solstice_logo_thumb (1)

For Immediate Release:

Ottawa author signs with Solstice Publishing for the wide release of the romantic novella Jamaican Heat. Details of the release date and the new cover will be forthcoming.

“This is a fantastic opportunity and a new chapter in my life; a new adventure that will take me to new heights,” said William after signing with Solstice.
Jamaican Heat is a romance that excites the passion and a love story that ignites the file.

For details, please contact William DeSouza.

Ottawa Ontario Canada

Jamaican Heat – Availability Update

Posted: August 26, 2014 in Books

newWith the signing of the publishing contract with Solstice, ‘Jamaican Heat’ will be temporarily pulled from sales as there will be a NEW vendor list and pricing; as well as the availability date.

This will include both the eBook and a hard copy (paper) option.

Stay tuned for details……

Jamaican Heat – A Love Story

Posted: August 2, 2014 in Books

JamaicanHeat

Jamaican Heat

A Novella by William DeSouza 2014

 

The warm Caribbean breeze streamed down the Blue Mountain range into Kingston bringing with it the sweet odors of banana, sugar cane and mango. The gentle winds of the tiny tropical island felt like a warm blanket as it wrapped around me. The leaves of the mango and hibiscus trees in the yard bristled with each gust as if in anticipation of the next encounter between secret lovers.

I looked up toward the mountain and could see thin white wisps of clouds flow past the peek, traveling toward the ocean and parts unknown. I was content to sit here forever and let life unfold in front of me, content enough that I was only a watcher, not getting involved with the day to day turmoil that lay outside of my control.

As I sat on the veranda, friends and family mixed and mingled around me, catching up on the latest news, and of course the latest gossip. The women showed off their latest frocks and the men, well, they did what men did best in social situations. They found a quiet out of the way place to play games and drink beer.

The dominos slamming onto the wooden card table startled me as my uncle Brian exclaimed in joyous triumph, “Beat dat ya dog ya!” A boyish grin crossed his lips, his Jamaican accent was thick with the patois slang of the tiny Caribbean island.

“Ya workin it ard misa Brian. Ya need not worry bout ya winnings though,” replied Trevor, an old family friend. He slammed his double sixes down and jumped up with his hands raised in victory.

The table reverberated with the play and laughter boomed from everyone present.

I enjoyed watching these grown men behave and play like boys, as if embracing their youth for the first time. They were family, friends and strangers at the same time and I adored them all. There was a deep sense of familiarity about their faces, their voices, and this place. At the same time I felt as though I was an interloper as I watched with a kind of voyeuristic pleasure.

Truth be told, I was more a stranger these days. These hot blistering days where only the tourists ventured out in Kingston under the blazing mid-day sun.

I may have been born on the island but I left Jamaica soon after I married Jeffery. It’s been almost six years since I was last here.

Right out of University and in my very first job, I met Jeffery through a mutual friend. I used to read about love in romance novels, but only when I was with him did I understand what love really was. He was in the Canadian Air Force working at the embassy here; and being from Canada, Jeffery didn’t know much about the island. But that just gave me the excuse to spend time with him playing tour guide. It wasn’t long after that we decided to marry. I was nineteen and full of hope.

Six years ago, and a lifetime away, we left Kingston and the blissful tropical breeze of Jamaica to the frigid cold and snow of Northern Ontario. Jeffery’s home was Sturgeon Falls and it was as far from Jamaica as the sun is from the Earth.

Sturgeon is a tiny town that serviced the paper mills and forestry industry of the area. It also served as a bedroom community for some of the air force personnel posted in North Bay Ontario.

About a forty five minute drive West of North Bay, it’s nestled along a winding river and had some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen outside of my home in Kingston. It was the wild and rugged beauty of Canada’s North with vast spaces and rich forests I’d only read about in school. I used to think Jamaica was a green place. But for all its population, Canada was a vast open space full of trees and green fields dotted by the occasional town along a ribbon of railways and highways.

I smiled on the inside thinking about those first years in my adoptive home. The way Jeffery had to hold me tight those winter days, trying to keep the cold out. I was warm enough in the well heated house, but I liked the warmth of his body and the strength of his arms around me even more.

Nineteen forty seven was a wonderful year. The war had been over for two years and life on the island was grand. The signs of prosperity and hope were everywhere and I was marrying the man I loved greater than life itself. It was a year of change, discovery, anticipation and also sadness, for I was also leaving the island and would be so far from my family.

I remember the buckets of tears from my mother and sister – and myself of course, as I boarded the ship that would take me to a new home and a new life. I also remember the powerful, vice like embrace of my father as he whispered his love for me in my ear. He never said much before, but I always knew he was proud of me. To hear him say it now was bitter sweet as I was about to embark for the three week journey.

It wasn’t as if I wouldn’t see them again, but it would be a while and it would only be for short visits. That was life in the modern world though, and I was looking forward to it. I might even say I craved it knowing my new life was going to be shared with the man I love.

Canada was grand. We settled in Sturgeon Falls after buying a modest home there. It was a short drive from Jeffery’s work at the Canadian Air Force base in North Bay where he functioned as head of the signals and communication section. It was a quiet place away from the busy city.

In a way, Sturgeon reminded me a bit of the quiet life back home – well, if you take the snow and cold out of the picture, and the French language half the town spoke.

Jeffery and I lived and loved as much as any two people could, at least until that January in nineteen fifty two. We’d been married for almost five years by then and Jeffery’s job in the military, plus the now ranging conflict in Korea, kept him busy during the day and me socializing with the other military wives. He had his weekends off of course and was home anytime between four-thirty and six o-clock every day. It was truly a wonderful life we had.

By January the war in Korea had raged for two years. We had heard that things were going well for the United Nation forces, but many of us had our reservations.

Jeffery received new orders that month and my heart sank with the weight of a thousand suns.

The army needed experienced signal men to bridge the vast distances of the battlefield. Jeffery used to tell me that ‘communications was the key to winning any war’.

“It was only going to be a six month deployment in a safe area,” he had said as he comforted me.

“I won’t be gone for long; and I’m only going to train the signal’s people there on the new radios. There’s nothing for you to worry about,” he kept reassuring me.

Three and a half weeks after he left – I wince each time I recall the moment – just over three weeks into his service, I received a visit from Jeffery’s commanding officer and the base pastor.

I collapsed at the door the second I opened it and saw the big black car with the Government of Canada license plate pull up in the drive. I used to listen to the war correspondence on the Canadian Broadcasting Service and I knew how bad it could get over there. I knew what news was coming when I saw the car, and yet I wasn’t ready for it. How could I be, no one could be ready to hear your life was being ripped apart. I died on the inside that day.

Life has a funny way of changing stories in the middle. You start a life with big dreams that you’re going to live out the rest of your life with someone, raise children and grow old together. Then just as it begins, it ends unfulfilled.

Jeffery and I were having too much fun enjoying each other; we had made a conscious decision to have children later on. Now, I had nothing but bitter sweet memories and a pain in my heart that would not go away.

At the funeral, I relived that painful day the news arrived. Jeffery’s parents and family were very comforting and we shed a river of tears together. I ached from the pit of my body and my legs felt week. I wanted to crawl under a rock and never come out. My life, my future, was in a shambles and I had no idea what to do.

There was nothing left for me in Canada after that. Sure I had my work and of course Jeffery’s family, but I didn’t have mine. I didn’t have my supports that I so desperately needed at that very moment.  His parents understood when I told them I couldn’t stay.

I did try, lord knows I tried to stick it out. In the end though, they would have come to the same decision if they were in my place. I am going to miss them. We comforted each other with our shared loss and promised to keep in touch. Funny, the loss of a son and a husband – two lives lost in the death of one beautiful man.

So in the spring of that same year I put my affairs in order, including the sale of our home and arranged for Jeffery’s survivor and spouse’s pension to be deposited into the Royal Bank of Canada here in Kingston. After booking my passage, I took the train to Toronto and boarded a flight to Jamaica.

And here I am today, lonely but not lonely; alive and just a bit dead at the same time. Oh how I miss him, even after two years, it’s hard to move on with the everyday challenges that life brings us sometimes.

Still, now that I’m back in Jamaica, I have my family to lean on, and my sister has been fantastic. She’s been a sounding board for me and a pillar to lean on when my heart breaks.

Mind you, that may change now that she is engaged. That’s the reason for this party today – a celebration of love and hope.

My eyes begin to tear as memories flood back from the past. I need to get back to my here-an-now and get control of my emotions, I thought to myself.

This isn’t my day after all, it’s my sister’s and I’m not going to ruin it for her by stealing the show. Besides, I’m sure that everyone has seen enough of me cry with the uncontrolled sobbing of a hysterical woman.

“BaYa!” Shouted mister Tubbs as he threw down a domino. “Ya see, I am not finished wit yous just yet. So ya na jump to victory too soon.”

Everyone, myself included, burst out laughing again at the site of these men taking the game, and living, with such zeal and light hearted fun.

The urban sounds of Kingston also intruded on our gathering with distant car and truck horns, and the public address speaker booming calypso music from the tavern not too far away. A small grove of mango and hibiscus trees blocked much of the sounds and views outside our gate, but the distinct sound of the Kingston tram headed to Constant Springs pierced through the air as it squeaked to a halt.

I could just see just enough down the drive and from the trams open sides, I could observe men and women in various styles of dress, arms full of packages either heading home, or shopping and maybe even to work.

I also spotted one young and handsome man step off, a brown paper package wrapped tight with butchers’ string under one arm and a bouquet of flowers held tight in the other. I knew who it was the second I saw him.

The pressed white shirt contrasted nicely against the dark gray suite. The white porkpie hat, white patent leather shoes, his slim body, tight – oh my, I have to stop.

“Rodney!” shouted my sister as she ran down the drive to meet her fiancé at the gate.

I have to say that it was still a bit strange calling him her fiancé. While not arranged, it was as if the union was preordained in the boardroom of two major corporations trying to find common ground to work together. My father’s heavy machinery company and Rodney’s parents Bauxite factory joined not just by a common concern in making money, but also the unity of their children.

She reached the end of the drive and swung open the black wrought iron gate in mere seconds, practically jumping into Rodney’s open arms. He dropped the wrapped package but held onto the flowers with ease. His strong arms holding up my sister’s full weight as she fawned all over him.

Such public displays of affection are very rare in Kingston, frowned upon by ‘civil’ society – and I was so jealous. I envied her with all my being and missed my Jeffery the way he used to hold me like that. I put down my glass and ran inside to my room, closing and locking the door behind me as I collapsed on the bed – tears in my eyes.

