Atlas: Infinity Verge Trilogy: Book II (9 page)

BOOK: Atlas: Infinity Verge Trilogy: Book II
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Abel turned around and caught a full view of a gorgeous human woman. She was not too thin and not too thick, and had a soft light color to her skin. He eyed her up and down, noting her subtle, but noticeable curves. She wore a sleeveless flak jacket beneath a hooded overcoat. The coat was a bright yellow, indicating she was part of some flight or deck crew.

Belted at her waist was a single plasma pistol, a Browning Lite P-50. Abel noted it was a newer model, but lacking in sustainability. He preferred the two Canik Shark Ps at his waist. The Browning had a faster rate of fire, but as the designation suggested it only lasted for fifty seconds, before it had to cool.

Abel’s Caniks had a slightly slower rate of fire, but would last almost indefinitely. The cooling power of the Canik was just superior.

To each his, or her, own
, he thought.

She must have noted his frown regarding her pistol, because she pulled her coat around her to cover the weapon.

She must have thought I was offended,
he concluded.

Abel followed the outline of her face, it was roundish, but angle slightly at her jaw line. Her features were soft and reminiscent of ancient Irish ancestry.

So she is, or was rather, from one of the orbital stations in the Sol system,
he thought.

Abel met her eyes. He stared, they were white, iris, pupils, all of them. Despite the color of her eyes he could see the proper outlines of where the pupil and iris should be, nanite modification, he realized and then immediately wondered what gift it gave to her sight.

“Abel Cain and who might you be beautiful?” Abel laid on the charm. The mysterious woman laughed, but she did not giggle. The laugh was more of incredulity than it was of one who had been flattered.

“Aurora Rigel,” she said extending a hand, “and you are Captain Abel Cain.”

“Just Abel Cain now,” he said, “can’t be much of a Captain without a ship.” He grumbled while extending his own hand and shaking hers. “It is nice to meet you Aurora Rigel.”

“Just Aurora, or Rigel if you prefer.” She smiled. “So you want to get off this rock?” she asked directly.

Something about her personality struck Abel as unusual, she was bright and peppy,
too peppy? Or too pretty?
He wondered.

“I think that is the best suggestion anyone has had all day. You have a way to do that?” Abel asked, both in curiosity and incredulity.

Sure, plenty of people were coming and going from Quintar IV. He wanted to get off the planet. He had never been keen on the idea of government being military controlled, even if the Remnant and the True EFNF did a decent job of it. Quintar IV was not the haven the people thought it was, not to Able at least to him it had become a prison.

Aurora considered Abel, he was handsome in a sort of rugged way, his face and head covered with a small growth of stubble. He was too ready with a smile though. With all the crap happening in this universe, he smiled too much.

Maybe I don’t smile enough
, she thought. “No, Abel Cain, I do not have a ship, but I know where we can find one.” Aurora smiled slightly.

Abel was taken in by that small grin playing across her very feminine features,
but those eyes!
He found himself entranced by her subtle beauty, but even more-so by her stunning eyes. She did not shy away at his scrutinizing. Instead, she fixed her white eyed stare on him. Abel’s mouth felt dry, but his curiosity was piqued.

“Is that so, and just where can we find a ship?” he asked.

He knew full well what she intended, he had intended it himself, but a lone man could not steal a starship. “For that matter do you have a crew?”

Aurora still bore that sideways grin as she motioned for Abel to follow her. He did so, watching the sway of her hips as she moved.

You’re like a schoolboy, put your tongue back in your mouth and get serious, this could be a trap,
he scolded himself harshly.

Aurora led Abel down several corridors and alleys before it opened up onto the tarmac for the spaceport. He wondered momentarily if Aurora Rigel had been sent by the Fleet Admiral to make him toe the line, but dismissed it. The Fleet Admiral was one who would do her own brow-beating. That left him wondering who this mysterious woman was and why she had taken such an interest in helping him. The risks of helping him off planet were grim, he had been grounded by the Fleet Admiral herself, anyone disobeying that order was likely putting themselves in a cell.

Abel did not voice his concerns. If this woman could get him flying again, it didn’t matter what she wanted from him, he would pay it later. Aurora led Abel to one of the hangars, inside was a massive tangle of a ship. The forward canopy looked to have been collapsed as well as the forward nacelles, but he recognized it nonetheless. His jaw dropped and tears formed in his hazel eyes.

“How … how did you--” he cut himself short, putting a shaky hand on the crumbled nose of the
Kodiak
.

Aurora put a hand on Abel’s shoulder, he started to pull away, but instead let her be. She looked at him sympathetically.

“The EFNF left it there. I guess they figured it was either too damaged to dig out or it simply wasn’t worth the effort, but there are those here on Quintar IV who think that you have more to do than be the EFNF’s puppet. We can fix her up and before you know it the
Kodiak
will fly again.”

Abel only half listened, his mind was already working the scenarios to repair the ship and the cost.

“Not
Kodiak
, not anymore. This will be more my design than the Kodiak was. This will be the
Atlas
.” He realized it would never be the
Kodiak
again, not without Zee. “I am going to need a good deal of supplies, what’s the catch here?””

He eyed Aurora for any response. She gave no indication, but instead pressed her finger to her temple. Somehow she managed this with grace and femininity as well.

What couldn’t she do with grace?
Abel wondered.

“Yes, he is here. He--” Aurora paused and looked at Abel, whose face was beginning to look like he was going to lose his temper, “he has some questions.”” She finished.

Abel began to feel that rage bubbling up inside, but he was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

“Captain Abel--” Aurora began before Abel cut her off.

