Authors: Andrew Beery
The Catherine Kimbridge Chronicles #4,
Copyright 2014, Andrew Beery
Kindle Edition, v9
d like to thank my wife Lori and my two daughters, CJ and Jackie, for putting up with me while I wrote this fourth book in the Kimbridge series. Any similarities between people in this book and my immediate family and friends is purely intentional. Of course, I would
t be much of a pastor if I did
t acknowledge Go
– to Him be all the glory!
NOTE from the author
eBooks from independent writers are typically not edited to the same standard as paper books. Although this book has been professionally edited there are likely some remaining errors. One of the advantages of KINDLE is the ability to update... It allows readers to get access to a book they have been waiting for more quickly (and more cheaply) than might otherwise be possible. Please help my editors by posting any corrections, missing words, wrong words, etc., to my Facebook page setup for that purpose... The direct link is here...
The Catherine Kimbridge Chronicles, #4 - Retribution
Chapter One - Friends Not Forgotten...
2124 was the year I began to fully appreciate the meaning of fea
not for myself but for those I have come to love. The GCP and her allies fought to free entire populations from the horrors of slavery. The fight would ultimately span the better part of a generation and hundreds of worlds across two universes and multiple galaxies within each. War in any universe is a terrible thing. Friends were lost and friends were made... but in the end, decades later, I'm forced to ask myself -- was it worth it?
The young soldier next to her remained frozen in place. His armor showed signs of heavy abuse, but she doubted a malfunction was the source of the sudden freeze-up. That would be the massive line of enemy track vehicles moving in their direction that suddenly appeared on their suit scanners. Admiral Cat Kimbridge kicked his shin. The metallic exoskeleton of his battle suit shuddered with the force of the blow. A normal human would not have had the strength to budge the high-tech battle armor, but she was far from a normal human by any measure. It was enough to get his attention.
"Run? Yes, ma'am... Good idea, ma'am!"
The sound of gun fire was deafening. The smoke and fire made visibility difficult. In the background Cat could hear the sound of Syndicate heavy armor moving in their general direction.
"If we can make it to that ridge, I can call in an air strike. How much juice do you have left in your suit?" she yelled over the deafening noise of the battle.
The soldier paused as he checked the combat computer built into his Mark Six battle suit.
"I'm down to about twenty percent on my mains plus two percent on my backups."
He paused for a moment, as he double-checked a readout. "My AI is showing only thirty-eight percent combat effectiveness, due to damage. If I let the repair systems have the power to fix things up, I'll drain both my reserves and be dead in the water."
Cat nodded her silver-clad head. Unlike the marines in the squad she had run into, Cat was not dressed in a battle suit. Instead, her Heshe construction nanites had fabricated a highly advanced flexible metallic skin. She looked like she was wearing silver spandex that covered every inch of her body.
Micro-Emitters dotted the surface of her silver skin, so that close-up her form-fitting metallic shell resembled a golf bal
s dimpled jacket. The hyperfield emitters in her 'skin' wearable to reflect radiant energy as well as reverse kinetic momentum. The result was armor many times more effective than the Mark Six battle suit the marine wore but at a cost. The energy for her enhancements came directly from her organics. This meant she burned through inhuman amounts of calories when she operated in a combat environment. Her last meal had been over a day ago. In short, her own energy reserves were critically low.
She looked around. The buildings in this part of the Modos capital city of Harromog were thoroughly trashed. Days of mortar fire had pretty much destroyed everything in sight. Each side had taken and lost the city several times in the last weeks. The spaceport where her shuttle had crashed three days ago was now just so much rubble. She could see dust clouds nearing her position as the Syndicate armored lines advanced one last time. Most of the in-theater GCP forces had been neutralized. They were quickly running out of options.
Her ultra-sensitive hearing detected the rising pitch of an incoming mortar round as it whistled through the air. The shell would land a few feet away, but before it could impact with the ground Cat's Heshe enhanced reflexes reacted. She threw her body over the young marine, tackling him in the process. The force of the explosion sent shrapnel flying in every direction. Several pieces struck her armor. The active shielding in her armor warped local physics and reversed the momentum of the objects hitting her. They bounced off her like balls bouncing off a wall. The cost was a few thousand calories. She was seriously hungry.
Cat queried her embedded AI. "Cal, do a sensor sweep. Give me enemy movement and let me know if there is a functioning power source nearby."
"Enemy movement detected. I estimate your position will be overrun in three point four minutes. A significant power source has also been detected. It is currently outputting thirty-six thousand kilowatts."
"Perfect... that's exactly what we need. Where is it?"
"Approximately two hundred meters directly below you."
SIX WEEKS EARLIER
Admiral Catherine Kimbridge sat once again on the bridge of the GCP
. She rested a hand on the armrest of her chair. The tips of her fingers caressed the supple black surface; she smiled
... It was good to be home.
had returned to Sol; it was traveling in-system at two-tenths the speed of light toward Earth. The GCP's flagship was escorting the Suhtian Defense League's flagship, the
, to a meeting at Orbital One. The World President and the GCP Admiralty Board were eager to meet with both the Suhtian Defense League and the Modos Liberation Front, which was being represented by her friend Running Stream.
