding job remained. The marine takes the armour and slips it on, hiding behind was a pistol and magazine. He picks it up and looks it over, more waves of familiarity washed over him. This was his pistol, he was sure of it, but again, the sidearm’s serial number had been ground away.

The marine walks through the bio-med lab and into the adjoining hallway, where he stumbled upon what would be the first of many gruesome scenes. A trio of scientists were lying dead in pools of blood, huge claw wounds marred their still flesh. One scientist had been torn in half, the head and shoulders were lying at the far end of the short hall, the lower half rested on the floor beside the marine’s feet. Another scientist with a critical spinal injury was twitching horribly. Splashes of blood coated the walls and floor of the beige coloured hall. A over-turned sample cart sat nearby, its contents spilled upon the ground. The sounds of grunting and heavy-footed stomping in the distance was quickly noticed. Without any idea what he would encounter, the marine heads toward the sector’s main corridor.

On the CSV Navigator, the surviving top-level researchers from the doomed Demios base had rendezvoused with Dr. Allan Mason who was also roped into their secret mission. He was previously on a separate medical escape pod with Dr. Leonard Philips. The four of them were in a luxurious Spec-5 vessel in the Navigator’s hangar bay parked on a plasma docking field, they had little trouble obtaining it from the crew. Nexson was programming the auto-pilot while others performed equipment checks for a fifth time or explored the cramped cabin.

“Okay, the auto-map looks good. We’re locked in” Nexson announces.
“Undock vessel and fire maneuvering thrusters” Dr. Banks commands.

The ship’s clamps unlock and the thrusters lift the vessel above the plasma surface. Warning lights blazed as the ship slowly moves toward the widening airlock doors. It reaches open space and the main propulsion sails it into the star speckled darkness.

Taking place on the planet Ironhold, this series begins with fresh recruits to the Jade Falcon military clan. The youthful hopefuls were bred through scientific methods meant to make genetically superior warriors. They’re known as Trueborn. The story follows Aidan, a Trueborn recruit and his group of trainees as they advance through the path to becoming Mechwarriors. Unfortunately for Aidan, his instructor is the demanding and cruel Falconer Joanna who takes an immediate dislike to him and takes delight in making his training as unpleasant as possible. As the trainees progress, inferior recruits are flushed out of the training program, pitting them against each other.

The Jade Phoenix clan is portrayed as being relentlessly aggressive in even the most relaxed moments. Major disagreements within the clan are settled in the ‘Circle of Equals’ where warriors would fight to decide an outcome. This book doesn’t have as much action as other Battletech titles, focusing more on clan attitudes and procedures and Aidan’s experience as he goes through clan training.

After training is complete, the remaining recruits face the six ritual combat trials. Succeeding will grant the trainees a position within the clan. During the Trial of Position, Aiden uses bold and risky tactics which almost pays off, but his battle mech is disabled at the crucial moment, ending his chance of joining the clan. He is flushed out of Mechwarrior training and begins a new career path, but it won’t be long before destiny brings him back into the cockpit of a battlemech.

Overall, I wish I started reading Battletech much sooner. I can’t recommend it enough. There is a great blend of technology, action and clan culture. The book also has some artwork tucked into the pages, a glossary of terms used and schematic drawings for each battlmech type. If you like action, science fiction, or just a great story, you can’t go wrong.

This book is a great introduction to the “Clans” but if you’re interested in reading details about the Inner Sphere or want a bit more history of the Battletech Universe as a whole you should check out Scribd. 

As mentioned in previous posts, Scribd has an excellent selection of Battletech novels. However they are somewhat out of sequence as I’ve discussed earlier and this book is considered #2 in the Legends imprint. This simply wouldn’t make any sense so I strongly urge you to read Decision at Thunder Rift by William H. Keith Jr. first.

