Read Legion Of The Damned - 02 - The Final Battle Online

Authors: William C. Dietz

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Legion Of The Damned - 02 - The Final Battle

BOOK: Legion Of The Damned - 02 - The Final Battle
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Table of Contents
 
 
Unanimous acclaim for William C. Dietz’s
LEGION OF THE DAMNED
“BUCKLE YOUR SAFETY HARNESS AND ENJOY THE RIDE.”
 
-Steve Perry, author of
The Forever Drug
 
“THE UNRELENTING ACTION SWEEPS ALL BEFORE IT.”
—Kliatt
 
“ROCKETS AND RAY GUNS GALORE . . . and more than enough action to satisfy those who like it hot and heavy.”

The Oregonian
 
“ONE THAT I RECOMMEND to enthusiasts of military SF.”

Australian SF News
 
 
And more praise for William C. Dietz’s
Drifter trilogy and the Sam McCade
series . . .
 
 
“SLAM-BANG ACTION!”
—David Drake, author of
Through the Breach
 
“ALL-OUT SPACE ACTION!”
—Starlog
 
“GOOD SOLID SPACE-OPERA, WELL TOLD.”

Science Fiction Chronicle
 
“A FAST-PACED ‘SHOOT-EM-UP’ . . . ONCE THE ACTION S
TARTS, IT NEVER LETS UP.”

SFRA Review
Ace Books by William C. Dietz
GALACTIC BOUNTY
FREEHOLD
PRISON PLANET
IMPERIAL BOUNTY
ALIEN BOUNTY
McCADE’S BOUNTY
DRIFTER
DRIFTER’S RUN
DRIFTER’S WAR
LEGION OF THE DAMNED
BODYGUARD
THE FINAL BATTLE
WHERE THE SHIPS DIE
STEELHEART
BY BLOOD ALONE
BY FORCE OF ARMS
DEATHDAY
EARTHRISE
FOR MORE THAN GLORY
FOR THOSE WHO FELL
RUNNER
LOGOS RUN
WHEN ALL SEEMS LOST
WHEN DUTY CALLS
AT EMPIRE’S EDGE
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
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ebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
 
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagnation or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The
publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
THE FINAL BATTLE
 
An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the author
 
PRINTING HISTORY
Ace mass-market edition / July 1995
 
Copyright © 1995 by William C. Dietz.
 
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
 
eISBN : 978-1-101-49578-0
 
Visit our website at
www.penguin.com
 
ACE
 
Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
ACE and the “A” design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
 
 

http://us.penguingroup.com

This book is dedicated to Dr. Sheridan Simon, who designed the Hudathan homeworld, the Hudathans themselves, and the planet Algeron. We miss you, Sheridan, and think of you when we look at the stars.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
In order to prepare for this novel I read a number of excellent books, including
March or Die,
by Tony Geraghty;
Mouthful of Rocks,
by Christian Jennings; and
The French Foreign Legion,
by John Robert Young.
1
Prisoner of war! That is the least unfortunate kind of prisoner to be, but it is nevertheless a melancholy state. You are in the power of your enemy. You owe your life to his humanity, and your daily bread to his compassion. You must obey his orders, go where he tells you, stay where you are bid, await his pleasure, possess your soul in patience. Meanwhile the war is going on, great events are in progress, fine opportunities for action and adventure are slipping away.
Winston Churchill
My Early Life: A Roving Commission
Standard year 1930
Worber’s World, the Confederacy of Sentient Beings
 
