Read a sample : Armageddon Unleashed

 

On this page you can read the first Chapter of my seventh Sci-Fi book “Armageddon Unleashed”, available on Amazon kindle. If you like it, please don't hesitate to share via the social media buttons at the bottom of the page.

 

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't read the previous books, reading this sample can spoil some of the story line, which I don't recommend.

Artwork by Christian Kallias

Chapter 1

     “Course set for Earth,” said Sarah. “I’ve got First Admiral Zenakis hailing us.”

     Chase grimaced.

     “I’ll take it in my ready room.”

     A moment later Chase addressed the holo-screen. “Admiral, it’s good to see you alive and breathing. We’ve been under the assumption that the First Fleet was lost during the initial assault against the Star Alliance.”

     “I don’t think we’ve had the pleasure. Captain Chase Athanatos, is it?”

     “Yes, Admiral. And no, we haven’t. But your reputation precedes you.”

     “I’m going to cut to the chase, if you’ll pardon the pun, Captain. I was under the impression we were going back to Alpha Prime, where I would meet my old friend Commodore Saroudis, but you seem to have redirected the entire fleet towards Earth without asking me.”

     “I’m sorry, Admiral. This is an emergency. A vile AI is attacking Earth. Without the help of that world, the new Earth Alliance wouldn’t exist today, and, incidentally, your ships might never have been freed from their state.”

     “Even so, Captain—and this is why I’m calling you instead of ordering you—there is such a thing as a chain of command. Last I checked, a first admiral vastly outranks a captain.”

     Really? We’re going to do this now? Talk about inconvenient timing.

     “Yes, Admiral. But technically you’re not part of the Earth Alliance, are you? You’re not exactly my superior officer. Granted, I was a Star Alliance Lieutenant before the Earth Alliance was formed, and you probably see it as one and the same, but surely you’ve noticed the ten Olympian destroyers in the fleet?”

     “I have, and I will admit I did not think the Olympians actually existed outside myths.”

     “There’s a lot you’ll want to become acquainted with regarding the events that happened after the fall of the Star Alliance, Admiral. But right now Earth is the home for this new alliance. We’ve been driven away by a mad AI intent on its destruction. That same AI just executed two of my friends in front of my crew. I can’t let this go unanswered, and I have the commodore supporting my actions.”

     First Admiral Zenakis’ gaze intensified. “So if I understand you correctly, Captain, should I issue an order to you now, you’d refuse it?”

     Do I really need to say it out loud?

     “I’m afraid so, Admiral. Right now, with the fate of Earth in the balance, I’d only take orders from the commodore should he decide to cancel this mission.”

     Zenakis played with his beard. “I see. So if I were to call the commodore he’d tell me he’s authorized this mission of yours?”

     “Not exactly. Or not in so many words.”

     “I see that my first impression of you is warranted, Captain. You are a loose cannon. You’ve made this decision on your own.”

     For fuck’s sake, I really don’t have time for this.

     “With all due respect, Admiral, I have the commodore’s full confidence. I know he would support my decision.”

     “And yet you haven’t told him.”

     Well if I wasn’t held up on the line with you, I might be doing that now.

     “Correct, but rest assured he is my next call.”

     “Mine as well, Captain, mine as well.”

     “I can’t stress how important it is that we deal with this AI permanently, and swiftly.”

     “Am I correct in assuming you have a plan?”

     Well, sort of.

     “That’s correct, Admiral.”

     “Do you mind sharing it with me? If I’m going to put my ships and my crew in harm’s way, I need to know why and with whom we’re doing this.”

     “May I suggest I present my plan to both yourself and Saroudis at the same time? Right now it hinges on some points that need clarification.”

     “Why am I neither surprised nor enthused by this? Let me tell you why, Captain, as I pride myself on being a good judge of character. My gut tells me you’re a hothead. Perhaps a genius, or perhaps just lucky. I don’t really care which. But you seem to think you have the ability, and right, to decide the fate of everyone around you. How am I doing so far?”