I am an educated woman with years of life experience and I know that these emotions are totally illogical.  It’s been two long years, why do I still feel this way?

They are my emotions however and I wasn’t sure how to control them. I wanted to – no, I had to get control of myself. Seeing my baby sister and Rodney kiss in the drive should not send me over the edge after all this time.

So what was it? What was causing me to break down like this? Why should I lose control of my emotions when I spot that gorgeous body walking toward me? His strong arms, chiseled chest and – oh God, I just figured it out.

It wasn’t their love for each other and jealousy that made me lose it. It wasn’t me missing Jeffery, although I did. It was the man that I wanted. It was the strong arms and body holding me tight – pressing me into the bed!

OK girl, get hold of yourself. I am not that kind of person. I am a grown woman and widow and mature enough to know what is appropriate. I am not taken back by a man – with a body to kill for. Damn!

I laid on the bed for some time, not really sure how long. I could feel his weight press on my legs. I could feel his strong hand run along the right leg, moving toward my thigh. I knew it was wrong but that didn’t matter, it felt so good. His arms pulled me toward him as I turned on my back, my hand moved from my breasts, down my side and toward my….

“Elizabeth? Are you ok dear?” I heard from the other side of the door as I opened my eyes in surprise.

Shit. It was just a dream. A vivid and desperate imagination playing tricks on my fragile subconscious and emotions.

I didn’t realize I was holding my breath as I tried to answer, “Yes,” I sang out. “I was just a bit tired mama. I’ll be down just as soon as I freshen up.”

I was on my back starring up at the ceiling fan turn slowly, quietly. The shutters on the window were closed but a light breeze could be felt blow across my legs and face. I know I was smiling but not sure why. It was just a silly dream after all and didn’t mean anything. Just a dream I kept telling myself. A dream I was beginning to believe was, or could be real.

No, dreams can’t be real and this dream can never come true. I had to remain true to who I think I am, who I believed I am. My sister was engaged to marry this man in six months and I could not allow my illicit desires to wreck someone else’s life. Mine was a bit of a train wreck after all and it wasn’t right to toss others on to the same track.

“Don’t be long hon, I’m having dinner served in an hour now that Rodney has arrived.”

“Okay, thank you,” I said almost out of breath. I heard my mother walk away after a few seconds.

I knew she worried about me even though I kept reassuring her that I was alright. That wasn’t a total lie since I did feel better. The hard part right now was trying to control my – desires. This was the nineteen fifties after all, women were not supposed to feel these things. At least I didn’t think we were supposed to have lustful thoughts.

I wish I could talk to someone about this, about how I felt. I definitely couldn’t talk to my sister about this. That wouldn’t do, as I tried to explain to her that I lusted after her future husband.  Ya, that would go over well. I could see the headlines in the Gleaner – ‘Woman Kills Sister in Fit of Rage!’

As for my mother, well, that was almost as bad. Damn, I could still remember when I first started to have my period all she said was, “the pads are under the bathroom counter.” What a way to begin womanhood. She was definitely not one to have a conversation with about these types of emotions.

Jamaica in the fifties might as well be England in the Victorian era of prudish ideas, behaviours and attitudes. Even back in Sturgeon Falls it was never this bad. The women there talked about anything – including who was sleeping with whom and the sexual escapades of some of the single men. It was most enlightened compared to Kingston.

I dusted off my funk and gathered my thoughts. I looked at my watch and realized I should be out there with everyone. I took a bit of time though to straighten my dress and after looking in the dressing table mirror, wiped off my mascara. Having black bags under the eyes didn’t go with the curried goat that was being served with dinner; and quite frankly I looked worse than the goat right now.

“Blast!” I said out loud as I noticed a rip in my nylons. It must have happened when I – well it was a vivid dream after all. I grinned at the memory; it felt good in more ways than one.

“Ah well, it’s too hot for nylons anyway,” I said as I removed them and tossed them in the waste basket under the dressing table.

I stood in front of the mirror, just far enough to see all of me. The white cotton dress I wore hung loose; and you know what? I looked really good in it. I grabbed the hem, lifted it up and twirled, playing with my look.

I slipped on my white strapped sandals and took one last look in the mirror before taking a deep breath, then opened my bedroom door and headed outside.

The sun was still high in the sky but a few white clouds had moved in, helping to cool things off just a bit. It would set within the next two hours.

Thelma had begun serving dinner and the long table set up in the back yard was a site to behold.

“Thelma, you have outdone yourself,” I said quietly to her as she passed by with a platter of cut and roasted breadfruit.

“Tank you misses,” she said with a smile.

Ripe mangos and bananas adorned the centre piece. The wonderful odour of fried plantain, dumplings, callaloo, codfish, roasted breadfruit and rice and peas filed the air.

Ginger beer, sorrel and of course Red Stripe beer was also placed strategically on the table. The boys of course having easy reach of the stubby Red Stripe bottles.

Some people had already begun to gather at the dinner table but I could still hear the domino game in full swing around the front of the house in the carport. My mother told Thelma she could bring the curry goat out as she marched toward the front to break up the game.

I chuckled to myself as the sound of my mother’s ‘persuasion’ drove the remainder of the men to the table. There was nary a protest to be heard from them as they scampered to the back yard.

I chose my seat with some purpose and sat down, across from Rodney, who sat beside my sister. I have to admit in hindsight it wasn’t the best place to plant myself. I wondered what possessed me to do such a thing when I quickly remembered why. I chastised myself for playing with not only my own emotions but that of my sister, who quite frankly was a very innocent party to my lustful thoughts.

TO READ MORE…. PLEASE VISIT KOBO BOOKS AND DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY FOR ONLY $2.99

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/jamaican-heat

 

 HOME WORLD

A Science Fiction Novel by William DeSouza (c)2013

– Prolog and Chapter One Sample Chapters –

THE FINE PRINT: All rights reserved. No part of the novels or short stories may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without written permission from the author. The only exception to this is the sample chapters that may be provided from time to time. Any sample chapters or short stores provided may be printed for the users personal use only and may not be reprinted. Electronic copies may be stored but only for a limited time period, sufficient to finish reading.  Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this web site, and the materials provided, the author  assume no  responsibility for errors or omissions. Neither is any liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

 


 
“The greatest test of courage on Earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” Robert G. Ingersoll


Prolog

 

John Solomon read the data scrolling across the computer screen and raised an eyebrow in a skeptical expression. Everyone else stood back quietly, already knowing the contents of the data file Solomon was reviewing. The lab was not crowded, with only seven others in attendance, but each person could feel the walls closing in on them as the magnitude of the data was now reviled to yet another.

As director of the astronomical project, it was his shoulders that everyone leaned on to get what they needed. It was his responsibility to ensure that any papers published by the team was fact checked and peer reviewed and it was his ass on the line should anything get out that could not be verified. This – this data however, was not something he ever could have imagined would include his name. As he stared at the screen, he could not fathom how he’d be able to support his own emotions, never mind that of any one else.

The chair Solomon sat in creaked as he leaned back, the last of the text finished flashing across the screen and embedded in his mind, repeating over and over again in his thoughts like an old fashion reel to reel tape that had come to the end but did not stop; instead kept spinning. The end of the tape flapping as it went round and round.

He stood slowly, looked down at the terminal then quietly turned to the others in the room and, pausing for a moment, finally said, “How many times have you checked the data, the signal feed, and has the computer finished decoding the information and verified the contents?”

He had too many questions to ask and what he was looking at only presented him with more questions.

“We’ve checked it all four times. We’ve all seen it and we’ve all examined the raw data and verified our conclusions with the computer model. We even got access to the new processors at Plans de Ville in Quebec. It’s all been verified, checked and double checked,” replied the young assistant, somewhat exasperated.

Solomon continued to gaze at the screen. He had only just come back from a well needed vacation with his family when he received the emergency call to report to the lab. He had said to his wife before going to the facility where he worked, “Go away for three weeks and you find out they can’t do anything without you.”

In hind sight, he realized he should never have come back.

He picked up the hard copy printouts and paced as he flipped through the reams of paper in his hand. He turned to the project supervisor, Terrance Leblanc, his assistant, “Have you gone to anyone else with this?”

“No, not yet. I wanted you to see it first and get the full team involvement. I need everyone’s input and back up before I contact Geneva and Hawaii with my findings. We need to get corroboration on this before we can even think of taking it to the UN.”

“I agree – we don’t want to jump the gun on this one; it just doesn’t make any sense.” Solomon paused to think. His head was beginning to throb with pain, mixed with confusion. “OK, I agree, we do need to look into this further. But I hope you’re dead wrong and the data is faulty. Let’s make the call. Also, we should contact NASA and see about getting time on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. We’re going to need additional readings up close and SOHO should be able to give us what we need. But I hope to God that we’re wrong – it’ll be the end of us all if this is true.”

Solomon put down the printouts without emotion, turned, and walked out of the lab quietly, heading back to his office at the end of the hall, a blank gape on his face. He was not sure what to think about what he had just learned. He hoped that it was a dream, a bad dream. He even pinched his arm to check, chuckling to himself when it hurt.

I must be out of my freaking mind, that’s it. This is not real and this is not happening he thought.

“How do you explain the end of the world to your children?” He said it out loud to no one. He couldn’t think past that thought, the only thing that he could hope for now was that the data was flawed in some way and that the team had made a gross error in gathering and interpreting the figures.

He reached his office, opened the door, and ignoring his secretary, went into the inner chamber, closing the door behind him.

—-

Leblanc picked up the ringing phone, “Hello – Terrance Leblanc speaking.” Leblanc’s office was spacious and well appointed but simple in taste. He liked the simple life and although the pressures of his job at the Astrophysics and Geosciences Institute could sometimes get demanding, he could always count on his knowledge and his teams’ abilities to keep everything on an even keel. This time however was different and he wasn’t sure how he was going to cope.

The voice on the other end of the line identified himself as Alexander Falardeau. In a French Canadian accent he said, “It’s good to talk to you again Terrance. We haven’t had a chance to get together in what – must be eight months now.”

“I know – it’s been too long my old friend. I wish the circumstances were different Alexander. I take it you’ve received the email and my attachment?”

“I have – and to say that I’m skeptical is putting it mildly. I’m not sure how I feel about this data you sent. That being said, and in the interest of gathering the truth, I’ve authorized your team three weeks on SOHO to confirm or disprove your theory.”