Captain Running Stream, formerly of the Modos Syndicate, stood at her side on the bridge. He was
t quite the same man Cat had met those many weeks ago on the
. Running Stream was truly a hybrid being now. His Suhtii partner He-Who-Speaks had recently been augmented with a cognitive prosthesis that enabled the Bearephant to think at a level comparable to his genetically unaltered ancestors.
The Modos portion of the hybrid had been afraid his Suhtii friend would be unwilling to remain a part of their symbiotic partnership once the prosthesis was activated, but in fact the opposite was the case. The true friendship that had characterized their relationship was now even more fully established.
"I look forward to meeting with the leadership of your Galactic Coalition," Running Stream whispered. "Kidnapping you was the best thing the rebellion ever did."
"I'll grant you points for an unusual way to recruit allies," Cat said, with a smirk.
Lieutenant Zimmerman, the
s communication officer, tapped his ear and glanced at her.
"What have you got, Ziggy?"
"Ma'am, I just received a message from Commander Trifa's shuttle. He and his party will be joining you on Orbital One within the hour. He also said to tell you, 'Success,' but there is no explanation."
"That's all right, Ziggy," Cat said, with a wide grin. She tapped Running Stream's shoulder with her fist. "I know what it means."
Commander Trifa was a Hupenstanii. One of the first member races to join the GCP. He, like all members of his race, looked like an iridescent green kangaroo with a nub tail. They were affectionately known as Hoppers even by their own people. Natural linguists with a keen sense of cultural interplay, they had proven themselves invaluable in first-contact situations.
Commander Trifa had just completed a mission to establish relations with a new race... the Agur. The Agur were collectors. They seemed to have an unbridled passion for archiving information. They referred to themselves a
gatherers of wisdom
As a result, they were inquisitive explorers. This activity had unfortunately resulted in the Modos slavers discovering a small group of Agur scientists at an off-world archeological dig. The GCP
under the command of the late Captain William Roberts, had rescued the scientists and returned them home.
The Agur monarchy had invited Captain Roberts to return once the immediate Modos situation had been resolved. Unfortunately the Captain had died in a subsequent attack by the Modos Syndicate. Commander Trifa had been sent in his stead. Cat's gut had told her the Agur were going to be critically important allies. If she had learned anything in her unusual life, she had learned to trust her gut.
Snatch Bait, the newly elected chairman of the board of the Modos Syndicate, watched the animation play out on the holographic projector. He had watched this particular display a dozen or more times, yet he remained captivated by it.
It depicted the influx of hundreds of thousands of Modos ships into GCP space. This would be the largest mobilization of Syndicate resources in almost a thousand years. They would crush this so-called Galactic Coalition and add their member worlds to the growing list of slave planets under their control.
No expense was to be spared. Most of these ships carried entire combat divisions with ground assault fighters, artillery, heavy tanks, and the support staff to keep them fighting. It was going to be a glorious victory, and the profits derived from the sale of the new slave territories to the Syndicate member worlds would pay for this mobilization many times over.
He had been debating where he wanted to be when the fighting took place. He was not a brave man, but this was a momentous occasion. History would remember him all the better if he could at least claim he was on the front lines.
He made up his mind. He turned to speak to a squat, lizard-like slave from some backwater planet the Syndicate had acquired fifty-odd years ago
Have my skiff made ready and inform the Admiral that I will be joining hi
Captain Hikaro Takei stepped back into the shadows. His active-camouflage chameleon suit immediately blended with the surroundings. Even his face, covered with a form-fitting hood, re-colorized to match the appearance of the masonry behind him. The suit had been a gift from WhimPy-101. The AI on the Heshe defense platform had joked it was a 'rebirth-day' present.
Takei, along with
his entire crew on the ill-fated GCP
had been captured in a battle near the galactic core several weeks ago. With the help of his medical nanites Takei had essentially faked his death. He had been on a Modos slaver transport destined for the Syndicate slave markets on a world known as Naanac. His presumed corpse had been off-loaded from the ship and left unguarded. Once his body was alone, the fully cloaked WhimPy, by then in orbit around Naanac, sent a remote signal to the nanites in Takei's body and he was revived from his medically induced morbidity. The same trick had been used by his entire captured crew. The bulk of them, now fully revived, were on the cloaked WhimPy platform orbiting above Naanac.
Hikaro and an elite team that included his security chief, a medical officer,
and several marines were with him on the planet's surface gathering intel. The information they secured would be used by the GCP in dealing with the Modos threat.
Hikaro moved stealthily. Several frog-like bipeds were approaching Takei's position. He froze in place. He knew his suit would hide him from prying eyes, but acoustic tells could still betray him. One of the creatures stopped and turned to look at him. Takei's heart nearly stopped. The being took a step forward. He looked confused. He sensed something, but his eyes were telling him there was nothing there. His companion made a grunting sound in a language Takei didn't understand; the first creature chortled and stepped back. They continued on their way. Takei waited a full minute before he dared to breathe again.
The best defense was sometimes a strong offense. The Modos Syndicate's main corporate headquarters was over a thousand light-years closer to the galactic core, but the last two Board chairmen had a strong preference for conducting business on Naanac with its still pristine oceans and warm black sand beaches. Naanac was where the Modos leadership was planning the upcoming invasion of GCP space.