Chapter 5 – The Fall

AUTOMATED EMERGENCY COMMAND IS NOW ONLINE
POWER INTERRUPTION DETECTED
EMERGENCY POWER STATUS: ONLINE
SENDING REQUEST TO CENTRAL COMPUTER
REQUEST:0Z01329 APPROVED
COMMAND: LAUNCH SEQUENCE 0090
SEQUENCE HAS BEGUN; ALL SYSTEMS OK
SCANNING MODE IN PROGRESS
SUBJECT STATUS: NORMAL
SUSPENDED ANIMATION STATUS: STABLE
EVALUATING
COMMAND: LAUNCH SEQUENCE 0099
SUBJECT REVIVAL IS NOW IN PROGRESS

Aboard the CSV Navigator, William Banks and Rupert Nexson were entering the spacious atrium, coming back from the Sub-Space Parlour. Several store fronts managed by holographic staff lined the curved walls, offering cuisine and entertainment. The centre of the area had a large, bustling seating area. Quiet, casual chatter accompanied by light violin music filled the air. The two men strode at a brisk pace.

“Those repulsive, treacherous cockroaches! Their insanity is going to get us all killed” Nexson growls, exclaiming his indignation.

“I’m sorry, Rupert. They have an airtight case” comments Banks with a sunken expression.

They enter the spacious seating area and join Kronos and Carmichael at a table hugged with booth seating.

“What’s happening? Did you reach them?” Carmichael asks as they sank into the chestnut coloured cushions.

“Yes, we are protected for now. However, the Paranormal Division has issued us an assignment” William Banks begins to explain with chords of renewed distress in his voice. “They want us to head to Phobos, back into the hornets nest, and secure specimens of the alien intruders for scientific study” he explains quietly.

“Is that even possible?” queries Carmichael.

“I’m sure that your estimation is as good as mine” Banks replies.

“It’s suicide” exclaims Kronos.

“If we refuse to cooperate, then our colleagues will throw us to the wolves. This is the only way for the Paranormal Division to save face with its private investors” explains Rupert.

Kronos runs his palm along his face.

“When do we leave?” asks Susan.

“Immediately” states Nexson. “We have been authorized to requisition a ship from the Navigator. We are to rendezvous with another vessel where we will get more information” he explains.

“Indeed. We have to get our affairs settled and leave at once” adds Banks.

Kronos and Carmichael shared the same look of concern.

“This is going to be extremely dangerous, as you’ve no doubt gathered, says Nexson, but we’re going to be far better equipped this time around”

“Emergency alert: reactor core failure” wailed the station’s public address system.

The marines were in the Computer Lab junction, getting close the Central Processing Facility.

“Well, that’s a bloody peach! What are we doing now?” asks a marine, as they stood in glow of the red emergency lights.

“Dammit! This mission is falling apart!” Martinez states, he removes his holo-disc and accesses the base’s reactor maintenance monitor. The disc obediently displayed the maintenance monitor for the MCR-700 reactor. The core was glowing red, notifications showed damage reports to critical hardware and core temperature warnings. He takes a moment to take in the exact extent of the damages.

“The reactor is finished. We have to complete what we can of this mission and abort, because the radiation will eventually leak” he explained. “We need to pick up the pace, let’s move”

They came to a sealed air-lock door, Martinez passes his armour’s embedded ID chip over the scanning plate.

“Authorization accepted. Welcome to the Central Processing Facility” the terminal chirps as the huge doors split and disappeared into the floor and ceiling.

The beams of their flashlights reveal a dark wide hallway with private offices along the walls. The offices had glass walls and doors, holding a couple chairs, a spotless desk and a cabinet, the office walls were creamy white. The hall had a long carpet with white trimmed edges and a blue pigment between. Continuing their way to the Data Storage Vault, they travelled the hall for some time when a shadowy form wearing a lab coat emerged from a office and quickly disappeared into a wide intersecting passage.

“Hey, you! Stop!” Martinez shouts into the distance, but a vacuum of silence was the only reply.

Martinez broke the eerie silence, “I’m not seeing things, am I?” he asks.

“Negative, sir. I saw it, too” replies a marine.

The marines pursue the figure and stop at the passage. Martinez grabs a electronic flare, switches it on and arcs it into the dark area before them. The brilliant illumination of the flare reveals several figures stalking the spacious area. The darkened figures slowly turn their heads toward the squad, revealing their pitch black eyes.

“What in tarnation?” Martinez exclaims with notes of disbelief in his voice.

A whizzing piece of metal flies past Martinez’s head. The former humans stepped towards the marines, they were wielding glistening surgical knives. Another thrown knife spins towards them and Martinez shoots it out of the air with a quick burst, which also strikes a former human. The other possessed scientists made no reaction to their colleague’s demise. The plasma burned through its skull and it collapsed to the ground.