Falardeau was more than a little concerned that he was playing into a hoax or just plain wasting his time and resources on this. There were other groups that wanted to use SOHO, important and influence people and groups; people like Stephen Hawking and others. And putting Leblanc’s group at the head of the cue caused a minor stink. He had known Leblanc for many years however and knew him enough to know that he did not react on a whim. He would have checked the preliminary data several times over before going this far.

“Thanks Alex. I know you’re pulling in a number of favors and strings to get us this time. I hope that I’m way off on this and we’re wrong. I don’t want to think of the consequences if we are right.”

The call ended and Leblanc was left staring at the wall in front of him, numb with fear and doubts.

—-

Solomon walked along the canal holding his clasped hands behind his back. His shirt and pants were wrinkled and sagging. His eyes were puffy, and he looked like he hadn’t slept in a month. He walked aimlessly, not seeing the beauty and wonder unfolding around him in the park.

Several children were playing nearby while attentive parents and caregivers watched and listened to laughter and song. Birds flew overhead cawing to each other, dancing on invisible air currents. He didn’t hear the sound of the wind blowing gently, the leaves on the trees rustling. He missed the gurgling rush of water flowing past as it lapped against the rocks lining the canal.

Leblanc, sitting on a bench by the canal stood when he saw Solomon approach. He noted that Solomon had an empty and distant gaze as he walked. He hoped that he didn’t have that same appearance.

Solomon almost walked past and only stopped when Leblanc spoke up, “I see you haven’t come to enjoy the park.”

“Pardon?”  Solomon stammered. “What?”

“Oh – I’m so sorry Terrance. I’ve been somewhat distracted of late.” Quickly changing the topic, “I must admit that I was surprised you asked to meet me hear of all places. I wasn’t in the mood for a walk” He looked around only now seeing the beauty that surrounded him.

“I felt a change of venue was appropriate and under the circumstances, the wide open park seemed proper.” Leblanc gestured to the bench he was sitting at as both men took a seat.

It was half past three in the afternoon and on a Wednesday. Other than the park play area, there were not many people about. The odd jogger ran past, as did several people in suits cutting across the park, on their way to work or maybe home. There was no risk of being overheard as the two men spoke.

Solomon, tired and spent, spoke first, “I am guessing by your tone that you don’t have good news.”

“No.” Leblanc turned to face Solomon, crossing his legs at the same time. His corduroy pants made a shifting noise on the plastic recycled bench as he did.

“I’m afraid I don’t have good news. But I do have a silver lining of sorts.”

That last comment gave Solomon a pause. He detected a note of optimism in what Leblanc just said, even if it didn’t show in his expression. He lifted his head, ready to listen to this silver lining.

Leblanc went on, “As we calculated and feared our data was not flawed. The suns hydrogen helium mixture of fuel is running out. It is inexplicable and makes no sense, but at the present rate of decay it will begin to expand slowly in thirty-five to forty years and will engulf Earth and the inner planets in fifty to eighty years as a red giant. This is so new to us that exact numbers are impossible right now. We only know that it is happening.”

So far Solomon was still waiting for the good news. He anticipated that Leblanc would confirm the original calculations and so did not seem surprised, only disappointed.

Continuing, Leblanc said, “I’m telling you this in the same way it was told to me by NASA and like you, I was at a loss for words. I spoke with Alexander Falardeau and he confirmed our findings with the SOHO data. The final projections only double checked this morning.”

Leblanc was becoming irritated and stood, his own frustration showing. He was the head of the project and he couldn’t do anything. He felt helpless, as if he were in a small boat meandering down a river without ores, powerless to affect his direction and not knowing where he was headed, or how fast he would get there.

He spoke again after sitting back down, “One last thing.”

Solomon interrupted, “The question of why?”

“Yes. None of the projections can tell us how or why this process started. None of the data can explain why or how things began to go wrong. Were our own theories of sun formation so wrong as to grossly miscalculate the life and death of a star? I have no answers and nether does anyone else. This is completely out of the scope of our understanding since nothing we know tells us that we were wrong.”

Leblanc stood once more and paced a short distance before walking back to the bench, and after taking several deep breaths, sat.

“I said that there was a silver lining and here it is…” hesitating and with a slight tremor in his voice, he continued, “Operation Exodus, the mass evacuation of planet Earth.”

Nothing was said, nothing needed to be said as Solomon sat staring blankly at Leblanc, his mouth open in total shock and disbelief. After a few moments he began to laugh, shaking his head.

He wiped away a tear from his left eye when he gained control of his emotions. “What the hell are you talking about Terrance? You’ve completely cracked up, is that it? Can you take me to your happy place or share whatever drugs you’re on so I can fee that good?”

It was Solomon’s turn to stand and pace. He walked away, stopped and turned, and still shaking his head went back to the bench.

“Tell me you’re not serous, that you just wanted to pull one final joke over on an old man like me.”

Leblanc shook his head and said, “You’re not that old and I’m not kidding and I would never joke about this.”

“No, of course you wouldn’t. Then tell me what in the hell you’re going on about – and get to the point of this very quickly. I’m in no mood for any levity.” Solomon’s voice was beginning to show the strain he was under.

“When I spoke with Alexander, he said that NASA confirmed what we now know to be the final end of our collective and ancestral home. He then told me about a project that a black operations team had been working on for the past several years – Operation Exodus.  It was brought back to life in 1994 with the discovery and confirmation of a near earth asteroid, 1994 WR12. At the time President Clinton authorized the funding for the projects current incarnation, but it was under Ronald Reagan that the initial concept was conceived.”

Leblanc had to pull out his Blackberry tablet and scan his notes. He unzipped the leather case and flipped up the tablet computers cover. After calling up the file he continued. “When the Star Wars Missile Program was first announced and we were at the height of the Cold War in the early nineteen-eighties, some bright boys at the Pentagon decided that we may not win an all-out nuclear war and that the missile defense shield would not protect the United States. They came up with original concept to – well, simply put, leave Earth and settle on another planet.”

Solomon was dumbfounded. He could not conceive that anything so far fetched could not only get the attention of the President but funding as well. He didn’t want to interrupt Leblanc however so he let him proceed.

“The idea was to settle on pre-fabricated stations set up on the Moon or Mars, wait for the fall out to settle and return.”

He saw Solomon twitching as if he was about to get up and walk away.

Quickly he continued, “Now – before you walk away again, let me finish. The idea was to settle on pre-fabricated stations set up on the Moon or Mars, wait for the fall out to settle, and return. They may have received some initial seed funds to develop the concept further, but that’s as far as they got. Nothing was said of the project again until NASA started the Near Earth Object Program. When we began to find an abundance of potential planet killers in the nineties, 1994 WR12 being one of the first and largest, NASA quietly went to the President and received additional funding to further refine the plan to evacuate the planet – or at least selected members of the planet.”

Leblanc cleared his throat. He saw the look of disbelief and skepticism on Solomon and knew that he had the same look only hours ago. “I know that this is hard to fathom, it was for me too, but that being said, if it can work, it’s the only chance that we have as a species to survive.”

“What about trying to stop the reaction? We just can’t up and leave! And go where? Six billion plus people are not going be able to hop on a bus and just take off to the stars ya-know!” Solomon was livid. In all his life he had not heard such a story. He was sure that Leblanc had lost his mind.

“The exodus is obviously not an overnight thing. There’s years of work ahead to get to a point that will give us a fighting chance, but we do have a head start. This will come as a shock, but some of the ships have already been built, and tested.”

That stopped Solomon as he was about to interject. Somehow it didn’t come as a total surprise to him that some of these ships existed, knowing about all the reports of mystery planes in the sky over remote desert air bases. Leblanc went on, “We will continue to find out how and why this happened. The full scientific and financial weight of every major country is already being mobilized to try and answer the question of why, but no one that I’ve spoken to at our lab, NASA or the European Union thinks we’ll have the power to stop it, and then reverse the process even if we’re able to ascertain the cause. As far as the six billion people…”

Leblanc paused, swallowing hard. “It’s been decided that…” He stopped again, his voice showing strain. “That in the time we have we will only have enough ships and space for sixty to seventy million people.”

Solomon did not speak, the silence becoming almost painful for Leblanc as he waited for a response. Any response would be good right now. He was beginning to think Solomon was suffering a stroke, or gone into a catatonic shock.

After a time Solomon did say something. “Only enough ships for sixty to seventy million? Is that all we can save of the Human race? Out of six billion people? Who gets to play God?”

Questions and more questions with no answers in site. Solomon stood and began to walk along the pathway. His thoughts were ripping apart at the seams as disjointed images began to swirl around in his mind. Images of the sun ripping itself apart and coming back together seemed to be in an endless loop while the sky above turned the color of blood and then faded to nothing. An inky blackness that exploded into more nothing. Flashes of light mixed with images of his family and friends winked on and off as he continued to walk.

Leblanc followed closely but gave his friend room and time to think. Solomon was in a fragile state, and Leblanc did not want to push him further. Solomon’s faith in Humanity, science and his God was being tested right now in a battle that raged in his mind and played out in reality of life and the current crisis. It was anyone’s guess what the outcome would be.

Leblanc had held back and had not elaborated to Solomon that the actions to save Humankind were already unfolding. NASA and their operations team had activated Operation Exodus on the orders of the President. The existing fifteen ships were being readied, and construction on the remainder already begun. As for playing God, that would be left up to a committee formed through the auspices of the Security Council in the United Nations.

The developing plan is to hold a lottery in every country but only those selected would be told, and only just at the last minute. This was to try and avoid mass panic and disrupt the exodus. A few lucky ones would be selected on skills, education, and experience – they would be guaranteed a slot. Everyone would have to have a willingness to leave behind a past with no assurance of a future. Certain death in exchange for the strong possibility of death. What a hell of a choice thought Leblanc.

Solomon’s pace was slow, almost meandering. He stopped and quietly turned to see Leblanc standing just behind him. “Someone once said that the past is all we have. That people remember you for your past deeds, not your future work.”

“I know – it was you that always said it.” Leblanc said softly.

“I guess without a race to remember our past we end up with no future. I’m sorry, I’ve been too self absorbed and letting my personal feelings and emotions cloud my ability to accept the reality. You’re right of course, we need to plan for the only option Humans have for the survival of the species.”

“Your reaction is not unique my friend, we’re all going through it.”

“OK, what’s next then?”

Leblanc outlined the plan in greater detail, leaving out the parts he felt might push Solomon over the edge. When he was finished, he felt reassured that Solomon would be on board and all right. Having a purpose and roll in the project would keep Solomon focused and in touch with the here and now. He also felt better going over the Operation Exodus protocol with someone else. Talking about it allowed him to vet the plan in his own mind.

