THE PARADIGM TRAP

the-paradigm-trap-cover1626961824.jpgRage Machine Books has published my Military SF novel The Paradigm Trap.

The book takes place in the same universe as Debt’s Pledge and Debt’s Honor, but during a very different time period. Where Debt’s Pledge and Debt’s Honor take place at the very beginning of the Kreoch War, The Paradigm Trap takes place at it’s very end.

Kent McLennan is a Commander in The Fleet, the powerful military defense force that has protected the human colony worlds for generations. But McLennan is an outspoken critic of the Fleet’s admiralty.

Still suffering the effects of a devastating accident, McLennan is on the verge of resigning his commission, but when he is suddenly offered a choice assignment, leading the mission to accept the Kreoch’s final surrender, his suspicions are aroused.

And with good reason. Fleet Admiral Burroughs is a man whom McLennan does not trust. The mission has too many odd features for McLennan’s liking, from two near legendary historical figures who seem to have an agenda of their own, to a brash diplomat whose past is as inscrutable as his motives.

The Paradigm Trap is a tense and exciting SF adventure that involves deadly enemies, treachery, and a plot to change history… literally.

The Paradigm Trap is available as an ebook and in a print version from Amazon.

DEBT’S HONOR

From my publisher, Rage Machine Books:

The long awaited sequel to our best selling title DEBT’S PLEDGE has finally been released!

Jefferson Odett returns in Jack Mackenzie’s DEBT’S HONOR, an action-packed military science fiction adventure that will have you hooked!

PIRATES, ALIENS, BUREAUCRATS – WHO CAN YOU TRUST?

Korax is a colony world beset by problems. Pirates have targeted the world for plunder, a race of wandering alien nomads have made themselves at home and the colony’s new governor seems intent on making enemies of just about everyone.

Jefferson Odett would rather be out on the rim, fighting the war for humanity, but a misadventure has landed him here. Now he has to try to secure a planet that does not want its new governor, the aliens who have moved in, or the platoon of undisciplined soldiers under Odett’s command. The only thing the colony seems to want is the pirate that Odett has been ordered to kill.

Action-filled military science fiction by the author of DEBT’S PLEDGE.

DEBT’S HONOR is available at Amazon in e-book and in paperback.

Valerian and Laureline

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If you’re a fan of Luc Besson’s films (The Fifth Element, Lucy) or you’re just a fan of science fiction films in general, and you’ve been on Facebook recently, then you likely have come across the first trailer for Besson’s upcoming film VALERIAN.

If you haven’t, let me show it to you:

So, most people agree that the trailer is pretty mind blowing but few people know just who Valerian is. I’ve been a fan of the graphic novels that this film is based on for years, since I was in my early twenties, and that is a long, long time ago.

valerian-ambassador-int-1Back then I was a huge fan of the American comic magazine HEAVY METAL. When I learned that the US magazine was based on a French magazine, METAL HURLANT (literally Screaming Metal), I managed to find some copies of the French version as well. Along the way I learned about other French magazines including one called Pilote in whose pages the adventures of Valerian et Laureline were originally presented.

Valérian et Laureline, also known as Valérian: Spatio-Temporal Agent or just Valérian, is a French science fiction comics series, created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières.

First published in 1967, the series focused on the adventures of the dark-haired Valérian, a spatio-temporal agent, and his redheaded female colleague, Laureline, as they travel the universe through space and time. Valérian is a classical hero, kind-hearted, strong and brave who follows the orders of his superiors even if he feels, deep down, that it is the wrong thing to do. On the other hand, his partner Laureline combines her superior intelligence, determination and independence with sex-appeal.

Influenced by classic literary science fiction, the series mixes space opera with time travel plots.

valerian_3Christin’s scripts are noted for their humour, complexity and strongly humanist ideals while Mézières’ art is characterised by its vivid depictions of the alien worlds and species Valérian and Laureline encounter on their adventures. The series is considered a landmark in European comics and pop culture and influenced other media as well: traces of its concepts, storylines and designs can be found in many science fiction films including Star Wars and Besson’s own The Fifth Element.

valerian-and-laureline-2-the-empire-of-a-thousand-planets-paperback-l9781849180870The final installment of Valerian et Laureline was published in 2010. All of the Valérian stories have been collected in graphic novel album format, comprising some twenty-one volumes plus a short story collection and an encyclopaedia. Valérian is one of the top five biggest selling Franco-Belgian comics titles of its publisher, Dargaud.