“Sarge, they’re all fucked up” a marine exclaims in disbelief.

“Stop! Drop your weapons, now!” Martinez commands.

The former humans staggered closer.

“This is a rescue operation” Martinez shouts, alien groaning emerged from the group.

“Mortals” came a dry, tortured voice.

Alarm grips Martinez’s mind as a former humans full grotesque facade breaks the red coloured emergency lights. Its face was a warped menacing satire, madness was bursting from its eyes.

“Alright, forget this, these freaks are toast. Open fire” he says coldly.

His squad voiced no protest. Plasma illuminated the wide corridor, the flashes of light reveals blood splatter dripping from the walls and torn corpses bleeding out on the floor. They burned gaping smouldering wounds into the former scientists and they collapsed into smoking twisted heaps.

Martinez reaches for his ultra-frequency transmitter and finds the display black and unresponsive. He stared dumbstruck at the broken transmitter. This was never supposed to be a possibility, not with present-day military hardware. A marine screams and hits the floor, then is dragged into the darkness by an invisible force. Green energy erupts and a horde of tall, hulking aliens teleport around the marines. Time seemed to slow as Martinez took in the malevolent sight. Aliens surrounded them, and they were much larger than any they had encountered before.

“Fire” he commands loudly, more aliens were teleporting into the area before he could finish voicing the single-syllable command.

The marines devastated the first wave and blobs of acid were hurled by the next. Another wave of teleporting demons arrives, the rasping energetic sound was like that of a nail in their coffins, a sinister moaning voice is heard over the deadly exchange.

“Spread out” Martinez commands.

The marines spring to evade and quickly resume firing. A blob of searing acid smacks into a squad mate’s helmet and begins devouring the surface and burns straight through the marine’s skull. The screaming was horrific, but the rest of the marines would face the same fate if they dared yield from their combat. The station’s module sector began groaning from some force applying stress to the structure. The demons drew closer, a perimeter of smoking charred pieces and ash were all that separated them from the marines. Large jawed demons charged from the latest teleporting arrivals and demanded priority as their sharp fangs drew closer. They fired straight through the demons and burned through the Hell Knights behind them.

“Throw your grenades” Martinez commands.

Holding their triggers, they each threw a grenade into the air, followed by another volley. Loud blasts sends severed alien limbs sailing. The area was clearing, but more demons were charging. Behind them, a completely foreign abomination appeared from the green energy. Two tall skeletal demons with shoulder-mounted hardware spawned, they lock their eyes on the squad of marines and screech loudly. They fired a dual projectile from their shoulder-mounts, the last thing Martinez would remember is being caught in the explosion when the rockets struck their streams of plasma.

This story takes takes place between the movies Star Trek 5 & 6, detailing the proceedings of peace talks between the Federation and the Klingon empire that came to a front in the beginning of Star Trek 6. The story begins with a deep space encounter, eight years earlier, between a Starship and an imperial cruiser.

USS Enterprise

Koloth, young and oldIn 2287, the Enterprise crew are attending a peace conference on Starbase 49 with the Klingons. Kirk is greeted by Koloth, the former captain of the IKS Gr’oth, whom they had a shaky truce with in the episode ‘The Trouble With Tribbles’. Koloth explains to Kirk that he has knowledge of Starfleet prisoners being held in a Klingon facility, on a remote planet, deep within Klingon space, and that their continued imprisonment is against the Klingon code of honour.
The story also follows events in the Klingon prison, where the prisoners endure brutal conditions and sadistic guards while being forced to mine for dilithium crystals underground.

 

Captain KirkThe peace conference continues, but suffers complications after a bombing occurs, narrowly missing some of the conference’s VIPs. During a scene aboard the Klingon’s flagship, another explosion causes damage to one of the ship’s warp nacelles, almost resulting in the Klingon’s firing upon the Enterprise in the confusion. This leads to a scene with Scotty and a Klingon engineer performing a space walk on the ship to remove another explosive.

