DID YOU GET A KINDLE FOR CHRISTMAS?

Did you buy a Kobo on Boxing Day? Did you recently get an e-reader either as a gift or at a bargain price?

If so, may I make a few humble suggestions?

   

The Mask of Eternity and The Green Beast are both available for Kindle.

 


Or check out the Rage Machine Bookstore page where you can find other titles by Jack Mackenzie and other terrific writers!

Exciting fiction available at Boxing Day prices!

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THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION – Part 8

TPOR

Solis DeLacey has been captured by Kruath soldiers on the remote planet Urwald. She has also discovered that two of her crewmates aboard the Kyann ship she was assigned to, fellow Terrans Cartsairs and Hathan, are traitors working with the Kruath.

__________________________________

Hathan scampered to join his master, leaving Solis alone.

Callin? How could that be? How could a Callin be a traitor? The family name had been synonymous with honor, duty and loyalty going back to the pre-Commonwealth days.

A Callin had saved her life. It was because of a Callin that Solis was even still alive. And now this one wanted to… what? If he had wanted her dead she would be dead already? Why was she being kept alive?

Solis shuddered and pushed the thought aside.

Was Hathan telling the truth? Did Carstairs — Callin — want to take over the Commonwealth? Solis did not doubt that the Callin family could. They had enough of their members in key positions — positions of genuine power — all throughout the Commonwealth. If the Callin family wanted it, it would happen.

But the Callins had always been adamant that they serve the Commonwealth and not the other way around. The Callins always maintained that they were loyal to the Parliament on Kyann. They supported the democratically elected government in all things. Solis had never heard a rumble, not even a whisper of dissent.

Could that all be a mask for their real intentions? Or perhaps this Callin had gone rogue? But what would make a Callin turn from the family and everything it stood for? He had allied himself with the Hegemony? What kind of power did he wield?

Solis did not know.

Urwald’s sun was sinking below the horizon. Solis tried to stretch out her legs. She had been sitting with her back against the post for a few hours and her limbs were beginning to feel the inactivity. The binder cords would allow her only limited movement but she took advantage of as much stretching as she could. The big muscles in her legs ached. Between the mad flight through the jungle and sleeping on the rough ground her body was beginning to feel everything that had happened to her in the last night and day.

Her uniform was in tatters around her. The jacket was beyond saving so she discarded itl. Her sleeveless undershirt was relatively intact and served to cover her. Her boots were still in good shape but her cadet pants were mere strips of torn fabric. She tore away the tattered remnants. The material was tough but it eventually gave way under her hands and she was able to render them down to a rough pair of shorts.

The air was warm despite the onset of evening. Now that she had discarded most of her clothing she hoped that the night would not get too cold. She looked up at the night sky and saw Urwald’s moon — Monat — rising and full.

She thought about the ancient Urwaldian and his stubborn belief that all offworlders came from the moon. She felt a pang of sadness. She had only known him for such a short time but she missed the old being. She tried not to think about his death at the hands of the Kruath.

Something caught her eye. A light moving in the sky. She looked up. There were several small lights that were moving around near the moon. They seemed to be circling the satellite. One broke away from the others and veered downwards.

Strange. What could be causing that? Solis thought that perhaps it had been broken up pieces of the Kr’tk’tk that had somehow been captured by the moon’s gravity, but these seemed to be moving with some purpose. More Kruath support ships?

Before she could speculate further a dark shape stepped up and blocked her view of the moon. Solis squinted in the dark and made out a Kruath soldier looming in front of her. He was holding a short staff. Then a smaller figure stepped out from nehind the looming soldier.

“I need information” said Carstairs — Callin. “How much do you know? Are you part of the investigation?

Solis had no idea what Callin was talking about. She said nothing, merely stared up at him in mute incomprehension.

Callin stood without moving for a moment, then nodded to the Kruath soldier. The Kruath lifted up the shaft and activated a toggle. The end of the staff lit up and Solis could hear a high pitched whine coming from it, growing in intensity. The Kruath reached down with the glowing end and touched Solis on her exposed side.

There was a loud crack and suddenly her body spasmed. Pain flooded through her body like it was suddenly on fire. The Kruath took the staff away and the pain stopped, but Solis entire body was shaking. She could still feel every nerve end tingling like it was crackling with electricity. She slumped panting onto the ground.

After a moment Callin spoke again. “The pursuader does not cause permanent damage… at least not phyiologically. I am told, however that the emotional scars are quite… permanent. I ask again: Are you part of the investigation?”

