Wil VanLipsig and his wife, Matilda Dulac, dove into the depths of barely remembered space, pursuing the villainous John Riley. With the help of a creature of legend, a Kahlea Master, John escapes capture. Capitulated into the unknown, he travels to Shakazhan. Like Avalon, in Old Earth lore, Shakazhan is a thought to be a myth, but it is very real. Unless Wil and Matilda can stop him, John Riley will release the Kahlea, bringing destruction to the universe.
The Inhospitable Surface of Iyundo—1630 Galactic Mean Time (GMT)
“Where the hell did he go? I hit Riley point blank! It’s impossible for me to miss at that range!”
In a fit of peevishness, Wil threw his gun to the ground, kicking debris over it. Matilda moved to the control panel. Flames licked at it, consuming the ancient device.
“We won’t get this working again.” She kicked it hard, the tip of her steel toed boot bouncing off the console. Finding a port for her scanner, she downloaded information from the console.
“That’s a waste, baby.”
“You never know what we can find out. Even a fragment can help.”
Wil knew she was right, he just didn’t want to admit it. “We need to get out of here before that blows.”
“One more minute. . . .” Matilda replied in a casual singsong.
Picking up his gun, Wil considered the flames. “The way that fire is going?”
“Put it out, then,” she snapped as she watched the status bar on her download.
“Yes, Ma’am.” He saluted flippantly, searching for something to extinguish the flames, but found nothing but unusable debris that would only succeed in feeding the fire.
“Speed it up, baby, I can’t put it out.”
Flames leaped higher. Wil watched with growing concern. Just as he was about to grab her and run, she uncoupled the scanner and set off at a sprint. Wil followed her, trying to shield her body if the console blew. They dove behind a pile of rubble, keeping their heads down.
A small, fuzzy creature burst into the room, gesticulating wildly. Eyes wide with panic, he chittered at them in a language their translators couldn’t decode. His face sported a slight snout, but there was intelligence in the bright, dark eyes. Dressed in a loin cloth, his body was covered with a soft layer of fur and was only marginally humanoid in configuration. He had a head, two arms and two legs, but there the resemblance to humans stopped.
Wil aimed his weapon at it, calm but wary. Matilda stopped him with a hand on his arm.
“Wait! He’s okay. Listen.” She tilted her head toward the creature.
“Listen to what? That’s gibberish.”
“He’s telepathic. Come on.” She followed the creature without question.
“Shut up and follow him. It’s not safe here.”
Wil went after her reluctantly, more to protect her than because he trusted the creature.
“Hurry! Felix says it’s about to blow.”
“Who told you?”
She huffed sharply, exasperated. “He did.”
The control panel fire gained intensity. The area around it blazed. A low rumble reached them, the earth trembled below their feet, cracks forming in the walls and floor. They moved away from the fire and deeper into the building, opposite the way they had entered.
The way was often blocked by fallen walls and broken, decaying furniture. This had been a showplace once. The vestiges of its long forgotten beauty were still visible—here a green marble floor, there a magnificent chandelier made of jewels.
“Where is he taking us?” Wil demanded.
“He’s showing me a picture of a courtyard out this way.” She pointed to their right. “It’s safer than going back the way we came.”
Wil followed unwillingly, senses alert. His hackles rose, his nerves tingled. Matilda could sense tension and concern in Wil’s every move. The sense of urgency she got from Felix made her doubly uncomfortable.
The rumbling and rushing of air grew louder and closer. Risking a look behind them, Matilda saw the chamber they’d left seethed with flames. The front of the building, where they’d entered, fell into a flaming pit. Silver tinged fire burst suddenly from its depths.
“Hurry!” Wil yanked on her arm as he passed her.
The urging from Wil was unnecessary. Matilda tried to keep up, but his legs were considerably longer and he could cover more ground in a mile eating lope, hardly winding him. Panting, she trotted beside him. The hot, dry air burned the back of her throat. The fire raged to the rear, erupting anew. It raced closer, singeing their hair. Their lungs rasped with each breath.
