Desperate Times (Lost Planet Warriors Book 1)

BOOK: Desperate Times (Lost Planet Warriors Book 1)
11.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Desperate Times
Lost Planet Warriors - Book One
K. McLaughlin
Role of the Hero Publishing

© 2016 by K. McLaughlin

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, businesses, events, or locales is purely coincidental.

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Chapter One

here I was
, sitting in the bridge of the UNS Ariel. It ought to be the best and most glamorous job in the universe. I fought enough to be sitting there in the Captain’s chair. Sacrificed enough of my life toward this. But now?

I hated it. This had to be the worst, most boring thing I had ever done.

Kara came up beside me with a mug of hot coffee. Just the smell revived me a little, and reminded me of home at the same time. But home was several dozen Astronomical Units away. Days of travel, even with the new drives installed on this ship.

We were on patrol this far from humanity’s inhabited worlds because this was where ships came into the system. It was too dangerous for ships to arrive closer in to a star. Navigation while in jump space wasn’t always an exact science, and nobody wanted to arrive in the middle of the sun. Or too close to a planet where the massive energy pouring out of their arrival wake could blast the inhabitants.

The coffee was sweet, with just the right amount of sugar and milk dulling the sharp tang of the roasted coffee beans. She must have frothed the milk somehow. I had no idea how Kara managed that in the ship’s galley, but it was a nice touch. It wasn’t a latte, but it was the closest I was about to get for a while.

I spared a glance to my friend and gave her a smile. “Thanks for the coffee.”

She grinned back. “No trouble. You looked like you could use it. Rough night?”

“Rough tour.”

She shrugged, beaming again. Kara’s effervescent good humor was one of the things I loved most about her. “Well, better boring than not boring.”

“Sure, I guess,” I said. Except I wasn’t so sure. In my heart, I wanted something to happen. Just about anything. But the next anticipated contact would be a Trigellian freighter that wasn’t due for another month. Earth was a mote in a galaxy that had turned out to be teeming with life. Some of the alien races out there were less advanced than we, or so I’d heard. We never saw those. We barely had the ability to get ships into jump space and make fast trips from system to system. Anyone lower on the tech scale than humans was still puttering around their home planet, or not spaceborne at all.

There were lots of more advanced races though. More than I could count. More, probably, than any human really knew about. We’d just started our explorations and had only made a few contacts so far. Enough to learn that space was a very dangerous place. Thankfully, Earth was considered such a backwater we were mostly left alone.

“How much longer do you have on this tour, Kim?”

“Another six months,” I replied. It felt like forever, but I knew I was already halfway through. Then back to Earth for a tour ground-side before I could get any other sort of space duty.

“You hoping for an exploratory mission next time?” she asked.

“Yeah. Something that takes me out of the system would be nice.”

That was why I’d joined the UNS in the first place. I wanted to see all those far off places. I wanted to meet alien races. To show them that Terrans belonged out there too. We might be a backwater, but it wouldn’t stay that way. Not if I had anything to say about it.

Which I might - or might not. I sipped my coffee, deep in thought. This job had seemed like a good stepping stone for my career. But after six months, I wasn’t quite as sure. Another year on the ground hoping to get the right job when I finally got to go back into space was going to be brutal.

“This work is important, too,” Kara said. She was especially good at reading my thoughts and picking apart my moods. “We are the first line of defense for our planet!”

She grinned again and went into a mock position of attention. Her goofiness did wonders to lift my spirits. She’d always been good at that.

“Don’t let the rest of the crew see you like that,” I said. “They’ll think I’m turning into a dictator.”

“You aren’t?” she asked with eyes wide open and eyelashes fluttering.

“You’re lucky this coffee tastes too good to waste,” I joked back.

My console pinged with an alert message. I looked down, surprised, and popped the alert to my screen. I blinked a few times, but the message was unchanged.

“We’ve got an incoming ship,” I said.

Kara dove back into her own seat, punching keys on her console. A few moments later the results of her data collection were coming across my screen.

“It’s a big one,” she said. “Could it be that freighter?”

“A month early?” I replied. “They’re more likely to be late.”

The ship was coming at us through jump space, using its powerful engines to drive itself through a bubble of warped space and time. It wasn’t actually moving faster than light. The drives just changed the shape of space around the ship enough that it seemed that way. But while the energy wave preceding a ship in jump space gave us a little warning before a ship exited, our sensors couldn’t tell anything about the incoming vessel.

Until it exited the warp bubble and came back into normal space, we wouldn’t be able to see precisely what sort of ship it is.

“When was the last unexpected arrival?” I asked.

“Two years ago. The Kyrelians,” Kara replied. “The snake heads who thought that we should join their empire, remember?”

I did. That had almost been a disaster for Earth. Would have been, if the Trigellians hadn’t shown up and kicked their butts for us. Seemed like the Trigellians have a thing for catnip, of all things. In exchange for as much catnip as the planet could grow, the Trigellians traded us little bits of their tech and kept some of the nastier aliens races off our backs.

“All hands to stations,” I said into the intercom. “Incoming ship. This is not a drill.”

“Getting our weapons warmed up,” Kara said. All her bubbliness was gone in an instant. She was good in a crisis, showing a coolness that I wished I could feel.

The incoming ship erupted into real space a few light-seconds away from us. It was close enough that the brilliance of its entry wake scrambled our sensors for a few moments. Close enough that I could see the explosive entry on our view screen. The wake expanded out from the ship in a cone of annihilation. An unprotected ship caught in that wake would be pulverized by the sudden release of a such a massive burst of particles.

“Got an ID on that ship yet?” I asked.