Towards the end, Kirk, Koloth and Sulu stage an attack on the prison and rescue the Starfleet prisoners. They are then tracked through the planet’s dense jungle by Klingon forces, led by a rival of Koloth, named Korax, resulting in a phaser/disruptor shootout atop a high plateau. They manage to hold out against superior numbers and are rescued from the planet by a Klingon ship captain, named Jardak. Jardak, disgusted by the prison’s breaking of the code of honour, arrests Korax and orders an orbital strike on the prison, killing the remaining staff and prisoners.

 

Repulsed by the brazen killings, Kirk challenges the Klingon’s code of honour, angrily referencing how his son had been killed in the recent past by a decorated Klingon captain (Star Trek 3). This scene with Kirk voicing his deeply buried anger over his son’s murder was well written, explosive and dramatic, reflecting the many times in the series in which Kirk advocates moral decency. The book wraps up soon after this scene with Kirk & McCoy reflecting on the morals, or lack thereof, of the Klingon code of honour.

This was another great novel with a lot of intrigue and some good action scenes. There’s some variety among the story’s settings and characters, helping to keep scenes fresh. I felt that the writing style was a bit overly complex and that it could stand to be slimmed down, somewhat, also some characters don’t have much presence, such as McCoy and Chekhov. Overall, however, quite an enjoyable read that fits in well with the events during the Star Trek movies. Recommended for intermediate or advanced readers.

Star Trek – Enterprise, Daedalus & Daedalus’s Children

I tried to enjoy this story, but it was an unpleasant experience for me. It starts with the Enterprise NX01 crew investigating an anomaly in a distant system. They visit the system to study the anomaly and they suffer a swift invasion by the system’s inhabitants and the crew are arrested. Trip and Hoshi manage to avoid arrest by launching away in a small, highly advanced Suliban cell ship and are picked up by an opposing faction of inhabitants who reveal that the system is in the middle of a long standing war. The capture of the powerful Enterprise threatening to tip the scales of the conflict to a rapid conclusion.

Enterprise NX01

Much of the story has a lot of padding and are drawn out, there’s some good scenes where Trip shares his engineering expertise, but lots of time spent discussing how the alien food makes them sick. Here lies my first major problem; our main characters are haunted by illness throughout the story. This ever occurring deterioration of their health creates a lot of unneeded negativity for the reader. I disliked this, it often put me off my breakfast.

Later in the story, Trip and ‘The Guild’ faction launch a mission to rescue rebel fighters. To Trip’s surprise, he finds his old Engineering professor, Victor Brodesser. Dr. Brodesser was thought to have been lost along with all hands on the experimental starship, Daedalus. There’s some intrigue when it’s eventually revealed that the Enterprise crew is trapped in a parallel dimension. This accounts for the survival of the Daedalus crew, out of which, Archer’s wife was among.

Around the beginning of the second volume, we follow Captain Archer and his crew, being held in the opposing faction’s prison, from which they make a daring, inevitable escape. Scenes like these were honestly pretty impressive, the opening scenes were good and Trip has a couple of gripping scenes, but I feel like these gems are rare islands in a seeming ocean of bland, uncomfortable material. We learn that Archer’s alternate dimension wife had been married into the ruling family of the dominating faction, and passed off Archer’s son into the bloodline.

Right here I can’t help but feel like this whole thing has been a forced, belaboured attempt to emulate Star Wars. When you stop and take it in, that’s what you’ve got, just a cheap, drive-by Star Wars-ing for no real reason that they can conveniently never come back to. It’s different to some degrees, but I really fail to see why these similarities are necessary.

Captain Archer

So guess what happens, just guess. They rescue the Enterprise, they fix the diplomatic problem, they go back to their home dimension and leave the alternate dimension version of Archer’s son in the alternate dimension, where he belongs. Wooptie-doo!

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t care for these books, even though I read through both volumes. I tend to agree that Star Wars is one of the greatest stories ever told, any attempt to change or adapt or borrow from it is obvious and shameful. Not recommended.

Chapter I

After launching away from the Deimos moon base, the small escape pod sailed along the orbit of the red planet, a small metallic sliver in the dark vastness of space. On board, some of UAC’s top-level researchers watch as Deimos disappears before their eyes. Empty space crawled along the craterous surface, enveloping meter by meter. A final escape pod zooms away from the surface, just before the moon vanished from its orbit. Stunned silence filled the cabin of the pod as Director Will Banks, Susan Carmichael, Victor Kronos and Rupert Nexson stared into the emptiness.

