Star Brigade: Odysseys - An Anthology

BOOK: Star Brigade: Odysseys - An Anthology
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C. C. EKEKE

 

Copyright © 2015 by C. C. Ekeke

 

 
STAR BRIGADE: Odysseys
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. 

 

STAR BRIGADE, characters, names and related indicia are registered trademarks of C.C. Ekeke.

 

Copyright © 2015 by C. C. Ekeke

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written prior permission of the copyright holder, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles.

 

ISBN-10: 0989911926

ISBN-13: 978-0-9899119-2-4
Cover design: Derek Murphy

(
http://www.creativindie.com/
)

For Nicole & Jason

who gave me all those crazy acronyms ideas

 
FOREWORD

 

Hey there. I’m really excited to present these brand new short stories to you, but bear with me while I give a little backstory.

When I was first writing Star Brigade: Resurgent over a decade ago, I knew immediately that I wanted to expand this universe. But I wasn’t sure if I had more than one book in me.

Fast forward to when I was editing the first edition, and plans for several Star Brigade books were filling up my head. Full-length novels aside, I’m always a fan of the smaller moments that complement the larger universe.

The idea to write short stories came from another sci-fi franchise where collections of tales surrounding important events in that universe. But after a few false starts some years back, I tabled the idea. Chalk it up to laziness.

Then about two years ago after spending months editing a draft of the next Star Brigade novel, I needed a serious recharge for my creative juices.

What I ended up with were several short stories, quite a few occurring during the events of Star Brigade: Resurgent. Even better, writing these stories gave me a greater sense of some of these characters’ identities.

Most of these shorts feature POV characters from the first Star Brigade novel, others focus on non-POV supporting characters, while quite a few introduce non-book characters who just could have greater roles to play in future stories. I chose sixteen which complement Star Brigade: Resurgent the best and to give you all a taste of what’s to come.

I’ve also included a few bonuses, like the original opening chapters from the first edition of Star Brigade: Resurgent. Way back when, I figured the best way to introduce the character Marguliese as well as give weight to Habraum’s backstory was via flashback after the infamous Ferronos Sector War.

However, I was never totally happy with how these chapters meshed into the overall story. Neither were critics or book readers. While re-editing the first Star Brigade book, I yanked them out while cherry-picking elements to integrate into Resurgent’s overall timeframe.

In this anthology you’ll find the original two opening chapters from the first edition of Star Brigade: Resurgent.

There’s also one more bonus feature in this collection: an appendix on the Galactic Union, giving some details and backstory on the star-spanning hyperpower that Star Brigade is part of. So kick back and enjoy.

 

Regards,

 

CCE

Story Summaries

BOUND

In the weeks leading to the Union-Imperium trade merger, Honaa receives news that further jeopardizes Star Brigade's survival.

 

GAMBIT

A Kedri mercenary makes a dangerous play in hopes of a better life.

 

OUTWORLDERS

Four rookies ponder their futures the day before Star Brigade's fate is decided.

 

TERRITORIAL

V'Korram takes violent measures to force Liliana Cortes out of Star Brigade.

 

DISCIPLE

Sam D’Urso gives her protégé a new assignment.

 

BELIEVE

Surje’s confidence in his abilities is tested after not getting on CT-1.

 

DESCENT

Khrome helps Liliana overcome a longstanding fear.

 

PREY

Two bounty hunters search Bimnorii for a lethal yet lucrative target.

 

AFTERSHOCK

Sam and Liliana bond over the outcome of the Alorum ambush.

 

SAMARITAN

A stranger in a strange land discovers the seeds of a conspiracy that could devastate the Galactic Union.

 

PASSENGER

After the Battle of Terra Sollus, two Korvenites reach a crossroads over their survival.

 

TOGETHER

Jeremy Nwosu travels with his father to Rothor IV for Honaa's funeral.

 

BIRTHRIGHT

In Terra Sollus’s remote grasslands, a hidden community of Korvenites deals with the fallout from Maelstroms attack.

 

MEMORIA

Sam and Habraum say a final farewell to Honaa.

 

GIFTED

A young Nnaxan child's nightmares reveal his family’s bleak future.

 

REUNION

Habraum deals with an unexpected gathering and a staggering discovery.

 

 

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Visit my website for more details:

www.ccekeke.com

 
Bound

Captain Honaa Ishliba was in full black and grey Star Brigade captain’s uniform when he received the bad news. It was currently nighttime, with only medimechs floating around Hollus Maddrone’s main Medcenter and its labs.

Honaa sat across the desk of Dr. Rwynyr Simony in the latter’s office, his triangular-snouted jaw hanging agape. Suddenly, the maroon-skinned Rothorid couldn’t feel his own legs.

“You’re joking, yesss?” he hissed, hoping it had been a joke,
praying
it had been a joke.