Many of the stories have been translated into several languages, including English. The series has received recognition through a number of prestigious awards, including the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême. An animated television series, Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline, was released in 2007.

And now, Besson’s film is set to introduce the characters to the world at large. When I heard that Besson was set to tackle the subject I was skeptical, particularly with the casting of Dane DeHaaan (Chronicle, The Amazing Spider Man 2) .

However, the trailer looks absolutely amazing and I can see that DeHaan is not as miscast in the role as I had earlier feared (although Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad) is perfectly cast as Laureline). I can only hope that the final film lives up to the graphic novels.

STAR WARS: The Force Awakens

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Taking a break from reviewing Netflix movies because I FINALLY got in to see STAR WARS: The Force Awakens

So… STAR WARS… yeah, well, I liked it.

It certainly got a better shake from JJ than Star Trek did. You can`t watch it and scowl and say: “That`s not Star Wars! Star Wars would never do that! That’s not what the original Star Wars was all about!”

So… in that respect… yes! Big success.

Do I sound a bit bitter? Never mind.

I love the new characters. I love Finn and Rey. Rey especially! Daisy Ridley is just so damned cute! She reminded me of the heroines from the french SF comic books I used to read and love when I was a kid. I can’t think of any specific titles. I’d have to go hunting for them, but… you know… Metal Hurlant, Pilote, those sorts of titles.

Yeah, sure a lot of the film felt like a kind of “Getting the band back together” sort of tale, having to find Han and Chewie, then Han and Leia with their utterly predictable dialogue, then finally Luke (with absolutely NO dialogue! Presumably he’ll have a more substantial role in the next installment).

It hit all the right notes. It delivered. And no matter how much George Lucas complains it doesn’t matter. This is the sequel that fans clearly wanted.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say.

Except this: The last film I reviewed on this blog was EX MACHINA. When I selected it to watch I had not idea… NO IDEA… that Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson were BOTH in The Force Awakens. I have been avoiding spoilers like crazy and paying no attention whatsoever to stories about the movie that it completely escaped my notice. So when I randomly decided to watch EX MACHINA it was a complete fluke that the two male leads also happened to be in this film.

Anyway, that just felt kind of trippy to me.

I know a lot of people are going to see Star Wars over and over again, and I probably will go see it at least once more before it leaves theaters, but for now I will get back to reviewing SF movies on Netflix. Maybe tomorrow.

DEBT’S PLEDGE

ImageMy latest science fiction novel, Debt’s Pledge has been a long time coming.

I started this book many years ago. I wanted to write a military science fiction novel about a soldier who is down and out.

At the time I had been doing research on Ancient Rome and the conditions faced by soldiers in the years before Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army. There was opportunity for reward and glory for Roman soldiers, but there was also much deprivation and hardship. I wanted to translate this situation to a traditional military science fiction milieu.

I also wanted to examine the idea of debt. Not just monetary debt, or the debt that a society exacts upon its citizens, I wanted to try to separate what individuals owe to society separate from what is mandated by taxation.

What I discovered, as I wrote, is that we, as individuals owed the existence we have in the present to those who came before us. This seems obvious, though sometimes we forget how much of what we have today we owe to those who came before us. Not just fathers and mothers, but “founding” fathers are owed a debt by all of us in the present. A simple experience like going out for a meal represents an immense societal effort over many years to create the situations where today restaurants and fast food outlets are commonplace and affordable.

Even the simple act of flushing a toilet is the result of decades, even centuries of hard work and building of complicated infrastructure. For that hard work and ingenuity, we owe a debt.

What I also discovered was that the debt goes both ways.