“What…” Solis managed to gasp. “…what investigation?”

She heard the high pitched whine and again the Kruath staff touched her side and for a brief moment her body was aflame with agony. She was left panting and tingling on the ground again.

“Refusing to answer will result in punishment,” Callin said. “Wasting my time with denials will result in punishment. Are you part of the investigation?”

“I don’t know anything about any investigation!” Solis protested. Tears were streaming down her cheeks “I’m not part of anything!”

“Then why were you put onboard the Kyann Ship?”

Solis blinked. “It was a punishment,” she said. “There was an accident. A cadet was killed.”

Callin narrowed his eyes and stroked his chin. “Stephan’s girl? I heard about that. You were involved?”

Now the pain flared fresh inside her, worse than the fiery agony provided by the persuader. “She… she pushed me out of the way… It should have been me.” fresh tears coursed down her stained cheeks.

Callin narrowed his eyes. “An accident? Truly? I’d assumed it was a targeted attack…” he trailed off, lost in thought.

Targeted attack? Was Callin really that paranoid? “What are you trying to accomplish?” Solis blurted out, stifling a sob. “Why were you aboard the Krktkt??”

Callin snapped his fingers at the Kruath in annoyance. The Kruath activated the persuader. Solis’s body arced in an explosion of pain.

The pain stopped suddenly, but the explosion seemed to continue. Her body shook… or was it the ground? Solis opened her eyes and saw the Kruath soldier and Callin bathed in orange light staring in open mouthed shock.

Solis looked around and saw the bright plume of an explosion. an instant later the shockwave hit. Calin was knocked down but the Kruath soldier ran back towards the main camp.

THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION Part 7

TPOR

Things are getting worse for our heroine, Solis DeLacey. Captured by the natives of the planet Urwald she has been handed over to an army of Kruath, a subject race of the Orion Hegemony.

3. KRUATH

What were Kruath doing in the expansion zone? They had killed the Kyann and probably destroyed the Kr’tk’tk. Had they managed to track down and wipe out the rest of the Guiranam?

The Kruath commander loomed over her, his twin mouths twisted in an evil sneer. “Sssso this is the troublesome one…” he said. He turned to one of his subordinates. “Bring the traitor,” he hissed.

There was movement at the back and several armored Kruath moved aside to reveal Carstairs and Hathan. They aproached the Kruath commander. Solis noted that they were not bound and seemed unharmed.

“Is this the one?” the Kruath Commander asked Carstairs, this time in Koh.

Carstairs gave Solis a look that was very unfriendly. “Yes,” he said without inflection. “That’s her.”

Solis stared at Carstairs open mouthed and completely confused. What was going on?

At this point the old Urwaldian stepped forward. “We have a not-men with us now,” he said in Koh, gesturing to Solis. “She will send you home. You listen to her words. She will bring terrible powers down on you!”

“Will she?” the Kruath commander said in a mocking tone. The Kruath soldiers laughed.

“Do not laugh!” the old Urwaldian commanded. “She is a not-men! Very powerful!”

The Kruath commander shouldered his weapon. “Perhaps, if the Terran woman is so all-powerful, she will save you before I do this.” He fired.

“NO!” Solis shouted, but it was too late. The weapon discharged a lethal blast directly to the old Urwaldian’s chest. The force of the blast shot the old native backwards, his ribcage disintegrating in a fiery shower that spattered onto the grass.

The Urwaldians who had been grouped behind their elder stared in uncomprehending shock for a moment, then they turned and ran. A few of the Kruath soldiers began firing at the retreating natives, the hot blasts from their weapons disintegrating a few unlucky stragglers and setting fire to the long grass

“Hold your fire,” the commander ordered, lazily. A few more shots fired and two more Urwaldians were disintegrated. “I said hold your fire!” he turned back to Solis. “So it seems that you’re not as all-powerful as the natives seemed to think you are. What did you tell them?”

Solis shook her head, still reeling from the shock of the sudden violence. “I didn’t… I didn’t tell them anything…”

The Kruath sneered at her with his twin mouths, then gestured to Carstairs and Hathan. “This one’s yours. Do with her what you will.”

Carstairs nodded to a Kruath soldier who grabbed her by her upper arm. As she was being led away she heard the commander laugh. “You won’t find it so easy to convince these two that you have magical powers. You’re welcome to try, though.”

