UNEDITED (First Half of Ch 2 of my new space station scifi adventure)
Fist in the air, Alice spun in her chair with a shallow smile—the smile for her team, but not coming from her heart. She never enjoyed hurting the individuals who’d come up through Project Destiny (PD), but she celebrated it for her team.
The individuals weren’t the ones pulling the strings, but The Looking Glass had to hit them where they could. Soon they’d hit them where it hurt, making a run on PD headquarters.
As if the name weren’t bad enough, with its promise of something greater, something more than what they were. Now the project had opened its doors to new recruits, bringing men and women off the streets in droves to get enhancements and serve as the eyes and ears of the corporations that ran the space stations. They would become part of PD, though not its elite soldiers, not the group she had hit tonight.
“Lured ‘em in like the rats they are,” her teammate Scorpio said. The guy was tall but lean, and had earned his name for a fascination with the constellations and a love of martial arts—that axe kick of his had once broken a PD soldier’s helmet in two. As if he needed more reason for the nickname to stick, the left side of his face had been marked by the enemy when they had captured him once. He now sported the branding of a scorpion with pride, though it meant he was confined to operations HQ, as he’d be made too easily in public.
Not all of the others were here, but Scorpio was always in the inner circle. Swinger and Norwal had their stations up behind them, wide grins staring back at Alice. To her left sat Intrepid, eyes still glued on his display as he checked for any lingering issues. The man insisted they call this place the SCIF so he could feel like he was on the right side of it all. SCIF for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, which he and the other mish-mash of Signals Intelligence and Red Team Marines had worked out of just outside of DC.
Essentially, the same sort of work New Origins had Alice and her civilian counterparts doing as contractors back on Earth. New Origins was one of the top corporations in charge of searching for extraterrestrial signals while humans built up their space stations and worked to terraform Titan, Mars, and other planetary objects. Now the corporation was just one more of her enemies, since they had bought the rights to Project Destiny. Their procurement meant they led both the terraforming via its external branch and the privatized military that was in charge of security on the space stations.
Intrepid had been in the Marines with Alice’s husband back on Earth, the two of them moving up here when he and Marick were stationed with the Project Destiny folks. She still remembered the smile on Marick’s face when he’d told her he’d been accepted, that he would be on the cutting edge of space exploration, once he proved himself. That was the story, anyway. Project Destiny would train their soldiers, make them the best with new equipment unlike anything the Earth military could get their hands on. Little did they know at the time what that actually meant.
The promise he was signing up for, though, was a promise of bigger and better. Humanity’s destiny, it was said, would be led by the PD soldiers. When and if they found alien life, Marick would be among the first to know, the first to get a chance to fly out. It was terrifying and thrilling.
“Just one month, bunny,” he’d said, forehead pressed against hers, breath warm and sweet. “They said they have some tests, that they need us to go first, and then they’ll get you a transfer.”
While it was his dream, she couldn’t deny her curiosity. She loved the idea of being part of it all. From the messages she’d seen out there as part of her job with NSA’s own red team, it was getting close, too. Somebody up there believed in a discovery on Mars, though they were being cryptic beyond the norm on this one. Part of her had to get up there, to learn more.
Then that day finally arrived, when the car was supposed to take her to the launch site to join him. She had missed Marick more than she could have imagined over that month. The space elevators Japan had nearly perfected traveled quickly, but nothing could be fast enough as far as she was concerned. As she’d finished packing, she vowed to never be separated from him for that long again.
Little did she know, she was about to be told that separation was going to be forever.
The car came, but it wasn’t a driver that approached her door. It was the man and woman from New Origins bringing news of his death. That same week, she’d learned that Intrepid had gone AWOL, a fact that confirmed what she had already been feeling—that something was off. She’d been trained to read between the lines, and there was a whole lot going on here between some squiggly as hell lines.
After that, she had diverted the focus of her team at New Origins. She’d gone rogue and had to answer for it, but being fired was the best thing that ever happened to her.