It’s fashionable now to talk about leaving a better world for our children (as if our ancestors didn’t want the same things for us) but do we really appreciate what that means. Parents will sacrifice and work hard for their own children and I am no exception, but what about the many children who are unborn today and who may never be born. What debt do we owe to them?

The concept of debt becomes more nebulous and contention at this point but while I was writing I wanted to explore a situation where that concept suddenly became clear. I think that I was successful in doing that in Debt’s Pledge.

I wrote the first draft of this novel and most of the second well before the global economic crisis happened. World events have borne out much of what I had been thinking at the time and, I hope, have made this story even more relevant and timely now than when I started.

Certainly you can read the book and enjoy it as an exciting, military, space opera adventure. The book contains spaceships, space travellers, future soldiers, aliens (and some really badass aliens) enough to content the lovers of science fiction, military SF and Space Opera.

But there is also a human story mixed into all that, and some thoughts on the relationship between individuals and society and what each owes the other. That is what Harlan Ellison refers to as the “fibre” hidden within the story. I’m quite pleased at the way it made it into the narrative.

I am also happy with the characters that developed and grew along the way. Some were created consciously and others just kind of showed up during the writing. This is their story and I am pleased with the way that it has been told. I believe I was able to stay out of their way sufficiently to allow them to tell the tale as it needed to be. That, for a writer, is the best feeling. It’s like some sort of magic has been invoked and it has infused itself into the text.

Debt’s Pledge is available now at Amazon.com for the kindle. It will soon be available in other e-formats as well as a print edition soon afterwards. Personally I think you owe it to yourself to check it out, maybe even buy a copy. If you have already purchased a copy, then sincerely, thank you.

I am in your debt.

THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION – Part 10

TPOR

I’ve been falling behind with this story and now I will likely fall behind even further because this below is the last that I have actually written on it. I know how it is going to end but I am not sure when I will be able to sit down and write it all down. To be honest I don’t know if anyone even cares about this story at this point. Nevertheless, it will get written and will eventually be compiled and edited and be available somewhere. I hope someone has enjoyed this. Let me know, or better yet buy THE MASK OF ETERNITY (see sidebar) for a complete Solis DeLacey novel

So, here’s part ten:

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Solis picked up an overturned chair and waved it menacingly at the first suited figure. The figure paused in its approach and held up its hands as if to try to calm Solis down. Solis gestured menacingly at the figure with the legs of the chair and the figure stopped its approach. She whirled around to menace the figure that was coming up behind her. That figure had gotten alarmingly close while her back was turned. It, too stopped.

Solis blinked back tears of frustration. She slammed the chair onto the floor and sat down upon it, hunched over clutching her stomach.

The figures approached her silently. One took her arm and gently but firmly drew her to her feet. Silent as ghosts the suited figures guided her out of the structure.

Outside Solis saw a ship. It was one of the ships that had carried out the assault on the Kruath the night before. It had its landing gear deployed and it was sitting in the field while the suited figures moved silently around it.

Human girl!” Solis heard Ovrafa shout. She was being similarly guided by another suited figure. “Are you alright?”

Yes,” Solis said. Neither tried to get away from their captors. Solis guessed that both had come to the same conclusion about the futility of that.

The ship was obviously their destination. It was configured unlike any ship that Solis was familiar with and whatever engines were powering it seemed to work in an unnatural silence. The side hatch was irregularly shaped and had a small step. The suited figure guided Solis up the step and inside.

Solis’ stomach tightened as she stepped into the dark. Her eyes had not adjusted but the suited figure kept guiding her onward. Solis stumbled once and the suited figure stopped to allow her to regain her balance. The figure did not loosen its firm grip on her arm.

Her eyes were adjusting now. They had come through what Solis assumed had been an airlock. The inner hatch was what had tripped Solis up. She was standing at the entrance of what looked like a cargo space. There were a number of items scattered about. Most of it was tied down. The suited figure guided her to a bulkhead and gestured for her to sit. She sat, her back against a bulkhead.

Ovrafa was guided in as well and was encouraged to sit beside her.