The Kruath soldier kept a tight grip on her upper arm. The combat suit had servo mechanisms in the joints that gave the wearer added strength. Solis found herself fighting tears that wanted to fall from her eyes in response to the pain. She would not give them the satisfaction, though she felt sick inside. That was the second person who had died because of her.

They made their way down the line of soldiers to the rear of the column where the Kruath had set up a rudimentary camp. The camp was quiet, but Solis felt and undercurrent of tension. Kruath soldiers lounged outside temporary shelters, nervously fingering weapons. She saw one who was continuously checking and re-checking his weapon’s status. A nervous habit or a drill? Solis did not know. The Kruath stopped what they were doing and they glared at her as she was led amongst them. Their twin mouths sneered their contempt for her because she was a Terran.

Her guardian hauled her roughly to a space in the center of the camp where a wooden post was driven into the ground. Attached to the post was a set of plasteel binders. The Kruath grabbed the manacles and made them fast around each wrist. Solis winced when he clicked them closed. They were tight but not quite tight enough to cut off the circulation to her hands. Once she was secure he walked away, leaving her alone.

She sat down, her back against the post. The binder cords had enough play to allow her to sit like that with little trouble, but there was little else she could do without coming to the limit of their range. She slumped and closed her eyes. She felt hot tears welling behind her eyes, but she was damned if she would let them fall in front of the Kruath. She was determined to show them no weakness.

What were Kruath doing in Commonwealth space? That was the question she mulled over as she sat, staring at the ground. Their mere presence here was tantamount to a declaration of war, never mind the wonton murder of Commonwealth citizens and innocent races.

Solis supposed that was why the Guiranam were a threat. They were witnesses to the Kruath presence. That was why they had yo destroy the Kr’tk’tk. That was the reason, for that matter, that she could not be allowed to live. If anyone from the Commonwealth were to find out about the Kruath presence then the galaxy would be at war.

Even if the Kruath were acting on their own and not on behalf of their Taarkaan masters (which Solis considered extremely unlikely) the Commonwealth would still be dragged into a conflict. But why? Why risk an all-out war? What were they doing here? Was Urwald merely a staging area? Perhaps it was a foothold into Commonwealth territory in advance of an invasion. It was not an unlikely scenario, but Solis thought that there msut be something more to it all, but she could not quite see it. What would make the Kruath think that an invasion of Commonwealth controlled space would be successful?

“Hey there, Giraffe,” Said a voice. Solis looked up to see Carstair’s lackey, Hathan, looking down at her with a smile that made Solis sick to look at. “You’re in quite the pickle, girly.”

Solis said nothing. She dropped her eyes and kept them fixed on the ground directly in front of her feet.

“You know, I could help you,” he said, unmindful of her sullen attitude. “I could get you special treatment… if you’re nice to me.”

“Let me go,” she said through clenched teeth.

Hathan laughed. “Oh, no. I can’t do that. But I can make it pleasant for you. All you have to do is be nice to me. You can do that, can’t you?”

Solis suggested he perform an anatomical impossibility on himself.

Hathan grimaced. “Hmph. No need to be a bitch about it. You might change your mind.”

Solis shook her head. “Why are you doing this?” she asked. “You and Carstairs. I don’t get it. The Kruath commander called him the Traitor. Why?”

Hathan scowled. “Is that what they’re calling him?” he shook his head. “They don’t understand. He’s not a traitor. He’s a patriot. He sees the way things are going in the Commonwealth and he wants to change them.”

“By allying himself with the Hegemony?”

“He sees the strength the Commonwealth needs in the member races of the Hegemony. That’s the model he wants for the Commonwealth.”

Solis made a face. “The Taarkan rule the Hegemony races with fear. They are all subjugated to their will and live and die at their command.”

“Exactly! Now imagine that situation in the Commonwealth, but instead of the Taarkaan, it would be us — Terrans — Humans — in charge!”

“Humans subjugating the other Commonwealth races? Is that what Carstairs wants?”

Hathan nodded. “As it should be. But his name’s not really Carstairs. It’s Callin.”

Solis looked up at Hathan in shocked disbelief. “Callin?”

“Hathan!” Carstais — Callin — called from a few steps away. He had come up to them while they were talking. “You talk too much. Come with me.”

THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION PART 6

TPOR

Personal Note: This manuscript that I am posting is a rough draft and therefore is presented “warts and all”

_______________________________________________________

Disgraced crewman Solis DeLacey was supposed to be enjoying shore leave with her crewmates, the arboreal Guiranam. Their compound was attacked by unknown assailants. She has been shot at, carried through the trees, captured, tied up, mistreated and now she has encountered the natives of the planet Urwald and they have a few surprises.