    Painfully and annoyingly accurate.

    “Admiral, while we could debate this more, for now I think it serves neither of our respective interests. I understand your reluctance to blindly trust me, my instincts or my methods, so I invite you to contact Commodore Saroudis. A lot has happened since you left. The Star Alliance has been defeated, we’ve met the Olympians, and they’ve set me on my current path. The commodore understands this, and hopefully so will you.”

     “Are you a betting man, Captain Athanatos?”

     “No, why?”

     “Because hell will freeze over before I entrust the lives of everyone on board my fleet to someone just because he thinks he’s following some sort of destiny.”

     That’s just great.

     “However,” Zenakis continued, “as a gesture of respect for old-wolf Saroudis, I will follow your fleet until I have listened to what the commodore has to say on your behalf. You’d better pray his confidence in you is as ironclad as you seem to think it is, because if it isn’t, we’re not coming to Earth with you.”

     With or without you, we’re going anyway.

     “Understood, Admiral.”

     “We’ll be in touch, Captain. Soon. Zenakis out.”

     The holo-transmission ended before Chase could say anything else. Not that he looked forward to continuing this barren chat. Saroudis would back him up, that much Chase was certain of. But this First Admiral Zenakis sounded like bad news. The last thing he needed was a by-the-book admiral in charge of things. Fortunately, as long as they didn’t rejoin the Earth Alliance officially, Chase had the leeway to deal with the emergency at hand. And, right now, that meant ridding Earth of Gaia 2.

 

*   *   *

     Sarah exited the shower with nothing but a towel around her shoulders and sat on the bed next to Chase. He was pensive.

     “You can’t sleep either?”

     “No.”

     “Are you sure going to Earth is the right move? This Gaia 2 means business. She’ll kill the first million the moment she detects us.”

     “We’ll have to make sure we’re not detected, then.”

     “That’s all well and good, but how?”

     “That’s why I can’t sleep. I haven’t determined that bit yet. And I’m contemplating the consequences should I fail to find a solution.”

     “As hard as it is to say it, this is war, and we have to expect casualties.”

     “We’ve had our share of them already: Gaia, Spiros, and many more. I’m sure you’ve noticed the blood spatter everywhere around that . . . thing.”

     Sarah nodded. “That’s why perhaps we should go with your initial idea of regrouping on Alpha Prime, take the time to formulate a plan without being under pressure.”

     “I appreciate your concerns, but I can’t let the people of an entire planet be enslaved in ways we can’t even imagine.”

     “Seeing what she has made of Cedric is imagination enough. For a lifetime.”

     “Yeah. How can I take my time if there’s a chance of that happening to billions? Plus, now that all equipment on Earth has been disabled, it will slow down her efforts to mount an adequate defense and deploy her troops. She might not have any on board these ships. She is artificial, after all. She probably operates them without the need for a crew.”

     “So attack her when she’s at her weakest?”

     “That’s the idea. Unless you have a better one?”

     “No, I think you’re right. If we wait too long, it might be impossible to reverse whatever damages Gaia 2 causes.”

     “Yeah. We have no choice. Either we sneak back in or take her by force, but we can’t ignore her. She needs to be stopped, or she could become an even more dangerous foe than the Furies.”

     “You don’t believe that.”

     “I don’t know what I believe. But we have to stop her, even if that means millions die. If we do nothing, this number turns to billions, and Earth could be only the beginning. What if she decides one planet isn’t enough? Ego seems to be an overdeveloped characteristic of her flawed code.”

     “I know how you deal with grief and responsibility.”

     “That was before.”

     “No, Chase, these feelings never go away, not entirely.”

     “Your point being?”

     “My point is that you’ll blame yourself for any losses, even if you understand the big picture.”

     “It’s one of the things I need to learn to live with. I’ve learned a lot about myself lately. Like I need to accept the help of everyone around me.”

     He gave her a hug.

     “And that sacrifices,” Chase continued, “no matter how hard they seem at first, might be part of my life and who I am. I accept that now.”