Star Wars escape pod

“What the hell was that?!” shouts Victor
“It’s gone, the whole damn thing is gone!” Banks babbles.
“Unbelievable” says Nexson softly.
The sub-space relay began flashing as it began picking up a series of emergency transmissions from Space Marine High Command, UAC Central and others from the Phobos colony. Susan touches the receiver and listened to a transmission from Phobos.
The channel opened with an initial blast of static.
“To anyone who can hear this…” an explosion is overheard in the call, followed by sizzling electronics “…need immediate rescue” static muffles the voice, “…Repeat, Phobos is under attack”.
The Director buries his face in his hands.
They listened in silence as static overtook the channel until the pods computer interrupted their distressing thoughts.

“Video linkup established” it was from Councillor Crawford, overseer of Aerospace operations. “Hello?” He says, “What’s going on with the Deimos colony? We’ve lost contact with all channels, a total black-out!” he rants, the Councillor was wearing a suit with an ambassador’s stripe along his chest. They paused in hesitation. “Well?” the Councillor asks impatiently.
“Ah…There was a problem with the Gate B teleporter” the Director begins.
“It’s unleashed something horrible” he says. “The teleporter has triggered an infestation of feral alien creatures and the reason for the blackout is…” he says barely holding composure.
“…we just witnessed Deimos disappear”

“What?! Have you gone mad?” Crawford asks, shifting in his seat, his brow wrinkled in frustrated disbelief. “What do you mean?”
“It was crawling with energy, likely from the teleporter. We literally just watched it vanish from it’s orbit” Rupert explains.
Councillor Crawford stared grimly.
“You mean to tell me that Deimos just blinked out of existence? That the colonies are gone?” the Councillor asks angrily.
Rupert exchanges a sharp breath, disbelieving what he was about to say “That is affirmative” he replies, the Councillor’s image darkens with anger.
“William, do you really think you can feed me this horse ****? Tell me everything you know!” Crawford demands loudly.

image

William’s eyes dart from side to side, face flinching nervously.
“Well, uh…” he begins, the Councillor’s eyes watched unmoved.
Nexson watched, knew they were about to say too much. He approaches the console.
“We’re going to have to get back to you, Councillor” he says, reaching for the disconnect icon.
“Rupert, stay away fro–” Crawford angrily shouts before the call was cut.
The Director let out a sigh of relief.
“Thank you, Rupert” he says.
“Listen, no one can learn about our involvement. If they dig into top level operations then things are only going to get worse for us” Says Nexson.
“Right, we’ve got to get this sorted out” William agrees.
“Video linkup requested” the computer chirps.
“You can guess who that is” says Victor, the notification repeated as they stood in thought.

“The moon is gone, there’s nothing to investigate. The only evidence was in the computer logs, they’re gone. Our sub space channels are secured, they can’t be accessed” reasons Susan.
“That’s right, except…” says Rupert “…Corporal Revok and Major Mills know we were in Echo Labs when it was locked down” he says grimly.
Victor was first to speak after another moment of contemplation.
“They don’t know that for sure. All they know is that we were on the monorail. We can just say that was misheard” Kronos schemes.
“Okay, good. We’re going to say we were coming from performing audits at Computer Station K-3 and that this was caused by a maintenance accident. We can’t risk exposing the Paranormal Division” states Rupert, his syllables clipped in a serious tone.

Location: Phobos, UAC Colony, Central Processing

Frightened personnel dash along a winding hall, they could hear hideous snarls getting closer from behind. The three of them were nearing collapse when they reached a long stretch, the Data Storage Vault was at the end of the hall. The hallway was bright, hexagon tiles line the floor and strips of beige cushioning with a leathery surface rounded the circular reinforced walls. Various conduits of gas, water and optical cables ran along the ceiling in a grated cabinet. They reach the Data Vault and Dr. Manning looks into the retina scanner.

Sci-Fi vault

“Authorization Accepted” echoes the computer voice. Warning lights flanking the vault began flashing brightly, a buzzing alarm filled their ears. Two marines turn a corridor behind them.
“Bogies at two O’clock” one shouts. They opened fire on the approaching creatures behind them. Despite the brightness of the hall, the creatures advanced with a cloud of ensuing darkness. A slight quake was heard within the vault and the doors began to slide apart, two other barriers behind it began to unbolt and open. They scrambled through the still widening passage, then look back toward their saviours. The marines were ensued in their duties.
“Christ, these are some ugly mothers”
“There’s so many, where the **** are they coming from?” they casually exchange as they sprayed fire. They steadily held the rumbling chainguns with skillful expertise.