After they finished, Leblanc shook Solomon’s hand. “I’m off to New York this evening to meet with the operations team. They’ve asked for my expertise in stellar cartography and navigation.”

“Thanks again for understanding. I’m sorry for my outburst earlier. But you will have my full cooperation and support.”

“We’re all going to need as much help as we can get. I also have some jobs for you if you’re up to it.”

Solomon agreed to help out in whatever way he could and after being given a quick overview, the two men parted. Leblanc headed out of the park to hail a taxi. He was still worried about Solomon, but could do nothing more to help him cope.

At the same time he knew that Solomon would be OK in the long run and he would give one hundred percent of himself toward the effort.

The birds continued their dance, singing to each other as they soared through the sky. Two squirrels with long bushy tails chased each other up one tree, jumped the short distance to another then down again. Children could be heard in the distant play area and the light breeze brought along the sweet smell of nature, and life.

Solomon leaned against the railing beside the canal with his hands clasped. He closed his eyes and thought to a distant time when people were oblivious to the realities of the world around them.

“Not now, no longer are we so naive and complacent about our world. It is a pity.” He spoke to the birds, and trees and wind. Nobody was in earshot of his lament.

“We’re sentenced to die the day we’re born – And that day is upon us all.” He rose up, opened his eyes to look into the sky. “Why God did you allow this to happen? Why condemn the whole planet?”

He knew there would be no answer. “At least we’ll survive as a species, and that should be something.”

Turning, he started to walk back to his car thinking, there is much work to do, and so little time to do it.


Chapter One

 

The small scout ship hung in the vacuum of space, its dark grey composite alloy skin reflecting little of the light from the distant star it orbited. With its main engines shut down, and navigation lights turned off, the HSS Vanguard appeared lifeless.  The solar system it orbited was void of life, only one gas giant, a cloud of interstellar matter and a debris field of failed planet formation existed for light years around.

The ship was far from being lifeless however. Inside a small crew of eighteen men and women silently tended to vital systems and long-range sensor equipment, watching for any movement or indication their enemies were close by.

The only sound came from the vents and a dull, almost inaudible vibration from the power plant.

The Vanguard had been on station for the past three weeks with no sign of an intrusion in their sector. The normal routine was broken only by the monotony.

At last the artificial intelligence that coordinated the automated systems and computers came to life. “CONTACT – BLUE SECTOR – ONE-SEVEN-SEVEN BY EIGHT-ONE-SEVEN BY THREE-THREE-NINE.”

“Lieutenant, can we confirm source?” asked Captain Kodiak.

The galley like bridge was tight but efficient. Nine workstations lined the port side leaving a walkway along the starboard hull wall. The captain sat facing forward on a slightly raised platform, able to see over and down the line of stations. Flat monitors built into the hull lined the port side at each station, the captain having access to three monitors on swing arms reaching down from, and above the command chair.

At the sensor station, Lieutenant Hakim was already pulling the data up on his monitor. The long-range sensors were at the limit of its operable range but Hakim was one of the best sensor officers in the recon force. If there was anything there he would find it.

“It’s faint Captain, but there is a definite contact. AI predicts a cruiser and I concur.”

“It’s good to know you’re in agreement with the computers.” He smiled. “Communications – Relay to fleet the contact and location.”

“Aye Sir.” Ensign Daly said as he keyed in the data to transmit. After several minutes came a reply, “Captain, message from fleet. ‘End exercise – Well done Vanguard. Return to base’. Message ends sir.”

“Acknowledge the order. Thank you ladies and gentlemen, that, I think breaks the record set last month by the Sprit. Navigation, set course for home, helm, take us out to three million kilometers before we jump. I want to be well out of the debris field first.”

Everybody on the bridge revealed smiles at the announcement of the end of training exercises. It was always hard being away from home, family and friends. The Vanguard had been out for a total of four weeks on this exercise, three of them running silent. It was tough to relax fully on the small scout and recon ships.

“I’ll be down in engineering giving everyone else the good news.” Kodiak could have used the ship wide intercom but he was close to his crew and liked to give good news in person whenever possible.

He pressed the retract switch for his monitors as he stood and they silently slid out of the way. Kodiak pulled down his tunic and was about to step through the bridge hatch.

“Captain!” Called Robert Daly from the communications station, curiosity breaking through is normally calm manner.

Kodiak stopped and turned to face the young officer. “Yes Ensign.”

“Sir – Is there a second exercise planned?”

“No – why? What do you have?” He saw the intense stare on the Ensign’s face.

“Well, I’m not sure exactly. It’s a signal, but I can’t identify it.”

Kodiak walked back to the communications station. The other bridge crew stopped whatever they were doing, looking instead over to Daly’s station.

“What’s the source direction?”

“I can’t pin it down to an exact point, it’s degraded too much so the source direction is spread out on a very wide plane. It’s also on an old style carrier wave we haven’t used for over two hundred years. There’s nothing in the database for me to get a point of reference.” He looked up to the Captain in hopes Kodiak would have an answer.

Kodiak wasn’t sure what to make of it. Contacts like this were not rare or extraordinary, with several coming each standard week while a ship was out. They were normally attributed to cosmic background radiation, planetary communication, or echoes of previous ship traffic.

The Vanguard was not scanning in the frequency range for background radiation however, and there were no habitable planets within scan range. As for previous ship traffic, there had been none in the past week or any residual readings prior to the Vanguard arriving on station. These facts caused some concern for the captain.

Daly attempted to fine-tune its reception and was not having much luck. “Captain, I can’t give an exact fix on direction better than just an educated guess. But I can give you a range estimate from the AI. In looking at the data however, I don’t put much stock in it. The numbers don’t make much sense and signal degradation may be throwing the AI off.”

“OK Daly, best possible guess – what do you think it is?”

“I’m not sure what, but I, the AI, would estimate the distance in time at eight thousand light years – sector zero zero one. Or at least in that general direction, but that range could be off by – who knows how many light years. And anything coming from zero zero one has to be suspect.”

Kodiak straightened, not realizing how bent over he was. His lower back creaked and his head was beginning to throb. “What about content? Can we – by that I mean you – break down the signals content?”

Daly grinned at the complement. “I can try – but as I said, we haven’t used that type of carrier wave in over two hundred standard years. Also, if it’s not Human, I may not be able to decode it, and the signal itself …”

Kodiak interrupted, “OK, OK Daly, I get it.” He smiled, “It’ll take time and no guarantees. Record the signal in main memory and get started on it. In the mean time let’s get ourselves back home.”

Kodiak was now more than curious, he was intrigued. He had never seen a signal like this in his ten years of military service and the fantastic notion of an alien race trying to communicate was compelling. It would be good for his career to be part of the discovery team. At least that’s the dreamer in him, the more pragmatic side of him said it could be any number of natural sources.

He stepped through the hatch on his way to engineering. First things first, he thought. The crew will be happy to be going home.

—-

“Captain, signal from orbital dock control. We have clearance to dock at platform one-four-seven.”

“My complements to docking control. Helm, take us in – maneuvering thrusters only.”

“Aye – maneuvering thrusters only.”

The bridge of the Vanguard was busy with activity as everyone cleaned up their stations. Daly placed a number of data storage chips in his tunic pocket as he prepared his station for stand down. He was disappointed he wasn’t able to decipher the mystery signal, but at the same time he didn’t think he would have been able to on board the scout ship. He knew someone in the computer department at the university however and he planned to recruit her assistance.

Before that happened he had to clear it with the captain, he motioned for Kodiak to come over to his station where he quietly asked, “Captain, about my request for outside help?”

“No problem, go ahead and get the help you need, but keep it between us. I’ll let the crew know.”

Kodiak went back to the command chair and switched on the ship wide intercom. “Attention all hands, this is Captain Kodiak. You all know about our mystery signal and we’ve all speculated about what it might be – and what we want it to be.”

Someone on the bridge quickly said out loud, “Little green Amazonian women!” Everyone broke out laughing. Even Kodiak cracked a smile before continuing.

“In the interest of our reputations and the good of the service, I want you to keep this quiet. Speak to no one about it and if for any reason you’re asked about it, you deny any knowledge of it. This also means no discussions with family or friends. Daly will continue to work on it and will be enlisting the aid of a computer specialist friend at the university – who Mister Daly will also ensure her confidently.”

Daly nodded agreement to that last comment.

Everybody else would be on side with keeping news of the signal quiet. No one wanted to be ridiculed and no one wanted to have their careers placed in jeopardy for something they weren’t sure what is was in the first place.

Daly had to be discrete in making his inquires. He wasn’t sure if his friend would help, but he had to try.

The crew completed the docking maneuver and after getting clearance from docking control powered down the ship main engines and switched over to the space stations power. Outside, in the vacuum of space, the boarding gantry extended silently from the stations’ docking clamps to mate with the mid-ship hatch.

Daly was anxious to disembark and catch the next shuttle down to the planet so he finished closing down his station and helped store crew kit quickly. Once Kodiak gave the final stand down Daly was at the head of the line to leave.

The gantry pressurized and the hatch cycled open. A brief rush of air from the pressurizing process met the crew as the door opened.

Crew members disembarking the ship used overhead grab bars to transition from the artificial gravity of the ship to the zero gravity of the gantry tube. Gliding hand over hand they made their way along

Kodiak was always the last of the crew to leave, partly by tradition and partly because he just wanted to make sure that everything was in order before closing the hatch. By the time he stepped on the station, he noted that Daly had already caught a shuttle dirt side.

—-

Daly used the shuttle’s comm to contact his friend as soon as he was onboard the shuttle, so he knew she would be waiting for him. He relaxed now and took a moment to glance out the view port to his left. The green oceans of the planet Hope were sprawled out below, occasionally covered by bits of white clouds that were pushed along predictable currents of winds.

Hope was the first settled Human colony after the mad rush to abandon Earth. And its name, while not grand or original, gave the Human survivors something to look forward to.

Hope was smaller than Earth with a diameter of just under ten thousand kilometers to Earths twelve thousand plus; but with an equivalent land size land mass coving about fifty percent of the surface, with the ocean filling in the balance.

The green colored ocean glistened and added to the lush vegetation, gave the planet the appearance of a large emerald floating in space. The rays of the sun reflecting off the daytime side of Hope only added to the intense beauty, giving it a kind of sparkle as the sun reflected off the ocean.

It was home to Daly and he welcomed getting back to visit.