The Xyobic doctor’s face usually beamed. Yet tonight it was a study in graveness, the paper-thin fronds stick from his forehead limp with sorrow. Simony had his upper arms folded and his lower hands on his hips. “I wish I were joking, old friend.”

Honaa shook his head, a vain attempt to fight off the horrifying reality slowly marinating through his brain. Had Dr. Simony gotten better at keeping a straight face, or was this the truth? “Hasss to be a misssstake.”

“I’m afraid not. These tests are—”

“Run thossse tessstsss again,” Honaa demanded, barely hearing the doctor. “
All
of them.”

“Honaa—”

“Run. Them. Again,” Honaa repeated slowly, an edge of menace in his voice. Dr. Simony ran the tests again, drawing blood, full body bioscan, again down to the genetic level.

The test results did not change.

Honaa’s mind was reeling. In the midst of the sterile, off-white office, he felt like a stain. The fifteen-year Star Brigade veteran was sick from a disease that struck maximums at random, a spiteful cosmic toss of the dice.

The anger had fled, leaving only fear and shock and questions. “How?
How
did this occur?” Honaa was frantically pacing back and forth in Simony’s office, anxiety making his thick tail stand at rigid attention.

“That is the insidious thing about this pestilence. It can strike anyone with maximal abilities. Anyone.” Simony stood stock still behind his desk as Honaa paced. The Xyobic’s sober, unemotional answers didn’t ease Honaa’s shock and dread at all, but the Rothorid appreciated the tone regardless. The last thing he needed was to worry about someone else’s panic.

“But…I feel fine. Except for the slight fatigue and power fluctuation…” Honaa’s voice drifted off at the memory of how this nightmare had started. Last week he’d felt abnormally tired by just generating a phase shift during a group practice with some rookies. At the time, Honaa had written it off as fatigue. These past few weeks he’d been running around Conuropolis, begging UComm higher-ups for support in what felt like an impossible bid to avert Star Brigade’s decommissioning. Then, in a solo practice yesterday, Honaa again had trouble maintaining a phase shift. He instantly scheduled a full checkup, three months early.

Now, the Rothorid veteran would have given anything to go back to that point in time where he had no clue what was wrong. The fear had escalated, forming a vise around his chest and squeezing, making breathing a challenge.

“What you’ve been experiencing,” Dr. Simony continued, “are preliminary symptoms of the disease.”

“I heard casesss where if caught in time, it can be cured,” Honaa ventured, grasping desperately for some lifeline.

Simony shook his head immediately. “I’m sorry, Honaa, but we caught this too late.”

Honaa’s heart ached, and the fear clenched tighter. So this was permanent, and guaranteed to get worse. He had to know when, to plan and prepare. “How much time do I have?”

“By the looks of it, 2-3 months. You’ll have to resign from active field duty, obviously. Not immediately, but soon.”

The facts of his dilemma flooded in, drowning his already overwhelmed thoughts. “Sssam and I are the only sssenior officersss left,” he realized aloud, feeling the panic squeezing a little tighter, his hissing growing higher and more manic. “Ssshe’ss not even a captain!”

“I know,” the Xyobic nodded.

“If I ressssign and word getsss out why, Ssstar Brigade will be finissshed.” The gravity of that statement hit like a meteor strike.

The doctor’s features spasmed, as if pained. “I can offer a solution to dampen the symptoms—”

The mere suggestion stopped Honaa in his tracks. He whirled on the Xyobic, sharp teeth bared. “I will NOT cover up my affliction!”

The Xyobic jerked back in surprise, but recovered his composure quickly. “Was not suggesting it. I remember the xenotrophin scandal.”

The memories that Simony’s pointed tone shook loose shuddered through Honaa from head to tail.

Almost nine years had passed since Honaa had stumbled upon a fellow Star Brigadier, a legend within the organization, with the same illness. Yet, in this now-former Brigadier’s obsession to remain field active, she had chosen to hide it using illegal xenotrophin boosters and developed quite the addiction. Legend or not, Honaa had felt no remorse for reporting her cover-up to Star Brigade’s senior officers. The irony of finding himself in the same position forced a dour hiss of laughter out of Honaa.

By now the illness must have rendered the former Brigadier powerless, the same fate awaiting Honaa. Fear squeezed at his chest once more and the laughter subsided. “I-I am sssorry, friend,” he said in a listless voice. Simony deserved none of the vitriol he’d brandished. “Thisss isss all much to take in.” Honaa sank into a seat, defeated.

“I can give you medication to lessen the fluctuations for a time,” Simony slowly approached his old friend, “so you can get your affairs with Star Brigade in order.”

Honaa stared off at nothing. He had pondered his future a lot over the last year, but this new wrinkle changed everything.