Dr. Diane Stone shouts to the marines, but her words were cut off by the sound of rapidly bending metal. A sealed door next to the marines was quickly ripped from its frame by large dark claws, revealing a towering creature with furious red eyes, loudly stomping the hexagon tiles with hoofed feet. They swing their guns toward the advancing creature, it reached its arm back and a swirl of shadowy, green energy swam along the valleys of its massive hand. They were already firing when it left the demon’s hand. They make their final move when they dodge the blob of plasma, the demon had been stomping ever closer. The marines tried to spring backward, but the massive creature grabbed one by the throat with one clawed hand, slamming the other marine into the wall in the process.
“Urp…Help…me” manages the marine as the grip tightened. It begins tearing his limbs, accompanied by grotesque sounds of ripping muscle tendons and popping joints, the surface of the passage was dripping in blood.
The other marine climbs to his feet and runs toward the vault. The huge creature was already stomping toward him.

“Close the doors!” the marine shouts into the vault, tucking his chaingun closely, Dr. Manning taps the command icon. The creature’s stomping grew faster, it was a few meters behind as the marine passed the first of the large narrowing doors. He quickly dashes through the passage, the creature was steps behind when Dr. Manning quickly shuts off the vault’s sensors. They watch as the creature grips the edges of the final door, the vault budged only minutely against the demon’s strength. The vault continued to close, slowly crushing the beast. It roared loudly as bones snapped and blood leaked freely to the floor. The unfeeling vault crushed it between the three barriers as they closed, spewing a stream of bloody matter as it came to a final state. Blood runs down the seams of the vault.

Chapter XIII – Devil in the Dark

From there they only met some light resistance, soon they made it to the structure. It was a writhing blob of orange and red flesh, the discoloration of veins protruded lightly from below its surface. Surrounding it was a moat of bubbling blood (or what looked like it), a bloated, sharp-toothed creature occasionally broke the surface. The UAC researchers on the moon were meticulously scanning it. A giant tongue served as a bridge leading to the only entrance. As they crossed over their boots made a sucking, squishing sound. They turned on their armour’s flashlight and entered the structure. The inside has coiled, fleshy walls that dripped with slime and steam rose up from below.

They stepped inside and the light from the entrance soon disappeared, in the distance they heard what sounded like loud stomach rumbles. The passages pulsated in an organic fashion, many were very narrow, the marines moved through it without any idea what would lie ahead. The walls would stick together and they would have to nudge it to move through. They came to a empty medium sized chamber, they were cautiously making their way to the other side when they were attacked by appendages that leaped from the floor in the centre of the room, they latched themselves onto their armour and pulled them down. Digestive acids surged from orifices in the floor and caused lethal amounts of toxic humidity. The test-marine turned toward the tentacles and fired his chaingun into the flesh covered floor, the appendages snapped off and they made their way into the next passage. They slowly moved along, yanking the tentacles from their armour. Mega-Armour saves my ass again, thought the Phobos-marine.

They moved through the fleshy passage and heard a buzzing sound ahead, it got louder as they approached the next chamber. They pushed through another folded passage, it peeled back, stretching a of web viscus fluid against the surface of moving flesh. It revealed a slightly smaller chamber buzzing with swarms of Cherub, a disturbing fusion of infant humans and alien genetics. Neither of the marines had seen these before. They were floating clumsily through the air and crawling through small passages high up in the walls. The Cherub swooped toward them, screeching and buzzing with their claws extended. The marines took aim with the shotgun and pistol and fired, the abominations turned to dripping pieces. More of the freaks swarmed into the room. The test marine emptied the pistol’s magazine, taking down several of the small creatures. The monsters attacked but were unable to overcome their superior firepower and splattered against the walls.