“Not Captain, not yet.” He said simply.

“Abel,” she corrected, “I have some associates that are willing to fund this … endeavor. They want to speak with you in person first. Please keep an open mind.” She said tensely.

“An open mind? Who are these benefactors then?” Abel questioned her, not so certain he still wanted to be around.

Aurora paused a moment, considering her words carefully. “I work for the VIS, the Vald Intelligence Service. The Vald are a species not from the Quintar Prime system, much like we are not.” She said carefully, watching Abel’s expression change from incredulous, to shocked, to one of intrigue.

“You’re telling me there are other aliens?” Abel blurted out without meaning to yell, but doing so just the same.

“Keep your voice down. Yes, there are other species out there.” She said indicating the space beyond the Quintar Prime system.

“The Vald are very secretive, and the Remnant believes they have left the Quintar Prime system. My employers wish to keep it that way.” She was starting to think that maybe Abel wasn’t the right fit for the task at hand, but he was the only one that could get the
Kodiak
back in the air again and he was the only one that really understood the quantum locked armor.

Abel watched Aurora closely and several questions came to mind. He started with, “Why me?”

“Because, you are the only one to have fought the EXO Prime and survived. This virus is more than just human or Quintarran, it is adaptable and it will take over the universe if we do not stop it here and now. You are the logical choice.”

“Flakking glitches,” Abel cursed. “You are pinning all your hopes on me because I escaped and wrecked my ship? Are you flakking nuts!?””

Abel was flustered and he paced back and forth a bit more before turning back to Aurora, “You want me, fine I’m here, but on my terms.”

“I would expect nothing else.” Aurora calmly replied. “You should get some rest. We have a barracks of sorts above this hangar. You can find a bunk there.”” Aurora said.

Abel eyed her suspiciously for a moment longer,
she really is kind of cute,
he thought to himself, before giving his thoughts a mental beating.
Have you forgotten Echo so quickly?

The thought nagged at him before transforming into,
no, but she betrayed me; what’s fair is fair.
He huffed and grumbled, but started towards the stairs that Aurora had pointed out.

“I hope, for your sake Aurora, that you’re legitimate. I don’t take kindly to being betrayed.” He warned as he started up the metal steps.

They echoed with a light reverberation as he stepped down hard. Crossing through the threshold he found himself in a barracks.

She wasn’t lying,
he thought.

The crew quarters were lined wall to wall with double bunks, most seemed to have been claimed by either belongings or the few lounging workmen. Abel wondered if any of these soldiers were intended to be a part of his crew.

 

9:
ECHO SHADE

 

 

Quintar IV - EFNF Alpha Base: Training Simulator

2973 ESD - Thursday, May 20th 03:00 hours

 

Echo stretched as the training sim pod opened for her. The sim ended with their first success. She was grateful for that. The tedium was starting to become a bit disconcerting. Time and time again she continued to lead her people to their deaths.

Virtual deaths
, she thought.
But deaths nonetheless
.

The thought made Echo cringe. Every day - twice a day - they ran through the same simulation. It was still heavily modeled after her and Abel Cain’s arrival back on Quintar IV. The mission that saw the
Kodiak
pursued by the EXO Prime and Mercury Frinz.

Echo remembered keenly how Abel and Zee had managed to navigate a broken and dying gunship through the asteroid belt. Playing over the events in her mind she realized they should not have survived. The training sim should not have seen them survive either. The
Kodiak
had been heavily modified for the type of atmospheric entry Abel had attempted and still Zee did not live.

Echo considered this and began applying tactics that would better suit the destroyer she was captaining. The TP-D was an ungainly beast compared to the
Kodiak
. The destroyer could not possibly utilize the same tactics as the gunship she had arrived in. Over the course of the past week she had begun developing her own strategies. Still, she feared that it was due to familiarity and repeated practice versus any kind of skill.

What if you get them all killed?
The stray thought jumped into her mind. She shuddered and grabbed the towel from the side of the sim pod. Wiping her face and neck she stood up.

The simulation clothing clung to her, damp with sweat and nearly transparent. She did not like the feeling of being so immodest, but it was a necessary evil. The simulation pods put the trainees into a comatose state while they trained. The clothing was designed to allow their bodies to breathe. The pods were confining and had to be temperature controlled, which meant that bodies could overheat if not properly clothed.

Properly clothed,
Echo scoffed internally.

The general garb of the age did not fit that description. As with most things in the EFNF she was not alone in her immodesty. Although no one else said anything, they all felt it.

Almost all
, Echo corrected.

The Quintarrans did not seem to mind. She considered the crew again. Each had done their jobs admirably, but she still could not shake her feeling about it being too familiar. The repetitive tasks became second nature. While this was ideal for learning new systems, it was anathema to intuitive thought.

Echo shook her head to let the last bit of sweat dry from her hair. She made her way to the briefing room. Her clothing was still soaked in sweat from the excitement and exertion of the last simulation. Echo entered the rounded room and proceeded to front, where it squared off. She watched as the rest of her crew filed into the seats.

“Good run team. Let’s hit highlights, then we’ll look at the improvements and address any other weaknesses.” She said.

For the next several hours they scrutinized the sim reports. The team was doing well and they had bonded, which she was glad for. However, the longer they examined the report the more her fears seemed more founded. They had bounced through tactics trying different approaches over the weeks until they only had one option left.

In a real world situation, they would not have the ability to cycle through scenarios until they found a solution. On some level, Echo realized that the repetitive sim allowed her team to learn to work with one another and form bonds, but ultimately any sim would do that.

BOOK: Atlas: Infinity Verge Trilogy: Book II
2.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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