Felix ducked behind a fallen set of doors, raced around a corner and led them to a courtyard, surrounded on three sides by the building they’d just exited. The fourth was gone, long ago fallen to rubble. The air behind them grew hotter. The walls bulged and vibrated violently.
“It’s going to blow, Wil!”
Matilda took off at a dead run, legs pumping as hard as they could, her lungs burning. Wil moved behind her, shortening his stride. He wanted to take the brunt of the shock wave and any shrapnel. Matilda stumbled, sliding sideways. He reached out to grab her, missing as her body tipped away from him. Her knee hit hard on a sharp rock protruding from the rubble. Standing with difficulty, she gritted her teeth, determined to continue.
Felix stopped. The sight of her blood worried him. His saucer shaped eyes held deep concern. He glanced behind them nervously, though he waited patiently for her to rise.
Matilda could barely put her weight on her leg. Shaking her head, she limped forward a few inches, nearly falling again.
Wil scooped her up in his arms, running faster than Matilda could have on her own. His long legged stride devoured the distance toward safety. They ran over the stark terrain, Wil’s legs rapidly eating up the miles. Felix chittered and gesticulated, pointing to a deep depression in the landscape. He ran toward it, not waiting for Wil, trusting him to follow.
The ground dropped sharply, turning spongy and damp. The depression looked like an artificially made ditch, not a river bed. The edges were too regular and smooth. There was a lot of rubble here as well. Wil slowed, careful where he put his feet.
Felix ran ahead, chittering and yelping loudly. Dozens of little furry creatures like Felix, ran out from a well concealed opening. They yelped wildly when they saw the humans, but ushered the party into their hiding place. Wil and Matilda were surrounded by a three foot high sea of multihued fuzzy people dressed in loin cloths and sarongs.
The tunnel they entered wasn’t quite high enough for Wil to stand upright. The floor dipped downward at a steep angle. Stooping to enter, Wil bent his knees, his back bowed as the way narrowed.
Wil expected it to be damp and dank underground. Instead, it was dry, well lit and smelled of roasting meat and exotic spices. After about a hundred meters, it broadened out into an open area where three or four large pipes joined into an open common room. Soft pallets lay on the floor in neat rows. On the outer perimeter, they passed cooking fires.
Felix led him to a group of mats, motioning that Wil should put Matilda down on one. He did so, noticing that the bedding was meticulously clean. It was soft and resilient under her weight.
Another creature, this one with peppered gray fur, moved in beside Matilda. Felix stepped aside respectfully. She wore a leather bag at her side. Wil lingered a moment until Felix tugged his pants leg. Reluctantly, Wil allowed the healer near Matilda.
The healer pulled surgical instruments from her bag, laying them out on a pristine strip of cloth. Made predominantly of glassy stone, they glittered dully in the half light of the culvert. The healer hummed as she cut Matilda’s stasuit away from the wound with a pair of shears. That accomplished, she held her hands over her instruments, chanting. They flared pale purple, continuing to glow brighter as she chanted.
As a counterpoint to her high voice, Wil heard and sensed the rumbling of the explosion building not far away. Worried, he looked around him. The serene visages of Felix and the others should have reassured him, but they didn’t. The explosion he’d anticipated nearly knocked him off his feet. The ground undulated, the earthen roof groaned, sprinkling them with a fine dust. The tremors continued several minutes, lessened, gradually subsiding. It wasn’t nearly as formidable as Wil had anticipated. Regaining his balance, he watched the healer do her work.
The healer leaned over Matilda’s leg, protecting it as much as possible from falling debris. Her humming continued and her patient’s eyes fluttered shut. Wil could tell Matilda was in a deep hypnotic trance. He took a step forward, but Felix stopped him, shaking his head, smiling. Wil was suddenly filled with peace. He knew the healer wouldn’t harm Matilda.