PART 6:

His accent was thick and hard to understand but he clearly knew the rudiments of Koh. Solis was rusty and had to speak slowly. “We came from the sky, yes. From a great vessel.”

“You come from the moon?” he asked.

The moon? Solis shook her head. “We came in the shuttle. The flying machine.”

The Urwaldian nodded his head. “All the not-men come in the fly ships. They live in the Moon.”

Okay. The moon is the biggest thing in the sky. They probably figure everything that comes from the sky comes from the moon. Solis shook her head. “We came from a star vessel — a very big ship — from very far away.”

The Urwaldian nodded. “Like the Cru-men.”

That one puzzled Solis. “Cru-men?”

“Men — not like us — not like they –” he gestured to the Guiranam. “They say Cru-men. They come from far away.”

Solis could not figure out what he was saying at first, then she figured it out. The soldiers.

“These Cru-men… with weapons?” she mimed firing a weapon. The Urwaldians all around her gsaped in shock and consternation. Suddenly the hall was alive with concerned voices.

The old native raised his hands for silence. He turned back to Solis.

“The Cru-men come. They say to us that other sky people here…” he gestured at the Guiranam. “Must not see them. They say they need to keep quiet. They say no one can see them. But now you are here. You fix.”

“Fix?”

The Urwaldian pointed at her. “You. You not-men. You fix all. Send the Cru-men away.”

Solis stared at the Urwaldian in utter confusion. “Me?”

The old Urwaldian nodded his head. “You come from the Moon. You Not-men.”

Solis shook her head. “I come from far away. I come with them,” she gestured to the Guiranam.

The old Urwaldian seemed confused. He shook his head. “You come from Moon.” he insisted. He took a step forward and poked Solis in her lower belly. “You come to get child in you.”

Solis backed away, shocked. “What?”

“You come to get child. All Not-men come down from the moon. They bring us seed for crops. They give us rain and cause the sun to shine. They cure us when we are ill. They fix what needs to be fixed. They command us to put children in them and they bring them back to us if they are men.”

Solis was utterly confused now. Had these Urwaldians confused her with some sort of god?”

The old Urwaldian pointed directly at her. “You are Not-Men. You fix. Now.”

Solis stared open-mouthed at him for a moment before shaking her head. “I can’t fix,” she said. “I do not come from the Moon. I do not bring the rains or seeds and I do NOT want to get a child in me!”

The old Urwaldian stood back from Solis’s vehement outburst. He gave her a puzzled look. Before he could speak again another voice called out in Urwaldian from outside.

Suddenly the hall was alive with a commotion. The Urwaldians all leapt to their feet. The old man shouted a command and a group came and seized the Guiranam. The old man approached Solis. “The Cru-men come back. We give them the others,” he gestured at the Guiranam who were being bound and dragged screaming out of the hall. “But you can fix. You must fix.”

The old man turned and hobbled out of the hall. Solis followed.

Outside the great hall the sun was still high in the sky and the Urwaldians were moving about, partly in excitement but mostly, Solis thought, in fear. They dragged the two Guiranam to the center ground where they had left her earlier.

There was a shout and one of the Urwadlians was pointing. Solis looked and saw figures approaching. A chill went down her spine at the sight of them. It was the soldiers, the same ones that had attacked them the night before.

They were on foot but were accompanied by a hovertank which made the tall grass sway and flatten and made a horrendous noise.

The soldiers approached, still in their combat armor. In the daylight Solis could see the combat suits more clearly and something about their construction was familiar.

The old Urwaldian clutched at Solis’s arm and moved her forward ahead of him. “Fix,” he whispered.

The soldiers were approaching casually as if they had nothing to fear. They held their weapons easily, but still ready to use if need be. Solid felt herself go numb as one of the soldiers approached.

He stopped less than three paces away. He reached up and unlatched the seals on his helmet. Solis gasped when he removed it. There was no mistaking the yellow, leathery skin, the hairless head, the black eyes and the twin mouths. The soldiers were Kruath, a Hegemony race.

The Kruath commander sneered with his twin mouths. “You have done well,” he said to the old Urwaldian in Koh. “You have brought us more of the interlopers.”

The Kruath commander took a menacing step forward and regarded Solis with hate-filled eyes. “…and a Terran.” he hissed in High Kruath.

…to be continued