A new look, a new identity, and secret travel up to the space station. Then the formation of The Looking Glass.
Today’s hit had been their first real attack on New Origins. No more gathering intel—this war was moving forward full force. She had questions, and New Origins would give her answers or go down in flames.
All but Intrepid were boasting about the roles they had played in luring the team into the trap, but the smiles and bragging rubbed Alice the wrong way.
“We got one of them, maybe two with that explosion, but don’t get cocky,” Alice warned. “The minute we let hubris get the best of us, we fall to the wayside like the White Rabbit did.”
Their expressions turned somber—they were all too familiar with what had happened to her last team. A former PD soldier named Gretchen had joined the ranks and gotten ahead of herself, trying to take over the team and make a move that would’ve led to at least one General’s death. She started calling herself Teach and lighting her hair on fire. While an obvious sign that the woman was mentally unstable, at least to Alice, it worked to rally the weak-minded members of the team.
That same team mutinied against Alice and went with Teach, then overextended themselves, got greedy, and in the end got themselves killed. Part of her had always wondered if it had been a trap to begin with, if Teach had been a plant and the whole idea to lead them on a suicide mission. Hence the post-mortem name of the White Rabbit. A reminder for her and her team to never go down that hole.
It didn’t matter now. She’d learned her lesson, better vetting her recruits and keeping a strict hierarchy of power.
More often than not, however, she preferred to work alone. Tonight, that had been impossible. She’d had to rely on Scorpio—one of the few survivors from back then. The only one who had stayed true to her, and had been captured because she’d asked him to pretend to be in with Teach. She owed him one for that, and therefore always ensured he was in the know.
Swinger turned his wide, starkly white eyes to her, cocking an eyebrow. “Your move, boss. They’re going to be scrambling.”
“Right.” She turned back to her station and started working her magic. It helped that she had once been in charge of setting up the firewalls she was now tearing down. She knew her way inside the systems, and knew the other men and women prepping defenses, the way they thought.
The right moves, and they’d never see her coming. For at least an hour she went through the steps she guessed might work, finding barriers and then backtracking to find new ways in, potential backdoors or failure points.
The fatal flaw often led back to some programmer who had been too damn lazy to check with security—a peon who was told to just get the damn program working. Higher-ups were, more often than not, more concerned with the bottom line than with ensuring security measures were in place.
And she was using that to her advantage. Loving, for once, that private companies put more stock into fast money than did their government counterparts.
“Got it,” she said finally, pulling up a screen that showed various communications and contact information. “Next move of theirs is an arrival at the docks, from Earth. If we let them believe we’ll hit them hard there, they might leave PD headquarters that much less guarded. Just have to find out when.”
Scorpio nodded, then added, “Break the chain while it’s hot.”
“Damn straight.” Norwal stood, going for the small fridge they kept in the corner and pulling out a bottle of homemade ale. Her favorite, though Alice found the stuff to be rancid.
“Work hard, play hard,” Norwal added, giving Swinger a playful wink.
“Keep it PG,” Alice said, standing and heading for the door. “I’m gonna hit the head, then I’ll need to analyze the findings with Scorpio. Do what you gotta do to unwind, but be ready.”
“And get a damn room, you two,” Scorpio said with a laugh as he stood to join her. He pretended not to look as Norwal handed the drink to Swinger and straddled one of his thick thighs. The two weren’t really a thing, per se. But when it came to playing hard, they were often playing more with each other than the team.
“You’re always welcome to join us,” Swinger said—proving, as was never necessary, where he got his nickname.
“Keep dreaming,” Scorpio replied with a sideways glance toward Alice, which she pretended not to see. Even if her husband was dead, the love she felt for him wasn’t. It never would be, and she had every intention of finding out what had actually happened to him.
Could she move on and try to live without him? Maybe, but she didn’t want to. Not until she had the answers that New Origins and Project Destiny weren’t giving her.