Clearing her work area with sweeping motions of her hands and another song, the healer began again. She cleaned the wound with a bitter smelling liquid. That accomplished, she took up her first instrument, preparing for her incision.
Wil couldn’t watch her cut into his wife’s leg, for the first time in his life squeamish at the sight of blood. He turned away as the blade descended. His comlink squawked urgently.
“VanLipsig, go ahead Flotilla.” He hardly recognized his own voice, it was partially choked with dust and partially constricted with anxiety for his wife.
“Wil! What the hell is going on down there? We registered a massive power surge, followed by a inferno and now a colossal explosion. Are you two all right?” Marc, captain of the mining vessel and Wil’s long time friend, yelped. His voice sounded an octave higher than normal, showing his worry.
Wil gulped, trying to clear his throat. “We’re alive. Matilda’s hurt. She fell when ran away from the explosion. She’s being looked after now.”
“Looked after? Are you back on the ship?”
“No, we met some people here. One of them is tending to her.”
“People? Wil, there’s no sign of life there except the two of you!”
“Trust me, I was just as shocked as you. There’s life here, just not as we would recognize it. They seem to be silicon based, not carbon. A science officer would have a field day down here.”
Felix tugged on Wil’s pants leg. His face held an urgency unequaled by any Wil had seen. The little rock man made a tapping motion on his chest, just like hitting a comlink.
“I think of one of them is asking me to end this conversation. I’ll get back with you when I can. VanLipsig out.”
Despite Marc’s protests, Wil ended the call, shutting down his comlink so he wouldn’t be disturbed.
Felix dragged him back to the mouth of the culvert. At first Wil saw nothing as he scanned the barren landscape. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he sensed movement along the top of the ditch, following their path. Something large and predatory paced up there, trying to find a way down.
It looked like a saber toothed tiger, but its hide was dark and sleek, like glass. It moved sinuously, swishing a long, barbed tail. Its fangs were nearly two feet long. An angry howl issued from its throat. The sound made Wil’s skin crawl.
Wil shuddered, glancing down at Felix, who shivered beside him. He guessed to that monster, these people were probably a nice afternoon snack. Unless there was another way out, they were cat food. The big animal leaped out onto a rock about six feet from the side, slightly lower than the edge. Rock by rock it approached, sniffing and yowling as it went. Wil guessed it was following the path they had taken to the culvert, attracted by the scent of Matilda’s blood.
Wil took out his weapon, powered it up to full, preparing to fire. Using his cybereye, he aimed carefully at the big cat’s head. His first shot did only minor damage. Wil aimed again, his finger tightening on the trigger.
The cat snarled, crouching to spring. It wasn’t close enough to get him, but Wil estimated one good leap would put him in rushing distance. Preferring not to close that gap, Wil aimed once more. Timing his next shot for the leap, Wil fired as the cat soared through the air. He hit the underbelly doing obvious damage. Dark liquid spurted from the wound and the giant cat twisted in the air, landing hard. Three of its legs held, the fourth collapsed beneath its weight. An ear splitting scream ripped from the animal’s throat as it slipped in its own blood. Only slightly hampered, it stood its ground, reevaluating its opponent.
Wil focused his eye on the beast, searching for the most vulnerable target. A readout scrolled by registering the bone density of the skull. If he’d paid attention to that the first time, he never would’ve tried a head shot. Apparently, the only real vulnerability it had was the belly. He had to get it to leap at him again or it was gonna get ugly really fast.
Motioning the others back, Wil took a few steps forward. The cat lowered its head, eying him with both anger and hunger. Wil’s feral grin spread slowly as he faced down his foe. His lip twitched in a snarl of his own.
“That’s right, you big pussy. Come and get me,” Wil growled as he crouched.
The cat snarled, glaring at the puny human crouching in front of it like wounded prey. Shaking its head, it roared the challenge, revealing a second set of teeth.