     “You’re right; you have learned much about yourself lately.”

     She kissed him passionately, and they melted into one another in the darkness.

*   *   *

     Oryn stepped out of her regen tank. It took a few minutes to get her bearings, then she was hit with the memory of the end of her fight with the Fury-Olympian hybrid. Chase’s power had surprised her. She now believed what Miseo had reported to her; he’d even hinted at the possibility that Chase could be an Ultra Fury. She had thought he might be exaggerating.

     I guess not. Chase is indeed a formidable foe. But I’ll get him next time.

     Not even her father, the mighty supreme commander of the Furies, had been recognized as an Ultra Fury. But Chase wasn’t yet powerful enough to defeat Arakan. Now that he was back on his meds, Oryn’s father would be easier to talk to and, should the time come, easier to defeat as well. The drugs were making him less volatile but with the side effect of being less powerful.

     When off his meds, his bursts of rage would give him quite a power boost. And perhaps, should he ever face Chase, it would be better if his meds could be countered. Oryn made a mental note to ask the doctor in charge of creating the drug for him.

     Her brother Miseo still floated in the light-red gas suspending him and currently affecting major repairs to his body. When they had brought him in, his heart had stopped. The medical staff had to resuscitate him before putting him in the regen tank.

     She took a look at his vitals; they were still in the red. The damage Chase had inflicted on Miseo was impressive. Oryn wasn’t worried, though; the tank would fix her brother in time. Not that she would miss him much if he was gone, something that looked more and more probable.

     Miseo was too proud for his own good. He let his feelings drive his actions and never thought things through before acting. That was her brother’s biggest weakness, and she feared it would eventually be his downfall.

     The Fury doctor, Oryn’s lead scientist, wore a simple blue uniform with none of the distinction of the soldier’s armor and markings denoting their achievements in the Fury ranks. The Fury was slightly taller than Oryn, which was not that usual. While Fury females rarely grew taller than most men, Oryn was an exception.

     “How do you feel, mighty Oryn?” asked the doctor.

     She passed her hand over the forearm that Chase had burned when he transformed into an Ultra Fury. The skin was completely healed and smooth to the touch as if it had never been injured.

     “Much better, thank you. Where are we with the serum?”

     The doctor’s slight frown told Oryn that the news wouldn’t be what she hoped for.

     “I’m afraid we’ve hit a wall for the moment.”

     “Explain!” said Oryn sharply.

     The doctor swallowed hard. “We need to start experimentation, but the simulations show there is a high probability the subjects could have diminished cognitive functions.”

     “Not acceptable. What kind of cognitive diminishment?”

     “Simulations showed possible interference with brain chemistry. We tested the serum on Gorgs, and their reaction was very peculiar.”

     “Gorgs are cattle. They can’t be a good indicator.”

     “Their DNA is the closest to ours. We’ve always used them to test any new drug. In this case, they quickly attacked and killed one another in their controlled environment, shortly after the drug was used on them.”

     “So it made them angry. These beasts don’t share our ability to control their emotions.”

     “Yes, but we’re talking about animals that usually live in total peace. Under normal conditions, they go to great lengths to protect one another when danger arises. So the switch from pack behavior to bloodthirsty killers from their first exposure to the drug suggests a direct and fast-acting side effect on their cognitive functions.”

     “I don’t care. I need this serum ready for deployment and soon. What do you need to speed up progress?”

     “I would need one or more Fury subjects. We might as well be signing their death warrant, but without doing a Fury trial, I can’t advance my research any further.”

     This reminded Oryn that, luckily, her ships had just managed to escape certain death. She could have lost it all, the serum and its creator as well, if they hadn’t escaped. The Olympian and Star Alliance fleet would have made quick work of her twin destroyers. For a few moments a jump-interdiction field had been erected and they had been prevented from fleeing, but then the field had magically vanished.

     Why was that?

