Read The Mars Shock Online

Authors: Felix R. Savage

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Alien Invasion, #Colonization, #Exploration, #First Contact, #Galactic Empire, #Military, #Space Fleet, #Post-Apocalyptic, #Space Opera, #Space Exploration, #Science fiction space opera thriller

The Mars Shock

BOOK: The Mars Shock
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THE MARS SHOCK

THE SOLARIAN WAR SAGA, BOOK 6

 

 

Felix R. Savage

 

 

Copyright © 2016 by Felix R. Savage

 

The right to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by Felix R. Savage. 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 publisher or author.

 

First published in the United States of America in 2016 by Knights Hill Publishing.

 

Cover art by Tom Edwards

Interior layout by Felix R. Savage

 

THE SOLARIAN WAR SAGA

 

Keep Off The Grass
(short origin story)

Crapkiller (prequel novella)

1. The Galapagos Incident

2. The Vesta Conspiracy

A Very Merry Zero-Gravity Christmas
(short story)

3. The Mercury Rebellion

The Elfrida Goto Trilogy
(includes
The Galapagos Incident,
The Vesta Conspiracy
, and
The Mercury Rebellion)

4. The Luna Deception

5. The Phobos Maneuver

6. The Mars Shock

7. The Callisto Gambit
(coming soon!)

 

 

Sign up for my no-spam newsletter to get a FREE copy of
Crapkiller,
the prequel to the Solarian War Saga. You’ll also get access to exclusive giveaways and pre-launch copies of new releases!

http://felixrsavage.com/signup

 

 

THE MARS SHOCK

 

i.

 

Colden knew Danny Drudge was going to be trouble as soon as she set eyes on him.

Barely a meter sixty, runny-nosed, spotty-chinned, he looked like he should’ve still been in high school, but he stepped off the landing shuttle blabbering like a wizened vet.

“Roses are red, violets are blue, a vial of lovejuice is cheaper than you.”

The target of his humor, a big-bosomed girl with silky black hair, stammered out a lame comeback.

“Shut the fuck up, all of you,” Colden yelled, staring directly at Drudge.

Each of the seven newbies had a profile bubble floating above their heads. In the heavily shielded interior of Alpha Base, wireless comms worked. So Colden knew each of their names, she knew which impoverished corner of Earth they each came from, and she knew they’d had exactly two months of training. On Mars, that should be enough to keep them alive. It wouldn’t necessarily keep them healthy. She was proof.

She herded them away from the busy junction outside the scrubbing area, and took them through the garden to the quartermaster’s office. Each of them signed for a sleeping bag, minimal toiletries, and a couple of changes of uniform. Every gram of mass carried by the landing shuttles was the subject of an intra-agency bidding war, every flight. The Space Corps always lost. After all, they were just telepresence operators. They didn’t need high-spec protective gear. So they had to print their stuff on base from recyclable materials. The black-haired girl, Allison Gwok, fingered her new uniform, grimacing at the greasy feel of the non-organic fabric.

Colden took them to their berthing, a ten-rack cabin on the other side of the garden. This was the bottom deck of the base, apart from the garage and scrubbing area. You could feel the vibration of the treads crunching over the Martian regolith. They sat on their bunks and stared at her. All except Drudge. He bit into an ear of dwarf corn he must have swiped on their way through the garden. “It’s real!” he exclaimed, chomping.

“Yes,” Colden said, “and you’re not allowed to pick the corn,
or
the strawberries, or the apricolmonds, as you must have been told.”

“Aw, chica. I mean, ma’am. It’s there for us to eat, isn’t it?”

“It is, but the culinary services specialists do the picking. The garden is basically a lifestyle benefit. They had to do
something
to make this place a bit less hellish.”

She smiled. They didn’t smile back. Their faces and blue-uniformed bodies were like bunches of flowers in the paintless, cheerless berthing. It healed Colden a little bit to see them—still untouched by Mars, like a breath of Earth air. Not that they’d stay that way for long.

“I heard they have a suicide problem out here,” Drudge said.

“Yup,” Colden said. “But that’s the infantry. In the Space Corps, we just die of lack of exercise. We never go outside, you know.”

Justin Mattis—a bulked-out, tattooed bruiser—said stoically, “Guess we just gotta win this war, brah.”

“Could be a while,” Colden said. “A few more weeks, a few more years, we just don’t know. Every time we gain some momentum, something happens and we bog down again. When we first landed, they said the war was as good as won. Obviously not. They told me I would be rotated out after a month. It’s been three months. The PLAN just keeps coming up with new ways to torture us.” She smiled, but she was flashing on faces exploding, hot blood spattering her optic lenses. They followed her home and mutely asked:
Why?
And she answered,
Because we have to win.
But that wasn’t something she wanted to share with the newbies. They’d find out what it was like, all too soon.

Mattis was muttering a question to Drudge. Colden said, “Care to share that, Mattis?”

“Ma’am, I was just asking, what’s the PLAN?”

The other newbies tittered. Mattis looked embarrassed.

“That’s actually a very good question, Mattis,” Colden said. “The easy answer is it’s an AI.”

“It’s been nuking our space colonies since forever!” Drudge chimed in, regurgitating the media’s canned version of the long war. “And now we’re
finally
nuking it back, YEEEAHH!”