The touch of the doctor’s upper right hand on his shoulder startled Honaa back into the present. “You have done all you can to save the Brigade,” Xyobic said compassionately, staring down at the Rothorid. “Even your fellow Rothorids would not fault you from walking away.”

Honaa’s answer was an icy stare. As versed as Rwynyr Simony was in the biology of countless species, he was thoroughly oblivious in regards to Rothorid culture, how they would react if he retired, yet left without doing everything possible to save Star Brigade. Honaa swallowed his ire and shook the doctor’s hand. “My thanksss. I will let you know what I decide.”

After departing the Medcenter, the first place Honaa wanted to go was Memorial Hall, to look upon former Brigadiers and forerunners fallen in battle for answers. Should he leave now or wait until the end? But to look upon those life-like holograms who had served Star Brigade valiantly, incapable of preserving what they had died for?
No, I can’t face them. Not when I know that I will fail them.

Honaa took a less frequented translifter back to his quarters.

Before he could step two feet inside his quarters, a chime informed him of a long-distance transmission. After the news he’d received, Honaa had the overpowering urge to ignore it. “Origin of transssmission?” he wearily asked.

“Rothor IV,” the computer voice chirped. Honaa accepted the call without another thought.

In a few moments, the hardlight hologram of another Rothorid appeared; a female shorter than Honaa by half a foot and sinewy in build. Her dark green scales, spiny head crest and stubby two-foot tail indicated a Rothorid subspecies from the wetwoods. Her eyes were blood red, with razor-thin black pupils and a flatter muzzle than Honaa’s. Her features were sharp, pointed—the most beautiful face Honaa had ever known.

“Jashee,” he addressed her in Wuiroth, the hissing native tongue of the Rothorids. He gave her a nod to the left, the standard show of affection for a Rothorid’s one companion. “Thisss sssurprise isss mossst pleasssant.”

“Honaa,” Jashee Ishliba replied in Wuiroth, doing the sideways head nod to the right. “You are missssed amongssst usss.”

Honaa had not even thought of how to tell Jashee. On instinct he planned to do what he had been doing over the past several months—give a vaguely detailed story under the pretext of classified information. Jashee didn’t need to know how he had not been on an official active mission in almost four months. It might come across as whining about doing his duty. The half-formed story was just leaving his lips. The next thing Honaa knew, the words just started to spill out.

Honaa told her
everything
.

The whole time he spoke, Jashee’s scaled and muzzled face remained a mask, giving away nothing. After finishing, he felt surprising relief from sharing this, his inner burden unexpectedly lighter.

Jashee regarded him in silence for a long moment before asking one question. “What will you do?”

He wanted to return to Rothor IV and his family. Honaa was sick of the frustration, sick of sitting around being useless, sick of the political games UComm was playing with his and the other Brigadiers, sick of watching the corpse of Star Brigade slowly rot into nothing. Honaa wanted out.

But his selfish wants were not what Star Brigade needed. And that was not what would honor his family on Rothor.  Honaa gazed upon his companion’s magnificent face, with that unyielding and resolute strength shining through.

Honor your duty. Honor your family.
The words every Rothorid lived by thundered through his skull. He thought of those that had fallen in battle almost a year ago on Beridaas. He thought of the dozen-and-a-half rookies with no direction and no leadership. He thought of Sam D’Urso, who could have left months ago, but stood by him and Star Brigade. Honaa thought of his offspring, who would be judged by the choices he would make regarding Star Brigade. The choice was easy then.

“I am bound by duty, oath and honor to ssstay and fight for Ssstar Brigade’sss sssurvival,” he hissed, remaining as bloodless in face as his companion. “If thisss affliction takesss itsss toll firssst, then I will find another way to ssserve. Either way, this mussst stay sssecret until that day comesss. But if Ssstar Brigade doesssn’t sssurvive…then I can return home to you and the offssspring.”

Only then did Jashee’s mask crack. Sadness, need, pride and love rippled across her muzzle. “Tha-that choice will honor our family greatly,” her hiss was whisper-soft, yet sharp as a razor.

The Rothorid male bowed his head, “Assss our family dessservesss.”

She smiled, displaying the most radiant sharp teeth Honaa had ever seen. “You alwaysss will be the conssstant ssstar of my exissstence.”

“And you, mine…my one, my only,” Honaa whispered back, His heart warming. He ached to touch her, caress her.
Not yet,
he reminded himself painfully.
Not until my duty is done.
The Rothorid held up a taloned hand. Jashee held up hers, until the two hands pressed together via hardlight hologram. Honaa closed his eyes and inhaled. He heard his one companion’s tail rattle with bliss. Across an ocean of stars, for a brief while, they were one yet again.

When the transmission ended and Jashee’s hologram faded, Honaa was alone in his quarters. Then the fear of tomorrow returned.

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