     Could it have anything to do with what the traitor Chase had said during their fight? If he believed Zeus was her father, that could explain why he let her go.

     “Mighty Oryn?” the doctor inquired.

     Oryn had been lost in her thoughts and had forgotten to answer the doctor.

     “You’ll have your test subjects. You can start with my brother when he wakes up.”

     “The mighty Miseo?”

     “Miseo is anything but mighty.”

     “Still, Mistress, this is Supreme Commander Arakan’s son. I would think we’d need the supreme commander’s consent.”

     Oryn’s eyes flashed an icy shade of blue. The room temperature dropped dramatically. Oryn extended both palms towards the doctor’s feet and a prison of ice rose from the floor of the med-bay all the way up to the Fury’s neck.

     “Please, mighty Oryn, stop.”

     “Listen to me and listen well, because I won’t repeat this. And if you ever talk of this or question me in the future, it will be the last thing you ever do. I’m your mistress. You answer to me and me alone. You’ll do as I say and you’ll leave my father out of this.”

     The density of the ice prison increased and started crushing the doctor.

     “Is that perfectly clear?” added Oryn.

     The doctor struggled to utter the word. “Per—fect—ly.”

     Oryn’s eyes stopped shining and, when she snapped her fingers, the deadly, icy prison around the doctor exploded into a million shards.

     He fell to his knees and had trouble moving his limbs. Even with the icy prison gone, his core temperature was still dangerously low. She put a hand on his shoulder.

     “Good. This was your first and only warning. I hope you keep that in mind if you ever have thoughts about informing Arakan of my plans.”

     “I w-won’t—” The cold still made the doctor slow to speak. “My mighty mistress, Oryn, please forgive me.”

     She sent a wave of energy into the doctor, healing frostbite all over his body and transferring much-needed warmth into him.

     “Good. Call me when my brother wakes up.”

     “Thy will be done.”

     Oryn put her hand on her stiff neck and made it crack. She turned her head, testing her neck muscles.

     That’s much better.

     She then left the med-bay while the doctor was still on his knees, a look of utter terror in his eyes while his entire body shivered uncontrollably.

*   *   *

     Chase received an incoming holo-transmission in his ready room. It was Commodore Saroudis.

     “Hello, Chase, I’ve just had a rather tense conversation with First Admiral Zenakis.”

     “I can imagine how that went. We locked horns earlier, and I’m not in the mood for this chain-of-command nonsense right now, not after what happened.”

     “I’ve heard about Spiros, Gaia and the state of things on Earth. I’m really sorry, Chase. As for Zenakis, I think I bought you some time and he agreed to stay on course and help you deal with the Gaia 2 crisis, for the time being. But he seemed resolute about dealing with your place in the chain of command once this is over.”

     “Didn’t I say you should have promoted me to Admiral?” said Chase with a chuckle.

Saroudis smiled, but this quickly reverted to a frown. “I’m glad you haven’t lost your sense of humor, but the truth of the matter is that with the admiral’s return and his eventual integration into the Earth Alliance, he might soon become your new boss, and I’m afraid he won’t give you the same leeway I have.”

     “Does that have to happen, Adonis?”

     “Chase, we can’t be choosy right now. His fleet is massive and could mean the difference between survival and death for the entire alliance.”

     Chase rubbed his chin. “I’m not so sure anymore. Between the Olympians, and perhaps even the Asgardians, we could still acquire way more powerful allies. And I don’t like the idea of you not being in charge anymore.”

     “We both know why that is. You’re in charge for now, Chase. You have been for quite some time.”

     “Still , I’m not sure I will tolerate being told what to do with the fate of the universe in the balance.”

     “We could always refuse his entering the Alliance, but I’m telling you right now, I think it would be a mistake.”

     “Perhaps. We’ll have to deal with that when the time comes. Right now we have more pressing issues.”

     “Would you like me to come with the rest of the fleet and some Obsidian backup? The emperor has thrown us a lifeline, and he’s sent more than enough troops and ships to protect the new shipyards in orbit around Alpha Prime. If I leave now, I would probably arrive at Earth after you, but if you think you could use the backup—”

     Chase stayed pensive for a while.