As soon as the sleek flat bodied civilian shuttle landed, he checked in with the local authorities and jumped on the mag-lift light rail line, riding the train directly to the university.

The ride was smooth and quiet, with few passengers on board. The mag-lift arrived at Daly’s stop after the two hour ride and Daly stepped onto the platform.

The train station was right in the middle of the campus so he didn’t have far to walk, and it was a nice day to be outside. After being onboard a space ship breathing air that was recycled several times over, fresh air was a wonderful change.

The computer lab, his destination, was in one of the older buildings. Constructed of natural locally found materials, stone and woods, it also incorporated more modern composite substances.

He climbed the six short steps to the main entrance and walked up to the large double doors. The built in biometric sensors reacted to his presence once he reached the landing and they opened, allowing him to enter.

Daly knew his friend’s office was near the back of the building so he continued to walk down the long but amply spaced and well decorated corridor. Images of current and past professors lined the walls on either side, interrupted only by the odd e-notice board scrolling messages for students and staff. Large potted plants in ornate cast stands dotted the corridor with the occasional chair and side table.

Several off the doors along the hall were opened, allowing Daly a quick peep of labs, administration offices and classrooms. Almost all of them were empty, with only the occasional student or professor either completing last minuet work or packing up. The majority of students and faculty were on vacation at this time.

“Good afternoon Admiral.” The greeting startled Daly as he neared the end of the hallway, just in front of the computer lab.

Turning, “I hate it when you sneak up on me like that. And its Ensign, I don’t make admiral for another month.”

He opened his arms and the two friends hugged. It was a familiar and comfortable embrace between two long time friends.

“How’ve you been Meghan?”

“Not bad, considering you’re the one with the glamour job.” She teased.

“I wouldn’t call it a glamour job. Although it does beat a desk job opening correspondences.”

“True. So, from your message earlier I take it you have some data for me to look at?”

He smiled. Daly reached into his tunic pocket and removed the data chip containing the signal, handing it to her. “Always getting straight to the point, eh.” He said, then continued, “I’m sorry that it’s not much, I didn’t have time to pick up any flowers.” It was his turn to tease as the two walked toward her lab and office.

Since the university was almost empty during the mid-semester break, Daly wondered why Meghan was still ‘in school’. “Why are you still hanging around here anyway? I thought I would have to get in touch with you at the lake house.”

“I’m in the middle of a research project and with almost everyone away, it was a good time to book lab space.”

They arrived at her office and entered. “We can access the main computer from my office. The lab is a bit of a mess right now. I have my graduate students pulling fiber and reconfiguring one of the test labs for an experiment so there’s not much room. If our experiments work out, we can stop laying kilometers of fiber cable just to have inter-connectivity between our computer systems but maintain security net.” Meghan beamed.

Meghan’s office was small but comfortable. A desk, bookshelf, three chairs and a computer access terminal were all the furniture in the room. Three of the walls were lined with old style magnetic display boards covered in hand written notes and mathematical formulas as well as some symbols and notations in a code Daly did not recognize. It was all well organized and clean.

“This is neat and tidy, I’m shocked.” Said Daly with a surprised grin.

“I just had the cleaners in. After all, I had to have the place ready for the admiral.”

She inserted the data chip into the terminal access port and typed in her password. The screen lit up and quickly prompted her for another password to access the file.

Meghan turned her head, “What’s with the secrecy?”

“Type in MYSTERY for the password – you’ll see why in a minute.”

She did and after a brief moment the signal Daly and the sensors on the HSS Vanguard detected appeared on her screen.

On the left of the split screen was a graphical representation of the signal, on the right the sensor logs and codes. Meghan took only a second to examine the signal and logs before standing and walking away.

This caught Daly by surprise. “What? What’s the matter?”

She stopped and turned, “This is a joke – right? Robert Daly, if this is some sort of a joke it’s not funny. I will bring this up to the highest authority in the service.”

Stunned at Meghan’s response to the data on the screen, it took Daly a second to regain his composure. “What the hell are you going on about? This isn’t a joke Meghan – This is the signal we picked up.”

Meghan sat down behind he desk, her mouth wide open, as if she was about to say something and lost her ability to voice the words. She looked from Daly then back to the screen.

Finally she spoke, “Does anyone else know about this?”

He shook his head no, and then added, “Only my captain and the crew of the Vanguard, but no one will talk to anyone about it; we’re under Captains orders. Why? Meghan, what’s the signal?”

“You know my last name is Leblanc.”

Daly nodded, still unsure as to what Meghan was getting at.

“My great grandfather was Terrance Leblanc.”

All of a sudden Daly’s blank and confused look turned into one of enlightenment. Everyone on the settled Human worlds knew about Terrance Leblanc, Alexander Falardeau and Francis Solomon. They, and their teams, were revered as the saviors of the Human race by developing and leading the Exodus Project.

Daly said softly, “You recognize the signal, don’t you?” There was a part of him that did not want to know the truth. His mind conjured up on nightmare scenario after another in seconds.

“I know it.” Meghan answered with a slight tremor in her voice.

“It’s like seeing a ghost, and I think I must be.” Now there was fear. Fear in her words and in her eyes.

“My whole family knows that signal. It’s human, and it’s from Earth.”

“That’s impossible.” Cried Daly. “Earth is gone, and has been for generations. This must be an echo that’s just reaching us now. And from the distance it would have to travel, that would make more sense.”

Meghan, her head cradled in her hands, slowly shook her head and said, “It’s not an echo. Check the time stamp on the originator.”

“Where do I look?”

She rose and walked back over to where Daly sat beside the terminal. She typed in a command to the computer, she wanted to have it decode the signal so Daly and anyone else, could see the same thing she did. She wanted to share the fear she had.

More data quickly scrolled down the screen then stopped. “There – see the time stamp?” Meghan pointed to the upper right side of the screen. “This signal is no older than sixty-five standard year’s relative time. The computer can’t identify the content because it’s in a code we don’t have the key for. But its origin is Earth and the base code and carrier wave is Human. It’s the same one my great grandfather used during the Exodus.”

She quietly went back to her desk trying to contemplate the possibilities. Everyone knew Earth was gone, but here it is, a signal seemingly coming from Earth.

The shit gone’a hit the fan, she thought. Without knowing it, Daly, leaning back in his chair, echoed her sentiment.

 

– TO BE CONTINUED –

Visit Antigrav Review for more great reviews, news and interviews for the Sci-Fi, Tech, Comic Book and Fantasy fan.

The Antigrav Review

wwz-2

I have rarely seen a movie that has been non-stop, heart stopping action from A to Z(ed); but I can honestly say that World War Z(ed) is THAT movie. World War Z(ed) keeps you on the edge of your seat for 114 of the 116 minutes and you better hold on.

“The editing was excellent; quick and with no chance for you to relax between scenes”

Brad Pitt (Gerry Lane) really does show he can still act and roll with the best stunt people in Hollywood and was a pleasure to watch. I went with my wife to opening night and while she is not a sci-fi or zombie fan in anyway, even she came way saying she “…really liked it…”. Trust me folks when I say that she screamed at just the right places a she nearly jumped out of her seat a couple times.

The editing was…

View original post 257 more words

timo

Finnish Director Timo Vuorensola

Read my feature interview with Finnish Director Timo Vuorensola. Timo is the Director of the film Iron Sky and is currently working on the follow up titled Iron Sky – The Coming Race.

 You can visit Antigrav Review at by clicking here for the full interview.

 

beyond_deaths_door_cover_art2

Beyond Death’s Door: Fortune Favours The Brave

Excerpt of Chapters 1 to 5 (unedited)

A Science Fiction Novel by William A. DeSouza © 2012 


Chapter One

The drop ship engines rotated as the pilot throttled up, the nose lifted slightly as the tail ramp closed like a vice. The main motors whined as the nacelles, one on each wing, shot out a blast of hot exhaust into the ground sending debris flying into the recon team just disgorged from the rear ramp. The four skids shifted slightly on the earth, the weight transferred off the landing gear as it retracted into the belly of the ship, Ten thrust vectoring nozzles around the armored drop ship pivoted, pushing the beast higher into the air. It was a black monster rising higher into the sky, its bite even more lethal than the deafening roar of the motors.

As the ship lifted off, Corporal Heather Brassard ordered her squad to check the perimeter. She was in command of the four man reconnaissance team ordered to scout an area reported to be increasing in rebel activity.

She looked back toward the drop ship as it quickly vanished from site, loose rubble, sand and dust still swirled around in vortex patterns from the powerful main motors.

The recon team was on their own now, with just enough supplies to fend for themselves. This was a quick, no contact mission. ‘Recon and Return’ was the order and Heather was more than happy to comply.

Her squad was made up of three fresh minted newbie’s and this would be a good way to break them in.

Heather checked her arcs and surveyed the area. They were dropped near an old sports field; a gothic styled two story building surrounding the playing area in decay. One entire side of the building was shattered, leaving her a good view of the inner playing area.  The bleachers on either side of the field framed the empty, open and long disused playing surface. Twisted rubble lay among the tall weeds and grass. On each of the two levels, arched entrances spaced out behind the bleachers open to the dark shadows of what was once a cultured and vibrant civilization engaged in sport, art and music.

From what Heather could see, it had been some time since anyone watched an event or played on the overgrown turf. Giant poster boards either hung at awkward angles from posts and the sides of the arena, or lay crumpled along the ground. Some showed upcoming concerts while others still had images of the last event to be held here, a football match between a local and a visiting off planet team.

A large digital score board lay half leaning on the ground and the wall it once hung on, garbage strewn all around it. The scene of destruction was spread over a wide area, evidence of a decades’ long struggle between humans for control of a population that couldn’t even remember what started the war.

It was time.

“Liam, take point,” Heather ordered over the squad net, the internal communication kept silent within the enclosed combat helmet.

Trooper Liam Hudson didn’t hesitate as he checked his front, stood, and moved forward about thirty meters before the rest of the squad followed.

Heather advanced the squad, stopping every hundred meters to take measurements and scans of the area. The routine lasted for the next three hours before their first break. They encountered no other life and found no rebel activity; at least no recent activity in the recon area.

Heather set up a defensive perimeter as she chose a defendable spot for their breather. Each squad member ensured they had overlapping arcs of fire as they kept one eye open for any activity while grabbing a quick bite of a nutrition supplement and water.

The air was hot and thick, with shimmers of heat rising from the black rock and debris strewn about the streets. It was still early in the day and UV light from the sun passed through the thick cloud layer that blocked much of its visible light, heating the planet and cooking the local life.  It would get hotter once the cloud layer was burnt off by a rising sun.