“Like I said, that’s the easy answer,” Colden said. “The PLAN came into existence here on Mars in 2165. It slaughtered all the colonists and immediately began to build out its own energy grid and manufacturing infrastructure. Earth took a cautious stance, waiting and watching, until a Chinese fleet fell into the PLAN’s hands. The AI reverse-engineered and improved the Chinese ships on a massive scale. Then it was game on. As you said, Drudge, the PLAN began to attack our colonies throughout the solar system, targeting purebloods. We don’t talk much about that anymore, because it doesn’t matter.” She deliberately did not look at the newbies who appeared to be purebloods themselves. It didn’t matter anymore, because the PLAN no longer had the luxury of selecting its targets. “What matters is that we are here now, fighting to eliminate this threat to humanity, and we’re doing a damn good job, considering how much we
still
don’t know. What is the PLAN? The answer, Mattis, is we don’t really have any idea. But we don’t
need
to, to stomp it.”

“YEEEAHH!” Drudge said.

The others looked more confused, rather than less.

Colden worked up a smile. “Don’t worry about it. Just do the job, and let the wonks work out what it all means.”

This was the best advice she had to give. They gazed at her with the merciless pity of the young.

“When’s chow?” Drudge said.

Colden sighed. “I was trying to break it to you gently. Our shift starts in—” she glanced at her wrist tablet— “sixteen minutes. Don’t worry, you’ll have an IV.”


Here in Alpha Base, Jennifer Colden was a short, curvy woman of Tutsi heritage, with a posh accent she had inherited from her adoptive parents. She was thirty-two and seriously out of shape. It was a professional hazard for telepresence operators.

On the job, she was an eight-foot combat-optimized robot with an armored carapace, a Faraday cage around her head, a flechette cannon in her right arm, a slug-thrower in her left arm, and hydraulic legs that ate the klicks relentlessly.

She led her platoon, including all seven newbies, at a run across a sandy canyon in Sulci Gordii, the corrugated doormat of Olympus Mons. She calculated their route by inertial guidance, with help from the radio-navigation beacons mounted on Star Force’s surface vehicles. Mars had no geomagnetism, so compasses didn’t work. It was the middle of the day, but a thick blanket of dust hid the sun. The haze reduced visibility to a few hundred meters of rock-strewn desert.

They zigzagged through a rubble field. Sharp-edged boulders stood at improbable low-gee angles. The wind blew eddies of dust up from dark patches of sand fused into glass by intense heat. Satellite data showed that they were passing near an impact crater the size of a city block.

“What made
that,
brah?” Mattis asked on the operator chat channel.

“The crater?” Colden responded. “A piece of Phobos.”

Mattis’s phavatar tilted its head at the sky. “Figure there’s more of ’em coming?”

Colden laughed. “Yeah. Pieces fall out of the sky every day. Some of them are just pebbles. Some are big. But statistically, you’re more likely to die of a pulmonary embolism from spending too long on the couch.”

Behind them, Alpha Base dwindled to a black beetle on the horizon. Star Force referred to Alpha Base and its sisters as MFOBs—Mobile Forward Operating Bases. The personnel who lived in them called them, with no little irony, hell on wheels. Alpha Base massed 500,000 tons and sheltered two and a half hundred people within its impact-shielded hull. It was actually one half of a space station borrowed from a colony out Venus way, with treads slapped on, and a launch pad for shuttles hitched to the back. Humanity had not been prepared to fight this war. Even the lethal phavatars used by the Space Corps had humanoid faces behind their mesh masks, left over from their previous existence as therapists, nurses, and daycare workers.

In the telepresence center on 03 Deck, Colden lay on a couch, headset jammed over her braids, gloves on her hands, feedback booties on her feet. An IV fed a nutritional drip into her cubital port.

“We’re almost there,” she said. “We’ll be RV’ing with Combat Unit Alpha 15 inside the city.”

Ahead of them loomed a tableland 200 meters tall. The city wall crowned it like some medieval fortification. Constructed of reinforced Martian concrete, the wall was so high you could see it from space. It formed a shape like an ampersand, with a big gap in the southeast corner. The PLAN had not built its cities for defensibility. They were—according to the eggheads—
art.
Viewed from space, they formed glyphs that looked kind of like Chinese characters, but weren’t. The Chinese couldn’t work out what the hell they meant, either.

Few of these fascinating artifacts survived. The fall of Phobos had scoured the equatorial regions of the planet clean. This catastrophic event, named the Big Breakup by Earth’s media, had started late last year, when a gang of rogue pilots had sabotaged the PLAN’s fleet of orbital fortresses—fragments of Phobos, which the Plan had taken apart decades ago and kitted out with big guns. The daredevil pilots, led by Bob Miller of the Luna Union, had steered one of these moonlets onto a collision course with its neighbor, setting off an unstoppable chain reaction. As soon as they started to collide with each other, the fragments had shattered into smaller and smaller pieces, reducing their ballistic coefficients, and causing their orbits to decay. Not just one, but dozens of moonlets had slammed into Mars at tens of thousands of kilometers per hour. Each one had delivered the impact of a nuclear fusion bomb—or
several
nuclear fusion bombs.

Colden had watched the first, worst days of the Big Breakup from a Star Force carrier in orbit. Giant impact craters had glowed red-hot, while molten ejecta spewed into space. For a while, Mars had seemed to wear a cummerbund of fire.
God,
it had been pretty.

Everything within 20 degrees of the equator had been annihilated. Seismic shocks so intense they were off the Richter scale had travelled around the planet, resonance piling on resonance, levelling PLAN artworks as far away as the poles. Fragments ranging from the size of a pebble to the size of a house continued to fall out of the sky on a daily basis.

BOOK: The Mars Shock
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