Who are they?” Ovrafa asked in a whisper. “They aren’t Kruath. Are they another Hegemony race?”

Solis shook her head. “They wouldn’t have attacked the Kruath if they were. Hegemony races don’t fight amongst themselves no matter how much they may hate each other.” The races that made up the Hegemony were all of them thralls to one master race, the Taarkaan, who rarely left their homeworld.

Where are they taking us?” Ovrafa asked.

Solis could only shake her head.

The space began to fill up with suited figures. There were nine in all. Three continued on through a hatch on the far side to what Solis assumed was the ship’s control area – a cockpit of some kind, perhaps.

The other suited figures occupied a part of the bulkhead that formed a kind of bench on either side. Three on one side. Three on the other. Three more suited figures in the control room and two frightened beings without suits sitting on the cold metal deck with their backs up against a bulkhead.

Solis felt the deck below her shift and the room seemed to rock for only a moment. The craft was taking off. There wasn’t the tell-tale sound of engines firing that she was used to with shuttle-type craft. This craft was unnaturally silent, just like its crew.

The artificial gravity kicked in and Solis noted that it was a lot lighter than the local gravity. She almost felt like she would soon float off the deck. Instinctively she searched for something to hang on to.

The suited figures became animated then. With the lighter gravity they seemed to relax. They began removing their atmosphere suits and Solis heard them begin to speak to each other in a language that she did not recognize.

One of the figures closest to her reached up and unsealed its helmet. As the helmet came off Solis was shocked to see that their captors were Urwaldian – or, at least, similar enough to have evolved from a similar subspecies. The Urwaldians they had met on the surface had been short and stocky. These Urwaldians were tall and had delicate features, almost brittle. They had the same red eyes and structures that swept up from their heads as well as the same blue skin coloring. But their complexions were lighter, more even. They also seemed not to have the same bark-like appearance that the Uwaldians on the planet had possessed.

As the figures began to remove their suits one other fact became clear. All the Urwaldians on the planet had been male. These Urwaldians were all female.

The figure closest to her stood and addressed her in her language. Solis shook her head to indicate that she did not understand. “Why have you captured us?” Solis asked in Koh. “Where are you taking us?”

The tall female stared at Solis quizzically then she replied using Galactic 1 “It is not safe on the surface. The Kruath have been scattered but they still have a ship in orbit. They will send reinforcements. We are going where they will not detect us. We are going to Monat.”

Monat?”

We are going to the moon.”

…to be continued…

 

 

THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION – Part 9

TPOR

On the forested planet Urwald Solis DeLacey has been captured by Kruath soldiers who are working with a human traitor named Carstairs. Paranoid, Carstairs tortures DeLacey to find out how much she knows about his plans. His inquisition is interrupted, however, by an attack from above.

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4. SHADOWS

Confusion reigned over the Kruath. Soldiers were running this way and that. Solis heard a defening noise above her and looked up to see a small ship streaking overhead. As it strafed the main body of the Kruath encampment it dropped another bomb. Tents flared and soldiers returned fire in the vain hope of hitting the ship.

Another passed over, then an other. Solis thought about the lights she had seen earlier in the sky. The ships were whizzing overhead, dropping bombs on the heaviest concentrations of Kruath. Solis tried to stand, but couldn’t. Another shockwave knocked her down. She felt the post at her back shift under the withering blast.

Solis had to get out of the open. With ships strafing and bombing all around her it was only a matter of time before she was hit. Solis pulled at the wooden stake to which she was bound. She felt it move slightly. The force of the blast had loosened it from the ground.

Her body was exhausted and her muscles were in agony from the shocks they had taken from the persuader. Nevertheless, she had to move or be obliterated. She wrapped the binder cord around her wrists and pulled. Every joint and limb screamed in protest, but she ignored the agony and pulled. She felt the stake give some more. She pulled again.

A flash exploded nearby. Solis dropped to the ground and curled into a fetal position before the shockwave hit. It knocked the wind out of her and lifted her off the ground. She let herself go tumbling and her arms were pulled violently. She felt like her arms would be pulled out of their sockets. Then she landed with a thump.