Entire sides of houses and low rise buildings were blown out while others stood as though nothing had happened. Transports, public and private ground effect vehicles could be seen from the squad’s vantage point. Some burned out, some lay crushed under the weight of the rubble while others just looked as if they were quickly abandoned by their drivers. A number of bodies, bones really, could be seen, some piled in heaps, others where they first fell.

After ten minutes, Heather got her squad up and moving forward, line abreast, keeping parallel with the buildings as they followed the prearranged trace. They checked each doorway, window and blast opening they came to.

There was an eerie silence to the place. Heather cranked up her helmet pick-ups, trying to force some sound to be made. The only sound however was crunch of gravel or branches beneath the combat boots of the squads combat armor.

No animals or insect sounds could be heard either and that concerned Heather. She had the squad spread out even more to avoid bunching up. In a way, the lack of noise was tranquil and inviting. It was also something to be cautious of.

All that calm changed quickly as rounds suddenly rang out around the four man squad.

Each member dived for cover as automatic weapons released burst after burst of deadly seven millimeter darts. They smashed into the ground around the squad. Heather slammed hard against a fallen stature of some long dead local colonist. Liam and McDonald dived behind a low wall while Fortran ducked into an old bomb crater at the entrance to a shell of a building.

As they took cover each trooper released their safety and fired a wild burst into the air in an effort to keep whoever opened up on them down.

“What the hell is that,” shouted Fortran as he hit the bottom of the crater head first. The first thing he did was curl up into a ball hoping the rounds being fired at him would bypass his head and body, his head ringing from the pain of impact with the bottom of the crater.

Heather scanned the area and still found no electronic signatures, telling her that she was fighting against people that either found a way to mask their signature or removed all their electronic gear, turning off all electronic piece of equipment. She chose to believe the latter.

“That, trooper, is someone trying to kill you, now keep your head about you and find us a target,” Heather tried to scan the area directly in front with no luck. She was hoping to see a muzzle flash but no such luck in the early afternoon sunlight.

She was also surprised at how calm she sounded.

McDonald lifted his weapon above the wall and fired widely back hoping to hit something but he wasn’t sure where the fire was coming from. Feeling frustrated, he switched his weapon selector to grenade and let loose a two round volley at a hundred meters.

“Grenade!” he shouted on the squad net, adrenaline pumping through his body.

The explosion sent rocks and other debris flying but the enemy fire did not let up.

Rounds pinged off the marble body of the fallen statue protecting Heather, causing her to duck lower for cover. It also forced her to look for different cover. If they have her squad ranged in, something heaver was headed their way. Disengaging her site she held it up just above her cover. The view being patched through her helmet display was not encouraging.

Finally she spotted some alternative cover, “Liam, McDonald, Fortran, on three, we move toward that low building, just on the right of the shed at seventy five meters. Fortran, pop smoke at twenty five and fifty meters.”

The other’s all looked up when Heather finished, each one seeing the new cover using the same process as Heather. The gray and white walls of the two story building were pitted with holes. The windows were blown out and part of a wall had collapsed in the front, but it did have all the compulsory bits and pieces that made it a defensible position.

It would be a run to get there, but at this point, Heather did not see much of a choice.

They all acknowledged the move order as Fortran switched the ammo selector on his rifle to smoke.

“One, two,” she took a deep breath, then, “three,” Heather finished counting and they all rose up, fired off covering rounds in the hopes their attackers took cover of their own, long enough for the four troopers to make a run for it.

Fortran popped the smoke rounds as ordered. Less than three seconds later they exploded just above ground, sending a dense cloud of dark smoke wafting in the air.

Dust and pieces of stone erupted where Heather’s squad fired in unison. Debris fell to the ground in the area of impact as darts exploded off the side of buildings. She hoped that this was enough to create confusion upon those firing at them.

As she took her third stride, Heather caught site of a puff of smoke or dust followed by a large flash from the corner of her eye. The helmet vision enhancers made it clear that someone just fired at them with something bigger than a rifle, and in that instant she knew this was not going to end well.


Chapter Two

Heather stood, supporting her weight by leaning up against a wall, her armored back pressing hard into the cold stone and composite support column. Her breathing was labored and heavy as the pain medication began to wear off. Heather wasn’t used to feeling this much pain but her wounds were beginning to rip open and the sensation of flesh ripping apart by shrapnel was once again at the forefront of her thoughts.

Quickly she scanned her surroundings, trying to keep her mind focused and divert attention from the wound and her pain.

The support column was one of twelve holding up a crumbling ceiling located in what used to be the main public transit station for this city. Years of conflict had reduced the once grand and mighty building to an empty shell. Overhead, light fixtures once touted to be the most grand and ornate on the planet, lay in ruins along the length of the building.

She was on the second floor concourse overlooking the large space. Heather could see its gothic arches and pillars, no longer the prominent feature of years gone by. Two of the meter wide pillars lay across the floor, each one shattered by the impact of a smart bomb dropped long ago. Heather looked up to see a hole in the roof several meters wide where the columns once intersected, reinforcing rods bent at odd angles.

The cream coloured marble walls were pitted, gaping holes blown through into adjacent rooms or to the outside. What doors she could see were hanging off on their tracks or hinges, many of them just leaning up against debris or on the ground. Smalls arms fire clearly evident on much of the surface. Small painted murals or laser etched works cut into the marble for passerby’s of an earlier period in time were now faded. Some walls had growths of creeping vines while others covered in debris or furniture piled along lengths, set as barricades for firefights.

Heather also saw the human side of this long drawn out conflict. Two bodies, well, what was left of them. The first was more a skeleton than body, still in its fatigues, lying behind a low wall. It was about thirty meters from Heather but she could clearly make out the hole in the skull. The second was mostly body parts, the remainder of what was human now lay scattered around the open floor on a lower level, further away than the first. As she continued to follow the carnage that took place here she became aware of more skeleton remains, one with flesh still dripping off the bone. It was evidence of more recent action.

“Time for another dose,” she said quietly, the pain getting worse as she winced.

She hated the meds but thankful for them at the same time. There was always a risk they could dull the senses, making her more of a target than she already was. There was also the risk of passing out from the excruciating pain.

“Stop over thinking this Heather and take the meds trooper”, she said to herself between clenched teeth.

She pressed her back against the pillar for support, and keeping her injured leg as rigid as possible, she lowered herself into a seating position, grimacing as she did.

Heather laid her T12 pulse rifle across her waist with her left hand while removing the dust cover from her body armors medical control panel. She selected the dosage and keyed the button that sent relief through her body and into her leg.

Afterward she checked the seal on the quick patch at the entry point for the metal barb that pierced her leg. The blood had stopped and the seal was still in place, however she thought, that it would be time to change it soon. Replacing the cover on the panel, she let out a quiet sigh.

The explosion from the grenade could have been far worse for her if it wasn’t for the fact that it landed on the far side of her recon team. For three of the four man team it was as bad as it could get – they didn’t make it.

Body parts scattered around the area along with various other debris. A one meter piece of metal reinforcing rod ended up flying almost twenty five meters, coming to rest in Heather’s leg just above the knee. It just missed the femoral artery, the large blood supplying artery that begins in the lower abdomen and travels down into the thigh.

A centimeter or two on either side and it would have likely been game over, she thought.

In the aftermath of the explosion and flying debris, she found herself hurled into the air, landing beside a rubble pile. Dirt, rocks and building material scattered about in heaps as if someone tried to clean up the mess. It lay just on the edge of a drainage canal running the length of the street toward a row of houses. It was not previously visible from her vantage point but clearly, if she had seen it that would have been a better point to run for. Hind sight is twenty-twenty is the old saying she thought.

Heather needed to work quickly, her ambushers may think she was dead with the rest of her squad but they would make their way down to verify that assumption.

She had to remain conscious, and she needed all her strength and concentration to remove the metal rod. The pain was as close to unbearable as she fought the urge to pass out. She first cut the penetrating barb as close to her wound with a laser cutter and mustering all her will, pulled it out, sealing the severed flesh with the medical laser. Her blood loss was minimal as the barb had sealed the artery, so blood only flowed when she removed it. The warm and dark liquid that fed the body with life began to flow quickly until the medical laser sealed the leaking artery and skin.

Heather wasn’t a hundred percent certain she managed to seal the all the artery but she did not have the training or time to check. She had to get out of there in a hurry, no time to think, only to react and stay alive. She activated her med kit and pain killers mixed with a cocktail of antibiotics streamed into her blood stream from the self injector built into her combat armor.

She rolled down into the canal and disappeared into the smoke still drifting about, finally making her way to safety.

Now, after an hour of running and trying to evade her pursuers, she sat back against the pillar. She would mourn the loss of life and her team later, if she lived.

It always came down to that, living or dying. Both options followed a hard road with twists and turns and every trooper had to figure it out for themselves. You did not have free will when it came to dying in a combat zone, that option was left up to the enemy. But you could affect the outcome by using everything you learned in life and battle school; if you used your head and had a certain amount of luck on your side.

Right now other more pressing things needed to be dealt with, death would have to wait.

After the pain killers came the antibiotics. Heather first removed the old seal and compress bandage, careful not to pull on the wound itself. She then pulled a new compress from the medical pouch on the tac-harness and striped the protective back off. The antibiotic compress would cover the wound area and protect it from infection and dirt.

Heather did a quick ammo check, “Just fuck’en marvelous.” She exclaimed after counting only four and a half mag’s plus another half load in her rifle. With each mag holding fifty darts, she knew the remainder of the seven point five millimeter darts would exhaust itself in no time if she was caught in a fire fight. The grenade count wasn’t much better.

She chided herself for not policing up the ammunition, weapons and explosives from her dead team. At the time the pain and her immediate survival was the top priority. Their attackers were not about to wait for her to get settled and any future action she may have to take did not enter her conscious thoughts. It was a first year rookie mistake and she was undeniably not first year.

She took the time to put a fresh mag into her weapon, redistributing the two half mags to make one and reloaded her grenades. To help conserve her ammo she put the fire selector switch to single shot. Each dart had to count now. The power pack would last and she had one other so that wasn’t an issue.

She rested, but she struggled to control her breathing while waiting for the pain medication to kick in. Heather took the briefest of moments to close her eyes. It was a vulnerable time for her and she knew it. She must focus her mind on survival.

In combat, treating the wound was only part of the equation for staying alive. Not only could your injuries kill you but you also have others still trying to kill you finishing off what they started. She counted herself lucky for getting out of the grenade blast area before a cleanup crew came in to check on the dead. Whoever fired off that grenade would not have just run off, they would have come in and finish off any survivors.