General Natalie Norwood stood, stretched, and eyed the empty expanse of the light-blue computer screen built into the top of her desk. The cursor blinked steadily in the lower right-hand comer. It had taken twelve hours of hard work to deal with the seemingly endless stream of orders, requests, reports, inquiries, memos, interrogatories, and just plain bullshit that went along with command of Confederacy
Battle Station Alpha XIV,
better known to her six-thousand-plus inhabitants as the
Old Lady
(plus a host of other less charitable names). And old she was, dating back to befo
re the Human-Hudathan war, having originally been commissioned as a battleship.
“Do you need anything else, General?”
The voice pulled her back. A master sergeant filled most of the hatch. He was huge, and ugly as the pit bull he resembled. Until he smiled, when his face took an expression so pure, so angelic, that it melted the hearts of women everywhere. He took advantage of this fact as frequently as he could. Norwood shook her head. “Thanks, anyway. See you in the morning.”
Morning is a relative concept in space, but Master Sergeant Max Meyers knew what she meant and nodded in response. “Yes, ma’am. I can hardly wait.”
It was an old joke, one they had shared many times, and Norwood laughed. “Me too. Get some rest.”
Meyers looked at the lines etched into her still-pretty face, the fatigue that filled her big brown eyes, and the gray that dominated her once-auburn hair. He wanted to tell her that she lived too close to the edge, that she worked too hard, that she had been aboard the ship about sixteen years too long.
But a chasm existed between generals and sergeants, a chasm so wide it could never be jumped, even if they worked together every day. The sergeant withdrew. The hatch closed behind him.
Norwood checked the computer screen one last time, assured herself that nothing new had appeared, and headed for her cabin. It was only steps away, a clear indication that the engineers who had designed the
Old Lady
knew how commanding officers lived, and had incorporated that knowledge into the ship’s design.
Thick carpet cushioned her footsteps, a blast-proof hatch swished out of the way, and a ghostly glow threw heavy black shadows across her private compartment. The source of the reflected light, a blue-brown planet, filled the view port.
Unlike the location of the cabin, Norwood saw the view port as an indulgence of the sort that makes enlisted people justifiably cynical, and had given serious consideration to eliminating it. But that had been in the early days of her command, before the view port had become her secret obsession, claiming what little free time she had.
Norwood stripped off her uniform, threw it toward the usual comer, and stepped in front of the bulkhead-mounted mirror. Her breasts sagged a tiny bit, but the rest of her was firm and reassuringly fit. Still, it had been a long time since anyone else had seen her body or touched it, and she wondered what they would think.
Norwood turned and walked toward the chair. It was big, black, and mounted on a pedestal. She knew the chair was an extension of her obsession, a p
art of the nightly ritual, but the knowledge did nothing to lessen her need. The leather felt deliciously cool against her naked skin. She wiggled slightly and felt the chair adjust to her form. Her fingers sought the familiar buttons, touched them in the usual order, and caused the machine to tilt backward. Then, with the chair just the way she wanted it, Norwood took a moment to admire Worber’s World, to appreciate the familiar outlines of its continents, and the manner in which the clouds marbled its surface.
From miles up in the sky there was no way to see what the Hudathan bombs had done to the surface or to appreciate the mathematical precision with which the swaths of destruction had been etched into the land, or the remains of the millions who had died. And died, and died, until no one was left.
The army, navy, and a pitifully small number of legionnaires had fought back, but when the fighting was over, Norwood’s family, friends, and—with the exception of a handful of people like herself—every other person on the planet had perished.
And not just on Worber’s World, but on hundreds of human-held planets, until the aliens had been stopped just short of the inner worlds. Been stopped, and soundly defeated, resulting in thousands of alien POWs, every damned one of which was down on the surface of what had been
her
homeworld, living out their miserable lives in the midst of their own tailor-made hell. A hell
she
supervised.
Yes, there were negotiations, but they had been going on for the better part of twenty years, with no end in sight. No end to the days spent in orbit and the nights spent in the black chair.
The idea pleased her and the touch of the keypad brought fifty vid screens to life. They framed the view port and provided the images she craved. Images of Hudathans suf fering the way they
should
suffer, paying for what they’d done, and atoning for their sins.
The touch of another button was sufficient to enlarge one of the pictures and superimpose it upon the view port. She recognized the shot as coming from the heavily armored camera positioned near the north end of Black Lake, a lake that had been born when a subsurface torpedo burrowed its way under the planet’s capital city, exploded, and created a huge crater. The entire general staff had died that day, leaving a rather junior colonel named Natalie Norwood in command of the surviving military forces. Of which there were damned few.
BOOK: Legion Of The Damned - 02 - The Final Battle
7.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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