She lost consciousness for a few second, perhaps for a full minute, she did not know. She opened her eyes and gasped a breath. Every inch of her felt like it was on fire. She moved her arms and was rewarded with a fresh burst of pain along the full length of both of them.

But they moved freely. The binder rings were still around her wrist but the ends had torn free of the wooden post. The post itself lay a few feet away, shattered to pieces.

That could have been me, she thought and thanked the Eternal Void for allowing her this much luck today.

Solis ran as fast as she could, making for the cover of the trees. The muscles in her legs were in agony, but the adrenaline rushing through her body helped her to ignore the pain. Ships continued to roar overhead and explosions brightened the night. She still could not hear anything but she could not worry about that now. She concentrated only on running.

Another blast hit close. She saw the flash and felt the concussion. It knocked her to the ground. She skidded to a stop, scraping her chin on the ground. She rolled over on her back just as a craft passed overhead. She closed her eyes and braced for the expected strafing, but nothing happened. She opened her eyes and scrambled to her feet.

The craft turned. Was it coming back to finish her off?

She ran. She didn’t look back to see if the craft was gaining. Solis put on a burst of speed and practically dived into the dark woods.

The air was suddenly cool against her exposed skin and Solis began to shiver. Crouched low, she moved as quicky and as quietly as she could through the dense trees.

Everything around her was black. Just like the night before, she was running on instinct, trying to avoid being tripped up by roots underfoot, or dashing her head on low hanging branches.

She heard something drop into the undergrowth from above. She froze, trying to determine the direction from which she’d heard the sound, preparing to run in the opposite direction.

“Human Girl?” a voice called out.

“Ovrafa!” Solis scrambled over to where she’d heard the Ovrafa drop. She felt the Guiranam’s long arms wrap around her and she did her best to hug her back.

“How did you get away?” Solis asked. “I was afraid that you’d been…”

“Some of us were,” Ovrafa said, her voice quavering. “They gathered us up and shot Chief Hawp. Then they said they’d shoot every one of us if we didn’t tell them what we were doing here. We told them, but they kept asking and kept threatening to shoot us. Then the ships came and started bombing. A few of us managed to escape during the confusion, but I got separated. I’ve been keeping to the branches, trying to avoid the ships. They seemed to be searching for survivors.”

Solis nodded. “Same here,” she said. “One of them chased me into the woods. Do you know where we are?”

“I think so.”

Ovrafa led the way. Her night vision was better than Solis’ and her footing more sure. Ovrafa would have preferred to climb and travel through the branches, but she couldn’t carry Solis on her own, so she stuck to the undergrowth. The sun began to rise as they reached the edge of the forest. The sky was clear of ships so they chanced traversing the open spaces, but they tried to keep to the tall grass and they kept low.

They spied the survey pre fab. Much of it had burned but some of the structure stood intact although nothing seemed to be spared the scorch marks left behind by Kruath weapons fire.

Inside the structure, Solis found what was left of the communication array. It was broken and burned beyond repair. There was little that wasn’t broken or burned. Solis wandered into the structure’s small galley. The water was not running and the stasis units were all broken open, their contents littered over the floor. Insects buzzed above the foodstuff that was slowly spoiling in the heat of the day.

The spoiling food smelled bad but the odor was not overpowering — not yet anyway. Solis saw a packet of biscuits. The biscuits within were mostly broken but the packaging was still intact. Solis was excited and she wanted to share her find with Ovrafa. She moved out of the kitchen and was about to call when a figure in an atmosphere suit came in through the structure’s main entrance.

Solis froze for a second then ran back into the kitchen. There was an exit at the back of the Galley and Solis made for it but when she got there it was blocked by another atmosphere suited figure. She backed away. The figure moved towards her unhurriedly. The figures were tall and the suit’s structure was unfamiliar to her. The suits’ helmets were oversized and the faceplates were completely black.

They did not look like Kruath but Solis was not about to take a chance. She turned and ran back the way she’d come. Somewhere from upstairs she heard Ovrafa shriek.

Solis was trapped.

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.

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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”

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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