     “Chase?” Saroudis insisted.

     “I’m sorry, Adonis, I’m having trouble deciding the best course of action. If the Furies choose to attack Alpha Prime while we’re dealing with Earth, then what’s left of the Destiny battlegroup could be needed there. On the other hand, we need to deal with Gaia 2 once and for all.”

     “Speaking of which, do you have a plan?”

     “I’ve been brooding over one ever since we set course towards Earth. It’s contingent on a stealthy approach, which won’t be easy. We need to work out how to neutralize Gaia 2 or, at the very least, distract her while we engage her fleet and make sure she doesn’t immediately retaliate by killing millions of innocents by shooting down on the planet from her orbiting ships.”

     “How do you distract such a powerful AI?”

     “I’ll need some help from Yanis and our new Asgardian guest.”

     “That Kvasir person? Is he willing to help us?”

     “Oh yeah, he’s very enthusiastic about it. He’s very grateful to us for recovering his freedom. I was hoping he would help us in the negotiation with the rest of his people, but his castaway status might not play in our favor. Still, I feel in my bones that he’s going to play an important role in what’s to come.”

     “Your instincts haven’t failed you up to now, so all I can say is trust in them and in yourself to make the right choice. If you need my help, I can have the Destiny battlegroup enter hyperspace shortly and join you. Just say the word.”

     Chase could use any backup, and the mad AI threat had to be dealt with. Aphroditis had warned him, but he thought he would have more time. Obviously, the time to strike and destroy Gaia 2 was now and not later. With her very volatile and ruthless personality, she could cause irreparable damage to humanity. Something Chase couldn’t and wouldn’t let happen.

     “Alright then, Adonis, come and join us as soon as you can. I’ll keep you informed of my plan via subspace. Having a backup fleet enter the conflict as a second wave could give us a tactical advantage.”

     “Sounds good, Chase. If I may, though?”

     “I’m listening.”

     “You look exhausted. You should get some sleep.”

     I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

     “I’ve tried sleeping, but it eludes me for the time being.”

     “I can understand that. Still, go see the doc. He’ll give you something to help with that.” 

     “Will do. It’s good to see you, Adonis. Thanks for the call and thanks for diffusing the tension with Admiral Zenakis. I simply can’t deal with that right now.”

     “Anytime, Chase. Saroudis out.”

     Chase walked to the viewport of his ready room. His gaze locked on the purple and blue light show of hyperspace outside the ship and it didn’t take long for him to get lost in it.

*   *   *

     “Hard to port!” Commodore Adonis Saroudis yelled.

     The Destiny barely managed to evade the barrage of torpedoes and was still hit multiple times.

     “Shields down to seven percent, Commodore. We can’t take much more of this,” shouted the tactical officer.

     Saroudis looked grave. There weren’t many options left.

     “Incoming transmission from Earth,” said Comms Officer Menakopoulos.

     “On screen.”

     The concerned face of General Adams filled the large holo-screen on the Destiny’s bridge.

     “Commodore, that Fury planet killer is about to fire. We can’t let that happen!”

     “Understood, General.”

     Saroudis turned the holo-transmission off from his captain’s chair.

     “Condition Red. All non-essential crew to the escape pods immediately.”

     Half the bridge crew looked stunned, so Saroudis made sure they understood the order. “Get the hell out of here, now!”

     That did it. Most officers rushed from the bridge, but Commander Sifiadis at the weapons station and ship’s pilot Commander Tharros decided to stay.

     “Give me ramming speed. Target that planet-killer ship, and then go to your escape pods, both of you.”

     “Come with us, Commodore.”

     “I have to stay to make sure we get this weapon out. But you two go, NOW!”

     Commander Sifiadis saluted and ran towards the nearest escape pod. Commander Tharros wanted to argue more, but when he met the commodore’s gaze, he nodded instead.