Another glance back showed Swinger whispering into Norwal’s ear, the younger woman giggling, fingers playing with his earlobe. A small gesture, one Alice normally would have ignored, if it hadn’t been for the memory that little gesture called forth.
Marick had often touched her like that, hand moving through her hair, down her cheek, fingers caressing her earlobe as he stared at her with love and admiration. She remembered one morning when the snow had just started to fall outside. She’d let him stay over because it had been so cold and icy the night before—the first night she’d said okay. She’d woken up to him looking at her like that, caressing her earlobe like that. And when his lips had met hers, it had been the first time she’d realized she would spend the rest of her life with him.
As far as she was concerned, he wouldn’t have a say in the matter, she had thought with a giggle similar to Norwal’s now. Somehow, she doubted that was what was going through the woman’s mind at the moment, but smiled at the thought all the same.
Intrepid finally stood, grabbing the slim glass screen of his computer, and swiped his fingers across it so that it shrunk down to pocket size. He walked over and handed it to Scorpio with a grunt, then nodded as he continued on past them.
Scorpio hid it in the inner pocket of his old military jacket, calling after him, “No play for you either?”
Intrepid answered with a finger.
Scorpio had thick skin and was used to this, replying with a hearty laugh as he joined Alice at the doorway.
“When are you going to start acting like a member of the team?” Alice asked.
“Tell you what,” Scorpio nodded toward Norwal and Swinger, “the day they act like adults, I’ll shake their hands and give them a smile. Those two are like horny teens, and Intrepid…”
“Don’t be shy now.”
He chuckled. “Well, we all know he’s a dick.”
“The irony,” Alice replied with a chuckle. “But you can’t tell me you wouldn’t be like the other two if you had a woman. Or… a man?”
He shrugged. “I’ve had my share of women. I like a taco as much as the next guy, but I ain’t interested in licking no popsicles. To each their own, just ain’t my style.”
“Classy. And now?”
“Now we have a job to do, and I think it’s best to stay focused.” The words left his mouth calmly enough, but Alice wasn’t blind—she saw the look he gave her, the longing in his eyes. If she changed her stance on the subject, there was no doubting he would too. That wasn’t about to happen, though, so she dropped it and led them on their way.
FROM JUSTIN >>> This is only the setup, so stay tuned – in a couple of days or less, I’ll bring the rest. The book launches in 8 days (from posting), and I’m super excited to bring it to you! I just sent the first half of book 2 to the readers, so… looking forward to seeing what they think 🙂
Many of you know we just had baby number 3 in the Sloan family. Since you’re all like family at this point, that means you have one more to take care of. Hope you can handle the charge! It’s been awesome, and I’ve been able to get writing in. She actually sleeps well, and doesn’t cry nearly as much as the other two did. Wew!
As for my recommendation this week, since I’m doing space station, have you read MD Cooper?
In the Age of the Orion War…
Rika is mech-meat, a cyborg killing machine, created by the Genevian military and cast aside when the war was lost.
Now she slings cargo on Dekar Station, falling deeper in debt as she struggles to make enough money to keep her cybernetic body functioning. The local gangs would love to have her join their ranks, and the takings would pay her bills, but the only thing Rika hates more than what she’s become, is killing for others.
But morals don’t buy repairs and she’s at the point of utter desperation when her loan holder cashes in her debt and sells her to the highest bidder.
When Rika wakes, she’s in a warehouse on a planet she’s never heard of, and a trio of mercenaries are reassembling her body. Their mission is to kill the world’s president, and her mods and abilities are just what they need to get the job done.
Whether she likes it or not, Rika is in the business of killing once more as she joins the ranks of the Marauders.
An Aeon 14 series
The events of the Rika’s Marauders series occur during the New Canaan time span in The Orion War series. This series may be read at any time after reading Destiny Lost, New Canaan, or Orion Rising