“Sensors are still trying to recalibrate for the energy wake…there!” Kara said. “Holy shit!”

It was worth the exclamation. The ship we were seeing wasn’t a freighter at all.

Chapter Two

ur ship blasted back
into realspace with a familiar explosion of high energy particles. Even the glory of seeing that display didn’t rouse my bridge crew. They were soldiers, damn it all. Even in defeat, they needed to be better than this.

“Action stations!” I roared. “I need telemetry on this system. I want a full damage report on the ship. And I need to know if we were pursued.”

I was fairly sure we had been pursued. Even though we’d fled across half a galaxy, there was no way the enemy could simply let us walk away. Not after what they had done.

Around me the crew roused themselves to their duties. Every one of them had years of military training behind them. Most of my crew had been the best in the Fleet, even before the disaster. Now they really were the best in the Fleet, because this ship was all that remained of the Fleet.

All the other ships had been destroyed. I could forgive the men their reactions. They were the best in the galaxy, but nothing could have prepared us for watching the Cymtarran homeworld explode.

“Commander, a word?”

That was Carrick Maas, my second in command. He beckoned me toward a briefing room off to one side of the bridge. I followed. Carrick would expect a plan, because I always had a plan. That was why I’d been made Commander of the Fleet’s flagship. Because I had a knack for coming up with the quick thinking that would turn disaster into victory.

Little good it had done Cymtarra.

I closed the door to the room behind us and quirked an eyebrow at Carrick.

“What now, Bran?” he asked.

I settled into a seat at the briefing table, stretching muscles that were tired and sore from tension. “Now we repair the ship. We try to find any other Cymtarrans, wherever they might be, and bring them to us. And we find a way to hit those things back.”

“Revenge?” he mused, tapping his chin in thought. “It might work for a while. But sooner or later, it’s going to sink in to the men.”

“What will?” I asked.

“That we’re finished. The Cymtarran race, I mean. We have five hundred souls on board. Two are female,” he said, drumming two fingers on the table to illustrate. The Cymtarran Fleet had made a policy of keeping women out of the line of fire. Few served on combat ships.

“There are likely others, scattered on other worlds,” I said. “Perhaps other ships survived.”

“There are,” he agreed. “And they might have. But the Skree will hunt them, the same as they are likely hunting us. This is not a war anymore, Commander. It’s become an extermination.”

“All the more reason to find some way to take those bastards down with us,” I growled.

“And the men will likely buy into the goal of revenge, at least in the short term," Carrick said. "But in the long run, they're going to need something more."

"Like what?" I said.

"Hope, Bran. They're going to need hope."

I closed my eyes for a moment, and the horrible event played itself out for me again. One moment we were the vanguard of the mightiest battle group the galaxy had ever seen, leading our fleet into battle against the scourge that had dared obliterate our colonies. Minutes later our ship was crippled, spinning wildly out of control. Their ships had overpowered us in mere moments. One on one, our vessel was superior to anything they had. But they hadn't brought one ship. Space had been glittering with them, so many Skree vessels that they blotted out the stars.

The loss of control had saved us. Our velocity carried us on a vector tangential to their attack course. We took out the few ships which had pursued us - most of their fleet had carried on in the strike toward our home world. By the time we got our engines back under control, it was too late. We arrived in our home system in time to see our last ships destroyed, and Cymtarra itself blasted into a cloud of debris.

We fled without firing a shot, weeping hot tears for the world we had lost and those we had failed.

I looked up into Carrick's haunted stare, knowing my own eyes echoed the loss, agony, and suffering that I saw there. For people like us, there was no worse fate than to survive when we had failed so utterly to defend our home, our friends, our families. Yet survive we must, or there would be nothing left of Cymtarra at all.

That would not happen while there was breath in my body.

"How?" I asked. "How do we give them hope?" How do you take away what they had seen? How could any of us ever unsee that ultimate tragedy?

"I don't know," he replied quietly, clearly seeing again all the things I just had. "What do you plan next, Commander?"

I raked my fingers through my hair. There was so much we had to do, and I was convinced we had precious little time left. The enemy had detected us before we escaped - of that much I was certain. They knew that one last Cymtarran battle cruiser still flew free in space. They would hunt us. We'd led them on a merry chase coming here though, setting false trails and doubling back through a nebula to obscure our drive's signature. They would come hunting. But we had some time yet.

"First, we need to repair the ship," I said. "This system appears to have interstellar drives. We will acquire their assistance and bring the ship back to fighting trim."

"This sounds like the beginning of a plan," Carrick said. "Then?"

"I don't know yet!" I said. Then I grinned a wolfish smile. "But we'll figure something out."

The communications unit on the briefing table chirped. I tapped it to open the channel. "Yes?"

"Sir, you're needed on the bridge. One of the ships from this system was near the jump point when we arrived. They're hailing us - and locking weapons." His voice sounded incredulous, and well it might. According to the last survey data, the race living here - Terrans - were similar to us in appearance, but there the resemblance ended. In terms of technology, they were hundreds of years behind us. It was like watching someone threaten a battle-armored soldier with a rock.

"I'll be right there," I said, and cut the channel.

"This just got interesting," Carrick said. He seemed amused.

I wished I could be so blasé. The truth was, we needed these people. We could repair the ship without their help, in time. Too damned much time. The enemy would be on us before we were ready for them, and there were only so many bolt holes in the galaxy that we could run away and hide in.

I stood up and stalked back onto the bridge, Carrick following in my wake.

"Open a channel to the Terran ship," I ordered.

BOOK: Desperate Times (Lost Planet Warriors Book 1)
11.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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