“You must have a hell of a dentist bill,” Wil quipped. “Come get me, bad boy. Your mother’s a carpet!” He bellowed. “You’re gonna look great on my floor. Come get me, you walking trophy!”
It didn’t really matter what he said, it was the defiance in his voice that he counted on.
“Come on. . . .” he urged quietly.
The big cat circled, making up its mind. Wil saw a flicker of decision in the large, amber eyes. Targeting carefully, he locked his weapon on the damaged underbelly. Once in position, he broadcast his thoughts to the others, hoping they understood. With a shiver of comprehension, they nodded.
Wil smiled once more, a predatory glimmer in his black eyes. On his mental signal, he and the others roared a challenge to the beast, daring it to attack.
Enraged, the big cat crouched. Wil continued to growl. The others joined him, waiting. With the barest flicker betraying its action, the cat sprang.
Wil fired rapidly, seven shots in quick succession, laying the beast’s abdomen open from neck to groin. It fell in an untidy heap ten feet from him.
Straightening from his weapon stance, Wil glared at the downed predator. Felix’s people surged out of the culvert, brandishing knives of various shapes and sizes. In a matter of minutes, they had skinned and butchered the creature.
Another wave of workers brought water from the stream, sluicing the blood and viscera away. Others hauled off the hide and carcass. Wil was amazed at how efficiently the remains were disposed of. There was barely time for the scent of blood to attract other predators.
When it was over, Felix led Wil back inside. A wave of silent gratitude greeted him. The tiny people huddled around him, smiling their appreciation. For the first time in decades, Wil felt that he’d truly done something worthwhile with his talents. Smiling back, he followed Felix to Matilda’s bedside.
Galactic Marine Ship, Hannibal—Approaching Iyundo, 2240 GMT
Galactic Committee Chairman Aisulov wasn’t the first person woken on his vessel. In fact, he wasn’t even the second or the fifth person roused on the Galactic Marines flag ship, Hannibal. Aisulov was the last person thawed because his security measures had to be in place before the doctor could wake him.
Only his personal physician could initiate and complete the process. The duty weighed heavily on the unfortunate man. If anything went wrong, he paid a heavy price. The Vandaran people believed in a life for a life.
It was with this unhappy thought in mind that Dr. Stanley J. Savolopis, III began defrosting the Chairman of the Galactic Committee. Fortunately for Dr. Stan, as well as Chairman Aisulov, the process went smoothly and the leader of the Galactic Committee was amongst the thawed once again.
Dr. Stan made the mental observation that being frozen for three years had done nothing at all to improve Aisulov’s personality. He was still obstinate and dictatorial. Far be it from the doctor to point out that Aisulov had made this trip voluntarily, not forced to by his job. Stan was trapped by both distance and contract. He could do nothing to escape from his current position, short of killing himself—not an option, as far as he was concerned.
Dr. Stan’s reputation as the best doctor in the galaxy had ensnared him. Aisulov refused to take no for an answer. Stan’s wife, Karyn, also made it impossible for him to decline, insisting this was the most prestigious job a doctor in the entire galaxy. She envisioned herself being the toast of parties, lauded as the wife of the best physician in the known universe. Stan hoped she was enjoying it. He preferred to continue his medical research.
Smoothing his light brown hair with one hand, he straightened his uniform as he gazed in the mirror of his quarters. Medium blue eyes started back at him, taking in a face that rarely betrayed his emotions. Stan was a professional and a consummate concealer. If he weren’t, his wife and Aisulov would have figured out how much he hated his job.
Far from known space, the crew of Hannibal was on edge. A mysterious transmission, nearly three years ago, led to the destruction of several planets. When Aisulov’s home was annihilated, along with his wife and children, he insisted on following the path of the cataclysmic communication, personally.
Captain Benjamin Drexel, commander of the Hannibal, paced the bridge as he assessed their situation. Three years of cryo sleep had brought him and his crew to a place no other ships should be. And yet—there was a mysterious ship in orbit around the planet.