imageThey made their way through another passage before coming to a very large chamber, the strange growth seems to have grown over a modern community center. Some of the original features remained but the building was being consumed. Walking slowly, they carefully check for the threat but all was quiet, save for the sound of slime dripping from the ceiling. They then heard a slithering, sucking sound coming from above. A large creature had crawled from an orifice in the flesh covered ceiling. Its huge, shadowy body streaked across the walls. The marines raised their weapons and fired the plasma and grenades but the monster was too fast for them to hit, it darted to a far corner and stared at them with a hundred red eyes. The sight of its eyes confirmed their belief that this was Baphomet, the icon of sin. It was all black and moved on four legs that ended in webbed feet that provided suction for moving along steep angles. It also had a large tail, sharp fangs and claws. The test marine dropped his grenade launcher and lifted his chaingun, firing quickly. The line of bullets streaked across the walls, the shadowy creature shot yellow energy causing the Phobos-marine to dive out of the way as the creature continued to evade.

The creature roared when it was struck by the gunfire. The Phobos-marine got to his feet and fired rockets. The creature jumped from the wall to the ground and knocked down the Test-marine with its tail, then shot another bolt of yellow energy, the other marine had to dive for cover, he found that his armour was partially charred. The creature had leaped back onto the wall and appeared to be regenerating its wounded flesh with its piercing eyes locked onto its prey. They fired again, but the creature had leaped toward the Phobos-marine and grasped him in its teeth. The marine responded by shooting rockets down its throat, while the Test-marine pelted it with gunfire from close range, he was soon swatted like a bug by the huge alien.

A series of explosions sounded from within the creature, it spat out the Phobos-marine, his armour was crumpled and coated with dripping mucus, while the other marine was recovering from being thrown against a column. The Phobos-marine wiped the slime from his rocket launcher and struggled to replace the magazine. Ka-boom! The alien was facing the chewed marine when the side of its head erupted. Roaring, it moved toward the attack, whipping his tail toward the Phobos-marine, forcing him to roll out of the way. The alien was greeted with another explosive to the face, it made a disturbing series of fast clicking sounds as it winced in pain and then clawed at the Test-marine, its claws seemed to morph themselves at its will. He went dashing to the side, one sight of those growing claws got him moving for better cover.

The alien stomped around and fired another ball of energy, black blood leaked from it’s mouth. The Phobos-marine fired rockets that hit its side, it turned and threw more energy. The Test-marine had climbed to a second floor landing and aimed the chaingun at the creatures temple and fired. The creature cried out in the strange clicking sound, the rockets finally fell the beast, it scraped at the ground trying to regain it’s footing but was kept down by chaingun fire. The Phobos-marine gripped his BFG 9000 and aimed at its huge head and fired after a short charge-up, it made a large crater in the side of its giant skull, black blood oozed freely from the gaping wound. The Icon lay defeated and the building rumbled, the mysterious growth slithered away from the building, causing some of it to collapse. They easily walked out of the building to find that the growth had disappeared, leaving behind a gross, bloody residue. The marines made their way down a path of slippery stairs, away from the slimed, dripping community centre.

They walked for some time until a strange zipping sound caused them to turn back. The growth that had enveloped the community centre was shooting up to the sky in small columns. Red matter could be seen from far away, converging above them. Dread gnawed away at them as they looked at each other with worried expressions, then up at the sky. A small blob was forming in the sky, it got larger as more of the red substance shot toward it. “I think we should move” “Yeah” they said to each other.

They ran along a stone path in a connecting park that was thoroughly charred. The red blob had grown large enough to take up a large part of the sky above them. The substance stopped shooting up to it and the mass took the form of a large, circular cloud with an empty space in the middle, it churned with many shades of blood-red. The anomaly was scanned meticulously from the moon colony, the sight of the blood-red wormhole against the charred Earth was unbelievable even for the objective UAC researchers. The wormhole seemed to focus and follow the two marines, they ran for any escape that they could find. The wormhole swirled with fast intensity and the marines were sucked from the Earth, along with lots of debris, into the angry storm. They had no time to think or act as they were dragged into the churning maw of hell. The UAC sensor equipment recorded the whole event, they watched helplessly as the greatest fighters mankind may ever know were again swept into the unknown. With the defeat of the Baphomet, the portals stopped appearing on the Earth’s surface and most of the alien activity had been neutralized, but the mysterious and bloody wormhole continues to churn in the skies above the Earth.

 

End