I’m excited to announce that book 5 in the ASCENSION GATE series is coming soon (late May 2021). To get you ready for STAR EMPIRES, read on for a sample! #MilitaryScienceFiction #SpaceOpera
Colonel Amy Pfeiffer knelt at the side of the glowing stone, one of several her team had recently discovered in the tunnels of Krastian. Orange soil and stone surrounded her in the dim tunnels, and she was on alert in case the vibrations started, which would signal an approaching sand snake. Mostly those were taken care of these days, but not when out on expeditions beyond their colony’s borders.
She ran her tongue along her top teeth, wondering if the stories she’d heard were true. Could they have really found a new sort of stone that held more power than the others, one that could be harnessed in ways yet to become comprehensible.
“Think it’ll do the trick?” Master Sergeant Espinoza asked.
She turned to look at him, and nodded. The idea of having his kind in her command was only starting to feel normal, but she had a feeling it would always be a bit out there. Vampires, they were called, in spite of their origination being a factor of genetic engineering to create super soldiers. It had gone wrong, leading to the uprising on Earth and so many other conflicts, at least, until the vampires had learned to control themselves and both sides had learned to work together. While Pfeiffer had been in the military, she had been junior at the time and only involved in the Earth conflicts. Her trip through the gateway to the stars and her command here on Krastian had come much later.
“Take it in for testing,” she said, giving Espinoza a nod. She stood, taking in this massive cavern, and couldn’t help but wonder if the carvings had been a result of the Goldies or the Apophians. Considering the Goldies and those they served had once been slaves to essentially mine this planet for the Apophians, he had to imagine this had been at least done by the latter group, or by the slaves for them.
What her intel work led her to believe, though, was that regardless of the origin, this was a factor of the traveling system they’d once had in place. The Apophians had used portals fueled by the energy in these rocks to travel, at least until the Goldies had first fought them off. When later the one known as Apophis had woken, thanks to the poking around of those on Earth—related to the genetic engineering efforts—Earther warriors had helped close it all back up again. Unfortunately, Pfeiffer hadn’t arrived until after that war had ended. Years later, they were still working to make this place habitable. Those former slaves had stayed clear at first, but within a year of the Apophians being defeated and pushed back through the gates before closing them, the fighting was back on.
Goldies were, once again, on the offensive. For several years now the fighting had dragged on, especially as Earth Command had issued orders for expansion. In general, they stayed clear of the Outer Wars, but recent rumor had it they’d made efforts to colonize three other planets, and were having issues with them.
Pfeiffer stepped in, eyes roaming across the team, and then to what was clearly metal walls, partly covered by collapsed stone and soil. It looked like someone had tried to hide it, to bury it. Then again, on a planet like this, the sand snakes or any number of battles could have caused the cave in.
“What is this place?” Pfeiffer asked.
“My guess,” Espinoza said, “it’s an old command center.”
“Buried,” another voice said, and they turned to see Shrina in silhouette at the entrance. Shrina wasn’t a Marine or soldier, and she wasn’t a vampire, exactly. She was something else—with powers more directly related to Apophis, her transformation had been one of death and rebirth. At least, that’s what the stories said. And when she’d woken, it was with new powers, fangs and whatnot like the vamps, but also with wings. Leathery wings with curved hooks on the end. Gray, almost purple skin. And scales, not all over, but in some places. Claws instead of fingernails. It was indeed a transformation, to the extent that when Pfeiffer had first laid eyes on the woman, she’d wondered if she was wrong about religion and had found herself staring at a demon. In fact, since then she’d learned that Shrina was about as far from a demon as one could be, having proved her friendship and loyalty over and over.
Pfeiffer raised an eyebrow as their new arrival knelt to fit in, then joined them. “I’d love to have seen this place in action back in the day.”
“And I’d love to know who buried it,” Shrina said, confirming what Pfeiffer had been thinking about the place.
“This was beyond the capabilities of the Goldies,” Espinoza said. “My guess, Apophians before they were kicked out by them.”
Pfeiffer strolled over to their visitor, voice low so the others couldn’t listen in.
“Shrina, may I ask what you’re doing here?” Not that Pfeiffer didn’t appreciate the help, but Shrina had proven herself an invaluable part of the fighting forces, off scouting new locations for expansion more often than not, lately.
Having taken a moment to inspect the stone, Shrina finally answered, “My sister… sensed something.” She was referring to Alicia. At the frown Pfeiffer gave her, Shrina continued, “She’s been… changing, lately. Finding that the stones she’s been experimenting with help her to understand this planet better than anyone. If she says there’s something down here, I listen. Looks like she was right.”
The how didn’t need to make sense, because so much of this place didn’t. So Pfeiffer nodded, further assessing the area. Along one wall was a series of small, colored stones with lines connecting them. Maybe artwork, or possibly some sort of war table, but on the wall? She frowned, trying to make sense of it and the runes carved along the top and bottom.
“You know what we’re looking at, right?” Shrina asked.
Pfeiffer shook her head. “No, what’s that?”
Pfeiffer frowned, assessing the carving and the bits of precious stones along the various lines. Only a few were lit, but as she analyzed them, she noticed patterns.
“You seeing this?” she asked, turning to Espinoza. He already had out a small screen, which took on a larger form, projected, when he ran his hand across it.
“Good eye,” he said, and expanded the screen further to overlay against part of the carvings. Not only did the stones line up with some of the planets on the map, most notably some newer discoveries, but one of the lit-up stones lined up with the new colonies. Which planets, exactly, she wasn’t sure.
“They’re somehow making contact with the new colonies,” Shrina said, shaking her head with worry.
Pfeiffer nodded, then noticed something else. Another stone was starting to glow, just barely, but there was definitely a light there that she was fairly certain hadn’t been moments before. It was Earth.
“We have to warn Earth command,” Pfeiffer said.
They all stared at that stone, watching its glow intensify, knowing that this was undoubtedly a symbol of dark times ahead. When Pfeiffer finally looked up, it was to see Shrina already exiting, wings folded back to fit through the narrow opening.
“Where’ you going?” Pfeiffer asked.
“While you brief Earth command, I’m going to ensure our army is ready,” Shrina replied. “Seems we have a fight to prepare for.”
She was gone from sight then, leaving Pfeiffer and Espinoza to share a worried look.
“Go with her,” Pfeiffer said, stepping back to get a recording of this room. “The troops will need your experience.”
“Roger that,” he replied, and then jogged off to catch up with Shrina.
Pfeiffer was the only one of them who hadn’t been here for the last fight with the Apophians. She’d seen her fair share of action elsewhere, but had a feeling that wasn’t good enough preparation for this. If the glowing stones in any way signified the return of the Apophians, they were going to need all the fighters they could muster.