Angry and flummoxed, Drexel scrambled his fighters and raised his shields. Taking his seat in the big chair, he prepared a greeting—both friendly and intimidating, for the captain of the other ship.
“Any luck identifying that ship, Warrant Officer Wilson?” He barked at the young woman on communications.
“No, sir. Still getting the robotic garbage scow reading off her.”
“Well, we can all see that’s a lie,” his second said, making a rude gesture at the screen.
“Thanks, Ray,” Ben snapped.
“Anytime, sir,” Ray replied, nonplussed.
Making his daily rounds, Dr. Stan headed to the bridge. Curious about the furor, he went to the captain’s ready room. Not finding Drexel there, he headed to the bridge, a cup of coffee for the captain his excuse for being there. Captain Drexel turned to speak to the doctor. Before he could properly thank Stan for the coffee, he was interrupted.
“Captain,” it was his First Officer, Ray Schmidt. “You need to see this.”
Drexel turned suddenly, knocking the coffee from Stan’s outstretched hand. Cleaning bots scurried underfoot as the men moved around the oval shaped room. After watching the screen a moment, Drexel called for red alert. The blaring klaxon started, propelling all hands to their battle stations. Checking the weapon and fighter status, Ben ordered Warrant Officer Wilson to do a full sweep. A damaged ship and the remains of another filled his view screen.
“Any luck figuring out who she is?” Drexel asked the petite brunette.
“I’m getting varying readings, sir. I get a feedback that identifies it as a Mining Guild robotic garbage scow. But our scanners read it as a Planetary Class Mining Vessel? The other ship—it can’t be identified, sir. It shouldn’t exist. . . .”
Yet there it was.
“Hail them, Wilson. Let’s see who answers.”
The hail went out and a few moments later the screen flickered. Ben stared into the bear-like countenance of a gigantic man with dark red hair. He looked slightly familiar, but not enough to have a name attached to the face. He held his arm in such a way that Ben couldn’t see his ID tag.
“Greetings, Captain. Fancy meeting you here,” the unfamiliar captain greeted Ben.
The other man was either an idiot or trying to be flippant, Drexel couldn’t be sure. Ben’s concern wasn’t the politeness of the man he addressed. His job was to assess the situation and deal with it.
“Your signature reads Mining Guild robotic scow, Captain. Mind explaining?”
The other man’s gaze never left his, but Ben saw a slight flicker of movement to the left side of his screen. Something was decidedly going on over there.
“That was a diversionary tactic,” the Mining Guild officer said with a forced smile. “Captain?”
“Drexel. Galactic Marine Cruiser Hannibal. And you’re obviously not the garbage scow that our scanners insist that you are.”
The red haired captain smiled. “Very true, Captain Drexel. We are the Guild Mining Ship Flotilla and I’m Captain Slatterly.” He moved his arm so Ben could read his identity tag.
Leaning toward the screen, Ben shifted his shoulders uneasily. The name of the captain and his ship rang multiple bells. This was the man who had attacked and wounded Wil over sixty years ago. The same man now led the vessel Wil was rumored to have taken in pursuit of John Riley.
“Flotilla? Yes, we had heard you went after Riley. Am I to assume, Captain, that Riley has been terminated?”
Slatterly held his hands out in a plaintive gesture. “I wish I could say definitively that he had, Captain Drexel. That would be an erroneous statement. Riley’s ship is destroyed. He set it for self-destruct. He jettisoned prior to detonation and landed on planet. Members of our team followed him. I don’t know their status. I’m expecting a report presently.”
Drexel’s dark eyes narrowed. He tapped his black, neatly trimmed mustache with long fingers. Something was wrong with this picture, but what it was, he couldn’t be sure. Slatterly was telling the truth, but Drexel sensed he wasn’t telling quite all of it. This secrecy smacked of Wil’s involvement. Growing more wary by the minute he forced his face to remain neutral.
“Who were the team members who went after Riley?” Drexel asked abruptly.