She knew there were no other survivors of her recon team. Her tactical combat helmet readings showed no life signs from them.

Corporal Heather Brassard was part of a rear breed of Humans, a trooper in the Terrain Armed Forces. The TAF only took the best humanity had to offer from the colony planets around the New Confederation. A veteran at four years she had already proven herself in combat several times over and this was just another mission to her. Life and death was a constant part of her world and she would never change any of that.  Death was something to avoid at all costs, and that struggle gave you the main reason to live.

Heather opened her eyes, startled by a noise. The combat helmet she wore amplified the sound and if she still had a team, she would have known exactly what direction and distance it came from. The pick-ups from each trooper would exchange information through the data comm link and triangulate the source. This time however she was alone and all she had was her own personal equipment, her wits and experience.

I’d be dead already if they knew where I was. She reassured herself with that thought.

Without moving her body too fast or too much, Heather released the safety on her weapon and lowered the helmet visor. As soon as the visor locked, thermal and other sensor data scrolled across her heads up display.

The sound could have been anything – a ventilator fan moved by the light breeze, an animal scavenging for food, loose debris falling, anything. Something, call it instinct, told her that the source was human however.

The self administered medication was beginning to kick in. The pain was still there but it was bearable, a dull throb instead of a sharp stabbing. It was enough however to help her focus on the current circumstance.

Heather, still leaning against the post with her back began to slide down slowly. She needed to get flat in order to roll over onto her belly without string up any dust or bringing attention to herself. As she repositioned she heard another sound, this one clearer but still unfamiliar.

Once on her back, Heather took a deep breath. With her face shield down no one would hear her breath. Any noise she made would have alerted her enemies.

The break-away rebel faction the TAF was engaged with were well armed, well trained but not always disciplined. Heather was counting on a mistake or two being made by the other side if she was going to live. A hell of a lot of luck couldn’t hurt either, she thought to herself.

Without making a sound she rolled over in place, making sure she remained behind the cover of the column. She winced when the skin on her leg stretched near the injury, treating to rip it apart.

It was now she realized breathing was a good thing and took two deep breaths. Heather wasn’t even aware she was holding her breath. She could only hope she didn’t stir up any dust.

Slowly she removed the gun-site camera from her rifle and activated the imager on her helmet display. Holding the rifle camera in her left hand and keeping it close to the ground, she moved it past the column, giving her a panorama of the far end of the building.

What she saw was discouraging and heartening at the same time. At least six rebel soldiers were making their way toward her position. They were line abreast about two meters apart sweeping the debris. Heather could only assume they were searching for her, maybe part of the group that took out her squad.

On the up side, she thought. They’re doing such a clumsily job, I could just get lucky.

The other positive was the squad searching was one level below her on the far side of the concourse and this provided her with a good field of fire should she have to engage, which at this point seemed very likely to Heather.


Chapter Three

In a high geosynchronous orbit onboard the Terrain Armed Forces Navy Ship Athabaskan the communications room was ablaze with activity. Much of that activity focused on finding Heather and her squad. TAF sensor drones orbited the planet sending out a spider web of sensor signals, trying in vain to reach the recon patrol sent to investigate reports of rebel activity in an isolated section on the planet.

“Status!” barked the comm officer as she entered the room. Commander Latrell was small in stature standing only one and a half meters tall but her presence was felt everywhere she went. She had a voice that would put the best drill sergeants to shame and she was as intelligent as she was beautiful. Her blond hair fell on her shoulders in waves. This only highlighted her deep blue green eyes and a body that men, and some women, would kill for.

“No return signal from the recon team Commander. Their last check in was seven hours ago and they are one hour overdue.” Came the reply from the senior NCO at the off ship comm duty station.

“Has their CO been notified?”

“Aye – they have been. Commander, they have also been ordered to stand down by Flag. The orders just came in as you arrived.”

Latrell cocked an eyebrow. “The flag ship ordered the unit stood down?”

“No Commander, Flag actual. I suspect he has something else in mind.”

This was a surprise to Latrell. Whenever a unit or squad was in trouble and needed to be retrieved, it was the squads’ base unit that would have pulled the rescue mission. In this case it should have been the Terrestrial Light Armored Guards, Heather’s home unit.

“The old man must have something special in mind for him to pull us from the rescue.” She said to no one in particular. “Has the captain and the unit CO been notified?”

“Aye Commander, just prior to your arrival.”

Lets see how this plays out then, she thought.


Chapter Four

“Launch CAT” The Admiral was matter-of-fact, hiding the reality and magnitude behind the first CAT mission.

Rear Admiral Walter Affleck sat in his command chair onboard the flag ship York, showing no emotion. He was hoping not to have to use the CAT teams so soon after their formation, but it was as good a time as any for a real world test.

In front of him, the flag bridge was silent as his orders were passed to the CAT commander.

The envoy from the New Confederation government looked back at the Admiral at the command chair and asked, “Ah, sorry to interrupt Admiral, but what is this CAT team? I was informed that this was only going to be a reconnaissance mission but at the sign of any action, I assumed that you had ground troops ready and we would be treated to a show.”

Nevus Stevens was part of a delegation from the New Confederation budget committee looking at how the military functioned. It was hoped that the new members of the committee would gain a better understanding of the reasons things ran as they did with the military and the immense responsibility the New Confederation had towards the many worlds that made up its membership. The others in the committee had left the flag bridge when action stations were sounded, content to see what was happening from a briefing room several decks below, all except Nevus however.

The Admiral did not look directly at the envoy. The disgust he was feeling now would only spill out and he was not sure what the consequences would be. He was tempted to find out however, should Nevus continue to be a pain. Biting his lower lip instead helped to subdue the rage that he felt for bureaucrats and this one in particular.

Not long ago the corrupt bureaucratic system was purged and what was left was an efficient and coherent system of government. The purge however did not remove all of the incompetent individuals. Some inept individuals had had been missed.

Affleck had to deal with this medium level pen pusher, at least for now. He was sure that the purge would catch up to those stragglers representing what he considered to be the lowest facet of human evolution.

Taking a slow, deep breath, the Admiral answered, “CAT Mister Stevens is short for Combined Arms Team and this is their first operational – combat – mission that you know about. They are ground troops of a sort – they are an off shoot of the Joint Task Force, but while the JTF functions as individuals and in very small unit operations, the CAT team operates in squad to platoon size units and with a highly specialized mandate. They would be the equivalent of an old Earth marine unit.”

Affleck took another deep breath before continuing, “I will be happy to answer your questions,” pausing briefly to add emphasis. “After this mission and my troops are recovered.” The sting in his tone was evident and Nevus took the hint, backing slowly away into the corner of the bridge, just behind Affleck’s command chair.

—-

Major Jerold Braun watched his team gear up with a proud smile. His CAT team’s first active mission was starting out on a high note and it would afford him the opportunity to gauge the effectiveness of the CAT concept – at least in a limited operation.

“Major, all drop ships report ready for departure,” Captain Norton, Braun’s team commander, said as he approached.

“Very well Captain, you know the drill, time to prove this concept.”

Norton saluted, turned and with a spiral wave on his right hand in the air gave the ‘go’ order for the pilots to seal the hatches and start pre-launch drop procedures.

“All personal clear the bay – all personal clear the bay,” repeated the AI voice over the intercom. “Drop ship sequence has begun – launch in tee minus two minutes.”

Major Braun saluted and quickly removed himself from the bay, joining the other navy personal. One by one the blast doors lowered into their recesses, sealing the launch bay. Red lights flashed on as the warning klaxon sounded.

Swing arms, attached to contact points on the dorsal of each drop ship lifted them as the drop bay doors swung open to the vacuum of space, cutting off the klaxon at the same time. Without air, there was no sound. Braun watched as water vapor condensed and disappeared as quickly as they formed when the bay doors began to open.

Braun activated his headset, “Flag actual this is Major Braun, drop ship launch has begun.”

—-

From outside the enormous troop transport ship, the drop ships paled in size as they exited the bay. The four black drop ships would not even be seen if it wasn’t for the outside running lights of the massive transport.

Inside, Captain Norton checked the status of the troopers through the telemetry link. All showed green as he gave his final orders, “Squad leaders, we still haven’t picked up a transponder from the recon team but the initial drop point is where we start our search. Landing sequence is CAT two, three four and one.”

The squad commanders knew the rest of the mission orders and all acknowledged the landing sequence.

Sergeant Maya Schenk switched the comm channel to her squad,

“Fifteen minutes – stand by.”

The drop ship shuddered as the engines rotated to slow it from mach five to less than five hundred kilometers per second. The drop ship gunner scanned for targets as the pilot lined up on the landing zone.

“Stand up – prep for action,” ordered Schenk.

Each trooper reached over the shock frame and released the safety, swinging the frame over their heads. They reached for their weapons and loaded them, inserting a fresh magazine, then put their safeties on. No trooper said anything. Just before the rear ramp lowered, they would remove that safety, allowing death to rain down on anyone who impeded them from the mission.

As the ship neared the ground, at twenty five meters, the pilot flared the nose, raising it up while the tail dropped. They were coming in hot and expected enemy fire as soon as they landed. The gunner had previously picked out possible targets based on years of experience and training and he let go a salvo of Hyper Velocity Missiles or HVM.

From under wing pylons, the sleek short missiles shot across the sky to impact with the ground around the LZ. Plasma bursts fired from the belly turret burned through the air, killing anything in its path. Anything that was alive in the landing area was now dead.

“Ten seconds!” barked Schenk as he stood by the ramp controls.

Experience gave Schenk the sixth sense to know exactly when to toggle the control key, dropping the rear ramp and giving everyone a view of the ground below them. The squad started to move out a split second before touchdown and they fanned out to either side of the drop ship, taking up a perimeter.

As soon as the last man left the ramp the pilot throttled up and rotated the engine pods. Dust and other loose rubble flew about as the ship lifted off to assemble in orbit with the other drop ships.

Schenk barked his orders through the internal communication of the combat helmet, gathering his squad as they headed out in their assigned search direction.

Just as the last squad left the LZ, Norton’s ship landed and the command section, along with the heavy weapons detachment disgorged, allowing the drop ship to blast back into orbit. They would await the pick-up orders or act as close support, where they would release their arsenal of missiles and plasma weapons.

—-

“Admiral, the CAT is on the ground and searching,” reported the communication officer on the flag bridge.

Affleck sat waiting for confirmation, “Thank you.”