     “It’s been an honor, sir,” said the commander.

     “The honor was mine. Now please, go while you still can.”

     Commander Tharros saluted, and Saroudis returned the salute. When the commander had boarded and launched his escape pod, Saroudis returned to his chair and brought the ship’s flight control to his personal holo-console.

     “Computer, time to ram the enemy ship?”

     “At present speed, one minute and thirty-seven seconds.”

     “Time before the Fury ship opens fire on Earth?”

     “One minute and thirty-two seconds.”

     “Dammit!”

     Saroudis checked the status of the escape pods. Eighty percent had already abandoned ship. It would have to do. He couldn’t save everyone, but he couldn’t allow the Fury ship to destroy Earth.

     He quickly ran another simulation to see what kind of damage five seconds of Fury weapon fire would do to the planet. While the simulation showed the planet’s crust wouldn’t be compromised, the fallout to the ecosystem would be near total. The entire American continent would be incinerated within minutes and the resulting tsunamis would take out most of Europe, Australia, Japan and half of Asia.

     “Computer, can we jump?”

     “Jump engines inoperable.”

     When it rains—

     “Divert all power, including life support, to the engines. Bypass security features and squeeze every bit of power to the engines. Bring them to one hundred and thirty percent.”

     “Commanding Officer, this will result in the ship’s engine core exploding in under three minutes. I must object to this course of action.”

     “No! Override. Command code Alpha Seven Delta Five Six Echo. Please confirm.”

     “Command code accepted. All power diverted to the engines. Engine power to one hundred and twenty-seven percent, twenty-eight, twenty-nine . . . engines at one hundred and thirty percent.”

     Alarms sounded and alert lights blinked all over Saroudis’ holo-console. The bridge’s lights turned red as life support shut down. The air grew thin, but Saroudis wasn’t worried about suffocating. He would be dead long before that.

     “Alexandra,” said Saroudis out loud, “please forgive me. I love you.”

     The Destiny soared in the blackness of space towards the monstrous Fury planet killer. Energy lightning beams focused from all the ship’s firing tips and converged to create one giant energy ball in front of the ship. Mere seconds before the Fury ship was ready to unleash this destructive power, the Destiny rammed dead center into the Fury weapon.

     The darkness of space turned into blinding white light on impact.

     “Noooooooo!” shouted Alexandra, sitting on her bed, her hand reaching in front of her.

     She was soaking wet, out of breath and it took her a while to get her bearings.

     A nightmare? Thank god it was just a nightmare.

     “You alright, love?” She heard Adonis’ muffled voice from the bathroom. The shower was running.

     She walked to the bathroom’s slightly open door. The escaping light was the only source of light in the bedroom.

     “I’m alright, dear. Just a bad dream.”

     “Why don’t you go back to sleep?”

     “Won’t you join me?”

     The shower stopped and Adonis stepped out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist. She hugged him tightly.

     “You’re as wet as I am. You sure you’re alright, my love?”

     “I’m fine now. Just hold me tight and come back to bed with me.”

     Adonis squeezed her tightly for a minute.

     “I . . . I’m sorry. I can’t stay. The Destiny is waiting for me. I just came to change my uniform. I have to go.”

     Alexandra’s heart beat vigorously. She took a step back, tears forming in the corners of her eyes.

     “You can’t go, Adonis.”

     “What are you talking about, Alexandra?”

     “I . . . I have a bad feeling. I saw you die in my dream. Please, I beg you, don’t go.”

     Adonis dropped the towel and put on his uniform.

     “It was just a bad dream, my love. I’ll be fine.”

     Alexandra’s hand trembled and tears flowed. She felt a strong pain in her stomach and her heart ached.

     “Please, Adonis, I beg you, don’t go.”

     When he was done dressing, he took her face in his hands and kissed her passionately. “I have to go now. I’ll be back soon, I promise.”

     Before she could find the strength to speak again, Adonis left their new quarters.

     She fell on her knees and burst into tears.

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