Ben wanted a straight answer, a lot rode on that. If Wil was in the middle of this fiasco, he’d be the one in pursuit. Slatterly had something planned. What it was, Drexel didn’t know. His own fighters were in flight. Pending Slatterly’s answer, they’d attack. Already crippled, the was little the mining ship could do against a Galactic Marine Corps warship.
“Their names are immaterial, Captain Drexel.”
“Humor me please, Captain Slatterly. Their names?”
Five fighters hovered near the belly of Flotilla. Slatterly wasn’t kidding around. Drexel wondered in passing what a Mining Guild vessel was doing with fighter support. That was highly irregular, not to mention illegal, but he let it slide for the moment. Motioning to First Lieutenant Schmidt, Ben signaled for the fighters to launch on his mark, which he gave just a few moments later. He’d get answers even if he had to shoot first.
“Captain Drexel, let’s not play games here. I’ve nothing to conceal from you. Their names are immaterial, but if you must know, Colonel and Captain VanLipsig are on planet with Riley in custody.”
Ben fought again for control, winning this time. Wil was here? That clarified the situation a lot.
“VanLipsig. Wilhelm VanLipsig?”
“The one and only, Captain Drexel.”
Drexel called his fighters back to the ship, knowing that Slatterly would’ve seen them in transit and watched them turn.
“I had no idea Wil was here.”
“You know Wil?” Slatterly was stunned.
“Hell, doesn’t everyone?” Ben chuckled, the humor reaching his dark eyes.
“Friend or foe, Drexel?”
“Friend, Captain Slatterly. Decidedly a friend.”
The Marine fighters returned to the ship. Ben canceled his red alert, sensing Slatterly had done the same. The Flotilla’s fighters headed back to their hanger.
Ben was more relaxed and noticed that Slatterly’s manner was less threatening. Ben Drexel was a good judge of character, and this man was fairly easy to read. He wasn’t exactly lying, but not being entirely honest either. There was a short pause while Drexel and Slatterly considered their positions.
“If you don’t mind my asking, Captain Slatterly, what the hell are you and the Flotilla doing way out here?”
“Like you said, Captain Drexel, we’re following Riley. The situation got—complicated.”
“Can we be of assistance, Captain Slatterly?”
“Captain Drexel, I’m unsure how until I know the situation on planet. Riley’s a sneaky bastard. He allowed himself to be taken into custody. I can’t conceive of a man like him doing that without a reason, can you?”
“No, sir, I can’t. Everything I know about Riley says he’ll run when he has to and fight when he’s cornered. Not a man to give up easily.”
“It’ll be dawn soon on planet. It’s darker than three shades of hell down there. They were going to come back once they had enough light to navigate.”
Drexel nodded. “If you need anything, call me.”
“Will do, Captain Drexel. Thank you.”
The Warrant Officer disconnected at just the right moment. Drexel let out a deep exhalation.
“Damn! That was about as close as I’ve had to come lately to blowing someone to smithereens!” Shaking his head and laughing, he muttered to himself. “Wil’s here. I’ll be damned.”
Rising from his chair, he spoke to his second. “You have the bridge, Mr. Schmidt. Doctor, you’re with me. Wilson, call me if you hear anything else from the Flotilla and for God’s sake, keep an eye on that planet!”
Turning abruptly on his heel, Ben walked rapidly into his ready room. The doctor slid in quietly behind him. Ben took out a cigar, clipped it, twirled it in his fingers and lit it slowly. It was like a little ceremony with him. It helped him focus his thoughts.
“What was all that, Ben?” Stan asked, picking up a fist sized ball. He bounced it against the wall behind Ben’s desk, narrowly missing Ben’s right ear. Too preoccupied to notice, Ben didn’t even flinch.
“Stan, I wish to God I knew! Wil’s here and he’s on planet. Damn!”
The doctor didn’t know if that was an exclamation of pride, joy or disgust. It could’ve meant anything. He chose to think of it as positive.