He showed no emotion on the outside, but on the inside, hidden from prying eyes, he felt pain for every injury or death inflected on his people. It was a personality trait that he was told would eat him up from the inside, but Affleck did not care for that assessment. He felt that it gave him the strength he needed to make the right command decisions. He would not give an order that had no gain or made no sense and he would not second guess his own orders.


Chapter Five

The six men searching for Heather stopped moving forward as the lead rebel soldier signaled, holding up his left hand. She was seen as the puppet of their enemies and had to be killed; to be made an example of. It would not do to allow this one survivor escape.

—-

Heather was not sure if he was the squad leader at this point or just the scout for the squad. Nor did she care. The six men took up a clumsily position behind anything they could find for cover.

She looked for any escape, trying to find a way out without engaging the people out to kill or capture her. Checking the exits available to her only confirmed that there was no other ways to escape the group below. Nothing she did would give her a free pass. It was about to come to a fire fight and she wanted to make sure she had the upper hand.

Scanning the group, she spotted one of the men pick up a portable radio from his pack and say something. She could not make out what was said, even with the enhanced pickups in her helmet, but her instincts told her that this was the most likely leader of the group, and her first target.

Her mind raced through different scenarios as to what would happen once she let go the first round. Where would the others run to? Would they go to ground? Or would they just become embolden and attack with renewed anger.

As she contemplated her alternatives, training and instinct took over as she replaced the gun site camera on her rifle. Slowly she moved the rifle to the edge of the pillar and sited her first target, gradually squeezing the trigger.

The man on the radio did not hear or react to the sound Heather’s rifle made. His head split apart from the back, sending blood and brain matter to the ground behind his body.

One of the others closest to the dead man stood and shouted a name, horror on his face as the first man died in front of him. Heather did not care why at this point, but aimed at the new target and fired.

The second man slumped down to the ground as the dart ripped through his heart, joining his comrade in death.

The other four men in the rebel squad avoided make the same mistake, instead, they began to fire anywhere they thought Heather was located. Some of the rounds came close to her, ricocheting off the wall above and beyond her. Her training told her that she was still hidden as their rounds were scattered and not aimed, so moving at this point would only serve to draw unwanted attention to her position.

Time and the odds were not on her side, but with patience and training there was improvement.

Heather did not have a direct line of site to the remaining four so she decided to use a couple of grenades in the hope of drawing them out into the open.

In the front of her thoughts was conservation of ammo as the counter changed from green to yellow and the number of rounds showing decreased with each shot. She would not mind if the shrapnel or concussion from the grenades killed or wounded the remaining hunting party. Switching the fire selector from dart to grenade, she sited-in on the impact area and fired off two grenades in quick session.

The first round landed just to the rear of the stone information kiosk being used as cover. The grenade was set for impact detonation, allowing the explosion to throw as much debris and shrapnel in the air.

Heather cranked hp her magnification on the helmet camera and watched for any sign that the solder would attempt to escape the massacre, assuming he was still alive.

She got her wish as he dived out from behind cover on three limbs, with his free hand dropping his weapon in the process. Heather squeezed the trigger just as he looked up, his thoughts registering his impending death.

One of the remaining rebels stood up to fire on Heather’s position, her muzzle flash giving away her location. He only managed to let loose a quick burst as the second grenade went off. The concussion throw him forward into the low table, his arms flung forward throwing the rifle loose as his head slammed into the top of the table. Slumping to the ground as his legs bucked out from under him.  Heather sighted on the soldier but lost sight as he fell behind the table, not getting a chance to fire a round into him.

Heather, realizing she still had the magnification ramped up on her helmet display, adjusted it down giving her a wider field of view. She scanned the area hoping the remaining two would show themselves.

She could hear the two of them shout something, but her audio pickups could not decipher what was being said. Whatever it was, it was not in Standard English. Still, she only had two left out of the original six to contend with.

—-

Schenk had his section fan out, ten meters apart in a line abreast and moved forward once the drop ship cleared the LZ.

“I want to hear a sit-rep before anyone opens up,” he ordered.

Each trooper acknowledged the order as they advanced quietly through the brush, toward the edge of a large city park, now overgrown with trees and low growing foliage.

As the squad approached the edge of the park, Schenk looked up above the tree line that was now beginning to thin out and saw the top of an old stadium, one side of it missing. He ordered a halt and took out his hand scanner.

Passing the scanner in an arc just in front of him, it picked up no other life but that was never the only tool used to accurately determine if someone was in the area. It was easy enough to mask a human’s body signal if you really wanted to.

“Dostoyevsky, set up the track-mine. We don’t have a lot of time but I want cover if we have to get out in a hurry.”

“Right Sergeant.” Responded the young trooper as he removed his pack, taking out a tripod and tube.

Trooper Dostoyevsky popped the tripod open and leveled it. Quietly but with deliberate purpose he secured the one meter tube at a connection point and plugged in the fiber optic cable to the power supply attached  to the tripod. As soon as he did, a three by three centimeter control panel opened at the mid-point of the tube and telltales changed from red to green after the built in computer powered up the tracking mines arming sequence.

“Mine is up and running Sergeant,” said Dostoyevsky as he took up a position just left of the now active mine.

“OK people, this is the route the recon squad took and we’ll follow it till we find something or get a recall.”

—-

Heather’s original despair began to diminish as the odds were beginning to improve and she started to feel better about her chances. It looked as if she would survive this brief battle and she had forgotten about the pain with the adrenalin rush she was experiencing. Her muscles began to relax and she found herself breathing again, not realizing she was even holding her breath for a second time.

That initial elation she felt quickly disappeared though when she was forced to withdraw as automatic weapons fire knocked fist size chunks of marble from the column and it rained down around her.

“Shit!,” she cursed trying to avoid being hit.

Having to back track from the edge and loose her line of site was not doing her any favors. This was a rookie mistake and she chided herself for it. She let down her guard for just a split second and it was going to cost her if she could not gain back the advantage she just had.

The fire coming down on her position was not aimed, more random covering fire. “Dam it, they’re trying to get under the walkway,” she said out loud.

As one of the solders provided covering fire, the other took full advantage and ran toward the door at the far end of the concourse. It led to a service stair to the upper level walkway where Heather had taken refuge. Getting to the door he slammed his back against the wall. He gestured to his comrade, holding up five fingers, then four, counting down.

At zero he fired a grenade up the stair case to the second level where Heather was situated under cover.

The grenade detonated on contact with the door to the second level sending it flying off its track. Bits of building material, dust and shrapnel exploded out from the stairwell entrance forcing Heather to roll for cover again.

Acting on instinct alone she snapped the selector switch on her weapon to grenade and fired through the now open space to the stairs. It thumped and clanged as the grenade bounced off the wall and fell toward the bottom of the stairs. Heather, now well back from the edge of the walkway and out of site of her initial targets, quickly realized a classic distraction tactic and threw herself back toward the column, taking aim at the rebel soldier begging his run toward cover. Heather instantly moved the fire selection switch from grenade to automatic fire and get go a quick burst just in front of the target.

Darts ripped through his upper body dropping him to the ground. At the same moment the grenade she fired exploded at the bottom of the stairs. A muffled cry could be heard as she turned toward the open doorway, ready for action should someone come charging though.

Nothing happened however as the dust settled and pebble size pieces of material fell to the ground. She increased the audio pick-ups on her helmet and could hear a faint moan from below.

The scatter of dust and smoke cleared as Heather made a move toward the stairs. Leaning against the column for support she pulled herself up, standing with the most of her weight on her uninjured leg.

As she reached the door, she braced herself and tentatively moved her gun camera around the corner and aimed it down the steps. At the landing she spotted the lone rebel sitting with his back against the wall. His head was slumped forward and his arms limp by his side. Heather looked for his weapon but could not see one in the area.

She began to enter the stairs when her audio pick-ups heard the unmistakable sounds of more solders coming into the station.

Her heart fell at the thought she was not getting away this time. Well, it was a good fight and a good run she thought.

Instead of going back down the steps, she made her way back to the column and settled in for what she assumed was going to be her last stand. Double checking her ammo status, she counted one and a half magazines of darts and two grenades.

She thought, that would take care of half a squad if my luck lasted that long.

Her injured leg began to throb again and she felt it become cold and wet as the blood leaked out from the quick patch. “Fuck it, I may as well go out lucid – to hell with the pain meds,” she said out loud.

She watched as a full squad entered the far end of the station, this time however, they were dressed in armor.  Then she saw it, TAF armor. It was her people.

—-

“Watch for snipers people, this is where we picked up automatic fire,” warned Sergeant Schenk.

Switching over to a TAF emergency frequency, he called, “CAT Team Bravo to Recon Two-Six Alpha.”

Heather was never more excited to see anyone, other than Peter Talbot, her on again off again lover. “Recon Two-Six Alpha, Rodger. Look up CAT Team.” She sat up and using her rifle waved toward Schenk.

Schenk returned the wave and sent the medic and three of his squad to secure the upper area and treat Heather’s injuries.

For Heather, the blood loss was beginning to have an effect as she slowly felt very sleepily, darkness beginning to overtake her senses. The relief of seeing her rescue was enough for her mind to relax, and body to give way to the adrenaline rush and shut down.

After getting a preliminary report from the medic on Heather’s condition, Schenk switched frequency to the platoon net and called for recovery. “Have a med team stand by, we have one survivor and she’s lost a lot of blood.”

To Be Continued…..

image

Sales of the SF novel ‘Death’s Door: Where Right and Glory Lead’ have been increasing as retail points expand.

As of March 8th, Death’s Door is available for sale at Kobo, Amazon, iBooks, Google Play app store, windows app store and BlackBerry World for PlayBook.

You can find direct links to all of these retail outlets from WilliamDesouza.ca ( http://williamdesouza.ca/bookstore.htm ).

Stop by and get your eBook copy of ‘Death’s Door: Where Right and Glory Lead’ today.

SPECIAL Interview with Heroes of the North

Read the latest Antigrav Review article for a special interview with Heroes of the North. Don’t miss this exclusive interview.

4Geeks Plus1 Podcast Is Recording

Posted: February 28, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

image

The 4Geeks Plus1 Podcast is going to be recording at The Daily Grind at 601 Somerset Street West in Ottawa this Friday at 6pm.

Our math for the first podcast is a bit off as we are more the 4Geeks Plus1 minus 2. Trying to get 5 Geeks together is a lot more difficult than you might imagine.

If you are not doing anything, and want a great place to grab a coffee, come hang out with us Friday March 1st.