“Something’s happened here that Slatterly didn’t tell me.” Walking to his console, he tapped his badge. “Wilson, full subversive scan of the Flotilla. I want as much of a picture as you can give me.”
A few moments later, the view screen on the wall slid silently open. On it were displayed the specs of the ship and a Tri-D schematic of Flotilla. There were signs of damage all over her. She wouldn’t be going anywhere for quite awhile. The doctor came up behind Ben, peering over his left shoulder.
“They had quite a battle,” the doctor mused.
“What are the two of them thinking, taking on Riley in a Mining Guild vessel? Doesn’t make sense.” Shaking his head, Ben held up a hand. “Let me rephrase that. It probably makes sense to someone, just not to me.”
“Ben, who’s this Riley fellow they went out after?”
“Commandant of the Mining Guild. Crazy as a loon by all accounts. It was rumored he bugged out from Aolani shortly before the disaster. Wil must have been ordered to follow him. But why in Flotilla?” He squinted at the schematic. “Lookie here!” His finger landed in the mid section of the ship, right at weapons. “He’s got some toys on that ship that no Guild Captain should condone.” Ben chuckled, puffing rapidly on his cigar.
“Looks like they came loaded for bear,” Stan murmured.
Wilson signaled Drexel. “Captain, you need to get in here. Something’s happening!”
Ben raced to the bridge. “What? Where?”
All the young warrant officer could do was point to the screen and move her lips like a dying fish. What Ben saw was terrifying.
“What the hell is that?”
A tremendous pillar of cloud rose straight from the ground. This wasn’t smoke from an ordinary fire, rather more like a volcanic eruption, more contained, though no less destructive. A sudden surge of energy spiked on the instruments. Everyone’s communicator gave a tingling shock accompanied an electronic screech, bringing tears to their eyes.
“I’m getting seismic readings off the scale, sir!” Wilson reported.
“Helm, pull back fifty hectares. If this place blows, I want to be farther away.”
“What about Flotilla, sir?”
“I can’t do anything about Flotilla. She’s on her own.”
“Aye, sir.” Wilson didn’t conceal the disapproval in her voice.
“If you have a solution, Warrant Officer, I’d love to hear it.”
“Aye, sir.” This time she sounded morose. They backed off and held their new position, watching the events unfold below.
“Fire in the hole, sir.” First Lieutenant Schmidt pointed to a hot spot on the screen. “Something big is burning!”
“Dear, God! Wil’s down there!” All Ben could do was stare in dread as the hot spot grew. “Magnify, Schmidt. I want to see what that is.”
Resolution shifted, got closer, moving in on Armageddon. Flames leaped three hundred meters high, consuming everything. Rocks melted into boiling pools which also caught fire.
“I’ve never seen anything burn like that!” Schmidt gasped.
The screen flashed bright as the sun, flaming debris scattering in every direction. Despite their distance, the bridge crew of the Hannibal recoiled involuntarily from the massive explosion.
The viewer went brilliant white, blinding them for a few seconds. Their eyes adjusted slowly as the screen cleared, leaving pulsating blue spots in its wake. A crater about a hundred meters deep, and the circumference of four city blocks smoked and burned.
Dellani Oakes doesn’t claim to be an expert on anything, but she has a lot of experience making something out of nothing. Thrown into the world of publishing five years ago, she found that trying to promote her work was the hardest part of being an author.
Dellani once told her publisher that she had enough books, finished & unfinished, to keep him busy for the next 10 years. She’s not sure he believed her, but he should. Three novels, Indian Summer, Lone Wolf and Shakazan – book two in the Lone Wolf series are published by Second Wind Publishing, but she has 43 finished romance novels and at least that many (she won’t count them) that are still in the works.
Dellani Oakes is a former A.P. English teacher, photo-journalist. She’s a published author who avidly reads & reviews the work of others.
Look for Dellani Oakes on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter & Good Reads, among others.
Click here to buy: Shakazhan